Oscar for Best Supporting:



Do you recall how good The Dark Knight was...with Heath Ledger's Joker?  That level of rare disturbingly-wondrous performance is, this year, Mo'Nique in Precious.  The film has a well written script, fine acting, and good pacing—however—Mo'Nique's performance, as the noxiously vile woman who gave birth to Precious, is beyond amazing and turns an otherwise good film into a fantastic one.

Sanitized violence in movies has been accepted for years. What seems to upset everybody now is the showing of the consequences of violence. — Stanley Kubrick

Naiveté Scene


You're an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot. — Stanley Kubrick

The Decade's Best SF Films



Covering the sub-genres Apocalyptic, Military, Social, Time Travel, and Space Western—through those of Hard and Soft SF, as well as Cyberpunk and Steampunk—these are my ten-best SF films of the 2000's.  For clarity-of-list purposes:  Fantasy, Superhero, Animation, and Horror were considered stand-alone genres.

I keep seeing lousy films and saying to myself, 'I don't know anything about movie-making, but I couldn't do any worse than this'. — Stanley Kubrick

My E.M. Crumpler Interview

Elizabeth M. Crumpler—a 25-year-old, Sarah Palin-lovin-republican, who recently lost two-stone and got married; and is a conservative-christian resident of Oklahoma, who owns a Scoodle—is my interviewee.  Neil from Citizen of the Month wrote this about his Great Interview Experiment: "...In my mind, I visualize a permanent interview site where ... a liberal would interview a conservative, and a religious fundamentalist would interview a feminist lesbian.   It wouldn’t matter if you liked or agreed with other person.  We would still be neighbors, in a Mister Rogers sense."  I think he was envisioning this:

Me:  When Oklahoma City is mentioned, most (of the citizens of the world) recall the Oklahoma City Bombing in April of 1995. You were 10½ years old at the time. Please describe your memories surrounding the incident, and how growing up with an act of hatred of this magnitude, on your doorstep, caused you to be the adult you are today.

EMC:  Some people say that they could hear the sound 50 miles away. I don't remember that clearly, but it's possible.

I was in Mrs. Keller's 4th grade class and sometime in the middle of the morning I do remember the tone changing. The administration had made the decision not to reveal what had happened to the elementary school children and to let our parents handle it when we got home.

My parents picked me and my 2 younger brothers up from school that day. Both of them, in Dad's work vehicle. I knew there was something wrong. On the way home, they explained that something very bad had happened in Oklahoma City and that a lot of people had died. At the time, our local evening news had a "family-friendly" broadcast at 5pm. It was the one we watched generally. Whenever the theme music played that evening and the anchors began speaking, the first thing they said was, "Tonight's broadcast will not be our regular family-friendly show. Please be advised that there will be a number of graphic images shown tonight." That stuck with me. They never had another "family-friendly" newscast.

I cannot say how it changed the adult I would become. Probably the same as those who were children or not yet born on 9/11. It just is. As a child at that time, my world was still faerie tales, tree-houses, and the books I had my nose stuck in. Living in the country, OKC was a different world. I think if I had lived in The City (as we call it here), The Bombing might have left lingering scars on me. The truth is that I'd experienced tragedy much closer to home just 2 years before, when a family member was murdered. I carry those scars. That changed me. Turned a mama's girl into a whimpering, crying mess because I was scared that if I left my home I would return to find her dead...like my family member that had been killed. I think I owe it to my parents that I made it past The Bombing without further damage. They were proactive in explaining things and taking us to the site before the implosion. Letting us see that it was real. Sometimes the things that you can see and touch are so much less frightening than the image you may create in your mind.

Me:  The decade’s end is fast approaching. I’d like your list of the ten best films made in the last ten years.

EMC:  This is very difficult for me. I don't watch a lot of new things. In no particular order:
Me:  You bought a new novel by an author you have never read before. You are on page 50 and firmly decide you absolutely do not enjoy the way this author writes. What do you do? If you decide to finish the remaining 250 pages, why? If you decide to stop reading, why? If there are variables (you may finish one author, but stop reading another) please explain the differences.

EMC:  If I feel I've been misled, then, yes, I'll toss the book. I think I may have done this once in the past. I have a very awful problem though. No matter how hard I try I can not seem to give up a book. If I am 50 pages in, I'm going to stick it out until the end.

Me:  I think 21 DEC 2012, will be a day no different than today (well, maybe colder). But what do you tell a fanatic who seems to continually bemoan the “pending apocalypse” and steers your every routine conversation in the direction of what the end of the world means to them and how it should be taken more seriously by you (assume this person is related to you close enough that stopping all communications is not an option)?

EMC:  Funny, I dealt with a situation not unlike this for about a year. I had a deskmate and she was a blathering idiot. Her obsessions varied from week to week, but I have no doubt that if we were still working together this would be making its way into conversation.

In a situation like this I ask for facts. What do you have to back up what you're telling me? I ask questions to try and understand where they are coming from and why they believe this. If there is no concrete basis for your worry, tell me why you believe it is real? Is there any way that this event can be stopped? Do you believe we should even try.

It may be boring, but I would probably let it go. Having dealt with the ramblings of the insane for lengthy periods, I've become adept at sitting back, taking a deep breath, and going to my happy place.

Me:  I’m an artist. Please look at some of my renderings, select one and explain any-and-all emotions, thoughts, or feelings it engenders—no matter good, bad, or ugly—I’m very interested in your opinion.

EMC:  Finate — Acceptance, newness, life, calm, embrace, welcoming, peace, nostalgia, need.

Me:  You and I share something in common: we are both the oldest of three. Tell me about how that biological-timing-fact made you into someone different than if you had been the middle sibling, or the youngest of the three.

EMC:  In both of my siblings I see how my parents had to approach them differently than they did me. I was incredibly independent. My spirit was quiet and even, I was imaginative and my speech was bubbly. I feel very lucky to have been born first and even more so that I was the only female. I will be the first to say that it earned me some preferential treatment in certain cases.

The bad thing was: I was the oldest and the only girl. I know, I just said I thought I was lucky. But there is something that comes with being the oldest. You are the first. They don't want to mess up. I felt like a guinea pig. Their default answer to anything I wanted to do was, "NO." Better safe than sorry, right? Being the only girl made it worse. I lived in a house full of men, outside of my mom, and there was this intense need to protect me. In some ways I appreciate it, but there are a lot of things I would have liked to do.

Being the oldest prepared me for life alone. My autonomy helped me make it through college at times when I thought I would just give it up. I always knew what I wanted, had established goals, and worked to achieve them on my own. However, it also instilled in me a need to be "the best" and constantly try to please others. Whenever someone seems just the least bit upset or unpleased with me, I freak out and try to fix it.

I think Nabokov may have had the right approach to interviews. He would only agree to write down the answers and then send them on to the interviewer who would then write the questions. — Stanley Kubrick

Life-Mission: Possible

          My parent's living room on Tanglewood Drive had two regular-size bedroom windows instead of a picture window.  When Mom closed the big curtain over the wall, I could pretend it covered a picture window (like every living room was supposed to have).  In the corner was a gray plastic Zenith black-and-white television with a gray plastic briefcase-handle on top.  It sat on a little, flimsy, aluminum, TV-cart.  The antenna, mounted on a forty-foot metal mast in our back yard, looked like an old-timey outdoor clothes line.

          When my sister and I played safe-cracker, I'd turn the volume knob down to where if turned any more it would shut off; then I'd set the top dial to "U" (between the 13 and the 2) and ratchet the bottom dial, cranking it around and through its hundreds of channels with my ear pressed to the “safe.” Whenever my peripheral-view caught some hint of reception breaking into the static, I'd whisper the next digit of the “combination” for her to write down.

          One day, Mom interrupted before I could get to the jewels.  She shouted from the kitchen, “What are you two doing?  Stop that, you’ll break it!  Go to your room until you can learn to take care of other people’s property as if it was your own.  Some day, after you decide what you are going to be when you grow up, you’ll have to buy a television with your own money and THEN you’ll appreciate it!”

          Sitting on my twin bed, watching my hamster—Spooky II—running on his little wire-metal wheel in his little wire-metal cage, I contemplated my punishment as she demanded: In the couple-hundred times I’d been in a room with a TV and a grown-up, channel U was never used and the bottom dial was never turned.  If I broke the dial pretending to be IMF Agent Jim Phelps from Mission: Impossible would anyone ever know?

          Sitting on my single bed, watching my hamster—Spooky V—jogging in his little plastic wheel-room attached to his extensive yellow plastic warren of tubes and compartments, I contemplated my young-adult life to date.  Three years and three drastically different college majors, from Pre-Veterinary Medicine (too stupid in science) to Landscape Architecture (stupid waste of tuition) to Architecture (too stupid in math).  I needed to re-aim my sights for a fourth time...what was I not too stupid for and was not a waste of my money?  What did I enjoy (besides watching Captain William “Buck” Rodgers of the 25th Century and his robot Twiki)?

          Sitting on my mattress, watching my first cat, Popcorn, trail around behind my new hamster, Spooky VI, as he rolled around on the floor of my studio apartment in his plastic ball, I contemplated my so-called preparation for life.  Two years of Fine Art school, on top of the three years that I was “measuring my stupid” and I was no more ready to earn a living than when I was watching Spooky in his wire cage!  The artistic kids on Fame were happy and scrappy in their leg-warmers and spiky hair. They didn’t need money, why did I?

          Sitting on my queen-bed, watching my first son, Bram, play with Popcorn on an area rug, I contemplated the life I found myself inhabiting.  A Private in the Army earned just enough to afford a microwave oven.  Mine had a dial which you turned to the number of minutes.  It “dinged” when it was done (just like the counter-bell at the dry cleaners where I had my uniforms extra starched).  Am I Wembley, on Fraggle Rock?  Shouldn’t I be more like Drillbit Dozer?

          Sitting on my bunk, watching a Betamax video of my two sons, Ian and Bram, play with my ex-wife/their mother in an unfamiliar backyard, I contemplated the selfish existence I was dragging around behind me like a rotting-shadow.  An Army Spec-Four earned enough to replace the microwave oven he lost in the divorce.  Now, mine had two dials: one for time, one for power.  But as far as I knew, if I broke the power dial (which never got turned from its 100% setting) while pretending to be the still safe-cracking but older Agent Jim Phelps on The New Mission: Impossible my roommate would never know.

          Sitting on my futon, looking out the open window at my cats, Budroe P. Wilson and Louie, playing on my next-door neighbor’s tile roof, I contemplated the resilient person I’d chosen to become: A Sergeant earned enough to replace the microwave oven that had been damaged in the move to Korea.  My new one had buttons and a LED information display window.  Occasionally, if my Korean wife used it (she thought they were dangerous) she’d exit the kitchen until it beeped.  It was rare.  That she left the kitchen, that is.  Johnny Carson—a familiar-constant in all my previous decades—is retiring.  His last show is tonight!  But that doesn’t mean much to you, does it?

          Sitting on my thrift-store-mattress, watching my new kittens—the brothers Spencer and Lloyd—grooming in the patch of sun at the foot of the bed, I contemplated 'resiliency' being just another word for wishy-washy.  A Staff Sergeant earned enough to buy a new microwave after giving the last one to his last-ex (who'd learned all about convenience).  My new ones had turntables and Probes—the microwave’s was a revolving tray and a heat-sensor; the wife’s was a Zenith record player and a Ford.  Hey, Mission: Impossible with Tom Cruise is on HBO tonight.  Wanna watch it together?

          Sitting on my sleigh-bed, watching my dog, Cody, and new cats—Lloyd, Missy, and Moe—all trying to draw some warmth from the electric blanket, I contemplated the dichotomy of my perceptions with my past performances.  A Warrant Officer earned enough to buy a new microwave if the old one was gifted to his step-daughter when she moved out.  My new space-efficient microwave attached under the counter.  Wait a minute...you don’t want to see Mission: Impossible II in the theater, because it means two hours without a cigarette?  When did this happen?

          Sitting on my air mattress, watching my Siamese cat, Gus, stalking a fly through my 5th wheel trailer, I contemplated the end of my career and third marriage, as well as the beginning of an old-new me.  A retired Chief Warrant Officer still could afford a new microwave to replace the broken one.  My new one was a combination convection-microwave with racks and scrolling data.  The built-in remote-controlled Zenith over my bed (the size of my first Spooky's metal cage) was playing an old Mission: Impossible on Cinemax 3 or Showtime Extreme.  I didn’t care.  Why didn’t I care?  Should I pretend to care?

          Sitting on my king-mattress, watching older and maybe not wiser Gus stalking our new cat, Aggie, I contemplated happiness.  This artist still received enough pension to buy another microwave when the one that came with our new apartment needed to be trashed because it smelled like ten years of grease and curry.  The new one was just as good as the one in my 5th wheel. Sure I’ll go see Mission: Impossible III with you tonight...even though we’re both positive it will suck balls, we don’t care.  We.  Don’t.  Care!

          Sitting on my Temperpedic, watching my new kitten, Cecil O. Zonky, and Aggie frolicking with each other up, over, under, and around the bed, I contemplated aging.  My girlfriend and I each have enough to be comfortable (love, money, time, common sense, history, patience).  The house we moved into didn’t have a microwave; so I got a cheap one (for less than a night at the movie theater) and installed it myself.  Hey, I hear they're going to make a Mission: Impossible IV in a few years.  You’ll go with me? Great, it’s a date.  Even though J.J. Abrams is doing it...do you think it’ll still suck balls?  Yea, me too.

          Did the day come?  Was it the day I was able to afford my first one...maybe it was the day that I appreciated the expense of replacing that-which shouldn't have needed replacement so many times...maybe it will be the day I decide what I'm going to be when I grow up.  May.  Be.  Never.
   
I've got a peculiar weakness for criminals and artists—neither takes life as it is.  Any tragic story has to be in conflict with things as they are. — Stanley Kubrick

Juana Molina



A film is—or should be—more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what's behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. — Stanley Kubrick

The Denouement of Tomes I've Borrowed or Own

As I walked through the open doorway of Theodore-call-me-Ted’s office, he cut his eyes at me (sufficient for intuitive Laban-shape-movement identification) and continued his screen-reading.  That was permission to sit; if he didn't have time, he'd have immediately shot me a question.

Of his three client chairs, I decided on the Haratech because I’d just finished a difficult night-shift and it was the most comfortable.  Pistons wheezed when I sat.  Additional hydraulics gasped as I leaned. Theodore-call-me-Ted could get his hackles and ire all fumed together in a ball up his ass if people popped-in-to-shit-with-the-bull and adjusted his Haratech's ergonomics.  So the other reason I sat there was (as feeble a power-play as it was, it was all I had) if he left me sitting for more than the 17-average-seconds it takes to finish a paragraph, he’d have to come around that desk and re-default-position the chair’s settings after I left.

After 25 seconds I stretched and rolled my shoulders and scapula.  A dampener in back of my spine shushed. I shifted an elbow off the armrest and allowed my arm to hang along the outside of the chair.  I wiggled my fingers near the adjustment levers like a gunslinger over his holstered Colt .45 while Ennio Morricone's guitar from the end of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly strummed in my head. 

Theodore-call-me-Ted slid his chair to center-desk, took his hands away from the keyboard, and then (begrudgingly-slowly) drug his focus from the screen and looked at me. His mouth hung partly open.  The glare from his monitor washed-out the right side of his face giving him a half-zombie look.

I wanted to say, there's two kinds of men in this world: those with loaded guns and those who dig, but I doubted Theodore-call-me-Ted would recognize the last line from the film.  Instead, I asked myself the same rhetorical question as always—how much professionalism could I expect from this mouth-breathing poster child for the Peter Principle, especially at an end of shift morning briefing?

He closed his mouth and tightened his lips. Anyone who didn’t know him would think this exaggerated-bottom-lip “frown” of his, indicated he was a scowl and two tears away from bawling. But I knew him. This was his way of smiling.

I said, “The denouement of tomes I've borrowed or own.”

After pausing to absorb the phrase for a full-second, he said, “That’s a fantastic one. Maybe the best yet. I love the vowelly way it lumbers over the tongue. Wait a minute...someone used the word denouement?”

“Yep.”

“Ancient French dude in Piccadilly-tweed with elbow patches?”

“No. Youngish. Californian. But he pronounced it wrong.” I shrugged and brought my right ankle up to rest on top of my left knee.

Theodore-call-me-Ted and I had played this game for several years—ever since we learned of a shared Drew Barrymore affinity. Her best line in Donnie Darko was: This famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language, of all the endless combinations of words in all of history, that Cellar Door is the most beautiful.

So...whenever a beautiful word combination lands in the bottom of one of our boats, we share it with the other.

“How’d he pronounce it?”

“Dee.Noun.Mint.”

“You correct him?”

“Nah, he was a month-past-pain-tolerance Green. Destitute to boot. Medical records checked out.”

“He pronounce it tome, or do Californian dickweeds say it like tomb?”

I smiled enough for him to see my eyes wrinkle and pushed a little breath thru my nose with my diaphragm. This was Theodore-call-me-Ted trying out his morning funny. I crossed my arms and jiggled my right foot (I hoped my let’s-move-this-along message was clear).

He looked back at his screen and said, “Twenty-two from your shift.” Then returned his focus on me and asked, “Any of the Greens I need to look at with any weight?”

“They’re all routine. One could become a Yellow, but I already tagged it for legal to check-out first thing.” I said with a slow head shake.

“What's the source of beyond-tolerance-guy’s pain?”

“Well...that’s obviously open to interpretation. Could be the weight of the information in all the tomes he read. Maybe he was referring to the culmination of lifting an entire library one book at a time. But I suspect his statement was simply a neologism.”

“You asked him to explain the cause of his pain and his response was: ‘the denouement of all the’. . .”

“Not all, just . . . ‘tomes he'd borrowed or owned’. Yea.”

Theodore-call-me-Ted rolled his eyes, lifted his hands off his desk and said in a hushed pseudo-shout, “Insolvent Greens are people."

I pretended ignorance and jiggled my foot a little faster.

He continued, "Synopsize the Blue ones.”

“Only two. First one came in just after midnight. Woman, 68, local, NRS. (An acronym for Negative Relatives or Survivors, even though everyone knew No Responsible Siblings was more appropriate.)

I personally oversaw the exam: no deception indicated. The sticker price went on her card. I figure two-three days. She estimated high seventies, but I think it will go closer to a hundred—she’s got a reverse-mortgage on a 1939 bungalow in the Oakbrook District that’ll kick it up at least thirty, I think.

Second one was about a hour ago: guy from Idaho, 29, stage four. Records go back two years. I registered him in. Rough estimate is two-fifty. He has no will yet. The other half of his estate’ll go to a girlfriend.”

“How much went on his card?” He asked.

“Standard Med-Room Rate for the seventh floor.”

“Oakbrook bungalow’s SR?”

I knew he hated these. The law requires we formally document every Stated Reason—SR—but we are only permitted to discriminate against applicants for legitimate medical or legal reasons. . . .

“Hell. She’s a Skanker isn’t she?” He exclaimed.

I nodded. Shrugged. Emulated his pout. Raised my eyebrows. Looked out his windows at the tops and sides of the waiving trees, their leaves being nudged by wind until they showed their lighter undersides.

Years ago, Doctor Emily Maalsquanq designed a simple quiz—available to anyone with access to the web of internets. It supposedly measured a person’s level of dementia, senility, or Alzheimer’s affectation. If a person’s Maalsquanq score declined, repeated testing allegedly determined the optimum moment to come to us. Since the law prevented us from accepting applications from anyone mentally incapable of completely understanding their actions, we received a handful of people a week who—when asked why they were electing to terminate their life—answered with: because my score is still high enough.

“Fuckass. Suck-a-Fuck.” He said as he tucked behind his screen and began aggressive key-pounding.

I nodded some more, then I racheted a lever and the lumbar area of the chair got noticeably more comfortable, so I twisted a knob and the seat cushion moved my butt cheeks slightly wider apart.

“Go home Pommeroy.” Theodore-call-me-Ted said from behind his screen.

As I stood, turned and exited his office, I said, “See ya tomorrow, Theo.”

He said, to my back, “Call me Ted.”

I don't think that writers ... function because they have something they particularly want to say. They have something that they feel. And they like the art form; they like words... — Stanley Kubrick

Counting Countries

The amount of time I've spent in each country increases-decreases on a diagonal axis from top left to bottom right (mouse-over for country names, mouse-click for Wiki page).


Update 2010:  Belize would now be appended in the mid-low-right quadrant (one week).



There's something in the human personality which resents things that are clear, and conversely, something which is attracted to puzzles, enigmas, and allegories. — Stanley Kubrick

Fresh Old Adage

For the last few months I dissected the act of viewing film trailers as a viable means of determining a film's worth (at first-run ticket prices). I even wrote a post or two decrying film trailers. I've now decided to trot out an old adage, because it has—once again—proven to be the most effective way to determine if an upcoming film will be good, bad, or ugly.

Base your decision—whether or not to pay first-run theater ticket prices for a film—solely on the director's past performance.

If you thought all of a director's previous films were good, you will consider his next one worth the price of admission (now extrapolate those you disliked and hated to fill in the bad and ugly spots). If a single person writes, directs, produces, and edits, this is an outcome magnifier. Conversely, a creative committee is an outcome dilutor, (if the director works with producers, screenwriters, and editors he has less to say about the final product).

As an apocryphal-test of this adage:

I really liked Richard Kelly's previous films Southland Tales and Donnie Darko, both of which he wrote and directed. So I wasn't taking much of a chance on his latest: The Box (which he wrote, directed and produced). Even though the preview made me not want to see it and the film was loosely based on a poorly-written story by a bad author, I liked the film.

The adage was easily reaffirmed when a director's previous films were ones I had a strong opinion about, but what about a director with a less-than-stellar résumé?

I thought F. Gary Gray's 1998 movie The Negotiator was mediocre; his 2003 caper movie The Italian Job was nicely above average; but his 2005 un-funny comedy Be Cool (which he also produced) was dismal. I saw his latest: Law Abiding Citizen. It's a mystery-thriller, which was not as bad as The Negotiator but not as good as The Italian Job. I only paid matinee prices, and wasn't too disappointed.

So...the adage still holds up—average directorial-performance in the past, results in average future performance. What about a film made by a non-director or by someone who's never directed before?

Grant Heslov has been a bit-actor on TV for over 25 years; he helped produce the interesting bio-pic based on a true story Good Night and Good Luck; as well as the un-interesting and sour historical-comedy Leatherheads (both of these producer-credits were with his friend, George Clooney, in the director's chair). His first film as a big-screen director The Men Who Stare at Goats was very disappointing. A muddled, poorly scripted/created/imagined, mix of great actors doing what-all and what-ever. Grant Heslov is not a good director; I imagine every decision on his set being made only after he consults with all his actor buddies and the producers and the screenwriters.

So, if this adage is to become my Ouija Board—deciding what films I see—what upcoming films does adhering to this adage predict I'll enjoy?

Roland Emmerich's new film 2012? He his a writer/producer/director kind of guy. Although I don't like most his films (Universal Soldier, Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Godzilla), two of his (Stargate and 10,000 BC) were not terrible-to-average. But, based on these statistics, I will not see 2012.

John Hillcoat's new film The Road? I've only seen his film: The Proposal, which I liked. So, I'll probably take a chance on The Road.

Wes Anderson's new film Fantastic Mr Fox? Another man-of-many-hats. I really liked, (loved) four of his five films, so I'm confident I'll enjoy Fantastic Mr Fox.

James Cameron's new film Avatar? And yet another WrDiPrEd kind-of-craftsman! I greatly enjoyed about 50% of his films. The ones I disliked were the sequels and historical dramas. Since I like his sf/fantasy, I'll try watching Avatar.

Peter Jackson's next film The Lovely Bones? I didn't like the first film I saw of his (Heavenly Creatures) but his next four were good-to-great and he produced this summer's District 9 which I enjoyed immensely. He is on a roll, so I'll see The Lovely Bones when it comes out in a few months.

Brick Eisner's remake of The Crazies? He directed 2005's Sahara (a convoluted mess of sf-thriller-comedy-action). He's also been hired to direct a re-make of The Creature From The Black Lagoon, as well as a re-make of Flash Gordon over the next few years. He seems to be someone you hire to direct re-makes of failed films, which means (to me) that he has no creative talent of his own. I won't see any of his coming films, including The Crazies.

Joe Johnson's 2010 release of The Wolfman? These two films of his: Jumanji and October Sky, were OK. I thought his three films Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Rocketeer, and Hidalgo were blah-middle of the road-blah boring. I hated his Jurassic Park III. Based on these statistics I don't think I'll see The Wolfman.

You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps. Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it. But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it's really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas. — Stanley Kubrick (film director, 1928-1999)

(November will, now, be split between Oprah and Stanley quotes, because it's ramping up to be a post-heavy month.)

Armistice Day

Although I never wore a blood chit on my uniform, I confess to having an eerie interest in the silk documents containing declarative statements—written in several languages—always with one in stilted-English:
I am a citizen of the United States of America. I do not speak your language. Misfortune forces me to seek your assistance in obtaining food, shelter, and protection from the communists. Please take me to someone who will provide for my safety and see that I am returned to my people. I will do my best to see that no harm comes to you. My government will reward you.
I ponder finding oneself in such a confluence of fortuitous-unluckyness that a document sewn inside a jacket determined if one lived or died. I wonder about the soldiers who resorted to requesting those documents be read; as well as about the foreigners who did the reading, and the possible outcomes of those reading transactions (payments, retributions for "conspiring with the enemy," Ann-Frank-esque hidings, etc.).

Building a collage of the unit crests, patches, awards, and other insignia I wore* was my way to rock down to Electric Avenue Remembrance MSR.


*Two of the ribbons were created after my retirement, but are authorized to be awarded retroactively to soldiers who qualify, which I do. (mouse-over to identify, click for Wiki pages)

I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you. — Oprah Winfrey

The Mighty Boosh


I find absolutely everything about this television show hilarious genius. Comedic wunderkinds of the first order, they are - sir - and anyone disagreeing with me will be summarily banished to the rhinoceros pen while I turn my back on you for once an for all.

Don't already know about the best free giggle available to today's-everyman (without having to pay someone to have a go at ya funny bone with a cricket-mallet)? Well, sir, you can catch up on some of the episodes if you know how to use a search engine they are smatter-scattered all about from Adult Swim to You Tube. Cheers.

Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it. — Oprah Winfrey

four concentric circles

(To view the circles clearly, just look at your screen from an edge, or an extreme oblique angle)

Devote today to something so daring even you can't believe you're doing it. — Oprah Winfrey

My 2¢ about Ft Hood

I'm rarely aware of current events until they're brought to my attention in a hey did you hear about... kind-of-way. I have, however, been following the Nidal Hasan spree-killing at Fort Hood Texas.

Although I know none of the soldiers or civilians involved in this incident, I still have some good friends on active duty. And, crimes of this nature still push my long-unused investigator buttons (I wonder if it will ever completely go away). Though I was in the Army for 20 years, and retired as a senior CID Agent, I realize my insights aren't very much. But, hey, what's a blog for, if not someplace to scrawl my current thoughts?

Fact: A 6 November news article reported that the day prior to the incident, the shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, gave his furniture to a neighbor and paid her to clean his apartment.

Observation: This is a textbook example of things a person who has decided to commit suicide does.

Fact: Major Nidal Hasan's performance as a psychiatrist has been questioned by members of the press. The military has responded vaguely about his performance.

Observation: Above the rank of Captain, the number of quality active-duty Army doctors quickly diminishes to zero. You see, most doctors join for the training and leave once they finish their service commitments (which happens to coincide with how long it normally takes to be promoted to Captain). For obvious financial reasons, good doctors leave the military as soon as permitted. An average psychiatrist (in most medium-large US cities) can easily earn $250,000 a year.

Major Hasan has already served twelve years (he joined in 1997). He must have completed his initial service commitment (normally 4 years after completing all training) years ago. Even with all of the specialty medical incentive pays, Major Hasan's military pay could not be much above $100,000 a year. The vast majority of doctors (and lawyers, and dentists, and pilots, and air traffic controllers...you get the picture) who remain in the Army after completing their commitments, do so because they are fully aware that earning a living in "the real world" requires more than they are capable of. Major Hasan was most certainly one of these highly-trained-incompetents.

Fact: The senior military officer's who supervised Major Hasan have not said much of anything, positive or negative, about his job performance.

Observation: What can they—the more-senior, more-highly-trained, incompetent doctors who have stayed in the Army long enough to attain the rank of Colonel because they could never earn a living as a medical supervisor in "the real world"—say? He was a terrible therapist? We knew he was a fucktard-zealot? We were deploying him to the sand box wishing and hoping that he'd step on a land mine?

I know that you cannot hate other people without hating yourself. — Oprah Winfrey

Autumn Zonk Hikes

This year's hiking season is officially over for Zonkey and I. We completed some great hikes this year—a total of thirteen. Zonk hiked 28 miles and rode in-pack or on-shoulder an additional seven. A six-mile out-n-back (with a 1,200' change in elevation), was the longest; but the most difficult ones taught me that he doesn't prefer to walk out in the open, on soft sunny beaches, nor in the forest on very soggy paths.

The primary reason our hiking is over until next Spring isn't foul weather, but because of hunting season (both furry and fowl). Although I'm apprehensive of either of us being shot accidentally-on-purpose, more importantly, any walk in the woods with a constant staccato of gunfire echoing around you is a foul hike.

I spend a lot of time by myself, and I consciously do that to strengthen myself and to stay centered. — Oprah Winfrey

This is where I was at ten years ago — You (.1)?


Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you. — Oprah Winfrey

And the winner is...


So go ahead. Fall down. The world looks different from the ground. — Oprah Winfrey

Open letter to Crazy (or do you spell it with an i?)


Dearest Crazy,

You say you've read one of my posts or this, that or even a mass market other thing or two, and now you actually believe the world is going to end on the 21st of December 2012?

No, you sweet-idiot, the world is not going to end on our watch.

And, to be perfectly honest, I don't know. But I do have reasonable and logical reasons to think so. If I distill these reasons into a List of Facts will it be easier for you?

1. The 21st of December is the Winter Solstice (day with the least amount of daylight) in the Northern Hemisphere.

2. In the Southern Hemisphere the 21st of December is the Summer Solstice (day with the most amount of daylight).

3. The Ancient Maya lived in Mesoamerica, which was in the Northern Hemisphere.

4. These Mayans kept track of time with a large quantity of different calendars.

5. One of their long calendars kept track of time for a little more than five thousand years.

6. Many people have "matched up" this long calendar with our current (Gregorian) calendar. There are almost as many different "match up" solutions as there are people who have tried to match them up.

7. There is a small consensus of people who think the "correct match" is the one that lines up the last day of the Maya long calendar (when it clicks over to all zeros) with the last day of the solar year.

8. Which is the first day of the solar year in 1/2 the world.

My point is that even if the calendars have been matched correctly (volumes of books have been written to refute or proclaim the calculations) it is only a calendar coming to an end.

On the 22d of December 2012, the new Mayan calendar begins and, for the entire modern world, the first of January 2013 will be just another new year.

But I waste my time, don't I crazi? You don't want logic; you want to witness the end. Your strangelovian-dream has always been to be Slim Pickens hasn't it?

Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. — Oprah Winfrey

Disturbing Eavesdropping


Conversation between two female bookstore clerks:

That's disturbing. Just disturbing.

I knooow. Can you imagine?

You should call and complain.

What?

I think you should call them and say something.

I think I will.

(20 seconds of silence)

There's no answer. I bet they're away from the desk. I'll call them later. Teach them to say disturbing shit about us.

What's the most disturbing thing you've ever seen?

I don't know; I've seen some pretty sick shit. What about you?

Me? I. Well. There was this little baby rabbit. And it had this gross kinda open sore in it's side about this big and, and you could see . . . well, there were things moving around in it . . . inside the guts and stuff. And it was panting, you know, breathing real heavy and. . . Well, then my fiancé-at-the-time just goes up and stomps on it's head and. It was. Well. I still get upset thinking about it.

(At about this point a customer is waited on; they stop talking until the customer is gone. I think her distress was caused—more—by learning that some guy who she contemplated marrying was capable of euthanizing an injured bunny with his boot, than by the maggoty wound.)

What about you?

I think it would probably be this guy I saw on the train. He didn't have any arms or legs and he was duct-taped to a skateboard. (breathy giggles spread between them) And he had this little red swiss army knife sticking out the corner of his mouth, and it bobbled up and down when he talked—like a cigarette does—you know? . . . And whenever someone would get to close to him he'd say 'I wouldn't do it'. That was all I ever heard him say...(in a Burgess-Meridth-as-The-Penguin voice, she repeats—amid more giggles) I wouldn't do it.

Your stories! I always have difficulty believing your stories.

I wouldn't do it.

Where was this? Was he flat out... how. How'd he get around?

I assume he had some caretaker-handler or someone. He'd be in the isle of the train near the door. This was when I lived in New York, but he was always near or around Brooklyn I think. I saw him more than once. Couple times.

Duct-taped? I mean it must have . . .

Right to the board. It was a long board, or at least it was longer than a regular one. There was, like, a piece of foam under his head; but other than that: he was taped flat... I wouldn't do it.

Duct tape is like the force. It has a light side, a dark side, and it holds the universe together. — Oprah Winfrey