Monday, December 31, 2007


Video Find of the Day

For this, my 500th published post on Runoff, we have a video featuring a song which blew me away when I first heard it at the age of 12. The thing that did it for me was the use of the Clavioline. That was the primitive analog synthesizer that was used in the instrumental portion, at 1:10 in, 1:05 from the end. That part of the song totally changed the way music sounded to me.

RUNAWAY - Del Shannon

New Year Resolutions


1. Before the end of 2008, the only alcoholic beverages I will be drinking will be hooch I make myself, no matter how horrid. If nothing else, I will save the Earth thereby, by only using recycled bottles.

2. The next time I am told I have an "attitude" I will not apologize. I will remind my accuser that the only people who don't have attitudes are those lacking frontal lobes. Then, I will tell them to stick their own, attitudes and frontal lobes and all, where the sun don't shine, and twist.

3. If one more of the morons the Downtown Emergency Service Center hires to work the front desk of my DESC-run subsidized apartment building calls me at 7 AM Sunday morning to tell me it's time for the fucking hot breakfast they always have every fucking Sunday morning, the breakfast that's always listed in the fucking Union Hotel calendar so anyone who can read or who has a medium-term memory can know about it, on my overly loud intercom which has no off-switch or volume control, I will sue them, DESC, and anybody else who crosses my path before I regain control. Bill Hobson's head will be in danger from me. He should go hide in Tumwater.

4. I will not eat Vaseline in 2008. (It's smart to make a few resolutions you're sure you can keep.)

5. I will vote for a presidential candidate who would not wage war on a country that has not attacked mine. I will vote for a presidential candidate who can form a sentence. I will vote for a
presidential candidate who doesn't decide how to run the country based on what "God" tells him to do when he puts on his jammies and prays real hard.

6. I will not frighten people on buses unduly.

7. Anitra says she wants to eat more vegetables. Since I'm the main cook in this family, therefore she wants me to prepare and eat more vegetables. Therefore, I will endeavor to buy, prepare and give her to eat, more vegetables.

8. I will surprise myself, by, I don't know, doing something I haven't thought of ever doing, yet. I will accomplish this by allowing myself to behave unexpectedly. (This should be easy, as I have had some practice.)

9. I will publish something on paper.

10. I will risk my neck again riding around on my scooter, the one which, when I last rode it, slammed me down on the pavement so hard I broke both arms. Good times, well worth it.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Welsh Anthem

Video Find of the Day

Here's a great song that apparently has been taken seriously as a unofficial Welsh national anthem, in spite of a line deprecating Margaret (Maggie) Thatcher. The singer wrote it; it came out in 1981. Now Dafydd Iwan is president of Plaid Cymru, the "Party of Wales", which seeks an independent national status for Wales within the European Union, and revival of the language, among other things. The title Yma O Hyd means Still Here. It's from the chorus which in English goes We're still here / We're still here / In spite of everything / In spite of everything / We're still here. The full words in Welsh and an English translation of the version in the video can be found here.


The song that is usually regarded as the unofficial national anthem, at least for the purposes of opening football games, is not nearly so good, I think, and like ours, too hard to sing. It's Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, Land Of My Fathers. I had a time finding a video of it to compare it fairly with Yma O Hyd. The best I could do was this one with a phonetic guide, which you have to go to YouTube to see: LEARN "LAND OF MY FATHERS" THE EASY WAY

Bowing Out

The last months of 2nd grade became increasingly difficult as more and more rumors spread that I was severely brain-damaged. None of it made any sense to me. I still had problems speaking because of the injury on my 4th birthday. But that was the only symptom I knew of, and no one seemed to notice that. Even when kids were calling me retard and half-brain they never made fun of my speech. So the whole thing was based on X-rays that didn't feel like they had anything to do with me.

But at the school year's end something happened that added fuel to the fire and eventually made me think I was mentally deficient. There was to be a graduation assembly and show that parents would come to, and our teacher decided to have our class put on a dance on stage.

I don't remember the music. I think there was a song we were supposed to sing to a record playing, but I can't recall any of that. The dance was simple enough that we could all do it adequately after half an hour of practice. It involved a little hand holding and turning but no fancy footwork. It looked like it would be clear sailing.

Then the day of the show we had a last minute dress rehearsal (outfits consisted of paper hats and paper flowers if I remember right) during which Mrs. Graves sprang the news that we would be expected to do a group bow at the end. Again, no problem, right? Who can't bend at the waist on cue?

It turned out I couldn't. The first time they said I was out of synch and didn't bend down enough. So then there were repeated run-throughs of just the ending. We must have done it 10 times. Each time the laughter got louder. There were shouts of "look at the retard," from the kids in other classes watching from the floor. Mrs. Graves had to tell them to shut up. She didn't defend me, she just said they were being disruptive. On the stage, my classmates were getting angry because I was forcing them to go over it with me so much.

I just couldn't get it. The teacher made me step out of the line and watch the others. Seeing what they were doing didn't help. I couldn't match up what I saw them do with how I perceived my own body while trying to do it.

I was finally dropped from the show. Mrs. Graves said I would have ruined it and been an embarrassment to the whole class.

I'm sure now that it was a lingering symptom of the brain-damage. In fact, I think I still have it. My image of what I am doing in space with my body from within never matches properly with my image of how I look from other's perspectives. It shows up mainly now when I try to partner dance. Can't be done.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Viennese New Year

Video Finds of the Day

Still looking for that polka, I come upon the Viennese New Years Concerts held each year New Years Eve/Morning by Wiener Philharmoniker, which traditionally (for 6 decades, about) has ended with encores of a polka, a performance of Blue Danube by Johann Strauss Jr., and the Radetzky March by J. Strauss Sr. Still not the sort of polka I'm looking for, with the Polish women and beer all over the place, but we're getting closer.

Strauss, Unter Donner und Blitz, Polka schnell, op. 324

Of all the videos I could have chosen to present the Blue Danube Waltz, I simply had to go with this one. If you have lately been over to Apesma's Lament, Tim Harris' blog, you may have seen Swing Social, an MGM cartoon Tim discovered on YouTube from 1940 that has come to appear racist with the passage of time. Here, representing Strauss, is an MGM cartoon that with the passage of time could come to appear pedophilic! And Rudolph Ising was involved with both? Who IS this guy?

The Blue Danube (1939, MGM Cartoon)

The traditional closing of the show, complete with multiple New Years greetings:

Radetzky March with Happy New Year on Neujahrskonzert 2002

Devens Loses Its Charm

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that may have happened as late as the Spring of 1957 before I became 8 years old. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

I think it was in the Spring of '57, that, after a series of disputes with friends, who then became former friends, I lost interest in talking to people altogether for a time. Instead I just wandered aimlessly about Fort Devens all day long avoiding other children. Some of the time I daydreamed, some of the time I just walked and enjoyed the rhythm of my steps.

To this day I have the ability to do nothing and be alone and enjoy it. Anitra is amazed at my gift for sitting and vegetating.

The ability to be alone and happy just being is very rare, in my experience. I find most people are terrified of extended periods of solitude. It's really three gifts combined. 1) I can entertain myself with my own thoughts, 2) I can "peace out" and vegetate, and 3) I'm not afraid of being alone.

One of my greatest fears is imprisonment. If I were sure that any jail time I experienced would be in solitude, I wouldn't be afraid at all. It's the thought of being locked up with other people that freaks me out.

Anyway, I'm not asocial, in spite of all that. Just because I don't feel a need for human company doesn't mean I turn away from it whenever it shows up. So when I ran into a bunch of kids on Detrobian Street, up the hill from my house on Chancellorsville, who expressed an interest in being friends with me, I figured, what the heck.

The heck was, that after hanging out with these guys (3 or 4 of them) for a while and getting along fine, we were joined by a friend of theirs who asked my name. When I told him he said, "Hey, I've heard of you! You're the half-brain!"

It turned out that his father was one of the doctors who treated me at the base infirmary when I jumped/fell off the jungle gym, before I was sent to Maryland. His father told him of X-rays that showed the extent of previous brain damage. Whatever the father said, his son took away the idea that I was only operating with half a brain.

The reality was that about a third of the surface of my cortex was destroyed when I was hit by the car in Hawaii. But there's more to the brain than surface. Anyway, it happened early enough that I'd recovered.

But I couldn't explain that to this kid, who was now cheerfully telling all his friends that I was a half-brain, his father the doctor said so. I wouldn't mind so much now, but at age 7 it was unbearable.

After that got going, I didn't want to live in Fort Devens anymore.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Massai A Capella Group

Video Find of the Day

Here I go again indulging in my Xenomania. I could spend hours trying to figure out what is really going on here. After the a capella performance is that a jumping contest? Is the idea to appear to jump higher than any of your friends with all being judged entirely by eye owing to the utter lack of any trees or buildings or stop signs by which to compare altitudes? Or is it a celebration of the fact that there's no way to know who really is jumping the highest? Or is it to say, "Gosh, we are tall! Hey, let's get taller for a second at a time! That would be cool."

massai traditional dances

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Finnish Polka

Video Find of the Day

So I'm looking for a polka, you know, like, I don't know, one of those ones with lots of noise and accordions and stuff, and instead I land on this. OK, this is good, too.

Loituma -- Leva's Polka

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Definitive Daddy

Video Find(s) of the Day

Valaida Snow not only sings in this but plays the trumpet. I think it's the best.

Valaida Snow - My Heart Belongs To Daddy (Cole Porter), 1939

I liked her version of Daddy so much, I had to hear her Caravan.

Valaida Snow - Caravan (Ellington), 1939


I'm not quite sure how it happened but by the end of 1956 I was dinosaur crazy. It was probably a convergence of influences. There was a Life book of Natural History that I'd earlier got as a birthday present from Uncle Fred. That had reproductions of the panorama that I now know is a 110 foot long mural at Yale's Peabody Museum called Age of Reptiles, by Rudolph Zallinger, who was born in Irkutsk, Siberia, of Austrian and Polish parents, lived in Manchuria, then lived in Seattle, graduated from Seattle's Queen Anne High School, ended up at Yale, and painted the mural while studying art there. The internet is awesome.

A 1970 US postage stamp honored the mural (right).

