Friday, February 29, 2008

the salamander

“When I was about five years old my father happened to be in a basement-chamber of our house, where they had been washing, and where a good fire of oak-logs was still burning…. Happening to look into the fire, he spied in the middle of those most burning flames a little creature like a lizard, which was sporting in the core of the intensest coals. Becoming instantly aware of what the living thing was, he had my sister and me called, and pointing it out to us children, gave me a great box on the ears, which caused me to howl and weep with all my might. Then he pacified me good-humouredly and spoke as follows: “My dear little boy, I am not striking you for any wrong that you have done, but only to make you remember that that lizard which you see in the fire is a salamander, a creature which has never been seen before by any one of whom we have credible information.'”

from The Book of Imaginary Beings
Jorge Luis Borges

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

about toys

lately I’m wondering about toys. here’s what Roland Barthes has to say in his Mythologies. he’s talking specifically about French ones but I think it applies just as fairly to our own.

“All the toys one commonly sees are essentially a microcosm of the adult world; they are all reduced copies of human objects, as if in the eyes of the public the child was, all told, nothing but a smaller man, a homunculus to whom must be supplied objects of his own size. Indeed forms are very rare; a few sets of blocks, which appeal to the spirit of do-it-yourself, are the only ones which offer dynamic forms….

“The fact that French toys literally prefigure the world of adult functions cannot but prepare the child to accept them all, by constituting for him, even before he can think about it, the alibi of a Nature which has at times created soldiers, postmen and Vespas*. Toys here reveal the list of all things the adult does not find unusual: war, bureaucracy, ugliness, Martians, etc.…

“However, faced with this world of faithful and complicated objects, the child can only identify himself as owner, as user, never as creator; he does not invent the world, he uses it: there are, prepared for him, actions without adventure, without wonder, without joy. He is turned into a little stay-at-home householder who does not even have to invent the mainsprings of adult causality; they are supplied to him readymade: he has only to help himself, he is never allowed to discover anything from start to finish.

“The merest set of blocks, provided it is not too refined, implies a very different learning of the world: then, the child does not in any way create meaningful objects, it matters little to him whether they have an adult name; the actions he performs are not those of a user but those of a demiurge. He creates forms which walk, which roll, he creates life, not property.”

anyway, he goes on about “graceless” plastic toys and the virtues of wood. I really don’t mean to get all Montessori on anyone. I’m probably full up of rabbit turds myself, and there are days when I can barely change a diaper without spreading it all over the Levolors and wainscoting. but I’m trying to sort this toy thing out a little.

currently, little Ash’s favorite toys seem to be:
magazines (for tearing)
plastic spools and canisters for blank CDs
her bendy Grover
her Mr. Man blobby
the wood lath/crossbars under the futon
the black fuzz she tears from under the couch
a knit wool armadillo
her plastic tiger which is actually a piano/xylophone
a loooong crazy necklace of “gold” Mardi-Gras beads
topographical maps
and a strange species of wooden porcupine with wheels and a pull-string.

so, as a parent, how does one offer his child a balance of toys and materials? point to the woodpile, lump of clay, forest or sandpit and say, “look son, yonder is matter unorganized. go and make something beautiful and unprecedented. give it a name and then, maybe, give me a little tour…” yeah, I don’t know.

don’t worry, I’m not loosing sleep over this. just curious.

* understand that I intend absolutely NOTHING against Vespas for kids here. Vespas are just the sort of thing that aught to cross the generations. and if you see some thief riding around on Dave Hurtado’s kids’ Vespa, make the tackle, call the cops and notify him.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Thursday, February 07, 2008

fish in a barrel

several years ago I had a rather unpleasant telephone conversation with Mike Waddoups. it wasn’t at all political and pu-lease don’t ask him about it because I’m sure he won’t remember a thing. listen, all I recall is that it involved his condo between the freeway and the golf course, 2 extremely polite Korean engineering students, and a swamp cooler or something.

but it’s nice to see him making good now, going after these types. gosh. how do I explain? you remember Oregon Trail, the prehistoric computer game that a lot of us somehow grew up playing in school? it’s sort of like that. but actually it’s more like this shoot-'em-up arcade game that they have over at the bowling alley. except that there’s a whole Omaha Steaks mail order component to it as well.
see? I knew it wouldn’t make sense. okay, to put it in more vulgar terms, they’re calling it “cyber-hunting.” and I guess the DWR has been pretty grossed out too.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

other fish

I usually try to resist using the blog here to commentate on other media. I also try to avoid using the word commentate. today I’m making two exceptions to say the following…

there. is. waaaay too much Mason Jennings on Pandora.

also, I heard Dianne Rehm say “indie rawk” the other day.

and finally, that I’ve found a real treasure of an AM radio station on the FM dial. it’s at 104.7 and the first time I stumbled onto it there was just some great New Testament preaching on. the next few times, people always talking about Ron Paul: what “Dr. Paul” might have said on the debate last night, what should have happened in the polls last week, what he aught to do next time. like horseracing or fantasy football. it’s been great- Friday at 11:30pm: Ron Paul. Wednesday afternoon: Ron Paul, and so on, all the time.

oh, but since then there’s been so much more. more Bible shows in different accents. shows on tax evasion, “electronic medicine”, civil disobedience, how to make an igloo, how to handle city hall when they're giving you grief for parking your car on the lawn to fix the cv joints. ads for, 72 hour and other disaster kits, herbal remedies, ads with references to the book of Revelations, Ezekiel, Matthew… all segued with John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix songs. there’s even a man named Kevin who calls his show Truth Jihad Radio and he preaches 911 truth with grunts of earnest enthusiasm.

the other morning I was listening and there was a guy, from Phoenix I think, talking about angels, visions and suitcase bombs in 10 major U.S. cities!

so yeah, 104.7fm is the frequency in my neighborhood and online at republicbroadcastingnetwork. I don’t know where else it’s broadcast but I’m a recent convert and I can never wait to see what’s next.

Monday, February 04, 2008

good news. I found out I don’t have tuberculosis. so you can all calm down. if you’re still having a rough time of it, free grief counseling will be available around the clock to address your remaining anxieties.

over the holiday break a Taiwanese girl went home and was diagnosed with active tuberculosis. so over the last little while there’s been a big TB scare and hundreds of people went in for tests. the clinic here in town was overwhelmed and started sending people to other towns for testing. she was a student of mine a couple years ago so I got tested too.

here’s a news clip from channel 4 where Siegfried Fischbacher introduces their footage: mostly of snowy cars, students walking around sending text messages, foggy breaths, icicles. pretty unremarkable, actually.

but I did learn some things from the TB literature that the “wellness center” and CDC were handing out at the testing. like, did you know that “TB germs are put into the air when a person with TB disease of the lungs or throat coughs, shouts, sneezes, laughs or sings.” yessir.

and since you can’t really count on the public to read what you give them, a lot of public health information is conveyed through illustrations. first, you can get TB by simply reading comic books on the loveseat in the wrong company. especially if you are laughing, shouting or singing about it.
you can think of TB like hot dogs that fight dirty. your body will respond with welterweight boiled eggs. be sure to eat your boiled eggs.
I’m sorry but if you're viewing this final illustration you'll have to run antivirus software on you computer now. don’t touch the screen! don’t touch anything until you’ve washed your hands.
if you google “filthy nosegay” there are no pictures. it’s blank. I feel strongly that this one should come up under a "filthy nosegay" image search. I don’t know much about how this works but I think if you click on the image a few times that should help. thanks.

Friday, February 01, 2008

50 eagles gorging, choking, suffocating on a load of fish guts

this story from Kodiak Island was a couple weeks ago and so is really no longer news. but I think it’s still a handy allegory for presidential primaries and the electoral college.