Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why the Parrotfish?

Yes. Good question. Thank you for asking. Apparrotly you are a discriminating reader, for which I'm grateful.

I mean discerning reader. Discriminating is not okay (where it comes to gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, physical characteristics (with the exception of those designed to mimic Barbie Doll proportions), country of origin, age, etc. All other differences are Open Season, and the more discriminating you are in every other regard, the likelier it will be that you've earned my respect.)

I believe everything you need to know in answer to the post title question is right here. Pay particular attention to the first and last paragraphs.

(Although you wouldn't be wasting your time if you read the whole thing. A day without learning something new is a day without orange juice, as the lovely but homophobic Anita Bryant might have said if she had a pound's worth of sense. Even an ounce's worth would've done. A milliliter.)


Area Homosexual Saves Four from Fire

Don't go getting any ideas about my so-called orientation here. It's none of your business.

In the meantime, if you lack for a hilarious but truly enlightening moment, you could do worse than read about the above here.

Speaking of The Onion, were you of a mind to eat one you could also always go here.

It's in Bellingham, Washington. Never been there, but a Fool's Onion looks like just the kind of Errand I wouldn't mind being on.

Resistentialism or Les Choses Sont Contre Nous (Otherwise Known as the Graduated Hostility of Things)

You know all about it. You go to brush your teeth at the ungodly hour you've had to wake up, and sure enough you've leaked a line of Preparation H on the toothbrush instead of the travel size toothpaste that you must resort to using since you keep forgetting to buy a new tube of the right stuff.

Lesson: Put your glasses on first thing. Keep them right by the bathroom sink, is our recommendation. Look before you leak.

And read here why it happened in the first place. That Clark-Trimble guy was no dummy.

"A convenient point of departure is provided by the famous Clark-Trimble experiments of 1935. Clark-Trimble was not primarily a physicist, and his great discovery of the Graduated Hostility of Things was made almost accidentally. During some research into the relation between periods of the day and human bad temper, Clark-Trimble, a leading Cambridge psychologist, came to the conclusion that low human dynamics in the early morning could not sufficiently explain the apparent hostility of Things at the breakfast table - the way honey gets between the fingers, the unfoldability of news-papers, etc. In the experiments which finally confirmed him in this view, and which he demonstrated before the Royal Society in London, Clark-Trimble arranged four hundred pieces of carpet in ascending degrees of quality, from coarse matting to priceless Chinese silk. Pieces of toast and marmalade, graded, weighed, and measured, were then dropped on each piece of carpet, and the marmalade-downwards incidence was statistically analysed. The toast fell right-side-up every time on the cheap carpet, except when the cheap carpet was screened from the rest (in which case the toast didn’t know that Clark-Trimble had other and better carpets), and it fell marmalade-downwards every time on the Chinese silk. Most remarkable of all, the marmalade-downwards incidence for the intermediate grades was found to vary exactly with the quality of carpet.
The success of these experiments naturally switched Clark-Trimble’s attention to further research on resistentia, a fact which was directly responsible for the tragic and sudden end to his career when he trod on a garden rake at the Cambridge School of Agronomy. In the meantime, Noys and Crangenbacker had been doing some notable work in America. Noys carried out literally thousands of experiments, in which subjects of all ages and sexes, sitting in chairs of every conceivable kind, dropped various kinds of pencils. In only three cases did the pencil come to rest within easy reach. Crangenbacker’s work in the social-industrial field, on the relation of human willpower to specific problems such as whether a train or subway will stop with the door opposite you on a crowded platform, or whether there will be a mail box anywhere on your side of the street, was attracting much attention."

(From 'Report on Resistentialism' by Paul Jennings)

As it happens, I've since learned here all about the Jewelweed, which "contains two methoxy-1, four napthoquinine—an anti-inflammatory and fungicide that’s the active ingredient of Preparation H."

So if you find yourself in the Great Outdoors, having forgotten your toothpaste, all you need to do is find some Jewelweed and lay it on the toothbrush.

Or wherever.

"Trust No-One"

I've been asked about my name, specifically, am I related to Haydn Webb, of the "Elegant horse-drawn carriages to suit all occasions" firm in the UK?

Happy to clarify here.

There is a very good likelihood my mother, who was British, knew of this illustrious firm. She may even have been one of its chief draft horses (this was not altogether a personal source of pride for her, as you might imagine, and she refused to allow herself to be pinned down regarding the particulars). In any event, she was also musically inclined, and particularly loved Haydn's Infedeltá delusa, which is how she often referred to my father. Thus I suppose we can't rule out that she might have intended the spelling of my name to be either Haydn or Hayden. Certainly she had a few unnecessary "e's" in her own name so perhaps she hoped nominally to slim down.

