Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Ornament of the World

The clash of cultures can be violent, but the turbulent relations of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in medieval Spain resulted in an unprecedented flowering of arts and scholarship that influences us to this day.

Menocal's book is a breezy read through 8 centuries of conflict and trouble in a region that at times allowed all three faiths to intermingle peaceably and flourish with astounding results. Al-Andalus produced some of the most remarkable art, architecture, and philosophy of its period, and arguably the Islamic preservation of Greek thought (and their adoptation and spread of the Hindu numerical system) helped spark the later Renaissance in Europe. Further, the caliphate's tolerance of all "peoples of the Book" helped the Renaissance of Hebrew as a living language and the preservation of Judaic thought and tradition as well.

The cast of characters is enormous, from Roland and El Cid through Frederick II and Averroes and Avicenna and Maimonides to Cervantes and Columbus--so don't expect a lot of depth. But ignore the obviously politically motivated postings by agenda-driven ideologues on Amazon's review page; this isn't a bad book, and it's not intended for academics. Menocal is trying to draw attention to an ignored age, often called "dark," that was anything but. And her case for positive and tolerant respect of different cultures is timely, too--she completed the book just before 9/11. There were many 9/11s throughout the 8th-15th centuries and yet somehow "Western Civ" still happened. I doubt we'll see much flourishing of anything during our current crisis, but history will judge.


I sent off two résumés today--one for a cataloger's position at another local State of MD system liberry, and another to the Library of Congress for a Tech Writer position.

Virtually all résumés I send out vanish into the ether, and it's no wonder, given that I'm again applying for jobs for which I have limited qualifications. But I'm to the point that this comfy sinecure is bringing me down. The hours suck, and though it's damnably convenient to walk to work I simply can't take the boredom. I could do this job on smack. In fact, any primate could do this job on smack. And Aunty Clod visits me daily with a litany of personal woes that are dragging me down. I need new co-workers to complain about.

Plus, I quit teaching to get away from undergrad idiocy, and at the Service Desk I encounter it daily. Last night:

Young Jersey Girl [to Oona]: Do you, like, have feminist or women's studies journals?

Oona: Sure. There are some that start with W over in the Current section.

Me [winking at Oona]: What type of "feminist" journal do you need?

Young Jersey Girl: You know, like, um, Cosmo, or Vogue.

Me: We don't carry those.

Oona [as YJG slinks off, twirling her hair and popping gum]: Oh my God, how did you know to ask her that? I had no idea!

Me: Years of bookstore experience, and extensive first-hand experience of undergraduate cluelessness.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Plus ça change...

"Has the art of politics no apparent utility? Does it appear to be unqualifiedly ratty, raffish, sordid, obscene, and low down, and its salient virtuousi a gang of unmitigated scoundrels? Then let us not forget its high capacity to soothe and tickle the midriff, its incomparable services as a maker of entertainment."

H.L. Mencken, On Politics

Monday, November 28, 2005

Fun toy

This is a fun little site I noticed over at Seth's place. You can catalog your personal library online for free, and it generates HTML for a cool random Amazon-linked list of titles you own for display on your blog (mine is somewhere down the column to the right if you want to check it out and buy something).

Of course it would take forever to catalog my library, but I got a good start tonight at "work."


I'd read a lot about this special plant--a perfectly legal member of the mint family--while researching shamanic practices. One night while websurfing during a particularly heinous bout of insomnia I read that folks have found relief for sleeplessness using the Diviner's Sage, and I figured I'd take the plunge.

Whoa, Nellie. Do not take this glorious plant lightly. I ingested a small amount of leaves as a quid (similar to a cheekful of chaw) last Friday, holding the saliva in my mouth for a good half-hour before swallowing the mass, and experienced an interesting voyage featuring brightly-colored red and lavender dancing lights. The plant kept me up really really late because my own guitar playing became curiously fascinating and I could not stop improvising. Then I slept for 7 hours, not waking once until 11am Saturday. I haven't slept so profoundly in months.

Sunday late I decided to smoke some, and packed the leaves into a small pipe. I exhaled as much air as possible, applied a lighter, and inhaled deeply. And forgot to exhale. I was in a rocking chair in the library upstairs, listening to gamelan music from Bali on CD, and leaned back as far as I could with my eyes closed. After what seemed four or five minutes I thought Man, I can hold my breath forever! There was none of that pressure or anxiety I normally associate with holding air in my lungs for an extended period. I started counting slowly and got to 80 before deciding I should just let the smoke out because I was worried some narcotic effect was masking my need for oxygen.

Then things went haywire. I opened my eyes just a tiny bit and could barely make out in the dim light the ceiling, which had become the underside of a pool. Each melodic and sensuous strike of the gamelon formed a ripple that spread slowly across the ceiling and down the walls. Ok, hold on a minute, I thought. Either the spirit of the plant will accept me or reject me. Curiously, while thinking such strange things I felt completely not stoned-out-of-my-fucking-mind. The ripples on the ceiling became snaky vortices of energy that twirled out of the walls toward me like tiny tornados; as they approached I closed my eyes and I felt them in my flesh. First they buffeted me vertically in two directions, then horizontally, as though I were on a cross. Something very powerful was exploring every fiber of my body, and every bit of consciousness. Then the vortices turned to electric plant fronds and began sweeping through me with an insistent force. Ok, I'm ready, I pleaded with the plant. I accept.

I was lifted slowly toward the underside of the ceiling, which still rippled like water to the music, and just as my nose approached the plaster I had a momentary doubt that I was prepared for this. Immediately I was back in the rocker and sitting up. There were no after-effects and I was of entirely sound mind. Total time elapsed, less than 3 minutes.

A lot of folks who try this have freaked out, and I can see why. The initial punch is quite surprising, as potent as any hallucinogen I did as a youth. Without past psilocybin/acid experience I might have been scared to death by my short and powerful vision as well.

Presumably my experience would have been longer had I not feared what the "spirit of the plant" had in store. Again, I slept like a zombie through the night.


Twins Ethan and Emily--she's our god-daughter, and wailed like a banshee at the application of holy water during her Christening. Admirable!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Random Reasons to be Thankful

The Hat
Sis, the VP
Ma and Pa
Nieces and Nephews



Silenus, when I told him that this was coming from Netflix, warned me. "It's really fucking stupid," he said. Let's call that an understatement. Velvet Goldmine is tragically fucking stupid, and is one of the worst films I've ever seen.

All the ingredients are there for at least a decent rock film: good actors, hot gay sex, hot straight sex, hot bi sex, drugs, glam rock--but nothing works in this pathetic mish-mash. The sex, drugs, and rock alone should make things interesting, but anything resembling entertainment drained out of this sucker before it was printed. Instead of developing the filmstock I think they embalmed it. Pretentious, witless, and pointless, Velvet Goldmine has as its central characters a thinly disguised David Bowie and a thinly disguised Iggy Pop. How can you fuck that up? How can you make that boring? Wretched pap! The only redeeming quality is Ewan MacGregor's cock (my wife enjoyed at least 10 seconds of this movie), and there are much better films during which you can view that particular organ. Avoid at all costs, especially if you like glam rock.

I need to watch Hedwig again to cleanse my cinematic pallet; or at least Oliver Stone's The Doors, which is so wretchedly bad it's vastly entertaining.

