<= 2001.03

2001.05 =>

[APRIL 2001.]

topless centaur revue

Yesterday's main event was at Julia's, where our workshop had a potluck. The nice thing about a potluck is that everyone usually knows how to cook at least one thing, and the people who can't cook will bring soda, so you end up with quality food. Chris's sons Sam and James were in attendance as well. They are two fine young men who unfortunately got hold of the backyard water hose at one point. For reasons that were perfectly clear at the time, I decided to charge them on Sam's bicycle, which nearly fit me. The stream of water naturally knocked me over, but I dried off quickly enough because the weather in Iowa City is goddamn gorgeous right now.

Simpsons cast gets a pay hike, but will the show ever be good again?

Link between creativity and schizophrenia? Probably not, this article suggests, which is a relief. They claim a correlation with manic depression; but we already knew that. And speaking of insane genuises, Saturday was Kurt Gödel's birthday.

Kant, on the other hand, never did anything.


how was your april worthwhile?

Hello: I've been in Chicago. It was my first trip, other than flying through the airport, and my only other real urban experience has been in San Francisco, so I'm not sure what to say about it. It's very different from SF, certainly. There's the strangest Midwestern vibe. The first couple of bars we went to were exactly like frat parties, only everyone was 35. Then we started going to places that charged a cover and ended up at BAR.

I do not know how to explain BAR, other than to say that it appears to be a franchise with clubs in several major American cities and its layout suggests that it's probably considered pretty hip by people who know about dance clubs, and by having been there I've probably gained Zeitgeist points without even realizing it. There were many attractive and well-dressed women dancing on the counters, but the paucity of women on the actual dance floor suggests that the counter women may have been paid to dance there. Especially because some of them were making out with one another. There was also a midget in a gold lamé jester's hat, who appeared to be enjoying himself. "Sweet Child of Mine" and "Jump Around" were played. The DJ would periodically shout into the microphone, addressing all of the "party people." The ceiling of BAR was outfitted with industrial-looking girders and light rigs and after a while I began to fear that the strobe would give me a seizure, so I hid behind my purple sunglasses. The whole thing reminded me of Berlin in the late '20s/early '30s, and only increased my secret fears that Western society is headed somewhere terrible.

The unquestionable highlight of the trip was the food. Zaiqa is an Indian/Pakistani restaurant where the cab drivers of Chicago congregate. Every car within a block of this place was a taxi. I couldn't pronounce most of the food, but it was spicy and sublime. Generally, you know you've found a good restaurant when your party is the only one speaking English. We also went to Salonica which, as Marlowe points out, is the Greek Denny's. The omelets contain feta and so on. Good stuff. And then we stopped in Ottawa, IL for fifty-cent convenience store baked goods wrapped in plastic.

Amnesiac is out on 4 June.


an illustrated book about birds

Everyone's aflutter because a literary agency is dropping by to check out us young writers. My mood before the interview is pretty nicely paraphrased by the passage in the Dave Eggers memoir where he's waiting for his Real World interview:

While waiting and chatting, I realize that, duh, I'm already auditioning. I begin to think harder about my words, making them more memorable, wanting to be at once fun, cutting edge, soulful and midwestern. I notice my legs; they're crossed. But how to cross my legs? The guy-guy way or the women's-older man's way? If I do the latter, will they think I'm gay? Will that help?

Seth points out SodaPlay: this is cool. It reminds me slightly of that old Life simulator for the Mac, except the little Euler-graph beasties you build here are bound by user-defined laws of physics.

Trying to make ends meet in San Francisco if you're anywhere other than the tech industry.


and dances with the daffodils

Recent quotes by Ethan on the art of writing a novella:

"Let's conduct an Einsteinian thought-experiment on this one."

"You need a big ending. You need an amazing and surpising and inevitable Soylent Green is People sort of ending."

"Well, see if that rings your dinger."

This appears to be a Soylent Green ballad.

