September 29, 2009

coming attraction

...and yet stay tuned for when, in late October, I travel to mysterious faraway locales to bring peace and reconciliation to a strife-torn world.

All I'm saying about it now is that taking malaria pills is cool if you don't have the actual malaria.


September 28, 2009

I have a feeling I won't be posting till later in the week. It's entirely a matter of workload. I spend all day at the computer or looking at print, and banging away at a keyboard for money. When it gets excessive I have to find something else to look at.


September 25, 2009

"The walls were decorated with a New York subway map and a Buddhist bead necklace."

New York's Little Bhutan consists of one apartment building on University Avenue in the Bronx, named for the old Bronx campus of NYU where my Uncle Lenny went to college, not far from my grandparents' old building.

I usually don't post topical reports or link to the news, but this one gets to me. Notice the link to one of the residents' blogs.


September 24, 2009

crumpled form, mysterious sauce, pussycat rug

1. Under a bed, a crumpled blank discarded yellow form: “All Students Must Have This Signed by Parent or Guardian Immediately.”

2. On the midline of the road, a plastic bag with “Have a Nice Day” and a yellow smiley face; inside is a styrofoam to-go box from which leaks a brown sauce.

3. In the street, an orange cat lies fully stretched, motionless. There’s no blood or other signs of violence, but the cat is flattened, thinned out, as if it were a cat rug. Is this truly okay with me? Is it okay that it will happen to me?

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September 20, 2009

pebble ear, wrapped tree, untasted delights

1. According to the medical websites, putting objects in one’s ears is a characteristic of small children and the intellectually challenged. However, I know a highly intelligent adult –- you don’t know the fellow or gal –- who put a pebble in his or her ear the other night and hasn’t removed it yet.

2. Hula hoops hanging from a chinaberry; a locked door standing alone halfway down the path from the curb to the house; a dead tree trunk wrapped in white paper painted to have frizzy black hair, goo-goo eyes, and red lipstick, the two main branches turned into upflung white arms –- these things remind us that we’re in the bobo sub-art capital of the southwest.

3. Every Friday I hope to get the half-chicken special at Pok-e-Jo’s barbecue, which can serve me for two meals, but every Friday I either have something more important to do, or forget because I’m focused on work. I must learn to treat myself better –- as people are always telling me.

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September 17, 2009

the cruelest wish, existing just for me, night car wind

1. Someone I dislike –- he hurt a friend of mine – just opened his second restaurant here in town, and it’s hopping with customers, even more than his first. I hope he gets everything he desires. That’ll teach him.

2. She’s sitting on the curb of the main thoroughfare in the darkness, where any car drifting too much to the right could chop her legs off. I say “she” but that’s only my best guess; this human figure is tall and stout with cropped hair, dark shorts, and pudgy legs with double folds at the knee. Under the bus stop sign with its route map, she’s stretching up to look down the road to see if the bus is coming, and checking the cell phone which she holds closed in her hand, as if insisting on two simultaneous arrivals of providence. It’s hard for me to bear in mind that she wasn’t put there solely for my appreciation.

3. Sailing home with the breeze in my hair, my left hand sliding along the top ledge of the open window. There’s no other traffic, and I’m humming a song though the radio isn’t on; I’m smiling at the trees in the park as I drive past, my glance lingering to notice the friendly details of hills, volleyball court, construction site. Steering the curves with small practiced movements of one hand, which has maneuvered through this stretch of road hundreds of times, I think, This is what it feels like seconds before a fatal accident.

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September 15, 2009

Love, Withheld and Otherwise

Today seems to be my day for links to columnists. It's because I'm juggling three freelance assignments at once and am resorting to hit-and-run posts.

Alfie Kohn
is a respected and influential somewhat radical scholar on education and children. I agree with what he says here as a utopian ideal; in practice I find it extremely difficult to live up to. Too often, one feels unconditional love but its outer expression looks conditional in response to the apparent demands of social life.

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Hi-Five Nation

September 14, 2009

The Least Justifiable Remake in Hollywood History Is...

Total Recall, currently being developed by Columbia Pictures, although the original version is less than 20 years old, hasn't become dated, and contains thrilling effects and memorable performances, including the first widely noticed one of Sharon Stone's career.

I'm pleased to say that fans are already condemning, reviling, execrating, and opprobriating the remake, and that one of them points out the irony of the production company's name: Original Films.

If only Philip K. Dick were still alive to haul in the cash, and perhaps to write a story about a man who discovers that everything he touches becomes a remake of itself.

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September 12, 2009

Thirteen Ways to Kill a Mockingbird

Agent 97 began seventh grade recently, and I asked him whether his English class was reading anything good. Yes, he told me, there was a poem he liked:

“’Thirteen Ways –- ‘” He twists his mouth to remember. “’Thirteen Ways to Kill a Mockingbird.’”

“Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is the highest-brow poem middle-schoolers can enjoy, and To Kill a Mockingbird is good-tasting cherry-flavored medicine, but “Thirteen Ways to Kill a Mockingbird” –- now there’s some practical reading.

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September 10, 2009

A Whole Foods Triptych

1. The 80,000-square-foot Whole Foods flagship store on Sixth and Lamar now offers a Premium Salt and Pepper Bar, where you can dip your scoop into eighteen bins containing the world’s finest varieties of whole peppercorns and crystal salts. Alas, no Morton’s! Regrettably, because of the local ordinance prohibiting anyone not beautiful and hip from entering the store, I was not able to sample the salt and pepper myself, but had to be satisfied with a report from an emissary.

2. There’s a crush of people at a counter. Is it free samples of organic barbecue beef brisket, or pecan-crusted sea bass with remoulade sauce, or fudge nut cookies? No, it’s twenty-five Japanese supermarket professionals, men and women wearing translator headsets, snapping their camera shutters (despite the rule that you can’t take pictures inside the store (this is a genuine rule, not like the one in #1)) to memorialize the thirteen themed cafés, the dry-aging room for sides of grass-fed beef, the walk-in room-sized beer refrigerator, the fountain of liquid chocolate for strawberry-dipping, etc. etc. etc. They will bring the wisdom of the most advanced Occidental food purveyorship back to the Orient with them, and push it into the 2010's with the most unearthly, horrifying cuteness.

3. A carton of a dozen eggs ($6.99) from Massage Ranch, where the most unconstrained, freest-living pullets in Texas graze intensively in multiple-species pastures in accordance with the Salatin model, bears the sticker, “Laid 8/27.” Lucky eggs!

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September 08, 2009

The Mantra

The mantra of early 21st century America: “He’s such a great guy, but he’s not a great guy for me. He’s a great guy for someone else.” Some add sorrowfully, “It’s so hard when you really love a person.”

You hear it everywhere: on streetcorners, in bars, at the next table in a restaurant, by the racks at the discount clothing outlet… Imagine a nation of people too wonderful to be right for each other!

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September 07, 2009

The Falseness of Dreams

I’m a kid applying to college, and as an admissions test I have to pitch a baseball game, after which the opposing batters will be asked whether they want me at their school. I strike them out and make them pop up, but as a result they don’t want me to see me again. It’s not fair! Because of my gifts, I end up going to a worse college than my brothers and friends.

This dream seems to me false in every respect. There are the obvious fictions: I wasn’t a star athlete, didn’t go to a worse college than my brothers. But there’s also the dishonesty of attitude: Look at me, the world’s against me, they hate me, they envy me, I’ve missed my destiny! A pile of crap that I’ve been telling myself for years. Immediately on waking, I recognize it as such. Did I dream it to disprove it?

After a lifetime looking to my dreams as doorways to my true self, this dream came to me to show the falseness of dreams.


September 06, 2009

leaf impressions, quack not clack, Great Pyrenees

1. At the newly landscaped pond at the multi-use development, the designers imprinted leaves and grasses into the wet cement so that the impressions dried in. Not until after I drive off do I wonder whether they took real plants from the surrounding fields, or used ready-made stamps. Oh no, how will I know whether I’m allowed to like it or not?

2. A nearby clacking: at first I think it’s my phone mischievously taking snapshots inside my pocket, but it’s a pair of quacking waterbirds at the edge of the pond, small and black with off-white bills, quick-paddling this way and that through the grass and algae and dipping for munchables, and followed by three fuzzy chicks with red bills who wonder, “What’s next?”

3. The dogs are out, their masters putting on or taking off their leashes. From the other side of the pond I’m planning what I’m going to say to the leash-removers if I command myself not to chicken out. But by the time we’re all on the same side of the pond it’s occurred to me that these people may know how to handle their animals –- canine-human pairs stop on the path to greet one another and separate with no horrible consequences -- and that the only unpeaceful things in the scene are my own judgments. In a wild departure, I smile at one of the dog owners and ask him what breed his big beautiful dog is: it’s a Great Pyrenees.

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September 04, 2009

valuable hair, umbrella man, sleek legs

1. Toweling dry, one of my hairs lands on the rim of the bathtub curled in the shape of the tai chi (ak/a yin yang sign). Should I sell it on eBay?

2. A cloudy day at last; a man walks down the street carrying a folded umbrella. A welcome portent of rain, or is he just a doofus?

3. Few epiphanies are sexier than that constituted by a blonde in a business suit and heels striding down the sidewalk sipping from a takeout container of coffee.

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September 02, 2009

rabbits are back, additional tax, gifted apprentice

1. For months the sign at Long Horn Meat has said “Rabbits Are Back.” I would have thought the rabbits would have run past by now.

2. I’m working at a café this morning but I forgot to get a receipt for my latte and schnecken. That’s an extra dollar I’ll have to pay in taxes!

3. The art on the walls this week is better than usual for this kind of place. The kid -– it’s undoubtedly an art student – can draw figures, has a sense of how to position the human body to compose within a frame, uses an attractive palette – lots of white, black details, and backgrounds in nuanced shades of warm and cool-– and rarest of all, can paint facial and gestural expressions. Oil/watercolor/marker on paper. There’s a closeup of a young woman tilting her head onto her shoulder, where the head fills the upper right quadrant with white skin, red lips, and black eyebrows, leading the viewer down to the white neck and chest of the lower left: geometric and human equally. It’s hard to tell whether the paintings were done from photographs. The faces are so real, I’d say yes; but the figures’ stances are paintinglike; people don’t usually stand in those attitudes unless posing. Skillful cropping of snapshots could do it. Which in itself requires a fine eye, so it’s not cheating. A future professional, perhaps a book illustrator. I’d buy a piece if I were a bit more sentimental.

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September 01, 2009

just to talk, paying myself the check, cat in bamboo

1. Hearing from two faraway friends before breakfast: one is sending me a gift for a favor I did him, the other has called just to talk, the first time ever without a purpose.

2. Finishing breakfast, I take out my wallet to look for someone’s business card. In mid-motion it transforms into an automatic gesture: paying the check.

3. Outside in the bamboo, a charcoal gray cat rubs from stalk to stalk, belly slung low. When I take one step toward the window to see better, she freezes and looks at me.