Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Roto-Rooter and Nothingness

Sam Blanc, founder of Rotoscoped-Rooter
Dysthymia, dysphoria, suicidal ideation. Are you infected with a metastasizing negativity that's spreading into every bone of your body? Do you walk into a room full of strangers and hate everyone or feel disgust at people going about routine activities like eating? Do you feel the world is full of gargoyles who're inhabited by nothingness, with personality consisting of rabbit holes on whose event horizons you're constantly in danger of drowning. Imagine life as one long anal argument, one of the those all night affairs that takes on a life of its own and ending with you hating yourself as much as the person over whom you've unsuccessfully prevailed—because they’re stubborn and stupid and don’t accept the evisceration of everything which you’ve come to understand as a basic human truth. There's also an exhilaration in annihilation. It’s so definitive like one of those ominous lines that sees death in everything from a Sylvia Plath poem. You like to assert the indestructibility of the ego even though it leaves no recourse and no way out of the solitudinous grave you’ve dug for yourself. Do you enjoy flaunting your inhumanity, your lack of need for the company of anyone and yet suffer when you find your recusal from the community meets with an indifference that only increases your rage? Then it’s time to call Roto-Rooter with their famed jingle, “away go troubles down the drain.”

Monday, August 19, 2019

Wall Street or Jurassic Park?

The inverted yield curve has been in the news ("What’s the Deal With That Inverted Yield Curve? A Sports Analogy Might Help,NYT, 8/15/19). The Times compared the American economy to the New England Patriots who have a coach, Bill Bellichick, 67 and a quarterback Tom Brady, 42. You might bet on them next year, but you’re not going buy futures on the team. However, the idea of an inverted curve is a rather pregnant image. It’s kind of a financial version of Peyronie’s Disease, the abnormal curvature of the penis. One likes to think in terms of progress and there are many investors who subscribe to the view that over the long haul, the march of securities will always be upwards. However, there was another piece in the same day's Times, an obituary for Kary B. Mullis ("Kary B. Mullis, 74, Dies; Found a Way to Analyze DNA and Won Nobel,NYT, 8/15/19) which may also be applicable. Mullis invented PCR or polymerase chain reaction which is a way of copying DNA to analyze it. The obit goes on to state: “Indeed, the science of PCR, because it allows for the unlimited replication of small bits of DNA, was one of the inspirations of ‘Jurassic Park,’ the Michael Crichton novel about a theme park of cloned dinosaurs that Steven Spielberg tuned in a  movie franchise.” What about examining the DNA of the players on the world stage from Donald Trump, to Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and even Kim Jong-un? It’s nice to think that the financial system is not suffering from a form of Peyronie's and that the inverted curve will flatten out and rise normally in response to stimulation. However, if something has occurred which is turning the leaders of the world into Dinosaurs, then you might want to take a massive short position in anticipation of the bottom falling out of not only the market but human life.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar

The wonderful thing about radio dramas, which are having a renaissance on channels like Sirius XM's Radio Classics, is that you get to imagine the faces. This applies even in cases where the roles were played by famous actors or actors would became household names when they reprised the same roles on TV. Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar which played from l949-62, starred celebrities like Dick Powell (of Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre fame) and Edmond O’Brien, but the series’s main character, an insurance investigator known simply as “Dollar,” took on a life of his own, due to the magical way that radio allows the mind to fill in the blanks. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore. Radio has had a renaissance with Podcasts like S-Town and Serial made by the This American Life people, but a program about an insurance investigator? It’s almost as original as one about a P.I. who wears a scuba tank. If you recall, Sea Hunt was on radio before it came to TV. Every series has its credo and with Yours Truly, it’s the expense account, whose items become a narrative device in and of themselves. You learn what Dollar has done through his expenditures i.e. taxi fare, dinner for two and hotel in say New Orleans where he’s gone to investigate a claim. Most people think of insurance as dull. It’s like the career in plastics recommended to Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. But it can make for interesting scams, particularly when life insurance is involved. You always know Dollar is on the scene by the show’s haunting musical theme which would have been as indelible as Dragnet's (dumdumdumdum) if Johnny had ever made it to the Golden Age of TV.

Thursday, August 15, 2019


The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO
It's almost impossible to fathom the fragility of being. If the idea sounds too metaphysical then just look into the deserted hulk of a space which used to be teeming with life. This is the stuff of horror novels like The Shining, in which the walls of the Overlook Hotel are literally embedded with garish and still tortured spirits. However, you have only to walk down to the corner and look into the vacant space which once housed the restaurant where you took the kids on Sundays in that long ago time when a certain way of life was in full bloom. Wordsworth deals with this in “Tintern Abbey,” where he conjures the sublimity deriving from an old and abandoned space which still exudes the past. When you empty out a residence, render it broom clean and finally take your final leave, you’re likely to take once last wistful look. It’s at these moments that you realize that ownership is truly an illusion, however proprietary one’s relationship to reality. Renting or owning, it’s all the same since at same point the prized possession is going to fall into new hands, with the stamp conferred by anyone or thing soon dissolving as new forms of life metabolize in its place. Structurally the surfaces may seem the same, but inside it’s like one of those neurological disorders where the familiar face is now occupied by a stranger (Capgras) or the once familiar face is no longer familiar at all (prosopagnosia).

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Interminable Wait For a Bus

MTA bus (photo:trainrider10)
It’s interesting that seemingly long distances which require concomitantly long durations of time to traverse are all mere flashes in the pan when looked at in a cosmic setting. The force of dark energy which is causing expansion is, for example, making the multiverse an increasingly dark place, with the light from distant bodies taking ever greater periods of time to reach any particular point in space. Compare that to waiting for the bus on one of those freezing cold February days when every minute feels like an eternity or trying to get to sleep when you’re suffering from insomnia and time itself becomes an agent of unrest, if not insanity. Recorded history may account for 5000 years which, if you imagine time as a yardstick, would not earn a visible notch and yet no one can believe that it’s taking so long for a simple order of spaghetti to come, when the kitchen in the local Italian place is working at capacity. When they’re happening travails that turn out to be inconsequential and are largely forgotten seem like the voice of a great tenor who commands the stage. A charismatic personality can take the air out of a room though the building in which they're contained will itself one day fall into disrepair. “Look at my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains,” says Shelley’s Ozymandias. Relatively speaking the seas are never wide nor the time it takes to cross them interminable, no matter how unending the voyage may feel like. And then there's Keats’ Grecian Urn, which is timeless.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Habeas Corpus

There’s a scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) when a body is jettisoned from a truck loaded with potatoes. Besides the potatoes the movie is rife with culinary citations due to the fact that a police detective assigned to the case is married to a woman with culinary ambitions of a comically failed nature (her husband is always dumping her creations in the garbage when she isn’t looking). But the body secreted in the middle of a moving lorry is a suggestive image. You may find department store mannequins thrown out with the rubbish. However, it’s amazing there aren’t more mangled limbs and heads turning up at the local town dump. Vik Muniz's Wasteland dealt with the garbage pickers turned artist/curators of the Jardim Gramacho, a dump outside Rio and there’s Potter’s Field, where all the unclaimed corpses are sent for mass burial and between the two you might have the beginnings of a living piece of surrealism. In the days of incinerators in NYC high rises, there were undoubtedly cases where these shoots became the repository of, at the very least, animal remains. Now however there are far easier and inventive ways of criminals disposing of the dead (for instance animal crematoria). So the opportunities of criminal objets trouves resulting from mob hits is lessened. Remember the cement shoes that the Mafia used to bid farewell to their rivals? Habeas Corpus literally means “produce the body.” Now your average assassination or murder is far more surgical and sterile, employing the most advanced forms of refuse removal known to man.

Monday, August 12, 2019


You may have heard of the 50’s+ dating site, “OurTime,” (OurTime.com) for the Tinder of heart. The problem is that you have to be wary of the kind of perverts that are turned on by protheses. If you're looking for a site that caters to the crowd who want to remain sexually active despite the hearing aids and walkers, you might want to go to “HasBeen,” (HasBeen.com). At HasBeen you’re likely to meet your match. There's a certain etiquette to negotiating your way around to the extent that you have to at least act like a has been. If you boast about your current success say winning in 50 and over men’s singles at the Club, you aren’t going to meet a soul. No one's going to be impressed by someone who's happy and well-adjusted and uses expressions like “I can’t complain,” and “sounds like a plan.” You don’t want to exchange contact information with someone who's “on the same page" with you. It’s hard telling someone who's looking for a mate what to say, but a typical exchange on HasBeen might go something like this. “I used to like bike riding.” Without missing a beat and without so much as an acknowledgment of what the other person has said, the respondent should discuss how much biking they did when they were young. Not only are they talking only about themselves, with little recognition that the other even exists, they're describing an activity that's basically defunct—at least in their life. All the stars of the site are has beens and if you join up you want to hit the nail on the head, emphasizing that you're one too.