Archive for December, 2011

Take The A Train

Forgot this bit, when I composed the previous post. So it gets a post of its own.

My daughter, the well-known award-winning deviant, and I, we are both keen appreciators of Christmas movies. Particularly old black-and-white Christmas movies. In fact, we are such keen appreciators of these movies, we have been known to watch them year-round. Which can drive some people mad. But never mind that now.

One of the more obscure black-and-white holiday films of which we are fond is Holiday Affair, a 1947 effort featuring Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, and a toy train.

While mooning about on YouTube recently, I discovered that a Criminal had slyly posted there Holiday Affair in its entirety. This is of course Against All Laws. But this Criminal has managed for some months now to cleverly evade the hapless Clem Kadiddlehopper II, who is in charge, such as it is, of YouTube security. Naturally I am compelled to share this joyous theft, below, with you red readers.

What I found most fascinating, in this most recent re-viewing, was the train. It opens the film, and also pretty much drives it. Towards the close of the thing, even some of the characters are beginning to notice, and then comment upon, how much this toy train is steering their lives. At film’s end the three principals unite, happy-ending time, on a full-size train, a New Year’s special, headed cross-country. Except the camera pulls back, and we learn that they are not on a full-size train at all. They are on that toy train, the one that opened and drove the story.

As they say: as above, so below. And vice versa.

I Saw A Choo-Choo Going

Today is the birthday of my daughter, the well-known award-winning deviant.

She is today nine years old.

She has been nine years old on a number of occasions, on her birthday. For she likes that age. And time is what she makes of it.

Because I am her father, I can recall years before she became nine. And can embarrass her, by recounting tales of those days.

Of late I have been remembering when she entered the language of conversation. While today she is a practiced wordsmith, with many artful and completed works to her credit, it was not always so. For once upon a time, when she entered the language of conversation, her utterances were confined to the following:

“I saw a choo-choo going.”

“I know. I see.”

“I didn’t know. I didn’t see.”

I am thinking today that these were wise choices, these words she used to enter the language of conversation. For though there are many other words, in this our language, just about everything that needs to be said, in the language of conversation, can be expressed in those words.

Not everything. But nearly.

Try it.

And He Would Be There When Jem Waked Up In The Morning

Mr. Finch, you think Jem killed Bob Ewell? Is that what you think? Your boy never stabbed him. Bob Ewell fell on his knife. He killed himself.

There’s a black man dead for no reason. And now the man responsible for it is dead. Let the dead bury the dead, Mr. Finch. I never heard tell that it’s against the law for a citizen to do his utmost to prevent a crime from being committed. Which is exactly what he did. But maybe you’ll tell me it’s my duty to tell the town all about it, not to hush it up. Well, you know what’ll happen then. All the ladies in Maycomb—includin’ my wife—will be knockin’ on his door, bringin’ angel food cakes. To my way of thinkin’, takin’ the one man who’s done you and this town a great service, and draggin’ him, with his shy ways, into the limelight: to me, that’s a sin. It’s a sin. And I’m not about to have it on my head.

I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I’m still Sheriff of Maycomb County. And Bob Ewell fell on his knife.

—To Kill A Mockingbird

Once upon a time, I introduced Mr. Ha-Ha to these pages. I now feel uneasy about that.

And so I’m here, now, as this year is put to rest, to lay him to rest, too.

He first appeared here, did Mr. Ha-Ha, just about two years ago.

So far as I know, and though obviously accomplished with assistance from folks like the Gnostics, I invented him.

Not my finest hour.

I invoked him again here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.

His last appearance was here, in early April of this year. By that time, guided by the light that had come into my life, I had moved beyond him. Though I didn’t see that at the time. Sometimes I’m slow. And it takes me a while. To catch up even with myself.

In his day—which were dark days—Mr. Ha-Ha seemed to explain things. From the madness of Lucia Joyce to “The Nine Billions Names Of God.” From the dementia of Linnaeus to the nature and meaning of generals. From the airplane crash that took the life of Ted “Tubes” Stevens to the presence of 100 helpless “magicians” on a becalmed cruise ship. From the man from Porlock who starcrossed Coleridge to my daughter’s fall on Solstice.

But, really, he never explained a thing. Mr. Ha-Ha. He was but a creature of fear and cowering. Masked in ironic simmering would-be detachment. He was of giving up, of hiding. Of “everyone said/i’d come to no good/i knew i would/purely to please them.” Of expecting the worst. And thereby making it manifest.

He never belonged here. This creature of the dark. Because this a blog that, as it says right up top, exists “because the light is beautiful.”

Which it is. Long have I seen it. And now I do live it.

Life is light. And in it one can vibrate, shimmer, fade and fancy, without boundaries. That’s where I am. I am no longer interested in “I should have been a pair of ragged claws/scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” That’s Mr. Ha-Ha. I am not about him any longer. Oh no. I am now, alpha and omega, world without end amen, about Ms. Ah-Ha. She of the light. Of what is possible made probable made Real. Of seeing and feeding and bringing into being. Of the Fool of a Magician that is the World that is the Fool. Mr. Ha-Ha sees the world as dark: and thus the world is dark. Ms. Ah-Ha sees the world as light: and, yea verily, the world is truly light.

Life is light. So am I. And so I will be there, each dawn, when Jem wakes up in the morning. Because that is the light of what I am. What I was brought here, unto the final spiral of this mortal coil, to be.

Mobius Music


Holy Mary, Mother Of Pinball

The French can differ from other humans. They are for instance known, in the immortal words of National Lampoon, as folks who “fight with their feet and fuck with their faces.”

Now it seems they have determined that a proper way to honor Mary, mother of Jesus of Nazareth, is to light up a building like a pinball machine, and play it.

For many centuries the people of Lyon have in early December paid homage to Mary, in gratitude to the god-woman for interceding with the Mean Man to spare the place from the plague, back in 1643.

In them Olden Times, said homage involved a procession culminating at the Basilica of Fourviere, where candles were lit and offerings presented.

In 1852, the sculptor Joseph Hugues Fabisch erected a Mary statue next to the Basilica. The people of Lyon planned for December 8 a mammoth Mary party. Here is what happened:

Leading up to the inauguration, everything was in place for the festivities: the statue was lit up with flares, fireworks were readied for launching from the top of Fourvière Hill and marching bands were set to play in the streets. The prominent Catholics of the time suggested lighting up the facades of their homes as was traditionally done for major events such as royal processions and military victories.

However, on the morning of the big day, a storm struck Lyon. The master of ceremonies hastily decided to cancel everything and to push back the celebrations to the following Sunday. In the end the skies cleared and the people of Lyon, who had been eagerly anticipating the event, spontaneously lit up their windows, descended into the streets and lit flares to illuminate the new statue and the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière, later superseded by the Basilica. The people sang songs and cried “Vive Marie!” until late in the night.

In years since, Lyon humans have each December 8 placed Mary-devoted lit-candles on their windowsills. The place is alive with light. Meanwhile, in the center of town, various assorted performances and such now draw up to 4 million tourists, to what has become a four-day event.

As it is necessary on this planet that things mutate to survive, this year the Mary-fest featured some clever humans, from the French lighting company CT Light Concept, who projected with colored lights an assortment of pinball bumpers and flippers onto the side of the Celestine Theater. The display was fully playable, as can be seen in the video below.

Pretty cool.

The French: good with light.

Where Santas Crawl And Elves Chunder

Across many cultures, many times, humans ritually combine in groups to consume vast quantities of intoxicants, commonly entering states of inebriation so pronounced and prolonged that they often, later, bring new meaning to such phrases as “I did WHAT?” or “how do you mean, there are ‘charges’?”

This is particularly true of American humans, marooned as they are in a nation where people have been awash in intoxicants since the Founding.

Various “reasons” are summoned to engage in these bacchanalian rites. In America, these “reasons” can range from viewing the spectacle of identically-dressed young men furiously battling over balls, to honoring a calendar passage like a birthday, or a totem like the clover.

In recent years, humans in New York City have increasingly combined to decide that the advent of the Christmas season is reason enough to dress up like a Santa person, or one of his assistants or associates, consume vast quantities, and then pour out onto the streets to wantonly hump and heave upon them.

These humans call themselves SantaCon, and maintain that: “We do not pout. We do not cry. We are Jolly.” It is further asserted that “SantaCon is a non-denominational, non-commercial, non-political and non-sensical Santa Claus convention that occurs once a year for absolutely no reason.” Finally, “Santa does not accept corporate sponsorship or speak to the press.”

As can be seen here, it is probable that, as is true of so many things, SantaCon will inevitably spread, like bedbugs, from out of New York, and into the larger World.

Ur-iterations of this event seem to include the 1994 “Santarchy” of Suicide Club in San Francisco, and a 2005 anti-commercialization shindig in Auckland, New Zealand that boiled over into “such criminal acts as looting stores, throwing bottles at passing cars, and assaulting security guards.” Novelist Chuck Palahniuk, meanwhile, several times penned mention of  a “Santa Rampage,” which subsequently got loose from out of his books, and poured out onto the pavement.

Dispatches from the 2011 Manhattan SantaCon may be found beyond the “furthur.”



I Know You Understand Me

“I have this beetle here in one hand,” Aristotle proclaimed one day, “with a single oval shell and eight jointed legs, and I have here in my other hand this second beetle of lighter hue which has twelve legs and a shell that is longer and segmented. Can you explain the differences?”

“Yes,” said Plato. “There is no such thing as a beetle, in either of your hands. There is no such thing as your hand. What you think of as a beetle and a hand are merely reflections of your recognition of the idea of a beetle and a hand. There is only the idea, which existed before these specimens came into being. Otherwise, how could they come into being? And the form of the idea, of course, is always eternal and real, and never changes. What you are holding in what you think are your hands are shadows of that idea. Have you forgotten my illustration of the cave in my Republic? Read it once more. That the two beetles you have are different is clear enough proof that neither is real. It therefore follows that only the form or the idea of the form is susceptible to study, and it is something about which we will never be able to learn more than we already know. Ideas alone are worth contemplating. You are not real, my vain young Aristotle. I’m not real. Socrates himself was but an imitation of himself. All of us are merely inferior copies of the form that is us. I know you understand me.”

—Joseph Heller, Picture This

There Are Always Uncles At Christmas

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Earlier this annum came the tale of the Mississippi man who attempted to abscond from a Winne Dixie supermarket with two bags of jumbo shrimp, a pork loin, and two live lobsters, wriggling abundantly there in his pants.

I assumed at the time that this was a one-off. I assumed wrongly.

For now we learn of the North Carolina man who elected to celebrate his 45th birthday by strolling into a Food Lion and there cramming into his sweatpants shrimp, rib-eye steak, baby back ribs, and smoked turkey. The sweatpants were themselves housed within jeans.

In this man’s Reality, it was not necessary to pay for these meats. In the Reality of store employees, however, it was. And so, a pursuit ensued.

The birthday person, one Ronald Broadway, had duct-taped the sweatpants to his ankles, so that the food would not leak down his legs. But, just as water seeks its own level, so too does meat beneath cloth seek a means of escape. And so the shrimp, steak, ribs, and turkey began pouring forth from Broadway’s fly.

While walking to his car, police noticed food dropping from his pants, which Broadway allegedly kicked underneath cars. As police detained Broadway, they began to pat him down and discovered that the food was coming from the fly section of his jeans. Coming from his fly were eight bags of shrimp, eight rib-eye steaks, a package of smoked turkey and an undisclosed number of baby back ribs.

Broadway reportedly stated that the meats were intended for birthday celebrations for both himself, and Jesus of Nazareth.

They put him in the pokey anyway.

It Is Accomplished

“I would like to go to the Lion’s Gate,” Raziel told him.

The Romanian volubly refused. When Raziel realized that his driver’s mind was not about to be changed, he got out of the taxi and set out on foot for the Old City.

Approaching the end of the Via Dolorosa, almost at the Lions’ Gate, above the shouting he heard a voice he knew. It was the voice of Adam De Kuff speaking from the upper quadrant of his interior universe, strong, unafraid, joyful, thoroughly delusional. Raziel shouldered his way through the ranks until he saw the man himself.

He wore what looked like an army jacket that fitted him so badly its cuffs stopped a little past his elbows. He had hugely baggy army trousers and untied muddy boots whose laces coiled around his ankles and twisted underfoot as he shuffled passionately from one end of the bench to the other like a dancing bear. There was a kippa on his head and a white scarf tied around his forehead like a turban and he crooned at the top of his voice.

Raziel kept trying to force his way closer to the old man. He had the notion of taking him away from there, before the thing failed utterly, before all spells and mercies were suspended, before whatever grace that had touched their pilgrimage was withdrawn and the violence and raw holiness of the place overwhelmed everyone.

De Kuff himself understood only that he was in the place he knew and loved best, the scene of his successes, the ancient Serapion and Pool of Israel. All that day he had been trying to reach the souls within himself as they weaved in and out of his consciousness. He had begun to think that everything he had ever believed about soul and mind was wrong. There was no way to exercise control.

But there at the Fountain, his souls were manifest and his heart was full, and in the completeness of his joy he had no choice but to tell about it. It was necessary to tell everyone, anyone, no matter how distressed or distracted they might be by politics or by the illusion of separateness and exile that burdened everyone. He felt elected and protected by God, ready to support the Ark in the holiest of places. He used the metaphors that were employed in this city, although, in a way, it might have been anywhere.

“Call me as you like,” he explained to the angry crowd. “I am the twelfth imam. I am the Bab al-Ulema. I am Jesus, Yeshi, Issa. I am the Mahdi. I am Moshiach. I have come to restore the world. I am all of you. I am no one.”

There were screams of terrible passion. “Perish he! Death!”

People began to throw stones.

“Death to the blasphemer!”

De Kuff opened his arms to them. For a moment those who were advancing on him stopped. Raziel, shouting, shoving, tried to get through.

“You don’t have to listen,” Raziel said to the crowd. “It’s all over. Rev,” he shouted to De Kuff, “it’s all over! Another time, man. Another soul. Another street.”

The men who were taking hold of De Kuff, pulling him down as he tottered on his bench, also laid hands on Raziel.

“Another day!” Raziel told them. “Another mountain!”

“I tell you, ” De Kuff informed them in his restrained Louisiana drawl. “That all was once One and will be and has always remained so. That God is One. And faith in Him is One. And all belief is One. And all believers in Him, regardless of sect, are One. Only the human heart divides. So it is written.

“See? Do you see?” De Kuff asked the men who were pulling him down. “Everyone’s waiting. And the separateness of things is false.”

He went on declaiming, using the images, the reversals, the metaphors everyone knew, expounding the souls, raising their voices, until the great holiness turned to fire and he lost consciousness.

—Robert Stone, Damascus Gate

Reindeer For Rent

I am thinking that if Santa Claus needs any new or additional reindeer, he should consider the young’un cat. As can be seen in the photo below, the young’un cat’s eyes are extremely googly; they put out plenty of light, and are not bound by space or time. Paired with Rudolph, there at the head of the team pulling the sleigh, the young’un cat would guarantee that Santa would never get lost, no matter how much fog or liquor he might encounter.

Further, I believe that employment would be good for the young’un cat. For he needs something to absorb his energies. Other than this sleep-deprivation experiment he has embarked upon. With myself as the subject. No matter when I try to sleep, he eventually turns against it. And then works diligently, until it cannot be. He has decided, for example, that whatever portions of my body are covered with hair, he may assault, as I sleep, with his claws. My scalp is now so routinely excavated that I am thinking of hiring him out as a miner.

Because his excavating is always accompanied by operatic wails, I think I may hire him out as a musical miner. I have not heard miners emit sounds with this volume and intensity since those Welshmen in How Green Was My Valley.

I have also begun referring to the young’un cat as The Dream Crusher. This is because of late I have been gifted with extraordinary dreams; while there is a method I use to pull dreams into the waking state, most often these days that process is derailed, when the young’un cat decrees that my skull should be employed as his dartboard, or elects to eagerly ride his tricycle across my forehead.

I tried minutely tracking his schedule, and then sneaking sleep into those windows when he is usually not around, busy as he is running the world outdoors. Even though those windows are not exactly convenient for me. Situated as they are, say, between 1 and 5 in the afternoon. Still, I was trying to be accommodating. But no such luck. Recently I had been asleep but an hour, there in the ridiculous mid-afternoon, when he arrived from outside to screech into the Carmen while hurling himself against the sliding-glass door.

