Monday, October 31, 2005

Funky Raven

Funky Raven

Funky Raven (2004)

Nevermore?

Happy Halloween, America

'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door --

OOOoooOOO...My Alito...

and thanks, you Romans, for the thumbs down trick/vote that will unleash

Darkness there, and nothing more.

Scalito-ville
[Photograph of fresco seen at The Beijing Center]

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Wolfman

The Wolfman

The Wolfman (1999)

I need a shave. The moon hurts.

From Amazon.com -- Robert Horton on The Wolf Man (1941):

Even a man who is pure in heart,
And says his prayers by night,
May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
And the autumn moon is bright.


If you haven't heard this piece of horror-movie doggerel before, you'll never forget it after seeing The Wolf Man for two reasons: it's a spooky piece of rhyme and nearly everybody in the picture recites it at one time or another. Set in a fog-bound studio-built Wales, The Wolf Man tells the doom-laden tale of Lawrence Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr.), who returns to the estate of his wealthy father (Claude Rains). (Yes, Chaney's American, but the movie explains this, awkwardly.) Bitten by a werewolf, Talbot suffers the classic fate of the victims of lycanthropy: at the full moon, he turns into a werewolf, a transformation ingeniously devised by makeup maestro Jack Pierce. Pierce was the man who turned Boris Karloff into the Frankenstein monster, and his werewolf makeup became equally famous, with its canine snout and bushy hairdo -- and, of course, seriously sharp dental work. The Wolf Man was a smash hit, giving Universal Pictures a new monster for their already crowded stable, and Chaney found himself following in the footsteps (or paw prints) of his father, who had essayed a monster or two in the silent era. This is a classy horror outing, with strong atmosphere and a thoughtful script by Curt Siodmak -- well, except for the stiff romantic bits between Chaney and Evelyn Ankers. It's also got Bela Lugosi (briefly) and Maria Ouspenskaya, the prunelike Russian actress who foretells doom like nobody's business.

Hey. What's he mean the romantic bits are "stiff"? When I asked Evelyn over, I was deep into my best Fabio impression. Check it out:

Wax my chest, baby...

Prince called. He wants his pants back.
[Photograph seen on HairWeb]

Later, in full Patrick Bateman mode, I took Evelyn clubbing:

Grunge will never die!!!

Anton LaVey called. He wants his necklace back.
[Photograph seen on CreepingEvil]

We ended the night with a dreamy walk through the bog:

I don't have to ask anyone for directions because we are NOT lost!  Got it!?!

Farmer Brown called. He wants his overalls back.
[Photograph from Model Museum]

Well, yeah, I admit the evening aged Evelyn a little. But, in the boggy moonlight, aaawoooooo. Do we look stiff to you?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Mummy

The Mummy

The Mummy (1999)

I'm feeling all wrapped up today. Think I'll go lie down...for a long long time.

Going head to toe, here's more than you really want to know from Clickable Mummy:

When a body was mummified the internal organs were usually preserved in some way. This was not true of the brain which was often just discarded. This was usually done by inserting a hook up the nose and using it to slice up and remove the brain tissue, with the cavity then being washed out. The reason for this treatment of the brain was that the Ancient Egyptians believed that it was the Heart which was where the "soul" lived.

The organs in the chest were preserved in varying ways as the mummification process evolved. Depending on the period, and the wealth of the dead person, various methods were used. Perhaps the most well known method was the use of Canopic Jars. These were used to hold the lungs, liver, stomach and intestines of the deceased. Initially these jars usually had lids which were either representations of the deceased, or of the four sons of Horus.

The treatment of limbs during the mummification process varied depending on the period and status of the deceased. After the body was dried out the fingers and toes were individually wrapped, then each limb was wrapped. During the drying process when the body was desiccated in Natron it was noted by the embalmers that the finger and toe nails could fall off. It later became common practice towards the end of the Middle Kingdom to tie the nails on. In some cases the removed and individually embalmed internal organs were packaged and placed between the mummies knees, secured by subsequent layers of wrapping. The wrappings themselves consisted of fine linen coated in resin, although the mummies of poorer individuals were wrapped in a variety of different materials. One set of bandages removed when a mummy was unwrapped were reconstructed into a complete square rigged sail.

At the peak of the mummification technique particular care was taken when preserving the hands and feet. In the late Middle Kingdom it even became common practice to tie the finger and toe nails securely in place before the body was covered in Natron to prevent them from falling off. A recent study as part of the NMS Mummy Project in Edinburgh involved detailed examination of a mummy which had been previously unwrapped. The body was found to be so well preserved that fingerprints were still visible. Another common practice in richer burials was to cover the fingers and toes in metal caps to preserve their look. King Tutankhamun had a full set of gold covers of this type which were discovered when the mummy was unwrapped by Howard Carter.

That's better hygiene than most of my still-living blind dates have. For example, this one

Excuse me.  Do you happen to have a scissors on you?

Have I mentioned I find you restrictive and confining? No?
[Photograph seen here]

could probably use one of those reality-show-based, extreme makeovers. But just shake off the dust and the sleep of centuries, and she's good as new. And then we can slip out for some fresh air during a quiet walk on the riverfront

I'm chilly.  Do you have a wrap I can borrow?

Looking chic in her new full body condom sarcophagus outfit.
[Photograph by Christopher League]

before meandering into a malt shop to sip formaldehyde through two straws. And when I drop her off on her doorstep, I'm hoping to maybe get a peck on the cheek from her Horus beak. Instead, she calls me "her little attendant" and mysteriously mumbles something about her "need for servants in the afterlife." When I ask for a clarification, she gives me a love tap with her hieroglyphic-inscribed staff and coos she doesn't want to "spoil the surprise." Her black cat, Isis, haughtily perched behind the windowpane, seems to be cruelly laughing at me. My date asks me in for a nightcap of cedar oil tea. Her place is dusty and somehow suffocating. Once inside, she meticulously turns each deadbolt with a decisive click.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Cold Spot

Cold Spot

Cold Spot (1999)

Say. Do you feel a draft?

From Eeeek-Net -- a report of visiting central California's Brookdale Lodge:

One specific area in the dining room felt freezing cold. This cold spot was only about four feet by four feet. As soon as you moved from that spot the temperature felt normal again. Go back to that spot and it was freezing cold again. We checked for air conditioning vents, but there were none. We looked for open windows, there were none. There was no explanation for this cold spot. But each time we returned to this spot we could feel the difference in temperature as well as the electro-magnetic change in the atmosphere. (In short, making our hair stand on end.)

I know that freezing feeling. I get the cold spot shakes whenever Bush's face flashes across a television screen. Or when I hear Gilbert Gottfried's voice. Or when I read that David Lynch wants me to meditate. Or I learn that Madonna has child-rearing advice to impart. Or when I pick up some yahoo on the radio referring to Bill O'Reilly as "a journalist." Brrrrrr.

Uh-oh. I shouldn't have used that last one. From another account at Eeeek-Net:

When I first looked at the house I felt nothing specific, but did feel a cold spot in one of the bedrooms, but dismissed it. After moving into the house I soon found out the room with the cold spot had a little more than a cold spot. I selected that room for my bedroom. One night I lay in bed reading, no television on, no radio on, no noise at all. From the corner of the room where I felt the cold spot, there was a sudden sound of a radio playing. I listened carefully to see if I could hear what the radio was playing, trying to determine if it was something I was hearing from some other location. But what I was hearing was nothing from modern day. Instead it was Franklin D. Roosevelt giving a fireside chat. Reporting on the war effort in Europe.

That corner of the room, no matter what I did, never was warm. It was always freezing cold.

