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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Guest Humorist: August and Moms

When I was growing up, there were many heroes in humor but none could make me laugh, even all alone without anyone to laugh with, like Moms Mabley. She's been gone nearly 40 years but, as these two clips show, she can still make me laugh and, although I turned 20 in 1969, she can still make me cry. Please watch the following two clips: my guest humorist --with all the love and pain it entails-- Moms Mabley:

August is an awful month, but it contains the birthdays of both my own mother and my mother-in-law.  I believe also that a person's true relatives are scattered across space and time and I could not let August, on its closing day, go by without some mention of Moms Mabley. Yes, she was born in the springtime but was the enigmatic embodiment of a nation's strength at a time --Griffin show aired 8-16-69-- when this country desperately needed a Mom.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

My Encounter With Tyrannosaurus

This is a repost from 3 years ago. I have corrected some its original enigmatic spelling on the suggestion of helpful commenters. Surely I can't be the only one who notices somebody's adding new letters to words when I'm not looking, and subtracting others.

I was sitting in the back porch reading and enjoying the early signs of spring --galanthus hung with snowdrops, plum blossoms starting, new grass striving with old. A clutch of yellow daffodils held my attention briefly before I returned to reading. Then I heard a rustle and looked up again. One of the daffodils had got knocked over, its little trumpet mashed on the soil.

"What the...who's out there?" I said.

There was a movement among the stalks. Something was hiding.

"Show yourself or I'm coming out!"

A raspy voice came from the daffodils. "Come out and do what, puny man?"

"I've got a broom and I'll chase you with it."

An ugly, very cross-looking head, about the size and color of a pickle, rose up slightly above the flowers. "Hah! I don't think so," it said. "I'm a Tyrannosaurus!"

"Correct me if I'm wrong," I said, "but I heard your kind was fifteen feet tall, not fifteen inches."

"Oh, you're not mistaken. I'm huge! I'm just standing very far away."

"No you're ten feet off in my daffodils."

"Damn," he muttered. "Binocular vision. Time was when only us Tyrannosaurs had that kind of depth perception. Look, I'll come out but you stay on the porch, and no brooms!"

As the creature emerged he began to explain himself: "You're not entirely incorrect about me. My family, the Tyrant Lizards, is most associated with T-rex, who really was fifteen feet tall --taller than T-bataar but only came up to T-imperator's shoulder. Tyrannosauridae is a large and various group."

"And what sort are you?" I asked.

He turned around and said, somewhat self-consciously, "Er, Tyrannosaurus-cottontail."

"That's a fine, impressive tail." I said, "But what became of your relatives?"

"Oh, they're gone."

"I'm sorry. Extinct then?"

"Not that I know of. You've doubtless seen pictures of them and know they always looked very upset. That's accurate. They got dissatisfied with the era they were in, developed a space-program and left for another planet entirely."

"The era, Jurassic?"

"No, Prohibition. Tyrannosauridae love beer. The bigger ones couldn't get enough anymore. By the way..."

"No problem," I said, taking the hint. "Small glass ok?"

I brought out a bottle of stout and poured a bit for him, which he quaffed eagerly.

"Thanks," he said. "It's dry work hiding and skulking. Not really used to it. T-cottontails rely on disguise to move about freely. Which reminds me..."

"More beer?"

"Rain check! I gotta go to the cleaners and pick up my bunny suit."

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Return Of Kaboom !

As you may recall, this blog addressed life and diplomatic commerce with inhabitants of the planet, Kaboom, some months ago. Kaboomians were described here as sentient beings possessed of metabolisms far more rapid than our own, explosions in fact. Nowhere has this been better documented than in this photo of the recent Kaboomian-Human "Meet-and-Greet" gala in Anaheim. Here is a photo of the event:

It was of course held outdoors. The Kaboomians were very excited and exploded repeatedly in greeting and good cheer. Humans, whose heads are detectable in lower foreground, were asked how they felt about this emotional display. They invariably answered "What? Ears ringing! What?"

The mayor was interviewed. Asked if he had any regrets, he watched part of his car fly past and said, "Not yet, but this evening has potential." 

Kaboomians kaboomed until dawn, then lifted off, leaving a box containing their National Anthem, adjusted for human hearing. Here it is, courtesy of Youtube:
Various authorities have been consulted in an effort to decode the tune. They variously answer:
"There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge."
"It has a beat and I can can-can to it."
"We are metaphysically predisposed or indisposed, depending upon nearness to explosions."
"No wonder I worry all the time, I'm stupid."
"California has the eighth largest economy on earth. We can fix this!"

But the most poignant and memorable quote to emerge from this encounter with the Kaboomians came from the mayor himself: "When you see part of your car flying at you, the part with chrome letters that say 'Dodge' on it, remember it's not just a brand name, it's really good advice."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Encounter With A Shadow

August evenings are not always kind. In California, they often remain hot long after the sun has sizzled into the sea, long after the brain has quit under relentless glare. Here, the August sun is a ruthless roaring thing in the sky. Night falls, hope inquires and one looks up.

Geo.: Good Lord! Where'd you come from?

Ann:  Oh, I've always been here. And you, do you come here often?

Geo: Well, it's my back yard, so yes. What I want to know is who you are.

Ann:  I've been called many names in many languages: Astarte, Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Asherah, Uni-Astre or simply The Evening Star.

Geo.: You look like a lovely shadow freed from darkness, glowing, alive --more than alive.

Ann:  What does that mean to you?

Geo.: Carl Jung wrote: "The encounter with the shadow is the 'apprentice-piece' in the individual's development but Anima is the 'masterpiece.'"  May I call you Ann?

Ann: Sure. You're the expert.

Geo.: Expert? Surely not! I've never seen anything like you.

Ann:  I meant language. You're a man. Men invented language.

Geo.: Huh? Uh why?

Ann:  I was there, Geo. Human language emerged from mens' need to apologize for their mistakes.

Geo.: But don't we learn from our mistakes?

Ann: Yes, but it's a pretty stupid system --don't you think?

Geo.: Now that you mention it...say, is this a spiritual experience? Am I going to speak in tongues or anything?

Ann: Glossolalia? No, but your VW Bus will if you don't top the oil.

Geo: Write in tongues?

Ann: You mean graphalalia? No more than usual, but you will suffer ukulelea --the inability to accompany Hawaiian songs on a stringed instrument.

Geo.: Really?

Ann: No, I'm just messing with you. And that "shadow" thing in your that what you think I am?

Geo.: A very pretty shadow.

Ann: Nonsense. We all have egos and illusions but what if everybody really was better-looking than everybody else? What would we have then?

Geo.: Hollywood?

Ann:  Bingo. When you see me, you see a sort of blue apparition in the night sky. What do you see behind and around me?

Geo: The darkness of the whole universe.

Ann:  That's my shadow, kid. G'night!

Geo: 'Night!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

All About Ordinal Numbers

It has come to my attention that an unusual mystery is afoot. The news is full of world events and tremendous calamities. We are devoting far too much attention to international tensions and domestic excitements and not enough to arithmetic, particularly to the importance of ordinal numbers. This qualifies as an enigma, but not an insuperable one. Here is an excellent and incomprehensible chart --from Wikipedia-- that will reward our scrutiny:
In the chart above, each turn of the spiral represents one power of ω --or a 3 that has fallen asleep on its back-- and represents ordinal numbers up to ωω , or a 3 that is both asleep and dreaming that it is asleep.

In set theory, an ordinal number, or just ordinal --if you are on a first name buddy-buddy basis with it-- is a type of a well-ordered set. It is most often identified with hereditarily transitive sets --born that way. Ordinals are an extension of natural numbers (numbers captured wild, then trained and sometimes even civilized) different from integers (Latin, interdigitus --numbers you can count on your fingers) and cardinals (numbers who dress like hand puppets and can vote for new Popes).

Like other numbers, ordinals can be added, multiplied or exponentiated. Exponentiatiaton, being the most expensive of the three, is an arithmetical status reserved for royalty. Thus did the child of Henry the Eighth (ordinal number) and his third wife (exponent 3), Jane Seymour, produce an heir to the throne (8 cubed) known as King Edward The Five Hundred And Twelfth, who shortened his name to Edward VI (his cube root minus 2 parents) so he could get a fake I.D. and buy beer.

Ordinals were introduced by mathematician, Georg Cantor, in 1883 to accommodate infinite sequences and classify certain orderly sets apart from sets that used foul language and started barroom brawls. He derived them by accident while working on a problem concerning trigonometric series when Sir Isaac Newton fell on his head. Although principal characters in this account were not contemporaries and lived centuries apart, such minor differences were set aside in view of the problem and its immense gravity. Would that the world do likewise.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Number 6

In my previous post, ten questions were examined.They were made up as I went along, much like life. There was, I found after referring to the first comment (thanks Doc!), a missing question. Not really missing but the result of nine things misnumbered as ten. Why did I unconsciously skip number 6? My mind immediately raises this, a memory of a story about a nameless man that I watched and thought about in the 1960s. Here is what I found: a montage of The Prisoner trailer combined with a hip-hop artist and a pretty dancer, elements which, in combination, cause a numerical lapse a half-century later. Lookie: 
In the late '60s, I was reading a popular magazine. Newsweek or Time --I could never tell them apart entirely or maybe it was Life or Look-- and saw an article by Patrick McGoohan. He wrote about influences that shaped our social trends and attitudes --including cold war propaganda and mass media advertising. It was a good article and I wish I could remember all of it --mainly he seemed upset about billboards. It was summertime when I read it and I was working in the hop yards even though I was asthmatic. I went from farmboy to gardener in a mere 40 years and my children somehow do not live in my shadow. I learned Patrick McGoohan was also asthmatic and had to leave his parents' farm because of it. The world lost a great farmboy when he went into acting.

