April 24, 2005, Jimmy Johnson drew this Sunday panel.
It’s a reminder to be patient. It’s a reminder to be observant. It’s a reminder to appreciate the glory of life, the cycle of death, the power of nature.
It’s a reminder to look to see what works best, what to do differently, how to surprise yourself.
It’s a reminder to do things with purpose, with meaning, with full engagement.
I’ve had this panel printed on my door, on my computer desktop, and figured this is as good a place as any. It reminds me so much of this, perhaps the best C&H of all time, given it’s Watterson’s goodbye to the bullshit. Lucky Watterson. He could afford to go out on top, with integrity.
FB again upchucked this long gem, so here it is for awhile, until my ISP shuts down. The last posting I updated for NYE 2021, but I’m just gonna take a pass on this one this time, folks.
In my last 2015 post, I reflected about the year, and believe me I left out a LOT of detail. It’s very hard to write about separation from family, and the time I was in Chicago, which really was a great time…but the city is just not for me. I explored it a great detail and appreciated how great a city it is, and I’m very glad my wife and daughter are there and enjoying their lives around my brother and sisters and their friends and acquaintances. I miss the entire extended family there. Hugs and love to you all.
So, ok, now on to 2016.
2016. Another year of potential.
As I settle into life in Abu Dhabi, I have a lot to look forward to. My work at Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) has been ramping up slowly. This year, I’ll be getting an internationally recognized certification to be a teacher trainer across the curriculum. This is an important feather in my cap, as I move very slowly toward consulting in education. I would assume I’ll have the cert in hand by mid-year. Meanwhile, working diligently to make sure the Professional Development (PD) program we have in place gets tied to the accrediting agency (Higher Education Academy, HEA – located in the UK). Our PD program is really quite good, but getting it out and working with the 1600 faculty spread across 17 campuses in the UAE will take some time and some re-thinking on the part of management…which always seems to be the case wherever I go. That, in short, is my current work situation. In three years’ time, I have a potential leadership spot in the premiere PD program in the GCC countries, lead by HCT / HEA, where we’ll have a huge impact on raising the teaching standards at all universities and colleges of higher ed, public and private. Seriously, how amazeballs is that?
Last year, I managed to visit the US, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, India, and Oman (I swear I must have left something out). This year, on tap, if all goes well, I’ll be back in the US in July for a short spin (California and Florida folks, I can keep you in mind and try to do a few days in each place), another trip to India, a visit to Japan for a very special event (details to come), and if I can pull it off, a visit to Rwanda, but not just because. I can send out vibes to hit Vietnam and revisit Malaysia, but those are lower priorities at the moment. EDIT: Almost forgot possible hits to Italy and the UK to visit certain academic nephews I know.
Honestly, especially to my American friends and acquaintances, travel is it. If you’ve never left the country, do it. If you’ve only been to Europe, there are non-Western places to visit that are priceless. It’s worth the money and time, and you’ll have lots of great stories to tell.
So do it, and tell them.
Finally, there’s health. I hinted at my crappy habits, mainly bad food habits, that are very hard to break. I’ve ventured into semi-veganism, which has been quite hard here in the UAE. Nevertheless, even with some current backtracking, I am doing my best to locate plant-based foods, and reduce food consumption. This will fight all the current things that are ravaging my body (diabetes type 2, high blood pressure, high cholesterol) and will have a negative impact within 10 years time, so there’s an urgency to right the boat, as it were. I don’t have a resolution to lose weight, only to reduce caloric intake and fat intake…and that should work to reduce weight. I’ve done a lot of research and investigations, and I’m getting there. Not eating 100% healthy yet (Indian veg food here is great, but full of cream and ghee, if nothing else), but the habit has started, and I allow myself to “fall off the wagon” without killing myself for it.
Ah yeah, there’s one other thing. Ayaka Davies hits age 21, and thus full adulthood in two weeks’ time. Though I can’t be there, she knows how I feel about her reaching that awesome milestone, and she knows how much I miss my two girls. She’s grown into a hard working, charismatic adult already, and I applaud her successes and her ambition to become a social worker after getting her Masters (she can crowdfund the tuition, because my financial obligations end at her receiving her Bachelors).
Facebook remains my top “broadcast” network, and I love the banter and inside jokes I can exchange with people I’ve known from various times and places in the past. Keep it up, people. We are all on a similar adventure, even if the contents are different, and sharing what’s going on with you, and seeing your faces and your families is always inspirational. Again, here’s to a great, inspirational, prosperous, and as-stress-free-as-possible 2016 for everyone I know.
FB blasted me my 2015 writing for the NYE 2016, so I’m copy/pasting and updating this in 2020 for NYE 2021. Let’s see how it goes. I’ll just add the updated version (in parentheses), so.
PSA – Reflection 2015 (2020)
Well, the year is done. I’ve been 54 (59) orbits around the sun, which in itself is a shocker. So, what went on in 2015 (2020)?
– Lived in Chicago from January through March, waiting for work visa. (2020 – Lived in Abu Dhabi UAE the entire year. Didn’t leave it to go anywhere).
