December 31, 2008

Pho is Not Pho

I have an artist friend whose parents were Vietnamese, and while describing the deliciousness of Pho, the ubiquitous beef noodle soup which seems to soak right into your cells with goodness, she admitted that mostly Pho was Pho; variations are minor.

With respect, she was quite completely wrong. Our Corresponding Secretary enlightened me a while back.

If you have not been to Tu Lan in San Francisco, you have missed a truly ecstatic Pho. If it were ruled by royalty, his name would be Pho King Awesome. His kingdom lies at 6th off Market, near Crackotopia.

To describe Tu Lan as a hole in the wall does not quite get at the sense that you are going to be murdered while getting there, which makes for good directions: walk up Market St until you are convinced you are going to be stabbed by the foaming shoeless crackhead wandering in traffic who holds his nuts nonchalantly while following you, inasmuch as a foaming shoeless crackhead can affect nonchalance, and turn South.

But the reason this he is following you is because he also is going to Tu Lan. He may be a foaming shoeless crackhead with a knife, but he knows from Pho.

Tu Lan is crammed into what should be the storeroom of a stationary shop blazing with flourescents into which someone inexplicable installed an enormous but thin kitchen, plus stools. The host by the register, a cheerful, Italian-looking sort of a Vietnamese guy, is holding a huge roll of cash, which reminds me of one of my favorite maxims: "You can feed the rich and get poor, or you can feed the poor and get rich, " a pearl from Col. Sanders.

A half dozen cooks fry and chop furiously as flames leap to the vent hood, all to the rhythm of a bald man with glasses who barks orders musically. His second at the grill is as serious and focused as any sous chef. But unlike your average steak house, the danger to you with the huge pot of oil for the beef, gigantic flames, flying knifes, tight quarters, is very real.

The menu has two things you want: a mention by the late columinist and ur-San Franciscan Herb Caen from the Chronicle, and a picture of JULIA CHILD happily eating there. The review on the back - from 1981 - is in the nature of a shocked revelation. Still applies.

No long lists of options. Beef, seafood, or meatball? Then: You know you want? Spicy Beef Noodles. You're done.

If you know Pho, you will appreciate that the plate of peppers and sprouts for the Pho is HUGE, and has a huge lemon instead of a lime. Also, much less basil, and with some lettuce: a surprise.

About this time, a guy walks in with the most obviously stolen item I've ever seen- a bluetooth set in a blister package, trying to sell it the owner, the bald guy. It didn't have giant sharpie letters on it that said " I, Street Dude, Larcenously Obtained this Item from the Radio Shack Across the Street" but it might as well have. The owner's name, as the host explains to a grateful customer is "Son of a Gun." Son of Gun takes his only break to look at the bluetooth set, and then talks street guy down to $10, peeled off from the giant wad seen earlier.

But this considerable entertainment is a warm-up: the Pho arrives. The beef is deep fried very briefly, I suspect, and cut much more thickly. The noodles are smaller, softer and tastier, unlike the more gummy rice noodles. The lemon, sprouts, and a whole jalapeno go in. It's all wrong, greasy, indelicate, nearly a beef stew. It is thicker with beef, veggies, noodles, the broth is as balanced but much richer and about five times as flavorful as ordinary Pho. The broth has that sea-water like satisfaction, in the sense of it being like the chemical building blocks of your own blood.

It is massively spicy without any loss of flavor, and much less basil. It is Pho, but so different, so intensely flavored, I can only suspect it is one of those remarkable Bay Area evolutions, both authentic and evolved, particular to California to a day some guy named Frank didn't show up with the limes, when garlic and peppers and beef were on sale and someone just came back from North Beach with a great idea.

Distinct, transcendent pho: I can't stop slurping down the broth. The food chills out everyone. The crackheads mellow out, the slumming foodies get high. A young woman of proud and light bearing, ethically indistinct and transcendently stylish, a perfect San Francisco girl, plays it cool waiting for take out. The calculation can be seen on her expression - the half dozen crazy guys are manageable. Worry is in the mind. Something delicious in another minute is real.

I was informed later that Tu Lan had caught on fire only once (much to my surprise) in the last five years, and everyone spilled in the street, watching the fire and still gobbling up their food. The praisers and prisses can duke it out on the interwebs. They say don't bring a first date- a sensible position with which I disagree. This place will sort out your date- will she get all caught up over health codes, ethics, aesthetics, personal safety and rigid notions of what asian food should be, or will she simply love what is good?

December 30, 2008

Mr. Rawls, your time has come

I think one reason the New Conservatism got as far as it did was that the champions of liberal egalitarianism viewed their position as so self-evident that no rational person could challenge it. That is to say, they were lazy in their defense of basic civil principles. Obama's great achievement, so far, has been to deliver a rousing (and needed) social studies lecture to the American people.

I've long believed that we need champions of the center who have the same energy and commitment as their rivals at the extremes - a Radical Moderate party, if you will. But what succint statement of principles could we begin with? I'd personally go to the barricades waving John Rawls' A Theory of Justice.

Ok, I know that's a hard sell. But here is a nice episode of Philosophy Talk, with special guest Joshua Cohen, discussing Rawls' principles.

A few quick quotes:

Cohen: "Rawls didn't care about the gap between the top and the bottom...what he said is: 'justice requires that [the] lifetime expectations [of the least well-off] be as high as they can be.' "

Cohen: "You need to be able to say to them - 'if we had less equality, you'd be worse off, and if we had more equality you'd be worse off.' "

Cohen: "The United States isn't just a market. It's a political society...and it's a division of labor."

Q: "If I were a could make the worst off as bad off as might maximize the well-being of society as a whole. What's wrong with that?"
Cohen: "I think Rawls's idea is...what if you applied that to religious liberty? You think it's ok there, too?"

Russia licks its chops

"Mr. Panarin posits, in brief, that mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation will trigger a civil war next fall and the collapse of the dollar. Around the end of June 2010, or early July, he says, the U.S. will break into six pieces — with Alaska reverting to Russian control."

December 29, 2008

IAYPA - The Results of the Most Infallible Statistic Ever

Now that the NFL season is over, we are left with dreary formalities that are of interest only to a few fanatics in Indianapolis and Nashville. What better time to revisit the IAYPA rankings?

Meet the new generation of NFL quarterbacks. The old warhorses have been banished from the top 5:
- Rivers SD, 7.2
- Pennington MIA, 6.9 (how sweet is that?)
- Schaub HOU, 6.7
- Ryan ATL, 6.7
- Brees NOR, 6.6

The shocker is Pennington, who's never been anywhere near the top of the rankings. Ryan's rookie performance is great, but it's not unheard of - Roethlisberger was great his rookie year, too.

But there are three decrepit old men lined up after this group - Warner (6.5), Delhomme (6.5), and Garcia (6.4). It's funny, none of these guy has ever looked that bad on IAYPA, but Warner and Garcia have to fight for playing time. Garcia was actually benched this season, and Warner had to win the Arizona job in the preseason (he reportedly consoled Leinart by pointing out that "I'm pretty good"). These guys play well every time they get a chance to play. How is it that people don't notice this?

There are a couple of surprises in the bottom 5 - Favre is in it (league-leading 22 INTs), and Orton (5.1) is not:
- Fitzpatrick CIN, 3.9
- Anderson CLE, 4.3
- Favre NYJ, 4.5
- Frerotte MIN, 4.7
- Bulger STL, 4.7

The NFL median was 5.8. Other notables:
- Matt Cassell (6.1) was slightly above-average on IAYPA which is just unbelievable. Not only was he was a rookie, he was sacked 47 times, most in the NFL.

- There was talk of getting rid of McNabb (5.9) earlier in the season, no doubt promulgated by Limbaugh disciples, but he is still a very solid quarterback.

- Roethlisberger (5.4) has dropped out of the elite levels, probably because of injuries to his shoulder, and, perhaps more importantly, to his head. Pittsburgh is my Church of Football, so I hate to even seem to criticize them...but should this guy even be playing anymore? He was flat on his back for 15 minutes on Sunday, then taken to a hospital...and he's supposed to be back to start in the playoffs? Head injuries just don't heal that fast.

The most vexing question that IAYPA raises for me is: what is up with the Bears? They live at the bottom of these rankings, and yet play well enough to contend. They have nursed along the same pair of no-talents - Orton and Grossman - for four years. It is part of a historical pattern so powerful it almost ranks as a biblical curse.

Well, perhaps it's not the players, perhaps it's the system. Ha! It's the players. They're impulsive, boozing, immature idiots. Peyton Manning prepares harder before breakfast Monday morning than these guys do in a week of practice.

And yet...I find myself rooting for them, particularly Grossman. Because Grossman exemplifies the adolescent spirit that the NFL has done everything possible to exterminate, a spirit perfectly captured here and here. Of course it doesn't work. Impulsive adolescent decisions never work out well. But dammit, it has its place...there is something to it. And if "fuck it, I'm going deep" doesn't capture the essence of football, what does?

Hey, I've got Al (the phone just rang) Davis on my side here - how wrong can I be?

December 27, 2008

Put on your rolex, and heave!

Here is a nice tool for tracking progress in the Sydney-Hobart.

In which I take up arms again

Modern Times
A funny thing happened to me at the mall a while back. I was walking through the Apple store, when I saw the game Neverwinter Nights 2. I picked it up with a vague interest, and suddenly realized that a product for sale in the Apple store might actually run on my computer.

Most times I discover that whatever game I might want to play won't run on my newish Intel machine (Knights of the Old Republic is supposed to be awesome, but I'll never know). Or else the game has been developed for the new Super Mac Quad Intel Premium running OS X Gargoyle, a system currently owned only by Steve Jobs and a cute Harvard MBA at Apple who no one knows what she does. But this was different – this game would actually run on my computer! What the hell, I thought, I'll buy it.

And then I sat down to play.

As dawn broke I led my plucky band through the Mere of Dead Men. “Hmm,” I thought, over the screams of my enraged spouse, “this game isn't half bad.” Neverwinter Nights 2 has, I think, a very nice balance of the three elements that make any D&D campaign worthwhile: shopping, killing, and negotiation. It's a much richer experience than, say Diablo. There's a decent plot, and a well-written group of NPCs, who are voiced, with varying degrees of believability, by professional actors.

I've played D&D off and on since it first came out. But, since college at least, I've almost always been the DM. I had a four year on-again off-again campaign in school that was hugely enjoyable, I DM'd with friends in Boston, I designed a campaign based on Nostromo that alas, I never found a group to play through, and had various intermittent fits since then. (I am proudest of Once Upon a Time in Space, which the Laird and I have developed up to a treatment, but for which we are still seeking the right character/combat system.) But I'd forgotten how much fun it is to just play the game.

Country Boy Makes Good
My first PC was Isendur Telenfyn, a Moon Elf Ranger. It was an accident, but this fits the backstory perfectly. All characters in the OC (original campaign) begin as the step-child of an elven ranger in a remote, swampy village. Isendur's a ranger because his step-father is. He's an elf in a human village because his step father was the only elf around to adopt him.

I initially visualized the character as a one-dimensional dexterity-driven archer. I didn't do any pre-game research, but it turns out this is not the best choice. For one thing, back-rank characters shouldn't lead parties, because the campaign has a ton of negotiation. The game insists that your character be front and center for conversations, even with bosses you have no chance of influencing. Then, after the villain's obligatory “and now I shall destroy you!” poor Isendur is standing about three feet away from the pit fiend, wearing light armor and trying to nock an arrow.

That's the other problem. Archers in NW2 are somewhat underpowered. Given his lack of offensive punch, I had to build Isendur with more of a focus on survivability, (e.g., Dodge and Improved Initiative so he can start running early). By mid-game his feats plus high dexterity meant he could mostly stay out of the middle of the fight. And, thanks to his innate tracking ability he could usually line things up pretty well before the bad guys even knew he was there. Playing him was a challenge, but a pleasurable one.

But Telenfyn also had to learn how to function in the world of men, skills his reclusive step-father couldn't teach him. A callow country boy moving across a hostile landscape without overwhelming force had better learn to know when to talk and when to shut up. I maxed out his diplomacy skill so that by the time he got to the City of Neverwinter, he could talk his way out of anything that could be talked out of. He joined the Neverwinter City Watch, and started getting things done. He was persuasive enough that the worst bloodshed (a potential internal cop gang war) was averted. By the time he stood trial for the destruction of the village of Ember, he was even able to score some diplomatic points off that notorious sophist, Ambassador Claven of Luskan.

Then I ran into one of NW2's infamous “showstopper” bugs. A key NPC – my thief – simply disappeared from the party and couldn't be recovered. I tried various remedies, but the word on the forums was, well, this happens sometimes and if all else fails just start a new character and try again.

What Are You Looking At?
Vrogdish Holleck started out as a joke. I was showing the character builder to my kids, and I wanted to show them what a half-Orc fighter would look like (fierce!). Didn't mean to play him for any length of time. I was planning on a rogue/warlock or something like that. But as I noodled around with the character I noticed that with his high strength and dexterity, he was going through dungeons like a hot knife through butter. Where Telenfyn had to live by his wits, Holleck could just throw open the door and kill what was on the other side.

It usually didn't take long. Just picture this guy. He's basically Ray Lewis, but about a foot taller and a hundred pounds heavier, with fangs. He's really fast, and really strong, and he's running straight at you, leading with a +2 tower shield, waving this gimmick sword (+2 astral blade) with strands of electro-something coming off it. He was the last thing a lot of orcs saw at the Old Owl Well.

At first I thought, there's no hope for this guy's backstory. But then it started to make sense to me. To paraphrase Yoko Ono, orc is the nigger of the Forgotten Realms. Why is he living in a remote swampy village? Because he's an orphan half-orc. He wouldn't last five minutes anywhere else. Why is his step-father a reclusive Elven Ranger? Because no one but one of his mom's old adventuring buddies would touch a half-orc kid with a 10-foot pole. His step-dad can barely stand people, either, so they get on ok. Why is he a bully? Because he's the only thing like him in his world, and people try to bully him. It's not in him to knuckle under, so he bullies back.

So why is he a fighter and not a berserker? That's so racist. Why does everyone think “berkserker” the minute we bring up that he's a orc? Shame on you. He's a perfect fighter and he's just loaded up on longsword feats – weapon focus, improved critical, etc. etc. He also has gauntlets that can get his strength into the mid-20s, so he can hit almost anything, and what he can hit, he can wreck.