It has been my experience that young people of all species are against sleep. When my daughter, today a well-known award-winning deviant, was wee, she was violently opposed to me sleeping. I favored naps; she favored the abolition of naps. I finally figured out that, there on her worldtrack, when I closed my eyes, she disappeared. And this was unsettling for her. As it would be for anybody.

Her thinking here—about my closing my eyes resulting in her disappearance—was the same as when a child puts her hands over her own eyes: what this accomplishes, of course, is that one can no longer see the child.

Finally my daughter proposed a compromise: “You can sleep,” she said, “with your eyes opened.”

I tried this, but it didn’t work out. My friend Zack, on the other hand, was an expert at that sort of thing. He had to be. Because he suffered from a peculiar problem with his eyelids: they were delivered by the manufacturer in a size too short to completely cover his eyes. So there was always light, and other annoyments of the world, leaking in. As a result of this condition, he preferred to sleep in rooms that had been delivered unto complete and total blackness. He devoted much time and energy to scouring his sleeping quarters of any and all sources of light. Some people thought this was because he was a drug person, which he was, but the truth was more profound and disturbing. He just couldn’t get the light out of his head.

Despertar Al Alba

(And so this is solstice. A time when humans, over many tens of thousands of years, have devoted themselves to Deep Thoughts. In the spirit of which, a piece that examines the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.” That is: 42. An earlier version of this piece rambled on to red here.)

In the cosmology of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” is, as determined by a computer that devotes more than 7 million years to the task, the number 42.

The computer then informs its programmers that the precise nature of the ultimate question, however, is still unknown. At the urging of the agitated programmers, the computer then agrees to construct an even more sophisticated computer (subsequently known as Earth), which, after 10 million years or so, will come up with this question. To which the answer is 42.

Unfortunately, the Earth is destroyed by Vogon workmen, constructing a new Hyperspace Bypass, about five minutes before the question is due from the computer to arrive.

Douglas Adams, who came up with this delightful nonsense, always vowed that there was nothing special about his selection of the number 42 as the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.” He consistently maintained variations around the claim that he decided the Ultimate Answer “should be something that made no sense whatsoever—a number, and a mundane one at that.” That he lit upon 42 “at random.” That 42 is “a completely ordinary number, a number not just divisible by two but also six and seven . . . the sort of number that you could without any fear introduce to your parents.”

But you know: he could be lying. Because it is a fact that brains lie all the time, and Adams was, so far as is known, an Earth creature, and one with a brain. So even if he was not consciously lying, his brain could have been lying to him.

I’m pretty sure now that this is the case—that Adams, or his brain, knew what the number 42 represented, and employed it as The Answer intentionally. I believe this because of what I’ve found in The White Goddess.


Flying Through Space



Legend Of A Mind

It is Known that Rick Perry is a farm animal, the result of a failed Dr. Moreau-type experiment that sought to cross a man with a steer.

It is further Known that this experiment was pursued by extraterrestrial beings, who have bred and/or assembled all the 2012 GOoPer candidates for the presidency; it apparently satisfies their alien sense of humor, this mucking about with the American political system.

Today, more is Known. And that is that a supermassive black hole is present in the Perry head.

Heretofore the smallest black hole was believed to operate in the constellation Scorpius. However, when Science Men directed the Rossi X-Ray Timing Explorer at the Perry cabeza, they detected a signature “heartbeat” that confirms that a black hole indeed dwells within his cranium.

It is Known that mini-black holes can be no larger than an atom; these “may be passing through the Earth on a daily basis, and pose a very minimal threat to the planet.” The Perry black hole, Science Men say, is a little larger than that, and indeed poses a threat, because it has taken up permanent residence in Perry’s brain, where it threatens the planet by rendering Perry, who is seeking the presidency, incapable of rational thought.

For whenever Perry forms a thought, it is immediately sucked into the black hole, where it disappears, never to return.

Since not even light can escape a black hole, there is no hope at all for any nascent notion sparked in the sparse brain folds of this failed farm animal.

That a supermassive mini-black hole is continuously sucking away the emanations of his brain explains why, to give the most recent example, Perry’s attempt to note the passing of North Korean goofball Kim Jong-Il found him releasing a statement in which he thrice referenced “Kim Jong II.” The hole relentlessly ripped away every attempt of the Perry mind to perceive “Il” as consisting of an “I” and an “l,” rendering him wholly unable to perceive anything but the Roman numeral “II.”