Positive press for Flight by our dear workshop-mate José Skinner, who read last night at Prairie Lights and translated all the swearwords into Spanish on the fly so as to comply with FCC regulations. This page has the by-now-famous Offutt quote, as well as C.M. Mayo pronouncing it "hoot-out-loud funny."

Who knew: conductors have an unfortunate tendency to die during performances, generally from heart failure. "These guys need regular screening," warns Dr Romeo Vecht, a senior cardiologist at London's Wellington Hospital. "Put them on the bicycle, take an echocardiogram. You can't always win, but you can pick things up early enough to save lives."

Ugly Rooms for the Beautiful People, from Hannah via Felisa, chronicling the worst interior-decorating disasters of the 1970s in all their cacochromatic glory.


an imbalance of power

There's a bullying study. I know, it's an issue, but I can't keep a straight face when statistical language is applied to a word like "bully." Says the study:

Ten percent of the children said they had been bullied by other students, but had not bullied others; 6 percent said they had both been bullied themselves and had bullied other children; and 13 percent said they had bullied other students, but had not themselves been bullied.

The infographic with the silhouettes is also silly. This is part of the U.S. contribution to a World Health Organization study on schools, for which other countries are presumably dealing with things like meningitis in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

Wonder Woman turns 60. Among other tidbits, this Washington Post article reveals that she was created by a psychologist as an attempt to help boys access their inner feminine archetype: the Jungian anima. Who knew?



I need to find a schedule that does not involve writing before bed. Because when I write I drink coffee, and when I drink coffee before bed I sleep for like half an hour, then shoot wide awake and spend the rest of the night shivering beneath the covers, convinced that something terrible is happening. Last night I thought I was dying of salmonella. From a hard-boiled egg. Yeah, I know. And today I have a story up in workshop.

My mother (Molly) won an educational award for developing an academic intervention program. From the rooftops, shout it out.

Foot-and-mouth virus suspected in humans, which sounds scary until you understand what unusual circumstances are required for transmission. Tony Blair's spokesman says "My understanding is that (the slaughterman) was moving the decomposing carcass of a cow, when that carcass exploded, and the fluid went into his mouth."


starbucks is like the industrial revolution

My torch lamp burnt out this morning. Tilting it to change the bulb, I discovered a tiny insect graveyard. There must have been close to twenty of the poor sots. This is what happens when you think with your gonads. Word to Liz Claiborne et al.: light is now sexy.

San Francisco proposes covering sex changes under medical benefits--which would make it the only governmental body in the nation to do so. This reminds me of my fourth-grade year in England, when a kid named Malcolm was trying to convince a kid named Peter that sex changes existed.

Peter: "No way."

Malcolm: "Yes! They chop off your dong and make you a plastic twat." (I believe those were the actual words for the organs.)

Peter: "I don't believe you."

Malcolm: "They only have them in America." [to me] "Isn't that right?"

Me: "Um... I'm not sure."

Malcolm: "Do you have an American dictionary?"

Me: "Yes."

Malcolm: [to Peter] "He has an American dictionary. He can go home and look up 'sex change,' and then you'll see."

Our dictionary was an old Webster's and didn't list "sex change." Fortunately, I don't believe the issue ever came up again.


every day is like sunday

Saw Equus at the Riverside last night. The production hit a fever pitch early on and never quite backed down, which might have squandered some of the play's dynamic range. But the staging was phenomenal. They set it up as a Greek amphitheater and had audience members onstage at the back (though I understand this latter innovation is specified in Shaffer's script). The horses first emerge, wholly unexpectedly, from holes in the benches under people's feet and it's downright eerie. Their choreography throughout is excellent, particularly during the climactic scenes at the end of both acts. And the young man who played Alan hit enough lines dead-on to be memorable.

Overheard during intermission from a guy whose clothes screamed "I'm artsy!": "With all that shouting, I'm surprised the actors aren't hoarse." (snigger)

New book about Le Corbusier, the architect who could write in a Christmas card to his parents: "The misery of living makes man! And the disdain of this misery of living is incarnated in the soul of the GRAND CONDOR."

