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June 30, 2008

To know pain is to understand gentleness
Tak Saguchi
You don't have a home. You've only got me.
John Cassavetes

Adobes And Shed by Edward Hopper
Click images for desktop size: "Adobes and Shed - New Mexico" by Edward Hopper
It settled into being a grim day.
The emptiness of the house, the passing of my little blind dog, the dread of a horrible time at work, the full impact that the house guests are truly gone, the fear of poverty and the grievous fear of caring for loved ones, the other dogs and herself, her hard drive failing and discarding things she loved and worked on, thousands of recipes, photo's music and memories, I Walk Alone have eroded my friend's pluck.
Pluck. The pulling of a feather.
I have empathy. What good is empathy or compassion to a drowning woman?
Caring for others is always a tremendous burden. Its only lightened by the success of the care. That's not very cogent . . . I'm a good negative example of that statement. The only thing I can deal with is survival.
Part of my survival is emotional - the survival of my puppy and my friend are mainstays of my survival. Without them my survival is is a hollow-less thing, a cynical stoicism that's devoid of light.
Regretfully I'm not very well equipped to help in letting anyone else survive. I can't assist. That displeases me but it doesn't throw me into depression. That's not toughness on my part. Its one of the advantages of not being very smart, I think. Smart people can envision a bigger world than I can. Intelligence lets you feel where you fit in that world and lets you shape yourself, forge yourself into a piece that allows you to fit happily into that world.
Like a lot of successful women my friend has inadvertently let her self worth become tied to her success. There's nothing wrong with that. We all do it. Some of us can even get it from the outside, like when our fave team wins a game.
I look at my friend and I see much to be proud of: The love she's generated, the care she's given to her family and to her co-workers and through her job to the world. I see a nice house and beautiful dogs, dogs that are thriving. Without her they would be dead or eking out a miserable existence. The dogs would only be surviving because that's what dogs do.
Windy City Sunset by Verson Photo
Click images for desktop size: "Windy City Sunset" by Verson Photo
I see her home as filled with beautiful treasures, trophies of love and respect for others. Overflowing with her being able to take the difficult steps to caring for herself while never forgetting her commitment to the community or side stepping her precious burden of the others she's brought into her life.
I don't see her as a goddess. I've known enough goddesses to not like them much. I see her as a human being who's weathered and endured and still sees the smile hidden inside.
I don't think there is a way to ever let anyone see themselves as you see them. Ridiculous but so. Its why lesser men resort to poetry and why the real poets actually exist, need to exist.
Sleep is the poetry that we all have to heal ourselves, I think. Depressed people and the psychotic don't sleep. In sleep the brain works on healing itself through the vista of dreams. Dreams are the little stories the brain creates to lead us to the conclusions we already know but have forgotten. Idle Hands A whole branch of medical science exists to try and figure out what those little stories mean. Sometimes they don't mean awake what our brain intended them to mean while we're asleep.
I sometimes think that those doc's are wrong. The stories the brain tells ourselves are rich and personal. If someone feels like sharing that dream with you and telling you their story its a privilege and not a gimmick to pretend insight. And I figure if a person is smart enough to remember a dream and to be troubled by it, generally they're smart enough to figure out for themselves and to be calmed by the glorious story their own brain has manufactured.
But what do I know about stuff like that.
I feel helpless watching my friend struggle. I think that I must be a huge disappointment to her. I generally disappoint people a disportioncate amount of the time. Its to her credit that it bothers me that I'm concerned over disappointing her.
Back in the days when I needed an agent, my agent said to me, "Never trust anyone until you see what's in it for them." I thought at the time he sounded like Burrough's agent from "Naked Lunch". I thought it was sad that it turned out to be a wise saying.
I don't doubt that my friend will pull through all of this and continue on in the chirpy, happy mode she's evinced most of her life. I worry about it and want it to happen with each new morning. For her to not be worn down by life in this world, by the capitalism, by the politics, the greed and the lack of sympathy. She's been doing it and I want her to go on doing it.
Anime by Tetsuya Nomura
Click images for desktop size: "Anime" by Tetsuya Nomura
Like I said, I'm only good now at surviving. I already said it. I need my puppy and my friend to be out there and being happy. It doesn't matter much whether I'm a part of that happiness or not. I mean it matters to me and for my happiness. I want to be there and enjoy all the richness that they both offer. I'm that selfish, for sure. But it doesn't matter much for my survival. What matters is that they both continue on and keep smiling, fighting, playing and scrapping.
If your the kind of guy like my old agent you can see "that's what's in it for me".
Survival is a pretty big deal. A pretty big reason to trust.
If it weren't we as a species would be able to shut ourselves off with a thought, instead we can't even shut ourselves off by ourselves and can most of the time be talked out of shutting ourselves off with mere words with no promises.

I'm really starting to hate fireworks.

June 29, 2008

4 for 5

Waiting for the Verdict By Solomn Abraham
Click images for desktop size: "Waiting on the Verdict" by Solomn Abraham
When I was sick last week I kept working on the movie collection.
Even then I thought it was odd of me.
I wasn't too sure I wasn't dying so in between thinking things like, "Should I interrupt?" How To Make A Monster and drawing some large chunks of inspiration from my little blind dog I pondered over matters such as, "Should I replace my copy of "Fat Tiger, Skinny Dragon? This one has 30 extra seconds of end credits . . ."
When does move fan cross into movie buff into movie nerd?
Does the classification affect anybody or mean anything to anyone but the movie nuts?
Like when I first got dragged to the Star Trek pub I remember someone viciously explaining to me that he was not a Trekkie! He was a Trekker! (This just before he went over to hit on some woman chatting her up in authentic Klingon . . . ) It was important to him but the point of it eluded me. A few other people have explained the subtle differences between kie and ker but it was well beyond me, other than making me certain I never wanted to end up as a kie . . .
But maybe the silly dwelling on the movie collection was a way of staying attached to life, to looking forward to the future. Needing to keep everything organized for tomorrow. I have no heirs and no one cares about the collection of discs except me so, clearly I was doing all this only for myself, so I must plan to be here tomorrow.
I also got an email, well my puppy did . . . come on, I'm not the only macho guy out there who's puppy has her own email account. Am I?
It was from a extremely well established legit internet company pointing out that her site averaged 70,000 unique hits a month. By placing unobtrusive text ads and links I could make x amount of dollars etc . . . I'm poor and x amount of dollars can feel like a lot.
I talked it over with my friend. The conversation lasted about 3 seconds. She pointed out that ads would be exploiting kids. No place to go from there.
I know a lot of those kids. Some we met in hospital when my puppy Vampira by Frank Frazetta
Click images for desktop size: "Vampirella" by Frank Frazetta
was working as a therapy dog. Most of her site visitors are kids in distress, in hospital in school. Getting them to click on a link because they think my puppy is "endorsing" some dog food or pet store makes me queasy and ashamed.
My puppy is a working breed but not in advertising or sales. I mean, yeah, we've spent all the house insurance money but that's no reason to dress my puppy up in hot pants and cheap make up.
Is it?
It still feels empty in the house. I miss my little blind dog. I still walk so I don't step on him and I reach for him when the thunder crashes so he can hide in my arm pit. Life seems thin without him.
My friend and I both miss our house guests. She misses girly talk and talking about food and cooking. I miss life and the way people fill up a space.
We both miss commiserating about my puppy's brother and wondering how he's adapting to the new environment on his vacation and how much he truly loves his new bestest friend.
I Bury The Living To assuage the feeling of emptiness my friend made sugar free, gluten free key lime coconut macaroons. I plan to eat them all and then claim the dogs stole them . . .
One bright note I got gifted an advance copy of Alkaline Trio's new Album, "Agony And Irony". I've only scan listened to a few tracks and I'm already deeply impressed.
I don't like the hype about them being 10 years old now (as a band not as individuals . . . ) and how their music has gone from thrash to lyrical poetry . . . poetry . . . the last hiding place of the insecure and the insincere. But the music sounds more than pretty good. The acoustic (!!) demo's sound very good and listening to the full on versions is tres cool.
I only wish they were still on indy labels and not under the auspices of the RAIA. Hell, even Kid Rock has come out public against the jerks who are "protecting his rights". "Steal My Music" is a great headline. Better if he followed Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails and released his music on his own.

June 28, 2008

We're real big in Japan

She Did It Here
Click images for desktop size: "She Did It Here" by Anonymous
The house feels empty.
House guests are gone. My little blind dog is still gone. No canine resurrection.
Girls, Guns And Gangsters
The visit was nothing but fun, except for the mad and scrupulous house cleaning that proceeded it . . . and the scary StarBucks Incident!
When my friends touched down I met them with my puppy. At first her brother and she were glad to meet then he tried to mount her (dominance mounting, not sexual - they're both neutered) and she snapped at him. Her brother took that pretty seriously.
We drove back to the house so her brother could meet the other two dogs. After the 12 hour drive to a new world I guess her brother needed to feel in control of his life again. He got nippy with the Giant Dog who snapped back. The Gentleman dog decided this was all a lot of fun and joined in! It only lasted a second but it seemed to have embedding into her brother's engrams.
We took a walk together. For some reason I had to walk all three dogs . . . and the trio and my puppy's brother were all just fine. But he stayed wary of the three of them for the rest of the visit.
We went home and got presents! Nothing better than a guest bearing gifts! I got vital supplies and my puppy got treats and MORE treats.
My puppy thinks anyone with treats and food is doubly privileged. They not only get to look upon her but feed her as well. My puppy loves her food.
We started the next morning with a visit to StarBucks. It wasn't StarBucks fault, really. I got a Vanilla Latte with skim milk and sugar free vanilla. It hit my system all wrong. I've had it happen in the past with different foods and drugs so it wasn't terrifying but it makes things uncomfortable for me.
Its the feeling that your whole body is hollow, ringingly achingly so. It feels most uncomfortable in your head and in your thorax. Its maddening.
Skylines By Turi
Click images for desktop size: "Skylines" by Turi
Before it got too bad we checked out a nearby pet store that someone had recommended but that I'd never been in before. They had FREE FOOD SAMPLES. I love free samples.
I spoke briefly with the store owner. She had some pictures she'd just printed out of her dogs, including one that had just passed away. She wasn't prepared to see the picture of her dog and got misty. She couldn't control it.
I plan to try and shop there.
The rest of the day was a bit blurry for me. We must have walked a lot. We had lunch and I remember some well meaning nagging about what I ate, but I don't remember what we ate.
I do remember dinner. My friend is a cool chef and he made a Carnival Of Shrimp Redux. Not as wonderful as the original Carnival Of Shrimp but still very memorable in its own right. The grilled shrimp and vegetables cut right through my haze.
Gigantis The dogs appeared to have a calm truce mode going on. My three behaved as usual but my puppy's brother stayed diffident and overtly cautious around the three of them. Once he tried to play with his sister but when the other two showed an interest he backed off and went into slunk mode.
We went to bed too late. I woke the next day feeling no better. As the day progressed the haze parted enough for me to feel irritable. Some of you know what I mean, its that time when you swear you can feel the air molecules driving painfully into your skin. The hollowness lingers but the joints become real solid feeling and painful.
We went to a farmer's market, flea market sort of thing. I remember that there were a lot of Irish Mennonites there. For some reason it struck me as odd. I liked the lyrical Irish accent while they were hawking their fruit and vegetables.
After the flea market we went to the town. It was a huge effort to stay erect. My hips were screaming as were my shoulders and arms.
I did notice that there were a lot of interesting styles to the Mennonite carriages in the town. Some were junkers, some were limousines, even saw a two horse racing style buggy and a tiny buggy that looked more like a coffin then a mode of transportation. I wondered if the driver was shy or hated the world. There were only small slits for vision and I guess ventilation. All of the buggies were painted a monotonous flat black. They looked dingy against the bright sunny sky. Not secular or spartan just dingy.
Aladdin by Maxfield Parrish
Click images for desktop size: "Aladdin" by Maxfield Parrish
I don't remember what else we did that day and evening. I could feel my body coming back to me. Like a leg thats cramped and fallen asleep it wakening made me irritable and hostile and resentful. No reason for it except the chemicals that make me be alive I guess.
I do remember being concerned about my puppy's brother. My Giant Dog was becoming very enamored of him in a very positive way. While the two of them attempted to play anytime that the other two tried to join in her brother would scurry back into the house. I found this distressing.
I woke up the next day and felt more like myself but still nasty and irritable. Very black thoughts. Heck, maybe nasty and irritable is my old self.
We went to a forest preserve to walk the pack. It was fun.
All the dogs got along splendidly united in their mutual desire to good naturedly kill me.
It was a long hot walk but I felt much better for it. We saw a turtle and a toad, which are highlights grand enough to make mine or any dog's week.
Heat Wave That evening my friends all sounded like they were having a world of fun making gluten free perogis. Perogis are Polish kind of like raviolis. They were up until 3. It sounded like they were having fun. I sat in the office fiddling about, not doing much of anything except recovering and talking to the dogs who kept coming to check on me, or who wanted me to get up and give them some sample perogis. It was definitely one or the other.
I slept well that night. The next day we went to the near by big city. Scoped out about a mile of outlet stores and the area China Town.
I like big cities. I like looking at people and seeing buses and traffic. It was okay. I was surprised when they found me shops selling Asian DVD's 10 for 20 dollars and as I looked through the racks I discovered I had all of them already . . .
That evening we enjoyed the Festival Of Perogis. They were different than the ones I remembered. But they were okay and it was easy to enjoy all the enjoyment around me. Everybody was cranked over them. My friend especially. She'd been waiting 11 years to have perogis again. They talked a lot about gluten free dough and such. The dogs kept offering to try them and give their opinion . . .
Our guest, the chef, only had one serving. He said he wanted to save the rest for my friend. She was touched by that.
The little memorial for my little blind dog showed up. Its a book of photo's is all, hard bound Untamed Love by Frank Frazetta
Click images for desktop size: "Untamed Love" by Frank Frazetta
with a pretty dust cover.
iPhoto has a very idiot proof button to push that will take a group of selected photos and arrange them within a template.
I use Aperture (although I usually use Lightroom - Adobe supports my inexpensive RAW shooting Fuji and Apple doesn't!! Apple supports RAW files natively, but each camera manufacturer has their own secret spec. Apple only bothers with the RAW formats in the 800 bucks and up class) and it gives a tighter control over the templates and design of the thing, even allowing you to go outside of the app to tweak and twiddle.
My friend didn't want to look at it. This disappointed me but makes sense. I needed the catharsis of creating it of dreaming about my little blind dog. She needs the space to deal with her own grief.
I checked the book through and it looks very well done. It looks slick and professional and exactly like the pdf file I laid out. It seemed expensive at the time, but only because we're so poor. In hand it feels very much worth it. For me at least it will be a place to always know my little blind dog exists.
House of Dracula Memories are not life but memories are sometimes all that survives. The little 20 page book should do that: make the memories real.
And then it was time for our guests to leave. Maybe they didn't like sleeping in the closet . . . well, it is the only room we have!
All the dogs were getting along. The giant dog had a new best friend and decided he loved our guests. All the dogs were sad to see them leave. It was too soon. My Giant Dog was committed to stowing away and visiting his best-est friends. Luckily he's pretty inept at everything except laughing and being big so he didn't quite pull it off.
So now the house feels twice as empty for everyone. The fireworks have already started so the pups are on edge. The storms and the heat are uncomfortable but for me, at least, feels better than whatever is in a "skinny sugar-free latte".
I liked having friends around. I don't even mind them leaving so long as they keep on being.

June 20, 2008

What changes in an hours time?

Desert Roses By Evegney
Click images for desktop size: "Desert Roses" by Evegney
For the past days I've been working on a memorial for my little blind dog.
About 20 hours of intense concentration, which is a long time for me. It served one purpose. It didn't expunge the grief but it reminded me of what I loved about the little guy and how that love led us to nothing but fun.
Gammera The Invincible The project turned out bigger than I thought. I hope the effort is justified by the end result. When its completed it should be a nice keep sake for my friend. Although the little blind dog was my friend she was her friend also.
I can't say what it will end up being yet. I just hope that when its completed she'll feel the same way I do while I'm making it.
One thing I clearly remembered is that, like people, dogs never truly leave us. When they've entered your life they remain always a part of it. Like the Southern Gypsy who saw the ghosts trailing behind me, ghosts of people and dogs. Give her credit for either being very clever or being genuine.
When I look back and remember them I don't remember so much of the tragic circumstances of their leaving. Not even much of their heroism. I remember the goofiness, the smiles, the laughs.
Dogs have emotions. They have a sense of humour. They like to play tricks on you and tell you jokes. Dog jokes are pretty stupid but dogs find them incredibly funny.
Like my first Belgian Shepherd would come to work with me at the recording studio. She got bored so set herself up as an official greeter. When clients came in she led them up the stairs to the lounge. I guess she carried on some scintillating conversation. I know that a lot of clients would come back with their friends to show off the hostess dog.
What I found incredible was that she could tell the difference between clients and salesman and guys who just wandered in off the street. They were all strangers to her so I never figured out what clues she used to tell the difference between the important people and the annoyances. My receptionist used to say that it was because my dog could smell the money in the clients pockets.
My little survivor Belgian used to steal my glasses from the bed side table every night. She never hurt or damaged them but she took them every night and hid them.
Each of my mornings would start with a search for my glasses. She always pretended to help. Being a dog she only knew of two hiding places: In her toy box or under the kitchen chair I never sat in.
She'd scurry all over the house "helping" me look. When I'd get close to them she'd run up and snatch them before I could touch them, dance around with them in her mouth and demand a cookie for being so helpful to me.
My little blind dog was the most determined dog I'd ever seen. He moved with an elegant sashaying stoicism that impressed even strangers.
With all his maladies he was suffering. He had to be but he never let it get in the way of his good times. He would teach me that the world is different when your handicapped but its still a beautiful place. Every time he pushed his way to the front of the pack to make sure he got his treat he taught me something. Expedition to Hell by Alex Iuss
Click images for desktop size: "Expedition to Hell" by Alex Iuss
I need more friends then that.
Following his example made it easier to cope with my own physical discomfort. That's one of the least things I'm grateful to him for.
I still miss him. As empty as this house feels now my world would have been even emptier without him.

