Tuesday, January 31, 2006

From April 18th through April 29th, 2005, in preparation for conceptual design of the new Norton Sound regional hospital in Nome, Alaska, the design team of Robert Lober, Mike Smith, Anne Schopf, JoAnn Wilcox and Duncan Davidson of Mahlum Architects traveled to the villages of Brevig Mission, Elim, Unalakleet, St. Michael, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Gambell, Savoonga and Shishmaref in the Bering Strait region of Alaska. In visits with elders, students, leaders, healthcare staff and the villages at large, our intention was to gain a deeper understanding of the values, traditions and challenges facing the region's people and to obtain a deep appreciation of the integration of this rich culture with the physical place. These insights will be carried in the hearts and minds of the design team as we form and shape the place of healing and community that is to be the new Norton Sound regional hospital. The following is a collection of villagers' stories and images with observations from the team. From Moon of the Bird Sling.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Our assistant principal emailed us this the other day:

Boogles Johnson came and spoke with several students yesterday. Here is some of what he shared. He could be available to come into classes to teach about Native Youth Olympics (NYO) and/or hunting. If you're interested in having him come in, let me know.

Focus on your school work. I have to study on my own because I didn’t pay attention in school. You need to learn about it now. I’ve been hunting all my life. You have to be cautious with everything you do. If you’re hunting in the winter and you start sweating, you may freeze if you drive a snow machine. Native games are a direct reflection of hunting. If you do good, excel, you’ll go places. When you get out of school, reading is important, whether a manual or learning about how to do your job, it’s really important.

The students of Nome-Beltz High School.

Our mascot, the Nome Nanook (polar bear).

Some of the boys' basketball team, introduced by Lieudell Goldsberry.

More native dancing. I found to my chagrin that the boys and girls do different dances at the same time. We teachers had to go up to do it too and I unknowingly followed the girl dancers. (I am not pictured).

The boys really move during the eskimo dancing. Behind these boys are some elders singing and beating the drum. I wish I could play some eskimo singing through this website.

During the assembly for the new gym, we were treated to some eskimo dancing by the native youths or the area and some elders. The girls here are wearing traditional kuspuks.

We officially opened the new gym a couple of weeks ago and held a little pep assembly for the girls' and guys' basketball teams. This is a picture of our cheerleaders. Note how empty our new gym looks.

Eskimo Heritage Reader part 1

An Eskimo Heritage Reader

Stories from the Bering Straits Elders

Developed by Kawerak Adult Basic Education, Nome, December 1987


Since 1979, Kawerak has sponsored an annual Elder’s Conference, bringing together Bering Straits elders to share their knowledge and experience. The proceedings have been recorded, translated into English, and transcribed. Under the Eskimo Heritage Project, village elders have contributed more material: legends, life histories, and traditional lore. This rich archive, the Eskimo Heritage Collection, is now preserved for future generations of Eskimo people.

This reader has been developed by the Kawerak Adult Basic Education staff as part of our literacy outreach program. These stories were chosen because of their interest and appeal to adult learners in this area. We have tried to preserve the style and charm of the original speaker, while simplifying the language for the new reader. We hope that they will be enjoyed by all readers of all ages.
--Anne Will, editor, December 1987

Personally, I would like to note that I am reproducing this for educational and informational purposes only. Please remember that I don’t make any money whatsoever off this personal website.

Speak the Truth by Job Kokochuruk of White Mountain

I believe that the root of success lies in the proper teaching of our young people. They missed out on the kagri teaching of long ago. They have gotten away from the old values.
The first lesson should be about words. How important it is to watch your words. That is the first step in attaining success in this world. That’s the lesson they taught us long ago. Secondly, don’t talk badly to anything or any animal. That includes your tools. If you do, they won’t help you. Those were the rules.
Today people talk any old way. They don’t watch their mouths. If something doesn’t go right for young people today, they swear at it. They say it’s a bum piece and curse it. Well, Eskimos believe that if a man talks badly to his tools, they will go against him all his life. You should talk positively to anything that is under you. Then it will help you.
That’s what the young people today don’t know. They think they’re going to have good luck in life. They think that they can do whatever they see and that they will become famous. They don’t know that the first thing a man has to conquer is his own mouth and hands and thinking. No matter how much he wants to succeed, he will fall down without this lesson.
These young people don’t watch their words. They talk proudly. They swear at anything. They even swear at their own clothes! They use words they should never speak. These young people speak lightly of time. They have no patience. That’s a poor, poor attitude for a hunter. But that’s what our young people think.
This earth, the elders say, is governed by an unseen being. Whatever you say or do will come back to you. That is the main lesson I learned from the Eskimos long ago. If you talk carelessly, you will learn your lesson. If you speak proudly, you will face a time when you must prove whether your words are true or not. You might be confronted by a bear and that bear’s going to test you.
I was taught that I should go out to the water hole early in the morning and open it up for the old people. If I do that, then the things I want will happen. It might be success as a hunter. Today, it might be a job. But if I follow the teaching of the elders it will come to me. And I won’t have to wait very long.
Nowadays, young people wait for the elders to open the water hole. They are ruled by objects now. They’re overpowered by them. They have no control. No matter how much money they have to spend, our Eskimos will never attain success until they first conquer their thinking.
By Job Kokochuruk of White Mountain

From Moon of the Bird Sling:

I have lots of good stories, I do.
I have lots of stories...I have lots to tell...

--Betty Segock, Elim

The picture is Norton Sound from St. Michael

We got this book in our teacher mailboxes the other day. It is a plain white cover with some raised words as the title of the book: Moon of the Bird Sling. The cover also has the native words "tengiirvik," "lluuvik," and "natchiaqtuvik." This is a book about the area from the Norton Sound Health Corporation that serves the communites around Nome, Alaska. It is very interesting and includes lots of local customs, beliefs, and sayings. I hope over the next week or two to scan a lot of it to share. By the way, I know that "lluuvik" means the month of April.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

more Whitman poetry

Eventually, I will post all of Leaves of Grass. I really started to enjoy it for the first time when I took that Whitman class.

} To Foreign Lands

I heard that you ask'd for something to prove this puzzle the New World,
And to define America, her athletic Democracy,
Therefore I send you my poems that you behold in them what you wanted.

} To a Historian

You who celebrate bygones,
Who have explored the outward, the surfaces of the races, the life
that has exhibited itself,
Who have treated of man as the creature of politics, aggregates,
rulers and priests,
I, habitan of the Alleghanies, treating of him as he is in himself
in his own rights,
Pressing the pulse of the life that has seldom exhibited itself,
(the great pride of man in himself,)
Chanter of Personality, outlining what is yet to be,
I project the history of the future.

Ya gotta love old time comics. There is a certain magic in them. Anything can happen and often does.

When I was a kid, I loved He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. I don't know which I saw first, the action figure or the old cartoon. I remember rushing home off the bus to watch the cartoon on old WFLD TV in Chicago, way before it became a FOX affiliate. I remember the old action figures. One time, my He-Man broke-the rubber band that held his legs snapped-any my mom helped me write a letter to Mattel. I ended up getting a brand new He-Man in the mail.

He-Man's world was filled with swords and sorcery yet also filled with technology and laser guns. It gave me my first understanding and taste of different dimensional planes and alternate planets.

