Jones for the Open Road (Slow-moving Log-jam Traffic Intro & Redux….)

If Jones for the Open Road had music… this is what it might sound like….

Kind of a soundtrack… for a Road Trip… to nowhere in particular….

A meandering trek… along the highways and byways… and the back roads of life….
The loways…. And the NOWAYs!!!

This little ditty is performed in E major. I think. I am willing to embrace other opinions….
If you listen… I made up a chord… on the fly…. That dissonant TWANG in the first version of Slow-moving Log-jam Traffic Intro….

E major used to be my favorite key.
But… someone ruined THAT for me….

I think it was me….

Last night… I was looking for music for another song….
Came up with something….
To this….
But… didn’t really think the lyrics fit the melody all that well….
This morning I woke up with another thought for that song….
A few other thoughts…. For that song….
And… a new lyric for this melody….

Got up off of the couch….
Walked down the hall… to the bathroom….
And… did my business….

That’s how Jones for the Open Road was born, my friends….
Nothing meaning is ever born without labor of some kind….

Word Associations

I am just crazy enough to think that I can make just about anything sound interesting. That’s a hypothesis. The Scientific Method demands my hypothesis be tested. To best prove my hypothesis… the strongest way… is to disprove the alternative hypothesis.

So I will state that it must be utterly impossible to take something mundane… such as a list of words… and make them into an interesting narrative….

Let’s get this party started!

First a few vocab words:
Venetian Ceruse
Teredo navalis
Berlin green
Paris green/Emerald green

Now… here we go….

In “classical” painting, flake-white is the color of choice for oil paint. The paint was prepared by exposing crushed Cerussite crystals over boiling vinegar (dilute acetic acid). Cerussite is lead carbonate. The carbonate would boil off as carbon dioxide. Flake-white is also called Berlin white or Kremnitz white. The material was also used as a lubricant for heavy machinery such as the capstan on a ship. And to paint the underside of the ship below the waterline… to prevent Teredo navalis… or shipworms… from eating your hull out from under you.

Another name for flake-white was Venetian Ceruse… which was the make-up women used to paint their faces white. One side-effect was anemia. Another was neuropathy. That’s why we no longer allow lead paint in houses, even though they cut down on mold significantly.

Over time, flake-white would absorb trace amounts of hydrogen sulfide from the air and convert into lead sulfide… which turned the paint black. Most lead was mined as Gelena instead of Cerussite. Gelena also contains a fair amount of Silver sulfide, making the ore even more valuable.

The Egyptians used Gelena to make kohl… which was the black eyeliner so famously depicted in Ancient Egyptian artwork. Kohl had an additional advantage of keeping flies away from the face and eyes, apparently.

Most of the rest of the words deal with other pigment colors. Prussian blue and Berlin green both derive their color from Ferric ferricyanide. Ferric ferricyanide as in… cyanide….

Painting… or limning as sign painting was called… and producing paint and other chemical product… or Alchemy as that occupation was called… could be a dangerous occupation, as could be making hats or blacksmithing. Making hats involved using Mercury to make the beaver fur felt more manageable. Hence the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Mercury was also used for barking trees in the timber industry a little later. During the Bronze Age, the best available military technology was… Bronze…. Bronze was made by mixing soft Copper with another metal to harden the final product. The metal most sought after was Tin, but Tin was not plentiful. That’s one of the main reasons that Rome conquered and tried to hold Britain. Tin mines. The more plentiful metal mixed with Copper to make bronze was Arsenic. Hephaestus (or Vulcan, if you happen to be from Birmingham) the Greek blacksmith of the gods was always depicted as being lame with skin sores… likely from neuropathy and skin cancers due to Arsenic poisoning. Arsenicals were also used medicinally (in patent medicines and tonics and in compounds such as Salvarsan for treatment of Syphilis, amongst other diseases). High-society ladies mixed Arsenic with vinegar and chalk to whiten their faces (a recurring theme…). Arsenic trioxide was mixed with Copper acetate to form Copper acetoarsenite… known as Emerald green or Paris green. Depending on the whether the crystals were ground course or fine, the pigment could range from deep true green to vivid (but pale) blue-green. The pigment was known to be highly toxic and was the death of many a painter. The pigment was also used as a rodenticide and insecticide. In addition to being implicated in the accidental death of numerous artists and artisans, the concoction was also nicknamed “inheritance powder”. The symptoms of Arsenic poisoning are eerily similar to cholera, which was often rampant at the time. Thus, poisonings often went undetected, if not unsuspected….

