June 30, 2011

Humans are pattern-seeking creatures

The offending kudzu. (Pic stolen from HuffPo).
We see funny, ridiculous stories like this all the time:

KINSTON, N.C.— Residents in an eastern North Carolina city say a patch of kudzu growing on a utility pole is more than an invasive vine. They see a likeness to Jesus Christ on the cross.

Have you ever wondered why people see jeebus everywhere? It's simple: people see patterns. It's what we do. This talent helped our ancestors to survive and that's why it persists in humans to this day. We had to see patterns, had to notice that when we traded with a particular person we always got the raw end of the deal. It was a pattern. Seeing patterns helps us to survive into the future.

It's a wildly useful talent. Early humans saw patterns all around them. They noticed that Winter comes once a year and that the seasons occur in a regular order. By keeping track of these patterns they were able to plan and survive -- and they invented science: the investigation of patterns.

Unfortunately, this human talent is active even when it's not needed and this produces useless perceptions like the faces and animals that we (think we) see in clouds. It's a talent that is always looking for an object; it can't stop seeing patterns. So we see an old man in the curl of the tablecloth, a figure in the shadows. This inerrant pattern recognition does us no good -- but we can't turn it off. It's how brains work.

We extend this talent further when we think that the wind and storms have a personality. We see a pattern and decide it's Mother Nature. But there is no Mother Nature. It's just something we once thought we saw. This talent is what gives rise to the idea of gods, a notion meant to be the ultimate summary of all patterns.

But the cloud creatures and Mother Nature and the gods are random products of aimless pattern-seeking, a talent gone mad. And those who fall prey to the god pattern see it all around them: in toast, oils spills, wood knots -- and vines.

It's a basic human capability gone haywire. When not put to good use, pattern-seeking latches on to nonsensical things and tries very hard to see them as something real. That's its job. It's like a kid that needs a project -- it just can't settle down. But it's all just static in our brains, a game that doesn't know how to shut itself off. There is no jeebus in the vines or anywhere else.

We see these things because we're hairless monkeys. We can't help it; evolution made us this way. This talent is both our saving grace and a swift portal to irrationality.

Finally, help for kids with Progeria

Kids with Progeria.
There is some hopeful news about Progeria in the news today. This is the dreadful disease that makes kids age prematurely, turning them into 80-year-olds by the time they're 12. And 12 years old is pretty much the upper limit for their life span. It's a cruel, horrible disease.

Until now, there has been no effective treatment to offer these children. But a recent study showed that an existing drug, rapamycin, and its derivative, everolimus, is very effective in reducing the excess progerin that causes the disease. I'm so happy that the parents of these kids -- and the kids themselves -- may have something to look forward to.

The story even used that magical word: "reverse". Rapamycin can reverse the damage caused by Progerin. I hope this isn't a red herring or an overstatement. These kids need help yesterday and I'm excited that positive things may finally be on the horizon for them.

June 29, 2011

CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley

Have you guys been watching this show? Well I have and I'm shocked. It's actually good!

Now, maybe I'm just a sucker for the sound and pace of the new show. They've obviously taken a page from the PBS News Hour with the look and feel of the presentation. It's very understated and seems to scorn the usual self-important tone of other network news shows.

But it's more than that. They seem to be providing the real news! I haven't seen a news show do this in our country for ages. I'll say it again: the news they present seems to be the real news!

It's too early to hand out any permanent accolades. After all, maybe it's just a set-up and they won't tell us what's going on when it really matters. But it sure seems like they're doing it now. Have you watched the show? What do you think?

God needs to go

Todays' AP:
A man charged in a brutal rape and stabbing attack on a lesbian couple in Seattle two summers ago has admitted to the attack in court, saying God told him to do it.
And god told those idiots to ram planes into the World Trade Center ten years ago. There is no room for gods in this world. No room at all.

God needs to go.

June 28, 2011

Are the latest pitches really new?

There was baseball before Ruth?
To me, a baseball pitcher just "throws a ball". I have no idea what pitch it is and no clue what the announcers are talking about when they say "he was lookin' slider but got a change-up". Just seems to me the pitcher threw a ball and the guy either hit it or not. What can I say? I'm not up on pitches.

During yesterday's disappointing Cubs game (it's no fun when you win because the opposing pitcher has a meltdown) the inimitable "Len and Bob" brightened the dismal goings-on by talking about when and how pitches were "discovered". I found it interesting.

Bob (I think that's who it was) said that back in the 1800s they had no idea about types of pitches because there were no types. He surmised that the first two pitches that appeared in baseball were a fastball and a slower version of the same pitch: an off-speed pitch, in other words. He then went on to name so many kinds of pitches that I was amazed. I didn't write them down, darn it, but I remember one was called a "palmball".  Many of the "new" pitches faded out over the years, but some stuck around and got new names. The palmball, for instance, turned into the change-up. Bob seemed to think that new pitches appeared on the scene one by one, periodically over the century-plus that baseball has been played in this country.

This doesn't ring true to me. In Bob's scenario, the pitch was in Unknown Space until one day a pitcher hauled it into our universe and tried it -- and the world saw its first curveball (or whatever). And this process continued, Len says, until the present day. All along the road, new pitches were invented.

I don't find this convincing. Let's make believe we're back in the late 1800s and the game of baseball has been played professionally for three years. Already, there are a number of pitchers that are considered great. I think that if a knowledgeable baseball fan from today was taken back to one of those games, he'd see sliders, screwballs, change-ups and more. It's just that there weren't names for them yet. Then again, I know nothing about pitches, as I said at the outset.

Chime in. What do you think? In the old days, did baseball pitchers know how to throw the kinds of pitches that are thrown today? Or were these pitches truly invented one at a time during baseball's long history?

June 27, 2011

Just a thought

I don't know about you but I detest doing chores. Anything I have to do repeatedly gets my dander up. I try to be all Ghandi about it but it doesn't work. I do not want to be making sandwiches, cleaning, setting up the coffee pot, doing laundry, etc. These tasks drive me crazy.

And you know what's the worst thing? An odd feeling I sometimes get when I'm taking care of a chore -- a feeling that I've always being doing the chore. Like I'll be putting pills into those damn plastic pill-popper things and I'll think, "Wasn't I just doing this, like five minutes ago?" When this happened recently, a thought occurred to me.

What if that's the truth? What if I've always been putting pills into pill-holders, and the rest -- my supposed life -- is just a dream? Maybe some aliens want pills put into plastic holders so they got a slave, me, and, to keep me happy they inserted some code into my brain that makes me think I have a life. But really all I do is put these stupid pills into these stupid plastic slots.

Does this strike a chord within you -- a scary, Twilight-Zoney chord?

June 26, 2011

Album to CD to . . . what?

We used to say that a musical artist put out a new album. And then, when we didn't buy albums anymore, we spoke about an artist's latest CD

So what the heck do we say now? No one buys CDs anymore. We download our music. Is it the artist's latest digital burst?

What do we call this stuff? I know iTunes still calls them albums, but that just doesn't work for me anymore.

Hmmmm. I just bought Bon Iver's latest . . . what?

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, twit

Evil or stupid?
There's a wonderfully idiotic "defense of marriage" article written by the "most reverend" Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the "Bishop of Brooklyn" in today's NY Daily News. What a dolt. Not only is he in outer space on the moral issues but there are misspelled words and, my favorite, he begins his mighty conclusion with a long non-sentence. Apparently the bishop didn't do too well in school. Here's that conclusion (I've bolded the non-sentence, for fun):
As the chief shepherd of the Catholics in our City's two most populous boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, the decision of our Catholic Governor and State Legislature to overturn the common understanding of marriage that, despite many developments over thousands of years, has always been understood between a man and woman. That there was virtually no public debate on the issue and that the entire matter was concluded in just over thirty-minutes late on a Friday evening is disgraceful.

As a protest, I have asked my collaborators not to bestow or accept honors, nor to extend a platform of any kind to any state elected official, in all our parishes and churches for the foreseeable future.
Big penalty, huh? No more honors to or from the sky god. That's tough. In closing, I give props to the commenters at the News site who did a great job of trouncing this dim-witted mountebank. If you read the whole story, check out the comments. Zing!

With leaders like this, the church will be dead in 20 years. And I say hooray.

Ron Darling high-fives marriage equality

Ex-Met and current broadcaster Ron Darling, one of my favorite baseball announcers, has come out for marriage equality -- and it sounds like he's a major supporter.
"I immediately called my wife as soon as I heard," said Darling, who long ago made the city his adopted home and now works as a broadcaster for the team. "I'm joyous. Excited. I can't wait to hear if my friends are going to take the plunge, and I'm anticipating going to many marriages."
It's great to see admired sports figures come down on the side of fairness and equality. This gave me such a lift today that I had to share it with readers. Great things are happening in New York.

June 25, 2011

Maisie, the lollipop lady

When I was a little kid living in lower Manhattan, I'd see a scary woman now and then. I must have been four or five at the time but I remember her well.

Like any kid, I was hauled around to the local shops each day by my mother. There was one place I hated to go: the butcher's shop. Not because they sold meat (ugh) but because of the old woman who was always in front of the shop.

Her name was Maisie and she was a crazy lady. She spent her life in front of this shop (why this shop, I don't know) handing out lollipops to children. She was bizarre. Maisie was very old and she had an extremely white face that she loaded up with make-up. Even at four or five, I recognized this excess. She had huge red lips, the result of smearing lipstick over half her face, and she did the same with her eye makeup. It was blue; that's all I remember about the eyes. Oh, and that they seemed insane.
 
Every day, she sat on a wooden stool in front of the shop and the moment she spied a child, she'd hold out a fistful of lollipops and smile madly at them. I can remember my mother pulling my arm to keep me away from her.

I never took a lollipop from Maisie. Sometimes I wonder if this is why I've led such a charmed life.

Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) on the Colbert Report

I missed this when it aired. Bon Iver on Colbert! This is the same song I posted last week, the first single off Bon Iver's new album, but here he's performing it live. (I think it's live, despite all the effects; it's not the same as the album version.)

But who cares? It's Justin Vernon, a man I can legally wed in New York 30 days from now. I'd watch him recite the alphabet -- and I'll bet he'd do it creatively. None of this set letter-order stuff or nuthin'. Anyway, check this out.

I heard the news today, oh boy

Pretty cool: gay marriage is legal in New York state. I didn't think it would happen, at least not now. New York is famous for filling legislator positions with troglodytes. But somehow, some way, they managed to pass this bill.

It's great. I feel officially accepted in New York for the first time in my life. But it's still degrading that a huge number of pig-people believed they had the right to decide if I can marry another man. Who they hell are these people and what are they doing in my pants?

I'd be even more excited, I guess, if I believed in relationships. Oh well. It's still nice.

June 24, 2011

Pssst. It's me, Nils.

Nils. Shhhh.
Keith doesn't know I'm posting this and you mustn't tell him. It's me, Nils, Keith's assistant, writing. You must keep this a secret! If Keith ever found out I was posting on his blog without his permission . . . well, I don't know what he'd do. But I know readers have my back. Have I told you you're sweet lately? Okay, here's the scoop.

Keith and I have a very close relationship. We're not lovers but we are boon companions -- two fellows who were meant to go through life together. There are absolutely no secrets between us. Well, okay, this post is one. But that's it. I swear! What I'm trying to say here is that I know what's in Keith's heart, and he knows what's in mine.

So here's what's going on. Keith is trying to be a stalwart fellow but the news is getting him down. Nothing positive ever happens and we slip more deeply into the lurch every day. It takes a lot out of a man who cares as much as he does. The thing that sent him over the edge was the terrible news that emerged last week about the world's oceans. Here's an excerpt from one story:
By some estimates, all of the planet’s corals could disappear by century’s end if present trends continue. The continued uptake of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere will cause these areas to expand until only a sliver of the ocean’s surface layer remains inhabitable.
A report issued last week by the International Program on the State of the Ocean contained dire predictions:
"[W]e are “at high risk for entering a phase of extinction of marine species unprecedented in human history,” notes the report written by a global panel of experts. In what is the report’s most stark and shocking suggestion, scientists say that the unprecedented loss of species could be directly comparable to the five great mass extinctions of prehistory. Indeed, the panel of 27 scientists say that a “combination of stressors is creating the conditions associated with every previous major extinction of species in Earth’s history.”
This alarming report about the state of our oceans upset Keith so much that he can hardly blog. Just a post or two a day, if that. And of course, the fact that no one is talking about this, that it has been completely "disappeared" by the corporate-run news networks, only makes matters worse. See, Keith understands that if the ocean goes, we will soon follow. And no one is even talking about it. Defensive indifference yet again. No one cares. He told me it made him so sad, he couldn't even write a post about it. So I jumped in. (Plus, Keith is still recovering from the Miss USA/evolution kerfuffle.)

So if he blogs a bit less in the coming days, let him slide. And for heaven's sake, don't tell him I'm posting on his blog! Who knows what he would do? (He's very tall.) Well, that's it from me. Take care in these dangerous times, bloggy persons, and don't let the corporate greedheads eat you. Oh, and remember to be kind to every creature you meet. -- Nils

Paying my debts to fictional characters

So what's been going on around here? Nothing? Same old, same old? Well, I've been editing and something new cropped up. It's interesting.

Morality is a huge chunk of the story of Xmas Carol. My idea was to present atheists in utterly strange situations so people could see that they have no problem identifying the right thing to do -- without resorting to any god nonsense. Well, I've decided this heightened sense of morality produced certain debts that I, as the author, must pay to my characters.

Up till now, I had left two background characters out at the end of the story, as if what happened to them was inconsequential. I've decided they deserve better so I'm crafting conclusions for their personal stories. I don't want to leave anyone out; that would be rude. Just because they're fictional doesn't mean they don't care. Truly, the debt feels personal. I know and like these characters. What could I have been thinking, omitting their endings? Anyway, problem rectified. Everybody's got an ending now.

So, anything new around here? Anybody want to de-lurk or tell a story? Maybe reveal a secret? Hit the comment button.

June 23, 2011

So much for baseball?

Dzzzt. OMG! Ft, ft, ft, ft . . .
Horrors! The satellite box for my TV system died today, or at least it seemed to.

The instant I realized this, I got tunnel vision. The room lengthened and odd angles appeared, as if reality was being stretched and distorted. Was it Einstein's cosmological constant in action? Had I accidentally taken some acid? And then in the distance, I saw it -- the baseball season being sucked far, far away by a . . . sea of static. No TV? No baseball? Sob.

So I did what any red-blooded American man would do: I called my sister. Because of the heart-stopping urgency of the situation, she came right over and jiggled things and (ta da) the totally dead piece of hardware roared back to life! It's a miracle! Somebody go wake Jeebus up and tell him!

Anyway, phew. It's like when the electricity goes out: sheer hell. But the season is saved!

A side benefit of being gay?

When you're gay, you're born into a society of aliens. Chances are, your parents and siblings aren't gay, their friends aren't gay, and at school, the teachers aren't gay (or aren't saying). And lord knows, at church no one is gay. (Ha!)

As a result, you're forced to invent yourself from whole cloth. You have no role models at first, so you develop survival tactics on an ad hoc basis -- whatever gets you through the night (and day). I think the most important survival tactic for a young gay or transgender person is not caring what others think. And I believe this mental attitude is healthy and useful for all people, not just GLBTs.

What brings this to mind is that I encounter so many people who are paralyzed by fears about how others see them. They literally hunger for other people's approval and think about it all the time. Now, surely many GLBT people are like this, too. But I'll bet there's a higher affliction rate among straight people because they weren't forced as youngsters to ignore the bigoted opinions of others. They don't know how to do the secret, magic trick that makes you not care.

I don't care what people think of me. This seems both rational and comfortable to me. It's my life, not someone else's. What people think of me is irrelevant. I expect many gay people would echo this sentiment (and quite a few straight people, too, of course.) I'll say it again: not caring about how you look to others is a positive behavior (unless you're a sociopath, but that's another story entirely).

It's a crazy disease, this concern over how others see us. What others think of you literally has no effect on your life -- unless they think you're Frankenstein and are coming down the street for you with torches in their hands.

Do you care what other people think of you? Now, I'm not talking about friends and family, just people in general. I think most of us rightly care about what our circle of family and friends think of us. The question is: do you care what generic people out there think of you?

June 22, 2011

If only life had software controls

Mmmmm. Life done right.
From the moment I encountered a GUI, a graphical user interface, I was sold. This is how I wanted stuff to work: just drop a file on a program icon and it jumps to life (well, these days, anyway). Perfection.

But now I want more. I want life itself to work with software controls. I want to drop an image of my laundry on a washer icon, and boom, the laundry's done. I want to drop a quiche on a oven icon and smell it cooking within fifteen minutes. And I want to drop my housecleaning (I see it as a tiny, messy blur) on a maid icon. Voila! The house is clean.

But most of all I want to drop an image of myself on a baseball icon and find myself at Fenway Park, watching the game.

Gimme a software interface for life. Gimme!

Thinking about Superman

TV's first Superman.
Remember the old Superman TV show with George Reeves? Well, of course you don't because none of you were born then. Well, I remember it.

And today I was thinking about the show's opening theme, where a booming voice said Superman stood for "truth, justice and the American way." Sounded great. Still does, actually.

But we've lost all three of those things in the intervening years. No one speaks truth anymore; truth is anti-profit. And justice only means that rich people don't face legal scrutiny while every hammer is dropped on the little guy. And as for the "American way" -- it's seen better days. We torture people, imprison anyone without charges, and conduct illicit wars. We invade the wrong country and don't even care. There is no American way anymore unless it's the way of greed, ignorance and cruelty. Actually, I guess it is.

June 21, 2011

Still plucking

I'm continuing with my latest edit of Xmas Carol. I swear, it's amazing -- this must be my 14th time through the book and I'm still finding things to cut.

The golden rule about deciding whether something belongs in your book is simple. If it doesn't further the plot, it doesn't belong in the book. So by now I should have axed all the chaff, it being so simple to spot, and all. Yet I continue to bump into these little nuggets -- maybe five lines or a paragraph -- that are not essential and, worse, are not connected to anything else in the story.

I scream "Aha!" and lunge at the offending bit, plucking it out of the book with a huge pair of virtual tweezers. Poof. It's gone. But I'm amazed to find these things in the book at this point in the process. How could I not have spotted those offending lines during my last 13 passes through the story? It almost freaks me out.

But I am seeing these things now and I'm tossing them out of the book. Soon, very soon, there will be only essential text in the book. But as I've said here before: phew! What a long process this is. First I had to learn how to write an interesting novel, and then I had to learn to edit like a pro.  
"When you see a need you cannot fill, you learn the skill and fill it." -- Keith O'Connor.
That's always been my motto. And it's a good thing too, or I might have gotten lost along the way with this "becoming a writer" thing. What can I say? I'm still learning. In fact, to be a writer is to learn. It's the way it is.

New meme

KOS today noted that:
Secessionist Rick Perry shows off his technology savvy by asking his supporters to follow him on Tweeter.
You just know this is going to become another liberal meme like "the Intertubes" and "moran".

Just go look

PZ has a great comic strip up today. It's about Mother Nature's perception of humans. Just go look.

Ahem. Parity, please.

As soon as the new icky photos start appearing on cigarette packs, they'll surely start putting photos of thousand-pound people on each box of cookies, right? You know, trapped in bed, unable to get out of their houses, etc. I mean, that's gotta be the plan, no? They wouldn't single out smokers for scare tactics in the midst of the greatest obesity epidemic the world has ever seen, without also focusing on obesity -- and in the same, disgusting way. Right?

