Monday, April 20, 2015

William Answers Vanity Fair's Version of the Proust Questionnaire

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A clean house.

What is your greatest fear?

A car crash.

Which living person do you most admire?

Sister Mary Elizabeth of the Lesotho, a Carmelite nun whom I met in San Francisco, 2001.

What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?

My thoughtlessness and insensitivity.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


What do you dislike most about your appearance?

The scowl lines between my eyebrows.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

A young, secret admirer whom I too often needle because I in turn am enamored of him.

When and where were you happiest?

At the Azuma family's kitchen table during dinner, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, 1995.

Which talent would you most like to have?

The ability to perform feats of higher mathematics.

What is your current state of mind?


If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I would be wealthier.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Being a good friend and a good son.

If you could choose what to come back as, what would it be?

An old Chinese woman who lives by a river in a mud hut -- one who wears quilted jackets and keeps a pig.

What do you regard as the lowest depths of misery?

Having betrayed a loved one.

What is the quality you most like in a man?

A sense of humor.

What is the quality you most like in a woman?


What do you most value in your friends?

Their utter lack of reluctance in confronting me about my faults and misdeeds.

Who are your favorite writers?

Carl Sagan, Sawako Ariyoshi, Francois Sagat, Vladimir Nabokov, Gene Wolfe, Charlotte Brontë.

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?

Smilla Jaspersen.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Special forces.

What is it that you most dislike?


How would you like to die?

Causing trouble.

What is your motto?

Semper lepidus.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Skeletor For President!

Every Saturday, Skeletor would plot to topple He-Man and take over Eternia.  Every Saturday, as the cartoons had it, Skeletor was undone by his own greed and stupidity, allowing He-Man (or, God help us, Orko) to save the day.

Kids were supposed to cheer for He-Man, to want to be him, with his blond page-boy and teutonic good looks.  Fuggeddaboutit.

Skeletor was the real inspiration.  He never gave up.  Every week, he was knocked down, or undermined by disappointing (or, in Evil-Lyn's case, downright dangerous and alarming) henchmen.  And every week, he would get back up, brush himself off, and try again.  Skeletor was a study in tenacity.

And the deck was stacked against Skeletor:  he didn't have the advantage of He-Man's charming good looks, his pink skin.  What a brave soul, constantly confronting the world without masks, and without a face, but with naked skull.  He had no eyes, no nose, no lips, no cheeks, just raw bone.  What could be more honest and courageous in its honesty?

I wish Eternia would have given Skeletor a chance.  I don't think his ideas were the problem so much as his execution of them.  Maybe if He-Man and company had just listened to Skeletor, really listened to him, a lot of Eternia's ills could have been solved.

We'll never know, because no one had the heart or the bravery to just give poor, misunderstood Skeletor a chance...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Gods, Furies, Angels and Djinn

A path of moonlight shattered over the choppy lake.  The pines carried a far off, tiny roar that sounded like the din of a million voices.  Khonsu stared ahead, seemingly mesmerized by the glow on the water.  He was far from Egypt, but after so many changes that have happened along the Nile, and to the Nile, this place -- California -- seemed more like home.  Indeed, the moon shone the same as it did thousands of years ago among the reeds near Memphis.  Khonsu shoved his fists deep into the front pockets of his jeans.

"The Wakeful Man continues to confer with them.  Now he has taken on qualities we saw in she who kicks teeth, my lord," Arbaces said, loud in the wilderness.  Khonsu hated the profanity of his servant's presence here, but Arbaces was nothing if not faithful.  He just wasn't very savory or honest.

"The mistake was yours," Khonsu replied, his wide dark eyes never straying from the beauty before him, and seldom blinking.  Khonsu was a god, and Arbaces a man.  The latter stood a respectful ten paces behind the former with his shaved head bowed.  Neither gave a care for the cold.  As Khonsu unfolded his slender brown hands from his pockets and raised them to the lantern of the moon, he continued, "You carried on as though the Wakeful One was your fulcrum, as though his mind could cast the mold.  You misjudged, and it has cost lives."

"Please, Lord, it was my idiot tool Haros who operated under that assumption."

"Haros is a travesty I would see destroyed.  He violated the Wakeful One."

"I would do as you command, but the Erinyes, upon conversing with the mortal aspect of the Wakeful One, Protector of Ten Worlds, learned that he opposed their plan to dispatch my embarrassing minion.  He convinced them that Haros should live as long as possible."

If a god could register shock, Khonsu would have.  The closest he came to looking startled was to slowly turn away from the majestic scene of stars, moon and lake, and bring his gaze to bear on his servant.  "Courage, cruelty and wisdom...  Why was Haros allowed to touch such a one for so long?"

"Restitution is already being made, great Lord.  Haros will be dealt with.  Already apologies have been tendered to the Wakeful One."

"I'm sure he made an enviable reply to the apologies," replied Khonsu with a terse wryness.

Arbaces winced.

"Too much rides on this one mortal's future.  Secure assurances and return to me.  Also, know that the Wakeful One's patroness is a dark lady whom we never cross.  Propitiate her through proxies."

Arbaces hissed and made the sign of the Eye.

"Do it!  Or I'll have your entrails read by your successor."

"Your will be done my Lord."

"Beg her forgiveness, and his, and be gone."

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sort of Reading Between the Lines (Not Very Subtle Stuff)

"And do not say because of the lies which your tongues utter, 'This is lawful and that is unlawful,' lest you should forge a lie against Allah.  Those who forge lies against Allah will never attain the goal."

There is a lot wrong with this story.  Reading between the lines, what comes out is an admission of an unnecessary sting operation carried out by some public image-obsessed FBI employees.  The unintended consequence of their doing so and then suckering some thoughtless journalists is that I feel sorry for this misguided young man, who was strung along by FBI agents and a horrible excuse for an imam -- all of whom took advantage of his mental illness in order to have a laudatory turn at the spotlight.

I mean, the kid was in the bag pretty much from the moment the FBI started investigating him, something that happened as soon as he tried to enlist (not unusual, by the way, as my father was investigated by the FBI when he applied to enlist in the Navy during the Vietnam War -- he almost didn't get in because of my Grandmother's communism and Black Panther associations.)  What the hell?

(And as for Imam Omar Hazim, shame on you for breaching confidentiality as a cleric offering counseling, and for being so crass about someone's disability.  Just as much a failure as a Muslim as any violent criminal or terrorist who claims to act for the will of God.)