Friday, September 30, 2005

The Cap Breaks Up

The Cap Breaks Up

The Cap Breaks Up (2003)

Chicken Little should have cast his eyes downward. The sky may not be falling...but the world is melting.

Shuffle your iPod to the Clash's "Armaggedeon Time" and play Q&A with the Natural Resources Defense Council:

What kinds of changes are taking place in the Arctic now?

Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. For example, the largest single block of ice in the Arctic, the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, had been around for 3,000 years before it started cracking in 2000. Within two years it had split all the way through and is now breaking into pieces.

The polar ice cap as a whole is shrinking. Images from NASA satellites show that the area of permanent ice cover is contracting at a rate of 9 percent each decade. If this trend continues, summers in the Arctic could become ice-free by the end of the century.

[...]

Will Arctic ice melt have any effects beyond the polar region?


Yes -- the contraction of the Arctic ice cap is accelerating global warming. Snow and ice usually form a protective, cooling layer over the Arctic. When that covering melts, the earth absorbs more sunlight and gets hotter. And the latest scientific data confirm the far-reaching effects of climbing global temperatures.

Rising temperatures are already affecting Alaska, where the spruce bark beetle is breeding faster in the warmer weather. These pests now sneak in an extra generation each year. From 1993 to 2003, they chewed up 3.4 million acres of Alaskan forest.

Melting glaciers and land-based ice sheets also contribute to rising sea levels, threatening low-lying areas around the globe with beach erosion, coastal flooding, and contamination of freshwater supplies. (Sea level is not affected when floating sea ice melts.) At particular risk are island nations like the Maldives; over half of that nation's populated islands lie less than 6 feet above sea level. Even major cities like Shanghai and Lagos would face similar problems, as they also lie just six feet above present water levels.

Rising seas would severely impact the United States as well. Scientists project as much as a 3-foot sea-level rise by 2100. According to a 2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study, this increase would inundate some 22,400 square miles of land along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States, primarily in Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.

A warmer Arctic will also affect weather patterns and thus food production around the world. Wheat farming in Kansas, for example, would be profoundly affected by the loss of ice cover in the Arctic. According to a NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies computer model, Kansas would be 4 degrees warmer in the winter without Arctic ice, which normally creates cold air masses that frequently slide southward into the United States. Warmer winters are bad news for wheat farmers, who need freezing temperatures to grow winter wheat. And in summer, warmer days would rob Kansas soil of 10 percent of its moisture, drying out valuable cropland.

Sounds dire, you say, but is there really any concrete evidence that global warming is definitely behind the ice caps turning into slushies? Isn't all this unnecessary panic button stuff just junk science? Researchers at the University of Toronto might give you pause:

Global climate change is having a direct impact on the Earth's sea level and a group of scientists led by two U of T geophysicists is providing the sea level "fingerprints" of polar ice sheet melting to prove it.

Rates of sea level change over the last century vary widely from one geographic location to another even after these rates have been corrected for known effects. The question has always been, why? What is causing these significant variations? Jerry Mitrovica, U of T's J. Tuzo Wilson Professor of Geophysics, is lead author of a paper to appear in the Feb. 22 issue of Nature that claims to have discovered the answer. And it is an answer that has an important impact on the debate over global climate change.

Mitrovica and his colleagues argue that scientists have not widely appreciated that melting from the Antarctic, for example, will have a distinctly different pattern or fingerprint in how it affects sea level than melting from Greenland or small mountain glaciers. It is these patterns that are causing the variation in the global sea level rise.

"We calculated these fingerprints using computer models and then showed that the observed record of sea level change displays the fingerprints," says Mitrovica. "Sea level is rising, and based on our work and the analysis of sea level data, not only can we assess the total amount melting from the ice caps, but we can also tell where that meltwater is coming from."

That sounds uncomfortable, you add. But surely our leaders at BushCo and their serfs at Republican-Controlled-Everything, Inc., currently engaged in the "hard work" of ripping the guts out of the Endangered Species Act, will govern in the best interests of the planet. Won't they?

Surf's Up...and Up and Up and Up and...

They won't. What planet you been living on...for now, anyway? The Guardian reveals:

White House officials have undermined their own government scientists' research into climate change to play down the impact of global warming, an investigation by The Observer can reveal.

The disclosure will anger environment campaigners who claim that efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions are being sabotaged because of President George W. Bush's links to the oil industry. Emails and internal government documents obtained by The Observer show that officials have sought to edit or remove research warning that the problem is serious. They have enlisted the help of conservative lobby groups funded by the oil industry to attack US government scientists if they produce work seen as accepting too readily that pollution is an issue.

Central to the revelations of double dealing is the discovery of an email sent to Phil Cooney, chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, by Myron Ebell, a director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). The CEI is an ultra-conservative lobby group that has received more than $1 million in donations since 1998 from the oil giant Exxon, which sells Esso petrol in Britain.

The email, dated 3 June 2002, reveals how White House officials wanted the CEI's help to play down the impact of a report last summer by the government's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in which the US admitted for the first time that humans are contributing to global warming. "Thanks for calling and asking for our help," Ebell tells Cooney.

The email discusses possible tactics for playing down the report and getting rid of EPA officials, including its then head, Christine Whitman. "It seems to me that the folks at the EPA are the obvious fall guys and we would only hope that the fall guy (or gal) should be as high up as possible," Ebell wrote in the email. "Perhaps tomorrow we will call for Whitman to be fired," he added.

The CEI is suing another government climate research body that produced evidence for global warming. The revelation of the email's contents has prompted demands for an investigation to see if the White House and CEI are co-ordinating the legal attack.

"This email indicates a secret initiative by the administration to invite and orchestrate a lawsuit against itself seeking to discredit an official US government report on global warming dangers," said Richard Blumenthal, attorney general of Connecticut, who has written to the White House asking for an inquiry.

The allegation was denied by White House officials and the CEI. "It is absurd. We do not have a sweetheart relationship with the White House," said Chris Horner, a lawyer and senior fellow of CEI.

However, environmentalists say the email fits a pattern of collusion between the Bush administration and conservative groups funded by the oil industry, who lobby against efforts to control carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming.

When Bush first came to power he withdrew the US -- the world's biggest source of greenhouse gases -- from the Kyoto treaty, which requires nations to limit their emissions.

Both Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are former oil executives; National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was a director of the oil firm Chevron, and Commerce Secretary Donald Evans once headed an oil and gas exploration company.

"It all fits together," said Kert Davies of Greenpeace. "It shows that there is an effort to undermine good science. It all just smells like the oil industry. They are doing everything to allow the US to remain the world's biggest polluter."

Other confidential documents obtained by The Observer detail White House efforts to suppress research that shows the world's climate is warming. A four-page internal EPA memo reveals that Bush's staff insisted on major amendments to the climate change section of an environmental survey of the US, published last June. One alteration indicated "that no further changes may be made."

The memo discusses ways of dealing with the White House editing, and warns that the section "no longer accurately represents scientific consensus on climate change."

Some of the changes include deleting a summary that stated: "Climate change has global consequences for human health and the environment." Sections on the ecological effects of global warming and its impact on human health were removed. So were several sentences calling for further research on climate change.

A temperature record covering 1,000 years was also deleted, prompting the EPA memo to note: "Emphasis is given to a recent, limited analysis [which] supports the administration's favoured message."

White House officials added numerous qualifying words such as "potentially" and "may", leading the EPA to complain: "Uncertainty is inserted where there is essentially none."

The paper then analyses what the EPA should do about the amendments and whether they should be published at all. The options range from accepting the alterations to trying to discuss them with the White House.

When the report was finally published, however, the EPA had removed the entire global warming section to avoid including information that was not scientifically credible.

Former EPA climate policy adviser Jeremy Symons said morale at the agency had been devastated by the administration's tactics. He painted a picture of scientists afraid to conduct research for fear of angering their White House paymasters. "They do good research," he said. "But they feel that they have a boss who does not want them to do it. And if they do it right, then they will get hit or their work will be buried."

Symons left the EPA in April 2001 and now works for the National Wildlife Federation as head of its climate change programme. The Bush administration's attitude was clear from the beginning, he said, and a lot of people were working to ensure that the President did nothing to address global warming.

