Friday, December 31, 2004

2004--See Ya!

What a year. I managed to find a new job that was even closer than Borders--in fact, working at Cook is even a bit closer than walking to Linthicum Hall to teach. I now can walk to work in about three minutes! Aside from that, I can't think of any big changes--more mayhem, more distruction, more hateful politics.

And yet I feel hopeful and well. Could be the week off at Xmas, could be the warm weather. Whence this unaccountable optimism I awoke to this morning? Maybe the fact I won't be teaching in the Spring? Perhaps the great novel I read yesterday

Most excellent! A father feeds his infant daughter and we follow the unrolling of his thoughts into the tiniest most intimate details. I challenge you to not discover several dozen things in this short work you've also noted and thought about but never articulated--and Baker presents his musings in magnificent prose (sections about pooping and nose-picking and sucking on Bic pens--exquisite, sharp, detailed, and funny).

Also revisiting

because I bought myself for Xmas

and wanted to check in on old faves before tackling the big one. I gave my other Rex collections to Pork Heaven for Xmas--I think he's ready, given his love for the Beats.

I see the unwritten books, the unrecorded experiments,
The unpainted pictures, the interrupted lives,
Lowered into the graves with the red flags over them.
Lowered each in its own darkness, useless in the earth.
Alone on a hilltop in San Francisco suddenly
I am caught in a nightmare, the dead flesh
Mounting over half the world presses against me.

Kenneth Rexroth, Requiem for the Spanish Dead

Somehow this seems to sum up '04.

Cha is in the mood to dance tonight--I'm more of a mind to do what we've done the last four New Year's Eves, which is nothing, or next-to-nothing (we did drive to the fireworks a couple times at the last minute). Funny, New Year's used to be all about the grand party plans--now I like to sit around and read. But I bend to her will. She's trying to get some childless others together for a blow-out at some new club near the Meyerhoff.

Go see the MOMA if you haven't yet. Love the new space, even tho it was packed with herds of midwesterners when we visited on Sunday--we saw the entire museum in about four hours.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Technical Difficulties

This is only a test.

Right Justification

Bear with me--this strange new alignment of text is not intentional; as soon as I can figure out what I did to the HTML, I'll fix it. Meanwhile, I added a list of groups accepting aid for tsunami relief to the right (below the Google bar). If you can send anything, please do!

The Aviator

Saw Scorcese's latest today, and even at 2 hours and 45 minutes the film seemed to fly by. We had a delightful cinematic experience despite the old people who wouldn't shut the fuck up behind us.

Crone: Oh, dear, there it is. Remember the Spruce Goose, dear?
Codger: Sure do. What audacity!
Crone: There he is, peeing in milk bottles. He sure was nutty!
Codger: I'll say!

They'd quiet down when I turned full around in my seat to glare at them, but only for a few minutes before a new pointless conversation.

The Aviator is not a deep film, and doesn't really tie in thematically with the body of Scorsese's work, but it breezes along on the strength of lavish sets, grand characters (Hughes, Kate Hepburn, Eva Gardner, etc) and fantastic performances by Blanchet, Baldwin, DiCaprio (yes, this is the Gilbert Grape DiCaprio, not the The Beach DiCaprio), and that guy who's in every film made the last five years--John C. Reilly. There are small roles featuring big stars like Willem Dafoe and Jude Law which spice things up. A big movie about a big man whose manias changed the world, a movie about movies and celebrity and money and America. Kate Blanchet looks nothing like Kate Hepburn, but somehow channels her spirit--very convincing. Worth seeing at the Senator if you can, but it's only there thru tomorrow, when Clint Eastwood's latest Million Dollar Baby opens. Can't wait for that, either. I like Hillary Swank.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Long Time No Blog

I just had a great time this weekend. Great Xmas, no logistical nightmares or family flare-ups--good food and less materialism this year. Got back a couple hours ago from two days in NYC--had a fantastic time, wonderful, superb, etc.

More later on that shit. I'm really fucking sick at heart over this tsunami. Seeing the footage and hearing the unimaginable consequences and rising death tolls only reminds me how useless I am; there's nothing I can do to help, except to send money or to pray, and what the fuck good is that? Money does what for someone whose entire village is ten miles out to sea, someone whose son and husband vanished along with their fishing boat two days ago? I could send everything I'll ever earn over there and it wouldn't do a damn thing for those people. As for prayer, a non-believer's prayers are beyond a nullity, an absurd singularity collapsed under the weight of its own insipidness.

Even if I flew over there tomorrow I'd simply be some fuckup who'd bog down their overtaxed systems even further. I have no medical skills, or counseling skills, or engineering skills, or expertise of even the slightest value which could benefit anyone after such a catastrophe. I can offer nothing--and it's simply appalling to see something like this happen to the most vulnerable communities on Earth and be in the untenable moral position of wanting to do something and knowing there's nothing I can do.

And this post exacerbates the guilt and shame, because all the stupid inconsequential things I worry about here--all the agonizing over a shitty president and moaning about my job and gossiping--all that "suffering" equals about 1 one quadrillionth of how it must feel for that grandmother I saw in a photo today, hands clawing her own temples, teeth clenched, all of her grandchildren drowned and naked and laying on the street behind her, killed by some anonymous bodily function of the earth's crust miles away and under the ocean. You take the hardest, most demanding day I ever worked, add in the day I was most sad, the day I was sickest, the day I was most angry and hopeless--roll all that shit into one motherfucking intolerable fucking day, and that grandmother had 360 of them every year her entire life; in fact, my dread combo day would likely be a cakewalk to her. She raised a family in unimaginably difficult conditions, and look at the payoff for her hardscrabble day-to-day labors. 99% of those killed and maimed or otherwise aggrieved by this catastrophe had it likewise. I wish at times like this that I believed in God, so I could say "Fuck you, God" with sincerity.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

1st Day

A completely wasted day—marvelous! Up at 9:30, went for a 2.5 mile run (hadn’t run in 3 weeks, and that was the third day in a row after not having run for two weeks). Felt rather strong the first mile and half, and was surprised at how warm it was today. Got to the hill going east on Cross Campus and some sort of monstrous demon started jumping on my chest—I haven’t been this out of condition since the severe ankle sprain four years back. Got through it, determined to go every day of the break—except the three we’ll be in NYC. I’ll walk plenty in the MOMA and Met to make up for the missed days.

Oh, yeah, we’re going to NYC during the break. We’re planning to leave Sunday and return Tuesday night. Kwa’ali and Klezma are joining us so it should be a treat.

The Jetta, which we just got back after five weeks in the shop, won’t start. In fact, it won’t anything. I’m hoping it’s a dead battery but I have my doubts. Some weird stuff started happening with the electronics last week, and I fear there might be some awful, billion-dollar repair lurking in our future; replacing a mudflap on one of these cars costs more than I typically spend flying to Europe, after all. Plus, I tend to get bad fiscal news in droves, and so far this month we’ve had a biannual insurance bill, a property tax bill, a costly repair to the Accord, Cha’s accident in the Jetta resulting in a deductable and then another insurance bill (the “here’s your increase for adding a new car, and here’s another increase because your wife was in an accident� sort), and then the State of MD figured out that I never became a certified teacher, so I have to pay back the student loans I took out pursuing this French degree. I’m expecting the worst but hoping for the best.

I’m listening to Hedwig—I finally broke down and bought the soundtrack, and the new longer Return of the King set, which we watched tonight whilst gorging ourselves on Indian food. A joint called Yeti—just north of the Senator—opened up about 8 months ago, and they deliver to us. Weeee! We’ve been gluttons lately: the totally unexcelled Kumari buffet Saturday, the Los Amigos lunch buffet Sunday…mmm!

Oh, but yeah—really good chana masala, and HOT when you ask for it!—but back to the movie, it’s fucking great. I love all the new footage! Yes, we’re nerds, but when the box came from Amazon today I wrapped it as a Xmas gift and gave it to Cha and made her open it. She kept refusing but I forced her and she did a goofy little happy dance and insisted we watch it immediately. A good time.

And only five phonecalls during the movie! Her sister, my sister, her Mom, etc, etc.

Not much going on tomorrow, but I’m going to run 3 miles and then do some final shopping—Borders definitely, and perhaps Hecht’s, but the idea of going to a Mall simply disgusts me anytime, let alone on the Thursday before Xmas. I also should go to the market, as we’re out of everything.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Weekend Recap

Friday we went to Mick O'Shea's for the monthly routine. Fried food/beer/shot of Dewar's/beer/Seamus shooter/beer/beer/beer/beer, repeat. Yahtzee, It's Australian for Beer, The Seoul Shiksa, and Pork Heaven joined us. Pork Heaven, who used to be able to hold his liquor, was again hammered within 20 minutes and actin' a fool. Cha and I took turns dancing with him to keep him from falling into Earthdragon or KP or Dr. Rock. He put It's Australian for Beer's red cape on and danced like a vampire at one point, and Seoul Shiksa said "Your brother either went to a lot of punk shows or he's gay." Then, she denied saying it.

He gave me a copy of

with a long inscription on the inside cover (it started "Oh brother, oh brother, such wonders lie herein..." or somewhat). He was pushing this Codrescu on me in upstate NY last summer. I recall it vividly because we were baked on the boat in a reedy canal and he looked over at me and asked what eschatological meant and I told him and he showed me a passage in the book about how language was an alien that fell to earth and was eaten by monkeys.

So I'm reading it now and it is pretty fucking good; I rarely laugh outloud while reading, the last time was during

when I would laugh so hard the bed would shake Cha awake and she'd ask what was so goddam funny but I could never explain it. So far I've had a couple solid chortles in this one.

