Saturday, September 24, 2005

Anansi Boys

Neil Gaiman's new book, Anansi Boys, deals with the children of the spider trickster god of African legend. It's a fantastic read about family, mistaken identity, and becoming the person you outght to become. It's also really funny.

Two interesting coincidences happened to me while I was reading the book. First, a spider took up residence in my front doorway, completely filling the top two feet of space with its web. Each morning and each evening, I'd forget and walk through its web. Every afternoon and overnight, the spider would rebuild it. Finally, I caught on and ducked underneath as I passed through. Last night, I watched as it bundled a fly into a cocoon for later consumption. Another spider has moved in outside the backdoor. (If I disappear, someone should come expecting me to be trapped in one of these webs.)

Second, as I'm reading the book at the bus stop, a guy comes up to me and says, "Say, aren't you Neil Gaiman?"

Other than being a caucasian adult male, Mr. Gaiman and I look not very much alike. Even so, I was happy enough to autograph his copy: "Very best wishes, and sweet dreams, Neil."

Friday, September 23, 2005

35th and still counting

So, I've reached 35. Adulthood is defined as that point when your birthday rolls around and you no longer think about the presents you're going to get, but instead are just genuinely relieved (and maybe a little surprised) to be above ground and moving around.

Several friends were kind enough to drink the new year with me at Schuba's. At left are Eric, Joyce and Mark. Alden stopped by as well, but almost everyone else was out of town. How could they have left the year's most important holiday off their calendars?

Joyce, Mark and I are engaged in a series of fitness dares, which have included ashtanga yoga classes and the Run Hit Wonder thing. Mark's 35th was a few days ago, so we need some more dares to complete over the course of the coming year. Suggestions are welcome.

Mom told me, "you've never missed a birthday before."

I said, "I won't be missing this one either. I carry it with me. You're the one missing it."

In other news, Chad Fox is also moving up in the demographic categories. I knew the kid had great taste, but to share a birthday with me (and Joan Jett) practically moves him up to godhead.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cry Clodauuiua

...and Let Slip the Dogs of War

Look out, William Gibson is not only blogging again, but also, apparently, starting to write another novel.

Celtic Festival

Both Saturday and Sunday, I went down to the Chicago Celtic festival. More kilts than you can shake a stick at. Usually on really tough looking guys with shaved heads and tribal tattoo work, with blue-haired well-pierced girlfriends, with bagpipes redone in American Chopper style.

The overall feel of the festival, though, was that of every music festival I ever went to in rural Ohio, with that hippy-crunchy feel, and wonderful weather, but minus the fierce clouds of mosquitos*, and minus the really uncomfortable parking arrangements characterized by a twenty minute walk from someone's back pasture, dodging said mosquitos and semi-fossilized cowpies and poison ivy in the underbrush.

The other thing the event reminded me of was the early 90's, when the best music in the world could be found in Athens, GA, and every railway trestle or semi-abandoned building reminded you of "Finest Worksong" or "Love Shack" or "Closer to Fine". Sexy, late summer, staring up at the underside of tree branches, lying in a hammock holding someone you love while the party goes on inside the house, music.

*My friend Dave misheard me when I said this, and asked me why I thought it was so great that there were "more Cheetos" at this event than any other.

Disappear Here

Literary moment for the weekend: went to the Bret Easton Ellis talk & signing at the Watertower. Most of his answers were of the vein that, no, not everything in the book is a scene directly taken from his real life. Lunar Park, and the rest of his books, are works of fiction, even though they incorporate actual experiences, real people and things of psychological importance to the author. Apparently, this surprises a lot of people.

Interesting crowd. The guy in front of me looked like Patrick Bateman. Fellow Chicago blogger Kid Chimera was there; Bret signed his copy of the book. I decided that the line was a little too long, and not moving at all, so I had Patrick Bateman sign my copy.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

John St. John

The Magical Retirement of John St. John, or "Aleister Crowley blogs about Paris in the twenties."

Basically, twelve days of:

"Woke up, did some yoga, wandered over to the cafe for a nice citron press, had a nap, thought about various Egyptian and Fertile Crescent deities, went to a different cafe for a pear and two Garibaldis, complained about discomfort from yoga poses, chatted with friends about yoga/cafe food/ancient Egyptian mysticism, sex with Maryt* who looks different with her clothes off, had snack, received experience of enlightenment about my true Will, brushed teeth, went to bed."

Also, who knew crazy Uncle Aleister was funny? viz:

7.35. The Sandwich duly chewed, and two Coffees drunk, I resume the mystic
Mantra. Why? Because I dam well choose to. {31}
7.50. 'Tis a rash thing to
say, and I burn incense to the Infernal Gods that the Omen may be averted; but I
seem to have conquered the real Dweller of the Threshold once and for all. For
nowadays my blackest despair is tempered by the certainty of coming through it
sooner or later, and that with flying colours.
9.30. The last 3/4 hour I wasted talking to Dr. R---, that most interesting man. I don't mean talking; I mean listening. You are a bad, idle good-for-nothing fellow, O.M.! Why not stick to that mantra?
10.40. Have drunk two citrons press‚s and gone to my room to
work a mighty spell of magick Art.
In other words, even though the technology has changed, the experience of bohemian living hasn't.

