Friday, April 30, 2010

May Day

If you remember your Arizona history, Mangas Coloradas ("Redsleeves"), his nephew Cochise, and Geronimo tried to stop illegal immigration, too. They didn't ask to see your papers. They knew if you weren't born in Arizona, you didn't belong there. Dang, if that warn't racial profiling!

Fortunately, us white caucasoid palefaces had bigger numbers on our side. Not to mention guns. And lawyers so smart they could yodel and shave with a straight razor without slicing their own jugglers.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

And sophomore, junior, senior, M.A. ...

... the most exquisitely squalid hells known to middle-class man:
freshman English at a Midwestern university.
            — Tom Wolfe

Iowa State University's English department was where Stanford grads with bright, shiny new Ph.D.'s in Lit'ry Criticalism went to flush their stillborn careers down the non-tenured Assistant Professors' toilet, at least back in the early Seventies. It was dire and humorless and dreadful, once the sense of intellectual wasteland set in.

We mere undergrads watched in horror, and the saner of us (saner, as in "still losing it," not already lost it) fled in terror after graduating.

There were one or two tenured exceptions on the faculty, give or take one.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Iowa mushroom hunting

Morels drive people a little nuts around here in Iowa toward the end of April, and well into May. Down in the Czech Village (what's left of it after the 2008 floods), "Houby Days" caps off the season right about Mother's Day. The white morels (Morschella esculenta) shown are about the only mushroom Iowans will trust themselves to recognize, even though we have a few more good kinds that pop up throughout the year.

Because the free advice you give to a beginner about a "few more kinds" can be lethal — who knows what a total n00b will decide matches your verbal description! — there's not the kind of hugely sophisticated mushroom culture here, even in Bohemian Iowa, like you'd find in Oregon, say, with all those coastal rainforest boletes. Just morels, which have the reputation for being too weird-looking to be hard.

In practice the best confirmation that what you have is the beginner's "easy" morel is to cut it two lengthwise — morels are hollow and cut in half, they make little stuffable shells. Oh, yeah... and gather young ones. Old morels tend to be a bit riddled with fungus gnat larvae, which you can get rid of by a short soak in salt water. (You'll need a loupe or hand lens to verify the presence of fungus gnats, unless your eyes are very sharp. They're teeny, tiny, and transparent, carving out weensie little tunnels. Hard to see, but unmistakeable. As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once quipped, though, "I'm not responsible for bugs in my salad!")

My morel cuisine doesn't extend much beyond fried in butter with an egg, though. Never learned better. Here's a recipe from an Iowa City chef, Kurt Michael Friese at The Devotay, who calls morels the "truffels of the heartland."
Sautéed Morels with Lemon
20 fresh morels
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 lemons
Salt & pepper to taste
24 baby lettuce leaves, for garnish

Split the mushrooms lengthwise and rinse them thoroughly. Look out for ants that sometimes live in the hollow insides of the fungus head. Pat the mushrooms dry with clean terrycloth. Toss in the seasoned flour until thoroughly coated, then set aside.

Split one lemon and juice it. Mix this juice with the wine. Cut the other lemon into 8 wedges. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Test the oil with a drop of the egg. If it browns quickly (but not immediately—that’s too hot), it is ready. Dip the dusted morels into the egg, let the excess drip off, then place them carefully in the pan. Do not overfill the pan. Sauté a couple minutes on one side and then gently turn them to cook on the other side for 2 more minutes. Remove to a clean terrycloth, and proceed in the same manner with the remaining mushrooms. Be careful not to let the pan get to hot.

