<= 2003.08

2003.10 =>


the celibate life

After a few minutes at the coffee shop, I realized that the couple sitting behind me was meeting for the first time, and that they had arranged this meeting over an Internet dating service. He mostly talked about his record collection; she talked about her cats. There's a neat parallelism there, but O it saddens me.

Google, what succour art thou for those people who, like your humble narrator, have neurotic needs to plan their lives years in advance. I have poked around and, soft economy notwithstanding, I shall chill out about the money. If I must, I will go back to Nevada for more litigation; if the litigation dries up and I have to go work for Kaplan or something, fine; but, Portland, I am putting you on notice. You have a year. If, at the end of that year, I decide that a) I love you; b) you love me; c) we are a happy family; then so much the better, and I will give thanks to merciful God. But if, at the end of that year or at any time thereafter, I should decide that these three conditions fail to obtain, then I am not stuck waiting around for the grad schools to start taking applications. ¡Qué no! I am on the Medication of Courage! Guatemala is of course a research trip, but I think it will also be a test run to see how I do in countries without broadband or potable water. If I manage my money like a smart monkey, why can't I pony up a grand, get TESOL certified, and go have a goddamn adventure?


la lucha de lucho

But, you are all asking, what about Luis Eduardo Díaz? Look no further:

Diario de Noticias ¡Qué Mundo!, 26 April 2003

A Bogotan Parliament member launches a sexual campaign by undergoing vasectomy

A councilman and longtime shoeshiner in the Colombian capital announced that he would submit to a vasectomy in order to call attention to the lack of sex education and family planning campaigns, the local press reported yesterday. Luis Eduardo Díaz, elected to the Bogotá Legislature in the surprise of Colombia's 2000 regional and municipal polls, indicated that he will enter the operating room "as a gesture of support for women." Díaz, who has become famous not only for attaining the bench after decades as a shoeshiner on the city streets, but also for his longstanding predilection for alcoholic drinks, specified that the vasectomy would be performed the coming May 10.


El Tiempo, 6 September 2003

New and old faces in Parliament

Luis Eduardo Díaz... offered to donate 70 percent of his salary to the indigent and deliver packing crates as part of his work. This year he presented resolutions for three projects: the change of the school day (on hold), the promotion of vasectomy, and the regulation of tattooing and piercing practices. He headed three debates of political control, one of which referred to the question of public space. According to the project "Parliament as We Go," his attendance at sessions is among the lowest: only 21.5 percent for the period August 2002 to June 2003.


El Espectador, 11 September 2003

Parliament member Luis Eduardo Díaz sanctioned

The president of Parliament, Fernando López Gutiérrez, sanctioned member Luis Eduardo Díaz with the suspension of right of speech for five sessions, without right of salary, owing to the acts recorded in the Plenary Session of Tuesday, 9 September 2003, when the aforesaid Parliament member took part in the proceedings in favor of vasectomy for Bogotans.

The President of Parliament thus brought into use the body's new Internal Regulation, which authorizes sanctions in response to violations of the moral and ethical principles of society. In this case "the acts committed by Díaz do not reflect a proper example of his status as a Parliament member."

The sanction against Díaz is effected by Resolution 15 of 10 September 2003, by application of Article 115 of the Parliamentary Regulations.

"The Parliament member committed an act of disrespect against the aforementioned invited officials, the councilmen, the parliamentary officials, and the citizens present, by exhibiting a replica of masculine genitals and presenting it as a gift to the District Secretary of Health, Doctor José Fernando Cardona," said Lópeaz.


El Heraldo, 12 September 2003

Forced Silence

The shoeshiner councilman Luis Eduardo Díaz Chaparro yesterday paid his first day of sanction without right of salary or use of speech, for exhibiting in the Bogotá Parliament a masculine sexual organ in paraffin. "I feel impotent," the legislator sarcastically said.


El Espectador (opinion), 14 September 2003

Lucho, bravo!

The condemnation of Luis Eduardo Díaz, shoeshiner and councilman, is a mixture of sanctimoniousness, concealment, and, above all, incredible myopia.

Díaz proposed that the District promote the introduction of vasectomy programs. He said this in the language of a shoeshiner, as he ought. He explained this with a plastic penis in his hand, as teachers of surgery do.

Lucho's explanation was scientifically exact, and his proposal proper. He simply sought to allay men's reluctance to submit to vasectomy, which originates not only in the immediate fear of physical pain, but in the long-term terror of losing virility. His speech was not out of place; nor was the humorous air with which he explained certain physiological weakenings. If he had spoken of "erectile dysfunction," an affected and viscous expression, no one would have bothered him.

Popular language: yes. Vulgar: no. It would have been far worse to hear Lucho speaking in medical jargon. Or equally bad if the Secretary of Health, a doctor by profession, had used the slang of Bogotan street children.

Language, phallus and proposal coincide to form a seal of authenticity.

A second stated interest of Lucho's is responsible fatherhood. Here is a true jewel. A notable change that reaffirms a greater discovery: if the lower classes have been the most resistant to birth control techniques, Lucho shows that in Colombia a true demographic revolution has taken place. That is, on the popular level there is a completely rational acceptance of this matter.

And finally, what has colossal significance is his battle against machismo. What Lucho wants is for the responsibility of birth control to not fall exclusively to women. That well-spoken young men would want this seems a triumph of civilization and good judgment.

Those who complain about a plastic bonitico* belong to the line of those who wanted to castrate the "David" or put a brassiere on the Venus de Milo.

The Parliament, for its part, has suspended his right of speech when we most needed him to speak. It's an error. But it's something worse: some discredited councilmen have wrapped themselves in the cloak of bourgeois respectability, not to respond to a coarseness that did not exist, but to mask their own weaknesses.

Well done, Lucho!

*I have no idea how to translate this; it seems to be a Colombian thing. The suffix -ico is an affectionate diminutive, so it's something like "pretty little thing," but in slightly outdated, therefore campy, popular slang, it's a penis.



Whew! Sorry, I have to watch those meds.

"But seriously"—the rejection letter from Ms. X was not a form letter, and was therefore far, far more insidious. Ms. X was an intelligent, sensitive, articulate reader who liked many things about the book. Of course this made her analysis of its shortcomings all the more cutting, especially when I called her to discuss it further. It's one thing to think you've written a quiet, slow-paced book that will have a hard time selling; it's another to think that it might have potential, except for a basketful of glaring flaws that you hadn't noticed. The Ms. X Affair depressed me horribly for the past two days, until I realized that it completely contradicted Ms. Y's letter from earlier in the summer, which identified a completely different set of successes and failures.

I've been out of workshop too long. I forgot about the rampant subjectivity. I forgot how many bad, bad books get published weekly. Most important, I forgot that almost all books, even the good ones, come with their trademark flaws, and that if the book is good, its flaws are a necessary converse of its strengths. I can't rewrite the damn thing every time some nice lady sends me a letter. It's what I wanted it to be, and I'm satisfied with it, even if the world isn't.

So, thirteen more lucky envelopes into the mail.

And the anthology with Peyton's story is out!



In every house I pass there is someone I should meet.

The things you don't have are the heaviest. You will drag them to the grave.

The narrative function N is nothing more than dp/dt, where p is pain.

I poked my head up for pop-culture air and came away bemused: a musical of Gregory Maguire's Wicked? Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath? Jack White is in Cold Mountain and has a car accident with Renee Zellweger? See, it's better in the burrow.

Or maybe not. I went to Powell's and skimmed that new Infinite Jest reader's guide, which didn't take long as it's under 100 pages. Mostly I was curious what it had to say about some of the plot ambiguities. The guide claims that [spoiler] the most likely reason Hal ends up neurologically damaged at the start/end of the book is not because he took the DMZ, but because he was captured by the wheelchair assassins, who at the end of the book were about to take over the tennis tournament bus, and who presumably subjected him to the Entertainment. That might explain why he and Don Gately are forced to dig up his father's head to retrieve the original cartridge. The guide also sees a direct homage to Joyce in that the book is stalked by the ghost of a tall, alcoholic, avant-garde author named James.

Past that I started skimming faster, because it started getting dry, and sort of obvious, and sort of like someone's Ph.D. dissertation—and I don't want to read anyone's Ph.D. dissertation. I am not reconciled to the fact that the way of the world might force me to one day write a dissertation, and then go on to read other people's dissertations for a living. Slim choices. I don't have the constitution to go work in an Alaska fishery, or whatever the Non-University Real Manly Writers do these days. I don't have a lot of things. And the stupid thing is, that statement will always be true.


the undiscovered country

I just finished participating in a study that asked me to examine my own feelings about death and mortality. The metaphor I kept coming back to was a boat launched into an infinite black ocean. Ice on the horizon. Dear readers, you are perhaps on the shore, waving hankies.

Enough with the rejection letters. Don't these people understand I'm not going to live forever?


answer with openness and candor: "who am i?"

We have a progressive word count again, because it is so warranted, because I don't know what else I have to offer right now. After a month in Reno where neither my time nor my space were my own, I've made a deep retreat into hermitage. Almost no one I know in this city is around at present, and all my thoughts cluster around the nascent book, which is bad for this site because the books are one of the few things I don't like to discuss here in specific detail. Hence entries like this one.

Approaching Zero was the first novel I tried to write, with the exception of the eighth-grade sci-fi epics and Living Creatures, my stupid undergraduate road-trip book that none shall see and live. I wrote the first draft (then titled The Dying President) in 2000, coming off nothing but the vague idea that it would be really cool to write about South America... and math! One can imagine the results. Nobody saw that draft except my family, and Nik, and Jen, and Lauren—who may still have an extant copy. I asked her to destroy it, but I don't know whether she complied.

I started a rewrite that winter, but it didn't go well because I was spending too much time alone and sometimes alcohol or cannabis would do lots of the writing for me, so the next day I would find that I had written myself helpful notes like "Time for the earthy birth teleological smackdown!" I don't know what that means, and neither do you. In spring 2001 I started from scratch again and plotted out the whole thing with fifty or sixty Post-Its stuck to the wall, and stayed inside all day and got to 50,000 words before I realized that the plot hadn't even started yet. Later I put up an excerpt in workshop because I was trying to finish Song of Roland and didn't have anything else to offer, and the reaction was predictable. Someone called it "Nancy Drew in the Third World."

There was another abortive rewrite the second year at Iowa, with another very pretty schematic taped to the wall, but it didn't work out because I was too busy with projects that were actually going somewhere. And now here it is again. The damn thing finally has a plot, at least, but I can't speak for anything else. My hope is that all the prior failed drafts have fulfilled the enormous quota of throat-clearing that comes with any project. I'd like to think that all the puerile philosophical crap, all the boring self-indulgent pomo tricks, are finally out of the way, and I can finally tell a story.


the octopus

Here, I put this up, and in a week or so I should actually have something to sell there.

And I must not forget the happy, happy news for those who have not heard it—Chris and Felisa are engaged!


you said "open unit ball"

I will say it once more.
The Waiting Game stinks.
Let's play "Hungry Hungry Hippos."

MathWorld at Wolfram Research explains lots of concepts for the curious: e.g., Just what is a manifold?

Mainfolds were a new way of looking at the world, so much so that even defining them sometimes tripped up eminent mathematicians. At Princeton, Simon Bochner, one of the leading analysts of his day and a fine lecturer, used to walk into his graduate classes, start to give a definition of a manifold, get hopelessly bogged down, and finally give up, saying with an exasperated air, before moving on, "Well, you all know what a manifold is."

—Sylvia Nasar, A Beautiful Mind (which I think is a lot better than the movie I didn't see)


aleph-beth soup

Hair keeps growing on my face. I'm losing the impetus to stop it. If I went to Guatemala with hair on my face, would I look less obviously American? The sun has gone away to hide, and I refuse to go turn orange in a tanning booth, so my options are few.

Mr. Lethem comes to Powell's on Tuesday, and David Foster Wallace got to set theory before I did. "It's all right," my mom would say, "he's priming the public for you."


vespa, n'est-ce pas?

The other night my printer started screaming like a banshee, and by the time my mother awoke and stumbled over to the desk and unplugged it, the ink inside the cartridge had undergone a horrible electronic auto-da-fé, leaving nought but black dust. New cartridges are on back order, so I will have to go to Peyton's house, on the pretext of taking care of her cat, and print out my CD order forms there. The CD master and artwork and sundries should be going off to the Canadian manufacturing plant today, and unless I fucked up the Illustrator layout (always a possibility) they'll ship me back 1000 copies, and then I will use them to build a fort.


schlafen in my coffin

Got my shots (I kiss you, hepatitis A), and have come away with sore shoulders and a renewed appreciation for Dr. Jonas Salk. Fortunately, the Guatemalan flavor of malaria is not yet resistant to chloroquine, so I don't have to take Lariam and go crazy.

Cat: asleep on couch. Visiting mother: asleep on other couch. I approve of everything, but I too must rest.


shopping for two

Back in Portland! Cammie was a trooper through the ten-hour car ride and seems to be settling in well. The windowsills are wide enough for her sit and mew at the birds.

The scoop, briefly, on Cambridge Yoda Kerschen: she is small and gray and joined our family unit in 1992. For the next four years we lived together in domestic tranquility; when I was fifteen and having my "issues" and/or "phases" she was about the only thing on the planet that I loved and trusted unconditionally. Then I went off to college and she went to live with the folks in Reno, and became cranky and sullen for want of proper affection. She and my mother have always coexisted by an uneasy truce, and while my stepfather is a fine man in many ways, his idea of petting a cat is to administer a sort of backbreaking Shiatsu massage. At any rate, Cammie needed to be rescued. At age eleven, she has finally come to Portland to live out her golden years in—one hopes—a more congenial environment. I'm certainly happy to have her. Waking up alone is the shits.


alpha and omega kingdom come

Last year, when American IV: The Man Comes Around came out, I think we all sensed it might be Johnny Cash's last album. He was still with the music, especially in the title track and the Nine Inch Nails cover that made all the kids sit up and take notice, but at the same time you could feel that he had turned his eyes upward and away. The liner notes in particular sounded like the words of a man who had settled accounts with the world and with his God. This summer June Carter passed and the last thread was cut.

Mr. Cash's 2000 recording of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger" supersedes any further comment.

I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through this world below
There is no sickness nor toil nor danger
In that bright land to which I go

I'm going there to see my father
And all my loved ones who've gone home
I'm just going over Jordan
I'm just going over home

I know dark clouds will gather round me
I know my way is hard and steep
But beauteous fields arise before me
Where God's redeemed their vigils keep

I'm going there to see my mother
She said she'd meet me when I come
So I'm just going over Jordan
I'm just going over home


i'm not your boyfriend, and i'm not going to clobber anybody

Today I am 25, and sleepy, and poor as a church mouse; but I am more or less living the life I wanted for myself when I was seventeen, and I am grateful for this fidelity. Even if I'm having trouble staying awake at work. Soft economy. Warm, soft economy, fresh from the dryer, falling in snowy white folds.

Whatever happened to those innocent days, full of youth and promise, when the Franklin stove invented bifocals, when George Washington chopped down the Potomac?


the secret of material conditions

Get a monkey to do it. Get a computer to do it.

The devil invited me aboard his ark. The damned run on treadmills; they electrify the adding machines. Manicures are free here. Hygiene is the number one priority. One is allowed, and even encouraged, to spend one's time thinking of escapes. There are no escapes. Topologically, the problem reduces to a Möbius strip.

The devil can afford to be generous. He is winning. I am playing chess with the devil and he is winning.


up to the guard tower

If you sent me an email and never got one back, it's because my fucking webmail server is fucking fucked. Sorry about that. I'll try to make amends when I get back to Portland in two weeks. Ojalá, many things will be better when I get back to Portland. Working this job is sort of like driving across the country; the only way to stave off the numbing sameness is to keep a running total in your head of the [miles/dollars] so far accumulated. Doing this makes me peevish and misanthropic, the more so because I have a nascent book and can't write it. And while the American justice system is salutary in a lot of ways, all the courtrooms and judicial offices are vortices of sha chi. You can almost feel the blood dripping from the walls.

I bought my tickets for Guatemala next month. My PO box finally freed up, so the record ought to be out before that. In the spring I'll try to take a Spanish lit class or something at PSU. I am a Displaced Person. Do not listen to the Displaced Person.


go down without a fight

I was worrying about being almost 25 and not famous, but then I discovered that this site is in the New York Log Hauling Directory.

(cue piano)
I'll haul your log from Staten Island
All the way to Queens;
You got a log? Check out this blog!
We're log-hauling machines!

Also Arizona Artificial Limbs. The machines are actually getting stupider as time passes.

Any ex-KGB agents who might be reading this site: if you guys still have any of those sensory deprivation chambers, I would like to be placed inside one, please. I would like to be given sodium pentathol beforehand. I will tell you absolutely everything and we will all have a good cry.


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