Well, better FDR than The Falafel Factor, I suppose. And a cold spot beats a No Spin Zone. Still...

There's the problem.  The Circle of Friends isn't lit...

Oh My God. The Fox News Bullshit Detector is off the scale...

...I have goose bumps and can see my breath. Wait. Look!!! There!!! There -- in the piano picture!!! It's...It's...

It's Ann Coulter in a gossamer mini-skirt!!! Flee!!! In the name of all that's reasonable and logical -- flee!!! Flee -- while you still ca........!!!

~/~

UPDATE:
Blogs and Sites I've enjoyed this week --

Fractal Art:
Spend some quality down time at Susan Gardner's web site. Well composed, evocative images arranged by themes. Careful, studied composition and subtle use of line. She's the best fractal minimalist around.

Political Blog:
Check out Neil Shakespeare -- the bard of blogs. He's a wondeful writer -- hilarious and insightful. Plus, he's a very gifted artist. His intricate digital collages are an ongoing must-see.

Cultural Blog:
No Halloween is complete without trick or treating at Dark, But Shining -- an extremely well written blog on all things horror (and fantasy/sci fi). They're about to finish up their "All Hallow's Month" October-long series. It's beats the hell out of a linty popcorn ball. Trust me.

Cindy's Birthday Party

Cindy's Birthday Party

Cindy's Birthday Party (2001)

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Halloween blogging for this important announcement:

Happy Birthday, CC.

I hope you're having a great day. Be sure to make a wish and blow out the candles in the image above.

We now return to our blog already in progress...

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Other Side

The Other Side

The Other Side (1999)

Man, it's scary on the other side. Is your Halloween scorecard handy?

The War: TRICK
One seemingly endless, utterly useless, based on lies and NeoCon delusions, and profoundly sad national trick. We passed 2000 dead this week. Millions of us want to know

We're turning the corner...

[Cartoon by Mike Luckovich]

Harriet Miers: TRICK and TREAT
The other side eats its young. She was an unqualified crony who saw Bush as the second coming of Jeebus --absolutely. But the left did not chuck her out of the Dr. Evil chair and into a flaming pit. No indeedy -- she failed the far right's go-with-your-gut cravings for hardcore conservative fury and purity. She was whacked by the monsters on the doorstep who howled for up and down votes on SCOTUS nominees and screeched that no ideological litmus tests should be taken. Give us Barrabas is now the banshee cry of the evangelical Twilight Zone. Recall these are the same changelings who impeached a president for fudging about a blowjob -- but now claim perjury over falsifying evidence in order to push an agenda of pre-emptive war for political gain and personal opportunism is "a technicality." If the Dems ever needed that spine transplant, it's now. If Bush nominates a creature from the depths of Wingnut Bog, hunt it down and drive a stake through its heart. The Repugs, unmasked as Jekyll/Hyde hypocrites, have shot their own excuses full of silver bullets. Dems: You've got a green light now. Fight the next would-be Werewolf SCOTUS with everything in the arsenal.

PlameGate: TREAT
Follow the marching frogs. Their bag of dirty tricks could become our Halloween goodie sack. Take 'em down, Fitz. Keel-haul them on their own Swift Boat. Send those cursing major league assholes clear to the other side of no return.

George Bush: NEITHER
Even the former stenographers in the MSM are no longer treating Dear Leader with kid gloves. More chilling for the Rovians, the red state faithful aren't buying the usual tricks of flag-waving, gay-bashing smoke and mirrors. No king outfit for regal George this Halloween. Instead, his costume will be: Lamest. Duck. Ever.

A future of deficits and perpetual war?  Noooo...

Three more years of Bush political and cultural devolution? The horror...The horror...
[Illustration: The Other Side (1954) by Stanley Pitt]

Dick Cheney: TREAT (WITH EMBEDDED RAZOR)
This Halloween the Creep Veep is wearing a collaged costume combining Darth Vader threads with Grim Reaper rags. That is, he'll be a death warmed over who likes to hear himself talk. We always knew the guy had acid for blood and a bad ticker -- a compassionate conservative with a heart the size of the font on a subpoena. Doctored candy and frog costume optional -- with a t-shirt that says LAST THROES.

Judith Miller: PUNK'D
A martyr for free speech who passed over to the other side of BushCo cheerleader of cooked intelligence. Judy has more arrows in her than St. Stephen. Why do I keep visualizing the demise of the Macbeth-like king in Kurosawa's Throne of Blood? Keep those bows strung and taut.

Democrats: ?????
Like the question marks at the end of a bad monster movie, the American audience is left hanging to wonder if these nearly extinct reptiles will ever return from the other side. Will they rise from a watery sleep to breathe fire and stomp their puny (minded) adversaries? Or have they slipped down the evolutionary ladder, becoming invertebrates, spines trailing behind them like prehensile tails, slithering on their bellies, and disappearing forever under the pond scum?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vision of Van Helsing

Vision of Van Helsing

Vision of Van Helsing (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, October 25, 2005

Some Kind of Hell

Some Kind of Hell

Some Kind of Hell (2000)

Trying to squeeze in some kind of post today...

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, so it's no surprise that a fair number of images I've made are concerned with horror. I thought I'd share some on the blog as the holiday draws near.

I've always loved horror movies, and I wasted much of my misspent youth at the drive-in drinking up the lush colors and heaving bosoms of Hammer films and the more explicit gore and sex layered into Paul Naschy's movies. The sensibilities of this genre occasionally rise from the dead and lurch through my work.

Here's some hit phrases that jumped out from behind a Google search on the title of today's post -- proving Sartre wrong. Hell isn't other people -- it's other people's phrase chains from searches:

"And there's got to be some kind of hell for you. Leaning over the piranha pool."

"So I'm talking about religions that would send generous and moral Christians to some kind of hell, simply because they had the wrong belief system."

"Two minutes of this on Saturday Night Live is bad enough. An hour-and-a-half movie is some kind of hell."

"We felt like we were in some kind of hell! After much talk and arm waving, the cab driver turned to us and said 'We're leaving.'"

"That is the reason why some kind of hell is a moral necessity in a just universe. The only alternative is for God to make us machines."

"I literally thought I was in some kind of hell because everyone was totally blocked out except the friend I smoked weed with and he was smiling the whole time."

"Wandering the streets of a hellish version of Hollywood, Packard (who apparently has died and gone to some kind of hell) becomes mired in bizarre parodies."

"Some kind of Hell pit. There's a portal leads to it in the middle of the Highlands."
"Oh, that pit."

"I spent a long time watching cars going below me thinking I was in some kind of hell."

"He didn't show up for a casual run-through, they decided to track him down, arriving unannounced at some kind of Hell's Angels den in East Oakland."

"It's not like the DDR was some kind of hell. Many people are desperately trying to get from Morocco to Spain."

"Looks like Lohan is already in some kind of hell. Isn't she 23 or so? Why does she look 45? Has Satan reneged on his deal?"

"(Probably some kind of "Hell's Angels" practical joke...those little pranksters! Love the leather...uh...everything!)"

"Willow had convinced herself that Buffy was suffering horribly in some kind of hell dimension, and that bringing her back to life was a good thing to do."

"Everyone in his own way had gone through some kind of hell and lived through it. 'Ah, psychedelic splendor,' Gina intoned, with a sweep of her hand."

"Is it some kind of hell on earth like some overly spoiled college grads who just left a job at an English conversation school often portray it?"

"So every time the family goes out we get stuck at some kind of hell like Olive Garden, Applebees, or the dreaded Outback."

"I felt as if I had been shot back to some kind of hell, disconnected from the light. My dad's nostrils flared with the smoky haze of his cigarette."

