Monday, May 30, 2005

Murdered Rats And One Dumb Bird

Mosquito University's Church Attic

The mention of dumb birds in my previous post reminds me of a church I used to service as a pest control operator. Actually it wasn't a church any more, just a building—it had been "de-certified", or whatever it is that Protestants do to remove the holy-moliness from a structure—just an empty building owned by Mosquito University during the period that I was working there. It's probably been leveled for parking space by now.

The only human endeavor still being practiced in the church (aside from my pest control) was work done by one of the physical plant shops (an Upholstery Shop) that was located there for lack of a better location. That unlucky shop was always being shoved into some arbitrary, run-down corner of some abandoned building; it had previously been located in the kitchen area of a huge abandoned residence hall. Except that workers never had to be there at night, it seemed like a haunted house.

The second floor was considered none too stable, so nothing was ever located up there while MU owned it. A few workers, like pest control, would go up there, but infrequently. Later, when there were no shops at all in the building, I still kept an eye on it, for roof rats would sometimes traverse the utility lines and infest the attic. I don't know what they were eating; maybe the church was used as a clubhouse where they brought their own food. Periodically, I'd place heaps of wax blocks of brodifacoum bait up there, tied down or suspended in various ways by baling wire. Most of the rodents died outside or somewhere deep inside the house, I guess, for I don't remember any major odor problem or having to remove corpses. I was killing by remote control, with no sense of the consequences—at least, at that location. I kept track of the rise and fall of their population by the droppings. I'd sweep them up once in a while and see how long before the droppings got numerous again.

Bird On The Run (Another Really Damn Stupid Story)

Another story from that church that I recall is not a pest control story per se, but a bird story. That's why we've just changed colors.

For some reason (I can't recall why) a sparrow got into the second-floor rooms and then couldn't get out. Possibly the bird had gained entry the same way the rats did, through the eaves and other typical unclosed spaces of an abandoned building. There were internal doors that had been left open, and those connected the rooms to the attic. I later closed those doors off, but first I had to leave all the exterior windows open in an effort to chase him out that way. Being a stupid bird, however, all efforts to herd him out by waving arms, brooms, or large pieces of cardboard simply resulted in him flying full-tilt and upward into the upper half of the glass—these were old-fashioned windows that favored sunlight, with a glass pane below and a glass pane above. At no time could both panes of glass be opened, meaning there was always a booby trap for the bird. So, blam Blam, he beat his small bird brain out against the glass, then he'd go from window to window and repeat it, blam Blam! I soon felt pretty guilty about chasing him.

Pity for the stupid bird overcame me and I finally just left the windows open for two days. One day he was gone, so I guess he finally found his way out or else died in that remote and secret corner of the darkness where the rats went to die! I closed the windows and prayed he wouldn't come back. If he had come back, I might have considered pitching a cat in there with him. Possibly it would have been a very unwise move, though; I have known abandoned or neglected buildings to become infested with cats, too! That's a real problem, yet you're not supposed to exterminate cats. Birds stay because they're stupid; feral cats stay because they're smart and love to vex you. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Birds Notebook Again

Bird Brain

When I was young and wanted to insult my older sister, I’d call her a "bird brain". I haven’t thought of that in a while. There are things dumber than birds, though.

This afternoon I spotted a Carolina wren hopping and skipping across my back yard. When he came to a halt, some small brown moth flew right into the bird's face, bop, and bounced away. I thought it humorous, but I didn't think about it much. The bird looked quizzical, as if he was wondering why the moth was so stupid. Two or three happy hops later, involving some acts of misdirection, he was right on that moth's ass, picked it up, threw it down, WHAM! to the ground. Then he took it in his beak and tossed his head back and a little sideways—one gulp and the moth had disappeared entirely, wings and all. The wren underwent no change of expression, though my face probably did. That moth wasn't just stupid, he was REALLY DAMN STUPID! Why fumble around and bump into a hungry wren like that?!


Birds Seen Recently In My Back Yard

  1) blue jay
  2) brown thrasher
  3) cardinal
  4) Carolina wren
  5) catbird
  6) chickadee
  7) crow
  8) dove, inca
  9) dove, mourning
10) dove, turtle
11) eastern bluebird
12) grackle
13) house sparrows
14) mockingbird
15) red-bellied woodpecker
16) titmouse
17) turkey vulture

Friday, May 27, 2005

Giant Brains and Hat Crowns

Email Idiocy

A couple of days ago my IP, who also provides email accounts that I hardly use, announced that I better get what I want off the account. Apparently, starting the last day of May they’re deleting everything older than six months. That’s no great inconvenience to me since I barely use EV1. I do let people mail to it, but my Yahoo email picks it up and leaves nothing behind. There’s almost nothing in my EV1 email except week-old emails and really old garbage.

