May 31, 2014

The Valais valley today

Finally, with a week delay, here's a picture with the view from the chalet, taken today around 6 PM:

May 27, 2014

Gundulić's Dream

We really have to watch out, otherwise this blog turns into yet another Facebook page. Anyhow:
Glenn sends this picture to a few friends, including us...

(Click to enlarge)

...and writes: "Boy, those guys sure were busy back then. Is that Michael observing from the shore? His guardian angel was a snappy dresser! Maybe my bible expert could tell me about this painting."

Not bad, Glenn's guess, because, turns out---Google reverse image search---this is a reasonably famous painting by the Croatian artist Vlaho Bukovac titled Gundulić's Dream. And this Gundulić is apparently Ivan Gundulić, a fervent advocate of the Roman-Catholic counterreformation during the 17th century.

And then Sacha (the model for Jack Horn in the Green Eyes), who also got Glenn's letter, sends another picture, namely this one...

...and writes:  "Definitely Michael! More hair though!"

And then there's a mini-flurry of more emails:

"Michael needs more hairs to survive here [in Switzerland] at this moment." (Chang)
"Yes, the alpine sun is strong. Make sure he wears his hat..." (Sacha)
"I will tell him,it is cold here." (Chang)
"FDLMFAO" (Glenn)
"Is there anything you don't know?" (Glenn again).

I will teach you a lesson folks, watch out:

May 26, 2014

Time for a really bad poem (2)

Our post Time for a really bad poem is an enormous success page-view wise (possibly due to the accompanying picture (reposted below)), so here's another really bad poem with another, really baffling picture. Spoiler alert: this one doesn't rhyme (the poem).

 Unbeknownst to most film historians, the Empire's Stormtroopers often enjoyed cosplaying as WWII soldiers (Cathy Ulrich) 

Handlers of ever-lasting grief,
Veracious or ferocious,
For eternity deployed,
With all their might,
Their kingdom has come,
Until now.


Godzilla! (reblogged)

Here's a timely post from Cathy's blog Hollywood hates me, reblogged with her permission:

I wanna see the new Godzilla movie (even though we pronounce it wrong), but my daughter doesn't.

"But it's got giant monsters destroying the earth, honey! How can a small child NOT want to see that happen?"
"But it's got giant monsters destroying the earth, honey! How can a small child NOT want to see that happen?"

Sadly, pointing out that I've given up my social life for her isn't having the desired effect.

"Nuh uh. You're an antisocial nerd with a horrible personality, Mommy. You did this to yourself."
"Nuh uh. You're an antisocial nerd with a horrible personality, Mommy. You did this to yourself."

Monday matinée

Bob Bienpensant

May 25, 2014

Meet the Trabbi

We're on our way to Switzerland, getting gas (diesel, to be precise) at the gas station of the Geant mall in Mandelieu, and there's a motorcade of alike-looking cars riding up to the pump next to ours. They are all from Germany, from Cologne, to be precise. They look antique. "These are Borgwards?" I ask one of the young men descending from the conveyances. "No," he says, "these are Trabbis."

Communism lives, folks, these Trabbis (Trabants) were the Volkswagens of East Germany. They didn't have a good reputation in my days. Production was soon discontinued after the fall of the Wall. Why do you do this, I ask another of the young men. He doesn't answer.

Bürchen in Switzerland (reposted)

Milka milk chocolate, with the milk from happy cows---that was the slogan of a chocolate commercial during my youth in Germany. And there we are, in Bürchen, Switzerland, and it's true.

Near Bürchen, Bietschhorn in the background (peak in the clouds)

Bürchen is located on the southern side of the Valais valley, near the side valleys of Zermatt and Saas Fee, at 1600m altitude. The ski lift begins right in front of our settlement, the Chalet zone.

May 18, 2014

Demons (Imagine Dragons)

(Let's put it this way: we're only one year behind: this was published on May 7, 2013) 

When the days are cold
And the cards all fold
And the saints we see
Are all made of gold

When your dreams all fail
And the ones we hail
Are the worst of all
And the blood’s run stale

Dutch for beginners

May 17, 2014

San Francisco (last post) --- Neighborhood eatery

We discussed this before, the Riverside Café in two of its emanations,

(1) as a proper river-side café and
(2) as a hill-top café in Phuket town in Thailand,

"river-side" here being code for the hex value #00703C == Dartmouth Green == upmarket conversations in clipped voices at neighboring tables about Muffy who did not make partner at Overy & Allen == Chardonnay as default wine == chicken breast fillets served with sauce Hollandaise == checks that do or do not carry remarks to the effect that a 17% tip would be obligatory == and so on.