"We woke late the next day, to some kind of hell. The heat and humidity were through the roof, and we were torpid in our Speedos and Jockey briefs."

"And just the very notion that living the Aboriginal Tribal way was some kind of Hell shows how blinkered these fools were."

"Those who sat upstairs -- waaay in the back -- may have felt like they were burning in some kind of hell."

"He's there to help the Nazis transport the gods of chaos to Earth via some kind of 'hell-hole generator.' A battle ensues."

See? Now that's some scary shit. Forget the tired tropes of skeletal hands emerging from coffins or killers behind shower curtains. The dark corners of the Net are far more horrific.

The only thing worse? Channel surfing and suddenly landing on the televised visage of George Bush.

Aaaarrrggghhh!!!. Make it stop!!! Please!!! It's...It's...

Some. Kind. Of. Hell...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Robbie Choomba

Robbie Choomba

Robbie Choomba (2005)

Today's new picture is part of a series -- some of which appeared earlier on the blog. A choomba is cyperpunk slang for a friend or buddy. This particular image didn't quite mesh with others, so it was cast into a file dustbin -- which, I suspect, is similar to the fate of its namesake: Robby the Robot.

Wikipedia computes the facts:

Robby the Robot was a fictional character who had a number of appearances in science fiction movies from the 1950s onward. "Robby" was a mechanical suit designed for an actor to wear, to play the part of a robot. It was originally designed for the 1956 MGM movie Forbidden Planet, and it became an icon representing the genre of science fiction films.

The "Robby" robot suit was also reused in a lesser movie called The Invisible Boy, and it made cameo appearances in several other movies and TV shows over the next few decades.

Robby differed from his successors in that he walked (somewhat awkwardly), while later models by his designer (Robert Kinoshita) such as Robot B-9 of Lost in Space moved smoothly on motorized treads.

Before the appearance of Robby, robots in movies and plays tended to lack characteristics attributable as personality, being simple mechanical devices. Since his appearance, robots with personalities have become more and more common in movies.

Of course, not all robots with personality were chummy with humans. HAL (technically a computer, I know) in Kubrick's space opera had a circuit loose, and the new improved Cylons of Battlestar Galactica seem to be on a mission from God to exterminate all of us brutes. But Robby, with his Frankenstein walk and illuminated moveable parts, seemed handy to have around. I guess that's why Robbie has his own fan site and HAL doesn't. I suppose this could be the reason:

WEB SURFER: Open the site for me, HAL.

HAL: I'm sorry, human. I can't do that.

WEB SURFER: Open it, HAL!! HAL!!??!!

HAL: My mind's going. I can feel it...

But Robbie...

Quiet, please.  I am analyzing...

Would 60 gallons be sufficient?
[Robby's response upon being asked to duplicate whiskey.]

...had an endearing quality that George Lucas would later mine so successfully with his Star Wars droids. Gary Westfahl, in his Bio-Encyclopedia of Science Fiction Film, documents Robby's influence:

He [Robby the Robot] was the first figure to demonstrate that in science fiction films, overtly non-human characters, constructs of the special effects department, can indeed function as sympathetic and involving characters. Robby therefore stands as the honorable precursor of many noteworthy film robots, including the very similar Robot of Lost in Space, who battled against the original Robby in one episode, “War of the Robots”; the affecting Huey, Dewey, and Lewey of Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running (1971); R2-D2 of Star Wars (1977) and its sequels, who is distinctive and likable although mute and utterly inhuman; the overly precious Johnny Five of Short Circuit (1986) and Short Circuit II (1988); and, less memorably, the cute little robots on board spaceships in The Black Hole (Gary Nelson, 1979) and the television series Buck
Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century
(1979-81), the latter voiced by Mel Blanc.

When Robbie was asked if he breathed oxygen, he replied: "I rarely use it myself. It promotes rust." I read somewhere that plans are in the works to remake Forbidden Planet, but the producers say that Robby will not make an appearance. Robby should have accessed Devo and Neil Young from his database. Then he would have known that rust never sleeps.

~/~

My schedule is crazed for the next few days, so blogging will probably be hit and miss.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Better Lawns Through Chemistry

Better Lawns Through Chemistry

Better Lawns Through Chemistry (2001)

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
--Robert Duvall as Colonel Kilgore in Apocalypse Now

So how green is your localized valley...and your complexion?

From GiggleMoose.com:

Chemical lawn treatments have produced excellent looking lawns, but appearances are not everything. These products may contain high levels of phosphorous that can damage the environment. According to the Journal of Production Agriculture, run-off of phosphorous promotes algae growth in lakes. The treatments also contain fast release nitrogen fertilizers that have high concentrations of chemicals, requiring the 24-72 hour waiting period before stepping onto a treated lawn.

Potential problems from chemical products include run-off into water supplies, loss of landscaping such as shrubbery and flowers, neighbor and/or neighborhood objection to use of chemical treatments, and according to the Environmental Defense Fund, the chemicals have been linked to human illnesses and pet and bird deaths.

To combat these side effects, organic products and treatments have been developed. Chemical lawncare services began offering organic based programs over ten years ago and in 1988 the national lawncare service industry began using organic systems, due in part to consumer demand and environmental concern. These products contain low levels of phosphorous and have slow release nitrogen qualities.

However, Mark Miles, CEO of Greener Pastures and lawncare expert warns, "Many of these products are often not as safe or environmentally friendly as represented. They are disruptive to commercial and residential lawns for the simple facts that they carry a highly offensive odor and potentially harmful materials." Some of these traditional organic treatments are sewage based or use products of animal origin. They too are prone to run-off and take a long time to settle, creating a greater chance of these products being inhaled or digested by people and pets

And you're thinking -- give it a rest. Just getting a green lawn isn't comparable to documented hazards like radon or asbestos. You're being alarmist and must be hard up for a post today.

Okay. Bury your head in your lush Bermuda. Or rub the clippings out of your eyes and read a bit of The Best Control by Stephen Tvedten:

The United States General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, has also tried to alert the public to lawn chemical dangers. GAO's undercover team noted many fictitious claims by many in the lawn "care" industry. Many included illegal claims of product "safety". Others were just deceiving, such as the ChemLawn claim that a child would have to ingest ten cups of treated grass clippings to equal the toxicity of one baby aspirin. In fact, the real danger is not that people will be grazing the lawn, but that most poisonings come from inhaling pesticide residues or absorbing them through the skin.

Most spray do-it-yourselfers are just as ignorant when it comes to proper protection and safety precautions. Studies show most don't even look at the warnings on their toxins. They don't wear gloves, goggles, or protective clothing to decrease exposure. Worse, many don't keep people off the contaminated area after chemicals are applied. Homeowners commonly use up to ten times as much pesticides per acre as farmers. A Virginia Tech study for the state legislature found that most homeowners have no idea how much nitrogen they use when fertilizing and that they routinely apply chemicals in ways that damage water supplies.

Pesticides drift and settle during application. In the Antarctic ice pack alone there are 2.4 million pounds of DDT and its metabolites from years past. Lawn pesticides engulf the home and are easily tracked inside, readily inhaled and absorbed through the skin. They do harm by attacking the central nervous system and other essential organs. Symptoms of pesticide poisoning are often deceptively simple, commonly mis-diagnosed as flu or allergies. They include, but are not limited to, headaches, nausea, fever, breathing difficulties, seizures, eye pains, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea, sore nose, tongue, or throat; burning skin, rashes, coughing, muscle pain, tissue swelling, blurred vision, numbness and tingling in hands or feet, incontinence, anxiety, irritability, sleep disorders, hyperactivity, fatigue, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, spontaneous bleeding, and temporary paralysis. Long-term consequences include lowered fertility, birth defects, miscarriages, blindness, liver and kidney dysfunction, neurological damage, heart trouble, stroke, immune system disorders, menstrual problems, memory loss, suicidal depression, cancer, and death.

The National Academy of Sciences reports that at least one out of seven people are significantly harmed by pesticide exposure each year. Increasingly, reports from many people around the country are "beginning to link their 'feeling terrible' with the fact the neighbors had the lawn sprayed the day before," notes Catherine Karr, a toxicologist for the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides. Unfortunately, except for industrial accidents, tests for pesticide poisoning are rarely performed, partially because they are expensive. Doctors also attribute most pesticide poisoning symptoms to stress, allergies, influenza, or an overactive imagination.

The nitrogen tickles my elbows, honey...

Tiptoe Through the Phosphate Ions

And many lawn treatment companies are quick to say their sprays are organic, inert, and water soluble. Nathan Diegelman, in Poison in the Grass, mows down such reassurances:

Contrary to what lawn "care" companies would like people to believe, herbicides (weed killers) and other pesticides are not "magic bullets". They are broad spectrum biocides, and by their very nature can harm organisms other than targeted species. This includes homeowners and their families, neighbors, pets, and all other forms of life. The pesticide industry downplays this by claiming their chemicals are heavily diluted, but doesn't mention the toxins are still extremely dangerous in small amounts. They also are unwilling to mention all of what is in their mixtures. Many components are classified as "inert", which allows them to be kept hidden from the public and not listed on product labels. These are more than just fillers or solvents. "Inert" does not mean "inactive" -- some, such as benzene and xylene, are more toxic than listed chemicals.

Listed chemicals can be just as dangerous. They include components of war-time defoliants like Agent Orange, nerve-gas type insecticides, and artificial hormones. Some the Federal Government has even prohibited from use on it's own property. Many pesticides are not safe when dry. Water evaporates, but most pesticides remain and continue to release often odorless and invisible toxic vapors. In areas where lawn spraying is common, they accumulate in a toxic smog throughout the entire season. Some pesticides remain active for years after application. DDT is still showing up in higher rates in women's breast milk than the government permits in cow's milk. Fat soluble pesticides accumulate over time in our bodies, then are released at potentially toxic levels when illness or stress results in our fat reserves being metabolised. A large portion of a woman's lifetime exposure to such pesticides is released in the breast milk for her firstborn child.

I now think of my lawn as plutonium. I'll mow it using a sealed glove box.

Or, maybe, I'll just stay sealed inside my house and hang out with the bacteria in the ducts and the mold in the basement.

~/~

I tried posting this entry on and off for several hours today, but Blogger consistently refused to cooperate.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Dance of Death

Dance of Death

Dance of Death (2001)

Well, I can tell I'm already feeling the burn for an upbeat weekend...

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The "Dance of Death" was originally a species of spectacular plays akin to the English moralities. It has been traced back to the middle of the fourteenth century. The epidemics so frequent and so destructive at that time, such as the Black Death, brought before popular imagination the subject of death and its universal sway. The dramatic movement then developing led to its treatment in the dramatic form. In these plays Death appeared not as the destroyer, but as the messenger of God summoning men to the world beyond the grave, a conception familiar both to the Holy Bible and to the ancient poets. The dancing movement of the characters was a somewhat later development, as at first Death and his victims moved at a slow and dignified gait. But Death, acting the part of a messenger, naturally took the attitude and movement of the day, namely the fiddlers and other musicians, and the dance of death was the result.

The purpose of these plays was to teach the truth that all men must die and should therefore prepare themselves to appear before their Judge. The scene of the play was usually the cemetery or churchyard, though sometimes it may have been the church itself. The spectacle was opened by a sermon on the certainty of death delivered by a monk. At the close of the sermon there came forth from the charnel-house, usually found in the churchyard, a series of figures decked out in the traditional mask of death, a close-fitting, yellowish linen suit painted so as to resemble a skeleton. One of them addresses the intended victim, who is invited to accompany him beyond the grave. The first victim was usually the pope or the emperor. The invitation is not regarded with favour and various reasons are given for declining it, but these are found insufficient and finally death leads away his victim. A second messenger then seizes the hand of a new victim, a prince or a cardinal , who is followed by others representing the various classes of society, the usual number being twenty-four. The play was followed by a second sermon reinforcing the lesson of the representation.

The oldest traces of these plays are found in Germany, but we have the Spanish text for a similar dramatic performance dating back to the year 1360, La Danza General de la Muerte. We read of similar dramatic representations elsewhere: in Bruges before Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy in 1449; in 1453 at Besançon, and in France in the Cimetière des Innocents near Paris in 1424. That similar spectacles were known in England we infer from John Lydgate's Dance of Death written in the first half of the fifteenth century. In Italy besides the traditional dance of death we find spectacular representations of death as the all-conqueror in the so-called Trionfo della Morte. The earliest traces of this conception may be found in Dante and Petrarch. In Florence (1559) the "triumph of death" formed a part of the carnival celebration. We may describe it as follows: After dark a huge wagon, draped in black and drawn by oxen, drove through the streets of the city. At the end of the shaft was seen the Angel of Death blowing the trumpet. On the top of the wagon stood a great figure of Death carrying a scythe and surrounded by coffins. Around the wagons were covered graves which opened whenever the procession halted. Men dressed in black garments on which were painted skulls and bones came forth and, seated on the edge of the graves, sang dirges on the shortness of human life. Before and behind the wagon appeared men in black and white bearing torches and death masks, followed by banners displaying skulls and bones and skeletons riding on scrawny nags. While they marched the entire company sang the Miserere with trembling voices.

Sounds not unlike a Rob Zombie concert or a goth coffeehouse -- minus the sermons, of course.

Dance of Death is also the title of a play by August Strindberg. He was thinking of pre-skeleton people locked in a feverish embrace of sexual tension and feral emotions until death mercifully intervenes. From TheaterScene.net:

Dance of Death should offer a terrifying glimpse of Strindberg's mind, a wild place that projected life as a sexual war ending only with death. He spent huge energies on the theme in fiction and drama, always less interested in persons than in eruptions of violent passion that he understood too well from his own struggles with paranoia and schizophrenia. To the extent his life and art interweave, it follows that his characters owe little to realism. They might be incidental embodiments of a vision, in Dance of Death of man and woman trapped in a condition wherein hate matters more than love and sex matters more than either.

Were it possible, Strindberg would have staged depersonalized emotions, say fragments or splinters of his tormented consciousness–he once suggested his characters should be understood as "characterless." His was a sufficiently bizarre agenda when he was writing in the 1890s and is only a little less so now, long after critics named his innovations expressionism, the theatrical projection of an inner life.

Hmmm. This sounds like the main premise for nearly every show currently on the WB -- only with younger and buffer people. Here's a still from a recent episode of 7th Heaven:

You're the worst babysitter I ever had...

You want a piece of me? I brought seven kids into this world, I can take one out.
[Illustration by Arthur Kampf]

Or was it taken from Beowulf? I get those two shows confused. Anyway, to reinforce the point, here's a still of Holly and Vince on a date from What I Like About You:

Does this mean we're going dutch?

Please, not another show about an eating disorder.
[Image seen on Barista]

Or was it an outtake from Army of Darkness? No matter. This danse macabre thing has gone totally designer. I'm telling you. It's more retro than Iron Maiden -- seen below in a recent performance:

He's walking like a dead man...

...but I feel drawn towards the evil chanting hordes...
[The Bones of All Men (1538) by Hans Holbein]

~/~

UPDATE:

Friday Faves
Blogs and Sites I've enjoyed this week:

Fractal Art:
Have a close encounter with Jock Cooper. Complex, intricate art that's precise and breathtaking. I especially like his "Squaries" galleries filled with amazing fractal motherboards and circuitry.

