Oz Arks

Back when Xy & I lived in Bloomington, we knew a guy named Ray, a long-haired acid burnout/schizophrenic with a penchant for bizarre puns. Once he told us he was going on a trip to New Orleans via the “Oz Arks.” I believe he got arrested for drug possession somewhere along the way.

His nomenclature has stuck with me even after all these years: Oz Arks, bringing to mind vast vessels bound for imaginary lands.

Now we are reversing Ray’s itinerary, without getting arrested I hope. And in like manner, I’ve come to this area hoping to get away from the imaginary dreamworld of civilization and city living, and revisit a higher reality — that is to say, the natural world.

We’re coming to the end of our stay here at Silverleaf’s Ozark Mountain Resort, which is located between Kimberling City and Lampe, Missouri, in the Mark Twain National Forest. Branson is just 20 minutes away, but we haven’t set foot there once.

Instead, we canoed the St. James River. We went to Roaring River State Park and hiked the Devil’s Kitchen Trail. Highly recommended. In both cases, it seemed we were the only people there, perhaps the only people in the world.

I’ve learned a bit about chert forests and the bluff-dwelling Indians who lived here some 10,000 years ago. Fascinating stuff.

It’s not all about nature of course. We’ve also hit a lot of thrift stores. We’ve been swimming a lot. We’ve made love constantly. It’s been a good trip so far, and it’s not even half over.

And we’ve talked about a great many things, like what we want to do with the rest of our lives, plans for future travel, and maybe — just maybe — having a child some day.

See You at Nick’s

It’s official. We’ll be meeting at Nick’s English Hut in Bloomington, Indiana, at 8:30pm on the evening of Wednesday, July 6th.

Who are “we”? Well, in this case, “we” is me and everyone who reads this, if you’re in the Bloomington area. Even if we’ve never met in person, feel free to come on by and say hello. You know what I look like:

My New Haircut

…so it shouldn’t be hard to find me in the vast recesses of Nick’s.

As an added enticement, I’ll give a copy of the new ROX DVD to the first person who comes up to me and says, “La propriété, c’est le vol!”

See you there.

Man Movies

We’ve still got a lot of movies that start with “M” on our list, but we’ve muddled our way through the manly films — that is, films that start with the word “man.”


Quite good:

  • A Man for All Seasons — 1966. The King has big shoulder pads.
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There — 2001. Great atmosphere. Great mood. Great look. Fun to watch, at least if you’re a noir-lovin’ fool like me. But it veers into gratuitous weirdness toward the end.


  • Man with the Movie Camera — 1929. Fast-paced montage, with no narrative, plot, dialog or characters. Great soundtrack.
  • Man of Aran — 1934. First talkie by the “Father of the Documenary,” this looks like documentary, but is actually fiction. A deeply flawed but nonetheless fascinating piece of cinema. The story of the film is even more intriguing than the film itself.

Not so good:

  • Man on Fire — 2004. Good performances. Artsy production (which I liked). But this is a shamelessly manipulative revenge fantasy, a nasty piece of trickery. It’s like emotional blackmail. It left me feeling dirty.
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth — 1976. Kind of boring, not to mention confusing, but stylish.


Dreamed a TV show. Cloris Leachman had a brief cameo as a brunette. She also made a quick appearance in a group of dancers with her hair dyed platinum blonde. I didn’t realize that was her until the credits rolled. She was listed as Cloris Bleachman.

The cameo idea came from The Family Guy, but the pun belongs to my subconscious. I thought it was pretty funny when I was still asleep. Now that I’m awake, not so much.

Why I Never Go to Church

We’ve just about fleshed out the itinerary for our upcoming trip, and I realize now that we’ll be at my parents’ house on Sunday morning.

As a rule, this is something I’ve tried to avoid in recent years, as it brings up the sometimes awkward matter of going to church — or not going to church, as the case may be.

See, I haven’t gone to any sort of church service for many a year. The reason is simple: In every church I’ve ever visited, there is no provision whatsoever for nonbelievers. The worship services are designed with worshipers in mind, and everyone is expected to sing along with the hymns, recite the liturgy, stand up and sit down and pray together.