The Dazzling Urbanite knows more about film than anyone, but when he told me Constantine was good I ignored his advice. P-Man brought this over Friday and Tito Tito and The Nameless wanted to watch it; I reluctantly agreed but was pleasantly surprised. Leave your brain at the door and you'll enjoy this wild ride to Hell and back, it's a veritable comic-book exorcist film on steroids. Conceptually beautiful but with "no there there," Constantine almost avoids taking itself too seriously, and Keanu is serviceable in his Clint Eastwood-with-a-crucifix role (several moments of Reeves' un-intentional self-parody provoked guffaws). Worth a visit.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Film spectators are quiet vampires.--Jim Morrison, The Lords and The New Creatures

I was surprised by this film--usually I hate anything with Andie McDowell, largely because I don't find her attractive and I don't think she's a particularly good actress. But Spader and Gallagher pull this one out with great performances, and McDowell is ok.

Basically Graham (Spader) is a modern-day St. Origen. After an infatuation with an ideal girfriend goes too far, he becomes impotent and makes it his mission to document women's sexual predilections on videotape--he's able to jerk off to these videos, but can't get it up with a woman present in the flesh. Because of his impotence, he regards himself as a changed man, somehow more moral and less dishonest. He returns to his hometown to visit his school chum (Gallagher) who, despite his marriage, is sexually profligate. Andie McDowell plays the victim wife who has no sexual desire. McDowell is initially drawn to Spader until she finds out his secret--it's only after she discovers her husband's dalliance with her sister that she is healed, and Spader as well.

A challenging exploration of cinematic voyeurism and eroticism. Worth a visit.

Profoundly Silly

The first time I saw Stardust Memories I think I'd only seen one Bergman film, and I'd seen no Fellinis. As a result I didn't "get" it--I found Allen's film a bit silly but beautifully shot; re-visiting it after seeing most of Bergman and Fellini enhanced my appreciation, but not my assessment.

I admire Allen for being driven to make more significant art, and for daring to make a film about the conflict between producing marketable goofball comedies and heavy philosophical fare. And lampooning one's own ego and the predilections of one's audience is a ballsy approach. There's much of worth in Stardust Memories, from the opening Bergman nod to the continual 8 1/2 references, but like the aliens who mock Allen's morose quest for meaning near the end of his film, I still think Sleeper is better.

Side note: WTF is up with the scene joking about daddy/daughter sexual attraction? Those jokes aren't quite so funny in retrospect!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

The center will not hold

Jesus Christ was a man who traveled through the land,
A hard working man and brave.
He said to the rich "Give your goods to the poor."
But they laid Jesus Christ in His grave.
Woody Guthrie

The Idiot is Dostoevsky's most autobiographical novel. We get uncomfortably close to the experience of his last-minute pardon before a Siberian firing squad, and his epilepsy and its spiritual impact color the entire novel. It's also his clumsiest work, full of excesses and false leads as a season of Days of Our Lives. And yet it's sublime and pitiable all at once, just like the central consciousness Prince Myshkin, and serves as the germinating seed from which will spring the later, greater Brothers Karamazov.

19th-century Russia has come unglued from its traditional past, and no one knows the rules of the game as she spirals toward Apocalypse. Everyone is a potential rogue, a cynic, a tyrant and a democrat by turns. Church, State, Wealth are all unreliable, and the social order is topsy-turvy. Prince Myshkin is Christ-like in his innocence and in the purity of his love. He's capable of forgiveness and must be martyred as a result. Fyodor runs him through the wringer, and exhausts the reader with a marriage plot that itself is totally unhinged and ends with happiness for none. Myshkin is not a fool but he is foolish. He's not technically an idiot but the decayed aristocracy he walks amongst must regard him as such, despite the fact they're drawn to his capacity to teach them about suffering and kindness. The Idiot features some great villains: Ippolit, Roghozin, Nastasia Fillipovna, Ganya. Extremely complicated souls!

I feel closer than ever to Myshkin's character, inhabiting the silly and amoral society I do. I get the sense Dostoevsky rejected much of Russia's past, but was nonetheless conservative because he feared too much freedom--take away government and Church and tradition (those repressive structures) and humans might devolve to the point that only their appetites lead them. What societal Superego can control libido run amok? What moral arbiters will remain? Somehow Dostoevsky and his mysterious charlatan Lebedev foresaw that Stalin would result for Russia. What awaits George W. America?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Charm City

According to this site, Baltimore is the 6th most dangerous city overall in the US (we're not top five? WTF?). We're second only to Detroit in cities of more than 500,000 people, and Baltimore-Towson ranks 20th overall in the most dangerous metropolitan areas category.

That explains why the KFC and the Royal Farm in my 'hood keep getting held up at gunpoint.

Funny, Frommer's doesn't mention these rankings...


I sent Pat Robertson a copy of Reign In Blood--glad to see he likes it.

[Photo via Conspiracy Planet]

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Weekend films

I left work at 10pm Thursday, I had to be up by 6:30am Friday for woodchopping, and I had insomnia. There on the coffee table was Shame from Netflix, and what better way to spend 3:30-5:30am? This is a particularly strange Bergman film. There's the same decaying relationship, the same frayed nerves of intellectuals in existential crisis who begin lashing out at each other in despair, there's Liv Ullman with her shirt off and Max von Sydow gloomy and introspective. But it's also a war movie, with some rather harrowing scenes. I'm used to Bergman's characters lobbing psychological weapons at each other--here there are actual incedniary devices blowing things up in the background and the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire. Interesting primarily for its complete change of tone from those quiet drawing rooms and rural estates featured in his other work. Instead of mere psychological torture and abuse, we get physical torture by government officials and the rebels and the invaders. I think Bergman intended to explore masculinity and its limits, and to demonstrate the surprising change in character desperate circumstances can bring about--but what do I know at that time of night/morning?

Strange that I'd just read Roth's The Plot Against America which also features Morrow as a crusader out to save the Republic from creeping fascism; Morrow's ghost obviously is restless and moving amongst the activist lefty intelligentsia in these troubling times.

I wholeheartedly recommend Good Night and Good Luck because it's an entirely optimistic film which documents a bleak and dangerous period in American history. Clooney's object is two-fold: he wants A) to demonstrate how powerful a few principalled actors in a subservient and frightened press can be in standing up to government bullying--a lesson we're learning anew--while also B)reminding us during our current dark time that America has been through some scary fucking episodes in the past and come out OK. NONE of what we're experiencing now (trashing of liberals, vitriolic attacks on dissenters, black-balling campaigns, accusations of media partisanship, demoralized opposition party) is unprecedented. McCarthy ran rampant for YEARS, and was more fearsome and successful in many ways than Karl Rove and Co. I don't want to minimize the impact of those moronic ideologues currently in power, but the problems we face are not insurmountable. I found Good Night and Good Luck not only a good bit of cinematic didacticism, but roundly entertaining as well--the narrative moves quickly and efficiently and the direction and performances are rather excellent. I was caught up in it from the first smoky frame to the end credits. To all those critics who think it over-emphasizes Morrow's role in McCarthy's fall? Well, duh--the film is about Morrow and Fred Friendly and CBS choosing to stand up for Truth. Anything outside those parameters would require a 3-hour film.

Le Weekend

First things first--congratulations to Earthdragon and Damnyelli whose baby boy arrived Friday, weighing in at 8lbs and 1oz. I've seen pictures--it won't be long before Sion is nursing on a Guiness.

