Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bear Trap

Tinguely Querer decided to take a few weeks off between contracts and to play the stock market. Granted, it was in the middle of a bear market of historic proportions, but that did not deter Tinguely.

Her last contract had been to buy mineral interests for elderly people in the Texas Panhandle. Most lived in nursing homes and and appreciated the help. She had been working out of Caprock, Texas, situated between two large wind turbine farms and a feedlot.

Having signed a short-term rental agreement on a house in the town’s newest subdivision, Tinguely decided to stay. It was convenient, and she would be comfortable as she figured out how to profit from panic selling, fear, and raging bears. Plugging in her laptop and G3 card, Tinguely could get high speed Internet and follow the market, even in the most barren patches of the High Plains.

“All the big money was made during bear markets,” said someone on the radio.

Tinguely supposed one could say that about the Black Death, Plague, and tsunamis as well. Someone pries the molars and the gold fillings from skulls and, with a little bit of pluck, start a jewelry shop. When life hands you lemons… get a pair of pliers.

It was a stretch. Tinguely would be the first to admit she knew little or nothing about analyzing market trends and selecting stocks. The work she was doing for her dad and for other clients had to do with oil and gas leasing and environmental evaluations. As the business soared, Tinguely started to feel a firm sense of identity.

Her dad, on the other hand, saw the other side. His friends and old business partners had been gutted by margin calls. Some lost up to $2 billion dollars of net worth in a single day. Now, the companies they had worked so hard to build and own a stake in, would suddenly change. Instead of being a major stockholder, Dad’s friends would be onlookers. The vultures would be in the driver’s seat. Tinguely could tell it bothered Dad.

“Watch yourself, Tinguely. Don’t get too cocky. You haven’t seen what I’ve seen. You’re young. I’m not,” said Dad.

Tinguely listened, but the words did not register. His experience was not hers.

“I don’t feel sorry for them. In fact, I’m glad I did not own stock in their companies. They were narcissistic. When they bought shares in their own companies using borrowed money, what did that really mean, Dad? They hoped to profiteer on insider information. Instead, they devastated lots of people’s portfolios,” she said.

“Easy to gloat until it happens to you.”

“I’m planning to build shareholder value.” Tinguely’s personal boom had made her bold. She could invent herself. After all, she had already done it successfully.

Constructing an identity was on her mind. Now was the time to come up with a company name, or at least a concept name for the types of services she provided.

A bold name for a newly bold woman. The idea made Tinguely laugh. She knew, in her heart of hearts, she had been feeling vulnerable and unsettled since turning 30 a few months ago.

“By the way, Tinguely, can you meet with our client in Amarillo tomorrow?”

“Sure,” said Tinguely.


The drive from Caprock to Amarillo was long and dull, but 24-7 talk radio made it bearable.

FOX NEWS, FAIR AND BALANCED: The market took another apocalyptic plunge today, the Dow sinking 500 points while the President was giving a pep talk about the economy.

Rumors are out there that when the derivative hedges come due, the market will really dive, since derivatives represent – if you believe what the experts are saying -- 16 times the world's GDP. More than one person has already said it. When the derivatives tank, the Illuminati will take off their masks, and the Reptilian Aliens, who have been controlling the Illuminati (and the Freemasons) for the last three centuries will take over.

On the other hand, perhaps Armageddon isn’t just around the corner after all. In the last hour of trading, the market soared and the Dow closed 400 points up

Climbing vines, creepers --
Our steel fences are overwrought:
gold melts, money burns.

(Old Dow Jones haiku, with kireji)


The only trouble her plan was she could not sleep. Between LouLou, her large, noisy parrot, and the next door neighbor’s incessantly barking pugs, Tinguely was a wreck. Yet again, it was 3 am and she was nowhere near being able to sleep. Neither was LouLou.

“Play the ponies.” It was an unwelcome intrusive thought. It made no sense. There weren't any ponies around. Besides, Tinguely didn’t like the idea of horse-racing. Never trust a horse. It knows it can be shot if it breaks a leg.


Tinguely met her neighbor while picking up Diet Coke cans someone thrown onto the front yard.

Her neighbor, Beryllium Markham, had flown in on her own small plane to check out her investments in the windfarms north and south of town. She was a lean woman with chiseled features, somewhere in her mid-50s. Her dark hair was pulled back in a chignon. Her stunning eyes were enhanced by eyeliner and lash-thickening mascara, coupled with smooth, flawless skin. She was prosperous and not very approachable.

Holding a copy of the Wall Street Journal in one hand, Beryllium smoothed her hair with the other. Beryllium explained that over the last several years, she had been also workin as a stock broker who did limited investment banking as well.

“Perhaps you can give me some stock tips,” said Tinguely.

“That sounds like a profoundly bad idea,” said Beryllium. Tinguely decided to take a different approach. She wondered if Beryllium were related to the pioneering female pilot, Beryl Markham.

“Did you ever live in Africa? In Kenya? Fly planes there? Your mom?” asked Tingeley.

“My great aunt. She was Beryl Markham. I’m Beryllium,” said the pilot.

“Nice,” said Tinguely. But, who would name their child Beryllium? Might as well be “Bear.” Beryl was a mineral. Beryl occurred in many forms, including emerald and aquamarine. Beryl was beryllium aluminum cyclosilicate. Beryllium was the key element. The attributes of beryllium included extreme heat resistance.

“I think I’d go with being called Beryl. Doesn’t sound so … uh… technical.”

She was going to add “scary strong,” but decided that was uncalled for. Beryllium was silent. Then she looked at Tinguely. Her eyes glittered unnervingly.

“You can call me whatever you want,” Beryllium paused. “The global economy’s on the ropes right now.”

“Who threw cans on your yard?” asked Tinguely. Instead of Diet Coke, someone had thrown Budweiser beer cans into Beryllium’s driveway. It looked very odd to have ten empty beer cans on a concrete slab.

"I don’t know. Let’s get back to the main question. The best way to make money these days is to do nothing. Book the money you would have lost if you had “followed your gut” as a gain. It’s all paper anyway. But, if you just have to gamble and lose, why not invest in gold?" she said. She paused. Tinguely’s face was puzzled.

“All the talk show radio hosts recommend gold,” said Tinguely.

Beryllium looked stern. “Tinguely, that was a joke."

"Did you know that most of the world's financial dynasties were born in bear markets?" pointed out Tinguely.

"Did you know that most aviation accidents are with small single-engine planes?" asked Beryllium.

"You fly a single-engine plane, right?“ asked Tinguely. "Death wish or desire for speedy straight-line travel?"

"I hate talking in metaphors,” said Beryllium.

Her mouth made a straight line. Beryllium’s point of view was alien to Tinguely, who was a believer in "win-win." Further, for Tinguely, "straight-line travel" was anathema. She preferred to circle around until she had surveyed all the terrain at least a dozen times – close-up, far away, and sideways.

On the other side of Tinguely’s house arose the sound of two pugs barking.

“Anyway, I got my start in crop-dusting,” said Beryllium. Her smooth, dark hair flew away from the tight chignon.

“The chemicals are bad for animals, right? What would happen if, say, a couple of pugs were frisking about a field that was getting sprayed?”

Beryllium ignored Tinguely’s question.

"So you asked if I have a death wish? I always check the weather forecast before filing my flight plan. There’s your answer."

"What is that supposed to mean?" asked Tinguely. She picked up a Diet Coke can and tried crushing it in her hands. She failed. "Who's throwing these things on my lawn? Yesterday, there were two. Today there are four."

"Someone's been throwing the Dallas Morning News on my lawn. I don't want it."

“I’m thinking about buying “distressed stock” that billionaires are having to unload when they get a margin call. I think there are some good deals out there. I read that one guy had to sell his stock that had once been worth $75.00 for $12.64. It’s a good company. Everyone says it will go back up to at least $50 within a year.”

“Vulture,” muttered Beryllium under breath.

Beryllium’s eyes looked hard and glassy as she said it. Not precisely like emerald. They seemed more alive than that. Tinguely thought of the eyes of a gecko or a Komodo dragon. She shuddered.

We all need an oracle. We need a soothsayer we project our own thoughts on so we can have some confidence in ourselves. Some people travel to Delphi. Some people frequent small storefronts with purple neon lights and a tarot deck poster in the window. Others call their old buddy who invariably buys high and sells low, ask him for advice, patiently endure his explanations of his “method,” and then do the opposite. We all need an oracle.

It was another long, sleepless night. Tinguely was trying to read herself to sleep. It had been a fruitless day of trying to figure out which companies were tanking the fastest and hardest, and which billionaire owners might be vulnerable.

LouLou was preening herself and practicing her new phrase: "Wall Street Week: After the Break! Wall Street Week: After the Break!"

Tinguely glanced up from the book of Indian devotional songs to Shiva that she had been reading. Raised a Baptist prohibited from dancing or having carnal thoughts, Tinguely found the idea of a deity who had erotic fantasies about Radha, a mortal cowherdess, to be disturbing, but weirdly irresistible.

She walked over to LouLou’s cage and put a dark towel over it. She cooed to the parrot soothingly.

“LouLou. Lovely LouLou. Help me figure out how to get in on the margin call fire sales,” she said.

LouLou squawked ungraciously. Tinguely changed her voice.

"Come, gentle night, — come, loving black brow'd night. Pay no worship to the garish sun,” mumbled Tinguely. It was a line from Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet.

"After the Break! Wall Street Week!" squawked LouLou.

Tinguely sighed heavily and turned on the television. LouLou was a great companion, but noisy.

It was an infomercial. Tanned, with spiky brown hair, a button-down denim shirt, and khaki pants, a smugly overconfident spokesperson opened the door of his $80,000 sedan.

Infomercials were not her television viewing material of choice. But, since becoming addicted to forensic crime dramas, Tinguely had decided to only allow herself to watch C-SPAN and Infomercials. C-SPAN was airing a rerun of last week's filibuster in anticipation of a vote to tax Medicare benefits.

Tinguely had already emailed her Congressmen to express her approval of the plan.

From her cage near the east window of Tinguely's bedroom, LouLou ruffled her feathers and noisily cracked open an almond with her beak. Next door, the neighbor's Westminster Kennel Club pugs, Jackson Heights and Jillian Lowes, were barking frantically.

Never mind it was 2:30 am.

"Call within the next 15 minutes, and you can be a Registered, Certified DAY TRADER. In 24 hours, you'll be making trades, pouring the foundation of your new mansion. When the time comes and you want to buy your own island, we can help you with that, too."

Tinguely grabbed her purse with her credit cards, pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number. Jackson and Jillian appeared to be in mortal combat with an opossum, which was probably standing on the wooden fence, doing little more than baring its teeth and hissing.

Tinguely flashed on to an inspiration. Pharmaceuticals. The kind people get addicted to. Would that be a good stock to buy with leveraged funds?

Companies that made cheap caskets for all the increased deaths due to people unable to afford proper medical care, nutrition, prenatal care? This seemed like a winner.

In her corner still alert under the dark towel, LouLou cracked more nuts, ruffled her feathers again, and practiced a couple of her favorite sounds and phrases: first, the Friday Noon Tornado Siren Test, and second, Tinguely’s recorded voice on her answering machine greeting.

LouLou’s squawky parrot voice emanated: "Sorry can't answer. Sorry can’t answer."


It was morning and yet again, someone had thrown four empty Diet Coke cans on Tinguely’s lawn. Beryllium was in her own yard, eyeing a soggy Dallas Morning News.

“Knowing there will be junk on the lawn is about the only thing that stays the same these day," commented Tinguely. “Hey, I made some money on Budget Casket stock.”

“How? Surely there weren’t a lot of margin calls with the owners of that stock,” said Beryllium.

“Don’t know. I sold short,” said Tinguely.

“Whatever for? Oh never mind. I got it,” said Beryllium. “Shareholders see the future. Cremations are cheaper, hence no need for a casket – not even a cheap one from Budget Casket.”

“Well, it went down all right.”

Beryllium was changelessly gorgeous, with elegance and grace. Tinguely felt a bit intimidated. She looked down at the crushed cans in her hands.

“I guess I should make some sort of sculpture out of these,” she said, thinking of Jean Tinguely, her namesake. If she truly followed his pattern, they would self destruct in amusing ways. Tinguely didn’t feel capable of doing anything amusing these days.

“That would be environmentally friendly. Not a bad idea,” encouraged Beryllium. “I am very happy with the wind turbine projects. It seems to be a way to take the negative energy and chaos from the environment and turn it into something all of us can use.”

“Humanitarian?” asked Tinguely.

“Absolutely not. With all the changes and chaos in our wind, weather, and population patterns, wind turbines reintroduce order into Nature. They make the wind go in a certain way. They make thinga move together. We can see it. It’s a mechanical choreography of unruly forces of Nature. Heaven knows we need it.”

“You’re the one who has been throwing Diet Coke cans on my lawn!” It was an intrusive thought, articulated because of sleep deprivation.

Beryllium ignored her.


“Dad. I’m thinking about buying stocks. Paterfamilias Bank. Kerr-McGee Forest Products. American Motors. deChatville Mines. Mohawk Mills. Samson Equities. Ford Motor Company.

“Where are you getting these stock tips?” asked Dad. “Some of those companies haven’t been around for 50 years.”

“Where did they go?” asked Tinguely.

“Mergers. Acquisitions. Slow exsanguination in a bear trap.”


“It’s what happens when the market goes down.”

“That seems obvious, Dad. But these are household names.”

“What have you been reading? LOOK Magazine from 1953?”

“Uh. How did you know?”

“Are you getting enough sleep?”

“Will you take LouLou and the next door neighbor’s pugs?”

Tinguely hung up. In the space of a conversation, the pillars of something stable and strong had vaporized. The roof was falling in. The question was, the roof of what?

When everyone else is flying high, fly low.
When everyone else is flying low, fly high.
It’s what bush pilots and WWI Sopwith Camel fighter pilots liked to say. The Sopwith Camel fighters liked to add, “Stay agile, even if your engines sputter and you think you’re cutting out.”


“I’m all for taxing Medicare payments,” said Tinguely. She was explaining her rationale to her dad. Her dad had just turned 72.

“What’s that?” Her dad sound testy. He hated getting into these sorts of conversations with Tinguely on his cell phone during prime time. Nights and weekends were okay. Mid-week at 3 in the afternoon was not.

“Tell me. In a nutshell.”

"If you had to pay taxes on your MRIs, CT-scans, PET-scans, nano-tube imaging diagnostics, exploratory surgeries, exotic animal-skin grafts, and fill-in-the-blank-oscopies, you'd probably think twice before having all that unnecessary stuff done, right?"

Her dad had just returned from his annual checkup with a fistful of orders for tests and labwork. Silence. Her dad did not respond.

"The worst part is, the imaging is so precise these days, they'll always find something. Then they'll do expensive laser surgery, just to avoid a lawsuit later, just in case the anomaly - probably a stray lump of fat -- that the radioactive nano-tubes caused to light up, might turn out to be something serious," said her dad.

"Medicare should pay you NOT to take their tests. You're just another mark," said Tinguely. "Heaven help you if you're living in a government-subsidized nursing home and get a bad set of tests."

"That's right." agreed her dad. "Soylent Green."

Soylent Green was her dad's favorite movie. Perhaps it was not his actual favorite movie, but it was the one he felt best depicted the way we would be living life in the very near future. In it, because of food and resource shortages, when people reached a certain age, they were euthanized. As they entered the chamber that took them to their final reward (being ground up and processed into a uni-food called "soylent green") uniformed waitstaff asked them politely, "What music would you like with your lethal injection?"

"Never let yourself or your kids get snookered into selling all your assets so you'll get "free" state-paid nursing home care," continued Tinguely's dad.

"Yup. Soylent Green."

The movie Tinguely felt most depicted the near future was "A Clockwork Orange," but that was partially she had studied Russian and liked the Russian-inflected Cockney slang, and partially because she half-expected the United States to announce a corporate merger with Russia, with the new capital being Anchorage, servicing 25% of the world's remaining oil reserves, where were conveniently located in the Arctic.

The infomercial caught her attention again. "Bear markets are mansion-makers. Dynasties."


Beryllium Markham was back. The Diet Coke cans had reappeared on the lawn. Beryllium seemed to have ignored the fact that Tinguely thought she was throwing them on her lawn.

Beryllium’s lawn was pristine. There was a dew-sogged Dallas Morning News, though. Tinguely wondered cynically if Beryllium had also thrown newspaper on her own lawn and then soaking it with a water hose.

She must have seen Tinguely picking up Diet Coke cans. Beryllium’s stained-glass door opened. She emerged, looking smooth and rested in slender black pants, a snowy-white long-sleeved blouse with bell sleeves, and slender patent black-leather boots. She wore a garnet necklace and matching earrings. Her fingernail polish had a salamander pattern.

Tinguely was wearing rumpled jeans, a faded Hawaiian t-shirt with silk-screened birds of paradise, and Cole-Haan flats. Her hair was wet.

“Who’s doing this?” asked Tinguely.

“How’s your little stock market business coming along? Pick the flesh off any once-prosperous investors lately?”

“No,” replied Tinguely glumly. “I always find out about them after they’ve already sold their stock due to margin calls and leveraged financing coming due.”

“Well. Isn’t that a shame.” Beryllium held the soggy newspaper disdainfully between thumb and index finger.

“What’s a derivative hedge?” asked Tinguely.

“Even if I knew, I wouldn’t tell you.”

Tinguely put the four empty Diet Coke cans into a plastic Lowe’s Food Store bag and sighed. If truth were told, she was lonely.

Beryllium parted her lips in her her glittering reptilian smile. Her lips were glossed the color of rubellite tourmaline.

Bears that dance are bears that bite. That was an old gypsy saying. They should know. They had perfected the art of the con where you use a dancing bear instead of a pick-pocketing spider monkey wearing a little jacket and a tiny bellman’s cap. “Dance with the bear!” Women in oversized t-shirts and stretch pants along with teenagers with “soldier boy” saggy pants would give it a try. The moment they jumped back from the suddenly snarling bear, their wallets and purses magically disappeared.

Bears that dance are bears that bite. If you doubt it, go to St. Petersburg. Take a stroll along Nevski Prospekt along the banks of the Neva River.


The next few days were quieter than before.

Beryllium flew off to parts unknown.

Whoever was throwing Diet Coke cans onto Tinguely’s yard decided to give her a break from picking up litter. The pugs barked only at night, and LouLou started sleeping during the day.

Tinguely got in the habit of drifting off to sleep sometime after lunch and awakening as the sun started to sink in the sky. During that time, she had vivid dreams. They were so odd that she remembered every one. She recorded each one in a journal.

The afternoon dreams seemed to have no pattern: thunderstorms with hail containing diamonds, dogs wearing silk booties, mechanical rats, a Humvee bearing a skull and crossbones pirate flag, quartz crystals from Hot Springs, Arkansas, a girl stepping out of a vintage Pepsi-Cola poster and coming alive, a small girl in a pink and green polka-dotted tricycle pedaling in tighter and tighter concentric circles. Finally, a Ring of Fire.

Thinking of the mechanical rats dream, Tinguely bought a contract to deliver a block of Victor Mousetrap stock.

She was not quite sure how buying and selling futures worked. Perhaps because she did not know, she made a tidy profit.

The Pepsi-Cola dream seemed too obvious. So Tinguely bought stock in Antiques Road Show. It zipped up during an afternoon surge, before plunging to a new low. Tinguely got lucky. She sold high.

As her sleep deprivation started to lift, Tinguely started to notice strange things about the transcribed dreams. The fragments of her dreams no longer seemed to correspond to company names, but they were coming together in two- and three-word clusters.

“Maybe it’s an omen, LouLou,” said Tinguely. She had let LouLou out of her cage, and the parrot was now contentedly nuzzling Tinguely’s arm. “Maybe these are stocks I should be buying.”

“Doggie Silk Booties. Diamond Hailstorm. Jolly Roger Humvee. Tricycle Toddler. The Sound of Sunlight.”

Tinguely paused.

“Hmm. I don’t quite get it. Well, with all the IPOs, who knows. Are they the titles of songs to be released? Or movies? Television series? BioPics? Reality TV?”

Tinguely logged into her account on her computer and sold stock with Apple (iTunes) and Disney Studios. She did not actually own stock in either company.

“After the Break! After the Break!” squawked LouLou. She took a few steps across the table, cocked her head and looked at Tinguely. Tinguely smiled.

“Crazy bird. You are too much. Want some dried cranberries?”

In response to the cranberries, LouLou warbled and sounded oddly like a pigeon.

Tinguely wrote word combinations based on her dreams in her journal: “Crystal Rainbow Bracelet. Tiny Teddie. Poodle Bear Winkie. Oz Wonker. Celebrity Daisy. Fight My Fire.” The dream-names were getting weirder and weirder.

Language was self-destructing. Was it amusing? Tinguely gazed on the pile of Diet Coke cans from her front yard. Unexpectedly, tears came to her eyes.

Not only were corporate identities melting, the language itself was encoding itself in a new way. Unleashed from their moorings on Wall Street and their once-solid footprint in the consciousness of the average American consumer, the things that had meaning no longer carried the same meaning. Reification processes once powered by image, advertising, code were now de-reification processes. This was no hard-charging bull market, where identity invented itself every day and then soared heavenward. This was a bear market. Entities and identities disintegrated.

For some people, the experience was weirdly liberating. And yet it could not help but reinforce existential isolation and a sense that discourse’s links to meaning had broken down. Perhaps this time for good.

Tinguely was not sure at all what to do with the information. She checked the stocks she was to deliver. They had plunged with the Dow, which was down 250 points. She purchased Apple (iTunes) and Disney Studios.

She used the stocks she had just purchased to fulfill her commitment to deliver the stocks she had sold earlier in the day (at a higher price). It was a neat profit. Her hands were sweating.

“Dad. I have to learn how to sell short the right way,” said Tinguely.

“Don’t do it. You’ll fry,” said her dad.

“I don’t care. I’ve got two weeks to make a mark. Bucks. It’s going to happen.”

“Keep your powder dry.”

“Okay. So help me figure out what these omens mean. There’s enough in it for all of us if we get it right,” said Tinguely.

“Gambling is addictive, you know.”

“This is not gambling This is getting in touch with cosmic energies,” said Tinguely.

“I think you need to talk to someone. You’ve been spending too much time alone.”

“I’ve got LouLou.”

“Exactly,” said her dad.

Intrusive thoughts: Impulse? Give it up. Don’t fight. Multifarious. Brutal.

Winds and flowers bloom;
The mind: ladybug or plain bug?
Skeleton rosebuds.

Old Dow Jones Haiku

The Russian President, Medvedev, was making a speech.

A sidebar in the screen showed a clutch of Russian billionaires sitting glumly in a club in Stockholm.

A pale, bearded man was talking softly. “I hardly know who I am any more. I just don’t see myself in the same way.”

The television talkshow host spoke.

"These are the oligarchs, and the oligarchs took it on the chin. Margin calls. One guy had to liquidate all of his holdings in an auto parts distributor in Canada. He owned 20 percent. Imagine that. Overnight. Losing 20 percent of a company," the call-in television talkshow host had a reverent voice, tinged with awe.

"How can a margin call do that?" asked a caller.

"Naked shorts." Long pause.

"Naked what? What's that?"

"He sold shares he didn't have. He thought he could cover it by buying cheap. But, the price went up. Now he has to deliver. He has to buy the shares to deliver them. But, he has no money. So he has to sell every single stock he owns."

"Wow. Won't that flood the market? Drive the prices down?" asked the caller.

"Yes. But it won't do as much as naked swap-option derivatives," replied the host.

"What are those?"

"You don't want to know. You don't even want to know."

"Oh. Okay. By the way, doesn't Medved mean "bear" in Russian?" asked the caller.

"Hehe. Yes. Oh. That reminds me -- Ursula, the woman's name, must be derived from the Latin word for bear. Ursa."


The Russian president finished his speech. Putin walked on stage. The people cheered.


Dreams changed. Not so clearly oracular.

Grass fires burned cars in the parking lot at Panera Bread while Tinguely was waiting for her sandwich order.

The barista offered her two free cappuccinos for her patience while waiting for coffee while the restaurant was evacuated.

She was watching old 16mm films of old war movie with WWII veterans. Tinguely was organizing papers in her backpack as the old tape rolled. The projector was noisy. Her paper shuffling was noiser.

She couldn’t find her car in the parking lot.

The more she was in a hurry, the more everything around her slowed: sandwich preparation, evacuating the restaurant, making her way through maze of fire trucks and hot, scorched vehicles to find hers, sorting a pile of papers that grew and grew and grew.

Dow Jones Haiku

(you have to imagine the words, the syllable count, the “pop” of insight and emptiness.)

Conversation with Dad.

Albany, NY cityscape -- a gorgeous sci fi futurescape of equidistant gray block skyscrapers, illuminated at night (fitting, of course, for the brainchild of a member of the Illuminati). Rodan, the beloved pterodactyl from 50’s monster movies screeches and flaps his leathery wings. The “Egg” performing arts center starts to crack open, and a pterodactyl chick’s beak pokes through.

Tinguely’s “Notes to Self”

What looks like greed on the surface is motivated by sadness, loss, loneliness

What looks like harshness (reptilian alien) is often one’s projection of the self they wish they were… (hard, self-reliant, able to fly).

Risk takes you into the world of the unreal.

Omens and oracles – Are they projections? Are they not real? or…
Are the omens and oracles the real thing? And – we are simply the shadow of them? …

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Amy Winehouse: Tragic Camp of the Reinvented Bad Girl

Amy Winehouse's exaggerated bouffant, Cleopatra eyes, and her own songs, "I'm No Good," and her remake of "He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss," remind one of all echoes of earlier times. The perception is of women gutted by the male gaze, controlled by Svengali managers and boyfriends. Amy Winehouse's costuming and public persona evoke the tragedy of Anna Nicole Smith and even Dorothy Stratten, the Playboy centerfold murdered by her manager husband. However, the key difference is that instead of being physically dominated and controlled by an ever-present manager/boyfriend/husband, Amy's husband, Blake, languishes away in prison, where he is being held for obstruction of justice. While she claims he is always in her mind, he, by all accounts, is utterly powerless in his role. If he is in reality controlling her, it is only through the idea that she herself holds in her own mind about suffering and subjugation.

