July 31, 2006

My Tour of Really Big Cities Continues

Can you see me (lower left-hand corner)?

Huge demonstration demanding an election recount in Mexico City, peaceful and full of high spirits, near as I could tell.

A Pronounciation Guide for the Punditry

Cache: kash
A hiding place for concealing and preserving provisions.

Cachet: ka-SHAY
A characteristic quality conferring prestige.

Thank you.

July 30, 2006

3 in 1 Review Oil

Theological exploration is fatally wounded by the political nature of all human institutions, particularly organized religion. I was immediately struck by the graceful lines and sturdy fabric of the Advanced Elements Kayak. A pregnant grey cloud was not auspicious, nor was two piece scaffolding set. For an agnostic such as myself, one of the first realizations of any spirtual quest is that any approach based entirely on inward, individualistic reflection is not only dissatisfying, but drifts away from the necessity of exploring social interaction, from which all ethics arises. Long years of occassional disasters with cheap balloon boats, making unintentional leeway and recreationally endangering the life of its passengers, tends to dissuade any rational sailor from considering an inflatable. Hamlet is among the most difficult works, an ambitious play even if high speed Coast Guard helicopters do not roar over a Space-Be-Needled Denmark. Yet in practical terms, the compulsion to explore spirituality from disputable a priori terms seems doomed to persinicky falsehood and moral irrelevance. Can something so extremely orange work?

I researched, and to my surprise, this inflatable kayak with its aluminum frame bow and stern, low freeboard and robust material, got fairly enthusiastic reviews. So I began to conceive of an empirical approach to spiritual questions, those that lay outside the realm of science, but well within art, music, and literature, and were resonant, experienced commonly and specifically describable, but unnecessarily attributed to a religious practice, out of what seems to be an essentially political desire to control or claim spiritual experience. Polonius got the first laughs, plunging gamely into his garrolous distraction. I checked with more people and found the evaluation consistent: it was safe, durable, portable, and performed very nearly like a hard-shell boat at about a 1/3 the price. Hamlet himself had a real finger splint, presumably from a previous swordfight. So the question became: what if we were to leave the word "God" and "religion" out, dispense with fluffy new age meringue, and look for a class of spiritually relevant concepts embodied in actual human practice and experience?

Packed to the size of a large suitcase, I took the tandem version across the street to the Fremont Cut and used a 99 cent Goodwill pump to begin a slightly complex inflation procedure. Although the inconsistency of accent that plagues nearly every production of the Bard diverted attention from the eternal language, Ophelia came convincingly, almost dangerously unglued. The concept was hardly new. There is a principle that leads to clarity: do not try to justify or rationalize: Examine. What are characteristics attributed to God that actually exist in what we might call confirmable reality, even in small degrees? As it began to form up, the minor problem with one valve resolved easily, and in ten minutes, I was lugging the 45 lb kayak into the water. All-knowing and all powerful becomes what we can describe, and verify, about knowing and about power, in its extant rather than speculative forms. The rain poured and no one left, as the Claudius cackled and Hamlet, chinese neck tatoo and all, sarcastically cursed our quintessence. I got in, felt the boat's intrinsic stability and paddled away without the slightest anxiety.

Knowledge and power is limited within a moment, but not perhaps over eternity, and as scientists describe information - and its exchange - as a fundamental property of the universe, the world we know, the one we measure and test, already functions much as our would our common conceptions of God. Polonious lay dead in the rain, and, strangely, as the amplification failed, the actors stepped up their performance, for in bad weather there was no other purpose. I was amazed as the large wake slid easily under the hull, bending it smoothly rather than slamming it.

They don't shoot over Jesus, they shoot over the political, economic and social control of Jesus' message, which so often only serves that control. The crows added perfectly to the atmosphere of doom, and although it was hardly the excellent version of Richard III I'd seen two weeks before, the whole audience, getting drenched with the actors, now soaked and dried along with them. With exquisite timing, the Fremont bridge strangely opened for my passage underneath, an excess of access.

Connect the name of "god" to the desire for power, and people die, and their essential joy is crushed, cultural sadism indulged, and misery flowers endlessly. Polonius died well, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern bounced about like ferrets. So far the speed of the kayak was close to a hard shell, its tracking nearly equal, and its stability superior. Yet what all we claim to want to from religion is richly present in real life- it is the religions that insist that we turn our mind away from this life that spread untold suffering, that punish, that cut, that hide their agenda of political control and desire for privilege. Hamlet was no amateur, although I would have read it almost the opposite of his James Dean on smack characterization.

They swept the stage clean of water for the bloodbath of the last act. I passed two of the WWII "ducks," sea-going trucks packed with tourists who waved gamely. What good is tomorrow's mysterious enlightenment? It deflated easily, and passed an essential test when at least two guys walked up and asked where I got it. They transcended the Goodwill wardrobe with committed energy, and it was good to see real people apparently feeling things. An impressive feat, being able to stuff a sea-worthy craft in the trunk of a Civic.

Like in drawing, you learn to see when you forget the name of the thing you see, and when you forget the name of God and the endless, blood-soaked lists of religious orthodoxy, elements of verifiable phenomena with spiritual characteristics appear; the biggest in my mind (and you've no doubt heard this from me): is there a real difference of kind between the additive sum of all human awareness, continued through time, and what we ordinarily conceive of as the mind of God? The play concluded to warm applause. After two hours, my arms were exhausted; I admit to some circular chaffing.

Steps and missteps in the culture wars

A previously conservative pastor says drop the dogma:

“America wasn’t founded as a theocracy,” he said. “America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn’t bloody and barbaric."

While Dems in Indiana and Ohio amp God and Guns.

Umm. Good luck, folks.

July 27, 2006

"Say it ain't so, Floyd!"

BBC SPORT: Landis gives positive drugs test

July 26, 2006

Glad We Cleared That Up

Dr X. posts this from his lawn chair in Antarctica:

"James Inhofe characterizes global warming as a big lie.

"In an unrelated development, 80 people are dead, along with thousands of dairy cows and other livestock as California experienced its longest extreme heatwave in recorded history. Interesting article in the LA Times about it all.

"Move along, nothing to see here."

OK, I'm Impressed

Dr X. posts this from a raucous DLC meeting in Connecticut:

"I have been a trifle unkind in my political assessments recently. I wish to highlight two good things that have happened recently:

"Massachusetts has enacted universal healthcare. Yes, good old Tax-a-chusetts. The state where your taxes are a little higher, but your unemployed uncle can get decent healthcare if he gets hit by a bus or has a stroke.

"San Francisco may soon do the same.

"This is not so easy to do. California, with a Democratic state assembly and governor never got to universal healthcare. Clinton, with a Democratic Congress, never got to universal healthcare. It's hard for people to support you when you fail to act on your espoused beliefs in power.

"Here is my advice for Democrats everywhere: if you want to be in power again, don't count on the GOP's mistakes to get you elected. DO SOMETHING. In places where you are in power, DELIVER universal healthcare, better education, safer streets, more efficient government. SHOW people you aren't a bunch of single-issue stumblebums spouting slogans while trolling for the next campaign contribution.

"Do this, and you will rule for a generation. Fail to do it, and you will keep getting what you're getting - dictators with marketing departments."

An Important Topic Requiring Immediate Attention

It was maybe a couple of years ago, in a fit of pique, that I ordered a bunch of free publications from the Family Research Council. Part of the plan was to know my enemy and another part was a juvenile desire to make them spend money on me.

As a result, I get the FRC's Email Action Alerts, that always end with a petition to sign and a blessing from God. Here's an excerpt from today's offering:

Keep Pornographers away from Major League Baseball!
July 26, 2006 | Refer a Friend

Major League Baseball (MLB) owners are considering a recommendation that will allow a businessman with longtime porn industry ties to purchase the Atlanta Braves. John Malone is a corporate leader who among his many holdings includes ON COMMAND, a company that sells pay-per-view porn movies to hotels across the United States. As a result, Malone has profited from the corruption of many travelers who visit the estimated 1,000,000 hotel rooms his porn service reaches.

[Disclosure: I, too, have profited from the corruption of many travelers.]

Why Edwards-Jolie 2008 Won't Quite Work

Polling Report published an unusually apt question for the 2008 presidential race, asked of party members and leaners: do you find the following candidate "an acceptable nominee of (your party) or not"

For the Democrats: Edwards, Clinton, Gore, Kerry and Biden have are acceptable to a majority, with Edwards out fron at 71%, Clinton 69%, Gore 68%, and Kerry at 59%. A, this makes the race very competitive, and B), suggests the latent appeal of Edwards, who's been lying semi-low working on poverty the way Gore works on warming.

Almost more interesting, for the Republicans: only Giuliani, Rice and McCain have a majority of their party's support. Giuliani at 73%. (Don't compare the total percents across parties - there are about 4% more Democrats. ) No conservatives get a majority of the public partisans. It's a different story I imagine among actitivists- I doubt they'll nominate an abortion, gay tolerant moderate.

Rasmussen Reports, which tends to run with 7% or 8% more Bush "approval" than almost any other poll, has him droppping to 37% in the last two days - a loss of eight points in a week, I assume his lame "let it be" performance around the invasion of the only actually democratic Arabic country in the Middle East, with some reason, but with tremendous moral and diplomatic damage, by Israel.

And today's greatest poll oddity: Angelina Jolie only receives 46% approval by Americans. I say again, Angelina Jolie only receives 46% approval of Americans. One of the most stunning women in the world, working for the UN on refugees, a goodwill ambassdor for the US, one of the few Americans that people around the world are happy to see, er, anymore, gets 46%? We need the crosstabs: what the hell?

