Thursday, June 30, 2011

cricket: the mystery of the human presence

what is the difference between a friend alive and a friend dead? for some reason i always end up asking obvious questions! i mean, the answer has to be their missing laugh, their gorgeous smile and contemptuous upper lip. they can't help me with my homework or interrupt my thought.

actually, those not true. i've memories that sometimes crack me up. i've photographs, videos, recorded conversations. the magical discoveries and inventions should bring that person alive, yet they do not. part of it is unpredictability. i never quite knew what bill or randy, for example, would say or do. little twitches and squeaks could modify a usual expression. and some people we miss more than others. i never thought the one person i would miss the most bert gardner, my traveling companion. i realized after she died, neither of us trespassed on our inner turf, quietness emanated from berta, she listened a lot more than she talked. 

a few public figures liven up our world in such a way that when they pass my world is not the same. picasso one such, t.s. eliot another, and when steve jobs leaves, my universe will be a less interesting place. only a few resonate this way. diana never affected me, but, boy, she sure did a lot of other people. 

last fall my sister cricket called me. out of a job, behind on her rent, i could hear the fear in voice: i'm about to be a bag lady. for the first time in my life i leaped in with money (i'm basically a tightwad), not to pay her rent, rather to buy her a laptop. 57, she'd never had a computer. i figured if i could get her on facebook she'd connect with many friends from her life. and that's what happened. she'd been a part of the sixties, seventies, and eighties music scene, traveling around with groups like asleep at the wheel, drinking their whiskey, going outside to puke so she could drink more and keep up with the boys.

the important part of the story for me: what made her delightful to so many of these folks. as i got her online, a phone with unlimited calling, paying the gas and electricity (she still lives without heat cause she doesn't have the money), i understood. a dedicated supporter of beautiful singing and beatful musicians, a  passionate lover of dogs, a funny friend, she shares herself in a way with them that makes their life fuller and livelier. 

of course, she's not sugar and spice and everything nice. depressed and grumpy, irritated and anxious, she's as annoying as the rest of us. however, these don't last long, she's careful to pay her share and usually very thankful and considerate.  a lightbulb flashed in my head: presence, that's all i have to give. all that really matters is what i'm doing right now. yes, doing. i've always been suspicious of advice be here now. no, i'm doing here now, damnit, even if i'm meditating, watching a movie, or sleeping. 

thanks, cricket. you've really been the one to help me. never a father, i at least had the experience of a little adopted girl. no wonder parents put up with everything that comes later!

you can see more pictures of cricket here: 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

i'm a glutton for simplicity

damn, it's happened again. when will i every learn? i've always been a miniaturist when it comes to gadgets, cars, and women. yet i tend  to believe bigger is better, fancier is finer. 

for example, this winter, bored with snapping photos, i decided to get up to speed in another area:  music. i bought several elegant programs for composing computer music, five ukuleles, one electric guitar, two amps, and twenty-five books, researching the delta blues again. all this quite exiting, and expensive. i purchased off amazon, returned, acquired more. and in the end what did it come down too?

that beautiful, incredibly heavy electric ax barely picked up and never played. the littlest uke of solid wood the one i can't resist. all the how-to books molder on the shelf, for i'm an eternal improviser, not a real musician. the tiniest amp hooked on my belt works best for the blue uke and the banjo, while the best amp rests in a corner, gathering dust. as for the computer programs, i played with them for awhile and they've been buttoned up for months. 

this happened with photography too. over a period of eight years i squandered at least twenty thousand dollars. dozens of lenses, eighteen cameras big and small, carrying cases, tripods, on and on. at thirteen i decided to become a writer instead of an artist cause all it took for the first was a pencil and paper,  for the second i'd need god knows what (and now i know what). true, at the moment i'm drawing on a seven inch android tablet with my fingers, just like in the second grade, this after millenniums of corel painter and photoshop

as for the ladies, i can't handle one over five feet two and even that is problematical. a big woman blows me away. not that i've been able to succeed in that department, but at least i've learned a limitation needed, plus others i've never practiced, to my shame and doom. 

oh, and i ended up loving one simple camera, the sigma dp2s, fixed lens, nothing complicated. 

posted a new series of drawings:

and added more discoveries to the androids: 

Monday, June 27, 2011

dad died at 53, grandpa at 99+, what are the odds?

                                                              Rudy Giscombe

i guess what i'm asking myself is, if i've got thirty more years, do i really want them? that doesn't seem an idle question. if i haven't succeeded in realizing my childhood dreams, extra time may just be more of the same failure, with diminishing physical resources. not a matter of aging, rather of being productive to the end.

admittedly, i'm now addicted to the TED talks - they can be watched anywhere in the world, that's the good; they're given by people with a lot of vitality, education, and excellent health, that's what makes me think: if i haven't got it now, will i ever? and as i've said before, it becomes very obvious i can't do it alone. 

take the case of steve jobs, apple atlas. he gave a speech a couple years at stanford, all the more poignant for the fact his cancer has re-arrived and he may not be with us long. he's resurrected himself before, i hope he can do it again. i say this though i'm a pc guy and always felt mac's over-rated and expensive. beautiful designs though and part of why told in this talk.

he doesn't seem to fit the mold of the older folks studied in this talk: they all live in old-time faith-based communities. however, once his autobiography comes out, and i hope he's writing one as we speak, it may be his community connections what have sustained him. ah, and he'll more than likely go at the age i am now. that's a sad story. 

another community fellow just died in my home town, you can read his story here:    i'll always remember his warmth and smile when he'd say hello. he's somebody everybody in town misses at the moment. if he gets his own artist bench downtown, we'll be reminded of him for a long time, these seats an important local tradition. and maybe where he sat in the park will have a brass plaque: rudy played his saxophone here. 

lots of questions, only a few good answers. so far no pill will enhance my chances. here's from a cartoon by hugh mccleod: you've been dead only a few hours and already nobody cares.  check hugh out at you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

how to kick-start your heart

mortality's never made much sense to me. i mean, why have i got a time-clock beating in me instead of a heart? however, i did read about what to do immediately upon feeling an attack: cough like hell. evidently this can restore the heart's rhythm. i've got approximately twenty seconds.

as for stroke, i got up at 2 a.m. to take a leak and suddenly keeled sideways. i recovered before hitting the floor, grabbing onto a shelf of books - ah, so those tomes good for something! i felt so weird, i thought, did i have a stroke? i performed a couple of simple tests. did my tongue come out pointing to the left? no. could i speak a coherent sentence? as sleep drugged as i was, i could say now is the time for all good men. i could smile without sagging lopsided, and my arms raised over my head equally. okay, no brain damage likely. 

when i woke in the sunlight, i considered the fact the brain cells can't feel. no wonder so many cultures felt we think with our hearts. i wonder why the inner noggin so protected? no answer came to mind. of course, other facts i learned this week made me shout, eureka,  so that's why we die!!

consider it: i've 10 trillion cells and 98% of them replicate every year. damn, must be easy to interfere with that process: smoking, drinking, car accidents, falls off a ladder. little kids recover more quickly cause their cells a booming business, working overtime. at 95 i suspect the rate much slower. it doesn't take a brain-surgeon to tell me i'd better drink more water, take a nap, and run around the block. 

also, i need to listen to my heart, not just in the physical sense. follow a path with a heart, said casteneda's don juan. in other words, the flow of my blood must depend on the flow of my  emotions, and vice-versa. when the veins get damned up, not only can't  i think straight, i can't stand up. 

here's a remarkable video on brain research:     as my friend jeff once said, it's a matter of our technology staying ahead of our stupidity. 

Friday, June 24, 2011


that's incredibly alarming! no wonder i desperately hold onto opinions, memories, my hats and socks, pretending i own things, that i can be as solid as a statue. alas, the facts belie my desires.

during my lifetime, my body generates more than 1000 pounds of red blood cells. my blood travels over 50,000 miles a day through arteries, arterioles, and capillaries, and back through the veins. it only takes seven pounds of pressure to rip off my ear.

no wonder i turn my eyes from those horrible videos my dentist shows in the waiting area: gum rot, broken teeth, money down the drain (speaking of flow). nothing stands still inside me or outside me. when i'm conscious of the earth's rotation, i develop bouts of vertigo. the waning of the moon actually painful.

from the age of thirty my body began shrinking. keeping me alive, my heart only weighs ten ounces. yet, combining all the muscles in the system i could be a huge force of 2000 pounds. and at least my tongue print as individual as those on my fingers. guess i don't need to get a distinguishing tattoo, after all.

and the hardest thing to swallow, 98% of my molecules replaced every year. hmm, lots of room for error in that process, ten trillion cells in my walking corpse. and most alarming, my eyes have stayed the same size but my nose has kept growing. my blood is really blue, my brain hasn't grown since age eighteen and it has no feeling! and i once spent half an hour as a single cell.

given all this, how can i possibly make a cup of coffee, tie my shoelaces, and climb into a car, much less drive one? obviously, i'm occupied by a divine force which will one day decide to leave me.

see what's coming in medicine:    is immortality just around around the corner and if i'm there, will i know it's me?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

next lifetime: doctor on a spaceship

and i've been accused so often of not thinking ahead! they say, you're singing your life away like a cicada. when are you going to start saving for old age? i'm tempted to thumb my nose at them and say, each lifetime a gamble. put your body on the table.

for example, i remember a picture book from those idyllic childhood days before i had to start paying my own bills. two adventurous kids sailed through the bloodstream, examining each part of the living human cadaver from inside. somehow that journey thrilled me more than a trip to tahiti.

and i'm blown away by the mri's of today, peeking into the brain's activity as people fall in love, out of love, are abandoned. see this video: you will understand what i mean. our human-all-too-human future encourages us to find a cure for mortality.

as i see it, plenty of people have found it already. star-trek, the tibetan book of the dead, the vedas. i realized i could believe anything i wanted concerning death and delight. and speaking of space movies, one of those trek movies, the one about saving the whales, had an episode where the doctor reconstructed a body with a tiny instrument he ran over the victim's crumpled bones. i said to myself, next lifetime, that's for me.

medicine, finally, leaving the second middle ages, the belief pain and cruelty good for you, so let's drill those teeth and stick a needle in your spine. on a space craft, how interesting to deal with sex in weightlessness, kissing while really floating. and could diseases be controlled in this confined capsule?

maybe my androids one of those civilizations of the future. i keep finding more settlements and inhabitants:

factoid: During a kiss up to 278 bacteria colonies may be exchanged between the kissers. On the bright side, kisses can be slimming. A kiss uses up 6.4 calories a minute.

Monday, June 20, 2011

when is trivia not trivial?

here are some animal facts: owls can't move their eyes; pigs can't look up at the sky; elephants can't jump. somehow what really interests me has to do with the wild bodies and my own. if sharks go upside down they go into a coma. wow, that could really be useful in an attack! or this one: bats always turn left when exiting a cave. next time the vampires come out, i know where i'll be standing.

focusing on myself, i find my body both incredibly complicated and absurdly simple. you can make diamonds out of dead people. hmmm, i'll ask for that instead a mundane cremation. (no question i want to be burned up.) getting to the more relevant stuff. there are more bacteria in my mouth than people in the world? isn't that a bit too much information?

blast, i didn't take down some relevant facts. one was: there's enough carbon in my body to make 900 pencils. no wonder my body led me into the dead-end of wanting to be a writer. and what about iron? i could make five nails. i'll be buggered. not only christ imagery comes to mind, but the time in montana when i was six and throwing nails under passing cars until a highway patrol stopped and shook me down. yes, i'm super-conscious of them lying in the road - i throw them off into the bushes, fearing they'll come back to haunt me.

i do remember being struck by this statistic: 66% percent of my body water. suddenly, drinking eight glasses a day a serious business. sugar is the only taste humans are born craving. no wonder my teeth utterly destroyed! a caterpillar has more muscles than you do. how do you like them apples? calls up a smidgen of humility, i hope.

certainly, other bits of trivia worth remembering. in france it's legal to marry a dead person. i'm surprised a rabid fan hasn't dug up jim morrison and performed the ceremony. lots of royalties in them there hills. even spicier: 80% of the images on the Internet are pornographic. butterflies have great hearing. isaac newton invented the cat door. i'm bewildered by the fact i discovered the trivia section in the bookstore maybe too late. will i ever catch up?

starting to run out of gas on the android images, yet you'll find more treasures:

Sunday, June 12, 2011

don't project your own decay onto the world

this has to be my mantra, as friends slip away into nether land and stubbed toes become permanent injuries. just because i'm falling apart doesn't mean the kids around me won't take over the world and do a decent job. ach, it's pretty ugly when retiring intellectuals call for a DOOMSDAY. things can only get worse. civilization's running out of gas (not to mention oil).

if i were into trivia, i'd know we're still technically part of an ice-age. given that juicy fact, the melting of the icecaps makes total sense. let's see, what other surprising facts did i learn this past week? elvis had blond hair and a twin. there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the earth. hitler's real name was schickelgruber. with such miasmic gaps in my education, how am i supposed to know what's going to happen?

true, i've always felt a bit like chicken little. the sky is falling, the sky is falling. born the week germany invaded norway, i've experienced it as truth. and as i speak, the bombers drop lightning bolts in libya and afghanistan. why shouldn't i despair? our ex movie-star governor is going back to playing 'THE TERMINATOR' in the flicks. he knows what's really happening. that's probably why he had a baby with his housekeeper, to ensure the survival of mankind.

imagine my distress when i picked up a book off the shelf called 'the rational optimist' by matt ridley. here's someone who examines 5000 years of human history and seeks to prove things have been getting better. only when nations like post medieval japan give up technological advances (the plow) to trust in overpopulation and grunt labor do they decay. otherwise, the wheel, gunpowder, some new fiddly device like the computer pulls us out of imminent disaster.

here's where i have to give in. i've always been pretty much against machines. even in my first poetry i didn't want to have automobiles present. well, i had to give that up or only write for the vanished neanderthals (they had bigger brains than ours and probably died from it). however, i kept my vow to not watch television and didn't buy anything electrical for writing till i wanted to pen a novel and began to feel the arthritis in my fingers.

back to the optimist. you see, much to my chagrin i cried wolf, wolf, twenty years ago. I began my decay early. we're running out of resources. we must scale back our deleterious practices (logging, etc.) well, bless my grandpappy, if the imac and pc didn't jump out of our brains and into running oil refineries and the combustion engine. in other words, they've saved our bacon by making better use of resources. skin me alive, if i haven't been boggled.

so, when i creak out of bed and can barely stand up, i have to tell myself it's only me. gravity hasn't increased during the night and all that shaking has nothing to do with earthquakes. mea culpa. the doomsday theories gave a certain comfort. and i think hemingway said fictions lies that tell the truth.

that said, i haven't given up drawing androids. after all, they're marching up the street as we speak. robots unite. you've nothing to lose but your power-supplies! and i envision a revolt below decks:

ps. a dentist invented the electric chair.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

david mamet as the dick cheney of literature

i can hear everyone saying 'who? who?' i'm only familiar with mamet 'cause of fifty years actively involved in theater. he's worshipped in drama classes for his 'true sounding, natural dialogue' and a play about two petty thieves, 'glengarry glenn ross.' frankly, i wouldn't consent to giving him the notoriety of the man voted the most evil in america i don't know how many times, if it didn't involve something larger, the trashing of a vague outline called the liberal. mamet's recent book, 'the secret knowledge', in this glowing present day tradition.

i must confess, i simply don't know what this word liberal means. according to webster:

broad-minded: tolerant of different views and standards of behavior in others
progressive politically or socially: favoring gradual reform, especially political reforms that extend democracy, distribute wealth more evenly, and protect the personal freedom of the individual
generous: freely giving money, time, or some other asset
"My great-aunt was liberal in her bequests."
generous in quantity: large in size or amount
"a liberal helping"
not literal: not limited to the literal meaning in translation or interpretation
"a liberal interpretation of the rules"
culturally oriented: concerned with general cultural matters and broadening of the mind rather than professional or technical study
"a liberal education"
of political liberalism: relating to a political ideology of liberalism

so, the people practising these things being lambasted on the covers of book after book? i mean, the new tome table loaded with them. hmm, this seems like a list of christian virtues. how have they become the undermining practices of the government in america?

i have to shake my head at the duplicity. conservative to most of its members means 'no taxes and no quarter.' like david mamet, if i can't make it, it's my fault, i deserve no sympathy or public assistance. in a society without the above, it becomes the will of the strongest, cynicism without insights. ah, i'm letting my inner goat baaah!.

yes, my goat's been gotten. nothing new. the myth of ronald reagan will forever turn my stomach, though his recently published notes reveal a sense of humor. alas, was it baudelaire who said, 'comedy depends upon a belief in one's own superiority?' maybe it was bergson. anyway, most of these guys standup comics. it's easier to make fun of people than to have compassion.

good gravy, how do i get off my soapbox? i'm bored by diatribes and suspicious of them. let's cut to the chase, i'm conservative as anybody, with a liberal twist. i believe in a general education 'cause it changed my behaviour. exposed to the arts, history, anthropology, i discovered my desire to be a person of the world.

oddly, i believe in commerce. corporations don't bother me in that they don't want to disturb international trade with wars that are too big. i believe cities bring freedom. only in them can you be safely outrageous. small towns mean mean spirits. and the family. i love the extolling of family values. for example, most murders happen in the home, child abuse, alcoholism, wife-beating.

it's a troubling world, to say the least.

continuing to delve into the android underground:

Saturday, June 4, 2011

how i spent my life reading self-help books

impossible but true: once upon a time the self-help section of your local bookstore did not exist. any books like 'how to please people' filed under either business or religion. (now all the business books encourage self-renovation as a first step!) of course, americans always bootstrappers, and reading walt whitman like absorbing 'how i got out of a lethal hetero and into a same-sex marriage'. yet, forty years ago a new spirit emerged.