Another influence was Disney's Fantasia. I never saw the whole movie until I got to graduate school but bits of it wound up on TV, including the setting of evolution up to the end of the dinosaurs to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.

Then there was Alley Oop, who was big in the 50s. What kid wouldn't want to ride a dinosaur? The comic strip character eventually got a stamp of his own in '95.

I'm not sure, but I might have also encountered Turok, Son of Stone, 18th Century American comic book Indian lost among honkers in some weird time-displaced cavern the size of Rhode island.

Anyway, the result was that I needed dinosaurs for Christmas, 1956. They would be necessary, so that I might have them. They would be plastic, of course, because the real dinosaurs all died out, as we all know, 65 million years ago, but they would have to mine. I had to have a Tyrannosaurus Rex, a Brontosaur, a Triceratops, and a Stegosaurus, at the very least.

I think Freud called it the Latent Stage. I wasn't entirely there yet but I was on the precipice. It would improve my grades eventually, for a while. With girls, it's usually ponies.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Betch Comedy

Video [Provider] Find of the Day

With over 50,000 subscribers on YouTube, and millions of viewers, liamkylesullivan doesn't need any attention from me. So this is just here to say I like it, too. It reminds me a little of my own dysfunctional family, a little of other dysfunctional families I've encountered, a little of the Eighties, and a little of my last visit to the mall.

Shoes the Full Version

Kelly's Hollywood Meeting

Let Me Borrow That Top

Monday, December 24, 2007

Top Ten Other Christmas Faves

Video Finds of the Day

Riu Riu Chiu, being my favorite song of the last thousand years, and considered a Christmas song, is naturally my number one favorite Christmas song. But I like a few other Christmas songs. Here in a playlist are ten Christmas songs that I can stand to hear repeatedly for the duration of one (1) day, annually. It's about 25 minutes long. The tenth video is, by the way, the now rarely heard classic, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Mambo", which I dearly love.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Scene From "O Drakos"

Video Find of the Day

Meanwhile, in Greece. From "O Drakos" a film noir classic of 1956. The customer with the glasses and vest resembles a criminal so he's a hunted man. What appeals to me about this scene is the contrast between the singer and the drummer/dancer. There are two main attractions in the world, I think. There's the attraction to light and energy and exuberance and consuming excess, thrills and spills, and there's the attraction to dark and sleep and annihilation, safety and comfort. And it's a really good idea not to rush to either.

Margarita Papageorgiou - O Ilisos (1956)

The Going Away Party

In spite of having the hots for a couple of dozen girls and several age-inappropriate women, I still kept myself chaste for my wife-to-be Kathy. We saw each other frequently while I was in first grade, not so often in second, but maybe every other week. Then there was a month or so I didn't get a chance to see her, and my parents kept saying it will be soon.

When "soon" finally happened, I was told we were on our way to Kathy's going away party. Her Father was retiring from the Army and they would be leaving Fort Devens for good.

This was an outcome I was totally unprepared for. I was already more than 7 years into being an army brat, but the rootlessness of it hadn't really sunk in, because we'd only had the one major move from Hawaii to Massachusetts. The move from the House in Shirley onto base didn't count, because Devens was where the friends were in either case. In spite of countless kids coming and going at school, it never occurred to me that Kathy or I would be one of the ones going. Or that we wouldn't be going at the same time, or in the same direction. Kathy was going to Alaska, for freak's sake. Alaska! How would I get to Alaska?

But the going away thing was a PARTY. Not a funeral. Kathy was happy to be having a party, and who was I to spoil it by crying over the fact that I might never see her again? So I pretended I was OK.

I didn't have much choice anyway, because for almost the entire party I had no opportunity to be alone with her anyway. There were several families there and close to twenty kids, most of whom I didn't know. And there were party games.

I don't remember ever having had to participate in party games before. Certainly not these kind of party games. The games I was expected to play all triggered what i now recognize as PTSD symptoms, the earliest I can recall.

First, there was dunking for apples. This was out of the question. I simply could not get my head into that water. Some kids tried to pull me to the tub. I screamed as if I was being murdered, or as if my Mother were holding my face under a faucet.

Then there was Spin the bottle. The version we played involved going into a closet to kiss or whatever. When the bottle pointed at me I had a full blown panic attack. I couldn't face a closet either.

But the worst was Pin-The-Tail-On-The-Donkey. I got as far as letting them put the blindfold on and spinning me around. I could deal with wandering around the room with the tail in my hand while kids laughed at me when I went the wrong way. But when I finally found the wall, the idea that I was supposed to pin the tail to the donkey's butt suddenly took on a significance it wasn't supposed to have, and I burst out into tears.

My Mother was watching. When I took the blindfold off I saw her with a smirk on her face. She knew what the problem was. She thought it was funny.

Toward the end of the party I finally got about ten minutes alone with Kathy, and got to tell her I wished I could go with her. Then we left, and I never saw her again.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Sound of Christmas

Video Find of the Day

OK, not really THE sound of Christmas, but a fair representation to others of how Christmas sounds to me as I move about the urban landscape.

Lamb chops play-Along

Friday, December 21, 2007

Moishe Oysher

Video Find of the day

For me, of all the singing I have heard on recordings, the best by far has been that of Moishe Oysher. He sings well, he sings with feeling, he inspires, he fills your world with his voice, and you don't ever want him to stop.

HALEVAI - Moishe Oysher and The Barry Sisters

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Spike Jones

Video Find of the Day

When I was 7, Spike Jones & his City Slickers consistently offered up my idea of sophisticated humor. This was as intellectual as it got.

The Fuhrer's Face Spike Jones [1942]


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Marlene Dietrich

Video Find of the Day

Awesome (in the Biblical sense) screen test of Marlene Dietrich for "Blue Angel." If I had a singer/actress like this for a screen test, I'd give her the part, if only for fear of otherwise having my innards used to make balloon animals.

Marlene Dietrich

Cruel & Unusual Housing

Today the print version of the Seattle Times ran a letter regarding the story of the housing of off-probation convicted sex offenders, titled "U District isn't the place for housing." The letter was written by McKinley Smith, a resident of a sorority house on the same block. Needless to say the author wants no sex offenders, even if off-probation, housed in the area.

I think everyone agrees that sex offenders must be housed. Having them homeless makes them too difficult to keep track of, not to mention increasing the likelihood of recidivism. Carol Clarke, the woman who runs the housing in dispute, is by all accounts a very demanding landlord who expects her tenants to follow all sorts of rules designed to keep them out of trouble. So she's the ideal landlord.

So the question then would be, should we look for a more suitable neighborhood to house these people? The letter from the sorority resident doesn't come right out and say so, but implies that the fraternity and sorority area of the U District is inappropriate, because the students are entitled to more security than the rest of the Seattle population.

This is just the sort of thing I have come to expect from the fraternity community.

I lived in that area for 7 years in the 80s and 90s. To read letters by such as Ms. Smith, you would think that I must have felt privileged to reside in such a special neighborhood, or that if there were anything wrong with it, it would have been because of the non-students spoiling the experience for me.

Nothing could be further from the truth. My life in the U District was made difficult almost entirely by the vicious, cruel and sadistic behavior of STUDENTS.

FRATERNITY STUDENTS, not non-students, threatened me for walking on "THEIR" sidewalks. FRATERNITY STUDENTS shot at me with BB guns from the rooftops of fraternities, so regularly that I learned I couldn't walk that street at all. FRATERNITY AND SORORITY STUDENTS both regularly yelled insults at me as I walked to and from my apartment, in "their" precious area.

What prompted the insults? Maybe it was because I wasn't young enough to pass for a student. Or maybe that had nothing to do with it. Maybe they insult other students, shoot BBs at them and threaten to beat them up just as much as non-students. Does the exclusivism of the rush system breed, or merely attract, arrogant little bigots and sadists?

I don't really care why they did it. My point is, the fraternity district is a crappy place to live, and it's crappy because the fraternities and sororities make it so. That's why the rents are so low there. No one wants to live next door to such assholes. The sex offenders could do a lot better, if only they could afford higher rents. They can't, so they're forced to live in the meanest, crappiest neighborhood in the city.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Adventures with Yeast

Video Find of the Day

I have already mentioned my forays into bread-making. I will have more to say about that later -- I'm overdue with a boast pertaining to sourdough. But right now I want to mention that I have been trying to make rice wine, and after a really ugly failure two weeks ago the current experimental batch is looking and tasting great.

The stuff I'm trying to make is something called jiuniang, a so-called sweet wine made from sticky rice. What appeals to me about it is that I live upon a postage-stamp and don't have room for vats and bottles to ferment and age large quantities of drink. Therefore I need a fast turnaround. Internet sources promise turnarounds between 3 and 5 days.

So I think, "lets see, I want 60-ounces of beer per night, but the rice wine has 3 times the alcohol content, so I'm after 20 ounces per night, or about half a gallon per turnaround, which means I can do the fermenting in the 5 quart crockpot that's already taking up space."

The first batch probably failed because the 69 cent package of champagne yeast was dead. But, whoa! This second batch took off, from white wine yeast, and I've tasted it and I'm psyched. I think there's going to be 5 maybe 6 ounces of experimental 12% or so rice squeezings tomorrow! Woo, woo!

Here to celebrate is a "futuristic" drinking song from a 1930 sci-fi comedy movie. According to the description, in this vision of the future, pills have replaced hooch but they're still singing drinking songs.

Drinking Song from Just Imagine (1930)

Never Shake a 7 Year-Old

One incident in November of 1956 put Mrs. Graves on the top of my Worst Teachers Ever list.

School started at 7;30 AM, if I remember right. But for some reason the buses never got us there much later than 7, so there was always a wait. The school building was locked until time for classes to start, so we all had to wait outside in the cold.

The day before there had been an early snowfall, but the falling snow turned to rain overnight, and the snow on the ground turned to slush. So school wasn't called, the buses ran, and we all ended up standing around in two or three inches of slush outside the school.

The routine was, at a first bell we were required to form two lines. The line on the right facing the school consisted of boys. the line on the left consisted of girls. At the second bell 5 minutes late the teacher was supposed to appear and march the two files into the school.

On this day she was late. We we literally left out in the cold. Everybody was getting restless. Kids were rocking back and forth and up and down on their toes, trying to stay warm. I jumped in the air. When I landed on slush the slush flew out from my boots and some hit a girl in the leg.