A touchy diatribe on why Americans don't read poetry which makes some true if familiar points (and incidentally questions the relevance of graduate creative writing programs), but doesn't offer any useful direction. One paragraph was amusing in a savage way:

One measure of the general irrelevance of anything is an official month designated in its honor. In The Republic, Plato famously concluded that poets, by virtue of most effectively shaking up the status quo through their work, would have to be excluded from his ideal society. We would do no such thing, of course; instead, we've made them inconsequential. We created National Poetry Month.

Our President makes Earth Day remarks. These are funny.


i had a talented wine

Attention: if last night you were at the cocktail party at my place, and you are missing a red jacket with a hood, it's here.

Attention again: Lyse is up and running with her own domain name at slithy-tove.net.

Oncologist sued for loaning a slide containing the blood of deceased Cardinal Terence Cooke to patients, apparently as a relic to use during prayer. Only I don't think it counts as a relic unless Cooke is officially canonized. Oh, the niceties.

Salon's primer on the ongoing Free Trade Area of the Americas negotiations and protests in Quebec. I recognize that globalization is inevitable, and the only way that Latin America might achieve some sort of long-term economic parity with the U.S., but secret negotiations are not the way to go about it. It encourages provisions like NAFTA's Chapter 11:

A controversial provision of NAFTA that permits corporations to sue member governments if they create regulations that cut into a company's bottom line. The deliberations are conducted in highly secretive tribunals, with no public input. Several high-profile cases have led to sharp criticism of the rule, and not without reason.

Corporations could challenge "any law in the hemisphere they see that could potentially impact the corporate bottom line," says Mark. "You could see a massive rollback of laws we fought so long to get."

You see where this is going: more power concentrated in the hands of the multinationals. With everyone placing the profit motive foremost, I don't think the game theory of the situation can work out any other way. I'm aware of the argument that child labor (for instance) is too bad, but what's the alternative: i.e., the kids wouldn't be working in maquiladoras if there were better jobs available elsewhere. I know. The logic of the market becomes more brutal as it simplifies. I know.

It's just business... cattle prods and the IMF.


bare bones

Every time I open IE it freezes. I should never have bought a laptop. So instead of links today, it's story hour.

In the tenth grade there was a guy we didn't like much. Let's call him Ron Dewbow. He had been our friend at one point but gradually his pompousness had got to be too much, plus he used Macs instead of PCs and we were the sort of tenth-graders where yes, that actually mattered. So if you like you can attribute the following to our collective tenth-grade sexual frustration.

I was home from school one day, ostensibly sick, as happened a lot that year. My friend--let's call him Al--came over with some sandwiches in a paper bag and we ate the sandwiches and decided to prank call Ron's house and leave messages on his answering machine. We left lots of messages. We did heavy breathing. We flushed the toilet. We played the funeral march from Chopin's Sonata No.2 in B minor.

Then came the clever part--oh so clever were we--where we decided to call a random number and leave a message about Ron on its answering machine. I was elected for the honor.

"Hello," I said to the random answering machine, "my name is Ron Dewbow, and I like to have sex with animals. Please call me at," and then I left Ron's number. End of story, presumably.

About a week later I came home from school and my parents were at the house. My parents are divorced so it requires an event to get them in the same room. "Um," I said, "hello."

"We'd like you to hear something, Paul," they said.

We went into the living room, where they'd plugged in a boombox. My dad started the tape deck, and there was my voice saying "My name is Ron Dewbow, and I like to have sex with animals. Please call me at," and then Ron's phone number.

"Well?" asked my dad.

"It certainly does sound like me," I said.

"But it's not you?"

"No," I said immediately. "Definitely not."

"All right," said my mom. "This message was left on the machine of Ron's Sunday school teacher. Ron's mother didn't want to prosecute, but if it isn't you they'll take it to the police station, where they can do computerized voice matching."

Not being the most legally astute tenth-grader in the world, I caved at this and confessed. But my parents refused to believe that I had randomly found the number.

"That's--what?" asked my dad. "You tell me the odds on that."

"Well, it was a local prefix," I said. "So if you assume there are twenty households in the prefix that know Ron, then it's twenty in ten thousand, or like one in five hundred. So not totally impossible."