Nonetheless, the question does occur to me, why are they doing this? Aren’t they going in the opposite direction of other major email services (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.)? EV1 is making it’s email service smaller and less useful while the others are offering more and more storage space. Is EV1 just an idiot or are they trying to get out of the email business without having to say so? Why not say so, dammit? I would certainly drop them like nasty dog turds if they were my primary or only email service! I’ve said a lot of bitter and insulting things about Yahoo and Gmail in the past, but EV1 makes them look like Giant Brains, not to mention like they’re our devoted Christian brethren! I wonder why EV1 is so determined to shoot themselves in the foot?
Hat Crowns

I talked about my new hats only yesterday, but it took me about 24 hours to look at them and realize the two new ones really aren’t pork pie style because their crowns are not round, but slightly rectangular. It’s still the same lightweight fabric, size, and general appearance as the older three hats, but they are different! Proof, I guess, that I’m not as particular as I would sometimes have you believe. I wasn’t very observant, I admit, but I like them all. So, so what? Get outta here and go bug somebody who’s still trying to save his brain cells! Mine are gone, gone, solid gone… (Thanks to LT of Steve Miller Band, circa 1969)

Thursday, May 26, 2005

More Hats

In Defense Of Meandering Slowly Across A Topic

It rained today for the first time in a month or more. Even the last time that it rained, it wasn't enough rain, so the sudden awful hard downpour was welcome, even though it was too much at once. Medium and large dead tree limbs litter the yard.

Before the rain, though, I'd been to Wal-Mart and was stunned to find they're again stocking the fabric hats I love. You remember those, don't you, those lovely $2.88 pork pie hats of mine? Made in China, marketed under the name Paris. Sold in Chigger, Texas.

We have a China and a Paris in Texas, too, but the hats, I think, do in fact originate from foreign soil. "Paris" may be just a foo-foo appellation, but China is a factual source of all manner of goods these days, even Mickey Mouse toys. Anyway, I bought two hats this time—one light blue, one an anonymous color that Paris calls "stone"—to add to my collection and to forestall having to wash and iron the old ones. None of these Wal-Mart beauties qualify as dress hats, I realize, but when the hats gets dingy and wrinkled, I still prefer to use those old ones for mowing the lawn and other work tasks.

I bring the new hats forward for ordinary clean daily wear and for a short while I'm very careful with them. Later, I'll swat insects or transport grapes with them, if need be. If I really have somewhere formal to go, I wear no hat at all—that way, I don't have to concern myself with whether I should remove it or not. I have no idea how expensive a hat might have to be to meet my standards as a "dress" hat, but it'd be more than three bucks, certainly. Nonetheless, a clean hat, however cheap, is a small boon to my wretched existence and I do not take it lightly. It's nice to have a hat to keep off sun, rain, bird droppings, and other debris and detritus that falls from above.

I have had my hat shat on only once, and on consideration found wiping the hat clean to be preferable to having to go inside and wash my hair. I swear, I must be moving appreciably slower in my old age; birds never used to shit on my head when I was younger! Or have I just forgotten? Dear Christ, a failing memory, too…

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Best Compliment

About the best compliment I ever got was from a young woman named Claudia who didn't even like me very much. Sometime back around 1967 I was living with a rock-and-roll band in a two-story house on 19th Street near Guadalupe in Austin. It was also near Littlefield Fountain, one of my favorite Austin landmarks.

Claudia played rhythm guitar. I was not a member, but a "friend of the band", a gofer who ran the recording equipment or whatever else I felt like contributing. I was an interested party, you might say, for we also partied together, drank quarts of beer while washing clothes at the Laundromat (by twos and threes), etc.

Some of the equipment, particularly the drums, stayed set up on the second floor for practice sessions except when the band had a gig. So anyone who was stubborn or brave enough to wander in, pick up sticks, and start playing could do so. Out of boredom—after all, I was no musician—I got to where I'd do so once in a while myself, starting out very gingerly and trying not to play very loud. I can't explain to you how that's done, of course—not playing the drums very loudly! In fact, I was making plenty of noise.

