Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Legal Shenanigans

Some dirty asshat named Ronald Puskin* is threatening to reveal Atrios's Secret Identity or worse, sue him. Now, as we all know from Superman Comic Books, a superhero's true identity is a sacred thing and you'd have to be a real twisted bastard to try and out him for cheep politcal gains. Something on the order of Lex Luthor or Karl Rove (but then, I'm just repeating myself).

It seems Atrios implied that Mr. Puskin is a stalker. Thing is. Mr. Puskin actually calls himself a stalker. To make matters all the more surreal, the threat of litigation isn't actually over anything Atrios said but rather something someone in the comments section said that might be interpreted as Libel. If you wouldn't know satire if it started fellating your big toe. Or if you were, say a despicable, overly litigious hack who very likely molests goats and possibly children as well.

*I changed his name so that Donald Luskin wouldn't sue me for libel.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Return of Saint Will

Over at the Humanist Way, Edward L. Ericson illuminates some basic ideaolgy:

Many who belong to no church or sect--along with many who do--when asked to identify their creed, will reply simply: " My religion is the golden rule." Or they will answer: "Formal church doctrines and theologies are not important to me. The way in which I relate to others and to myself is all that finally matters." Without perhaps having a label for their faith, such people--to the degree that they live by these convictions--are practicing the essence of the Humanist religion.


Ethical Humanists contend that the dignity and moral worth of human personality should always be respected as the supreme end in view, the summum bonum, the supreme good to be observed. This affirmation of human worth is the starting point of Humanist religion.

In theory, I can get behind this sort of religion. If it werenít for my deep-rooted bias against organized religion in general, I mean.

I recognize that some people have a need to believe in something bigger than themselves, in order to go on living. I once heard a woman say that if it were proven to her that there is no God, she would probably just step in front of a bus. To this I say, ìHere, let me give you hand into the road.î

If you have to believe in some fairy tail in order to get out of bed in the morning, youíre doing something wrong. Maybe you need to switch professions, take up a hobby or find a man/women or sex toy of your preference. I for one stand in awe of the simple physical world in all its beauty and tragedy, intricate nuances and mystery every single day. But thatís just me. I donít need mysticism and magic pixie dust to feel good about myself, being alive, breathing cool Autumn air or finding something grand and wonderful about the Human Drama. So perhaps Iím just the sort of person who might feel at home in the ranks of the Humanist Religion. Perhaps it might change my mind about the evils of group think, to be part of a larger whole, something positive in nature and directed towards increasing the well being of the world. If it weren't for the fact that every religion that has ever been has had this as their basic mantra, I might want to join up. But I've seen how even small groups can descend into fanaticism and dogmatic infighting, all in th ename of fancy ideas.

Now, it isn't that the ideas themselves are bad. I like ideas and have a lot fo them myself. But once you start developing theminto some code or creed, that's when things go wrong. It's a lot easier to change an idea than it is to change a belief (to paraphrase Rufus, from Dogma).

But Iím skeptical of all rhetoric, no mater how benign or flowery. Iím sure the Humanists, like Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Voodoo practitioners, Santarians, Buddhists, Shintoists, Mormons, and Wiccans are all nice folk, who do the best they can in this crazy world. But I think they are good people in spite of their dogmas, not because of them.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Saint Will

Maria over at Crooked Timber shares with us an account of her visit to the Chapel of Humanity. It's an intriguing idea, building a religion around Humanism and Positivist ideals concerning Human Achievment.

I'd like to find out more information concerning this religion but frankly I'm too tired right now. perhaps tomorrow...

Sunday, October 26, 2003

This explains why I always have those damn Ann Coulter adds in my Google banner.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

It Ain't Pretty But It's True

NOFX informs us of a simple truth, often overlooked by the mainstream press: He is The Idiot Son of an Asshole.

Via Atrios.

You Might Want to See a Doctor About That

"Mentioned in whispers for decades; burned in Manchuria; worshipped in Peru; the only book to be listed on the Vatican's Index Librorum Prohibitorum twice, for emphasis; available again at last, in this definitive edition. Welcome to the Lambshead Guide. Disease-mongers, shudder." -- Dr. China Miaville

Dr. Miaville is speaking, of course, about The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases, edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts.

Afraid you might have contracted "Motile Snarcoma," "Extreme Exostosis," or "Bone Leprosy"? You might want to go here and consult with a physician.

Or, if youíre up for a little self diagnosis, you can aquire the guide here.

The Invisible Library

Theyíre auctioning off Jorge Luis Borges personal library. For anyone whoís a fan of the late great Argentine author and Librarian, this is a big deal. When I first read about it, I was torn between fear and desire. fear that they were breaking up what possibly is one of the greatest collections of unusual and rare books and desperately wanting, say a first edition of Labyrinths, in Spanish. Not that I can read Spanish but both my wife and I want to learn so our imaginary children can be raised bilingual. And really, what better way to learn Spanish than reading one of the masters?

Friday, October 24, 2003

Questionable Theology and Wonky Science? Count Me In!