So… as I said… certain occupations carried with them certain occupational risks…. Ladies. Ladies-of-the-Evening. Painters who hung out with Ladies-of-the-Evening. Hatters.

Being a lady certainly carries incalculable risks. Especially if one were into cosmetics. This is not a comprehensive list of dangerous cosmetics. Of course most modern women will assume that the advent of the Food and Drug Administration must mitigate the risk related to modern cosmetics. However, that assumption would be incorrect. Many cosmetics worn by teens and children, but also some scents popular with adults, contain fragrances such as isoamyl acetate or Essence of Banana Oil (Pear Oil is isoamyl acetate dissolved in ethanol)… which is also used as a flavoring. The smell is similar to banana or pear or Juicy Fruit. And… it is a pheromonal chemoattractant for wasp and hornets and yellow jackets and bees… and is considered to be responsible for many deaths annually around the world, particularly in China, Korea and Japan where the Asian Giant Hornet.

That is the conclusion of the experiment. If the majority of people find this narrative tedious and boring, then the thesis is not proved because the restated alternative hypothesis is not disproved; however, if the majority of people find this chain of thoughts interesting or even intriguing, then my thesis is proven using the Scientific Method and will thus supersede the hitherto unproved Pryor’s Theory of Doors… which was most nothing more than spurious conjecture anyway….

Here are some words from my original list that I choose not to include:
Baghdad Battery
lapis lazuli
Prussian blue
carbuncle (not the kind associated with furuncles)
captain’s daughter

Recent Reads: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Finally! I finished!

To be honest… I was apprehensive. Because I was so-o-o-o disappointed by Cat’s Cradle. Vonnegut is supposed to be the epitome of black humor and satire from the Science Fiction perspective…. And… I found Cat’s Cradle lame and vapid….

But… I did find some parts of this novel entertaining. A lot of it was repetitive. Which is fine. I really didn’t find much Science. At least Douglas Adams comes up with some interesting Science bits that are intellectually interesting enough to be entertaining….

Vonnegut offers some teasers, but rarely ever gets around to explaining anything in detail. Such as… if the entire city of Dresden was in ruins, how were they so easily able to get the door of the Slaughterhouse basement open? That seems rather mysterious… and even magical… or miraculous….

Deedlee-balls. Had to look that up. Didn’t know what they were.

He does a very good job with names. But… this is a satire… so meaningful names is OK.

Lot of mockery of the American Ideal. Social Satire. Historical perspective.

Most of the humor in the Vonnegut (and Adams) that I’ve read so far… seems to be aimed at justifying the superiority of his religious and political philosophies. Over Christianity. Over Conservatism. Of Peace at all costs… over War at any cost….

I get that the humor is supposed to be very intellectual: atheism is superior, and therefore mocking and ridiculing Christianity is always funny and entertaining…. Progressive Liberals are smarter than Conservatives… because… well… because the writer believes he is smarter than anyone who may disagree….

As I have stated before… I am Southern, Christian and Conservative…. I’m not offended…. Because… I can’t get to the point where I’m capable of suspending disbelief.

My issue is simply this: I cannot suspend disbelief. When the writer goes to so much trouble to make his attacks on Christianity so clear… and his mocking ridicule of Christianity so clear… his belief in the superiority of Atheism or Secular Humanism so clear… the humor escapes me… when he so clearly injects Straw Man arguments. When he so clearly doesn’t understand his subject of ridicule.

As for War… maybe allowing Hitler to control Europe would have been a better idea. Maybe allowing Stalin… and Putin… unfettered control of the Northern Hemisphere would have been a better idea. Maybe allowing Saddam Hussein to slaughter Kurds and Shi’ites at will would have been a better idea. Maybe allowing the Alewites to slaughter the Christians and Sunni is the right thing to do. Maybe allowing the Chinese to control Asia and Iran to destroy Israel is the best way for the world to move forward… safely….

And… maybe not.

But… mischaracterizing something that I understand well… and ridiculing things you don’t know about… don’t lead me to believe you are intellectually superior…. Just proves to me that you’re a blind bigot….

Maybe some of these Science Fiction Satirists would do a better job… and even be funnier… if they were capable of criticizing things they know… rather than ridiculing what they cannot comprehend… because they think it’s low hanging fruit….

Vonnegut’s writing is rather sparse. Terse, I suppose. Leaves a lot to the imagination.

Vonnegut is not constrained by convention: he does a lot of things that the writing books say that authors shouldn’t do. Like skipping around in time. All over the place. That is essentially a synopsis of the plot.

He also writes in the third person omnipotent perspective… inserts the author into the text at various points… but never explains how the author comes to his omnipotence…. Unless… perhaps… he time-travels, too. As perhaps the other novelist he created in the book, Kilgore Trout, seems to do. Seems like a parody of himself. And one of the more interesting parts of the story. As is his liaison with Montana Wildhack, the XXX movie actress, in the Human Zoo on Tralfamadore. Every man’s dream. A reality. Somewhere in Space-Time. Unfortunately for me… I had already anticipated what kind of actress she was… so the reveal lost its thunder.

Same with the death of his morbidly obese wife, Valencia, whom he married for money. And… like I say… I was distracted by some of the details he missed: people who die of carbon monoxide poisoning are pink, not blue…. I understand the color symbolism: blue and ivory. Purple. But… details are details. Inaccurate details make it difficult for people who know the truth to suspend disbelief.

Interesting that he compares himself to Jesus Christ. Then explains that he did. Adds a different dimension to the symbolism…. Again… he does it through the plot of a Kilgore Trout novel.

Recent Reads: The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee

I really haven’t trashed anything I’ve read recently… and I’m not about to start now….

Quite frankly… this is one of the most interesting and entertaining books that I’ve read in a while…. And I’ve read some good ones and re-read some of my faves….

Many it was the mood or the stage of life… or something else… but this book just struck me a thoroughly entertaining….

One aspect is the historicity…. van Gulik points out the good, the bad, and the ugly…. He put appropriate points from the actual Chinese Penal Code in the notes at the end. He points out critical details that are necessary to understand some of the workings of the milieu… such as the interesting observation that Magistrates… or Detectives… or Judges… were the highest… and essentially the only officer within their district…. They were overworked…. And… they required the assistance of “Men of the Greenwood”…. Wayfaring officers of the peace who had in the not-too-distant past walked on the other side of the law…. Similar to Robin Hood…. Or Wyatt Earp… Bat Masterson… and the Father of the Fast Draw himself… Wild Bill Hickok….

Some of the conclusions… require suspension of disbelief… if you have a medical… or forensic mind…. But even the most outlandish of those… were pilfered by none other than Sherlock Holmes… whose author was knighted physician….

Some of the aspects of “Justice” are outlandish to the Western Mind….

A suspect is not innocent until proven guilty…. But… no suspect can be punished without a signed confession…. Torture… even extreme torture… may be used to obtain a confession…. But the Judge… and his accomplishes… may receive the same punishment they mete out if they are proved to be wrong…. Some of the punishments… and interrogation procedures… are gruesome…. And some of the quaint superstitions… and the beliefs of the time… lead to quite entertaining results….

A historical note…. Judge Dee lived during the T’ang Dynasty… during the rule of Emperor Wu…. The only female emperor in the long history of China…. Apparently… the original story went into a very roundabout… essentially pornographic interlude about the sexual prowess of Emperor Wu… involving the Chief Priest… after her second Imperial Husband died… and she ascended the Throne… rather than simply serving as Regent for her underage son…. In the end, she allowed the Dynasty she sought to establish to return to the T’ang…. She was ruthless…. And efficient…. And by all accounts… effective as a ruler….

The Judge Dee in this work is much more human… and much less of a superhero… than portrayed on the big screen…. All of the martial arts prowess belong to his deputies…. Again… like Wyatt Earp… he never killed anyone with his own hands….

A Spring Hokku

Spring sunrise surprised me.

Burst through my window.

Sudden Illumination!


A hokku or haiku is a seventeen syllable poem that typically involves a 7-5-7 syllabic structure. The essence of the form involves kireji or “cutting”.¬†An appropriate kireji is a word that suggests a sharp turn in the poem, thus defining the skill of the poet. Proper hokku present images drawn from a very specific seasonal vocabulary: kigo (seasonal references) defined within saijiki (collections of appropriate imagery). Appropriate words emanated from Chinese treatises and obliquely present religious references drawn from Taoist and Buddhist traditions.

I don’t speak Japanese, but….

Akiyama no
Momiji wo shigemi
Imo wo motomemu
Yamamichi shirazu mo

Autumn mountain
Excessive leaves falling
Confounded me
I vainly seek lost love
Mountain pathway remains obscured

Anonymous poem from Manyoushuu… “A Thousand Leaves”

I don’t speak Japanese. I know a few words. And I can read a few characters. And… I can’t seem to leave well enough alone….

But… just seems to me a story may be hiding somewhere along this desolate mountain path….

Commentary from Tsubaki Sanjuro… and Being a Pig….

By the reckoning of the Chinese Calendar, my birth year extended from 08 February 1959 until 27 January 1960 (depending on where you were born). Officially, the New Year began on the first New Moon half-way following the mid-point between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. A month was repeated every two years and eight months to adjust the lunar calendar to the solar year. I was born in the 36th year of the Sexagenary Cycle (sixty-year), which always begins on lichun (about 4 February). The cycle began on 05 February 1924 and ended on 01 February 1984. I was born Yin (receding or female aspect) Earth Year of the Pig (or Boar). The end of the twelve year cycle.

At least I was born at the head of the pig.

Some I know weren’t so lucky….

I say this simply because the Japanese nobility of the Heian period were obsessed with beauty; they believe a person’s outward appearance accurately reflected what was inside.

And being born at the tail end of the pig must certainly have been viewed as being ugly….

Maybe I should quote Tsubaki Sanjuro by way of illustration. That’s not his real name. He made it up. Tsubaki means “Camellia”. And Sanjuro means “About Thirty”.

The implications of the red and white camellias in the black and white movie go all the way back to Genpai War. The fight for control. For Imperial Power…. To be considered the Beautiful People…. The Elite… The Aristocracy…. The Divine….

White is the color of the destroyed Taira clan… and suggests purity…. Red is the color of the Minamoto clan…. When the emperor demoted Genji from the line of succession, making him an “ordinary noble”, he was given the surname Minamoto… which when pronounced in the more aristocratic Chinese… becomes Genji…. Genji is known as “The Shining Prince”. He falls in love with his step mother (who resembles the Emperor’s dead wife, so HE marries her)… kidnaps her daughter (as a child) and holds her hostage… and raises her to be just like his beloved… the Emperor’s wife…. He married the child. Yet… he sneaks into the Emperor’s wife’s chamber and impregnates her…. Has a series of affairs with other court noblewomen…. All while married to someone he doesn’t get along with…. No wonder he was removed from the line of succession! He is finally exiled…. For a while….

Oh… the White and the Red of the Japanese flag come from the Taira and Minamoto clan respectively. The Emperor of Japan sent an envoy to the Emperor of China a few centuries before proclaiming that the Divine Emperor from the Land of the Rising Sun sends greetings to the Divine Emperor of the Land of the Setting Sun… proclaiming equality….

My point is that “The Shining Prince” Minamoto or Genji was considered the highest goal to which one could (or should) aspire. He was the epitome of the Yokibito… the Good People… the Beautiful People… the Nobility…. The kind of person people told stories about…. The most popular people of the day…. Women loved him…. He was the dashing Prince Charming…. He was handsome…. Losing weight just made him more beautiful…. And he could sing and dance and play musical instruments and compose poetry and make beautiful small talk….

Genji… was just like a larger than life Hollywood celebrity… making the rounds… in all the highest political circles… exercising Political Power… because he was perceived as being Politically Correct….

A Beautiful Person… totally lacking substance…. But… very powerful politically….

Genji lives during the Heian Period (Heian means Tranquility or Peace) and spends most of his time at the Imperial Palace in Heian-kyo (in the West we know it as Kyoto, or the Capital City) which means City of Tranquility or Peace.

The Samurai story of Sanjuro takes place a few centuries later. In the Warring States Period. An Sanjuro is a rustic warrior. Rude. He kills people seemingly unnecessarily to attain his goals. He is an unsheathed sword. Not a politician. Not Politically Correct. Nothing more than effective weapon…. Horrifying to gaze upon…. Or hear….

I can understand why the politically estute would not care to hear his words. He tended to speak the brutal… but honest… truth…. Which the politik ruthlessly avoided…. They gazed only upon the smooth surface….

Sanjuro was considered uncouth. Offensive. The Samurai was offended to hear such words coming from someone he considered below him.

“That’s just his way. He can’t help it.”

Professor Marshall McLuhan was famously quoted: “The media IS the message.”

Not only in Modern Western Culture apparently. Maybe it always has been so. Even under Buddhist influence….

Yet…¬†Tsubaki Sanjuro was ruthlessly efficient….

Like when he stated to one of the young samurai her was trying to help in his follow-up to Yojimbo (means bodyguard and is basis for a few Spaghetti Westerns): “You’re an idiot! Were you born in the Year of the Ox…?”

Nope. I’m a pig. But… I suppose… could have been worse….

Much worse….

At least I was born at the head-end… not the twisty tail….