"It was a Sunday School teacher," said my mom. "And sex with animals? How do you even know about that?"

The upshot was that I was in the shithouse for a while and had to write a nice letter of apology, while Al got off scot-free. Last I heard, Ron is married and working in Phoenix as a systems administrator.


penis envy vs. projective geometry

Those of you who have not been following Nina's conversations with Klaus (devilishly clever little language-synthesizing program) need to go check him out. He started out so-so, but by now all the Web kids have been feeding him the darndest phrases, and he'll say things like:

The komodo dragon is the biggest lizard in the Box taco, their steaming fatty meat drenched in their mysterious slimy red sauce. Wednesday afternoon, bam, suddenly the system had stopped running. Now, don't get me wrong, occasionally my stomach would get that familiar rumbling pressure, and I buckled down, pushing with all my shrimps was dead and gone.

In the arena of dietary distress, a new theory suggests that the mad cow epidemic started with sick African antelope in a safari park. Which begs the question: blokes, why would you feed sick antelope to cows?

New Murakami is out (thanks Felisa). Sputnik Sweetheart sounds perfectly eerie:

I closed my eyes and listened carefully for the descendants of Sputnik, even now circling the earth, gravity their only tie to the planet. Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, they meet, pass each other, and part, never to meet again. No words passing between them. No promises to keep.

If you're a Murakami fan you may also be interested in Kobo Abe, who seems to be Murakami's logical predecessor. In The Box Man people start living in boxes, other people start shooting them, there's sexual intrigue and is the narrative being written inside or outside a box anyway?


don't update, get no respect

I'm back. I am sorry for the lapse. What I have discovered in the last couple days:

Christian Truckers Against Dispatch Murder. I have no clue what this organization is, but they've taken out billboard space around Iowa City to put up Bible quotes, e.g., "Provide things honest in the sight of all men" (Romans 12:17). The reverse of the billboard is an ad for Vortex, which is our local yuppified New Age store. Their slogan is "A Place For Gifting," which I don't think is a word. It kind of sounds like a sexual subculture. Like on the fifth date Johnny would look over to Angela and in a sleazy yet sweet voice would say "So... are you into gifting?"

A review whose essential point is that John Updike has written lots of lousy books lately.

Chris on how to construct a novel: "Throw everything at it but the kitchen sink, then throw the kitchen sink at it and fill the sink, then drain it and see what you've got." I.e., by all means err on the side of writing too much. The Good Brother is reputed to have stood a foot high in first-draft manuscript.

Flooding round these parts makes national news. It's fine here, except that we had a goddamn blizzard a couple of days ago. Spring, what?


no gnus

Busy mailing taxes, etc. More soon.


back from lent, how do you feel?

From a blogging standpoint, my most productive days are my least interesting, as I don't leave the house and I can only tell you so much about my potted plant. (Its name is Malkovich.)

Former tech writer becomes dominatrix. The careers have things in common, apparently.

Some people are really ready to talk; some people you have to soften up and be nice to them first; some people you have to ask the same question 50 times to get the answer. Some guys are just like "Oh, I don't know." So my interviewing skills come in real handy.

You have to be able to gently extract from them what it is that they want without forcing them to go through a list. "First, I want you to beat me up the thighs." That's really unsexy.

But usually when they come in, they've called and made an appointment with my boss, and he will ask them what they want -- like enforced feminization, which means that you dress them up in girls clothes, put on makeup and go: "Oh, you're so pretty. Oh! We're girlfriends shopping together." Either they want you to talk about how pretty they are and how you're girlfriends hanging out together, maybe even like lesbian girlfriends, or they want to be humiliated. They want you to say, "You're such a sissy! You're so bad!"

Whenever I take job aptitute tests, "tech writer" shows up at the top. Hmm.


libation bearers

Yesterday, three events:

1. "I always check the site in the morning," says Aimee, "and it's never updated because you get up so late." I know. I wish I could do something about it too, but God or biology or both don't want me up before noon.

2. I do my taxes: my fellowship, which I thought not to be taxable, is. I do all of the math, including some messy long division, by hand in order to demonstrate my independence from thinking machines.

3. Driving home at two in the morning listening to KRUI and the student DJ has brought his dad on the air. The dad tells jokes, like the one about the Buddhist monk who goes to the hotdog stand and says "Make me one with everything," and reads the public service announcements. Then they play Radiohead and Miles Davis. This radio station is possibly the best thing about Iowa City.

The new Ekpryotic Universe model (from Greek ekpryosis, "catching fire") may explain certain cosmological features better than the Big Bang, though it's hard to say. It appears to suggest that there's another, twin universe out there, though it doesn't seem possible that we'd ever attain contact with it. The graphic that accompanies the article is silly.

John Ashcroft suggests that executing McVeigh will lead to "closure" and "emotional healing" for victims' families. Bah. Didn't Ashcroft ever read the Oresteia?


the velocity of time

Friday the 13th means it's time for Cibo Matto's creepy-chic "Sugar Water."

When a black cat crosses my path
A woman in the moon is singing to the earth
A woman in the moon is singing to the earth
La la la...

Do you know what my computer is doing? I will tell you. When I turn it on, the Windows logo won't even come up; instead the disk drive chugs and the cursor flashes very quickly across a blank screen. It looks kind of like the spaceship computers in Godzilla Versus Monster Zero. A few reboots will get it to load, but this doesn't bode well. I need to take it in, but first I must do my taxes and send manuscripts to be rejected by magazines with circulations in the low thousands.

Beware the Bar-S: they're recalling 14.5 million pounds of meat and poultry out of suspicion that it might contain Listeria monocytogenes. Now that I'm keeping my eyes open for this stuff, it happens all the time. Cf. mercury in fish, brain-eating worm in a taco, E. coli in beef not cooked enough and carcinogens in beef cooked too much. These are all headlines from the last couple days. So yes, I've moved on to strict vegetarian: i.e., eating nothing with eyes.

Secret formula SR141716 partially blocks the effects of smoked marijuana. Can anyone think of a situation in which this would have practical use?


twist and shout

We had a tornado yesterday. It touched down a few miles outside of here and for a while it looked like it was going to tear straight through Iowa City, but then it turned and headed north at the last minute. We didn't get to see a funnel cloud or flying cows or anything, just this unbelievably ominous complex of black clouds heading toward us at hellacious speed.

Eric Hebborn, master forger.

Between the late 1950's and 1996, Hebborn made more than 1,000 drawings and paintings, in a broader range of styles and time periods than any faker in history. He counterfeited the work of many of the most important European artists from the 15th to the 20th centuries. He made ink from authentic ingredients and bought Renaissance-era books and manuscripts to harvest blank pages. In fact, Hebborn targeted artists to fit the paper he found, not the other way around -- a brilliant stroke. He meticulously replicated the tiny abrasions and incidental nicks that infect paper and canvas over the centuries. He drank while he worked to relax into the fluidity and grace of the artists he was aping. Some of his forgeries were so good that when he was alive, it was said that they would never be detected unless he chose them to be.

Weird weather today, and I'm whirling like a dervish: too much to do.


the slow century

Possibly apocryphal story about Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess intended to title the book Clockwork Orang, "orang" being the word for "man" in Malaysia, where Burgess was living at the time. At some point, an editor added the final "e": possibly the same man who insisted on cutting the twenty-first chapter.

Blood Sisters is a valiant project cataloguing women in hardcore, metal, grind, noise and similar heavy genres. I like the band name Romantic Gorilla (Japanese), as well as Lacuna Coil (Italian).

We saw Blow last night. The first hour was fun, since it mostly took place in that iconic late-60s California which never actually existed, so far as I can tell. It also had Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) in a blond wig. The second hour started to lose some steam, and the third hour just tried to yank at your heartstrings over and over, for as long as possible, like they were a fucking bellpull and Jeeves wasn't coming down the stairs. Okay, so the film wasn't actually three hours long, but it sure felt that way.

The Bush budget's out. "What opponents of this budget want to do is spend more government money," says White House spokesman Ari Fleischer. "It's the classic formula for how to build a big government."

Damn, everyone in the White House is articulate.


work habits

Yeah, so the Iowa River is rather poisoned from farm runoff etc. It's always that morning-after question: I did what, exactly? And why?

The dicey nature of international semantics: China wants daoqian, not yihan.

Hello, they're reconstructing Amarna, the royal city built by Akhnaten, the renegade pharaoh who founded a completely distinct religion during Egypt's eighteenth dynasty. His successors obliterated both the religion and the city, of course. "The whole idea is NOT to create a theme park," says the British company which is building it, "but something more along the lines of a time machine."


work habits

Last night folks came by to eat bread and Brie and watch Kieslowski's Three Colors: Blue (archaic laserdisc format). They examined the five-column matrix of Post-Its stuck to my wall, which I'm using to organize my novel, then discovered a Guatemala travel guide beside my desk and declared me busted.

I confess: I'm doing a lot of book research for this thing. I'm reading so much nonfiction, in fact, that I don't have the time for fiction that I'd like. I've been fifteen pages into V. for weeks, and that isn't like me.

The most helpful books include:
--Guatemala Guide by Paul Glassman (old 1990 edition found used for $1.95)
--So Far From God: A Journey to Central America by Patrick Marnham, a first-class title which should not be out of print.
--Tangled Destinies: Latin America and the United States by Don M. Coerver and Linda B. Hall.
--The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: the Story of Paul Erdös and the Search For Mathematical Truth by Paul Hoffman. If you're at all interested in either biography or lay explanations of mathematics, buy this book. It's spectacular. I'm basing a character off Erdös.
The Mathematical Experience by Philip J. Davis and Reuben Hersh (ancient hardcover from Murphy-Brookfield Books).
--Descartes' Dream by the same two authors, now out of print. I won this book in the seventh grade through that Johns Hopkins talent search where they have twelve-year-olds take the SAT.
--The Cognitive Connection: Thought and Language in Man and Machine by Howard Levine and Howard Rheingold. Why are all these great books out of print? This one mostly deals with computer algorithms, but in detailing their genesis with the Turing machine it gives a lucid account of the holes that Russell and Gödel poked in the foundations of mathematics in the early 1900s. It also turned me on to Ramon Llull, the thirteenth-century Catalan mystic who was one of the first to imagine knowledge reduced to first principles, and who built this elaborate syllogism machine to convert the Moors to Christianity through force of argument.
--Number Theory: An Introduction to Algebra by Fred Richman. This was given to me by a mathematician uncle when I was eight or so. It's not high school algebra, but rather a specialized and much more difficult set-theoretic form of algebra involving ideals, rings, fields and all those other weird concepts that pure mathematicians expend most of their work on these days.

Anyway, then we watched Blue. That movie still floors me; the mother character in particular just breaks my heart. We finished around eight-thirty and everyone filed out of my apartment, and in their absence I felt suddenly and acutely alone in a way that is no longer common for me. I blame the film and the white wine.

I left my apartment and walked toward downtown Iowa City. The night was balmy--77 degrees by the bank clock--and the undergrads were out in force, laughing in packs. I walked past them, ridiculous me in my James Joyce T-shirt, among them but not of them. A group of police cars flashed at the intersection of Gilbert and Burlington; a green SUV tilted at a 45-degree angle from the road, resting on the crumpled hood of a white van. No passengers were in sight. I walked on, singing the recurring motif from Blue's unfinished concerto:

SOLO WOODWINDS (same theme, softer): Na na, na naaa-aaaa...

Then, as I crossed into campus and began to walk north on Madison, past the student union, I sang "Pyramid Song," a Radiohead track that will be released in May but is already circulating in mp3 form. It is such a fucking wrenching song, you have no idea.

