Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Legacy of Exxon

Legacy of Exxon

Legacy of Exxon (2000)

Well, guess who's bigger than Wal-Mart and now outgrosses the economy of Saudi Arabia? From today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Exxon said Monday that its fourth-quarter profit climbed 27 percent to $10.71 billion.

And with annual revenue of $371 billion -- an amount that exceeds Saudi Arabia's estimated gross domestic product in 2005 -- Exxon likely will dethrone Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from atop the Fortune 500 when it is released this spring. Wal-Mart, whose fiscal year runs through January, had $290.29 billion in revenue through December.

[...]

Exxon's results lifted the combined 2005 profits for the country's three largest integrated oil companies to more than $63 billion. ConocoPhillips said Wednesday that its fourth-quarter earnings rose 51 percent to $3.68 billion, and annual income climbed 66 percent to $13.53 billion. Two days later, Chevron Corp. said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 20 percent to $4.14 billion, while annual income jumped 6 percent to $14.1 billion.

[...]

For anyone stunned by the size of Exxon Mobil Corp.'s $36.13 billion profit in 2005 -- the highest ever for a U.S. company -- some Wall Street analysts have a message: There's more to come."Unless (energy) prices collapse, earnings in 2006 will make 2005 look like a cakewalk," Oppenheimer & Co. oil analyst Fadel Gheit.

Just warms the planet your heart, doesn't it? Surely hauling in such booty bounty will have the corporation geyersing with philanthropic, civic-minded gratitude...

...or not. From MSNBC, just four days ago:

It’s been nearly 17 years since the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil along the Alaska coast in one of the country’s worst environmental disasters, and a jury’s $5 billion judgment against the company is still tied up in the courts.

Exxon Mobil Corp.’s appeal of that punishment was scheduled to be heard for the third time Friday afternoon in a federal appeals court in San Francisco.

[...]

In two previous appeals, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered U.S. District Judge H. Russel Holland of Anchorage to reduce the judgment against Exxon, saying it was unconstitutionally excessive.

Holland begrudgingly complied in 2002, reducing it to $4 billion. Exxon appealed, and Holland was ordered to revisit the decision again. He called Exxon’s actions “reprehensible,” and set the figure at $4.5 billion plus interest.

[...]

In the region itself, pockets of relatively fresh Exxon Valdez oil remain on shorelines as distant as Katmai National Park, about 300 miles from the site where the supertanker disgorged 11 million gallons of crude oil, according to government scientists who presented their studies at a conference this week in Anchorage.

“This stuff isn’t changing at all. It’s just the same kind of goo that got deposited there in 1989,” said Jeff Short, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric researcher.

According to the group that administers the settlement money paid by Exxon to the governments, only seven of 30 marine species, resources or services have recovered to pre-spill levels. Whether the spill is to blame and whether remnant oil is causing harm remains unsettled.

Exxon Gets Away with Murder

Exxon Gets Away with Murder (1990) by Sue Coe

Oil's Well That Ends Well...

And enjoy the ice while you can...

[Cartoon by Seppo Leinonen]

Perhaps, when the next presidential election rolls around, the American people should think long and hard about once again voting in many former oilmen to the highest offices in our government. Just a thought.

Oh, and in a related story, from five days ago, Halliburton chairman Dave Lesar noted that the company's 2005 profits were the "best in our 86-year history."

Culture of corruption? You bet. Fill 'er up...

~/~

But why just read blogs about Exxon when you can watch the movie?

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Jester's Last Joke

The Jester's Last Joke

The Jester's Last Joke (2001)

Had a good laugh lately at the follies of the current political scene? I have -- and I've tried to provide a few here as well.

But, as today's image shows, if the emperor is displeased, the joker's jokes can boomerang back. A mad satiric dance can easily become a self-inflicted kick in the balls.

You feel like wiping the smirk off your own mouth while George Bush smirks on? Then you owe it to yourself to read Gore Vidal's essay "President Jonah" on Alternet.

Trust me. We're at the end of a historical cycle. As Morrissey once said in "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore":

I've seen this happen in other people's lives
And now it's happening in mine...

Here's a bit of what Vidal says:

Meanwhile, the indoctrination of the people merrily continues. "In a 'State of the First Amendment Survey' conducted by the University of Connecticut in 2003, 34 percent of Americans polled said the First Amendment 'goes too far'; 46 percent said there was too much freedom of the press; 28 percent felt that newspapers should not be able to publish articles without prior approval of the government; 31 percent wanted public protest of a war to be outlawed during that war; and 50 percent thought the government should have the right to infringe on the religious freedom of 'certain religious groups' in the name of the war on terror."

[...]

Meanwhile, millions of adult Americans, presumably undrugged, have no idea who our enemies were in World War II. Many college graduates don't know the difference between an argument and an assertion (did their teachers also fail to solve this knotty question?). A travel agent in Arizona is often asked whether or not it is cheaper to take the train rather than fly to Hawaii. Only 12% of Americans own a passport. At the time of the 2004 presidential election 42% of voters believed that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. One high school boy, when asked who won the Civil War, replied wearily, "I don't know and I don't care," echoing a busy neocon who confessed proudly: "The American Civil War is as remote to me as the War of the Roses."

We are assured daily by advertisers and/or politicians that we are the richest, most envied people on Earth and, apparently, that is why so many awful, ill-groomed people want to blow us up. We live in an impermeable bubble without the sort of information that people living in real countries have access to when it comes to their own reality. But we are not actually people in the eyes of the national ownership: we are simply unreliable consumers comprising an overworked, underpaid labor force not in the best of health: The World Health Organization rates our healthcare system (sic--or sick?) as 37th-best in the world, far behind even Saudi Arabia, role model for the Texans. Our infant mortality rate is satisfyingly high, precluding a First World educational system.

[...]

Mr. Berman [Morris Berman, author of Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire] spares us the happy ending, as, apparently, has history. When the admirable Tiberius (he has had an undeserved bad press), upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. "Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?" He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: "How eager you are to be slaves."

I often think of that wise emperor when I hear Republican members of Congress extolling the wisdom of Bush. Now that he has been caught illegally wiretapping fellow citizens he has taken to snarling about his powers as "a wartime president," and so, in his own mind, he is above each and every law of the land. Oddly, no one in Congress has pointed out that he may well be a lunatic dreaming that he is another Lincoln but whatever he is or is not he is no wartime president. There is no war with any other nation...yet. There is no state called terror, an abstract noun like liar.

Certainly his illegal unilateral ravaging of Iraq may well seem like a real war for those on both sides unlucky enough to be killed or wounded, but that does not make it a war any more than the appearance of having been elected twice to the presidency does not mean that in due course the people will demand an investigation of those two irregular processes. Although he has done a number of things that under the old republic might have got him impeached, our current system protects him: incumbency-for-life seats have made it possible for a Republican majority in the House not to do its duty and impeach him for his incompetence in handling, say, the natural disaster that befell Louisiana.

Welcome to Rome, folks.

The jester was free to mock and joke because (presumably) his barbs would not cause offense. He was to be, in Hamlet's phrase, "the conscience of the king."

But our contemporary jesters, like Fox News and CNN, are parrots for administrative talking points. Our king, self-coronated as a "wartime president" with unlimited powers, has no conscience. Why should he -- when he talks with God and answers to a "higher father."

You know what couldn't be higher: the stakes. Our democracy is on the line. Our place in the world is at risk. Look around. Reagan's morning that never was is over and the day grows long. It's "Twilight in America."

And I'm not laughing.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Still Life with Media Whores

Still Life with Media Whores

Still Life with Media Whores (2005)

Here's a new one. The image that is. Not the concept. Sadly, it's been with us for quite some time.

Media Whore of the Moment -- Chris Matthews:

The only hard ball this guy deserves is a bowling ball dropped down his pants from 50,000 feet. First, Matthews compares filmmaker Michael Moore to Osama Bin Laden. That's pushing the straw man fallacy about as far as it can go. McCarthy smeared his foes as communists, so now pundits have a green light to tarnish anyone who opposes Bush's war as a terrorist and mass murderer? I think John Kerry pegged it:

You'd think the only focus tonight would be on destroying Osama Bin Laden, not comparing him to an American who opposes the war whether you like him or not. You want a real debate that America needs? Here goes: If the administration had done the job right in Tora Bora we might not be having discussions on Hardball about a new Bin Laden tape. How dare Scott McClellan tell America that this Administration puts terrorists out of business when had they put Osama Bin Laden out of business in Afghanistan when our troops wanted to, we wouldn't have to hear this barbarian's voice on tape. That's what we should be talking about in America.

A Birbrain Enabler?

Vying for a slot on Fox News, are we?

[Image from The Internet Weekly Report]

But Matthews was just warming up for a little butt-slapping between macho men about Brokeback Mountain on Imus in the Morning. Roll tape from The Daily Howler:

MATTHEWS (1/18/06): Have you gone to see it yet? I’ve seen everything else but that. I just--

IMUS: No, I haven’t seen it. Why would I want to see that?

MATTHEWS: I don’t know. No opinion on that. I haven’t seen it either, so--

IMUS: So they were -- it was out when I was in New Mexico and -- it doesn’t resonate with real cowboys who I know.

MATTHEWS: Yeah--

IMUS: But then, maybe there’s stuff going on on the ranch that I don’t know about. Not on my ranch, but you know--

MATTHEWS: Well, the wonderful Michael Savage, who’s on 570 in DC, who shares a station with you at least, he calls it [laughter] -- what’s he call it? -- he calls it Bare-back Mount-ing. That’s his name for the movie.

IMUS: Of course, Bernard calls it Fudgepack Mountain...

Yuck it up, boys. You're no better than threatened, moralizing fundies who condemn films they've never seen. The Howler goes on to point out what our chuckling homophobes above missed:

The film closes with a brief conservation between Heath Ledger and his daughter, who by then is 19. When they speak, the daughter’s clear-eyed thoughts on the future throw her father’s tragic life into relief. What a deft, unexpected conclusion! We thought of shining Hector on the walls of Troy, sharing a moment with his baby son before going off to die at the hands of Achilles. The luminous moment between generations! Homer provides one in that famous scene. For our dime Brokeback Mountain does too.

And Matthews finds Michael Savage "wonderful"? What a role model of reason and civility. Perhaps Matthews can't recall why Savage's show was bounced from MSNBC:

After cutting off a self-identified gay caller whose comments were edited out of the broadcast, Savage referred him as a "sodomist," a "sodomite" and said, among other things, "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig."

Wonderful -- or just make you wonder? Play on to the wingnut gallery, Chris. Soon you'll be arm wrestling and slandering critics-cum-terrorists with the cream of the dumb asses -- with the truly gifted wild-eyed wacks -- with the oh so wonderful Dobsons and Limbaughs and Coulters.

I'm only sorry that duel thing with Zell Miller didn't work out -- for all of us.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Doberman

Doberman

Doberman (2002)

Every species has its king(s). From the Doberman FAQ:

Every field has its legends. In the entertainment world Elvis Presley has become a legend. Although he has been dead for a number of years, his popularity amongst many people has increased. Each year people spend more money on visiting his home Graceland in Memphis than Elvis usually earned in a year. There are many who still make a living impersonating him. There are stories constantly popping up in the supermarket newspapers stating that he is still alive. He has become a legend although many considered him just a better than average singer, actor, and entertainer.

In the Dobe world, there is also a legend. His name is Borong the Warlock. It is not unusual for someone to call a Dobe club Breed Referral number and say, "I have this Warlock male. He is a fawn and one hundred and ten pounds. I want to breed him to a bitch that is strong and exceptional, preferably a Warlock bitch." Or for another caller to state, "My bitch is a Warlock but she is getting old, I would like to get another Warlock bitch." Members of many Dobe clubs report that they get calls very similar to the ones just described.

In 1973, there was a person who lived in Pasadena, Texas who told people that her Dobes were Warlocks. She did a lot of breeding and sold her puppies to people who really did not know much about Dobes. The Dobes she bred were not exceptional and in some instances were rather poor specimens of the breed. That was more than twenty years ago!

Was there a Warlock? If there was, why do people still use his name? Frank Grover in The Doberman Scribe, No. 7, in an article entitled "American Doberman Pinscher Legends" wrote about Borong the Warlock. Frank stated, "The Doberman who began the legend was born in Florida in the middle 1950's. His breeders were Theodosia and Henry Frampton. They named this pup Borong the Warlock."

A warlock is a male witch, sorcerer, wizard or demon. Grover points out that the name did not describe Borong because he was a direct, rather quiet-mannered dog, well trained and never aggressive toward anyone nor other dogs.

[...]

Over the years Warlock has been associated with oversized Dobes. Dobe fanciers in Texas thought this was just a local phenomenon, but there have been reports that there are "Warlocks" in many other states. Because of their size, the "Warlocks" are not shown and have no connection to the original Borong the Warlock.

I guess Borong the Warlock has no breed or blood ties to BushCo the Dumbshit:

I think he's turning the corner...

Now watch this drop...

[Photograph seen on eightface]

From the crack addled wingnuts of the Freeperdom Republic, 8-31-03:

George Bush stunned his wife Laura and the members of the Waco Midway Little League Softball World Series championship team when he dropped his dog, Barney.

Hmmm. Isn't this a guy who threatens to veto legislation outlawing torture? Could there be a pattern here?

Hey. It sure beats our other game -- fetch the waterboard...

Now watch this ringer...

[Image from the Village Voice]

I dunno. It's hard to argue with the floating disembodied head of Harriet "She-Deserves-A-DownDownDowntheBurningRingofFire-Vote" Miers. And I'm beginning to suspect that some of Barney's buds might have the First Dog's back and are planning a little extraordinary rendition outsourcing of their own:

Yeah.  I do need a new chew toy...

Come along, Enviscerator. Let's pay a payback visit to Barney's mean master.

[Photograph seen on argon.org]

There's kings...and then there's wannabe kings. And I think somebody needs to be hit on the nose with a rolled-up Constitution for being a bad bad boy...

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Portrait of the Wachowski Brothers

Portrait of the Wachowski Brothers

Portrait of the Wachowski Brothers (2004)

So...what about them? Well, the could be true could be bullshit Wikipedia says:

Larry Wachowski (born June 21, 1965) and Andy Wachowski (born December 29, 1967) are Polish American film directors most famous for the Matrix series.

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, the Wachowskis jokingly claim to have begun their collaboration as toddlers. Both dropped out of college to pursue show business and both overcame some major hurdles on their way to success. Before entering show business, they ran a carpentry business in Chicago while creating comic books in their free time.

Since their hit with The Matrix, studios are clamoring for whatever else they have ever worked on. Trimark has bought an unproduced script they wrote years ago, Carnivore, a creepy tale about a boarding house whose residents keep disappearing. The brothers will executive-produce it, while horror veteran George A. Romero (Dawn of the Dead) will likely direct.

[...]

Prior to working in the film industry, the Wachowski brothers wrote comic books for Marvel Comics' Razorline imprint, namely Ectokid (created by horror novelist Clive Barker) in 1993. In 2004, they created Burlyman Entertainment and have released comic books based on The Matrix as well as their own original creations, Shaolin Cowboy (with art by Geoff Darrow) and Doc Frankenstein (with art by Steve Skroce).

Yes, I liked The Matrix but was never fanboy obsessive about it or the series. Actually, I preferred Reloaded over the original film and was left flat by Revolutions. And, no, I don't care enough about any of the films to argue about their merits or demerits with anyone. I know there are sites and shrines decoding every scriptural nuance -- and, like many artists, they have admirers and detractors. Detractors like Kiernan, say, on Just Movie Trailers discussing the cinematic intricacies of the trailer for the Wachowski Brothers' upcoming film V for Vendetta:

It's the Wachowski Brothers...how good could it be? Too bad they suck at directing. The only thing they did well was The Matrix. The two Matrixes after that sucked huge. Don't even get me started on how bad they were, because they were horrible.

It's a deal. I won't get him started. But why such ire at the Wachowskis after such rave through the roof acclaim over the initial Matrix film? Some critics risk credibility and go out on a limb, like Matt Zoller Seitz, who notes:

It has now become unfashionable to admit enjoying the Matrix trilogy, much less admiring it. [But] I like these films, not just for their technological innovations, lavish action sequences, controlled compositions, deft editing and eerily focused tone, but for their unfashionable determination to connect everyday reality and pop fantasy. And I think the pop-culture backlash against them (big box office to the contrary) has been arbitrary and somewhat unfair -- more a reaction against marketing hype than the movies themselves.

But others boil in their own bile of the real, like Albert Oxford at The Matrix Rejected who has 50 reasons for you to stay away from the films. Among his quibbles:

13. Reloaded Ridiculousness. Several times in the sequel Neo is seen flying at almost supersonic speeds. NASA experiments prove that such a velocity would tear a man's genitals off.

[...]

15. Reloaded Ridiculousness, 2. The machines added two new enemies for Neo in Reloaded, called the Twins. Their first priority is to blend discreetly into the simulated world of the Matrix, to walk among the people unnoticed. So of course the Matrix made them huge albino men with bleach-white dreadlocks who occasionally transform into shrieking wraiths.

"What's that, honey?"

"Oh, nothing. It just looks like a simple Kung-Fu Swedish Rastafarian Helldemon. I'm sure there's no need to question our fragile, sheltered grasp of 'reality' as we know it."

Or could sexism play a part in Matrix Sequel Loathing Syndrome? According to the Daily Dish and Gossip at the reputable as a Bush press conference New York Daily News:

Early raves are coming in for V for Vendetta, the latest from Matrix filmmakers the Wachowski brothers. The only thing no one knows is: Are they still the Wachowski brothers?

Unconfirmed reports have circulated that Larry Wachowski has undergone hormonal, and perhaps surgical, sex-change procedures since divorcing his wife for a professional dominatrix in 2003. The woman's cuckolded husband -- who is himself transgendered -- has identified Wachowski as a cross-dresser, but not physically transsexual.

One Hollywood insider tells me: "It is my understanding that he did go ahead with the surgery." And Rolling Stone reports that legal documents relating to his divorce and San Francisco home identify him as "Laurenca Wachowski."

Alright. No problem. Free my mind. Free my mind. No problem. Alright.

Larry and Andy Wachowski

[Photograph from Wikipedia]

I don't care about the trilogy's religious overtones or the directors' sexual propensities or the fanboy's gushings and gripes.

Today's image, for some reason, just made me think about the Wachowskis. I'll leave you to decide which brother is which.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Type A Violets

Type A Violets

Type A Violets (1999)

Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the customary corresponding cryptic and callow chit-chat.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Monkey See, Monkey Say

Monket See, Monkey Say

Monkey See, Monkey Say (2001)

Who wants to actually see our fondness for language originate? Many linguists, echoing irate watchdog groups and a skeptical Noam Chomsky, think the conclusions are more profound when the bonobos script programs and go for the ratings. According to this school, scantily clad hotties frolicking around chimpanzees evoke symbolic communications systems. It’s arbitrary -- this assault on marriage and fricatives. Viewers lack the human brain reason. There’s a surprise. They are like in a big swimming pool. Think STDs. There are schizophrenics and road signs everywhere, and a looming strike in the swamps will have audiences foraging for bimbos. The important buzz is being signed for a water-cooler show -- nixed by religious organizations. Only about 40,000 of them still survive here in the outback. They are wild, but still they congregate at trail intersections to discuss plots that reek of desperation. Anything with sex or smashed plants will lure in young audiences. Critics and execs, grooming their short memories like picked lice, duke it out using behaviorism and bibliographies, but half-naked, rum-soaked seductresses pooh-pooh the impeding void. Eventually, all will agree who should go on the daisies. Don’t you think people are just curious to watch anything? Words are dropped like bad shows and never seen again. Reality is not a fiasco -- it’s high profile and bare bones. Speak up. I saw a monkey point to his butt and talk with his hands. He said: They us.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) an article about teaching sign language to apes--
2) an article on the Fox television show Temptation Island--

~/~

Well, I think I've worked through my fractal/language period binge here. Thanks for indulging me. Back to "normal" blogging tomorrow.

Still, why blog if I can never stretch? But, on the flip side, why read blogs that make you sleepy.

The view in my blog with a view is not fixed. Sometimes it tilts its window and slants its light to politics or culture -- or to poetry and digital art -- or to chaos and nonsense. And, ideally, hopefully, sometimes to Alice Fulton's "third space: the non-binary in-between."

Monday, January 23, 2006

Apollo Flares Out

Apollo Flares Out

Apollo Flares Out (2001)

Being dead hurts. The punishment ranges from hard x-rays to soft gamma rays. I suggest going gradual and avoiding Apollo. His arrows penetrate the eyes. He does the sun. NEVER LOOK DIRECTLY at his dead earth. Know Yourself instead and all your loop-shaped features -- unlike spotty, moderated Apollo. His electrons explode into a herdsman – like a corona of nectar. He coaxed a highly rarified Pan -- the gaseous, goat-legged god. Zeus went into a decay stage, and his thunderbolts grew to 100-megatons. At a million Kelvins, the nine Muses of Melanoma do some decorous dances. They did not have much luck with young men either. Most were lyres -- overheated archers who had short wavelengths. An envoy, a magnetic Cyclops with eye damage, said thank you for the nuclei dance and a willing, adult-size lover. Talk about sacred chasms and radiation signatures if you must. Apollo strings his bow with white light. He is now used to never being believed. Delphi flares with maximum poetry. A chariot telescopes across the sky like hydrogen bomb trails of perfect madness.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) an article on Apollo, Greek god of the sun--
2) an article explaining the properties of solar flares--

~/~

This one is either too bright -- or not bright enough.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

In the Guyana Monastery

In the Guyana Monastery

In the Guyana Monastery (2001)

Later that same afternoon, “revolutionary suicide” came to stand for the religious life. Often wearing an abbot’s clothing, Jones entered the compound barefoot as a lifelong penance. His personal autonomy was prostrate. He was on a fact-finding mission seeking a jungle airstrip and a scapula extract. His diet was sparse, consisting mostly of undyed wool and chloral hydrate. Translation: an Anglo-Saxon free meal. Was his socialist philosophy a meager belonging? Was his blood sugar problem due to leg bindings? His monastic life cut his throat, and all spouses slept in separate beds. His brethren made their way in a dump truck filled with prayer and manuscripts, but Jones was only a copy. Contact was inevitable -- cinched at the waist by a rope. In the South American fields, Saint Benedict was shut up for eight hours on Sundays. Dig a shallow grave of oratory -- an electronic form -- precarious and deranged. During his California days, a rosary was as sociological as a cult to Jones. Both took brainwashing and much practice. “Dad” appears to have shot himself, but in his drawstring pouch were cyanide and a strict vow of silence. But, after hearing an evil thing, probably the chatter of lice, Jones consolidated an ambush and a large vat of purple Fla-Vor-Aid. The final body count was 914 dead. No laughing was allowed for weeks. For the dead children, defectors all, the outside world was a very bad influence. Now, they are very stoic, ascetic, and have too much time to spend alone.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) an article on the final days of the People's Temple--
2) an article on monastic life and dress--

~/~

Were you wondering, given the composing process, if every cut-up would shake out with comic overtones?

Good advice...taken too late...

Dead followers of Jones lay beside his "throne."

For more background on Jim Jones and the events at the People's Temple, surf here and here and here.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Pushing Trinity's Envelope

Pushing Trinity's Envelope

Pushing Trinity's Envelope (2001)

Prudes fall into two categories: those who should bob for jellyfish, and those who should be detonated. A prude isn’t much good at Harvard University. He’s like a jackass with a scientific bent, but at least the hippies of the atomic bomb never repress their feelings. Disgusting! My pile of plutonium. Hold on to zero for a second. Is this one long winter? Take a wild U-235 guess. I’m the “gadget” – just another isotopic show on television. MUST REACT. MUST make an implosion assembly or bikini of bees. The bean counters bark at the evaporating tower, and robot dogs swallow incinerated goldfish. Oppenheimer’s got a point. “I am become MTV, the destroyer of child safety and good taste.” Someone didn’t do his reading. Not me. The first explosion gave me Javascript errors and the Japanese a city of crushed glass. Fermi took side-bets the blast would blow New Mexico. Such a hot stunt. Better than eating earthworms or pulling fission products out of people. MUST REACT. MUST be a perfectly normal doomsday for Shiva. Her awesome roar car-jacked technicians and calibrated some madman in a jockstrap flailing to escape Jumbo and keep from getting gored. I’ve seen my share of bores. I want Jackson Pollock to measure ground zero. He’ll cram the world in a can and place people on a bulletin board. Physics is a certain kind of gag -- there’s always the chance of a fizzle. My stupidity indicator came through unscathed -- pure as critical mass. I told my brother: “It worked.” The most dangerous weapon you can design: your head.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) two articles, pro and con, on MTV's show Jackass--
2) an article on the history of the Trinity A-bomb test--

~/~

Notes (from Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb):
*J. Robert Oppenheimer, the so-called “father of the atomic bomb,” had two reactions to the first explosion at Trinity. He is said to have remarked at the test site, “I am become Shiva -- the destroyer of worlds.” Later that same evening, Oppenheimer called his brother and merely remarked, “It worked.”
*Enrico Fermi was taking bets with other physicists at the Manhattan Project as to whether the explosion of the first atomic bomb would set the Earth’s atmosphere on fire.
*Oppenheimer and the other physicists referred to the bomb as “the gadget.”
Other Notes:
*Jackson Pollock was a seminal 20th-Century artist known for his drip “action paintings.”
*One of the more idiotic stunts on Jackass was Johnny Knoxville wearing a bikini made out of swarming bees. Of course, the bikini was named after Bikini Atoll -- destroyed when it became a nuclear test site.

~/~

This one blew outward fast and cut up real good. I've always seen Oppenheimer as a tragic figure -- but his historical legacy and personal responsibility for helping to usher in the nuclear age has been hotly debated. The end of his entry on who knows if it's true Wikipedia reveals the amorphous ethical polarity surrounding Oppenheimer:

Despite Oppenheimer's apparently remorseful attitudes -- claiming that physicists "had known sin" -- Oppenheimer was a vocal supporter of using the first atomic weapons on "built-up areas" in the days before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Rather than consistently opposing the "Red-baiting" of the late 1940s and early 1950s, he had testified against many of his former colleagues and students, both before and during his hearing. In one incident, Oppenheimer's damning testimony against former student Bernard Peters was selectively leaked to the press. Historians have interpreted this as an attempt by Oppenheimer to please his colleagues in the government (and perhaps to avert attention from his own previous left-wing ties and especially from those of his brother, who had earlier been a target of the anti-Red lobby). In the end it became a liability: Under cross-examination, it became clear that if Oppenheimer had really doubted Peters' loyalty, then his recommending him for the Manhattan Project was reckless, or at least contradictory.

The removal of his security clearance was probably as much related to his inconsistent testimony, and his open admission of telling lies to intelligence agents, as to the left-wing views he shared with many intellectuals and scientists in the wake of the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism. Nevertheless, the trope of Oppenheimer as a martyr has proven indelible, and to speak of Oppenheimer has often been to speak of the limits of science and politics, however more complicated the actual history. The portrayal of Oppenheimer as a modern Faustus in the opera Doctor Atomic is an exaggerated expression of this point of view.

The question of the scientists' responsibility towards humanity, so manifest in the dropping of the atomic bombs and Oppenheimer's public questioning, inspired Bertolt Brecht's drama Galileo (from 1955) and left its imprint also on Friedrich Dürrenmatt's Die Physiker.

The blast wave continues to spread.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Chyna's Swan Song

Chyna's Swan Song

Chyna's Swan Song (2001)

Your body takes a hell of a beating after leaving the breeding area. Those graceful creatures are so butch and mate for life -- but are their breasts real? I really think people wanna see large numbers of trumpeter swans congregating on ponds and kicking some guy's ass. My tight butt is territorial behavior, so I usually brood and lay my eggs in muskrat houses. Don't look at me like a man or molt on me, ya know. The ball's in your court. It's a tuber you dug. You think I'm kidding or solicitous? I've worked hard to earn my suitable habitat of slough waters. That brat of a cygnet? That S-curved neck? I'd like to rip 'em off and use 'em to complete my reproductive cycle. I dictate when nesting occurs with some seriously empowered eyecandy. Other birds are intimidated by fake sexual maturity and wanna hatch a shallow terminator. I say leave 'em in beaver lodges. I consider myself an active horsetail, a wonder woman density diving and foraging for my body. You want incubation and an interview in the marsh? I'm glad to be flightless exhibiting big round ones not subject to constant wave action. This pair is only half grown and occupies its territory. Yeah. Nest this.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) selected interview quotes from female wrestler Chyna--
2) an article on the mating habits of trumpeter swans--

~/~

Well, talk about Tennyson's notion of "nature red in tooth and claw." The fun of this cut-up comes from its mashed-up tone. The wrestler's defiance collides brutally with maternal instincts. Reproduction becomes a cage match. No serene pond here. Enter the marked territory at your own risk. The unsuspecting reader swims in -- and gets immediately piledriven and gloated over.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Torquemada Gets Bent

Torquemada Gets Bent

Torquemada Gets Bent (2001)

HOW TO TAKE THIS MEDICATION: First, clean all your drugs using unleavened bread and water torture. Then, one hour before ingesting, confiscate all men under the age of 30 -- especially those who deviate from strict Catholic practice. Limit alcohol use, garrucha foreplay, papal visitations, and pork eating. Take only under the supervision of your recanted pharmacist or dysfunctional priest. Store at room temperature away from hypertension and church officials. Best used when stretched on a rack or bed. Keep out of the reach of penile injections. SIDE EFFECTS: Most occur during Holy Week. If mild, just go away and pray facing a wall. Inform your inquisitor immediately if any of the following clinical data is observed: heresy, secrecy, public scourging, branding with slow-burning green wood, intercourse longer than four hours, life-threatening belief in innocence, arrhythmia in penitents, itching or rash confessions, auto da fe, inward parts moving outward, burning sensation (either alive or in effigy), nitrate exile, market approval of potency, 100 mg erections lasting greater than six days, or any slow death. DRUG INTERACTIONS: Never take while being jeered in a public procession, while wearing lead weights on prolonged organs, if you are unsure of your Christian holidays, if your accomplice is predisposed to mechanical pumps in an inclined position, or if you intend to ever be taken by women. DISCLAIMER: Keep this with the names of your accusers and anatomical deformities. Show no mercy. Exceed excess.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) the drug profile sheet included with a Viagara prescription--
2) an article on the abuses of the Spanish Inquisition--

~/~

Here's another fractal cut-up. This one doesn't seem surrealistic so much as prescient. Who would have thought five years ago that a United States President would threaten to veto a congressional bill outlawing the use of torture? Get bent and rack out on that.

Mandelbrot Among the Gypsies

Mandelbrot Among the Gypsies

Mandelbrot Among the Gypsies (2001)

Gaston Julia, recovering from injuries caused by a hospital, was named king of the gypsies in 1917. He had darned some socks for corpses and driven a hawthorn stake through his soon-to-be famous set. Much of his initial groundwork was spent decapitating computers on a finite area of the X-Y plane. Female vampires might have been more helpful in seducing his theory, but Pierre Fatou was a familiar who was missing a finger. He used melons to free up computer time. Of course, they dripped blood. To ward off vampires, gypsies used computer-generated cremation grounds. In 1979, Benoit Mandelbrot himself could reproduce after he made noises and calculated Kali. The goddess drank his image -- all his blood was drained but none was spilled, thereby the “Mandelbrot Set.” The values of IBM went from C to mullo (one nomadic perimeter of a large, complex ghoul). The discrete boundary of this formula is very loyal to dead relatives, both inside and out. In 1982, Mandelbrot’s soul re-entered the world, and he published a book similar to ours only very different. It was called In the Fractal There Is No Death. His soul, kept crated in wooden boxes, stayed more around his publisher than his body. This was actually seminal, for undead followers soon generated and sprang out of the ground. They believed only in dendrites and Slavic primacy. Later, after deep zooming and (re)animating irregular shapes, interesting patterns like animal appendages emerged and wandered the countryside. These beautiful images were a surprise, and intestines and a skull combined to make an apparition that drank only coloring gradients. So, yes, Bram Stoker spread his work at high magnification. By 1000 AD, computer artists with their powerful PCs had settled in Turkey. All culture and contemporary simulation seemed to stop shortly afterward.

~/~

Using the "cut-up" composition method popularized by William S. Burroughs, two blocks of text were run through a virtual cut-up machine. The result: a randomly scrambled "found" text mirroring chaos theory and yielding new meanings.

The two texts used here and merged were:
1) an article about the beginnings of fractal art--
2) an article on gypsy vampire superstitions--

~/~

I want to write poetry the same way I make fractal images. Today's image is the first of a series I will be posting over the next week. I'll attempt to explain, as best I can, what I think I am trying to do.

Understand that I am not a mathematician. My poor explanations of fractal theory and geometry are probably fuzzy or even absurd. The little I know, or think I know, serves as the "Muse" for what I'm attempting. I guess I don't care if I have all of my facts exactly straight. It's the connections between the processes that interest me. That being said, I certainly welcome comments and clarifications from people more knowledgeable than I am. Google "fractal" and 21 million hits appear, so anyone reading this tip-of-the-iceberg post can easily zoom deeply into the subject.

My new process for creating poetry begins with the “cut-up” theory of writing used by the late Beat writer William S. Burroughs. Wikipedia describes cut-up composition as follows:

Cut-up is performed by taking a finished and fully linear text (printed on paper) and cutting it in pieces with a few or single words on each piece. The resulting pieces are then rearranged into a new text. The rearranging work often result in surprisingly innovative new phrases. A common way is to cut a sheet in four rectangular sections, rearranging them, and then typing down the mingled prose while compensating for the haphazard word breaks by improvising and innovating along the way.

I try to add two new dimensions to cut-up composition: 1) collage software and 2) fractals and fractal geometry.

My process begins by pasting two existing text excerpts into a virtual cut-up machine. This is software that is designed to scramble and splice texts to make new, “found” texts. But I use the software in a very specific way -- and for a very specific end.