And that’s how it should be. Worship is serious business, at least to those who believe. I don’t fault churches for this. I don’t expect them to accommodate me. I certainly don’t expect an observation gallery for nonbelievers to be erected in the back.

But this means there’s no place for me in church. Worship services are for worshipers, not for skeptical observers. I don’t wish to go through motions and mouth words which I don’t believe. I have more integrity than that, and furthermore it’s disrespectful to the true believers.

I’ve had arguments with friends, relatives, even Xy about this. Some people just don’t understand where I’m coming from. Even if they’re not religious themselves, they think that the polite or somehow “correct” thing to do is to go to church and go through the motions. Sometimes they justify it as keeping the peace in the family. Sometimes they justify it on grounds of convenience, as the path of least resistance.

I can’t roll with that. To pretend toward a religion one does not embrace is hypocritical. It makes a mockery of sincere religious practice. I don’t know how grown people can do that and still respect themselves. Perhaps they’re just insensitive to the religious experience. But I’m not.

I do worry that Mom might interpret my refusal to go to church as a form of disrespect. Nothing could be further from the truth. To the contrary, I don’t go to church because I respect the religious tradition — and myself.

30 Days

Xy & I watched the premier of 30 Days last night. I think it was as good as anything I’ve seen on television in years. Better, in fact.

The premise: People spend thirty days living a different life than they normally live. The first episode features Morgan “Supersize Me” Spurlock and his fiancé trying to make it on minimum wage. And — no surprise — it’s tough. Actually, they fail, ending the thirty days deep in a financial hole. It was bracing and angrifying. It reminded me of my own life through most of the 90s.

It made for interesting viewing. But as the New York Daily News notes, “the people who really need to see it won’t.”

Spurlock is producing the series (or directing or something) and hosting it, but he won’t be the guinea pig in every episode. Different people will take turns displacing themselves into different milieus. Some of it sounds intriguing, but I think the minimum wage idea has legs. They should stick with it. How about a show where elected officials have to live on minimum wage for a while? That would be some reality television I’d tune in for.


We’ve been holding enemy combatants… for 230 years in various facilities. There is nothing punitive about it. This is not a legal proceeding. There is no need to bring charges. They’re being held because they were identified on the battlefield as threats to our forces.

Former U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr to Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Guantanamo Bay yesterday

Does this mean that if and when a hostile government captures American troops “on the battlefield,” and holds them captive in perpetuity, without trial, without being charged, without any kind of process or trial — the Bush administration would let the matter rest? Would they just say, “Those are the breaks, war is hell” and let the troops rot?

Louisiana is Number One!

I heard a statistic on the radio this morning that got my attention: If Louisiana were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world. Could this be true, I wondered?

A little web searching revealed many citations of Texas, our neighbor to the west, as having the highest incarceration rate.

For example:

If Texas were a country, it would have the highest incarceration rate in the world, easily surpassing the United States and Russia, the next two finishers, and seven times that of the next biggest prison system in China.

This is repeated again and again on about 30 different websites.

A little more poking reveals that the U.S. Department of Justice has published a report titled Prison and Jail Inmates at Midyear 2004, which contains the following passage:

The incarceration rate of State and Federal prisoners sentenced to more than 1 year was 486 per 100,000 U.S. residents on June 30, 2004, up from 482 per 100,000 on December 31, 2003. At midyear 2004, 12 States led by Louisiana (814 sentenced prisoners per 100,000 State residents), Texas (704), and Oklahoma (684), exceeded the national rate. Nine States, including Maine (149), Minnesota (169), and North Dakota (189) — had rates that were less than half of the national rate.

Pretty solid evidence that Louisiana’s incarceration rate exceeds that of Texas. As a friend of mine recently said, Louisiana is “first place in everything bad, and last place in everything good — or tied with Mississippi.”

I wonder why the Texas factoid is so widely cited. Could it be based on a different statistical measure?

Regardless of our exact place, it’s mighty sad that our incarceration rate is approaching nearly 1% of our total population. Whatever your perspective on crime and punishment, it’s pathetic. People should consider these facts before sounding off about how “free” we are, how Americans cherish “freedom,” and how we live in such a “free” country.

