Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Unfortunately, this happened locally -- and they ran it on the evening news last week. Go and listen to the 911 call this dork made ...
(The end of the story, is that he did indeed finally get a cop to respond. Just not exactly how he wanted ...)
Last day of June, and summer is finally getting cranked up here -- supposed to hit ninety tomorrow, and about damned time.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Back when I was a runner, thinking I was someday gonna do the Boston Marathon, there were some injuries joggers had to try and avoid: Getting run over was at the top of the list; shin splints, back spasms, sprained ankles, knees and hip problems, and plantar fasciitis.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Friday, June 26, 2009
Behold, my first column for the late and completely unlamented underground newspaper, The Word, dated June 23, 1971. Even then, I was a social activist -- and funny -- which you can see if you click on the image and enlarge it enough to read the text ...
My official title by the by, was Staff Cartoonist and Resident Cynic, the latter of which I thought a base canard. What, me cynical?
I wasn't at Woodstock. I'm probably the only guy my age who was a hippie who wasn't, according to all the stories. Must have been fifty, sixty million people there, if every who claimed to be was ...
I did manage the Celebration of Life, at McCrae, on the Atchafalaya River, a couple summers later, and while somewhat smaller in scale -- official records say fifty thousand, my recollection was that there were twice that many -- so I have an idea of the energy such a smaller event can generate. It was hot, wet, mosquitoes everywhere, people drowning, getting run over by cars taking short cuts, and, of course, the music. I was, ostensibly, working for The Word, the local hippie paper for which I was a cartoonist and columnist, and we were delivering food and water in The Word van to the hungry and thirsty. Got us in free, that did. Us, and half the people who didn't bother with the gates ...
Wonder of wonders, somebody had a camera, and lookit, it's on YouTube. (Look, there I am, right there, the stoned guy, standing in line outside the porta-potty ... no, wait, I'm the stoned guy in the mud pit -- no, wait, wait, the stoned guy down by the river ... Well. I'm pretty sure I was there. I think. And no doubt I was stoned.)
"Hey, man, you want to buy a paper? The Word, only a quarter."
"I wish. I'm broke, dude."
"Hey, fuck it, have one for free."
The paper didn't do too well, that issue. There weren't that many porta-potties, and, well ... you know ...
Ah, the good old days ...
Melanie, who like Cher, sang under one name, will always be a part of that old hippie sound.
Above: The Weasel, inspired by Terry "The Weasel" Trahan. The sheath includes rare earth magnets to hold the knife securely in place. Canvas micarta scales.
Skighter, for Mike Blackgrave, stock removal mostly done by Ian Robbins, Chuck's forging partner. Design by Blackgrave, ebony handle.
Guess I'm gonna have to buy a lottery ticket ...
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Latest from Jeff Crowner's forge: Traditional kerambit, with a cable-damascus blade, copper ferrule, Paduk handle, leather sheath.
PBS ran a two-hour special last night, The Music Instinct: Science and Song, hosted by Bobby McFerrin and Daniel Levitin -- the latter of whom wrote the book, This is Your Brain on Music, which I reviewed here a while back.
If you like pop-science and music and you missed this one, check it out on the PBS site or watch for it to be repeated. It covers everything from voice, to instruments, to Snowball, the Dancing Cockatoo ...
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
Hull stepped out of the shower, dried himself, and started for the motel's bedroom.
As he stepped, he caught sight of something in the closet door mirror facing the bathroom --
There was a man with a knife outside the door, an armspan away, and the knife drew Hull’s attention as if it were the only light in an endless darkness.
Fuck -- !
One of Hull’s own knives was on the bathroom sink behind him, next to his back-up gun but --
Hull froze. It was as if he had been suddenly drenched in liquid nitrogen.
He ... couldn’t ... move ...
Time stretched ...
It wasn’t until after Vietnam, where he’d been in half a dozen fire fights, where he’d escaped being shot, blown up, or incinerated that Hull had any real inkling of how humans were wired to deal with sudden, deadly, unexpected violence.
The Department had brought in a doctor, from, of all places, Mississippi. Hull was from Texas and he could do Southern, but this guy had an accent so thick you could nail it to a wall as a honeysuckle trellis. The doctor, nameless at The D, was a shrink, and he lectured in tandem with Van, The D’s close-combat instructor:
“People, y’all got three responses to all of a sudden lookin’ death in the eye: You will run, you will fight, or you will freeze. Those are part of a syndrome called ‘Tachypsychia,’ and it includes a buncha things -- subjective shifts in space and time and how you see and hear and feel things. You tend to get tunnel vision, hearing fades, and everything not absolutely necessary to survival in that moment gets shut down. It’s how the monkey programming works, and while my sainted mama would have a conniption if she heard me say it, when it comes to it, we are all just big, hairless monkeys, and forgive me, Jesus.
