Ugly American Pt. II
These Olympic Games have not been among the USA's finest hours. Rancor and discord have occasionally been a part of this endeavor, but this time brought arrogance to the fore. People in other parts of the world have probably been spared to spectacle of Bode Miller.com. The self-promoting, self-destructing skier has blanketed the US media with hype. While other athletes have toiled and trained in anonymity and gone to the Olympics on a shoestring, Bode promoted himself (TV ads!) and lived the high life, and then failed to contend. That is ok, anyone can have a bad day. Week. Fortnight.
The irritating thing about it is that other competitors, who have prevailed, have been nearly ignored, in deference to BM. The US Curling team, a group of friends from Bemidji, Minnesota won the first ever medal for a US team in that sport. The Minneapolis paper's sports headline and full half page story? Local boys make good? Plucky curlers "rock" Torino? Think again. Always Bode. Every day, for over two weeks. National news? Interview with Bode.
The U.S. television ratings for these Olympics have been abysmal. People may be gullible at times, but they can smell something rotten, and this mess stinks.
Dreaming Of Smoking
I dreamt that I was smoking a cigarette. That's something I haven't done for nearly 40 years. It felt good, at first, just the way it used to. The itch that loves to be scratched. As a callow youth, the reliable buzz from that first inhale, and then the unconscious sucking for more, filled a void in my unformed personality. And then I woke up. Both back then, and right now. Then I made the leap of understanding that smoking had become a part of me- but it was in the same way a parasite becomes part of a host. Now, after seeing friends and family suffer with this monkey on their backs'- it makes me glad that I had quit then. The smoking buzz is still there, but there are other thrills in life, better ones, ones that expand one's possibilities, not shrink them. Make no mistake- there is something to smoking- and when you quit it, you feel a "nothing"- a hole in yourself, as it were, and nothingness may well be the scariest emotion a human can experience. But that will pass.
I woke up.
I'm a pixel pushin' Papa, and when I photo shop the scene
You can hear those masks shoutin', don't turn your mouse on me
Now tiffs, I'm just a good guy, and I'm goin' to have my fun
And if you don't wanna look bad, don't monkey with my file
Like a jpeg when it's lo-rez, like a hard drive when it's full
I'm a pixel pushin' Papa, I know how to stamp my clones
The plug-ins all know me and they sure leave me be
I'm a pixel pushin' Papa and I retouch where I please
When I get that funny feeling when overlays call
I swing aboard my Wacom, and I click my pen y'all
Sometimes one shot will do me, sometimes takes four or five
Sometimes I shoot all around, before I'm satisfied
When you see my lasso poppin', you better hide yourself some place
'Cause I ain't made it for stoppin' and I come from a transformin' race
My cpu understands me, she says I am her big crop
I'm her pixel pushin' Daddy and she knows I can't stop
You can hear my scanner whining, you can see my Epson fly
But you can't ever crash my shiny Mac G5
I'm a pixel pushin' Papa, I'm goin' to print, and you'll see
Just follow me and you will see the gamut of my RGB
-with an apology to Jimmie Rodgers
Standing On A Corner
I see her through the rear view mirror with that "Huh?" expression on her face I drive away just a little too fast, overly dramatic. As usual. At least I spoke to her face to face. I could've just called her, or not called her at all. "I can't go on like this!" I said, although I could've. After all, I had been her boyfriend number two for over a year, and it (or he) hadn't killed me yet. What was I thinking? What was she thinking? I really don't care what he was thinking, alright now, they can work it out between themselves. I'll just step back a bit, and look around. Next time will be different. Next time will be the right time. Next time. She's still standing there.
To create the perfect giraffe sandwich, be sure to start with the best ingredients. When you are at the grocery, be sure to pick out a nice, fresh giraffe. Make sure that it doesn't contain any foreign objects, like Hawaiian shirts or fishing hats or tourists. Once you have your perfect giraffe, get the proper bread. It should be at least 6 x 8 feet in size, (you can let the legs hang out) and fairly substantial to avoid ripping the bread when you pick it up to eat it. As far a toppings go, the sky is the limit: ketchup, mayo, mustard (French, Yellow, Coarse, Colonel), or anything else your heart desires...
