Friday, January 30, 2004

A nice (and by nice, I mean nasty) illustration of both the cause and results of flag burning and desecration laws. I remember seeing Clavell's "A Children's Story" when I was a kid and finding it creepy as hell, and it planted seeds in me that grew into questions about propaganda, indoctrination, and education. So why am I not surprised to see students disqualified for performing it?

Jeez, on Wednesday I write about anti-flag burning types not being able to handle complexity, and on Friday I read a story perfectly illustrating the point. Kinda creepy, really.
It's the Charisma, Stupid!
The Missouri primary's just a few days away, and I'm struggling to decide between Dean and Edwards. Dean's got the experience and background to do a great job, but everybody I talk to either loves him or hates him, and the media's already pigeonholed him. That's a problem. Edwards has charisma in spades, good policy ideas, and the media story on him is that he's a golden boy on the rise. My only worry about him is his lack of executive experience, but a good vice president could definitely fill that gap. I'd suggest Dean, but I understand they don't get along.

Like every other right thinking person, my first priority in voting it to get Bush out of office. He's fucking up our country, and needs to be fired. But Kerry's the front runner, and I think he's very nearly the least electable of the bunch. And as I've said before, Clark's out, at least for me. That leaves Edwards and Dean, both of whom I like I lot, both of whom I'd be excited to vote for. I'm more confident of Dean's ability to govern well than Edwards, but more confident of Edwards ability to get elected.

If only Edwards would make an appearance on the Daily Show, this would all be so much easier.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

After New Hampshire, it looks like we're down to Edwards, Dean and Kerry. Clark seems to be losing steam, but I'll keep him in the mix for now. From what I've read and who I've talked to, the number one factor in who folks vote for seems to be "electability", or the ability to defeat Bush. What are the factors there?

Personality and Charisma. I've watched all the candidates speak on the tube, none of them live, so I think my experience is probably similar to the 'average American' (as if such a beast existed). Here are my impressions. Clark seems forced and awkward, but comes across as competent. Kerry's dull as dishwater, and the content of his speeches is either generic rhetoric or the standard Democratic proposals. Edwards knows how to set a room on fire, and he really seems to get the economic issues that divide our nation, but I don't get a clear sense of what he wants to do about it. Dean's a strong speaker and projects passion, competence and honesty. He's not particularly patient with stupid questions, which hurts him with the media, and he's not great at apologizing. Advantage Dean, but that's a matter of taste.

Experience. Clark's a four-star general, Kerry's been a senator since 1984, and Dean was governor for 11 years. Edwards was a trial lawyer, then served one term as senator. He's just not in the same league as the rest of them. So it comes down to senator, governor, or general. Being a senator is very different from being president, and while they keep running, no sitting senator has won a presidential election since Kennedy. Not to mention that with the reputation the Democratic party has in this country, having been a part of their power structure since 1984 is not really a virtue. Our country's a damn mess after three years of Shrub, and fixing it is going to take tough decisions, discipline, and a willing to make some unpopular choices. Deservedly or not, these are not things that leap to mind when folks think of the Democratic party. Advantage Dean and Clark. Call it a tie. Some might argue that Clark, being career military, doesn't have real political experience, but more than one Army vet has told me that anyone colonel or above is a politician, and I believe it.

Biography. This is press shorthand for "where were you born?" In a field of four men, we have two from wealthy backgrounds and two working class. But Edwards is the only one for whom biography seems to matter, possibly because he's so young, though not nearly as young as he looks (is he feeding off Kerry or something)? As far as the rest, what they've done with their lives matters much more to me than the circumstances they were born into. So Edwards is a rich lawyer, Kerry is a rich politician, Dean is a rich doctor, and Clark is a retired general, which to me (speaking as a typically ill-informed average American) means that he's not rich, but won't be missing any meals, either, thanks to powerful friends and a pension. The fact that Dean walked away from Wall Street to go to medical school does make me think well of him, though. It indicates that he probably values something more than money and power. That's not to say that being a doctor can't be an ego trip, just that it's a different kind than politics, law or the military. Finally, as a doctor he was dealing every day with objective reality, whereas Kerry and Edwards both live in a world that is almost entirely socially constructed. Why this is a good thing, I'll leave as an exercise for the reader. Advantage Dean.

Policies and positions. Edwards' main position seems to be that he cares. If there's more to it than that, it hasn't filtered down to my level of indifference. Kerry's pretty much a generic Democrat, with all that implies. I haven't heard any of Clark's domestic policies, but I have heard him speak approvingly of a constitutional amendment banning flag burning, which leads me to pigeonhole him as an emotional thinker who makes his decisions with a part of his body other than his brain and doesn't deal well with complexity. I could go on, but instead I'll just say that the flag burning amendment is an indicator issue, in that how a candidate comes down on it tells me a lot about who they are as a person, and I don't like what this says about Clark. Dean's a moderate and a fiscal conservative, and he seems to favor actually solving the problem over placing and/or escaping blame. And he has a track record of balancing budgets while doing so, which is exactly what we need. Advantage Dean.

Media-Savvy. Dean really gets the Internet, but isn't so good with the rest of the press, which has hurt him tremendously. Of course, their main game seems to be "pile on the leader" so now that Kerry's winning, maybe Dean will get a fairer shake. In which case losing Iowa and New Hampshire was a brilliant strategy. Edwards is a wizard with the media, as he's just as twinkly as they are, and they love people who pretend to care about them. Kerry puts them to sleep so quickly they never get a chance to write about how dull he is. As for Clark, they love his biography more than they love him. Of course, none of them know how to play the press like the Republicans do. Advantage Karl Rove.

Crossover voters. Everybody I know in education, many of whom voted for Bush last time, is in or moving towards the "Anybody But Bush" camp, thanks to No Child Left Behind. Moderates are put off by his radically conservative stances on social issues, fiscal conservatives by his profligate spending, and hardliners by his blatant political pandering. In the New Hampshire primaries, 4,632 registered Republicans wrote in one of the Democratic candidates for president. That's 7% that were pissed off enough to come in and flip the bird to their own party. Not a good sign for Bush.

A moderate candidate stands a much better chance of luring those voters away from Bush than a generic democrat, not to mention the many thousands of independents and almost-voters out there. Advantage Dean, but only if the media actually tells the truth about him (which is certainly not a guarantee).

That's my take on the electability issue as well as a pretty good explanation of why I'm a Dean fan.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Trestle Table
I've been wanting to start throwing dinner parties and that sort of thing again (plus I'm tired of eating at the coffee table), but most of the tables you see in stores are scaled for the huge McMansions they build these days, not small houses like mine. I had a picture in my head of the kind of table I wanted, but didn't have much luck finding it for a reasonable price out there in the world. So I figured out what I wanted to do, and two weekends later, here it is.

I took my inspiration from a Canadian woodworking site, but tweaked the plans to fit my needs, skills, and budget. I wanted something longer but narrower than the plans specified, and I didn't have the patience, tools, or skill to give my table the sleek, contemporary look of theirs. Also, I used dimensional lumber, the cheapest wood in the world, rather than the black walnut they opted for. Instead, I opted to make a virtue of necessity and gave my table a weathered patina, even to the point of whacking on the tabletop with a three pound sledge to add to the patina, and using a combination of red and black stains to highlight the wild, knotty grain of the pine.

Not counting the time involved, the table cost me about $75 all told, and that's including a couple of tools I bought specifically for this project and a number of mistakes. The site is right when it says those half-lap joints are a pain in the ass, and I have the wooden Xs in my basement to prove it.

So that's my latest creation. Next on the list is a bed for Theron and Dionne, though I'm always nervous about building stuff for other people. I'm never fully satisfied with any of my projects, and I hate the thought of other people having to live with my mistakes.
Well, the Dean interview on the Daily Show was nice, and, frankly, it's about damn time. But there's no way he can top the Carol Moseley Braun interview, when she criticized the persistent negativity of the Bush administration by saying "fear is the mind killer."
Why Wonkette Rocks:
At the end of a catalog of media navel-gazing and circle jerking re: the New Hampshire primary, she sums it all up thusly:

"Well, this article reminds us a lot of ancient Greece as well, because it's a bunch of stodgy old fucks blowing each other. "
Slate has an electability whack-a-mole game up. They give you a list of possible negatives, and you select them in order of which you think most hurts a candidates electability. Interestingly, after all the crap that's been thrown at Dean, he came up the winner when I selected being a dull speaker and the $45 million spending cap until August, which I think are the two most damaging negatives going into this campaign.

BTW, if you've sent me an email and I haven't replied, it may be because of the enormous volume of "message returned" emails I'm getting (about 150 per day since yesterday). Either I've been spoofed, or it's this virus thing everyone's talking about. Since I'm iffy on the details of how the virus works, it's hard to be sure, but either way, some fun, huh?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Somebody got to my blog the other day through the Google search string "typical Missourian men". And while I'm probably not exactly the typical Missouri man, I like to think we're a more sophisticated state than we generally get credit for. And then I see something like this in my hometown paper. With recipes.
USA Today factchecks the State of the Union address.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

So What Is This Love Thing, Anyway?
This post has been floating around in the back of my head now for a while. Usually when that's happening, a post on somebody else's blog will knock it loose. This time, it was This Fish Needs a Bicycle, with a post called The Stayer. To be horribly reductive, she's being pursued by this guy who's nice, stable, etc. and, well, you can imagine the rest. She just doesn't feel "that thing". Her question to herself (and it's an excellent question) is whether she's addicted to drama and needs to retrain herself to go after a nicer class of men.

If I say that I've just been through something similar, it'll give the wrong impression, but I'll say it anyway: I've just been through something similar. When Christie and I first started seeing each other, though, the part of me in charge of "that thing" was broken. Like an old car that starts only when the weather's dry and the wind just right, I got flutters and flashes of something that might have been love, but there was so much noise going on inside my head that I couldn't tell.

Christie had her own issues, having been married previously to... Let's just say she was reasonably gun-shy about committment. She's also compassionate and patient, which made her willing to sit through my hemming, hawing and equivocating. Ultimately, though, when it comes to the question of why she stayed, you'd have to ask her. I'm just glad she did.

For more than a year, then, we tried to dance with one foot out the door, and we did all right, I suppose. Whenever a major holiday came up, we'd retreat to our corners and nurse our wounds, and the rest of the time kept to a fairly strict schedule when it came to spending time together: one evening during the week, one night on the weekends.

Halloween 2002 was a turning point. We had plans to go down to Springfield for a party. Not only would we be spending a major holiday together, but it would be a 4-day weekend, the longest we'd ever spent in one another's company. Two days before we were to leave, my grandfather died, and I suddenly had a funeral to attend 3 hours away from the intended festivities. We stuck to the plan, however, except that I left her for 24 hours in the company of my friends (who she barely knew) while I went to the visitation and funeral. Needless to say, it was not The Best Halloween Ever. In fact, we were both pretty bitchy the night of, and barely spoke on the drive back to Columbia. The real turning point, I guess, was that we kept seeing each other.

For Christmas, we exchanged gifts, but she was with her family and I was with mine. Valentine's we decided to "pretend" we were in love, and she got me a 2,000 year old bronze ring (actually, several of them in a beautiful puzzle box), and I wrote her a poem that thanked her for waiting with me on the edge of the dance floor "until my foot began to tap". We told each other we were faking it, but we both knew what was going on in our hearts.

Of course that I knew I was falling in love didn't mean I was happy about it. The sight of a hairclip on the bedroom floor would trigger a flashback, and suddenly I'd be terrified, as my brain filled with all the ways it could go wrong. Sorry, scratch that. Would go wrong. We were doomed. Doomed, I tell you!

Sometimes, it goes without saying, the voices in my head become a problem. But if there's one thing I've learned in the last three years, it's that most of the voices in my head are not my friends, and they lie. So I put my hands over my ears, sing the "I can't hear you" song, and go on with my life. Because that's what it is: my life. Not theirs. It's a question of who's in charge, and I refuse to let the lunatics run the asylum.

There's a concept in Buddhism called the "near enemy". Every positive emotion, they say, has a near enemy, something that looks very much like the positive thing, but negative. Call it an "evil twin" if you're not comfortable with Buddhism. And love's evil twin is selfish attachment, clinginess, or whatever else you want to call it. Love's evil twin is what made me think, when Carrie left, that I was dying, but it's love that lets me hope she finds happiness. And it's love that lightens my load when Christie's around. And even when she isn't.

Another turning point came a few weeks ago. Carrie had been over to pick up the last of her stuff, and the whole experience had been depressing, frustrating, poignant and a half-dozen other half-dollar words. I took some time to put the feeling into smaller words, then sat on the front porch with a cigarette. I was stewing, and I knew it. My thoughts were running around in a little circle, and it was obvious that they'd be doing that all night, no matter what entertainments I threw in their way. Christie was across town at a game night with friends, probably playing Boggle. Maybe Cranium. I could see them all laughing and enjoying one another's company. Six months before (or maybe even as little as six weeks before), the image would have made me even sadder as I pictured some unbridgeable gap between that happiness and my sorrow, but now I saw that the gap was about two miles wide, and that there were good roads the whole way.

It was a simple choice, really. If I stayed home, I was in for an all night pity party, and the only time I'd be happy that night would be when I was thinking of Christie. Or I could get in my car and actually be with her in less than five minutes. The light on her face when she turned around and saw me come in the door sparked an anwering flare in me, and I haven't looked back. Well, okay, actually I have looked back. Sorry, the rhetoric kind of carried me away there for a second. I've looked back and seen that what I thought of as love was shaped more by movies and rock songs than actual lived experience, and that I'd let those stories carry me away from the real life. I've seen the choices my life presents, and I choose to be happy. But I also know that a fire needs to be fed, and love is the same. Luckily, Christie's the type that likes chopping wood, as do I.

There are other turning points that I'm neglecting, of course. Like helping Theron and Dionne prep their nursery for painting, when Theron asked "So, when are you guys moving in together?" What can I say? He has a slightly different version of the Best Friend Handbook than most people. But it gave us a push. The good kind.

Or early, early on, when Christie send me an email catalog of all the things that had gone wrong in her day. It might have been just your standard bitchfest, but she ended it with *le sigh*, and my brain exploded in a wonderful bouquet of hearts and stars and little twittering birds, though it'd be months before I could acknowledge to myself what had happened.

What can I say? She sends me.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

So, Kerry won the caucus with 38%, Edwards came in second with 32%, and Dean came up third with 18%. My thoughts? I'll work my way up from the bottom.

Most of Dean's support was supposedly in new voters, and the caucus system tends to discourage those. If you've never done it before, how likely are you to drive into town to spend a few hours talking politics with a bunch of strangers, especially when your candidate is the target of so much negativity? The fact that it was below zero in most of Iowa last night adds to the discouragement. His turnout was low enough to fall below the line of viability in many areas, which meant that his votes went to someone else (probably Edwards, but that's just a guess based on Kerry's negative campaigning against Dean), or weren't counted at all. If those votes counted, then the race might have looked more like 38/32/25, which is not nearly as poor a showing for Dean.

Still, a week ago, Dean was the presumed winner, so this is a blow, and a reminder to us all how hard it is to win when the press doesn't like you. We can complain all we want that the press are a bunch of shallow, image-obsessed Heathers (which they are, and I will), but to win, a candidate has to seduce them one way or another. The central problem here is seducing the press and the public at the same time, when so much of the public dislikes Bush and is looking for substance and integrity, while the press loves Bush and craves only the appearance of integrity and a veneer of substance. The real thing freaks them out, as it's completely foreign to them.

What about Edwards? I've always liked him, but frankly know very little about him. I suspect his success is based partly on a relentless positive campaign and partly on the fact that the press has ignored him. They won't be ignoring him anymore, and if Kerry stays true to character, I expect some flak will start flying his way (I've already heard about one crack Kerry made about Edwards' youth). Personally, I hope he stands up under the fire.

Now, onto Kerry. I've gotta admit, there's not a single thing about Kerry that gets me excited in a positive way. I'm okay with his policies, but they're just your basic generic Democratic stuff. The fact that he was a war hero is great, as far as it goes, but the fact that he showed great courage 35 years ago means nothing to me if I have to read that far back into his biography to find signs of courage, and I feel like I do. His campaign has been marked by boilerplate rhetoric and an enthusiasm for attacks that concentrated more on the way things were said than on the actual point. In other words, all surface and no substance, politics as usual. No wonder the media likes him so much.

If Kerry wins the nomination, I can't deny I'll be disappointed, but I'll still vote for him. If it's Dean or Edwards, however, I'd be out there walking the streets, handing out literature, stuffing envelopes, or whatever I could do to help.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Get your glow on...

If you've ever seen a digital photo that just seems to glow, here's a quick and easy explanation of how to get that effect in just a few minutes using Photoshop. I grabbed a copy of one of my favorite pictures of Christie, and here's how it turned out.
Except for a few months here and there, I've lived in Missouri my whole life, so when I tell you that Gephardt is a boring, white-bread schmuck, it's not an opinion I've come to recently, it's the result of years of exhaustive research. Of course, when you're dealing with a boring, white-bread schmuck like Gephardt, just listening to one speech is exhausting enough. But it's MLK day and caucus day, and I don't want to spend too much time tearing down someone who might, if hell freezes over, be running against Bush in the fall. And rest assured, if Gephardt wins the nomination, I'll be voting for him, though I'll likely have to stifle a yawn as I do so.

Why am I telling you this? Because Salon's article on this weekend's last minute rallies in Iowa contains a sentence that, in a just world, would torpedo Gephardt's campaign: "Gephardt, whose most important endorsements in Iowa were probably from the heads of the unions that provide most of his strength, went in a slightly different direction by producing singer Michael Bolton to sing at one of his events." Boring, white-bread schmuck. I rest my case.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I've updated the blogroll for those of you keeping track from home. It's based on my real-life surfing habits, so some links passed away and new ones took their place. Feel free to take a moment.

Also, there are categories now for your (and my) convenience. Please keep in mind that many blogs resist categorization, but I did it anyway. Also please note that "Chicks" is a terribly sexist word, and can lead to serious misunderstandings and/or grievous personal injury. As a longtime feminist, I have been thoroughly trained in the use of such words, but they are not for amateurs. Do not try this at home.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Defective Yeti says Return of the King is an allegory for pregnancy:

"But as bad as the journey is, it's the ending that truly sucks: the agony of carrying the burden is nothing compared to letting it go. The bearer gets all, like, 'I can't do it, it's impossible!'and the companion stands around heming and hawing and lamely asserting 'sure you can!' And then, out of nowhere, a creepy-looking bald-headed creature comes onto the scene."

I'll admit, I was skeptical at first, but he totally convinced me.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Ran across a letter to the editor of my local paper railing on Bush (this is not unusual). The writer ended his letter with a call for term limits and campaign finance reform. But if the problem is short-term thinking, are term limits really the solution? I'm as opposed to dynasties as anyone, but I'm also a big believer in the law of unintended consequences, and right now I'm wondering whether knowing they'll be out of office by the time the chickens come home to roost might not encourage our presidents to seek quick fixes that might actually make things worse in the long run (like deficit spending).

Monday, January 12, 2004

Mike's Second Law
There is always a third alternative.
Kottke has a post up on Edge magazine's Question of the Year. It's What's Your Law? The idea is that any reasonably intelligent person will have come up with at least two Laws that govern life. In that spirit, here are mine. Technically, though, one's a law, one's more of a principle.

Mike's Law
The amount of energy a person or a piece of mail expends on proclaiming its own importance is inversely proportional to its actual importance.

Mike's Razor
When more than one hypothesis fit the available data, believe whichever one makes you happiest unless and until contravening data is found.

Friday, January 09, 2004

She was out of focus all evening, past and present not quite matching up, like red and blue in a bad 3D photo, but after we loaded the last box into her storage unit and moved together for a goodbye hug, they snapped together around a growing glimmer in the corner of her eye, and then we came apart and drove our separate ways into a new year.
John Dean on the Plame scandal and "conspiracy to defraud" - If you're pressed for time, here's the keystone: "What counts as 'fraud' under the statute? Simply put, 'any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing, obstructing, or defeating the lawful function of any department of government.' (Emphasis added.) If telephoning reporters to further destroy a CIA asset whose identity has been revealed, and whose safety is now in jeopardy, does not fit this description, I would be quite surprised."

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Weird. I was just there last weekend.

For the curious, I found that little infonugget after reading the lyrics to Willie Nelson's new anti-war song:

 "Hell they won’t lie to me
  Not on my own damn TV
  But how much is a liar's word worth
  And whatever happened to peace on earth?"

Be interesting to see how country radio reacts to this.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The saddest thing about this story is that the dad went through almost ten bucks in quarters before he finally gave up and called the fire department. And you know he's not getting that money back.

Monday, January 05, 2004

If you haven't seen them yet, go check out the Bush in 30 Seconds ads. The 15 finalists have been posted. My personal favorite is "In My Country", but they're all good.
There's a bronze ring on my the middle finger of my right hand, a Valentine's gift from Christie. It's only recently that I've been wearing it regularly, because it's only recently that I've decided it's worth the occasional green circle to be able to look down and imagine the life of its previous owner. He might have been a soldier, drawn by duty or desperation to defend the Roman republic, then sent off to war. Or he might have been a farmer, drawn east by the promise of land, then driven by fear to bury his few valuables as war reared its head. All I really know is that it was found in what used to be Macedonia, in surroundings that suggest a date of around the first century A.D.

Of course, that's not all I think about when I look down at this ring. The woman who gave it to me is, not to put too fine a point on it, amazing. She's got the quickest wit of anyone I've ever been lucky enough to cross swords with, and mind-boggling stores of wisdom, knowledge, compassion and intelligence. She's also sexy as hell, but there are rumors that her mother reads this blog, so I'll just leave it at that. If she and I ever do break up, she'll be the ex- all my future girlfriends would hate hearing about. As I understand it, though, break-ups are not necessarily inevitable. Apparently there's also happy ever after (followed by death, of course, but that's another post).

Why am I telling you this? If you really want to follow the chain,Aubrey quoted Miss Brown as saying "almost every single person on the planet believes that if this one sentence was said to them by the right person at the right place or at the right time or with the right words, everything the person longed for would come true". That struck a chord with me, but not an immediate "that's me" kind of chord. I'd expected to be the speaker, not the one spoken to. I'm awfully good with words, so over the years I came up with a few pretty good candidates for life-changing sentences. But, strangely enough, none of them actually changed anything. No matter how often I said them.

I kept trying, though, because that's what you do. And if the magic sentences never worked, it was just because I hadn't found the right one. Occasionally, the sentence seemed to do the trick. I'd say the words, and she'd melt into my arms, and things would be wonderful. For about a week. Cuz people are stubborn and words are cheap, and no matter how hard I tried to completely give myself over to a relationship, some part of myself would hang back, feeling lost or feeling pissed. And that, my friends, cannot last.

So, when what you're doing isn't working, what do you do? Well, if you're a Republican, the answer would have to be either "Tax cuts!" or "9/11!", but for the rest of us, it's "Do something else." Thus I find myself, at the pleasant age of 33, realizing that "me" and "we" are not an either/or choice, that trust does not require certainty (quite the opposite, actually), and that patience is infinitely more important than finding the right words.

I really meant to come back to the ring here at the end. Maybe something about writing, or how it's changed the way I think about furniture, that I try to build it for somebody's grandkids as much as I'm building it for today. Or maybe something about the blur of centuries disbursing the good and evil that we do into so much background noise that is all but drowned out by the cries of generation after generation of newborns who care nothing for the struggles of those who came before them until they themselves are fed and warmed. But how some pieces come through whole, like a fragment of a wall in London, a cheap bronze ring, or a few words thrown together, "da basia mille, deinde centum", and we're transported into a world that could no more envision our lives than we could guess at the lives our grandchildren's children might have, let alone those 2,000 years hence.

But that's a lot of words about a third-place band of metal beaten out of round by the years. And coming back to the ring takes the focus away from the woman who gave it to me, and who is patiently helping me to trust life enough to again make plans, a process that is, I admit, helped when I step back and view my life from 2,000 years away.
Slept through the alarm this morning and was late to my first day back at work after five days with distant friends. Well, not terribly distant, but certainly out of town. Anyway, it was five days of late nights and later mornings, so I more or less didn't sleep last night, which makes it all the more frustrating that I find myself in an epistemological can of worms, trying to figure out why my query results don't match somebody else's.

But that's why God made Dale Keiger. He didn't actually help me through my quandary (not sure how tough his database chops are), but this is just so goddamn nice. A piece of language struck him as particularly beautiful, and he takes the time to take it apart for us and show us how it works. I like to think that, when I've taken the time to really craft a piece of language, there's someone out there doing just this sort of thing. And as far as the writing itself (it's from an André Aciman essay), it's the sort of writing I aspire to: powerfully and intelligently evocative language that slips its point beneath your skin as stealthily as a tick, but not nearly so icky.