Not Floating

I’d hoped to spend the day floating down the Bogue Chitto in an innertube. But for some damn reason, the place we planned to patronize (Wayne’s World) isn’t renting today. I guess they’re afraid of a big electrical storm.

So I went to work instead, which isn’t bad, but it’s not the same as floating down a river. My one and only float trip was about three years ago on the same river, and it was about the most fun I’ve ever had. One guy had a waterproof camera and took pictures of the whole excursion which I can use to torture myself.

Speaking of pix, last night I took this one of Xy:

Xy on the Ferry

I love the way it turned out.

I don’t know — the weather looks great today. These last few days have been perfect, exactly the kind of weather I love most. Hot, yes, with highs in the upper 80s, but not so insufferably sticky, with humidity somewhere between 50% and 60%. Sunshine mixed with shade, as lots of big fluffy white clouds drift by, sometimes forming surreal and mind-blowingly beautiful panoramas on the brilliant blue sky. A gentle rain shower in the afternoon, just enough to cool things down a little. We haven’t even been running the AC at night. June is without a doubt the best time of year.

But I guess there is something brewing down in the Gulf, and her name is Arlene. Yup, hurricane season is upon us once again.

Check One Two

I’ve been wondering how many people read any given post on this blog. (My web stats say this site averages between 200 and 300 visits per day, but of course that doesn’t indicate how many people really read any given post. I’m guessing it’s more like twenty, total. If that.)

So do me a favor and help satisfy my curiosity. If you read this, please leave a comment.

You don’t have to say much. Just “yo” or “hello” or whatever is fine. And of course you can be anonymous.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read this blog before — or if you never plan to read it again. A certain amount of random traffic is the way of the internet.

If you’ve never left a comment before, don’t be shy! It’s easy. Just use the comment link/form below.


We watched 27 movies beginning with the letter L.

Most excellent:


Not bad:

  • Love and Death — 1975. Incredibly silly fun.
  • Love at Large — 1990. Quirky and weirdly compelling.
  • Love Affair — 1939. Sweet, not to mention romantic. This movie was remade several times.
  • Loving — 1970. Starts slow but builds to a good climax.
  • The Last Waltz — 1978. The Band is a wee folksy/country for me, but this is a well-made film. If you like their music, you’ll love this.
  • Lenny — 1974. Worth seeing to get an idea of who Lenny bruce was and why his life mattered.
  • The Life Aquatic — 2004. Similar to The Royal Tenenbaums, but better than The Royal Tenenbaums! Then again, I didn’t like The Royal Tenenbaums, even though everyone else I know loved it. This was just OK. Note to Owen Wilson: People from Kentucky don’t talk like that.
  • The Lady Eve — 1941. Starts off slow but picks up steam eventually. Fun.
  • Laibach: The Videos — 2004. Uneven. Some of the videos are boring, but the better ones are brilliant. First part of the WAT EPK documentary is essential. But the latter part, which amounts to a song-by-song commentary on their album WAT, is less engaging.
  • The Long Good Friday — 1979. British gangster flick.
  • The Long Walk Home — 1990. Important and educational civil rights drama; somewhat stiff, but has some powerful moments.


  • Ladyhawke — 1985. Textbook example of how a bad score (by Allan Parsons) can ruin a decent movie.
  • The Lathe of Heaven — 1980. Great story, marred by dated production, technical troubles with transfer to DVD…
  • Lightning Over Water — 1980. An intriguing experiment which ultimately fails to produce an interesting movie.
  • Look Back in Anger — 1959. Thoroughly unpleasant little story about thoroughly unlikeable characters. Good acting, though.


You may wonder why certain notable movies aren’t here, like L.A. Story or L.A. Confidential or La Dolce Vita or The Last Temptation of Christ or The Last Emperor or The Last Picture Show or Lawrence of Arabia or Lolita or The Long, Hot Summer or Living in Oblivion or Lost in America or Lost in Translation. Well, it’s because I’ve already seen them.


It’s not raining, but it feels like it. I felt like I was swimming on my way to work this morning. It feels like breathing water. I think I’m growing gills. You sweat just standing still. Everything’s stuck together. Paper curls up. Straight hair turns curly. Curly hair turns straight. Wrinkles vanish from clothing. How close is the Gulf? We’re already underwater.