Plus, it was just so damn cool. The character named Trap Jaw had parts to switch. Tri-Klops had three eyes. Zodak was cool as just this strange "reality caretaker." Skeletor has to be one of the coolest-looking villains ever. I fell in love with the one girl figure in the bunch: Teela. They all came with cool little mini-comics, obviously one of the precursors to my love of comic books in total. He-Man ended up being my crossover into the world of comic books. (That and Transformers as the comic book started way back in 1984.)

Not too long ago over winter break, I did a search for "good old comics." It amazes me what you find when you change your search terms up a bit. I came across this website that scanned all the old mini-comics! They are in jpeg format but you can use the CBR (Comic Book Reader) program to view them in large format in sequential pages, like a book.

So I downloaded them to relive those days of being seven to ten years old again. They also had the old DC Comics three-issue limited series that I remember reading too although I have no idea what happened to those old comics. Maybe they were in the same box that my sports cards were in that my mom threw away one day. She thought they were a jumbled mess and didn't know I was in the process of organizing them. Remember sorting sports cards and Star Wars cards? You could look at them all by mixing them up and then starting piles for 1-9, 10-19, 20-29, etc, and then arranging them. Could even find doubles for trading that way. This might be another reason I am anal retentive about little messes and order on some of the small things because I might have been afraid that my mother was going to throw away my stuff. But I digress.

This first comic isn't actually the first DC comic of He-Man. He appeared in a preview with Superman in DC Comics Presents and then as a solo feature in the same magazine a few issues later. I have those. This one starts the real magic of the He-Man universe that was strong and rich.

First of all, we get to see all of the classic characters like Man-At-Arms, Stratos, and Teela. Teela is the daughter of Man-At-Arms but is not dressed like the old figure. That is the snake-outfit that the Sorceress wears, the protector of Castle Grayskull and the two-halves of the Sword of Power. The neat part here is that Skeletor has a great plan of using He-Man to find the other half of the Power Sword that is been flung among the dimensions. He-Man starts to unravel a mystery of prophecy and portents and talismans to find the sword in order to save the life of the captive Sorceress.

One of the great things here is the dialogue. He-Man and Skeletor both use speech with words like "ere" and "e'er." It sounds like those great old Thor comics. It took some mind power to read this stuff.

There is wizardry and flying birdmen, talking Battlecat and hordes of Beastmen (not just one Beast-Man).

The quest has begun. A great comic book.

Madison got into her mom's lipstick this morning.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Madison tries out for American Idol as we watched it last week.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dynamic Forces is a place that sells comic collectibles. They specialize in signed comics. I check it out in case they have any Superman or anything cool. The latest top artist is Michael Turner. I saw this picture of his signed comic and I was amazed at one thing: his letter M looks a lot like mine when I sign my name. I was shocked. It ain't exact, but it does have that loop on the final hump of the M and the front of the M isn't attached. I remember my Spanish teacher in college looking at the scraggly script and not being able to pronounce it. She actually wrote it on the board and I noticed it instantly.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Walk Across the World

I met this guy today.

His name is Karl Bushby and he wants to be the first one to walk with unbroken steps from the bottom tip of South America all the way back to his home country of England. His website says, "It is possible to journey by foot from the southern most point of South America back to England and leave behind you an unbroken trail of footprints!"

He seemed like a nice gentleman. He's my age, 33, and he's from Yorkshire, England. Since my dad was born in that area, we had a bit to talk about. He has already been walking for six years. He finally got to Nome a few days ago. I bumped into him in the teacher's lounge as he was waiting to talk to the high school journalism class.

His next step is to cross the Bering Strait. This is the shortest point to Russia and there is a lot of ice on the sea now. He said what he can't walk he actually has to swim a bit. Our school website says, "The distance across the Bering Strait from Siberia to Alaska's Seward Peninsula is approximately 55 miles, and for several periods during the Pleistocene Ice Ages the trip could be made entirely on land instead of water. During additional periods, the passage from Siberia to North America could also have been made by small watercraft moving along coastlines."

Hilariously, some of the teachers at lunch were saying good luck and going about their business. One teacher told me that every other year or so somebody comes through here thinking they are going to walk right across a nice little patch of ice. She talked about pressure ridges where the ice buckles together like the Himalayan Mountains. Remember, this is the bloody ocean. There will be a lot that is not frozen solid and almost unpassable. He says he may have to go even further north in order to make the cross, and if he does that, he has to go across way more than 55 miles. Yeah, 55 miles is nothing--it's an hour's car ride at 55 mph. Nothing. However, my mom wouldn't let me play on the ice on the little pond out back growing up half the time. That was a pond in the back yard. This is the ocean that Bushby is trying to cross on foot.

I think it is an amazing accomplishment, even though I couldn't imagine talking six years and still not being near done. If he does cross, he has to walk across Siberia and Asia, for Pete's sake. Look at a map. He's got at least six more years.

That's if he crosses. Apparently, no one has ever done it from this side. Two people supposedly did it from Russia to Alaska a few years ago but they got lucky with the icefloes. There is some kind of current issue one way or the other. The other teacher kind of shook her head and wished him well, thinking to herself that he'll never make it. People have come before, some with contraptions and vehicles and still couldn't do it.

It was interesting to meet this guy along his trek though. Just imagine that time though--six years so far. I think about what I've done in the last six years and try to put a time commitment on that. This is not just a month's vacation. This isn't even walking across the United States. I look at a map and I just think to myself that there's no flippin way.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Hitchcock Review: Psycho

Popped this one into the old VCR tonight. Only Hitchcock can create a roller coaster of suspense throughout a movie. This director makes a seeminginly simple thing like a police car following the starring character to be the scariest thing ever. Nothing ever comes of it. The police car pulls off. The roller coaster ride goes up and barely ever comes down.

But when that roller coaster does come down, he makes the moment one of the most memorable of all the cinema. The shower scene.

The greatest thing about this movie from 1960 is the switch. It starts with a woman (Janet Leigh) who up and decides to steal from her boss of ten years and run away to be with the man she loves, who just happens to be married. At first, we don't even think she is stealing the money. We realize it after we see her driving on for a while. The main focus switches because for what seems to be the only time in the movies, the main character that we started the movie with and stayed with for at least 40 minutes gets killed. Our heroine gets killed. How many times have we said to ourselves that it would be a really short movie if the good guy got killed off so early. It happens here.

The fact that it is a psychopath is even more interesting. We don't know anything about Norman Bates other than the fact that he is a hen-pecked son, or thinks he is. Hitchcock sells the multiple personalities quite well. Repeated viewings show Norman Bates never lies when he is talking to the woman. In fact, he tells more than he should. "She's [mother] as harmless as one of those stuffed birds," Norman Bates tells the recent guest of his hotel. He is telling the truth as we find out later. I didn't think they were one and the same person until the end and I don't know how anyone could tell.

I'm not going to say that every frame is perfectly brilliant. I think that the ending explanation is a tad long and drawn out. I think this may have been necessary to moviegoers in 1960 who have not been bombarded by Sybils and other examples of multiple personalities like Ed Norton's character in Primal Fear over and over again in the 45 years since. Take it as a fascinating roller coaster trip that does not let up. Hell, when you watch Norman clean up the shower after his mother's atrocious deed, it is still suspensful. It is a remarkable journey that will always be placed near the top of the list of a movie devotee's favorites.

Interesting fact: Know what won Best Picture for 1960? The Apartment starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine and directed by Billy Wilder. I've never heard of it before tonight. Wilder won Best Director that year too. I'm going to have to rent that one on Netflix to see what the Academy was thinking there.

Love Monkey

I watched the second episode of this new CBS show Love Monkey starring Tom Cavanagh tonight. It was by accident that I watched the pilot episode last week. I was at the computer and too distracted to change the channel. Then I started watching it. I am kind of enamored of this show.

Maybe it's the star, Tom Cavanagh. I'm not particularly fond of him, but somehow he has won me over. I liked him in Ed on NBC a few years ago (I started watching that show when we were on our West Wing kick and got into that show too, until the two leads fell for each other romantically). He's got a guy-next-door charm. He looks like an average guy, maybe because he isn't one of those pretty boys.

I somehow like the way that the dialogue is fast-paced. I admire that the show is actually based on a music producer and doesn't spend an inordinate amount of time talking about finding "the true love of your life." That's there only in passing. That does not consume the show. It has other influencing to do on you. It seems to be saying that there may be a little love involved later but only in small doses. I hope it keeps to that. That was what killed Ed. The show started acting like the romantic involvement of its characters was the only thing important in the universe.

It also has a message about good music. Ben Folds did a cameo appearance tonight, as did Leann Rimes. It talks intelligently about music. When they mention that one of Bob Dylan's best songs is "Visions of Johanna," it takes some musical IQ to know what they're talking about. (And it is a damn good song.)

So this show has me so far. Good thing is that it is on Tuesday nights after American Idol and there is nothing else to watch anyway. (Remember, we get into American Idol in this family, especially the first part of the season when they're making fun of people that can't sing. It cracks me up.) I will keep watching it.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I am 33 years old today.

I am not complaining.I am not going to say, "I feel old." I honestly believe my life is pretty damn good right now.

Every action leads to others. I would not have turned one way if I hadn't already gone down another street. I feel that with all the twists, turns, leads, and dead ends that I have come to the best place that Matt Butcher should be.

I love my wife. We have such a rapport. I can talk to her about the goofiest things and about serious things. She doesn't think I'm dumb for comic books and still wanting a Transformers wrist watch. She doesn't think I'm dumb when we differ on opinions politically and philosophically (even though we really don't disagree that much). I think that she's absolutely beautiful and a wonderful person.

Now I have two daughters who, as Amy once said, are my "sunrise and sunset." How did I get so lucky to have two smart kids, two beautiful kids, and two people that I genuinely want to spend time with? That's how much of a lucky bastard I am.

I have a full time job teaching. While I complain sometimes, it really is the best job. I don't get dirty. I have lots of time off. Yeah, sometimes I feel like a chef baking a cake without the ingredients but all in all, when it all comes down, when some kids show that spark of learning, it really does make it all worthwhile. And usually when I complain, I am unfortunately complaining about less than 10% of the kids. That isn't fair. It works. You should see these kids getting into memorizing their Shakespeare speech and the media literacy unit that we're doing. Great stuff.

So even though I turn 33 today, I look back and see all the cool things that I've done in my life. I think about all the cool people that I've known that helped me turn left or right. I think about all the experiences that have filled my brain with knowledge.

The point is that when I woke up this morning, I was happy. I smiled. Then I realize that I do that every morning.

Smile and face the world.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Now that's what I call a layover.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Curb Your Enthusiasm

I finally watched my first episode of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO last night. I knew that he was the other writing half behind Seinfeld but I somehow never watched the show. I tried watching a rerun of Seinfeld but then realized that I had seen this episode about 800 times already. It was time for something new. However, I don't like a lot of sitcoms. It takes me forever to get used to a new show. I wanted something just like Seinfeld. I originally think the show didn't appeal to me when I tuned in a couple times part way through the show and either didn't know what was going on or couldn't laugh because there was no laugh track. I hate myself for thinking that I needed a laugh track.

I tuned in to the beginning of the show. I still didn't know what I was in for. It still took me a while to get used to it. I stuck with it and you know what? I loved it. I haven't laughed so hard since I saw the episode of the British sitcom Coupling where Jeff tries to say he has a fake leg just to get a girl. (More on that one later.)

It was funny. It was exactly the same types of character rolled in to this series as Seinfeld. Larry David is actually a combination of George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld from the show. He possessed the same kind of cold, callous behavior toward the rest of humanity.

And with it being on HBO, it was able to be even funnier. Just imagine that famous episode of Seinfeld called "The Contest" if they could have said more than trying to get around the censors. This one spoke some conventions of human existence that we all laugh at but could never be said on regular TV.

I am going to watch more of this show. I was really impressed.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Negative 26

It is -26 degrees here in Nome right now, without the wind chill.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Augustine Volcano

Amy is stuck in Anchorage due to the fact that Augustine Volcano erupted today. The ash shot out eight miles high, say news reports. The airlines have a policy that no flights leave at night after a volcano in the area has erupted because they might run into ash that they can't see. She was due to leave about 8:30 tonight. Unfortunately, that has been postponed. The funny thing is that they then asked her, "Do you want to take the 6:00 am flight?" She responded, "But it's dark at 6:00 am here in Alaska too!"

I've heard of being snowed in before but I had never heard that a flight was postponed due to a volcano. (In fact, the junior high basketball team is stuck in Chevak due to the snow on the runway and the Chevak team is still here in Nome. That must be horrible to the coaches that are watching them!) I am sure that it is absolutely necessary to avoid the ash. It's just hard. She was crying a bit on the phone from missing her kids.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Cold here

Man, is it cold here in Nome today. The high is only supposed to get up to -7 degrees. Last night, I watched the Weather doohickey on my computer (that Konfabulator program now owned by Yahoo) go all the way down to -22. That's not even with the slight wind.

Amy is doing fine in Anchorage. I think she likes the fact that she is on a business trip, a real business trip. She deserves it so much. She's so smart that she has to do something intelligent. She called this morning. She said that the president of the bank liked her. She is excited because Sunday is her one free day down there, 539 miles away, and she gets to go to the mall and maybe Wal-Mart today. She brought two suitcases, one big one empty that she fit the smaller one into, so that she can bring back some shwag and goodies. Everything is slightly cheaper in Anchorage than it is in Nome.

We are just hanging out here today. I am watching the football games (predicted both outcomes yesterday!), and going to root for the Bears! I will take a couple of hours this evening and look over the calendar for second semsester.

I am going to start second semester with some Shakespeare recitation. I believe it will work well with the poetry that the other language arts teachers and I will be doing in February. Plus, I had such a great time with it last year. Best lesson I ever did. Most success I have ever seen. Most of the students absolutely shined. I was so proud of them.

Then in March, I am going to work on research papers. Real ones with MLA and all that. Kids will step it up if I have high expectations. I know they will. I believe in that.

We will stay warm inside today. Go Bears!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula has always held a certain fascination to me. Maybe it is the most recognizable constellation in the winter sky. Maybe it is because I actually could see the hunter, one of the only constellations that I truly could see the image that our ancestors saw in the random placement of stars millenia ago. Maybe it is because it has a nebula that hangs off that famous belt of Orion. When I discovered that this nebula is actually a star-birthing factory of sorts, my Star Trek and Star Wars inspired mind just soared. The Orion Nebula was that place that I pictured that I would one day travel to. I wrote stories when I was much younger about benevolent aliens giving me a TARDIS-type ship. I also envisioned that I was The Last Starfighter from that movie. The Orion Nebula was the destination.

Now they are seeing the nebula in even more detail. Thank goodness they put up that Hubble Space Telescope. They have discovered more now that they can see these items clearer, without the interference from our atmosphere. They have discovered 100+ extrasolar planets now.

Maybe the last starfighter is still being looked for. Maybe the Enterprise will one day carry us to these places. Maybe we will one day run into the Battlestar Galactica on its way home, or see those people from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. One day. We are just too infantile as a species yet. We are still babies. We are making great strides but we are still in this technological infancy. Maybe my grandchildren will be part of this final frontier.

Credit: NASA and REDORBIT.com

This dramatic image offers a peek inside a cavern of roiling dust and gas where thousands of stars are forming. The image, taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, represents the sharpest view ever taken of this region, called the Orion Nebula. More than 3,000 stars of various sizes appear in this image. Some of them have never been seen in visible light. These stars reside in a dramatic dust-and-gas landscape of plateaus, mountains, and valleys that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon.

The Orion Nebula is a picture book of star formation, from the massive, young stars that are shaping the nebula to the pillars of dense gas that may be the homes of budding stars. The bright central region is the home of the four heftiest stars in the nebula. The stars are called the Trapezium because they are arranged in a trapezoid pattern. Ultraviolet light unleashed by these stars is carving a cavity in the nebula and disrupting the growth of hundreds of smaller stars. Located near the Trapezium stars are stars still young enough to have disks of material encircling them. These disks are called protoplanetary disks or "proplyds" and are too small to see clearly in this image. The disks are the building blocks of solar systems.

The bright glow at upper left is from M43, a small region being shaped by a massive, young star's ultraviolet light. Astronomers call the region a miniature Orion Nebula because only one star is sculpting the landscape. The Orion Nebula has four such stars. Next to M43 are dense, dark pillars of dust and gas that point toward the Trapezium. These pillars are resisting erosion from the Trapezium's intense ultraviolet light. The glowing region on the right reveals arcs and bubbles formed when stellar winds - streams of charged particles ejected from the Trapezium stars — collide with material.

The faint red stars near the bottom are the myriad brown dwarfs that Hubble spied for the first time in the nebula in visible light. Sometimes called "failed stars," brown dwarfs are cool objects that are too small to be ordinary stars because they cannot sustain nuclear fusion in their cores the way our Sun does. The dark red column, below, left, shows an illuminated edge of the cavity wall.

The Orion Nebula is 1,500 light-years away, the nearest star-forming region to Earth. Astronomers used 520 Hubble images, taken in five colors, to make this picture. They also added ground-based photos to fill out the nebula. The ACS mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon.

The Orion observations were taken between 2004 and 2005.

More info on Watchmen misinformation

I apparently blundered on my post regarding Watchmen. I could have sworn that I read somewhere that Alan Moore did not like the way the book was going to end and wanted to pull out of it, allowing Dave Gibbons to bascially finish it. I think I was wrong, or just remembered the details incorrectly.

I posted the question on the message boards at Comicon.com. You can see the thread at http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=2;t=008354

I first found some information by myself regarding that it was a disagreement over the ending with then-editor Len Wein.

He was the original editor of the project but he didn't
like how Alan Moore planned to end it. They disagreed and rather than
overruling his writer, Wein stepped aside and let another editor finish
the series (you can check the credits).

*credit must go to Wizard Magazine for this information. It was
mentioned during an interview with Wolverine-creator Len Wein.

If you have alot of time, you can check out the superbly detailed
"Watchmen Annotated", here:

Then I received some information regarding this via the Comicon.com message board:

1. This is the first that I've heard of this. If they were in conflict it doesn't show on any of the copies of Moore's Watchmen scripts that I've perused. As far as I could tell the ending that's in the comic is the same one that's in Moore's script. Of course this doesn't mean that those same scripts weren't rewritten later to reflect a new ending.

2. I believe it was in an issue of WIZARD (though I don't have it in front of me at the moment, that's a LOT of Wizard's to go through) where they talked with Mr. Wein and he said that he never agreed with the ending of "Watchmen", although he didn't say that he and Mr. Moore got into a fight over it, just that he didn't agree with how it ended.

3. Wein was annoyed because he believed Alan Moore was capable of better. Len Wein believed Alan Moore was simply using an ending ripped from 'The Outer Limits' and should have come up with something new.

4. I wonder what sort of ending Len Wein had in mind. Can anyone think of a different way they would have ended WATCHMEN? I've never heard of internal fights over WATCHMEN. I remember that DC boss Dick Giordano famously forbid Moore and Gibbons from using his "babies," the newly purchased Charlton Comics heroes, because he had plans for them. But Moore and Gibbons just created their own (better) versions, and Giordano seemed like a big fan of the project.

5. I can believe that. Wein had just a couple of years earlier edited All-Star Squadron, which used the same twist (but with added complications, such as the "invaders" being co-opted by an old foe). I imagine he would be pretty disappointed to see DC publishing that same twist as the climax of Watchmen, particularly considering the high level of attention to detail throughout the story.

I am still trying to find out more. I have been on an Alan Moore kick lately, so I am sure I will find something.

Divisional Playoffs

Some great games coming up. When you are not rooting for your own team, always root for the underdog. Makes it more fun.

Picks for the Divisional Playoffs this weekend:

Denver over New England
Colts over Pittsburgh
BEARS over Carolina
Seattle over Washington

Let's hope for some great, close games!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Wife out of the House

Amy got her new job! She got that supervisor position at the bank. She won't be just a regular teller. All those years of managing the salons finally paid off. Amy said she has to be respectable now.

She flies out today for her training in Anchorage. She will be gone until Tuesday. Man, I'm gonna miss her. At least I will have the kids to keep me company. The tables are turned now--instead of me flying off to coach volleyball, she is flying off to learn her new trade.

I am so proud of her. She trudged through that grocery store position. She said she felt like a salmon swimming upstream. She would work really hard and then find herself down at the bottom of the river again, having to overcome some of the people who interfere with getting the job done. She is finally in that professional position that she deserves.

This weekend as I watch the kids, I will be producing my new syllabus for the upcoming second semester. One of the aides is a lifeguard and I am going to work out a reward system that if students get in their major project each month that they will get to go swimming one day. I have to start using these rewards.

I also plan on having more fun second semester. I am going to start out with memorization of a Shakespeare speech, that lesson that went so very well last year with the ninth graders. They can do it in middle school. I will also be planning our research paper for March. I will be using that Poetry 180 website by Billy Collins in February too.

Lots to do. And missing Amy on top of it.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Man Aims for New Snake-Kissing Record

Funniest thing about this headline? It isn't snake kissing. The funniest thing is the word "new."

Man Aims for New Snake-Kissing Record

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - A kiss is just a kiss, but it may prove to be the kiss of death for a Malaysian snake charmer who will attempt to set a new world record by planting 50 smooches on a venomous snake in 10 minutes.

Shahimi Abdul Hamid, 33, will perform the dangerous feat on March 11 in a bid to break the current record held by an American man who kissed a poisonous snake 30 times in an unspecified time, the national news agency Bernama said Thursday.

Shahini has urged Malaysians to support him in his endeavor, saying he "wants to prove that Asians can also be champions in taming poisonous snakes."

He could not be reached for comments.

Bernama said Shahimi displayed his prowess at a news conference late Wednesday by kissing a three-meter long King Cobra 21 times. His bid in March will be filmed by U.S. television show Ripley's Believe It Or Not, Bernama said.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

As good as a pro. I saw on Fox�s NFL program yesterday that their �pick� guy, that Frank Caliendo from Mad TV that actually doesn�t do anything but impersonations, was 47-26, or 64.4%, for his pick season. And he didn�t pick every single game. He only picked four games per week, and some of those he always chose at least one easy pick. That means I was also as good an NFL prognosticator as Fox�s guy.

Speaking of villains lately, this is an actual picture clipped from Fantastic Four #1 from November 1961.This is what started the whole Marvel Universe. What's funny is that the Mole Man has the Fantastic Four completely incapacitated. In true stupid villain fashion,he says, "Now, before I slay you all, behold my master plan!" He actually says that. You would think that with comics being published regularly since 1938 that they would have torn through these cliches by then.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Single vs. Album?

Ran into a bit of a bubble with the Album Reviews my writing classes are doing this week. They don’t listen to albums anymore. Or here, I maybe should say.

There is no Sam Goody or real CD shop here in Nome. They don’t go wandering the racks at Borders with the headphones and listen to everything conceivable. (Although that sounds like a good business venture here, I would have to do the underlying economic prospects—there may not be any money here for those kinds of purchases all the time. Maybe as a kids’ hangout with a little café and arcade?)

They do some downloading here. They do have their MP3 players. iPods are all over. They simply do a lot of individual song purchases (or steals). They do not buy the whole album usually. The studio album apparently is not what it once was.

So I have run into a bit of a problem with the kids who only listen to a couple of songs. I’m working through it. I have added that the kids can write about their best mix CD, even though it kind of beats the purpose of an “album review.” Maybe I should bring some album to listen to while they are working….

Monday, January 09, 2006

Batman versus Predator #3 of 3 (prestige format). The other two were newsstand issues with different covers. This also was during the era of the different covers. They published three issues newsstand-style for $1.95 and three issues prestige-style with stiffer covers and two extra "trading card" sheets inside for $4.95 apiece. The only reason I got this one prestige is that Northern Lights bookstore in DeKalb, Illinois, was out of newsstand that day and I didn't want to wait.

Batman versus Predator #2 of 3

Batman versus Predator is one of the simplest ideas for a comic series. They basically just throw the two starring characters together and have them fight. However, this comic series pulls it off in grand fashion.

In a plot reminiscent of the movie Predator II, and I don't know whether or not it had already come out yet, the Predator alien is in town to hunt. He manages to listen to people and take down some of the rather boisterous leaders of Gotham City: a prizefighter and then the mob bosses who challenge the town for supremacy. In effect, the alien is simply hunting big game. It is the human population that does not know what they are up against.

Batman versus Predator is written by Dave Gibbons. You may remember that he was the "helper" on Alan Moore's Watchmen. Some sources have cited that it was a rift between the collaborative efforts of Moore and Gibbons that caused Moore to abandon the series halfway through. Moore did not like the ending of Watchmen. Gibbons is a creative talent in his own right that makes this comic work through its attention to detail and serious handling of even a science fiction subject.

It seems a bit quick and easy how the Gotham populace and Batman himself come to the conclusion that this is the work of an alien. I'll give Batman credit for finding the strange pattern in the crimes, as he does that for his pantheon of psychotic villains. One seemingly innocuous scene comes in handy near the end of the novel. Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred, comments about the hunting trophy heads decorating the mansion. Bruce Wayne tells him to take them down but to save the rifle. Alfred, of course, uses this rifle to stop the Predator attacking Batman down in the Batcave. That ends up being a neat little setup.

The end comes about the only way possible, which is nice. The Predator's friends come down and acknowledge that Batman does indeed defeat the Predator. He watches as the Predator commits hari kari, shaming his warrior race for not being strong enough on his coming-of-age hunting trip. This hearkens back to older folk stories and fits in a sociological profile that ends up being the Predator's way, as evidenced in later comics and movies, especially Aliens versus Predator.

As a cross-company mini-series, there is no need to worry. Many times these can be wastes of money or time, as shown a few years later in the horrible Marvel/DC Amalgam Universe. Batman versus Predator pays off for Batman and Predator fans, science fiction fans, and all comic fans. A great read. Damn, this series was good.

Villains United

Villains United trade paperback

The current DC Universe is exploding again. After 1985's Crisis on Infinite Earths, in which DC tried to correct all its alternative universe problems, the universe has gotten darker and yet more realistic. They killed Superman once (even though they acknowledge now that it was all a ploy designed to sell books), they broke Batman's back and he miraculously healed, they killed Robin, and they made Lex Luthor President of the United States. They have been getting darker as well.

We recently discovered in the epic mini-series Identity Crisis, quite possibly the best series that I personally have ever read, that the heroes mind-wiped some villains. Remember that heroes don't kill the bad guys. It's not like all the movies. In the comics, the bad guys do not die. When the villain Dr. Light is discovered brutally attacking and raping (told ya it was getting darker) Sue Dibny, the wife of the Justice League's Elongated Man, the heroes don't know how to prevent further attacks. If the bad guys start attacking family members, family without powers, who is safe? Yet the "code" says they can't just kill the guy and prison never holds them. So they decide to enlist the sorceress-magician Zatanna, a member of the Justice League, to mind-wipe the villain. The problem is that they don't just do it once. They've done it multiple times. This explains those villains that always seem to be stupid, relating plans and individually attacking teams. Just being plain stupid and laughable. It comes from the damage from the mind-wipe.

The bad guys find out. All the bad guys are simply pissed. Somehow a line has been crossed. That is the premise of Villains United. Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, and a few other villains that you have to be really into the DC Universe to even know about, have banded together to declare outright war on the good guys. Their final plan is this machine that will globally mind-wipe select members of the Justice League (remember, it's a comic book). The problem is that there are six villains that don't want to join and get recruited by the enigmatic figure known as Mockingbird to wage a counter-battle against the Society of Supervillains emerging. Again, unless you know the DC Universe, telling you that our protagonist villains are Catman, Chesire, Scandal, Deadshot, Parademon, and Ragdoll really doesn't help. Admittedly, I have barely heard of some of these villains throughout the entire book. They make interesting new protagonists.

What's interesting about this book, originally a six-issue limited series leading up to Infinite Crisis, when villains fight each other, they are plain nasty. There is real pain inflicted. There are some real devious methods used. There is betrayal. There is betrayal among villains banded together because they are simply villains. It is kind of like watching an episode of The Sopranos. You know they are all bad guys and are just amazed at how much they fight each other instead of just the cops.

The ending revelation of exactly who the Mockingbird character is again provides an awesome "A-HA!" moment for us DC fans. It ties in well with years of continuity. I realize after reading this that I wish that some books would concentrate more on some bad guys and their motives and fights. This was a fun and great read.

Another Day in Nome

Woke up to a temperature of -8 degrees this morning. The snow still crunches underfoot, even after a few days of being on the ground. Still feels like I'm waking up at 2 am with the fact that the sun will not rise until noon.

Went to school a bit early this morning to get some stuff done. We will be writing album reviews this week of the students' favorite albums. This is the last week of the semester. Today I will hand out current grade sheets so that I can hear the mumbles and groans. Then I am sure that I will have to do even more work to find worksheets and assignments they have missed so that they can do them. I can't say no it is too late. Can't. Tried that last year and some parents wondered why I am holding their beloved little pupil back. So I just get the stuff that they're missing. Part of me realizes that even if they flunk these seventh and eighth grade years, they are still going to advance. Doesn't matter if I get them the stuff now or not. Some of them won't turn it in anyway.

I have no idea what I am going to do for this supposed drama club this year. I had two meetings and two different groups of kids showed up. I only get paid a stipend of $250 if a final production occurs. I don't know how much time I want to put into this for that stipend. I will have to arrange things so the students run the show. That sounds like a disaster waiting to happen though.

