Monthly Archives: November 2011

Barnacle Bill

frontera grill corn

I was reading and thinking about the Mars Science Lab which launched today on an Atlas rocket. Specifically I was imaging the landing sequence, which will take place hopefully next August. I remember learning about the challenge of landing there on Nova. Testing the parachute in Earth’s largest wind tunnel and computer animation of touchdown with the rovers bubblelized by airbags. The new rover is five times bigger than those. After parachuting into thin Mars’ air, half the capsule will separate by rocket blast and sky crane the rover to a wheels down landing.


The first Mars rover was king of low cost space exploration. All the rocks it photographed were named. The scientists on these missions plucked names from historical record or just their neighbors’ cat. The teams were pressed to name all that they discovered. Some of the rocks and other geographical features were named Mayan words. Two of the six cradles of civilization were in the Americas. Those people came from those who crossed the land bridge in the height of the ice age. After the animals died off they bred corn from 1 to 5 cm to way over 10 cm. I see a natural pattern emerges from farming, the written word, the naming of all the rocks on Mars. To take it a step further- at the height of the next ice age we cross the land bridge between cold seas, bring the animals to life, and relearn the names of rocks.

Jack Qua All Trades

bringing back taxanrig

I called Mike’s Hair Design In and asked how long is the wait. Come right over, was the reply. When I got there, all the chairs were taken. The chief barber (Mike himself?) said Mr. Jack would take care of me. A bearded, round old man in the very back of the shop slowly rose and motioned my way.

He buzzed the sides, scissored the top and straight razored my neck, all in total silence. After showing me the back with a mirror, he spoke. In a softly rasping voice, he asked, “What’s your name?” I told him it was Arthur. He whispered back, “My name is Jack.” I paid up and left.

Ocher Room

Mother child reunion 3rdarm

We took Etta’s mom to King Spa, a Korean style bath and sauna, for her first massage. I took off all my clothes, went up to the changing room attendant, and trying to be confident, said, “I’m nude.” He continued to look away and said, “You’re new? Here’s what you do…” I impulsively got myself a body scrub, massage (by older Korean man), a triangle of cooked tuna wrapped in seaweed, a large rice drink called sickhae (described on King Spa website as, “cold rice drink blend in traditional Korean style with steamed rice and powdered malt,”) and a hot seaweed soup. Then I went into the ocher room and fell asleep.

Sun king 3rdarm

I skipped the Fire Sudatorium, Pyramid Room, Salt Room, Ice Room, Bul Ga Ma, Charcoal Room, Amethyst Room and Base Rock Room, in favor of the Ocher (mud) Room. It’s right next to the cafe. I fell asleep to the rattle of silverware, and the din of people speaking faraway and close by.

Melon heads

Smiling gatherer 3rdarm

When I was little my mom, Aunt Judy, Kate and I went on a buggy tour of the dunes in Provincetown and we got stuck in the sand. That same day, I had purchased a wooden orca at Mystic Moon. I prayed on it to get the buggy moving again, and it worked. This week I bought a wooden snake at an antique store on the Red Arrow Highway in Michigan. Then I drove my car right into the sand at Warren Dunes. The car was stuck. It was getting dark. I called triple A, and it worked. We got out of there right before the melon heads attacked.

Sand trap

Marcia said that when times get tough, you gather sticks.

How the huge variety of birds in the world deal with day-to-day existence

Lula cafe 3rdarm

I got into a trifecta of bird stuff lately. First my friend Meghan mailed me a book of 200 bird songs. It took me a while to buy the right batteries, but once I did the book filled my life with songs. Although to me they sound a lot alike. There is not for example any bird that sings in auto tune. Around the same time and perhaps inspired by the gift, I started watching the BBC documentary series that I’ve chronicled on this blog, the unbelievable Life of Birds by David Attenborough. I forgot the third part of the trifecta. It’s not a perfect triangle. Birds creep into my life in all kinds of ways. Chuck himself talked me out of chicken fried chicken at Chuck’s Southern Comforts and Voodoo Lounge, and pointed me to the unbelievable (not bird) chili.