Art News

Item: The Ogden Museum has chosen their official mug, and it’s made by none other than my friend Andrea Christie. The contest was judged by MaPó Kinnord-Payton, an incredible ceramic artist in her own right, who works with me at the University.

Item: There’s an art gallery opening in our neighborhood — just around the corner from our house. Their grand opening is next Saturday!

Too Early for Drama

This day is getting off to a rough start.

See, yesterday I hired a guy named Quickdraw to fix up our gutter.


This morning, we were awoken by a call from our next door neighbor, Craig. Seems Quickdraw had borrowed Craig’s ladder. Only in Craig’s estimation, Quickdraw was too drunk to be climbing on the roof. So Craig took his ladder back.

There was some confusion, during which time Quickdraw thought the ladder had been stolen. Eventually he spotted the ladder back in Craig’s yard and was about to get it. I had to explain to him that Craig had taken back the ladder because he didn’t think Quickdraw fit to work on the roof.

“It’s your roof,” Quickdraw pointed out.

“Yes, but it’s his ladder.”

I had to explain that Craig thought Quickdraw had been drinking. Quickdraw denied this. I don’t know what to think. He didn’t seem drunk to me.

He said he’d borrow a friend’s ladder and be back in a couple hours.

Update: This comedy of errors got even more erroneous. Quickdraw came back with a ladder all right. I assumed it was his friend’s ladder. Then I get a call from Craig, who informed me that the ladder in question was his ladder, the very same disputed item which he’d offered to Quickdraw and then taken back. Apparently Quickdraw just went into Craig’s yard and took it.

Quickdraw on Our Roof

Now, the gutter damage I mentioned was caused by a tree on Craig’s property, which was rubbing against our gutter and damaging our roof. (Houses are crammed really close together in our neighborhood.) So part of Quickdraw’s job was to cut back this tree, and he was doing so. (Of course he didn’t have a saw of his own. He borrowed mine.) One huge branch fell right onto the path from Craig’s front door, effectively trapping him on his property. He was trying to leave, but he couldn’t escape until Quickdraw sawed the branch into smaller pieces.

Anyway, our gutter is fixed, mostly, and the tree won’t do any further damage. As far as I’m concerned, Quickdraw earned his money. (I paid him $80.) It was a hot day. I was soaked with sweat just running around hauling some of those branches to the curb. I can’t imagine what it was like up on that roof, sawing.

And I don’t think he’d been drinking at all.


Bouncing Back

Woke up yesterday morning feeling much better. I don’t know how to put my finger on it exactly, because many of my symptoms persist, but somehow it seemed the worst had passed. Since then I’ve had the feeling that I’m getting better rather than I’m so sick.

I went to the doctor yesterday morning, and her diagnosis seemed astute: This is probably a virus. We don’t know that for sure, but it hasn’t yet revealed itself conclusively as a bacterial infection. (Bacteria, of course, can be treated with antibiotics, whereas virii must simply run their course.) So, she wrote me a prescription for an antibiotic (Z-Pack) but instructed me not to take it unless I got worse over the next few days. I thought that was cool.

Xy thinks we should have the prescription filled just to have an antibiotic on hand for some future scenario.

The doc also gave me some freebie Z-Cof tablets. They contain 800-odd mg of guaifenesin and 30 mg of dextromethorphan.

I’m intrigued by guaifenesin. Seems it’s the synthesized version of guaiacum, which is a preparation made from the bark of the lignum vitae tree. It’s been used to treat rheumatism since 1580! And apparently it also thins the mucus, so it’s now used as an expectorant to break up the phlegm in one’s lungs.

Friend John Byrne of Indianapolis writes:

There’s a fairly major head/lung funk going on ’round these parts and I’m currently hosting its vestiges in my very own chest.

I keep hearing the same down here — there’s a nasty bug going around. Seems I hear this every time I get sick. Well, of course, it could be that a nasty bug really is going around, but it makes me wonder — perhaps there are always nasty bugs going around, and I only hear about it when I’m sick because that’s the only time I pay attention or engage in such talk. On the other hand, if it is for real, could it be the same bug up there that people are talking about down here?