Thursday, December 26, 2002

Well, I'm back, and spent most of the day at work trying to muster the brain cells and get a little done. But, O Lord! it's hard. I was out of town for 4 days for Thanksgiving, then back for 7, then gone for seven, then back for 8, then gone for 2 1/2, now I'm back for 4 or 5, then off again for another couple of days (New Years). As a result, my sleep cycle is decimated, and my house is a mess. Naturally, then, tonight I'm going over to the new Kenpo studio to help paint and plaster.

There's no real significance to any of this, by the way, I just sort of feel like whining, and since I live alone, you get to hear it.

Christmas was good. I was teetering on the edge of saying "great" there for a second, but it didn't quite have enough staying power, or feel quite real enough to tip the scales into "great" territory. Just 24 hours ago, I was laughing and eating pie in my brother's dining room, with my grandmother on my right and my niece on my left. There was lots of love and laughter, and I got to spend time with most of the folks on my must-hang list, and I'll see the rest over New Year's, if all goes as planned, and I see no reason why it shouldn't.

Monday, December 23, 2002

In my never-ending quest to keep up with the Jones's, I've added an unflattering picture so you can (sort of) know what I look like while reading my fatuous opinions and vacuous musings. Being that I'm usually the guy with the camera, I don't have very many pictures of myself, so this one's going to have to do for now. Maybe I'll have a better one after Christmas, or at least a less squinty one.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

I've been writing back and forth with a friend, the kind of friend you let your guard down with. I've been accused of being insincere in my use of irony, and it's true, to an extent. There is a part of me where the men are men, the prose is purple, and metaphors run wild across the landscape. I have read self-help books and wished I could be more actualized. Yeah, when I say cheesy shit, I say it with a wink and a nod so I can pretend I'm just kidding, but I'm really not, not down deep. So, in the spirit of authenticity (and of Christmas), here's the latest letter in our correspondence. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Anger's been a trap for me in the past, so I've avoided it with all my spirit, which is another kind of trap. Now that I let the anger into the light, I find the monster much less terrifying, though it is a persistent fear.

The armor of love protected me from everything I feared for a very long time, and when that armor was taken away (or, at least, a significant chink revealed), the fears came back, redoubled at my weakness. I fought them with everything I had, but eventually I got tired of fighting, having found my fears a hydra that sprout two heads for every one I cut off. I stepped back, let drop my weapons, and felt my armor fall away from my skin. The monsters moved in, but as they attacked, I found them as intangible as the threats that dripped from their mouths like drool. They were but phantoms of my fear.

The prophets say fear is but a forgetting, that only love is real. Perhaps that's true, and if so, that explains it. Maybe God is holding me in the palm of her hand. Or maybe, just maybe, the phantoms of the mind can only attack the mind, and my mind is strong, having faced more powerful demons conjured by pain, death, acid, and math analysis.

I know that I am still in love with Carrie, and that when she was in love with me, I felt a comfort and a happiness that I haven't felt since. That doesn't mean I'll never feel it again, with her, or with someone else. I might. That doesn't mean I won't find a new love that makes this one look like a high school crush. I might. And that doesn't mean that there aren't nights when I sit on my front porch and see the moonlight arcing over the trees like a song, with the stars whispering their accompaniment in the cold, while my soul sings silently along, and my heart taps its toe to the beat. There are.

In other words, I'm doing okay.

Friday, December 20, 2002

As recently as two weeks ago, Christmas carols made me want to hit something (or someone). But, little by little, the season got to me. It started with whistling. As an experiment, I started whistling a carol, even though my mood was black, just to see what happened. Sure enough, it lightened my step just enough to make me stop and wonder what in the hell is wrong with me that a simple song can do that?

Tuesday night, I put on a carousel of carols, including the custom CD of Christmas songs Carrie and I chose together, the first CD of Christmas music we bought and listened to as a couple. But it didn't break my heart, didn't even crinkle it. Instead, it lightened. There really is something about this time of year.

I know. Christmas is too commercialized, I'm a tool of the corporate taskmasters, allowing their propaganda to wash my brain into putting my shoulder to the wheel of the capitalist machine of Amerika. Yeah. Whatever. Have a cookie. They have sprinkles. You know you love sprinkles. Did you notice there's a fire in the fireplace? Deforestation! Shut up, the wood came from a mulberry tree in a neighbor's yard that died of natural causes and took out his shed when it went. Have some cider, eat a cookie, and just let the vibe was over you. Did you feel that? If not, then I can't help you. You're doomed.

I've been broke as hell, where for Christmas my family got handmade cards in which I'd written long explanations of what I loved about them. And then there was the year that I had a ring made for Carrie, and the price kept going up, but I just didn't care. What I love about this season is that it's the one time of the year that we all sit down and make a list not just of things we want (which I do believe has some spiritual value), but of who we love and what we have to give. Sure, we do it grudgingly at times. In fact, other than shopping, the one thing pretty much everybody does this time of year is bitch about shopping. But we still do it. And now matter how foul our mood, there's still that one moment (maybe out of four hours, but it's still a moment, and you can find eternity in a moment if you look) where we picture the face of somebody we love and all we're thinking about is making them smile.

A friend recently ranted to me about the dysfunction implied in trying to make other people happy by giving them material things. Absolutely true. Couldn't agree more. Spiritually very suspect, and introduces the dangerous possibility of confusing stuff with love. But dangerous as it might be, shopping for my family lures me out of my own head and asks me to put myself in the heads of people who are very different than me, and to imagine what they might like to receive. Given that I'm a selfish man, unlikely to leave the safe confines of my own head except under duress, I consider it worth the risk.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

I'm having something of an off week. It's very tempting to put it off on the amount of caffeine I ingested last week in order to keep myself moving and functional in spite of being an hour ahead of myself and sleep deprived (can't sleep in hotels). Now I'm trying to get by on green tea in a desperate bid for intestinal health, so it's only natural that my energy be a bit low for a while while my body adapts.

But there's also a bristling kernel of something stirring in my stomach like I get just before I remember that I've left the house minus some crucial item that I need for the road trip/dinner party/campout/whatever that I'm already late for. This is the noise it makes when my head is telling me everything is fine, but my body's crying "bullshit!" Of course, there's plenty of times when my body's the one that's full of shit, but this feeling in my gut is the feeling of internal discord, and it's got me feeling curious because I was feeling like everything's okay.

Of course, it's all well and good for me to pretend I don't know what this is about, but I really do. It's about Carrie. I can talk all I want about getting/being over her, but she's stil the person I miss when I'm feeling lonely, and she's the face I see when I imagine spending the rest of my life with someone. My heart knows it and, honestly, has no problem with it, but my head thinks my heart is a moron and isn't shy about saying so. This feeling in my gut, I think, is either my body telling me that it thinks my head's an asshole, or it's playing kid in the corner, screaming, "I hate it when you fight!"

So, yeah, I'm still insane, thanks for asking. So why am I in a good mood?

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

I got off the phone with a friend, and she's watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on DVD in French. If that isn't the dictionary definition of the word "geek", I don't know what is.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Now That's What I'm Talking About - Melissa Alexander is 17 years old, 5'3" tall, and weighs about 110 lbs. Three guys broke into her house, so, naturally, she chased them down when they ran off, tackled one of them and hog-tied his good fer nuthin ass until the cops showed up.
Gawker - Okay, it's way New York, and I'm way not, but it's so delightfully bitchy that I may end up reading it daily. Here's it's advice for how to handle the transit strike that wasn't for those of a certain income:

Catch rides with total strangers at alternarides or check out local bulletin boards. As you listen to Marty whats-his-name yammer on about that time he sat next to Spike at the Knicks game, calmly remind yourself that physical assault frequently results in the inconvenience of litigation; that hell is other people, but less so when breakfast consists of eggs benedict and an ecstacy tab; and that things will be back to normal soon and you'll no longer be forced to speak to people who don't work for you.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Apparently there is a significant population in mid-Missouri who only drive their cars once a year, for Christmas shopping. And apparently Tuesday is the day they've all picked to come into Columbia and wander aimlessly through parking lots.

What I find most frustrating about it is that I was just trying to buy cat food. Can't there be some kind of system where you prove you're just doing ordinary shopping, not Christmas shopping, so you get to skip the lines and not have to deal with all the Christmas shopping bullshit?

Monday, December 16, 2002

Obligatory Political Post - I talked last night to a friend who grew up in the south, and her response to the Trent Lott thing was, in essence, a sharp exhalation of disgust that sounded a bit like "Phhhhhhsssh!" When pressed, she expanded it somewhat to say that she thinks he's an asshole, and a racist, but nevertheless the elected representative of the people of Mississippi. Of course, it doesn't reflect well on Mississippi or the Republican Party to have Lott representing them, but that's up to them, not us.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Well, I'm back. For the first time in a week, I'm at home, it's daytime, and I'm not working. Of course, there's work to be done, like getting unpacked, sorting through the mail, and cleaning (entropy's a bitch). But I'm sleep deprived and brain fried, so I'm having trouble finding the motivation to do anything other than just sit. Luckily, the only thing I have on my list to get done right now is writing up my Christmas list and doing all of my shopping. No sweat, right?