Now we're on our last day in San Francisco, we have a writer's blog after a productive morning, we hit the Castro District where old-fashioned in-your-face homosexuality is still en vogue, HIV and all, and we are on our way back home. The idea is to have dinner at the Chinese restaurant we've frequented so frequently during the last 2 months. But yesterday, on the way back to our apartment on Potrero Hill we walked past an outfit with a wooden sign saying "Neighborhood Eatery"---we were on 24th Street, between Mission an Potrero (street), a peek through the window convinced Michael that this is, in fact, a neighborhood café, and there's a person outside smoking and interrupting his cell-phone conversation and assuring us that the place is "great."

Neighborhood Eatery, interior

So, today, now, we walk along 24th Street again and I raise the subject of this "eatery" as an alternative to the Chinese restaurant. Chang, still mellow after my birthday yesterday doesn't really object but insists on studying the menu first. There's no menu outside to study, we have to enter the place---bistro layout, open kitchen, glasses, bottles, international semi-upmarket---to have a look at the menu.

"I would venture, folks, practically everywhere else in the world you eat better than in France."

The menu is incomprehensible to anybody living in France where dishes come in six or seven varieties (Steak frites, Magret de canard, Loup grillé, and so on), and (where dishes) are always accompanied by rice/potatoes/aïoli (don't ask). While we are at it: It's a well know fact that the French are the best cooks in the world, so they cook well BY DEFINITION, which means they have to make no-effort-what-so-ever-to-serve-drab-and-overpriced-fare-through-jaded-garçons-or-garçonettes who have more important things on their minds than to help their customers. I would venture, folks, practically everywhere else in the world you eat better than in France. It's Obama's fault, of course, because he's not only from Kenya, he's also French, as has been recently shown in a lengthy study from the Heritage Foundation.

May 10, 2014

The ad that ends the culture wars --- This is heaven (teaser)

How to explain this? Well, Ben had been tricked by Alex into answering this outcall and apparently discharged his duties in an exemplary way, (e.g., here), returning to John's apartment asino morto. John is back home from the worst adventure of this entire soap opera, and this is the moment to confront Ben with the truth.  

Ben has a very long shower at the moment and my feeling is he’s going to depart from my life pretty soon, he shot this cursory glance at my bed and then at me---which was still okay, especially under the circumstances---but then he asked whether he could use the shower, next thing he'll ask whether he can use the bathroom, and then he’s gone.


"If you're in the pay of one of these outfits that use "family" as code against gays, and you're tasked to produced the definitive ad, the ad that ends the culture wars..."

We shouldn’t belabor the obvious here, but real quick, if you’re in the pay of one of these outfits that use “family” as code against gays, and you’re tasked to produce the definitive ad, the ad that ends the culture wars, you could do much worse than to tell the story of a young, handsome Afro-American who has options, obviously, when it comes to sexual preferences, and who falls into the hands of this homosexual assistant professor of French who’s only option is a tangled ménage with a rape victim and a suicide victim and pimping handsome Afro-Americans to high-strung Valkyries in the meantime---not to mention Ray, the murder suspect, whom he hasn’t met yet.

The ad that ends the culture wars (actually, this is an ad for MuchachoMalo, the brand of Ben's underwear) 

Now he’s back, Ben, from the shower, and this is my last chance. He’s wearing these graffiti briefs, they look great on him even when not quite fresh, and he's just standing there, the perfect model, unconscious of his own skin, one more second before he asks whether he can use the bathroom. So you say: “Ben.”

And then you take both his hands with both your hands. He’s a bit embarrassed, possibly, but you hold on to his hands and don’t let go. And you don’t say ‘let’s talk.’ Instead you say---well we’ve won a few seconds now.

Real quick: (1) You can assume that Alex & Maurice will tell him everything anyhow, or did so already. (2) You want to know what happened yesterday night, why he was so exhausted, and whether they paid him, and what your cut would be. (3) You want him to become your friend, become a real friend.

You could go the melodramatic route (“Don’t go, Ben, don’t go!”) Or you try the casual approach that readers know so well from these pages, enter a sideways dialogue and hope that somewhere in between the lines he’ll come around. You’re still holding on to his hands, this can’t go on forever. How to start this, ‘Funny you were so exhausted.’ No. ‘Did they pay?’ No. ‘You like Alex?’ Time is up.

“Don’t go Ben, don’t go.”