If you aren't reading the Slaktivist's Critique of the Left Behind Series You really are missing out. He's going way, way in depth, in a manner that can't be sane or healthy but gosh darn, if he isn't doing us a favor, reading these monstrosities so we don't have to. And it's not that he's just critiquing them on a literary level. He also has a lot to say about the faulty theology of Jenkins and Lahaye. Apparently there's also questionable science in the LB series. Who would have thought? I would have assumed that a couple of anti-evolution knuckleheads with a Biblical axe to grind would be extra scrupulous with their scientific research, in order to give their Apocalyptic melodrama that added sense of realism.

Plan B

According to legend, Tom Robbins, author of such wild tomes as Another Roadside Attraction and Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, writes his books one sentence at a time. Well, donít we all? Isnít writing all about putting one word after another until you hit pay dirt? Well, yes. But he apparently makes use of no notes, no guides, nor does he even develop characters before hand.

Tom Robbins makes it up as he goes along, treating each sentence like a singular jewel, fashioning it until itís perfect, to his specifications. Then he moves on to the next sentence. And he never goes back to revise. This could explain why it takes him, on average, five years to complete a novel. I for one have a hard time believing he doesnít revise, considering how seamless his books fit together. This achievement is only all the more striking if true, when you look at how bizarre some of his books can be. Theyíre like transcendental plutonium, shooting rays of kryptonite green sunshine strait into your pineal gland.

I for one think he must have at least a vague idea of what he wants to write about before hand. After all, thatís the motivation for writing, that you have something specific you want to say even if itís no more specific than just an innate desire to bark at the moon and scratch that existential itch.

Iíve been putting together notes for my next foray into the Art of the Novel. My Plan A concept was inspired by a passage in Hakim Beyís TAZ:

ÖFrom among the experiments of the inter-War period I'll concentrate instead on the madcap Republic of Fiume, which is much less well known, and was not meant to endure. Gabriele D'Annunzio, Decadent poet, artist, musician, aesthete, womanizer, pioneer daredevil aeronautist, black magician, genius and cad, emerged from World War I as a hero with a small army at his beck and command: the "Arditi." At a loss for adventure, he decided to capture the city of Fiume from Yugoslavia and give it to Italy. After a necromantic ceremony with his mistress in a cemetery in Venice he set out to conquer Fiume, and succeeded without any trouble to speak of. But Italy turned down his generous offer; the Prime Minister called him a fool.

In a huff, D'Annunzio decided to declare independence and see how long he could get away with it. He and one of his anarchist friends wrote the Constitution, which declared music to be the central principle of the State. The Navy (made up of deserters and Milanese anarchist maritime unionists) named themselves the Uscochi, after the long- vanished pirates who once lived on local offshore islands and preyed on Venetian and Ottoman shipping. The modern Uscochi succeeded in some wild coups: several rich Italian merchant vessels suddenly gave the Republic a future: money in the coffers! Artists, bohemians, adventurers, anarchists (D'Annunzio corresponded with Malatesta), fugitives and Stateless refugees, homosexuals, military dandies (the uniform was black with pirate skull-&-crossbones--later stolen by the SS), and crank reformers of every stripe (including Buddhists, Theosophists and Vedantists) began to show up at Fiume in droves. The party never stopped. Every morning D'Annunzio read poetry and manifestos from his balcony; every evening a concert, then fireworks. This made up the entire activity of the government. Eighteen months later, when the wine and money had run out and the Italian fleet finally showed up and lobbed a few shells at the Municipal Palace, no one had the energy to resist.

I was going to write a wild anarchist mash note to freedom and rebellion! How fucking Bohemian of me. Now, Bey does mention after the above passage that later, DíAnnunzio became a Fascist and fell in with Il Duce himself. He sort of apologizes for DíAnnunzio by saying that he saw the light and for betraying the Fascist cause, Mussolini had him killed. This I could almost overlook in my fictionalized account, which would only be about the 18-month escapade in Fiume. But, like a good little Librarian, I decided to cross-reference my source.

Turns out dear Hakim left out the part where DíAnnunzio kept control of the city of Fiume by poisoning his adversaries with castor oil or that the men and boys who didnít join the Arditi were shot. So it seems my would-be-hero was less of an Anarchist and more of a Fascist then I thought. So plan B.

Iíve always wanted to write a short novel using the structure of an Edward Gorey Book. Now, whatís great about Goreyís books is their freeform minimalism. Characters wonder in and out, sometimes miss the obvious, strange things happen or start to happen but the drama occurs off the page, in the margins. Itís mostly just about lifeís unrelenting uncertainty, miasma, peril, mystery, ennui, indifference, trepidation, spoons, tumescence, broccoli, inscrutability, gyrations, entrities, idleness.

Basically, I have no plot but a couple of eccentric characters with unlikely names and a list of unrelated scenarios that lead to a vague and inconclusive end. And Iíve chosen a title at random from a list of evocative sounding headers. It will be called The Unturned Stone and should be fun to write and hopefully, to read.

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome, the stranger the better. Just drop them in the comments box.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The Greatest War that Never Was

Iím watching on the Sc-Fi Channel a show about Orson Wellís War of the Worldís broadcast on Halloween eve, 1938. Itís fascinating what Wells accomplished with that broadcast. He saw the power of the radio, how it held a fascination over the majority of the population. Weíve become so media savy and jaded by the continuous flood of information and disinformation on the tube that itís hard to conceive of how people could suspend their disbelief so thoroughly. But think about it. No one at the time had any reason to disbelieve what they heard on the radio. There was news and there was entertainment. Any idiot could tell the difference between the two because one was serious and the other lighthearted. Even the dramatic shows had artificiality to them, with the narration and sound effects. But what do you make of an entertainment program that apes the seriousness of a newscast? And if you missed the prologue that let you in on the joke, which most people did because they were listening to another, wildly popular show featuring Edger Bergen and Charlie Parker the puppet. Once they finished their first ten-minute bit, people switched channels (arguably the first recorded instance of channel surfing) and tuned into the mundane sounding music punctuated by genuine sounded newscasts. And never switched back to Edgar Bergen.

The rest of the story is the stuff of legend and arguably the greatest act of Performance Art, ever. What makes it so great is that for a brief moment in time, one man convinced millions to suspend their preconceived notions of reality.

The key was Wellsí remarkable use of sound effects, using controlled dead air. Silence. Mundane and familiar music. Reporter updates that only heightened the drama. Then the fateful announcement:

Invasion! Mars!

A Roosevelt impersonator only added to the gravitas of the illusion.

Aiding Wellís audio verite was the real live threat, in the form of Hitler, which was on everyoneís mind. People took to the fields and roads of Grover Mills, looking for Martians, finding only shadows lurking behind trees and the ominous and deadly water tower looming over the treetops. Sure, the shooter who put holes in the tower swore the next morning he thought it was a Martian rocket ship.

We might laugh now at those Bumpkins out in Grover Mills, shooting up water towers and heading for the proverbial hills but just remember how many people have since been fooled by TV shows like Candid Camera and Punkíd, or the insane rhetoric, more ludicrous than any hokey science fiction program that issues from the mouth of some serious Politician, his lips turned up in a grave sneer.

We can be fooled. And more easily than you think.

Monday, October 20, 2003

How PoMo is That?

Jessa Crispin, everyone's favorite Bookslut informs us that Thomys Pynchon will be making an appearence on the Simpsons.

My God can Kick Your God's Ass
(and Other Great Literary Themes)

The Slaktivist is doing a righteous analysis of the Left Behind Series. I highly recommend it (the Slaktivistís Analysis, not the Series, which I wouldnít recommend for all the books in the Library of Congress, for reasons Iíll get to in a minute).

Now, it will come as no surprise to my regular readers when I say that I am not a Christian. Iím not anything, in particular, other than a human being who is deeply concerned about the state of affairs on our planet. And to be perfectly honest, the Left Behind Series scares me. Not because of the daffy and questionable theology or the wooden writing, or Le Hay and Jenkinís prolific reliance on clichÈs. What scares me about the Left Behind Series is its popularity.

Now, Iíve come to terms with the wild popularity of bad writing in general. Stephen King and I have reconciled our differences and over a few drinks this past summer at his cabin, I even conceded that he is a good story teller, even if his stories arenít the most original and lack that ineffable poetic quality that I look for in quality writing. But hay, the guyís got like thirty eight children to support and he make shis living as a writer, which I envy.

But the LB Series is different. They arenít well told. Theyíre really awfully told. I mean it. Just dreadful. And I have a soft spot for some pretty stiffly written Science Fiction books, like Edgar Rice Burroughsí Warlord of Mars books.

But for some unfathomable reason, the LB series is wildly popular and this popularity is almost exclusively centered amongst semi-illiterate people whose only other reading consists of poorly translated versions of the Bible. People who take these thinly veiled Hellfire and Brimstone Sermons as a detailed guideline of what actually, really and truly WILL HAPPEN, youíd better believe it, Next Tuesday after Lunch.

This is what scares me.

Somewhere along the line, they forgot what we all learned in our Middle School English class concerning metaphor and simile, poetic image and fable. And by They, Iím referring to Jerry B. Jenkins and Timothy Le Hay. Sure, their most die hard fans have only a tenuous grasp on the nuances of literary symbolism as well but thatís not the authorís fault. That blame falls squarely on the heads of the ineffectual teachers and poor education system of our country.

And no, Iím not adding any fuel to the ìClass Warfareî Meme. There are wealthy as well as poor people who believe this Bullshit. Corporate leaders and waitresses. Truck drivers and, unfortunately, Presidents of the United States. And that is the real scary idea: Nuclear powered Evangelicals.

The Price of Filling the World With Wonder

Jesse Popp, guest blogging for Neal Pollock informs us that David Blaine who gets out of his box tonight after 44 days won't be able to have sex for three more days:

MAGICIAN David Blaine has been banned from having sex during his first three days of freedom - because it could kill him.

The food-starved illusionist will leave his glass box tonight after his 44-day stunt.

But medics have told him that he could suffer a fatal heart attack if he has sex with girlfriend Manon von Gerkan before Thursday.

A Blaine team insider said: "The first three days are crucial because the body is so weak and lacking in energy. We've been taking lots of medical advice and we've been told that, although he may feel fine when he first comes out, the smallest thing could kill him.

"That includes eating the wrong thing or too much physical exertion, especially sex.

"I'd hate to be the person who tells him that as he's been for 44 days without even touching his girlfriend, who is stunning."

