Saturday, May 31, 2008

"marvelous malarkey"

My father just alerted me to an obituary for Alexander Courage; Composed Theme to TV Show 'Star Trek'. Mr. Courage, who died today, had said that the theme was "marvelous malarkey," which seems spot-on to me.

What cheers me is that my dad's the third person who's sent me a Star Trek tidbit this rather dreadful week.
[News flash--make that four!]
(Plus Kellie e-mailed that Serenity, the Firefly movie, is playing at the Riverview this June 19-21.)

Btw, I would hereby like, for future reference, to formally request a troupe of parrots dancing to the original Star Trek theme at my funeral.

[Image, ©2008 Mark Stafford, from the nonprofit Parrots International, which offers, among other things, information about the largest annual parrot conservation convention in the world.]

Maybe I should broaden my convention-going and see if anyone has cornered the rental market in dancing-parrot-troupes for funerals.
Just think--they could wear little Star Trek outfits--or whatever the bereaved (or deceased) wants.

Blog Dope

Frizzy Logic posted a link to Scientific American's article "Blogging--It's Good for You".

The article reports:
"According to Alice Flaherty, a neuroscientist at Harvard University... humans have a range of pain-related behaviors, such as complaining,
which acts as a 'placebo for getting satisfied'...."

I actually chose not to blog in detail about what a rotten mood I've been in this week, even though I knew, as the article points out, blogging about it could offer the "therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings."

Yes, on the one hand, it relieves the immediate stress, but OTOH, I know from experience (from my first blog, especially) it also sometimes leaves me wanting to run out of the house at 2 a.m. with my laptop looking for a wi-fi hotspot where I can delete my mad ranting.
(I'm not online at home for the same reason I don't keep oreos in the cupboard.)
The article continues:
Located mainly in the midbrain, the limbic system controls our drives, whether they are related to food, sex, appetite, or problem solving.
“You know that drives are involved [in blogging] because a lot of people do it compulsively,” Flaherty notes.
Also, blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to stimulants like music, running and looking at art.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parrot Dances to ST

Now I am in less of a foul mood than I was below because I just saw that Momo posted "Parrot Dances to Star Trek Voyager Theme". (Click if the embedded video doesn't show up, as it doesn't always on Safari.)

I have loved parrots even before I knew about Star Trek. When I was a really little kid, my parents had a small green parrot named Opopoporium, "Opo" for short. I have to ask my dad what that name meant.

Krista Records History

I am in a foul mood.

The only thing that has made me smile since Earth entered Gemini (not my best season) is Krista's photo, below, from the Sci-Fi Museum in Seattle. (Next on my list of Places to See.)

I'm taking extreme measures to lift my spirits--I bought tickets for tonight's show of "Spamalot." This is a bit of a risk as re-dos of classics can be a big mistake.
I'll take my chances.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Sheesh! Where did all these people come from? All of a sudden about 7 people have popped up in my life with 21 different stories, needs, etc.
So I'm feeling a bit like Kirk here, once again in bondage...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Towel Day 2008

I have stumbled onto a new tradition: asking friends to pose with a towel in public on International Towel Day (links to official site) in tribute to Douglas Adams. Meet me next year on May 25 to join in!

Lee unknowingly models one of Adams' suggested towel uses: "wrap it round your head to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal...."

Mr. Adams does not mention the use of the towel as a fashion item--a glaring oversight rectified here by Faith.

Towel Day Afternoon

Lee and I (above) have been friends since we met in Classical Greek language class in 1995.
Though I don't recall that Homer ever mentions Odysseus's towel, I am sure he would agree with Douglas Adams:
"any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with."

Towel Day Is Here!

Today, May 25, is International Towel Day (from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).
My theory is that many fashionable intergalactic travelers in our day substitute a big scarf for a towel.
Here's my fashionista friend Poodletail in Italy, for example, last month. She sent me the photo with a note saying she wore that dark red scarf (which I had given her) everywhere. If you open it up, it's practically big enough to serve as a picnic blanket.

On Nonreading

Lee (far right, with Faith, center), Actively Engaged in Not-Reading, on a Towel-Draped Camel.
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, 2004

"When writing a story it is a good thing to read good stories. Good reading and good writing go together."
--Seepersad Naipaul, in a letter to his son V. S. Naipaul, 1950. Quoted on Sister's blog.

This is the received wisdom: if you want to write, read.
I agree.

However, there is a limit to this practice. At some point, if you want to write in your own voice you need to forget all the other voices you've read.
One way to do that is to stop reading.

Lee and I recently e-mailed about this.
It started because he'd sent me the link to a friend's blog. This friend wants to write (novels), but doesn't. I read some of the friend's blog, and it launched this exchange between me and Lee:

Well! No wonder your friend doesn't write!
I just glanced at his blog and see he's reading all of Nabokov. If you sit around reading Nabokov
#1 you will be too busy to write
#2 you will be too disheartened by his excellence to write

I recently read a brief essay by Susan Sontag, and she mentions that she spent a year alone in a little room in Paris, NOT reading!!!

She was trying to detox herself of other people's words, I gather, so she could better write her own.

The only time I went entirely without the printed word was 5 weeks walking across Spain with nothing in English anywhere.
Like an addict going through withdrawal, at one point I read the Spanish newspaper, even though I don't know Spanish. I just needed to ingest print!

Sontag's year off reading so intrigues and attracts me--and then I realize I have been doing it more or less naturally. I'm baffled to note it, but I really don't read much anymore--very few books anyway, and almost never novels.

