September 2001 Archives

Talk Talk (Shut Up)

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I'm no good at titles. I thought about calling my new essay Shut Up but instead I called it Talk Talk.

This is not a journal entry

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a refugee from my apartment in Oildale, circa 1979

Got a phone call from Tsyganka in Memphis. She has no computer these days, but she seemed like she was doing fine. I've been thinking about old friends, and the boxes of memories around the house. I want to try to make some sense of things. But it occurs to me that there are solid reasons to try to be remote from the past. There's a lot of hurt in there. I can't keep my mouth shut. I talk too much.

Too many people. Too many sad goodbyes. It reminds me of that Robert Frank piece in Lines of My Hand "Sick of Goodbyes." But I carry around the artifacts. Sometimes bridges were burned. Sometimes, the situation just changed and life moved on. Sometimes it's even hard to remember the names. I'm looking at negatives, trying to find positives. It wasn't all bad. There was lots of good.

I smiled when I found this drawing. It's an original Mike Patterson, from his Rene Magritté phase. I spent a long time without a phone when I lived in Oildale. Mike made me one, of sorts. He was sick of dropping by only to find out I wasn't at home. I spent some time without a TV as well. Mike never drew one of those for me. We were too busy listening to music to miss that.

In an odd coincidence, The Best of Hot Tuna just arrived in my mailbox today. I remember when Mike came over with Yellow Fever and Phosphorescent Rat to that very apartment. "We don't need no stinkin' TV!"

More Duhamel

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A few short observations about Denise Duhamel that I want to jot before I forget.

I wonder about people who change the color of their hair often. On a book jacket, her hair was dark (black?). A review on the net claims that she is a flaming redhead. When I met her, she was a blonde. I sort of admire being able to change yourself like that. I feel like I’ve been stuck with the same old dreary self my whole life.

Duhamel described a class she took in media studies she took in New York. Dennis Leary was the teacher. The class was unconventional; it was before he “made it” and the class was asked to attend his shows at a comedy club and help with his material. She made the observation that comedy was found in the timing, more often than it was found in words. Maybe that’s my problem. My timing is all wrong. Weird character flaw for a photographer.

I wandered outside of the Bourbon Street Café (located on 7th street downtown) and noticed a building in the alley. It was a hotel under renovation, with empty windows that stretched to the sky. No glass. Each one identical. Bleak fluorescent lighting fixtures stretching to the heavens. It looked like a little hamster village, though it would be impossible to photograph adequately from the little narrow alley. Too much parallax, staring upward with neck bent uncomfortably. When I walked back inside, I couldn’t talk. I have noticed that this happens when my mind starts thinking about making a photograph. Words and pictures operate in different centers of the brain. Denise and the others were talking about dialects. She’s from Cannuck, Canada. French was frowned upon growing up, so she never learned to speak it. Maybe it’s all that time I’ve spent thinking about photographs that causes my synapses to misfire, making me such a crappy conversationalist. Photographs were always the privileged dialect, in my head anyway.

Writing is different. I can do that. Talking is hard. I keep wanting to revise what I just said. That doesn’t work; you can’t unspeak a foolish comment. You can only add, and add, and add, until people just don’t want to hear from you anymore. Shut up, Jeff.

Denise made the observation that the sexual difficulties of couples that are married for a long time may be related to the incest taboo. It’s somehow not right to have sex with someone you live with. It made a certain amount of sense.

The café served everything deep fried in batter. You couldn’t tell the difference between the alligator, shrimp, oysters, beef, chicken, or whatever. They were all gold. Except the gumbo of course, it was black. I figured out how to photograph the hotel, though I didn't do it: there was a parking garage across from it that would have allowed me to confront it head-on. That would do it. Cages don't look right in oblique views. You've got to look at them straight.

The inhospitable host

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The inhospitable host strikes again.

One of these days I'm going to have to change hosts. This is just to freakin' ridiculous being offline for days at a time. Wrote another story, I'll put it up when I get the chance. So, anybody know any reliable inexpensive hosting companies? Or is that an oxymoron?

A price on her head

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I gave a copy of this photograph to Denise:

a price on her head

It seemed like the appropriate thing to do.

23 truths?

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23 Hard truths about Rock Bands is a funny email.

#19 is out and out WRONG however, and #20 has some notable exceptions, but #17 is just plain gospel.

More Aptronyms

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Aptronyms from the C-18L list


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The new film scanner works. I don't even remember looking at this one before. I kind of like it. Something tells me there may be more activity in the gallery section of the site sometime reasonably soon.

Denise Duhamel

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Kinky by Denise Duhamel

I met a really good poet tonight.

Denise Duhamel is a passionately nice person. Her sense of humor is really what I needed right about now. I went to a reading, seduced at first by Leslie's raving about her, and later by what I found of hers on the web. There's a lot out there.

But I bought a couple of books anyway. Kinky is a book of poems about Barbie. How can you resist poems with such titles as "Barbie, Her Identity as an Extraterrestrial Finally Suspected, Bravely Battles the Interogation of the Pentagon Task Force Who's Captured Her"?

Duhamel read the most appropriate one for the times tonight, "One Afternoon when Barbie Wanted to Join the Military," whose concluding lines are something worth thinking about:

As GI Joe bullied Ken into a headlock,
Barbie told the boys to cut it out. She threatened
that if he kept it up, GI Joe would
never get that honorable discharge.
Even when it's cracking a joke, poetry is language working as hard as it can.

Postmodern Poo

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Too good to miss:

There is another noteworthy book on the way: Postmodern Poo, a not so gentle satire of the lit-crit folks. I especially loved this snip:

New Historicist Victor S. Fassell, Pooh's ill-fated visit to Rabbit's burrow—wherein Pooh eats too much honey and becomes stuck—signals the eternal return of "the body." In a deliriously wide-ranging presentation, Fassell declares Pooh a virtual "proctological exhibit protruding into Rabbit's none too capacious dining area." But the Marxist Carla Gulag believes the episode depicts "inflammatory class differences between the possessive homeowner Rabbit and the itinerant beggar Pooh."
All this makes it very hard to note an idea that came up in the Milton seminar I'm sitting in on. It seemed like a great paper topic at the time: Satan suffers from an erectile dysfunction. He seems to be hard all the time, but can never manage to ejaculate. Only Dr. Yoder could come up with this stuff...

I feel so special

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I keep thinking about poetry, and why for so many it is a special thing that they feel like they don't understand. The more I explore it, the more that I feel it is special thing, but it is special not because it is difficult or obtuse, or because it is believed that it requires a special interpretator to make sense, but rather because it is a special way of experiencing the world, of knowing. I had great teachers. They never told me what to think of a poem, or what a poem meant, but instead helped unravel possible levels of meaning. It was training the brain to think in new ways, make new associations, to create meaning inside myself, rather than requiring the rote replication of some predetermined knowledge. Poetry becomes special because of the way it makes you think, not because of the way it tells you anything.

Expository Writing, Vicki Hearne

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Boring School Work

Response to Vicki Hearne's "What's Wrong with Animal Rights" The Best American Essays, 3rd ed., 2001.

What's Wrong with Animal Rights casts the discussion of animal rights into the philosophical realm, presenting the author as a modern-day Thomas Hobbes arguing against the Rousseau-tinged philosophy of animal rights activists. Using American political rhetoric, Hearne attempts to show the philosophical flaws in the agenda of those who seek to protect animal rights.

Apt? or Inapt?

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somewhere in downtown Bakersfield, 19th street I think.

Would you go to a chiropractor named Dr. Klopp? Would this be considered an aptronym or an inaptronym?

Happy Birthday Russ

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Happy Birthday Russ. I've been meaning to add him to my linkbar for a while; he's another of those old friends from Raindogs, and I suppose his birthday is good enough reason to finally get around to it! Like most of us, he's hard to catagorize, so his blog name is certainly apt.

scattered stuff

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Just a few scattered notes

Aaro has put up some really nice pictures of Roy Harper. Oh, and a secondhand Roy/Syd Barret story came up on the Stormcock list:

Roy: I once met Syd Barrett . . . pause . . . walking down Oxford St. . . . and I said "Hi Syd How are you doing?"

