The Snoozeletter @ s.9TimeZones.com

 
Where the heck is Alan?

A: He's stirring the sh*t @ Steven Spielberg's site. BTW, there's a nice photo of Carrie Fisher in the Star Wars Jabba bikini today...
 
Tucson is cool.

For 36 hours this weekend, we made an exploratory trip to Tucson. We were researching places to take Anita and Jenc (my stepkids) when they visit this fall, so it really was a whirlwind visit.

We hiked around Saguaro National Park, zoomed past the Desert Museum (looks good, next time we stop), ate at a great Guatemalan restaurant (Anikó had her first limonada and I had my first tamarindo - delicious) on 4th Avenue and found a neat tea house just up the street, took a hike in Sabino Canyon, bopped at a UofA solstice festival, went to a fiesta on the west bank of the Santa Cruz, sampled the Mariachi Mass at St. Augustine's Cathedral, visited San Xavier del Bac, and shopped 'til we dropped at Tubac.

Tucson seems much more colorful than Phoenix, it uses kilometer (rather than mile) numbers on freeway signs, and it has a fabulous Rattlesnake Bridge. We really liked it.

When we get rested up (in two or three months) and go back, I wanna try the vertical wind tunnel in Eloy. ;-)
 
I'm SPIELBERG, dammit! Steven Spielberg Kicks Some Serious Butt (On The Lot).
 
Rashomon.

RashomonRashomon, the 1950 film directed by Akira Kurosawa, can be said to have introduced Japanese cinema to Western audiences, and is considered one of Kurosawa's masterpieces.

The film's unusual narrative structure illustrates the impossibility of obtaining the truth about an event, when there are conflicting witness accounts.

The story unfolds in flashback as four characters—a bandit, a murdered samurai (speaking through a medium), the samurai's wife, and a woodcutter—recount the events of one afternoon in a grove. But the story is also a flashback within a flashback, because the accounts of the witnesses are being retold by the woodcutter and a priest to a commoner, as they wait out a rainstorm in a ruined gatehouse. Each story is mutually contradictory, leaving the viewer unable to determine the truth.

This film has had a profound influence on subsequent movies (The Outrage, Courage Under Fire, The Usual Suspects, etc.), television episodes (Boomtown, thirtysomething, CSI, Star Trek:TNG, many more), novels (Ed McBain's Vespers, for example), video games, plays, philosophy, political science, psychology, etc.
 
On The Lot: Lights! Camera! Blog! Yeah, I set up another blog, over on Steven Spielberg's site. I need treatment.
 
Pie in the face, anyone? Another great job opportunity, from craigslist:

Comedy website/video seeking guys to get hit with pies in the face
Reply to: job-356874115@craigslist.org
Date: 2007-06-21, 1:51AM MST

Guys N Pies, a comedy website launching next year is looking for guys to get hit in the face with pies for interactive pie throw gallery and short video clips. We're hoping to have 50-100 guys in our galleries/videos when we launch next year. Here's a chance to have some fun getting messy and even get some small pay for doing so. In addition to getting several pies in the face, most models will also be soaked with water and in some cases, even slimed. Lining up "pie targets" now though taping won't start until July/August. Email us a photo and resume (if you have one) of any acting/modeling experience you have (none required...though we may be looking for some people with more acting experience later on for comedy video bits) as well as an outline of your schedule/when you're often available during the week and let us know why you think you would make a good Pie Target! guysnpies@hotmail.com - let us know you saw us on craigslist! Photos/resumes and/or audition tapes (vhs or dvd) can be sent to BCG Video,PO Box 83690,Phx, AZ 85071

Location: Phoenix
Compensation: slight pay based on how much you do
 
The longest day. Yup, today's the solstice, 11:06am local time.
 
The Avignon Quintet.

The Avignon QuintetIn the first three books of The Alexandria Quartet, Lawrence Durrell tells essentially the same story, but from different perspectives. Only in the final book, Clea, does the story advance in time and reach a conclusion.

Somewhere in the five books of The Avignon Quintet, one of Durrell's characters reveals this plan: "The old stable outlines of the dear old linear novel have been sidestepped in favour of soft focus palimpsest which enables the actors to turn into each other, to melt into each other's inner lifespace if they wish."

