The Opinion of Sheep

“A lion doesn’t concern itself with the opinion of sheep.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

Fort Worth, Texas

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What I learned this week, July 30, 2017

How Government Wrecked the Gas Can

Soap doesn’t work. Toilets don’t flush. Clothes washers don’t clean. Light bulbs don’t illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It’s all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice.

It’s like the barbarian invasions that wrecked Rome, taking away the gains we’ve made in bettering our lives. It’s the bureaucrats’ way of reminding market producers and consumers who is in charge.


Bicycle Lanes on the Jefferson Viaduct from Oak Cliff into downtown, Dallas.

Why car drivers just lost my support for city streets

I have been somewhat skeptical of this whole car and vehicle lane investment the city has been building for the last 200 years …. They’ve built them in front of my home and my neighbors’ homes. My first thought, naturally, was of the inconvenience and safety issues — cars drive so fast! What if they hit my house? Or my neighbor? Or, me? But I also understand the desire of cars to have priority. They are so large, so loud and so dangerous, after all.

However, an incident that keeps occurring every day has tipped the scales. As I was making my way home, I was stuck at a standstill trying to cross the street. “What was the reason for this?” I wondered. As I got closer, the answer was evident: Hundreds of cars were riding down the street to gloat. (As they do every day now!)


For the Love of Kettle
Looking at the art

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy
by Clay Stinnett

13 REASONS WHY ORIGINAL ART IN THE HOME IS AS IMPORTANT AS A BED

Having original art in the home is vital to your well being. Art is a key piece of furniture for many reasons and yet it is sometimes put on the back burner in comparison to other home objects. This list is dedicated to the understanding of importance of art from perspectives of interior design, well being, social atmosphere, creating a mood in the home, and more. One quote that stands out about the importance of original art is the following, “You would never put fake books on your bookshelf, so why would you put fake art on your walls?”

Tethered to an Upside Down Giant
by Richard Ross

I am always amazed when I am in an expensive house and the shelves and walls are filled with stuff purchased from some “home store” – unoriginal crap made by some poor semislave laborer in some far-off tropical country. I want to scream, “Buy real things! Buy local art! Put something that means something to you on your walls and shelves!” It’s like they want to conform to some unwritten rule – “you will buy crap from the appointed crap stores and you will display it as a flag to other idiots that you know and follow the unwritten rules.”

Persuation, from Twenty Heads


I remember when Aw Shucks opened. I was living a block away at the time. There was a nice little family-owned Mexican restaurant in the building and I was a little disappointed when it closed… until Aw Shucks opened – it was really good. And it’s still there, 35 years later.

Love it or Not, Aw Shucks Has Had an Undeniable Spirit on Greenville for Nearly 35 Years


From the same series… The Inwood Lounge. I remeber when it opened – it was so cool. This was before Netflix and there was nothing better than going to a film at the Inwood – going early and meeting in The Lounge for a Martini beforehand. That was the 1980’s… and that was a long time ago. But The Lounge is still the same… maybe it is out of date, but maybe out of date sometimes works.

Where the ’80s — and Maybe Some Ghosts — Live On: Inwood Lounge, the Haunted Movie Haunt

The Inwood Theatre is a baby boomer, celebrating its 70th birthday in May, but few things are more iconically ’80s in Dallas than The Inwood Lounge. Instantly, you may picture the wall of thick, squared glass and violet runner lights, like something you’d see in the club Sarah Connors visits in Terminator, or the crystal-clear, ice-sheened martinis.

“It’s definitely a victim of its time,” Clardy says, describing the lounge space. “Between the glass tile, the wall, the little fountain running through it — it looks like the ’80s had one too many cocktails and vomited all over the place.”


A Lot Like Prayer: Remembering Denis Johnson

I did not know he had passed away. It’s sad, I love his work.

He does have a posthumous book of short stories coming out next year. I wrote about the title story here – A Month of Short Stories 2015, Day Thirteen – The Largesse Of the Sea Maiden. You can read the story online from the New Yorker here – The Largesse Of the Sea Maiden


Ohh Crap

The Dallas Library Is Selling Off a Bunch of Books

After the demise last summer of its bookstore, BookEnds, now the site of the madhouse that is the Office of Vital Statistics on the first floor of its downtown branch, the Dallas Public Library turned to moving its surplus stock with biannual clearance sales. The summer sale is set for Aug. 12 and 13 at the J. Erik Jonsson central branch, the library announced today.

About 40,000 books (print and audio), CDs, and DVDs will be on sale at exceptionally low prices, which, as far as we’re concerned, makes this the social event of late summer in Dallas.


I enjoy short films and have been pleasantly surprised at how many are available for free on youtube. Here’s one I like:

A Peaceful Scene With Razor Wire

“make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been too hesitant to attempt. So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservation, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

Governor NIcholls Street, New Orleans

Walking Along the Levee

“One who knows the Mississippi will promptly aver—not aloud, but to himself—that ten thousand River Commissions, with the mines of the world at their back, cannot tame that lawless stream, cannot curb it or confine it, cannot say to it, Go here, or Go there, and make it obey; cannot save a shore which it has sentenced; cannot bar its path with an obstruction which it will not tear down, dance over, and laugh at.”
― Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Walking on the levee
New Orleans

Cyclist With Backpack on Royal

New Orleans – an Alternative

Pre-Katrina I biked around New Orleans many times. The city is pretty flat, which makes it easy on the knees. On one trip I discovered a bike path along the top of some of the earthen lebees. It was delightful; one could see the river on one side and the city spread out on the other.

Here there are few of the usual interstates that divide and wound cities. There’s mostly just I-10, on its massive concrete pilings, which snakes into the center of town, desperately trying to stay above most of the funk and humanity below. New Orleans was, and I suspect still is, one of a few large cities across the U.S.A. with character and personality, with its own food, culture, language, and music. It never fails to inspire, though it has clearly flourished despite much neglect and years of abuse that were revealed to the world when the hurricane struck.

I bike along Magazine Street and then on St. Charles where what at first glance appears to be Spanish moss in the trees turns out to be Mardi Gras beads, hanging from the weird branches, block after block – and it’s not even Mardi Gras season.
—- David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

Royal Street, French Quarter, New Orleans

The Green Fairy

After the first glass of absinthe you see things as you wish they were. After the second you see them as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.
—- Oscar Wilde

On my last trip to New Orleans, for the Writing Marathon, I was able to cross a line off of my bucket list. It was a small item, maybe the smallest – nothing like going to Cambodia, or living long enough to see the Sagrada Famila finished – but an item crossed-off nonetheless.

It was, I think, Thursday, and that day we would divide up more or less according to what we wrote. A fairly large poetry group set out (I would meet up with them later in the day, crossing the Mississippi on the Algiers ferry) while I joined a smaller fiction group.

We had coffee and wrote, and then the leader suggested, “Why don’t we go get an absinthe?” Despite the flurry of absinthe bars that swept Dallas a decade ago (and just as quickly disappeared) I had never drank one. And for no real reason, I always had wanted to – placing it on my list of things to do. What better time than now and what better place than the French Quarter in New Orleans. Because of its strong French ties, absinthe had always been a thing in the city.

I think the biggest reason I wanted an absinthe is my love of gadgetry, ritual, and complex preparations. I am a chemist after all and what could be more attractive than dripping ice cold water into a solution of alcohol and essential oils just until the oils are forced out of solution (because the water is making the solvent mixture more and more polar…. Nevermind).

For those that don’t know, that is the classic way that absinthe is prepared. The (often greenish) liquid (very strong – usually well over 100 proof) is poured into a glass. A flat, slotted absinthe spoon is placed over the glass and a sugar cube is set on the spoon. The large glass reservoir of an Absinthe Fountain is filled with ice and water. Then a tap is cracked open and the water slowly dripped onto the sugar cube, where it dissolves the sugar and then falls into the absinthe. The cold water then causes the absinthe to change from clear to cloudy, a process called louche.

This releases the aromatic flavored oils and indicates the absinthe is ready to drink.

The bartender pouring the absinthe, note the clear green color.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

Dripping the iced water over the sugar cube, into the absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

The absinthe fountain, dripping cold water over the sugar into a glass of absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

The louche (cloudy liquid) forms as the water dilutes the absinthe.
Pirate’s Alley Cafe, New Orleans

—How cool is that?!—

Now, of course, absinthe has a bad reputation – and I mean that in a good way. It was banned in the US from 1912 to 2007. Traditionally, it was the wormwood used in the drink, particularly the chemical thujone that enables the hallucinations that the drink traditionally provided. It looks like that is at best a huge exaggeration, if not a complete load of hokum. It seem it’s the liquid’s 125-175 proof alcohol, rather than some mysterious elixir, that provides the desired effects.

We walked down to a bar off of Pirate’s Alley (this is a favorite spot of mine – I stumbled across a fashion shoot there once before) right next to Faulkner House Books (William Faulkner’s old apartments). The bar is called Pirate’s Alley Café and specializes in absinthe. It seems a little touristy (sometimes the barkeep dresses like Jack Sparrow) but there was none of that early in the day in the summer (New Orleans’ offseason). I had to decide on my brand of poison, settling on Absinthe Lucid (it was relatively inexpensive, French, and green).

The barkeep went through the routine, setting up three glasses under the absinthe fountain and we were able to watch them go from clear to milky.

The only problem was that since I’m no huge fan of licorice, I assumed I wouldn’t like the absinthe and this would be a one-off bucket list thing. No luck, I really enjoyed the stuff.

Now I have to find a bar in Dallas and/or a bottle of the Green Fairy.

More information:
The Wormwood Society – America’s Premiere Absinthe Association & Information Network

“I am only sipping the second glass of that “fascinating, but subtle poison, whose ravages eat men’s heart and brain” that I have ever tasted in my life; and as I am not an American anxious for quick action, I am not surprised and disappointed that I do not drop dead upon the spot. But I can taste souls without the aid of absinthe; and besides, this is magic of absinthe! The spirit of the house has entered into it; it is an elixir, the masterpiece of an old alchemist, no common wine. And so, as I talk with the patron concerning the vanity of things, I perceive the secret of the heart of God himself; this, that everything, even the vilest thing, is so unutterably lovely that it is worthy of the devotion of a God for all eternity. What other excuse could He give man for making him? In substance, that is my answer to King Solomon.”
― Aleister Crowley, Absinthe The Green Goddess

The emerald hour–
when the poet’s pain is soothed
by a liquid jewel
held in the sacred chalice,
upon which rests
the pierced spoon,
the crystal sweetness–
Icy streams trickle down.
The darkest forest
melts into an open meadow
as waves of green seduce.
Sanity surrendered,
the soul spirals toward
the murky depths,
wherein lies
the beautiful madness–
absinthe.
—-Peggy Amond, “Rimbaud’s Poison