Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, July 27, 2020



 1)  Yes.
 2)  Male (?)
 3)  c/o Terminal 3, London Airport, Heathrow.
 4)  Twenty-seven.
 5)  Unknown.
 6)  Dr. Barnado's Primary, Kingston-Upon-Thames; HM Borstal, Send,Surrey; Brunei University            Computer Sciences Department.
 7)  Floor cleaner, Mecca Amusement Arcades, Leicester Square.
 8)  If I can avoid it.
 9)  Systems analyst, Sperry-Univac, 1979-83.
10)  Manchester Crown Court, 1984.
11)  Credit card and computer fraud.
12)  Guilty.
13)  Two years, HM Prison, Parkhurst.
14)  Stockhasuen, de Kooning, Jack Kerouac.
15)  Whenever possible.
16)  Twice a day.
17)  NSU, Herpes, gonorrhoea.
18)  Husbands.
19)  My greatest ambition is to turn into a TV programme.
20)  I first saw the deceased on 17 February 1986, in the chapel of London Airport.  He was praying           in the front pew.

-- J. G. Ballard, "Answers to a Questionnaire"  (Ambit, Spring 1985)

"Ambit  is a London-based 96 page literary and art magazine that features poetry, prose and art.  We strive to feature fresh voices and visions from across the world, placing emerging writers alongside giants of the scene.  Started in 1959 by London paediatrician Martin Bax, the magazine helped discover and establish Edwin Brock, Carol Ann Duffy, J. G. Ballard, Eduardo Paolozzi, William Burroughs, Fleur Adcock, Liz Berry, and Sir Peter Blake, among others.  Discover the greats of tomorrow today -- buy Ambit."  After more than six decades, Ambit is till being published; the latest issue (#240) was ;published this year.  J. G. Ballard served as an editor for the magazine, beginning in the late 1960s.

The short story above, "Answers to a Questionnaire," goes on to ultimately give 100 answers to this supposed questionnaire; we never see the questions and it is up to us to interpret them.  The respondent is a young person who questions his sexuality s we question his sanity.  We are left to conclude that he had been recruited by the Son of God (who may or may not have originated near the star Betelgeuse in the Orion constellation), who can bless humanity with immortality through a synthetic DNA introduced to the human germ system.  This being may or may not be just a huckster out to scam some of the most important people on the planet.  The questionee eventually distrusts this being and . deciding he did not want to spend eternity in his own company, assassinates him at an important function where either the assassin or the being is seated between Princess Diana and the Governor of Nevada.  Sentenced to death we learn that the assassin has been spared the immortality injection, whose side effect is sterilization, and is now responsible for restoring the national birthrate.

All this in just four pages and 100 questions.  On the surface this is a far out story, or is just results of the ramblings of a madman?  We will never know.  Our conclusions are drawn slowly as the fantasmagorical plot unfolds.  Within the answers there are some truths:  we see what we believe to be some true psychological motivations.  We also get a glimpse of man's obsessions with fame, sex, violence, and technology, all major themes in Ballard's work.  There is a coy wit that infuses this tale; we smile as we are taken along the winding paths that eventually reveal the actual plot.  Because we are smiling and appreciating the author's ingenuity, we can dismiss the story offhand but, after some reflection, it grows on us and takes on a more horrifying direction.

The story provided the basis of the short Italian film Grand Anarca (2003), directed by Alvise
Renzini and written by Lucio Apolito.  The 18-minute film is "a dark and twisted story of a genetic experimentation carried out in a block of flats.  Driven by the authoritative voice of the narrator, the purpose of the experiment seems by turns protective and malevolent -- until its real basis is revealed.  Even though the film is an account of the experiment, it's the treatment of the subject itself that is most significant:  using the authoritative, clipped language and the forms, lists and matrices concomitant with bureaucrats, Grand Anarca constructs a murky, labyrinthine world with considerable style.  An inventive and ingenious animation."  [www,]

James Graham Ballard (1930-2009) was one of the most influential and inventive writers of the last seventy years, at least as far as science fiction goes -- and probably mainstream fiction also.  H may be best know for his semi-autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, which was filmed as a major motion picture by Stephen Spielberg.  In the science fiction world Ballard was one of the founders of the "new wave" of experimental fiction that defined much of the fiction of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.  His stories of the future fantastical resort Vermilion Sands, where future artists expand the definition and meaning of art to include all sorts of technological and surrealistic breakthroughs.  His early short stories were noted for their stylistic acuity, depth of vision, and poetic sensibilities.  His first novels were Apocalyptic visions -- The Drowned World, The Crystal World, The Burning World, and The Wind from Nowhere -- all of which incorporated a distinctive, almost nihilistic, vision.  Ballard loved to experiment with his writing and he loved to explore the links between technology, sex, fame, obsession, and violence.  During the late Sixties and early Seventies he produced a number of nonlinear satires he called "condensed novels" with such titles as "The Assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy Considered as a Downhill Motor Race," "Plot for the Assassination of Jacqueline Kennedy." "Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan," "You: Comma: Marilyn Monroe," and "Queen Elizabeth's Rhinoplasty."  Needless to say, some of these stories were attacked by various groups, all of whom were looking at the surface of the stories and not the meaning and symbolism within.  Ballard's next three novels took a look at the disintegration of the individual and the worship of technology:  Crash (made into a controversial film by David Cronenberg), Concrete Island, and High-Rise.  Following the success of Empire of the Sun, which won the Guardian Fiction Prize and (famously) lost out on the Booker Prize (despite being the bookies' -- and the public's -- favorite), Ballard moved on to more semi-autobiographical work, psychological fantasies, and crime(ish) novels.  His Collected Stories of J. G. Ballard, a massive assemblage of 1196 densely packed pages and 98 short stories that covered four decades, is destined to become a mainstay of contemporary letters.

A distinctive and major voice, well worth exploring.

Dolly Parton, Old Style:  Like every other right-minded person in the world, I admire Dolly Parton, her voice, her talent, her personality.  I even do not mind her "Coat of Many Colors" song.  But there was a time when I  got sick and tired of "Jolene."  We were driving to Disneyworld and, just as we entered Georgia, Kitty picked up a cassette of Dolly's greatest hits.  Now Kitty bows to no one in her love for "Jolene."  As a result we played the @#$%! song repeatedly until we landed in Orlando, with Kitty and our two girls singing joyfully along.  For me, that was just a bit too much for one song...

A couple of weeks later I was able to listen to the song again with pleasure.

When I came across this version of the song recorded by Hildegard von Blingin done in medieval style, I had to post it somewhere and dedicate to my wife and children.  Here it is:

School Days:  Public schools in Florida were due to open on August 10, per order of the state's governor.  The timing of this was a little bit weird because Florida had designated its tax-free weekend for school shoppers to be August 7-9.  Yeah, let's go buy a backpack the kid'll like the day before school opens when choice and quality will be  at its most limited.  And school clothes?  Will there be any in the right size?  Or any that the child will wear?  And classroom supplies?  What will be left?

Because of COVID-19, our county school system is planning a (ahem) "safe" opening.  Children will be wearing masks, "when feasible."  They will socially distance, "when feasible."   Temperatures will be taken.  Students may enter the school at staggered times, although there will be just one school day for all students.  School buses will seat the kids two to a seat, rather than three, and the first to be picked up will be seated in the rear-most seats, and so on...did they even consider how stupid that sounds?  Students also have an option of remote learning but once a style of education is decided, the student is stuck with it for the entire school year.  Brick and mortar kids cannot become remote learning kids and vice versa.  And, at least for the elementary school children (the only ones I am familiar with because Jack is going into the third grade), parents have been given a list of school supplies for the entire year which they must deliver to the classroom at the beginning of the school year -- of course that is only for the kids actually attending a physical school.

School officials are working very hard to ensure have as safe an environment as possible (and "when feasible," I assume).

Florida is seeing a huge spike in COVID-19, thanks in part to the governor's insistence of opening the state far too early.  (He is an admitted sycophant of Donald Trump; that was the platform he ran on.)  There is an unproven theory that children are less likely to develop COVID-19, so schools should be relatively safe for them.  Well, there are a lot of theories about the disease, most of which are based on incomplete data and magical wishes.  The bitter truth is that we do not know much about the disease; doctors and scientists are learning more and more about it every day but that is a small drop in the bucket compared to what we need to know.  Remember when it was just old people with preexisting conditions in nursing homes who died?  A recent study indicates that children aged 10 to 18 are able to spread the disease as effectively as adults.  Oh, did I mention that a nine-year-old girl in Florida just died of the disease?  And one school (was it in Tennessee?) that opened last week had to close when on of their students tested positive.

Let's face it.  This disease is a killer that could have life-time consequences.  President Trump and many of his followers want the schools to open so the economy can improve, thereby increasing the (fairly dim, I hope) chances that he will be reelected.  Our government's initial response to this disease has been at first to ignore it, then to discredit the facts about it, and finally pretending that they have been effectively fighting it all along.  As a result of this poor, politically-focused, leadership, our country's population is now some 150,000 less than what it should be...and we are nowhere near to getting a handle on the outbreak.  The second wave -- which most people and doctors outside of the Republican party feel is inevitable -- could be much worse than what we are going through now.

COVID-19 has definitely thrown the economy and our social structure for a loop.  People are out of work.  Businesses have been forced to close.  Hospitals are overworked, undersupplied, and are being force to lay off staff because of falling income.  We are looking at some 13 million possible evictions in the future.  Those who are renting out apartments are becoming unable to pay their bills.  Our supply chain is broken and many of its essential workers are afraid to go to work.  Our border policies are working against us and against hundreds of thousands of immigrant families.  Unidentified and untrained forces in unmarked cars are being sent our cities -- mostly the ones who have Democratic mayors and governors -- to restore law and order, even though protesters were acting legally and peacefully, by gassing and attacking American citizens and arresting (kidnapping?) them without due cause or explanation. (I'm fudging a little bit on the protesters acting legally part, a few of them have been guilty of spraying graffiti, at least until recently when the federal government's actions became really overbearing.)  We now have walls of mothers and veteran's to shield protesters from the police.  One innocent protester struck in the head by a "nonlethal" rubber bullet will suffer permanent brain injury.  One protester had her mask forcibly removed so pepper spray could be sprayed in her eyes.  Is this the America we recognize.

No doubt about it.  Hard times are ahead.  There are no easy answers.  But are we willing to put the economy over our children's lives?  Or are we so morally bankrupt that we can allow that to happen?

Florida's governor has now delayed school opening for another two weeks.  And Florida is offering another learning choice for its students.  But we are still in the same mess.  Our schools do not know how to protect our children, despite the very best efforts of each school's administration and staff.  Yes, kids will suffer psychologically and socially if not allowed to go school, but perhaps they will live.  The economically disadvantaged and many minorities are going to be hardest hit and that should not be allowed to happen, but we are locked into an educational and economic system that is not working and that will punish the least of us.

The betting money is that schools will reopen and within a few weeks be forced to close anyway.

This whole situation sickens me.  The only way out of it -- if there is a way out of it -- is to let the grown-ups take over.  The petulant, narrow-minded children who are running this country have had their chance.

And, for Pete's sake, wear a mask!

Prejudice?:  As many of you know, I am a lefty, pinko, liberal, commie, red, socialist, progressive type of guy who tries to believe in humanity's best practices.  Bill Maher once said to Trump supporters. "I will stop calling you stupid if you meet me halfway and STOP BEING SO STUPID!"  Now, in my lefty, pinko, yadda-yadda way I have to agree with him.  But I also know that there are some well-meaning, rational people who still support the president.  So why am I so prejudiced against them?  This is a character flaw I have been trying to work on since the 2016 election.

I am basically a child of the 60s, raised on protest music.  Now, in 2020, there is a plethora of protest music (or social/political satire songs, if you will) from many different people.  For quite a while, with my 60s' mindset, I thought these songs were limited to the anti-Trumpers.  But then I stumbled across songs from the other side.  These pro-Trump, anti-liberal, anti-Hilary Clinton tunes seem to be pretty weak tea to me, oozing with invective.  I wonder if that's true or is that my prejudice?

Here's a random sample, one song from each side.  Tell me if I'm right.

Ha!  Ha!  Ha!:  Here's a Betty Boop cartoon from Max Fleischer that was supposedly banned for drug use.  I haven't been able to verify that this 1934 cartoon was ever banned or censored.  The cartoon was included in a DVD titled "Cartoon Crazys:  Banned and Censored," but this could well be just a marketing ploy.  The drug use in question is laughing gas.  And the cartoon is a wild fantasy that includes dental work for Koko the Clown (in his last cartoon appearance).


Florida Man:

  • Florida Man Alex Bancroft, 30, of Hillsborough County, has been arrested for making online threats of shooting Black Lives Matter protesters.  His post, which had been shared twice within the first sixteen minutes, read, " [deleted] black lives matter you [deleted] racists u can yell black power but when I yell white power I am the raciest [deleted] all of you I am going to start target practice on these mother [deleted] with there signs"  I suspect Black lives don't matter to this yahoo.
  • Florida Man and Christian radio host Rick Wiles has asked Donald Trump to use hollow-point bullets to put down "this communist revolution" in Portland, Oregon.  Making his remarks on his program TruNews. Wiles said that Trump has possession of 2 billion "Obama bullets" (hollow-points) that "Barack Hussein Obama hoarded to round up Christians and constitutionalists under a President Hillary Clinton."  Wiles had previously warned (before the 2018 midterm election) that if the Democrats won the election they "would slaughter tens of thousands of Christians."  He had also warned the MCNBC's Rachel Maddow was preparing to lead a bloody coup to overthrow the Trump Administration.  And, yes, Wiles does hold white House press credentials.  Somehow I don't think the man knows the meaning of the word Christian.
  • Florida Man Michael Womer, the self-styled "Gator Crusader," feeds hot dogs to hungry alligators by placing the weiners in his mouth.  And, yes, he has filmed himself  not losing his nose while doing this stunt.  No word on whether the hot dogs were kosher.
  • Where there is a Florida Man, there is a Florida toilet.  Well, quite often.  Florida Man Gregory Scott Jeffries, 53, of Micco, was arrested for kicking and punching his roommate while he was on the toilet.  (The victim was on the toilet, not the perp.  In case you're confused.)  Jeffries left before the police arrived at the scene, but came back later to confront once again, whereupon the victim conked Jeffries with a baseball bat.  According to police, it was determined that the victim was acting in self-defence.  And Florida Man Dave J. Toliver, 36, had to travel to East St. Louis for his toilet adventure.  Tolliver is charged with throwing a toilet through the front window of a Board of Education office.  And where was Tolliver when he was arrested?  A few blocks away, sitting on an old toilet at the corner of 11th Street and Cleveland Avenue.  Finally, there's Florida woman Nichole Nespolini, 40, of Melbourne, does not need any stinkin' toilet.  When arrested for drunk driving (with her baby in the back seat) she kicked the arresting officer and urinated on him.  Ah, motherhood...isn't it grand?

And Some of the Good Stuff:

Today's Poem:
Bugs Bunny (Loony Tunes)

I am here to tell you a story
of someone quite funny.
He's a cute little rabbit
by the name of Bugs Bunny.

He has lots of adventures
all over the world.
He is loved by the young and the old,
by both boys and by girls.

He loves to play pranks
and outsmart all his foes,
He puts dynamite in their guns
and lights matches between their toes.

He is surrounded with other characters
and other cast you may know.
Sylvester and Tweety, Taz,
and Elmer Fudd are just a few from his show.

Daffy Duck gets very jealous
of all the attention Bugs receives.
Daffy's the best on the show,
or so he believes.

Bugs is a timeless classic
watched by most kids.
I know for one my son loves him
just as much as i did.

-- written by rdl19732000, 12/2/2005

[Posted here because today is the 80th anniversary of the release of  A Wild Hare, the first Bugs Bunny cartoon]


  1. Phil was a great J.G. Ballard fan.
    They are talking about kids working from home almost entirely on their own, only one hour of real classtime on line. You may as well just regard this as a gap year.

  2. Dolly Parton: while I can take or leave most of her work, I just love-love-love the "Trio" material with Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.