A World with MLK

Sometimes I think about what might have been if Martin Luther Ling Jr. had not been assassinated in 1968. martin_luther_king_jr portraitHe might have led the Poor People’s March on Washington that summer and advanced the cause against economic discrimination. poorpeopleHe might have advanced the cause for ending the war in Vietnam earlier; indeed he might have become a senator, even president. tumblr_lqgjn9kK2U1qjih96o1_500He might have established a very different course on foreign policy – no wars in Kuwait, Afghanistan or Iraq, genuine aid offered in the Balkans, Rwanda, Syria…

Hama, Syria

Hama, Syria

A very different domestic policy – restraints on the rich, opportunities for the poor…black-unemployment-1Perhaps even understanding and vision for our environment.

Anna Maria Key, Florida

Anna Maria Key, Florida

Yeah, I had a dream.

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Scenes of Badness: Change-Up, Sherlock & Savages

As I am wont to do, I can spend an entire day – such as yesterday – watching movies, the worse the better.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is pure caricature but offers a visually poetic penultimate moment where massive bullet shells pummel a forest in 180-degree, slow-motion, sepia-matrix technology.Screenshot (442)Re-cut and re-imagined, it could be installed in a gallery.Screenshot (443)

The Change Up – yet another Freaky Friday – is a predictable disaster of mediocre dialogue and morality, except for an off-kilter scene involving babies, blenders, knives and outlets.Screenshot (472)

Oliver Stone’s Savages is an aimless train wreck of drugs, violence and sex narrated by a omnipotent dumb blond. Screenshot (501)“Just ’cause I’m telling you this story doesn’t mean I’m alive at the end of it. It’s that kind of a story.” Yeah, it is.

The Bawigi

I wasn’t going to make it. I knew that. I had only been in the water for ten minutes. Not even that. Five. And I was tired. We were still in the bay. Hammer’s Island was still there. I banged my hand against the canoe. My fingernail was broken. I was just going to stop.DSCN1933“You okay, Dee?” Reilly looked down at me, her paddle across her legs. She was a three-time Bawigian; she had a tattoo of a fish on her wrist.

“Yeah.” I didn’t know why but I started again. I would make it out past Hammer’s, and that would be it.

“You’re doing great.”

I hated how dark the water was, how my arms went out in front of me and became brown and gross. The sunlight went down in long sharp lines and then got lost, like there was something there, branches, something reaching up, fish in the gloom. I closed my eyes and counted my strokes. I made it to ten before hitting the canoe again. swimming_pov“You want to take a break?”

“No.”

“It’s not a big deal. We’ve got all day.”

I could see the other canoes getting further ahead. There were twelve of them, painted green and red. 22 swimmers, everyone ahead. I kicked and counted, my eyes open, my arms coming across my face, digging out, pulling back. I had to remember to kick. I got to 20 this time. I was going to stop and then started again and got higher. I looked up at 50. The canoe was still there, Reilly looking at me over her paddle. I really liked her. I counted and kicked again. We were down from Hammer’s, out in the open lake, the deepest part, a hundred feet down, more. I thought about something coming out from that, that long prehistoric body, its row of teeth, swimming faster and faster, coming at me, coming after my arm as it came back, my toes dragging behind. I had to remember to kick. I did it twice and dragged again. I had water in my ears; it was humming and starting to hurt. I banged my head against the surface. DSCN1934“You’re almost a third of the way.”

I floated there, almost treading backwards, thinking I would just get her to pull me up, and kicked and reached again. I counted to 50. My arms were heavy. I couldn’t kick. I was gasping for breath. I counted again. I made it to 40 this time. I stopped. There was a canoe just ahead.

“Jasmine’s getting out.”

She was the only other Frog in the Bawigi.

“You’re doing great.”

I kicked and counted again. I made it to 50 and kept going. I was at 100, but I wasn’t swimming right. My arms were flopping down and I wasn’t kicking at all. I wasn’t going anywhere. I flipped onto my back and let my legs flutter. The sun was over the front of the canoe. I was cold. I wanted to get out.