He has various options now, like (1) un-clutching my hands, getting into his clothes, and departing for good; (2) going right to the core of the matter and talk about the moldability of his sexual preferences and this ad on the family-channel; (3) entering a sideways dialogue until we get tired of this (4) everything else.   

“Luke no longer needs me,” he says. (That’s sideways in an encouraging way. Better, for instance, than if he would have said: ‘I have no place to stay.’)  
“I have no place to stay,” he adds.
“You can stay here,” I say reflexively.  
“On your bed, couched between you and Alex?” (couched is a bit overwritten---well, perhaps not, which other verb would you use). Couched; not even sure Alex would mind given his recent approaches to Albert and Godehart, not to mention Amy-Lou. Anyhow, it’s too late to elaborate on Alex.  

“You can sleep on the couch.” No-no. Terrible. Dogs sleep on couches, and soon-to-be ex-husbands with premature post-climax syndrome.  

“Alex doesn’t mind.” Not good. The bed is too small. We need a new bed, triple-queen size, so we need the money to buy one, so we need to know whether the Valkyries paid up.
“You’re excited about the festival?” Sideways, yes, but that’s the only excuse.
“We need a larger bed anyhow.” Writing copy, deadline approaching. Evokes vibes of a better, more inclusive age.  

“Your bed would never be large enough,” (he answers). Could be serendipitous, his reply...

Are you still there? Then you'll possibly like the GREEN EYES. The first part is out now, available as Kindle book on Amazon, under this link:

Night Owl Reviews

Go here for the next teaser, here for the previous one, and here for a choice of chapters of the Green Eyes. 

May 7, 2014

Find a caption (Sacha)

Michael Ampersant, surfing the net for pictures for his blog

(Artwork by Virtues, you can order this on Fiverr for $5)

"Not so difficult to play Sherlock Holmes when you are Dr. Watson" --- This is heaven (teaser)

It's getting worse, and there are no excuses. We had a completely unscheduled intermezzo with Taylor, one of Juliette friends, and now there's a knock on the door. For more context, please have a look at the previous teaser---John's cellphone has been active, with Maurice listening in on the other end of the line. 

There’s a knock on the door.

She has issues, but she’s obviously not an idiot, especially when it comes to two males with vacant expressions on their faces, oiled in sweat, one of them still buckling his belt, them having apparently spent quality time in 120 degrees Fahrenheit and the stench of an underserviced john. She looks us up and down. Bulge check.

(This is so subtle.)


“So the phone was still on when you introduced Taylor to the on-site facilities?”
“Maurice still on the other end?”
“Not so difficult to play Sherlock Holmes when you’re Dr. Watson.”

Erections are willful and can do their own thing, even after ejaculation. Taylor is utterly embarrassed. This will heal him of all homoerotic tendencies. I’m even more embarrassed. But I have my moments. So I say:
“Carnal knowledge outside marriage is illegal in the State of Georgia.”
“It’s not my fault,” she replies.
“You need to use the toilet?” I ask.

(It wasn't exactly like this) Artwork by Tony de Carlo

Her timing is more important than her answer. “Yes,” she says.

Some real macho-man would now say something like “Talk to you later, Professor,” or “Talk to you later, Barbette,” (not sure we’re on first-name basis), which I don’t dare to do. We just hurtle away, Taylor and I, heads half-dropped, we could be holding hands on the way to the gallows.

May 4, 2014

Computer science

San Francisco (15) The Warhol factory

Our title is misleading, as usual. And unfair to Warhol.

Anyhow, while we are at it: somewhere around 1966, the term Pop Art made it to Europe, and the name of its inventor, Andy Warhol. There were also pictures of the guy, and from the first picture I saw I fell in love with him, especially with his hair. Great, I thought, great, that's the hair I want. Blond, ebullient, expansive (the hair sticking out), extraneous even, subversive, inspired.

Andy Warhol: Self portrait

Andy Warhol died in 1987, in tabula, i.e., not the way you would have expected him to die after having watched too many clips of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground (one of the productions of his factory), or of Joe Dallesandro, the hunkiest hunk ever, another one of his productions, no, he died on the operating table.

May 2, 2014

San Francisco (14) --- Connubial bliss, Nordstrom, and so on

Nordstrom on Market Street, San Francisco

Michael A. to Nick Ch. (02 May 2014 07:25:14):

...just great to be in the many ideas...this one came from some billboard for some San Francisco Law School...
“Certainly,” he says, “that’s why we are in the business of writing, isn’t it, to feel inspired, and by feeling inspired getting inspired, and by getting inspired feeling more inspired, and so on.”
“You sound like an expensive graduate course of something,” I say.

Nick Ch. to Michael A.  (02 May 2014 07:26:50 -0700):
Are you still here?


Michael A.. to Nick Ch. ( 02 May 2014 07:29:44 ):

...until May 10...

...Chang sits on the bed next to me (as we speak) and tells me he doesn't want to go back to Nordstrom (the department store) on Market Street, because he went to the toilet there which turned out to be cruising territory, and he fears the police will come next time and arrest him...

Getting inspired by feeling inspired --- This is heaven (teaser)

It's getting worse. This isn't even a teaser, it's a teaser of a teaser---the sex in this chapter is so bad, we have to hide it somewhere (here) until further notice. So, we're at the beginning of Chapter 17, John just got a call from Maurice who's tasked writing the questions for the trivia-day of the festival, but Maurice has a writer's blog ... The previous chapter was about last night's flame-hot sex between Brigittå, the accomplished romance-novel author and Ben, who had been tricked by Alex into ... okay, Ben, the ravishing black guy from the first part. The last chapter also saw Romeo (moniker) and Juliette reunited, and then saw them off to Juliette's hotel room. Taylor is one of Juliette's friends. 

The cell-phone rings.

It’s Maurice. He’s stuck. Writer’s block. He can’t think of any decent trivia questions. Nothing with a snap-your-finger feel. “Does it matter?” I ask.
“Certainly,” he says, “that’s why we are in the business of writing, isn’t it, to feel inspired, and by feeling inspired getting inspired, and by getting inspired feeling more inspired, and so on.”
“You sound like an expensive graduate course of something,” I say.

(He falls silent.)

“I’m sorry,” I say, “I apologize. I went too far.”
“Okay,” he says, affecting something of an American accent (he’s British).
“The trivia. Think of it as a commission. Quick and dirty. Deadline approaching, copy editor leering over your shoulder.”
“Well, nobody’s leering over my shoulder.”
“Ben still asleep?”
“Ben is still asleep.”
“Hold the line,” I say.

Bob Bienpensant: You go first

Hold the line, I say, because Juliette’s friends are upon us, yesterday’s prep punks, the very children of vampire trivia.
“Hold the line,” I repeat.

Green Eyes --- Part II (This is heaven) (Teaser: Scribble, scribble, scribble, Mr. & (2)) (Reposted)

(This is about Part II of the Green Eyes. Go here for previous post. A weeklong "King Dracula" contest will enliven the Georgia Beach Festival, the main event of "This is Heaven")

The various tribes involved in the competition will share the general inclination of play-acting vampires, but differentiate according to specific traits. Well, what could those traits be? Lets got to the source then: "Dracula," by Bram Stoker.

We naively thought the idea originated with Stoker but got it wrong, of course. Wikipedia tells you that:
Vampires are mythological or folkloric beings who subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person/being. Although vampiric entities have been recorded in many cultures, and may go back to "prehistoric times", the term vampire was not popularized until the early 18th century, after an influx of vampire superstition into Western Europe from areas where vampire legends were frequent, such as the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although local variants were also known by different names, such as vrykolakas in Greece and strigoi in Romania. This increased level of vampire superstition in Europe led to mass hysteria and in some cases resulted in corpses actually being staked and people being accused of vampirism.
And while we are at it --- you see, it's actually useful to do this, forcing some measure of discipline upon a vacillating author --- lets quote some more from another, newly discovered Wiki page, a really unbelievable page that provides a matrix of vampire traits crossed with sources (folklore, fiction, media), and differentiates between a totality of 32 traits:

Skin color, fangs, reflection, shadow, (physical) attractiveness, stake (would it kill them), sunlight, decapitation, drowning, fire, silver (bullet, possibly), garlic, holy symbols, running water, invitation, arithmomania (we don't even know what that is), immortality, enhanced strength, enhanced speed, unnatural healing, flight, shapeshifting, psychic powers, telekinesis, pyrokinesis, fertility, means of reproduction (bite, transfusion, consumption of vampire blood), demonic possession, diet, effect on victims and OTHERS   --- WANSTW (write a novel, see the world), arithmomania is an obsessive-compulsive disorder inducing subjects to count objects or actions, and pyrokinesis is a word coined by Stephen King, referring to the ability to create or control fire strictly by thought (we'll get to Stephen King soon, by the way, perhaps 3 posts down the line).

Bela Lugosi, the original movie Dracula