Oh, and for those of you who are interested in such things, I'm working on a longer post about where I was last week and what I was doing there. By "working", of course, I mean that I've thought about it a little bit and have a vague idea of what I'll say once I find the energy to actually put fingers to keyboard.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

    Pre-Flight
  A swallow flutterflies its way from window to window feeling for free air,
  past passengers passing the time with talk,
  over teh heads of conference goers, cross-country coaches,
  grandmothers, preachers, and poets in businessmen's clothing,
  lifting our eyes from The Star and The Times, and Architectural Digest,
  until he tires of trying the air and settles on a seatback
  conjuring a mate with his song.

  There they sit,
  chittering away
  about, I suppose,
  the traffic.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

One For the Road - I'm off to Pennsylvania in the morning, so blogging will be scarce for the next week. But I anticipate missing y'all at least a bit, and have a map to the nearest public library, so there may be a post or two from the road.

I'd love to leave you with something pithy to chew on while I'm off, but my brain is full of bills to pay, laundry to do, stuff to pack, etc. As usual, I'm certain I"ll either forget something, overpack, or some bizarre hybrid of the two where I take too much of stuff I don't need but forget something crucial and obvious, like my razor. But it's okay, because I'm very good at pushing the panic out of my head once there's nothing I can do, so the second the shuttle pulls away from my house, any nagging thoughts can be banished with a simple, "Fuck it, what can I do now?"

So, anyway, play nice while I'm away, and I'll see you all in a week.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Why It's Good That I Live Alone - Yesterday, as you all know, I was in a black, black mood. Grumbled in solitude. Blogged about it. Watched Macbeth. Did laundry. Recycled some junk mail. I paused before throwing out one of the catalogs and decided to flip through it before pitching it. As I did so, I found three or four potential gifts. From "I hate Christmas! I hate shopping!" to "Ooh, my parents'd really like that!" in just a few hours.

Woke up this morning with such toxic thoughts that I screamed "Fuck!" and punched the wall while I was in the shower. Just now, I caught myself whistling Christmas carols.

Clearly, I am insane.

On that theme, here's a poem I wrote a while ago:

   Snow on a just-bloomed magnolia blossom:
   If this is Missouri weather,
   then I have a Missouri mind.
Poor Pamie. She's apparently lost her mind.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

It's disturbing to find yourself in the video store, looking over the DVDs and realize that the movie you are most in the mood to watch is Macbeth. Very disturbing indeed.
Coming back from Springfield last weekend, I turned the radio off and drove in silence. My thought was that I haven't been meditating lately, and that I might perhaps benefit somewhat from the quiet. It's turned into a bit of a self-dare. How long can I go without turning on the radio? How long can I drive around in silence? I only have a ten-minute commute, so it's really not that hard. In fact, I probably spend more time in line at the drive-thru than I do driving (on the days I hit the drive-thru for lunch, which is, honestly, just about every day).

Like I said, not a big deal.

But music has a way of setting the mood, and when choose a CD for the car, you're encouraging your mood to lean in certain directions. Sure, sometimes your soul rebels, and the CD ends up in the back seat, but most days you can smooth over the rough spots with the tunes you pick. I'm on day three of dealing with the rough spots, and some stuff seems to be seeping up.

For one thing, I'm angry. I'm angry at Carrie for leaving, and I'm angry at all the women out there who stay with men who don't deserve them. I'm angry at Salvation Army bell ringers and people who hang Christmas lights and all of that because I remember when I felt like I had so much to give and a reason to decorate. Once upon a time the snow was pretty, even when it was piled a foot high in the driveway and I was the one to shovel it. My lips might crack and I couldn't feel my feet, but somehow I never really felt cold. Now, now matter what coat I'm wearing, the wind seems to find its way in and I hate, hate, hate the fact that I've let it get to me this much, and that I'm on my second Christmas alone again and still feeling it like this.

I used to love Christmas. I loved the shopping, the music, the lights, the tinsel, the whole nine goddamn yards of it. Now the gifts are just another item on my growing list of things I need to do but don't want to (right up there with raking the yard and cleaning the gutters), the very thought of tinsel puts a picture of her in my head, pulling Hallmark ornaments out of their immaculate little boxes and hanging them around the living room, and every time I hear Silver Bells, even in my head, I either want to cry or hit something.

What I really want is to tell my family that I'll see them sometime in January, and just hole up with some crappy movies where they blow shit up. Maybe Die Hard. That's a Christmas movie, right? How about Lethal Weapon?

I'd love to play Don John for once: "I must be sad when I have cause and smile at no man's jests, eat when I have stomach and wait for no man's leisure, sleep when I am drowsy and tend on no man's business, laugh when I am merry and claw no man in his humour."

But I won't. I'll go. I'll find the energy to shop, and I'll find things that I hope the people I love will like. I'll let the people I love love me back until I absolutely can't take any more, at which point I'll take a long walk in the cold, and maybe have a cigarette. That's my secret to life, if anyone's curious: Do just a little bit more than you think you can. You don't feel like getting out of bed today? Fine. Do it anyway. Now that you're up, you might as well take a shower. Why not go in to work? It beats sitting at home. The first month or so is hard, but it gets easier.

This is the part that sucks about getting over someone. I did my first batch of grieving when I was still holding on to the hope that we might get back together. Now that I've let go of that, it's starting to look like I might have a whole new round of grieving to go through.

Damn it.
Grounded for Political Reasons? - Article in the New Haven Advocate on political activists (both left- and right-wing) who've had trouble flying, particular to overseas destinations. I'm not suggesting that the Justice Department intentionally created this list to make life harder for the Green Party, but the recent behavior of our government officials does not exactly inspire confidence, and stories like this don't help.

I'd use stronger language, but I'm flying to Pennsylvania for business next week, and I don't want any trouble at the airport.
The Economics of Logging - Douglas Gantenbein takes on the Bush administrations new logging rules. He may well have environmental or political axes to grind, but his arguments are based on the simple economic reality that standing trees are worth more than cut ones, through tourism, etc.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Inventing the Internet - The Daily Howler takes on that old piece of crap about Al Gore inventing the Internet. This came up again and again in 2000, where one of my friends would make some crack about Al Gore claiming to have invented the 'Net, and I'd have to explain again that 1. that wasn't what he said, and 2. what he did say was true. But still, to this day, everybody "knows" that Al Gore claimed to invent the Internet. If Gore runs again, I'm going to print up this URL on little cards and hand them out to anyone who vectors this particular UL in my presence.
She was in my dreams again last night. In the dream, she'd been lured away by a force that fed primarily off the energies of young men, but needed a young woman from time to time "to be a mother for our boys." I managed to get in to rescue her, but she turned to water as soon as I set eyes on her, and I couldn't get a grip to pull her out. But I kept looking at her, and I felt the quality of my gaze change, soften, and as I remembered her with my eyes, she solidified.*

Even a creepy nightmare with her in it has an effect on me. I know it's not really her that I miss; I miss how I felt when we were together. You know that "God is in his heaven, and all is right with the world" feeling you get when things turn out better than you ever expected? I got that feeling pretty much every morning I woke up next to Carrie, except for the last few months when things were starting to suck (and sometimes even then). I got it when I was cooking dinner or puttering on the computer in the evening, and I could hear her teaching a lesson in the studio.

I haven't had that feeling, not even once, since she left.

I miss being in love.

* This dream is, I'm sure, ripe for analysis. If nothing else, it certainly has something to say about the Male Gaze. And it gets more interesting the more I think about the dream. There are certain recurring locations in my dreams, including several different houses, some of which are real (like the house I grew up in), some of which are not; a couple of schools; and a road. This one was set on the road, which, by the way, runs through Kansas all the way to the mountains in Colorado. And, yes, it's always the same road, and always the same mountains.

Another thing about this dream: I could fly. This is not particularly unusual, as I can often fly in my dreams. It's not Superman-style flying, though. It's more that I can negate the effects of gravity on my body, then move through the air by the force of my will. It's easier and faster than running, so I'll often float just a few inches off the ground and float around rather than walking.

In other words, in my dreams I can ignore gravity, but not love. Just the opposite of real life. Except the part about love.

Monday, December 02, 2002

G.K. Chesterton on Chasing After Hats - Two tastes: "And the most comic things of all are exactly the things that are most worth doing -- such as making love. A man running after a hat is not half so ridiculous as a man running after a wife." and "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered."
I was hugging my grandmother goodbye after we dropped her off at the nursing home when my eyes, running over her wall of pictures, settled on one of you and I from several years ago. On the way back up to the city, I lay down in the back seat, looking up at the Kansas stars and remembering when we'd all go down to the country together, you'd sleep the whole way back with your head in my lap, and I'd look out the window at the stars, dreaming.

That night, I dreamed we'd gotten back together, and I woke up feeling the happiest I've felt in almost two years.

