Wednesday, December 24, 2008

City Life: Small Wonder on the 49 Bus

Yesterday I was riding the 49 bus up Van Ness Ave. around 12:50 pm. I was sitting in the back of the bus and I overheard an African-American guy and a Caucasian kid having the conversation below. The African-American guy was wearing a green track suit jacket with thin white stripes, jeans, short afro, and huge black aviators. The kid was tall and lanky wearing skinny black jeans, black jacket, and had a red scarf draped around his neck. His blond spiky hair was covered by a hat. He was holding a copy of the DVD "Planet Earth".

African-American guy ("Guy")(gestures at the DVD): "Hey, I seen that. How much did you get for it?"

Kid: "About 50 bucks."

Guy: "Man, I watch that shit on PBS all the time. I saw one called 'Under the Sea.'" And they go down deep in that one, man. I mean deeper than Jacques Cousteau. Like seven miles down there. And it's all dark and shit. And there are weird things down there, man. I mean that shit look likes it came from another PLANET!"

I smile and I'm tempted to turn around and engage the man in conversation, but decide not to. Another African-American man is in the middle of scamming some folks with the three cup shuffle trick that he's performing on a red fabric covered board. He scams them by taking bets. An Asian guy heckles him and we all laugh. The three cup shuffle guy continues with his scam without missing a beat as the bus rumbles on.

I've always been fascinated by deep sea life in the abyssal and hadal zones, but I have met very few people who have even heard of these animals unless they work at the aquarium. Hearing this man talk about it on the 49 bus pulled up a warm feeling of hope, and small wonder. I guess television is good for something.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Better Late Than Never and The Post Below

In the last couple of weeks I've been slowly getting to know Bob Dylan. I don't know how it came about. I was surfing around, saw a blurb about Cate Blanchett's performance in "I'm Not There," and decided to see if there were any excerpts on There were and I started watching them. I was amazed by her performance, but realized quickly that I had no reference point to compare it to so I clicked on a video to Bob's 1965 press conference here in SF.

I was amazed. I had no idea. I couldn't believe it.

I couldn't believe Cate's performance, but even more importantly I was completely mesmerized by Bob. And this was just the 1965-66 time frame I was looking at. That doesn't include anything before or after that.

I have a very superficial knowledge of his life and music. Sure, I know he's a legend. I'm familiar with a couple of his songs, but that's it. I know nothing else.

I still haven't seen all of "I'm Not There" but the film has provided me with a idea to start exploring. I read up on Wikipedia's entry for the film to get an idea of how the film is structured since it's been described as "confusing." I've been watching more videos, such as "Bob Dylan (The Voice of a Generation)," the full outtake from "Eat the Document" of Bob and John Lennon in the car, and Bob's interview with Time Magazine. And I've continued to watch Cate's excerpts from "I'm Not There."

I spoke to one of my good friends who suggested I start with the following CDs: Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, and Blood on the Tracks. I'm a bit embarrassed to have come to Bob so late, but there's nothing I can do about that. It's all so ripe for exploring. I'm excited.

The post below came out of an argument I had with this guy I just started seeing. As I was driving away from his house on Sunday, snippets of conversation started running in my head. I was feeling emotional and angry at myself, then angry at him. Then I was feeling defiant, then I was picturing myself chain-smoking and wearing shades, and that's how the post started. The snippets of conversation came directly out of the Bob Dylan's press releases in 1965-66, and from Cate Blanchett's segments from the film "I'm Not There." Much of Cate's dialog also comes out of those same press releases. I figure if Cate can be Bob Dylan, I don't see why I can't either.

I'm hoping no one takes offense to the post. It was done with love and the deepest admiration. Besides Bob is supposed to everyone (including me) and no one.

Dating Life: Me As The Fictional Bob Dylan

I'm sitting in the back seat of a limo. I'm in my favorite Bob-Dylan-as-Cate-Blanchett mode all tricked out in dark shades and little suit. The interviewer is sitting across from me. He is my age and wearing a nice all wool gray peppered suit. He happens to be the guy who lasted a week, the last guy I was dating. It's early in the morning. The only thing that would make this post better is if Mr. Gryphon were sitting to my right as John Lennon, but he says playing John makes him sad. Since John/Mr. Gryphon isn't here for this post, I'll have to do this interview sober.

Interviewer: "You realize more than anything that you were inconsiderate."

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan: "Inconsiderate?! I don't realize anything at all. I just care about what's going on right now. I know you don't realize anything. You think you can take these ideas and afix them to me like some kind of Avery Label generated by Microsoft Word, but you can't. You don't know anything. I don't blame you for it. Everybody's got to make a living."

Interviewer (wrinkling his brow, his thumbs blunted as he unconsciously pulls on his tie): "You're not making any sense. Are you saying you don't care?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (squinting, then blinking rapidly for a moment behind my shades): "I'm confused by some of those words. Words like 'inconsiderate' and 'concerned' and 'care' and 'put me on the spot.' I don't know what those words mean. They have as much meaning to me as 'smoked clams.'"

(At this point in the interview I'm reminded of a quote from Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass "When I use a word it means just what I chose it to mean - neither more, nor less." I'm chain-smoking incessantly, of course.)

Interviewer (starting to glare, but uncomfortably seated): "I think we all know what 'smoked clams' means.

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (I look down at my hands, my cigarette; I lick my lips): "Do we?"

Interviewer (glowering at me, raising his voice as if I can't really hear him): "I told you I don't like people touching my stuff, especially my knives and pots, and I never needed your help doing the dishes. I told you NO!"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (my eyes pleading like Cate Blanchett, I flick my cigarette): "I just wanted to help a little. You were doing all that great cooking. I wanted to show my appreciation even if I don't know what 'smoked clams' means. I'm not a folk singer, I'm just a storyteller, and I can be a dishwasher sometimes. It's all mathematical."

Interviewer (looks down at his lap, shifts in his seat): "I was just going to say something rude about something that happened between us, something that you just don't seem to understand the meaning of, but I'll spare the readers of this blog."

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (lighting yet another cigarette, my delicate hands gently cupping the lighter): "Thanks for that. It's too bad I'm not pissed in this interview. I was really looking forward to my 15 minutes which would have included me vomiting into the camera. I've done everything else into that camera, man. Plus, I've missed my opportunity to keep yelling questions to Tom the Driver which is more interesting than talking to you."

Interviewer (agitated): "I never needed any space from you. I just needed to pay the bills and you didn't see the obvious. You didn't see the obvious. I never needed to say anything or to tell you the truth when you kept asking me 'do you want me to leave?' You should have just known."

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (I'm in the middle of a massive exhalation of smoke, I look out the window before looking back at him again): "What you just said doesn't mean anything. How am I supposed to know anything about what I should have known when I didn't. I don't have to answer to that. There's a certain class of people who read your magazine and believe in it, but I don't. You're just going to put your readers on. You're trying to put me on and I refuse to let it happen."

Interviewer (with a trace of warmth): "Do you think you'll ever be hung as a thief?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (everyone in the room (car) is laughing, he and I share a final moment of levity): "You weren't supposed to say that."

Interviewer (pauses first, searching my eyes behind my wayfarers): "Do you care about what you play every night?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (I'm feeling a surge of anger and indignation and I lean forward): "How can I answer that if you have the nerve to ask me? Did you ask the Beatles that? That's like asking me if I care about what I write. You have a lot of nerve asking me a question like that. I'm not questioning you because I'm not expecting any answers from you. I know more about you than you'll ever know about me. I know everything about you just by looking at you."

Sadly, the interview is over, but that doesn't mean I'm no longer pissed off. I step out of the car and start walking down the street. I don't look back until the Interviewer says something to me from the car.

Interviewer (looking smug): I think you either care about nothing at all, or you care so deeply that you're hiding it. Do you have any idea how self-conscious you are in everything you do?"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (now really angry, almost shouting): Man, who cares what I think or feel? I'm not the President or head chef. Feeling deeply? Is that what this is about? General feelings like pain, remorse, and love? I have none of those feelings."

I walk away, looking awesome in my little suit with drainpipe trousers, slightly stooped posture, curly hair, ubiquitous cigarette, and shades.

Interviewer (shouting): "Judas!"

Me, the Fictional Bob Dylan (speaking deliberately, looking back at him): "I don't believe you. You're a liar."

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Harry And My Dad

The One Man Show
This upcoming Tuesday has me thinking about my favorite president, Harry S Truman. Now it's true until Ole W, he had the highest and lowest poll numbers of any president but history has shown us while he was no perfect president and certainly an imperfect man, he's now considered one of our greatest presidents usually hovering between the #9 and #5 spots depending on the survey.

I first learned about Harry while watching "Give 'Em Hell, Harry" which is a film of a one man show with James Whitmore. It was filmed on stage in Seattle in 1975 and I remember it was one of the very few times we didn't eat dinner at the table, but instead ate our dinner in front of the television.

I recall being enthralled and then enamored of Harry because he reminded me so much of my Dad. He's down to earth and straight talking like my Dad, cussed up a blue streak like my Dad used to, wore glasses like my Dad, and seemed to possess an unusual sense of fairness, open-mindedness, and humbled public service like my Dad.

When I took U.S. History in high school, my teacher confessed that Harry was his favorite president as well. When I told him I liked Harry because he reminds me of my Dad he said I was very lucky. I guess that's about 1,000,000 times better than saying Nixon or even W reminds you of your Dad.

I'm not going to give you a litany of Harry's history or accomplishments. You can check the Wikipedia article up there at the beginning of this post, but I will give you three quotes each from each man:

Harry -
"All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway"

"It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose yours."

"I remember when I first came to Washington. For the first six months you wonder how the hell you ever got here. For the next six months you wonder how the hell the rest of them ever got here."

My Dad -
After Barbara Boxer made a speech at my Dad's retirement dinner. It was the first year she was running for Senate. Me: "She's really nice." My Dad: "Of course she's nice. She's a politician."

"Just because I tell you I understand doesn't mean I agree with you. You need to get it into your head what the difference is."

"We hired this openly gay man in the early 1980s to do AIDS education. He did a great job for years until he came to me to tell me he was leaving. I asked him why and he said 'Because all my friends are either dying or dead. I just can't do it anymore.' I don't know what happened to him. For all I know he could be dead himself, but he did a hell of a job. A hell of a job."

You're No Harry Truman
Sarah Palin, and certainly not George W. Bush could ever be compared to Harry Truman even though they've both tried. W is hoping that history will judge him well even with his abysmal poll numbers. Sarah hopes that people will connect her folksy manner with Harry's. Maybe if she uses the word "hell" more in her speeches and actually gets a brain she might make some headway, but it's unlikely.

My Dad might come close and that's because he's no politician.

Here We Are On The Edge Of Our Seats

I've had several conversations with people I know about the historical implications for Tuesday's election. My mother (who can't stand McCain) says she can barely wait until Tuesday to find out who, after almost two years of campaigning, will be the next President.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who are sick and tired of this mess and can't wait for it to be over. I haven't met anybody who falls into that category, but I'm sure those people are out there. Mostly, I talk to people who are anxious about the future if the "wrong" candidate becomes president. One of my friends said she was going to "die" because she couldn't stand the thought of Obama not being elected. I explained to her she can defer "dying" until Tuesday so she doesn't ruin her Halloween weekend.

As you know I saw David Sedaris last weekend and he said he was listening to some conservative radio show while he was on the road where a call-in listener said if Obama's elected he would leave the country. David's reaction to this was "And go WHERE?" My sentiments exactly. Where the fuck are you going to go in the world that would embrace the kind ideology a hardcore conservative holds dear and has enough money for a decent standard of living? I just don't know. If anybody knows the answer to that question I'm all ears.

Here we are, and we're all in the same boat no matter who wins on Tuesday. We are all straddling the dangerous rushing river that is the state of our country and on one side is the hope for our future and the other the fear that the river will cease to rush by us in torrents and instead swallow us whole.

Vote on Tuesday and God Help Us All no matter how it turns out. We're going to need it.

The SNL 2008 Presidential Debates

I just finished watching all of these videos on I read some of the comments which say SNL is making more fun of McCain/Palin than Obama/Biden. This is probably true, but who can blame them? McCain and Palin are so ripe for parody that nobody can resist. They mocked Biden a little during the Vice Presidential debate and I thought that was a good thing.

I have to say the last two parodies of the presidential debates had me laughing my ass off. Sure you can whine that SNL is doing a disservice to whichever candidate you're supporting but for the town hall meeting debate they were clearly mocking Tom Brokaw the most because his obsession with time was so distracting. He kept talking about the damn stoplights on the bottom of the bleachers. He kept saying that the two campaigns had agreed on the rules, not him. He kept whining about how he's just there to "do a job." The guy deserved whatever kicks they gave him.

My other favorite thing about this parody was how the two guys kept moving around in front of the camera. Hilarious!

I also enjoyed the last parody of the presidential debate. That whole Joe the Plumber thing had me laughing so hard that I couldn't breathe. You wanna drag some ordinary citizen into your presidential campaign who hasn't paid his taxes in years I say you get what you deserve there.

I think the bewildered expressions on the "moderator's" face said it all.

What's so great about these parodies is that they're based on what really happened. That's why this is so damn funny.

Kudos to SNL for helping make this unprecedented election all the more interesting. Let's face it, you can bitch all you want about how SNL is unfairly attacking McCain and not attacking Obama or whatever but the most important thing is that we are all paying attention and we all care and we all have an opinion. I love it.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Diary Entry: David Sedaris, Blond's Strangled Laugh, Happy/Unhappy Endings

I've just gotten back from seeing David Sedaris live at the War Memorial Theatre here in San Francisco. This theatre houses the San Francisco Opera and Ballet. I've been there exactly twice before. The seats in the Balcony Circle are so steep I thought I was going to get a nosebleed and then take a header over red velvet cushions and theatre seats dressed in fake gold metal. I went with a friend of mine who loves theatre and so do I. This is our fifth outing together.

David says he keeps a diary and uses it to get material for his stories. I've read in interviews before that he's been keeping a diary for decades. I figure it can't hurt to write a diary entry down sometimes since things catch my attention all the time. Might as well write them here.

There was a group of five women sitting next to us to my left. While we laughed and laughed at David's stories they just sat there. I looked below us and the people there where cracking up too. People above us and to our right were laughing, loudly. Everywhere there was a sea of laughter except from these five women. I laughed so hard my lower right side was hurting. I laughed at a couple of offensive things David said. My throat hurts from laughing so hard. The blond woman sitting immediately to my left kept leaning forward and back. I could tell she was into it, but her friends just sat there. A couple of times she gave a strangled little laugh that would never qualify as a giggle to anyone's ears. I couldn't help wondering what was going on there. Did they just not "get" it? Were they having a bad time? Was there some creepy kind of peer pressure going on with the five that if one of them, the Alpha Bitch, doesn't find things funny the others can't laugh either? At first I felt sorry for them but then I got annoyed because I realized that these humorless women probably have active dating lives or even serious relationships when I have nothing. Let them sit there, stony-faced, while the rest of us merrily carry on.

I've been reading some very helpful online books by writer Holly Lisle about writing. She referred to "Basic Plots in Literature" at the Internet Public Library. I've heard about such ideas before but the two that caught my eye were the definitions for "Happy Ending" that is, the main character makes a sacrifice (a decision that seems logically wrong) for the sake of another. The definition of an "Unhappy Ending" is the main character does what seems logically right and fails to make the needed sacrifice.

This has me thinking. In real life we tend to go with what seems to be logically right so things go smoothly and so we preserve our situation. Needed sacrifices only take place during upheaval or when we're trying to break a habit or forge a new identity. Sometimes you make a needed sacrifice when you choose not to rock the boat such as at work when what you really want to do is punch someone's lights out for behaving like an idiot, but instead you choose to acquiescence and be "professional."

I can see how this works with my current crush. I'm experiencing an Unhappy Ending right now because I doing what logically seems right. For example, I'm not telling him I'm madly in love with him even though I know he likes me, or better yet throwing myself into his arms and shoving my tongue down his throat because he has a girlfriend, because if he really likes me he'll make the move, because, because. Taking that chance of throwing myself into his arms might be the sacrifice that's needed.

Then again it could be just one more incredibly stupid thing I can finally say "No, I'm not going to do it this time! I'm not going make a complete ass out of myself, again!" I say that to myself, but what I'm really afraid of is he will merely reject me even though he likes me. He'll tell me he feels the same, but he can't do anything about now or ever for that matter. I suspect this is the reason I'm holding back.

David told a great story about how he decided not to stay with an adorable man who lived in Italy while he was traveling there years ago before he got together with his longtime partner, Hugh. He said what it all came down to was cowardice. The only reason I'm not telling this guy how I feel is because of cowardice. I don't really care that he has a girlfriend. These things complicate matters in a very real way and I'd rather keep everything on the up and up, but they don't matter for horse shit, truth be told. My instincts tell me to take that chance, but I don't trust my instincts anymore so I do nothing for now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

No on Proposition 8/A Note on Our Incoming President

It's time to get political again. For those of you who don't know what Proposition 8 is here's a blurb courtesy of Wikipedia:

"Proposition 8 is an initiative measure on the 2008 California General Election Ballot titled Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. If passed, the proposition would 'change the California Constitution to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in California.' A new section would be added stating 'only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.'"

My personal feelings about same-sex marriage is "Hell, if people want to get married let them do it." I feel that same-sex couples can't do any worse than straight couples at making a marriage last. They may do even better than a straight couple. In case anyone has forgotten, half of all heterosexual marriages end in divorce and the percentage is even higher with subsequent marriages. Since another marriage for me would be number three (3) this means the likelihood of me ever getting married again are close to zero.

I once dated a guy who told me he was against "gay marriage" as he called it. When I asked him why, he told me it was because he was concerned about "where does it stop?" I told him that it certainly wouldn't stop when I finally decide to marry one of the penguins. My relationship with those animals run longer than almost all my other relationships so why not? Yeah, yeah, I know that animals are legally considered property by law, but so where women and slaves at one time.

I had an interesting conversation with my parents about same-sex marriage this past weekend and my Dad managed to hit the nail on the head for me. He told me his understanding is that many Asians see the issue as a civil rights issue so they tend to be for it, and many African American and Latinos see the issue as religious one so they tend to want to vote against it. For me the issue is hands down a civil rights issue. Legally speaking part of this issue's background includes the law that prohibited interracial marriage which was struck down by the California Supreme Court in 1948. My parents, an interracial couple, married a mere eleven (11) years later in 1959. They had difficulty finding a place to rent and when they went to buy a house, no one would sell one to them in a "nice" neighborhood until they found the house they live in now.

This kind of intolerance has all but disappeared today. The thought of someone refusing to rent or sell property to people based on the color of their skin, sexual orientation, etc. is inconceivable (especially considering the mortgage crisis going on - hey, greenbacks still work no matter whose wallet they're coming out of), but it wasn't that long ago.

I completely respect other people's opinions, particularly if they see it as a religious issue, but for me civil rights will trump religious beliefs every time. I think about it this way: how many times has religious beliefs deprived someone of their civil rights? History of religion, any religion, shows that the number of times this has occurred is as numerous as the stars above our heads.

I have voted already, and yes, I voted NO on Proposition 8. And I voted for Obama. And I can't stand Palin or McCain. The thought of Palin stepping in as President should anything happen to McCain is so repulsive to me that when I think about it I just want to retch.

A note on the incoming President of our United States: I can't possibly imagine why anyone would want to walk in as President to the pile of dogshit that is our U.S. Economy right now. Couple that with the Iraq War, this century's Vietnam, and I would get myself off the campaign trail so fast that the press wouldn't be able to record the whoosh going by them.

I keep hoping if we are lucky this terrible mess will force our next President to rise to the occasion and blow us all away with what could be his finest hour. Maybe even our country's finest hour. I hope so. I sure do because we need someone get in there and not do the best he can do, but actually be heroic. This is what we need and, damn it, we deserve it.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Of My Own Making, As Usual

"For a person who doesn't know what they're doing you seem busy, Miss Turtle."

"Arrrghh," is my only frustrated response.

We're sitting in the dark place still, but the pitch blackness has faded a bit. Here and there we can make out a star much like when a cloud cover is spread across the night sky. We are seated at a spot that looks suspiciously like one of the picnic tables in the Forest of My Imagination, but without the forest. There's even a crudely carved "Gryphon loves Turtle" in the table that I'd seen last time we'd had lunch there. No doubt one of the other inhabitants of my Forest did it. The T-Rex is always teasing us about "liking" each other. His is a sixth grade personality complete with toilet humor.

I had a session with my therapist this week where I told him I don't know what to do with my life. I told him I couldn't see the point of it. I told him all about how I wasn't making good use of my time. I told him and I told him. His response was the same as Mr. Gryphon's up there.

A couple of friends have told me the same thing especially after I told them about the swimming, the trip to Europe in November, my eminent return to volunteering with my beloved penguins, working, going to the movies, watching my Northern Renaissance art videos and reading. I'm not doing enough. It's never enough.

What this means is I'm not writing on a regular basis. Well okay, it's true I have been posting here and on my other blog more, but that's NOT working on my novel.

"Your novel will be waiting when you return to it, Miss Turtle." I give him an annoyed look. The lamp that never goes out is sitting on the table in front of us, flame steady as ever. I'm still dressed as Alice with my blue dress and white apron without a spot on it. I'm leaning on the table as the wind continues to blow around us, but somehow the wind is staying outside the lamp light.

"I don't know what to do with it, Mr. Gryphon. I still don't know how to finish it. I'm afraid and muddled so I'm writing this post as a way to get some writing done even if it has nothing to do with my novel. I dread going back to work on it because I have so many damn lists and paragraphs to write about so I can summarize the story. I'm tired of making lists of the character's traits and individual stories within the novel. I want to actually revise the damn thing so I can see how it takes shape. These lists help, but I can't friggin' stand them."

"So stop."

"I can't stop. Each time I work on the preparatory stuff the actual story becomes clearer and clearer. I don't know how people can sustain doing this kind of work, Mr. Gryphon. I truly don't. It's driving me nutty."

Wisely he doesn't respond.

"And I want to work on my other stories too, but again I don't want to do the preparatory work, but how am I to know where my story is supposed to go without all that work?"

"You seem to do fine with these posts, Miss Turtle, and don't tell me The Coda isn't wonderful and enchanting. And that was only a first draft you did with very few revisions."

"Yes, but The Coda is not fit for ordinary consumption. It's not a novel that I want to grow into a page turner. And these posts just sort of come naturally as does the editing. I don't know why it's easier," I shift a little in my seat and roll my neck back and forth. My neck's been bothering me lately. I continue, "I read my first post about you the other day and you have changed a lot. You were a lot more argumentative and unsmiling then."

"I was based on a real person and that person was definitely unsmiling and argumentative at the time," says Mr. Gryphon. He leans against me and stretches out his long legs like he usually does at this picnic table. "In fact, he's still like that."

"I'm distracted, Mr. Gryphon. I went out drinking with some friends. We all got drunk and one of the guys was really flirty. Nothing is going to come of it, I can tell you now but it has made me think about things a little differently." I look at my hands, almost in wonder because I have a nice manicure for a change. The iridescent white/pink nail polish sparkles in the lamplight.

"Is he that same guy you keep writing about?"

"I'll not answer that."

"You're just a tease, Miss Turtle. You'll have people wondering."

"No one reads this blog so I can hide here and say whatever I want."

We sit quietly for a while and I'm getting hungry. This is a luxury trip through my own darkness. Whenever we need anything a pale blue door appears and we open it to find whatever we need, usually a small but well equipped kitchen. I always insist that we sleep out here the darkness just to keep ourselves honest, but even though the ground is hard I still get to lean against Gryphon who is warm and comfortable.

"What do I do? What do I do?"

"Seems like you're doing it."

"I keep thinking I need a creed or philosophy to guide me. Some kind of method to help me reach my goals. Some kind of list or way of doing things. I search and search. I have all these books and some I read over and over, but I don't apply them. None of them fit although sometimes some aspects of what they suggest might work. Then I start all over again, then I don't get anything done and then I'm back to the same question: what do I do?" I'm ready to keep babbling on about this crap, but stop because I've surprised myself. Most of my close friends know how confused I am in general, but not all of them know how I keep going back over and over these same issues, how I've spent years going over them.

"You have your new principles. Those are interesting when you consider the source," he says. I redden at his comment. I made a list of Joker principles a couple of days ago, and I must confess I really like them. I've even invited Joker to one of my nightly-before-bed gatherings I sometimes indulge in. This is something I picked up from one of my many self-help books where many of the inhabitants of my Forest of Imagination hang out in my room talking to each other about me and each other as I'm dozing off to sleep. Of course in that particular self-help book you're supposed to imagine your "heroes" around you talking just before you nod off, not your Gryphon, several incarnations of yourself from other times (including your dead self), the T-Rex and a killer clown.

If you think about it having imaginary friends around you talking while you go to sleep isn't all that different from worrying about something over and over or replaying some upsetting event in your mind in the middle of the night. It's just a different thought is all, and a good deal more relaxing.

I spend way too much time alone is what this post is really about.

"Did you like talking to that killer clown?" I can't resist following this line of questioning. Hell, no one's going to read this so why not?

"He was interesting. Untrustworthy, of course, but curiously transparent. He kept changing his back story. He's a lonely person, doesn't like to be bored, but I have to say there's place for him here, at least temporarily, considering how deep your dark side goes," says Mr. Gryphon.

"I invited him because I know he can't hurt anybody here," I say yawning. I'm tired now and it's almost time to walk the dog.

"No, Joker can't hurt anybody, but I have a feeling he might start stirring up some moral dilemmas here if we let him. Think of what a playground this place is for him, Miss Turtle."

"I guess you're right. Maybe I shouldn't invite him here again. Time will tell." My fascination with this character will likely drop off like the other characters I've been enamored with. Few have the staying power to find a permanent home here in my Forest.

I'm embarrassed that this post has degenerated into shop talk, but so what? I write what I write. Some of it is pretty good and some of it is just junk mail. Like this post.

"Time for a snack," I say and the blue door appears in front of us hovering. We open the door and walk into the kitchen which has grown huge in size.

"Speak of the devil," says Mr. Gryphon and sure enough there's the killer clown. I walk into the kitchen and he has used most of the pots and pans. His shirt sleeves are rolled up and his long purple coat is carefully placed on the breakfast nook table in the far corner of the now very large kitchen. There's Tide detergent with oxidizing action boxes on the counter and huge Styrofoam chunks all over the floor. The smell of high priced gasoline permeates the room. It's so strong that the air between me and Gryphon and him is shimmering like the air above asphalt on the hot summer day.

"I thought I'd make good use of this kitchen," says the clown with his trademark smile.

Mr. Gryphon can only stand there without speaking. Neither of us has ever encountered a situation like this and I can see that it will only get worse.

I look at Gryphon. "It can't get any worse than that Tunguska Explosion," I say.

"No, not even this clown can do anything that equals a 15 megaton blast."

"You never know," says the clown and he laughs hysterically. I can see we've got quite the situation to deal with now and I give up getting to bed at a reasonable hour. I close the door behind us. Good thing none of us are smokers.

(Note: I've kept the clown's dialog to a minimum here because I don't really know how to write the cool things he'd say, but I'd be lying if I wasn't dying to listen to him talk.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Yes, [I] Can

A good friend of mine asked me in an email yesterday if I was watching the Democratic National Convention. Since I don't have television I haven't been watching it. She says she's been riveted to our nation's politics these last few days.

I've met a guy online (we're just talking) who said he was on pins and needles waiting to hear who Obama was going select as his running mate.

I haven't been following any of this at all. In fact, I'll make a good faith confession here. A couple of weeks ago was the first time I've even heard what Obama's voice sounds like (on some interview).

Before any of you beat the hell out of me keep in mind I live in San Francisco, California and there are plenty of folks around here who are willing to beat me to a pulp with a tire iron because I'm not "political" and "socially" conscious enough. I've even been rejected by men during a date because of it.

However through the power of the internet I have been able to watch not one, but three of Obama's speeches tonight and a music video based on one of those speeches (not unlike the night I watched all of Phelps' swims after he won his historic eight gold medals).

Yes, I can get up to speed on this presidential race. Yes, I can finally see and hear what Obama sounds like. Yes, I can think to myself over and over "Damn, that boy sure looks good on the [You]tube." Yes, I can read 1,000 blogs about what's been going on in Denver. Yes, I can be moved by's music video. Yes, I can avoid getting my head beaten in by my ultra-liberal neighbors. Yes, I can wonder where the hell the Republican National Convention is being held.

Yes, I can.

Kidding aside, and I hope all you don't mind indulging me with this post because it's motivated by feeling guilty at not being more attentive to this presidential race, this is a historic day and a historic moment. We are all on the verge of change and I know we are all hoping it will be for the best. I believe we are on the edges of something good and brave and shiny. We are seeing history not run by us, but walk past us with a billion cameras, reporters and bloggers. Every step, every gesture is happening right in front of our eyes. We may worry about blinking and missing something, but I think what's happening right now is going to be so huge and so bright that it will be visible from way up high. We're in the middle of our chance to reach for something good not only inside us, but for the good of all of us.

Thanks for letting me run to catch up with you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Dark Knight: "It's All Part of the Plan"

At the risk of sounding like a moony geek I'm going to subject all of you to a post about my current obsession, the movie The Dark Knight. ***spoilers ahead***

For those of you that don't know I'm a woman in my early forties and I have almost no acquaintance with comic books and graphic novels. I know nothing about the DC Universe and even less about Batman except what I've gleaned from random watchings of the 60s TV show and Tim Burton's movie Batman.

At the center of my moony feelings is the late Heath Ledger's Joker. Far beyond just a flamboyant killer clown, the Joker as he was written and performed has mysteries and layers much of which are only hinted at in this movie. I couldn't figure out why I was so fascinated by this character. True, Ledger's performance is amazing, but there's something else going on here and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was.

My favorite Joker quote sums up my interest very well:

Gambol (one of the mob gangsters): "You're crazy."
Joker: "I'm not. No...I'm Not."

I love that line. Sure, the other lines are great but this line, the expression on his face and how he enunciates it gives me chills. I know the Joker's not crazy, but what exactly is he? He says he's an agent of chaos, but is that true?

I was surfing around on the web and stumbled across this post which shed some light on my curiosity. This post explains what I knew instinctively, but couldn't articulate and that is the Joker is a meticulous planner and criminal mastermind, but everything he says and does, even how he looks, points to someone who is insane, "without rules." All the characters buy into this deception (as do people like me who know almost nothing about the comics) and go through the movie without figuring it out. The Joker passes himself off as a "dog chasing cars" and someone who has no plan, but specializes in turning other people's plans on their heads. The truth is the Joker is the biggest planner and organizer in the movie. It takes an enormous amount of work and brains to pull off the things he does even if you are talking about a comic book universe.

Figuring all this out has been a lot of fun. There are other things about this character that are fun such as his happiness at having found an adversary such as Batman and the implication that these two characters could battle each other forever.

Batman: "Why do you want to kill me?"
Joker:[laughs] "Kill you? I don't want to kill you! What would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no complete me."

This implies a very interesting relationship where one needs the other even if they are in constant opposition to each other. Conventional ideas state that if you have an opposition, particularly one on the "bad" side, all you have to do is defeat that opposition and it's over. A situation like this makes me wonder about the relationship between the two and how it evolves over time. I suppose this is the beauty of comic book superheroes and their villains as opposed to characters in a novel, for example.

These ideas get my mind whirling and thoughts going, particularly in the context of writing my stories. All books on crafting fiction talk about having conflict and how the story's purpose is to resolve that conflict for the reader, but if the opposition between two forces goes on forever what happens then, what does the story evolve into? I think of comic book superheroes and their villains, the Roadrunner and Coyote, the Lazarus and Anti-Lazarus from the original Star Trek episode "The Alternative Factor." While "Alternative Factor" is considered one of the weaker Star Trek episodes, I recall the ideas of matter, anti-matter, parallel universes and battling your enemy for all eternity being particularly fascinating when I was a kid.

I've gone on enough about the Joker. The rest of the movie performances were very well done, including Aaron Eckhart as Harvey Two-Face, but none were as well done as Gary Oldman's Commissioner Gordon. Talk about disappearing into the role. Oldman's Gordon is a complete full-bodied character and so well done that he doesn't stand out because he completely belongs in that movie universe.

There's a lot more going on in this movie, but I'll stop now. I'm really looking forward to Dark Knight 3.

Outside the Lamp Light

"What's the matter, Miss Turtle?"

He sounds far away. I don't answer. Instead I'm hiding. I'm hiding my own anger and despair from everybody by posting this here instead of on my other blog.

"Miss Turtle?"

I ignore my good friend. His presence pains me for he was initially based on the person I'm feeling such anger and despair over. Mr. Gryphon has grown into something else entirely, a completely different character of his own but that doesn't mean he still doesn't say things that remind me of that person every once in a while.

I initially created Mr. Gryphon as a way to keep that person around me for a little while longer when the real person was no longer in my life. I needed him to be around me while my heart was breaking.

"Miss Turtle." His voice is loud and clear and I look up into his great yellow eyes.

"It's so futile. You can't force someone to care about you," I say. The words come out in a near growl, strangled by my own grief.

Mr. Gryphon sits back on his heels. Looking at him I am reminded of bookstores and pale ladies. I don't know what happened there. It seemed so clear at the time what was happening, but now it's just a bad joke.

We are still in the darkened landscape. The lamp flickers about 10 feet away from us. I am sitting on the cold ground, leaning against a very old tattered couch. I am just outside the lamp's guiding light.

"What do you want, Miss Turtle?"

"Doesn't matter. Wanting something that's impossible, that the other person is incapable of giving is stupid. Not so smart, Mr. Gryphon."

Mr. Gryphon looks at me for a long time. He is searching for something in me, but I don't know what it is. I recall something about being the best at my kind of writing and how achieving that would make me better than half the people that crawl the planet. I recall being inspired and fascinated by this person. I recall wanting to be that person and that this person represented the very best of what I wanted to be. And I recall all of the adventures me and Mr. Gryphon have been on and these two blogs. I recall learning for the first time that my writing can delight and move people.

I recall writing The Coda, a 52 page story based on the demise of this relationship, and being delighted and amazed by it. I turn away from Mr. Gryphon and I reach out from the inside of myself, I feel the depths of my being pushing and stretching at the confines of my own skin barrier. I reach out far into the world, my heart straining from the effort. I reach and I reach. It's the only thing I can do because wishing and asking and praying won't work. I close my eyes and gradually come back to myself. I'm exhausted from the effort, but I turn towards Mr. Gryphon again.

"Do you want me to leave, Miss Turtle?" His voice is kind and gentle, he knows the pain I'm feeling from this latest disappointment.

"Mr. Gryphon, why is this love looked on with such contempt, or worse, with such indifference?" The tears from straining to reach and reach finally run down my cheeks.

"I don't have an answer to that question," he says. I wince, but I know it's best to leave things there. There are no answers and no responses no matter how much I wish for them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Poll Voting Comments

If I haven't covered a subject listed in th poll, please feel free to leave a comment here. Thanks.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Role of Extreme Violence in Art

I've been wondering about the role of extreme violence in art lately. Clearly there's a place for it, but what use, purpose does it serve?

About Me
The first thing you need to know about me is that I'm definitely in touch with my shadow side and it doesn't scare me. When I was much younger I used to be distressed by my own thoughts and ideas until I started exploring my dark side, primarily with violent films. In fact, and I think I've said this before, if you knew what was going on inside my head, oh about 80% of the time, you would run far away. I'm a dark person even though I'm good at hiding it. People who love me and catch glimpses of it now and then sometimes have difficulty reconciling me as they know me and my shadow side.

After I moved here and was served with my divorce papers I wrote a revenge short story. I made the mistake of reading it to my writing group and I think they had some difficulty with it. We never met again. One woman said I needed therapy. This short story is set in the mid-1800s in Mexico in a town close to the border of Texas. It concerns a story of a good, hardworking man who comes home to the destruction of his family by a gang of thugs. His beautiful wife and four out of the five kids are all dead in the burning house. His oldest daughter, age 9, is missing. What happens next is this good man goes on a massive killing rampage to avenge his family's deaths. He not only kills the gang members one by one, but also their families even if the men have been disowned. His brother who initially helped the man ends up working with the authorities to put a stop to the carnage. The killer takes on a strange supernatural quality and there are plenty of religious references. This story is so gory, violent and graphic that I haven't told anybody of it's existence except the unfortunate members of my former writing group. The process of writing the story was fascinating to me because I really tried to push the boundaries of what I could come up with. I haven't looked at it in years, but I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

Don't worry I'm not posting it here.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
I finished reading this book just a couple of weeks ago which brought up the question that forms the subject of this post. I can't say the book was recommended by one of my bosses, only that he mentioned it a couple of times in our conversations about Paradise Lost.

I would never recommend this book to anyone, and neither would he.

Widely lauded as one of the greatest novels of the 20th century it is a story of a trip through hell. The main character, The Kid, has a taste for violence. At age 15 he joins a band of scalpers in the mid-1800s near the border of Texas and into northern Mexico. The story is based on a real band of scalpers, the Glanton Gang. This is one of the most violent books I have ever read. It also beautifully written. The descriptions are amazing. The main antagonist, The Judge, is one of the most disturbing characters of all time. Whereas Glanton is a mere sullen sociopathic killer, the Judge goes beyond that and even beyond evil because evil implies morality as its opposition and morality is mere speck in comparison to the Judge. It exists, but only in context to the other characters.

This book is staggeringly violent and yet it is necessary to this story. Why is that so? Why have these extremely disturbing descriptions? Why have these character do these things? What is the point?

I once had a conversation with a friend of mine who couldn't understand why I went to see a play at Berkeley Rep call The People's Temple. It was about The People's Temple and the Jonestown massacre that took place in 1978. He asked me why I insisted upon filling my head with such a subject matter. At the time I explained to him it was about reconciling a event that terrified me when I was kid. I also told him it was a good learning experience for me in that it reminded me how easy it is to get caught up in a cult and perhaps in other group ideas.

I don't know what the role of Blood Meridian's violence is, at least not right now. I can't say I learned anything from reading it except to say that I saw myself becoming numb to it after a while, and more importantly, that this fact did not bother me at all.

They're going to make a movie out of this book. Ridley Scott is supposed to direct. How the hell they're going to avoid an NC-17 rating is beyond me. Even if you tone down the violence, many of the images are so awful and integral to the story that cutting them out will make for a different story altogether. And it will take nothing less than an Oscar caliber performance to bring the Judge to life.

Man Bites Dog (dirs. Belvaux et al.) 1992
I watched this Belgium film years ago because I was curious about a film that had a reputation for extreme violence and had been banned in four countries. It's about a camera crew that follows a serial killer around while he talks about and practices his "art." The main character, Ben, is charming and engaging. The movie, thankfully filmed in black and white, is an interesting commentary about reality TV and an exercise in blacker than black satirical comedy. Towards the end the camera crew gets caught up in Ben's activities and they go on a rampaging slaughter. Funny, gruesome and very disturbing. Ben's charm really pulls you in and you can't help but think that he's really not that bad until the the men's activities begin to escalate. Although this film has not made the 10 ten lists of the most disturbing films of all time, it is occasionally honorably mentioned.

Now what did I learn from watching that movie? Was there anything to learn? Did I even like it? I don't know. I did like it and I thought it was interesting and very well done but I have not seen it since viewing it that first time. In a way I don't have to because most of the film has managed to stay with me all these years since. Is that a good thing? It's certainly a positive commentary for the people who made the film.

I don't recommend it, by the way. I don't think it's necessary viewing for most people.

Bosch, Bruegel the Elder and the Isenheim Altarpiece
My favorite kind of art is the Northern Renaissance, and my favorite painter is Hieronymus Bosch. I find his visions of Paradise and Hell and his grotesque creatures to be endlessly fascinating. As my art teacher used to say "everything is going to Hell according to Bosch." His visions of Hell depict people being tortured and tormented. Along those same lines is Bruegel's astounding painting The Triumph of Death. Bruegel was inspired by Bosch and this painting shows people being killed by an endless army of skeletons. All social classes are represented here and it even shows a common form of execution at the time being broken on the wheel. Grim, awful and relentlessly fair, this is a fantastic painting.

I learned about the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald not too long ago. It is a huge piece (approx. 105 x 120 inches) in several panels painted between 1512-1515. When the main panels are closed it shows a disturbing crucifixion scene, probably the most disturbing I've ever seen. Mary Magdalene and Christ's mother Mary are in their usual postures of grief and agony (the Madonna is supported by John the Apostle). John the Baptist is there with a bleeding lamb. The crucified Christ is much larger than the other figures in the painting. His body is covered with sores and his face, hands and feet are tortured and twisted. His arms look like they should have broken a long time ago. Having looked at plenty of crucifixion scenes over the years because of the kind of art I love, I can say that seeing this painting up close (on a learning DVD) for the first time made me have to look away for a moment. The teacher described it as "shocking." And it is.

My second reaction after looking at it closely and pausing my DVD was the thought "that is so incredible." The rest of the altarpiece has some strange elements to it such as the angels playing in an orchestra for the Virgin and Child on the inside of the panel (one of which features an oddly feathered Lucifer looking ruefully up at God the Father) and other things. Clearly the purpose of showing such a shocking crucifixion scene was to bring home Christ's agony as he died for our sins. It's very effective for that. It made even me, who doesn't really believe in organized religion, think twice it.

My gushing about these art works aside, and descriptions, I do wonder about the role of violence in these artworks. In Bosch's paintings the role of violence shows people being tormented in Hell for their sins and perhaps work as a deterrent. Bruegel's painting, in contrast, shows that while Death is inevitable, it is also indiscriminate and oddly fair. Grünewald's extraordinary altarpiece reminds people of Christ's sacrifice in a terrible way.

Clearly the people who commissioned these painting as well as the artists felt it was necessary to depict violence of this type. I suppose some could argue that those times were more violent than our modern times, but I wonder if that is true.

I have none. Many people I know, particularly people I really care about, say such violence is over the top and unnecessary. It is not necessary to fill our minds with such images. To bring these things to the forefront of our consciousness does not add anything. And yet such violent depictions persist. It's easy to say that violent depictions in art during the Renaissance was a necessary way to educate people and to help them focus on being devote and righteous, but what about today? I wonder sometimes if such extreme violence is not so much a mirror of our society, but merely an expression of our individual shadow sides. We all have a dark side and some are more in touch with them than others. Or rather some, like me, find it necessary to be in touch with our dark sides.

I welcome your comments. This is a really interesting subject for me and would love to hear what other people think.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Flamingo Managment

"The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo."

"Why are you quoting from my favorite book, Mr. Gryphon?" I stop what I am doing and look up at him.

"Because it seems to me this is part of the problem. Flamingo management," he says. Mr. Gryphon is leaning up against a large monolith. We are in a dark place with a bunch of large stones surrounding us. They are rather like the stones at Stonehenge in scale and placement. The sky looks dark, but not from the night nor from storms or clouds. It's just dark.

I am leaning down over a large stone slab attempting to strike a match. The wind howls around us in a vortex. I can even see the savage trails of wind blowing around us. The invisible made seen. In this place the wind doesn't effect us all that much with the exception of a few icy gusts here and there. I have three matches and I'm attempting to light the first.

The passage Mr. Gryphon refers to is in Chapter VIII entitled "The Queen's Croquet-Ground." In it Alice is attempting to play croquet where the flamingos are the mallets and hedgehogs are the balls. Each time she tries to strike the hedgehog, though, the flamingo just turns and looks at her.

"Miss Turtle, why are we here?" A dark shadow appears on the horizon in the distance. Mr. Gryphon is looking at it and he has asked me this question with a distracted air.

"You're supposed to read my mind, Sir. Why do you always ask that question?" I ask. I've managed to get match lit, but it blows out again. I put the spent match down and pick up the second one.

"I only ask for the benefit of our audience, Miss Turtle." I can tell by his voice that he is still looking at the shadow. I look at the second match carefully to be sure of its wholeness.

"Am I Alice now?" I've been wondering this question for a while considering the mass confusion I've been feeling about my life and what I'm supposed to be doing with it. For example today I was wondering if my life will be the same as it is now. I mean, in five years will I still be sitting here at my computer writing these odd stories? I suppose that wouldn't be a bad thing, but I worry that I will still be confused and made helpless by the ever growing feeling of indecision I feel on a daily basis. Alice was lost in Wonderland, BUT and this is a big one, she kept moving and exploring even with her confusion and even among some threatening situations. I have not, I suppose.

"I thought everything in those blasted books are you and more." I do not look at my seven foot tall half-lion, half-eagle friend. This truth makes me uncomfortable as I don't want to think about my being suffused with such madness, is true. They are all me and more.

"Strange how we identify with certain things. I suppose I could identify with less interesting things such as the lives of Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears. God, help me if I saw myself in those train wrecked lives."

"It's only a different train wreck, Miss Turtle, even with all its critical acclaim and 'for the ages' status amongst world literature."

I've managed to get the second match lit and smile. The dark shadow is coming and I can see Mr. Gryphon is concerned, but I am not. I am not worried for a change even though I don't know what is going on right now. Darkness, icy wind and that old ominous feeling permeates me but to no effect. My match has been lit and there is no blast of wind. I reach down to the ground next to the stone and pick up an old lamp and light it. I get the cover on before the light can go out. I put the last match in my apron pocket and hold the lamp up for Mr. Gryphon to see. I am still smiling.

"The man's lamp, is it? The lamp the demon gave him that would never go out?"

"The very one, Sir. Since the light is out and the man is no longer here we must assume he found his way out of that dark purgatory."

"That is encouraging because we're going to need it," he says as he looks towards the shadow coming closer with alarming speed. What little light is left is going out as the shadow approaches. The only thing visible is the pitch black beyond. Mr. Gryphon steps closer to me and reaches out his hand. I take it as the darkness blots out around us like an invasion from the vacuum of space. I take a deep breath and look back. The stones are still there. I breathe a sigh of relief.

"No, we aren't in purgatory, then," I say, "Instead, we or rather I am lost. The features of the landscape are the same, but the light has gone out." I sit on the stone that I'd found the matches on.

"What now, Miss Turtle?" He has sat down next to me. The wind is dying down a little and I can hear the beyond, murmuring and whispering to us.

"You mentioned something about flamingos earlier, Mr. Gryphon, and you are quite right in your observation. The task now is to find the flamingo and the croquet ground. That shouldn't take long. It's around here somewhere."

"Can't manage that bird until we have it in hand," he says. I hand him the lamp, get up and smooth out my skirts. I double check to make sure the match is still in my pocket. It's amazing how you find you don't need certain things, how lightly you can travel when it's all said and done.

I lead the way walking away from the stones. Mr. Gryphon follows silently. After all, he knows this is my crisis, my confusion.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Abelardo Morell

Years ago I accompanied my ex to a conference in San Diego. He would have to spend two days in a hotel conference room while I knocked around San Diego by myself. The first day I went to the zoo, of course, and although the weather was cool, I had a lovely time photographing and sketching the animals.

The second day I wandered around Balboa Park going from one museum to another. One of the museums I went to was the Museum of Photographic Arts and they were featuring the work of Abelardo Morell, a photographer born in Cuba. If I recall this was at least ten years ago and Morell had a lovely Alice in Wonderland exhibit going on. The photographs were charming. Here's one near and dear to my heart:

The Mock Turtle's Story, 1998, by Abelardo Morell

As charming as these Alice pictures were my real attention was caught by his camera obscura photographs. He turns an entire room into a camera by selecting one with a view he's interested in, places black tape over the windows leaving one 3/8 inch hole which provides light for the picture, focuses the lens outside the window, stops down the maximum depth of field, opens the shutter and leaves for about eight hours. The result is the view is shown projected onto the wall, but upside down in true camera obscura style. The same principles are used to make pinhole cameras. When I took my photographer class in high school we learned to make and use a pinhole camera and I took several interesting pictures with it.

I was fortunate enough to purchase the print below at the museum in San Diego, now bent and yellow around the edges. It's still in good shape, and I'm finally going to have it framed. I say I'm fortunate because I haven't been able to locate another one anywhere.

Manhattan View Looking South in Large Room, 1996, by Abelardo Morell

I used to have this picture in my office and it was always a pleasure to see people's reactions to it. Inevitably, most people would blow right past it, but if they were repeat visitors eventually they would be arrested by this image. No one had any problems recognizing the New York city skyline, but they couldn't figure it out and would stand there staring at it. One of the eeriest things about this image is you are looking at Manhattan during the day, but there's no traffic on the streets. This is because the exposure time is about eight hours and anything moving in the picture will not show up.

If you want to see more of Mr. Morell here's a website. His photographs of ordinary household objects are also wonderful such as falling coins, spoons and pictures in his house.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Head Case

So I'm in my usual state of confusion only this time it seems worse. I've been feeling so empty lately. I look at my life. I see it for what it really is. I get depressed, but don't know how to change it, or even if I want to or need to.

What my life really is an extraordinarily stripped down situation. Somewhere in the back of my mind years ago I decided what I really wanted was to live and work here in SF and set my life up so I can write all the time. This goal has been and continues to be accomplished.
  • I don't have a significant other to worry about so I can spend hours writing.
  • I don't have kids (similar reason).
  • I live alone.
  • I don't watch TV.
  • I have a giant 32" computer screen so my Word documents are HUGE.
  • I have a good job that pays well, and this is really important, and I don't have to work a lot of overtime. I get to go home at 5:30 pm on most days and have yet to work the weekend. Unbelievable.
  • I have this blog which has given me the courage and excitement of realizing the pleasure of having an audience and it has taught me that my writing moves people.
  • I don't have a lot of hobbies although I can find some just around the corner there.
  • SF is supposed be a good "writing" city.
I'm not writing lately. I tried to set a schedule, but I backed it off. I get lazy. I'm really tired. It's 8pm and I don't know what the hell I'm going to eat for dinner. I wanted to go see "Dark Knight" again, but I have to wait until the weekend. I feel cold and empty. I'm not productive at all and I don't what the fuck to do with myself.

I set everything up the way I wanted to and I'm not embracing this grand gift I have of a good steady income, a lovely City and time. Sweet, precious time. I have a ton in my life and I'm squandering it.

I get scared. So scared that something will happen (such as a catastrophic injury, Armageddon, breast cancer, a bad morning commute) and I will look back on these five years as a period of time that I squandered. Such a sin! Such an affront! No one is allowed to set up their lives like this and not follow through. I should be drawn and quartered.

Sigh. This evening I wondered what my life would be like if I gave up on writing altogether. Sure, I'd still keep this blog since it's the most productive aspect of my writing life, but other than that why not give up on my stories?

There are a million reasons and none have to do with making the bestseller list or even getting published. Hell, none of them have to do with anybody reading my stories and novels. It's all about me. The biggest reason is the thought of giving up the stories inside me, rolling around like so many silver balls waiting to be juggled, is that I need to know how those stories turn out. I need to know not only what happens to the character, but who the characters are. I can't let the stories just shrivel up and die inside me without seeing the light of day. It seems like the gravest sin of all. It seems like a direct affront to whoever is in charge around here. It seems like doing something like that would cause a giant fire bolt to nuke out of the sky and leave nothing but some singed clothes and my sneakers behind. Creation is the ultimate blessing.

I am tired and I don't know what to do. I'm burned out, but I don't know from what. I need a lot of things. I need to go eat and go to sleep. I wish I knew what to do after that. When I think of giving up writing I can't even imagine what I would do to fill in the time. I feel so damn uncomfortable right now. What do I do? What do I do?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Today's Swim Lesson

I sprained my ankle a couple of weeks ago and haven't been swimming so I was a little worried about today's swim lesson. There were a number of factors to overcome, the most prominent in my mind was my fear of walking down the concrete stairs from the roof of Mission Bay where the pool is to the women's locker room.

Today's swim lesson was great. I'm learning to do alternate breathing; right now I'm in the habit of turning my head to the right side to breath. Getting into the habit of turning to the left side has been difficult especially without the enough practice. While it still felt "weird" it felt much better than it had been and for the first time my neck doesn't feel stiff after swimming.

Even better was the progress I made in my underwater swimming. I have to swim underwater from one end of the pool to the other on one breath and learning to do this has been very difficult. I'm learning in a 25 yard pool during my lessons and the pool I practice in is 20 yards. Today I made three quarters of the way across the 25 yard pool on one breath. That's the most I've ever done and I'm so happy about it. I never thought I'd be able to master this skill, but here I am almost there!

It was a great swimming day. Oh, and I made down the long flight of concrete stairs on my sprained ankle with no problem. I just took it slowly, one step at a time. No hurry and no worries.

"Why So Serious?"

Back on December 27, 2007 I did a post entitled YouTube Fun and part of that post included the first "Dark Knight" trailer. I was intrigued by Heath Ledger's Joker and was really looking forward to seeing it.

Not too long afterwards Heath was found dead as we all know.

Having sat through my second viewing of "Dark Knight" this evening I remain as I was the first time I saw this movie the weekend before last: sad. For here wrapped up in a 27 year old package was the very epitome of promise. I was so looking forward to what this wonderful actor would become after seeing him come so far in just a few years. I liked Heath very much in his earlier roles, particularly in "Knight's Tale", even though it had an odd soundtrack and was fluffy. In fact, I've owned "Knight's Tale" since it first came out on DVD. I also liked him in "10 Things I Hate About You" though I don't own that one. This movie surpassed "Knight's Tale" in its fluffiness but, dammit, there's a place in this world for fun and whimsy and Heath was doing his part to bring it to us.

When I saw "Monster's Ball" I must admit that I really enjoyed the movie until Heath's character killed himself. Halle Berry and Billy Bob Thornton turned in great performances, but I stopped liking the movie so much after that. I thought Heath did a great job in that performance and still think of his character's last line to his father sometimes:

Heath's character Sonny: "You hate me. Answer me. You hate me, don't you?"
Billy Bob's character Hank: "Yeah, I hate you. Always did."
Heath's character Sonny: "Well, I've always loved you."

The fact that I still think of that line after all this time on occasion is a testament to Heath's performance.

Then I had the enormous pleasure of "Brokeback Mountain" for both Heath and Jake stunned the hell out of me with their performances. Heath was phenomenal, but as I told a couple of people, we believed in that love story and without Jake we would not have have been so moved by the way these two characters loved each other.

I was so excited about the Joker. Heath's Joker looked like a completely different character altogether. He didn't disappointment at all. In fact, I can't take my eyes off him. Sure, I just spent two plus hours watching the movie again, but I came home and started watching the trailer again. I just want to see more Heath!!!

It's so sad. And wonderful. We are all very lucky to have this performance.

Next up, I go see "Dark Knight" on the IMAX screen. I know I'll really enjoy that too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Blog Header

I have to say I'm just tickled pink about my new blog header picture. Sure it's a little large, but I don't see the point in cropping it. I encourage everyone who hasn't done it already to run to your "Layout" section of your blog and start putting up header pictures.

Hooray for!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Rant: No Dating Life for Me

I haven't been dating at all. It's been a long time. Lately, I've been wondering why I've been treated like crap or why the guy is all excited about me during the first date, but loses interest in me after that.

I'm beginning to think there are several things going on:

1) There are a lot of jerks around and they're all available. Folks have said this has something to do with living in SF/Bay Area, but I'm not sure if that's true. Folks have also said it's because I'm too old, not "hot" enough, too fat. A couple of years ago I would have said that was true, but no more because it seems even young beautiful women are also being treated like crap. And they are also having a difficult time finding someone even if they are dating more than me. I had a conversation with a beautiful young woman who used to work in my office who is actively dating. She is sweet, smart and on track for a great career and yet she explained to me that guys take her out once and then dump her (and no, she's not having sex with them). One even explained that she just wasn't "hot" enough. And I'll spell this next part out instead of resorting to the usual acronym which I think is lame anyway: WHAT THE FUCK is up with that???!! I was flabbergasted when she told me that story.

2) All the good men are taken particularly the ones in my age bracket. I think this is mostly true now. I used to think that was just a cliche, but it's not, people. All good guys around my age are already in long term relationships. The ones left over are either commitment phobes and/or have baggage worthy of bringing a plane down.

3) Many men around my age group have absolutely no interest in forming a serious relationship. They date sometimes but mostly so they can have sex, or less often for companionship. They don't completely rule out a relationship but they're not going to consider it unless the "girl" is spectacular. She really has to be "The One" for these men to put forth any kind of effort. Anything less is just there to warm the pillow. What does this mean for me? It means the guy is looking for that elusive quality of genius supermodel with seven figure earning salary. I have none of those qualities.

4) Somewhat related to number three is the idea that my therapist suggested and that is that when a guy decides he likes me he realizes that I'm not just there for fun, but for a serious relationship and this can be intimidating. I'm not sure if that's true or not, but it can't hurt to include it on this list anyway.

5) The odds are lousy. As I tell my good friends, who are also having the same problems with dating, you only need one good man. I still believe that's true, but I don't see the point in looking for the proverbial needle in the haystack. The odds are that I will be very disappointed if I try to meet another guy. And, if the recent past is any indication, the odds are pretty high that he will turn out to be mean, inconsiderate asshole which seems to be happening more and more.

6) Being kind and loving are code words for "fuck me over!!" I'm a good person, I'm a nice person and I enjoy treating men well, but if you are kind and generous they see you as nothing more than a chump, someone to take advantage of. Oh and God forbid if you fall in love and tell them that. As soon as that happens you're off to the Gulag Archipelago of love, baby. Love is supposed to be the strongest force in the Universe, but the fact that I might love a man only means that I am weak and stupid in his eyes.

I'm never going to find someone who will love me, be excited to be with me, who will want to talk to me and see me, who I can explore the world and life with. I don't even remember what it's like to have a man love me like that. It's just as well.

What does this all mean? No dating life for me. I know I sound bitter, but it's the way things are. This is what happens when you spend over five years looking for a relationship and keep striking out over and over. I didn't start out this bitter, but feeling this way is inevitable when no one wants you unless they can get a nut off or when they tell you they want to focus on pursuing a serious relationship with someone else. Do I sound angry? You bet I do. I'm post nuclear pissed off in an apocalyptic dating world.

p.s. for all of you who might be concerned about this post, i'll just say this is my blog and i'll damn well rant on it if i want to.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

San Francisco Summer

My lovely City is known for its cold summers. For example, today is July 27, 2008 and it is now 61 degrees. There's a little wind rattling the inferior windows of my apartment and when I look out my little window towards the Pacific Ocean there's nothing but fog and the vague outline of houses and the pink church a few blocks down.

Yesterday I was in San Jose, my hometown about 50 miles south of here, and it was about 88 degrees there. I grew up in that town and was used to the warm to hot summers there. I've been here in San Francisco now for over five years and have become very acclimated to our cooler, foggy temperatures. When the temperature climbs to over the mid-80s I find myself longing for our infamous fog.

Tourists are often shocked when they come here in the summer. Even when cautioned about our weather they still can't bring themselves to believe it really is that cold here. Tourists are easy to spot with their shorts and hastily bought sweatshirts that say "San Francisco" on them or "Alcatraz."

It's true that some days in the summer can be warm and beautiful here, even hot, but let's be clear that it's only a few days where that happens. Our "summer" which we call "indian summer" comes in the fall. During that time the weather is usually spectacular: warm, but not too warm and oh so mild.

We who live here waste no time getting out of doors when the weather is nice. You can find us in Golden Gate Park, out and about in neighborhoods, and on the beach wandering around in sun dresses and flip flops. As the song goes, there's nothing like a warm San Francisco night. The City takes on a magical quality enhanced by the billions of people out on the street.

Although weather enhancement does well for encouraging the entrancing qualities of the City to come out, I find it beautiful no matter what the weather. And no matter how people moan about how cold it is here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Change and Habit

My swimming instructor is teaching me to breath on the left side. My current habit now is to turn my head to the right with each stroke of my right arm. This is causing my neck to stiffen and isn't efficient in the water.

So now I'm learning to swim three strokes (one, two, three, turn head to the right to breath-then one, two, three, turn head to the left). As I struggle with this new habit I'm sucking down water, I'm sinking and gasping for breath, my neck is bothering me and I can barely swim 200 yards as I flail around in the water trying to get my body in alignment.

I feel like a baby. And yet my turning my head to the right with every right arm stroke is just a habit, something I learned to do. And that means that I can learn to do something else to replace that habit as long as I practice it.

My swimming instructor's philosophy: "If people are willing to change and to practice that change, then people are capable of anything." I realized the simple, awesome truth of this statement. Annoying habits are just that, habits. This means they can be changed with practice. I couldn't swim at all as of last November, but now I can swim 400 yards without stopping. This is not a miracle. This did not happen overnight. It was hard work and training, but mostly it was all about breaking everything down into manageable pieces, learning them and practice, practice, practice.

It's not easy, but it's very doable.

If I can swim, I can do damn near anything including learning to breath on the left side. I'm wondering what other "good" and "fun" habits I can cultivate now.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Don't Eat the Apples

"This is a nice place, Miss Turtle."

I mumble something. Mr. Gryphon is right, of course, but I am looking around the impossibly lush garden we have the good fortune to be in. I look to and fro. The warm breeze and sparkling air are so perfect that I pause from my searching and take a deep breath.

"Is this your new garden?" I cannot ignore him any longer.

"No, sir. This is Paradise, a walled garden located in Eden. Judging by the good weather the Fall of Man has not yet occurred." Our attention is caught by a lion leisurely walking by. Mr. Gryphon's claws start to extend, but I stop him by putting my hand on his arm. "He won't hurt us. He can't. Everything is in harmony here."

Sure enough a small rabbit crosses his path. The two beautiful animals greet each other by touching noses before moving on. I decide to follow the lion a little ways behind. He pays no mind. The garden opens up before us. I feel it in my bones. A longing and an aching in my heart. Tears come to my eyes, but don't spill.

"Feel that, Mr. Gryphon?" My voice sounds a little watery.

"No, but I see you are affected," he says. He is watching me closely as we walk along the thick carpet of grass.

"It is the eternal longing, Mr. Gryphon. All of mankind longs to return home regardless of your religious beliefs. That's what this place is home of the soul." I sniffle. He pats my hand and I give him a grateful hug. It's good to be with my trusty friend once more. We walk on.

The garden opens up into a little glen and I feel my breath catch for in front of us are two spectacular trees. One is huge and is laden with apples. They are brighter than jewels and so overwhelming I can't take my eyes off them. I just want to stare and stare. The tree next to it is also laden with fruit, but not as showy. It is handsome and it glows with a quiet majesty*. I know what trees they are and I long to eat, but I don't move. An apple, I think. I've already fallen, I tell myself. What would happen if I had one now?

Just as I'm considering finding out the answer to my question Mr. Gryphon gently draws me back into the bushes. "Someone is coming," he says close to my right ear. We both crouch down and watch.

An ornament-like snake rolling gracefully along enters the glen on the far left side. Its colors shift and shine. Behind him a stunning young blond woman follows.

"That's Eve," I whisper, "Looks like we're in Book IX of Milton's book." The snake slides gracefully up the tree and begins to talk to Eve. They are so far away that we can't hear them.

"Snake there, 'the subtlest beast in the field,' is possessed by Satan so he can tempt Eve into eating the apples."

"What's wrong with eating apples?" Mr. Gryphon has had to sit down so he won't be visible.

"They are from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God has told them they can do what they like here except they can never eat from that tree or 'ye will surely die.' Eve eats the apple anyway and Man Falls and becomes mortal. It's a long, drawn out affair. I'd rather not watch it all, if you don't mind."

"We can do whatever you like, Miss Turtle."

"I am happy to see Snake, though. Surely Satan in this story is one of the greatest, most fascinating characters in literature. Milton was pretty far up there even if he wrote the whole thing in verse. I used to think it would be the greatest story I'll ever read, but I think it's number two*. We'll see."

We move slowly away from the glen leaving Eve and Snake to talk. "Better get our stroll in now before the weather changes. That should happen pretty quickly." We walk back the way we came. Birds are singing in the trees. "By tomorrow Paradise will be empty with nothing but the glorious plants, and the Cherubim who will be guarding it," I say.

"Did you know that gryphons were considered one of the origins for Cherubim?" he says.

"I had no idea!"

"This might hint at my former life, Miss Turtle, a subject you and I have never discussed."

"I'm intrigued. I didn't know you had a former life. I would not have guessed." The flowers are heavily fragrant, a rabble of butterflies float by on the sweet gentle breeze. The sun and the blue sky I glimpse as I look up look as though they were made for only Mr. Gryphon and me. I want to ask him more about his former life, but I decide to wait and enjoy this place for now. The garden and earth as it is now will change and Man will begin his real adventure once he leaves this perfect place.

"It's not a bad thing, Falling, no matter what they say. I'm sure of it," I look up at my good friend and we smile at each other. We continue through the garden slowly and easily. We walk under a cherry tree. The flowers are floating down on us like soft snow. Some are caught in my hair. Mr. Gryphon gently brushes them off. He hands me a small, perfect pink blossom.

"A souvenir for you, Miss Turtle."

"I don't think we can take that with us."

"It's all right. Trust me." I thank him and slip the flower into my pocket. "It will remain perfect forever," he says. I look at him more closely. The earth and grass smell green and warm. I wonder if he was an angel in his former life.

"That would make me a guardian, eh, Miss Turtle?" he says, reading my mind as he sometimes does.

"I suppose so. It makes sense. Odd how things are coming together like this."

"Odd indeed." We speak no more. The earth, sky and universe gives a great groan for the Fall has just happened." We will only have a little more time before the weather changes.


This past Saturday I finally finished reading "Paradise Lost" by John Milton. His tale of Man's Fall is wonderful, poignant and hopeful. A beautiful story. I highly recommend it even if isn't an easy read. It was published 1674 and language takes some getting used to as does reading in verse. At least you don't have to worry about translation.

*the Tree of Life.
**my humble opinion is "The Epic of Gilgamesh" will take the top spot, but I still haven't read an actual translated version of it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Test 1-2-3

This is a test for my mother who is thinking of starting her own poetry blog.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Hidden Abalone Under My Feet

Daily, I wander down that old road. Its gold colored bricks and sideline orchids cast a heavenly glow, but heaven it is not. I move slowly hoping for a sign or for someone to come along, but it's just me as usual.

My solitude has become familiar to me much like a pair of well-worn jeans. I think about how my time has passed and wonder what's in store for me now. Am I past my prime? Will my solitude extend into forever? No one knows.

I dream of a man who's a low-key genius, who is kind and funny. Who sits in the dark. I keep hearing more reports about him. I keep hearing that he is more wonderful than I ever dreamed he'd be. I want to tell him how I feel about him. I want him to know I feel this longing but it is too much for us, both apart and together.

Today was a once in a lifetime. A few hours that will never be duplicated or planned for ever again. They told me they were glad I was there, that they knew I wouldn't have missed it for anything. They know me well. I sloshed around with the others. Salt water splashed on my face. I felt like I would burst with gratitude all day long.

I feel marvelously happy and achingly sad tonight.

It's been a good day to think about these things.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

They Say The Best Camera Is The One You Use All The Time

Since I got a monster tax return this year I decided to buy myself a new point-and-shoot camera. You can see the first pictures in the previous post. It's a Panasonic DMC-TZ4 with 10x zoom and it shoots 8 megapixal pictures. The zoom was a must have for me. I have my nice Canon Powershot, but it's a bit bulky to carry around every day and I've found that carrying a camera with me all the time encourages me to shoot more spontaneously and to think more about posting on this blog.

I'm embarrassed to say I now have two nice 35 mm cameras, the Canon Powershot and now this camera and I'm still not using any of them to their full potential. Part of this is because I just don't know what they're capable of. I need to take a few photography classes.

City Life: Last Night's View From My Window

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pierre is Still the Alpha Male

I wrote about Pierre the Penguin quite a while ago, here's the link since he is one of the penguins I work with regularly. As you can see from a previous video I posted (see it here), Pierre is 25 years and had lost all his feathers. The biologists at the Aquarium where I volunteer decided to try something different to keep him warm and that was to make him his own neoprene wetsuit. Last Friday, Associated Press released an article about him and his wetsuit. I'm proud to share the article, videos and pictures here. Enjoy!

Click here for the link to article and pictures:

Here's the video, courtesy of YouTube:

Monday, April 07, 2008

Some Current Favorite Quotes

"Can I have one of those Chesterfields now?" Dennis Hopper to Christopher Walkin in the infamous "Sicilian" scene in "True Romance."

"It's not true I had nothing on, the radio was on." Marilyn Monroe.

"I've already told you want I want and if you ask me again, I'm going to scream! You keep asking me over and over what I want and I keep telling you and I'm tired of telling you, and, no, you can't ever, ever touch me. Do you hear me? You can't touch me!" a friend relaying a "conversation" she had on a date with a very wealthy man whom she didn't find attractive. She had this "conversation" outside a lovely restaurant in North Beach (a wonderful neighborhood here in SF).

"Okay, well tell Superman to iron his cape and get his super fanny over here, pronto." A co-worker talking to a vendor on the phone who screwed up a job.

"The crime you see now it's hard to even take its measure. It's not that I'm afraid of it. I always knew you had to be willing to die to even do this job. But I don't want to push my chips forward and go out and meet something I don't understand. A man would have to put his soul at hazard. He'd have to say, 'O.K., I'll be part of this world.'" Tommy Lee Jones' opening monologue in "No Country for Old Men."

And one from me:

Me: "What we need is a form on the system that everyone can fill out. An apology form. In Word format."

Nice Boss: "Oh, so you can just fill it out and email to someone here in this office? Fill in your name, date and what you're apologizing for?"

Me: "No, that's the beauty of it. You don't have to do anything. It's there for someone who feels they need an apology. They fill it out and email it to themselves."

Nice Boss: "Oh, I get it. Then they can send you a thank you email in response, right?"