Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Blog Repost 1639: Blog Entry 1,249

Roughly a year ago, I wrote this post commemorating my 1,249th post.  Today, I can claim 1,639 of the insipid things, minus, of course, this one, and other reposts -- unless in the prologue to the reposting, I manage to produce something substantive.

It was written about a month before Daisy Love Merrick died. Not sufficient that the world should lose such a planetary citizen and surfer evangelist, I lost my writing groove and the whole-hearted embrace of my pseudo-sponsorship of pediatric cancer patients became something of a bad grappling take-down technique when I wrote my best poem ever, and then ruined it, in her name.  [Daisy Love Merrick:  An Abandoned Villanelle]

The problem? Me.  Me:  Reductio ad absurdum.  A year later, and the problem hasn't changed, budged, morphed, evolved.  There's just me and this lump of a blog, and a palpable, chewy, nasty fog of self-pity.

On the up side?  Robert Frost's Mending Wall.


Why do I follow and try to support individual pediatric cancer patients?  I try to keep it to four at a time, as time, itself, has somehow shown that to be manageable on an emotional and time-management level.

If you've decided, after carefully reading the 1, 248 blog entries comprising elle est belle la seine la seine elle est belle that I am one of the besotted Altruistic and Prayerful Loving People of the Interwebs, then -- Whoa, Nelly! -- do you ever need reading comprehension lessons!

There are times when keeping the number at four is very hard to do.  Sometimes, these children are dropping and dying with a swiftness bordering on rude.  Sometimes, they (or usually, their parental chroniclers on CaringBridge or CarePages) sneak new names to you, requesting that you stumble and mumble more prayerful stumblemumbles on behalf of the child they just met next door to them at their hospital, or the nifty eight year old who is in crisis down the hall.

These chronicling parents become daredevils at asking for what they think they want and need.  They can get downright bossy, pushy, and presumptuous.  Most are simply marvelous and in the midst of radical reformation, and the thought of what I might be going through (a cat scratch, having to wait for my first cup of coffee in bed, dropping more carrots on the kitchen floor than actually make it into my stock pot) escapes their attention.

We begin as strangers, and that, to me, is the exceedingly weird part -- how quickly that normally carefully cultivated societal divide is obliterated.  Sometimes on "first contact," like a failed Star Trek Prime Directive; Sometimes over weeks and months, as their initial politeness and crying hosanna is worn down by the frustrations of children with raw bottoms and the inability to swallow due to mouth sores and white plaque sneaking down painful esophagi.  Oh, and the scariness of a child no longer behaving like him or her self, but succumbing to the metamorphoses demanded by tumors and weird neurotransmitters of that most mysterious organ, the brain.

There is nothing much sadder, or terrifying, than to read:  "This is not him.  This is not her." Then, they love on, but the mission changes and becomes one of regaining the personality and impishness, politeness, innate loveliness, and spontaneity that were the hallmarks of these little hard beset beings -- a mission sometimes more important, ultimately, than saving their physical lives.

Steroids are often blamed, and I just roll my eyes, as I'm going on my 15th year of corticosteroids. The eye roll is not one of exasperation on my part, but of imagining all the unsaid weirdnesses going on in their home, their hospital room.  Thrown food, pouts, rages, moving from ecstatic utterances to gloom-and-doom within 60 seconds.  Moon faces and huge guts in children barely eating  or the same in children single-handedly destroying the household food budget.

Sometimes all of the official four scheme to die within weeks of one another.  Occasionally, remissions and cures and a gradual withdrawal from reportage (they don't need "us" any longer, thank goodness), leave holes in my desired level of involvement.  So I will begin to follow some new child they've mentioned as in need... only to have remission turn into relapse.  They are all the time screwing with my desired and well thought out number of only four kids at once (plus there is the growing number of alumni of the cured who remain active fighters in the battle to get more funding and attention paid to pediatric cancers).

There is little doubt that precious, precocious Daisy Love Merrick is dying.  It's been clear for quite some time.  The Merrick's have insulated themselves brilliantly as her circumstances have changed, as she entered the active phase of dying.  These are dynamic people, surrounded by friends and family, neighbors and the fruits of living lovingly, wisely, and with generous hearts.  They don't need the support of internet pediatric cancer groupies, ready to pray at the drop of a hat, or a wink from their cute kid.

And man, has that had me pissed off.

I actually reentered the world of real prayer for Miss Daisy, for her Mom Kate, for her Dad Britt, and for her sweet brother Isaiah.  None of that formulaic nonsense for Daisy, no siree.

A note on "siree," from that favorite former fad, the Urban Dictionary:

it is a word that a gay but popular man used to say a lot, then everyone else said it because they thought it was cool. and now everyone uses the word even though it has absolutely no meaning.
No, I'd not fold my hands together -- as if I still could -- and become one of these famous yet scary -- in an icky sort of scary way -- "prayer warriors" whose goal it is, apparently, to "storm" heaven.
I tended to look at her picture, imagine her pain, and wish for it to end -- but end well, for everyone's sake.

Back when I was intimately entwined with a Presbyterian Church, as intimate as one can get with Presbyterians, I'd actually schedule an entire very early morning hour for intercessory prayer.  Please note that it never occurred to me to pray for myself and my lacks and needs -- much easier to zoom past one's own sad self to save the day for these poor, god-energy-sucking prayer entitlement hogs.  In so doing, I was establishing my Goodness, my Humility, and my everlovin' Love for my fellow man.

It helped me when I decided to quit smoking, because it got me through the day's first coffee hour. I'd sit and sip and pray, no breaks for cigarettes.

