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Friday, March 31, 2006

This Way, That Way

This Way, That Way - photo by Neal Romanek

They've noticed each other on the bus 6 times in the past year. She remembers 3 of those times. He doesn't remember any of them and each time he sees her he thinks it's for the 1st time.

Her husband keeps quitting jobs. His girlfriend keeps flirting with his friends and he pretends he doesn't care.

The two of them will share the same city for the next 7 years and will never say a word to each other. After 7 years, he will move to Texas.

Even at age 60 she will periodically remember him, but she will remember him saying "Excuse me" and smiling clumsily as he got off the bus one afternoon - though this has never happened and will never happen. She will marvel at how strange it is that she remembers an anonymous stranger after so many years, and will take pleasure in the memory of his clumsy smile.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Desk to Desk

Today - and I kid you not - I am sitting at a desk, looking at pictures of desks.

Virtually all of these desks that I'm looking at pictures of are desks from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films of the 1930's and 1940's.

Why, here's a photograph of a desk right here - and the office surrounding it - from "Lovers Courageous" (1932), directed by MGM heavy-weight Robert Z. Leonard. It's a fine old desk this one, with a cigar box on it and a statue of someone who could be Confucius. Facing the desk is a wide and comfy leather chair, which would make me jumpy if I was a client sitting in that office. "What's the catch?" I would nervously wonder as the man behind the fine old desk handed me a cigar. In the corner of the room, tucked away as an afterthought, on a tiny afterthought of a table, is a typewriter, a steel and iron thing that looks like it came from somewhere under the hood of a World War II era jeep.

And here's another photo of a desk - in its environment - this time from "Emma" (1932), directed by used-car-salesman turned first-rate-director, Clarence Brown. This is a hard functional desk with nothing on its shiny surface but papers, an in-box, and a black standing telephone. A hat stand behind the desk seriously supports a wide fedora. On the frosted panes of the office door we can see - appearing in reverse to us - the word "Private". And on the wide frosted pane above the door the reason for all this efficient functionality is clear- also in reverse: "DISTRICT ATTORNEY".

And a third desk photo. This one is from "War Nurse" (1930), directed by Edgar Selwyn. The desk is large and serious, but not unattractive. Before being seconded to this austere room it might have been the centerpiece of a wealthy man's home study or library. It now supports a wire in-box, a black phone that looks like a miniature oil pump, and a clipboard, its clasped paper stack partially perused. A "modern" desk calendar in a decorative steel casing, sporting dials to change its numbers, faces the desk chair like the photo of a beloved spouse, or the icon of a local deity. The steel medicine cabinet on wheels, painted white, tries to hide behind a folding screen. The screen is covered with a repetitive abstract pattern that was an attempt to make it seem cheerful and less antiseptic, but the pattern is threatening and a little macabre - not unlike the comfy chair just to port of the desk which sports a pattern of crescent moons and stars floating inside cloudy circular shapes. This is probably a doctor's (or nurse's) office. It would be unfortunate if the professional in question were a psychiatrist.

Today I'm sitting at a desk, looking at pictures of desks, writing about pictures of desks.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

196 lbs

I weigh 196 pounds.

For those of you who live anywhere in the world that is not the United States of America - and I have heard rumors that such places do exist - that would be 89 kilograms.

I recently went to my doctor, whom I do not trust. I had a cough and sore throat and a feeling like somebody was poking at my uvula with a knitting needle and thought I should get it all looked into. But - as I said - I do not trust my doctor. I believe she's incompetent and that the extent of her medical knowledge is an understanding that a smile and referral to a specialist can keep your career in medicine coasting along nicely for a good ten to fifteen years.

I had a physical a few years back, and my doctor said after looking at the results: "You're the healthiest person I've ever seen."

"Bullshit!" I responded, "What does that mean? 'The healthiest person you've ever seen'? That means nothing!"

"No, I mean it. You're the healthiest person I've ever seen."

"What are you hiding from me?! I'm on to you! Don't think I'm not! Tell me the truth!"

"I am."

"Oh, vile deceit! Oh, contemptible dissemblaging!"


"And what kind of half-assed physical was that anyway? You didn't even put your finger up my bottom!"