It is Good to Understand these things.

Word whispered about in the Science Man community is that as soon as the Perry candidacy officially crashes and burns, he will be quietly spirited away to a Lab, where he will be Studied, as to the effects of supermassive mini-black holes on the human—or, in his case, quasi-human—brain. In this way, he will serve Wo/mankind. Which he is not doing now.

Many Mansions

(Here now the annual red reflection on the multi-dimensional Jesus of Nazareth, man of many multi-verses. Originally inscribed in 2009.)

* * *

In my Father’s house are many mansions.

—John 14:2

Christmastime again is here, and so be Santa, and so be Jesus.

A couple years ago, in contemplating Santa and Jesus, the two began to get confused in my mind. Santa Claus, for reasons that have never really been explained, devotes each year to overseeing minute laborers who fashion gifts which he annually delivers, in a single night, to all deserving children the world over. Jesus Christ, for reasons that have been variously explained, roamed for a short time across a relatively minute plot of land, uttering gnomic wisdoms, then was seized and subjected to excruciating suffering, so that all, deserving and undeserving alike, might be gifted with salvation.

When a sprout, I was taught that while Santa’s labors never end—a yearly, year-long grind—Jesus’ was a one-shot gig. Wander around Palestine, ascend the cross, into the tomb, three days later out again, brief appearances before various friends and lovers, then up to heaven for a well-deserved eternal rest.

I no longer believe that. I believe that, as is set forth here, “Jesus Christ suffers from now until the end. On the cross. He goes on suffering. Until the death of the last human being.” That is the mystic meaning of his tale: he suffers with all beings suffering in the exile of existence. And we are called upon to do the same—to grow to empathy, so that thy neighbor truly is thyself, and suffering everywhere, for everyone, may be eased. With this meaning there is no need for the resurrection. All of us are him, doing the same work; our work, his work, never ends.

For those who are wedded to the resurrection, the advances in science and philosophy in my lifetime, in the understanding of the multiple dimensions and multiple worlds about us, too mean that his work never ends. For the planets, it is now known, are innumerable, and so are the dimensional variations of this one. And if salvation is indeed his calling, he will forever be busy as twelve bastards, for there are those who need saving, inhabiting every one.


March Of The 차려입 펭귄

(A variant on a piece posted here in December 2010.)

People are strange.

It’s in all the reports.

Let’s look at the Koreans. For they, in these times, have Christmas in their country, for no reason that makes any sense at all.

Because Christmas is first of all about a martyred Jewish mystic who was snapped up by Saul the Roman carny-barker and transformed into a weirdsmobile pagan sun-king, in which form he went luluing around Europe for the next 2000 years or so.

Later grafted onto the day was a Nordic fat man, who in one night flies supersonic reindeer round the globe, showering from a sleigh gifts to all and sundry, like some sort of holly-jolly communist.

None of this really says “Korean.”

And yet: there they are. Thinking it’s a good idea to dress up penguins like Santa Claus and reindeer, and then set them to marching in a parade, accompanied by a human Santa who wildly throws fake snow in the air.

These festivities inaugurate the annual “Christmas Fantasy” winter festival at the Everland Amusement Park in Yangin. The penguins promenade down a street decorated with some 2 million lights, 80 Christmas trees, and showers of artificial snow. There is also a holiday-themed fireworks show—hopefully set off only once the penguins, borrowed from the city zoo, have been returned to their usual quarters.

Everland, it is said, draws some 6 million visitors a year, and is the number-two most popular non-Disney theme park in the world.

“Everland” is presumably what you get when you knock the “N” off Neverland, and run Tinkerbell, Tiger Lily, Peter Pan, and the Lost Boys off the place.

Generally I am not a fan of dressing animals in human clothing. Judging by the various photos out there on the intertubes, however, none of the birds really seem to mind. Then again, maybe I’m no good at reading penguins. After all, they do not live as you and I: these particular penguins, known as African or “jackass” penguins, prefer to dwell in homes they have burrowed out of bird guano.