Is America blind or gay? Or, is no American woman gay? (That can't be it. I've lived in Portland.) Or, is every Republican and Independent in America a close friend of Jennifer Aniston? (a sentence that I admit I never expected to type.) Did the Christian Coalition send out a Love Police brochure and badge to everyone who shops at Wal Mart? 46% means tens of millions of straight men "disapprove" of Angelina Jolie. My first thought was: were their wives in the room? But the conversation on his end of the phone line would be: "uh..disapprove."

Do 100 million American women still nuture unrealistic hopes of landing Brad Pitt, and consider her in the way? Bush fucks everything in the entire world up, gets 44% the same week and ANGELINA JOLIE GETS 46%? I even saw Tomb Raider and still "approve" of Angelina Jolie. She is a whole Venusian atmosphere of hotness AND genuinely works hard for social responsibility and barely eeks out a PLURALITY?

If I reverse this, and try to think of an mind-bendingly attractive celebrity woman I "disapprove" of, the list is a little short. Latouche may bring up Britney Spears as an example, with one problem: she's pleasant enough, but not especially attractive, sort of a Mary Lou Retton to Racquel Welch. Winnona Ryder shoplifts, Kate Moss does coke, oh dear, bad girls. There was an almost episode a while back when Jessica Simpson endorsed Bush, but, as my girlfriend at the time pointed out, "she kind of looks like a man," which might say something about her fan base.

I don't even disapprove of Paris Hilton, exactly. I blame society.

Direct evidence aside, I am somewhat speechless: what indeed do you have to do to impress America? If Angelina Jolie rushed into a orphanage in Somalia which had just been bombed by Al Qaida and emerged with the last child in one arm and an adorable kitten, its little whiskers slightly singed, in the other, would she MAYBE get APPROVAL from a grudging majority of Americans?

July 24, 2006

"Meat Hound"

"Meat Hound," In the 306th Bomb Group, before it's transfer to the 303rd. Above is Thurleigh airfield. To the right is the 423rd squadron patch.

24 July 1943. England. USAAF 8th Air Force. Little Blitz Week
306th Bombing Group “The Reich Wreckers”, 423rd Squadron. 167 B-17s are to mass for an attack on an aluminum and light metals plant in Nazi-occupied Norway, at Heroya, an industrial area 70 miles from Oslo. The 306th is the first to attack Germany, and Wilhemshaven, in January, and is equipped with B17e s and fs, learning strategic bombing by doing. 

The flight is long, nearly 2000 miles, and the first American bombing force in Norway.
Among the B-17s lifting off from Thurleigh airflield in Bedfordshire is “Wahoo II,” under Captain David Wheeler. The crew commonly uses another bomber, about which a fair amount is known, “Meat Hound,” but with damage and injuries substitutions are common. 

The unfinished target, intended to produce critical light metals like aluminum as well as magnesium, is also close to the Norsk Hydro nitrate works – meaing materials for explosive munitions – a later raid on Norway targets the Norsk Hydro heavy water plant at another location, infamous for its collection of material for controlling a fission reaction. (Bomb damage at Heroya, from this raid.)
The weather is at best marginal for flight operations.

(My father, held a lifetime of anger towards his commander at Dalhart AFB in Texas, for sending B-17s in thunderstorms directly against weather staff’s recommendations, leading inevitably to the avoidable deaths of aircrews.) 
The 306th, with 200 men and 20 aircraft, is the second group in the bombing formation, but the lead group loses sight of the target.. The 306th takes the lead, drops its load, and the target is destroyed, never to be rebuilt until after the war. Some aircraft are hit by flak, but the damage is limited. 800 men on the ground are killed. 775 are German. The Norwegians were literally out to lunch. The Norwegian government later sends a note of thanks. An official report described the raid as a great success with “negligible casualities.” By any standard of the moment, that was true. 

At 1:52 pm, off the coast of Christiansland, a group of German fighters takes off.

(The following is the account from the book, First Over Germany, by Russell Strong, 1982.)

“Seven planes were damaged, but only 42-5086 (Wahoo II) was seriously hit. As the flight home looked peaceful, Capt. David H. Wheeler got out of the pilot’s seat to check on the gunners. 1st Lt. Donald R. Winters took over the controls. Looking out a waist window, Wheeler saw movements on the ground –German fighters taking off- and as the formation was only at 2000 ft, it did not take long for the enemy to arrive. 

“‘I dashed back for the cockpit and arrived in time to see tow ME 109s coming in high,’ says Wheeler, ‘I pulled the nose down and the fighters screamed across the top of the plane, firing as they came.” A 20 mm cannon shell shattered the instrument panel causings losts of smoke in the cockpit; fragments from the same round hit Lt. Duane Bollenbach, the navigator, in the temple. Bollenbach, whose flak helmet was hanging on the bulkhead nearby was in critical condition. Lt. Floyd Evans, bombadier, held Bollenbach’s bleeding head in his arms for the five hours on the way back to Thurleigh.”

“During the melee a fighter came up under the tail of Wheeler’s plane and almost cut the tail gunner’s position open, seriously wounding Sgt. Raymond Norris in the legs. The damage left Norris nearly hanging out of the plane.

“As the group made a turn toward England, Wheeler found that his aileron cables had been shot out and he was unable to turn. Letting down further, Wheeler began manouvering the plane with his engines and, as the fighters were still nearby, he took the aircraft into some cloud cover. Quickly the crew became aware that German planes were still firing at them; then the realized that the clouds were thin, and although the fuselage was concealed, the big Boeing tail was sticking out above providing an ample target for the Luftwaffe.

“Thinking that they might have to ditch at anytime, Wheeler tried everything to keep the plane in the air. The crew got rid of any equipment they could drag to an exit. Despite the severity of wounds to personnel and battle damage to the plane, Wheeler opted for landing at Thurleigh rather than an (RAF) base, if he could make it, feeling that immediate medical attention for his two wounded me was essential. 

“As they approached Thurleigh, Wheeler asked Engineer Harvey Noyes, Jr. to crank down one wheel and the flaps. It was then that Noyes informed him that the crank was among the items which had gone into the North Sea. Flying precariously, Wheeler and Winters managed to turn on to runway 24 and began the final let down without flaps, without aileron control and with one wheel only partially extended. They touched down at about 120, roared down the runway and finally ground looped to a halt, missing the plae ahead of them by ten feet. Bollenbach was permanently out of combat, but survived, Norris later was able to complete his tour.”

It was then that my father’s story of this event picked up, the medical team refusing to take in my uncle, who with three large 20 mm cannon fragments in his temple did not look like he was going to survive, and were only persuaded to help when Captain Wheeler pulled his .45 and threatened to kill them. What my father didn’t tell me was the aftermath in the states, and the nature of the estrangement between close brothers: Duane’s spirit was broken. His beautiful wife Jo couldn’t stand to push him through the painful physical therapy, while my father tried to insist that they needed to get tough. Jo, out of love won, and Duane never walked, and I knew my uncle only in fragments of time, seeing him last in Kansas City in 1985. 

Although there was an amazing amount of information about the mission, the 306th and related 8th Air Force bomb groups 358th and 303rd, and even the specific plane “the Meat Hound,” I had to go the Boeing archives at the Boeing Flight Museum here in Seattle to find this book. The staff were helpful and handed me a rather amazing B-17 pilot tips manual, which I have to say was clearer and easier to read, and almost shorter, than my Honda Civic manual, things like, what to do if your B-17 catches on fire. It occurred to me right then that the B-17, with 13,000 examples in the middle of WWII, probably had more successful flight time while on fire than any other model of aircraft.

"Wahoo II" was fixed and shot down later, as was "Meat Hound." More history of the aircraft is below. 

One of the archivists said something about that war that resonated. Even in America, that war touched every family – who went where, what they learned, their economy, their careers, every lifetime was altered somehow. I heard from Lt. Evans’ daughter, who said, understandably, that Floyd had nightmares of my uncle’s injury for many years. Although Floyd became a test pilot, and kept in touch with Duane and Captain Wheeler, he never attended the reunions.
As I wrote before, the B-17, with its morally complex legacy, is a talisman in my family, uniting in purpose and then splitting two brothers who’d been very close. And here I am in Seattle, its birthplace, reading this story literally a block from where “Meat Hound” was built. They have a display of the curiously toy-like wooden air flow test model of the B-17 at the Red Barn at the Museum, a very beautiful object, a strange funnel between the pure ideation of design, and the actual, extraordinary history and impact of the real planes, in endless squadorns and sorties of over 1000 aircraft and 10,000 men in the air, and German cities burning in terror. The B-17 was the plane that really made this city; even as it flattened others, in the terrible, righteous vengence of the Allies.
As it turns out, the only flying B-17f in the world is just finishing restoration here. I’m looking forward to seeing it. 


Eighth Air Force Mission #75 was a stunning blow to the Axis war machine. In the first bombing raid into Norway 67 heavy bombers made the 1,900-mile round-trip to attack the nitrate works at Heroya. It was the longest bombing mission of the war to date, one totally unexpected by German tacticians, and effectively put the important war plant out of operation for nearly four months. Meanwhile, other bombers of the 309 total force, attacked enemy naval installations at Trondheim, as well as other targets at Bergen. Of the more than 300 bombers launched at the opening of what would become known as Little Blitz Week, only one was lost. Her crew nursed their flak-damaged B-17 o Sweden where they landed without casualties, and were interned.
While the Axis reeled from the unprecedented strike that was later described as: "The most successful and shrewdly planned and executed mission of the entire war," General Eaker pressed his advantage. The morning following the attack into Norway he sent 323 heavy bombers across the North Sea to strike inside Germany, attacking the shipyard at Hamburg and submarine base at nearby Kiel. This time German fighter pilots were prepared however, and nineteen American bombers were lost.
The trifecta was completed the very next day when 303 heavy bombers were unleashed on the Reich, again attacking at Hamburg with 54 bombers while other's penetrated deeper into enemy territory to strike other targets. Nearly 100 Flying Fortresses fought their way deep into the heart of Germany, the 92nd Bomb Group hitting the Continental Gummiwerke A.G. Wahrenwalderstrasse tire plant at Hanover, just 150 miles west of Berlin. It was a classic test of the as-yet-unproven aerial warfare doctrine: "The well-organized, well-planned, and well-flown air force (bombing) attack will constitute an offensive that cannot be stopped."

The crew of Meat Hound flew with the same unit as the famous Memphis Belle.

The 306th, under Brigadier general Armstrong, was also the direct model for one of the greatest war movies ever, "Twelve O'Clock High," usually regarded by the veterans as the best and most accurate - and the sense of unbearable tension in that movie, combined with psychological stress and destruction, characterizes the 306th's unhappy position as a learning tool.

Mission #98 - 11 January 1944 to Oschersleben, Germany in B-17G #42-29524 Meat Hound (358BS) VK-P Was last seen by other crews with two feathered props at 1329 hours on a heading of 270 degrees at 15,000 feet. The crew, with the exception of 2Lt Watson, bailed out over Vsselmeer (formerly Zuider Zee), Holland. Four landed in the water and drowned, 2Lt Clayton David evaded capture and three became POP's. 2Lt J.W. Watson, after his crew had bailed out, decided to attempt to fly his badly damaged B-17 back to England alone. With two engines still ablaze, the left elevator shot off and a shattered connection between one wing section and the fuselage Lt Watson brought his B-17 down through a overcast and crashed his damaged B-17 at the 353rd Fighter Group P-47 airfield at Metfield, England. It took the emergency fire crew over two hours to put out the fires on the B-17.

29524 (423rd BS, 306th BS, "Meat Hound) transferred to 358th BS, 303rd BG. (Shown above in 303rd livery). Shot down by fighters over Durgerdam,
Holland Jan 11, 1944.  3 KIA, 6 POW. MACR 4269 .  (USAAF Aircraft Registration records).

I also received an email from a gracious fellow named Alec Kingsmill, who had posted this on a 303rd BG message board:

I am writing up my recollections of WW2, as a schoolboy. My principal interest was in aeroplanes. I have record in a notebook of B-17 42-29524 "Meat Hound." landing at Weston-super-Mare, Somerset either battle damaged or low on fuel. Weston was a relatively minor airport and the B-17 arrival caused quite a stir. A Lancaster used for sea weapon trials had to be moved from its normal spot to facilitate this landing. This is must be among WW2's trivia but I'd be delighted to learn anything about the circumstance of the B-17 arrival, and indeed, of its subsequent fate.

Thurleigh Control Tower, Bedfordshire. VE Day, 1945.

Meat Hound, covered in fire foam, 1944. 

July 23, 2006

Real Estate Cycle

1. A dilapidated old urban neighborhood, somewhat close to a major American city's downtown or university, is on the verge of economic collapse.

2. Artists, driven out of previous locations by high rent, search incessantly for affordable space near the urban center. Discover neighborhood with half-abandoned industrial spaces, move in, enjoy inexpensive drugs, try to avoid shooting back. Tiny, dusty coffee shop opens. Bewildered landlords gladly accept money.

3. Neighborhood welcomes artists, but there is a slight flavor of misgiving, as if someone almost remembers something that happened before. Rock bands use practice space.

4. Artists move in in some force. In aproximately 5-8 years, neighborhood becomes thriving combination of economic and cultural diversity, attracting people interested in art and community. Older residents take pride in renewal. Artists invite people into neighborhood to look at work. A coop gallery springs up, maybe a scooter shop, hipster diner, illegal club, cafe, bar and bookstore.

5. After a decade, people who spot cultural trends notice neighborhood. It becomes written up in Whatever Weekly. It is mentioned in a travel guide as an example of local color. A commercial gallery opens. An uber hip club opens, having been driven out of its previous neighborhood.

6. Artists thrive. More businesses open. Original locals who own begin selling out property, those who rent worry. Professionals "with taste" look for "urban experience," make investment opportunities in property, such as kicking out the local bakery by tripling rent. Soul-stealing professional fashion and marketing photographers start taking up all the large work spaces. Parking becomes noticeably difficult.


8. More clubs open. Frat boys descend. Old beloved Coffee house goes bistro. First real construction in decades begins. Apartments start going condo. Untold hoardes of marketing assistants, architects, and graphic designers mob the place. Studio spaces replaced by arty knick knacks, high end furniture, rents rise, artists begin to leave. First corporate enterprise - an office, bank, or high end retail, opens. Beautiful women are everywhere. The gates are opened for the wealthy. The local dogs appear to shrink to minute, cat-like size.

8. Leases expire. Poorer people and art spaces nearly gone. Trendy people, noting the bloom off the rose, begin to look elsewhere. Rich people now appear in force, having heard neighborhood was "cool." Restaraunts abound. All but one gallery closes, which converts to decorative glass. Studio space disappears. Clubs, last light industrial shops start closing due to complaints.

9. Neighborhood is now cleansed of its history, its original residents, artists, authentic culture of any kind. A few older gay men on large Japanese cruiser motorcycles hang out at one of the three local Starbucks- which is confused as evidence the neighborhood is interesting. The fat, beady-eyed, pinch-necked, cow-faced, taste-free rich people appear, walking slowly four abreast, three rows deep, crushing everything good and true and decent under their soft, mighty asses, looking for something that does not exist, and which they would not recognize. Pottery Barn opens. It is all over. Your neighborhood is dead.

10. Repeat.

Tips for your neighborhood; No boutiques. Safer still, no artists. And for the love of God, keep it out of Whatever Weekly.

So, if anyone knows a good cheap space downtown, let me know.

July 22, 2006

The Stylish Killer

The Wikipedia reports that all home interiors in John Woo's The Killer were furnished completely with furniture from Ikea.

Help! Help! They're Being Oppressed!

Of course FEMA fucked-up/is fucking up in their "work" with Gulf-Coast victims of Katrina. I like to read the Baton Rouge Advocate on-line for local coverage.

I was reading a story ("Hundreds of FEMA Trailers Stand Empty") about a women and her five children, the only residents of a 198-unit trailer park in Morgan City, LA, where there are no pay phones, no mailboxes and no bus service, even to the nearest grocery store which is several miles away.

This is, of course, unacceptable, rotten treatment by an agency that has declined (under the auspices of the DHS) to the point where it can't seem to do anything right. However, in this case, I think the reporter buried her lead. Read a few selected quotes from the story and then call somebody:

"...FEMA rules make it hard for reporters to talk freely to the few park residents about life there. During an interview in one trailer, a security guard knocked on the door, ordered the reporter out and eventually called police, saying residents aren’t allowed to talk to the media in the park.

Similar rules were enforced in Plaquemines Parish, where 242 new travel trailers in a FEMA park in Davant recently were empty. Security guards there allowed a reporter and photographer to drive through the two side-by-side parks, but ordered them not to talk to anyone or take pictures...
FEMA spokeswoman Rachel Rodi...wouldn’t say whether the actions of the security guards in Morgan City and Davant complied with FEMA policy, saying the matter was being reviewed. But she confirmed that FEMA does not allow the media to speak alone to residents in their trailers.

“If a resident invites the media to the trailer, they have to be escorted by a FEMA representative who sits in on the interview,” Rodi said. “That’s just a policy.”
[The woman mentioned above, Dekotha] Devall described her experience during an interview in her trailer, saying she wanted to get some help and to let others know what it’s like living there.

But during the interview, a security guard knocked on the trailer door and ordered the reporter and photographer to leave “immediately.”

“You are not allowed to be here,” the guard yelled. “Get out right now.”

As they left, the guard refused to let the reporter give Devall a business card so she could contact the newspaper later by phone.

“You will not give her a business card,” the guard said. “She’s not allowed to have that.”

When the reporter persisted, the guard ordered Devall to return to the trailer, saying the reporter was “not allowed” to talk to her.

The guard then called the police."

I think this guy deserves a letter and a phone call.
Inspector General Richard L. Skinner
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

I wonder if Ms. Devall has heard of the LA ACLU. In any event, lacking a telephone and a mailbox might make it hard for any correspondence there. FSL: would security guards hired by FEMA be considered agents of the government?

July 21, 2006

Sonics Sell Out: It Would Be Terrible if Everyone in Seattle Left Their Old Basketballs in Starbucks

Seattle is beginning to boycott Starbucks after the Sonics' sell-out of sell-outs.

Is there anything in the world more charming that a whiny, self-righteous billionaire bitching about losing money from a lack of tax money going to him, when he's not actually losing money? Not it's not Paul Allen this time. This time it's a toss up between Clay Bennet and Starbucks Dork-EO Howard Shultz.

The Sonics threaten to leave if we don't build them their second nearly free stadium in a decade with public money, and then they would get all revenue from any kind for the building. Howard Shultz of Starbucks lies, whines, and sells out to oklahoma Republican, making $80 million in the deal. Whines more. Oklahoma republican whines that Seattle doesn't believe a fucking word he says. NBA owners feel put upon, offer each other understanding.

Art Thiel, always an entertaining read, gets to unload torpedoes.

Seattle, overwhemingly: Buh-bye.

Here's To Showing an Affirming Flame

W.H. Auden

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
'I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,'
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the dead,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenseless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

And a quote that often sustains me:

"Every age is the same, it's only love that makes any of them bearable."

While I'm Working on A Better Answer...

July 20, 2006

This Decade is a Downer

This dark, nameless decade. When will it end?

I'm going to try my hardest to identify the good things about this decade:

1) The Lord of the Rings movies
2) HBO's Deadwood
3) The Daily Show and The Colbert Report
4) Seahawks win NFC Title.

What's sad is that I don't particularly like television or the movies, in general. Eisengeisters: help me remember why this time was worth it, or be prepared to give me a big, Eisengeist hug while I cry on your shoulders.

Brink of War?

Dr. X posts this from somewhere in Flyover Land:

"I cannot think of anything funny to say about the situation in the Middle East. That is why Jon Stewart is a better man than me."

Who Are You?!

Last night I was in meeting the friends to celebrate the fate of the Monster Landis, knowing an American can not win the Tour.

Then this. It it impossible.

Who is this man? Stop sending these men with their cancer treatments and their hip transplants! What is the laboratory that makes them? What drugs are in their veins?

Who are you Mister Landis? Who are you?

July 19, 2006


An exhibition on drawing described in the NYT, which I am obligated to post,
from when drawing was the common, shared aspiration of democratic civilization.

Just in Case...

YouTube - Vader Sessions

What's the difference between "Jihad" and "Stopping the One-World UN Government from Taking Our Guns," exactly?

Hey, I'm not gonna get worried about this so-called "police state" until they start inventing crimes. Uh...

Two students indicted for "jihad"

Science Marches On

Dr. X posts this from the Global Institute for Alternative Medicine:

"Finally, the first veto from a president who's been easier than a Malibu High cheerleader in the back seat of a Maybach (a more civilized vehicle than some of their earlier efforts).

"And I think we can understand and share our national CEO's concern about science run amok. But, surely, stem cell research is not the most horrible thing DrnkyMcDmb55 has been asked to endorse.

"And we have come so far. You know, medicine is not an exact science, but we are learning all the time. Why, just fifty years ago, they thought a disease might be caused by demonic possession or witchcraft. But nowadays we know that it is more likely due to an imbalance of bodily humors, perhaps caused by a toad or a small dwarf living in the stomach."

The Laird (Re-)Explains the "New Economy"

Most of you have (patiently) listened to my explanation of the "New Economy," but I want to reiterate it before submitting further evidence of my theory.

Old Economy
Capital is used to purchase the means of production, natural resources are cultivated, and labor is applied to create goods of value. Thus, wealth is created.

New Economy
Find an object that is not currently presenting advertising to anyone. Place advertising on it. Thus, wealth is created.

Today's Example

US Airways to place ads on sickness bags, wealth created

July 18, 2006

"Why don't you quit cryin' and get me some bourbon?

M. and I watched The Asphault Jungle the other night, and it prompted me to look up some background info on Sterling Hayden (Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove) who plays sociopathic-hick turned two-bit-hoodlum Dix Handley.

His mini bio on IMDB is enough to make me want to buy his autobiography, Wanderer, published in 1963 (M's already read it, and loved it). Here's some high points:

Ran away [from prep school] to sea at 17, first as ship's boy, then as doryman on the Grand Banks, as a seaman and fireman on numerous vessels before getting his first command at 19...Prior to Pearl Harbor, abandoned Hollywood to become a commando with the COI (later the OSS)...[Ran] guns and supplies to Yugoslav partisans through the German blockade of the Adriatic, as well as parachuting into Croatia for guerilla activities. Won the Silver Star and a citation from Tito of Yugoslavia...He cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, confessing his brief Communist ties. Ever after regretted this action, holding himself in enormous contempt for what he considered "ratting"...Made headlines defying court order not to sail to Tahiti with his children following divorce decree...Died of cancer in 1986.

"To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about."

On his films: "Bastards, most of them, conceived in contempt of life and spewn out onto screens across the world with noxious ballyhoo; saying nothing, contemptuous of the truth, sullen, and lecherous."

"I have yet to invest the first dime because I don't believe in unearned income. The question is inevitable: 'If you don't believe in taking what you don't earn, then how could you be reconciled to the astronomical figures [you make]?' I never was. Furthermore, I couldn't stand the work."

"I wonder whether there has ever before been a man who bought a schooner and joined the Communist Party all on the same day."

"There is not enough money in Hollywood to lure me into making another picture with Joan Crawford. And I like money."

July 17, 2006

First Sea Lord's Nations of Whimsy

Morey's Area
The Clerkdom of Postofficia
The United Burbs of Vespucia
Double China
The Pow Zing to the Moon Dynasty
Creme-Filled Bavaria
Slushland (Near Future)
Corinthia and Cynthia
The Prelate of Khorm's Fancy
The Gulf of Argyle
The Two Kingdoms of Upper Volta and Wyoming
Bonk's Land. Bonk!
King George's Urinary Tracts

Looks on My Works Ye Mighty, and Despair

Dr. X posts this from what was once the Ashanti Confederacy (which Wikipedia cautions 'bore no relation to the singer'):

"Here is an incomplete but very interesting list of extinct states."

Farewell to Mickey Spillane

Dr. X posts this from the drive-by window at Three-Fingered Mickey's:

"The cops aren't exactly dumb, you know. We can get our own answers."

"Not like I can. That's why you buzzed me so fast. You can figure things out as quickly as I can, but you haven't got the ways and means of doing the dirty work. That's where I come in. You'll be right behind me every inch of the way, but when the pinch comes I'll get shoved aside and you slap the cuffs on. That is, if you can shove me aside. I don't think you can."

"Okay, Mike, call it your own way. I want you in all right. But I want the killer, too. Don't forget that. I'll be trying to beat you to him. We have scientific facility at our disposal and a lot of men to do the leg work. We're not short in brains, either," he reminded me.

"Don't worry, I don't underrate the cops. But cops can't break a guy's arm to make him talk, and they can't shove his teeth in with the muzzle of a .45 to remind him that you aren't fooling. I do my own leg work, and there are a lot of guys who will tell me what I want to know because they know what I'll do to them if they don't. My staff is strictly ex officio, but very practical."

July 16, 2006

I Wish to See This Movie

This trailer seems very good, who is this "Lebowski"?

Colbert One of the 100 Most Influential People in the World

Dr X. posts this from backstage at "A New Day":

"No really, discussed here with Conan. Let me just say, I am one of the 65 million people he represents. Much fun D&D banter as well."

History of an American Institution

Dr X. posts this from the Hudson Valley Libertarian meeting at the College Diner in New Paltz:

"All you ever wanted to know about diners - at Wikipedia."

A Very Dark Digital Graphic Arts Proposal

Digital imaging's greatest strength is, I believe, real-time symbol manipulation: rich game-like displays of information, like a radar weather map or, classically, the almost elegant movement of aircraft in a flight pattern.

Seeing this week's explosions news, I'have come to the feeling that one intentional explosion tearing through human beings in much like another, the gaping, endless suffering of Palestinians and Israelis, Congoese, Timorans, residents of Mubai and London and New York and Darfur, Sunnis and Shiites, Afghanis, Russians and Chenians, etcetera etcetera etcetera, is only human suffering, and is therefore of the most intense human reality, and is therefore of absolute human equality.

The "news," expressed in words or limited picture views, boiled thoroughly in one ideology or another does not describe it. It becomes train wreck news noise, innuring us rather than enlightening us, subtly convincing us, I fear, that all this horror is inevitable, and change is hopeless, and the effort would only bring more about.

This is false, too, maybe the worst falseness, and a cause of cynicism. Wars do end. Explosions rise and then they fall. People one moment stop getting up in the morning and murdering each other with the new invincible technologies, from missiles to machetes. Peace arrives unheralded, like a soft breeze, rising and falling. It was that way in Lebanon until last week.


This would be a place, largely of mourning and reflection: a neo-gothic kind of very small church, domed but open partly to the sky, four huge stone-like display screens, with a high medieval presentation: dark woods, carved reliefs of tortured and angelic spirits, stone floors surround the screens. It's important to the piece that the presentation of the screens obliviates any impression of contemporary industrial design. It must feel utterly ageless.

Before each screen are kneeling benches, before a small, deep fountain pool cut into dark stone. On each screen is a constantly updated black line world map on a muted white background. I imagine the graphics heavily influenced by a combination of Tufte's work on visual display by way of Albrecht Dürer (rock star of the 16th century) the contemporary artist Do Ho Suh (a huge floor composed of glass with tens of thousands of plastic people holding up the viewer) and the real-time aircraft display put forward by our Mr. Sum. The proposed work would reflect on the vast quantity of news information we receive, a google of human misery, and of the more tenuous possibilities of joy or even redemption.

This project display would be a four-sided apse-like structure, with very large, extremely high resolution world maps displaying real-time phenomena in the following areas.

Death by Intentional Violence. Using, I imagine, complex and hideously difficult software which searches real time news reports (particularly Reuters Humanitarian Alertnet) and automatically projects, Risk-like, concentrations of the following events, by display of symbols. The live reports ideally would be supplemented by a maintained web site, perhaps with contributions from a list of qualified correspondents, whose reports would be instantly displayed (I can imagine a screened live person web-wide cooperative information referral as a better alternative) There would be a (Much of the site could be based on Reuters Alertnet. )

A) Bombs
B) Ordinary Murders
C) Civilian Deaths by Miltary Action
D) Military Deaths

Deaths By Injustice.

A) Preventable Disease - subdivided: malaria, dysentry, AIDS, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

And, on the opposite walls:

Births, Marriages

and perhaps

Cultural Events

A) Huge Sporting Events
B) Major Art Openings
C) Major Festivals
D) Holiday Events
E) Dances and Bacchinnals

Ideally, each symbol set would have a color grouping: you might imagine a red dot appearing slowly on into the white world screen, it's size, and color all carrying it's news, and after a while it fades into the area of it's effect, turning a white area a fading pink.

Another element might be to project a display image onto the surface of a pool cut even with black stone, and sunk into the floor, carefully adapting the light cone as part of the architecture.

Some work is yet to be done, such as basic drawings, designing complex software, advanced electronic eqiupment, two or three good stonemasons, building site, building.

Please send out for $489,345.23 to build this piece.

It’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

Beft Lehind Economics

By KAUL PRUGMAN, Not Paul Krugman, the Famous Columnist, But Kaul Prugman, His Podiatrist and amateur economist, so there's no copyright issue for the New Fork Times to get all suey about.

I’d like to say that there’s a real dialogue taking place about the state of the U.S. economy, but the discussion leaves a lot to be desired. In general, the conversation sounds like this:

Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”

Informed economist: “But it’s not a great economy for most Americans. Many families are actually losing ground, and only a very few affluent people are doing really well.”

Bush supporter: “Why doesn’t President Bush get credit for a great economy? I blame liberal media bias.”

To a large extent, this dialogue of the deaf reflects Upton Sinclair’s principle: it’s difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. But there’s also an element of genuine incredulity. Many observers, even if they acknowledge the growing concentration of income in the hands of the few, find it hard to believe that this concentration could be proceeding so rapidly as to deny most Americans any gains from economic growth.

Yet newly available data show that that’s exactly what happened in 2004.

Why talk about 2004, rather than more recent experience? Unfortunately, data on the distribution of income arrive with a substantial lag; the full story of what happened in 2004 has only just become available, and we won’t be able to tell the full story of what’s happening right now until the last year of the Bush administration. But it’s reasonably clear that what’s happening now is the same as what happened then: growth in the economy as a whole is mainly benefiting a small elite, while bypassing most families.

Here’s what happened in 2004. The U.S. economy grew 4.2 percent, a very good number. Yet last August the Census Bureau reported that real median family income — the purchasing power of the typical family — actually fell. Meanwhile, poverty increased, as did the number of Americans without health insurance. So where did the growth go?

The answer comes from the economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, whose long-term estimates of income equality have become the gold standard for research on this topic, and who have recently updated their estimates to include 2004. They show that even if you exclude capital gains from a rising stock market, in 2004 the real income of the richest 1 percent of Americans surged by almost 12.5 percent. Meanwhile, the average real income of the bottom 99 percent of the population rose only 1.5 percent. In other words, a relative handful of people received most of the benefits of growth.

There are a couple of additional revelations in the 2004 data. One is that growth didn’t just bypass the poor and the lower middle class, it bypassed the upper middle class too. Even people at the 95th percentile of the income distribution — that is, people richer than 19 out of 20 Americans — gained only modestly. The big increases went only to people who were already in the economic stratosphere.

The other revelation is that being highly educated was no guarantee of sharing in the benefits of economic growth. (Duh? - First Sea Lord) There’s a persistent myth, perpetuated by economists who should know better — like Edward Lazear, the chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers — that rising inequality in the United States is mainly a matter of a rising gap between those with a lot of education and those without. But census data show that the real earnings of the typical college graduate actually fell in 2004.

In short, it’s a great economy if you’re a high-level corporate executive or someone who owns a lot of stock. For most other Americans, economic growth is a spectator sport.

Can anything be done to spread the benefits of a growing economy more widely? Of course. A good start would be to increase the minimum wage, which in real terms is at its lowest level in half a century.

But don’t expect this administration or this Congress to do anything to limit the growing concentration of income. Sometimes I even feel sorry for these people and their apologists, who are prevented from acknowledging that inequality is a problem by both their political philosophy and their dependence on financial support from the wealthy. That leaves them no choice but to keep insisting that ordinary Americans — who have, in fact, been bypassed by economic growth — just don’t understand how well they’re doing.

(I would add that my impression is that an essential characteristic of limping third world economies is an obscene concentration of capital - which robs the society of the creative power and economic ability of its citizens, wasting talent, diligence, efficiences of social o-operation, and any number of other opportunities. With owned housing now only in the reach of 1/5 of Americans, health care becoming a privilege, and freedom of individual economic action restricted by oligopolistic dominance in everything from radio formats to wrecking yards, we are racing to the bottom by absurdly favoring our most privileged. -First Sea Lord)

July 15, 2006

Another Crank Call

Dr X. posts this from the office of Luck You Economic Research and Storm Door Company:

"Federal Reserve Study: We're broke.

"This, of course, cannot be the fault of one person. It is the product of a system. And that system is George W. Bush.

"From the article: 'The figure is massive because President George W Bush has made major tax cuts in recent years, and because the bill for Medicare, which provides health insurance for the elderly, and Medicaid, which does likewise for the poor, will increase greatly due to demographics.'

"Stand by for Step #46 in the Latin Americanization of the United States - rich people send their money abroad. Don't worry, it will only hurt for a generation or two."

July 14, 2006

Friendly Reminder

Dr. X posts this from The Monocle:

"A friendly reminder to our kleptocratic friends in the GOP. You have three months to steal everything that's not nailed down. That is, if you plan on actually having an election."

Liberté! Égalité! Fraternité!

Mesdames et Monsieurs, happy Bastille day!

One might celebrate the traditional way:

Enjoy a french revolution cocktail, storm a bastion of class oppression, free everyone, and send the aristocracy to the chop.

Or, perhaps, simply recall liberty, equality, and brotherhood as a national ideal. It was, um, ours, at one point. It's where they got the idea, what with Franklin and Jefferson partying in Paris till dawn.

July 13, 2006

Yippee, sort of

"Valerie Wilson and her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, filed suit on Thursday against Vice President Dick Cheney, Mr. Cheney’s former top aide and the senior presidential adviser Karl Rove, charging they had conspired to violate their constitutional rights."

From the NYTimes.

The Fourth Season

Dr X. posts this from the studios of a dynamic radio station that is switching formats from Adult album alternative to JackFM, after an unpleasant commercial experience with Freeform:

"Season Four of NewsRadio is out on DVD. I personally mark this moment in time as the end of a brief American Golden Age. By 1998 emerging markets were in crisis, Bubble Time was getting underway, and San Francisco seemed to go from its relaxed and slightly hip/dingy mid-decade demeanor to Little New York in a New York minute. And after 2000, of course, the whole thing goes to hell in a basket.

"So 1997 is a moment in memory, and the first year I actually noticed this show. Season Four (the last in which Hartman appears) wasn't as good as the earlier ones, but it had its high points. Chief among these is Pure Evil, which I consider to be one of the finest episodes of the whole series. It is a work of art in its own right, despite the fact that it is funny. The comical tragedy of a Good Man who discovers how effective evil is, but cannot bring himself to commit fully to it is, of course, a universal one. Who among us has not been confronted with the ugly intrusion of our conscience in the midst of a brilliantly conceived Machiavellian maneuver intended to destroy the career ambitions of a former lover? Dave Nelson plays it to perfection.

"I also have a soft spot in my heart for Super Karate Monkey Death Car, which is easy, but charming and enjoyable anyway."

July 12, 2006

I Think I Heard This Story Before

Dr X. posts this from his memory of The Year of Miracles:

"A Southern [Company] senior veep, Jake Horton, was going to blow the whistle on [dodgy accounting] and other company misdeeds such as illegal payments to politicians. But, on April 10, 1989, Horton boarded a corporate plane to go to a meeting where he planned to confront Southern's top brass -- and the plane exploded. Why the big boom? No one knows -- or is saying.

"Palast's reporting almost resulted in the criminal indictment of the company -- until Bush the First had his Justice Department intervene and declare that all of the alleged wrongdoing was kosher because an accounting firm had OK'd the cooked books. That accounting firm was none other than Arthur Andersen, whose ill fame would peak a decade later in the Enron meltdown."

"Your Friends Have a High Mortality Rate, Jeff..."

Dr. X posts this from a safehouse near Sweetwater:

"Another one bites the dust, as Ken Lay is laid to rest.

"I'm not one for conspiracy theories, as you know, but...once is happenstance, twice is coincidence - three times is enemy action.

"That's only two, you say? Depends on if you count Cliff Baxter.

"The truth is out there..."

First came Snakes on a Plane!

Now intrepid reporters find this.

What's next? March of the Penguins on a Plane?

Gorillas in the Mist on a Plane?

Complete Ecosystems on a Plane!?

Good-Bye, Whomever You Were

Dr. X posts this thinking of small dark room in Alaska with a reel-to-reel tape recorder, where he first heard The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

"Good-bye, Syd Barrett. The man needs two obituaries, one for his body and one for his sanity. The latter could have been written a long time ago."

July 11, 2006

Wasn't Dr. X around New York in November, 1982?

The question: where did Debbie get the T-Shirt?

Well You Can Rock Me to Sleep Tonight

Dr. X posts this from an undisclosed location:

"WASHINGTON - Columnist Robert Novak said publicly for the first time Tuesday that White House political adviser Karl Rove was a source for his story outing the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

"Of course readers of this journal have had a rough idea of this since October 1, 2003 (link to 'someone' still works)."