“You’re halfway, Dee. Suze and Lizzie just got out.”DSCN1935I wasn’t going to make it. I knew that. I had nothing left, but I would go as long as I could. I flipped over and counted again. I got to 80, and I was going to stop. My hands were pruned. I couldn’t feel anything, like I had something around me, like my skin had a skin on top of that. My legs felt like that too. It wasn’t in me. I was going to drown, something like that, and then I had Jabberjaw in my head. Jabberjaw was a cartoon shark in a cartoon band with cartoon teen-aged kids. He played drums. And he was a giant shark, a Great White. He must have been 20 feet tall, towering over everyone in the band. Jabberjaw was always getting into trouble because of his lamebrain ideas and bumbling antics.Screenshot (420)He had a crazy laugh, “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” He laughed like that whenever he got into trouble. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” He was always in trouble. That’s what drove the show. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” It wasn’t just Jabberjaw laughing in my head; it was Marlin Perkins too, the old man from Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. marlinperkinsJabberjaw was the subject of today’s show. Marlin Perkins was on the edge of his desk with a picture of Jabberjaw over his shoulder, Jabberjaw, the crazy cartoon shark, dancing on the water. “We seek the mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters off Cozumel,” Marlin Perkins announced. He said ‘Jabberjaw’ like he had practiced it too much or knew him like a brother. “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.”Screenshot (426)He repeated, intoning each syllable, Jab-ber-jaw and Co-zu-mel like lyrics, words he was teaching. Jabberjaw! I stopped and looked up. We were in the channel, turning through the islands. The harbor, the end of the Bawigi, was over a mile away.

Reilly’s head bobbed above the water. She looked very cool. I was happy about that. I was happy that I was going through the islands. I was happy that I had made it to here. I was happy that I was still in the water. I didn’t care that I wasn’t going to make it. “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” Marlin Perkins’ face was big, like Jabberjaw’s, bright blue and white. And then Jabberjaw was saying Marlin Perkins’ lines: “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” He was laughing at that. “Knuck-knuck-knuck.” He was laughing like he was teaching it to Marlin. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” Marlin Perkins tried it, but he didn’t have the ending right. It was too hard, too enunciated. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!”Screenshot (418)Jabberjaw laughed it slowly, like a baby. And then he explained it like Marlin would understand: “The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel. Knuck-knuck-knuck!” Marlin Perkins tried it again. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!”  Jabberjaw replied, “Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” And then Marlin Perkins had it. “In the clear waters of Cozumel, the laugh of the Jabberjaw his hallmark, professing his lamebrain ideas and bumbling antics. Knuck-knuck-knuck!” Jabberjaw was on the edge of the desk with him now, listening, his front fins crossed in his knees. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” They did it together. “Knuck-knuck-knuck! The mysterious Jabberjaw in the clear waters of Cozumel.” Their voices were combined, Marlin Perkins’ professorial tone, Jabberjaw’s high-pitched chuckle. “The mysterious Jabberjaw!” Marlin Perkins patted Jabberjaw on the back. “Knuck-knuck-knuck!” marlin2I was doing frogs kicks now, my face just above the surface. The bay had narrowed to a line of cottages on each side. I focused on Reilly’s paddle, in and out of the water, the curl of the far side of the blade, the line of bubbles, out and just ahead, cutting through the brown water, the light off that, flat and the bubbles and out again. “The mysterious Jabberjaw! The clear waters of Cozumel. Jabberjaw! Knuck-knuck-knuck! Jabberjaw!” Marlin Perkins was tired, waiting for commercial, sitting behind the desk. Jabberjaw wasn’t a cartoon anymore. He was just lines, smudged, not even talking. “Knuck-knuck.” Marlin Perkins tried to get him going but that was it. I could see the bottom. Swirls of light slid up and down off the green rocks, and then there was sand and the dock. I was there.

Jabberjaw & Shelly

Jabberjaw & Shelly

“Knuck-knuck.”  I loved that shark.

Dead Things in the Street

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I can’t move my head. Not even my shoulders. I am pinned, a bright side light on my face and neck.

