Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grant Gilmore

The better the society, the less law there will be.  In Heaven there will be no law, and the lion will lie down with the lamb. . . . The worse the society, the more law there will be.  In Hell there will be nothing but law, and due process will be meticulously observed.
Grant Gilmore (1910-1982), one of the principal architects of modern American contract law, taught at the Yale and University of Chicago law schools.  If he is correct, the United States is a very, very, VERY bad society.

Grant Gilmore

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

David Remnick on Keith Richards

Keith Richards is 66.  He's a grandfather.

Where he used to have a wolfhound named Syphilis, he now has a golden Lab named Pumpkin.  He and his wife pack Pumpkin onto a private jet and go to relax at their spread in Turks and Caicos.

"People think I'm still a goddamn junkie.  It's 30 years since I gave up the dope!  Image is like a long shadow.  Even when the sun goes down, you can see it."
(From a review of Keith's recently published autobiography, Life.  On this date in 1967, Keith spent the night in Wormwood Scrubs Prison in west London after he was convicted of allowing marijuana to be smoked at his Sussex estate.  He was released on bail the next day, and his one-year sentence was later overturned on appeal.)     

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dandy Warhols

Who's that guy?
Just hanging at your pad
He's looking kinda bummed
Yeah, you broke up that's too bad
I guess it's fair 
If he always pays the rent,
And he doesn't get bent 
About sleeping on the couch 
When I'm there
(From the Dandy Warhols' 2000 hit, "Bohemian Like You."  A bad romance doesn't get much worse than this.  My grandmother might have described the situation in this way:  "He paid for the cake, but somebody else ate it.")

Monday, June 27, 2011


[Rap] is built around two kinds of rhythm.  The first kind of rhythm is the meter.  In poetry, the meter is abstract, but in rap, the meter is something you literally hear: it's the beat.  The beat in a song never stops, it never varies. . . . It's like time itself, ticking off relentlessly . . . .
But the beat is only one half of a rap song's rhythm.  The other is the flow.  When a rapper jumps on a beat, he adds his own rhythm.  Sometimes you stay in the pocket of the beat and just let the rhymes land on the square so that the beat and the flow become one.  But sometimes the flow chops up the beat, breaks the beat into smaller units, forces in multiple syllables and repeated sounds and internal rhymes . . . . The flow isn't like time, it's like life.
Another excerpt from his 2010 book, Decoded.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


I lost people I loved, was betrayed by the people I trusted; felt the breeze of bullets flying over my head.  I saw crack addiction destroy families -- it almost destroyed mine -- but I sold it, too.  I stood on cold corners far from home in the middle of the night serving crack fiends and then balled ridiculously in Vegas; I went dead broke and got hood rich on those streets.  I hated it.  I was addicted to it.  It nearly killed me.  But no matter what, it is the place where I learned not just who I was, but who we were, who all of us are.  It was the site of my moral education, as strange as that may sound.  It's my core story and . . . that core story is the one that I have to tell.
From his 2010 book, Decoded, which is part autobiography and part a collection of  annotated Jay-Z lyrics.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


It gets dangerous, 
Money and power is changing us
And now we're lethal
Infected with D'Evils . . .
My soul is possessed by D'Evils 
In the form of diamonds and Lexuses . . .
I can't be held accountable, 
D'Evils beating me down, boo
Got me runnin' with guys, makin' G's, 
Tellin' lies that sound true
Come test me, I never cower
For the love of money, son, 
I'm givin' lead showers
Stop screamin', 
You know the demon said it's best to die
And even if Jehovah witness, 
Bet he'll never testify, D'Evils . . .
From his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, which was released on this date in 1996.  The title of this song, "D'Evils," is spelled like "devils" but is pronounced "de evils" (like "the evils") when he sings it -- but it's really the same thing, isn't it?   I know that it's not "Rap Friday," but Jay-Z is too good to limit to one day of the week.  Our next couple of posts will sample his recently published autobiography, Decoded -- a much more interesting and intelligent book that I was expecting.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I hear 'em talkin' it
But ain't really livin' it
Opinions are like assholes
So who gives a sh*t

