The Snoozeletter @

White Christmas: Berlin/McPhatter/Held. 

Irving Berlin wrote "White Christmas" in early 1940, while sitting poolside at the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix, Arizona. His comment: "I just wrote the best song I've ever written--hell, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"

Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters' version of the tune first hit Billboard's R&B charts in December 1954, peaking at #2.

Joshua Held, a cartoonist/animator based in Florence, Italy, created a flash animation (now video, below) in 2002 from The Drifters' recording:

Dr. Maddow, I presume? 

Rachel Maddow, 35, is a Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in political science from Oxford. Her dissertation was on AIDS activism in prisons. During high school, she was a three-sport athlete who became the class valedictorian. At the last minute, she ditched the conventional preapproved graduation address in favor of an improvised speech about social responsibility. It got a standing ovation. She's a lesbian who came out at the age of 17, and she drives a bright red pickup truck.

Rachel has been with Air America Radio ( since its inception in the spring of 2004, and she recently got her own cable-TV show ( Her motto? "Mind over chatter." Some of her show's segments include: Lame Duck Watch (now with more Quackitude), Ms. Information, Talk Me Down and Just Enough. It's sort of like The Daily Show, with more insightful political analysis and smarter punchlines. Rachel's ratings are going through the roof.

New York Magazine wrote this about her, a few weeks ago: "Ever heard of something called Dada?" [¶] Rachel Maddow is trying to make an analogy. It’s mid-October, two weeks before the election, and the MSNBC host is comparing the McCain campaign’s recent fixation on "Joe the Plumber" to the anti-bourgeois cultural movement of the early-twentieth century. But this is prime time, and Maddow first has to define Dadaism in as colloquial a way as possible. This is something of a challenge considering she only has about twelve seconds. [¶] "Deliberately being irrational, rejecting standard assumptions about beauty or organization or logic," she begins. "It’s an anti-aesthetic statement about the lameness of the status quo ... kind of?" She twists her face into a cartoon grimace that morphs into a wide smile. "Why am I trying to explain Dadaism on a cable news show thirteen days from this big, giant, historic, crazy, important election that we’re about to have?" she asks with a self-deprecating laugh, as she recognizes the Dadaishness of her own quest. "Because that’s what I found myself Googling today, in search of a way to make sense of the latest McCain-Palin campaign ad!"

Updated sh*t from the... Kutyaszar Fesztivál:

Dam it.

The Dam Short Film Festival (see poster below) was founded in 2003 by Lee and Anita Lanier, to showcase films under 40 minutes in length.

The festival's home, Boulder City, Nevada, was originally founded as housing for the workers who were building Boulder Dam (now called Hoover Dam). The city (pop. 15,005) lies just 5 miles west of the dam and 25 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip. The Boulder City Chamber of Commerce has used the slogan "Best City By A Dam Site."

Construction on the dam began in 1931 and was completed in 1935. To divert the flow of the Colorado River around the Black Canyon construction site, 4 tunnels were driven through the canyon walls, 2 on the Nevada side and 2 on the Arizona side. While working in the tunnels, many laborers suffered from the carbon monoxide generated by the machinery located there. In a court case, one of the victims (Ed Kraus) claimed the carbon monoxide had left him impotent. But after hearing evidence given by a prostitute hired by the dam contractors, the jury found Ed's claim to be wanting.

During the concrete-pouring and curing phase of construction, it was necessary to circulate refrigerated water through tubes in the concrete. This was to remove the heat generated by the chemical reactions that solidify the concrete, since the setting and curing of the concrete was calculated to take about 125 years if cooling was not done.

The dam was built in a series of interlocking trapezoidal columns, and each pour was no more than 6 inches deep. Because of this depth, it is extremely unlikely that construction workers were accidentally buried alive in the concrete, contrary to popular folklore.

There is enough concrete in the dam to pave a two-lane highway from San Francisco to New York. The concrete is still curing and gaining in strength as time goes on.

Dam Short Film Festival
Oh, sh*t. We missed the Kutyaszar Fesztivál...

Mákos briós is the Hungarian version of a poppyseed brioche. It's very tasty, but if you look at one from the wrong angle, it appears to be... well, a dog turd.

Yesterday morning at 11am, a civic-minded performance-art group called NN decided to call attention to Budapest's growing canine-poop problem by holding a Mákos Briós Kutyaszar Fesztivál ("poppyseed brioche dogshit festival").

They covered the sidewalk outside Balettcipő café (located at Hajós utca 14) with a layer of artificial dog doo-doo.

I love sh*t like this. Gimme some more brioche. Yum.

Dogshit Festival
Transitioning w/the P-E(1).

I just visited to apply for a job in the new administration. Like every other American idealist, I'm hoping for one of those pork-barrel, show-up-once-a-month-to-collect-your-paycheck kind of deals.

I wonder who's in charge of making sure the Secret Service guys assigned to the President-Elect are all black? When the bullets start flying, everybody knows the honky agents will be a half-step behind the brothers.

I hear the Ku Klux Klan has already started selling shooting range targets, silkscreened with the P-E's face. Kennedy's Camelot abruptly ended 45 years ago today, and I'm hoping Obamalot won't end the same way.
Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

On the night of June 1, 2003, a Phoenix housewife named Stephenie Meyer had a dream. The dream was so vivid, she had to write it down... even though she had never written anything before. That dream eventually became a young-adult novel called Twilight. It spent a long time on the New York Times best-seller list. And now, that dream is a major motion picture.

Stephenie still lives up in Cave Creek, just north of Scottsdale. And she's an inspiration to us all.

So long, and thanks for all the fish.

[The immortal words of the not-so-immortal Douglas Adams, who died on May 11, 2001, at age 49.]

Whine and cheese(2). [The latest pain report.]

The Polish dominatrix (a/k/a my physical therapist, Yolanta) cranked my shoulder up to 146 degrees this morning, before I had to scream for mercy. So it's been a good day. But maybe that's just the Vicodin talking. ;-)

Then Yolanta wanted to hear the story of my latest script, so I gave her a 3-minute pitch. At the end of it, she pointed to her arm. It had visible goosebumps. I figure that's a good sign.

These twice-a-week PT sessions have become routine. I take it for granted that I will be lying on a massage table, writhing in unspeakable pain, while Yolanta tries to twist off my arm at the socket.

It's really quite medieval. If the Spanish Inquisition had employed techniques like these, they would have gotten a LOT more confessions.

Plastic Orthopedic Goniometer
Corporate U.S. Flag... by Adbusters:

Corporate Flag
4Jul2009 edition of NYT.

This arrived in my email yesterday. The website seems to be slammed right now...

Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 3:56 PM
From: "New York Times Special Edition"
To: Alan C. Baird

CONTACT: 917-202-5479, 718-208-0684, 415-533-3961

Thousands of volunteers behind elaborate operation

* PDF:
* Ongoing video releases:
* The New York Times responds:

Hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists are claiming credit for an elaborate project, 6 months in the making, in which 1.2 million copies of a "special edition" of the New York Times were distributed in cities across the U.S. by thousands of volunteers.

The papers, dated July 4th of next year, were headlined with long-awaited news: "IRAQ WAR ENDS". The edition, which bears the same look and feel as the real deal, includes stories describing what the future could hold: national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for CEOs, etc. There was also a spoof site, at

"Is this true? I wish it were true!" said one reader. "It can be true, if we demand it."

"We wanted to experience what it would look like, and feel like, to read headlines we really want to read. It's about what's possible, if we think big and act collectively," said Steve Lambert, one of the project's organizers and an editor of the paper.

"This election was a massive referendum on change. There's a lot of hope in the air, but there's a lot of uncertainty too. It's up to all of us now to make these headlines come true," said Beka Economopoulos, one of the project's organizers.

"It doesn't stop here. We gave Obama a mandate, but he'll need mandate after mandate after mandate to do what we elected him to do. He'll need a lot of support, and yes, a lot of pressure," said Andy Bichlbaum, another project organizer and editor of the paper.

The people behind the project are involved in a diverse range of groups, including The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.

In response to the spoof, the New York Times said only, "We are looking into it." Alex S. Jones, former Times reporter who is an authority on the history of the paper, says: "I would say if you've got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector's item."

Wish you were here? 

Take a look at some live (or nearly live) windows into our world. Below are a few samples from two Google webcam searches - Arizona and Phoenix. Most of the cameras update every minute or two, but some are on longer cycles. Click any of the images for larger versions.

WeatherBug has about 13 webcams, scattered around Arizona. This one (approximately 40 km west of our house) is at KTVK-TV Channel 3 in Phoenix:


The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has 5 webcams throughout metro Phoenix, aimed in several different directions. Can you see the Superstition Mountains (located about 20 km southeast of here) through the smog?

Superstition Mountains

The Arizona Department of Transportation maintains some great traffic webcams, but like most government agencies, it has no clue about how to present the images. TrafficLand, on the other hand, has designed the perfect interface for those same webcams, using a Google map. Here's the freeway exit that Anikó uses every morning, about 20 km southwest of here:

US60, E of Mesa Dr

The University of Arizona is in Tucson, approximately 150 km southeast of here. Check out this shot of the UA campus, looking north towards the Santa Catalina Mountains:


Finally, here's a spectacular view of the Kitt Peak National Observatory, located about 230 km south of our house, or 90 km southwest of Tucson:


Other webcam listings: EarthCam (ASU), Tempe, Tucson, SedonaCam, Grand Canyon, Glen Canyon, Universidad de Sonora-Hermosillo Mexico (500 km south),, WXnation and CincyStreet.
A good week(2).

The first week of September was a mighty good week for me.

I just discovered that My Dad Is My Hero: Tributes to the Men Who Gave Us Life, Love, and Driving Lessons recently became available for pre-order on Amazon. The editor bought one of my stories, during that week in September.

After yesterday's delivery of Budapest Tales, this week is looking pretty darn good, too.

My Dad Is My Hero: Tributes to the Men Who Gave Us Life, Love, and Driving Lessons
Budapest Tales. 

Budapest TalesMy contributor's copy just arrived from Poland. It looks great!
Editor-in-Chief: Andrew Fincham; Editors: John a'Beckett, James Coon
ISBN: 8392316851; €5.99; Publisher:; Available: Amazon
Third in a projected series of ten: Warsaw Tales, Prague Tales, Bucharest Tales, Ljubljana Tales, Krakow Tales

Table of Contents (authors): The Nightmares, by Aliz Mosonyi; Loneliness Bridge, by David Hill; The Glass Xylophonist, by Lyn Moir; Has anyone seen?, by István Örkény; Spinster of this day, by David Hill; City of Holes, by Péter Zilahy; Streets of Hats, by D. Harlan Wilson; Budapest, by Dániel Varró; In the Kosher Restaurant, by Philip Terman; Cake, by Andrew Fincham; Gramzaphat, by James G. Coon; Street Fair, by János Lackfí; Divided City, by Lyn Moir; The Ladies of Bygone Days, by Ottó Orbán; Ballad on the Magic of Poetry, by István Örkény; The Cutting Shepherd, by Kristián Grecsó; Boarded-Up Windows, by István Ferenczes; Garden Before The Rain, by János Oláh; Stations of Origin, by Dániel Dányi; The Strange Unravelling of Lazlo Frynge, by James G. Coon; Welcome visitors, by Zoltán Bószórményi; Flower-sellers, Budapest, by Kathleen Jamie; The Giants of Gellért Hill, by Aliz Mosonyi; Out to Grass, by Margaret Eddershaw; Gyula Suburb, by Bohdan Zadura; An Unusual Incident, by Lajos Parti Nagy; Pan-European transport corridor no. 7, by David Hill; Blue Danube, by Melanie Challenger; The Trouble with Gulls, by Júlia Lázár; Journal, by Mónika Mesterházi; Encounter, by István Örkény; Three Meetings, by David Walker; Death in the Evening, by Paul Sohar; Confirmation, by Iván Bächer; Selected Hungaricks, by A. Bo; Dictators, by Péter Zilahy; A Hat full of Stars, by Andrew Fincham; After The Orient Express, by Todd Swift; Attila the Hun, by Maureen Micus Crisick; On my 32nd Birthday, by Attila József; Dumb to the Deaf, by László Krasznahorkai; Class Struggle, by Iván Bächer; Dusk in The Old Town, by Paul Sohar; Uncommon City, Uncommon Cold, by Péter Hargitai; Dog Day, by Carl Rowlands; János' Bakery, 6 am, by Maureen Micus Crisick; I Am Not a Muse, by Sue Healy; The Danube, by Aliz Mosonyi; Money in Magyar, by A. Bo; Campaign Promise, by Paul Olchvary; Hungarian, by John Hartley Williams; And..., by Matthew Sweeney; The Coolest Room in the City, by George Szirtes; The Political Refugee, by Alex Domokos; Vengeance on the Danube, by Alan C. Baird (p.123); Magyar Melpomene, by Victoria Northrop; Rendezvous with The Devil, by Paul Sohar; The Final Question, by István Örkény; A Flat in Budapest, by Ben Mousley.
Obama Grammys.

I didn't know about the two Grammy awards won by Barack Obama, for the spoken-word versions:

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceThe Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

of his two books:

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and InheritanceThe Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream

This morning's shoulder rehab session was a real blinger, not because of the pain--which is as excruciating as ever, thank you--but because some Navy lifer jerk came in and started loudly circulating rumors about Barack Obama:

1) he was born in Nigeria,
2) he's a Muslim,
3) he took the oath of office on a Koran, and
4) he refuses to say the Pledge of Allegiance.

There were 8 or 9 people in the gym-like physical therapy center (4 therapists + patients), and they all seemed to accept these claims as true. I suspected the statements were false, but I didn't really know, so I kept my mouth shut. At that point, the Navy a**hole began telling borderline-racist jokes. Nobody objected; in fact, most people laughed.

I know this is Arizona, and I've come to accept the fact that many of my neighbors are hyper-religious white-supremacist nutjobs, but this was the first time I've ever been scared into silence. So I did some fact-checking at when I got home, and sure enough, all the rumors were false.

FYI: if Obama were a Muslim, and swore an oath on the Koran, it would not really be newsworthy. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) was the first Muslim elected to the United States Congress, and he took his oath of office in 2007 on the bible of Islam, the Koran. In the National Review (Oh Say, Can You Swear on a Koran?), Eugene Volokh, a professor of Law at UCLA, wrote:

To begin with, the oath is a religious ritual, both in its origins and its use by the devout today. The oath invokes God as a witness to one's promise, as a means of making the promise more weighty on the oathtaker's conscience. [¶] This is why, for instance, the Federal Rules of Evidence, dealing with the related subject of the courtroom oath, state, "Before testifying, every witness shall be required to declare that the witness will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation administered in a form calculated to awaken the witness' conscience and impress the witness' mind with the duty to do so." If you want the oath to be maximally effective, then it is indeed entirely true that "all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book." That book is the one that will most impress the oathtaker's mind with the duty to comply with the oath.

To which my wife, the Shopping Queen, replied: "If I ever take an oath of office, I plan to get sworn in on my checkbook."
An open apology.

FROM: America
TO: The rest of the world
SUBJECT: These last eight years

MESSAGE: Sorry. We screwed up. Bad. Let's hope things get better now.
Election-night parties.

This evening, John McCain will deliver his speech from the Arizona Biltmore Resort here in Phoenix, where room rates start at $259 a night.

On the other hand, Barack Obama is expected to address almost a million supporters at Chicago's Grant Park.

Sounds about right.
Synecdoche, New York. 

syn·ec·do·che (sin-EK-do-kee):

1) a figure of speech by which a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage).

2) Charlie Kaufman's new movie.

Good interview. Great reviews: Time + NYT. Yowza. When's it coming to Phoenix? downloads: hot. 3.0 was released on Monday, October 13. After the first week, three million downloads had been racked up. During the second week, another three million were tallied. It looks like they might get another three million this week, according to their download thermometer:


2 Nov Update: Bouncer downloads - 8,012,165.
Studs Terkel (1912-2008).

I met Studs when I was working as a page at NBC in NY, and he was doing an interview on the Today show. I buttonholed him outside the studio doors, and asked him to sign a dog-eared copy of Working (People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do). He was very gracious, and seemed delighted to autograph my crappy old book. What a class act.

Studs Terkel, writer and radio personality, dies at 96 (LA Times)