I read in 2010:

Only one more book than last year (48 this year); my tastes and favorites (larger) gravitated in-and-around the Fantasy genre this year.

2010 Charted

Compared to last year - golfing supplanted hiking, vacations (including scuba) and camping trips resumed this year, creativity suffered, and house-stuff (cleaning, driving, food prep, etc) was done more by my wonderful fiancée and, therefore, less by me.

The Dream of the 90s is Alive in Portland

Oh yes it is so alive. Here. That's where. (sleep 'til eleven.) New IFC series airs in a month. I intend to giggle at people like myself (and my homeboyzngirlz).

Zodiac Shit

and really you know like

An I’d hoped to come visiting again sooner.  And you—of all people—know how they get.  And, well, I just can’t borrow a horse to go gallivanting whenever I desire.

I intended to write you, really.  But my folks really keep tabs on their stamps and I really hardly ever get any privacy.   Really.

I’z gonna, you know, call.  But my parents were—yaknow—home an-all, you know.  An I still ain’t got a phone in my room yet ya know.

I was like gonna text, but, like my parents were all—like—‘too many minutes’ and like took away my cell.  So, I was like, whatever.

armistice day

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month we remember the end of a war, veterans who served, soldiers who still serve and, essomenically, the little children yet-to-be who'll serve and die (or live to remember) their defense of our country or their acts of aggression against citizens of other countries, in all-the-many future American wars, insurrections, police actions, peace-keeping missions, and acts of imperialism—legitimate and illegitimate (the wars that-is, not the children; nobody calls children illegitimate anymore...we're all bastards, we Americans who begin a new conflict, on average, every five years).


2nd monthly metaphor

monthly metaphor

tired of all the negative shit

anger avalanche

          In 1983, I received orders.  I was to be stationed the entire next year in Korea, separated from my wife and infant son.  We decided to find an apartment for the two of them, where she could work during my year overseas.  Fortuitously (I thought when I learned of it) my step-father and mother were planning a two-week vacation without my 15 year-old half-sister (because she'd be in school).  I asked my mother if my immediate family could stay in the guest room during their vacation, in order to apartment hunt (I assumed my parents would welcome an adult and car for errands and emergencies).  

          "No," I was told. "Your sister has been promised unsupervised-use of the house.  Her boyfriend has a car."

          Wow.  Unexpected financial stress (paying for a motel in my hometown while four bedrooms sit empty in my family's house) combined with parental favoritism (always visible, rarely this overt) and jealousy (rarely an unsupervised hour when I was in high school...but she's permitted a fortnight) became anger.  Sticky anger.

          Over the next several years I didn't reply to the handful of letters sent by my mother or step-father—all I recall of them were that they ruminated on my lack of religion and never contained an apology.  During those years I divorced my first wife, my sons were adopted by her second husband, I married a Korean woman, and completed a few more overseas and stateside tours.  Eventually, I wrote my mother and step-father and asked to visit and introduce my wife.

          Using racist verbiage, the gist of my mother's answer:  'You are welcome.  She is not'.

          Which cased my anger to avalanche.

          Many years later, after realizing my mother's bigotry only explained the last few years of our estrangement, I chuckled over the memory of that long-forgotten sticky anger and pondered how those years may have been different if I hadn't stopped communicating with them.

          Had I only been angry because my immediate family members were never welcome in my parents home, or did I hold my anger because my mother and step-father never apologized...would one have occurred without the other?  If I'd never expressed anger and, therefore, never expected apologies, would those decades have been estrangement-less?

          Is the party who causes someone else to be angry always responsible for an apology?  Is someone else getting angry at you sufficient reason to be angry back?  If so, who should apologize first?  How do insincere apologies fit-in here?  Does just blurting the word 'sorry' (like a bed-wetting preschooler) ever suffice for anything more serious than accidentally stepping on someone's toes?  If not (most have a keen eye for hollow apologies) how does one clearly and concisely communicate one's contrition?       

          Over the decades I've come to realize that, for my mother, it's always others who are unreasonable and always those same others who express unwarranted anger—while she never has reason for apologies.

          Which has taught me I'm not so much my mother's son—I can, and do, say I'm sorry.

To sorrow I bade good-morrow, and thought to leave her far away behind; but cheerily, cheerily, she loves me dearly...she is so constant to me, and so kind. — John Keats

cept x cit

The excellency of every art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeable evaporate. — John Keats

Must a bellydancer driving a pink truck be female?

          Julie from Scientific Chick wrote an essay (A Pink Truck is Still a Truck) attempting to explain (to non-science people, like me) some recently published research which, as she put it, 'left her with more questions than she started with.'  She cites a study by a couple of University of Cambridge researcher's, which attempts to explain that, while very young children have no gender-based color preferences, little boys prefer to look at images of trucks cars and little girls prefer to look at images of dolls.

         Although the researcher's published abstract initially states: "...Girls looked at dolls significantly more than boys did and boys looked at cars significantly more than girls did, irrespective of color ... These outcomes did not vary with age..." they later contradict themselves by saying, "...both boys and girls preferred dolls to cars at age 12-months...".

          Which is probably why Scientific Chick decided to simplify things when she wrote, "...The researchers found that boys preferred cars and girls preferred dolls.  No big surprise there ... "  I thank Julie for eliminating the confusion, and although facts were left on the cutting room floor, it seems the researchers themselves drew first blood on those facts.

          But—more important—Julie's larger unanswered question:  Why do we buy pink for girls and blue for boys?

            A few years ago, Cecil Adam's The Straight Dope answered the question:  Was Pink Originally the Color for Boys and Blue for Girls?   Cecil answered in the affirmative, with "some thought so" and a "century ago some old magazine printed it," but his lengthy explanation still splashed solidly into the vague non-answer range of:  "Nobody really knows (where blue-for-boys and pink-for-girls comes from)".

          I propose the reason was—and still is—homophobia.  The pink-blue "switch" occurred following WWII when the Nazi's required homosexuals to wear a pink triangle sewn or pinned to their clothing. 

          I recall old pictures and paintings of children who (as detailed by the above Straight Dope answer) all wore white dresses.  Rare for The Straight Dope, they included a rhetorical question in the middle of their pink-or-blue article:
Why no attempt to discriminate further? ... Perhaps mothers decking out their little boys in dresses thought: They’ll get to be manly soon enough.
          There.  Right there.  Passive aggressive homophobia, written large in 2008, by Cecil Adams.  Unusual for The Straight Dope (unless...it's both a font of arcane trivia and, literally, staffed by straight dopes).

          Since I'm pointing out the prejudice and factlessness of others, I'll give-a-go at including some truthiness:  With zippers (1930), snaps (1885), and velcro (1955) decades or centuries away, can anyone use deductive reasoning to explain why mothers of yesteryear clothed their infants and toddlers in dresses and skirts regardless of gender?  If you are stumped because deductive reasoning is predominantly outsourced to some form of Wiki, consider the diaper and toilet-training in the button-n-pin era...without stretchy cloth or rubber pants or indoor plumbing.  If it was me, my entire brood of little shatters would have been restricted to the lawn from dawn to dusk; bare bottomed year-round, barefoot with skirts in the summer, leather footwear under long dresses in the snow.

          The researcher's concluded (and Julie summarized that conclusion in layman's terms) that they, "could not draw any conclusions on whether this behavior was learned or innate".

          This discourages me in an abject, why-am-I-not-surprised, kinda way.  And not just because their published results clearly suggests—at least to this layman—that the behavior of looking longer at cars (boys over 12 months) and at dolls (all girls) is learned.  Because when every year old infant prefers to look at dolls and then most of the boys between 18 to 24-months old changed their preference and looked longer at cars...that quacks and walks like a learned behavior duck.

          But the biggest reason I'm discouraged by all this, is because real doing-science researchers couldn't find a group of children, in the entire world, who hadn't already been gender-role tainted.  Because...there are no 12-24 month old children who've not already watched television or played with plastic never-important-toys?  No Nigerian or Brazilian or Alaskan or Native American or Aboriginal group—anywhere—which hadn't already tainted every one of their toddlers with Tonka-Barbie (I originally included "Amish", in this off-the-cuff list but deleted it during proofreading because 'homophobic Amish' is redundantly redundant.  Amish fathers probably spank their six-month old sons when they look at a broom).  Nor, most surprisingly, could these researchers locate any alt-lifestyle-neohippy-Americans who've intentionally raised their young progeny without exposure to TV, gender specific toys, or commercialized society.

          Oh and the A to my titular Q:  No, he could have once been a toddler who's preference for images of dolls, over cars, never flagged.  (I include this because, even I have gender role prejudices.)

Failure is, in a sense, the highway to success, inasmuch as every discovery of what is false leads us to seek earnestly after what is true, and every fresh experience points out some form of error which we shall afterward carefully avoid. —  John Keats

if ya can't get a kylie minogue outta yer head

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.  Therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; not to the sensual ear, but—more endeared—pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone.  —  John Keats


          I have created a recreational diver’s multi-tool and will custom build one, for you, for approximately $200 - $220 US**.  If you are interested in purchasing a dive·task·stick, e-mail veachglines@gmail.com.

          This waterproof tool enables scuba divers to communicate with—and point out items of interest to—dive partners.

          The middle portion contains pellets which (when shaken) act as a signaling device.  One end has a waterproof laser pointer, operated by spring-button, and powerful enough to see in clear, shallow, bright-daylight dives or even snorkeling.  The other end has a wide angle (43 degree) waterproof flashlight (torch) to improve visibility during daytime dives, (looking under ledges, diving on cloudy days, seeing the "true color" of deep marine life, etc.)—and powerful enough to be used as your primary light source on night dives.  The dive·task·stick has a no-slip rubber cover in the middle with a sliding wrist lanyard.

          Obviously, these items could be purchased separately and kept in a pocket of your BCD.  In my diving experience, however, items in your pocket are rarely used.

          The dive·task·stick is constructed from:

          · Wide-beam LED flashlight by Intova (10 hr burn time)

         · Green laser pointer by Beam of Light Technologies

         · Custom made aluminum tube “Shaker style” signaling device

         · Wrist lanyard and rubber cover

         · Three CR123 lithium batteries

         · 57.2 cm × 2.5 to 3.6 cm × .90 kg  (22.5 in × 1 to 1.4 in × 2.0 lbs)

         · Safe to a depth of 40 meters (130 feet)*

         NOTE:  This dive·task·stick is not a "touch-tool;" the glass end-lenses would be scratched and damaged if this pointer were misused to brace against underwater objects or touch marine life. 

Although the laser company attests it will survive above depths of 200 feet (61 meters) and the flashlight company attests it will survive above depths of 400 feet (122 meters), I can not attest to the dive task stick surviving below the recreational diving maximum depth.

** This price depends on retail purchase prices (with shipping) of three items as well as the cost of shipping the insured tool to you.  As of August 2010—the laser was $88; the flashlight was $47; the center pipe, pellets, rubber cover, epoxy, and labor were $45; I profit $20; and shipping varies.

          Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom. — Benjamin Franklin

Wondering what to do with ten dollars?

Give it to the director and cast of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

If you enjoyed last year's comedy Zombieland, you will be more entertained by this film.  You don't have to like Michael Cera (I never need to act because I play my expressionless self just fine.)—he holds the center of a typhoon of actors who keep all the hilarity swirling around him.

You also don't have to prefer Edgar Wright.  This is funnier, tighter, and more over-the-top than all the movies he has previously directed, combined.

Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today. — Benjamin Franklin


Originality is the art of concealing your sources. — Benjamin Franklin

Progress, as predicted

          I believe that as California goes, so—eventually—will the country.  Twenty-one months ago, I wrote an essay decrying the bigotry of our age and pointing out the need for: 
...California...Judges...to do, after the fact, what the mentally infirm majority of Californian voters were incapable of doing: enforce equality under the law...
          California's Proposition 8 law banning same-sex marriage has been repealed.  Continued appeals by both religious bigots as well as generic non-religious haters will be made to higher courts, and in a year or two the US Supreme Court will (hopefully) enforce equality under the law for the entire United States.

          But think how great a proportion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women...who have need of the motives of religion. ... If men are so wicked as we now see them with religion, what would they be if without it? — Benjamin Franklin

jury duty

A countryman between two lawyers is like a fish between two cats. — Benjamin Franklin

I know you are, but what am I?

