Monday, December 31, 2007

meat-eating, public nudity, and the value of an itchy sweater

I am eating peppered Beef Jerky right now, something that would’ve made me very uncomfortable to do just a little over a year ago, because I was a vegetarian.

I am not a vegetarian anymore however, though it is hard to pinpoint my moment of re-conversion. As a person who claims to know very little for certain, my beliefs and practices are always in a state of flux. New information is coming in all the time, from all inlets.

It doesn't seem likely that my current dietary trends are based on a desire to conform to my meat-and-potatoes Midwestern surroundings. Rather, I like when people come together as they are. The more disparate the matching the more it appeals to me. So I don’t think my current, lazy-vegetarianism* is attributal to that.

I became a vegetarian because our culture is so indulgent, and I wanted to deny myself something. I wanted to practice self-control against the buffet. This is what I would tell people when they asked, but I don’t think it was even mostly true.

In actuality, part of me was hoping I would lose weight, and part of me was trying to make myself more interesting. I have always liked to see apparent opposites come together. I like accidental iconoclasm. I often find myself modifying myself to be something different than what is suited to my surroundings. I think this is in the hope that people can like people as people, without too much trouble over ideology. I have always wanted ideology to be more like fashion, which I think it is: Voluntary apparel we use to dress up our nakedness.

That is why I became a vegetarian, and it was good for that. It let me into a particular deviant group that attracted me, and it made me like food in general more. I didn’t lose weight. I gained weight. Once I had struck meat from the menu, the creativity I was forced to use afterwards encouraged experimentation, and I did alot of experimenting. I eat all kinds of things now that I hadn’t before. The lentil is a very flexible thing.

I gradually abandoned vegetarianism because I gradually abandon or modify most of the ideas I acquire. This is a small raft that I’m on, and the water is rocky. If an idea cannot adapt to fit our current surroundings, it must be discarded. To be stripped down, to be as close to naked as possible, to have only the prohibitions and inhibitions that are necessary,seem to make a person easier to get close to, and along with. I have stopped claiming any kind of insight into the mind of God, and am trying to shave off some pretenses. It will never work of course, but it’s part of the strenuous life.

Roger Scruton wrote a good essay on moral meat eating for Harpers called A Carnivore's Credo.** It articulates well why it is not wrong to eat meat, and argues in fact, that it may even be virtuous. I had never claimed meat-eating to be wrong, just something I didn't want to do. I found Scruton's writings useful as I reconsidered my position.

So I am eating meat not to conform, but because I find my constant desire to serve as a thorn in the paw of humanity tiring, and patronizing. What business do I have trying to make other people uncomfortable? Inevitably it will happen. I am that kind of person, and I enjoy that kind of activity from time to time. It is one of my many vices. If there is anyone at all that I should be trying to make uncomfortable it is myself. If I bring some other people along with me as I work, and if discomfort suits them as well as it does me, all the better. The more the merrier.
*
* I still primarily eat only vegetarian. I don’t refuse meat when it is offered to me anymore, and I don’t request substitutes. I don’t scrutinize ingredients like I used to, and if I discover I have eaten meat, it’s no big deal.

** http://www.harpers.org/archive/2006/05/0081013

Thursday, December 20, 2007

an excerpt from my interview with a five year old

S: Marvin Hooks, you are five years old. What do you want to be when you grow up?

M: I’m five years old. I’m too young to answer a question like that. I just started riding my bike without training wheels. Ask me again in two years.

S: Marvin, it’s two years later. What would you like to be when you grow up?

M: Spencer, I’m glad you asked. I often go down to this little wooded area behind my house and watch the bats fly around the streetlights. There is at least one bat that does figure-eights, and another that swoops down very low.

S: Why are there streetlights in the wooded area behind your house?

M: Because there is another street behind my house, and by wooded area I mean that street’s mailboxes.

S: Do you believe in God Marvin?

M: No one can be certain Spencer, but I try to take it easy on the pork products.

S: In conclusion, is there anything you regret?

M: There have been a few times when I forgot to unzip my pants while urinating.

S: Sounds like dark times.

