<= 2002.10

2002.12 =>

[NOVEMBER 2002.]

domo arigato mr. roboto

I am in Reno for the holiday and will be back on Sunday. Honestly, what do I not have to be thankful for? Blips on the radar aside, everything has gone swimmingly in recent years. Happy Thanksgiving, all.


scientia est potentia

For pity's sake, send Bush a letter saying that this Total Information Office is right out. Ray/BellonaTimes has done a good job of explaining how much this sucks, and if that doesn't convince you, the logo on the official Information Awareness site is plenty frightening on its own.


this name, katharsis-purgative

Nice email this morning from the agent, saying she looks forward to reading it and will probably get back to me in a month or so.

Twiddle, twiddle.

Well, in the meantime there's a second novel to begin—family saga about Reno in the fifties and sixties. But that shall have to wait until after Thanksgiving. Just now, there is a rumored $3.99 breakfast special at Café Paraiso that I must see about. These days just melt, and there is no one to watch me melt through them. I think I will remember this fondly, my strange, isolated, idle year.



Now they're saying snow on Saturday. They're high.

The world will end when sound turns into light. Eventually it will become so bright and so quiet that nothing will remain, not even the idea of light—only the light itself.



Thank you so much to all who have sent in congratulations—I am happy, though slightly at a loss for what to do now. Fix the CD burner, I think, and call the piano tuner and pet the cat and read.

At the post office:
"New York, New York. Is this a book?"
"Why yes. Yes, it is."

All told, it came to 2 lb. 13 oz. of prose.

Our fair city's bioterrorism drill is over. The fictional irate, drunk, non-English-speaking infected people got their fictional medicine for their fictional anthrax. And the sun goes on and on—eighty-one and bright today, but my God! They're forecasting snow for Wednesday! I must have been fourteen or fifteen the last time that happened. It seems highly unlikely, but may it hold.


pardon me, you're in my lebensraum

The box said:

"They are older and smarter than me." NATURAL MAJESTY is WISDOM?

You bet.

The ways in which a woman can accost a man (from Burlingame, Buddhist Legends):

by yawning, by bowing down, by making amorous gestures, by pretending to be abashed, by rubbing the nails of one hand or foot with the nails of the other hand or foot, by scratching words on the ground with a stick; by causing the man to leap up, by causing him to jump down, by dallying with him, by making him dally with her, by kissing him, by making him kiss her, by eating food, by making him eat food, by giving, by asking for gifts, by imitating whatever he does; by talking in loud tones, by talking in low tones; by talking with him in public, by talking with him in private; by dancing, by singing, by playing musical instruments, by weeping, by adorning herself, by laughing, by gazing; by swaying her hips, by displaying her undergarments, by showing her breasts, by showing her armpits, by showing her navel; by winking, by lifting an eyebrow, by touching her lips, by licking her tongue; by removing her panties, by taking off her headdress, and by putting on her headdress.


a long and difficult birth

It is printed. It must be a solid pound of language. Today will be spent with a pen in a coffee shop, giving it a last read from beginning to end and fixing any obvious infelicities. Tomorrow it will go into the mail and the waiting game will begin.

Over the last month I have developed the habit of an afternoon walk to break up the rigor of writing. It's nothing involved, just twenty minutes or so of walking in the sun and internalizing the quiet that hangs over this neighborhood during the day. There is no need for words, no need for conceptual thought; only the rockness of the rocks, the skyness of the sky. The mountains fill your entire field of vision here. They are older and smarter than me. They say nothing.

I have said what I can say. I am empty now, and tired. This is by far the longest and best thing I have made. May it suffice.


the feast of stephen

2000+ words yesterday, which hasn't happened since I don't know when. The momentum of conclusion. We have reached the end; but a fair amount of work remains to be done in the middle.

Have recently taught the spell checker: transfecting, kinase, Yeats, Neruda, bicompartmental, postirradiation, Schoenbergian, disinvited, Mizar, Rigel, Ursa, Perseus, Andromeda, ad nauseum, starscape, E. coli, leechcraft, vising, steepling, cholla, Fluoroplex, dipshits, Good King Wenceslas.


propane, no gain

Mari reports a great star-chomping high-velocity black hole. Last night we stayed up to watch the Leonids, which had their moments, although the moon was a searchlight and it's damned cold outside at 4 in the morning this time of year. Not Iowa-cold, but still.

Most Democrats generally support the homeland security legislation, but they have complained about the inclusion of what they say are last-minute special favors with only the slimmest connection to national security.

