Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Napolitano - "Not Terror; Spontaneous Human Combustion"

Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, today reiterated her claim that, in the case of alleged Islamist Abdulmutallib, the Homeland Security system worked, and that the incident surrounding his Christmas arrest had nothing to do with terrorism.

Mr. Abdulmutallib was not a so-called “terrorist” said Secretary Napolitano, encapsulating the word in hand gestures representing quotation marks. “Terrorism” she said, again making the quotation marks, “ceased to exist when President Obama was inaugurated. Even cases of man-caused-disasters,” she continued, “have declined dramatically since the President apologized for American imperialism and made it clear that he wants to have good relationships with everyone.”

Secretary Napolitano made it clear that the real threat to homeland security was right-wing Christian extremists and Civil War re-enactors. “Those people, with their fanatical insistence on home-schooling their children and their outmoded interpretations of the Bill of Rights – they are the ones about whom we are rightfully concerned, and I renew my vow to the American people that they will not prevail. Not on my watch.”

When members of the press continued asking about Abdulmutallib, Napolitano initially tried to laugh off their questions. “What,” she said, “Do all of you work for Fox News?” Columnist David Brooks took offense at this, and reminded the secretary of his behind-the scenes work for Obama’s Information Czar. By way of mea culpa, the Secretary agreed to answer “serious” questions on the matter. Mr. Brooks responded with, “What kind of pants was Mr. Abdulmutallib wearing? And if I could follow up on that, were the legs creased?”

After a series of questions concerning Abdulmutallib’s manner of dress, a reporter asked Secretary Napolitano how, if Abdulmutallib wasn’t attempting to blow up the aircraft, the Department of Homeland Security could explain passengers’ accounts of him bursting into flame.

“Spontaneous Human Combustion,” Napolitano said, “is a mysterious affliction, which modern science is only now beginning to understand. Previously thought to be a myth, SHC was recently proven to be real by scientists at the Department of Homeland Security. While we have gone a long way toward figuring it out, many questions still remain. We still don’t know, for instance, why 99% of documented cases involved young Muslim men, and why the other 1% consists solely of Buddhist monks. Rest assured though, that while our agents are working day and night to protect you from Christian extremists, our scientists are struggling to bring these answers to light.”

Friday, December 25, 2009

Good Dog, Sweetie. 2005 - 2009

Zach texted me the other day, saying, "Please call. Sweetie is dead." I called home and everyone was in tears. Sweetie had been hit by a car and was gone.

If you have been lucky enough to have a dog like Sweetie (and I hope you have) then maybe you know what it's like to lose her. She was a faithful companion, a constant presence, and a member of the family.

The day we brought her home, she let her new big brother, Tiger, know who was boss.

And instead of resenting being put in his place by a puppy half his age, he seemed to benefit from it. He had been hard-headed, scatterbrained, and unmannerly as only a young Labrador Retriever can be, but Sweetie had a calming effect on him.

She never let him forget who was boss, and that seemed to be exactly what he needed. He loved that ball you see between them, but when we threw it, she never let him retrieve it. He had to relinquish it to her and she would bring it back to us.
Our first night in our new home in California, a man stopped his car in front of our house and told me he'd run over a yellow dog. We thought we'd lost her then. (In fact, he'd run over a cat. You can draw your own conclusions about his sobriety.) That sudden grief, so quickly relieved when we found her sleeping in the yard, was nothing compared to what we're feeling now.
She loved the ocean and she loved to swim. Once, on Carmel beach, I threw her ball and she bounded after it into the surf. She grabbed the ball and turned for shore and, strictly by coincidence, caught a wave that carried her to land on its crest. The surfer watching her beside me said, "Dude!" His tone was reverential. I didn't tell him it was an accident. That was our little secret.

When we moved back to Georgia, she loved the pool. She would open the gate for herself and take a little swim whenever the urge caught her.

She loved her people. Here she is with her boy.

She liked sneaking into his room and catching a nap on his bed. She never seemed to mind if the room was a mess. Sometimes, after everyone was asleep, she'd climb in with him. In the morning he'd find himself squeezed into a tiny corner of the mattress and Sweetie would be all stretched out.