When all the mushrooms are finished, deglaze the pan with the wine-lemon mixture, then strain through a fine mesh sieve or through cheesecloth. On clean plates, using teaspoons or squirt bottles, drizzle some of the olive oil, and less of the balsamic vinegar. Place 5 mushroom halves on the plate in a star pattern. Garnish with a lemon wedge and the baby lettuce leaves, and drizzle with the lemon-wine mixture. Serve immediately.
I dunno. I just slice 'em lengthwise in quarters, fry 'em in butter and drop a couple of eggs on 'em. Salt, pepper, a pinch of oregano, green onions if I had any. Scramble the mess. Simple. The mushrooms have a curious sort of al dente texture, and a flavour like freshly polished boot leather. You expect mush in your mouth, like canned mushrooms, but there's a real heft in every bite, and that sort of breakfast is filling. Goes well with a black, robust tea like English Breakfast.

Thanks for the houbies, Susan!

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kickstart... Kickstart... Kickstart...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer laoreet augue eget arcu commodo fermentum. Nulla ut tellus magna, vel pulvinar ipsum. Donec egestas condimentum ligula, varius rutrum dui convallis ut. Quisque auctor sodales placerat. Nullam sollicitudin, felis placerat facilisis sollicitudin, tellus ligula auctor sem, ultricies semper dolor orci at nulla. Nulla at ante sit amet purus interdum tempus at vel elit. Etiam tellus eros, cursus ut dictum id, aliquam ut libero. Nullam sit amet porta arcu. Morbi vel nibh nisl, ut varius tellus. Pellentesque faucibus blandit quam id suscipit. Mauris in justo in sem laoreet congue eu in mauris. Nam tempor interdum libero, ac scelerisque mauris congue quis. Nam a nisl vitae mi faucibus tristique. In non dolor vel metus imperdiet eleifend auctor sed nulla. Vivamus ipsum massa, pretium quis consectetur ut, venenatis eu urna. Etiam ut odio vel arcu viverra vestibulum quis vestibulum lectus.

Pellentesque sit amet mauris dolor, mattis elementum velit. Suspendisse a orci dui. Donec gravida accumsan bibendum. Suspendisse in ligula sem, at aliquet dui. Phasellus vitae orci et dui condimentum rutrum eu ut enim. Fusce semper venenatis turpis, vel feugiat ante lobortis vitae. Vestibulum sit amet nibh id ante rhoncus sagittis sit amet in nunc. Suspendisse ornare, elit id pulvinar posuere, magna urna interdum purus, luctus dictum quam felis et nunc. Cras rhoncus lorem in magna euismod id bibendum mauris egestas. Donec at mauris eros. Vestibulum eget leo sem, a porta ipsum. Mauris pellentesque venenatis pretium. Suspendisse lacinia feugiat ultrices. Nulla sit amet faucibus massa.

Nam in sem at nisl facilisis sodales non in ipsum. Sed euismod mi et eros malesuada pretium. Mauris nec velit elit. Aliquam porta risus ac diam mattis tempor. Morbi commodo arc...

More about Infinite Space: Most of the Chapter 3 surprises fall in the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me?! category. In that regard, decommission Daisy and load up on battleships, destroyers, cruisers — whatever you can afford, as soon as you can afford them — and remodel them! If you haven't got deflectors, you'll need them. If you haven't got blueprints for the Level 2 Shield Module, it's your own fault for not paying attention — that's easy as pie. Hours of tedium, punctuated by a few seconds of glittering interest scattered here and there. The tedium is caused by travelling slowly from place to place until you get attacked by pirates, which you then wipe out for low sums indeed. It takes a long time to scrape together a battleship. Longer, if you overestimate your strength or fail to properly grok the battle controls, which are nowhere explained in sufficient detail.

Wottheheck, if you're old and retired, it gives you the illusion that you're doing something — something other than sitting in a chair and exercising your stylus grip, that is. It's not true, but a life spent doing more than nothing, especially if it exercises gray cells? Maybe.

Pons asinorum...