For instance, one section of the bill would limit legal liability for manufacturers of thimerosal, a mercury-based additive to vaccines that some people believe is linked to autism in children. A principal beneficiary would be the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which developed thimerosal and has considerable influence in Washington, having contributed more than $1.5 million to Congressional candidates in the recent elections.

This is, yes, the same Eli Lilly that mailed free samples of Prozac to people in Florida this summer. What would the Colonel say?


flies like an arrow

The endpoint will not come. What happened to November?

A Problem Is A Body of Water
Development Of A Belief Is Growth Of A Plant
People Are Batteries
Time Is Something Moving Toward You


my island

The daytime moon: an ice sculpture half melted into the blue.


bozo under the sea

Everyone should be glad to know that even with the state budget in crisis, the Tucson-Pima Arts Council can still afford a grant to the "Erotic Dance for Fat-Bottomed Babes." How does one siphon off some of this?

The memo is backed up by little-noticed language in the defense authorization bill that Congress approved this week. The bill suggests that the U.S. nuclear weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia should be ready to resume testing with as little as six months' notice.

Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, said the memorandum demonstrates the Bush administration's intention to end the testing moratorium.

"The administration is chipping away at the barriers to a resumption of testing," said Kimball. "They are doing their best to establish a rationale to resume testing, either for reliability problems or for new weapons. The reality is that there is no scientific nor military basis for a resumption of testing, and to do so would be an enormous strategic blunder that would invite a wave of proliferation that could swamp the entire non-proliferation regime."

New testing could prompt the Russians, the Chinese, Indians and Pakistanis to do likewise, harden North Korea's refusal to abandon its nuclear program and encourage aspiring nuclear powers to accelerate their own weapons programs, he warned.


book club

Thomas Pynchon, Mason & Dixon. Once again we have a Pynchon novel that is large, and contains multitudes. At the start I wasn't sure how much I could take of the capitalized nouns, the past-tense verbs ending in 'd and the past participles ending in -éd, but all that subjectively disappears after 40 pages. More than anything else, the prose and the meandering comedy reminded me of Tristram Shandy—I don't know whether there's been much talk of Sterne as Pynchon's precursor, but the resemblance is apparent. On the Pynchon Difficulty Scale, this one ranks far below Gravity's Rainbow and probably somewhere near V.; there's some head-scratching discussion on the metaphysics of slavery, but also much good clean fun with talking dogs, sentient animatronic ducks, flying Jesuits, reverse werewolves, George Washington's hemp farm, anachronisms involving ketchup and pizza and Star Trek. This may also be the most out-and-out moving thing that Pynchon's ever written. Mason and Dixon spar ceaselessly for seven hundred pages, but beneath the ribbing lies a steadily deepening affection. Pynchon doesn't force this; he simply allows it to happen, and in a book so crowded with willful excess this is a most admirable restraint.

Donald Antrim, The Hundred Brothers. This short novel's premise of one hundred brothers meeting for a ritual dinner in the old family library seems a little facile, and the book did have something of the cotton-candy flavor that people like Auster and Murakami can give off, but in the end it hung together well enough. Page by page it was funny, if not half so funny as Barthelme, who will forever be the king of books like these. Its greatest strength lay in not trying for too much. Antrim sets the scene, tosses up some Jungian ideas (rendered glib and toothless by the postmodernism machine) about genealogy and communities and sacrifice, and lets the curtain fall. Seeing as it took maybe two hours to read, I can't say I regret it.

Michael Chabon, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh. One of the blurbs on the back lauded this for being well-written, despite how hard it is to write about youth when you're young. At first I thought that was silly—surely any idiot young person can write about youth—but having finished the book, I see what they mean. This novel's charm is its documentation of how something so banal as a conversation in a restaurant, the food in the restaurant, the song they happen to be playing in the restuarant, lands on you with the weight of heaven in those early years. It doesn't seem like the sort of realization a young person would have about youth; it's something you only realize by contrast, once you enter those tired, jaded older years. Granted, it's open for debate whether those years are upon me, but all the same I think I see what they're getting at. The inevitable comparisons to Fitzgerald don't entirely miss the mark. Even this early, Chabon's style has an easiness and grace, a flip way of rolling out a jaw-dropping turn of phrase, rather like This Side of Paradise—though he avoids that book's coy modernism and unconscionable structural flaws. In short, his age-24 book is better than mine, and I do resent him for it.


jazz goes to college

Tired, not up for any of this. Why does broken glass keep appearing on the floor? I don't put it there.


son of ra

Speaking in Arabic in what sounded like Mr. bin Laden's usual level voice, his comments interspersed with pious expressions, the man said recent attacks were "merely a reciprocal reaction to what Bush, the modern-day pharaoh, did by murdering our children in Iraq and what Israel, the ally of America, did in bombing houses of the elderly, women and children in Palestine, using American planes."

The use of the word pharaoh is a heavily freighted term drawn from Koranic texts, where the lesson of the fall of the pharaoh is deemed an example of the fate of arrogant leaders who think their own power equals God's.

The word "pharoah" is a Hellenization of the ancient Egyptian word per-a'a, which literally means "great house." Originally applied to the king's palace, eventually through metonymy it came to designate the king himself.

The White House denies any connection.


i'm with the great satan

FLY-SPECK, n. The prototype of punctuation. It is observed by Garvinus that the systems of punctuation in use by the various literary nations depended originally upon the social habits and general diet of the flies infesting the several countries. These creatures, which have always been distinguished for a neighborly and companionable familiarity with authors, liberally or niggardly embellish the manuscripts in process of growth under the pen, according to their bodily habit, bringing out the sense of the work by a species of interpretation superior to, and independent of, the writer's powers. The "old masters" of literature—that is to say, the early writers whose work is so esteemed by later scribes and critics in the same language—never punctuated at all, but worked right along free-handed, without that abruption of the thought which comes from the use of points. (We observe the same thing in children to-day, whose usage in this particular is a striking and beautiful instance of the law that the infancy of individuals reproduces the methods and stages of development characterizing the infancy of races.) In the work of these primitive scribes all the punctuation is found, by the modern investigator with his optical instruments and chemical tests, to have been inserted by the writers' ingenious and serviceable collaborator, the common house-fly—Musca maledicta. In transcribing these ancient MSS, for the purpose of either making the work their own or preserving what they naturally regard as divine revelations, later writers reverently and accurately copy whatever marks they find upon the papyrus or parchment, to the unspeakable enhancement of the lucidity of the thought and value of the work. Writers contemporary with the copyists naturally avail themselves of the obvious advantages of these marks in their own work, and with such assistance as the flies of their own household may be willing to grant, frequently rival and sometimes surpass the older compositions, in respect at least of punctuation, which is no small glory. Fully to understand the important services that flies perform to literature it is only necessary to lay a page of some popular novelist alongside a saucer of cream-and-molasses in a sunny room and observe "how the wit brightens and the style refines" in accurate proportion to the duration of exposure.

—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


nucular family

The bomb claims it was misunderstood. The bomb calls us hypocrites for fearing it. The bomb has invited itself to dinner.


no man shall see my face and live

I have discovered a new Arizona writing fuel: orange juice and tapwater with a splash of lime. It's sort of like Gatorade, but more ghetto. It keeps you at your desk, somehow; like a hummingbird, you subsist on fructose.

Dec. 23, 1855. Think of the life of a kitten, ours for instance: last night her eyes set in a fit, doubtful if she will ever come out of it, and she is set away in a basket and submitted to the recuperative powers of nature; this morning running up the clothes-pole and erecting her back in frisky sport to every passer.

—Thoreau, Journals


it could be very fresh and clean

See, and this; I would like to believe that AIDS in India really does keep Bill Gates up at night, but I don't know. Probably you can't separate ego from altriusm in most cases. Maybe motive doesn't even matter.

Yesterday I made the mistake of listening to Einstein on the Beach twice in its entirety, and went on to have upsetting, minimalist, non-narrative dreams. Tired.




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the years go fast, the days go slow

The comment box asks:

does arizona have an autumn?

and the Desert Museum, who ought to know, sez:

Are there seasons in the Sonoran Desert?
Yes, but they're quite different from the seasons in temperate climates.

So different, in fact, that naturalists don't all agree on what to call them, when they begin and end, or even how many there are! The situation is complicated by the unpredictability of desert rainfall, which profoundly affects both the timing and the character of every season. The Desert Museum recognizes five seasons in its surroundings in the Arizona Upland. How many do you count?

