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Down To The Marrow.

By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights. But out of this our cloud upon the precipice’s edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror.

–Edgar Allan Poe, The Imp Of The Perverse

I think we are in rats’ alley

Where the dead men lost their bones.

–T.S. Eliot

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.

― Dorothy Parker

 

To thrust all that life under your tongue!—

that, all by itself, becomes a passion.

Death’s a sad Bone; bruised, you’d say,

 

and yet she waits for me, year after year,

to so delicately undo an old wound,

to empty my breath from its bad prison.”

–Anne Sexton, Wanting To Die

I am constantly trying to communicate something incommunicable, to explain something inexplicable, to tell about something I only feel in my bones and which can only be experienced in those bones. Basically it is nothing other than this fear we have so often talked about, but fear spread to everything, fear of the greatest as of the smallest, fear, paralyzing fear of pronouncing a word, although this fear may not only be fear but also a longing for something greater than all that is fearful.

― Franz Kafka

Number 48: The bones is yours Dad! They came from you my Daddy.

The President: Confess! Now you hep?

Number 48: Hip, Dad, hip.

The President: Confess!

Number 48: And a hip bone.

The President: Confess!

Number 48: And a thigh bone.

The President: Confess!

Number 48: Shin bone, knee bone.

The President: Confess!

Number 48: Back bone. All yours Dad.

The Prisoner

Dying

Is an art, like everything else.

I do it exceptionally well.

–Sylvia Plath, Lady Lazarus

T’ain’t no sin to take off your skin, and dance around in your bones.

― Tom Waits

I’ve tasted blood and I want more.

–Janet Weiss, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

If it’s true that every seven years each cell in your body dies and is replaced, then I have truly inherited my life from a dead man; and the misdeeds of those times have been forgiven, and are buried with his bones.

― Neil Gaiman

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes;

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

-Shakespeare, The Tempest

to live in this world

you must be able

to do three things

to love what is mortal;

to hold it

against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it;

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go

–Mary Oliver

The Modern Esophagus.

From the diaries of Ernest F., gourmand:

Bavaria, August 11th, 17—

I have come to stay with my brother Victor in his quarters at the University of Ingolstadt. While he is pursuing the study of natural philosophy and chemistry, still greatly consumed by grief over the death of our mother from fever, I have turned my attention in an equal degree to the study of the culinary arts.

I was inspired to take up this pursuit during my stay in Paris where I became acquainted with M. Carême, whom I heard to deliver a panegyric upon diet. Upon consideration of the wisdom of the ancients he did say, “That which we consume so becomes us.”

I was so enervated by this I was barely able to rest that evening, though it pleased me to see my brother Victor was similarly excited by a lecture on chemistry. By degrees, after the morning’s dawn, sleep came. I awoke, and my yesternight’s thoughts were as a dream. There only remained a resolution to study the art of food.

That day I paid a visit to M. Carême and was treated to a most excellent luncheon. My appetite was so great I left not a jot of what was placed in front of me, causing M. Carême to immediately recommend me for membership in his Sodality Of The Unblemished Dish. We then fell into a lengthy discussion of interesting experiments with bread conducted by an English Earl named Montagu.

From this day culinary studies, and particularly spices and seasonings, in the most comprehensive sense of the term, became nearly my sole occupation.

August 27th, 17—

My studies in cuisine have continued apace. I soon became so ardent and eager that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my kitchen, causing many neighbors to inquire as to what is being concocted; though whether this is due to my experiments or those of Victor, who is as ardent a worker in his laboratory in the lower section of our house as I am with the stove, is not clear.

September 5th, 17—

Having acquired several spices, not merely parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme but also chervil, and chives, I have begun experiments with sauces. One of the phenomena which had peculiarly attracted my attention was the structure of the human tongue. Whence, I often asked myself, did the principle of taste proceed?

September 15th, 17—

I am barely able to contain myself. A shipment arrived today of many exotic spices, among them nutmeg and cloves brought from the East by Portuguese traders, a quantity of bark from cassia or “cinnamon”, cardamom, anise, and fenugreek.

September 29th, 17—

Victor has been spending much time in charnel houses and tonight came home with a rather fine human leg. My devotion to my craft is such that I immediately considered ways it might be prepared for table. Victor seemed concerned, and pushed me away, saying it was for his own experiments. He is now accompanied by a wild-eyed hunchback who assists him. Perhaps I should also have an assistant.

October 5th, 17—

A corpulent gourd has been sent to me with tarragon procured from the American colonies, together with mallow and vanilla, and Jamaica pepper from the Antilles.

October 12th, 17—

Victor speaks much of flesh. I cannot allow myself to be distracted. M. Carême sends word he is concerned by my absence.

October 18th, 17—

Eureka! Inspired by disjointed ramblings that have reached me from Victor’s laboratory I have found a combination of spices that, when combined with the flesh of the American gourd, are positively ambrosial. I rush to share this discovery with M. Carême.

October 19th, 17—

Carême has shared my spice mix with a patisserie, and it has spread thence to a coffee house. This is not what I intended.

October 21th, 17—

A familiar odor reached my nostrils as I passed a tavern. I was sick, dismayed beyond belief, to find my creation imbibed in beer.

October 25nd, 17—

I regret that I have committed the offence of injuring a street hawker, but to see my creation sold not as comestible but soap—-!

October 31st, 17—

It is with the utmost terror and loathing that I see how my concoction has spread not only to coffee houses but to all manner of applications. O! God in Heaven! What have I done? I have unleashed pumpkin spice upon the world and I shall be forever damned for it!

I only hope my brother Victor will redeem the name of Frankenstein.

Source: http://monsteroffrankenstein.weebly.com/

Driving Emissions.

So I had to take the car to the emissions testing center for its annual tailpipe check. I wouldn’t mind that but there seems to be some kind of problem every time I do it. The problem has never been with the emissions—at least not the car’s emissions. I might be polluting the air a bit but I never get tested, which is a good thing because I’m terrible at taking tests. No, mostly the problems seems to be just getting there. Once I was on my way to the center and took a wrong turn and as I was turning around on a back road the car hit something and I got a flat tire. That’s when I discovered our car which we’d had for at least ten years and which we knew had a spare tire didn’t have a tire jack. Since I couldn’t hold the car up with one hand, or two for that matter, and remove and replace the tire, I was stuck until I remembered our AAA membership. Within half an hour two guys who looked like they could each hold up the car with one hand showed up, changed the tire, and we went our separate ways. Then there was the time I was on my way to the center and took a wrong turn, but I have a fairly good sense of direction. Or think I do anyway. I kept going, thinking I could find my way back, but eventually I stopped and asked my phone for directions. It led me not to the usual emissions testing center but another one, which told me I’d gotten really, really lost, but at least I was still within the state of Tennessee. That reminds me of the time I was in high school and rode to a science fair held at a school north of Nashville with a friend. We were on our way back and seemed to be taking a really, really long time, and when we passed a sign that said, “Welcome to Kentucky” I said, “Are we going the right way?”

“Yeah, it’s a part of Kentucky that juts down into Tennessee,” he said.

I didn’t remember ever seeing any such thing on any map and I was really concerned that he just didn’t want to admit he was lost. And it turned out we were lost, and if we’d tested the emissions coming out of his face he would have failed, but that’s another story.

Actually those are the only two problems getting to the emissions testing center I can think of, but they’re big enough that I’m always worried when I go and pretty much expect something will go wrong. Especially this time because, well, it’s not exactly like last year. But everything went fine. I wore a mask and so did everyone who worked at the center, and we all kept our distance. Then there was a problem with the computer. At least it wasn’t anything I did. The computer just couldn’t admit that it was lost.

The Art Of Happiness.

At the end of his autobiography, appropriately called My Autobiography since it’s hard to write someone else’s autobiography, Charlie Chaplin writes about his wife Oona and says, “I wish I could write more about this, but it involves love, and perfect love is the most beautiful of all frustrations because it is more than one can express.”

And I get it. Happiness is a great thing but for any kind of artist there’s also frustration in it. There’s a reason most fairy tales end with “and they lived happily ever after”. If they started with that there wouldn’t be much else to say, although some fairy tale versions–such as some of the Tales of the Arabian Nights–end with a line like, “And if they have not died they are still living,” which I think is more realistic. Happiness is ephemeral, which is what makes it nice when it comes along. It’s also hard to express, though, which is why most art is based on some kind of conflict. That’s why there’s also the saying that you know you’re a writer when something bad happens to you and your first thought is, “How can I make a story out of this?”

Taking a picture can also be frustrating because she doesn’t like to be still.

What got me thinking about this is that we have a new puppy and, well, let’s just say even when she frustrates me, mostly by chewing on my shoes or biting my finger because she’s still at that stage, it’s a beautiful frustration. And it’s frustrating that there’s so much I could say I’m not sure where to start. I guess introductions are best: her name is Junko. That’s pronounce “Joon-ko” because she’s named for Junko Tabei, the first woman to climb Mount Everest and the highest mountain on every continent, and I don’t know what Tabei would think of having a dog named after her but I like to think she’d be happy because Junko the puppy is smart and fearless, just like her namesake. She’s a climber and an explorer.

There’s also something for me in the fact that this strong, brave little girl has brought happiness into our lives at a time when we’re feeling sad about the loss of a strong, brave woman. I don’t know what Justice Ginsburg would think of being compared to a puppy, although it would probably make her laugh, and really I’m not comparing them even though they’re both small of stature but with a big ability to make the world a better place.

Well, Junko is small for now but she’s growing fast. And when I’m at work and she’s in the other room I’ll sometimes hear my wife snap, “Stop that!” followed by Junko’s short, quick bark, and I know Junko’s done something bad and my first thought is, how can I make a story out of this? And that makes me happy.

Second Life.

Source: Wikipedia

A friend who lives in California sent me this story about the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit decommissioning a bunch of its old train cars, some of which date back to the start of the transit system in 1972, and offering them for sale. I think my friend thought I might be interested in owning one, and at between eight and ten thousand dollars they sound like a steal, even it would cost even more to transport it across the country, and I don’t have a place to put it anyway. Or maybe he just wanted to rub it in that I’m older than San Francisco’s train system, but that’s another story.