Another Quintet character explains Durrell's intentions in even more detail: "To commingle and intersperse contingent realities—that's the game! After all, how few are the options open to us—few varieties of human shape, mental dispositions, scales of behaviour: hardly more numerous than the available Christian names used by the race. How many coats of reality does it take to get a nice clean surface to the apprehension? We are all fragments of one another; everyone has a little bit of everything in his make-up. From the absolute point of view—Aristotle's Fifth Substance, say—all persons are the same person and all situations are identical or vastly similar. The universe must be dying of boredom. Yet obstinately I dream of such a book, full of not completely discrete characters, of ancestors and descendants all mixed up—could such people walk in and out of each other's lives without damaging the quiddity of each other? Hum. And the whole book arranged in diminished fifths from the point of view of orchestration. A big switchy book, all points and sidings. A Golgotha of a book."
 
Cone of Concussion. Independence Day is coming! I wrote this nonfiction essay in the summer of 2003, and Inkburns (the 18th best place to get published online) bought the first rights in December of that year:

My love.The ten minutes before showtime were surreal: seven of us stood between the double line of mortar tubes, lost in our own thoughts, trying not to stare at each other. Everyone was decked out in safety goggles, blast helmets and flame-retardant Nomex. After sweating all day in the hot sun, we had finally erected a fearsome arsenal of rack-mounted guns, designed to hurl fireworks shells hundreds of feet into the sky. Our audience members were safely ensconced two football fields away, sitting more-or-less comfortably in wooden bleachers and listening to a group of Beach Boys imitators. But we were locked inside a no-man's-land behind two separate sets of chain-link fence, patrolled by a squad of police and firefighters.

For me, this was a dream come true. I was finally getting a chance to step up to the big time of professional pyrotechnics, from the sparklers, roman candles and cherry bombs of my youth.

For Anikó, it was something else entirely, and I was still not sure I completely understood why my new Hungarian wife was standing there between the racks, gazing off into space through her industrial safety glasses. Many years ago, a pressure cooker exploded in Anikó's kitchen, and she was nearly killed by the detonation. After spending several weeks in the hospital, her arms were still scarred... a testament to her reflex for protecting the eyes from such a powerful blast. However, her instinctive efforts had not been completely successful, and for several days the doctors were unable to determine if she would ever see again. Today, more than a decade later, she still cannot bear the pain of going outdoors--even in cloudy weather--unless her eyes are protected by dark glasses.

Suddenly, that surfing music stopped, and the distant crowd began a countdown. Our lead operator lit his road flare, preparing to send up the opening barrage of product. His spotter stood close behind, lightly resting a hand on his shoulder. The first 3-inch shells were almost deafening, even though we all wore earplugs. I glanced skyward distractedly and thought, "Wow. I've never seen these babies explode directly overhead."

To gear up for tonight's performance, we had watched several homemade videos of previous years' shows. The process of hand-lighting fireworks looks fairly innocuous on tape, but the cameraman had been restricted to a safe distance, so we were completely unprepared for the enormous amounts of flaming debris which now rained down on our lead operator and his spotter. When engaged in the disorienting task of shooting up aerial bombs, the spotter's job is crucial: he brushes you (and himself) off after each shell, and reminds you, by pushing down on your shoulder, to stay below the cone of concussion, which can easily knock you flat onto the ground.

Okay, the first three racks of 3-inchers and 4-inchers were spent, and our lead operator passed the flare to his spotter, like a flaming baton. Anikó raced over to take her place as the new spotter, and she was forced to brush off embers even more energetically, as the first 5-inchers went up. Things became pretty darn loud for a while, but by the time Anikó received the baton, some smaller 3-inch guns were next in the firing line. During our runthrough, she had asked me to be her spotter, just in case those old memories of the pressure cooker proved to be too overwhelming. So I gently placed my hand on her shoulder, ready to accept the baton at the first sign of skittishness.

After her first shell "whumped" out of its gun and the hot wave of backwash hit our faces, I could feel a bit of shaking through her Nomex jacket, so I quickly brushed the embers off both of us and squeezed her shoulder encouragingly. To my surprise, she stepped right back in and lit the second round. What a trouper. By the time we reached the end of the rack, eight shells later, she seemed almost at home in this living hell of thunderous explosions and burning rain.

But when I looked over my shoulder at the next rack, three huge mortar barrels stared back at me. 6-inchers. Holy cow. Anikó was unknowingly scheduled to ignite half of our team's largest shells.

