Monday, January 26, 2015

Ch. 4 Has Anybody Seen My Picasso, A Strange Coincidence

Okay, that's not bad, I thought as I looked at the first 3 chapters. I've got some interesting characters, I was able to write some good lines, (one of which my brother actually gets the credit for - "She wore a dress so tight I could hardly breathe." But "She wore lipstick like a Ritz cracker wears Cheez Whiz" was mine. Heck, I don't even know if Cheez Whiz existed in 1935, but who cares, it's fiction and anachronisms add charm), and I've found out some interesting art history. I liked the ending of the last chapter when Dick Allbright opened the door and "saw her asleep on the bed, her bare back and leg barely visible in the dim red light flashing through the window from the bar across the street." Every one who has read this far has got to be wondering what happens next. There's a mystery to that chapter ending. But now I've got to figure out what's next. I found this great phrase from Plutarch about coincidence: "It is no great wonder if in the long process of time, while fortune takes her course hither and thither, numerous coincidences should spontaneously occur." And I'm figuring on using this as part of this chapter. For example, what were the odds that Kandinsky would attend Arnold Shoenberg's concert in Munich on Jan. 2, 1911, and run into Pablo Picasso? In this instance, the odds were 100%. And that Kandinsky would marry Aphrodite Mandrake's older sister? And think about Kandinsky's abstract synaesthetic art and Schoenberg's atonal music. If you think of Schrodinger's cat walking on a piano keyboard you get an idea about Schoenberg's music. Schrodinger's cat, of course, is a thought experiment involving quantum mechanics and multiple states of simultaneous existence. Now think of that same cat walking simultaneously in two different directions on Schoenberg's piano keyboard and you get the idea. At least Kandinsky didn't throw paint at a canvas like Jackson Pollock did so many years later, or perhaps they were simultaneously and coincidentally creating synaesthetic art and action painting in the same way Schoenberg's two cats were walking on his piano keyboard creating his non-melodic anti-harmonic music. I don't know. I wasn't there. And like Kurt Vonnegut would write, so it goes. And think about the overarching irony of Russian Jewish modern abstract artists who, after being welcomed by the Russian Revolution, and whose art was praised and publicized so as to replace Czarist art, and then about Kandinsky, who actually headed the Revolutionary Government's arts program, and then who all fell out of favor when their art was deemed to no longer serve the revolution, and who then emigrated to Germany and France and other countries in the 1920s to escape the turmoil of post-revolutionary life and so as to have a better life. Talk about irony. To those who went to Germany. From the frying pan into the fire. From the Revolution to the Holocaust. Some kind of cosmic sick joke. Who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? Joseph Heller? I don't think so. Okay, so back to the end of Chapter 3 where Dick Albright "saw her asleep on the bed, her bare back and leg barely visible in the dim red light flashing through the window from the bar across the street." But first, more about anachronisms. Cheez Whiz wasn't really invented and marketed until 1953 I just found out when I looked it up. It was developed by Edwin Traisman who died at the age of 91 in Minona, Wisconsin. He is also credited with standardizing McDonald's french fries. He died of heart disease. Who'd have guessed that the guy who invented both Cheez Whiz and McDonald's french fries would die of heart disease? Talk about irony. So it would be an anachronism to wear lipstick like a Ritz Cracker wears Cheez Whiz in 1935. But who cares, I wonder. If a reader wants to indulge in some retrofuturistic imaginings of Albert Schoenberg on a Moog Synthesizer like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, I say go ahead. Okay, so now I'm really going back to the end of Chapter 3 where Dick Allbright "saw her asleep on the bed, her bare back and leg barely visible in the dim red light flashing through the window from the bar across the street." "Damn light," I thought as I walked across the bedroom to see who was in my bed. As soon as I caught a glimpse of that tattoo of that dragon I knew who she was. That dragon tattoo, that mythological creature had filled my thoughts before. And the Ouija board. I had had business with that woman before. And I had no intention of being Saint George tonight. I sat on a wooden chair I had by the closet door where I would sit in the morning and put on my socks and shoes after I had put my pants on. Some days I wore khaki slacks; other days I wore dark wool; other days light wool or cotton. And when I sat there I would think about what socks I should wear and with what shoes. It shouldn't have been that hard since I only had two pairs of shoes - one black, one brown. I would sometimes wear black socks with the black shoes and sometimes brown socks with the brown ones. Some days, though, I would wear black socks with brown shoes and brown socks with black shoes. It's hard to believe I spent that much time thinking about it. I lit a cigarette and the flare of the match revealed her bare back even more than that fucking red light flashing through the window. I smoked the cigarette for a few minutes remembering the dragon tattoo and the Ouija board. I wondered what Sam Spade would do (although it's hard to take a guy serious who wears green and white checked pajamas). Or Mike Hammer. Now, there's a great name for a detective. Mike Hammer. I wondered what Ellery Queen would do, or Jim Rockford, or Magnum. Then I made up a Sam Spade joke: here's a noir fiction detective joke I just made up. What was Sam Spade's favorite breakfast? A. - Hammet and eggs, hard-boiled. Then I thought of mythological dragons like Agamemnon, I thought of Flavius Philostratus, I thought of the Zmey Gorynych, I thought of Grendel, I thought of Pakhangba, I thought of the traditional Slovenian folk tales on the Olm, in the Glory of the Duchy of Corniola. By then, my cigarette was about out and I really don't like smoking the short stubs so I smashed it out out in the small brass ashtray by the bed. It was about 4 inches across. The ashtray, not the bed. It was square with those little indents in the corners where you could put a cigarette and on the underside would be the stamped country of origin. My guess would be India. And it was filled with smashed cigarette butts. I should empty those, I thought. But now I was hungry, so I went into the kitchen to make a sandwich, maybe a ham and cheese, maybe peanut butter and jelly, have a glass of milk or a whiskey, and think about the distinctions between Latin and English's use of the Dative and Accusative cases, and read this week's "Terry and the Pirates." The Dragon Lady and the Ouija board would have to wait. And besides, tomorrow I'd be heading for Paris.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Politics of Graven Images

The King James version of the second commandment is "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness in heaven above, or that in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth." This is widely interpreted as an admonition against idol worship: the golden calf, fertility gods, trees, Jimi Hendrix, or Eric Clapton. Or even Chaka Khan. You get the idea. "Graven" in this usage is understood as in the word "engraved," meaning carved, sculpted. It has broadened to include drawn or painted as well although I really like the Andy Warhol Jimi Hendrix pieces. And man, Eric Clapton! I like the King James version of the Bible because one of my mother's way distant great, great, great, etc., 37th cousins was Lancelot Andrews who was appointed by King James, yes, that King James, to oversee the translation of the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. So the way I look at it, my uncle wrote the first five books of the Bible, which include the Ten Commandments. So one question is "Are Islamic prohibitions of portrayals of Muhammad somewhat in line with this 2nd Commandment?" My answer would be yeah, somewhat. A few years ago, an "An Everybody Draw Muhammad Day" was promoted on Facebook and other social media as a response to abrogations of freedom of expression and was both praised and criticized. It was both praised as a blow for freedom of artistic thought and expression and criticized as a gratuitous slur against millions of Muslims, the vast majority of whom just want to go to work and make a living and raise their kids in peace. Pakistan, for example, was quite offended and Facebook was blocked by the Pakistani government. Much ado ensued and the originator of the idea eventually had to change her name and go into hiding. So here I am adding my two cents to this senseless issue. The massacre at Charlie Hebdo in Paris is the latest incarnation (idea made flesh)of the politics of graven images.
Personally, I think the attack was directed by Al Quaeda as a tactical move so France and other countries would turn rightward in their politics, thus alienating and radicalizing even more disaffected Muslim youth, from which Al Quaeda recruits, and on which Al Quaeda depends. So Rene Magritte's gentle surrealist satire on images and perception, "The Treachery of Images" (and by the way, I've always admired Magritte's ability to make a living selling his forged paintings as Picasso's and Braque's and Chrico's) asking how can an image so strongly be misidentified as the actual thing since it is far removed from the referent, the pipe, to me is an important question. It is an image of a pipe, not a pipe. And then to take it even further, how can a graven image of Muhammad be understood as the referent itself? How can an image of the unknowable be assumed to be known? If I paint a picture of a smiling carrot and call it "The Prophet Muhammad" is that really a graven image? What if I paint a picture of a smiling carrot and say "This is not the Prophet Muhammad"? How can such outrage be generated by an image that is not the referent and could never be the referent or even explicitly says "This is not the referent"? I don't know. Don't claim to know. Okay. I'm done now. I doubt if I've contributed anything positive to the whole discussion, but I'm trying. I'm going to go listen to some Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix music. Maybe some Rufus.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Today my Dad would have been 96