M: Times to grow Spencer. Times to grow.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

from the mouths of babes

I was pleased with a little story Mark Daniels used to start a blog he had written about Jesus that is apparently a convention in religious circles, although I had never heard it before. It goes like this:

“You may have heard the story of the little boy who was finding it hard to sleep at night. He called out from his room for his dad. When his father got there, the little guy said, “The longer I’m here, the darker and scarier it gets. Couldn’t you stay in here until I fall asleep?” “Son,” his dad explained, “nothing bad can happen to you here. Your Mom and I are right down the hall.” “I know, Daddy. But I’m scared.” “You don’t have any reason to be afraid,” the father explained, “God is right here in this room with you.” “I know, Daddy,” the little boy said, “but I want someone with skin on them.”

I wrote in the comment section that:

“I've never heard the 'skin' thing before. It's neat because it sounds like the kind of weird, oddly illuminating kind of thing young kids seem prone to say. Thanks for sharing that.”

And that is just the kind of thing a kid would say, even if it’s not true.

I had an English teacher who told us that some of the best story writers he has ever had in his classes were foreign kids who had just picked up the language. He said they were prone to coming up with unusual and beautiful analogies, metaphors, and spiced-up turns of phrase that the natives, on account of their familiarity with the language, could not. Kids don’t know any of the cliches either, and the novelty of the language and the unusualness of some of our linguistic blindsides attracts them.

My sons have filled my life with all kinds of linguistic mismatches that have been enriching. My wife and I now refer to any kind of construction type vehicle as ‘digs’ on account of my oldest son. One time we were walking across the Roebling Bridge here in Cincinnati, and he said about the humming sound the traffic makes on the steel grating that, “The bridge is singing to cars as they cross it.” He has also created a convention for himself by injecting ‘a bit’ into a lot of his sentences, ie, “Let’s take a break, I’m a bit tired”, or, “I had a bit of a lot of that sandwich.” There are many more instances.

It is as a child that we realize that bulldozers look like dinosaurs. It is also as children that we see the strange, sometimes scary faces in the grain on old faux-wood wall panels, and in rocks, and on wallpaper. It is this property that allows us to realize that clouds have secret characters, best discerned by laying on our backs in soft grass on a cool spring day and looking up.

I’m glad to have little people in my life for many reasons, one of which is that they keep things fresh. Their minds are still full of wonder, they are not yet jaded by the harshness of the way things can be, and they are capable of injecting some of this wonder and freshness back into our lives by their mere presence: It is by tapping into this secret reservoir of awe that we ever are able to make anything beautiful.

Three cheers for the kids.

Marcel Proust's Myspace Page

Marcel has 1 friend:


Tom

“Same as it ever was”--David Byrne.

“blah, blah, blah, you know what I mean.”--Ecclesiastes.

I’ve decided to read In Search Of Lost Time. I think I have the constitution for it. I read Don Quixote in three months, The Anatomy of Melancholy in six, and trudged through The Bible (should I put the bible in italics?) over the period of a year. I have heard a lot of forbidding things about the density and peculiarity of the prose of In Search Of Lost Time, so I thought I’d start of with a primer. I chose Roger Shattuck’s Proust’s Way as a guide, and, while I’m beginning to question the timing of my decision to read through this behemoth (winter quarter starts in a couple of weeks), I was interested to find a similar tendency in the bored, Parisian leisure class of Proust’s time (of which he was definitely a card-carrying member), and the leisure class of our own time, ie, all of America. Apparently it was popular to fill out questionnaires that remind me--although not as obviously trite--of the kind of self-surveys popular on myspace.

An example of one of Proust‘s forays into this kind of diversion, from chapter one of Proust’s Way. His answer follows the question:

“…In what Place would you like to live? In the land of the ideal, or rather of my ideal…

…For what faults do you have the greatest indulgence? For the private life of geniuses…

…Your present state of mind? Annoyance [ennui] over having thought about myself to answer all of these questions…”


Not exactly “Have you ever cheated on your boyfriend, and if so, where?” or “Do you ever go commando?” but definitely an evolutionary precursor.

