2001.01 =>

[DECEMBER 2000.]

wilson

So we went to see the second Tom Hanks/Robert Zemeckis movie last night. Whaddya know, it was really good. Without giving too much away, let me say that this movie characterizes a volleyball better than most contemporary films can characterize any of their walking talking plastic people who pass for "actors."

Though it was an odd experience, visiting Reno's new downtown cinema. It was built last year as part of the City Council's plan to "revitalize downtown," which plan also necessitated detonating the Mapes Hotel. The problem with building a downtown theater alongside the river, ostensibly in order to take advantage of the river's natural beauty, is that nobody sees the river's natural beauty because they're all sitting inside, in the dark, watching Dude, Where's My Car? As a result, nobody goes. Less than 10 percent of the seats in our theater were occupied last night, and this is for the film that's currently No.1 at the box office. Most of the city councilpersons who approved this project have since been voted out of office, but still.

The inevitable pre-film movie trivia has also become painful. Examples:

-Classic moments: The Grinch's heart grew three sizes.
-Great formulas: True story + woman lawyer + environmental case = ?
-Flashback: Singing in the Rain [was a movie].

Bjork and Yorke together on the Dancer in the Dark album.

CNN reports on martinis but only gets it half right. Vodka martinis taste like vermouth gone bad. In related news, a cool link sent by Happycat a while ago: crystal photomicrography of popular cocktails.

This is probably the last log entry of 2000, as tomorrow I leave for a cabin in a remote, snowy portion of Idaho and won't be back until 31 December. Look for more metameat in the new year, and enjoy your actual, anal-astronomer-certified millenium.

 

medium coeli

Received for Christmas: sundry books and compact discs, mostly pre-specified by myself on an Amazon wish list. Sample items include The Girl With Curious Hair (David Foster Wallace), Bitches Brew (Miles Davis), El amor en los tiempos del cólera (Gabriel García Marquez). What it lacked in surprise, it made up in satisfaction. Also a robe and slippers, which are in attractive earth tones and will allow me to lounge around in the evenings with a glass of Benedictine and say to myself, "Yes, I exemplify the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie."

My mother got a lot of astrology stuff, which prompted me to cast and research my chart. Everything's really crammed into the fifth and sixth houses, and the abundance of square aspects suggests that I have loads of karma to work out. That unaspected Uranus is just itching for trouble, and the square between the Sun and Neptune is, according to my mom's book:

...a treacherous aspect, subtly weakening the will... A certain nebulous and impractical idealism attaches to your emotional and thought processes. You are likely to give yourself up to dreams and emotions of a hypnotic and dangerous quality.

I suppose that counteracts the load of stuff in Virgo, which sign has never felt like a terribly good fit.

Observed during Christmas dinner at my sister's boyfriend's house: a ginger and orange tabby named Cuddles that enjoys being spanked. People sat it on their laps and repeatedly whacked it on the flank, and it would purr in pleasure and cry when the spanking stopped.

British sleaze of the first order.

Somebody claims that Dr. Seuss was known as a practitioner of bondage and sadomasochism, but I can't find anything about it. Anyone else heard this?

 

i slept through the solar eclipse

The big Christmas party was last night with my mother's family, which is the side I take after. Red wine and Scrabble all night. At some point people discovered this very site and then I had to sit around, bashful, while all my relatives repeatedly listened to "Elf on My Shelf."

How the Yinch Stole Christmas, "yinch" being an acronym for "Young Intellectual Naysaying Creepy Hipster."

It could be his anger, it grew out of fear,
It could be he hadn't worked out in a year.
It could be his fear, it grew out of guilt,
It could be his body was taxed to the hilt
Because he drank only strong coffee and wine
and chainsmoked Marlboros (the non-filtered kind!)
It could be all the Russian authors he read
Dostoevsky, Chekov - all of them, dead!

Not like anyone we know, of course. Eventually the Yinch finds love and Tex-Mex at the mall, and is redeemed.

Last night's dream: I discover the website of a hacker collective who have been sending each other messages making fun of my HTML because I still do the tags in all caps.

Merry Christmas, all.

 

the oxford book of english verse

So last night we went to see the other Phantom of the Opera. My family bought the tickets under the assumption that it was the show by Andrew Lloyd Webber, whom I dislike, but this show was worse. I admit that I'm biased because musicals are incompatible with my blood type, and the first act really wasn't too bad, but after intermission the show just took a nosedive. Problems included:

-The phantom was given "realistic psychological characterization," meaning that he spouts inane one-liners and exchanges banter with this old guy who periodically comes downstairs and addresses him as "Eric." Since the actor was kind of doofy anyway, this makes for a very non-threatening phantom.

-One of the songs is an ill-conceived musical setting of William Blake's "The Little Black Boy" which is taken out of context without explanation, so that when the phantom sings

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O, my soul is white!

we're supposed to take it like metaphorically.

-Toward the end of the show, in a move that surprises no one, the old guy turns out to be Eric's father. He left his son down in the catacombs because the mother, who wasn't the old guy's wife but some other singer, ran away when she was discovered the old guy was married and lived in the catacombs for a while until one day in the marketplace where she bought herbs from a Gypsy woman and drank them, causing the old guy (who at this point was still a young guy) to shout "Noooo!" and follow her down to the catacombs, where she eventually gave birth to a disfigured child, who might have been disfigured because of the herbs, but this is uncertain because it's never made clear if the herbs were supposed to be for an abortion or painkillers or what, and there's a lot of praying to the Virgin Mary but it doesn't do much good because mother and son keep living in the catacombs until the son is eight or so, at which point the mother dies and the son just sort of carries on down there and the old guy periodically comes down the stairs to visit. Or something like that; this was all explained in a confused flashback sequence.

-The father/son recognition scene results in the most excruciating of many excruciating songs. Soon afterward, for no apparent reason, the phantom climbs a rope, swings around and gets shot.

Victor Borge (1909-2000).

How to avoid a hangover.

 

the biggest little christmas

Yesterday's drive across the Sierra Nevada made me feel about 12. We played car games and at some point my sister came up with a song:

Macho, macho me
I want you to be macho like me

It's the stupidest song ever and it will not leave your head. In other news, I was introduced yesterday to a sinister new purveyor of pork in the form of HoneyBaked Ham®. My mother had called their 800 number and ordered a ham from a computer via the touchtone phone. The computer gave the ham a confirmation number, as if it were an airline ticket. We retrieved the ham at the HoneyBaked outlet itself, which was a medium-sized emporium with a tiled floor and expensive-looking counters, decked out with soothing lights and glossy photos of hams in attractive settings, playing world music versions of Christmas carols through the ceiling. In all ways it screamed "yuppie chain." Basically, it's Starbucks for ham.

On an impulse, I picked up Salon's Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors while I was supposed to be buying presents for other people. I'm amused by what they say about Ethan:

In the 1980s, when hip, young writers proclaimed themselves avatars of the drug-propelled, angst-ridden, media-savvy moment, Ethan Canin was the old geezer of his generation, and proud of it.

But mostly, the book reminds me how little I've actually read. There are times when I resent being 22.

Politicians and their moms. This article is entertaining largely because it refers to Lyndon Johnson as a "great flapping bird of ill omen."

 

you are a target market

This is sort of a quick midnight update because I'll be spending the productive hours of today in a car, en route to Reno through the pass where the Donner Party starved.

Over the last two days I've watched a large amount of television for the first time in months. Today there was a special about how Carrie Fisher is manic depressive. Also, I've decided that those Jack in the Box "Holiday Ball" commercials are bloody creepy. They lurk on counters and in closets, their malevolent little spherical gazes following you as they sing:

We see you when you're sleeping
We know when you're awake
We know if you've been bad or good

Today you should go to other websites maintained by people named Paul, here and here. There is trouble afoot, so read sympathetically.

 

ramadan smackdown

Family comes to town today. More viewings of "A Christmas Carol." Thursday Thursday Thursday.

Read yesterday: Jew Boy: A Memoir by Alan Kaufman, lent me by one of Lyse's roommates. I suppose Kaufman is getting attention out here because he's a local author; among other things, he talks about astral projection in the Café International on Haight and Fillmore, three blocks from my current location. Most of Jew Boy, though, is about growing up fat and unpopular with a dysfunctional family in New York. If the book is to be believed, Kaufman's main activities as a child were masturbation and fistfights. Think Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye, only with a lot of self-consciousness about being a Jew, and with Bukowski's gruffness replaced by a melodramatic and yet monotonous prose style. There's a life-wrenching epiphany every four pages. Despite that, there are some genuinely affecting moments, such as Kaufman's description of first identification with literary heroes:

As Ernest Hemingway I had a head-bandaged battle wound; I had a pretty English nurse for a girlfriend; I wrote little stories that were admired in Paris, city of my mother's birth, betrayal, and expulsion; I drank a lot of wine - wine stained all my clothes, all my experiences, all my memories; I wore a beret and a World War I uniform; and I boxed. That would impress my father, the would-be boxer. I conquered literary Paris for my mother. My parents would have loved Ernest Hemingway.