In the meantime, each mark on Amy's body offers the communicating public an opportunity to participate in an ongoing and ever-morphing story. The story is about love, about loss, and about heartache. It is also about the way a cut, bruise, needle mark, or blemish can symbolize the chthonic; a subterranean repository of meaning that is not ever quite visible, except in manifestations that bubble to the surface in the form of cuts, bruises, scratches, tracks, and more.

For more discussion, please read the full article here:


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Virtual Worlds Are the New Poetry

Podcast. Found Quote: Laura (Riding) Jackson renounced, on grounds of linguistic principle, the writing of poetry: she had come to hold that "poetry obstructs general attainment of something better in our linguistic way-of-life than we have."

So. What would that "something better" be?

Video games. Virtual worlds. Poetry gets in the way of video game
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile


I do not know a single person who has spent time in virtual worlds who does not secretly wish for a "Through the Looking Glass" experience in which they enter the world, but can't quite figure out how to get back. And why not love it? It has everything you might want --

As for me, well, in the early and mid-1990s, I avoided those types of computer games. I preferred games like Sim City or "serious games" that blended education and training. I did not like the early experiences in virtual worlds. They reminded me of first-person shooter games, but with unfair advantages, since they involved charms and magical processes, and a one-on-one fight to the death with whomever you encountered along the way. No thanks.

My son, Marshall, and all his friends were a different story. In 1997, when he was 13, he started playing Ultima Online, a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORG). His persona in that the virtual world game was a skeleton wearing a long gray wig and wearing a wedding dress.

“You’re Miss Havisham?” I asked.

“Whatever,” he said. He was in eighth grade, but they had not yet had to read Dickens’ Great Expectations.

“Why are you a skeleton bride?” I asked him.

“That’s my avatar,” he said.

“What’s an avatar?” I really did not know.

“It is a divine being that has come to earth in physical form for a special purpose.” He clicked on an icon on his computer screen. “Look. Read.”

It was the definition of an avatar, which seemed borrowed directly from the Bhagavad-gita. No wonder this was such heady stuff. Turn yourself into a divine being. Make your being do what you want, until, of course, it is killed in combat with a wilier opponent, or one who has a better controller.

“Glad you like it,” I said, retreating to the kitchen where I poured myself another cup of hazelnut coffee. I then grabbed the book I had been reading, Norman Cohn’s, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, and settled in for a nice round of reading about true believers and flagellants who thought that they could ward off plague, pestilence and moral turpitude by whipping the first layer of skin from their backs.

Did it work? Ask the Shiite devotees on the festival of Ashoura. My personal feeling is that it does work, but who wants to go through the pain? Mortification of the flesh is so darn uncomfortable. Why break ourselves down when we can be gods and goddesses (at least on a screen)?

At first, I ignored virtual worlds, except for the occasional excursion into it when I couldn’t avoid it for professional purposes. Breakthroughs would occur. I’d go in, customize an avatar for myself, try out the activities available, and the leave feeling rather annoyed. I could not help but wonder if the person behind the avatar I had just spent time inanely chatting up --“Hi, cool boots, where did you find them?” and “Where did you get your skin? Love the tats on your neck” -- was a 13-year-old like my son was when he first started spending 6 hours at a stretch in Ultima Online. I found out later that he had even set up one of my computers as a server for the game.

He was hooked. I was worried. He was not getting enough fresh air and exercise.

When he took up skateboarding, I was thrilled, even though it meant road rash, broken fingers, and a circle of friends that included delinquents and guys who drank liquids from a bottle in a brown paper bag. Yeah. But at least he was getting fresh air and was interacting with real people. That was real life. It was where your heart actually beats, where real liquid actually pumps in your veins.

He had not really lost interest in virtual worlds, but I did not understand how it worked. This was 1997 and he was a part of a nascent trend that involved popularizing social networks via the web. It was far beyond forums, discussion boards, listserves, and the newsgroups I was still involved in. was setting up complex networks of acquaintances, and relating to them in a fluid, interest-based way. He was learning negotiating skills and leadership. I did not see it, though. I just saw a 13-year-old spending a lot of time eating Pringles and drinking Jones soda.

Strangely, Marshall's heightened interest in the Real World coincided with my own surge of interest -- not in the Real World (too scary) -- but in virtual worlds. I was starting to not just see, but live, the potential. I tried to tell Marshall about it, but he was not interested. Instead, he showed me how high he could "ollie" on his skateboard.

One afternoon, while I trying to decorate an office space in a virtual world, Marshall came into my office.

“Mom. I think I need to see a doctor. I think I cracked my wrist.” Marshall proffered up his swollen wrist. His face was flushed with pain.

“Why is your back bleeding?” I tried to keep the alarm out of my voice.

“Uh, yeah. Well, we were doing some stuff with some whips and chains, and I accidentally hit myself. Justin had a couple of nunchuks, too.”

“What was the purpose of that? What were you trying to accomplish?” I heard my voice rising in alarm.

“Mom. It was fun. Don’t you know anything? They were cool. Justin told me where he got his stuff. I think they sell them at the Medieval Fair,” he said.

Marshall’s wrist was merely sprained. The injuries on his back did not amount to anything more than deep scratches. His face glowed. The twin forces of the need for Mom, and the need to forge an independent identity made his eyes sparkle even as he winced as the nurse applied antibiotic ointment.

“Can we go by Braum’s and get a Butterfinger shake?” he asked.

“You think you should be rewarded for this?” I asked, incredulous. He laughed.