Syd: [silence]

Roy: "Where are you going?"

Syd replied after a pause "Further than you could ever know!"

There are some cool Mike Watt pictures from Spokane 17 Sept.

Australia seems so civilized: I'd really like to see more public toilet maps available. A very long time ago, when I used to travel to Los Angeles for concerts all the time, a friend of mine got busted for public urination. What a thing to have on your rap sheet. This could have been prevented, if it was easier to find toilets in LA! Why doesn't the US have a "National Continence Management Strategy?"

On a more somber note, re: constructions is a fascinating look at media coverage from around the world on the recent disaster, from MIT. Personally, I think understanding the media and how they manipulate us is a big key to keeping our humanity in the face of all this. All perspectives are by definition skewed, including the indie media. Arm yourself against swallowing any of the tripe whole!

Personal note: I was just told by a graduate student tonight that "poetry makes no sense, I don't understand how they come up with that stuff!" I shrank back in the corner; further and further away from feeling normal. Uh, I like it myself...

It's a sign

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Recapturing the natural order of Southern California?

women can be so two-dimensional

Britton rocks

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Stuff all that we've got to get on with these...

Transactional stuff to blow by in a hurry: response to Hot and Bothered was "cliché title" [duh] "Bravo!" [thanks] "I'm not sure what genre this piece falls under: it's too long for a review, but it's not quite a personal essay" [uh, where I come from the genre label is usually Social Documentary-- but the buzzwords for photography, literature, and rhetoric are all different]. Not a mark on the pages themselves, except near the title, and a concluding paragraph which doesn't give me any ideas for revision. I'll just let it sit for a while, I'm sure I'll find something else wrong with it soon. I went to an STC [Society of Technical Communicators] meeting tonight. It was fun; I knew a few people from school, and it wasn't nearly as stuffy as I feared.

But on to more interesting stuff. I'm way behind on my quota of notes for schoolwork, and I've got too much reading to do tonight to comment at great length, but I really should note another must read for me: Mind: An Essay on Human Feeling by S.K. Langer, 1967. It's referenced in an article I'm reading, "Spectator Role and the Beginnings of Writing" by J.N. Britton [more comment to come later]. Britton remarks, regarding Langer, that:

From her exploration of the laws governing a work of art she makes one very interesting suggestion: that in all works of art there is a building-up and resolution of tensions and that the intricate pattern of these movements, this rhythm, somehow reflects the "shape of every living act."

Makes art sound like sex, doesn't it? Well, that's a model that's always worked for me. Britton presses further on a different road though, proposing that:

We give and find shape in the very act of perception, we give and find further shape as we talk, write or otherwise represent our experiences. I say "give" and "find" because clearly there is order and pattern in the natural world irrespective of our perceiving and representing it.

Another article pegged Britton as a Platonist, as I recall. But aside from the philosophical spin, I'm quite attracted to his view of the impulse to represent our experiences. Skipping a boring bit about the difference between man and animal, Britton continues:

When, however, he shapes his experience into a verbal object, an art form, in order to communicate it and to realize it more fully himself, he is seeking to recapture a natural order that his daily actions have forfeited.

Now that's an interesting spin on what the writing, and the art-making process is all about.

Speaking of the perspective of fallen man, it's time for me to fall into Paradise Lost books 1&2.


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just another hometown memory

Caught Adema on HBO's Reverb. Kris still seems about the same. The band was about as uninspiring as I expected. It was fun scanning the crowd to note the rather minor reaction when compared with the headliner Staind. One of the most telling things was the repetion of Kris's emphasis on "doing it for the kids." I was trying to do the math; he's got to be around 30 now. The singer seemed pretty dissapointed that he wasn't setting the world on fire. It reminded me of the decline and fall of heavy metal:

C'mon now dammit, Clap!

Comp Theory Week 3 pt. 1

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Return of the son of boring schoolwork

Notes on:

"Contemporary Composition: The Major Pedagogical Theories" by James A. Berlin

From: Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader NCTE 1997

Cynicism never sleeps

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Cynicism never sleeps.

The New York Post has joined a great deal of the Internet community in damning Hollywood for trying to do something good in the face of tragedy. What a sick, sad world. Neil Young was condemned loudest of all. Sorry, but I think peace is something that the world needs to imagine right now. Fuck you John Podhoretz, just turn off the TV if you don't want to see it. People do what they can. Entertainers entertain. While I think it's healthy to question the messages sent out by the media, sometimes cynicism goes over the top too.

Speaking of Podhoretz, on a lighter side there is a new book coming out October 30th: A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis by David M. Friedman. I don't think I need to buy it though, I know what happens in the end. They all get jobs at newspapers and on TV.

Comp Theory Week 2

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Even More Boring School Work

Notes on:

"The Composing Process of Unskilled College Writers" by Sondra Perl
"Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers" by Nancy Sommers
"A Cognitive Process Theory of Writing" by Linda Flower and John R. Hayes

From: Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader NCTE 1997

To scan or not to scan...

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I’m trying to psych myself into buying a cheap film scanner.

Expository Writing, Joy Williams

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More Boring School Work

Response to Joy Williams "The Killing Game" The Best American Essays, 3rd ed., 2001.

The Killing Game is fiery polemic against the sport of hunting. Using the rhetoric of the opposition, Williams highlights the absurdity of the rhetoric employed by pro-hunting supporters regarding blood sport. Using strong description and citations from hunting magazines and organizations, the piece is a sort of exposé and contrast of the idealized image of hunting versus the brutal reality of blood sport.

Days of wine and research

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A short course in how my mind works.

I've been a little depressed (who hasn't lately) and I'd started digging through my inbox, reading some articles about something other than Afghanistan. I noted a couple of them earlier. For the first time in a while, I felt like having a drink. I bought some beer, and started drinking as I watched a great Channel 4 documentary called Behind the Veil, getting really down. I checked the guide, and I noticed that Days of Wine and Roses was playing on Turner Classic Movies right then.

Alcohol, movies about alcoholics, strange coincidence, huh?


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Jolene and friend

God Bless America

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Of course, when I was printing out the sleeve art for the Pink Floyd boot, I ran out of ink.

I went to Best Buy, and on the way back I was nearly run down by a huge truck. Dual axle, bright red Chevy pick-up with flags emblazoned everywhere. I could see kids climbing around all over the driver as he ripped by at about 90mph, shoving my little green Escort station wagon into the shoulder. God bless America and all that.

IN A WORLD that is buckling under the weight of profit-making, that is overrun by the destructive sirens of techno-science and the power hunger of globalization— that new brand of slavery— beyond all that, Friendship exists, Love exists.


I don't know why I can't stop thinking of the preface to Blake's poem Milton. I don't want to seem uncaring regarding world events, but I think there is more to be gained by a return to doing what man does best: make art, make friends, and search for love.

Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age! set your foreheads against the ignorant Hirelings! For we have Hirelings in the Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could, for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal war. Painters! on you I call! Sculptors! Architects! Suffer not the fashionable Fools to depress your powers . . .


For most of us, mental war is what matters most right now. Fighting to hang on to what is good in humanity, refusing to be another victim of terror. I hope everyone out there keeps writing, making pictures, and making love.

Which one's Pink?

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just another boot from usenet

Being a Pink Floyd fan growing up cured me of a lot of things. It stopped me from becoming a fan of "jam bands," it stopped me from marching to the tune of a corporate drummer, and it forced me to take a hard look at who I was.

There was nothing more antithetical to punk than Pink Floyd. I was at the LA Sports Arena in 1981 to witness The Wall. I walked away with the feeling that there was just no way to follow its spectacle. Big rock was done. It had done it's thing, and it was now officially over.

Yeah, I went though my period of Syd Barrett nostalgia in the late 80s, but even then I knew that what Pink Floyd really represented was the zenith of the arena as a venue for rock. I thought they were best at a form of sonic sculpture, but the sculptures were just too big and destined for collapse. No more wandering around in outerspace. No more psychedelic drugs. No more big rock for me.