One of Jew Boy's reviewers on Amazon proclaims that "Ernest Hemmingway [sic] has returned!" Sigh. Basically, it screams "first novel" though I know it's not a novel, technically. But hey, you never know.

Why penguins waddle.

The man himself wrote to point out that the final "Charlie Brown Christmas" reported yesterday is in fact only the final CBS broadcast. It's heading to ABC now. Take note.

Condoleezza Rice has an oil tanker named after her. That's just odd.

 

champagne and legos

Pop goes the tech market. They're dropping like flies in this strange pre-Christmas environment, including Lyse's startup, which in preparation for nonexistence laid off all its employees, including her, yesterday. She raided the company supply cabinets and brought home some champagne and Legos. I'm not sure what we're going to do with them but it sounds like a recipe for an evening.

This isn't really a career crisis since it just means Lyse will switch full-time to her other job, where she is now. Meanwhile I find myself once more updating the site alone in a room, the only difference being that I'm no longer in Iowa but in California, where there is no power and Christmas spirit is iffy.

Dear God. Not only is Senator Orrin Hatch (Troglodyte-Utah) a writer and performer of Christian-country music (including a song "for his dear friend Muhammad Ali"), he's now an actor as well. Hatch, long a critic of violence in Hollywood, has a cameo in the new Michael Douglas/Catherine Zeta-Jones movie "Traffic," which is rated R for all the obvious reasons.

"I don't see how they could have made it without violence and still accurately portray the drug culture, and how degrading it is," Hatch told the Deseret News. "For adults who really need to know what kids are getting into, it's OK" to see the movie.

The irony here is too withering even to comment upon. Also, there's now Orrin Hatch for kids.

Off-the-scale ratings for the final broadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas." Last year I lived down the hall from the fellow who, as a boy, provided the voices for Marcy and Peppermint Patty. He was the only other person in the dorm as small and scrawny as I (cf. meat mail). People wanted to get us mud wrestling, but it never happened.

 

parsley sage rosemary & thyme

These are some of the fun aspects of living in someone else's house: I don't know where the coffee filters are. I was forced to recourse to a paper towel, so my coffee sort of tastes absorbent and hygienic now. I think I can detect the subtle flavor of the green dye that went into imprinting the towel with the attractive monochrome outlines of common herbs. I also found a mug in the cupboard that certifies me an HONORARY TEXAN. According to the mug, I am now entitled to have a BOOT-STOMPIN' GOOD TIME.

Via geegaw: jury duty with Ralph Nader.

Ecological imperialism! The German ambassador to Macedonia axes a protected tree.

And Salon names their top books from 2000, none of which I've read because I'm too poor to buy hardcover. There's not much happening today.

 

i do believe in fairies

Third beautiful San Francisco day in a row. Someone or something is trying to protect me from the clutches of the seasonal-affective. My plan is to spend most of the day at Café Abir, a lovely haunt at the corner of Fulton and Divisadero where I installed myself every day last summer, while everyone else went to their jobs, writing a novel which I planned to workshop once I got to Iowa. This was before I found out about Iowa's deep-running slant toward the short story form (apparently, we're not yet mature enough to write longer pieces), but seeing as I did write a complete draft this summer it will be unleashed upon the world one day.

People need to stop talking about the forthcoming recession, or they're going to will it into existence. My addled understanding of economics envisions a sort of Heisenbergian observer-dependent system, where nothing bad will happen until everybody starts to anticipate that something bad will happen, and then the panic over something bad happening causes something bad to happen. It's the same principle by which a fairy bites it every time you say "I don't believe in fairies."

Joke overheard from Lyse yesterday:

Cheney to Bush: George, it looks like the country's headed for a recession.

Bush: If the weather's nice, can we have recession outside?

The future 43rd President of the Republic met with Alan Greenspan today. "We had a very strong discussion," says Bush, "about my confidence in his abilities." One would think that any questions in confidence would be going the other way, but hey, who knows.

The apotheosis of Quayle.