June 20, 2011

More word derivation stories

I haven't been doing this as often lately. Sorry. But I found some excellent derivation stories recently and it's past time to share them. These come from Robert Hendrickson's "The Facts on File: Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins." The following words are Hendrickson's:

Xmas. Xmas is neither an abbreviation nor a "vulgar commercial invention" of recent vintage. X has been used to symbolize the syllable "Christ" in English since at least 1100, when it was recorded in Xianity, for "Christianity". The Old English word for Christian recorded in the 12th-century Anglo-Saxon Chronicle begins with an X, and the word Xmas itself was used as early as 1551. The Greek word that gives us the English word Christ begins with the letter chi, or X, leading some writers to believe that the X in Xmas symbolized the cross.

Rub out. To rub someone out, "to kill him," isn't gangster talk from the Prohibition era, as is so often assumed. The term dates back to the early 19th-century American Far West and has its origins in Plains Indian sign language, which expresses to kill with a rubbing motion. The term is first recorded in George Ruxton's Life in the Far West (1848) and it is he who gives the sign language source.

Cooties. Our slang word cooties, for "body lice", derives from the Malayan-Polynesian kutu, "louse", which British sailors became familiar with (both word and nit) in the early years of this century.

To decimate. After any mutiny in the Roman army, or any cowardice, the standard punishment was to take one man by lot out of each of the ten-man squads and have his fellow squad members kill him. From this disciplinary measure came the word decimare (from the Latin decem, ten, meaning "to kill one in ten") that became the English decimate. Decimate strictly means to reduce a military force by one-tenth, but through careless usage has come to mean to destroy a large part of any population, even to obliterate it.

[Back to Keith. So my book title (Xmas Carol) isn't nasty or blasphemous after all. Moo ha ha ha ha!. See? I was just being sweet and historically accurate when I gave the book this title. Oh, and I'm never going to use the word decimate again.]

Evil man prays for pain for gay couples

I was disgusted when I saw this piece on the local news last night. NY is in a tizzy over gay marriage right now, so of course this means the appallingly evil "archbishop" Timothy Dolan has to dress up in a KKK outfit and spill his odious hatred of gay people during a church service. I believe this man is the epitome of evil, even worse than the popey guy. The video is short so give it a listen. If there really was a god, people like "archbishop" Timothy Dolan would spend eternity in hell.



Booman today

Booman Tribune has a post up this morning called Does Fox Make People Stupid?. Here's an excerpt:
Would Fox News viewers begin to show signs that they understood current events and basic facts as well as or better than the viewers of other networks?
My suspicion is that they would make some gains but they would never reach parity. The reason is because their higher brain function is undeveloped or simply damaged. They are attracted to fear and they get some kind of positive rush out of hate. Their capacity for empathy is either lacking or it has atrophied. Without the kind of stimulus that Fox News provides to feed their distorted emotions, they're unlikely to function, let alone learn.
Booman often says true things. That's why I read him.

June 19, 2011

Baseballisms

What the heck, let's talk about baseball again. The other day I heard an announcer speak about the amazing feats players accomplish on the baseball field. He said, speaking of an in-fielder who had to run after a ball and catch it underhanded, as two of his teammates were converging on the same spot:

"And you're running full-out, your eyes are bouncing, you put your glove out in front of you, in traffic, and you catch the ball. Amazing!"

Don't you love the way the announcers tell you what the player is thinking? For instance: "He wasn't lookin' fastball. He was lookin' slider." The scary thing is that I think they're accurate in these assessments most of the time. They were players; they feel what they're seeing and it puts them inside the players' heads. I like that. And I love the sound of the "lookin' slider" talk. It's also true that players do that all the time. That's why they look so surprised sometimes. They were lookin' different.

Okay, I've got a pet peeve to talk about. Won't take me long. It's those people with stupid signs at the game. Some signs are great; don't get me wrong. But signs like "It's my first Father's Day at a White Sox game" should be taken out of a fan's hand as he enters the stadium. The fan should then be given a generic sign that says, "It's all about me!" Let's streamline the message. This goes for the entire "It's my birthday, hit a home run for me" crowd. You're like the parasites on cellphones behind the hitter, waving at the camera. You're idiots.

Lest we end on a low note, I want to point out two baseball oddities. The first is the very existence of surrender-white rally flags. People, people, people -- what are you thinking? Use a color or don't have rally flags. White flags have a definite, obvious, glaring meaning -- and it ain't "Rah! Rah! Rah!"

The final odd thing concerns Madison Baumgarner, the Giants pitcher. This guy pitches left-handed but bats right-handed. How can this be? Then again, how can anyone be ambidextrous? It's impossible, I tell you!

Enjoy the games! The season won't last forever (sob).

New idiotic term enters our world

There was a disturbing headline at CBS one day ago that said:
Pentagon scare suspect found with terror phrases
Indeed. Something tells me CBS didn't make up this term. Could it be that our government has released a new meme to its obedient media? "Terror phrases," eh? And what were these scary terror phrases? They found a notebook in the man's car in which the following appeared:
"al Qaeda," "Taliban rules" and "Mujahid defeated croatian forces."
Frightening, eh? So a fellow who did absolutely nothing wrong chose to write these words in his personal notebook -- and it turned into a headline about "terror phrases"? This is a new, insane category of anti-Muslim fervor and undoubtedly our growing police state is paying close attention to this development. I'm sure they're ferreting through people's possessions right now, looking for horrific "terror phrases".

So now you can't write certain words or they'll cart you off to a prison cell. I'm not saying I hear the jackboots all around us but I think I smell boot polish. This is how things happen in our country -- haphazardly, and always aided by the media.

It's going to be a really swell 4th of July this year. Let freedom ring!

June 18, 2011

Just because

I haven't had Maya Angelou on my blog. This is a shocking oversight on my part, now remedied. Here she is, reading "Phenomenal Woman". I love this woman.

Moon Tune

This song is from a great album by Bob James and David Sanborn, called "Double Vision". It's the album to put on when you bring someone home late at night. It's beyond mellow.

Try Moon Tune and see what you think. Everything on Double Vision is like this: perfect. It's a classic, must-have album -- at least, I think so.



June 17, 2011

Creating fictional characters

Last night I was musing about the characters I've created for my books. Characters can be wildly interesting and it's fun to create them. At first you sit around, thinking this or that over, trying to see the character and get a feel for him. And after much soul-searching, you reach a point where you're ready to write a scene in which the character appears.

The thing that hit me last night is how important it is to write the first line of dialogue for your character. In that line is everything. Yes, you will develop this character further but as soon as you write down his words -- he exists. In fact, it's shocking how fulsomely he exists.

This happens because in that one line of dialogue is everything you need to know. (Okay, not really but stay with me.) You commit to the character when you write a line of dialogue, and instantly you know this person. It's as if the line is DNA that contains the blueprint for everything that must follow.

