Cool, folks, our in-house artist Bob Bienpensant has a solo exhibition on Angelo Ventura's blog. (yes, click)

Jun 30, 2015

"How I tried to seduce Socrates" --- Plato's Symposium (1)

Michael is working on the text side of a comic strip/graphic novel about Plato's Symposium. Yes, the philosopher, and, yes, the canonical text on male homosexuality since more than 2,000 years. 

Not easy, actually, the work. You have to condense the text ruthlessly (19 k words in English translations) and somehow maintain authenticity. Deep thoughts are occasionally expressed and need to be conveyed---the text also provides, ironically, the basis (or pretext) for the Renaissance-idea of Platonic love.

You know about the Symposium ("banquet"), right? A choice of Athenian characters---including Aristophanes (the leading antique writer of comedy), Agathon (a writer of tragedies) Alcibiades (the city's leading bad boy cum politician at the time), and Socrates---gather to celebrate Agathon's victory in the drama competition of 416 BC two days ago. They had partied all night the previous day, they are laboring under a serious hangover, and somebody thinks it would be wise to drink less. How do you do that? Eyximachus, the attending physician, has the idea that you should praise Eros; everybody should give and encomium about the God of Love. And so they do.

Anselm Feuerbach: Alcibiades arrives at the banquet, Agathon welcoming him (click for a larger image, please)

Here's our condensed rendering of the arrival of Alcibiades, Socrates is about to finish his speech (this is done per panel, so the same speaker may appear sequentially): 

Socrates: This is what I wanted to say, O Phaedrus; call it an encomium of love, or anything else. (Applause)

Aristophanes gets up, wants to say something, is interrupted by…

(Big EXPANDING letters (voice)):

Alcibiades (appears in door): Hail friends.

Alcibiades: I’m excessively drunk already, but I’ll drink with you, if you will.

Jun 26, 2015

Why conservatives are wrong...

...because they are always wrong.


Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857) People of African descent that are slaves or were slaves and subsequently freed, along with their descendants, cannot be United States citizens. Consequently, they cannot sue in federal court. Also, slavery cannot be outlawed in the western territories before they access statehood.

Which side do you think the Conservatives took?

Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896) Segregated facilities for blacks and whites are constitutional under the doctrine of separate but equal.

Which side do you think the Conservatives took?


And here are a few words from today's decision, composed by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right."

"From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations."

"The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning. When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed."

Jun 11, 2015

Christopher Lee (1922 - 2015)

(This is a deep post in a literal sense, so don't hesitate to scroll down:)

“To be a legend, you’ve either got to be dead or excessively old!” 

Anything the Green Eyes have to add to this? They usually do. So, just for starters, John's last name, Lee, is not a coincidence, as we'll learn early on in Part II ("This is heaven"):

(Chapter 3, John narrating): Let me get this in before the plot thickens: it’s a good thing that Alice (“Dr. Dyke”) heads an emergency room, since only people who’ve seen it all are able to sit as if nothing has happened next to a forty-five year old man—slight, Caucasian, symmetrical features except for the nose—who’s wearing a pair of Bavarian leather shorts with an image of an aroused Christopher Lee (the actor, fangs) emblazoned on the crotch part of said garment. (I’m a bit disingenuous here. These shorts, I’ve seen them before with the image of Richard Wagner in place of Christopher Lee. They are part of a Richard-Wagner-themed merchandize line, Godehart’s business; he’s from Germany and family of the composer, somehow).

Godehart has noticed my glance, points with one index finger in the direction of his adult parts, and asks “Family?”

Never thought about it (Glenn)

Jun 10, 2015

Frennch for beginners

Deux vieilles dames [dames], les voyant passer [passing] dans la rue principale du village : Tu vois, Jeanne, ces jeunes, ils s'achètent des motos [motor bikes] hors de prix [price], et après ça [after], ils n'ont [no] même plus de quoi [means] s'habiller [to dress]!    

Jun 8, 2015

The view yesterday evening around 21:20 hours...

(scroll down a bit)

The Valais in north-western perspective

...and the view now of...

Athens, 416 BC 

...our view, because we are working on a comic strip version of Plato's Symposium, and this beautiful picture by Leo v. Klenze would provide the perfect opening shot. I'm trying to blend three translations, Percy Shelley's, Benjamin Jowett's, and Seth Bernadete's, whittling them down to 10% or less of their original length so that the result fits into the balloons and captions of a 48 page graphic book.

