Sunday, June 29, 2008


Yeah, it was that hot.
I woke before sunrise, a habit I developed in the Army that I've never been able or really wanted to break.

I really love the quiet morning hours, that hushed time when the sky lightens before dawn. The birds rouse and in singles or pairs or small groups stripe their black tracers across the paling sky. The night sounds, the small tics and distant clashing, are lost in the growing rush of daynoise. The world begins again, shakes itself and looks around to see if anything has changed overnight.

This morning had the flat dusty feeling you get before one of the really hot ones here, the air hard and breathless, the heat still radiating from the ground. But the morning hours were cool enough to enjoy a cup of coffee and the newspaper outside in the quiet.

*(for those of you who don't know this useful acronym, it means "Before Morning Nautical Twilight", defined here as "the time when the center of the Sun is more than 6° below the horizon but less than 12°". BMNT is the twilit time before dawn when, in the ancient Bedouin tradition, you can distinguish a white thread from a black., i.e., you can see. How 'bout that?)

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Black Cat Banzai (1934)

Unlike Matt, this is just an oddity: pre-WW2 Japanese propaganda in the form of a cartoon where Japanese heroes defeat...wait for it...the evil Mickey Mouse and his squadron of Yankee bats.There's a nice short summary of anime that puts this film and other 1930's anime in perspective here. I found this while fishing around YouTube after finding Matt; from the ridiculous to the, erm, more ridiculous. But the happy dance at the end is...oh, hell, watch it and see what you think.

Dance me to the end of...what the fuck?!?

This sure helped me out of my funk:

My personal favorite: the lonely little jig in the white room along the DMZ, with only the motionless soldier to witness. Although the pogoing New Guineans is close.

Hat tip to basilbeast, who directed me there.

Do you have a favorite Matt-dance? Which one is it?

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ye venal slaves

I had to take a full day to settle down enough to post this. I was that furious.

About what, you ask?


If you didn't see or hear anything about the "testimony" the puling scrivener Yoo, and the autocratic lickspittle Addington, gave before Congress you're not alone. This entire contemptible little episode has been dramatically underreported by every news outlet I can find - I think it was buried somewhere on the bottom of Page 2 of The World's Worst Newspaper. Search their webpage and it's buried even there, beneath Mrs. Flores obit and something about the Klamath River salmon. Honestly.

The infuriating thing is that this is - in a vital, living democracy this SHOULD be -a Big Deal. A HUGE, torches-and-pitchforks, a la laterne, death-to-the-revanchists sort of deal. This wasn't a couple of dog fighting gangstas in some penny-ha'penny municipal court. This was cold, open contempt for the People's House, the Congress of the United States. And, regardless of the knowledge, wisdom or lack of same of the legislators involved the arrogance and aristocratic hauteur shown by the two Administration lackeys is not simply contempt for political rivals but contempt for the People in Congress.

At one point in the proceedings I thought I must have missed something in the transcript. This began when Addington, true to form as the nasty, brutish little Bush button man he is, threatened the legislators with the usual Bush hitmen: "No American should think we're free," he growled, "...the war is over, al-Qaida is not coming and they're not interested in getting us, because that's wrong."

The part I missed, then, was the part where the chairman John Conyers (D-MI) rose from the bench, face pale with wrath and stormed back: "You DARE mock this House by prating the snivelling fears and traitorous cowardice with which your master has tried to rot and corrupt the very foundation of this republic since the day we were all attacked by enemies that your own incompetence and ignorance raised, your own insensate wrath and incapacity enabled and your greed and lust for power have manipulated ever since as a weapon to beat your political enemies?!? To blabber and threaten with a handful of ragged jihadists in the halls where once better Americans than you faced down the might of Hitler's Germany and stood firm against the power of the Soviets? You dare! You, who have sat here fleering and mocking this committee, you who talks of "war" and "enemies" having never faced a foe in arms while your tortuous policies and malignant secrecies have made this once-proud nation a byword and a hissing among all those decent and honorable? YOU DARE??!! Well I, for one, will listen to this cowardly and jesuitical twittering no further. Sergeant at arms, remove the, remove the prisoner to the custody of the federal marshal's office, to await our pleasure in the form of a charge of obstruction of justice, perjury, malfeasance of office, conspiracy and violation of the Laws of the very War he is so eager to warn us about."

Yeah. That part. (laughs sadly)

And the saddest of all, this entire moronic kabuki theatre doesn't shock or astound but simply drives home the extent to which our "republic" has already fallen. Posturing, capering, bloviating legislators unable to elicit the slightest useful information from their supposed executors in the Administration but, unable to stop pretending that they have a useful function, like the Roman Senate they exist simply to reap and dispense largesse and applaud Caesar's dictates.