A few thoughts on Saturday morning Jan. 17, 2015. My dad would have been 96 today. He grew up in San Francisco. So happy birthday Dad! The blog picture is The Golden Gate Bridge which I walked across last summer. My dad was among those who walked across it on the day it opened in 1937. If you've ever seen those National Geographic photos, he's in there. * * * * * * * Other thoughts on this day: The only Republican idea in the last 30 years that has actually worked is Obamacare. * * * * * * * * Let's see, in power in Congress for about a week, Republicans have voted to: kill Obamacare for the 60th time, overturn Roe v. Wade, deport millions of immigrant children, cut social security disability benefits, mandate construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, threaten funding for the Dept. of Homeland Security, give tax breaks to Wall Street billionaires, and suspended the use of arithmetic in future budget calculations. I saw a poll that said Republicans have dropped 10 % points in their approval rating since the election. I have to wonder what that 10 % thought they were voting for anyway. It's the politics of the absurd. President Obama will likely veto all of it if it ever gets to his desk. * * * * * * By the way, today marks the 2404th consecutive day the Republicans have failed to deliver their long promised alternative to Obamacare .......... maybe tomorrow. * * * * * * And I'm looking forward to Fox News' spirited defense of the next Andres Seranno exhibit of "Piss Christ." While we are all focused on France and the attack on the freedom of speech of Charlie Hebdo, Saudi Arabia is about to flog to death a blogger who was critical of Islam........seems like the only difference between the Saudis and Al Quaeda in this instance is that we need oil from the Saudis..........* * * * * * * * New Iowa Senator Joni Ernst is giving the GOP's response to the President's State of the Union Address. Given that everyone who has ever given the GOP's response to the State of the Union Address has fallen into a gravity well of stupid, I think this is a fine idea. * * * * * * I saw a report that Ted Nugent will be on Sarah Palin's cable tv show in a couple weeks.....I'm feeling queasy now. Their psycho-ammo-sexual masturbatory fetish patriotism is very disturbing. Maybe they'll accidentally shoot each other. * * * * * * I saw where George Zimmerman was arrested again for domestic violence of some kind. He's on my short list of people mostly likely to die a violent death........ * * * * * Mitt Romney now claims that if he had been elected President it wouldn't have rained on weekends..... * * * * * * Still feeling some blowback from selecting Steve Scalise as the new Majority Whip who was a speaker at a Louisiana White Separatist convention, National Republicans expressed their continued shock and outrage today about learning that the Ku Klux Klan is a white supremacist organization. Revelations surrounding new Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's appearance at a white supremacist conference several years ago has linked Scalise with David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Louisiana KKK. "I'm like David Duke without the baggage," Scalise, a Rep. from Louisiana, is quoted as saying. House Speaker John Boehner released a statement today in support of Congressman Scalise: "For decades, we thought KKK stood for Knights of the Kubla Khan and was an organization in support of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poetry. We are shocked and disappointed to find this is not the case and that white supremacists don't read more poetry. Furthermore, we are an inclusive party. We accept white men of all ethnic backgrounds: Italians, Germans, the English, some Jews. In fact, the Irish are the only white people we try to keep out. Heck, we even have some women and one of them is a Negro." He added plaintively, "And besides, with all the racists in our party, how can we not talk to them? Is it our fault we attract racists? We're damned if we do and damned if we don't."