“If the danger is a rock rollin’ down a hill at you, you’ll probably run. Man grabs you round the neck, you might struggle and fight. If it’s a big ole tiger” -- this last word was pronounced “tahh-gurr” -- “probably you’ll freeze. That’s ‘cause instinctively you know that a predator’s gaze is attracted to motion -- you being a predator yourself -- so like when rabbit sees a fox, it goes dead still, on the notion that maybe the fox won’t see it.
“You don’t get a choice which one you will do, it’s way past thinkin’, and it won’t always be the same one. But which one your body chooses for you might get you kilt.
“Man with a knife comin’ in, he already sees you, and if you freeze, he gits you. In that case, runnin’ is better than freezing -- or fightin’, unless you are like ole Van here and you can knock his dick in the dirt.”
Everybody laughed at that, and the doctor smiled.
“So, you don’t get to pick which reaction will pop up, but once it does, you can change it -- if you work on it.
“You can sneak up on an armed sentry and -- 'less you get buck fever -- you can grab him, cut his throat, and hold him quiet until he bleeds out. At least that’s what Van will try and teach y’all. But that’s intent. Your conscious mind is running the show. Tachypsychia, also called Fight-or-flight Syndrome, it’s all in the hindbrain. Thing that lives there in the dark cave is the reptile part of everybody. It keeps the basic systems running, breathing, heartbeat, and all it wants to do is stay alive. It will do anything it can to manage that, but it’s not very smart -- and sometimes, it chooses wrong.
“You have to be able to get past that, in a big ole hurry. Van here has been working on that. Van?”
Van, a short, compact black man built like a pocket version of Hercules, said, “Man jumps out at you with a knife from nowhere and you freeze, you scream. Loud as you can, whatever sound you want. You want to blow his ears off, shatter glass, take down the three little pigs’s house. You want them to look up from breakfast in De-troit and go, ‘What was that?’”
Somebody behind Hull said, “Scream?”
The doctor said, “Yessum. Screaming is primal -- every culture ever went to war had guys running down a hill hollering as they went.
“Screaming does some useful things -- it warns the tribe there’s trouble; it can stun an attacking animal or human into a momentary freeze of its own; it opens the floodgates to a slew of hormones, including epinepherine -- adrenaline -- which is a powerful stimulant. Makes you stronger, faster, deadens pain, all kinds of things you might need if you are being chased by a cave bear or a Mack truck.”
The doctor continued: “And as Van has discovered, it breaks the trance. You need to recognize that you are frozen -- that’s hard, because your mind might have frozen along with your body, and you might feel warm and comfortable and like you just got up from a nice nap, or had a couple-three beers. But it’s a lie, and you have to figure that out PDQ. So, it’s scream and move, those two go together.”
Somebody else asked, “What if your attacker has a buddy? Won’t yelling tell him where you are?”
“That’d be tactical stuff. Van?”
“If the guy with the knife gets it planted in your aorta, he could have the fuckin’ Chinese army behind him and it won’t matter to you. Take care of him first, then worry about somebody else. You will have the training to deal with an incoming knife. I’m not saying you won’t get cut, because if you stand and play with a knife fighter who knows his ass from his elbow, you surely will get cut -- anybody tells you anything else is trying to sell you something. It might be you dodge and haul ass, or it might be you go in and take a cut to get control of the knife, but that is going to depend on the situation. You won’t know until you get there what the best thing is gonna be ...”
Maybe half a second had passed, but a lot can happen in a half second when time slows down --
Hull screamed. It was a gutteral, throat-rasping, loud “Ahhh!” the noise you make when you see a monster in a dream, and it galvinized him into motion. He stepped in as the knifer, a tall, heavyset man with hair so black it had to be dyed, lunged with the knife, going for the stab to the belly --
Limited to his hands and naked, Hull turned, put his right shoulder on a line with the attacker’s sternum and chopped down, one-two! his left hand a back-up and monitor, his right a hammer fist, like a man trying to break a stack of concrete blocks. He didn’t think about his target, he just covered his line, from head to groin, and such was the power of his strike that he felt the man’s radius break under his fist.
Breaking an outstretched arm is usually a pretty good disarm, but Black Hair was tough; he held onto the knife, even though he yelled in pain at the impact, which knocked his arm down, and he’d already started to retract his weapon --
Hull caught the man’s wrist with his right hand, the elbow with his left, pulled left and pushed in right, clearing the elbow from the body and shoving the knife toward the attacker. Holding on with all he had, he crossed his hands in front of his body waist-high, using the gripped elbow and wrist for leverage that twisted the man’s shoulder. Black Hair still held onto the knife, but the edge slashed across his own belly and it was sharp -- it cut deep, sliced right through the shirt and skin and muscle --
Hull reversed his motion again, angled the blade’s point slightly, and buried it in the man side, just above his right kidney --
Now the attacker let go of the knife --
Too late now --
Hull brought his left arm up, slammed the forearm into Black Hair’s face at the same moment he hooked his right foot behind the man’s right ankle. Black Hair fell backward, and Hull kept his instep latched to the falling man’s ankle so he couldn’t step out of it --
He hit the floor, hard, and Hull was ready with the follow-up stomp, square on Black Hair’s nose.
The front kick to the man’s temple was probably overkill, but better safe than sorry.
Hull spun away, looking for other targets, but if there had been any, they were gone now.
He looked down, noticed the back of his left forearm was cut, blood running down his arm and dripping off his elbow. It was going to take six or eight stitches to close the wound, and he hadn’t even noticed when he’d been sliced.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
Years ago, my collaborator Reaves was hanging out with another writer we know. This fellow, who in his youth was apparently quite the handsome fellow, had blond hair he wore long and was apparently striking, a seventies Greg Allman look. (I didn't meet him until he had, um, aged somewhat, and was less of a traffic-stopper.)
So Reaves tells the story about how he and -- call him Byron -- were somewhere in L.A. and this drop-dead gorgeous young woman crosses the street to accost them. She stands in front of Byron dewy-eyed and drop-jawed and says, "Oh. You are beautiful!"
After she leaves, floating off, one assumes, on a cloud of lust and awe, Reaves turns to Bryon and gives him A Look.
"Happens all the time," Bryon says, shrugging it off.
You can imagine Reaves's reaction to this.
How must it feel to be that physically attractive?
(Uh, for the regular crowd of guys who drop round here, don't bother to start clearing your throats and raising your hands. I've met many of you, seen pictures or vids of others, and while you don't have visages that would necessarily stop clocks or terrify small children, neither do you you have looks that would cause gorgeous women to stop in their tracks to stare in open-eyed wonder, either. Unless you are Fabio, posting under a screen-nom ...)
In some ways, such beauty would be an obvious advantage. Good-looking people tend to get better jobs, invited to social functions, past the rope at exclusive clubs. On the other hand, if you are so handsome that people will have you to their parties just to spruce up the decor, that might stunt your growth, personality-wise. If all you have to do is stand there and be eye-candy, you don't have to bother to be smart, funny, or educated. (This applies to women, too, of course.)
If you are past handsome and ranging into pretty, that might not be something that gains you male camaraderie. (Or, if you are hetero, it might be something that gets you male attention you'd rather not have.)
If, like most of us, you have looks that don't repel, but also don't cause people to cross the road to get a better view, then you have to develop some other resources to get along. I've never been a showstopper, but I always felt that once somebody got to know me, I could charm them or make them laugh, and that goes a long way to add to one's attractiveness.
A lot of women love men who can make them laugh.
Of course, there are always the bad boys, who might not have Greek-god looks, but who have about them that sense of danger that attracts. And different people find other things attractive. See a short, wide, bald guy of fifty with a tall, leggy woman of thirty, and you wonder what it is she sees in him. Could be a lot of things -- wit, compassion, humor, some unseen physical attribute, even something as simple as a lot of money.
Some of these attributes you can keep long after your physical beauty fades. As it happened, Bryon was funny, smart, literate, and a good writer. That's hardly fair.
Women have more of a problem with this than men, at least from what I know of it, but it would make for an interesting character study in a story to have an ordinary-joe be transformed into somebody with movie-star looks in an instant, and see how he deals with the results -- a kind of reverse Black Like Me, or Fat Like Me ...
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Apparently this organization was started by a dot.com millionaire who retired to pursue his hobby, surfing. Radical, dude ...
Seems to work pretty well on their students, they fall like bowling pins when the masters wave their hands. And how cool would it be to be able to do that?
A couple guys from Australia weren't too impressed with the claims that kept popping up on martial arts BBS, and thus opted for a vacation to Bali, to take the YB guys up on their offer.
There were some conditions -- dietary, and a mindset the attackers were supposed to take. The demo was set up on the beach.
They made a video of the results.
There are three passes by the Aussies at the YB players. See for yourself how it went:
(Turn the sound down a bit, it's kinda loud.)
Got to love the little dog, hey ... ?
In case you missed it, a quick synopsis: During a recent opening monologue -- these are usually full of humor not known for its taste, nor its beauty -- Letterman cracked wise about Sarah Palin's daughter's attendance at a Yankee's baseball game, allowing as she was knocked up by A-Rod.
Unfortunately for him, he didn't know that the daughter who'd attended the game with her mother was not Bristol, the eighteen-year-old unwed mother of Sarah's grandchild, but Willow, who is but fourteen.
Oops. What a difference four years makes.
In some cultures, as soon as an adolescent clears puberty, s/he is considered an adult, as least for purposes of sexual activity, with the big-enough-old-enough philosophy holding sway.
Not in this culture. Though there are plenty of fourteen-year-old girls who look considerably older -- "jailbait" is the term -- they are still children under the law -- even in Mississippi -- and protected as such. Sex with children is not funny in these parts.