She said, "Hey! You got slush on me!" and she retaliated by stamping her foot at me, getting slush on my leg.

Well, being of the nature I am, I thought that was funny, and I stamped back at her.

Turns out slush-stamping is really hard to aim. I only wanted to get the one girl back again, and I did, but I also got two or three others standing next to her. Now those two retaliated. And their aim was no better than mine, so in addition to splashing slush on me they got slush on half a dozen other boys in line with me.

It was a classic illustration of runaway positive feedback. Within 20 seconds almost all the kids in both lines were splashing slush at each other and everybody's legs were covered with dirty gray slush. I was laughing my head off.

Then Mrs, Graves appeared. She saw the mess and screamed, "WHICH ONE OF YOU STARTED THIS!" Everybody became quiet except me. I couldn't stop laughing.

She stood directly in front of me, grabbed my shoulders, and said, "YOU STARTED THIS DIDN'T YOU?"

As soon as I said yes she started shaking me violently. Even my own sadistic Mother never shook me like that. She shook me so hard I thought my neck was going to snap. While she did it she shrieked stuff , but I couldn't absorb any of it. I don't know what she said. She was shaking me so hard my brain stopped working.

They say, NEVER SHAKE A BABY. That should also apply to seven year olds. NEVER SHAKE A SEVEN YEAR-OLD.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sevillanas @ Phinney Ridge

Video Find of the Day

I was in the mood for Flamenco tonight, but I wasn't expecting I'd find it from Phinney Ridge. Zamani Flamenco at the Phinney Neighborhod Association, just two weeks ago.

Zamani Flamenco: Sevillanas

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dylan & Yankovic

Video Find of the Day

#13 of my wake selections is Subterranean Homesick Blues which was a big hit when I was 16 and may have contributed to my decision not to kill myself that year, or the next. It's always a big help, when contemplating suicide, to feel that you may not be so alien after all. This video is an excerpt from the beginning of a 1967 documentary called Don't Look Back. The bald guy to our left is Allen Ginsberg. He's talking to Bob Neuwirth, who doesn't really step into the scene until the end.

Bob Dylan - Subterranean Homesick Blues

Not among my wake selections, but still highly... interesting... is Weird Al Yankovic's version of the song and video, in which every line is a palindrome. I don't think that's Ginsberg and Neuwirth in this one, but I could be wrong.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Bob

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Óró Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile

Video Find of the Day

A song dedicated to Grace O'Malley, or Gráinne Mhaol, who ruled the Irish Sea in the mid-16th Century, pissing off the English and inspiring Irish rebellion ever since.

Óró sé do bheatha 'bhaile -- You Are Welcome Home

Friday, December 14, 2007

No Regrets

Video Find of the Day

This is #17 in my sequence of 20 tracks to which Anitra has promised to subject victims who attend my wake (hopefully far in the future.) I probably will rearrange the list by the time I kick the bucket, but I can't imagine ever dropping this one. It's key.

Edith Piaf - Non je ne regrette rien

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fanny Brice

Video Find of the Day

The original Funny Girl, probably in the 1938 movie Everybody Sing, doing "Quainty, Dainty Me."

fanny brice

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Krupa vs Rich

Video Find of the Day

Drum battle

I think Gene Krupa wins this one, but what would I know?

Life's Little Lessons

I remember a string of little lessons that whacked me around the beginning of second grade. None of them were major life events, like attempted murder or gang warfare, but each little lesson taught me that my reality and my world view were alien to others.

I often underwent fugue states in those days. I would be walking along and suddenly find myself two blocks further down the road with no memory of the intervening walking. Some of these hiccups in consciousness turned out later to be Alex slipping in and out. But some of them never got any explanation. It wasn't until I was ready to start 3rd grade that I really began to experience consciousness as a continuous state, and came to expect it to remain so.

Somehow, it never even occurred to me that other people didn't experience disconnected consciousness the way I did. The lesson that made it clear to me happened one day when I went to visit my friend Charles, the wood eater. I was outside the door to his house when I entered a fugue state. I regained consciousness in the kitchen of Charles's house. In front of me was a very pissed off Charles's Dad, who was demanding to know how I got in. I told him the truth. I didn't know how I got in. One minute I was outside, the next minute I was inside.

Charles's Dad said that was a crock. I had to know how I got in. I was lying, he said. He called my parents, who had to come and get me. He treated me like a criminal while we waited for them to come. He told me and my parents that if it ever happened again he'd call the MPs.

Another lesson was the Marble Game. I had loads of marbles because my Father would buy small bags of 10 or a dozen for me now and then, and they added up. I never played marbles though. I didn't know how.

A new kid I got to know told me he'd show me how to play marbles. So I got my marbles out and he played marbles with me. It was one of those deals where every time I thought I was getting the hang of it a new rule would be announced, and I'd find out I'd gone out-of-bounds, or gone upsies or downsies, or some idiotic thing, and another marble would go to the other kid's side.

Finally my mother said my guest had to go, it was time for dinner. I started collecting up my marbles, and my marble instructor said, "Hey, what are you doing? I won those!"