          While eating at the very best German Restaurant in Portland, we asked the waitress about a large bag of water hanging eye-level over a window box of flowers just outside the front entrance. 

          Tart words make no friends; a spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.  —  Benjamin Franklin

Going to hell in a handbasket for the last 100,000 years

          People always want to recall the past events, that they were part of, as bigger and better.  One way we bolster our memories of ourselves is by looking with pity at the young preparing to take our place.
          I, too, am guilty of participating in this form or self-aggrandizement.

          For sixteen weeks of infantry basic training my unit exercised and ran in combat uniform and boots.  The Army soon changed its policy.  Trainees began wearing running shoes and a temperature-specific training uniform when they exercised.  I recall disparaging comments I made about these new recruits—they would, obviously, not be as tough as I.

          I later learned, from soldiers who'd entered the military a decade before me, that they thought similarly about me; back then, (in the days of the draft) drill sergeants used beatings and the threat of beatings to motivate trainees and since my drill instructors weren't permitted to touch trainees, I was—obviously—not as tough as they were.

          It’s human nature—the need to feel superior through negative comparison.

          A nomadic tribesman crossing the frozen bearing strait once said, ‘Kids today...they’ve got no respect...they're too soft.’  That hunter-gatherer was only repeating something he'd heard his grandfather say.  Without being asked to, these derogatory sentiments have left every adult mouth for as long as human mouths have formed words.  (Strangely, some have forgotten they are echoing their ancestors words...spoken, about them, a generation ago.) 

          Parents should worry if their children haven’t been arrested by the time they turn sixteen.  Being a juvenile delinquent is a birthright and as much a part of healthy adolescence as smoking cigarettes or getting pimples. — John Waters

Lilac Wine

Without obsession, life is nothing. — John Waters

Camping Clatsop State Forest

Cheer up. You never know—maybe something awful will happen tomorrow. — John Waters


As far as socially redeeming value, I hope I don`t have any. — John Waters

Older not smarter - Zonkey 2010

          Zonkey and my seasonal cat hikes resumed two months ago, but—so far—this year's wetter weather has resulted in less trail-time because he complains (loudly and persistently) when I attempt to take him where he'll get muddy paws.

          To show how much he has changed, I took a picture in front of the same fence as last year and adjusted it until the fence-boards were the same size.  He has gained over 4 pounds, his cream colored sides have almost disappeared (along with his svelte physique) and his namesake stripes are now much more apparent.

         I think his pictures nicely capture the maturation of his personality and attitude as well.  He was timid but curious last year; today he is proud and assertive.  The only thing that hasn't changed—he was never very smart... and still isn't.  He's still not vocal.  He enjoys drinking from a running faucet, sleeping on the back of furniture and is pervasively affectionate to anyone and everyone without exception.

Strive for art in reverse. — John Waters

Firewürks (with vestigal umlaüt)

I also hate those holidays that fall on a Monday where you don't get mailthose fake holidays like Columbus Day.  What did Christopher Columbus do...discover America?  If he hadn't, somebody else would have and we'd still be here.  Big deal. — John Waters (writer, film director)

Apolitical doesn't mean without an opinion

          When times are tough (many seem to think those times are now—a topic for another day) people in general and especially Americans look for a scapegoat.  The whipping-boy du jour is illegal immigration.  The state of Arizona has claimed that illegal immigration is a special drain on their economy and recently enacted some yet-to-be-tested-in-court laws, which appear to be blatant racism.

          In Arizona (when/if the law goes into effect) if you are unable to understand the police officer speaking to you in English...you're under arrest.  He may not have had probable cause before, but he does now.  A city in Nebraska has followed suit.  (Apparently, elderly republicans fear the whipping-boy du jour more than the rest of us; I wonder if FOX "news" has anything to do with that.)

          Years ago, I worked for a brief period of time—in Arizona—for a hotel.  I was their handyman.  I replaced broken toilets, rewired light fixtures, maintained the pool, cleaned fireplace soot, built a table to fold sheets and towels on...stuff like that.

          The new management instructed the old housekeeping staff to provide proof of work-eligibility.  Within a week, half of them collected paychecks and never returned.  The remaining housekeepers provided Non-Resident Alien cards (green cards).  Several appeared altered.  One was legitimate and the picture could have been maybe Maria's face (but was probably her sister) however, the name wasn't close—it didn't even begin with an M.  When asked, Maria said, "I go by Maria.  Ever since I was a little girl.  But if you make my checks out in my real name, that's OK."

          The hotel management turned a blind eye to the probable infractions because there wasn't many other people wanting to clean hotel rooms for minimum wage and they had complied with the letter of the law.

          But if they are illegal (the complaint goes) they're not paying taxes.

          FACTS:  Every employee was paid the same way—by check—FICA, Medicare, Medicaid, Sate taxes, Social Security, workman comp, unemployment comp...all deducted.  The illegal immigrants would (will) never be able to file a tax return nor obtain a refund, never be able to apply for medicare or medicaid, and never be eligible for social security or unemployment or workman comp.  All their money went (is going) into the Federal and State treasuries and never being withdrawn.

          Over 43% of American citizens pay no taxes but 100% of the illegal immigrants do (if not being paid under-the-table). 

          Employers paying cash off the books are the true law violators.   Employers of this ilk are not only un-American but are acting like communists—and not in a 'everyone contributes for the benefit of all' way, but more in the manner of the 'bourgeoisie sucking the lifeblood of the proletariat'.

          SOLUTION:  Financially cripple every employer who hires from the parking lot of Home Depot, who pays migrant workers in cash at the end of the day, and who never deducts taxes/social security from their "contract" employees wages.  Extremely heavy fines (sufficient to drive these violating employers to bankruptcy) will cause those who are not caught to alter their practices.

          RESULT:  It'll cost you $8-$10 for a package of berries or nuts and $200-$500 a month to have your lawn maintained.  All the places where illegal immigrants have been "invisibly" working will have to raise their rates in order to compensate (car wash, construction, kitchens, etc).  Oh, and the immediate drop in un-refunded/un-claimed state and federal monies will obviously have to be rectified...I suspect with an large increase in everyone's taxes. 