And to show I meant business, I wrecked the place.

Most of that story is true.

I would get another doctor, switch to someone more reliable, if it weren't for the fact that I have had an identical feeling about every doctor I have ever visited. So unless I have been especially, extraordinarily unlucky in my physicians selection, I'm guessing the trouble may be my own distrust of doctors, rather than the universal untrustworthiness of the whole profession.

So my doctor told me that I was 196 lbs. This after weighing me, by the way. She didn't just eyeball it and give me a number. She used technology to come to a reliable determination of my weight.

She told me I was 196 lbs.

And I knew she spoke the truth.

I have never been 196 lbs before.

I told a friend the other day about this landmark development. He said: "I wish I was 196 lbs."

My initial thought, upon hearing the news, was: Wouldn't it have been nice if it was 200 lbs.? As long as I'm going for a personal best, I'd like it to be a nice round number. It's only a chocolate cake's worth of difference, but being 200 lbs seems much cooler than being a mere, forgettable...what was it?...oh, yeah...196 lbs. I want to break that 200 lb barrier. They used to say it couldn't be done, way back when when people had to walk from place to place. "A man will never break the 200 lb barrier!" they used to shout. They shouted that a lot. They were a dull people- but they were a thinner people. Nowadays, breaking the 200 lb barrier is not only commonplace, it's the norm. In some states and territories it is mandated by law.

I used to run. And walk. And do all manner of jumping around. I was thin and muscular. Now I am not as thin and not as muscular. But I am happier than I was in those days when I was thin and muscular. Would I be - is it possible? - even more happier if I was also thin and muscular now? Or is my increasing contentedness a direct result of my slow, but steady weight gain? If I become 300 lbs will I laugh joyfully from morning till night? If I attain 400 lbs, will I become enlightened?

We in The West are a large people. We have fought for two thousand years to win our right to eat as much as we are physically able at any time of the day or night. I say we should celebrate it. I say we should wear it proudly. Rather than being ashamed of our increase, we should hold it up as a symbol of the advances of our superior civilization. How many overweight Sudanese do you know? I bet you can't name three living overweight Sudanese. And have you ever been to Afghanistan? Of course, you haven't! Why would you? But if you - or if me - went, would we see people as large as we are large? No, we would not see these large people! For they lack the superior technology and time saving conveniences which allow them to attain gigantic-ness.

My brother recently reminded me of the fine and satisfying scene from Oliver Stone's "The Doors" (1991), where Jim Morrison is chided about his increasing weight. Morrison's reply takes the words right out of my over-stuffed, starch-crammed, sugar-rotten mouth:

"What's wrong with being a large mammal?"

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Hanatō's Cat Haikus, Pt. 5

The Japanese master of feline versifications, Hanatō Fukui (1650 - 1730), is revered the world over.

Here are three of his Haiku that became very popular in Russia in the late 1800's:

Cat rolls, shows belly.
I rub once - he purrs sweetly.
I rub twice - torn flesh!


Cat fills my pillow.
I scoot him. Get badly clawed.
I will use the floor.


I sit with rich guests.
Stinky poo smell fills the room.
I accuse Fluffy.

(from the new translation by Trini Savitch)

Hanatō's Cat Haikus, Pt. 4


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Monday, March 27, 2006

White Rabbit

photo by Neal Romanek, hosted at Buzznet.com

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Great Movie Beheadings #3

There are many good beheadings in Peter Jackson's first-rate interpretation of "The Lord of The Rings" (2001 - 2003). But the one most worth study - because it is the most iconic, as well as one of the most significant in the history of Middle Earth's Third Age - is the beheading of the Witch-king's Fell Beast by the young warrior-maiden Éowyn (AKA Lady of the Shield-arm, AKA White Lady of Rohan; later titled Lady of Ithilien, AKA Lady of Emyn Arnen).

Since first reading Tolkien's books as a child, this has been one of my favorite moments in the story, and I'm sure that the heroic lone figure of Éowyn on the battlefield helped inspire me to write the stories of my own beloved Battle-Maidens - Boudicca, Penny Morehouse, et al. It's an archetype which inspires to this day.

Also I'm married to one, so that's good.