Friday I assisted BroJ again as he split the large oak remnants at my father-in-law's. We put in a good 6 hours splitting and hauling that monster. On Saturday I couldn't even bend my arms at the elbow because my biceps were burning!

Friday night I caught a wee beastie on a glue trap. He was so cute I couldn't bring myself to smash him as I'd done to his ma two days earlier (she was mired in the La Brea glue pit to the point I couldn't save her; I had to put her out of her misery), so I took the gluetrap outside, offered him the tine of a fork which he promptly bit, and then I pulled him gently off of the glue, at which point he became stuck to the fork. I took the fork inside again (big mistake) intending to try and clean the glue off his back leg and release him outdoors, and of course he freed himself in the kitchen sink, leapt up on the counter, and then Cha and I created our own Tom and Jerry cartoon as we chased him back and forth across the counter, moving pots, pans, strainers, spice bottles, knick-knacks, Tupperware containers, spatulas, gloves, towels, a knife rack, and sundry bits of produce (garlic, chili peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, chives) as things progressed. Then, tiring of this back-and-forth, the mouse jumped onto my shirt, ran down my pantsleg, then under the stove, at which point I pulled the stove out and we had a huge disorganized mess at the end, but our quarry escaped.

I think he's earned the right to inhabit 2 York Road. I found under the sofa in our living room an old slipper filled with candy wrappers--I think this was his luxury condo.

Saturday we saw a movie, we did some major housecleaning, we went to Target and bought an iron and a coffee maker and some clothes, we ate at Thai Restaurant, and then we went to some Nicarauguan solidarity event at St. John's Church. Cha wanted to go for the dinner, the testimonials, and the hot Latin band. I agreed to attend the event from the hot Latin band on, but couldn't bear the idea of two hours of testimonials in between food and dancing--so we got there at ten, paid our donation at the door, and the hot Latin band turned out to be some DJ spinning Latin hip-pop tunes on a CD player that kept skipping because the dancers danced too close to his table. Ugh. Some extremely attractive Romanian blonde with '80s Pat Benatar hair and furry boots told me I was sexy and that I looked just like her brother (!), and continued purring at me even after meeting my wife. When I first noticed her dancing I'd thought she was hitting on Virginia Monologues, who--though she's Korean--was thought by all the Nicarauguans to be one of them.

Every time I go to St. John's Church for an event I meet freaky fucking people. They ran out of beer and wine before I could get drunk enough to dance, but I danced anyway for the last couple of tunes and helped put chairs away. I also bought a really nice shirt. The mayor of Limay is one crazy chiquita!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Travel Plans

Things are falling into place. Cha is able to take a week off in January, and I shouldn't have trouble either. We're looking at a possible 8 days in Prague or Florence, but right now Merida Mexico is the front-runner because the price is right.

Uxmal and Chitzen Itza are at the top of my list! Also: spicy food, limestone caves, coral reefs, music, cervezas, shopping, people...

A nice stake dinner...

Oh please, let us have been correct that Woodward's source was Big Dick...

And please let us also get a decent photo editor at work--this Office editor sux!

Happy Birthday Dr. Dean

Thanks for giving our meek opposition party a much-needed cojones transplant.


How much of the earth's
Crust has lived
The seed's violence!
The shock is metaphysical.
--George Oppen, Return

It's strange--given my adoration for* much of David Lynch's work--that I'd never seen Eraserhead. Perhaps it was because the VHS was out of print for so long, and the only easily obtainable rental copy was MovieTime's worn-out full screen version. When the DVD became available through Lynch's own site I'd already decided to stop buying DVDs, but now Netflix has delivered it and I'm likely to buy it anyway.

Somehow I'd had the idea that Eraserhead would be raw and amateurish--perhaps disturbing, but not so intellectually engaging as Lynch's later masterworks. Wrong. Eraserhead is as stark and technically masterful as anything by Fritz Lang, and present at an early stage in his artistic development are the obsessive symbols and themes which continue to fuel Lynch's bizarre oeuvre. Eraserhead is beautiful and awful.

The most appealing aspect of Lynch's work is that sense of dread intrigue behind the ordinary. Each moment--even those of tender compassion or sublime ridiculousness--thrums with an intensely sinister mysteriousness. I recall taking my wife to see Wild at Heart early in our courtship, and how we both loved the scene where Crispin Glover, a giant cockroach in his briefs, manipulates spastically a workman's glove with a yardstick. At that time I think Cha had seen four or five movies in the theater, most of them pap like E.T.; and yet she still agreed to marry me after Nick Cage bashed some guy's brains out whilst impersonating Elvis and Laura Dern talked frankly about cock.

The plot of Eraserhead? Some Andy Richter-lookin' dude with Bride of Frankenstein hair roams an industrial wasteland and has strange visions. His girlfriend gives birth to a hairless half-worm, half-saurian and things get a bit strange. I know, the plot sounds weird and gross, but Lynch is only exploring the same cultural perversities that Tim Burton would engage later for a more mainstream audience. Give it a chance, it's actually quite funny.

And to make your afternoon more fun, why not try a double billing of the damned:

Two great tastes that taste great together!

* A grammatical ambiguity--if "adoration of" (as in Adoration of the Magi**) is a possessive construction, then I believe "adoration for" works better here. What I'm pointing out is not Lynch's work's adoration, but my adoration...oh, whatever.

** Rogier van der Weyden kicks fucking ass***.

***Or is that fucking kicks ass?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


There's a lot of MSM and blog chatter today. I get the sense that Woodward's source is a key component to Plamegate, and that there's some big stuff coming down the pike in the Fitzgerald investigation.

But is it good news or bad? Will Woodward's information derail Fitzgerald's case? Or will he have to disclose another indictable player? Does Bob realize that his desire to maintain access to Administration sources for those blockbuster insider books at the cost of public information is more than a bit reprehensible? Especially given his Watergate provenance.

Check in with Jane and Rawstory and HuffPo regularly folks...

From today's Post:

The abrupt revelation that Woodward has been sitting on information about the Plame controversy has reignited questions about his unique relationship with The Post while writing books with unparalleled access to high-level officials, and about why Woodward minimized the importance of the Fitzgerald probe in television and radio interviews while hiding his own involvement in the matter.

Imagine if Woodward's cocktail party gossip source was Big Dick Cheney...

Update: Rawstory sez it's Hadley....

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

How much W. would Chuck Hagel chuck...

Hagel takes aim at the Bushies and their pushback on Iraq pre-war intelligence.

The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration?s policies.

Vietnam was a national tragedy partly because Members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the Administrations in power until it was too late. Some of us who went through that nightmare have an obligation to the 58,000 Americans who died in Vietnam to not let that happen again. To question your government is not unpatriotic--to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices.

[Emphases mine--link via Raw Story]

Back East

I've seen this before, perhaps three or four times, but it had been at least 12 or 13 years. Amazingly, I recalled the first three "dreams" (Sunshine through the Rain, The Peach Orchard, and The Blizzard) completely, but had absolutely no memory of the rest of the film.

I think that's because Kurosawa's Dreams was one of the films we used to watch after eating peanut butter and psilocybin sandwiches.

