Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Sun Also Rises And Gets Eaten By Zombies

Have you heard about the boom on Mizar Five
People got to shop to stay alive

They don’t even have policeman one
Doesn’t matter where you been or what you’ve done

Do you have a dark spot on your past
Leave it to my man he’ll fix it fast

Pepe has a scar from ear to ear
He will make your mug shots disappear

You zombie
Be born again my friend
Won’t you sign in, stranger...

Decades ago there was a whole special category of computer called the dedicated workstation.

These were very powerful machines and they were very expensive. They were computers dedicated to one particular type of work: Some were Lisp workstations designed for research in artificial intelligence. Some were graphics machines dedicated to computer-aided design. Others were specialized for photo processing or typesetting or financial research and many other things. These machines typically had custom designed hardware and custom designed software, with all the design considerations focused on the machine’s one particular work context.

Dedicated workstations cost a lot of money but people who worked on them often loved the experience of operating the machine. And dedicated workstations were so powerful that it took decades for general purpose computers to begin to match their functionality.

Now many people may have never even heard of dedicated workstations.

And the death and disappearance of dedicated workstations began with the introduction of the first inexpensive—relatively inexpensive—workstation from Sun Microsystems.

And now Sun Microsystems has died and will disappear too.

Oracle buys Sun Microsystems in $7.4bn deal

Latest in a string of acquisitions for Larry Ellison is likely to have major implications for the IT industry

Graeme Wearden
Monday 20 April 2009 13.49 BST

Sun Microsystems has agreed to be bought by US tech giant Oracle in a $7.4bn (£5.1bn) deal, just two weeks after takeover talks with IBM fell apart.

Oracle announced today that it will pay $9.50 a share for Sun, making the company the latest in a string of acquisitions for Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison.

Sun's board has unanimously backed the deal, which is likely to have major implications for the IT industry.

Oracle's offer is only slightly more than IBM was proposing to pay. The future of Sun was plunged into uncertainty on 6 April when the IBM talks collapsed.

Oracle, which offers a range of business software including databases, customer relationship management programs and collaboration tools, hopes to conclude the deal by this summer.

"Oracle and Sun have been industry pioneers and close partners for more than 20 years," said Sun chairman Scott McNealy. "This combination is a natural evolution of our relationship and will be an industry-defining event."

Sun, which developed the Java software platform and whose products include Sparc chips, the Solaris operating system and the MySQL open source database, has cut thousands of jobs in recent years as it attempted to reduce costs. Under chief executive Jonathan Schwartz it has pursued an open source strategy, but the company struggled to deliver sufficient revenue growth after the dotcom boom ended.

Some analysts have speculated that Sun could be broken up, with its semiconductor, database and other software arms sold to different players.

Ellison said the deal would allow Oracle to "engineer an integrated system - applications to disk - where all the pieces fit and work together so customers do not have to do it themselves". This, he claimed, would cut costs while improving performance and security.

In recent years, Oracle has also bought Siebel, PeopleSoft - after a long and bitter battle - and BEA Systems.

Oracle said that net of Sun's cash and debt, the deal is valued at $5.6bn.

Sun Microsystems was a hardware company that also created software. That was a common model in the era of dedicated workstations. Sun’s specialty, however, was making workstations that were not dedicated. They were not as powerful as dedicated workstations, but they were adequate. Their software was not as well designed or as powerful or as pleasant as what was available on dedicated workstations, but it was adequate.

Sun Microsystems built its entire business model around undercutting companies selling great products at high prices by selling adequate products at much, much lower prices.

In the business world—which ultimately rules—adequate is almost always enough.

Sun Microsystems, like a zombie, ate entire markets.

But the same market dynamics that Sun used to kill and eat and prosper came back and devoured Sun.

Desktop computers running consumer operating systems aren’t as powerful as Sun workstations. But desktop computers are adequate and—in terms of purchase price, maintenance costs and obsolescence issues—desktop computers are vastly cheaper for businesses to purchase than Sun workstations.

Sun is dead, purchased by a software company, a database company.

Sun is dead, purchased probably on a whim by one of the most extravagant billionaires on the planet, Larry Ellison.

Larry Ellison is so rich that years back when Apple was having problems Ellison speculated that maybe he would buy Apple using his personal money, not his company’s money, and take Apple private. Larry Ellison is so rich that one time a businessman was invited to a party on one of Ellison’s yachts. As the businessman walked from the dock up the gangway to the yacht a sailor greeted him. The businessmen said something like, “Wow. This is the biggest, most beautiful yacht I’ve ever seen.” The sailor said something like, “This is Mr. Ellison’s shuttle boat. We’ll be taking you out to one of Mr. Ellison’s yachts that’s moored off-shore.”

Sun is dead, and its memory will live on just as a vanity project of a whimsical billionaire.

Eat and be eaten.

Karma drives even the business world.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Decision Making And The Bible

“Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.”

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:21-26

Acts 1:21-26 has always struck me as a very interesting passage and I’ve always been surprised I don’t see greater exposition written on it.

At that point Judas is dead and the early Christians saw themselves as fulfilling Scripture by picking a replacement for Judas as was written in Psalm 109:8, ‘Let another take his office.’

How did they go about picking a replacement? It is interesting to look at both what they do and what they don’t do.

We know from Acts 1:15 that Peter had taken up something like a leadership position, ‘And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples.’ But the early Christians did not simply ask Peter who should replace Judas. Surely that is at least intriguing in attempts to bring Catholicism into focus.

They did not attempt to discuss the matter among themselves and achieve a consensus. Nor did the leave the decision to a group of elders or wise men.

The early Christians did four things to pick a replacement for Judas.

They agreed among themselves on criteria. The replacement should be somebody who had already been a disciple at the time Jesus was baptized by John.

They selected two appropriate candidates.

They prayed, stating the issue in concrete terms and placing the issue in the hands of God.

Finally they cast lots to choose between the two candidates they had selected.

Nobody knows exactly what form of “casting lots” the early Christians used. Ancient artifacts for such things include dice, coins, sticks and many other devices. But it certainly was a method of chance used to divine God’s will in that most important of decisions.

It’s pretty amazing and must be shocking to many Christians—and others—that ‘serious’ people would let chance play a significant role in such a key decision.

In part this is Western cultural bias. In Asia today it is very common for businessmen to make million dollar decisions based on I Ching readings.

In part this is pop culture bias. People familiar with the financial world and the consulting scene often speak informally about the role astrology and other divination methods play in modern business. It doesn’t pop up in Businessweek a lot, but it appears to be a real component of the modern world.

But the early Christians did not simply leave the issue to chance.

The early Christians didn’t abdicate the whole process of decision making even though they did, ultimately, look to chance to play a part.

They discussed the issue among themselves and agreed on a framework for an answer—the replacement for Judas must be an early disciple.

They created a partial answer themselves—they selected two candidates everyone agreed fit their needs.

They prayed, stating the issue clearly among themselves. And the prayer—for people who believe in God—states the issue clearly for God as well.

Then they cast lots. Only after they did quite a bit of work did they look to chance to sort out the issue.

That’s an interesting sequence, whether it is interpreted in a secular light by people attempting to work through the material world, or by religious or New Age people attempting to co-exist in a cosmos of humans, angels and a God (or gods).

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I’ve written briefly on this before: Chance And God

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pyramids In Marigold Space

Meanwhile in marigold space
the pretty yellow flowers
have become busy building
pyramids of cut granite.

I have no idea how
the pretty yellow flowers
quarry and cut the granite
or transport the building stones
or assemble the large blocks.
I have no idea how
the pretty yellow flowers
first grind then polish the sides
of the pyramids until
the granite’s natural grain
and color shine in the sun
as if the huge constructions
were single massive gemstones.

I want to cry. I do cry.
I like understanding things.
I have this fear, this terror,
I never will understand
marigold space pyramids.

I wish—Christ!—Paris Hilton
would hold me and whisper things
and then just in that moment
I would understand about
the strange granite pyramids
the pretty yellow flowers
polish in marigold space.

To feel her arms around me,
to hear her soft whispering,
to understand her warm words,
to live just in that moment,

like when I was ten years old
in my front yard planting seeds
that soon enough would grow up
as beautiful marigolds.

The pretty yellow flowers
have become busy building
pyramids of cut granite.

I don’t want Paris Hilton
to love me but if I write
something very, very cool
will Paris Hilton tell me
what the fuck is going on
with the granite pyramids
in marigold space built by
the pretty yellow flowers?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Beautiful Music

There are people who hear music when no music is playing.

Because music is sometimes an illusion to some people does that mean music is always an illusion to everyone?

Does it mean the experience of an illusion can present consciousness with something indistinguishable by consciousness from the nuts-and-bolts reality outside us all?


“It’s pretty, isn’t it?” she asks.

I ask, “Isn’t what pretty?”

“That music,” she says. “Someone must have a radio on. It’s amazing anyone is listening to orchestral music these days.”

She is gentle and smart and beautiful and I love her.

I hear only wind and traffic and somewhere in the distance a train.

She is gentle and smart and beautiful and I love her.

She lives in a world my telescopes can’t see, my computer programs can’t approximate, my thinking and writing and drawing and love can never share.

I say, “It’s beautiful music.”

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Watching Women Run

A woman I used to know—hi Jamie!—
often started her work day by running
from her car to the building where she worked.

I never saw her fall. But just watching
her run across the concrete made my heart
race because I was afraid she might fall.

I wonder if that was like exercise?
Was that a kind of cardio workout?
Did watching Jamie run make me healthy?

If being fearful a woman might fall
were an exercise, a weird kind of sport,
I’d be a gold medal Olympic champ.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill”

Climbing up on Solsbury Hill
I could see the city light
Wind was blowing, time stood still
Eagle flew out in the night

He was something to observe
Came in close, I heard a voice
Standing stretching every nerve
I had to listen had no choice

I did not believe the information
Just had to trust imagination

My heart was going boom, boom, boom

Son, he said, grab your things,
I’ve come to take you home

To keeping silence I resigned
My friends would think I was a nut
Turning water into wine
Open doors would soon be shut

So I went from day to day
Thought my life was in a rut
Till I thought of what I’d say
Which connection I should cut

I was feeling part of the scenery
I walked right out of the machinery

My heart was going boom, boom, boom

Hey, he said, grab your things,
I’ve come to take you home

When illusion spins her net
I’m never where I want to be
And liberty, she pirouettes
When I think that I am free

Watched by empty silhouettes
Who close their eyes, but still can see
No one taught them etiquette
I will show another me

Today I don’t need a replacement
I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant

My heart is going boom, boom, boom

Hey, I say, you can keep my things
They’ve come to take me home

Take me home

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tell The Meek: No, Not Yet

I used to wear a pair
of rainbow suspenders.

From ‘Mork & Mindy’ days.

I had stuck lapel pins
in the left suspender.

Apple computer pins.

Various turtle pins.

An ‘I Found It’ button.

And a guy fending off
a five-pointed star pin—
from Rush, ‘2112.’

I’ve kept the Apple pins.

Thrown out the suspenders.

Thrown out the other pins.

But I gave the Rush pin
to a woman Rush fan.

The meek might inherit
the Earth, but cool people
are still having fun here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yawn. Oh. Special Effects. Yawn.

People these days don’t pay much attention
to big or small budget special effects.
Actors flying, a rampaging T-Rex—
No one even has to ask the question,

“How’d they do that?” because at the mention
of spaceship chases, impossible wrecks,
the answer’s always the same old suspects,
tech drones tweaking a pixel’s dimension.

The waning Moon is moving toward the Sun.
Next month Jupiter will pass by Neptune.
Right now Mars seems to get chased by Venus.

People these days are too bored for the fun
of effects even with no techie loon
pecking keys. Real stars ask, “Have you seen us?”

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Today is the third full year [!] of me doing Impossible Kisses.

April 17,2006: Impossible Kisses: The Empty Lot Behind My House

April 17, 2007: The Copycat Effect

April 17, 2008: One Degree Of Richard Brautigan

I still haven’t uploaded my novel Impossible Kisses,” which was the main reason I started the blog. (That, and I wanted to impress a beautiful young woman named Ashley [Mischa Barton, Mischa Barton] with my writing skills. She was so impressed she went off and married someone and now is busy living happily ever after.) However, these three years have been wildly more fun and wildly different from anything I ever anticipated.

I have no plans to stop.

(I have no plans to stop, even though this blog is not making me rich. I’ve had AdSense on the blog since the beginning and after three years I’ve earned about $18.)

And since I get to end this anniversary post any way I want, I’m going to sum up these three Impossible Kisses years with these links:

Goldfish And Sea Monsters #1 of 3

Goldfish And Sea Monsters #2 of 3

Goldfish And Sea Monsters #3 of 3

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Love And Kisses On iCarly

SAMANTHA: We can’t let Jake sing on the show.

CARLY: You want him to disappoint Grammy One Foot?

SAMANTHA: You want him to be humiliated in front of the whole world? The boy can’t sing!

CARLY: So? Half the pop stars on the charts can’t sing. They fix their voices with computers or something.

SAMANTHA: Yeah. Too bad we don’t know a computer geek that’ll do anything you ask.


CARLY: Can you fix his voice or not?

FREDDIE: Yes. But I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to help turn “Mr. Awesome” into “Mr. Totally Awesome.”

CARLY: Please?


CARLY: Please?


CARLY: Please?

FREDDIE: If I do, will you kiss me?


FREDDIE: Then no!

CARLY: Aw, come on!

SAMANTHA: I’m going to puke all over both of you!

CARLY: Freddie . . .

FREDDIE: Just one little kiss on the lips.






FREDDIE: Okay. Fine. I’ll do it.

CARLY: Thank you.

“iLike Jake”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Venus In The Morning

Oh, let the sun beat down upon my face
Stars to fill my dreams
I am a traveler of both time and space
To be where I have been
To sit with elders of the gentle race
This world has seldom seen
They talk of days for which they sit and wait
When all will be revealed

Talk and song from tongues of lilting grace
Whose sounds caress my ear
But not a word I heard could I relate
Though the story was quite clear


Oh, pilot of the storm who leaves no trace
Like thoughts inside a dream
Heed the path that led me to that place
Yellow desert stream
My Shangri-La beneath the summer moon
I will return again
Sure as the dust that floats high in June
Moving through Kashmir

Oh, Father of the four winds
Fill my sails across the sea of years
With no provision but an open face
Along the straits of fear

The last glimpse I had of Venus as an evening star was looking past the roof of my house. [Neutral Zone Infraction?!]

Sunday morning I got up to check the dawn.

I have a terrible view of the east horizon here in the suburbs. Lots of ground clutter. I could see Jupiter in the southeast. But closer to where the Sun would break the horizon trees and houses block my view.

I was about to go inside when I glanced between the houses across the alley. There, alongside the garage across the alley, between two houses, in among three rows of trees was a very bright star.

I carried my telescope outside and looked right through all the clutter.

There was Venus, in among the tree branches, a beautiful, shimmering crescent in the dawn sky.

Venus had safely made the transition from evening object to morning object.

That’s probably the last bit of astronomy I’ll do from my suburban house. In a month or so I will have completed my re-location back to the north side and I’ll have the best view of the eastern horizon imaginable—the absolutely flat sky visible over Lake Michigan. (This is a great time to have a good eastern view—Jupiter leads Neptune, Uranus, Mars and Venus out of the dawn sky.)

I hope I make my transition as pleasantly as has Venus!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

RIP Marilyn Chambers (4/22/52 – 4/12/09)

Marilyn Chambers passed away and most people are talking about her porn roles (X-rated star Marilyn Chambers dies at 56). I don’t think I ever saw Marilyn Chambers in an adult film. (I tell a porn story here: Corporate Communications #3: Shelley)

However, Marilyn Chambers stars as the female lead in the low-budget horror film “Rabid” from the great Canadian director David Cronenberg and that film is so good that, over time, I strongly suspect people will remember Marilyn Chambers only for her performance as ‘Rose’ in Cronenberg’s film and the porn will just be a footnote to her life.

Not only is “Rabid” a good horror film, but it contains one particular scene that I’ve remembered my whole life. A scene that rises above horror and genre and—to my horror film buff mind—approaches real cinema.

The character Rose in Rabid is the victim of a motorcycle accident. A doctor’s experimental treatment to save her life causes part of her body—her armpit [!?]—to mutate. This mutated part of her body sometimes takes control of her mind and forces her to attack people, infecting them with a disease that turns them into violent zombies.

Cronenberg, amazingly, takes this no-budget Canadian horror film and reasonably convincingly shows the plague of violence spreading from this one sad young woman outward to infect an entire city, bringing destruction to the entire city.

Toward the end of the film the character of Rose realizes that she is the plague carrier, that she is causing the destruction. She is not a bad person and she calls her boyfriend on the phone to tell him she realizes all the horror she’s caused and that she is going to put an end to her life one way or the other. Her boyfriend—in classic Cronenberg fashion—remains true to her, still loves her and can’t bear the thought of her committing suicide for any reason, even to end the plague that is destroying the city. Her boyfriend desperately tries to talk her out of killing herself. But he comes to realize that words over the phone are going to be completely ineffective in stopping his girlfriend from taking her own life. He slams the phone’s handset against the body of the phone. Then slams it again. He begins pounding the phone against itself, smashing the phone to pieces because there’s nothing else he can do.

So in that scene Cronenberg creates a city around this young man, a city smashed and in ruins. The young man’s internal life is smashed and in ruins. And there, in front of him, the phone is smashed, ruined, in pieces, an embodiment of the hopeless internal and external wreckage spawned by this poor young man’s poor young girlfriend.

It’s a very, very cool scene, one of my favorite scenes from all the movies I’ve ever watched.

So Marilyn Chambers is dead and most people, now, will just remember her for her porn roles. But Marilyn Chambers played Rose in Cronenberg’s “Rabid” and that was one of the best low-budget horror films ever made and Chambers does a great job as the female lead. Many, many ‘stars’ have never made even one movie with a scene as amazing as that phone scene between Rose and her boyfriend.

That’s how I’ll remember Marilyn Chambers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Special Appearance By Muskie Light Switch

For the most part, ultralight fishing for these leviathans involves using heavier tackle, heavier line and heavier lures than for any other species covered in this book. That, however, doesn’t mean that it will be any less challenging, especially if you focus on muskies. They are, without question, the most mysterious fish I’ve ever chased.

For me, at least, pike have always been more about ruthless aggression and fiery action. They are, in many ways, predictable.

Muskies, on the other hand, are like the central characters in the most twisted of suspense novels. If you ever spend time fishing just for them, you understand. You already know to laugh at anglers who say they have them all figured out. Nobody does; and that’s what makes them so appealing to me. They are, regardless of the tackle, baits and techniques you use, the most challenging of the freshwater gamefish species I’ve chased.

Tim Lilley

There is an edge, prairie on one side,
on the other side freshwater lake.
There is a sky overhead. Clouds make
shadows on the grass, white shapes that glide

over the waves. A kite seems to slide
straight up above the edge. A kite, fake,
moves out on the waves in those clouds, fake.
Kite shadow joins a cloud’s, seems to hide.

The string is reeled in. The kite descends.
The fake kite, just reflection, draws near
the grass, then back. Dancer on a ledge.

The real kite’s tail flips up then extends
into the waves, splashing, then lifts clear.
A muskie leaps, falls. Life on the edge.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Muskie Light Switch

Bride Of Muskie Light Switch

Bad Kites (Recruitment Literature)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Weasels Ripped My Flesh (Bra Attacks!)

In 1970 Frank Zappa released a pretty good album called, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh.”

The title was more-or-less a reference to the way electric razors rip up a guy’s face. (The Wikipedia link above gives more of the background to the weasel business.)

Nowadays apparently there has been a gender flip and the weasels are bras attacking women!

The story appears even in Forbes, but I’m going to quote the Chicago Sun-Times reporting because they have the most details. The photo is Adriana Lima from a different Victoria’s Secret story, but it illustrates the whole ‘bra’ concept. [And it’s Adriana Lima in an orange bra. Duh. --Mark]

NEW ORLEANS — Women in several states claim Victoria’s Secret bras gave them rashes and other skin problems, and a group of lawyers sought Wednesday to consolidate their cases against the lingerie chain.

Federal lawsuits filed in Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and New York accuse Victoria’s Secret and its parent company, Limited Brands Inc., of negligently designing undergarments and misrepresenting the safety of their products.

Limited Brands has assured customers that Victoria’s Secret bras are safe.

Wednesday’s petition is limited to four cases already pending in federal courts, but plaintiffs’ lawyers said they are prepared to file more than 600 other cases once the panel rules on their bid to consolidate the litigation.

Jerilyn Amaya, 66, of West Palm Beach, Fla., one of the four plaintiffs, said the bras she wore gave her a “horrible rash” and hives.

“It kept burning and itching. I finally stopped wearing the bras,” she said. “It disappeared, but it still burns every once in a while.”

Plaintiffs’ attorneys suspect formaldehyde resins in the bras are responsible for the alleged ailments. Formaldehyde is a preservative found in many products; at elevated levels, it can irritate skin.

“When you heat the bras by putting it in the dryer, it releases the resins embedded in the fabric,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Daniel Becnel Jr., whose Reserve, La.-based law firm filed both the consolidation petition and a lawsuit on behalf of a Baton Rouge woman.

The petition, filed Wednesday with the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, asks that the cases be heard together by a federal judge in Baton Rouge, La. The Washington, D.C., panel didn’t immediately act on the request.

Limited Brands says Victoria Secret does not add formaldehyde to its bras, and it says independent tests show the bras are formaldehyde-free or have only small traces of the chemical that wouldn’t cause any health problems.

“Millions of women love Victoria’s Secret bras,” Limited Brands spokeswoman Tammy Roberts Myers said in a statement. “We have strict quality controls around our products, and we do not use formaldehyde in our bras. Customer safety and satisfaction are always our primary concerns, and we take very seriously any issues our customers may have with our products.”

Becnel also represents Gulf Coast hurricane victims who sued the Federal Emergency Management Agency, claiming they were exposed to potentially hazardous levels of formaldehyde fumes while living in government-issued trailers after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

Hundreds of claims against FEMA and trailer manufacturers were consolidated in New Orleans. The first case, against Gulf Stream Coach Inc., is scheduled to be tried in September.

Patricia Williams, a toxicologist who has served as an expert witness for the plaintiffs in the FEMA trailer litigation, also has been hired by plaintiffs’ lawyers to evaluate the health claims of Victoria’s Secret customers.

“This is not a little clothing rash,” Williams said. “The extent and severity of it is just unbelievable. Many of them have scars that seem to be permanent.”

Victoria's Secret bras gave us scars, rashes: women
Chicago Sun-Times, April 8

Just on a personal note, I want to thank God for this story.

Other than a story that involves the Loch Ness monster and lingerie models, I can’t imagine a story I’d rather post than a story that lets me make a reference to a cool old Zappa album, commercialism literally on the attack and Adriana Lima in a bra. This isn’t Shangri-La—that was yesterday—but this is me in blog post heaven.

And, of course, I’ve already put up my own story about the Loch Ness monster and lingerie models!

Ashley And The Green Sweater (Part One)

Ashley And The Green Sweater (Part Two)

Ashley And The Green Sweater (Part Three)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Atlas Shrugged, Taylor Swift, Shangri-La

The first couple of pages of the novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ contain a bunch of extended metaphors that will extend, in fact, for the next eleven hundred pages or so. This is one of them:

No, thought Eddie Willers, there was nothing disturbing in the sight of the city. It looked as it had always looked.

He walked on, reminding himself that he was late in returning to the office. He did not like the task which he had to perform on his return, but it had to be done. So he did not attempt to delay it, but made himself walk faster.

He turned a corner. In the narrow space between the dark silhouettes of two buildings, as in the crack of a door, he saw the page of a gigantic calendar suspended in the sky.

It was the calendar that the mayor of New York had erected last year on the top of a building, so that citizens might tell the day of the month as they told the hours of the day, by glancing up at a public tower. A white rectangle hung over the city, imparting the date to the men in the streets below. In the rusty light of this evening’s sunset, the rectangle said: September 2.

Eddie Willers looked away. He had never liked the sight of that calendar. It disturbed him, in a manner he could not explain or define. The feeling seemed to blend with his sense of uneasiness; it had the same quality.

He thought suddenly that there was some phrase, a kind of quotation, that expressed what the calendar seemed to suggest. But he could not recall it. He walked, groping for a sentence that hung in his mind as an empty shape. He could neither fill it nor dismiss it. He glanced back. The white rectangle stood above the roofs, saying in immovable finality: September 2.

Eddie Willers shifted his glance down to the street, to a vegetable pushcart at the stoop of a brownstone house. He saw a pile of bright gold carrots and the fresh green of onions. He saw a clean white curtain blowing at an open window. He saw a bus turning a corner, expertly steered. He wondered why he felt reassured—and then, why he felt the sudden, inexplicable wish that these things were not left in the open, unprotected against the empty space above.

When he came to Fifth Avenue, he kept his eyes on the windows of the stores he passed. There was nothing he needed or wished to buy; but he liked to see the display of goods, any goods, objects made by men, to be used by men. He enjoyed the sight of a prosperous street; not more than every fourth one of the stores was out of business, its windows dark and empty.

The phrase Eddie Willers was trying to remember in that excerpt—he would remember it later—was: Your days are numbered!


My days are numbered!

In just about a week I will be doing an exit, stage left, from my suburban lair and starting off on the road back to Dagny Taggart’s world.

Although I’ve lived in the suburb here south of Chicago for more than a decade, I’ve never really felt at home here, never stopped thinking of myself as a city guy. Yesterday morning I flipped on a radio and the station was playing, ‘Subdivisions,’ by Rush. I thought, Yeah, sometimes chance speaks to us...

Although I feel nothing but excitement about getting back to the city, there is one thing about my house here in the subdivision that I’m going to miss: The little garden plots I had along my south sidewalk.


When I did my top ten list picturing Taylor Swift naked, I didn’t do any pre-planning. I just started at ten, the most generic image and worked my way down to one with the idea of getting more personal but with no pre-planning of what the final image would be.

And all by itself it turned out to be a landscape scene involving the little gardens next to my house.

I posted about something like that happening once before, in my post ‘Lost Horizon’ Versus ‘Camelot’ — #5: Shangri-La.

In a writing class, a bunch of us city kids were supposed to write about “our heart’s desire” and our writing teacher noticed that every one of us wrote something that contained a theme of ‘getting back to nature.’

Something about Shangri-La is both lasting and persuasive.


As I get ready to start re-locating, I’m selling, donating and throwing away almost everything. (I’ve sold my guitars! Arrrrgh!)

But one thing I will be taking back to the city with me is my cactus garden.

I grew them from seeds.

One of the librarians at our local library—the subdivision’s library—gave me some tips about how to increase my chances of getting the cactuses to flower. I haven’t had the opportunity to try the tips here, but getting my cactus plants to flower will be at the top of my list of things to do when I settle into an apartment back in the city.

Flowers on the cactus plants in the apartment in Chicago.



Sprawling on the fringes of the city
In geometric order
An insulated border
In between the bright lights
And the far unlit unknown

Growing up it all seems so one-sided
Opinions all provided
The future pre-decided
Detached and subdivided
In the mass production zone
Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Drawn like moths we drift into the city
The timeless old attraction
Cruising for the action
Lit up like a firefly
Just to feel the living night

Some will sell their dreams for small desires
Or lose the race to rats
Get caught in ticking traps
And start to dream of somewhere
To relax their restless flight
Somewhere out of a memory
Of lighted streets on quiet nights...

In the high school halls
In the shopping malls
Conform or be cast out

In the basement bars
In the backs of cars
Be cool or be cast out

Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
But the suburbs have no charms to soothe
The restless dreams of youth

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Walt Disney And Chuck Jones: Talking To People

In terms of pop culture awareness, probably the two most famous names in the history of animation are Walt Disney and Chuck Jones.

Walt Disney was a few years older than Chuck Jones and Disney got started in animation a few years earlier than Jones, but for practical purposes the two men were contemporaries. The sensibilities of both men completely shaped the viewing public’s expectations of animation.

Their sensibilities were very different and they worked in very different business arenas.

Walt Disney created his own company and very quickly moved away from doing drawing work himself to functioning as a producer in the classic sense, forging a personal vision and using all his energies and skills and financial resources to share his vision with artists and craftsmen who would bring his visions into reality for audiences.

Chuck Jones, always an artist, always doing drawings himself, spent most of his life working for Warner Brothers, a very business-oriented company that pinched pennies at every opportunity, hired only young or old or dubious workers and delivered the most minimal product theaters would buy.

Oddly, both of these opposite approaches to the business of animation would generate some of the greatest examples of animation art and entertainment ever produced.

Perhaps surprisingly—perhaps not—Walt Disney and Chuck Jones never worked together. They never became friends behind the scenes. However, they did know each other. Chuck Jones tells the story in the second part of his autobiography.

The story starts in 1933. Walt Disney is already world famous and is often compared as an auteur to Charlie Chaplin. Chuck Jones is an unknown apprentice at Warner Brothers working under the guidance of professional animators.

Here is how Jones remembers it:

Character animation started in 1933 with one picture—Disney’s Three Little Pigs, where we saw for the first time how characters who looked alike could be differentiated by the way they moved. I was an in-betweener when Disney made The Three Little Pigs, and I saw immediately that if I wanted to remain in this business, I would have to learn the art of character animation.

Walt Disney, along with many other producers, may have had the political acumen of a squid, but to me he is the patron saint of all animators. When I saw The Three Little Pigs, I wrote him a letter to say how much I admired the picture, and to my surprise he replied, expressing the hope that I would continue to work in animation and that my work might one day stimulate the people at Disney. I was very proud of this piece of paper, and for years I always carried it in my back pocket and showed it to everyone until I wore it out.

Over the years I wrote perhaps four more letters to him, and he always wrote back. About six months before he died, I was at the hospital across the street from the Disney studio, and a nurse told me that Walt was a patient there and suggested I go and say hello to him. I found him alone, sitting up in his bed. Shading his eyes, he invited me in. I told him about the letters and thanked him for replying to every one. He said something peculiar: “It wasn’t difficult. You are the only animator who ever wrote to me.”

It is strange to think that he was adored by so many millions of people but apparently not by those he adored—his own animators, who could do something he could not do and whose talent he so admired.

It is always cool to talk to people.

You never really know what impact even a simple conversation may have.

In my whole life—I’m forty-eight and I’ve been a talkative guy my whole life—in my whole life I’ve only regretted talking to one person. (And even that regret is tempered by the awareness that life is strange and you never know how things ultimately will turn out until after the fact when God explains everything to you up among the clouds.)

It is always cool to talk to people.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I’m Picturing Taylor Swift Naked

And as much as I can prevent people picturing me naked, I’m going to.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift standing on a NASCAR car naked drinking a glass of milk.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift sitting at a card table naked with four or five dogs playing poker.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift stepping out of a spaceship naked at a secret government movie studio faking a landing on Mars.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift standing on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange naked explaining to Maria Bartiromo what’s wrong with our economy.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift standing outside an Apple store naked trying to figure out how to use her new Apple iPhone.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift at a self-serve gas station naked inserting the premium gas nozzle into the fuel tank of her Volkswagen Beetle.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift sprawled on a couch naked watching episodes of CSI:NY all afternoon.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift lifting a plastic trash bag out of a trash bin naked and when the bag rips and garbage falls out she stomps her foot.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift in my kitchen naked standing on tip-toes looking through all the cabinets for a box of Frosted Flakes or Lucky Charms and not finding any.

  1. I’m picturing Taylor Swift standing next to the weeded, bare ground of my spring garden naked holding a packet of marigold seeds in her left hand and a packet of zinnia seeds in her right hand and saying, “I like the zinnias best.”

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The End Of A Barry Malzberg Romance

A while back I wrote that when I was a young teenager my favorite writer was Barry Malzberg. This was just before I discovered Richard Brautigan.

However like Richard Brautigan Barry Malzberg has disappeared from pop culture. Many people reading this blog probably never have read anything by Malzberg.

So today I’m going to put up an excerpt from a Malzberg novel.

Wikipedia (currently) includes this observation about Malzberg: “Malzberg's writing style is distinctive, with frequently long, elaborate though carefully constructed sentences and under-use of commas. Most of his science fiction books are short, present-tense narratives concerned exclusively with the consciousness of a single obsessive character. ... Malzberg uses metafiction techniques to subject the heroic conventions and literary limitations of space opera to biting satire.”

Long paragraphs, metafiction and under-used commas. Yep. [laughs]

Vonnegut, Heller and many others tried to merge the serious with the absurd. But Malzberg’s style is unique. Extreme. He was very easy to parody yet all-but-impossible to emulate.

Malzberg had a knack for writing what seemed to be drama, seemed to be heavy-handed melodrama, seemed to be in fact pretentious New Wave posing. But Malzberg would include some little twist, some wildly unexpected element that somehow turned the weird darkness into something almost hilarious.

Today’s post is almost a complete chapter from the novel “Scop.” “Scop” is a novel set in the future, but it’s a future of gloom and bitterness where the entire culture of the United States never recovered from the Kennedy assassination, where everybody’s consciousness is completely defined by awareness of that event in Dallas. The novel is told from the point-of-view of a young man named ‘Scop.’ The chapter in today’s post, however, is told from the point-of-view of Scop’s young girl friend.

‘Scop,’ just in passing, is an allusion to the drug Scopolamine. Today Scopolamine is known simply as an anti-nausea medication. Decades ago Scopolamine was something like infamous as a ‘truth serum’ rumored to have been used by secret government agents in secret government mind control experiments.

I can’t imagine a novel like “Scop” getting published today. However a quarter century ago the publishing business and pop culture were both so different that back then I bought a copy of this novel off the best seller rack [!] of a bookstore in a small Wisconsin town. [sighs]

Here is a guy and girl just getting through the day [laughs] in a Barry Malzberg narrative where everyone’s awareness is defined by the Kennedy assassination (yet they can’t even get the basic details of that event correct!):

He was always fascinated with the assassination, however; I cannot deny the sincerity of his interest which appeared to be quite real and which was not based upon self-aggrandizement. “That’s when everything went wrong,” he said to me once or then again he might have said it several times, all our conversations seem to muddle together in the bowl of happenstance, the cup of memory, “that is when the entire social fabric seemed to come askew, don’t you see? If a figure of this importance, the paternalistic leader of the nation, the psychic underlay of the common consciousness could be murdered inexplicably—”

“Others had been murdered.”

“Yes,” he said, “yes I know what you’re saying but not in the era of modern technology. The techniques of diffusion, the communications which had been developed by that time made the tragedy personal and accessible and besides that there was the enormous power which the President wielded before the dispersion—”

“Oh Scop,” I said and turned from him, “this is so boring, can’t we talk about something else? Is this the only thing that you can talk about?” I was rather dull and frivolous in those days; it must be admitted that our relationship, such as it was, was based upon a mutual sexual attraction and my own boredom, little else. It took the Temporals to tell me that there were areas of far greater significance between us than I might have grasped. “I just can’t bear to hear any more of this,” I said, my back toward him, my little haunches drawn up, pointing toward him my resilient but capacious rectum in which occasionally he would bury himself with small moans and confessions beyond words, “so let’s talk about something else,” and felt his hands come around to encircle my breasts, “that’s better,” I said, “that’s better now,” I was a wanton little slut in those days, interested in immediate satisfactions, unaware as I was for a long time of how deep was his obsession, how serious his intent, “Oh, I like that so much better than all this dull talk about society,” and allowed myself to be swaddled in his embrace, taken to his center (or so I thought at the time, lecherous little bitch that I was) but eventually he released me and without turning away, his chin still clamped into my shoulder said, “There’s got to be something done about this.” I am impacting many discussions of course. He talked about it all the time during the course of our relationship but I am taking highlights, so to speak, from each of the discussions and stringing them together to give the impression of a coherent, rising point of action and view. This is under the advice of the Temporals who were good enough to suggest that if I wanted to keep a diary as a tension-outlet I approach my memories in precisely this way. They have had more experience with this than I have. They have had more experience than I have but they do not know what is going on either. “I’m going to have to straighten it out,” he said.

“Straighten what out?”

“Everything went crazy then. We’re the stillborn product of assassination out of despair. We’re a monster, a grotesque; the child that is our age is blind and horribly misshapen.”

“Can’t you stop talking about this Scop and just have fun?”

“No one can have fun. The Temporals will not permit it. They control everything; they have locked off alternatives not as they say for our protection but merely for our perpetuation. It’s got to be changed.”

“And how are you going to change it?”

“Well,” he said and paused, a long, thick pause which might have lasted some moments or days; there may have been yet another fuck dropped into it (on a level of superficiality we had a passionate relationship, it took the Masters to show me how false it was and how divorced from true feeling) or merely the desire for one but he finally said, “Obviously I’ll have to get back to the point of origin.”


“How?” he said, “by using the convertor of course.”

“Unauthorized time travel is illegal. You will be subject to severe penalty.”

“You really are a stupid little bitch you know,” he said, “if it weren’t for the fact that there was a raw, crude sexual attraction here I wouldn’t even have gotten involved with you.” He shifted on the bed, moved away from me. “Even so, I believe that I am going to get away from you. Right now.”

“Be sensible, Scop. You cannot change the past.”

“I don’t want to change the past. I want to change the present.”

“Even so. Even so—”

“I believe that I am going to get away from you,” he said, getting up from the bed, turning away from me, striding toward his clothing which he began to put on in a rough, absentminded fashion, the glowing insignia of his rank intimidating me as I lay naked on the bed, filled with the desire to get into my own clothing yet not willing to concede weakness. “I don’t have to put up with this nonsense. I really don’t have to put up with it any more.”

“All right,” I said. I must have realized then that our relationship was over. He was truly obsessed and when Scop fastens upon an idea he will not let it go, not for anything. “Do what you will.”

“I intend exactly that. Get dressed,” he said. “Get out of here, get out of my room. You disgust me.”

“You didn’t say that before.”

“I did not say a lot of things before. Get out now,” he said and lunged to pull me roughly from the sheets but I was too clever for him and had already gained my footing, stood beside the bed then and with real anger went for my own clothing, contorting my emotions into a loathing which I felt would help me survive the humiliation he had imposed upon me. There was no reason for this. There was no reason for him to have done this I thought and while he stood over me raging I drew on my clothes one by one and stood before him for an instant before leaving, I did not know what that look in his eyes meant, was unable to place it for some time but later on it came to me: it was the look that Osborn must have had before he set off the safety and looked down the long distance to the white car in the motorcade.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

2009 1st Quarter Index

March 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 -- “Betty Jean Thiebaud & Book”

Monday, March 30, 2009 -- Working In The Coal Mine Going Down Down

Friday, March 27, 2009 -- The Spaceship That Joked

Thursday, March 26, 2009 -- A Marilu Henner Post—Honestly!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 -- Neutral Zone Infraction?!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 -- On Rosemary Being Momentarily Cast Back In Time

Monday, March 23, 2009 -- Ice Worlds Beyond Neptune Study Our Hearts

Friday, March 20, 2009 -- My Autographed Photograph Of Virginia Wade—2

Thursday, March 19, 2009 -- My Autographed Photograph Of Virginia Wade—1

Wednesday, March 18, 2009 -- nPr = n! / (n-r)!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 -- A Strange Vacation

Monday, March 16, 2009 -- Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Evade The Undead.

Friday, March 13, 2009 -- My First Google Rainbow

Thursday, March 12, 2009 -- The Good Old Days—Umm, Yeah...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009 -- Venus And Kate Moss

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 -- Imagine Space Cheerleaders

Monday, March 9, 2009 -- Through Ophelia’s Doorway

Friday, March 6, 2009 -- Robot Observatories

Thursday, March 5, 2009 -- A Little More Venus Talk

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 -- Venus In The Evening, Venus In The Morning

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 -- Twenty-Four Hundred Man-Years For What?

Monday, March 2, 2009 -- “Just Count The Fucking Tiles!”

February 2009

Friday, February 27, 2009 -- Penelope’s Business (Or, Loose Threads)

Thursday, February 26, 2009 -- The Star Above The Bug

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 -- Thrift Shops: Sex And Conspiracies

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 -- Comet Lulin Update

Monday, February 23, 2009 -- Tammy And The Shampoo

Friday, February 20, 2009 -- T. J. Pughe: Chip-Making Fool

Thursday, February 19, 2009 -- The Fifteen Syllable Problem

Wednesday, February 18, 2009 -- Happy Times And Kindle Sadness

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 -- I haven’t Seen Comet Lulin Yet

Monday, February 16, 2009 -- Bud Selig And The Goats

Friday, February 13, 2009 -- Ballad Of Little Red Riding Hood In Blue

Thursday, February 12, 2009 -- Ice Cream And The Mayor

Wednesday, February 11, 2009 -- Death Itself And The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre

Tuesday, February 10, 2009 -- The Eternal Thompson Gunner

Monday, February 9, 2009 -- Prelude To Little Red Riding Hood In Blue

Friday, February 6, 2009 -- Apple And The Status Cow

Thursday, February 5, 2009 -- Escape From Earth And The Status Cow

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 -- Orbis Non Sufficit And The Status Cow

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 -- Breaking The Status Cow

Monday, February 2, 2009 -- Big Lizard Bad France Lisa Wants In Chase’s Pants

January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009 -- I Atom Nun (Mountain Letters Times Ten)

Thursday, January 29, 2009 -- Red Granite (Updated)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009 -- “Hardly Anyone Visits; No One Stays”

Tuesday, January 27, 2009 -- The Hidden Princess Of Mount Shasta

Monday, January 26, 2009 -- Elena Called A Let

Friday, January 23, 2009 -- Chimeras: Slackers And Droodles To The Rescue

Thursday, January 22, 2009 -- Looking To Fall Into The Bear’s Spirals

Wednesday, January 21, 2009 -- Bride Of Muskie Light Switch

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 -- A Spaceship That Sparks

Monday, January 19, 2009 -- Anna Kournikova Epistemology

Friday, January 16, 2009 -- Bernadette’s Mirror: Landslide

Thursday, January 15, 2009 -- Bernadette’s Mirror: Strata

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 -- Bernadette’s Mirror: Eroding

Tuesday, January 13, 2009 -- Bernadette’s Mirror: Fossilized

Monday, January 12, 2009 -- Bernadette’s Mirror

Friday, January 9, 2009 -- Rocks And Water And Weather And Stars

Thursday, January 8, 2009 -- The Fossil And The Paleontologist

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 -- Fossils Never Run Away, But

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 -- Diane Wakoski And Batman

Monday, January 5, 2009 -- The Coolest Superpower

Friday, January 2, 2009 -- 2008 Complete Index

Thursday, January 1, 2009 -- Night Songs And Whispers #2: Whispers