Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Isn't life strange

This is one of my favorite pictures of my dad.  (I'm not quite sure why my cousin is covering his face.  He's not in the witness protection plan. Or at least I don't believe that he is.) My dad was dead a little more than a year after this picture was taken.

Today is the 25th anniversary of his death; my father, not my cousin, (he is happily still alive.) And I am a year older than he was when he died.

Miss you dad.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Meet our staff (cont'd):

And now we come to the head of our Human Resources Department, Herr Karl Juckende Hintern, an old school chum of mine (just don't mention the war.) Herr Juckende Hintern's door is always open for any problem you may have.  In fact, Karl will have already heard about any problem you may have, (just don't go see him after 4 PM; he has a mimeograph ink huffing problem, but we don't like to talk about it.)  New employees should remember that they will need to submit their request for suicide pills in triplicate into the HR office within the first 30 days of the start of your employment.

A fun fact: the Oxford Dictionary credits Karl with originated the phrase, 'the beatings will continue until morale improves', except in the more encouraging original German - 'das dchlagen fährt fort, bis moral verbessert!'

Monday, September 28, 2015

Meet our Staff (cont'd):

Here we see Mrs. Bexley Cerumen planning a luncheon menu at Dr. Caligari's. Mrs.Cerumen is a graduate of the CIA cooking school (not the Culinary Institute of America but the actual CIA.)  Her graduating thesis, "Maximum use, minimum fuss: the effective uses of untraceable toxins" has found it's way into the standard operative field guide.

There is no truth to the rumor that she is the actual model for Dr. Hannibal Lector - although we have had to take the Thursday blue plate special of Liver and Fava beans off the menu.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Never before seen

Here's a rare shot of the interior of the home office of the ACME Corp.

This department was built specifically to handle the voluminous orders from one of their main customers - a Mr. Wile E. Coyote

Meet our Staff (continued):

Ms. Ida Mae Clotilde, Ms. Loretta Martin and Ms. Lucasta Snodgrass, all work in the Research department of Dr. Caligari's. Ida once beat a man to death with a paperback edition of Roget's Thesaurus for the incorrect use of the Oxford comma; (she is currently on probation.)

Loretta (nee Laurence) can speak fluent Esperanto (but with a lisp.) Loretta ran away from the St. Aloysius Home for Listless Children at 14 and won a Cha Cha competition with her dancing partner, Bebe Ribozo. Lucasta Snodgrass (seating in the rear of the photo, holding the phone) was the youngest winner of the All-England Summarize Proust Competition in 1971. Legally, she's had to register her elbows as deadly weapons.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Meet the Staff

Mrs. Edna Terwilliger, head of Dr. Caligari's IT department.

Mrs. Terwilliger used to work for the CIA during the Cold War.  She's killed over 37 East German spies in her day; but she doesn't like to talk about it.  Edna makes a mean Vodka Sunstroke.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Central Park, 1932, on this date

A Hooverville 'Mansion', near the recently drained, at the time, reservoir (now, part of the Great Lawn.)

Friday, September 11, 2015


When The Towers Fell  -
Galway Kinnell (1927 - )

From our high window we saw the towers
with their bands and blocks of light
brighten against a fading sunset,
saw them at any hour glitter and live
as if the spirits inside them sat up all night
calculating profit and loss,saw them reach up
to steep their tops in the until then invisible
yellow of sunrise, grew so used to them
often we didn't see them, and now,
not seeing them, we see them.

The banker is talking to London.
Humberto is delivering breakfast sandwiches.
The trader is already working the phone.
The mail sorter has started sorting the mail.
    ...povres et riches
    ...poor and rich
    Sages et folz, prestres et laiz
    Wise and foolish, priests and laymen
    Nobles, villains, larges et chiches
    Noblemen, serfs, generous and mean
    Petiz et grans et beaulx et laiz
    Short and tall and handsome and homely

    The plane screamed low down lower Fifth Avenue,
    lifted at the Arch, someone said, shaking the dog walkers
    in Washington Square Park, drove for the north tower,
    struck with a heavy thud, releasing a huge bright gush
    of blackened fire, and vanished, leaving a hole
    the size and shape a cartoon plane might make
    if it had passed harmlessly through and were flying away now,
    on the far side, back into the realm of the imaginary.

    Some with torn clothing, some bloodied,
    some limping at top speed like children
    in a three-legged race, some half dragged,
    some intact in neat suits and dresses,
    they straggle out of step up the avenues,
    each dusted to a ghostly whiteness,
    their eyes rubbed red as the eyes of a Zahoris,
    who can see the dead under the ground.

    Some died while calling home to say they were O.K.
    Some died after over an hour spent learning they would die.
    Some died so abruptly they may have seen death from within it.
    Some broke windows and leaned out and waited for rescue.
    Some were asphyxiated.
    Some burned, their very faces caught fire.
    Some fell, letting gravity speed them through their long moment.
    Some leapt hand in hand, the elasticity in last bits of love-time letting -- I wish
    I could say -- their vertical streaks down the sky happen more lightly.

    At the high window, where I've often stood
    to escape a nightmare, I meet
    the single, unblinking eye
    lighting the all-night sniffing and lifting
    and sifting for bodies, pieces of bodies, anything that is not nothing,
    in a search that always goes on
    somewhere, now in New York and Kabul.

    She stands on a corner holding up a picture
    of her husband. He is smiling. In today's
    wind shift few pass. Sorry sorry sorry.
    She startles. Suppose, down the street, that headlong lope...
    or, over there, that hair so black it's purple...
    And yet, suppose some evening I forgot
    The fare and transfer, yet got by that way
    Without recall, -- lost yet poised in traffic.
    Then I might find your eyes...
    It could happen. Sorry sorry good luck thank you.
    On this side it is "amnesia," or forgetting the way home;
    on the other, "invisibleness," or never in body returning.
    Hard to see clearly in the metallic mist,
    or through the sheet of mock reality
    cast over our world, bourne that no creature ever born
    pokes its way back through, and no love can tear.

    The towers burn and fall, burn and fall --
    in a distant, shot, smokestacks spewing oily earth remnants out of the past.
    Schwarze Milch der Frühe wir trinken sie abends
    Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall
    wir trinken sie mittags und morgens wir trinken sie nachts
    we drink it at midday at morning we drink it at night
    wir trinken und trinken
    We drink it and drink it
    This is not a comparison but a corollary,
    not a likeness but a lineage
    in the twentieth-century history of violent death --
    black men in the South castrated and strung up from trees,
    soldiers advancing through mud at ninety thousand dead per mile,
    train upon train headed eastward made up of boxcars shoved full to the
    corners with Jews and Gypsies to be enslaved or gassed,
    state murder of twenty, thirty, forty million of its own,
    atomic blasts wiping cities off the earth, firebombings the same,
    death marches, starvations, assassinations, disappearances,
    entire countries turned into rubble, minefields, mass graves.
    Seeing the towers vomit these black omens, that the last century dumped into
    this one, for us to dispose of, we know
    they are our futures, that is our own black milk crossing the sky: wir shaufeln
    ein Grab in den Lüften da liegt man nicht eng                we're digging
    a grave in the sky there'll be plenty of room to lie down there

    Burst jet fuel, incinerated aluminum, steel fume, crushed marble, exploded
    granite, pulverized drywall, mashed concrete, berserked plastic,
    gasified mercury, cracked chemicals, scoria, vapor
    of the vaporized -- wafted here
    from the burnings of the past, draped over
    our island up to streets regimented
    into numbers and letters, breathed across
    the great bridges to Brooklyn and the waiting sea:
    astringent, miasmic, empyreumatic, slick,
    freighted air too foul to take in but we take it in,
    too gruesome for seekers of the amnesiac beloved
    to breathe but they breathe it and you breathe it.