Batty only uses the finest ingredients...The giraffe thinks a Batty sandwich would be tasty as well...
Prepare as follows:
- mustard, ketchup, or other condiments
For more fine recipes consult The Flippist Gourmet, available at fine bookstores everywhere.
- slice bread
- spread with mayo
- place giraffe on bread
- sprinkle liberally with condiments
- it just isn't a sandwich without the sand
The Ultimate OS
February 20, 2050
Somebody help me.
My new computer, with that fancy Operating System. It has taken over my life. You know what I'm talking about. The one with the special glasses that give you a three dimensional view, with sensors in the earpieces that pick up your brain waves and anticipate your every desire. The screen- a shimmering, fluid plasma that hypnotizes and seduces. The content is almost immaterial when your field of vision is a glimpse into paradise. But oh, what content! A billion years of life, distilled into a superconcentrate, the wisdom and the folly of the ages all there, you don't even have to think- it comes unbidden into your mind. Your mind, the Mind of God, omnipotent, all powerful, the civilizations of centuries crumble and are rebuilt, over and over in a split-second. Seconds become centuries, centuries of pain and pleasure, of euphoria or despair. Despair, because despite having all this, having this fantastic array of experiences, and sensations...I am alone.
Somebody help me. Somebody talk to me, hold me, someone turn the damn thing off. I can't. I'm afraid.
Sunday Night And Monday Morning
When a week-end is spent working around the house (and batching it to boot!) Sunday night doesn't seem quite the same. Living on Bulgarian sour cherries, Italian dry salami, and Cherrios; I've had enough of this kind of fun. I'm about ready for "assisted living" in a zero-maintenace condo. But then again, I did get the funkiest part of the house (an under-the-stairs closet) completely redone. Only 8 or 9 more "problem areas" to go and then we'll probably sell (in another 20 years?)
I'm looking forward to work in the morning, a chance to relax a bit, pushing pixels around is easier than operating power tools, I guess. I'll just go to bed and dream of my Icelandic vacation (its looks like it's really going to happen in October).
One Thin Dime
One tenth part of a dollar. Ten cents. Not worth picking up from the street.
As a child I would carefully save, earn or cajole a dime to be able to go to Magnuson's corner store to buy a 12 ounce bottle of "pop". The smaller bottles (7 ounce) were only 7 cents, but there was no substitute for a big bottle when you had to perform in a belching contest. A dime (which was 90% silver in those days) had the power to purchase a variety of "penny candy", and if you could scrape up an additional 2 cents, you could buy a pair of Hostess Twinkees™. My dentist retired a wealthy man from all the sugar we ate as children.
In junior high I placed my first (and last) sports bet with a shiny silver dime. I was stiffed (DALE SWENSON) and not having any muscle to collect on the debt, I chalked that one up to experience. Now that I think of it, I've probably saved thousands of dollars over the years that would have been wasted gambling! Thanks Dale! (But you still owe me!)
The classic use of a dime then was for phone calls. When we used to go to movies and needed a ride home, we would call at a pay phone, let it ring twice, then hang up. That was the universal way to let mom or dad know that we were ready to come home, and not have to pay Ma Bell. With cell phones practically a given today, it all seems rather quaint. But at one time a dime was really worth something.
When All My Stories Are Sad
"And they lived happily ever after..."
Fairy tales don't ever come completely true. They can give a child hope, and direction. They can give a parent a way to express joy and wonder to a small child, and to relieve a bit of childhood for their own enjoyment. Of course everybody's human story has the same ending. One minute you are, the next minute you are not. Over dinner last night, my companion and I discussed the why of blogging. The heady, almost intoxicating rush of awareness that comes with discovering all those other people out there can be tempered with the fact that the more people you follow, the greater is your likelihood of finding sadness and misery, as well as happiness and joy. Aldous Huxley wrote a novel entitled "Time Must Have A Stop."We all know what that stop is. And that eventually all our stories will be sad. When all my stories are sad, then I too, will have a stop. But not yet.