But its a fond memory, nonetheless. Back to the era of drugs with three-letter acronyms, back to the time that those furry animals were crawling around in my head. It's high time, Cymbeline, please wake me.

[funny how the manufacturers of bootlegs can't spell]

It's a guilty pleasure, to be sure. So many memories of that time are filled with crazy visions. Life was less serious. Wake up in the morning and figure out how to get high that day. Too bad we all have to grow up sometime. Or do we? I suppose I still follow the same regimen. Only these days, it's poems and books and music and pictures.

There's been a lot of people buzzing about the new Dylan album Love and Theft

I bought it yesterday at a warehouse store. I looked at it at Barnes and Noble, but ON SALE for $14.99, marked down from $18.99? CDNow had it for $13.99, but there's shipping... Oh well. Sam's Club was $13.49. Why all the worrying about price? Because every time people trumpet something this much, I'm usually disappointed. I just didn't want to invest in it all THAT much.

Don't get me wrong, I love Dylan. It's playing away in the background; I got to track nine before I found anything that hit me at all. Up to that point, I felt like I was listening to movie background music. Pleasant enough, but hardly earth-shattering. Maybe it's because I'm quite fondly attached to Time Out of Mind and when people started saying that the new record made it seem forgettable, well... I don't think so. That record was a real high water mark for my love of Dylan; this one, I'll have to spin a few more times before saying something more specific. It's just hard to get over the shock of giving money to a corporate monster. I like to wait until they drop their prices back to earth; the only things I like to rush to buy are the independent label shoestring-budget things. Who the fuck do these people think they are kidding with their pricing structure?

I'd much rather plug Here Come the Miracles by Steve Wynn, or the new reissue of Days and Wine and Roses by the Dream Syndicate, but I haven't bought the reissue yet. It's long overdue. If I didn't have the turntable obscured by so many CDs right now, I'd drag out my vinyl for another listen. Days of Wine and Roses changed my life. So far, Love and Theft doesn't even merit a slight ripple.

Everybody says I don't care
Well I don't care!
I'm just trying to remember
The days of wine and roses

Buried in the back pages, there have been a few good Steve Wynn articles lately: Miracle Worker and Dream On. I'm a little scared of the reissue, because they say that it is "brighter," but I know I'll buy it anyway. This 1982 album is such a landmark in my consciousness. I haven't trumpeted Here Come the Miracles as loudly as other folks, though I love it. I suppose it's because I have found such a steady growth in Wynn's output; it's not a case of revolution, just evolution of a long-slaving songwriter. I wish people would look at Dylan that way, rather than touting each new one like it's a new tablet from god. 'We don't need no stinking tablets!'

Hold Still --- -- - Keep Going

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a new acquisition

I've got a weird sort of relationship with Robert Frank. Sometimes I love him, sometimes I scratch my head, but he always obsesses me. I'll spit out a quick review, for those who aren't up on their photo history. His book The Americans, which is composed of photographs taken by the Swiss emigre traveling across the US in the late 50s set a new standard for photographic books. Following in the footsteps of Walker Evan's American Photographs, The Americans managed to weave a sad and beautiful and brilliant poem of America, complete with an introduction by Jack Kerouac. In the sixties, he turned to filmmaking, though he was also responsible for the cover art for the Rolling Stones album, Exile on Mainstreet. I was puzzled by his 70s effort, Lines of My Hand because it was so raw an personal, so far away from the documentary thing that I was after at the time. I didn't buy it. I was sorry.

In the late 80s, I managed to track down a copy of the then out-of-print book at a massive book sale. I paid $2 for a book that was then selling for $500, instead of the original $50 shelf price. Since then, I've stopped hesitating.

I picked up a new one today, HOLD STILL--- -- - keep going.
It felt like a bargain for $42.

tribute to heroes

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thanks Neil!

Neil Young performed John Lennon's "Imagine" on the tribute thing tonight. I'm sort of awestruck by him, and by Paul Simon's performance. I didn't even commit suicide when Celine Dion sang "God Bless America." I'm slipping; normally that would have induced vomiting. The whole affair was quite restrained; nobody grandstanded too much with the possible exception of Paul Schaefer, as usual. I never watch this sort of thing. Why did I watch it?

I can't explain why I sat there like a drone throughout the thing, only nearly throwing a brick through the TV once when Tom Petty did "Won't Back Down," and again when Limp whatever re-wrote a Pink Floyd tune, clearly reading the lyrics off a sheet in front of them. Funny, I was thinking about Pink Floyd earlier, listening to "Careful with that Axe Eugene." People are having a hard time being careful these days; it was sort of scary to see Ali jitter through saying that "if he had a chance he'd do something about it." There's a lot of "champs" out there right now, biting on their fists, looking for something to hit. Me, I'd rather imagine— but that's pretty hard these days.

Neil noted this in his one minor alteration to Lennon's lyrics. Instead of singing "Imagine no posessions / I wonder if you can" he sang "I wonder if I can." That's the sort of honesty that I have come to expect from Neil.

A famed war photographer was killed for not turning over nude photographs of a former girlfriend.

Wow. That one triggered a big flashback. I turned over all the photographs I had of my first real girlfriend to her; there were very few nudes, but she wanted to erase herself from my memory. She even rifled through all my negatives and took those too. I resolved to never let that happen again; it wasn't fair. There were some fine photographs in there, including this survivor. But what I really hated to lose was a photograph I can still see in my head; it isn't even recognizable as her, it only showed her neck, chin, and mouth arcing through a rusted metal portal. One of my favorite photographs of my early period, and it's gone forever. I suppose it's a matter of trust; people get worried that their image may be misused. But my photographs are pieces of my life, and you just can't have whole chunks of your life ripped away without a fight. But it sounds like Nguyen Trong Thanh lost his fight. Just another sad backpage story in a rather sad time.

Afghan refugees

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Compelling photographs of Afghan refugees were published the day before the attack at The Iranian.

I always wonder about the great photographs out there that people never see. Other than some clumsy multiple exposures, there is some fine work here in the documentary tradition. You really owe it to yourself to check these out; to me, this kind of actuality is what photography is all about. I recommend these photos, not because of the timely subject, but because of the universal humanity of photographs like this one. It lends a dose of reality to patriotic hymns like Battle Hymn of the Republic where "truth" "is tramping out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored." I wish I could believe that "truth" will march with careful feet.

Why am I awake at this hour?

My brother Steve

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my brother Stephen is the guy in the Grayghost tee shirt

I called and talked to my older brother Stephen last night, for the first time in months. Of course, he launched off on a rant about how we should "kill all the rag-heads and let God sort them out." He cracks me up sometimes. Most people don't get him. He's a biker-type guy, with swastikas and all sorts of other bullshit tattooed on him. His rants are often misogynistic too, and if I thought he was even half-assed serious I'd disown him. The second part of his outburst is easy to discount: he's an atheist. I asked him about the guy in Fort Smith who was arrested by the FBI as a suspected potential terrorist the day after the attack. I saw an interview with his wife and kid, and it didn't seem to me like he was a terrorist even if he was a "rag-head." I asked Steve, well, do you think they should kill him? He said "No, of course not-- you know what I mean." That's the scary part. I do. Even though he talks like the big woman-hating racist, nothing could be further from the truth. He's really a gentle soul, getting gentler every year. I had to ask him why he talked that way. He said, "Well, I guess I just like the rhetoric!"

Maybe that's part of the problem with the "current situation"-- people just like the way the words of war sound. I don't. It bugs the shit out of me, as a matter of fact. Any time you study a civil war in a History or literature class, they say that the situation was somehow more unique because the war is "brother against brother." Aren't all wars brother against brother? Or did I miss something somewhere? The rhetoric is just so damned imprecise.

I wish people didn't like that flavor of rhetoric so much.

Doing Documentary Work

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a very significant bookDoing Documentary Work should be required reading.
For anyone who wants to describe reality, that is.

