Saturday, November 20, 2010

Rice Paddies Behind the Perimeter Fence

When I checked in on TW's blog this afternoon, his usually successful tripartite construction failed.  I always appreciate his efforts to make the parts speak to one another, but today they stood alone.

Yes, I know.  I am projecting.

The first two black-and-whites took my breath away, and I still, even now, refuse to accept their provenance.  I could give a royal crap that Tumbleweed is so delusional as to think he knows where they were taken (still, I'd love to have "Poin'dexter's view west" explained!).  Tanner Trail yadda yadda yadda.
Likely story, dude.

I refuse his specificity because I've substituted my own -- and not just my own place names, but time of place, as well:  The view from our back yard, 1968.

TW:  Poin'dexter's view west
Retired Educator:  View from our backyard, 1968

TW: Tanner Trail vista
Retired Educator:  View from our backyard, 1968

No, I'm not gonna tell you where we had our backyard that year (that incredible year for all of us on the planet).

And maybe it wasn't quite as spectacular, and maybe our conscribed point of view made such a view actually impossible, and, okay, there was no river, now that I think about it, but still, I imagined rivers, or maybe more standing water, yes, standing water, for there was water in the heavy air, which makes for incredible greens and blacks, and I remember strange silence, too.

My Brother-Unit named the whole entry: Below Is The Green Water Billowing On -- which comes from the Li Bai poem he featured below the photos (along with a video of David Oistrakh performing Debussy's Clair de Lune in Paris, 1962).

There's a third photo but it doesn't fit the fantasy of my memory, so you will have to just up and take your lazy self on over to American Idyll and see it for yourself.  TW claims it's of Mencius and Confucius Temple from Whites Butte but you cannot always trust him.

I am not such a Debussy fan, either, and Clair de lune is just wrong for these photos of my backyard, back then.  In 1968.

The grasshoppers weave
their autumn song by the
golden railing of the well.
Frost coalesces
on my bamboo mat,
changing its colour with cold.
My lonely lamp is not bright,
I’d like to end these thoughts.
I roll back the hanging,
gaze at the moon,
and sigh long in vain.
The beautiful person
is like a flower beyond
the edge of the clouds.
Above is the black night
of heaven's height.
Below is the green water billowing on.
The sky is long. The road is far. Bitter flies my spirit.
The spirit I dream can't get through.
The mountain pass is hard.
Long yearning breaks my heart.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Yogurt: A chacun son goût

photo by Erwan Frotin

I had forgotten some of the less desirable gifts of a lengthy course of antibiotic.  Let's just say that Fred is keeping me well supplied with low fat plain yogurt, the only kind I will eat.

That's not true.  I think there is nothing finer than Greek yogurt with pungent little sides -- a coarse chop of cucumber, parsley, green onion, garlic and dill (or a good commercial Tzatziki dip); a dense dark honey; and  cherries or coconut with crystallized ginger.  I have a friend who gets a rabid look, juts out her foreign bony elbows, and carefully sprinkles kosher salt and habanero pepper slivers over a layer of Greek yogurt spread on a plate to a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch.  [You'd best not bother her for a while... and it is not recommended that you flit about crying "caga fuego," either, no matter how funny you think you are.]

I actually prefer a bitter yoghurt, but that fact might only be interesting, or even appropriately mentioned, were this a yogurt blog, which is a thought... Hmmm.  A collection of odes, a serial novel situated in a sunny Mediterranean isle...  Anyway, loving the tang of things, I prefer a Greek yogurt of sheep's milk, which can be hard to locate, believe it or not, here in the deep, deep wilds of Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs).  It's a legal thing, having something to do with how sheep cultivation is prohibited west of Our Sole Central Alp, known locally simply as "The Alp."  To complicate matters, there is some daunting algorithm in force that determines yogurt export-import ratios, and expresses the rare availability of this Hellenic dairy treat according to the Chinese lunisolar calendar. 

Sometimes I get a headache and simply cannot cope. 

Last year, Fred spent a few nights sacked out on the horsehair divans in the Haddock Reception Hall.  I know, I know, it hardly seems possible that such a refined clan would invest in antique horsehair furniture, but upon researching the history of the room, the apparent detour from tastefulness was justified as actually being a clever choice. I gave a cursory explanation in a piece called, appropriately, War and Peace: I Have the Power When I'm in the Shower:

Have a seat on the red horsehair loveseat over yonder. It's one of the few Victorian Pieces in The Manor. {guffawandsnicker} Go figure, huh? Captain Haddock's more recent ancestors were a wily people, a sang froid of common sense running in their blue, blue veins.

The space that we are in today served them as Reception Hall during the American Civil War, and for roughly 60 years afterward. Back then, it was worth their Snooty While to allow a more plebeian sort of individual to attend the legendary Marlinspike Hall Afternoon Teas.

But a few changes were necessary, so as to honor their actual intent.

Horsehair furniture. Horsehair as stuffing, horsehair as "fabric." *Small* furniture of unwieldy proportion, shape, and style. American furniture! To provide the necessary Provenance of Snoot, most of it was purchased from a small dealer specializing in the paraphernalia and artifacts of Abraham Lincoln.

We're talking austere. And sturdy.

But mostly? We're talking un-freaking-comfortable! Somehow, some way, the earthier visitors to The Manor found that the rich folks' furniture variously pinched their derrières, squeezed their oversized working class thighs, and often made them break out in an itchy rash. Slowly but surely, word spread, and the afternoon receptions thinned out, freeing up The Haddocks for their beloved Tea Time Mahjong Tournaments.
Oh!  Why was Fred banished to La Recepción and its discomforts?  The man actually brought home -- and I still shudder at the memory -- nonfat Greek yogurt.  That was when we first made the acquaintance of Abbot Truffatore because nothing short of monastic couples' counseling was going to restore our relationship.

Anyway, to preserve the notion of Greek yogurt as an occasional treat, I restrict myself to a generic supermarket version of plain low fat blended yogurt that I usually doctor with vanilla extract and eat as I read the novel du jour at the end of the day.

Which I am off to do, right now.  [God, I love my optimism!]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Inner Bitch Hosts A Pity Party and The Abbot Runs Away From Home

I've had a really hard day.  To sleep around 2:30 AM, up shortly before 5 AM, I peaked around 5:03 AM.

Rimshot, please.  With a big nod to George Carlin's Hippy Dippy Weatherman:  "The high tomorrow will be whenever I get up."

The thing is, I cannot even enjoy the fruits of my suffering.  You know, complaining about it, putting in for my share of empathy, sympathy.  Revisiting it constantly, in case anyone might forget that I am ill and in awful pain.  Rating my pain on a scale of Mount Rushmoresque dimensions -- dimensions that my pain easily transcends, of course.

Normally, I'd be giving it a good go, working the program, modeling the meaning of real patience in a personal revisionist history of Job.  I might regale the Domestic Staff (indentured-unto-perpetuity!) with Tales of My Inner Strength in the Face of Adversity.  La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore will likely stare dully at photographic evidence of how my toenails have fused with scaly grey foot flesh.  Poor Fred'll offer his
broad shoulders as I despair over every abject cushingoid feature that now defines my fascinating -- and yet, oh-so-alarming -- body habitus.

Are you feeling sorry for me yet?  No?  Harrumph.  What's a person with raging Sick-Role Behaviors gotta do to harness a sustaining Bolus of Sympathy around here? Have you even heard of Talcott Parsons?  I hate to see myself so... oh-what-*is*-the word, oh-what-*is*-the-expression?

So... vacuous?
So... obnoxiously needy
So very much a gaping, sucking hole?

A friend of Fred's, one of the Angry Lesbian Existentialist Feminists he hangs with on Wednesday evenings, told him "most of [Retired Educator's] charm is in her brilliant self-referentiality." I think she meant my succulent auto-referentialiciousness but I fear it might actually be the gaping, sucking hole referenced above that she misperceives as one of the shining orbs lighting the gloom of  her glorious dyke-ed-dness.

I'm just sayin'.

Unfortunately, we will have to find another time to fête my Poor Self, as the banging on our Mock Brunelleschi Baptistry Doors turns out to have heralded the unexpected arrival of Abbot Truffatore, the bald, bow-legged little man who lords it over his spiritual inferiors at the Cistercian Monastery-and-Office-Supply-Mail-Order-Depot down the road from Marlinspike Hall.  Yes, he has fled The Brethren again, seeking respite at The Manor.

He has the unfortunate habit of yelling "Strada Puttana" before folding me into his long, hairy -- really rather simian -- arms.  I tend to scream back, the embrace somewhat muffling my vocal puissance:  "Bless me, You Simian Espèce de Nain!" 

Fred thinks he is after The Castafiore, and -- furthermore -- that Bianca is doing her fair share of flirting.  She just happened to pick the exact moment of his arrival to pirouette by the Baptistry Entrance in a flimsy peignoir of virginal white chiffon, hemmed to a length that can only be called High-Thigh.

Thank God for the generous smocking and beading on the bodice, else I fear the Church would have one less lusty abbot to stand as moral example to the Laity of Tête de Hergé (très décédé, d'ailleurs).

Just in case you were thinking of doing the same sort of thing -- turn up uninvited on our drawbridge -- let me fill you in on something.  I may very well make nice and tell you to come by for a visit "any time," and promise you, too, that the best suites of The Manor stand pristine, fluffed, and aired, all in anticipation of your arrival.  I might mention that we are keeping a côterie of executive chefs, four sommeliers, and a smorgasbord of sous chefs, pastry chefs, and the best saucier northwest of The Alp -- and while all of that is true, I still expect at least the decency of a week's warning before the three matching suitcases you got for graduation are plopped down on the dazzling white Carrara marble of our doorstep, rumored to be a true scrap from Michelangelo's David.

We believe in the sanctity of Carrara marble, just as Abbot Truffatore believes that The Holy Foreskin,* preserved and displayed in a domed pastry tray (specially designed and electronically monitored by Brinks Home Security), imparts a miraculous fecundity of faith to any of his Monastic Postulants fallen prey to wavering belief.  Ever since the Novice Master, Father Guido,  made it mandatory for all postulants to experience the eternal rhythm of the Night Watch while closeted in the sacristy cupboard where The Holy Foreskin is kept safe from the ill effects of light and humidity, every novice has gone on to profess Final Vows. Coincidence?  You decide.  Ironically, it is that same robust statistic that sometimes drives The Abbot beyond the cloistered walls of the Cistercian Monastery-and-Office-Supply-Mail-Order-Depot -- and right into our arms.

Carrara Marble Quarry, details, photo by  Edward Burtynsky

The Abbot travels light, of course, bringing only his jammies and a toothbrush.  Captain Haddock, ever prescient, orders that several outfits of plain but high-quality clothing be kept ready for just such a guest.  It was a bit shocking the first time we saw our local spiritual leader decked out in lederhosen.  Fred has tried to make chinos and a casual broadcloth oxford available once the intense heat of summer is past.

I quartered The Abbot in a never before used collection of rooms, added as much luxe to the mix as I thought he could stand (a sensual blend of satin and flannel bedding -- in colors to make him blush; a series of flat, faceted Cézannes -- to make him, I confess, slightly uneasy).

Anyway -- it's the principle of the thing.  With a week's notice, we wouldn't have to worry about stuff like whether we've a supply of your favorite coffee bean or whether you risk being housed in the same wing as the 40 Chinese tumblers who prefer training in the corridors to working out in the barns.

Then, too, I might manage to be better behaved were I to have some warning about overnight visitors.  My Inner Bitch has been unleashed for several days now, fault of too much pain, too little sleep, full body slam-style spasms, medication side effects, and blood sugars that drop or rise according to Mystical Rules of Diabetic Devastation (from 320 to 41 in an hour and a half!).  She's quite vain, My Inner Bitch, and can be calmed, seduced, and lured back to quiescence when threatened with public exposure.

* This is the best scholarly reference for Christ's Foreskin that I found, and it does little, really, except heighten the mystery of how this holy penis tip came to Tête de Hergé's little known Cistercian monastery:

The Holy Umbilical Cord is a first class Catholic relic (that which is composed of a body part) of Christ. Christian teaching generally states that Christ was assumed into heaven corporeally.

Therefore the only parts of his body available for veneration are parts he had lost prior—hair, blood, fingernails, milk teeth, his prepuce and the umbilicus remaining from his birth.

It was written somewhere that the Virgin kept and coveted her son’s umbilical cord. She possessed it most of her life before handing it off to Saint John who, in turn, passed it along (as the story goes) to the Bishop of Ephesus.

But how versions of the Holy Navel ended up in the French towns of Lucques and Châlons-sur-Marne is a mystery, especially considering Rome had one, too.

The Eternal City’s blessed belly button was kept in the Sancta Sanctorum (the Holy of Holies) along with the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul, a chunk of wood from the Last Supper (which can still be seen tacked to the wall), and, until 1527, the Holy Foreskin.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

...but Genghis Khan

2008 Kant Attack Ad

posted to YouTube by KingHotPants, December 7, 2008: "Kant Attack Ad by James DiGiovanna and Carey Burtt"

Also worth noting: Dissenting political voices among the video commentary, often coyly disguised as a non sequitur (and occasionally as an inference that does not follow from the considerable premises):

Ayn Rand was a hack and amateur in the same way that we say that Michael Jordan was a basketball player.

I Like Lao
Lao Tzu 08

Scleiermacher has my vote. He will defend our right to passively experience the infinite universe. I intuit a victory!

I doubt that Kant could make congress pass his legislation on universal law, or that he could make the Supreme Court judge aesthetics subjectively, but he is still better than Plato, who keeps hiding people in his cave without a trial. Although some would say that transcendental idealism is extremist.

I am voting for Plato in 2008 because everyone else is just a footnote.

If Kant is Romney and Nietzsche is Obama, then who is Heidegger?

I hate Nietzsche. He's like the Soulja Boy of the philisophical world.

If you mean depressing, then yes.
If, however, you mean that like Soulja Boy Nietzsche was an overcompensating, bling-wearing, shallow, hip-hop gangsta then I'm afraid I must protest the claim.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Gifts From Tumbleweed

One of my brother's blogs, American Idyll, features his photographs of the Grand Canyon, taken over many years spent as a guide and ardent lover of the place and its rivers, of *the* river, the Colorado.

Tumbleweed -- that'd be what my brother-unit calls himself now -- Tumbleweed and I have given it a good go.  We were lost to one another our entire adult lives until two years ago, when through the stammering confessions of unrelated family, I found him.  He has been nothing less than amazing and my love for him is real and deepened. 

But I made the mistake of becoming self-conscious and in so doing, every impulse to reach out to him was delayed just long enough to be tainted by that hesitation. The past few months, I gave up trying, except for the occasional early morning or late night communication.  They are deep, my emails.  Three days ago, I had the audacity to dazzle TW with pure edginess:

thinking of you!

Thanksgiving.  I am so thankful for Tumbleweed.  Thankful that the opportunity to know him and love him is not entirely diminished, that I get to try again.

In addition to his Boxed Gifts (here, here, and here), TW invited me early on to use American Idyll as a weapon against insomnia, fever, and pain -- and the frustration of a Traveler Unable to Travel.  My time spent sitting in the sun, wind, and snow of his photographs, beside and above rivers, floating in pools, has been a wonderful time apart from my reality, and an introduction to his.

From time to time, I've shared his work here, as well as pictures taken by his friend ruuscal, who now shares blog duty.  I hope that some of you have traipsed over to American Idyll as a result of these features.

Today, when I checked in, some black and white photography caught my eye, and that's what I am teasing you with now.  This is from an entry made a few days back.

He framed the photos with this quote from Geronimo, and with this music video of The Shadows covering Jerry Lordan's instrumental piece Apache

We had no churches,
no religious organization,
no sabbath days,
no holidays,
and yet we worshiped.
Sometimes the whole tribe
would assemble
and sing and pray,
sometimes a smaller number,
perhaps only two or three.
The songs had a few words,
but were not formal.
The singer would
occasionally put in
such words as he wished
instead of the
usual tone sound.
Sometimes we prayed in silence.
Sometimes each prayed aloud.
Sometimes an aged person prayed for all of us.
At other times one would rise and speak to us of our duties to each other.
Our services were short.

TW titled the piece from Geronimo's remnant:  Sometimes We Prayed In Silence.

Vishnu Temple

Kathleen's Nipple from outside Clear Creek Canyon

Cheyava Falls