Soundcheck & Picnic
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Previously on
Happy Howling!
October 21, 2005 2:45pm PST - Well, I'm moving back to the old format, due to popular demand. That is to say that two people told me they liked this layout better than what was here for the past four months, and getting two persons' feedback on this site is more than twice what I've gotten in the past, so I'll go with it.
The big update this week is the addition of the October Picnic & Soundcheck pictures. The Soundcheck, as you regulars know, is a bimonthly gathering (used to be monthly, but it was too exhausting) at an ancient Druid amphitheatre (who knew?) located in the heart of a bucolic hillside park in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood of Berkeley, California. More than that I cannot say, as it might actually reveal this secret location to the wrong people. Some constants of this event are an abundance of excellent food and wine, and Bennett's inexhaustable supply of live (recorded) Grateful Dead music. I don't count myself a deadhead, and it's hardly essential to the enjoyment of the day, but it does set a certain tone that I've never heard anyone (other than my own cranky self) object to, and the invitations that precede this event always pose a theme based on some significant scrap of Grateful Dead lyric that never fails to tie into the season or some current event or other pop culture synapse that generates an occasion to celebrate.
This month was particularly thematic, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first public reading of Allan Ginzberg's poem, Howl. Our host brought a paper bag full of slips of paper, each of which held one line from that poem. The poem is divided into three parts, and we did one part after the next, but from within those divisions each line was chosen at random and read, as the afternoon progressed, with increasing fervor and passion. The second verse was especially popular, with its repeated exhortations to Moloch (read all about him on the October page). You'll notice from the pictures that Ginzberg himself made a posthumous appearance at the picnic. And I (did I mention that I have occasionally tried to divert the playlist from the Grateful Dead?) brought a CD of the Kronos Quartet playing to a live recording of Ginzberg reading Howl. It was the general opinion of the crowd that the mix favored the quartet over Ginzberg, not in a good way.
I feel a particular affinity for Ginzberg since he grew up in Paterson, New Jersey, not far (geographically, at least) from my own home town of Ridgewood. A few miles further down the road would bring you to the home of William Carlos Williams, most likely my favorite poet of all. I'll have more to say on that subject shortly; for now the ringing of the doorbell tells me that the blind man has arrived to install our new window treatments. We can, at least for now, ignore the paradoxical comedy of that statement.

About the Bird...
August 27, 2004 11:57pm PST - I changed the masthead for the homepage - the bird in the center is an Appert's Greenbul (Phyllastrephus Apperti). In Dutch, that would be an Appert-loofbuulbuul. It's a small terrestrial bird (ground-hopping, which strikes me as risky for a bird, but there you go), quite rare and on the verge of being declared endangered, and limited to a small area of southwest Madagascar in Zombitse Forest National Park. It is described as "babbler-like," an attribute that has been ascribed to many other Apperts as well. It was discovered some thirty years ago by a priest, who I'm guessing is named Appert and comes from the Netherlands. But my lazy research has failed to confirm those particulars.
Update: Recent molecular evidence reveals that this crafty bird isn't related to the greenbul family at all. It is in fact an Appert’s Tetraka. If you run across one, you may address it as Bernieria apperti.

Give Us This Day, Our Dalai Lama
August 20, 2004 1:50pm PST - I woke up this morning with the intention of having an epiphany, but it turned out that all of my really cool t-shirts were in the wash, so I decided to hold off on that.
After breakfast, I began to experience a beautific vision, but I cleaned my glasses and it went away.
I went to work and everyone was up on their desks, dancing. I said "What's going on?"
They said, "Fire Ants!"
I got out of there fast and by way of train, ferry and bicycle made my way to a small secluded beach north of the city. I waded up to my knees in the sparkling Pacific waters and gazed dreamily westward. My reverie was shortly broken by a large yellowfin tuna who said, in a deep, resonant voice somewhat reminiscent of James Earl Jones, that I could have three wishes. My first wish was for some sashimi. I didn't get the other two.
So I went home and updated my website. I was going to write about Buddhism and the Science of Happiness, but that will have to wait for another day. My mind is full of monkeys and my garden is full of weeds.

Who can bring in the Southern Vote?
gay penguin for america 03/02/2004 6:32am PST - How about someone from our most southerly continent, Gay Penguin!
While I have adopted the pelican as the avatar of, I remain a firm supporter of all birds whose names begin with the letter 'p' and am prepared to throw my support to Gay Penguin, who has a very nice website that I encourage you to visit. I thank my friend Jonas for alerting me to this site. Jonas isn't gay (to the dismay of many gay men), but he understands penguins and knows what this country needs. I'm not gay either (to the dismay of many penguins) but I don't think George Bush should have any say in who I can or can't marry, and I do think Jonas would make a great vice-president for Gay Penguin.
Here's a picture of Jonas, so you can see for yourself that he's obviously not at all gay.
And here's a quote from the Gay Penguin for President site that succinctly sums up his candidacy: "Gay Penguin doesn't believe in the divisive, partisan rhetoric of Washington Politicians. Gay Penguin believes in what may be the three most important values we all share, no matter what your party: a place where freedom rings for all, where everyone minds their own god damned business, and where George W Bush isn't President. These are the core values that have made our nation great, right up to the elections of 1999. When the hardcore Religious Right asks Gay Penguin for favors, you know what he'll say."
I notice that Gay Penguin appears to be an Emperor Penguin, so in effect he would be taking a lesser position in becoming president. I would also like to point out that my own personal opinion is that we shouldn't pay too much attention to the sexual orientation of flightless birds. On a serious note (oh god here it comes) I also think that people of any race, creed, nationality or sexual orientation should be free to form whatever consentual unions they care to and should have equal legal rights to do so. Some people seem to be wrapped up in the semantics of marriage, insisting that it defines the union of a male and female - in this case you are just arguing about words, and words change all the time. Get over it! Some people argue this on moral terms - in this case you are expressing your religious beliefs which is fine, but our nation is strongly built on a separation of church and state. If you believe the state should define morality then maybe you'd be happier in Iran. Then there's our old pal George W., who clearly has yet to read the Constitution. I think he should be banished to the South Pole and learn some hard lessons from our friends the penguins.
Some fellow by the name of Clark has noted in my guestbook (please go sign it now) that John Kerry stands up for gay marriages. I couldn't tell if this was being presented as a pro or con, so I went to visit Clark's website. I still can't tell, but he seems to be someone who believes in truth and justice, so I'll be satisfied with that. I always wonder how people have managed to stumble upon Looking at my web statistics, it seems that many people arrive here while looking for pornography involving chickens, but I'm not sure what that's all about. I run a clean site here - no cusswords or nothin'! For a long time, when I would search for my name on Google (yes, I'm not too ashamed to face up to my vanity) I'd have to go through about 14 pages of Apperts before coming to a reference to my site (mostly due to the illustrious ancestor Nicholas, who developed the process of canning, and also invented the boullion cube!). Then I put my full name in the title of the page and bingo! I shot right up to number one. But aside from myself and my friends that I pay to visit this site, there seem to be a good many strangers showing up here. Without going so far as creating a blog, I would really like to know what they're thinking. And I really hate that term 'blog'. It's short for weblog, which is supposed to be a sort of ongoing public journal, but as a corporate webmaster guy in my real life, I have known the term weblog for many years, and it refers to the logs maintained by the web server to track errors and statistics and whatnot. And these 'blogs' really do seem more like journals than logs, so if you insist on shortening 'web' to 'b', then how about calling them bjournals? I think Bjork would like that.
And on the subject of the guestbook (really, go sign it now, it needs your special touch) I also wanted to thank Donna and Barbara, two classmates from Ridgewood High (see the reunion entry below) for saying hello. I had to go back to the old high school yearbook to refresh my memory, which remains vague. And thank you Donna for the palindrome - though terse, the excellent use of punctuation brings it all home. I'm sorry to everyone who's written that I meant to email back; I'm currently suffering about a one year lag between intentions and actions. Though I'm getting a little better about updating this site. Next month, some hot chicken action!!!
By the by, while making this early morning entry to the homepage, I've been listening to the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, nice soothing music to start the day while thinking about penguins.

Another Year, More Idiots
01/14/2004 4:15pm PST - A dear old friend of mine once said that I was the most cheerful cynic he had ever met. I was pleased enough with that description to repeat it here, though I won't repeat any of the other things he's said about me in the meantime. I'm also pleased to note, with the passing of another year, that I remain cautiously optimistic as regards the future of humanity in general, and have a guardedly (code orange) cautious optimism regarding my country of origin, the United States (also known as our "homeland" by those in the government who prefer to use the lexicon of Nazism).
You may have noticed a banner for Howard Dean on these pages in the recent past; now that we have been through several rounds of Democratic debates and other stump-thumping activities, that banner has been removed. With his grass roots web-based campaign (and as someone who makes a living from web-based activites (not this site, you betcha) I take note of such things) and folksy Vermont persona, Dean at first seemed to be the true "people's choice" candidate. However, the past few months have shown him to be short-tempered and deceptive (just like George!), prone to verbal gaffes (just like George!) for which he remains unapologetic (think confederate flags), and definitely not a team player ("If I don't get the candidacy, I will tell all my young disenfranchaised web-headed supporters not to vote!"). In addition, he has virtually no chance of beating George Bush, which should be the number one concern of patriotic Americans of any political affiliation.
This week I'm leaning towards John Kerry, who has the best environmental record of any of the candidates, and who, despite his yes vote for the attack on Iraq, has a long history as an anti-war activist, made all the more credible by his distinguished military record in Vietnam (as compared to draft dodgers Bush and Cheney, who avoided active military service not for moral reasons, but because as super-rich sons of Corporate America, they preferred to have someone else do the fighting for them). I also recently heard that Kerry, an avid windsurfer, recently surfed the 40 or so miles from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard, making him no doubt the most physically fit of the democratic contenders, which may prove helpful when it comes time for his first presidential duty, beating the crap out of whiney-boy Bush. And if you don't think environmental issues are important, then just wait another 50 years, when you'll be able to say "I remember when there were animals on this planet - and air!"
My second choice is Dick Gephardt, who seems rational and sincere, but a little too white-bread old-school democrat. Maybe if he were vice president for Carol Moseley Braun, though sadly she doesn't stand a chance. Bear in mind that I'm not even a democrat so unless I re-register soon my opinions in this matter are even less relevant than you already thought they were.
Anyway, Happy New Year. Always a time for celebration, reflection, and in my case, cheerful cynicism. Cynical because from a global perspective things are getting worse every second. Cheerful because from both an individual and universal perspective, it doesn't mean a thing. We live, we die, in between there is the glory of nature, not to mention various sybaritic delights, and when we as a species are gone there will be others, on other planets light years away, who will, thousands of years from now, just be receiving, from across the vast emptiness of time and space, the very first episodes of the Simpsons. There's always something to look forward to.

If We're Having A Reunion, Does That Mean We Once Had A Union?
10/21/2003 3:45pm PST - I recently (it seems like just yesterday, and in fact it was) received notice that certain disreputable elements of my high school class were planning an officially un-official reunion for sometime in the next year or two. I have yet to attend a high school reunion, for my high school or anyone else's, but as the promoters of this event suggest that we may all be dead in a few years and had better hop to it, perhaps it is time that I put away my preconceived notions of what unholy disasters this hideous event might present, and plunge headfirst into the melee (or My Lai, as we were more likely discussing when I was in school). I'm fairly certain that I'm already in contact with all the people from that extraordinary class that I would care to be in contact with, and that I made a reasonable effort to distance myself, by about three thousand miles, from the rest of them, but the ensuing years have clouded my memories and the strident radicalism of my youth ("I don't care what you say, I'm wearing blue jeans to school!") has faded to feeble annoyance that the same sort of imbecilic bullies that lorded over our high school class are now running the country.
Anyway, before I work myself up into a political rant, let me just spread the word to anyone from Ridgewood, New Jersey who graduated high school in or around 1970, to visit and do your fair share to reunite these misbegotten souls in a weekend of mayhem and debauchery (or else I want my money back!), to be held somewhere on this planet at some undisclosed time. Who knows, it may already have begun.
And now that I'm reminiscing about those glorious days, let me just share one highlight of my senior year. Most of those highlights involved my lovely girlfriend who was far more interesting than any academic pursuits, but this particular event happened one afternoon in my U.S. History class. It was in a small third floor classroom, with a window facing out on the sun-drenched courtyard. Mr. Okema would stand in front of the window droning on monotonously about the proper way to fold the Times and how this related to the Taft-Harley Act, while I was lulled into peaceful repose by the warm glow of the sun as it shone through his enormous translucent ears. At some point a large crow alighted on the windowsill. "Jim Crow!" I exclaimed in my soporific historical enthusiasm, though I had not meant to actually exclaim it out loud. I believe I was then sent to the office, though I may be thinking of some other occasion. At any rate, it once again goes to show that the things we remember best are not the things we were told to remember, but those that were simultaneously most painful and amusing.

He Goddam Mad Dog, Eh?
09/12/2003 11:30pm PST - No, not that Mad Dog, I've just been ruminating on palindromes lately, which prompted me to open up a wonderful book, An Almanac of Words at Play, by Willard Espy (Clarkson N. Potter Inc., New York, 1975). Most palindromes, at least the ones that make sense, are short: "Madam, I'm Adam" and what have you. But Espy brings us this stunning 450-letter verse that I'm pasing along, on the off chance that you missed it...

The Faded Bloomer's Rhapsody

Flee to me, remote elf - Sal a dewan desired;
Now is a Late-Petal era.
We fade: lucid Iris, red Rose of Sharon;
Goldenrod a silly ram ate.
Wan olives teem (ah, Satan lives!);
A star eyes pale Roses.
Revel, big elf on a mayonnaise man -
A tinsel baton-dragging nice elf too.
Lisp, oh sibyl, dragging Nola along;
Niggardly bishops I loot.
Fleecing niggard notables Nita names,
I annoy a Man of Legible Verse.
So relapse, ye rats,
As evil Natasha meets Evil
On a wet, amaryllis-adorned log.
Norah's foes' orders (I ridiculed a few) are late, Pet.
Alas, I wonder! Is Edna wed?
Alas - flee to me, remote elf.
- Howard W Bergerson
Another well known palindrome is "A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!" It rolls off the tongue so nicely, and makes perfect sense besides. One only wishes that the Suez Canal had an equally catchy palindrome. After all, Suez spelled backwards is Zeus - surely one of you out there can come up with something to stuff in-between?
It was in 1869 that Ferdinand de Lesseps joined the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, parting the sands just 2000 years (give or take) after Moses parted the sea. Nowadays, the canal has fallen on hard times, being too narrow for modern ships, and leading mostly to places no one wants to go just now. In 1956, the statue of de Lesseps was blown up - like Saddam Hussein's, only the shoes remain. On December 31, 1999, Ferdinand's granddaughter, the Countess Tauni de Lesseps, a sculptress of some reknown, attended the ceremony transferring the Panama Canal to the Panamanians. She was quoted in the Panamanian press and television as saying that President Clinton was rude in not attending the ceremony (Former President Jimmy Carter did the honors).
The Countess does have a sense of humor, as evidenced in several cartoons which - dare I call it coincidence? appear in the above-mentioned Almanac of Words at Play. Her drawings illustrate the delightful consequences of drinking white wine with fish, red wine with cattle, and goats with Chevrolets. For some reason, whenever I think of Tauni de Lesseps - how often that actually is I leave to your imagination - I am reminded of Pamela McKinstry, who has a little dog and a shiftless scoundrel of a husband, but is, as far as I know, entirely unconnected to the world of canal-building. What does any of this mean? I do not care to know.

What Will They Think of Next?

04/01/2003 6:14am PST - I can't read Japanese, so I may be entirely off base with this, but I do know that I've been waiting a very long time for someone to offer a telephone haircheck. Naturally the Japanese have beat us to the punch with this amazing service, but that's all right, I'm willing to bet (though reluctant to make the call) that Haruka Igawa is the best person in the world for the job. Were one to call, do you suppose Haruka would tell you about her hair, or would she apply her extraordinary psychic powers to explore the state of your own tresses?
This is more important to me than you might imagine. I've been having a bad hair day for almost twenty years now. From the humblest barbershop to the most exclusive salons, I have befuddled the experts at every turn. "Where do you part your hair," they ask, and all I can do is gaze at them (squint, really, since they make me take off my glasses) and sigh. They snip away for a while, then say "How does that look," and I tell them I don't know, I don't have my glasses on! You tell me! Where is the part? Do I have to call Japan to get the answers? Jeez!!!
Anyway, there's some new soundcheck pictures, that's about it for this update. One other thing - I only recently discovered that several persons have emailed me at the address at the bottom of this page, which I pretty much stopped checking a long time ago because it's usually 99.9% spam. I will try to respond shortly (been rather busy lately with a wide range of absurd and annoying activities), and will also get around to changing the mail link to a spamproof form one of these days. Also hoping to add a guest book, because I'm sure many of you are dying to leave your own cranky commentary. Why should I have all the fun!

Happy New Year!

01/24/2003 7:45am PST - And good riddance to the old one, it was a mess. This year should be much better, if you don't consider the fact that our president matches in every respect the European stereotype of the Ugly American and that the global unemployment rate is the highest it's been in fifty years. I'll tell you one thing, no one is taking away my weapons of mass destruction. I've only got two, comedy and gravity, but they're both amazingly powerful though limited in range. I also have the power to cloud men's minds (or was that The Shadow?) and can predict the near past with amazing accuracy. For instance I can tell you with absolute certainty that I had some yogurt for breakfast this morning, and I am willing to believe, as the container indicated, that it came from a goat. The goat pictured was about yea high and of average proportions, with two horns and one tail. It had a wry, telling smile and even I don't know what that means. Anyway, forget the goat, what's of far greater importance today is the plight of the hedgehog.
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is making an all out effort to prevent the culling (or killing, you might say) of thousands of hedgehogs which have mistakenly taken up residence on the Western Isles, where they are accidentally-on-purpose eating the eggs of rare and well-regarded ground-nesting birds. The British Hedgehog Preservation Society (henceforth BHPS) is seeking volunteers and heaps of cash (pounds of money you could say) to transport these rogue insectivores by jet airplanes to the British mainland, where they will be distributed among those who are willing and able to care for them. The website of the BHPS provides a questionnaire if you are interested in acquiring a hedgehog or two, though it appears that you have to live in England, Scotland or Wales. I've always wanted to visit Wales and perhaps live there with a hedgehog in the garden, because as you may know I am well versed in the poetry of that land, from pre-medieval times to the near past (which I can predict with amazing accuracy). Nevertheless, there are several questions you must answer to become an eligible hedgehog recipient, and I found them interesting enough to list here:
  1. Are there badgers in your area?
  2. Are you near a reserve or area where there are ground nesting birds?
  3. Can Hedgehogs get out of your garden or is it completely escape proof? (if in doubt E-mail us for more advice on this matter)
  4. Do you see hedgehogs in your area?
  5. Is your area regularly subject to flooding?
Even if you aren't interested in getting a hedgehog, and live nowhere near the British Isles, if there are badgers in your area and you see hedgehogs, even when you shut your eyes, I'd like to hear from you.

Happy Birthday Mad Dog!

11/09/2002 01:30am PST - Mad Dog is one of the three or four people that I have known for a substantial portion of my life with whom I am still in more or less regular contact or at least frequent but irregular contact, maybe in fact it's regularly scheduled infrequent but altogether peculiar contacts. I knew him even before he was a Mad Dog, back when everybody still lived in New Jersey and drank in New York. Mad Dog would drink Presbyterians while the rest of us were swilling tainted drafts. We drank at a wonderful and mysterious place called Ernie's Mombasha Inn, a curious relic of another era when the adjacent Mombasha lake wasn't completely covered by lily pads, and travelling thirty or forty miles from the big city across an unmarked maze of gravel roads through endless forests of beech, birch and maple constituted an exotic vacation, but by the time we discovered it Ernie was just opening up on Friday and Saturday nights, more as a hobby than a money-making venture. The inn was conveniently located a few hundred feet from the Appalacian Trail, so we would usually end the evening by hiking the mile or two up Mombasha Mountain and camp on its rocky summit surrounded by weird elfen shrubbery, moonlight and mist.
That was hundreds of years ago. Mad Dog keeps moving deeper into the north woods and we count ourselves lucky to see him once every month or so. He dines almost exclusively on voles and fiddleheads, and dances arcane jigs around a mysterious Japanese woman. On a clear night you can hear his howl from a hundred miles away. Nonetheless, he remains fully licensed and bonded, so please don't hesitate to avail yourself of his services.

Happy Columbus Day

10/14/2002 2:07pm PST - Yes it's Columbus Day, commemorating the moment back in 1066 when William the Conqueror defeated Columbus at the Battle of Hastings. This happens as well to be the birthday of e.e. cummings, C. Everett Koop, King James II, William Penn, Masaoka Shiki, Katherine Mansfield, Dwight D Eisenhower, Lillian Gish and millions of other people. I wish I could list them all. Also on this day in 1982, the NY Islanders scored the greatest shutout margin (9-0) in hockey history against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I don't know or care anything about hockey, but it's a good segue into the real topic of today's entry...
We took the penguin out for some air over the weekend (pictures available here). The Blue Angels were zooming all around the bay but we only heard them roar past, and once you hear them they're already too far away to see. I have a business colleague who's just like that too, but I'm not sure what he looks like. I'd like you all to consider the penguin as a business colleague of mine as well, since she/he is always so formally attired. The penguin is generally silent, though, and barely moves at all. I suppose it's due to our balmy climate. I have a business colleague who's balmy. Thousands of them, actually. I wish I could list them all.
I had something else terribly important that I wanted to mention, but I can't think of it just now. Go take a look at some of my silly pictures and I'll get back to you (well, not you) later.

Happy Fall Equinox

09/23/2002 12:42pm PST - I put the headlights back on my bicycle, a sure sign of autumn. When I put the fenders on you'll know it's winter. Today I've added some pictures to the site - some of those desperate street cows for which Portland is so famous (taken back in June, they may have been rounded up by now), and some recently unearthed photos of the Soundcheck & Picnic of October, 2000: the famous "Lost Soundcheck" which so few of us remember. Wavy Gravy was there and was quite taken by a little dog who was also there. There were also people in fezes, but none of them were Shriners, although I'm sure we'd all be Shriners if we could drive those little cars around.

Happy Labor Day

09/07/2002 7:30am PST - Like many Americans, I chose to honor our fallen heroes of the Labor movement at the beach. Drake's Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, where our merry band of sand shovellers gathered in the early morning fog to pay homage to Andy Goldsworthy (though I am unaware of his union affiliation, if any) and ended up creating the Great Wall of China, or such was the opinion of our passers-by. See for yourself here. We won 3rd prize, leaving no doubt that two other groups were more successful at jury tampering than we were. Three days later I am still sore from head to toe.

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