Blaine, who has lost nearly three stone from his 14 stone frame, will be taken straight to hospital after leaving the box at Tower Bridge, London, at 9.30 this evening. Ambulances will take him to an undisclosed private hospital for tests.

The 30-year-old will also be fed a special diet to replace a lack of salts in his body, possibly through a nasal tube. He will be fed a formula consisting of 42 per cent dried skimmed milk, 32 per cent edible oil, and 25 per cent sucrose, plus vitamin and mineral supplements.

And that's not even the worst news for Mr. Blaine.

Personally, I'm at a loss for this latest trick of his. I got the being buried alive for three days trick. And being frozen in ice. I even understood his whole standing for thirty days on a pillar. These are nothing compared with his more subtle and mind blowing street magic but hay, a magician's gotta eat and sponsors pay big to be the ones to show someone doing something screwed up and potentially fatal. I hope he goes back to card tricks and resurrecting pigeons soon.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Ladies and Gentleman, We Have Comments!

I've been wrestling with the comments demon for months and now, thanks in no small part to my Information Technology class and professor He's demand for us to have a working knowledge of HTML, I have won. This should garner me an A on my exam, for sure!

Yeah. Anyway...

So, leave me comments and let me know what you think of this site, my writing, my taste in literature or what have you!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

If You See a Barbarian at the Gates, Let Him In

Normally, I try to keep the political commentary to a minimum. There are plenty of bodacious polibloggers out there already doing a great job (see links to the right). But Meteor Blades, Guest blogging over at Daily Kos informs us that Jerry Springer is entertaining the notion of running for Governor of Ohio. (scroll down, itís there).

He then goes on to suggest a better idea:

Iíve long thought that maybe America needs some royalty. Since the Arnold won, Iím firmly convinced. Some Americans love celebrities so much they WANT them to rule politically the way they rule over our glowing screens. Instead of putting them someplace where they can do real damage, however, letís crown them.


Pick the nationís top 500 celebrities. Maybe choose them via a weighted average based on how many times theyíve appeared in Premiere, People and the National Inquirer during the past five years. Or some such.

Write their names on slips of paper. Fold. Toss into a caged lottery wheel. Spin. Have some blindfolded groupie select 5 names. Onto a ballot with these. Then the election. No Diebold machines. The winner establishes a bloodline as Duke or Duchess of California. (If a dispute over the outcome arises, so much the better ñ royalty must have pretenders to the throne.) Henceforth, the Duke or Duchess (and consort) will be our ceremonial heads of state.

Theyíll throw out the seasonís first baseball when the Dodgers or Giants play. Theyíll welcome foreign dignitaries, including the President when he comes to visit. Theyíll cut ribbons at remodeled airports. Theyíll give the first speech at each new session of the Legislature and be permanent emcees at the Academy Awards.

This will not be without cost. Their annual expense account will probably run a billion dollars. They have to live large. A Frank Gehry-designed palace for everyday affairs, with a summer mansion on Lake Tahoe. Custom-made cars. And, of course, a paid entourage comprising runners-up from the original pool of 500 hopefuls. What's royalty without a fawning court?

This is an idea Iíve been tossing around for a while as well. And one with merit. Letís face it, people love the glitz and glamour of Royalty. They are our spirit, our vitality. They live our dreams for us and when they fall, itís even more fun. And there are some practical benefits to having an American Royal family as Meteor Blades points out as well:

The tabloids and squawk shows will focus on the births of princelings, the courtships and adulteries of the Duke and Duchess and their offspring, the banquets and balls, the outrageous purchases, the stumbles and rehabs and intrigue, the betrayals and turnabouts. In short, the overall splendiferosity that only royalty can provide.

And then, with everyone who loves fantasy over reality well distracted, we can elect people to run the serious end of government.

Meanwhile, in the comments section, the 42nd Man reminds us of Mark Twain's suggestion:

"ÖHe was sure that a royal family of cats would answer every purpose. They would be as useful as any other royal family, they would know as much, they would have the same virtues and the same treacheries, the same disposition to get up shindies with other royal cats, they would be laughably vain and absurd and never know it, they would be wholly inexpensive; finally, they would have as sound a divine right as any other royal house, and "Tom VII, or Tom XI, or Tom XIV by the grace of God King," would sound as well as it would when applied to the ordinary royal tomcat with tights on. "And as a rule," said he, in his neat modern English, "the character of these cats would be considerably above the character of the average king, and this would be an immense moral advantage to the nation, for the reason that a nation always models its morals after its monarch's. The worship of royalty being founded in unreason, these graceful and harmless cats would easily become as sacred as any other royalties, and indeed more so, because it would presently be noticed that they hanged nobody, beheaded nobody, imprisoned nobody, inflicted no cruelties or injustices of any sort, and so must be worthy of a deeper love and reverence than the customary human king, and would certainly get it. The eyes of the whole harried world would soon be fixed upon this humane and gentle system, and royal butchers would presently begin to disappear; their subjects would fill the vacancies with catlings from our own royal house; we should become a factory; we should supply the thrones of the world; within forty years all Europe would be governed by cats, and we should furnish the cats. The reign of universal peace would begin then, to end no more forever.... Me-e-e-yow-ow-ow-ow--fzt!--wow!" (from Connecticut Yankee, ch. 40)

Hay, they were worshiped in ancient Egypt as divine, so why not? So long as they are beholden to the ghost of Norton I, Emperor of America, Defender of Mexico and Protector of the Jews.

Besides, at his point historians will look back and unanimously agree that Americans officially lost their collective marbles. So why not enjoy the benefits of madness while it lasts?

The King of Knives

Iíd like to thank King Camp Gillette for developing the disposable razor in 1901. I just had a haircut at an honest to goodness Barber Shop and the Barber brought out the strait razor to clean up the back of my neck. If I had to shave every day with one of those, Iíd grow a beard.

But for a nine dollar haircut, it was worth every penny.

A Brand New Major Tom

By now you've probably heard that China's first Taikonaut, Yang Liwei landed safely after twenty one hours in orbit. Oddly, Washington has had little to say on the matter. We spent thirty years competing with the Russians, who by the way have the only other ongoing manned Space Program (now that ours is indefinitely grounded) yet they can't be bothered to stick their head out of their hermetically sealed echo chamber long enough even to say, "Hay guys, welcome to the club."

So I'll speak for Washington, or at least the few Americans who think a manned space program is still worth maintaining.

It's been 34 years since we first landed on the moon. Now their are those who say that a manned space program is too dangerous, that it serves only a symbolic purpose and that we should spend the money on other things like blowing up Syria or imposing our popular culture on every other country on the planet. And sure, robots can do a lot of the work in space but there is still much a manned program can accomplish, besides just exploration (as if stretching the boundaries of human knowledge isn't a noble enough cause in itself).

The Chinese Space Program is looking at another flight in two years, to work on the basics of walking in space, and docking with other ships. Their short-term goals include a manned space lab and a Space Station of their own. Beyond that, we don't really know. Maybe a base on the moon, maybe Mars. It's odd to think that the Chinese might be the new Masters of Space while we loose interest and squander our resources on the ancient and feeble wet dream of despots since the dawn of time, terrestrial empire building.

Bush is taking us to Ancient Rome while China is going to the Stars. Which side would like to be on?

For those of you who don't know it already, we're rapidly running out of oil. Conservative estimates range between 50 and 75 years worth of reserves left and that's assuming there's as much oil under Iraq as we think (And you still think the war isn't about oil?)

Sure, 75 years sounds like a long time. Even though in reality, itís more like 50 but thatís still scraping the bottom of the barrel. And keep in mind also that in only 35 to 40 years that oil way, way down there will be cost more to extract than it can be sold for which means that, even to the Darwinian Capitalistís in the white house, it wonít be worth it. But thatís not something we nee d to worry about since in only about 15 or 20 years, the price of oil will be so expensive that only the ultra wealthy will be able to afford to fill their SUVs and Hummers.

Solar and Wind power are useful alternatives but cannot hope to meet the energy needs of our ever-growing population. Hydrogen fuel cells might be able to meet the demand, if we can find enough hydrogen. It just so happens that there's an entire planet made of the stuff. Mining Saturn might be several years if not a decade or two off but it could be just one of the ways we're able to convert our civilization's driving resource and thus keep from sliding into a dark age when the oil runs out. Now who do you think will be in the forefront of this? It won't be the US, with our Grounded space program and the Russians are now the only ones who can get to the feeble pipe dream that currently is the International Space Station. But with their economic problems, they can't afford to go that often. That leaves the Chinese.

Personally, I think that we should have been working on moving most of our industrial production into orbit over the last twenty years, to take advantage of the industrial vacuum and the fact that if there were a toxic leak or nuclear reactor problem, it would be safer to have them Out There rather than Down Here. And if you think the pictures from the Hubble Telescope are spectacular, imagine what we could get with a telescope ten times the size based on the dark side of the moon.

My prediction is that the Chinese eminence in space will be used by Dick Cheney as an excuse to push through his ridiculous Missile Defense Shield. Which is the opposite direction we need to go with this. We need to be partners with China and Russia (and everyone) in Space and on Earth if we want to make it to the twenty-second century. Given China's new found confidence in the realm of space flight, I suggest we take the high road because the Chinese are determined to get there, with or without us. And these are the people who built the Great Wall. When they set their minds to something, they usually come through. This means we should go out of our way to welcome them to the Space Walkers club as friends. Either that or we all start learning Chinese.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Commies! Witches! Vodka Drinking Cats!

This week's been rough, hence the thin posting. I've added a new link over to the right, an online annotated site devoted to Mikhail Bulgakov's Master and Margarita, one of my favorite novels. I'll have something more meaty up tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Santa Never Made a List Like This

I don't know about you but I'm kind of startled by the fact that the National Rifle Assosciation released today a list of organizations and people who have contributed to gun control legislation and causes. When a group of people who spend their days heavy petting semiautomatic rifles make a list of people they don't like as a matter of cause, isn't that considered... Nah. I'm probably just being paranoid. When a gun nut makes a list of unfriendly people I'm sure it's just so he can remember who to send Halloween cards to. Or cookies. Yeah. Cookies.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

The Reason I Love the Internet is Because of This

I didn't find out that Margaret Cho has a blog until Friday. In the three days since, I've gone back and read most of her archives. It's just that good. The laugh out loud, rancorous invective, the thoughtful asides... But today's post. It's entitled Not for the Faint of Heart. And it's not. But you must read it.

