Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Image Dump

Stanislav Odyagailo

Here we are at the end of another month and for some the end of another summer. For me the demarcations of the calendar usually means a link dump of those topics I did not get to during the past 30ish days or a image dump of pictures and art I have archived but not placed with any text. Today is one of those visual days. I will offer explainations where I am able. The first image above is simply a bizarre remnant of my long gone penguin days and, of course, an ode to the end of summer.


I just never found the words to go with this image but I do suggest not falling asleep in this situation.

This comes from a file called 'bizarre chewing gum sculptures' I think that says it all.


Here we have one of those color enhanced photos from NASA, but whenever I see this one I am reminded of Nanci Griffith singing Once in a Very Blue Moon.

Its not just anyone who can wear a bow tie.

Well this would be me during the recent Boyz Poker Outing in Las Vegas, taken by Mike at the new Chihuly gallery in the also new City Center.

and finally, well I just don't know . . . Emu Date Night?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tim's Dilemma


Actually the dilemma depicted above is not mine, well not exactly depending on the interpretation in the eye of the bolder beholder. Whilst surfin' about for some images of dilemma for another article, I happened upon this image, titled Tim's Dilemma. If you are intrigued, I suggest a larger version, as they say the devil is in the details. The image comes from the website of the Modernism gallery here in San Francisco, I will be there next week for a look see. The artist of Tim's Dilemma is Arsen Roje. A bit more surfin' found his exhibit titled Body Parts, which could better have been called hands or better yet fingers. The link is to a short video tour of that installation, a truly different sort of digital experience.

The Modernism gallery has been around for over thirty years and thinking back I remember seeing a Robert Crumb show there in the 90s.
Robert Crumb - Vulnerable Goddess (1990)

Michael Dweck (2002)

Mark Stock (1993)

Rowland Scherman

Me thinks I shall do a bit more pondering on the nature of my current dilemma, whatever that might be.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friends and Fellow Travelers

A friend, an olde friend sent me this image and said that it reminded him of me. Somewhere in storage or in another friend's home there is a white Balinese mask very similar to that image. We were in the workshop/gallery of a gifted mask-maker in Ubud, Bali. Mask were being tried on, laughter was awash but respect was being shown to a true craftsman. I put on the white mask in a back hallway and leaned out into the main room just my head emmasked. For a moment there was complete silence and then everyone came towards me, I had evidently found my one true mask. I need to get it out again, wonder where it rests?

But today's post is not about me or images of me. Today's post is about friends and how I speak of friends in this blog. Long time readers know that I tend to begin a tale with -- "a friend told me the other day" or I write about friends as examples of all things good and not so. Friends who make me happy and those that make me sad or baffle me are blog fodder. There are even a couple of very close friends I never write about either because they are just too private and I don't want to intrude or I have ever so lightly referenced them in the past and received less than warm returns via critique.

Recently a post got three responses that basically said -- "Did you mean me?"

So new rule. In the future when I use the term friend I will send said friend an email disclosing their appearance, no matter how veiled, in this here blog. No email, it ain't you.

Now I must go, there are some towering grey clouds hanging low over San Francisco Bay. The sun has been transformed into a viewable disk as it sinks into the greyness. I am going to sit and watch as light and dark struggle. Which I wonder shall prevail?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Conversation with God


For those younger or straighter or way over there on the right, above is a Terry Gilliam (Monty Python) image of the supreme being. Didn't want to get anyone confused early on today. You should select your own imagery for the personage of god or God for today's discussion.

Back at the end of June, I did a link dump and one of the items I tossed out was a Conversation with God. Some of you read it, many did not. The article contains an interesting and perhaps off-beat reflection on who or what the deity is or might be. I do recommend the article, I can wait here if you would like to read it now.

No really, I can wait.

