Surfing the Economy

Go get ’em, Maureen:

President Bush tried to fix the economy before lunch yesterday.

He managed to last for 20 minutes each in four economic seminars at Baylor University. He dutifully scribbled some notes as participants talked, looking as happy as a high school kid in trig class, and bounded out of his chair when Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill told him he could be excused.

“Yes, well,” a visibly relieved Mr. Bush said, jumping up after an exhausting 18 minutes in “Economic Recovery and Job Creation,” “that’s the life of the president. Always has to go.” NY Times

Ludicrous, transparent, contemptible and (one of my favorite adjectives since November, 2000) risible — these come to mind to describe this soundbite “economic summit”. Say what you will about the NY Times; anyone continuing to bring us the public service of Maureen Dowd’s acerbic observations is all right in my book. More, much more, in the same vein collected here on BookNotes

— William Saletan, including William Saletan and Robert Kuttner.

But, Craig, you missed one — Joe Conason: Bush’s TV Show Lacking in Reality

:

The Waco forum was about as authentically significant for economic policy as the President’s “ranch” in nearby Crawford is for his credentials as a cowhand.

George W. Bush has learned from experience that if he emphasizes his Texas drawl, slaps on his cowboy hat and talks as if he’d never set foot in Andover, Yale and Harvard (let alone Kennebunkport and Greenwich), most people will buy the down-home shtick. The ranch is a perfect backdrop for this political persona, as a New York Times reporter observed last weekend in comparing the uses of the Bush ranch with the L.B.J. ranch (although the author neglected to note that Mr. Bush only bought his place in 1999, the year he decided to run for President). Surely George W. loves that Crawford spread, but his appearances there also help everyone forget that his favorite steed is neither a horse nor a pickup. It’s a golf cart.

The “economic forum” TV show performed similar functions of harmless deception and cheap reassurance. It was meant to demonstrate that this frequently vacationing President is actually a diligent executive; that he’s worried about those who have trouble “making ends meet”; that he listens to (and is listened to by) the powerful and the important as well as humble wage earners and shopkeepers. New York Observer

The Last Days…

…of Philip K. Dick by his friend science fiction writer and cartoonist Ray Nelson; a whimsical but disquieting evocation.

Here’s some of who Nelson is:

Ray says he became captivated with science fiction at the age of eight at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. “I was just there one day, but that was the most important day of my life because before that I was not a science fiction fan and after that day I was”. After that, he began reading science fiction and fantasy novels voraciously, and became a science fiction fan and cartoonist.

In the 1950s, he moved to Paris, where he met Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso and William Burroughs among others of the Beat Generation. He subsequently co-edited Miscellaneous Man, the first “Beatnik” little literary review. In Paris, he worked with Michael Moorcock smuggling Henry Miller books out of France…


In 1967, he published his first novel, The Ganymede Takeover in collaboration with Philip K. Dick.

Numerous books and short stories have followed. His book Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake and his wife are travelers in space and time, has been his greatest critical success. His short story 8 O’Clock in the Morning, was turned into the comic book story Nada, and Nada was made into the paranoid cult classic They Live in 1988. This John Carpenter film has shown remarkable staying power.

His greatest claim to fame, however, he says, is as inventor of the propeller beanie

while still in high school. Says Ray, “Centuries after all my writings have been forgotten, in some far corner of the galaxy, a beaniecopter will still be spinning.”

Also: Nelson’s Checklist of Fiction Faults and what to do about them.

Speaking of PKD:

The Secret Behind a Burger Cult

‘In-N-Out, founded on the West Coast in 1948, is that rarest of chain restaurants: one with a cult following. Exalted both by hamburger fans and those who normally shun fast food, it has built its reputation on the rock of two beliefs: fast food should be made from scratch, and the whims of the customer should be entertained.

Even Eric Schlosser, author of the muckraking book Fast Food Nation, is a fan.’ NY Times

Related: the In-n-Out website.

Homegrown:

Sushi Cooks Are Rolling Their Own:

“When takeout sushi, mostly in the form of tuna maki, the classic rice and fish roll wrapped in seaweed and sliced into disks, started turning up at supermarkets in Atlanta and Nashville several years ago, it was a sign that the sushi landscape in the United States was becoming more . . . well, Japanese. In Japan, sushi can be found in the finest restaurants, in subway kiosks and in most places in between. About the only place sushi isn’t prepared in Japan, in fact, is in the home.

Here, though, that’s not the case. If home cooks from New York to Iowa to Los Angeles are any indication, Americans are embracing sushi-making with abandon and, like the generations that introduced pizza and lo mein to home kitchens, are tinkering with the original recipes and creating a hybrid food that is a lesson in technique, flavor and — most important — freshness.” NY Times