– April, moved across the world, YET AGAIN, this time back to the Middle East and a job in the United Arab Emirates, neighbor to Saudi Arabia, but very different culturally and technologically. (2020 – Renewed my apartment rent. Expensive, but nice building with a view of the Gulf and downtown AD – worth it)
– Resigned (2020 – reassured) myself to the fact that I probably (2020 – definitely) won’t live and work in the US again, for reasons too numerous to put into this little FB posting. (Even more new and improved reasons in 2020)
– Found myself separated from my immediate family for quite possibly a very long time. The repercussions from this are also too numerous, but suffice to say, it takes a very VERY strong mind to reconcile and accept this fact. Since I am a “go with the FLOW” kind of person, this is how it has to be, and I am going with it. My family knows me, and accepts this. None of it is easy ever. At all. (2020 – Unchanged and accurate)
– The opportunity I have here in Abu Dhabi is unique in many ways, and the same as anywhere else I could be. I am buckled in for quite possibly several years here, given my age and current situation. (2020 – Unchanged and accurate, though I thought I’d have advanced my position, but I know now that won’t ever happen)
– I am politically removed from the US now, and I don’t like the direction the country is headed. It’s obvious through my many political postings where I stand, and being a “pragmatic progressive” I have also accepted that oligarchy has taken over the country I grew up in. I am thinking a lot about this, and thinking of the many people I know, family and friends, who I’ve left behind to live in the US, which, if you look at the facts, is declining in wealth and influence around the world. (2020 – Unchanged – except for it being far worse, and accurate prediction)
– Overall, my physical health is not the best, but that’s all from my horrible personal habits. I am human, and proud to be who I am, and have grown a bit more into the “jeez, it’s one life, might as well enjoy what I can of it” state of mind. I’ll be around for several more years, so no worries there. (From January 2020 to now, I’ve dropped close to 15kg, so there’s a bright spot. Except for the usual old bastard things, I’m relatively healthier than in 2015)
– I am the most conflicted about my life’s work. I’ve been an educator since age 24. It’s really all I know and love. As much as I’ve seen in the many countries I’ve lived and worked, I try to stay positive, given the overwhelming evidence to the contrary about what it means to be in higher education. I’m still doing it, and really adore every minute I put into writing about it, thinking about it, and putting it into practice. More amazeballs things are around the corner for me in my current job. (2020 – Coaching is a new endeavor – and there’s already a lot of potential that surprised me – especially how it seems a natural next step)
– Basically, I am extremely happy and fortunate for the experiences I’ve had – even with the crusty “angriest guy in the world” postings that I just can’t help posting on FB. I know what I’ve seen and done is something extremely rare in this world. I’ve experienced things extremely unique for one travelling the earth. I am more than a tourist to many regions of the world. This experience has been priceless, so very very priceless, and it’s absolutely impossible to express in words. I’m not gloating about this. I really feel so very fortunate for what I’ve carved out in my life. (2020 – in 2016 I hit five continents within one month of travelling. That was pretty cool. Returned to Okinawa twice – or three times – already too old to remember).
– Facebook, more than anything, has helped me connect and reconnect to a LOT of people from my past. This is such a unique moment in our collective experience to be able to do this. I have re-friended a lot of people, made closer friends with a lot of my acquaintances, and seen that there’s no way ever we will all see eye to eye on things that are important to us. Folks, we can and must agree to disagree, but we must realize how temporary we are here, and do our best to leave a legacy to our progeny. (2020 – Yeah, FB is a dark joke. At least I started using Duck-Duck-Go instead of Google for my web searches. All large social media are evil – FULL STOP and that won’t change.)
– Above all else, I want everyone reading this to remember two very important things about our all-too-short life. 1) Breathe in. 2) Breathe out. Laugh if you want, but these are the two basic truths that we must remember in order to continue another time around the sun. (2020 – Unchanged and accurate; so very very accurate)
– Go watch a sunrise, and watch a sunset on the same day. It’s a very sober reminder of the amazing beauty that surrounds us, but that we can very easily forget when we get caught up in the day-to-day goings on. (2020 – Unchanged and accurate)
Love (2020 – most of) you all, and with the very best wishes for a safe, sound, prosperous, content, and very very Happy New Year (2020 – stay. the. fuck. inside. wear. a. fucking. mask. get. a. fucking. vaccination. then. wear. your. fucking. mask. stay. safe. stay. sane. wash. your. hands.)
In short: 2015 was AMAZEBALLS (2020 was the worst god-awful shit-storm dumpster-fire and I really don’t see an improved 2021 ahead because reasons).
I’ve done about 11 hours worth of coaching now, and this stands out the most. I think one of the main jobs of a coach is to listen to how people frame their challenges. As a long time language teacher, I’ve known of the challenges, especially in English, which is idiomatic as hell. We frame a lot of what we say in idiomatic terms without a second thought. So, listening to my clients talk about things reminds me of UN simultaneous translators. They have to listen in one language, and translate into another. I think a coach is doing the same thing…listening to someone’s challenges while at the same time translating what they are really saying into some other language of explication.
The example I can think of is one client mentioned how far they felt from their goal. I stopped the conversation, and asked: are you far from the goal or are you close to the goal, because in fact, my perception was the client was very close to the goal they set. This simple reframing, I think, changed my client’s mindset to some extent.
One conversation at a time
This is one of the fundamental tenets of the job of coach, to help clients focus on one aspect of their challenges. All four of the people I’m working with have myriad ideas, tasks, priorities, things to organize. One client mentioned that the product was very important, and so was the marketing aspect. This client also felt that there were so many things going on in their mind that it was almost impossible to know where to start. So, I brought up the phrase “one conversation at a time” and said well, you’ve talked about the products and the marketing, so perhaps pick one and go down that road. This was enough to get them to, yes, go down that road. The client was able to do some deep exploring from that point on, and did not fret about all those other things fighting for their attention. I felt I’d said the right thing at the right time.
Self-regulation is a vital skill to learn early on
In my full-time job, I have designed a professional development session on feedback. One aspect of feedback is to help learners to become self-sufficient through what is called self-regulation. This basically consists of employing three important questions as they learn something.
What is my goal for what I am learning?
Where am I now in relation to that goal?
What do I need to do next in order to get from where I am to where I want to go?
So, sure, these three are vital skills, but there’s more! Long ago, when I was doing teacher training for prospective English language teachers, I would end my sessions with three questions for reflection:
What worked best in today’s session? I now like to call this the Positive Psychology question. Appreciative Inquiry, another concept which I’ve developed a PD session for posits that you must look at things from an asset-based framework…in other words, what do we already have now that is working best for us? This is opposed to what is called deficit-focused, where people tend to ask: if I had this thing, which I don’t, wouldn’t it help me to achieve this? The issue with being deficit-focused is that the thing desired is usually something that isn’t coming any time soon. It’s akin to a useless exercise to dream about something that’s not coming, and much more useful to see what you have, and what you can do with what you have.
What would you do differently? I now call this the critical and creative thinking question. Doing something differently doesn’t necessarily mean the thing you are always doing is something that didn’t work and so needs to be changed. Instead, I am finding that I will remind people that even if something works, there is opportunity to innovate and improvise the successes, so that you have multiple avenues of success.
What surprised you? Of course, the Emotional Intelligence question. When I say surprise, I define it as something that happens that you don’t expect to happen. Again, this could be a good thing, though perhaps most people feel that a surprise is usually a bad or unfortunate thing.
I realized just today, that these three questions are part of the first two self-regulation questions, so I’m developing deeper questions for all three of the self-regulation questions. I have a lot to think about for this.
Early on, I was concerned about offering advice. The job is not about advice, it’s about reframing what people are saying so they can hear what they are saying, and answer their own questions.
What I’m noticing about myself is that toward the end of sessions I will speak a lot more than during the session when I’m working on questions to help me understand more deeply what the client is striving for.
When I get into this talking mode, it’s sounded to me like I’m giving advice. Maybe I am. I am working to distinguish this. However, i’ve started to tell myself that I’m merely summarizing what the client has been saying, and making inferences about what they mean in terms of their options for moving forward. In other words, I am offering them collaborative suggestions. In telling them what they might consider doing, I remind myself that this is also a collaborative relationship, and so this telling is part of the collaboration. What I need to do at times is to try to listen more to what I say, to make sure I’m not imposing my judgement on things, nor am I leading the client down a path they might not want to go. I shouldn’t be leading them at all, so the balance of reframing and leading is, I think something I’ll need to work on.
These are obviously preliminary thoughts, worth writing down here, and I know I’ll work through some issues I have and make sure I am subscribing to what a coach is supposed to be. Here are some other things to write about in more detail shortly.
Why a laser focus on SMARTER goals is essential
The best way to end a session
Why I think framing language that reveals mindsets is a very deep deep venture
Creating optional activities based on the conversations within a session
I’ve started on my new adventure in coaching. A couple people I am working with are wanting to find ways of creating interesting video-based content, so I wrote them an email about some shows I watch kind of regularly on YouTube, NOT for the content, but for the production themselves, as my clients are small-shop operators, and these productions below look to be small and medium-small shops that have had a pretty large degree of Youtube success. After writing the email, I realized I should also pop the info here into my blog, so here it is.
Various titles by Not another cooking show.
This guy used to own a food truck in NYC, but looks like he started his YouTube channel a couple years back. He basic technique is:
1. Talk directly to the camera in close-up.
2. Tell an opening story.
3. Show the food being made in very quick steps.
4. Show the final product.
5. Then slow going through the recipe and technique through a series of jump cuts. His talking is a series of jump cuts, as are his cutting techniques, etc. He has no qualms about the jump cuts. Why should he? It works.
6. Take a photo of the final project in a very careful presentation of the food with the video title superimposed over the shot of the final product.
7. End with him eating the food and final comments.
8. Jamming his knife on the cutting board to show that he’s done.
There’s good use of music in the background, and lots of close-ups of the preparation, frying, baking, etc. It’s edited so that it moves along quickly, but coherently.
Most of his videos are between 6 to 15 minutes long, and he produces maybe three to four videos a month.
Film theory: various titles by The Film Theorists
I absolutely love two things about these productions.
1. The animation of the narrator is just so unique. He uses a lot of still shots, but animates over them, and moves them around in great synch with what he says.
2. He’s a natural narrator, too. This guy uses his voice in a deeply interesting and engaging way. He also ends every show with his tag line ‘BUT THAT’S JUST A THEORY, A FILM THEORY’ and his exaggerated way of saying this is, for me at least, very memorable.
This is obviously a YouTube channel with a highly skilled animation editor, but they still manage to put out a lot of content very quickly.
Most of his videos are a maximum of 20 minutes, and he produces something maybe very other day! He’s got a crew working for him!
Various titles Pitch Meeting by Film Rant
Every “pitch meeting’ video is pretty much exactly the same in structure. It’s the same guy dressed in two different outfits, one of him wears glasses (the writer making the pitch), and the other, the producer with the money, doesn’t.
He shoots on green screen and the backgrounds he uses are only different depending on the year the film that is being pitched was made. This means the device behind the screen writer is either an old typewriter, a newer typewriter, an old computer, or a newer computer. What makes me laugh is the quick edits in the conversation between the two characters. Also, the writer has a tag line “Super easy, barely an inconvenience”. The back and forth style with quick edits as they look at the stories behind the movies are pretty interesting observations, but this is definitely for adult viewers.
Almost every pitch meeting is between 6 to 9 minutes long. He seems to be his own production crew, but he has produced a lot of content in addition to the Pitch meeting series.
Geography Now: Country in focus by Geography Now. This guy set out in the beginning to make a video about every country on Earth. If you dig through his archive and watch earlier productions then watch the Pakistan production, which is only about a year old, you’ll see a marked increase in production quality, and he expanded his ‘staff’ in later productions to help out. There’s a ton of interesting information, and he really innovated in telling some of the stories of the country, and highlighting a lot of different things that are unique about every country. He clearly loves what he’s doing in this series, and recently stopped because of covid, with a promise to return to finish what he started.
Most of his videos are a bit longer, so look for 18 to 30 minutes episodes. With his expanding staff, he’s up to about the letter “T” on the list of 190 or so countries around the globe.
Various geography themed content by ibx2cat There’s one feature about this guy’s videos that I haven’t researched and that is how he’s able to have himself in the corner live as he works his way through various websites, including a LOT of use of Google Earth to zoom in and out of various countries as he talks about details of that country. He records everything in one cut, so, there’s no editing at all, and kind of rambles at times, but I like his fast talking style, in fact, it’s very fast at some points, and he’s clearly in love with talking about his topics.
His videos are anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes, but I can still sit through a 45 minute ramble because obviously I’m a big geography buff. He seems to put out videos two to three times a week, and obviously he’s a one-man show.
I’m just cleaning up my desktop on a lazy Friday morning (my Saturday, because UAE is a Muslim country with Friday/Saturday as the weekend), and I found this, so this seems the best place for it. From an MS Word doc dated 15 OCT 2017.
PSA – very, very long posting ahead…SPOILER ALERT…no spoilers.
Part I: Life is a Ride
“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”
I would shorten this as indicated – an excerpt – and provide the link at the end.
― Bill Hicks (1961-1994), greatest comedian (until Dave Chapelle came along).
Part II: Question Reality
An open letter to self, regarding that graphic you posted just over a year ago…
Remember that challenge on FB, during the election season of 2016, to post about what three fictional characters best summarize your personality…well, time to reveal to yourself why you chose these three…
Let’s start with the woodcutter from Rashomon in the little box in the upper left corner of the graphic. Rashomon, Akira Kurosawa’s 1950s masterpiece. Film buffs know this film, because, like Citizen Kane, it broke a ton of cinematic rules in its day and was a sensation because of it….but Rashomon is a tale where one must conclude that it’s imperative to question reality on a daily basis. Is this real? Or just a ride? The storyline, four different views of a crime committed, left you baffled as to what actually happened.
Because that’s how reality works.
In the light of the crimes I and hundreds others in my high school alum community have just become aware of…we can’t piece together what actually happened in every instance… 40 YEARS OF INSTANCE …and we are stuck trying to see the facts as they were. From a LOT of different points of view. Knowing that each view will be a little different. But we know bad things happened, and there was a pattern to it all that’s about to emerge. Like the woodcutter, you are about to see the forest from the trees.
Maybe during those quiet times, when that man of in a position of power abused a boy (sorry to keep you all nameless, but there are names a plenty) to satisfy some primal desire without regard to the human beings he was using as sex toys … it reminds you a little of the arrogant Tajômaru, the thief/rapist in Rashomon proudly boasting of his heroic rape, and the noble fight the victim’s husband put up to defend her honor, and which he, the Great Tajômaru won.
The woodcutter’s tale of the fight is very different… Tajômaru was not a man of courage or a hero of any kind after all, but a small-minded imbecile who got a lucky break in the swordfight after he raped a woman …but then [SPOILER ALERT …] you learned the woodcutter himself also lied about a certain missing dagger. Woodcutter 2.0. The dagger mentioned in the wife’s testimony and in the late husband’s testimony to the police. So even the woodcutter’s story can’t be taken as the total truth.
You are like that woodcutter – both facets – and to be honest, everyone is like the woodcutter on Facebook to some extent. You put up your nice veneer, awesome times, good times, check this out… but there are holes in your stories and skeletons in the your closet, some which might not ever see the light of day. You are human after all, and the woodcutter bears this out. Even in times of honesty, there lurks some darkness below the surface.
No justice, no peace. Fear, not love. Just a ride.
This week, you are going to learn that lesson about justice again, when the stories get exchanged, everyone shrugs, and moves on, possibly with an unwitting embrace of the fear that bombards us daily. The woodcutter didn’t tell his story to a lawyer after all… and left out a little detail when he told the police Tajômaru’s story in a different light.
Most days, you are the woodcutter, wandering deep in a forest, hoping you won’t stumble upon the Tajômarus of the world. But they are everywhere.
“One of these days When you hear a voice say come Who you gonna run to? You gonna run to the rock for rescue There will be no rock.”
– The Slickers, Johnny Too Bad
Part III: The Catcher in the Rye
Then, in the middle of the graphic you posted, front and center and larger than life, is good old Willy Wonka, the Gene Wilder movie version (not the Johnny Depp movie version nor the Roald Dahl book version). Willy…what can you say about this brilliant guy? The Augustus Gloop scene sums this up well.
At first, Willy is pretty upset as he tries to keep Augustus from drinking from his chocolate river, he runs to try to save him, alas his attitude changes completely once the boy falls in. This is the concerned Larry, wanting to keep people from harm. Fear. Not succeeding. Woodcutter 2.0.
The mom screams “DO SOMETHING”, and then, out you come, the Jaded Brechtian Ennui(TM) Larry, in all your glory: “Help. Police. Murder.” spoken knowing the damage is already done, and what’s the point. Just a ride. It’s like watching a 20 year old age into a 55 year old in a matter of seconds. There are seriously no more fucks to give at this age.
It’s just a ride.
20 kids dead in a mass shooting? Just a ride. Guy plans to kill hundreds if he can with a bunch of guns but only mows down 60 and only injures 500. Puerto Rico. Trump blah blah blah FEAR…or just a ride. Help. Congress. Murder.
Then later, the part that scared the living shit out of me when I first saw it, Augustus gets stuck in the pipe. Willy matter-of-factly states, in the best Dr. Professor Larry voice: “Well the pressure will get him out. Terrific pressure is building up behind the blockage.”
Then old Punk Rock Larry (RIP D. Boon – miss you DAILY!) kicks in with glee in his voice and a kick in his step, while popping popcorn in his mouth: “The suspense is terrible! I hope it’ll last!” Yes, it’s a dark satire indeed, and you’d be a woodcutter 2.0 if you said you didn’t have that in you…that part emerges as a kind of last ditch effort to maintain sanity given the horror of the situation.
Multiple personalities trying to make sense of a world gone mad. You post politics all the time, but everything’s already in that chocolate river. What can you do but say: Help. Mr. President. Murder.
In the end, you give the factory to Charlie. The boy with a heart more valuable than a golden ticket. “The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.”
You are SO VERY MUCH Willy Wonka on a daily basis.
“Dema loot, dema shoot, dema wail” – Desmond Dekker, 007 (Shanty Town)
Part IV: Fake News
There are two Hobbes. This is the reality Hobbes. The stuffed, motionless tiger. The Willy Wonka Jaded Brechtian Ennui(TM) Hobbes, perched on Willy’s shoulder. The woodcutter Hobbes, telling the real story while still craving a hearty can of tuna fish. Is he a figment of Calvin’s imagination, or is he a magical autonomous entity? Am you real, or is this just a ride? How many political comics have you seen drawing Calvin and Trump in the same light.. and me, that imaginary foil to Trump, rolling your eyes, losing faith in all that is human. Do your exist in Trump’s reality? You are mostly the stuffed Hobbes to over 65 million Americans, and face it, close to seven billion other people.