As it happens (doesn't it always?) it has been purported there was an occasion when her illustrious former employer was asked to provide one of their "elegant horse-drawn carriages" for the transporting of the Scales of Justice, the fine sculpture by "Guerilla Artist Banksy" (bet that boy has the gift of GAB with initials like that) as shown below and as written about here.

Evidently it was intended that one of the carriages be used to deliver the statue to Clerkenwell Green in London where it is now located, but owing to a mistake in scheduling another transportation was used instead. If true, I believe we can safely conclude that this would have been a real missed carriage of justice.

The plaque on the plinth of this statue reads, "Trust no-one," and, quite sincerely, we fully endorse the sentiment, although we limit ourselves chiefly to distrust of any one in a position of power. Unless they share our own political biases. And chances are even they are subject to some problematical compromising.

We don't know "Guerrilla Artist Banksy" (we wish we did, as a matter of fact), but we suspect that isn't his real name. Who would name their child after a primate, after all?

A photo of myself follows, pondering this very conundrum.

The Wife Says I Should Do Something Useful with My Time

She's a dear, but I frequently have the sense that she thinks the world would be much simpler if we just followed Her Rules. Which are, chiefly, if you are female do what females have always done, which is generally across all cultures pretty much of everything that needs to be done, and if you aren't a woman, you ought to be. As she so rhetorically asks, when is the last time you caught armies of women raping and pillaging?

History was not my specialty, but I am hard-pressed to give her an answer.

In the meantime, She Rules. That's fine by me, for the most part. She's a very sensible and kind woman, and quite relieved when I find uses for my retirement other than following her around asking if she wouldn't like me to accompany her. I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said, "To do nothing at all is the most difficult thing in the world, the most difficult and the most intellectual."  With regard to  the former descriptor retirement proves the case in point; I have yet to confirm the latter, however.

To that end I am very happy to have discovered this "blogging" venue. Which is a very silly term, if you ask me, and I'll have more to say about it later.

Still, I do have my irritable moments. The following may have been one of them. Do bear in mind one of Oscar Wilde's other observations, "All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his."

Wouldn't it be loverly if it were all that simple?


Lots of people seem to like them;
to me it makes no sense.
The only way I'll view a rosebush
is through a chain-link fence.

It bothers me to get too close,
the sniff's not worth the smell;
and all those girly-girly colours? -
The color-scheme of hell.

The Wife says each insipid shade
has its own aroma.
She's a dear menopausal maid,
but upstairs, no one's home. A

Lot of time she sits outdoors,
directing me with shears.
It's not her arms that get the thorns -
she just dries off my tears.

If I only had more power,
I'd design them all again.
Surely there could be some flowers
that meet the needs of MEN.

Make 'em bold but frowsy,
Impervious to crush;
colors for the color-blind -
aroma's been told shush.

That way when we get them home -
the bouquet left in the heat -
it won't appear that they were
surely sat on in our seat.

That's the kind of flower
I'd look right in the eye.
I wouldn't need a chain-link fence -
I'm just that kind of guy.

My Idyll Years

Casper David Friedrich's painting, above, brings to mind the fine tribute I recently received from a colleague, for whom I in turn years ago had provided a complete re-write of "The Sound of Music" to honor his father on the occasion of his 80th birthday, renaming it "The Sound of Nudniks" and featuring an entire cast of them.

Nudniks, that is.

Thought you might enjoy his tribute, given to me just the other day. It should give you some insight into my character. He insists it ought to inspire me to resume my writing, but I think the Wife's behind it. Clearly I'm getting on her nerves.

Once a fine Prof. name of Hayden
Recalled fields of verse he had played in
     When he was young
     With a much nimbler tongue:
He wishes those fields he had stayed in.

Fields of odes, fields of rhyme, fields of verse;
Fields of couplets, and triplets - even worse.
     Though a fine man, a
     Dept at a stanza,
At meter and rhythm he would curse.

When will said Prof. once more don it -
A rhyme or a villanelle or sonnet?
     His talents lie idle,
     (Did critics say, "dry, dull"?)
But give him a chance, he will flaunt it.

He never once shied from a quatrain;
No rondelet dizzied his wrought brain.
     On many an epode
     He seems to have rode
(Or have ridden, though not on a caught train.)

No, this fellow who was so multi-choral
Only traveled in fields quite pastoral.
     With often a dog
     To critique the eclogue,
Though with doggerel he had no real quarrel.