Tolerationthe greatest gift of the mindrequires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle. —  Helen Keller (Born 130 years ago today)

solstice twen-ten

Keep your face to the sunshine and you will not see the shadows. — Helen Keller

Astroturfing-sockpuppets and Rickrolling-trolls

          I don't like people much.

          That's the answer I give when asked why I don't chat, or aren't on Facebook or Twitter.  I suppose I could calmly explain my golfing preference (in perfect weather); cat-hiking (on windy or cloudy days); book-reading, creating art, and gaming (during inclement weather); watching films (at night), et cetera...but who's going to sit still for all that? 

          Although I read a few dozen blogs, I don't spend much time elsewhere, nor do I frequently send messages or read communiqués (forgive my transgressions Squire).  Today, however, I wandered along many strands of the web and learned about internet sockpuppets and trolls as well as Astroturfing and Rickrolling.

          I still don't like people much—but they can be very entertaining.

People do not like to think.  If one thinks, one must reach conclusions.  Conclusions are not always pleasant. — Helen Keller

Google Maps Oil Slick

          I envy anyone who got the opportunity to visit Yellowstone National Park prior to the 1988 fires, which devastated over a third of it.  A few years ago I traveled to see Yellowstone's wonders—now surrounded by mile-upon-mile of ugly burned hillsides.  It'll never attain pre-1988 nice in my lifetime.

          If you always wanted to enjoy the Gulf of Mexico, but you have been putting off that beach vacation for one reason or another—you've got a brief window of (maybe) a few months to visit clean Gulf beaches, and to scuba, snorkel, and swim in clean waters.  It'll never attain pre-2010 nice in our lifetime.

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each others welfare, social justice can never be attained. — Helen Keller

Red Dead Redemption

          After playing this game for a few weeks, I highly recommend it if—like myself—you specifically enjoy 'side games'.  If you normally prefer to stick to the main mission, finishing it without much deviation...this game is NOT for you.  If you are considering this game, it's probably because you've played a sandbox-style game before (like Grand Theft Auto) and enjoyed the open world format.

          In Red Dead Redemption, Rockstar Games has moved side-games from optional to mandatory.  In GTA4 accomplishing mini-games (like racing and going to arcades or bars) improves your relationships, but there's no measurable penalty for not doing so.

          Choosing to not accomplish the mini-missions in Red Dead, is detrimental to accomplishing the main mission.  This is done with two meters:  your fame meter (which begins at the bottom) and your honor meter (which begins in the middle).  As you successfully finish tasks (main and mini) you become more famous; increased fame makes life much easier.  If you "turn a blind eye" to mini missions (or fail them) your fame decreases.  For every good deed you accomplish (save villagers from bandits, rescue a person from attacking animals, choose to disarm a criminal rather than kill them, etc.) your honor increases.  For every bad deed (whether by choice or accident) your honor decreases.  The more honorable or dishonorable you become the more you are loved or feared, which alters the way you are treated by both law enforcement and people in general.

          Although you can decide to become an infamous outlaw or a famous legend of the old west, the game makes it possible to be both at the same time, to effectively "become a wolf in sheep's clothing."  This is done with outfits, which you earn by accomplishing various mini-tasks.  As an example, one outfit is that of a bandit-gang.  If you wear that outfit with a bandanna on your face not only can you commit crimes without your honor being affected, but you can freely enter the bandit gang's camp.

          Advertisements for Red Dead focus on the shooter-aspect, on the old west environment, and on the outlaw with a heart of gold.  They all fail to mention the strong element of hunting-as-necessity and hunting-as-sport.  If you have no problem killing and looting the bodies of video game stagecoach-robbers or cattle-rustlers but wouldn't enjoy the concept of killing and skinning innocent animals for food or sport, then this game is NOT for you.  There are several dozen different birds and animals in this game—some are predators who stalk and kill you and your horse if you enter their territory (unless you kill them first), some scurry fast through the brush, some glide slowly overhead, some dart quickly trough the trees—all need to be shot and skinned (or feathers removed) at some time or another, in order to sell their meat, hides, and feathers; in order to accomplish mini-games; in order to survive in the game.

          The biggest reason I appreciate and enjoy this game:  it successfully incorporated the key elements of every spaghetti-western and cowboy movie from my childhood—from dueling in the street to cheating at poker, from herding cattle to breaking broncos, from gold mines to searching for buried treasure with treasure maps, from stopping a hanging (by shooting the rope) to stopping a runaway train.  The notable historical exceptions (so far, I've not finished the game) are the absences of slaves and Native Americans.
No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars or sailed an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit. — Helen Keller

It's eleven eleven, do you know where your superstition is?

The sentence—I'm proud that I am smart enough to not have any superstitious beliefs—is vainglorious and condescending; but, it's also true.  A few months ago, I had a brief conversation about ghosts with our resident rapscallion (my paramour's teenage son).  All conversations with youth are brief, so this one might almost count as a lengthy one.  We were watching tv, and I was jumping over a commercial logjam in 30sec hops with the DVR remote (for unaware Europeans: American TV has a few-minutes of commercials every ten minutes).  My last hop advanced into the show, so I made a couple 10sec back-jumps and we watched a portion of a commercial for one of those shows where a group of people walk around at night, with night vision cameras, in old buildings (for unaware Europeans: most Americans think one-hundred year old buildings are ancient).

"Do you believe in ghosts?"
"No."  I said (as I paused the TV).
"So, ummm, what do you think happens after you die?" 
"Where were you before you were born?" (My default teach-a-teenager position has become—answer a question with a question.  It can, occasionally, cause an additional sentence to be added to the conversation.)
"So, like, that's it?  Nothingness?"
"You almost sound upset."
"Well, it's kinda sad...you know...blip and we're done."
"I'm not telling you what to believe.  You can pick from dozens of religions that say you go someplace magical.  Also, if you want to think ghosts move old dusty chairs in basements of derelict buildings or float around as orbs...well, that's your prerog™."  (Clipping a suffixplus is kinda lame, but I get a kick when he repeats them.  In a month I'll overhear him with a friend playing Guitar Hero, "If you don't wanna use the mic while I play guitar that's your prerog bitch.")
"But you don't.  And you're happy with that."
"Not only am I content with 'blip and we're done' (as I said blip I snapped my fingers) I'm amazed and confused by anyone who wants and believes their existence to be infinite and forever."
"Amazed and confused—isn't that a Led Zep..."
"Dazed and confused is Zep.  Amazed and confused is Neil Diamond."
"You sure?"
"About the song titles...yes."

This conversation got me thinking about my lack of superstitious beliefs.  I realized that I do have one thing which can only be explained as superstitious ideation.  It also could just be a big coincidence (I once had a co-worker who said there were no such things as coincidences, but I think he might have been superstitious).

Almost every time-telling device in my possession, or around our home, is digital.  I don't wear a watch (and haven't for many years).  Since I don't live a life of deadlines, schedules, or appointments (and haven't for many years) I'm usually not concerned with knowing what time it is.  This lack of concern results in my not looking at the digits on the stove or the front of the DVR.  I can answer my cell, talk, and hang up...all without looking at the time.  I probably check the time about six times a day.

I usually need a strong reason to look at a clock.  If I'm woken and it's still dark out, I'll point my eyes at the digits on the nightstand.  If someone rings our doorbell at night, the clock will tell me if it's too late for our resident rapscallion to have visitors.  If I've been reading for hours and wonder if I could squeeze in another hundred pages, I'll let those same digits on the nightstand decide.  If I'm hungry, but we have dinner plans this evening, the digits inform me if a snack is necessary.  A round of golf could take 4 hours.  The film starts at 5:45.  The store closes at 9.  Even in my lackadaisical life there are reasons to look at the time.

Lately (and by that I mean for the last several months) when I do, it seems, more-often-than-not, the digits are all the same.  An inordinate amount of the time, when I check the time, it is either 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55, or 11:11.  And I read somewhere, enough years ago that I've forgotten when and where, that when that happens regularly it means something important is going to happen—and, that something is going to either be fortuitously good or viciously evil (I also forget which).

I'm not saying that every time I check a clock it's always all-same-numeral time.  But out of a possible 720 different minutes in every 12-hour period, there are six times it occurs (for unaware Europeans: Americans use a.m. and p.m. instead of the 24-hour clock).  That's a dozen opportunities out of every day, or—to be specific—only a 0.83% chance for it to happen every day.

I woke up at 4:44 to use the bathroom last night.  My landlord had people clean-out the rain gutters today; they arrived at 11:11.  I can go a day or three without it happening, but it's so frequent that I've begun to seriously wonder at the odds.

If I was completely non-superstitious, I wouldn't even notice if I sat down to watch TV at 5:55 or went to bed at 1:11.  But since I can't seem to stop noticing it happen, I must be a little superstitious.

[After writing this essay, I began to look for appropriate images and, in so doing, discovered more than a few e-groups discussing the 'phenomenon' as communications from the other side or somesuch.  They were a comfort to read, because then I realized that all I'm doing is pattern-recognizing.  If I see it's 10:52, I immediately forget the time and note to myself, "almost eleven."  But when I started the car last week and it was 2:22—that immediately got saved in long term memory because it's a signpost, of course!]

AAAhhhh me.  Once again a superstitiousless idiot.

Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. — Helen Keller (blind and deaf author-activist)

I Don't Do Decoration Day

          When I was asked how I celebrated Memorial Day, I tried out the reply:  I don't celebrate May 31st.  It seems I say something similar almost every holiday.  This time, I decided I'd try to come up with something polite, and truthful, and which wouldn't set me up for follow-on questions.  And, it didn't work.

          "What do you mean?  You were in the service."  She said with a southern accent; maybe Texas near the Oklahoma border.  It came out—Whadja mean, yaw're enda sarvace!

          I must have made a scowl or something.

          In the past I've tried an abbreviated, "I don't celebrate," which only seemed to imply I didn't drink or party and, once, I attempted the über-short, "I didn't"—but that person assumed I must have had to work.  I was now thinking I might regret not choosing the put flags on graves outright lie.

          "I'm surprised you don't acknowledge our fallen heroes, retired army an all.  Betcha think it's alright that Obama didn't lay a wreath at Arlington then."
          Although indignation seemed to be familiar territory for her, we didn't know each other well enough for her to pull indignant, so I said, "I look at it the same way I look at December 25th...I try to be polite all year, not just the holidays...and, I try to remember my heroes all year round, not just the first day of summer.  And here's something you should know:  working in the military was just a job.  And, like any job, there's maybe one hero for every couple-thousand ass-hats.  Dieing doesn't make you a hero.  Cemeteries are filled with ass-hats."

The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.  — Helen Keller (1880-1968)

Art - Andreas Hykade; Music - Heiko Maile

I love power.  But it is as an artist that I love it.  I love it as a musician loves his violin, to draw out its sounds and chords and harmonies. — Napoleon Bonaparte


          Recently, in China, there have been six school-attacks on kindergarten, elementary school and pre-school children.  The first of this spate of spree killers/attempted killers was Zheng Minsheng, who began his unusual overpopulation-curbing attempts with a tally of 8-5 (killed-wounded).  Although the Chinese government speedily executed Zheng by firing squad, he's spawned five copy-cats.  Most, like Zheng, were also knife-wielders.  One, with a flair for originality, tried to attain amok-speed with a hammer and self-immolation (but achieved a paltry 0-5).  The latest used a cleaver; because his kindergarten-of-choice contained 20 children and two adults, his score of 9-11 reflects thoroughness, if nothing else.
          These attacks jolted my memory.  In early 2005, a meme posited:  What single weapon would you select if forced to thunderdome-battle a hundred unarmed 5-year-olds?  I dis-recall (and can't find in the archives) my answer from a half-decade ago...but I think I chose an edged weapon.  I did successfully locate Davecat's well-thought-out reply:  Dog Chain.

          Now, after learning about these dismal beta-test results in China, (I mean come-on Zhengers...with potential targets as young as 3, are double-digits really too much to expect?) I'd definitely not choose a short handled weapon—blunt or edged.

          Apparently, a hundred kindergartners will scatter like a thunder of 2am-cockroaches from a 1000-watt spotlight, so catching seems more crucial than dispatching.  Today, I'd choose a twenty-foot nylon cast net as my weapon.  Yes, I realize that means manually topping each kid before un-tangling them...but, if you pace yourself, I assume—just like clubbing baby seals—there's an attainable rhythm to efficiently snapping pre-schooler's necks. 

How many things, apparently impossible, have—nevertheless—been performed by resolute men who had no alternative but death. — Napoleon Bonaparte


How many really capable men are children more than once during the day? — Napoleon Bonaparte


          I have a talent (or a curse) which I turned to my advantage during my crime scene investigation days.  My parents innocently planted and then accidentally cultivated this ability deep into my psyche between my seventh and twelfth birthdays.

          My family moved six times during that five-year period and professional movers have an effective (but insidious) way of insuring no items become lonerganed:  they place a small sticker on your furniture, and a checklist with every sticker's number is annotated during loading and off-loading.  Movers unbox, re-assemble, and remove all packing material—they do not, however, remove those tiny fucking pieces of colored tape. 

          I was the kid on the floor in front of the TV who got tired of seeing a yellow Allied Van Lines and a white North American Van Lines underneath the living room coffee table.  I eventually found the red National Van Lines under the base of my red bicycle frame.  Every spring—the first Sunday after the full moon after the vernal equinox—my mom would hide a hundred of those little colored-foil covered chocolate eggs around the house.  My sisters would find half of them and I'd find the other half...along with a few dozen more stickers.  By the end of my Freshman year in High School, I could enter a cluttered room filled with furniture and instantly see the millimeter-wide edge of a green Mayflower Van Lines peeking out from under the rear leg of a chair...in my new neighbors house.  After my step father died in the 90's, I found a decrepit set of my grandfather's WWII-era golf clubs in the back of the garage.  The bottom of the canvas bag still had a stack of five, stuck one on top of the other, edges curled, adhesive gone, the only thing keeping them in place for more than 25 years had been disinterest and the fact that the Easter Bunny never hid eggs in the garage.
           Time has morphed my sticker-curse in an Adrian Monk kind of way.  Today, when you show me your new electronic gadget, I'm instantly bothered by the protective film you failed to completely remove from all the cracks and edges or *shudder* intentionally left in place on the screen.  If you like the advert-logos on the face of your computer...don't loan it to me, even if I ask real nice.  I'm retarded when it comes to anything even remotely similar to those little bastards (I get the urge to pick and peel just looking at them up there on the screen).

          During my first housebreaking and larceny investigation, I realized my curse could also be a talent.  In a nutshell:  Sergeant Cooper returned from a two-week Christmas vacation to discover his house ransacked and vandalized.  I collected over 100 fingerprints and a dozen samples of DNA.  Apparently, a large group of zombies trashed the entire house during a nonstop Xmas-to-New-Years party.  No neighbors knew the Cooper's were on vacation; they all thought he threw a big party they weren't invited to.  Not much was stolen; everything of value was damaged to the tune of about 50K.  Interviews with neighborhood teens was a waste of time.

          Two weeks later, Sergeant Cooper's Datsun was stolen (and he realized, at that time, that his spare set of keys must have also been stolen).  Three days later it was recovered, I found no fingerprints, and told him to change his locks.  A week later his car was stolen again.  A few days later it was recovered again (still no prints).  Sorry, I didn't have time to change the locks yet—he said.  I used the office copier to make a sign, which I posted on our internal bulletin board.  The sign...
                                                                                                                                    ...got me a gentle ass-chewing from my boss because Sergeant Cooper saw it when he came to the office to provide his detailed statement of loss (and—his sense of humor must have also been stolen, even though I didn't see it on his list).

          Two more days go by...stolen again!  Goddammit Sergeant, what the fuck?  Sorry, I bought one of those club's for the steering wheel, but I might've forgotten to put it on.  After it was recovered for the third time (still no prints) I found a red 'Club' and a red cellophane-wrapped heart-box of candy (with receipt) in the detritus which permanently resided on the floorboards.  Since I'd searched that pile of garbage twice before, the Valentines gift jumped out at my eyes just like a sticker.

           The entire case was wrapped up in a week.  The receipt lead to a gas station video tape.  The cellophane had good fingerprints of the guy in the video.  He lived in the neighborhood, didn't want to pay for the damages he wasn't responsible for, and remembered five other people at the party...who remembered a few more, who remembered a few more, who remembered all the rest.  And all their prints and DNA matched what had been collected.  Almost twenty people.  Came to a little over 2K in damages per vandal.  The only one who got any jail-time was the joyriding guy who forgot his box of candy...and that was only because he was already on probation.

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. — Napoleon Bonaparte

Davecat Gothic

A bout du chapeau to Ptak Science Books; I include a wonderful yet anomalous "find" of Mr Ptak's:  A future photo of Davecat taken in 2046.  Although he ages quite well, it is a bit unsettling to see that in the next thirty-six years Dakota and Carolina consolidate and, accordingly, there are again 48 states. 

"Keeping a straight face with you giggling, Sidore, is not easy."

The myth holds us, thereforenot through its romantic flavor, not the remembrance of beauty of some bygone age, not through the possibilities of fantasybut because it expresses to us something real and existing in ourselves, as it was to those who first stumbled upon the symbols to give them life. — Mark Rothko

You're so vain—bet'cha think this isn't about you...

          I honestly despise every bit and byte of the most recent revelations from the sunset stained stucco-and-concrete hued neurons in your skull.

          I'm not only referring to the vacuous way your brain fails to formulate, nor just the way it conject-ificates — even (I say in my best cartoonishly lyrical exit-stage-left tone) but the way your Gulliver’s been wired.  That's what I hate the most.  The way you’ve permitted, nay—encouraged—its re-formatting by all the paperdolls who giddily camouflage you with their painlessly worthless info-injections.

          They’ve not only erased laugh lines (that could’ve, once, been correctly referred to as dimples) but are now—at the pace of these keystrokes—preventing the formation of character in what’s become a silicone-based body costume.  Is it possible to still refer to something as a ‘facade’ which completely covers all vantage points?  Once you begin to sleep in it (if you haven’t already) isn’t it an exoskeleton?

          The load—once enjoyed, then craved, now giveusthisday our daily band-with high-fiber-optic / low-in-telligence—is over your head...overwhelming...overwrought...over taking you...overkill   ing  you.

I know you don’t see it.

You’ll be missed.

Already are.

The magnitude—on every level of experience and meaning—of the task in which you have involved me, exceeds all my preconceptions and is teaching me to extend myself beyond what I thought was possible for me.  For this, I thank you. — Mark Rothko

Sizing-Up the Art of Criticizing

In another (failed) attempt to determine why no person I know (and especially no professionals) are capable of acting as my film umpire...I began—on the winter solstice of last year—to screen about one film a day and to rate every one I watched.  Four months and more than 100 films later...I've learned that the five-star rating system doesn't work (and little else).

Under the commonly used 5-point system, 1 is the lowest rating available, (for painfully terrible movies) 5 is the highest, (for unique and wonderful works of genius) and 3 is given to average middle-of-the-road films.  3's are routinely forgettable.  The best way to decide if a film is a 3 is if—immediately after viewing—you know it wasn't a 1 or a 5...wait a week...and if you can no longer recall the film, it's a solid 3.  That leaves 2 for the movies with too many flaws, and 4 for the films you like.

A good rating system, right?  I thought so too, until I learned the uber-majority were huddled invisibly under never-remember-land's umbrella.  When the best thing I could say about 6.5 out of 10 of them was:  They're not bad enough to dislike, I knew I "needed a bigger boat" (needed to fix the 3s).  But first, why are there so many 3s? 

I determined there were a few over-looked intricacies to both the film-watching and film-rating process:

The Rob Schneider Truism:  Film watchers rarely intentionally watch films they believe, based on previous experience, will be forgettable-to-terrible (3 or lower).  Accordingly, there are not many 1s on anyone's list.
The Pixar Truism:  Film watchers rarely love every aspect of a film to such an extent that they say it is amazing, timeless, and best-ever.  People are stingy with their highest rating, which results in a low number of 5s on most people's list.

The 'That-One-Guy' Truism:  The overwhelming majority of films are an unfortunate combination of not good enough to remember and not bad enough to remember, which poses a significant problem if you are ever asked to recommend a movie.  Even if you aren't a professional critic and are just some idiot who watches a rabidly massive shitload of films—eventually—someone you know is going to ask, "Hey, Avatar wasn't a 3, was it?"  [Yes]  "Should I see it anyway?"  [Yes]  "Why?"  [It's pretty and was uniquely made].

To solve my "3-problem" I decided to add qualifiers.  With a 3- and a 3+ it's possible to diminish the mediocre middle.  Unfortunately, sometimes—still—there is nothing more to say about a film than it was "solidly forgettable"...and, therefore, there are still some 3s.  But the majority are now identified as 3+ (some memorable accomplishments) or 3- (a few memorable errors).

The Never Listen to a Jaw-less Critic Truism:  Back when he could talk, Roger Ebert's "default" was solidly in the center, and he normally called them like he saw them.  Now, his default is 'thumbs up.'   It's as if every forgettable film gets a one-point bump because he's glad he still isn't dead.  And then there are his inexcusable exceptions.  He gave his lowest rating to 'Kick Ass' not because the film contained flawed editing or poor acting or a terrible script...but because he didn't find humor when an 11-year-old girl cussed and slaughtered baddies.

"Hey, Kick Ass wasn't a 3, was it?"  [No, a 4]  "But Ebert gave it a 1!"  [Grampy's sense of humor must have been removed with his tongue]  "Didn't he give Avatar his highest rating?"  [Simplistic template-driven action movies are perfect for the immature and the aged].

Title (linked)     Director, year      Theater / Home      Genre      Rating
Avatar - James Cameron, 2009 - T - Fantasy/SF - 3+
London to Brighton - Paul Andrew Williams, 2006 - H - Crime Drama - 3-
Bottle Shock - Randall Miller, 2008 - H - PPBOTS - 3-
Step Brothers - Adam McKay, 2008 - H - Comedy - 1
Up in the Air - Jason Reitman, 2009 - T - Comedy - 3+
Rudo y Cursi - Carlos Cuarón, 2008 - H - Drama - 3-
The Last Supper - Stacey Title, 1996 - H - Drama - 2
Blood Simple - Coen brothers, 1984 - H - Crime Thriller - 4
Once Upon a Time in the West - Sergio Leone, 1968 - H - Western - 3
A Sound of Thunder - Peter Hyams, 2005 - H - SF - 2
The Hangover (unrated) - Todd Phillips, 2009 - H - Comedy - 4 (2dX)
Sherlock Holmes - Guy Ritchie, 2009 - T - Suspense/Thriller - 3+
Solyaris - Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972 - H - SF - 3-
Lilja 4-ever - Lukas Moodysson, 2002 - H - Drama - 3
May - Lucky McKee, 2002 - H - Horror - 2 (2dX)
Visioneers - Jared Drake, 2008 - H - Comedy - 2
Don't Bother to Knock - Roy Ward Baker, 1952 - H - Drama - 3+
My Man Godfrey - Gregory La Cava, 1936 - H - Comedy - 4
United States of Tara: Season 1 - Diablo Cody, 2009 - H - Comedy - 5
The Book of Eli - Hughes brothers, 2010 - T - SF Thriller - 4
The Shooting Gallery - Keoni Waxman, 2005 - Crime Drama - H - 2
The Girlfriend Experience - Steven Soderbergh, 2009 - Drama - H - 1
You, The Living - Roy Andersson, 2007 - Comedy - H - 3-
The Class - Laurent Cantet, 2008 - Drama - H - 3-
Paper Heart - Nicholas Jasenovec, 2009 - Romantic Comedy - H - 3-
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - Terry Gilliam, 2010 - Fantasy - T - 3+
Daybreakers - Spierig brothers, 2010 - Action - T - 3+
O'Horten - Bent Hamer, 2007 - Comedy - H - 3-
In the Loop - Armando Iannucci, 2009 - Comedy - H - 2
Edge of Darkness - Martin Campbell, 2010 - Action - T - 3+
Ben X - Nic Balthazar, 2007 - Drama - H - 3-
Songs from the Second Floor - Roy Andersson, 2000 - Drama - H - 2
Body of Lies - Ridley Scott, 2008 - Action - H - 3-
Killshot - John Madden, 2008 - Crime Thriller - H - 3-
Thirst - Chan-wook Park, 2009 - Horror Drama - H - 5
Sleep Dealer - Alex Rivera, 2008 - SF - H - 3-
Surveillance - Jennifer Chambers Lynch, 2008 - Crime Thriller - H - 4
Taken - Pierre Morel, 2008 - Action - H - 3-
Max Payne - John Moore, 2008 - Action - H - 3-
Alice - Jan Svankmajer, 1988 - Animation - H - 3-
This Is England - Shane Meadows, 2006 - PPBOATS - H - 3-
La jetée - Chris Marker, 1962 - Short/SF - H - 1
From Paris with Love - Pierre Morel, 2010 - Action - T - 3-
City of Ember - Gil Kenan, 2008 - SF - H - 2
The Song of Sparrows - Majid Majidi, 2008 - Drama - H - 3+
Vidas Privadas - Fito Páez, 2001 - Drama - H - 3-
Pantaleón y las visitadoras - Francisco J. Lombardi, 2000 - Drama - H - 3-
Shutter Island - Martin Scorsese, 2010 - Psy-Thriller - T - 3-
Yi Yi - Edward Yang, 2000 - Drama - H - 3-
Baxter - Jérôme Boivin, 1989 - Horror - H - 3+
1000 Journals - Andrea Kreuzhage, 2007 - Documentary - H - 3-
Stupidity - Albert Nerenberg, 2003 - Documentary - H - 3-
The Iron Giant - Brad Bird, 1999 - Children's Animation - H - 2
911 In Plane Sight - William Lewis, 2004 - Documentary - H - 1
A Clockwork Orange - Stanley Kubrick, 1971 - SF - H - 5 (2dX)
Constantine's Sword - Oren Jacoby, 2007 - Documentary - H - 3
Breakfast with Scot - Laurie Lynd, 2007 - Drama - H - 3+
Doctor Horrible's Sing Along Blog - Joss Whedon, 2007 - Comedy - H - 2
Brief Conversations with Hideous Men - John Krasinski, 2009 - Drama - H - 4
The Taking of Pelham 123 - Tony Scott, 2009 - Action - H - 3-
The Crazies - Breck Eisner, 2010 - Horror - T - 4
Revanche - Götz Spielmann, 2008 - Crime Drama - H - 3+
Taking Woodstock - Ang Lee, 2009 - Comedy - H - 3-
The Invention of Lying - Gervais and Robinson, 2009 - Comedy - H - 3+
The End of August at the Hotel Ozone - Jan Schmidt, 1967 - SF - H - 3+
Chop Shop - Ramin Bahrani, 2007 - Drama - H - 3-
The Hunger - Tony Scott, 1983 - Horror - H - 3+
Sade - Benoît Jacquot, 2000 - Drama - H - 2
Ponyo - Hayao Miyazaki, 2008 - Anime - H - 4
Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton, 2010 - Fantasy - T - 3+
Women in Trouble - Sebastian Gutierrez, 2009 - Drama - H - 3
Read or Die - Masunari and Lee, 2001 - Anime - H - 2
Undead - Spierig Brothers, 2003 - Horror/SF - H - 4
The Ghost Writer - Roman Polanski, 2010 - Thriller - T - 4
Sin Nombre - Cary Fukunaga, 2009 - Action Drama - H - 3-
No Impact Man - Gabbert and Schein, 2009 - Documentary - H - 3-
Hank and Mike - Matthiew Klinck, 2008 - Comedy - H - 1
The Hit - Stephen Frears, 1984 - Crime Thriller - H - 3-
The White Ribbon - Michael Haneke, 2009 - Drama - T - 3+
Fanboys - Kyle Newman, 2008 - Comedy - H - 2
Roads to Koktebel - Khlebnikov and Popogrebsky, 2003 - Drama - H - 3
$9.99 - Tatia Rosenthal, 2008 - Animation - H - 4
Changling - Clint Eastwood, 2008 - Drama - H - 3-
Final Fantasy: Advent Children - Tetsuya Nomura, 2005 - Anime - H - 1
The Botany of Desire - Michael Schwarz, 2009 - Documentary - H - 3+
Absurdistan - Veit Helmer, 2008 - Comedy - H - 3+
Encounters at the End of the World - Werner Herzog, 2007 - Documentary - H - 3
Special - Haberman and Passmore, 2006 - Comedy - H - 3-
Peter and the Wolf - Suzie Templeton, 2006 - Animation Short - H - 5
Extract - Mike Judge, 2009 - Comedy - H - 3-
Examined Life - Astra Taylor, 2008 - Documentary - H - 3
Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth - Erik Nelson, 2008 - Documentary - H - 1
Shiver - Isidro Ortiz, 2008 - Horror - H - 3
The Ring Finger - Diane Bertrand, 2005 - Drama - H - 3
Lust, Caution - Ang Lee, 2007 - Drama - H - 3+
Angels and Demons - Ron Howard, 2009 - Thriller - H - 2
2007 Academy Award Nominated Short Films - Various, 2007 - Animated/Live Action - H - 4
How to Train your Dragon - DeBlois and Sanders, 2010 - Animation - T - 4
The Bank Job - Roger Donaldson, 2008 - PPBOATS - H - 3
A Perfect Getaway - David Twohy, 2009 - Thriller - H - 3
The Mother - Joon-ho Bong, 2010 - Mystery - T - 5
Chinaman - Henrik Ruben Genz, 2005 - Drama - H - 3+
Hot Tub Time Machine - Steve Pink, 2010 - Comedy - T - 3+
Black Dynamite - Scott Sanders, 2009 - Homage - H - 2
The Center of the World - Wayne Wang, 2001 - Drama - H - 2
Repulsion - Roman Polanski, 1965 - Horror - H - 4
Open Your Eyes - Alejandro Amenábar, 1997 - SF - H - 3-
Kick Ass - Matthew Vaughn, 2010 - Action - T - 4

"Hey, what's PPBOATS?"  [Period Piece Based On A True Story]  "What's the best American film you've seen in this four month period?"  [Surveillance, 2008]  "Best English language film released in 2010?"  [The Ghost Writer]  "Best of the 108?"  [The Mother]  "Any you'd be willing to excise with a blunt fork?"  [Hank and Mike, Step Brothers, and The Girl Friend Experience]  "Did you learn anything really valuable from all this?"  [Nope].

A picture lives by companionship.  It dies by the same token.  It is, therefore, risky to send it out into the world.  How often it must be impaired by the eyes of the unfeeling. —  Mark Rothko