The past few days there have been a massive convergence of themes in my head. I spent the first half of my life working as a photographer, and now I’m trying to make sense of things as a writer. I suppose I’ve been drawing connections, and creating a new philosophy as I go, and for the first time I’ve found the majority of these ideas brought together in a single book.

I wish books like Doing Documentary Work were around when I first adopted the life. I felt intuitively from the beginning that photography was a “means of understanding” and that it was at its best when it was used as “a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one's originality.” I quoted the full passage from HCB just a few days ago, and the words “documentary photography” were not even available when Bresson and Kertéz began photographing. But people like these were my models, my heroes, before I knew what the words were supposed to mean. Robert Coles develops the idea into a much broader and more useful context.

Coles began as a psychiatrist doing field research and questioning the limits of impartiality. Currently, he teaches Documentary studies at Harvard and is the editor of Doubletake Magazine.

PJ, Janis & Johnette

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I was a little disappointed that PJ didn't play The Whores Hustle and the Hustlers Whore on Leno, but I'm not surprised. The more I think about it, This is Love was more appropriate. She seemed noticeably distracted; I thought it was funny when Leno admitted to being distracted by her outfit, as well. What man wouldn't be?

I just can't believe life is so complex
When I just want to sit here and watch you undress

Indeed. For distraction, I downloaded another boot, Janis Joplin at the Texas International Pop Festival 8-30-69. SHN files are a wonderful thing. The quality is only fair, but it reminds me how joyful blues can be sometimes. I am going to Try, just a little bit harder to not sink into the deep pit of blues that seems even closer these days. I've been on a Johnette Napolitano kick lately, and Still in Hollywood really showcases all the best and worst sides of her band Concrete Blonde. It's probably one of the better CDs to get of theirs though, if you aren't familiar with the band, because in my opinion most of their commercial output was really hit or miss after the first album. But that voice! I just love her voice. Revisiting their first album, I had forgotten just how solid the songwriting really was. It's just that from the second album forward they layered so many effects on her voice that it was just grating. Many of the versions on Still in Hollywood are more stripped down, and better, but some are even worse in that respect-- the remix version of "Bloodletting" for example. So it's a mixed memory trip for me. Johnette is best when she sounds like Johnette rather than a studio creation. I was pleased to discover some more recent MP3s are available, and that she has gained experience from her time as a popstar:

"There is nothing in the world like rock ‘n’ roll for turning one into a deluded, self-important boor."

"I'm a Wire" didn't do much for me, it's linked from the unofficial page, but it's just too thick. However, "The Cut" dances on the edge of density and intensity, sort of like Diamond Dogs by Bowie, but not nearly as farcical. The lush multitracking probably means that I won't listen to that much in the future but it was sort of nice to hear a "rock tune" right now. The real prize, in my opinion was "Fresh Blood." It is almost a direct rip-off of "Hey Bulldog" by the Beatles, but it lumbers along a dark and ominous track given the state of current events. If you've just got the time for one, try it. You'll get the idea. "Juan Quezada" is a nice experiment, complete with Tom Waits style crowing roosters and whatnot. Oh well, I'm a fan so perhaps I'm cutting these tracks more slack than most would. What do I know?

Voices Carry (unless you're dead)

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Digging through the trash, looking for scraps.

On the local news tonight (I never watch it, tonight was a fluke) There was a brief shot and mention of an anti-war demonstration in downtown Little Rock. They mentioned that there were similar demonstrations in LA, Seattle, etc., but then they moved on. Another interesting indicator was a story about the recruitment boom that the National media were picking up on. It seems that in Little Rock, recruitment is actually the same or lower; many parents are calling to ask how they can make sure their children are ineligible if there is a draft. I checked for any online evidence for these stories, but there wasn’t anything. The local “liberal” weekly did mention one high school girl who changed her mind about enlisting, the day of the attack. Of course on the conservative nightly news, they quickly cut to pictures of people painting their houses red white and blue; this is the buckle of the bible belt, after all.

Not quite the stereotypical picture of gun-totin’ Arkansas you had, huh? This place is different than any pre-conceived notions I ever had. It sort of the same story with the place I came from in California (Bakersfield). “Nashville West” really doesn’t have much of a country underground— I’d say it was more of a Heavy Metal town way back when... Little Rock has a large gay population, but I’d say the 60s hippie refugees are probably most responsible for its, um, eclectic attitude.

None of this helps me much, I’m not gay and I’m not a hippie. Yes, you can count me as one of those people who think the Grateful Dead are boring as hell. I suppose I just don’t neatly fit any category; I hated the Sex Pistols and the Dead Kennedys, but I love lots of other punk rock. Go figure. Lately there has been a big shift in my musical taste.

I love women.

I downloaded SHN’s of an Aimee Mann boot the other day; it’s pretty good. I wasn’t crazy about Til Tuesday’s Voices Carry when it first came out a million years ago. I think it was because I was fed up with the whole vocal-effects circus that was going on with pop at the time. Now that I hear some of her stuff, both old and new, I may have to buy a CD to check out. But there was a side-effect, one of those horrible coincidences that I’ve got to spill out.

My last big love (a story I don’t want to tell more fully) was involved in an affair with a married priest when we first connected. A married priest? Yes, there is such a thing. If you move from another religion into the Catholic Church and you are already married, they let you stay married as a priest. Anyway she was having this affair with a priest with a wife and three kids (she met him at the University, he was a teacher too), and he was a bit quirky when it came to sex. Imagine that. A guy who is supposed to be upholding the public trust as a teacher and priest having clandestine sex. But I digress.

This fellow just couldn’t stand it if she made any noise whatsoever during sex. He would “shh” her, or clamp his hand over her mouth. Consequently, the song Voices Carry had great meaning to her.

Needless to say, when I heard the song again after so many years it generated some pretty unwelcome mental imagery. But the rest of Aimee Mann’s newer material was arresting enough to make me want to listen to it some more, even though I could have done without that eyelid movie.

To close on a more humorous note, I was rolled on the floor laughing at a commercial from a lawyer about some class action suit over a drug:

If you suffer from any of these side effects, including:
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of Breath
  • . . . endless list of generic symptoms . . .
  • Death
Please call: ------------

Okay, I just have to wonder how many dead people picked up the phone to call?

Well, enough of that for now. PJ Harvey is going to be on Leno, evidently she was in Washington during the attack. Perhaps I'll write more later.

City of California City

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From the Department of Redundancy Department . . .

The whole town is like this

Just another day

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I really had trouble sleeping last night. Read five essays for class; read large stretches of Hume's History of England; Finally opened my mail to find out that I had the front cover of an entertainment insert of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and three more photos inside. It's a Republican newspaper, so I don't read it. It was from about a month ago, and they were photos of Martha Jordan (Louis Jordan's widow) and some photos of the tribute concert a year ago. They were cropped in a crappy fashion, a typical newspaper hack job. I'm almost sad I was given photo credit. Oh well, it wasn't the first time this has happened. I suppose I'll give them to Karen, she keeps a sort of clip file on me. I don't plan on selling myself anytime soon, so publication credits of this type are of little use to me. I was glad that Steve Koch (the brains behind the tribute, who is trying to get a monument erected for Louis Jordan) sent me articles from the St. Louis and Memphis papers too, regarding his continuing effort.

When I got up, I read Bob Lee's post on the Neil Young list about Clearchannel banning a bunch of songs from their playlist. I thought about linking to it, but when I checked Badger's blog, I saw that it was already buzzing about. It was a rough day, schoolwise, and I scrambled to find the microphone for my walkman for class. I flipped the switch to test it, and the local Clearchannel drone was playing "Head Like a Hole" by NIN, which was on the banned list. When I got home tonight, I found out it was sort of a hoax. I tend to think that it's probably "only a hoax" because they got caught so quickly. Silly, silly corporate program directors. "Yes, we know what the public really wants..."

I walked the teacher back to her car after class, and she asked "How do you have the time to read so much?" I didn't give my usual, true answer: I have no life. This time, I just didn't say anything at all.

