Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheetah Dies at 80

This blog is beginning to resemble the obits--first, Christopher Hitchens, now Cheetah the Ape.  (Who knew apes could live to such a banana-ripe old age?)  Cheetah was part of one of America's greatest mythic inventions, Tarzan of the Apes, from Chicago native Edgar Rice Burroughs.
PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) - A Florida animal sanctuary says Cheetah the chimpanzee from the Tarzan movies of the 1930s has died at age 80. The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor announced on its website that Cheetah died on Dec. 24 of kidney failure.  Sanctuary outreach director Debbie Cobb on Wednesday told The Tampa Tribune ( that Cheetah was outgoing, loved finger painting and liked to see people laugh. She says he seemed to be tuned into human feelings.  Cheetah was the comic relief in the Tarzan series starring American Olympic gold medal swimmer Johnny Weissmuller. Cobb says Cheetah came to the sanctuary from Weissmuller's estate sometime around 1960.  Cobb says Cheetah wasn't a troublemaker. Still, sanctuary volunteer Ron Priest says when the chimp didn't like what was going on, he would throw feces.
12/30 UPDATE:  Apparently some have questioned the "80 year old" claim.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Query

"How can we contrive to be at once astonished by the world and yet at home in it?"
--G.K Chesterton, Orthodoxy (1908)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Up in Smoke

"It will happen to all of us that at some point, you get tapped on the shoulder and told not just that the party's over, but slightly worse: The party's going on, but you have to leave."
--Christopher Hitchens, RIP  (13 April 1949 - 15 December 2011)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Martyrdom: The Ultimate Performance Art

"Art reaches perfection when it portrays the best life and the best death.  After all, art tells us how to live. That is the essence of art.  Is there art that is more beautiful, more divine, and more eternal than the art of martyrdom?  A nation with martyrdom knows no captivity.  Those who wish to undermine this principle undermine the foundations of our independence and national security.  They undermine the foundation of our eternity."

--Iranian President Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nighthawks, 2011

Experience over Reason

"Experience must be our only guide. Reason may mislead us. It was not Reason that discovered the singular and admirable mechanism of the British Constitution.  It was not Reason that discovered or even could have discovered the odd and in the eye of those who are governed by reason, the absurd mode of trial by jury. Accidents probably produced these discoveries, and experience has given sanction to them. This then was our guide."

--John Dickinson (1732-1808), Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lament for Michelle, Rick, Herman (and Newt?)

In honor of Herman Cain and all the other flame-outs from the Republican presidential primary, here is Herbert James Draper's magnificent 1898 painting, The Lament for Icarus. (To feast your eyes CLICK HERE TO ENLARGE, then click again.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Every brain is on the brink

Restoration  (1952)

To think that any fool may tear
by chance the web of when and where.
O window in the dark! To think
that every brain is on the brink 
of nameless bliss no brain can bear,

unless there be no great surprise --
as when you learn to levitate
and, hardly trying, realise
-- alone, in a bright room -- that weight
is but your shadow, and you rise.

My little daughter wakes in tears:
She fancies that her bed is drawn
into a dimness which appears
to be the deep of all her fears
but which, in point of fact, is dawn.

I know a poet who can strip
a William Tell or Golden Pip
in one uninterrupted peel
miraculously to reveal
revolving on his fingertip,

a snowball. So I would unrobe,
turn inside out, pry open, probe
all matter, everything you see,
the skyline and its saddest tree,
the whole inexplicable globe,

to find the true, the ardent core
as doctors of old pictures do
when, rubbing out a distant door
or sooty curtain, they restore
the jewel of a bluish view.
--Vladimir Nabokov 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


"You leave the gate of the fort or the town behind, pass the camels lying outside, go up into the dunes, or out onto the hard, stony plain and stand awhile alone… Here, in this wholly mineral landscape lighted by stars like flares, even memory disappears; nothing is left but your own breathing and the sound of your heart beating. A strange, and by no means pleasant, process of reintegration begins inside you, and you have the choice of fighting against it, and insisting on remaining the person you have always been, or letting it take its course. For no one who has stayed in the Sahara for a while is quite the same as when he came."

--Paul Bowles (1910-1999)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Let's Have Some New Clichés

“We should have more clichés. They are in truth, as someone said in jest, the poetry of the people.  Without clichés, there are no proverbs, no shared references, and language itself is scarcely possible.”
--Dot Wordsworth

(Click to Enlarge)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anti-Meth PSA's

(CBS) Academy Award winner Darren Aronofsky is known for directing such critically acclaimed films as"Black Swan" and "The Wrestler." Now he's turned his lens towards helping The Meth Project - a national campaign that spreads awareness about the dangers of methamphetamine use. He's directed four shocking public service announcements depicting terrifying scenes of meth users in bad situations.

If that wasn't frightening enough, there are more HERE.

Aranofsky’s approach to these 30-second spots is similar to that taken in his movies, with their fluid shifting between subjective and objective points-of-view. The tension between the two adds a fascinating dimension to the unfolding drama. In essence, his style confirms the primacy of consciousness:  one’s state of mind inevitably shapes the state of one’s reality.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Almost Jonah

This video was shot near Santa Cruz, where a pod of humpback whales has been surface feeding lately.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Howling at the Moon

Recommended Halloween viewing:  THE WOLFMAN (2010), a masterful version of the werewolf myth rendered in classic Hollywood style by director Joe Johnston.  Ominous, painterly, full of bravura action sequences and subtle, seething passions, the movie is a gorgeous period piece, set in England in 1891. The leads, Benicio Del Toro and Emily Blunt, give pitch-perfect performances with sizzling on-screen chemistry.  Anthony Hopkins is perfectly cast as Benicio's eccentric, willful father, presiding over a fog-laden, decaying country estate. Lush sets and art direction, dark and moody, yet vividly evocative, bring the period and the performances dramatically to life.  Danny Elfman works his usual magic with a brilliant, brooding score, and Shelly Johnson's cinematography is nothing less than breathtaking.

An overlooked masterpiece--miss it at your own peril!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


My friend and manager Ken Atchity is in Rome for the premiere of his movie HYSTERIA at the Rome International Film Festival.  Starring Maggie Gyllenhaal, Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Price, Rupert Everett,and Felicity Jones, HYSTERIA is a romantic comedy about the invention of the vibrator in Victorian England.  Ken is executive producer.

UPDATE 10/30:  Ken reports film was very well received, with a standing ovation!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


A passage from Neal Stephenson’s new book:
Neither of these men had much in the way of formal education, since each had decided, during his late teens, to simply go out into the world and begin doing something. And each of them had found his way from there, sometimes with good and sometimes with bad results. Consequently, neither had much in the way of money or prestige. But each had a kind of confidence about him that was not often found in young men who had followed the recommended path through high school to college and postgraduate training. If she had wanted to be cruel or catty about it, Zula might have likened those meticulously groomed boys to overgrown fetuses, waiting endlessly to be born. Which was absolutely fine given that the universities were well stocked with fetal women. But perhaps because of her background in refugee camps and the premature death of her mother, she could not bring herself to be interested in those men. This quality that she had seen in Peter and now saw in Csongor was — and she flinched from the word, but there seemed little point in trying to distance herself from it through layers of self-conscious irony — masculine.

Friday, October 14, 2011


"Never has a man, a moment, and a movement come together like this."
Ed Driscoll

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

Here's a shout out for my friend Joe Schreiber, a prolific and talented thriller and horror author, whose new 'young adult' novel comes out October 25th.  Starred review in Publisher's Weekly and movie rights to Paramount. I'd order it based on the title alone, but if that doesn't do it for you, get a load of this:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Faster-than-Light Theory Must be a Joke

Einstein Albert
"We don't allow faster-than-light neutrinos in here," says the bartender.  A neutrino walks into a bar.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


"Amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy."
--Herman Melville

The Silent Service

Another addition to my research on courage. In his Spectator review of Tim Clayton's Sea Wolves, James Delingpole describes the risks taken by British submariners in WWII:
Of all the Allied fighting service branches in which you wouldn’t have wanted to spend the second world war, probably the grimmest was submarines. Sure, their losses weren’t quite as bad as the German U-boat fleet, where your chances of being killed were four in five. But in the course of the war about one third of British submariners lost their lives; and in the earlier years your chances of coming back from a mission alive were no more than 50/50.

Bomber crews, of course, had to face similarly grim odds. But at least they got back home to clean sheets, a hot shower, a beer and a fag or two. On subs a patrol meant at the very least a fortnight in a foetid, claustrophic hell of cramped, shared bunks and rank air sometimes poisoned with chlorine gas, your clothes perpetually damp and stained with oil, with no water to wash with, increasingly rotten food, and the constant, nagging fear that at any second you could die one of the most horrible deaths imaginable.

Depth-chargings were the worst. You could hear the propellers of the destroyer thrumming louder and louder above you. Then came the agonising wait. The enemy knew your position but not your depth, so your survival depended on how deep they set the various charges to explode. Even a miss was pretty traumatic: the noise, said one captain, was like being ‘in a 15-inch turret standing between the guns when the guns go off.’ The interior of the boat would become a fantastic blur of shaking as paint shredded off the bulkheads and lights smashed. Then you’d hear rivets popping and the hull groaning ominously and you’d wonder whether or not you were about to burst at the seams.

(Click to Enlarge)
Though the second-world-war subs were equipped with an escape hatch, your Davis Submerged Escape Apparatus took ages to put on and was only effective at depths of less than 100 feet (though someone did once survive an escape at 171 feet below). More likely, if your sub was damaged, you’d end up being torn apart as it sank to the bottom and imploded. When the Italian destroyer Circe depth-charged P38 in the Med, it knew it had scored a hit from what rose to the surface: first bubbles and oil; later, ‘a polished cupboard door, a table top, a bag of flags, a human lung’.

So what on earth possessed these sub-mariners to do it? Though it’s a myth that they were all volunteers, the majority of them were drawn to the Silent Service partly by its elitist mystique, partly by its much higher pay (a little less than double the ordinary mariner’s rate) and partly by its independence.
 Lieutenant Commander George Phillips and the crew of the submarine HMS Ursula
An ambitious officer could find himself with his own command at just 28 (and by 35 you were considered past it), while crews relished the cameraderie and the unstuffiness. Discipline was adamantine, because the slightest mistake by one man could destroy an entire crew. But there was no space for the vile bullying or rank snobbery you still often found on capital ships. Submariners relished their piratical raffishness, returning to port after successful patrols by flying the Jolly Roger.

Whether they lived or died was dependent above all on the skill and nerve of their CO. A submarine was only as good as the tonnage it sank, and torpedoing a ship required verve and daring bordering on the suicidal. Commanders who failed to close and kill were quickly replaced: it wasn’t a job for the squeamish. German U-boats may have machine-gunned the crews of ships they’d just sunk but so, on occasion, did British submariners. This was a war of attrition and there is little space for prisoners on a sub.

Was it all worth it? In his gripping history Sea Wolves, Tim Clayton argues that it was. He cites the claim, by Rommel’s chief- of-staff Fritz Bayerlain, that it was British subs which really defeated the Afrika Korps by destroying so many of their supply ships. But this was achieved at the cost of 42 per cent of British submarines lost in the Med alone. Many of these young men’s lives, it’s clear, were simply thrown away by a naval establishment which never quite understood the point of subs. Their radios and guns were poor; their supply of torpedoes pitiful; and the missions they were sent on sometimes suicidal, especially in the Baltic, in the summer, where the near 24-hour daylight made it impossible to surface safely by night and recharge their batteries. Perhaps the pride of being in the Submarine Service was the only real recompense.

Friday, September 23, 2011


Flourish by Julie Robinson

"That which is SEEN is the reflection of one's own consciousness."
Sri Nisargadatta

From an interview with the artist Julie Robinson (Asheville Citizen-Times):

"I make abstract, nonrepresentational paintings that portray nonphysical spiritual experience. I call this “abstract transcendentalism,” which for me signifies a magical gateway through which I can leave the troubled world and find a moment of quiet stillness.

"Painting is something physical that helps me connect to my oneness and timelessness. Eckhart Tolle would call this “getting in touch with the power of now.”

Friday, September 16, 2011

Rare Breed

CSM: [Yesterday] Marine Sgt. Dakota Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor for his attempts to locate and rescue missing comrades despite hostile fire in Ganjgal, Afghanistan. Rather than stay at a relatively safe distance from the intense firefight as he had been ordered, the then-21-year-old crossed battle lines five times and saved the lives of 36 US and Afghan troops pinned down during a Taliban ambush in September 2009.

Meyer is the third living recipient of the Medal of Honor for actions in the wars of Iraq or Afghanistan.

From The Wrong War by Bing West:
"A few weeks later, Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the Marines in Afghanistan, visited Camp Joyce, ate lunch with a subdued Dakota Meyer, talked with the survivors of Gangigal, and flew off, studying his notes.

"Dunford was no man's fool. His troops called him Fighting Joe because he had led from the front in battles in Iraq. He was thoughtful and literate. He studied war, leadership, and courage. Meyer had him stumped. In 28 months in command as a regimental and assistant division commander, he had never come across anything like this.

"In 1942, Sgt. John Basilone had charged several Japanese machine gun nests on Guadalcanal and received the Medal of Honor. Dunford was looking at a similar feat. To rush forward five times, knowing you were going to die...what kind of man did that? Dunford had talked with Capt. Swenson, the savvy advisor, who could only shake his head. The fury of the battle and the lack of support had infuriated Meyer. That four comrades were trapped was unacceptable to him. He wouldn't stop attacking.