But yeah, whatever, Mick O'Shea's--I remember Yahtzee showing cat pictures to It's Australian for Beer, and then he was showing a picture of he and I with long hair taken at King's Dominion in like 1993 and I tried to remember 1993 but couldn't.

Sunday we had It's Australian for Beer, Seoul Shiksa and her BF, and Virginia Monologues over--Virginia Monologues was Nader's MD campaign chair and I told her to give Ralph a hard time because I'd seen in the Post that morning that he was trying to make money selling his mom's cookbooks or something. Virginia Monologues had a brief hot fling with the drummer from Seamus. Very brief. And very hot.

What do a bunch of hard-core lefty activists do when they get together on a snowy Sunday? Play cut-throat Monopoly.

The Poet

He strikes again, with book Numero Dos:

Apparently the price is $10, not the advertised $12, so be advised you can get it elsewhere cheaper. Or, you can buy it from Amazon via me and I'll make some dough!

I often take out his first (Diminutive Revolutions) and marvel at it. Fave poems include "August" (for selfish reasons), "A Pavement Ontology" (move from coffee stirrer to coffee cup to cafeteria to chips on a rack to some chick The Poet may or may not be seeing across the street--the entire landscape is internalized, or the internal landscape is externalized, and the imitation of the effects of consciousness is as marvelous as anything in Henry James, minus 97% of the verbiage. Does one pity The Poet in reading this poem? Should one? No, one practically inhabits The Poet in a kind of Schonpenhauer-y manner), "Wrackline"--there are many more. I look forward to the new volume! I'll have to send a congratulatory box of pirated CDs to the guy with the most insane work ethic ever. The last time we visited him in Boston his then-girlfriend/now-wife told me he was up at 5am every day working for a few hours before work. I know he also works at work, and by work I mean writerly work, not the bullshit I'm doing now (which is not-work and not-work either--it's neither). Indeed, when I stumbled fuzzily out of the guest room futon at 8am that cold port-addled morning, there he was, scribbling away in a densely cribbed notebook.

Rumor has it there's also a new issue of The Poker available.

A Bush Xmas

Those fucking Moonies now have the White House. And lookit the whack shit George I and II have endorsed because Sun-Yung thinks he's the Messiah.

T minus 90 minutes (and counting)

Wow. In an hour and a half I'll be off work. For more than a week and a half. WITH PAY. At Xmas! It's ridiculous.

Nick and I threw a fixture of Bound journals today--it took about an hour and half, and that was the sum total of work I accomplished. I had lunch with several Aunties and one Uncle and The Boss. We had Bubba's, and they all complained about how cold everything was.

Um, the delivery guy had to walk that shit up from his car. It's 15 degrees outside.

Then they started telling cat stories, and bunny stories, and one said she had to take care of her neighbor's pet rats while they were away, and she started to imitate the rats and I almost spit my tuna melt out because I was laughing it up both nose holes.

So we actually had some patrons today, and they all wanted to make copies, and the Library has sent all its copiers away to be serviced (or, hopefully, replaced). Also, the CopicoCard machine and the change machines are gone. So I let some dudes use the copier in the office and charged them the standard 10 cents a page but couldn't make change for them and it was a mess. One guy complained about the elevators but I didn't know what he was talking about--apparently there's some painting going on throughout Cook today and all the elevator doors are covered with taped-down plastic sheeting above the second floor--and you can't tell until you're in there and ready to get off. The same Aunty who did a convincing rat impersonation mimicked what happened to her when she tried to use the elevator today and ended up wrapped in shrinkwrap on the fourth floor.

I've got shopping left to do. MUCH shopping.

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Byrd

I hope C-SPAN broadcasts this Robert Byrd speech; watching him is one of my great pleasures. Who else evokes (or can even remember) the Senate in its heyday?


I haven't had to stop working because my forearms were burning in, oh, 17 years? The last time was throwing 15-foot 6X10s up to a guy on the third floor of a house we were building--dozens of them, and then pushing huge trusses up to him, and finally plywood sheets, and then we hauled shingle bundles up a ladder. Oh, Christ, was that a good burn. My arms feel that way again, but from moving the goddam Bound Periodicals around. Another three weeks of this and I'll look like Ludacris in his new video; I mean I'll look even more like Ludacris in his new video.

I don't feel guilty, despite only getting one twelfth of the section done. Nobody else is doing any work here today. So far I've had lengthy chats with everybody who's working upstairs--they've all come to visit me as I throw 80-year old volumes around the 2nd floor.

My arms hurt so bad I can't type! Argh.

Ok, I've always said I love the change of seasons and I like cold weather and I'm more a fall-winter guy than I am a summer guy--well, fuck that bullshit today. It's cold as Condaleeza's steely 9-11 testimony out there. My beard froze between 2 York and Cook Library this morning. Uncle Area 51, whenever he's up from Florida, always gives me a hard time. "Fuck that weather! Couldn't wait to get out of Pennsylvania and MD ain't much better. Why do you choose to stay?" (rote "change of season loving" bullshit). "Well, you'll outgrow that," he always told me.

He was right. After the last three or four winters I'm starting to say fuck it. Get me OUT of here.

We saw Imelda on Sunday--in case you haven't heard, it's a biodocumentary by a MD filmmaker about the wife of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Cha was powerfully moved by the film because riot of footage shot before Marcos declared martial law and clamped down brutally--Cha's mother just barely made it out and escaped to America (pregnant with my wife, BTW!), and had a close call with Marcos' thugs at the airport (she had all her cash stuffed in her bra). Cha wept for her cousins who got stuck there and lived through those dark times. Imelda is a nut-job extraordinaire. Such amoral people fascinate me. What drives them? How can they live in such denial? The film features footage of an attempted assassination--some guy with a small machete attacks Imelda and hits her 12 times. Her thoughts? "Why would he try to kill me with something so ugly? Why couldn't he find a nice sword, or at least tie a bit of yellow ribbon around it?" Precious!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Pessoa Rules

Stayed up late last night watching movies--seemed a good thing to do with a three day weekend starting today. I was up, in fact, until after 4am, and finished the first disc of

which I enjoyed fine--and that says a lot because I don't typically like miniseries based on fave novels.

Then, I watched

(perhaps not a good idea given the upcoming trip to Honduras). The film holds up well, largely on the strength of its performances (particularly a hyper Jim Woods); of course there's some awkward, preachy dialogue--it is an Oliver Stone flick, after all.

I was awakened this morning by a screaming, banging fight next door. Our neighbor and his live-in lady were telling each other to fuck off loudly enough to get me out of bed before 7am (I'd signed off less than 3 hours before). This hasn't happened since the fucking rednecks who rented it before moved out.

Even writing has lost its sweetness for me. So banal: both the act of giving expression to emotions and that of polishing sentences, that I write the way someone else eats or drinks, with more or less attention, but half-mad and disinterested, half-attentive and without enthusiasm or brilliance.

Fernando Pessoa The Book of Disquiet

Went to Borders today for the first time since I quit. The store actually looks good, and I got to see lots of folks I used to see on a daily basis--the only loss keenly felt upon leaving that shithole. I bought BroJ a gift, but couldn't muster the energy to do any more shopping. Returned home, took a four-hour nap. Now we're gearing up to head down to Mick O'Shea's. Cha is leading a children's choir around the neighborhood for the Community Association caroling shindig. Too much! We don't even have a tree or a single holiday decoration up!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Chaotic Crochet

This I swear I've seen before: Rene Descartes once made doodlings of how he thought space-time was really constructed that looked very similar to this, and many esoteric philosophers--including Schwaller de Lubicz--tried to explain the nature of reality as a spiral turning inside out. Modern quantum mechanics approaches old mysticism in many ways.

Good Tidings of Joy

Strange to find myself laughing loudly in the kitchen earlier while making raviolis and mixing a salad. First, I'm happy I took a half-day today; second, I'm even happier to have taken tomorrow off; third, it dawned on me as a I salted the boiling flour bags full of cheese that the Library is closed Sundays starting this weekend for a bit more than a month.

Yes, lauging loudly and heartily for no apparent reason is often construed as an inappropriate affective response. Look in your DSM-IV for a diagnosis. But I'll have Sundays OFF for a while. In fact, I'll have Dec. 23rd through Jan. 2nd off. I've never had time off at Xmas (at least since I was 14 or so). And so much time off. It's ridiculous!

The fact that it took me 2.5 hours to move exactly one-sixtieth of the Bound Periodicals section yesterday can't even phase me. Only fifty-nine-sixtieths to go! Ho ho ho.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Fucking Oprah Episode

Once Sis (an executive for Kiddie Academy) asked me to write something about our childhood because she couldn't remember anything from before my folks' divorce (I was 7, she was 5). She was taking a class and had to give a talk about early memories or something, so I pieced together some favorite early memories. Reading the draft now I can't help but cringe at the inconsistencies in the narrator's voice and the woesome martyr complex, but fuck it; it's one of two things I wrote that had a public airing.

Daddy sleeps and his room is dark and quiet all day because at night he works. Mommy makes us go to bed at 7 and stay there until 8am. I am awake six hours, watching shadows of trees on the
silvery wallpaper, looking out the window, bored, before sleeping. Sometimes when I'm asleep I hear Daddy in my sister's room. "Daddy loves her," he says, and then he comes in and kisses
me. Sometimes he stinks like medicine and yanks me too hard out of the bed. In the morning if I get up before 8 my sister stands at the bars in her crib and yells "outtabed!" This is a game we always play because it's funny. Mommy yells at us.

Mommy lies on the couch weekends watching TV. Daddy tries to get on the couch with Mommy. Mommy starts yelling. He tries to hug and kiss her. She pushes and yells some more. He begins to yell. I can't get out of the chair I'm in, and my sister is there too, but very small. If I get up to leave the room they might yell at me. My sister would be there alone.

Daddy hits Mommy with a loud slap. She hits back, but with words. "Well divorce me then!" he shouts. She cries. He hits her again, and I run over, sad and saying stop stop please stop,
but he knocks me down with his big strong hand. I only wanted to stop them. The TV is still playing and people are laughing. They always laugh on TV.

Mommy lets us fingerpaint when she is home. We make a big mess. Mommy reads me books and teaches me letters. My sister can't read yet. There are lots of kids in our neighborhood. They come over and we play in the bushes and on the back porch. We jump off the porch and into the yard. My sister is too small to do that, so she cries. My friend Missy and I walk to the graveyard and play there. We go to Mrs. Henry and she gives us candy. We walk to my grandparents' and they give us candy. We get chestnuts from old Mrs. Hersey whose house is like a Western movie full of old fancy things. Her house is very quiet. One day I don't see her anymore and someone else moves in. Mommy tells me she went away. That night I look at a card from Mrs. Hersey. She used to give me cards at Xmas addressed to "Master Geoffrey." This makes me feel grownup and small at the same time. I don't know what Master means. On the card is a snowy street, with a boy in a big coat. He is alone.

My sister and I play with our toys in the big walk-in closet in her room. We sometimes take them down to the new addition and play in the shag carpet like furry grass. We fight and Mommy yells. One day I am in the tree house with Missy and my sister and Robin and I have to pee so I go behind the barn. Daddy catches me and hits me three times in the back and then in the belly. He says nothing and walks away. I lie on the ground out of breath. Tippy the dog tries to lick me, but his chain won't reach that far.

I explore the house because I'm bored. My sister follows me all around. This annoys me. She always tells me not to do things. I go in the room on the other side of my parents' room and there are lots of boxes of things, and she follows me. "Don't do that," my sister says. We rummage through the boxes, and go in the closet. There's a fishing rod and a long gun. "Don't go in there! I'm telling." Mommy is in the kitchen cleaning, or talking on the phone. When she is not at work she watches TV where there are people who are happy. Sometimes the afternoon shows have sad women. Sometimes Mommy yells up the steps.

When Mommy works we go to Grandma's. Grandma has boxes of small bricks and we play with them like Dominoes and make them fall. They make my fingers smell weird. My sister and I never fight at Grandma's for some reason. She lets us draw and makes jokes about toilets and poop. When I tell Mommy that she gets very mad and yells.

Once I am very sleepy in the middle of the night and I get up to pee. I know Mommy is asleep so I look at Daddy's magazine which he keeps on the back of the toilet. I am so sleepy I can barely see, but the magazine has pictures of ladies with no clothes on. Mommy comes in the bathroom and starts yelling. She makes a rag wet and hits me in the face with it over and over until I can barely breathe. She keeps asking me why I was looking at the magazine, but I don't know why. She hits me when I say I don't know. I am crying and I hear my sister crying in her crib because I am crying. Daddy comes home from work and Mommy tells him what I did and they yell.

I get angry a lot. I hit my sister when she annoys me. I have learned that when I try to stop Mommy and Daddy from fighting that I get hit. I have learned that if I don't understand something I get hit. I have learned that if I do something bad I get hit. I have learned to be quiet. If my sister follows me I start to hit her now. This is how I learned to communicate.

One day my sister goes under the couch where Mommy and Daddy always fight. She is stuck and she is screaming and crying. Mommy is outside and I am scared, so I grab her arm to pull her out. Mommy says I hurt her arm, and hits me.

Sometimes when Mommy and Daddy fight the policemen come. They never come in the house, but stand on the porch. I can hear Mommy crying and talking to them.

When we are a bit older I am given a choice. I can be hit or stand in the corner. I hate standing in the corner, so I take the belt. It stings, but is quick. Sometimes Mommy uses it on my legs, sometimes my bottom. Sometimes she makes me stand in the corner with no choice. I have to spend three hours in the corner. I pick at the wallpaper with my key collection because I am bored. Mommy hits me when I come out of the corner because I ruined the wallpaper.

Mommy and Daddy always yell. I lie in bed trembling. I know one of them will come in and complain about the other. Sometimes it's Daddy and he is what Mommy calls drunk. He hugs me and kisses me but it's not pleasant. He stinks and he's insincere. One time Mommy comes in in the middle of the night crying. She shows me her eye, which has a black and purple mark around it. "Do you see what your father did to me?" she screams, and hugs me. "Never be like your father" she says, over and over. We cry.

Shortly after this Mommy wakes me up in the night. Downstairs there are trash bags everywhere. They are full of clothes and picture albums. My sister is asleep in a blanket. We are going somewhere. Daddy is at work. I ask if Daddy is coming, and Mommy says no. Mommy's friend is there because we're going to her house. The police are on the porch. We leave.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More Gary Webb

Robert Parry, a modern I.F. Stone, on Gary Webb's importance.

And, I think this is probably a billboard for Spielburg's War of the Worlds remake.

One Student Left

I've got one student who still owes me work--she's delaying my ability to wash my hands of this whole teaching thing. She hasn't turned in her two papers, and didn't show up for her presentation, and has had a crisis of one sort or another every time I confronted her (friend dead, car towed, computer crashed, car retrieved from towing but not functioning, rode bus but ended up in Essex instead of Towson, dog run over by grandma, grandma in a car crash, grandma run over, dog towed, dog ate computer, grandma ate dog, etc). I just called and left a message on her voicemail: "You have until noon Wednesday--I've already delayed enough. If you wanted to pass this class you would've gotten this work to me by Monday as originally agreed. The last couple excuses weren't even good enough to merit my contempt. At noon tomorrow I'll be posting the grades for the course, and unless I have your overdue work on my desk at that time, and quite possibly even if I do, you'll be receiving an F. Have a good break!"

I failed three students last semester, I'll gladly fail another this time around--I mean, come on--read my remarks: my classes are "EASY," and "if you don't get an A in this class you don't belong in college," etc.

One student wrote, cryptically: "Def smokes up."

I wanted to start aggressively shifting tonight, as I'm in charge of resetting the entire Bound Periodicals section and need to get it done before we leave for Honduras in January. Alas, shifting books is goddam noisy, and the students, who are actually serious about studying here quietly for a change, don't appreciate me clanging around with carts and dusty old volumes. So I did some video orders instead. Tomorrow I've got training on the new Aleph during the afternoon, which will eat into more time I'd like to devote to this project.

I had some personal time and a holiday I needed to use before January or I would have lost it, so Thursday I'm taking a half day and Friday I'm off! Woo-hoo, a three-day-weekend before a two-day week and a nice, fat, break. I'll be missing the Tech Services Xmas bash Thursday, though, which kind of sucks, but we 2nd floor folks don't mingle too often with the 3rd floor royalty anyway.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Embarrassing for W?

I, for one, wish Mr. Bernard Kerik had not withdrawn his name as the new Don of Homeland Security. It would have been much more fun for shit like this to come out in the Senate.

Yet another "values conservative" caught in flagrant hypocritto; oh, and Judith Regan, one of Kerik's lady luvvahs, and publisher of Rush and Kerik and a Monica Lewinsky parody, used to have a conservative values talk show on FOX.

It's funny how the "liberal" media blew sunshine up this guy's ass until he took his name out of the hat; I bet anything they knew all the shit about his mob ties, infidelities, corporate scams, kickback schemes, and nanny troubles all along. Bastards.

Alan Watts

I've tried him before--The Supreme Identity was too dense, and The Wisdom of Insecurity made me more anxious. The Book, however, is clear, inventive, and interesting--but there's nothing new here (if you read books about mysticism/sprituality/psychology/quantum mechanics). That's not to say that The Book is entirely derivative, but That Which Laughingly Hides From Itself and makes up this great gooey soup called the universe has already figured out a lot of the stuff here and said it otherwheres.

It is damn nice to have some time to read again.

Woah, like, Dude--this rules

Not seeing this film until I'm 35 is inexcusable. What the fuck was I thinking? O'Toole, Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, and yes, even a young Timothy Dalton put on a veritable acting clinic. What a ride! I've never seen O'Toole so commanding, so present, so confident. Hepburn is all over the emotional map as Eleanor of Aquitaine: cunning, maudlin, conniving, hopeless, dismayed, triumphant, elegant, wretched, playful, despondant, humiliated, corrupt, charming; was there nothing she couldn't do as an actress? Could anyone else have played this role? Hopkins, barely out of his pram, is a coiled spring as the murderous sodomite Richard. What a fantastic film.

Not for the Squeamish

Click here to see a New England Journal of Medicine photo essay on the wounded in Iraq.

Pretty tame, actually, after the Brakhage short "The Art of Seeing..."

RIP Gary Webb, whose journalism for the San Jose Mercury News about CIA drug smuggling was vilified by the national media, then proven correct by a CIA review and Congressional investigations (The Kerry Commission had already uncovered a bunch of this stuff in the '80s). Still, he ended up losing his job and now he's "committed suicide."

The Earl of Pembroke clued me in, then I read the obit in today's Times. Could be the Bushies are taking out their trash?

Books you may find interesting:

Other Bush exposes by guys who ended up "committing suicide":

Sunday, December 12, 2004


Looks like I'll have to buy my Xmas goodies from Borders--because they gave 100% of their political money to Dems, while only gave 39% to Dems.