Great Movie Beheadings #2

Find the best price for the DVD of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" at DVD Price Search.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Plans

photo by Neal Romanek, hosted at Buzznet.com

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Worried About Iran

I'm really worried about Iran lately.

Iran has been acting a little kooky.

You remember Iran, don't you? Mortal enemies of the Kings of Macedonia. Home of the Prince of Persia. And they had a Shah for a while.

Surely, they know they're scheduled to be attacked in the next month.

They got to stop acting so kooky.

Really worried about them.

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Is DrunkMunky the greatest blog yet created?

I declare that it is!

Yes! Yes, sir, I do declare it! I do declare it, sir! And I will speak further, sir! Yes, indeed, sir, I shall speak further! It is my considered opinion, sir, that DrunkMunky has taken the .gif to its highest aesthetic expression, sir! Yes, sir, I say its highest expression, sir! And you shall not sway me from this opinion, sir! And neither shall that impertinent fish-wife up the stairs! And now, I say good day to you, sir! And with pleasure I say good day to you both, sir! To you both! ...

(Mr. Toddlepeck pulls his hat on and exits into the street with his lower jaw jutting like the prow of one of Her Majesty's merchant vessels...

... then, returning for but one more moment)

... And I urge you to go and see DrunkMunky for your self, sir! Yes! For your self! ...

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Drugs

The Drugs - photo hosted at Buzznet.com

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

White Elephants & Gray Kittens - podcast

On Monday, President George W. Bush gave a lengthy speech in Cleveland addressing the current situation in Iraq. It was a kind of "State of the Iraq" speech in which he laid out details of his strategy to stabilize the Cradle of Civilization.

If you like, you can read his entire speech, as reprinted by CNN.com.

OR ...

... you can listen to ME read the speech - with help from a TINY GRAY KITTEN!

The choice is yours ...

click to listen; right-click to download"Click to hear me read the President's speech!"

To subscribe to ALL rabbit + crow audio & video podcasts paste
into "Subscribe" under your iTunes "Advanced" menu

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Three Rhymes With FREE

This week, the new and free IRAQ is three years old! If it were a human child, it would be walking by now.

In celebration I present here the last half of U.S. President George W. Bush's 2003 "State of the Union" speech, given January 29, 2003, two months before the invasion of Iraq.

I encourage you to read the entire 2003 State Of The Union Speech, but in this instance I have chosen to only include that section of the speech in which the president laid out his vision of the impending conflict with Iraq.

(I most enjoy the parts where Senators, Congressmen, and other Seat Fillers applaud. I don't know if these indications of applause are an attempt to record where those in attendance actually did applaud or if they are written into the speech as cues for technicians to turn on the bright red "Applause" sign at appropriate moments. If any readers know, I'd be very interested to hear about it)

BUSH: ...Different threats require different strategies. In Iran, we continue to see a government that represses its people, pursues weapons of mass destruction, and supports terror. We also see Iranian citizens risking intimidation and death as they speak out for liberty and human rights and democracy. Iranians, like all people, have a right to choose their own government and determine their own destiny -- and the United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom. (Applause.)

On the Korean Peninsula, an oppressive regime rules a people living in fear and starvation. Throughout the 1990s, the United States relied on a negotiated framework to keep North Korea from gaining nuclear weapons. We now know that that regime was deceiving the world, and developing those weapons all along. And today the North Korean regime is using its nuclear program to incite fear and seek concessions. America and the world will not be blackmailed. (Applause.)

America is working with the countries of the region -- South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia -- to find a peaceful solution, and to show the North Korean government that nuclear weapons will bring only isolation, economic stagnation, and continued hardship. (Applause.) The North Korean regime will find respect in the world and revival for its people only when it turns away from its nuclear ambitions. (Applause.)

Our nation and the world must learn the lessons of the Korean Peninsula and not allow an even greater threat to rise up in Iraq. A brutal dictator, with a history of reckless aggression, with ties to terrorism, with great potential wealth, will not be permitted to dominate a vital region and threaten the United States. (Applause.)

Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.

Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.

The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.

Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.

With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.)

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)

The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)

The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq's ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi's legal -- Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.

We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him. (Applause.)

Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American Armed Forces: Many of you are assembling in or near the Middle East, and some crucial hours may lay ahead. In those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you. Your training has prepared you. Your honor will guide you. You believe in America, and America believes in you. (Applause.)

Sending Americans into battle is the most profound decision a President can make. The technologies of war have changed; the risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow. This nation fights reluctantly, because we know the cost and we dread the days of mourning that always come.

We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means -- sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military -- and we will prevail. (Applause.)

And as we and our coalition partners are doing in Afghanistan, we will bring to the Iraqi people food and medicines and supplies -- and freedom. (Applause.)

Many challenges, abroad and at home, have arrived in a single season. In two years, America has gone from a sense of invulnerability to an awareness of peril; from bitter division in small matters to calm unity in great causes. And we go forward with confidence, because this call of history has come to the right country.

Americans are a resolute people who have risen to every test of our time. Adversity has revealed the character of our country, to the world and to ourselves. America is a strong nation, and honorable in the use of our strength. We exercise power without conquest, and we sacrifice for the liberty of strangers.

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God's gift to humanity. (Applause.)

We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know -- we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history.

May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

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Nuts + Bolts

Nuts + Bolts

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Monday, March 20, 2006


photo hosted by Buzznet.com

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Saturday, March 18, 2006


photo hosted at Buzznet.com

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Friday, March 17, 2006

10 Movies!!!!!!!!!

Sometimes it's not enough to say what you mean. Sometimes you have to say what you mean forcefully!!!

And speaking the truth is fine, as far as it goes. But speaking truth at high volume will get you places!!!

So here are:

10 Movies With An Exclamation Mark In The Title

  1. Airplane! (1980)
  2. Hatari! (1962)
  3. It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)
  4. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  5. Oklahoma! (1955)
  6. Oliver! (1968)
  7. The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! (1972)
  8. Salaam Bombay! (1988)
  9. Them! (1954)
  10. Viva Villa! (1938)

FUN FACT: The exclamation mark has its origins in the Latin word "io". Io was an expression of joy, and, I suppose, identical to our word "Yo!"

So don't say "Moulin Rouge!", say "Moulin Rouge Yo!"!


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Thursday, March 16, 2006

Psalm To A Giant Caterpillar

Psalm To A Giant Caterpillar

O, Giant Cat, you crush things really well,
so mighty and so strong are you.
You crush things, crush things, crush things.
I like the way you crush things.
Many things are crushable, but not all things are crushable.
But you, you can crush all things.
Even the uncrushable can you crush.

You shall crush all the nations,
You shall crush all the houses.
You shall crush all the not-nations too.
O, how I have a crush on you!
But my crush is as nothing
To your great and unmeasurable crushing.
My heart leaps that you have such a crush as this!
I feel honored!
I blush. Yes. Like a bride.
Like a bride I blush.
For to you - on account of your crushiness -
The mightiest edifice (neat word edifice!)
Is as a huppah in the desert.
And yeah, babe, I want to feel your weight on me -
But not actually.

Your great treads are like the heavy treads of mighty tanks
But no fiery guns need you, no!
Your armor is as the prow of mighty battleships
But no air support need you, no!
You are your own man!
But unlike mere man, you can be serviced cheaply,
And have easily replaceable parts,
Many of which can be shipped overnight from the factory.
You are often yellow,
But you are not afraid.
You are yellow like GOLD.
You are yellow like the MORNING SUN.
You are yellow like HONEY.
You are yellow like other mighty yellow things.
Sometimes though, you are not yellow.
Sometimes you are gray, or khaki.
Sometimes you are olive drab or desert camouflage colored -
Often desert camouflage colored, in fact.
You change color and function according to the time.
You change operator according to the work schedule.
You are purchased by government moneys
And you are purchased by private corporate moneys.
Public and private moneys alike do they purchase you.