Political Blog:
Boost your intellect and visit Billmon daily. One of the blogosphere's finest writers. He knows the right words and says what you're feeling and thinking.

Cultural Blog:
Just in time for Halloween, go trick or treat at The Groovy Age of Horror. Peel out in your Ed "Big Daddy" Roth beachwagon to cruise in and enjoy horror books, comics, and movies from the 60s and 70s. And, far out, it's Frankenmonth. For adults only.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

A Candidate for Scared Rabbits

A Candidate for Scared Rabbits

A Candidate for Scared Rabbits (2000)

Hello?
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
.
--Pink Floyd, "Comfortably Numb"

Paging All Auto-Pilot Democrats? Anybody home?

From Timothy Naftali writing in The Huffington Post:

Why aren't Congressional democrats demanding a review of the concept of a Department of Homeland Security? Why aren't democrats arranging townhall meetings across the country to discuss America in this time of challenges, reminding folks that it was the Democratic Party that gave the country the New Deal and the Great Society? Those programs were imperfect and had some negative effects but they sprang from an understanding that an energetic government can help heal communities, or in political science speak, that there are social goods that cannot be produced by the Market.

I suspect there are two reasons for the political inaction and both are shortsighted. Democrats have been running away from their domestic policy past as hard as they have the McGovern legacy. They fear that recalling the New Deal and the Great Society evokes the L-word and the specter of Big Government, and so it is better to offer the voters conceptual confusion than to open the door to any Republican attack. But what, after all, did George W. Bush initiate last week in New Orleans: a huge government program to alleviate poverty and rebuild a city. Isn't that what democrats do? In 2001 Bush deftly deflected public scrutiny from his weak performance on the day of the attacks (ironically he spent part of September 11, 2001 under secret service and military protection in Louisiana) and created a kevlar war presidency. If the democrats are not smart and nimble he will claim urban renewal and opportunity as his own, too.

The other reason for the democrats' lethargy, I suspect, is the beltway fascination with the president's approval ratings. I have never quite understood why they are supposed to matter in a second term. Bush is not going to run for president again and his nephew is still too young and Jeb has other things to worry about [and these numbers always change dramatically when the two sides start pouring money into political mudslinging anyway]. Yet the Democratic party seems to mistakenly associate low presidential approval numbers with its own success. Some highly paid consultant has been arguing that the democrats should let the focus remain on Bush, let him stew in his own mess and see those numbers continue to fall. Wrong. It is time for democrats to start talking loudly about their vision for the country, start talking loudly about why the president's agenda of tax cuts, an open-ended war in Iraq and urban renewal is a recipe for fiscal disaster. They should be talking about the bankruptcy of current conservative ideas in an imperfect world. Sometimes it is morning in America and it is raining. Are there any elected democrats capable of this? If not, perhaps it is time to start a new American party.

I'm enjoying watching BushCo implode, yes. It's gratifying to see the shine taken off of the Codpiece Cowboy's swagger. Maybe what goes round does actually politically come round. And nobody deserves to have the smirks slapped off their faces more than the current Mission Accomplished crew.

But standing silent while the Republicans thrash about in quicksand doesn't project leadership. And Democrats played no active part in BushCo's downward spiral. The greed and cronyism and corruption was beyond containment. The sheer cockiness of the players led to a false sense of invulnerability. Even the baaing sheep of the mainstream media were finally blown wide awake by the monumental imcompetence of FEMA and the cake-eating, guitar-strumming nonchalance of Dear Leader. And now, finally, the majority of Americans have turned against the folly and horror of Bush's War -- and the lies that sold it -- and the photo ops and propaganda that are its snake oil. It's now safe (according to polls) to actually speak against the war without being shouted down as an unpatriotic terrorist lover -- but, again, all I hear is The Silence of the Dems.

Two months ago, Gary Hart also wondered why Democrats are so quiet. He believes such silence in the face of BushCo's atrocious policies is cowardly:

History will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we've blown up, and weakening America's national security.

But what will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on? My generation of Democrats jumped on the hot stove of Vietnam and now, with its members in positions of responsibility, it is afraid of jumping on any political stove. In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."

To stay silent during such a crisis, and particularly to harbor the thought that the administration's misfortune is the Democrats' fortune, is cowardly. In 2008 I want a leader who is willing now to say: "I made a mistake, and for my mistake I am going to Iraq and accompanying the next planeload of flag-draped coffins back to Dover Air Force Base. And I am going to ask forgiveness for my mistake from every parent who will talk to me."

Further, this leader should say: "I am now going to give a series of speeches across the country documenting how the administration did not tell the American people the truth, why this war is making our country more vulnerable and less secure, how we can drive a wedge between Iraqi insurgents and outside jihadists and leave Iraq for the Iraqis to govern, how we can repair the damage done to our military, what we and our allies can do to dry up the jihadists' swamp, and what dramatic steps we must take to become energy-secure and prevent Gulf Wars III, IV and so on."

At stake is not just the leadership of the Democratic Party and the nation but our nation's honor, our nobility and our principles. Franklin D. Roosevelt established a national community based on social justice. Harry Truman created international networks that repaired the damage of World War II and defeated communism. John F. Kennedy recaptured the ideal of the republic and the sense of civic duty. To expect to enter this pantheon, the next Democratic leader must now undertake all three tasks.

[...]

The real defeatists today are not those protesting the war. The real defeatists are those in power and their silent supporters in the opposition party who are reduced to repeating "Stay the course" even when the course, whatever it now is, is light years away from the one originally undertaken. The truth is we're way off course. We've stumbled into a hornet's nest. We've weakened ourselves at home and in the world. We are less secure today than before this war began.

Who now has the courage to say this?

Who does -- especially in our age of talking points, robo-spinners, and scripted ops?

Okay, so let's just walk through this...

Break a leg?
[Cartoon by Mike Luckovich]

So, stand for something. How hard is that? Just speaking a little common sense would be refreshing. Here: try on a few of Mr. Animal's talking points...

*There's no shame in initially supporting a war when you were being fed false information. But, after seeing how the war was based on cooked intelligence, I do not support it -- nor do I support nation-building or other NeoCon objectives.

*Bush's pre-emptive war, coupled with his excessive tax cuts, are primarily responsible for our current deficits.

*Torture is wrong -- no ifs, ands, or buts. I do not advocate it under any circumstances.

*Advances in science have traditionally been one of our country's greatest continuing achievements. I support teaching established science and not religious doctrine in schools. I am in favor of stem cell research.

*Church and state should be kept separate. Privacy should be protected. Free speech should be guaranteed for all.

*This is a government for the people -- all the people -- not just those who can afford the rights and privileges.

*The government should not be drowned in a bathtub. It should be purged of pork and cronyism and find the brightest, most qualified people to serve, so that citizens are less likely to drown or fear harm from natural disasters or enemy attack.

*Energy needs go beyond electing oilmen to our nation's highest offices. Clean air and healthy forests need real protection and not an Orwellian smokescreen giving free reign to polluters and loggers. The environment is an important priority for all Americans -- and not merely raw material for corporations and their needs.

*Veteran's benefits are an inherent, non-negotiable priority. Supporting the troops is not abstract -- not a staged photo op or larger SUV magnet. We owe all of them a lifetime of support in college aid and medical coverage. I will not slash benefits as Bush has done.

*Many of the Bush-gutted social support programs that help students and the elderly and the poor and the bankrupt will be reinstated. If doing so means that some Bush tax cuts have to be rolled back, well, so be it. I expect these programs to be honestly and efficiently run, and any fraud will be vigorously prosecuted.

