Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Picking up hookers instead of my pen

Cowboys are special with their own brand of misery
from being alone too long.
You could die from the cold in the arms of a nightmare,
knowing well that your best days are gone.
Picking up hookers instead of my pen,
I let the words of my youth fade away.
Old worn-out saddles and old worn-out memories,
with no one and no place to stay.

My heroes have always been cowboys.
And they still are, it seems.
Sadly in search of, and one step in back of,
themselves and their slow-moving dreams.

--Sharon Rice, "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys"

Monday, May 25, 2009

old movie

poster by Eric Tan

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lake Nicaragua shark (Carcharinus nicaraguensis)


"High in the jungles of Central America, Lake Nicaragua lies shimmering amid green hills in a setting of breath-taking beauty, inviting the passer-by to escape the oppressive heat in the coolness of its waters. But this can be an invitation to death, for under its calm surface lurks one of the world's few fresh water maneaters, the Lake Nicaragua shark. Averaging 8 to 10 feet in length and closely related to the Atlantic ground shark which rarely attacks men, this predator was originally a sea-dweller who migrated up the San Carlos River from the Caribbean. When prehistoric earthquakes cut off its return route to the sea with waterfalls and rapids, this shark settled down in its present home and somehow acquired a taste for people. The Lake Nicaragua shark is a deadly menace to swimmers in the lakeshore shallows because it hugs the bottom, so that no racing fin breaks the surface to warn of its approach. Local people and visitors alike have succumbed to its stealth, their first hint of danger being the mortal crush of the murderer's powerful jaws."

--Animal World in Color, Volume 8 - Hunters: Birds, Fish, and Amphibians, edited by Maurice Burton, Childrens Press: Chicago, 1969

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

You don't seem to

"Why make a fuss when you're so comfortable? Don't make a fuss, make a baby. Go out and get something to eat, build something. Make another baby. Babies are cute. Babies show you have faith in the future. Although faith is perhaps too strong a word. They're everywhere these days, in all the crowds and traffic jams, there are the babies too. You don't seem to associate them with the problems of population increase. They're just babies!"

--Joy Williams, "Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp," Ill Nature: Rants and Reflections on Humanity and Other Animals, 2001

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day cards

The blackness of the eternal void from which we come and to which we return.

The briefness of our sojourn among the conscious.

Knowledge of the Human Experience in Diverse Cultures Enlightens One to Moral Relativism

"In any comprehensive study of psychology, the selection that different cultures have made in the course of history within the great circumference of potential behavior is of great significance.

"Every society, beginning with some slight inclination in one direction or another, carries its preference farther and farther, integrating itself more and more completely upon its chosen basis, and discarding those types of behavior that are uncongenial. Most of those organizations of personality that seem to us most uncontrovertibly abnormal have been used by different civilizations in the very foundations of their institutional life. Conversely the most valued traits of our normal individuals have been looked on in differently organized cultures as aberrant. Normality, in short, within a very wide range, is culturally defined. It is primarily a term for the socially elaborated segment of human behavior in any culture; and abnormality, a term for the segment that that particular civilization does not use. The very eyes with which we see the problem are conditioned by the long traditional habits of our own society.

"It is a point that has been made more often in relation to ethics than in relation to psychiatry. We do not any longer make the mistake of deriving the morality of our locality and decade directly from the inevitable constitution of human nature. We do not elevate it to the dignity of a first principle. We recognize that morality differs in every society, and is a convenient term for socially approved habits. Mankind has always preferred to say, 'It is morally good,' rather than 'It is habitual'...

"There is an ascertainable range of human behavior that is found wherever a sufficiently large series of individuals is observed. But the proportion in which behavior types stand to one another in different societies is not universal. The vast majority of individuals in any group are shaped to the fashion of that culture. In other words, most individuals are plastic to the molding force of the society into which they are born. In a society that values trance, as in India, they will have supernormal experience. In a society that institutionalizes homosexuality, they will be homosexual. In a society that sets the gathering of possessions as the chief human objective, they will amass property. The deviants, whatever the type of behavior the culture has institutionalized, will remain few in number, and there seems no more difficulty in molding the vast malleable majority to the 'normality' of what we consider an aberrant trait, such as delusions of reference, than to the normality of such accepted behavior patterns as acquisitiveness. The small proportion of the number of the deviants in any culture is not a function of the sure instinct with which that society has built itself upon the fundamental sanities, but of the universal fact that, happily, the majority of mankind quite readily take any shape that is presented to them...."

--Ruth Benedict, "Anthropology and the Abnormal," Journal of General Psychology, 1934

all both alike and different

"War stories, like Holocaust stories, are all both alike and different, and all improbable; each turns on moments of hor­ror, serendipity, and unimaginable bravery. Sitting next to me at Fran O'Brien's was Steve Reighard, of Bloomington, Indiana, who was hacking one-handed with a combination knife-fork at a steak the size of a dictionary. 'They am­bushed us,' he said. 'I'm standing there trying to realize what happened and my arm is laying there. I picked it up and fell in the dirt.' Across the table, Robert Acosta, of Santa Ana, California, manipulated a steak knife with his stainless-steel hook. 'They threw a hand grenade in my truck,' he said. 'I picked it up and, damn, dropped it down between my legs. When I grabbed it again, it blew up in my hand.' At Walter Reed, Phil Bauer, a strapping cavalry scout from upstate New York, had described being on a Chinook heli­copter that was shot down on November 2nd, killing fifteen soldiers on their way to a short leave. When he came to, he said, he was pinned atop the open-eyed corpse of a woman soldier to whom he'd just given a piece of gum. His leg was jammed beneath the burning roof of the Chinook, and he had to lie there, without morphine, for two hours while a 'jaws of life' appa­ratus was flown in from Tikrit. 'It was like cooking a steak with the cover down,' he said. He lost his right leg below the knee. At the dinner, a soldier named Ed Platt, from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told me that the signature moment of his calamity was when the medics used the ribbons of his leg--­shattered by a rocket-propelled grenade--as its own tourniquet. 'They just folded it up,' he said. 'I looked down and I'm looking at the sole of my boot.' He shuddered. 'OK, cool, whatever, dude,' he muttered to himself as he finished his story. Doctors amputated just below Platt's right hip."

--Dan Baum, "The Casualty," The New Yorker, 2004 March 8

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Fifth of May

"Despite being outgunned and outnumbered almost two to one, Mexico won the Battle of Puebla.

"But Mexico did not win the war. France sent 30,000 more soldiers to Mexico and took Mexico City in 1863. While occupying Mexico, France put Maximilian I, a Hapsburg prince, on the throne. His title: emperor of Mexico.

"A few years later, under pressure from the Mexican people and the United States, France withdrew in 1866-1867. President Benito Juarez executed Maximilian five years after the Battle of Puebla."

--"World of Wonder: Exploring the Realms of History, Science, Nature and Technology"

Monday, May 04, 2009

the cosmic irony

"What Bartleby essentially dramatizes is not the pathos of dementia praecox but the bitter metaphysical pathos of the human situation itself; the cosmic irony of the truth that men are at once immitigably interdependent and immitigably forlorn."

--Newton Arvin, Herman Melville, A Critical Biography, 1950