Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Our tax dollars at work

Try as hard as you may to walk the straight and narrow, life is full of minor annoyances. And like clockwork, it happens unsuspectedly. If you will, free-associate a rotating, swirling bolo flying out of nowhere that hogties your ankles from which, before any instinct can react, cartoon physics apply, yanking the rug from under causing your mug to be smashed flat against the pavement. Case in point:

December 29, 2003

City of Chicago
Department of Revenue
P.O. Box 88298
Chicago, IL 60680-1298

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to contest the parking ticket # 0043884120-14 issued for code violation 9-64-190 (b) Meter Violation, Central Business District.

On the date in question of the supposed violation listed above, I parked my vehicle across from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago located at 280 South Columbus Drive in a metered parking space. The relevant parking meter numbered 900067 was inoperable and/or malfunctioning as indicated by a code “JA 77” which flashed from its display.

Just to avoid any possibility of a meter violation, I consciously pressed the button labeled “right” to indicate which parking space my vehicle actually occupied because another vehicle parked to the left of the meter wrote a note stating that the meter was indeed broken AND, to be doubly sure even sacrificed two quarters into the meter to no effect. In fact, one of the quarters sat in the slot without falling into the chamber.

Imagine my irritation to see a ticket placed underneath the windshield wiper upon returning. I incorrectly presumed that any competent parking meter attendant would notice the broken meter. However, such is always my mistake to give the benefit of the doubt especially to that most treasured of what our wonderful city offers---the civil servant. Again my only evidence to support my defense is the code “JA 77” (the first 7 was actually backwards) on the parking meter display as it is not my habit to lug around a camera to document any perceived parking infractions that I overtly seek to transgress.

Please allow me to thank YOU and the exceptionally wonderful work of your ever-vigilant office. It is, I might add, a pleasure to do business as always.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

On watching Thunderbirds are GO! late night

Time to remember S.H.A.D.O.

Or Supreme Headquarters, Alien Detection Organization, the good guys of "UFO", a long-forgotten Gerry Anderson vehicle from the early seventies that used to air eight o'clock Sunday nights on Channel Nine right before bedtime. Naturally I begged Mom the extra hour just to see Commander Straker and his ultra-secret (super-technological) forces based in a hidden defense base on the moon battle those evil extraterrestials who crave to harvest human flesh as a food source. Not to be confused with its better-known counterpart "Space: 1999" featuring the then-husband and wife duo of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, both cast-offs, of course, from the original cast of "Mission: Impossible" (It seems the two gravitated toward adventure/fantasy series containing colons).

Which differs from S.H.I.E.L.D.

Or Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage and Law Enforcement Division that Marvel Comics issued with Agent Nick Fury, former sergeant of those "Howlin' Commandoes" from the Big One, World War Two and his cronies, Dum-Dum Dugan and Jasper Sitwell to fight the crime syndicate HYDRA.

Childhood heroes like childhood memories never ever die.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Technologically Lazy

Five-eight-eight-two-three-hundred, Empire...

The automated telephone system plus the proliferation of interactive web sites online really equals easy living. Those who thought jumping into your car to drive somewhere quickly ought to know that complete lazy-ass convenience of planting your butt comfortably typing or dialing some numbers away. Why find an excuse to stay home anymore? Real-life "human" contact is overrated. Besides any craving of flesh and blood can be satisfied watching any of the multitudinous "reality" programs on prime-time television. That in and of itself is enough to embrace your keyboard.

Because life as hard as it can be only gets better with machines. A blasphemous sentiment given the cynicism of cybernetic paranoia which foretell of gloom and doom from epic battles of man versus that very dangerous thing, the computer. Beware the circuitry rebelling, becoming sentient to overthrow the weakling that is the frail human race, as every Asimov-to-be whines. Growing up enamored of revisionist, modernist utopias supersleek and abstract begs for the modernity of science and technology that manufactures comic book gizmos into actual, workable gadgetry. Being George Jetson pressing a minimum of buttons, buzzing around in a bubbled flying saucer two-seaters or having a robot maid named Rosie clean your already antiseptic digs is our popular cultural (and technological) birthright.

So damn your lion-clothed Charlton Heston for screaming "damn". Tobor lives.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Frankly speaking

God knows (and He does) I love a hot dog. I can seriously eat one for each meal if left to my own devices. And this from someone who cooked Oscar Meyer weiners for breakfast between the ages of eight to eleven until a classmate perished the thought. Back then, the mush of pig parts and entrails wrapped in casing that functioned as my convoluted pre-adolescent logic basically lumped the frankfurter into the overall sausage family.

Charred, boiled, or even sliced in half to be pan-fried like Mom used to, any way, it matters not so long as these puppies ended up in my stomach. And dressed up, too. My motto is "Drag it through the garden, baby" or Chicago style. First a steamed bun-some say a poppy seed; others plain, either is good- and then the dog. After which follows a long squirt of yellow mustard and narrow furrows of raw, chopped onions, sweet neon green relish, two or three half slices of tomato, several whole but small jalapeno peppers and the piece de resistance, a shake or two of the celery salt. VIOLA! All your major food groups piled in one easy-to-eat packaged meal-to-go. A joint like Byron's even offers additional toppings like shredded lettuce and sliced green peppers for the ultimate choice of "Everything".

But for damn sake, NO KETCHUP (or catsup) ever. That stuff belongs on Coney Island red hots along with grilled onions or sauerkraut. The difference is geographical like deep dish to thin crust pizza. In Windy City hot dogs we trust.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The King is Dead, Long Live the Queen!