Clevis and Claudia were married and lived downstairs in a more nearly complete apartment—it had a kitchen where we could make grilled cheese sandwiches. The rest of the band, all single men, got by with single rooms on the top floor. The lead singer, a young woman, lived elsewhere. Claudia would come upstairs about 50% of the time and ask me to lay off, she was studying, napping, or whatever. I always apologized profusely, having merely gotten carried away. I felt it was more important to get along with her than play along with Taj Mahal records. I didn't want to annoy the Universe, as drums, it is well known, can do! And, besides, I was no musician!

One day, though, after I'd had a drum session earlier in the day, the band was practicing but between songs when Claudia volunteered the remark that I was "definitely improving" with my drum playing and I was amazed to hear it. I thought I was just screwing around, really. It felt great to think I was getting better instead of just driving the universe mad!

Well, this wasn't the start of a "beautiful relationship" or anything like that. Claudia remained as aloof and self-sustaining and generally unsmiling as before, a woman (as far as I knew) who talked when talked to and who, when angry, very quietly and firmly expressed it to the band members. She wasn't the "band mother"; I don't think we had one.

Of course, we did have a female lead singer named Daria who could be very emotional, both positively and negatively. She wasn't anybody's mother, though. I was fond of talking vulgar and using obscenities myself—after all, my father was an auto mechanic, and they know how to cuss! Even so, Daria got my attention when I realized that her favorite vulgarity was a particularly piquant one:

"Oh, Dogfuck!" she'd holler when peeved. She'd use it as I might have said, "What the fuck" or "Oh, shit!"

Or, "That dogfuck bastard!" she'd complain angrily of someone.

It made me more fond of her than otherwise, and I grinned most of the time that she cussed, as long as she wasn't cussing me. I wanted to get along with her, too, though later found that it wasn't a goal I could achieve all the time. I don't just mean to say that she was hard to get along with, but that I was.

The band broke up and we spread out like cockroaches, staying in contact in differing degrees. Some people remained close, some barely ever saw one another again. Claudia was one of the last; I saw her only a few more times. Suffice it to say, I didn't continue with my drum practice and nothing ever came of that, but I hadn't thought that it would. But I do, very oddly, remember Claudia's compliment.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Email To Someone My Own Age

Dear Paula:

We all, even you, I think, have already missed our chance to save the world or do much more than just polish it a little. I see no reflection of what I've done, so I act and feel as if I've done nothing.
"I am prepared to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter."
Sir Winston Churchill (1874 - 1965), on the eve of his 75th birthday

Monday, May 23, 2005

Saddam In His Underwear

Will Superman Be Next?

I wouldn’t want to get too heated up about this topic because it’s half-comical and yet more than serious, but… The recently released photos of Saddam Hussein in his underwear and other boring circumstances of his imprisonment really ought not to have happened. It has again invited the most wildassed among us to rave about essentially irrelevant issues. Among the irrelevant items is the nonsense proclaimed by the crybaby hatemongers on TV who seem to think the only issue is that Saddam was so mean that nothing that happens to him would be too terrible or should be regretted. Of course he was mean, shitheads! And he was vicious, and a murderer! He is accused of genocide and nearly the whole planet agrees he’s guilty! But he’s caught now and we failed to announce that he was, ahem, "shot while attempting to escape". So here we are. We have boxed Satan, and now it is our responsibility to keep him safe from every danger except justice and isolated from innocent persons (because we SAID we would) and it turns out that we can’t even do that.

It may not matter whether Saddam is a victim, as seems most likely, of security photos never meant to be seen being stolen or if there’s other photos of Saddam laughing as he smear feces from the bottom of his shoe across a photo of George Bush’s face! The major thing that has happened is that America has been caught once again with their pants down and their hat brims pulled down over their eyes. We are unable to provide security for the most evil of living transgressors, too incompetent to maintain control of the situation even in a high-visibility military prison environment where having any more control can hardly be imagined, we would have thought. THAT’S what we should be embarrassed about that everybody can see! It’s not Saddam’s dirty underwear so much, but ours, peeking out from under our Superman suit. You think our government will blame it on outsourcing? They'll blame somebody; it won't be their fault. They're the same dickless bastards that they ever were. I guess it was the most uncontrollable force on the planet: Computer Crime!!!

If I were a Muslim terrorist who hates America, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate enough to riot and kill again just yet, I’d still be on the floor, laughing my guts out! I’d be calling American strategists names like "numbskull" and remarking how all they can do is spend big money because they are otherwise feckless monkeys! It appears that we can’t guard what we love OR what we hate! Our prisoners escape us, one way or the other.

It isn’t Saddam’s pride that’ll get the most damage out of this, but ours. America is going to lose another big chunk of the illusion we have about ourselves as the good guy who does no intentional wrong. Our 18 and 19 year olds aren’t miscreants or nutcrushers, as Bush assured us during the onset of the Abu Ghraib scandal. They couldn’t be, could they—who would have taught them such behavior in America? Uh, the Tough Guys down the street and the Capitalists up the street the other way? American entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for a good opportunity.

Which would be more shameful, now that I think of it? If the American military have to admit that it was one of their own who pulled this stunt, is that worse than finding that some smart Arab with sand in his pockets broke into military film archives via the Internet? We may have to pin it on some bohunk mercenary—uh, I mean, contract worker!—just to keep a little pride in the matter!

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not in favor of treating Saddam Hussein with honor or kid gloves. Maybe his human rights have been violated a little, but I do not weep for it. Violation of one’s privacy takes place pretty constantly around the world—first of all by poverty and after that, by our own governments, who feel they have the "right to know". Nearly anybody who gets a chance will violate your damn privacy. In fact, most countries not in the Western sphere of influence give little thought to human rights, much less privacy, year in and year out.

If America’s "credibility" wasn’t destroyed by the Abu Ghraib tortures, Saddam in his underwear may not be worse for us than, say, catching the common cold twice in a season. I do heartily wish it hadn’t happened, though, for it opens the door for us to have to see the rest of the world’s damnably unattractive leaders paraded half-dressed across the TV screen stages and the headline photos of newspaper pages. Each time there’s another one, the news media will dance out the previous one(s) until we’re spending half the newsday staring at older men with wrinkled underwear and hairy pot bellies! Who’s next, Bob Dole or Teddy Kennedy? Will just being French make Jacques Chirac seem sexy or more presentable? Will he be wearing a bikini or a Speedo? Oo la la! I'll bet Henry Kissinger is a boxers man.

Ugh! Now I really feel violated.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Christian This 'N' That

The Goddamn Moneychangers Are Back!

Has anyone else noticed lately how much Spam mail is arriving with the word "Christian" injected into the subject line as if it's a universal sacred secret password? You know, "Christian Cash Advances" and "Christian Dating". I suppose there's a "Christian Cookbook", too. Maybe there's a "Christian Cocksmanship" book while we're at it, you think?

I would ask, "Does capitalism have NO inhibitions, restraints, or values?" but I already know the answer to that and so do you. Christian Capitalists?! Oh, yeah, let's promote them!

You know the deal. We have to protect the rights of obviously lying shitheads like this along with the pornographers and Nazi hatemongers so that semi-respectable Bloggers can continue to have freedom of speech. I would not be surprised if Bill O'Reilly and other talking heads on TV are starting to regret this "freedom" crap more and more. I sometimes believe that I do, too—when the thick flow of it starts pushing me toward the Dark Side—but I try to remember that I'm just getting old and irritable, so I bite my tongue.


Saturday, May 21, 2005

Richard And Mimi Farina Blues

I've still got those Richard and Mimi Fariña lyrics bouncing around in my head and still feeling guilty that I didn't play you any of their music along with their lyrics the other day. I can only do so much, but this site is a sampler and will play part of each of the 20 songs on their "Best of" album. If your computer is dial-up and slow like mine, you might have patience to listen to a couple. You other guys might have a nice sampling session and at least get the gist of the diverse and charming material. I say, Go Buy It, and don’t let it die out! Maybe in this age of CD’s and digital downloads, there won’t be any more “out of print” bullshit for older music.

Thank you, Richard, for the music, though you died before age 29, 30 years ago. Thanks, Mimi, for the music and the good work. You outlived him 30 years but died in 2001 at age 56. I think that's accurate; it just doesn't tell enough. This is only a blog...

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Lonely Hearts Club Chemistry

Blind Date

Back sometime during my thirties I had a blind date with a young woman who picked me out of a "Friend Finder" newspaper section that I’d just written to. She had nothing to go on but my own self-description. I don’t remember if she wrote to me first, but we did talk on the phone and had a quite pleasant long conversation one night. I remember I thought she seemed quite calm and willing to laugh. That weekend we got together for what must have been the world’s most boring date. She didn’t laugh or smile much; maybe I didn’t, either. Oddly, she didn’t seem to know it was boring, for she didn’t express it and seemed surprised to hear from me at the end of the date that we hadn’t had a very good time. I didn’t understand if she was actually that obtuse or if the pretence somehow saved injury to her pride. Surely she didn’t think we had agreed on very much or expressed the same sympathies toward any personal or world issue?