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

What the hell's a dip switch?

Today I engaged in what turned out to be an epic journey of trials and tribulations to get a garage door opener remote for my car. My sister and her daughter already have one in each of their cars, so I decided to go get one for myself. The garage door opener motor is a 1992 Raynor; the date is significant. Openers made in 1993 and afterwards have things called optical sensors and dip switches. But I'm getting ahead of myself. * * * * * * So I went to the home supply store where they sold the remote device and found one that appeared to be "universal." In fact, the box the thing came in said "universal" and it appeared to likely be compatible with a 1992 Raynor mechanism. But noooooooooooooooooo. When I got home and opened the box, the instructions said something to the effect that if your opener is older than 1993 you must STOP. It was quite adamant about that. It was in all red caps. And I know ours is a 1992 model year because on the back of it it says 1992. In fact, it says June 1992. So I stopped. The instructions said push the button on the back of the mechanism by the dip switches and hold the button down. There was no button to hold down and there were no dip switches. * * * * * * I packaged the thing back up and returned it to the home supply store where they cheerfully refunded my $$. I then walked back to the area of the store where they sold the remotes and told the sales person my story. He looked a several boxes and said they all had that language about 1993. I'm trying to remember what of significance happened in 1993 and can't think of anything. But it was apparently a big year in garage door openers. He suggested I call the Raynor Garage Door opener company to see if they could help. * * * * * * So I did. When I got home, I found their website, found a local supplier, Norm's Door Service, a garage door company in Ralston. So I called the number and after several Sisyphean trips through a message routing apparatus, got to person named John. After describing all this to John, he suggested I bring one of the working remotes along with me so they can try to match it. I did take one with me and was able to show it to them where Mike, who turned out to be a former MCC student of mine, determined the right frequency by pointing my remote at a small black electronic gizmo on the counter with red and green lights and a couple of switches (they may or may not have been dip switches), found a suitable unit for me out of their archival shelves, checked to make sure the battery was still good, and sent me on my way with instructions: push the Learn button on the back of the opener by the dip switches and then hold down the remote button for three seconds. Sounded simple enough for even me to do it. So I drove home. I'm now thinking maybe I just didn't see the button or the dip switches. I'm also remembering Capt. Piccard being tortured by the Cardassians and looking at four lights has to say there are five lights. * * * * * * I then bundled up and headed into the very cold garage and put up the step ladder to look at the back of the unit. There was no button. I had been told it might be a green button, or a blue button, or a yellow button, or a purple button by various helpful people at Norm's. But no button. There were no dip switches, either. I don't even know what a dip switch is. I could hear Capt. Piccard loudly saying, "There is no button. There are no dipswitches." I called John back, but he had left Norm's Door Service for a short trip somewhere and he would call me back. * * * * * * When he called back, I explained to him that there was no button and nothing that looked like a dip switch. I still don't know what a dip switch is. However, John, who was very helpful suggested I take a photo and email it to him so they could determine how to program my new remote to open this 1992 relic garage door opener we have. So I bundled up again and went out with my digital camera and took a lovely photo of the back of the unit and emailed it to him. It included the model number, the serial number, the date of manufacture. I emailed it to John. I fully expected the worst. However, John came through in a big way. He called me back and asked if there was a box on the plug where the mechanism plugged into the ceiling. And there was. "Is there a squiggly wire coming out of it?" he asked. There was. "That's basically another door opener up there and if you push the large button on the bottom the door will open. "So now," he said, "pry off that large button and there should be a small button inside. Push that and then hold the button on the remote and it should work. If that doesn't work, then repeat the process but instead of holding the remote button down for three seconds, click it once, pause, click it twice, pause, and then click it three times." I did the first option and it worked. I had done it! I had driven about 40 miles, been to the lumberyard twice, been to Norm's once, been out to the garage four times, and gone up and down the stepladder as many times over three hours on this endeavor. I now have a garage door opener in my car! I never did figure out what a dipswitch is.