The inevitable happened and who can blame her, really.

Year after year listening to the former Trader Vic's barbeque chef critique the "tookey" prepared annually by his son as being "too dry" or the smashed, not mashed potatoes not being smooth and creamy enough like it used to be prepared in the Army by him for an entire battalion. And the weak culinary excuse of "it's supposed to be that way" for the lumpy consistency of viscuous gravy.

So no more willy-nilly recipes concocted from memory or wildly creative interpretations of tried and true traditions or slipshod, half-ass stop-and-go cooking just to catch the latest replay from the football game because the lady of the house now demands precision, exact measurements. "Follow the directions, actually read those cookbooks stuffed away up in the cabinets behind the cans of Van De Camps baked beans (that taste so damn good alongside a frankfurter, i.e., weiner sans the bun) AND FOCUS...stop going off on tangents being easily distracted while the food burns!" she commands. Those days of laissez-faire holiday meals belong to the distant past as sadly, meekly and humbly I relinquish the spatula.

Tomorrow the wife dons the toque, assuming all responsibility to roast the bird as well as all the fixings. The king is dead, long live the queen!

Monday, November 24, 2003

A Manhattan Night

Sad to say, but Charlotte continued a recent trend to imbibe heavily. Ordinarily, a cold soft drink of the Coke family suffices to quench my thirst but somehow the temptation of a per diem on the road justifies the frill of liquor. Sitting at the sushi bar downing Kirin after Sapporo to chase warm sake tastes so much better washing down expense account sashimi. Of course, this is succeded by a nightcap of single-malt whiskey at the bar watching the latest scores on ESPN.

It started innocently enough in Boston actually with the Pappy. The two of us passed the evening away, waiting over an hour and a half for a table at Legal with a couple of Black and Tans. After the surf and turf and trekking in blustery chill about a half mile only to discover that all showings of Lost in Translation sold out, the remaining option left meant activating the backup plan to locate a bar for drinks. So to avoid the cold weather, we headed back in a cab to the hotel bar, a lovely place called the Encore Lounge which immediately proved an inspired choice. The bartender played the straight man for the comedy act that was the piano bar and subsequently Amateur Night. Five Manhattans later listening to the semi-professional wannabes from Ole Blue Eyes to imitation Ethel Mermans only added to the illusion of the booze going down smooth.

Imagine shooting the whole wad drinking. What next...discotheques?

Friday, November 21, 2003

Year of the Monkey (Devil Child)

Time does fly.

The devil monkey child himself turns twelve today. And for someone composed of genetic material predisposed to Sumo proportions, his lack of food intake-which is not to be confused with his appetite as the boy loves his sweets- beguiles the whole family especially considering that his former linebacker dad Willie is often mistaken for Bolo (think Asian muscle man/karate killer from Enter the Dragon) and his mom, my sister, the former high school cheerleader, packs on some meat herself.

But his aversion to eating seems not to affect his height at all. He already stands five foot, two inches tall, with an adult shoe size of seven and a half, weighing a mere eighty pounds tops, a veritable skinny beanhole much like his uncle was at the same age. Those genes rarely fall far from the tree, you know. Or perhaps what really accounts for being thin as a rail might be his strange and very un-Asian dietary habit of eating cheese as if born in Sicily, a weird medical hypothesis given my lactose intolerance that resulted in years of my father every Saturday morning hauling me on the Clark bus headed all the way north to Howard for an allergy shot in my butt at first and later my upper left arm (which may explain why I never flinch at the sight of blood, or sharp needles for that matter).

Yet given his size, the perplexing thing vexing his parents especially because of their former athletic glories is his complete disinterest in team sports. When asked by his sports-obsessed family who religiously golf, hurt themselves annually playing full contact tackle football at the family Turkey Bowl, play league Chicago-style Clincher slow pitch softball (no gloves allowed, baby) or shoot four-on-four indoor basketball which sport he likes the best, no doubt the not-so-subtle pressure weighs heavier than the two hundred and fifty pounds of barbells and dumbbells on a bench in his basement. It somewhat pained them at first to slowly realize their son is not the next coming of Ichiro, but to their credit, both resigned themselves to his lack of hand-eye coordination. Simply put, my nephew is a bookworm prone to mathematical geekiness, the chatty, studious type who loves geography, Mario Brothers and Harry Potter.

So good for him that recently he began taekwondo lessons out of his own accord. Already he broke a couple of boards to achieve his yellow belt.

So for his birthday, another book might be in order. Perhaps, the whole set of the Chronicles of Narnia.

Yeah, not a bad present at all.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

"Love, Exciting and New..."

Finally, love conquers all...

Especially at the business end of a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun. But as usual the only redeemable part about this overseas Hatfield between McCoy feud facsimile might be the sweet music playing when the guilty parties mouth, "I do." Somehow the inmates running the asylum left the door open to the room housing the victrola where the only songs left were:

1) Pachelbel's Canon in D
2) Debussy's Clair de Lune
3) Mozart's Romanze from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
4) Tan Dun's Eternal Vow
5 and 6) Sade's By Your Side and Kiss of love
7, 8 and 9) Roberta Flack's Feel Like Makin' Love, The Closer I Get To You and Tonight, I Celebrate Your Love (with Peabo Bryson)
10) Barry White's Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe
11) Destiny Child's Dangerously in Love
12) The Reverend Al Green's Let's Stay Together (long version, of course)
13) Ole' Blue Eye's (Love Is) The Tender Trap
14) Macy Gray's I Try
15) Toni Braxton's Breathe Again
16) Babyface's Lady, Lady
17, 18 and 19) Taiwanese love songs from the sixties by assorted artists.