That night, I heard Marshall laughing as he managed his avatar in world. “Hey, Mom. Justin’s here. I recognize him. His avatar is stupid. I’m going to trick him. Watch….”

I watched Marshall maneuver his avatar, all the while avoiding leaning back in his chair, where he might scrape his fresh injuries.

For the first time, I connected to what he was doing.

Poetry is supposed to make you feel immortal, in touch with the gods, filled with “divine afflatus.”

Poetry consists of words that are supposed to function as avatars on the page.

Hah. Good luck.

Reading and thinking are hard work, and sometimes my mind wants to be led by my eyes in a glorious, glittery world of seductive encounters, magical capes and gowns, and enough fairy dust to sprinkle around so that people fall in love with whatever they behold.

The written word has just too many hard edges.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Interview with Veronica Inoue, Learning Review

Welcome to an interview with Veronica Inoue, managing editor and director of Learning Review, the first publication in Spanish dedicated to elearning. The interview appears here in both Spanish and English.

1. What is your name and what is your connection to e-learning?
Soy Verónica Inoue y me desempeño como Directora Editorial de Learning Review, una publicación que aborda los temas de capacitación y desarrollo con nuevas tecnologías, donde se incluye el e-Learning. Learning Review comenzó como una revista latinoamericana y ahora ya tiene una edición completamente exclusiva para España. Además, soy alumna de una Maestría por e-learning y realizo otras actividades a veces como tutora y otras como participante.

I am Verónica Inoue and I’m the Editorial Director of Learning Review, a publication that presents themes of training and development with new technologies, which incluyes e-learning. Learning Review began as a Latin American magazine, and now it has an edition that is completely exclusive for Spain. In addition, I have a master’s degree in elearning, and I am often involved in other activities; sometimes as instructor, and sometimes as participant.

2. How did you first become involved in the topic of e-learning?
Estudié Recursos Humanos en la Universidad y vimos este tema en la cátedra de Capacitación. Dado el interés que me causó este tema (allá por el año 2001), realicé mi tesis en este tema; investigué sobre las implementaciones que se estaban haciendo en distintos ámbitos en Argentina en ese momento.

I studied Human Resources at the university and we say this theme in the department of Training and Development. Given the interest that this topic inspired in me (back in 2001), I decided to do my thesis in this area. I investigated the way that elearning was being implemented in several different areas in Argentina at that moment in time.

3. What is the Learning Review LatinoAmerica, and how did it come into existence?
Learning Review Latinoamérica es una publicación sobre capacitación y desarrollo mediado por tecnologías (e-learning, m-learning, blended learning, educación en mundos virtuales 3D), así como sobre mejora del desempeño humano, gestión del conocimiento y capital intelectual. Produce una revista trimestral en papel para toda Latinoamérica, un newsletter mensual con noticias, eventos y adelantos de la edición en papel, y un sitio web que se actualiza diariamente. (

Learning Review Latin America is a publication that covers technology-mediated training and development (elearning, mobile learning, blended learning, and education in 3D virtual worlds), with the goal of improving human performance, the development of knowledge and intellectual capital.

Learning Review Latinoamérica nació para cubrir la necesidad de información y actualización que demandaban los profesionales de capacitación y desarrollo de las empresas de esta región. Es la primera revista sobre esta temática específicamente, en habla hispana.

4. What is the magazine's primary mission? Who is your target audience? Why?
Our primary mission is to be the partner enables training and development professionals to demonstrate the commercial value of their skills and specialties. We would like to establish a space where training and development professionals find, in a single place, all the information they need to keep current. We also aim to share experiences, trends, research, opinions and news in the training and development sector, that boost one’s knowledge in a continuous and accessible way.

Nuestra misión principal es ser el socio que permita a los profesionales de capacitación y desarrollo rentabilizar las prácticas de su área, así como generar impacto en el negocio.
Establecer un espacio donde los profesionales de capacitación y desarrollo encuentren, en un solo lugar, toda la información para mantenerse actualizados.
Difundir las experiencias, tendencias, investigaciones, opiniones y novedades del sector de capacitación y desarrollo de personas, que permitan crear conocimiento en forma continua y accesible.

Our target audience consists of the following:

Directors of human resources
Training and development managers
Directors of consulting groups that specialize in e-learning, corporate training, continuing education
Leaders of e-learning proejcts
Instructional designers and instructional technologists who work in e-learning projects
Chairs and others responsable for human resources careers and those affiliated with universities that offer e-learning

El target de nuestra audiencia conforma:
· Directores de recursos humanos.
· Gerentes de capacitación y desarrollo.
· Directores de consultoras de e-learning, capacitación corporativa, educación continua.
· Lideres de proyectos de e-learning.
· Diseñadores instruccionales y tecnólogos que trabajen en proyectos de e-learning.
· Responsables de carreras de RRHH y afines de universidades con oferta presencial y por e-learning.

5. What do you see as the most exciting new directions in elearning in Latin America today?
Creo que finalmente está insertándose en la mayoría de las empresas medianas y grandes. Latinoamérica siempre se encuentra uno o dos pasos atrás de las tendencias mundiales que suelen darse inicialmente, en Estados Unidos, Europa, Japón. Entonces, si bien en las grandes empresas el e-learning es un hecho y ya están yendo en busca de integrar el m-learning o los mundos virtuales, en las empresas medianas está iniciándose el proceso de incorporación y de integración a la modalidad presencial de capacitación. Desde muchos gobiernos de países latinoamericanos, se está comenzando a incentivar estas prácticas de e-learning, principalmente desde la incorporación de esta modalidad de aprendizaje a instituciones públicas. De hecho ya hay interesantes casos de e-learning gubernamental en Latinoamérica.

