<= 2001.10

2001.12 =>

[NOVEMBER 2001.]

all things must pass

George was always my favorite. The inner light.

I have been asked to reconsider my months-ago dismissal of Lawrence Krauser's Lemon, which I haven't read, on the basis of some p o s i t i v e p r e s s that it has garnered. Readers, draw yer own conclusions.

Cheered by a phone conversation last night. 1) I need to calm down already; many many years remain, and since I don't really plan on having children, I have an arbitrarily long time to explore various corners of art & life. 2) There is a new possible living situation for next year which, while still in the thought-experiment stage, could work out well.

 

new math

John Ashcroft is not a sane man.

So today: laundry. Also get a story in working order for the Atlantic student contest, and another story for Tuesday's workshop. Though I'm not holding my breath for either—I'm not going to win the former, and one can never predict what might happen in the latter. I think that by now I've extracted all possible usefulness from it. I get the meaningsenseclarity thing already, and the endless variations on that theme are starting to feel like my experience in fifth-grade math: one more time, all right, this is the numerator, this is the denominator.

Via Owl Farm: civil disobedience takes on militant feminism in the person of El Dildo Bandito, who stole 21 ceramic penises from a propagandistic art exhibit in the Boulder public library. And why must we turn to Fox for coverage of this?

Abdul Wakil is one of the saddest men I have ever seen.

 

milk and honey

Here, a link to send mail to the Senate opposing the perfectly gratuitous post-disaster corporate tax cuts.

Birthdays: yesterday my Aunt Ginny with a wizard's soul, today Miss Ninaw Geegaw, whose site is down for the nonce. Today is also the birthday of William Blake (would be 244), Friedrich Engels (would be 181), and Claude Levi-Strauss (would be 93).

Justin (whose take on Iowa City is now up at Owl Farm), plus an anonymous comment-boxer, send in the news of an atmosphere on an extrasolar planet. It's like Jupiter but with a surface temperature of about 1400 Kelvin, though this hardly precludes some type of life:

Suppose it is decided arbitrarily (although the decision will not critically affect the conclusion) that for life to exist at any time the fraction of bonds broken by random thermal motions must be no larger than 0.0001 percent. It then turns out that any hypothetical life where the structural bonds are based upon van der Waals forces can only exist where the temperature is below 40 K, for hydrogen bonds below about 400 K, for bonds of 2 eV below 2,000 K, and for bonds of 5 eV below 5,000 K. Now, 2,000 to 5,000 K are typical surface temperatures of stars; 400 K is somewhat above the highest surface temperatures found on Earth; and 40 K is about the cloud-top temperature of distant Neptune. Thus, over the entire range of temperatures, from cold stars to cold planets, there seem to exist chemical bonds of appropriate structural stability for life, and it would appear premature to exclude the possibility of life on any planet on grounds of temperature alone.
 
     —old reliable Encyclopedia Britannica

Suppose that high-temperature organisms metabolized at a much faster rate, their subjective perceptions of time vastly extended. Organisms could live entire lives in what we perceive as seconds. They might perceive us as slow-moving geologic formations or something. I can't think of any physical reason why it would have to be otherwise.

 

learn to love it

All right men, we're bouncing back here. We're going to keep writing and live peacefully and mindfully and introduce radical self-improvement measures, like breakfast. Also there will be some modifications and improvements to this site in time for its birthday next week.

The Times reviews a Jeanette Winterson radio play that sounds perfectly wretched, but in passing it (the review, not the play) makes the salient point that it takes years for a culture to integrate traumatic events, and a lot of these instant literary reactions to 9/11 are going to seem a bit silly down the road. And J.K. Rowling is on her way to becoming the world's first billionaire author. And I am just trying to stay above the waterline.

Youth has an end: the end is here. It will never be. You know that well. What then? Write it, damn you, write it! What else are you good for?

      —James Joyce, Giacomo Joyce

 

darkness at noon

Lately it has been so overcast that the day no longer appears as day. There is the gray time when we are awake, then the black time when we are awake, and then we sleep until the gray time. I bought a 150-watt lamp, but it still isn't much of a sun.

Farsi phrases they're teaching the Marines: "We are Americans," "We are here to help," and "Lie down on your stomach."

Er, so like all the best lies, those "Bat Boy Joins Up!" announcements carried a grain of truth. Some are talking about reviving the Army's WWII attempts to attach bombs to bats. Only they didn't go so well.

It sounded good on paper. But a series of tests with dummy bombs proved disastrous. Many bats never woke up. Others bolted for freedom. In another test, some bats carrying live incendiaries got loose and set fire to a hangar and a general's car.

 

scattergories

VU: Okay, think of something you eat that has "m" in the exact center.
JULIA: Hummus.
FRED: No, the exact center of that is the space between the two m's.
PAUL: I think that counts double, then.
VU: Tumor.
JULIA: Ew! You don't eat tumors!
PAUL: Human.
VU: There you go.
JULIA: Stop it!
 
[Muffled sounds of discontent from the people playing euchre at the other table.]
 
PAUL: Okay, lemon.
FRED: Lemon, that's good.
JULIA: Stromboli.
PAUL: Calamari. Or it would have to be calamaris to work.
JULIA: Calamari is plural already, though.
PAUL: Fuck.
VU: Okay, let's do something else.

 

upright bass

My dream-self confused Frank Conroy with Frank Black, so we spent most of workshop hearing about what a good experience he'd had with the 4AD label. In the waking world, we went back to Vu's house and finished watching the A&E special. We are realizing that none of us would give a shit about our own stories, were we to come across them in a bookstore. For the past few days I've been ostensibly cleaning the apartment as a pretext to avoid writing. Either I don't know how to do it any more, or I'm coming to understand that I never did.

 

knifin' around

Had a sudden flash of insight about Approaching Zero as I was falling asleep; I think I have figured out a way to cut its length by half, which means it's about a quarter of the size I was envisioning this summer, which is finally close to a decent length for a novel. An expansive vision will kill you. And last night at Vu's we saw an A&E Biography special on the Lost Generation which a) made our lives seem boring, and b) made our writing seem pedestrian—we're still at the mimesis stage, merely imitating authors we like. I know, you'd think that by now we would have outgrown comparisons between ourselves and the modernists, but A&E has this trick of imparting dignity to everything it touches.

Ah yes, the Space Ghost episode with Thom Yorke and Bjork.

I have never before heard of Slavoj Zizek, Slovenian philosopher, but see what he says.

When I say we live in a post-political world, I refer to a wrong ideological impression. We don't really live in such a world, but the existing universe presents itself as post-political in the sense that there is some kind of a basic social pact that elementary social decisions are no longer discussed as political decisions. They are turned into simple decisions of gesture and of administration. And the remaining conflicts are mostly conflicts about different cultures. We have the present form of global capitalism plus some kind of tolerant democracy as the ultimate form of that idea. And, paradoxically, only very few are ready to question this world.

There is nothing to be said against tolerance. But when you buy this multiculturalist tolerance, you buy many other things with it. Isn't it symptomatic that multiculturalism exploded at the very historic moment when the last traces of working-class politics disappeared from political space? For many former leftists, this multiculturalism is a kind of ersatz working-class politics. We don't even know whether the working class still exists, so let's talk about exploitation of others.

Another thing that bothers me about this multiculturalism is when people ask me: 'How can you be sure that you are not a racist?' My answer is that there is only one way. If I can exchange insults, brutal jokes, dirty jokes, with a member of a different race and we both know it's not meant in a racist way. If, on the other hand, we play this politically correct game—'Oh, I respect you, how interesting your customs are'—this is inverted racism, and it is disgusting.

 

happy

From Hell is a very bad movie, and its imagery will make you queasy even as the terrible dialogue makes you titter. Although you will learn some anatomy, plus the valuable lesson that whores can't resist grapes.

The Guardian, bless its heart, is sponsoring a caption contest for this photo taken Monday:

gobble gobble

 

lull

Last night, authentic Kyrgyz dinner at Robert and Michelle's place: lamb, rice, potato/cucumber soup, Blow Pops. Vodka shots with pickle chasers. "You need an older woman," everyone tells me.

Bright and quiet and cold. All the cars outside my window are gone, presumably home to small-town Iowa, whence the sorority sisters originate. The things of my apartment sit innocuously atop one another. They are content to rest. I am an object among objects. There is a sense of waiting.

 

the fiendish plot of dr. wxrwxr-x

Grumpy Doug informs me that someone has registered killosama.com and pointed it to... er... a dating service.

my dreams, my works, must wait till after hell
 
I hold my honey and I store my bread
In little jars and cabinets of my will.
I label clearly, and each latch and lid
I bid, Be firm till I return from hell.
I am very hungry. I am incomplete.
And none can tell when I may dine again.
No man can give me any word but Wait,
The puny light. I keep eyes pointed in;
Hoping that, when the devil days of my hurt
Drag out to their last dregs and I resume
On such legs as are left me, in such heart
As I can manage, remember to go home,
My taste will not have turned insensitive
To honey and bread old purity could love.
 
         —Gwendolyn Brooks

If only I could live off cranberry juice. I don't enjoy eating at all any more. And at the risk of sounding curt, this isn't an invitation for anyone to send well-intentioned emails regarding my diet. I know. I'm doing what I can. I'm sorry.

 

hospital western

Long article on P.T. Barnum, which is ostensibly a review of the new Barnum book but talks mostly about Barnum as a springboard for postmodernism, a connection the book didn't make.

By promoting the idea of trickery as an art form, Barnum implicitly incited speculation about the authenticity of his exhibits and encouraged the acceptance of uncertainty as a condition of everyday life. Yet there was nothing solemn about this game: it was all for fun--and for Barnum's profit. Epistemological doubt could be good business. "The public," Barnum shrewdly observed, "appears disposed to be amused even when they are conscious of being deceived."

This link is via Owl Farm because yes, we have rearranged things so that Owl Farm now gets links before I do. And they are varied and copious, and you will enjoy them; and you will also enjoy recent content like Dan Pope's The Bard Crichton, and other content to appear at the top of the page soon, probably this evening. Coming up: poetry by Joe Millar; fiction by José Skinner, acclaimed author of Flight; and Justin Feinstein's essay from Talk/Art.

 

as you were

Overcast sky = no meteors.

Long and provoking article from The Prospect dissecting the East v. West division. He essentially splits the Western tradition into what he sees as its component elements—humanism, rationalism, romanticism, and the previous religious tradition—and while he's still speaking in terms of isms, at least it goes a little deeper. His point that religious fundamentalism knows no bounds is well taken, and reminds me of the Falwell/Robertson/bin Laden quiz where you try to figure out who said what. I didn't do well.

The Washington Post mentions, in an offhand way, that the CIA has been in Afghanistan for the past 18 months. I could have sworn that like a month ago, when everyone was complaining about the organization's inefficacy, there were said to be no case officers at all in the region. Hmm.

 

lizard men of xenor

So we saw the Harry Potter movie last night. Escapism, woo. It had the usual problems of film adaptations and didn't break any new ground—but still, plenty of nice moments and completely watchable at 2.5 hours, which is a credit. The child actors were all superb, my favorite being Emma Watson as Hermione. Everything she did made me laugh; I couldn't help it.

Lord of The Rings trailer: excellent. (Justin says: "With the Fellowship of the Ring, you get $20,000 and can move wherever you want.") Attack of the Clones trailer: ack. They actually had dialogue in this one and, as Vu pointed out, it looks like a Dawson's Creek episode.

Now then: The Blind Assassin. There's some deft and sneaky structure in here that I don't want to talk about because a) it ruins the surprise, and b) we've all developed this surgeon's attitude toward books where we compulsively take them apart to see what makes them tick. It's necessary in this line of work, of course, but I do miss the simplicity of reading without constantly asking: How did they do this? How can I do it? So in lieu of analysis, I've picked three favorite paragraphs.

Probably God was in the broom closet. It seemed the most likely place. He was lurking in there like some eccentric and possibly dangerous uncle, but she couldn't be certain whether he was there at any given moment because she was afraid to open the door. "God is in your heart," said the Sunday-school teacher, and that was even worse. If in the broom closet, something might have been possible, such as locking the door.

Dear Ms. X, I acknowledge your letter concerning your proposed thesis, though I can't say its title makes a great deal of sense to me. Doubtless it does to you or you would not have come up with it. I cannot give you any help. Also you do not deserve any. "Deconstruction" implies the wrecking ball, and "problematize" is not a verb.

The sacred river is alive. It flows to the lifeless ocean, because that's where all things that are alive end up. The lover is a demon-lover because he isn't there. The sunny pleasure-dome has caves of ice because that's what pleasure-domes have—after a while they become very cold, and after that they melt, and then where are you? All wet. Mount Abora was the Abyssinian maid's home, and she was singing about it because she couldn't get back to it. The ancestral voices were prophesying war because ancestral voices never shut up, and they hate to be wrong, and war is a sure thing, sooner or later.

 

ephemera

Yesterday Bush announced, "As the new moon signals the holy month of Ramadan, I extend warm greetings to Muslims throughout the United States and around the world." Really, he said that.

Speaking of astronomy, NASA has announced a huge-ass meteor shower (technical term) this Saturday night/Sunday morning; it's the Leonids, and they're expected to be at their strongest since 1966. The peak should be around 3 to 5 a.m. Central time, earlier if you're lucky enough to be living out west. Clearly this calls for a late-night expedition into the cornfields with hot buttered rum or something, after the Brave New Now show at Adagio.

From Justin, here's the squabble over Romania's proposed Dracula/Vlad the Impaler theme park.

 

and in every home

Lovely dream last night about making salsa. Grinding up chiles, chopping onions, pressing garlic, pouring in the tomato puree. I could have done it for hours.

Let me talk, briefly, about National Novel Writing Month. I apologize to those readers who read a lot of weblogs, since I know this is old hat by now, but then the Workshop has a right to know. Everyone on the Web, it seems, is writing a novel right now. The idea is to get 50,000 words by the end of November. Participants include Toadex Hobogrammathon at dagmar_chili, whose novel is already completed here (it will perplex you); Geegaw's enigmatic A. (just hit five figures, looks like); and Lauren/Proleptic who, like me, will disclose nothing about her current project except that she doesn't like it. The idea is that when the novel is done nobody even reads it unless you want them to; they verify word count and delete it. Kind of like our MFA theses. Onward! Onward, all!

Marlowe is coming over for soup. That's what he said, anyway. I had better shower.

 

agenbite of inwit

Sorry about the DNS blip there; we live.

The Blind Assassin reminds me of Angle of Repose in the same inexplicable way that Oscar and Lucinda reminded me of Tom Jones; if that makes any sense at all.

Many of you probably remember that Paula Abdul video where she danced with the cartoon rapping cat. But not everyone may know that the cartoon rapping cat, named MC Skat Kat, went on to release his own album a couple of years later. The entire damn thing is archived here in mp3 form, along with cover scans and summaries of the various songs, e.g. "I Go Crazy: Skat Kat gets annoyed by various things after waking up and licking himself," or "Skat Strut: The big single. Not only does Skat Kat mention the Ninja Turtles but in one of the most ironic moments of early '90s pop culture, he actually disses Milli Vanilli."

MRI lie detector: creepy.

Working on the autobiographical story again. I don't know. Part of me would really like to abandon it, but the problem is that it's the pivot point for all the other stories, so if I abandon this one I would have to abandon the entire collection, at least in the form I've conceived it. Maybe I just need to finish the collection so I'll have something for my MFA thesis, then toss away the whole damn thing as fundamentally flawed. O fuck it all. This is all I do: sweat over pieces, then throw them away. At least I'm throwing away better pieces each time. But all the same, they're never good enough.

 

blame it on cain

Suddenly no phenomena are innocuous. A lost plane is no longer merely a lost plane. What is its motivation?

 

style special

Still propagating, nicht wahr? Cool. Also I finally went grocery shopping because I'd been scraping the back of the cupboard and there was nothing left to eat except pasta noodles and brown sugar.

Salon points out that everyone is trying to be Churchill, down to the meter of their speeches, but the President is not pulling it off so well. Like the "This Modern World" about the small cute dog, which is the funniest thing I've seen in weeks.

Here's the bin Laden interview in Dawn (English-language Pakistani newspaper) in which he claims, among other things, to have nuclear and chemical weapons. As a "deterrent," he says. Jesus. For someone who hates the West, he sure knows how to appropriate its rhetoric.

The Red Cross has way too much blood, so they're going to burn it. Ew. I was wondering where it was all going, given that everyone was dead.

 

sepoy's blues

Robert D. Kaplan talks about the Taliban; and Robert D. Kaplan knows what he's talking about.

I have not been able to get in touch with my hosting company about domain renewal, so if this site vanishes sometime this evening, that would be why. I'll bring it back as soon as I can.

 

civilization itself

I worry that I am being misinterpreted. Postgraduate fellowships, good. Nothing wrong with the programs. Just not for me right now, thanks. Also, what is happening to me is not a bad thing. It's liberating: things are rearranging. Though I am having the most fucked-up dreams right now. A long river. Ancient languages. Walking over fire.

Hollywood link from Justin is unnerving mainly for its last paragraph.

Hollywood has already been involved in the so-called war on terrorism on another level. According to Variety, the FBI, in reaction to the events of September 11, approached some of Hollywood's top writers to help them come up with possible terrorist attack scenarios, in order to aid in preparation of homeland security.

Ken Kesey's liver surgery. The best part in CNN's retrospective of his life (thus far) is where he "lost interest in the novel as an art form after discovering the magic of the bus."

Pluto mission! Pluto mission!

 

welcome to the working week

After thought, I doubt I'll apply for the Stegner or Madison fellowships either. Too much, too much. After a certain point one's aesthetic becomes clear enough that the workshop environment is no longer helpful. I think I would come to resent people telling me what to do with my art, just because they're affiliated with a university that happens to be paying me survival money. This isn't to say Iowa hasn't been good to me—I have learned much, much. But enough already. In sufficient concentration any food becomes poison.

 

hill of beans

Dammit, this El Señor Presidente I bought turns out to be some sort of young-adult easy reading adaptation, complete with study questions in the back. I didn't know; it was the only one in print. Now I have to send it back and start combing the used shops.

Also, Justin reports and Julia corroborates that the red light in the sky at the Halloween party was none other than the aurora borealis. I guess we are kind of far north, but you don't usually think of it that way. It wasn't rippling or anything really dramatic; it was just red.

All right, but seriously, folks... last night we had another of these awful we're-fucked-after-graduation conversations at the bar, and afterward I went home and thought for a while, and after thinking I have determined things. The first thing is that I'm not getting one of these Michener fellowships that everyone is salivating over. For those outside Iowa, vide the Workshop brochure: "Through the generosity of James A. Michener, the Writers' Workshop is able to award up to eight annual grants of $15,000 for writers launched on prose books which are near publication." What that means in practice, if last year's recipients are any indication, is that they go to people who have book deals or seem poised to nail book deals in the near future. Which I suppose only makes sense, given that the awarding of fellowships is sort of like placing bets at the track: you want to pick a horse who will return on your investment. And I am not that horse. I'll still apply, since I should have a book-length semi-linked stories+novella collection done by the end of the year. But nobody has shown interest in publishing any of these stories, I don't have an agent, and I'm certainly not going to have a book contract by June; so I ain't expecting no favors, honey.

The other, place-specific fellowships are kind of silly too; there's certainly no reason to move to Massachusetts for seven months when all they give you is an apartment, plus a $500 monthly stipend. In Boston? That'll barely cover moving expenses. I will still apply for the Madison, since it's not too far and I could use the teaching experience, and also the Stegner, since it's a two-year program and I have oodles of friends dispersed around SF. But these are long shots, and realistically it's time to stop fixating on these appointments as if they're the Holy Grail. It'll be just like here, only higher-pressure (if that's possible); and you will be older, so that the months will acquire an added urgency as they slip by and you make no discernible advances, still cut off from the world in your hermetic bubble of academe, still living a life that seems more theoretical than applied, still hanging on faculty opinions as if they were the final word in your worth as a being and the dispensation of your soul, still dirt-poor, still rootless and loveless. Free time is all well and good, but you have to watch how much of that free time you spend writing, as opposed to lying on the couch and staring at the ceiling.

So what am I personally going to do? I require little. I'm currently living on $1400 a month with money to spare; if I economize, I could cut that down to around $1000 and make out fine—it would be Spartan but manageable, especially since I don't eat meat. Part-time work, 20-30 hrs/wk, seems the way to go. Under those circumstances there's no reason I couldn't maintain my current productivity. I don't know anyone who spends more than a couple hours per day actually writing. The necessary concentration simply can't be maintained, unless it's right before a story is due or something, and that just leads to rushed and o'erhasty work. As far as where: last year I had certain commitments which I thought would influence my choice of place, but as of a few months ago those commitments have been annulled. So...

Iowa City. The main argument in favor of staying here is that moving is ass, especially if you own wagonloads of books. I love my '89 Accord dearly, but I really don't trust it to pull a U-Haul trailer packed with my library over the Rockies. Also, many friends may hang around here. The arguments against staying here are 1) the weather—oh Lord the winter, oh Lord the soul-annihilating winter—and 2) there are no jobs here. I know this because of the dismal job-hunting experiences of Workshop significant others who bit the bullet and moved here, the poor lambs. If there were no jobs 18 months ago, there certainly won't be any this coming June, once the Second Great Depression is in full swing. And there is no reason to remain in this town if it's going to force me to wear a silly uniform and wipe tables. Fuck it—unless something drops in my lap by June, I'm packing up and heading west.

Tucson. In favor: I grew up there and it's beautiful and I love it, and I have a couple good friends and a father still around, plus a sister who might choose its pharmacy school. Against: Tucson doesn't really have jobs either, so far as I know. Granted it's about 15 times the size of Iowa City, so there's more volume, but I have no idea what I'd do. The real issue is one of pride, I think. I left Tucson at age seventeen with a cranium full of improbable artistic ideals: ideals that the world has not yet beat out of me because I've spent the last six years hiding from it. If I go back to Tucson now, I'll have nothing to show for my time away except a couple of diplomas barely worth the paper they're written on. Somehow I've managed to amass six years of elite higher education without acquiring any useful skills. It's hack work if I go back to Tucson, and while I have no problem with doing hack work for a while I don't know if I can do it there—I'm too absurdly sensitive to appearing a failure.

So it's looking like Reno. I have rather a lot of family there, which means a) big support system and spare furniture I can borrow and so on, and b) some tendrils of connection throughout the town, so that although Reno has no jobs either I could probably find one of those nonexistent jobs sooner. It would not be a glamorous or even a particularly enjoyable life, but it would be tenable for at least a couple of years, which would be long enough to finish a book or two and see whether I can do anything with them. If so, then all right—the ball starts rolling. If not—well. I don't know what I'll do if it comes to that. In some sense this writer thing is a long shot I've been running with since age sixteen, and I really never expected it to go this far. My luck has got to run out sometime. But hell, here's hoping. Bet the bank on number 7 and give her one last spin.

 

a crash course for the ravers

My MFA exam (fifteen pages of poop measured scholarly analysis) is done. So that will be turned in this afternoon to fill the maw of the Graduate College, which couldn't let me off with an advanced degree for no academic work at all. One step closer to graduation and... what? A job? A real life? What does that even mean?

When I was eleven years old, my father and I visited Egypt. I have a distinct memory of looking out the window of our hotel room, on our first night in Cairo, and seeing a star hanging between the horns of a crescent moon. Go on, workshop that—it's contrived; it's writerly; it happened. Two days later we were crawling into the Great Pyramid of Khufu, down the passages three feet high that made me very glad to be eleven; and then we had to slow down because somebody had spilled strawberry ice cream ahead. "Stop! Stop! Ice cream!" a couple of Egyptian men were shouting, waving us around. We stepped gingerly around the seeping pink puddle and went on to the main sarcophagus chamber, where lots of tourists were sitting in the lotus position under the security camera. But who the hell takes ice cream inside the Great Pyramid?

Here's an angry little British reply to Stephen Hawking's claim that philosophy is outmoded as a source of knowledge and has been reduced to an analysis of language. The article does the best it can; but really, Hawking's right. Fuck philosophy. There's a handful of subjects that will never yield to analytic rigor, and the mind (not the brain, note, but the mind) is one of those. If the mind even exists as an entity, which plenty of folks would dispute these days. Wittgenstein tried to destroy philosophy at the start of the century, but apparently he only succeeded in crippling it since philosophers are still out there spouting irrelevancies. You want logical certainty? Go into genetics. You want a description of the soul? Try Beethoven's Seventh. You can't crossbreed 'em.

 

in the city of the future

I am self-sufficient; I am making progress; I lack nothing.

So it's 1954 and W.H. Auden is reviewing The Fellowship of the Ring. What's not to love? Other than Auden's surprisingly clunky prose, that is.

And there's rather a lot of weed trying to get across the border, but it is stymied, ay; and Palo Alto tries to put a $2,000 laptop on its list of school stupplies. Good God, that city.

 

who am studs turkal

Here, this is Professor Irwin Corey's wildly incoherent National Book Award acceptance speech for Gravity's Rainbow. (Pynchon, not wanting to come out of his cave, sent Corey in his place.) Somehow it's even funnier because it appears to be directed at Ralph Ellison.

And as Miller once said in one of his great novels—what did the... that language is only necessary when communication is endangered. And you sit there bewildered, and Pinter who went further said "It is not the lack of communication but fear of communication." THAT'S WHAT THE GODDAMN THING IS that we fear—communication. Oh—fortunately the prize has only been given to authors—unlike the Academy Award which is given to a female and a male, indicating the derision of the human specie—God damn it! But we have no paranoia, and Mr. Pynchon has attained, and has created for himself serenity, and it is only the insanity that has kept him alive in his paranoia. We speak of the organ... of the orgasm... WHO THE HELL WROTE THIS?

Weird: rumors in China and Japan that the Taliban have executed bin Laden and Mullah Omar. Highly unlikely, of course, but strange things are happening.

Killing the Buddha is a publication on religion for people who are iffy about religion. The title comes from a Zen parable:

After years on his cushion, a monk has what he believes is a breakthrough: an experience of nirvana, the Buddhamind, the big pay-off. Reporting the experience to his master, however, he is informed that what he has experienced is par for the course, nothing special, maybe even damaging to his pursuit. And then he is given dismaying advice: If you meet the Buddha, he is told, kill him. Why kill the Buddha? Because the Buddha you meet is not the true Buddha, but an expression of your longing. If this Buddha is not killed he will only stand in your way.

Consider say the WTC and Zen master Quingyuan.

 

medicine and magazines

Here, I have to run off and do my laundry before the laundromat turns into a nightclub (yeah, this happens), but I would recommend Get Your War On to those who haven't seen it. Cathartic underground cartoons, ah hah.

 

evolve

I have decided that my snowball's-chance-in-hell applications for postgraduate fellowships will be more fun if I stage them as Pokémon battles. Sutegana, I choose you! Madisu-mon, I choose you! Mishana, I choose you!

Colgate or Provincetown... hmm. Not sure. That's awful far away to move for seven months.

So, Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie is stateside, and I want to like it, but the review worries me. Though it won't get to Iowa until February anyway, assuming it gets here at all.

My Weariness of Epic Proportions

I like it when
Achilles
Gets killed
And even his buddy Patroclus—
And that hothead Hector—
And the whole Greek and Trojan
Jeunesse doree
Is more or less
Expertly slaughtered
So there's finally
Peace and quiet
(The gods having momentarily
Shut up)
One can hear
A bird sing
And a daughter ask her mother
Whether she can go to the well
And of course she can
By that lovely little path
That winds through
The olive orchard
 
—Charles Simic

 

all saints'

Writing stories about arcane topics is good because, if nothing else, you learn some weird shit. Here are useful distinctions*:

Optometrist: A specialist in optometry (examining the eye for defects and faults of refraction and the prescription of correctional lenses and exercises but not including the use of drugs or surgery).

Ophthalmologist: A physician that specializes in the study and treatment of defects and diseases of the eye.

Oculist: An alternate term for either of the above two.

Optician: A maker of or dealer in optical items and instruments; one that grinds spectacle lenses to prescription and dispenses spectacles.

Opticist: A specialist in optics (the science of light).

Ocularist: One who manufactures prosthetic eyes. We've got our own right over in Coralville, in the form of Iowa Eye Prosthetics, Inc. ("We specialize in special eyes.")

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*All definitions from Webster's Third except "ocularist," which surprisingly is too obscure for them to include.

Also, I discovered the publication of Meat Goat Monthly News. You know, niche market. The photo on the cover is perfectly horrific, given the woman's position on the food chain vis-à-vis the goat.

 

 

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