I jumped in the river and what did I see?
Black eyed angels swam with me
A moon full of stars and astral cars
And all the things I used to see
All my lovers were there with me
All my past and futures
And we all went to heaven in a little rowboat
There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt

My best friend is in Arizona. My girlfriend is in Idaho. I am in the Central time zone. I walked, alone on a warm night. When I reached the Iowa River its flow was surprisingly quick; it was glutted, I imagined, with the runoff from the last of the melted snow. I took hold of a reed and stepped into the river.

A concrete support extends a couple of feet from the shore, just below the surface of the water; it may be there to keep the bank from collapsing, or to keep idiots like myself from drowning. I stepped to the edge of the concrete and stood shin-deep in the moving black water. It was cool but not cold. I was reminded of swimming in Stanford's Lake Lagunita; I was nineteen then, at the end of my sophomore year, and beginning a new and strange period of my life.

All my past and futures

Before walking home, I poured the water from my shoes onto the grass.


village inn blues

Happy birthday, dear Lyse.

So this weekend kicked off on Friday afternoon with Chris and me roaming around to see what sort of red wines Iowa City had to offer. We found plenty. Segue into another hookah-night at Marlowe's place: myself, Marlowe, Fred, Vu, two Joshes, and Marlowe's out-of-town friend Manan, who is a cool cat. There was also much beer. By four a.m. we realized we were horribly hungry.

"We gotta eat."

"What's open? Nothing's open."

"Village Inn is open."

"That's, like, all far away."

"Just a couple miles, man. Like two miles."


"We can't, like, drive."

"We need to walk."

"I ain't walking to Village Inn."

"You are, man. We're all walking to Village Inn."

We walked to Village Inn. It took something under an hour. Manan twisted his ankle halfway there, and when we arrived at Village Inn it was closed. We walked on to the Country Kitchen, which is more or less like Village Inn, only with these strange paisley patterns in the wallpaper and carpet which, combined with the bright lights and geometrically regular placement of the tables, resembled something from a Kubrick film. We ate skillets. We took a cab home. I slept.

Marlowe now has a hat identical to those worn by the Taliban. It's called his Buddha-hatin' hat.

Sex Q&A with Stephen Malkmus (ex-Pavement). Probably too much information, yes. Apparently his girlfriend has essentially taken over Bob Nastanovich's role on this tour: she runs around stage and shouts and sings backup off-key and plays the tambourine. The rest of the band is supposed to hate her. She looks pretty good in the picture, though. (Thanks Felisa.)

Man attacks Liberty Bell with hammer; bell is reported in stable condition.



Sorry no updates: I've been on a fifteen-hour intoxication spree and just got home at six a.m., in the blue light of incipient dawn. More soon.


the devil went down to jamaica

Reevaluating yesterday's comments about the Tucson riots in the context of Lyse's response: she has a point, obviously. The freaky thing is that I feel like somehow the mob mentality sucked me in remotely, over the distance of two days and two thousand miles, only because I feel connected to Tucson. I see the pictures of streetlights being disassembled and the burning trash cans and I think "Yeah, those are my boys!" cheerfully ignoring the fact that they're all frat guys I would never associate with in real life. And then I click farther and find the burning motor home with the baby in it etc., and then it's like what am I thinking?

I may as well come out and admit that I want to destroy things. I recognize this in myself. I think most of us have this, at least most of the men I know; I'm not sure how universally it crosses gender lines. It's not a nice impulse. For me at least, it's not directed toward people; sometimes there's just a necessity to see things broken. It doesn't come from any deepseated childhood trauma or anything--it's just a reaction against the chafing of societal limits. The id wants out. So it gets sublimated in various ways. I personally will play my guitar as violently as possible until my fingers bleed, literally. This happened all the time in college. It's the impulse that Fight Club (meaning the film) tapped into so well, the part in you that wants to smash the headlights of cars and set giant happy-face-shaped fires in office towers.