Propaganda well catapulted, I'd say. It's a government of the oil, by the oil, and for the oil. Actions have consequences -- like allowing oil executives to fill our highest govermental offices.

And you still wonder why you're paying record gas prices -- prices that will continue to rise and rise -- just like water levels all around the world.

Chicken Little, that environmental wacko, just needed a better editor to be lobotomized into keeping quiet. Now, he's just another Lucky Duckie -- with glazed eyes and floating through the haze of a news blackout -- perspiring more than usual while pumping his paycheck into an SUV.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Stage Fright

Stage Fright

Stage Fright (1999)

According to Tom Antion:

Many of the top performers in the world get stage fright so you are in good company. Stage fright may come and go or diminish, but it usually does not vanish permanently. You must concentrate on getting the feeling out in the open, into perspective and under control.

Remember: Nobody ever died from stage fright. But, according to surveys, many people would rather die than give a speech. If that applies to you, try out some of the strategies in this section to help get yourself under control. Realize that you may never overcome stage fright, but you can learn to control it, and use it to your advantage.

Symptoms of Stage fright
 Dry mouth.
 Tight throat.
 Sweaty hands.
 Cold hands.
 Shaky hands.
 Give me a hand (Oops, I couldn't resist).
 Nausea.
 Fast pulse.
 Shaky knees.
 Trembling lips.
 Any out-of-the-ordinary outward or inward feeling or manifestation of a feeling occurring before, or during, the beginning of a presentation (Wow! What a dry mouthful!).

Here are some easy to implement strategies for reducing your stage fright. Not everyone reacts the same and there is no universal fix. Don't try to use all these fixes at once. Pick out items from this list and try them out until you find the right combination for you.

Visualization strategies that can be used anytime
 Concentrate on how good you are.
 Pretend you are just chatting with a group of friends.
 Close your eyes and imagine the audience listening, laughing, and applauding.
 Remember happy moments from your past.
 Think about your love for and desire to help the audience.
 Picture the audience in their underwear.

I understand underwear visualization is designed as a calming mechanism, but going on as a nervous schmuck might be preferable to a giggling voyeur. It seems everyone and his performance anxiety prone dog has solutions for stage fright -- ranging from ingesting valerian root to Buddhist ego-bypassing. I wonder -- do visual artists get stage fright...or do they just depict it?

I'm not going out there...

Stage Fright (2002) by Valerie Bogdan
[Image from Blackbird]

Even our finest actors have wrestled with stage fright -- as seen by these reflections by Ian McKellen in "The Awful Hell of Stage Fright":

I was acting twenty years ago in a much praised production on Shaftesbury Avenue. At a late night supper in Soho, I eavesdropped on a couple of actors discussing my performance. They criticised my diction, damned my physique and agreed on my total failure as an actor.

I thought I was impervious, but the next night, in the second act, I stopped in mid-flow, certain that every member of that night's audience agreed with my critics. Unable to say the lines, unable even to walk offstage, I longed for the proverbial trapdoor to open and release me from the hell of being a failed actor. For the next four months the last place on earth I wanted to be was appearing in public.

Performers don't talk much about stage fright. The spectre of a tongue turned to stone and vomit where the lines should be is all too frightening to be evoked. As Laurence Olivier confided in his last book: "Stage fright is... always waiting outside the door, waiting to get you. You either battle
or walk away."

Loyalty to the play, to fellow actors, dramatist and management, plus the convention that "the show must go on" prevent all but the least confident from walking away. Gray's play is continuing. I hope it won't be long before Stephen can echo Sir Laurence's words: "I have been there, I have looked over the edge, and I have returned."

I also wonder if bloggers get stage fright -- or just too tired to push ahead and put up that next post.

But, sometimes, after a rash of flaming, flesh-stripping comments...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Beyoncé

Beyoncé

Beyoncé (2004)

Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the usual annotation/explanation.

As I note in the blog's description, please feel free to talk back to the art, or, if you wish, use this post as a weekly open thread.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Dolphins Run the Driftnets

Dolphins Run the Driftnets

Dolphins Run the Driftnets (1998)

Thirty-six military-trained dolphins with toxic dart guns were reported missing in the Gulf of Mexico.
--Harper's Weekly Digest, 9-27-05

He's out there operating without any decent restraint, totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. And he is still in the field commanding troops.
--General Corman, Apocalypse Now

Flipper platoon flips off military and goes renegade. Jump through your own hoops, Sir. Welcome to the Heart of Wetness...

From The Observer:

It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy's cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying "toxic dart" guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet's smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defence programme claim it is vital they are caught quickly.

Leo Sheridan, 72, a respected accident investigator who has worked for government and industry, said he had received intelligence from sources close to the US government's marine fisheries service confirming dolphins had escaped.

"My concern is that they have learnt to shoot at divers in wetsuits who have simulated terrorists in exercises. If divers or windsurfers are mistaken for a spy or suicide bomber and if equipped with special harnesses carrying toxic darts, they could fire," he said. "The darts are designed to put the target to sleep so they can be interrogated later, but what happens if the victim is not found for hours?"

Flipper don't surf!!!

Shove those orders up your blowhole, Sir...

Somebody cue the Beach Boys death metal covers. Dolphins, as Wikipedia notes, are "widely believed to be amongst the most intelligent of all animals." Therefore, terrorist-hating-hunter-killer-savant dolphins with dart guns are beyond gnarly. And you thought dimwitted sharks were enough of a problem. Wait till you have to fend off Manchurian Candidate Flipper using your board as a shield. This gives "shooting the tube" a whole new frame of reference.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Blue Rose

Blue Rose

Blue Rose (2000)

From The Quest for the Blue Rose:

1. The quest for the blue rose has almost become a holy grail to rose breeders. Why?

I think that initially that it was a scientifically exciting thing to do and something totally different so that it captured people's imaginations. It was also something that was apparently impossible to do by using conventional breeding techniques. Another incentive was the fact that there are very few true blue cut flowers and breeders were very interested in developing a long-term cut flower that was blue.

2. Why does the blue rose remain so elusive?

This is the result of one basic situation. Plants have various colour pathways that determine the way in which colour is specifically expressed in petals. While scientists can extract a gene from one plant where the colour expression in the petals is blue, when inserted into roses, this colour expression changes to pink. The reason for this is the pH of the cells. For example if you insert a blue gene from petunias which have a cell pH which is more acidic than roses into the rose DNA, it forms a pink pigment. If we try to change the genes that determine cell pH, then we risk changing a whole range of other cell functions as well. Changing the pH so that the gene is expressed as blue petals may change other characteristics, and these may alter the plant significantly in a range of ways. It may be blue, but it may not be a rose as we know it.

3. What are the rewards for those who first successfully bring a true blue rose on to the market?

In the past five years there has been a significant change in the industry's view of this. Five years ago, it was estimated that a blue rose would be able to capture 5% of the international cut flower market -- a prize worth many millions of dollars annually. However in recent years the production of cut flowers has moved to Third World countries in South America and Africa (Kenya for example), due to the lower costs of production and labour, as well as to countries such as Israel.

South America and African producers now account for something like 70% of cut flower rose production. The problem for rose breeders is that these countries tend not to be very tidy about royalty payments. This means that the breeders who develop the blue rose may have difficulty in recouping their costs and making the expected profits from their research because of the difficulty in collecting royalty payments from the growers. This problem has become so significant that many North American cut-flower breeders have made the decision not to breed any more new roses at all. For this reason it is unclear just what the rewards for developing the blue rose are any more.

Hold on you damasking alchemists. The end is near blooming. From Telegraph:

It is the "Holy Grail" of horticulture and soon it could make the perfect present for Mother's Day: scientists have found a way to produce a blue rose.

A chance discovery in a laboratory means that they will be able to create the blue rose "within a year" and it is expected to go on sale to the public soon after that.

Rose breeders and growers said that blue roses would be hugely popular and estimated that they would win five per cent -- £35 million -- of the £700 million international market for cut roses.

Roses come in many colours - from pink to yellow, peach and red - but, until now, no one has found a way to create a natural blue rose and the quest has acquired an almost mystical significance among breeders.

The discovery was made by chance by two biochemists conducting research into drugs for cancer and Alzheimer's in a medical laboratory at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee.

Professor Peter Guengerich and Dr Elizabeth Gillam were trying to find out how the human liver breaks down drugs when they came across a liver enzyme that had a startling effect.

"When we moved a liver enzyme into a bacterium, the bacterium turned blue," Dr Guengerich said. "We were aware that there were people in the world who had been interested in making coloured flowers, especially a blue rose, for a number of years.

"Dr Gillam had the bright idea that we could capitalise on our discovery by moving the gene into plants -- and produce a blue rose."

Maybe so. But you better check under the hood petals. Is there a Made in Japan sticker? From the Japan Times Online:

Distiller and beverage manufacturer Suntory Ltd. said Wednesday it has developed the world's first blue roses with Australian firm Florigene Ltd.

Suntory officials said researchers extracted the gene that produces blue pigment in pansies and activated it inside the roses.

There are already "bluish" roses on the market, but these flowers were created through crossbreeding and cannot be called true blue, according to Suntory. The gene of the enzyme that produces the blue pigment, delphinidin, is not found in rose petals to begin with.

Thanks to biotechnology, the petals of Suntory's blue roses contain nearly 100 percent of the blue pigment, it said.

Suntory and Florigene, which is 98.5 percent Suntory-owned, bred a blue carnation using the same basic technology in 1995.

The carnations were marketed in Japan, North America and Australia under the brand Moondust, according to the firm.

Oh death rose. Where is thy sting hue...?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

What Passes for Discourse

What Passes for Discourse

What Passes for Discourse (2005)

Muscle Beach is now Pork Chop Hill...
--Naked Raygun

A busy day today and no computers in sight. Still, before the weekend slips away, here's something new.

The title of today's image is ironic because I'm not sure discourse exists in our public sphere in the way we live now. Discourse now seems to mean either a Crossfire scream-fest -- or, worse, a Fox News unfair and unbalanced tipped scales smugly-dismiss-the-timid-and-pussified-liberal-like-Colmes non-discussion. At least Randi Rhodes actually takes live phone calls and can think on her feet. Hillbilly heroinized Rush Limbaugh preaches to a digitized peanut gallery more pre-screened than a Bush town meeting on deboning Social Security.

There is no debate. There is only spin.

Hyde Park is now a wind tunnel...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

House of Broken Toys

House of Broken Toys

House of Broken Toys (2004)

The plans for invading "The House of Broken Toys," as the C.I.A. referred to Iraq, may not have been sitting on his [President Bush's] desk, but he secretly started planning with Rummy for war with Iraq in November 2001, and with Tommy Franks starting the next month. Once they were thick into the planning, the president couldn't turn back, of course. That would make him like the loathed Bill Clinton -- a lot of bold talk and not much action -- not like "The Man," as Mr. Cheney called his warrior president.
--Maureen Dowd, "House of Broken Toys"

I wish I were able to attend today's demonstration in Washington, D.C. My sympathies are certainly with the thousands who have made the journey to protest the war. CNN reports that around 10,000 people showed up in London, and more people might have made it to Washington but

13 Amtrak trains running between New York and Washington were delayed for up to three hours Saturday morning for repair of overhead electrical lines. Protest organizers said that held up thousands coming to the rally.

Strange. I guess Hurricane Rita moved into New England more quickly than predicted.

Daily, the Bush Administration boils over with fresh scandals. Given the fervor and bile with which Republicans boiled Clinton in oil for Troopergate and Travelgate and other bogus allegations, can you imagine if the Democrats had responded in kind? Their heads would now be exploding like the hapless victims in David Cronenberg's Scanners.

And imagining that scenario is the only way you'll ever see it. Democrats are so cowed (and terrified of the "soft on terror" McGovern label) that they consider an election loss of less than five percentage points to be a cause for jubilance. And the media -- minus the temporary spine graft caused by the aftermath of Katrina, which even the Rovians couldn't pre-screen and spin -- enables the administration to beat up on the once favorable image of the United States until its face is unrecognizable.

The Iraq War has killed more than our loved ones and countless civilians. It has killed our integrity, our credibility, our image as the good guy. That's the price paid for waging pre-emptive war based completely on lies. That's the blowback for using Wite-Out on the Geneva Convention. You can't wear the right cowboy hat if you're the torturer running the rape rooms. You're a sadist -- not a soldier. There will be no flowers crunching under your feet as you sit fidgeting in a military court martial.

Unless you're a higher echelon official rather than a "loose cannon" grunt -- or you learned by experience from Lynndie's photoblog to burn all the evidence. Fortunately, the prisoner abuse scandal is behind us, and we're in the "last throes" of that nightmare, right?

Well, as they say in the ad biz: but wait -- there's more. Time reports:

The U.S. Army has launched a criminal investigation into new allegations of serious prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan made by a decorated former Captain in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division, an Army spokesman has confirmed to Time. The claims of the Captain, who has not been named, are in part corroborated by statements of two sergeants who served with him in the 82nd Airborne; the allegations form the basis of a report from Human Rights Watch obtained by Time and due to be released in the next few days.

[...]

Specific instances of abuse described in the Human Rights Watch report include severe beatings, including one incident when a soldier allegedly broke a detainee's leg with a metal bat. Others include prisoners being stacked in human pyramids (unlike the human pyramids at Abu Ghraib, the prisoners at Camp Mercury were clothed); soldiers administering blows to the face, chest and extremities of prisoners; and detainees having their faces and eyes exposed to burning chemicals, being forced into stress positions for long periods leading to unconsciousness and having their water and food withheld.

Prisoners were designated as PUCs (pronounced "pucks")—or "persons under control." A regular pastime at Camp Mercury, the report says, involved off-duty soldiers gathering at PUC tents, where prisoners were held, and working off their frustrations in activities known as "F____a PUC" (beating the prisoner) and "Smoke a PUC" (forced physical exertion, sometimes to the point of collapse). Broken limbs and similar painful injuries would be treated with analgesics, the soldiers claim, as medical staff would fill out paperwork stating the injuries occurred during capture. Support for some of the allegations of abuse come from a sergeant of the 82nd Airborne who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Human Rights Watch quotes him as saying that, "To 'F____ a PUC' means to beat him up. We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs, and stomach, pull them down, kick dirt on them. This happened every day. To 'smoke' someone is to put them in stress positions until they get muscle fatigue and pass out. That happened every day. Some days we would just get bored so we would have everyone sit in a corner and then make them get in a pyramid. This was before Abu Ghraib but just like it. We did that for amusement."

"On their day off people would show up all the time," the sergeant continues in the HRW report. "Everyone in camp knew if you wanted to work out your frustration you show up at the PUC tent. In a way it was sport. The cooks were all U.S. soldiers. One day a sergeant shows up and tells a PUC to grab a pole. He told him to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a mini Louisville Slugger that was a metal bat. He was the cook."

Someone needs to point out to Freeper Central that these abusers aren't untrained National Guard "bad apples." And I won't hold my breath waiting for wingnuts to begin Swift-boating these soldier-sadists with the same glee reserved for bootstrap disabled looters in New Orleans.

So, as today's demonstrations churn like hurricanes on globally warmed steroids, we all hope desperately the war will soon end -- but, in our acidic stomachs, we know better:

Infinite War, uuugghh, what is it good for...

We've always been at war with Eurasia -- at least until all who have enabled the suffering and madness and deception and lying are removed from power. And that's why I wish I was at a demonstration today, rather than phoning mine in from my blog. Because I feel the same way the protesters do. I'm tired of hanging my head in shame.

I want the political criminals -- Huns all -- out -- and outed in disgrace.

I want my country back -- and to again truly be, as the song says, the land that I love.

I want all of the broken toys fixed.

~/~

Update: AmericaBlog observes that hundreds of thousands turned up in Washington today to protest the war. Will the MSM report this show of force against BushCo -- or will all crack media journalists instead be standing out in the rain wearing logo-emblazoned slickers?