In an unrelated noose, I used to think Alabama was the most hell-bound stupidest state in the Union, but now I see that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's mean-spirited, Dickensian Bleak House goons have turned Arizona into the stupidest, jackbootin'-est gorillas-with-guns state in the Union. I can't wait to figure out what I can boycott. Does Arizona produce anything but gag reflexology? Arpaio is the guy who forces the inmates in his tent jail to buy their own food — at 20¢ a meal, and not worth a dime. Remember the pellagra plague in Alabama jails? It's fun playing Which Level of Hell, from Dante's Inferno, Joe Arpaio will get to occupy. My guess is, plague and boils, exploding eyeballs, whips in the night, earwigs on the brain, lemon juice, salt, too much oregano... whatever it takes. And what's with the FOUR STARS on his collar? Is this self-important grinch seriously comparing himself to Gen. Omar Bradley? Very small pond, Arizona. Home of the pygmy bullfrogs. Problem is, they still remember Pancho Villa down there.

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Saturday, April 24, 2010


Haggis is simply the larval stage, as all Scotsmen ken, of the Loch Ness monster. It hatches among the crags and braes, eyeless, brainless and mouthless in the normal sense, having a circular array of inward pointing needle teeth with which it attaches itself to the nasal passages of sheep and by a slow, natural, if ovine, peristaltic migration acquires its customary contents. In its next phase, the wee beastie sheds its pointy teeth and grows instead a triad of bony plates arranged like the Tri-Force, at which point it becomes an oat eater with emergent limbs, making its way slowly downhill, whilst getting more and more bloated in the process. All highlanders recognize the haggis on sight by its peculiar habit of locomotion and shun it vigorously, especially the intensely malodorous greenish-black varieties but all are equally objectionable -- except in the case of visiting Englishmen, in honor of which occasion, the young monster is caught, decapitated, boiled and brought to table as a rare delicacy. It was no doubt a nearly fully-grown haggis that Saint Columba saw returning to the Loch, all those centuries ago.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tweet Tobacco

Vincent Vega: I didn't smoke from 1944 to 1959. I haven't smoked since 1989. There was that thirty year period in between when everybody smoked, including yours truly. I smoked Winstons, two packs a day. In college, during finals week — yeah, college! Where do think I got my extensive vocabulary and philosophical outlook? — in college, I could hit four packs a day. But I quit 21 years ago. Do the math. I smoked for 45% of my life. Haven't smoked for 21 years.

Jules Winnfield: I still get a big scoop of medical sneer with a thick topping of own damn fault and a cherry on top ("You'll feel so much better!") whenever I see a new doctor, especially young ones, kids from third world countries.

Mia Wallace: The thing about smoking is, don't quit. If you quit, you'll gain 100 pounds. Then they'll have things to say about being fat. Tub of lard, wiggle while you walk fat. Heart disease, colon cancer, stroke, diabetes. The other way all you got was lung cancer. Maybe.

Jules: You won't "feel better" if you quit, either. That's a damn lie. You'll be in withdrawal for four days, physically, but maybe eighty years, spiritually and emotionally. You'll go through grief. Tobacco was a crutch and a friend. Even now, thinking about withdrawal, my insides shrivel, freeze and die. Get good at saying No. You'll need it. You'll turn into a hungry ghost, a feeling that will be with you the rest of your fat, tub of lard life.

Vincent: Remember this one? "I started smoking to prove I was a man. Now, I'm trying to quit to prove the same thing." (Donald Kaul, I think.) That's your brains on Mink & Cream o' Wheat, the official party line. [Expletive] If you're motivated enough, you'll quit smoking. And then you'll pay the piper for it.

Jules: Word is, Foo', you did this to yourself.

Vincent: Lots of support out there.

Jules: Personally, I think tobacco is a vastly underestimated psychoactive drug. It has effects, not all of which are worthless. It only has a mild euphoria, sure, but it seems to induce a kind of relaxed, comfortable free association of ideas, too. For you academics, that can be useful. And is nicotine the only active alkaloid in that leaf? With too much coffee and a sudden stressful life situation, it tends to turn people into ranting paranoids.