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I am flat and horrible, my eyes wide, stuck against the ground. Stuck there, panicking. I can’t even move my leg. I have no control. I am completely helpless, trapped by monsters, people I don’t know, who have left me here to die, to be tortured and think nothing of it.

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I try to close my eyes to make it go away, but it is still there. I can’t move. I want to scream but I can’t even do that. I am stuck in this silence with not even myself, with nothing but my labored miserable loneliness.

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(Yeah, I know. I always end with a tree.)

“The Ark”: A New Beginning

I am back to work on my science fiction book, The Ark, at the beginning again. 

I edged out further, holding hard to the balcony rail, and looked down to the street, 28 floors below, at the neat rows of sandbags banked up around the Custom House grates.IMAG1225A howling gust snapped sharply over the trees as a line of Japanese tourists, ensconced in cheap clear ponchos, suddenly appeared out of the park, some stopping to take pictures, followed by a police car, its blue lights mute and slow. IMAG1254They had stopped broadcasting the evacuation order hours ago. Zone A was closed. The surge was almost here.

I slid the balcony door closed, and the curtains lulled back. Apollo circled away, eyeing the black sky and buffeting glass.

“This morning’s high tide was at 8:30 am. Eleven hours ago.” The weather guy was earnest, his sleeves rolled up, his square jaw pushed out for this soap-opera apocalypse. IMAG1252“That tide surged over the walls into the city this morning. It has already been here. This tide is a full moon high tide; it’s much worse. This is the one we have to watch. This one could be anywhere from 8 feet up to 11, 12, 13 feet. 13 feet! Think about that.” He had his hand stretched up like he might sing. “In just 15 minutes. 13 feet in 15 minutes. This is as serious as it gets. This is it.”

Spike Jonze’s “Her”: Subtle Sci-Fi

In Spike Jonze’s new film Her, people are profoundly asocial, lost in their search for happiness and understanding in the digital world.Her-Movie-copyThe concrete differences from our world to this not-too-distant future are pants which are worn high above the waist and operating systems (OS) that have been successfully programmed to have human characteristics, including empathy and love. her-movie-photo-13Jonze makes many interesting decisions in this film, including keeping the OS as a voice (no virtual babes) and allowing the OS to evolve as a distinct entity which we, as humans, eventually cannot understand, an idea reminiscent of the cognitive planet offered in Stanilslaw Lem’s Solaris. Solaris3This thoughtful science fiction piece is well worth seeing not only because it posits an imminent future that is neither doomed nor delightful but also to see a futuristic video game that doesn’t involve killing everyone and actually looks fun to play.tumblr_mz7nab11xx1seyhpmo1_500

Winter: “my bad side”

I crept into my horrible hole, my knees bruising against the ice, everything brittle and cracking, and beat my arms across my body, kicking my legs to get warm, and then lay still, as cold as before, worse.IMAG2310I was breathing fog and closed my eyes. It was so awful and cold. I couldn’t move my fingers. 20140110_111553My cheeks hurt. I couldn’t breathe right. I felt for my heart and couldn’t feel that and then it wasn’t right, half beating and then too many in a row and then none at all. I had to tear myself out of my sleeping bag, out of my fucking snow tomb. IMAG2318And I was going to do it. I was going to scream, insanely scream. Scream! It didn’t come out like that. It was just a noise, a groan, hardly like it had come out of me at all. And then there was something else, another noise, a crunch or snap. I held myself and listened. It was a branch or snow falling, an animal looking for food. A bear. 20140112_102239I turned onto my side, its teeth and giant paws in my head. I could hear it circling. I dug my hands between my legs and stared. I’m not cold. I’m not cold. I’m not going to die here. I said that around and around in my head. I’m not cold. I’m not cold. I’m not going to die here. IMG_3129And then it wasn’t so dark. I could see the shadow of my snow ceiling and my hand. I stared and waited. It was almost light. I was the first one at the fire. I stood over it, staring into it, feeling horrible.* (*From my bad side)20140112_140715