Hobbes is a shapeshifter, that’s for sure, but only for Calvin. Me, only for American politics, it seems. Maybe for some people some of the time. That stuffed form resonates with you, doesn’t it? You’ve felt like stuffed Hobbes most of the time when dealing with politics…with people, and why you cling to your introversion and am perfectly content to have yourself as company. Yet on social media you go doing this type of live active Hobbes doing dances with Calvin and getting all up in his grill.
One time, Calvin took Hobbes out on a safari, and for whatever circumstance, left him behind. He got all angry and frantic at the same time. Calvin’s panic was palpable. When he found Hobbes, boy was he mad at Hobbes for getting lost. Calvin lost the stuffed tiger, and the living tiger ran away dancing in the forest with the woodcutter 2.0.
There are actually too many Calvin/Hobbes stories to tell, but there isn’t a moment when you don’t feel like Hobbes rolled round in earth’s diurnal course with rocks and stones and trees (apologies to WW).
It’s tough being Hobbes to the world of Calvins out there, many of whom are real, actual friends or acquaintances of yours (you reading this know if I’m giving you that living Hobbes stare at your RIGHT NOW).
Anyway, back to stuffed Hobbes, who explored a lot of the world with Calvin whether he wanted to or not. Remember the last strip, the fallen white snow, the world of possibilities to explore. Such delight on Hobbes face. Off they went to explore “space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”
Thanks for the explanation, Larry.
* Soundtrack to the 1973 film classic about the hard life Jamaican’s had back in the day, and you know the US CITIZEN Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders are having the same hard time right now…
“Many rivers to cross And it’s only my will that keeps me alive.”
– Jimmy Cliff
“Well, they tell me of a pie up in the sky Waiting for me when i die But between the day you’re born and when you die They never seem to hear even no cry So as sure as the sun will shine I’m gonna get my share of what’s mine And then the harder they come The harder they fall One and all. The harder they come The harder they fall One and all!”
– Jimmy Cliff
Anyway, back to stuffed Hobbes, who explored a lot of the world with Calvin whether he wanted to or not. Remember the last strip, the fallen white snow, the world of possibilities to explore. Such delight on Hobbes face. Off they went to explore “space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.” Um, you just woodcutter 2.0’d didn’t you? You are really living Hobbes. Yeah, thought so. Thanks for the explanation, Larry.
My apologies to Prince. I tend to like Diamonds and Pearls, though I know other efforts of his are better. Anyway, RIP to yet another great gone too soon. Also some minor typos fixed below…also some essential verses from some songs.
I’d recommend you revisit this post from time to time, because there just isn’t enough information that can be packed into something in one sitting. I just thought of a whole bunch of other things I want to put into this one, so there are a ton of edits from the original post. Enjoy, but also note people have commented on earlier versions of this one. Also, as you know, I like swear words, so scroll by if you get offended by that stuff.
Hi Facebook. Several of my friends are posting their top 10 albums of all time on their feeds, and doing it without explanation. So, just to help you to get the Russians and others to market to me properly and reach into my already depleted wallet based on what I post, here’s my list, posted all at once, and WITH explanations, because our privacy is dead and you already know everything already so the more details I give you the more I screw with your fucked up algorithms. Go on parse out all this shit.
This is not a top 10 though…#1 is not #1 of all time…these are all pretty much equal in their impact and I spit them out without thinking too hard, because I think that’s the point. Also there are 11, because everything needs to go to 11 after Spinal Tap told us so.
11. Best of Bent – Bent. This is a British duo album and is a very late entry, but for the past 10 years or so, I’ve grown to really love downtempo European duos who make the best “this is the soundtrack to my life” type music. The song Private Road tops several great offerings from this group, although Magic Love is a close contender (and a hilarious video on YouTube) and they lead me to a slew of other newer music that I listen to regularly now. Listening to related artists for Bent led me to such incredible individual artists and groups such as Ulrich Schnauss, Goldfrapp (Ooh La La was on Black Mirror!), Zero 7 (Pia did a few tracks with them very early in her storied career), Bonobo, Daft Punk, Lemon Jelly, Air, Nightmares on Wax, Kid Loco, Chemical Brothers, Boards of Canada, Röyksopp, Kruder & Dorfmeister, Télépopmusik and many others.
Bach is Dead.
10. Blue Break Beats, Volume 1 – Various Artists. The first five seconds of the first track, by Richard “Groove” Holmes solidified my love of Acid Jazz and all the funky variations, although that first track is still my favorite, and Groove has a fab version of Misty that you MUST find NOW and listen to. There are four volumes to this series, and every track makes you want to say “God Bless America” because Jazz is one of the greatest contributions to American culture I know, and the early 60s and 70s that these tracks come from are certainly some of the best. Honestly, if you have not heard Richard “Groove” Holmes, Grant Green, Lou Donaldson, Donald Byrd, Eddie Henderson and the slew of other folks in this series, you haven’t been paying attention.
9. Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables – Dead Kennedys. You all know I was an LA Punk, like a lot of you, my friends. There are a couple other selections on this list that re-affirm that. But you know, “You’ll work harder with a gun in your back for a bowl of rice a day” wasn’t just how things were then…it’s how things still are now, only of course on a much more metaphorical level. Jello rules. Also, to get a flavour of the time and place, you’d need to listen to the Minutemen (see below), X, Fear, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Germs, Wall of Voodoo, Suburban Lawns, and then of course expand out to Gang of Four, Joy Division, The Cure, Siouxie and the Banshees, Ramones…oh the list can go on and on…
8. Remain in Light – Talking Heads. Really, these guys are still my favs, and David Byrne’s career has been on the come back trail yet again. Really, all of the Talking Heads albums are eligible, but “This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no fooling around.” pretty much sums up adulthood as we know it. I always think of the B52s and their first and second albums as the fabulous frilly foil to the heady Heads. Oh yeah, Devo lol. Devo dovetails in nicely with these two groups.