"In The Anatomy of Courage, Lord Moran described his firsthand experiences in observing bravery in World War I. 'When the death of a husband or son or brother has grown distant,' he wrote, 'and the world is free again to think without impiety that courage is not common, men will remember that all the fine things in war as in peace are the work of a few men; that the honor of our race is the keeping of but a fraction of her people.' Meyer was one of those 'few men.'"

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Courage Under Fire

Amazing Video: Bystanders Lift Burning Car Off Injured Motorcyclist: Bystanders stopped to help police lift a burning car that hit and dragged a motorcyclist in Logan, Utah. The cyclist was rescued by a group who picked up the car and pulled the man out from under the wreckage.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thinking Big Time

"We are building a 10,000 Year Clock. It's a special clock, designed to be a symbol, an icon for long-term thinking. It's of monumental scale inside a mountain in West Texas. The father of the Clock is Danny Hillis. He's been thinking about and working on the Clock since 1989. He wanted to build a Clock that ticks once a year, where the century hand advances once every 100 years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. The vision was, and still is, to build a Clock that will keep time for the next 10,000 years."

Jeff Bezos
CEO of
(read more HERE)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

London Burning

“My fear was not barbarism, which is civilisation submerged or not yet born, but de-civilisation, which is civilisation gone rotten.”

--John Buchan (1875-1940)
Scottish novelist and politician
author of The 39 Steps and Greenmantle

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Having a Wonderful Time

Our mountain of debt and the plunge in the market remind me of a story about the Hungarian playwright, Odon von Horvath (1901-1938). While hiking in the Alps, he came across the corpse of a long-dead climber. After rummaging in the man's rucksack he found a postcard. "Having a wonderful time." Asked by his friends what he did next, Horvath replied, "I posted it."

Horvath's own death displayed a similar note of absurdity. An exile from Hitler's Germany, he had settled in Paris just before the outbreak of the war. All his life he had suffered from an inordinate fear of lightning, and one day, while on his way to watch Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, he took shelter from a thunderstorm on the Champs-Elysees and was killed by a falling tree branch.

So maybe it's true what FDR said: We have nothing to fear but fear itself. Just don't tell that to a mountain climber!

(cartoon by Michael Ramirez)

Going Ape

Though memories of the original Planet of the Apes (1968) remain vivid to this day, the sequels and Tim Burton's 2001 remake were largely forgettable. Not so with the fabulous new Rise of the Planet of the Apes. A technically brilliant and highly emotional "prequel," Rise does proper justice to one of Hollywood's greatest cinematic myths. Although it indulges the hackneyed anti-capitalist cliche of the greedy, heartless pharmaceutical company run amok, in the end the movie celebrates the struggle for freedom and the dignity and power of self-reliance. The film contains many of what critic Kenneth Turan called "bravura visual moments," including a denouement that sends your mind reeling back over four decades to the final stunning image from the original.Check out the Rise trailer HERE.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Lincoln on the Art of Compromise

Michael Ramirez cartoon (click to enlarge)
"The true rule, in determining to embrace, or reject any thing, is not whether it have any evil in it; but whether it have more of evil, than of good. There are few things wholly evil, or wholly good. Almost every thing, especially of governmental policy, is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded."

--Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Utopian Fascist

image from Anders Breivik's video

Don't miss Michael Ledeen's insightful and provocative post on the mass slaughter in Norway, The Myths of Oslo:
"Anders Breivik’s demons did not drive him to attack Muslims, although there may have been some among his victims; his targets were his own people, those he called “traitors” for betraying the mythical West to the mythical global forces of Islam and Marxism. Quite a bizarre tapestry: A fight to the death among and within three spent forces which had already died."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


Drifting thoughts passing through
or accumulating, the way petals
from shattered cherry blossoms do,
plentifully bunched, breezily high-flown,
a windfall that heaps and settles
along gutters, softening a kerbstone
edge, carpet rolls of flowers
thick as ashes, white and pink,
more numerous than your hours
alive, or thoughts still left to think.

--Roy Kelly

(2 July 2011, The Spectator)
Bodhidharma, woodblock print by Yoshitoshi, 1887

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Not many movies I look forward to these days, but Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky's latest venture, Noah, based on the Bible myth of the ark, has the potential to be great. He's hired screenwriter John Logan (Gladiator, The Aviator) to work on his original script, and rumors are Christian Bale is being sought to play the lead.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Above and Below

Photo of Greece at night taken by NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock aboard the International Space Station (click to enlarge). The god's-eye view looks enchanting and serene; little would you know that on the streets below there rages a Night of the Furies: