Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

What? Based on my previous post(s) about this holiday you thought I was gonna be all Scroogey and not celebrate today? Well, I guess I fooled you, then.

I am a cynic, I freely admit it. However, remember that in many ways I'm a classicist and the ancient Greek philosophy of Cynicism differs somewhat from the simplistic "cynicism" of today. Historically, Cynicism gave rise to Stoicism. Interestingly, I came to my Cynicism, or cynicism, from [S/s]toicism. It seems I frequently do things ass-backwards. My dad could probably have had a career as an ascetic and the Jesuits profess a Stoic philosophy, at least superficially. The Marines... well, I think Stoicism is the official Marine philosophy. I definitely feel a kinship with the Cynics in the context of the importance of ethics, being critical of dogma, abjuring meaningless metaphysics, living in accord with nature, decrying social convention qua convention, etc.; but I was never, and am not now, into the whole "live on the street and beg" aspect of the original Cynics and I never masturbate in public. Not that I can recall, anyway.

Although I'm not above barking at someone who irritates me, just like the Cynics of old. [Kunikos (cynic) translates as "dog-like," an appellation they embraced.]

And I'm certainly not a full-time cynic or Cynic, especially when I'm being all maudlin and shit. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and so I have a simple, genuine wish for you today:

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope you and yours have a happy, healthy, fun-filled, and love-filled day.

Share the gratitude #6

The final one in the series. Now that's something to be grateful for!

O xein!, angellein Lakedaimoniois hoti tede
keimetha tois keinon rhemasi peithomenoi!

- Simonides of Ceos

Paraphrased quasitranslation:
O dear reader!, go tell Clint that I rest here all finished,
while obeying his initial injunction undiminished.

Yes, Clint is a modern Spartan (Lacedaemonian). You didn't know that? You mean you've never seen him in his spandex bodysuit with the big lambda on the front? Huh.

I'm grateful for:

1. Tom's health. FIL Tom has been dealing with some significant health and pain issues. It was pretty scary for a while but he recently got a diagnosis and treatment plan which seems like it should provide a good outcome. I'm grateful for "Papa" Tom in general because he's a wonderful person but I'm specifically grateful that this particular issue is looking like it's gonna turn out ok.

2. Bob's health. My old college gymnastics buddy Bob has had a couple of unpleasant health problems lately. I won't go into great detail but after two operations recently, he's finally gotten a kidney stone condition resolved after almost a year. Once he heals up from those surgeries, he'll go under the knife again for a hernia he's been living with for a coupla years. By the time he's done, he'll be out of pocket for the equivalent of a new compact car. It sucks to be without health insurance in this country but I'm grateful that my friend will have these problems corrected, despite the cost. Then, it'll be time for some new adventures for us crazy, and now old, idiots and our frequent companion, the infamous monkey bastard. Don't ask. Never mention the (infamous) monkey bastard. Never.

3. The Greybeards and their sexy Hot Backup Chicks. It all started at the fabulous LIFE is Good conference in May 2009. I don't remember exactly where the concept originated or who was the first to mention it but Jeff Sabo wanted to play some bass and Russ Anguish wanted to play some guitar. When they queried me, well, I'm always willing to play my organ (Synthia) and we had our music gear there cuz my family was doing a song for the talent show. So, in a progression as inescapable as the gravity well of a singularity, we formed up as the Greybeards and decided to play a song after the Maier family appeared as the Motley Penguins at the talent show cuz that way the gear was already set up. We did Gloria cuz it's an easy one and had Ronnie, Shonna Morgan, and Robin Bentley sing the chorus and backup bits as our Hot Backup Chicks. That effort is (mostly) recorded for posterity here.

It was tremendous fun and we glibly spoke of repeating the experience at the Good Vibrations conference in the Fall without any actual specificity to that brave talk. I enjoyed the experience so much that I did strongly wish for a repeat, whether at Good Vibrations or some other venue. Be careful what you wish for because once we entered the gravity well of the Greybeards singularity, things accelerated all on their own. First, we committed, actually and specifically, to do a song together at Good Vibrations. Cool! Talent show here we come! Then, somehow, it became a mini-set of a few, or a handful, of songs, maybe as an opening act for Amy Steinberg or perhaps as part of the Sunday night Farewell Dance or …? The next time I read my email, we were talking to Flo, the conference organizer, using the phrase "house band" in the context of the Farewell Dance. Ultimately, we wound up sending around among ourselves email lists of potential songs to fill out TWO COMPLETE SETS of music, approximately two dozen songs!

We lived in two different states and a province of Canada. We had no drummer. We did have a preliminary song list and a commitment. We voted for a core list of songs from our distribution list which would probably work for us. We decided on resources for and versions of those songs so we could listen and practice individually and we started looking for a drummer.

The Washingtonians visited Canada for some partial-group practice and further refined the playlist while getting some experience actually playing together. Later, the Canadians visited Washington for some additional practice and song refinement. Meanwhile, Jeff bought himself a beautiful bass and practiced alone in San Diego while trying to work in some together practice time with Marc Lavallee who planned to play guitar with the Good Vibrations incarnation of the Greybeards. Jeff's wife, Ginger, was also considering a position as one of the Hot Backup Chicks but ultimately decided that she had too many other obligations, assisting Flo with general conference stuff.

As we got closer to our play date, still without a drummer, we finally snagged Alex Hoeltzel through some desperate online begging. We emailed him the playlist and he started working through it with his drumming teacher. Despite his temporal status as a teen, he instantly became an official Greybeard. Phew! Rock band achieves completeness.

Eventually, we all wound up in San Diego at Good Vibrations, except that Russ couldn't make it there until Saturday; so the rest of us met together, some for the first time ever, on Thursday. We had a couple of get-acquainted practices in my hotel room and then on Saturday, with Russ' arrival, Flo gave us access to one of the big rooms where we had our first-ever practice all together with full gear. Sunday was the gig.

And it was wonderful. Obviously, we weren't fabulous. We weren't tight. We screwed up a lot. We won't be going on tour any time soon, earning zillions of $$ from adoring fans. But we were pretty damned good for a gang of near-strangers who had negligible practice together. Most significantly, we were good enough for rock 'n' roll and we, AND THE CROWD, had FUN. Marc didn't get to play with us because of family demands. Being unschoolers we all understood that but I wish he'd been able to. He plugged in and started to tune up but then he was called away. Maybe next time! Ginger did get to join us for one song as she sang lead on "Walkin' on Sunshine."

I love playing with the Greybeards and the Hot Backup Chicks and look forward with vast excitement to future gigs! I'm also grateful for our fantastic FANS. They are the best!

4. My friend Mange and his killer stuttering guitar. (#31 at that link. Edited version reproduced below.)

THE G100

31. Better Half Dozen: I'm Gonna Leave You/I Could Have Loved Her. [Link to "I Coulda" on YouTube. No online version that I know of for "Gonna Leave." I might hafta upload one.] A supreme 2-sided masterpiece which has everything. The A-side is a monster punker with frantic organ, basic pounding drums and a ridiculously effective stuttering guitar [Emphasis added] solo. The B-side combines a memorable haunting chorus with upbeat pop sensibilities, and more frantic organ and killer guitar [Emphasis added]... Hear both killer tracks on Sixties Archives 5: Louisiana Punk Groups from the 60s.

Mange is my remaining pal from high school and my music compadre. We played together thru the 60s then physically went our separate ways, although we kept in touch over the years. We played a reunion gig once, in '91, then returned again to our separate lives. Mange has just announced that he reactivated his guitars, amps, and accessories from a 10-year dormancy and he has returned to playing. For my part, as I said in #3 above, I've reactivated my musical life by playing with the Greybeards and the Hot Backup Chicks, which has been wonderful. And now I really wanna play another gig, even just ONE, with my old guitar pal Mange.

5. Knowledge. In contrast to bowdlerized and eviscerated school textbooks containing nothing but pablum, I've enjoyed reading serious history books from which I learned the harsh reality of the Pilgrims/Puritans/Separatists and the pogroms against, and wholesale enslavement of, the indigenous peoples of the American continents undertaken by the European powers from 1492 onward and especially the draconian increases in violence against the natives to the level of genocide by the newish government of the United States of America, compared to the more-reasonable interaction of the Northern European nations with the same native peoples prior to the formation of the U.S.A. For an Anglophobe like me, it really sucks to be morally inferior to the fucking British Empire. And, yes, I did specify Northern Europe cuz Spain was always the worst of the worst for enslavement for profit and wanton genocide under the umbrella and in the name of religion. Give Spain that, at least their purposeful, unadulterated evil made the emerging USA's casual genocide look decent and compassionate by comparison.

Speaking of religion, Thanksgiving Day is historically a day to give thanks to some mythical boojum, usually called "god," for giving us this land just like the Tetragrammaton gave Jericho and much of Canaan to Joshua; all Joshua hadda do was exterminate the current inhabitants. I'm happy that I don't believe in any kind of sky-dwelling superbeing, mystical juju, or Western cargo cult. Guess that makes me grateful to be an atheist.

The Pilgrims' legacy: strange fruit.

Me, I'm grateful to have ordinary fruit in a delicious pie with the family as a dessert course after our turkey feast, specifically, homemade, hand-picked blackberry pie luxuriating in grandma's perfect crust. Thanks, Mary!

Vivamus … atque amemus! - Catullus
Let us live and let us love!

Because, really, what else is there?

Golden oldies:
Gratitude #1
Gratitude #2
Gratitude #3
Gratitude #4
Gratitude #5

Friday, November 20, 2009

(Meme)mento mori

Another -ish meme. Hey, I couldn't resist the title.

Choose the sixth picture from the sixth picture folder on your computer and post it.

So, here's mine:

The folder is FrankSail08 and it contains photos from my trip helping my pal Bob deliver his boat from St. Augustine to New Orleans. This shot is from the "test sail" (aka sea trials) just prior to the final purchase paperwork. We spent the day after this running around provisioning the boat. The day after that, we started our 1200-mile sail.

Great memories.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TV show meme

From -ish.

Rules: Bold all of the following TV shows which you’ve ever seen 3 or more episodes of in your lifetime. Italicize a show if you’re positive you’ve seen every episode of it. Add a * for particular favorites

I'm tempted to add a designator for shows I detest or would never bother to watch. Maybe later.

7th Heaven
American Gothic
America’s Next Top Model
Arrested Development
Babylon 5
Batman: The Animated Series
Battlestar Galactica (the old one)
Battlestar Galactica (the new one)

Beverly Hills 90210
Bosom Buddies
Boston Legal
Boy Meets World
Brothers And Sisters
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Chappelle’s Show
Charlie’s Angels
Chicago Hope
Clarissa Explains it All
Commander in Chief
Crossing Jordan

CSI: Miami
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Dark Angel
Dark Skies
DaVinci’s Inquest
Dawson’s Creek
Dead Like Me
Degrassi: The Next Generation
Designing Women
Desperate Housewives
Dharma & Greg
Different Strokes
Doctor Who (original series)
Doctor Who 2005
Due South
Even Stevens
Everybody Loves Raymond
Facts of Life
Family Guy*
Fantasy Island
Fawlty Towers
Freaks and Geeks
Get Smart
Gilligan’s Island
Gilmore Girls
Gossip Girl
Grey’s Anatomy
Grange Hill
Growing Pains
Happy Days
Hercules: the Legendary Journeys
Home Improvement
Homicide: Life on the Street
I Dream of Jeannie
I Love Lucy
Invader Zim
Hell’s Kitchen
Kim Possible
Knight Rider
Knight Rider: 2008
Kung Fu*
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues*

La Femme Nikita
LA Law
Laverne and Shirley
Law and Order: SVU

Life on Mars (UK)
Life on Mars (US)
Little House on the Prairie
Lizzie McGuire
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Lost in Space
Malcolm in the Middle
Married… With Children
McLeods Daughters
Melrose Place
Miami Vice
Mission: Impossible*
Mod Squad
Mork & Mindy
Murphy Brown*
Mystery Science Theater 3000*
My Life As A Dog
My So Called Life
My Three Sons
My Two Dads
Ned Bigby’s Declassified School Survival Guide
Northern Exposure
One Tree Hill
Perry Mason
Power Rangers
Press Gang
Prison Break
Private Practice
Project Runway
Pushing Daisies*
Quantum Leap*

Queer As Folk (US)
Queer as Folk (UK)
Remington Steele
Rescue Me*
Road Rules
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Seaquest DSV
Sex and the City
Six Feet Under
Slings and Arrows
So Weird
South of Nowhere
South Park*
Spongebob Squarepants
Star Trek*
Star Trek: The Next Generation*

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Star Trek: Voyager
Star Trek: Enterprise

Stargate Atlantis
Stargate SG-1*
Starsky & Hutch
Superman (For me, the original series from the 50s)
Teen Titans
That 70’s Show
That’s So Raven
The 4400
The Addams Family
The Amazing Race
The Andy Griffith Show
The A-Team
The Avengers*
The Beverly Hillbillies
The Brady Bunch
The Cosby Show
The Daily Show*
The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd
The Dead Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
The Flintstones
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
The Golden Girls
The Honeymooners
The Jeffersons
The Jetsons
The L Word
The Love Boat*
The Magnificent Seven
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Monkees
The Munsters

The Office (US)
The Office (UK)
The Powerpuff Girls
The Pretender
The Real World
The Shield
The Simpsons
The Six Million Dollar Man

The Sopranos
The Suite Life of Zack and Cody
The Twilight Zone*
The Waltons
The West Wing
The Wonder Years
The X-Files*
Third Watch
Three’s Company
Twin Peaks
Twitch City
True Blood
Ugly Betty
Veronica Mars
Whose Line is it Anyway? (US)*
Whose Line is it Anyway? (UK)*

Will and Grace
Xena: Warrior Princess

Share the gratitude #5

Unlike my last coupla gratitude posts which were long and thematic, this one is gonna be short and stochastic. Kinda like me. Stochastic, not sarcastic! This is gratitude time not grumpy time. I'll be short and sarcastic tomorrow. Maybe. Everything is possible.

Oh, and I promised/threatened that this post would be spicy because the last post featured no colorful language, unlike my usual writing style. So, because I keep my promises: Shit, fuck, piss, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits. Now that's colorful language! With gratitude to George Carlin, R.I.P.

I'm grateful for:

1. Our unschooling tribe. From our very first interactions, our fellow unschoolers welcomed us and accepted us and made us part of their group, seemingly instantly. That's something I had never experienced in my previous half-century of life. I love my tribe of unschoolers and I'm grateful for the love and support and friendship they provide.

2. Mambo #5, in honor of this being Gratitude #5 and symbolic of music in general. Music has always been an important part of my life. I love music. It has charms to soothe my savage breast.

3. Johannes Gutenberg. He made the mass production of books possible, bringing information to all the people, not just the elite. When I was a child, books brought the world to me: The physical world, in books describing distant lands. The intellectual world, in books by great minds from the invention of writing til the present. All the various universes of the human condition, as if they were spoken directly to me by the original experiencer. Books are a huge part of my life.

4., with a nod to Some folks used to use me as a fact-checking resource. Sometimes I could give them a satisfactory answer in a few minutes but sometimes it took me hours to marshal the history, facts, and arguments to explain their conundrum to their satisfaction. With the advent of snopes, most of the time my response effort was reduced to a few seconds of search followed by a copy-and-paste in a return email. Voila! The smart ones even figured out that they could use snopes themselves without bothering to send the material to me first. Hooray! Although I do confess that I once sat and did some figuring and it turns out that Bill Gates actually did pay me circa $5 for each and every email I sent (while I was working at Microsoft). Context is important for facts. The "money for emailing" idiocy is debunked here.

5. Last, but certainly not least, and because this is the spicy gratitude post, I'm grateful for Hot Dinosaur Sex because, let's face it, who isn't?

You know they're about to have some!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Armistice Day

Until I was in school, this holiday was Armistice Day, legally defined as "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'." [Emphasis added] It was changed to "Veterans Day" about the same time that religious ideologues crammed the words "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance and subverted "E pluribus unum" into "In God we trust." We could argue as to whether those are sensible (and Constitutionally acceptable) changes. You can guess my position.

Today I celebrate Armistice Day because IMO, unfortunately, "Veterans Day" has become something of a rallying cry for jingoists. I am a patriot but absolutely not a jingoist.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Share the gratitude #4

I love the warm, tropical sun. I am a son of the sun. No matter what name he goes by - Re, Helios, Apollo - he is eternally Father Fusion, endlessly ejaculating his life-giving photons onto the fertile ovum of our earth. Well, technically he's only got another 5 billion years or so during which he'll still be useful to us and then an additional 5 or so in a prolonged senescence before he fades into death as a black dwarf; but that's close enough to "endless" in human terms, as far as I'm concerned. I do so love Phoebus and the bright day he brings.

However, I am also a child of Selene, Artemis, Diana. Luna is my lambent mother, empress of the night, torn from Gaia by Theia's assault and flung into the void. Of Gaia but no longer with Gaia, she circles us endlessly, one face forever fixed on ours in desperate longing, her desire to reunite unfulfilled despite the mutual maternal attraction, doomed to increasing separation as she constantly recedes, propelled by Theia's collision, inching farther from us with each passing year even as Terra herself slows the frantic pace of her simulation of a sidereal driedel. Sometimes even Big G, one of Science's premier gods, is insufficiently powerful to resolve a separation problem. The Moon's average orbital distance currently increases by about 1-1/2 inches per year but that figure isn't static, it will ameliorate with large values of delta-T; and Earth's angular acceleration (rotation speed, if you insist) decreases by about 20 millionths of a second every year. Selene sails dolorous and alone in her Science-imposed orbit, comforted by the enfolding embrace of Ur-mother Nyx. Much as I love the realm of Re, I also crave the respite of the beatific calm when Nyx is sovereign, from Erebus' first shadows to the lengthening rosy fingers of Eos. Night, day's perfect complement.

Therefore, my theme for this gratitude post is night and here are five specific instances of night for which I'm grateful, each introduced by an appropriate [hopefully!] line from various poets you might wanna check out if you're interested in that sorta thing. One instance is on foot, one is in the car, one is under the ocean, one is on the ocean, and one is in the sky. I'll begin and end with the ocean, not one of the arbitrary, multiple, individual, discrete oceans created and restrained by our modern, highly-accurate, technologically-derived cartography, but the One True Ocean, the world-girdling pool of heaven's tears, which is singular - Panthalassa.

I'm grateful for:

1. Night light
Nox mihi prima venit! Primae da tempora nocti! - Publius Ovidius Naso (Ovid)
(My first night has arrived! Give me more time on this first night!)

For our honeymoon, Ronnie and I chartered a sailboat out of St. Martin, French West Indies. One night we were anchored off the uninhabited island of Tintamarre where, after a lovely dinner, the two of us sat in the cockpit, alone with the universe, the shimmering black-velvet bowl of the sky inverted above us, coruscating with stellar luminescence and the bold swath of the Milky Way. That was beautiful enough in and of itself but as the night progressed we were treated to a spectacular demonstration by Iupiter Elicius who filled the full 360-degree horizon with towering thunderheads until we were surrounded by a 40,000-foot wall of roiling caliginosity while there remained above us a small, central opening through which the stars still shone.

We watched for hours, seeing frequent, random lighting bolts and sheets illuminate the umbra encircling us. Single, brilliant spears which briefly spotlighted but a few degrees of our horizon from sea to stars. Magnificent immense sheets of discharge which lit layers thousands of feet in altitude and tens of degrees of horizontal arc. It was an incredible display of power and beauty. I half expected to see Cthulhu appear above us in the rift; but we weren't in a horror story, it was (and still is!) a love story, so we reclined in our cockpit, dry, comfortable, and awe-struck (but not attacked by mythical monstrosities), as nature's theater-in-the-round put on a lightshow just for us while Panthalassa gently rocked us into the succoring embrace of Hypnos and his son Morpheus.

As wonderful as that was, I'm grateful that it was Aphrodite and Eros who reigned in our cockpit that night rather than Iupiter Pluvius raining in it.

2. Night flight
O come with me into this moonlight world. - Lloyd Frankenberg

Flying is a recurring theme in my life. I love to fly, to be alone in the middle of the sky, like an ancient god, soaring above the plebian world. And night flying… well, it's just the palate-pleasing frosting (in the context of flying, I try to avoid the word "icing") on the already-sublime gateau au marrons of flying. On this particular night, I was winging back from Port Angeles on Washington's Olympic Peninsula for a landing at Paine Field in Everett, feeling like the embodiment of Beryl Markham's West with the Night. For those of you who are inclined to be prosaically precise, I was technically heading East but work with me here, ok? It's a literary conceit.

I flew along the coast at 8,000 feet and conditions were the night version of CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited), the silky dark cloak of the sky tattered by stars and lighted by a brilliant full moon. On my right, the glaciers of the Olympic range glowed and undulated in the silver moonlight, in stark contrast to the profound, stygian depths of the shadowed valleys, the purity of the scene scarcely disturbed by sparse clusters of artificial, manmade light. On my left, the Strait of Juan de Fuca glimmered and glittered, heaving in constant motion under Selene's glow, seeming to me a living beast, breathing deeply and slowly, rolling restlessly, biding its time, gathering its strength for the morning's waking. Hungry.

Then, there's crackle of the radio in my headphones and a remote voice is asking my intentions. There ahead is the bluff on which sits Paine Field. Geometric. Brave with plentiful artificial light. So thoroughly lighted in fact, that it even features a centerline strip of lights on the runway, making night landings child's play. Darkness banished. Humanity triumphant over the old gods who lurk at the edges of shadows, faded but not wholly gone. And I'm reducing power, descending, and returning to the world of Man. Straight lines, logic, engineering, and grandiose imitations of daylight imposed on the amorphous, organic messiness of unconstrained Nature and her dark span. Soon I'm pulling the yoke back into my belly and my wheels are squeaking their protest as unforgiving gravity and friction have their way, grabbing at us, reclaiming us, as that glowing centerline light strip, initially speeding beneath my wheels, slows, then stops. We're back. Grounded. My metal Pegasus and I brought down by my own volition. For now.

I'm grateful for the time I had with the night, the sky, and Mother Luna and long to return again to their company.

3. Night showers for hours
We lay on a hill-top underneath the moon. - Edna St. Vincent Millay

Bob, mon vieux, sometimes known as the dread Cap'n Blacktoes, is my age. For his, and my, 40th birthday, he came to Seattle to visit me for an adventure vacation as a common birthday celebration. This was August 1988. One of our planned activities was a climb of Mount Rainier with some friends who'd been on the 1984 Ultima Thule Everest expedition. It's always good to do dangerous things with highly skilled people. We chose an approach from the Sunrise area.

After a long day of uphill work, we camped for the night at altitude. It was a fine, clear night and we were on the side of the mountain opposite any potential city light pollution so the night sky was really lovely. We unrolled our Therm-a-Rests, fitted our sleepingbags into our bivisacks, and crawled in, hoping for some restful sleep to energize ourselves for the summit assault the next day at oh-dark-thirty.

Unfortunately, we'd forgotten that it was the time of the Perseid meteor shower. Well, only "unfortunately" in the sense of trying to get some solid, consistent sleep. We lay there in our bags, staring up at the sky as firetrail after firetrail burned across the heavens. Dim, short, brief ones. Lightning-bright, long, lingering ones. Every kind inbetween. Physical exhaustion and the high-altitude thin air conspired to make us sleepy but the sky was so magnificent that we tried desperately to stay awake in order to enjoy the ethereal beauty, time and again finding ourselves startling back to wakefulness after nodding off.

It was the most exquisite display the night sky has ever shown me.

4. Night drive
I have been one acquainted with the night. - Robert Frost

I love driving at night, the knowable world reduced to the coverage of my headlights. I especially love zooming along on a deserted desert freeway, feeling like my speed could be measure in warp factors rather than mere mph, the undiscovered highway ahead suddenly appearing in the leading edge of the headlights as if I were playing a videogame on the windshield, the starkly beautiful landscape floating past on the periphery as if it were moving and I were standing still in my own personal pocket of spacetime as the quintessential observer creating the scene by the act of observing it, and that delicious, tingly fantasy of being the star of my very own post-apocalyptic reality/movie.

Zombies optional. (But, yeah, I want 'em in mine! With a drum-fed 8 gauge shotgun on the rack beside me and a couple of my favorite katanas to hand! Heads up and heads off! We're gonna party all night! Of course I'm wearing my body armor; I never go anywhere without it.)

I am a tachyon in and of the dark, nestled snugly in my climate-controlled bubble, both isolated from and, simultaneously, congruent with the external obsidian world, summoning Hecate from her chthonic realm to open the gate between my individuality and the vast, all-encompassing ebony surrounding me. Achieving oneness, I soar.

It's even better on a motorcycle.

5. Night dive
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear. - William Shakespeare

Before we were married-with-children SITCOMs, Ronnie and I were Microsoft DINKs and one of our earliest adventures together was a SCUBA vacation to Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean. It was an idyllic time. Every morning the dive boat would pick us up on our condo's beach, take us out for two dives, and return us for a dilatory dejeuner. Fabuleux! In the afternoons we were free to dive more or go exploring/sightseeing or maybe just sit around the pool or beach relaxing. It was a completely delightful time but the apogee of that adventure was our night dive.

Some people fear the dark. Some fear the ocean. I love both; but for those who fear both, what follows probably seems more like a horror story than one of the most beautiful scenes one could possibly experience. For us, it was incomparable.

A handful of us boarded the dive boat after dark and we headed out into the night. We departed from the West side of Grand Cayman, a seven-mile-long beach crowded cheek-by-jowl with hotels and condos but when you turned your back to the bustle of the shore you saw the endless, empty ocean above the Cayman Trench, the deepest spot in the Caribbean Sea dropping precipitously more than 25,000 feet. Above us in the night sky, the full moon did indeed sit like a lustrous pearl suspended from the ear and resting on the cheek of a child of Cepheus, her light seeming to run straight to the boat from the place beneath her on the horizon, a phosphorescent highway to the stars.

We arrived at the dive site and busied ourselves with donning SCUBA gear plus a flashlight or two each and Cyalumes per individual taste. Some timorous souls carried Monk-approved redundant backups to their primary backup divelights and festooned themselves with Cyalumes like chemoluminescent Christmas trees. Ronnie and I each snugged our flashlight's wrist lanyard and tied a sole Cyalume to our tanks. Preparations done, we stepped to the edge of the boat and dropped in.

The surface of the ocean, which had seemed viscous when viewed from the diveboat deck, parted gently, welcoming us into its amniotic embrace. The reef lay about fifty feet below us and was visible in the ambient moonlight as was the dim silhouette of an 80ish–foot shipwreck resting nearby on the sand. We descended, eschewing the artificial brilliance of our flashlights. Looking up from near the bottom, the moon was clearly visible, if somewhat distorted and wiggly, evoking for me thoughts of wiggly spacetime and my place in a 10-dimensional universe. Sigh! Note to self: Once in a while, close down your brain and open up your heart. Ok, now I'm ready to experience this experience.

We spent a congenial hour exploring this submarine world. The reef's diurnal denizens were absent, hiding in crevices, wrapped in mucous cocoons, etc. and the night crew were about their shadowy business. Life in its myriad forms, evolutionarily abundant. Inside the nocturnal shipwreck we drifted among half-seen piscatorial presences and communed with a ghost moray eel who emerged to welcome us.

All too soon it was time to ascend to the surface and return to our condo to wrap up in our own air-conditioned cocoon of sheets and dreams, and in my dreams I could hear Panthalassa's lullaby. Through the eons she has continuously crooned a canticle of endless enticement. She abides, eternal. She is patient. So is the night.

And I'm grateful.

And the poem made from the headings… ok, more doggerel than genuine poem, nonetheless, here 'tis:

Grateful for the Night

Night light,
Night flight.
Night showers for hours.
Night drive,
Night dive.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Cartoon cascade

The cartoon Ronnie found which she said reminded her of me may have started an avalanche. My friend Stephanie sent me this:

There's no getting over the singularity flu, baby!
Unless you've been inoculated. (wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

Ohm my gawd!

Ronnie sez this cartoon reminds her of me.

I love xkcd and I guess it does kinda evoke my core persona.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Share the gratitude #3

This is my silver-lining-themed post because it seems that wonderful things often emerge from terrible things. I'm grateful (in retrospect, and in retrospect only) for the following five fonts of foetid feces "of which vertu engendred is the fleur," as Chaucer declared six hundred years and a Great Vowel Shift ago. Here are five of my experiences with growing flowers from shit.

I am grateful for:

1. Bullies.
My dad fought in WWII in the Pacific Theater and was even awarded a Bronze Star but he was a fervent Catholic so when he returned home after the war he chose the path of "ain't gonna study war no more" and my early upbringing included the maxim that fighting is a sin and we, meaning me, do NOT fight. The neighborhood bully quickly learned that I was a perfect target because I would not fight back and I soon became his favorite punching bag. This went on for quite a while and, in case you didn't realize it, this is the shitty part of the story. I did not enjoy those times but I endured them because "fighting is a sin" and sin buys you a ticket straight to Hell. At that time I believed in Hell and definitely had no interest in going there.

My folks rarely fought but this situation caused one of those occasions. The ultimate result was that my mom told my dad, "You teach him to fight or I will!" (My mom was also a devout Catholic but, unlike my dad, she was a badass Catholic. She did not embrace "Turn the other cheek!" as much as she did "Let one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one!") Dad, as usual, gave in.

Most of my fighting instruction from my dad consisted of a long discussion about how it was ok to defend yourself, but only defend yourself and only when attacked. But he did change "fighting is a sin" into "defending yourself is ok." Thank you, Jesus! That was enough for me. My very next encounter with the neighborhood bully changed the course of my life. From then on I knew intuitively that not only is it ok to defend against bullies but also that it's vital for yourself and for your society to resist them. Instead of looking ahead to decades of being bullied physically, mentally, and socially, I could now look ahead to a life in which I had the final say. To this day, bullying is one of the things which really gets my blood pressure boiling. I will not put up with it. No one should have to. A crucial life lesson I'm grateful for.

2. The Jesuits and the U. S. Marines.
Those who know me have previously heard me piss and moan about my prep school experience at some length so I'll keep it brief here. It was a hellish time and just about the worst environment I can imagine for a teenage boy. It destroyed any tiny progress I'd been making in the context of learning how to function in society. It was institutionalized bullying which drained me completely as I fought it for five endless years but my earlier experience and intuition about bullying gave me the strength to endure and resist to the best of my ability.

Thus, eventually, from the profound depths of that adamantine coprolite, I ultimately emerged with the sublime flower of an intellect sharpened, focused, and broadened by a nonpareil education. Whatever else you say about 'em, and I could say plenty, the Jesuits give good education. Oh yeah, and the Marine component helped to distill my position as a(n imperfect) pacifist. I'm grateful for those lovely blooms.

3. Disneyworld.
Ronnie and I reached the nadir of our relationship at Disneyworld in '96. Without going into dreadful detail, it was a culmination of a lotta stress and conflict which reached a head at the shittiest place on earth. What flower could possibly bloom from such mephitic maleficence? The best flower of all, of course.

We worked together to address our difficulties. The realization that we could do such a thing and that we were both committed to doing whatever it took to be together was perhaps the greatest revelation a couple can ever have. It was the New Testament's "pearl of great price" in flower form, a blossom of august beauty which, if it were an actual physical perianth, would no doubt be Tyrian purple.

4. Our Zombie Princess (mis)adventures.
On the face of it, our Zombie Princess adventure was horrible. We spent scads of money. We spent gigajoules of physical effort, maybe terajoules. Ever done fiberglass work in the deep lazarette of a boat in New Orleans in August? Yeah, terajoules. We spent the coin of emotional attachment profligately, cutting ties with friends and family to head out to sea "for a while." The result of all that promiscuous expenditure?

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in New Orleans, plus life in New Orleans post-Katrina. A terrible crossing of the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans to Florida, a couple of days of which comprised the worst time I've ever had sailing. Reaching the Florida Keys only to be set upon by Hurricane Wilma. Ultimately, a final decision to return home for Christmas, instead of pushing on to the Lesser Antilles. All very sad, no?

In retrospect, no. Not completely. It's still a somewhat sad memory for me, but some lovely flowers bloomed from that particular poop patty. From that seemingly shitty experience, which was nowhere close to our intended idyllic Caribbean cruise, we emerged as a family which could work together, face adversity at a significant level, and emerge triumphant. We bonded under circumstances which were harsher and more threatening than most families ever have the opportunity to face together and we overcame them. My wife and children demonstrated the extensive depth and breadth of their inner strength. That's a wonderful thing to see and experience.

5. Chronic depression.
I have a long history of clinical depression. This is another story where I won't bore you with a lotta details but Ronnie has had to put up with a pathetic, self-loathing vegetable more than once, and for somewhat lengthy periods, in our history together. Shitty for me, shitty for her, shitty for the kids.

The felicitous flower emanating from this particular fecal fen is that in growing past and recovering from my depression (Make no mistake, my family is what made that happen.), I have an intense appreciation for the happiness I have with my sweet family. The contrast between the vale of my depression and the pinnacle of my happiness is astonishing and it makes this particular flower the biggest of them all.

So, out of curiosity, I Googled for the biggest flower in the world. It turns out that there's some mild disagreement about that. The Rafflesia arnoldii and Amorphophallus titanum are the contenders and both are commonly referred to as the "corpse flower" because they smell like… well, take a wild guess. The Amorphophallus titanum (Remember your Greek roots and take another wild guess as to what that means.) has the largest unbranched inflorescence but the Rafflesia has the largest (single) flower.

Given that we're talking about me, I'm gonna ignore the specificity of Rafflesia being the biggest single flower cuz I really wanna be analogous to a flower called "huge shapeless dick" (Amorphophallus titanum) which smells like a corpse. That's my kinda flower!

I'm grateful to be the human Amorphophallus titanum of happiness.

The preternaturally prominent Amorphophallus titanum