It’s good to know that for all of our progress as a species, we still take care to keep intact some of our baser pursuits.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Lost Magazine

this is a cool online magazine.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sledding

The hill in our back yard has a great incline, and a very sudden stop. The boys and I have been sledding the past couple days, after a surprise snowfall.

We’ve got privacy bushes against the fence at the bottom of the hill, dotted with little blue berries, and conservative-sized, naked afro trees at both corners---four paces from the bottom fence, five or six from the left and right--for symmetry’s sake. These trees and bushes make perfect obstacles for sledding, especially when you consider the abrupt finish.

I sit down on our plastic, bright orange sled first (clumsily), and then one of the boys sits on my lap. I grab the sturdy yellow steering rope, and, digging my heels into dirt, begin us on our descent. It’s slow at first, like a roller coaster I imagine--adding the ch-ch-ch gear sound to create the proper amount of tension--and then we’re off.

There’s a three second window for us to get our feet inside the sled, and to lean back, acquiring maximum speed, dodging an array of low hanging, symmetrical tree limbs and ending up ultimately smashed against a fence, laughing, tangled up in the berried privacy bushes, little blue impact spots splattered on our pants and coats, covered in snow.

I’ve never been able to go down a hill on a sled without shouting, Wa-hoo, Yee-Haw, Wooo!, or some similar thing, and this trait seems to be hereditary.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

as good a motto as you're likely to find.

Reading Lisa Rogak's A Boy Named Shel--a new book about Shel Silverstein--I was reminded of this neat little video version of his poem Put Something In, which I believe is as good a motto as you're likely to find.

Boats

The seaweed says hang on slow down.
The apple sky spits seeds they ripple.

Aluminum cans fade this is where they end up.
The person tossing them off the overpass could never have known.

In his mind this might just be a roadside convenience.
In his mind maybe it's the end of the earth.

My oars say hang on not so fast.
My blinking eyes say it's getting late.

Some day when this is all highway I'll need wheels on the bottom
And maybe a hook at the end of my paddle

So my people might find me if they wanted to
Follow my scraping scratching footprint with pitchforks into the city.

Originally appeared at Thieves Jargon.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

political philosophy and mental health

I just read this gallup poll on the drudge report. It states that republicans are more likely to report their mental health as 'excellent' than democrats (but you'll notice if you look at the poll that democrats are more likely than republicans to list their mental health as 'good').

While I was considering this information, I remembered another study I read about a year or two ago that said that liberal parents are more likely to raise self-assured adults. Does this mean liberals are more likely to raise...Republicans?

no, of course not. Of course there is a difference between being self-assured and being willing to report your mental health as 'excellent', and of course democrat is not synonymous with liberal and republican is not synomymous with conservative.

Although the researchers rightly remind us that correlation doesn't equal causation (a mantra for psych. majors),these longitudinal studies on mental health and personal philosophy are interesting.

are republicans more likely to state 'excellent' mental health because they are more likely to be capitalists, and thus more geared towards priming themselves for survival in our marketplace society? Are democrats more likely to say 'good' rather than 'excellent' because the nature of the questions (party affiliation tied so closely with mental health) likely to bring up feelings of dissatisfaction with recent political failures, and animosity towards President Bush and the war? Or maybe a person would be inclined to say democrats view the world more realistically, and think in a wider, more encompassing way than republicans, or, to the contrary, maybe someone would say the more liberal a person is, the more likely they are to be an unhappy do-gooder, immersed in their own self-indulgent nihilism, and unable to hack it in this competitive society.

Maybe it's because I've been reading Freud lately, but I wonder about the nature of the participant's relationship with their parents. Are these findings more related to authoritarian versus authoritative styles of parenting than pro-life judges versus universal healthcare?

Whatever the relationship between these studies, they are at least good for mindless speculation and pontification.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Delicacies

Why is it that whenever unusual world cuisine is being discussed, when someone names something very unappealing to the western palate (like fungus stuffed caterpillar or deep-fried sparrows) inevitably someone else will chime in and say, "It's actually a delicacy there." Why does it have to be a delicacy? Why can't it just be something that they eat? Do people in Mongolia, when talking about American consumption of hot dogs say,"Oh yeah, they take all of the assholes and the nipples and guts and stuff out of an animal, stuff it into the animal's intestine, cook it, eat it, and love it!They pay top dollar for it. I'm not kidding."

Is it the idea that, not only does this strange people eat this weird stuff, but they actually adore it that makes us go this route, or is it that same old instinct that led us to chase our little sisters and brothers around with a booger on our index finger;some kind of gross-out schadenfreude?

I'd write more, but the horse tongue soup I'm cooking for my kids' lunch smells like it's burning.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Your Legs

Your legs
Your olive legs
Your caramel
Snow-white
Ebony
Pink tan legs

Are the scissors
That cut my concentration

Through halls
Designed to indulge echo
You clip
My head
Turns

Your legs
Your thick legs
Your soft
muscled
Thin
Tattooed legs

Should require
A license to operate.

This, and many other fine poems (by many other fine poets) can be found in any copy of Zygote In My Coffee's fourth print edition.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Penn On Glenn



Penn Jillette goes to bat for libertarianism, and good-naturedly puts Glenn Beck in his place after Beck's third or fourth mildly patronizing reference to the time Jillette spent in clown college. Fun to watch.

God Stuff

God fits very awkwardly into my life. I suppose this may be attributable in the minds of some to my failure to fully surrender , or some other such religious nomenclature. Whatever the reason for this awkwardness, God is a constant source of discomfort for me, and in spite of myself, I have not been able to ditch him. I hear people talk about how hard faith is: this is a novel concept for me. While it is hard for me to take certain aspects of different scriptures on faith, and others I accept with nuance, I have always found myself believing there is a God, and however unfathomable the mind of God is, my belief remains, although the particulars of the belief are absent. I think that is where I think the discomfort arises. There are so many different ways of expressing God out there, and all seem dependant upon the makeup of the person doing the expressing. I can't claim any special revelation. When I hear something about God that makes sense, I say to myself, 'that sounds right.' and bring it along with me.

If God created us, surely there is some built-in God recognizing device, either in our soul or our bodies, because the perception of God is assuredly not a rational endeavor*. My emotions are unreliable, and all over the place. My reason has nowhere to go when it comes to God. The only thing I can see that would bind me to one holy book or the other is the fear of hell, or promise of heaven, and motivations in that direction strike me as cynical. No Pascal's wager for me.

There is a thing inside me that tells me what is right, and what is wrong. Most of the time I can apply reason to these things to discover why they are right and wrong, but it is always a case of me working backwards from my conclusion to get the answer. There is no fooling this device, and even when I come up with good rationales for bad behavior, this little device knows what I am full of. I think it's from this place that my belief arises.

I have read all of the current slew of so-called 'neo-atheist books', by Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennet, and Richard Dawkins. Christopher Hitchens's book was the most fun to read, Sam Harris's was the most convincing. His [Harris's] strongest argument, in my opinion, was that allowing yourself to believe things without evidence leads you to a place where you can commit violence without reason. I concede this point, although it does nothing to disprove the existence of God. Hitchens's best argument was that religion offers so much neurosis to children, and leads to unnecessary time wasted as we grow up reconciling with or battling the demons created by our feelings of sinfulness. I concede this point as well and feel no inclination to stand up for religion in any sense. My politics are generally secularist-conservative-libertarian, and I think dogmatic thinking is lazy. I try to challenge it whenever I find it in myself, although I sometimes fail. I had to modify my acceptance of Stephen Jay Gould's NOMA principle (however noble an attempt at reconciliation I thought it was) because I do not believe, along with Peter Singer, that morality should be the exclusive property of the religious alone, and that indeed a claim to such property by religion in certain instances can be damaging*. Our morality, while perhaps coming to us in a near-instinctual kind of way, must be able to be subject to reason.