Now for class. Hopefully the students will be a little more anxious to write about their favorite music albums today. I am hoping. I am sure I will have to stand over the shoulder of some.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld poses with a Superman action figure in this handout photo from American Express after unveiling American Express' Superman 'webisode' at W Hotel in New York in this file photo from March 29, 2004. American Express Co. made a big splash in 2004 with two 'webisodes,' online video stories about five minutes long with comedian Jerry Seinfeld and his pal, Superman. The company's site received 3 million visitors 'in a fairly short time,' company spokeswoman Judy Tenzer said. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, American Express,File )

Wild Card Weekend

Wild Card Weekend!!

Man, oh, man! The whole season comes to a head now. The best weekend of the entire season is indubitably Wild Card Weekend. The teams closest in rank and ability square off. Sure, there may be a couple of blowouts but there will be at least two neck-in-neck, close, edge-of-your-seat games. I guarantee.

I love the Wild Cards. I am still going to pick the games. Have to. These don’t count toward the season totals that I had but it is still fun. I like rooting for underdogs in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay over Washington
Jacksonville over New England (yep, I said it.)

Carolina over NY Giants
Cincinnati over Pittsburgh

Interview with a Vampire

Film genre is the category while the genre film is an individual film that possibly fits into the category. We see this all the time when we rent videos—they are not alphabetized but categorized by genre mainly. Genre is static in that a 1930s Western and a 2000s Western is similar. It is dynamic in that the changes that have evolved over 70 years mean something a little bit different. You can’t say better because, like all things, you need the originals to work upon.

The theory of types is just a theory of rules. Notice that there are thousands of different Western movies yet relatively few rules that you could list that makes a film a Western. And even in that regard, there is no set list of rules to work off. There is no checklist that says, “You gotta have a guy in a black hat.” Genres evolve because an audience expects them to.

The horror genre saw a movie in the 1990s actually list out the rules of a slasher film. Wes Craven’s Scream poked fun at the movies that he himself helped to promote and create with the Nightmare on Elm Street series, along with other film series (not Craven’s) Friday the 13th and Halloween. Remarkably, the “rules” listed in Scream are incredibly close to the plotlines of a majority of those movies. Scream, then, evolved the genre by poking fun at it, listing the rules that it itself was playing by directly to the audience, and then twisted them to give the audience something new. You could not have listed the rules in the first slasher flick.

Once pressed, it is hard to list the main genres of movies. I think of drama, musicals, comedy, Western, horror, sci-fi. But isn’t a Western just a drama in the Old West? Is The Apple Dumpling Gang a comedy or a Western? Now, I have seen a lot of genre name-combining. The HBO series Six Feet Under I have seen in print as a “dramedy,” a dark comedy-drama about life in a mortician’s house.

Human beings have to categorize things to understand them. I always think of teaching school. I teach English, which includes the two big subjects reading and writing. Don’t they read in science? Don’t they write papers in history? Human beings, in order to talk about a movie or internalize it, have to go into a theater with the mindset of comedy or drama. How many times have you rented a movie together and expressed what you were in the mood for? Genre then is the main category that humans use to differentiate the basic elements of a movie. We would file The Addams Family in the comedy section even though it has horror genre principles. Something about the rules of comedy win out. Conversely, the movie Critters is a sci-fi movie even though it has comedic elements. Alien is still sci-fi even though the bare bones plot is more representative of horror. The Addams Family can be comedy because we have so internalized the rules of the horror genre that we can make them funny.

Interview with a Vampire is a type of movie that comes about because we need something new in the genre of vampire movies. The 1931 Dracula put me to sleep; it just isn’t scary by modern standards. Interview with a Vampire has the feel of a 20/20 interview and therefore seems believable, almost historic. The central character may be Brad Pitt’s character because it is his story, though the actual protagonist is the Christian Slater character because he is hearing these events and causing them to move forward, not to mention the fact that the ending definitely puts him as the protagonist in that he gets his wish. The audience learns that he did not learn from the story that Brad Pitt told and now has to go through it himself. Interview with a Vampire has a vampire as the “good guy.” He is characterized as having morals and feelings, especially in opposition of the frightening Tom Cruise character. Brad Pitt’s character is how we the audience would hope we ourselves would act if this happened to us.

Dracula was one of those horror movies where we were once scared by simply saying “vampire.” The genre has evolved, for better or worse. Interview with a Vampire gave vampires “feelings” and motives, and special effects where we see more blood helped to scare us. From this could come Blade (even though the comic book character was created in the 1970s) where our definite hero IS a vampire. Special effects in the Blade trilogy are almost gross, sickening the audience as a vampire sucking human blood should sicken us.

Justice League #1

I received my Mile High Comics order today! The first one I grabbed out of the pile was Justice League #1, which became Justice League International, which became Justice League America. It's a long story. However, this is the best of the era. This is the reboot that the Justice League of America received after DC destroyed the multiverse in Crisis on Infinite Earths in 1985. This series jumps out of a popular mini-series in the DC mythos known as Legends, created by John Byrne who also helped to reboot Superman in 1986.

This issue begins to set the tone of the series into the comic romp that it becomes. I never got to read issue #1 before. It was always too expensive when I was a kid...egad! $7.00?! Now I can get a fine copy of it for about 2 bucks. Nice. All this issue really does is start to show how the Green Lantern Guy Gardner is a jerk that wants to fight Batman and starts to bring the team together. They get together and stop a rather weak takeover of the United Nations building by a gang of regular human terrorists.

The high point of this issue though only comes now into the light. This issue is dated May of 1987. I was finishing up eighth grade. This year, the DC Universe has been shaken up by its new Crisis, known as Infinite Crisis. One of the triggers of the new Crisis is a character by the name of Maxwell Lord. He founded this new Justice League. He was always a power hungry character as he was just plain human. He was always pretty much a jerk too, interested in the publicity and the power that his new team provided. In the latest issues in the DC Universe, Maxwell Lord helped to unleash the OMACS to hunt down the superheroes and other metahumans. He is the guy that shot and killed Blue Beetle. Wonder Woman actually killed Maxwell Lord recently by breaking his neck. Now Superman and the heroes are mad at her for stepping over that boundary. At the end of issue #1 here, we find that he was responsible for setting up the little terrorist takeover by providing the bomb that was wired to the heart of the main terrorist. That terrorist dies at the end, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound because his bomb did not go off after Batman left him alone. Maxwell Lord did not give him the firing pin.

Even though the only casualty was the terrorist, this still shows the deviousness that Maxwell Lord has. In the comic book Countdown to Infinite Crisis in which Maxwell Lord shoots Blue Beetle, Lord himself says that he helped to create the new League and keep it ineffective all those years, the comic years started here, and was able to keep an eye on this team and lead it where he wanted it to go. This is an amazing revelation and one that shows the current writers have really done their research. Since I didn't know this before, I had one of those "Ahhhhhh!" moments of revelation. Cool.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Crumpled Paper

Almost lost it at one point today. We’re letter writing today. Writing letters to parents explaining what they have learned in all their classes. One student today, man, one student…He writes his rough draft, about five simples sentences. I am editing them with him there. He is supposed to go and make the changes. I give it back to him and he crumples it up. Right there in front of me, he crumples it up. I went off, explaining how he just slapped me in the face, telling me that I just wasted my time. I have talked to this kid before about education being a two-way street.

(Funny thing is: one of the things I edited is this sentence: I lerned to reed good.)