Vincent: Addictive, yes. Like oxygen. Ask your grandma how expensive oxygen can be.

Jules: There's more money in pot. Tobacco is outdated. And that supercilious reflection you get back from people who might have been a tad bit better trained makes me a little mad, a little sad.

Mia: This guy came to the door. He's looking for lawn work, house painting and so on, but he reeks of stale cigar smoke all over his breath and clothes. My eyes stung from six feet away. I had to open a window. It was so unpleasant, it made me think about tobacco.

Vincent: You answered your own door? [Exasperation] That's ironic, though. Let's change the subject.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Opry Smurf Sings the Blues

I went down to the corner
to meet the bangers there
popped a cap in Johnny Blanco
heard a scream to raise my hair

There was my sassy momma
looking sweet and scared and fair
bloody-handed, looking worried
his head upon her dress

I never knew what happened
couldn't even count to three
I think Blanco's lady
popped another cap in me

I went down to St. James infirmary
in a howling snow white van
laid me on a narrow table
and the doctor shaked his head

I never knew those strangers
my baby never came to me
so cold, so cold, that woman
you know it was my own damn fault

let her go, let her go, God bless her
wherever she may be
she can search the whole world over
won't never be another loving man like me

Not that it matters, but I was trying to parse out the backstory in that ballad. Girl is dead. Guy goes down to the hospital to see her. She's stretched out cold as a mackerel, gone. Why is she dead? Childbirth? Polio? Got run down by a school bus? Stray bullet? Murder victim? Who knows? The song's not about her. She's a huge gap in the story.

He feels sorry for himself. Wants to look his best when he dies. When is that scheduled? Tomorrow? Forty years from now? Is pride in appearance all he's got left? Do clothes make the man? Do clothes attract women? He has the respect of crap shooters, but he's shooting crap himself. Big, bad, black and snazzy. Mm-mmm, look at you! He plays out a little seduction soliloquy in his head, but she left him. Get on with dying slow. Strange ballad. Catchy tune.


Monday, April 19, 2010

The Problem with eBook Readers

Heft. All weighty tomes now weigh alike. Can't those Kindle thingies get... well... thicker if you're reading The Idiot and thinner if you're reading The Classic Comics Edition of Moby Dick? Without that heft and thickness, you lose an important clue about what you're getting into.†

The rule isn't exact, of course. The Collected Works of Dame J. K. Rowling might be only six centimeters deep, in your opinion, but you must recognize a certain subjectivity in your estimation. You may be one of those aficionados who could drown in Odyssey of a Cockroach and other such flighty, filmy, flimsy dewinesses of Yoko Ono, although every woman in America who was under 40 in 1969 automatically reaches either for her pearl-handled revolver or her Dramamine™ and silently repeats the age-old mantra — Why her?...Why her?...Why...HER...? Really. How thick is thick? We're talking literature here!

Don't get me started on Mickey Spillane, Isaac Asimov, Ursula Leguin or Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

Maybe a set of sliding weights, like solid copper playing cards. Normally distributed inside the case, they could all slide together toward the bottom edge of the reader, giving an illusion of sudden insurmountable inertia if you load up an old author like Bulwer-Lytton, say.

Or you could simply unscrew a cap and pour a variable amount of some heavy brown liquor, Irish Mist, for example, into your reader's internal reservoir. The better the book, the deeper the gurgle, the drowsier the reading.

On the other hand, thanks to back-lit LED screens, light reading was never brighter.

American publishers have realized this for years, of course, printing all their recent stuff on thick, ragless pulp with high acid content — bound, to boot, in cheap unornamented cardboard — making their books likely to wear out in four years rather than 400.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Zen Thoughts


It is easy to still the mind, quietly becoming another mind, relinquishing self, sharing thoughts. This is telepathy, this is I and Thou. (Is this thought yours or mine?)

It is easy to still the mind, quietly becoming a pair of dice, relinquishing self, rolling particular numbers, say, 1 and 4, seven times in a row. This is telekinesis, this is Me and WTF?!! The dice roll ME...??

The mind in which this happens is so bizarre that Americans are well-advised to give up meditation altogether.


A loaf of bread, divided with a knife. Two halves.

A loaf of bread, divided with a mirror. Two apparent loaves.

A loaf of breaf, divided by Nothing. A multitude, apparently.

The mind in which this happens is easy to see, like the smile of a child who's gotten the joke.


Personally, I'd rather hear Eric Clapton sing the gutbucket blues.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Writhing in Coils

It turns out that the fiber arts, one of the earliest and most important foundations of civilization, follows an ironclad geometric rule called "zero-twist configuration". Everything from DNA to silk thread to Golden Gate bridge cables thick as tree trunks all obey the same rule: A twisted, multistrand rope under tension stops twisting when the result is 68% of its original length, and at that point, it won't unwind if you bind off the ends. This peculiar rule is based on math, not what the rope is made of! Curiously, the geometry is recursive: Ropes can be used like fiber strands to make bigger ropes.

What that means is, the spinster's craft and children's tops† are inevitable in the universe, not just in human history. And that means, yarns and weaving probably date to the late Paleolithic, and will be found anywhere in the universe where life is intelligent. Rope-making may even be a definition of intelligence. Wool-gathering rather obviously can predate shearing domesticated livestock‡, so it probably did. Should some of those stone "hide scrapers" be reexamined for evidence of fiber shearing, such as microscopic striations against the razor's edge made by silica grit in the wool or hair?

Old-fashioned tops, the kind you wind a string around and then throw, are obviously a variation on the drop spindle. As Bohr and Olsen point out in the article, tops are also an early tool used by ropemakers.

Imagine a group of wool-gatherers, probably women, following a herd of sheep through the scrublands, picking clumps of fiber off the thornbushes. Same as cotton, same as milkweed pods. Their worlds are full of stuff.

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Excepting Alice

Ya gotta keep things in perspective. I don't need to show pictures of teagabbers, they's all over the boob tube, but what you gotta remember is... those guys, and those guys on Fox Snooze, they don't, they can't know... I mean... they never knew NOTHING about what the oldtimers were up to, back then in Arlo St. Guthrie's Day. So here it is, without further ado, a word picture of the Vietnam Era —

Alice's Restaurant.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

English Breakfast

I like tea. Teabags are my companions from noon to midnight, mostly Lipton. My teacup is stained blacker than my teeth from so much tea. At dawn, I have this clever spoon with its own lid that I tuck about ½ full of loose English Breakfast (with the tail ends of some other high falutin' Tea Republic stuff that I dump into the E.B. tin). Tea keeps me going. Tea is Bodhidharma's eyelids, according to legend. One of my daughter's friends thinks I'm a black magician because I like loose tea and own a real, goldurned whissling teapot.

Now, I realize I'm slipping into Know-Nothing dialect here, but I'm winding up to make a point. I have to admit, those teapartiers who aren't advocating the second civil war (hard for an old Jayhawker like me to put up with, you understand) or flaunting pipsqueak personal artillery, the ones who can string two coherent thoughts together without spraining their brain cell... they get a lissen from me. Not that it matters. These days all I do is vote if I feel like it.

But pay attention, yahoos. The tea party movement, as incoherent and angry as it may be, is your archetypal Apathetic Voter — the ones you can't drag to the polls — enraged and bumptious. You don't have to fear them, because by definition, these are the ones Nixon folded into the Silent Majority with a felicitous turn of phrase. Tablebangers who shun actual policy or governing.

Except for the guns. The stupid, futile guns. We can revisit Waco or Ruby Ridge or the freaking goddam Civil War anytime you feel crazy enough. It won't be Sherman on your doorstep, or even Patton. It'll be David Petreaus, and he'll be pissed because he had to come home and wipe your snotty noses, along with his platoon of GameBoy kids in some other part of the world with a boatload of predator drones. So, puh-leeze. Guns? Pull the other one.

Sorry, but that really drops the Slinky™ down my escalator. Get outa my teacup.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Infinite Space

Rated T for nerdboy fantasy about hot babes who pick up twelve year old n00bs and give them their own space ships, the learning curve on this one is so insanely steep Sega actually published YAUG.

That aberration aside, I'm finding it pleasant to waste a little time with, and a little desultory snorkling around the web has turned up the unlikely information that it's actually based on Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End, so who knows? Maybe it'll be more than a time waster. The game was released this Spring, March 16, and by April 13 it had vanished into desuetude. Maybe Amazon has it. I was lucky to find a not too distressed "pre-owned" copy at GameStop. I'll sell it unless I get past Chapter 2...

UPDATES... What's with all the Russian names? Also, the main clue (aside from the right-to-left Japanese ordering penchant) appears to be staying alert for hints. Get the big guns.

Confirmed! Russians have spread through the Magellanic Clouds. Pirates harass what little order there is in such a small universe. Some pirates are bigger and badder than others. Their shoulder pads stand a foot high... (uh huh).... Anyway, build up your fleet, pay attention to small cues and signals from the good guys, be curious, fight pirates and discover Chapter 3. If you can't figure out where the missing strategist is the first time he's mentioned, you are beyond hope and should be doing your homework.

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Playing the European Model Card

I got an inkling yesterday of how Phase Two of the health care debate continues. I went down to UIHC to get an endoscopy (tube down the throat looking for ulcers, sort of thing). Since my last bout of "conscious sedation" (for a routine colonoscopy!) had left me wide awake and blazing stars and planets and lightning bolts about the discomfort level of having one's ass inflated while wide awake before the sedation part kicks in, I was... a little concerned.

I mentioned my concern to my G.I. guy. And promptly got a five minute soapbox derby along the lines of, "You wanted (I wanted?) European plan health care. Next year you'll get the European plan, and that's no sedation at all! It was one of the first cost-cutting measures to be implemented. Fine by me, sedation really cuts into my day since you have stay around for recovery."

I'll give him credit. Between the Versed (50-2) and the Demerol, I was out of it until this morning, incompetent to drive, use machinery more complicated than a toothbrush, or anything requiring verticality. Except for the part about lots of time to think. Maybe. If that's what it was...

"I tink, toe I teal toiletries" — Tinkerbelle


Monday, April 12, 2010

The Second Civil War

Always remember the relative scales of things: If everyone in China shouted "hup!" and simultaneously jumped off a chair onto the ground, the resulting shock wave would propagate through the Earth's core, finally converging on Branson, Missouri, where a neat disc 50 miles in radius would pop 300 miles straight up, flip over like a flapjack and land back in its own oozing magma.

With practice, the whole South could rise again, but Obama can bring the entire Kornflake Kracklin' Kornfedrit States of America to its knees a lot quicker just by demanding union contacts in foreign-owned factories, such as Toyota. Even weirder: Fox squirrels in D.C. will eat KFC™ chicken bones out of the trash bins on the Mall, and stare appraisingly at the tourists. I think they remember the Civil War.

"No doctors!" — Baron von Munchausen


Friday, April 09, 2010


The universe is silent, big & lonely. Take a book. Take a friend. Take Tori Amos and Flash Girls.

I've been deconstructing Neil Gaiman. Is he as good as his 700,000 fangirls think he is? The rock he chains himself to is Jane Austen. That baffles me; I don't think he's being ironic. It's genuine admiration.* I knew an exotic dancer in college who loved Tess of the d'Urbervilles — though Thomas Hardy is not Jane Austen, of course — and also a remarkably calm and elegant straight-A's student named Jane Austen Something-or-other who was excoriated by a fierce skin disease of some kind which she helped you to ignore with a gentle inner fire.