O.K. maybe later, shall we continue. I would like to discuss just one aspect of the thesis put forward in the Conversation with God. This comes about mid-way in the conversation, when the human ask about prophets:

[man] ‘OK, so what about our more famous "prophets"; Jesus of Nazareth, Moses, Mohammed…’


[god] ‘hmmm… sadly misguided I’m afraid.  I am not here to act as a safety net or ethical dictator for evolving species. It is true that anyone capable of communicating with their own cells will dimly perceive a connection to me – and all other objects in this universe - through the quantum foam, but interpreting that vision as representing something supernatural and requiring obeisance is somewhat wide of the mark.  And their followers are all a bit too obsessive and religious for my liking. It's no fun being worshipped once you stop being an adolescent teenager. Having said that, it's not at all unusual for developing species to go through that phase. Until they begin to grasp how much they too can shape their small corner of the universe, they are in understandable awe of an individual dimly but correctly perceived to be responsible for the creation of the whole of that universe. Eventually, if they are to have any hope of attaining level two, they must grow out of it and begin to accept their own power and potential. It's very akin to a child’s relationship with its parents. The awe and worship must disappear before the child can become an adult. Respect is not so bad as long as it's not overdone. And I certainly respect all those species who make it that far. It’s a hard slog. I know. I've been there.’


I know a couple of references in there, like 'level two', require a second reading of the article but what impressed me most was not the rather simply idea that religions as we know them are immature expressions of basic human thought but more importantly that we have available to us now the resources to move beyond our philosophical adolescence. The "quantum foam" as he calls it. We or rather the religious believers of our species simply put the wrong labels on all of this. These labels have the singular quality of diminishing the potential of the human race. Baseball players point to the sky god when they cross home plate, but not when they strike out. Every success in life is attributed to god's will or his mercy but failure -- well that's our fault for not seeing his divine plan.


It, the big It, the great answer, what it really is all about doesn't come down to any "One Thing." However, recognizing who we are and not fobbing our potential off on the divine kindness of some mythical entity would be a good place to start.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Twenty-Six Hummers Humming


One of my harshest blog critics really enjoyed my last hummingbird post, so I felt justified in writing one more, if anything new happened. Well, here it is. Last evening just before dusk, when the major swarming goes on, I was sure there were more than seventeen hummers at the feeder (17 being the old record). Now they are difficult to count even when ten of them sit sipping on the nectar dispenser. But with a little spacial geometry I was fairly confident of a minimum count of twenty-one. I even called my friends the homeowners to boast of my new record bird count.

Shortly after the call, I was sure even more birdlets had come in but how to tell, my quantitative needs were beginning to overwhelm my qualitative delight at being three feet from this quiver of hummers. Then it struck me, there used to be two feeders hanging on the deck, so I could install a second hook the next day and maybe tomorrow night.... wait! and even better idea!!

I filled the second feeder, I had the sugary brew ready for a post-dusk refill anyway. Then I just slide the screen door half way open and stuck my hand and arm out with the feeder in my palm. It took about ten seconds for the first hungry hummer to check it out, once he landed on the far side of the feeder, the side away from the big white tree it was hanging on, the hummer gates opened and soon I had five, then six, the seven birds feeding from the feeder in the palm of my hand.

With both feeders having static birds and one fluttering queue for each I was able to count first twenty then twenty-two and finally twenty-six verified hummingbirds at one time. With the math done, I was able to simply wonder at the tiny birds landing nearly in my hand. It was then that one of them decided that feeding slots eight, nine and ten (where my arm connected to the wrist bone), well those feeding stations were open too. He landed on my thumb and hopped up to the feeder perch. Again, hummer see hummer do. One than more would land on parts of my wrist and hand and make their way to the perch.

Eventually one of the hummers landed on my forearm and sat there staring up at the big white tree. I wonder what was going through her bird brain? I know what was going through mine -- avian ecstasy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Catastrophizing


I have a couple of issues today. First of all -- catastrophizing is not a word. I am normally not against adverbializing, gerunding, adjectivization, participlization, izing, ising and generally expanding the language. But some of it just comes out as lazy language. Prime example: "Are you disrespecting me?"