How things went so wrong between the phone conversation and the real conversation seemed very odd to me, maybe more odd to her. Her appearance was a little plain vanilla, I admit, and maybe that cooled things for me. But, more importantly, her facial expressions were so bored during even the highlights of our dinner conversation that she just seemed Not There to me. She didn’t have the sense of humor she’d had on the phone. Maybe I didn’t, either. She didn’t seem to be like me and showed no sign that she knew anyone remotely like me. Everyone of whom she reminded me were not pleasant memories. Everything was awkward, but what the fuck had gone so wrong?

It did at least convince me (by evidence of its absence!) that there is such a thing in the world as in-person chemistry between people and that she and I didn’t have a bit of it, couldn’t get it with a prescription, and couldn’t have described it properly to a police officer who was willing to go out in a dangerous neighborhood and look for it. It was a total loss. The mere mention of blind dates have cooled my ardor ever since, though I have friends who have benefited by them. I guess you have to keep on keeping on.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Two Songs by Richard Fariña

Reflections In A Crystal Wind

If there's a way to say I'm sorry, perhaps I'll stay another evening, beside your door, and watch the moon rise, inside your window, where jewels are falling, and flowers weeping, and strangers laughing, because you're dreaming that I have gone.

And if I don't know why I'm going, perhaps I'll wait beside the pathway where no one's coming, and count the questions I turned away from, or closed my eyes to, or had no time for, or passed right over because the answers would shame my pride.

I've hear them say the word "forever", but I don't know if words have meaning, when they are promised in fear of losing what can't be borrowed, or lent in blindness, or blessed by pageantry, or sold by preachers, while you're still walking your separate ways.

Sometime we bind ourselves together, and seldom know the harm in binding the only feeling that cries for freedom and needs unfolding, and understanding, and time for holding a simple mirror with one reflection to call your own.

If there's an end to all our dreaming, perhaps I'll go while you're still standing beside your door, and I'll remember your hands encircling a bowl of moonstones, a lamp of childhood, a robe of roses, because your sorrows were still unborn.

Pack Up Your Sorrows

Well, if somehow you could pack up your sorrows,
And give them all to me.
You would lose them, I know how to use them,
Give them all to me.

No use cryin', talking to a stranger,
Namin' the sorrows you've seen;
Oh, 'cause there are too many bad times,
Too many sad times,
Nobody knows what you mean.


No use ramblin' walkin' in the shadows,
Trailin' a wanderin' star.
No one beside you, no one to hide you,
An' nobody knows where you are.


No use roamin', walking by the roadside,
Seekin' a satisfied mind.
Ah, 'cause there are too many highways,
Too many byways,
Nobody's walkin' behind.


You would lose them, I know how to use them,
Give them all to me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

More Blather About Being Disagreeable

"There are few people whom I really love, and still fewer of whom I think well. The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of all the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense." — Jane Austen — Her character Elizabeth Bennet speaking to her sister Jane in Pride and Prejudice.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Been Down So Long

Personal Shit

There's a world of questions the curious might ask in a curious world such as this, among them: Why Is Shit Gooey? Or are you one of those people who just declares, Why Not? Being desperate for a topic today, I too dismiss the petty details and say, Why not?

Imitation Of Health

I just know I've been going along for 15 years now with my health getting worse, my internal and external conditions slower, my comfort less, my personal turds smaller, shorter, and more insubstantial in general. I've ignored the mystery of that, just tried to avoid wondering about it—hell, who could you talk to about it, doctors would just recommend a dietician or offer some exploratory surgery in which they'd cut me up like a frog in high school biology! If I didn't die, well, I'd be all right, wouldn't I? Well, recently those colon conditions changed again. Suddenly, with no improvement in my health or my feelings, I'm back to squeezing out the healthy turds of my youth, except extra gooey! How could this be? What does it mean?!

Objects Of Brown Repose

Now, don't get me wrong, they're still not the kind of prize releases that would compete with those legendary ones in Richard Fariña's book Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me. Those infamous objects of brown repose that Gnossos Pappadopoulis eased out without a thought and that (when they wouldn't flush) his friends so admired that they embarrassed him about it. They informed him they wanted to have one bronzed! Posterity called for it, they felt, because it was—well, magnificent. I don't remember if every character in that scene was stoned or not. I do remember I laughed like a hyena. Of course, I was young and crude then—not the staid and dignified gentlemen you all know me to be. I would never joke about excrement these days!
I haven't read this book in 30 years, so if I've rememered it poorly, excuse me. Corrections will be welcome. It'd be humiliating to find I was remembering a story from some other book! When I find a copy of the book, I think I'll read it again.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Disagreeable Sunday Blues

"I do not want people to be agreeable, as it saves me the trouble of liking them." — Jane Austen

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Don’t Walk Away

The Bozo Pilots

Apparently no one’s going to bring any charges against the two bozos who flew into the restricted air space around the White House yesterday. I’m no expert and apparently I am not even well informed, but it surprises me that there are no charges that apply to such irresponsible behavior. If I operated my auto with that cavalier and fuck-yall an attitude, not to mention that much incompetence, I’d like to believe that Texas would remove my driver’s license from my pocket so fast it’d tear my pocket and my underwear off so there’d be nothing but butt-pink showing on the TV news networks (who are always trying to stick their nose up somebody’s ass).

Are there no charges to be brought when you perform stupid acts in an inherently dangerous location? Was no one responsible if a few of those out of shape office workers who had to run for it had ended up with heart attacks, broken legs, and injurious asthma episodes?

I nearly suspect the federal government of staging this thing for some reason because governmental agencies don’t usually say, “Aw, it was just an accident,” about anything that a citizen does! They blame us, they fine us, they seize property, they lock us up! And in situations where Life, Liberty, and Public Safety are not even an issue!

The Federal Government I know doesn’t pat people on the head and send them on their way—it kicks in their doors and shoots at them with telescopic rifles! The government I saw yesterday must have been covering up some mistake(s) of its own creation; otherwise, they’d have barbequed these dumb fucks! (I would’ve joined them, with marshmallows!)

For me, one good question that arises is why do pilots of airplanes require less intelligence and awareness of their surroundings that the average driver requires to negotiate a heavy traffic loop in Houston, Texas? Automotive drivers who admit they’ve been driving with their eyes closed and then chortle "yuk yuk yuk" about it to a Texas Public Safety officer (for all the world like Goofy in a Disney cartoon) are not permitted to walk away! I don’t think those pin-headed pilots should be permitted to walk away, either. And why they should ever have had a license or ever again be allowed to fly airplanes is beyond me. If nobody is ever punished for these frequent “honest-mistake” incursions into restricted air space, even the dumbest terrorist on the planet is going to catch on that he won’t be shot down on the way to his target.

Oh well, if politicians don’t care, I don’t care. I just hope the collateral damage ends up being politicians, not the visitors and sightseers.

More Obnoxious Quotes

"The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself." — Sir Richard Francis Burton
"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things." — Rene Descartes
"There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers." — William James (1842-1910)

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mr. Bluebird On My Shoulder

male bluebird

If you’d mentioned a blue bird to me before the year 2000, I’d have thought you meant a blue jay, a bird I’d always seen plenty of around here. So when, on July 14, 2000, I first spotted the Eastern bluebird from far off, I thought I was seeing things. I’d only been seriously watching birds for 2 or 3 months then. Anyway, I ran for the binoculars, aimed it at a pile of leaf and branch trimmings, and saw a closer image of the very colorful male. He had a bright blue coloring all over, except for his red (chestnut) chest and dirty-white stomach area. A Red, White, and Blue bird! Usually no bigger than a house sparrow, this and the less blue (more blue-brown) female seemed to me to have shown up out of nowhere.

I’d never seen them before, I didn’t even know they existed, much less lived in my area. Don't ask me what I thought people meant when they referred to the "bluebird of happiness". It was a prominent feature in at least one old fable, and I just thought it was part of the fable, utterly fictional! Of course, it turned out they do exist. They range east of here and up the eastern seaboard. West of here I'm told that I would encounter the mountain and the western varieties of bluebird, but I've only seen photos. I don't feel short-shrifted. My bluebirds are prettier than your bluebirds, though! Just kidding.

For more info, go to this Cornell site about the Eastern Bluebird

Cheer up, Jarvis. My oh my, it's a wonderful day (for birds, at least)!
Full lyrics to the Disney song "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah"

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Campbell Soup’s Boneheaded Tricks

I noticed that some new Campbell’s soup in the house marked "Healthy Request" brags about having 30% less sodium. Let’s see, now, these are the same backwards boneheads who, like some kind of fucking senseless fools from the Fifties, have been shoving 50% too much salt in their soup cans for years now! What shills! They'll purvey anything.

Campbell and/or their customers have tastebuds so damanged that they don’t seem to know the difference between a popsicle and a donkey turd. I wonder if they know what planet they’re on. It can’t ALL be right! I suspect that in America—I don’t eat other places!—people are addicted to salt like the real addicts are to heroin and cocaine. There is no moderation! Just as portions in restaurants tend to be enormous, so too are the doses of flavorings. It’s been going on so long that I must be a true lunatic to even notice it!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Guest Blogger: Dakto, by Jarvis

Your latest blog post, “A Death Poem”, prompted this. I hope you get out of this black mood you've been in lately. It's depressing the hell out of me.

Schoolmate Found Near Dakto

I was Sergeant of the guard on a small hill just outside Dakto. It was close to sunset, and I wanted to make my rounds to the different guard posts before dark. While at one of the sentry stations, I heard my name being called. Looking around, I noticed a man standing near a tent. I recognized him as someone I went to grade school with. It was really strange. I haven’t seen this guy since the fifth grade, and suddenly, here we are, thrown together in the middle of a Vietnam jungle. He could remember me, and amazing facts about our time in school. It all seemed like a clouded memory to me. To make it worse, I couldn’t even remember his name.

I was the only guy he knew on that hill, and for the next two days, he spent his every free minute following me around. He seemed to cling to me as something familiar from home, and he was reluctant to give it up. I enjoyed his visits, but try as I might, I just couldn’t remember his name. It appeared I got away with it by calling him Buddy, Pal, Dude, my man, and anything else I could think up. If it didn’t fool him, he never mentioned it. Three days later, we were on our way to Dakto when our convoy was ambushed. During the attack, my schoolmate was killed.

It wasn’t the first time I had witnessed death, nor was it the last. In fact, two other friends of mine were killed in that same attack. But his death has always bothered me. Why hadn’t I simply asked him his name?

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A Death Poem

For David, Who Died By Drowning

Who goes down for the first time
Goes down with you in mind;
Each is responsible for each,
The links between us
Destroy and teach.

Who goes down in water
Comes back,
Comes back on mourning's tide;
What ties the dream to earth
Is life and death and joy and birth.

Who goes down for the third time
Comes back as spark, as flame.
Now he who comes to mind
Needs no more a name; his name,
Be given or taken, his name is vain.

We come to term as flesh,
We come to term and wait;
Not one, not some, but all: all die.
And we who have not fallen
Can but remember… weep… remember...


4th draft: 05/07/05
©1977 Ronald C. Southern

David, a woman named Joleen died recently and somehow reminds me of you tonight. I think how I am now twice our age then, but you are not. It's a silly observation, but it's the kind we make, those of us who weep and remember.... Condolences to Theresa.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Another New Rat

It's another new cutie. Don't worry; if you hate it, it may not last. Still, it's an old favorite, sort of. I have a small collection of ink stamps and I was startled to recognize this as one of the images portrayed in rubber. I used to stamp my snail mail envelopes and pages with them. I seldom get out the old stamps any more, so it had never occurred to me to scan and utilize it before. The rat here is stolen from the Internet, not from the stamp collection. I should go look over the old stamps again before long. No telling what's there. I remember a duck and a kiwi bird and a man with his umbrella raining on his head on a dry day. And a giant bouquet of flowers. Things like that.

Friday, May 06, 2005

New Rat

Look in the right corner. It's a new rat. Cuter than the old rat. Fatter than the old rat. More worried than the old rat, but just about as stupid. He's got a new motto that says,

"Unsolicited hugs and kisses welcome, more or less."

Theresa knows what I mean. I'm taking a cue from Mr. Jones and will feel free to change the rat on the spur of the moment from now on, though this one may last a while.

Meanwhile, my new motto is, "I don't give a rat's ass." No, no, that's the old one! The new one is:

"Don't get too attached to anything but your own appendages."

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Whispering Hope

Words and Music by Septimus Winner - 1868
(Hebrews 6:19)

Soft as the voice of an angel,
Breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion
Whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over,
Wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
After the shower is gone.

Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

If, in the dusk of the twilight,
Dim be the region afar,
Will not the deepening darkness
Brighten the glimmering star?
Then when the night is upon us,
Why should the heart sink away?
When the dark midnight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day.

Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

Hope, as an anchor so steadfast,
Rends the dark veil for the soul,
Whither the Master has entered,
Robbing the grave of its goal.
Come then, O come, glad fruition,
Come to my sad weary heart;
Come, O Thou blest hope of glory,
Never, O never depart.

Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice,
Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

I'm not a big fan of gospel music because some of the songs strike me as silly and some of them I heard too often as a child. I never heard this one until Willie Nelson recorded it in 1976 on The Troublemaker album and I've loved it ever since. For a gospel song, it is very elegant and self-controlled.
Some of you may not find bland church organs as annoying as I do, so here's the tune for Whispering Hope.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Ninety Cents An Hour

Jury Duty

The county paid me $6 for 6 ½ hours of attendance for possible jury duty the day before yesterday, then sent me home. They chose 12 jurors out of 60 people and the first time I heard my name called last from their list, I caught a hint that I would not be called for the trial. The next time the list was read, I recognized that it was in the same order. I was the last person on the last row and there was such an excess of people that the lawyers in the voir dire questioning ignored everyone on the last three rows, asking us nothing except the general questions, such as when they asked the whole room, did we know any of the parties or lawyers in the trial.

The trial, as briefly described to us before the 12 jurors were chosen, didn’t sound very interesting. It was a civil case where homeowners wanted to sue workers for faulty installation of their manufactured (mobile) home. The home had been installed about five years before the complaints began, and it sounded fishy to me, but who knows. I’d have had to listen to 2 ½ days of arguments to see if it was silly or not. This is better, though, for I fear the judge would not have appreciated my nodding off in court.
Okay, so it's the dullest blog post on the planet so far, so kill me.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Nothing Again

Nothing today, but there will be something tomorrow about the Tootsie Roll trial of the century.

Monday, May 02, 2005

I Ain't Irish, Dutch, Or Cantonese

Years ago my sister gave me a heavy-duty drink coaster—it is really a good one—that said "Southern…And Proud of It!" Sounds like good fun, huh? Except it was decorated with a civil war Confederate flag, something of which I am neither very proud nor very tolerant. I'm not that kind of Southern! Still, I can't bring myself to throw away a perfectly good coaster.

I'm An American Nothing And Proud Of It!

I can't imagine going through life being very conscious of being Irish or trying to make others conscious of it. Of course, I'm not Irish at all and that explains a good deal about that.

I've always just thought I was an American. As a child, I was conscious of being White here in the South, and maybe conscious of being Southern (ya'll see?). But I wasn't particularly conscious of being part English or German or being descended from people in Louisiana with some blonde hair and some Indian blood or, for that matter, of being half-cousin to a duckbill platypus. If I'm half a dozen other mixes of cat, dog, and pony as well, I don't know, but I also never cared. I was me. That other stuff was just a way of trying to get unearned credit, I always felt. I'm nothing in particular but me, dammit, and proud of it.

I grew up and went to unexceptional schools with no great traditions and took an exceptional degree of interest in books and educating myself and therefore didn't fit in too well with anyone, and this is the result. I didn't go around patting anyone on the back for being European like me or any kind of "whatever" like me. I always found a little suspect people with extreme cultural notions, patterns, mores, party affiliations, group drinking habits, or other traditions. These drones from the group had all these things that they'd never thought up, thought out, things they would never give up. Everybody had their Mommy and Daddy's God and sometimes they had the family drinking genes and the family hatreds as well. Everything was inherited, emulated, derived from the familiar and the pre-existing and the inarguable. Nobody quite learned anything, I always thought. As they grew up, they were taught what to think, not how. Children everywhere tend to get brainwashed, that's why there's smart little Chinese communist children as well as smart little capitalists. They didn't have to learn anything, if they had their own "cultural history" to wallow in. They didn't have to be anybody new—neither communism nor capitalism wants anyone to be that! Such people seemed almost as bad as fraternity boys, whom I have always considered as artificial and as homogeneous a group of "friends" as could possibly exist.

To paraphrase Groucho Marx:

I don't want to belong to any clubs, and I sure as hell don't want to belong to one that's stupid enough to think I'd make a good member!

If you want somebody that doesn't fit in, give me a call and I'll see if I can squeeze you in. I can start the day fresh and be refreshed by not fitting in with YOU. I've got nothing against you, or if I do, it's certainly won't be because you're Italian or Anglican or any sort of nationalistic, racial, or country club kind of tradition—it'll be because you have personally irritated the shit out of me!
I have to report for jury duty Monday, so if I'm not eliminated due to being a threat to the republic, I may have to serve. So there may be one or several fewer posts this week. I don't know. Or maybe I'll get a trial about ownership of a Tootsie Roll and the two guys will settle out of court at the last minute.