Which is as it should be. Big enough is not old enough. A fifteen-year-old boy who is paying court to a girl his age, yeah, that's not something about which people are going to go ballistic. A fifty-year-old hitting on a teenager? Slides right past dirty-old-man and into immoral, illegal, and pedophilia. We aren't those countries where the nine-year-olds can be forced to marry men old enough to be their grandfathers.
Letterman apologized for this gaff, kinda, but it didn't sound sincere, and so he tried it again.
Comedians consider almost everything fair game, and that's not likely to change. Dave isn't compulsory, however, and the remote is right there ...
In politics, the children should not be dragged into the spotlight, in a decent world, they should be off-limits. And some politicians have sense enough to try and keep their kids out of the public's greedy gaze. The Clintons tried. Even George Bush tried, give him credit for that.
Sarah Palin, however, has been waving her kids at the media like a sideshow barker's come-on and using them to keep herself in the public eye. I feel sorry for the children.
I don't feel sorry for Governor Palin, however. She knew that stove was hot when she touched it, and I have no sympathy for her crying over blistered fingers. Sarah knew her daughter was pregnant when she accepted McCain's offer, and she knew full well that the press would be on that situation like white on rice. Did it anyway, and that's another demerit in her book, far as I am concerned. If she was so concerned with protecting her children, she could have declined to run. She didn't, and that by itself would have been enough for me to vote for a green two-by-four before I cast a ballot in her direction. Although there were soooo many more reasons higher up the list ...
It's a parent's job to protect the kids, and I always liked Harry Truman's reaction to a bad review in The Washington Post of his daughter Margaret's singing:
“I have never met you,” Truman wrote to the critic, “but if I do you’ll need a new nose and plenty of beefsteak and perhaps a supporter below.”
Give-'em-hell-Harry. Gotta love it.
Palin, alas, is still running, her eyes on a distant prize. As I mentioned elsewhere, if she was running any harder, she'd take every track and field event in the next Olympics.
It's a shame she's using her children to do it.
So I was digging around in one of the knife drawers looking for my sandalwood oil, and I came across this. It's an old Emerson, an early CQC, chisel-grind, tanto-point, glass-epoxy handle, probably 154CM. My son passed it on to me, and when I got it, it had been, I think, a car-trunk carry and was crudded up pretty good. I cleaned it, and used it for a tool-belt carry. I dunno how old it is, but I've had it for at least a dozen years.
The blade is just under three-and-a-half inches long -- apparently, they make a mini-version that's a little under that now, for places where they allow the shorter length.
The overall size is enough to get a good grip on the handle, which most short-bladed pocket knives don't allow. Kind of like screwdrivers -- smaller the blade, the shorter the handle, and while you might not want to over-torque a screw, having a handle you can grip is a decided plus for a knife.
This old beast feels very solid, and works well for odd chores around the house when I need a knife.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
I think we're done now. I hope.
Monday, June 15, 2009
So, summer is officially not here yet, just under a week away, but local schools are in recess, and some of the kids not glued to computer screens are out and about.
Whilst walking the dogs a bit earlier, I came across a small gathering of small ones. Two girls and a boy, pre-pubes, maybe nine or ten, could be eleven, were at the duck pond -- which is really just a wide spot in Johnson Creek. A fourth child, a girl, same age, arrived and while I wasn't paying that much attention, apparently there was some disagreement as to which direction the group was going to motivate itself. The trio apparently wanted to go hang out at -- of all places -- the local primary school, from whence they have just been freed, go figure. The third girl wasn't down with that and they went their separate ways.
The trio's path paralleled mine, across the street. After they had walked maybe fifty yards, the third girl yelled at them:
"You suck, Kristin!"
To which one of the girls -- presumably Kristin -- yelled back, "I know I do!"
Third Girl: "You suck monkey balls!"
I just thought I'd throw that out, given my post last week on how times have changed, with regard to how safe children are on the streets today versus how safe they were back in my day.
Summer. Gotta love it.
I might have mentioned it before, but if not, I am a stone fan of Fawlty Towers, the British sit-com from the 1970's. That, and Ab Fab, another Brit-com, both of which feature characters who are rotten to the core and hilarious as a result.
In American television, there must be redemption. No matter how bad the bad boys or girls are, deep down, they have a streak of goodness that they keep mostly hidden, but that will eventually out. Murphy Brown only seemed to be a hard-hearted bitch -- she really wasn't.
Basil Fawlty, on the other hand, was a total rotter. Ditto Edina and Patsy (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, from Absolutely Fabulous.)
When they tried to do an American version of Fawlty Towers, with John Laroquette, starring as Royal Payne, who ran the Payne Inn, the show went belly up after a few episodes, and rightly so.
It wasn't funny, and they had to give him a glimmer of goodness down under all that nastiness.
What made Basil work is that he had no goodness down deep.
While doing a post on another site, I remembered something I found fascinating when I first saw it.
