Thursday, July 30, 2009


Early in the eventful and historic year of 2008, Bigfoot was sighted on Mars. Rational explanations flooded in, assuring us that once again life was not discovered on the Red Planet. The figure in question was only two inches tall, and would have to remain in a fixed position for several hours to have come out in the photo. It also resembles natural rock formations we find here on Earth.
Still, it is pleasing image, a furry female – note the breasts, like on the famous and controversial bigfoot footage from the Sixties – strolling on the wind-swept Martian landscape.

Some have suggested a certain resemblance to Copenhagen’s statue of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. It was shown how, with Photoshop, you could make the Little Mermaid into the Martian Bigfoot. What they didn’t explain was how it could be inserted into Mars Rover photo, but where there's a will, some twisted imagination will find a way.

The summer of that same year, Em and I went on a road trip through Northern Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. We saw a lot of weird natural rock formations. None of them looked like the Martian Bigfoot, but a lot came close.
These formations are referred to as "hoodoos," and sometimes "goblins" – there is even a place in Utah called Goblin Valley. You don’t have to see many of them to understand why. They seem alive, and evoke memories of fairy-tales in which people are turned to stone. Which is exactly how the local Native American tribes explain them, Coyote being the culprit.

Hoodoos are formed when layers of sedimentary rock are worn away by wind-blown sand. Snow freezing and expanding in the cracks adds to the process. There are wind, sand, and even snow on Mars, so hoodoos are possible.
There is one thing that makes the Martian Bigfoot different from Earth’s hoodoos: size. The smallest Earth hoodoos I’ve seen are about as big as a compact car, that largest one are mountainous. I’ve never really seen a two-inch high rock with the complex sculpting in the Martian Bigfoot. This may be the result of the differences in atmosphere, gravity, and rock density between the planets, still, I’d like to see a rock from our planet of that size and structure.

It’s not like we need still another rational explanation, but it is nice to be able to say that there are hoodoos and goblins on Mars.

And if you go back to photograph PIA 10214: Spirit’s West Valley Panorama (False Color), the bigfoot is only one of many interesting things. Besides the other figures, and goggle-eyed lizard, there are rocks with sharp-angled edges like bricks and others that look, well the term is architectonic. They are most likely Martian flagstone rather than ruins, but they sure are interesting.

And the more I think about the idea of Mars being inhabited by two-inch high, furry, busty leprecauns, the more it makes me smile.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


So many things come together in The Sun and the Moon by Matthew Goodman: Science, fiction, journalism, religion, politics, Edgar Alan Poe, P.T. Barnum . . . lunar man-bats. If it were written as a novel, no one would believe it. But here it is, well researched and documented. And, oh, the wondrous and disturbing things it reveals about our species!

It seem that back in 1835, the New York Sun announced that life had been discovered on the Moon, and the world bought it. Don’t laugh. How many times has CNN announced the discovery of life on Mars?

This wasn’t a pair of jokers with Halloween costume in a block of ice, it was cleverly thought out prank played by an intelligent man, Richard Adam Locke, using materials gathered from the literature and science of the day, his experience as a reporter in the still-developing newspaper business of the time, and a feeling for the credulity of his audience. Essentially, he was doing what science fiction writers would be doing later, only he was printing his story where they would be assumed to be true. The story was reprinted, translated, and believed, all over the world.

Yes, things haven’t changed all that much, but there was more going on here than the general public’s ignorance of science and the willingness of people to accept fantastic stories as fact if there is something appealing about them. And Locke’s vision of the Moon with its caverns, waterfalls, volcanoes, birds, unicorns, and furry winged humanoids who worship in crystal temples is an appealing fantasy. And fantasies are even more appealing if they can be seen as the truth.

Goodman not only chronicles the hoax itself, but the times and industry that created it. This is a world where Edgar Alan Poe was struggling to establish himself and perpetrate his own Moon hoax, and P.T. Barnum was acquiring Joice Heth, his first humbug. (I like the term "humbug," – it should be revived.) Anytime you are distributing information, presenting it in an entertaining manner so you can make money, distortions happen. When we read a newspaper, or a website, or a cable news network, or talk radio show, we buy into the way it filters reality.