You are like a frightening Star Wars machine, but not as collectible.
You are like a Transformer, but with a clearer job description.
You are like a Really Big Animal, if Really Big Animals were made of steel and powered by diesel and had treads instead of legs, and no actual blood or organs.
Great Cat, I shall march behind you always.
I shall walk in step with your ways.
I shall not step in front of you
Because that would be damn foolish.
You shall flatten my enemies.
You shall make of their cities an level place.
You shall make them to scatter to the farthest corners of the earth,
Or at least make them to scatter in random directions, screaming.
Giant Cat, how can I express my love for thee?
Giant Cat, how can I better honor thee?
Shall I put in an order for next year's up-graded model?
Shall I put in the order even before the sun doth set?
The funding is approved. I only need call.
This is one of the benefits of leasing.
Giant Cat, may your crush on me continue,
And my crush on thee.
But please do not actually crush me.
Crush others, but do not crush me,
For on that day, I would lament my birth.


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Fight To The Death Of Heroic Samurai

Photo Hosted at Buzznet.com

"Fight to the Death of Heroic Samurai of the Kusunoki Clan at Shijo Nawate" - a color woodblock triptych by Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1797 - 1861), published by Fujiokaya Keijiro around 1850.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Great Movie Beheadings #2

Because losing your head is one of the coolest things you can do nowadays, we bring you #2 in our series, "Great Movie Beheadings".

Today's beheading takes place in the final moments of Fred Zinnemann's adaptation of Robert Bolt's "A Man For All Seasons" (1966). The actual beheading occurs off-screen, at the moment we CUT TO black, thus ending the movie, and Sir Thomas More's life, with a single stroke.

Great Movie Beheadings #1 | Great Movie Beheadings #3

Find the best price for the DVD of "A Man For All Seasons" at DVD Price Search.

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Monday, March 13, 2006

"Alive In Joburg" by Neil Blomkamp

Check out "boast" (aka "iboast"), a very good new cineaste blog from England.

Today on boast, I learned about the dynamite sci-fi short film "Alive In Joburg" by South African visual fx artist, Neill Blomkamp - which you must see immediately.

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

Red Sky Crow

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The Chili

This evening, I make THE CHILI.

The Chili is not just A chili. The Chili is THE Chili.

The Chili is my mum's perfect, tried & true, simple yet indomitable recipe, which did sustain me even from my earliest years.

And tonight, I make it. The recipe is so perfect, so ... so ... elegant, that even I who is not great on the kitchen, can impress with it.

I pass on to you the secret, the dread secret, the marvelous secret, of ...

... The Chili:

The Chili
  • 1 large Onion
  • 1 large green Bell Pepper
  • 1 pound Ground Beef
  • 2 pounds can Kidney Beans
  • 1 pound can Crushed Tomatoes (of "Zesty Mexican" style, if that's your thing)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Chili Powder
  • I like to put in half a clove of finely chopped Garlic, but that's me - superstition, I think
  1. Chop up the Onion and Green Pepper (and the magic half-clove of Garlic).
  2. Brown them in olive oil at the bottom of a BIG POT.
  3. Add the Ground Beef and brown it also.
  4. Thrown in a little salt maybe, some pepper possibly.
  5. When the Ground Beef is brown, add the Crushed Tomatoes & add the Kidney Beans.
  6. Add water.
  7. By now you should also have added 2 1/2 tablespoons of Chili Powder.
  8. Bring to boil so as to kill any remaining bacteria, then simmer for a long long time.
  9. I stop simmering when it starts to get thick and chunky and look like chili. Sometimes I get crazy though and add more water and then reduce it again. And again. And again. Depends how many hours I have free.

Serve The Chili in a bowl or something. I enjoy Ritz Crackers crumbled up in mine and grated Monterey Jack cheese liberally sprinkled on top.

Throw the remains of The Chili into the freezer or fridge, perhaps using some kind of plastic storage device. You can reheat it in pot or microwave as you wish, and you will probably find that the more often The Chili is reheated the more yummy it is. After six months of freezing and reheating however, you may reach a zone of diminishing returns.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

What's America Like?

A Foreigner asked me: "So what is America really like these days?"

So I answered him. I said:

"As I see it ...

... these days ...

  • America is like a spoiled rich kid who commits many crimes, wrecks many lives, but never spends a day in jail because of family connections.
  • America is like a Soviet state except that people drive big cars and there are really good programs on tv.
  • America is like a guy afraid of losing it.
  • America is like someone who believes that they can become truly good and that others can become truly evil.
  • America is like an adherent of a fundamentalist sect, terrified of looking at the truth less his whole world view come crashing down forever.
  • America is like those penguins in "March of the Penguins" - isolated, determined, ridiculous, and programmed to repeat the same absurdity year after year. Some people find this not ridiculous, but very beautiful.
  • America is like Germany in 1934.
  • America is not like Germany; America is like Rome in A.D. 65.
  • America is like Cronus, certain he has swallowed all the children.
  • America is like a man who has cheated on his spouse and now watches her every move, certain that she is plotting an affair.
  • America is a cocaine addict in the middle stages of his disease - his drug is still working for him, he is productive, he is popular, he is unable to see the catastrophe two steps ahead.
  • America is like The Sims, but only a handful of people get to be players.
  • America is like an abused streetcat who has finally found a good home, and grows fatter and fatter and meaner and meaner and before long runs the whole house.
  • America is like the stomach of the world, distributing nourishment to all the other parts, but only if it is served first.
  • America is like a depressed graduate student in his last year who, burnt out and exhausted, stops caring whether he gets the degree or not.
  • America is like an attractive married woman who greets the neighbors with a smile when they tell her that they heard screams and should they call the police?
  • America is like Howard Hughes.
  • America is like Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Blvd."
  • America is like Enron, but only in the ways that it is exactly like Enron.
  • America is like Jesus in the desert - but refusing God's help.
  • America is like Oz's wizard.
  • America is like Mordor.
  • America is like a 13 year old who still pretends there is a Santa Claus, and whose parents keep pretending with him.
  • America is like a 35 year old supermodel.
  • America is like a man who doesn't believe he is able to quit.
  • America is like a man who still believes he is in the lifeboat years after he has been rescued.
  • America is precisely like the description it gives of its Enemies."

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Words of Wiseness #2

"If it's not free, it's not worth having."

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Thursday, March 09, 2006

Academy Awards Aspirations

People have grumbled about what a lousy lot of films was nominated for the Academy Awards Awards this year. And that is, of course, what the Academy Awards Awards are for - to absorb and/or reflect the resentment and judgement and adoration and obsession we (and by we, I mean, US, not THEM) have for our own fantasies of power and romance.

You're supposed to grumble.

Grumbling is perfectly natural.


I saw nothing last year and don't have any basis to form an opinion, but that's never stopped me before, so: I thought the films last year were just fine, were very good in fact. Many - more than in a long time - were attempting something other than - or, rather, in addition to - providing mere entertainment

Actually, that's giving The Town too much credit. It's uncommon for a film to really consciously attempt to provide entertainment. Studios try to create something which will fool/convince/coerce people into giving them some money. If an entertaining film happens to do the trick, fine, but it's not essential. I wonder if your own opinion on the success of this past year's films coincides entirely with who you've been voting for in recent elections.

I like gigantic constructions like "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King". I like them a lot. A whole lot. And "The Return of the King" offers as much useful social commentary as any of the "political" films this past year - it's just folded more thoroughly into the story and made more universal, less specific, which is why people will be watching "The Return of the King" 25 years from now, and no one will be watching "Brokeback Mountain". But those two movies are much more alike than anyone would ever guess. Somebody out there should do a paper. Call it "The Men of The West" and send it to me. I'll post it in full.

I love it when a film attempts some thing, when it sets itself a bar - any bar - higher than the bottom line. I love "The Passion of the Christ" for exactly this reason. Mel may have gone looney - but he's my kind of looney: "I've got money and clout and a vision - I'm making this movie idea I got and I dare you to stop me!" Some may call it irresponsible. I call it wonderful. Wonderful, wonderful (I myself seek to do a Roman Empire adventure in which the characters speak their native languages - Latin, Greek, Celtic p & q) (maybe next year). I haven't seen "Crash". The people who have told me that it's staggeringly mediocre are all people I respect. Still, it does seem to make the attempt. It aspires. "Brokeback Mountain" aspires. "King Kong" aspires - "Kong" is all about aspiration, in fact, about the attempt to acquire something unique, about the climb to new heights.

This past Academy Awards Awards Show itself seemed to ride this theme of aspiration in the movies - aspire to make a difference, aspire to make useful films, aspire to preserve the sanctity of the darkened theater & big screen ... aspire to have more Oscars on your shelf than Martin Scorsese.

Aspiring to just make a good living and so keeping your house paid for and putting your kids through a good college and paying for the condo in the Caymans is nothing to be ashamed of. Aspiring to rake in the largest gross of all the grosses is also less shameful than is commonly believed. But to aspire to make a thing that no one has seen before, to do something no one has done before, to expose to light something strange and unpopular, is noble and good. More importantly, it gives others juice to attempt the same.

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Dad tripped during today's morning walk. He landed on his shoulder. He broke his collar bone.

Thus ends the family Oscartide trip to Los Angeles.

I bet he's angry. I'm angry about it and I'm not even him. I know he must be angry.

Last month, my dad turned 75. I don't think he's ever broken a bone before.

I remember asking that of people when I was kid: "Did you ever break anything?" I think my dad said that he never had. Breaking a bone to me seemed to have some supernatural significance. Those who had bone breaks had undergone a mysterious transformative rite that those of us with unbroked bones could only ponder - and perhaps, a little, pine for. The kids I knew who'd had a broken arm or leg or finger weren't to me the wretched recipients of domestic abuse or cautionary icons of playground heroics gone bad, they were the Chosen Ones. They were special. They were better.

To me - all my life, I think - being different and strange has meant being better and superior. Maybe that's the appeal of X-Men. Weirdos & Mutants = The Extraordinary Beings. So I have sought to be strange and different, assuming therefore I was on the road to superiority and excellence.

But maybe it's not so.

My dad has a cross country flight to do tomorrow, which doesn't sound fun to me under any circumstances, but I wince, I cringe, to think of a 5 hour flight with a snapped wishbone. My bro and mum will be with him. Still, I wince, I cringe.

It is the wishbone, right? The collarbone and wishbone are the same?

Yesterday, at LACMA, my brother and I quickly walked through the LACMA 40th anniversary exhibit. I saw an unimpressive modern painting with a pattern in the middle of it that seemed to indicate a wishbone. A premonition? Or NOT ONE?

I still have yet to break a bone. I'm more of a gashes and slashes and stitches man.

I wonder if my dad should make a wish.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Baby Trike

My wife lives in fear that I will name our first born son "Triceratops".

I think it's a great name. But she still has doubts.

The coolest news this week, by far dwarfing any Awards Show rucki (plural for "ruckus"), is the discovery of this very fine young fellow ...

...the smallest Triceratops skull fossil yet discovered. Read more about him HERE.


"Triceratops Romanek". What name could be better?

He will be the coolest kid in school.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Good Night & Good Lurk

You may think from this picture that I am lurking behind David Strathairn in an attempt to get snapped by the press photographers. But I am not lurking. I am loitering.

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Oscars Day After

The day after attending the Oscars, one feels literally like one has been through a war. One has deep psychological wounds which will never be healed. One is alienated from those one once called family and friends. And one feels a profound uncleaniness deep in one's heart that cannot be expunged by all the Seven Seas, nor sweetened by all the perfumes in Arabia. One knows that one has killed another man and that one has taken on forever the mark of Cain.

Or maybe it's not so much like one feels like one has been in a war, literally, but more like...like as if one has been to a big awards show.

Yes. That's how I feel today, looking back on being on the ground at the big ol' Oscars show last night. I feel almost as if I had literally attended a big awards show.

My 78th Oscar Ceremony striking and fond reminiscences:

1. ) Not sitting with the mega-stars, but instead sitting with the Academy Governors and the sound and costume and documentary and visual fx people cuz they're the coolest anyway and who wants to sit next to Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman and Lauren Bacall?

2.) Bafflement at the brilliant Meryl Streep's and the brilliant Lily Tomlin's overlapping dialog tribute to Robert Altman. I wavered between "What the hell are you guys doing?" to "Oh, I get it" then quickly back to "What the hell are you guys doing?" But maybe it played okay on tv.