I think this happens because of the nature of writing and the nature of humans. When you write dialogue, you're not listening, as you do in life when someone is talking. You're speaking through the character. And in doing so, you are him. I think this happens in large part because the writer can literally hear the character's voice as he speaks. And in that intonation, that delivery, that voice, is the character, whole and true. At first, only the writer can hear this voice but in the course of the book, he makes the reader hear it too -- and hear it truly.

The knowledge a writer feels comes also from human knowing, from the built-in talent we homo sapiens have for understanding the actions of others. It's that mirror neuron thing, when you get right down to it. By speaking in the character's voice, the writer becomes the character. This is nothing new for us. We humans can slip into the minds of others at will. We do this to figure out the motivations of others so we know whether to trust them or not. To do this, we in a sense become the other person, and in doing so we can feel if their words and actions line up in a logical fashion. We ask if they are believable, and we're uncanny in our ability to ferret out the truth. It's how we come to understand others and it's one of our basic survival skills.

So when we slip into a character, we learn a lot. It's not so much a writerly skill that comes into play -- but a human one. This is how characters are built: we get inside them and become them. And the moment you write that first line of dialogue, you've crossed the Rubicon. You're off and running. This is how characters come to be -- at least, in my worlds.

June 16, 2011

Update on Fukushima

Dahr Jamail
Dahr Jamail has an amazing article at Al Jazeera today. It's about the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. There's no sense in me excerpting it; you've got to read this one in full. Things are much, much worse than we've been told.

I think it's a safe bet that news from Fukushima is purposely being excluded from US news broadcasts. Jamail suggests as much and I thank him for saying this in print. Why do you think the world's greatest nuclear disaster isn't being covered by the American news media? The answer is obvious: the nuclear power brokers in this country spoke -- and the media scurried to do their bidding. Poof. No Fukushima in the American news. (This should scare you, by the way.)

But at least we have the internet, for now. We can still access independent news sources. So get on over to Al Jazeera and read the story. And if you're still in favor of nuclear power after reading it, something is probably wrong with you.

Bring unto me the little puppy dogs

What is it with certain expressions? They're idiotic but people continue to use them.

"He follows him around like a little puppy dog." 

People, it's a puppy or a dog, not a puppy dog. Do you also say, "Look at the cute kitten cat?" You probably do, don't you? After all, this is the internet and it goes where none have gone before -- even to your house.

Doe deer, colt horse, chick chicken. We say none of these things yet we stick with "puppy dog".

This kind of phrasing is from the same mental neighborhood as a term used by the police. When looking for a body, they always like to bring along a sniffer dog.

Indeed. Gah.

June 15, 2011

New Bon Iver song: Calgary

First, here are the lyrics to Bon Iver's new song, Calgary:

Don’t you cherish me to sleep
Never keep your eyelids clipped
Hold me for the pops and clicks
I was only for the father’s crib

Hair, old, long along
Your neck onto your shoulder blades
Always keep that message taped
Cross your breasts you won’t erase
I was only for your very space

Hip, under nothing
Propped up by your other one, face ‘way from the sun
Just have to keep a dialogue
Teach our bodies: haunt the cause
I was only trying to spell a loss

Joy, it’s all founded

Pincher with the skin inside
You pinned me with your black sphere eyes
You know that all the rope’s untied
I was only for to die beside

So itʼs storming on the lake
Little waves our bodies break

There’s a fire going out,
But there’s really nothing to the south

Swollen orange and light let through
Your one piece swimmer stuck to you

Sold, I’m Ever
Open ears and open eyes
Wake up to your starboard bride
Who goes in and then stays inside
Oh the demons come, they can subside

As usual: what the?  Word soup, yet again. But I don't care. I love the guy. Here's the video.



Speaking of odd artists

Click for larger.
Have you ever seen the murals of Edward Grohe? This guy plays with perspective like no one else.

To be clear: that is not a hallway the woman is looking down, at left. It's a mural. (I've seen much better photos of it but couldn't find one to post today.)

All his paintings are stunningly clear and each invites us into another dimension. The magical thing, to me, is how he connects this new dimension to our world. He show us images at new, unthinkable angles. Perspective. The man owns it.

Artists push the envelope. It's their job. Our is to appreciate it. Here's a link to more of his stuff.

June 14, 2011

News about Doctor Vito!

Nilda Hu.
We have been blessed, my children, not by some dumb god but by fortune itself. Word has leaked out of Fort Leavenworth -- Doctor Vito lives! But let me not tell the tale. The following is a guest post by Nilda Hu, the stylish operative from WikiLeaks who was in the Vatican dungeon as Doctor Vito was savagely brutalized by the popey guy.

Greetings blog readers,

My name is Nilda Hu and I carry a message from Doctor Vito. I managed to talk my way into Fort Leavenworth, where he's being held in unspeakably primitive conditions.

Sadly, I was not able to speak to Doctor Vito himself. The guard around him is tightly controlled. But Pfc. Bradley Manning, the famous American hero, is in the next cell and he carried Doctor Vito's message to me. I nearly threw up when I heard what he had to say.

They are not giving Doctor Vito his medical marijuana! As the world knows, Doctor Vito suffers from SBC (Serious Brain Condition) and the only treatment for this disease is daily, heavy marijuana use. If Doctor Vito does not have a joint in his hand he is very, very sick.

Pfc. Manning literally came undone as he told me this. He was crying pitifully for his friend. Manning is such an empathetic soul -- I believe he truly feels the Doctor's pain. Manning said no one should spend a minute worrying about him. Instead, he wants everyone to concentrate on the medical marijuana issue for Doctor Vito. It's very important to him. I could see it in his eyes.

And so I call out to the readers of the Worlds Blog. Do everything you can, bang and make noise, wear bells on your clothes, and spit in the face of anyone you pass who seems to be anti-Doctor Vito. What we need is hundreds of thousands of people carrying signs that say "Dope for Doctor Vito!"

I wish I could help with this noble cause but my mentor Julian Assange has plans for me. I'm off to the next hotspot -- well, after a bit of plastic surgery. I'll soon look completely different. It's how we secret agents roll. That's why I agreed to allow my photograph to appear on this blog.

Adieu! And do not forget that precious soul, Doctor Vito, who languishes in a prison simply because America has fallen in love with tyranny. This man deserves not torture or imprisonment but marijuana and our thanks! There has never been a mind as deep and incisive as Dr. Vito's. We must free him so he can eventually lead not a nation -- but the world!

I bid you farewell,
Nilda Hu

Back to me. I know readers will dive into this new campaign with vigor. We must get Doctor Vito his medical marijuana -- at least two ounces daily. We will succeed, people, because a precious man is counting on us.

Be strong! Marshal your forces and let me know what activities you plan on the local level. First we will get Dr. Vito his medicine -- and then we will free him!

I love stuff like this

Photo credit: NY Times
You have to see this story in the NY Times today about a guy who paints squashed gum on sidewalks. I think it's great when people do things like this. Reminds me of the guy who carves the lead in pencil tips. Another treasure.

The photo I posted is from the article. There's not much more there in the way of images, but there are a few. Check it out. Truly, I think this sort of art is amazing.

June 13, 2011

The squirrels may have found the bird feeder

Ya think?
Yup, there he is, sitting pretty in a bunch of food. This is one happy squirrel. This feeder hangs on one of my windows and even if I tap on the glass, he just goes on eating. This behavior is new. I saw it for the first time today.

I'm feeding a ton of birds now. The word has gotten out and the crowd grows by the day. There's always change out there. For instance, the baby geese are almost adults already. Their feathers are taking on typical geese patterning. It's sweet to see.

There are also two new, tiny babies. This is a fuzzy photo but you get the idea: little balls of fluff walking around. Plus I've got ducks now, six of them. I swear, the menagerie grows and grows.

What's most interesting is how each bird has its own perceptions and species-specific tools. For instance, some birds throw caution to the wind. They don't worry about their own safety. They just hop on a feeder and munch away.

Others are cagey. Some sit backwards in the feeder so they can keep an eye out and fly away in an emergency. They have to bend their necks back to eat. Others bring a friend so one can eat while the other perches backwards to watch for predators. One species (the common grackle) even stands on top of the feeder and puts its head close to the window to see if I'm there before he'll eat. It's fascinating to observe these differences in behavior.

By the way, geese are smart. They understand what I say in the same way the dog understands what I say. They get what I mean, and do so easily. I find this beyond amazing. I can literally call them to me and they come. And they won't come unless I call. If they start to come and I don't want them to, all I have to do is say "no" and put my hands up -- and they stop! They actually understand -- and it's not like I've been out there training them. Bizarre.

It's a lift to wake up and see them out there waiting for me each morning. That is so cool.

June 12, 2011

Popey guy says something decent, maybe

Evil itself. Ft, ft . . .
NY Times story:
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI listened to Gypsies recount their way of life at a first-ever papal audience for them at the Vatican on Saturday, decried their persecution by the Nazis during World War II and called on Europe to help end centuries of rejection for the Roma people.
Meh. Maybe he means this, maybe he doesn't. Who knows what this hateful old hypocrite really thinks about anything? But I've been considering the plight of the Roma, the Gypsies.

We gave Israel to the Jews, didn't we? Well, I say we give Utah to the Roma! I think it's time these people had their own country (or state, at least). We'll just push the Mormons out and let the Roma in -- it will be an easy, graceful thing. There shouldn't be any problems. And finally the poor Roma will have a home.

Let's start a Utah for the Roma movement. Waddaya say?

News about consciousness

This is my favorite topic, bar none. It's the year 2011 and we still don't know how consciousness occurs. Somehow the brain creates a sense of being, of awareness. We call this consciousness and it is why we feel we have a "self". It's a stunning feat yet we don't understand the process that makes this happen. Consciousness is the quintessential experience of our lives -- and we don't even know what it is. How could this not be everyone's favorite topic?

Today there's an important story on physorg.com about the opposite end of the spectrum -- how consciousness disappears when we go to sleep or are put under an anesthetic. Scientists were able to monitor changes in the brain as consciousness fades away -- and the results bolster the notion that there are sub-assemblies in the brain that create the illusion of consciousness by linking together as one. I say "illusion" because that's what consciousness is: a virtual reality phenomenon caused by the brain's activities.

In the study, they monitored the brain as these sub-assemblies lost their ability to communicate with one another. As they became unlinked, consciousness faded away -- and therein lies the story. This fits perfectly with the sub-assembly theory. It's like your brain is composed of various electrical devices which, when wired together, focus as a unit on sensory input. This act of "focusing as a unit" is consciousness. I love this.

June 11, 2011

Stuff I heard while watching a baseball game

Random bits of baseball talk uttered by announcers during a game:

The bases are loaded, the count is 3-2, and the announcer says "What he needs here is a strike-out!" -- This from the department of baseball duh.

I love when teams that haven't been hitting finally start to get a few hits, and the announcer says, "The Giants have found their bats!" Makes me laugh every time.

When the announcers talk about an old player or recently deceased announcer, suddenly they sound high-toned -- or try to. Their entire way of speaking changes and we're treated to sentences like: "Just a superb gentleman, one of the finest I've ever been associated with." Indeed. Now, let's get back to the game.

Speaking of trying to sound high-toned (and coming off sounding ridiculous), I saw a graphic where they printed the question of the day: "Off of whom did --- hit nine grand slams?" I love "off of whom". I really do. They aimed for high-falutin' and failed miserably.

Lately, White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson has taken to saying "Mercy! You've gotta be bleepin' me!" There's a reason he's my favorite announcer. 

They just go wild over pitchers, don't they? Pitcher talk is almost sexual: "You can't make a much better pitch than that one, with that kind of stuff on it, and in that location." They're truly roused by pitchers.

When a guy needed to throw a ball to a baseman quickly but threw it in a high, lazy arc instead, the announcer said, "It had a little too much air under it." Nice. Another way I've heard this said is "he threw a rainbow in." A little off the beaten path, but I like it.

There's an odd phrase I often hear the announcers use. If, for instance, it seems that the opposing team, leading 3-2 in the 8th inning, is about to make it a 7-2 game, the announcers may say, "You don't want them puttin' a crooked number up there." I like that. Unbalanced = crooked.

Okay, one more. When a pitcher was throwing easy-to-hit pitches I heard Keith Hernandez say the guy was "throwing a lot of fat pitches". I find that interesting because I think it means that's how the batter actually sees it. It's as if the ball is literally larger. When the pitcher continued this behavior, Keith said in an exasperated voice: "He's throwin' grapefruits up there!" Made me laugh.

Okay, that's it from the magic land of baseball talk. Heard any good phrases in a game lately?

Weirdest video ever

I love Robbie Williams. He's talented, sexy, in-your-face, and he's always taking his clothes off. What's not to like?

But when he made this video he went way over the edge. It is the strangest thing I've ever seen. No matter how you feel about the song or the visuals try to stick it out until the end. I'm tellin' ya -- nobody ever did this before. Watch it full-screen.

AP story

Reticent no longer, the Democratic Party hierarchy demanded on Saturday that Rep. Anthony Weiner resign for sending online material ranging from sexually suggestive to explicit to several women. 