Fawlty Towers was written by John Cleese and Connie Booth, who were married at the time. The stress of the show, and Cleese's perfectionist's nature regarding it, apparently contributed greatly to the breakdown of their marriage, which ended in divorce after the show's first season. Though they worked together on the second season, the experience apparently put Booth off comedy. Eventually, she left acting altogether and became a psychotherapist. For thirty years, she has refused interviews about the show, and only recently posed for pictures with the rest of the cast.
Those of you who are Monty Python fans will remember Booth as Michael Palin's "best girl," in the infamous "The Lumber Jack Song" skit ...
Friday, June 12, 2009
Let's face it, the first one of these was a B-movie plot that only took off because Cameron knows how to make science fiction work, and because it was the role Ahnahl was born to play.
T2 was better across the board. It was worth seeing just for watching Sarah Connor do chin-ups -- and the Guvernator crack funny. It started out with a gag that would end most action movies, and played all the way to the end. Great popcorn film. I put Linda Hamilton's picture up, but alas, she's not in this installment.
T3? Let's be kind and just say it sucked.
T4 also sucked -- and has more holes in it than Blackburn Lancashire. The most fun I got out of it was trying to figure out which scene it might have been that Bale went ballistic in while they were filming. There were so many I almost went ballistic in -- skirting the edge of hysterical laughter.
There are some nice EFX, give it that. Especially one late in the movie, with a CGI version of Schwarzenegger that is dead-on, but that's not a spoiler -- because you want to save your ten bucks and wait for it come out on cable.
I can almost hear the producers sitting in a big conference room over their bottles of Evian water. Plot? We don't need no steenkin' plot! We'll just blow up a shitload of robots and aircraft and riderless motorcycles, and nobody will notice that none of it makes any sense whatsoever.
There are six writers listed, though only a couple get credits, and the script was so totally re-written even while the filming was going on that Alan Dean Foster, who did the novelization, decided to rewrite the book because the script he was given had almost nothing to do with the movie ...
If all you want is mindless action, have at it. But, really, check your brain at the door, otherwise you'll find yourself sniggering in scenes that are supposed to be scary and dramatic ...
Don't say I didn't warn you.
Here's a news item, speaking to what I'd call eye-for-a-toenail justice -- and poor choice of weapons:
"KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Kansas City man has been sentenced to 33 years in prison for killing a man during a melee that erupted when someone threw a bottle of hot sauce.
The Kansas City Star reports that 29-year-old Jarvis T. Williams was sentenced Thursday for his convictions on second-degree murder, three counts of assault and four counts of armed criminal action.
Prosecutors claim he fired more than 20 rounds from an assault rifle into a car in October 2005, killing 22-year-old Gary Scott and wounding three others.
Prosecutors said the victim had thrown a bottle of hot sauce at a woman's car, angering Williams.
They had requested a life sentence. Williams' public defender did not immediately return a call seeking comment."
Rule of Thumb: A bottle of hot sauce is, generally speaking, probably not as good a weapon as an AK-47 ...
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Read this one ...
Peter Morrison and Leon Hendricks were drinking eighty-buck-a-bottle brut champagne in Morrison’s hot tub around midnight when something punched a hole in the sky over Beaverton.
The night was cold, but the heat rising from the water was enough to keep their ears from being nipped by December’s frosty teeth. Morrison was trying to get Hendricks to feed him some insider information on the new microbrewery offering, hoping to get in on the ground floor. Hendricks was still half a bottle away from giving it up. Even over the Grateful Dead playing the Casey Jones cocaine song, they heard a sound kind of like a pencil poking through a sheet of Saran Wrap stretched over a bowl.
A real big pencil and a sheet of Saran Wrap maybe the size of, well, the midnight sky.
Both men looked up.
A bright, actinic, kind of . . . Maxfield Parrish light shined through the hole in the sky . After a second, a giant taloned finger poked through the hole, worried the sky fabric until it ripped a little more. Then a couple more fingers stretched the tear, until a whole hand made it halfway through. The hand, also a golden color, but more like pure, burnished 24-karat gold, pushed, and the sky gave way like soggy cardboard in a big, three-cornered tear. Made a hell of a racket.
Behind the space-time rent, a bald, golden gnome peered through the hole. It had big, purple eyes and an idiot grin. It only took a second for the thing to enlarge the hole enough to leap through.
Morrison figured the gnome must have been at least a couple hundred feet tall, though there wasn’t really anything to judge it against up there.
The golden idiot fell. Before it disappeared from view behind the fir trees in the side yard they could see that it was naked—and most assuredly male.
After a moment, the ground shook. Water sloshed out of the hot tub. Morrison grabbed the champagne bottle and Hendricks quickly moved the CD player so it wouldn’t get soaked. Five or six seconds later, there came a terrible ka-boom! as the sound of the creature landing arrived.
“Now, there’s something you don’t see every day,” Morrison observed.
“Sounded like it must have come down right in the middle of town,” Hendricks said, “judging from how long it took the noise to get here. Eleven hundred feet a second, isn’t it?”
Morrison nodded. “About a mile, I’d guess. More champagne?”
Hendricks extended his glass. “Please.”