Bach is Dead.
7. Revolver – The Beatles. Hard to choose one Beatles album, but this one ends with John Lennon singing “play the game existence to the end, of the beginning“…and really this was the end of the beginningof an amazing musical career, everything after this was pure collaborative genius and this, along with Rubber Soul, were the bridge albums. Every 60s group is related to this, so I’m not adding in any related music. I mean if you twist my arm, then Janis, Jimi, and Jim (glad Mick didn’t join THAT club) have to be at the top of the list. Oh, and to my high school friends who insisted that Eric Clapton is God…well, ok, ok. I think it’s also good, historically, to put Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and Mahalia Jackson here as related influences on 1960s rock. While Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye were going down a fabulously parallel R&B path with the Beatles, so, you know my arm is twisted and I could have listed ANY Motown song here, but Motown wasn’t an album so, PAH.
6. Sandinista – The Clash. Come ON. There are a brazillion tracks here that are awesome, but still my favorite lyric here is from Magnificient 7 “Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi/ Went to the park to check on the game/ But they was murdered by the other team/ Who went on to win 50-nil”. So it goes. Joe Strummer died at age 50, murdered by the Cancer team, so yeah, some irony there. I’m putting Michael Jackson here because he also died ridiculously young (murdered by the prescription drug addiction team), and had a much more poppy influence on me at the time. Billie Jean made me think of…
5. Lady in Satin – Billie Holiday. If you don’t know the history of this album, shame on you. Just take a moment. Stop reading. Now hang your head in utter shame for 30 seconds before you start reading again. I can wait…
Done? Welcome back. This was a recording of a 44-year old woman, addicted to Heroin, the most talented voice of her time, and still considered so today, and she was treated like less than a dog, being black in the 1920s to 1950s and knew she was about to die, and still belted out every single word in every single track to make sure people knew what had happened in her life. If you aren’t weeping on the floor after listening to this album, you have no soul. Also, sure, Strange Fruit is still her signature song, and rightfully so and it’s not part of this album…but again, knowing the context of this album, listening to her broken voice, but not broken spirit…this was quite a good bye love letter. But what else can you do at the end of a love affair? The story reminds me of Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay (although he didn’t know his death was imminent), and David Bowie’s Blackstar (damn, David, you can’t give everything awayyyyyy, but I bet you thought of Billie Holiday at some point in recording YOUR final album knowing your time was limited).
“Do they know, do they care That it’s only ‘cuz I’m lonely, and low as can be And the smile on my face Isn’t really a smile at all?”
Bach is Dead.
4. The Harder they Come – Jimmy Cliff and Various Artists. An obscure 1972 Jamaican film about a country boy gone gangster in the capital, Kingston, this compilation is the grandfather of all Reggae albums, a close cousin to New Wave / Punk genres and the uncle of all Ska music to boot (although OK, Ska was around before this, their blood relationship is obvious). I still can’t pick a favorite track on this one, although my current favorite is 007-Shanty Town. I still play this whole album constantly and tear up when singing, and yes, dancing, along. You sentimental old fool, you. Just picture old fatty me dancing in my living room looking out at the Abu Dhabi skyline singing out “Dem a loot / dem a shoot / dem a wail (a shanty town!)”, then doing some ad lib in the bridge between the vocal sections at the beginning and end. Ok, now that you’ve washed your eyes out and after that image is gone, you can follow up listening with everything Bob Marley and UB40, then go check out 1980s British Ska: English Beat, Selector, the Specials, Madness, Fun Boy Three…then go back to the beginning of Ska with the Skalites aka Ska Kings of the First Wave and you’ll find a ton of obscure but danceable related tracks from dozens of artists (dem-a rude boys ya bum up de town!).
3. Duck Stab – The Residents. Never heard of the Residents? Well, forget it, then. Those who have heard of them know that I’m coming soon to Constantinople. There is no group out there (well maybe Frank Zappa, but I really honestly don’t know enough Zappa to make a qualified judgement) quite like the Residents.
2. Double Nickels on the Dime – The Minutemen. I am still in mourning. RIP D.Boon 1958-1985. #1 Love Song is just that. History Lesson Part II sums it all up nicely and everyone who I was with in my formative years at UCLA remembers the over 40 tracks on this gem. See the DKs above for related music, but The Minutemen still are my favorite from back in the day.
On the back of a winged horse
Through the sky pearly grey
Love is leaf-like...
You and me, baby
Blah, blah, blah
E! T! C!
Lyrics to #1 Love Song
1. Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys. Good Vibrations is a great song, but this is what a great album is, and Good Vibrations isn’t on it. To all my friends and family: God Only Knows what I’d be without you.
OK, I guess I kind of lied. It IS in order and #1 is #1 for a reason.
Walking women want to see the Southern Cross at night
And so they set aside a sock and tie their laces tight
Yes, mournful is the melody that echoes in their heads
Without a beat, they march along believing Bach is dead
Bach is Dead.
5. Uniform Federally Printed Paper ballots for the Presidency. Collected and sent to Washington DC for counting. State ballots for everything else. Exception for the two or so million of us who live overseas. Then, some form of secure digital authenticated transaction for voting for president, then for state candidates and issues. Just don’t contract Equifax for that. Those US Based who will be overseas on election day do paper mail-ins.
1. Get rid of Gerrymandering? Will get on that right after we’ve put in comprehensive gun control.
2. Citizen’s United, where money is speech. It’ll always be louder than actual people actually speaking their opinions. See the Cruella DeVoucher confirmation story for more on that.
3. Trump filed for re-election literally right after he was done with his inauguration ceremony. Like, it was the same day or the next day (too lazy to look it up to confirm). He’s gamed the system so that we, the taxpayers, are now paying for his “campaign rallies”.
4. Empirical evidence showing shorter voting times in heavily Democratic districts, especially those with a minority population as its majority, has worked well with voter suppression.
5. Citizen’s United again. Three Voting machine companies have a stranglehold, and their money talks more than me.
6. The press will scream first amendment. The Supreme’s will probably take their side, because it’s a money thing again.
7. It was a good idea when populations of states weren’t that far apart from each other. Wont happen any time soon without a constitutional amendment, and that’s a pipe dream for reasons (too lazy to explain, but state government control is the key).
Thanks for playing. Factual mistakes are all mine. Comment on anything else that will work. </rant>
(I was listing my top 10 fav films in FB, and this is for entry) #2 – Rashomon – (1950). Directed by Akira Kurosawa.
Here’s a regret I have: June 23, 1986, I sat in a fold-out chair in the sports field outside of Pauley Pavilion as a newly minted (albeit 2 years tardy) graduate of UCLA, B.A. in English Creative Writing, and NOT in film, as was my original intention, even though I did make a crappy comedy movie with a couple friends when I was there (Goin’ to Hollywood City, 1984, directed by Frank Marlowe, edited by him and me – fun to make – not very funny though lolol – didn’t make my top ten all time best film list for some reason).
There was a line up of celeb speakers at UCLA that day, I guess, but I was in some kind of transitional weirdo phase, waiting to know if I was going to Peace Corps Kenya or not, and I deliberately brought some headphones and played music throughout the whole Commencement ceremony so I didn’t have to listen to all of their nonsense. Just give me this damn degree that I slaved over for almost seven freaking years (Belushi as Bluto in Animal House: seven freaking years down the drain! I might as well join the fucking Peace Corps!)!
Too bad for me, because one of the speakers was Toshiro Mifune, star of Rashomon (as Tajomaru the Bandit), in Kurosawa’s masterpiece, who was there “For his extraordinary achievements and dedication to perfection in the world of films . . . for helping to increase America’s awareness and appreciation of Japanese culture” according to the commencement program.
Obviously, I hadn’t seen the film, and Japan was, now ironically, one of the last things on my mind, if at all, that day, so I just wanted to collect my diploma and get out and take some photos with the fam (hi late mom! Hi Laura! LYM!) and be done with it all…I guess I was kind of acting like Tajomaru that day, Rashomon’s anti-hero bandit and the center of the “police testimony” that makes up the bulk of the film, boasting about how wonderful I was and blah blah blah everyone else was phony and not as honest and noble as me… I’m not sure when I first saw this film, but I was using it as a creative exercise when I later taught in Japan, so I was aware of the film at least a good 20 years ago…hah, me teaching Kurosawa to Japanese college students…lolol. I probably DID see it at UCLA when I took a bunch of film appreciation classes.
The greatness of Rashomon is that it’s an honest look at the human vanity that exists in all of us (except for me of course…I’m completely chill 100% of the time), and how troubling and challenging it is to affirm it and embrace it. The other greatness is, the film, for its dark themes, emerges full of hope and optimism and that kind of “Keep Calm and Carry On” sensibility found in that old World War II poster (ugh, then the marketers came and ruined that brilliant story, too – but I digress).
The film plot seems simple enough – a seemingly innocuous case of three people (well, two people and a ghost…) telling their story to the police of what happened a couple days back in the dense forest outside the village … and then a fourth story from a hidden witness later on told at the Rashomon gate.
So the facts are: a woman was raped, her nobleman husband dead, and Tajomaru the bandit was involved somehow. Oh and there seems to be a dagger in there somewhere, but no one found it.
The story is framed in the hot, humid Japanese summer of 800 years ago. It unfolds at the massive Rashomon gate, a decaying 12th Century Japanese relic, built to protect Kyoto, but long ago forgotten…and in the rain, the gate teeters before us, what’s left of it, to remind us of how temporary everything is. The heat and humidity portrayed throughout the film give everything a thicker and more difficult lustre (side note: Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” – a film that fought hard to get into my top 10 but fell short – but now I can mention it here lol – was no doubt influenced by pulling in the oppressiveness of a hot humid summer’s day). There are times you can hear the cicadas and birds in the forest, providing another layer of soundtrack to the dramatic scenes as they unfold. Tajomaru’s repeated slapping the bugs off his sweaty body helps to reinforce this oppression.
A woodcutter (played by Takashi Shimura – who also starred in another fabulous Kurosawa film – Ikiru – just two years later) and a monk (played extra-lugubriously by Minoru Chiaki) seeking shelter from the rain have ended up under the gate, and sit in disbelief of the testimony they have just heard at the police magistrate’s compound. The first line in the film is memorable.
Woodcutter: 分からない。。。さっぱり分からない。(I don’t understand it. I just don’t understand it).
A roughly hewn wandering commoner comes to seek shelter at the gate, and asks the two men to relate why they are in such disbelief … and tears off some wood from the gate to make a fire while he listens to the stories.
The three (four!) stories of what happened are then recast … and here lies the vexing center of the film, as all three stories are so very different about the events that transpired. Tajomaru, the dead nobleman (through a spirit medium), the wife, and then, at the end, the woodcutter’s fourth version, all tell their versions of the story.
The difference of the four stories casts a huge doubt on ANY of the stories. Each of the three stories told to the police were told casting the teller in the most favorable light. Tajomaru said he triumphed in an ensuing sword fight, but forgot to take the wife’s expensive dagger. The wife, in a fit of shame, recalls that she plunged her dagger into her husband’s heart after he would not kill her instead. The nobleman, through the medium, says that his failure to protect his wife, and her urging the bandit to kill him to cover up her guilt, and finally the shame the entire ordeal would bring to him and his family left him no choice but to commit ritual suicide with his wife’s dagger, which was later taken from his corpse. The woodcutter says, indeed, there was a sword fight, but only after the wife insulted both men and urged them to fight to the death over her…which they did, hesitantly, and because of their supposed vanity.
The two sword fight scenes, my favorite two scenes, are very different. Tajormaru’s version is the cinematic “Dirty Harry” version, where both men are skilled at their craft and there is much swish-swashing and cling-clanging going on, as the both men thrill at the dance of death. The woodcutter’s version exposes both men as flailing cowards trying more not to get killed than to kill the other man, and there is a lot of terrified heavy breathing in the woodcutter’s version. Tajomaru kills the nobleman who has fallen into some bushes and cannot easily move to get back up. The wife in this last version stares at the scene in utter terror of what she has caused by urging the two men to fight like real men and not cowards.
But the gruff commoner hearing the stories is having nothing of the Woodcutter’s version either, because everyone mentioned the dagger, and there was nothing of it at the police station, so it’s obvious where that dagger went. The woodcutter admits it’s in his possession, and so we are left to not believe anyone.
What happened deep in that grove?
In the end, the rain begins to clear, and an abandoned baby is heard and found by the three men. The commoner immediately begins to strip the baby of all its belongings, but the woodcutter tries to intervene at such injustice. There’s a brief fight as the commoner says, essentially, you are just as much a thief and liar as the rest of us. It’s a dog-eat-dog world…fend for yourself, and he runs off into the clearing rain with most of the baby’s belongings, and an even healthier skepticism toward humanity. The monk and the woodcutter are speechless at the inhumanity. The monk is ready to throw what little faith has has left away, until the woodcutter says, no worries. He already has six mouths to feed at home…a seventh won’t make a difference and walks away with the baby in arms, his head tilted up into the emerging sunshine. The monk’s faith is restored, though it certainly teetered when he found out even the woodcutter wasn’t the most honest of men. The end.
And in this end, we are left with nothing, just four fictional accounts of a crime, that will ultimately have neither resolution nor closure. And a huge decaying gate, well on its way to the Ozymandian longevity hall of fame.
Films buffs will know of the rules Kurosawa broke: Filming up through trees directly into the sun; using mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the actor’s faces; a long tracking shot following the woodcutter in the beginning of the film as he ventures deeper and deeper into the forest glades; the three witnesses to the event talking directly into the camera, forcing you as the viewer to sit in judgement of what is ultimately un-judgeable; and rapid close-up cuts between the trio, establishing their relationships with each other through the various tellings. I found there were more than 450 edits in the film, which puts it well above average for a movie.
Mifune, as Tajomaru, is at his best, and convincing…an actor playing a bandit who is acting as if he is a bandit. Machiko Kyo as the wife, displaying a huge range of raw human emotion from fear to shame to beguiling to panic and regret. Masayuki Mori as the staid nobelman holding himself with great honor in all the scenes, and of course Shimura’s beguiling woodcutter, turning over a new leaf in the end.
The music is a bit over the top at points, but the setting deep in a forest, a fabulous metaphor for hiding who we really are (oh, hey, that’s what #1 is all about all the time!) make this truly one of the greatest films I know.
If you haven’t seen it, even my spoilers won’t seem like spoilers after you watch the film. Each actor had to play the same scene four times in four different ways. I can’t imagine a more interesting production set and going through the paces in the small grove where most of the movie takes place. The budget was so low, they all had to live together during filming in the forest.
Oh, and a final note – about 10 days after not listening to what Toshiro Mifune had to say, I left L.A. for good. You know, because I’m a great guy and all and it was time to seek my fortune out in the world beyond, and I found it in Japan of all places.
This screenplay thing mugged me. I took five days to write 50 pages, then stopped for about eight weeks. Then I took another five to eight hours to finish it off. This is draft one. You are welcome to download, read, and comment, because I already registered it and I’ll sue the crap out of you if you steal any part of it. Hell to the yeah! Everything below is copy/pasted from FB April 28, 2020, embellished here now.
About eight weeks ago, I started writing a screen play. It kind of snuck up on me, and then mugged me for about two weeks. I got hardcore OCD during that brief time.
The good news is: The entire story is already written out all the way to the end. I love the ending…endings are usually the toughest part. Starting is always easy…finishing a project, always tough. Most of the scenes are out of my brain and on paper. The first half dialogue is completely done, the first draft anyway, with all the dialogue and it came out pretty fast and efficiently, about 50 pages done…
The bad news (??) …then it went back again into its cocoon, the rest of the dialogue not finished. The scenes with unwritten dialogue are the most harrowing, and I’m doing a “Charlie Chaplin writes the crucial scene of City Lights during an 18-month hiatus on filming” thing. The old attention span of an ant, which is the real virus circling the globe, has hit hard.
I know what’s going to happen in the rest of the story, and I know who needs to say what, and I know that’s it’s fucking good… what creation from nothing isn’t good? …outside of, say, Team Kaylie, on Netflix which I watch as one watches the slow motion smashing of a car being safety tested with crash-test dummies inside getting flung about here and there.
I’m thinking that the reason why I’m stalling, or hesitating, or procrastinating, or whatever…is that damn, those harrowing scenes, if I don’t get it right, it just becomes an absurd wasted exercise. I’m not sure. I’ve actually never written a screen play before. I’ve done skits, song parodies, and a crapload of academic writing, and the occasional poem, cuz you know, my Bachelor’s is in Writing Poetry after all…and goddammit if I don’t love good metaphors. They are preciously powerful things and I use them in my teaching all the time…that’s all I try to use.
Thing is, though, who is going to read my screen play when it’s done? Who’s going to critique it honestly, and look at it objectively and see if it has potential impact. But of course, it already has had its impact on me. I took a REALLY distant memory, fictionalized a shit-ton of it, and talked out loud to myself about all that stuff, and that the secret of the memory resides, now, with me, alone. The other two main players in that memory have passed, so I am its only herald left walking.
What to do? I need someone to un-Chaplin this, and explain why it needs un-Chaplining. FB friends, fam, acquaintances, and gamer-friends who I know next to nothing about…what say you?
Note: I’m not telling anyone anything about it until its done. Maybe I dropped some hints to a couple of people, but not much to anyone…or I also forgot who I mentioned it to during the feverish time I was writing what I could…
Note: some of the events are actually true. The characters are caricatures, of course. In the end, it’s a work of pure fiction, and I’m not sure if it’s a tragedy, a comedy, or “an undersea Western tragic-comedy musical”.