<= 2002.09

2002.11 =>

[OCTOBER 2002.]

why we fight

And in Georgia, the Republican Senate challenger can accuse the Democratic incumbent of being unpatriotic for refusing to beat the war drums—notwithstanding that said incumbent is a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran. Just put up some Osama and Saddam pictures, and the rest takes care of itself.

Happy Halloween.


boy on this server

I was telling people I would have a 60,000-word novel finished by Halloween; of course, that was before I realized the durn thing was going to be longer than 60,000 words. I'm not sure how much farther it will go. Narrative drive? Oh, yes—it's pulling like a freight train just now, which is pretty exciting. But I still don't know exactly how it will end up. One thing I never learned at Iowa was how to write an ending.

Lauren/Proleptic made 403 Forbidden geek underwear, rah rah. I appreciate the concept, though I probably won't need to reset the security permissions on my server since there have been no login attempts in a while. If no one tries to access a server, does it still exist? Ah well, there's always whiskey.

The more hospitable border promised last year by President Bush and his Mexican counterpart, Vicente Fox, has not appeared. As Bush pursues the war on terror, the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border instead has become more dangerous and difficult to cross, especially along this desert stretch facing Arizona. Just about every day a Mexican dies trying to cross into the United States. Since last October, 323 people have died trying to cross into the United States, often in the harsh and remote deserts of Arizona.


Rigo Mendoza Silva, 27, from Chihuahua state, was trying to get to a construction job in Phoenix, but made it only as far as Tucson, where he said he fell off a Union Pacific freight train. Police picked him up, and he ended up on a bus with 35 other deportees who were dropped at the Nogales border crossing. "I could have gotten killed," he said, his arms still bearing scrapes from the fall. "But I am going to try again. I have no choice. I need work."


time, times and half a time

I guess yesterday's shooting at the School of Nursing is national/international news by now. Last night they were reporting it on the BBC. All morning people were calling the house to make sure that my sister, who was at the adjacent College of Pharmacy, was okay. Police and television crews were everywhere, she said; it took hours to get her car out of parking. They cancelled her classes for the day.

Professor Cheryl McGaffic, one of the victims, taught one of my friends in a course on death and dying—this morning he sent us an eloquent email about her. She was always overworked and overtired, he said; she volunteered at a hospice, worked in the death ward, during one class had to leave the room twice to vomit. Before shooting her, the gunman (a former student) asked, "Cheryl, are you prepared to use your spiritual resources now?"

The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour). I know, however, of a young chronophobiac who experienced something like panic when looking for the first time at homemade movies that had been taken a few weeks before his birth. He saw a world that was practically unchanged—the same house, the same people—and then realized that he did not exist there at all and that nobody mourned his absence. He caught a glimpse of his mother waving from an upstairs window, and that unfamiliar gesture disturbed him, as if it were some mysterious farewell. But what particularly frightened him was the sight of a brand-new baby carriage standing there on the porch, with the smug, encroaching air of a coffin; even that was empty, as if, in the reverse course of events, his very bones had disintegrated.

—Nabokov, Speak, Memory


attack of the vinegaroons

1. Mari sent this and it is cute: make your own Bush speech. He frowns when the crowd boos him.

2. Every time I am in Safeway there is one bird there, describing large figure-eights around the ceiling. Always one bird. Perhaps it's on the payroll and eats rats.

3. I think I must finally throw in the towel on my longstanding attempt to like electronica. I tried, folks, I really did—but last night I had to go to the CD store and sell my Autechre and buy some Shostakovich. I can no longer fight the encroaching old-man tendencies.

4. SalmaHayekFridaKahlo.

5. I've had a positive response on the idea of an iowablog. I will try to knock something together fairly soon.


all world cowboy romance

As the book nears completion, writing it becomes exponentially more difficult. It's Zeno's book, where the ending is the asymptote which my curve will never attain. Or else it is the point where the book reaches lightspeed, but by the laws of relativity that is also the point where its mass becomes infinite, hence requiring an infinite amount of energy to move. Push on, push on. It won't be done by Halloween, but I have to finish it at least before the NaNoWriMo people finish theirs.



season of the witch

The Rasputina show was a blast—they seem to have gotten more comfortable with touring in the last few years, and someone has finally figured out how to properly mike a cello. Only two cellists this time, plus the male drummer who gamely wore a corset of his own. We got to congratulate him on it personally, since the band walked right past us on their way in and out. The set wasn't heavily slanted toward Cabin Fever!—which was nice, since I've only ever heard half the album, at Lauren's apartment—and the covers were guaranteed crowd-pleasers all. They did the versions of "Rock & Roll" and "Wish You Were Here" off The Lost & Found EP, but we also got cello renditions of "Blister in the Sun," "Bad Moon Rising," and, inexplicably, the first thirty seconds of "Baby Got Back." They also get kudos for coming to Tucson and avoiding Phoenix—nobody does that.

Muddy Bug's acoustic Halloween show last night also went swimmingly. Nik took exciting pictures of us:

My parents are gone, so back to work. I have been so remiss.


i saw mommy kissing kissinger

Michael Cunningham has a big beautiful house and a partner to live there with him. Gah. I've begun to entertain these fantasies of domesticity, on the days when I'm not inclined to join a monastery, and they will lead to hell. If I were able to buy a house, could I rest then? Unlikely. The money, the money, the life.

These complicated dreams, involving all the Realpolitik that surrounds sex—but never the sex itself—also must stop.

I'm not writing now, as my mother and stepfather are visiting town. So is Rasputina. They actually tour Tucson; who knew? Tonight we shall go and see how the corsets are holding up. (Note: "we" does not include my parents, who like their cellos in more traditional contexts; and I will not be wearing the outfit I wore to my last Rasputina show in 1998. Those carefree undergrad years are forever gone.)


wealth and scatocracy

I am not necessarily recommending that anyone visit this, and it feels wrong to link it directly, but ratemypoo.com does exist. It's "Am I Hot or Not?" for poo. They seem to have a lot to rate.

I hate the new gilded age.


what now my love

I finally got around to updating the sidebar—Iowa is out, Tucson is in. And this sign just went up in the plaza down the street from my apartment. It really bothers me that someone thought this was a good name for their meat store.


airports of the future

They Might Be Giants are touring with Dave Eggers and that family who create songs from their slide projector. The nine-year-old drummer girl is probably the next Meg White. I doubt the show is coming out here, since the literati spurn Arizona, so I will spurn them right back. I am my own rock star.

Summary of all the arguments for and against my marriage:

1. Inability to endure life alone, which does not imply inability to live, quite the contrary, it is even improbable that I know how to live with anyone, but I am incapable, alone, of bearing the assault of my own life, the demands of my own person, the attacks of time and old age, the vague pressure of the desire to write, sleeplessness, the nearness of insanity—I cannot bear all this alone. I naturally add a 'perhaps' to this. The connexion with F. will give my existence more strength to resist.

2. Everything immediately gives me pause. Every joke in the comic paper, what I remember about Flaubert and Grillparzer, the sight of the nightshirts on my parents' beds, laid out for the night, Max's marriage. Yesterday my sister said 'All the married people (that we know) are happy, I don't understand it,' this remark too gave me pause, I became afraid again.

3. I must be alone a great deal. What I accomplished was only the result of being alone.

4. I hate everything that does not relate to literature, conversations bore me (even if they relate to literature), to visit people bores me, the sorrows and joys of my relatives bore me to my soul. Conversations take the importance, the seriousness, the truth of everything I think.

5. The fear of the connexion, of passing into the other. Then I'll never be alone again.

6. In the past, especially, the person I am in the company of my sisters has been entirely different from the person I am in the company of other people. Fearless, powerful, surprising, moved as I otherwise am only when I write. If through the intermediation of my wife I could be like that in the presence of everyone! But then would it not be at the expense of my writing? Not that, not that!

7. Alone, I could perhaps some day really give up my job. Married, it will never be possible.

—Kafka, Diaries


leave a kiss within the cup

What better way to allay fears over the impending collapse of Western civilization than with the first edition of the Metameat Bar Guide? (Permanently placed here; contributions welcome.)


Dirty Shirley

1½ oz. vodka
1 oz. lemon juice
1 tsp. superfine sugar
4 oz. tonic water
1 tsp. grenadine

Combine vodka, lemon juice, and sugar over ice in shaker. Strain into highball glass, top off with tonic water, and drop grenadine into center of drink. Garnish with maraschino cherry.


East London Punch

2 oz. gin
1½ oz. orange juice
1½ oz. tonic water
½ oz. lemon juice

Combine gin, orange juice, and lemon juice over ice in collins class and stir well. Top off with tonic water and garnish with lemon wedge.


Grant's Famous Sour Mix
Makes 2½ cups.

4 tbsp. superfine sugar (also can use raw sugar)
1 cup lemon juice
½ cup fresh lime juice
½ cup Rose's lime juice
½ cup fresh tangerine juice

Add sugar slowly to lemon juice, stirring briskly to dissolve sugar as much as possible. Next, stir in lime juice, Rose's, and tangerine juice. Can be made ahead of time in large batches for rapid drink creation.

Mixes well with amaretto, whiskey, tequila, or whatever else you like. To make sour cocktails, add 1½ oz. of booze to 2-3 oz. of sour mix in a shaker and serve neat.


Happy Accident
It was come by accidentally, and made us happy.

1½ oz. Absolut Kurant vodka
5 oz. tonic water
1 tsp. Rose's lime juice

Place several ice cubes in a highball glass; add Kurant, then tonic water. Drop in lime juice and let it diffuse through the drink of its own volition. Garnish with lime wedge.

Variation: the Tangy Accident, made with Absolut Citron.


Lynchburg Limón-ade
Also of Grant's invention; a twist on a Kentucky/supermarket classic.

½ oz. lemon juice
1 tsp. raw sugar
1½ oz. Jack Daniels
1½ oz. Bacardi Limón
2 oz. Club Soda

In a collins glass, stir the lemon juice and raw sugar until mostly dissolved. Add the Jack Daniels and Bacardi Limón and ice and stir well. Top off with club soda and a wedge of lemon.


Mutiny on the Bounty
We found this disturbing yet irresistible, and it made our heads hurt in the morning.

2 oz. rum
½ oz. cherry brandy
1 oz. lemon juice
1 tsp. raw sugar
3 oz. fresh coconut milk

Combine ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into collins glass.


The Waste Land
This was made at a party in 1997; we'd all had a few by then, and I believe the challenge was to create something drinkable based on iced tea. I'm not at all certain that these were the exact ingredients, nor am I certain that it was really a good drink, but it certainly spoke, with the voice of thunder,

2 oz. vodka
½ oz. triple sec
1½ oz. sour mix
1½ oz. cola
¼ oz. lemon juice
4 oz. iced tea

Combine vodka, triple sec, sour mix, and lemon juice over ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into collins glass. Top with iced tea and cola. Stir well.


across the eighth dimension

We must remember that the mountains are a tonic for writer's block; I wrote 800 words and encountered a deer, and what else could one wish?

Well, one could wish for a better book. My dissatisfaction with it is coming out subconsciously. Last night I dreamt that the only way to save it was by adding a time-travel prostitution plot.



Nighttime weather is conducive to leaving the window open, and last night the coyotes were yipping and howling like nobody's business. I wonder what they were hunting.

The comment box reports the mysterious giant Alaska bird.


tago mago

The Geegaw Onion Affair has got me all excited about translations from the Spanish; I would like to try more, soon, when my head doesn't hurt so much from the drink I invented last night. Large shot of brandy (or rum; the brandy we had was this "Don Pedro" Mexican brandy that seemed to lie midway between the two), dash of cherry brandy, juice of ½ lemon, a couple spoonfuls of sugar, and a generous helping of coconut milk—this being the clear fluid freshly drilled from a coconut, not the canned white paste you use for Thai curry and soup. I think I shall have to call it "Mutiny on the Bounty."

To do:
make coffee
pay ISP bill
buy contact lens solution
try to praise the mutilated world


the king my brother's wreck

Steve P. and LeeAnn sent me a plate. I'm not certain how it came into their possession, but clearly it had to go on the wall.

Reno has had three different arches over the years; the first was built in 1926 and bore the legend "Reno Transcontinental Highway Exposition" until 1929, when the winner of a slogan contest coined "The Biggest Little City in the World." In 1963 a new arch was built and the older one moved through several locations, including a scrap yard, before finding its current resting place over Lake Street. The second arch is the one depicted on the plate; it stood over Virginia Street until the highly tasteful year of 1987, which we have to blame for the garish current arch. The 1963 arch was donated to the city of Willits, California; it now says "Willits: Gateway to the Redwoods." Also, this is what the Mapes looks like nowadays.


life in a vacuum

So after I posted that I went back and wrote like 600 words, including a bit with a ladder that I think is somewhat funny—even though the funny bit is there, quite transparently, in order to make the subsequent awful part even more awful. We're better, sort of.


swich licour

Never mind, I forgot the part where I go insane if I don't post. I am getting a distinct and unpleasant sense of writing in a vacuum, for no one—this thing I do all day seems to have absolutely no bearing on the external world. The fact that money shows up in my mailbox every month does not seem at all connected to the writing. I just feel like I stumbled upon a sunken galleon or something, and am now squandering the treasure with no thought of consequences. One agent has expressed interest in seeing the finished manuscript, but who knows what that means. It's pretty incredible that after all this time I still have so little confidence in the basic value of the act. It feels Sisyphean right now, and I know the prose is slipping—I read sentences back to myself, and it's comical how clunky they are. In efforts to escape the blockage I have tried to write in other locales, with limited success:

Can I write it in a bar?
Can I write it in my car?
Can I write it in the park?
Can I write it in the dark?
Can I write in a café?
I hate this fucking book, I say!

It may not be finished by Halloween. When I think about it my heart rate elevates and my throat closes up. At times I suspect that I've taken completely the wrong direction and the only thing I'm any good at is farce. Certainly those are the only things I've done that anyone outside a graduate writing program seems to enjoy: the satirical play about the psychiatrist and the Grim Reaper, the pirate penguin movie, the song about pedophiles that I wrote when I was eighteen and which all of Tucson seems to have started singing in my absence. I've been having psychosomatic West Nile virus all week.

Also note: one cannot meet people in this city. I have all kinds of relationships with fascinating women, and without exception they are conducted via mail and occasionally the telephone. I swear to God, it's like being in the Army.

Anyway, because it all hurts and because I needed the satisfaction of something that could be finished in an evening and because the car has a working tape deck for the first time in aeons, I made a bunch of drive tapes. I'm quite happy with them—I can't hope to out-eclectic the college DJs out there, but the sequencing was done with care and vim. If anyone else is still ghetto enough to use tape decks on a regular basis, I'm all about trading copies for anything inexpensive and exciting that can be sent through the mail.

Vertu Engedred is the Flour: One

Brahms—Symphony No. 4 in E minor (South German Philharmonic Orchestra)
Schubert—Auf dem Flusse (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore)

Beethoven—String Quartet No. 15 in A minor (Vermeer Quartet)

Vertu Engedred is the Flour: Two

Wilco—Far, Far Away
The Hives—Introduce the Metric System in Time
Galaxie 500—Spook
Talking Heads—Stay Up Late
Johnny Cash—Cocaine Blues
Throwing Muses—Buzz
Pixies—Gouge Away
The White Stripes—Let's Build a Home
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington—I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So
Belle and Sebastian—Is It Wicked Not to Care?
Cat Power—Naked if I Want To
Nick Drake—Day Is Done
Elvis Costello—The Beat
Billie Holiday—I'm a Fool to Want You
Modest Mouse—Wild Packs of Family Dogs

Mission of Burma—That's How I Escaped My Certain Fate
The Clash—Spanish Bombs
Charles Mingus—Oh Lord Don't Let Them Drop That Atomic Bomb on Me
Wilco—Outta Mind (Outta Sight)
The Magnetic Fields—Strange Powers
The Flaming Lips—Psychiatric Explorations of the Fetus with Needles
The Modern Lovers—Government Center
Neutral Milk Hotel—Gardenhead
Cowboy Junkies—Working on a Building
Frank Black—Calistan
Radiohead—Life in a Glasshouse

Vertu Engedred is the Flour: Three

Charles Mingus—II B.S.
Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars—Dardanella
Miles Davis—The Meaning of the Blues/Lament
Roland Kirk—Silverlization
Charles Mingus—Boogie Stomp Shuffle
Charles Mingus—Celia
Charles Mingus—Hora Decubitus
Dave Brubeck—Strange Meadow Lark
Arnold Schoenberg—Columbine (Jan DeGaetani)
Arnold Schoenberg—Sprich nicht immer (Jan DeGaetani)

icu—Can't You Even Remember That?
Radiohead—Like Spinning Plates
Tortoise—Glass Museum
Can—I'm So Green
Charles Mingus—Hog Callin' Blues
Johnny Cash—I Still Miss Someone
Guided by Voices—Little Lines
The Smiths—Sweet and Tender Hooligan
The Hives—Knock Knock
Modest Mouse—Perfect Disguise
Arvo Pärt—Silouans Song (Tallinn Chamber Orchestra, Tõnu Kaljuste)

Vertu Engedred is the Flour: Four

Shostakovich—Symphony No. 14 (Magdalena Hajossyová, Peter Mikulás, Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, Ladislav Slovák):
     De profundis
     The Suicide
     On the Alert
     Look Here, Madame!
     At the Santé Jail
     Zaporozhye Cossacks Reply to the Sultan of Constantinople
     O Delvig, Delvig!

Shostakovich—Symphony No. 14:
     The Poet's Death
Miles Davis—In a Silent Way/It's About That Time
Olivia Tremor Control—The Opera House
Nick Drake—Way to Blue
Modest Mouse—Convenient Parking
Francisco Tarrega—Capricho Árabe (Ana Vidovic)
Schubert—Gefror'ne Tränen (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore)
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington—I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good
Bartók—Senkim a világon (I Have No One in the World) (Benjamin Britten Vocal Ensemble, Miklós Szabó)

Vertu Engedred is the Flour: Five

Sparklehorse—Piano Fire
Mission of Burma—The Ballad of Johnny Burma
Talking Heads—Electric Guitar
Radiohead—Morning Bell
Radiohead—Pyramid Song
The Flaming Lips—Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pt. 1
David Bowie—Drive-In Saturday
PJ Harvey—One Line
Frank Black—Pie in the Sky
Liz Phair—Mesmerizing
The Smiths—What She Said
Pixies—River Euphrates
Elvis Costello—Blame It On Cain

Built to Spill—Sidewalk
Tom Waits—Lost in the Harbour
The Beach Boys—Here Today
Billie Holiday—You've Changed
Wilco—Ashes of American Flags
The Smiths—Oscillate Wildly
Belle and Sebastian—Dirty Dream Number Two
Elvis Costello—Fish n' Chip Paper
The White Stripes—Apple Blossom
Luna—Swedish Fish
The Magnetic Fields—Yeah! Oh, Yeah!
Pavement—Starlings of the Slipstream
Sparklehorse—It's a Wonderful Life


the tao of the dow

Sorry, I should have mentioned long ago that due to the graduation and dispersal of our Iowa class, owl-farm.com is defunct. I've archived everything here, should anyone ever want to take a peek. The farmlog is broken, but backend programming makes my head hurt in the morning.

When you discover that you have lymphatic cancer, what do you do? You cut away everything and lock your door and sit in front of your computer and write for three years, because your life depends upon it. My hat is off to Gabo. And of course Vivir para Contarla won't appear in the U.S. for a year or more. The other night I was this close to ordering a copy from Spain, but 40 euros with shipping is a bit steep. A literary expedition into Mexico may be necessary at some point. Surely Nogales has bookstores.


all this nature

A last paracosmic hurrah from Peter/secretkings:

Oh, but mine! My paracosm was a contemporary Olympus led by a super-powerful god-man named Charlie, whose archnemesis was a small robot named "Glue". There was, in addition to all the maps and the intricate social lives of all of the characters, a primitive theology. That was probably the most extensive and longest-lived of the little worlds in my head, but there have been dozens.

A partial list of wildlife thus far identified in the immediate environs of this apartment:

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). I guess you see these everywhere, but I always associated them with the desert somehow. I thought Stanford didn't have any; I have been advised otherwise.

White-Winged Dove (Zenaida asiatica). This species is much more confined to the southwest. Its call is shorter and deeper.

Gila Woodpecker (Melanerpes uropygialis). A couple of these guys will get on a tree or saguaro and start tag-teaming it. The sound of the beak hitting the wood isn't nearly as loud as you would think; it's just a light tap.

Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus).

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus).

Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens). It's like a cardinal but jet black. It's the cardinal's evil twin. Created in a laboratory to destroy the brave, all-American cardinal.

Gambel's Quail (Lophortyx gambelii). They bob through the wash behind the patio in these cute little coveys. My bird book notes: "An ingenious watering device has been invented to fill the main environmental need of these quail: a slanting metal roof open to the cool night air of the desert accumulates dew, which drips down into a trough, providing water during the heat of the day."

Black-throated Sparrow aka Desert Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata).

Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria). A male and female showed up on my birthday and quite happily bopped around the branches of a mesquite for a half hour, like omens of good cheer, despite the brewing storm. I'm told they live entirely off dandelion seeds.

Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes). The motherfucker got into the living room, which bothers me. I dislike even turning to its picture to look up the scientific name.

Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus audobonii). Your basic bunny rabbit. They sure do like the wash.

Coyote (Canis latrans). These guys come into the parking lot at night; the clearest view I've had was of one who was rummaging around the dumpster before I showed up. I'm afraid that they have found my old discarded manuscripts and are now howling their derision.

Javelina aka Collared Peccary (Dictoyles tajuca). This jumped in front of my sister's car the other day as she was pulling into her parking spot—a big old fellow with tusks and the whole deal. It ran back behind the patio and we haven't seen it since. I think it's waiting for me.

No hummingbirds as yet. We need to get a feeder.



Verily, there is no lack of paracosms among the readers of this site. We have:

—Rainbow Town, located near Carmel CA, and populated with an impressive cast of characters including Anna Pavlova the ballerina.
—A party of tiny interstellar explorers arriving on the earth.
—A cat planet with city maps (the capital map being a solid five feet square), history, mythology, cosmology, intrigues involving the canine assassin QVB, and yes, an anthem; also a couple coherent collections of what must amount to religious parody, complete with archaeological and sociological histories of its coming to light, the fates of the tribes that wrote it, etc.
—An imaginary boat whose travels around the globe were documented in an extensive seventy-page log, though for the most part it just sailed and refueled.
—A hierarchical society based upon the structure of a bookshelf, where the doll at top is the queen, the Star Wars figures on the next tier do her bidding, and the lesser figures (trolls, etc.) occupy themselves with social visits or adventures to the Land of the Bed.

One reader asks "When, at what age, do people *stop* creating paracosms?" and another points out: "Isn't this the concept behind role-playing games and their techy cousins? Certainly one of the best-known and most extensively developed paracosms is, of course, Middle Earth, complete with myths, languages, and all."

Quite so. I suspect that those who retain the paracosmic urge past childhood find themselves quite naturally drawn to fantasy and science fiction, since these genres necessitate the creation of a world. In fact it's rather easy for the world to overwhelm the story; in junior high creative writing classes, I never got around to the science fiction epics I was supposed to be writing, as I was too busy coming up with the history of the next few centuries and the grammar of the alien languages and so forth. There are still notebooks sitting around somewhere with reams of the stuff. The same thing can happen to readers; as evidence there is Tolkien's aggrieved letter to a cartographically inclined fan:

While many like you demand maps, others wish for geological indications rather than places; many want Elvish grammars, phonologies, and specimens; some want metrics and prosodies.... Musicians want tunes, and musical notation; archaeologists want ceramics and metallurgy; botanists want a more accurate description of the mallorn, of elanor, niphredil, alfirin, mallos, and symbelmyne; historians want more details about the social and political structure of Gondor; general enquirers want information about the Wainriders, the Harad, Dwarvish origins, the Dead Men, the Beornings, and the two missing wizards (out of five); in short, they want lore."

I am also directed to the imaginary lands of Angria and Gondal created by the Brontë children.



Paracosms were first noted by the late Robert Silvey, a pioneer in audience research for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in England; his 1977 article recounts his own experience. Silvey later joined with psychiatrist Stephen A. MacKeith to begin gathering research about others who had similar paracosm experiences. Silvey died in 1981, but MacKeith continued the research, which resulted in the only study published regarding paracosms.

Together, Silvey and MacKeith established four criteria for paracosms: the subject must understand the paracosm to be imaginative, not real; the subject’s paracosm must show longevity, typically a year or more; the subject’s paracosm must be consistent throughout, with no dramatic changes; and the subject must demonstrate pride in and enjoyment of the paracosm, rather than use it as a defensive "escape" mechanism. The completed project resulted in a book chapter in 1988 (Morrison, Organizing Early Experience). Psychologist David Cohen joined with MacKeith to further analyze the information, which resulted in a more extensive summary, The Development of Imagination: The Private Worlds of Childhood. Cohen has further explored the world of paracosms in his book The Development of Play, in which he notes that Piaget mentions a nephew who had developed an intricate world, meticulously researched and documented.

I had several of these as a child. The most elaborate was a small nation that my sister and I dreamed up, populated entirely by talking animals (represented by our stuffed animals, natch). The Zoocratic Republic of Zoia had its own language, history, system of government, yearly elections, national anthem, monetary system, a big beautiful map, and a monthly news magazine which we put together on our father's Xerox machine. We must have kept it going for a period of two to three years. This article claims that paracosms are rather rare, but I can't imagine that we were the only children doing this. Anyone?


stop the war, i want to get off

But universal peace will have to wait; today I will pack a lunch and try to go write in the mountains. Only time will tell whether this turns out to be its own form of masturbation.



If anyone has not yet heard, Grant and Valerie are engaged. I found out via a cryptic word puzzle from Grant—I managed to unscramble the word "engaged" but, as I apparently can't think outside the box these days, I completely failed to grasp the implication. The solemn processional is planned for October '03.

Metameat also loves Hannah/ravenousplankton, who has turned out to be a treasure trove of info on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. This is good, since they didn't let me inside when I was there—everything is hyper-secured, I guess because Saddam might try to steal cancer or something. She also has all sorts of exciting photos—notably a Budapest section with a Unicum subway museum. I tried Unicum precisely once, and it took a half hour to get the taste out of my mouth.


my girl's a yorkshire girl

"A concocted video of President Bush pushing seniors in wheelchairs over a cliff is beyond offensive," Mr. Racicot said. "The D.N.C.'s activities reflect desperation and serve as further proof they are a party unable or unwilling to offer positive solutions to important problems."

Consider Dahlia Abdulrahim and Intidhar Abdulrahim, two young women I met at an English-language used-book shop in Baghdad. Dahlia reads romance novels, while Intidhar favors Thomas Hardy. So will they be cheering the American troops rolling through Baghdad?

"I will throw stones at them," Dahlia said.

"Maybe I will throw knives," Intidhar said brightly.

Meanwhile, Iraqi vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan has the best idea ever for averting war: simply let Bush and Saddam fight a duel. Kofi Annan can referee. Everyone wins.


how to win a war without really trying

On Friday Eric was in Phoenix, to protest the occasion of Bush visiting on a fundraiser for the scary Mormon who's running for governor on the Republican ticket. Indymedia got pictures; he's sitting, with the "No war por favor" sign.

The comments box sez:

"What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" --James 4:1

if the land's Irack, you must attack

The will to be totally rational is the will to be made out of glass and steel: and to use others as if they were glass and steel.

That last is from Marge Piercy.

The Lakeview Cemetery also had lots of beautiful Chinese graves, e.g.:

Peyton sends the reassuring news that death is funny in Scotland. The whole project reminds me rather too much of the Monty Python skit about the fatal joke that won World War II.


our national interest

"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, "it all comes of wanting things so much."

In California during the Gulf War

Among the blight-killed eucalypts, among
trees and bushes rusted by Christmas frosts,
the yards and hillsides exhausted by five years of drought,

certain airy white blossoms punctually
reappeared, and dense clusters of pale pink, dark pink—
a delicate abundance. They seemed

like guests arriving joyfully on the accustomed
festival day, unaware of the year's events, not perceiving
the sackcloth others were wearing.

To some of us, the dejected landscape consorted well
with our shame and bitterness. Skies ever-blue,
daily sunshine, disgusted us like smile-buttons.

Yet the blossoms, clinging to thin branches
more lightly than birds alert for flight,
lifted the sunken heart

even against its will.
                  But not
as symbols of hope: they were flimsy
as our resistance to the crimes committed

—again, again—in our name; and yes, they return,
year after year, and yes, they briefly shone with serene joy
over against the dark glare

of evil days. They are, and their presence
is quietness ineffable—and the bombings are, were,
no doubt will be; that quiet, that huge cacophony

simultaneous. No promise was being accorded, the blossoms
were not doves, there was no rainbow. And when it was claimed
the war had ended, it had not ended.

—Denise Levertov

Lakeview Cemetery, Seattle WA 28 September 2002



People were so nice. Everyone genially pointed me toward locales like the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center and the Lakeview Cemetery (cause it's such a fucking happy book!), and all the cars went out of their way to let me walk in front of them. Not even Iowa was like this.

And also there are the nice people who let me sleep on their couches, in beautiful neighborhoods on hills—the declivities are steep, tumbling toward the water, held in place by carpets of ivy and thirty different species of tree that I couldn't identify. I'm terrible with plants that aren't cactus.

"We couldn't find Sneedle [old Space Needle mascot]."
"Sneedle's gone?"
"Now there's the Wheedle. He sleeps on top of the Needle."
"The Wheedle?"
"Here, let me find him on Google."
[clickety clack]
"Oh God, he's repellent!"

Three solid days of walking up hills with a backpack must have doubled my daily caloric intake. On Sunday night I, who usually eat 1.5 meals per diem, went to Piecora's Pizza and polished off four of their giant slices—the waiter claimed he'd never seen anyone manage that before. If I were to exercise regularly, could I handle the grocery bill?

Seaplanes coming in to land on Lake Union, tilted sharply forward with floats sticking out like oversized bird feet and righting themselves just in time, skimming the wavetops in a wide decelerating turn, leaving twin trails of foam.

I was very good about curbing my usual traveling-spendthrift leanings (somehow it's okay to buy $150 in books and music on impulse, if you're in a different city), but I did have to spring for this new EMI Great Recordings issue of Schubert's Winterreise, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing. What a man was Dietrich, how bleak are these poems. They translate them here.

Snow, you know about my longing,
Tell me, where does your course lead?
If you just follow my tears,
The brook will soon receive you.

You will flow through the town with it,
In and out of the busy streets;
When you feel my tears burning,
There is my sweetheart's house.

And then if that wasn't sad enough, I found myself alone with a television for the first time in months and watched M2 for a while. On 120 Minutes they were interviewing two-fifths of Super Furry Animals, who were incomprehensibly Welsh (there was some anecdote about making Paul McCartney eat carrots), and then they showed the animated video for "It's Not the End of the World?" and the world blew up and yeah. I'll probably have to spring for that record too.

I am home. I have a year without winter. To work.


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