There is ample evidence that we are considered cattle by advertisers, especially in the social media of this new century and its brash technology. We are always in need of help in dealing with the rather addictive web-advertisers that consider us herd animals on the hoof and comprise our corrals, our stables. And sometimes we do burst forth en masse to stampede and shout, "Our barn doors are open!" We seek liberty.

So, number 6 entered the realm of imagination, and remained there. When we ask a question that has no words, we approach the Logos --causal articulation of all things-- and freedom. When I read the wonderful comments politely overlooking or freely replying to an unuttered question, I think of the nameless character who refused to surrender his identity, his independence of mind and spirit, who shouted on the shore 'til he could shout no more --a Quixotic quest at best.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ten Questions

I have decided to pose a series of questions derived from Newton's Third Law Of Motion: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Let us begin with a doodle:

1. If we all turned on our faucets in the northern hemisphere, in which direction would Earth be propelled?

2. How come we can recognize the sneeze of someone we grew up with, even after a long separation?

3. If humanity is united in a single spirit, what is it doing in all these bodies and why are they so excited about each other?

4. If I sing very badly, and I do, could I drown myself out by singing even louder?

5. If philanthropic organizations set out to clothe the naked, and the naked don't want to be clothed, is it morally correct to use force?

7. Is imagination a figment of itself?

8.Why do I sometimes mistake my brain for a spider that has spun its web in my hat?

9. When a child asks, "If I am four years old, how old is that?" What is the correct answer?

10. Homo Sapiens is the binomial nomenclature by which we refer to ourselves --Latin for Man the Wise-- but does it mean we actually know what we're doing?

This has been one of those very hot days during which one gets ideas. The questions I derived from Newton's third law will doubtless be seen to deviate from its intent, especially where cooler heads prevail. Right now, that would be in the southern hemisphere. However, even here on the parched California prairie, I defend their relevance to action and reaction. Now I must plan my weekend trip to the coast where I shall dive for luffa sponges, and secure my fortune. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flight Of The Aerolark

[Please excuse repost from March, 2011, but do consult pumphouse thermometer above -- heat has evaporated my poor brains, which were mostly water.]

In the early 1950s, my uncle drove up in a new car. New Car, wheeee! It was an Aerolark sedan, made by Willys of Jeep fame, sold to people who wanted the sturdy dependability of a service vehicle in their family cars. I was little and scampered out to see it.

Uncle had the hood up so we could see its works. No light alloy anywhere. Valves were in the block, and the block was all heavy slabs of cast steel secured by big black bolts. Six pistons and twelve tappets made no more noise than a soft spring rain. Carburetor drew with satisfied, throaty sighs. It was an engine built for the ages and I was entranced.

But what most fascinated me was visible only after the great gray curve of the hood banged shut. It had an ornament on its snout, a sculpture in chromed steel of a streamlined dreamship, an avicular aerodyne that seemed to speed thru space despite being bolted down. I was lifted and held up where I could look down on it. And there it was, the essential Aerolark, the soul, and beneath, reflected in the shiny hood, a sky of scudding clouds.

Yesterday I got out my sketchbook and returned to that moment. I drew and remembered. The '50s were a very forward-looking time but there were setbacks. For example, sometimes I was given a dime, and I liked dimes (still do!). I liked Mercury's winged head. It represented fleetness and futurity, but one saw fewer and fewer of them. New dimes had Roosevelt on them and I supposed it was prudent and accurate to leave wings off his head but I was disappointed. There were many disappointments.

Then I began to grow. After my tail dropped off, I commenced to think, and realized much of thinking is the creation and identification of reliable analogies. One encounters symbols sacred and profane, pedestrian and sublime. One fashions them into patterns and, from patterns, derives axioms. One strives for algorithms of enduring stability. One strives for method, synthesis that embraces the outer nebulae and the human heart. We strive for a design that will always choose the future that best includes us.

So I share here an image that has soared across my sky in dreams and hopes, a shape composed of negative drag and anti gravity that speeds, despite its antiquity, into a bright future. It has its own vitality, its own life, roaring and streaking over all stages of labor, love and living. One looks up and sees the Aerolark caroming into the future, raises one's hat-brim, wipes the sweat from one's eyes and reverently exclaims, "What the hell was that?"