With his low charisma there was no hope of negotiating his way through life, so I just added skill points to Intimidation every time he leveled up. And sure enough, this works. Vrogdish tends to end proposals with phrases like “if you want to live,” or “you'd look funny with no arms or legs.” He takes Plan B through Act I, joining the mob in Neverwinter and overseeing their protection racket. The good news, is he's successful. The bad news is, the body count is so high it sickens even the local crime lords. No one's sorry when he leaves town to deal with other things.

I originally aligned the Character as Chaotic Neutral. But as he gets deeper and deeper into the campaign, Vrogdish discovers he's not such a bad guy. His decisions start to trend toward the good side of things. Sure he's gotten a raw deal in some respects, and he's never going to be a movie star. But he has loyal friends, influence with the nobility, and no one dares cross him, so it's all good. And when he comes face to face with real evil – a really fucked-up assassin from his old village – he whips him, but doesn't finish him off. He knows the guy's mother, ya know? What would he say to her? He lets the assassin live, knowing full well that the guy's boss will not be so full of the milk of human kindness.

Then, at the end of Act II, we have one of the climactic moments of the game – a face-to-face confrontation with an immensely powerful warlock who foolishly destroys something profoundly valuable to both him and Vrogdish. In an emotional scene the warlock declares his repentance, and raises his arms to transport the party to safety, and their starting point for Act III. And then...

The game crashes. Re-load, re-play, crash again.

And again.

Another showstopper.

Research shows that there is a patch. Word on the street is, if you load the patch and try to play an existing character, you'll have all kinds of problems. The only thing to do is start over. Time to roll up a new guy. Crap, I was really enjoying Vrogdish.

The Banality of Good

Well now that I know 2/3 of the damn campaign, I know exactly what I need. The campaign is best-suited to a front-line fighter that can handle gobs of orcs and undead and who can take the fight to the lords of evil in Act 3. No Wizard/Thief/Druids need apply. The man for that job is a Paladin. Have aura, will travel.

I've never played a paladin before, and haven't had one in a campaign since high school, when the Laird's went around slaughtering everything in sight. There's a simple reason for this: I can't stand paladins. They're not just self-important and arrogant – they're self-important and arrogant with the full backing of a divine power. I generally root for the vampires.

But what the hell, paladins get nice perks, if I remember right, and while we're at it I'll make him planetouched to pump up his charisma a little more. So we get the blond-haired, golden-eyed Will Brown, the little angel who grew up in the swamp and learned to fight the baddies.

yawn ... snort ... oh, sorry, fell asleep for a second there.

Will's well into Act III now, doing fine. He's certainly the best-looking of my PCs, cutting a dashing figure in his black half-plate (needs a Nike logo) and natty blue City Watch cloak. And he has a distinctive fighting style, wading into battle without a shield and wielding his +2 zap-o-matic (bonus electrical damage) halberd. If Isendur is a sniper and Vrogdish a tank, this guy is a torpedo. He makes a beeline for the most powerful offensive force on the other side, and starts landing charisma-power (Smite, Divine Might) halberd shots. He often dies, but that has dropped off sharply since he got a magic-resistant belt and took the Divine Shield feat. He's now a pretty effective force, although relatively lame against high-level neutral foes. He'd be considerably more lethal if I could get some more feats, but he's serviceable. Still, Vrogdish could kick this guy's ass across the Spine of the World if he felt like it.

But the real issue is, paladins are dull. I believe Tolstoy said all happy families are happy in the same way. So it is with paladins. When you're 100% lawful good, what else is there to say? In a movie you could get some mileage out of the various temptations he encounters (Galahad: “Oh, let me have just a little bit of peril?”). But in D&D if your paladin goes off the tracks, he loses his paladin-ness, and then you just have a crappy fighter with not enough feats.

I suppose I'll finish the campaign, but I'm in no rush - the game shows telltale signs of hurry in Act III, and I strongly suspect I've already seen the best parts. But it's sure been fun playing so far.

Hmm, come to think of it, maybe I should try out that rogue/warlock after all...

Obligatory Isengard Holiday Post

Safe and happy Holidays everyone!

December 26, 2008

Anchorage: The Video Game Expansion

Apparently, the Chinese invade and destroy Anchorage in the next expansion pack for Fallout 3.


1) Finally, a way to run around crazy and shoot up Anchorage without the usual jail time.

2) I suspect they set it there to because they already have a bunch of strip malls rendered.

3) Can you tweak the springtime dog poop density settings?

4) Finally, City Planning.

December 25, 2008

Eisengeiste Football League 2008 Season in Review

Final Results
  1. Playtechs (Corresponding Secretary General)
  2. Earmarky Marks (Laird of Madrona)
  3. The Mad Storks (anonymous)
  4. Monkey + ? = Profit! (The Sum of All Monkeys)
  5. The Peyton Putz (popmonkey)
  6. The Acerbic Welsh (Viceroy de los Osos)
  7. The Unimpeachables (Undersecretary to the Deputy Commissariat)
  8. Atomic Super Pirates (First Sea Lord)
2008 Golden Hindsight Awards

The following are based purely on how things turned out, so the decisions involved might have been better or worse given what was known at the time. But, in fantasy football (as in so many things) getting lucky makes you a genius. I left The Unimpeachables and Atomic Super Pirates out of my analysis, because their owners didn't relly make any decisions during the season, apart from signing up for the league (I dunno, maybe FSL and the Undersecretary lost their computers, or their hands, or both.)

Worst draft boner

Tom Brady by the Acerbic Welsh (1st round, 7th pick overall). If you follow football, you know that Brady didn't make it through the first quarter of the first game of the season. Not a good return on your first-round pick investment.
Joseph Addai by Monkey + ? = Profit! (1st round, 5th pick overall). Addai was the fifth running back taken, but at the end of the season was ranked 38th in points scored by RBs. In my opinion, he was worse than Brady, because the Welsh dumped Brady after the first game of the season, while Monkey held on to Addai to the end, even starting him in the final game of the playoffs (which Addai missed entirely).

Best draft bargain

1. Thomas Jones by Playtechs. Drafted at the end of the eighth round, Jones finished the season number three among running backs. He'll probably go in the first round, next season.
2. Jay Cutler by the Acerbic Welsh. Drafted in the early 12th round. Cutler finished number three among quarterbacks this season, making up for the loss of Tom Brady.

Best draft overall

Playtechs. Eleven of her 15 players drafted were still on the squad at the end of the season (next closest was eight out of 15). In addition to the Thomas Jones bargain, she got two top-five wide receivers (Anquan Boldin and Andre Johnson), the top tight end (Tony Gonzalez), and the top defense (Baltimore).

Worst draft overall

The Acerbic Welsh. Apart from Jay Cutler, the only bright spots were the kickers (Rob Bironas and David Akers). The rest ranged from the underachievers to the unplayable. Tragic picks include the aforementioned Tom Brady, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (3rd round), Kellen Winslow (5th), Willis McGahee (7th), Willie Parker (10th), Joey Galloway (11th), and Alge Crumpler (14th).

Best free agent acquisitions

1. DeAngelo Williams by the Mad Storks. Twenty-four running backs were picked in the draft, and none of them were DeAngelo Williams, who finished the season with the most points scored by an RB. This is especially impressive when you consider that he didn't have a good showing until game 5.
2. Antonio Bryant and Vincent Jackson by Monkey + ? = Profit! Playable wide receivers were hunted to extinction this season, but Monkey reeled in both Bryant and Jackson, who finished the season 9th and 12th, respectively.
3. Steve Slaton and Chris Johnson by the Acerbic Welsh. Slaton and Johnson (finishing 8th and 10th) made up for drafted lamesters Willis McGahee and Willie Parker.

Worst cut

1. Tennessee defense by the Mad Storks. Before the first game of the season, the Storks send Tennessee packing. They went on to be the second highest scoring defense (for the Acerbic Welsh).
2. Owen Daniels by Monkey + ? = Profit! Monkey drops the Texans tight end after the second game. Owens goes on to rank number six (in the service of the Mad Storks), while Monkey scraped for inferior free agents.
3. Dwayne Bowe by the Mad Storks. Dropping Dwayne Bowe would have worked out okay (he only ranked 17th for the season) if Storks had better wide receivers on his roster (better than Braylon Edwards and Lee Evans, who came in 24th and 30th).
Honorable mentions: Ronnie Brown and Rob Bironas by the Acerbic Welsh, and Chris Cooley by Earmarky Marks.

December 24, 2008

Strange, Strange Maps

Our Counselor forwards this curious site of strange and fascinating maps.

Something Cool for Christmas

I found this photo on eBay of all places. It probably means little to most people but to me it is like gold. This shot shows planes from the 26th fighter squadron being loaded onto the USS Ranger on April 14th, 1942. There is a 6 in 64 chance that one of these planes is my father's. His squadron was one of the few groups of P-40s to be launched into WWII from a carrier. They took off from the carrier deck only once, to disembark on their way to Africa, the Middle East and eventually India and China where they fought in defense of Chinese supply lines.

I can tell these are planes headed to the 26th because of the light-colored band on the cowliings. For car buffs, I am told that the vehicles on the dock are a 1942 Chevrolet "Woody" Station Wagon with a 1940 Buick Roadmaster behind it.

History references to the 26th fighter squadron are almost non-existent. This is a crucial bit of my evolving research project.

Merry Christmas to all

December 21, 2008

Don't Make Me Use This

I want to make absolutely clear that I did not put the puppy in the Santa outfit.

December 20, 2008

"What is he? A communist?"

Obama appoints an actual scientist to head NOAA.

Report from Iraq

I was thrilled to talk to our nephew on the phone yesterday, who is home for a week or so from Iraq, where he is serving with the 10th Calvary Regiment. He's been in Iraq since April. In that time, he's worked his way up from the guy who has to drive the Humvee to the guy who gets to shoot the machine gun on the Humvee. He even got to be the gunner on the Humvee driving General Petraeus around (while his regular crew was off).

Luckily, he got away with only minor wounds (thanks, body armor!) when his Humvee detonated an IED. (Just a little shrapnel in his arm.) He also took a sandle to the face.

He's been in Baghdad mostly, but also Fallujah, Tikrit, and elsewhere. The good news is that the situation there has improved significantly since April. He said that, when he got there, the Iraqi police were afraid to leave their bunkers, and now he thinks they are in a position to maintain order.

December 18, 2008

Wartime interrogation techniques under scrutiny

We all like to think that, were it important enough, we could stand up under torture for what we believe in. I invite you to test yourself with this.

I made it through the first eight seconds, but I may have suffered permanent psychological damage.

December 16, 2008


From formation painting
(c) 2008 Jamie A. Bollenbach. All rights reserved.

This unfinished landscape/skyscape is in oil, about 50" by 35." Look carefully and you will see the hint of a bomber formation, dwarfed by the air and clouds. I should explain that strangeness of the scene comes from the fact that the skyscape is invented, without studies or source material. This made it much more difficult of course, but to paint the sky one can paint the air first, and the sense of space and light is more powerful. The aircraft, B-17s of course (hard to see without zooming in here, and apologies for the poor image quality), are the barest dashes of pencil lines, meant only to suggest the bigness of the scene, but the air and light churns around them. I may add more, particularly in the lower right.

It does portray military history, in a sense, but it is meant to suggest something vast and violent without concentrating on anything apparently so, except that the you'll see the source of the dark cloud in the lower left. It is unspecific to date, place or moment. This isn't a new direction in my painting, as such, only a way of using painting to think in terms of space, light, emotion, idea, and scale, related to the installation idea, obviously: a terrible, endless moment.

December 15, 2008

Two Suggested Words for 2009

Doucheoisie. Douchebag plus bourgeoisie. The type: a classless, self-obssessed flashy rich guy, esp. one who dicks over working people. The guy illegally parking his Hummer who is obsessed with reducing the capital gains tax, and how lazy poor people are. Includes hip-hop guys who lack the redeeming quality of talent. Donald Trump is their king.

Emoticons. In the sense of neo-cons. Highly emotional, unstable conservatives who foam and froth at every event, in spite of ever single minute element of their ideology has been proven false and destructive. A replacement for moonbat and wingnut, words which falsely suggest some kind of distanced integrity.

Oh! And for this morning: the phrase Shoe-ducker. A doucheoise emoticon who tries to avoid responsibility.

December 14, 2008

Happy Monkey Day!

December 11, 2008

Rebar for Tootsie Rolls: Double-Cross in Triplicate, Part Ein

The lukewarm Everclear and Orange Soda deadened my throbbing face from a fist fight with my stock broker over a dispute from the Crash of ‘29. I drank the highball incredulously, soothing the sharp tang of defeat at the fury of the tiny fists of a small, surprised bald man named Tibbets. He resurfaced barking up a Market Street girlie show- the one with Dockside Betty and her infamous cuttlefish act- still recognizable from his trademark polka dot red bow tie, over-twirled moustache and expression pinched from years of giving terrible, terrible investment advice, like “one word, my good man: Gyrocopters.”

Seeking distraction from World War II I’d confronted him last night, striking in cold vengeance by suddenly grabbing his collar and dislodging his boater, which fell into the street wobbling like a top. Recognizing me his eyes went from buttons to saucers and he shrieked like a porcupine. An amorous porcupine. They shriek a lot. Long story.

Anyway, I went in for a straight punch to the gut, but he fought like a girl, one with bricks in her gloves, his sissy slaps landing like a hailstorm of ball bearings, and I’d found myself nose cloudward, writhing on the sidewalk, brain reeling, watching my 1000 shares of Skymaster Gyrocopter Messaging sputter, spin, crash and explode, just like Skymaster’s real gyrocopters, all over again. The only message these crazy bamboo whirling gizmos ever really carried was “never buy stock in Skymaster Gyrocopter Messaging, particularly in October, 1929.”

So I’d retreated to the Rusty Hobnail for some tender hating care from Crumples the Bartender: the icy comfort of a familiar glower from the oyster-faced stare of a man who once served Ulysses S. Grant his morning quart of whiskey: bare-knuckle boxer in the 1880s, who’d played dirty. He’d kicked, bitten and snacked on opponents with fists like hard cheese, and was about as smelly. Old man now. People said that on seeing the newborn Crumples, Andrew Jackson promptly spit on him. He made the Sphinx look coltish. His mother once did unspeakable things for Napoleon the II involving a three-legged horse.

Never got along with anyone, which made bartending an interesting choice. He got on the wrong side of everyone. Mark Twain cuffed him in the ear. Teddy Roosevelt pulled a gun on him. Gentleman Jim once screamed endless, inventive and obscene insults at him for an entire week.

For Crumples, seeing me beaten, bruised and bleeding was like opening a Christmas present. He clapped his veiny hands and laughed out loud, a dry, joyless squeaking sound like repeatedly opening an ammunition box from The Crimean War.

I was looking at Crumples through the bottom of the glass to improve the view when a noise rose like a freight train slowly crushing an ice cream truck. I looked back to the stage to see a man in a kilt apparently strangling a vacuum cleaner: a desperate Okie folk musician with a defective Waziristani bagpipe who knew about as much about Scotland as your average African lungfish. The music was excruciating, the Okie’s fingers about as light as anvils, the lamps shaking in a ceaseless blast of celtic cacophony that put an odd smile on Crumples’ face, like a parenthesis had jumped off Mt. Shasta and died.

I could only grimace. I took what solace could be had in the familiar shambles of the bar; walls caked black with whale oil smoke and a couple of tab-skipping customer's skulls nailed on those walls, it was the last upside-down ship used as bar from back in the Forty-Niner days.

The Rusty Hobnail was not the kind of joint where you put folk musicians- unless you planned to put them in traction. It was a real San Francisco dive, tied fast on the wrong side of the tracks by a nickel-a-view villain in cape and top hat and with us all trapped in his moustache-brushed penny arcade plot. Too many four-flushing, thrice-boiled, two-bit half-lifes on the make, cops on the take and girls on the fake drooled on variously by fools, chumps and Nob Hill hobos raking it all in; and me amongst: Mack Brainack, a once-solvent $10 a day ($15 on Saturdays) Detective and aspiring back-alley Doctor, hiding away from the War and the girls and the bad memories of fifteen or twenty friends I’d accidentally gotten killed, sending them out on hopeless attack hot-air balloon missions against Goering, selling them out to the Mob for beer money, stabbing them myself for some good reason I’m sure but which I couldn’t remember now, or poisoning them with a hastily-written prescription for poison. And that was just the people I liked.

So you go to the Rusty Hobnail to pickle all the hopes and dreams in your head until your brain is indistinguishable from the eggs in the big glass jar on the end of the greasy slab of oak bar- with 19th century barnacles still stuck to it, which Crumples absurdly polished with glee when he wasn’t fantasizing about beating your head in with far greater glee.

I was pickled good but not plenty. Life hurt like a sack of glass shards was giving you a Belgian massage. I’d even talked my girl- the wolf-whistlable Wobbly welder girl Petunia Mathelby- into going underground with a cover as a fascist-sympathizing cigarette girl to track down the notorious pro-Nazi pastry chef and traitorous ball player Stingy Wheels - my nemesis, a man so nemisiotic I could hardly turn a corner without feeling the beady stare of his malevolence on the hairs on my neck. It felt like a bunch of Nazi aphids crawling around, thinking my neck was Czechoslovakia. But now Petunia, my pretty little raven-haired Red - I hadn’t heard a peep out of her in weeks. And Stingy tended to leave bodies around more often than notes about his whereabouts. So I drank, and I brooded, and drank again, and listened to a country version of “Scotland Wha Hae” that made a hot air balloon assault against Schweinfurt sound like a turn around Lake Pleasant in a peddle-boat.

I praised all-Merciful Zoroaster when the pipe music ended as the piper passed out in a heap of plaid, falling face first into the beer-soaked sawdust on the floor. Maybe someone stabbed him. No one checked. I drained my Everclear and Orange, and Crumples just refilled the glass with a pinkish fluid that might have been Finnish Sloe Aquavit, or maybe freshly siphoned gas. I drained that too.

Then there was the sound of a washboard and fiddle tuning up. Crumples actually booked a whole band that didn't feature the hornpipe.

I looked them over. Wasn't much of band. Guitar, fiddle, washboard, and what appeared to be a steam-powered auto-harp, with a wooden pick arm and a tiny little engine. These guys staggered on in clothes that once were blue, or striped, or mattress covers, and had clearly steeped in so much mary-jane that they were just now remembering that their dreams were crushed. They picked up their instruments with the kind of enthusiasm you pick up a pick-ax in an chain gang, and warmed up their assault.

And then I saw The Blond, a real cool canary purposing to sing while backed by these Hobo Mozarts, a downtown dame in smart red silk number tighter than Winston Churchill during the Blitz, the kind of frail more dangerous than an overturned flaming railcar of hydrogen peroxide in an explosives showroom. She had steel blue eyes like a cold, clear day you see looking up from a glacial crevasse you'd just fallen into while distracted by a bombshell blond in a red silk number walking around a glacier. Long torso, long legs, looking softer than a pillow in a pudding bed, clear skin like a painting of a girl with clear skin, and lips bright red like a neon sign that read "Yes, and Yet No."
Admittedly, there weren't a lot of signs like that. And not a lot of men up to handling a cherry tomato like that. Takes a light touch, like removing a bra with one hand that's wrapped around a gallon of nitroglycerin. But dangerous tomatoes were my kind of vegetable, or maybe fruit, if you're agriculturally pedantic joker who just got a job pissing me off.
I grabbed my hat, drink, a semi-crushed pack of Luckys, the .38 with the Breughel engraving , and prepared to pour on the charm like cream on a strawberry shortcake.

"So where's the jug player, Toots?" I asked, offering a Lucky.

"Wallow here often?" she said in a sleek, stiletto voice that made you want to thank her for sliding in the blade between your ribs.

"You’re planning to sing in front of the Dust Bowl Philharmonic here?" I said, tossing a thumb their way.

Her nose wrinkled in such a way that it showed her displeasure and sucked my brain dry in one go.

But she took the Lucky, and looked at me sideways a little, expecting me to light it. I took an extra half-second taking in her angel face before I lit the cig, using the commemorative Red Star Zippo General Krushchev had given me when I located the captured Nazi plans that detailed the part in a Panzer's carburetor a small six-year old could sneak in and snap off in their hands. That lead to some guilt later when 8,000 six-year olds were sent in at the battle of Kursk.

"So, I hear you snoop around?" she asked.

"Come again?"

"You're a private dick, right Mister? They told me I could find you here. "


"Your girl. The high class dame at your office. I told her to buzz off or I'd cut her," she said. Hmm. That stiletto wasn't metaphorical.

"Wow. Thanks, Missy. Saves me a lot of trouble. Which girl are we talking about?”

If this conversation got anymore hard-boiled we could make egg-salad sandwiches for everyone at the wedding.

She stretched now, her long arms nearly touching the grimy ceiling, giving me a full blast of that dame-based weapon that breaks hearts, fells empires, and gets people looking through the Sears catalog for matching drapes. Stretching that soft, wriggly femininity to the high heavens was enough to make Jesus all mushy- and that wasn't Cricket.

“Some lady Psychiatrist, pretty girl, smart, stuck-up, you know, going through your case files.

“Lillian Gruber?”

“Beats me. She just had her Freudian Analysis Society Badge on.”

The Blond tossed her long hair back, shiny golden waves breaking over an unmitigated bare shoulder, her big ice blues a little sleepy, her mouth moist and lips just a little open. "I got a little proposition for ya, Mack," she said moving her flawless face towards my ear, so close to my cheek I could feel the heat off her smooth light skin, smell her scent – Victory in the Pacific, I think, going by the sweet coconut musk.

"Goahusdunafopgadsidafum?" I said.

"My name is Veronica D'Atlantique," she whispered in a voice sweet, soft, and low, like a cotton candy mattress. “Like the famous ocean,” she explained.

”My Name’s Mack Brainack. Dr. Mack Brainack.”

We were interrupted in this repartee by the truly incomparable sound of a steam-driven autoharp failing to be tuned. I looked over, and got a glimpse of two green eyes launching at me like marbles in a slingshot.

"Don't mind Shanky, he's kinda sweet on me," she said, curling herself around weightlessly so that I found my hand lightly on her waist. =

I looked at Shanky in his grubby coveralls working over the knobs to adjust the pressure to tune the steam-autoharp. He glared hot coals over the autoharp’s soundbox as slow swirls of steam rose from the tiny brass boiler.

I’d been in here fifteen minutes and someone else had joined the Kill Mack Brainack Society, which was fast becoming the biggest organization in the Bay Area, short of the Brotherly Order of Free Beer and Cash Lovers.

“But you see,” she said with her finger walking up my arm, “I know something about you, Dr. Brainack. “

I perked up, as much a tadpole in a pond full of Everclear can perk up. Babycakes had done her homework.

“Mack, right? Of the Chicago Brainacks?”

“And what’s it to you, Sugar? Maybe and maybe not. Hasn’t everyone got a family name they’re ashamed of?”

“Not just any schlub’s family, Doc… Take a look at this. City Directory: Brainack Insurance,” she said, perking me up out of the pond, and she kept going: Brainack Coal of California. Brainack Cold Meat Packers. Brainack Bronze Fittings. Brainack Drug. Brainack Financial. You want me to keep going through the rest of the Alphabet?

“I thought it was a coincidence.” I looked at her funny, through a greenish fog caused by enormous dollar signs floating before my eyes.

“Listen, Brainack, I’m married to your brother, Cain Brainack. Well, not really married, not proper. We hitched up in a cloudy week in Nevada, cloudy from jazz and gin and a hot streak on the bones. But then on our honeymoon…well, an old pal of his came by with a basket of pears, roses and a pile of cocaine like Mt. Shasta, and he and Cain left the next day, ably stealing a bulldozer, wearing a gorilla costume and riding off into the desert singing “Old man River.’ Never did see him since.”

“That’s a tough break, Sugar Loaf. Wait, I got a brother named Cain?”

“You don’t know your own brother?”

“Fresh out of family since my Mom dropped me off at a Chicago hospital with the meter on the carriage running. ” I felt something in my stomach. A churning, buzzing sensation: maybe misguided bees. More likely a result of an empty glass. If the same thing happened in a regular joker’s stomach they’d call it an emotion.

“Listen, why do you think I’m one of the rich Brainacks?

And here was the kicker:

“I got a copy of Cain’s birth certificate right here. Take a look for yourself,” she said, somehow emphasizing her cleavage. She had black gloves on and pulled the paper out of her purse like an obituary.

“See, right here ‘Cain Brainack. Mother: Matilda Achmedenejad Brainack, age 19, of Peoria, Illinois. Race: Scots-Persian, of Peoria. Father: Stanley Jerimiah Brainack, Race: Caucasio-Beige. Age 59, residence: Lake, Illinois. Brothers: Augustus, age 1. Maximilian , age 2. (Deceased), she said, with emphasis.


“I figure she listed you as dead to make it easier for the family, giving you up and all. Never met a dead man, before, Brainack!”, she said brightly. “See, Mack, whether Mr. Brainack is your father or not, you ain’t dead, and we gotta case for the inheritance, and I got the key to that case,” waving the paper in the air. She wriggled her hips just a little, enough so that the idea drained right through Smart Thinky Brainack, down through the Dumkoff pipe and dripped right into my next sentence:

“Alright, Babycakes, I’m listening.”

She put her lips so close to my ear I could hear her lipstick.

“They got Millions, Brainack. MILLIONS. ” She whispered. “Think of it.”

I was thinking all right. Thinking about paying off the bills, like the grocers, and Crumples, and a half-dozen ice men all after me on various contracts with the mob, angry husbands, the Nazis of course, Mickey Rooney for some reason, oh yes, and Stalin, and also my hobby railroad dealer. I was thinking about the ponies. I was thinking about naked cheap girls in baths of expensive champagne. Thinking about retiring early to a swell estate in Marin, buying a couple of stock llamas and a fortified wine vineyeard and setting myself up with a dance-hall princess that looked pretty much like Babycakes here and scandalizing the respectable types with rowdy parties and random pistol fire. And I thinking about Veronica. Thinking all wrong.

Meanwhile, Shanky the steam auto-harp player was boiling over.

“Veronica! You gonna sing or what?” He said, glaring at me. It was starting to get irritating.

“Your boyfriend there better be admiring my hat,” I said.

“Not now, Shanky. Cool your heels,” she said. He’d walked over now, his face turning white with rage and general whiteness.

Shanky was in that special place where you think about striking out a meaty paw and all your personality disorders magically disappear. And so his fist flew. But he might as well have sent the Western Union yesterday. I caught his hand mid-flight, spun round fast, and accidently on purpose broke his finger. You could hear the snap.

Shanky shrieked, rolling around on the floor.

“Jeeze, why’d ya have to mess up Shanky’s hand? That’s his livelihood!, said Veronica, but after a glance she was still looking at me.

“Think of it as a gift to the Nine Muses.”

“What? Do you know how hard it is to find a decent steam autoharp player?,” she asked.

I just looked at her.

“How can you make less dough than what Crumples isn’t going to pay you?” I said.

“Barkeep’s a dirty old welcher, huh?,” she said, raising an eyebrow so perfectly parenthetical I’d have to describe it as an aside.

“Crumples? A dirty old welcher? Look in up the Encylopedia Britannica, Kitten. You could fill the U.S. Mint with his I.O.U.s. I suspect he personally got the Depression started.”

“Mebbe if you’d paid your consarned bar tab, Brainack!” Crumples said.

“Show’s over, old man!,” she said, storming out, and I followed her. We stood out in the dark and the fog, the lights from the neon nightclubs playing off her creamy skin like cream pored over cream-colored satin spread tight over creamy mounds of delicious ice-cream. After a while gazing at each and lighting each other’s Luckys, our heads swimming with love-sick ditties and god-damned Christmas jingles, I looked at her: flowing blond locks, the little smile on her lips as she parted them just slightly. I landed a palm like a coyote on her swan neck and kissed her like it was the last stamp on my ration card.

We caught a cab back to my office on Sutter street, which was also where I appeared to live going by the hotplate under the typewriter and the pot smeared with Cream of Mushroom Soup filed under “M,” or “C,” and where, after I’d fumbled with the key while practicing for her bra, she passed out on the couch, and I also passed out on the couch. Except we weren’t passed out.

The real thing was the morning. Somehow everywhere I looked it was Veronica. It was Veronica at all angles: tidying up, kindly explaining divestiture of family assets, will executors, our life together, the will to execute, and all the while standing there remorselessly, and then there, filing something on the lowest drawer with kinetic verve, looking like Veronica the whole time. I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, but with Veronica there radiating bodacious relativism like a Nietzschean lighthouse on my rocky sucker coast of a life, I was more rutabaga than Porterhouse.

I told myself I was just using her, just curious about my family, joking around about millions, goofing about a golden silver spoon set that had been denied me, the rightful eldest, that had been dumped as a loveless wee bairn in a flop hotel in Chi-town. All a big joke, right? Such is the power of a Veronica. I gotta hand it to her- this was an avalanche of a snow job. Sweet nothings and little jokes turned around like salt-water taffy sticking on the taffy-stretching machine of my heart. I was laughing myself into a tannery of fear and desperation and possibly skinning.