Jun 7, 2015

Sunday matinée

The grass is always greener on the other side...

You'll figure this out yourself

And while we are at it, behold this:

And you know what? Chris Christie had been Roger Ailes' dream candidate for the US presidential election. Roger Ailes? Yes, the founding CEO of FOX News.

And the corresponding fragment from the Green Eyes? We don't have much there, but here it is (Ch. 9 Part II):

The fifth candidate is also blond, but female, with a horsy, consent-demanding face that stares right at you, and a lot of hands and fingernails attached to her extremities, hot in a fashioned way (she), pure anchor nouveau, she could host any show, especially on FOX, especially about Christmas decoration (I have to explain to Maurice about FOX’s War on Christmas). She survives while casting a malevolent regard at the defeated fish underneath, it’s so subtle.

More of this, context? We'll here's a teaser for the corresponding chapter in part II of the Green eyes.

Jun 4, 2015

Rilke's ghost, or Raron, or (more) connubial bliss --- a flash story

(We're back in Switzerland, and writing. And the first part of this flash story---including the afternoon in the budget hotel in Duino---is true-true. The ghost, at least in its first appearance, really occurred:)

"Rilke," Paula Modersohn-Becker

I still see myself sitting there as a boy on the greenly-striped couch of my parents reading Rilke, Rainer Maria (1875-1926), Bohemian poet, best know for his “Duineser Elegien” (Elegies from the castle of Duino). I read only the first two elegies then, but still, I went with the flow and was very impressed.

The castle of Duino

We moved to the French Riviera where Chang and I rent our house to holiday makers. We get a surprise booking in April and decide to visit Croatia, a new country that isn’t too far away and reasonably cheap. Chang collects countries, he’s never been to Croatia. Bonus: on the way we’ll have to cross Slovenia, yet another country missing from his collection.

Chang is on Facebook now, so we have to go out everyday to take new pictures of Switzerland which he can feed to his insatiable FB friends. And we've never been to Raron, which is situated right below Bürchen (us) in the Valais valley.

We will drive non-stop the nine hours from Cannes to Croatia but should stay overnight somewhere on the way back, some place nice. Chang is on the internet and suggests a town between Venice and Trieste, on the Adriatic coast. A hotel without sea view, budget-friendly. “How is it called?” I ask. “Du-i-no.” Sure, Duino.

Jun 1, 2015

The pitcher goes to the well until it breaks

Westboro Baptist Church
The hate group, normally obsessed with homosexuality, has accepted the offer of free tickets to Irak and stage their show in ISIS territory. That should solve a few problems.

May 30, 2015

May 27, 2015

In Switzerland --- The fountain of Geneva (teaser)

So we arrived, and went almost immediately for a hike around the Stand, a fairly flat hill structure situated above Bürchen, our home here in CH. And Chang takes pictures for his Facebook page. So here are two of them---this was a fabulous day---the first picture showing the imposing Dom, the third-highest mountain of the Alps (4545 m), and the second showing the Saas Valley, right next to it (to the left):

Dom, with the Hohberg, the main glacier, nestling a bit off to the right under the main peak

Saas Valley

And the teaser? What happened to the Green Eyes? Don't you worry, the Green Eyes are back in business with Alex on John on honeymoon traveling through Europe and being told the back story of the Fountain of Geneva, a tale of 2000 years involving the Roman emperor Hadrian and a ravaging nordic tribe, the Muttoni, which has settled in---yes---the Saas Valley. And the DomWell, the Dom hosts the Hohberg, its main glacier, which provides the water for the thirsty fountain. Hadrian is visiting Geneva, is asked to deal with the Muttoni, and has the brilliant idea of assembling an erotic SWAT team, named the Guard of Antinous after his deceased lover.

Okay, here's a fragment with narrator Richard Zugabe, librarian of the municipal archives of Geneva (Hadrian leads his team up the Valais valley into Muttoni territory):

“Late-August, the eternally-snow-topped Alps to the south, the gentle slopes of the Jura to the north, the deep-blue water of the lake glittering in the sunlight, a touch of gossamer in the air, the Antinousians holding hands and sharing the sights---quite a few of romantic liaisons had been formed in the meantime, you can imagine. There was an upset, though, literally, during the crossing, in that the passengers felt a sudden surge of the lake, and then heard the desperate cries of a galley slave who had just lost his penis. Yes, two galley slaves had somehow managed to abandon their oars and engage in a sexual act and the sudden swell had led to a regrettable jaw movement of the receiving partner. Snap. Galley slaves were not supposed to leave their position on punishment by death, but Hadrian was in upper-best mood and pardoned the penis-loser.

May 19, 2015

Tuesday matinée --- checking out at the local supermarket

And he had a wide smile for us!

(We're off to Switzerland on Thursday, when blogging will resume (hopefully); we had a very rough time the last couple of months)

Apr 20, 2015

The walk along the water front --- Seattle (7)

We're on 81 Vine Street, two blocks from the water front, which was remodeled during the 80's to provide the ideal outdoor experience of city living. We go for a stroll every day in the afternoon, especially now, with the weather picture perfect.

The Alaskan Way, on the water front, in Northern direction

400 meters into this (Americans are learning about meters), past Pier 69, where the Elliot Bay Trail begins.

Apr 19, 2015

Forks (2) --- Seattle (6)

"Forks (2) --- Seattle (6)"---we stay true to form with this incomprehensible title. Almost as incomprehensible as this sign...

...yes, YES, that's why we had to visit Forks, because the place is the purported hub of the Twilight franchise:

(This picture is mildly misleading...)

Apr 18, 2015

Rogan Richards

We've been asked to do an interview with Rogan Richards---porn star, photographer, escort---for a glossy international magazine. If you have any ideas for questions he has not yet been asked (he's famous), please let us know:

Forks --- Seattle (5)

Forks. Forks? Bear with us, we'll explain later (next post). For the time being, let's note that Forks is the most precipitous town in the continental United States, rain-wise. Precipitatous, as it were. It's perched between the Olympic Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. 150 miles to the west of Seattle. We must visit.

150 miles. That's a long drive. We must get up early and catch the 8:25 AM ferry to Bainbridge. That's the view this morning, from our apartment, of Mount Fuji Rainier.

Apr 12, 2015

Seattle (4) (Chang)

The Puget Sound with the ferry for Bainbridge (picture taken from our apartment on Vine Street)

Apr 5, 2015


The Shinto Kanamara Matsuri (かなまら祭り, "Festival of the Steel Phallus") is held each spring at the Kanayama Shrine (金山神社 Kanayama-jinja) in Kawasaki, Japan. The phallus, as the central theme of the event, is reflected in illustrations, candy, carved vegetables, decorations, and a mikoshi parade.

The Kanamara Matsuri is centered around a local phallus-venerating shrine once popular among prostitutes who prayed for protection from sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, there are sundry protections regarding prosperity, easy delivery, and marriage harmony. There is also a legend of a sharp-toothed demon (vagina dentata) that hid inside the vagina of a young woman and castrated two young men on their wedding nights. The young woman sought help from a blacksmith, who fashioned an iron phallus to break the demon's teeth, which led to the enshrinement of the item.

The festival has become something of a tourist attraction and is used to raise money for HIV research

Apr 4, 2015

Interstellar --- Seattle (2)

We're late with this review because we're always late---plus, we're early in the sense that the movie hasn't yet been released world wide.

Unfortunately, the sound through the Delta Airline ear plugs on Flight 467 from London-Heathrow to Seattle-Tacoma is so bad that we have trouble following the plot---although, wait---now having read the flick's Wikipedia entry we're realizing we somehow did manage to follow the plot but failed to appreciate the redeeming influence of Caltech professor Kip Thorne, the only excuse for this movie ("highly accurate, the movie, scientifically, highly accurate," reviewers rave). Kip Thorne is a real physicist and knows everything about black holes and wormholes and Einstein ("gravitational waves"), and he's listed as executive producer of this sci-fi production set in the year 2060.

What is it? You normally know inside 60 seconds whether you're watching a bad movie, right? Is it because the titles stink? That's oft the case, but not now. No, its something about the Midwestern accent of Texas-born Matthew McConaughey. It's like when you drive past this sex worker and you need to look no further, there's one layer of makeup too many. There has been one script conference too many for this movie, and Christopher Nolan, the director knows, knows deep inside...

Apr 2, 2015

Seattle (1)



And in between

Yes, we're swapping houses with a family in Seattle, WA, for a month.

Mar 12, 2015

The view for a few days

We are renting the house for a few days, staying with friends in the meantime. This is the view (we're on the other side of the Esterel park).