Archive for September, 2011

Florence and the Machine

If you thought Katell Keineg was wonderful, you will feel likewise about Florence and the Machine. I was turned on to this band by an old friend with whom I lost touch decades ago. Our re-acquaintance has been a happy experience. Her musical taste is as acute as it was when we first met. Click here or on the photograph above to watch the band play “Between Two Lungs.”

Brown M&Ms and a Reader’s Trust

My old grad-school friend Jonathan Mayhew explains: “Van Halen stipulated in their riders to tour contracts a bowl of M&Ms without the brown ones. This has often been taken to be typical rock-band high-maintenance narcissistic self-regard and self-indulgence, but this clause actually served a deeper purpose, serving as a marker of attention to detail. … Of course, the consequence of messing up a Van Halen concert might be very serious: death, if a stage collapses because a promoter has not paid attention to how much weight it has to support. The consequence of brown M&Ms is less severe. In writing, the consequence of messing up the small things is that the reader will lose faith that the writer is to be trusted in the communication of scholarly knowledge.”

A Happy Birthday


The man himself.

My son, Miles, turns 25 today. I am a very proud, happy and lucky father.

“On Yer Way”

Katell Keineg

Katell Keineg

This Saturday afternoon has been a wonderful one, with the voice of the dazzlingly talented and soulful Katell Keineg filling my apartment. Really, she gives me the shivers.

The New York Times published a vivid profile of her a few years back, called “Her Lonely Voice.” Here‘s a 1997 review I wrote about her breath-taking show at The Railway Club in Vancouver.

It’s Not Blackjack

Is it just me, or has the verb “to double down” only recently been used in American political commentary (often to describe Republican politicians who are repeating questionable assertions)? I predict that we will soon see the noun form, as in “that was a double down”  … followed by an inevitable merger of the two words, first by hyphen, “double-down,” then as “doubledown.”

Indeed, I believe I just made my own “doubledown” above.

I mentioned this to a good friend in the media about this. He wrote me:

“Republicans have the country (or at least a consistent, small majority) behind them. Plus, now they’ve got the president on the run and everything they do, no matter how cynical, how destructive, how malicious, works for them and stains the Democrats. Why shouldn’t they double down? Remember how I told you I felt as though my country had broken up with me after Bush won in 2004, then asked to get back together in 2008? I fear it is about to suggest we see other people.”

My buddy pointed out additional new buzzwords: “’Granular’ has replaced ‘detailed’; ‘optics’ has replaced ‘visuals’; and ‘metrics’ has replaced ‘statistics.’ ‘Meme’ and ‘trope’ seem to be very trendy, too.”


Of course I violate my own editing rule — to pass my prose by a second set of eyes — every time I post to basil.CA.

Fran Lebowitz

“I said directly to Michael Bloomberg, ‘You know what sitting around in bars and restaurants, talking and smoking and drinking, is called, Mike?’ He said, ‘What?’ I said, ‘It’s called the history of art.’” From a wonderful interview in

The Gangs-Guns Youth Video Project

… is now on YouTube. You can read more about the project here.

Arielle Patterson, head of Surrey's Mobile Youth Outreach program, talking to student reporter during Surrey's Winterfest.

Labour Day

I am happy I’m in a good strong union.