I was surprised to see a vistor from the United Arab Emirates today; I noticed that I also had a referral from Slashdot. I wonder what for? This place is about as far off the mainstream of web life as things come; most people can't take too much of me.

Just another observations I want to get down: ALL the home shopping and infomercial programing went off the air right after the attack, and for a day afterward. Commerce stopped? I never would have believed it, if I hadn't been watching. Also, I noticed today on a yahoo newsbyte that Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen are slated to perform on a special telethon for New York, from Hollywood, this Friday. I wouldn't have dreamed this either; all four major networks are going to carry it, burying the hatchet in the ratings war. In America, this is pretty damn unbelievable.

Creative Beauty

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in a shopping center around midnight . . . normal film, abnormal waterbath processing . . . everyone thinks they need infrared film to make things glow . . . nope, it just takes some imagination . . . so much for a fraction of a second, though . . . the exposure time for this one was around fifteen minutes as I recall

To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.

To take photographs means to recognize—simultaneously and within a fraction of a second—both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis.

As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one's originality. It is a way of life.

Henri Cartier-Bresson


Okay, so I couldn't keep from reading the wrong books.

Back to school

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I finally set foot out of the apartment.

I took out the trash late last night and noticed that my neighbors are more prominantly displaying their pictures of Vishnu, perhaps to remind everyone that they are hindu and not muslim. I doubt if most rednecks know the difference. The one thing I've missed all week is all the Indian children playing outside my door. They are so well behaved and polite, especially when compared to American children. But they've been inside, even though the weather has been beautiful.

I read the essay I finished last night, Hot and Bothered this morning and was appalled at all the errors. Of course, in fixing it it's now grown to 3,000 words. I actually requested that I not be forced to read it in class, partly because it contains drug references that some might take exception at (being the bible-belt and all) and partly because I have the sneaking suspicion that most just won't get it. After I finish posting this, I'll fix the online version. There were some good essays read in class today, and I wonder at my ability to always pick the most complex things to try and convey. Yeah, like I'm going to explain a town in a 1000 word essay. It's tough, even with 3,000 words. But I've never been good at scaling back. This crap just flows out of me, and I'm starting to really appreciate just how much people just don't want to know.

My buddy Slim wrote a song about that once. People always ask "how are you doing?" but they sort of brace against it, because you know that they don't really want to know. People are complicated; you've got to be careful who you let in. The problem is, eventually, no one gets inside without bursting into flames from the pent-up tangle of emotions, especially from so-called arty types like me.

When I walked outside after class, it was black. The rain clouds moved in, and I knew it would be sprinkling by the time I got out of the library. I had to xerox four essays to read tonight, but I think I'm going to put that off and read more of Hume's History of England instead. I can read more about "process theory" tomorrow. The books I ordered from Powells shocked me by showing up today: Doing Documentary Work by Robert Coles and The Mind's Eye by Henri Cartier-Bresson. I'm tempted... but... school, think school. The history at least helps me make sense of Milton!

When I got home I could see the little indian children playing inside their apartments through sliding glass doors. There are a lot of Indian or Pakastani children, and adults, in my apartment complex. I really hope that things stay as low key as they've been. Everyone is looking so serious. Smiles are hard to come by these days.

Lift not the painted veil

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the side of a church, in Pumpkin Center, California.

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call life; though unreal shapes be pictured there
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies, who ever weave
Their shadows o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it . . . . he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love
But found them not, alas; nor was there aught
The world contains, that which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendor among shadows—a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene—a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher, found it not.—

Sonnet— Percy Bysshe Shelley

New essay

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Okay, so I finally dragged my head out of the news.

I've just put up a new essay. It's not as polished as I'd like, but at least it's readable. The assignment was to write about a "multicultural experience." The result was Hot and Bothered. Driving down the street in California is a multicultural experience, and I picked the day I photographed the first Bakersfield blues festival to describe. I'm not sure what I think of it yet. I just wrote it. So, if you've got time to read around 2,800 words, give it a try.


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churches cast long shadows

Talked for hours on the phone with an old roommate from the Valley, Rick. It felt good to talk to one of my old paisley friends; liberals and music lovers are hard to find. But churches aren't.

I'm trying to get back to normal somehow. I turned off the TV when I heard the news of children being taken to "ground zero" to be swabbed for DNA tests to identify the body parts of their parents. It's just too much. I told myself that I wasn't going to write about it any more for a while. I'm so sick of the hate. There have been a couple of good essays that cropped up that I want to link to, however.

First up, Ian McEwan's Only Love and then Oblivion talks about what we should be concentrating on right now. I'm so tired of the liberal sniping; it makes me embarrassed to be a liberal. I know the history, you're not telling me anything I don't know. Keep your hate, ignorance, flag-waving, and government-trashing to yourself right now. That just fuels the anger, and makes the unseen enemy win.

Then, Metagrrrl's post of an essay by Vikram Singh was heartening, because it isn't about the present, or past blame, but about the future. That's where the focus should shift. All the nations of the world need to come to the table, and we in the United States should be hoping for reason to prevail rather than brute force in order to revive civilization.

Before political discussion was shut down (and rightly so) on the C-18L literature mailing list, the comparison was made to the situation facing Thomas Jefferson's efforts, in allegiance with the UK, to shut down piracy on the high seas. Massive fleets sailed to the trouble spots, and the threat was quelled in the early 18th century. In that case, it worked and the world became a better and safer place. I hope that happens this time, but like everyone else, I have my doubts. But it's a far more valid comparison than the Pearl Harbor analogy. Like the piracy problem, this is an international problem in need of international solutions.

I put on Roy Harper's Unknown Soldier.

And I cry in my sleep
For all the hungry children
And the unbelieving sheep
We're not at war, any more than Jefferson was at war with pirates. It saddens me that the national rhetoric is so damn imprecise. The machine geared up from the first day into this jingoistic hatred. The only thing we have to fight it is love. I hope we learn from this, but like everyone, I'm not so sure.

Breckenridge Road

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Breckenridge road: from sea level to 6,900 feet in thirty miles in the Sierra mountains of California

I’ve always been drawn to difficult things. The road up Breckenridge Mountain was incredibly steep, full of switchbacks and worn pavement. Barely one lane wide in places, and far from civilization, when I was 14 I decided to ride to the top on my bicycle. I never made it. Each time I tried I made it a little further. The view up there was incredible; it’s as if you were climbing above the clouds.

When I was 16, my friend Dan got a Honda 90 trail bike. We made it nearer to the top, perhaps 5,000 feet in the air. But Dan was a fool, he steered towards a patch of ice on the road. I jumped off when I couldn’t talk him out of it, and tucked and rolled with my camera. I never asked him to take me to the top again.

Eventually, I got my own car and drove to the top. Past the TV towers, dodging logging trucks, and down the dirt road on the other side. Technology can be wonderful; but the view from the bike was more rewarding. The sweat and delirium is what I remember most about this place. It was a hard road to travel, but it’s a road I remember.

I remember standing there, as the clouds passed right through me.

Oh Canada

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On the heels of Roy Harper's reasoning comes U.S. bashing no longer a game. I wish the people commentators in the rest of the world would say more things like this:

We usually take this Canadian prejudice lightly, as a kind of foible, but we may have to begin seriously questioning it. Anti-Americanism is not the game that we have so often considered it. America is the most vital and progressive country in the world, the most significant source of democratic impulses, our best friend by far, and the place where much of our culture originates. If our intent is to be authentic and consistent, can we afford to share anything with those who base their politics on hating America?

Perhaps we should acknowledge that reflexive anti-Americanism (as opposed to honest disagreement with the United States) is a poison afflicting large parts of the world, a poison we should purge from our own system.

The reflexive anti-Americanism of everyone, including Americans like me, should be more closely evaluated. I like it here. I can't walk across the room without thinking about the gaping hole in the NY skyline. No one deserves this. The people in the aspirin factory in Sudan didn't deserve it either, or the countless others destroyed by regimes funded by the US. But summoning those memories while the tears are still wet in everyones eyes is just poisonous. I wish more writers would think before they write. The US is filled with good people; good people who need to be vigilant of the message that the world sees in the upcoming days/months/years. We have to stand together for a reasonable response to unreasonable terror. Freedom wasn't attacked, humanity was. But freedom is at stake.

O Superman

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I am sick of trying to remember all the politics that I'd pushed to the back of my skull. Contrary to a lot of the writing out there, I don't think it helps. What helps is recognizing that the people who I read are people, not pundits. Close on the heels of my discovery of Roy Harper's thoughts, I felt better reading Johanna's thoughts on a Laurie Anderson concert. I'm envious. Though I haven't listened to music in days, I suspect I might try again tonight. I read Milton's Sonnets, but the politics in there is just too much to talk about right now. They rang true, but they are rhetoric in service of yet another doomed cause. O Superman is looming in my head right now. Thanks Johanna, it actually really helps to think about it.

And when force is gone, there's always Mom.

There are a lot of moms grieving right now, and a lot of babies without moms.


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Daniel's response to my previous entry was well thought out. I am perhaps overly sensitive to the tools of rhetoric, and the hazards of generalization. Daniel responds that he "just didn't get" the isolationist spin; I think I clearly noted where I saw that in a previous entry: "Tony Blair, whose determination to bind Britain ever closer to US foreign policy ratchets up the threat to our own cities, will only fuel anti-western sentiment." What this says, effectively, is that Blair's support of a war on terrorism is a bad thing because it could cause an escalation of terrorism in Europe. Nice response: the UK has had no part in the unrest in the Middle east EXCEPT by it's alignment to US policy. The UK has never had anything but humanitarian intentions in its vehement support of Israel since 1945, and would never do anything to raise the ire of the Islamic world except by blindly supporting the US agenda. The policy of the UK has been its own, and it is just as bloody as the agenda of the US. Get real.

Daniel raises the point that he embraced from the article in contrast to my impression: "I just didn't get this idea from the article. I just hear it saying, "Americans are clueless", which is hard to refute." This rhetoric has been prevalent and dominates the commentary of a lot of folks out there. It was never my intent to single Daniel out, many other people also embrace this thinking— it's just that I like Daniel, and read him more consistently than I read other people. This impression of US culpability needs to be examined closely, and the reaction placed in the proper light.

I haven't seen any editorial crying about the ignorance of the Afghani people, or the Palestinians. How much does a typical European resident know about their country's foreign policy? I suspect that they are just as clueless as the Americans. Does this make them legitimate targets for terror? I don't think so. Knowledge is strength. We ALL need to know more about what is going on. I've spent a bunch of time the last few days explaining the history of the Middle East to people, who didn't see this coming. I've spent a bunch of time refreshing my memory about these things as well. This must be done, by the World not just by the US. I get sick of all the pointless finger pointing. That was my point. We don't need to rally round' the flag; we need to hug each other across the oceans. We need to stop terror.

Other nations have been dealing with it for a long time. The resources that the US can bring to bear on the problem are frightening; like many of the people I've read, I'm afraid of trigger happy yahoos shooting in the dark. And I am also afraid that freedom can be the first casualty of overreaction. Everyone I know is asking themselves, "what price are you willing to pay?" There are no quick fixes; hindsight is not the answer.

What is the answer? The only answers I know are the actions of people under pressure. A 6' 5" gay rugby player saved some lives. People are pitching in to furnish the relief supplies that are needed. People are pulling together for the most part, learning more about what is facing us. When I say "us" I mean the world. I do not consider our country to be alone in the world, and I resent the implication in the rhetoric of both sides that we should consider ourselves to be alone in a struggle against senseless death everywhere.

Jingoism on any side won't do it. However, I can remember an old saw (Jefferson I think) that "Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." Vigilance, to me, is recognizing the rhetoric of hate wherever it appears, whether it be well meaning liberal exposés of US misdeeds, or the demonization of people or nations in general. We're all people, as individual and inexplicable as that label is. Creating straw dogs to assuage our enmity is horrific to me. Freedom is at stake, not nationalism. I will stand up for freedom; regardless of the misdeeds of my country and its administrations, I have no choice but to hope that they take a direct and clear course to stop the cruelty. Does this mean reforming foreign policy? Yes, not to concede to threat, but to avoid responding "in kind" to barbaric attack. The response of the US must be direct, precise, and effective. I have not seen any of the "who lil ol' us?" rhetoric that Daniel speaks of. Instead, I have read many who express a state of shock that this could exist on our own soil. We've been dragged into the real world; as a fairly well read guy, I was not as surprised as most. But to cry that the US people are somehow more ignorant than others as to their place in the world, grants an awareness to most of the rest of the world citizens that I think is undeserved. Everyone is in shock, not just the US.

As I revise this to clean up my language, I hear that Cuba is making a gesture of solidarity with the US. If they can bury the hatchet in the name of humanity, anyone can— including the media pundits who scramble to say "the evil US brought it on themselves" Cuba has suffered under unfair draconian trade embargo from us since the 60s, which has damaged many people in this country— including Arkansas farmers. I think most people in Europe are ill-informed about the level of "awareness" among the educated in the US. Awareness is not the problem; the problem is that those in power, in all the countries of the world, don't care how their game of global chess destroys lives. To blame it on an uninformed citizenry, or their arrogance, only raises the level of hate and isn't going to change a thing. That's what bothers me the most. We need more love in the world, not hate. Americans are clueless? Yes, I suppose we are, but we're in good company.

Responses to crisis

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I was very distressed by Daniel of Tinyblog's heralding the Guardian commentary as the best he'd read about the terror situation. The bristling is due in part to the spin of the article implying that the UK's hands were somehow clean of innocent blood. I was appalled and enraged at the exertion of British nationalism as if it were somehow a shining light of example of a great world citizen. I suppose a history lesson is in order, but I don't feel compelled to supply it. This is a world crisis, not just a US one. Citizens of many nations were killed in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

I am heartened by Roy Harper's latest diary entry. It is a much more reasoned, and yet impassioned, response.

I realised that the land of baseball had been rudely creamed into the twenty first century.

How innocent are any of us? I thought. How innocent can any of us be when billions of us are being deprived.. In the face of huge amounts of wealth. I could suddenly hear the worldwide clammer of recriminations. I silently wished we were all in the global village as equals. Then I thought that I'd rather be in a village of 100 people.. Self sufficient.. Where leaders couldn't be 'elected' by spin. I was dreaming again. What if...

Then I thought that we had all deserved this; that we hadn't taken care of our own. That we had let them fester in heaps of fundamentalist rubble until they had puked their disease all over us. Do we have to test each other's bravery so much?

Then I think of my song 'I Hate The White Man', which was written so long ago now, and was written because I was outraged by the actions, ignorance and attitudes of western Europeans and Americans. The same people who are outraged by events that seem to impact upon their greed and overweening wealth, but who forget all too easily what they might have done to cause these events, and then, to compound the felony, forget about any of it altogether. As if nothing happened. Arrogant.

To be blamed by any European nation with the cowardly claim that "we brought it on ourselves" is pouring salt on a stinging wound, a wound that screams to be avenged. The minority that make the laws, and control the money deserve this righteous outrage. The citizens who were killed deserve our grief. Condemning a nation, or a race, or a religion, is a comfortable oversimplification that hides the real complexity of the problem. Roy sees that clearly:
As I've just said to one of my American friends, America is this great lumbering giant who's been looking for trouble for decades, but on the other hand is the source for so many of my inspirations, and those of my friends. Republican fascism is hard for me to take; to have been so angered by Vietnam, and horrified by the American destruction of President Allende in Chile and the subsequent sponsorship of the murderer Pinochet.

And yet so hugely inspired by the freedoms of the jazz age, 'Bird' and Miles, Kerouac and the Beat Poets, Steinbeck and Hunter Thompson. The USA is a great juvenile melting pot, and that's all there is to it. The great sprawling American landscape of diners and canyons, cowboys, hobos, dancers and trippers is part of my lifestyle. It is still a weird and wild frontier, and even in it's most obnoxious manifestation, much more acceptable, benign and romantic than any grim blinkered worship of a fantasy deity which one could be required and compelled to worship five times a day.

A living experiment with millions of tides, attitudes and quirks powered by at least the idea of freedom of expression. And developing. And though I rail against the many obvious injustices, at least I am free to do so. But to want to turn everything from Morocco to Egypt, from Turkey to Pakistan, to lead, is not the right way. It's exactly the wrong way. What America now has to do is what we've all done in the last day, which is to take a good look at ourselves. And what we're doing in the world. And to the world.

I read another editorial in the Toronto Sun that challenged Bush for not being more aggressive, more warlike, more anxious to strike against anything. Opinions will differ, but there is no question that sides must be taken. Knowing Roy's politics, knowing that his heart is close to mine in concern for humanity, it was incredibly uplifting to read his choice:

And let America now go out into the world. Not as tourists, but as equals in it's hope and despair. Not to gape at Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower, but to look into the eyes of nations, and to take home some understanding. Not to further sour the world with retaliation, but to teach the world a lesson with restraint. To attack another nation is only to contribute to further reaction and to eventually bringing the whole pack of cards down.

Maybe You think it needs to..

The previous paragraph intones my hopes for my world. In the cold light of day, what has been enacted in New York is of nuclear war proportions. It is inconceivable that the USA will not not respond in kind if it can locate a target. It will also pull in it's allies. I am one of those. I've now stood up. And I've now been counted, and I have to own up to my own heart. Sink or swim.

I have no choice but to stand with my country. Not blindly to follow it into Armageddon, but to stand with it in the intolerance of terrorism. Sink or swim. There is a difference between restraint and inaction. I wish the reeling "shadows of the indignant desert birds" to be stopped from moving across not just our landscape, but the landscapes of the UK and Russia and all the countries of the world. This is a world situation, not just a US one, and no amount of flag waving on any side will help the problem. Humanity must stand together, sink or swim.

The Second Coming

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Survey says, 66% of the US favors retaliation even if innocent people are killed.

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Can't sleep. But I feel like I need to sit here and compulsively look at the photographs of the victims and their grieving families on TV. I don't want to see any more victims; but I can't look away. I haven't watched anything but the news in days. I haven't listened to music. What rough beast, indeed.

An editorial in The Guardian shows the other side of the machine at work. "Tony Blair, whose determination to bind Britain ever closer to US foreign policy ratchets up the threat to our own cities, will only fuel anti-western sentiment." Is this the time for all the nations to close their borders and become selfishly nationalistic? As a liberal, I am distressed by the pointless liberal whining claiming that the US somehow caused this. Innocent private citizens cannot be made responsible for the assholes in charge, whether those assholes wear turbans or suits. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are filled with passionate intensity."

Pictures from NY

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Shauna linked to some incredible pictures of real people, not just disaster. Choire's reaction to the reporter rehearsing the news pretty much sums up my reaction. Scroll through that archive page for more evidence of memorial that turns on hate.

Powell's Books gesture

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Powell's Books is contributing 20% of all orders placed before September 23rd to the disaster relief.

My cynicism towards captialism is a little bit tempered by this gesture. I order lots of books anyway, so I thought it might be a good time to buy a few more. The only problem is where to put them.

Powell's is a good place to get books, a real chain, not just an Internet address.

Rallying round the flag

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According to a local news report, Walmart has sold 114,000 American flags Tuesday.

A downtown flag store is doing a booming business. When the chips are down, we rally round the flag. I was initially pissed off at the panic around here. I was heartened by the willingness of people here to help in the blood drives. I finally shook off the shock long enough to surf around a little bit to read what people were writing about these events, trying to cure my distaste for the media rhetoric.

I am heartened to find that many analysts are paying attention to the manipulation involved. Noam Chomsky's rhetorical pattern pissed me off. He explains the terror in terms of US misdeeds. Ted Koppel and Peter Jennings on ABC did much the same thing, saying that the US doesn't realize just how deep the hatred in the world goes. None of this explains or justifies why people are willing to kill innocents in the name of a cause. It's rhetoric. Whether it's political rhetoric or religious rhetoric, it's still a mode of convincing people that human life is worth suicidal sacrifice. Don't use that rhetoric on me; I'm not buying it in the name of any god, or any flag. I was happy to feel that others feel the same. The messages of support that pour in through e-mail and international (not US) news coverage tell a different story. It's a story that this is not purely a US issue, or problem. It's a world problem. How do we fight against those who do not hold life sacred?

The most reasoned response I've read is Nothing Good Comes From Terror by Vijay Prashad.

The problem with abstract domination, however, is that there is no one enemy, there is no center that can be easily identified as the hub of global woes, there is no baron's castle or even industrialist's factory to assault. Domination is silent and faceless, but its tentacles squander the dreams of most of us across the world. We don't know why those who drove the planes to such terror did what they did, but perhaps they were in search of an enemy that made them feel less than human, that pushed them to squander their own ethics.
I refuse to squander my own ethics and succumb to pointless thoughts of vengeance. Although I don't like our current political leaders, I have no choice but to hope that they have the sense to know that more pointless death will not solve anything. Giving blood, giving money, volunteering time to repair the damage and get our lives back together is the only thing that matters right now. I am sickened by the cries of cowardice and evaluation of Bush's conduct by the media in the first hours of the crisis. I would rather the leader of the country be in a bunker at a time of crisis, than making politically motivated gestures of foolish bravery. To suggest that a man who holds such an important position should be stood up in front of the rubble in time of crisis in another photo-op is really stupid. I applaud Laura Bush's visit to the Pentagon, mostly because she did NOT say that she would go to New York right away to keep the presidency in the spotlight. What happens in terms of the investigation should not be all over the TV, though I am proud of my country for the shift away from vengeance in the media today into increased coverage of the recovery efforts. Our thoughts should be with those whose lives were ripped apart, not with the indistinct face of an unseen enemy. Around the world, it's people that matter. Not rhetoric, ideology, or pointless panic.

America bleeds

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America loves giving blood

The donation centers sent out the word for people to stay away, because they have more donors than they can handle. I'm sitting the day out. I decided that there was no way I could go on with business as usual. There is no point in getting out and soaking in the hate. The TV has been on constantly. I'm afraid of what will happen next.

Noah Grey posted a photograph, and a quote from Ghandi (paraphrased) "If we seek an eye for an eye the world will soon be blind." I read an article in the Jerusalem Post which is already crying for war. I keep reading other articles that insist that we should be prepared to see our freedoms dissapear.

The action that matters most is local action. I had my suspicions about the plane that crashed near Pittsburg, before the facts were announced. People heroically rose up to stop the terrorists from reaching their target. They died, to save other people. I can only hope that there are other people out there who will just say no to indiscriminate death and violence. Another pushbutton war won't solve this. We need to develop an intolerence toward the rhetoric of vengeance. Terrorism must be stopped; intolerance for those who preach violence is not generated by preaching more violence. It's hard to find the faith in the people in charge that these groups will be isolated and removed from the positions from where they strike.

Collateral damage is the scariest thing. How much of the world will be ripped apart by hate that wishes to destroy hate?

Panic day

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I'm still processing. "It's like a movie."

Yes, but a very bad one. The rhetoric of vengence and fear are nearly as abhorrent as the acts of deluded religious zealots. People around here freaked and started draining gas stations, rushing supermarkets, as if the world had come to an end. The Arkansas Governor, a Baptist Minister, sought to comfort the faithful by convincing them that they, as Americans, have divine providence on their side.

Didn't he realize the irony of using the same pitch that fueled the suicide missions to decry them?

It makes me sick inside. Moments after the act, the rhetoric started: People covered in dust were placed on camera. I noticed that they even replaced the grey dust that would have been removed by putting on the earpieces so that they could look as tragic as possible. The demon Palestinians celebrating had to be replayed every fifteen minutes, just to make people even more angry. No chance to grieve, we've got to get on with the anger and vengance.

It's impossible to come to grips with the scope of the tragedy, or that horrible feeling everytime I tune in American TV that we are being wagged; the propoganda machine is gearing up for the next level of military escalation. I'm glad I've been able to see some of the BBC coverage. I want to know facts, not be inflamed beyond comprehension.