Strangely the needle still worked.

So Bob Eubanks, what say you to magnanimity and allow the newly wed contestants at the very least a thirty second headstart before setting the hounds loose? Before this sorry excuse for Sadie Hawkins Day turns into a lopsided three-legged potato sack hop.

Hell, it is only the decent thing to do.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Notes on achieving masterhood

Thin planks cleft in half, splintered and serrated edges reconstructing a karate chop. Jujitsu flip the whole bundle around the broken joints without any wood glue. It builds character and external form from the hip, bent forward with eyes trained on the target. Losing sight prompts a sneer and the punitive whack upside the head. So how thick is the color yellow?

Contrary to popular belief, boards do actually hit back.

Friday, September 12, 2003

The loneliest numbers

Our world, that wonderful talking box, continues to crumble.

First the Tunnel King permanently "slipped on a bar of soap" and magnificently subtracted yet another integer from that magic number of seven. On the road to Zanzibar that is to be expected. Because even centenarians eventually wear out their welcome onstage awshucksing the crowd, waving the flag while one-lining prewritten material. But that paled in comparison to what happened last night on the irony of all days.

The Man in Black said "don't to worry" one last time and who else but Jack Tripper seriously pratfalls. And the ring of fire burns brightly and loudly. Chrissie, though, is shocked, dropping her Thighmaster to the floor. Where in heaven is Tex, anyway?

Three is company after all.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Remembrance Because of Things Passing By

On Highway 301 South, Edisto Drive, one mile out of Orangeburg just past the rosed gardens, he pointed ahead to the oncoming bend in the road, at the fruit stand owned by Jewel and her oldest son Monte Philips now that her husband Monroe passed. The corrugated structure still looked makeshift despite all these years, a silver revival tent around which a fairly modernized refrigeration system kept the perishable produce fresh as the van sped by. The old place should be only one minute away on the left.

Hong Kong Restaurant, where the Brother Reverend Heywood headed twice a week after his show for his Lobster Cantonese style, shut down almost fifteen years ago when the ungrateful sons of the landlord refused to renew the lease. Flanked by an outdoor pool, the ranch building housing not only the kitchen and dining area but party room and huge pantry for storage, belonged to the Palmetto Motel, part of the small empire of businesses run by the fittingly named Wilson Lee, a roly-poly walking cliche of Mayberry, RFD which also included a slaughterhouse whose roadside billboard advertised "custom killing". Their delusions to convert the banquet room into a fancy nightclub called Bogarts proved too fancy and too rich by way of entertainment for the resident redneck folk unaccustomed to such city extravagances. This fatal error in judgement began what proved to be the dismantling of a business, the ruin of a fortune and the besmirching of a legacy.

And as the van turned into the vacant lot, nothing remained except white gravel. Nothing so much as a grave marker for any to see. All but the memory is gone.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Pak Pui Chi

Too much caffiene from endless cups of joe and way too many packs of Marlboros over the years ate away at his scrawny musculature, shrivelling an already skinny man even skinnier. The effect is positively skeletal. His legendary vanity a mere shell of what once was, when as family jokes go decades ago, a younger Miu Wa caught him in front of the mirror meticulously blow-drying and primping his Vitalised side part, caterwauling, "You are so beautiful...to me, can't you see..." even ornerier than Joe Cocker.

Looking at the scarecrow in front of me now, it is painful to conjure up those images of the Chinese Tony Manero who used strut about Argyle Street sans paintcans as Hip Sing, betting the ponies and clacking the mah jong tiles. Of him playing the swank Playboy Club Keyholder trying to emulate the lothario alongside the notorious black sheep of the family, Uncle Chuck. Or to watch the man scootering about in his Chevy Vega, barely negotiating the old ninety-degree-angled S-turn on Lake Shore Drive en route to Chinatown proper with family crammed in the combustible back.

Sure, every Christmas after waiting tables at Tin Lung every night six days a week, he deemed to herd the brood of his nieces and nephews, all five of us, downtown on the El into Woolworths or Montgomery Ward for our annual pick of model battleships or the latest Barbie (Only one gift per kid, though so as not to spoil our pampered Americanized asses). But that was then.

He is sixty years old, fifteen years younger than his older brother who looks prosperous.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Walterboro, SC

Off Jeffries Boulevard the faded, peeling sign looked unhurried as twin rows of empty lightbulb sockets rimming around the rickshaw font letters sat lazily still, completely out of time. Not long ago an attempt to repaint it produced the circus effect of badly outlined lipstick. Its worn bareness stood out against the electronic debonair of its city-slick cousins like a neglected child left home alone.

The parking lot adjacent the building allowed for willy-nilly angled parking as is countryfolk custom. Loose white gravel crunched beneath our weight, casting ghostly-powdered footprints on the linoleum floor entering our China Garden.

Water-stained wood panelling populated by framed orientalia around the ubiquitous aquarium of pale carp greeted a meek hey. To the left of the glass door, a warped greasy counter concealed an old-fashioned cash register, short stacks of take-out menus and stabbed tickets the only evidence of business. Next to it rested two gumball machines filled with sugared candy. Above these two football schedule posters from ten years ago listing local propietors pronouncing the obligatory allegiance to either Clemson or South Carolina are scotch-taped to the wall. Both walls flanked by rows of red-vinyl booths enclosed a smattering of mismatched Wal-Mart tableclothes covering four-top and long tables; it is a place that has seen better times.

Third uncle Chi and his wife who were watching ChinaStar network news on the satellite hookup in the back while doing sidework step out front, arms open to welcome the all of us back home.

Friday, August 22, 2003

"water passes slowly through flatlands."

Or so it seems racing like a bullet down endless asphalt highway, pitch-black save for flourescent dashes whose hypnotic Morse Code spell is only broken by the staccato mechanical snores of the devil monkey children, outstretched and crucified as if painted by Gericault; their alternate wheezes, snorts and neighs an odd urban Cagian orchestra incongruent to the Grand Ole Opry playing on the front windshield.

All signs pointed to Yoknapatawpha County until dawn when one exit ramp away from Walterboro, other cars in the faster outside lane began their telltale chorus of honks. Immediately we knew. But of course the innocuous slow leak in the front passenger tire my sister hinted at is now a crumpled and flapping flat, so much so as to be unsalvageable. Lucky for us the tire shop happened to be less than two miles down the road and just three blocks around the bend from China Dragon.

The mechanic who prescribed the new Goodyear only required five minutes to install, even rotating the back passenger tire to the front. Inside the run-down shack of an office cooled by dust-caked room air conditioner circa 1970 fake wood-grained model aided by an oscillating electric fan tucked behind a chrome hubcap display, the owner scribbled out the bill while pontificating against the big make as we waited, sweating. Outside it was ninety-four degrees, sunny with about ninety percent humidity.

Just like I left it nearly eleven years ago.

Friday, August 15, 2003

On the road, again

Go, Speed Racer, go.

The last time was so long ago, leaving Dodge high on the saddle, Passport set on high and blackhawked Belfour in the crease flopping around on-the-air. That cannonball run mimicked all the previous ones except now add on Trixie, Pops, Spritle and even Chim Chim. The whole kit and keboodle. Only poor Sparky gets left behind. Back then, the Mach Five cum Protege blazed a blistering pace no slower than ninety hours miles per hour. John E. Law be damned.

Those were the good old days. Set the clock and aim for the Skyway after rush hour down through Indy headed toward Memphis passing by Dollywood into the Land of the Colonel before winding the Blue Mountains on the edge of the Tobacco Road in twelve hours flat, give or take a stopover or two for fuel and the occasional leak.

And all for what? Just to languish the dog days in ultra-slow motion as the breakneck hustle and bustle of the big city readily fades in the rear-view mirror? Tailgating two inches behind a rusted Chevy chugging along ten miles under the speed limit teaches that lesson, you know. No, the real reason to head south is to trow the ubiquitous U.S. Army-issue duffel bags taxidermied with frozen ribeyes, boxes of jumbo shrimp and the occasional striped bass from the Santee compliments of Drunk Uncle Chuck, he who fills the beer glass with two ice cubes before pouring a lukewarm Lowenbrau upon waking up.

Third Uncle Chi deserves a break today long enough to welcome a distracting game of mah jong. Gambling courses through the blood, of course and with his brother the casino boat VIP pocketing a roll, let the tiles clack. Besides food aplenty beckons.

"Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer...he's a demon on wheels."

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Rerun (Not Fred Berry)

So it made me laugh. The sheer chutzpah of Dirty Dozen on Ice forced a tear of irony. Rugged G.I. Joe murderer's row cons effeminately figure-eighting background routines while slitting Nazi throat really asphyxiates the funny bone. My stomach hurt to see classic old school being Disneyfied as kitschy hogwash because such clever postmodernism is pure genius. Besides how can anyone weaned on k-rations and snap-to hospital corners not cheerlead the Jim Brown lookalike speedskating the chimneyed grenade gauntlet? GO! GO! GO!

Speaking of "the navy gets the gravy but the army gets the beans", it happened again, feeding the insomnia.

Nonchalantly an empty and overturned helmet washed ashore and aground in sandy beach appears in black and white and the next four hours becomes the longest day deja vued.

Crazy the amount of time wasted on watching the same and old movie over again, no matter how often it reruns on television, but certain flicks fit this modus operandi. It literally triggers something clinical, a Pavlovian response that cements my attention span sometimes just to relive what might be its punctum. Quite a bit to endure especially when one knows each plot verbatim. Such devotion just to see a particular scene or hear a specific line betrays an odd aesthetic character flaw indeed. But why rewatch Cool Hand Luke if not to hear "Ain't no man live can eat fiddy eggs" for the umpteenth time? Or sit patiently through the Natural just the see Redford, down 0-2 in the count, shatter the mythical Wonderboy before batboy Bobby "picks (him) a winner", the Savoy Special to launch the next pitch into rooftop lightstands, creating impromptu fireworks again? Not this gung ho sucker, for sure.

Like Billy Sol Hurok and Big Jim McBob said, "It blowed up real good."

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Notes on a pissmire ant

Snatching the pebble in itself represents a continuation of Analects. Include another part to complete the tryptych that features trial by fire or tattooing via scarification. Then the tao of things learned from cultural tourism, gentrified as David Carradine softshoeing combat choreography, completes the tautology.

Thus achieving masterhood, the new series and the next logical step, reenacts manufactured rites of passage as peripatetic spiritualism. The male ideal orientalized as philosopher, glorified as warrior and hybridized as hapa takes literal form as performance through sculptural object. Out of action as it were that plainly caricatures tests of physical prowess and endurance, mental toughness and ingenuity from ancient pedagogical models. The mandarin tradition, though Aristotlean, repeats the same lesson now as the priest leaves no visible traces on the delicate rice paper.

Or has this sacred ritual now become Westernized? Does one accustomed to American excess fall victim to popular culture and devise other modernized, if not mechanized means to circumvent what used to measure strength and character?

Why not construct perhaps convoluted monkey bars that hover above the aformentioned site? Is it enough to contrast the rote educative process typical of the martial arts requiring the student to actually undergo this test discipline of skill?

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Caught up... in between

Finally no more winding up the damn propeller every week. Time which skyrocketed itself into a dizzying orbit ran out of gas so that the laws of Newtonian physics can apply enough gravity for reentry. Just a few eyes left to dot and then the madness of the next stage of the next race beckons. But not awhile at least. Besides with a few monkey wrenches in the works behind the scenes, who knows what the final edit will look like?

Not that the mind or the body acclimated yet to the oxygen deprivation. Catching your breath is not an option under such compressed conditions. And when all the leg muscles cramp because sprinting uphill carrying a fifty pound load doubles the strain capacity, the remedy that moment is simply to choke back the tears and press forward. Do or die or something to that effect.

But what is the lesson learned? Be a boy scout and be prepared? Or that maybe reading IS fundamental? A clearer picture hopefully forms within the next thirty-six hours.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Remembering Barry White

The man probably arrived early yesterday. The angels in tribute folded back the satin sheets and heaven cooed in ecstasy.

So take off your brassierre, my dear, my darling I...can't get enough of your love, babe, never, never, ever let you go, and make your toenails curl.

Love remains unlimited.

Friday, July 04, 2003

Plebes on the prowl

Again things hold true to form, even as the new replaces the old. The faces may change but certain patterns still persist rarely deviating from the cliches. No matter what and predictably typical of very bad ensemble acting, the broadly-painted cast consists of the usual suspects as usual. A three-hour tour that began a fortnight ago except this latest sequel strands the skipper and Gilligan "plus the computer geek...the gothic chick...a southern belle, and the rest."

Not that this is necessarily a negative situation so much as a self-fulfilling prophecy gone awry. It is like slowly stripping away very aged wallpaper: just when you think the layer removed will reveal bare wall, inevitably what appears is only another and more obstinate layer. That pretty much describes the slow process of discovery to nurture, grow and coax creative approaches to heretofore worn ground. Old habits die hard so the trick is to open eyes, flooding the mental plain until fertile soil is drowned.

Which is why the way things go appropriately stammers any group into slack-jawed acquiesence. Love it or hate it, mesmerized or bored to nap, thought ballons do suddenly materialize.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Chivalry Lost

Funny the things recalled offhand when being told of something cataclysmic. How words spoken conjured up the Holy Grail, of Sir Robin storming the rampart to kill temptation is appropriately Pythonesque. Our gallant hero fighting onward in the name of all that is good -his chin firm, his progress steady, his arm strong. But waging battle deep into the wanton heart, the lascivious desire, the righteous sword of virtue does weaken. For the dragon to be slain is perfumed and partly clothed, moaning an ecstatic tongue. Eventually the pleasures of flesh swarm and overwhelm him and he falters. Who would think so valiant and true an individual could fall prey?

But of course he succumbs, constantly flirting with and tempting the fates as he does. Frailty of moral being is often susceptible to carnal lust especially when left alone to its own devices. Distance prevents accidents of intimacy. So much for the protection of forged armor.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Notes on Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life is an installation that dissects the popular racist schoolchildren rhyme, “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees, look at these” photographically and textually to comment on racial stereotyping. Based loosely on the Douglas Sirk melodrama of the same name, this work consists of two sets of twelve black and white photographs depicting mimicked exoticized Asian facial characteristics through sexual innuendo and accompanying text, framed excerpts in print researched from anthropological textbooks about taboo Asian cuisine, divided into four groups. Each group features the same Caucasian adult male, female, and young male child reenacting a single section of the rhyme. The textual passages are reedited to approximate a “fortune cookie saying” grammatical style associated with how Asians are perceived to speak. Viewed as a whole, these sections resemble the syntactical structure that forms a sort of “visual sentence” in conjunction with the actual food text. A similarly framed mirror and blank sheet of paper positioned on the opposite wall faces the main body of this piece.

What this work intends to project is a flux of language as visual information depicting pictorial image versus text per se as typographical element to reinforce prejudiced notions of perception. To see without hearing the rhyme refers to learning by rote, sometimes an oral tradition alluding to repeating gestures passed on from generation to culture to generation. This notion relates to how the food text centers on perceptions of how printed information becomes the accepted norm as a single version of the truth or represented truisms. Showing scientifically, or medically, supported statements to validate Asian cooking and eating habits within this work questions the whole idea of what is taboo food and consequently who determines what are the systems of standards used to judge acceptable from unacceptable. To perpetuate a negative stereotype is a guerrilla tactic to compare the equal absurdity in the racism of these particular images and text.

Friday, June 13, 2003


Today a younger Jamie Lee Curtis avoids the shower, fearful to repeat the cinematic precedent inflicted by Hitchcockian neurosis. Or does she? Funny how the apple (or peach in this case) falls close to the tree. Some like it hermaphrodite hot as it were but enough so that dyslexia inverts the thirty first into yet another series of neverending sequels. Does evil abound as a hockey mask? What about those lucky charms? Silly rabbit, magic tricks are for kids, you know. But Donald Pleasance no longer blinded after his great escape chases after Jason mistakingly instead. So what else can triskaidekophobics dread?