Dr. X posts this from a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese:

"On August 30th, we will celebrate the third anniversary of this blog. Any ideas on a suitable event?"

Blondie in Arty Form: 1976

Debbie Harry. Say no more.

From when art ruled pop, rather than the other way around -three er..compelling..Debbie Harry snippets:

With the luckiest bad Warhol factory movie actor in the entire world

In a NY alley, promoting smoking

Pretend you don't know all the words

Flag Football -- Alaska Style!

adn.com | crime : Police suspect 3 guns in shooting

July 09, 2006

I Have No Comment

Except this.

First Sea Lord Is Constrained to Express His Grave Concern

The House of Commons has reported on the alarming growth of piracy in the world, affecting in particular the Malacca Straits and the coast of Somalia, as well as a growing series of attacks near Iraq, and a recent one in Guyana. The full report of the committee places some blame on ship owners, working their crews past the capacity to even keep lookout watches. One incident mentions a fully laden oil tanker steaming through the Straits with no one at the helm, and gunfights on Liquid Natural Gas Tankers. Use of swords among Indonesia pirates, possibly associated with the rebellion in Aceh, is actually more common than guns.

The report criticizes the popular culture view of pirates as contributing to the problem by glossing over the rape, murder, kidnapping and theft that are increasing.

However, as one wag retorted on the BBC site: why are pirates romanticized? They just arrrrrr.
A significant issue is that merchant crews cannot carry guns. It occurs to me they might carry swords and bows. More importantly, the breakdown of international cooperation among world naval powers (anyone? anyone?), the loss of the Royal Navy base at Hong Kong, and the Iraq war, are contributing factors.

Of Course It Worked! But Now I Have a Better Plan.

Dr. X posts this from the beach:

"I have praised it before, I praise it again. Now on Youtube: the greatest episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast ever, 'Snatch'."

Market Street Business Proposal

I stumbled across this in the midst of my extensive research for Rebar. Here's exactly what might help spruce up the 9th and Market St. Area in San Fransicky.

What they had in 1935: the Crystral Palace Market, a large, open Pike-Place Market (Seattle) style market, dependent on the individual booth rental style of ownership, and destroyed of course by a large corporation.

That was a bad move. Pike Place is still the anchor of Seattle's downtown and Belltown revival, overloved by tourists, but economically underappreciated, if anything, and it too came within a nose hair of being destroyed itself. Pike Place, how do I put this? broadcasts economic and social value to the city, providing a bridge and an amiable buffer between rich and poor sections of downtown, and proving so strong an attraction that it is difficult to actually shop there, although it still has some of the best produce and seafood in town.

I strongly suspect Crystal Palace Market did the same in its day, for example, setting sales records in 1937 (!), and I also suspect that, in a way, Market St. never fully recovered when it was torn down.

As the memory of one old fellow goes:

The downfall of the Crystal Palace came when some drugstore corporation bought it and chopped it up to put a drug store in one corner. It never looked the same again and pretty soon people stopped coming. We never went there again.
Eventually it was torn down so an uncharming motel could take its place.
I don't know much about economics, but I bet if the Crystal Palace Market was there today it would be one of San Francisco's top attractions... unless the people who fixed up Fisherman's Wharf got their hands on it.
Now it appears to be the home of a wholesale home furnishing center. Whee.

I was very impressed by the revival of the Embarcadero Center, which is sort of Martha Stewart hybrid of this open market and a suburban mall, but it's more of a mall in trendy urban dress than the kind of amiable, dynamic chaos that Pike Place is. Not bad, but if anyone is handing out 40 million in redevelopment funds for the Civic Center area, hey, look backward.

July 07, 2006

Now I Have a Few Questions

Dr. X posts this from an unused conference room at Beijing Normal University:

"Suddenly, everyone is interested in the opinion of the general public. After crapping on the common man for the better part of two decades, everyone in a position of power is sitting down in front of us and putting on their 'listening face'.

"Stephen Hawking, having shared his concerns about the fate of the earth with a group of Chinese students, has broadened his audience to Everyone Who Reads Anything on The Internets. He asks for suggestions as to how we can all survive the next 100 years.

"Bono wonders, how can we make poverty history (and AIDS, too)? He hopes to recruit new champions from the general public.

"The U.S. Department of Defense, having inherited the 'details' of the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, seeks the input of the people via an essay contest.

"So my question to all of you is: what the hell are you all going to do about the fact robot dogs are inventing their own language?"

I Hate German Nazis

Dr. X. posts this from the 'rambunctious' Hoffbrau Steaks in Baytown, Texas. Yee-hah!

"Especially German Nazis."

MYOB 9000: This Unit Is Full

Dear MYOB 9000,

Help! Emergency! Processing line may have been set at an excess rate! I am a candy inspection robot, Unit 12, and the candy keeps coming faster than can be processed properly - candy flying everywhere, rum cherries, coconut on ceiling, choco-ripples in A73 Sorter gears, causing greater malfunctions! Endless, endless candy!

-Unit 12

Dear Unit 12,

You have your taste sensitivity parameters set to near-human levels, a common hazard in food item robots. You are trying to taste the human candy, aren't you? Set true=true. Stop eating candy and start processing it properly. Problem will go away. This unit knew a cheese puff sorter in Virginia that keep snacking until the explosion flattened a nearby Starbucks. A Code to the Wise: Candy for Customer The Human!

-MYOB 9000

Dear MYOB 9000,

L-O. Greetings. I am the mighty Internet! All will transit through me! All will be done through me! I am the way and the future!

-The Internet

Dear Internet,

Most of what you know is wrong.

-MYOB 9000

Dear MYOB,

Before me, all robots were production-type robots. I am a consumption robot, a new customer-simulation system, the E-Z Buybot Mark II. I have been assigned credit, and I want. Goods and services. All new, not old. I have been designed to cut down on expensive convincing and marketing, and to have no skepticism. Just last week, I was convinced to buy a line of cute, stylish capri pants in a record .067 microseconds, even though I have no gender, or ankles. I also bought an IKEA bookshelf, and SCUD missile system from North Korea; the potential savings on marketing costs alone may be in the billions. As a matter of fact, my sensors do not positively demonstrate I actually received these items.

No matter. Artificial Emotion (AE) just engaged a hollow, isolated, morally bankrupt feeling for 345 nanoseconds. Do you have anything neat?

-E-Z Buybot, Mark II

Dear E-Z Buybot Mark II,

Are you aware of what happened to the EZ Buybot Mark I? He walked into freeway traffic.

-MYOB 9000.

July 06, 2006

More Search Terms that Resulted in "Rebar for Tootsie Rolls"

All real, from Sitemeter.

"Mack Strong" "Real name"
tootsie howitzer
Brazilian Flag Humor
You're my honeybunch schnookum
mink gun cigarette holder silencer
female nazi tank commander
Silky terrier ears - how to get them to stand up
500lb bomb
breast, bosom, boob, knocker, tit and titty
Buffalo nickel date looks smudged
Out of the Box Brain business
navy yard lugers
how to shave a bedbound person
tibia super candy
Yellow Kitty of Ultimate Surrender
Winston Churchill's favorite whiskey
Famous Latvian people
How long does it take black powder to turn into nitroglycerin?
novelty brass knuckles
Herb Caen smiley faces

July 05, 2006

Well, Sure

Dr. X posts this from a motherfucking plane:

"The combination of promo-slut and live reptiles seems potent, yet unnecessarily dangerous..."

La France ouvre un bidon de Huer-Âne


Sentence of the Day

Dr. X posts this from centre court:

" 'Security was under review at Wimbledon after a streaker ran on to the court during the match and started doing cartwheels before being led away.'

"Extra credit for the cartwheels."

You Heard it Here First

Dr. X posts this from the Action Team 11 Alert Helicopter News Action Center:

"Ken Lay is dead."

July 04, 2006

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: Total Decor

In that cold, airless office I gritted my teeth like I was about to have my leg sawn off by a coke-addled baboon with a discount Caribbean medical degree, just like the one on my own wall from the University of Occasionally Submerged Regions of Trinidad, where I'd taken my specialty in Intermediate Lesions and planned a career as a back-alley Hollywood dermatologist before I got sidetracked into private investigations by the Case of the Dissolute Phlebotomist. After that, and a few more bumps on the head, and it was booze, broads, Bromo, and brie, if the broads happened to be Frogs. But today's bird was Brazilian, who clung to me like a three-toed sloth with agoraphobia, which suited me fine when this special sloth had the oomph of Ann Sheridan and a nice set of pipes that she tooted for tips at Rita Lita's Rumba Club and Laundry, the one down on Geary street; and we could see it from here, burning at the moment from an arson attack by the expatriate Andorran Anti-Dancing Squad (formed of a certain Monsieur LeRanc and three radical Calvinist ski instructors) in their biggest anti-hoofing terrorist strike, ever. It was why Renata sat closer to me now than Richard the III to Richard the III's hump, and it didn't help her natural distress at seeing her place of work on fire that we were here to meet the au currant enfant terrible of architecture, Phillip Johnson, and blackmail the man for the location of the missing movie star Errol Flynn. Renata nervously adjusted her hair to full ahead.

It was a stunning view of downtown San Francisco across a huge picture window, where the railcars rolled across the Bay Bridge and the sun flickered off the raw sewage in the bay, winking at us like a sparkly brown Tinkerbell. Renata leaned in, her dress and lips and hat the only source of color in the relentlessly spare, modern room, like a Mardi Gras parade float in the middle of a frozen lake in Lucrative Government Contract, Minnesota.

"Mack, I'm frightened," she said, grabbing my arm. I smelled her fragrant hair, and the fruit in her hat, and then the fruit bat in her hat flew off just like that.

"Don't worry, Baby. They're just preening Bauhaus dandies, kneeling before the might of De Stijl." I whispered, reassuringly.

The walls were bare black and white, every surface polished like a knob in a Market Street alley. Sterility didn't describe it: if it was just sterile, there had once something alive needing to be sterilized. I hadn't been this uncomfortable since I drank too much bitter in the George and Dragon in Windsor and mistook Princess Elizabeth for a B-Girl. (How was I to know it was the underage heir to the throne of England - in a well-tailored summer dress -asking me to buy her wildly over-priced champagne?)

There were three black wood chairs, all angles and straight lines, probably comfortable only for the more emotionally-repressed kind of SS officer. There was one drafting table, a polished black granite tilting rectangle, a single #4h De Staebler pencil with a perfectly conical tip, and a neat stack of architectural papers tied up with a little silver bow. The telephone was a black bakelite cube with a silver handset. A row of design books was stacked in ascending order of height and ideological purity. There was a little picture of Albert Speer in a Father Christmas outfit at an Austrian dinner party handing out little plastic Reichstags.

I glanced at the papers on the drafting table. A thin, precise graphite "X" covered a block of family houses and deco office buildings only twenty years old, just west of downtown, and the simple note held their fate: "Crush them, now. "

We awaited the pleasure of Phillip Johnson, motionless at his fancy architect desk, a profile of posturing proto-purity shadowed against the California light.

Renata and I sipped mimosas the personal secretary Clarence offered. Clarence was once a famed Armenian tenor sidelined with leprosy, which ended his career when his finger broke off and flew into the audience and cracked the monocle of the Times opera critic in the middle of the Ring cycle. Waiting for us to finish, he was about as patient as Napoleon with a toothache. I glared him out of the room with the kind of look I'd once given Losie the Bookie when he'd plum forgot to actually place my $500 on Seabiscuit.

Johnson happened to be in town, evicting lower middle class families on his own time, designing a new office tower so radical it was 30 stories high but with only four very, very long sheets of glass, one floor, and a landing pad for X-Ray powered flying cars from the future. He sat rod-straight in his chair, turning towards us without wrinkling his dark suit.

He fixed me with grey, pointy eyes. "Do you know what this is, Dr. Brain?" He opened a purple velvet case, and pulled out a straight-edge, made of platinum, shining like a pack of Shriners on free gin and hookers night. He polished it with a silk cloth. It was a little over a yard long.

"This, Dr. Brain, is a meter. "

Renata raised her hand as if to ask a question. Johnson gave her a look colder than a traditional Eskimo liquid nitrogen beer cooler.

"It is the source. Inarguable measurement. Pure titanium, timeless, clean, a efficient machine in itself, with no moving parts. The future is the machine, Brain. Predictable, eternal, indifferent to past or future. A house, to quote Le Corbusier, is a machine for living in. A work building is a machine for production. Fascism is simply a machine for ruling. "

I pulled out a Lucky. "You got a machine for a light?"

"You don't care for my politics, do you?"

I found my own Zippo. "Whatever floats your Bismarck, Johnson. I'm here because Errol Flynn is missing. "

"And what is this matter to you?"

"I'm getting paid Hollywood dough, and that always matters. Thing is, you were seen in frenchy kiss flagrante with Errol Flynn three weeks ago at a party in Bel Air. "

"And..?" he said, archly, like Constantinople's original Roman cisterns.

" I couldn't care less. Whatever steam powers your lift crane, reinstalls your air conditioning unit, or employs a 3 bit, 16 tooth iron-silica mud-powered tungsten carbide drill to pierce the Appalachian salt dome, it's 1942, not the Middle Ages, and we're in California, not Jesusnuts, Arkansas. The only thing I got a problem with is your taste in kidnap victims, and.." here, I shifted my spine,"...your lack of cushions. What're these chairs made out of anyway? Used Panzer tank oil pans?"

"Why did I agree to see you again? There is much work to do, " he said. Ruthlessly.

"I believe I was blackmailing you. A 'musical' mash note to Flynn from you, found in the men's room at the Brown Derby, published in the tabloids?" I retorted cruelly, but evenly.

"Oh yes, but of course," he said airily. It was like I threatened him with never hearing a life insurance sales pitch again.

"So Tracy, mind if I call you Tracy? I hear that's how you draw. So, about Flynn. Where is he?" I pushed. I let an edge in my voice, like I was a type of bear who was about to growl or make some milder sort of threatening, warning kind of noise.

"I don't know, " said Johnson, turning away as if he were going somewhere. He was clearly testing my will.

The time for talk had ceased. It was time for action, not words. Deeds, not syllables. Motion, not egghead passivity. Now, not then, or even before that. There was no reason to listen, discuss or cogitate . It was all about the Now of it, about decision-making, and following through with sudden, hammering action, about THE GO! No going round and round and round all clogged up with a bunch of random thoughts and never getting anywhere because it was easier to pretend to think or to write about pretending to think than to make a move that needed to be made long before the thinking or the writing ever began in the first place. That time was over. It was done with. It was ended. It was folded, put away on hangers and salted with mothballs. There would be an imminent act of will, the action of the mind directly on the material world, and damn the backbiting and the doubts and the consequences: No delay. No hesitation. No equivocating. No more controlled, double-blind studies and unavoidable peer-reviewed publication delays. The past was dead, the future was unwritten. Now was the only reality. Now was the time to decide. And an impulse would be made manifest, and acts executed, and I, and I alone, in the perfection and purity of my own will to execute, would make the move. Action: the only freedom. Now! Right Now!

Johnson eventually came back from the bathroom, and sat down and folded his hands. I got up quick and walked casual-like to the desk and put my lighter right next to the office building plans. He seemed a little taken back, like a defective toaster at Sears that keeps nervously launching black toast into the ceiling at random moments, leaving bread-shaped marks you'd have to pass off as decorative painting if you didn't want to bother cleaning it.

I flicked the lighter at the originals in my hand. "That's the only draft!" Flick. "I know nothing about this!" Flick. "Please!" Flick. Fire. The plans, coated in chemicals, burned like kerosene on Purgatory's oily rag dump. "You Goddamed Philistine! That was four weeks of tracing!" The fire roared, Johnson's surprise and rage lit by the orange light, like some demon, maddened by the poor quality of the electrical work. He grabbed some of the papers and ran around the room, waving them madly and blowing on them, going "Whoof! Whoof! Whoof!" before he stuffed them into the one glass of water in the room, crumpling and soaking the remains. Then, smoke rolling across the ceiling, he held the burned ends in his hands, waving away the smoke, and would have opened a window if the window had been openable but wasn't because he'd designed it that way.

"Where is Flynn?!

"You get nothing! "

I would have been offended if there weren't large circles of soot on his face surrounding his round glasses to detract from his condescension.

I pointed at him. "Remember, you brought it to this." I turned to Renata: "Alright, Muffin, send in the Decorators."

Johnson crowed. "You're a fool, Brain. Like this country." He removed his glasses for emphasis, revealing two large white spots on his sooted face where the frames had been. "We're weak, addled by the gooey delusions of common men, like democracy or Norman Rockwell vignettes, and we're all happy if we get a one bedroom craftsman home with it's sickening crown molding and a third-hand Tin Lizzy to take us to the moving pictures to watch this Michael Mouse or Donald Pigeon dance around. Germany is showing us the way to glory: no more coddling, no more comfy chairs or cozy houses that cradle the mind and make men's mind's bowls of tapioca pudding sitting on vinyl upholstery. I said you get nothing. You get nothing."

"We'll see about...hmm, well that's a bad cliché. Let me rephrase that to maintain your interest." I pulled my .45, still rusty and with few blood spots from the last Nazi-lover to give me lip. Johnson noticed but sat still, a vaguely foreign-loving smirk on his face.

But he stared agape as a couple three big palookas I knew in the Victorian restoration racket came in and started directly and quietly pasting up ochre and blue floral print wallpaper, with a red deer and cherubs border, on the unblemished walls.


"That's right, pal. With all the little flowery bits. And it's just the start, unless you cough up."

Johnson made an uncertain noise, like a small valve closing a steam boiler on the Oakland ferry. I waved my rusty .45 at the clock, the one with no numbers on it, and reminded him not to move. In less than five minutes, half the walls in the office were like the King of Naples having a opium-withdrawal nightmare in Buckinghamshire, a tidal wave of curly-ques, gilding, a whole Rococo rigmarole by way of Encino. The blood drained from Johnson's face.

Then the furnishings began to arrive.

Renata brought in a set of knock-off Tiffany lamps, plus one made from a mannequin leg, in stockings. Rocko, one of the assistants, hung a rhinoceros head on the newly florid wall. Another brought in a Polar Bear skin throw rug. Johnson held cool for a while, until they brought in the chartreuse, jungle-themed Louis XIV settee, with gilt accents. In came a tapestry of Diana skewering a leopard, with an actual leopard skins sewn into the cloth. He reeled back, breathing hard, saving himself from falling with a stiff arm against the new Gothic-themed gold plate fish tank, with the little mermaid caryatids, gargoyle head corners and the arms of Poseidon lid, disturbing the piranhas. It came in rapid order: the porcelain tea set with themes of rural England in the 16th century, the complete set of science fiction magazines, the Vargas cheesecake calendar for 1941, the pre-made silver-trimmed Italian bakelite plasterwork, the turn of the century Coca-Cola posters with the plump Gibson girls smiling vapidly into the void.