From the verse Fabolous contributed to "Start It Up," the 2010 Lloyd Banks single that also features a verse by Kanye West (as you learned -- if you were paying attention -- three weeks ago).  In The Dead Pool, which was the 5th and last "Dirty Harry" movie, Clint Eastwood says "Opinions are like assholes -- everybody has one."  The version of that line that I remember hearing years ago was "Opinions are like assholes -- everybody has one, and yours isn't any better than anyone else's."  A little crude, perhaps -- but it makes the point.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Edward Gibbon

Twenty-two acknowledged concubines, and a library of 62,000 volumes, attested the variety of his inclinations, and from the [quantity of children and writings] which he left behind him, it appears that the former as well as the latter were designed for use rather than ostentation.
From his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Gibbon was writing about Gordian II, the Roman emperor for one month in the year 238, which is known as "The Year of Six Emperors."   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Todd Rundgren

Think of me
You know that I'd be with you if I could
I'll come around to see you once in awhile
Or if I ever need a reason to smile
And spend the night, if you think I should
From "Hello It's Me," which was the 4th song on the 4th side of his 1972 double album, Something/Anything.  Rundgren was born on this date in 1948. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eden Kane

When a boy gets hurt by a girl
His feelings he will hide
When he acts tough
Sure enough
It's a sign he's soft inside
Boys cry when no one is near them
When no one can hear them cry
No one can hear them cry
(This week's "Bad Romance Tuesday" post features a song by Eden Kane, who had five top 10 hits in the UK between 1961 and 1964.  "Boys Cry" reached #8 in January 1964.)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Brian Wilson

Where did your long hair go?
Where is the girl I used to know?
How could you lose that happy glow?
From his 1966 song,"Caroline, No" -- one of the best (if not the best) songs on one of the best (if not the best) pop albums of all time, Pet Sounds.  Although this is nominally a Beach Boys song, Brian Wilson is the only member of the band to perform on this track.  Wilson was born on this date in 1942.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Robert Frost

You do not have to deserve your mother's love.  You have to deserve your father's.  He's more particular.  

(This is a curious sentiment, but given Frost's sad family history, it is perhaps understandable.  His father, who was an alcoholic, died of tuberculosis when he was only 11, leaving the family with exactly $7.  His mother died of cancer when he 26.  Frost had to commit his younger sister to a mental hospital, where she stayed until her death 9 years later.  Frost and his wife -- she died of heart failure in 1938, 25 years before he died -- had six children.  One daughter died shortly after her birth; another died at age 29 after giving birth.  Frost's oldest son died of cholera at age 8.  Another son committed suicide, while one of the two daughters who outlived Frost was committed to a mental hospital.  Since both Frost and his mother suffered from depression, I'm sure he blamed himself for his children's troubles.) 

Frost's four surviving
children in 1911.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Winston Churchill

[T]he Battle of Britain is about to begin. . . . The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us . . . . Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
From a speech delivered to Parliament by Prime Minister Winston Churchill on this date in 1940 -- two days after the French threw in the towel. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tupac Shakur

Wanna dig you 
And I can't even lie about it
Baby, just alleviate your clothes 
Time to fly up out it

From his song, "How Do U Want It," the second #1 single from his multiplatinum double album, All Eyez On Me, which was released only weeks after Tupac Amaru Shakur was released from prison in 1996.  Tupac -- or "2Pac," if you prefer -- was born on June 16, 1971, so he would have been 40 years old yesterday if he had not been murdered while cruising the streets of Las Vegas after attending a Mike Tyson fight later that same year.  

