January 6, 2004

Sunlight chases colors on my wall

* George Bush by the numbers. How federal spending has grown during President Bush's first three years. An excerpt:

"Discretionary spending, the one-third of the budget that must be approved annually by the president and Congress.
Numbers are in budget authority, or new spending Congress and the president enact. Some of the money is for long-range projects like defense contracts and is spent over several years.

Numbers include midyear emergency bills enacted to finance wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other costs, including $20 billion for 2001 provided under Bush. They also assume enactment of a measure combining seven 2004 spending bills into one, awaiting Senate approval.

-- Overall discretionary spending: 2001 $664 billion; 2002 $735 billion; 2003 $846 billion; 2004 $873 billion.

-- Overall discretionary spending increase under Bush, 2002 through 2004: $209 billion, or 10.5 percent annually.

-- Overall discretionary spending increase under Clinton, 1994 through 2001: $141 billion, or 3.4 percent annually.

* On book jacket puffery:

"'Call it puffery's 'War Against Cliché.' Things got odd in an attempt to avoid the banal. Really, if you can't do any better than to call a book a 'page-turner' or say that you 'couldn't put it down' (and god did I read a lot of those), you shouldn't be writing puffs at all. You have to say something different. Like James Ellroy on John Burdett's Bangkok 8:

'A novel so steeped in milieu that it feels as if you've blasted to Mars in the grip of a demon who won't let you go.'

Yes, it sounds good, but what does it mean? Why would a demon be taking you to Mars anyway? Is that where the demons live?

This is the kind of thing I mean. I puzzled over this year's puffery. Granted that it's part of the puffmaster's art to occasionally baffle, but I'm talking about firing metaphysical blanks. Michael Dirda on Steven Millhauser: 'A prose that doesn't merely aspire to the condition of music but actually achieves it.' Actually. Actually, in trying to improve on Pater, Dirda has said something that I don't think makes any sense. But at least I can see what Dirda is getting at. When Lorna Crozier tells us that Florence Treadwell's Cleaving 'arrives like a blue sweater filling the doorway and nothing is the same again' I pull a blank."

* Home recording studio building, for dummies [via tim o thompson]

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