So where does this leave me with God? I find myself unable to not believe, although I have opened myself to most convincing arguments against belief I could find. I find myself--like a weak magnet--attracting odds and ends of different aspects of different denominations and religions as I go on my way, and try to do good (when it strikes me to do so) by following my own inner compass and reason, and not because I hope for streets of gold or because I fear the creativite forms of torture practiced by the denizens of hell. I know this will not endear me to any devout person, or ardent secularist, but what can I do? It would seem that one of the costs of our freedom and free will is a necessary distance. Philip Yancey says in his book Reaching For the Invisible God "Wise Parents nudge their children away from dependence toward freedom, for their goal is to produce independent adults. Lovers, however, choose a new kind of voluntary dependence: possessing freedom, they gladly give it away" And then he goes on to say that he thinks that is what God wants from us.

I don't know what God wants from us. If he does want anything,** surely he would have given us the tools to create or acheive it. That is what I have to trust has been done, and I will work with what tools I have, in good faith.


*teachingsfrom various religions on genocide, circumcision, slavery, homosexuality, masturbation, the role of women, jihad, blind obedience,etc.

**why God would want anything from us other than to be is something I often think about: surely the Home Depot in heaven is far better than what we've got down here.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Earth Moves

The earth moves you know,
Even if we stand so still:
Buy yourself some shoes.

Concrete and Calligram


Chris Major has recently had an e-book put together by why vandalism? called Concrete and Calligram. It is available for free download or viewing at http://www.whyvandalism.com/ , and is worth the time it takes to inspect.

Mr. Major is edgy in the real sense of the word, not in the superficial 'look at me, I say fuck alot and write narcissistic free verse about substance abuse and the hollowness of modern society' kind of edgy, which is frankly boring at this point. Chris Major is the Joe Maneri of poetry, all praise and potential criticism included.

It took me ten minutes to read the whole thing. I have read it several times since, and shown it to friends. I don't do that a lot.
My favorite piece is 'Failing Physics Circa '78', which made me laugh out loud. Many of the poems are infused with an anarchic, playful humor that is banksy-esque; see 'Freedom Of Speech In Zimbabwe (bullet proof glass)' and 'Seal Windows and Doors (bio attack)' for illustration. Some of the pieces, 'Predator' and 'The Way Poets Can Change the World' are simply playful, and refreshingly self-depricating in the latter's case. There are now more words in this review, I believe--potentially barring the introduction--than there are in the book itself, so I think I'll stop.
good stuff if you get a chance to look.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

the bacon of eternity


If I were feeling fanciful, I would say Sting’s This Cowboy Song is the song most descriptive of my life.

“I've been the lowest of the low on the planet
I've been a sinner all my days
When I was living with my hand on the trigger
I had no sense to change my ways
The preacher asked if I'd embrace the resurrection
To suck the poison from my life
Just like an existential cowboy villain
His words were balanced on my knife”


I read somewhere recently that Sting was voted the worst lyricist ever by some Rock magazine. I don’t understand this world.

Anyway, This Cowboy Song probably isn‘t my song in reality. My song is probably something less romantically cavalier. Probably something without words. Like the theme from Looney Tunes.

My grandfather owns the quote of the day. He was telling me that I should take the kids down to see the creation museum in Kentucky. He said it had some cool Animatronic dinosaurs, and a nice planetarium. This recommendation led to a discussion of the controversy surrounding the museum, and how everyone wants to put numbers on things. He said ‘The Earth can’t be hundreds of millions of years old. I actually wish he had taken that much time. I mean, look at it. This is a six day job.’

Nicely done.

Just started reading Terry Pratchett’s Reaper Man in my down time. Very funny. Death is one of his best characters. Here’s some good writing from early on in the book (page 14 in the mass market):

“In the hall of the house of death is a clock with a pendulum like a blade but with no hands, because in the house of Death there is no time but the present…it swings with a faint whum-whum noise, gently slicing thin rashers of interval from the bacon of eternity.”

I took some funny stuff out of the middle (indicated by the …), but that’s the main part I liked. I also recommend the part about the mayflies.