The BART has already recycled some of their old train cars, and they say they’re offering the old ones for sale because “legacy cars have a tremendous sentimental value with passengers in the greater San Francisco Bay Area”, and, I’d guess, pretty much anyone who likes trains. Maybe some of the older cars, which I’m sure have been updated over the years, could be restored to their original look, which is getting into Theseus’s boat territory. But there’s also a formal application process because they’re not just giving the cars away. They want creative ideas for how the cars will be used. They could become anything from museum pieces to housing—which isn’t a new idea. Back in 2018 a London businessman got the idea to start refurbishing old double decker buses into homeless shelters, as well as kitchens and learning centers.

It’s just really cool to me that public transportation doesn’t have to stop serving the community when the vehicles wear out.

Here Are The Monkeys You Didn’t Order.

“Here are the monkeys you ordered.” Source: bencollier.net

A guy in Malaysia lost his cell phone and found it again full of monkey selfies and I have so many questions I don’t even know where to start. There are the obvious ones like, doesn’t this happen all the time in Malaysia? Monkeys seem to be pretty common there so I’m surprised this isn’t kind of a dog bites man story. And then there are the disturbing questions like, was Planet Of The Apes really a disturbing view of the future? And if so can it please be one of the good ones and not that horrendous Tim Burton flick?

Then there are the bigger philosophical questions. Were the monkeys aware of what they were doing? Did they know they were taking pictures of themselves? A series of copyright cases started in 2011 over a series of “monkey selfies” taken by macaques with a camera provided by photographer David Slater. The cases raised some thorny legal issues about ownership, and things took a really stupid turn when PETA filed a lawsuit arguing that the monkeys owned the photos, raising the question of whether they’re macaques, yourcaques, or nobody’scaques, but that’s another story.

And the history of animals creating art, as we understand it anyway, goes back to at least 1954 when Desmond Morris gave Congo, a chimpanzee in the London Zoo, pencils and paintbrushes, and elephants, dolphins, belugas, and even a bunny have produced paintings which raises the disturbing question, was Watership Down really a disturbing view of the future? And was the giraffe in this picture deliberately photobombing and if so would that be funny or disturbing or disturbingly funny?

Source: iflscience.com

We know animals make art. After all humans are animals, so cogito ergo pingo, or sumthing like that. The question is, do other species make art in the sense that we understand it? That’s a question that may be unanswerable, or at least can’t be answered until we can talk to the animals.

Take A Hike.

It’s been a long time since I took a really long walk and at a work meeting several of us got into a discussion of exercise. One of my coworkers mentioned that she’d definitely gotten the “quaran-ten” but had lost three pounds so it was closer to the “quaran-seven”, and I realized I was closer to putting the “teen” in quarantine and I really needed to get some exercise. So this weekend I went to Radnor Lake to take a long hike. And I made the mistake of leaving the house late and a bunch of people, mostly families, had gotten there ahead of me. So I decided to take the Ganier Ridge Trail, which is the longest trail around the park and, true to its name, extends up and along a high ridge so it’s slightly more difficult and I figured it would be the least used trail. And I was right.

First, though, I stopped to look at the lake.

You can’t tell from this picture but I was about to start the steep climb to the top of the ridge. I took the mask off when I was alone but put it on around other people and for the obligatory selfie.

It was a sunny day but there were signs of the recent rain.

This is the view from the top of the ridge. You could see for miles from here if all the greenery and trees weren’t in the way.

Have you ever started out on something and realized that it might have been a terrible mistake? That happens to me with pretty much everything I do, and I started to feel that way as I was climbing the trail. I haven’t been getting as much exercise as I used to and I was really starting to get tired. I seriously thought about turning back when I reached this.

It was the halfway point of the trail. And with that I felt a lot better. I could do this. I kept going. The trail extends a good way along the ridge and then it’s all downhill.

And then, having finished the trail and on my way to the car I saw this. Hey, do you feel like we do?

Roadside Attraction.

Source: roadsidesenryu

So I’ve captured a fair amount of roadside art over the years but this takes it to a whole new level. Some anonymous artist is putting up roadside signs with senryu, a form of  Japanese poetry. Although senryu tend to be seventeen syllables (with some exceptions) they’re different from haiku because while haiku traditionally evoke nature, particularly the seasons, senryu are humorous or satirical. Here’s an anonymous one I remember reading back in college:

As he loves her up

She talks only

To the cat.

Yeah, it falls short of the syllable count, but I think we can let it slide because it’s hilarious and says so much in just a few words.

The ones popping up around the country use the same design and shade of blue used for government road signs for services and recreation, which I think is also hilarious, and it’s why I’ll let it slide that not all of the signs are humorous or satirical. Some are thought provoking, poignant, even profound.

You can see the complete collection of signs at the website. And because there’s a website it’s technically possible to track down the artist but, as with some poems, I think it’s best to let the creator be anonymous.

Source: roadside senryu

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