Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight of Our Soul: Big Hurt/Little Comfort

Bravo. Here's a movie worth changing the background color of one's blog temporarily to match.
[48 hours later: I changed it back--the pale text against black background looks cool but it's too hard to read.]

This film does not back off from darkness and hurt, from saying, "It really is as bad as you think." The only comfort it offers is an antihero who can take it, on our behalf. (Which, of course, is not nothing.)
The movie asks, "Are people good or bad?" and it answers, "Yes."
Very dark, very conflicted, very satisfying.

(Momo posted the below poem as a song in the original Spanish: "En La Noche Oscura".)

From The Dark Night of the Soul

by Saint John of the Cross, 16th century, Spain

"Stanzas of the Soul"

One dark night,
fired with love's urgent longings
- ah, the sheer grace! -
I went out unseen,
my house being now all stilled.

In darkness, and secure,
by the secret ladder, disguised,
- ah, the sheer grace! -
in darkness and concealment,
my house being now all stilled.

On that glad night,
in secret, for no one saw me,
nor did I look at anything,
with no other light or guide
than the one that burned in my heart.

This guided me
more surely than the light of noon
to where he was awaiting me
- him I knew so well -
there in a place where no one appeared.

O guiding night!
O night more lovely than the dawn!
O night that has united
the Lover with his beloved,
transforming the beloved in her Lover.

Upon my flowering breast
which I kept wholly for him alone,
there he lay sleeping,
and I caressing him
there in a breeze from the fanning cedars.

When the breeze blew from the turret,
as I parted his hair,
it wounded my neck
with its gentle hand,
suspending all my senses.

I abandoned and forgot myself,
laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself,
leaving my cares
forgotten among the lilies.

From THE COLLECTED WORKS OF ST. JOHN OF THE CROSS, translated by Kieran Kavanaugh and Otilio Rodriguez

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Why Things Are Round

Once in a while I get so twisted up scientifically, I can't even formulate a question sensible enough for Google to answer.

Luckily I know a Real-Life Scientist, my old blogpal Matt of Long Burn, who has answered many of my queries that, if there weren't such things as dumb questions, would qualify as such.

Yesterday, after I wrote about spherical bodies [a couple posts down], I googled: "Why are planetary bodies round?"

Here's what Google said:
"1 AU = 1.49597870691·1011 m 1 year = 365.25 days = 31557600 s 1 ME = 5.9742·1024 kg
All orbital characteristics are specified with respect to the Solar system's barycenter and the J2000.0 ecliptic"
I see. Thanks, guys.

I turned to Matt.

Matt's answer: A sphere is the minimum-energy form for a planet to take.
Gravity is isotropic--it has no preferred direction. Take our own planet, and say it starts to get nonspherical. Before you know it, gravity is turning sharp new mountains (Himalayas, or the San Gabriels behind LA) into old mountains (the long roll of the Scandinavian peninsula), and in the end you have the Red River Valley of the North (seen it?).

Only small heavenly objects can keep a nonspherical form-- small mass, small gravitational forces.

Could there be nonspherical planets?
Maybe but probably not.
A spinning disk would work, but then where would you put your sun?
A spinning ring around the sun would also work, but it's highly improbable.
Fresca again.
So, this sounds to me just like human behavior--we prefer to expend the least possible energy for the biggest possible result (the most bang for our buck).
Or, could we say, eating potato chips is our most efficient way to achieve an ideal spherical shape?

P.S. The book pictured here, The Hazards of Space Travel: A Tourist's Guide (2007) is, according to the NYT review, a serious but amusing book, by astrophysicist Neil F. Comins, not a Douglas Adams spin-off.
Comins discusses the coming space-tourism, warning that, speaking of round things in space, among other things:

"Space is littered with lithic debris, and a collision with a particle no bigger than a pebble could well be catastrophic. (Pockmarks from thousands of tiny impacts slowed the orbit of the Salyut 7 space station so much that it fell from the sky.)"

So, think twice before you hand over your $200,000 to Virgin Galactic for a space flight.

Poem for Sunday Morning

"Unholy Sonnet #17"

by Mark Jarman

God like a kiss, God like a welcoming,
God like a hand guiding another hand
And raising it or making it descend,
God like the pulse point and its silent drumming,
And the tongue going to it, God like the humming
Of pleasure if the skin felt it as sound,
God like the hidden wanting to be found
And like the joy of being and becoming.
And God the understood, the understanding,
And God the pressure trying to relieve,
What is not pain but names itself with weeping,
And God the rush of time and God time standing,
And God the touch body and soul believe,
And God the secret neither one is keeping.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The problem with Mama Mia... that it's a musical, but the movie-star cast can't sing. Or dance. Or even, mostly, act. So it's pretty much a two hour spot for the Greek Tourism Board.

Whoever thought 007 should even try to sing, dance, or act, well, I hope they are as embarrassed as I was watching him.
I give the movie one star, which goes mostly to Meryl Streep (one ray to be shared between Stellan Skarsgard and Julie Walters).

It made me want to see again the other ABBA movie: Muriel's Wedding (Australia, 1994), which used ABBA's pure pop melodies as a backdrop for a story of despair, real ugliness, and, whew, thank God, finally transformation, and pulled it off.

The twenty-one-year-old Toni Collette, right, (who in 2006 so perfectly played the mother in Little Miss Sunshine), is astonishing as the fat girl Muriel so desperate for love she will sell herself out, who finally gains some dignity. And she acts without showing it.
That's one thing about Meryl Streep's acting I'm not keen about--when I watch her act, I too often think, "Oh, well done!" It's no different in Mama Mia, except that this time I also felt grateful to her.

spherical bodies

You know, right?, when you're googling for images just write "images" after the word. (I didn't know that till this year, is why I'm mentioning it.)

I just tried "astronave images" and found this cool book cover. The title Angeli in Astonave means Angels in Starships.
I love that title in a poetic sci-fi way, but the author Giorgio Dibitonto means it literally: he claims that UFOs are fulfillment of Biblical teachings such as "Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven." Whatever. I'm not opposed. I just like the cover art.

But I wonder, could UFOs instead be flying wheels of Parmesan cheese?

These are more what I expected to find, from the online portfolio of Milan-based special effects artist (mostly for snazzy TV ads, looks like) Jacopo Grisanti.
The ad is for Regione Emilia Romagna, the region of Italy that produces Parmesan cheese.

Finally, if I had my druthers, while I wait for angels of cheese to drop out of the sky, I would wait here:
A Primera Astronave Hotel no Mundo, in Salvador, the capital city of Bahia, Brazil.
Bahia was the one of the centers of sugar production in the New World, so slavers brought huge numbers of enslaved Africans here, not on anything so nice as a starship.

I like how people imagine spaceships as round.
It reminds me of how the early Christian theologian Origen* said that the bodies of spiritual beings (like angels, I think, but it's been a while since I read this stuff) are spherical.

(Ah, and I just googled him and found out that "According to the letter of Justinian to the patriarch Menas, Origen affirmed that 'in the resurrection the bodies of men rise spherical'").

I guess God likes round.

Since there's no friction in space, however, really starships could be any shape--like the Borg's cube-shaped ships, or the skyscraper-like Federation ships on Firefly. If you're ever going to land on a planet, though, you have to design something that can deal with the atmosphere.

See how much I'm learning from Star Trek--everything from Italian to angelology (this is a real word) to theology review.

II *Origen of Alexandria (c. 185-254, AD of course) and his spiritual philosophy always pleased to me, but the Church declared him heretical, and imprisoned and persecuted him, breaking his health.

The bit about spherical bodies was the least of it, though it was considered unorthodox. No, his worst call, in the Church's eyes, was his teaching that all souls will eventually be saved.
(Here's an overview from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

This is heresy because if that is so, then the teachings about eternal damnation are wrong.
You see the problem, right? If mercy and love really win out in the end, for absolutely EVERYONE, even Stalin and the devil and that person who was so mean to me in grade school, where does that leave the power of God's justice?

I like Origen, and I like that he raises some tricky questions.
I don't believe in an actual heaven and hell and god and all that, but how we believe in spiritual matters are important since they inform how we live our lives.
If we have to choose, and we do sometimes, do we choose justice or mercy?

I wanted to write my senior thesis on Origen, but my adviser convinced me to do Ambrose, the bishop of Milan instead, a much more mundane figure, immensely important politically--more like the Godfather.
[Photo, right, of me working on my thesis, "Saint Ambrose and the Theology of Death."]

I adored my adviser, so I didn't even question his motives. It was only in later years I realized he didn't want me to do Origen because he didn't understand him.

Oh well. It was perhaps more useful to me to learn about something *I* didn't have a natural understanding of: the history of church politics. It served me well later, when I tangled with its modern-day incarnation.
I went on wrestling with questions of mercy and forgiveness on my own, anyway.

Speaking of "Patristics" (or, Fathers of the Church, of which Origen is not properly one, what with his unorthodox teachings; but he still gets lumped in with them, because he was so very smart and interesting), I've been thinking a bit as the Star Trek convention approaches about the last conference I went to--also in August, but years ago, when I was in my early 30s (I had dropped out of college and only finished my BA years later): the Patristics Conference in Oxford, England, which I attended with the aforementioned beloved adviser, with a result that was perhaps not quite unintended on either one's part.

Hmmm... What do I want to say about this?
What was important about that week, besides starting an affair that was to last, off and on, for almost ten years?

Well, at the time, I had been thinking of taking up my prof's suggestion that I go to graduate school (theology/philosophy) at Oxford (he was a Trinity man himself). But the final day of the conference, I sat across the street from the Sheldonian Theater in a light drizzle of rain, watching some Morris dancers (can we give them credit? they are so maligned), and I had one of those moments of extreme clarity:
I 100% knew I did not want to put myself in this world, this world stripped down to the intellect.

I got up and walked back to the flat, thinking "remember this." I do remember it, and I know it was true--I would have hated being stuck in the heart of Western ideas, much as I do love it. (Yes, I do, to visit.)

Instead, a couple years later, I entered and was baptized into the Catholic Church, which was just as loony, but held lots of opportunities to work out mercy and forgiveness in the flesh and not only the mind.

This is really a much bigger story, which I launched into with no sense of where I was going--and now I am going to go see the ABBA movie Mama Mia with J., in half an hour. (I love ABBA.) So I guess I'm rescued, for now...

Friday, July 25, 2008

esplorare strani mondi/to explore strange worlds

Anna Francesca just posted the Star Trek intro in Italian! The words are written out at the beginning (now I can memorize them). This cracks me up.


I'm trying out a new name for my blog: l'astronave. (The url stays the same.)
"GuGeo" was never meant to be its permanent name.

In the fall of 2007, when I started this blog, I had just quit writing geography books. Four years of writing to spec at a 7th grade level left me unable to write words more than two syllables long without adding a definition.

(Similarly, after I got my BA in Classics, I couldn't write sentences free of Latinate constructions, of which I remain very fond.)

I wanted to signify my new freedom to rove in the world of writing and thinking; so I chose the name "Guerrilla Geography."
Someone else on blogger was using that name, however, and I was so stuck in the publishing-world mode, it didn't occur to me to use it anyway (with a different url).
I shortened it to GuGeo--a place-holder until I could think of a better name. It grew on me, though, sounding as it does rather like an Italian fashion designer (like Giorgio).

Over time, what I wanted to happen happened:
my brain shook off the tightest of the work-imposed bonds.
I also shook off the idea that I should work in public service of some sort.
This shows how far I had gone away from myself. Anyone who knows me knows I would be dreadful in any kind of work that involves committees. I just get sulky, to put it mildly.

It was only that I was so sad about how awful the world is, after looking at it closely every day for 4 years, that I even thought of such a ridiculous idea.

Making Star Trek vids this past month was one of the biggest brain shakes.
Here was the breakthrough:
A & J came over for gin-and-tonics a few weeks ago, and I showed them my first vid, "Don't Touch Jim's Flower."
They laughed out loud.
I was shocked.
And it flashed on me at that moment that I could do more for the world by doing what I love, even if it's silly, than I would working on worthy social tasks, such as placing stop signs.
See, I know from experience that sort of contact with my species feeds my just-under-the-surface contempt for us. Not to mention self-loathing.

The other thing about "GuGeo" is that I don't actually like the word guerrilla, which means "little war."
Here's an example of a "little war" mind-set that I know well:
Just yesterday someone of a radical political orientation said they refuse to read Toni Morrison because wealthy, makeup-wearing, liberal, white women like her novels, and in the speaker's eyes, these women are worthy of contempt.

Do I ever personally recognize the pain behind that contempt.
God help me, if I were in academia with people who worship Toni Morrison but never ride the bus, I would be out in the cultural bush with a Kalashnikov, shooting my nose off.

So, since I've blessedly been lucky enough to have a choice, I've always chosen to be poor and unimportant rather than powerful and bitter serving worthy institutions.
I have worked as a janitor in them, and basically I do a variation on that now:
bits and pieces of mopping up other people's writing. I like it OK.

At mid-life, I don't know where I'm going with paid work...or unpaid work either.
But I know I don't want to feed the cynical part of myself--and definitely not the part of myself that grooves on being cynical. (Because, you know, that carries its own social rewards.)

Coming from an academic family, I do suffer some pangs that I have turned out to be a Star-Trek loving janitor.
But what the hell, it makes me happy, and if that translates into making people laugh ever, that is a good thing.

I always thought eventually I might change this blog's name. When Anna Francesca sent me the Italian for "These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise," I was caught by the word for "starship."
L'Astronave. (Italian, so that's "ah-stro-nah-vay".)

I'm giving it a try as a name. Even though I predict that I will not keep writing about Star Trek forever, I will keep looking to the stars.
And it's not too terribly dweeby: I can even give its classical etymology.
Anyway, everything is temporary.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beauty Tip

I just made my first "demotivational poster" at DIY Despair's Parody Motivator Generator, which is even easier to use than LOLcats.
(This is the Gorn captain I mention below.)
(Yes, I really am doing this at 4:11 a.m. Also configuring a new blogroll with Blogger's new RSS-y list: I like it.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Can we say, "Trekkie"?

I keep getting e-mail updates from the Star Trek-Las Vegas people, who just sent a list of people who will sign autographs at the con (not for free, either). They are all, like:
"played Crewman seen sweeping the floor in episode 63."

But here's the thing--I got all excited by THIS one:
BOBBY E. CLARK – Gorn captain from the original Star Trek series; also performed stunts on multiple TV shows over the past 50 years!

I'm going to check the couch cushions for spare change.

People are saying such smart, adorable things...

Is it because we have left Cancer and entered Leo that I am in a worshipful sort of mood? (Not my usual mood.)
(Leo energy being the charismatic sort that elicits worship, even grudging.)

Anyway, all of a sudden everyone seems extra fabulous and witty to me, so I am going to quote some of them.
(That last little video project left me wrung out of originality, anyway.)

Please don't feel left out if I haven't quoted you here--you are excellent too! It's just that I just now read these ones.

To start, Manfred wrote a pretty perfect description of America, in a post about Steely Dan, who he says were:

"my image of America, effortlessly cool and yet also dark and bitter, people who knew their way around but were still lost."

Then, Jen has been writing these fantastic updates about Uncle Tom's Cabin and reflecting on the not-so-smartness of romanticizing suffering. Today she quotes Harriet Beecher Stowe:

"Stowe notes wryly:
"Of course, in a novel, people's hearts break, and they die, and that is the end of it; and in a story this is very convenient.
"But in real life we do not die when all that makes life bright dies to us. There is a most busy and important round of eating, drinking, dressing, walking, visiting, buying, selling, talking, reading, and all that makes up what is commonly called living, yet to be gone though."

Momo posts (for me!) a youTube remix of William Shatner going "woo" as he drives his racecar at 160 mph that so captures this silly, pompous, wonderful man's "chi" (qi), I just don't know what to say, but reignites my desire to learn more filmmaking techniques (not that this is complex at all, but you know, mustn't slouch).

Then, Anna Francesca, my youTube correspondent, e-mails from Italy in reply to my asking for some more Star Trek phrases in Italian:

"Questi sono i viaggi dell'astronave Enterprise"
[These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise]

and tells me,
"Beam me up, Scotty" in is translated as "Mi porti su Scotty" to speak in third person, as a kind of deference, if they were in familiarity it would be "Portami su Scotty".

...and she promises to write more soon!

I leave for Las Vegas for the Star Trek convention in exactly two weeks (August 6), and I hope to have learned lots of Italian Star Trek by then, in case I meet any alluring Klingons or the like who only speak Italian. Not that one needs to speak to communicate with Klingons, I gather.
Anyway, a starship by any other name...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"Interessante Capitano!"

Ah, just what I always suspected: Spock is really Italian.
A vidder from Rome presents here all the times Spock says "Fascinating"--in Italian! And it sounds better, too. If you go to her site [click on the youTube icon on the vid] she lists all the Italian names of the episodes, which is kind of fun.

I've also been chatting a bit with an Italian vidder from Florence who put together "star trek e la presa vulcaniana di Spock", aka Spock's Vulcan nerve pinch (but the clips are in English).

Sunday, July 20, 2008

"Star Trek, My Love," my 4th vid

Well, I went ahead and posted this on youTube after all, though I'm not objective on this one, and I can't judge its merits.
It's my personal story, which naturally incorporates the history of my times and my planet.
Do let me know what you think.
(In theory, anyway, I could still re-edit the thing.)

There are timeline notes and sources to accompany the photos on the video's youTube site. (Click on "more info" in the description box.)

And let me add here that I laughed to realize that when I was thirteen, I actually looked a little like Kim Darby (the girl here, from Star Trek's "Miri" episode).

It took me a long time to get this one together, partly because I spent a lot of time looking through historical photos, partly because the heavy emotions slowed me down (working on it felt important, but it wasn't fun like the other 3), and partly because I had a hell of a time choosing music.

I couldn't think of a piece of music that covered the varying emotions, so I tried to mix clips, but I'm so unschooled in musical technology, it was just a frustrating failure.

Last night I was futzing with it and I thought, why not try one of my most favorite tunes, "In My Life"?
Not only did the reflective lyrics and melody fit, but the length was just about right too. I only had to do a bit of rearranging to get align it pretty neatly.

P.S. "LVD" of course is my mother.

The New Kids

Here are the new teasers for Star Trek XI (from Trekcore).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Favorite Library User: Mark Mallman

What is it with all these musicians popping up in my life?
The other night, after I saw Sal's wonderful Stella for Star perform, I was drinking beer at Bad Waitress and I ran into a lovely guy I haven't seen in about ten years--Mark Mallman:

This is his official video, "Tell Me How a Man Gets Close to You."

I know Mark from when he was a student about 16 years ago, coming into the art college library where I worked nights. In fact, I only half-recognized him out of the corner of my eye because his hair is a different color. When I said that to him, he said, "So is yours."
Ha! Yes, indeed, it's gray.

Even back when, you could see he was an unalloyed soul with enough rocket fuel and sanity --defined by me as the ability to use (or not use) punctuation judiciously when you rant--to keep him from ending up with a day job.
(I can think of about three students out of those thirteen years who had that. God knows *I* don't have the energy to be a genius.)

As Mark quotes on his mySpace Music page:

"I came into this world, a puzzled panther, wanting to be caged. But something stood in the way, I was never quite tamed" - Darby Crash (the Germs)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Change Your Beat

New technology is freaking out a lot of people in publishing, not surprisingly, since their (my!) livelihood rests on books. And books are looking more and more like dodos.

Sister is due to talk at a national conference on perils and opportunities in publishing, and we've been chatting about how to deal with change.

Yesterday I saw a nifty exercise in change, in the currently playing movie The Visitor (watch the trailer and get involved in immigration issues on this site):
a hip, young African-drum player teaches a square middle-aged professor to drum to a beat of 3--instead of the 4/4 beat of Western music.

It's super easy--and it's not. If you freeze up and think about it too much, fear will throw your rhythm off. The trick is to relax, keep breathing, and take it slow.
Same with computers, right?

I thought it would be fun to do this drum-beat exercise at a conference--everyone could drum to a beat of 3 on their tabletop. The idea being, hey! humans invented this--we can do it too, even if it's unfamiliar!
(And why do I assume it would be to a bunch of publishing professionals? Oh, gee, I don't know...)

So, otherwise the movie is a pile of cliches:
a soul-dead, New Englandish, academic white guy intersects with a couple of illegal immigrants, and the Syrian guy teaches the Connecticut guy to play the drum, which gives him a way to express his locked-up grief and connect with reality, which is a sad-but-true reality about love and loss.

But it's still a pretty good movie about contemporary America, by the director of The Station Agent. After all, the cliches are true enough (which is why they're cliches, obviously--I know these guys!).

And the drumming is cool. The music includes Fela Kuti, Nigerian hero of Afrobeat (whom I'd never heard before).

Speaking of change, this week I finally wrenched myself out of the coffee shop and went back to the YW.

I'd hurt my knee four months ago, so I took a break. It's been so great not to exercise, I didn't go back even though my knee healed a while ago and I was turning into a blob.

I admit it feels good to be back, even if I slightly resent what feels like a waste of time.
At least I don't have to wear red tights, which I vote Kirk's Most Embarrassing Costume.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Spaced, with "Scotty" (Simon Pegg)

Bookworm alerts me to a UK show I have never heard of: Spaced, written by and starring the fantastic Simon Pegg (and Jessica Stevenson, who I don't know, but if Simon likes her...).

It's from 1999-2001 but turns out the DVD is due to be released in the US on July 22, as in 5 days from now! (And Fox made a US version, but I guess it flopped?)

In the meantime, you can watch the first episode on youTube here:
Spaced, episode 1.

(I haven't even watched it yet. It's not sci-fi, it's about two strangers sharing a flat. Here's the description on Wikipedia.)

A couple funny coincidences:
Bookworm mentioned Spaced because she had never heard anyone speak the phrase I put in Uhura's mouth in my 3rd vid--"What am I, chopped liver?"--except on that show.*

Then, did you all know Simon Pegg (of the gloriously funny Shaun of the Dead and the not-quite-as-good-but-still-very-good Hot Fuzz) is playing Scotty in the forthcoming new Star Trek movie?
Which is genius casting.

The movie, which will be Star Trek XI, is due out May 9, 2009, and I gather it's about the young Kirk, Spock, and friends...maybe at Starfleet Academy? (Shades of Harry Potter at Hogwarts?)
It's all guarded like Vulcan secrets, but that's the buzz.

*I didn't know anything about the phrase, so I googled it. "Ask the Rabbi" says:
As far as I know, the origins of the phrase are not Yiddish; I believe the phrase was originally coined in America. Being that chopped liver was always considered a side dish and not a main course, the phrase is used to express hurt and amazement when a person feels he has been overlooked and treated just like a "side dish."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Most Cheering Awful Thing

Well, I missed Bastille Day, but I just remembered one of the best ever "things could be worse" examples:
You all know, Thomas Carlyle's huge manuscript of The French Revolution was accidentally burned by a servant.

Imagine the appalling pre-carbon-paper vulnerability of writing. And Carlyle's guts in writing the damn thing all over again.
The one gives me a shivery evil thrill-- and the other makes me weak-kneed with admiration.

Anyway, that story makes me know I'm so "lucky, lucky, lucky," as sung operatically by Dawn French [no relation to the revolution].

Help Save Zimbabwe (and, On Cheering Up)

Professor Zero, friend of Momo, posted a link to Help Save Zimbabwe, which has a petition to the UN Secretary General you can sign. They also have a place you can donate money.

I'm feeling low today, partly because my ambitions for my next vid are proving way beyond my current skills.
But really, what a luxurious thing to be depressed about!

To a limited extent*, I am a fan of the "it could always be worse" school of cheering-up employed by the boy in My Life as a Dog. He was always trying to feel better about his sad life by thinking of awful things that happened to other people--like someone who was walking across a sports field accidentally getting a javelin through the chest.
The worse the bad examples you need to employ are, the more you know your life is tragic.

Today I do NOT have to compare my life to Zimbabwe to feel lucky.
This is only a "some-people-don't-even-know-how-to-upload-pix-off-their-digital-cameras" day.
Yep, writing that out just perked me up quite a lot.

*(In fact, this "it could be worse" technique really only works for minor, self-indulgent pains.
True sadness and grief need recognition and comfort, such as, say, for lost love, an evening reading Pablo Neruda, weeping, and drinking sangria. Jollying-up of the "get over it" variety is illegal in these cases.)

And, here--I can't publish a post without a photo anymore, so here's a photo I'd saved a while back of the grave of Philip Larkin, who cheers us up by reminding us that we are not dead.
He was a rather unpleasant character, but he deserves his epitaph, WRITER, more than most.

Note it's the same one Douglas Adams has on his tombstone. What otherwise entirely different fish.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Everybody Joop, now!

Calloooo, calleee! Oh happy day!
Bink has posted her first video on youTube!!! It's of her little stinker wire-haired fox terrier, Joop. Taken with her digital camera.
(YouTube hasn't loaded the display image yet, but I'm tooooo eager to post it on GuGeo to wait!) Go, Binky, go!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

"There's a Light in the Darkness of Everybody's Life"

Tra la! tra la! I just checked: this "old" (2004) iBook meets the requirements for loading the "new" Mac operating system (Leopard).
I never worried about my OS, because when I was writing the geography books for teens, I only used my computer as a combo typewriter/mailbox/encyclopedia.

But now I am a "producer" (!), as a techie friend informed me, my old OS can't download software I need [relative term, but it feeeeels like need], like the free photoshop alternative GIMP. I'm already dissatisfied with the limited editing I can do on iMovie and iPhoto.
How quickly we humans want to go see what's over the next mountain.

But sometimes the old stuff works GREAT.
Last night (after the B. block party), for instance, I watched Rocky Horror Picture Show (RHPS), from 1975, for the first time in... 20-some years, and its operating system works just fine.

Seems I'm deep in some midlife life review, because I keep saying, "for the first time in xx years," when xx >10.

Ever since sci-fi moved into the vacuum in my life left by the Catholic Church and geography books (etc.), I've figured I should watch this movie again, which played a minor role in my young life; but I worried it would be a sad tattered affair, like the awfulness of running into an old lover and feeling sorry for them.

Mais non, pas de tout! to paraphrase Dr. Frankenfurter.

If there's anyone sexier than Tim Curry in fishnets, to this day, I don't know who... though there's a certain starship captain who's awfully cute when he's campy.
(Not forgetting the shockingly young Susan Sarandon, when she's liberated into Franky fandom.)

In fact, Rocky Horror doesn't actually add to "straight" sci-fi, it just amps up the out-land-ish boundary-breaking stuff that's already there, a few notches.
Or quite a few notches, because even 33 years later, it's pretty wild. A musical about a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania? That shows (tastefully but indubitably) the naughty doctor deflowering both the heroine and the hero?
We've barely caught up to this movie.

[But look, sci-fi is often transgressive. Flying under the censor's radar, Star Trek also raised the gender-identity question. In the very last episode of the series, "The Turnabout Intruder," Kirk's identity is trapped in a woman's body, and only Spock recognizes him, because he "knows the captain better than anyone in the universe"--and because he can mind-meld.
Which is why I chose for my vid the photo of Spock melding with Kirk in a woman's body to illustrate the line "the conjunction of the mind" in the Marvell poem.
I mean, if Kirk is still Kirk even when he's biologically female, what does that say?]

But here's the thing about RHPS that surprised me the most:
it's British!

How did I miss this?
Well, it was pre-Internet days, and I never researched the movie, the way I casually check out everything that interests me these days, on this little box.
Anyway, the central couple, Brad and Janet, are American, and everyone else's accents are all over the map, so I just made that culturally imperialistic assumption that everything is American, like we did back then.

But I should have suspected, because though Rocky Horror fit well in my life, it was far from the American mainstream (as was my life, I see with hindsight). It's more like 1970s Monty Python than Saturday Night Live.

Listening to RHPS creator Richard O'Brien's audio commentary, I learned that he and others in the cast had been involved in Hair, and that makes sense--reflecting as it does the culture of my childhood much more than "Star Trek," which was, in fact, awfully square in the 1960s.

(I didn't watch Star Trek until Watergate, among other things, took the air out of the tires, because it wasn't even on my parents' cultural radar. They had us watching Truffaut films.)

Thinking along those historical lines, I'm working on my next video, which is making me so sad I don't know if I'll finish it, and is so personal, I don't know if I'll post it.
(Oh, maybe on GuGeo, which oddly enough feels less vulnerable than youTube, because I have the feeling--the illusion, sometimes--that I know you guys.)

The project started out light enough as a response to the question many people ask (including me):
"Why do you like Star Trek?"

Obviously there are many easy and fun answers (tin foil bikinis! rubber alien brains! Kirk's smirk!).
But underneath, I love Star Trek because twice in my life it has shone as the "light in the darkness of everybody's life," as Janet and Brad sing in RHPS.

These darkest times in my life coincide with times of historic darkness: Watergate and those helicopters lifting off the roof of the US embassy* in Vietnam coinciding with my mother leaving the family (and me starting high school), and September 11 and the following war(s) coinciding with my mother killing herself.

So, I've been gathering images from those years, and weeping.
Stuff like ST and RHPS made me laugh, while they deal with very "serious darkness," as Story by Story says, and that's why I love them.

(And I think Jesus had a great sense of the quirkiness of life, but, meaning no disrespect, the RC church as I experienced it--big caveat there--has so domesticated the spirit, it's become like those bloated humans in WALL-E who can't even stand on their legs anymore.)

I want to say thank-you to my fellow humans who make these and other life-giving things.
Whether or not I finish this vid, maybe I'll start writing thank-you notes.
Now there's a mid-life thing to do.

*Also very grown-up: checking one's facts (even belatedly).

From photographer Hubert van Es:

"In fact, the photo is not of the embassy at all; the helicopter was actually on the roof of an apartment building in downtown Saigon where senior Central Intelligence Agency employees were housed. It was Tuesday, April 29, 1975."

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Scroll on Past...

...if you've seen it. (I'm not ready to see it disappear to the bottom of the pile yet.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'd go into the darkness with...

Guillermo del Toro, for sure.
(Here directing Ivana Baquero as Ofelia in Pan's Labyrinth, 2006).

I'm busy this weekend (unusually so, and with people, not computers, too), but I'm going to go see his Hellboy II asap!

Gordon Brown on Zimbabwe and the G8

"With worldwide sanctions and a worldwide arms embargo, our aim is that there be no hiding place and no safe haven for the criminal cabal that surrounds Mugabe. And now that the G8 has taken its decision, we propose that the United Nations puts the full weight of the international community against the actions of an illegitimate government."
Read the rest on This Is Zimbabwe, but cover the right quarter of the screen if you don't want to see pix of torture.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Romance of Working Together

Below: clip of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore cutting a demo of a song they wrote together, from the movie Music and Lyrics--a movie I adore.
(I've met absolutely no one else who does--and the critics hated it. Still, 7+ million hits on youTube for the complete song, Way Back into Love, show I am in the company of many others, probably all girls under sixteen, which is not such a bad thing. The vocals on the full song are by Grant and Haley Bennett; but it's not the pop song I like, it's the relationship between the composer and the lyricist.)

[Note: The original video I'd posted here was removed from youTube because of copyright mumbo-jumbo--this version dubbed in French (sounds like its the actors themselves?) got past the filter--they still sing in English though.]

This is one of my favorite movie scenes, right up there with Erich von Stronheim cutting his geranium in honor of Jean Gabin in "Grand Illusion," though entirely different. [I'm exagerating, but it does give me a lot of delight.]

This movie blew me away when I rented it (for $1 from the Red Box at my local McDonald's) last summer, because it's about what I consider the most erotic relationship between people: not pure sexual attraction (nothing against that, of course) but the generative charge that comes from working in depth on something you love with someone else who loves it.
And that makes "Music and Lyrics" really unusual in the chick-flick Hollywood genre in which it is firmly planted.

(It's more normally depicted as the kind of nonsexual but intensely romantic "buddy love" between guys who, say, work as soldiers or policemen together. Like, "I would die for you, but don't tell anyone about that time in the trenches..." Come to think of it, I think slash is all about that one time in the trenches.)

In the movie, Alex (Grant) and Sophie (Barrymore) aren't attracted to each other at first: he thinks she's a space cadet (she is); and she thinks he's a has-been pop star (he is). They only fall in love after they are thrown into working together--she writes the lyrics and he writes the music in one 3-day rush for Shakira-esque Cora (Bennet), Alex's one chance at a comeback and her chance to redeem her failed writing career.

I was thinking about this kind of love as I was putting together the clips of all the girls Kirk ever kissed for my latest vid: Kirk: "To His Mistress...".
The only woman Kirk [in full possession of his right mind, anyway] seems to love as a person is Edith (Joan Collins!), the social reformer he meets when he (with Spock) travels back in time to Earth in the 1930s, in "The City on the Edge of Forever."
And I suggest he loves her because she DOES something, she works at something he too believes in: the peace of the world, (which supposedly will be achieved by Kirk's time).

Kirk is a sensualist who would never turn down any physical experience, but what all those slashfans are picking up on is that the person he truly loves is the person he shares his work with: Spock.
Whether or not that's a sexual relationship, there's no doubt it's an erotic one (in the sense of containing a ton of generative potential).
And it is Spock with whom Kirk comes forward again in time, not Edith, for whom he is not willing to make the ultimate sacrifice (as he later will for Spock). Which is why I chose the still of Kirk & Spock jumping through the time portal to illustrate the "two perfect loves" line of the Marvell poem--it's also currently my blog-profile photo.

Much as I love "Moonstruck" [post below], it's not for the central romance. I predict that once Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and Loretta (Cher) have been married a while and finished fucking their brains out, they will be in for a really crabby lifetime together. Just think about their personalities--would YOU want to be married to either one? Yeah, they are crazy mad for each other, and it's sexy and romantic, but I don't think they're going to work together. They should have an affair, not a wedding.
Naw, I love that movie for the theology.

Am I middle-aged, or what?
I guess what puts me in the company of the 15-year-olds is that while Alex and Sophie are colleagues, they are super cute movie stars (well, she is anyway!) who have the hots for each other and write an endearing sugar pop song.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Vid #3: Kirk: "To His Mistress..."

Eighteen (18).
Or was it nineteen?
That's the answer to how many women Captain Kirk kissed on Star Trek, out of 79 episodes (if you count the times his body kissed someone but he wasn't in it). But I may have missed some, because I was only looking at episodes I remembered kisses in, and later I realized I'd missed a couple, so had to add them and reconfigure all the timing on iMovie. AAaaaargh.

YouTube hasn't uploaded the still for my latest (third) fanvid yet. Right now (5:18 p.m., CST), it displays a silhouette of a camera-- but the vid itself IS up, and it's both silly and sultry (siltry? sully?):

(Star Trek) Kirk: "To His Mistress...".

It's an expansion (major!) of the "Metaphysical Quickie" gugeo post I did the other night, which took me less than an hour. The vid took, well, I wish I'd kept count. Many hours. Many lots of hours.
Spent futzing with the timing, mostly, in this movie, to get everything aligned right--the addition of sound is something I never had to worry about before, in my old words-and-pix days.

It's such a fascinating and satisfying, albeit nerve-racking, process, learning how to make these vids. Sister said it's like learning a new language: you start out knowing nothing and after a couple weeks, you can say,
"Je voudrais un cheval du fromage."
(That means, "I would like a cheese horse." I think.)

I very much feel as if I'm in another country, these past couple weeks since I started making these iMovies. I wake up in the middle of the night with that sense of displacement you get in a hotel room on another continent, that slight delay before you know where and who you are.

Metaphysical jet lag, you could call it.

I'm going to go look up some of my old favorites (on youTube), the ones that remind me who I am. Like Moonstruck.
(Just did it and posted my favorite part--the one the entire Basilica seems able to quote from heart.)


Here are the description notes I wrote for youTube:

Kirk's omnivorous appetite relishes sweet and savory and everything in between--and plenty of it; but what I love best about the captain is his smirk.

Donne (pronounced "done") would have approved Kirk's naughty use of his poem---his objection here is to the way Kirk is slaughtering his meter.

*The music is "The Stripper," by Daniel Rose, who wrote it for a TV show in 1958. No wonder it fits Star Trek so well.

*Paramount owns Star Trek. My intentions are entirely frivolous, er, educational.
(May blessings rain on for screencaps. And my friends who listen to me rant.)

*Portrait of John Donne as a young lover (c.1595), by an unknown painter; National Portrait Gallery, London. (But I didn't use their copyrighted image.)

John Donne (c. 1572-1631), metaphysical poet—(like Andrew Marvell, of "The Definition of Love")--and Anglican priest is known for his early love poems and his later spiritual ones: for instance, "no man is an island."

Here's the complete poem, by, of course, the young Donne:


Come, madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labor, I in labor lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven's zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.

Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th' eyes of busy fools may be stopped there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you that now it is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.

Your gown, going off, such beauteous state reveals,
as when from flowry meads th' hill's shadow steals.
Off with that wiry coronet and show
The hairy diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love's hallowed temple, this soft bed.

In such white robes, heaven's angels used to be
Received by men; thou, Angel, bring'st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet's Paradise; and though
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know
By this these angels from an evil sprite:
Those set our hairs on end, but these our flesh upright.

License my roving hands, and let them go
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man manned,
My mine of precious stones, my empery,
How blest am I in this discovering thee.

To enter in these bonds is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.
Full nakedness! All joys are due to thee,
As souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be
To taste whole joys. Gems which you women use
Are like Atlanta's balls, cast in men's views,

That when a fool's eye lighteth on a gem,
His earthly soul may covet theirs, not them.
Like pictures, or like books' gay coverings made
For lay-men, are all women thus arrayed;
Themselves are mystic books, which only we
(Whom their imputed grace will dignify)

Must see revealed. Then, since that I may know,
As liberally as to a midwife, show
Thyself: cast all, yea, this white linen hence,
There is no penance due to innocence. To teach thee, I am naked first; why than,
what needst thou have more covering than a man?


The Speech is at 3:07 to 3:45. (The sound is low--better with earphones.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Cheese Horses

Bink took this photo of these cheese horses wedged in a shop window in Cefalu, Sicily, last spring.

Have you noticed wanting things less as you get older? (I mean less possessions, less stuff, not a general lessening of desire.)
I didn't mind at all that we walked past this cheese shop during siesta, when it was closed, so we couldn't buy any.

Not that I don't adore gifties!!!
I'm back at home after two weeks housesitting, and the house owner, knowing I don't want any stuff, kindly brought me a pound of coffee from her time in Costa Rica.
Still, eating a cheese horse would be a pleasure. Maybe one day I'll get back. But I'm far more likely to get back to Wisconsin, so I'll just enjoy them cheese critters.

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Local Culture

Cheese cows are the tops! From my recent trip to Milwaukee.

I am forced to stop playing on iMovies by--gasp--work. Such injustice that my great talent must pull the plough of mediocrity when it could be working on matters of cosmic importance, such as figuring out exactly how many women Kirk actually kissed on Star Trek.
(Want to hazard a guess? When I count 'em up, I'll let you know. But now, back to work.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Metaphysical Quickie

We like our Kirk/Spock slash, sure, [click on My Somber youTube video to the right] but no one ever said Kirk didn't enjoy the girlies!
Especially the green ones.
Here below, Star Trek's "The Gamesters of Triskelion" (one of the freakiest BDSM episodes) hooks up with a few lines of To His Mistress Going to Bed, by John Donne (one of the metaphysical poets, like Marvell).
(Tip to Manfred.)

Hey, I'm getting faster at this. Took about 30 minutes to put the pix & words together. Of course there's no music, so listen to a few minutes of "Stand on Zanzibar" [post below] while you read this, for the appropriate spacey feel.

Oh, and the whole scrumptious poem, from Donne's pre-Church days--(before all those "no man is an island" sermons)--is to be found here.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

"Stand on Zanzibar"

Listen to "Stand on Zanzibar" by Trip to Jerusalem, the UK band of Manfred Allseason (the man who ponders whether Sherlock Holmes was getting it on with Mrs. Bridges, in a comment on previous post).

The song is an electronic post-imperial "Star Wars" (with touches of TNG) waiting-for-the-barbarians type of story told from the colonizers' pov...

But mostly it's cool music that makes great listening while downloading Star Trek clips.

Click on the arrow in the round circle in the box below to make it so.
If this box thingy doesn't work, you can find the song here.

Get this widget | Track details | eSnips Social DNA

I don't know if Trip to Jerusalem referenced this, but here is the extraordinary explanation of the title of the 1968 book Stand on Zanzibar, from Wikipedia:

The novel's main driver is overpopulation and its projected consequences.
* * * Its title refers to an early twentieth century claim that the world's population could fit onto the Isle of Wight (area 381 km²) if they were all standing upright.

[The author] Brunner remarked that ... the 3.5 billion people living in 1968 could stand together on the Isle of Man (area 572 km²), while the 7 billion people whom he projected would be alive in 2010 would need to stand on Zanzibar (area 1554 km²).

Throughout the book, the image of the entire human race standing shoulder-to-shoulder on a small island is a metaphor for a crowded world where each person feels hemmed in by a prison made not of metal bars, but of other human beings. By the end of the book, some of that crowd is (metaphorically) knee deep in the Indian Ocean surrounding the island.


Really spooky kids: In 2008, we almost have reached a world population of 7 billion.

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Second Vid: Kirk/Spock: "The Definition of Love" (poem by Andrew Marvell, 1621-1678)

I spent about 4 x as much time on this one as the last one, and it's only 3 x longer. This is a nerve-racking process!
(But thanks to Kellie for making it easier by helping with the music!)

K/S:"A Definition of Love"

My accompanying notes on youTube:

Unmet longing + stars + navigation.
The 17th cent. British "metaphysical" poets wrote about this stuff long before 1960's Star Trek.
I mashed-up this poem by Andrew Marvell (1621-1678), music from "The Four Seasons" by Antonio Vivaldi (born the year Marvell died), and Kirk and Spock.

So I guess that makes this metaphysical Baroque Star Trek slash...

Kirk & Spock do--eventually--fulfill the seemingly impossible demands Marvell set for ill-fated loves to meet. (Helps to have a starship.)

The angst of the poem is obvious enough, but some of the language may be unfamiliar to modern readers, so here's the whole poem to read at your leisure, if you want.

(I had to look up "planisphere" = a star chart made of a flat surface--the plane--with a movable disc--the sphere--on top; and "oblique lines" = lines that are neither perpendicular nor parallel.)

"The Definition of Love"

My Love is of a birth as rare
As 'tis for object strange and high:
It was begotten by Despair
Upon Impossibility.

Magnanimous Despair alone
Could show me so divine a thing,
Where feeble Hope could ne'er have flown
But vainly flapped its Tinsel wing.

And yet I quickly might arrive
Where my extended soul is fixt,
But Fate does iron wedges drive,
And always crowds itself betwixt.

For Fate with jealous eye does see
Two perfect Loves; nor lets them close:
Their union would her ruin be,
And her tyrannic power depose.

And therefore her decrees of steel
Us as the distant Poles have placed,
(Though Love's whole World on us doth wheel)
Not by themselves to be embraced--

Unless the giddy Heaven fall,
And Earth some new convulsion tear;
And, us to join, the World should all
Be cramped into a planisphere.

As lines, so Loves oblique may well
Themselves in every angle greet:
But ours so truly parallel,
Though infinite can never meet.

Therefore the Love which us doth bind,
But Fate so enviously debars,
Is the conjunction of the Mind,
And opposition of the Stars.

Marvell's work is in the public domain; Paramount owns Star Trek; I offer this solely for pleasure and edification.
Thanks to for the screencaps!

"Middle Ages Tech Support"

Since I am always saying we are living in the same sort of confusion as people in Gutenberg's era, Stef sent me this funny youTube on that subject: Middle Ages Tech Support (2:25 sec.).

And since I am having a heck of a time getting my second video to upload to youTube (failed once, is taking a worryingly long time this time), today was the perfect day to get it. I'm hoping my problem is as simple as getting turned around with the concept "turn the pages."

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Page 123 Meme

Oh, that worked well, my plan to go to bed early and read a book.
I slept until 1 a.m., when a large thump woke me up. The house I'm sitting is not in a particularly safe neighborhood, so I jolted wide awake, even though, of course, it was just the cats.

(Frizzy Logic has been discussing ways to eat cats, and I think I might experiment with one of these I'm caring for. The vacationing owner doesn't really need all three, does she?)

Anyway, after that I tossed and turned till dawn, thinking about the vid I'm trying to construct (or whatever you do with vids--I am still learning the vocabulary).
I also thought, the time has come to respond to being tagged by two people: Sally of Already Pretty and Matt of Longburn.

Here's how this meme works:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the next 5 sentences.
5. Tag 5 people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The book I was reading last night was The Writing Life (1989), by Annie Dillard. It only runs 111 pages, so I am going to post 5 sentences from page 103 instead.
I find Dillard a bit overly reverential, a bit precious (e.g. "the page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity..."), so I was pleased that the sentences display a rare glimpse of humor:

"Later I learned that some stunt pilots tune up by wearing gravity boots. These are boots made to hook over a doorway; wearing them, you hang in the doorway upside-down. It must startle a pilot's children, to run into their father or mother in the course of their home wandering––the parent hanging wide-eyed upside-down in the doorway like a bat."

Oh--I'm supposed to tag 5 people. So: other bloggers who read my blog, consider yourselves tagged!