She obviously hadn't planned on this, and I could see the fear behind her safety goggles as she glanced at me. I patted her shoulder, and prepared to take the baton. But then she stepped right back in, to light the next quickmatch. When that huge shell went up, its heavily-braced wooden rack jumped clean off the ground. I was busier than ever, brushing away a veritable blizzard of flaming embers. One of them burned through my sneaker and seared the back of my foot, but I was too busy watching Anikó. She looked around, hesitated... and then stepped in again. Nothing was gonna stop this lady now.

Later, she was given the honor of lighting off our set piece - an American flag in the form of fireworks. Piece of cake.

During the drive home, I asked why she had agreed to participate. After all, I was the crazy guy who wanted to fulfill his childhood dream of 'blowing things up,' while she was just a nervous woman who often jumped at the distant backfire of a car.

She replied simply, "A wife should share her husband's experiences, no?"

Fireworks mortars in Baldwin Park.

[Photo: fireworks mortar tubes in Baldwin Park, CA - July 4, 2003.]

Update: now in the facebookworm book (p.32).
 
Recreation Supervisor, Antarctica.

From craigslist. After you've been out of work for awhile, job listings like this become strangely appealing:

"Recreation Department Supervisor 2007-2008
Experience Antarctica via NANA Services

Seeking a unique adventure as well as employment? How would you like to be one of the few people on the planet to have the opportunity to live and work at or near the geographic South Pole? [...]"
 
The Alexandria Quartet. By Lawrence Durrell:

The Alexandria Quartet"Capitally, what is this city of ours? What is resumed in the word Alexandria? In a flash my mind's eye shows me a thousand dust-tormented streets. Flies and beggars own it today — and those who enjoy an intermediate existence between either. [¶] Five races, five languages, a dozen creeds: five fleets turning through their greasy reflections behind the harbour bar. But there are more than five sexes and only demotic Greek seems to distinguish among them. The sexual provender which lies to hand is staggering in its variety and profusion. You would never mistake it for a happy place. The symbolic lovers of the free Hellenic world are replaced here by something different, something subtly androgynous, inverted upon itself. The Orient cannot rejoice in the sweet anarchy of the body — for it has outstripped the body. I remember Nessim once saying — I think he was quoting — that Alexandria was the great winepress of love; those who emerged from it were the sick men, the solitaries, the prophets — I mean all who have been deeply wounded in their sex."
 
Spooky superstitious. Out-of-staters don't believe me when I tell them we live somewhere between the Superstition Freeway and Spook Hill.

Stevie Wonder: Talking Book"Superstition" by Stevie Wonder:

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladder's 'bout to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass,
Seven years of bad luck, the good thing's in your past.

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way.

Very superstitious, wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin' strong,
You don't wanna save me, sad is my song.

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way, yeh, yeh.

Very superstitious, nothin' more to say,
Very superstitious, the devil's on his way,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass,
Seven years of bad luck, good thing's in your past.

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain't the way, no, no, no.
 
Vivoleum = no more oil crisis. The Yes Men, my favorite social-commentary performers, are at it again:

June 14
Imposters posing as ExxonMobil and National Petroleum Council (NPC) representatives delivered an outrageous keynote speech to 300 oilmen at GO-EXPO, Canada's largest oil conference, held at Stampede Park in Calgary, Alberta, today.

The speech was billed beforehand by the GO-EXPO organizers as the major highlight of this year's conference, which had 20,000 attendees. In it, the "NPC rep" was expected to deliver the long-awaited conclusions of a study commissioned by US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman. The NPC is headed by former ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond, who is also the chair of the study.

In the actual speech, the "NPC rep" announced that current U.S. and Canadian energy policies (notably the massive, carbon-intensive exploitation of Alberta's oil sands, and the development of liquid coal) are increasing the chances of huge global calamities. But he reassured the audience that in the worst case scenario, the oil industry could "keep fuel flowing" by transforming the billions of people who die into oil.

"We need something like whales, but infinitely more abundant," said "NPC rep" "Shepard Wolff" (actually Andy Bichlbaum of the Yes Men), before describing the technology used to render human flesh into a new Exxon oil product called Vivoleum. 3-D animations of the process brought it to life.

[more]

[Several years ago, a friend of mine wrote a short story about turning the elderly into oil. Tagline: "There's no fuel like an old fool."]
 
Cut off that idiot Tonto at the pass. Several gas stations on Power Road, the major north-south drag in this area, feature signs like the one below. The Tonto Pass provides access to recreational areas (like Needle Rock and Saguaro Lake) in the Tonto National Forest, which is about a mile from here. I think the simple, yet elegant, logo captures the essence of this wilderness:

Tonto Pass

FYI: the name of the forest came from the Tonto Apache Tribe, who refer to themselves as Dilzhe'e. The word "Tonto" is considered offensive by some, due to its etymology - it comes from the Spanish word for "idiot." Can't imagine why they don't like it.

Other Tonto links - the animation of Lenny Bruce's Thank You Mask Man:

City Official: [...] God-damn, you can't have Tonto!
Mask Man: Bullshit! You made the deal, and that's what I want. I want Tanta the Indian.
City Official: Look, buddy, his name ain't Tanta, it's Tonto, and you can't have Tonto.
Mask Man: Bullshit! I want Tanta, I want Tanta the Indian!
City Official: God-damn you, you hippie freak, I wanna tell you... what the hell do you want Tonto for, anyway?
Mask Man: To perform an unnatural act.
City Official: What?
Mask Man: You heard me - to perform an unnatural act.
City Official: The Mask Man is a fag! God-damn! The Mask Man is a fag! The masked Fag Man! Oh, Lord! I'm getting dizzy. Don't look at him, kids! The bad Fag Man. Oh! [Spluttering.] The Masked Bad Fag Damn Man. You fag bastard, you! God-damn it, kids. Mask Man, I never knew you were that way!
Mask Man: I'm not a fag, but I've heard so much about it, I've read a lot of exposés on how bad it is, and I want to try it, just once. You know, I like what they do with fags in this country. The punishment is quite correct - lock 'em up with a bunch of other men. Very clever. [...]
 
Do you know any Arizona songs? The only Arizona tune I know: By the Time I Get to Phoenix (composed by Jimmy Webb and made famous by Glen Campbell).

According to Wikipedia: "...the type of trip described in the song, based on the conditions of roads in the U.S. in 1965, would be unlikely. Presumably the singer is leaving Los Angeles (or the west coast), and would expect to get to Phoenix, a distance of over 370 miles, in only a few hours, on what would then have most likely been Route 66 to be infeasible. It is also a distance of over 500 miles from Los Angeles to Albuquerque, and in the song he indicates that his ex-lover might telephone him during lunch while he's already at or past that point. As for the last point mentioned, Oklahoma, the nearest point in Oklahoma, the town of Felt, would be more than 1150 miles and even at Interstate speeds would take more than 17 hours. To reach a major city such as Oklahoma City (straight through on Interstate 40 from Albequerque) would exceed 1375 miles and take almost 20 hours. Thus the scenario as described in the song is probably unlikely to occur."

By the way, I was surprised to find out that Glen Campbell lives right here in Phoenix...

Click for Glen Campbell mug shots
 
Totally tubular, yo.

tubesThe drugstore a block away rents inner tubes.

I think the tubes are intended for activities like this.

On any given weekend, the drugstore parking lot is full of teenagers in bathing suits.

Their slim, youthful bodies make me feel old.

Old and tubular. ;-)
 
Cigarette?

The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition"In the dark he went into the strange country and it was very strange indeed, hard to enter, suddenly perilously difficult, then blindingly, happily, safely, encompassed; free of all doubts, all perils and all dreads, held unholdingly, to hold, to hold increasingly, unholdingly still to hold, taking away all things before, and all to come, bringing the beginning of bright happiness in darkness, closer, closer, closer now closer and ever closer, to go on past all belief, longer, finer, further, finer higher and higher to drive toward happiness suddenly, scaldingly achieved."

--from The Strange Country, in:
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: The Finca Vigia Edition
 
The Pastor's Wife.

The Power of Purpose AwardsWe attended a church service yesterday. First time in years.

We wanted to meet the pastor's wife, a prizewinning writer.

$10,000.00. Nice prize. Whew.

I ran into Lisa McMann at Francis Ford Coppola's Virtual Studio. The two of us fought like tigers at first... but a few months ago, we buried the hatchet. It was a welcome surprise.

Then I found out she lived less than ten miles away, so it sounded like fun to arrange a face-to-face meeting. And when I heard that her husband was a pastor/rock star, a church visit seemed like the logical venue.

