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Out-Of-Context Theater.

"I'm very fond of Natural Born Killers, which is about as subtle as a crashing satellite."


I got thinking about cynicism. Which got me thinking of Beavis and Butt-Head.

Beavis and Butt-Head try to be cynical. They do so each time they don't like a music video or some event they witness and reply "This sucks." But...notice that when they do like, or really like, something, they get so much more engaged, going "Yes!" and "This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen" and maybe they even dance.

I know. Beavis and Butt-Head are not role models. They're not even human. But I can be like them in that particular way. I LIKE LIKING THINGS.
I think back a lot to last year's solar eclipse, which I saw at almost-complete totality (99.4%) and which friends, some visiting Salem to the south of here and others visiting near Ontario in extreme eastern Oregon, saw at totality.

I also still make this face — 😕 — when I remember that some other friends, all of them smart people, kept saying in the time leading up it "What's the big deal? It's one thing passing in front of another thing." Even though it's at best exceedingly rare and possibly may not happen on any other planet beyond our own, and even though the effects on light during a solar eclipse are wonderfully weird and striking. (Seriously, of all the stars which we've learned have planets orbiting them, there's an astronomically small chance that those planets have moons the correct size and distance away to cause eclipses like this.) But they were dismissive of people making any special effort to see it — or, at most, would go "Oh, clouds are going to block it and all those people will have driven hours and camped for days for nothing."

And then they generally said nothing after many people said how profound and striking an experience it was to see the sky go dark, with sunset light on the horizon in every direction and the sun's corona (if you smartly watched through the special filtered glasses) leaping into that night-like darkness.

Sometimes too many of us, me included, are too f'ing cynical. (I can be, though not on this particular subject.)

We're allowed to be impressed.

A breather

Temps fell in Portland today. The air, though smoky, had an on-and-off breeze. It stopped, for now, being in the 90s, and I appreciate that.

I didn't feel like going outside for much of the day, so I stayed in the house — and watched Alfred Hitchcock's famously clever Rope — but I did get out in the evening to walk and read in the nearest park. And now, like this morning, I have doors and a window open to let done of that cooler, breezier air into the house. I exult in getting the indoor temp down a degree or a few. Small victories.

Keep comfortable.

Another summer of fire

Portland's getting smoke. It's most obvious, of course, at sunrise and sunset, filtering the reddish light to become redder. The smoke isn't as bad here as during the Eagle Creek Fire last summer, in the same county as us; this time the nearest big fire to us is in Wasco County, south of The Dalles and about 90 miles away.

So places south of us are getting it worse.

Southwestern Oregon and northern/far northern California are among those places, and the fires there are bigger and harder to contain. (The South Valley Road Fire south of The Dalles is 90% contained.) Firefighters are throwing so many resources at those; it's been a little surreal to see the footage of really low-flying tankers dumping vivid red flame retardant all over the U.S. West, like they're fighting it with color. Yesterday I was watching the view from the I.S.S. as the space station flew above California, and I could clearly see the plumes, grayer than the regular clouds. Places are damaged; some people have died. And I'm more and more bothered that we've had so many wildfires.

There's that wonderful visual in the (otherwise not very good) film Superman III, where Superman freezes the top layer of a lake, carries it to an on-fire refinery and drops it, so that the ice melts into rain that puts out the fire. It's nice to remember that. If only we could do that for real. Thoughts and hopes to everyone trying to stop these. Be careful. Do what you can.

Out-Of-Context Theater.

"The friends who puke together, rebuke together."

At least I have other books...

My current book I'm reading is the 1950s science fiction novel More Than Human, by Ted Sturgeon, who wrote many novels, short stories, Star Trek episodes, and Sturgeon's Law ("90% of everything is crap"). Wait. Was. My current book was.

There's a binding error. I saw the text jump 28 pages. Out of an approximately 200-page novel. Um, yeah, I can't just skip that and figure out what the heck is going on. I also double-checked and found that no, the pages weren't simply in the wrong part of the book (I've gotten books bound like that before), they're just gone.

Okay. I've placed a hold for a different library copy of More Than Human, figuring by law of averages that this won't be missing 14% of the book's words.


A talk that helped

I first wanted to call this "Good Talk," but that almost always sounds as if you're saying it sarcastically, jokingly, like Jennifer Lawrence saying "Oh. Yeah" and giving that thumbs-up in that GIF. I don't want to do that. (But I'll acknowledge it, partly because the GIF amuses me.)

But a talk that helped: that happened. And...helped.

I went to lunch with a friend I've had since 2010. She's good people. And she had a mostly free day today, so on Sunday we arranged to meet. Neither of us on a clock, she wasn't working today, so we could catch up and simply talk.

We also found out neat and surprising bits about each other; I was happily surprised to learn that she and another friend of mine have known each other for 20-some years. I had no idea they had that connection. And she learned stuff about me.

I had words, it turned out, that I needed to get out, to someone who was a neutral party on the subject. I won't say what we talked about. My words weren't bad words, but to be both blunt and circumspect, I'd be a jerk if I said them in certain contexts. Here, with this friend, I could say them and get clear-eyed feedback.

I'll say this much about why we had the talk: I wanted to make sure that on a certain subject, I don't become an asshole.

* * * *

More about today:

Since I drive to the lunch place, I wanted to drive other places, too. I left a couple of hours early, to have time to detour over to NW Portland and, out of curiosity, look at a former workplace of mine. It's closed and being renovated for new industrial-commercial uses. The renovation is well underway; the offices at the southeast corner of the three-quarters-block-sized building are gone. I hadn't seen the complex like that before. But, there: curiosity satisfied.

Then back to East Portland, briefly stopping, since I had time, at the Hollywood branch of the county library. I stopped there to look at, and photograph, a wall-sized map of the part of NE Portland where the now-retired author Beverly Cleary grew up and where she set her Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby novels. I just started reading the Henry Huggins books, which I hadn't read before, and am in the mood to read more by Cleary, including revisiting the Ramona books. In progress...

In the afternoon, after the lunch-talk, I drove more, looking around and stopping at another library on the way home. I use libraries a lot.

Another day, in the books and in the blog.



(That title is a stretch, but I can always loosen up.)

Three albums into my Led Zeppelin listen:

Led Zeppelin II grew on me in a way I didn't expect.

• I still skip "Ramble On." I'll run into that on radio anyway.

Led Zeppelin III is overall a little quieter than I expected, its opening song "Immigrant Song" notwithstanding. This is not a bad thing.

• For a while, "Immigrant Song" was the only Zep song I both heard semi-regularly and really liked, because it's so confidently ridiculous. I checked with Zep fans and they confirmed it's an outlier; the band didn't do many songs like it. But that's a hell of an opening track.

• Wouldn't it have been a trip if the song playing in a 23rd century bar in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock hadn't been the Johnny Mercer "Tangerine," but Led Zep's "Tangerine"? A 30-year difference in release wouldn't mean that much three centuries in the future. (Also, I'm sure I'm not the only one who's mixed those songs up.)

• I listen to the third album's "Friends" and think that the string melody keeps almost turning into "Mars, the Bringer of War."

• I'll be listening to more Led Zeppelin. Unlike when I tried Metallica albums; friends who are Metallica fans recommended that I try at least the three albums Master of Puppets, ...And Justice For All, and Metallica (a.k.a. The Black Album). Halfway through, on ...And Justice For All, I realized I wasn't enjoying that album; it felt way too angry for me, and I stopped that listen-through. I'll stick with my sole Metallica album being S & M.


So far...

So far...
by Christopher Walsh, 8/3/2018-8/4/2018

I can only be a certain age.
Mathematically, chronologically,
I showed up on a certain date at a certain time in a certain year.
1973. Early enough
That I saw
Some of the weirdness of the Seventies
And can remember it.
(The colors. There were certain colors.)
It's enough long ago
To seem a little surreal.
("I saw that, right?")
Life is filtered.
Otherwise there's too much to recall easily.
And you can't fully rely on even your memories
Getting your life
We edit. We select and gloss over some and,
Lie to ourselves.
Memory: it's complicated.

I can only be a certain age,
But experience is variable,
Depending on how busy I've been
And how much attention I've paid.
Did I learn from [x]? From [r]?
Did I learn more in 1986 or 1999?
Did I learn much last year?
What haven't I learned yet?
(Beyond crochet, I mean.)

