Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where the Wild Things Went

This delightful bit from Jonathan Carroll's blog:

"One of the most famous children's books in America is Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. The story, in short, is about a very bad little boy named Max who is sent to bed without dinner one night because he's been so naughty. But as soon as he gets to his room, The Wild Things-- wonderful monsters of all shapes and sizes-- appear and they all play happily together till morning. Max is delighted and has no fear of them. He's a brave little guy. Sendak has said readers often ask what he thinks happened to Max when he grew up. One night years ago the author was at a dinner party in New York. Seated next to him was the actress Sigourney Weaver. It turned out the glamorous Weaver was a big fan of his work and they chatted throughout the meal. Later she pointed to a man sitting across the table. She said he was her husband and one of the reasons why she fell in love with him was he reminded her so much of Max in Where the Wild Things Are. Delighted, Sendak said he finally knew what happened to his famous character: Max grew up and married Sigourney Weaver.

"And that’s what he tells anyone now when they ask what happened to the boy."

Hail to the Chia?

I've now seen the ultimate in questionable taste.

You can buy a George Washington, Abraham Lincoln or Barack Obama ("happy" pose or "determined" pose) Chia Pet.

Water it and the hair grows. It's patriotic. Just listen to the TV commercial! And they'll even throw in the Statue of Liberty.

On a related note, I recently listed my Obama election and inauguration issues of the New York Times and Oregonian on Craig's List for "best offer" and didn't even get a nibble.

The thrill has obviously gone.

Tapped Out

These interesting economic times have produced entrepreneurs and scroungers in a volume I've never seen before. Our neighborhood bottle guy is expressing his frustration over what he feels is a breaching of the unspoken bottle return creed: that anybody new to the neighborhood shouldn't infringe upon his schedule or his territory. He gets no respect anymore.

A couple of days ago a nicely groomed young man knocked on my door. He described his desire to start a salon but before he could get to the part about asking for donations or investments, I explained that I was living on the edge and had nothing to give except prayers and best wishes for his success. At that point, he asked if I had something cool to drink. The only thing in the house was water so he declined. Then he asked if I could share dinner with him. Since my dinner had consisted of a couple of tomatoes and some plums from the apartment garden and from friends, I offered a couple of both. He was underwhelmed but polite and I went to the fridge to get a handful for him to take. When I returned, he had pulled out a cell phone and was talking to someone.

I guess if you're trying to set up a salon or even between jobs you might want to keep a cell phone to be accessible to potential employers or investors. Still, I don't have a cell phone. He accepted my last tomatoes and plums and continued on his way. I hope he'll eat them and needs them.

I'm not cheap and I am sympathetic. But he'd do a lot better further up the hill on Thurman where they're doing well enough to generate a bin of wine bottles and a recycling container full of magazines per house each week on recycling day.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Giant

He was 8 feet thick and 200 feet tall. He was the giant of the forest. For 500 years, he played with the Wind and smiled at the Sun. Birds and squirrels nested in his branches, and deer lay in his shade. He grew taller and broader year after year. He stood against the storms, and the cold of winter could not hurt him.

But one day some men said, "There is so much of him. He can heat our houses. Let us fall him."

The men came with saws and axes and hammers and wedges. They chopped a hole in his side and then they sawed. The giant put all his weight against their saws so that they could not move them. The men took wedges and drove them into him and then they could move their saws some more. The giant had no defense against their saws' wedges. Finally, the men sawed all the way through him -- but he would not fall. Again the men took wedges and drove them into where they had cut through him -- but still he would not fall.

Night came, and the men went home. They would return the next day with bigger wedges and heavier hammers. The giant knew that he would die. He was angry.

"These men will not make me fall," he said. "I will not let them. I will call my friend the Wind."

"What is it, friend?" asked the Wind.

"Sing for me," begged the giant.

"I will," said the Wind.

And the giant fell.

-- Vincent Hauth, Ashland, Oregon, 1982

Crazie Phychos

Found stuck to a sidewalk on a rainy day in Atlanta, Georgia.

For more fascinating found items:


“I had a lover’s quarrel with the world.”
- Robert Frost

"Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act."
- Truman Capote

"Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend,
Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again."
- Steely Dan, Pretzel Logic, 1973

Nothing new under the sun

On the steps of the Paris stock exchange the goldskinned men quoting prices on their gemmed fingers. Gabbles of geese. They swarmed loud, uncouth, about the temple, their heads thickplotting under maladroit silk hats. Not theirs: these clothes, this speech, these gestures. Their full slow eyes belied the words, the gestures eager and unoffending, but knew the rancours massed about them and knew their zeal was vain. Vain patience to heap and hoard. Time surely would scatter all. A hoard heaped by the roadside: plundered and passing on. Their eyes knew their years of wandering and, patient, knew the dishonours of their flesh.

- James Joyce, Ulysses, Nestor Ch. 2

Friday, September 11, 2009

What if we provided education the same way we provide health care?

Fellow Portland blogger Isaac Laquedem, possibly a crankier curmudgeon than I, offers a whimsical and sobering look at the question, "What if we provided education the same way we provide health care?"


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Death be not proud!

Yes, Death has been busy. All one has to do is sample titles in the
inventory of Powell's Books.

We learn that Grim Reaper can be fickle. Death is Compulsive, but
also Late to Lunch. We read that Death Never Takes a Holiday but the

next thing we learn is that Death Goes On a Holiday, Crosses the
Border, Rides a Carousel and hangs out In a Beach Chair.

Death Is No Sportsman, and yet Death Rides Tandem and
Death Rides the Surf

Sometimes Death loses it. Death Flips Its Lid, Death Is Belligerent
and Death Cries in the Street. However it's also said that
Death Never Weeps

Beware if you are pleasingly plump because Death Comes for the Fat
Man. You can hide at your private club but Death Is a Member.
Climbing a mountain won't save you . . . Death Finds a Foothold.
Death Lurks in the Bush, Death Knocks Twice (do not confuse Death
with the Postman), Death Moves In and the next thing you know, Death
Lives Next Door. Death Interferes, damn it.

What kind of a love life does Death have? It's not a subject that
arises in polite conversation. Let's say Death comes on a bit strong.
Death Stalks the Fleet. Then Death Drops the Pilot, Death Turns a
Trick, Death goes to the doctor and Meets 400 Rabbits and
soon Death
[is] in a Family Way. All is not lost, however, as
Death Points a
Finger, Death Comes for the Archbishop and
Death Takes a Honeymoon

Time passes and love wanes. Death Plays Solitaire and Death Dines In.
Death is Called to the Bar and presumably loses her case. Rebounding,
Death Takes Up a Collection, Tidies Up, Wears A Fabulous New
Fragrance, A Red Hat and Gloves. Then Death Takes the Stage
and Death
Takes a Bow.

Finally, Death Takes a Sabbatical . . . but not for long; everyone
knows that Death Shall Overcome.

Friday, September 4, 2009

"My theory was that [the readers] just thought they cared about the action; but really, although they didn't know it, they cared very little about the action. The things that they really cared about, and that I cared about, were the creation of emotion through dialogue and description; the things they remembered, that haunted them, were not for example that a man got killed, but that in the moment of death he was trying to pick a paper clip up off the polished surface of a desk, and it kept slipping away from him, so that there was a look of strain of his face and his mouth was half opened in a kind of tormented grin, and the last thing in the world he thought about was death. He didn't even hear death knock at the door. That damn paper clip kept slipping away from his fingers and he just wouldn't push it to the edge of the desk and catch it as it fell."

-- Raymond Chandler, in a letter to Frederick Lewis Allen, May 7th, 1948

Wasn't there

Sitting on the #75 bus headed east on Lombard, I saw a middle-aged woman get on and make her way down the aisle. Once and awhile she would stop and look suspiciously at certain seats. She sat next to me. Presently, she said, "There are so many invisible passengers on the bus today!"

I looked at her but said nothing. "And they don't pay for their tickets, either!" she added.

"You were lucky to find a seat," I replied.

But I really wanted to ask her how she knew they hadn't paid.


"Yesterday upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today.
Oh, how I wish he'd go away."

Hughes Mearns. Antigonish 1899
Ring the bells that still can ring,
forget the perfect offering.
There's a crack in everything,
that's how the light gets in.

-- Leonard Cohen

Can't see the forest for the tweets

The gardening company is currently swarming over our apartment grounds with noisy, smelly leaf blowers. You know that the loathesome toad who invented this gadget from hell probably owns a jet, several homes and has an offshore account in the Caymans. How gratifying it would be if, whenever a gas-powered leafblower were used anywhere in the world, he had to personally deal with the exhaust, the noise and the flying debris. Would he go deaf or be overcome first by carbon monoxide poisoning?

It's a hard choice but my current nomination for the most anti-social, insulating and obnoxious commercials go to "Clear" broadband which seems on a quest to make sure every American is never more than a foot away from the broadband or cellphone tit. I differentiate between these commercials, which disgust me, and the Chase commercials ("you're everywhere to me") which are simply frightening. There are Stepford people out there who would welcome the oversized, ubiquitous image of Big Brother and stand in line for broadband cranial implants.

A couple of days ago I was putting my purchases in my pack in our neighborhood quik mart when the guy behind me barged to the counter, cellphone glued to his ear and pushed his stuff at the clerk. He didn't make eye contact, didn't acknowledge that another human being was helping him and didn't react to the clerk's, "Thank you." He just kept jabbering into the phone. It was a personal call and obviously not urgent. After he left, I told the clerk that I found his behavior extremely rude. She defended him by saying that she often had to take business cell calls while helping customers. I countered that she had no choice . . . and the guy who dissed her DID. Then I said that, since it must happen often, it was probably a good thing that she didn't take it personally.

The message someone like this guy projects is that nobody matters but the person he is talking to, and - ultimately - himself. He is not interested in meeting anyone new. He is not interested in manners or any sort of interactive, community-based behavior. His behavior was completely selfish.

I see people pulling their dogs down the sidewalk with phone-glued-to-ear. No stopping, no sniffing, no contact. Many of these people have been working all day. Their pet has been at home, alone, waiting for them to return. What could be personal interactive time with a beloved pet has turned into a mindless jabbering phone activity where the dog comes in a distant second in the attentions of the owner. Clear Broadband reinforces this crap trend by running a commercial where a woman arrives at the dog park with a laptop, releases her dog to run unattended and begins to yammer to someone on the screen ("I'm at the dog park!").

Obviously I'm not Qwest, Comcast or Clear's target consumer (despite burying me in mountains of newspaper inserts and junk mail circulars) because I tell you it gives me hives to think of being so constantly accessible to anyone who wants to tweet, e-mail, blog or call me salivating to a phone with a trendy ring-tone. I don't own a cell phone or an IPod and I don't want one. Life is short. I prefer to enjoy the day, the strangers, the view when I'm out walking or when I am having coffee. Some of the most interesting conversations I've experienced have been on occasions when people shared my table or stopped to talk on a street corner. I prefer the opportunity to enlarge my world.

There's something ironic about technological advances in communication that result in greater personal isolation.

In her marvelous book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, author Fannie Flag writes, ". . . there's something else I want you always to remember. There are magnificent beings on this earth . . . that are walking around posing as humans." Someone who lives life with a cellphone glued to their ear is unlikely to meet one of these beings.