Last Poem of John Updike

It came to me the other day:
Were I to die, no one would say,
‘Oh, what a shame! So young, so full
Of promise – depths unplumbable!
Instead, a shrug and tearless eyes
Will greet my overdue demise;
The wide response will be, I know,
‘I thought he died a while ago.’
For life’s a shabby subterfuge,
And death is real, and dark, and huge.
The shock of it will register
Nowhere but where it will occur.

Vonnegut. David Foster Wallace. Mailer. Updike. They’re coming a little fast and furious for my comfort, lately. Too many goddamn dead writers, and it’s kind of freaking me out a little.

Published in: on January 29, 2009 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

"What’s Up, Higgins?"

My cousin Stevie. He’s been a writer and producer at SNL for about 20 years. He’ll be the announcer for Jimmy Fallon in March, when he replaces Conan. Mom sent me this – she may be proud of her sons, but she also loves her nephews. I actually didn’t know his middle name is Eugene, and although this clip is funny, to me that’s way more funny.

Bonus trivia: like my kids, Jimmy’s dad worked for IBM.
Published in: on January 28, 2009 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  

Best. New. President. Ever.

A guy I worked with at Siemens commented on the inaugural, “Let see what you’re saying over the next 4 years…” As in, “you’re overfreakingjoyed now, but just wait.”
My first thought was, Who cares?  Sure are a lot of people who agree that George Walker Bush was the single worse president in American history. 

But don’t take their (or my) word for it: Google it yourself.

Like Obama, George II went to Harvard (his application to UT Law School was rejected). But unlike Obama, up into his forties George was just another hard-partying trust fund baby. George senior put him in charge of some of his oil businesses, which paid him huge salaries before they failed. Then he bought a baseball team. When his father lost the presidential election, his family forced him to run for Texas governor. Karl Rove ran the campaign, defeating Ann Richards 53%-46%. Over the next 16 years, as the puppet of racketeers, sycophants, and war profiteers, he drove the most powerful nation on Earth over a cliff, down into our worse economic crisis since the depression.
Our current president has a JD from Harvard, was president of the Harvard Law Review, taught constitutional law for 12 years at the U of Chicago Law School, was a civil rights attorney, and served on the board of directors of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Center for Neighborhood Technology. Before serving in the senate, he and his wife aimed their careers at addressing poverty, unfunded public education, and job creation.
We just lived through the last days of Nixon’s zombies, surrounded by National Lampoon frat boys running amok. Do you really think someone like Obama will make things worse? Really? Not really. Living in Austin, I know people who know the Bushes personally. They love ’em. George is certainly a fool, but I’m probably a fool too for thinking something extraordinary just happened – foolish for not being cynical about my very young daughters’ looming future. 
To mangle Blake, “If a fool shouts his foolishness long and loud enough, he becomes wise.” 

Published in: on January 20, 2009 at 9:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

One of Uncle Shannon’s Christmas Gifts – Laurelwood Vinter Varmer

Got me a bottle from the Laurelwood brewpub. See, in Oregon, microbrewers can just bottle their beer and sell it to people. Texas microbrewers aren’t allowed to do that, because Texas beer laws are written by gangsters the Alcohol Wholesalers Association

This marvelous winter ale had a heft to it – massive malt profile, with weighted chocolate and caramel mouthfeel. Weighing in at only 6.4% ABV, compared to common seasonals she was easy on the head while doing calesthenics in the mouth. 

I got all brewered up for the session: donned my St. Patricks of Texas Brewer’s Supply Hat, and my Austin Homebrew pint glass (with “Make Your Own Damn Beer” etched in the bottom). Then I brewed a batch while drinking it.
Laurelwood Brewing Co. took the gold in the Munich Helles catagory, last GABF.  One of my favorite styles, and hard to get right. The Fredericksburg Brewing Co. is the only American brewery I know that really nails it – then again, their street signs are in German.
I loved it. Can you tell? My brother rocks.
Published in: on January 9, 2009 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Esteemed Senator from Minnesota: You, Al Franken.

Nearly 3 decades ago, a young Midwestern writer came on Saturday Night Live and spoke the following. I remember seeing it in 7th grade on a black-and-white TV in Iowa, and thinking, “he looks kinda gay, but he’s funny.” I’ve read all his books except the latest (Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot I got on tape for the car).

That’s right. I believe we’re entering what I like to call the Al Franken Decade. Oh, for me, Al Franken, the 80’s will be pretty much the same as the 70’s. I’ll still be thinking of me, Al Franken. But for you, you’ll be thinking more about how things affect me, Al Franken. When you see a news report, you’ll be thinking, “I wonder what Al Franken thinks about this thing?”, “I wonder how this inflation thing is hurting Al Franken?” And you women will be thinking, “What can I wear that will please Al Franken?”, or “What can I not wear?”

You know, I know a lot of you out there are thinking, “Why Al Franken?” Well, because I thought of it, and I’m on TV, so I’ve already gotten the jump on you. So, I say let’s leave behind the fragmented, selfish 70’s, and go into the 80’s with a unity and purpose. That’s what I think. I’m Al Franken. Jane?

But you want funny and biting to the bone, there’s no peer to his debate with Ann Coulter at the University of Judaism’s Public Lecture Series in  2006. The transcript is here. Mmmm-WAH. Umami, down to the last word.

Oh, and congrats, Al. You earned it. No finer Democratic-Farmer-Labor Senator in Congress, that’s what I think. Jane?
Published in: on January 5, 2009 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment