It’s true: this clip has everything—a blind kid with bionic eyes, banana bikes and roller blades. All that, plus a whole world of visual freedom that ‘s usually denied the optically-challenged…and the ultra-advanced concept of navigating sonically by emitting bat-like clicking sounds, and then listening for the return echoes that perfectly describe the shape and distance of reflecting walls.
The young man in this video was quite a celebrity ten years ago when he pioneered several of the world’s most sophisticated new techniques for living productively with a severe blind disability. In the end, the cancer that originally blinded him returned and killed him.Of course, if you or a family member have ever been stricken with cancer, you already know that the Big C is a persistant cuss with an uncanny knack for survival. In contrast, human beings like Ben have an uncanny knack for mostly outliving their cancers until they and God can agree that it’s finally time to die. For Ben, that was age 16…after a short but dramatically successful life of cheating his disability and proving the basic human urge to Live Well and Transcend Momentary Obstacles will get you up just about any tree not even a banana bike can climb. Bravo, Ben! Here’s hoping you can see the streets of Heaven, and that they shine a peaceful, golden light.
Every day I commute three miles by jitney to a Blind Rehab facility on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Invariably, I wear another man’s pajamas, issued to me by the nursing home that serves as my overnight domicile and semi-permanent address. If there’s good news here, it’s that I also get to wear an ultra-expensive pair of Oakley sunglasses (just like the ones Roger Daltrey used to sport in music magazines).
Given my new wardrobe, it would be easy for me to convince myself that my biggest disabilities are accidents of fashion. But, of course, my real disability is much much worse: I’m a totally blind man, approaching age 65, and I live inside an empty skull which is populated these days by random, uncatalogued sound effects for which I have no visual reference to provide context or meaning. My world is dark and noisy and—often— a baffling place where formerly-reliable senses either don’t work at all or provide me with only unreliable data regarding my environment.
That’s why I danced a jig (metaphorically) when I heard this song on the local Vend-O-Mat of Top 40 tunes and enduring Soft Rock. With their punchy percussion, lilting guitar and repetitive Ho-Hey mantra, these guys remind me of the creative goof I used to be back before I lost my eyes. And that’s particularly true ever since Mrs. Polly described their outfits to me—white T shirts, black suspenders, and pork-pie hats. The Lumineers are dressed for a long walk on the Boulevard Of Dreams, somewhere on the Left Bank of Wackiness.
God love the Lumineers for making complex music with simple tools. My heart leaps with joy when I hear them…and I hope all my ‘Roaster buddies will share the bon temps with me!
Don’t forget that as of this weekend, it’s perfectly comme il faut to wear white shoes—or in these people’s case, white snow shoes.
Everybody out to make snow-wingnuts! We at Chez Polly are welcoming Mama-San, her baggies of discouraged tomatoes and bananas, and her relentless pursuit of bad grammar, for the holiday, by making almost hourly wine runs. Our boy Strange is resting up from his first week going to Adaptive Living School at last, at last, about which more later, depending on how he feels, but suffice it to say it has been the first really good week for him in a very long time.
By the time I met Harlan Ellison in 1975, he had been a powerhouse of American science fiction and pop culture for about 15 years. Unfortunately, I met him on the day he was booked to make an SRO presentation to students at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. i had just picked the lock on a glass display case in the student union and was helping myself to autographed copies of Ellison’s publicity photo.
Suddenly, Ellison stuck a steel index finger into my 17th vertebra. “You’d better wait ‘til this guy is dead before you start pilfering his promotional totems.” Without turning to look behind me, I improv’d fastest, dumbest retort I could think of: “Why should I bother? As near as I can tell, this midget is no bigger than you are, Shrimpie!”
On that note, Ellison spun me around. “Do you know who I am?” he growled. “No,” I said, “but I’m pretty sure your owner is losing his or her mind right now. Come with me, and I’ll take you down to the Lost and Found.”
What can I say? I have a magic way when it comes to making first impressions.
Crackling with infectious energy, :Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth” pays homage to the dark prince of American letters, Harlan Ellison. Master of his craft, Ellison has heroically produced over 75 books and more than 1,700 classics of fiction and non-fiction on one of his Olympia manual typewriters, including the single most popular Star Trek episode (“City on the Edge of Forever”) —from Trailer’s promo
Without my walking stick
I’d go insane
I can’t look my best I feel undressed
Without my cane
With two broken vertebrae, a dead sciatic nerve, and my maiden aunt Bernice’s choking fear of nightfall, I had enough walking canes, sword canes and decorative Civil War cudgels to equip the road company of Red Badge Of Courage. By and large, that all happened before Leon released Without My Walking Stick, a tune I grew to love like a rock n’ roll groupie.
Now that I am additionally tied to several different flavors of Blind Guy canes as tall and thin as a willow rod, this song is practically my marching theme.
One last thing: the actual provenance for “Without My Walking Stick” precedes Leon Redbone by at least forty or fifty years. Below the fold, you’ll find a 78 RPM version of the song recorded by Tommy Dorsey. Oh, and BTW, you should never forget that the tune was written by (*gasp!*) Irving Berlin!!!
A “Tokamak” is a doughnut-shaped fusion reactor—often as much as hundreds of miles in circumference—that can control the plasma-scale temperatures of fusion energy by channeling thermal streams around a super-powered magnetic racetrack.
After decades of research on prototype Tokamak designs, the Iter project has recieved a final go-ahead from 34 international governments. That’s really satisfying to me, because fusion power is one of the few “sure bets” for sustainable power generation in the future. Not quite as important as that, I should note that the last time I presented a technical pitch on fusion technology at an international science conference, the topic was the Iter project. Not saying I made the Iter project happen, just that—like thousands of other people—I gave it a nudge.
Granted, it wasn’t as much fun as Billy Zane, Leo DiCaprio, The Heart Of The Ocean and that slinky flapper who was Claude Rains’ girlfriend in The Invisible Man… but this tuneful memorial to the sinking Titanic remains a wonderful tribute to the April 15th birthday of America’s colossal maritime tragedy.
This is Polly posting for Strange, who could not let Jonathan Winters’ passing go unremarked. Winters’ brilliance is perhaps no more perfectly illustrated than by the wild, multitudinous and instant characterizations he created, particularly the ones he wasn’t supposed to create while filming ads for products he was supposedly pitching, like the out-takes for Good Humor bars here.
One of Strange’s old flames was the daughter of the director who filmed Winters’ Hefty ads, and had a reel of such out-takes which so far seem not to have made it to You-tube, but which Strange was lucky enough to see. One sample line, from a rueful coach: “Fifty-six to nothin’ in the first quarter——somebody’s not doin’ their job!”
...qr at least it’s safe to say that formal attire and buzzing, hive-like sound effects were optional. All I wanted to do was see what I was looking at.
Today, it turns out that even replacement eyes are hard to come by. I was driven to my eye and ear center this morning, presumably for the unveiling of a prosthetic eye that was being hand-painted for me by a local ocularist. Instead, I was thrown out of my doctor’s office for not already having acquired a fake eye at a cost of $3,000 out-of-pocket. No-one had ever told me that buying a prosthetic peeper was my job, and that I would be subjected to howls of derisive laughter for not doing the job no one ever assigned me.
Now, I’m a blind guy with one eye and a “your ad here” sign in the other socket and all I have for the moment is the marvelous magical Residents who must have bought their eyes in bulk. Feast your orbs!
The world is on fire
Your body doesn’t burn
Kill yourself before receiving
Something out of all this breathing Don’t you ever learn
“Don’t you ever learn?” is a song about temptation, easy solutions and stupid decisions. Playing it just the other day reminded me yet again that the first 56 years of my life were a long pleasant boulevard through time, lined on either curbside by things that had fallen out of my pockets over the years. Wandering this street at my leisure after living it in real time has yielded many treasures comparable to finding money wedged between two cobblestones or a brand new Portofino cigar still in its tube. I plan to spend a lot of time here from now on, and I intend to equip myself with a pair of high-capacity swag bags to hold all the tips and trinkets and memorabilia that I encounter in my travels. ETW, this is my last self-serving tribute to Todd—at least for today. Some other day, I may feel an urgent need to write my long-delayed master’s thesis on “International Feel,” the kick-ass bookend tune from A Wizard, A True Star.
Who knew that two years ago I’d shoot myself in the head, go blind, rack up a two-million dollar hospital bill, suffer the non-fatal effects of cold-turkey withdrawal from cigarettes and alcohol, die a half-dozen or so non-clinical forms of clinical death, and resurrect myself months later in a world where Sarah Palin wasn’t even running for magistrate of the sanitation division, and the GOP had just placed all of its mismatched irreplaceable sulphur-stenched eggs in Mitt Romney’s spectacularly ill-woven basket.
What can I tell you? Time flies when you’re dead.
Here’s what else I can tell you: God bless the Pips for taking up the gauntlet of being fired by Gladys Knight with a stunning medley of And The Pips top 40 hits, entirely driven by toasty harmonies and occasional woo-woo! sounds, and unencumbered by the usual, predictable, elevator-worthy one-mike stand. This was a memorable moment from Richard Pryor’s summer TV variety series in the late 1970s.
Given the fact that I don’t remember 90% of what happened last week, the fact that I thought to include it in this post is testimony to Pryor’s uneraseable presence in American minds.
Ask anyone in advertising: they’ll tell you this video clip is the most spot-on parody of creative hackdom ever produced, and proof positive that Poe’s Law abides.
It goes without saying that I will never again be involved in graphic or video advertising services; and, certainly no one will ever pay me to put my eyes behind an SLR viewfinder or at the wheel of a high-end digital videocam.
‘Tis true: the biggest job on my plate right now is to find a way to feed myself for the next twenty years. The cats are living in foster homes. I’m probably moving to subsidized housing for the disabled. And my one great hope is that talking computers can compensate for a blind man’s keyboard disorientation. It’s gonna be a brand new future for me. One that I hope will be more than modestly shared with the brave ranks of Rumproasters!
Back in the mid ‘80s I spent most of my weekends chilling on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where I dated one of the daughters of America’s original “Beat” writer, Chandler Brossard. One day, when she was engaged in her casting job for TV’s “Another World” soap opera, I received a phone call from Andy Warhol’s nephew, James, who lived in Queens. It seems James needed a human model for a book cover he was painting, and he thought I could fill the bill. And since my gal was busy tending to the needs of a TV show cast which included a budding juvenile Jane Krakowski, I decided to help him out.
Forty-five minutes later, the L train dropped me in front of James’s industrial-style loft in Queens. He didn’t have any official props, but he equipped me with a mop-bucket helmet, a bathroom-rug cape, and a plastic broom handle to stand in for my ray gun.
You can see the results above, in the appropriately titled, “Nightmare Machine” installment of the Battlestar Galactica chronicles. And thanks to James for visiting me in the trauma hospital, remembering that he had painted this, and offering to send me the original canvas to hang in my home. How’s your life, cousins?
Here we go either liveblogging or openly thready, somewhat off-kilter, as your hostess is a hurricane refugee hanging with Strange in PA, and your host is napping until CNN stops telling us to ignore their own exit polls (“It’s too early!”).
OK, let’s see: 5 days to lift-off, hours of cheesy synth tracks; a third-rate Captain Spaulding chasing a minstrel in blackface, and a crappy word puzzle that nobody cares about. Yep, that’s Mitt Romney in the Home Stretch…with nothing to hope for, except maybe that everyone else won’t forget about him. Good luck with that one, Mitt.