And though she may have preferred Zach's bed, she was also happy to share her own with Zoe.

She was easy to please. Whatever you were doing was fine, as long as she could be there with you. Watching TV,

Or going for a ride in the truck.

You were a good dog, Sweetie, and you are sorely missed. But if it's true that dogs go to heaven (and I have to believe it is) we will see you again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Series of Six

Here's a series of paintings I'm finishing up. For a couple of years now, I've had a long, landscape-format frame that's matted for six images sitting in my studio. I'm glad that now I'll have something to put in it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

They're Back! Kronic Mo-Go Fixin' to Bust the Stage at Copenhagen!

Robert "Kronic" Mugabe, from the cover of the album, "Nationalist Suit"

COPENHAGEN –Spokespersons for the international climate talks here have announced that, as has long been suspected, Iranian Prime Minister Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe plan to address negotiators at international climate talks in Copenhagen next week.

What has not been announced officially, but was released exclusively to yours truly, is that the three will speak jointly, using the universal language of gangsta rap. Fans of global-political gansta rap will recall that the three have not shared a microphone since their breakup in 2006, when Ahmadinejad (Mo-jad) stormed off stage during a live performance of their breakout piece, “White Man Infidel Ruined Da World.”

Since that time, each has put out a number of albums, but as solo acts, none of them achieved the acclaim they had enjoyed working together as Kronic Mo-Go. Hugo Chavez (Go-vez) came closest with “Hegemony.” (“You will remember me ‘cause I will dismember thee, as I expand my hegemony, over your periphery.”) Mugabe (Kronic) enjoyed a brief comeback with “Mugabenomics,” after U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (Democrat, California) admitted to plagiarizing his lyrics for a speech she made in favor of the Obama economic recovery plan, but Mo-jad’s “I like my biatches in burkhas” was a complete non-starter.
Mahmoud "Mo-jad" Ahmadinejad, from the "Don' Be Dissin' Me" video

I was privileged to receive an invitation (after proving that I am not Jewish) to attend last night’s rehearsal of the trio’s latest song, which will be made public for the first time in Copenhagen. While I can reveal only those few lines of lyrics that were cleared for early release (“…wi global warmin dey be fryin us, ‘cause dey be Zionusts…”) I can say without equivocation that Kronic Mo-Go is back, and conference attendees are in for a treat.

Previously, Mo-jad’s obvious difficulties with English, and his penchant for going off-script during songs were the group’s Achilles’ heel. He has clearly been working with a coach, however, and now his riffing is disciplined, and his delivery is crisp. He seems also to have improved his sense of rhythm, famously maligned after the breakup by Kronic, who said that, “Underneath dat tan, da mother be seriously white.” Dressed in his trademark nondescript, slightly-too-small suit, wearing a nuclear-symbol medallion hanging from a heavy gold chain, Mo-jad was a force to be reckoned with.

And he was in good company. Go-vez, sporting his familiar Che Guevara T-shirt beneath his Mao jacket, was spot-on, delivering his message with the AK-47 staccato delivery that made him famous all those years ago, and stepping back when he was through, to lay down a onomatopoeia beatbox that sent a thrill down the leg of everyone at the venue.
Hugo "Go-vez" Chavez, from the "Flip the Bird" tour

Of the three though, nobody came close to Kronic (“They call me Kronic, say I’m demonic, ‘cause I do you harm, destroy your farm, I’ll kill your kid, tha’s wha I did, take your economy, your goods upona me, cause you frustration, inflict inflation, destroy the nation, take a vacation, when I come back, renew my attack, ya think I done, I just begun…”) who began the show dressed in much the same fashion as Mo-jad, but by the end, through four rapid costume changes, finished in an outfit that resembled a Zulu warrior auditioning for the Blue Man Group. His performance featured his familiar frenzied delivery, (Being in his 90’s hasn’t slowed him down a bit. Is it true that he’ll live forever?) for which crunking is no longer an apt description. He positively vibrated on the stage, until at one point, when he paused for a quick breather, his manager rushed to his side with a long cape, resplendent with the feathers of gorgeous endangered species of birds, which he threw over Kronic’s shoulder in a master showman’s reference to the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown.

Lest you think I have lost the keen critic’s senses that got me where I am today, lest you think I am awestruck, and just babbling, let me tell you that I was not the only person in that small and privileged audience who was moved by the power, the savagery, represented by these three artists. None other than the President of the United States was in attendance, and so moved was he by the spectacle, that at its conclusion, he bowed repeatedly to the figures on the stage.

Yes, of all the entertainment scheduled for the conference in Copenhagen, (and I mean ALL of it – comedians, clowns, illusionists - ) I predict that none will capture the attention and imagination of Ahmadinejad, Chavez, and Mugabe. Kronic Mo-Go is more than back, more than a band, more than a movement. They are the symbol of the future.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Camping in the Desert (Updated)

Our first night out both cars hit soft sand, just as we were getting to our campground. Rather than have the last rays of sun for setting up camp, we worked until dark digging the cars out. Thank goodness for shovels and sand ladders.

That night the wind picked up and blew sand relentlessly. It wasn't a zero-visibility, can't-breathe-because-of-the-sand, kind of sand storm, but it was enough to blow these drifts around our landcruiser.

The next morning I climbed a dune and took this picture of our campsite. The landcruiser was just uphill of this, pointing down so we could benefit from the headlights as we set up camp.

Once we got moving we noticed two things about the acacia trees we came across. First, almost every one of them had a camel skeleton beneath it.

Second, almost every one of them had a hawk or eagle nest atop it.

And guess what this is - that's right; it's another camel hair ball. This one isn't mineralized, so it hasn't become a bezoar stone like the one I mention a couple posts below. This one was fuzzy like a tennis ball and not completely round.

Here's our camp site for the rest of the trip.
Notice how both cars are sitting on top of the sand, instead of under it. The wind died down and the rest of the trip was celebrated with almost totally sand-free meals. Speaking of meals, you can see Scott and Paul setting up the field kitchen. To the right, almost out of the picture, you can see our camp fire, just waiting for darkness and a match.

This was the sunrise the following morning. Morning, Evening, middle of the night, the sky was spectacular. The moon was full while we were out, and so bright it cast sharp shadows. After it set though, the stars came out in that profusion that I've seen only in deep deserts. I awoke, once, to head for the designated potty dune, and was rewarded by a couple shooting stars that left dazzling streaks across the the sparkling sky. I'd forgotten, living as I do in a land where the night sky is diminished by artificial light, that absent that man-made illumination, the stars actually do twinkle, and appear in a variety of colors. The rediscovery was well worth whatever price I paid in loss of sleep.

I meant to smile. I thought I was smiling. I was having a great time. Really.

I think I was concentrating on aiming the camera. That's a look of concentration, not a scowl. No wonder people sometimes think I'm angry with them when I'm not. I'll have to work on that.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Tonight's Painting

I know I said I'd post pictures from my trip into the desert, but instead, all you're getting is this photo of my latest painting.
Disappointed? I'll cheerfully refund your money.
By the way, if you're in Riyadh or the surrounding environs, I'll be hosting an exhibit of my paintings on the 9th of December. Drop by and do some Christmas shopping.

Friday, December 04, 2009

How I Spent My Hajj Season

It's been Hajj season, which means the embassy was closed. Two colleagues and I took advantage of the opportunity to get out of Riyadh and enjoy some desert camping. I'll be posting about that soon ( I hope - it depends on how long it takes to get caught up at work.) but in the mean time, here's a look at a painting I'm finishing up:

As you can see, this is a reworking of the photo of two men at the hawk souk, which I posted below. I've taken the men out of the souk and put them in the desert, where they are preparing for a hunt, and I've taken the cell phone from the man on the left and given him a bird instead. I still have some work to do on the faces, but I'm nearly there.

Before I go, here's one more desert photo: