Complaints

OK, time for some complaints.

October is finally here, so it’s summertime in San Francisco and it’s too hot.

I’m sitting here in my underwear with every window in the house open because it’s too damn hot to even think about going to bed. I’ve got all the lights off except for the computer screen so as not to generate any unnecessary heat. I suppose this is the payback for the day being so gorgeous that I spent a good chunk of it just cruising around the adjacent neighborhoods on the Segway going from shop to shop invigorating the local economy. I did some serious invigorating in the bookstore, perhaps because I’ve been a bit down recently and done little but read and am thus depleting my pile of unread books.

Luckily I have learned not to leave the house on the Segway without wearing my backpack since without it I have no way to carry home impulse purchases. The good news is that the pack imposes a limit. When it’s full, I must go home.

I just finished Simon Winchester’s Krakatoa. Stupid me, I thought it was going to be a book about a volcano. You know, bright lights, explosions, gouts of lava, pyroclastic flows….that sort of thing. It was, of course, but it covered the volcano so thoroughly that it really should be right there beside McPhee’s Annals of the Former World in the Plate Tectonics Department. That is, unless you’re thinking about all the social implications he discusses and put it in the Social Studies Department.

As an aside here, Winchester finally tipped the scales on Max Havelaar. His was one too many mentions of this book the past couple of years, so I went ahead and put it on order while I was in the bookstore. No, the English translation.

I had received in yesterday’s mail a long article Chris had clipped from that bastion of fluffy, light-hearted reading, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung, and I searched the envelope in vain for a translation. Unfortunately, since I do understand at a glance many of the words in the first few sentences, I know it’s about a European version of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market or perhaps Copia.

So I’m going to have to spend a day or two looking up the remaining words and untangling the Allgemeine’s famously difficult syntax and will thus not be interested in taking on a Dutch novel in Dutch, even a short one that arguably altered the course of Dutch history. Now that I think about it, it was perhaps the Dutch Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

But enough on that. The real reason I’m writing this note is to pass on a line from Molly Ivins’ Bushwhacked, her best-selling exposé of Dubya’s dirtier deeds which she leavens with wit occasionally lest you slit your wrists in despair. For example, she quotes William Brann: “The trouble with our Texas Baptists is that we do not hold them under water long enough.”

Yes, William Cowper Brann, editor of the late-nineteenth-century Texas magazine,The Iconoclast. Brann realized the secret ambition of all journalists: he wrote columns so incisive, so scathing, so savagely satirical, that one afternoon on the streets of Waco a freshly-enraged reader paid him the ultimate compliment by shooting him…in the back.

Brann fell, mortally wounded, but as he fell he managed, like a true Texan, to get the last word by turning, drawing his pistol, and killing his assailant.

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