OK, I’ve updated my stock response now to MAGA-teen-fascist-gate, let me know what you think, FB fans (edits have been made! Several times lolol.)
“The following is not my original metaphor or analogy, but they are my words … the fucking media is framing this whole thing as if we are talking about the weather (who was guilty, the MAGAteen or the Native American Elder?) and nothing is said about the climate (MAGA hats in DC – incendiary from the start; who sent them to DC to petition the government to subjugate a woman’s control over her body?; Where were the chaperones?; Why was the Elder there anyway?; Why should we care about the history of the Native American?; What part did the MAGAphalanx(patent pending) (30+ others) play in the face to face stare down?; Who were the four “Black Hebrew Israelites” and do they matter?; Does the MAGAphalanx making ape sounds and mimicking apes at the “Black Hebrew Israelites” mean anything?; Why did MAGAteen’s mother call them “Black Muslims”; Why did MAGAteen suddenly have GOP/McConnell tied PR firm writing the boy’s “I’m the victim” letter?; So many climate-based questions, etc etc thus far and where’s the media? They are fucking focused on the Rashomonian “event” to find out “what really happened”).
You know, the media needs a fucking horserace, or a boxing match or whatever. I mean, they HAVE to sell soap and boner pills and to pander to your inadequacies, because you know, it’s a living.
Then there’s this video from before the “MAGteen vs Native American Elder” videos.
Get a clue. It DOES take a village to raise a child, and the Covington High School “village”, located in a Kentucky suburb of Cincinnati, raises racists and rapists. There’s a LONG history of video and photo evidence (although Covington HS is doing a bang up job of closing down their sites and removing those videos and photos). Note: I’m too lazy to curate all the links, do your own research.
So, like Climate Change, in which our proudly ignorant president, who tweeted that it would be great to “have a little of that good old fashioned Global Warming right now” in a January arctic blast that’s deep freezing much of the US, and who also tweeted in support of MAGAteen (while misspelling his name), it’s not about the weather today, it’s a bigger and much more complex picture that requires a bit of focus and some higher order thinking skills. I fear there are still a large enough number of people who possess no thinking skills whatsoever, because you know, it’s hard work and all that.
…and the media, well, again, they just won’t do their job properly.
In short: Forget the WEATHER and look at the CLIMATE.”
I use these three tags regularly for posts…
#MAGACONJOB – because you know, we have a master snake oil salesman sitting in the Oval Office with his finger over the nuclear button. He’s also doing a fabulous job of sucking the air out of every room and keeping our attention completely on him, so that little fuckers like the MAGA teen can be poster children for privilege of all kinds.
#kentuckyfriedturtle – Because Mitch McConnell has been the biggest enemy of the US Constitution for how many years now? He’s also involved in this incident through his crony network. He’s really where we need to focus, but #MAGACONJOB just keeps doing things so incredibly moronic we just can’t look away. He is also the sole current owner of the government shutdown. Trump got it rolling, but McConnell is the one feeding it with his inaction.
#dominionistveep – I don’t want Trump going anywhere unless this creepy creepy CREEPY fucker goes with him. Pence’s world view is the scariest of them all.
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 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>
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”.
1. I turned 58 on December 1. Thanks for your birthday wishes. I share birthdays with the late great Richard Pryor, Bette Middler, the disgraced Woody Allen, and the putrid piece of shit Senator from Florida, Rick Scott, among of course many other people. Birthdates determine nothing about your future.
2. My friend and long ago classmate Charlie Williams announced that he’s leaving Facebook at the end of this month. I think it’s the right move, and it triggered something in me, and today, I’ve spent time unfollowing between 50 to 75 groups that I’ve been in on Facebook. I’ve had friends leave FB for various reasons, and, you know, by staying here, we are all contributing to…well, if you don’t know it by now, it’s not even worth commenting. It’ll be hard to leave FB because it’s one of my lifelines to family and friends. What are the alternatives to serving a billionaire who lied and cheated his way into his billions, and is now quite alright that the thing he built is one of the biggest sources of misinformation on the planet. The alternatives are serving the billionaires at twitter, who pretty much do the same thing; serving the billionaires at Instagram (aka Facebook-owned but for the younger generations); serving someone else in order to stay in touch with friends and family. No matter what we choose, it’s the wrong choice. We have no choice, so I’m thinking what to do.
3. The groups I’ve unfollowed are 80% political, with the remaining 20% various news agencies and other weird websites. I’ve kept some web comics sites, some art and design sites, and of course the UU sites, who remind me that religious points of view are embraced by a vast majority of humans and I need to keep my mind as open as possible. Already, I’m seeing a lot more posts from family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances that were being drowned out by all the other flak I had on my “news feed”.
4. I spent a good three or so years as an online adjunct for St. Thomas University, my former employer, and subsequent alma mater (Ed.D. in Ed. Leadership), and I taught a few doctoral level courses about Social Media Management, naively extolling the virtues of the major social media websites. Now I realize I was duped like we’ve all been duped. The hardest part is admitting the dupe. I actually have a lot to say about higher education and education in general, but I think I’d probably have a serious brain aneurysm if I started to do the research that I want to do. I’d be doubled over in rage at the ghetto education has become globally, and especially the anti-educational road that the USA is barreling down.
5. I’m very thankful for my current job. I work with people from over 80 countries. I recently attended a talk at NYU-Abu Dhabi (they have a huge campus on Saadiyat Island…actually kind of hermetically sealed off from Abu Dhabi proper) and their main problem was, they spent all their time recruiting students globally, but their teaching staff come from a homogenous educational background (that being from Western Universities mostly from the English speaking countries). They have a huge disconnect, whereas our college student body comes from open-enrollment Emerati students who have the amazing value of faculty from, as I said, people from over 80 countries. The irony of it all … that’s just the tip of the iceberg… I have a lot of creative freedom in what I do, and have had many valuable working relationships here … and I’ve been humbled and reminded daily of my world view talking with the faculty and staff here. Long story short, this is the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere. I’ve had some frustrations, but I have to say, it’s the least stressful job I’ve experienced in my lifetime, and the opportunities for collaboration, whether with my Italian friend / colleague who will need my help with instructional design issues, my Jordanian and South African colleagues looking to collaborate with designing PD sessions on assessment, or the teachers who I coach from Mexico, India, Panama, Malaysia, Iraq, Nigeria, Tanzania, Australia, Pakistan, Romania…it’s been a really fabulous opportunity and I look forward to our transition to competency-based education at the college. If I write anything (and I still am not disciplined enough) it will be about the diversity of the people I work with. The government of the UAE is, I believe, doing their best to leverage the wealth that oil has brought them, and they are doing their best to diversify their economy. Of course, the road to where they want to go is bumpy, and seat belts are fastened. So far, everything I see here is forward looking, especially from my view inside the college.
6. With that said, moving to Okinawa is somewhere on the horizon, but I’m wondering if I should try to crowdsource some cash so I can have an adventure in Rwanda, first… there are still a lot of teachers who need guidance, and I wonder if there’s a place for me in or around Kigali. What do you think?
The evening of September 10th, 2001, I lay on my back in the dark. I was on a secluded beach, barely 1/2 a mile long, on Tioman Island, Malaysia. The island is a two-hour speedboat ride due east off the southeastern tip of peninsular Malaysia. Take a few moments if you will, to locate the country on a map somewhere and see if you see the island. It’s shaped like a bowling pin.
Tioman is so far away from any city center that sure enough, as I had suspected, I was able to gaze up into the heavens, as I had many times and many years before when I served my country in the United States Peace Corps in Kenya. A lot of good memories flowed within and through me as I looked again at our glorious home called the Milky Way, and I could see where we on Earth are positioned within this galaxy, and I could remember again what tiny place I occupied in this universe of ours. I stared deep into that inky blue sky, savoring what might be my last chance to find such a remote place for a long time. The tide was out, and the waves provided the background music, while the salt air moved in and out of my body. I thought a lot about how good my life was, that I had a loving wife and beautiful daughter and that I could share good and bad times with them through my journey on earth. My view of the night sky was relatively unobstructed, as the waning moon would not come out until I was deeply sequestered in sleep in my air conditioned “chalet” that lie just 10 meters behind me as I gazed up. What was really exciting about that night was the anticipation of seeing a shooting star again. Our home, Earth, is showered daily with bits of ancient rock that find their way to our outer atmosphere, then, in a beautiful brief moment, they penetrate the atmosphere and tumble burning until they are vaporized. If you are good at using your peripheral vision, you can catch a star for the fraction of a second that it takes to burn up. If you are very lucky, you might even get a single second burn-up, or, for the very luckiest, a two-second show. A unique thing about this is that you are probably the only person on earth who gets this show at this particular moment, as if it’s a special gift, just for you…
That evening, though, I wasn’t alone. I had just finished the second of a two-day vacation there, with my good friends Julie and Ali Hassan (not their real names), and their good friends, another married couple Pesha and Abudu (not their real names, either), a nice young pair in their own right. At 39, I am a good 6 years older than Ali, who is the oldest of the four. They are all UK educated Malays with respectable jobs (Ali works for the Ministry of Education and I met him here in Hakodate Japan. Julie is a teacher. Pesha works for the formula 1 circuit in Malaysia and Abudu is a uni professor turned advertising man). They are, by Malaysian standards, upper middle class, though their income compared to US or Japanese standards, is quite small. I invited them to this special show on the beach, because, as Abudu had said…what are we gonna do without TV?!?! He said this in a half joking matter, but all of them are children of the media age, more than I. Ali loves his Playstation 2, and I brought him a popular game unavailable in Malaysia, but easy to get here in Japan.
The night sky induced a state of semi-dreaminess in the five of us as we lay there. A long silence was split by Pesha, who asked where the moon was. I said that it would be coming out later in the night. In a surprised voice, she said to me “how do you know that?” and my answer, after thinking back to my Kenya experience, was “I just know.”
I didn’t really realize how much Kenya was in me. One thing I learned there was the pulsation of the moon. I pretty much know whether the moon is waxing or waning. I pretty much know it’s cycle of rising later as it wanes and earlier as it waxes. I love seeing the crescent of the new moon, too. It reminds me a lot of the small ornament on top of the Witu village Mosque. Seeing the crescent is one of the most magical parts of moon watching, almost as if being present at the birth of a new child. Living in that darkness in Kenya made me appreciate the short life that we all have, and makes me live each day as if it might be the last. Work hard, play hard, love hard…the human condition.
After being on our backs in that inky, milky darkness in a half dream state for about 30 minutes of the greatest of all TV shows, the four of them decided to turn in for the night. Our trip back to Kuala Lumpur the next day would consist of a two-hour boat ride back to the mainland, followed by a six-plus hour bus ride, so they wanted to get their beauty sleep. I, however, took pleasure that I could be in solitude with the Milky Way for a few minutes longer, free of all the stresses of everyday life, and the eventuality of returning back to Japan to work. I took my time, hoping to glance a passing satellite, and follow it on its lonely journey across the face of the sky..but no luck. A few airplanes whispered across at 35,000 feet, and their blinking red and white lights heralded their passing, transporting people and families from one experience to the next through the secret night. I looked up again at the Milky Way splotched like a faint cloud behind most of the other distant specs of light dotting the sky. I looked at Pink-brown Venus, our next door neighbor, the brightest light in that night sky. It was so peaceful and beautiful. There I was again: standing tangent to the earth, waiting to leave the gravitational pull and drift into and through that vast expanse of gas and dust from which we all have come and must return. I’ll never forget it. I’ll never forget my time in Kenya…or those brief 48 hours on Tioman, where I got to see a Kodomo dragon slink away into the bush, a truly giant, and disappearing, species of lizard unique to the region.
“But the days grow short, when you reach September”
The next day, September 11th was different. It consisted of a two-hour ride on a larger boat. I shot some video of my four friends, and they made fun of me and we all had a good laugh. We ate cookies and chips and drank our bottled water. We waved at a few ships of the Singapore Navy resting at Tioman before pursuing, in conjunction with the Malaysian Navy, the South China Sea pirates, who roamed the area southeast of Tioman. We watched as we passed by islets tinier than the 6 mile by 2 mile Tioman. I dreamed of building a secluded house with a giant NO TRESSPASSING sign on one of the tiny drops of rock outcropping and establishing the Republic of Larry, population 3, and 3 cats. It was a nice fantasy. We arrived at the jetty town and waited another two hours for the bus. I did some quick email to people, bought some little gifts and said farewell to Tioman. During the sleepless six hour bus ride back to KL, I played a game that Ali had beamed me through his Palmtop, a game called “helicopter rescue”.
“When the autumn weather/turns the leaves to flame/ One hasn’t got time/for the waiting game”
In the game, I was the daring helicopter pilot, rescuing good guys who were jailed up and guarded by bad guys and their rockets, missles, tanks, planes and all sorts of bad guy things. I could advance to the next round by rescuing at least 9 of my 12 compatriots. I had six hours to play the game on the bus. There were so many maneuvers to learn in those six hours. The copter rising from the ground, fast forward, slow forward, hover, slow backward, fast backward, shoot straight, drop a bomb while hovering, safe takeoff, safe landing. I would lose a guy if they shot down my helicopter, or if I landed in the improper position. There was a line in the game that I could pass which was the safe zone. The enemy planes couldn’t shoot me if I were past that line. My little stick guys would rush out of the copter and into the headquarters building if I landed safely in my safe zone. I could only help four at a time, and had to return through hostile territory to help the others to safety. I worked my way up to being able to rescue 12 guys in each of three rounds before my three helicopter lives were used up. In six hours, I managed a score of over 1000 points.
At one point during the game, we stopped to rest for thirty minutes at a roadside rest stop. Malaysia has better than Interstate quality roads these days. They are 4 lane divided highways with large shoulders that band up and down the western side of the peninsula. The rest area was full of Chinese Restaurants and background music of Malaysian Pop Bands played REALLY LOUD. The bands were trying their best to imitate American pop bands, I suppose, and they pretty much sounded like them, only they sung in Bahasa Malaysia, the Malay language or in Chinese. I bought a mask from Sarawak, which is on the Island of Borneo across the South China Sea. There had been some ethic killings on Sarawak recently. People getting decapitated and whatnot nonsense. It’s a cheap tourist mask, to be sure, but I like the colors and patterns, and I’m collecting masks now that I bought one on my trip to Bali, the Hindu enclave in the world’s largest Muslim nation, in 1999. That was it for the bus ride. We got back to KL, said goodbye to Petra and Abudu, who disappeared back into the city of 2 million, and took the subway to a taxi and back to Julie and Ali’s. I showered off all that salt water, and dressed for my looming airplane ride: brown slacks and a long sleeve button down greenish shirt. Airplanes get cool and dry on long routes, and I was scheduled for a six and a half hour redeye commencing from 1:20AM on the 12th.
“The days dwindle down/to a precious few”
My bags packed and my body and mind refreshed, we went to an outdoor restaurant in the late evening. It consisted of stalls selling Indian, Iranian and Malay specialties. There were about 40 tables under a covered area. The menu signs were all in English, my favorite one said “we guarantee you fast service, no matter how long it takes!” Most of the signs, though, I couldn’t read as they were in Arabic. Most likely passages from the Koran, I assumed. I had some tandoori chicken and butter chicken with a scrumptious bit of roti bread, round, fat and very nice, to sop up all that buttery oil and curry. To top it all off, I had a mango lassi served, incredibly, in one of those two and a half liter beer steins you see if you drink in a beer hall anywhere in Germany. There was no way I could finish it. At the table next to us were two guys, one a Malay and the other, his friend, looked of Chinese extraction. It was gratifying to see, really, that Malaysia is a multi-linugal, multi-cultural society where freedom of religion is a very important part of the country, despite the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in some of the poorer northern parts of the peninsula. They were chatting in English to each other on this sultry night. Julie , Ali and I were all a bit tired from our trip to Tioman. Then, the Malay guy’s cellphone rang, most folks here have Nokias…they are everywhere and they are all manufactured here these days, along with most computers and hi tech stuff. We tried to ignore him as he talked, but he kept saying something about how first one plane hit, then another hit in the other building. Anyway, we were finished eating that delicious food, so I paid and we left…I had a cab to catch to the airport, which was still another hours’ drive away from where we were.
We drove over to Julie’s aunt and uncle’s house. They lived in a luxurious apartment in a part of KL where all the embassies are. The richest and most sumptuous part of town. Needless to say, Julie’s uncle is a very successful businessman. I was surprised, because I had met her aunt a week earlier, though I didn’t know it at first. The aunt had given me a ride to the Petronas towers, the second tallest towers in the world (China now has the tallest tower, in Shanghai, I think), which contains a gigantic, American style, American class shopping mall, all of six floors and possibly over 150 shops, including a 12 theater cineplex where I saw Kubrick/Speilberg’s A.I. for 3 US bucks. A.I. is set in a fictional futuristic New York City. The reason I didn’t recognize the aunt at first was that her head was uncovered. She wasn’t wearing the head covering that most devout Moslem Women wear in Malaysia, probably because she wasn’t out in public and maybe hadn’t expected us. She had beautiful long black hair, with heavy accents of gray, for she was, after all, somewhere in her early 60’s. Seemed a pity to keep that beautiful head of hair covered up, but that was her belief. I wondered why Julie never wore one, but her generation is obviously more liberal in its tolerance system. As we came in to the apartment, they led us to sit down and switched on the TV. They put CNN on. That’s when I saw first one plane hit, then another hit in the other building. Within 5 minutes, it was time for me to get into the cab for the drive to the airport. I stood outside with Julie, Ali, the aunt and uncle. My body was shaking. It was about midnight in KL, exactly 12 hours later than the real, non-A.I. N.Y.C. I shook Julie’s uncle’s hand, it was warm and firm. The aunt let me shake her hand, too. I said goodbye to Ali and tried to shake Julie’s hand, but she gave me a hug instead. I almost forgot to wave goodbye as the cab pulled away, because my body was still shaking. I tried to fix their four faces in my mind as I left. They were smiling, and I was smiling, or I imagine I was smiling, I can’t remember.
As I drove to KL International Airport, I couldn’t think of anything. We drove by the two towers, the Petronas towers. They were standing, the second tallest buildings in the world, the tallest twin towers in the world, encircled on several floors with beautiful lights, which nevertheless paled in comparison to Tioman’s magical milky way light show, but still, beautiful for their manmade attempt to recreate nature’s profound glory. The darkened highway was empty and we zoomed at 120kph, past Mosques silhouetted against the night sky, past neon signs in Chinese, Malay and English, with the occasional Tamil sign here and there, for there is also an Indian minority here. Just inside the lobby of the airport, again, were huge televisions, all tuned to CNN, and all surrounded by people watching first one plane hit, then the other hit the other building. I went to the toilet, which was situated next to a small prayer room for Muslims. My stomach was suddenly not so good. My appetite was gone. Later at the departure gate, I stood in line with the other Japanese returning to Nagoya. Next to our gate, we had to pass by a bunch of white South Africans heading back to Cape Town. Everyone boarding both flights was getting patted down in a newly meticulous search. First the arms, then the back torso and back legs, then the front torso and finally the front legs. I was asked to open all of my bags that I was carrying on the plane. I had to open a box of three clay cups I had bought for my family in the Petronas Towers mall a few days earlier. I had to unzip every pocket in my camera case, and pull out my video camera and show them that my telephoto lens was a telephoto lens. Then, as I entered the plane, I had to show my passport again, with its gold embossed cover, eagle with the thirteen olive leaves in one claw and thirteen arrows in the other claw, inky blue on the cover, like the night sky of Tioman. “Passport” above the eagle and “United States of America” in italics underneath the eagle. Then we, me and a plane full of Japanese and the sprinkling of Malays (the pilots, too, Malay as this was Malaysian Airlines) went shaking, or singing, up into the milky way obscured sky, turned to the northeast, I could see out of the left window seat near the rear of the plane those two towers again, such tall towers they were, twin towers, among the tallest in the world. Then, those two towers had passed away.
“And these few precious days/I’ll spend with you. These precious days I’ll spend with you.”
*Quoted lyrics from “September Song” Weill and M. Anderson