Probably more importantly, I'm not writing geography books to form anymore.
I do still find myself inserting definitions and birth/death dates and otherwise still following nonfiction-writing-for-teens rules.
But my writing is starting to be my own more than it ever has been.
I hope.
Maybe I should ramp up my non-reading.

Love, Fresca

And Lee responded:
That is a very good way to put it!
Sometimes the words and expectations and written mental/verbal presences of others have a toxic effect on our own creativity and powers of flow.

Like Emerson said, reading shouldn't be habitual or reflexive, but primarily to "get your own team going."
Your business is YOUR expression, not that of others!!!

I'm sure I read less than I used to as well. It's a little hard to justify when there're so many things I can be writing and saying for myself. And a lot of it's just facts I will forget (though hopefully I retain the basic ideas and any important principles).

"Maybe I should ramp up my nonreading."
You are probably the only person I know (besides myself) who could say that! Most people are discomfited by the number of things they DON'T know and HAVEN'T read.
I've long thought this was crazy.
It's so much more important to know, say, ten things or books or "great" figures or ideas deeply than a hundred or more shallowly.
Just like it's better to have three really great friends than thirty acquaintances; or one really awesome sexual experience with another than twenty mediocre auto-erotic ones.
Or... oh, you get the idea. I could go on forever.

I've often fantasized about living in some remote place with just five or ten books, like Shakespeare and the Bible and a few others. Then insofar as I'm reading, read read read read those.
And write.
Write write write write write.

People need more self-trust.
Do we REALLY need all these hangers-on?
Why this idealization of being eternal schoolboys and schoolgirls?
What, exactly, are we studying for?
When's the big test?
Isn't the big test writing, saying, doing your own thing?

Love, Lee

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Entering Gemini

Image of deep sky objects in the astronomical constellation of Gemini from the Hawaiian Astronomical Society, who reports:
"This is a lovely open cluster, one of the best in the sky...very large, quite rich and condensed...."

Astrologically, Gemini is a mutable air sign, ruled by Mercury.

I know a lot of Geminis, including Donna (a bit more on her in post below), and I am a huge fan of them as defenders of the fact that great ideas need great vehicles to carry them.
Hence, they champion the importance of kitchen implements (the right pan for the right tart), liturgical precision (no plastic on the altar, please), library catalogs, and the little black dress.

My sign, Pisces, however, is "square" Gemini.
That is to say, sometimes we intersect like a referee's hands forming the "Time Out" sign, as I expect many of my Gemini acquaintances would be happy to confirm, much as they love me.

(Astrologer friend Laura says astrology is all about the geometry between people.)

Since Gemini and I don't speak the same native language, in honor of this charming sign, I have put together some quotes from famous Gemini themselves to illustrate some key Gemini qualities and traits.
A verbal bunch, they speak quite well for themselves.

(Happy Birthday, you frustrating, fascinating people!)

Style. Big time.

"For me, music and life are all about style."
--Miles Davis


"I'm worth every penny."
Naomi Campbell, supermodel

"Poetry is not an expression of the party line."
--Allan Ginsberg, Beat poet

"To be disesteemed by people you don't have much respect for is not the worst fate."
––Mary McCarthy

But not always.

"However, it is important for Gemini individuals to be in touch with those who understand them. If not, then there is a tendency to wilt and undergo an intellectual suffering that few will be able to fully comprehend."
--from Gemini: Inner Self

"Ever since I became a movie star I've been really weird."
--Marilyn Monroe


"A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines."
Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect

“I've met a lot of hardboiled eggs in my time, but you're twenty minutes.”
--Billy Wilder

Cole Porter (quote not necessary)

But not jokesters.

"We are not amused."
--Queen Victoria


"Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak, and to speak well, are two things."
--Ben Jonson, English writer


"I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man's being unable to sit still in a room."
--Blaise Pascal, French philosopher

"Life is tough, but it's tougher when you're stupid."
--John Wayne

Mercurial. (Both/And.)

"Although our intellect always longs for clarity and certainty, our nature often finds uncertainty fascinating."
--Karl Von Clausewitz (author of On War)

"Honestly, I like everything. Boyish girls, girlish boys, the thick, the thin. Which is a problem when I'm walking down the street."
--Angelina Jolie

"Order and simplification are the first steps toward the mastery of a subject."

"This was Venice, the flattering and suspect beauty - this city, half fairy tale and half tourist trap, in whose insalubrious air the arts once rankly and voluptuously blossomed, where composers have been inspired to lulling tones of somniferous eroticism."

--Thomas Mann (both quotes)

Associated with pearls and lavender.

"Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."
Theodore Roethke, poet

Voyage aux etoiles: Les Gemeaux et le Gornais

"Style and Substance"
--photo for stylish Geminis I know, by Fresca

Geminis ("les Gemeaux" in French) love style and words--for their own sakes, as well as for what they convey.

Donna has provided a perfect example of this love in action.
She was charmed by Bink's Star Trek (something like "Voyage aux etoiles" in French) "Il Sapore"--K/S Italian Style--so for fun, she went and translated the whole thing into French [below] and sent it to me along with this explanatory note:

French always includes the article with the noun.

I can’t remember how it is in Italian, but French has two distinct terms for “word”—“mot” refers to words as a conceptual idea, while “paroles” refers specifically to the spoken word.

Also, the French word “la cuillere” refers to a small teaspoon, so you have to add adjectives to specify anything bigger or smaller or more use-specific. Our English word for spoon generally refers to a generic soupspoon, so that’s the option I’ve included here (la cuillère à soupe).

Diacritics are considered part of the proper spelling of any French word, especially given that the presence or absence or type of accent over a letter can completely change a word's meaning.
My goodness, I swear that adding the diacritics was harder than translating the darn thing….!

No doubt this is WAY more precision than really matters, but there you have it.

Now, as a Pisces I am not very fluent in the form of things, I pretty much only pay attention to the ideas underneath.
Which is one of the reasons I feel blessed to know Geminis--they continually show me the power, glory, beauty, elegance, and plain old fun of form.
After all, it is form that carries ideas.

Bon Anniversaire!
(Did I miss some accents there?)

Here's Donna's fabulous translation of Bink's "Il Sapore" (English translation in comments--same as the one for "K/S Italian Style"):

Le Goût

“La téléconférence, c’est pour vous Capitain,” dit Uhura.

K: “Allô, c’est le capitain Kirk à l’appareil.”

Sulu: “Bonjour Capitain. C’est Sulu à l’appareil. Vous et Spock, où etes-vous allés en vacances? Vous vous êtes bien amusés?”

K: “Nous sommes allés à la planète de Gorn. Spock parle gornais très bien. La langue n’a que des jurons, excepté certains mots qui s’agissent des insectes. Les Gornais aiment bien manger de gros insectes!”

Sulu: “Mais Spock? C’est bien passé avec lui?”

K: “O, Spock…Spock me plaît…sa bouche…ses baisers…et avec de la crème Chantilly….”

Sulu: “La crème Chantilly?”

K: “Oui, et il est tellement difficile de trouver de la crème Chantilly à Gorn! Les gros insectes…sans problème! La glace aux insectes…sans problème! Mais la crème Chantilly…non! Les Gornais, ils ont une glace aux petits insectes délicieux, mais sans crème Chantilly. Difficile à comprendre, non?”

Sulu: “Alors, le goût de Spock lui-même, ça vous a plu?”

K: “Et oui…son goût ressemble à celui de la crème Chantilly, à celui de la neige, et à celui des moustiques. Je pourrais le manger à la cuillerée!”

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Heidi List, Part I

As a barista, Heidi (above) plays Frank Sinatra at 7 a.m., which I adore.
She's also a dj (clubs, not top 40), and when I asked her to recommend some contemporary music, she said, "I don't really play easy listening..."
But the list of musicians/groups she gave me is pretty friendly stuff.

I've started to work through the list, choosing one song I like from youTube for each musician/group.
(I'm just giving the links here because I had snarly stuff happen with embedding videos, and it's just about as easy to click on the link anyway.)
Here's my first batch:

Belgian group Hooverphonic's "Mad About You" video about a woman crazy for a cabbage lobster--sort of a sexy romantic Little Shop of Horrors.

Kid Sister's "Pro Nails" video, with Kanye West.
"She got her toes done up, with fingernails matching."
This is what I'm doing Monday with Sister!--though hardly as pro.

The Cat Empire "Days Like These"
Australian reggae rock world beat pop jazz.
I want this summer!

M.I.A. "Paper Planes".
Catchy song about political/immigration stuff by Mathangi "Maya" [MIA] Arulpragasam, a Brit from Sri Lanka in Brooklyn.

Goldfrapp "Strict Machine"
Reminds me of when I was little, staring at the fold-out double-album cover of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, set to an electronic beat. Peter Max posters?

Dynamic Syncopation "The Plan"
The inset ASL interpreter breaking down (around 1:56) is something I've always wanted to see.

When Andy Met Harold

My wonderful gay uncle wrote this about how he met his life partner, who died recently aged 96. My uncle is now 80.

Once upon a time there was a gorgeous butch guy who went with a few of his friends to the local area elementary school playground to play touch football on an early fall afternoon in 1950.

After we had proved our masculinity, we went to the house of one of the guys to quench our thirst. While there, we were introduced to a doctor who was making a house call on the father.
We were with the doctor no more than 5 minutes and I didn't see him again for 8 years.

That fall the US went to war with North Korea and either having a death wish or wanting to surround myself with young studs, I enlisted in the Air Force.
(Mind you, I had already spent a short hitch as a sailor in the Navy at the end of WW ll.)

After spending 4 years in the military I decided it wasn't for me so at the end of my enlistment I took my discharge and went home.

After wandering around, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life, I even married a gal during this period (lasted less than a year). I was talking with this guy I had played football with so many years ago.
I don't recall if I was having a health problem at the time or not but I asked him if he still knew that doctor we had met at our mutual friend's house. He told me his father was a patient so got the name, etc.

I must have been brave and called for an appointment and he had remembered me. Come to find out later, he had been keeping track of me, all these years, through this guy's dad because he and I were still writing to each other during that period.
Anyway, I think that is when the courtship started.

I never had so many x-rays and blood tests in my entire life.
I guess I passed because we started going for dinners occasionally. Don't know if it was because of the x-rays or the blood tests.
No matter, it worked for us.

The following June after about 8 months of hanging out and, can you believe, no hanky-panky, we moved in together.

It was funny, my mother and my sister had gone to St. Louis to visit a relative at that time and my sister told me later that our mother said to her, "I wonder if your brother got married while we were gone, he looks so happy."

Well that's part of my story.
He gave me 47-plus years of happiness.

[image of sailors from Popular Mechanics, Feb. 1941]

Self Portrait: Bookshelf II

Bookshelves at the art-college library where I used to work, from the outside.

[Bookshelf, I, here]

Thursday, May 22, 2008

We Yam What We Yam (Sendak & Stockton)

[Image from here.]

