Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Autumn

Summer is over.

My arugula and basil went to seed.


My big sunflowers died, like friendships that didn't work out.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bottom Line On The Polanski Bust

Roman Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland on a U.S. warrant, issued in 1978 when Polanski fled the country after being convicted of having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski is 76. He survived the Krakow ghetto, his parents died at Auschwitz, his wife and unborn child were brutally murdered by Charles Manson's "family." He's one of the world's most talented and successful makers of film, and he was entering Switzerland to be honored at the Zurich film festival when he was busted. He and his victim -- she's 45-years-old now and has joined Polanski's petition to overturn his conviction -- reached a settlement years ago.

In the Seventies, some people thought Polanski was being persecuted. Others, including The Smoking Gun, have been crying for the brilliant director's that little pervert's blood for years.

I think the latest Polanski flap is a lot of fun.

The fact that Polanski could walk around France safely for 30 years, then be busted by Switzerland the minute he stepped into the country to get a highly publicized award -- although he owns a home there -- tells us a lot about those two countries. Say what you want to about the French, France has always been a place to go and thumb your nose at the U.S. if you want to.

Apparently, the Swiss have an extradition agreement with the U.S. and the French don't. Who knew that about the Swiss? It looks like Polanski didn't.

And then, there's the conspiracy angle. Was Polanski set up by the Zurich Film Festival and the Swiss Police? Or was this Polanski's sensational way of turning himself in? We'll probably know by the end of the week. The U.S. is under pressure to move on this one.

Update: France and Poland urged Switzerland to free Polansky on bail and pressed U.S. officials all the way up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the case. The Swiss said there was a chance Polanski could be released on bail if he promised not to flee the country.

Update 2: Polanski has decided to fight. His lawyer says the U.S. extradition request is illegal. I figure he has about as much chance as those tax evaders who thought the Swiss wouldn't turn their bank records over to the U.S.

Update 3: Polanski's lawyers say the U.S. never tried to catch Polanski before. The L.A. prosecuters say they did, including one time they thought he was headed for Thailand.

Update 4: The French are outraged. "There's an America we love and an America that scares us," French Culture Minister FrÉdÉric Mitterrand said, "and it's that latter America that has just shown us its face." Mitterrand said he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy (shown below with President Obama and an unidentified girl) hoped for a "rapid resolution to the situation which would allow Roman Polanski to rejoin his family as quickly as possible."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Are Frogs Reptiles?


Fanged frogs? Looks like things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. 18 new reptiles v. only 2 new mammals? One of the mammals is a bat, though. Can always use more bats.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Gigantes




Couple of months ago, I tossed some sunflower seeds into the corner of my front yard. I had no idea how big these Mexican sunflowers could get or how hard it would be to get rid of them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Foot Fault

The U.S. Open and professional tennis disappeared up its fundamental orifice this weekend, when the insanity of letting a petty bureaucrat make a decision that could cost her a million dollars drove Serena Williams over the brink.

Professional tennis players play for prizes and advertising money that, on a per player basis, makes the stakes they play for as high as or higher than any other sport. Hundreds of millions of people all over the world watch them play.

There is no appeal, no reprieve, no instant replay that, reviewed by a competent official, can overturn the call of a foot fault by a mediocre judge. Nothing can reverse a lame call that mistakes a heel in the air above a line for a toe on the line. Nothing can undo the cry: Foot Fault! once it's been blurted out.

I wish I could shove this ball down your throat! Serena shouted. I wish she could shove it up professional tennis' ass.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rubbish!

I have a thought about Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar on national television. When it happened, I laughingly told Suzanne: The British don't even call the Prime Minister a liar during Q and A.

However, reading a Gail Collins op ed this morning, I was reminded the British do hurl insults back and forth, and I suddenly remembered Tony Blair delivering an answer about the Iraq invasion while someone on the back bench repeatedly shouted: Rubbish! I was rolling on the floor laughing.

In plain American, that would be "Bullshit!"

I can't help thinking the State Of The Union might be advanced if the opposition were allowed an occasional "Bullshit!" when the President addresses Congress.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Knights Of Science

If this is propaganda, it's well done.

Authorities in Pakistan's Swat Valley have resumed vaccinating children for polio, a practice the Taliban had banned as un-Islamic before they were beaten back by an army offensive.

I have to admit there's part of me could back a modern crusade to spread science and medicine around the world, even at the point of a gun. Complex issue.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Steambath


You remember Steambath. God is a Puerto Rican attendant at a steambath. GFTB probably ran into him around the neighborhood now and then. That probably explains why she, JLo and Sotomayor have been so successful.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Thanks For The Memories


Thanks for reminding me, Des. Galveston girl. Born about 4 years after me. The first actress to expose her tits on television.

Encyclopedia Of Life

I doubt there is any way we can slip the Komogator into the Encyclopedia Of Life. Maybe we need an Encyclopedia Of Non-Life, devoted to the description and classification of things that don't exist but ought to. I'm sure there must be a place where people are cataloging imaginary or near-imaginary creatures, sort of an expanded Circus Of Dr. Lao. If we don't find a good one, maybe we can open a room in The Hive.

Science fictions and mysteries

When I was a lad, well-meaning county officials would send, monthly, the bookmobile to our benighted community, a stingray's ride from my house. The back wall (over the rear axle) was dedicated to mysteries. And science fiction books, mostly serial compilations of short stories from SF pulps like Analog.

This phase represented the second in my development as a reader. Prior to the age of 10, I focused on biographies, looking for clues on how to be.

In science fiction, I was looking for clues about sex. And there were plenty. I recall one in which people of the future wore appliances in their pants with living tissue that satisfied their desires. This was designed to insure domestic tranquility. The pre-teen protagonist, too young to have been issued his gear, wondered why folks had pot bellies when nutritional science had been perfected.

A few years later, I bought a Vespa and could work after school in the real public library, as a book page. Sixty cents an hour, shelving returned books. This gave me access to stuff like Philip Roth and Updike and the two Kinsey Reports, so I could continue my investigations.

Now kids have sex ed and the internet. And we really know nothing about nutritional science.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I'll See You On The Other Side

The ceiling is cracked all over now and sagging. But it's not the way I thought it would be at all. The ceiling is floating away instead of falling. There's no sound. Just the sound of my breathing. I can see the stars.

It's Starting



I went to the surface about an hour ago. Things are starting to happen. I have so many things to move, but I can't get down the tunnels now. I have to sleep.

Easy Questions

How many kids can identify a Komogator before it chews their asses off the way Hive kids can? Do they know what you call that arch between a woman's legs when she stands with her legs apart and why all women don't have it? Have they seen houses that look like music and heard jazz sung in Washington, D.C., clubs in the small hours of the morning? Can they see the space between animation and the real world? Can they run a river, pick a metal tray out of a tub of scalding water, speak five languages at once? Do they know what a credit default swap is? Can they find Iraq and Afghanistan on a map, even if the countries aren't labeled? Do they know the difference between a Palouse and an archeologist? Where the best museums in the world are? How to ride big bikes in the rain? What the flu formerly known as swine virus looks like? What impulses are and why they matter? And can they freeze for one split second when they dance to let the world glide by?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Found It!


I found it! I found an opening through one of the chambers at the top of the Hive! Fresh air, the coolest bluest water you've ever seen. It's so beautiful. Some of you have been going the wrong way. You have to go UP! I know it's strange, but keep formicating up to the top of the Hive. When you get there, just follow the sound of the water. But I don't think there's much time left. It took me almost three hours to get here because I went looking for Mansky first. I found him and he's okay though I think the Komogators really put him through the ringer. He isn't making much sense now. Come quickly. Time is running out.

