SPECIAL STOLERN MOMENTS REPORT
STOLER and BETH Win Bay to Breakers
Oops. We Mean "STOLER and BETH In Bay to Breakers" (though you'll see, they definitely came off winners)
San Francisco, May 19 -- Stoler and Beth brought their message of inspired goofiness to the country's largest footrace/carnival-in-sneakers, the annual Bay to Breakers Run/Walk. And although their plans to actually finish the race, even to get their names in the paper by finishing among the top ten thousand, were curtailed by inclement weather, they nevertheless accomplished their goals for the event, keeping the agreements under which they were able to run in the first place, and serendipitously ending up with much more newspaper publicity than they could have imagined.
The two had originally hoped to run a good part of the race, in order to complete it quickly enough to place and be listed. They had also made an arrangement with a website they really liked for it to sponsor them as an advertising medium. But after a dry run (in more ways than one) Friday had convinced them that they would not be able to run enough or fast enough to finish the 12K (7.46 mi.) route among the first 10K runners, they had planned simply to enjoy showing off their costumes as much as possible and have fun. And, after unpredicted heavy rains made it too hard to do that, and they felt they had "shown the flag" (and the big bushy tails) as much, and taken as many pictures of themselves doing it, as their sponsorship agreement and morality demanded, they decided to take the bus for a large part of the route. But that bus just happened to have as a passenger a reporter for the very (bad) paper organizing and giving its name to the event, who, by Stoler's inimitable skills for self-promotion, was able to be convinced to interview them, and ultimately, to discuss them extensively in an article in the next day's issue. And the cause of freakiness had won yet another victory.
The proposal to do the race had come originally from Beth, who had done it several years before. But for Stoler, it was not enough simply to complete the seven-and-a-half miles across San Francisco. Knowing that many participants run dressed in humorous Halloween-like attire, or in a complete lack of attire1, he set to work coming up with a worthy costume. But there were so many possibilities -- how to choose? Considering various options to select the optimal, he realized that, other things being equal, the best reason to choose a particular costume was because someone would pay you do wear it. Perhaps some business would remunerate Beth and him for dressing up as its mascot and advertising them before thousands of other runners and spectators and the media who always turn out to cover the event? But what company was down-to-earth and accessible enough that Stoler could contact them and make a deal with them, and yet also was associated with a symbol or character that would be fun to dress up as?
Suddenly, he had it. For months now, he had found great amusement in the manically musical Flash animations to be found on the website www.threebrain.com, particularly the one titled "Weeeeee!" and featuring a dancing squirrel. He dashed off an email to the site's creator. Would he, Stoler wrote, be interested in sponsoring a "Team Threebrain" for the Bay to Breakers, paying Beth and Stoler's entrance fees and providing them with a couple of the Threebrain t-shirts already sold through the site, if they would do the race in squirrel costumes, wearing the shirts and waving banners to advertise the site? It was a true meeting of freakish minds; the Threebrain staff accepted the offer, and had a check on its way. Now, it was up to Stoler and Beth to hold up their end of the bargain.
Creating the Creature Costumes
Stoler, meanwhile, set to work thinking about costumes, and procrastinating about actually making them. How to make a big bushy tail for basically no money? He decided to attack the problem according to Analogical principles. Instead of trying to plan out in advance how to do something, (which is pretty much impossible when you've never done it before), buying lots of expensive materials based on the plan, and sticking to it no matter what, as is the habit among information technology start-ups, he would rather arbitrarily choose one plan (maybe on the basis that it was the cheapest) and start working on it, altering it according to new information (about how well it works) and circumstances, making use of what was learned in the process. (Non-Analogical thinkers, those who "plan in advance" based on what they "know", might claim that time is wasted on false starts in the learning process. It's not; it is the necessary cost of gaining information, paid back by the advantages of an end product much more in tune with actual conditions. After all, what the non-A thinkers claim to "know" had to "learned" at some point, at a cost, which they may not be figuring into their accounting, and, since it does not come from actual experience, it's probably a lot less accurate and valuable anyway.)