My father and I play a macabre game with each other where we try to be the first to tell the other when famous people die. I’m not sure how it got started, and it’s disturbing at times, but it’s something we do. I rarely win. I beat him to Wilson Pickett, and Anna Nicole Smith, but he gets pretty much everyone else. He called me today to let me know that I completely missed the deaths of Robert Goulet and the guy who flew the Enola Gay. I conceded, and admitted that I didn’t know the guy who flew the Enola Gay. I mean, I knew someone flew the Enola Gay, I just didn’t know he was still alive, or that he had a name. I knew Billy Crystal played him in the movie. Maybe that says something about our culture that I knew Goulet but not the guy who dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan. Maybe it just says something about me.

My wife and I hijacked an idea from the movie The Story of Us for family dinners. It’s the High-Low report. Every night that we have dinner together (which is most nights) we report what our high point and low point for the day was. We didn’t eat together tonight because my wife had a class, so I’ll tell you my high. I reached back to hold one of my son’s hands as we were driving back from my grandfather’s house, and the other one put his hand in my hand too. My oldest son is six, and my youngest is two. Both of their hands fit comfortably in my palm. We drove home like this, and I thought, ‘How long will I be able to do this?’

My low is that we ran out of creamer for the coffee.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Large Objects Moving Slowly

first appeared at http://www.mannequinenvy.com/

As your breasts
make their glacial excursion
towards your hips,
and my balls
begin to droop
like a Halloween bag
full of too much candy,
I will pause
from time to time
and remember years before
when our two taut bodies
were so easily entertained
by such flat, firm surfaces,
and [we] explored them ruthlessly,
like conquistadors
looking for golden cities.
And I will smile,
and consider these days,
when the terrain is much
more complex,
unpredictable,
and a safari
of the many curves and folds
may take months of planning
to execute,
and only god knows
how many hired natives
will be lost along the way.

An excerpt from my interview with President Ahmadinejad

S: Is it true that you hate the Jews?

A:"No! I love the Jews! This has been one of the greatest misunderstandings between our two countries. Who doesn't watch The Daily Show?

S: What about your 'we will drive the jews into the sea comment?'

A: Oh, come on! I was having a bad day.It's just a figure of speech. You know, you spill some hot coffee on your members-only jacket and, "I'll drive the jews into the sea!" It's just something that pops out. Nothing behind it at all. I love the jews! I tear the crust of their sandwiches.

S: by 'tear the crust off their sandwiches', do you mean 'drive them into the sea?'

A: Now you're playing word games with me.

S: In your speech to Columbia University you said, "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country...I don't know who's told you that we have this. "

A: And?

S: Are you Sascha Baron Cohen?

A: (rips of fake beard and wig) Gotcha! Again I expose the West's innate bigotry and ignorance by portraying the shallow, backwards caricature you have in your collective mind of the leader of a middle-eastern country right back at you, and have you buy it! You wouldn't believe how much prejudice you displayed in that interview.

S: Brilliant. You've done it again.

Sascha Baron Cohen: I am the carnival barker calling all to see the horrors I have behind a giant curtain. When a crowd gathers, I pull a cord, the curtain drops, and there stands a giant mirror.

S: Truly that is who you are. We're such pigs.

SBC: What can I say?

S: A true original. Sascha Baron Cohen, thanks for sitting down with me.

SBC: Booyashaka!

Monday, September 10, 2007

When We Were Boys

first appeared at http://www.zygoteinmycoffee.com/

When we were boys
We peed on everything
Anywhere, anytime.

We peed on trees
In the woods
On tires flowers dogs
Fences.
Most pleasantly,
We peed in public pools.
Shamefacedly,
We peed in our beds
And in our good church
pants.

When we were boys
We peed on everything.
Anywhere, anytime.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Monster Movies With Grandpa



Whenever I see a man in a rubber monster suit strangling the life out of a beautiful woman, I will think of my grandfather and smile.

As a matter of course, sleepovers at my Grandparents' house would generally start with a trip to the toy store, and segue into delivery pizza and coca-cola, the evening capper being two or three monster movies with my Grandfather. This is my warmest memory of my early relationship with him.

Grandma would bring us our pizza slices, and mason jars filled with either coca cola or iced tea. Grandpa would go over to the movie cabinet and pick out ‘a good one’. He was usually spot on.

We watched so many monster and b-horror movies together that I can’t remember them all, but a few are archetypal in my mind. While most of the Slasher films kind of bleed together after awhile, Theater Of Blood left a pretty gruesome impression in my mind: The scene where Vincent Price is extracting the pound of flesh from the theater critic who gave him bad reviews was so graphic, and so over-the-top that once I had seen it, it became impossible to shake.

More pleasant are the monsters. The Thing From Another World, both the original and the Kurt Russell Remake were very impressive to me as a young connoisseur, and provided plenty of spin-off material for the play-time scenarios I dreamt up for my brother and sister and I. Alien and Aliens--Sigourney Weaver running around in her underwear through the cold, white halls of the vacant spaceship was oddly intriguing to my eight year old mind--All of the Creature From the Black Lagoon movies, except the one that had him wearing clothes. Lon Chaney’s Wolf Man. Bela Lugosi as Dracula. Boris Karloff’s Mummy. We went from The Giant Ants from Them up to the strange, Lovecraftian grotesque of that under appreciated 80’s gem, Leviathan. I would sit there right next to my grandpa and switch between watching the movie and watching his reactions to the movie. Sometimes he’d smile a little bit when someone would make a morbid joke, sometimes he’d wince, ever so slightly, when he knew someone was gonna get it. Usually, if the movie involved some kind of military craft, he would point out inaccuracies in the way the ship was made-up. More familiar was the exclamation, Run You Idiot!

Just something that came to mind as I am adding the original The Thing From Another World to my netflix cue. I hope the boys are ready for it. I hope all of the flashy CGI monsters haven’t spoiled the creepiness of the stiff-legged, usually off-screen Plant Monster. After it’s all said and done, hopefully we’ll be running around some local playground, trying to figure out the best way to stop the creature and save the earth once and for all…until the next time.

Daisy,Daisy, Give Me Your Answer Do...



I keep track of asteroids. They’re interesting to me. When I look at the above image, there’s a little fear, a little thrill. My human solipsism is confounded by the idea of a universe without us. Walking across the suspension bridge the other day (before they shut it down) I looked at our beautiful little city and found it unimaginable that it would one day be gone. All of the bridges down, all of the windows blown out. Ohio used to be underwater. A walk along the evolutionary stones at Sawyer Point illustrates that nicely.

So the next potential planet killer is a little asteroid named Apophsis. Apophis is the Greek name for the Egyptian god of destruction. Perhaps it’s appropriate. It’s a little dramatic for my taste; I prefer Daisy.

Apophsis, sensationalism aside, is expected to be another in a long line of near misses. Only if it passes through what is called a ’gravitational keyhole’ as it zooms past us in 2026, could it cause a problem, creating a highly probable collision in the year 2036.

Why is all of this so appealing to me? How can it not be? If you allow yourself to slip from the Summer Blockbuster angle, step past the survival fantasy, override the slight tingling in your death instinct, there are good reasons to contemplate both your own, and the Earth’s, ultimate revelation. Such considerations aren’t, at least on my part, purely morbid, nor are they some kind of Hicksian yearning for Arizona Bay. While as humans we surely fall short, I don’t eagerly anticipate some kind of cosmic come-uppance.

There’s at least metaphoric rock at the end of both mine, and the Earth’s life. While it can be unsettling to consider, it helps keep me on point, and adds a poignancy to the sound of red, yellow and orange leaves rustling in the fall, so beautiful, and so close to their ends.

Oh, The Books You Will Read!

One of the highlights of my day is always reading the kids their night-night book. I love it, and as my oldest one gets older--and more able to comprehend meatier stuff--I find myself eagerly looking for interesting things to integrate into the boiling pot of his personal mythos.

We started out with Sarah Boynton and Dr. Seuss, we graduated into the Owl and the Pussycat, Steig and De Paolo (Amos and Boris is one of the best written children's stories ever , and 'The Knight and the Dragon' is hard to beat), and now are exploring the wonderful universes of Captain Underpants, Nate the Great, and any anthology of myths and folktales I can get my grubby little hands on. The kids seem to enjoy themselves, and the people at work seem pretty impressed when I tell them I read maybe three, four books a night, all the way through.