Actually, scratch that. I don't want to shop with companies that give to either major party. And Borders and Amazon have an unholy alliance anyway.

Oh, and Amazon more than funds my internet access bill each month, so you should ignore this information and BUY EVERYTHING FROM THEM--AFTER CLICKING A BANNER AD TO THE RIGHT.

You can see a handy list corporate political donations here (via Bob Harris).

What, no 3rd party spending by these fat cats?

For Faulty Landscape

Awwww, Ms. Portman is all grown up...



Probably NOT work-safe

A Madhouse

It's insanely busy in Cook Library today. There are milling hordes of students asking for study rooms that we don't have; they're camping out on the floor in circles and looking at anatomy texts, or lists of formulas, or issues of Broadcasting and Cable (these students drool).

I finished much of my 'grading'; I didn't do any math to calculate grades, and often didn't even read the students' final work--I simply assigned scores based on my feelings for student performance. My last semester teaching for now and I've become Earthdragon.

Got in extremely late last night--we went to the Traveling Joneses' for some fine victuals and vino and chitchat. Their boys are something else: Sam, the introspective artiste with his elaborate mimetic farm landscapes and football drawings which are surprisingly anatomically correct for such a young guy. Drew the firebrand who flings himself off the couch and onto the floor, and who routinely manhandles his older brother. Kyle, who's not quite walking yet but whose already heavier than Drew, his senior, and looks like he's going to be a moose by age 13. We met some new folks and drank and ate the evening away. I kept playing with the new kitty because I never get to play with pets anymore; damn thing tore both my hands up, but I loved it.

After, we drove straight down Falls Road from northern Balto Co to Charles Village and Kwa'ali and Klezma's annual Chanamus shindig. Pierrot Lunaire asked why I didn't warn him about Sarah B. before she wrecked his life anew, then he stabbed Frosty the Snowman and frightened a child to death (actually Frosty was a cake and he asked why no one was eating it, someone said little Gabe didn't was us to cut up Frosty; Pierrot took a knife and cut it and Gabe saw this and burst out crying). By this point I'd had too much wine, but our team won The Game anyway.

I want to read the newspapers and I hate the very idea of reading them. The Senegalese Princess was just here--she works in AV and is "une des plus belles femmes qui j'ai jamais vue dans ma vie." Everytime she speaks to me my stomach does flips; half the time she speaks to me in French and I answer in English because I'm afraid I'll say something ridiculous to her, like "I'm sure when Herodotus mentioned that the southern peoples are the most sublime, your forebears he had in mind." She's about 6 foot tall, with well I won't go into details.

Only 4.5 hours until I can head home.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Stan Brakhage plus

Had the misfortune last night, whilst stumbling up and down the cable channels, avoiding like the plague my Sartre paper, to find Pat Buchanan filling in for Joe Scarborough and discussing the "Oscar Controversy" with Ann Coulter and Al Franken and some other fuckheads I would punch if I ran into them. What's the "Oscar Controversy"? Whether or not Gibson's Passion and/or Moore's 911 should get nominated for Best Picture. How can this be a controversy? Is this news? I don't care if both or either are nominated--stupid bullshit.

I noted with disdain that Al Franken sneered over the very idea that Gibson's film would be nominated, then admitted he hadn't seen it, trashed it anyway with contempt, and mentioned Gibson's father has a penchant for Holocaust denial. Way to take a page from Coulter's playbook, shithead. There we have it folks, Ann Coulter's stereotypical Liberal mouthing off. Insufferable (and I typically like Al) to judge something you haven't seen. Then, Ann Coulter went off on a rampage about 9/11 and admitted she hadn't seen it either, but was sure it'd be nominated and win Best Picture because (do the Ann Coulter adlib here--in fact, I want to see Ann Coulter magnetic poetry: Liberals/Hollywood elites/Sarandon/treasonous/traitors/war president/trashing).

Sure, no one's required to sit through either film, but to agree to go on a talkshow and discuss these films and their relative merits with some supposed level of authority and not bother to see the goddam things? Fuck Franken and Coulter. Franken even had the nerve to attack Coulter for judging a movie she hadn't seen--uh, hello, dumbass, you did the same thing. Coulter's response? "I read a 60-point refutation of Moore's film. I don't need to see it." Well, Ann, I've read Tom Paine's detailed refutation of The Bible, so I don't have to read Scripture either, unless of course I want to increase my understanding of history and our civilization and where we've been and where we should be heading--all the stuff none of you talking heads are interested in. Why must our media spoonfeed us little easily regurgitated slogans in lieu of actual thoughtful analysis? Christ!

Yeah, I tend to be a big soft-hearted lefty, but I think Passion is a much better film than 9/11, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were nominated and won Best Picture--it's superior to Braveheart aesthetically, and Gibson won for that. Moore did a good thing raising questions with his movie, but much of it is intellectually lazy and a bit hysterical--I think it would be a travesty if 9/11 were nominated for Best Picture. Too bad the people who are paid to discuss such things on TV can't leave their partisan bullshit at home. I can't be the only person on the planet who likes both these films, and who can see flaws in each and great things in each. Why is Mommie Dearest so afraid to even watch 9/11? Why won't my brother-in-law, who loves explicity gory Mexican and Italian cinema, watch The Passion? Politics.

Faulty Landscape recommended this, and I must say he deserves some props (especially after Yeelen). I think the short epic "Dog Star Man" is one of the greatest things I've ever seen. I'd never heard of Brakhage, but his splicings and scratchings and paintings on the film surface were a big turn-on. An aureole magnified becomes an apocalyptic landscape. An uprooted and lumberjacked tree becomes a totemic fetish. An infant squalls silently and we see the world as it does; but Brakhage forces the viewer to consider what "seeing" actually is. I thought "Desist House" was ok, and "Wedding House: An Intercourse" was like a goofy Man Ray porno, but "Dog Star Man" is definitely the shit. You're not going to watch this with Mom or the kids and a bag of popcorn, certainly, but if you like mixed media stuff and challenging symbolic fractured narratives, dig in! Be forwarned: "The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes," the last short on the disc, is a rather raw montage of autopsy footage. I loved it, but this isn't for everyone. Reminded me of Share's VHS tape of Shock Trauma footage. I didn't watch all the extras, but much of the footage of Brakhage speaking is fascinating--I was pleased that a lot of what he said about "Dog Star Man" had occured to me as I watched it cold. A successful bit of Expressionism, I'd say.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

My worst nightmare

Incoherent, hysterical, and sociopathic--Ann Coulter thinks Canada is dangerous!


A shout out to fab axemaster Dimebag Darrell, killed senselessly in the Ohio club shootout this week. I never heard the newer stuff in their catalog because, frankly, I got bored with thrash metal, but Pantera's first two albums seethed with a seedy southern rock/punk edge; those discs were very good. "Walk," off Vulgar Display of Power, was the first thrash metal song Cha got into. She loves that tune, and authentically bangs her head when she plays it, screaming at the top of her lungs. It features a tough blues riff that descends into a hectic surreal time-signature stew during Dimebag's eye-socket gouging solo. "Fucking Hostile" is a great track for motivation during a set of 21s when your biceps are blasted beyond all usefulness and you need a little help through the last rep.

Sad, and fucking bullshit. Especially when I see these whiney cookie-cutter bands on MTV when I'm channel surfing. "Look at me, I'm up on top of a crane at a harbor singing about how I'm suffering from angst, and my music sounds exactly like the preceeding video, and exactly like the video you're about to see."

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Capitalism gone berzerk

The Earl of Pembroke forwarded this site. It's strange enough that such a product was developed and manufactured, but even worse, I found on their FAQ tab:

Q: "Is there a battery attachment?"

A: No. The Banana Guard was designed for its intended purpose only as a device to prevent banana trauma during transport.

I just informed the English Department I won't be teaching for them in the Spring. Indescribable joy, on top of the rest of the joy today.

Oh, last night we watched

Call it a roller coaster you'll only ride once; a guilty pleasure, certainly, but a pleasure nonetheless. Matt Damon as a tough guy? Surprisingly, yes.

Such a lovely day

I should be thinking about Xmas shopping; it is, after all, Dec. 8th. Instead I’m listening to rock and roll and thinking about grilling salmon on the back deck and drinking wine in my shirtsleeves on the patio, which is what I did for lunch today before work. It’s about as beautiful as it can get outside, which made coming to work about as pleasant as rubbing my knuckles on a stainless steel grater. I put one course to bed this morning at least—ENGL263 presentations are done; on Friday I collect the final papers and that’s that (well, aside from reading them, grading them, and doing all that math). ENGL102 will be done at 8:30am tomorrow! Yippee!

My distaste at coming to work this morning was leveraged substantially by the appearance of a lovely poinsettia on my desk—I already took one of them home yesterday, but apparently M. distributed the remaining plants. I don’t mind; just last week the poinsettia I bought 4 years ago croaked. Now I’ve got two.

Cha fessed up today that one of the keys she lost the other day was our last key for the Honda Civic. I was under the impression that her friend Trish still had a key (it’s an art car, and Trish has an organization with her husband called The Red Devils, and the car is decorated appropriately for them to use in parades and at fund-raisers). I gave Trish my key months ago so she could drive the car in a parade, but Cha apparently lost her Civic key and took Trish’s back without telling me (I would’ve made two copies had I known). So we can’t get in the basement, we can’t get into one of our cars, and Cha lost one of our two Jetta keys yesterday, and had to take mine this morning—I’m horrified she’s going to lose it and we’ll be fucked because the Accord is in the shop.

But I don't care if she loses all the keys in the world today. I'm in a fabulous mood. I want to sit in the grass and read Whitman. In fact, I'm in such a good mood that I don't even care about being here in the Library when it's 70 degrees outside.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Damn Paper

I've got almost four out of ten pages for my French paper done--it takes me about 45 minutes to craft a French paragraph, looking up every other word in the dictionary, checking my tenses in the grammar. What bullshit. The topic I chose at least interests me: Sartre, in his autobiography Les Mots, insists that the fact his father died when he was an infant left him without a super-ego. This intrigues me, and is perhaps a clue to Sartre's ideas about absolute freedom and how dreadful it is. I'm primarily interested, however, in how someone without what we usually refer to as a 'conscience' could turn out to NOT be some sort of psycho/socio-path. But translating my thoughts drags me down. If I do 2 pages Wed, and 2 Thurs, I'll be almost there--2 on Friday morning will get me over the border and into the end of the semester. The paper is due Friday. I've also got two big stacks of essays coming in Thursday and Friday, not to mention journals--I'll be a grading machine this weekend.

But then--not-so-dreadful freedom! The library will be a piece of cake job without having to teach every morning.

Monday, December 06, 2004


If I didn't know better, I'd say that's Yahtzee at a Star Trek convention!
I'm not sure why, but this photo evoked a powerful nostalgia when I stumbled upon it at random. I don't know who the fuck that is, and I've never had a dog of that particular specie, but I thought of my grandfathers and their dogs, in particular my step-father's father Grandpop, because he was big on training pups (he taught our beagle Gus how to wait for the count of three in his house before eating, for example). Grandpop lived in Shenendoah PA nearly his entire life. When we went there my stepbrothers and I would blow things up with M-80s out in the coal fields with their cousin the rustbelt weightlifter. I'd hike far up into the slag heaps and bring home handsful of trilobite and fern fossils (Mommie Dearest threw them all away years ago). Once BroJ and I found some old abadoned tires from Euclid trucks. We spent a merry afternoon sending them crashing down the steep slag slopes into groves of struggling birches which snapped like kindling under our heavy rubber onslaught.

Christ, were we ever bored.

Grandpop always had a joke or a witty story, even when Grandmum was declining rapidly into screaming and insensate incoherence. All day every day she'd scream his name in rage and not know where he was even if he was there. Screaming, screaming in a raspy agonized voice, and he still hummed old standards and worked his prayer beads and went to the Polish mass and changed brake pads at the family garage into his '90s.

Grandpop was born on the 4th of July.

I haven't stopped in Shenendoah nor Frackville nor Hometown nor any of those dead old coal towns in central PA since Grandpop's funeral. I remember Porkheaven and I seated in the limo with his casket, serving as pall bearers. This was after the solemn Mass and receiving the Body of Christ (I'm not even Catholic) in a baroque Polish cathedral with great golden spires and Porkheaven leaned over to me and said "I've got some extra Body of Christ in my pocket if you get hungry." Whenever I drive to Canada or upstate NY I pass the Frackville exit and think on these things. I have lots of coins I bought from Grandpop when I was mixing mud for a construction crew at age 11 and 12; his collection was astonishing, and his other son (not my stepdad) and his sons would steal the coins from him, and Grandpop gave me many of them and told me "I love you." I take them out occasionally, in particularly the 1804 half cent, and whilst holding them I think of Grandpop reconditioning a chainsaw motor while I fetched him tools, or Grandpop showing me the coal splinters still stuck in his arms from when he worked the chutes as a young teen, or pulling out a weirdo electronic gizmo that shot blue lightning out the end of a glass cylinder and into his muscles to relieve aches and pains.

He had a collection of Dickens that I wanted badly, but one of the other son's sons stole it while Grandpop was in the hospital and sold it. I would have bought it from him using the money earned as a carpenter/blocklayer/roofer/cement mixer/drywall hanger when I was a young teen.

Perhaps the Sky is Falling!?

The venerable John Kenneth Galbraith jumps on the Economic Apocalypse bandwagon.


I'm still not buying it. I mean, yeah, there was fraud, but fraud is always part of our politics--he who cheats best cheats last. I doubt this will go anywhere.

But, we'll see. The Earl of Pembroke might get his wish!

Sunday, December 05, 2004

EXTRA grumpy

Ha--foolish me. The Library doesn't close at 10pm on Sundays--it closes at midnight. Motherfucker! So on the one worknight of the week when I typically can go home at a reasonable hour, I'm going home at the most fucked up hour possible, and all because my grad assistant couldn't make it in. I'm sure my morning lit class will go swimmingly, too.

Fuck this. I've been on the desk since I got back from Ferocity's at 3:30. I'm hungry and grouchy. I don't know how this works, but I fully plan on shaving hours off Monday or Tuesday to make up for this bullshit.

Cha and Mommie Dearest and Danie stopped in because Cha was teaching a bookmaking workshop and lost her keys and she needed my housekey to get in the house. Looks like after I leave here we'll have to go and fetch my car at the bookmaking workshop place because Mommie Dearest gave Cha a ride home. Wonderful. Cha loses her keys three or four times a year. Once, she lost four of our housekeys in a matter of two days. I refused to give her mine because I knew she'd lose it, so she took back the copy we'd given her mother, and after promptly losing it, "borrowed" mine to copy while I was still asleep, and lost it. I had to leave through the basement door because we have deadbolts and she was locked out that day until I was done teaching my nighttime business class and we had to enter and exit through the basement for a couple days until we could get a locksmith.

Just last month she lost both of our basement door keys--we can't open the basement door anymore.


I'm Grumpy

I got to work at 11:30 and left just after 1:30 for Ferocity's co-ed baby shower. M. was kind enough to let me take a couple personal hours and leave the desk to attend, but she would only give me a two-hour window to drive there, hang out, and get back. I saw some freaks I hadn't seen in a while, and got to chit chat with smart people and eat devilled eggs, and then I had to leave just as the fun was starting to come back to this shithole where annoying clueless kids keep trying to get me to do their research for them. It looked like F. and J. received a substantial amount of good loot!

The Bus was having a bad day. She put a bowl of salt in the mulled wine, thinking it was sugar. "Like, who puts salt in a bowl?" she asked. I felt like we were starring in an unaired episode of Lucy.

Worst of all, my graduate assistant isn't coming in tonight, so instead of taking two personal hours for the shower, I'll be working two extra tonight, and staying until 10pm. That sucks. I can't get any work done on my paper because there are actually boatloads of patrons here, dammit. Can't they see I have more important things to do?

How to procrastinate in style

I've got an enormous paper to write for my French class. It's been looming for weeks, and all I've done is cart a few books back and forth with me from the Library to home again and again. Well, I have thought about it, but so far my paper on superego development and Sartre's existentialist autobiography remains unwritten.

At least I fill my free time with Netflix!

A film that didn't deserve many of its controversies. I actually liked much of it a great deal--the tormenting of Judas by a crowd of demonic children and a feminine Satan; his hanging by a rope found around the neck of a decayed donkey corpse (perhaps the Passover beast Christ rode a few days earlier?). A teardrop from heaven at Christ's death which results in the rending of the Temple. All of the somber performances and the sets. Pontius Pilate full of doubt and fear, the Garden of Gesthemene where Jesus implores God to "take this cup from me," as Satan teases him. Yeah, there are disturbing elements--for instance the non-scriptural amplifications of the nastiness of Christ's Jewish captors; the excessive and glorious violence; the near absence of forgiveness and love. But Christianity has been through this before. I look at this movie as a non-believer raised in churches where blood and punishment were the focus--I recognize this fascination. Many of my favorite aesthetic images are situated in the lamentable Christian grue of the Middle Ages/Dark Ages--the tortured souls carved into Romanesque and Gothic church archways; Grunewald's lavishly tormented Christ as portrayed in the Issenheim Retable is for me the summit of Christian art. Is there a danger that fundamentalists will be encouraged by Gibson's Passion? Certainly--but I think the Left Behind malarky is much more worrysome than this film, which I found by measure beautiful and ridiculous. I still prefer Scorcese's Last Temptation, but Gibson's Christ is equally devestated by his predestined role. This is not a lamb eager for the slaughter. Caviezel plays Jesus as a fearful, doubtful, unsure man suffering enormous torments in the belief that his death will change things. I hope Gibson makes a perfectly horrifying film about the Apocalypse. I'd be first in line!

Even more spirtually engaging, tho less aesthetically pleasing, was

I'm not sure what to say about this film, which Faulty Landscape recommended; I think it's fucking brilliant, and is perhaps as close as we'll get to seeing how humans probably lived for most of our history. The action in this portrayal of shamanistic revenge is so remote from my experience as to be alien, and yet this is a story I know in my bones--some archetypal elemental stirrings in the collective unconscious spoke to me during this marvelous little gem of a movie.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

From "War Wounds: A Father and Son Return to Vietnam" by Tom Bissel

Harper's, Dec. 2004

"War, when necessary, is unspeakable. When unnecessary, it is unforgivable. It is not an occasion for heroism. It is an occasion only for survival and death. To regard war in any other way only guarantees its inevitable reappearance."

Gnome Czomski

on the 2004 elections. Via Bull by the Horns:

The elections of November 2004 have received a great deal of discussion, with exultation in some quarters, despair in others, and general lamentation about a "divided nation." They are likely to have policy consequences, particularly harmful to the public in the domestic arena, and to the world with regard to the "transformation of the military," which has led some prominent strategic analysts to warn of "ultimate doom" and to hope that US militarism and aggressiveness will be countered by a coalition of peace-loving states, led by – China! (John Steinbruner and Nancy Gallagher, Daedalus). We have come to a pretty pass when such words are expressed in the most respectable and sober journals. It is also worth noting how deep is the despair of the authors over the state of American democracy. Whether or not the assessment is merited is for activists to determine.