“Good champagne,” Hendricks said, after sipping the bubbly.
“Come on, tell me about the microbrewery. You know you want to.”
There was a fair amount of noise, not at all usual for midnight in Beaverton, Oregon. They rolled up the sidewalks at nine and even the Safeway wasn’t open all night. Whitebread Republicans tended to keep it down, usually. But here was all this crunching, explosions, sirens and the like.
“You don’t suppose that had anything to do with Sam Sewall, do you?” Hendricks said. He waved. The hole in the sky was closing up. Another few seconds and you’d never be able to tell it had been there. “You know, that business about him painting his house blue and it turning back to yellow overnight?”
Sewall lived three houses down. Nice fella. Also hated the neighborhood association, which made him aces in Morrison’s book. Morrison took another goodly sip of his own wine. “No, I don’t think so. Sewall’s wife is a witch, and he forgot to ask her if he could paint the place.”
“Ah. Never a good idea to take the missus for granted.”
Next door, the outside floodlights went on and Mr. Arlo McCartney, fifty and bald as an egg, ran from his house into the back yard, screaming. He wore a red flannel nightshirt.
Morrison raised his eyebrows.
“Perhaps we should go in?” Hendricks ventured.
“And have McCartney see us dangling our naked pendulums in the cold night air? I think not.”
A dinosaur ran out of McCartney’s house, leaning forward tail extended behind it like a rudder, teeth clacking as it snapped its jaws shut. It looked around. Spied McCartney.
McCartney screamed and ducked behind the metal tool shed, then slid in between the shed and the wooden good-neighbor fence.
The dinosaur, about as tall as a pro basketball player—if you didn’t count the tail—scrabbled at the edge of the shed, but couldn’t reach McCartney.
Score one for the bald guy.
“Help! Help! Somebody help!”
“Velocioraptor?” Henderson wondered aloud.
“Nah, T. rex.”
“Awfully small, isn’t it? I thought tyrannosaurs were bigger than that.”
“Well, sure, usually. But look at the shape of the head. And the tiny forelegs, that’s the giveaway. Maybe it’s a dwarf. Or a midget.”
Frustrated at not being able to get to its prey, the dinosaur bleated. It sounded like a giant sheep.
“Spielberg sure got that part wrong,” Morrison said. He sipped at his champagne.
“Help! Morrison! Call the police! Call the SPCA! Call the goddamned Marines!”
The dinosaur took a deep breath and blew it at McCartney. The breath came out as a burst of bright red-orange flame.
“Urk—!” McCartney began.
Then he was reduced to a burnt out cinder the size of a small toaster. Smoke rose from the little mound of ash. The air was filled with the smell of McDonald’s at noon. You want fries with that Big Mac?
“Looks like both you and Spielberg were wrong,” Hendricks observed. “It’s not a Tyrannosaurus, it’s a dragon.”
The creature turned, looked at the two in the hot tub, shook its head, then went back into McCartney’s house.
“McCartney’s not married, is he?” Hendricks asked.
“Well, if it’s not Mrs. McCartney, then it is definitely a dragon.”
“I sit corrected,” Morrison said. He sighed. “But I am getting wrinkled. Maybe we should go inside.”
“Well, let’s finish the bottle first, shall we?”
“You are going to tell me about the stock offering for that beer place?”
“Since you’re twisting my arm, okay.”
“Now you’re talking.” Morrison waved at the CD player. “Put something else on, would you? I don’t want to listen to Jerry and the boys wander around in minor chord-land for thirty minutes.”
“Sure. Stones? Beatles?”
“How about the Jefferson Airplane? That seems appropriate, doesn’t it?”
Hendricks grinned. “It does, doesn’t it?”
“PETER MORRISON!” came a thunderous voice from Heaven.
“That would be . . . God?” Hendricks said.
“Be my guess,” Morrison said. “Hey, God, how’s it going?”
“SAME OLD, SAME OLD. AND YOURSELF?”
“Hey, I can’t complain. Got the tub, my best friend who is going to help me make some money, really good French champagne.”
“MUST BE NICE,” God said. “I WOULD LOVE TO STAY AND VISIT BUT I HAVE TO GO NOW, DEITY’S WORK IS NEVER DONE.”
“Thanks for dropping by,” Morrison said. He raised his glass in a silent toast.
“Been a long time since I talked to God,” Hendricks said. “Back in ‘70, ‘71. Most of the time, I wound up in the bathroom talking to my penis.”
Morrison smiled. “Ah, yes, I’ve had a conversation or two with Mr. Johnson myself.”
“Short conversations, no doubt,” Hendricks said.
“Speak for yourself, pal. Mine weinerschnitzel plumps when he heats up, just like those hot dogs on TV. Gets longer, too. Real long.”
“Do tell. And is this water cold?”
“Internal heat, my man, internal heat.”
Grace Slick’s all-too-wise buttery voice floated from the speakers mounted on the outside wall of Morrison’s house, wrapped itself around the two men like the arms of a lover. Sang of pills that made you change your size. Sang of rabbits. Sang of psychedelic sights and sounds most people never knew. But places that were out there, all the same.
A pterodactyl soared overhead, and the spotlights picked it out. Ack-ack guns fired, hit the flying creature. It spiraled down and left a trail of smoke and flame. Crashed into a house across the street.
“That Richards’ place it hit?”
“So it appears. But—who can say?”
Both men laughed.
“About finished with that wine?”
“Here, I’ll get the towels.”
Both men stood. Glanced surreptitiously at each other. Not bad shape for ex-hippies in their late forties, they both figured. All things considered.
As a throbbing orange and green . . . something settled onto the house behind his and melted everything into a swirling widdershins puddle, Morrison said, “You know, I always knew the sixties would come in handy some day.”
Hendricks smiled, raised his hand, and gave Morrison the peace sign.
They went inside.
There's a family in Seattle that put a small camera around the neck of their cat and turned it loose around the house and yard a year or so ago, and have become locally-famous for the notion and pictures on their blog.
When our children were growing up, we had cats -- got the first one before my son was born, actually: Shitty Kitty, named because, as we were driving home from getting her, she sat upon my wife's pregnant lap as I drove. Halfway to our apartment, the cat had diarrhea. My wife ended up holding her out of the window as we tooled down the freeway at speed scat spraying along the side of the car, and the situation was not helped by my hysterical laughter and pounding on the steering wheel.
"Steve! Stop laughing! Help me!"
I had tears streaming I was roaring so hard. You had to be there ...
Over the years we have had many cats. My preference for domestic animal company runs to dogs, which are considerably more interactive -- and yes, smarter -- but I like cats. A cat can defend itself against a small child who wants to grab it by the leg or tail -- a quick bat with a clawed paw, or a leap onto something higher than the toddler can reach, end of problem. A puppy? Not so much.
We had a cat that would fetch a ball, Jerry, as well as any dog we ever had would do the trick.
We usually got the cats in pairs: Franny and Zooey; Blackberry and Sunflower; Spot and Stripe. One would either run off or get run over or suffer some other quick end.
Our best cat, Ashes, was a single; though we eventually got her a kitten, Floozy. Got her a puppy, too, Travis. She hated them both. Ashes was part Siamese, and liked to talk; Floozy (Felicia), her kitten, was a silent kitty, until one weekend she got herself up a tree and learned how to call for help. Sixty feet up a Doug fir, and I went up to fetch her.
Ashes used to bring us presents. Once, while we were living out near the end of Olympic Peninsula, we had a big vacant field across the street from us. Ashes began hunting there, and bringing us presents. She'd meow at the front door, we'd open it, and then there'd be a little dead critter on the stoop. First, she collected a shrew. Then a vole. Then mice. A mole. Gopher. Then a rabbit -- albeit a small one -- moving up in size ...
As a writer, I made the leap. That nasty little red-haired boy who liked to ride his bike past while screaming at the top of his lungs? He got dragged onto a doorstep in horror story I wrote, titled "Ashes ..."
Ashes made it to almost twenty years. At the end, she would walk up to the dog food bowl and shoulder Cady and Scout aside. The dogs, German Shepherds ten times her size, would move over and then whine at us. Help! The cat is eating my food! Help!
Stripe was almost twenty-one when he died. Both he and Ashes were inside/outside cats, so to live that long is, if not rare, a good run.
Currently we are sans cat, and apparently the grapevine hasn't gotten the word out, because none have shown up at the gate, looking to be fed and taken in. Only a matter of time, though.
And no, I don't want one of your kittens, thank you ...
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Okay, it's been a while since I ran an ad for the Martial Arts book, But What if I Did This!? which is for sale for five bucks on this very site, via PayPal. Just click the button.
Two score and four years ago, as I write this, I donned my first pair of angry white pajamas and walked onto a floor in a martial arts class. That was the first step on a long and winding road that was to become the core of my being -- I can’t recall a month since when I wasn’t engaged either in study or practice of some form of martial art. Even when I was a hippie, the dances were there. The practice has informed the way that I look at the world, and has, at least once, allowed me to keep breathing the communal air when it might have gone otherwise. Martial arts are a big part of what I do, and as long as I can physically continue the practice, will keep doing.
Over the decades, I trained in seven or eight different systems. Some I became passing adept at, some not so much -- arts from Okinawa, Japan, China, and combinations thereof, finally arriving at my current art, which is Indonesian.
I claim no expertise in any of these; nor is this a how-to book from which you will learn how to clean out the local biker bar without mussing your hair. However, after more than forty years dancing martial dances, I have some experiences and opinions, and I hereby offer them up. What I do, how I think and feel about it, and why.
Most of these musings came from my blog. A few from elsewhere. Most of the essays concern the current art, Pukulan Pentjak Silat Sera Plinck. There are some hits on other things.
Maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t know. Maybe you’ll be able to relate some of what I picked up along the way to the art that you do. Maybe not. Almost certainly if you read this book, you will have some martial context into which you can place it -- the market for such things is exceedingly small outside players of various forms of mayhem.
I hope it will be entertaining.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
At seven, I first took my little Huffy to school. When I was nine, I got a big bike -- an "English Racer," that had three speeds and cable hand brakes. With the seat all the way up, I couldn't reach the pedal at the bottom of the stroke, so I either had to stand on the pedals, or shove hard enough so I could catch it on the inertial upswing. I had to straddle the cross bar when I came to a stop, and even then, it was on tip-toes if I want to keep the bike from falling over. I learned how to wiggle the front wheel a little at a stop to keep the bike balanced so I wouldn't have to put my feet down.
In the summers, my friends and I rode everywhere, and while the distances seem longer in memory than they actually were when I look at the map, we did cover some ground. Rode to the the local swimming pool before it was closed to prevent racial integration, about two miles round trip. A little longer than that to the Dalton Theater, for the quadruple horror movies on Saturdays. We were five miles from downtown, and ten from LSU, and we routinely made those trips a few times each summer.
Little boys, little girls, all of us pedaling all over hell and gone, and nobody thought twice about it. Don't take candy from strangers, that was pretty much our only warning against pedophiles.
It's a measure of how much things have changed to note that this morning, while walking my dogs, I came across three little girls riding their bicycles down by the duck pond. I guess the oldest might have been nine or ten, the others, a year, maybe two younger. My first reaction was to look around and wonder where the adult was -- what were these children doing out by themselves? Yeah, it's a safe and quiet neighborhood, with -- new and improved! -- sidewalks and all, but ...
A lot of things have gotten better in our world from the days when I was a tow-head, but not everything.
Monday, June 08, 2009
I have kept it secret all these years, for obvious reasons, but now I feel the time has come to share it with the world.
Use it wisely.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
Back in the early seventies, when the hippies were cross-fading into yuppies, and we were trying to figure out what to do with our newly-expanded consciousnesses, we came across a book by Robert S. de Ropp (1913-1987), a British academic who was interested in spiritual elevation. He was attracted at times to teachers like Madame Ouspensky and Gurdjieff, and though he moved beyond them, got into psychology, and ran with other freethinking seekers, there are elements of the earlier philosophies in his work.
He wrote several books, before, in 1987, he died in a kayak accident.
The Master Game was de Ropp's look at life through his version of game-theory, viz the various roles that people elect (or are forced) to play, and he broke them up into low, neutral, and high categories.
The names are fun:
Hog in Trough. Cock on Dunghill. The Moloch Game. The Householder Game. The Art, Science, Religion, and Master games.
De Ropp offered that the Master Game was the highest expression; that those who could play that were at the peak of the pyramid. This was full consciousness, awakened and realized, and only a relative handful of people would ever get there.
The person who can play the Master Game can play all the others. And if you are on a higher plane, you can dial it down -- but lower players can't play above their level. Thus it becomes your responsibility, if you are a master gamer, to a) figure out where they are, and, b) if you want to communicate with them, go to their level, because they can't come to yours.
And that at whatever level you achieve, you will likely spend some time searching for equals.
It's an interesting notion. And so far as I have been able to tell, true enough.
The reason I believe that I got the book was because, during a discussion with a woman who was running way above me in the realm of spirituality, she talked about games people play. And I allowed as how I didn't do that, I was just plain me. Whereupon she smiled and said, "Ah, yes. The 'just-plain-me' game ..."
No, no! I said, frustrated that she thought I was like those other game-players. But she was right, sort of -- I was and I wasn't. And game-playing didn't have to mean ill-intentioned or fakery, it just was where you were.
All of which brings us to the notion of reality, and my theory about that:
We all make our own reality.
Sure, there is a consensus version that most of us buy into -- trains, planes, automobiles, sun, moon, oceans, and kangaroos -- but every version is, in the end, highly individualized, insofar as what we believe deep in our hearts. And what we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.
It's all self-generated fantasy, to some degree. No matter how clear you think your vision is, what you see is what you elect to see, and like Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, that choice affects your reality. Bounce a photon off it, it changes speed, direction, shape or something else.
When I was in nursing school, training our psyche rotation in the bug house called Jackson -- Louisiana's version of the Cuckoo's Nest -- there was a guy who saw a table the rest of us didn't see. He never once ran into it while I was there, he always walked around it. He saw it. He knew it was there. Yeah, we thought he was looney tunes, but it was real for him, as real as anything the rest of us saw. He was crazy.
Or maybe we were all just blind. Maybe our matter didn't resonate the same way in his universe.
One man's floor can be another man's ceiling. It depends on where you are standing.
"My fantasy is better than your fantasy." gets thrown out a lot, we all do it, certainly I do. But maybe, "My fantasy works for me." is a better way of looking at it. We are all our own masters of Maya, and the ones with the strongest visions might run it all ...