Spring: February to April
Foresummer or dry summer: May and June
Summer monsoon: July to mid-September
Fall: Mid-September to November
Winter: December and January

The differences between these are not marked; spring is when flowers bloom on the cacti and the monsoon season is when God attempts to destroy the earth with water, but that's about it. It has snowed here on two or three occasions in my lifetime. In general it's sunny and clear almost all the time. Half the year it's scorching during the day and warm at night; the other half (such as now) it's merely warm during the day and mildly chilly at night. The nearest deciduous tree that I know of is about a mile and a half away, on Nik's street. He calls it The Season Tree and uses it to remember what season it is. By now I imagine The Season Tree has, like Iowa, shed most of its xanthophyll-hued leaves.


don't even talk to me about the senate

I don't know; all I have to say is that the spell checker wants to replace "Yeats" with "Yeast," and that's about the model for how things are. I don't really mind that the home stretch of the book is keeping me from leaving the house.

The cat lies on my bed and dreams, paws twitching, of a soft white creature bouncing from the floor to the wall and back again, glowing, without sound, while he jumps after it, lips curling in hunger, making leaps far greater than any he has ever made in his waking hours—


¡vota idiota!

Living beside an elementary school is odd in many ways—I have seen more games of kickball than I care to discuss—but it feels nice, and wonderfully civic in an old-fashioned way, to just walk over to your polling place.

The comment box spake:

i thought this was meant to be about pictures

I don't really know how I gave that impression, but okay.


sombrero rojo

Who is ditching Microsoft and going with Linux? ¡Extremadura, España!

Meanwhile, they review Franzen's essay book and the reviewer sez:

"How to Be Alone" is a captivating but uneven collection. Some of its entries have clearly aged better than others. (One piece finds art tenuous to the American imagination "because ours is a country to which so few terrible things have ever happened.")

The reviewer's implication is myopic. Yes, something terrible has happened since the first publication of that essay—yet, even taking that into account, if you compare American history of the last two centuries with the history of just about anywhere else in the world, Franzen's statement still holds.


end up with molasses

Fun show, except for the part where I scraped the skin off my finger and bled all over everything. I need to start carrying Band-Aids in my guitar case.

The cover of one of the bogus books, "Harry Potter and the Leopard-Walk-Up-to-Dragon," says it was printed by the Inner Mongolia Printing House, but an executive there said his company had nothing to do with the scam. Another book, "Harry Potter and the Golden Turtle," claims it was printed by the People's Literature Publishing House. The third book is called "Harry Potter and the Crystal Vase."

"But that's a fantasy!" Wang said.

An investigation indicated that more than one novelist was at work. In one of the fakes, Gandalf, the friendly wizard from J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings," pops up. In one, Harry and his classmate Hermione have a love affair. In another, Harry finds himself passing through places with Chinese names.

"The bogus books stink," said Simone, who commissioned a summary of one book. "They made Harry Potter look cheap."

Not only that, in one of the books, Harry, soaked by a "sweet-and-sour" rain, is transformed into a hairy troll.


jackals, false grails

That's right, the dad-blamed word count actually went down yesterday. I have had to delete lots of old crap in order to write the new crap, and am coming out with a slightly unfavorable balance.

Last night I talked to Marlowe and got the latest news from him and all my other friends who have agents. Apparently "buzz" is critical at this stage. These agents, who of course are all in Manhattan, are going to lunch with other Manhattanites expressly to create "buzz" about my friends. It's a weird thought.

I have to go rehearse for tonight's show, but do check out the Iowablog if you like—we're starting to get things rolling there. And congratulations to Emmons on his betrothal, the sly dog.


hi-i-igh hopes

We went and saw Clinton last night. Political rallies have few surprises—the message is never a mystery, and the rhetoric is always pitched at a pretty basic level—but it was worth it to hear him orate. We were maybe forty feet back, close enough to get the full effect of his very yellow shirt. I do wish we could have pulled an FDR and kept him around a while longer.

Also, there's always the Arizona spectacle of seeing white guys strain really hard to authentically pronounce Spanish: guacamole -> wahcahmolay and so forth.

Last week, Amman was considered a drowsy capital removed from the region's violent eddies. This week, Americans here are assessing how to lower their profiles. The villa housing the Fulbright Commission, for example, has a number of English and Arabic signs out front marking it as a place where Americans gather. The biggest one, reading The Jordanian-American Commission for Educational Exchange, its formal title, will probably come down, McNamara said.

In addition, he will reluctantly accept guards again. Things did not go well the last time they were posted in front of the building, when the United States bombed Iraq in December 1998. The guards spilled diesel fuel on the porch to light fires to keep themselves warm. There was no toilet, so they used the garden. The neighbors accused one of seducing their maid.


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