The first three are the best--evocative, mysterious, technically masterful. The rest are akin to really preachy Serling Twilight Zone episodes done with the garish color and outlandish sets of the original Star Trek (this is not necessarily a negative criticism!). My favorite bit is Scorcese's cameo as Van Gogh--as soon as I heard that voice I started to laugh my ass off!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Top Ten Lists

I've been seeing lots of Top Ten Lists online of late, so here's my addition:

Geoff's Top Ten French Churches

Number 10:

Beauvais--Prof. Le Cool and I visited on a weekend excursion from Rouen. Crazy church with a fantastic horloge, some good vitraux, and a propensity to collapse from time to time. Tallest cathedral I've seen. The Gothic taken to ridiculous heights.

Number 9:

Mont St. Michel: More than a church--actually an entire Medieval city and monastary on an island surrounded by mud when the tide is out and water when the tide is in. A great example of ancient Romanesque, and interesting because the nave collapsed and was rebuilt in Gothique style--no easier side-by-side comparison exists.

Number 8:

Vezelay: I love it primarily for that great tympanum, but the crypt with the remains of Mary Magdaleine is pretty damn cool too. You must be prepared to drive for hours through sunflower and lavender fields to get there--how dreadful!

Number 7:

Poitiers: An amazing church, with exquisite grotesque carvings and 12th century glass. Also the interior is actually painted as these churches were intended to be. Most are down to bare stone now. (Also worth seeing is Poitiers Cathedral, with its windows paid for by Eleanor of Aquitaine still extant--also in Poitiers is the awesome 4th century Baptisere St. Jean).

Number 6:

Reims: Oh, yeah, baby. We're getting to the real deal now. Excellent vitraux, but it's extrememly frustrating to note that most of the windows had survived until the Germans shelled the church during WWI.

Number 5:

Amiens: Very similar stylistically to Reims, but with the added bonus of an amazing labyrinth. Love the pale lavender in those 13th century windows!

Number 4:

Bourges: Around the nave are some really outstanding windows, and the surrounding gardens and town are simply wonderful for strolling. Added bonus--Bourges cathedral still lets you climb to the top, and not the view is completely unobstructed for miles.

Number 3:

Notre Dame de Paris: She's got the gargoyles, she's got those fantastic roses, she's got an exquisite situation in the heart of Paris--I've visited five or six times and I'll be back!

Number 2:

St. Chappelle: Visiters to Notre Dame can walk a quarter mile to St. Chappelle and yet they rarely bother--but the second story of this small church takes my breath away each time I visit. All that intact 13th century glass, nearly from floor to ceiling, in such a small space. Ethereal. You must see it before you die.

Number 1:

Chartres: She looms above the horizon from miles away, and I like nothing better than that eager drive from Paris, watching my favorite place on Earth approach slowly. There is no place more lovely, no place so spiritual (and I'm not Christian). The statuary, the crypt with the old Druid well and its altar to Isis and Horus (I mean The Black Madonna and Jesus, of course), and the unbelievably beautiful blue and red glass--this is the pre-eminent sacred space in Europe, and I'm including fantastic places like the Skellig Islands, Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey, and Newgrange. I could visit every day for the rest of my life and be content to do naught else.

Quite Tasty!

This simple little film is anything but superficial. Can a bunch of windswept rural Danish Protestants with a dour view of fleshy pleasures resist Babette's cooking? A touching meditation on duty and friendship and living life to its fullest, featuring some of the greatest food scenes captured on film. I dug it.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Hollywood to Asians: "You All Look the Same"

Ok, I love Gong Li. She's perhaps my favorite actress, and is one of the most beautiful women in the world. And yes, Zhang ZiYi is cute and her acting has improved dramatically, and I really like Michelle Yeoh...

But why the fuck are all these Chinese actresses playing Geishas?

I guess for the same reason that M*A*S*H always had Japanese dudes play Koreans.

Back to Basics

I've been so busy lately that the reading and film-watching has dropped off. For the first time ever I've had the same three Netflix DVDs unwatched for a week! But I've been working on this Lydia Davis collection. I almost chucked it after the first couple of stories because there's a fine line between "experiments with form" and publishing what are no more than unfinished sketches of unwritten stories, but I think "Old Mother and The Grouch" is just great because it's sad and cute and funny and recognizably true:

"I'm going to put on some music," says the Grouch.
Old Mother is immediately nervous.
"Put on something easy," she says.
"I know that whatever I put on, you won't like it," he says.
"Just don't put on Messiaen," she says. "I'm too tired for Messiaen."

I swear Cha and I have had that exact conversation.

Overall, a spotty effort. Mostly filler, with a few interesting stories and a handful of excellent ones. I think the Amazon marketing software recommended this to me because I bought Stephen Dixon. Fuck that software...Lydia Davis has nothing on Dixon, and she's no Gilbert Sorrentino either. This is of course only one of her collections, however, so let's not be too harsh--any collection with a handful of excellent stories is rather good.

Pevear and Volokhonsky hit another one out of the park. Their new Dostoevsky translations have allowed me to re-visit that favorite writer's works with new spirit. This is no exception (tho I'm only half through). Prince Myshkin is somehow a surrogate reader of this novel--more on that later, after I finish.

Lost Weekend

Given that I'm off Fridays and Saturdays when the University is in session, Thursdays are really Fridays for me. My student assistant was 20 minutes late relieving me last Thursday, which made me particularly grumpy. This was her sixth consecutive lateness and now I have to write her up.

I get limited time with my wife on weeknights--I'd rather not spend extra time sitting at the Service Desk. Especially when I've got to be up at 6:30am on Friday to help drop and chop two enormous 90-year-old oaks at my father-in-law's.


BroJ and I teamed up on this project, initiated when two trees, merged at the stump, died and dried out on Arcy's property line. His neighbor is a jackass redneck who loves to give Arcy a hard time because he's Filipino and obsequious to a fault. "Clean out that brush, gawdarnit," the neighber will say, and Arcy will spend hours chopping at sticker bushes and vines. "Get that dead tree off'n the property line afore it falls on somewhat!" was the latest such communique, and Arcy immediately panicked because these were true monsters, each over 70 feet tall, one only two feet in diameter, the other about four-and-a-half. Cha wanted to see if my unemployed brother could do it for cash because Arcy couldn't find anyone, BroJ thought he could do it with my help. The redneck neighbor told me that Arcy "was a dirty little nip bastard but he works when I give 'me hell!" I mentioned that the "dirty little nip bastard" was my father-in-law, and said redneck, under the assumption that BroJ and I were simply hired help, stopped taking us into his cracker confidences after that.

The first tree dropped as planned and was a relatively simple job. We took down part of a fence so it could fall unfettered into the neighbor's yard, and it landed exactly where we wanted after 10 minutes of work with the Stihl.

The fat tree, however, took more than an hour to cut through, and since it was straight up to about 60 feet, with a sharp bend back the rest of the way up the trunk and with three thick long branches extending three different directions at the top, we had some concerns about which way it would fall and how to coax it to fall ideally. Jay worked it down until only an inch of uncut wood was holding the entire thing up, and we'd occasionally stop and plan out notching from different angles. Then we worked at it with an axe and sledge until it fell pretty much where we'd hoped--directly between two other sizeable oaks in the direction of Arcy's back lot.