I am also a visual artist -- as this blog suggests. I use a computer to make fractal-based digital art. I use fractal-generating software to generate a fractal image. I import these images into graphics software (like Photoshop, PhotoPaint, Paint Shop Pro, and others) and “post-process” (manipulate outside the fractal generator) the base fractal image into a digital artwork.

My friends who love mathematics know what a fractal is -- and understand the geometry and formulas far better than I do. There are newsgroups and forums and graduate classes that hash out the mind-boggling formulas and details. But let me try to explain, in my own simple and unsatisfactory way, what a fractal is. Fractals are pictures derived from mathematical formulas and generated by computer software. A fractal is a geometric shape repeated at ever-smaller scales. Therefore, fractals are self-similar and infinite -- that is, one can (in theory) zoom forever into a fractal and continue to see permutations of the same forms. The irregular shapes and surfaces found in fractals cannot be reproduced by classical geometry, and so some people claim fractals also demonstrate chaos theory -- because the math formula is "set" but still cannot be reliably predicted. Many fractal forms are found in nature. Trees are a good example. A branch is like a smaller tree, and a twig is like a smaller branch, and so on. The increasingly smaller forms resemble the larger ones. Trees are "set" forms; however, no two, even if they are of the same species, are exactly alike. Fractals forms are everywhere: frost, broccoli, nervous systems. No two fractal images are alike either because minor adjustments in given mathematical formulas in fractal generators produce slightly different pictures.

I want to incorporate similar methods/concepts to create a kind of “fractal poetry.” There are, indeed, many connections. Chopping and rearranging the same two “set” texts means the subsequent cut-up(s) will always be “self-similar.” The field of available words never changes and syntax replicates but is shuffled with each iteration. In theory, the cut-up text could be infinite -- if I could live forever and constantly keep cutting up the same two select texts (is that a circle in hell?). Fractals are infinite in theory, but a graphic viewer capable of an infinite deep zoom has (to my knowledge) not yet been designed. Moreover, by placing all of the virtual cut-up machine’s settings on “random,” chaos theory begins to come into play. The resulting cut-up text is indeed very fractal in design -- having traits of computer generation, self-similarity, theoretical infinity, and influence of chaos theory.

I am not the only writer to link fractals and poetry. Poet Alice Fulton has discussed “fractal poetics” in her book Feeling as a Foreign Language (Graywolf Press, 1999). She writes:

Science’s insights concerning turbulence might help us to describe traits common to the poetry of volatile (rather than fixed) form…Just as fractal science analyzed the ground between chaos and Euclidean order, fractal poetics could explore the field between gibberish and traditional forms. It could describe and make visible a third space: the non-binary in-between.

Naturally, Fulton has her detractors. Michael Theune disses her ideas in an issue of Pleaides:

At first, Fulton’s theory sounds promising. A real departure from organic theories of poetry, it could help to privilege a new kind of poetry, a hyper-repetitive or incremental poetry perhaps analogous to the fugue -- a structure Fulton mentions in her essay, “To Organize a Waterfall” -- that might approximate the not-quite and both chaotic and self-similar -- “[a] self-similar mechanism is, formally speaking, a kind of cascade, with each stage creating details smaller than those of preceding stages” -- aspects of the fractal. The fractal, one could say, replaces the paradigm of the musical score with the paradigm of the loop.

[...]

The trouble with Fulton’s theory is that none of this happens. Instead, Fulton makes a mess of things, bleeding her potentially interesting theory dry by turning it into at best a lightweight surrealism or at worst a trite descriptive tool.

I think she's into something good. Fulton seeks to apply fractal theory to existing free verse patterns in hopes of discovering a middle ground of exciting expression poised between sense and nonsense and for extracting (“deep zoom”) new meanings. Fulton is less interested in generating new work than she is concerned with applying fractal theory as a critical tool to decode and validate a charged free verse poetry. In contrast, I am more attracted to using fractal theory as a mirror and a map to generate new “found texts” that are fractal in method and design and truly exist in Fulton’s “third space.”

And that's where I want these poems to be. Snug in that third space suspended between chaos and order.

Fulton goes on to say is poem is not a fractal because poems aren't "complex adaptive systems." I have my doubts. If a poem can be written to embed fractal characteristics, and each subsequent stage of a cut up is a new iteration, doesn't that resemble complex adaptation?

If you're interested, drop back by, and I'll show you some more fractal poems over the next week. Decide for yourself what they are and mean -- if anything.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Unreachable

Unreachable

Unreachable (1999)

Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the culture of comment corruption.

I'm sorry for the lack of recent posts. I've been working overtime and feeling a little under the weather. As always, I blog as time and health allow.

Tomorrow, I'll probably start posting a related series of images.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Aloof

Aloof

Aloof (2000)

Yes, seekers of culture, it's time again for that stewpot of verbal vermin and kitchen sink of painful prosody I like to call: Freeper Poetry.

Tonight: Special Samuel Alito Edition.

Now that Alito has been grilled to his wife's tears by bullying Dems who have the unmitigated defeatist gall to be curious as to what the Federalist Society wingnut man actually thinks and believes before allowing him to sit on the High Court for thirty plus years in order to legislate progressive thought back to a Cro-Mag civilization while helping the BushCo crime family continue their reign of terrorism into a bleak future of conservative turned corners...

And now that the mainstream media has gobbled up the talking points that Alito has, in Orrin Hatch's words, as seen on NPR.org, been

"straightforward here, you've honestly answered the questions...I don't think you've been fairly treated."

And now that I caught a local TV snippet of my own senator, Mark Pryor, a Democrat (supposedly) and one of the filibuster-preservative Gang of Fourteen gush that golly he saw no reason why Alito should not be confirmed (he felt the same warm fuzzies for Roberts) even if like who's noticing that Pryor's up for re-election in a red state that gave BushCo 53% of the vote last year...

And since I thought Say Anything Sammy said a lot of nothing, perhaps selecting some of his direct answers from the hearings, pasting them into a virtual cut-up machine, setting all controls on random, splicing and dicing his remarks, and then re-assembling them into Freeper Poetry will reveal more cogently and directly what he actually said.

All of Alito's answers are taken from transcripts at Democracy Now. Ready? Let's cut up some bullshit.

~/~

Aloof

I think nothing. I held
a high-ranking claim to be a minor
mind. I was fortunate

to have immunity
from all civil memory. An adult woman
got it, fell under

my position. That certainly
filled racks and united a provision, no?
That O'Connor criminal

had no immunity. I provide
no framework for legal impeachment
for the current liability

president. I arise like
a fortunate member or no way analogy.
I stare. I'm barely aware.

I really have no specific recollection of that organization...

Today's Muse

[Image from campusprogress.org]

~/~

Friday Night Shuffle:

Here's what I've been listening to lately:

1. "Waiting for the Occupation" -- R.E.M.
2. "Marquee Moon" -- Television
3. "Dub Housing" -- Pere Ubu
4. "Cowboy Dan" -- Modest Mouse
5. "Forget the Swan" -- Dinosaur Jr.
6. "Under the Surface" -- Bettie Serveert
7. "Cobalt Blue" -- Brute
8. "The Man Whose Head Expanded" -- The Fall
9. "My City Was Gone" -- The Pretenders
10. "The Fan" -- Little Feat

~/~

Tonight's Pop Quiz:

There is one fool in the picture below. Can you find him?

Would I be funnier if I rolled up my sleeves?

Take my legacy...please...

Blog Problems

My blog does not seem to want to cooperate for the last several days. I'm having some display problems and was unable to post with images yesterday.

I have no idea what is wrong or why.

I've written Blogger to see if they can help me correct the problems.

I hope to be back to business as usual by tonight. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Undercoat

Undercoat

Undercoat (2001)

Blog with a View, at heart, is a digital art photoblog. Each Wednesday, I present an image without the clutter of blather.

Feel free to talk back to the art, should your inner critic wish to breathe free. Or, if you prefer seeing nothing scraped below the surface, exit the blog immediately and watch the Alito hearings instead.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How Many Robots Does It Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

How Many Robots Does It Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

How Many Robots Does It Take to Screw in a Light Bulb? (2003)

As many as George W. Bush says it takes?

Why aren't you laughing?

What are you?

A defeatist?

It's okay.

There's no joke here.

Just a string of facts.

Unless Congress or the courts curb our War President.

He can and will do whatever he wants.

And he'll openly and proudly say he has the power.

Unless he's lying.

Which he does often.

Although he expects us to believe him.

That he won't spy on the wrong people.

Or torture.

Or incarcerate the innocent.

Forever?

And expects us to give him and his goon squad of nicknames the benefit of the doubt.

People so skilled at PR they openly argue for torture and admit starting gulags.

Gulags. Yes. Let's call them what they are.

Even though the president threatened a first veto to keep the torturers torturing.

And has opened an investigation.

Not to find who leaked the identity of a CIA agent for political payback.

But to ferret out the whistleblower on the President's openly admitted domestic spying.

Which must not stop because doing so will hurt the war on "terror."

Which is a tactic and not an enemy or a country.

So it can never be completely stopped.

So the war will never end.

And neither will the surveillance.

And the lying.

And the (freshly minted) culture of corruption.

Unless our elected officials step up.

And investigate.

And censure.

And impeach.

This president who believes he is a king.

Because if no one steps up.

The answer to the question:

"How many robots does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Will be:

Who wants to know?

We know who wants to know.

We've been watching you.

We can make you disappear.

Besides.

And this is the punch line:

It's none of your fucking business.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Garbage In 4

Garbage In 4

Garbage In 4 (2000)

ABORT
RESTART
Sir,
The attack failed.
Attached is a memo.
How? Him now happily hunting.
Love that oldtime Custer acupuncture.
Suggest we erase said incident.

Sir,
We are the cruel animal.
BREAK
WAIT STATE

Garbage In 11

Garbage in 11

Garbage In 11 (2000)

ECHO
military USED
taboo USED
barbecue USED
cruel animal NOT USED
robot border USED
Keats Yeats VOLATILE MEMORY
Ancient Mariner as World Governor DATA INSUFFICIENT
mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
no more demon lover
no more faith healer
HALT
CRASH

~/~

"Garbage In" first appeared in 1992 in a chapbook entitled No More Nature. The title of the book came from a line spoken by Clov in Samuel Beckett's Endgame: "There's no more nature." The poem was later layered over images in 2000.

Ostensibly, "Garbage In" is a poem about computers -- written before I even owned one. Its title, of course, stems from the old programming maxim -- Garbage In, Garbage Out. From Webopedia:

Often abbreviated as GIGO, this is a famous computer axiom meaning that if invalid data is entered into a system, the resulting output will also be invalid. Although originally applied to computer software, the axiom holds true for all systems, including, for example, decision-making systems.

I had a crude computer at work -- and a computer dictionary. The design of the poem, broken into fifteen sections, was to inject/infect the computer terms with emotion expressed through various narrative voices. The result, hopefully, was a persona of a kind of disjointed, paranoid, angry, and random HAL 9000 commenting (often satirically) on popular culture, technology, Native American history, literature, transcendental meditation, and other stick-to-the-wall stuff.

There's the use of an early iPod shuffle technique of previously used words suddenly reappearing again to form new contexts and connections. In readings, the capitalized outbursts are read through a VoiceChanger toy my wife purchased at Wal-Mart -- to simulate the voice of the computer (or "God" -- as an audience member once told me). Initially, when my daughter was younger, I used a plastic children's cassette player with a microphone attached when reading the poem. It had a garbled, mushy sound I liked, and if I held the mike to the speaker it wailed out weird, high-pitched Jesus and Mary Chain feedback.

The poem is also the source for my web identity of "cruelanimal." That name has been misunderstood by people -- who have assumed it meant everything from a comment about animal testing to a capsule summary of my personality. It's just my shorthand description for people -- for the human race. As the poem notes:

We are the cruel animal.

Afraid so. We are the only species that demonstrates deliberate cruelty for pleasure, sport, contemplation, or entertainment. GIGO isn't instinctive or random. It's the expected outcome and predictable nature/nurture input/output of human beings -- cruel animals all...

~/~

The complete series of "Garbage In" can be read here.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Another Day in Catholic School

Another Day in Catholic School

Another Day in Catholic School (2005)

Here's something new-- and something that stirs not-so-fond memories of my formative years being whacked on the knuckles with the metal side of wooden rulers by nuns whose heads were filled with psychotropic visions of Pentecostal fire.

I went to Catholic school in South Dakota. The prairie winds would whip drifts, and I'd walk through snow tunnels to get to school. The parking lots would be plowed out into one corner leaving an Everest for massive king-of-the-hill matches during recess.

My strongest memory was of Sister Veneranda -- my 6th grade teacher. She had broken an arm slipping on the icy convent steps one November morning. About two weeks later, on a frozen tundra afternoon, a friend of mine, Tim, who will eventually be in the lowest circle of hell, beaned Sister Veneranda with an iceball. She dropped like a glass-jawed prizefighter -- and broke her other arm. The next day, she shuffled into class with two casts. She'd be lecturing on some religious topic and turn -- as she had thousands of times before -- to write some critical detail on the chalkboard. Her face would go slack. Her casts would bounce like some pathetic, half-hearted isometric exercise. That motion would later remind me of Karloff as Frankenstein's sad hand gestures of friendship to his unwilling mate in Bride of Frankenstein. Finally, her eyes would bore like Dracula's hypnotic glare into some hapless female student sitting in the front row who would bound to her feet to take dictation with chalk.

Were the dungeon days as bad as I dimly remember, in spite of every repressive lock and dam technique to hold back the horrific flashbacks? Or was my experience an anomaly? Did other Catholic school grads study in divine bliss with Mother Teresa models? Let's sift through the searing recollections found on the Internets.

From PureDoxyk at Everything2.com:

I once got stuck in the corner for an entire day for asking why there were similarities between Lucifer (the "Lightbringer") and the Greek myth of Prometheus. I even had that real-life horror story happen, where I was in the confessional and the priest had left his microphone on.

Nothing like broadcasting one's sins to the congregation. What could be worse? Maybe... sex education from nuns? From New Oxford Review:

My son Nicholas was in third grade at St. Elizabeth School in Oakland. Driving one Saturday on an errand, I heard Nicholas make this statement from the back seat: "My teacher told me to put a condor on the peanuts to protect myself from AIDS." I hit the brakes and pulled over. What Nick heard as "condors and the peanuts" was actually about condoms and the penis. Well, the point was quite lost on him, but it grabbed his parents' attention immediately. Nicholas was being taught about contraception -- in third grade.

We confronted the teacher and the principal for two reasons. First, the teacher had not informed us that she intended to speak to our third grader about sex. Second, and perhaps more significantly, such teaching is in direct contradiction to the teaching of the Church. We complained about both these issues, and were shocked to receive a defensive response from both the principal (a Dominican nun) and the teacher (an ex-nun). Both of them explained, with a touch of racism, that the majority of the children attending St. Elizabeth's are Hispanic and African American and that they (and their parents) do not understand the importance of practicing "safe sex." My wife told the teacher that, as the parent of a third grader, the mother has the right to speak to her own children about sex when she feels the child is ready to hear it. The school had now pre-empted that right; it had assumed the authority of the parents. Adopting the public school attitude that "we are the experts," this Catholic school convinced itself that it was the "great white hope" for the teeming and stupid masses of east Oakland. How sad, and how arrogant.

He said peanuts.  Yowsaaa...

Please open your hymnal to "Sex Machine."

But the mind games used to break you down psychologically by attacking your appearance and holding up holy noses to class distinctions were among the most devious tactics. From Nelly's Garden:

Then there were Sister Diabolical’s surprise fingernail inspections. She’d sweep in and go round everyone and inspect our fingernails. Humiliation for anyone whose nails were less than pristine. We’d all be frantically using compass points to clean them before she got to us. Once after failing inspection I got sent to the washroom to give them a good scrub and when I got there I scrubbed and scrubbed till they were nearly bleeding. Then Sister Benedicta nobbled me at break time for having all these white soap flecks on my jumper.

“Nelly Moser, you dirty, dirty girl. You’ve been eating ice cream and got it all over yourself!”

As if. As if I had the money for ice cream.

[...]

After the first year I got put into the second stream because I’d performed poorly in my end of year tests. I was mortified but in the good old Convent tradition more was to come. Sister Benedicta was our form teacher. She introduced an encouraging little ritual to motivate us to be smart and tidy schoolgirls. At the end of every month she’d have a class prize for the most well turned out girl. And while she was about it there would be a dishonourable mention for the least well turned out. The prizes were nothing to get excited about – maybe a holy picture or a cheap set of rosary beads. Anyways Mary Teresa won it the first month. Her father was a wealthy businessman and she got a new uniform every term. I got the dishonourable mention. The second month Mary Catherine won it. I got the dishonourable mention. The third time it was Mary Teresa yet again and myself for the booby. After the Christmas term Sister Benedicta gotbored with her little scheme and it was never mentioned again. Maybe she just got bored of humiliating me because by that time I’d gone numb and had stopped reacting. Bullies need a reaction.

Pull.  Pull.  Pull!!!

Recess, children. Please don your target-embroidered jumpers.

But maybe it was all just a bad dream. Perhaps, just perhaps, nuns have retooled their Gonzales gaga for torture image with a PR makeover. No more are they dark agents taking cues from Torquemada's playbook. Maybe they've gone soft, as Chuck Tersella learned in a (I'd guess fictional) interview in "Nun but the Best" from Exquisite Corpse:

“Yes, well, at any rate, I was hoping you’d answer a few questions for me about the way discipline is administered these days in Catholic Schools."
She immediately became suspicious. “What do you mean, answer questions? Who sent you? Is this about Father Mc Mann and the little league team again? Talk to his lawyer if you have questions."
“No, no," I said. This was getting weird. “I just was wondering if Nuns still hit kids with rulers and yardsticks and stuff anymore."
She calmed down a bit. “Lord, no," she replied. “We never lay a finger on the little uh, darlings anymore. Those days are long over." This last was said with a trace of wistfulness, I thought.
“But why not?" I asked, astounded. “That’s what you guys do. It’s what you’re famous for. Not hitting kids would be like Dick Cheney selling all his Haliburton shares and opening up a chain
of abortion clinics. It just doesn’t go. It’s stupid."
“Don’t call the Catholic Church stupid, sonny."
I took a discreet step back out of kicking range. She went on. “And anyway, it wasn’t our decision. There are laws about this these days."
“But how do you keep order? I mean, the thing that cured my attention deficit disorder was the knowledge that you were standing just behind me with three foot piece of wood."
She smiled. “Me personally? I just invite 'em to play kickball with me. That usually calms them down. But the other Nuns have to call their parents and try to work it out with them."
“And that works?"
“Well, it saves on yardsticks and rulers, but I think the old ways are best. We got into trouble when we stopped saying the Mass in Latin, I always thought. Damn Vatican II."
I nodded sympathetically. “That’s what did me in. “It gives away too much in English. I mean, we might as well be Protestant."
“God forbid," she replied, sniffing. “But now that you mention it, we do have more discipline problems these days...truancy, fighting, cursing, the occasional Grand Theft Auto, that sort of thing. It wasn’t like that in the old days. If a student didn’t do what you wanted, it was off to the Cooler...uh, Principal’s Office. Yes, the children knew what that meant and they respected it." She stared at me a long moment. “Did I ever send you to the Principal? You sort of have the look."
“Once or twice," I murmured uncomfortably. “But now that I’m older, I recognize the value of that kind of discipline. In fact, I’m grateful for it."
She smiled again, a shark-like grin really. “Damn straight. Have you ever spent time in a maximum security institution?"
I shook my head no.
“Then there you go. It worked. Parents don’t understand that it’s the domino effect; a bit of backtalk today turns into assault with a weapon of mass destruction tomorrow." Her voice started to rise. “We Nuns are the front line. We’ve got to take back the schools! We’ve got to nip this in the bud! And if the parents don’t like it, then we’ve got to...." She was nearly yelling by this point and I started to get nervous. She must have seen the look on my face because she took a deep breath and calmed down a bit. “At any rate, something has to be done. I pray about it all the time, even now, here with you."

Catholic school convinced me to "retire" from Catholicism. I figure I went to Mass so often as a kid that I've stored up enough get-into-heaven indulgences to last a lifetime. I'm hedging, based on the good deeds of my youth, that one day I'll ascend and high-five St. Peter. I mean, what could I be doing that might derail my bullet train to the white light?

From MTV.com:

Students can be suspended for a lot of odd reasons these days -- wearing "objectionable" T-shirts, cross-dressing for prom, planning elaborate senior pranks -- but a principal at a Catholic high
school in Sparta, New Jersey, has added another offense to the list: having a blog.

That cuts it. Sister Veneranda was right. I'm going to hell.

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