22 October 2009

Prominent Aeronautical Disasters in History

I threw this together this morning, thinking t-shirt or poster. I was inspired by the latest adventures of Der Untergang:

That YouTube embed has apparently been removed due to bogus DMCA takedowns.  I had enough advance notice to have pulled a copy off the web and am re-posting it here, where it's less likely to be noticed by law-abusing copy-grumps:

For more information about the removal of Hitler parodies, due to bogus DMCA takedown notices, you might still find a YouTube video here (which, having downloaded,  I'll re-post later, if I notice the link's gone dead).

Here's another video that hints at some of what's stupidest about copyright law, as it stands:

And here's a more scholarly explanation of how to cite fair use, in opposition to such takedowns:

16 October 2009

News from the East

Mom visited a museum exhibit about Princess Diana, in Philadelphia recently. Among the artifacts was a room full of condolence books from around the world. She was excited to report that one of them lay open to a condolence signed, "Love, Damon and Debbie". I had a hunch that, although there may well be plenty of "Damon and Debbie" couples in the world, it might possibly be related to the British soap opera characters of the same names.
I think it was pulling up the Wikipedia page for Damon and Debbie, that inspired me to google my name. I came up with this Chinese language article about the sign shop. I could recognize other names mentioned in the story, which indicated that this was either written by or copied from someone who had actually spoken to me about sign making. I used Google's convenient translation tool (which popped up alongside the search results), to generate this, entitled The Charm of the Traditional Identification:

07 October 2009



frakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrakfrak, batch-horse COUNT!


Those words, sanitized for my parents' sensitivities, comprised a few of my early thoughts, some spoken aloud, others not, as this morning, for the first time ever, after having biked in SF since '91, and less than a month after getting my first new bike since '93, I plowed into a car door, swinging open in my path.

A quick survey of joints and bones suggests nothing's broken. I've got a nasty laceration in my right ring finger 2nd knuckle (assuming knuckles are counted starting from the tip... oh yeah, I guess it's the 2nd either way. Okay, I'm a little shaken up), but I can't see any bone peeking out in there. So, I cleaned it up and put on a butterfly closure, a Band-Aid, and a splint for good measure (prob'ly unnecessary, but it'll elicit sympathy and maybe generate awareness of checking your goddamn side view mirror, even tho' she says she did; plus, I get to complain about how hard it is to type, and I'm always scouring for misbegotten reasons to complain).

My right bar end got twisted around, but everything else seems normal on the bike. I'll try to drop it off at the Basement today, and get it checked out, since I haven't even had my introductory tune-up yet.

So, in short: lots of initial shock, but fairly minor injuries all around. I didn't even manage to leave a decent scratch on her door. But, man--for those first few "fraks", I thought for sure I'd broken my hand.

Oh yeah: this happened just after turning east on Mission, from S. Van Ness, exactly where last month, the front cog of my old bike spat a few teeth into the street--leading to my finally splurging on a new bike, after all these years. Something good may ultimately come of this dooring incident, too, but just the same, I think I'll avoid that intersection from now on.

29 September 2009


This morning, I got an email from Mom, something with multiple 'FW: Fwd:'s in the subject line, about a song "written by a 13 years old boy". It had a couple of links, to a ".wmv" file and to a ".txt" file, both of which required downloading. Against my better judgement, and because I'm in a band with a 14 year old boy (and have been since he was 8), I downloaded and watched the ".wmv" file. It was a maudlin video of some British lad, Declan, presumably a creation of Pop Idol, or some such program, asking repeatedly, why certain bad stuff exists in the world.

I replied as follows...