Except that it didn't fall between those two, but fell against the left one, staying on its stump and leaning there. With a tree of this heft, that's pretty much the Worst Case Scenario. We used car jacks, a steel pole, the sledge, the axe, two chainsaws--and it took an additional two hours of wrestling before we finally got that sucker off the stump. Fortunately if fell quickly enough to get sufficient momentum to spin off its perch on the other tree as it slid off the stump--but it twisted left instead of right and fell directly on Arcy's split-rail fence, pulverizing a good 12-foot section. Half that fence was gone anyway--it's more than 50 years old and hasn't been maintained in recent memory--so no harm done. For the rest of the day we segmented, hauled, and split first the smaller tree on the neighbor's lot and then the big one, which we only managed to whittle down to 12 400 pound bits before it got dark. What a chore. We have to go back next Friday to split, haul, and clear out the second tree. 10 hours was simply not enough. It took forever to cut through that trunk, and we could only cut it down to a few inches above the ground because it was too heavy to lift off the ground to get clearance for the blade. We had to pre-cut one side almost through, then use a variety of iron wedges driven into the cuts with a sledge to prevent the blade from pinching, cut the trunk into smaller segments a few times, then using pry bars and leg muscles roll these segments so we could cut through the remaining few inches of each pre-cut. Fun.

As brutal as that job was, it was pleasant to be in the woods on a crisp fall day. Jay got $500 in cash and I got enough fire wood to keep my oil heating bill down this winter, so I don't regret giving my day off to the father-in-law. Jay wanted to continue working even though it was dark, but Arcy kicked us out. "It was our agreement that I'd have this split and moved over to the house!" Jay complained, so I suggested next Friday we'd clean it up and then he'd be in the clear.

I loaded up my Accord with half a cord of wood and barrelled out onto I-83 thinking I'd get home in time to soak for an hour in a hot bath before heading back up to Yahtzee's. Nope. I-83 was down to one lane from Hereford to Cockeysville. What usually is a 20-minute drive took me an hour and 45 minutes. There's nothing worse for tightening muscles after a hard days' labor than to sit on one's ass. I got home finally, unloaded the wood, ran inside and showered, ate dinner, and was back on the road. Yahtzee and I split two games of Jenga, I whooped up on him at PayDay, then he beat me by one check at backgammon before finally prevailing at of all things Sega football. Bastard.

Many glasses of wine vanished in the making of that story, including a fine Buena Vista.


Cha and I were up at 10 to look at a 3200 square foot piece of a former bottlecap factory downtown. The building is owned by an artist's co-op and I was interested in seeing it because of the possibilities of so much space to make a really special home, and the price was very reasonable. Of course there are difficulties because this isn't a condo, but a limited liability corporation that we'd be buying a 10.7% stake in. The space would be ours to do with as we wished, including part residential, part business, and it could easily become a huge ass condo with a rentable apartment or studio space for income. Try, however, getting a mortgage for a share in an LLC--not easy. And if we sold our house and cashed out the substantial equity built up there, we'd still not have quite enough to front the cash for this space, and it needs EVERYTHING, including 8 12-foot high windows replaced, a kitchen, a bathroom, and, well, walls and furniture. It's basically half an old factory floor with lots of wiring, plumbing, and gas available--and nothing inside but an individually metered heating system. That's part of its appeal--the work I could easily do myself because little demolition is required, and we'd have absolute freedom to do lofts, floating catwalks, partititions at will (some of the other finished units are AMAZING)--but financing such upgrades without the ability to get a mortgage? A slow, piecemeal process. Ideally we'd love to get it and keep the house as a rental, but we'd need either an investor to share one property with us or a signed lease for the house before anyone would front us cash for the LLC space. We'll see. With the Charles Street improvement proceeding like gangbusters, we'd like nothing more than to live in that neck of the woods, and to have so much space and so much freedom to manipulate it would be a lot of fun.

We took a four-hour nap after that excursion. I'd busted my ass Friday and only slept 3 hours, Cha had gone out Friday night until 4am, and having no chilluns we can sleep whenever we like. We spent the evening at Buf and MAs country estate, drinking and playing games with Sluggo and Spoogewhore and The Traveling Joneses and assorted others. A blast.

Thursday night I had yet another run-in with our new neighbors. At 3am my fitful sleep was interrupted by a chorus of "whooooos" and "yeaahhhs" from the frat boys next door. I pulled on some pants and went outside shirtless in the cold air and gave them hell. They're scared to death of me because the last time I asked their party guests to keep it down and some guy told me he'd kick my ass--I took my glasses off and got in his face and said very quietly "Where I come from people don't threaten violence lightly" and he became very uncomfortable and walked away. I like for them to think I'm a bit unhinged.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I heart the Keystone State

I'd sort of disowned my home state when they elected you-know-who as Senator. But I'll give them props for this!

Dull as a Post

A big shout out to Earthdragon (and Damnyelli by proxy). They allowed me to pilfer their supply of leftover fiberglass goodies. Hopefully I can finish up Phase I of the attic reconstruction project this weekend with these odds 'n ends, and avoid yet another trip to Home Depot.

Not only did I get free insulation, but a mug of coffee to boot. Damnyelli has a bun in the oven that's nearly done...

Tomorrow I'm up early to help BroJ dismantle some dead trees at my in-laws' place. We've re-scheduled this twice due to rain--here's hoping it flies tomorrow because I'm sick of the 7 am phonecalls from my father-in-law. BroJ is getting $500 for his labor; I'm getting a shitload of free firewood. Oil costs as they are, I'm making out much better on the deal. I hope the weather tomorrow is exactly as it was today: cool, blustery, and a bit overcast. I feel such days deep in my marrow.

The weekend looks busy--Friday night with Yahtzee, Saturday night at Buf and MA's for Game Night, and Saturday morning we're looking at a 3,000 square foot condo in Baltimore that might be too good a deal to pass up. I'd like to see Capote and/or Good Night and Good Luck as well, but not likely.

Speaking of Capote:

I read In Cold Blood 15 years ago and still remember it vividly. Check it out!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

This is the girl...

We've got a bird, some fish, and now...

We've been extrememly fortunate--living as we do in an 80-year-old townhome surrounded as we are by students who rent and at least one vacant property--to have never had a mouse infestation. When we first moved in the house had been vacant for a year and there was one emaciated field mouse who ran out the front door when I opened it for him. Since then, nothing for 8 years.

Until now.

When Cha quit her job with Baltimore County Schools she packed up all her tote bags and left them sitting on the floor of her office overnight. In several of these bags were various candies which she sold to staff for money on the side. Admirable entrepreneurialism is one of her strong points, but when she finally carted those bags home she brought along an unexpected profit: several mice. We discovered this about a month ago when, after our nightly devotions, she jumped out of bed to freshen up and screeched like Mammy in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. A tiny black mouse zipped along under the bedroom door and into her studio, which is so loaded with junk it's impossible to find anything, let alone a mouse. I went in there as best I could and found at least one bag left over from Halstat Academy of Arts and Sciences with a now empty box of chocolate bars and a load of tiny turds. There was also a bunch of chewed paper in several of the other bags and sacks, and I said "Aw, you brought us pets."

Last night I was watching bleary TV at 3:30am and a mouse ran along the molding beneath the set, up the stairs to the landing, ran under and then peeped out from under my guitar, before finally bounding upstairs. Another rustled along under the loveseat upon which I sat. I stood, picked up one end and he froze, did a double-take, and fled along the same path recently taken by his chum. They're so cute!