Fatuous. Disgusting. Unamerican, as Publius might say.

Or, perhaps, this IS the New America, the America of the 21st Century, a nation of grubby peculators and single-issue-voters led by small-souled functionaries, liars and rogues. One would, were one not a hardened republican oneself, be tempted to echo Oliver Cromwell in saying:

"It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonoured by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money; is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? is there one vice you do not possess? ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter'd your conscience for bribes? is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth? ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil'd this sacred place, and turn'd the Lord's temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress'd, are yourselves become the greatest grievance. Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God's help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do; I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place; go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors. In the name of God, go!"
And take these two sorry, cowardly, arrogant, mewling, puking little autocrats with you.

Right at the moment I am disgusted with my nation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Thinking cap

I feel like I've been stale, flat and unprofitable lately. Based on the precipitous drop in comments I think you have responded in kind with a rapid exit from the aircraft in flight.


Part of this is that I seem to be writing about nothing but domestic matters. I don't want this blog to turn into one of those "hey, look at the hangnail I had yesterday, and isn't is a cute thing my kid is doing" forums. But lately it seems like all I've been doing is working and coming home to parent and's not a life conducive to reflection. And when I do reflect my mood has been pretty dark. I think it shows in my writing.

In particular, I'm detecting a tone of grim resignation in my political writing. While I may not believe in sunny happy endings for our current politco-military fairy tales like "How the Maliki Government Found Victory on the Tigris" and "FISA: No, Of Course We're NOT Spying on our Domestic Opponents!" I think I need to find a less curmudgeonly way to express myself.

The wierd thing is that I look around and I see idiotic wars, domestic misgovernment, economic shortsightedness and the sorts of civic dysfunction that seems to accompany the slow failure of an enervated society...but my own work and home and family life is pretty damn sweet at the moment. Maybe that's why the odd tone and all the House And Garden posts lately. Dunno. But if I want you to keep reading, I need to figure this out and get my mojo back.

So I may not post for a bit while I do a bit of cogitating to try and figure this stuff out. Check back, though, OK. I suspect that I still have a scintilla of good writing in me.

The Women

...of the Mojolicious family.From Plymouth to Guangzhou in three generations.

Update 6/25 pm: I realize what I love about this picture: Mojo's lovely serene expression anchored between Missy's and Nana's animation. She truly is the La Giaconda of Amherst Street. Te amo, mi dulce.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Household Gods

My father-in-law can drive me fairly nuts sometimes.But I have to admit: the man can carpenter pretty damn good.

This weekend we started from where Brent and I left off; windows in place but no further. In the space of two days we Tyvek wrapped the exterior, cut and nailed up the siding, caulked all seams and nailholes, sprayfoamed the larger gaps, and put up the insulation inside.

I'm pretty overjoyed with that.

We - okay, Mojo and I - called it "Hail the Patriarchy" weekend. The Guys did all the Guy Stuff (measuring, sawing, nailing, grunting and arguing) while the Gals did all the Prairie Muffin Girly Stuff (cooking, shopping, child-herding). The children, well, what do you think they did?

So all the exterior work that's left at this point is trim and paint. Sweet!

Interior? Ugh. Not so good. Drywall, wood floor, panel ceiling, trim, electric finish and paint. And I hate fucking drywall. Do you hear me, drywall. Yes.

So there it is: the outside of Missy's bedroom in all its' glory. Our little garden saint and the pot-bellied Garden God lurking in the vinca seemed to nod approvingly and the last of the siding went up and the room was sealed from the weather. Thanks, Dad-in-law. You get a pass on your next fatuous remark. And take ten dollars out of petty cash.

Rebel, Rebel've torn your dress.

Rebel rebel, your face is a mess.
Rebel rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

You've got your mother in a whirl.
She's not sure if you're a boy or a girl.
Hey babe, your hair's alright.
Hey babe, lets go out tonight.
You like me, and I like it all.
We like dancing and we look divine.Rebel rebel, you've torn your dress.
Rebel rebel, your face is a mess.
Rebel rebel, how could they know?
Hot tramp, I love you so!

You've torn your dress, your face is a mess
You can't get enough, but enough ain't the test
You've got your transmission and your live wire
You got your cue line and a handful of ludes
You wanna be there when they count up the dudes
And I love your dress
You're a juvenile success
Because your face is a mess
So how could they know?
I said, how could they know?