I have house guests coming. My puppies brother! (Littermate for the pedantic.)
We count on good times and fun even if the visit is going to be too short. Well, its the old show biz adage, I guess: "Always leave them wanting more!"
The only drawback to having house guests is the pre-arrival house cleaning. I know its so they'll feel comfortable but it always feels like paying pre-fun penance, or an attempt to deceive people that, "Yes, I always live in this high state of sanitation and sterility. I'm not a bum, no siree, not me."

June 18, 2008

Mister, you ain't never had you no dog
William Goldman

Evening Reflections
Click images for desktop size: "Evening Reflections" by Unknown
Last night, at 7:02 p.m., my little blind dog passed away.
We'd been expecting him to die since Christmas. The six more months we had should seem a blessing. I wanted 600 more.
He seemed fine. His bronchitis seemed to be acting up a bit more the past 3 days and the thunderstorms were bothering him. He protected himself from Hachiko Waits the thunder by burrowing into my armpit.
About 2:30 yesterday he started drooling heavily. He seemed worried. He kept jumping into my lap. When we walked to check the mail he bumped into my leg a couple of times and didn't have his usual wiggle butt enthusiasm for the task.
We sat on the couch together for an hour or so. He cuddled hard against me, demanding pets.
At about 6:20 my friend got home. I left my little blind dog with her while I went out to mow the lawn. I had just finished when she came outside and told me the little guy had died. I went inside. He wasn't dead yet.
I petted him. He responded. He was cold so I wrapped him in my hoodie. He licked my hand but couldn't pull his tongue back into his mouth. It lolled out of his mouth. My friend got a little red velvet pillow for his head.
I had to close his blind eyes with my hands. He wheezed hard a few times. I tried to give him some of his vanilla ice cream but he had no idea it was there. A minute later he was gone.
I waited about five minutes trying to will him back to life. That never works but I always try.
I went out and dug him a grave in the backyard, behind a boulder there. His real favorite place was at the front gate, waiting for me to take him outside, or beside the car waiting to go for a drive, so he could smell all there was to smell.
My friend arranged him in a couple of pretty towels and wrapped him in my hoodie. I wanted to bury him in the hoodie. He liked it. Its Gortex lined and I think it will not disintegrate and it will keep him dry. He hated being wet.
The other three dogs cavorted while we buried him. I know I share that trait that wants to anamorphize animals, particularly during stressful times, but there's nothing wrong with thinking they were celebrating my little blind dog's life. They stayed unbidden by the grave the entire time.
I noticed what I always notice. Its life that identifies and makes something recognizable, life and the way it splashes against you. What's left is just a memory of something great.
Dark Day By Benny
Click images for desktop size: "Dark Day" by Benny
The little dog followed me everywhere. He had bronchitis so I would always hear him behind me, huffing, sometimes angrily because he wanted me just to sit down and stay in one place. He was always underfoot. He told me jokes and demanded to be as close to me as he could at all times. He never was annoying.
We had a lot of great adventures together.
His bronchitis meant he would cough almost non stop. He woke us all the time with his coughing. I never minded that. I'd wake up sometimes because it was too quiet and he'd be pressed hard against me sleeping peacefully.
He had terrible allergies. They're what blinded him. They made him smell bad. When the spores were heavy in the air they turned his skin black. We made him wear clothes so he wouldn't look so bad and to stop the more disastrous effects of his non stop scratching.
He smelled terrible. Everything he laid on would soon smell just like him.
Hachiko If he wanted up on the bed or onto the sofa he'd stand and bug me until I lifted him up, usually by his clothes. If I didn't move fast enough he'd turn into a red rocket and jump up as high as he could.
Sometimes he'd make it. Sometimes I'd have to catch him. He always acted like that was my job.
During the night I woke up several times thinking that I'd made a mistake and he was still out there alive. Half asleep I decided I'd take a zombie little blind dog if I couldn't have my little dog for real.
I tried to think of what I could have or shouldn't have done. I'm catholic. Catholics are always comfortable feeling guilty. Guilt is easier to deal with than grief. I know that. Guilt can be excused or justified but grief is just an empty pit that sucks parts of your soul away until you feel there's nothing left. There wasn't anything undone or anything that should have been done that wasn't.
I'll be in mourning for a while.
I'm still in the habit of looking under my office chair to make sure I don't run over him.
Trying to make sense of an empty space in my life. If you don't understand mourning a dog or if you say "It's just a dog," I'd never hear you say it. I wouldn't know you.
He was blind, he smelled bad, he coughed constantly, he was always underfoot. He always pushed his way to the front when I was handing out ice cream or cookies. He always laughed and got excited when we went out. He urinated in the house when he got scared.
I miss him. I loved him.
I guess he's another one I'll miss forever.
We were each other's best friend.
He waited until he could say goodbye to the people he loved and trusted. That takes guts I don't know if even I have.

June 17, 2008

I had a bad bad time. What about you?
Mike Leiber

Block 23 by Leon C(r1p)
Click images for desktop size: "Block 23" by Leon C(rip)
Busy today. Getting ready for house guests. Another crazy puppy. Oh yeah. People too!
Walked down and got the bolt to fix one of the 3 non-working lawn mowers. The fixed lawnmower wouldn't run and then wouldn't start. So now have to make the long walk again to get a new spark plug . . . I think that's the problem. There's no doubt that the V For Vendetta current one is pretty well thrashed and burned.
Got something in the mail that perplexes me a bit. Not perplexed so much as mixed feelings.
My friend has applied for and been accepted as a bone marrow donor.
That's a pretty great thing. A sacrifice so that some kid can live can't be anything less.
I'm so selfish that I'm worried about the pain that is attendant with the bone marrow transplant. I still get an exquisite thrill remembering the nurses driving the super huge hypo into my hip bone to test mine. Pain that you can recall that vividly is nothing trivial. The only pain that rivals that pain is grief and mourning.
I never had to have the bone marrow transplant. Its still on the agenda card but they're more or less hoping it won't be required. (Mainly because it would validate the experimental oral chemo I was on for two years than for any other reason.)
Even though I never had to have the transplant I had it described to me in lurid detail several times. The sadistic nurses took great pleasure in it. The gentling nurses still couldn't mask their horror. I was glad enough to avoid it.
To see someone I care about willingly subject themselves to that is . . . discomforting.
Its selfish of me to not really be enthusiastic about someone doing a great thing merely because of pain. I could deal with the pain but its not possible for me to discount pain in others.
We did watch a very interesting shirt film last night: "Little Shaolin Monks".
Its a documentary made for Chinese TV about the warrior monks of Shaolin Temple primarily focusing on the 9 to 12 year old kids.
Blue Pain
Click images for desktop size: "Blue Pain" by Unknown
The quality of the DVD is about par for Chinese DVD' and TV, which is pretty poor. The disc is available in the US. It has mediocre hard coded subtitles.
The content is impressive. The wushu kung fu the kids display is staggering. Its frightening to see what these children are capable of and to realize that most of what we see in the hyperbolic kung fu movies is pretty tame.
Its also frightening to consider that at age 7 Jet Li was the National Wushu Champion.
There were some startling moments in the movie. Like in the midst of the touristy pomp of the Shaolin Temple there was a sweet shot of the kids getting cranked watching a Jet Li movie on TV!! TV in Shaolin!
The kids are fascinating, as are the class room sequences. The touristy stuff is cool but the images of the kids in their ancient garb using the ancient tools in the ancient but still playing like kids is what sells the movie to me.

June 16, 2008

I've seen the best minds of my generation
Allen Ginsberg

Daft End Direkt by J3 Designs
Click images for desktop size: "Daft End Direkt" by J3 Designs
Once one of my players asked me what made me special enough to play big time college football. I said, "Speed and rage." Which sounded as glib then as it does now.
It was early in my coaching career. I got better.
Even though its a glib answer its accurate. Speed is natural. The Female Bunch But any speed result can be improved until you max it. I ran a 4.5 40. It was my consistent max. That's quick still, but in an age when DB's and WR's are clocking in 4.3's and it takes a 4.2 to make the scouts notice 4.5 doesn't seem like much.
Speed is natural but the rage . . .
My buddy Tom was a victim of rage. He got banned from the Pac 10 for being "incorrigible" at 20 years old, all because of rage.
Rage is consuming and letting it take over your life is a hardship. It hurts and clouds; destroys whatever good might be able to soak through it.
I was lucky. I was running the stadium steps. It was my normal punishment, usually for getting aggressive with a team mate during practice. My coach took the time to talk to me. He took the time to change me and remove the rage. It took about a year but I saw the game differently after that. It was no longer kill or be a target. It became fun. I became what the British call a "useful player". Good enough to belong on the field, occasionally I'd make a big play and I was enough of a concern for defenses that the stars could make the really big plays.
As a frothing hate filled maniac I was a better football player. My coach was kind enough to sacrifice that to see me become a better man. At least that's what I took from it.
I was suffering then. Fearful and dangerous in the way a perfectly fit and strong kid can be dangerous when fueled by a fear that step fathers and previous coaches had fueled.
It took my coach to see it and act on it. I was suffering. For whatever reason Americans pride themselves on suffering in silence.
Jim Bouton mentioned it inadequately that Wonder Woman - Donna Troy
Click images for desktop size: "Donna Troy - Wonder Woman" by DC Comics
the greatest compliment a guy can get is, "He wouldn't say shit if he had a mouthful."
I suffer now, physically though and not mentally. Physical suffering is easier in a lot of ways.
In all the ways I've grown since being the enraged destructive force I've never gotten past the bad habit of ignoring pain and suffering quietly. I have a huge pain threshold, I know that, but even when the pain gets pretty consuming I still find myself telling the doctors, "Its not too bad."
Even when I see the effect that it has on others. See, when I suffer I go through that complicated process starting with self pity. Is there any more despicable trait then self pity? But I touch it and wonder, "Why me? Why do I have to hurt like this? Why can't I ever feel a moment's peace?"
When I feel that I get self recriminating, another bad habit. I remind myself that "men" don't feel self pity. Boxcar Bertha "Men" just destroy the obstacles. I guess that works when your a salty kid but it seems sort of immature for an adult.
Dealing with the pain and all the rest of the baggage I've attached to the pain gets me short tempered and unforgiving. I haven't felt the black clouds of rage for a few years but I suspect that people outside of myself would have a hard time telling the difference.
As I get weaker and sicker its harder for me to accept the weakness. To say "I hurt," and to expect understanding. I've a life time of knowing that people like it when you share your feelings, so long as its the good feelings, the bad ones they'd rather you kept to yourself.
I have to stop with my double standards; holding myself to a higher standard that I would hold others.

I started throwing a softball yesterday. Yeah, I've gotten to that age where I'm thinking of playing slow pitch softball. I still have enough ego to only want to play if I can contribute.
I've got a softball. I threw it against a tree 60 feet away fifty times. I hit the tree within 2 inches of where I was aiming 96% of the time. That was with no zip on it, more than a lob but not whipping it in there. I noticed my arm was dropping down to 3/4 sidearm. Normally I'd put that down to tiredness. In this case it seemed to increase my accuracy and reduce the pain.
I'm going to continue throwing it against that tree for a while. I'll add 5 feet to it until I get to 120 feet. Dream State
Click images for desktop size: "Dream State" by Unknown
I've got enough yard for that. Then I'll got to a nearby ball field and throw against the back stop. If I can get the ball with some reasonable speed at 200 feet about 100 times I'll be able to play short or even some fill in outfield.
I'm looking for some batting cages in the area. I've always had a left eye dominance (and I'm a goofy foot). With the issues with my eyes I don't know if that will be enough. I used to be able to pick up 90 mph fastballs leaving the pitcher's hand now I'm not certain I'll be able to pick up a softball until its too late. I know I've got enough bat speed to drive the ball if it gets in my wheelhouse but I'm not sure I can pick the ball up soon enough to move it to the house.
The best part of throwing a ball against the tree is watching the dogs chase it down. Every throw then becomes a quick sprint. They like to catch the ball but then they demand to be chased for their efforts! My puppy even crawled under the car to get the ball! Then the giant dog crawled under the car, I guess just to see if he'd fit.
When my puppy got tired of me yelling at her to bring the ball back she'd jut go run after the ball and stand over it, marking its location for me like a good golf caddy.
I played a game of lob/catch with my friend. Only about 15 minutes. We stood about 15 feet apart . . . It wore me out to the point of collapsing Shaun Of The Dead the moment I sat down. I'll have to work on endurance. I can't remember if softball lasts 7 or 9 innings. So I'll train for 18 innings to be safe.

I managed not to delete all the comments! This was cool because some fellow named John Muir (I wonder if he's related to the Muir who discovered Yosemite? Yosemite is still in the top 3 of most beautiful places on the planet). His comment had a link to a comparison of Obama and McCain. He directed me to the stuff about net neutrality. Obama said all the right words. McCain's comment was inane. "They own the pipe. They're entitled to make a profit."
In his mind it would be cool for him to pay your ISP a few thousand bucks and have them block all of Obama's sites and speed up access to his site. That's free enterprise according to the sick twisted and lame.
I guess if you don't like your ISP doing that to you you can always switch services, oh wait, Everyone Dreams
Click images for desktop size: "Everyone Dreams" by Unknown
since most ISP's have monopolies you can't . . .
(Can we accept that the internet has become a necessity as much as a telephone?)
Nowhere did I ever notice McCain making a statement about the rights of people.
I was also stunned to see that McCain claims a net worth of 40 million dollars. What kind of slime has 40 million bucks but still is weasley enough to take a disability pension that clearly doesn't prevent him from working. I was equally shocked when it came out that Tipper O'Neal was taking a 700 buck Social Security payment when he was the Democratic Speaker of the House! It looks like I'll be voting for Obama. He keeps saying mostly the right things even though I strongly disagree with his take on immigration and US seclusion.

June 14, 2008

The girl is not guilty with me
John Twist

Velocity By Jon Vic
Click images for desktop size: "Velocity" by Jan Vic
The weekend.
My friend got out of of seminar so she got an extra day off. We had fun. We cooked mee krob together.
If you don't know mee krob involves deep frying rice noodles and stuff. All the oil made me sort of sick but it was still enjoyable as was the whole day. The Wild Angels Sometimes its nice to have a day where very little is accomplished and all there is is peace.
She got to play some on her resuscitated Powerbook. Mucho disappointment over all that was lost. Tempered with the vague thrill of, "Now I'll set this thing up right!"
One thing she's doing that I like is turning all of her dock and folder icons into "Pooch Cafe" icons. Poncho is tres cool. For Safari (Mac's web browser) she even found a surfing Poncho!
Even though the Powerbook doesn't have enough juice to run Leopard, Tiger (OSX 10.4.11 - I love goonie numbers) is still very rock solid and robust.
She's having some fun.
I also spent the day doing storm recovery work. This basically was picking up dog feces and throwing things at trees to knock the fallen branches free so they don't fall and whack a dog in its noggin.
I had the iPod on and realized I'm out of new music. That's not a bad thing at all. It means that I get to listen to a whole lot of my favorites, songs I neglected in my fear of missing the next great tune.
I like pop. I like bubblegum a lot. Bubblegum was a 60's kind of music dedicated to making the little girls scream and shout. Its the same energy the Pice Girls tried to callously and shallowly politicize with their bogus "Girl Power" trip.
The Ramones did a few klazzik bubble gum covers! Did them well too.
No one has ever covered the 1910 Fruitgum Company's "The Train". I like the track a lot. Alongside The Rare Breed's "Beg Borrow And Steal" you get a decent image of bubblegum and an interesting view of how the 60's viewed women in the throes of the dawn of feminism. Meaning they ignored it so well they made sure it was inevitable.
Women's Figure
Click images for desktop size: "Women's Figure"
Of course any "movement" in music had its follower's who barely had a clue of what the sound was all about. The nice thing about bubble gum was that the genre is itself was so vacuous that even its most vapid practitioners could produce cool, catchy little bouncy numbers, like Daddy Dewdrop's "Chick A Boom" and The Buchanan Brothers "Medicine Man". Songs that had no pretensions other than to make people dance about and earn a few dollars are always welcome in my book.
Part of bubble gum's appeal is how nuts it made the hippies with its crass commercialism and how furious it made the "serious" players who were envious of the genre's wide play and popularity. Most of those serious musicians I knew were into playing authentic blues . . . singing about their life picking cotton in the LA River Delta . . . I guess.
Its fun seeing someone dead serious get spluttery and red faced about something that is by its own definition totally insubstantial.
And there's always surf music. Yellow Submarine Paul Johnson's DuoTones project is still awesome. Johnson was one of the originals. His "Mr Moto" is an awesome klazzik tune. But what he does with the old surf standard "Baja" is a tour de force.
I've known a lot of good guitarists who couldn't get the sync between right and left hand playing and palm muting working on this tune. I've even seen a couple of guitarists rig a mute out of a handkerchief to avoid having to contend with this trickiness and this was on ELECTRIC guitars with skinny necks, low action and slinky strings! That Johnson does it on an acoustic steel string is a frightening testament to virtuosity.
Today I predict a good day. Rotten weather but a good day.
I got some coupons in the mail. Big sales at THREE different pet stores!! Okay, I think shopping for dog toys is valid and IMPORTANT FUN!
Then my friends parents invited us to dinner! FREE FOOD justifies spending money on puppy toys!
Then there's that coupon for half off "Glow In The Dark" miniature golf . . .

June 13, 2008

You sing beautifuly but no one has a voice like Zorro!
Basil Dearden

The Bride Of Frankenstein
Click images for desktop size: "The Bride Of Frankenstein" by Universal Studios
Friday the 13th started off with a power outage . . .
It crashed my network badly and I've spent over 5 hours restoring it. Of course, I could have done it in about an hour or less but I made a mistake and called customer service.
Jeanne D'Arc Even that's not completely their fault. I blanked on the fact that the reason I hate my Linksys router is that every time there's a quick blackout, a second or less, it wipes out all the settings even though it makes it appear as if the settings are all there.
The end result was I reset everything to its factory defaults and started from point zero. That sorted everything out fine.
That's my other complaint with Linksys. Every time I get incredibly frustrated with the router I end up getting it fixed and then I forget about replacing it until the next time . . .
We did cancel the old ISP.
Amazingly the new marketing practice in America is to wait until you cancel a service then offer it to you again at the price you possibly should have been paying. They offered to lower the price to 35 bucks a month if we didn't cancel . . . that's still twice as much as we're paying now . . .
The restoration of The Powerbook Hard Drive continues apace. It feels desolate, like trying to see what can be salvaged from the fire.
The oddest thing is that music stored on the Apple TV can't be used to restore a crashed HD.
I don't think I like the implication of that at all. I blame the RIAA.
The weekend promises to be better.
Been invited for a free early dinner. Got coupons for doggie stuff and a half price round of indoor glow in the dark miniature golf.
I hope it uses black light and that full price is less than 5 bucks.

June 12, 2008

Ashes And Diamonds
Andrei Vadjda

The Tempatation of St Anthony By E Isabey
Click images for desktop size: "The Temptation Of St Anthony" by E Isabey
I don't like bugs. I like them less than I like cats.
For the past few years I'd been on an oral chemo. One of its effects, other than keeping me alive, was that I was very untasty to bugs.
I could walk through a swarm of mosquitos and they would form a halo around me, surrounding me but never touching me. When my puppy and I were The Invisible Boy coaching under the lights it could sometimes create an effect players would remark on. I, as oblivious as ever, had no idea what they were talking about.
In southern California we don't have that many bugs. I mean, yeah, roaches and flies but not the rich tapestry of creepy flying things that seem to thrive in the east and mid-west.
Suddenly I miss that chemo. It made me constantly sick, loggy and subject to wild mood swings but it kept these bugs off of me. I'm constantly swatting mosquitos. Sometimes they leave my body dappled with little dots of blood. It sickens me to think that this is not there blood but the blood from one of their victims or maybe even my own blood illegally extracted from me without my permission even!
It really bugs me that the natives around here don't even seem to notice the swarms of bloodsucking monsters that own the day and the night!
The dying cat seems to have decided to stop dying. Not a bad choice as far as I can tell. She's moving well, eating and becoming her old obnoxious self. The one drawback to this is that she wants to be my friend. She wants me to pet her.
The wars we enter into to find happiness, peace and contentment . . .
My puppy's brother is coming to visit. Five dogs in the house. Now that's exciting! And very cool.
I'm looking forward to seeing the dogs get to know each other. All that silly posturing amongst the boys. While my puppy very confidently moves around wondering what they're all acting up about when she is clearly the top dog in the house, the neighborhood and the world!
But I gotta clean the house. I have to pretend Jelly On Blue By Ks
Click images for desktop size: "Jelly On Blue" by Kjell Stenberg
that I live nice neat and normal instead of in a world dominated with canine hair and dirt. Its all going to be fun, I think.
I notice that the campaign has gotten interesting. Obama said one thing that I like. Whether it actually happens or not is another thing, but he's advised the Democratic party to not accept donations from PAC's or from special interest groups.
PAC's should have been made illegal decades ago. They were created as a manifest way to subvert the law that the people insisted on. Now they're just quasi legal bribery and corruption.
I expect the democratic party to ignore him.
John McCain is saying some pretty interesting things too. I think the man might suffer from bipolar dementia praecox. I also think every comedian and joke writer in America will be voting for him. He's not an idiot, I guess, but he is sure all over the place. He's very comfortable contradicting himself from day to day. I like the fact Mothra that he never attempts to explain his 180 degree swings in opinion. It makes for a better show that he can say red is his favorite color on Monday and on Tuesday claim that he stands firm on his statement that white and white only has been and will always be his favorite color.
If it weren't for his insane statement yesterday that the troops getting killed in Iraq weren't important and his nasty habit of stealing 58 grand a year for some sort of scam disability claim I'd vote for him just for the humourous element. But that stuff makes him dangerous in my eyes.
I'm still not convinced that Obama is going to be the new FDR and if America ever needed a great man to stand up it needs one now.
He's getting closer but is still miles away. His stand on immigration, the whackos in Homeland Security (what a featherbedding job thats released a new generation of brainless thugs on the populace - they're the terrorists I fear. They've accomplished nothing except to engender deep fear in America and its people), handling of the terrorists in corporate America, net neutrality, and a scattered few other concerns of mine need to be addressed before I can vote for him.
We need someone insane and confident to bring back hope and reestablish the American Dream.

June 11, 2008

So long and thanks for all the fish
Note from the dolphins on hearing of the end of the world ~Douglas Adams

Click images for desktop size: "Home" by Unknown
Its been a bad past few days. Maybe not that bad but hard to know that at the time.
One of the near disasters was the old G4 12' Inch Powerbook had a nasty hard drive issue. The "Invalid symlink" error.
The prescribed methods of fixing it didn't work. Eventually the HD wouldn't boot. It wouldn't even boot off of the CD drive . . .
Revenge Of The Dead By hooking the Powerbook to the iMac with the Firewire cable (Apple is moving towards discarding Firewire ports which is scary. They offer a lot more than USB 2. Speed shouldn't be the only concern. And Firewire is still faster!) I was able to access the Powerbooks dead HD. There was nothing I could do to get any of the data (and no backups!) so the only thing left was to try and reformat the drive. I was lucky. I was able to reformat it and re-install Tiger.
I've been using the FileSalvage app to try and get back as much data as possible. About 50% roughly speaking . . . all with names like 1057.jpg, or 6572.m4a . . .
I bought the Powerbook years ago. It cost about two grand so you can tell how old it is by the sheer fact I could actually afford 2 grand. When it comes close to death I suddenly feel a pang. I realize how attached and fond I am of the little machine.
I gave it to my friend a couple of years ago. I guess it shows how fond I am of her as well. She's used it as her everyday ever since, after a lifetime of Windows machines she has learned to love the Mac with a fervor that matches my own and she also looks fondly at the little 12" inch G4 Powerbook.
Long may it live.
Then this morning I awoke to find an e-mail from the hosting service.
They had terminated this domain due to violation of terms of service . . . Bluehost was very quick in responding to me.
The WordPress installation had been hacked and the hacker had inserted a php attacking virus, hence the need to shut it down ASAP.
I was not so upset not to be impressed that they had found the hack so quickly.
Reclining Nude By Edward Hopper
Click images for desktop size: "Reclining Nude" by Edward Hopper
The only part of the site I run on WordPress was the old blog, "The Long Goodbye". It was very popular even though I hadn't updated it in nearly 2 years. I had plans to put a couple of things up so I updated to the latest version of WordPress, version 2.5.
I just found out that 2.5 had 3 major security holes and that millions of them were hacked within the first week of installation. I could have updated to the recent WordPress 2.5.1 which repairs the holes but it seemed more expedient to simply delete the thing.
Its another reason to prefer MovableType. I prefer perl to php and even if I find php more confusing than cgi I'm alone in that. Most of the kiddie hackers get bewildered by perl. I've no idea why that is. I guess it the same reason that most of the attacks servers seem to withstand are directed at Windows servers and fail against Mac and linux servers.
Anyway, the sites back up (obviously).
Then yesterday I saw that the cat was spassing out. I figured she was close to death. Earth VS The Flying Saucers I sat with her while she trembled and stared blankly.
She's an old cat. I don't like cats. No reason. I just don't. Even if they like me first.
I also don't think any living thing deserves to die alone or rolling in the mud. I'm not that tough. So I gathered her up in a towel and sat with her.
She put up with it and kept staring blankly and trembling.
My friend said to call the vet and see about euthanasia. They wanted about 300 dollars for the task . . . the Humane society only wanted seventy five . . . it seems a sick sort of thing to make such a huge profit off of.
It also went some way to explaining why so many people dump ill pets off at the shelter knowing they'll be put down. I don't recall how much I was charged the last time I had to have a pet put down. Its too traumatic an event for me to recall that sort of trivial detail.
Anyway being poor might have been a salvation. Under my friends tender ministrations the cat made it through the night. She's moving around. Wobbly but alert and jumping about some. Even eating.
Then there was the major upset.
I suddenly realized how vulnerable I am. Which is ironic because the upset was caused primarily by insecurity and pride.
Stupid pride.
One thing about us people things . . . well, its one thing to be able to look at yourself and see yourself as you are, to look at yourself and know your strengths, weakness, ills and secrets. Untitled by Dark Art
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Dark Art
Its something different to have another person know all those things and accept you and love you. We all say we want that but what I've noticed is that we always want the person to love that idealized image we tend to carry of ourselves.
Its hard when someone knows all your secrets, "even the secrets you don't know they know" and still loves you.
That's trivializing things some but my brain has been exploding too much to be more exact.
Brain exploding and too much to do. I guess that's another definition of life. Its like the grass growing taller while you try and figure out how to fix the lawn mower.

June 6, 2008

Its heating up down there

End Of Daze by Envy
Click images for desktop size: "End Of Daze" by Envy
A couple of weeks a go we found a robin's nest in one of the trees. The bird built the thing at about my chest height . . . There were 3 eggs in it. Pretty pale blue things.
I thought at the time that this was no good but urban myth says you can't touch or move a bird's nest.
Last week the nest was there but the eggs were gone. I felt deprived.
Stupid bird.

Untamed Mistress The new internet provider is now on board. They claim it was up and working since the 31st . . . I have no idea how they figured I would know this.
Anyway, it took me the full day to get everything up and running. By paying a year in advance the ADSL is about 1/3rd the price we were paying. My router generates about 10% stronger signal than the one the Slipstream the old ISP made us use, with about 50% less noise on the broadcast. For those two things alone it was worth making the move with the savings just slightly over riding the increased range.
Both Mac's and the Apple TV were no brainers to get up and running on the new router config. The AppleTV particularly likes the stronger signal. My router is G, as are the WiFi cards in all our computers. The AppleTV is the only thing in the house running draftN. Still with the increased signal the AppleTV loads things from the computer much more quickly and far less stutter on the 5mgs on some of the movie files.
This is a pretty bare bones service. You get some email addresses and some one line storage but nothing else.
Even though their customer service is good the bare bones thing could inhibit growth. The modem works out of the box ONLY if you plan to plug it in via the ethernet cable. Does anyone do that anymore?
To set the DSL modem up into bridge mode was a tremendous chore. This house is old so phone jacks and outlets are at a premium. I had to keep climbing ladders to set up the modem, test it, figure out what was wrong and then go through the grief of reconnecting to to the computer - back and forth.
Once I figured it out it wasn't all that difficult but setting up keep alive times and establishing MTU (what the hell is an MTU anyway?) was all guesswork.
Sits Far Down
Click images for desktop size: "Sits Down Far Away" by Unknown
But it works.
The other pluses for the new ISP are corporate guarantees of Net Neutrality, and no traffic shaping. I don't put a lot of faith in corporate promises but at least they put it out there and in writing.
As to performance it seems to be okay. There is a slight decrease in download speed overall but with higher spike speeds, much higher like 200%. The upload speed is like 300% higher than the old provider! Since this all come through the same DSL line the effects of bandwidth shaping are pretty apparent. No problems at all with my normal internet stuff.
Its too early to define the reliability of the connection. I've had one complete outage that lasted for only 5 minutes. Time will have to tell on that.
Basically I'm happy with the new provider. Its a shame I had to do so much work to find an alternative provider, alternative to the biggies who even now are working or charging for the megabyte of bandwidth. The old charge 'em more for less gambit. Funny it works when you have corrupt local and national politicos who are willing to let a monopoly get away with this stuff.
Women Of The Prehistoric Planet The other shame was the lack of instructions on setting the DSL modem up for basic home networking. That seems like a quibble on the next day but yesterday it was bugging me bad.
Emails today admonished me to save and dry the maple branches because they are the best wood going for smokers! Maybe I should chip them up and sell them! Around here there are too many maple trees. If I was successful it could start a deforestation thing, so I'll just save them up.
The other emails (4) wanted instruction on making your own guitar from scratch!
I've only done it twice. One when I was 16. I made it in high school wood shop. Plenty of power tools paid for by the government!
The second time when I was 22 and I had a friend who's dad spent a fortune on his workshop.
Making two questionable guitars doesn't make me much of an expert. But I did make them and futzed through the whole procedure so maybe it might be useful.
I'll give it some thought.
Its supposed to hit 90 today . . . means mucho work outside!
That will make the puppies happy. They like to boss me around. But doesn't everybody . . .

June 5, 2008

If we never made mistakes we'd . . . and other excuses

Blue White World by Zickle Pop
Click images for desktop size: "Blue White World" by Zickle Pop
I've been advised that the tree branch that I so valiantly wrestled with yesterday is not from an oak but a maple tree . . .
Not to impair my rep as a natural outdoor-sey type I plead that I've been sick or something.
This would seem to obviate my wonderings about the sonic capabilities of oak in guitar making. Thunder Road Maple has long been used for making some pretty fine necks and recently (last 20 years) there's been flame topped maple bodies.
I'm still curious about oak and sent an email to my old luthier, from back in the days when I actually needed a luthier. (Luthier is shorthand for guitar maker.) Having a personal luthier always made me sound like a better guitar player than I actually was. That my luthier also made guitars for John Mclaughlin really made me sound like I must have been really good. I wasn't but I'm not above letting people think I was. Especially since they can't hear me play now.
(That No Fear T-Shirt my friend gave me: The older I get the faster I was, always rings true.)
So I wrestled with the maple branch. I couldn't cut it into sections with the little hand saw. It was wearing me out. So I broke off all the branches of it I could by hand and then managed to hoist the thing around on my back. It made my heart beat really heavily but I got it torqued from under all the other branches and moved to a safe place.
When I got it laid out I broke up more of it and still ended up with a section thats 16 feet long and 12 feet wide with a 5 inch trunk where it broke.
Now that I know its maple I'm again back to thinking about making my own guitar. Electric guitars are relatively simple to make. You just need a decent work shop with cool power tools. I don't think I'll attempt it. I've done it in the past. I do enjoy thinking about it though, shaping the wood, laying in the frets and picking out pick ups and setting them in. (One thing for new guitarists to remember is that an electric guitar should still have decent tone when you strum it NOT plugged in to an amp. That's mainly to remind myself if I take the maple branch=new guitar fantasy to the next level.)
Virtual Anime by JM
Click images for desktop size: "Virtual Anime" by JM
The other emails I got, other than those correcting me about tree species, were asking what I mean by directors being good story tellers.
That's one of those things that seems so apparent to me its hard to set down and specify. Its like we all have friends who can tell us a story and have us laughing no matter how mundane the story. And we all have friends who can tell us the funniest jokes in the world and you just stare at them and mumble things like, "And that's all that happened?"
I think that a good story teller has to figure out the most direct way to tell a story. Purple prose is pretty boring in books, even great purple prose take you away from the story and instead takes you into the writer's mind. Sometimes that interesting, like in Conrad, but most of the time its just a distraction.
Like last night we watched that old great movie, "The Incredible Shrinking Man". One made it great was that it kept everything moving, it let people be human and let them react to an impossible situation as human beings instead of as characters. They didn't Trapped-Who Can Kill A Child needlessly embellish us with the horror of the situation, it was just there and that let me be a part of the horror. It made it immediate instead of something to just watch. Jack Arnold had enough confidence in his story telling to know that we're not idiots, even as children. We can supply our own and better embellishments. He painted the picture. Put the facts on camera and let them tell their story.
Paying attention to all the details, so that I could suspend my believe even enough to barely notice the cheap looking 1950's State Of The Art special effects.
By keeping everything simple and straight forward we were forced to identify with each of the characters, the shrinking man and his wife, even his brother. The only ones who meant nothing to us were the doctors. That was a good idea. The doctors were like real life, automatons working for their own motives which are only sometimes human.
Then the ridiculous situations became matter of fact. A man so small he has to struggle to remove a chunk of cheese from a mouse trap, fighting a spider for life death and a chunk of stale bread; these all become real to our emotions even if the mind rejects the situation as stupid.
In movie making you have to trust your actors. They are the embodiment of your dreams. Their are a lot of directors who bum rap actors. An awful lot. Some actors deserve it but as a group actors work harder than anyone of a movie.
It seems easy but it isn't. For 30 to 90 days an actor has to forget who or what he is and become someone he may not even like. He has to do this in a way that never lets me see the slight wink of condescension. If Grant Williams didn't walk around believing that he was just a schmo with a great hair cut who suddenly found himself shrinking to microbe size the movie would have become nothing. As it is we can hear his nasty barbs directed at his wife, the only person who remains true to him as he is, not just as he was. Burning Match
Click images for desktop size: "Burning Match" by Unknown
And if he didn't forget who he was we wouldn't be able to see the pain Williams causes himself each time he lashes out at the only person who loves him whom he loves.
If he ever remembered who he was we wouldn't squirm uncomfortably when it looks like he might be about to start an extra marital affair with the cute midget who was, for a while, even shorter than himself. We could understand his need, physical and emotional to seek solace with the woman who was guiding him into understanding his plight, to understanding and accepting it. And it would have voided the ultimate horror of discovering that her gentle lessons were a waste of time.
A few directors view themselves as cinematographers. I don't think so. Flashy effects work in little way sometimes but the most important part of cinematography is just letting us see what's going on.
A good director picks a camera man who helps him tell the story. Two Thousand Maniacs Clint Eastwood called Bruce Surtees the Prince Of Darkness because he always exposed for the shadows and let the highlights convey an expression or a mood of men struggling within themselves. Jonathan Demme works a lot with Tak Fujimoto who lights for splashes of bright colors against a somber world and by using small dae do lights to indicate the intrusion of the world into our private thoughts.
But they always let you see things, the things that the actors are doing. And that's what is most important.
Conrad Hall and William Fraker got the reps as being premier camera men because they had a visual style that they adapted to the project to add their talent to the directors ability to telling his story.
I'm bouncing around now thinking about movies and their stories. You don't make a whole lot of sense bouncing, at least I don't.
Yesterday I did get a DVD I've wanted for a long time. John Cassavette's "Gloria". Its a movie I thought my friend would like but for me it tapped a few old memories.
The first movie I ever worked on was Cassavette's "Opening Night". Cassavettes and Peter Falk came to USC and made a pitch for unpaid extras and tech people. They needed to shoot the big show opening (for the movie) at the Pasadena Playhouse. I went.
When I got there I had the choice of either being an extra or working a camera. I chose camera because I knew absolutely nothing about photography other than theory. I knew less about being an actor, even if only an actor who's job was to be a body in a seat.
I had a world of fun. Cassavette's was rude to me in a kindly way. Falk was funny and pleasant to be around. He supplied the gratitude for our meager contributions that Cassavettes was too busy to indulge in.
I didn't like the movie much but I convinced myself that some of my footage was in the final thing.
Like you'll always feel about your first date is how I've always felt about Cassavettes and his movies. Dark Whisper by Boris Vallejo
Click images for desktop size: "Dark Whispers" by Boris Vallejo
"Gloria" was his love song for his wife, Gena Rowlands. He gave up his usual vision and wrote a film tailored just for her, to showcase her and to let her display her magnificent talent.
Sharon Stone remade "Gloria". She kind of missed the point.
I'm looking forward to seeing it again after all these years.
Seeing it can't possibly disappoint. There were too many memories is just seeing the movie in my hands for that to happen. It reminded me that I do have a past that lead me to this place. A place that has a happiness that I couldn't ever have anticipated.
See, a great story teller knows how to lead you to places like that even if that was never one of his intentions.

June 4, 2008

The mind plays tricks on you so you have to trick it back!
Paul Ruebens

Angel Experiment By Michael Parkes
Click images for desktop size: "Angel Experiment" by Michael Parkes
During the rain storm a large branch was torn off one of the trees on the property. An oak tree.
That sort of thing makes me a bit sad. The loss of something, I guess. Then there's the fear that it could have fallen and hurt someone or crushed the house or . . .
It was a big branch. About 35 feet long and nearly as wide at it biggest spread. I figure it weighed about 120 pounds.
The Pit And The Pendulem The branch was balanced precariously. It was poised to come crashing down on the neighbors shed. While I was trying to figure out how to untangle it from the other branches and from the fence to move it I ended up thinking about Robert Wise.
I have butterfly concentration. That means thinking intently about a subject then flittering to the next subject with equal intensity. Its a lot like a dog thinks . . .
The thought process eludes some people. I always figured I was pretty normal and that people who couldn't see the world the way I do are the same sort of people who figure I pick all the pictures for this blog at random.
Anyway examining the branch I noticed a section of it was long and straight enough to make a guitar neck. I wondered about the acoustic properties of an oaken guitar. I figured it didn't have much going for it as I'd never seen an oaken guitar.
That made me think of some of the odd and cool homemade guitars I'd seen. Bo Diddley played that home made cigar box electric of his.
With his passing I spent some time considering Bo Diddley. I thought that about the worst Bo Diddley covers I'd ever heard were done by the Rolling Stones.
The last concert I'd seen in LA was at the Coliseum. Guns And Roses opened for the Stones. GNR cut the Stones completely. GNR was great that evening and the biggest response they got from the crowd was their homage to the open E chord with their version of Bob Dylan's "Knocking On Heaven's Door".
Dylan wrote the Soundtrack for the only major movie he acted in, Sam Peckinpah's "Pat Garret And Billy The Kid". Dylan was pretty poor as an actor. So were Rita Coolidge and Kris Kristofferson. At least Coolidge got naked. Her breasts were the most interesting things in the movie.
Anime By Mota
Click images for desktop size: "Anime" by Mota
I wondered what prompted Peckinpah to cast all these pop stars in important roles. He was a total pain in the neck maverick, so it had to be his choice. I was trying to figure out what prompted him to cast aging pop stars in the roles, roles that were basically embodying wild west raging teens.
That made me think about Peckinpah's career. I thought it was an auspicious start. He played the Gas Meter Reader in Don Seigel's early masterwork, "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers".
I love the movies Don Seigel made. His genre films never attempted to redefine the rules they just pushed them to the max. "Riot In Cell Block 11", his Ronald Reagan as villain in "The Killers" all did more to establish entertainment as propaganda for humanity than any dry text book.
The Soul Of A Monster With all the great movies he made it was still his 1956 sci-fi flic that will get him in the history books. His cynical vision of human beings being replaced by emotionless pods has been remade at least 6 times I know of. It also gave rise to a term popular in LA - "Pod Mall".
In LA there was a time when gas stations weren't being profitable (!). They were shutting down and developers were buying up these little corner lots and building these creepy little mini-malls (their preferred term). These generic cookie stamped cramped emporiums seemed to always have the same stores, the same feel. (A fast food Asian restaurant, a video store and a dry cleaners). The only apt description for them recalled the human looking creatures in Seigel's klazzik movie, the soulless being explaining to you how much happier you'd be when you didn't have to feel, when all your thoughts were the same as your neighbors. The typical Southern Cal developers mantra and the spirit of the pod mall.
I wondered how much inspiration Seigel had gotten from the Robert Louis Stevenson story about ressurectionists, "The Body Snatcher". Stevenson's fictionalized version of the notorious Burke and Hare, Scotland's notorious body snatchers who eventually found it much simpler to murder their corpses instead of wasting time digging them up.
That made me think of the movie of the the story. It was a tour de force performance from Boris Karloff as the title character "Hare". I think it was his finest performance and the only movie where he was allowed to explode and paint a true picture of evil, an evil so human as to care about a little girl and his horse, but self serving enough to murder a little dog. An evil so self aware that he explains in clean simple terms that he feels lowly and miserable but when he remembers he can make a superior man "jump to his whistle" he feels big Zombi
Click images for desktop size: "Zombi" by Unknown
and needed and as important as any man in the world!
Its an incredible performance and surpasses his astonishing work as the Monster in the first two "Frankenstein" films. He makes you care about the despicable.
And the man who lead him to this astonishing award worthy performance was Robert Wise.
See, how the mind works is easy if you think about it . . .
So I thought about Robert Wise. He had a fascinating career and is another guy who no one thinks about anymore. That's a shame. I think his biggest success is what's lead him to be unremembered. He directed the biggest box office hit of his time, "The Sound Of Music". I have to admit I've never been able to sit still through the thing for more than 5 minutes at a time, so I've never seen it. And Oh, I have tried.
Other directors who've managed that monstrous a hit have developed huge followings. Not Wise and he started his career more brilliantly than most. He directed many of the sequences in Orson Welles' "The Magnificent Ambersons" then flew to the brilliant "The Curse Of The Cat People". Despite its lurid title "Curse" is an examination of the world, life and death through the limited perspective of a child. He creates a gothic world full of This Gun For Hireintimidating chirasco and old people who offer a genuine warmth that penetrates their stuffy cold appearance. A beautiful ghost saves the child from a less beautiful daughter who only wants to be loved by her mother.
Its a fascinating movie in every way and Simone Simone is alway worth looking at.
In between creating goth fantasy worlds and examining human frailty expressed through its cruelty Wise and creating the most successful movie musical ever Wise made two science fiction klazziks. "The Day The Wold Stood Still" made a star of Michael Rennie and Patricia O'Neal and gave us Gort, a totally hep robot.
Almost twenty years later Wise made the sci-fi warning film that said the aline invasion might be more of a whimper than a bang. "The Andromeda Strain" was a huge hit, bigger than 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Wise also made the definitive submarine war film with "Run Silent Run Deep" (great title) and the ultimate desert war movie, "The Desert Rats". And in between them the bittersweet Jimmy Cagney Western, "Tribute To A Bad Man".
Some people would be upset if I didn't mention he also directed the first "Star Trek" movie.
Wise didn't make any bad movies, save. possibly his most successful. I don't understand why you don't see any Robert Wise retrospectives. He was a filmmaker who stayed closer to his dreams and purposes than most auteur darlings. Big Guy, Thunder and Maestro By Michael Kutsche
Click images: "Big Guy, Thunder & Maestro" by M Kutsche
He crossed genre's at ease and brought a sure deftness to the most important job a movie director has: He told his story and he adapted his style to tell the story as directly and powerfully as possible. Its no small thing. See what he did with the surface appearing trite boxing movie, "The Set Up". He created art just by letting actors act and people be people. Again, its no small thing.
If the rain stops today I have to go and complete dismembering the fallen branch . . . of course, if it stops raining I can take the puppies for a promised treat, a $5 pizza! Which now costs $5.55 . . . plus tax. Don't know if I can swing the tax bit. Have to count my change.
We split the pizza evenly. Its poor pizza but only costs 5 bucks. They cut it into 8 slices so three slices go to the pups and the cheese from one slice goes to my little blind dog (his allergies don't let him have wheat). Then the puppies split up that naked crust which leaves 4 slices for me!
The dogs think that is too much and more than I deserve . . .

June 3, 2008

We got the good time music with the Bo Diddley beat
Bo Diddley

Frank Mellech
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by Frank Mellech
I never met Bo Diddley. I saw him play twice. Once as an opening act and once as a blues act.
When he was an opener for some band I've forgotten about he was pretty poor. He was locked into a psychedelic cowboy thing, didn't play any of his hits and just jammed for what seemed like hours.
If it wasn't that he was Bo Diddley I would have forgotten that set too. The Naked Vampire I remember thinking I'd have gotten tired of playing "Who Do You Love" after 30 years too.
As the headliner at a blues festival he was better, much better. Although I think his music was blues in the same way I guess you could call Little Richard the blues. The roots were there but you had to look hard.
Bo Diddley, with Jerome and the Duchess, made something new, if Rock & Roll hadn't already been invented the pounding tom toms and the high end maraca sizzle would have been something that terrified and excited the world.
And the lyrics. No ones ever written a better line than, "I got a tombstone hat and a graveyard mind. I'm just twenty two and I don't mind dying. So come on, take a walk with me child and tell me: Who do you love?"
Its odd. Hearing that Bo Diddley died yesterday doesn't feel like a hole in the heart. There's too much music out there. Too much that wouldn't have happened with out him. From Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" to George Thorogood's appropriation of the Bo Diddley beat with his driving covers like "Bad To The Bone". In fact anytime the drummer doesn't do just a one-two-three-four but instead embellishes and punches the beat into submission, I think of Bo Diddley.
So one last time let's "Bring It To Jerome" and be glad that there are people out there who aren't afraid to lead, even if its just for a tiny speck of time a leader will always change the world as we know it.

My puppy's brother is coming for a visit. We're excited but also looking at a lot of cleaning and prep.
That's not exciting . . .

June 2, 2008

Love is like a window pane
Gene Vincent

War Shirt Of The Morning Star
Click images for desktop size: "War Shirt Of The Morning Star" by Unknown
It was a weekend devoid of social value. Movies and nothing but movies.
And some chores. But with enough movies chores don't seem much like chores, just something your body does while your mind savors the last movie.
The Lost World I watched "The Doors" by myself. I'd seen it before but had no memory of it at all.
Its pretty dreadful. Val Kilmer does a great job at playing a mindless drunk and he dresses much better than Morrison ever did, at least in spurts. It got so boring it was exciting to see Crispin Glover as Andy Warhol. Of course, like Kyle Mclanahan and the rest, no one seemed to get a chance to do very much.
I remembered that Oliver Stone's career started with the absolutely dreadful derivative, "The Hand". "The Hands Of Orlac" explored the same themes much more concisely back in the 30's. Stone has been trying to make up for it ever since.
Here he did manage to get in even more arbitrary shots of wise and sad Indians, even more than he got into "Natural Born Killers".
How does Stone keep getting those massive budgets? Has he made anything resembling a hit since "Born On The Fourth Of July"? At least there we got Tom Cruise in a wheelchair.
Then I watched on fast forward MGM's 1935 "David Copperfield". This was made back when movie moguls were still feeling like little more than hookers in store front windows. This reeked of trying to be great. It was the most expensive film ever. It was pretty dull as are most films that strive for more than entertainment and excitement.
There were a lot of cool stars in it. Most of them I only recognized from their cameos in some of those nifty Bugs Bunny cartoons. And of course there was W.C. Fields. He was in his own movie and he was awesome.
Then my friend and I watched "K-911". I liked it. It had dogs in it . . . Even the dogs liked it. They would stop and stare at it sporadically. I hoped they were watching to learn how to save me from terrorists gunmen but they were probably just learning new ways to trip me and knock me down.
I can't defend or justify liking this movie but I did.
Yvette Vickers
Click images for desktop size: "Yvette Vickers" by Playboy
Then we finally got to see "My Girl And I". Asian cinema has at one of its successful cliches the story of the teenaged couple who meet cute, fall in love and then one of them succumbs to a terminal disease.
They've made this film so often that they've developed their own semiotics, their own shorthand to move things along. It works. It touches and it moves and manipulates people.
"My Girl And I" might be the best one of these I've seen. From 2005 it shows the influence of "My Sassy Girl" and "You Are My Sunshine". It uses those influences to take the sweetness of the story and the fun into a slightly purer place.
The movie is told in flash back, We learn at the outset that Su Eun died ten years ago and that Su Ho has been obsessed with her ever since.
The Lurkers One of his friends yells out at the seas, "So Eun let Su Ho go. His brain is tiny and it is filled only with thoughts of you!"
Then the movie goes on to show us why Sun Ho remains in love with a dead girl. The ultimate pure, unrequited unfulfilled love.
The story is funny, touching and heart wrenching by turns. Tae-hyun Cha, who was awesome singing and dancing in last years "Highway Star" isn't as challenged as an actor here but he fulfills the role to perfection.
Hye-kyo Song as Su Eun has a sweet charisma and she has a few expressions and smiles in her eyes that illuminate dark spaces in your heart.
The odd ball character is Grandpa. He's the town's undertaker. He has too beautiful scenes. One where he tells the young couple of his first true love, a love that destroyed by the Korean War. It elegantly sets the mood for the couples affair and sets up a powerful scene later on. (I don't want to give it away) the scene is so unexpected but so natural that relating it would be like shouting out "Spock dies!" at a Star Trek movie line.)
Yun-su Jeon was the director. He's only done two other movies. I plan to seek them out. Here, in only his second feature, he has managed to balance all the cliches perfectly and made a mini-masterpiece about love, caring and people. His film says that life is horrid, wonderful, terrifying, cruel and beautiful and that the people in this world are there to torment, to love, to be forgiven and to never forget.
After the devastation, tears and sniffling I decided to check out a Blu-Ray copy of "Tom Yum Goong". The Blu-Ray is the American version which has so strange cuts that hurt the film. Nothing can hurt "Tom Yum Goong" too much. Thunderbolts By Marvel Comics
Click images for desktop size: "Thunderbolts" by Marvel Comics
Tony Jaa and Prachya Pinkaew have created a movie that's moved slowly into my top ten of the greatest films of all time, especially after seeing Pinkaew's latest "Chocolate". What might have been happenstance was definite.
There are two sequences in the movie, each about 4 minutes long. These are single take action sequences. When Antonioni and Hitchcock moved beyond the 6 second shot they were hailed as creative geniuses. Pinkaew does the same but has the action going on multi-levels with incredibly dangerous stunts going on. Technically its a tour de force. That Jaa can put his body on the line and execute at this speed and violence, hitting all those cues and all those rehearsals is, well, just jaw dropping.
When you use 9 minutes of a 90 minute film to show only how beautiful and wonderful elephants are you had better ensure a payoff. It delivers with a thrilling beauty and infinite sadness that can't be forgotten. "Where's my elephant?!" indeed.
The Mask Watched some of "Shoot "em Up". Monica Bellucci, lots of guns and silly cool stunts. I can't think of anything else needed to make a cool movie.
Then re-watched "Sympathy For Lady Vengeance". My friend had never seen it. More and more I think this a "good" movie. I mean that in the sense that enjoyment is supposed to be minimal and you're supposed to be learning stuff that's "good for you".
Its a decent follow-up to "Old Boy" and fits the "Vengeance Trilogy" nicely, but it kept feeling preachy. Yeong-ae Lee is beautiful in the part and works it for all its worth. The parts filled by veterans of "Old Boy" and "Sympathy For Mr Vengeance" add a nice resonance to the movie but in the end it seems to trivialize serious matters with the same sad smile and kind heartedness that infects the entire movie. Although the discovery that the villain has been kidnapping, ransoming and killing children in order to buy his dream yacht is powerfully depressing in its accurate depiction of the banality of horror.
Tried to watch "from Hell". Got bored.
I did struggle through "Witless Protection" the latest "Larry The Cable Guy" movie . . . latest?
These remind me most of the "Ernest P Worrel" movies. I liked Jim Varney. He made me laugh. His movies were slanted towards kids.
The Cable Guy movies seem like they're intended for adults. I don't get them but you can't knock the box office. This one had Eric Roberts being strange, Joe Mantagena being goofy and Yaphet Kotto being evil and getting away with it . . . seriously, he's a demon but gets no come uppance. He gets all the money and escapes. Go figure.
Untitled by HK Pepnx
Click images for desktop size: "Untitled" by H.K. Pepnx
Then watched the cult klazzik "Detour". A great movie made for under 10 grand. It has one of the greatest ever film performance by Ann Savage (great name) as the heartless and cruel harridan, Vera. Its just over an hour long. Its too cool entertaining and a lesson in making a movie.
Finally ended the mad cap cinema weekend with Luc Besson's and Jean Reno's enjoyable trifle "Wasabi". I like looking at Jean Reno. I like Reno shooting people and punching them. This movie gives plenty of that.
All in all it was great. For me at least. It reminded me of the salad days in LA, where the day would start with a surf session we'd go downtown on Saturday and hit the grind house seeing 9 movies with audience who liked to make movies an interactive experience. Tres cool. Then make the beach in time for the evening glass.
Then on Sunday we'd hit the first runs and see 3 or 4 of the latest releases.
I don't think I'll ever be that enthusiastic again. At least I didn't until this past weekend.
We'd have a week to mull them over, absorb and get ready for more of the same the next weekend.
Back then we thought we were going to take over the entertainment world. You know, we almost did.