I believe that elearning is finally being incorporated in the majority of mid-sized and large companies. Latin America always seems to find itself a step or two behind global trends that tend to

6. What are some of the main barriers?
Lamentablemente, la conectividad sigue siendo una de las barreras más difíciles de quebrar en esta región. El problema nunca está en las capitales de los países o las grandes urbes, sino en las pequeñas poblaciones más alejadas de los centros urbanos.
También falta mucho más incentivo, capacitación, iniciativas por parte de los distintos ministerios o dependencias del gobierno (los ministerios de educación, de trabajo, deberían generar políticas y ponerlas en práctica para hacer de esto una cuestión de interés nacional).
Y por supuesto, no puedo dejar de mencionar la barrera cultural que en muchos países aún se torna como principal dificultad. En este sentido será fundamental el rol y la posición que tomen las universidades y los colegios; integrar el e-learning en la educación (en todas las etapas) es fundamental para ir rompiendo esta barrera cultural.

Sadly, connectivity continues to be one of the most difficult barriers to overcome in this region. The problem never occurs in the capitals of countries, or in the large cities, but in the small population centers more distant from the urban centers. Also lacking are incentives, training, and initiatives on the part of different ministries or branches of the government (ministries of education and of labor should generate policies and put them in practice in order to make this a question of national interest.)

Of course, I must not fail to mention a cultural barrier that in many countries still presents itself as the principle difficulty. In this sense, the role and the position that the universities and high schools take is absolutely fundamental. It is important to integrate elearning into education (at all stages) because it is vital in order to go forth breaking down cultural barriers.

7. How can more people have access to elearning?
Esta es una pregunta que es sencilla de responder; el problema es poder poner en práctica aquello que decimos (que es lo más difícil en Latinoamérica). El e-learning puede hacerse accesible a más gente si se pueden concretar iniciativas desde distintos frentes: gobierno, empresas privadas, instituciones académicas. Todos estos actores tienen una responsabilidad social; en este caso, hablando sobre e-learning, su responsabilidad es hacer del e-learning algo accesible. ¿Cómo? A través de capacitación online en cibercafés (que están muy difundidos en toda Latinoamérica); integrando esta modalidad en todas las cátedras de las universidades; promoviendo la capacitación online en centros comunitarios (ya sea tengan o no Internet); integrando el e-learning en la escuela (primaria y secundaria) y sobre todo capacitando a los maestros y profesores.

This is a question that's easy to answer, but the problem is having the power to put into practice what we're talking about (which is most difficult in Latin America). E-Learning can be made more accessible to more people if it's possible to firm up initiatives on different fronts: government, private industry, academic institutions. All the parties have a social responsibility; in this case, speaking of e-learning, the responsibility is to make elearning something that is accessible. How? Through online training in cybercafes (which are widely available throughout Latin America); integrating elearning in all university departments; promoting online training in community centers (whether or not they already have Internet); integrating elearning in primary and secondary schools, and above all, training teachers and professors.

8. What would you like to see happen in the future?
Me gustaría ver que en Latinoamérica se aprovechen todas las oportunidades y ventajas que tiene el e-learning y el blended learning, no solo en las grandes empresas sino en todos los sectores.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

If You Are...


You are.
and still if you are
You are.

millifleur serendipitous standard
significant and motley
such eradicated standards and times
we live in
when all is said and done
talk self surrender
tackle the plentiful calendar
columnar in spite of heart
stuck together with spit & kisses
x for luck
i have a knack for that
such an illustrious nihilist
plundered penny-wise
fallen into that behooved something
brittle evasion & glassy

You are.
and still because you are
You are.


Kithie ...
from Good Deeds Society (forthcoming)
orlando, florida
may 5, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America Loves a Good Sex Scandal: Thoughts on Eliot Spitzer

America loves a good sex scandal. There can be no doubt of that. There is something satisfying about seeing hypocrisy unveiled. We love seeing that impunity is not a permanent state; nor is it an irrevocable privilege or purview of the hyper-rich.

There is also the taboo, the eroticism of the hidden and the denied. We are a nation that still maintains a tension between a Puritanical stance toward sex, and a place where the scarlet letter is still employed, even if only metaphorically. Our society is drawn to transgressive sex. We expose it and are titillated not only by the idea of the taboo, the forbidden fruit, but also the spectacle of punishment.

America loves the spectacle of the sex scandal. The public can participate in the destruction and dismantling of power. Individuals can thrill to the idea of "disempowering" the powerful.

Ironically, the masses do not gain any real power by watching the spectacle of disempowerment. Instead, on some level, it reinforces their own powerlessness. The grand, larger-than-life image of the object of the public's and the media's gaze only serves to remind us that we are small; they are large. Furthermore, it is to be permanently so, except when we dream, and when we have flashes of images of mob power.

The scandal flowers, the drops its petals quickly. I always think that the people caught up in the scandal tend to overreact. Can't they simply go to rehab and then return after 60 or 90 days? By that time the public will be caught up in the thrall of a new Britney episode, or an echo of the titillations provided by the Marilyn Monroes, Anna Nicole Smiths, and the Governor McGreeveys of the world.

Please visit E-Learning Queen for more posts and cultural commentary.