So what you wanna know?
Calamity's child, chi-chile, chi-chile
Where'd you wanna go?
What can I do for you? looks like you've been there, too
'cause you've torn your dress.
And your face is a mess
Oh, your face is a mess
Oh, oh, so how could they know?
Eh, eh, how could they know?
Eh, eh...This post brought to you by Little Miss' kicky new engineer boots.

You rock my world, baby girl.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Here and Thereism

Busy weekend: the Grands (Mojo's parents) are here, much to the delight of little peeps, and we've been busy. The Peeper has a very busy Sunday planned for Paw and Nana. Little Miss utterly captivated Nana with her adorable "Baby In a Box" play last evening, getting Nana to carefully shut her in a cardboard box before springing up like a showgirl from a cake with huge smiles and giggles. There's been lots of playing and eating and scooting and multivariate fun.

Paw and I also did some good work on Missy's bedroom, which I'll try and post later. This was part of "Hail the Patriarchy" Saturday, during which the Guys measured, sawed and hammered and the Girls cooked and raised the Children. Mojo promised to bring me home some bacon and fry it up in a pan to personally remind me that it's 2008 and not 1908, but the end result was a house of sleepy, happy kids and satisfied adults.

Other than that, I had a brief moment to enjoy some of the great soccer coming from Euro 2008; yesterday this was the shocking upset that Russia drove in the Dutch. I love the Clockwork Orange, but the result was so thoroughly deserved I could only shake my head at Guus Hiddink's tovarische and their impudent refusal to be the Netherland's latest punching bag.And I note with some mild melancholy the latest sign of the desuetude of our former Republic in the spineless passage through the House of the "compromise" on domestic spying (if by compromise you mean "what's mine is mine and what's yours is also mine"). I've said pretty much all I feel the need to say over at the Intel Dump link. It's just sad, to think that in less than 250 years we have gone from
"There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free--if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight! I repeat it, sir, we must fight!"
to Senator Kit Bond (R-Toady) saying on Friday: "I'm not here to say that the government is always right, but when the government tells you to do something, I'm sure you would all agree that I think you all recognize that is something you need to do."

This is how a republic ends; not with a bang, but with a simper.

More later.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No Way Out

Every time I read something about Iraq in particular, or the Middle East in general, I realize that for an American such as myself this part of the world often takes on the form of a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. And I think I'm as fairly well informed on geopolitical issues and the Middle East as anyone short of being able to speak and read Arabic. It always makes me wonder how this region appears to self-satisfied, incurious dolts like our Bicycle Chief, his evil genius Mr. Cheney and the other neoimperialist drum-beaters trying to hurry our national parade back down Little Brown Brother Street.

So when I read - such as here and here - these fascinating summations of recent news items in the Arabic press that suggest that even the Iraqis are being twisted around by the political machinations in play in this benighted land...

Remember the old Kevin Costner movie "No Way Out" (remember when Costner was an actor rather than a punch line of a Bad Joke..? Remember when Sean Young...oh. Oops. Sorry, Sean, you were ALWAYS a Bad Joke - at least, a bad actress. Sorry.) where you spend the whole movie rooting for Kev to outwit the Bad Government Traitor and save the day? Until the KGB controller steps out from behind the two-way mirror and you realize that dear Kev IS the Bad Guy, the Evil Spy, and the whole damn plot you've thought you were seeing is backwards, an immense deception, a farrago of lies that you bought and believed and were invested in?

Yeah, it's kinda like that.


I won't apologize for the cheescake illustration. Bad Actress as she is, Sean is a hell of a lot more scenic than Iyad Allawi or Mookie al Sadr.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Our first ear infection

We kept trying to figure out what was the problem with Little Miss.

First, she wasn't her usual happy girl self. LOTS of crying, easily upset, suddenly fussy and angry and rough.

Then she wasn't consoled by lots of mommy and daddy hugs and cuddles. She was more than normally clingy but the change in snuggling she received didn't do its usual work of producing shy smiles and merry giggles.

Monday night was the nadir. She didn't sleep beyond an hour at a stretch, waking fretful and weeping, thrashing in her sleep. Even a rare envelopment in the Family Bed wasn't helpful. At one point she was actually frightening, spasming and flailing frantically oblivious to parental caresses. I think that was when we realized that this was more than a cold, or a nightmare. The next day Mojo took her to the pediatrician and found out what it is:

It's an ear infection.

We were lucky with the Peeper; he never had one. So this caught us by surprise, and now we are better informed, as well as armed with antibiotics and a sloping pillow for little girls to sleep comfortably. She slept most of the night last night, and seems happier and more her usual self today.

But the saddest realization is that, as she was frightening us with her behavior in the dark, we both feared that there was something deeply "wrong" with her; that this was some sort of delayed symptom of neurological problems like autisim or god-knows-what sort of awful brain damage. So now we know and are sadder for the knowledge that although little Baoxin is asleep back in her orphanage in Liangjiang the damage we took from our time with her during our journey to China is with us still.

What he said

"Instead, following the Sacred Conservative Scrolls with absolute fidelity, Commander Guy destroyed everything he touched; sowing nothing but disaster while making sure his cronies reap obscene profits auctioning off the blood-stained rubble.

While Osama bin Laden sips Virgin Mojitos in our 'allies' backyard and releases more tapes in a year than The Pixies have released in 20, their Bicycle Chief limps around the world one last time, trailing weakness and humiliation like a sick dog butt-scooting across the floor, and leaving behind him an America fast becoming a Hobo Nation.

A terrifying international joke with no punch line in sight.

Where once we were a respected superpower that could broker global agreements with relatively clean hands and intentions, after seven year of Republican rule, Dubya and his Republican Party have vivisected and perverted America into a lethally belligerent extension of their own polluted souls: a power-drunk thug-state that recklessly flashes its nuclear arsenal like a mean drunk brandishing a broken bottle."

Damn, I wish I could write like that.

Read the rest here.

Why my Hummer is the problem

This Sunday's Oregonian had a blitheringly obvious article about how the REAL problem isn't "global warming" or "carbon footprint" but the fact that there's just too many goddamn people.Well, duh.

Any naturalist or biologist can tell you that an organism without size or population limits eventually kills itself; it either gets too big or too numerous for the resources that support it. Unpreyed deer graze off the browse and starve. Redwoods rot at the base and topple. Michael Jackson becomes a white woman who sleeps with little boys.

De Toqueville famously said that democracy lasts until the citizenry realizes it can vote itself largesse out of the public purse. I'd add that it then votes for those bobos that tell it that it's decisions are good and wise. Our current candidates are among the great tradition of useful idiots who tell us to play and spend while ignoring the house burning down around us. I confidently predict we will never address this issue until it's gone all Soylent Green on us.And the simple truth is that you and I, with our hair dryers and Ipods are the problem, not the teeming mass of goatherders and farmers in Bihari Province. We're driving our habitat under faster with our Hummer and our semi-detached ranch houses than they have in 10,000 years of burning donkey dung to cook over.

But do you honestly think we'd vote for someone who tromped onstage and announced "You dumb fuckers have helped destroy our own world. You shit where you eat, care only for your own comfort, you hollow out your own economy in pursuit of cheaper plastic knick-knacks at the Wal-Mart, and to do this you have enabled your own rulers to rob, lie and spin you. You have neither willpower nor critical thought and you don't care to use them if you do. Your passion for luxury and ease and your unwillingness to limit your own growth are choking you in the effluvia of your society. If you vote for me I will confront you with your own slothfulness and deceit and force you to make the hard decisions to change them, or collapse like the civilizations that preceded you"?

Me neither.

Napoleon avec cinq cent soldats...

I was thirteen in 1974And even then I knew we were fashion victims. Oh, and I had a white-boy 'fro. I'm serious. And magenta corduroy bell-bottoms.

I think my favorite image from the video is where Agneta (or is it Anni-Frid?) makes the little pistol/thumbs-up (?) gestures with her fingers. Hommage de battaille de Waterloo? Or just another Seventies pop idea gone terribly wrong?

We'll never know.

Okay, now. Anyone remember the words to "Disco Duck"?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waterloo Eve

This evening, one hundred ninety-three years ago, British and French cavalrymen were sabreing and shooting each other in the streets of the Belgian farm town of Genappe. This nasty little skirmish, the end of a long day moving from the battlefield of Quatre Bras, fought yesterday towards the plateau of Mt. St. Jean before the village of Waterloo.

Their gaudy uniforms soaking wet from the persistent rains, the men themselves probably groggy from lack of sleep and hungry, the effect of the everpresent shortcomings of Napoleonic commissaries, the two cavalry forces struggled to a draw, the British covering their army's retreat and moving off in good order after nightfall. All the frantic, ugly hacking and stabbing, the screams of the injured men and, worse (by all contemporary accounts), the horses, the desperate scuffle in the long summer's falling darkness...all so, in the words of Victor Hugo;

"Bauduin, killed, Foy wounded, conflagration, massacre, carnage, a rivulet formed of English blood, French blood, German blood mingled in fury, a well crammed with corpses, the regiment of Nassau and the regiment of Brunswick destroyed, Duplat killed, Blackmann killed, the English Guards mutilated, twenty French battalions, besides the forty from Reille's corps, decimated, three thousand men in that hovel of Hougomont alone cut down, slashed to pieces, shot, burned, with their throats cut,--and all this so that a peasant can say to-day to the traveller: Monsieur, give me three francs, and if you like, I will explain to you the affair of Waterloo!"

Every author since 1815 has included Waterloo in a list of "Decisive Battles". E.S. Creasy published the first English language version in 1851: Waterloo was his ultimate example. Fuller published a major addition to the genre after World War Two: the second of his three volume work breaks at Waterloo. As I note above, Victor Hugo includes a wonderfully classical version of the battle in Les Miserables. You can argue with his military history, but adjective for adjective his is perhaps the most delightfully stormy of the sturm-und-drang Classicists' version of the affair. Both commanders wrote about the battle, and the engagement has generated as much and possibly more ink than the original spilled in blood.

(Note: perhaps one of the best works written about this day is "Waterloo, Day of Battle" by David Howarth (in the U.S.; in the UK it was published as "Waterloo, A Near Run Thing") which collects the first-person accounts from the British side. Another good analysis is "The Face of Battle" by John Keegan.

I've been writing about "Decisive Battles". Why? Perhaps to remind myself that there ARE times when the lives of people, peoples and states are decided by force during a time when it seems that my country is applying endless force without decision. Or reflection, analysis or judiciousness, I would add.

Or, perhaps, simply because I was and am a soldier. And, as such, have seen the works of man against man and know full well that the correct reply to the statement "War is not the answer" is usually "What is the question?"


I don't see Waterloo as a "Decisive Battle".

And the reasons why might make good starting points for Americans today to think about wars, the factors of and the outcomes of wars.

Why wasn't Waterloo a "Decisive Battle"?

1. It wasn't truly decisive; the "Hundred Days" was effectively a remake of the Leipzig Campaign and the War of the Sixth Coalition with a smaller cast but a more dramatic screenplay. If you had to pick a "Decisive Battle" of the entire Napoleonic Wars you'd pretty much have to pick the Russian Campaign of 1812. That little business put paid to what was left of the original Grand Armée as well as putting the kibosh on Nappie's "Coalition of the UnWilling". Before 1812 Napoleonic France was the bear among the kittens: it couldn't act effectively past the water's edge, but on the European continent the French were the lawn mower and everybody else's ass was pretty much the grass. Only in Spain did French enemies find a winning formula (Mix Spanish guerrilla war with a small, tactically superior British and Portuguese field army, bake in oven-like summers with a sauce of divided French command, jealousy and spite...). After 1812, and especially Leipzig, it was over: France was outnumbered, outgunned and outfought. Napoleon prolonged the agony by fighting a brilliant campaign in the French marches in 1814, but it was as clever and as useless as Bobby Lee's performance in our own Civil War. France wasn't going to win as long as the Sixth Coalition hung together, and after seeing what happened when you left Napoleon to his own humor this time they were going all the way to Paris.

Waterloo simply shortened the time between the reinitiation of war and French re-defeat. Even if the British had been beaten at Waterloo - and it WAS a near-run thing, I've always remembered the story of Wellington weighing his situation with Welleselyian coolness amid the madness and muttering grimly: "Blucher, or night." - the Austrians, Russians and the rest of the Coalition was mobilizing and would have arrived in Belgium within a month. All the British and Prussians had to do was survive, and that they'd already proved capable of that after Quatre Bras and Ligny. Napoleon, and his new Army of the North, just didn't have the killer instinct they'd had back in their championship seasons.

2. The factor that decided the fate of Napoleonic France wasn't losing this or any particular battle. It was the inability of Napoleon to transfer his success on the battlefield to a lasting political settlement that benefited France. The French were able to defeat any single enemy nation, and any coalition of enemies for twenty years. What they couldn't do; not the Revolution, not the Directory, not the Empire - was make their enemies accept both those defeats...and the "new order" in France. The animus against revolutionary France that began with revolution and regicide and carried over into the Empire founded on those footings was unshaken by repeated defeats and the deaths of millions. Only the utter destruction of the monarchies that opposed the French revolution and the occupation and reconstructon of Austria, Russia, Britain and Prussia could have done that. And neither Napoleon, nor France the nation-in-arms was capable of doing that. To police post-Hapsburg Austria, post-Hohenzolleran Prussian, post-Alexandrine Russia, post-Hannoverian Britain? No. And in the absence of a replacement for those dynasties France itself probably wouldn't have been able to survive in the resulting chaos that would have enveloped Europe. For his own and his nation's security, Napoleon HAD to work with the reigning houses of Europe. It was his misfortune that they weren't willing to work with him...

So in the end, Napoleon beat his enemies again and again. He beat them from the Pyrenees to the Neva, summer, winter and spring. He left a trail of death and woe across Europe unequalled since Attila and before Hitler. And, in the end, received nothing but a monumental sarcophagus in Les Invalides and the legacy of "La Gloire".War may be a form of politics conducted with deadly force. But, if the force lacks a sound, achievable political end, the results of all that killing will be as meaningless as the rain falling on the upturned face of a dead cavalryman. Lying still, already forgotten, beside an empty country lane in the dark.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Presents

So. Remember this morning, with little peepers bounding downstairs to bond with the daddy on Father's Day? In case you didn't, here's Little Miss enjoying a delicious breakfast thumb with Daddy at the computer.The cunning plan for today was to invite our friends Brent and Janelle over - Brent to help with installing the corner windows in Missy's bedroom, Janelle to hang out and help with entertaining little peeps.

Well, the plan worked like three Croats drywalling: we installed all three windows, got the bedroom cleaned and the place picked up - though, holy smoke, do I have a load for the dump! - and even managed some vanity projects like Peeper's rope swing for his soon-to-be tree house...BTW, I like the tool belt - gives that "Father's Day Project" kind of Village People macho man look, eh?. Everybody pitched in, we had a lovely lunch, and lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged (well, except between Brent and me; we opted for a manly sort of backslap hug. I mean, not like we're talking Brokeback Mountain here, we're just not that kind of demonstrative guys, OK?) and everybody had a good day except poor little Miss, who couldn't nap with all the racket until Mojo took her for a ride in the car. But here's the finished product: just needs Tyvek and siding!The interior is a huge difference:

Look how sunny the bedroom is now. compared to the nasty little dark hallway we started with back in February, neh?

I'm so happy I could just bite myself!

It wasn't all work and worry. We managed to play on the hammock a little, and the Peeper got his rope swing into action...And how about this: Mojo's project, these beautiful dragonflies outside the side door to the porch!The house is quiet not, and everyone is in bed, but I think the Peeper said it for all of us:

"On second thought, I'll have another drink."Hope you and yours all had a great Father's Day Weekend!

Pater Familias

Just so you know...

It's Sunday, Father's Day, at 8:04 am., and I've been sitting at the computer with my little girl in my lap since about 7:45. She points to the screen every time we see a photo of Mojo and lisps "Ma ma" and has been asking for a drink ("Wa wa") since about 7:59. My little guy bounced down about two minutes ago as we were downloading photos to ask to go to Starbucks, where we'll be off to in about a dime.

And I won't even go into the cat yack, which was my very first Father's Day present. Frikken cats...

Apropos of the day, I still remember being about ten asking MY father why, since there was a Father's Day and a Mother's Day why there was no Kid's Day.

"Every day is Kid's Day." he replied, probably pretty grimly, since I was pestering him while he was trying to do something householderish.

Anyway. To all Fathers and all Kids - and especially to the newest Father I know of (that'd be "J" of J&I, whose new son XX is probably biting him this very minute - they're love bites, Dad!) - everywhere: may you all live long enough to be friends with your Dad, and Dads, to be friends with your kids. Because as fun as they are, the crux of the biscuit is raising these little folks to be good people, people you'd want to be friends with.Happy Father's Day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Cui Bono?

Started thinking about this reading a junk novel at work this week.

The particular junk novel is one in a series by a writer called Laurell Hamilton.

She's a prolific novelist and has several concurrent series, one of which is something called "Anita Blake" and started out as a pastiche of the standard gothic/vampire/supernatural horror story grafted onto a murder mystery root. It's a sort of "vamp noir" thing, and by all accounts the stories are very popular. I read and enjoyed the first couple of them myself.

Frankly, the novel I read - fifteenth in the series - was pretty much junk. Page-turning junk, of sorts, but solidly in the category of junk fiction. Draggy plot, poor pacing, turgidly written. What got me thinking, though, was all the sex[1].

And, no, sex usually sends the blood flowing to other organs of my body, thanks. But in this case the issue was the change that has occurred in Hamilton's writing since the first book in this series. Specifically, her heroine started out as a tough, Sam Spade sort of supernatural P.I., whose relationships with "the monsters"; vampires, werecritters, was lethal. She didn't date them, she killed them. By this book she has become some sort of superhuman goddess of vampire sex, coupling with a stable of various good-bad preternatural boys on the way to killing the bad-bad boys and girls. The entire 200-some page book has about enough actual mystery/detective/noir/horror plot for a couple of thin chapters. All the rest is taken up with the sex, talking about sex, sexual relations and sexual politics, between the various characters. As anyone who went to high school remembers, sexual politics is like watching paint dry, with pouting.