100 Clicks To Go

What's coming seems so familiar. Nowhere. I know I've been there before. It's all around us.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Counting Down

I've shut down links and passages to other sites so they don't get hit by the shockwaves when the ceilings and walls of the The Hive cave in.

In a week or so, I'll start closing rooms and tunnels and barring the doors. If there is anything you want out of The Hive, you better grab it fast.

I'm trying to decide whether to be the last to leave or stay behind like a captain going down with his ship or, even better, like a pharoah's architect.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Turnstile Is Clicking

I've been thinking about something Antepilani mentioned a while back. Chris Burden connected a turnstile to a heavy jack positioned between two posts supporting the ceiling of a gallery. Every time a visitor entered the gallery through the turnstile, the jack spread the posts a fraction of an inch farther apart. If enough visitors entered the exhibit, the ceiling would come crashing down.

I've picked the 10,000th visit as the event that will cave in the walls and ceilings of The Hive. We're at 9,655 and clicking. Some of the outer tunnels are caving in already. We have about a week to go. The Hive won't be here for the eon flux or the passage of health insurance reform. We're going to miss the troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and, sadly, we'll never know if Mansky finds a dwarf who will do nude scenes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tunnel Envy



Man. When I think of the years it would take us to dig a tunnel like this at The Hive, it just boggles my mind.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Late Bloomers


I've never seen this before. A couple of more poppies are trying to bloom. This one is deformed. Have to wait to see what the other bloom looks like. We put some compost tea made from my wife's white bread compost on the cut-back poppies last week. Could that have done it? This is very late in the year for poppies to try to bloom in my experience. Art Appraiser's catnip is in the background.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ant Trails

There are dark passages in The Hive I hesitate to visit, corridors I'm almost afraid to go down without a flashlight in one hand and a .45 automatic in the other. I don't know where they lead or what's waiting for me down there.

My grandfather and my father were both cops. I barely remember my grandfather. He was a big Irishman who smoked cigars and threw his blackjack at me when I tried to lift it off his belt. I was six or seven. I gave him a wide berth after that, and he died of a heart attack the next year.

My father and mother were divorced right after I was born. I spent time with him on weekends and vacations in the Summer. He was cynical and suspicious, and I don't remember him ever accepting anything I said at face value. He assumed I was lying. Maybe it was the job made him like that, or maybe he was like that and found the perfect job. I'm sure he was the kind of Southern cop who hated black people, except for the little kids. He thought the kids were "cute."

When I was four or five, my mother and I were walking home one night, and we were attacked. My mother threw me at the attacker, ran to the house and let our dog out. He was a big dog and very protective. They used to have to put him outside if they were thinking of spanking me. When the attacker turned up at the emergency room later, my father and his friends were waiting for him there.

My wife was a mid-career artist when she got the idea it would be interesting to document how institutions imprint themselves on people. She started the project in Seattle and almost joined the Seattle police, but she got a fellowship in Houston and ended up completing the project down there. She went into the Houston Police Academy right before her 35th birthday. She recently gave me permission to talk about that year from my point of view. I didn't experience it myself, though I heard some of it on the police-band radio I kept by my bed, but I have some idea of what women run into in that world. I've heard what it's like to chase a car load of kids across Houston at high speeds -- I actually listened to this one -- and then have to race on foot to get to the kids before the cops in the other cars can beat them up. I know what happens when you turn a fellow officer in for putting his gun to a kid's head. And I have an idea how it feels to go into buildings without being sure your backup will be there if you need it. I know about the three kids and the kitten with diarrhea, cooped up all day, watching television in an apartment on the East side. And I know about the helicopters that circle poor neighborhoods all night, but never go near River Oaks.

I'm sure all that personal history plays into the way I see the Gates, Crowley, Obama flap. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee

I've been re-reading Dee Brown's Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee this week. Brown's great achievement was to envision a history of the West narrated by the Native Americans who were rubbed out by the advance of "Americans" westward. As those of you who love the book as I do know, Brown invites his readers to read the book facing East. When I do that, I immediately lose my sense of being "an American" and see myself as a European, invading and conquering the richest continent on earth. I can't tell you how much I detest seeing myself as a European.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Impulses



From a young designer/musician friend of Subject of Science's. It's pretty amazing that young people are listening to things like this and passing them on. We were at a pool party. I'd been doing my Julia Child imitation and passing on my roast chicken recipe. I mentioned my daughter's music teacher had told her a little exercise she was playing would be exciting when she started "connecting the notes," but he hadn't explained what that meant.

More than a fair trade for a roast chicken recipe.

Much Less Build A Thunderdome

Where are the hybrids going to fight? Where will the Billygator take down the Manskyeddie if not in The Thunderdome. I'm not waiting for an atmosphere.

NASA says they can't keep piddling around and get to Mars, too.

I wish there was a better planet within reach. No wonder the predators come here. We've got the jungles. How can you have an adventure without a jungle, or at least a dense forest? Guess we'll have to go underground on Mars. Middle Mars. Maybe find some of those things wrap you up in their arms and all that's left of you is steaming guts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Last Venusian

I want some great stories. Anyone voting against great stories is a soulless shit and should be stuck on an ice floe 'til death.

But, if we're gonna go back into space, this time I want those assholes from NASA and their consultants and PR people to all shut the fuck up. Not one word about how we're creating valuable technologies that industry can use. That crap has to be shit-canned.

I want ADVENTURE, goddammit. Big brass-assed stories with thrills, chills, back-stabbing, REAL heroism, white knuckled fear and great big missions to be accomplished on behalf of God and History.

And, frankly, if you fucking Americans aren't gonna get back into the Adventure and Excitement and Big Paul Bunyan kinda thing, then you better just piss off and get out of the way. Because it was the one thing you were good at, and damned if I can think of any others these days.

I want American astronauts who piss tobacco juice into a tin can tied to their leg, who wrangle an extra buxom blonde on-board, who get liquored up and take potshots at the left-over lunar landers, who've got hooks for hands and insist on unscrewing radioactive jars with them, who climb down onto Mars and bust off the ladder behind them so that other prick has to stay in the lander, who secretly bring their own mix tapes and play 'em back to Houston for hours on end while refusing to answer THEIR questions, who make up stories about fighting 3-eyed space Martians, and then laugh at their naivete, while saying nothing - not one word - about the slimy 1-eyed Martian bastards who actually appeared and ate that other guy you never liked much. Or maybe the Russian guy, if it was a joint mission. Yeah, fuckit. Eat him.

I mean, what the hell happened, America? Frat boys got yer tongue? It's like it became all about the money - and nothing about the adventure. When did "live free or die" turn into "park free or pout?"

I wanna see Astronauts with degrees in etymology AND entomology. One-eyed quarterbacks that like to unscramble alien genetic codes. Unhappy kids named Charles from Nebraska who enjoy guns and dislike other species. A super-genius who can't get girls, Siamese attached to a super-duper genius who can. That sort of thing.

America's Martian Adventure.

I'd pay to see that.

quinn the eskimo

Monday, July 20, 2009

Sprite



Now why would this ad be controversial? She didn't swallow.

Damn Right He Did

Apollo 11 command module pilot Michael Collins, who circled the moon alone while Armstrong and Aldrin walked on it, said the moon was not interesting, but Mars is. "Sometimes I think I flew to the wrong place. Mars was always my favorite as a kid and it still is today," Collins said.

The Apollo crew is pitching an expedition to Mars to Obama today.

In the meantime, we have to get past the solar eclipse on Wednesday, and get over the shock of finding out that our wiley old Obamaman isn't doing as well as we thought with the electorate. It's his economy now, his war in Afghanistan, his health insurance reform and his very existence that's being challenged by three old men today. If he can't get it up for Mars, what good is he?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Just Checking

I just want to make sure that no Hive ant was involved in this.

If any of you engaged in this kind of torture, it's the vats for you. Stinging prisoners is against Hive policy and will not be tolerated.

I remember when they used to bury people up to their heads in ant hills. The modern version of that is a couple of fire ants in a motorcycle helmet. My thought is a couple of people from the '68 Nixon campaign must have worked their way up the ladder at the CIA.

Annals Of The Annals

The number of page views at Annals Of The Hive passed 25,000 this week. Since less than 20 people read The Hive regularly, I'd say we need to get out into the real world more. We're spending way too much time around here. Get out. Get some fresh air.

Summer's almost gone.

Conspiracy Theories

NASA admits they lost the video of the first lunar landing. And NASA isn't worried that using a Hollywood-based company to recreate the tapes might fuel the fire of conspiracy theorists who believe the entire lunar program that landed people on the moon six times between 1969 and 1972 was staged on a movie set or secret military base. Might? Well, of course it will. Any fact or coincidence that can be stretched to fit into a conspiracy theory will fuel it.

I thought it would be fun to recall some of the great conspiracy theories of my lifetime.

Pearl Harbor
The Kennedy Assassination
The Lunar Landing
Flouridation
Alien Abductions and Encounters of all kinds, including Venusian infiltrators
9/11, particularly the attack on the Pentagon

It seems to me that all of these conspiracy theories have an element in common. Mistrust of government. They are, essentially, anti-government myths, spawned by people who oppose the administration in power or government in general.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Little Short Of The Plate

I fear we have witnessed a symbolic moment. Obama's first pitch at the Allstar Game last night was a little short of the plate.



It's bound to be compared to Obama's delivery on campaign promises, his stimulus package, health insurance reform and any number of other instances of this President not quite meeting expectations.

Worse, the Obama delivery is already being compared to President Bush's first pitch after 9/11.



Of course, it's hardly fair to compare Obama's athleticism to the chimp-like agility of George W. Bush whose simian reflexes were the hallmark of his Presidency.


Not only that, there are already calls for Hillary to throw out the first ball next year in addition to returning to center stage in foreign policy as soon as her elbow heals.

Finally, I can't resist commenting on President Obama's tennis shoes. Impressive. Here's the brilliant Sidney Poitier in A Raisin In The Sun. It breaks my heart to think about who Obama might have been.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Spooky Politics

When I heard Leon Panetta had canceled a CIA program that hadn’t been briefed to Congress, I assumed the program must have involved torture, renditions, domestic spying or worse.

Turns out the program, hidden from the Congress on Vice President Cheney’s orders, was aimed at finding and killing or capturing al-Qaida leaders at close range rather than targeting them with air strikes.

Now, I have often been critical of Mr. Cheney. I’ve even accused him of not being man enough to waterboard prisoners personally, and I’ve wondered what might have happened if Cheney and Bush had given that a try.

But I can’t fault Cheney for wanting to kill al-Qaida leaders at close range instead of with missiles. While we might avoid American casualties by using missiles, I doubt impersonal and indiscriminate killing does a lot for our reputation in the Muslim world.

I do have two questions, though. Why keep the program secret from Congress?

And why did Panetta kill the program? Why not brief the Congress and go ahead with it?

More Evidence Of Two Americas

The New York Times reports the recession has hit blacks in New York City four times as hard as it has hit whites.

David R. Jones, president and chief executive of the Community Service Society, which lobbies on behalf of low-income workers, said he did not “think this recession has gone out equally.”

Low-wage workers and workers who lack skills are really getting hit hard,” he said. “These are the workers who are sort of fungible. They lose their jobs very quickly, particularly in retail, the people who move boxes and do unskilled work. There are large numbers of African-Americans in that sector.”

Manufacturing, which has shed more jobs than any other sector of the city’s economy, had become a mainstay for black workers, Mr. Jones said. Government jobs had also become a prime source of solid, stable work for many blacks in the city, he added. But lately there have been cutbacks there, too, as falling tax revenue has forced the paring back of budgets.

The Times notes that the jobless figures among blacks became enough of a national issue that at a White House news conference last month, President Obama was asked what he could do to “stop the bloodletting in the black unemployment rate.”

The president said that to help any community, whether it be blacks, Latinos or Asians, he needed to “get the economy as a whole moving.”

“If I don’t do that, then I’m not going to be able to help anybody,” the president added.

That sounds a lot like trickle down economics to me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I Like To Be In America!

Americans value science and scientists, but only a third of us believe in evolution.  That's consistent with some research President Obama picked up on a few years back and decided to bet his political future on. More Americans believe in angels than believe in evolution.

The Pew Research survey released today found most Americans value the nation's scientific achievements, but not as much as they did a decade ago. That's probably because the scientists are pushing wierd ideas like global warming, stem cell research and childhood vaccinations.

As I recall, there was a study done during the Democratic primary that showed a significant percentage of the Democratic base couldn't find Iraq, Afghanistan or Iran on a map, even if the countries were labeled.  Nobody seems to have bothered to study the Republican base.

That's A Relief

President Obama proudly announces that the world has avoided a financial disaster. I hereby proclaim the salvation of the world economy, and, possibly, the human race, that wiley Obamaman said.

Amazingly, he failed to take credit for the fact that the swine flu has turned out to be less lethal than we feared and that colony collapse disorder, while always imminent, has not devastated The Hive yet. He also neglected to remind us that we weren't hit by an asteroid this year.

Only a matter of time before we find images of the Obamaman in tree trunks, water stains, peeling wallpaper and burned tortillas.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

To Hell With The Internet


Be sure you listen to the audio of Ray Bradbury, telling us what he cares about. This is a man who understands Mars and obviously understands what is important in life.
Not to press the point, but no Internet, no Wiki, no google and no Hive. Haha!



So What?

UNESCO, the UN cultural agency, says the United States damaged the ruins of Babylon during the Iraq occupation.

According to UNESCO, U.S. troops and contractors inflicted considerable damage on the historic site of Babylon, driving heavy machinery over sacred paths, bulldozing hilltops and digging trenches through one of the world' most important archaeological sites.

Sacred paths? Sacred to whom? Ishtar? That has to be the worst movie ever made. Who cares if the paths they moved their dollies over when they filmed it were damaged? And what's so precious about gardens where people got hung? Hell. Nobody I know was hung there. Saddam Hussein wasn't even hung there, even after he screwed up the ruins of Babylon, trying to restore them.

As for that Ishtar Gate, as our readers know, the Iraqis are lucky we didn't just up and haul it back to New York City and put it up where the twin towers used to be.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Honey

The first time I used a GPS system was in an AVIS rental we picked up at the L.A. airport and drove up to Santa Barbara. Had a reasonable female voice. I called her "Honey." The joke wore thin with my wife in a couple of days, but my daughter never got tired of it.

Now, when I'm driving my daughter to swim meets or wherever and she's reading the google directions to me, she does a pretty good job of imitating Honey. Turn left on Shawnee Drive, she says in a slightly robotic voice.

Today she had an interesting idea. What if people gave you samples of their kids voices, and you programmed Honey to sound like the kids? You could have your daughter's or your son's voice giving you directions, keeping you company on your trip away from home. Sort of a personality module downloaded into any Honey. Turn left on Shawnee Drive, Daddy, the little Honey would say.

I like it. Hell, you could even give the personality modules personalities. Instead of just the wife, you could have the nagging wife. How many times do I have to tell you to turn left on Shawnee Drive, Bonehead? Or the husband who refuses to ask for directions. That turn is around here somewhere. Give me a goddam minute, will you? Old guys could ramble. Old ladies could talk about the grandkids between turns.