    A photograph of a woman hangs from a string
    at his neck. He doesn't look up.
    He stares down at the sidewalk of flagstone
    slabs laid down in Whitman's century, gutter edges
    rasped by iron wheels to a melted roundedness:
    a conscious intelligence envying the stones.
    Nie stają się, są.
    They do not become, they are.
    Nic nad to, myślałem.
    Nothing but that, I thought,
    zbrzydziwszy sobie
    now loathing within myself
    wszystko co staje się
    everything that becomes.

    And I sat down by the waters of the Hudson,
    by the North Cove Yacht Harbor, and thought
    how those on the high floors must have suffered: knowing
    they would burn alive, and then, burning alive.
    and I wondered, Is there a mechanism of death
    that so mutilates existence no one
    gets over it not even the dead?
    Before me I saw, in steel letters welded
    to the steel railing posts, Whitman's words
    written as America plunged into war with itself: City of the world!...
    Proud and passionate city -- mettlesome, mad, extravagant city!
    words of a time of illusions. Then I remembered
    what he wrote after the war was over and Lincoln dead:
    I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war,
    But I saw they were not as was thought.
    They themselves were fully at rest -- they suffer'd not,
    The living remain'd and suffer'd, the mother suffer'd
    And the wife and the child and the musing comrade suffer'd...

    In our minds the glassy blocks
    succumb over and over into themselves,
    slam down floor by floor into themselves.

    They blow up as if in reverse, exploding
    downward and outward, billowing
    through the streets, engulfing the fleeing.

    As each tower goes down, it concentrates
    into itself, transforms itself
    infinitely slowly into a black hole

    infinitesimally small: mass
    without space, where each light,
    each life, put out, lies down within us.

And so it goes.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Without labor, nothing prospers

"Time is the most valuable thing on earth: time to think, time to act, time to extend our fraternal relations, time to become better men, time to become better women, time to become better and more independent citizens," explained Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Mr. Gompers elaborated further: "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day. . . is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

And yet, despite Mr. Gompers's assertions, Labor Day is not a Seinfeldian holiday about nothing. It is, according to Department of Labor, "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country."

Workers being whom, exactly?

Whenever someone talks about Labor with an audible capital L, I picture a bunch of sweaty, grease-stained steelworkers, or guys in blue overalls and goggles with soldering irons. Their contribution is the oft-cited "sweat of their brows." Union regulations being what they are, though, they seem to be pretty well compensated for that sweat.

The term "Workers" has to include more than steelworkers and welders—otherwise we could just call it "Steelworkers and Welders Day." After all, a worker is just "one who works." I'm a worker (yes sporadically I consider myself a worker). Almost everyone I know is or was a worker.

The difference seems to be unions. If you belong to a union, you're a Worker or a Laborer (I'm not sure if they have different unions). If you don't belong to a union, you're a lousy lazy-ass—an exploiting bourgeois bastard.

Think what this means: All of the Kardashians, Al Sharpton, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and yes, even Donald Trump are Workers. Your friends who work awful hours at lousy jobs in wretched offices — they're bourgeois scum.

But let's take a step back and see how we got a Labor Day holiday.

Grover Cleveland was a very unpopular man back in 1896. He was one of the fattest Presidents in US history, (Chris Christie is a contender, if he wins in 2016.) No one really likes a fat man - weighing over 300lbs, his nieces and nephews called him Uncle Jumbo to his face; only William Howard Taft was fatter, weighing in at a ginormous 335lbs, but I digress...)

Two years earlier, Cleveland had broken up the Pullman Car strike using United States Marshals and some 2,000 United States Army troops, on the premise that the strike interfered with the delivery of U.S. Mail. During the course of the strike, 13 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded. It didn't win him any friends with the fledgling labor movement in America.

In order to throw a bone to Labor, Cleveland supported a holiday honoring workers on the first Monday in September, hoping it would help Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections. May 1st was initially proposed but was then rejected because government leaders believed that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the Chicago Haymarket riots which had occurred in early May of 1886.

Cleveland was proven wrong and the Democratic party suffered their worse defeat ever.

So remember the cynical origins of the holiday while you are BBQ'ing this afternoon.

And so it goes.