No, I am not! I am, however, showing disrespect towards your behavior because you have not made the effort to learn how to speak. Back to catastrophizing, according to some lame brain academics. Catastrophizing is an irrational thought wherein we believe something is far worse than it actually is. This is apparently treatable and therefore can be billed to your HMO.

Now I don't want to be a cynic here, nor do I want to dismiss what for some individuals might be a disrupting influence in their life. Mental health issues comes in a wide variety of shapes, forms, sizes and phobias; just about as many as there are mental beings walking the planet. Here is my real issue.

You might have heard the term: catastrophizing in the last month or so, as it relates to U.S. combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems that some of our soldiers are having thoughts that they are really in danger and that nothing good will come of their service in these foreign lands. Or what some mental health professionals would label -- rational thinking.

But, as far as the military is concerned, not correct thinking. These soldiers apparently do not have their heads on straight, so the U.S. Department of Defense has turned to psychology to combat this less than optimal mindset of its minions. The U.S. Army is planning to require that all 1.1 million of its soldiers take intensive training in positive psychology and emotional resiliency. Or what psychology professionals call Positive Psychology.

You should know that Positive Psychology is very controversial within the world of professional psychology. In particular, the idea that clearly dangerous or negative life situations should somehow be given a positive spin is viewed as the equivalent of brainwashing by some highly respected mental health professionals; particularly when such wisdom is dispenses along with psychiatric medication as is apparently the case for over one in six serving members of the U.S. Army.

Adding flavor to this mish-mash of military policy, the army has suggested that they have "40,000 teachers" able to train or retrain their 1.1 million soldiers. Those teachers would be the drill sergeants, always known for taking a deep interest in their students and imbuing them with a positive outlook on life and their future prospects. I am reminded of Jerry Della Femina's book -- From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor.


To read the full article on this bit of military brilliance, go here. And remember, it is always darkest before the dawn, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and catastrophizing circumstances may cause carbuncles, cankers, consumption and constipation; however, it is often also a sign of sanity and therefore something apparently to be avoided.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

My Life As A Perch


The hummers are now going through a full feeder (3 cups of water, 1 1/2 of sugar) every day, so this morning I was out filling up the sugary snack when one of the little fellows buzzed me. Now in the past I have had them drink out of the 4 cup glass container while I was pouring and many times I have gotten a chirpy lecture while I did the refill, but today was different. While I was up on the one-step to rehang the feeder, one brave bird came in to have a taste even before I had it rehung. He clearly emboldened the others because very quickly with my head six inches from the feeder there were six, then ten, then thirteen hummers all buzzing and slurping.

I figured they could care less about me, so I stayed in place and soon they were whirling around my head completely ignoring me. Not sure if you can imagine what that many buzzing wings sounds like but it is quite invigorating. For a few moments one of the queued hummers was so close to my ear that I was ever so lightly brushed by each rapid flap of her wings.

I was engrossed, fascinated and honored to be so close to the critters and then it happened. With a full baker dozen volleying for a place at the trough, there were always waiters. I have seen as many as eight settled on the rail drinking but there just isn't any more room. Generally four to six are actually drinking and another 3 or 4 are buzzing about waiting for a slot of open up. Sort of like the four o'clock change planes scramble at O'Hara.

Well there was one hummer hovering just at my right temple when he apparently decided he needed a rest but didn't want to retreat to the nearest pine tree. So he landed on the eyepiece of my glasses. A magical moment if there ever was one and he made sure I would be forever honored by his presence when he squirted some hummer guano on my shoulder as he flew off.

[Addendum]: I won't write another entire blog post on the hummers that would set off my more serious minded readers but I must add that this morning I was up around dawn to feed a demanding cat. I noticed that the hummers were out in full force and that the early morning sunlight shown directly on the nectar dispenser which meant in additional to just the sheer pleasure of watching and hearing the hummers, now there was an added light show as their wings picked up the early morning sunlight. I was watching fascinated when suddenly they exploded like a star going nova, the cat had jumped up on the deck. The entire charm of hummers had zipped up to a height of about 15 feet, forming a shell of birdlets. It took about a half a moment, for them to ID the cat as belonging and not a threat then they were back at the feeder. Interesting how "we" adapt, amazing what we take for granted.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What To Do, What To Do?