The possibilities are endless.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I don't want a Pickle.

Saturday in southern New Mexico in June, and it's muy calido. Time to bustamove. Make like a bakery truck and haul buns, or a hockey player and get the puck out of here. It's already afternoon, but the days are long, so I drop the hound off at a friends' place, and fire up the motorcycle. Just putting the plan in motion begins to cool things off a bit, and once the bike and I are rolling yo estoy fresco. It looks like it's raining in the mountains, but I just don't care. It's got to be a bit cooler up there, and I've got my rain suit in the saddle bags. Within 20 minutes I've gained over 4000 feet in elevation and am into the clouds. Now it's raining and I'm a little too cool. Stop at a minute mart and don the rain gear. Five minutes later I'm on my way through a light drizzle. My temperature's good and I'm dry in my goretex cocoon. Since it's raining I decide to ride a direction I don't normally go, which will take me back down the eastern side of the mountains, and theoretically away from the rain showers. Twenty five minutes later. my decision seems sound, as the rain clouds dissipate, and the sun begins to peek through. What a beautiful corner of the world this is. Rain or shine, there's no denying that. Starting to get hot now. Stop. Doff the rain gear and keep riding. Not too far. If I keep going this direction, I'll be entering the Permian Lands. Kinda like Mordor, with it's oil and gas infrastructure everywhere, only it's sunny.

I turn North, and man, it's hotter on this side of the mountains than the one I just left. Brutal heat. But there's nothing here, and the roads are straight and long, and all I can do is just keep riding. And my ass is getting pretty sore. It's been two hours and my circulation is impaired. How far to that next town? I'm riding fast, but the miles are passing slowly in these flatlands. Finally I enter the town, and gas up the bike. Days like this you appreciate the canopy over the pumps for the shade. I need a break, and keep my eyes peeled for a cervezeria, but I'm not seeing any Budweiser™ signs anywhere. I'm starting to worry that I've wandered into one of those anachronisms here in the southeast part of the state, the dry county. I'm almost out of this ratty little town when I pass a tattoo parlor with a bunch of motorcycles parked out front, and about 15 vatos hanging out on the porch. I recognize kindred souls when I see them, and double back around the block, pulling up beside them, and ask, "Is there a place to get a drink in this town?". One of them asks, "What kind of drink?", and for a moment I'm confused, then rejoin, "A beer.". They all chime in and direct me to a local bar just a few blocks away. I thank them and we all wave goodbye. I can't help but wonder what most of middle America would decide if they needed directions, and this motley crew was the only option available. My guess is that most would keep driving and hope for the best. Damn shame.

I pull into the bar's parking lot and dismount, and as I'm taking my helmet off Goober and Gomer walk out from behind the bar and Goober says, "Hey, it's Evel Knievel!", and guffaws. And I know in my heart that there are way too many cousins marrying cousins in this great land of ours. Inside the bar, the clientele is salt of the earth, not overly friendly, but not hostile either. This is however, not what the 21st century version of a fern bar is, so I select Budweiser™ as my drink of choice. It's very cold, so I have no complaints. Behind the bar are hand written signs reading, "Beer. It's better than a breakfast drink", and "In God we trust, all others pay cash". We get in a discussion of Michael Jackson's degree of freakitude, and what a great musician he was with a minor digression into how to control ants inside the home, and on the ranch. These are OK people in my opinion.

Time to hit it. It's good to be on the bike again. The road is 4 lanes through rolling hills, there's no traffic, and I'm mellow. For some reason, Michael Franti's 'Yell Fire' is stuck on 'repeat-play' in the mass of synapses I'll call for lack of a better term, 'my brain'.





Now, I'm thinking about healthcare reform. Wondering if we'll ever wake up from the corporate induced narcolepsy that has overtaken all of us. Will we ever stand up for what is rightfully ours, as did M. L. King and Mahatma Ghandi? And suddenly I'm thinking of my mother, may she rest in peace. Tears are flowing down my face as I storm down this rural byway at a speed I'd rather not admit to here. I'm coming to terms with her death as I ride a motorcycle, on a highway, eight years after she died. She suffered at the end, and I convinced myself at the time that it was a good thing she finally passed. 'Real life' sucked me back in pretty quickly following her death, as I had a national cable station coming to film me in my studio the following week. It was pretty apparent to those close to me, there was more to be said than my words at her memorial. Now. Here. On this desolate western road, I'm really missing her. Sad and beautiful, and a little scary. But like life intruding after her funeral, I'm entering the foothills, and eventually the mountains again, and the twists and turns of the road are guiding me back to the present. It's a blessing really. How much of this pathos can anyone take really? My eyes are dry as I lean into one corner after another, and I'm more focused than I've ever been on my bike, as I guide it home, again, at unmentionable speeds, with the ease with which I would pick up a book from the table.

Eventually I take a second break, for dinner, this time with no significant personal contacts. There's a television on low volume near my seat and the media is tilling the soil of a pop star's legacy, rehashing what is known of Michael Jackson's life. I'm wondering what the exact role of MJ's perception of race played in his decision to have his face sculpted into a visage so foreign to his original face and the face of his family's. Meanwhile, he's still there, on the screen in front of me. Moonwalking his way backward to the future. To reality. And I'm thinking, maybe life is just messy. You pick and choose as best you can, but there's no telling where those choices will lead you, and there's no one who can really say whether you did it right or not. You just do the best you can.



Saturday, June 27, 2009

Laocoön



I think I'll hang out with the Greeks for a while. Take a break from the modern world. Get back to the primordial struggle of man against reptile at about the time we were seeing some possibility of mastering the natural world.

How did we end up where we are?

If all that counts is the ineffable quality of each moment, what compulsion turns us away from the moment?

What terrible force set the modern world in motion?

Wasn't I supposed to live my life all at once, take one deep breath and die?


Thetis knew Laocoön. She saw him die a couple of days after Achilles fell in front of Troy. Athena sent the snakes to shut Laocoön up, they say. His mistake was trying to warn the Trojans about that horse. The Trojans thought the snakes killed him for lying and took the horse inside.

Thetis was slandered by Hera, jilted by Zeus, raped by Peleus with a little help from Chiron, and insulted by Paris at her own wedding. She tore Troy apart trying to get to Paris, and she lost her son in the war.

I'd been looking for her for twenty years when I ran into her in London. I knew who she was right off.

She didn't remember me at all.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why I Seldom Talk Politics Anymore

This is why I seldom talk politics anymore.

Last night, according to Real Clear Politics and ABC's Jake Tapper and Karen Travers, President Obama exposed himself as a hypocrite who will force "normal" Americans to make sacrifices that wealthier, more powerful people -- like the president himself -- wouldn't face.

According to Tapper, President Obama let the cat out of the bag when he tried to answer "probing" questions from a couple of neurologists.

After stumbling through an irrelevant talking point about his grandmother, the President concluded his answer by saying he would want the best care for his family, meaning, I take it, that if his plan didn't cover a recommended treatment option, he'd pay for it himself. Well, that's a shock.

Here's the question.
DR. DAVINSKI: If your wife or your daughter became seriously ill, and things were not going well, and the plan physicians told you they were doing everything that could be done, and you sought out opinions from some medical leaders in major centers and they said there's another option you should pursue, but it was not covered in the plan, would you potentially sacrifice the health of your family for the greater good of insuring millions or would you do everything you possibly could as a father and husband to get the best health care and outcome for your family?
Now why would a man as educated and bright as the President of the United States answer a question that implies there are no limits to private insurance, that private insurance covers everything and only "public" insurance plans limit treatment options?

Maybe it's the venue. I have to believe that in a private conversation with Dr. Davinski the President eventually would have gotten around to pointing out that no private insurance plan covers everything, that the insurer always decides what they'll cover and what they won't, and that rich people like the President and Dr. Davinski always have the option of paying for something their insurance won't cover themselves. He might even have gotten around to pointing out that good healthcare is rationed in the United States on the basis of income. Rich people get it, poor people don't. Why not level the field a little with a public option?

And maybe the president's heart is just not into defending the public option.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Loot


Iranian "Demon Helmet."

Been thinking about college lately. Remembering this and that. After the first couple of months, I pretty much went my own way. Read what I wanted, researched what I wanted, talked to people I was interested in. Looking back, apparently there were lots of soon-to-be famous people around me. Most of whom I missed. My nose for fame, running on one nostril even then. Andrew Sullivan and Niall Ferguson, just to name two who're getting lots of media attention now, that I never even noticed then. 


But it got me wondering. Where was I? All those hours and days... where the hell was I? And then I remembered one place. 

Perhaps the greatest place in the world.

Pitt-Rivers.


People talk about fabulous museums, but Pitt-Rivers kicked all their asses. Why? Well for starters, it was complete chaos. Ok, they had lots of glass cases with stuff formally being displayed in 'em. But I'm not sure I ever saw a staff person. And truth was, the stuff just overwhelmed the cases. There were 500,000 items, gathered for "archaeological and ethnographic" purposes. And those 500,000 items were strewn across multiple buildings - out-buildings and sheds, unused upper floors, rain coming in some places so stuff under tarps, others coated in dust.

So often what you'd find were items strewn about. Across tables and benches, sticking out of boxes and bins, stuck into corners, hidden upstairs behind curtains, falling apart, jammed in on top of one another, broken. Even in the main building, you'd find them toppling over in unlocked glass display cabinets, doors swinging open. Or... ummm... easily opened.

I guess what I want to say is that
Pitt-Rivers put a premium on accessibility. Meaning, unsupervised young people could pick stuff up, have sword-fights with it, try it on, carry it back to their rooms to show buds. Interact. 

It was like the stuff wanted to be touched.

Ok. The stuff proper. It's possible that people swung shrunken heads around. Like soap on a rope. Samurai armour could have been tried on and Samurai swords which happened to not be bolted down could've been swung about. Tested. Try on an ancient mask from Benin? Why not. Stylin' in that Native Chief's leather shirt from the plains.

Algerian Trepanation Tools.

Just look at
this stuff.

How did they get all the stuff? That was the best part. Near as I could figure, Pitt-Rivers was a dumping ground for stuff hauled back from across the British Empire. Prizes. Riches. Amazing artifacts.

Loot.

"Punitive Mission to Benin?" We got the masks. "Nuer prophet captured?" We got his holy wisk.  Stuff from Captain Cook, Leakey, Petrie, Tylor, Balfour - names you'd know. Stuff from 1,000 unknown archaeologists and ethnographers... 400 Army and Navy men... 300 missionaries... 500 colonial civil servants... and medics and natural historians and antiquarians.

Another thing I loved was how it was organized. Not by chronology. Not by geography. But by... function. You could find a table, and spread across it would be "Items used for fire-starting." Coming from peoples all over the world, stretching across centuries, millennia. Which - once you see them that way - sets off really interesting sparks in the brain. Or messes you up. Depending.

They're fixing it up now, which is a good thing, 'cause it's got cool stuff. And giving lots of things back. Ok, I've kinda danced around that bit, but "human remains." There were a lot of those. From Australia and New Zealand and North America. Tom would bloody well not be amused.

New Guinea "Bound" Head.

And they're also doing a good job now of admitting they don't know who gave them a lot of the stuff, or how it got there:

"More than one third of the Museum’s collections are archaeological. Many have been excavated on archaeological digs, with the object locations properly recorded. However, some have a more hazy history. For some objects acquired in the early days of the Museum, we know little about their provenance. It is even possible that some could have been looted from an archaeological site to be sold on the antiquities market."

What they've got on-line now is one of those really cool 360 degree "explore" tools. You just go here, and pick a floor, a section, and dive in. Zoom in, turn on, spin yourself round 'til you get as disoriented as some half-out-of-their-mind young person back in the early '80's, and then... let the world tumble in. So many things. So many peoples. So many times. So many worlds. 

Looking back, I'm happy, thinking about how I spent all that time. At Pitt-Rivers. Maybe I shoulda been networking. But instead, I got a chance to look at the world, at the very best loot the world has ever produced, and to put it together for myself.

Priceless. 

Nuer Prophet's Wisk.

Friday, June 19, 2009

It's Almost Over Anyway


I almost forgot about these guys. At least we'll take the fungi with us.

Speaking Of Cheap Tents

If this is an accurate summary of what the Democratic Senate is up to, please pass the XBD173.

Expand Medicaid and create consumer-owned cooperative plans? On second thought, pass the Versed. I want to forget this administration and Congress ever happened.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Horror

This happens to me all the time. I run into something that suggests an analogy, but I can't come up with it. So I file it away for another day.

There is a species of red ants whose grubs are devoured by a large blue butterfly. The butterfly lays its eggs on thyme flowers and the caterpillars fall to the ground after hatching. They secrete chemicals and even make noises that make the red ants believe they are wayward grubs. The ants mistakenly carry the caterpillars to their underground homes and keep looking after them even though the adopted monsters gobble ant grubs for 10 months before forming a chrysalis and flying away as adult butterflies.

Ant grubs? Those are baby ants!

The horror.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

We're an opinionated and cantankerous bunch, so I thought it would be fun to work my way backwards through The Annals Of The Hive and make a list of people and things we've talked about and classify them. Being who we are, there's no way we'll reach consensus on the list, but maybe we'll get it close enough to what we think that somebody passing by The Hive will get an idea of the kind of people they've run into.

The categories are: the good, the bad, the ugly and unclassified. What good and bad mean is obvious, I think. When in doubt, I went by what I thought. Ugly means it could go either way. The people and things are neither all good nor all bad. Just ugly in some way. Unclassified is up for grabs. You can influence the outcome. It's a work in progress. So, without exception, here's the list for June.

The Good
NYC, NASA, Public Health Insurance, National Healthcare, Palouse Indians, Palouse Country, Palouse River, Sam Fisher, Bigfoot, Joni Mitchell, Poppies, Catnip, Bergman, Tarkovsky, Roderick Sprague, The Renaissance, Persona, Cries and Whispers, And God Created Woman, The Seventh Seal, John Cassavetes, Alfred North Whitehead, Mathematics, Tom Wolfe, Light Waves, Particles, Quantum Mechanics, Oceans, The Gulf Of Mexico, Sonia Sotomayor, Head, The Marmes Rock Shelter, Kennewick Man, Herpetocumodi, Mammals, Zen, The Book Of The Dead, Rep Rage, Fish Ponds, Fast Eddies, Lists, Recyling, The Word Health Organization, New Cameras

The Bad
Karl Rove, Grave Robbers, Politics, Main Stream Media, Wingnuts, Swine Flu, Mushrooms, Bill O'Reilly, David Letterman, Komodo Dragons, Bernie Madoff, Scammers, Spammers, ATT, tagged.com, Stalling Politicians, KoolTel, Bad Film Makers, Molds and Fungi, Camera-Eating Ponds, Moving Doors, Voles, Shrews, Poppy-Eating Mice, Previous Owners, Enhanced Telecommunications Services, Reptiles, Nixon, Motherfuckers, Forms, Herpetophiles, Creepy Crawly Flying Night Insects

The Ugly
The Health Insurance Industry, FCC, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Obama, AMA, The Congress, Magellans, The Palins, Wikis, Muslims, Israel, Palestine, Alex Rodriguez, New Yorkers, Documentary Films, Film Criticism, Art Critics, Red Mountain, Green Mountain, The Fifties, The Sixties, Physicists, The Bomb, The Great Lakes, Harry Reid, Herpetophobia, The Smithsonian, Life On Earth, Komogators, Families, Archeologists, Anthropologists, Army Corps Of Engineers, Miley Cyrus, Chimps, Canada, Canadians, Sock Puppets, World Health Organization, The Glads, The Magregors, The Hive, Comments, Selective Retention

Unclassified



Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Flu Formerly Known As Formerly Known As Swine

Apparently, it's now known as Swine again. And we've got a pandemic. The World Health Organization just told its member nations it is declaring a swine flu pandemic — the first global flu epidemic in 41 years.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Real Enemy



Forget about Komodo Dragons, The Flu Formerly Known As Swine, Bernie Madoff, Scammers and Spammers, ATT, Tagged.com, Stalling Politicians, Bad Film Makers, Camera-Eating Ponds, Moving Doors, Voles, Shrews and Poppy-Eating Mice.

This is our real enemy. Vexer of gardeners and destroyer of lawns. The fungi known as toadstools. And all my sources of gardening expertise can tell me is: Try to rake them out of your lawn. There is no cure. Nothing to do. Make your peace with them, Billy Glad.

They grow where the previous owner cut down a big tree, ground down the stump, but left the roots in the ground to rot. He planted new grass over the fungi-infested ground and sold the house to me, a charter member of the A-list. I guess word gets around.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Poppies







My poppies bloomed this morning. I brought these flowers with me from my garden in Wisconsin when we moved to Michigan two years ago. They spent the first winter and spring in the yard of a rental house, and I transplanted them to the back fence of our property when we bought a house last year. We've been together a long time. Now and then, I'm tempted to buy more, but I never do.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bergman

Turner Classic Movies has Bergman on all night, beginning at 9:00 PM Eastern with The Seventh Seal, followed by Wild Strawberries and Persona.

The Criterion Collection is releasing The Seventh Seal on DVD in a couple of weeks.

The Seventh Seal is the first Bergman film I saw. I saw it at a foreign film theater just off-campus when I was a college freshman in Lubbock. They ran And God Created Woman a week later, and I was hooked on foreign films until the '80s when, for reasons I can't explain, except for the films of Tarkovsky and a couple of other directors, I lost interest in them. Maybe it was because my directors had died off or petered out.

I think of Persona and Cries and Whispers as Bergman's masterpieces, but The Seventh Seal was my first encounter with the collision of idealism and naturalism in film. To my romantic 18-year-old mind, the knight, Antonius Block, and Death were fascinating allegorical figures. They were in the natural world, but not of it. As I grew older, I was drawn more and more to the rich natural world of Bergman's films, but, in the beginning, like Block, I imagined a life of the intellect was superior to a life of the flesh.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Perspective

I keep thinking, if we stay with it long enough, we can improvise our way to something important, some clear statement of what it is to be human. Some reader, years from now, might find that theme in these notes. People were here. They had jobs. They had lovers. Husbands and wives. Some of them had kids. Their world was changing fast. Sometimes, it seemed to be coming down around their ears. But they went to movies, danced, listened to music, watched TV, made it to the grocery store. They read books. They talked about the things they saw and heard. Like you, Reader. They tried to be direct, unmediated and genuinely human in what they thought and said. To keep things and people in perspective. They hung out. And they all had porn star names. But the women didn't like to give head.

First thing I thought when I heard Harry Reid said Sonia Sotomayor was "the whole package" was: "Yes. But does she swallow?"

Monday, June 1, 2009

We Almost Have A Word For It

The word is herpetophobia. Fear of reptiles. But there doesn't seem to be a word for plain old hatred of reptiles.

That's the one I need. Without that word, I can't express the rage I feel when I contemplate vile beasts like Komodo Dragons. It's like trying to talk about Nixon without using the word motherfucker.

Turns out we owe the bastards our big brains and sharp eyes. 

Go figure.

Hive Interrupted

The Science Hive needs our help. They want us to help the Smithsonian Museum monitor life on earth.

As if we don't have enough to do. We're already monitoring the flu formerly known as swine, the weather around the globe, fasts, and a couple of radio programs. Now they want us to keep track of everything else, too.

The Smithsonian used to keep track of ephemeral events, but I can't find any record of that program. Guess it was ephemeral and nobody noticed it passing.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Self-mutilation

When I heard about the girl, the first thing I thought of was Schwarzkogler. I don’t know why. The infection probably.

The girl turned up at the doctor's office with a bladder infection. Her mother told the doctor the girl had been having them since the surgeries, botched jobs that led to peritonitis, and then to the recurring infections. I imagine the doctor, searching through the girl’s medical history for the surgeries and not finding them, because the operations were performed somewhere else and there was no record of them at his office.

The child had stabbed herself in the stomach with a kitchen knife, an unusual act for a girl I hear. Boys use knives and guns. Girls who try to kill themselves usually use drugs.

When the doctor examined the girl, he found what had started as a small puncture of her belly had, through one failed surgery after another, become a disfiguring jumble of deep, crisscrossing scars. Then he saw the scars on her arms. Some of them were recent, and they were infected.

I saw scars like that on a woman’s arms in Austin a long time ago. I thought she’d tried to kill herself and failed. Now I think she may have been cutting herself. I don’t know why.

What are kids who cut themselves up to? What are they after? And what can the doctors who deal with the children’s bodies while other doctors try to understand the children’s minds do about the infections and the scars?

I imagine the doctor, explaining sterile technique to the girl. Before you cut yourself, you have to wipe the place you are going to cut with alcohol and clean the blade of your knife.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Music And Architecture

Subject of Science on first languages, music and architecture.


The architect who designed it, Robert Harvey Oshatz, calls this house "a physical manifestation of the fluidity and complexity of music.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From The Top

I worry there might be things my daughter is good at and I don't know it.

One of the things she likes to do is make up jazzy little songs, or get in the bathroom in front of the mirror and run up and down the scale while she carries on a conversation with somebody in there.

I've been thinking the least I can do is make sure she hears kids sing who aren't part of the Disney channel. So, I was happy to run into From The Top on PBS the other night. They had a 14-year-old jazz singer from Canada on. My daughter was riveted. Same look she used to give other kids on the NYC subway.

My friend, David Ison, a man who makes the world a little less painful place to live, tells me she should learn some Billie Holliday tunes.


Billie holiday
Uploaded by 2gaia -


I'm torn between Nancy King and Eva Cassidy.



Wish I could find video of King doing Man In The Oven. I've been there. Of course, my daughther can spend the morning listening to Holliday, Cassidy, King and the Justice sampler, then go right back to Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus videos.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Flu Formerly Known As Swine Flu Virus


Dr. Erskine Palmer and R.E. Bates / Centers for Disease Control / Reuters

This guy looks like a tough little bastard.

I've been through flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968. If I got sick, I don't remember it. But in Germany, in 1964 I caught a flu I remember. For a couple of days I was dreaming or delirious. I seemed to be working in a Chinese laundry, boiling sheets in big tubs. The steam in the air made it so hard to breathe, I felt like I was drowning. I kept coughing up horrible gobs of dark green mucous and spitting them into the wash tubs.

