Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dark Humor Moment

No need to go all stygian when we refer to the Grim Reaper; I've recently begun calling him The Hearse Whisperer. I think there's serial potential here.

City air makes people free*

This post is inspired by a recent Bulletholes' offering.

In the late 90s, I read The Geography of Nowhere and Home From Nowhere, by James Howard Kunstler, which greatly informed my understanding of architecture, civic structure and what was dysfunctional about the post-modern blight of our American landscape. These books resonated with what I already felt aesthetically and instinctually. Make no mistake, aesthetics, and more specifically classical architectural conventions, have a functionality that surpasses their joy-giving properties, which is arguably function enough.

I was lucky enough to grow up in a city that was fairly well designed and clearly well-cared for by its denizens. Portland has been a darling of The New Urbanism, for which author James Howard Kunstler is a grumpy cheerleader. Cranky, curmudgeonly, cantankerous, these are words which describe him well. Yet, it's precisely the sort of aggressively opinionated and humorous point of view that made me enjoy his books. There is great value to what he has to say:

"Community, as it once existed in the form of places worth caring about, supported by local economies, has been extirpated by an insidious corporate colonialism that doesn't care about the places from which it extracts its profits or the people subject to its operations. Without the underpinnings of genuine community and its institutions, family life alone cannot bear the burdens and perform all the functions itself." - from Home from Nowhere

A basic principle of classic civic structure is that it has a center - the town square, the public meeting house, a place for people to gather and engage in the discursive functions of a democracy. This is a principle of civic structure, and gives cities strong creative prowess, and principal Aristotle recognized as vital to and defining of a city. In fact, his notion of 'ideal cities,' needed variety and plurality, and intimacy amongst its citizenry, for "they must know each other's characters." Kunstler believes that America is suffering a 'crisis of place.'

You be the judge.

Here is a litany of complaints set forward by Kunstler regarding Modernism and the damage done:

- by divorcing the practice of building from its history and traditional meanings
- by promoting a species of urbanism that destroyed age-old social arrangements and, with them, urban life as a general proposition
-by creating a physical setting for man that failed to respect the lives of other living things and the consumption of natural resources, or to respect the lives of other living things
- by creating a crisis of human habitat -
- cities ruined by corporate gigantism & abstract renewal schemes
- public buildings and spaces unworthy of human affection
- vast sprawling suburbs lacking any sense of community
- housing in which the un-rich cannot afford to live
- slavish obeisance to the needs of automobiles and their dependent industries at the expense of human needs

(*a medieval German maxim. Aristotle said that "men come together in the city to live; they remain there in order to live the good life," but "if it overpasses the bounds of growth, absorbing more people than it can properly house, feed, govern or educate, then it is no longer a city.")

Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blood in the Streets

“ Think of wall street as a no-good brother-in-law who borrowed $500 from you and then shows up with a new jet ski."

-Jimmy Kimmel

"I picture my epitaph:

'Here lies Paul Newman, who died a failure because his eyes turned brown.' "

- Paul Newman

(Just a nice Jewish boy, yum.)

It seems my favorite role of his will always be Hud (1963) - heartless, violent, tormented, cold, so
unlike the man he seemed to be in real life, yet qualities he frequently played onscreen, particularly in earlier films. Hud supported Newman's prodigious talent with great writing (adapted from a Larry McMurty novel), an incredible cinematographer (if you are unaware of James Wong Howe, whose career spanned the early silents to the mid 70s, school yourself), and authentic, if bleak, tones not found often enough in the frequent artifice of that period.

Despite the array of losers and assholes he portrayed, I always admired Newman for his wit, his big heart, and his eagerness to play against type. If there ever was a sexier or more physically beautiful man (right till the end), I've never seen him.  He inspired one of the dirtiest things I am frequently known to say.

This one will really be missed.

Magic Man

You're lying so low in the weeds
I bet you gonna ambush me...
If the real thing don't do the trick
You better make up something quick
You gonna burn burn burn burn it to the wick

Ann and Nancy have a heart to heart with that old barracuda, John McCain. Oh, that this were real.

By the way, that debate last night was so preposterously boring I fell asleep 30 minutes in. Obama stood there like a meer cat in headlights and McCain babbled irrelevantly (if I paraphrase, forgive me) - "I've been a friend of Henry Kissinger's for 35 years..."
What a name-dropper.

Seriously, flatline.


How about less rope-a-dope (it's just not good t.v.), and more Ali Shuffle? I expect some sparks in the political ring! Someone light a firecracker under their asses, and quickly!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Who's Your Daddy?

 Or were they just separated at birth?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Literary Irony

"It is essentially a worship of the Imperfect, as it is a tender attempt to accomplish something possible in this impossible thing we know as life." Okakura, The Book of Tea

With all the merited hubbub surrounding the death of David Foster Wallace on September 12th, I find it incredible no one has mentioned that he took his own life at the end of Suicide Prevention Week, if they even noticed. Somehow, it seems just the sort of device the Infinite Jest author might have used in his writing. I partly mention it because paying attention is sometimes a thing we do too little of, and when the little details slip through our fingers, sometimes people do too.

Seems the joke's on us.

"Do not quit. You see, the most constant state of an artist is uncertainty. You must face confusion, self-questioning, dilemma. Only amateurs are confident . . . be prepared to live with the fear of failure all your life."
- William Ormond Mitchell

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Why learning to spell is important and tattoos are to be avoided.

Home Schoolin'

There is a right way -

This is one of the best blogs I've come across in a long, long time, and one that surely should be grabbed up by a publisher. I can't think of many books I'd rather own. I have added this gem to my sidebar, and will endeavor to learn and abide by the 1001 rules for my unborn son as they apply, because they are laid out by a father who is obviously thoughtful, strong, hip and kind.

I'm a big fan of Rule #16, #188 and #219 though I disagree to some degree about the sandal wearing. Still, how can I fault a man who lists Big Star's Thirteen (a personal favorite), as required listening and then pulls out quotations like this one?

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”    Robert Anson Heinlein

Unfortunately, there is no link I found to take you directly to the beginning of the blog, so just wend your way backwards and feel the love.

Then there's the wrong way -

From The Smoking Gun--Meet the Bebees. Father Floyd, 48, and his son Justin, 21, were arrested last year (on different dates) in central Florida. As you can tell from the below mug shots, the Bebees are forehead tattoo enthusiasts. Another of Bebee's kids, Floyd III, is locked up until 2016 on a variety of felony convictions. And while the 23-year-old inmate has yet to get his head inked, he does have a swastika on his left leg, and the phrases "Time Served" and "White Pride"* on his right leg. Floyd Bebee, a father of eight, said that he has a tattoo on the back of his head reading "Got-R-Did." The ink on his forehead** cost $125 and took about 45 minutes to complete, Bebee said, adding that he was the family trendsetter when it it came to such head art. Bebee, who does odd jobs like home remodeling and demolition, said that his wife had a succinct response to his forehead ink: "You crazy," she said. Bebee noted that since his son's eyes are open in his mug shot, the photo does not reveal a hidden surprise: Justin has the words "Fuck" and "You" tattooed on his eyelids.

The 1001 blog allows submissions of your own rule. I think I'd add "Avoid tattoos altogether," and the two my step-dad often iterates, "Always keep a twenty in your wallet," and "It's just as easy to keep the gas gauge arrow on the right side of the middle line as it is the left."

*we can surely see why.
**I'm sure he means 'dun' in the sense of dull.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Heartwarming Work of Staggering Genius

I think this is Dave Eggers' antidote to poor Anthony's detention report. This is a beautiful project and Eggers could not be more charming. More evidence that there is hope, but it starts with each of us, not whichever man's on top.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Funny Papers

Whatever Works

I don't know if it was the two sessions of Reiki last week, or the Tennyson and T.S. Eliot* I read to him earlier, that I told him I'd get up extra-early so we could go find the dawn-loving rabbits who eat grasses in the upper cul-de-sac, or maybe the online video news story I made him watch about the once paralysed and comatose woman who walked after being prayed for, but my dog just tried to push himself up with his forelegs, a thing that has not happened since late June. He did it three times.

