Friday, December 29, 2006


Michael Hagmeier and I ended up rejoining a Thursday night drinking crew, one or two other Wanderers already there. Many views were floated, such as that Spike Lee became a much stronger director when he started collaborating with Martin Scorsese (this from Fred, our resident jarhead). Apropos of that Lew wanted to be sure Fred saw Bamboozled, and rented it on the spot from nearby Trilogy.

This morning I'm thinking about Saddam, in many ways the henchman of Americans, doing their dirty work, as a commie slayer, then as an Iran balancer. He got a lot of cues from State types, then overstepped, overestimating his clout in DC. The DC management teams turned on him and fought him in two wars, in both cases unfair fights, but war is never about being fair.

The trial was a part of the war, and hence unfair. Killing him by hanging, if it happens, won't be fair either. He was a product of his times, and his level of brutality was about par for the course. His counterparts outside Iraq were no less cut throat.

Wars often begin in disgrace. There's a kind of faux heroism that's all about compensating for a deep seated unfaced fear. Then there's honest to goodness heroism, which you find in soldiers absolutely, but not just in soldiers. War needs both kinds of characters. We celebrate the heros, but we learn as much about the characters of villains. The Gulf Wars will give future historians lots of raw material. Don't expect these stories to all be resolved in your lifetime (talking to myself here as well).

Lew and I both appreciate Tom Robbins novels, and he's eagerly anticipating a new one. I carry this one Robbins metaphor around in my head, just to give the flavor of his exotic style: "a smile flickered to her lips, like a seagull flying out of a bowl of tomato soup." Lew loved it, wrote it down.

Fred remembers his grandfather's story about getting kicked around by cops, his money taken, back in 1939, when he was out after curfew. Who knew at the time, that years later, the grandson, like Lew a descendent of North Americans' slaves, would be a developer of the very street corner where that happened, in cahoots with Korean and Jewish partners.

Also present at the meeting: Fred's and Lew's high school classmate, a Cambodian, who'd impressed them all by showing up sans any English skills, and morphing into an American, even making it look easy. Fred said witnessing that transformation put a whole new spin on what being human made possible.

:: mh @ 49 ::

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Study Center

Islamic Center of Greater Toledo (Ohio). The gold painted geodesic dome was crane-lifted over the older one in 2004 (story).

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Action Figure

photo by Tara, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Paramilitary garb: refurbished leather jacket (gift from G. Stockton), faded Oregon Zoo tiger T-shirt, Army surplus wool trousers. Quaker inside.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

American Dad (plot synopsis)

In tonight's new episode of American Dad, our CIA guy protagonist behaves in scroogey fashion, throwing the family Christmas tree out the living room window, in frustration over how shopping mall personnel say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," thereby ruining America.

He blames Jane Fonda aka "Hanoi Jane" for this lefty liberal state of affairs, so when a Ghost of Christmas Past (the Tooth Fairy in a new job) takes him back to his 1970s boyhood, he resolves to shoot Jane, then filming Klute (1971), only to discover that costar Donald Sutherland is the real culprit, having politicized her with a lot of vile schmooze.

The tooth fairy and Mrs. Dad (Francine) intervene before Stan can shoot Sutherland, but upon returning to the present find America is now under the Russian boot, Mondale having caved to the Soviets upon winning against Reagan in 1984, and all because Hinkley failed to see Taxi Driver (1976), develop a crush on Jodie, and attempt to assassinate the commander in chief, thereby improving the latter's poll numbers and ensuring his re-election.

So why did Hinkley not see Taxi Driver? Because the American Dad, while stalking Fonda, had talked movie director Martin Scorsese out of a drug habit during a random men's room encounter, thereby altering Martin's future career, such that this movie never got made.

Realizing he has unwittingly destroyed America, our protagonist ventures back into the past to make Taxi Driver himself, this time starring John Wayne. The movie bombs, Hinkley is unimpressed, and so our reluctant American Dad has to wound Reagan himself, to save America. This scheme succeeds, plus he doesn't shoot Brady, so no Brady Bill passes making it so much easier to buy a handgun in the present (our man Stan is exultant).

There's also a subplot wherein Roger, the noseless ET and future family member, finds a tape of disco hits (1974-1980) that had fallen from Stan's pocket in 1970, during his first time travel foray. The ET thereby "invents" disco and becomes a millionaire, then suffers financial ruin when disco crashes overnight -- which is why he's morose in the final scene, drinking Jack Daniels.

This quick recap of recent American history, piped directly into the brains of impressionable teenagers, helped bring them up to speed on some of the back stories behind today's shared culture. Thanks to creative screenwriters and the Fox Network, more kids now have a stronger grip on what's been going on around here of late.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Café Philosophique

coffee shop data
(click for larger view)
Nirel is flying up to Seattle to talk business with potential backers today, regarding her coffee shop dream. That's got me thinking. Here I am, in a coffee shop, using free wireless, sipping an egg nog latte, conversing with other people in chairs. What educational services might we provide to folks in such circumstances? My mind wandered, resulting in this piece at the Math Forum: Coffee Shop Math.

The flatscreen on a pillar, at the corner of the coffee bar, is partly to blame for my reverie. One widget I don't mention in my essay: the Cost of the War in Iraq ticker, somewhere around $350.148 billion, racking up hundreds of thousands between sips.

I'll snap a photo of this flatscreen display for later inclusion in this post.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More OnLine CV

I haven't read nearly enough Marx or spin-off Marxism to consider myself a Marxist, or Leninist either.

As a kid, I was more a Freudian-turned-Jungian, then got into Ernest Becker (into Otto Rank) and Norman O. Brown. I read (and really enjoyed) Potok's The Chosen in there somewhere, some Martin Buber (including some of Kaufmann's translations), but can't really advertise as a Jewish intellectual either, unorthodox or otherwise. Studied Hegel way more than Heidegger, got a big dose of post WWI existentialism in high school (IS in the Philippines, with some really great pinoy teachers).

I just don't have the credentials to hang a shingle in most walks of life -- can't do heart surgery either. On the other hand, via the Bucky stuff, other philosophy I've trained in, I am able to find bridges here and there, which help me communicate with counterparts in other traditions.

As I've footnoted elsewhere, the name Urner is Swiss, and I'm proud of that heritage as well, sometimes milk it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The New World (movie review)

I thought this film was somewhat boldly experimental, mixing an apparently big budget commitment to sets (the extravaganza genre), and a more interiorized soundtrack, focusing on the mixed thoughts and emotions of the principals (the intimate stage play genre). There's remarkably little outward speaking, and not just because of the language barrier, which is slowly overcome.

Another liberty taken by this film is it doesn't insist that you hate any vertex in this love triangle: two Englishmen and a Natural woman (they call 'em Naturals in the script -- I had a hard time deciphering a lot of the verbiage). All hail from strict societies, so the possibility of simply eloping and moving to Arizona or whatever remains remote. The navam princess and captain guy are both hamstrung with prior commitments, encumbered with strings to family, tribe and king.

Our princess goes through the longest and deepest journey I'd say, though her first boyfriend has steely adventures off camera to which we're not privy. Her second boyfriend is not a disappointment in the end (they launch a new life together), proving that true love has its sequels. But in another sense, the original two lovers died in the forest, their longer term happiness together simply not in the cards, and when they meet once again in some English garden, it's already the afterlife for both of them, surreal in its continuity amidst the discontinuity each has experienced.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Another Day in Rose City

Gene Lehman died last night, peacefully, having come home from the hospital with that purpose in mind. Don, his long time friend, stopped by earlier for a good visit. I'd planned to swing by maybe this morning. I've got some candles going. Gene was a strong writer in the Catholic tradition, self-published a journal called LUNO. I offer my condolances and sincere sympathies to his wife and family.

Dawn and I went shopping for winter clothing, anticipating it'll be colder in New Mexico than here. Tara is at an athletic club elsewhere in the city. Quiet Saturdays are the best.

We enjoy spotting the new bubble-like cable cars, Made in Switzerland, and still undergoing testing. I speculated to Tara and Rose that maybe some future James Bond movie'd feature 'em, though we wouldn't really make one fall onto a speeding truck on I-5 -- that'd be one for the special effects department.

And speaking of Switzerland, mom reports her misplaced laptop was located and is presumably in transit. We shall see. I'm less skeptical than before. Followup December 12: she received it by courier to her door at 2:30 AM this morning. I'm impressed.

This evening: fine conversation at the corner Peet's with Nancy Scharbach of Mt. Angel, Johnny Stallings the actor, and Nick Consoletti, world game bard and/or busker. Walt Whitman was among those featuring in our chatter.

:: johnny & nancy ::

Friday, December 08, 2006

Special Effects

:: billboard on Hawthorne ::

:: remembering Thanksgiving ::

pix by K. Urner
Olympus Stylus 720 SW
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Back on Belmont

Trevor and I stumbled into this new kind of coffee shop on Belmont this afternoon. No cream or sugar, each cup ground separately, with a lot of attention to precisely which bean. I mentioned liking a Trader Joe's brand from Yemen.

The proprietor said some infrastructure failure, more so than bad weather, argued against importing from Yemen this year, but he often featured African and Mesopotamian samples. I didn't see Celebes Indonesian either, but I can get that from Coffee Merchant on Hawthorne.

Anyway, the point is to have a few good ones, not to try being some Small World After All everyone to everybody.

Then I spilled an OSCON bag load of MITEs (x2 quantity Cube-Its!), and we played around with 'em, while discussing various subjects.

I mentioned working on a Math Wars editorial (now finished), other projects.

Trevor'd been reading up on parasites, told the story of this village of die-hards in Africa, determined to protect their sacred lake from the toxins that'd wipe out last vestiges of Guinea Worm disease. It's a tough call, prime directive wise, whether to interfere over ethnic resistence from elders. I suggested a long-running quarantine and/or a mandatory border health screening might've been the way to go, as in "OK, keep your stupid lake infestation, but don't venture to spread your disease beyond your own local neighborhood" (shades of Invasion).

My policy might not 've been practical though. I know better than to take my armchair generalizing too seriously. I have to respect what people on the ground think. Trevor thought maybe just telling 'em about a dead dog, versus actually using one, woulda been a better way.

The stranger to my right, working a laptop, was only half listening, talking to his chum, but chimed in now and then with allusions and references, including this blogged picture of Pecan Pie from Make:.