I'm now officially a huge Margaret Cho fan. I liked her stuff before but now I'm a fan of the woman.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

Well, he did steal the guys penis... Didn't he?

Friday, October 10, 2003

Storytime, Part 5

The Gypsy Box

In Memory of Edward Gorey and Prague

That Easter, Misha forgot to hold his mothers hand. He looked but could not find her in a shop that sold Bohemian glass and baubles. He found the National Museum completely empty, as well.

At Kalletti Station he discovered that all the trains were running behind schedule and the baker was out of strudel.

From the Old Clock Tower, a mysterious man saw everything that happened through an antique telescope...

Turning down Golden Lane, Misha spotted the ghost of a forgotten alchemist who pointed at the sky and muttered.

Clouds cast their shadows over the city of Prague.

Meanwhile, a replica of Kafkaís hat was for sale in a nearby shop window.

Misha found a paper clip on Charles Bridge that reminded him of his motherís cooking.

Later he was handed an advertisement for a performance of fugues at St.Vitus Cathedral but he didn't know the way. Luckily there was an old man selling reliquaries on the corner who gave him directions.

Misha took a wrong turning though and ended up at the Indian Ambassadorís residence just as tea was being served.

When he finally arrived at St. Vitus Cathedral, he found that the performance had already been played three days prior.

Just then a gaggle of Rabbis runs past carrying between them something heavy and reaking of river clay, shrouded under a linen veil.

Misha spent his last crown on a seat at an extraordinary puppet show during which something amazing happened.

Afterwards, Misha went to catch a Tram but the Tram driver did not stop.

Backstage, one of the puppeteers was found strangled.

On the Vltava River, an elderly Babushka fed communist secrets written on pieces of moldy bread to the ducks. Then it began to snow in the Old Quarter, which made it hard to hear what a taxi driver was saying on Pravda Street.

In Wenceslas Square, a Gypsy girl offered Misha a box, which he took gladly. Inside was something he was not looking for.

The mysterious man in the clock tower looked away for a moment to cough. When he turned back around, everything had changed.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The Origami Necktie

...Writers usually find some excuse for their books, although why one should excuse oneself for having such a quaint and peaceful occupation I really donít know. Military people never seem to apologize for killing each other yet novelists feel ashamed for writing some nice inert paper book that is not certain to be read by anybody.

ñLeonora Carrington, The Hearing Trumpet

I think the reason we generally feel as if there should be a reason for writing a book is that we are taught in every literature course from grade school on up, that when we read a book we should be mining it for a greater purpose. Surely the writer must have had some grand thesis in mind when he undertook the writing of this critically acclaimed tome! We are solemnly told by our English teachers. Therefore, it is our duty as studious readers to find the hidden meanings and unearth them, in a book report no longer than a thousand words, due next Tuesday.

This is a deep-rooted neurosis, one that I think is the root cause of most adultsí alliterate view of the world. We spend so much time picking apart the classics, who wants to read for pleasure? That strikes us as a waste of good TV watching time and is kinda weird. Practically perverted! Which is why we bookworms are a squirrelly, myopic lot. I have to shave my palms every fortnight.

Why shouldnít a book simply be a book? Why must every novel be a commentary on growing up a poor southern turnip farmer, or the injustice of the bean merchant in medieval Venice? They donít of course but there are far too few authors who have eschewed the grand operatic thesis in favor of simply crafting a prose poem to life and all its caterwauling and shenanigans. I can only think of a handful of authors who have engaged in the all too rare genre of book-as-artifact. Other than Leonora Carringtonís masterpiece, the Hearing Trumpet, there are the works of Ray Bradbury (which often do verge on high-falutantism, but the more benign, gee walkers brand favored by soft SF and fantasy authors), Vladimir Nabokov, who vehemently disapproved of symbolism as a matter of honor and the undisputed master of writing beautiful books about absolutely nothing, Richard Brautigan.

Iíve read In Watermelon Sugar half a dozen times and still I couldnít tell you what itís about because it isnít about anything in particular and everything I general. The same holds true for Lolita. Sure everyone knows itís about Humbert Humbert, the prototypical Old Letch and his obsession for hot nymph hinny. But if you go reading it looking for steamy, one-handed sex scenes, forget it. You wonít find them. Youíll find everything else though, from a longing for youth to a desire to be free to the lengths we all go to try and fit in to polite society and pretend we arenít all wriggling little Humberts, strapped into tweed suits and bow ties.

And I admit it, I had a thesis in mind when I stated writing my novel. Not just a thesis. I had a grand Uber Point. And to an extent itís still there, somewhere under the poetry and the flights of whimsy and tragic beauty. But the tragic beauty of life really is the point, the reason for getting out of bed, the reason I write.

Now, if I could just find a publisher interested in throwing away money printing up a few thousand copies of my pointless novel, Iíd be all set!

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Naughty Bits

The Olympia Press, that famous house that produced so many errotic masterpeices in Paris durring the fifties is now online, offering e-book downloads for just a buck!

That is some cheep smut.

Don't feel like paying for your literary porn? Well you can download Lady Chatterley's Lover and Fannie Hill for free.

Monday, October 06, 2003

A Classic, Reborn

Edward Gorey's The Willowdale Handcart: Or the Return of the Black Doll has just been reissued.