"Mister Sandman, bring me a dream...make him the best that I've ever seen.." And make sure he wears a horseshoe especially.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Meat Country, baby

Carnivores delight, because first to the table and last to leave aptly describes the gluttony of meat ingested over an open flame. Seasoned and barbequed, roasted and pulled, how delectable the multitudinous smells of swine slowly cooked, a succulent red apple stuffed in its mouth. Indeed the other white meat if you will culturally suits those who suck the tendon and cartilage clean off the bone. Life, after all, is a bowl of pork chops.

Or the flowing juices of two half-pound patties of ground beef grilled "one-one thousand, two-one thousand, flip" for that charred though tartar texture. Fear not the sight of raw, red blood for it puts hair on the chest and does the soul comfort.

As the wise broadcaster is wont to say, "Some just as good, none better..." So garcon, garcon...(snapping fingers)...more french fries for this table! And how brilliant is it to use Coke to marinate as well as tenderize otherwise tough short ribs.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Spring cleaning

Come on in, Mister Clean. Polish your shaven bald head shiny as can be and roll up those short tee shirt sleeves. The floors, the doors, even windows ought to gleam a fresh lemon scent. And faster than you can say disinfectant, the whole dirty place is spotless, enough to make Gomer proudly shazam.

Is there a soother calm than the quiet whir of an Electrolux canister vacuum? Or a purer sound than the effervescent fizz of scrubbing bathroom surface foam? Maybe just maybe the fat lady not only sings but mops on her knees sans brush or sponge using good, old-fashioned elbow grease. And not a trace of fine dust remains.

God bless the spic-and-span for doing such a top job.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Reminiscing the Ides of May, 1988

"Don't know why there are clouds up in the sky, stormy weather.."

It happened as if in a blink of an eye. A slight blip, no more than a fraction but significant enough to raise eyebrows. Then the covenant so sacred disintegrated into black.

Looking back, mark your calendar one day before the anniversary of what might have been fifteen years. A funny thing happened on the way to the forum. That afternoon, as Cyndi Lauper and her entourage stood outside across from the tavern at Catalpa and Broadway, the gods protested. And the sky belched, dark clouds shaped like fluffy hearts hurled many lightning bolts and in sympathy, car alarms wailed. Such a gesture in itself would foretell of the state of things to come. True, the heavens finally cooperated, casting bright afternoon sunshine afterwards, but the mechanism to turn the shrew into Cleopatra stabbed poor Mark Anthony in the back eight or nine times. Even Helga presciently counseled caution. Who knew then basking in the stark evening glow with tribesmen yelping a twirling cymballed hankerchief and twenty dollar bills wafting above our heads and Murderer's Row posing in tuxedos that a pair of rose-colored glasses could shatter so easily? Really so who is afraid of Virginia Wolf?

Count the wounded maybe.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

On the vagaries of frontrunning

"An ephedra cocktail to perk the blues away, Your Highness?"
"But of course..."

Again king for the day, though sadly as is the modus operandi of any horsehide squad so managed, now or about a month and a half into the new season is when my boys of spring usually push forward and expectedly occupy the driver's seat momentarily. Alas the dog days of summer ahead will see fit to wilt this momentum and the hope sprung eternal from smoke and mirrors inevitably clears. And the cold, dark cellar beckons its dank claim as Lola sings her song.

This is such a cruel, cruel game.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Slaughter rule in effect

Say it ain't so, Joe. The latest score shows the home team down by a huge margin.

Where is the supposedly potent run support? Not once out of their own volition in any situation does the bench remotely clear even when someone charges the mound. Forget about the third base coach who gives the green light, windmilling his right arm only to get bushwhacked from behind. Just count your money and bask in your glory. Typical bad play and typical lack of effort deriving from poor fundamentals, groundless execution and pure indifference. So why jump through the hoops without any reciprocation, petty as it may seem? Nothing rips a team apart faster than bad chemistry.

Go into the stands for a foul ball at your own risk.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

"You're so vain..."

Toot your own horn and hear the off-key notes. It is but narcissistic karaoke sung to masturbate wee shortcomings. Those with better-trained and well-practiced lips who know how to tongue the rim do so expertly without breathing in the funk. And that makes the world go around every twenty-four hours uninterrupted by any commercials. Advertising works but just what is being sold depends on the star power of the spokesperson, not the product itself. Just smile those pearly whites, pucker up and wax interminable about your best subject since study hall and/or lunch. A sucker is born every minute who will buy sight unseen.

Behind-the-scenes technicians need not apply. Second, third and even fourth chair is all that can be hoped for. As former Minnesota Viking fullback Leroy Hoard philosophized, "If you need one yard, I'll get you three; if you need five yards, I'll get you three."

Monday, May 05, 2003

In Queue

The hare versus the tortoise and finally the Road Runner loses. Slow and steady is just that, only slower and steadier. Speed burns especially oil viscosity which predictably causes damage to any metabolic engine. So is fifteen minutes an arbitrary measurement related only to celebrity? Can it not also serve as a quarter slice of time to indicate efficiency? What consumed upwards to one to oftentimes two or three hours now is accelerated to the great appreciation of those quirks of nature defying odds with beginner's luck.

The onerous monolith that is the red tape central turned over a new leaf, instituting modern technology to better herd the little doggies along. The result depending on distance from the crowded middle moves supersonic fast. So much so that windows blew out from Mach three breaking. So call me Roger Bannister because the subhour pace is shattered. And by an inhuman margin smacking of Bob Beamon in Mexico City, too. An incredible and incredulous feat.

But black stirrup hose pulled below the calf plus black cleats creates the illusion of hauling a trailer around third. The wheels spin but fourth gear is mainly for power and not at all for speed. So what accounts for the new world record?

Thursday, May 01, 2003

T.S. Eliot notwithstanding...

And so ends the cruelest of all months because when it rains, it pours.

Not a fine misty drizzle, mind you, but a good gracious, honest-to-God torrential downpour. The kind that uproots Kansas clapboard farmhouses and whirl them around into the land of Frank Baum. With things falling out of the sky and people scattered about, running for dear life. Even the Hamilton girls, Edith and Margaret, flee, unsure whether their previous stations grant both or the other immunity.

Though it did begin tamely, purring like a kitten asleep at first. That might well explain its eventual fury.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

This Old House, again

A very long list of things to do suddenly materialized out of nowhere. Case in point is the recurring nightmare of the burst pipe. Last winter despite observing protocol to bleed the outdoor water lines as preventive maintenance, a leak sprung anyway, gushing forth a frozen pond. It seems to happen biannually without fail. Luckily this time no flood damage to speak of. The ice rink finally did thaw and eddied down the drainpipe harmlessly enough. Only the snapped-off spigot remains to bear witness. Galvanized steel is surely suseptible to something so innocuous as cold weather.

So this old house is under repair again.

First order of business then involves rerouting. Careful analysis of the problem reveals a flaw in Kansei engineering. Extraneous and highly vulnerable pipes extend extraneously from point of egress to an unimpeded corner in typical westernized design. To rectify poor interior architecture, simply realigning existing elbows to allow for direct access eliminates the need altogether of the exposed plumbing. Hopefully this ten-cent solution will solve future headaches.

Naturally all this work just for the sake of sprinkling the reseeded lawn because green matters. One day raking dead grass and leaves, pruning dead branches and aerating dead topsoil only reinforces this suburban fixation. Speaking of which, if the grass up front fails to grow, removing the hardened limestone-mixed dirt might soften the turf to permit the seed to take.

Then comes the garage, a bane hexing form following function. Completely gutterless with holes in the roof, this affront to backyard aesthetics is off-plumb by three inches. A temporary fix is to patch or reshingle the top and attach a front rail with flanking downspouts for proper drainage. Maybe even a new coat of paint. Inside requires additional shelving and hooks to increase the storage space and free up the floor which could also be repainted.

And that is only the outside.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Things to do, again

Next comes reorganization and documentation. Perhaps even an unanticipated return to fiction. All those loose, incomplete stories require an ending or at the very least another paragraph or two. Then after that is renovating the look of what now exists online. It needs to function according to Hoyle in keeping with a certain aesthetic that bespeaks a signature design sense. Finally replant the lawn. Repair those sickly brown patches and gaping bare spots.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A day that will live in infamy.

So it ends, wiped completely out. And those left standing do so quite shell-shocked, stunned by the perfunctory speed of the action. Well-planned but coarsely executed, the chain of command broke ranks and surrendered. With nary the token last stand. See the white of their eyes, sound retreat and turn tail real fast helter skelter. Led straight into an ambush, one by one, the comrades-in-arms fall, mowed down like sacrificial lambs. Suddenly white flags aflutter, held high by the mighty officers-in-charge trailing behind.

The spineless often survive at the luxury of the true and brave.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Notes straight out of right field descriptively

Straight out of right field encased and alternately striped. A wall of flood lights blindly illuminate twin vertical bands repeated times twelve. Enter an interior world meant to exist outside, a metaphorical place not unlike the secret garden. What magical things might lie ahead, if not behind, entrances the curiosity...

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Notes straight out of right field

An expanse of woven greenery ripples concentrically outward like a pixelated sea of diamonds or squares abutted in tiled pattern. Or dark olive waves alternated with lime leaves of grass. But unnaturally as if CAD-drawn and chemically sprayed.

Dread Scott on the floor sits a platformed structure, a Jasper Johns ziggurat if you will in memoriam of Old Glory. Off the wall and four times the actual scale, its height stands maybe waist level allowing for right-angled circumnavigation. Outside a sign conceptually warns to keep off the lawn.

Underneath rises the rising sun.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Malady, of epidemic proportions

Something about March really maddens. First the buzzer sounds not once but invariably and inevitably way too often. Followed by a dark horse whinnying. A persistent noise that signals an interstice disrupting the natural syntax of to and fro. Even time falls apart, remeasured by the hour into fifteen minute halves. Suddenly the nation transfixes on those long young limbs doing a very big dance. But who is to say who remains an ugly duckling and who becomes the beautiful swan. Yet, in spite of Eliot, fanatics do come and go speaking not of Michaelango but his elbow.

And in a blink of the eye that very cruel month arrives.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

Another Grace Kelly

Finally a biography worth its weight in salt. Hollywood, its usual culture of narcissism and fictionalized history rebuked to recount how Queen Noor of Jordan came to be. Another Cinderella story about an American blonde who marries a foreign king, typical fairy tale stuff except for the blunt timing of the current war.

