<= 2001.11

2002.01 =>

[DECEMBER 2001.]

passacaglia

Christ. We're out of the ABM treaty, Bush says. Hope you're set for the new Asian arms race, you bellicose fuck.

So Juliet reveales that Google has posted their Usenet archive—I would find this merely embarrassing, since I haven't posted since high school, if it weren't for the unearthing of this gem by Matt McNeil. He recounts an evening several years ago in San Jose, wherein we tried to retrieve laserdiscs from a young man who claimed to be John Travolta's illegitimate son. The only thing Matt doesn't mention is that as we were driving back to Palo Alto on the 280, we saw a guy masturbating in the car next to us. When he realized we were watching, he smiled nonchalantly and waved.

Anyway, final workshop dinner at Frank's last night. Frank has a big beautiful house and a big beautiful dog named Gracie. Gracie is one of those great beasts who, despite being built like a draft horse, is the most gentle creature imaginable. She will come up and lick your hand with a tongue the size of a salmon fillet.

Frank on Harry Connick Jr.: "The Sinatra impersonator? Well, someone's got to do it. I'd rather listen to him than to Screaming Pumpkins."

Frank on poverty: "The myth persists that there is something ennobling about it... all it does is limit your experience. And a claustrophobia creeps in—minor problems become major problems, because you can't afford to call the plumber or get your car fixed... fuck poverty."

Frank on profanity: "The only person I know who is more foulmouthed than me is Phil Levine. He's written so many poems of incredible sensibilities, such delicate language, but get him in a room and it's fuck this, fuck that."

We also asked him about that part in "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again" where David Foster Wallace calls Frank to ask why he wrote ad copy for the cruise line brochure, and Frank admits that he prostituted himself. "Yes," Frank said, "well, David called me up and I told him something to that effect... you know, I was paid to go on the cruise and write about it, and what David didn't really mention in his article is that he was doing the same thing... I actually saw more of the cruise than he did. I went into the kitchens and followed a meal from the order to the dining room, saw the whole process: fascinating stuff. I met the pilot and, for one glorious moment, held the wheel. And you know, everything I wrote was true; it was really good food! The cruise line could have been screwed—I wasn't bound to write anything complimentary. I'm sorry David felt I was compromising myself, but I don't mind if it was a bit of an attack... you know, it was a loving attack, in a way. I'm a bit older than he is, and in his article he said something—I forget the exact word, but he expressed admiration for my prose and was disappointed that I would use it in a commercial context... but I didn't think it was so great a sin."

"Hell," said Vu, "I'll do a Burger King commercial!"

Frank has great respect for Wallace's writing, he says; he mentioned, of all things, The Broom of the System, which most people dismiss as a Pynchon knockoff these days. "But especially considering when it first came out," says Frank, "it was something really new, really innovative in a lot of ways. I haven't had the opportunity to read the seven-thousand-page one yet. Maybe when I retire."

Then Julia got him to play the piano. He performed this bebop piece he wrote when he was nineteen, using it as a template for an impromptu theory lesson: he showed how bop could modify twelve-bar blues by substituting the flat fifth for the root note in the tonic chord. Then I got this old classical guitar from the other room and we went through a few bars. I don't have a sufficiently trained ear to hold my own with a jazz player of any caliber, but it was fun, and now I can say that I have played with a man who played with Mingus. I mean, hell's bells.

 

later than you think

The world as it is: up early to take Hrothgar the Honda in for service, walk around for three hours while they're doing the tune-up. Get cash from the bank, run into Colette at the Java House. Buy a hat because I can feel my cochlea starting to freeze. Drop by the travel section of Prairie Lights, learn how to avoid schistosomiasis in Guatemala. Hang out at the HyVee, but you know how supermarkets are: hang out too long and you want to weep for humanity. Buy lunch (travel-pack pita/hummus thing, eaten in the parking lot), buy vinegar, go to Office Depot (vinegar in coat pocket, feeling vaguely subversive), examine the globes and pens and overhead projectors and computer games. There is now a game called "Fast Food Tycoon." It appears to be like SimCity, except you manage a pizza place, and you battle other pizza places plus the organized-crime syndicate that wants a cut of your profits. And who, who, who are the people whose photographs they place in unsold picture frames?

 

paul, te vas a emocionar!

Today I realized that if I didn't update this site, I would have no idea what day it was most of the time. And right now things are even stranger if you're a female devout European Muslim standup comic.

...three Muslim men jumped her, one actually wringing her neck, after she told a sly joke in a comedy club here about a pilgrimage she took to Mecca.

She was milling in a mixed crowd of men and women when, her joke went, "I felt a hand on my bottom. I ignored it. I thought: 'I'm in Mecca. It must be the hand of God.'"

Burning Circus is back to offend everyone, or so it claims. And Will Safire is trying out the first person with Vladimir Putin. And the Observer reports that we're checking out Somalia, Bosnia, Paraguay and Uruguay, of all places. Busy, busy planet. A few years ago, when I saw Jacques Derrida give a two-hour speech that no one understood (it even put my English professor to sleep), he kept referring to "worldization" because the term "globalization" was all wrong somehow. He also kept saying "travail" because the English "work" was inadequate. What a dick.

I was thinking that I would do much better on a planet with a 26-hour day. I average about 8 hours of sleep and 16 hours awake, but it takes an extra hour to fall asleep and another extra hour to wake up. The falling-asleep hour is usually worse because that's when the anxieties come out and sometimes I become convinced that my apartment is not my apartment; but the waking-up hour is just confusing because the REM mechanism is going full blast and half the time I don't know whether I'm actually awake. Like this morning I spent the hour rewriting "Ascending and Descending" (the story that Frank trashed a couple months ago), only it turned out that I was asleep for the rewrite, so that the new plot centered around a whale attack. Then I moved to a slightly higher level of consciousness and realized that there are no whales in Arizona, so my brain said "I guess we can change it to an enraged walrus. Note to self: research the walrus population of Navajo County." Then I awoke fully and felt useless.

 

no hay banda

Nina points the way to Salon's Mulholland Drive analysis, which confirms Trish's theory, so bravo Trish.

Starting the process of gift selection: it's going to be a very budget Christmas around here. But I do what I can. So put on your sad Christmas songs written by Jewish folks.

 

cowboy

Mulholland Drive resembles a movie only superficially. It's more like a 2.5-hour act of pattern-making, continually rearranging totemic objects into different configurations. By "totemic objects" I mean not only charged items like that blue key, but the film's people. The two lead actresses are beautifully shot and imbued with mystery, but that's about all they're imbued with. Lynch intends their very appearance on the screen to be so charged as to impose a pattern on their surroundings, like the opposite poles of a magnet impose the contours of their field on iron filings. To his credit, that's exactly what happens, but as a result the women become symbols that signify nothing. Mulholland Drive is very pretty to look at, and it does better than most movies in that it never bored me, but the characters are so subservient to the style that they're barely human. It's impossible to become invested in them, other than to hope that if you stick with them they will eventually provide a solution to the involuted puzzle of the plot. (Trish came up with the rather clever theory that the first two hours are all a masturbatory fantasy.) You can't deny Lynch's talent, but he's just fucking around here. Also, there wasn't that much sex.

 

yttrium and ytterbium

Coupla new photos. And the Ringo one is not Photoshopped, I swear—he really is that short. We met him a couple of years ago, when he was playing a concert at the Silver Legacy in Reno. This was the "Vertical Man" tour, I think, with the All-Starr band. I had a few drinks at the press club before the concert, so I'm a little unclear on the exact process of the shoot, but somehow we got hustled into a private room with a few people who had won a contest and then Ringo came through the door. He was all smiles and very affable about having his picture taken with strangers—he was obviously used to it. When our turn came I complimented him on his jacket.

"Thank you," he said, "it's an original."

Then we went to the concert. He walked around and sang and got behind the drum kit for a couple of Beatles songs, but sadly there was no "Octopus's Garden." A few days later we got the photo back. "His jacket matches your hair," said my mother.

Consider how the course of Western civilization would have altered if Richard Starkey had taken a more standard nickname: John, Paul, George, and Dick.

And this Tora Bora diagram looks just like the secret hideout maps my friends and I drew in the third grade.

 

who would have thought

Today this site, born in a snowstorm, is one year old. To commemorate, a few new features. Firstly, notice the new search box in the upper right corner. The offsite service I was using wasn't flexible enough—it would only give results by the page, and since we archive pages by the month around here, this left something to be desired in accuracy. So now we've got some home-cooked Perl scripting which treats each daily entry as a separate entity. And of course it searches beyond the weblog proper, into features like the long-promised photo gallery, which is finally here. I never seem to take photos myself but always wind up with double prints of other people's, so the composition of my collection is kind of haphazard. I apologize for the fact that many people are underrepresented; give me photos and I will scan them. They don't even have to feature people I know, really, so long as they're interesting.

There are some smaller updates too, like the radar screen and the avatar, and I have given chapter headings to the archive index, which actually seems to provide a pretty good summary of the past year. Onward, upward, into the light.

 

loose lips sink ships

"Stop worrying!" Marlowe said before workshop. "I can see the worry; it's coming off you in waves." The workshop was fine, as it turns out. I have the sense of having cleared a hurdle, and though there are hundreds more I can face them in good heart.

My recording of Shostakovich's Symphony no. 14 is on the cheap Naxos label, and the sparse liner notes don't include lyrics. I found them here: Russian translations of poems by García Lorca, Apollinaire, and Rilke. They're all about death, but nobly so. I get particularly stuck on the two opening poems by García Lorca—I assume they're about the Spanish civil war, in which he died.

De profundis

A hundred ardent lovers
fell into eternal sleep
deep beneath the dry earth.
Red sand covers
the roads of Andalusia.

Branches of green olives have spread over Cordoba.
Here crosses will be erected for them,
so that people will not forget them.
A hundred ardent lovers
fell into eternal sleep.

Malagueña

Death
entered and left
the tavern.

Black horses
and dark souls
in the ravines of the guitar
still wander.

They smell of salt
and hot blood
from the foaming
of the nervous ripples.

Death
keeps leaving and entering,
and entering, leaving and entering.
keeps on entering and leaving!
Death keeps on leaving
and still will not leave the tavern.

 

no more absolutes

Today is my last workshop of the semester. The story isn't exactly fiction. I haven't been able to look at it in the past week. I don't know, don't know, don't know. I hope that it is quickly and humanely dispatched, at least.

The Erotic Computation Group at MIT's Media Lab conducts research on topics such as "Erotic Speech Processing" and "Sex Toys of the Future." Yeah, it's a hoax, but someone put a lot of time into it.

Also we'll be seeing a heavily annotated Finnegans Wake CD in the next few years. I don't really trust Danis Rose with the job, as his "Reader's Edition" of Ulysses was perfectly wretched, but so long as he doesn't take so many liberties with the text this time, it could be a godsend. It's called MaMaLuJo: that's Joyce's compression of the Gospel authors, as opposed to the evil monkey from the Powerpuff Girls.

"I make a sound of pleasure at your shortcomings!"

 

bulletin

WE ARE A MODERN NATION
WE SUBSIST ON OUR OWN WASTE PRODUCTS
WE CONSIDER ALL VIEWS EQUALLY
OUR INTERESTS COINCIDE WITH HUMANIST IDEALS
WE ARE CONNOISEURS OF THE EPHEMERAL
OUR NEEDS ARE HUMAN NEEDS
THERE IS ALWAYS THE SENSE OF A DOOR CLOSING
ECONOMIC SELF-INTEREST IS NOTHING NEW
PERFECT KNOWLEDGE IS NO LONGER OUR GOAL
"DISASTER" IS CONCEPTUAL ONLY
YOUR DEMONS ARE YOUR MORAL RESPONSIBILITY
WE REGARD SILENCE WITH SUSPICION
SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS IS A SYMPTOM OF FEAR
WE ARE PURVEYORS OF IDEAS
TALK IS A DEVALUED CURRENCY
WORLDVIEWS ARE DESIGNED TO BE DISPOSABLE
DISJUNCTION IS AN EXPERIENCE TO BE CULTIVATED
WE HAVE MOVED BEYOND IDEOLOGY
HEDONISM IS AN END IN ITSELF
FEAR IS THE MOST EFFECTIVE UNIFIER
IF YOU CAN'T TAKE THE PRESSURE
THEN WHY
DID YOU COME
TO THE
PARTY
?

 

bryter layter

Sheds! We all need to write in sheds! This article has quotes from just about everyone, including Frank, who points out: "You have to put your pants on in the morning and go someplace."

The Brits say: Bush wants a wider war and we can't stop him.

 

the darndest thing

Getting hitched this summer:

Julia, Justin

 

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