Cha refused to let me buy traps, and bought a "humane" device that purportedly would close and encage the beasties when they pressed a little lever with food on it. The one she bought, however, is for racoons and squirrels. I could barely trigger it with my fist, and told her so, but she claimed it would work. For weeks now she's been putting chocolate and cheese in there, only to find the food gone the next day. Now our little pets have bred into a thriving community, I'm sure. One badly in need of mice-sized insulin doses.

I'm afraid I'm on point--she's got to clean out her room so I can get in there and catch these guys (though the last time I caught a mouse and freed it outside it ran directly under a truck on York Road--that was when I worked at Borders).

Cha just now called me here at the Liberry to tell me she heard some rustling in another tote bag she left on the living room floor last night and she threw it outside and onto the front porch. I asked if she had food in it and she admitted that she did. Ugh.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Alan Moore's Kabbalistic superheroine continues her increasingly abstract quest--or, I should say, she continues Moore's increasingly abstract quest to show off all his arcane and esoteric knowledge of the Western occult tradition. I've enjoyed the ride, but this volume strikes me as similar to that second Matrix movie where instead of letting philosophical ideas unfurl through character action and plot, we end up with characters pausing to explain those ideas directly to each other and to the audience.

Promethea fights herself, which, like everything in Promethea, has happened before, and will happen again.

Promethea is in hiding because if she becomes Promethea again Armeggedon will result. Of course the FBI wants her as a terrorist, and no one can elude them for long, especially if Tom Strong joins the hunt. Armaggedon does result, with both a bang and a whimper.

My wife, God bless her

Today I woke at 10am and while preparing coffee noticed the answering machine was blinking. I pressed the red button and there was my wife's voice: "I need a big fava. Your wife is a ditz! Call me when you wake up."

As I dialed Cha's work number, I ran down the List of Recurring Possibilities:

1) I left my wallet at Giant/Superfresh/Rite Aid/Target and they're holding it. Can you pick it up and bring it to me before you go to work?

2) I locked my keys in the car. (Occasional variants: a) I locked my keys in the car with the engine running. b) I locked my keys in the car with the engine off but the lights are on. c) I locked myself in the car, and the keys are outside.)

3) I left the_______ and need you to bring it to me before you go to work. (laptop, computer disc, cellphone, digital camera, etc)

4) I think I left___________ (the iron on, the stove on, the toaster oven on, the water running).

But today was a totally new and unexpected one: "I went to the University branch of SECU to deposit my check at the machine. I took out two deposit envelopes by mistake, put my check in one, filled the other one out, and deposited the empty one. I put the other one with my check back in the rack and somebody found it and called me. Can you drop by the Dowell Health Center and ask for Keisha? She's holding it for you."

She's left her ATM card in the machine before and had money withdrawn by the person in line behind her (a few hundred bucks down the tubes), but to my knowledge she's never done this with her paycheck (mostly because her old job had direct deposit).

Thank God for Keisha!

Yes, we're all doomed.

Damn I wish I weren't allergic to soy milk.

Red Herring (genus Wingnuttia)

When I saw that poseur Tucker Carlson claiming parity between the outing of Valerie Plame and the disclosure of CIA gulags last week, I knew it was the test-run for a new Republican strategy.

Sure, illegally outing a CIA officer's name in a political smear campaign is morally equivalent to a whistleblower reporting the maintanance of illegal offshore detention centers. Exactly the same.

Update: Jane has some fun news about the WaPo source for the CIA gulags info. My bet? Hagel, or perhaps Lindsay Graham, who has a conscience about these sorts of things.

Update: Check out Gotham Image for a great post.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Travelin' Jones

The wanderlust is accute now--aside from that weekend in Toronto in July and five days in Honduras last January, I haven't been out of the USA for a substantial period in over a year.

Expedia brings good tidings--in January there are really great deals to Mexico, Prague, Florence, Madrid, Budapest, Istanbul (all include air and hotel for 7 nights and are less than $740 per person). I'd like to get 10 days away to see Yucatan Mayan sites or drink good beer in cafes. Unfortunately Cha has just started at her new job and she might have to hold off until next year. I can only take time off outside the academic calendar (January and August), so that would suck. I've got two weeks' time saved up and it's burning a hole in my pocket. Maybe I'll ditch the Mrs. and go get baked in Vancouver, or do a hiking tour in Peru.

Looks like France is out, but I've been seen much of that country from Cherbourg to Strasbourg and north--I'll catch the south later. Would like another Alpine trip, but not in January.

Ugh. Too many options.

I'm confused

"We do not torture." George W. Bush, Nov. 7th, 2005

George, please read this report, wherein US troops explain that they DID torture, and that it happened continuously, was encouraged and tolerated by the chain of command, and that it was considered a form of recreation by the grunts. The witnesses claim that US troops are still "smoking" and "fucking" POWs in Afghanistan and Iraq.

And if we don't torture, why is Dick trying so hard to overturn McCain's anti-torture amendment?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Completely Whack

I'd not read nor heard of George Saunders before the exhilarating joy of "In Persuasion Nation" (Harper's Magazine, November 2005). When a bunch of characters from advertising begin to revolt against The System, all Hell breaks loose. A polar bear maimed after stealing Cheetos from Eskimos realizes the Gnostic truth about the commercial Demiurge and tries to rekindle a squashed revolutionary spirit, but Skittles ruin the day.

Check out this paragraph:

At the edge of town they are met by a polar bear with an axe in his head, a puppet boy whose lower half has been burned to a crisp, six headless working-class guys holding bottles of beer, and Voltaire, who's been given a such a severe snuggie that his eyes are open wider than real eyes can possibly open.
I note that Mr. Saunders has several story collections, a fable illustrated by Lane Smith, and at least one novel on Amazon. I might have to check this shit out!


I think this is magnificent stuff. It's much more melodic than expected, with elegant and twinkly space piano, potent bass and drum work, and reasonably structured sax soloing. Sometimes reasonably structured. Coltrane does go off into the blurts and zoots and squawks--there are moments on the album where his horn laughs, gurgles like a mud duck, and percolates some sort of dark matter soup. Much less fractured than Ascension, but this is only a sketchbook whereas Ascension was a completed canvas.

I've had Loriod's recording for years, and still love it--but Aimard is at once more spectral and precise. A brilliant recording of otherworldly piano works.

Led Zep is one of those bands I was fanatic about for years--then I simply couldn't hear that stuff anymore. How many times can you hear "Heartbreaker" or "Black Dog" before your head explodes? I didn't care to find out.

But I've been listening to the first album again lately and that rough spooky blues sound still appeals to me [after a LONG hiatus]. This concert DVD has some good bits, but I had to skim through some rather dull Jimmy Page guitar-fiddling. Bonzo Bonham still blows me away. More than 25 years after his death I don't know that there's been a rock drummer of such magnitude since (though I do like Dave Lombardo). There are I think five different versions of "Dazed and Confused" on the first DVD, including excellent ones from Dutch radio and French TV that illustrate how great a jam band Led Zep was.


Things were looking bleak for yours truly at Yahtzee's semi-annual poker night last eve. I'd started with $10 in chips, donated $2 to BroJ to keep him solvent, and had watched my stack get whittled down to about $2.50. I couldn't buy a good hand, and was folding rather often early--this got frustrating and I tried to bluff my way into a few pots but Ronaldo and A-Ron saw trough me and took me down to the edge. BroJ was cashing in on a few pots, Yahtzee was raking well, and T. and I were financing the others.