Fight Club couched this as an attack against commercialism, but I think that's just an excuse; we'll take any rationale for why the buildings are evil, so long as we get to see them go down. And even more damningly, Fight Club didn't bother to take the concept to its logical extension; the only guy who died in the movie was one of the space monkeys. No innocent people were killed, or even physically hurt, so far as I remember. But in real life, once you release the anti-violence strictures innocents die right and left. The thing about mob rule is that it removes consequences from actions; you don't want to hurt other people per se, but something about the dynamic allows you to imagine that no people will get hurt, or at least that you personally won't be responsible because all responsibility is diffused over a collective "us" so vast that you individually play no part in it, and even while you're setting fire to the motor home you're allowed to think that, well, it's not really me who's culpable here. And Fight Club just fed into that by presenting a sort of anarchist's Middle Path where you get the delirious rush of letting the id out of its cave, but are never required to own up to the logical outcome. The Pixies come on and edifices blow up and there's no need to feel guilty because all the night workers were space monkeys conveniently removed from the buildings (suspicious bit of plotting, that), plus the buildings are all owned by plutocrats, so who the fuck cares? It's what gives that film its thrill, and I honestly did like the film, but it's also a dangerous attitude.

The moral of the story, I guess, is that sometimes I'm not nice, and possibly you're not either. So we had better watch ourselves.


christmas at the zoo

Music played by elephants! (Via Geegaw.) It appears that, like Schoenberg and the Beatles, the Thai Elephant Orchestra discovered the possibilities of dissonance mid-career:

The players improvise distinct meters and melodic lines, and vary and repeat them. The results, at once meditative and deliberate, delicate and insistently thrumming, strike some Western listeners as haunting, others as monotonous. Mr. Sulzer wondered whether Prathida, a 7-year- old orchestra member whom he called "the Fritz Kreisler of elephants," would recognize dissonance. "I put one bad note in the middle of her xylophone. She avoided playing that note - until one day she started playing it and wouldn't stop. Had she discovered dissonance, and discovered that she liked it? She outsmarted the researchers."

Here's the police log from Monday night's post-NCAA riots in Tucson. I don't know why I take a perverse pride in this. We desert folk are simple, perhaps, but can we ever set shit on fire. My favorite bit is "Air reports people are taking the globes off the street lights and playing volleyball with them ."

Here are photos of the volleyball game and the ensuing cars on fire, people getting Maced, etc.

That's My Bush! premieres tonight. People can do this?



I don't watch sports, but I do care about this one. "Is this what happens when you leave Tucson?" Happycat asks me. "You start caring about the Wildcats?" Guess so. That, and cooking lots of Mexican food.

Having spent rather a lot of time in Reno over recent years, this article is sad for obvious reasons.

"The gaming industry has provided for older adults what we as a society have not done," said Pat Fowler, executive director of the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.

"For most of them, it's an exciting, safe, user-friendly outing," she said. "The message is, 'We value you; come on in. We'll get the wheel chair, we'll bring the refreshments to you.' They can't find that kind of reception in many areas in our society."

Kendzierski, negotiating the maze of slot machines and gaming tables at Showboat, marveled that the casino welcomes even gamblers who are blind or mentally disabled. "This is the most democratic place I know," she said.

Interview with Julian Barnes, who has just written a new book which I won't be able to read in the near future, as I won't be able to read much of anything until I get this behemoth book finished. And Barnes of course has a potshot at people who try to write behemoth books:

I think some people write long novels because they think they must be important if they're that long. But if you're going to write something as long as Anna Karenina, it had better be good. Every so often, a whopping new novel will come out by one of my contemporaries, and I'll think, "Hang on, I haven't read . . . you know, Ford Madox Ford's First World War quartet." So I'll say to myself, "I know, I'll read that instead!" And then I'm very grateful to this guy for having made me read some great novel I'd never read.

Well, shit.


fool on the hill

Medianstrip dot blog, again.

Colombian women fall for a gringo bachelor only to discover it's a hoax designed to sell cars. Renault, I cry foul.

To those who fear I'm now self-censoring with regard to Workshop comments: no fear. As soon as there's an event, I'll get on it.

Just lying in a bar with my drip feed on
Talking to my girlfriend waiting for something to happen
I wish it was the sixties I wish we could be happy
I wish I wish I wish that something would happen
          -old reliable


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