Which is why they are endangered: money-grubbing humans arrived to haul all their guano away. Now they must make do with sand, and it’s just not the same.

Humans have also run off with their eggs, finding them tasty, and have meanwhile yanked all the sardine, anchovy, and squid out of the sea, leaving the birds with little to eat. Every once in a while an oil tanker will blow, or surreptitiously clean out its tanks while rounding the Horn, thereby drenching the birds with petroleum. Now seals have shown up, and are rudely pushing the birds off their 24 little islands.

These birds are called “jackass penguins” because they emit a distinctive braying noise. Reads to me like they have a lot to bray about. As the photo above shows, they’re not very big. Plucky, though.

I suppose the Everland penguin parade perhaps preferable to this earlier-featured Korean Christmas expression. Then again, maybe not.

The Brains At Play Flow Down Into Your Legs

Humans think they’re so smart. But do they have so many brains that they have to stuff great gobs of grey matter down into their legs?

No. They do not.

However, from friend possum, devoted red reader and esteemed marsupial Science Man, comes news that there are a bunch of spiders out there who are such brainiacs that their legs are crammed full of brains.

Yes. People may have ants in their pants. But spiders have brains in their legs.

Because it seems that, when nature has anything to say about it, as you get tinier, you get brainier.

As the spiders get smaller, their brains get proportionally bigger, filling up more and more of their body cavities. “The smaller the animal, the more it has to invest in its brain, which means even very tiny spiders are able to weave a web and perform other fairly complex behaviors,” said William Wcislo, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. “We discovered that the central nervous systems of the smallest spiders fill up almost 80 percent of their total body cavity, including about 25 percent of their legs.”

Occasionally brains cause spiders to go Elephant Man:

Some of the tiniest, immature spiderlings even have deformed, bulging bodies. The bulge contains excess brain.

Ye gods. Brains are busting out all over.

“We suspected that the spiderlings might be mostly brain because there is a general rule for all animals, called Haller’s rule, that says that as body size goes down, the proportion of the body taken up by the brain increases,” said Wcislo. “Human brains only represent about 2-3% of our body mass. Some of the tiniest ant brains that we’ve measured represent about 15% of their biomass, and some of these spiders are much smaller.”

So, there you go. Wee ants have brains that consume more than 5 times their body mass, as compared to humans. And thus we now know why there are Republicans among humans. But not among ants.

Christmas In Many Lands

Joyful And Triumphant

(Another seasonal fave, originally posted in December 2009.)

A Redding, California substitute teacher has pronounced a crusade that will place before California voters a ballot initiative that would require state schools to teach students about Christmas carols, and then order them to either sing or listen to the things.

The teacher’s name—no, this is not a joke—is Merry Susan Hyatt.

Fretting that “we were having Christmas without Jesus,” Hyatt said of her initiative: “this is to make sure that we are allowed to have Christmas carols, and no school board member or principal is going to tell us, ‘no, you may not play ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ in your classroom.”

Hyatt’s initiative would permit heathens to extract their children from these annual assemblages of the Godly. Said outcasts would be provided with an unspecified “appropriate alternative,” one that would hopefully not resemble too much the bastinado or the boot.

Hyatt believes that the failure of state schools to command children to intone “Silent Night” is responsible for schoolyard violence and other upbubblings from Hell.

“The kids don’t have a moral compass,” she said. “It’s not much, but I think it [Christmas carols] would help.”

Hyatt said she’s been surprised at the level of violence in many elementary school classrooms where she has taught, and she believes it’s because Jesus isn’t present in Christmas celebrations.

“You have to invite Jesus to have him work in your life,” she said, adding that if you have a Christmas party without Jesus, he won’t help. “He’s the prince of peace; he’s the only one who can get these kids to stop being so violent.”

Hyatt contends that once students are required to repeatedly recite “Good King Wenceslas,” then Good will reign.

“These kids, they need it,” she said. “They need to see that we believe in Jesus, and he is the Prince of Peace. That’s why we are the best country on Earth.”

At first I considered circulating a competing ballot initiative that would similarly require schoolchildren to sing such alternative Christmas carols as “Hark, Hear Shakti’s Bells They Ring,” “Good King Vlad The Impaler,” “Santeria Night,” “We Three Bodhisattvas Of Orient Are,” “Oh Come Allah’s Faithful,” “Carol of the Baal,” “Good Pagan Women Rejoice,” “What Cthulhu Is This,” “Thor Rest Ye Merry Mayhem Men,” “O Hopi Night,” and “He Came Across To Moses Quite Clear.”

Then I realized that it would be of greater benefit to such children, their parents, their heirs, and to all on earth, as it is in heaven, if, before leaving high school, every California child could be enabled to play the song offered below, with equivalent technique, and all the very spirit, heart and soul.

Rue, Britannia

Hannay leaned forward with a heavy whisper. “Rowland, if you ate less arsenic, your hands wouldn’t shake. If you were any whiter you could be a snowman, and if you were any more insane you could be Archbishop of Canterbury. My advice is to marry while you still have the wits not to climb the drapes. Responsibilities come first; madmen are not admitted to the House of Lords. You can go mad once you’re in.”

—Martin Cruz Smith, Rose

The Santa Question, Revisited

(Another seasonal goodie. This one originally appeared in September of 2010. The first version included an introduction featuring Silvio Berlusconi. Who has since been driven into retirement. Which proves that sometimes good things do happen. I’ve excised that Berlusconi bit for this go-round. However, the piece’s original warning still applies: this ditty contains “Hitler humor.” And since some people, justifiably, think that there can be nothing humorous about Hitler, such folk may want to pass this one by. Others should know that in this special super-fun-pack edition of “The Santa Question,” twice as many Hitler Christmas parody videos are offered as were present in the piece last year. Although it does seem that ads have now been embedded in various ways in some of these. Ye gods. Flippin’ ads in the YouTube videos. To obviate such outrages—isn’t that one of the reasons people fought to stop Hitler in the first place?) 

In early September the Christmas merchandise was out on the shelves. Seemed a little early to me, but what do I know? No one put me in charge of capitalism.

On that first day of Xmas-emergent, trailing down the aisle ahead of me was a small girl child and her mother. The child paused in front of a display of Christmas goodies, and said to her mother: “Will there be a Santa this year? Or will he not be coming?”

At first I thought this poor child was referencing the ongoing economic End Of America—could be she thought conditions were so bad the fabled Nordic fat man had been laid off. Then I concluded that the child had probably been bushwhacked by classmates who had sneeringly derided her belief in the mysterious midnight gift-giver.

That’s what happened to me when I was around her age. I can still picture it. This pint-sized smart-ass—who later arrived at the bad end that for this he deserved—arrogantly declaimed that Santa Claus was a figment, shit just made up by grown-ups for Some Unknown Reason. He said he knew this because his father had told him so. I told this kid he was heavy with bollocks, because my father had told me Santa was Real, and my father would never lie. And anyway, the previous Christmas Eve I had seen Rudolph, when I peered out my window. And I really had.


Yet Shall We Be Merry

(And suddenly it is mid-December. So it is time to start hauling out the seasonal goodies. This one originally appeared here in January of 2010. It remains a fave.) 

Dark wizard Albert Grossman deliberately assembled the folk-singing trio Peter, Paul, and Mary to rake in coin amid the urban folk-revival of the early 1960s. He wanted “a tall blonde, a funny guy, and a good looking guy”: that’s what he got.

But Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers proved to be something more than a quick milk of the cash cow. They introduced millions of young people, including myself, to significant forms of American roots music. Their smooth and engaging arrangements allowed us to enter them, as through a door, and out the other side we encountered lifetimes of music that, without them, we might never have known.

I had not thought much about the group for many years until the “tall blonde,” Mary Travers, passed away in the fall of 2009, on September 16, of leukemia, at age 72. Just as Peter, Paul, and Mary became more than what Grossman had intended, so too did Travers. “This was not,” recalled producer Phil Ramone to Rolling Stone, “a girl who was just going to be cutesy like lead singers had been in bands. She created a much bigger role. She took no prisoners when it was what she believed in.”

In the weeks following Travers’ death, the tubes rang with reprises of the group’s music. But nobody seemed much moved to post or discuss the Peter, Paul, and Mary song that had long most entranced me. So I guess I’ll gas on about it myself, there beyond the “furthur.”


When I Worked

December 2011