Now, wouldn't it be great if they could get together like this over something that, you know, matters? I know; I'm just dreaming.

June 10, 2011

A hard life

Although I spent my early years in close contact with my grandmother, even sleeping in her bed as a small child, I can't say I knew her well. I don't recall her voice though I can still see her clearly in my mind. And I remember her scent. It made me feel secure.

She had encephalitis, an acute infection in the brain. She got this terrible disease simply by being bitten by a tse-tse fly. It happened in Italy when she was 14. Her life hadn't even begun and it was already ruined. Sleeping sickness, as it was then called, is overwhelming. Pain, lethargy, confusion and the urge to sleep -- these symptoms colored her days ever after.

Maria Baiocco, my mother's mother, had few good moments but she wasn't bitter or angry. She was in pain all the time and this was all she could focus on. However, there was a way out: sleeping. It was her only relief and she slept and slept and slept. At any hour of the day or night you could expect to find my grandmother sleeping, either in her bed or on the living room couch.

My grandfather was the most loving caretaker imaginable. He did everything for her while raising my mother and her sister, holding down a full-time construction job and doing all the cooking. He was an amazing man and she was lucky to have him. He did these things for her willingly and, like her, he wasn't bitter. It wasn't their way.

My grandmother never learned to speak English and my generation never learned Italian. We, myself and my cousins, couldn't speak with her. But then she rarely spoke to anyone. She was not social in any way. I remember that she would give any child that came near her a nickel or a dime to go away. It was the permanent headache -- it really did her in.

Maria's tough life ended badly when she was run over by a bus and killed. She was in her early 50s and had been on her way to an evening church service when she was struck. It seems unfair that a life like hers ended like this. But life isn't fair.

Still, her existence wasn't joyless. My grandmother had this quirk. Although she wanted to do nothing but sleep or go to Mass, there was one thing she loved to do: ride the Parachute Jump at Coney Island. My poor, sick, hardly functional grandmother would hop on the ride whenever possible. She adored the feeling of falling. I guess it took her pain away for a time, at least as long as it takes to drop 350 feet. So Maria Baiocco always had this one thrill up her sleeve: Coney Island was just a subway ride away.

Another thing she enjoyed was teaching us kids to crochet. I have made many doilies, my friends, and several afghans. Oh, yes, I can crochet up a storm. But she did something even better: she taught us the secrets of Cat's Cradle. I am a champeen Cat's Cradler. I'll take anybody on and it's all my grandmother Maria's doing. She didn't use language to teach us these things -- she showed us with her hands. This was the way we communicated. I remember those times warmly and I can feel the gentle touch of her hand on mine like it was yesterday, guiding my fingers into the right position. And I remember her joy at those times. Beneath all the pain, she was a good person. I never doubted that.

Looking back I wish I could have been some help to her, but I was only seven when she died. My grandmother may not have experienced much joy in life but she created children who went on to create more children -- and here I am, along with all the others (including that famous artist, Cousin Carmine). Even a sad life can have positive effects. Thank you, Maria.

June 9, 2011

Authors who email with readers

Ann Rule, Daniel Dennet & Maureen Dowd.
Have you corresponded with an author you admire? The internet makes this so simple. It's not only easy to write to them, it's easy for them to respond.

The three who wrote back to me were Ann Rule, the true crime writer; Daniel Dennett, the totally cosmic philosopher of science; and Maureen Dowd, before she went nuts. My exchanges with all of them were stimulating and fun, and I admired them for taking the time to write back to me in a meaningful way.

I had a very cool conversation with Daniel Dennett about how consciousness works. And Ann Rule and I had a series of funny exchanges that definitely deserve a separate post. (You're gonna love this one.) As for Maureen Dowd, what surprised me was that she shared her fears readily, as if we were old friends. Odd. No diss from me about our correspondence. It was fun. As for what she's writing today, I can't imagine where the poor dear went off. She morphed into some girl from junior high. Maureen, you can do better, hon.

(I'm not counting contacts with bloggers here but that's been great too. Usually if you write a blogger and you're sensible, you get a response. I can't imagine how the high-volume folks find the time (and energy) to do this. Anyway, that's another avenue the internet opened for us. It's so easy to make contact. I love that.)

Have you corresponded with a favorite author? Do tell. What was it like?

New Bon Iver album coming soon

Justin Vernon, Bon Iver
I just saw a notice in the NY Times that Bon Iver's next album will be out on June 21st. Woot! I love this guy.

If you'd like to hear the album now, there's a preview on the Times site. Here's the link.

I cannot wait! Oh, and the album is called "Bon Iver, Bon Iver".

June 8, 2011

If only I hadn't . . .

If you could go back in time and warn your younger self about something, would you do it? Would you tell yourself: not that road, this one?

I'm not asking what you'd like to change, just whether you would take advantage of this opportunity if it came your way. Would you try to alter your life or would you leave things just as they are?

Never mind what I just said. I expect you to totally spill your guts about this. Tell us and the whole world what you'd go back and change. And we want the full dish -- none of this vague, airy stuff.  You hear me?

Or you could simply answer the yes/no question. Go ahead and keep your secrets. See if we care.

What is it with the world?

I keep thinking things can't get worse but with each new day, I'm proven wrong.
The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court said Wednesday he is investigating whether Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi provided Viagra-type drugs to Libyan soldiers to promote the rape of women during the current conflict.
It's quite a world, isn't it? And isn't it funny how it's always men doing the horrible things? (Or women pushed around by men.) I'll say it again: everyone on Earth and especially all the men need to read "On Aggression" by Konrad Lorenz. Until the lesson he reveals in this book is learned, we should expect a continuation of this kind of thing.

June 7, 2011

Light posting for a few days

I'm helping a friend with something this week and I'm afraid it's cutting into my normal writing day, so posting may be light this week.

I know, I know: it's rough. But hang on. I know you can do it. I'll try to put a post up each day nonetheless, but it'll be slim pickins, fer sure.

My current situation shouldn't last more than a few days and then I'll be back to my normal, manic, post-producing self. I'll say if for you: hooray!

Wondering about Mephisto

Last week, scientists announced that a nematode has been found living almost two miles below the surface of the Earth. Before this discovery, nothing living had been found deeper than 1.2 miles below the surface. The name they gave this creature is Halicephalobus mephisto. This made me wonder about the term "mephisto".

Wikipedia tells me that Mephisto and Mephistopheles are one and the same. Both refer to the demon whose picture is at left. Sometimes Mephisto is seen as the devil himself. The term comes from German folklore and was first seen in print as the demon in the Faust legend. The name is familiar to me in part from Faust but more because of the movie, "The Mephisto Waltz (which I wrote about in this post).