28 September 2009

El Corte de Madera

I bought a new bike last week. My previous bike, I'd been nursing along since 1993, finally gave me sound enough reason to pull the plug: I cranked hard to avoid an oncoming bus, on my way across town for an appointment; I felt a jolt and heard the clank of metal on the street. I looped around, up a driveway, onto the sidewalk, and rode back to the source of the sound: a chunk of cog, with about 3 teeth in it, lay on the road! Strangely, this did not stop the bike from operating normally. I carried on, and rode all the way up to the top of Russian Hill, where I'd never actually been before, to meet my clients. Afterward, I saw this plaque about graves, for which the hill is named:"[T]he graves were removed or built over"... Or? Like... we just don't know? This reminds me of a film by one of Deb's friends, Trina Lopez, Second Final Rest, about the removal of all of San Francisco's cemeteries in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, raising questions about just how thorough said removal was. I haven't actually seen the movie yet, but it's playing this coming Wednesday, at the public library main branch. So, maybe I'll go.

Anyway, in the past, when stuff on my bike done broke, I'd just buy another part, or buy a cheap used bike with good parts, and swap stuff out. But missing teeth on the central cog? That's a lot of work, and this bike's put in a good tour of service. Scott told me I could afford a new bike, so I went for it. And this weekend, I put some knobbies on the wheels, and took it down to El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve, where I used to run a couple loops with my old work friend, Gabe, some dozen years ago or so. I followed the same old path: Fir Trail, to Tafoni, to Resolution, and back up the El Corte de Madera Creek Trail. The video up top is of the last few tenths along Resolution Trail. Here are the sandstone formations in the park:

And here's a madrone tree I stared at for a while, at the vista point:

I've put the slicks back on, now, and I prob'ly won't bomb much single-track any more, it's true--but I like seeing the visual explanation, in that video up top, for why my hands get so numb after racing down a mile or so of that stuff. Also, it's really nice, after such a long time, to have gears and shifters that are indexed properly, and brakes that don't squeak because I put the shoes on crooked--in short, to have a new bike. It'll also be nice to take advantage of the 2 years included service that comes with it. Thanks, Sports Basement! I've already customized it, with my name, and assorted accessories ripped off my old bike, like seats, handlebars, and rack. More good rollin' times await.

19 September 2009

No reservations? Maybe some...

I was just biking around town this afternoon, and the memory came flashing into mind, of the time, a few months back, when we saw Anthony Bourdain at Bender's bar, around the corner. Much of the usual Thursday crowd were there for a Sunday afternoon, effecting a masculine contrapunto to the Guerrera-Malenfant baby shower. From our table in a back corner, we spotted Bourdain, at the bar, up by the door. I don't have any faith in my capacity to recognize faces, so I was struck first merely by having recognized his. Then, I was struck by how blue his hair is. They must work hard to keep all yellow wavelengths out of gray TV hair.

I went up and offered, on the table's behalf, to buy him a drink, in such a way that he didn't even need to respond in order to politely decline.

What I wish I'd said was something along the lines of...

12 September 2009

Sea Ranch

Check in later for an updated post, with actual Sea Ranch journal writing. Still editing. In the meantime, enjoy my psychedelic kelp videos.

Health care debate!

Moved, I guess, by how the lack of ideas being reported as coming from the conservative side of government, during the current attempt at health care overhaul, resembles the lack of conservative ideas reported way back in the financial bail out days, I got back on my high horse, and decided to prod Dad, again, with assorted liberal rhetoric on the topic, in lieu of any evident "debate". I sent him a link to a Krugman column, asserting that the "public option" was a necessary gambit for reducing costs, and a recent Matt Taibbi piece, from Rolling Stone, wherein he explains why the entire process has been completely bungled by corporate interests, and is doomed, as a result, not to save anyone any money.

Dad responded in kind, sending me a list of 14 conservative talking points, that I don't suppose he wrote himself, since they display a wit that's a bit snarkier than I'd characterize his as being; but he didn't say who wrote them. I imagine these are the points that are just hit on, repeatedly, on conservative talk radio--some of the points themselves are repeated--and, as a result, don't do much to explain anything, only to incite indignation in their target audience.

So I responded, perhaps a little too graciously, "This is the first time any republican thinker has managed to squeeze a cogent argument for some completely different idea to the way health care works in the entire rest of the developed world outside the U.S., into the San Franciscan airspace!", before getting down into the dirty work of actually trying to read the stuff, and then debunk all the poppycock therein. I don't think it's likely I got any sound counterpoints across, but at least I was able to highlight some paradoxes in the conservative grab-bag of horror stories. At the same time, I have to admit that, on both ends of the political spectrum, we share a lot of pessimism over what's likely to come out of the process.

16 August 2009

Destroy man!

How did I go nearly 40 years without ever discovering that this is an anagram of my name?

I must amend story to stay modern, in the steady norm--keep the stony dream alive--avoid the stray demon and damn oyster!

God bless the internet. It spares me the need to regret not having spent more time playing with the letters in my name.

This reminds me of my old friend, Anna, who could compose long form anagrams of full sentences or emails, if I recall correctly... Her email name was "apalindrome", which reminds me both of the sample sign Tauba put in the shop window, reading "palindrome is not a palindrome" (and which seems to provoke more commentary from bus stop patrons than any other in the window); and also my favorite failed palindrome:
Edna St. Vincent Millay, top bard, notes putrid tang emanating, is sad.
I'd assign it a name: gnat dirt upset on drab pot toilet.

09 August 2009

Narratives and the Narrating Narrators Who Narrate Them

I got up, and forced myself to start reading Errol Morris' Seven Lies About Lying (parts I and II), which have been sitting on two tabs of the browser for, I guess, a week now, waiting for me to get through every little thing that's crossed my sight line since. My interest in that article (besides being kindled by having enjoyed Mr. Morris' previous multi-part essays in the Times, largely about the relationship between truth and photography), was sparked--before laying dormant for a week--by the inclusion of an interview with Ricky Jay, who's a pretty fascinating bloke, enjoying a sort of renaissance, I think, here in the early 21st century. That is to say: I have the impression, based partly on faint memories from my childhood, but mostly on a pictorial of him using playing cards as darts, to pop balloons taped to an otherwise nude bunny, from a December 1977 issue of Playboy that used to live in the bathroom mag rack, that he reached the pinnacle of his celebrity some 30 odd years ago. Lately, he seems to be popping up more often on the pop radar--I was surprised to see him in a "dramatic" role in Gus Van Sant's pseudo-bio flick, Last Days, about the end of Kurt Cobain's life--but it may be only my radar on which he's blipping more frequently, since I was commissioned recently to paint his name on an old vintage magician poster, to be a birthday gift for Mr. Jay, himself (I hope, in posting it here, that the birthday has already come to pass):

I can't help but wonder if someone who collects such vintage posters, as does he, might not be a little appalled to have a perfectly good one defaced in such fashion... I mean, I'm fine with the lettering and all, I just feel like, if it were my name on there, I'd be saying, like, "Why did you have to go and do that to it?" But I don't know the first thing about assessing the value of such old posters; I'm not Ricky Jay, and I don't know him as well as does David Mamet, from whom the commission came (more celebrity name-dropping! Actually, it was just "his people", and they only talked to "my people", i.e. Scott).

The week I was working on that, I swear, I told at least a half dozen people what I was doing, and not one of them had heard of Ricky Jay. Just now, I had to tell Deb who he was, though I swear I must have told her then, too. And I think only one person even recognized David Mamet's name! I mean, c'mon, people! David Mamet?!? I feel like I should just be able to say, "What the fuck?!", and that would be a kinda weak inside joke about the coarse speech patterns of the Western Male, as commonly represented in Mamet scripts. But really: there's no excuse. You should just know this shit. Here, check his wiki. Jesus. Now, Jay, okay, I grant you, he's been a little under the radar for lo these many. You should just read the Errol Morris article, but here, you can check his wiki, too.