The Bath Bookworm has tagged me to write about my favorite children's books illustrator and/or author.
Seems too easy.
Who else but Maurice Sendak?

In an interview with Terry Gross, Sendak said that as a Jewish kid in New York City, he thought his Italian neighbors were "happy Jews."
So that makes him kind of a sad Italian--and hence an honorary relative of mine.

At any rate, Sendak got something right about childhood in Where the Wild Things Are and the much less well-known but excellent Higgeldy, Piggeldy Pop! Or, There Must Be More to Life.

But the question turned out to be not so easy, because when I went looking for online images, it turned out my mostest favorite Sendak books from childhood weren't ones he wrote but were short stories he illustrated by Frank R. Stockton (1834-1902), he of "The Lady, Or the Tiger?"

(Do they still teach this in high school English classes?)

Stockton's The Bee Man of Orn, which I read until the dust cover was tattered, poses the question, nature or nurture?
As I remember it--and although I haven't read it since I was a kid, I remember it very well--two magicians make a bet that if they give a slob of a bee-keeper the chance to live his life over in better circumstances, he would make something of himself.
They turn him back into a baby, to be raised in swank circumstances, and go away.

Years and years later, they return to see him and exclaim (I especially remember this line):
"Upon my word, he has grown up into the very same thing again!"

OK, I just checked the full text here (you have to keep scrolling down to reach the text on that page), and I was a smidge off.
The correct line is:
"Upon my word!" exclaimed the Sorcerer, "He has grown into the same thing again!"

Just looking at the cover of this book activates my child-mind and feelings.
I remember getting great satisfaction from that ending.
It vindicated something I felt strongly about:
that there was something unchangabley me about me.

I vehemently argued this point with my mother, when I was about 9, and she later told me that my intensity made her change her mind about the primacy of "nurture."
(This was the era of civil rights, and I think my mother had taken the noble ideals of equal opportunities to mean that everyone would love Mozart, if they only had the chance.)

The other Stockton/Sendak book that gripped me in its talons was The Griffin and the Minor Canon [click on title to read the whole story]. This book belonged to my sister, and I used to sneak it from her bookshelf to read it, which made me relish it even more.

Where "Bee-Man" was quirky and funny, "Griffin" was a tragic tale of forbidden love and small-mindedness.

Again, I haven't read it for years and years, but I remember that a griffin comes to town and falls in love with the Minor Canon (the young man in the clericical garb, as mythical a creature to me as a griffin).

[I just looked this up and I wasn't wrong: "He [the griffin] seemed to have taken a great fancy to the Minor Canon, and followed him about as he worked."]

The griffin hangs around, trying to be a good domestic sort, but of course it's a disaster.
His tail is so hot, for instance, he sets things on fire. The stolid townspeople fear him, and they push the minor canon to make the griffin leave.

The townspeople are quite horrid to the poor, lovely canon, and he falls ill.
The griffin tends to him and...

...OK, I have to cheat and look up the ending. I think the canon dies, and the griffin goes away and dies of heartbreak?


The townspeople drive the canon out, thinking this will make the griffin leave, and the young man almost dies in the wilds. The griffin doesn't know where the canon has gone, so he hangs around the town, though he despises all the townspeople, who he sees, correctly, as cowards.

When the griffin finds out what happened to his beloved canon, he flies (literally) to rescue him.
When he brings the canon back to the town, all the townspeople are chastened and nice to their young man again.

However, the griffin needs to eat (flesh) on the equinoxes, and when the equinox arrives,
"If he could not have the Minor Canon, he did not care for anything."

So he rips the stone griffin from off the church, (it was the thing that had drawn him to the town in the first place), flies away into the wilds, and...
"lying down, with his eyes fixed upon the great stone griffin, he gradually declined, and died."

Huh. How 'bout that: turns out it's practically slash, of the hurt/comfort variety.
Seems I was me all along.

No Parrots Were Harmed

Photo of Yosuke the African grey parrot from the article "Lost Parrot Tells Veterinarian His Address" (below), which Stefalala sent me.
I don't think she even knows I have a policy of posting parrot stories, such as last fall's Obituary for Alex the African Grey.

Update on Alex (still dead) is in the May 12, 2008, issue of the New Yorker:
"Birdbrain" by Margaret Talbot: A woman and her chatty parrots.
It's not available online, but there is an audio offering:
Word Bird, including samples of Alex the parrot talking.

TOKYO Wed May 21
When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught — recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.

Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.
He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.

"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura.
The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.
"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said.
The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.
But Yosuke apparently wasn't keen on opening up to police officials.
"I tried to be friendly and talked to him, but he completely ignored me," Uemura said.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mr. Sulu's Getting Married!

Mr. Sulu and his intended, photo by Tom Atwood, from George Takei's blog.

I take a break from writing a rush index on Qaddafi to share this article Poodletail sent me:
"Star Trek Star to Wed Partner":

LOS ANGELES - George Takei said he will wed his longtime partner and business manager, Brad Altman, now that the California Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage.

Takei, the original Mr. Sulu on "Star Trek," said on his Web site that he and Altman have shared their lives for more than 21 years and are "overjoyed" to be able to legally marry.
"No more 'separate but equal.' No more second-class citizenship," wrote Takei, 71. "Brad and I are going to be married as full citizens of our state."

Takei, who also had a recurring role on NBC's "Heroes" last year, said he and Altman are planning the details of their wedding.

Fresca says: I want an invite!!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not How I'm Feeling:

Sal sent this photo of "Sid Vicious resting in a beanie", from
And Heidi is playing Stan Getz here at Bob's.

Nonetheless my blood pressure is still through the roof as I work on the final version of that religion book that caused me so much pain a few months ago:
Even after several people have gone over it, I'm still finding errors such as that Ramadan occurs in the fall.
Since Islam follow a lunar calendar, in fact, this holy month moves around the seasons over time. This may not be common knowledge in the USA, but how can you write a whole book on religion and not cotton on to it? Oy! This is the same author who wrote that Shiva is a she.

Why does this stuff bother me so much?
Well, seeing things you love mangled and muddled always causes distress.
I am practicing my calm breathing, thinking of the Girl from Ipanema, and channeling the spirit of baby wombats, like Sid here. And trying, once again, to help this bad book.
Back to work.

(Heidi just recommended Sia's "Buttons" on youTube, which looks more like how I feel when I work on stuff like this: as if my head is stuffed into an onion bag, specifically.
Like wombats, Sia is from Australia.
Um, no, watching youTube and chatting with the beautiful barista doesn't count as work.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

K/S, Italian Style

Guest-blogger Bink responds to the question, "What's Your Flavor?", in Italian for Beginners. She helpfully illustrated a glossary (left) and provided the English translation in a comment (click on "comments" at end).

She writes: "In answer to your question I submit the attached story. It uses your favorite word--cucchiaio, and mine--zanzera. And of course, is a true story."

Il Sapore.

“La teleconferenza per lei, Capitano,” dice Uhura.

K: “Pronto! Sono Kirk.”

Sulu: “Ecco Sulu. Come va con Spock? Dove andavate in vacanza?”

K: “Andavamo in il pianeta di Gorn. Tu sai Spock parla la linqua di Gorn molto bene. La lingua e tutti le parolacce tranne le parole per gli insetti. I Gorn hanno amato mangiare gli insetti gigantesci!”

Sulu: “Ma, Spock? Come va con Spock?”

K: “O, Spock…Spock me piace…la sua bocca…i suoi baci…con panna…”

Sulu: “Panna?”

K: "Si, e la panna e molto difficile tovarve alla Gorn! Gli insetti grandi…si! Gli insetti gelati…si! Ma panna…no! I Gorn fanno un gelato molto buono con piccoli insetti, ma solo senza panna. Non credevo!”

Sulu: “Cosi Spock aveva un buon sapore?”

K: "Si…come la panna, e la neve, e le zanzere. Posso mangiare lui con un cucchiaio!”

Bink adds: Two things to note:

The last sentence is something Poodletail says (though not about Spock).

Panna is always offered with gelati in Italy, so you can understand Kirk being incredulous that it isn’t offered on Gorn… I guess that’s why most of us prefer to vacation in Italy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ten years ago, today...

...I was in Turkey with art-historian friend Allan K.

Allan took the photo (left) of Hagia Sophia, in Istanbul on that trip, one of many he took for the college slide library and for his Art Images for College Teaching--AICT--site.

While Allan took photos of art-historical importance , I sat in coffee shops and ate Turkish delight--the kind studded with pistachios. Or I tagged along and drew in my sketchbook (right). The carpet in the background is a little kilim from Cappadocia.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Relief, Part II

Gee, that was depressing to write [post below].
Now you know why I love the cheesy optimism of ST--it's a counterbalance to a childhood right out of French New Wave cinema.

For relief, I must immediately look again at the silly Star Trek take-off Kellie sent me, which presents the episode "The Trouble with Tribbles" in lolcat kitty piggin.

Here's a frame from it:

[Translation: Kirk looking at the round fluffy tribbles says, "What the fuck? They're like..."]

Our parents didn't let us watch much TV, except for stuff like the Classic Movies series.
I am still making up for this deficit.

For another take-off, see also Shaenon Garrity's Trouble with Tribbles as adapted by Edward Gorey.

Movie Moments, 7: A Surge of Relief

From the transcript of "Jules et Jim" (France, 1962, dir. Francois Truffaut).
Jules attends the laying to rest of the ashes of his wife, Catherine, and his best friend, Jim. Catherine has killed herself and Jim in a suicide-murder.

Jim's coffin was bigger than life.
Catherine's was a jewel-box.
Jules would never again fear that she would cheat on him... or die... because it was over.
Had Catherine enjoyed the battle?
She'd dazed Jules to the point of nausea.

He felt a surge of relief.

He felt a surge of relief.

Jules et Jim is another of those movies I first saw when I was about 11, on the Classic Movies series on public televion.
The film has meant something different to me every time I've watched it.

Austrian Jules (Oskar Werner, above right) and French Jim (Henri Serre, above center) are best friends in pre-WWI France.
They fall in love with Catherine (Jeanne Moreau, above left), who smiles serenely like a statue they'd seen together in Greece. And she falls in love with them both, and marries Jules.

Jim visists Jules and Catherine in Austria after the war.
Jim and Catherine become lovers, which Jules accepts (left) rather than lose either of them.
Everything's drenched in black-and-white misty melancholy.
Catherine takes other lovers.
Everyone's unhappy.
This goes on for a while.
Jim decides to marry someone else.
Catherine, smiling her enigmatic smile, invites Jim for a drive.
"Watch us!" she calls out to Jules.
Then she drives off a bridge, killing herself and Jim.
Jules is devastated.
And relieved.

1) When I was a child, the tangled emotions of the menage-a-trois mystified me, but I recognized the doomed loveliness that underlies the whole film. (Does childhood know its own end?)

2) When I had an affair a dozen years ago, I recognized the dazed nausea of impossible love.

3) When my mother killed herself, I recognized Jules' relief. When love is a torment, sometimes you're glad when the story ends.

I got thinking about this movie yesterday, when I decided to take a blue-sky visit to photograph my mother's memorial paving stone (right) in Loring Park's garden.

Jules et Jim was one of my top-ten favorite movies, but I don't know that I need ever watch it again.


For more info on suicide prevention or help if you are struggling:
"The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals."
Outside of the United States, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.

Rattle My Bones

Every coffee shops holds a lot of stories, and at Bob's motorcycle coffee shop, a lot of the stories involve accidents.

This morning at Bob's, regular patron Jac told me about getting run over by a car last fall, when he was 63.
He'd started to cross an intersection in front of the car, which speeded up to get ahead of him, but ended up knocking him down. He saw the rear tire coming at him and thought it was all over, but instead it ran over his left shoulder.
I went outside with him so he could show me his scraped up helmet (below).

The accident put Jac in the hospital for 12 days.
"I didn't want visitors," he said. "I just wanted to rest. I watched a lot of cable TV--I don't have that at home. The same year, I had cancer and chemo, and then I had a heart attack."

Having passed his 64th birthday this May, Jac's hoping for a better year.
He can't raise his left arm above his head, but he can bike, and he's planning on riding to Sturgess, South Dakota, as usual, for the huge, annual bike rally there, the first week of August.
Last year he rode a scooter there. It took two days, going 23 mph on backroads, to cover the 500 miles.

Jac has four motorcyles. Below is the one he got hit on: a 1971 Honda CB100.
The helmet's dangling tag reads "Rattle My Bones"--the name of a local motorscooter rally.

Me, I ride a bicycle. Trek, of course.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Bobbsey Twins

Baristas at Bob's on break.
Bob's is my favorite "third place." This is a sociological term. "First place" is home. "Second place" is the traditional workplace. "Third place" is your motorcycle coffee shop, or wherever strangers know your name.
youTube: Bob's on the Food Network

What's Your Flavor?

Mark S. writing about what men taste like--whisky? tea-tree oil?--in "But His Best Buddy Was" [link in post below] got me thinking, What would Jim Kirk taste like?

Took me about 15 seconds to arrive at my answer:
coconut-oil suntan lotion.

Coppertone brand--the scent of childhood summers, when we slathered that stuff on with no worries about protecting ourselves from the harmful rays of the sun, much less from child porn.

(Coppertone redesigned their label, right, a few years ago, to cover the girl's butt more.)

And, she's not a man, but what about Uhura?
Mmmm...her kisses, anyway, would taste of Tang.
You know Tang? NASA sent it up with the astronauts in 1965.

We used to lick our fingers and stick them into the acid-sweet orange powder and suck it off.

Mr. Spock, on the other hand, would taste unpleasantly of copper, like a U.S. penny, from his green blood.

It's a sign of how miserable I was in high school that the Vulcan solution to emotionality--the cultivation of planet-wide Asperger's Syndrome--attracted me.
True, it was Spock's failure to achieve that fully himself that made him attractive, but I still think he'd taste like a bitter mineral.

But once in a while, he'd smell ever so faintly of coconut-oil suntan lotion.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Seems this ad I wrote about briefly isn't very widely spread. Maybe CC thinks most people don't know what "metrosexual" means?

Anyway, the people I've asked haven't seen it, including Mark Simpson, "The (Absent) Father of the Metrosexual," though I gather that's because the ad wasn't run in the UK?

You'll remember Mr. Simpson as the author of my favorite and funniest ST analysis ever, about Kirk's intergalactic manhood.

He just worked his magic on this ad:
"Your Dad Wasn't a Metrosexual: But His Best Buddy Was".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Make it so.

I have done it.
I just ordered my ticket to the Star Trek--Las Vegas convention. AND two photo ops--one with Nichelle Nichols, right, (Uhura), that I have no doubt about. And one with Nimoy (Spock) which causes me various shades of distress.
(I'd feel all conflicted about actually seeing Bruce Springsteen too. One wonders if it's wise.)
I was fretting about the Nimoy thing yesterday and Bink ordered me to do it. She said I could not return to town without a pic of me and Nimoy in hand.

Item Quantity Unit Price
TKT-GEN ADM 1 $149.00

I see this trip in a mixed way: partly as a chance to witness--and write about!--bizarre American culture and partly as entirely wholehearted pilgrimage.

My 13-year-old self is over the moon.
My adult self sighs: I still have to order airplane and hotel tickets.

Vatican OKs Marriage to Klingons

By now, you've maybe all seen this article: "Vatican: It's OK to believe in aliens", based on an interview with the director of the Vatican Observatory titled "The extraterrestrial is my brother."

Bink sent it to me saying, "Another reason being Catholic is still good..."

I say the Vatican director--who also said science, especially astronomy, does not contradict religion--is giving me another sign (from God!) that I should go mingle with aliens in Las Vegas--and maybe even marry one of them, since they wouldn't literally be my siblings, which would be illegal.

Speaking of which, I can't believe gay marriage isn't legal in Las Vegas, when everything else is--what a primo money maker that would be. This so unfairly limits my options, when I'll only have 4 days to find a Klingon to marry--who cares what sex one's alien spouse is?

(The Vatican speaks in the same humancentric limited way, you notice, about two-genders as a universal concept that the original ST does, but that's OK. You can't have everything all at once. Or you would go supernova.)