I can only be a certain age,
But I can feel different ages.
I could act like a kid. Trust me.
I could act old.
I can remember being young; I can see being old.
I have enough youth
(For a certain, personal value of "youth")
To draw on.
People sometimes think I'm younger than I am. Some guess wrong by nearly a decade.
This amuses me.
This is also partly why I sometimes grow a Van Dyke.
A grey-and-white one.
I look more my age with it.
I don't deny my age.

Do I wear my years?
Can they be seen on me?
Are they heavier than I should expect?
When is my age hard to carry?
When it's a weight from sad experience.
When it all seems sad.
When it pretends to be
Nearly 46 years
Of nothing but sad.

I can only be a certain age.
I have a quantifiable,
Collection of sadness-causing times,
Of happiness-causing times,
Of anger-causing times,
Of times that range through life, lived.

I can be happier.


A discombobulated morning

I've noted before, a maddeningly easy way to throw myself off is to fall asleep with my bedside lamp still on. I'll fall asleep enough to dream, but not nearly sleep as deeply as I need. Usually I'll groggily wake up enough and find the light on so I can turn it off around, say, 2:00 in the morning.

This morning I didn't realize the light was on until past 6.


I have taken it very easy this morning. And once I felt awake enough, I took a bath, which I do only occasionally, while listening to Ilan Eshkeri's score to the 2007 film version of Stardust. Still, I'm tired and a little headachey. I accept that and go on.

Rabbit, Ra—

In honor of today being the first of the month, I'll re-link to my favorite 'first of the month' entry ever.

You're welcome. *grins*

Movies in Five (5) Words

Because it amuses me to do so:

Dude bowls, fights nihilists, tokes.

Jedi returns, Sith die. Party!

Mega Maid sucks, then blows.

Alien probe and whales talk.

Rich Rodney nails dive, exam.
(I first wrote "Rich Rodney nails dive, teacher," but I think he and Sally Kellerman's character never in fact hook up.)

Bereft of stapler, he avenges.

‪Find the Grail nowadays? Mmmmmmaybe.‬

‪ProVasic. ProVasic? PROVASIC?! ProVasic! ProVasic.‬

New Californian? Learn karate counterintuitively!

‪Living toys fuck up bully‬.

"Shall we play— oh. Nope."

(...I think and hope these are all easy to figure out, but if you want to know which films these are I'll tell you.)

From Above

The International Space Station has an external webcam. When the ISS is over the day side of Earth, you can watch the oceans and land masses pass by, and pass by, and pass by...

Get the Led in

Music education. I'm getting more of it. Until recently, I'd never listened to a full album by Led Zeppelin. Also, I'd noticed that, often, I'd bounced off of the Zep radio singles that are still all over radio; the band seemed not to do much for me. But I've decided to test that.

A few days ago I borrowed on the Hoopla app 1969's Led Zeppelin; last night I borrowed Led Zeppelin II, also from 1969. A few thoughts so far:

• I prefer the first album to the second. Significantly.

• The cut from Led Zeppelin I that I probably best respond to: "Your Time Is Gonna Come."

• This has been true for years: I have trouble taking seriously the second album's track "Ramble On." Having Gollum and Sauron steal away a woman? Giving Gollum a sex life? I can see Smeagol (pre-ring Smeagol, understand) having a sex life. Not Gollum. Yes, this is a hangup I have about a famous song.

• I now wish Robert Plant and Janis Joplin had had a chance to do a duet.


Adventures in ramen

It's been a while since I've eaten with chopsticks; I can always use practice. At a ramen place for dinner, I double-checked the instructions on a generic package of chopsticks — noting that I'd consistently made one mistake in holding chopsticks by sticking my left hand's middle finger between the sticks — and held them apparently the proper way. The instructions on the paper sleeve said, "Now you can pick up anything."

"Well, maybe not a dog," I thought.

Comics! I now have fewer!

I am far, far, far from the most committed comic book collector I know. That said, I subscribe to certain titles*, and I read a fair amount. Some comics I wound up with extra copies of, or I got issues of stories I wound up getting in full through trade editions (multiple issues republished as books), or maybe I got sample issues of series I never got into... Turned out, I had a lot of single-issue floppies. A lot.

My library accepts them. Luckily.

For months I've been filling a reusable shopping bag with issues I no longer needed or wanted. Yesterday I pushed through and checked a whole bunch of comics to decide if I wanted to keep them or donate them. This afternoon, I schlepped the (decently heavy) bag to the branch nearest to where I live, and double-checked if I was meeting all the library's donation guidelines. I was: the floppies are in good shape, and I didn't have more than two boxes' worth of them, which is the limit each branch can take at a time for space reasons.

After this, maybe the library will recycle them, or resell the issues, or monetize them some other way so that my library is a little better funded. Good; it's a good library system.

* The shop where I have my pull list, Bridge City Comics, knows to order for me any comics David Walker writes, which has included Luke Cage, several Planet of the Apes series, two different Shaft stories (written with the permission of Ernest Tidyman's widow), the currently-running YA superhero story Superb, and more.


Wearing that stupid man-suit

I almost apologized.

A couple of weeks ago, one Thursday morning, I dropped briefly into the corner coffee shop a few blocks from the house, to pick up one of the free local papers that usually gets out Wednesday afternoons. It hadn't, and the shop was the nearest place to get it. I don't make a habit of going in to that café to get nothing but a free paper, but I let myself that time. The coffee shop owner saw me and said hi.

I responded, I feel, like I was Edgar the Bug taking over Vincent D'Onofrio. I suddenly felt all the awkward. Okay, I exaggerate. Some. Some of the awkward. I felt I was answering her in an imitation-of-human way. I wonder if I made her go Huh? to herself.

Usually I am better with people than that.

It bothered me. Some days later I was back in the café when the owner wasn't, and asked another staffer I know if she'd be in that day. Not that day, the staffer said. She wondered if something was wrong, and I said no.

Still, I didn't run into the owner for a few more days, and by then I'd decided me apologizing now, this late, would be weird and still awkward. The better idea at that point was to act more human again. I have plenty of experience doing that.


Hi, sometimes I feel insecure.

The practical use of Ledger Facts

Last night's movie was 1997's Cop Land, a crime drama set in New York City and the part of New Jersey right across the George Washington Bridge from NYC. A film James Mangold, who's since made Girl, Interrupted, 3:10 To Yuma, Kate & Leopold, Walk the Line, The Wolverine and last year's wonderful Logan, wrote and directed. Strong film, with one hell of a cast: Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, John Spencer (damnit, I still miss him), Annabella Sciorra, Robert Patrick, Janeane Garofalo and more. Also a sad film, as it's dealing with police corruption, where our good guy (who got badly, permanently hurt when he did a selfless act as a younger man) can at best team up with the least-corrupt cop in order to stop the cops who turn out to be the bad guys. It's a modern-context Western, with a High Noon-esque climax.

Most if not all movies have that disclaimer at the end saying everything in it is fiction. Cop Land has a very specific disclaimer: as the film's opening narration explains, NYPD cops have to live in the city...with the exception of transit cops, so that most of the cops we meet in this film worked overtime in transit simply in order to take advantage of this loophole and live in New Jersey (in the fictional small town of Garrison). The ending disclaimer, however, adds that the film is fiction because no such loophole exists, or at least existed in 1997, for transit cops.

It's a "ledger fact," a useful term I learned from writer John Rogers of the clever, pulpy TV show Leverage. Rogers explained "ledger facts" as details which make sense in the context of a story, but are in fact completely made up. In the episode "The Bank Shot Job," Beth Riesgraf's character Parker needs to break into an old bank building and says she'll do it through "the ledger drop." She explains that banks built before computerized banking, like the one in the episode, had a "ledger drop" in the side of the buildings where local businessmen could drop off their ledgers at the end of the workday, showing what they'd earned. Ledger drops don't exist, but in that story they make sense. The episode has that detail because Parker needs a crawl space to crawl through, and — surprise — air ducts or anything else you see people crawling through in action stories are really too narrow and/or too flimsy to hold people. (Die Hard lied!)

Ledger facts, Rogers also explained, are paired with "black box facts": details that seem made-up but are true. They're named for airplanes' black boxes, which are in fact brightly colored instead of being black. The practical reason is to make them easier to find in the awful aftermath of a plane crash, so the crash's cause can be determined. (A black box was a plot element of "The Mile-High Job," an episode that involves an emergency landing of a jumbo jet on that bridge-highway that runs to Key West, so, Leverage wasn't trying to be realistic with that.)

Stories can make enough sense. They don't have to be completely logically worked-out, and in fact most aren't. YOU'RE ALLOWED TO MAKE STUFF UP. But it helps for even the fake stuff to make sense.