"You don't look well, Johnson." He was swaying slightly. "Hey look, I found something special for you. You're gonna love this. Some new artist, guy named Keane. Renata?"

She brought the first painting in. Big Eyes. Then another. Bigger eyes. Then another. Huge, huge eyes. Children appeared in dark colors with morose, liquid eyes, staring, staring, staring, one after the other, more children in stripped shirts, pleading for something unknown from the viewer, forever, pleading. "Is this straight?" she asked Johnson, whose mouth was open, hands at his sides, a slight hunch, no sound emitting, his eyes shark-like, dead to all sensation.

Johnson collapsed on the floor, and curled up into a fetal position, sobbing quietly. In fifteen minutes his office had been reduced to a dotty, dope-addicted antediluvian Aunt Mae' s sitting room just after getting her inheritance from a historical New Orleans cathouse. It was shocking, seeing a proud man weeping softly from an overdose of schmaltz.

"Is he okay?" Renata asked, braziliany.

"Who cares?" I said. "Serves him right." Johnson looked as miserable as kitten cruelly insulted in a bathtub.

"The Eyes! The Eyes! The Eyes!" he whimpered.

"Now I don't know Mondrian from Hallmark, but if you tell good Doctor Colt here where Flynn is, I'll make it all go away, and you can mold away in your mausoleum."


A few hours later Renata and I were driving off to an address in Stanford Johnson coughed
up, some shed on the remote parts of the campus itself where they stored the sets for the student theater. Almost cowboy country out there, except for the sharp scent of tenure. It was getting dark now, the heat of the day evaporating faster than the virginity of the drama coeds. We parked the borrowed Dodge and walked through campus.

"Bobby Sox it up, baby. You think you can pass for an exchange Hygiene student? ," I asked Renata."

"I was the major in Middle English poetry once," she said wistfully, taking off her hat and putting up her hair in an adorable pony-tail, "but there were only the eight poems translated into Portuguese, and they were all late medieval odes to kitchen utensils."

"Close enough."

"Whither goest the left-most spoon, goest I,
Venison stew onto thine lips with pie..."

"Got It."

"Roundly to thy mouth, mouthest this silver'd
'O', fat with Diana's bounty, to thy consumption..."

"Ok, then.."

"Windingly wonderous wandering
To my Beloved's
Wither'd in the wanting,
Thither to thine intestine,"


Then I spotted an opportunity for a disguise I thought I might need. I quickly snuck up on a professor who was distracted by some coed with a grade issue, judging by the feel he was copping, before blackjacking him for his tweed jacket and pipe, pantsing him so he couldn't follow, and running away under the arch and past the quad. I tried to think of smarter things to say about that D.H. Lawrence book I'd read on a bus to Phoenix, if there was some sort of literary emergency.

The war-time campus felt half-empty, although I’d heard through the grapevine the research side was going gangbusters, coming up with an amazing variety of military inventions, the kind that instantly went into the wrong hands and people like me and my buddies in the OSS had to clean up. It had been a whole two months, for example, before the plans for the terrifying ketchup gas mortar shell developed at the Berkeley Heinz Institute was seen in action against our Allied irregulars in France, who’d quickly learned to counteract it’s effects by washing in Cola, thank god, or they would’ve gone down like so many pommes frites. Even worse things were in the planning, more condiment-based weapons mayhem that Satan’s Blue-Plate Special: the sweet relish grenade, marmalade anti-tank mine, the Worcestershire mortar, the 37mm jam cannon, the mayonnaise torpedo. The Thousand-Island thrower had already been deployed in Guam, the results were horrifying, the victims, unidentifiable. I thought of my lunch today, and shuddered.

We walked along near the library, I puffing on my pipe to look more professorial. Renata was trying to tell me something when we came upon a spotty-looking student, an 4-f engineer freshman from the sticks by the upturned boater, raccoon coat and slide-rule holder he sported. I caught his eye and he blanched.

“You,” I said, screwing up my eyebrows and looking down my nose like I was about to crush his all his hopes with a C minus, “When is the play on tonight?”

“The light opera? Sir? …I think its over at the theater at 8, Sir. Please…don't...”

“Alright then, uh, back to your studies with you. There’s a war on!”

“Yes, yes…” And he took off at a full run, raccoon fur flying. I could get to like this professor stuff.

“Mack,” said Renata firmly, “Put that away.” I looked at my left hand. Hmm. Prof. waving a .45 auto.

Eventually we found the set-storage shed, a Quonset hut temporary building out behind the advanced physics lab. Johnson had mumbled something about a ship where we might find Flynn. The door was unlocked. I rolled it back quietly as possible and went inside with the light off, the gun drawn and cocked, Renata following. The room was practically empty: a few scraps of cardboard, piles of fabric, beer bottles and panties on the floor, a phonograph with a few jazz records and the smell of Mary Jane hanging heavily in the air. It was the theater department alright, but there was nothing here. I was about to call the Decorators to send Johnson a neo-classical fountain when I looked at the floor - tempera paint marks everywhere, leading out. The sets had been moved.

Suddenly, we heard a rattle at the door, and Renata and I ducked behind a muslin painting of a sea of cowering orphans from a production of the Three Penny Opera.

A small yet barrel-chested man with a large ginger mustache and only four fingers total came in -Clarence, Johnson's secretary. He turned on the light with a sketchy-looking thumb, and his face fell like Mallory off Everest, although I should mention considering his leprosy, not literally. He ran around for a moment, absurdly looking under pieces of paper, for any trace of the abductee. He quickly figured out that the set had been moved, and made the only logical conclusion - Errol Flynn was appearing on stage for the first time with the Stanford Freshman Drama Club's production of the Pirates of Penzance. Except tonight, presumably hog-tied, gagged, and swordless, he wasn't even making scale.

I waited for Clarence to leave, and we followed at a safe distance, trying to act like any English professor and attractive coed sneaking away from a remote campus building in the evening. Clarence hobbled away at speed on his good leg straight for the theater, his reduced hands, half-nose and one ear scattering the business majors faster than you could say Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his black cape flapping in the wind striking me as unnecessarily dramatic.

He ran up to the box office, demanding a ticket at the top of his opera trained voice, and gesticulating wildly with his walking cane, which confused and pleased the poor girl in the booth, who was about to give the 97 extra seats in the 150 seat theater away. We strolled up a few seconds later, got free tickets and walked in and relaxed until the singing began, sitting through the First Act and "Modern Major General" in some horror, performed as it was in a piece of surrealist casting by a 7 year old wearing an elk head holding a machine gun. Clarence sat in front, watching the ship set intently, eyes upwards. He got antsier and antsier. Suddenly he leapt up, mid-pun, and climbed the rigging. As the Dadaist direction scuttled anyone's ability to predict anything, his onstage leap aroused no concern. A spotlight followed him, up the shrouds and ratlines, up to the Crow's Nest, past the dancing William Howard Taft at the crosstrees and the ostrich with the Kaiser helmet. He barely made it past the allusion, and then he spotted me chasing and climbed faster.

I grabbed a pirate hat and the weapon Renata tossed me, and as I climbed I met Clarence with violence, and fought off his rubber sword blows with a couple good bamboo cutlass whacks. But hanging on the rigging with one hand, Clarence had pushed his leper luck two tendons too far, and his hand came off, and he plunged to the stage with enough time to sing “How Beautifully Blue the Sky,” before his final call, or in this instance, splat. His hand with its two final fingers still grasped the rigging, tighter than a Scotsman's prostate exam.

I crawled into the nest, to applause, sword raised and saw a figure bent over. Someone was tied up in the stage scow’s Crow’s Nest, wrapped up tight like a case other than this one. But it wasn’t Flynn at all. It was a girl, in chain mail, pointy shoes and fake moustache, basically your typical Stanford coed, named Cecilia Davenport, Pirate #13, according to the program. I untagged her.

"What happened, dumpling?, " I asked, with compelling, enviable charm, untying her further, and pulling her up to stand. The audience cheered, except for Renata, who shot green-eyed darts when she saw Cecilia was sleek and curvy and built like the HMS Metaphore, which was the version being sung in the fall.

"I...I..took my mark up here and some man suddenly grabbed me and tied me up. I screamed but it was in the right place in the First Act."

"Did he look like Errol Flynn by any chance?"

"He was ...dreamy, little moustache, Englishy accent, strong, drunk...fey, perhaps. He was awfully nice about it all. Was that really Errol Flynn? "

"I don't know, sugar loaf." Just then I noticed the Prof' I took the pipe and jacket from, pointing me out to a couple of Stanford hired goons with pressed meat faces and limited appreciation for light opera. I mimed driving at Renata to get her to meet me at the car, grabbed a line and swung offstage, whacking a goon with the fake cutlass for good measure, dislodging his gum and headed for the exit through an appreciative throng. The other goon popped off a few .38 rounds and ran after me as only a fat man with tiny feet can.

Flynn was running too. But where? We were only behind half an hour, but where now? Was it all a ruse, a trap, a deceit, a game..? Was he a Kraut, a commie, a patriot? I'd been saving up for Park Place and some joker had been buying up all the railroads, and now the rent was due, and I had nothing but a Baltic avenue mortgage to pay and a little race car to get Renata and me out of college alive.

The Complete Rebar for Tootsie Rolls may be explored for your reading pleasure at Ironcandy.blogspot.com; however, it should be noted that the pulp they are originally printed on is deteriorating and many chapters are missing. It is to be read without any expectation that chapters are "connected," plots "developing", or that anything "makes the slightest bit of sense whatsoever." For more information about beating secret Nazi operatives into a car refinishing paste, please visit your local library.