Kuma and Go

(Originally posted as a comment on this post, Hisashi Iwakuma agrees to deal with Dodgers, at Lookout Landing.)

Kuma is literally the only reason I developed an interest in MLB. I stumbled across livestreams of the Tohoku earthquake in 2011, the sea rising incomprehensibly on the screen of my iPhone, a black video wipe across thousands of lives. I became depressed as the nuclear emergency was recognized and both incompetently handled and reported for over a week thereafter. Seeking hope and solace, I put my newfound expertise at navigating online Japanese media sources to work, and followed the 2011 campaign of the Tohuku-based Rakuten Eagles with pirate-stream 3 A.M. raccoon-eye enthusiasm.

They sucked. Kuma had tried to go MLB to Oakland after his seven years but an injury knocked him out of the contract negotiations and onto a long-ass stint on the DL. When he pressed his case to the MLB over the break in 2012 he was still recovering, no-one in the US (that mattered) knew who he was, and the M’s literally lucked into him.

He was benched longer than any other roster player in that season, sitting disconsolate and alone in the bullpen next to Antony Suzuki, the team’s translator. Suzuki literally sat between Iwakuma and his Mariners teammates, physically at the very end of the bench.

I was at a bunch of games early that year because opening day had produced a giant cluster-f in the concessions which led the Ms to offer freebie makeup tix to everyone who attended that game. The makeup tix were very cheap on Craigslist. I had a lot of opportunities to observe Kuma, shoulders slumped and isolated on the bench.

At one of these games, I was able to draw a smile and a hat tip as I waved my Eagles cap and called his name. A bit later in the season, on a Rainiers Turn Back the Clock day, he signed both my Iwakuma M’s jersey, purchased before his first start, and the Eagles cap. He included appropriate uniform numbers on each sig.

I was at his career-high strikeout game, 13, thrown immediately after returning from a whirlwind trip to Japan to say goodbye to his dying father. I was at his duel versus Darvish, in which he dominated the younger man. I’ll forever be denied my dream of Iwakuma vs. Tanaka, it seems. Last year, my wife and I adopted an aged black lab mix, formerly feral in Snohomish County. I attempted to name the 90-pound black behemoth Kuma. The dog over-ruled me, insisting on “Logan” instead. I was unable to attend Kuma’s no-hitter, as the unusual thunderstorms in the area that day ramped the big dog into a state of such fear and anxiety that he tore the door frame to my bath off as I attempted to shower in preparation for attending the game. We watched it together on the couch, my mild resentment at his neuroses growing with every whiff.

I would have to say, given my near total disinterest in the Mariners this spring during Kuma’s injury hiatus, it’s an unsettled question if my interest in MLB and Mariners baseball will survive his departure. I came to it late for reasons unrelated to family or tradition. I’m middle aged and don’t have kids. My dad is not a baseball fan. My next door neighbor, a senior who was a baseball fan and with whom I enthusiastically shared these past few years, died in his sleep the night before last. I can think of many other ways to spend my time.

Whatever happens, thanks, Kuma. You’ll always be my favorite ballplayer of all time. Ganburo!

"The Feast of Osiris" chapbook PDF



I did not convert fonts to outlines and the fonts are mostly reerky shareware specialty gimcracks, so I expect this to needs fixed eventually. Grab it and let me know!

I encourage you to hand this out to trick-or-treaters, especially 8 to 10 year olds, instead of candy this year. KIDS LOVE IT.

Star Trek: TNG, directed by Sid and Marty Krofft

This morning I awakened from an epic dream which consisted of a never-extant ST:TNG episode guest starring William Shatner, Harvey Keitel, and which was directed by and featuring the puppets and sensibilities of Sid and Marty Krofft, circa 1972. I regaled Vivian with the whole thing as best I could without collapsing into fits of helpless laughter and then immediately tweeted (and cross-posted to Facebook) the whole thing.

Instead of rewriting it, I’ll just plop the tweets in here, with some mild typos cleaned up. At the end, I explained what seems to be a probable episode denouement to my friend Art.

Awakened from dream: best Star Trek TNG episode EVARRRR. Guest stars: the Shat, Harvey Keitel. 2-part season-ender. FX: Sid & Marty Krofft.

The Enterprise passes through a phase-wave front. In close head shots, crew notes mounting problems. Ship orbits planet; supplies, repairs.

Crew beams down, including Kirk, Picard, LaForge, Worf, and Ryker. As beams coalesce, we see that they have been physically transformed.

The new appearance of the crew: giant, 5-foot Krofft puppet heads of the actor’s normal features, tiny arms and legs protruding.

In some distance shots the heads appear composited over the actor’s bodies via early 70’s live blue screen, fuzzy matte & all. Super cheesy.

They encounter the locals, who have never heard of this Federation you speak of. Ryker calls the ship, but – oh noes! Out of cell coverage.

LaForge waves a tricorder from his tiny, tiny arm. “Bad news, guys,” he reports. The Enterprise seems to no longer be in orbit.

The locals all share the big head Krofft puppet appearance. The puppet heads bounce humorously. Picard’s gravitas & Worf’s ethos are at risk.

The crew decides to split up. Kirk, Picard and Worf will seek the authorities; LaForge and Ryker will go to the hills seeking raw materials.

The command staff are brought before a local council. One of the senators is played by Harvey Keitel, in big-head puppet.

After discussion, the big head locals decide to send a phase-wave ship in search of the Enterprise or this so-called Federation.

Senator Keitel visits the party in their quarters and reveals that the local culture is based on enslavement of another indigenous race.

The Monsters, as they are called, are gloriously eccentric Krofft puppets, all featuring obvious and exaggerated asymmetricality.

Meanwhile, up in them thar hills, LaForge and Ryker have encountered the Monsters, who are super-awesome cats with advanced consciousness.

It will be no problem for these reviled beasts to send the Enterprise men home, but they need the help of the council of Senators.

There is undoubtedly an ill-advised scene full of heavy exposition here, detailing the crimes of the council against the monsters.

Back in town, the phase-wavernauts have returned with bad news: no trace of the Federation or this supposed ship that sails through space.

Could these strangers form the hills be simply an advance party for a MONSTER REBELLION? GUARDS! CLAP THEM IN IRONS!

Cue Kirk fighting music. Big heads bounce and roll off one another in epic, bouncy struggle, sumo wresters filled with helium.

Decisively, Senator Keitel comes to the aid of the Enterprise men and he and they head for the hills and Monster safety.

The monsters are able to send Senator Keitel through naturally occurring phase wave portal into phase wave state of Federation & NCC-1701D.

Then I woke up.

@arthurwyatt Keitel becomes the most powerful senator, promising monstrous reforms. Enterprise peeps get home with new phase wave tech …

@arthurwyatt … and meanwhile we’ve learned important lesson about oppression & the spirituality of aboriginal peoples. & giant puppet heads.

@arthurwyatt I think prolly there would have been some big Kirk scene in act III, too. Ideally Keitel & Kirk chewing scenery at one another.

I just crossposted that whole thing to Facebook as status updates. Imagine the ticker!

@arthurwyatt the thing I couldn’t really convey here was how funny the giant head puppet thing was. I kept having giggles while dreaming.

A side effect of having dreamt this is that I can actually see the Krofft puppet heads of the crew in my minds eye.

The Sun that Burns

On Saturday, I spent the whole day sitting on the beach near the San Onofre nuclear plant, reading. The whole day was cool, and the morning, from 10 to 1 or so, was grey and misty, quite pleasant.

Just as the clouds pushed back offshore, the Goodyear blimp mosied on by, headed south at about 800 feet. I friended it on Facebook and said “hi” on its’ wall as it passed.

I was finishing Harold Dick’s memoir of his time working in Freidrichshafen on behalf of Goodyear-Zeppelin during the rise of the Nazis and had just finished the book when the ship flew by.

I then picked up Gary Shteyngart’s recent and widely-praised “Super Sad True Love Story” and read it through at one sitting. Much of the novel’s intended amusement factor stems from the author’s satirical visualization of virtualized socialization and workflow in the context of an apocalyptically dysfunctional state. I had heard the author in a couple of interviews during his book tour and he was incredibly funny, as were his readings from the book, so I cracked the book with high hopes.

Instead, although I have no specific grounds to critique the experience on, I was sort of disappointed. I did, it must be noted, read the whole thing in one sitting, without even tottering across the burning sands to take a potty break, so it is empirically inarguable that I found the book engaging. I even feel a sort of bemused guilt that I didn’t like it more.

I mean, come ON, highfalutin’ litt’ry dystopian satirical SF? Christ, it’s the genre I should be praying for, if I were to take religious precepts with any kind of seriousness at all. And I will say this: while Shteyngart leaves a couple plot points dangling, and acknowldges them as such in the context of the book, taken as SF, it’s pretty good.

But I guess I had formed the idea that I would bust a gut reading the book. I still feel like I should have – Shteyngart is merciless, showing little sympathy for his characters or their (our) culture, and this is my favorite style of comedy, the Coen Brothers at their most contemptuous or Dan Clowes in high, self-indulgent dudgeon.

So I don’t quite get it. Shteyngart should be my new BFF. But my strongest reaction to the book was a kind of bemusement; I couldn’t figure out why wasn’t really digging it. it was, um, OK. It was alright.

I mean, it’s tight, it’s fluent, it’s clearly the work of a really gifted writer, someone hitting on all cylinders, from command and craft of language to plotting and subtheme. But instead of getting excited, and laughing or yelling or crying or wanting to talk about the book once I finished reading it, I was sort of puzzled by my lukewarm reaction to it.

However, I will likely long remember reading it, because my traveling companions at the beach that day did not bring any sunscreen, and I was too absorbed in reading to think about it. The net result? Full-on second-degree burns on my legs, from above my knees to the middle of my feet. I’m learning a lot about burn care.

RIP Harvey

Local-news site Cleveland.com reports that comic-book writer, jazz critic, and curmudgeon Harvey Pekar died overnight at his home:

Pekar, 70, was found dead shortly before 1 a.m. today by his wife, Joyce Brabner, in their Cleveland Heights home, said Powell Caesar, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller.

I can’t help but think Harvey would be amused that his career’s end was presided over by a guy named Frank Miller.

I got to know Harvey a little bit about five years ago while writing about comics for various publications. Harvey loved to talk on the phone, as he often depicted himself doing in his work. He never failed to remind me that he was always available to talk – any time, he would emphasize.

Harvey always depicted himself as a guy who was bothered by stuff, who got bound up in grouchiness by obsessing over this or that. In his unsparing self-observation he laid bare the mechanics by which he was capable of making himself miserable. Despite this, it seemed to me that by the time I spoke with him he had got beyond this.

What struck me about Harvey on the phone was his profound generosity of spirit. I don’t think he saw it, and he probably would have been made uncomfortable by the observation. I do think the film American Spendor, starring both Harvey and the perfectly-cast Paul Giamatti, managed to capture that side of Harvey’s personality at the same time as remaining true to the source material. I love the film; Harvey liked it too.

Goodbye, Harvey. I’m so glad I got to spend some time with you, over those long circuits. I did know you were always there, ready to talk. Any time. I’m sorry I didn’t take you up on it as much as I should have.

The Eve of the Feast of Osiris

Recently, while conducting my annual researches into the origins of the beloved holiday legend of Osiris Claus, I had occasion to venture deep into the vaulted reaches of a dusky book-crypt. Far and far I had crept, flickering cell-phone my only source of illumination as I scanned the cobwebbed stacks in search of the rumored grimoire. Out amidst the dusty plains of the online social mediasphere, I had heard rumours – hints, really. Messages encoded in the subject lines of what appeared to be spam. Clues found in acrostics formed by the first letters of each line of official governmental press releases. Numerological indications conveyed in YouTube hitcounts. After carefully collating all available evidence with myself and my avatars in a marathon session of Google Wave, I had been directed to this particular section of a failing independent bookstore.

There! Surely THIS. THIS black-bound volume – It must be that which I had so long sought. I had come across a musty volume of forgotten Moore – Clement Clarke Moore, or so I took it to be at the time. I had long speculated that Moore was among the occult initiates of the Osiran League – a secret brotherhood devoted to reintegrating the ancient secrets of Old Kingdom Egypt into the day-to-day life of his world and time. At long last, I held in my hands the very manuscript that would prove or disprove my cherished notions of the initiate’s knowledge – the Secret of Santa Claus himself!

Opening the crumbling volume, I flipped past a number a pages which did not seem to fit my hypothesis, pulling them easily from the cracking spine of the volume and setting them alight in order to better illuminate what I sought – for there it was! What to my wondering eyes should appear, but an early draft of “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” or so it seemed. The lines were crabbed and etched with strikeouts and annotations; up and down the margins were curious figures of stylized birds and feathers and such.

I was able to copy the entirety of the poem before my cell battery died but was startled by a deep coughing noise from the depths of the stacks. Dropping the book in stark terror, I ran deep into the maze. I know not how long and long I wandered, my only source of nourishment the binding glue from well-thumbed romance novels, remaindered Twilight books, and the like. I only know that when I emerged blinking into the light of day, a black man was the president, yet neither socialism nor universal health care had come to pass in the land.

I reprint the lines here, but I must caution you: some say to read this work leads ineluctably to madness! You have been warned.

Black was the night before the Feast of Osiris

not a hippo did stir, not even an ibis.

The stockings were hung in the temple with care

in certainty
Osiris‘ star soon would shine there.

The children and slaves were all locked up for the night

while night-fleets of bats and scarabs took flight

The pharoah and queen in headdress and cap

had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.

When out in the courtyard arose such a clatter

Pharoah and guards sprang to see what was the matter.

Away to the gates and the walls they all dashed

as braziers were kindled and bronze weapons flashed.

The moon on the sand at the banks of the Nile

Gave the white sheen of snowfall to to palm trees and tile –

When what to those wondering eyes did appear

but a floating sarcophagus and green mummy so queer.

That wizened corpse stood, neither living nor virus

All knew in a moment it must be Osiris

Returned as each year to bridge the dead and the quick

Then he whistled, and shouted, and called them all Nick.

“Now, Nick! Now Nicholas! Now Nicky, and Nick!

On, Nik! On Nik-nok! On, Nicolas and Nick!

To the top of the pyramid, to the top of the tomb!

Now dash away, dash away, dash up past the moon! ”

As sand, dust, and leaves before the desert wind fly

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,

So up past the mastaba the courtiers they flew,

With the sarcophagus, and Osiris too.

And then in a twinkling the pharoah he heard

the great rush of wind from the wings of that bird

Horus’ hawk eye took in all with no pause

And then lent Osiris the strength of his claws

Each year the sown mummy springs up from his box

garments and flesh
stitched bloody with ashes and rocks;

his emerald skin wound in scarlets and creams

sprouts split the silt by the river’s blue stream.

His eyes – how they burned! His brow darkly beetling!

His cheeks were like mosses, his nose like a seedling!

His lips were drawn back in a rictus of death

But such vigor and motion – he surely drew breath!

A bundle of wheat formed the staff of his flail

his red and white spiral crook kept the herd in the vale

while his limbs were quite thin he shone bright as day

flashing and sparking like a spring storm on the way

Dessicated and thin, a cadaverous mummy

His green skin and scars looked rotten and plummy

His unblinking eye and twisted gnarled hand

raised high and showed all who was lord in this land;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work.

He filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,

Bony hand at arm’s length to the Pharoah he strode

then clutching the king to his bosom he rose

He sprang to his coffin, stilling the screams of the king

And away they all flew like the bird on the wing.

he was heard to exclaim, ere he hove out of sight,

“A fecund Nile flood to all, and to all a good night!”


Whoo boy, you take a year off the writins and it sho do show. I pledge greater vigilance on my part toward the grievous sins of run-on-sentencery, typos (especially if conjunctions) which dramatically decrease the apparent sensibility of a sentence, and of course multiple-post generating revisions.

Yard Arm

In the back yard, I drop ants of differing appearance into the reservoir portion of a spray bottle filled with water. Peering into the neck of the bottle with one eye, the ants appear as huge as cars and people. They can walk along the walls of the bottle and do so, carefully gathering air into a diving-bell about their rear body segment. When one kind of ant encounters a different sort of ant, they battle ferociously until one is dead.

Much to my parents’ puzzlement and occasional frustration, I hated working in the yard. I wanted to help, and the yard’s size really needed extra hands. But for whatever reason, or constellation of them, nearly all my memories of working outside at my childhood home are unhappy.

I made reference to the first one of these earlier in the week. The blizzard of ’78 blew snow up over the roof of the house’s garage. My father and I, as well as my sister and mother, worked for two days or so to clear the drive and the walks. The experience made me reluctant to shovel snow, although I recall (however self-servingly) having accepted the snow-shoveling chore as mine by the end of high school. My recollection is that I realized how relatively infrequent heavy snowstorms were, although the entire time we resided in Bloomington, a heavy accumulation of snow from December through March was the norm.

I recall one singularly unpleasant spring afternoon when I volunteered to help my dad in the yard, hopefully determined to learn from him and to try to understand his sense of pride, interest, and accomplishment. He set me to weeding with a 12-inch tool designed to aid the ept in the removal of weeds such as dandelions, which send long tap-roots down into the soil and should be removed with as much of the long tail as possible. Typically, I was unable to use the tool with any accuracy and failed to bring up a single weed-root whole. Frustrated, I recall asking my dad why this was, him attempting to demonstrate, and my inability to grasp his technique resulting in my angry insistence that I would do it my own way or none. We shouted at one another for a while and I retreated in tears.

One stormy night, a power line fell in our back yard, near my mom’s garden. The arcing line lit up the woods and house in terrible, phantasmagoric flashes, white steam and sulfurous smoke billowing up from the naked wire grounding itself in my mother’s topsoil. I had the presence of mind to grab my Pentax K1000 and shoot in the night as the firefighters and linemen secured the scene.

Of course, mowing the lawn fell to me, a task which I at first found difficult for reasons of physical strength. The lot is not level, and we had a typical gas mower of the time with no drive wheels, all-steel and push only. I think when I started mowing the lawn I was about eleven and weighed darn near 90 pounds. It was frightening for me to wrestle this barking machine with whirling blades that weighed half as much as I did. The broiling heat and wretched humidity of the Indiana summer combined with the mower chaff to create a truly miserable experience. With creativity and determination, I was on some occasions able to flog myself with this particular willow branch for eight to ten hours.

In the garage, a forty-year old refrigerator, all streamlined white enamel and chromed aluminum, holds bottle after bottle of cold Big Red. No matter how many I drink, it’s still too hot, and I’m still thirsty. I open another one and watch the condensation run off the bottle and down my wrist.

Later, during high school, I had more or less figured out that if one really threw oneself into something horrible it would get completed more rapidly, so I would attempt to run while pushing the mower in order to complete the task as rapidly as possible. I recall with much greater clarity the day I awakened with the first of my truly gargantuan hangovers, epic spectacles in which the armies of Hannibal clash with those of Rome. Up and down the length of my peninsula they rage for thirty or forty years. Hotly contested rear guard actions vie with undammed rivers, fountaining past the gates of my teeth. Such intensity of struggle makes man or boy weak in the knees and not well suited to pushing loud hot steel about under a 98-degree sun. On this day the mowing lasted a full eight hours but seemed to take much, much longer.

Four-foot black garden snakes writhe, intertwined, in the grass of our lawn, mating. With a nine-iron, a neighbor beats the snakes to death as they mate.

I tried to be of assistance to my mother in her garden, but again, the weather defeated me. The terrible heat and humidity of these summer days and the thuggish strength and scope of the intolerably cold winters led me to wonder what sort of madmen would have chosen to settle where we lived. The entire time we lived there, I was told that winters were not always so cold and summers not always so hot. The hottest days I recall featured a week of 100% humidity and 110 degrees around summer 1986 and the coldest a streak of minus 30 degrees one winter around that time, ’85, ’86, or ’87. Friends tell me winters are much milder now.

My father hopefully planted a grape arbor in the back yard one summer, and the vine started but only fruited a few small, sad grapes before slowly ceasing to grow. I think it was taken out by a subsequent owner.

Sometime in the ’80s, a large oak fell into our yard from Mary’s side of the fence. I helped Dad trim it and lay it so it was not terribly in the way. As we were doing so I had the bright idea of seeing if it could be sold to a local lumbermill, as there is an active forestry industry in Southern Indiana. To my surprise, I was able to do so under Indiana law and the lumbermill was willing to buy. I can’t recall how much the log fetched but I think it was over a hundred bucks.

In spring, flower poachers wheelbarrow daffodils from the lanes of Mary’s farm out to the highway. Are they family, or are they thieves?

Laughing, I throw the balsa and styrofoam airplane again and again, amazed at the added distance the innovation of formed airfoils to the toy has made. Catching a thermal, the blue-and-tan craft rises and rises before falling off the air spiral and coming to rest nearly a mile away. I catch up to it breathlessly, amazed and enthusiastic.