You can tell the great, seventeen-year-old human characters you've met by their dogs†; Jane's was a miniature poodle who found coming to the last day of high school (East Lansing High, 1960) loud, confusing and terrifying: Her dog sat a-tremble at her feet the entire day, anchored to her calm. Both of these kids were the kind who'd like Neil Gaiman, the guy who wrote Stardust. What does Neil Gaiman see in Jane Austen? I suspect Neil Gaiman's mind is like The Breakfast Club. The zombies are not his fault.

Jane Austen hitchhiking her way to Andromeda in Neil Gaiman's 18-wheeled behemoth. Cool. So, if Door is reading Mansfield Park, is she browsing an EpiTome™ or has Gaiman slapped a wanted poster on a public space: BITES AND KICKS. REWARD PAYED. Your mind?‡

*Occam's razor suggests, rather cynically in my opinion, that carrying around a copy of Mansfield Park is an elementary babe magnet, like babies, kittens and small dogs, but in Gaiman's case the dork retard version is probably wrong. The guy's got a journeyman's grip on history. Crikeys, he lives in Minneapolis and he's future English literature.

There is, for example, a rather cheeky annual Irish wolfhound stroll along the tidal mudflats of the Netherlands which comes to mind for the rhetorical third of this intimidating throng, but I have no personal involvement when you get right down to brass tacks. Another Gaiman fangirl, though, apparently living in New Zealand these days.

Yes. Intentionally. Cubist. Prosody. A life spent making mud birds out of linear monotonies, for the love of Howell. I knew an Allen Ginsberg groupie, once; speaking of low comedy, she hadn't read the poem.... (This was Ginsberg in his Tibetan hurdy gurdy mood.)


Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Q In Neil Gaiman's book Neverwhere, how many times does Door (Lord Portico's eldest daughter) curl up comfortably with a copy of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park¹ which she has just found on a shelf in a room familiar to her hosts, they all unsuspecting any such book was ever there?

A Twice. Once at Richard Mayhew's apartment, then again at Blackfriars.


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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Easter Morning

Despite all the recent hoopla about the Shroud of Turin — i.e., French reweaving in the corner erroneously used for radiocarbon dating, etc. — which has been mowing down the skeptics like a scythe, I remain unconvinced, even by the demonstration that the only kind of light that can project that particular 3D sort of image onto a 2D linen surface is not a flash bulb and not a laser, but an ordinary scanning bar like the kind you get on 20th Century xerox machines, the kind you get every time the Borg scan the Enterprise!

Sorry if I don't buy the "Beam me up, Scotty" version, and sorrier if I wonder if the guy on the shroud maybe isn't even Jesus after all, but... say, Thief #2 (St. Dismas, according to some)... or Judas, Charles Martel, Joan of Arc or nobody you ever even heard of... and the "light" was not light at all, but the fumes of frankincense in an arid tomb, and the "bar of light" was, say, the edge of a tight bolt of cloth being unfurled over an anointed body.

This strikes me as not the kind of testimonial a supernatural universe would leave behind. Accepting that the tomb was actually empty, the shroud collapsed, the body gone... the tombstone rolled away? Would He Who Vanished (into the Light, as Shroud devotees aver) have bothered to roll away a tombstone? Jesus could appear in a locked room. Jesus could overtake disciples with a head start on the road to Emmaus just by showing up in their company. Why fuss about the tombstone? Why roll it away? A practical joke on Mary Magdalen? "No doores betwene us, ducks."

Forget the harrowing of Hell, and the poor souls who learned from millenia under the iron lash that their doors need to be standing wide open, forget all that! Did Jesus rescue his mother Mary's favorite kitten from the depths of Sheol? Surely a kitten would need that tombstone rolled away on Easter morning? There are no cat flaps in solid rock.†

The Shroud of Turin is not necessary for the faith of average men and women. It may be useful to assuage the doubts of those whose candles waver and flicker in their private darkness &mdash murderers, cutpurses & pederasts, say. Here, then, comes my point, which comes from Buddhism, oddly enough. When "I" am saved, there is no "I" to be saved! I am not I, not in any sense anyone can understand. We reflect each other, always, and only, in the light of heaven. There is no "I" except, Martin Buber-like, in Thou, and therefore, there is no "I," there is only God and only God is holy.