3.) Satisfaction that I am taller than wife's heartthrob, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

4.) My wife catching me staring at Zhang Ziyi. The two of them fought - you probably saw it on tv. Their battle began in the bar area then went upstairs, then spilled out into the theater itself, finally ending onstage with Ziyi conceding that my wife had won this round, but that the fight was not over. My wife's preferred weapon is the claymore (Scottish, you see), but after Ziyi disarmed her early on, my wife was forced to employ falchion and club with which she has little real combat experience. Ziyi pressed her advantage, wielding her favorite Chinese longsword and razor sharp flying steel disc inscribed with mystical patterns. But at last, my wife turned the tide by knocking the Chinese movie star upside the head with Ang Lee's Best Director Oscar.

5.) At the bar, $3.00 for a small glass of H2O sin gas.

6.) Sudden exclamation popping out of my mouth: "Wow, they just can't keep Mickey Rooney away from these things!"

7.) Sudden panic that security had let in a wild maniac from some nearby seedy Hollywood nightclub. Relief when I realized it was only Harvey Weinstein.

8.) Awesome realization of just how gigantic Uma Thurman is. I felt like a tiny ape from a distant foggy isle, and I wondered if she would try to scale the Kodak theater with me secreted in her palm. And if so, would the police security choppers try to shoot her down or would she make it safely to the sea and take me away on her mighty clamshell boat?

9.) Eating an omelette and french fries w/brown gravy at House of Pies with my brother, mum and wife after the show.

10.) Removing shoes, taking hot shower with wife, falling into bed.

For more tales of the Oscars, check out Warren Hsu Leonard's Oscar 2006 Recap.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscars Morn Video Podcast

Thrilling and dynamic rabbit + crow super-Vidcast from Mr. Neal as we countdown to the night of a thousand Oscars!


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Oscars Eve

Tomorrow is the Academy Awards.

I'll be there.

I got my tux from the cleaners today. I have my gold dragon pattern bowtie ready to go. I have my patent leather shinyshoes ready and waiting. And I am willing to shave.

I suppose "Brokeback Mountain" will win because it has to do with a social issues of today. Also it is the only one of the Best Picture nominees that I have actually seen - which is kind of pathetic for a guy who claims to love movies so much.

But I'll be there smiling like an idiot, doing my SPECIAL JOB THAT I CAN'T REVEAL.

Look for me.

I'll be the one smiling like an idiot.

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Saturday, March 04, 2006

I Just Can't Stop Screaming

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George W. & Laura Bush sprinkle flowers on the gravesite of Mahatma Gandhi this week.

Meanwhile, Neal screams and screams and screams ...

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Hollywood Blvd + Oscars

Shot this yesterday on Hollywood Blvd. - red carpet preparations for Sunday's Oscar ceremony. That transparent tent suggests someone's expecting lots of rain.

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Empty Bridal Shop

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Empty Bridal Shop

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

New T-Shirt Day - This Is NOT...

Yes, it's the 1st - time for me to shove another original t-shirt design down your throat. This month, in honor of the global laugh-fest sparked by the publishing of cartoons of the founder of a religion whose tenets forbid this founder's depiction in any form, I will be putting one of my own irritating Jesus Cartoons on a t-shirt - and greeting card - and coffee cup.

I do this not to provoke people, but to make them THINK. Because, remember - don't forget - THINK is an anagram for "To Hate Inky Nothings (is) Kooky". Wait, no, it's not an "anagram", it's a "RADAR". It's a "pun". What is it? A "rothchilde"? What the hell's that thing called when each letter represents a word. Like DARPA. Or PNAC. Or TIA. Or MNFTIU. Damn. Can't remember it. I could look it up, but I just don't care that much. I know y'all dig my drift anyhow, and that's the important thing.

But back to the deliberately provocative t-shirt: You're all familiar with Magritte's famous "This is not a pipe" (but in French) painting, well ...

Ceci n'est pas une Jesu

Buy it. Wear it to church. No, I'm serious. Wear the damn thang to church.

A "solipticene"? "A sauropod"? What IS that thing called? An "anabuse"? ...

Happy Ash Wednesday!

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Pre-Oscars Newsiness - podcast

In a pre-Oscars podcast I chatter about Robert Rodriguez, my creative dilemmas, the table at Comic-Con 2006, and squeaky cats ...

click to listen; right-click to download
Click me to listen!

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