This article offers no help with my dilemma of what to wear to the con, however. Jenny 12 Frogs pins it to which generation uniform to wear, but that's the easy part:
for me there can be only one (Kirk & Spock's).
Sister says I should go as Uhura, but could I stand to run around in that skimpy outfit?

No, I don't really want to wear the actual Starfleet uniforms--maybe I could symbolize that era by wearing items of its original gold-blue-red hues.

Maybe wristlets! Carla told me about these knitted "wrist warmers" that are fashionable in certain circles. Well, maybe just among knitters? (I'm not actually a knitter myself, btw.) I could ask my knitting friends to design ST wristlets for me!

This all needs more thought.

Perhaps I should write to the pope. He likes dressing up.
As noted in DW-World's "The Vatican Goes Glossy":
"What the pope has done to red Prada shoes [pictured here, to the right] is what the cult US TV series Sex and the City did to Manolo Blahniks. It brought the world of high fashion closer to the common man."

Maybe that won't be much help, come to think of it: I expect to pay a ridiculous amount for this con, but not actually to cough up for a pair of Prada shoes, pretty though they are.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Pre-Apocalyptic "Star Trek: Las Vegas"

Besides my father's e-mail [post below], I've been exchanging a flurry of e-mails with pals about this August's World's Largest Star Trek Convention I'm going to, in Las Vegas.
[NB: For those of you who were hoping I was done with ST, there's a nice photo of Jack Kerouac at the end, if you like that better.]

I decided to cut and paste my e-mails together, here, starting with S's comment:

Stefalala writes: Vegas, along with Gary, Indiana, and the petro-industrial area of northern New Jersey, are my U.S.-ian visions of hell-on-earth!!
However, I could understand the excitement and mystique for you of attending the major Trekkie convention there, since so much of Vegas appears as a mega t. v. or movie set!

Fresca: You hit the nail on the head--Las Vegas is perfect for a Star Trek con because the whole place is pretend--a giant TV stage indeed!
Great point.

I've never been there, but Vegas strikes me as THE pinnacle of pre-apocalyptic culture.
I'm eager to see it before it's gone, you know, and write about it--this impossible city.

It's the sort of place we'll be telling tales about round the fire, post-apocalypse, like in Road Warrior:
"Once, people flew in giant machines to a city in the desert, where there was no night or day, to play games of chance they knew they would lose."

To me (and many others), one of ST's big appeals is that it says, "Another World Is Possible"
--(to borrow the slogan of the World Social Forum--the antiglobalization folks who meet at the same time as the G8, you know. Their 2009 meeting is January 27 - February 1, 2009 in Belem, Para, Brazil. Maybe I should go to that too?)--
yet LV is entirely rooted in the old, unsustainable world.

So: five days in the heart of the beast...petro-dollar hell...celebrating the possibility of a better world in the future--how deliciously ironic!
How fun!

Sister expressed concern that LV will be unbearably hot in August.

I responded:
I will stay in the same hotel the conference is in, as will most attendees (part of the fun, I gather), so I will NEVER GO OUTSIDE.
Weather will not matter.

I harbor a hope that I can find a Klingon to marry in a ceremony performed by an Elvis impersonator. Maybe I'd have to go outside for that? I'd do it.

And guess what?
Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) will be there, and I intend to cough up the forty bucks they charge to get your portrait taken with her.

Nimoy (Spock) will be there too, and that portrait's $70, but for some reason the idea of getting my pic taken with Uhura appeals to me even more.
What the hell--why not both?
This will not be a cheap outing, let me tell you, so why not spring for all the goodies? Do you want a mug?

It's all ridiculously expensive (one word: plastic) but my little heart sings at the very thought of going.

Anyway, it's not just the stars I want to see (hardly any of my beloved TOS cast will even be there), it's the whole phenomenon.
How insanely, bizzarely American can you get? 

And also how hopeful? Star Trek offers a vision of a society where you are not judged by your outer self but by your ideas.
(You know, Sci-Fi cons in general are famous for attracting the "losers" of our society: the fat, the disabled, the autistic, the gender- and otherwise-othered, the geeks, etc. In other words, the people who brought us the Internet.)

What's funny is the role blogging plays in this all for me:
It's like a permission slip to go where I normally would not go.
When in doubt or fear, I think, 
"I should do this so I can blog about it."

I read in a New Yorker article "Drive, He Wrote" that Jack Kerouac (left) did things (like drive cross country) so that he could write about them, not the other way round.

Some people think this is turned-around thinking, but I don't see why raw lived experience should be "better" or more "pure" than that same experience transformed.

My big concern now is what to wear?

A Sign from Above (Looking for Nancy)

My father just got back from Spain and sent me an e-mail that ended:

"finally, big news for you. on the flight from barcelona i sat next to a woman--in her sixties-- who was reading a star trek novel. the topic of conversation turned to future trips, and she told me that she is going to the star trek convention in las vegas in august!! i understand that someone else will be there!! [Sister had told him.]
"the woman's name is nancy and she is from harlingen texas. little bitty woman. it will be your quest to search for her!!"

I had already decided to go to Las Vegas to the Star Trek convention (weeping when I thought about it decided me), but this confirms it!
Now I even have a quest!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Star Trek Convention

From my birthday list of stuff to do:
2. Go to a Star Trek convention, before all the classic stars die. Buy badges and gadgets and wear/carry them home on public transportation.

Here's the biggie this summer:
Star Trek Las Vegas
Wednesday - Sunday, August 6 - 10, 2008

Vegas, baby! Vegas!
How can I pass this up, even though it's not exactly cheap ($149 just for the basic entry fee, not to mention air fare and hotel and all the money I know I'd spend on badges and gadgets)? There's even Star Trek bingo!