Marcia on the computer 3rdarm

Etta reminded me what the third leg of the stool is. The recent film, The Big Year, that I really want to see. It’s based on a book called, The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession, by Mark Obmasci. I heard about it on NPR.

Meat Eaters, Part 2

USA 3rdarm

I had nightmares the other night, probably because I had to urinate. Etta says she gets up several times to urinate each night. I wonder how common that is, and if straight sleepers like myself are in the minority. All I know is if I don’t urinate before bed, there’s a chance of nightmares.

white house 3rdarm

In the dream I was a fluffy white shearwater chick, nestled warmly underground in the nest my parents dug for me in New Zealand. My contentment is interrupted by the scrape of talons digging. Two large brown kea parrots, smart and aggressive, pull me from my cocoon, rip me apart and eat me.

As the Eagle Approaches

Its Kale 3rdarm

Here in the rainforests of Trinidad there’s an almost unbroken ceiling of leaves above me. No bird, flying in the clouds above that, could possibly see a piece of meat like this lying on the forest floor. But this is an extremely smelly piece of meat.

Let me hide it meat 3rdarm

Let me hide it. I can keep watch from a hill that rises above the canopy. Not a bird in sight. But there’s one, a turkey vulture. And another. You can tell it’s a turkey vulture because its naked head is not black like the other kind.

-David Attenborough, in episode four, Meat Eaters, of his ten part 1998 BBC nature documentary, Life of Birds

Mendota, Monona and Wingra

Frautschi point 3rdarm

I took a trip to Madison with Etta to sell some jewelry and we stayed overnight in a motel. She went to sleep and I stayed up super late watching HBO, smoking pot and eating snacks. The next morning we went to Bagels Forever where for some reason the counter guy refused my two dollar tip. He then almost mixed up my order. I got a cornmeal – jalapeño bagel and a salt bagel, both toasted with cream cheese, and a chocolate chip bagel. Etta got an everything. In the parking lot I took a call from a local number. It was the motel manager saying he suspected i smoked in the room. The smoke detector was ripped off the wall and a cigar wrapper was in the waste basket. Impossible, I countered. He cited Wisconsin law and informed me that I was barred from staying at the motel in the future. Etta was apoplectic. I replied that the smoke detector was like that when we got there, I never smoke cigars and my girlfriend had discovered a rogue red condom on the TV table. That room hadn’t been properly cleaned! I barked. The wisconsin man heard me out and hung up. Minutes later I got a call back. The manager found the red condom where i said it was. He apologized and comped the overnight stay. It’s not a black and white world. You win some you lose some.


next door to Jay's Adult Bookstore 3rdarm

“Kids don’t plan to play,” she told her class in the first day. “They don’t go: ‘Barbie, Ken, you ready to play? It’s gonna be a three-act.’ ” Narrative, Barry believes, is so hard-wired into human beings that creativity can come as naturally to adults as it does to children. They need only to access the deep part of the brain that controls that storytelling instinct. Barry calls that state of mind “the image world” and feels it’s as central to a person’s well-being as the immune system.

To explain, she told a story about the neuroscientist V. S. Ramachandran, who helps patients experiencing phantom-limb pain. Barry discussed one patient who felt that his missing left hand was clenched in a fist and could never shake the discomfort — could never “unclench” it.

So Ramachandran used a mirror box — a compartment into which the patient could insert his right hand and see it reflected at the end of his left arm. “And Ramachandran said, ‘Open your hands.’ And the patient saw this” — Barry opened two clenched fists in unison. “That’s what I think images do.

“I think that in the course of human life,” she continued softly, “we have events that cause” — she clenched her fist and held it up, inspecting it from all angles. “Losing your parents might cause it. Or a war. Or things going bad in a family.”

The only way to open that fist, she said, is to see your own trouble reflected in an image, as the patient saw his hand reflected in a mirror. It might be a story you write, or a book you read, or a song that means the world to you. “And then?” She opened her hand and waved.

-from the NYT Magazine story, Cartoonist Lynda Barry Will Make You Believe In Yourself, by Dan Kois