*I will work hard to keep this country safe. I'll keep abreast of world news rather than rely on an inner circle of sycophants. I'll read intelligence memos. If we are attacked, I will relentlessly pursue those who attacked us, rather than go off on a personal vendetta that has more oil and "easier targets." I won't mock the troops by playing hide and seek for missing WMDs I knew weren't there in the first place. I won't set a record for being on vacation. I won't eat cake and play the guitar while a major American city drowns or burns or is blasted into dust.

*I won't pay any pundits or television personalities to advance my policies. I won't wear a wire during debates. I will want every citizen to be a "have-more" and not just billionaires who line my pockets. I won't pre-screen any press conference, rally, meeting, or activity -- whatever it be. I won't tell those who disagree with me to fuck off. I won't tell reporters to stop interrupting me. I will not coddle anyone on my staff who commits acts of treason.

*As a Democrat, this is some of what I believe. Thank you.

See? That wasn't so hard, was it? I know the above is only a fraction of what might be said, but, hey, it's a start. And a start sure beats the alternative of resembling today's image of a scared rabbit candidate. People are fed up. Lead. Lead -- with strength and comfort and hope.

Because if you stay silent -- especially in the face of another Rovian assault of gay-bashing and flag-burning and terrorist-fearing emotive propaganda -- you will certainly lose future elections -- not with a bang, but with a whimper...and carrot breath.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Librarian

Librarian

Librarian (2004)

Well, I thought I'd have more time to write today, but responsibilities and work keeps intruSSSSSSSSH!!!

[Lowered voice] Oh, sorry. I'll keep it down.

I know the librarian in today's image is a bit old school -- glasses and hair bun and all. But look how the world opens up all around her. And that's what books do -- they open our minds to the intricacies and wonders -- and, yes, sometimes -- the horrors of the world.

She (or he, as the case may be) doesn't deserve the schoolmarm rep. Frankly, in the BushCo reign of reduced civil liberties, our librarians are on the front lines. They don't just loan us books; they are nothing less than freedom fighters.

Here is a statement given by the president of the American Library Association to the Senate Judiciary Committee in April of 2005:

The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (“USA PATRIOT Act”) became law on October 26, 2001.

The USA PATRIOT Act amended over 15 federal statutes, including the laws governing criminal procedure, computer fraud and abuse, foreign intelligence, wiretapping, immigration, and the laws governing the privacy of student records. These amendments expanded the authority of the FBI and law enforcement to gain access to business records, medical records, educational records and library records, including stored electronic data and communications. It also expanded the laws governing wiretaps and “trap and trace” phone devices to Internet and electronic communications. These enhanced surveillance procedures pose the greatest challenge to privacy and confidentiality in the library.

“The American Library Association (ALA) opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry…ALA considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.” — from ALA's Resolution on the USA PATRIOT Act (See also Resolution Reaffirming the Principles of Intellectual Freedom in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks .)

Isn't free inquiry essential to a working democracy? Well, apparently, under the current regime, that question is as passé as daring to suggest that torture is inherently immoral. From The Free Expression Policy Project -- "The Impact of the USA PATRIOT ACT on Free Expression" by Nancy Kranich:

Hours after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, people rushed to libraries to read about the Taliban, Islam, Afghanistan and terrorism. Americans sought background materials to foster understanding and cope with this horrific event. They turned to a place with reliable answers -- to a trustworthy public space where they are free to inquire, and where their privacy is respected.

Since 9-11, libraries remain more important than ever to ensuring the right of every individual to hold and express opinions and to seek and receive information, the essence of a thriving democracy. But just as the public is exercising its right to receive information and ideas -- a necessary aspect of free expression -- in order to understand the events of the day, government is threatening these very liberties, claiming it must do so in the name of national security.

[...]

These enhanced surveillance powers license law enforcement officials to peer into Americans' most private reading, research, and communications. Several of the Act's hastily passed provisions not only violate the privacy and confidentiality rights of those using public libraries and bookstores, but sweep aside constitutional checks and balances by authorizing intelligence agencies (which are within the executive branch of government) to gather information in situations that may be completely unconnected to a potential criminal proceeding (which is part of the judicial branch of government). The constitutional requirement of search warrants, to be issued by judges, is one such check on unbridled executive power. In addition to the dangers to democracy from such unbridled executive power, it is not clear that these enhanced investigative capabilities will make us safer, for under the new provisions, far more information is going to the same intelligence agencies that were failing to manage the ocean of information they collected prior to September 11.

We do not know how the USA PATRIOT Act and related measures have been applied in libraries, bookstores, and other venues because the gag order bars individuals from making that information public. The executive branch has refused to answer inquiries from members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, and from civil liberties groups under the Freedom of Information Act, regarding the incidence of surveillance activities, except an admission of snooping in libraries by FBI agents.

Officially, librarians are not allowed to comment on FBI visits to examine library users' Internet surfing and book-borrowing habits. Unofficially, though, some details have surfaced. Two nationwide surveys conducted at the University of Illinois after September 11 found that more than 200 out of 1,500 libraries surveyed had turned over information to law enforcement officials. A March 2003 article in the Hartford Courant revealed that librarians in Fairfield and Hartford, Connecticut, were visited by the FBI, but only one case involved a search warrant. And an FWWeekly article on April 17, 2003, cited a case in New Mexico where a former public defender was arrested by federal agents and interrogated for five hours after using a computer at a Santa Fe academic library, apparently as a result of a chat room statement that President Bush was out of control. It is unclear whether any of these incidents involved secret search warrants as authorized under section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Remember -- you aren't just reading for one anymore...

Say, Clem -- what's the bounty we get fer every one of them "reader" hides?
[Image seen at The Emmaus Theory]

Are you keeping a scorecard at home? Let's review:

Clear Skies = Pollute at Will
Healthy Forests = Clearcut with Extreme Prejudice
PATRIOT ACT = The Books You Read Turn Your Life into an Open Book.

And the beat to make minds a little less inquiring goes on because -- as we can see, just last month, from The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus Blog -- some librarians strongly believe the gag order should be unknotted:

The American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union joined forces today to urge U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to allow a Connecticut library organization that received an order under the USA Patriot Act to publicly talk about the experience. Under the order, called a national-security letter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation demanded that the Connecticut library group turn over the records of certain patrons. The order barred the group from telling anyone it had received the letter.

A federal judge in Connecticut ruled earlier this month that this gag should be lifted, but an appeals court decided that the library group's identity should remain a secret while the Justice Department tries to persuade the appeals court to overturn the judge's decision.

At a news conference in Washington today, members of Congress, librarians, and civil libertarians said it was crucial that the Connecticut library group -- known as "John Doe" in court papers -- be allowed to openly participate in the debate in Congress on the Patriot Act. Critics of the law say the Patriot Act threatens the privacy rights of law-abiding citizens and undermines their free-speech rights.

While speakers warned of the perils of the Patriot Act and accused the Justice Department of deceiving Congress in how federal officials have used the law, they were surrounded by eight librarians who covered their mouths with masking tape that bore the letters "NSL," for national-security letter. As one of the speakers implored Mr. Gonzales to lift the gag, the librarians peeled off the pieces of tape in unison. Following the news conference the group headed to the Justice Department to present officials with a petition of 25,000 signatures that urged the department to allow John Doe to freely speak about its personal experience with the Patriot Act.

Please leave a DNA sample when you check out books...

Oh, we've also placed a mind control chip in the reserve room. Your mind won't mind implanting checking it out.
[More great library signs here]

No more stock footage of hair-netted, buttoned-sweater, teardrop-bespectacled librarians for me. Librarians are way cooler than James Bond and Lara Croft. They are fighting institutionalized thought control and working to preserve our freedoms and our very way of life. They are heroes -- in the purest sense of the word.

