Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Back at the Beach

Just got back to the beach from three days in my hometown where I stayed at the house of one of my oldest friend (25+ years). Her boyfriend is a socially- retarded semi-lunatic who is incredibly jealous and possessive of her. He kept storming out of the room in a frenzy every time me and my friend started talking (dude, I can't help it if I look good without a shirt). Twice he said he was moving out and took some of his junk back to his mom's house. But he was always back a few hours later. It got so bad that he'd bolt out of his bedroom to make sure I wasn't sneaking into her bedroom when I came down to use the bathroom in the night.

Yet she is often involved with these isolated losers and I finally figured out why. They don't challenge her or compete with her - she's the leader and they follow like needy puppies. Not one of them has ever had a career or a steady job. But they are all hers. If I sound angry it's because I am - that lunatic gave me nightmares on my one trip home this year.

The first thing I did after driving through ungodly traffic back to the beach was put on my swim trunks and jump in the ocean. There is nothing more relaxing than floating a few feet underwater where the light is dim, where all is quiet and cool. After a swim I lay back on my towel in the sand and looked out over the water. Skim boarders made their swift runs at the waves. A fisherman stood at the small breakwater, casting. At the deepest point of the breakwater a double-crested cormorant dove and rose and dove and rose, flipping over like a seal on the way down. I love the beach in the evening - it's almost empty and it's so quiet, so perfectly quiet.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Joys of Fighting

I sparred for a half-hour today with one of my oldest friends. Si is out of shape and has a sizable Buddha belly but he's also 6'2 and 240, plenty of which is muscle. We agreed to try and to restrain our blows to the head, the groin and the joints, but everything else was fair game.

Si isn't a boxer, he's a martial artist (Indonesian kung-fu) but he isn't afraid of contact. We had some great exchanges on a field in a kiddie park while the bemused mommies looked on. It's good practice for me to go against his skills because he's always looking for kicks and throws, while I'm much more focused on striking.

As normally happens, he pushed me around the field with his reach, weight and height advantage. But it wasn't so one-sided as to be dull. I landed some good combination on his body and danced away from all but one of his throws. Since I'm about a hundred times more fit than him, I began to score more frequently as the fighting went on. Towards the end we forgot about our restraints and were going close to full, fists and feet flying. Sweat made a bib on the front of Si's blue oxford.

I ended up with some bloody cuts, a fat lip and the beginnings of a black eye. Yet I was blissful when we finished. I loved mixing it up - in a friendly sort of way - when I was seven and I love it now. It brings flavor to life.

For Boxing Fans Only

Some Thoughts on Cotto-Margarito

A really gripping fight between a talented boxer-puncher and a force of nature. The analysts did screw the pooch on this one by making Cotto such a heavy favorite. Cotto's chin is a bit suspect - even a four round fighter with a 'B' punch like Judah stunned him a couple of times. Also, Cotto was on the run at the end of the Mosley fight, only his excellent jab saved him from a past-his-prime Sugar. Cotto has good boxing skills but not great ones, which is what he would have needed to keep away from Margarito for twelve rounds (plus that's not his psychology). He also lacks one-punch KO power. None of this is to say Cotto isn't a top-shelf fighter but it should have raised some warning signs when he took the match against 'My Head Is Solid Bone' Margarito. Teddy Atlas disappointed me the most; he really should have known better. Still, two talented warriors beating the spit out of each other for eleven rounds - what could be better?

Friday, July 25, 2008

College Graduates: Then and Now

A College Graduate in 1955: I guess I better grow up, have some kids and get a good job.

A College Graduate in 1970: Growing up means exploring the world and discovering who I really am.

A College Graduate today: I don't ever want to grow up!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Butterflys in the Jungle

When I was on expedition in the Andean rain forest, the butterflies were probably the most varied and numerous species that I saw. The range of colors was astonishing - they were orchid with wings. For years, I wondered why the butterflies would hover around the urine puddles our horses left on the trail. Now I have my answer (see posting below).

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Up front, it's probably worth noting that
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"A butterfly drinks by uncoiling its proboscis
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'Animal urine also contains a variety of salts
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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Christopher Smart Loved His Cat

A talented eighteenth century poet, and a bit of religious maniac, Smart is best known today for this remarkable poem about his cat, which he wrote while confined in an insane asylum.

"For I Will Consider My Cat Jeoffry"
(from Jubilate Agno)

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having considered God and himself he will consider his neighbor.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For the dexterity of his defense is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacous of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Savior.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord's poor, and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually--Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in complete cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in music.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can sit up with gravity, which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick, which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master's bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is afraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly.
For he made a great figure in Egypt for signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon rat, very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God's light about him both wax and fire.
For the electrical fire is the spiritual substance which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadruped.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the music.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

Why Do You Call Her Scratchee?

On this vacation I've been separated from my one true love, Scratchee Rascal, aka 'Scratchee the Cat' a tuxedo cat of 'a certain age.' Recently, Scratchee had a falling out with my sublettor, leaping up to the top of the couch and clawing his face. The next night as the sublettor came in, Scratchee sprang upon his nude thigh and sliced him again. Now the sublettor is afraid to be alone with her. I find this charming in a way, as Scratchee weighs about twelve pounds. My sublettor spoke darkly of 'not wanting to hurt Scratchee.' I spoke with equal force of not wanting to put various parts of the sublettor's anatomy in cake boxes and post them around the country.


A fascinating bacterium that has a profound effect on the reproduction of insects - in some cases killing all male eggs (since they don't pass on the germ) or making it impossible for females to reproduce with other insects that are infected with a different Wolbachia strain. Natural selection in all its creepy and profound glory.


My Life Aquatic

After two weeks at the shore I'm finally starting to find a rhythm with the ocean. I go out in the late afternoon to my
beach and scan the waves for surf. The hurricane winding through the North Atlantic has brought fairly regular swells so there's something to paddle out for. The surf isn't West Coast dramatic - 3-5 feet - but it makes for some good rides. My beach is mostly nasty shore break but there's one sandbar and when the tide is right you can fly for a good hundred yards. I have a decent boogie board up here and so I swim out and do what I can without flippers (which I might buy tomorrow). This is WASP territory, a lot of blonde teens with surf shorts, but today there was a guy near sixty out there moving beautifully.
In the first days the ocean was alien and disconcerting. Getting wet and seawater in my nose felt unpleasant. But now I lust for it. Paddling out through the surf line, bobbing at the edge of the break waiting for one good wave. After a
severe wipeout today I found a a horseshoe crab the size of my fingernail on the board. Oily black cormorants dive in the water around us. Surfcasters come out at dust and work the rocks near the sand bar. You want it to go on forever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Celluloid Ghost

I was watching the first episode of 'In Treatment,' an HBO miniseries, when I saw the main actress and thought - besides 'she's really beautiful' - that I knew her somehow. She was eerily familiar, like I'd watched her across a bar one night or had a brief conversation with her in line at a coffee shop.

Of course it turned out that she's a successful actress by the name of Melissa George who I had seen in Mulholland Drive and The Limey among others.

I had the same reaction to her each time, the strange familiarity without immediate recognition.
Part of what makes her so...vaguely compelling...is that she's unusually protean and mutable for a beautiful women, a character actor in the body of a Deneuve. Yet her shifting identity seems as much a creation of the camera - and makeup and costuming - as of her acting ability (although I might not be giving her enough credit). She seems to represent the mystery of cinema in some way, and maybe of desire, like the two women who play the lead in That Obscure Object of Desire.' Oddly enough, a friend said she saw George in In Treatment as well and had the same reaction - so that she too went to IMDB and tracked the actress down.

Now I know what Godard meant when he said that Hollywood 'colonized the imagination.'

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Machete Mania

A Dominican weed dealer who grew up in Bburg told me that when he was a kid in the 80s, Dominicans, as the newcomers to the neighborhood, were often picked on. This changed one day when a Dominican gang showed up at the local high school and attacked their foes with machetes.

The more things change...



Posted: 4:16 am
July 13, 2008

A man wielding a machete sent two men to the hospital early yesterday in Williamsburg - in the latest of an explosion of assaults in the gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood.

The man approached a group of people at South Third Street near Bedford Avenue at about 2 a.m. and started swinging, police sources said.

A 26-year-old man suffered a wound to the arm, and a 19-year-old was cut in his right shoulder.

Earlier in the evening, the assailant and friends had clashed with the attacked group at a feast, the sources said. Both injured men were listed as being in stable condition at Woodhull Hospital.

There were no arrests as of last night.

The last five weeks have seen another five slashings in the neighborhood, mainly in its eastern section.

Two of those bloody attacks took place at Graham Avenue and Devoe Street. The others were knifings on Flushing Avenue and Humboldt Street, Berry and South Eighth streets, and Borinquen Place and Grand Avenue.

According to the latest NYPD figures, felonious assaults in Williamsburg are up 21 percent this year, from 96 to 116 as of last July 6.

Just within the past month, the number of arrests in the area has skyrocketed from 14 to 29.

NYPD Assistant Chief Michael Collins said yesterday that he couldn't say how many of those assaults were stabbings or slashings.

"It's a spike we are looking at now," he said.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Strange Lack

I just realized that I haven't had a sense of smell for about three days. That was when I opened a bottle of wine and it didn't have a bouquet. I thought it was just mediocre wine but the same thing happened tonight so I started smelling everything - flowers, fish sauce, pickles - nada. Then I opened up a jar of thai hot pepper sauce and got a faint whiff of spice but that was it. What a subtle, profound sense to lack. I'm really disturbed. It had better come back soon.

I had a pretty severe cold this week and I've been in the ocean a lot which is hell on the sinuses but this is a strange misfortune.

BTW: Without a sense of smell, a hundred dollar Bordeaux tastes like Three-Buck Chuck.

Friday, July 11, 2008

One Stop Shopping: Ikea and Methedone

It's nice to know that a little of the old New York remains. Oddly enough, I worked in Red Hook in the late 80s and the methadone clinic was right across the street. In the mornings the line of junkies ran all the way down the street.

IKEA Shuttle Buses Wildy Popular with Non-Shoppers

2008_07_ikeamini.jpgThe free coach style shuttle buses that deliver riders from two Brooklyn subway stops to the new Red Hook IKEA are filling up with passengers who never set foot inside the Swedish retailer. "I'd say before one o'clock, about half the riders from Smith and Ninth Street don't even go into IKEA," one bus driver told the Daily News, adding that many riders are going to a local methadone clinic for treatment. And, as predicted, freeloaders are pulling the same move with the free Water Taxi between IKEA and lower Manhattan, an area also renowned for its methadone.

The Limits of Utilitarianism

"Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."
- John Stuart Mill

Thursday, July 10, 2008

On Politics

I'm splitting my blog so that my left-wing rantings will be on another site.

Lima, La Ciudad de los Reyes

Of all the cities I've visited, Lima has had the most profound effect on me (along with Cairo). These lines from Melville capture something of its strangeness.

'Nor is it, altogether, the remembrance of her cathedral-toppling earthquakes; nor the stampedoes of her frantic seas; nor the tearlessness of arid skies that never rain; nor the sight of her wide field of leaning spires, wrenched cope-stones, and crosses all adroop (like canted yards of anchored fleets); and her suburban avenues of house-walls lying over upon each other, as a tossed pack of cards;--it is not these things alone which make tearless Lima, the strangest, saddest city thou can'st see. For Lima has taken the white veil; and there is a higher horror in this whiteness of her woe. Old as Pizarro, this whiteness keeps her ruins for ever new; admits not the cheerful greenness of complete decay; spreads over her broken ramparts the rigid pallor of an apoplexy that fixes its own distortions.'
- from Moby Dick

Monday, July 7, 2008

Slow Going

I dropped a 250 page manuscript on my editor's desk this morning. The book is far from finished but this was a real step. I managed to put it together in a year while also writing a few long articles and - occasionally - working for a living.

It's far from being done and the writing is mediocre in places but it's starting to come together.

This book was hard to research, hard make the contacts for, and even harder to sell. I gave up on the project a few times but kept coming back to it. I can't say if it's an important subject but it certainly became important to me.

With all the disappointments and failures, I did learn a lot about what not to do next time. Which is why it's good to lose some times.

Still, I don't want to go through that again. I want to write a book where I don't have to interview assholes, travel anywhere crummy, or do a lick of research. I want to write six novels in a year like Philip K. Dick and make up every last word. Of course, Dick ate a thousand methedrine tablets a week produce at that rate - with some anti-psychotic medication thrown in to level out the meth-induced paranoia.

You Will Not Be Missed

Here's a little sample from the charming career of Senator Jesse Helms.