Yesterday our futons arrived. Wal-Mart bush orders was having a special deal. We had them shipped in via Everts Air Cargo, the same guys who shipped our car to us. I spent a few hours last night putting two of the three futons together. I just couldn't do another one. We didn't get to pick our colors on this special, but that was okay especially with the eclectic furniture mix we have, namely the zebra-print chairs. We have red, black, and silver. Had to sleep on this red one last night. I fell asleep in the front room watching tv and so as not to wake Amy with my snoring, I just pulled the futon out.

The sun doesn't arc high overhead here in Nome. That is taking some getting used to. This picture from the Nome Visitor Guide is multiple exposure of the sun during a day of the first week of the year. Who was it, Archimedes?, that noticed that the earth wasn't flat due to the length of a shadow in his town and the shadow of a town further north? He definitely would have noticed it up here in Nome. Morgan saw this picture and thought it was some kind of special celestial event when we get 13 suns up here. She didn't know about multiple-exposure.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Time to go back to school today. Why they have us start back on a Thursday is beyond me. However, there is only like a week left until the end of first semester. I am glad to start a new semester. New semester equals new ideas. If the kids will work up to their capabilities, then we will have a good educational time. I still have to put together a regular "curriculum" for second semester. I have to have them work on paragraphing and connecting those paragraphs into an essay. It is so hard without a book set. I feel that I am making it up as a I go. While I COULD make up a viable curriculum, when? When do I do this and teach six classes a day? Back to work.

} In Cabin'd Ships at Sea

} In Cabin'd Ships at Sea--Walt Whitman

In cabin'd ships at sea,
The boundless blue on every side expanding,
With whistling winds and music of the waves, the large imperious waves,
Or some lone bark buoy'd on the dense marine,
Where joyous full of faith, spreading white sails,
She cleaves the ether mid the sparkle and the foam of day, or under
many a star at night,
By sailors young and old haply will I, a reminiscence of the land, be read,
In full rapport at last.

Here are our thoughts, voyagers' thoughts,
Here not the land, firm land, alone appears, may then by them be said,
The sky o'erarches here, we feel the undulating deck beneath our feet,
We feel the long pulsation, ebb and flow of endless motion,
The tones of unseen mystery, the vague and vast suggestions of the
briny world, the liquid-flowing syllables,
The perfume, the faint creaking of the cordage, the melancholy rhythm,
The boundless vista and the horizon far and dim are all here,
And this is ocean's poem.

Then falter not O book, fulfil your destiny,
You not a reminiscence of the land alone,
You too as a lone bark cleaving the ether, purpos'd I know not
whither, yet ever full of faith,
Consort to every ship that sails, sail you!
Bear forth to them folded my love, (dear mariners, for you I fold it
here in every leaf;)
Speed on my book! spread your white sails my little bark athwart the
imperious waves,
Chant on, sail on, bear o'er the boundless blue from me to every sea,
This song for mariners and all their ships.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

So excited

I am so excited I can't contain myself. It's like I have stumbled upon an ancient city full of treasure.

Wandering around online, as always, this time searching for comics. I cam across a blog that linked downloads. There is this website called Rapidshare that holds files. Some of these files are comics that people have scanned and put up on this fileserver. I also came across a link through the blog called ProjectW that actually lists more links. I just downloaded a ton of issues relating to Infinite Crisis from DC. There are more. And I scanned 'em twice with my virus checker and nada. They are archive files of .jpg files anyway.

Also found a blog that lists old Phantom comics.

Wow. Now all I need are CDs to burn 'em too.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Blank Verse versus Heroic Couplet

We have come a long way since the standard heroic couplet—two successive lines of rhymed iambic pentameter. Prose is defined in my dictionary as “Ordinary speech or writing, without metrical structure” or “Commonplace expression or quality.” Interestingly, making an intransitive verb of the word changes the definition to “To speak or write in a dull, tiresome style.” Amazingly, the definition for free verse is somewhat the same, “Refers to poetry that does not follow a prescribed form but is characterized by the irregularity in the length of lines and the lack of a regular metrical pattern and rhyme. Free verse may use other repetitive patterns instead (like words, phrases, structures).” The key here is that free verse still resembles poetry in structure and not like a regularly written paragraph. The definition of verse almost always has the root word “meter” somewhere in it, and meter is a pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. Christopher Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare’s, is considered the innovator of blank verse. Blank verse is any unrhyming verse, usually iambic pentameter.

Blank verse: from "The Light of Asia" by Sir Edwin Arnold:

And brooding on the empty eggs of thought,
The shadow of this fate, too vast for man,
May fade, belike, and I shall see him grow
To that great stature of fair sovereignty
When he shall rule all lands - if he will rule -

Heroic Couplet:
“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”—Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

The only difference between blank verse and heroic couplet is that blank verse does not have end rhyme—they have the same metrical style. This brings us to meter. An “iamb” is an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. A “dactylic” is a stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables. A “trochee” is a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable and an “anapest” is two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. A “metrical foot” is the combination of these syllables in a line to make up the meter.

I think the most amazing part of Leaves of Grass, of Song of Myself, is near the end when Whitman says:
You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless,
And filter and fibre your blood.

The first two lines here have no meter and could be read as prose, except for a memorable third line “And filter and fibre your blood.” This last line is almost completely dactylic and this is because he is talking to us in this stanza, but he especially wants us to remember and feel this line. So in effect, he uses meter for specific purposes only.

For a work to grow “organically,” it means that it has become its own entity. It’s true that a poem like “I sing the body electric” mimics the organic structure of the body, but Leaves of Grass became its own body. It grew as Whitman did and the country did. When Reconstruction was failing, it was necessary to add poems to that effect, since Leaves of Grass was supposed to be the fiber of every American. If Whitman were still alive, Leaves of Grass would now be thousands of pages long. This mimics the fact that there are thousands of pages that would be added by every American. He had a plan, and it was the growing of America, which is an entity itself as well.

Works Cited

Poetry definitions. http://virtual.park.uga.edu/cdesmet/class/engl4830/work/projects/brent/alphadef.htm#V. 8 September 2005.

} As I Ponder'd in Silence--Walt Whitman

As I ponder'd in silence,
Returning upon my poems, considering, lingering long,
A Phantom arose before me with distrustful aspect,
Terrible in beauty, age, and power,
The genius of poets of old lands,
As to me directing like flame its eyes,
With finger pointing to many immortal songs,
And menacing voice, What singest thou? it said,
Know'st thou not there is but one theme for ever-enduring bards?
And that is the theme of War, the fortune of battles,
The making of perfect soldiers.

Be it so, then I answer'd,
I too haughty Shade also sing war, and a longer and greater one than any,
Waged in my book with varying fortune, with flight, advance
and retreat, victory deferr'd and wavering,
(Yet methinks certain, or as good as certain, at the last,) the
field the world,
For life and death, for the Body and for the eternal Soul,
Lo, I too am come, chanting the chant of battles,
I above all promote brave soldiers.

It really is fascinating how Plato nailed human truths thousands of years ago. He understood the realm of Forms while most people were trying to understand how to speak. Plato understood that the only way to grasp the perceptions we make is with a name, but that name does not grasp the concept behind the object. What happens when we add the dimension of drama to the realm of Forms?

Plato's cave is practically a representation of a movie theater. The projector casts its fire over the celluloid images created by the puppeteer or director to cast shadows on the screen of the wall. The audience of prisoners cannot look back at the projection booth.

Unless the audience of prisoners understands anything about the medium, they take for granted that what is placed before them is exactly what it supposedly represents. Unless the audience knows that these images represent more than the image, the point can be lost.

With the movie Barton Fink, we have a case on point. The movie is not easy. It does not tell the viewer exactly what to think. There are objects that represent more than what appears on the surface. For instance, the package that Charlie gives Barton is never explained outright. With clues from the film itself, we realize that Charlie was giving Barton himself, his stories, his desires, his humanity. Barton never opens the package, just like he never listens to Charlie's stories. Barton carries it around like he thinks he carries the desires of the common man.

Other Forms come out during the movie, such as the girl on the beach in the picture. Perusing the end credits, they list her character as Beauty. She is looking at the ocean, west like Barton was looking west to Hollywood. Only Beauty's west is an endless sea. They are both looking for something. At the end, Beauty turns away from Barton. Barton may also have more of an understanding of the Keats line, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."

Fink's name is an obvious literary device that makes the viewer think he is going to give us the truth. He does tell Hollywood what they should be doing, the truth of the common man. But as the name implies, it is not wanted. You cannot "fink" out Hollywood. It does not want to portray the real truths but the truths that the audience wants.

The pyromania at the end is obviously Barton trying to physically destroy the wallpaper-peeling decay of this Hollywood life. The murderer that is disguised as a friend is Barton not realizing that he is not listening to the common man.

After viewing the movie, we have to look back at the projection booth and realize that Barton and Charlie are not actually there. Plato is trying to tell us that we must except the truths portrayed before us as what they mean to us personally.

The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979)

The Oberhausen Manifesto came about to “acknowledge film as an art form similar to other arts” (Hake 144). The new Young German filmmakers wanted to come back to the roots of their national cinema, “to create an art cinema with social relevance” (144). The new filmmakers asked the government to help fund these new directives and to help them be created, rather than the simple documentary films that were being made.

The government then created a series of infrastructures that helped new talent produce socially relevant films. The themes that occurred in the films were present in any post-war revaluation of a national self. These films wanted to break with the formalities of the past. The new young filmmakers want to make art for art’s sake but also be respondent to the public social consciousness of the time. It may have been these types of ideals that would lead to reunification.

In the movie The Marriage of Maria Braun, the themes reflect the situation in the government and the social consciousness of the time. The leading character thinks her spouse has died in the military. While she tries to move on, and is even rather bold and smart about it, she finds that the past catches up with her. It is apparently an allegory. With all the construction in the movie, she is trying to build a new life, just like Germany was. Even as she finds a new love, she thinks that she cannot marry because she is already married to that man of her past. When he resurfaces, she finds that she cannot bury her past.

NFL Season Totals for my picks

Season Totals:
Week one: 8-8
Week two: 9-7
Week three: 9-5
Week four: 8-6
Week five: 8-6
Week six: 11-3
Week seven: 10-4
Week eight: 9-5
Week nine: 12-2
Week ten: 11-3
Week eleven: 11-5
Turkey Day: 2-0
Week twelve: 9-5
Week thirteen: 11-5
Week fourteen: 10-6
Week fifteen: 7-6
Week sixteen: 8-8
Week seventeen: 10-6

So that’s 163-90. That’s 64.43%. Nothing shabby. But it tells me not to waste any money gambling, that’s for sure.

Special Battle-Scarred Amazo Action Figure! This came in a three-pack with Superman and Starman. Well, it wasn't battle-scarred in the package. See, I had a candle lit tonight. Madison took the figure and toasted its head. Luckily it didn't catch fire. Now I have a cool Battle-Scarred figure for Superman to use his heat vision on. (She did a good job actually, didn't she?)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

William Shatner

I thought I would take a moment and salute the guy whose little quote from Saturday Night Live always graces my page here.

William Shatner is a diverse guy. Nobody can say he just sits around on the Kirk thing. He works a lot with Ben Folds, who helped him do some musical work on the Shatner solo album. Yes, he does spoken word music. One really good example you may have seen on Conan O'Brien some years ago as Shatner does the vocals on a song called "In Love" on the Ben Folds experimental album called "Fear of Pop."

William Shatner--I salute you.
} One's-Self I Sing
One's-self I sing, a simple separate person,
Yet utter the word Democratic, the word En-Masse.
Of physiology from top to toe I sing,
Not physiognomy alone nor brain alone is worthy for the Muse, I say
the Form complete is worthier far,
The Female equally with the Male I sing.
Of Life immense in passion, pulse, and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine,
The Modern Man I sing.

Leap Second

Amazing how precise we keep time today. Makes me wonder what year this really is when they talk about adding an hour after millions of years, etc. I had to save this article from the Associated Press.

Slowing Planet Affords Us an Extra Second By HUGO KUGIYA, AP National Writer
Fri Dec 30, 2:46 PM ET

If life is often a matter of split seconds --the train door that closes in your face, the chance encounter with the love of your life, the near-collision with an oncoming SUV -- then the universe is about to bestow upon us a generous gift: the leap second.

On Saturday, at exactly 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, one second will be added to our official record of time , Coordinated Universal Time, kept by a series of atomic clocks, housed in environmentally sealed vaults in about 80 timekeeping laboratories around the world and certified by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris.

The reason for the extra second is simple: The earth is slowing down. Since the days of Sir Isaac Newton, scientists have understood the time it takes for the earth to make a full rotation is getting longer. The gradual deceleration is caused by the gravitational pull of the moon. The same force that brings the tides is putting the brakes on the earth, albeit very slowly.

And because time is a function of planetary movement, our days are getting longer and, depending on how you look at it, time is slowing down. This discrepancy is something we have only recently become able to measure. That happened in 1958 with the advent of atomic clocks, which measure time using the resonant frequency of a cesium atom.

When a 24-hour day, as measured by the world's atomic clocks, becomes more than 9/10th's of a second shorter than a solar day, those in charge add the leap second.

Eventually the 24-hour day as we know it will become a few minutes longer, although it will take millions of years. After hundreds of millions of years, the day will grow an hour longer. The rotation of the earth and its orbital path around the sun (which is engaged in a perpetual gravitational tug of war with Jupiter) are inconsistent and always vary slightly.

"If we think of all the ways we're being jerked around the universe, we'd probably be hurling in the street," joked Geoff Chester, spokesman for the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.

These cosmic forces matter little in the lifetime of any single person until, eventually, a day in the life gains one second.

Most of us will not pause to notice the extra second. But our machines will. Our computers, and mobile phones, and global positioning devices, will all rest for one second at the appointed time as they calibrate to Coordinated Universal Time.

"All this stuff depends on precise time," Chester said, "and the problem that you have if you don't get all the clocks synchronized when the leap second occurs ...you could have potentially interesting effects ... is that the Internet could stop working, cell phones could go out."

The official timekeeping devices of communication companies the world over, television stations, newspapers, indeed The Associated Press, also will hold their electronic breaths for one second. Perfect time is critical to our technological infrastructure, some of which operates at the speed of light. Measured this way, one second represents two-thirds the distance between the earth and moon.

For the average person, observing the leap second requires focus and effort. Most cannot feel the extra second of sleep to which we will be entitled. No ball will drop. The leap second will not be observed with a countdown broadcast live from Times Square.

But for those wishing to witness the event, the process is relatively simple and requires a stop watch and a common cell phone with a time display.

At the precise moment the display reads 6:59 p.m. (EST), start the stopwatch. When the display changes to 7:00, stop the watch. It should read 61 seconds.

There. Your extra second will have been spent.