Another thing the Merrick's did that pissed me off -- they established a successful, well-run organization on Daisy's behalf and they did it before she died.  It has a director and everything.   Set up to raise money to pay for her experimental treatment in Israel, it achieved that goal, but is now primed and set to move forward as whatever they would like it to become.

I shouldn't have thought of "foundations" because "pissed off" doesn't really begin to cover what then happens in my evil heart.  Every family that loses a beloved child wants to bring about change in the world in honor of that child.  Often, the kid herself will have stumbled upon some nice way to cheer up fellow cancer-sufferers while still alive -- collecting and distributing toys or gift baskets, usually.  Some, like Kate McRae and her family, concentrate on one or two events, in her case, Kate's Crazy Cool Christmas, where they gather and distribute not just stuffed animals, but gas cards and restaurant gift meals.  They remember not just those currently in the fight, but those who have lost, and are in danger of being forgotten during that horrible period when they are too tired, too beat down to care.

But most of the foundations are misguided, most slowly fade away.  There is a natural resistance to want to join established, already successful projects because that takes away the uniqueness that was their child -- his name, his image, him.  I wish that would change.

And don't get me started on the "christianity" aspect of all this.  Lord, lord.

And since when does God need to be asked or beseeched, or even praised, twice?  Is this all too much for him? (Fear not, we won't be going *there*.)

I love the Mothers and Fathers who go nuts and vent their anger.  Again, almost all devout Christians, they do so with a certainty that their God can take it.  They also crack the best jokes.

Every single damn post that I've ever written has been written because I wanted to explain why and how a certain thought, decision, or reaction came into my head.  That's not a normal reason for writing, I don't think.  But it is mine, and as I try to point out at least quarterly around here, whose blog is it, anyway?

So just what the hell inspired me to write about this 4-kids-with-cancer monkey on my back this morning...  Okay, well, afternoon?

Dreams.  Angry dreams about my own dying, how it will likely be alone, how I might have been more comfortable these past years if I had sued the pants off of St. Joseph's Hospital, Eric Carson, Steven Sween, Leslie Kelman, and that idiot nurse in the ICU -- you know the one.  The Lying Liars, I call this group.  I'd add, of course, the then VP of Nursing and every lawyer in the Risk Management Department.  Dreams of Fred, tossed out of Marlinspike Hall, forced to become a Cistercian Postulant, under the quivering thumb of the alcoholic Abbot Truffatore.

Which reminds me, I have a draft, a very ongoing draft (other pseudo-writers may know what I mean!), in the works about the Abbot.  It begins:

Abbot Truffatore arrived unannounced last night.  No, "Abbot Truffatore" is not some exceedingly weird euphemism for "Aunt Flo." He is, in fact, an abbot, more specifically, the local head of the Cistercian monastery whose territory abuts our apple and cherry orchard, divided by Robert Frost's wall -- we meet to mend it, faithfully.*
And yes, of course, I slammed that asterisk down so that I could paste Frost's marvelous "Mending Wall" at the very bottom of the unfinished thing.  Several times a year, I force its reading. But what am I doing talking of poetry, when I was awash in being pissed off?

I woke angry also at Walmart.  Their pharmacy, in particular, which tried to run a scam, the same scam they tried about a year ago, robbing me of $16 and the acknowledgment of a payment toward my considerable deductible.  Yes, God bless Barack Obama and the Affordable Care Act, and the creation of PCIP.  Now, if someone would just give me the money to afford the affordable.

In my just-under-the-surface-of-sleep dreaming, I also wanted to blow the whistle on the ambulance company that got paid $2000 to transport me from a doctor's office across an alley to the hospital emergency room.  And the anesthesiologist who administered the paralytic before being ready to intubate, before sedation, and after being politely asked to tell me what he was going to do before he did it.  His epistolary obsession with me has been all about the joy of Double Dipping -- balanced billing, in other words.

And I wonder why I ended up in the hospital with my stomach weeping blood?

I couldn't even start the day correctly.  No face-washing, no teeth-brushing, no precisely dripped coffee, no insulin, no morning meds. All I could do was the absolutely necessary Feeding of the Manor Felines -- because Buddy decided to sit on my snoring face.

There was also the still fresh memory of yesterday's phone call to the Mother-Unit.  Or day before yesterday.  I cannot remember.  Such fun to hear yourself and your most beloved siblings trashed by an amazingly astute woman who croons, "Did your Father leave you lots of money when he died?"  My body begins to do the shimmy again at the mere thought of that conversation, in which children aged anywhere from newborn to ten were blamed for her maternal inabilities.  I think she might be a sociopath.

Anyway, blessings forever and ever, amen, upon Buddy and his feline behind.  I had a fever of 101 when he so sweetly woke me, but something made me check emails before hoisting and leveraging myself back into this bleeping bed.

Daisy had already crossed my mind several times, even such a mind as the one I've described, vengeful, hateful.  I still see her face at will, at "not will," I still see her face, and wonder.

There was an update.  I thought, "She has died." But no, she still lives, though it is hard living.  She, good as she is, is trying hard to have a good death.  Anyway, her mom Kate wrote the update piece, and part of it went like this:

Daisy is as courageous as ever, full of grace and maturity as she voices her needs without ever whining or being rude. She once again is saving her downy hair for the birds by our house, hoping as they have spring babies they can enjoy her softness.  
One last thought, as a parent and as a human being; opportunities to love surround us. When we take those opportunities time seems to stop, and in that timelessness is where memories are made and beauty is beheld.  We will never regret rising to the occasion.  I believe it has something to do with the fact that God is love and we are made in His image. Suffering isn’t what we are made for, but it can be fruitful in ways we could never imagine. 

And so now I don't know what to do with my damn day.  I am still stuck in bed, in horrible pain, high fever, and with the mounting frustration of no coffee and bedhead.  My feet are ice, my face fire.

But Fred just fed the birds (an ice storm cometh) and made me some excellent coffee.  If I wash the remnants of Buddy from my brow, and sterilize my mouth, I'll feel better.  A hair band will have to tame the frizzy curls.

And Walmart, St. Joseph's, Carson, Sween, Kelman, and that ICU nurse will all have to fend for themselves today.  The anesthesiologist?  Pshaw.  The ambulance company, as will all of this crowd, as will I, will continue to accumulate karma.

Prayer isn't going to happen either.  Yearnings, yes. Some reading. I am reading possibly the worst bit of historical fiction, ever.  Ever! So in between chapters, I foresee Mahjongg.  Bianca and I need to discuss the terms for her repayment of our upteenth contribution to bailing her out of her umpteenth trip to jail (a lovely apartment over Tante Louise's freestanding garage).

Pray For Daisy

MENDING WALL by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun, 
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast. 
The work of hunters is another thing: 
I have come after them and made repair 
Where they have left not one stone on a stone, 
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding, 
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, 
No one has seen them made or heard them made, 
But at spring mending-time we find them there. 
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; 
And on a day we meet to walk the line 
And set the wall between us once again. 
We keep the wall between us as we go. 
To each the boulders that have fallen to each. 
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls 
We have to use a spell to make them balance: 
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!' 
We wear our fingers rough with handling them. 
Oh, just another kind of out-door game, 
One on a side. It comes to little more: 
There where it is we do not need the wall: 
He is all pine and I am apple orchard. 
My apple trees will never get across 
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. 
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. 
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder 
If I could put a notion in his head: 
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 
Where there are cows? 
But here there are no cows. 
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out, 
And to whom I was like to give offence. 
Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him, 
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather 
He said it for himself. I see him there 
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. 
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~ 
Not of woods only and the shade of trees. 
He will not go behind his father's saying, 
And he likes having thought of it so well 
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

The Boss and Fallon: "Stuck in NJ's Chris Christie Traffic Jam"

I swear this is the truth: Upon first comprehending what the uproar was all about regarding the bitchslap payback via purposeful traffic Ft. Lee bridge snafus (which lost its humor upon learning human life was lost as a result), and then wrapping my brain around the strange repurposing of hurricane Sandy disaster monies, one of my first thoughts was how those "progressives" with whom Christie has been snuggling were going to respond.

I was kinda hoping they would not respond at all, as the best political recourse would be to leave this to the good people of New Jersey to handle.  All Obama need do is be quiet, and let FEMA or the DOT do their dooties.

But... I couldn't shake thoughts of The Boss.

I never can.  I love Bruce.  In ways too personal to discuss.


Anyway, I saw this posted over at Daily Kos and once I got past the weird feeling that Fallon sounded more like Springsteen than Springsteen did, as well as finally ripping my eyes away from the musculature of their upper arms, I thought the response poignant, whimsical, and on point.

Now I understand why Bruce and the Band, when in my city, are famous for fancy but healthy eating, and frequent, sober visits to various gyms.

Fred just reminded me that he once witnessed, in the East Village, a "Dylan Competition," in which Dylan, himself, participated, and came in second.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

REPOST, ONE YEAR LATER: Damask, Wool, and Canary Yellow Forever Charmeuse

Occasionally, I wonder what was happening around Marlinspike Hall a year ago, and consult this blog, Pandora's Box of naught-but-the-truth, captured as if in oxygen rich amber, in vivo.  And since it happens to feature our dearly departed Tante Louise, all the better to haul it back into the limelight.

*****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****   *****

Left: Lorenzo Ghiberti | Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401-1402. Right: Filippo Brunelleschi | Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401-1402 | Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise Collection | these images were provided by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore

The KillJoy of Marlinspike Hall, here!

We only have three vehicles equipped with sirens in all of Tête de Hergé, and I swear they all decided to congregate in the neat triangle formed by Marlinspike Hall (the Manor itself, not the tremendous plot of our grounds), the Cistercian Monastery, and the now defunct organic Pig Farm that one might say was "across the road."

Now, the dot that marks us as one corner of this precise triangle emanates from a super-advanced Find-Us Thingy, a GPS designed for Unmappables, and is embedded into the wood of our superb imitation of the Florence Baptistry's North doors, what most of us just call "the front door," as it leads to the drawbridge, moat, and rudimentary lane out of the Haddock family holdings.

Do you remember our neighbor, the Organic Pig Farmer?  With pure poetry, I introduced her here exactly one year ago:

In other local soap opera news, we are never at a dramatic loss these days thanks to the vocal stylings of CrackHead Lady Across The Way, who turns out to be a very well-known organic pig farmer.  She steals the limelight with soliloquies to her Ugg boots and curious crowds gather -- mid-morning and again at midnight -- to watch her use the muddy pits of the hog lot as an exfoliating (yet wonderfully moisturizing) body wash.
Even then, something told me that trouble was afoot, and I swear I hold no prejudices against muddy crackhead exhibitionists.  Plus, bacon is "the" ingredient in haute cuisine, and we were thrilled to have such luscious pigs so close by, flavor on cloven hooves.  On her clear days, we were working with her and our resident geneticists on creating a tasty pig that ruminated -- which we figured would have burst open a world of consumers hungry for bacon, even if they wanted to be snooty and call it pancetta, which is hog, excuse me, pork belly cured with salt and peppered with peppercorns, fennel, nutmeg, and what have you. In Italy.  Harrumph.

But making a ruminant of a single-stomached pig was proving more than our animal husbandry and genetic experts were able to accomplish within a single season, and capturing the attention of the crack whore organic pig farmer, genius though she was, was nigh unto impossible.  The Jewish people shall not know -- with hearts' free of oppressive judgment -- bacon in 2013.  Don't believe the fast talker who tells you its easy to increase salivation, thereby increasing the microflora necessary to the decomposition of cud, or that making a pig's teeth incessantly grow to accomodate all that chewing, is easy.  That person is a ruminatory fool.  In any event, we'll miss her, and the promise of bacon.

What?  Oh, no.  No, she wasn't behind the flashing lights and dread-inducing sirens.  She was evicted about two months ago.  And the brothers of the Monastery are clean, as well.  The only time official vehicles congregate in their parking lot coincides with various taste testings from the Abbot's Private Keggery and the Postulants' fudge and fruitcake. It's hard to believe they make most of their money from office supply products.  No one turns out the day the Legal Pads arrive...

Anyway, why such a concentration of an entire country's siren-abled mobile forces last night, and why in this concentrated triangle of Tête de Hergé?

Would La Bonne et Belle Bianca Castafiore be sufficient response?

Sometimes she just chaps my ass.  Whilst frosting Fred's balls.

Let me hasten to say that Sven Feingold and his son, Cabana Boy, were not involved, each having been on duty, the one doing the near bonsai-like, minute zen changes necessary to Maze Maintenance in the winter time, the other employed in turning the spits in the East Wing Medieval Kitchen.  Not sexy work, but he gets to take off his shirt and have cool water ladled over his fire-burnished torso.

No, it was The Castafiore that so monopolized constabulary resources that the whole region east of the Lone Alp was left unprotected.

Since June of last year, I've been adapting to life without one of my shoulders. Many things depress me as I go through this process -- not near as many things as I had feared, though, and I had an Awesome List of Stuff to Fear all prepared.  But what never occurred to me was the damned front door.

We were concerned about the insertion of the GPS for Unmappable Locations into our incredibly realistic copy of the Baptistry Door, imagined it's beauty gouged, an ugly puncture.  I should have trusted in Tante Louise, who, in addition to overseeing all Emergency Services and Correction of Gossip, is a Renaissance Junkie.  You'd not be able to find the insertion site if you took all blessed day looking.

Where was I?  Oh.  I can't open or close the thing without hurting myself.  It takes two arms to properly fling it, insofar as it can be flung.  If you try to work with just half the door, using only one arm, there is an imbalance created that causes you to fall down, or, if you are in a wheelchair, to tilt over.  And then fall down.

Great thing, therefore, that I've not felt much like going out, or that I don't go any goddamned place alone.  Excuse my French. (Fred claims that our bacon and pancetta Castles-in-Spain never would have worked out, given my proclivity to cursing.  Mr. Perfection, who never divides the dark, silent nights with screams of "Oh, Fuck!" informs me that the devout, kosher-observant Jews we hoped to attract with our ruminating porcine achievements would turn on their heels in shock, distaste, and haste the first chance they had to meet the Pork Proprietress -- moi.)

Back to the Bacchanalia that was last night...

I kaboomed three times, directly into deep, drooling slumber, as most everyone had the evening off for contra dancing, a current fascination that I cannot explain.  The only projects we had going on in-Manor that required expert staffing were the Spit Marathons and Sven's small team of miniature botanists out in the cold, making tiny adjustments to the maze that is the central draw to every summer's ManorFest.  Myself?  As I said, I was trying to sleep, but the wafting scent of charred meat was dampening the success of that project, and then, all hell broke loose with the maintes-mentioned three sirened vehicles' descent upon our sacred triangle of Unmappable Manor, Pig Farm, and Monastery.

The Castafiore, in fluorescent pink tights and a deep wine red sheath dress to which some ill-advised and low-payed tailor had added a plethora of multi-directional ruching, was hoofing it from one angle of the triangle to the other, having attempted to rob the fabric store next to her preferred pub back in town.  The Tunnel System between the Town Saloon District and Marlinspike Hall was closed for repairs.  My Darling Diva refused to let go of her dry goods, her sundries, the elemental bones of costumes for the upcoming operatic season, all baroque, mannerist, and several new renascences. What was so precious?  I'm copying from the inch-thick pile of paperwork Tante Louise released with Bianca when we bailed her out, complete with TL's official parenthetic annotations:

-- 1 bolt Canary Yellow Forever Charmeuse, with the necessary Schmetz Microtex Sharps needles ("The suspect claims they prevent 'unpightly suckers.'")
-- 15 yards of Auburn Shetland Wool, 59" width.
-- The very last 7 yards in the region of Coral and Gold Silk Damask -- ("More proper to the eighteenth century than the Renaissance.")
-- A dozen pincushions (?)
-- Buttons, patches, and 29 books of swatches ("Come dawn, the CSI Unit will sweep the area as we suspect there was considerable slippage in the snow.  Given the pincushion seizure, we are particularly interested in retrieving stray straight pins.")

Why am I so angry?  Am I The Castafiore's Keeper?  I don't know.  I probably am.  Damn it.

All I know is that I can't move half my body for having spent last evening pumped with adrenaline, trying to jerk open our previously mentioned superb imitation of the Florence Baptistry's North doors in an effort to welcome and assist our mostly voluntary and usually deputized law enforcement agents.  You know, hot chocolate and a deeply soulful veggie soup, and catching up with the news from the more remote regions of this vast land.  No one gossips like a law man sipping soup and wiggling his frozen toes before a raging Medieval Spit.

This morning, Bianca, after sleeping it off, is full of remorse, but devoid of fabric and other ill-gotten gains, and she is in Wailing Mode.  Sven has lost his botanic zen in his efforts to comfort her.  Cabana Boy and Sven have promised to make her restitution of damask, wool, and charmeuse.  I suppose she's waiting for me to promise to pay the accompanying fines and replace the sotten sundries.  Well, she'll be waiting a long time.

Fred hurt his back doing some show-off move at the contra dancing fête designed to impress The Mousse, that non-feminist, non-existentialist, born-to-flirt beatch of the famed Wednesday Night Supper and Ukulele Gatherings.  She instigated the whole dance craze among the Haddock Manor Staff, knowing it would spread faster than the flu to twitchy-toed Fred.

I should give him a backrub or a heating pad.

The Manor still stinks of meat, my stomach still turns.  And life goes on.

Captain Haddock is not the greatest fan of the Front Door, and has offered something lighter and more utilitarian.  But I have my predilections, which is why, I suppose, I understand The Castafiore tearing around the various local properties, her skirt up to her neck like a veterinarian Elizabethan collar, clinging to vestiges of lost eras.

It's such a great story, the story of the doors.  Two magnificent artists, competing in a city decimated by the plague, are given the challenge to enervate in bronze the tale of Abraham's moment of supreme heart-rending obedience.  They -- the artists -- are so young, in their twenties -- Brunelleschi was 24, Ghiberti was 23.

I'm not aware of a movie or novel treating the subject, but wouldn't that be riveting?  [But... it is the sort of thing Hollywood screws up on a regular basis, so perhaps it's best left to Vasari and contemporaries.]


Of the Baptistry Door Competition, only two of the submitted panels survive, and one does dare to say they are the two most important. A stupid "dare to say," really, when we look to this competition to learn much more than how Ghiberti managed to pull a cap on over his huge bogglehead -- hoping to see some of the politics in art and follow the devilry of guilds functioning almost as mafiosi. Shoot, "mafiosi" sounds so cool there, don't you think? But it's hard to divorce Sicily from the term. Still, let it stand! You get my drift, even if my drift is flawed.

Anyway, here are the basics of the story, this adventure of doors, admission to... well, I cannot imagine.

 From the SUNY Oneonta Art Department:
Few buildings in Florence have as much significance to the life of the city as the Baptistry. Opposite the west facade of the Duomo, the Baptistry is at the religious center of Florence. The building was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence. It is in this building up until recent years that every Florentine citizen received the sacrament of Baptism. This building is thus critical in the religious and social identity of the city. 
The current building was probably built between 1059 and 1150 , and it is an excellent example of Tuscan Romanesque architecture. In the thirteenth century, it was believed that the building was built as early as the mid-sixth century and had been designed as a copy of Lateran Baptistry in Rome, the most important baptistry in Christendom. Another legend, developed during the thirteenth and fourteenth century, traced the foundation of the Baptistry back to a Roman temple of Mars that was subsequently rededicated to St. John the Baptist. The Baptistry was thus the principal monument in Florence associated with the ancient Roman foundation of the city. 
The Arte del Calimala, the wool merchants' guild, from as early as 1157 but at least by 1182 was given responsibility for the maintenance and embellishment of the building. The Calimala was the wealthiest and most influential of the major guilds. Established in the twelfth century, the guild was composed of dealers and refiners of foreign cloth and the wool importers as well as importers of silk, brocade, jewels, and other precious materials from the Levant. Until the late twelfth century, the Calimala also represented to the bankers, but they withdrew to form their own guild, the Arte del Cambio. The retail dealers were joined in 1247 by importers of goods from Levant to form the Arte della Seta. Despite these split-offs, the Calimala was still the most prestigious guild in Florence. During the thirteenth century, the Calimala had commissioned Coppo di Marcolvaldo to decorate the octagonal dome of the building:

Baptistry Dome, Last Judgment

At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the Arte del Calimala initiated another major project: the creation of three magnificent, bronze entrance doors for building. In 1330, Andrea Pisano (c. 1290-1348) was commissioned to do the first set of doors on the south side. Pisano completed the project in 1336:

South Doors, Pisano
An economic crash between 1339 to 1346, political upheaval, and the outbreak of the Black Death in 1348 led to the suspension of plans to complete the two remaining doors. During the winter of 1400 - 1401, the consuls of the Calimala decided to open a competition for another set of doors. These were originally intended for the East door. These doors, facing the west entrance of the Duomo, were the most important doors. Just as the competition was initiated Milanese troops under the leadership of Gian Galeazzo Visconti were threatening Florence. Some see the motivation of the Calimala to revive the door project as an attempt to bolster civic unity and pride by embellishing one of the city's most important monuments. Another factor frequently cited for initiating the competition was Calimala's rivalry with the Arte della Lana, the Woolworkers Guild, which was given authority over the fabric of the Duomo. The Arte della Lana was at that moment engaged in the project of decorating the west facade of the Duomo, directly opposite the east entrance of the Baptistry. 
This combination of factors -- the history of the building, the Arte del Calimala's patronage, the fame of Andrea Pisano's doors-- made this an extremely desirable commission. As stated by Richard Krautheimer (Lorenzo Ghiberti, p. 34): "The most important group of patrons in Florence called for a trial piece for the new bronze door which would eventually decorate the most illustrious building in the city and which would, besides, have the privilege of standing alongside the only important bronze sculpture theretofore produced in Florence." 
The competitors were expected to submit panels representing the Old Testament story of the Abraham's Sacrifice of Isaac. It depicts the moment when Abraham, ordered by God to sacrifice his only son, is about to plunge the knife into Isaac's neck, but his hand is stayed at the last moment by an angel. This story of divine delivrance would undoubtedly have resonated with Florentines, whose city had been delivered by the sudden death Gian Galeazzo Visconti in September of 1402. 
Ghiberti in his account of the competition records the name of seven competitors, all from Tuscany: Filippo Brunelleschi, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia, Simone da Colle, Niccolò d'Arezzo, Niccolò di Pietro Lamberti, and Francesco di Valdambrino. Two of the competition panels have been preserved: one by Lorenzo Ghiberti and the other by Filippo Brunelleschi.

Ghiberti's Sacrifice of Isaac Submission

Brunellesci's Sacrifice of Isaac Submission

Ghiberti won.  Some say, and I'm just sayin' what I've heard said, understand?  Some say that Ghiberti won, at least in part, because his submission panel weighed about 7 kilos less than Brunelleschi's work, thanks to hollowing out some of the bronze projections -- which represented considerable savings in bronze.  Money.  Money has always talked.

Robert Paul Walker wrote a book whose title characterizes the competition in that way that makes one love certain art historians: “The Feud that Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World."

Of Brunelleschi's panel, Walker said:

Brunelleschi’s work is by far the more dramatic and disturbing, all angles and movement and raw emotion., like nothing that had ever been created before. His Abraham is a tall, powerful figure, grasping a frail Isaac along the jawline with his left hand, the father’s thumb under the boy’s chin to better expose the neck, or perhaps to cut off the flow of oxygen so that his son won’t feel the fatal blow. In his right hand, Abraham holds the knife, driving the blade forward with such forceful commitment that the angel sweeping down from the sky must grab his wrist to stop the sacrifice. The story literally bursts out from the panel, breaking the boundaries of the Gothic quatrefoil within which it is supposed to be contained, just as Brunelleschi burst through the boundaries of the Gothic art with his creation.
And of Ghiberti:

Ghiberti’s panel is more elegant and more beautiful. His Isaac is a perfectly modeled classical nude while his Abraham is a smaller, more graceful man, his left arm wrapped around the boy’s shoulders while his right hand holds the knife hovering in the air, as if he has not yet made the decision to strike. The angel floats above them, open palm over Abraham’s well-coifed, curly hair, no need to grab the father’s arm but able instead to stop him with a word. The whole scene plays out against an exquisitely cascading mountainside, all neatly contained within its quatrefoil boundary. Whereas Brunelleschi’s piece demonstrates an artist aching to forge a new and more powerful image of reality, Ghiberti’s demonstrates masterful perfection of the art, as remarkable in its own way for the time and place and age of the artist as is the work of his rival.
MaItaly summarizes:
Both artists had turned in extraordinary panels, and the committee couldn’t decide which was best. The story is that they called both artists together and asked if they might be willing to work in tandem on the doors. Brunelleschi was the one to refuse, saying that he would gladly concede the project to Ghiberti rather than work with anything less than full creative control. The project went to Lorenzo Ghiberti. It was a huge victory for him and a humiliating defeat for Brunelleschi, who was left with nothing after so much work and anticipation. It was the aftermath of this competition that got the creative snowball rolling in Florence. Ghiberti would spend decades completing not just the north doors (seen here to the left), but a second set of east baptistry doors, a work so impressive that Michelangelo studied them and dubbed them, “the gates of paradise”. It was Brunelleschi however, who would make the bigger leap forward, inventing a system for perspective and revolutionizing painting while completing one of the most daunting and difficult architectural projects in the world: the building of the giant red dome on top of the Duomo across from the baptistry.
 I'd have bored you so much more had I gone into the choice of the competition "text," and you're welcome.  It's hard to top Kierkegaard.

It was early morning. Everything has been made ready for the journey in Abraham's house. Abraham took leave of Sarah, and the faithful servant Eleazar followed him out on the way until he had to turn back. They rode together in accord, Abraham and
Isaac, until they came to the mountain in Moriah. yet Abraham made everything ready for the sacrifice, calmly and quietly, but as he turned away Isaac saw that Abraham's left hand was clenched in anguish, that a shudder went through his body - but Abraham drew the knife. 
Then they turned home again and Sarah ran to meet them, but Isaac had lost his faith. Never a word in the whole world is spoken of this. Isaac told no one what he had seen, and Abraham never suspected that anyone had seen it. 

Simon's Cat: Cat Man Do

Uploaded on Mar 4, 2008
"A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to wake its sleeping owner."

Cat Man Do - Simon's Cat **

After many a morning spent pretending to be asleep.  Well, okay, after many an afternoon spent pretending to be asleep, I can attest to the validity of this cartoon rendering of cat methodologies employed to wake the hooman snoozer -- but contend it does not have to be a cat in need of anything in particular.  In our Manor, it's simple sporting competition, with three cats taking their turn.

Let's review, shall we?

There's the infamous and huge Buddy the Maine Coon, who weighs in as an adult German Shepherd.
There's the divine Miss Marmy Fluffy Butt, who spends 50% of her time fleeing from Buddy, 45% napping (but with pivoting ears) and 5% sharpening her lightening fast claws.
Finally, there is the sweetest angel fart ever, Little Dobby, my dearest love, my companion, the peace-maker.

When they're working as a team, I have no chance.  But then, I have no chance to witness them working as a team if I show myself as awake, so it's something of a [painful] treat.

Actually, they do pull off some moves that would make Olympic synchronized swimming competition fade in fading glory.  As when Fred hauls in those 75-pound bags of premium, break-the-bank, "guaranteed to stop hairballs and all malodorous feline productions" bags of kibble... and, worn out by both the monetary and physical hauling, drops it against the large feed bucket.

"I'll fill it later."

We've gone over the fact that Fred has ADHD, yes?  Well, let this be a summarizing example.  Where Fred puts something -- meaning, ANYTHING -- is where that item is going to stay.  I've conducted experiments, aiming to prove God-only-knows-what, since this is a well-known symptom of ADHDers.  It's just really hard to believe, is all.

I mean, when you empty your dish drainer, or for you modernized families, the mechanized dish washer, you are likely to place the clean, dry items that you remove in their designated spots, usually agreed upon by years of standard usage, or, in the more dysfunctional Manors, perhaps by half-hour long arguments of the appropriate spot for the plastic container lids.  Someone has gone to great lengths, and by someone, I mean me, to keep the counter tops clean, uncluttered, and disinfected (We do have three cats, after all, and if this post and YouTube cartoon tell you nothing else, it is that cats do many things of which their hooman companions are unaware.).

Fred does stuff like put up every item, perfectly, even re-arranging in some more sensible way the storage of those infernal plastic lids... except for one, maybe two things.  A colander.  A fork.  Those will simply be set on the counter.  There is no impending pasta cook-off, no need to twirl noodles after draining.  He just does not completely finish any task.

If washing the dishes, they're immaculate and arranged in the drainer, not just with artistry, but with geometric precision designed to promote the most rapid and effective drainage possible, given the angles and curves of what he has to work with.  But there will remain, after he's dried his hands and carefully hung the dishrag to dry, one item in the sink still full of soapy water.  If you're curious, just walk on by, that day... and the next... and the next.  Until your head explodes.

Back to the cats, the kibble, Dear Fred and our theme song, Creedence Clearwater Revival's Someday Never Comes.

I know what you are thinking.  "Well, profderien, get Bianca Castafiore or Sven or the Cabana Boy, or a stray Genetically-Indentured Manor Staff underage child to empty that bag of kibble into the feed bucket... Or, jeez, already, if you can vacuum and mop with the best in the Power Wheelchair Senior's Division, do it your damn self, and leave Fred alone."

I usually do.  But not until I've peeped around door edges to watch the amazing, silent Dance of the Kibble Bag, as performed by Buddy and Marmy, with Dobby as pitiful look-out and cheerleader (he has weak nails).  Marmy makes the intial slash with a surgeon's precision.  Hmm.  Given some of the surgeons we've encountered, perhaps she surpasses their acumen.  She prefers the lower right corner.

Then she sits down, looking pretty and perfect, and gives the nod to Buddy.  Dobby gives a sad little leap, doing splits in the air, and vocalizing what must be a fervent "rah!".

Buddy commences to chew.  He's maybe more a goat than a German Shepherd.

At the end of this short show, they've achieved a steady, lava-like flow of kibble.

Which they do not eat.

Because eating it was never the point.

Making fun of the hoomans, peeping around the corners at us as we gesticulate and go into frenzies upon finding kibble strewn all over the laundry room -- that may be the point.  We're not sure.

Now I'm depressed.

To give some sort of dénouement to this non-tale, I'll give away the "Wake up, Hooman" ending.  It's innocuous little Dobby who succeeds in turning me from a faking sleeper to a bona fide cursing cat companion.  He's small but he's... poky.  He pokes and stabs with his sharp-boned little legs, and he knows just where it hurts the worse.  But by the time I heave myself into a position to view the miniature Doberman, he's snug on a soft blanket opposite my corpulence, and staring, transfixed, at the ceiling fan.

His pièce de résistance?

The moment when I, too, fix my eye upon the stationary fan.

Dobby, ready for mailing

Marmy Fluffy Butt

Buddy (prior to last growth spurt)

**********          **********          **********

Simon's Cat **

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Jose L. Ochoa, M.D. Defies Entire Febreze Advanced Odor Eliminator Air Effect Line

Can't sleep, need to go to the bathroom, but cannot get my legs to work.  So I did what any reasonable person would do... I browsed rulings posted on -- and due to some strange lurking noted earlier in the day, I did a search on the much loathed Dr. Jose Ochoa of the Oregan Nerve Whatever Whatever, his cover for the outrageous pimpitude in which he has engaged over these lo, so many years, causing pain, suffering, heartache, and financial devastation to hundreds of people with CRPS.

As I often note, but only after complete exhaustion of my penchant for scientific rigor, having done a skin-scraping, a DNA-analysis, and a whiff-test: Dr. Jose Ochoa of the Oregon Nerve Center for the Denial of CRPS ("so long as you're payin'!") -- is a turd.

Anyway, if you're ever scheduled to see this man about a potential case of CRPS, or are ordered to do so should you be involved in litigating a settlement, well...

1.  Be sure you show up to the IME with your own videographer.
2.  And please, for goodness' sake, wash up a bit first.  That way Dr. Ochoa won't need to blow on the supersensitive skin on your CRPS-involved hand, or pluck at it, in order to remove a stray pubic hair.

If you're my sort of nerd, the kind that enjoys watching televised school board meetings, and enjoys Robert's Rules as bedtime reading, this ought to keep you happy for an hour or so.

Forgive me for not going over the turdish ways of this doctor -- I lack the energy, and suppose that, like the poor, we will always be beset by Ochoas.  If you wish to see past emotional purging rages about his unethical, self-serving practices, just put "Ochoa" in the search box, up there in the upper left.

Anyway, here's the link to some fun reading, which concludes (I'm not giving away any great secret) that it's not so much people bad-mouthing Dr. Ochoa that has eaten into his nausea-inducing income levels as a hired gun for the insurance industry -- no, it's the fact that he can produce no plausible science to support his outmoded claims, and that he does nothing any longer but make juries and judges dizzy by an infernal self-referentiality.

ENTIRE DOCUMENT, downloadable pdf format
Signed on 2/7/13 by Judge Ancer L. Haggerty.


Oregon limited liability company, and 


limited liability patinership, 

HAGGERTY, District Judge: 
Case No.: 3:11-cv-01433-HA

Plaintiffs, Oregon Nerve Center, LLC, and Jose L. Ochoa, M.D. ("Ochoa") filed a single 
tmi claim against defendant, a Florida-based law firm, for intentional interference with economic 
relations. Defendant seeks summaty judgment on plaintiffs' sole claim on several grounds, 
including lack of personal jurisdiction and plaintiffs' inability to establish the elements of their 
claim. The comi held oral argument on defendant's motion on Januaty 31, 2013, and then took 
the matter under advisement. For the following reasons, defendant's Motion for Summary 
Judgment [64] is GRANTED.

© 2013 L. Ryan

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"It is what it is."

O! The things that you pray never to come out of your mouth, certainly not with any frequency, definitely not with an instant light of reciprocity in the eyes of your interlocutor.

"It is what it is."

What did I ever see as so offensive in that sentence?  Popeye's "I am what I am" is pretty stupid and I've been shouting that, usually in a tossed-over-the-shoulder fashion with a once-upon-a-time precious moue, for most of my life.

Wrongly used, abused by bad context, it can fail as well as any sentence can.  Nearing the terminus of a long linguistic ride, in decent company, however, the statement does not end an argument in fleeing absurdity, neck cricked, feet stumbling, pencil skirt regretted.

The conductor might even smile, not at you, mind, but to himself, in remembrance, and issue you another ticket.

For another train, on another track.

I won't claim Zen in my effort to understand why I said, "It is what it is" without the least bit of a clunk or a plunk, with nary a bit of weariness -- nor, my great fear, and if you read me often enough, you've been waiting for it -- nor with any element of what is trite.

They say that as you lay dying, you will regret the time spent keeping a clean house, the hours sweating over badly written compositions, your professionalism struggling with the desire to tell the plain truth.  You will weep over the choice to chase footnotes instead of rainbows over the ocean, over opting for solitary night duty at the homeless shelter instead of the communal cooking duties and feigned cheer.

But then, you'd never have had those long and short conversations with men, old and dying at 30, who took every romantic, daring-sounding risk that crossed their dotted paths.  You'd never have given the gift of really listening, and the unsaid nod of mutuality:  "It is what it is."

They weren't claiming, not in the soft voices of murmuring, sweltering nights, pride or unmitigated accomplishment, something to note in the burden of an old family Bible.  They were simply telling, and leaving it to me whether it was worth a lie the next day when I reported in on the night's doings.  "George laid a saga on me, a tale to end all tales, who'd a thunk it of old George!"

More often, I mangled it worse than that.  What, you did not think a worse mangle in me?  You've not read me near enough.  More often, I'd report:  "I think George needs to talk, if anyone can spare the time."

This, of course, leads me back to my sad state of Popeye.  "I am what I am, and I refuse to ask more of myself, and if I choose to underestimate George, and myself, and place my hope in you daylight do-gooders, well, so be it."

"So be it" is far, far, far from "It is what it is." Not that I think there are any dunces reading this, but you never know.

As I thought about this post during Last Night's Many Moanings, so many wonderful things lit lightly upon the misshapen edge of a cholesterol-damaged neuron that most were lost, though my secret, intimate, almost orgasmic hope is that the lunar bee, butterfly, or moth -- each "greeny" -- smeared a two or three chain-linked insight, some skinny version of a pollen notion, on one of mine bulging grey cells.

You know, so that there might be growth, feeding, difference.

Recognizing that things are as they are is not the basis for "It is what it is." Neither is it as easy as resignation, or effort in defiance of idiotic fatality.

It can be the joy of O'Keeffe's red poppy, specifically, the redness.  "It is what it is." A nod to genius, a thankfulness for destroying translation and the need to go on and on about it.

It can be the tearless expression of something beyond the pale, something long known but not on its own terms.  Something is killing you, something is killing one whom you love more than yourself, and it is what it is.  The next day does not change in the least, unless you manage to preserve that conversation and that direct look at God's amazing irradiating iris in the beloved's eye.  The next day requires, however, that your sight mirror day's democracy, and include the bloodshot sclera, the pinpoint pupil, or maybe a liver's wayward ways.

Of course, the punch line potential for "It is what it is" is rich but you'll have gathered I'm not feeling particularly funny.  Fun has to be made, crafted -- at its worse, by amateurs; at its best, by cantankerous pros -- or must occur in a natural flash: uncontrolled, pew-shaking, infectious.  Nowhere am I on that awesome spectrum this late afternoon.  Well, more likely, I just don't want to bore you.  Or make you wince.  I am famous, in the flesh, for being able to annihilate the humor in anything.  If I can recall a punchline, the set up is lost in pea soupy fog.  If I nail the back story, I either laugh so hysterically that I cannot even speak to deliver the winning end, or it completely escapes me, such that I will beg you to recall it for me.  "C'mon, you know! You know!"

"It is what it is."  There's a personal appeal, here, that has to do with another personal linguistic failing. Idioms. Catchy phrases that most beings nail by the age of four.  I tend to find synonyms to replace the long fixed adage.  I don't nip things in the bud, I cut them. So you can see the attraction to a declaration that needs no help from my twisted thesaurus.

Writing this has been enormously helpful.
I feel empty.  Done. Almost complete.

Words give way, finally, to pointing.
There.  There.  This.  That.

© 2013 L. Ryan