He started -- less than two days before the race? more than a full day before? -- with an infrastructure of chicken wire, which he had purchased for a few cents a foot at a hardware store. (Stoler loves hardware stores. Maybe he should work in one.) He had never really worked with the stuff before, but he soon found it kind of fun. Sure, the protruding sharp ends can draw blood. But once you've formed it into a tube, you can fold it, and mold it, and it will hold its shape. The resultant geodesic framework was very similar to that of the Statue of Liberty, which in turn is pretty much the same thing as the Eiffel Tower. Which is no great surprise, as it was the same Eiffel who engineered the magnification of Bartholdi's work of art into the towering monument. It's so interesting that the Eiffel Tower is really the first building named after its engineer, rather than some king or saint who had nothing to do with the actual construction. It's also the first to show off how it was built, not to cover it up as unbeautiful and unimportant. So for the first time, engineers, and their work, were a source of pride, rather than shame; finally, architecture had acknowledged the body, rather than just the creative spirit. One wonders if, had the Tower been clad with copper too, and named for the Republic or one of its heroes, all of subsequent architectural history might have gone differently.
Stoler had originally thought that he should cover the wire with papier mâché, and then put furry fabric over that, or something2. But fur costs a lot, and very much in his mind were the two mottoes of Mark Bergman, who had been head of the scenery-building Technical Crew at Tenafly High School: "From 50 to 200 feet away, who'll notice?" and "Desperation is the mother of expediency". So instead, he simply cut open a brown paper shopping bag into a single long, wide band, wrapped it around the clublike frame with the open ends protruding behind, stapled it as close to the frame as possible to hold it in place and have a maximum of flexible trailing stuff, and with a pair of scissors cut this rear edge into as many and as narrow strips as possible to simulate the long hairs sticking out the back of a squirrel tail. He layered on another cut-open bag, enfringing its back and sides (if not infringing its rights.) And another, and another. Eventually, he run out of bags had to run out to the local supermarket to get more. (For which he was charged 12 cents apiece, which does not seem quite fair, when the discount for bringing your own carrier, and NOT taking one of their bags, is only a nickel. Lesson: get a bag whenever you buy stuff, and save them. You never know when you'll be making squirrel tails.) As he finished the first tail, and photographed himself wearing it to send to Beth for her approval, he thought that he could probably achieve much better fringe effects by what he called the Arthur Andersen method: using a paper shredder. (He could also join one of the Bay Area's many political fringe groups.) Such an instrument does produce elegantly even, straight fringes, though it can be tricky to feed the machine evenly and even trickier to pull the fringed edges back out again. (You can't just run the whole piece of paper through, since you need a solid part to go around the the framework and be stapled. Or do you? See, that's what's wonderful about the Analog method. No version is ever final and perfect; you're constantly improving, as from the hand-cut first tail, to the machine-shredded second tail. [If you consider that an improvement. Some prefer the charming irregularity of handmade products.] You could always have done it better. And if you do it again, you will. If Stoler ever has to be a squirrel again, he'll do things so much better. And make them waterproof. Meanwhile, each product is unique.)