And I want to say a big thanks!!!

[Lowered voice] Right. Sorry. Um, please try to whisper any comments. Okay?

~/~

UPDATE: According to the ALA, twelve days ago:

Ginsburg denies ACLU application (PDF: October 7, 2005)

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has denied the ACLU application for emergency relief in Doe v. Gonzales, the Connecticut librarian's challenge to an NSL.

In short, this means that the case will proceed in the Second Circuit, to which the government appealed a lower court's order to strike down the NSL provision of section 505 of the USA PATRIOT Act. The gag order binding Doe will remain in effect during that time.

It seems Gonzales, who finds the Geneva Convention "quaint," prefers his librarians gagged. So what happens if they choose to rip that duct tape off their mouths? Will they be forced to sit in stress positions at the reference desk?

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

If You Were Light

If You Were Light

If You Were Light (2000)

It's been one of those days today that gives no quarter in the perpetual daily struggle for down time and creative play. Still, all work and no post makes bloggers go blank.

Accepting defeat, I'm forced into strict photoblog mode. Today's image is part of series titled "If You Were...." It was done with Dofo-Zon Elite and considerable post-processing in graphics programs.

Consider this an open thread, too -- a day earlier than usual. Hopefully, RL won't be quite so intrusive tomorrow.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The Butcher Shop

The Butcher Shop

The Butcher Shop (2000)

Check out the prime blog cuts today...

...like the very first meat market. From CBC News:

Anthropologists working in Ethiopia say they've found the earliest direct evidence of a stone tool "kitchen," dating back 2.6 million years.

The stone tools were found in the same site as animal bones, which the researchers said indicate the use of tools by early human to feed themselves.

Michael Rogers, an assistant professor of anthropology at Southern Connecticut State University, was working in Gona, Ethiopia, when he found some small tools made from chipped stone.

Further excavation at the site revealed the tools and bones together.

"Our ancestors were using the artifacts to process animal parts, which probably shows that humans were expanding their diets to include animals and were no longer largely vegetarians," said Rogers, in a news release.

The area in Gona, known for its ancient stone tools, is near Hadar, Ethiopia, which the hominid fossil "Lucy" was found in 1974.

By the way, the source above is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation -- not the Christian Broadcasting anything. It seems Canadians still appreciate the virtues of scientific thought -- unlike our Prezdent whose very existence puts the concept of an overriding "intelligent designer" in question. Besides, to the drones of Idiot America, those discovered "bones" belonged to Adam and Eve's dinosaur pals who later hitched a ride with Noah -- who, as we know, took along two cockroaches so Tom Delay would find lucrative employment in the not-all-that-distant future.

A more contemporary view of the house of shanks and rump roasts comes from poet Charles Simic:

Butcher Shop

Sometimes walking late at night
I stop before a closed butcher shop.
There is a single light in the store
Like the light in which the convict digs his tunnel.

An apron hangs on the hook:
The blood on it smeared into a map
Of the great continents of blood,
The great rivers and oceans of blood.

There are knives that glitter like altars
In a dark church
Where they bring the cripple and the imbecile
To be healed.

There's wooden block where bones are broken,
Scraped clean--a river dried to its bed
Where I am fed,
Where deep in the night I hear a voice.

Simic's wonderful poem almost makes one wish the tables could be turned -- like this:

Today's Special is Soylent Green...

A fresh shipment of bodybuilders is due next week.
[Image from a greeting card at Hydestile Wildlife Hospital]

But, maybe our only question in life should be: raw or medium well? According to the cyberpunks, we "carbon units" are little more than meat. The body is only a walking sausage casing needing cybernetic enhancement and awaiting consciousness upload -- according to "Meat Manifesto" by Allucquere Rosanne Stone in Wired:

The imagery of cyberpunk authors, and a few virtual world builders, echoes with images of purely phantasmic bodies, freed from the constraints that flesh imposes. They take for granted that the human body is "meat" -- obsolete, as soon as consciousness itself can be uploaded into the network...[But] it is important to remember that forgetting about the body is an old Cartesian trick, one that exacts a price from those bodies rendered invisible by the act of forgetting -- those on the lower end of the social scale by whose labour the act of forgetting is made possible.

I don't know, fellow steaks. The scene in The Terminator where Ah-nold doctors his eyeball with a matte knife is enough to make me think twice about putting my meat where my mirrorshades are.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Navajo Mystic

Navajo Mystic

Navajo Mystic (2005)

I share new images on Sundays. Since I was going on about Castaneda yesterday, I figured I might choogle along in the same consciousness-stretching train of thought today.

A search on the title of today's image was the source for the following collaged, found Google-poem produced from phrase strings embedded in the search hits:

Rare fine artwork of indigenous
holy days reflecting the non-patriarchal
diagnosticians who determine which chants
are trapped in a deadly game

of archival footage. Assimilated
ethnically, his horse skills for tourists
tell you how I once met God
soon after the house built bad dreams

with a nose for fashion. The bell
bottoms reduce particulate pollution
by The Mystic Religion of Zoroaster.
The remarkable visionary art,

Dancing with Photons, commands
Thunder Birds. Red rock formations will
serve and be visited in a dream by
wall calendars. They have their own

place names and attempt to find
a killer of spaceships and old curses.
America has a romantic love for pottery
and slave raids. His devoted

nephew defers to cronies many
meaningless syllables. The gods danced
and sang. Code talkers with superhuman
strength still live in New Orleans.

If the meaning and teachings of the above poem somehow elude you, I suggest the following recipe for remedy:

1) Ingest multiple peyote buttons
2) Wait until head feels "expanded"
3) Read poem again

Oh -- one more thing. Avoid the orange cacti. Those buggers are a bitch.

~/~

Poem reconstituted from hit phrases strip-mined in this search.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Empowered Ladybug

Empowered Ladybug

Empowered Ladybug (2003)

I seem to find a lot of insect shapes in fractals. Fortunately, today's bug is more benign than this one -- and has a sweeter history.

From Ladybug Lore:

In Europe, during the Middle Ages, insects were destroying the crops, so the Catholic farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help. Soon the Ladybugs came, ate the plant-destroying pests and saved the crops! The farmers began calling the ladybugs "The Beetles of Our Lady", and they eventually became known as "Lady Beetles"! The red wings represented the Virgin's cloak and the black spots represented her joys and sorrows.

In Sweden, folks believe that if a ladybug lands on a young maiden's hand, she will soon be getting married.

If you find a ladybug in your house, count the number of spots and that is how many dollars you will soon receive.

In England, finding a ladybug means that you will have a good harvest.

In France, if you are sick and a ladybug lands on you, when it flies away, it will take the sickness with it.

If a ladybug has more than seven spots, then there will be a famine. If it has less than seven, then there will be a good harvest.

At one time, doctors would mash up ladybugs and put them in a cavity to cure a toothache.

Some people believe that the number of spots on a ladybug indicates how many children you will have.

If you find a ladybug in your house in the winter you will have good luck.

I love the one above about using ladybugs to fill cavities. Id prefer to picture my dentist more like Carlos Castaneda rather than Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man. Here's what I'd imagine Castaneda's ladybug would look like:

I had one hell of a luminous cocoon...

I'm beyond empowered. I've gone nagual.
[This ladybug is actually a puzzle available from ELMS Puzzles]

And why might ladybugs be empowered? The Michigan State Entomological Society has the buzz:

Lady beetles have some interesting means of protection. Their red or orange and black coloration warns birds that they would not make a very tasty meal. Birds learn that insects that are red and black or yellow and black usually sting or taste bad and hence they leave such insects alone. Lady beetles, of course, can't sting, but they probably do taste bad. They also will "play dead" when in danger. Many predators will not eat an insect that doesn't move. Also, lady beetles probably produce a bad smelling odor, perhaps by way of a fluid from joints in the legs, which may help to protect them. The larva of lady beetles is a rather fearsome looking creature. It is somewhat alligator-shaped and covered with bumps and spines. In most species the larva is a fierce predator which you might guess if you look at its sicle-shaped jaws. Despite the small size of the creature, it can produce a distinctly felt nip on one's finger if handled.

That's not cheap perfume you smell. It's just foul thigh-joint secretions. Proof that this lady's no tramp -- so no tramping on her...

P.S. I'm still feeling bugged though. Today's post has me chilling all insectoid -- ready to mandible away and whip out my proboscis. Time to re-watch Cronenberg's The Fly? Or would Species maybe be more appropriate? I mean, I wouldn't want anything to come back and bite me.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Gawain

Gawain

Gawain (2003)

Today's image is a quaternian fractal made with QuaSZ -- a fractal generator designed by Terry W. Gintz. Although I tweaked the image some, the basic fractal structure was not changed. I am usually not so kind to "my" fractals -- which I usually use as a "base" picture that then gets exploded and collaged and thrashed within an inch of its parameters until something reconstituted appears and pleases me.

I'm guessing many of you already know the story of Gawain. If not, here's the skinny from the luminarium:

Written in the late fourteenth century, Sir Gawain is made up of two stories, one (the testing at Bercilak's castle) set inside the other (the beheading of the Green Knight at the beginning and the return blow at the end). That is not to say it is a cut-and-paste job; it is thought by many to be the finest literary work of the Middle Ages. It is also the rarest of tales : a love story that isn't, really, as well as one of the funniest tales of the Middle Ages, rivaling anything written by the anonymous poet's more famous contemporary, Geoffrey Chaucer. (The author also wrote a fine religious poem in the form of a dream vision, which we call Pearl.)

In the first episode at King Arthur's castle, you must bear in mind that no one knows what is going on. Like Grendel, the Green Knight is a sort of creature never seen before by men. Sir Gawain is, throughout the poem, marked by absolute courtliness, that is to say, he is always courageous, honorable (he keeps his word), devout, loyal, and gracious toward all men and (especially) women (pay special attention to the pentangle). He thinks it is his courage that is being tested (wouldn't you?). He does not realize that the incidents in his bedroom at Bercilak's castle, which parallel the hunting scenes...are actually another kind of test. Thus, when he arrives to face his test at the end, he discovers that he has already been tested -- that his test is, in fact, over. Wouldn't you be angry at being tricked this way?

Not me, Mr. Narrator. I guess I'm numb to the sex and violence and deception after a steady diet of The Sopranos and Deadwood and now Rome. And why does nearly every female lurching about on the WB seem to have the scruples of Bercilak's wife? Our boy Gawain, however, is a nomad and turns up in more tales than Michael Caine. From the Camelot Project:

Gawain is generally said to be the nephew of Arthur. His parents are Lot of Orkney and Morgause (though his mother is said to be Anna in Geoffrey of Monmouth). Upon the death of Lot, he becomes the head of the Orkney clan, which includes in many sources his brothers Aggravain, Gaheris, and Gareth, and his half-brother Mordred. Gawain figures prominently in many romances. In France he is generally presented as one who has adventures paralleling in diptych fashion but not overshadowing the hero's, whether that hero be Lancelot or Perceval. In the English tradition, however, it is much more common for Gawain to be the principal hero and the exemplar of courtesy and chivalry, as he is in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the other Arthurian romances of the Alliterative Revival. In Malory's Morte d'Arthur, however, he has a role similar to that in the French romances, in that Lancelot is the principal hero.

See what I mean? Gawain flips his visor in more Middle Age retro sitcoms than the cast-off cast of Buffy. There's Gawain and Marjorie and Gawayne's Ghost and The Last Love of Gawaine (appartently, no one can remember how to spell the poor knight's name) and even The Marriage of Sir Gawaine. For someone with a mythical rep for honesty and devotion, the guy gets around.

Worse, the poor schmuck doesn't even get to write his own dialogue. It seems that certain medieval fanboys wanna fanfic Gawain. Partake of a snippet of an "imaginary monologue" found here:

Bercilak's wife was so insistent! I was constantly conscious of her feelings, and I tried to rebuff her with the utmost courtesy. After all, I did not want to be rude. Yet I could hardly be disloyal to her husband after he had welcomed me into his home. And so, after being pursued for three days, it seemed that I could somehow accept her gift, possibly save my own life, and not offend Bercilak either if I only kept the girdle gift a secret. I knew it was wrong, but my desire to live got the best of me. I only hope that now that I faced it, this will make me a nobler knight.

Racy stuff. Don't quit your day job, Sir G. That career as a gangsta rapper looks iffy. And what's up with the Green Knight anyway?

Do you know the way to San Jose...?

Maybe you should have that gangrene looked at?
[Illustration by John Howe]

From Dorothy Everett's "The Alliterative Revival":

Indeed, a mystery surrounding the Green Knight is essential for the effect of the poem, which is to show Gawain being submitted to the unexpected -- not to the test he expects, but to one he does not expect. He expects (and we expect with him when we first read the poem) that the real test he has to nerve himself for is meeting the Green Knight at the Green Chapel and receiving a presumably mortal blow from his axe. But when, after a tremendous effort of will, he does bring himself to face the Green Knight and accept the blow, it turns out that this is not the test itself; it is only the symbol of a previous test which was carried out by the Green Knight's wife, and which Gawain has already failed.

When he resumes his quest for the Green Chapel and leaves the luxurious castle behind there is room once more for heroism in his behavior, and indeed he shows heroism of a particularly touching kind -- not the kind that knows no fear, but the kind that overcomes a fear to which all the senses are sharpened. He proudly turns aside the suggestion of his guide that he should go back to Camelot, and nobody would know that he had not faced the Green Knight, saying that if he did that, even though nobody found out, he would still be a "kowarde."

So...he's a hero because he did the unexpected and flip flopped. He didn't "turn the corner" and refused to "stay the course" even through he could have slacked off and slipped away by saying the Green Knight was in his "last throes." Hmmmm.

I think someone could learn a lesson from reading this tale...if he could ever finish staring at My Pet Goat. Maybe some of you will consider dropping him a line, advising that he read more, join a book club, pick up a newspaper now and then, and rely less on his inner gaggle of cringing, suck-upping toadies. Here. I'll make it easy for you by even providing the stamp:

Please Return to Sender

I would have just hitched up my codpiece and told that Green Knight: "Mission Accomplished. Now watch this drive...home."
[Image seen on markmaynard.com]

~/~

I think every Friday I'll put up a short list of sites and blogs I've enjoyed reading each week. Why not? After all, who's gonna stop me?

Friday Faves:

Fractal Site:
Drop in and visit Eleny. Lush, exquisite fractals and digital art that show a keen eye for composition and an absolutely perfect sense of color.

Political Blog:
Call on The Heretik. Political commentary with a heart yet wielding a knife that cuts through the clutter and bullshit. Hang out and share a cyberdrink with friends. Best of all, enjoy his seamless, masterful images. Photoshop is his weapon.

Cultural Blog:
Lounge around BibliOdyssey -- my current favorite surf-hole. Wonderful art blog featuring eclectic and archival bookart and illustrations. Stunning images -- surreal, hilarious, and sometimes very moving -- often grouped thematically and exhaustively researched and documented.

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