Also, Billmon shows again why he is one of our finest writers. Today, in a must read reflection, he reacts to The Nation's report on the war-porn site nowthatsfuckedup.com. Neil Postman remarked in Amusing Ourselves to Death that Hitler's rallies allowed the German people to watch their own genocidal extinction as a form of entertainment. A site like nowthatsfuckedup.com shows the shadow (if not psycho-sadistic) side of rah-rah empire building and serves as an enabling peepshow to turn the eradication of Iraqis into our own neo-fascist reality television. Billmon notes:

There was a time when I would have argued that the American people couldn't stomach that kind of butchery -- not for long anyway -- even if their political leaders were willing to inflict it. But now I'm not so sure. As a nation, we may be so desensitized to violence, and so inured to mechanized carnage on a grand scale, that we're psychologically capable of tolerating genocidal warfare against any one who can successfully be labeled as a "terrorist." Or at least, a sizable enough fraction of the America public may be willing to tolerate it, or applaud it, to make the costs politically bearable.

We expect the "banality of evil" to turn up in a courtroom in Nuremberg -- but are we comfortable inviting it into our homes -- appreciatively downloading body parts totems and other spoils of war souvenirs -- bursting with patriotic pride as we high-five one another over chips and dip?

Friday, September 23, 2005

In Her Party Hat

In Her Party Hat

In Her Party Hat (2004)

Today is my daughter's 18th birthday. Last night, she informed me she's now an adult and that "I can buy cigarettes and go to a strip club" before adding the clarifying "not that I'd want to do either."

Today's image was made thinking back upon memories of an earlier, younger birthday. But I didn't need her reminder that she's no longer the girl in the image. I've watched her grow up. I can see she's not a child anymore. And if I momentarily forget that fact, I'm sure she'll quickly set me straight.

But, even if you can now partake of voting and other vices, you're never too old to don a pointy party hat, light those trick candles, and make a serious wish.

And my one wish today? Have a very happy birthday, baby.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Muse

The Muse

The Muse (1999)

All poetry is political. All politics are personal.
--Maxine Kumin

Writers have been allowed to say what we want for 200 years, and politicians are still wholly unafraid of us.
--Kurt Vonnegut

Do poets and writers have a responsibility to write about politics? to document the times in which they live?

Can a poem not make a political statement? If I write a lyric about hummingbirds in my back yard, doesn't the poem still have a political context -- even if the context is the lack of political content?

And what about history? Doesn't there need to be a written record -- to avoid that whole repeating mistakes cycle? And who's going to be the recorder and the keeper of the flame of that record? The mainstream media?

The times we live in need witnessing. We can say that George Bush is: The. Worst. President. Ever. But I also want people 20, 60, 100 years from now to see for themselves why Bush deserved that title. Can you imagine the Fox News Archives (will that be our library at Alexandria?) conveying such an idea to future generations?

Or, instead, will our writers assume that mantle? Vonnegut may be right. The Rovians can easily catapult the propaganda to drown out any pitiful scribblings. But what does Wilfred Owen have to say to our troops in Iraq. Why was Garcia Lorca killed? Why did Laura Bush cancel a White House poetry event?

And why does she now want to host another?

And how should our poets respond to her invitation? Can poets (writers, bloggers, artists) cast aside their politics in order to promote their work? Or is Kumin correct? The work is the politics and vice versa. A blind eye will not lighten a heavy heart -- even if acceptance means publicity and exposure.

In Carolyn Forche's prose poem "The Colonel", a South American military leader ties to taunt and shock the poet. He pours a sack of human ears on the table, then says: "Something for your poetry, no?"

Yes. Yes it is. It most definitely is. And by witnessing this incident and writing about it, Forche made sure millions of other people will now know what happened. The Colonel (and countless others like him) do not want the truth to be heard, even to the point of severing ears, but, if honestly recorded, the truth will be perceived...and remembered.

So. Codpiece in Chief. Mission Accomplished. No WMDs. Got wood? The internets. Watch this drive. You're doing a heckuva job. Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States. Bring it on. My Pet Goat. Downing Street Documents. "Quaint" Geneva Convention. Halliburton. Patriot Act. Valerie Plame. Florida 2000. Jeff Gannon. Swift Boating. Gas prices. Enron. Iraq. New Orleans.

Something for my poetry, YES.

Yes...

And, now, the First Lady has invited the poets back for a National Book Festival to be held, ironically, this Saturday -- the same day as long planned anti-war demonstrations. The Nation printed poet Sharon Olds' reply to Mrs. Bush's invitation. The letter is worth reading in its entirety:

For reasons spelled out below, the poet Sharon Olds has declined to attend the National Book Festival in Washington, which, coincidentally or not, takes place September 24, the day of an antiwar mobilization in the capital. Olds, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award and professor of creative writing at New York University, was invited along with a number of other writers by First Lady Laura Bush to read from their works. Three years ago artist Jules Feiffer declined to attend the festival's White House breakfast as a protest against the Iraq War ("Mr. Feiffer Regrets," November 11, 2002). We suggest that invitees to this year's event consider following their example.
--The Editors

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents -- all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students -- long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.

When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking and almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion and essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely nonspeaking and nonmoving (except for the eyes), and pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, and she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty and wit -- and the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story and song.

So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country -- with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain -- did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism -- the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.

I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness -- as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing -- against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it.

Sincerely,

Sharon Olds

Something for your poetry? Yeah. I'm all ears.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Love in the Time of Anthrax

Love in the Time of Anthrax

Love in the Time of Anthrax (2001)

Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the usual annotation/explanation.

As I note in the blog's description, please feel free to talk back to the art, or, if you wish, use this post as a weekly open thread.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

More Memories of South Dakota

More Memories of South Dakota

More Memories of South Dakota (2002)

I sometimes enjoy making images about places I've lived or seen. I suppose they are like fractal landscapes or still lifes.

I grew up in South Dakota, and the sensations of open space, big sky, and winter wind are still very vivid to me. I saw buffalo as a kid, although they were few in number and confined by fences. Still, if I squinted, I could almost picture herds thundering across the prairie. And, of course, through art, I can actually make them re-appear.

From Buffalo of South Dakota -- a lesson for elementary school children:

European explorers gave the American bison the name of buffalo. Spanish conquistadors thought they looked like cattle. French fur traders called them les boeufs (la buff). Les boeufs is French for "the beefs." English explorers had a hard time saying the French name. They said "la buff" or "buffle." Finally, everyone was saying "buffalo." It became the animal's common name.

Zoologists believe that European bison came to North America long ago. The animals crossed a land bridge between Alaska and Russia. It was nearly 800,000 years ago. The buffalo can adapt to different climates and grasses. They learned to live anywhere in North America. They really liked the grasslands of South Dakota.

Buffalo and beef cattle are alike but not the same. Buffalo get bigger than cattle. But they eat less food than cattle. Buffalo also like dry areas like the Great Plains. They can eat plants that cattle will not eat. Buffalo dig through snow to reach the grass. They can get their water from eating snow. They have thick coats. They can live through blizzards. A buffalo points its body into the wind. It lets bad weather pass it by.

Buffalo have not been domesticated. They are still wild animals. They cannot be tamed like 4-H heifers or steers. Buffalo look lazy and slow. Not so. They can outrun and outmaneuver a horse. Remember this fact if you ever get close to a buffalo.

And what the kids probably don't go on to read is this -- from Nature: American Buffalo --

"The Indian was frugal in the midst of plenty," says Luther Standing Bear, a member of the Lakota tribe. "When the buffalo roamed the plains in multitudes, he slaughtered only what he could eat and these he used to the hair and bones." Indeed, for thousands of years the huge bison herds were able to accommodate the loss of the relatively few animals taken by Native Americans. In the 1500s, however, things began to change. First, Spanish explorers introduced horses to the region. By the 1800s, Native Americans had learned to use the speedy steeds to chase bison, dramatically expanding their hunting range and effectiveness. Next, guns made their way into the hands of buffalo hunters, making them increasingly deadly hunters. But it was that arrival of vast waves of white settlers in the 1800s -- and their conflict with the Native American residents of the prairies -- that spelled the end for the buffalo. Among the earliest waves of settlers were trappers and traders, people who made their living selling meat and hides. By the 1870s, they were shipping hundreds of thousands of buffalo hides eastward each year: more than 1.5 million were packed aboard trains and wagons in the winter of 1872-73 alone.