Now, there was still the matter of making squirrel heads, or masks. Again, Stoler took the Analog approach, experimenting as he went, not entirely sure where he was going until he got there. He had an idea of what the finished product should be, but, if the materials and processes guided him otherwise, if it proved easier to do something else, he was willing to do that. (For everything is negotiable.) If it turned out that the original idea was unworkable, at least he would not have been too invested in it. It turned out that he would have to take consolation in this principle, as the masks he made didn't come out too well. "See, I had originally planned to use more chicken wire. It probably would have worked. But then I found this old trash can and thought, well, this is sort of the right shape already, and solid. You see, in building anything, there are three main challenges: getting the right surface appearance, getting it to the right shape, and getting it to hold together. You can achieve each of these either through creation or selection3, that is, by finding an object that is appropriately colored, textured, shaped, sized, and attached, or by making one, or, by some combination of finding and making. I generally prefer to find -- found objects can be made of things like molded plastic and cast metal that can be pretty hard to shape on your own. So when I found a discarded trash bin, one of the sort of slightly flared, rectangular prismatic kind, behind my building (where I find everything), I thought, I can just cut this into two halves, fold the open ends closed, and spray-paint the units brown. Which same I did, and attached the boxes with those pocketbook binder clips to construction helmets, because they have adjustable straps inside to hold the half-heads secure to the wearer's head, but away from it, since, after all, they're made from a garbage can. Which I had cleaned out with Ajax and bleach, but still. Well, I thought that, with a little imagination, and the addition of some eyes and noses and teeth, they'd look pretty suggestive of squirrel heads. It's like when you're watching an historical movie4, or even a "Saturday Night Live" parody, and an actor is portraying a well-known character, and he doesn't need to look exactly like the person portrayed, but simply, as my father put it, "suggest" him or her, in context, which can include much more accurate imitations of voice and mannerisms, or simply an identifying label at the bottom of the screen. For comedy, actually, it's often better not to match the actual person too closely, as an inexact match that uses some significant similarities to get the audience to overlook some significant differences is more absurd and hence often funnier. For example, Will Ferrell's imitation of Attorney General Janet Reno is, by its very nature, funnier than having, say, Ana Gasteyer do it, even if the much more talented Gasteyer could probably better capture Reno's voice and mannerisms, simply because having a man play a woman, in crossing one of the basic lines of our culture, seems inherently absurd. (But then, this casting simply underlines the real-life absurdity of having a prominent woman look so much like a man as to be somewhat convincingly portrayed by one, or the equally absurd expectation on our culture's part of a clear division between male and female and that each one should look a certain way.) Now, since our costumes were supposed to be funny, it might not have been the worst thing in the world if people had looked at them and said, 'Look, the squirrel heads are actually garbage cans! Isn't that absurd!' But of course, that all depended on their being recognized as squirrel heads in the first place...."
Pissed About Pasta, And A Pasta Repast
Which, even in the context of the tails, they would not have been. At least according to Beth. Now, it was Saturday evening, less than twelve hours before the race was supposed to begin. Stoler had come into the City around six, to meet Beth at a lead-up event, a pasta dinner and dance party to be held at the Bill Graham Auditorium at Civic Center and called the "Energy Booster". They had paid ten dollars apiece for tickets, their own money, not their sponsor's. When they had gotten there, they had found music to dance to -- a Rolling Stones tribute band whose lead singer certainly suggested Mick Jagger, even if, whether through lack of rhythm or a desire to break free of pathetically slavish imitation in some small way even if it meant sounding bad, he couldn't seem to keep on the beat as maintained by the rest of the group.5 But where was the pasta? They looked around. They couldn't see any pasta. There was some sort of catering stand set up but it only had hot dogs and hamburgers, for which were being charged incredibly inflated prices. Where was the pasta? They asked a uniformed catering person. "Well," he said, "I'm just a catering person, hired for the event, so please don't blame me, but there does not seem to be any pasta. And you're not the first people to ask about it." No pasta? NO PASTA? Someone was going to have to pay for this, and it wouldn't be Stoler and Beth -- they were going to get their money back. Which seemed to be the idea of many other event patrons. And not that of event officials. Or people who seemed to be in charge enough to tell the patrons (patronizingly) what to do, but not in charge enough to give the members of the increasingly angry crowd their money back, or even guarantee that they could get it back from someone else. "You have to go back to where you bought the tickets," explained an apparently empowered but unaccountable fellow named Anthony Gittings, trying to seem in control as the murmurs of tar and feathers rippled through the mob and Stoler towered over him, suggesting more and more emphatically that it would be a good idea for him to bring his superiors out to talk to the cheated ticketholders or the ticketholders in to talk to his superiors. As the hapless Gittings realized that he was dealing with an Analogical thinker, who knows that anything is possible and negotiable, and is not swayed by claims of "I can't do that" and "My superiors won't let me", he grew increasingly uncomfortable, even desperate. Luckily, at least for him, Beth played Good Cop, convincing Gittings that only she could protect him from her companion's wrath6, and was able to extract from him at least the name of the person authorizing the refund so that she could put in a claim for reimbursement on her credit and debit cards, with which she had paid for the tickets. "Well, that sucked," she remarked, as they left. "Yes," said Stoler, with the ersatz "Satisfaction" still ringing in his ears, reminding him of that of which he hadn't been able to get him no, "And the lack of pasta wasn't too great either."
