"The Tornado" by Norman H. Russell

Phillip Seymour Hoffman as "Dusty" in 'Twister', a gloriously stupid movie I've seen a dozen times.

I like how the air pressure drops in the center of the poem. Tornadoes make me think of Kansas and the movie "Twister" and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Dusty in that movie. And of how Nature neither cares about us, or wished us malice. It is simply amoral.

The Tornado
By Norman H. Russell

just when he said the tornado
is now located at and moving at miles per hour
the television set went black
black as the sky black as death
black as the hell outside
black as the closet we groped into
falling all down with blankets and dresses
clutching each other our hearts pounding
loud as the pounding of the wind on the windows
gasping for breath holding our breath
like the wind outside roaring and pausing
then the great chunking of the short thunder
imprisoned in the small black animal
of a cloud rushing among the oak trees
went on east we heard it go we heard it talking
to the people in the eastern houses
and we sat still holding each other
still a long time yet in the black closet
slow to come back from the black
from the death in the teeth of the tornado.

I am likely less Neanderthal than you, sez DNA test

I flushed away decades of membership dues to the ACLU and EFF and gave my DNA to a company to get ancestry and medical insights. The DNA was given as saliva in a vial. I had to tell you that because I know you sat there giggling while imagining me ejecting my baby batter into an envelope.

Like many (most? all?) white people I had hope of discovery of some exotic hereditary strain. A desperate mingling between a settler on the prairie and a native tribe member (who came from a people that migrated from Asia thousands of years before, but let's go with "native"). A forbidden love so powerful it overcame pigmentation prejudice and tribal loyalties!

Yeah, I hear you. I've read Howard Zinn, too. If there were such a mingling, chances are good it was under an oppressor/oppressed dynamic. Don't harsh my One World Romance, you consarned cynic!

Results came in. 100% European.

At least my ancestors traveled around the continent a bit.

I do tend to prefer being cold, as I run warm, compared to hot temperatures. And I can get motion sickness on boats. Coming from ancestors who were mostly homebodies makes sense, if totally pedestrian.

Nothing really alarming was revealed, health-wise. I have a higher than average likelihood of macular degeneration. So I've made my first-ever appointment with an opthamologist to get that checked out as a preventive measure.

Gladly I have less-than average Neanderthal DNA (not to seem species-ist or anything, okay, I did just go intra-hominid racist right there).

You (right), ready for action. Me (left) got a stick in my ass.

You (right), ready for action. Me (left) got a stick in my ass.

It doesn't mean I'm better than you. Heck, it means I walk around all snooty with my higher brow while YOU are more likely to have greater skull capacity. So, there Ms./Mr. Big Brain! Also, as your knuckles already drag on the ground it causes you less bodily stress to pick up things off the ground. Lucky you! I'm so jealous...

A weird trick for free testosterone. Thanks? Maybe?

Scrolling up and down this blog lately, there's a recurring theme of Facebook ads and potency/performance copulating/dating issues. Yet this is another ad Facebook served up that squicks me out. 

"Why men need more free testosterone" 

Not sure that's the lesson of world history in the West. Although many of our military adventures and empire-building MAY be based on older men needing to prove their studliness despite waning biochemistry. Free testosterone may help take the edge off there. But DO go on, ad... 

"Free Testosterone Boost" 

Administered how? Given those terrifying "Low T" ads marketed to men express mere physical contact with people who take their medicines may induce birth defects and cause early onset puberty to children, there's a strong chance a shoddily administered boost of testosterone may require complete human exile. Or maybe you could join The Avengers as new superhero 'Rone Hulk?

The ad has my attention, along with a woman who may have traveled from 1966 (a former model for Swiss Miss?)  and looks vaguely aware of my presence and ready/worried. She's ill-dressed for wilderness exploration.

"Researchers in Boston have found a natural way to boost testosterone."

Good for science! Wonder if the same researchers have done the same for estrogen and androgen. Wonder what Estrogen Hulk would look like. 

"Try this weird trick and take your performance to the next level."

Uhm, no. I'm willing to WATCH these researchers demonstrate this "weird trick" while I stand in safety behind bullet-proof glass. Otherwise, no. Thanks Facebook ad. And I hope that lady gets indoors before it turns cold. 

Testosterone Hulk enjoys life with more vigor. You can too!

Don't hate, mammals gotta mammalate

Oh, sure, this cat starts nursing a baby squirrel with the rest of her new litter and we're all supposed to go "Awww! Adorbs!"

But when I nurse a baby squirrel in public I get "Get off the bus!" or "Hey, leave the altar!" or "You need to exit the park, sir." That's speciesist and sexist. Supposedly the squirrel has learned from the cats how to purr. Cute? Sure. Useful? No. If the squirrel gets into the wild it is doomed.

Meanwhile, I teach my whelping squirrels useful things like how to waterski. That's both a recrational skill and a darned job that brings money back home from R.V. shows, gun shows, and auto shows.

And I choose to raise my squirrels in the Jedi faith. If you have a problem with that, you're also a bigot. Here are my squirrel kids Mr. Cheeks, Squeekers, and Darth Acorn worshipping in the park.

Many people dig this and are cool with it. If you think this is weird, I'm not going to hate you back. I just take a deep breath, let your bad energy out of my system, and say: "May the Force be with you."

Writing in a hospital (by choice)

On a whim in late summer, I hung out in a hospital cafeteria to try writing there. It was very productive. I've gone back two more times and had similarly good spells.

Snacks and drinks abound, but a sense of mortality suffuses the environment. Science as our only true bulwark against amoral nature. And it feels good to be in a hospital out of whim instead of necessity or vigil.

If you can read this, we're all still here...

Tough to find someone who was authentically anxious the turnover from the 13th to 14th b'ak'tun of the Mayan calendar, calculated to begin December 21, 2012.

While it's all silly, each supposed end time passes, and the level of mass mockery rises. Sort of amusing, sort of tedious. But I take the mockery as a sign of collective mental health. It wasn't all that long ago when we were often broadly convinced and end time/judgment was a-comin' and we'd prepare ourselves circumstantially and emotionally. "Take me home, ye sky gods! (But let me see the toys of mine enemies smashed and their bodies crush during my beatified ascension!)"

Made this image macro for the occasion.

Sting, biochemical love, loss of mind.

Sting is an example of an artist with a strong personality needing other strong personalities for balance/combat to create better art. The Police was a better act than Sting as a solo artist because the band had two people who could tell Sting to shut up.

Yet I poured over his first two solo albums, so great was the devotion to The Police. Grant me wisdom! Musical genre dabbling! Dribblings of wisdom! Then realized he was a dork. A slow period of acceptance.

I laughed when he appeared in diapers extolling the virtues of yoga in the early 90s (I later took on yoga). His tantric sex boast about maintaining a state of orgasmic arousal for four hours caused tittering across our Puritan nation (including me). Now? Dude, if you can manage it, bully for you. When I made that boast in Oregon shopping malls instead of MTV, it failed to pay dividends.

Sting claps during the Nothing Like the Sun tourWhen the song "Straight to My Heart" off his second late-1987 solo album Nothing Like the Sun came up as a topic, my girlfriend at the time and I mocked Sting (not around to defend himself) about being so showy over writing a pop song with a 7/8 time signature. In the Nothing Like the Sun tour, he had a little drill for the audience to teach us all to clap in 7/8 time. Nailed it! I can also clap on the 2/4 and 4/4 (noted on my résumé) but for genetic reasons cannot clap on country music's 1/4 and 3/4 (not noted on résumé).

Video below is from a "Symphonicity" tour he did a few years ago. Sting/Police songs played backed by a symphony. I refused to attend, for religious/aesthetic reasons over the title. Haven't gone to a Sting show for over 20 years. Yet on top of that "Synchronicity" = "Symphony" = "Symphonicity"? Yeesh.

YET, years later, I find myself charmed by the song. (1988 Me and Then-Girlfriend laugh at Present Me. I nod obeisantly, then turn with a grin and think: "Oh, brother, what you've got coming...") The song is a defiance of the knowledge that romance is a state caused by biochemistry, not metaphysics.

A sub atomic chain
Will maybe galvanize the brain
A biochemic trance
Will eliminate romance

But why ever should we care

When there are arrows in the air
Formed by lovers' ancient art
That go straight to my heart

Here are lyrics that would make a great Valentine's Day card:

But what will make me yours
Are a millions deadly spores
Formed by lovers' ancient art
That go straight to my heart


In an interview Henry Rollins did with Howard Stern years ago, he shared many insights. Two that have stuck: 1.) U2 may have the worst rhythm section of any major rock act 2.) Sting is a wickedly talented person, but if you buy a Sting CD then you have pretty much given up on music.

As "Straight to My Heart" has earwormed me the last couple of days, I have to allow for my own aesthetic/mental entropy. It's possible to draw a straight line to a day when I will be in an old folks home (as an old folk) standing on a chair and singing Sting's song "Russians" at the top of my lungs until the orderlies are summoned. Present Me mourns Future Me's diminished mental state, but nods at what a kind of small bad ass moment that would be.

'Galileo Galilei': opera 'Memento'

Saw the opening night of Portland Opera's Galileo Galilei yesterday. At 90 minutes, it was more thought exercise than cathartic. Performers were fine, artistic design was really interesting (especially the seraphim costume for the opera-in-an-opera Eos - could have admired that for half an hour) but ephiphanies and the sublime never arrived.

The story felt based on about 1-2 paragraph biography of Galileo. Not much effort went into showing personality. A film I saw in high school did a better job of explaining the concepts of Galileo's accomplishments and the sense of the person himself.

90 minutes without intermission. That was a good choice. Had it been longer, the opera might not hold onto people's attention. That is the fault of the music and the words.

The music was not memorable. It was a 90 minute libretto. The plot and concepts all felt like blocks getting passed around. I did not feel within any of the characters. I mostly waited for the next visual (and there were many interesting ones).

Galileo's life is presented in 10 chapters, in reverse chronology. To start he is feeble and expressing self-doubt about not having stuck to his earth-is-not-the-center-of-the-universe Copernican proof, or not being devout enough to the Catholic Church in renouncing science completely in his heart. Then we see him with gradually increasing vigor, the role handed off to a better vocalist (or maybe the music improved with more narrative once it moved from tiresome "the earth moves!" "no, the sun moves!" lyrics between Galileo and clerics). The final chapter is a boy Galileo taking in the spectacle of a really interesting opera about Orion. Then at the end the old Galileo is united with the boy Galileo rapt with wonder and they walk into a great brightness together.

But it's the CONCEPT of old Galileo and the CONCEPT of boy Galileo walking together. I never thought: "Oh, how nice for Galileo to get this closure". They were blocks at the end nudged into a bright white screen.

I proclaim from the second balcony "Je suis arriviste!" about opera matters. Portland Opera did an interesting job given the material, but the material was meh.

Google Voice transcript and puberty training

8 y/o daughter pushed for, and we got her, an email account. She's been asking me, with blended despair and diplomacy, when I could help her get an Apple ID.

She left the following voice mail on my cell phone late this afternoon while I was at work:

"I was wondering when you're coming home 'cause I'm super super super anxious to get an Apple ID really soon 'cause my friend wants to do Facetime with me, but I need a new Apple ID password you already know my phone number and, yeah. Bye."

Google Voice transcribes my cell phone voice mail messages. It interpreted the call:

"I was wondering When You're Going To Be home to say I'm super super super anxious tagged nap, but I do you really soon because my friend what to do face time with me. But I need a new lot like the password bloodied not bear and yeah."

Paid bills for an hour tonight, then having never used Facetime, got to work through a Facetime/Apple ID oddity/snag/feature. Great success! As daughter got into bed I spoke with her from my laptop to her iPod Touch and it was a funny 30 seconds. Should be fun next time a family member is out of town. Though Facetime doesn't seem to be as exciting and beloved as when it first launched with beautiful people with winning smiles engaged in touching, heart-rending chats during commercial breaks.

Moved over to my 11 y/o son's room, where he reported today was the first of THE TOPIC in school about the birds and the bees. Whole class. Coloring pictures of genitals with crayons. Funniest terms for genitals they've heard: "disco stick", "corn dog", "hot dog bun", "taco", "black hole", "where the sun don't shine" (last one my son's contribution). Acne. Body functions. More discussion tomorrow.

Less harrowing than in MY day. Boys and girls in separate rooms, watching animated films about amoral nature soon wreaking havoc and would completely betray our conception of ourselves and reality. "Whoah, my body will do WHAT when I'm asleep and I won't be able to do ANYTHING about it? People are laughing about hairy palms, now I am too, but I don't understand what they were saying about what DOESN'T cause hairy palms?"

You know, stuff that still rattles us and holds us in thrall to this day. However the report of this sex ed curriculum seemed a step forward for our species. My question: "During coloring, did anyone ask for the silver or gold crayon?" Son: "No, they gave us all the same limited selection."

Nightguards, a dental conspiracy?

Keep discovering more people I know who wear these nightguards in their mouths to fend off nocturnal teeth grinding (allegedly). They cost about $800-900 and aren't covered by insurance. Hmm...

Three close friends have them, as revealed the only three times the conversation has come up (100% hit rate!). A colleague who works in the office next to mine ALSO has one. Her dentist told her: "I'd be concerned about your teeth if you were 60 years old, even 70." Which is the same line MY dentist (different from hers) used to scare me into getting one (attained June 2010).

The dentist couldn't tell if the wear & tear happened years ago OR UP TO AND INCLUDING LAST NIGHT! Another dentist in the 90s suggested I get one, so I relented this decade.

Are we really that stressed out? Are we playing into a dental windfall, our mouths a glittering cavern of glistening coins to be mined by the DDS?

Am also left to wonder at the common element: me. Is there something I'm doing that's causing us to collectively clatter and clack into the night with these damnèd things? If so, sorry.

I never had dental-related anxiety dreams before, now every few months I dream of mortifyingly pulling out a ever-replenishing supply of top-row teeth, the row my nightguard is fitted for. Is the subconscious message: "Hey, you're too stressed, maaan." or is it "Get rid of your teeth, they're playing right into THEIR hands!"?

Questions, QUESTIONS! Conspiracies! It's enough to make a person REALLY stressed out!

[Jaw clenches, teeth grind so hard that fragments of enamel ignite into sparks, scalding inner cheeks]