If there's something I learned about in life, it's that you have to stand up to bullies and assholes every once in a while. Because let's face it -- an asshole is not going to be less of an asshole because you call him/her out on it. However, they definitely will become a bigger asshole if you let them get away with it. --- Dr. Pauly

As I have said way too many times, the general arena of standing up to socially inappropriate behavior is a lot easier for large males. My own personal philosophy on generalized assholery is to ignore it unless the perpetrator will take such silence as license to continue. The exchange can almost be scripted:

1) Begin with behavior and associated verbalization that meets the criteria for inappropriate conduct. 

2) Ignore it.

3) Reoccurrence of behavior.

"Hey dude, enough already."

"What?"

"You're being a dick. You're annoying everyone, so just stop."

[insert key response here with or without escalating levels of bad behavior or attitude]

"No really --stop. This is not a debate. Stop now or go away, those really are your only options."

Part II: What do you do when someone you really care for goes off on a wild ass tangent with their life? I mean sure let them explore if the adventure is about growth or finding a new way or just outright fun. But what do you do when they return and are just so screwed up that no one can deal with them. 

I am not talking about drugs, alcohol or other addictive evils but more about a philosophy of life that just doesn't make sense to anyone who was there when they began their adventure. In my current particular case it involves a close friend who has late in life come to politics and now espouses certain views that while not completely out of the mainstream are being advocated with the fervor of a conspiracy nut.

Tolerance can only come with distance. The necessary distance means ending a relationship that I have valued for many years. I really don't want to do that but history does not always override current behavior.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Water Vapor Channel



Just to wrap up a short series of posts on looking up to the heavens. The Perseids were really spectacular on Thursday night. About two-thirds of the sky up here in Northern California was clear, so I didn't have to go up the mountain to get a view. I also got a great binocular view of Venus during most of the early evening.

As regular readers know, I have a real affection for NASA space photography and in particular the vistas from the Hubble Space Telescope. I like to wander around the NASA websites looking for what those space cadets may have served up recently for our visual consumption. Here is my latest discovery from my extracurricular sky surfin': The Water Vapor Channel. These images come from the Earth Science Laboratories in Huntsville, Alabama.

What is fascinating about the water vapor shots is that you can see rain or snow a lot more clearly than just looking at cloud cover. Some clouds are just not as wet as others. In addition, you can make your own photo by putting in longitude and latitude; so when I go to the website I get a real time moist overview of the San Francisco Bay area.

There is also a link to an infrared channel, if you want to see some truly awesome shots of storm systems take a long look at them in infrared. The useage tips over on the left side make the site interactively a lot of fun.

Next post I will be back down to earth as strongly requested by several critical readers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tools or Words?


I tend to pay attention to synchronicity, which is to say that when recurring images or thoughts, phrases, songs, personages, situations, nouns, verbs, physical traits or other ephemera repeat themselves within range of my seven senses, I take note. Lately, there seems to be a debate, indeed a reengagement of a conversation about what makes homo sapien the dominant species on planet earth.

The two sides are quite simply: language or tools. Now obviously the answer is -- both! But that does not settle the argument, at least not in the academic circles of this circular universe. Today I encountered the following logic: when archeologists search for meaning in ancient human settlements besides human remains (bones) we typically look at cultural artifacts. Artifacts being the stuff we made. We made this stuff with tools, which are considered a higher order of artifact because they are created in order to create other things. With the exception of some primates and a few birds, we have no observable evidence of other species using tools and obsoletely none of any other animal creating a Sears catalog to desseminate their tools.

Now the language folks would point out that an even higher order of artifact is the written word in the form of books, scrolls, tablets, cave paintings and even remnants in oral traditions. I would add that when one of our historic or pre-historic ancestors innovated and build a better hammer or mousetrap; the culture was more likely to be transformed or paradigm shifted when the caveguy next door could come over and say: "How'd ya do dat?"