Which brought them back to the point. They could simply have returned to Stoler's for some out-of-the-box spaghetti (to go with their out-of-the-box thinking) and out-of-the-jar sauce augmented with a selection of spices and chopped vegetables, and finished their costumes, gotten a good night's sleep, and been up and ready for the race. But at this point, sleep did not seem that important. After all, the previous evening, they had gone over the route. The idea of crossing the City on foot was not daunting (well, nothing is to the Dauntless), as they had many times walked from the Financial District all the way to Beth's home, blocks from the Ocean, or the other way. They had started off running but soon given up, though they had jogged a bit more at the end, but had kept up a brisk walking pace the whole way. Yet it had taken them about two hours to complete the march upcountry and down, and a check in the previous year's listing of the top race finishers in the Examiner revealed that to get this free publicity, they would need to cut over thirty minutes off their time. Stoler thought that if they saved their breath, a man and woman like them could do this, but Beth was resigned. "We might as well just have fun, and show off our costumes, and get publicity for Threebrain," she argued, and Stoler acceded. So with this in mind, they had no particular reason to hurry home, and so, feeling that the Universe still owed them a pasta dinner, but knowing that the Universe only actually owes you what you can get for yourself, they headed off to North Beach, with its incredible array of Italian restaurants along Columbus Avenue and the side streets, all serving pretty much the same fare out of a huge central kitchen under Russian Hill.7 The Stinking Rose, the very Solomon's Temple of garlic worshippers (and the only restaurant with its own kitchen and menu) had far too long a wait (this was Saturday night, remember) as did most of the rest of the reasonably priced restaurants, but after some wandering, they were finally able to settle on Figaro, where they consumed thoroughly adequate bowls of homemade pasta, thanked the management for letting them switch from the only outdoor table that wasn't near a space heater (and which wobbled, until fixed by a quite clever busboy whose name they wish they had gotten because he certainly earned the inestimable honor of a mention in STOLERN MOMENTS) to a more comfortable one inside by not complaining about the rather slow service, and dispassionately discussed whether Stoler should pour the contents of the olive oil bottle into the glass wick-lamp on their table just to see what would happen. (The vote came out one for, one against, with the Nays winning by a majority of Beth.)
Extremely carboloaded, even carbobloated, they finally headed back to Berkeley, where, as we have noted, Stoler's wire-and-paper tails were judged quite acceptable (even as business becomes increasingly wireless and paperless), but his over-the-head squirrel masks were found wanting. As Stoler, in a violation of the spirit of Analogy, sulked about his wasted effort and the latest warnings on terrorism, Beth set to work, finding pictures of sciurus carolinensis online and attempting to translate them to paper, again, using Analogical methods. The prototype of a sort of nose cone proved unworkable as that on most missiles, but simply drawing on pieces of cardboard with marker and Liquid PaperTM produced extremely attractive, if two-dimensional, results, such as, had she been similarly successful at drawing Tippy, would easily have won her a place at a correspondence art academy. (So now they would be cardboardloaded?) Stoler lettered some banners with waterproof -- how prescient -- marker on pieces of an old sheet, and stapled in staves and wire to keep them properly unfurled. After a final equipment check, they crawled into bed at 2 AM, to grab a few hours of sleep before they would have to wake up at 6, an hour they more frequently see at the end of a long night than at the beginning of of a day.
The Rubber Meets the Road
Six AM came, and they staggered to their feet, stretched muscles still stiff from Friday's walk, and suited up. Over suspendered back support belts borrowed from Stoler's movie theater, they put on their official Threebrain t-shirts, and then slipped on black fleece pants and jackets. The tails fit into the belts, held securely by the broad elastic. On went backwards baseball caps, matched in color to the shirts, and, of course, running shoes; banners were taken into hands, and the mightiest squirrel expeditionary force ever to depart these shores was ready to hit the beaches (and before that, the streets.) They headed to BART, where they and their costumes were received with the cheers of the other race goers, both participants and spectators, already in a convivial mood. A quick trip (all the training they would really do for the race) and they were emerging on Market St., a few blocks from the start and a few minutes late for it, which didn't matter much to them as they slipped around the barricades into the thick of the moving masses. Team Threebrain had gone into action.
On every side of them were fraternity groups wheeling carts with kegs, individuals in various states of consuming and costuming or lack thereof, and applauding observers. Beth and Stoler, never suffering gladly any constriction or restraint of their ability to move freely at their own pace, especially when that pace is more rapid than the norm, strove energetically to maneuver through the teeming masses of often unhurried pedestrians, an effort made more difficult by the unaccustomed ungainliness of their tails in the back, their banners in front, and the rather small and poorly aligned eye holes in the masks over their faces, especially as their glasses held the cardboard at a distance. As the collisions and "excuse me"'s multiplied, Stoler began to understand why so many squirrels end up as roadkill. Still, they were moving along, they were showing the flag, they were flaunting their costumes, they were having fun, which is what, according to a famous 80's song, squirrels just wanna do, as Stoler loudly chanted. (He also paid musical tribute to the objects of their imitation and flattery, of whom he hoped to attract a following during the final legs of the footrace through Golden Gate Park. "Well, East Coast squirrels are smart, I really dig those nuts they store/ And the Southern squirrels, with their bushy tails, they've got me coming back for more....but I wish they call could be California squirrels...").
Rain On the Parade
But soon, disaster began to strike in tiny wet droplets, soon turning into a steady rain. The members of Team Threebrain, under layers of fleece, remained dry enough for a while, but the same could not be said for their paper tails and masks, which were becoming soaked and starting to droop. Stoler was beginning to worry for the safety of his digital camera, whose warranty, he imagined, probably didn't cover its exposure to significant moisture. By the two-mile mark, they really weren't having such a good time anymore, and they had basically accomplished all their other main goals. "We may be squirrels, with brains that weigh a few grams apiece," Stoler pointed out, "But we're smart enough to come in out of the rain." Beth readily agreed, and with a few steps, they had veered from the course and removed themselves from the running. As they walked the few blocks from Hayes St. (the where the runners ran) to Fulton (where the buses ran), the doffed their tails and disposed of the wet paper in the trash cans. "Goodbye, brown paper, you have served us well," Beth eulogized, "I guess we really should have recycled you, but after this incarnation, you should receive permanent peace and nirvana." But though the underlying wire was no longer within paper, it was not as if they had chickened out.
Finish Line or Bussed?
The bus soon came, and they found they were not the only refugees wearing sneakers and numbers on board. They took seats near the front, and huddled for warmth (as they could no longer depend on motion to ward off the cold), until Stoler, seeing what appeared to be a woman of a certain age come on board, offered her his seat as required by Federal Law (at least, according to the posted warnings on the vehicle.) Of course, Stoler is a poor judge of age; he has this odd notion that Beth is older than he though she looks 25, and when selling tickets at the movie theater, in his zeal to insure that every senior citizen benefits from the discount offered those 62 and above, he has on more than one occasion provoked astonished questions of "Do I look that old?" from insulted fifty- and even forty-somethings. This woman, however, though definitely not elderly, was glad enough for the seat simply to be amused at Stoler's mistake. She turned out to be from Essex, England, which led Stoler to ask why there was an Essex (etymologically, "the land of the East Saxons"), and a Middlesex, and a Sussex, and, even, historically, a Wessex, but no "Nossex". What had happened to the North Saxons? Or were they the ones who gave everyone else the names, so they just considered themselves the default, "us"? (Kind of the way that the people in the 20's and 30's who really classified the literary periods called theirs "the Modern one" with no thought of what posterity, which would no doubt consider itself equally modern as time marched on [and consider the 20's-30's guys to belong to the fusty past], leaving their successors no choice but to be "Post-Modern" or quite at a loss for a name. "Oh, but we do have a Nossex," she replied, "Haven't you ever heard of the farce, 'Nossex, Please, We're British'?" When Stoler asked her what she did for a living, she promptly replied that she was a brain surgeon, at which he was deeply impressed, and asked her what expression she and her colleagues used to characterize (by contrast) a task regarded as quite simple; did they use "it's not rocket science", or have something else? "Oh, I'm not really a brain surgeon," she explained, "I just say that." Stoler was aghast. "What? You took advantage of people's gullibility and inability to verify and dared practice upon their credulous simplicity? I....I....just can't believe someone would do that." But the woman, whose name was Patricia, had one more surprise for them; her hotel had overbooked, and in apology for having to move her, had given her a certificate for a free night, which she, already ticketed to return to the other side of the Atlantic, would not be able to use...would Beth and Stoler like it? Most certainly, they said, resolving in the future to give up their bus seats and in general be nice to people whenever possible in the hope of getting even more goodies out of them. (Not that they don't do this already.)
Meet the Press
But the bus was also transporting another passenger who would give them even more. It just happened that across the aisle sat a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, the paper, recently reconfigured, as Stoler had predicted, as a tabloid, that was sponsoring ("organizing" is not quite the word, if the lack of pasta party is any indication) the race and its associated . The reporter, Joyce Nishioka, appeared not to have been assigned to cover the race, but rather, as evinced by the fact that she was scribbling notes on the back of some email printouts rather than on notepad or recording them, to have sensed a story in progress before her as she headed to or returned from some morning errands or religious observance. She was engaged in interviewing another couple, who still wore the Hawaiian attire in which they had hoped to complete the race, but Stoler, ever alert for opportunities to manipulate the media as much as the media manipulate him, made sure to get her attention and answer all the questions she asked and several that she didn't. The results you may read here. We thank you, Ms. Nishioka, for the publicity, though of course, you were just doing your journalistic duty in bringing a story of vital import and interest before the reading public.
The End of the Road
They could have taken this bus almost all the way back to Beth's, but they did still want to pick up their official race t-shirts, whose value was probably a substantial part of their entry fee, at a post-race gathering near the finish line called "Footstock". So they rejoined the pack a mile or so from the end, just in time to pass under the photographers' platform and be shot once more in front of some naked guys8. The fair turned out to be as poorly organized as every other aspect of the race that they had experienced, with the only access to and egress from the two-or-three-football-field-sized fenced area through a fairly narrow tunnel which was clogged almost closed with people not going either in or out, but simply trying to avoid the rain. Only by inquiring of those already in possession of and wearing their shirts were Beth and Stoler able to steer themselves towards the site of the distribution of the t-shirts, which was not indicated by any sign, and not normal or standard in any way, except that the race participants, desperate for another layer of clothing (and a dry one at that) had formed a bell-shaped crowd around the appropriate tent, with more in the middle than on the ends. They were in approximations of orderly lines, almost a hissing histogram, until the whisper ran through that certain sizes were being given out only at the side tables, at which point those of that size, including Stoler, surged in that direction, simply pressing up against the tables and clamoring for their shirts with almost no control. They also managed to snag some swag, a few giveaway bottles of water (Dasani, which is basically tap water bottled and sold by Coca-Cola) and yet another new energy granola candy bar. Escaping back through the tunnel, they followed the crowd again until the turnoff (as if the rain weren't turnoff already) for Beth's street, and they finally did their first running of the day -- to catch one more bus that would take them home. The ten thousand finishers who would have their names in the paper had long since completed both their anabasis and their catabasis on an ongoing basis (or going on cannabis), crying "Thalassa! Thalassa!" as the Ocean and the finish line came into view, but Beth's and Stoler's destinies were taking them elsewhere, and to fame by another route. It was only ten in the morning, an hour when they are usually barely awakening, and yet they had done more than they often do in a day. They may not have stayed the course, but they had fought the good fight, and kept the faith with their sponsor. Like true Red Sox fans, they vowed "Wait 'til next year!" and resolved to begin training immediately for the event twelve months away, as soon as they had wallowed in sluggishness enough to make up for their unusual exertions. And so, reaching home at last, they took hot showers and crawled into warm beds, to sleep the untroubled sleep of squirrels who have successfully accumulated enough nuts for a cold winter's day, or of nuts who have successfully imitated enough squirrels for a rainy spring one.
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1. Of course, the lack of something can be as distinctive as any something, just as, for instance, in Russian, the genitive plural of feminine nouns is marked not by any ending, as the other case/number combinations are, but simply by the lack of any ending attached to the stem. See Roman Jakobson, 1984 . "The zero sign", in "Russian and Slavic Grammar: Studies, 1931-1981", 151-160. Berlin: Mouton. Back
2. "Or something", as the last in a series of alternatives, ("Let's do A, or B, or C, or something!") is of course, the answer to the Ultimate Question of the Universe, which is, of course, "Or what?" (as in, "Are we going to do A, or B, or C, or what?") Back
3. Which of course become the same thing, given time and menu enough. Back
4. Good examples include The Right Stuff, with Donald Moffat doing a dead-on Lyndon Johnson and the incomparable Ed Harris embodying the priggish decency of John Glenn; the recent Thirteen Days, with most of the Kennedy Administration pretty well embodied, and Oliver Stone's Nixon, which deserved a special award for casting. Every one of the President's men (and women) from Anthony Hopkins's Nixon on down was brought to life by someone who, without being a dead ringer facially for his or her role model, managed to capture, without caricature, the essential components of the character. Having well known actors do it actually adds to the fun, as you suddenly realize how much symbols that are so familiar in one context, say, David Hyde Pierce as Niles Crane on "Frasier", can, with little change, have a completely different role in another context, and become John Dean. As with puns, one thinks, "I never (consciously) thought of that, but it's true, it works!" or "Hey, I noticed that resemblance as well...glad someone else did!" Back
5. In a world that expects conformity, sometimes it seems the only way to express individualism is through destroying beauty, destroying order, or destroying oneself (a human being being an example of both, to the extent they really are different.) This, of course, is the message of the wonderful new Elvis Costello song "Tear Off Your Own Head (It's a Doll Revolution)": tear off your OWN head, destroy yourself -- before someone does it for you! Back
6. This, of course, is the strategy being used by the Bush Administration towards the American people. The recent revelations about official foreknowledge of the September 11 attacks have at least strongly suggested that the Administration could have prevented them. We don't know if the Administration deliberately set up the leaks any more than we know if they set up the attacks, but under the principle that selection equals creation, and that anything can be recontextualized and spun to one's advantage, they seem to be making maximum use of it. Because since the allegations, people like the head of the FBI, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and the Vice President, have not stopped talking about the continued threats to the American people from terrorism. In his speech to the Bundestag on Thursday, 23 May, the President extended this warning to Europe. But the implication is clear: only the United States government stands between you and imminent and total destruction (for which, though there is obviously some evidence, you mostly have to go on our word.) This is the same approach used by cultic religious leaders, in fact, by religious leaders in general -- "salvation from hellfire comes only through unquestioned loyalty to us", and by torturers and hostage takers. Back
7. This is an extension of Stoler's father's theory that all of the French restaurants on the West Side of Manhattan were served from a common kitchen. Stoler at first scoffed at this idea, until during his freshman year at college he worked in the Harvard dining halls, and found that they were indeed served out of a common kitchen beneath Kirkland House and connected by tunnels. (This being 1985-6, a time when, despite the beginnings of glasnost and perestroika under Gorbachev, fear of superpower conflict still ran high, Stoler was glad for all the time he could spend underground surrounded by ample food supplies.) In time, he has been able to confirm that similar arrangements underly the operations of all the Indian restaurants in West Berkeley and the Asian establishments of Chinatowns everywhere. Back
8. You can try to view the picture full size by clicking here, if you've downloaded the Clever Picture Viewer. Maybe just by going to the page, you'll be offered the chance to do so; good luck and try not to be offended. Back
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