Friday, June 29, 2007

On the agenda

Tomorrow is our little house-warming shindig. I'm taking a half-day today in order to do some shopping: booze, food, paper products, bunting, etc.

I also need to clean. You think your house is dusty? Try living in a totally rehabbed 100-year old house! We've got the dust from the demolition, and on top of that the dust from the new dry wall and sanding. A continuous sandy sifting. Dust never sleeps.

Looking forward to seeing y'all, and sad to miss those who can't make it. Maybe next time.

Netflix



Ian Holm uses an uncanny likeness to the Quaker Oats Dude to mesmerize 18th-century lunatics. Pancaked babes in powdered wigs and bustles provide the King's guardsmen discreet handjobs in ornately decorated galleries so that Helen Mirren can sneak into an asylum. The King's water is blue but his stools are copious and solid. God save the King's stools.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Biggus Dickus

After the four-part Washington Post series documenting that everything we suspected about Cheney's lawlessness was a sore underestimation, I decided it would be fun to revisit those halcyon days when I used to paste the VP's head on things:






Teflon Blond

I saw a good portion of that ghoulish Ann Coulter appearance on Hardball. While speaking about the immigration bill she opposed it on the basis that she did not support giving felons a free pass. Were Matthews a real journalist and not some fawning sycophant, he'd have asked Coulter about lying on her voter registration form in Florida, engaging in elections fraud, and how she herself got a free pass from a third-degree felony when an old boyfriend who happens to work for the FBI intervened to stop the investigation.

Coulter meant, presumably, that non-white, non-rich, non-Republican crooks don't deserve a free pass. Scooter Libby? Pass. Dick Cheney? Pass. Right-wing Barbie? Pass.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's old is new

More proof that 'global' civilization is not new at all.

A Reminder

Memoir of a Personal Transformation



Maud Oakes had an interesting life. I'd not heard of her until seeing the extras on a DVD about Carl Jung. She was an artist and ethnologist who spent a lot of time living amongst the Navajo in New Mexico and amongst the Mam Indians of Guatemala. She wrote several books about these experiences, and was the first author published in the Bollingen series who was not Carl Jung. I'm interested to read her book about the survival of Mayan religious practices amongst the Christian Mam Indians. She was nearly killed in an automobile accident in the mountains of Peru, and underwent a long convalescence. Her nextdoor neighbor and good friend was Henry Miller, who told her before the voyage that she should stay home. He'd had a premonition that she would undergo a catastrophic event if she went to Peru--he said Madame Blavatsky came to him in a dream and warned him. Oakes found out the hard way that Miller was indeed prescient.

Oakes met Carl Jung voyaging with her film-maker cousin to Bollingen during her recuperation. The cousin was going to make a documentary film of the Swiss shaman. Maud saw a stone Jung had carved as a monument to his 75th birthday, and she became a bit obsessed by it. The Stone Speaks is a document of her struggle to come to terms with its symbolic meaning as she undergoes analysis.

This book is of course nestled into a very particular niche. I'd only recommend it if you're into analytical psychology, comparative religion, or mythology.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Worst Crop Circle Ever



Full story here.

Netflix



Whatever your feelings about its noir plot, Mildred Pierce is a beautiful film. The transfer is spectacular, and every frame is crisp and clear. The opening sequence is wonderfully shot--no pun intended. The lighting and set design and performances are great too. Joan Crawford moves through the story like an iceburg through the North Atlantic.

The story? Eh. I wasn't much moved by Mildred's battle to provide for her awful daughter Veda. She should have noticed sooner that Veda was an amoral brat and kicked her to the curb. Of course Joan Crawford treating a daughter badly has been done in another film. Veda would likely have benefited from a wire hanger whooping.



[image courtesy DVDBeaver]

Monday, June 25, 2007

rumpled, kind, bankrupt of honor, flushed with certainty



Steven plugged this Tobias Wolff collection and I picked it up via the Internets. The stories are marvelously economical, and though they often feature a banging surprise they are not formulaic. Often the banging suprise is of the sort Flannery O'Connor crafted, a kind of Zen koan delineating the moral confusion or hypocrisy of a central character.

Folks act often contrary to their own best interests, and even oftener they act contrary to the best interests of those they purport to love and adore. This does not mean necessarily that folks are corrupt or evil, but that they are confused and plagued by the complex vaguaries of the Universe. Sans some cosmic instruction manual, few can find the appropriate course of action without becoming mired in a tarpit of foolishness, or becoming at the least a bit unglued.

The Night in Question is no cosmic instruction manual, but Wolff's book elegantly bemoans the absence of such a volume.

Momento Mori Moustache Ride


Justin Smith decodes the hipster phenomenon at 3 Quarks Daily:

Hipster irony has to do with taste, not truth, and it only makes sense relative to a certain context of commitments and preferences, while what Socratic irony strives for is a contemplative detachment from all partis pris. In an absolute sense, there is nothing more in Death Cab for Cutie or Arcade Fire that commands one’s earnest and straightforward appreciation than there is in Boxcar Willie, Juice Newton, or Perry Como. From a certain perspective, it is all garbage, and from another it is all fascinating. Hipsters still hope to draw a distinction between the genuinely good and the merely humorously good, by means of a bivalent logic in the end no more subtle than the ‘cool’/‘sucks’ dichotomy through which Beavis and Butthead filtered the world.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Our 'hood

I was walking home from the Park yesterday afternoon when J. spotted me. J. is one of those cats who is always hanging around the neighborhood. He loves to talk because most of the time he has nothing else to do. He yelled my name and ran across the street to shake my hand and walk with me. J. looks very young despite his graying hair and beard. He wears NBA tank tops and jean shorts, and is well-muscled like most guys who make their money scraping and fixing and painting. J is in his late fifties and lives in some local basement. When I first met him I took J. for 30. Now that I know his real age I can see it in his eyes. They have dark circles around them, and the flesh droops there, particularly under those sleepy yellowing orbs.

J. is always looking for a new basement to move into because he pays his rent by doing odd jobs around the houses he lives in. Once those odd jobs dry up J. knows he has got to git soon, or come up with some cash. Often he is pestering neighbors about the trim around their windows, or refinishing their doors. “I can fix that there mess right up fer ya,” he says. “Just call.” He has a scratchy deep voice, very expressive. He also carves chess sets out of wood bits he gathers walking around the Park, and he participates in the Sunday drum circle held near one of its pagodas.

We hung out on my stoop for a while, talking shit. E., my neighbor, came out with his bulldog Bodhi. Bodhi looks like W.C. Fields. E. tried to feed Bodhi a spoonful of ice cream, but it dripped down onto Bodhi’s flat sloped forehead, too high up for him to lick it. His long tongue kept lapping halfway up his face trying to reach the ice cream, but could not make it, poor puppy Tantalus. E. and J. and I laughed at Bodhi, who finally rubbed his forehead on a sheet of cardboard somebody left on the sidewalk. This he licked the now fuzzy ice cream off happily.

Somehow or another J. said something about smoke during our conversation, and I said something in return, and he jumped up off the stoop and hugged me. “A real person!” he said, and actually called me his “nigga.” We talked about smoke for a while. I told J. about Snydely Whiplashed and the Dorito bubble-language. J. told me about Senor Squeaky and the slow-motion Rice Crispy bounce. J. said he was a devotee of the drum circle because “them cats fires up a primo load” to warm up ahead of time under the “tree of life.” “And they shares it too.”

J. was obviously trying to feel me out about a package he has coming in, but I maintained my retirement from such activities was durable and suggested to J. that such behavior for me was long past, with only the most occasional disciplinary lapses.

“Well next time you got yourself a disciplinary lapse,” he intoned, drawling out the words and somehow chuckling deep inside his chest at once, “you call J. And when the fuck you gonna let me scrape and paint that fire escape for you? Shit, man, I will fix that mess right up.”

Happy Birthday


to Flea.

My younger friends are getting old. Where does that leave me?

Happy Solstice, too--to everyone. We've got an uncharacteristically beautiful day here in B'more.

Netflix



We're only three episodes in, but the third season of Deadwood is incredible. I don't think I've seen better television, and I'm including all those other HBO series I've really enjoyed lately on DVD.

I'm awestruck by Al Swearengen. He may supplant Omar Little as my favorite TV character.




Indeed, cocksucker!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blech

Book cover art is becoming more and more retarded. What the hell is this? I know The Shining has already sold more than 8 gazillion copies, but what type of marketing genius thought this cover would sell books?

I see a lot of crappy book art at work. Everything has to be extreme, or have attitude.

Note to children's publishers: Lewis, Clark, and Sacagawea never rode skateboards.

a tranformative hierophany of integrated perception



A collection of talks, essays, and interviews by the late Terence McKenna, who was smarter than Timothy Leary and more sensible about the importance of psychedelics. Instead of advocating their use by every 18 year old on the planet, McKenna thought Huxley was right: give psilocybin to artists, philosophers, poets, and scientists and allow the influence of plant intelligences to germinate through the culture. Had McKenna and Leary switched degrees of influence, our plant teachers may still be legal in the US of A.

McKenna is quite entertaining because he advocates remarkably far-out imaginative hypothesizing, but filters the resultant radical production through a rather astute scientific mind. When he blasts his brain with yage he returns from his trip not to follow the Dead coast to coast but to try out new theories about the nature of time using fractal-generating computer programs. When he talks to an alien intelligence inhabiting stropharia cubensis, he dialogues with the likes of Francis Crick and James Lovelock to see if mushroom spores could indeed survive interstellar travel. When the mood strikes him he engages in clever speculation about John Dee and the true origins of the Voynich Manuscript. He's a lot like Robert Graves, who was also a brilliant thinker fond of wholly unconventional methods.

In a nutshell, McKenna believes psychoactive plants are intelligent races from either another planet or another dimension. It is their influence that turned us from scavaging monkeys into self-aware humans. He cites abundant research in making his claim, while acknowledging it's all speculation. His writing and manner of speech are quite clever, and even if you think he's gone round not just one but a half-dozen bends, he rarely fails to entertain.

Given that there are several interviews and talks included here, the occasional redundancies are forgivable. I believe this is the third of McKenna's books I've read, and I'll continue mining this vein.

In the book McKenna proposes an ideal evolution for language into a kind of visual three-dimensional form of speech. He uses the example of octopi. The following passage is not from the book, but it gives you the flavor of his style and range:

This is a segue from yesterday's discussion about visible language. The notion being that, well let me review what yesterday was about. It was about the idea that if we could see language, if language were a project of understanding that used the eyes for the extraction of meaning rather than the ears, that it would be a kind of telepathy. There would be both a fusion of the observer with the object observed, and with the person communicated with. The place in nature where something like this has actually evolved and occurred is in the cephalopods; the squid and the circoliveral (sp) octopii. These are animals that divided from the line of development that leads to human beings over six hundred million years ago. They're mollusks, they're related to escargot, it's an organism very different from ourselves. Nevertheless, one of the things that evolutionary biologists always talk about is the convergent evolution between the eyes of cephalopods and the eyes of higher mammals. This is because the cephalopods live in an extremely complex visual environment and in fact, they have evolved a form of communication that approximates this visible language that I'm talking about because these octopii have chromataphores all over the exterior of their bodies. Chromataphores are cells that can change color. Now many people know that octopii can change color but they think it's for camoflage, for blending in with the environment; this is not at all the case. The reason octopii change colors in a very large repatoire of stripes, dots, blushes, travelling shades and tonal shifts is because this is for them a channel of linguistic communication. In other words they don't transduce their linguistic intentionality into small mouth noises like we do. Small mouth noises which then move as sound across space in the form of vibrations of the air. Rather, they actually change their appearance in accordance with their linguistic intent. What this boils down to is they physically become their meaning, and one octopus observing another is watching the unfolding of internalized neurological states within the organism being reflected in color changes on the surface of the skin. Now these octopii not only can change their color because they're soft-bodied creatures. They can also change the texture of their surface from smooth to rugose and folded. They can also, because they're soft-bodied, fold and unfold and reveal and conceal, very rapidly, different parts of their body. So they're capable of a visual dance of communication that is an extremely dense kind of visual signal and in the so-called benthic octopii, the species that have evolved in very deep water where very little light reaches, they have evolved light-emitting phosphorescent organs, some of them with membranes like eyelids over them, so that even in the darkness of the abyssal depth of the ocean they can carry out this dance of light, self-enfoldment, color change and surface texture which is their linguistic style. In fact the only way an octopus can experience a private thought is to release a cloud of ink into the water into which it can retreat briefly and hide its mental nakedness from its followers. This kind of biologically intrinsic wiring into the potential of language is something that we may be able to mimic and achieve using psychedelic drugs as the inspiration for the direction given to a virtual reality development program. In other words we might be able to create kinds of visibly beheld syntax that would be the human equivalent of the dance of light, texture and positioning that constitutes the grammer and syntax of squids and octopii.


McKenna is part Slavoj Zizek, part John Zerzan, part Isaac Newton, part Krishnamurti. He's all fun.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Smaltimore

The overlapping networks of acquaintances in Baltimore never cease to surprise me. It happens all the fucking time that I'll meet someone who knows people I know--and often the new acquaintances turn out to be good friends with good friends or current or former coworkers who just happen to run in circles a bit off-center from our own.

Just today a woman in my department announced she was leaving her job. I knew this in advance because she had interviewed for my sister's old job, and my sister had clued me in weeks ago that my coworker was the leading candidate. That's just the way Smalltimore works.

My favorite Smalltimore story is:

Our friend Klezma was taking a painting class at MICA for fun and she met some guy there who was working on a canvas of his own. Each of them were long finished their degrees, but were taking a "refresher." They talked for a while until Klez said "Oh, shit, I forgot I have to call my friend." The guy said he was going to call his friend too, and they both dialed Cha's cell phone at the same time. The guy got through and then Cha said "hold on, I've got another call on the line" and picked up Klezma--at which point the two of them realized they were calling the same person. The other guy at the MICA class was globe-trotting artist Julio, whom I've known since 7th grade.

The poodle of love

Many on the French left freaked out about the candidacy of Nicolas Sarkozy, the recently elected President. Here Sarkozy sits down with one of his fiercest critics, the philosopher Michel Onfray.

Can you imagine in a million years George W. Bush doing the same? Or any of our current crop of candidates? I can't imagine most of them reading this transcript.

Imagine: an intellectual right-wing presidential candidate with a wide knowledge of literature, cultural history, philosophy, and fine art!

[from the July Harper's]

[Dialogue]

THE DISCREET CHARM OF M. SARKOZY

From an interview with Nicolas Sarkozy by the philosopher
Michel Onfray, published this spring in issue 8
of Philosophic Magazine. Sarkozy was elected president
of France on May 6. Onfray is the author of
thirty-two books, including Atheist Manifesto. Translated from
the French by Tobias Grey.


NICOLAS SARKOZY: What do I represent for you?
Dare we pursue the logic you set out on your
blog: that I am a demagogue, the incarnation
of some filthy beast?

MICHEL ONFRAY: Not the incarnation-but there
is one point on which we'll have some trouble
understanding each other: religion. You've written
that you like going to mass with your family
because you feel reassured.

SARKOZY: I am not a regular churchgoer. But
I believe, I hope, I doubt. Ever since man
has had knowledge of his destiny, he has
asked himself fundamental questions. Why
were we born? Where are we going? Does life
open onto nothingness?

ONFRAY: So religion is there to reassure man, to
pacify him in the face of death? I think you're
right: God is a fiction invented by men so as not
to confront the reality of their condition.
There's hope and sense in philosophical research,
whereas what religion offers is foolish.

SARKOZY: I have sometimes sought happiness and
even found it. And so what? What is your
vision of philosophy? Carpe diem, who cares
about tomorrow?

ONFRAY: I believe in knowing yourself.

SARKOZY: But such knowledge is impossible, it's absurd!
In 1993, I had to go into a preschool classroom
eight times to negotiate with a hostage
taker known as "the Human Bomb." Eight times
I was frightened in a different way. We never
know ourselves completely.

ONFRAY: But I think it's possible to get closer and
closer to understanding oneself. We can find out
about ourselves through history. Finding oneself
close to the presidency must generate existential
feelings-

SARKOZY: I've often felt illegitimate, for reasons I'm
not about to explain, and this made me work
harder than others. It was a way oflegitimizing
everything that happened to me: mayor at
twenty-eight, minister at thirty-eight. Finally,
I understood that all this effort wasn't enough.
I discovered a humane part of me that was missing,
a hidden force that I did not suspect existed.

ONFRAY: In politics you make a great deal about
the value of work. But when you get paid to do
a job like mine or yours, it's more symbolic
than anything. To read, write, and hold conferences
doesn't have much in common with
working on the assembly line in terrible conditions,
eight hours a day.

SARKOZY: When I travel around I'm always struck
by how much happier workers seem in the factories
than in the offices. In the time of Zola's
Germinal, down in the mine, even if it was
physically hard, there was friendship and solidarity,
whereas when you're in front of a computer
with an assistant manager standing over
you, you feel isolated.

ONFRAY: My mother was a cleaning lady, my father
a farm worker. They could hardly avail
themselves of any working-class solidarity. Certain
situations, poverty and ostracism in the
suburbs, for instance, sometimes bring out the
worst in people. For whatever reason, you don't
seem to grasp these mitigating circumstances.

SARKOZY: But what do you make of our choices, the
freedom of each individual?

ONFRAY: I don't want to give them an exaggerated
importance. A pedophile doesn't decide one
fine morning to be attracted to children. I think
we are all shaped by our environment, by familial
and sociohistorical conditions.

SARKOZY: Are you a communist?

ONFRAY: Neither communist nor liberal. I think
there are alternatives, notably libertarian, for
capital management.

SARKOZY: So you're interested in complexity?

ONFRAY: Of course! Do you recall a philosophical
work that made a particular impression on you?

SARKOZY: In 1995, I was going through a difficult
period. In the eyes of the media I had gone
from "the Mozart of politics" to a treacherous
and false-hearted Iago. It was at this moment
that I read some letters from Seneca to his
friend Lucilius. Reading this book amid my
problems moved me because it was at once simple
and very profound-that the idea of pain is
worse than the pain itself.

ONFRAY: We possess power over ourselves, over
what happens to us and what affects us, because
it all boils down to representations.

SARKOZY: I have often asked myself this question
when meeting ill people in hospitals. Suffering
is often a letdown compared to what we imagine.
Can we say the same thing about happiness?
I don't think so. All my life, people have told
me to wait, not to be in a hurry. As a child, I
had to wait for permission to go; as a teenager,
I hall to wait to become an adult; the adult had
to wait until the previous generations gave up
their power. Then, one day, the same ones who
told me it's too early told me in the same
peremptory tone, "It's too late." I tell my children,
"Never wait!"

ONFRA Y: We have that in common, not liking to
wait. I presume you never grow bored-

SARKOZY: Never. It's foreign to me.

ONFRAY: I don't know what being bored is either.
"An aimless will," said Arthur Schopenhauer.
It's never happened to me. I always find life magnificent,
because it is saturated with passions.
Let's build crowded moments and that's enough!

SARKOZY: Listen, I'm sorry to say it, but we could
go on holiday together!

ONFRAY: Are you joking?

SARKOZY: You don't go on holiday with someone
because you agree with him about the problem
of social security. Deep down, the most
important thing is style.

ONFRAY: I couldn't agree more-

SARKOZY: Take Celine, for example, who was capable
of writing a phrase like "Love is a poodle's
chance of attaining the infinite." Everything
rings true in this phrase: love will make a poodle
out of you, and yet it's an absolute infinity.

ONFRAY: Celine was a novelist who found an impassable,
inimitable style, and at the same time
could be read by everyone. It's not intellectualism
on the Joyce scale, it's slap-bang in the
people's tongue. He represents French geniusin
what is worst, too, Likeanti-Semitism. But he
brings a language and a vision of the world that
is at one with an era of mobs and crowds.

SARKOZY: For a long time, I got drunk on crowds,
from their applause, their excesses, perhaps
even their hysteria. And now I am more appreciative
of their silence. It expresses much
more than any applause.

ONFRAY: The mass is at once fascinating and worrying.
The Nietzschean that I try to be always
has this phrase in mind: "It's just as odious for
me to foLLowas it is to lead." Direct and animal
contact with a crowd confers a kind of frightening
power, but I find there's another, greater
power, which causes this power to subside.

SARKOZY: Yes, there is a greater power, which is to
persuade the crowd to think as opposed to react.
It took me a long time to understand that: I be-
Lievein transgression. But to transgress there must
be rules! There must be authority, laws. Without
rules there can be no transgression. Thus no
freedom. Because freedom is transgression.

ONFRAY: The libertarian who I am is not against
rules! I am for there being a few rules, so they can
be respected and not broken. There shouldn't
be laws that invite transgression, but codes,
pacts, renewable contracts, passed by individuals.
I think that we can offer libertarian resistance
to capitalism by creating alternative zones
in a world we disapprove of, nomadic free zones,
ephemeral, anticapitalist communities. But of
that and other things we'll talk again on holiday!

Monday, June 18, 2007

A busy weekend indeed


Cha's Office, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Taste the Arts--Center Stage, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


What a drag it is, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Suuna, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Maria Broom, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Lakshmi, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

We prepare for cataclysm


et in arcadia ego, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

12:30 am, on Read Street just east of Calvert

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Netflix



I enjoyed Peter Weir's disturbing and atmospheric masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock. It was a troubling and ambiguous film, almost like a collaboration between David Lynch and Merchant Ivory.

The Last Wave is no masterpiece, but I liked it a great deal. This one is more a combination of George Romero's Season of the Witch and Yeelen.

The late Richard Chamberlain plays a corporate barrister named David who takes on pro bono work in defense of a group of Aborigines charged with the murder of one of their own. The crime makes little sense because the victim drowned in about a cup of fresh water. As he works on the case, David's dreams become strangely prophetic. Meanwhile, a series of Biblical plagues--hail, clear sky thunderstorms, falling frogs and petroleum drizzle--plague Sydney. David finds himself battling an Aboriginal sorcerer in a contest the result of which could immanetize the escaton. But which side is David fighting for? Do his labors aid those who wish to prevent apocalypse, or those who wish it to succeed?

Strange to note that this film popped into the Amazon recommendation software just as I began reading about shamanism and myth again after a long hiatus.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Great Marketing Ploys


spooge, originally uploaded by kittenfess.

Spooge in tomato sauce. What have I been missing all these years?



I'm sure glad it's got a quality guarantee, because nothing tastes worse than poor quality spooge.

#1 Mack Daddy

Because I ate lunch at my mother-in-law's today I got to watch the last half of Bob Barker's final The Price is Right.

Barker is an archetypal figure. I was a rugrat struggling with proto-conscious perceptive abilities while my mom watched him on Truth or Consequences. The Price is Right was a fixture of my youth. All of my grandparents watched it when they were home on weekdays, as did my mother and my great-grandmother. Bob Barker and Big Bird are the only figures who remained on TV from my infancy until my 38th birthday.

I didn't become a devotee of the show until Buf, Sluggo, and I started eating at a pizza joint on campus at Loyola College when we were Freshmen. At the time we were hanging out with a bunch of tough New York/New Jersey gals. What fun it was to bid along with the contestants! And we did so every day over slices bought on Dawn Lee's meal plan.

At various points in my life--when I was working night shifts or when I was able to eat lunch at home--I'd check in on Bob Barker now and again. He was a stern, no-nonsense host in his early days, before transforming into a genie perpetually delighted to give away loot. I love the way he fucked with his contestants by pretending to get ready to reveal the price before pulling back to talk some inanity. He'd have the audience in a frenzy. What a job.

And while his Beauties were stroking refrigerators and automobiles, he was stroking them. What a Mack Daddy.

I don't care how cynical you are about game shows and cheezy TV. I don't care if you regard The Price is Right as a perverse symptom of the disease called capitalism. You've still fantasized about spinning that big wheel and winning $1000 on your first spin. You've imagined getting the green or red on your second spin. You've laughed at that stupid tuba music they played for losers. You can recite Bob Barker's closing monologue:

This is Bob Barker reminding you: help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered...g'bye everybody!

Bob Barker was funnier and more charming at the end of his career than he was at the beginning. He exuded the carefree confidence of someone who realized he was a right lucky bastard to have the best job in the world. Nobody who didn't feel that way would work well into their 80s and remain sharp.

Perhaps I didn't watch The Price is Right more than 10 times in the last ten years. But I knew Bob Barker was there, giving away a trip or a car or a grandfather clock. Now he's gone off to sit by his pool and play with his dogs, and there's a black hole in the pop cultural space fabric. I'm sure Barker's departure from television is recorded in Nostradamus somewhere, or in the Book of Revelation, or on the Mayan calendar. I know that my in-laws and I did today what everyone does when they watch The Price is Right: we yelled bids at the screen, and groaned at losers, and laughed happily when winners danced and jumped around crazily.

Lived-in


basil, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Bit by bit our house gets homier. The addition of curtains and blinds and art made a huge difference. We'd hoped to buy an island to replace this old table from Caldor, but the IRS ruined that idea.

A good spot to read the morning paper on weekends, and a fine nook for wine drinking late afternoons

imber


imber, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Almost daily very ominous storms form over our neighborhood, with rumbling thunder, twirling cloud formations, discolored skies, lightning flashes...and then nothing happens. There's no cataclysm, leaving one dry and unsated.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Black Ice by Stan Brakhage

Pow! Crash! Oof!

The folks at Something Awful have fun with vintage comics covers and Photoshop:





Netflix



I very much enjoyed this reminiscence of Carl Jung by fellow analysts, former patients, and his family and friends. I particularly enjoyed the footage of his house and tower at Bollingen, and the clips of Carl digging tiny springs in the sand by Lake Zurich.

I spent five years working through Jung's Collected Works, and got a third of the way into his Mysterium Conjunctionis before admitting defeat.

What brought me to Jung? Dreams. Dreams of dismembered horses bleeding in cauldrons. Dreams of Egyptian gardens and the presence of precious stones in my hands and feet. Dreams of black-hooded figures engaged in bloody fights, and of ethereal crystalline palaces against night skies, deep black with stars. Dreams of crabs and goats and twins and archers and bulls...My junior English paper in high school was about Jungian symbolism in the dream fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.

Whether you buy his theories or no, Jung was amongst the greatest of the 20th century's intellectuals, and inspired not only psychoanalysts but artists and musicians and writers and occultists and politicians and even physicists. What I'd give to hear recordings of his dinner chats with Albert Einstein!

Matter of Heart can get a bit cultish now and again, portraying as it does the gushing admiration of Jung's closest associates. But the filmmakers also engage his naughty affair with a patient during transference, a great moral failing that nevertheless resulted in a fecund period of creativity. There's no hint, however, of Jung's brief enthusiasm for German fascism...

I recommend it if you're into old Carl. Otherwise you'd be bored silly. Also included is a remarkable BBC interview from the '50s series Face to Face, and a 20-minute film about Maud Oakes and her individuation work with a stone Jung carved for his 75th birthday.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Basta!

Once again Julio is teaching fresco painting in Italy. He sent along pics in order to increase our jealousy:



Exterior view of his apartment/monastic cell.


View from inside his monastic cell.

Netflix



Loved it. One of the best films of its--or any--kind. Scofield as Thomas More is perfect in every way. John Hurt's Richard Rich is fantastically twitchy, and Leo McKern absolutely kills as Cromwell.

Of course most people know the story going in, but nevertheless More's inspiring and costly folly is heart-breaking to watch. Like the Duke of Norfolk in the film, one wants to reach through the screen and choke More, shouting "just sign the damned oath already! Spare yourself!"

Fred Zinneman's direction isn't particularly interesting or artful, but the costumes and sets are magnificent, and the absence of an "activist judge" behind the camera allows the viewer to concentrate on what is being said, and how it is being said, which is what matters here. Directorial innovation and stylistic intrusions can distract rather than illuminate in certain sorts of films, and A Man For All Seasons benefits from Zinneman's cool absence. I call it the "Merchant Ivory School of Filmmaking," though this of course predates Merchant Ivory.

I enjoyed it even more than The Lion in Winter with its much more adventurous actors. And I adored The Lion in Winter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mesdames et messieurs *urp*



Defeated Socialist candidate Segolene Royal may look good in a bikini, but new French President Nicholoas Sarkozy can handle a presser after vodka shots with Putin.

Minty


Minty, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

One of my favorite buildings in Baltimore. Southeast corner of the intersection at Charles and 25th. Near the Kelmscott Bookshop.

As you can see, I got a new camera. Cha bought me a Kodak to replace the one she smashed. She promised never to touch this one.

A Modest Proposal


A Modest Proposal, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Billboard for Smyth Jewelers in the Charles Village Arts District. The National Bohemian logo proposes to the Utz potato chip girl.

Utz is actually a Hanover, PA, company. Hanover is the snack food capital of the world.



UPDATE: What does it say about the vacuity of our culture when advertising logos become sufficiently iconic to serve as celebrity spokesmen for other advertisers?

The Library


The Liberry, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

Got about 75% of the books unpacked and organized last weekend. The remaining books--largely art books and mass market paperbacks--will remain in a closet until we get more cases.

I have five boxes of books to sell and/or donate, and will likely have more as I continue to purge.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Kill Me

Somebody in the office next door is moving boxes around, wearing headphones, and 'singing' the line "take me back" tunelessly over and over. It's awful. She sounds like the haboob blowing through a dromedary skull on some desolate dune.

I have no idea what song she's trying to sing, and can't imagine what genre it is because she's incapabable of anything resembling melody. Either the song is endless, or she's got it on repeat.

Please stop! I can hear her through my own headphones.

Happy Anniversary

According to Google searchin', the official traditional gift for a thirteenth wedding anniversary is lace, and the accepted modern substitutes for lace are textiles or furs.

I'm thinking something more practical. Mrs. Traveling Jones (who recently celebrated her own thirteenth) suggested mulch. Given we have a concrete slab for a yard, that's not likely to make a positive impression.

Anybody have suggestions? Maybe I'll get her a Bean since I popped her workout ball doing crunches last month with my lard ass. Or perhaps it's time for a new toy--I mean "personal massager"? Or a day spa GC?

Dinner always works. Maybe I'll phone up The Carlyle and make a reservation.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Netflix



Yes, children, there was a time when pornographic films didn't grow on trees. They were hard to come by (ugh) indeed. Deep Throat changed everything, and made athletic fellatio the ultimate fantasy for hetero males. The film grossed a ridiculous amount of cash, made porn briefly mainstream (my mother saw it, for Christ's sake--in a small-town PA theater), and resulted in equally venomous feminist and Fundamentalist backlashes. The stars became global celebrities and suffered terribly as a result. Linda Lovelace claimed she was coerced and forced into porn, joined forces with Gloria Steinem, then disavowed her coercion claim and started doing photo shoots in her fifties again. She died tragically in a car accident shortly thereafter. Harry Reems nearly drank himself to death before becoming a minister. The director and producers spent decades fearful that their mob financiers might decide to break legs--or worse.

Here is the whole sordid story, with the usual cast of innalectshuls commenting: Gore Vidal, Norman Mailer, Dick Cavett, Erica Jong, John Waters, Doctor Ruth. My favorite is Helen Gurley Brown discussing how wonderful it is to witness a spurting penis, and how rubbing ejaculate on your face is really good for you. Thanks, Helen, for the crippling and unforgettable image of you miming this behavior, talking about proteins and hormones. I can't get it out of my mind now.

Warning: the documentary features clips from the original, including Linda's trademark technique (which seems a bit quaint nowadays). If you object to such footage, stay away.

Blog Bud Done Good



Regular visitors know that I read books across a reasonably wide spectrum of topics. New Jersey history and roadway construction have admittedly remained beyond the bounds of my foragings--until now.

The Last Three Miles has as its most specific focus the construction of what is now known as the Pulaski Skyway. Serving as macrocosm are the machinations of politicos and union men and corporations before and during the construction of America's first viaduct/superhighway, as America's growing passion for the automobile begins to have growing consequences for its landscape.

The cast of characters is nigh Shakespearean, and Steven Hart is particularly good at breathing life into the major players. Foremost is Frank Hague, Irish tough and one of America's great political bosses. Serving as foil is Teddy Brandle, the thuggish union boss who becomes rich and powerful by playing ball with Hague, and whose dispute with his patron over the construction of a hospital leads to the climactic labor struggle which serves as climax to Hart's narrative. Also making an appearance is railroad engineer, intrepid world-traveler and lothario Fred Lavis. There are many others.

In less deft hands, the book could easily have exceeded 500 pages, and been rendered unreadable to anyone not a historian by the inclusion of tedious minutiae. Hart's great gift is whittling down the story to its most concise threads, threads that pull the reader happily along. He tells his tale with wit and vigour, somehow managing not to skimp on essential context, situating his New Jersey narrative within the larger frameworks of labor woes, Tammany Hall-style 'democracy,' and federal intervention in local public works. It's a great read. I laughed out loud at several points, most heartily during a catalog of the salaries and 'duties' of several well-paid Hague henchmen. Hart even manages to take the reader on a harrowing ride along the Skyway's hazardous route.

Hart treats his subjects fairly and allows their flaws to speak for themselves, which is refreshing. It's easy to condemn guys like Hague and Brandle for their paranoia and brutish excesses, ignoring their often astonishing achievements. The Last Three Miles documents both in an entertaining and enlightening manner, reminding us that this was how things got done for much of our history.

The Last Three Miles is not merely a story of the hopes, woes, and struggles behind the completion of a public works engineering feat that failed to live up to intended purposes. It's the story of a nation evolving from humble roots to industrial and economic supremacy, often in a ham-fisted, blundering fashion.

I'll nestle it on the bookcase between Plunkitt of Tammany Hall and The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Tolle, lege!

In 1336, Petrarch arduously ascended Mount Ventoux in order simply "to see what so great an elevation had to offer." At the time, climbing a mountain for fun was an unheard-of pursuit. One went around mountains whenever possible, and only climbed them if no other path to the other side presented itself, and if tunneling proved too costly. The idea of looking down from a mountain in order to enjoy the view was quite radical. Many scholars trace the eruption of a new worldview to Petrarch's climb; this worldview, they argue, precipitated the Renaissance.

Petrarch himself opened Augustine's Confessions at random whilst sitting on the peak and read:

And men go about admiring the high mountains and the mighty waves of the sea and the wide sweep of rivers and the sound of the ocean and the movement of the stars, but they themselves they abandon.
This apparent synchronicity deeply impacted the young man.

As the Aquarian Age dawns, we require a new Petrarch to shake us from our complacent slumber. Who shall rouse us with a new clarion, renewing the stale post-Enlightenment mindset and ushering in an age of unparalled creative vigor?

Hint: It won't be Glenn Beck.

Perhaps it is you? Get busy, dammit!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Atilla the Hon (fest)

So Hon Fest is this weekend, and now that I live two miles away I have no excuse to avoid it.

Ellen Cherry is playing with her full band, and Yahtzee and I are going to meet up there for tunes and brews. It's a fun festival in Smalltimore because you're guaranteed to run into long-lost hipsters and other krazy kats from your distant past.

Cha is working Saturday for the State of Maryland, doing teacher stuff. On Sunday she will be selling hand-crafted goodies alongside Damnyelli. Come on down!

The Avenue in Hampden has good eats and antiques any day. It's even better during Hon Fest.

Commuted Sentence

After more than a full decade enjoying the convenience of walking to work, I find myself once again piloting an automobile back and forth daily. My commute is not terrible when compared to averages calculated by the Census Bureau, but it sucks nevertheless.

I live less than five miles from where I work "as the crow flies." Were I Carlos Castaneda I could grow wings on the sides of my skull and be at the office in no time. Of course the ingestion of massive doses of mescalin would render any curricula written a bit wonky.

How long does it take me to get to work? If I leave the house before 6am I can get to work in 20 minutes. If I leave after 6am I can get to work in 30 minutes. I travel against the grain of heavy traffic jamming into the City each morning from points north, but nevertheless once I get off the highway it's start and stop.

Driving home is the worst. It takes between 10 and 20 minutes simply to get out of Towson. There are several possible routes to I-83, or to the Beltway, and none of them are quick. I must run a gauntlet lined with many traffic signals before achieving the highway, and often end up sitting at a couple intersections for two or three full cycles because there are simply too many cars for the roads. This is especially true when Towson University is in full swing with its 10,000 student commuters and its 12,000 resident students. So in order to minimize my time commuting, I drive north out of Towson to the Beltway, adding a few miles to the drive home. At least this way I'm moving rather than sitting and stopping. If I leave work by 2:30 I can get home in 25-30 minutes. If I leave work at 3 the time jumps to 30-40 minutes. If I leave work later than 3:30 the commute can take 45 minutes to an hour. If there's an accident or water main break? Fuhggetabouddit.

An hour. 5 miles. Ridiculous. And there are no public transportation options for me. The Metro goes nowhere near were I need it to go. The Light Rail misses Towson entirely. The MTA bus? I could ride it from my house over to Charles Village and up to Towson, but that's an hour and a half trip one-way. And the bus experience is often Dante-esque.

Needless to say I've taken advantage of the flexible work schedule they offer at my office. I leave home just after 5:30am in order to minimize the amount of time spent sitting in a car. I still spend five hours a week in the car commuting to and from work. Five hours a week I could spend doing anything else. In my early 20s I spent more than ten hours a week commuting, so I know it can be worse. Yo! Adrienne commutes from Reservoir Hill to DC daily, which is a nightmarish journey by car, and is barely palatable by train. She has to drive to the train station, ride the train, and then walk more than a mile upon arrival. Were she to drive it would take her 3 hours each way at rush hour. I know, because I used to drive to DC for monthly meetings. If you don't get to 495 before 7am you are FUCKED. Even taking advantage of the train Yo! Adrienne spends 3 hours commuting a day. At least riding the train you can read, or knit, or meditate, or ingest massive doses of mescalin.

There are no less than four police and media traffic 'copters flying over my neighborhood every evening, recording what everyone already knows: our automobile/road system is a nightmarish failure that sucks our souls dry, and the situation gets worse yearly. Currently there is a major construction project in the heart of Towson which is likely to cram thousands more residents into an already overtaxed suburban road system. There already is insufficent parking for all the students and residents and business patrons and employees.

I've not even touched on the idiocy I encounter daily on the roadways. Nobody knows how to drive but me. Everyone who goes faster than I do is insane, and everyone who goes slower is an idiot. Nobody uses signals to change lanes or make turns. Etc, etc. Every driver zigs madly back and forth, and is engaged in a phone conversation, holding the handset with one hand and gesticulating wildly with the other while applying makeup and steering with the knees. You see if yourself every day.

I could bike to work were it not for such people. I know an SUV piloted by some overpriviliged Roland Park teen barely out of driving school would smoosh me. That dorky bike helmet would make no difference.

The sad thing is, I could do my job at home. There is no reason for me to drive here daily. I could come to the office once a week and have no problem meeting my deadlines. That would save me hours of wasted time, about $80 per month in wasted fossil fuels, and would make me much more productive than I already am.

I plan to suggest this option to my boss soon. Because I don't see any grand plan--any "Apollo" mission--to build a sensible public transportation system that would make our lives easier, and perhaps go a long way towards saving planet Earth for all the wee bairns to enjoy decades from now.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Here we go

Dear Bush Arse-Licking Friends:

You all thought I was just a dumb peacenik when I warned you pre-war what was likely to happen in Iraq.

Do you recall scoffing when I told you Bush and his coterie of neo-con jackoffs would try to run their Iraq venture on the cheap, fucking everything up badly?

Do you recall scoffing when I said Iran would be emboldened and active in Iraq on a scale we couldn't match as the country descended into sectarian turmoil?

Do you recall scoffing when I said Turkey would find some pretext to attack the Kurds in northern Iraq?

I'm three for three so far. How's your score sheet? And don't pull that "liberal media not reporting the good news" bullshit. Nobody buys that anymore.

I'm defrosting a big crow pie in my microwave. Dinner starts promptly at 6 this evening.

Sincerely,

Geoff

Netflix



I thought Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers was a spot-on critique of propaganda and media manipulation during wartime. I had problems with the way the narrative jumped around; the flash-forwards and -backs and -betwixts were clumsy and jarring and exhausting, but nevertheless it was a brave and timely film, and demonstrated that Eastwood the auteur is not afraid to use his art to teach us something about where our country is right now. I got the sense that Flags of Our Fathers was an excellent film trapped inside a good movie.

Letters From Iwo Jima is an almost flawless companion piece. Here the primary themes--again brave and timely--are valor and the senseless waste of human beings. Like any resource, valor can be misappropriated and spent pointlessly. Valor can be used to hush criticism of foolhardy strategies and policies. Eastwood focuses on the Japanese soldiers who wait for an American invasion of Iwo Jima. The soldiers write letters home to their families. Everyone knows their mission is pointless, from the Emperor on down. Everyone understands that America's victory is inevitable. And yet the soldiers are asked to fight to the death, and many willingly and fanatically do so, in a catastrophic waste of life and resources.

Eastwood's decision to make such a film now is certainly no accident. This is no 'Hollywood liberal' cinematically attacking the Iraq debacle from a peacenik perspective. This is a sophisticated film-maker using the past in an effort to make us think about what's going on right now. You should see it today.

Strange to think that this is the same guy who starred in Every Which Way But Loose.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Commencing Countdown


How long until Bush pardons this guy for covering up for Rove and Cheney?

I remember when George Herbert Walker Bush routinely condemned the outing of CIA operatives and agents as treasonous behavior. He's been rather mum since his son's administration has engaged in that sort of thing, despite working himself into a lather over Phillip Agee decades ago.

Do as I say, not as I do

The wingnuts are already abandoning Bush in droves, but I wonder what the Christers' reaction will be to the news that federal judges are throwing an FCC obscenity law back for revisions? The law was an attempt to raise fines for television stations which allow dirty language on air, and is part and parcel of the moral minority's attempts to 'cleanse' our media of any resemblence to reality, while forcing a reversion to bland 1950's broadcast sensibilities.

The judges' rationale for their argument that the new fines and standards are unreasonable? Bush and Cheney drop the F-bomb repeatedly, so what justification does the government have for punishing television stations that allow similar discourse?

You can read more at Kos.

I'll let Nelson handle this one:

Kudos

Cha was heavily involved in this heartwarming story. Such accomplishments are worth a few broken cameras, ruined disk drives, lost CDs, keys, etc.

Nice Things

Sigh. My wife borrowed my new camera last week to take pictures at a school event. She had resisted the purchase of a new camera because our old one was "fine," but once I got the new one* Cha used it quite often because it was "so much better."

I had planned to take some pictures when I noticed the camera missing from my desk. I felt the tingly alarm I often feel when Cha uses something I hold dear. Sure enough, when she came home from work she said "Something terrible happened to your camera." [Note the absence of an active agent in that sentence.] She'd apparently jammed the camera into a bag with her laptop and staplers and scissors and an LCD projector, and likely flung everything into the trunk, or onto the hard floor in a school auditorium. She's always got two or three bags of stuff that she hurls against walls or into corners without concern for the contents' fragility as she rushes busily off.

The camera got smashed. The screen is cracked, and although it still takes pictures I can't upload them to the computer, nor can I adjust the flash or settings.

I didn't even have to tell her: "We can't have any nice things," because after repeated use of the phrase she now says this herself.

The camera certainly wasn't irreplaceable, but it took good pictures and was very easy to use. Now to replace it we have another needless expense.

I won't even tell you what she did to the computer last week.

*A very nice Xmas gift from Mom.