2Pac was a very well-educated guy, as his very clever use of "alleviate" here shows.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

James Joyce

A corpse is meat gone bad.  Well and what's cheese?  Corpse of milk. 
(Bloomsday -- June 16 -- is the day when James Joyce fans in Dublin and around the world celebrate his novel, Ulysses, which took place on that date in 1904.  Joyce chose that date because his first date with his wife-to-be -- an uneducated chambermaid --  happened on that day.  I doubt that I will ever again attempt to read Ulysses.  I know that I will never again attempt to read Finnegan's Wake.)  

A statue of James Joyce in Dublin

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Bill Callahan

Met a woman in a bar
I told her I was hard to get to know
And near impossible to forget

I suppose that line might work.  From Smog's album, A River Ain't Too Much to Love, which was released in 2005.  (Callahan recorded 11 albums as Smog; his subsequent albums have been released under his name.)

Here is Gil Scott-Heron's cover of "I'm New Here."  (Scott-Heron was a brilliant musician and a very troubled soul who died on May 27.)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Lawrence Durrell

A woman's best love letters are always written to the man she is betraying.
(Lawrence Durrell was a novelist who is best known for the four novels that make up The Alexandria Quartet.  He was born in India to British parents, and lived in Greece, Egypt, Argentina, Cyprus, Yugoslavia, and France as an adult.  He was married four times, and three of his marriages ended in divorce.)

Lawrence Durrell with Anais Nin

Monday, June 13, 2011

Alexandre Dumas

I confess that nothing frightens me more than the appearance of mushrooms on the table, especially in a small provincial town.
From his 1873 encyclopedia/cookbook, Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine.  Alexandre Dumas -- author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo -- was one of the most widely read authors of his day.  He was also a gourmet and an accomplished cook.  This quote is characteristic of the French in two different ways.  First, its subject is food.  Second, it looks down its nose on small provincial towns.  (Dumas was born in a small town and didn't move to Paris until he was 20 -- in other words, he was a young man from the provinces who tried to conceal his insecurity over his rural origins by sneering at small provincial towns.)

Alexandre Dumas

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rosemary Clooney

Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer

Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend the window panes
Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints
"This Ole House" was a #1 hit (in both the US and the UK) in 1954 for Rosemary Clooney.  That same year, she appeared (along with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) in the movie White Christmas.  She was the aunt of George Clooney.  "This Ole House" was written by Stuart Hamblen, a hard-drinking radio and movie "singing cowboy" who underwent a religious conversion at a Billy Graham crusade in 1949 and received 72,000-odd votes as the Prohibition Party's presidential candidate in the 1952 election.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


I know you little libertine
I know you're a cannonball
(From their 1993 song, "Cannonball."  The music video was directed by Spike Jonze -- who directed the movie Being John Malkovich as well many music and skateboarding videos and TV commercials -- and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.  By the way, you're not seeing double -- band members Kim and Kelley Deal are identical twins, which you would know if you had read 2 or 3 lines a day a couple of days ago.)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Pharoahe Monch

The last batter to hit, blast, shattered your hip
Smash any splitter or fastball, that'll be it

(This slant-rhyming couplet from "The Next Sh*t," from his 1999 album, Internal Affairs, contains not one, but two examples of an apocopated rhyme -- which is a rhyme that matches a one-syllable word with the stressed syllable of a multisyllabic word.  In this example, "last" and "blast" are the one-syllable words and "fastball" the multisyllabic word they are rhymed with.  "Hit" and "it" are another pair of perfect rhymes that form another apocopated rhyme with "splitter."  There's a lot of other stuff going on in this couplet as well, but I see your eyes beginning to glaze over.)     

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Dandy Warhols

Here's what I feel,
Ba ba ba ba
Just want a girl
as cool as Kim Deal

Tomorrow is the 50th birthday of Kim Deal -- and her identical twin, Kelley.  (2 or 3 lines a day likes identical twin sisters!)  Kim played bass for the legendary alt-rock band, the Pixies, but is best known as the guitarist and vocalist for the mostly-female band, the Breeders -- she also wrote most of their songs.