Driving over the Mississippi River (on a bridge!) I noticed that the ice had been breaking up and drifting down in floes. About this time of year, some forty years ago, two of my classmates thought that a semi-frozen river was a good place to play. Barry and Dan were down by the river at a spot called "Old Camden", where the remains of a nineteenth-century shingle mill had been located. The weren't any structures, to speak of, just a few pieces of concrete here and there, and the sluiceway that fed the old mill. They had been poking around the shore, and found a dead cat. In an act of idle curiousity, they threw the cat on an ice floe that was circling in a back water. The cat and the floe continued their oscillation. Feeling brave (or was it just stupid) the boys hopped on the floating berg. They too went round and round. Barry, as teen-aged boys are wont to do, grew tired of this activity and leapt on shore. The extra kick from his leap pushed the floe out into the mainstream. Dan was now the captain and crew of the USS Icecube, heading down the river.
Oh, did I mention the falls?
That's getting ahead of the story. Dan was adrift, and too far from shore to jump, and with the water being a cozy 33° F., swimming was not an inviting option either. Barry was on shore, and, as teen-aged boys are wont to do, laughing. Dan was getting scared now. A passing motorist saw his plight and phoned police. The fire department brought out a boat to the nearest landing- about two miles downstream. Just before the falls. There was quite a crowd when they snatched Dan from a watery grave.
The next day, there on the front page of the newspaper, was Dan- drifting down the Mississippi on pack ice, in the middle of February. He became a local legend. Nobody tried to copy that stunt, however. Most teen-aged boys, as is their wont, aren't that dumb.
I Love You
Love ya babe. I know that you've been feeling a bit lonely lately. It is hard, making it on your own, the way you've been doing. I just wanted you to know that although I'm not by your side, I'm still with you, darling. I would love to be holding you tonight, caressing you and gently kissing your cheek, dear one. If you are feeling down because its St. Valentine's day, I understand. This is my Valentine to you. I mean it with all my heart. If this love can be in a million lonely hearts tonight, if every one that has an empty spot in their soul can feel my love filling it, if what I say here can make it better then it is real, and worth it. I love you. I'll say it again. I love you. Although we may have never met, sometimes it feels as if I've known you forever- you are my Cleopatra, my Juliet, my Yoko. If you are wondering if this is really meant for you- know that it is. Darling, I love you. Always remember that. I love you. I love you. I love you all.
I Want To Live...
...here...with Morticia, Lurch, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, and all the rest...Just call me Gomez...
Ahead To The Past, At Last
...so to continue with the saga of our week-end escape, the Weaver and I ended up here in Red Wing Minnesota, in a 19th century octagonal house:
An eight-sided house has, by definition almost, its quirks, and ours was no exception. Spiral staircases, a cupola and surrounding porches and vistas from the roof-top (note to self: return in the summer!) and rooms with an occasional 135° angle where the walls met all added to the charm of this historic dwelling. The topper for me, (satisfying my peculiar fascination with antique plumbing), was a porcelain "foot bath"- a small tub about 2'x2'x2' with its own special fittings- intended for podiatric hygiene. Civilized...
We were hosted by Penny Stapleton, who regaled us with vivid stories about the house over canapés and wine. We slept in luxury. Most Civilized, indeed.
Red Wing itself, one of the first cities in Minnesota, is certainly worth a visit. Because many of the founding families lived there for generations many of the fine older homes and buildings have been preserved so that a walking excursion in the downtown and nearby residential areas brings many pleasant examples of architecture into view (more on that in a later post.) With a proud history of manufacturing (Red Wing™ shoes, Red Wing™ pottery) there is plenty of well-preserved local color worth at least a week-end of exploration.