In sum this Professor's some talker,
But at writing anymore he's a balker.
     We miss a good jingle -
     They gave us a tingle -
Though as a poet he's a much better walker.

Loser, I Am in My Own Way

Admittedly anonymity is a very advisable feature of any blog, a lesson I have learned the Hard Way. This was at not just the school, but the virtual University of Hard Knox, as shown above.

At this particular school many are chosen, but few are culled, as a result of which the ranks of bloggers grow and grow and grow some more. Quite like a fungus gone rampant in a shoe that regularly held a slice of baloney.

For information about the above esteemed educational institution we have Smecc to thank, Smecc, who may or may not need a smack, or who may or may not even be Smecc, but who includes the very funny bit below.

I like to think I was its inspiration. You may think of me thusly as you read it.

The Genius

They could not understand him - he was one
Who walked on fire when others trod the clay,
Who followed mountain glimmers far away,
Or like an Eagle soared into the sun.
They could not understand him - there were none
Who roamed the highlands where he loved to stray,
Though, far below, the throng would snarl and bray,
Watching him mount where rainbow mists are spun.
And yet when at last, reviled and scorned, he died,
His name was set in gold and Deified,
Symbol for weeping millions to adore;
But still from cloud and crag he gleamed alone,
And still men praised him as a god unknown,
And understood no better than before.

~ Stanton Coblentz (found printed in the front of Remier's Modern X-Ray Practice, 1938)

Admittedly this would have been composed two years before I was born, but great minds can anticipate Great Mimes.

As for my own matriculation at the University of Hard Knox, I appear to have been afflicted with a case of terminal sincerity. Only too fond of myself and my blather, I was, and thus got a Proper Comeuppance. Quite like happens with floozies such as the Scales of Justice in a previous post, once the constabulary arrives (and sometimes before they arrive, depending upon whether we're talking street level and which side of town she frequents).

It pains me to admit but I did not successfully complete my studies at the UHK, and am quite likely to be regarded by administration as a loser.

If you ask me, if we were to talk Real Loo-sers, we could do no better than the following. We know he lost the last election.

Tommy Vu's emphasis was all wrong, in my book. You remember him? He was the real estate telemarketer who, surrounded by bimbos, would shout at his detractors, "You a loser! Get out of my way!" In my senescence, however, I have come to discover that for most of us, we are in our own way. It's good I have the good sense to know when to get out.

Mina, Marriage and Me

I miss her. The Wife. Takes me by surprise. Would have thought after 43 years of marriage, it might go the other way 'round. Perhaps it's time for me to introduce her. She doesn't take to being termed The Wife. Found it offensive. Believes it stems from old territorial notions of women as property.

Has a point there. Time to redress. (And no, I did not mean that as you might like to think I did.) In her absence perhaps I can reform. Curious, noting underneath is my fear that if I don't do so, she may not return. Though she always does. Perhaps it is just now that I recognize the truth of Chesterton's famous assertion, "The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost." More about him later. Quite the fellow.

We'll begin with her name. Mina. My Mina, my never-mean Mina. My 'aminable' Mina. Wilhelmina Blenk-Thret, MD, DVM. Born five and a half years before myself. Has kept her so-called maiden name all these years, leading others to believe we are living in sin, an illicit couple. She took some pleasure in that, not having for a moment subscribed to conventional notions of sanctity and sin.

Her parents were mavericks as well. Not related to Bourbon Thret, pictured below, of the French limited-edition work by Geoff Darrow, the conceptual designer for all three 'Matrix' films (among other things). See Mr. Thret below.

Nor is she related to the proponents of Threshold Regression with Endogenous Threshold (THRET) Variables, whose method "allows for the endogeneity of slope variables." See the THRET model below:

yi = x0i β1 + u1i , qi ≤ γ (2.1) 
yi = x0i β2 + u2i , qi > γ (2.2) 
qi = z 0 π + vi (2.3) 

I include it as a reminder to myself that I am not as smart as I pretend. Keeps a man humble.

But our marriage. We did marry. For all the usual legalistic reasons. And we are a heterosexual couple. But without any investment whatsoever in the institution, which is, relatively speaking, a recent development, originating in Roman times, and lacking, as it happens, any cross-cultural intra-societal usefulness at all, as stated in 2004 by the American Anthropological Association:

The results of more than a century of anthropological research on households, kinship relationships, and families, across cultures and through time, provide no support whatsoever for the view that either civilization or viable social orders depend upon marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Rather, anthropological research supports the conclusion that a vast array of family types, including families built upon same-sex partnerships, can contribute to stable and humane societies.

The woodcut pictured at the top is from a medieval German wedding ceremony involving the literary icons Reymont and Melusina. We particularly like it since it seems to suggest one of the partners is a Bunny. We'll say no more about that. It is also notable that presumed members of the community have brought an evidently empty bucket to the occasion, held by a vaguely clerical-appearing figure. Our best interpretation is that one or the other of the bedmates is in danger of throwing up.

As it happens, Reymont (also known as Raymond) is a mythical French fellow who married a beautiful water-fay, Melusina. In return she required that he leave her in complete seclusion on Saturdays. The tale goes:

Years passed, and the love of Raymond for his beautiful wife never diminished. Every Saturday she left she left him and spent the twenty-four hours in the strictest seclusion, without her husband thinking of intruding on her privacy.

However, owing to insecurities encouraged by his father and brothers, finally one night he did dare to peek upon Melusina in her Saturday retreat.

He looked through the keyhole and to his dismay beheld her in the water, her lower extremities changed into the tail of a monstrous fish or serpent.

Even that was not enough to deter her, however, and it was only when, in a moment of vitriol, Raymond shouted, " "Away, odious serpent, contaminator of my honourable race!" Melusina fainted, and eventually vanished. It was believed that she would only reappear when a king of France was about to shuck his mortal coils. And Raymont/Raymond grieved for all eternity, this love for "a water-sprite and of her longing for normal life."

Here they are, on the occasion of their great debacle:

Would like to think of them in happier times, but lack, at the moment, any depictions thereof. But here Mina and I are, in our heedless youth.

And here, by way of the inimitable artist Michael Sowa, is, perhaps, the Bunny in the woodcut above, berating us for our iniquities, Mina's and mine.

Though we always 'Mina' well, we do. Especially her.

Dancing Bears and Water Bears

"It's the bear I can't figure out. Would you know if bears dance in their natural state?"

That is the question. And, of course, if they do, we are not witness. In the meantime, we shoot them.

You'll forgive the morbid opening. I'm of a pensive mood, the Wife having been dispatched once again to Points Abroad, wherein she can ply her wares. Her "wares" in this case being her psychiatric expertise where needed. She is a consultant to hospitals for the criminally insane.

She lives in the real world; I live in my mind.

To what can we attribute this difference between us? While true that my mother was a draft horse, the Wife's mother died. At an unreasonably young age, leaving her near thirteen-year-old daughter to fend alone. Perhaps that is where the Wife learned to maneuver in the real world.

Do I lack for her attentions? I am a grown man, with many interests of my own. I may be accustomed, however, to a captive audience. Certainly that is what we in the teaching profession are the beneficiaries of. Or the beneficiaries of the illusion of, since who, in fact, can guarantee the "audience" hears a word one says? I know what I have given; I do not know what you have received.

Curious that I should be in the position of being able to grade your reception. This was my least favored role. I would happily expound ad nauseum. It is your business if you benefit. I would just as soon have been the professor who each fall raked all the papers, and graded all the leaves. Thus, the tardigrade.

Note that they are also called water bears. And that they live on lichens and mosses, dunes and beaches. They can survive in environments of extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum, from absolute zero to 303 degrees F. They can last nearly a decade without water, and in a vacuum such as space.

They are the true survivors. We are merely would-be imitators. Imposters.

The Wife is gone. She will return. I will, in the meantime, babble to the blogosphere.

Greybeards at Play

There've been many inquiries as to Mina's Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, and its pertinence to consulting with the criminally insane. This I note with both pride and a bit of offense taken, since there've been none so many inquiries about yours truly. Makes me want to hint at a life of nefarious escapade just to pique interest, but I'll restrain myself.

Thereby very much reminding me that, as the old boy Gilbert Keith Chesterton, pictured above, doth quote, "Marriage is an adventure, like going to war." Who needs the nefarious escapade?

In my infantile pique, however, I will defer questions about the Mesmerizing Mina and address the esteemed G. K., whose profound insight into the political process serves as Last Word: "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected."

He's a man after my heart (and no, I don't intended that as a statement of sexual orientation) for other reasons, not the least of which is a shared, shall we say, disorientation. Evidently, like Others Who Will Otherwise Go Unnamed, he quite often would forget not only where he was going and how he was to get there, but where he actually was when he arrived somewhere. It is reported that he was repeatedly obliged to post telegrams to his wife to the effect of reporting on his whereabouts (if he had established that) and asking "Where ought I to be?" - a question I have repeatedly put to Mina across the years, and one she was either far too willing or none too eager to address.

I note an edge. Does this mean I do or do not miss her?

But G. K. Prolific. Eighty books, 4000 essays. Many poems, short stories. It is said that his play Magic was the inspiration for Ingmar Bergman's The Magician, quite my favorite of Bergman's ouevre.

As to reports of his anti-Semitism, I cannot speak. I will leave that to Mina, counselor to the criminally insane. As well as veterinarian. Let us not forget that credential, since it is crucial to an understanding of her character and life's work, although...

My, my. I note my allotted blogging time is quite up. Will have to continue the exploration of the Miraculous Mina at another point. Serves her right, for being gone so long.

Let us verbally close on the following brilliant observation of our erstwhile hero, G. K., whose purported anti-Semitism will remain un-understood, a bygone we must let go.

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.

And let us visually close with the following photograph of a lovely begonia, under which, for reasons we cannot begin to ascertain, is written, GK Chesterton. Well, I do subscribe to the wisdom of letting bygones be bygones.

Or begonias be... begonias.

For aren't we all....

Mind over Mina

Mina has postponed her return another few days. She has been gone so long now that my longing, having given way to pique, has now returned full-throttle. I miss the old girl. She would shoot me in the shins if she heard me call her thus (and if we had a weapon in the house, as demonstrated above by the soberly reflective - so we hope - John Garand, inventor of the semi-automatic M1 rifle) but there it is: I miss her.

Is it because I am an unrepentant narcissist and need an audience, as she once fondly suggested? (To which I replied, "But Mina, I am repentant.")

Or is it, perhaps, that I actually miss her, Wilhelmina Blenk-Thrett herself?

Well, what's a fellow to do. Talk about her, I suppose, and in fact there continues to be more interest expressed about her than about myself. Which is as it should be, quite frankly.

So, the inestimable, though detained, Dr. Thrett. Just what does she do?

Do use your powers of recall here. Or review previous posts.

Mina is a Doctor of Psychiatry. For a number of years she engaged in a conventional practice. Then, as she so astutely pointed out, she realized she didn't 1) believe in analysis nor 2) like prescribing medications that either masked useful symptoms or created a whole constellation of other problematic conditions which in turn required more drugs. The vicious medications cycle. As she was wont to say to the pharmaceutical representatives who besieged her practice, "Is that a banana in your pocket or are you just filling the coffers of multi-national drug companies at the expense of your customers' cardiac health?"

Very well, then. That isn't what she ever said. Mae West said it, famously, or a variation thereof. Now there was a dame. (Sorry, Mina, but do make haste to return lest blow-up dolls become my next fantasy.)

We need a few Mae West quotes here, just to keep the youngsters interested.

~ I used to be Snow White, but then I drifted.

~ I didn't discover curves, I only uncovered them.

~ A woman in love can't be reasonable - or she probably wouldn't be in love.

~ Don't marry a man to reform him; that's what reform schools are for.

~ I never loved another person the way I love myself.

~ I only like two kinds of men, domestic and imported.

It was Mina who first quoted Mae West to me, that last quote above, in response to my telling her Actien, my middle name, was a legacy of my familial relation to Dortmunder Actien Brauerei, the German brewery founded in 1868 and based out of Dortmund. Technically that isn't true, but once she disclosed the two kinds of men she liked I figured I was good to go.

It was the drug industry that did her in. She came home one day, threw down her appointment book and the DSM-II (that tells you how long ago), and said she was done. Would not return to a profession that 'diagnosed them down and doped them up.' It was time to use her expertise for better causes.

Thinks out of the box, my Mina does. Always has. Or, as she queried archly when I urged greater variety in our garden, "Oh, you mean I should think outside of the phlox?" And who could not love such a gardener?

The challenge, of course, was which cause. The last person able to rank the scourges of humanity drank himself to death and took his ranking with him. We're a Quaker family, by philosophy, but by religious affiliation we're Jewish-Jainist Buddhists. JJB's, as our daughter says, Jujubes to the young ones.

Plenty of causes. Peace being among the first.

So the question is, how did my Mina end up consulting with the criminally insane? I'll leave that for another blog. Let me only say, she has used her veterinary training for good cause with the prison population, about whom you may have heard there have been successful reductions in recidivism owing to partnerships between dogs, horses and inmates. It was Mina who thought, what about the rest of the animal kingdom?

Of course, very few prison systems are willing to undertake this cause, imagination being one of the many casualties of the criminal justice system, and most jurisdictions much preferring to waste billions of dollars of tax money in the service of detaining minority populations of petty criminals while letting large-scale swindlers and exploiters continue living their luxury lives. My Mina has had a very uphill battle, but she is exactly the one to fight it since she is indefatigable both physically and spiritually.

Enough. It's 4:30 in the afternoon and I am headed for a shot of my other JJB: Jolly Jim Beam. Perks an old fellow up on a lazy afternoon.

Stay tuned.

Got the Existential Blues

Yes, she is returned. The Marvelous Mina. What I must remind myself each time is that I only have her absence to account for my malaise until such point as she returns. And then it's back to the good ol' existential blues. Hats off to Samuel Hoffenstein, who said it best:

When you're away I'm restless, lonely,
Wretched, bored, dejected; only
Here's the rub, my darling dear,
I feel the same when you are here.

Is it retirement, or is it constitutional - at least of yours truly - that I have utterly ceased to find myself of interest? Bore myself to tears, I do. Not even the usual interest in the useless bit of esoterica.

Mina says I'm depressed, which I find depressing. She ought to know me better. Says I ought to volunteer somewhere, make myself useful. She really ought to know me better. I'm of the opinion that I just need to sit this out, the acerbic Hoffenstein at my elbow.

Interesting fellow, he was. Wrote scripts for several notable Hollywood movies in the thirties and forties, as well as worked on the score of 'The Gay Divorcee.' Died at the intolerably youthful age of 57, after writing Poems in Praise of Practically Nothing, which includes such entries as "Poems Intended to Incite the Utmost Depression," and "Poems of Passion Carefully Restrained so as to Offend Nobody," from which the above quatrain comes, and the ones below:

Lovely lady, who does so
All my waking haunt,
Tell me, tell me, do you know
What the hell you want?

Lady, to whose feet I'd bring
The world, if I could win it,
Are you sure of anything
For a single minute?

You whose eyes can kindle flame
Only Death could smother,
Tell me, please, does any dame
Differ from another?

Was the apple applesauce
Eve ate in the garden?
Aren't you all a total loss?
No? I beg your pardon!

Such misogyny gives me malicious pleasure. Reminds me of the extent to which I begrudge Mina's self-satisfaction. The fact is, I cannot be her. Don't have the energy. Wouldn't mind figuring out, though, how I might like myself half so much as I like her.

Enough lugubriosity from yours truly. Here's some more from Hoffenstein.

Little by little we subtract
Faith and Fallacy from Fact,
The Illusory from the True,
And starve upon the Residue.

What is the sense in tears or laughter?
The Root of things is what we're after:
But fallen trees will spill their fruit
And worms and darkness keep the root.

Fallen days will spill their sun,
But paper heavens must be won,
And so, while we geometrize,
A bird out-twits us, twice as wise.

Mere matter is not all of marrow;
The harvest leaps not from the harrow,
And a push-button will not light
Joy by day, or stars by night.

Humour Me

Just as I predicted, I'm moving out from my subfusc funk and returning to my (rather more) voluble, irascible self. Not in the sense of quick to anger, of course. Know better than that, what with Mina's tight leash. But testy. Choleric. You can guess which of the above depicted four humours personally applies.

On second thought, perhaps not. Seems to me none of them looks particularly agreeable, and they might all be choleric for all I know.

The Four Humours, as the ancients called them and the British spelled it. Sanguine, choleric, melancholic and phlegmatic. Think Tigger, Owl, Eyeore and Winnie-the-Pooh. Or Paul, John, George and Ringo. Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter, for a more naturalistic analogy. You know who you are.

The point is, the physical body is prima facie where personality is concerned. And we can do no better than to start with that most enviable of all productions, urine. Youth takes that, and other reflexive pleasures, far too much for granted, the gush being assumed to be as reliable as Ol' Faithful.

Ah, the things in youth we take for granted.

Advanced medical technology, for instance. We see below the process of analyzing humoral imbalance through urinalysis, the illustration suggesting (we presume) degrees of viability in the piss department from the 12th or 13th centuries ("full of piss and vinegar" being another useful description of the boisterous vitality that on my most choleric of days I daresay I convey). Personally I would prefer a little more precision in the diagnostic process.

And am I talking about the prostate? Certainly not my own, since it would be none of your business. Though if we're to believe the advertisement below, there is a civic responsibility in managing one's exocrene glands.

Quite frankly it appears to me his bigger problem is... her.

Well, if worse comes to worse we can do no worse than to repair ourselves to, yes, the Holy Bible, wherein a certain Dr. Don Colbert assures us remedies can be found.

Likewise menopause, although Mina (it was Minapause when she went through it) is quick to add menopause is its own cure and none other is needed.

Turns out there's a Bible cure for everything from ADD to PMS and yeast infections. Have to wonder if perhaps this Dr. Colbert may have some relation to St. Stephen, as seen below.

Distemper and its cures aside, the fact is I don't especially like the summer. Too fat and full of itself. Fruition's a bore. Give me speculated potential - even spent potential - anything but the complacent prime of life. Mina says it's because I'm not a true choleric, but a "wanna be." Says I'm a sanguine with a "wanna be choleric complex."

What she's doing subscribing to fifth-century diagnoses in the first place is beyond me, but when confronted she said she was merely "humoring" me.



Time we addressed the Miracles of St. Mina, depicted somewhat facetiously above (the miracles, not Mina), and whose inventiveness in the Animals Humanizing Prisons Movement (AHPM) is chief among the reasons I have personally forsaken all others. Well, that and the fact that there's a decided lack of romantic interest in me on the part of anyone over the age of eight and with less than four legs.

As you may know, there has been considerable success using a variety of animals in partnership with prison populations. Dogs, dolphins, birds, rabbits and horses have all greatly facilitated the HAB (human-animal bond) that gives rise to the possibility that those who are incarcerated might find greater pleasure in tending a relationship than tormenting it. Clearly there is a statistically perceived benefit in fostering such human-animal bonds, in that it lowers the recidivism rate by about fifty percent.

It's Mina's idea that these bonds need not be limited to the above animals. She has devised a system whereby inmates both self-identify their preferred 'totem' animal as well as ultimately are given an animal to take care of that would be the equivalent of their 'higher self.' This process of successful identification and nurture of what are often two different species becomes criteria for conditional release.

Questions abound, of course, particularly in the matter of practicalities. Suppose, for instance, some felon chooses a Komodo dragon as his totem animal of choice. One can hardly argue on behalf of the pragmatics of raising a 160-lb. flesh-eating reptile in captivity.

Mina recommends a different tack, however. She agrees it would be a cold day in hell before any prison in its right mind took on the challenges of hosting Komodo dragons. No, for Mina the point is once the 'totem' animal has been self-identified, the inmate's task is then to explore the significance of everything there is to know about the species. Young Komodo dragons, for instance, are at great risk of being eaten by cannibalistic adult Komodos, for whom their young is about ten percent of their total diet. Komodos are nonetheless able to successfully pair bond as well as bond with their human captors. Therapeutically this opens the question of which adult humans "cannibalized" the inmate. Which ones were exceptions. The idea is that the felon might be better able to understand himself through the imagery of an animal than through direct self- and other-observation.

Talk therapy has its limitations, as the picture below so reasonably demonstrates.

Yawn. Enough of Mina's miracles and now to the more distilled wonders of Jim Beam. It is, after all, 4:30 on a sultry summer afternoon. Inspires an "Ah, PM!" of my own.


'Mina and I Promenade' - courtesy of Chagall

It is Mina's opinion that I am of late lost (according to her estimations that is to say the last 68 years) in the labyrinth of my subfusc mind. Says I need to get out. Attentive readers (of which I am certain there is at least one) will note this is my second use of the otherwise obscure term subfusc in as many posts. Well, to repeat oneself in the prime of life is a humiliation; in one's senescence it can be revenge.

But I digress. Out. I pressed her on her definition, getting in return a disquisition on the possibilities, among which was the dreaded spectre of volunteering. When I reminded her that in the event of having to volunteer advice I have at my disposal exactly two responses - Get over it, or the more benignly muttered, This too shall pass - she admitted the error of her ways. "Go for a walk, Hyde," were, I recall, her exact words, as she returned to her manuscript.

Go for a walk, Hyde. Even I, a dunderhead of profound literality, cannot fail to see the nearly poetic irony. You'll note that I'm "Hade" when she is feeling (or I am behaving) more magnanimously, and "Hyde" when she is (or I am) shall we say... in a pique. But for me "go for a walk" and "hide" are typically redundant, unless one is of the promenade disposition, as shown in L. S. Lowry's On the Promenade below.

You can guess which of the irritable fellows is I.

Laurence Steven Lowry. There's a fellow. Died in 1976 at the age of 88. Called Laurie by the sickly and probably insufferable mother who had originally been hoping for a daughter such as the "three splendid ones" her sister had. Arguably a mildly overrated artist (there's an entire museum devoted to him in the city of Salford in Greater Manchester, England), but most certainly an underrated humorist. When asked about his interest in art he replied, "Started when I was fifteen. Don't know why. Aunt said I was no good for anything else, so they may as well send me to art school." He described his father as a man who "realized he had a life to live and did his best to get through it."