In the 70's in Austin, Texas, I spent a couple of weeks in a poorly vented darkroom, making images for an art project, and ended up with a chemical pneumonia. Or maybe it was the legionnaires disease, or just the flu that put me in the hospital for a week. I was seriously ill, but inhalation therapy pulled me through. I remember hearing that when they cultured whatever the organism was that was trying to kill me, it was a cross between a plant and an animal. I'm sure it had a name, but I don't remember what it was.

Friday, April 24, 2009

For Levi



Another piccolo player.

Boris Artzybasheff
The Circus Of Dr. Lao
Charles G. Finney

Salsa Anyone?

It's Friday and I'm in the mood to dance. When I was a young girl, I'd go to parties on the weekends with my parents and watched all the adults dance like this. I'd memorize all the moves and then go home and practice them with my father. My father was a fabulous dancer and loved dancing with his little girl. So here's "my girl" doing her thing. Oh, and that move where she comes to a dead stop-- no one did that better than my father!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More Stones From The River

I've been thinking about Stones From The River, and I have a couple of comments, intended more as practical suggestions than critical analysis. They won't make much sense if you haven't read the novel.

Stones From The River, it seems to me, is a romance, set in improbable times. It's the story of a German dwarf, and the men -- and women -- she's loved, set in Burgdorf, a small town near Dusseldorf, between the end of WWI and the end of WWII.

What strikes me about the novel is the amount of love Trudi Montag manages to generate in the 30 or so years we see of her life, even though she may not be aware of some of it. Just counting the men in her life, there are six stories. There's her father; Georg her first friend; Klaus the dentist; Konrad the Jewish boy she hides from the Nazis; Matthias the gay pianist; and, finally, her great love, Max the painter.

I'd consider structuring the film around Trudi's revelations of these relationships to a young American soldier who, at the beginning of the film, hates Germans. As he learns about Trudi's loves, he begins to understand that not all Germans were Nazis, and that some Germans -- those who, for one reason or another, couldn't be fed into the German war machine -- kept humanity alive during the Third Reich. This structure requires a slight change to the ending of the novel -- it puts an American soldier in Trudi's home -- but it lets Trudi tell her story from her own point of view.

It may be necessary to add an even more compelling narrative to the "present" of the post war years, something like a criminal trial or investigation, or a detective story of some kind.

I think the structure will support any filmic style, including edgy super-realism.

I'd begin the film with scenes of the American troops coming into Burgdorf. It's the end of the war. Trudi is in her 30's. You can feel the tanks before you hear them. In a bomb shelter. The room shaking. Faces mainly. The door is kicked in. The German civilians "surrender" to the American soldiers. The first time we see Trudi as a dwarf is either when an American is billeted in her house or the first time she's interrogated. Everything after that is scenes of the occupation mixed with her memories of her life and her loves.

The difficulty is getting from an essentially psychological book that's a journey of self-discovery to a film where a little more is at issue, i.e., the guilt of individual Germans, or, possibly, something more compelling. Trudi is the town gossip. A perfect source for anyone trying to get to the bottom of events in Burgdorf.

I'd avoid falling into some kind of pattern with the flashbacks. For example, I wouldn't start each segment of the film with the dwarf talking, flashing back, talking, flashing back. I think there should be many contemporary scenes mixed in, her father dying, a woman throwing her child off a bridge, Hanna,the little girl she falls in love with, and so on, and, also, long historical segments that cross episodes. The amount of time the dwarf spends setting up the historical material should be very minimal. A few historical moments that impressed me: the summary execution of the town's benefactor, Trudi's interrogation by the nihilist Gestapo, Trudi swimming, the old lady beating up the Hitler youth, Trudi and the circus dwarf.

The only problem I have with the novel is understanding the relationship between Trudi and Max. I think the film needs to be explicit about why Max picks Trudi for a lover. I don't think the reason matters, it just needs to be there and be believable. And I'd be tempted to portray Max with a little irony and cynicism. A painter who paints the colors of his orgasms? We can do better than that in the era of concentration camps and sadistic medical experiments. Or, we can use it to consign Max to the world of the dreamers.

I appreciate Tom's putting Stones on the table. It's an interesting book and an interesting exercise. It could be fun to circle the best scenes and dialogue Arnold Manoff style.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Annals Of The Waterboard (The Opera)

2:00 AM. Bush meets Cheney in the hallway of a cell block. Bush is carrying a surfboard. Marine guards snap to attention as Bush approaches.

Cheney: What the hell is that?

Bush: My surfboard.

Cheney: What an asshole. I said we were waterboarding tonight.

Bush: Whoa! You can't call POTUS an asshole. (To the Marines in the hall.) Grab hold of him. (Bush throws the surfboard on the floor.) Hold him down on that!

Cheney: Goddam it, George, stop fucking around.

Bush: I'll show you some fucking around. Somebody get me some water and a rag.

Tutti cantano insieme:

The Marines: Sir! Aye, Aye! Sir!

Cheney: Don't board me, George!

Bush: Tube City! Damn! Turn him over now!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Marilyn



Marilyn Monroe
Bert Stern Photograph, Acrylic Paint
Photo Copyright Bert Stern 1962
Marilyn The Classic by Norman Mailer
Galahad Books

Monday, April 13, 2009

Nuremberg Sounds Familiar

I went down to Chicago this weekend and, beginning to doze on the train, I recalled reading: "It was frightening to see how people felt justified to discriminate, how that attitude of superiority was drilled into ten-year-old children ... . More than once she'd overheard comments on streetcars or in restaurants about Jews smelling bad." And, suddenly, I couldn't remember if I had read that in Hegi's Stones from the River, or if it had been in the article about Kurt Epstein, the Czech Olympian, that Tom referred to when he was considering the contrast between pictures of health and beauty and images of concentration camps.

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas, I worked in the stacks at the university library. The section I worked in contained the transcripts of the Nuremberg war trials, complete with supporting documents. Over the course of the year, I read many of the transcripts and background documents. Out of all that horror, the medical experiments are what I remember best, especially the experiments that used Jewish prisoners to determine the probable effects on pilots of bailing out at high altitudes. What the German "scientists" were interested in were the effects of extreme cold and a sudden loss of atmospheric pressure on the human body. And, in my mind's eye at least, they weren't even testing protective gear, they were just watching people freeze to death or die slowly from lack of oxygen.

That was a long time ago. This morning, I'm trying to imagine Tom's canvassing attorney, sitting in my office, telling me: "You must have been one of those 19-year-olds who read the transcripts of the Nuremberg war trials. Nuremberg sounds familiar. I promise to look that up."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Middle Way

Mainly, we're all McLuhans now. We take it for granted that the contents of each new medium, the world wide web for example, is the media that preceded it. In the case of the web, television, film, photography, books and magazines of all kinds make up a substantial part of its contents.

It seems to me the web has, up to now, functioned mainly as a mass distribution medium. The content of the web, a photograph for instance, may be transformed by being published in the context of the web, where it is available to so many people so fast and collides with so much other information, but it is not altered on purpose to make it "webic" in the way books and plays are altered to make them "filmic." On the way to becoming a film, a book is broken down, then put together again as a screenplay and a film.

There are several ways to use a book to produce a screenplay. The easiest way, probably, is to ignore the book's characters and plot and recreate the "essence" of the book in film. Warhol's Vinyl, for example, captures the essence of A Clockwork Orange, without burdening the film with Burgess's characters and plot. That's probably not the most commercially successful way to turn a book into a film.

The commercially successful way, the Hollywood way, is to respect the narrative and characters of the novel and to recreate those elements with acting, cinematography, sound and editing in a way that "brings the novel to life." The quality of the novel, of its characters and plot, matter. If necessary, the film may deviate from the novel, but changes to the original are made in the spirit of improvement. Kubrick was faithful to Burgess's plot in his film version of A Clockwork Orange. Ridley Scott, on the other hand, probably intended Blade Runner to be an improved version of Dick's Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep. His departures from Dick's narrative and characters were intended to produce a better, more successful story.

The third way, the auteur way, is to use the novel's characters and plot simply as a place to start. French New Wave directors bought the rights to dime store novels for their plots. Almost any plot would do, because the films they made weren't about the narrative. The story was beside the point. Just something to hang the film on. Art is synthesized experience. For film makers like Goddard, the story was just an occasion for that synthesis.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Why Mars Matters

America is not America without a frontier. We're the kind of people who need to be constantly pushing the outside of the envelope, creating a frontier, settling it, getting restless and moving on.

It's in our nature to move West. And the only West left is out in space. That-a-way. Out yonder.

Back East is a museum. Getting bad as Europe. But out West, you can stretch out and breathe. Tim Leary knew.

He toured America, playing electronic music he claimed would prepare the human mind for a voyage into deep space. The Department of Justice brought him. Put him on tour to recant, to take it all back. And he did. He told us the government was firmly in the hands of men and women who only a few years before had been stealing hub caps at Atlanta rock concerts. He said he was about to play some tapes to rearrange the molecules of our brains, to prepare us for deep space, for the long voyage ahead. Anybody didn't want to go had better leave. I trusted Tim, and I wasn't ready for space, so I left. I never heard the Leary tapes. I doubt I'm fit to travel into space. But some folks are.

They're the kind of men and women who were willing to take their chances on a new America, willing to give the kid his shot and help him win the title. And he owes them more than the same old men, running America the same old way. He owes them a shot at something big.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

What I Like

Some things I like in art.

Melancholy moods, dark streets, the rain.

Redemption.

Seeing the old order brought down. Seeing chaos reign.

Reluctant heroes.

Magic and the supernatural.

Women who work retail.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring Break

Spring break and my daughter is home today, complaining about having to get out of bed because the maid is coming. The maid's a woman from Brazil. Her husband's a divinity student at the Adventist college in a little town down the road. He helps her clean the house now and then, making her a maid service or cleaning service I guess, which is what we called our maid in Brooklyn, even though she was just a woman from Guatemala who brought her daughter with her sometimes and showed her maid tricks like storing the garbage bags in the bottom of the garbage can. The word maid was a problem in Brooklyn because my wife was ashamed that a sister was cleaning our house. There were programs on NPR about that in those days. Ways to get by without a maid. We lived with the guilt. Now I don't feel guilty about having a maid, just uneasy about being able to afford a maid when so many people are out of work sometimes, but never when I'm picking up the house before she comes, because I know that without the Friday pick up and the maid we'd slowly sink beneath a rising sea of kipple. When the house is picked up enough for her to start cleaning it, I get out of her way. This morning I took the kid to Big Boy for breakfast, and we ended up in a booth next to some kind of old timers' breakfast club, four guys from the local VFW, talking about draft dodgers in the Seventies and a local doctor who did a tour on a medevac plane, flying critically hurt GIs from Iraq to Germany, the kind of old men and the kind of conversation makes you want to say if I get that way please put a bullet in my brain pan. But just to show you how confusing free association can get, I sat there thinking all at once about four or five things, all jumbled up, that I have to put down in some linear way here, because the narrative won't let me tell it all at once. The VFW has to let you use their big, portable barbeque pits if you're a veteran. You just reserve the pit. Tow it home with your truck. Leon told me that at Leon's World Famous Barbeque in Galveston while I waited for my take-out ribs, reading the menu on the wall, reading cold yard bird, a phrase my wife picked off the menu and put in a poem, you cold yard birds, I know the names of poets in high places, while CLM, whose craziness landed me in the Army, waited for her order, standing alongside me at the counter, wondering who I was. I made the mistake of going to see her at Unit D, you don't even have to explain to anybody what a place called Unit D is about, after she slashed her wrists, and the cops, doing me a favor, figuring me, an officer of a local bank, for a respectable guy who happened, unwittingly, to be mixed up with the criminally insane, took me down to the station and showed me her rap sheet. How were they to know that inside that thick file was where I longed to be?

Copyright 2009 Billy Glad

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Expatriate

I was driving her to school, and my daughter told me if she had been born in the old days we would still be in New York where her name was written in the book. People couldn't move around back then she said, couldn't leave New York the way we did right after 9/11, a move we'd planned to make to the Midwest, made easier by the dust in the air and the smell like a burned out motor or lamp and the scorched pieces of paper that floated into the courtyard of our co-op the day after the towers fell down. That was the day I got back to Brooklyn, drove all night in a rented car, came in across Staten Island with the heavy trucks, ambulances, and military vehicles of all kinds, everything but tanks. The tanks were in my mind. But I heard the helicopters when the rental threw a rod a couple of blocks from my apartment and I parked it in front of a corner grocery and walked the rest of the way home. If it had been the old days, we'd have stayed in New York instead of laying in a supply of Cipro and Amoxicillin and flying out to the Midwest, and I never would have put that guy's eye out at the dump. It was about the time Saddam's sons, Uday and the other one, were killed, gunned down or blown up, and right after I took the wood from the kitchen cabinets we tore out to make room for the new refrigerator down to the dump. Right before that, the night before or maybe the night before that I dreamed I was trapped in the basement and the house was on fire, and I was yelling at my wife to throw the .357 magnum through the narrow basement window so I could blow my fucking brains out to keep from burning alive, the kind of dream that stays with you all day. And right after that dream I took the wood to the dump. Long pieces of wood with nails sticking out that I tried to hammer down, but they kept bending and sliding under the hammer and I couldn't get them all out or bent down flat, and I had to be careful not to jam one into my hand when I was loading the wood into the back of my truck. When I got to the dump, the attendant helped me pull the wood out of the back of the truck and throw it over the side of the walk-in dumpster. And when we were almost finished a guy came out of the dumpster, holding his head and saying what the fuck were we doing, and the attendant told him he wasn't supposed to be going inside the dumpster like that. You're lucky you didn't get killed the attendant told him. I could see the guy had a cut next to his eye, and he was sticking his finger through a hole in his baseball cap and saying you ruined my fucking cap. Then he went over and got in his car and his wife was looking at his eye, and I backed out and drove off, thinking they were probably writing down my license plate number, or maybe they would come back to the dump every Saturday and try to find me. But I was thinking maybe he wouldn't have much of a case, even if he lost that eye, because he probably shouldn't have been in the dumpster. But just to make sure, I called a lawyer so he could set my mind at ease. They say when you leave a place you get a unique perspective on it, see things the people who stay behind don't see. All I get is homesick now and then.

Copyright 2009 Billy Glad

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Hasn't Mars Caught On?

You'd think it would. Compared to putting men and women on Mars, putting men on the moon was a baby step. The trip to Mars will take months, and the astronauts will have to wait 3 years for the planets to align again so they can return. But NASA's unveiling of the Mars spacecraft yesterday went almost unnoticed.

I think the problem is Bush had the idea, and he had it at a time when he easily could be accused of trying to divert attention from Iraq.

Now, I suppose, people will say we have to get the economy and healthcare fixed before we think about going to Mars. Reviving the space program seems extravagant. But what about those people living in Detroit? Are they supposed to pack up and move when the automotive industry shuts down? Maybe so. It's happened before. Happened with steel.

But the thought of those auto-workers turning out spaceships, of Detroit at the red hot center of the Mars Mission, seems to me to be a hopeful thought at a time when hopeful thoughts are hard to find. Godspeed, NASA. Go for it, Detroit.