I want to be done with this, but I guess I'm not. I know I told you that I think I'm getting over you, and I stand by that. But I do still love you, and I do still miss you. Damn it.
Cartoon Haiku featuring a palindrome. Brought to you by Rhymes With Orange.
Four Out of Seven Ain't Bad - I went ever so slightly non-traditional this Thanksgiving. Thursday, as usual, was devoted to Gluttony, and it was a minor theme for the rest of the weekend, given the prevalence of leftovers. Now, normally, Friday would be devoted to Greed, but I didn't go shopping this year, electing instead to drive down to Springfield to hang with friends. But I was feeling large, as though my self extended to the horizon in every direction, and every landscape I drove over and through felt to me like my own, so I suppose that counts. Saturday was Sloth. 'Nuff said. Sunday was a travel day, which would normally excuse my having to get in yet another of the seven deadlies, but I managed somehow to squeeze it in. Which one? Well, that's none of your business.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

My grandmother's been getting increasingly vague over the years. In fact, several times on Thanksgiving day she asked questions that made it clear that she didn't really know who I was. But then there were other times that she clearly did. At one point, she sidled up next to me and put her arm around me. "I just wanted to say how sorry I was to hear about your divorce."

"Thanks, Grandma."

"It's never easy. My parents were divorced. That was back... There were four of us girls... At least, I think there were four of us."

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I'm off to spend time being thankful with/for friends and family. They're all computer people, so I'll probably be able to blog from my various undisclosed locations, but why? I'll either be cooking, eating, or overstuffed and whacked on on tryptophan. To tide you over, I leave you with the follow quote, which is not apt, polite, or even particularly kind, but it's (mostly) accurate and, more importantly, it's funny.

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. - John Kenneth Galbraith
Michael Kinsley on Google News - The subhead is "Hey - that's MY job you're automating!" The whole thing's a display of rhetorical sleight of hand, but the trick is neatly done and entertainingly presented. Here's a taste of one of the more subtly humorous sections:
In the prestige ranking of important issues, a key factor is how much an issue actually touches anyone's daily life. The more abstract an issue is from real life, the more prestigious it is. A journalistic career that began covering tornadoes in Iowa and ended writing editorials about the expansion of membership in NATO would be considered a success. One that took the opposite path would not.

We all agree—do we not?—that globalization and technological change remain vitally important issues. In order to assure their continued vitality, therefore, it is essential to guarantee that journalists not be impacted in any way.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Unqualified Offerings lists Moderate Muslim Bloggers - People defending their faith against the ignorant and dangerous rantings of the Islamists. So now you've got no excuse to wonder where they are.
Heidi Klum is single again - First it was Nicole Kidman, then Drew Barrymore, followed by Molly Ringwald, and now Heidi Klum. It's like word of my divorce is slowly making its way through the world of beautiful women, and they suddenly feel the need to be free.
Al Gore and the Alpha Girls - The Rittenhouse Review has a very entertaining and intelligent article up on the tempestuous relationship between Al Gore and the teenage girls that run out press corps. If you picked up even one news magazine this past summer, you probably got an earful about "Alpha Girls", "Beta Girls", and "Gamma Girls." In a nutshell, the Alphas are the Heathers who run the school, the Betas are the wannabes, and the Gammas are those poor misguided souls who think school is actually about learning and friendship is about caring and therefore fail to see the emotional war that surrounds them. Jim Cappozzola looks at the bizarre way the press attacks Gore and concludes that the punditry is made up of Alphas and Betas, with most of the Gammas being in the blogosphere.

Friday, November 22, 2002

There's something reassuring about a small town news broadcast. It's a strong creator/evoker of community. In half an hour, I find out what the morons in washington and down at the state capital are up to these days, what's happening in my town that's weird, funny, or scary, and whether the Tigers are going to make it to the show. It's the town in a nutshell.

Columbia, Missouri is a textbook version of an Ideopolis. It's a college town, with its other major employers including hospitals, light manufacturing, and a textbook wholesaler. In an article on Slate, Tim Noah ponders why the folks who live in towns like mine tend to vote Democratic, then The Fray jumps in.

My personal favorite is the guy who suggests it's because conservative men can't get laid in a town like this. I can't argue with this; I'm not conservative.

But there's a better reason. Everyone I know in this town is less than two degrees of separation from what is, essentially, a government job, whether it be for the state or for the university. So when a Republican stands up and starts talking about out of touch bureaucrats, too many taxes, and thieving, wasteful government employees, it means some of my friends might go back to working minimum wage with no health insurance. Who the hell you think I'm going to vote for?

Missouri's Democratic Governor was on the news tonight talking about our budget problems. Basically, like every state since about two years ago, we're going broke. We the people need money if we want to do silly, extravagant things like maintain our highways and educate our children. Gov. Holden is proposing that we start closing corporate tax loopholes.

I don't know if it's a good idea, really, or not. Actually, it's a risk to try it, and a risk to propose it. Holden's never been much of a populist, as far as I know, so is this some new taste of what the new, invigorated Democratic Party is going to be like?

Much as I hate to admit it, I'm having to admit that I probably am a Democrat. But I'm the same kind of Democrat as I am Buddhist (or Christian, for that matter). It's a faith that is both sincere and well thought out, but nevertheless honored more with neglect than action.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Was rummaging through the database today, and came across a book titled Flip Charts: How to Draw Them and How to Use Them. It's not so much that I doubt there are people out there that can't figure out how to use a flip chart; I've seen plenty of stupidity in my day (I even demonstrate it on occasion). But if you can't figure out a flip chart, how are you going to manage a book? Don't they have basically the same interface?
Back when I was working for a big, bad dot-com, I think we had some meetings with these guys.
The World Is Too Much With Us - I had an interesting morning. Not to put too fine a point on it, I've been irritable as hell all day. Phone calls bugged me. Email bugged me. Even thinking about having to talk to another person was enough to get me annoyed. When I went out to get lunch and run a brief errand, the driving habits of the morons I got stuck behind was enough to make me scream. It was like somebody reached inside of me, pulled out my soul, and replaced it with a 2 year old who missed his nap. No patience, no compassion, and all my emotions are running right at the surface.

Then I felt a twinge behind my left eye, and suddenly recognized this for what it is: a migraine. This happens every once in a while, where I get a migraine, but without the actual pain. Sometimes the pain comes later, sometimes it doesn't come at all, but my emotions are fucked for the duration.

I probably should take something (Imitrex usually helps when this happens), but I'm kind of enjoying it. It's like I've been replaced by my own evil twin. Now I know how Dr. Jekyl felt. Or, more accurately I guess, Mr. Hyde.

What Office Space character are you?

brought to you by Quizilla

I'm not sure what this bodes for my professional future, but I do know there's something wrong with anyone who'd refer to Jennifer Aniston as "the annoying girlfriend." That's just wrong.

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I've been a bit restless with my computer lately. You know how it is: You get a new computer at work, then a friend gets a new computer, and suddenly your home PC, the one you've loved for years, just doesn't seem quite as sexy. I put in a new hard drive a couple of weeks back, but last night I finally got to what I'd been heading towards all this time. I installed Linux. So far, I haven't done much with it, so I can't really offer an honest opinion, but it definitely feels sexier than what I had before, and I just feel so...involved, so competent, so...geeky (but in a good way). The only problem I had when I was installing it last night was that my Internet connection didn't come back up after I partitioned the hard drive and reinstalled Windows. That's okay, it's happened before. Christie was coming over to watch Buffy, so I didn't have time to really mess with it. I decided to put it off, have lunch at home today while I was fixing it. Well, I figured out the problem easily enough.

My cable modem was turned off.
A friend gave me a brief review of my blog last night. It mostly came down to praise of my 'voice', but there was one particular bit that stuck in my head. She said I frequently use irony, but she didn't really think it was heartfelt.

Monday, November 18, 2002

Go rent Escanaba in da Moonlight. It's about a family, the Soadys, in the Upper Peninsula. It's opening day of deer season, and Reuben "The Buckless Yooper" Soady is 43. If he doesn't bag a deer this year, then he'll go down in history as the oldest Soady without a deer. But with the UFOs, a Ranger seeing God up on the ridge, and various and sundry other mystical and strange events, the whole family is starting to wonder whether they might oughta go back to town. It's been almost 24 hours since I watched it, and I'm still laughing about parts of it. Really. I am. Ask the people in the cubicle next to me.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Carrie was over tonight. As recently as a couple of months ago, when I saw her and heard about her life, all I could think was how much I hated being stuck watching her life from the bleachers when I used to be in the game. Now, when I hear her talk about her life, it's like listening to any other friend tell me her troubles, and I'm grateful as hell to be up in the bleachers, where I can go grab a beer and a hot dog whenever I want, or even cut out early to beat the traffic. I've got a good view, as opposed to those poor bastards on the field. I can even appreciate the game, as only someone who's played it can. But I have no interest in playing again.

Here's the question: Am I over her, or just lazy?

Friday, November 15, 2002

Every once in a while, I run across something that's a little peek behind the curtain, revealing God to have a truly strange sense of humor.
Two Good Articles
"Natural Foods"? - "Too often modern health problems are portrayed as the result of eating "bad" foods that are departures from the natural human diet--an oversimplification embodied by the current debate over the relative merits of a high-protein, high-fat Atkins-type diet or a low-fat one that emphasizes complex carbohydrates. This is a fundamentally flawed approach to assessing human nutritional needs. Our species was not designed to subsist on a single, optimal diet. What is remarkable about human beings is the extraordinary variety of what we eat. We have been able to thrive in almost every ecosystem on the earth, consuming diets ranging from almost all animal foods among populations of the Arctic to primarily tubers and cereal grains among populations in the high Andes."

Why I Cain't Write Right - "The essays that the graduating BAs would submit with their applications were often brilliant. After five or six years of PhD work, the same people would write incomprehensible crap." Actually, that's not what the article is about, but the lede is worth the link, and the rest of the article isn't too bad, either.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Moment Two - On the way back to my car, I run into Dean, who I haven't seen in months. We hit the Indian buffet, and discuss our love lives over dal and tandhoori chicken. There's nothing like a little "Women! What can you do?" to brighten your day.
Moment One - I went into my friendly neighborhood kitchen store today. I'm pathetically susceptible to gadgetitis, especially in the kitchen, and I've allowed myself to be convinced that this will make me more likely to make bread, improve my pie crust, and be helpful to me when I try and make croissants for the first time this weekend. And then I got one of these because I haven't been very satisfied with my liquid measuring experience lately, and because the sales girl was cute.

Her: Can I help you?
Me: I know what I'm looking for, but I'm going to look around for a little while, just for the joy of it.
Her: Okay. But when you need me, just grab me!
Me: [In my head] I'd love to. [Out loud] Count on it.

I found what I was looking for, lingered over the appliances I can't afford, looked at toys I might use but probably wouldn't, and daydreamed about my new Wusthof paring knife for a while, then took my new toys to the counter. Another clerk rang me up, but CuteGirl hung around to put my stuff in a bag, run the credit card machine, smile a lot, laugh at my silly cracks and otherwise do everything possible (without using road flares or visual aids) to let me know she thought I was cute. I flirted back, and walked out the door about three inches taller than I came in.

It was a running joke between my ex-wife and I how clueless I was when girls flirted with me, and I was a little worried when I got single again that I'd still have that problem. That's why I love moments like these. I'm not really in the mood to date right now, but once I am, I'm fairly sure I'll be able to tell when a girl is interested.

In the meantime, I better get my kitchen organized this weekend, because I have a feeling I may be buying an inordinate amount of kitchen equipment.
Games People Play - Some people have golf buddies; I have a Scrabble buddy. Okay, that's reductive as hell. He's a real friend, but our fallback excuse for hanging out together is to go to some coffee shop and play Scrabble for a few hours. A while back, he got the Scrabble CD-ROM which has boosted his abilities to superhuman levels and now I consider it a successful game if, at the end, our scores at least have the same first digit. That's not really the point.

He and his wife gave me a copy of the Scrabble CD-ROM for my birthday, and last night I tried to install it. I click the "install" button, and crappy lite jazz guitar music starts coming out of my speakers. It's about a 20 second clip, looped. Great. Installing software isn't annoying and frustrating enough as it is, now I get to listen to muzak while I watch a little blue bar creep across my screen. And when the computer's really thinking, the music starts to skip. Finally, I get to start the game, and all I get is a black screen. Now, even Ctrl-Alt-Delete doesn't work. I have to actually turn off the computer, wait for the hard disk to stop spinning, turn it back on, let it run scan disk, reload Windows, etc. Which I do, then go to Hasbro.com, where I'm told that they don't actually make the CD-ROM, I need to go to InfoGrames.com, which sends me to yet a third site to tell me that I need to update my video drivers and/or set my screen to 640x800 with 256 colors, neither of which ends up working, but everytime I try something new, I have to go through the whole power down, wait for my hard drive to stop spinning, start back up thing.

The kicker is that for me, the game is about the mind of my opponent much more than it's about points. Scrabble gives me a peek into your mood, your hobbies, your education, and your word hoard. I'm really not interested in playing Scrabble against a computer.

Thankfully, it's the thought that counts, and the thought was lovely.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Post-Birthday Mall Experience - You know you're getting older when a hot teenage girl and her mom walk by, and you're totally invisible to the teenage girl, but the mom checks you out.
2nd sign I'm getting older: I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

After great pain, a formal feeling comes
All in all, I'd call the weekend a success. Matt and Laurie had a beautiful wedding, Theron and I got in some good hangtime, and the family had a nice birthday brunch for my nephew and I on Sunday. In typical Terry fashion, gifts were exchanged, happy wishes were given, but there were no elaborate productions. No funny hats, no balloon animals, no scary clowns. It's as it should be. Just good food, family, friends, and presents. Especially presents. My brother got me a couple of Warren Zevon albums (including one that's out of print), and I found out that my niece really likes Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner, while my parents got me a fleece vest and a Wusthof drop-point paring knife. My music geek, food geek, and knife geek were all made very happy.

That was Sunday, though. My actual birthday was on Friday. It turned out to be one of those hyper-social days where people were constantly in and out of my cubicle, I got taken out to lunch, and there was cake. It might actually be fair to say that the folks at work made a bigger deal about my birthday than my family did. Like I already said, I was raised in a 'birthdays are no big deal' family, so I'm much more comfortable getting a quick 'happy birthday' then getting on with my life, but free food is always good, so I'm not complaining.

But something, somewhere in all of it must have hit me wrong, because I had a raging migraine by the time I got home from work. So I spent my birthday night laying on the couch hallucinating and listening to music. If you disregard the sensation of molten lead being poured into your eye socket, it's not a bad way to spend the evening, really.

It fits, actually. Last year, I talked to Carrie on my birthday, and we had the "Am I kidding myself when I hope we might get back together?" conversation (turned out I was). It was intense, and painful, but it was also honest and kind, and I felt ready to get on with my life when it was over.

Friday night, my mind mulled over the last year and flushed out some of the nastiness that had been building up. I also had a nice (albeit too brief) talk with Ryan, who I haven't seen since his funeral almost five years ago. I woke up on the couch about one, mostly pain-free, and staggered back to the bedroom. When the sun came through my window in the morning, the pain was gone, and so was a lot of weight I'd been carrying around without even realizing it.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

New poetry site to visit:

    I love you, swimmer in me
    Bump of nose beneath my skin,
    You are my reckoning, shark
    Awake when I am ocean bursting.

His archive page says, "Yes, I know some of them are really bad. I put everything here, even the failures. I might cannibalize them later. Just skip the bad ones." and he's inspired me to put up some of my own. Hence the one below.
He was a door I never tried,
that looked locked from where I sat.

But on his way out, he left himself ajar.
Memories slip by, some unnoticed as ghosts,
the rest dancing merrily to an old tune,
until he is left nothing but peace, and breathing
and then only peace.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Voting is Sexy - I spent my lunch hour solving problems. I paid some bills while I was on hold with Mediacom (the cable modem people), got the net connection going, then went to vote. I vote at West Elementary, just down the street from my house, so I get to walk. There is something so great about walking down the street in order to register my opinion about the path of the nation. I can't quite put my finger on it, but I think it's the feeling of connectedness, the feeling that my neighborhood is a part of the nation. When I first moved to Columbia, it wasn't a very ped-friendly neighborhood, and driving to vote just didn't feel the same.

Memory flash: I have a distinct picture in my head of walking to Hale Cook Elementary with my mom (or was it my grandmother?) and standing next to her while she voted. The voting machines were the kind where you slide the punchcard into a slot and use a little stylus to poke out the chad (I hate that I know that word). Even as a kid I was a gadget-head, and I remember being jealous of the grownups for getting to play with the cool machines. Now I know why I'm such a democracy geek.

Oh, and I got a recorded, "Don't forget to vote" phone call from Sheryl Crow. That's why voting is sexy.
My mom called last night. It was a long talk, but here's the part that's relevant to my blogging schedule:

Her: What are you doing?
Me: Installing a new hard drive.
Her: Any particular reason?
Me: Well, it all started when I decided to put in a network card...
Her: (laughter) Got it.

The hard drive is in and functioning, and I've pretty much finished loading it with my extensive collection of pornography and illegal Wayne Newton bootleg MP3s, but the Internet connection is still not up. Tonight probably.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Every year, my Springfield friends throw a Halloween party. It got started when a bunch of them were renting apartments in the same house, and everybody just threw open their doors. It helps that there are brewers in the group, which meant that the beer is both good and plentiful, but we're also talking about a group of seriously warped and creative individuals. I've been hearing about these parties for years before I was actually able to make it down for one. One year, Brian came as a chair. His costume was mostly made out of wood, and was apparently convincing enough that he scared the shit out of quite a few people when the chair they'd been sitting on for 20 minutes suddenly grabbed them. The next year, he was Mr. Hanky, his mom was Kenny, and his brother came as a working traffic light. One couple came dressed as nuns, but with a chain linking them together at the head. Nun-chucks. There were two Darth Mauls that year, both of whom shaved their heads and did the full makeup. One glued horns to his head and had freaky contacts, while the other participated in a choreographed lightsaber fight with Qui-Gon and Obiwan.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that these are some serious Halloween-loving freaks we're talking about here. These people are hard-core.

I, on the other hand, have generally been more of an "also-ran". My costumes are generally decent, but nothing amazingly clever, nothing people would be talking about the next day, let alone the next year. This year, I was Frodo. There was a whole Lord of the Rings theme going on, which made me mostly part of an ensemble cast. I thought about trying to fabricate some kind of hobbit feet, but in the end, I decided to just go barefoot. The temperature was in the 30s. The party was mostly outside. On a patio littered with gravel, and a backyard full of tiny, pointy sticks.

The high point of my night was about 1:30, when some drunk guy looked down at my feet and said, "Dude! You're still barefoot? You're hard-core!"
If you're not reading Wockerjabby, I demand to know why not. Here's a taste of what she wrote today:

at night the sky was striped with clouds right through the constellations, and while I sat sleepless on my windowsill we watched each other in baleful melancholy. but this morning, this morning I (still sleepless) was wallowing in the slowness of the sunrise when a breath of wind ripped a whole flock of orange leaves from their branches and sent them tumbling against the glass of my window. I opened it and they rushed in, hitting me full in the face and sticking in my hair. "I missed you too," I said, because I did.

'nuff said.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

If you've ever gotten into an argument over whether it's "pop" or "soda" (for the record, you're both wrong), "basement" or "cellar" then participate in the Dialect Survey and tell the world how things are said where you come from.

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

You ever have one of those weekends when all you want to do is kick back, chill out and have some fun, without having to learn anything? And then life intervenes? Last weekend was one of those weekends. Very intense, very emotional, a Twilight Zone ride into my own emotions and emotional baggage. It's very easy for a weekend like that to suck, to be painful and terrible and just way too hard to handle. The difference lies in what kind of people you're around when a weekend like that happens. Luckily, I got to spend Saturday night surrounded by some very cool people. I have great friends.

Monday, October 28, 2002

Normally, I can go out of town for a few days, skip the news and not get a paper, and I don't miss much. This was not one of those weekends, apparently. By far the most interesting factoid, I think, is that the balance of power in the Senate between now and January will be determined by a former professional wrestler with no allegiance to either of the major parties. And somehow, that seems to be to be a wonderful example of everything that's right about this country.

Thursday, October 24, 2002

A friend of mine once asked me, "Who am I, if I'm not my thoughts?"

It's a nice, tough question, but I still maintain that I am not my thoughts, because I have no control over them. They just come up, unbidden. If I've got to locate the self somewhere, I'd rather locate it in my choices.

Why the philosophy? Well, my grandfather died last night, and if I had to judge myself by the thoughts that went through my head as I digested the news, I wouldn't come out looking too good. Of course, that's assuming I could pick out any one stream of thought from thousand contradictory impressions flying through my mind.

I'll be honest: I don't have any positive memories of my grandfather from when I was a kid, just one or two negative ones and a whole lot of neutral ones. But I don't really feel entitled to have any opinion of him, because I never really tried to get to know him. On Thanksgiving, he'd sit in his chair, watching the game, while I sat in the recliner, reading my book, neither of us seeming much interested in the mass of family around us. But again, I never asked, so I don't really know. Maybe he was glowing silently with pride and joy and having us all there.

The dam started to break five or six years ago. It was Christmas, and we were all gathered down in La Cygne for the holiday. As usual, Grandma was at the piano, and she was telling us all about the shows she and Grandpa were putting on for church and at the local nursing home. Then Grandpa's on his feet, playing his harmonica along with the piano. The words Grandma was singing were a hymn, but I knew the tunes from old Woody Guthrie songs. I had a shocked smile on my face, watching my stern, silent grandfather playing Woody Guthrie tunes on his harmonica and dancing a jig.

Over the last several years, I saw more and more of that side of him. I rarely made it over to see him, but when I did, he'd talk for hours, laugh, joke, and play the harmonica, quite literally, backwards and forwards. At the same time, his mind seemed to be disappearing. When he recognized me at all, he thought I was my father. Paradoxically, our relationship improved dramatically when he had no idea who I was.

The last coherent sentence I remember hearing from him was probably a year ago, when he reacted to a birthday card my father read to him with, "Who says I'm 90?" But still, even in his last few months when everyone was a stranger to him, he was friendly, happy, and just a bit mischievous. Was that the real him? Was there a twinkling elf at his heart, unrecognizable and unseen until dementia stripped away the mental and emotional patina of a lifetime? If I had taken the time to look, could I have found it there?

No idea. Luckily, I find the questions more interesting than the answers, if there are answers to questions like these.

I don't know how (or even if) it fits with everything else that's bouncing around in my head right now, but a few years ago I inherited some of my grandfather's tools when they sold their house. Even though they've been in my workbench and up on my pegboard for a while now, they still feel like his tools, and I suspect they will for some time, if not always. But when I'm marking a crosscut with his try square, or soldering something that's being held in his vise, I can put my hand where his hand was and feel like, somehow, we understand one another.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Dan Savage on the O'Reilly Factor - I'm hoping to track down video footage of this, just because I want a recording of Bill O'Reilly saying, "I want to go to a gay bathhouse!"
Posting's been kind of light lately, but there's no particular reason, unless you count the fact that work has gotten kind of tight. I've been making an effort to get more organized, which means an actual to-do list, which means less time to slack (i.e. post). I guess I could post in the evenings, but I went and bought Buffy seasons one and two on DVD, and I've been catching up.

I completely missed all of season one, and most of season two, since they aired before the WB came to town (but I was able to catch summer reruns of season two), so they're almost all new to me. It's particularly interesting watching them at the same time as I'm keeping up with the current runs of Buffy and Angel. New episode: Buffy's a counselor recruited by the new principle to help the new kids. Old episode: The principle's threatening Buffy with expulsion. Old episode: Cordelia's the queen bitch of the high school. New episode: She's a goddess, elevated to a higher plane because of the selflessness and love with which she lives. It's a bit like going to your high school reunion, in that everyone is so different, but somehow not very different at all. And, in the words of the great Joan Cusack, "It was just as if everyone had swelled."

I take it as a very healthy sign of age-appropriate attraction that I find the cast much more attractive now than then. Speaking of aging gracefully, I'll be turning 32 in a couple of weeks. How in the hell did that happen? It's not that I feel 16, or 22, or any other age in particular, it's more that I look back over my life, and most of my 20s are kind of hazy, like a Sunday afternoon where you don't do much more than putter and watch a little TV, but before you know it, it's dark outside.

But if this is how 32 feels, it's not bad at all. I may well be in the best shape I've ever been in, mentally, physically, and spiritually. My finances are coming together pretty well. I still get carded on a regular basis, and even my friends are surprised to hear how old I am. In fact, I have several friends, including one who's known me for years, who are surprised every time they hear it, which makes me seriously question their ability to retain information. My only worry is that I may end up being doomed to date women in their 20s because women in their 30s will think I'm too young for them.

I suppose there are worse fates.

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

The story of love is about me - Frank Furedi starts out talking about trends toward people living alone, but, being a sociologist, he turns to the why of it and comes up with an interesting thought: Relationships, by their very nature, have to be about the other person, but as a culture, we pretty much see everything as being about ourselves. Or, as he puts it, "[A]s long as society fails to endow intimate relations with any meaning that transcends self-realisation we will all be singles - whether we are in a relationship or not."

It's an interesting conundrum. We can't be happy if we ignore the self and concentrate only on the needs of others, but if we focus solely on the self, we're trapped in a lonely dungeon of solipsism. All this means is that life is about finding the right rhythm between the two, making life more of an art than a science. On a related note, Slate has an interesting discussion going on the nature of happiness.

Tuesday, October 15, 2002

As much fun as the RenFest was, the high point of my weekend had to be the unsolicited opinion I got from the large, 40-something black man wearing a mechanic's uniform that the soundtrack to Once More With Feeling (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical episode) was "tight."

And it is, by the way.
We got Pitchers! - I went to the Renaissance Festival with some friends last weekend, and there are pictures up to prove it. Highlights include an angry elf, a wannabe hipster, and a big dork. Honestly, I find it difficicult to imagine that these pics would be interesting to anyone outside my immediate group of friends. In fact, I think most of them would be bored, too, except maybe for the folks who were there. But then again, I don't get much traffic beyond my immediate group of friends, and it's entirely possible that the rest of you might find some voyeuristic charm in browsing the digital detritus of my life.

Monday, October 14, 2002

Evolutionary Criticism - An article on bringing evolutionary psychology to bear on works of literature, specifically, The Aeneid. The authors on occasion step too far, such as when they suggest that evolution is (or could be) an organizing principle for all of literary criticism, but they have some good points. If you're interested in this sort of thing, I recommend Ellen Dissanayake's What is Art For? and other books, which deal with art not as objects but as a set of behaviors, behaviors which she argues increase our 'fitness' in the Darwinian sense of the word. Where, then, does that leave literary criticism? Well, I for one think that it's interesting to look at stories in terms of their behavioral effects, which allows us to examine why given stories are, or are not, adaptive for certain cultures at certain times.

Piers Plowman bores the daylights out of most of us, but so many copies of it exist that we know it must have been popular in its day. Why? Why was this story so resonant with the people of its time? I don't know enough about the era to even hazard a guess, honestly. But I believe in stories as an active force, so I believe that it was because the story was somehow useful to them.

When I think about publishing my thoughts on this, my mind always jumps to the opportunists in Congress that blame Hollywood whenever there's some sort of violent tragedy. It's the movies' fault, or music, or video games. But life is more complicated than that. Violent entertainment is cathartic, it purges violent emotion even as it evokes it. If we try and guess what stories will or will not be adaptive, we'll more than likely guess wrong. If there's one constant about human beings as a race, it's that we always seem to think we know more than we actually do.
On Why It Is a Good Thing to Stay in Contact With Your Ex - Because you still get to see her from time to time, the actual her, not the version of her that lives in your head, then suddenly one night as you're driving home, you realize that the woman you were missing doesn't actually exist anymore.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

What's Right With My Life - Moment One
Saturday I was buying some pastries at Panera when the very cute girl behind the counter stopped in the middle of her robotic pastry-selling spiel and said, "I forgot to ask; how are *you* doing?" and we had this brief but genuine conversation, and she gave me an absolutely killer smile that was like sunshine breaking through the clouds on a gray and foggy autumn day. Honestly, I think that if I could have a moment like that about once a week, I wouldn't ever need to date.

Then I went home and brewed a batch of beer for the first time in months, but that's taking us into another Moment.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Adam Gopnick on Willie Nelson - I used to joke that Willie Nelson was responsible for my proposing to my wife, and I could never understand why she didn't like his music. Now that I'm divorced, it occurs to me that maybe I do know why. Gopnick's written a nice portrait of one of the great amiable uncles of American music (Pete Seeger being another notable). It ends with a quote from Willie: "Well, you know what they say," he says. "The early bird may get the worm. But the second mouse gets the cheese."

Sunday, October 06, 2002

New Welch Column - Basically, it's about the impossibility of a truly unilateral war. If nothing else, we need a place to park our planes. I now have a new argument against invading Iraq: In order to wage a successful war on Iraq, we need to make nice with Saudi Arabia, and the ideas and ideologies manufactured in Saudi Arabia are more dangerous to the U.S. than any weapons manufactured in Iraq.

Friday, October 04, 2002

Why Am I Not Surprised? - The relevant facts:
  1. He's running for Senate.
  2. He's blue. Literally.
  3. It's from chemicals he consumed in preparation for Y2K.
  4. He's from Montana.
  5. He's a Libertarian.
  6. There's a picture.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Dry Ice + Airplane Toilet = Bad (but funny) - "He turns and looks at the toilet. But it has, for all practical purposes, disappeared, and where it once rested he now finds what he will later describe only as a vision. In place of the commode roars a fluorescent blue waterfall, a huge, heaving cascade of toilet fluid thrust waist-high into the air and splashing into all four corners of the lavatory. Pouring from the top of this volcano, like smoke out of a factory chimney, is a rapidly spreading pall of what looks like steam."

There's that, and then there's this: "Jens stares. Then he turns to his young second officer and puts a hand on his shoulder, a gesture of both fatherly comfort and surrendering camaraderie, as if to say, 'Don't worry son, I'll clean all this up,' or maybe, 'Down with the ship we go, my friend.' He sighs, gestures toward the fizzing, angrily disgorging bowl and says, with a tone of surprisingly unironic pride: 'She's got quite a head on her, doesn't she?'"

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

I'm having one of those days where my brain doesn't want to think about what I need it to think about and I don't want it to think about what it wants to think about. It's very frustrating to have spent decades training this brain, filling it up with all kinds of useful and/or entertaining stuff, and now to be considering trading it in on a new model. Then again, I haven't really been performing the necessary maintenance, so is it really that surprising that I'm having problems?

Next time, I am definitely going to be changing my spinal fluid every 3,000 miles, even if the Car Talk guys say I could go 6,000.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

How to Spit - A part time wine critic goes to a pro to improve his spitting technique. A taste: "I am working on it, every chance I get. Even spitting out mouthwash has become an opportunity to practice. If all this strikes you as a bit asinine and pathetic, you may have a point."

Saturday, September 28, 2002

Just tell me to, and I'll stop posting these mini-essays on Iraq. What's the consensus? Back to silly stuff, or is the current mix working for you? Personally, when I really pay attention to politics (and there's a Bush in the White House), I end up pissed off a lot of the time. And since I don't really like being pissed off, it's easier to just check out. But when he's talking about taking us to war, I sort of feel obligated to make my opinion known, ya know?
Five reasons to oppose invasion: I just posted these on a comment board at ColdFury, and it occured to me that I'd like them to be seen by at least a few more folks. So to the three regular readers of this blog, here they are:

I'll admit that my first reason for opposing invasion is lack of trust of Bush. It's a distrust based on his record, his statements, his biography, and what I can glean of his personality based on what's in the public record. But I don't expect to change anybody's mind here on that, so I'll just state it and let it drop.

Second reason: Successfully overthrowing Saddam will then require a sustained effort at peace keeping and, yes, nation building. Bush has said, again and again, that he does not feel we have any business getting into that business, and he's never retracted that statement. If you don't believe in building nations up, you're the wrong person to go around tearing them down.

Third reason: Whatever our reasons for invading Iraq, from the outside, this could easily be mistaken for an imperialistic maneuver to install a puppet regime in an oil-rich region. This plays directly into the negative traits that our enemies in the war on terror have accused us of. While I do not believe in letting our enemies control our behavior, the easier it is to point out the obvious untruth of enemy propaganda, the smaller their recruitment pool becomes.

Fourth reason: This would be the first time that the U.S. has launched a pre-emptive invasion. We can argue till the sun comes up about whether it's legal or illegal, either way I'm not comfortable with setting that kind of precedent, and before we do, I'd like to see a stronger case made.

Fifth reason: This invasion will be very, very expensive. It's estimated that the first Gulf War cost about $64 billion dollars, of which only about $7 billion came out of our coffers. Now, if we assume that about 75% of that was fixed costs dealing with getting everybody and all the equipment there, then we're talking about $48 billion in fixed costs, then $16 billion in ongoing, time dependent expenses. I don't know of any credible and experienced sources who would suggest that this will be over as quickly as the first Gulf War, so let's pull a number out of the air and say it'll take 4 times as long (about six months). That comes to $112 billion dollars, all born by the U.S. (and possibly Britain). We're probably talking about more, which means at least a 50% increase in defense spending, when we're already spending money we don't have.

So, ignoring my own gut instinct to not trust Bush, we're still talking about a governmental action that will cost over a hundred billion dollars (and no one knows how many lives), risk further destabilizing an already volatile area, give our enemies a big PR boost, and set a very disturbing foreign policy precedent.

Friday, September 27, 2002

Cold Fury has a post up on 13 Questions for Appeasers. Aside from the fact that he tries to shift the burden of proof onto those who *don't* want to attack another sovereign nation with no apparent and direct provocation (which is a nice trick if you can pull it off) and the fact that by referring to his opponents as The Appeasers (the rhetorical equivalent of naming those who agree with him as The Imperialists) he indicates that he's probably not interested in an actual and serious debate, they're good questions. I'll do my best to honestly interpret the questions before answering them briefly (some direct quoting may result, and I give him all credit).

1. Can you present any evidence that inspections will work? We've been told many times that the inspections put his WMD production back several years. Of course, since it's been several years since we did any inspections, that's all the more reason to start them up again.

2. Do you truly believe that Saddam is no threat to the US and has no wish to attack us? I believe he would love to attack us, and, as Mike points out, he shoots at us pretty much whenever we fly over. While he is highly ambitious and often lied to by advisors, he also has a strong sense of self-preservation. That inhibits the threat. And if we have intelligence of a real, impending threat, I believe we should take appropriate action, up to and including the use of military threat. But I'm not convinced that's the case.

3. Do you really believe invading Iraq would hurt the war on terror? Yes. Our enemies in the war on terror have falsely accused this nation of arrogant imperialism, but Bush's actions teeter on the edge of that very attitude. His National Security Manifesto flat out says, "This is our world, and y'all are just living in it." The belief that we as a nation have the right to invade another sovereign nation merely because our leaders say that it is a threat is a belief that has led many nations down the road to empire, and thereby to ruin. I'd like to see us last.

4. Really? Or are you just pretending to support the war on terror? I've always supported it. I haven't supported every action we've taken, such as the cowardly suspension of certain previously assumed rights, but I believe that we needed to take military action against Al Qaeda.

5. This one's a direct quote: "Do you truly believe that the US should and must subordinate all decisions on how to properly defend its citizenry and its national interests to a fractious international body made up of unelected representatives sent by governments who are openly hostile to the US in many cases?" Nope. Just when it involves invading another sovereign nation. Seriously, when even our closest allies are skeptical at best, it's a sign we might be on the wrong path. I'll just say this, Mike: If you refuse to listen when your closest friends are trying to steer you straight, then what do you have friends for?

6. .......

You know what, I'm tired of trying to twist these back into reasonable questions. Mike, call me when you're willing to at least try to see the other side. There is a legitimate argument to be made against invading Iraq, just as there is one to be made in favor of it. I haven't heard it from very many people, though.
Jack Chick On Israel - I thought the author of that classic of American literature, The Death Cookie had gone on to his great reward, but I was mistaken. He's still out there churning out cartoon booklets. Here's a taste: "In 1933, Catholic Germany, serving the Vatican, launched a 20th century inquisition, murdering 6 million Jews. Instead, God destroyed Hitler...and his dream!" God also, apparently, destroyed the British empire for failing to adequatedly support immigration to Palestine.

It's amazing what you can learn from reading the comics.
John Derbyshire on French Literature - "The less said about my interaction - I mean, total lack of interaction - with Proust, the better; the last time I wrote about that, I got pulled over and ticketed by the Poofter Patrol."

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Buffy Blogburst - I've long since given up on trying to convert people to Buffyism. In Joss' words, "If you refuse to watch a show because it's called 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' then we don't want you to watch." Or words to that effect. But I slacked off last season because the shows just weren't doing it for me. There wasn't great angst or great comedy, and I had enough drama in my own life that I was just as likely not to watch as to watch. But the premiere was hella great, and I'll definitely be watching.

Oh, and here's a related thought: last Friday, I watched Firefly and John Doe both. Firefly has a concept that's an amalgam of dozens of familiar stories, while John Doe has a concept that's both original and interesting. But I doubt I'll watch John Doe, while Firefly could become a favorite, because Firefly is well-written, and John Doe is actively annoying. The voiceovers are wooden, the dialogue is trite, and every action is telegraphed in advance. It's just no fun to watch, and I'm all about fun.
Waytoopersonals.com - Courtesy of G. Beato.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Breakup Songs

Soundtrack for a Recovering Romantic - I've been working on a list of great break-up songs. Actually, I've just been listening to a bunch of sappy music, but I feel the need to document the songs that have been the most helpful to me. Not that I'm actually over her, so maybe the songs haven't helped, but merely prolong the agony. Hard to say, really. But here goes:

  Melissa Etheridge - The Prison (off Skin). Actually, this is more of a great breakup album. But this is the cream of the crop.

  Jane Monheit - Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most (off Come Dream With Me). Another great album. And I'm Through With Love is, perhaps, the quintessential breakup song.

  Randal Bramblett - End of the String and Disappearing Ink (No More Mr. Lucky). Both truly great breakup songs. Impossible to pick a winner here.

  Train - Drops of Jupiter. Feeds the "she'll miss me and come back sooner or later" fantasy, but still a great song.

  Big Smith - Big Rock. "When the fish bite, who needs a honey? And by the firelight, who's counting money?" and "All I need is a tin of tobacco, and a little hippie hay to get me through the day." It's as good a recipe for romantic triage as I've heard.

  Tori Amos - Little Earthquakes. "Give me life, give me pain, give me myself again" repeated like a mantra.

  The Rainmakers - No Romance. This one's self-explanatory, even if you've never heard it. Also, The One That Got Away, just to properly ironize the pain.

  Suicidal Tendencies - Can't Bring Me Down. When you need to pick up the pace a little.

  Warren Zevon - Empty Handed Heart. I'd actually call this my number one breakup song, even though I haven't listened to it for about a year. But the last time I did, it worked like an emotional emetic. So good it has its own blog entry.

That's my list for now, but I'm sure I'm leaving some stuff off. Any suggestions?

2011 Addendum - A Buzz Out Loud segment dedicated to breakup songs reminded me of this post, so I came back to it and added links to the songs where possible.  As has been the case for years, if you don't already own the Rainmakers, you're probably not going to be able to find them. Sorry.
A Link From Meesh - A simple question, and I get a nice link in response. And, yes, for the record, I do think Meesh rules.

On a related note (the question had to do with tall women dating shorter men), I'm going to a LOTR-themed Halloween party (yes, I am that much of a geek), and will be going as Frodo. Here's a pic of the costume. Sure, it's a bit goofy, but if Meesh can post this, then I can sure as hell post a pic of myself dressed as a hobbit.
Nobody ever tells me anything! - As a Mike, you'd think I'd know about this, but it completely slipped past me. For the record, while I have been "the other man" twice, neither girl broke up with her boyfriend for me. In the first case, he broke up with her (and later became one of my best friends, while she, as far as I know, still hates me). In the second, they stayed together at least long enough for me to leave town and never see either of them again. I must be doing something wrong.
Lileks on Saddam. Again. - Normally, I'm a big fan of Lileks' writing, but whenever he starts beating the drum on Iraq, I do my best to just bleep over it and skim until he gets to a cute story about Gnat. As with most of his writing on Iraq, this piece comes down mostly to emotion. He doesn't like Gore; he trusts Bush. Now, I come down on the opposite side of that equation, so I guess it's no surprise that James and I disagree. But I wouldn't characterize myself as a dove.

Like William Saletan, I'm inclined to think the truth lies somewhere in between the two extremes. In fact, Tim Noah does a pretty good job of articulating my position while trying to answer the question of whether Gore has flip-flopped on Iraq. If you can't bring yourself to read it, here's the Reader's Digest version: Bush has said, again and again, that he is opposed to nation building (and his record in Afghanistan backs this up). Once we've defeated Iraq, nation building is going to be absolutely necessary to world and regional stability. So Bush is not the best person to be taking us to war with Iraq. In fact, he might be the worst.

You can feel free to call me a coward over this. Question my patriotism, compare me to Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag, whatever makes you happy. But we're talking about an actual war. With shooting. On both sides. I do know more than one person in the military, but I'll pick one as an example. Matt's an army ranger. Now, we're not particularly good friends. In fact, we've only met a couple of times. But I his wife and my ex-wife are very close, and I got to know her pretty well. So, for me, any proposed military action has to pass the Lisa test. If Matt gets killed in action, and Lisa asks me why, what do I tell her? If he died in Afghanistan, going after Al-Qaeda, then at least I'd know why, and I'd know that he died doing what he signed up to do: defend our country.

But Iraq? I don't even know what the why is supposed to be. Every time I turn on the TV, our supposed leaders give another reason, like they're shooting spitwads at the ceiling to see which ones'll stick.

James, here's a thought experiment for you. Imagine Gnat's 19 years old and in the reserves. Now how do you feel about Iraq? Is it worth the risk? Is it worth risking your daughter's life?

Monday, September 23, 2002

The Fine Line Between Crudity and Poetry just got a little finer. Here's how Kevin Smith describes the shooting of his new film Jersey Girl: "I wish I had dish to write about -- like how shit's falling apart, or who's fucking with our movie at the moment. But the truth is, it's blowjobs all around, as things couldn't be going more smoothly -- which may make for a boring column, but sure makes for a great movie."

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Jesus Christ! - William Saletan on Bush's new National Security Manifesto. Tell you what. Go type "United States Manifesto" into Google and see what you come up with. Or just click here if you're lazy. One interesting sounding record label and the ravings of a bunch of lunatics. (I am including Karl Marx, who was a brilliant lunatic, but a lunatic nonetheless.) Do we really want the U.S. Government, with the most powerful military in the world, to start behaving as if it belonged in that crowd?

Read Saletan's summary, then go read the Manifesto itself. And then email me and tell me about it, because I don't have the patience to read god knows how many pages of rationalization and loopy logic. I did read the overview, and it's charming, if you read it skeptically. Here's the very beginning:
The United States possesses unprecedented— and unequaled—strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.
Not bad, right? It's all about using our power responsibly. Well, yeah, that's one read. But here's the skeptical sentence by sentence translation: We're in charge. Because of our values, we can't just stand by and watch you let the world go to hell. We're in charge, and we're telling you how it's going to be.

Yes, that's a very skeptical reading. Almost Sontagian in level. But we're not exactly talking about a regime that's really made a big deal about caring about freedom. They ignored the Taliban, even courted them, until they were shown, in graphic detail, just how fucked up they were. They still think Saudi Arabia (Saudi Arabia!!!) is the model for how the Middle East should be! If they gave a shit about freedom, then they'd realize that freedom, in all of its wildness, in all of its dangers, in all its ugliness, is the only thing that can save the Middle East. Look at Iran. When I was in high school, every other word on TV would be Iran, because Iran would be foaming at the mouth with joy at September 11th. They hated us more than Iraq did. But that was because we'd held up a dictator who constantly fought the will of the people, and eventually the people kicked his ass out. But the pendulum swung back into religious oppression, and the people are again saying, No, thank you, but we'd rather be free. And therefore Iran is changing. Government is a boiler, and freedom of expression and participation is the blowoff valve that keeps things from exploding.

Historically, there is a dialectic between freedom and totalitarianism, and it would be naive to say that freedom wins in the end just because we happen to be on that side of the spectrum. History is still happening, and unless we fuck something up majorly, people 500 years from now will look back at us the way we look at the Elizabethans, or the Ming Dynasty. And when I look back then, the people I admire the most are the ones on the side of freedom. Hell, Shakespeare alone is worth all the Alexander Popes in the world. Catullus is more interesting than Cicero. So if Bush is interested in starting some kind of Pax Americana, then I feel a strong duty to stand up and say, "I don't like where this is headed."

I think this is a hell of a country, and there is no other one I'd rather call my home. But I don't quite think we're ready to tell the world how to live just yet. And even if we were, how much sense does it make to say, "We be believe in freedom, so we're going to do whatever we need to do wherever we need to do it in order to maintain that freedom, and there's nothing you can say or do about it!"

On the bright side, the midterm elections are coming up, and the vast, vast majority of people that I talk to are not yet convinced that going to war with Iraq solves more problems than it creates. And there's always the possibility that Bush is very, very intelligent, and that this is all some kind of double-blind bluff maneuver to drive Saddam into accepting weapons inspections so we can disarm him, while gradually moving the rest of the Middle East toward democratic regimes (that must be what's going on in all those meetings at the ranch with Prince Bandar bin Sultan (Prince Sultan? Isn't that a bit like Major Major? Hmmm....)). That must be what's really going on. That's what's really going on. Bush isn't running the country like a 12 year old at the wheel of a propane truck. Everything's going to be fine. Hey, when's the Buffy season premiere?

Friday, September 20, 2002

A Little Bit of Beauty - Go read Sarah Hepola's new article. It's a hell of a piece of work. She pulls off something really tricky, a story that's really just a string of moments, but it doesn't come across as "this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened..." but she also resists the urge to find some overarching theme to tie them all together. She lets the mood of the piece be the unifying factor, and trusts the words to carry the poetry of the day without her getting in the way.

Sarah, all I can say is that I hope you worked hard on it, because if you just tossed this off, then I'm jealous as hell.
Watching Oprah - I've got a migraine today, so I came home early. It took a while to decide to leave, but at some point I realized that I wasn't getting anything done, which is more or less the reason for sick time. It's kind of odd to find myself developing a work ethic at this late date in life. I'd figured it had permanently atrophied.

Being home now means Oprah is on. Actually, it just ended, and she took the opportunity to plug Oxygen, for people still Jonesing for even more Oprah. She had Bono on talking about Africa and what needs to be done in order to save that continent. The gist of Bono's message is that it is very much to the shame of the developed countries have stood by and watched Africa go to hell. And, well, he's right. But he faces one big obstacle: as individuals, we are only moved to action when the motivating emotion (shame, in this case) reaches a high enough point that it over comes our instinct to inertia. But I guess that's why going on Oprah is a good thing. Oprah is, more or less, a pipeline to the emotional world of our country.

A lot of people throw a lot of nasty words at Oprah, but I've got to admit, I'm a fan. If I were home in time, I'd probably watch it most days. But I'm not, so I just get it filtered through Dionne, who reads the magazine, or through the critisphere, most of whom are so desperate to not appear to be a "fan", so desperate to protect their status as "critics" that they fall into cynicism. This is my take on Oprah: at some point, she found herself famous, and decided to use her status in order to improve the world according to her views on what that world should look like. I completely understand critics who disagree with her views, critics whose ideal world looks nothing like Oprah's. If so, then you've got a choice, either put forward your own ideas, or tear down somebody else's. I guess it's easier to take the negative path, but it's certainly more effective to put out your own ideas and see how people react. Right now, of course, Oprah seems to be winning that particular popularity contest, which is fine by me, really. I'd much rather live in a world run by Oprah and Dr. Phil than one run by Dick Cheney and John Ashcroft.
In the Spirit of Mighty Girl
Me: Have I told you lately that you're cool?
Her: No. Thanks. Are you calling me cold?
Me: No, I'm calling you cool.
Her: Cuz some people have called me cold...
Me: Yeah, well, some people have called me open.
Her: Good point.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

I've been thinking about the whole "how much should I share" issue I wrote about below. I won't say I've really come to any real conclusions, but I have had some interesting thoughts. Fish pointed out that any future somebody that judged me harshly based on what I'm going through now would be, in her words, "a tart." She went on to say, "Don't let some hypothetical tart stifle you." Every time I sit down to write, I end up haunted by the specter of various people saying, "Was that supposed to be me?" "I never said that!" or "Why didn't you tell me about this in person? Why am I reading it in a book?" and I end up not telling the truth as it appears to me.

I'm going to experiment, for a while, at least, with living an open book. If I'm having a bad day, I'll write about having a bad day, and the same for good days. At the same time, I do have to respect the fact that not all of my friends want their lives to be open books, so I'll will reserve the right to hold back from time to time.

What about dating? - It's not hard to see the dangers inherent in blogging about your dating life under your real name. And while I would certainly ask that somebody kick my ass if I ever type the words "I hope I get a hand job" in this blog, it's still dangerous. Just as a f'rinstance, I had a single date this spring with a girl I met through Match.com. As it happened, she wasn't interested, and I wasn't interested if she wasn't interested. But if it was me to say "no thanks" then I'd want her to find out directly from me, not from my blog. But I think I'll be okay if I follow the same rules in blogging as I do in life (1. Be kind. 2. Think before you hit submit 3. Have the guts to say what you're thinking/feeling).

My real fear in blogging about my feelings is that I'll meet some incredible girl, and she'll read my blog and decide that she's outta here because I'm not over my ex-wife yet. But the simple fact is that I'm not over my ex-wife yet, and probably shouldn't be dating anyone.* I still think about her every damn day, and often to the point where I have trouble breathing. In the last two weeks, I've dreamed about Carrie all but 4 nights, and those moments when I was with her in my dreams were the happiest I've had in the last 16 months. And then I wake up.

I have happy moments in my waking life, as well, though. I've been practicing Kenpo for a little over a year now, and I'm really enjoying it. "Enjoying" doesn't even really cover it. For the first time in years, I feel like I really live in my body. When I'm practicing Kenpo, I'm having to think with my whole mind and my whole body, which means there's no room left in my head for Carrie, or work, or anything else. Plus it's fun. It's also exhausting, frustrating, and confusing, but that's all kind of fun, too.

There are moments, here and there, when I feel like I've risen up above my life, far enough that I can see out of this valley I'm stuck in, and I see that I have a good life, with amazing friends, a nice house, the world coolest cat, and so much more that really do make me one of the luckiest of the earth. And then there are the moments when I look in the mirror, and all I can see is the man that she left, and all I can think of is the love that I got to hold in my hands for a few moments before it flitted away.

That's my life: sometimes I miss her so much I can't breathe, other times I feel lucky to be alive. At any given point in time, I might be anywhere along that spectrum, or I might be several places at once. For a while, I tried to control what I felt, tried to "work on" getting over her. I've given up on that. I can't control how I feel, nor would I want to. I am still in love with my wife, and I will continue to be so for as long...well, for as long as I am, I suppose. But I can work on learning to ride in the eye of the hurricane. It's not healthy to be totally in control of your emotions, but it's no more healthy for your emotions to be in total control of you.

* At the moment, I am not dating, nor am I interested in dating. In all honesty, the thought of letting myself become emotionally attached to another human being scares the hell out of me right now. But I am aware of the fact that, time being time, I will eventually meet someone who is, to me, worth the risk. But my threshold is extremely high right now. So high, in fact, that the only person above it is Carrie, who I would welcome back into my life tomorrow even if I knew with absolute certainty that she would break my heart. Because she's worth it. Is that stupid? Or romantic? Is there even a difference, when it comes to this kind of thing?

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

Mighty Girl is engaged. Let the gnashing of teeth and rending of cloth begin.

Oh, and there are comments now.
It's one of those moments. I should be trying to figure out how to structure this query I need to build, but, as has been happening all too often lately, my brain is being uncooperative. It would rather think about ... and here we are again in the realm of how much do I put on my blog about what's going on in my life. If this were an anonymous blog, I could write all I want about my iffy emotional state, but as it is I can't help but think of what people will think. I'm abstaining from romance right now, but that won't last forever. Do I really want a girl to come home from a date with me, google me (hey, I'd google her), and end up reading what I was thinking and feeling while trying to get over my divorce?

It's a dialectic, really, between privacy and openness. I don't particularly want to do the stoic guy bullshit thing where I always pretend I'm fine. But I don't want to do the shrinking violet emotionally scarred thing, either. I'll follow the same rules in blog as I do in life, I guess. If you want to know, ask. And if asked, I promise to tell the truth. Mostly. As much as I'm capable of, anyway, given the limits of objectivity and my own need to edit reality to make a better story.