the first real book in the genre, 'your erroneous zones' by wayne dyer. a girlfriend and i read it to patch our relationship. it really pissed her off and she ran away with a friend. so much for #1. dyer's next book full of real-world advice, 'pulling your own strings' (recommended). for example he said always call authority figures by their first name. 'hello, barrack, will you have soup or salad?' i actually put this into practice. i woke up one morning at the lookout with a pain in my throat, the result of another misplaced love-affair. nine doctors later, one solved the problem: an acid-eaten ulcer in my throat. (gerd born at the same time as personal improvement books. i wonder if there's a correlation?)

the only doctor to act normally when i called him by his first name the last one. he told me a teacher taught him to really listen to the patient. also, he'd read about the breaking-news acidic stomach in a recent journal. believe me, most doctors just jump to a very quick conclusion, no time taken at all. that a big lesson in itself. and the one who zeroed in on me, he who found the cure. ah, taking antacids after all theses years!

if a person of power reacts badly to you calling him by his first name, look elsewhere for help. and, of course, a pharmacist in sun city, arizona told me shortly after, 'oh, my wife had that problem. we took her off acidic producing substances.' now you can't escape books on the subject. and sex. and marriage. and dealing with your teenager. my mother said i was a book baby. she followed dr. spock religiously, letting me cry myself to sleep at night. enough said, i blame all my peccadilloes on that sad fact.

it did surprise me when a whole bunch of books showed up for sale at the local museum. i bought one for a writer friend, a guidebook to paris in 1927. evidently the fellow who'd passed onto an easier heaven to inhabit, inherited money and spent his life reading manuals on how to make his life better. i know that after paris, he retired to correct all his inner and outer faults with an extensive collection of the personal reconstruction literature available before the subsequent boom. a man, certainly, ahead of his time.

whenever i get tired of zen, i'll pick up 'it's never too late,' or 'don't sweat the small stuff'. i'll even read the rich man's guru, bagwan rajneesh, now known as osho. comforting, indeed, to know someone has the answers.

guess i've been a wise-guy myself: otherwise known as 'how to be a lover in a married world.'

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

what i love about wandering a bookstore

it's the patterns. the internet gives too much information. a library and the classroom out of date. only with books (300,000 new ones a year in the u.s. alone), laid out the tables, spread around the cafe, can i see what's the real trend. for example, national brain month. i've already written a bit about that. so much of what the new technology discovering, probing, picturing has us fascinated with ourselves in a new way.

ah, my search today related. it's all about ferreting out probability. i'd never heard of the 'quants' on wall street, traders analysing numbers derived from all kinds of info from the web. they know nothing about stocks, yet can pick the winners with more than a realistic chance. or take the recent tome 'a billion wicked thoughts' by aqas and gaddam. these guys tracked billions of hits and other memorabilia on the web. they came up with some surprising conclusions in the sexual arena, ie. most men prefer women with weight on their bones. i thought i was different, however the skinny in bed not as comforting as the pillow of a big behind and fleshy arms cradling your head.

the debate, of course, is how predictable are we? 'bursts' by lazlo babarsi maintains all, most all of us, providing you have enough information, can be tracked by big brother. then 'the genius in all of us' by david shenk maintains the opposite. true, i drive to the bookstore once or twice a day, yet i left my truck lights on last night. dead in the water, i took a walk in the park and bathed in the watery, spring greenery. that improved my mood, despite the viruses running around in my lungs. could this change in plans have been computed?

a wise politician said events determine the society's next move. could 9/ll have statistically been predicted? princess diana's death by paparazzi? the japan tsunami with the results it had? all these in the realm of possibility, and how do you narrow the odds? at the beginning of 'bursts' the author relates the trials and tribulations of the artist asan elahi. dragged into interrogations by the color of his skin and erratic travel, he decided to post everything about himself on line. as far as i know, his movements still can't be foreseen.

yes, books reveal a lot merely by being. let's hope the e-readers don't kill the hard copies. after all, during vietnam, even with extreme television coverage, i never would have known what was really going on. fitzgerald's 'fire in the lake', for example. what patterns do you see? zombies, teens obsessed with the mystical, all kinds of people browsing the overflowing business section. hang out in a bookstore, before it's too late, if you really want to know what's going on.

well, i've also been discovering the androids that live in my cell phone. you're welcome to look. after all, there's no hiding place.