I brought this up because in a skype conversation last night, one of my younger but wiser friends offered that language itself is an artifact but whether it is higher or lower order is really irrelevant particularly because the discussion is taking place in language, which makes words both mundane and sacred to us and perhaps the debate ---- well . . . academic?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weed Again


The hummingbirds are swarming, the deer and raccoons make their daily visits. I got a clear dark sky view of the Venus, Mars, Jupiter conjunction the other night and the Perseids will be peaking in just a few nights. Add to that my friends have left on a two week vacation, taking the dog but leaving the cat and you can see why visiting Mt. Shasta this time of year is perfectly timed.

OK, technically I am in Weed, even more precisely I am visiting the Lake Shastina Golf Resort. The point is that I am not in Berkeley for a couple of weeks and will be periodically commenting on the set and setting of my travels (again).

Once again I have friends with the decency to invite me to visit them and then up after a brief visit they up and leave. So I have a nice big house with a view of the mountain, a big black affectionate cat, a sparkling hot tub plus heaps & gobs of peace and quiet. You can't get better friends than these. I may even stay around a few days when they return, just to be friendly.

I brought a small load of summer reading material, there is a year's worth of Discovery and National Geographic here to catch up on. Being a modern nest, I have a great wi-fi connection, dish television and their great music collection. I stopped at a roadside stand on the drive up, so I have fresh white peaches, dapple dandy pluots,  fantasia nectarines and a bottle of Amaretto for a never-ending crock of fruit salad.

The hummingbirds swarm around a feeder that is about five feet from where I write. At the moment about half a dozen are jockeying for landing rights at breakfast. I can go out on the deck and stand quietly and become part of the landscape. Aside from one or two agitated chirping in-my-face lectures, I am ignored and the feeding frenzy goes on. This happens late summer each year as the local population fattens up for the southern migration. During the spring and summer there are only two or three hummers around but now as many as a dozen live in the pine trees on the property and sip as much nectar as we provide from early morning until late twilight.

Speaking a nectar, a beaker of apricot velvet nectar awaits me, before I launch into some serious writing for the day.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Four Hundred Posts


One final significant number item in this string of number filled posts -- this is the 400th blog post since I launched Keeping Your Head in the Game back in 2007. Not surprisingly most of the early posts were about poker but since I altered the name to Keeping Your Head in (All) the Game(s) the poker content is down (and nearly out).

I went back and read a lot of those early non-poker posts. Clearly I was searching for my one true blogger voice. I was reminded of how Amy and I searched for several months for Mike Matusow's voice before we found it for his autobiography Check Raising the Devil.

By now I am a certifiable blog addict. I blog because the discipline spills over into my larger writing projects. I blog because for me it is easier to self disclose in print. Friends have noted that I am a great talker but not particularly self-revealing. I blog about what tweaks me, twists me, turns me and teases me. And I enjoy locating the pictures I adorn my blog with.

Four hundred posts took a bit more then 3 1/2 years, but my pace has increased each and every annum. We should be to 500 in time for my birthday early next year. Finally -- thanks for reading, it is always encouraging to know my words may reach your ears, hearts and other body parts.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

100 Things About Me (2010)


This is the fourth annual edition of "100 Things About Me". It's a blogger tradition to do this once, but I'm an overachiever plus I direct potential partners from online dating to this post. It works to intrigue the right ladies and more importantly to avoid a whole lot of one time coffee dates. 


There has been about an 17.6% update this year, mostly because I got bored by the old me.

1. This blog [Keeping Your Head in (All) the Game(s)] will soon total more than 400 posts since 2007. I have disclosed more to the void of the world wide web than I have to my closest friends.
2. For 15 months in 2009-10, I was undomiciled (not homeless) while traveling in my Cube to see family and friends around the country.
3. As of March ’10, I have a semi-permanent address in Berkeley, CA.
4. I got my first passport to study in Germany in ‘68. I used my second to go to Antarctica in ‘80. The third one took me to Singapore & Bali in ‘97. I was traveling on my fourth passport in Australia in ‘07, when I wrote the first draft of this list. 
5. That fourth passport is currently awaiting a visa stamp for a long romantic trip with my soon to be once and future lover.
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6. I grew up in a rural village in Michigan near Ann Arbor.
7. I am the middle child of five; I am typical of a middle child. Also an Aquarius, double Capricorn, Emperor-Fool, INFP.
8. I have lived with four women in my life; this total does not include lesbian housemates, my mother or sister. 


9. Only one relationship ever mutually got anywhere near the conversation that begins: “4½ yellow gold with….”

There were several others that got that close for her but not for me or so I was later informed.
10. I got my undergraduate degree in political science from Kalamazoo College in 1969.
11. I received a Ph.D. in East-West Psychology in 1999 from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. 


12. I was Jane Fonda’s bodyguard for a day (1973).
13. I once grew my hair for two years, it never reached my collar. These days I shave erratically, unless a current paramour prefers a smooth cheek.

14. My first book was published in May of 2009, it has sold about 25,000 copies; the screenplay languishes in Hollywood.
15. The title of my great American novel is: “All My Friends are Nearly Normal”, that has been the title for sixteen years.
16. The title of the book I am actively writing is: “Pay Attention!” I’m not sure about the exclamation point.
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17. I went to a Catholic grade school. The school, church, rectory, convent, playground and the big field were on the same block as our house.
18. I skipped from the 4th to the 5th grade mid-year. 


19. I do not have a tattoo or any piercings and only three major scars; broken baby bottle, clothesline, scalpel.
20. I don’t wear jewelry, cologne, boxers, pelts or chartreuse. 


21. 99.3% of my clothes are cotton. 


22. A Google search of me will find a lot of papers presented to the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness.
23. The most important feature of a car is head room; come to think of it, that may be the most important feature of life.
24. I have been told I have really great hands. I have not been told that often enough.
25. I was mesmerized twice during an Easter weekend in Paris in 1968.  


26. There were seventeen academic awards for boys given out my senior year in high school. I received seventeen. 


27. I have written under several pseudonyms. 

 


28. The first live poker tournament I ever played was raided by the Ohio State Police. 


29. I worked as a media writer at the World Series of Poker for four years: ’06-’09; I was not there in ’10 and will not be there in the future.
30. I once received a job evaluation that read: “Not completely sure what Tim does; prefer not to ask. Overall rating: Excellent, perhaps.”


31. I ran several political campaigns in the 70’s; none of my candidates won but none of them served time in prison either. 


32. I have voted in every presidential election. I have never voted for a winning presidential candidate. I have voted for one democrat and no republicans -- George McGovern.
33. The 1972 election was the last time I drank the kool-aid.
34. I have a lengthy rant/tirade on third party voting, which no one is required to hear more than once. I would add that several friends have come back years, even decades later and asked me to repeat my argument.
35. The last presidential speech I heard was Richard Nixon’s resignation. I enjoyed it much too much.
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36. I don’t believe in the Cartesian mind/body split.
37. I do believe in Karma and Reincarnation, well at least this time. 


38. From the age of ten to twenty-six, I had the key to a pharmacy in my pocket. I refer to those as my “chemically formative years.”


39. My father was a naval officer, small business owner, pharmacist, village councilman and volunteer fire chief. 

40. I have a not so deeply repressed attraction to redheads. 


41. I have about six dozen favorite quotes. Among them: "True wisdom needs decades to ripen."
42. I think that The Simpsons once was “a brilliant commentary on American culture” and so is the woman who first said that to me.
43. When anyone says their family is dysfunctional, I ask if they have ever seen The Osbournes; available on DVD.
44. There always seems to be one current reality show that I am addicted to. The previous list includes: Intervention, The Osbournes, The Girls Next Door, and currently Family Jewels.
45. A country needs jesters; we have John Stewart and Steven Colbert.
46. I have many qualities that resemble a hibernating bear.
47. There is a sign on my front door that reads: “Arouse only as necessary.” 


48. I have had several “families” over the years; the one in L.A. will always be the most memorable, we lost our center and drifted apart. 


49. I have never been arrested. I have put up bail several times.

50. I have only three addictions: chocolate, oxygen and that other one.
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51. Apocalypse Now is my favorite movie but not the director’s cut. I have a blog post: Movies of My Life that may interest movie buffs.
52. Catch-22 was once my favorite book. These days my favorite changes often.
53. Annie Lennox is my favorite female singer.
54. I adore cats of all sizes and I am fond of manatees.
55. In the last three years I have discovered the answer to several of life’s questions. However, I have also realized that an equal number of previously ‘known’ answers, no longer seem to be true.
56. Three of the most remarkable women I have ever met all live in Texas.
57. The other three I met in San Francisco. I am open to expanding this list.
58. I have lived in Michigan, Massachusetts, Germany, several L.A. South Bay suburbs, San Francisco, Las Vegas and now Berkeley.
59. In the past twelve months I have spent more than five consecutive nights in Las Vegas, San Francisco, Weed, Sonoma, Windsor, Fort Wayne, Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Hinckley, Atlantic City, Satellite Beach, Biloxi, Austin, Phoenix, Palm Springs, Oakland and Berkeley.
60. I have a new website.
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61. I have many more conservative friends than I used to, but most of them tend to not know about my previous incarnations.
62. I read Tarot. Those new friends tend to ignore this bit of information.
63. I have some limited shamanic abilities. Ditto.
64. The best vacation of my life was in Bali. The second was Key West. The third she still hasn’t shown up for.
65. I would like to see New Zealand and much more of Canada; plus there are many parts of the U.S. I want to visit again.
66. Favorite Band: I am rethinking this one, again.
67. Favorite Music: Nessun Dorma from Turandot.
68. Tiger, Clarence, Sam, Gisele, Geniver, Samson,Truman, Wally, Armistead, Honey, Rascal, Smokey, Midnight.
69. I discovered I was buddhist in Singapore.
70. I am likely not to be here next year. 
71. “Here” is not an easy term to define, particularly in the context I use it here.
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72. The most important part of a movie is the dialogue.
73. After the writing comes the music, except Koyaanisqatsi.
74. I am fascinated by images from the Hubble Space Telescope.
75. “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” is empirically, if painfully, true.
76. I do not watch nor follow team sports. I do watch the Super Bowl commercials.
77. I don't play any musical instruments and can't carry a tune. Prose is my vehicle.
78. I eat the M&Ms by color, dark to light.
79. Omnivore with predilections for turkey, avocado, asparagus, barbeque, crusty loaves and the aforementioned cocoa in all dark forms.
80. I have never participated in sports where your legs randomly go in opposite directions.
81. I was employed for several years as a benevolent demi-god in a virtual reality world. It was typecasting. I never smote anyone.
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82. I believe that U.S. America post-1492 can genetically be a country of origin. I have officially declared myself an albus americanus.
83. As my friends approach retirement, I offer each of them this advice: "Fix up your guest room."
84. Is my favorite number but not my lucky number.
85. Grey is my favorite color; followed closely by gray.
86. I have made love in hell.
87. Until I was 35 everyone thought I was older than I was.
88. After I was 35 everyone thinks I am younger than I am, even now.
89. I lived in Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Manhattan Beach but I never, ever lay on a sunny beach.
90. 1984 was the first book I ever stayed up all night to read.
91. About the only pastime that keeps me from writing is reading.
92. My favorite job is the one I have now; teaching is a close second and working with my dad in the pharmacy made both of those possible.
93. I lived with a woman named Faith. I got hit by a car driven by Hope. Was asked to have coffee by a hooker named Charity, she really did want to have coffee (some years later she asked me to be her daughter's godfather.)
94. I will eat a hot dog, sausage or link no matter how many snouts and lips are in it. Prefer the links be barbeque, the sausage in an omelette and only the occasional weenie.
95. I will eat almost anything chocolate and will ford any stream to locate and devour it.
96. I once camped for a weekend with seven gay men, six lesbians, and four newborn kittens.
97. I currently have three goals: Not just a woman, not just book, just a synchronous life.
98. I have two lingering regrets in my life. Both involve relationships I screwed up. One when I was too young, the other I couldn't break through the shimmering walls of her past.
99. I have one prejudice; I abhor voluntary stupidity.
100. I will listen to almost any thoughtful position, unless it violates the limits referenced in 33 and 99.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Life's Little Lists