Though significant in their consequences, the elections tell us very little about the state of the country, or the popular mood. There are, however, other sources from which we can learn a great deal that carries important lessons. Public opinion in the US is intensively monitored, and while caution and care in interpretation are always necessary, these studies are valuable resources. We can also see why the results, though public, are kept under wraps by the doctrinal institutions. That is true of major and highly informative studies of public opinion released right before the election, notably by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations (CCFR) and the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the U. of Maryland (PIPA), to which I will return.

One conclusion is that the elections conferred no mandate for anything, in fact, barely took place, in any serious sense of the term "election." That is by no means a novel conclusion. Reagan's victory in 1980 reflected "the decay of organized party structures, and the vast mobilization of God and cash in the successful candidacy of a figure once marginal to the `vital center' of American political life," representing "the continued disintegration of those political coalitions and economic structures that have given party politics some stability and definition during the past generation" (Thomas Ferguson and Joel Rogers, Hidden Election, 1981). In the same valuable collection of essays, Walter Dean Burnham described the election as further evidence of a "crucial comparative peculiarity of the American political system: the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market," accounting for much of the "class-skewed abstention rates" and the minimal significance of issues. Thus of the 28% of the electorate who voted for Reagan, 11% gave as their primary reason "he's a real conservative." In Reagan's "landslide victory" of 1984, with just under 30% of the electorate, the percentage dropped to 4% and a majority of voters hoped that his legislative program would not be enacted.

What these prominent political scientists describe is part of the powerful backlash against the terrifying "crisis of democracy" of the 1960s, which threatened to democratize the society, and, despite enormous efforts to crush this threat to order and discipline, has had far-reaching effects on consciousness and social practices. The post-1960s era has been marked by substantial growth of popular movements dedicated to greater justice and freedom, and unwillingness to tolerate the brutal aggression and violence that had previously been granted free rein. The Vietnam war is a dramatic illustration, naturally suppressed because of the lessons it teaches about the civilizing impact of popular mobilization. The war against South Vietnam launched by JFK in 1962, after years of US-backed state terror that had killed tens of thousands of people, was brutal and barbaric from the outset: bombing, chemical warfare to destroy food crops so as to starve out the civilian support for the indigenous resistance, programs to drive millions of people to virtual concentration camps or urban slums to eliminate its popular base. By the time protests reached a substantial scale, the highly respected and quite hawkish Vietnam specialist and military historian Bernard Fall wondered whether "Viet-Nam as a cultural and historic entity" would escape "extinction" as "the countryside literally dies under the blows of the largest military machine ever unleashed on an area of this size" – particularly South Vietnam, always the main target of the US assault. And when protest did finally develop, many years too late, it was mostly directed against the peripheral crimes: the extension of the war against the South to the rest of Indochina – terrible crimes, but secondary ones.

State managers are well aware that they no longer have that freedom. Wars against "much weaker enemies" – the only acceptable targets -- must be won "decisively and rapidly," Bush I's intelligence services advised. Delay might "undercut political support," recognized to be thin, a great change since the Kennedy-Johnson period when the attack on Indochina, while never popular, aroused little reaction for many years. Those conclusions hold despite the hideous war crimes in Falluja, replicating the Russian destruction of Grozny ten years earlier, including crimes displayed on the front pages for which the civilian leadership is subject to the death penalty under the War Crimes Act passed by the Republican Congress in 1996 – and also one of the more disgraceful episodes in the annals of American journalism.

The world is pretty awful today, but it is far better than yesterday, not only with regard to unwillingness to tolerate aggression, but also in many other ways, which we now tend to take for granted. There are very important lessons here, which should always be uppermost in our minds – for the same reason they are suppressed in the elite culture. Returning to the elections, in 2004 Bush received the votes of just over 30% of the electorate, Kerry a bit less. Voting patterns resembled 2000, with virtually the same pattern of "red" and "blue" states (whatever significance that may have). A small change in voter preference would have put Kerry in the White House, also telling us very little about the country and public concerns.

As usual, the electoral campaigns were run by the PR industry, which in its regular vocation sells toothpaste, life-style drugs, automobiles, and other commodities. Its guiding principle is deceit. Its task is to undermine the "free markets" we are taught to revere: mythical entities in which informed consumers make rational choices. In such scarcely imaginable systems, businesses would provide information about their products: cheap, easy, simple. But it is hardly a secret that they do nothing of the sort. Rather, they seek to delude consumers to choose their product over some virtually identical one. GM does not simply make public the characteristics of next year's models. Rather, it devotes huge sums to creating images to deceive consumers, featuring sports stars, sexy models, cars climbing sheer cliffs to a heavenly future, and so on. The business world does not spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year to provide information. The famed "entrepreneurial initiative" and "free trade" are about as realistic as informed consumer choice. The last thing those who dominate the society want is the fanciful market of doctrine and economic theory. All of this should be too familiar to merit much discussion.

Sometimes the commitment to deceit is quite overt. The recent US-Australia negotiations on a "free trade agreement" were held up by Washington's concern over Australia's health care system, perhaps the most efficient in the world. In particular, drug prices are a fraction of those in the US: the same drugs, produced by the same companies, earning substantial profits in Australia though nothing like those they are granted in the US – often on the pretext that they are needed for R&D, another exercise in deceit. Part of the reason for the efficiency of the Australian system is that, like other countries, Australia relies on the practices that the Pentagon employs when it buys paper clips: government purchasing power is used to negotiate prices, illegal in the US. Another reason is that Australia has kept to "evidence-based" procedures for marketing pharmaceuticals. US negotiators denounced these as market interference: pharmaceutical corporations are deprived of their legitimate rights if they are required to produce evidence when they claim that their latest product is better than some cheaper alternative, or run TV ads in which some sports hero or model tells the audience to ask their doctor whether this drug is "right for you (it's right for me)," sometimes not even revealing what it is supposed to be for. The right of deceit must be guaranteed to the immensely powerful and pathological immortal persons (corporations) created by radical judicial activism to run the society. When assigned the task of selling candidates, the PR industry naturally resorts to the same fundamental techniques, so as to ensure that politics remains "the shadow cast by big business over society," as America's leading social philosopher, John Dewey, described the results of "industrial feudalism" long ago. Deceit is employed to undermine democracy, just as it is the natural device to undermine markets. And voters appear to be aware of it.

On the eve of the 2000 elections, about 75% of the electorate regarded it as a game played by rich contributors, party managers, and the PR industry, which trains candidates to project images and produce meaningless phrases that might win some votes. Very likely, that is why the population paid little attention to the "stolen election" that greatly exercised educated sectors. And it is why they are likely to pay little attention to campaigns about alleged fraud in 2004. If one is flipping a coin to pick the King, it is of no great concern if the coin is biased.

In 2000, "issue awareness" – knowledge of the stands of the candidate-producing organizations on issues – reached an all-time low. Currently available evidence suggests it may have been even lower in 2004. About 10% of voters said their choice would be based on the candidate's "agendas/ideas/platforms/goals"; 6% for Bush voters, 13% for Kerry voters (Gallup). The rest would vote for what the industry calls "qualities" or "values," which are the political counterpart to toothpaste ads. The most careful studies (PIPA) found that voters had little idea of the stand of the candidates on matters that concerned them. Bush voters tended to believe that he shared their beliefs, even though the Republican Party rejected them, often explicitly. Investigating the sources used in the studies, we find that the same was largely true of Kerry voters, unless we give highly sympathetic interpretations to vague statements that most voters had probably never heard.

Exit polls found that Bush won large majorities of those concerned with the threat of terror and "moral values," and Kerry won majorities among those concerned with the economy, health care, and other such issues. Those results tell us very little.

It is easy to demonstrate that for Bush planners, the threat of terror is a low priority. The invasion of Iraq is only one of many illustrations. Even their own intelligence agencies agreed with the consensus among other agencies, and independent specialists, that the invasion was likely to increase the threat of terror, as it did; probably nuclear proliferation as well, as also predicted. Such threats are simply not high priorities as compared with the opportunity to establish the first secure military bases in a dependent client state at the heart of the world's major energy reserves, a region understood since World War II to be the "most strategically important area of the world," "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history." Apart from what one historian of the industry calls "profits beyond the dreams of avarice," which must flow in the right direction, control over two-thirds of the world's estimated hydrocarbon reserves – uniquely cheap and easy to exploit – provides what Zbigniew Brzezinski recently called "critical leverage" over European and Asian rivals, what George Kennan many years earlier had called "veto power" over them. These have been crucial policy concerns throughout the post-World War II period, even more so in today's evolving tripolar world, with its threat that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence, and worse, might be united: China and the EU became each other's major trading partners in 2004, joined by the world's second largest economy (Japan), and those tendencies are likely to increase. A firm hand on the spigot reduces these dangers.

Note that the critical issue is control, not access. US policies towards the Middle East were the same when it was a net exporter of oil, and remain the same today when US intelligence projects that the US itself will rely on more stable Atlantic Basin resources. Policies would be likely to be about the same if the US were to switch to renewable energy. The need to control the "stupendous source of strategic power" and to gain "profits beyond the dreams of avarice" would remain. Jockeying over Central Asia and pipeline routes reflects similar concerns.