Looks like only Leonard Nimoy and Nichelle Nichols of the original series will be there. You can even pay to have your photo taken with them ($70/$40 respectively).
Bill Shatner won't be there. Is he pouting because he's not in the upcoming movie? It's his own fault for letting Kirk get killed off in a stupid Next Generation movie. (But I do think they should have brought him back anyway.)

I should go, right? I mean, this would be sooooooo bloggable...

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

I've been memed! My first time. Momo tagged me with the Passion Quilt meme, which asks that you post and label an image of what you are most passionate that students learn.

I'm not a teacher, but here's something I learned that changed my perspective on existence, and which I would passionately love to share with absolutely everyone:

You Are Made of Stars

Our bodies contain material that ancient supernovas (exploding stars) spewed into the universe.
As Joni Mitchell sings in "Woodstock":
We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon.

NASA took the above image in 1994, of an event in a galaxy 52 million lights years from Earth. The bright spot in the lower left is a supernova. Supernovas are some of the brightest and most energetic events possible in the universe. From Cosmos Magazine.

All but the lightest elements on Earth were formed in the heat of stars.
Physicist Edward Zganjar studies the creation of heavy elements in supernovas.
These explosions of massive stars expel most of the star's material into space, resulting in the death of the star and the creation of new bodies in space. [image of exploding star is an artist's representation for NASA]

Aganjar says, "The iron in our blood and the calcium in our bones were all forged in such stars."

Because we're carbon-based.
Carbon is the base of all life on Earth.

That doesn't mean, of course, that all life in the universe is carbon-based.

My favorite noncarbon Star Trek alien, the Horta (right), is silicon-based, which is odd, since it looks like a pepperoni pizza mated with a carpet. I guess the carpet could be silicon. (Heh, heh, you didn't think I'd forgotten about Star Trek, did you?)
[Images from "Devil in the Dark" episode from Trek Movie.]

Star Trek teaches that there's no need to be carbon-centric!
Look: Mr. Spock, who is carbon based, can mind-meld with the Horta (left).
Star Trek posits that certain concepts are universal, in fact, and that that's why the Enterprise crew can communicate with all other life forms.
This is highly unlikely and problematic. Forget the universe, Star Trek's claim that "male" and "female" are baseline norms, for instance, doesn't even apply to all life forms on Earth.

If this meme appeals to you, consider yourself tagged! You don't have to be employed as a teacher--if you're writing a blog, you are one.

Here are the guidelines:
+Post a picture or make/take/create your own that captures what YOU are most passionate for people to learn about.
+Give your picture a short title.
+Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt.”
+Link back to this blog entry.
+tag five other educator-type blogs. Include these guidlelines.
And I don't know who I am,
But life is for learning'.

--Joni Mitchell, "Woodstock"

Become an Astronaut!

No kidding! Trek Movie alerts us that NASA is recruiting here:

"The open positions require extensive travel on Earth and in space. Possible destinations may include, but are not limited to, Texas, Florida, California, Russia, Kazakhstan, the International Space Station and the moon."

[Image to left: Astronaut Joan Higginbotham takes a break from training to pose for a portrait with a NASA T-38 trainer jet. Image credit: NASA]

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Movie Moments, 6: Bacall Lights Up Bogey

I was looking for an entirely different moment from To Have and Have Not (1944), but I kept coming across all these sexy cigarette moments instead.

The movies lost a whole language of sexual attraction when they lost smoking. (Filthy habit. I'm just saying.)

In a reversal of the usual pattern, Lauren Bacall (Marie) lights a cigarette for Humphrey Bogart (Harry), reflecting director Howard Hawks' statement, "I think it's fun to have a woman dominant..."

She lights his.

And she lights her own.

If I had to choose, for sexy romance I'd take To Have and Have Not over Casablanca, because while Casablanca has the better, more sweeping story, To Have has the better male/female story, by a million miles.

Lauren Bacall's Marie--whom Harry calls "Slim"--would never tell "Steve"--as she calls Harry--to do the thinking for both of them, like Isla (Ingrid Bergman) tells Rick (Bogart).
Ha! The very idea. If she had, she'd still be on Martinique.

No, the relationship that develops with any interest in Casablanca is the one between Rick and Louis (Claude Rains), and fittingly they are the ones who go off together at the end.

Then there's Hoagy Carmichael's piano player Cricket (right), who is a much more intriguing character than Casablanca's Sam, meaning no disrespect to Dooley Wilson.
You wonder about the guy's backstory.

Carmichael, famous for hits such as "Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind," also wrote "How Little We Know," which Bacall sings in the film.

Oh, so the moment I was looking for concerned Marie and Helene (Dolores Moran, left), the wife of Paul, a member of the French Resistance Harry is helping (for money).

Paul has been shot, and Harry, assisted by Marie, is removing the bullet. Helene, who has been making cute with Harry, faints when Harry starts cutting into her husband.
In doing so, she spills an open can of ether.
Pretty soon, Harry starts getting faint himself from the ether fumes, and he asks Marie to fan them away.

She does so, and also fans the fumes a couple times toward Helene lying passed out on the floor.

Harry doesn't see her do this, being taken up with surgery, so this throw-away moment is a little exchange between the director, the actress and us. It gives us the sweet feeling of being in on a secret.
Not that it's much of a secret: Bacall has already lit Bogey's cigarette by now.

Slim and Steve each give as good as they get. After all, he lights her cigarette too.