The Ugly American
Watching the Winter Olympics opening ceremony last night gave me a small shiver of hope- at least some of the people of the world can get together and have a go at something other than warfare or explotation. I grant that there is as much politics and behind the scenes manuvering as in any human endeavor, but at least some people are connecting in a small way with others from around the world. The pageantry, especially the choreography, is a little (!) on the hyper side, but that too is ok, this ceremony is really a dress-up party for the world (...loved those Mongolian hats!)
At the end, in honor of the great Italian tradition of Opera, the greatest living Italian Opera Star, Pavarotti, sang Verdi, arguably the father of modern Italy.
Viewers in the United States got to listen to Bob Costas talk over the first several bars of Mr. Pavarotti's performance. This wasn't an accidental oversight- the show was (like most of the Olympics) taped (NBC evidently thinks US citizens can't handle real-time events- or that it can sell more commercials) and STILL Bob thought we should hear him prattle on instead of this musical giant. A master, singing in his home country, with hundreds of years of tradition behind him. Proving once again that Americans just don't get it. An ugly American- crass, mercenary, and self absorbed to the point of idiocy, real classy, Bob, real classy...
Nineteenth Century Escape
February 2006 is, for some strange reason, just not doing it for the old professor...it probably has something to do with having to deal with Bill Gates and his infernal OS (why is this man rich?)...better get down to the lab and dust off the "wayback machine" for some time travel this week-end. I'll set the dials for 1857...more later...
Whatever It Takes
Keep it to the point. It's only a daily routine, no need to get all bent out of shape. As Frank Zappa once sang: "Do your job and do it right, life's a ball- TV tonight! Do you lovin' do your hatin', there it is where you made it- Wow!" Maybe it's just because it's February.
Some days are better than others. Some days are worse. Some days are best forgotten...
...what was it that I was talking about?
Scene: a café in a Scandinavian capital
-We meet again. Good to see you.
-Have some tea with me?
-I'd better not.
-You aren't so surprised to see me now.
-I'll admit it, the first few times were a bit unsettling. I'm resigned to my fate; it is rather nice when you show up in my dream every once in a while; I never know when or why.
-Enjoying your visit to our fair city?
-Of course, whether awake or asleep, it is always a kick to be here.
-I can't stay long, I've got a party tonight...
-Of course, have fun...
-Oh, just one more thing:
Authority And Responsibility
Authority, power of one sort or another, needs to be balanced with responsibility. Recent events on the world stage show the consequences of irresponsible power. When the U.S. Government decides to establish authority in another, sovereign nation, it must also accept responsibility for its actions. When a Danish newspaper publishes inflammatory cartoons, it too, should be responsible for the results of its actions. When a multinational corporation destroys the environment of portion of the earth, it too, should be responsible.
Of course, none of these institutions feel the slightest bit culpable. Their arguments usually feature the phrases "freedom" or "within our rights" or "lawful". All of which avoid the concept of responsibility.
Please note, I have not attempted to place this argument in terms of "right" or "wrong" or "moral" or "immoral". My suggestion is just that many of the worlds problems are the result of this kind of thinking. Or non-thinking.
Circle Of Life
Watching the Superbowl.
Some old men playing "Start Me Up."
(With cardiac paddles?)
That guy playing guitar.
Where have I seen him before?
MY GRANDFATHER PLAYS GUITAR FOR THE ROLLING STONES!
Me And Mr. Welk
For nearly fifty years the grinning visage of Lawrence Welk has been haunting my television viewing. North Dakota's most famous celebrity , now departed, lives on as sort of an electronic vampire- undead, feeding on the living, giving a strange form of succor to those caught in his web. The music is always polished. Not in the sense of being played to perfection (although I won't argue the talents of his orchestra and singers), but polished in the sense of all the edges and unique textures smoothed over and removed. Mr. Welk had a penchant for "couples" singing together, indeed, many of his troupe were married to each other.