And speaking of the Black Doll (the title, by the way, is no coincidence, the story was inspired by Gorey) I'm in the final stages of rewrite. Just one more scene to finish. I should have it done and posted in time for Halloween. it's undergone some considerable change, for one thing, it's only about as half as long as it was originally, which means its an actual short short story not some blathering exegesis that is short only in comparison to say, Lord of the Rings.

I think it's working much better this way, which just proves that sometimes the best thing to do is to abandon a story for a little while, get totaly sick of it and then one day come back and just hack it to pieces, as one would an overgrown rosebush.

I've also received some positive feedback concerning my Storytime pieces so perhaps I'll have some new Flash fiction up in the near future as well.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Storytime, Part4

Soul of an Old Poet

I met an Old Poet at the cemetery gates one day when I was just a boy. We walked and talked and I asked him if he was here to visit someone and he says to me,

ìSon, Iím here to lay my old bones next to my wife who died here thirty years ago today.î And he goes on to tell me, ìMy soulís heavy and Iím tired a caryiní it ëround this here old world. Good soul though, served me well and kept me out of some things and gotten me into others. Itíd be a shame to just give it up to nothiní.î

I said to him, ìIíll buy that old soul from you, so youíll know itíll be in a good place.î And I offered him a bottle of wine Iíd brought with me to feed to my grandpaís ghost. The Old Poet drank the whole thing down in one gulp and then corked the bottle and handed it to me and then lay down right there on his old womanís grave and died.

I took the bottle home and put it on my windowsill, where it still sits to this day.

And when I am an old man, Iíll take that bottle down and pop the cork and the old Poet, heíll climb from the bottle and shake the years from his bones. Then weíll sit and talk all night, share a bottle of wine and laugh at the Moon.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Storytime Part 3

A Glass of Milk

They never did figure out who put the Ecstasy in the Presidentís milk. The First Lady was the one to realize something was amiss when she had to pull the President away from the Green Room wall where he had been fondling the gilt framed mirror and licking the wallpaper. She told the Vice President, who called a Doctor immediately.

ìNothing to do,î said the Doctor, patting the President on the shoulder and smiling congenially. The president offered a dreamy smile of his own in return. ìHe should come down in a couple of hours. Just make sure he drinks plenty of water and juice.î

The President spent the night listening to jazz records and dancing around the Lincoln Bedroom, rolling on the south lawn and petting the dog. That night as he was coming down, he whispered state secrets into the First Ladyís ear.

ìYou havenít done that since the caucus!î she cooed.

In the morning, the Joint Chiefís met to decide the fate of a pesky foreign potentate who had been giving them trouble for a number of years. The joint chiefís were unanimous in their decision to invade the foreign country, topple the regime and replace it with a pro-US democracy, weather the people wanted one or not.

ìI donít know if thatís such a great idea,î said the president, ìWhat if the people, you know, have other ideas? I mean itís their country, right?î

The President was beginning to think many strange and beautiful things. About the joy of simply breathing, defining the world with each exhale. No one should be denied that simple pleasure. Or peanut butter.

The Vice President and Secretary of Defense clenched their jaws and exchanged uneasy glances.

The next day, the Vice President knocked on the door of the oval office. The President was busy looking out the window, reflecting on the color of the autumn leaves that were falling in the rose Garden. No two were the same color, like the people of America...

The Vice president came into the Oval Office, coughed to let the President Know he was there. The President swiveled in his chair to find a familiar looking man standing next to the Vice President. It took the President a moment to realize that the man looked exactly like him. A genuine doppelganger.

ìWhoís this?î asked the President.

ìOh you remember Scooter West, Mr. President. He used to be your personal bodyguard. Well, heís being promoted.î The Vice President pulled a pistol from his coat pocket. Scooter West sneered. It was the same sneer the President used to wear, before he drank that fateful glass of milk.

And the President began to think, could he make it to the door in time?

Friday, October 03, 2003

Weekend Political Roundup

So what a week for us pinko commie liberals or what?

    1. The Yellowcake Scandal
    2. Rush's Racist Remarks
    3. Rush's Pill scandal
    4. Arnold a Hitler Loving Groper

First let me say I do not take pleasure in the misfortune of others. That's just mean.


1. When the President undermines National Security by allowing a member of his chief of staff to leak the identity of an undercover CIA Agent and not rush to clean up the mess but just dismiss it as no big deal, it makes me mad. And when I get mad, I do not wish the provocateur of my ire any good will. This is approximately the millionth scandal to turn its bloodshot eye on Bush but he's not sticking his head in the sand and letting this one pass on by. No Sir. Write your Congressperson and senator and demand an independent Counsel. If it was good enough to investigate a blow job, it's good enough to investigate potential Treason.

2. And Rush deserves to be fired from ESPN because he's a big idiot.

3. And Rush, well he's an idiot. I think I mentioned this. And if he does have a pill problem (with Hillbilly heroin, no less!) he should get help for his problem and perhaps reevaluate his pinheaded position on our country's draconian drug laws. On second thought, maybe prison would be good for him after all.

4. As for Arnie, when it comes down to that either he's a habitual liar or a closet Nazi who likes to molest women, is either a quality you want in a leader? This is not the man who should be governing a spelling bee (seriously, with that poor a grasp of English?) let alone a whole frickin state! For any of my friends in LA reading this, you'd better be voting No on Recall, Yes on Bustemante or we're going to have some problems.


On the bookish front, I hope everyone's enjoying storytime. I've been fascinated by Flash Fiction for some time and if you like my humble efforts today, you'll love tomorrow's little gem. In the meantime, check out Barry Yourgrau (his link is over on the right, under fiction) he's the hands down master of the flash fiction genre. I hope to have more such pieces up in the future but until then, read the first three chapters of my novel.

Storytime, Part 2

The Other Noah

Not many people know that Noah had a twin sister, who was crazy. The family didnít talk about her much. Baba was struck bonkers by God as punishment for her not wanting to have babies like all the other women. But even before The Great and Powerful He whacked her upside the head with his Gonzo stick, Baba wanted to be a sailor. To loose herself in the sea, drink rum with Phoenician pirates and make love on a pile of sailing canvas under the full moon...

Noah did what any good brother would do with a crazy sibling: he locked her in a closet and fed her dates and a little bit of couscous every day. Until the business with the flood. Once Noah was contracted to build a cruise ship big enough for polar bears and penguins and every species of mouse in the world, he didnít have much time to care for his sister. Neither did his wife or sons or their wives. So Noah trained a spider monkey named Hennessey to feed his nutty sister dates and carry his hammer.

Now, Noah was a compassionate man for his time and built a little room at the top of a mast for his sister and there she sat, kicking her legs, shouting out nauticalisms and singing sea shanties, tickled to finally be at sea. But Noah had two of every cockatoo and cockroach to mind so that left little time for Baba. Misses Noah was busy too, sweeping up after elephants and orangutans and so were his sons and their wives. Hennessey was the only monkey on the ark that had a moment to spare and he felt sorry for her, stuck up in the crowís nest with just two little blackbirds nesting in her hair, pecking at her ears.

On the fortieth day of rain, Hennessey snuck into the broom closet and fetched a rope ladder. He waited until that night, when Noah and Misses Noah and all their sons and their wives were zonked from a day of bathing hippos. Then he shimmied up the mast with the rope ladder and helping Baba down so she could stretch her legs.

The moon came out and the sky was clear and Baba was thrilled to have run of the ship. She made Hennessey her first mate and they charted a new course, sailing into new directions and unknown latitudes. They chased the tail of Great Leviathan and were the first people ever to become lost in the Bermuda Triangle, which is why it took them forty more days, even after the rain stopped to find land again.

Noah was livid.

He locked her with the animals in the hold and even after they scuttled the Ark on Mount Ararat and the floodwaters drained off into the sewers, Noah left her in the Ark with just Hennessey the spider monkey and a head full of imaginary adventures to keep her company. But Baba didnít care. She hung her daydreams from the rafters of the ark, right next to the birdís nests and spiderís webs, right where the moon could see them every night when it peeked through the window.


A Fish Story

Just before dawn at the Seafood market a fishmonger named Alfonso Dragnet is startled when a carp to be made into gefilte fish mutters, ìNo Good can come of this,î and, ìBeware of men with mustaches!î

Mr. Dragnet falls into a stack of slimy packing crates, stumbles to his feet and runs to the shop entrance where he grabs the sleeve of the shopís owner, Mr. Gregor Hamfist.

ìThe fish... It, it talks!î Alfonso whispers.

Mr. Hamfist, accustomed to Mr. Dragnetís practical jokes, raises a skeptical eyebrow but accompanies the spooked fishmonger into the back to see for himself.

The carp swivels its watery eye up at both men and says, ìCan I have a glass of water?î

In a fit, Mr. Hamfist grabs a cleaver from the chopping block. Whack! The fishís head flies into the gutter.

The fish is later sold to Mrs. Rosario Waddle, a nice old grandmother who serves it that night to her family, boiled in a fine soup, with a little tarragon sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Tragic Beauty and other Narcotics

Apparently, Chuck Palahniuk has some pretty intense and scary fans. I'm not one if them. I just like his books. It's not like I want to send him illicite narcotics or anything. This statement will make sense once you read the interview over at Suicide Girls. It's too good to summerize but I will say that I agree whole heartedly with what he has to say about Goth Girls. They really are beautiful in a tragic sort of way.

He's a Hypnotist, Hypnotist of Ladies

A female victim reported to police that on July 22 a man hypnotized her after asking her to help with a research project. He then "spoke to and touched the victim in an inappropriate manner," according to a UP community crime alert.

Police knew of one or two similar incidents prior to the assault this summer, although the events might not be related, said Daniel McAleer, UP assistant chief.

And in a Library no less. So students, beware of men who want to show you their pocketwatches.

October Country

Officially, autumn started a week ago. But if you ask me, fall doesn't get started until it's October. Now, for the last eight years, I haven't had autumn. I lived in Georgia where it goes strait from summer to spring with two weeks of winter in between. But this year, I'm in Maryland where it's cool and the leaves are changing. That orange smell is in the air; that smell that resembles burning wood and wet leaves and the cold winter ahead. that is what I have missed. Wearing long sleeves and jackets.

I think I'll go outside and take a deep breath.