Her world centers on a leap of faith, for love which begat her conversion by law to Islam. It is about a charmed life absent of the trivialized, intent on sincere altruism and committed to honest causes. The twenty and some years of being in the public eye which mirrored the uncertain and unstable times of a holy land where so much blood has been spilled, bore witness to, if not shaped, latter twentieth century history. Real substantive material instead of the fluff of manufactured Warholian celebrity afflicting popular cultural consciousness.

No wonder that her adopted countrymen so adore and treasure their queen, wife of the beloved and belated king and the mother of the Crown Prince.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Upon visiting the Milwaukee Art Museum

To see it is divine, poised as if awaiting christening. Indeed two years after the fact and HAL does speak very loud and clear. No postpunk entropy, no nuclear winterland, no dire visions of machine subjugating man, only good old-fashioned modernism, science fiction to construct a better tomorrow. Immediately any delusional Orwellian dystopia fades.

It is a magnificently futuristic structure, this winged ship built of glass and steel, antiseptically white like sand-blown whale bone. Yet as monument to the sea, or specifically the lake, nothing alien or unnatural can be discerned from its presence, its being. Ready to set sail, ready to soar, it seems to say, because our mission is to honor, secure and defend that which will come. And the power of its radial geometry only reiterates its symmetry.

Inside the belly of the architect though runs elongated floating white spaces, distorted fisheye-lensed corridors, impossibly curving away to unknown vanishing points. Only the constant intervals of the concrete rib cage supporting these marbled veins offer any sort of three-point perpective. Otherwise travellers lose bearing, any sense of directional logic. Still a comfortable warmth borne of deja vu, forged by the forbidden planet emanates from the cool precision and sterility that comprises its barren skeleton.

Tarkovsky never dreamt of such a pedestrian place where bonneted attendants walk upside down on the ceiling in gravity boots, where abstract purity collides with figurative reality, where right angles bend anthropomorphically.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Notes almost straight out of right field

Just covering the floor in itself changes the space. So is it overkill to include the walls as well? If so, then minimize. Wainscot walls partway to manufacture fake horizon line.

Or extend long runner from entryway to door. Place strike zone parallel to white foul line.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Aboard a Sinking Ship

The importance of timing is ironic. Especially given how a certain anxiety permeates the state of which things now exist. First a subtle but somewhat innocuous leak that inexorably gushes buckets full followed by the proverbial geyser. So it does pour when it rains and with cats and dogs too. But even as department heads push the panic button repeatedly, no amount of magic can avert the inevitable pink slips. Such happens hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, yearly only the collateral damage inflicts a deeper psychic wound. Lame ducks wittingly or not abound.

Useless talk of inverted pyramids to complicate rather simple strategies of tried and true known quantities temporarily buoys the punctured dinghy only long enough for all hands on deck to abandon ship. Consequently the rudderless skipper dependent on a proliferation of extraneous prerequisites paddles single-oared around in circles. His lieutenants obviously failed: one from obsessive-compulsive disorder, the other of caveat emptor.

Never mind the ramifications of not shooting a dying horse on the ground. At least our Custer will die with his shining patent black leather boots on. Live and let live to a nauseatingly indifferent conclusion, he pronounces. Crying wolf over so little a running balance is creative accounting. Think the bluff of Enron and Sherman marches on, burning torch aflame.

And April Fool's Day surprises the jester and his court. Out of the blue, blue left field comes an avenging angel in the guise of a second chance. For the evicted executive surreptiously breaks union picket lines. Unbeknownst even to the annointed, another game is afoot. Offer him a deal not to be refused. Switch places officially and lead the apostate astray. Once again it is a wonderful life.

A bell rings.

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Notes on mixed media

Something about the nature of chop suey evokes a paradigm for mixed media. The slicing and dicing of disparate material all hodgepodged together as if tossed around like a caesar salad is et tu, Kienholz by way of Jasper Johns.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Notes straight from right field (for Ichiro)

The thrill of the grass smells suspiciously artificial. From wall to floor to wall completely covered. Astroturfed false walls hold smaller panels which mimic hung canvas tilted off center like cheap diamonds. Dotting the verdant interior are pink flamingoes perched next to four white polyurethene lawn chairs plus (or minus) patio table on top of which might sit an old portable color Zenith. Two huge Bose speakers blare the 1812 Overture complete with exploding fireworks.

A panoramic photograph of a Caspar Friedrichish landscape encased in a blond wood frame circumnavigates the whole of the space. On the television Yan Can Cook dices bok choy for a chicken stir fry.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Plumbing the Depths

A dent finally repaired. The slow trickle rediverted and sealed. Three crenallated plastic knobs, now obsolete, morphed to become a sleek chrome handle. Soon the open wounds will heal as plaster bandages cure the gaping holes that rob any sense of wholeness. And the disquiet of discontinuity which lingered like a cancerous growth retreats momentarily. It is an ongoing process this worry.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Upon visiting Sin City

Christmas in Vegas sounded like a bad Hollywood comedy starring Hugh Grant and whoever the latest WB Television Network ingenue might be. It turned out to be both exactly that and something otherwise. Sort of Broadway Boogie Woogie meets Bright Lights, Big City. (Piet Mondrian chumming with Jay McInerney?) The bombastic neon explosion along the Strip IS the cascading electric canyon of grandiose American sublime as advertised. Why else would someone no less than Dave Hickey champion its formalism?

But the expected kitsch never materialized as the anticipated irony. Somehow the excessive and overblown theatricality of the "big show" works as ordinary normalcy. No escapism or fantasy disguised as healthy simulacra to disorient, no agape awe of Disney World proportions, this is unexpurgated, unadulterated "real life" now.