Then A-Ron called a hand of Texas Hold 'em on his deal, and laid out a shitty run of low cards. Miraculously, I had the exact two necessary to turn that shitty run into a straight, and I played it right, betting conservatively and then more aggressively as everyone with a pair of 6s or 2s had invested too much to bail. A single pot brought me almost $8, I won a couple more smaller rakes, and I ended the evening up $2.50 (including the $2 I gave BroJ).

A fun night. I felt so badly for poor T. after her kind treatment of me at Risk last time. How wrong to take her money...heh heh heh.

Just before poker we took Dad out for his 75th birthday--a good chunk of our Brady-esque clan showed. The niece and nephew are becoming so adult that I can't stand it. Got to meet Pork Heaven's new gal Gina--she's a serious runner, a serious drinker, and a surgery nurse at Walter Reed. Every day she assists in the reconstruction of IED-fragmented GIs. Pork Heaven continues his streak of interesting hotties; but now he's looking for a baby-making mate and she might not be ready (rather ironic given the fact that he's lost several great women because HE wasn't ready to settle down). More to come, I'm sure.

Tomorrow I'm up at 6am to help BroJ chop down a dead tree at my father-in-law's. How I get myself into such situations is beyond me.

We Must Put Our Trust in God

Winter Light is cold as a porcelain outhouse seat in Michigan during the month of January. The elements: A rural parish pastor--a widower for four years--struggles with his own faith. His tiny congregations dwindle dramatically because he's merely going through the motions and they know it. Almost half those in attendance are staff volunteers, including a drunk cynical organist, a hunchbacked maintanance dude who suffers unimanginable pain, and the pastor's female assistant, with whom he had an affair, and who suffocates him with her unwanted attentions.

One of his parishoners is a fisherman with three kids and a fourth on the way. Dude's had a sort of negative epiphany after reading that the Chinese are experimenting with nukes, and wants to end it all. He speaks to the pastor to ease his mind, but rather than finding comfort in their talk, decides to hasten his end shortly after.

Max von Sydow is devestating as the fisherman, Gunnar Björnstrand is magnificent as the jaded pastor, and Ingrid Thulin plays the mistress with exquisite subtlety. She has an extended monologue in close-up that will curl your toes.

I was interested in the cinematography, which was very gritty for a Bergman film--all the blocking is ingenius as usual, but technically this doesn't look like a polished Ingmar classic. Of course he intended this effect thematically, and it works well. My favorite sequence is of the sun--barely above the horizon at noon--shining trough the cold empty Lutheran church window as the pastor collapses at the altar from illness and dismay. Beautiful.

Yeah, it's dark and brooding and unpleasant, but there's optimism here. At least one character understands faith and redemption, and so long as that's true the others have hope.

Friday, November 04, 2005

"How nice that we can't understand one another."

I believe I'm watching these films out of order, but after seeing the brilliant Through A Glass Darkly I immediately added the other bits of Bergman's "Faith Trilogy" to my Netflix queue. I just watched The Silence and I'm flabbergasted. This film is over 40 years old and it's still shocking.

Edith, a translator fluent in many European languages, is dying of some unnamed ailment. She and her sister Anna and Anna's son Johann are fleeing home to Sweden from a Europe falling under the shadow of war. They stop in a strange hotel where the only other guests are a troop of carnival dwarves. Nobody in the town speaks their language.

The Silence is ironically about communication, and about the subjectivity of meaning. Johann gets more information from a painting of a nymph and satyr than he does from his sexually promiscuous mother, and has his most honest emotional bonds with the dwarves and with a butler in his dotage who speaks another tongue. Esther is able to communicate more clearly with the same butler who can't speak Swedish than with her sister. When the sisters do decide to talk, it's dreadful. Bergman shows how easy it is to confess to those who can't understand us. Remember that this is his trilogy of "faith." Communication happens more easily via art, theater, music, and sex than through the more conventional linguistic manner. In one of many painful scenes, young Johann decides to give his dying aunt a Punch and Judy show instead of reading to her as usual. He communicates volumes.

Watch how Bergman plays with the viewer; there are several teasing cinematic instances which are frought with sexual tension and highly disturbing. Whence this tension? From Bergman's script, or from our own perversions? This is amazingly dense stuff.

Bach features prominently, as in Through a Glass Darkly.

But how is the film about faith? As war approaches, people do the standard things. There are tanks on train cars rolling through town, tanks are on street corners, and planes buzz overhead. And yet people still go to pubs, eat, fix potholes, and try to get laid. If that's not evidence of faith, then what is?

I have to drink bourbon now. I curse you and your brilliance, Ingmar.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Insomniac

You sleep. You feel tired, you put your head on the pillow, and moments later you're asleep. You sleep all night, you wake up to the alarm. Occasionally you have a bit of trouble sleeping because of an illness, or a squalling infant, or some annoying situation keeps your mind racing for a while and you can't shut down. Mostly, however, you sleep.

I hate you. Mostly, I can't sleep. I think my Nordic genes are fucked--they expect 24-hour day and 24-hour night and I can't get on cycle at this latitude. The only cure for my insomnia is bong hits, and I really can't be snapping those daily at 36.

Occasionally, but not daily.

My wife sleeps. She lies down, she closes her eyes, and not even a minute later she's deep into it. I can touch her, I can push her over on the mattress, I can do jumping-jacks and turn the light on and off, and she won't wake up. That amazes me. When I do find my way into sleep, if a dust-mote grazes my cheek, if a leaf falls against the window, if a sock settles in the hamper I'll snap awake.

Once I wake up, I can't sleep again. I never go to sleep immediately.

While my wife sleeps I lead the nocturnal life of The Insomniac. Sometimes I read, but often I'm too tired for that. Try being too tired to do stuff and yet unable to fall asleep. You think you got problems? I hate you. The Insomniac watches lots of pointless TV, roaming the channels at night. Animal Planet is good, but there can be crying over injured puppies and such. The Insomniac wears his emotions at the surface. Infomercials about mattresses are ironically entertaining fare. I prefer the Swedish mattress with an enormous metal piston bouncing on it as they discuss its durability, and think lacivious thoughts while watching it. Porn is good, too, as are The Cartoon Network, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, and the Jesus Channel. I really enjoy watching Paula White at 3am, because I feel in that vulnerable goofy brain-dead state like I can almost understand how people fall for that balderdash. Early this morning Paula was on a riff about sending in $66 as "a seed, a planted seed, a seed that sprouts, when the Devil is beckoning you've got that seed, it's growing and building this ministry, the Church, you're building your own invulnerability to sin, just $66, and plant a new one each month, these seeds they grow." You've heard of "Do-Me" Feminism? Paula White specializes in "Do-Me" Evangelicalism. She has a big rack and slightly-less-than-awful Evangelical hair and makeup, she wears stiletto boots and sometimes skirts, she works up an appealing rhythm and back-and-forth with the podium, teasing it like a stripper's pole. I'm sure most of her contributions come from junkies, depressives, perverts, and insomniacs.

Ingmar Bergman is great fun for The Insomniac. Nothing makes one feel as insubstantial, as existentially vulnerable, as bleak as a severe case of insomnia. Bergman will take you places you've never dreamed of in that state--and mostly because you don't sleep and therefore you can't fucking dream. Last night I watched The Silence and well howdy-doody I don't ever need to sleep again after that.

Back to bed. Wife snoring. Try to read, too tired. Sleep not coming. Sleep still not coming. Body aches with tiredness, brain buzzes along. Sleep, slithering frangeable Protean sleep, slipping out of my grasp. Hmmm. Maybe on this side, with the legs drawn up? No. Maybe on the back? No. Tummy? No. Perhaps on the other side? No. Maybe if I flip the pillow to the cool side? Fuck, no. Up again.

Back downstairs, I stare at the fish tank. The cichlids are fuckin' weird. Polly, the big red Blood Parrot, and Jellybean, the small Jellybean Parrot, used to fight viciously. Now they've moved in together in a small fortress of rocks I call The Love Cave. Polly has dug all the gravel out of The Love Cave and moved three sizeable glass marbles in there. I guess he likes the colors or something. The other day Polly stole an algae wafer from Borax the pleco and moved it in The Love Cave. He and Jellybean picked at it until Ajax, the other pleco stole it back. Naming fish is insipid, by the way. And yet Leviathan, Ophelia, and Einstein in the goldfish tank practically named themselves.

I like watching the tetras school. Winkin Blinkin and Nod are translucent and are pink, pinkish, and blue in descending size. We also have three black striped tetras named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Cha demanded to know where I got those fucked-up names, and I told her "You Catholics amaze me. Read your Bible." I played her the Beastie Boys song too. After staring at the fish for a half-hour I feel dreamy and catatonic. I rush upstairs and hop into bed. Still no sleep. The sun is coming up. The room is brightening. The sun is up. Cha's alarm is going off. She's up. She doesn't know I'm awake. I watch her searching for socks, earrings, panties. I watch her ass. She sneaks too close to the bed and I grab it. She laughs, kisses me, but feels guilty and says "I'm sorry, I woke you." Ha, I think. I wish you'd woken me, I wish it had been possible.

Prime Rib Special

Pretty far out!

Current Musical Obsessions

On a tip from Neal I checked this out of the Liberry and burned it. Or, I should say, it burned me. Flies higher than Daedelus. Interesting rhythmic changes, stoccato bursts of orange and red. Percussion and piano are fucking sublime, but this language is grammatically challenging. In comparison, A Love Supreme feels quaint, and I love A Love Supreme.

My first Stones vinyl upgrade. Not a bit dated. Makes me feel jangly, like a bad jones. I need more.

Fuck you! This album is great.

Not a vinyl upgrade, but a *gulp* 8-track upgrade. Needed to hear Neil's "Expecting to Fly" again. Of course, "For What it's Worth" is one of the Top 25 Songs I Never Need to Ever Hear Again, but I can skip track one when I put this on.

Speaking of Neil, I've devoted the last couple of years to filling out gaps in my collection. Zuma rocks in classic Crazy Horse fashion, with those slow three-chord tube amp jams and the guitar solos I can feel in my teeth. Mix in a couple country folk ballads for effect. Love it.

Another Yahtzee gift. Mallow with a capital marsh; very engaging songster/sensitive New Age Guy.

B. slipped me this appealingly bleak disc of anti-love tunes. Nicely balances LaMontagne.

Allow me to vent

I'm feeling a bit alienated from my labor right now.

One of the items in my job description is to order videos and computer programs for academic departments. Each department at the university gets a chunk of Liberry budget to add to our catalog; as these requests come in I spend the money. I also research and find replacement copies for lost and stolen books (I actually enjoy doing that).

I spend thousands of dollars of MD taxpayers hard-earned money each month.

On Friday last week somebody left an urgent request on my chair for a DVD order to be overnighted. This is really bad because I'm off on Fridays and Saturdays, and a RUSH order should be taken care of immediately. Had the dumbass who put this order on my chair thought ahead, the disaster unfolding today wouldn't have happened.

I got this urgent request Sunday, placed the order online via overnight UPS immediately, and called the vendor Monday morning to ensure it would arrive by Tuesday PM. A faculty member presenting at a major conference needs this DVD TOMORROW, so I thought overnighting it last Monday-Tuesday would be fine.


The DVD which was to arrive Tuesday hasn't shown up yet. I called the vendor today, and they traced the package, and it was signed for at the Circ Desk Tuesday by another employee (we'll call her dumbass #2). I think: "Shew, at least it's here." I called Dumbass #2 who says "I just sign the slip, I don't touch the packages." I asked her what happened to it. "The UPS man left them there." Where? "On the Circ Desk." So Dumbass #2 signed for the package and left it on the counter where anyone could grab it. I ran up to Circ and they said "We probably put it in campus mail." That was two days ago. Campus mail has delivered, it's not here.

Now this urgently needed DVD, which cost $45 to overnight, is here in the building, but nobody knows where. All because of Dumbass #1 on Friday, the dumbass UPS dude who was too lazy to walk my package back to the department expecting it, and Dumbass #2 who couldn't be troubled to actually receive the package and put it on the sort table instead of just signing the slip and ignoring it.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Rosa Parks 1913-2005

Rosa Parks' magnificent example is getting a lot of attention now, and deservedly so. If you're interested in an in-depth, highly readable overview of America during the Civil Rights era, focused through the prism of Dr. King's life, you can do no better than Taylor Branch's books.

I think the third volume, At Canaan's Edge, is still in the works.

Alito hearts sodomy

Perhaps Alito isn't (or at least wasn't) so bad after all.

Worth a Thousand Words

I love this image of Sen Harry Reid (D-Nevada) from the cover of today's WaPo. Dude looks like he's conjuring Schumer and Durbin and preparing to unleash them.

Compare the powerful potency of Reid to this limp, deflated pic of his rival Frist--the demonic Santorum and the perhaps gleefully vengeant Lott in tow:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Give 'em hell, Harry

Harry fucking Reid is something else, man. Dude made a very risky move today, but given the poll numbers on Administration honesty and the hard-right Alito smackdown offered by Bush Co to take news cycle pressure off Plamegate, I think he's made the right choice.

Jay Rockefeller's been pushing the shambling corpse of Senator Roberts to get Phase II of the intelligence investigation--looking into whether or not the Administration faked, manipulated, or exaggerated pre-war intelligence--into gear since, oh, I don't know, months before the election last year? And nothing has happened. Roberts stonewalled until after the election (with good reason for his party) and then decided to sit on it because no one could tell him "boo." I was sorely disappointed to have to return to the Liberry because watching Roberts' inchoherent "explanation" for the delay of Phase II was vastly entertaining. As was the replay of Frist's hissy fit earlier when Reid unleashed his own nuclear option.

Watch for a holy shit-storm of spin by both sides; it's already hitting hard. I saw an hour of MSNBC on my dinner break and things are ugly.

Mort Zuckerman can suck my root. After what we know from Sy Hersch about Cheney's WHIG crew, after what we know about Judy Miller and Chalabi and their neo-con orgy with the Cheney Rummy cabal, after what we know about Plamegate, Zuckerman still had the gall to claim that even to question whether or not there was spin of the intelligence by this Administration was absurd. What a tool. This is the "analyst" MSNBC hires to explain things to Norah O'Donnell?

I'm telling you--reading Chomsky's analyses of the media coverage of Vietnam and Watergate and the cases for war in previous conflicts up to Iraq I has been invaluable. I spent half my 20s reading his work, and that "course in intellectual self-defense" has paid off. All of this is according to script, and is not surprising in the least given what Chomsky has documented in the past.

Reid's action today was not according to script, and I'm beginning to admire him a great deal.