So I found myself deep in fist-waving, eye-pounding research at the Hall of Records, good cabbage gone on telexes and phone calls to Chicago, looking up a buddy at the Chronicle to go through their morgue. I went through all the press on Brainack Sr. - he was loaded all right, but in those early years in Chicago it was all foggy and hazy and and yet it hit hard, like someone dropped a crate of gauze on your head. Stan Brainack, President of Brainack Industries Limited, into coal, meat, metal, markets and machines, might be Big Daddy Warbucks, or might not.

The week drifted on, the research deepening, an incomplete family tree developed. The money beckoned like a warm Winnipeg brothel in an Arctic blizzard, driving my work. It got crazy. At one point, I seemed to be related to Goering. Meanwhile, like all the greats, Veronica played on my greed. And on my couch, which was getting more action that the Mediterranean Theater, and in the meantime, I was building a case for my part in this family and counting their money at the same time.

I found myself asking her bad, bad questions:

“Babycakes, where’s the file on inheritance taxes?”

“Babycakes, say, what about a beautiful broad like you and me getting hitched some day?”

“Babycakes, why do you think Stanley might have a heart condition?”

I was an actor in dinner theater, knowing that the terrible production was going to close the place, but saying my lines right on cue. =

Then on a Thursday at City Hall, rain and wind poring gray outside, and the little room smelling like damp newsprint, mildew and whiskey, I found the police report for my brother, Cain Brainack: dead in the mountains, found near Lake Tahoe, holding a gun, dressed in a white tie and tails and a sash and formal snowshoes. The gun had been fired, four times, the body had been there since…, since….


December 09, 2008

Updates: What I've Been Doing the Last Six Months

My Facebook updates for the last six months. It is an interesting discipline to cram the peak moment from a questionable novel I didn't have to write into a ridiculously short space. I note a fair amount of swordplay, sinking submarines, flailing airplanes, chases, tense literary moments. What does it all mean?

Jamie parried the Archduke's sword-thrust with a minor portrait by Van Eyck, oil on an oak board, smashing one aristocrat's face with another.

Jamie batted out the fire on his racing leathers, leaving the Buell's wreckage behind him. His Ducati, afire but screaming smooth, was just 5 seconds from the line.

Jamie put the siren on the '68 Fastback Mustang. He cursed- yet another gun-blazing high-speed hill chase in San Francisco, and he'd just fixed the shocks.

Jamie stood before the gathered physicists. "It's too late and this asteroid is too heavy. We'll need super-astronauts and more A-bombs than bimbos at a car show.

Jamie yelled "Speed! The cliff is there- the glider needs 50!"But the tank driver bailed, ropes yet binding the plane. He sawed furiously, Doom introducing itself.

Jamie ,commanding the Barbarian hoardes,his armor clanking, marched up to Pious and John,and cut off Pious's head. As it rolled, he pointed to John: "Now, you Pope!"

Jamie held his finger on the pin on the grenade as Hemmingway ducked. "Silence. It is a patrol, nothing more. Let them pass- they shall have nothing to report."

Jamie released legions of specially trained adorable kittens in a high-stakes operation against Al-Qaida.

Jamie hacked away the vine. Behind, huge ruby eyes glowing, sat the stone face of their god, Tonaanatu, and his rival, Dr. DeChuse, impaled on granite teeth

Jamie kept a foot on the plummeting Space Shuttle wheel and inserted a trach tube into Jones' neck, trusting his gum to hold the heat tile as fire licked the windows.

Jamie said "Bearers! You are dismissed! From here on is the land of the Foiokanatoo. Your very heads would prove but fine broth; yet I hold the Idol,and so press on!"

Jamie would not let it stand unchallenged. "Sartre, I reject your premise, as WELL as Malraux's. Also, I am compelled to inform you that I'm seeing Simone."

Jamie fought on with the scuba knife, the giant squid biting a small hole in the air hose just as he heard the Russian Sub Smolensk open her atomic torpedo doors.

Jamie crested the ridge, unslinging the Winchester, peering across the valley to a Turkman fortress. A bullet took his horse, the report echoing in lonely terror.

Jamie urged the grey horse along the deadly pass through the Urals, saddlebags bursting with the hoarde of rubies, fatigued, one hand on the Navy Colt.

Jamie teased the power in the spitting Bleriot to gain altitude, but the icy Channel wind whipped the scarf to blind him, wingtip catching a wave, frame shuddering.

Jamie stared down the Cosmonaut: "Demetri! Ox Tank B is venting out to effin' Pluto! The ship is shorting out like a midget beauty pageant! NOT time for crapski!"

Jamie has ordered the 747-Mounted High Energy Schaudenfreudenator to fire a direct blast at the Republican National Committee.

Jamie drew his sword, the mad scupltor Cellini tossing a crucible of molten bronze - a warm dispute over Ciecherella Borgia, illegitimate daughter of Pope Alexander.

Jamie cocked an eyebrow at the preening Archduke: "Your impudence, Sir, is just exceeded by your malodorousness!" Damn the consequences- winter is good for artillery.

Jamie leapt up the barricades, flag aloft in the cannon smoke. "Liberty shall not die gasping for her life at our feet! Today, we grant our lives for her salvation!"

Jamie eyed a galleon limping for port. "Send a runner, Aflonoso! She's laden with spice; I claim her cargo as Marcovaldo's debt to me! That or his spleen!"

Jamie stopped the piano, taunting Lady Astor: "I'd say one Yankee 'Charleston' is worth a half dozen dreary 'Pomp and Circumstances!' Oh, you kid! 23 Ski-DOO!!"

Jamie , with a grim smile, unveiled the tramp steamer's .20mm cannon, now trained on a couple of ornery Messerschmitts - returning only to arrange their own funerals.

Jamie ,resplendent in the ancient vestment and orb, ordered the shaman to free the sacrifices and send to the scattered people the tribute of the outsiders.

Jamie raised his furrowed sword to the villanous Lascar Pirates who in desperate greed had boarded the treasure-laden dhow, smiting them each in terrible silence.

Jamie rode a Bactrian camel across the Arabian desert, past trade roads dispersing to Palmyra, Samarkland, and Shiraz, only to board ship and cross the Bab el Madeb.

Jamie declined the Sultan's gift: Island of Al-Baka-Sar, 53 servants, the great Saphire of Sudan. "A ham sandwich, freedom for lovely Ibtihaj of N'Djamen!" "Ham?"

Jamie hide in shrub. Wait long. Mammoth come. I stick him in belly with spear. You help!

Jamie ,angered, lifted the cement truck which trapped the box of frightened husky puppies, holding it in one hand. Was this destiny? Was he, in fact, CAPTAIN DESTINY?

Jamie be clearing fer action and running out the guns, to bring the Spaniards the taste o' good English iron!

Jamie waited as massive Persian army lead Xerxes the Great by, and as the King passed, he deftly affixed a small piece of paper to his back which read, "Kick Me."

Jamie spat at Soapy Sam- "You're a consarned, four-flushing claim-jumper, Sam! I'm a-gitting my double-ought, and for lunch you can 'spect a belly full of lead!"

Jamie fired the rockets, sending the X-1 shaking in the blue, the mach reading at .96, .97, .98, the gauge cracking, the shudder in his bones, only the stars beyond.

Jamie bethought himself the hardy Hygelac-thane of his boast at evening: up he bounded, grasped firm his foe Grendel, whose fingers cracked.

Jamie , holding the sceptre of the mighty Space League power, turned to his Electron Ship crew and gave the order: "Starship Commander, Stop the Flow of Time!"

Jamie brushed the ice from his beard, cresting the ridge. He and the Sherpas looked down the misty valley, somewhat amazed at Shangrila's lesser twin, Prettygoodgrila.

Jamie wheeled the Maserati, engine screaming, tires smoking. Gunfire from the Mercedes went wild, exploding the chlorine factory. Now to Zurich, the "package" intact.

Jamie drained the mead from the cup of Rothlegaar, son of Rotraag. "Ha! Attend to the spoils, Friends!! By Frida's toes, we shall have gold enough for ballast!"

Jamie steamed away as 70 below winds whipped stinging ice crystals into the counter at 27,000 ft. Odd how a Starbucks on Everest once seemed like brilliance.

Jamie steamed away as 70 below winds whipped stinging ice crystals into the counter at 27,000 ft. Odd how a Starbucks on Everest once seemed like brilliance.

Jamie reckoned Dr. Klopkins weren't up to no good, hangin' round with them Nazis sniffin' round the uranium mine.

Jamie motioned to shut off the microsurgical laser."But doctor, the risks.""Damn the Risks! The world's greatest ukelele player will not be silenced on my table!"

Jamie rolled the rock, regretting that not only had he stolen the secret of fire, he forgot to bring a stick with which to prop up the rock.

Jamie triumphantly held the tiny black hole with the atomic tweezers. The CERN physicists applauded. "Now..uh..where can I put this?"

Jamie shot back directly at the tiny but intimidating Picasso. "Dora has left you, and we are happy." "Mais pourqoui?" "She has sensed your new irrelevance."

Jamie tensed as the Diplomat wavered then inked the accord: Peace in the Middle East. "Well, thank goodnesss we solved that one," Jamie said, to uproarious laughter.

Jamie fought the stick as the 747 plunged toward the icy Pacific, its cargo of endangered Koalas screaming. Then, as no.4 engine died, he snipped the bomb's red wire.

Jamie blanched as the grizzly swatted at his only defense, a roll of tinfoil. Then he bit it, wincing in agony. Jamie's gamble that the bear had dental work paid off.

Jamie swam through fire and rising seawater, struggling to close the valve. The sub rose drunkenly like a wino ordered to move along."Not today, Death..not today."

Jamie knew something of the polar region. "I would be honored Sir Shackleton, if you would take my Primus Stove. I have a sense that it may prove efficacious to you."

Jamie raised his Gladius in one hand, the head of Germanicus Caesar in the other. The rosy fingers of dawn alit the roaring legions.Mars had smiled on his vengence.

Jamie , his pistols emptied, parried the Duke of Glouster's traitorous attack with the cutlass, leaping for the Galleon as her sails filled in the squall.

Jamie squared against the raging rhinocerous and the omnipresent absurdity was suspended in the naked mortality, the thunderous charge, the raising of red dust.

Jamie considered the fat Cossack General, and spat on his boots. "You will beg for death," said Dimtri. "Only if I have to keep smelling that cologne," he retorted.

Jamie walked to the waiting helicopter. "But what will we do without you?," pleaded the President. "The Library:Jefferson, Franklin, Roosevelt. You don't need me."

Jamie nodded with grim satisfaction as the rogue missle submarine slid into the Baltic Sea: Katyana, her Gucci purse full of C-4, had worked her magic.

Jamie ignored her attempt to defuse the tension. He gazed at her with searching eyes, cooly finishing his single malt. Entranced, she lowered the sniper rifle.

Jamie Grabbed the atomic detonator from Tatiana, shuddering with her betrayal as they struggled with the parachute harness. Who would die first? Them, or Helsinki?

December 08, 2008

Your Border Patrol News for This Week

New Predator drone Readied for Northern Border (They had a lovely test flight from Arizona to North Dakota. What scenery!

Border Patrol to board Peninsula's bus line to Seattle (Random checks for eco-friendly terrorists)

Border Patrol swells to more than 18,000 (My we are busy these days with that "terror" and all)

If you are within 100 miles of any border or coastal zone, like say, San Francisco, LA, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Anchorage....Welcome to the occupation!

December 06, 2008

Back to business

With all the foolishness about the election over, it's time Eisengeiste gets down to serious business: the antics of Adorable Kittens.

Cat Photography

Contemporary photography, taken by an orange cat. His name is Cooper.

I like his work.

December 05, 2008

What, *ANOTHER* fucking bailout?

Joe Biden's mailbot has the nerve to send me this:

Our campaign pledged to help Senator Hillary Clinton -- one of the vital members of our team and our future Secretary of State -- retire her campaign debt. That's the money her campaign owes to the vendors across the country that make our political process possible.


Ummm... no... no fucking way. I'm going to bail out Clinton who's worth $100M and whose campaign debt is the direct result of her totally mismanaged campaign? You have got to be fucking kidding me.

No more bailouts. No way. Your campaign may have pledged something, Joe, but I did not. I didn't even want that egoist as Secretary of State. That's another topic...

December 04, 2008

A Minor Adjustment

Doctor Detective Mack LeBrain. Comments? Objections? Fist Fights?

December 03, 2008

The Art That Kills

I thought of the Sea Lord again when I heard this public radio piece, thinking of our old discussions about having a court decide “what is art.” But in this case, it’s not a laughing matter. A Hutu who helped incite the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda with music has been convicted at the International Tribunal, but not for his music. The court found that there is no way to prove that music has an impact on politics. (The singer was convicted for speeches he made from a sound truck rather than for his recordings.)

Free speech advocates hailed the ruling, but artists of all kinds must have mixed feelings. We WANT our work to have impact. If artistic expression is free only because it doesn’t influence the world, then that freedom isn’t worth much. Freedom, in this context and many others, gains meaning only in the context of responsibility--that is, being free to express yourself matters because what you say counts, for good or bad.

It’s always been clear to me that responsibility requires freedom (since one can only be accountable only for one’s own free acts), but now it’s also evident that the linkage goes the other way as well.

- Forwarded from The President in Exile.

Commentary on Tesla

Always on the look-out for material that will help you in your career, I ran across the below-linked music blog, in which a garage band with pretentions explains their music. I know artists also need to be able to rattle off indecipherable explanations of their work...

-The President in Exile

What inspired "Anyway"'s "anyway I can" theme?
Y'know "space" was once the end all for the conqueroo ... Now that scene is a mere blip on the sonar of Spit James. We hinted at it sometime back with our "Meditations On Payday," that rub was as much Mississippi John Hurt as it was Rip Torn. Now we gotta go beyond nomenclature into some sorta '"any" "way" -- the "many are one" philosophy, you'd be as grateful as we if your "many" were a true singular "one," or one within a pair. It all gets in there anyway.

And, what was the spaceman's master plan?
The spaceman could be Bill Lee. In his "space" the main aim to the end of the game is not allow anyone "on" base. That's the key, like salts to alchemists and the Masonic depth to baseball, turning "on" has always been where it is at. Tesla, the energy monopolies ... dig the idea of standing tall, as in the indian chief, or the inverse of laying low. You "can't stand" can be many rooms, mebbe the Velvets said it best ..."I Can't Stand It Anymore." Dig their castle, we are just a mere moat in this thing, swimming as best we can. This song is about a river and a life raft.