*Maryt Waska, introduced to Crowley by Nina Hamnett. The Wikipedia article on Hamnett is great reading all by itself.

The Eyes of a Masturbator

From the John Patterson interview with Donald Sutherland in the Guardian:

He has a sudden, slightly awestruck flashback to the ferocious Robert Shaw.

"Shaw! He was something else. He died so young and so in character. He
was being driven somewhere in Ireland, and he started to have his heart attack
and he jumped out of the limo, literally running away from death, throwing up as
he goes, running through a field."

Fellini demands to have Sutherland for the role of Cassaova because

"I need him. He's a sperm-filled waxwork with the eyes of a masturbator!"


An Australian man built up a static charge of 40,000 volts in his clothes, ignited a hotel carpet, and was one step away from spontaneous human combustion.


Wednesday, September 14, 2005


So, following an unfortunate professionally- performed haircut that can best be described as "Hitler's combover", a self-performed second haircut was initiated. I am now aerodynamic. I wish I'd had the foresight to do a mohawk as an intermediate step. Oh, well, maybe next time.

This picture makes it appear that I'm really depressed about something. That's mainly an effect caused by the way I'm holding my camera to take a picture of myself without knowing when the picture is actually going to happen.

Run Hit Wonder

Went for a little 5K action last night with Joyce and Mark, continuing our series of fitness dares. I came in with a time of 33:42, which means I kept an 11 minute mile pace--I'd like to be under 10, but hey, I'm in the top 38 percent of my age group, according to the website.

The best part about the event, other than having some mild affirmation that I'm at least marginally physically fit, and able to pass really slow people with only moderate effort, was the reaction of fellow public transport passengers to all the yellow shirts worn by participants (in place of those pin-on race numbers). One guy asked if we were all in a cult. Others shifted away from us (on the way down due to anxiety, on the way back due to the pungent body aroma emanating from some of the participants.)

Joyce and Mark, recently married, threw water in each other's faces after the finish. "We're fourteen," they said.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Stories from Katrina

I don't want to read this sort of thing. Aaron Broussard on Meet the Press (via BoingBoing)

MR. AARON BROUSSARD: We have been abandoned by our own country. Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst storms ever to hit an American coast, but the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history. I am personally asking our bipartisan congressional delegation here in Louisiana to immediately begin congressional hearings to find out just what happened here. Why did it happen? Who needs to be fired? And believe me, they need to be fired right away, because we still have weeks to go in this tragedy. We have months to go. We have years to go. And whoever is at the top of this totem pole, that totem pole needs to be chain-sawed off and we've got to start with some new leadership.
...MR. BROUSSARD: Sir, they were told like me, every single day, "The cavalry's coming," on a federal level, "The cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming, the cavalry's coming." I have just begun to hear the hoofs of the cavalry. The cavalry's still not here yet, but I've begun to hear the hoofs, and we're almost a week out.
Let me give you just three quick examples. We had Wal-Mart deliver three trucks of water, trailer trucks of water. FEMA turned them back. They said we didn't need them. This was a week ago. FEMA--we had 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel on a Coast Guard vessel docked in my parish. The Coast Guard said, "Come get the fuel right away." When we got there with our trucks, they got a word. "FEMA says don't give you the fuel." Yesterday--yesterday--FEMA comes in and cuts all of our emergency communication lines. They cut them without notice. Our sheriff, Harry Lee, goes back in, he reconnects the line. He posts armed guards on our line and says, "No one is getting near these lines." Sheriff Harry Lee said that if America--American government would have responded like Wal-Mart has responded, we wouldn't be in this crisis.
...MR. BROUSSARD: ...that have worked 24/7. They're burned out, the doctors, the nurses. And I want to give you one last story and I'll shut up and let you tell me whatever you want to tell me. The guy who runs this building I'm in, emergency management, he's responsible for everything. His mother was trapped in St. Bernard nursing home and every day she called him and said, "Are you coming, son? Is somebody coming?" And he said, "Yeah, Mama, somebody's coming to get you. Somebody's coming to get you on Tuesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Wednesday. Somebody's coming to get you on Thursday. Somebody's coming to get you on Friday." And she drowned Friday night. She drowned Friday night.
MR. RUSSERT: Mr. President...
MR. BROUSSARD: Nobody's coming to get us. Nobody's coming to get us. The secretary has promised. Everybody's promised. They've had press conferences. I'm sick of the press conferences. For God sakes, shut up and send us somebody.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Two Amazing Mouse Experiments

Mice that regenerate toes, internal organs, "anything but the brain".

Mice that live 19 to 31 % longer than expected.

The cliche about mouse studies is that we can do just about anything to rodents that we want. We can yank their lifespan around, double their muscle mass, give them wings, cure all kinds of cancer; trying to do the same things in humans is almost always less successful, for reasons that are not always clear. For example, numerous studies have shown that calorie deprivation extends the lifespan of rats & mice. One reason for this may be that standard rat chow isn't very healthy, rather than the hypothesized reason that calorie restriction either a) adjusts the animals' metabolic rate or b) changes gene expression. On the other hand, the calorie restriction experiments could also reasonably point to the insulin-like growth factor receptor cascades which are controlled by the life-extension experiment described above.

Feeling extropian, anyone?