We are so proud.

And I am not crazy.

*(The Lotos-Eaters and The Lovesong of of J. Alfred Prufrock, respectively. He really preferred the latter. It relaxed him, like a patient etherized upon a table. Jabberwocky didn't go over so well, maybe because they were talking gibberish and not of Michelangelo or maybe he just doesn't need slithy toves gyreing and gimbling at him right now, thank you very much.)

Monday, September 15, 2008

ED301 Crushing Youthful Spirit and Creativity - A Seminar

Lesson One: Punish acts and expressions of imagination and personal power:

And remember, "Movement accelerates learning."* It must be stopped. That's what Ritalin is for.

Now, please watch this:

(*Dr. Stuart Brown. check out his Institute for Play.)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

L.A. - The "L" is for Literary

Who says people don't read in Los Angeles? Me for one. That is, until my roommate told me this story -

I asked her this morning if she had a copy of Melody Beattie's The Language of Letting Go I could borrow, because we have a garage sale coming up and I hate turning loose of all my useless stuff. Yeah, uh-huh, that's the reason.

"You know," she says, "I used to have a copy of that, until it was stolen, along with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success..."

(At this point, I'm thinking, "God, that's a drag and how awful. Taking self-help books is a little akin to stealing someone's bike, which if you ask me is worse than car theft, or making off with their work tools. Really, just dreadful stuff, but on the other hand, you figure you've got to be pretty desperate, and maybe the books helped..?")

She continues, "And the person who took them sold them for crack..."

(Wrong again! But how much could you possibly get for three used books?)

"...To The 18th Street Gang, because they are so low they'll take about anything for some tabs."

But hey, at least they're reading.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Finding Prince Charming: You've got to kiss a lot of ...

This headline wins best title of the week: Promiscuous Toads Are Just Hedging Their Bets.

(A typical Toad Mating Ball. Yuck.)

Parallel human behavior can be seen in the annual Soapsuds Party in Ibiza.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hollywood Al Dente

This good friend went to get his teeth inspected today by a cheeky practitioner who has this film still from Marathon Man hanging in her waiting room:

Now that's a biting sense of humor.

Lipstick on a Pig in a Poke

From the nightstand

Currently re-reading a book on drama that should interest writers, actors, artists of all stripes and anyone with an affinity for discovering the what how why of being-ness, because David Mamet is a writer who culls broadly, eclectically, relevantly, and that's the way I like it. It's what my Bucky Fuller obsessed friend, Maurice, calls being "a comprehensivist," and he flatters me by inclusion in that society. I caution him that my knowledge is broad but not often deep, though I'd also like to defend dilettantes by saying that originally it was not a bad word - it just meant that one "delighted" in things.

I highly recommend this petit-tome which, weighing in at a wispy sub-featherweight 81 pages, packs a palpable punch. Mamet states, "The purpose of theater, like magic, like religion... is to inspire cleansing awe," and is an essential function of human nature.

Now, I confess I am not a big fan of The Theater, save a good production of Shakespeare or Shaw, and generally loathe the little black box experience, which in LA is rife with mediocre and struggling actors and writers (in this metropolis we all know them), which creates a sub-genre my friend, Judy, refers to as "The Theater of Obligation. It's seldom pretty. But in a broader sense, I am probably too fidgety for the theater, opera, ballet and the symphony, of which I received heavy dose as a child.

Quite frankly, I prefer the plebian experience of a high-tech picture show, greasy popcorn, candy wrappers and all that rot-gut. Because although the thespians will try to take the high-ground and privilege theater as the highest form, while relegating the status of film to mere 'entertainment', they can keep breathing their rarefied air. To me good drama is good drama, and I have yet to be transported watching a play in any way that resembles the immersive dream-like state of a really good movie. But then, I told you I was superficial like that.

In any case, I was amused by this passage early in the book which clearly frames what is so aggravating to sentient beings about election years and politics generally. This is not a new story:

"Bad dramaturgy can be found in the palaver of politicians who have somewhere between nothing much and nothing to say. They traduce the process and speak, rather, of the subjective and nebulous: they speak of the Future. They speak of tomorrow, they speak of the American Way, Our Mission, Progress, Change.

These are mildly or less mildly inflammatory terms (they mean "Rise up," or "Rise Up and Rush Around Boldly") that stand in for drama. They are placeholders in the dramatic progression, and they function similarly to sex scenes or car chases in a trash film--they are related to no real problem and are inserted as modular treats in a story devoid of content.

(We may assume, similarly, that as Democrats and Republicans respond to each other's positions by screaming "scandal," their positions are essentially identical.)"*

So if you don't know what a pig in a poke is, my suggestion is wield the knife, cut the twine, and look in the bag, because usually it's the junk vending street peddlers who are hollering "quality." Artifice can easily masquerade as High Art, and Corruption can don a cloak of Moral Superiority, while Truth might be languishing in a broadly dismissed and denigrated Romantic Comedy or Action film. And you can't dress up a pig, even if she's charmant, because a pig's just a pig, and sometimes she's really a cat. In that case, even if it's a quaternary protein structure of mixed metaphor, ironically, you really do have a good drama on your hands.

(Our local theater company - can we stomach it? Si, se puede!)

*David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama1998.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Look for the Grey Cloud behind the Silver Lining

A Lebanese chef cut open an oyster to find 26 pearls.

I say, that must have been one irritated bi-valve.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Possessing the Secret of Joy - an excerpt

There was once a beautiful young panther who had a co-wife and a husband. Her name was Lara and she was unhappy because her husband and her co-wife were really in love; being nice to her was merely a duty panther society imposed on them. They had not even wanted to take her into their marriage as co-wife, since there were already perfectly happy. But she was an "extra" female in the group and that would not do. Her husband sometimes sniffed her breath and other emanations. He even, sometimes, made love to her. but whenever this happened, the co-wife, whose name was Lala, became upset. She and the husband, Baba, would argue, then fight, snarling and biting and whipping at each other's eyes with their tails. Pretty soon they'd become sick of this and would lie clutched in each other's paws, weeping.

I am supposed to make love to her, Baba would say to Lala, his heartchosen mate. She is my wife just as you are. I did not plan things this way. This is the arrangement that came down to me.

I know it, dearest, said Lala, through her tears. And this pain that I feel is what has come down to me. Surely it can't be right?

These two sat on a rock in the forest and were miserable enough. But Lara, the unwanted, pregnant by now and ill, was devestated. Everyone knew she was unloved, and no other female panther wanted to share her own husband with her. Days went by when the only vioce she heard was her inner one.

Soon, she began to listen to it.

Lara, it said, sit here, where the sun may kiss you. And she did.

Lara, it said, lie here, where the moon can make love to you all night long. and she did.

Lara, it said, one bright morning when she knew herself to have been well kissed and well loved: sit here on this stone and look at your beautiful self in the still waters of this stream.

Calmed by the guidance offered by her inner voice, Lara sat down on the stone and leaned over the water. She took in her smooth, aubergine little snout, her delicate, pointed ears, her sleek, gleeming black fur. She was beautiful! And she was well kissed by the sun and well made love to by the moon.

For one whole day, Lara was content. When her co-wife asked her fearfully why she was smiling, Lara only opened her mouth wider, in a grin. The poor co-wife ran trembling off and found their husband, Baba, and dragged him back to look at Lara.

When Baba saw the smiling, well kissed, well made love to Lara, of course he could hardly wait to get his paws on her! He could tell she was in love with someone else, and this aroused all his passion.

While Lala wept, Baba possessed Lara, who was looking over his shoulder at the moon.

Each day it seemed to Lara that the Lara in the stream was the only Lara worth having - so beautiful, so well kissed, and so well made love to. And her inner voice assured her this was true.

So, one hot day when she could not tolerate the shrieks and groans of Baba and Lala as they tried to tear each other's ears off because of her, Lara, who by now was quite indifferent to them both, leaned over and kissed her own serene reflection in the water, and held the kiss all the way to the bottom of the stream.

- Alice Walker