Through events like that I learned that boys are from Mars, girls are from Venus, and I'm from Earth, where we don't expect people to read minds. How was I supposed to know we were playing for the marbles? He never said so! I screamed foul so loud he thought he was going to get in trouble, and ran off.

[Below: After that I couldn't be interested in games of marbles, but I still appreciate the art of it. Photo by Sam Fentress, see larger version.]

Then there was the rabbit incident. The rabbit was a half-inch plastic representation of a rabbit meant for a charm bracelet, which I had found somewhere and adopted. I carried it loose in my pocket and took it out from time to time and talked to it. His name was "Rabbit." He may have been related in my mind to Crusader Rabbit. Or not. But he was definitely one small increment away from imaginary friend toward real friend, by virtue of having a physical presence, albeit tiny and inanimate.

A kid named Roger started hanging with me. I thought of him as Roger Silver Dollar, because his hair was mostly light brown but he had a patch of silver hair the size and shape of a silver dollar on the back of his head. Roger was very pushy and domineering. I actually felt sorry for him, because it seemed to me that his urgent need to have his way all the time was sad. He wasted a lot of his own energy getting other people in line. I tried to help by humoring him, and always doing things his way.

I drew the line at Rabbit however. He said Rabbit was stupid. He said Rabbit wasn't real and doesn't really talk to me, so I should get rid of him. I said I didn't care if he was real, I still liked him. Roger said you can't like something that isn't real. I said that must be wrong, because I do.

Finally one day when I took Rabbit out to look at him, Roger snatched him out of my hand and threw him down a sewer drain.

I was in such tears over it, my Mother called Roger's Mother to demand an apology. Instead of saying she was sorry, Roger's Mother said he had done me a favor. It was just a piece of plastic, she said. I needed to be made to be realistic.

So I learned that there are human beings who detest imagination so much that they will destroy anything that gets its life from it.

These people called themselves Christian. Roger told me Jesus was the True Son of God, and he wasn't dead, but was resurrected, and he talked to him every night when he said his prayers. He knew Jesus was real because the Bible told him so.

It occurred to me there'd be no hope of retaliating by shoving Jesus down a sewer drain, 'cause he'd just come back up after three days in the sewer. The Christians have got their imaginary friend rigged so you can't hang him, drown him, or shoot him.

Too bad. Invulnerability is stunting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The More Things Change...

Video Find of the Day

The poster says this one is from 1969. I don't remember David Steinberg hosting anything like this in 1969. I would have guessed this was '71 or '72. But it may have been in '69 and I missed it -- there was a lot going on.

Pete Seeger - Bring Them Home, 1969

... the more things stay the same:

Bruce Springsteen Bring Them Home - San Francisco 2006

Monday, December 10, 2007

Snakedancing, No Snakes

Video Find of the Day

These were all posted by KaiaVZ, who appears in the first two. The second two feature her teacher. Snakedancing. No snakes, only dancing. I'm in awe.



Snakedance Queen

Beautiful Snake dancer

Helen & Mrs. Graves

Second grade was in a new room, with a new teacher, Mrs. Graves. I will never forget Mrs. Graves. She started the new year out by taking me aside and letting me know "in no uncertain terms" that she would tolerate none of my "shenanigans." My reputation had preceded me.

[Left: Not Mrs. Graves, but a close facsimile.]

The class as a whole was warned against horseplay. One of her very strong rules was that boys do not hit girls. I said, "What if the girls hit me?"

This was not a rhetorical question. Soon after school started I found myself being regularly being kicked in the shins by a brunette with pronounced bangs and a wide face named Helen. She thought she was being seductive, I think.

Mrs. Graves answer to that was, "You're a boy. You should be able to take care of yourself."

I still, to this day, don't know what she thought that was supposed to mean.

Does it mean that if I were a girl, I'd be incapable of taking care of myself, I'd have to have someone leading me about the nose all day long, helping me walk, breath, and sit up, and wiping my drool away?

I don't think so.

Did she mean that because I was a boy that I could prevent girls from kicking me in the shins by using my "Boy Shakti" to lay them out sideways and upside-down until they cried for their Mommas?

I don't think so.

One possibility that occurred to me was that "Boys don't cry" and that therefore, if I am a real boy, getting kicked in the shins by Helen wouldn't matter to me, because he who doesn't cry doesn't suffer.

[Left: Not Helen, but a close facsimile.]

That idea was impossible, because I couldn't believe that even Mrs. Graves was that fucked up in the head.

So what was it? You tell me. I still don't get it. Someone's kicking me in the shins. I'm not allowed to hit back, and when I ask for help, I'm told, "Boys can take care of themselves." Catch 22, 23, 24, and 25. You're a boy, you get kicked in the shins, shut up, fuck off.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Kali With Subtitles

Video Find of the Day

Its so easy to get confused and lost without the benefit of English subtitles, isn't it?

Kali Dance

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Second Hand Rose

Video Find of the Day

Second Hand Rose is a translation of the band's name. They're from Beijing. The song apparently translates as "Destiny (Survival)."

二手玫瑰 Second Hand Rose : 命运(生存) MV

Friday, December 7, 2007


Video Find(s) of the Day

Rembetika, AKA Greek Blues. I have been reminded of it by this one.

Giorgos Vidalis [Mangiko](Anatolian Greek folk song]

Lousy image, beautiful music:



[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in the summer of 1956, after I became 7. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

Late in the summer the people in the unit downstairs, whom I didn't care for, moved out, and were replaced by a new family that had a gorgeous redheaded daughter my age. Her name was Bar-bar-a, a name that trips off the tongue like a dachshund. What's a dachshund doing in my simile? I just remembered they had a dachshund.

The name Barbara, as you probably know already, comes from ancient Greek, meaning "speaker of a ridiculous language (i.e. almost any language other than Greek)." Barbara told me this herself. For some reason, I found her explanation of her name extremely hot. I devoted a lot of time to her, and to her dachshund, to learn more wonderful facts of any nature that she might know.

One of the things that she knew was how to whistle. I tried to learn how to whistle from her, but her instructions, "put your lips together and blow," didn't work for me. It was very frustrating. I wanted to whistle along with her. We would have that much in common. From that small start, who knows?

[Left: This picture of Lauren Bacall will have to do the work of a photo of Bar-bar-a.]

In desperation I asked my Mother to teach me to whistle. My Father was in the room at the time, and said, "What? You shouldn't need anyone teaching you how to whistle! You whistle great! You've been whistling since you were a baby!"

I said, "I don't know how to whistle. What gave you that idea?"

He said, "Don't give me that nonsense. You can whistle like a bird. I've heard you do it a million times!" He was starting to lose it.

My Mother jumped in and said, "Dear, don't you remember? The operation?"

"What about the operation? What does that have to do with it?"

"They got rid of the Hawaiian music, dear. Did you think that was all that would go away? He can't remember how to whistle."

My Father got a pained look on his face. Seeing that, my Mother laughed at him and said, "You always wanted him to be like you. Now he's like you. You can't be a musician because of what happened to you. Now you've made him just like you."

"Shut up! You agreed to it, too!"

"But I knew what I was agreeing to," she said.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Peppe Barra

Video Find of the Day

Well, this should get anyone's attention. I don't know what he's saying, but he's sure being emphatic about it.

Peppe Barra - Guerra - (tammurriata)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Speaking of Fortuna

Video Find of the Day

I think people in the Middle Ages were way ahead of us in some respects. For one thing, they had a finer sense of the innate horror of life. Bad things didn't just happen to people on TV for them.

Carmina Burana @Carl Orff

English Translation

O Fortune,
like the moon
you are constantly changing,

ever waxing
and waning;
hateful life

first oppresses
and then soothes
as fancy takes it;

and power
it melts them like ice.

Fate - monstrous
and empty,
you whirling wheel,

you are malevolent,
well-being is vain
and always fades to nothing,

and veiled
you plague me too;

now through the game
I bring my bare back
to your villainy.

Fate is against me
in health
and virtue,

driven on
and weighted down,
always enslaved.

So at this hour
without delay
pluck the vibrating strings;

since Fate
strikes down the strong man,
everyone weep with me!

Fortuna Hates Me

The rest of the '56 summer was relatively uneventful. I had what I thought was an odd vision a couple of weeks after my mother made me stop using my left hand. I was looking at a scene outside. A van with some writing on the side was passing by. As I watched, the entire scene appeared to reflect through a vertical line down the middle of my view. The van had been moving to my right. Now it was moving to my left. The writing was reversed and now unreadable. Then, suddenly the writing appeared readable.

The strange thing about this memory is that I have no recollection of the scene returning to normal. I don't remember the reflection being reversed. I only remember becoming used to the new way. Maybe it switched back and I didn't notice. Or maybe it never switched back.

About that time the sling came off and my wrist was healed enough for me to engage in tree climbing. Tree climbing was one of my great loves and I couldn't wait to get back to it.

Across the street from our back door was a clearing with some birch and fir trees. I picked a fir tree to climb and got out on a branch that was about five feet off the ground. I was hanging from it like a sloth and inched my way out the branch.

Don't ever do that. I thought the branch would droop gradually as I moved out. Instead, it dropped suddenly, all at once, when I reached some critical point. It dropped the back of my head onto a waiting rock. My head snapped forward slamming my upper jaw onto my lower, and my two front teeth broke off.

They were baby teeth and I could expect new teeth to grow in. But with all the other crap that had happened it was too much. It was like the time mumps were followed by chicken pox followed by mumps again. I felt like I was specifically being targeted by nature and the gods for attack.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Isaiah Chevrier Is 6

Video Find of the Day

The best documented child drummer in history is now six years old. We speculate that he will grow up to be a ventriloquist, a magician, or a stand-up comedian, owing to his fine sense of timing, and drama. Or, a drummer.

Child Djembe Drummer

Monday, December 3, 2007

What, No Strings?

Video Find of the Day

The current top featured video on YouTube. Ordinarily that would rule it out for me (I'm aiming for more obscure & neglected videos) but something makes me think this one won't be featured for long.

the vegetable orchestra

Cigarette Torture

[Reminder: Some of my posts, including this one, are memoirs of my abusive childhood. In this post I'm relating events that happened in the spring and early summer of 1956, when I became 7. The links to the right can be used to follow backward through the memoirs, or to restrict viewing to other kinds of posts.]

I only spent a few boring days at Mina's house. Mina lived in a row house in Maryland, near Rock Creek. I was actually glad to see my parents, when they finally came to get me, just to be going some place that had books.

By the time I was back in Fort Devens, there was only a week left of 1st grade. It ended without further incident. I still have my report card. It shows the number of days I was absent each quintile of the school year except the last. For the last quintile that space is left blank. I believe I missed more than a month.

With the end of school I was still recovering from my injuries. The bandages came off my head first. My wrist continued to have to be in a sling for at least two more weeks.

One day, after some sexual abuse by my Mother, Alex told Kona how he could be summoned in an emergency. He said to just think of a certain line from an old Hawaiian song. It was one of the few lines that I could still remember after the surgery. It was a line which loosely translated meant, "please transport me to heaven."

A day or two later, as Kona, I sat down at the coffee table in the Sun Porch with paper and pencils and called Alex and asked him to sing for me, and help me draw. I needed help because he had to enable me to use the left hand. Ordinarily Kona drew with my right and Alex wrote with my left. Basically Kona needed Alex to allow Kona to guide his "writing" of pictures, and wanted Alex to sing along.

It was a meditative session, following the instructions in meditation that I remembered Lani and Lono giving me. I started with a seed drawing of a symbol representing a target state. My target was integration. The seed was two vertical lines joined by three parallel horizontal syzygies. I drew around it while chanting. I knew the chant was all wrong, but I hoped the magic would work anyway.

My Mother crept up on me, catching me in the act of chanting. She screamed at me. "How many times have we had to tell you not to use Hawaiian in the house!"

She demanded to know what I was drawing. I told her they were sleeping mat designs. She said she wasn't going to allow me to waste my life making sleeping mats or basket weaving "like useless ignorant natives." I had to get an education and a career, so she wouldn't have to support me forever.

Then she said, "I know what would put you in your place." She got a large envelope from her bedroom and threatened to show me the contents. She said there was an X-ray in it that would show me why she was so sure I was "on my way to being a basket-weaver." I didn't know what she was talking about at the time. It wasn't until I was almost 35 that I saw the X-ray she referred to. It was an X-ray taken upon my admission to Tripler Medical Center on my first birthday. It showed the extent of the brain damage I suffered that day.

She decided not to show me the X-ray. Instead, she suddenly shifted gears as she noticed that I was holding my pencil in my left hand. She said, "Show me how you've been drawing." When I drew a little with my left, she said, "So! You've switched personalities. Let's see, you used the left hand, that means the artist is in the right side of your head."

So she took me to the Play Deck and banged the right side of my head repeatedly on the brick wall there. The idea was to kill "the artist personality." She tried to do it so as not to leave any marks. After a while, she decided that wouldn't work. "If I don't do it hard enough to leave a mark I won't kill it either." So she brought me back to the Sun Porch and stuck the pencil back in my left hand and told me to draw. As soon as I drew a little she grabbed my left hand and burned the back of it with her cigarette.

When I stopped screaming, she said, "Draw some more." She threatened to beat me if I didn't. When I did, she burn the back of my left hand, being careful to burn it at the exact same place.

After that even threats wouldn't get me to draw for her. So every minute or so she took my hand with the pencil in it and forced it to draw a line, then burned the same spot.

She spent about half an hour at this, using up at least three cigarettes. Finally she said, "Are you going to use your left hand any more?" I told her I wouldn't. She said, "Good, maybe that personality won't get its way anymore."

Two or three months later I came home with a note from my teacher saying my penmanship had become terrible. My Mother said, "Why is your penmanship so bad suddenly? All through first grade you got high marks for penmanship. Your writing was beautiful."

I said, "Don't you remember? You made me stop using my left hand. That was the hand I was using to write with."

"No!" she said, "You were using it to draw with that day! That's what I remember. The artist was using the left hand!"

"I was only using it to draw then because I couldn't use my right hand, remember? It was in a sling."

"So what are you saying, you wrote with your left hand?'

"Sure. You didn't ever notice?"

She hadn't cared enough to notice before. Both my Mother and my Father wrote left-handed. My mother switched hands according to task, just like I did. She wrote with her left, used scissors with her right. But she couldn't be bothered to notice any of that, until she could see in it a justification for torture.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sing, Sing, Sing

Video Find of the Day

Gene Krupa , drums, Harry James, trumpet, Benny Goodman, clarinet. The Benny Goodman Orchestra in the 1937 movie Hollywood Hotel. Directed by Busby Berkeley.

Gene Krupa- Sing, Sing, Sing

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Hell No, We Won't Go

OK, OK, we'll go but we'll dance on the way.

Video Find of the Day

I'm still trying to figure Verbunk out. What I'm getting is that it originated as a solo dance protesting conscription in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It's become a folk tradition that is also performed as a group dance.

Reformkori örökségünk: verbunk és csárdás

Romafest Gypsy Dance Theater - Verbunk

Run Off Achieves Notoriety

Not this blog, but the common Pacific Northwest noninfiltrating precipitations from which the name is partially derived. "Runoff called top pollutant in the Sound", says the P-I. Cool.