08 August 2009


I've been puttering around on the couch this morning, as is my way, using the interwebs in the fashion for which they are seemingly best suited: to reveal, in an ever-lengthening row of tabs, ever more info about whatever caught my passing interest in a previous tab. Thusly, have I increased my vocabulary to include menefreghismo, and its variants. I thought, for a while, maybe I wanted to read Nick Tosches' book, Dino, about Dean Martin. Then, as I was trying to find some online version of a Tosches magazine article I remember fondly (and, I swear, only just now, typing this sentence, long past having scoured New Yorker, Harper's, and McSweeney's archives in vain for a hint, does it dawn on me that it was in Vanity Fair, here, and I recommend it: a stellar description of the fullest use of one's skills and resources to feed a seemingly pointless obsession, as the seasons pass, concluding that "nobody with a decent map needs rainbows"...whatever that means), I somehow stumbled upon mention of a Jack Pendarvis, described as a "Southern Gothic David Sedaris". I thought of my friend, Huw, whom I've mentioned before in his capacity as priestly aspirant, and who, being Southern, and prolificly blogulous, has much to write and link to, of the South and of his experiences carrying it north in his heart. We've been chatting recently (and through him, and his Canadian proximity, I've begun watching some of Little Mosque on the Prairie), and I wonder if he'd be interested in Pendarvis. Then, I thought, I should just see if it's any good myself, before I go recommending it. The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure seems like a good place to start, being as it's a short story collection, and my ability to read actual book-length books has largely atrophied (help me find a less oxymoronic adjective for atrophied, please), despite some recent success with Reason, Faith, and Revolution (approaching halfway!).


I just learned a new word. Mark Dery, writing about Hannibal Lecter, quotes Nick Tosches describing Dean Martin as a menefreghista, one who embodies menefreghismo, who is, as such, a master of the fine art of not giving a fuck.

I'm old enough now to know that menefreghista is not a mantle to which I can aspire. It has to be a skill cultivated from an early age. There might be a lot of nature in with that nurture, too. I think the later in life one begins trying to manifest their menefreghismo, the more bitter a taste it leaves in the mouths of all those around. I s'pose I could try reading that Dino book, to see how Mr. Martinez' well-cultured menefreghismatic ways impacted his near and dear...

Anyway, it's only every so often, for better or worse, that I get a little taste of the menefreghista life, unspoilt by guilt or shame. I just wanted to post this so I could use it as a footnote link from the menefreghismo passage in my birthday post. Carefree livin', FTW! (so to speak).

25 July 2009

Sex Movies

When I first built this blog page, I had a different quote up there below the title than what's up there now. It said, quoting Lotus Weinstock, "I used to want to change the world. Now, I just want to leave the room with a little dignity". Lotus was, according to Wikipedia, an LA-based comedian, and Lenny Bruce's last girlfriend, but I'd never heard of her. She was quoted by Justin Bond's character in the John Cameron Mitchell movie, Shortbus, which I highly recommend for anyone who, like me, enjoys movies that temper their unabashed sex-positivity with a whole lotta mindplay.

To that end, one of my favorite movies ever is Made in Secret: The Story of the East Van Porn Collective, which uses the tale of a group of friends entertaining themselves by filming pornography, to explore how the contours of public vs. private intersect with "anarcho-feminist" communal politics and consensus building. I think one of the blurbs on the DVD box (which I have, but not in front of me), says something like, "most boring film ever made with porn in the title".

18 July 2009

Story of Enlightenment

Deb and I went, last night, to a monthly dinner conversation organized by a few Saint Gregory's folk, for other such folk living here in the city. There are other similar monthly dinners in the east bay and, I think, Marin. We've never been. My excuse is that I never feel like I have anything smart to say extemporaneously. And I'm antisocial. I haven't fully internalized that doing one's theological musing in communion with other church folk is the best way to dissipate the mists of error.

Amber asked us to go, to keep Colin and her company, in case the whole thing turned out to otherwise be completely socially awkward and unpleasant. The four of us pushed their attendance to a new record, apparently. It wasn't awkward or unpleasant. We made our usual stuffed dates appetizer, with cheese and dates leftover from our recent camping trip, during which it was too Godforsakenly hot to eat cheese and dates. Last night, they went quick.

Every month, there's a group conversation revolving around a pre-selected word. This month the word was Illumination. There were some photographers in attendance, and a theatrical lighting designer conveniently on hand to describe their relationships to light.

A lot of the talk turned, conversely, to cherishing darkness, to the difficulty of finding spaces unpolluted with artificial light; whereupon one woman commented that, at her home in Point Reyes, the isolation, mysterious noises, and threat of wildfire, combined to make the darkness of the woods frightening for her.

One guy brought up Don Cupitt's ideas about Solar Ethics, described as "being giving, always giving, always burning outward".

The woman who was afraid of the dark had, at some point in her life, had some sort of 'ecstatic vision' of the 'light of Jesus', and we all philosophized about what that 'light' was supposed to mean, exactly, and how it manifests itself, so to speak, in our... hearts? lives? I posited that it was a revolutionary understanding of the human potentiality to be divine. Or words to that effect.

13 July 2009

The Default Region

I was out for birthday drinks with friends this afternoon and started blabbing my mouth about this here "BLAT!", which has been largely a secret blog since its inception. So, I've given myself a little taste of exactly the sort of anxiety over productivity that I can accuse of stultifying my productivity. One reaction I had to that tonight was, "If I write anything whatsoever, I should prob'ly use it to pad the blog..."

I was thinking, specifically, about a comment I posted on a BoingBoing story this morning. There's been a spate (if two can make a spate) of posts there this weekend about the "default state", or region, of the mind--those areas of gray matter whose electro-chemical activity increases when focus and attention on specific tasks has ceased, i.e. the bits of brain that light up when the mind wanders.

Cory Doctorow's post, this morning, about a UC-Santa Barbara brain researcher's theories on the subject was titled "Wandering minds are active minds". As interesting as I think this is, I'm equally interested by the fact that I've been unable, even now, to summon enough attention to read the post the whole way through, not to mention whatever article it's drawn from. Nonetheless, I was moved to send in a comment:

17 April 2009

Speed and Brevity and Depth

Thought, while riding home, loaded: my constant effort in my art, or at least in my writing, is to communicate the speed and brevity characteristic of my thought pattern, in hopes that maybe the pattern... or hints, embedded therein, at the context surrounding each... battery of BLATs (?) will suggest some depth of... interest? Of... well, some depth anyway...

Yeah. Something like that. A thousand points of light in an unfathomable firmament.


(just to keep score, how many more BLATs to a thousand?)

08 February 2009

Breaching Separation of Church & State

(or, Traipsing Trepidatiously 'Cross the Personal/Political Divide)

At our church, we have a tradition (I may have mentioned elsewhere), of "concluding the sermon", which entails, after a couple minutes' meditation, parishioners who are so moved, standing up and sharing how the day's homily or scripture passage resonates with something in their lived experience (i.e, not something they read in a paper or saw on TV). An extension of that tradition, more suited for people like me, who shy away from off-the-cuff public parabolizing, is the "SGN Sharing" email group. Of course, some such people like me, prone to embedding hyperlinks in their emails, tend occasionally to conflate "lived experience" with "having visited a website", or "the way I felt after visiting said website".

Case in point: one co-congregant, S, sent around a link to www.bornagainamerican.org (careful: it'll want to start playing a music video when you click on it). S asks, "What does it mean to be a 'born again American'? I'm not sure, but the combination of left-leaning political and social values with overt and specific references to the Bible, its traditions of social and economic justice, and the Biblical term for religious and spiritual rebirth is fascinating."

Another co-congregant, J, who represents the rare conservative reef in SGN's socially progressive sea, linked us to Jonathan Haidt's excellent TED talk, on the "moral roots of liberals and conservatives" (video after jump):

10 January 2009

God IS science (is God)

I got an email from Mom, this morning, that included the full text of a story titled "GOD vs. Science", which she prefaced, "this is kinda long, but it's really good!" You can read the whole story here, online. That links not to the original instance--just the highest ranking response to a Google search, sparing me the need of pasting it all below, where enough of it turns up, anyway. Turns out, according to Snopes (one of my favorite resources for, among other things, debunking the occasional panic spam about an internet based apocalypse), this has been going around for quite some time by email; and in some variations, the student in the story turns out--surprise, surprise!--to be Albert Einstein. But before I'd read any of that, I responded to bits of the story, as copied below: