Sunday, April 30, 2006


Silenus kindly hooked me up with some CDs recently. He knows I don't get out much with the new pop/rock, spending most of my time roving jazz and classical and old country and bluegrass these days. "You need to hear some real Indie Rock," he said.

Of the four, this is my favorite, and is perhaps one of the greatest rock albums I've heard recently. Great stuff--innovative and challenging, but very catchy and melodic as well. There's an amazing extended acid rock instrumental called Spec Bebop like a post-trance update of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma.

I'd heard tell of Mr. Smith from many reliable sources (most recently Yo! Adrienne), but never bothered. An excellent CD; love the guitar playing, love the singing. Surprisingly dense arrangements here. Again, quality catchy pop with more going on than strong hooks.

Wow. Like a Beatles album with Robert Fripp producing and playing guitar. Crazy organ-driven stuff--haven't heard such a carnivalesque acid organ since Ray Manzarek. Dark, funny lyrics. Sometimes the songs burst into incadescent supernovae only to peter out too soon, but this is alarmingly good.
I might have to put it away for awhile before I OD.

Very Lou-Reedy, dark and intense and yet upbeat. I don't love it as much as the others, but this is still a very good disc.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Step aside, Cocteau--I might have a new favorite French filmmaker. Like all great fables, Eyes Without a Face is beautiful, sad, and monstrous at once. A dash of Surrealism adds unique humor to the mix. I loved every second. The creepy pre-Halloween dispassionate mask worn by the heroine? Delicious. This arthouse horror/sci-fi blend hasn't dated a bit, even though the French now actually can transplant faces.

Included on the DVD are several bonus bits, the most fantastic of which is Franju's first film, called Blood of the Beasts--a harrowing Surrealist documentary of Paris abattoirs that is in itself one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. I guarantee that Tobe Hooper saw this before making his magnum opus--I knew it after the first frames, before the butchering even commenced.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Today the wife flew off to Miami for four days. Already this year she's been to Seattle, Houston, Milan--and two weeks after she comes home she has a three-day conference in Ocean City (on my birthday).

So I took a half-day and skipped French class and spent six hours doing yard work: weeding, planting, transplanting, seeding, mulching, edging. Then I did laundry, cleaned the kitchen, and rewarded myself with Louis Malle.

Elevator to the Gallows is a stylish murder movie by turns suspenseful and hilarious. Julien teams up with the wife of his boss in a scheme to off the old man and make it look like a suicide. After the murder he's to meet his lover and do what lovers do, but while committing the perfect crime he forgets one detail, which he notices after starting his car on the street outside his office building. Leaving his car running with all his belongings inside, he runs back in only to...well, I've given away too much already. Malle is quite a clever tease, and the soundtrack by Miles Davis hurts not a bit.

In class today we were going to watch the second half of Malle's

which is much lighter but also worth seeing.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


[Photo credit]

My dreams have been monstrous lately--I mean Edgar Cayce has nothing on me. I've seen transformative cataclysms coming down the pike.

Last night's dreams were more bizarre than prophetic. At one point I was in the Brethren in Christ Church in Loganville, PA, sitting with Cha in the pew where my paternal grandfather sat for years. In the pew in front of us were Snoop Dogg and his coterie. Cha noticed they were hitting a small brass pipe and asked them to share the wealth. I was mortified at such behavior in church. In the dream Snoop and I went way back to our days working fast food together as teens. He busted my ass as an uptight beyatch overly concerned about appearances. He said something about "Jesizzle-us knows you frazizzle up in your homebase anyhow." Examining my motives, I realized that Snoop was in fact correct: I didn't care if someone smoked in church, I just didn't want people to see me doing it. I was being a hypocrite, a most cardinal sin.

So I smoked in church and we were fallin' out and actin' a fool. Somehow we ended up in a subterranean bowling alley in a cavern curiously similar to Lol-tun, and when my alarm went off I was super-disoriented because Snoop of course has the primo dream herb.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

A few months back, when Firedoglake moved from Blogger to their new digs, Jane took me off her blogroll. Can't say as I blamed her, given that she's got valuable internet real estate now, with between a quarter and a half-million visitors a week dropping by. I'm surprised she kept me on as long as she did after hitting the big time, frankly, since I don't write much about politics any more, and given that her 'blog is now exclusively political.

When I lost that link I lost half my traffic, and figured I'd never get it back.

But this month has seen my traffic hit new heights (granted, 'new heights' means I'll get in April what Jane gets per hour, or what Seth gets in a week--it's all relative).

Whence this flood of new visitors? About a half-year ago I linked to some [clean] images of porn starlets, and now Google Images delivers about 20 hits per day thanks to Lilly Thai. I also get lots of traffic from this picture of my wife and her sister in Toronto.

I'm not above whoring myself out, especially when I'm using images of other people to do so. So now it's Charmaine's turn.

All of this of course begs the question: why do I care about traffic? Well, I guess I don't, really--but I think Viking Dog deserves some.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Back to School?

Man, I totally saw an ad for what might be a great teaching job at a local private college of some standing. A full-time non-tenure-track lectureship, earning about what I make now, and having a month off at Xmas and summers off as well...a job requiring precisely the few mostly un-marketable skills I have.

Six courses a year is cake, man. But not only would I have to teach freshman composition (which in all honesty I don't mind that much)--I'd have to teach tech writing as well. I loathe that idea.

But one thing's certain--I can't do this evening/Sunday schedule much longer. I get a lot of reading done, I don't have a particularly taxing job, the benefits are reasonably good (even if the salary isn't). And, I walk to work, which is a great thing at any time, but now in particular it's a stupendous advantage. But I see my wife about 1.5 hours a day, and with her regular weekend business trips even our Friday evenings and Saturdays together have disappeared of late.

D'oh. Time to update the old resume?

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I don't know that this example of holiday cheer was the first slasher flick to use the POV of a heavy-breathing killer, but I don't recall seeing an example earlier than 1974. I've seen a billion since, to the unfortunate detriment of Black Christmas, which loses its effect due to multiple rip-offs and parodies through intervening decades. Lots of 'jokes' about fellatio and feminism and sexual liberation which may have seemed shocking 30 years ago simply don't hold up. Nor does a plot wherein to prevent the rest of the murders all the cops have to do after the initial disappearance is to set foot in the goddam house where all the eventual murders take place and look around a bit! All the standard horror flick cliches are in evidence, excepting bare bosoms--though a young and surprisingly healthy Margot Kidder comes close. Hussy keeps her heaving Romeo and Juliet cleavage under firm wraps.

A mysteriously good cast almost succeeds in rescuing this mess: Olivia Hussy, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea (!), and John Saxon all star. Definitely superior to Silent Night, Deadly Night, but were I to rank holiday slasher flix I'd still put My Bloody Valentine at the top, if only for the nail-gun scene.

Wonderful. Great performances, great songs, lavish film-making. Jammed it at top volume. Cha and I were even dancing at one point.

Number 31

I have to write a paper and do a brief presentation on Michel Leiris this semester, so I picked up Manhood to refresh my memory (I'd read it in Frencha few years back). Michel Leiris takes autobiography to new and uncomfortable levels. Every hateful, shameful, wretched thought, each deviant and despicable act worth repression--nothing escapes his written confession. There are three immense volumes which follow, and which I've yet to read. Some day!

Leiris was briefly a Surrealist poet, and was also something of an archeologist/anthropologist. A firm grounding in Freud and a childhood steeped in classical literature give him ample symbolic tools with which to deconstruct his miserable early life. We get his dreams, his catastrophic attempts to lose his virginity, his detailed fetishistic feelings about Judith and Lucretia, and his symbolic imaginings about childhood injuries. Nothing is off-limits, from Leiris' first childhood woody, to jacking off and ejaculating on the stone altar at a Greek temple of Zeus as an adult, all the while imagining this act a sacrifical offering (this passage reminded me of Yukio Mishima whacking off for the first time before a painting of the martyrdom of St. Sebastian in Confessions of a Mask--my own adolescent explorations were far less adventuresome!).

Particularly interesting is the Afterword, wherein Leiris attempts to explain how a work of autobiography must be risky to the author in some respect in order to carry any true artistic merit. He uses the example of a bullfighter--if there were no chance for an impaling, matadors would be hard-pressed to find work because no audience would show up. Without the threat of a horn there is no risk, and with no risk, there's no art, and no benefit to the spectators. Leiris writes a horny text indeed.

Crotch Lake, Part II

As I row I think back to earlier in the evening. We'd pulled ashore at a gravel beach off a large cove on the northeast side of the lake. Grey twisted stumps and various other bits of dry drift littered the gray slate and gravelly landscape running up a gently sloping incline to heavy evergreen forest. Jay and I gathered wood and started a fire in a rock ring previously blackened and surrounded by rusty cans as the horizon faded from orange to red to black. Kevin and Dawn disappeared for a while.

When night fell we'd lain on some blankets, smoked, and watched the sky. Kevin was on some riff about bees and multifaceted vision. "I mean, do bees see all the honeycomb chambers individually at once, or as a single honeycomb chamber? Their eyes must somehow match up to that structure..." The stars eventually distracted him from his rant and we watched the Milky Way unfurl. A glinting object rode the dome of the sky and Kevin said "look at that plane."

"That's not a plane," I replied. "It's too high and going way too fast. It's a satellite."

"Wow. The whole world just opened up!"

I've rowed twenty minutes and we're not yet halfway to the cabin. Jay wants to row, and he and I switch seats. "Remember the rocks around the point ahead," he says, and I take the light from him. He's managed to spark his dried paper towel enough to light a cigarette, and is trying to keep the flame alive in a coffee can without burning the entire fuel supply. He's fiddling with the oars when Kevin says "I'll turn on the motor. The water's so still we'll make reasonable time."

We put-put along on battery power. Kevin and Jay finish the bourbon. Dawn is quiet and perhaps asleep. I try to imagine how deep the lake is at this point. We're easily a half-mile from shore in any direction. A milky inverted cone of light peters out quickly in the dark water as I point the torch downward. Kevin says "I have to piss."

"Goddamit, we were at the shore for hours," is Jay's curt reply.

"Well, fuck y'all. Who needs land to piss?" Kevin stands up to his full six-foot-four and I hear his heavy stream in the water. The boat is much less stable and we all know that standing up that way even in a stationary row boat is a bad idea.

"Hey Kev," I say. "Why don't you put a spoon on that and see if you can catch somewhat?"

"A spoon? Hell, I should put a reel on this baby!" Jay is so amused he begins tickling Kevin under the arm, and in my laughter I start jogging the boat back and forth to test Kevin's balance. He fails the test, flailing both arms suddenly and running quickly backwards still arcing piss and I know we're done for. The boat sinks sharply to one end as Kevin lands hard his last step and then rises up to fling the rest of us like a trampoline in different directions. A sharp pain as I flip over and smash my left arm into the gunwale on the way into the water. I'm deep quickly and have to orient myself because I know the boat is going to tip and we'll be fucked and fucked worse. I surface and see the boat is tipping away from me and I leap up out of the water, grab the bow and make myself as heavy as I can pulling it back to level. The boat settles and already Jay is back up and in and using a half milk jug to bail water. Kevin is screaming about Dawn and Jay says "Calm the fuck down!" And then I hear Dawn gasp and Kevin is reassuring her that she's alright, she's ok, she's safe.

I get myself in the boat and help Jay get Dawn up and over the gunwale. Her long dark hair is flat against her back and she's shaking. Kevin pushes her ass as Jay and I ease her up and over by the arms. Kevin is jabbering away, clinging with one hand to the boat. "Man, I barely saw her. I barely found her. I saw a mass of dark tendrils in the starlight. I grabbed her by the hair! She was deep." Jay says again "Calm the fuck DOWN." Suddenly we're not stoned and drunk and we're shivering and wet. I lost a shoe, one of my high school track team racing flats with cleats. Amazingly, none of the rods is gone, but the beer bottles have spilled out into the lake and sunk. We have to fetch the life vests which are floating on the lake. The flashlight lens is full of water but still functions enough for us to find them.

"Mom and Dad are going to be pissed," I say, and we all laugh. We're supposed to be adults by now. "Maybe we should dry off before we go back to the cabin?"

"Yeah, we'll build a fire at the docks and sit for awhile," Jay says.

We do so, and find another lighter in Dad's boat with which to get high again. Soon we're laughing and situating the event in all its weighty context. "You guys remember that poster in the beer store?" I ask.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Gotta get down to it...

Jonathan Demme's movie is a masterpiece--see it when you can. I was really torn up by it at The Senator a few weeks back.

More than 30 years ago Neil busted Nixon's ass with Ohio, and now Bush merits an entire album of protest songs from my favorite alt-/country-/punk-/folk-/rocker. Yeah, baby. Can't wait.


A gay film noir with more twists than a conga line at The Hippo in Fell's Point. Think of it as Double Indemnity meets Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. A beautifully sad move, featuring Gael Garcia Bernal who steals the show as a stunning drag queen. Rated NC-17 I suppose because the sex is not to Santorum's (public) tastes?.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Number 30

This is one of Those Books by which I can chart my Borders career--bestsellers atop the NYT list for ages--and it's the first of Those Books I've read (it's not likely I'll pick up The Bridges of Madison County, Tuesdays With Morrie, The Notebook, etc any time soon). I've read other earlier Cormac McCarthy and enjoyed them a great deal, but avoided All the Pretty Horses out of a misguided literary pretense; if the herd were buying it in droves it couldn't possibly be good.

It's true that I'd recommend the earlier novels ahead of this one, but McCarthy manages here to re-cast his luminous dark vision into a more conventional Western narrative without diminishing its scope or intensity a bit. Two teenaged ranch hands in the 30s head south from Texas to Mexico to test themselves in a chaotic and barely comprehensible landscape. As with all McCarthy, the result is gorgeous violence and subsequent renewal.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Part I--Land O' Lakes Lodge, Canada, 1992

Image of Crotch Lake from

[From a growing and unused store of crazy travel experiences]

We're pretty remote, the four of us in a 10-foot aluminum rowboat powered only by oars and at times a battery-driven low-wattage engine we modified from an inflatable raft kit. This is only good for puttering around in shallow water where the oars are useless, though we can cruise slowly across the lake with it if no one feels like rowing. We're up some narrow tributary off Crotch Lake, about 100km north of Kingston Ontario. It's after 2am and the only light we have is from a deep black sky full of stars.

Jay's in the stern, shining a lantern down into weedy fronds along the shore, looking for bait frogs. Kevin is in the back, desultorily casting a spoon out again and again back over his left shoulder. His girlfriend Dawn sits next to him, swatting absent-mindedly at mosquitos and occasionally giggling at some whispered intimacy inaudible over the hiss of his line and clicking of the reel. I'm baiting my hook, astride the middle bench in the still boat, using the backdrop of stars to see by. Betwixt my luminous fingers a dark shadow of worm twists itself quickly away from the sharp jab of the hook before sliding easily along the back-leaning barbs to his doom. When the boat moves gently in a wind-pushed roll there's a glinting clank of empty cans and bottles jostling up against and under the benches. I smell beer and bourbon, wormshit and fish blood. And pot. Dawn hands me half a smoking fatty and I wipe worm slime off my fingers onto my T-shirt before accepting it.

"I do believe," Jay says, scanning his lantern along the heavily forested bank, "that we're out of beer."

Kevin, in the midst of a cast, swears as his line breaks and the heavy spoon splashes somewhere over near the other side of the tributary. "Goddamit. I may as well ball up twenties and throw them in the fucking lake."

I pass Jay the bourbon, still about a third full, but he shakes his head, steps backward to sit, and hears a crack. "I just stepped on my lighter," he says, and we all laugh.

"No beer, no fish, no lighter. Time to head in?" There's general agreement, most enthusiastically from Dawn. I draw deeply from the joint, pass it up to Jay, and cast my line fifteen feet out into darkness. I can just see the white float as it moves against black water. Occasionally we hear an owl or the crash of some heavy beast in the trees. We're not sure if it's a bear or moose or if we really want to know either way. This is as far away from it all as any of us has been, and we've been to Canada 10 times on these family trips. The last hour of the 16-hour drive up from Maryland was on a road that didn't exist yet. About 12 hours earlier we'd stocked up on cases of Molson XXX and Brador and Labatt's Blue at a huge outlet conspicuous as the only retail establishment in the nameless town on the way in. We'd had a good chuckle over the poster at the counter, featuring a sodden distraught cartoon fisherman sitting in a sunken rowboat, X's on his eyes, an upended cooler of empties floating near his head. Beer and Boating Don't Mix was the threatening big-fonted caption. Around about the finish of my first six-pack as Jay rowed us out into the lake that evening I'd been surprised to find myself drunk. "What's going on with this beer?" I'd asked. "I'm bombed early and hard." We looked at the labels and saw the XXX was more than 8 percent alcohol. I adjusted.

Now we begin prepping for the trek back to the cabin, pulling in lines, stowing the rods, pushing empties around. I take the joint from Jay and pass it back to Dawn who passes it to Kevin who finishes it and flings it out into the lake. Seconds later a fish jumps at the roach--our first action in 12 hours on the water. Jay pulls the anchor up out of the reedy muck, and hangs it off the side like a heavy drenched mop. "That's a hairy anchor," I say, and he replies "That ain't the anchor" to our mild amusement.

I start rowing, enjoying the warmth in my shoulders, the quiet immensity of the sky, the fresh unfathomable taste of the air. I'm stoned, drunk, happy. Jay, affixed in the garish yellow uplight of his lantern,tries to roll a Drum cigarette. "How the fuck are you going to light it?" Kevin asks from behind me. Jay squints at him with a quiet contemptuous look.

"Don't worry about it." Once rolled, he fits the cigarette into the corner of his mouth and starts flicking the flint of the broken Bic against a crumpled paper towel. There's the swish of the oars, the groan of the wood and plastic in the metal oarlocks, the clank of empties, and Jay's steady rasping flick-flick-flick. We've got at least three miles to home, and I get us out of the tributary and onto the deep still lake. No cars, no planes, no streelights.

[Part II tomorrow]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


I only know a little bit about Gurdjieff (and his disciple Ouspensky), and mostly what I know came from books by Colin Wilson. I do know that Gurdjieff brought the immensely popular enneagram to The West, and that brings me to the latest free online personality test results:

Enneagramfree enneagram test

"Scattered" definitely covers things.

My second-highest scoring was under:

Enneagramfree enneagram test

Someday I'd like to read

[enneagram test stolen from Sharkycharming]


I worked my way through college and graduate school as a fast-food manager at Hunt Valley Mall. Nearby were several hotels, and three or four times a year the Mall would be overrun by Klingons and Vulcans and sundry other intergalactics spilling over from the Balticon or Star Trek conventions held nearby. There's a scene in Trekkies where a group of Trekkers in full Klingon gear get served by fast-food employees in their own uniforms; that brought back memories.

Trekkies is one of the greatest documentaries I've ever seen, because say what you will about the subjects of the film, their enthusiasm is fascinating. One guy diligently builds mock-ups of equipment from the original series in his workshop--watching him drive his Captain Pike chair through wintry streets to Radio Shack was hilarious. Castmembers share interesting stories about fanatics and their attentions (one guy asks James Doohan for a blood sample, then tries again 20 years later). They share the drawings and paintings fans have sent in--some of them outrageously erotic imaginings of Next Generations characters fucking.

The phenomenon of Star Trek deserves sociological and anthropological study; George Takei recounts going to Cape Canaveral because he wants to get autographs from some astronauts, and is completely shocked to find them demanding his. So many people from so many walks of life treat the show(s) as a religion and genuinely find it life-changing, often tracing career choices back to their favorite TV show. Their enthusiasm rubs off. I laughed my ass off.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Walter Benjamin Cooks it Up

If you found The Arcades Projecta laugh riot, and if you regard "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" as sublime comedy, then you should check out the stuff Walter Benjamin came up with while blasted on hashish:

"When someone has done something good, then perhaps that good deed becomes the eye of a bird."

"I'd like to be transformed into a mouse mountain: Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus."

"All colors take their rise from the snow--you must have regard for the colors."
Potheads are funny. Stoned intellectuals are sublimely funny. I can see WB and Hannah Arendt passing the bowl, imagining the invention of Doritos.

[quoted passages from the May 2006 issue of Harper's]


I picked this up because smart people like K'wali and Faulty Landscape are always pushing the Flaming Lips, and I had a GC to Amazon I needed to spend. I'd heard their ambitious Zaireeka, and had seen them in giant bubbles on Conan O'Brian, and hadn't been displeased. So why not?

The Soft Bulletin is lush, foamy pop. The tunes insinuate themselves into my brain and drive me mad. Take your favorite confection and imagine enjoying a tiny bite, and then imagine being force-fed said confection through a stomach tube. That's this album. I can't take any more without insulin.

Julio and I were listening to it last Saturday. "He sounds like Jerry Garcia," Julio said, referring to Wayne Coyne's voice. As is often the case, Julio was able to put his thumb on precisely what I was thinking but unable to articulate--I'd just been rummaging my memory for a slightly creaky earnest vocal equivalent to Coyne's rasp. There are a lot of Yes and Alan Parsons and Beatles references on the album, but with far less pretentious (almost adolescent) lyrics. There's also a strange Led Zep sample. My question is, why listen to such stuff when I stopped listening to Yes and Alan Parsons 15 years ago?

It's weird how I like it but can't think of anything positive to say?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Family Tree

Mommie Dearest and her cousins are going apeshit on the geneological research. Apparently my great-great-great uncle on my mother's grandmother's side was Samuel R. Smith, founder of Messiah College. Mom found a brief bio of Smith stating that he was an atheist before some kind of quo vadis moment led him into the Christian academics business.

And I was always told as a kid that my mother and I--who earned our BAs at nearly the same time--were the first college edumacated folks in the family! Hell, I'm not even the first atheist.

The Weight of Love (#29)

For much of its first third I feared being crushed by The Weight of Love . The lovers' dialogue was too pat and too The Sun Also Rises for my taste. The sex scenes were empty and vapid. I felt almost as though John Herman were writing a literary novel with Harlequin pretentions, or perhaps vice-versa, and yet something made me continue.

I'm mostly glad I did. The story centers on David Smith, a wealthy and handsome guy who simply glides through life, always casually successful. He marries an intense and beautiful girl immediately after school and they have four children and he builds a wine business with his best friend as partner. Gradually, and inexplicably, David begins taking on lovers; the first, Anne, is a married woman from old money far wealthier than David. Their affair is not entirely successful, for they know not what they seek, but they emjoy the sex. One night while having sex with Anne in public, David sees for the first time Helene, and his affair with this strange comtesse makes up much of the book.

Where Herman regained my waning attention was in shifting his POV to Helene's for a chunk of the novel. I'd grown accustomed to David's deceits as a married man having affairs, but Helene's deceptions were more unusual and more interesting than his, and completely unexpected. After this affair ends in potboiler tragedy, the novel takes a strange philosophical turn which is not entirely successful, but is at least interesting. I'm willing to forgive Herman his structural sins in an ambitious first novel. Overall The Weight of Love is a failure, but so is the leaning tower of Piza.

What drew me to this book? A blurb on the back by John Hawkes, whose novels along the same lines are immeasurably superior to this one, but I can imagine Hawkes thinking--"he almost gets it." Those restless in love are aching to fill a void in the Self; they project this void and imagine somebody else can fulfill their desire for completion, but the ego is leading them astray. Herman rather clumsily introduces a Wise Old Man (PhD in English) who out of the blue attempts to explain this to David (a la the wretched Matrix II 'architect' sequence) instead of allowing The Weight of Love its potential subtleties--but a worthy effort. Perhaps I'll read another of his at some point.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


An appealing half-dramatized half-documentary grouping of shorts about the savant pianist. Lots of good music.

A lot of people adore this film. I found it a bit too silly, though William Powell and Myrna Loy are good together. Powell plays a good Fitzgerald-era drunk rich dude.

Happy Easter

I'm at work, but not in a bad mood--the campus looks lovely today.
This is my favorite tree. There were two but last year one got sick and died.
These trees surround a carp pond routinely filled with detergent by drunk morons.
Cha returned from Milan yesterday, which is another reason for improved spirits. She brought me a bottle of grappa, three bottles of wine, and a chocolate egg.

Friday, April 14, 2006

My Hero

David Shuster was awesome on Countdown last night. He succinctly summed up the White House view of the latest Libby filings in Plamegate as a "catastrophe." This was followed by some Newsweek cat who said the latest trailer revelations demonstrate conclusively that the Administration was "cherry-picking" intelligence all along.

I believe that's the first time I've heard a forceful statement along those lines anywhere in the media by a reporter.

When the President is either an easily-manipulated buffoon or a lying asshole, there's certainly little silver lining for Rove and Co. The transcript will hopefully be up soon.

Summit in Tehran

Years of Bush family conspiracy paranoia going back to the late 80s have given me a second sense regarding their actions. Therefore, I know what's precipitating all this saber-ratting between Bush and the Iranians--it is Bush's low approval rating as many suspect, but is not due to any neo-con hopes of starting another war in an attempt to resuscitate his ailing image.

Bush I's cadre of October Surprise and Iran-Contra connections run deep in Iran. Karl Rove is working with these cats to stir up a big media show-crisis in order to save W.'s bacon and present the possibility of a Commander-in-Chief moment for Jr.

Imagine Bush announcing he's going to Tehran. Oh, how the media will swoon once again! He'll be strutting in his codpiece anew across the deck of a carrier in the Gulf, aiming that Texas boot heel right at rattlesnake Ahmadinejad's neck. Crisis averted, war averted, nuclear threat at least temporarily curtailed. I can already see the Democrats running for cover, afraid to criticize this new Nixon* who breaks down barriers with such strength and conviction.

Of course this is just Machiavellian enough to work; Bush family paranoia,however, requires a bit more umph, a bit more panache. While in Tehran, Bush will formally apologize for the US role in Mossadegh's ouster, thus becoming a hero to Iranian liberals still fuming that we turned their enlightened Republic into a fascist hell-hole that developed as a result into a religious fundamentalist state. Or, for even more panache, Bush will travel back in time and actually put Mossadegh back in power, using one of those time-travel trailers found in Saddam's arsenal...

*why not get a Nixon-in-China moment to go with all those other parallels?

Thursday, April 13, 2006


I think this is book #28 for the year, but I'll have to go back and count to make sure. I've been slacking off and falling behind a bit, but if I can get to 34 by the end of April I'll be back on track for 100.

Jerome and Sylvie do market research interviews, asking people what they buy, for whom they vote, what drives their tastes. They make enough money to be petits bourgeois but of course want to be rich. Alienated from their labor, unable to afford the ideal things they see in ads in L'Express or in the windows of trendy English shops in London, they become obsessed with objects and driven to possess newer, better, more fashionable items. We don't learn their names until the third chapter; chapter one is a description of their utopia, a museum of fanciful and luxurious objects wherein empty characters secondary to their possessions make brief appearances. Their names are unimportant because Jerome and Sylvie are empty ego-centric creations, basing personal worth upon the furnishings in their apartment.

Of course Les Choses is an undisguised Marxist critique of capitalism during the "glorious 30" years of post-war economic expansion in France (its subtitle is "A History of the '60s"). Jerome and Sylvie regard luxuries as necessities, and the tormenting desire to possess more and more when they can't afford but the basics drives them nearly mad. Ironically, the research they do for money will be used to create advertisements and class expectations of the sort which in turn they'll see in magazines and films and TV shows, driving them to desire things they don't need at all but regard as necessary for happiness.

I laughed out loud many times reading Les Choses (often while looking up adjectives in a French dictionary), because the fantasies of Perec's main characters are not unfamiliar. I, too, have dreamed of an "ideal" house where I could be nothing but happy; I, too, have fantasized about a dying rich uncle leaving me a fortune; or of stealing or finding enough money to make me content, etc. All of which is patently ridiculous, given that anybody lucky enough to be born in the West in the last 50 years into an economic level above poverty has an unprecedented degree of facility making a good life--given the scale of all of human history and the amount of suffering most humans have endured throughout all of time--I have it made (and Jerome and Sylvie have the exact same thought along the way, only to fall back into the rat-race of desire--as I do daily).

Jerome and Sylvie even attempt to flee in their forties, leaving behind their small but charming Parisienne apartment and taking menial jobs in Tunisia. This decision has catastrophic results, and I winced reading it, because I've recently been daydreaming about the Peace Corps or a house in Mexico. Damn you, ghost of Perec! Get out of my brain!

I wonder what Perec (whose Wis also brilliant) would think of today's glut of reality TV shows wherein a cadre of "experts" raid people's houses cluttered with useless junk, forcing them to have yard sales to finance a "re-organization/re-design" of their sad disordered homes into "ideals" where they can of course be nothing but happy?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


I've read other Watts (The Book and The Wisdom of Insecurity) and have found him rigorously challenging and powerfully rewarding each time. This might be the best I've read so far, and is perhaps the most difficult.

Basically Watts wants Western religion--in particular Catholicism, which he calls "the only likely vehicle of a unifying principle that remains in the Western world"*--to drop its 'religious' pretenses and more openly embrace the 'metaphysic.' Western faith has lost its connection to the Infinite, and to the potential divinity within Man, and Watts thinks this is to the detriment of half the world population.

The argument is not an easy one, as Catholicism has elaborate and rigid ideas, mostly Thomist, about God and duality and the nature of evil and man's relation to divinity and the Trinity and the only true path to salvation, etc. But Watts was a master academician, a philosopher of note, and a specialist in world theologies. His argument must first define the infinite, and move from there to demonstrate how the Eastern view of the infinite is not irreconcilable with Church doctrine. This takes a lot of dense discussion of monism, dualism, sin, evil, the Trinity, divinity, hinduism, buddhism, genesis, the Western confusion of Spirit and Soul, etc, etc. If this ain't your bag, head for the hills. Some of these paragraphs took a second reading (or a third) to gel. But Watts gives bang for the buck. I think if William Blake had written scholarly treatises instead of mad illuminated poems, that his books would have been much like The Supreme Identity. Watts teases out of Church liturgical texts and Scripture just enough ignored material to bolster his case that too much rationalism ruins God's intended message, and points out that the Catholic concern with historicism and factuality of Scripture is poisonous and beside the point of Christianity. Old friends appear along the way, like Carl Jung, St. Teresa, and Master Eickhart. Definitely worth the time, but be prepared to work. Think of it as "Alan Watts read Summa Theologica so I don't have to."

*an opinion perhaps dropped by the time he wrote the other books?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I'm not sure what to make of this, but were I to be struck with a debilitating illness, I think PSAS would be better than most.

99 Luftballons

I'm so glad that after a lengthy hiatus Billmon has begun posting regularly again. His take on Sy Hersch's revelations is, well, a revelation.

The Tops

Monday at work:

Aunty Spy: Congratulations!

Me: For what?

Aunty Spy: You're one of the most popular professors at Towson University according to The Towerlight.

I checked it out. They do list me with rankings from in the April 6th paper. I note that the student body at TU is in excess of 20,000 students, and the number of rankings putting me in the list is 37.

Even funnier, I haven't taught in a year and a half, and have no plans to resume teaching in the English Department.

Hopefully I can make the list of Most Popular Library Associates at Towson University in the meantime.

Le Weekend

Friday Yahtzee and I were enjoying ourselves just splendidly at Mick O'Seamus. The band was experiencing some sound problems that were just fine by me: feedback on the fiddle, a crunchier rock guitar sound, drums overwhelming. I thought they sounded great and in good voice, and the Guinnesses flowed freely. Early on was a fundraiser for the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) and there were dozens of lads and lasses about, many of the lasses easy-on-the-eyeholes.

Unfortunately, early in the second set we were beset by the appearance of several mugs from the past. I was happy to see Duck because from time-to-time I wonder if he's alive. It was also fun to see Shan--she walked past me five or six times before we realized who each other was. Shan went to Catholic School with Cha many moons ago, and at one time we were all roomies together back in our poor school days. I think I'm the only male on the East Coast with whom Shan hasn't slept (I know Duck has been in the pond of late), but we're still friends anyway.

The problem was that Shan's husband Dizzy Gilespie was along, and he's the most pointless and detestable human being I've encountered in 37 years. I'd stand Tom Delay, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist a round of beers and hang out with those reprehensible blokes over Dizzy Gilespie any day. He proceded to sit at our table uninvited, loudly asked if we had any "coke," then started screaming "I've got good hash" at the top of his lungs. Duck apologized and said "I can't stand him, I can't understand a thing he says, and I've got to get away," then he and Shan went in the back room leaving us with their castaway, who promptly pissed off everyone in the room. "I haven't done coke in a week," he yelled in my ear. "I threw out my phone numbers because it was getting baaaaaaaad. Can you fix me up?"

Dizzy Gilespie has two sons, both of whom he neglects, one with Shan and another with a previous gal. He and Shan used to put the boys to bed and then have three or four other couples over for ecstacy orgies. Cha and I were invited to these soirees a few times, but lamentably were somehow always otherwise occupied. Dizzy said to me once "I really think Cha should come over to one of our parties. I'd love to tap that ass." I picked him up by his throat and was restrained by the Hulk from finishing the job. That was five years ago at a Halloween party, the last time I saw him.

Dizzy didn't have a job (aside from downloading music and porn all day) for years while Shan worked two of them on top of her PhD program. They moved to WVa so her parents could support the kids and Dizzy while Shan busted her ass. Now he does have a job but he's still hateful and intolerable, and he drove Yahtzee and me out of the bar. "Why don't you ever want to hang out?" he screamed in that jangly nasal whine as I was leaving. Oh, God, why are they back in Baltimore? I thought. I really wanted to hear the third set too.

Saturday Yo! Adrienne and Julio dropped by for two rounds of Scrabble. I'd turned off the furnace weeks before but the temperature Saturday evening dropped low in the 30s and we were freezing our asses off for three hours. I had a pleasant time, though, and they sang while I played guitar after game two.

Cha remains in Italy, and says "I am seeing many beautiful things."

Monday, April 10, 2006

Exterminate all the brutes!

Thank you Sy Hersch for preventing me from sleeping at night (as if I needed any help).

What a grand idea to punish someone for attempting to build nuclear weapons with nuclear weapons. In strictly basic terms, our objection to Iran's nuclear program is: "Nuclear weapons are awful and we can't trust you to use them responsibly."

To make this point our leaders are considering blowing the shit out of government targets and nuke facilities in Iran with tactical nukes? "Do as Uncle Sam says, not as he does!"

Many are poo-poohing the idea that Bush would pull the trigger, and are claiming Sy Hersch has gone 'round the bend. To them I say this is the same Bush who started an unnecessary war by manipulating threat levels--the same Bush who thinks God tells him what to do, and who thinks the End Times are nigh. The same Bush who does whatever the fuck he wants regardless of the Constitution. Do I think he'll do it? No. Do I think that there are people in the Pentagon drawing up contingency plans in case he decides to do it? Hell, yes. I've read To Win a Nukeyoular War, after all, and know that somebody somewhere is always keeping those options current.

Perhaps, some are suggesting, this is merely saber-rattling to ease things on the diplomatic front. Whatever. The Iranians are anything but stupid; they can see we're tied down in Iraq. They know that tomorrow they could tell al-Sadr to start shooting and suddenly we lose 100s of troops a month. They understand that a conventional military option is off the table for Bush right now.

Threatening to use nukes on Iran will simply encourage them to develop a deterrent as quickly as possible. Given that this is a catastrophically moronic diplomatic strategy, it's likely a reasonable interpretation of Administrative motives.

Talk about immanetizing the eschaton!

I'm a "Free-Wheeling Experiencer"

I stole this surprisingly accurate personality test from Neal. Fun.

Holding the cursor over each colored section gives a hint about my personality.

Immigration Protests in the News

Funny to notice the unusually detailed coverage of today's immigration protests. Typically at anti-war or WTO protests we can't get on the news, and if we do there are few visuals and the talking heads always minimize the head count (one New York protest a couple years ago clearly had more than a half-million people, and CNN said "tens of thousands"--the same was true of the more recent DC protest where likely a quarter of a million showed and the media grudgingly said "perhaps 100,000"). What coverage there is nearly universally negative or tepid in tone, focusing on Black Block violence or vandalism instead of peace, justice, human rights, and environmental concerns.

But even before today's rallies and marches got started there were lavish and enthusiastic predictions of "hundreds of thousands expected," and I've seen many aerial shots (usually banned when it comes to war or WTO protests), and all the coverage is overwhelmingly positive instead of grudging.

Hmmm--what could explain this? Perhaps the huge corporate interests behind the news for once support the message at these rallies, and decided to give them a lot of positive coverage? I say great, because these marchers deserve to be heard--but is it the media's job to decide which protests are acceptable and which should be given the red carpet treatment? I guess so when the cheap labor their corporate overlords require is at stake.

I didn't bother watching Fox to see their coverage.


This was cute. A bit like Cronenburg for kiddies. Ron Perlman is always good, as is Dominique Pinon--who plays an original and five clones. Deliciously creepy like a sci-fi Grimm's Fairy Tale, a dystopian fable along the lines of Brazil with a touch of Hellraiser. The conjoined twins get what they deserve!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Out of the blue

Ol' Doc Hardy occasionally emails poems in between examining patients up in Providence. Today he sent two Langston Hughes that were like good food after a hard day's work. Doc Hardy has the prescription for what ails me.


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Prayer [1]

I ask you this:
Which way to go?
I ask you this:
Which sin to bear?
Which crown to put
Upon my hair?
I do not know,
Lord God,
I do not know.


[stolen from pity]

Go to Wikipedia and look up your birth day (excluding the year). List three neat facts, two births and one death in your journal, including the year.


1568 - Battle of Langside: the forces of Mary Queen of Scots are defeated by a confederacy of Scottish Protestants under James Stewart, Earl of Moray, her half-brother.

1940 - World War II: Germany's conquest of France begins as the German army crosses the Meuse River. Churchill makes his "blood, tears, toil and sweat" speech to the House of Commons.

1981 - Mehmet Ali A?ca attempts to assassinate Pope John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in Rome


1939 - Harvey Keitel, American actor

1950 - Stevie Wonder, American singer and musician


1988 - Chet Baker, American jazz trumpeter

Washington Post Partum Depression

They Just Don't Get It

A stupid and vacuous editorial in today's Post has me fuming. Can they get their facts straight? Wilson may not have been sent by Cheney, but his mission was a result of a request by Cheney of the CIA, so what's the difference? And if Wilson was wrong about Niger, why did the White House retract the claim immediately after his Op-ed appeared, and then admit it should never have been included in the State of the Union?

Yes, Patrick Fitzgerald said at his press conference re: the Libby charges that his indictments were not about the intelligence or the claims made by the Administration which led to war. But to ignore, as this editorial does, that the point of all this shifty activity by the White House was to punish a critic for doing what the Post and other MSM outlets failed miserably to do before the war--that is, to vigorously question the 'evidence' of a threat--is embarrassing for a major newspaper. Of course Fitzgerald's investigation is focused on leaks of classified information, not on the Iraq War. But any moron can see why the leaks happened, and the Post's own reporting today, on page A1, points out that Fitzgerald's new filing puts Cheney squarely at the center of an operation designed to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" Wilson, using information from an NIE already known to be false. The revelation that Bush was involved--even peripherally--in this campaign is evidence of hypocrisy at the least. And yet the Post merely poo-poohs a "good leak" handled "clumsily." They suck.

Why doesn't the Post remind readers of Cheney on Meet the Press making the claim that "I don't know Joe Wilson and never read his report..."? Now we know that at the same time the VP was publicly pretending Wilson was beneath contempt, he was going balls-out after the guy to shut him up. A better editorial would have speculated about the reasons for Cheney's panic over Wilson's revelations--did Cheney and co. KNOW their case for war was fraudulent all along? Were they relying on a compliant group of media whores (like Judy Miller) to sell a gullible public their hogwash? Mission Accomplished!

Money quote from the Post article:

But according to Libby's grand jury testimony, described for the first time in legal papers filed this week, Cheney "specifically directed" Libby in late June or early July 2003 to pass information to reporters from two classified CIA documents: an October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and a March 2002 summary of Wilson's visit to Niger.

One striking feature of that decision -- unremarked until now, in part because Fitzgerald did not mention it -- is that the evidence Cheney and Libby selected to share with reporters had been disproved months before.

: I've been waiting all day to read what Jane (who grew to bloggie prominence on this issue) had to say. Worth the wait!

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Ennis and Jack take a gig up on Brokeback mountain guarding a herd of sheep. Jack spends his nights on the mountain shooting at coyotes, coming down to basecamp where Ennis has meals ready for him. Ennis is quiet and coiled like a laborer out of Cormac McCarthy. Jack is more loose and easygoing, like someone out of Midnight Cowboy. Ang Lee directs their emerging relationship as simply another natural feature of Wyoming; there are trees, peaks, rivers, coyotes, and boys being boys alone in this vastness.

Unfortunately no landscape is big enough for Ennis and Jack to live and love on their own terms. They get married after Brokeback, they have kids and lives, and don't see one another but a handful of times in 20 years. The sadness of this hidden love permeates everything.

This is a well-made tragic romance. It breaks no new ground excepting the obvious, but is simple and beautiful and sad.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bernard Malamud

When I was teaching literature I used a story called "Angel Levine" by Bernard Malamud. A poor old Jew named Morris with a mortally ill wife is surprised to find a black man in his kitchen, said black man claiming to be an angel sent by God to help him. The story is marvelous; when Morris Mishkin fails to believe in Angel Levine, the angel becomes a gambler, a pimp, and a petty gangster, and Morris must redeem his helper to achieve his own salvation. A community of black Jews in Harlem points him along the proper path, and of course everyone is redeemed at the end and Morris realizes the humanity of divine beings and the divinity of human beings. [Apparently there's a film version starring Harry Belafonte and Zero Mostel!]

Strangely, I'd never read anything else by Malamud until Idiots First, which I finished not ten minutes ago. ALL of these stories are excellent--the comic and the tragic. Check him out.

Vivre au Paradis

We watched this in French class the last couple days, and I wish it was currently out on DVD because you should watch it too (as should every member of Congress arguing over immigration policy). Lakhdar, an Algerian living in un bidonville (a shantytown) outside of Paris during the Algerian civil war, finally saves enough money to bring his wife and children to France. What they imagine will be a paradise turns out to be a wretched existence as Lakhdar struggles simply to keep his family alive, eventually losing his soul in a quest for an apartment with indoor plumbing. They attend the October 17th riots in Paris protesting a racist curfew--more than 200 Algerian immigrants are beaten to death by police and tossed in the Seine. Here they learn how their new country views them.

As Lakhdar dreams the European equivalent of paradise--an apartment with a bathroom and lots of possessions--his wife begins assisting the FLN behind his back; her paradise is an ideal and independent Algeria.

That dream is fulfilled, but for the family only in an abstract fashion--after independence, the Algerian refugees in France are not allowed back, and remain in the French underclass interminably, as the recent riots attest.


I was sure I was going to hate Rushmore, so sure that I avoided it for years. I was wrong. Strikes all the right notes, doesn't take itself too seriously, has a great cast, and is as touching as it is weird.

Cha is at JFK airport, having flown there from Reagan earlier this afternoon--one dead president to another. She's off to Milan in a couple hours for nine days of arts education seminars. I miss her already.

Game, set, and match?

Just now on MSNBC: David Shuster says Scooter Libby has testified that Bush and Cheney both authorized him to disclose Valerie Plame's identity to reporters in an effort to discredit Joe Wilson.

Shuster is painting this as a "PR problem" for the White House. I'd say so, given Bush's insistence that he wanted to find the perpetrators of the leak, and his claims that it was a serious investigation.

What was Clinton impeached for again? It wasn't the sex, it was the lying, right?

Update: Apparently CNN reported the same thing and retracted it--Libby's just-released testimony says Cheney told him Bush had ok'd leaking classified material, but not specifically Plame-Wilson's name...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Aunty Pothead

Stoners and former stoners can typically pick other current and former smokers out of a crowd by noting extremely subtle behavioral cues. To outsiders this can seem like a mystical power, but it's not, just as those gifted with "gaydar" are not mystically endowed, but are simply noticing things others might miss.

There's one Aunty here at the Liberry I've had pegged as an old pothead since my interview two years ago. The way she's at once incredibly bright and a bit slow is a dead giveaway (often she'll produce the most astonishing technical information but has to get at it in a fumbly roundabout way), and her drole sense of humor and laid-back aura added to my conviction. Sometimes when I ask her about a cataloging problem she'll freeze and her eyes will glaze over. She'll stammer visibly a few times before she gets out stuff she knows like the back of her hand. I know this state well--it's the pothead propensity to, well, not necessarily forget, but to temporarily lose access to simple things; just as my great-grandmother in her nineties would list all fifteen of her great-grandchildren's names before finding the correct one (Steve, Bill, Robert, Phil, Eric, Ron, Elmer...Geoff!) when she was angry, a burn-out will at times have trouble accessing even the most commonly used databases in the brain.

Last winter Aunty Pothead heard my wife and I had gone sledding and she told me she and her husband and some friends had sledded the same hill on an inverted car hood from a 1974 Plymouth Duster, flipping it up and over onto Charles Street many years ago. This story went into the "evidence of bong hits done" file in my brain. Then I noted lately she's taken to stringing a line of Tibetan prayer flags across the PC monitor on her desk--not your typical Aunty behavior. Of course not every Tibetan-prayer-flag-totin' liberal is a burnout, but again this went into the file.

It was only when she saw I was re-reading Carlos Castaneda last night that I became wholly convinced that this Aunty was a Grade-A smoker in days gone by, and likely an acid freak as well. She picked up the paperback, laughed nervously, said "wow, oh boy!", put it down, grabbed the sides of her face and made a strange sort of "zzzzz" sound, then said "Oh, yeah. I kind of remember reading that. Pretty far-out stuff."

"I'm reading them again to see how they hold up after 20 years," I told her. "They're not so mind-blowing as they were when I was a kid."

"Really?" She asked. "My mind was blown! Of course we didn't need books for that back in the day," she added with a wink.

We had a good laugh.


No film of its era--barring perhaps Apocalypse Now nearly a decade later--captures so perfectly the virulent maelstrom boiling beneath the sitcom veneer of "American values."* Here we have hippies peacefully bashing each other to rush the stage at Altamont, only to be clubbed by beer-swilling Hell's Angels using pool sticks and bike chains. Grace Slick tries to cool down the crowd with peace and love as the Angels punch Marty Balin of the Airplane in the face, knocking him cold as a virulent drugged-out crowd goes nuts.

The concert footage is excellent--the Stones at the height of their cocksure power are something to see. A few verses into Sympathy for the Devil at Altamont fights break out everywhere as fans rush the stage in Dionysic pandaemonium. Mick, only momentarily lost in that glorious onstage strut, becomes powerless and pleads with the crowd to stop as increasingly enraged Hell's Angels bash, kick, punch, club and eventually stab and kill a concertgoer who brandishes a gun. At the end of Under My Thumb a haggard limp Jagger sings "I pray everything's gonna be alright" over and over, uncharacterstically morose and obviously horrified.

My favorite moments: a fan somehow onstage and on camera with Mick begins to metamorphose into a werewolf under the influence of LSD. He's struggling to hold things together but obviously is about to freak out when two Hell's Angels notice him and throw him into the crowd. An enormous and completely naked woman with eyes on Jagger's unit claws and clubs her way through the crowd to the front of the stage, stomps on and pulls the hair of a couple young women there in an attempt to get to Mick, and is summarily beaten to a pulp by a bevvy of beer-soaked bikers.

Interspersed with the raw footage are shots of the bandmembers watching it all during editing; they're disturbed, anguished, and obviously fascinated by what they're seeing, awestruck by their own inability to control what they helped unleash.

*I love making blanket statements like this. Like I've seen a fraction of the films from that era, and as if captures so perfectly the virulent maelstrom etc. means anything at all!

A Run for all Seasons

I recall fondly traveling through the Alps with the Traveling Joneses and Buf and MA. Each day we'd see how gorgeous and sunny it was in the morning, how there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and off we'd go without raingear of any kind.

It rained every day in the Alps--typically brief squalls, but in Salzburg we really got dumped on. Five days in a row we saw blue cloudless skies and someone would say "should we bring umbrellas?" and we'd say "nah, look at the sky!" We continually got soaked because of plain stubborness, because we refused to acknowledge how quickly the weather can change in the mountains.

Lesson re-learned today, but instead of the lovely Alps I'm in Baltimore. When I left for class at 7:50am it was COLD, like high 30s, overcast, and windy, and I grudgingly wore my winter coat. When I left class an hour later it was sunny and WARM. I walked home, changed into my running gear, and about a half mile into a 6-mile run an astonishing wind began blowing, a dark line of smudge covered the blue sky, and it started snowing. I'm not talking flurries, I'm talking white-out conditions, pellet-like flakes blowing so fast they were parallel to the ground. The baseball hat I wore to protect my eyes from the sun was now needed to keep blinding snow out of my eyes. There was slush on the sidewalks and the roads, and my hands and legs were bitterly cold in the wind and wet. Traffic slowed to a standstill. Then, once I got two miles out, the sun came out again and it was almost HOT. That's when the hail started, then it rained, then it was HOT again, then it got COLD.

What's next?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

DeLaying the Inevitable

The news that Tom DeLay withdrew from his re-election effort in Texas was bittersweet. I've grown so used to hating the guy that I find myself faced with a vacuum where once was a surefire outlet for negativity. Sure, we've still got Rove and Cheney and Bush and Rummy and all those other cats in the Whole Sick Crew, so there's no lack of hatred targets. But I have so much to go around. Who will step up and fill the void?

I'm hoping DeLay turns State's Evidence and rats out everybody for everything. I want Reed and Norquist behind bars for starters. Reed will have more reasons than prayer to kneel in prison.

DeLay's claim to be doing this for the good of his own party doesn't wash. I wonder if he was pushed out of the race? Can't imagine who'd have the cojones to try that move.

Are we there yet?

Carlos Castaneda fills in some gaps left by the previous volumes, going back and re-telling in much more detail his initial meeting with Don Juan. For much of this volume I found myself bored and incredulous. It seems that if Carlos had experienced many of these fantastic events so early in his apprenticeship that the surprise he shows later on (ie in the first two books) would be somewhat diminished. Had I the energy I'd go through and double-check all the dates in the third book with the dates in the first two; I'm positive things wouldn't add up, because it seems many of the lessons Carlos gets in this volume were introduced much later chronologically in Volume 2.

But the final third of Journey to Ixtlan satisfies a great deal as Carlos begins to lose his attachment to the world and his hopeless rationality. Eventually he manifests himself as a column of air...

...the art of a warrior is to balance the terror of being a man with the wonder of being a man.

Monday, April 03, 2006


Last Thursday I ran out of coffee, a bag of strong Seattle's Best the Mrs. brought home from the west coast. Previously I'd been drinking Melita (the only palatable brand my grocery carries) and had finished off a bag of mellow roast picked up in the Yucatan as well. I love coffee, but over the years have whittled down my use to a single cup each morning (by "cup" I mean a 16-ounce mug). As an insomniac I have to watch caffeine intake. If I drink coffee or caffeinated tea after 3pm I'm up all night (and sometimes even without the caffeine).

I don't drink sodas any more and wanted to see what life would be like if I just gave up coffee completely for a while. Today is Day #4, and things aren't pretty.

The alarm went off at 7:15am. I have Arabic class at 8:00. I turned off the alarm and rolled over. Cha shook me 20 minutes later and said "Don't you have class today?" "No," I lied, and didn't wake up until 10:40, and when I finally got out of bed I was disoriented and felt stiff from lying down too long. Sunday all day I felt drained and empty and unable to concentrate, and this gloomy apathy greeted me anew today. I drank a cup of Yerba Mate this morning, which has either much less caffeine than coffee or no caffeine or a xanthine instead of caffeine depending on who you read. At any rate I did my usual weighlifting routine after the mate and felt weak as a baby, and my standard 5.5 mile run around Towson took about 10 minutes longer than usual to finish.

I seriously considered dropping my Arabic class after skipping it, just because I felt so tired and grumpy and unmotivated. Every patron annoys me today. I want to burn something down. I want to punch someone.

I'm glad I tried this experiment. One likes to think "I'm not an addict. I can take coffee or leave it." One is wrong. I have no intention whatsoever of staying off the sauce--coffee is one of life's essential pleasures, after all! But I'm going to try for two decaf weeks just to see what it's like. I might end up incarcerated before then, gleefully drinking bad coffee in the interrogation room, after strangling a Mass Comm major...


I've seen this formula a dozen times before: dedicated teacher who cares about the students tries to do new things, inhuman bureaucrat in charge initially resists then takes credit for the results. Reprobrate young hoodlums succumb to the charms of Art and start behaving better. There are a few innovations to the standard mock-up but mostly this is a retread.

Worth a see, however, and a few sniffles await you at the end.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Le Weekend

Spring is fully established--today is our fourth straight in the 70s, and the dogwoods have bloomed. Next up are the azaleas.

Dropped in at the new Daedalus Books in Belvedere Square yesterday after shopping at the Market. Surprised to see a half-dozen former employees working there. I joked with one about "escaping" Borders, and she agreed it was a great thing, but I can't imagine any retail environment is much better than any other these days.

Daedalus escaped the labyrinth and lived, but Icharus had more fun.

Saturday night got my ass spanked at Risk. Note to Self: drive a stake through Yahtzee's heart whenever the opportunity presents itself. Don't let him linger.

Friday did nothing. I took a bath. Baths are great.


I had some problems with Fernando Meirelles' overly busy MTV-style fast-edit jump cuts--they mostly distract attention from what is already a complicated narrative--but overall thought The Constant Gardener very satisfying. Rachel Weisz plays Tessa, an NGO researcher who accompanies her husband Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) on his mission to Kenya. While he muddles about in a low-level bureacratic post, she and an African doctor begin unraveling a conspiracy involving British government officials, intelligence operatives, and pharmaceutical giants to use poor Africans as unwitting guinea pigs in drug trials. Only after her murder does Justin realize what Tessa has been up to, and he takes it upon himself to re-create the investigation that led to her death. Very Kafka-esque, very pleasing to the paranoid pallet. Like its thematic forebear The Third Man, The Constant Gardener gives us a good idea of how the world really works. Strong performances from all the leads as well. After Spiderand Red Dragon it's good to see Ralph Fiennes still cleans up nicely.