So: a devil, a demon. But why name the worm after this creature? I wondered if it was because the mythical hell lies deep beneath the Earth so I googled my way to this reference:

". . . Halicephalobus mephisto, an entirely new species, with the mephisto portion given in reference to its residence in the underworld" 

Mystery solved and the meme of mephisto is passed on to another generation . . . well, to science and work geeks, anyway. Oh, and you.

June 6, 2011

That popey guy's quite a guy!

Evil personified.
I saw this today in the NYT:
NEW YORK (AP) — A Maryland Episcopal parish will be the first in the United States to join the Roman Catholic Church under a streamlined conversion plan created by the Vatican.
Isn't that sweet? The popey guy has opened his fragrant arms to the most hateful Episcopal parishes that want to retain the "right" to act viciously toward gay people. The popey guy essentially said to them:
"If your church is becoming too humane and moral, come -- be with us! You can be as hateful as you want on our side of the street because it is the Catholic god's glorious mission to spread bigotry over the Earth. Rejoice!"
Watta guy! So now the Episcopal church can continue to act as immorally as they want -- because the popey guy's got them covered. Hooray!

In other church news today:
"Three current or former priests and a former Roman Catholic school teacher in Philadelphia are rejecting a proposed plea offer to serve 7 1/2 to 15 years on child-rape charges."

Does not compute

What's wrong with this picture?
What would John Lennon have to say about this? A lot, I imagine. New York's mayor Mike Bloomberg has decreed from on-high that musicians and singers may no longer, you know, make music or sing in Central Park. At least, not in the "Quiet Zones" and Strawberry Fields has, incredibly, been designated as a "Quiet Zone". This picture tells the tale. What boobery, what nincompoopery! It's astoundingly out of step -- but then, that's NY's mayor Mike Bloomberg. No clue about how the soiled masses might view this.

Can you imagine what John would say? It would be such fun. He'd have a huge musical gathering in Strawberry Fields by nightfall with TV cameras following his every move, and live broadcasts going out over the net to the entire world. He'd call on people everywhere to join him. "Bring a musical instrument and a bed, and plan to stay for months!" It would morph into a park-wide artist's festival that no one on the planet could shut down. And suddenly, world peace would break out all over.

And then he'd write great songs about the whole thing and make us feel like we were there when it all came down. Dang, I miss this man. And Bloomberg -- you're an artless twit.

June 5, 2011

Getting the date right

It's hard to pin down exactly when the United States passed the point of no return and fell into irremediable idiocy.

Was it the day someone first used "prank" as a verb? Did it happen when "I'm OK, You're Okay" hit the bookstores? Or the day we began to watch the Loud family on TV? Was it when the country voted Bush in for the second time? I want to know the exact date and time when we lost all our hopes and dreams. It seems we should note it down somewhere, maybe file it or put it in a history book or something. I could at least list it here on the blog.

But so many events could have begun the cascade. When do you think the collapse began in earnest?

Even the Red Sox are doing it!

I was happy to see a story about the Red Sox making an "It Gets Better" video. Yay, my team's doing it. Now if only the Mets would jump in. We need major sports teams to come out for gay people and say bullying is uncool. Who knows? This may make a big difference. Anyway, I'm proud of my guys. Way to go!

Now, about those other teams. Ready to step up, fellas? Now's the time. (PS: The Cubs did one too.)

Here's my entry, by the way.

I need some help

There is a gay male character in one of my books and he's always saying things are "faaaaaabulous!"

The problem is that it's the year 2030. Would a gay man speak like this 20 years in the future? It doesn't seem likely, does it? I mean, he might do it for a retro thrill but there would probably be some wonderful new word that gay people use with a sense of style and fun and exaggeration.

I need suggestions. It's 2030 and you're a gay man. What word would you use in a gay, campy way? This one's got me stumped. Any thoughts?

June 4, 2011

The pool at the St. George Hotel

In the good old days, New Yorkers had a slew of great beaches they could visit in the summer. But for die-hard, concrete-loving, stay-in-the-city types, there was also an option -- the pool at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn.

I found this image at brooklynhistory.org but I must confess, I don't remember it being quite that grand or being filled with salt water. It was nice, mind you, maybe even very nice but I don't remember the high ceiling or balconies. I was young; perhaps I forgot. In any case, it was a great pool and one of my uncles was a lifeguard there for a time. His name was Jim O'Connor and he looked very cute in his official bathing suit and whistle.

Back in the day, smoking cigarettes was both accepted and expected. I remember that there was a recessed area right by the pool, a "room" where you could smoke. It was tiled and had tiled seats along the walls so it was sort of a steam room without the steam, featuring an open doorway through which you could see the exciting goings-on at the pool. And it did seem exciting at all times. This wasn't just a pool, it was the pool at the St. George Hotel. Posh.

Inside the smoking area I remember that they had small, recessed cubbyholes right by the door, each just the right size to hold a pack or two of cigarettes and your lighter. No one stole in the old days. Anyway, with all the insane smoking laws going into effect everywhere these days, I thought it might be nice to revisit this lovely, civilized convenience -- a genteel, poolside smoking area.

I don't smoke now but I did back then and it was very nice indeed to smoke at the St. George Hotel pool. 

A Sunday music find

I just ran across this gorgeous video of Sungha Yung. This is a song called "Missing You" that he wrote when he was 11. It was his first composition. Apparently he wrote the song for a guitarist friend.

It's incredible.



June 3, 2011

My plate is a little different from theirs

I haven't eaten a piece of fruit in at least 20 years. It doesn't seem to matter. If you'd like to follow me down this slippery slope, be sure to take your vitamins every day and you'll probably be fine. Maybe. In any case, it doesn't seem to have hurt me and I didn't have to eat twenty years worth of fruit! It's like the bonus you get from being an atheist: you get to sleep on Sunday mornings! Hooray! No mass, no fruit! Life is very, very good.

No fruit, no gods and lots of espresso -- it's how we roll here at the Worlds Blog.

My nephew's favorite group

The younger of my two nephews introduced me to this song. He loves Empire of the Sun. I don't think much of the video but I like the song. See what you think.

Mmmmmm, baseball!

Embiggens, if prodded.
I love to visit MLB's Probable Pitchers page. It's sheer delight. All those games, all those pitchers, all that fun!

When I get to the page, I'm like a fat person with a fabulous, new menu to peruse. It's smorgasbord time. Rich, that's how it makes me feel: rich!

Take this game. Last night the Mets came back from a 7-0 deficit to win the game 9-8. It was great! And look at this matchup. I love Niese, the Mets pitcher, and Derek Lowe is a fine opponent. And coming after that come-from-behind win, it's gotta be magic. Gotta!

I'm so glad I found baseball. Who knew it was this great?