Aliens! Ganymede likely has a subterranean ocean and a Mars meteorite suggests magnetic bacteria. As long as the scientists investigating it are smarter than the scientists in Red Planet. Among the many inexcusable parts of that movie is their referring to the alien bugs (which are arthropods) as "nematodes" (which are worms). Frankly, I would have rather seen worms. Then the giant Martian Space Canary could have descended and eaten them, after which the astronauts could kill and eat the Space Canary, and the universe would once again be safe for democracy.

 

tiny tim who did not die

The airplane ride was surprisingly uneventful. The crossword contanied the words "angst" and "Camus," which pleased me, and the inflight movie was The Replacements. Without the headphones, all I could glean was that Keanu Reeves is some doofy guy who shouldn't be a quarterback but for some reason is a quarterback because he can throw the ball really far, but he also gets knocked down a lot by burly guys who make animalistic faces while lying atop him. Keanu presumably says witty things back, but it's hard to tell. There's also a cheerleader love object who wears low-cut tops. A middle-aged man in the row behind me had actually bought headphones to listen to the movie, and every time something funny happened (usually when Keanu got knocked down) he emitted this laugh that was more like a bark. The first time I thought he'd noticed something dangerous like an engine going out and was alerting his fellow passengers.

Anyway, now I'm in San Francisco at Chez Lyse, where Stanislavksi tracts lie next to back issues of Cosmopolitan and a cat named Ezekiel attacks your shoelaces. Last night we went to see the American Conservatory Theater's production of "A Christmas Carol," assistant directed by my hostess. Despite my snotty aversion to Dickens, I enjoyed it; it mostly just played on my white liberal guilt, but then I bought the life-affirming stuff at the end. I know, I'm a sap. There's a clever bit of staging where the set starts out encrusted in Victoriana which gradually falls away, so by the end there's nothing but some girders and a chair. Scrooge wakes up a changed man on the bare set and learns to laugh by knocking the chair around the empty space downstage. Good stuff.

We have to go buy groceries now. Side note: scientists have decoded the genome of a dinky cabbage, which can't help but seem anticlimactic after the Human Genome Project. Unofficial plant cloning is already standard, as attested to by the five philodendrons with identical genomes in the pot beside me.

 

airplanes and wind

KERSCHEN/PAUL      ADT     29Sep00 03:23pm

16Dec00   08:10am   Saturday
Air Trans World Airlines   Flight# 712   Class:K Seat:23C
     From: Cedar Rapids IA, USA 16Dec00 08:10am Saturday
     To: St Louis Intl MO, USA 16Dec00 09:09am Saturday
     Meal: None Equip: Mcdonnell Douglas Md Status: Confirmed
 
     ARR-MAIN TERMINAL
 
16Dec00   11:30am   Saturday
Air Trans World Airlines   Flight# 177   Class:K Seat:22C
     From: St Louis Intl MO, USA 16Dec00 11:30am Saturday
     To: San Francisco CA, USA 16Dec00 01:54pm Saturday
     Meal: Snack/brunch Equip: Boeing 757 Status: Confirmed
 
     DEP-MAIN TERMINAL          ARR-SOUTH TERMINAL

In other news, Sam from explodingdog has a new site: 1000 robots. Everyone should visit it. Also, an enterprising GeoCities customer in Japan has used Legos to recreate pivotal scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

More after planes, assuming the airports are still functioning in the Arctic storm.

 

evite el noid

This morning I had to take time out from packing, paying the electricity bill and so on to go take a French final in a smelly auditorium. Remind me never again to take an undergraduate course in the interest of "broadening myself." Je péte le feu.

I learned all kinds of interesting things yesterday, but I can't share because they're all from browsing Christmas presents that I bought for other people. Sorry, I know that's terrible.

Looking ahead to San Francisco, everyone's now proclaiming the dotcom bust, which doesn't seem like a bust so much as the sort of renormalization that any market has to go through periodically. I suppose it's a bust if you're 25 and had a something-for-nothing mentality which led you to believe that you'd make millions with some dumb site like eVite. I have a bottle opener with their logo from a career fair last year. I doubt anyone ever pointed out to them that in Spanish, evite is the command form of "avoid."

This is sort of a poignant article on the ripple effect of folding startups: a vastly decreased demand for foosball tables. Though it isn't doing much for the current absurd rent conditions in SF; it seems like the city's whole cultural scene is packing up and moving to Modesto. Artists for Earthquakes have a reasonable solution.

Meanwhile, others in the Bay Area have found new ways to stay entertained, such as taking Entertainment Weekly way too seriously.

I don't know if Jessica Shaw's "Shaw Report" is supposed to be humorous or not but I have to say that it makes me ill every time I read it. Where does she get this information? Half of this stuff doesn't make sense and the other half is just plain stupid. This week, according to her, "Boggle" is in.

Who cares? I don't need someone telling me what board games to play. And how is that related to Russell Crowe? I think that a weekly photo of Britney Spears with a new hairdo would be a better use of the space than her column.

Lauren F.
Berkeley, CA

So there.

 

there are two colors in my head

45 hours to liftoff from the Eastern Iowa Airport. My next month will be sort of a grand tour of the western U.S.: San Francisco to Reno to Boise to San Francisco to Tucson to San Francisco back to Iowa. I'll see if I can't keep some sort of peppy travelogue going here.

I take it as a sign of increasing stability that I'm finally able to listen to Radiohead's monumentally dark Kid A alone at night without it giving me the shakes. To commemorate, some Rh stuff:

The new album with more tracks from the Kid A sessions now has a title (Amnesiac) and a vague release date (April-ish). The best part of the article is that their U.S. publicity firm is called Nasty Little Man.

A two-month-old interview which is mainly valuable for chronicling Beavis and Butthead's 1993 response to "Creep":

By the end, they've observed that the singer seems a little low on self-esteem and have helpfully struck up a chant of 'I am somebody, I am somebody'.

Nothing-to-fear.org was launched last year on Thom Yorke's birthday and is an activist site concerned with G7, the World Bank, the IMF and suchlike sustainers of the insupportably massive Third World debt.

And on a vaguely related note, this year's top 28 British curse words (via robotwisdom). I have no idea what no. 10 is - an ethnic slur, I guess?

Huh, there's an Indymedia center in Tucson. Who knew? Looks like it's mostly concerned with NAFTA and environmental stuff.

When Blair Witch came out, everyone was talking about how it would change the face of cinema. Then everyone forgot about it, as no similar films were immediately emerging (the piece of doggy doo known as Book of Shadows bearing no artistic relation to the first film or anything else). Now we may finally be seeing one of the first successors in the assassination of Bill Gates. Don't tell me it doesn't look intriguing.

 

the rhamphorynchi of yesteryear

The Dublin punch was a success. So was the bar-hopping afterward, though I don't remember much of it. A significant fraction of the Workshop is into snuff, of all things: dear me. Now I'm hung over and it's snowing again. After spending yesterday trudging around in search of a snow shovel, then shoveling my Honda out of a snowbank, then shoveling and pushing someone else's van out of a much bigger snowbank, I'm having doubts about the vaunted magic of wintertime. Unless frostbite is magical. If I make it back to Arizona alive, I estimate I'll have one ear and seven fingers remaining. I have my coffee and Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire on the stereo and I am not leaving the house.

This morning the university sent me their inclement weather policy. Excerpt:

II-22.1 GENERAL POLICY.

Whenever possible, the University continues to function during inclement weather. In particular, the following University departments remain open and in operation: 1) Residence Services; 2) Facilities Services Group; and 3) Public Safety. The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Iowa Dental Clinic also continue to function during inclement weather.

I like that they keep the dental clinic open. That shows moxie, and verve.

Happycat sends me a paranormal link with Civil War soldiers killing a pterodactyl. The photo is pretty suspect, but Happycat points out that all of the photography details are accurate and carefully researched; and I can confirm the same for the paleontology, having spent a childhood immersed in books on Mesozoic life. The words Rhamphorynchus and Pteranodon actually make me nostalgic.

I guess we all saw Gore's expected concession coming. Now that a constitutional crisis no longer looks imminent, we can get back to the important things like the Election 2000-themed jewelry that enjewel.com is hawking for the holidays. The other night I finished George Saunders' CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: my God. I'm all for black comedy, but these stories are more or less an encyclopedia of my worst fears about whither this country is headed. Post-apocalyptic scenarios are usually botched so badly that one forgets how unnerving they can be when done well. There's a glimmer of light at the end. Just a bit.

 

no, i da snowman!

Netscape 4.x folks: I hope the new font/layout is a little easier on the eyes? I casually dislike Verdana but you know, desperate times.

Woo, our storm gets news coverage.

Re: yesterday's Jack Frost comments, Happycat points out Roger Ebert's corrosive review of the Michael Keaton picture.

So the last workshop of the semester is tonight: dinner at Ethan's house. I'm on beverage duty, so obviously it's my job to get Ethan drunk. The plan was to make something called "Dublin punch" which unfortunately only exists in a bar book in Happycat's closet, which is currently inaccessible because he's renovating his room. If memory serves, it contains Irish whisky, water, sugar, honey, lemon juice, cloves and nutmeg, but proportions are anyone's guess, so it's going to be dicey. Well, fuckups are the mothers of invention.

Workshop stories this semester have seen an amazing amount of carnage visited upon animals. I've done a body count and the total number of dead animals this semester is 75 plus or minus a few, depending on how many dead raccoons it takes to fill four sacks. There's been a dog on fire, a cat eaten by a jealous electric pet disturbingly like Sony's AIBO, and a pig overdosing on methamphetamines. I personally have killed no animals and am contemplating some sort of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Literature (PETAL) movement.

Gail Sheehy's October profile of Dubya is starting to look disturbingly prescient. Excerpt:

Even if he loses, his friends say, he doesn't lose. He'll just change the score, or change the rules, or make his opponent play until he can beat him. "If you were playing basketball and you were playing to 11 and he was down, you went to 15," says Hannah, now a Dallas insurance executive. "If he wasn't winning, he would quit. He would just walk off.... It's what we called Bush Effort: If I don't like the game, I take my ball and go home. Very few people can get away with that." So why could George get away with it? "He was just too easygoing and too pleasant."

Another fast friend, Roland Betts, acknowledges that it is the same in tennis. In November 1992, Bush and Betts were in Santa Fe to host a dinner party, but they had just enough time for one set of doubles. The former Yale classmates were on opposite sides of the net. "There was only one problem-my side won the first set," recalls Betts. "O.K., then we're going two out of three," Bush decreed. Bush's side takes the next set. But Betts's side is winning the third set when it starts to snow. Hard, fat flakes. The catering truck pulls up. But Bush won't let anybody quit. "He's pissed. George runs his mouth constantly," says Betts indulgently. "He's making fun of your last shot, mocking you, needling you, goading you-he never shuts up!" They continued to play tennis through a driving snowstorm.

The School of the Americas - the infamous Ft. Benning, Georgia institute which has been training Latin American military officers (including several future dictators) in counter-insurgency techniques since 1946 - reopens 17 January 2001 under the new name "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation." A January protest vigil is in the works as response.

And with that, I have to trudge off and buy a snow shovel.

 

in xanadu did kubla kraus

Ye gods! More snow! We're supposed to get half a foot by tonight, and those crystalline frost tendrils are on the windowpane. My only real prior experience with these is the movie Jack Frost - the horror flick with the inimitable snowman-in-the-shower scene, not the unfortunate reincarnation of Michael Keaton as a snowman or the '70s cartoon with a knight named Kubla Kraus.

Supermarkets confuse me. Last night I wandered around the HyVee for an hour and ended up with an ice scraper, some cherries, and a bottle of creme de cacao. Not that any of these are bad things to have; I just wanted more payoff somehow.

Thomas Edison conquers the Martians. A few days ago one of the UI English faculty dropped by James McPherson's seminar to talk about science fiction. We listened to Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast, after which he passed out some copies of a sequel to the H.G. Wells novel, written by the astronomer Garrett P. Serviss and serialized in The New York Evening Journal in 1898. The opening chapter is summarized as follows:

The Martians who had invaded and laid waste a large part of the earth were nearly all killed by pestilence, and the survivors escaped by projecting their travelling car toward Mars by means of a terrible explosion, which destroyed many thousands of human lives. All the nations were sunk in despair when the astronomers announced that there were indications on Mars of preparations for a new attack. Suddenly new hope was born, based on the fact that Thomas A. Edison had invented an electrical ship which could navigate space and wonderful engines capable of overmatching the destructive machines employed by the Martians. An experimental trip to the moon demonstrated the practicability of Edison's flying ship. When this news was flashed all over the world the cry arose: "Let us not wait to be destroyed a second time; let us beard the lion in his den and destroy the Martians before they can come again and finish us."

Which is exactly what happens; Edison's "disintegrator" ends up completely exterminating the Martians - who incidentally look nothing like Wells' creepy tentacled flesh-blobs, but rather have become short men with big heads who fly around the surface of Mars in giant airships. Once again, manifest destiny.

Which leads us to naked pictures of Walt Whitman, maybe.

 

henri from toulouse

Last night I dreamt about my Ideal Life, which was apparently identical to my current life except I had two cats and DSL. Right now connection-slowing, corporate-propaganda-blasting NetZero is my necessary evil until the university tech people get back to me about why my dialup password broke. This is the first year the University of Iowa has even offered dialup access: a far cry from school in Silicon Valley. I realize this is the price I pay to not see those execrable ETrade billboards everywhere. "You don't have a trust fund, and no one rich wants to marry you."

My personal victory for the week is finally locating a copy of Mark Levine's Debt at the humble Iowa City public library. I've been looking for it off and on for the last three years, ever since I came across "Work Song" in Best American Poetry 1991. Since Levine teaches here, you wouldn't think the book would be that hard to find, but the search felt like a Pynchon novel: the university library's copy was mysteriously missing, and the Workshop library's copy was checked out and never returned in 1993 by someone who signed in as "Charles Darwin." The people who run the library were of the opinion that it was somehow Jorie Graham's fault.

At any rate I have the book now, and it is just as good as I'd heard. It hangs together thematically surprisingly well, but who even needs theme when you can do stanzas like these? From the title poem:

I don't ask where I got these debts.
Some bad breaks here and there.
A glut in the pulp market. A poisoned horse.
Christmas, the recession, something or other
in the third world. I start taking
bets against myself.
 
The phone rings and they take it away.
They must put something in the water
to make it taste so good, like coconut.
Beneath my door they push their slips of paper
covered with Latin. They want to confuse me.
The sidewalks scrawled in Aramaic.

I admit it: I care less about the election each day. As far as who "really" won, both candidates are way within the margin of error, and whoever takes office is going to have such a shitty Presidency that it may end up more a curse than anything else. Gore has an alternative job possibility, at least.

Cow in Barbara Hendricks's pool. Something sinister is afoot.

And Zen for prisoners.

tangram

Animal news part 1: I had no idea baboons were this smart or this vindictive.

Animal news part 2: Mad cow disease on the Continent. It's horrific stuff, the most repellent part being that the disease likely generates from dead cows being fed to live cows. I really would go vegetarian, but for the fact that I can barely maintain a weight of 120 lbs. even with red meat.

Six Mirror Shards on my Kitchen Wall

1.
I reflect a head. These eyes,
they know things. The mouth
was meant for speaking: but watch
it feed.

2.
Too high for an image. A wisp
of hair against white wall: paper white,
headstone white, the white of absence.
My edges are glass. Touch them
and bleed over this space.

3.
Another eye, or is it
the same? These shards are too small
to reflect in the same direction.
Another I. It must be the same.
These are games for children, or professors.

4.
Formless gut, a sweater covers me.
Someone said there were bones beneath it.
Someone saw a heart. These fairy tales
are dangerous. The police
have been informed.

5.
Hands and elbows, darting and darting.
Watch out, idiots, don't you see
the boundary? That glass
will slice you in half, man. This isn't
a fucking bumper car ride.

6.
I am the smallest: the shape of a dagger
pointing upward from the belt.
What I reflect, I hone to a point. And I
reflect you there in the kitchen, brushing
your pink tongue over the evening meal.
I know what you really hunger for.
I will split the other mirrors open.
What will you do, my love, when the wolves who raised you
come home to collect their due?

 

my delicacy would not permit it

Weather adjustment continues. Last night I had dreams about warmth. Nothing specific, I was just in a dry place and then the sun came up and everything turned red and I was surrounded on all sides by absolute warmth. Well, at least the sun's out today.

Kofi Annan goes to Eritrea with a peace agreement about to be signed. He's been calling the war "unnecessary" (what wars are necessary?) though I remember that people were really unhappy with him while the war was going on. He was our graduation speaker in June (topic: global warming) and was interrupted by protesters chanting in a cordoned-off section of the football stadium. He said something to the effect of "I have heard you. Now will you hear me?" which was pretty diplomatic, I think. And his speech was mercifully brief, because it was damned hot in that stadium with all those black robes. Plus I was wearing my LIT CRIT FOR FOOD sandwich board.

High school girls come into their own. This Wiccan casts hexes and these goths eat the Bible.

David Foster Wallace publishes in McSweeney's under a pseudonym? The theory seems plausible enough, and since the story naturally isn't online I'll probably have to schlep over to Prairie Lights and see if they still carry McSweeney's in print. They did last summer. Gar, I'm such a groupie. And one day I'll get around to reading that Dave Eggers book, though being prejudicial I give 3:1 odds that I'll dislike it.

Nation's biggest LSD lab found in an abandoned missile silo.

Did Clinton really refer to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy as "dumb-ass"? Probably not. But considering he's out of there in a month, I think it's high time he started publicly cursing. I bet there are all kinds of great Arkansas epithets that he uses in private to refer to Trent Lott.

Look at that, the clouds are dissipating. Time to run out and play (read: pick up Xeroxes from the Workshop building).  

browser arousal

OK, so thanks to everyone who pointed out yesterday that the durn site was illegible in Netscape 4.x. Special thanks to those who took a charitable view and thought I was doing something avant-garde with the colors, but no, I just fucked up. "You develop in Netscape and test in IE," says Lyse. "Everyone knows that." This is what I get having a professional web developer for a girlfriend. It should be fixed now, but Slashdot's goons are probably still en route to break my kneecaps. Forget Barthes; cross-browser compatibility is the best argument yet for relativism of discourse. La mort du web developer.

Via robotwisdom: a semi-scholarly article pointing out parallels between Ulysses and American Beauty. It's convincing until they admit that American Beauty screenwriter Alan Ball has never read Ulysses. Without resorting to Jung (as they do), it seems plausible to say that since both Lester Burnham and Leopold Bloom are meant to be sympathetic everymen, it's only natural that each has some unusual but harmless prurience in his basically decent character. Though I loved their explanation for why these parallels have hitherto gone unnoticed:

Possibly because the book, which is the most universally owned novel by the reading public and thus, arguably, one of the most--if not the most--popular book in Western culture, is also the least read. As Joyce scholar Tom O'Shea pointed out at a recent James Joyce Conference, ownership of Ulysses is part of a syndrome which includes the buyer's pledge to read the book "eventually," "some day," "honest," followed by one or two abandoned attempts. The unread Ulysses on the shelf functions as an icon, a status symbol, and a future project.

Genetically modified cancer-fighting chickens.

Vaca points out the Pornolizer, which will foul the URL of your choice not only in English, but in any of the Dano-Norweigan languages. According to their stats, microsoft.com is the most popular entry.

British people will amuse me 'til I die.

first snow in alsace

Tap. Tap.

Is this thing on?

So launch day is, coincidentally, the first day Iowa City has had any snowfall to speak of. Woke up, opened the window, and there it was: white dusting over the ground, specks drifting downward like ticker tape. It's eerie. I'm from Arizona, therefore unfamiliar with the stuff, therefore inclined to believe it's caused by ice demons in the clouds.

It felt epic, so while I was making coffee I put on Rachmaninoff's melodramatic First Symphony. At the end of the score Rachmaninoff wrote "Vengeance is mine; I will repay!" Apparently nobody knows if he was referencing the epigraph to Anna Karenina or if he was just mad. The Russian composer César Cui reviewed the piece as follows:

If there were a conservatory in Hell and if one of the students were given an assignment to compose a programmatic symphony on the theme of "The Seven Plagues of Egypt" and composed a symphony like Rachmaninoff's he would have fulfilled the assignment brilliantly and thrilled the inhabitants of Hell.

Cui was one of the group of Russian nationalist composers known as "The Five." The other four were Balakirev, Borodin, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Their work is still performed today. Cui's isn't.

Salon names likely members for Dubya's Cabinet. They predict Condoleezza Rice, former provost of the alma mater, back in the saddle as National Security advisor. Between this and the Hoover Institute, Stanford's turning into a regular incubator for right-wing Pod People. Though honestly, about all I remember of Condi is a surreal email announcement from last year:

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000 09:54:21 -0800 (PST)
From: Ruxandra Mihaela Dorobantu
To: maison_francaise@lists.Stanford.EDU
Subject: Condi Rice at La Maison
 
Amis,  
I invited Condoleezza Rice to come speak she is former National Security advisor to George Bush and former Provost of Stanford. The talk will be mainly directed at Sophomores, but others might find it of interest too. She will talk about what motivated her career choice, things that are of importance to her (if any of you have been to the What Matters to Me and Why series, this will be kinda like that) and probably some foreign policy issues. She will play the piano at the end.  
-++**==--++**==--++**==--++**==--++**==--++**==--++**==
Ce message vous a ete envoye via la mailing list de la Maison Francaise.

It's still snowing. I believe this will require me to make some sort of adjustment to my car.

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