This evening, as I was surfing- unwinding after an eight-hour computer seminar (not nearly as much fun as writing these peculiar essays), I happened across a rerun of Mr. Welk's show from 1972. It was perhaps even more hokey than usual (think: cheesy electronic organ) until one of his "couples" did a southern gospel song. The arrangement was bland, the man's singing perfunctory, but towards the end of the performance, the woman, who until this time had been singing sweetly and unexceptionally, started to let her "down home" voice sneak in. It was as glorious as it was unexpected. The wonderful Appalachian melisma, never showy, caressed the melody and elevated the whole performance.
O sister, where wert thou?
Fill in The Blanks...
...a do-it-yourself FLIPPISM IS THE KEY post...
They met at a ____ ____.
He gave her his ____ ____ ____.
She gave him a ____ ____.
Their ____ ____ was ____.
He thrust his ____ into her ____ and ____.
They both ____ hard.
Afterwards they ____ their ____ with ____.
Fill in the blanks (words can be of any length) on a piece of paper, then look in the comments for my version.
The Boat Of Longing
"A fine ship, all lit up, faint music coming across the water, the sounds of people laughing and singing, the craft steadily cutting through the still waters..."
Biking down the Rum River trail on a winter's night, you must forgive me if my mind wanders during the trek. The recent warm weather has caused the river to have a lot of open water, and where the trail skirts the shore the fog sits quietly and creates a fantasy-world. The trail is usually empty at night, especially in the winter. The feral cats are still active, black forms moving in the shadows, and in a stand of white pine an owl is heard, questioning my trespass.
"...He pulled harder on the oars. Up the billow, into the trough...onward...farther onward...nearer and nearer the beautiful castle west in the sea...the castle which lay in the twist of gold, the castle where dwelt his boy. But the billow rolled so chill..."
Dreams come and then vanish, like the fog on the river. Those dreams that stay, that haunt me with an unbearable sadness, are the ones where my boys are young again, five or six years old. Their unselfconscious beauty and joy is lost forever, and for this loss I cannot be consoled.
"And the night closed in. That [he] did not notice. He only saw the castle where lived his boy."
On a perfect summer's evening, the kids and I are fishing in a bay. There are deer browsing on the shore, unafraid of the boat and its occupants. The sun touches the tree-tops across the lake, and we raise anchor and head back to the cabin. I blink, and find myself back on the trail, heading home on the narrow black ribbon that snakes between the fields of snow.
"...On he rowed, and on, farther and farther into the skyline, out to the Great Ocean itself..."
-quotes are from "The Boat of Longing" (Længselens Baat) by Ole Edvart Rølvaag, 1921
...Drogo, built between 1910 and 1930 for a wealthy merchant in Devon, England, overlooking the River Teign. As far as twentieth century castles go, it's the best (read: only). Designed by Lutyens, it actually is pretty impressive, with beautiful gardens, surrounded by heather-covered hills. The most memorable part, at least to my sensibilities, is perhaps the humblest. A small bedroom, decorated with the artifacts and mementoes of the owner's son, who died in World War I.
Europe had suffered wars for a thousand (or more) years, and would have to endure another after "The Great War". In those wars, being born wealthy or into a high class did not preclude military service. After this millennia of bloodshed, the native peoples of Europe, and the languages they spoke, and the areas they inhabited remained more or less the same. Some countries grew and prospered, only to be reduced after each new conflict. The sixty year European peace (excepting internal conflicts in places like Bosnia, Northern Ireland, and Cyprus) is unprecedented. Whether it is because of increased political harmony, economic inter-dependence, a realization that there is no point to it, or a combination of these factors, it may be the civilization's greatest achievement in the twentieth century.
In the twenty-first century, the United States has entered into a different kind of war. A war for profit, disguised as a war on terror, which has become a war of terror, fought by lower class citizens, directed by an arrogant and short-sighted elite, with no possible outcome except defeat, alienation and death. There are tens of thousands of families with an "empty room" where a family member once lived. In Viet Nam it was necessary "To destroy a village to save it." In the Mideast, will it be necessary to destroy a country to save it? Or a region? Or the World?