A surprising development of the continuation of this Troxell family tradition (started by my mother), is how often I find myself surpassing the dozen or so books of maxims, theology, philosophy, and general worldly wisdom that I've devoured over the past few years, in order to find some kind of resonance in something out of 'Oh,the Places You'll Go!'; It's funny to me that after reading the likes Balthasar Gracian, Sun-Tzu, The Bible, and all kinds of buddhist thought, I find myself in tense moments reminding myself to 'remember that life is a great balancing act.' and getting pretty much all of the nourishment I need from it.

One of my favorite adult authors, Robertson Davies, puts it this way:

"The great book for you is the book that has the most to say to you at the moment when you are reading. I do not mean the book that is most instructive, but the book that feeds your spirit. And that depends on your age, your experience, your psychological and spiritual need."

And I agree. Children's books aren't presumptuous. They speak to something basic and, while perhaps not always pure--children can be little shits--something certainly more charming within us. Shel Silverstein never claimed Boethius as a predecessor, but his simple little verses and lyrics have left a far bigger impression on me than anything that poor, soon to be bludgeoned statesman ever could have.

I'm grateful to my kids for reawakening my love of stories. I was becoming one of those readers who sought out all of the important stuff; How frivolous to only read the classics.
I'm also grateful that my kids are here to share these rediscoveries with me; In them I have found on this re-journey both catalysts, and fellow travelers. Not only do I get to see things with the benefit of my own hindsight, but also with their new eyes. It's phenomenal.

So, if you've got some 'you time' today, and plan to catch up on a little reading, consider forgoing that hefty tome on some obscure country's revolution, put Oprah's newest bookclub downer back on the bookshelf; go up into your attic, or down into your basement, or into your kid's room, and try on something simultaneously new and familiar. I bet you'll be happy you did (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!).

An Excerpt From My Interview With Stanislav Calhoun

S: Mr. Calhoun. Thanks for calling back.

C: Glad to be here.

S: So, the idea of this discussion is to run through your early public career, and hopefully come to some conclusions about your impact on the overall culture.

C: That's easy. I didn't have an impact.

S:...You got your start in FDR's administration, correct?

C: Well, I was a professor first. A public intellectual for awhile. Freelance. That was after I was fired from Princeton. But, yes, that's right. I was a…peripheral figure in the Brain Trust. No president before Roosevelt has reached out to academics in quite the same way,

S: He brought you in as he was rolling out the New Deal.

C: That's right. I was the head of an arm of the WPA. The whole point of the WPA was, essentially, to create jobs for people who'd lost everything during the depression; There was the famous program for laborers; one man digs a hole, the other fills it in...It even extended to writers. They had writers going around the country collecting slave narratives, writing travel books. It was a spectacular program.

S: And what was your function exactly?

C: I was in charge of creating a program for displaced philosophers.

S: Really? I've never heard of that. Was it difficult to find something to suit our nation's out of work philosophers?

C: Well, manual labor was out. Right from the start. They didn't have the temperament for collecting data or surveying...And meanwhile, these poor guys were wandering the country, offering musings on the nature of Beauty for soup coupons. It was tough. way...At least insofar as shaping public policy is concerned, is what I mean to say.

S: What did you come up with?

C: Actually, the suggestion that we ended up with was suggested by an undergraduate. I forget his name, but great work. Really.So the program we ended up with was this: One philosopher postulates an existential abyss, and the next philosopher jumps into it.

S:How'd it go?

C: Well, we pitched it to Roosevelt, and he loved it. But it was about that time that those fascists in the American Liberty League started throwing a hissy, so the program got cut before we could really launch it.

S: That's a shame.

C: Yes, but look at it this way: If the program didn't get cut, our coffee shops would be understaffed, and pizza joints all across the country would be going through a temp agency to get their drivers. So, you know. Things sort themselves out sometimes.

S: Mr. Calhoun, one final question before we close this interview. Do you call yourself an optimist?

C: Only when I can't find my glasses.