Lisa and Matt are good people. We really enjoyed chatting with them.

Lisa recently signed a two-book deal, and from what we heard yesterday, there's more good news to come. Go, Lisa!
 
Arizonan or Arizonian. Which is it?

The Arizonan MotelThe Arizonian film (1935)
 
48 Hour Film Project: Phoenix. From craigslist:

Calling all Phoenix filmmakers and actors... Hurry and find your team, registration spots are limited. The 48 Hour Film Project, an international competition which has been happening since 2001, comes to Phoenix on the weekend of July 20th.

Teams of filmmakers and actors are given a prop, character and line of dialogue and then draw a genre out of a hat. You have from 7pm on Friday until 7:30 pm on Sunday to make the best 4-7 minute short film to represent Phoenix at the international competition. All films are shown at local theaters where audiences will vote for awards and an official panel of judges picks the City winner who will go on to compete for a Panasonic HD package and film distribution. For more info: www.48hourfilm.com/phoenix


***

Until then: keep busy with Script Frenzy, the screenwriters' version of National Novel Writing Month.
 
Happy anniversary from Chip3. (See previous posting, below.)

I tried to use the Hungarian anniversary greeting this morning: "Boldog házassági évfordulót kivánok." Anikó said my pronunciation was "pretty good" (unspoken: "for an American").

After she left for work, I discovered that Chip3, our new Windows Vista computer, had a dictation program. So I spent a half-hour training it (reading text into a microphone), and everything seemed to be operating quite well.

Then I dictated that Hungarian phrase, and this is what came out: "Bold dog oz a soggy afford to lot keep the knock."

I just texted it to her, and she cracked right up. ;-)
 
Boldog házassági évfordulót kivánok! Seven years ago today, I married a fantastic woman at the former Avalon home of America's preeminent writer on western lore, Zane Grey.

Originally built in 1926, Grey's pueblo was designed to serve as a haven for his prolific literary efforts, and features extraordinary views of the ocean, as well as the surrounding hills of Catalina Island.


Happy anniversary, Anikó!

Alan + Anikó in Avalon
 
Hungarian-American Gothic. The pencil came from Think Big:

Anikó + Alan

With apologies to Grant Wood:

American Gothic
 
Kamikaze Saguaro.

Attack of the Killer SaguaroWe recently bought an exotic (non-Saguaro) cactus.

Naturally, we wanted to know the best way to care for it.

So I spent some time on Google.

One of the sites that popped up was a page in French.

And it contained this singular photo...
 
The Ballad of Chip(1-3). head banging on computerOur computer nightmare started in April. But we finally discovered that the hard drive on Chip2 (our nearly-kaput Gateway) was still spinning, against all odds.

Hallelujah.

So we shelled out sixty bucks for a Seagate external hard drive, and schlepped everything over to the Data Doctors. They offered to transfer the contents of Chip2 to the Seagate... for an exorbitant price. So we sought a second opinion from the PC Surgeon.

The idea of a Surgeon--rather than just a plain ol' Doctor--treating our sick little Chip2 seemed more comforting, somehow.

The Surgeon was confident that he could pump Chip2's hard drive for a reasonable fee. Excellent! We'd also been saving Chip1, an eleven-year-old laptop, for just this moment. Chip1 runs Windows 3.1 (!) and still boots, God bless its ancient little motherboard.

So we delivered Chip1 (a circa-1996 520Mb IBM ThinkPad), Chip2 (a circa-2001 18Gb Gateway notebook), and the Seagate to PC Surgeon. He promised to give us back an external hard drive brimming with 2 computers' worth of crap.

But it's OUR crap, dammit. ;-)

After several anxious weeks, we're happy to report that the Seagate now contains the contents of Chip1 and Chip2. Plus, the Surgeon charged only a fraction of the Doctors' quote. Such a deal.

The Moral: Go buy an external hard drive. Now. They're dirt cheap, and huge advances in backup technology have been made during the past few years. We remember having to futz with dragging files into various windows in a CD creator program, switching CDs, labeling, cataloging, etc. Yesterday, we plugged in the Seagate, clicked a couple of buttons, and had a full backup of 3 computers in less than 30 minutes.

The Best News: Although Chip3, our new computer, was pretty darn stubborn for the first few weeks, he's now completely housebroken.