The commercial killers, however, weren't the only ones shooting bison. Train companies offered tourists the chance to shoot buffalo from the windows of their coaches, pausing only when they ran out of ammunition or the gun's barrel became too hot. There were even buffalo killing contests. In one, a Kansan set a record by killing 120 bison in just 40 minutes. "Buffalo" Bill Cody, hired to slaughter the animals, killed more than 4,000 buffalo in just two years.

I support George Bush's "Healthy Herds" initiative...

"Buffalo" Bill Cody

he was a handsome man
and what i want to know is
how do you like your blueeyed boy
Mister Death
--E. E. Cummings, "Buffalo Bill's defunct"

Some U.S. government officials even promoted the destruction of the bison herds as a way to defeat their Native American enemies, who were resisting the takeover of their lands by white settlers. One Congressman, James Throckmorton of Texas, believed that "it would be a great step forward in the civilization of the Indians and the preservation of peace on the border if there was not a buffalo in existence." Soon, military commanders were ordering their troops to kill buffalo -- not for food, but to deny Native Americans their own source of food. One general believed that buffalo hunters "did more to defeat the Indian nations in a few years than soldiers did in 50." By 1880, the slaughter was almost over. Where millions of buffalo once roamed, only a few thousand animals remained. Soon, their numbers dwindled, with the largest wild herd -- just a few hundred animals -- sheltered in the isolated valleys of the newly created Yellowstone National Park.

The memories are still there -- stored on an aging retrieval system in the collective unconscious. And, sometimes, as with today's image, they leak out.

Monday, September 19, 2005

What Gretel Saw Behind Her

What Gretel Saw Behind Her

What Gretel Saw Behind Her (1999)

Gretel should have watched more movies -- starting with Apocalypse Now. She would have had that whole "heart of darkness" thing down. Moreover, she would have never wandered into the deep woods after learning Chef's first rule for survival: never get out of the boat.

But, of course, Gretel never got home. Instead, she and her brother, after narrowly escaping a cannibilistic witch, were ironically gobbled up by something greater and far more insidious: mass culture.

Yes, readers, it's a sad tale that doesn't end happily ever after...

Don't look back here, Gretel:

When I went to the Hansel & Gretel Motel, it was bigger than I thought from the internet. They have 4 buildings, an indoor pool, indoor hot-tub and an outdoor pool as well. Some of the indoor pool chairs were old but the plants looked really nice...

...The bed was really comfortable but the cleaning lady didn't speak any english [sic] so it was hard to ask for extra towels and more shampoo. You certainly don't get high quality service there or lots of attention, but you get nice rooms and a really great buffet there. We like having the BBQ there in the summer. It was really handy.

Or knock on doors here, dear girl...

Gretel is a test coverage monitoring tool for Java programs. The current version provides statement coverage monitoring (identifying which lines of Java have been executed, and which have not been touched by testing).

The primary difference between Gretel and other coverage monitoring tools is that Gretel implements residual test coverage monitoring: After you run a program that has been instrumented with Gretel, Gretel can re-instrument the program and remove instrumentation for those parts that have already been executed. Since most programs spend most of their time in a few small regions, which are easily covered in the first few test runs, residual re-instrumentation with Gretel greatly reduces the performance penalty of test coverage monitoring.

Or tell your Dad to dump you here...

About this typeface:

Designers Sylvia and Daniel Janssen were inspired by some display type in a brochure that was designed by a friend's father in 1962. He used old stitches and historical engravings in his designs, and developed a typeface by coloring antique cross-stitch patterns. Sylvia and Daniel took the few characters from the page and developed a full character set called Gretel Smooth. They then expanded on this design to create Gretel Crisp and Gretel Strong.

I'll never be a cookie on your lawn...

Gretel by Heather Cristofaro of Nesnora Designs

And don't overheat your oven here:

Gretel is the studio of Greg Hahn and occasionally Jordan Nogee, who met at MTV and went to work at Trollback+Co and SciFi Channel respectively. Gretel is located in the Big Apple.

And don't bet your breadcrumbs here:

Welcome, and take a look around. Thanks for visiting the new Gretel site. Gretel is currently writing, reading, and thinking on things that are true and beautiful, while getting ready for the fall tour, so keep checking back for more news and updates.

Or stock up on gingerbread here:

The sights, sounds, and aromas at Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen tell you that you have entered a special place.

At Hansel & Gretel you will see fudge made on marble tables while another candymaker is preparing our whipped cream caramel and making turtles and caramel apples. You will see hand dipped chocolates made before your very eyes. You will want to stay all day!

You will find chocolate gift boxes for every occasion. You will enjoy the Number One candy manufacturer in North Georgia -- Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen.

And, finally, don't expect receiving a FEMA debit card to pick up one of these:

Built around the middle of the XVIII century from a drawing by Frederik Af Chapman, Gretel is a wonderful example of a pleasure-boat of that time. The interesting plan of sails granted certainly a good speed to the hull. The model we obtained presents no difficulty to curry out. The constructive plans in fact are quite similar to those studied for hulls with bigger sizes. In consideration of the various sorts of wood employed and the richness and elegance of the decorations, the model is fit to be left without any painting.

Alas, poor Gretel. We hardly knew ye.We just consumed thee.

And, now, there is no looking -- or going -- back.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Cult of Felix

The Cult of Felix

The Cult of Felix (2005)

Righty-o. Here's a new one celebrating one cool cat. From "The History of Felix the Cat":

During the early days of television development it was necessary to monitor and adjust the quality of the transmitted picture in order to get the best definition. To do this, engineers required an 'actor' to constantly be under the burning studio lights as they tweaked and sharpened the image, and Felix fit the bill perfectly. He was the right colour (black and white), impervious to the heat from the lights and worked cheaply (in fact a one-off payment was all that was required). RCA's first experimental television transmissions began in 1928 by station W2XBS (New York-Channel #1) in Van Cortlandt Park and then moved to the New Amsterdam Theater Building, transmitting 60 line pictures. The 13" Felix the Cat figure made of paper mache was placed on a record player turntable and was broadcast using a mechanical scanning disk to an electronic kinescope receiver. The image received was only 2 inches tall, and the broadcasts lasted about 2 hours per day. By 1931 the station became part of NBC and began to transmit from 42nd St. These early broadcasts consisted of objects like Felix the Cat or early test patterns and photographs. Felix remained on his turntable for almost a decade as the early experimenters strove towards the goal of a high definition picture.

I'm ready for my close-up...

Felix -- the first supermodel?

Felix the Cat had a very humble beginning as a curious and mischievous little cat as first conceived by New Jersey cartoonist Otto Messmer. In no time at all he was more popular than movie stars and world leaders of the same era. His squat, black body and huge, wide eyes and grin were instantly recognizable worldwide. He is considered the first true movie cartoon star. His first appearance was in a short film in the early 1900's called "Feline Follies". Soon thereafter he made the transition to print. King Features syndicated Felix in over 250 newspapers in a multitude of languages, reaching practically every corner of the globe. He's now published through Felix Comics, Inc., in various magazines and publications. Little did anyone know back then that this rather angular Felix would metamorphosize into the rounder, more lovable character he is today.

Otto Messmer was just doing what he loved to do...draw! He had no idea what he was starting! It wasn't long before a young Joe Oriolo, Otto's protégé, began working closely with Felix. There was a love for the character from the beginning. Joe Oriolo's presence with Felix then became very pronounced. Joe began to work exclusively on Felix and received from Otto a "carte blanche" to create a "new Felix". Joe Oriolo thus created a new Felix with a new image, new personality and new characters, including The Magic Bag of Tricks, Poindexter, The Professor, Rock Bottom and Vavoom.

Felix goes through changes.

Another view of Felix history from Fabulous Felix the Cat:

Felix was created by Otto Messmer for Pat Sullivan's Studio in New York. Felix made his first appearance in the five-minute short "Feline Follies", included as part of a Paramount Magazine serial release to Paramount-Publix Theatres in November of 1919. The years that followed brought worldwide attention to the Cat, as well as to the technology of Film Animation. (Very often this attention consisted of Pat Sullivan telling reporters, in vague terms, how he imagined some technique of "his" worked -- Sullivan was the only person to receive onscreen credit at all, despite the fact that he had virtually nothing to do with the actual production of the cartoons.)

And then, there was sound. When the world went crazy for sound in Cartoons, Sullivan decided to wait things out. While other studios were converting to sound production, Sullivan stood by, waiting for the trend to pass. Sound was eventually added post-production to a handful of silent Felix films. Astronomeows (1928) is one such example. It is both funny and beautiful. In this case, sound has simply been added over an existing cartoon in an attempt to heighten the comedy of the situation. If it is not vital to the animation; it does not detract from it.

But times changed -- rapidly. Sullivan had missed the boat. The outfit was crushed under the fast growth of studios like the Fleischers' and Disney's. Their creative forces had been drained; and they certainly had no chance of keeping up technologically. As if in an effort to call their staff back, they animate Felix around sound. The cost of the sound and the loss of the studio's staff took their toll on creativity. The animation in films such as April Maze, for example, is awkward and tragic. No longer does Felix move in the abstract, organic way that Animators like Messmer and Raoul Barré had mastered. The Cat's character changed for the worse over time, as well. He became increasingly domesticated, eventually timid and child-like.

That assessment might be a little harsh. I remember watching a truly surreal incarnation of Felix with my daughter called The Twisted Adventures of Felix the Cat (1995). Like Animaniacs, the writing was layered to appeal to both children and adults, but the drawing and situations in this last Felix model were highly stylized and exaggerated. Perhaps that experience helps to explain the abstract, cartoony suggestiveness of today's image.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

A Walden for the Rest of Us

A Walden for the Rest of Us

A Walden for the Rest of Us (2003)

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
--Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Don't we all want our own private Walden? Apparently so...

From the Walden Pond State Reservation:

Henry David Thoreau lived at Walden Pond from July 1845 to September 1847. His experience at Walden provided the material for the book Walden, which is credited with helping to inspire awareness and respect for the natural environment. Because of Thoreau's legacy, Walden Pond has been designated a National Historic Landmark and is considered the birthplace of the conservation movement. Park Interpreters provide tours and ongoing educational programs. The Reservation encompasses 400 acres which includes the 102-foot deep glacial kettle-hole pond. Mostly undeveloped woods totaling 2680 acres, called "Walden Woods" surround the reservation.

The area is popular for fishing, swimming, and walking. To protect the natural resources of the area and ensure that Walden Pond remains a pleasant place for people in the future, the number of visitors is limited to no more than 1,000 people at a time. Dogs, bicycles, floatation devices and grills are prohibited. To avoid disappointment, visitors are encouraged to call the park in advance and check on parking availability. A replica of Thoreau’s house and the location of his modest home are available for viewing by the public. Year round interpretive programs and guided walks are offered as well as The Shop at Walden and the Tsongas gallery. Specialized Equipment includes portable FM listening systems for park programs and a beach wheel chair for access to the beach and water.

I think Walden resonates more than ever since the reign of BushCo began. For people like me, the Bush administration has been a ongoing series of numb shocks leading almost to an anesthetized state. When Bush's smirk appears on television, I find myself falling into an involuntary fugue episode. Thoreau once observed that "to be awake is to be alive," so no wonder the five year (and counting) Republican rule is so draining. The near 70% of us who find Bush an inept, failed leader walk around with a kind of cultural post-traumatic stress syndrome. Nothing is transcendental. Instead, every televisual experience is funeral.

Something dies a little more each day. It's the undead corpse of our country and all it once embodied. In an age light years beyond Wall Street's ironic "Greed is good" maxim -- an era where the uber-rich glut themselves as the poor literally drown -- it's little wonder Thoreau's themes burn the middle and lower classes like salt in the open wounds of tax cuts for billionaires. From "On Thoreau's Walden" by Stephen C. Scheer:

Thoreau's Walden is mythic, poetic, fictitious, fabulous, and metaphoric in the best senses of these terms. In it the artistically re/created real-life experience (itself an experiment in "artistic" living) becomes a symbolic model or paradigm for an embodied spiritual quest for the disembodied, for a journey from the "gross" to the divine "necessaries of life." The thesis of Walden is clearly indicated in the first chapter of the book. True economy has nothing to do with the ways and means of increasing wealth, with methods for multiplying the superfluities, the "gross necessaries of life." True economy is that which simply provides the flesh with what belongs to the flesh so that the spirit may go about its own business. The problem for Thoreau is that people don't seem to know this. People seem to believe that the "gross necessaries of life" represent all that there is to their humanity. This, as Thoreau sees it, is a social fiction which the people of everyday reality take to be a God-given truth. Thoreau's strategy in Walden is to expose this social fiction for what it really is, namely, a false fiction, a fiction that represents the triumph of the flesh over the spirit.

Oil can't buy you love. Another McMansion won't chase away the blues. But this might

Henry David, you're doing a heckuva job...

Walden Pond
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation
."

or, if the pond is beyond the tangible reach of the rest of us, then a comparable state of mind will have to substitute. Here's a nutshell plan. If we can get this guy

That writer guy's pond needs a derrick...

out of our woods, then our collective "lives of quiet desperation" will begin to drain away like the toxic waters in New Orleans. Then we'll be left with "a Walden for the rest of us." And won't it be good to put this walking coma behind us -- and to be awake/alive again?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Eraserhead Baby Graduation Picture

Eraserhead Baby Graduation Picture

Eraserhead Baby Graduation Picture (2002)

Never talk about the baby.
--Catherine Coulson, Assistant to David Lynch on Eraserhead

See? I can go a week without being political. Although it's cathartic to vent and commiserate about Bush, let's talk about something less scary.

I always knew that one day this kid would grow up -- well, if it hadn't died, that is. Can we talk about the baby now?

From The City of Absurdity -- A short conversation with David Lynch about "the baby":

David Lynch even used to blindfold the projectionist who ran Eraserhead's rushes while the film was still in production because he never wanted anyone to see the effect of how he did the baby (nicknamed "Spike" by Jack Nance). Following is an interview excerpt between him and writer Stephen Saban in the September 28, 1978, issue of the Soho News:

Question: Did you make that thing?

David Lynch: That I . . . I don't . . . I . . . Stephen, I don't wanna, uh . . . talk about that.

Can you just tell me if it's a . . . sculpture? It's so well done. Someone I saw it with thought that it might be a calf fetus.

That's what a lot of people think it is.

I thought it was made, but couldn't figure out how you got it to move. Was it battery-operated?

I really don't . . .

You credit a doctor in the film. Is that related?

Well, I was looking into different ways, you know, in the beginning...

And?

If I say, I'll really feel bad.

Is it because you'd be giving away a technical secret, or because you'd be arrested?

You know, there's no promotional photos of the baby because people, like, uh...you know... it's like, nice to discover along in the film and not to know, like...much about it.

You say all the sounds are organic. Do you use the sound of a real baby crying?

No.

Then what is it? Or won't you tell that either?

I'm sorry, Stephen. Doggone it, you know, I'm not trying to, you know... It's just the baby stuff, I....

With answers like that, who does Lynch think he is -- John Roberts? Oh, wait -- sorry, political. Let's get back into the frame. I think I hear the baby crying. From DVD Verdict's review of Eraserhead:

For most people, children are a joy. They find their laughter as sweet as nature's own elixir and their round, cherubic faces like heaping helpings of Olympian ambrosia. True, there are those misguided demons that want to harm wee ones, to abuse and confuse them with adult yearnings and sticky feelings. And there are those kinder forged from an anvil too hot or mixed from a pool too sugary so that their brain and body chemistry malfunctions, leading to all manner of anti-social, but still vehemently excused, behavior difficulties. For the most part, the general consensus is that kids are spectacular. So much so, in fact, that all of society revolves around them. Rights are undermined, justice usurped, and adult privileges yielded for the sake of a small fry's fragile psyche and ability to grow up worry free. So what does it say about Eraserhead that the most hideous, heinous entity in the film -- far more foul than cooked mini-chickens that spew blood and bile from their roasted orifices or sicker than drilling into the soft, springy gray matter of a decapitated skull for pencil toppers -- is a newborn child: or more accurately, a premature blob of almost human like flesh that screeches like an undead cat. The "baby" in Eraserhead is one of its most enduring and disturbing images, not only for what it physically represents on camera, but for what it stands for thematically in the piece. The baby represents sex at its most evil, biology at its most perverted, and responsibility at its most trying. It is Eraserhead's central visual cue because, in 1972 as it is now, the child is the universal expression of higher order.

Don't touch that doorknob, daddy...

This image scared millions of men into involuntary sterility.

Now, hmmm, what exactly does the Eraserhead baby look like? Oh yeah, now I remember. From senses of cinema -- "The Evil That Men Do" by Thomas Caldwell:

Eraserhead is a nightmare vision of a world where men control all aspects of reproduction, turning sex into a mechanised process. The result is a world of industrial decay where life is more morbid than death itself. The infamous baby in Eraserhead is not naturally conceived but created by The Man on the Planet (Jack Fisk), a deformed monster who unnaturally creates life by pulling levers. Without love, life is an artificially created abomination.

At the centre of this mechanical world is Henry (Jack Nance), one of Lynch's many alter egos, who is a mixture of innocence and dark desires. Henry is forced to look after his deformed baby who constantly traps and enslaves him in the automated world of death-like existence. In this world, the baby, resembling an overgrown penis, both represents male sexuality and symbolises Henry's own sexuality. Similar to uncontrollable sexual urges, the baby-penis constantly demands attention from Henry who becomes its slave. Henry realises that he must kill the baby-penis in an act of self-castration to rid himself of his loathed sexuality. The baby-penis is the centre of the world created by unnatural sexuality, hence its destruction obliterates the world of Eraserhead.

That's sure Freudian enough for me, although it does give the designator dickhead a slightly less metaphorical connotation. Perhaps the last word should go to a critic reviewing Eraserhead and writing at The Four Word Film Review:

"Yucky baby spreads discontentment."

I suppose that beats "Blog fills another post."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Queen Learns She's a Widow

The Queen Learns She's a Widow

The Queen Learns She's a Widow (2001)

Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the usual annotation/explanation.

As I note in the blog's description, please feel free to talk back to the art, or, if you wish, use this post as a weekly open thread.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Gossiping

Gossiping

Gossiping (2002)

From The Washington Post -- "The Key to Discreet Gossiping" by Judith Martin:

Yes, children, we did used to have blogs. We called them diaries, and they got us into almost as much trouble as yours will get you.

The impulse to record one's every thought, feeling, opinion and experience long predates the home computer. It does not, Miss Manners hastens to add, predate the notions that one has a uniquely sensitive nature to which the world does not show proper attention and appreciation, and that one day it will be realized what a blunder that was on the part of the world.

Friends are not the ideal receptacles for daily confidences that keep making these points, as it does not take long to discover. Their minds wander, causing them to misunderstand or forget what they were told. They are especially prone to forgetting they were told not to tell others. Their emotions don't always come out the way they were supposed to, and they make irritating remarks, such as "You're not being fair" or "I don't see what you're so upset about." Their loyalties shift, leaving them with choice material to use against the very person who supplied it.

Hence, the diary. It had an insatiable appetite for grudges, gossip, love affairs, cultural pronouncements, social criticism and whatever else one chose to put into it. It was the ideal companion, an eager and sympathetic listener who would never betray you in the present but hinted at helping you to fame in the future.

Web logs have a similar lure for those who keep them, with what seem like additional advantages. It is not only that they work faster technologically. They are supposed to supply fame and hordes of eager and sympathetic listeners in the present.

With a diary, the danger was that someone might sneak a peek at it or even steal it and expose one's secrets. With a blog, the fear is that nobody might do so.

So, should I trust the three readers of this blog or not? Or just be grateful that I'm not at work where gossiping has weightier pros and cons, as Beverly West of monster.com explains:

Peter Post, codirector of the Emily Post Institute and coauthor of The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success, argues that there is a lot wrong with a little harmless gossip. "Gossiping and rumor-mongering add stress to the workplace," Post says. "Create stress in the workplace, and you create a situation in which people are not focusing on doing their work." This is why many companies have corporate policies that specifically restrict or prohibit on-the-job gossip and why management may not look kindly on those who engage in it.

But the overall effects of negative gossip don't necessarily suggest you should completely refrain from being in the know about situations around you. In fact, many psychologists believe that not engaging in a little office gossip can actually hurt your career.

Siobhan Mellor, clinical psychologist and author of the research paper, "Gossip -- the Nation's Favorite Pastime," believes that the right kind of gossip can be good for you. "Getting the latest gossip about the behavior of others helps build a social map for what is accepted, weird, bad -- and even what kinds of actions improve our status and what doesn't," she says.

Chagall made this etching for an edition of Gogol's "Dead Souls".

Perfectly Charming Ladies Gossiping (1923-27) by Marc Chagall
[Image from Spaightwood Galleries]

So, I'm confused. Is gossiping good or bad? I don't know. Hey. Let's talk it about it some more. What's your neighborhood anthropologist say? From AllRefer Health:

According to new research to be published in Human Nature, gossip can stamp out bad behaviour, strengthen friendships and circulate important information not available anywhere else. When people huddle to share information about an absent person, it is a deep-seated instinct, the equivalent of social grooming, discovered an 18-month study by two anthropologists, Kevin Kniffin of the University of Wisconsin and David S Wilson of the State University of New York.

Gossip helps in improving relationship, clarifying social status and it reinforces shared values, it said.

"Gossip is about reputation, and that has been intensely important throughout human history, no matter how primitive or sophisticated a society is," the Independent quoted Kniffin, as saying.

He said that gossip could be used as a defence mechanism and it could help an individual in tackling a person who is of bad behaviour. It also helps in making humans more moral, as doing bad things would definitely result in being at the receiving end of gossip.

The study also revealed, that people spend from a fifth to two- thirds of their daily conversation gossiping, with men indulging in it as much as women.

However, while gossiping men were found more egocentric, talking for two-thirds of the time about themselves, while women did so for only a third, preferring to talk about other people.

Oh, I'm skeptical. I don't think a guy like me who has a blog and a web site and a compulsion to make his writing and art public and who likes to prattle on and on and on about whatever comes into his head and who blitzes along obliviously rattling out verbiage to pump up another thin unsubstantial post to fill space for another day before starting to think about repeating the same egomaniacal obsessions the next day gossips as much as --

-- hey -- hey, wait a minute. Where are you going? I'm not finished yet...

Monday, September 12, 2005

Another Cattle Mutilation

Another Cattle Mutilation

Another Cattle Mutilation (2000)

Woke up this morning with milk light in my eyes
And then realized it was still dark outside
It was a cow light coming down from the sky
I don't know who or why

--The Byrds, "Mr. Spaceman"

From (you guessed it ) The Cattle Mutilations Page:

Cattle Mutilation Phenomena refers to thousands of cases in North America where cattle have been found mutilated under abnormal circumstances. Many mutilated cattle have been found marked with fluorescent paint, probably to help identify them in the dark.

The cows are found dead (although the cause of death is undetermined), exsanguinated (all their blood has been removed). Precise "laser-precision" cuts are observed in the mutilated cattle. They have had certain organs surgically removed from their bodies. Often their reproductive and rectal organs have been removed.

Abnormally high radiation levels have been detected near the dead animals when they are found, and scavengers will not touch the carcass. There are no footprints leading to or from the cows. There is evidence (clamp marks on the animals' legs) that the cattle were taken from their habitats and mutilated elsewhere. Sightings of UFOs and strange, unmarked, black helicopters coincide with many cattle mutilation cases.

Some people suspect our government as being behind this as some sort of biological warfare plan. Yet this is a world phenomemon.

The marks found on the animals are not consistent with attacks by predators such as wolves or coyotes.

In many cases the owners hear nothing at the time of the mutilation which is usually at night.

But, you know, why do the visitors go for our...cows? Why not our cocaine...or (please) our politicians? OvniLab Dreamland knows:

Some may ask, "If done by UFOs, why would they be interested in cattle?" And the answer to that may lie in the fact that cattle blood is so similar to humans that it can be used in the lab to create human blood plasma. Indicating the aliens may be studying the cattle, to find out more about us!

Take us to your dairy animals...

What's the freshness date on Daisy?

Satanic Cults? Aliens who don't got milk? Or, [cue sinister theme music], a government conspiracy? From Dead Cows I've Known:

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has been tasked with tracking and studying something even more frightening: Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathies and other Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies (TSEs). Much of the research has been conducted at Rocky Mountain Labs. Originally it was thought that a foreign power might be trying to contaminate the American food supply. Instead they discovered a new variation of TSEs. But TSEs are no new biological evolution, in fact they are much older than the primates.

The funding for this research is hidden in the NIH's black budget for the study of AIDS. Neither AIDS or BSE are viruses, rather they are the consequences of immune systems that have been thwarted. The research has been kept quiet to prevent an outbreak of panic. But the cats out of the bag, all of us are in the same boat. Every American who's ever eaten meat has potentially been exposed to our new, common threat: Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies.

Over the last ten years, law enforcement in dozens of States have been trying to track and identify unmarked helicopters sighted where area livestock have been discovered dead under suspicious circumstances. The helicopters are seen before and after these cows are found in pastures, missing certain organs. The same things are always taken.

I guess guinea pigs are just too small to be serviceable. Naturally, some skeptics have a beef with the conspiracists and UFOlogists. The Straight Dope finds the answer closer to Tennyson's "nature red in tooth and claw":

Sensible people, such as (one presumes) anyone reading this column, generally believe that the mutilations are the result of natural predators. A minority of cases are the work of brain-damaged farm boys who get ideas after reading about mutilations in the papers.

According to The People's Almanac #3, a couple Arkansas state cops tried an experiment in which they left a dead cow in a field unattended. Within 33 hours, buzzards followed by blowflies had neatly disposed of the eyes, sex organs, and even the blood, leaving the appearance of "surgical precision" behind them.

Other studies have tended to support this scenario. In 1974, for instance, state veterinary labs investigating a rash of mutilation reports in Nebraska and South Dakota reported that every animal brought to them for examination had died of natural causes.

Close Encounters of the Skim Milk Kind...

A Sony ad for camcorders
[Image from Rense.com]

Finally, the Skeptic's Dictionary wonders why bovine-slashing aliens are so, well, ill-mannered:

Of course, inquiring minds want to know why beings with the intelligence and power to travel billions of miles to our planet would spend their time mutilating cows, experimenting on otherwise unremarkable people, or carving up wheat fields. They need cow blood and glands for food and experiments. They are harvesting enzymes and are working on a genetic engineering project that will blend the Gray race (the aliens) with a Nordic race so they can interface with humans better. They are altering cow DNA to create some sort of artificial life form. They are carving up wheat fields with ever more elaborate designs to impress upon us how intelligent they are. Why would they come here and behave so preposterously? They're aliens and are beyond our comprehension. Nothing is preposterous for beings who are beyond our comprehension.

Yeah. Why can't they just beam up their mad cow laced chuck for intergalactic Hamburger Helper skillet dishes like the rest of us?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Epiphany

Epiphany

Epiphany (2005)

I've noticed that things quiet down in the blogosphere on weekends. Apparently, many bloggers and readers have other priorities and prefer to actually engage in some kind of RL activities, like sleeping or having conversations with human beings without typing. In the red state Bible Belt where I live, the culture (and liquor stores) slam shut on Sundays, and many businesses assume the public, minus a few pockets of godless heathens, is singing with Santorum in the church choir, and then nesting in the recliner for an afternoon of football and hot wings. Only the local Wal-Mart is open on Sunday morning -- using discounted consumerism to lure souls away from being saved.

But I enjoy writing and posting something everyday, circumstances permitting, even if visiting traffic slows to crawl. So, I've decided to post new work on Sundays from now on. You know, test the (holy) waters, as it were.

If you would ask me at any given time what work of mine most interests or excites me, I would probably say Whatever I am working on right now. After all, who wants to think one's best work is behind him or her? Besides, current projects haven't fallen victim yet to the nagging inner critic, a vulture that picks at every image or poem as if it were a carcass. These pieces are new -- miracles, in a way -- and tangible proof that one can still make something from nothing.

Of course, as children learn, the excitement of a new toy can soon fade. Artists (and bloggers) know the latest creation will likely prove not to be the best -- only the newest. Still, the look what I did enthusiasm of showing work hot off the brain is both exhilarating and terrifying. Do I have it still? Or have I lost it? If nothing else, I want to share it with you. If I didn't, I'd bury it unceremoniously on my hard drive and delete this blog.

Today's image tries to capture that moment of extreme insight where the unknown suddenly becomes viscerally known. The catch is the epiphany has somehow been externalized -- exploding furiously outside the mind.

And, really, isn't that what art does?

~/~

I really don't think about him very much. I'm not that concerned.
--George W. Bush on Osama Bin Laden in a press conference on March 13, 2002

Well, I'm thinking about him today.

And, today, I'll grieve quietly for those who lost their lives four years ago, and for their families whose lives were forever changed.

What I won't be doing is watching the America Supports You Freedom Walk. It smells too much of another Bush-engineered, pre-screened rally. Why would I possibly hold such a jaded view? Could the reason be because of what I read about the event, taken here from the Washington Post:

Some military supporters have welcomed the event as a way to counter the antiwar movement and back the troops abroad. Antiwar groups say they are convinced that the event was orchestrated to boost the war effort and link the war to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- and to undercut an antiwar protest planned for Sept. 24.

One restricted group will be the media, whose members will not be allowed to walk along the march route. Reporters and cameras are restricted to three enclosed areas along the route but are not permitted to walk alongside participants walking from the Pentagon, across the Memorial Bridge to the Mall.

The Washington Post and other corporate entities initially signed on as co-sponsors. But critics from within the newspaper and from the antiwar movement said partnering with the Pentagon raised questions about objectivity, and three weeks ago The Post pulled its co-sponsorship.

[...]

Opponents of the Freedom Walk took issue with the way the Pentagon is staging the event. When the walk first was publicized, participants were required to submit their names, ages, e-mail addresses and home addresses. After some groups accused the Pentagon of using the registration as a recruiting tool for the military, the requirements were changed.

And I'm sure no one would use the event to once again crassly make the long disproved suggestion that there was a link between the events of 9/11 and a rational justification for the war in Iraq...

The event, the America Supports You Freedom Walk, is billed as a memorial to victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks and a show of support for those serving in the military, topped off with a concert by country singer Clint Black, known for his pro-troops anthem, "Iraq and Roll."

...because that would be exploiting the 9/11 victims and families and using a ceremony to support our troops as a propaganda vehicle to push the Bush administration's policies. Could this sudden "epiphany" be why the Post withdrew its support for the event? From Editor and Publisher:

Groups such as United for Peace and Justice and American Friends Service Committee have come out not only against the walk, but against the Post's part in it. AFSC has even placed a form letter of protest on its Web site to be e-mailed to the Post, along with e-mail addresses for Jones, Executive Editor Leonard Downie, Jr. and Managing Editor Phil Bennett. "The Washington Post has no place sponsoring an event that clearly smacks of propaganda," the form letter states.

Jones said the paper is not donating money to the event, but is providing free advertising space for public service messages promoting the walk.

Post spokesman Eric Grant also did not return calls for comment Monday, but said last week that "the walk was never presented to us as a rally to support the war and we would be very disappointed if it took that approach."

I guess the worm turned...as worms will do.

So, I'll grieve and offer prayers quietly today -- refusing to absorb yet another empty photo op designed to grease policies I abhor and to pump up a president I despise...and one who says he is "not concerned" about Osama Bin Laden.

You know what I'm concerned about? Using the courage of soldiers and the sorrow of grieving families as props.

And, after watching firefighters being told where to stand onstage with Bush last week, I'm hoping more and more Americans are having a few epiphanies, too.

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