Six months ago today I wrote a post titled Cleat in Time. There was some suggestion in that post about short term plans and goals. Here today, I had thought of reflecting on those words and checking on those goals. But I am not really a list-making type of guy. Oh, I keep a few notes jotted down here by the keyboard but I am just not much of a punishing self-reflector. So rather than measure my own accomplishments over the last six months or sixty years ... let me tell you a story.

Back in the 80s, my business partner and I decided to hire an old friend. She had come on some hard economic times but she was fully qualified to work for us. Tom was concerned about whether a job with us would really pull her out of the doldrums she had sailed into. But we decided to do the right thing and she came to work in our mortgage company.

One of Tom's many roles was office manager, so I was not surprised about a month into Donna's time with us that Tom had her in for a late Friday afternoon conference. I poked my head in to wish them a good weekend and headed out for TGIF in Hermosa Beach. The following Monday, Tom showed me a single sheet of paper he had under his desk blotter. He had Donna write down the ten things she needed to accomplish to regain her equilibrium and happiness. I noticed the list was dated and signed by both of them.

About six months later, Tom called me into this office one morning and showed me the list. He had another meeting with Donna, had shown her the list, he now showed me. Each of the ten items were checked off in Donna's hand and a new item was written in below. She had a new list of ten things between her and happiness.

I asked about the purpose of the exercise, confused by why there needed to always be a list before happiness. Tom told me that he had put the list in front of Donna gave her a pen and asked her to check off each item that she had accomplished in the previous six months. She then spontaneously checked off each item in order but before moving onto the next item she wrote in a new one.

There was always going to be a list between her and happiness. Tis why I am not so fond of lists and the obsessive compulsives who live by them.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

100 Best Novels


I got a call from an old friend the other day. I mean an old, old friend; someone I had not spoken to in over 20 years. Strange what parts of that conversation became bloggable. She mentioned during a long rambling conversation that her daughter, about to be a senior in high school, was on her third summer of reading the 100 best novels of all time. Having read thru freshman, sophomore and junior summers, she now expected to reach her goal (all 100) by her first summer in grad school. A total of 100 books in ten summers, a laudable feat in my estimation.

Later that night I wondered how one finds the 100 Best Novels? I tried the internet and then sent off an email: "What list is your daughter using?"

The next day I got this response: "She is using the Modern Library list of best novels."

I give you the Modern Library's own bio.

The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century. For decades, young Americans cut their intellectual teeth on Modern Library books. The series shaped their tastes, educated them, provided them with a window on the world. Many of the country's celebrated writers are quick to attest that they "grew up with the Modern Library."

Damn, it was the ML list that scared me when I googled the 100 Best Novels. Shortly and happily, I got a follow-up email: "She is reading from the ML Board's list, not the readers list." 

I leave you without comment the top ten from those two lists. If you want to see the full 100 of each, here is the link.

  1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
  2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  3. A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN by James Joyce
  4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
  5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
  6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
  7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
  8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler 
  9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
  10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck


  1. ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
  2. THE FOUNTAINHEAD by Ayn Rand
  3. BATTLEFIELD EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
  5. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
  6. 1984 by George Orwell
  7. ANTHEM by Ayn Rand
  8. WE THE LIVING by Ayn Rand
  9. MISSION EARTH by L. Ron Hubbard
  10. FEAR by L. Ron Hubbard


OK, one comment. Who the hell are these readers?