There are many other illustrations of the same lack of concern of planners about terror. Bush voters, whether they knew it or not, were voting for a likely increase in the threat of terror, which could be awesome: it was understood well before 9-11 that sooner or later the Jihadists organized by the CIA and its associates in the 1980s are likely to gain access to WMDs, with horrendous consequences. And even these frightening prospects are being consciously extended by the transformation of the military, which, apart from increasing the threat of "ultimate doom" by accidental nuclear war, is compelling Russia to move nuclear missiles over its huge and mostly unprotected territory to counter US military threats – including the threat of instant annihilation that is a core part of the "ownership of space" for offensive military purposes announced by the Bush administration along with its National Security Strategy in late 2002, significantly extending Clinton programs that were more than hazardous enough, and had already immobilized the UN Disarmament Committee.

As for "moral values," we learn what we need to know about them from the business press the day after the election, reporting the "euphoria" in board rooms – not because CEOs oppose gay marriage. And from the unconcealed efforts to transfer to future generations the costs of the dedicated service of Bush planners to privilege and wealth: fiscal and environmental costs, among others, not to speak of the threat of "ultimate doom." That aside, it means little to say that people vote on the basis of "moral values." The question is what they mean by the phrase. The limited indications are of some interest. In some polls, "when the voters were asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis facing the country, 33 percent cited `greed and materialism,' 31 percent selected `poverty and economic justice,' 16 percent named abortion, and 12 percent selected gay marriage" (Pax Christi). In others, "when surveyed voters were asked to list the moral issue that most affected their vote, the Iraq war placed first at 42 percent, while 13 percent named abortion and 9 percent named gay marriage" (Zogby). Whatever voters meant, it could hardly have been the operative moral values of the administration, celebrated by the business press.

I won't go through the details here, but a careful look indicates that much the same appears to be true for Kerry voters who thought they were calling for serious attention to the economy, health, and their other concerns. As in the fake markets constructed by the PR industry, so also in the fake democracy they run, the public is hardly more than an irrelevant onlooker, apart from the appeal of carefully constructed images that have only the vaguest resemblance to reality.

Let's turn to more serious evidence about public opinion: the studies I mentioned earlier that were released shortly before the elections by some of the most respected and reliable institutions that regularly monitor public opinion. Here are a few of the results (CCFR):

A large majority of the public believe that the US should accept the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and the World Court, sign the Kyoto protocols, allow the UN to take the lead in international crises, and rely on diplomatic and economic measures more than military ones in the "war on terror." Similar majorities believe the US should resort to force only if there is "strong evidence that the country is in imminent danger of being attacked," thus rejecting the bipartisan consensus on "pre-emptive war" and adopting a rather conventional interpretation of the UN Charter. A majority even favor giving up the Security Council veto, hence following the UN lead even if it is not the preference of US state managers. When official administration moderate Colin Powell is quoted in the press as saying that Bush "has won a mandate from the American people to continue pursuing his `aggressive' foreign policy," he is relying on the conventional assumption that popular opinion is irrelevant to policy choices by those in charge.

It is instructive to look more closely into popular attitudes on the war in Iraq, in the light of the general opposition to the "pre-emptive war" doctrines of the bipartisan consensus. On the eve of the 2004 elections, "three quarters of Americans say that the US should not have gone to war if Iraq did not have WMD or was not providing support to al Qaeda, while nearly half still say the war was the right decision" (Stephen Kull, reporting the PIPA study he directs). But this is not a contradiction, Kull points out. Despite the quasi-official Kay and Duelfer reports undermining the claims, the decision to go to war "is sustained by persisting beliefs among half of Americans that Iraq provided substantial support to al Qaeda, and had WMD, or at least a major WMD program," and thus see the invasion as defense against an imminent severe threat. Much earlier PIPA studies had shown that a large majority believe that the UN, not the US, should take the lead in matters of security, reconstruction, and political transition in Iraq. Last March, Spanish voters were bitterly condemned for appeasing terror when they voted out of office the government that had gone to war over the objections of about 90% of the population, taking its orders from Crawford Texas, and winning plaudits for its leadership in the "New Europe" that is the hope of democracy. Few if any commentators noted that Spanish voters last March were taking about the same position as the large majority of Americans: voting for removing Spanish troops unless they were under UN direction. The major differences between the two countries are that in Spain, public opinion was known, while here it takes an individual research project to discover it; and in Spain the issue came to a vote, almost unimaginable in the deteriorating formal democracy here.

These results indicate that activists have not done their job effectively.

Turning to other areas, overwhelming majorities of the public favor expansion of domestic programs: primarily health care (80%), but also aid to education and Social Security. Similar results have long been found in these studies (CCFR). Other mainstream polls report that 80% favor guaranteed health care even if it would raise taxes – in reality, a national health care system would probably reduce expenses considerably, avoiding the heavy costs of bureaucracy, supervision, paperwork, and so on, some of the factors that render the US privatized system the most inefficient in the industrial world. Public opinion has been similar for a long time, with numbers varying depending on how questions are asked. The facts are sometimes discussed in the press, with public preferences noted but dismissed as "politically impossible." That happened again on the eve of the 2004 elections. A few days before (Oct. 31), the NY Times reported that "there is so little political support for government intervention in the health care market in the United States that Senator John Kerry took pains in a recent presidential debate to say that his plan for expanding access to health insurance would not create a new government program" – what the majority want, so it appears. But it is "politically impossible" and has "[too] little political support," meaning that the insurance companies, HMOs, pharmaceutical industries, Wall Street, etc. , are opposed.

It is notable that such views are held by people in virtual isolation. They rarely hear them, and it is not unlikely that respondents regard their own views as idiosyncratic. Their preferences do not enter into the political campaigns, and only marginally receive some reinforcement in articulate opinion in media and journals. The same extends to other domains.

What would the results of the election have been if the parties, either of them, had been willing to articulate people's concerns on the issues they regard as vitally important? Or if these issues could enter into public discussion within the mainstream? We can only speculate about that, but we do know that it does not happen, and that the facts are scarcely even reported. It does not seem difficult to imagine what the reasons might be.

In brief, we learn very little of any significance from the elections, but we can learn a lot from the studies of public attitudes that are kept in the shadows. Though it is natural for doctrinal systems to try to induce pessimism, hopelessness and despair, the real lessons are quite different. They are encouraging and hopeful. They show that there are substantial opportunities for education and organizing, including the development of potential electoral alternatives. As in the past, rights will not be granted by benevolent authorities, or won by intermittent actions – a few large demonstrations after which one goes home, or pushing a lever in the personalized quadrennial extravaganzas that are depicted as "democratic politics." As always in the past, the tasks require day-to-day engagement to create – in part re-create – the basis for a functioning democratic culture in which the public plays some role in determining policies, not only in the political arena from which it is largely excluded, but also in the crucial economic arena, from which it is excluded in principle.

Blind links

I can't vouch for this site, because I'm too paranoid to open it here at work, but someone came here from there (oh, don't even), and it reportedly has links to

librarian smut!


From here.

Voter Fraud - Please Read My Explanation Below 27.Nov.2004 19:38

Brad Menfil link

Brad Menfil is not my real name. I work for the RNC. I fear reprisals
if I'm found out.

The truth about this election is this: Florida and Ohio had to go for
Bush in order for him to "win" the election. In reality he lost both
states. In fact, he did not even win the popular vote. He lost the
national popular vote by at least 1,750,000. This shows you the scale
of the fraud.

The exit polls were not wrong. Kerry was the clear winner, but victory
was snatched from him.

Florida first. The 200,000+ margin of victory for Bush made this state
uncontestable. Everybody assumes that even with some fraud, Kerry could
never have made up the difference in a recount. But Kerry actually won
by about 750,000 votes. The numbers were changed by a computer program
(in both electronic and scan-tron voting systems) called "KerryLite."
"KerryLite" of course is not actual name of the program. The actual
name is 11-5-18-18 etc. For additional encryption, the numbers were
jumbled but I'm not sure in which order. The numbers replace the
letters of the alphabet. For example, K is the eleventh letter of the

So the if-then statement goes something like this: "if total true
Kerry>total true Bush, Bush x 1.04x (.04 is a random number)(total true
Kerry), total true Bush". The second part of the equation takes the
total number of votes cast and subtracts the new Bush total, subtracts
the third party totals and leaves the rest for Kerry.

Sometimes the program would also reduce third party votes and award
them to Bush. And even where Bush legitimately won, he was still
awarded additional votes. The big Democratic counties (Broward for
example) went to Kerry because it had to appear that everything was on
the up and up. It's interesting to see this unfold. Does anybody wonder
why the Republican counties were mostly counted after the Democratic
counties? You should wonder, and also know that this was no accident.
The Bush team had to make up the votes as the night went on.

In Ohio, computer voting fraud, vote tossing and voter suppression were
the main methods. Vote tossing was simply the removal of Kerry votes
and some third party votes. In some areas, the Bush vs. Kerry votes
were absurd. Nine to one, eight to two.

Voter suppression took the form of making voters stand in four hour
long lines. This of course took place in Democratic areas. The simplest
thing to do was to have too few voting machines. Sometimes that's all
it takes. People eventually lose patience and leave without casting a

In other states such as New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa and New Hampshire,
Kerry's leads evaporated very quickly once the polls were shut down.
Kerry only won New Hampshire, but barely. As it turned out, the lead
was 6% for Kerry in that state and not enough fraudulent activity took
place to flip the state to Bush.

So this will all come out and be known to everyone. Nothing this
massive can be kept a secret. You're already beginning to see these
"irregularities" and the whisper will become a roar.

Hang in there

James Cameron, Prophet?

They even look like the movie versions.

First Thursday

It's become a tradition for Cha and I to go to Mount Vernon on the first Thursday of each December. We stroll around the Walters (where they dispense free hot cider and cookies), then hit some galleries, then get a nice dinner. Around 7pm the City blows off what usually is a pretty spectacular 10-minute fireworks display as it lights the Washington Monument for the holidays. After that we go to the Peabody for a free concert with carols and organ solos.

Not tonight. Well, not tonight for ME. She will be there--I'll be sitting at this fucking desk in Cook Library.

At least Thursday is my Friday.

Not too concerned

This doesn't concern me much, given the importance of my librarian job. Surely if there's an "economic Armageddon" in the US, I'll still be ok?

Maybe there will be an economic Rapture before the "economic Armageddon," and Grover Norquist and his ilk will fly up into the sky.

Ack! I'm violating my self-imposed political issue ban! I made it a couple weeks.

Still good

This is one of the first movies I ever saw in the theater, and I hadn't seen it since that first time. It's amazing that several images stuck with me for nearly 30 years, including Spacek waking up to the news of Patsy Cline's demise, Doob's dramatic house plans in an empty field, the hotel honeymoon, and a bunch of upholler youngins getting new shoes from Sears Roebuck & Co.

I love when people say "dawgumbit" and "tan those hides" and "I doan wancho gettin' on me 'n sweatin' jez like the old hawg." Takes me back to my hick upbringing (the vernacular, not the "getting on top of me and sweating like a hog").

Sissy Spacek rocks, as does Tommy Lee Jones. One of them still has integrity as an actor.

Loretta Lynn's biopic also reminds me how country music used to be good. I watched me 10 minutes of CMT yesterday and nearly barfed over a song about those little pamphlets in the Pennysaver circular featuring missing kids called "Paper Angels." Even worse was some twaddle featuring Shania Twain in a duet about a party for two. She's clearly the most loathsome thing going right now in terms of trite pop. This is country?

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Some MAs in Creative Writing pay off!

All it takes is ambition and a good work ethic.

The Poet makes HCE.


Last week I taught a short story called "We Didn't" by Stuart Dybek. Basically the story is about a couple of teens who are overwrought by hormonal urges and after months of petting and kissing and sweaty fumbling decide they're going all the way on a Chicago beach. They're interrupted before consumation by cops who've come to fish out the corpse of a nude pregnant woman found along the shore. The story tracks the collapse of the teens' relationship after this event, and focuses on the competing worldviews of the male (who adopts a cynical, jokey, "it's only a coincidence" attitude) and the female (who believes this is nothing less than an omen that prevented her from giving away her virginity to this guy at this time). I teach this dichotomy as exemplifying the split between Freud (atheist--all meaning is internal and subjective and coincidences are interpreted as having meaning because we selectively see what we like) and Jung (spiritualist--synchronicity means that omens are real and they occur regardless of subjectivity, but one must be perceptive). I start my discussion talking about Dybek's salty, sensuous description of the lovers' fumbling failures to do the deed, and do a little self-deprecating comic routine about how happy I am to be well past that awkward, agonizing stage of life and married.

But since teaching the story and talking about it I've thought with some regret about the fact that those days are gone. Don't get me wrong--I'm happily married and have no interest at all in ever being single again--but suddenly it struck me that, yes, I'm in my mid-and-soon-to-be-late-mid 30s. My days of being an object of attraction to young women are gone (if they ever existed). My days of exploration are LONG gone. I didn't obsess over this; I merely noted it as a passage, and moved on. Then a bit of Jung started creeping in.

On Monday I was helping a young and rather naive blond do research for a paper. The topic? "I don't believe the moon landing was real." She was having trouble finding reputable sources (likely with good reason) which supported her argument. "I believe we DID orbit the moon, but the landing was faked." I was sort of teasing her about her reasoning, and taking her through some critical thinking exercises. I asked what her strongest evidence was, and she said "humans can't survive going through the Van Allen radiation belt." But, I responded, you already told me that you believe Americans orbited the moon, but did not land--they'd have had to go through the Van Allen belt in order to orbit the moon! "You're not helping," she pouted, and showed me a picture taken on the lunar surface of an astronaut and the lander. "Why can't you see stars in the black sky?" she asked. "It's obviously a studio." I pointed to the sharp shadows on the ground and asked what it meant to have shadows stretching out dramatically from all objects in the photo. She had no clue, so I told her it meant it was daytime, ie, they were on the sunlit side of the moon. The sun tends to block out our ability to see stars, I reminded her. "No, that's the atmosphere!" she said, but quickly realized her mistake. "I guess we can see stars through the atmosphere at night."

At any rate, this went on for a while, and I introduced her to Fortean Times, and she kept telling me I was funny, and then she leaned on the counter and was playing with her hair, and asking me what I was interested in, and what I did for fun, and I became alarmed. Is she, she can't...what the fuck!? I'm old and fugly, she's a cute kid! She was flirting with me. Aggressively. She grabbed my pen and played keep away with it. She kept touching my hand "by mistake." She asked if I went out on Thursdays to any of the bars, and I said "my wife tends to keep me home on weeknights," and she complained a bit and finally left. Candi, my student assistant, immediately started teasing me. "She was SO hitting on you!" I was glad to know I'd not imagined it, but remained puzzled until today, when another strange thing happened.

I'd just finished my 263 class, and had spoken to a terribly attractive and awfully shy young student who was too mortified to do her presentation assignment. "I don't like being in front of people. I get very anxious and self-conscious, and I think I'm destined to screw up," etc (her attitude also tied into my own recent musings). She wanted to do a paper instead, and then there was a slacker who'd missed 15 classes and wanted to do some extra credit to avoid failing, and as I was talking to him I noted an exquisite and striking brunette who'd come into the room and moved just beyond my peripheral vision. I sensed she was there to talk to me, and she didn't sit down for the next class. My student was yammering on about being a bartender and a last-semester senior and he liked my class but had to work until 3am, blah-blah, and I told him we'd talk on Friday, and turned to find myself confronted by an incomparable vision. Imagine a Bollywood Goddess with rich lustrous hair and that fantastic earthy figure seen only in idealized illustrations from the Kama Sutra, or on Hindu temples. I was powerfully shaken by her beauty, and also by the fact that I knew her.

My first thought was she looks fantastic. My second thought was I didn't shower or shave this morning and dressed as an afterthought because I was going to run after class anyway why does it matter oh my God stop thinking like this I look like hell I wish I'd worn a tie. My third thought was Oh no how in God's name did she find me. My fourth was wow, this is really interesting, the fact that she found me--is this an accident?

"Are you the Geoff who went to Hereford--you ARE!" she said, and I asked if I'd really changed that much, while thinking I really want to tell her how spectacular she looks, but I'm not going to do so, because this chick is dangerous, or, at least, she was 15 years ago. "I saw your name in the Catalog and then I looked at the course schedule for this semester and I saw the time and room and I ran here..." as she spoke I noted those intense eyes, extreme dark on extreme white, bright and wide as a spooked horse's. Yes, she's still dangerous. " make sure it was you and I can't believe it."

I quickly asked her what she was doing at Towson (Master's in Education), then moved on to family (3 kids, married to an accountant, her brother whom I knew in high school is now a Manhattan lawyer). When I was 18-19, this young woman stalked me. I thought she was beautiful, and would've loved a roll in the hay, but she was too freaky. She worked at GNC and I worked at McD's in Hunt Valley the summer after our senior year. She used to leave notes for me with my co-workers with explicit drawings on them. I'd stop to talk to her at GNC and she'd kiss me without warning, or ask me to get something off a high shelf and grab my ass, but I wasn't interested in a relationship and didn't want to take advantage of her, though I must admit I played along with her flirting. One day she invited me to help her move something in the back room at GNC and she locked the store--I won't go into details, but I suspect she'd never played doctor as a child and wanted to catch up quickly. Our parting after my refusal that day was a bit awkward, and she started leaving notes on my car until I agreed to take her out on a date against my better judgment. We met at the Mall and ended up snowed in by a freak blizzard--York Road and I-83 were closed and we were trapped along with a half dozen other Mall employees. If ever there was an omen, it was this unannounced snowstorm. Buf, who worked at Camelot Music, and a couple other guys and I ended up getting a room at the Embassy Suites (I think Yahtzee and Burnt were there as well, and perhaps The Hulk). The idea was to score some beer and have a party since we were stuck. She was enthusiastic about accompanying us, but her uncle (he owned the luggage and tobacco stores at Hunt Valley) drove a Jeep down to prevent her virtue from being compromised. A good thing for all concerned. I saw her a couple times after that, and she always brought up our date, and how we needed to finish our date, and then I didn't see her until like '96 at Borders, and she said "when will we finally finish our date?" and then today, again, here at TU, in my classroom, she was there again, and she brought it up again. THREE KIDS. Both of us sitting atop 10-year marriages.

She needs to face facts--"We Didn't." Nor will we.

Is this synchronicity, or insanity? A coincidence, or an omen? I thought about it after telling her "well, keep in touch!" and fleeing like a pickpocket into the dreary cold rain. I changed into my running clothes and shoes and was surprised to find the weather completely changed in about five minutes to spectacularly clear and warm and windy. I ran three miles, and did what I always do when I'm puzzled by a situation involving "meaningful coincidences," and called Julio, who said "I was just thinking about you." He lost two friends the past couple weeks--Richard Kalter from MICA, and an artist he'd known for years named Marie Larsen, who passed away last night. I think Richard was in his 80s, and Marie was in her '90s--but immediately he started telling me about several strange coincidences surrounding their deaths, and the timing thereof, and I told him I'd called for just that reason, and as usual we couldn't understand what the world was obviously telling us. There's more to say here but I should do some work.