My favorite anecdote about him, however, is that he kept a suitcase by the front door so that when uninvited guests dropped by he could claim to be on his way to the train station.

Appears to be of the stoic and schizoid generation to which I have attached myself.

But out, Mina advised. The door. And in need, perhaps, of a bit of cobweb-sweeping of the mind herself, she took my arm and we took our leave. Our own proMinade.

I repeat: fruition's a bore. The sere, flat, unyielding smugness of a hot summer's day is my idea of the doldrums, though Mina urged that we go in the early evening and approach the shore, where criticisms of sere have less credibility. It was there I took this photograph and wrote the following (it is your task to find the damn bird).

My mind is a noisy crow,
but for once
it has been stilled.

"Why, you are a poet," noted Mina (mincingly, I thought). First time she's given me the nod in that department.

Though she likes what I do with a rhyme, Mina does. And what Coleridge does even better in his own Rime, describing the very real Doldrums in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a geographical region afflicted with the Intertropical Convergence Zone which produces a low-pressure area.

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Talk about take the wind out one's sails. That's for possibly weeks at a time.

Don't have that to complain of. Summer 'round these parts is often confined to a couple of weekends.

Well, Mina was correct in thinking I would be restored to bearable, if not good, humor. Sees me as a tad cantankerous, evidently. I reminded her of my deepest-seated humanistic affiliations as she brought me my early evening whiskey. Like his protégé Sheila Fell said about Lowry:

"He was a great humanist. To be a humanist, one has first to love human beings, and to be a great humanist, one has to be slightly detached from them."

At which point Mina poured the remaining whiskey on my pate.

In Need of Greater Guidance, Honey

Questions have been asked as to exactly what would constitute a viable "higher self" totem animal in prison populations. See the nudiustertian post.

Bet that got your attention.

No nudes, boys. And no nudes is good nudes where my particular physique is concerned.

But to return. It has been asked: just what does Mina prescribe in her program to have inmates choose a totem representing their animal embodiment and then a "higher self" animal? That first part is fairly self-evident, although it does require extensive knowledge of various animal species in order for an individual to select his (or her) totem animal.

Having inmates choose a "higher self" animal, however, is where the real work happens. Raises questions not just of who they are, but who they might ideally be.

Initially Mina worked only with female inmates, whose purported wider corpus callosum allows for greater facility with symbolic thought. I have no quarrel with any argument giving moral superiority to the fair sex (though despite what the Marvelous Mina would seem to demonstrate, intelligence itself is obviously less gender-biased), but research has yet to establish superiority in the female corpus callosum.

Lost you already, have I? Keep up the pace, mate. You're letting yourself slide here.

Corpus callosum. A white matter structure connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres. Here's an illustration, for those in need of visual support.

Often regarded as the "seat of the soul," such as there could be said to be one. Descartes was even more specific in locating that particular site, calling the pineal gland, a pea-size gland in the same vicinity as the corpus callosum, the true seat of the soul. You might have heard of it as the third eye pictured above in a mask from Bali.

But I.. tigress, as illustrated in this spectacular photo by Nirmal Ghosh.

Considerations of 'higher animal self' are complex, and better left to a more thorough explication when it isn't quite so close to my afternoon libation. Let it suffice to say it's a process requiring considerably more thought and knowledge than one might expect. You don't just pick a species out of thin air and think you've got it, by Jove. Wouldn't one, for instance, tentatively think the choice of a Greater Honeyguide, Indicator indicator, as one's "higher self" would be a perfectly fine choice?

One would be wrong.

Sounds salutary at the outset. Found in sub-saharan Africa, vital to the subsistence of indigenous groups such as Bushmen who depend on the honey found in the bees' nests where these Honeyguides feed. Even serves that function for ratels, otherwise known as the honey badger.

But what further investigation yields is that it is what is known as a brood parasite, laying each of its eggs in a different nest of another species. That in itself would be merely a case of maternal abandonment. Or euphemistically, distributing the task of rearing among one's community, a wish dear to the heart of any aggrieved parent. However, upon hatching in these hospitable host's nests, the Greater Honeyguide chick has a membranous hook on the bill that "it uses, while still blind and featherless," to kill the host's own offspring.

Heard of bite the hand that feeds you, but murder its young is altogether another matter.

Some "guide" that.

Well, it's time. Off to badger my own honey for a tall glass of Mr. Beam.