This change has created some marked degree of comment from, and in some cases hard words between, her fans and the author. The fans accuse her of laziness and self-indulgence, of descending from the hard-edged style of her earlier works into an aimless softcore pornography. The author, in turn, has fired back at these "Negative Fans". She claims to be pushing the limits;

her detractors claim that she's a whackjob who has confused her characters with her life.

(As an aside, is there something about junk art, and I include junk fiction here, that encourages a more intimate, less reverential attitude from the public?

Do we stand dumb before the giants of the Arts, the Great Painters, Sculptors, Dancers and Musicians, but feel perfectly capable of backslapping, fist-shaking and ranting at the creators of popular art because it IS popular, just regular crap we see, hear or read every day? I mean, I couldn't write a hip-hop tune to save my ass, but it never stops me from saying "I like that" or "Damn, that sucks" to the radio. Would I walk out of Mozart's "requiem" saying "Well, that sure sucked ass."?

Did anyone every wander up to Picasso at a showing and while munching a pretzel, murmur; "Dude, your Blue Period, like, really bit, y'know? Why didn't you use some, like, red? Just sayin'..."? Are movies, TV and other disposable entertainment so far below High Art that we don't feel intimidated by the creativity needed to produce them, or the creators themselves?)

Anyway, so the thought that occurred to me, the main point that got me thinking about all this, is this: what is the "responsibility" of the Artist to those who read, see..let's call it generically "consume", the Artist's Art?

For example, regarding the book series I was reading, I get the sense that the readers felt that the author had failed, failed her own ability, in producing less-than-adequate books. That they were angry in the way that Steve Prefontaine was angry when he said "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the Gift." By her response, the author seems to be saying: "It's my Gift, and I'm the only one qualified to say what is or isn't 'the best'". The lines were pretty strongly drawn - both sides were angry at the other. Clearly, there was a strong disagreement.

This was even more dramatically highlighted in the OTHER work I've been reading while watching people build walls: Dave Sim's "Church & State" collection.

I can't even begin to explain Sim or his monumental work "Cerebus". If I say "Well, it's a 300 volume comic work about an aardvark" you'd think I was nuts. But the problem is, it IS a 300 volume comic work about an aardvark. The devil, like everything, is in the details. Several years back someone over at Livejournal wrote up perhaps the best synopsis of the thing: if you're interested, start here.

For one, Dave Sim may just be the world's single best living draftsman, line artist and graphic artist.

The. Best. Living. OK, maybe he would have to win a playoff with Frank Cho and Mark Schulz. But, seriously, this guy is our generation's Hal Foster or Winsor McKay. As a creator of illustrated fiction, his combination of drawing skill, plot and pacing ability, talent for writing spoken dialogue and mastery of layout are...well, like I said, he's the best.


He's also a flaming nutjob. His hysterical misogyny can almost be excused as a foible compared to his utterly whacko religious beliefs, which make the Old Testament prophets seem like marvels of sophisticated modernism. Which would all be by the by...if it hadn't worked its way into his Art.

By the end of his magnum opus, "Cerebus" has become a completely unreadable discursion on the Torah. A word. For word. Discursion. On the Torah. The real Torah.

It's unreadable. If you don't believe me, here's another take on the subject. And, to make things worse, his misogyny has become so intense it warps the entire fabric of the story, forcing female characters to behave in ways out of the character we have seen established over 300 volumes so they can be wedged into the author's loopy idea of women as the Font of All Evil.

So here's a guy: brilliant artist. Brilliant.

But whose art centers around telling a story. He's not a painter, a Klimt or Picasso whose work you can just look at. It has to work as a story to succeed. And yet, the guy is so fucking totally bughouse that his whackadoodleness prevents him from telling the story. (Think about it - you hate women soooooo much that you pretty much guarantee that 50% of your characters are going to be loathsome. Like a football bat? Yep.)

Does the flaw destroy the value of the drawings as drawings, too? Does the failure of the whole mean that the parts fail as well? And what about the entire body of work. If a portion of the artist's work fails for me - as the last body of "Cerebus" does - does that taint the work as a whole? Can I still say "Dave Sim is a fucking genius" and expect to be respected? Do I, the reader and viewer, define genius? Does Sim? Who does?

So, as a lawyer would say: who benefits? Who SHOULD benefit? Does Art HAVE to appeal to the viewer, or the reader, or the listener? If the author, or artist, is so egotistic, or so crazy, that their artwork pleases only themselves...can it still be considered Great Art? Or even art at all? Is it the music of a sphere so celestial that only they can hear it? Or just the gifted scribbling of a madman, the savant doodlings on the padded wall of the cell of a manic?

[1](And let me say that, since I'm male and the worst sex can be for me is good, though I don't have a problem with all the sex in these "Anita Blake" things, can't someone have just regular old so-so sex for a change? All the sex in the book I read was head-banging, ground-shaking, screaming-and-clawing-the-wall-incredibly-terrific, mind-blowing sex.

I mean...really!

Nobody had the kind of late night/busy day/just tired/oof-I-ate-too-much/sluggish morning/distracted-by-other-stuff sex that occasionally happens to real people.

NOT that the sex around here isn't ALWAYS head-banging, ground-shaking, screaming-and-clawing-the-wall-incredibly-terrific, mind-blowing sex. Hi, honey!)

Monday, June 09, 2008


After the Titanic
Derek Mahon

They said I got away in a boat
And humbled me at the inquiry. I tell you
I sank as far that night as any
Hero. As I sat shivering on the dark water
I turned to ice to hear my costly
Life go thundering down in a pandemonium of
Prams, pianos, sideboards, winches,
Boilers bursting and shredded ragtime. Now I hide
In a lonely house behind the sea
Where the tide leaves broken toys and hatboxes
Silently at my door. The showers of
April, flowers of May mean nothing to me, nor the
Late light of June, when my gardener
Describes to strangers how the old man stays in bed
On seaward mornings after nights of
Wind, takes his cocaine and will see no one. Then it is
I drown againwith all those dim
Lost faces I never understood, my poor soul
Screams out in the starlight, heart
Breaks loose and rolls down like a stone.
Include me in your lamentations.No reason for this post other than a powerful poem, and one I met over at the Self-Syled Siren's wonderful discursion on the three film versions of the Night The Great Ship Went Down.

The speaker is one Bruce Ismay, manager of the White Star Line in 1912. While over 1500 of about 2200 passengers died, he jumped into a partly filled lifeboat as it was about to be lowered. He was publicly pilloried for breaking the Victorian moral code as "J. Brute Ismay", became a recluse and died a broken man.


After the crash and the nap baby girl seemed very subdued for a couple of hours, clinging to her mommy. But she had recovered by late afternoon enough to put on a sudden, unprompted exhibition of aerobics, or perhaps yoga poses. Here's the sequence from beginning to end.Here's the "Crouching Toddler" pose.I don't think I could EVER do this. Ever. This degree of flexibility worries a protective daddy, but Little Girl seems perfectly comfortable.This is "Downward Toddler"The grand finale is worth the waitI have absolutely no idea what to make of this. But it sure is cute.

Oh - I just realized that if you enlarge the first photo you can see poor little Miss's owie on her chin. Poor baby!

Anyway, if this is some sort of regular thing I suspect that our little girl may be the Denise Austin of the diaper set.

Sunny Sunday Scoot

Finally! A sunny weekend day...

I had a really fairly rotten day Saturday. Worked all day in the drizzle in Linclon City, home late and exhausted and the kids were a little crazed. Still, we had fun going to the St. John's Pub and Tater Tots were enjoyed by all (even Mojo ate two).

But Sunday dawned clear d the day proved sunny and enticing. You know what that means...


All the scooterati - Mojo and Peeper - bombed up and down the street. Missy got out her little straddle-scooter, and Daddy walked with her was she chased the Big People.

Missy wanted to join the fun - the Big People scooters were way better than her little straddle scooter - and made me carry her over to the scootering.

So Mommy obliged with a gentle ride on her Razor.

Missy was a terrific passenger, and even experimented with some tricks of her own.

They grow up so fast...

This is what we call "The Cute Little Monkey Shinnies Up The Banyan Tree"

Observe the proudly possessive smile on the Mommy.

Her first baby scoter trick. Awwww!!

Meanwhile, the Peeper is waaaaay beyond this "girl stuff".

Note the Peeper's cool scooter trick here. He's getting frighteningly good at this.

I think watching the videos has helped.

Not recorded here (because the First Rule of Injured Children is: PUT DOWN THE CAMERA) is the spill Little Miss took trying to get her little scooter up the neighbor's driveway. She banged her chin and scraped her hands; there was much crying and eating of ice and then a nap. Poor little tad. But she was right back that afternoon with Missyrobics - but that's the next post.