Find a newspaper that gives you exciting gory details of the crime in town, and eventually you find yourself wondering if you should contribute money to buy bibles for the ignorant savages of the Moon.

The Sun and The Moon is not only great bizarro entertainment, but provides a lot to think about in our so-called Information Age. It may not be so great that everybody can tailor their media input to suit their idiosyncratic tastes and beliefs. Can you be sure if you are not basing your important decisions on a sci-fi humbug?

Dare to dream – but check and change your filters regularly.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


And now back to science fiction, and Philip José Farmer:

On the day I found that he had died, there was only one of his books in the store where I worked. Okay, it was the Baen Strange Relations omnibus that includes the title story collection, plus The Lovers, and Flesh, so technically it was three books, but I had that twinge I always get when reminded what happens to writers in their old age.

But I won’t dwell on that awful truth, instead I will sing his praises. And tell you about my favorite Farmer works. Yeah, I know, most of the so-called civilized world thinks his Riverworld novels are his best, but as usual, I have other ideas.

In my humble opinion, Riders of the Purple Wage, (in Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions) is one of the great masterpieces of all time. A utopia that belongs next to all the great utopias of literature. Like all utopias, it is flawed, but it is one of the few that revels in a passion for life that is joyous and inspiring. It should be made available to the Harry Potter generation, now that the hormones have kicked in. The world will be a better place for it. Really.

An Exorcism, two novels, Ritual One: The Image of the Beast, and Ritual Two: Blown, were written for the high-class California "porno" publisher called Essex House. Combining the hardboiled detective genre with science fiction, fantasy, and horror, these book are pure glorious delirium. Heironymus Bosch and Henry Miller blazed these trails, but Farmer went deeper into this wilderness. If only all sleazy paperbacks were like this!

I’ve already reviewed Flesh, one of my favorite space operas that makes you really want to go out and probe the mysteries of the universe.

A Feast Unknown took the idea and myth of Tarzan to some frightening and logical extremes. It was also published by Essex House. The jungle adventure and the ape man will never be the same in your mind after you read this.

Another favorite of mine is Lord Tyger, in which a millionaire tries to raise his own Tarzan; the results are not what he was hoping for, but again outrageous and wonderful.

I once heard William L. Crawford say, "Farmer starts out with good material, but then he sexes it up." I respectfully disagree. The creature with the surgically removed genitalia is unnatural. What the censors would take out of Farmer's work, are what the so-called civilized world needs to face.

These are examples of what happens when a great talent is allowed to explore forbidden territory. This is what happens when the imagination is unleashed. These writings all go to extremes.

We need more of this kind of extremism.

Monday, July 20, 2009


One morning, I woke up, turned on the black&white television, and there were no cartoons. On every channel was this same image that I couldn’t understand. In a panic, I ran to my parents room:

"The only thing on T.V. is a thing like a chili in the sky!"
(You never know when your ethnicity will come out.)

Bleary-eyed, my father explained to me that it was John Glenn – a real spaceman – going out into space.

It was one of the pivotal moments in my life. Deep down in my grade-schooler’s mind, I knew that Commando Cody, the Sky Marshall of the Universe, and Buzz Corey of Space Patrol were just make-believe. But now, here was my father, explaining that, "Yes, mijo, there is a real spaceman."

My mind blown, I put on a plastic space helmet, sat down in my underwear, and watched the guys who usually sent me running out of the room as they looked serious and talked about things beyond my comprehension. I learned an important lesson that morning: that science fiction can become science fact, fantasy can become reality.

From then on I was a fan of the Space Program, watching the live coverage, reading newspaper and magazine articles that were beyond my level of comprehension, which was okay, because how do you learn to do the impossible if you don’t struggle to understand difficult things?

The climax was Apollo 11, and the first moon landing. It was the Greatest Show on Earth, The Week the Earth Stood Still. For this time, everything – newspaper, magazine, television – was about space. Even the commercials were sci-fi! I was in pre-adolescent heaven.

The strange thing is, it consisted mostly of sitting around watching nothing happening on a flickering screen. It was all anticipation. Without that, it would have just been like an Andy Warhol movie of nothing happening.

For a few precious moments, the human race gaped in wonder at its own possibilites.

Then reality crept back. The Vietnam war came to its devastating conclusion. The Watergate scandal broke. The economy crashed. By the Mid-Seventies people thought you were crazy if you believed there was going be a future.

We seem to have fallen back into that kind of time.

But I remember when the idea of going to the Moon was considered crazy, impossible. I saw the impossible become possible, science fiction become science fact. It isn’t easy, people will think you’re crazy, or uncool, but it can be done.

Some people say my life has been crazy and impossible. It could be crazy, but it has to be possible – it happened, didn’t it? I guess all those hours of the original great reality show warped me, left me with a permanent bad attitude.

The artist Rob Cobb once said, "Science fiction has always been a verb to me." Let us go forth and commit outrageous acts of science fiction!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Saint Fermin is a genuine man of mystery. And I’m not talking whodunits here. I mean mystery in the original sense of the word. Beneath the Christian/Catholic paraphernalia, once you start digging . . . well, mysteries abound.

He is said to be the son of a 3rd century Roman senator. He converted to Christianity, and was martyred. His cloak, the Capotico of San Fermin, is supposed to give protection. When you have a close call, his cape is said to have saved you. There is also a story about him being tied to bull and dragged to death.

A protective cape. Death by bull. No wonder this patron saint of Pamploma’s festival is all about bullfighting! It all makes sense.

Well, not quite.

First, Saint Fermin wasn’t dragged to death by a bull, he was decapitated. The saint who was bulldragged was Saturnius, the first bishop of Toulouse, in France. Saint Fermin was converted to Christianity by Saint Honestus, who was a disciple of Saturnius. Tradition says Fermin’s baptism took place at Pocico de San Cernin, which is across from a church built on the foundations of a pagan temple.

To further complicate things, in Toulouse, the oldest church is Notre-Dame du Taur ("Our Lady of the Bull"). It is said to have been built on the spot where the bull stopped dragging Saturnius. The site is also said to be dedicated to a pre-Christian sacred bull. And the street is called Rue du Taur.

Did the bull of Mithras bubble up through folkloric tradition and revive bull worship that exists to this very day? Is this another case, like in voodoo and Santeria, where Christian saints stand in for older gods? What is it about us that needs these ancient mysteries so bad, that when they are absent, we conjure them up?

It looks like traditions are not the static things that people would like to think they are. Like in nature, changes happen each generation. Traditions evolve and mutate. And now that we can zap folklore all over the planet at the speed of light, this process is easier, and faster than ever before.

The current generation sees the internet as a natural phenomenon, the way my generation saw television. My parents saw television as an innovation. And that was before the techno speed-up.

Traditions that are the roots of American (and Global) pop culture didn’t exist a hundred, or even fifty years ago. Once upon a time it was rare to live long enough to see your way of life totally transformed – now it’s a sure thing.

The transformations of Saint Fermin are a clue to how the traditions of the world will change in the 21st century.

What would Saint Fermin think of it all? What would Hemingway think of how his novel warped this Fiesta? Imagine the time warp through which the two of them could watch Mister Testis dancing with naked PETA girls and it may hint at what kind of future awaits us.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


During La Fiesta De San Fermin traditions and mutations run wild in the streets.

I knew that it wasn’t all about the running of the bulls, or even the bullfights. Though I was impressed with what horns could do to a pair of pants – not to mention a human body.

Everything, including the festival itself, is set off with the firing of Chupinazos, rockets. They seem to be made out of wine bottles. I’d like to know more about them.

It's essentially a religious festival, celebrating Saint Fermin. A procession lead by giants.

These giants, or Gigantes, are huge figures like those seen in Mardi Gras and Carnival around the world. They are dressed like kings and queens. Some of them are black. They are marched into the crowd where they dance. This on a small scale is what we see in Sambadrome in Rio, where Brazilian giants are becoming functional giant robots. And in a tribute to Michael Jackson by a bunch of white kids from the Midwest, a similar giant of Jackson in his Thriller/zombie guise danced.

The Gigantes are followed by six Kilikis, figures with large heads representing local councilors, Zaldikos, who have puppet/horses as part of their costumes, and Cabezudos, solem, big-headed characters.

This is supposed to be “for the children.” A fairy tale running parallel to the blood & guts & tits & ass. Kilikis and Cabezudos chase the kids around, very much like in the Wild Man festivals of pre-Christian eras. I’m going to have to reread Phyllis Siefker’s Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men.

These folkloric characters have evolved, and are still developing. And Mister Testis is joining their ranks.

At the end of the procession, San Fermin, Patron said of Pamploma is brought out. He is represented by a doll-like effigy, dressed like a miniature Pope. He is the reason for La Fiesta. But who is he? What does he have to do with bulls? There is a saying about how San Fermin’s cape can protect you from a close call. Where did this come from.? There is history, and myth. And there is mystery.

Today’s bullrunners use cell phones and websites. They run with the bulls, get on Twitter (is a new Hemingway writing novels or short stories in the form of tweets?) to co-ordinate which café to meet for the post-run parties. The balconies are full of people leaning over with digital cameras and cell phones. This movable feast is digitized.

And then there’s the new tradition of naked protests, and the transplanted Mardi Gras flash.

Technology just speeds up these mutations. It took Elvis Presley a generation to achieve the level of deification that Michael Jackson was awarded in a week. Gods-Made-While-U-Wait will be here soon. Who knows what will happen in Pamploma in a few years?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

COMMERCIALIZED PAGANISM ONLINE is becoming one of my favorite Fiesta websites. If you wrote this sort of thing as science fiction twenty years ago, you may well have been burned at the stake.

In Pagan Spain, Richard Wright said pagan influences "lingered strongly and vitally on, flourishing under the draperies of the twentieth century." And new communications technology-inspired rites are emerging:

The PETA protesters have developed what was originally a "Running of the Nudes" into a street-filling spectacle. The New York pseudo-naked event is recreated on larger scale in Pamploma. The black undies and nipple-obscuring signs are still here along with the fake blood and banderillas. The Spanish architecture makes it look like a scene from a European horror film from the late Seventies. Nobody seems the least bit intimidated into stopping La Fiesta.

The protest has become part of the opening ceremonies. A new tradition is born.

PETA also doesn’t realize that trying to stop La Fiesta De San Fermin with pseudo-bloody public nudity is like trying to fight a forest fire with a Molotov cocktail. In Puritan America, people are embarrassed by bare bodies, but La Fiesta is all about testicles. Adding exposed breasts only makes it more powerful.

Which brings me to's incredible Mister Testis,who seems like a typical sports mascot, a big blue bull. But between his legs is something no other mascot has: a large scrotal sac housing the organs that he is named for. In his cartoon manifestation they are represented by two perfect blue circles.

I’m reminded of my first artistic controversy: back in grade school, after a field trip to a farm, we were given crayons and paper and asked to draw something we had seen. I drew a bull – an anatomically correct bull. Not everybody appreciated my powers of observation.

So how would the sort of tradition that could create Mister Testis react to "naked" protesters?

Young women, who are not in town to protest, caught up in the celebration of the reproductive instinct, have been showing themselves in the manner associated with New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Instead of being repressed by police state tactics, this bit of cultural cross-pollination (in my novels High Aztech and Smoking Mirror Blues I called it "recomboculture") has been encouraged. and Playboy co-sponsor a photography contest, offering 3,000 euros and a free trip to Los Angeles for the best erotic image.

It’s getting difficult to tell where the sadomasochistic vegetarian guerrilla theater ends and the commercialized pagan ritual begins. This synthesis of opposites is what I hope is the direction of the emerging global civilization of the 21st century.

The future has been painted in shades of noir for far too long. It’s time to let the Sun rise.


Yesterday Daniel Jimeno Romero was killed during this year's fourth encierro in Pamploma. It shouldn't be any surprise that runners are injured and killed during this dangerous activity. This ritual and festival is all about danger, tempting fate, seeing if you will be protected by the cape of Saint Fermin.

It doesn't always work. It is not a sure thing.

What is amazing is how few deaths happen during the running of the bulls. This was the first of the new century. The last one was nearly fifteen years ago. There have only been fifteen such deaths since 1924. During the twentieth century, far more people died attending rock concerts than running with the bulls, and I don't hear people call for an end to the worship of the gods of rock and roll.

Then why have so few people died risking the horns on that narrow, twisted street?

As American bullfighter, Harry Whitney, said, "You offer your life to the bull. Without that, there is no bullfight."

It's the same with the running of the bulls.

The testicles that give life and the horns that tear it away are forever connected.

So let's have a moment of silence in honor of the sacrifice of Daniel Jimeno Romero. Then go on with La Fiesta. And life.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Some books should be classics, but society resists. Flesh by Philip José Farmer is such a book. In a sane world, young people would be encouraged to read and discuss it and civilization would be stronger for it, but in a world where sex and religion cause citizens to behave like savages, it keeps going out of print.

On the surface, it’s a conventional space opera. Commander Peter Stagg brings his starship back to Earth after eight hundred years to discover that a temporary destruction of the ozone layer has killed off most animal species, as well as the human race, and has radically transformed society in what is now Washington, D.C. There’s plenty of derring-do, and it all leads up to a happy ending. It could be made into a series for the Sci-Fi – excuse me, SyFy Channel.

Then it boldly goes into dangerous territory.

Science was blamed for the world-wide disaster. The American society that rebuilt itself is not our own after a slight interruption. The urge to get back to nature has revived pagan-style religion. Peter Stagg and his men are captured. Stagg is put in the role of the Sunhero, a fertility god in the Wild Man tradition.

He wakes up with a pair of hormone-producing erectile antlers (biological science has been developed while others have been ignored) that force him to play the lead role in rituals that have him literally fertilizing like crazy.

It does not become a simple porno wish-fulfilment fantasy. Farmer’s knowledge of pagan religions and how they work is impressive. The world is shown dramatically transformed. The reader’s preconceived notions about what is civilized are challenged.

For a book that was written nearly half a century ago, on the other side of the so-called Sexual Revolution, it still works well as a satire of sex, religion, and politics. Despite technology providing greater access to sexually explicit material, the whole subject makes people uncomfortable to the point of violent hysterical reactions. Our "sexually-obsessed society" has roots sunk deep into frozen tundra of Puritanism. We all need the joy, humor, and adventure of Flesh.

More precisely, it is the book that today’s teenagers need to read after they’ve gone through Stephanie Meyer’s tame Twilight novels.

If only some brilliant young Fellini/Jodorowsky would make a delightfully twisted film version!

Yeah, I know, Baen did reprint it , as part of a Farmer omnibus that I recommend as a great gift idea, but we need more. We should by used copies and give them to young people. Somehow we’ve raised a generation that has been shielded, or maybe I should say "filtered," from a lot of the things that will allow them to survive in a world that turns upside-down and tears itself apart on a regular basis. They need to know that it is possible to enjoy yourself, even in a world undergoing serious transformation.

It would also be a good book to take when flying to La Fiesta De San Fermin.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Like that other writer named Ernest from the 20th century, I have a fascination for bullfighting. It drove me to write “Taurmaquia” and “Frank’s Tricer Run.” No apologies. If you think you’re more civilized than me by disapproving of that noble tradition, I don’t really care.

I also don’t think very much of your vision of so-called civilization.

Besides, I consider bullfighting to be the Mother of All Artforms.

Not only did it inspire great art back through its origins – the Roman arena, the Minoan bull dance, the Atlantean rituals described by Plato, the Neanderthal rodeo – but through it I have come to understand what makes people want to create art, and how to live as an artist.

It’s all about the paso doble – when the bull charges, and comes close to killing the matador. There’s such a picture in Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon with the caption: “If he doesn’t have blood on his shirt after this move, ask for your money back.” If you don’t get your pretty shirt bloody, you are not an artist.

I’ve met a lot of people over the years who are frustrated with they way they live and make money, crying, “I would just like to be creative!” They take classes, attend seminars and workshops, join clubs and organizations. They pose in their pretty suits, practice the moves, know the ritual by heart, but the idea of facing the charging beast paralyzes them.

Creativity is an active thing. It’s not escapism. If you retreat from reality into a querencia, like a bull refusing to fight. You deserve to be stuck with banderillas studded with firecrackers to the shame of those who bred you.

In the Ernest Hogan School of the Arts, Bullfighting Appreciation would be a requirement. How much greater would the results of all creative endeavors be if our artists and writers realized this. As Juan Belmonte said, “a spiritual exercise and not merely a sport.” And spirituality can bite you in the ass, but only if you're lucky.

It’s the way I live. I wake up, get ready, go out and face the beast. Sometimes I get gored – if you could see my psychic scars! Sometimes it’s a horrid mess. But I keep coming back.

And every now and then, it’s pure magic.

It’s what made us paint cave walls to make magic in prehistory. Now it makes us look out to the stars and deep into the quantum realm, and struggle to understand.

Technology has made being an aficionado easy! I go online, do a few news, photo, and video searches, and the sacred ritual explodes across my monitor. Inspiration rarely comes better than this.

The best aesthetic experiences come at you like a sniper’s bullet – and after, you are never the same. Again, paso doble, blood on the shirt.

This is my kind of aesthetics. Let me know if you need further clarification.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Fourth of July weekend is over. The Phoenix Summer heat is getting deadly. Between July 6th and 14th, after a hard day of work, I enjoy sitting down at the computer, and watching the online coverage of La Fiesta De San Fermin. I run with the bulls from the safety of my own home.

And the more I look, the more coverage I discover. Not just on Spanish newspaper sites like ABC, and Diario de Navarro, but the outrageous, where the naked protesters are co-opted, there's an erotic photography contest, animated featurettes, cartooning with ketchup and mustard, and a mascot, Mister Testis, who would be banned from any sporting event in these Puritanical United States of America (Yes, I'll elaborate on all this in a future post).

If you want more conventional reporting, with photos and videos, try Fiestas de San Where they stick closer to the traditional rather than 21st century paganism.

And if you need a site in English -- though this is a multisensuous, viceral experience, rather than a reading thing -- there's They provide great coverage and useful information about all aspects of La Fiesta, not just the running of the bulls, but the Gigantes, Cabezudos, Kilikis, Saint Fermin, himself, and of course, bullfighting.

This has me rethinking all my ideas about culture in the age of globalization. The past and future collide, the present looks bright and colorful, and makes me smile. Yes, the Sun also rises.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


I’m not much of a sports fan, though I actually sold an archeological sports article a long time ago. The whole modern concept of sports doesn’t appeal to me. Give me the Roman arena, bullfighting, and Lucha Libre. The athletic event isn’t enough, I need the mythic element. Put in a bit of the Medieval morality play, some genuine ritual – yes, some sacrifice, and of course blood.

Blood makes it more than real. Without blood, ritual is merely routine. And isn’t it amazing that no matter how well you know that red liquid is not blood, we can’t help but react to it as if it’s the real thing?

That’s why the World Series and the Superbowl don’t interest me, but La Fiesta De San Fermin holds my soul captive. It takes place in July in Pamplona, Spain. It’s best know for its running of the bulls. Hemingway made it famous in The Sun also Rises. It’s a very interesting feature, but just a sideshow.

There’s more to La Fiesta than the tourist spectacle. More than even bullfighting. This goes back to some forgotten basics about what it is to be human, things that Western Civilization has some serious problems with.

A good week before it, some PETA held a pseudo-nude protest against it in New York. I say pseudo-nude because they followed the new trend of wearing underwear (in this case skin-tight black things). What hypocrisy! If you aren’t exposing regions that could bring the law after you, and risking that probability, it ain’t no nude protest. At best it’s open-air topless cabaret.

And they were hiding their nipples with their protest signs. What next? Pasties?

But I do like the idea of naked protesters. They would make a great addition to the festival and ritual. They could dance around like professional mourners, smeared in fake blood, bristling with fake banderillas. Maybe they could shed a real tear or two.

One of things I discovered im my research was that some young women are confusing Pamplona during La Fiesta De San Fermin with New Orleans during Mardi Gras: the ritual exposing of breasts is spreading like a virus.

I thought my coverage would be simple commentary on websites of the Pamplona newspapers, but a bit of digging on the Web revealed a thriving subculture that’s rapidly transcending national borders fueled by today’s information technology. The more I investigate, the more complex – and interesting -- it becomes.

I’ll be blogging about this more extensively then I planned.

Another expedition into bizarre territory.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


The Venusian Jungle did well this summer. The heat and radiation didn’t burn it away into a desolate Martian Garden. The cacti, roses, and other vegetal exotica are alive and well. Hummingbirds do battle as butterflies flit about. Praying mantises patrol. Lizards abound.

The lizards capture the attention of Wolfette, the mighty feline huntress. She lately has been catching more than their tails. In fact, I don’t find their tails at all, just their tailless corpses, strewn around the front porch.

This being the Sonoran Desert and the Metro Phoenix Heat Island, where the air is so dry that airliners often don’t leave contrails, the dead lizards undergo a process of natural mummification. A mummy is essentially a skeleton with its dehydrated skin still on. No gauze or rags are required.

They come in a variety of sizes. Their tiny skulls and hollow eye sockets are impossibly delicate. There is even one that was stepped on and squashed flat so its spinal column is clearly visible, and to my delight, when I scraped it off the pavement, its almost microscopic arms and legs were intact.

I find them beautiful, as does my wife, Em. Our twisted aesthetics are the foundation of our marriage. I couldn’t bear to throw away all these gorgeous reptile mummies, so picked them up and began arranging them around the rocks in a flower pot that holds a cactus that is threatening to make entering Casa Hogan dangerous. Em approved.

Then I noticed that the wind was blowing them around. They weigh almost nothing and are as delicate as papier mache. I have since rearranged them by digging them partially into the soil. It would such a shame to have them blow away.

Then, Wolfette keeps providing us with more of them. Still I we may need to invest in a display case and find a place for them inside soon.

There’s nothing like nice quiet home life!

Thursday, July 2, 2009


It’s gotta be one of the Seven Wonders of the Solar System. I’m amazed that it hasn’t become a global media sensation. Do people really think that American Idol, Brittany Spears, Michael Jackson are more interesting?

I’m talking about the giant hexagon on Saturn’s North pole. The clouds swirl around to make this symmetrical groove, with unbelievably sharp corners. It looks like the lid of a gynormous cookie jar. And the clouds charge around it like a race track – well, it gets me thinking that we don’t know a lot of important things about how this universe of ours works.

For all I know, it’s a perfectly reasonable thing for clouds to form geometric shapes that stay that way for years. While in Utah last year, I saw a cloud that looked like a question mark, and my wife got a picture of it. Maybe it’s all a mathematical formula that Rudy Rucker can explain. It still blows my mind.

But that doesn’t explain why nobody else seems to be impressed by the hexagon. It’s like something swept under the rug. I realize that most people who run the media don’t understand the first three things about science, but this is aesthetics! It’s beautiful! It’s mysterious! It’s amazing! It’s just the thing we need now that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is starting to peter out!

It’s an obscure scientific curiosity that most people aren’t impressed with.

I don’t care. I’m used to going against the grain. I will contemplate the Great Saturnian Hexagon, let its mysteries race around my brain, until the visions come.

Like the way it resembles the pentagon you find where a starfish’s legs come together. Maybe someday, the gynormous starfish will wake up,stretch it’s six great legs, shake off the atmosphere, moons, and rings, and go about it’s business.

What would it’s business be?

Why to remind us what a strange and wonderful universe this is, of course!

Or maybe the lid from the giant cookie jar will come off, and we will begin a snack time the likes of which our galaxy has never seen.

Or as Freeman Dyson said, “We never had as much imagination as nature.”

And any Fourth of July fireworks seem dull in comparison.