Kelley and Kim Deal

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Joan Rivers

There is not one female comedian who was beautiful as a little girl.  
(Joan Alexandra Molinsky Sanger Rosenberg is 78 years old today.  She graduated from Barnard College in 1954 with a B.A. in English literature and anthropology.  Her observation is consistent with my theory that no worthwhile rock musician was a good-looking, popular, high-school quarterback.)  

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Lawrence Block

She had an inch-long scar on her sharp chin, and he let himself imagine giving her some new scars.  Breaking some bones.  Driving the heel of his hand into her temple, right next to the eye socket.  If you did it just right, you got the eye to pop out.  If you did it wrong, well, there was nothing to stop you from trying again, was there?
(Oh, my.  That's not a pleasant thing to contemplate, is it?  From his story "Scenarios," which is included in the 2010 crime anthology, The Dark End of the Street.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Only in recent history has "working hard" signaled pride rather than shame for lack of talent, finesse, and, mostly, sprezzatura ["a certain nonchalance"].  Their idea of the sabbatical is to work six days and rest for one; my idea of the sabbatical is to work for (part of) a day and rest for six.
From his 2010 book, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms.  Taleb is fluent in English, French, and Arabic; can converse in Spanish and Italian; and can read classical texts in Greek, Latin, Aramaic, and ancient Hebrew.  The author Malcolm Gladwell is a great admirer of Taleb.

A black swan


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

You exist if and only if you are free to do things without a visible objective, with no justification and, above all, outside the dictatorship of someone else's narrative.
From his 2010 book, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms.  Procrustes was the mythical Greek host who made his guests fit his bed by either chopping off their feet (if they were too tall to fit the bed) or stretching them on a rack (if they were too short).  Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes by making him fit his bed by chopping off his head.  

Taleb believes we humans squeeze life and the world into reductive categories and prepackaged narratives -- we make the man fit the bed rather than making the bed fit the man.

Theseus turns the tables on Procrustes

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Work destroys your soul by stealthily invading your brain during the hours not officially spent working.
Amen to that, brother!  From his 2010 book, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms.  Taleb is a Lebanese-born philosopher, writer, and practitioner of mathematical finance.  He is best known for his 2007 book about unpredictable events, The Black Swan, which warned of the fragility of the global financial structure.  This is the first of three consecutive posts featuring his aphorisms.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Friday, June 3, 2011

Kanye West

I met this MILF at the All-Star getting action
A cougar with more rings than Phil Jackson
Told her beauty is why God invented eyeballs
And her booty is why God invented my balls
It's June, and the NBA is still playing basketball.  These lines are from the verse Kanye contributed to "Start It Up," the 2010 Lloyd Banks single that also featured Swizz Beatz and Fabolous.  Phil Jackson has 11 championship rings as a coach and two more as a player, but it looks like that's all he's going to get.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Langston Hughes

I woke up this mornin'
'Bout half past three
All the womens in town
Was gathered round me
Sweet gals was a-moanin',
"Sylvester's gonna die!"
And a hundred pretty mamas
Bowed their heads to cry.
Langston Hughes was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902.  Both his parents were of mixed racial origins -- he also had Native American ancestors, and a Jewish great-grandfather.  "Sylvester's Dying Bed" was written in 1931.  Some scholars believe Hughes was gay, but his primary biographer believes he was asexual.   

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

David Foster Wallace

Every whole person has ambitions, objectives, initiatives, goals.  This one particular boy's goal was to be able to press his lips to every square inch of his body.
His arms to his shoulders and most of his legs beneath the knee were child's play.  After these areas of his body, however, the difficulty increased with the abruptness of a coastal shelf.  The boy came to understand that unimaginable challenges lay ahead of him.  He was six.
From his bizarre but fascinating short story, "Backbone," which appeared in the March 7, 2011, issue of the New Yorker.  Wallace was 46 when he committed suicide in 2008 by hanging himself.  He had long suffered from depression.  He tried to wean himself from his primary medication when he suffered severe side effects, but his depression returned, and the medication was no longer effective when he started taking it again.

David Foster Wallace