Happy Easter. I did not see a single Easter bonnet in church this morning. That time is gone.

†For you casual, occasional or weekend thinkers, this kind of rhetorical trope should be considered a reductio.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Michigan State lost to Butler??

Dirty rotten cake takers...


Friday, April 02, 2010

Obama the Republican

The Gargling Lark, a little pub in North South East Washington, D.C., honors former President Bill Clinton as our nation's first "black President," the joke being that Arkansan Clinton is of course Caucasian on casual inspection, but exceptionally good at feeling you feel your pain. So, did Bill steal Barack Obama's thunder, the Windy Citian who seems at first blush to be the nation's actual "first black president?"

Not at all. The White House now harbors in the Lincoln bedroom the nation's first African Republican ossifolder since well beyond Reconstruction. The joke part of that sort of slinks away uncomfortably as a few more Democrats wake up each starkly sullen morning to the realization that President Obama is a Republican.

I think it's an accident of perception. From FDR to Bush, Sr., the middle of the road was occupied by Eisenhower Republicans and a few southern-fried Democrats. Now, like the parting of the Red Sea, the middle of the road is high, dry and underpopulated. If Obama walks into the gap, he's going to look like Moses to future generations (a political generation has a butterfly's lifespan, so check back tomorrow.)

The thing that drives me nuts about Obama, he can't believe he's President, or that the health insurance reform bill passed both House and Senate and he signed it. He calls it, even now, a "bill." It's not a "bill," it was a bill, now it's The Law! Wake up, idiot.

Obama's sense of unreality is pervasive. He seems to share that sense of black disenfranchisment that sends kids jaywalking slowly across the middle of the block to such a degree that he can't come to grips with what he can do. He's wandering on Big Rock Candy Mountain, and has no idea he's in the wilderness.

The only Democrat I'd vote for right now is Kathleen Sebelius. She, at least, seems to know what she's supposed to be doing, and she's doing it.

I WON'T VOTE FOR ROXANNE CONLIN — I'll sit that one out — even if she wins the June 8th Iowa Democratic primary and becomes the party's candidate against Iowa's senior U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley. It's unlikely she'll win, even in the primary, because she's made no overtures to release her income tax returns. That's what killed her candidacy against Terry Branstad when she ran for Governor in 1982.

That, and her campaign after the primary was organized like a Chinese fire drill, as Julia Childs might have said about too many cooks. Blech. I don't know what's come over Grassley lately, but fear of vulnerability is probably not it. Despite the personna, he's no hick, and his Senate seat is secure.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

April Fool!

Spent a long day at UIHC yesterday to get a plan of action regarding this "hepatocellular carcinoma" in my liver. That's cancer to you. To me, it's a load off. I don't actually have cancer, I have a "worrisome node" that will require another expensive MRI in six weeks — or, as I like to put it, priappic iatrocoulroic distemper, ho ho. Kind of reminds me of an Avengers episode with John Steed and Emma Peel, but aside from the evil clown aspect, I don't remember much about it. Maybe I'll look that up.† Occupy time, sort of thing. I'd esplain the joke, Lucy, but then you wouldn't learn pseudolatin, would you? April Fool.

†Season 6, Episode 10, but it was Tara King, not Emma Peel.

But wottheheck. Enough brooding over this nonsense. It's a fine day, 82° uncharacteristically for this time of year, and the birds are chatting about sex and incipient fiber hoarding. There's a pale flush of green on the honeysuckle bushes and the mail came early. Life is, if not full, not half empty either. Always remember...
If the dusty treasure map has been verified, it is not a legend.