The words just distress me: "America is being tested" (it's a good thing it's not a literacy test for our president). The polls, already taken are calling it "An act of war." This ramping up scares me that some country, deserving or not, is liable to be paved. I don't want to go to school tomorrow. I don't want to deal with all the hate. It isn't a test; it's a tragedy. It wasn't an act of war; it was an act of terror. There are big differences in the rhetoric involved. "Justice" won't bring these people back to life.

Nothing will. Why does all this empty rhetoric try to convince us that this will be "fixed" somehow?

A collector of sorts

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pardon the mess

In an effort to keep the personality thing going, I need to warn you that you have just wandered into a mess. On the far right is one of my old faithful Advent speakers, piled high with spare change in an 8-ball tin. Next up are the CD's, a thousand or so I think (I haven't counted). The hallway shows that you are in a photographers house, for sure.

The leaning tower of books at the point where the digipic is joined is only a small annex, it seems as if books overflow every corner of the house. Books have overtaken the bulk of my previous collecting activity, LP records. There are around 2,000 of them over there, with cabinets of cassettes way up at the top, and the whole array is flanked by yet another bookcase.By the condition of the floor, I'm sure you can surmise that I wouldn't win any neatness contests. The compost there consists of books, photographs, and projects in process. Of course my cheezy futon is jutting in the far left corner, covered with still more books, currently in the process of being used.

I suppose you could say I'm an information junkie. I take it wherever I can get it, and in whatever form. Unfortunately, most of those forms aren't very portable. I suppose I could have tidied up, but that wouldn't have been too revealing now would it?

This spontaineous outburst of personal revelation was brought to you by Badger's musing over record filing systems. The CDs and records are arranged in alphabetical order by artist, otherwise I'd never find anything. The major problem is getting to the LPs, since there are so many books and pictures scattered all over the floor. The books, obviously, follow no system at all. They are clustered in topical groups in a rather unique, personal, non-system system.

This concludes your tour of the south wall of my livingroom. We now return you to the neatly ordered web, already in progress.

New CDs (for me, anyway)

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A bunch of CDs in my mailbox all at once.
  • Sparklehorse—it's a wonderful life [playing now, reserving judgement]
  • Nirvana— From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah [I'm finally sick of the crap sound on most Nirvana boots]
  • The Who— sings My Generation
  • The Who— A Quick One [both of these replace old cassette tapes]
  • Laurie Anderson— Bright Red [never heard it; rounding out the Laurie Anderson collection]
  • Roy Harper— The Unknown Soldier [supplementing my vinyl]
  • Concrete Blonde— Still in Hollywood [I've been going down memory lane with their first record lately]

I suppose I should write more about music. I just feel a bit dated right now. My tastes are not locked in the past, but there just hasn't been much that has really gotten me excited lately.


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I was asked to read my response to "In the Kitchen" outloud. I did it under duress. I know that the distinctions I made about it were far outside the scope of a mixed class of grads/undergrads. I was flattered though, by the comment that if the teacher didn't know better she'd swear that I stole it from somewhere. So maybe I'm fitting into this discourse community?

A black male writer was cut from the syllabus in favor of yet another female writer. The teacher expressed concern that her sylabus was skewed in favor of black writers in this section. I didn't have the heart to tell her that this now makes the male contingent of writers less than 10 percent of the class. I really don't care, I'll read anything. But I learn more from people who write perhaps a bit closer to my experience.

People I wish I could write like:
  • John Doe
  • Paul Westerberg
  • Steve Wynn
  • Roy Harper
  • Guy Kyser
Why are all my favorite writers musicians?
Response to Henry Louis Gates Jr. "In the Kitchen," The Best American Essays, 3rd ed., 2001.

In the Kitchen is a memoir of growing up traced through hairstyles and the mechanics of maintaining them. Woven into this essay, themes of fashion and taste form a trope through which Gates explores black consciousness.


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Sex and bonding

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Why women have sex on the brain in the Times doesn't make much sense to me. I had a very strong bond with my wife of twelve years, though our sex life was less than stellar. Before and after we split, I've had relationships based more intensely in sex.

“We’re talking about 24 hours of constant copulation.” Translated to human behaviour, he said, this could mean that the more sex a couple have, the deeper their bond becomes, at least on the woman’s side.
Uh, in my experience, 24 hours of constant sex seems to be the marker for intense but short relationships, not long term bonds. But who am I to argue with the voles.

Software and blogging

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I was thinking about how blogging software shapes shapes posting habits. When I first started doing this, I coded everything by hand. With Notetab, I could preserve the most oft used bits of code in macros and everything seemed to be fairly easy. Until I'd been doing it for a while, and found myself having to reconnect everything each time the month changed.

I didn't like the idea of blogger for security reasons. I didn't want to be dependent on an external server. So, I looked around and found Greymatter. It works very well, and is quite flexible, but if you want to have links to individual posts, it works quite differently than blogger. Instead of internal hypertext links, it requires that each entry reside on its own page. That really discourages short posts. Tons of little one or two word pages just don't make sense. That's okay, it suits my style better anyway. I like to stretch out. But I really should use the "extended entry" feature more often, to help people wading through long posts that might not interest them. It's a habit thing; I'm used to keeping everything up front.

I'm an up-front guy.

Blogger would probably better for "link post" type things; but most of the time when I note links it's so I can find them again. Lots of other people have more free time to surf than me, so I don't come up with anything too original very often. Thinking about the interview with the blogger guy, the bias of the software makes much more sense now.

Sunday morning mundane nonsense

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found in the laundry room

Folding briefs.

I've got to wonder about the "the" in the title article. So, you're telling me that there is only one real life? Yes, I suppose that's it. Sly rhetorical coding I must say.

But I suspect that unreal life is what most people aspire to. Especially while folding laundry.

I'm not a boxer. Violence of all kinds bothers me. I walk away.

I've little interest in money. It comes; it goes.

I do have an addiction to tea, however. Time to make some more.

It's nicely erie outside.

Son of Mundane Nonsense

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Clothes in the dryer. Pizza for dinner. New sheets on the bed.

What a wonderful Saturday night! Bought a comforter a month ago. I've never owned one before. Oh no, it's domesticide. But it's just so, well, comforting.

Mundane nonsense

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It dawned on me that I haven't reported significant events lately. I started my laundry at 11pm.

I had my first meeting with someone (who is not my ex-wife) outside a classroom yesterday. Met Leslie for coffee at Barnes and Noble (school related discussion degenerating into my usual ramble). But of course it started as an echo. But as Echo, I have lots of sustain.

What were those keywords again? Frequency, Brevity, and Personality?

Fleet Street & MED

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So, the work on the Middle English Dictionary has come to an end ("ende," also spelled "eende," "eynede," "inde," "yende" and "yinde," and first found in an 1175 text).

Finally. I had to use what was available in a research project a while back. Of course the words I needed weren't done yet, and I doubt I'll be going back that far again.

A kind soul on the C-18L mailing list pointed out a link to some material from London Life in the Eighteenth Century by M Dorothy George. I was taken with a description of Fleet Street that sounded a bit like Las Vegas:

Pennant describes Fleet Street as it was before 1753: "in walking along the street in my youth ... I have often been tempted by the question,`Sir, will you be pleased to walk in and be married ?' Along this most lawless space was hung up the frequent sign of a male and female hand conjoined with `Marriages performed within' written beneath. A dirty fellow invited you in. The parson was seen walking before his shop, a squalid profligate fellow clad in a tattered plaid night-gown, with a fiery face and ready to couple you for a dram of gin or a roll of tobacco".
There are more churches per capita in Las Vegas than anywhere in the world, due in part to the prolific trade in marriage and praying for lucky numbers to come up. The real heart breaker was here, though:
One Jouveaux, a tambour-worker, employed seventeen parish apprentice girls, and had so cruelly ill-treated and starved them that five had died "in a decline". The girls worked at embroidery on muslin from four or five in the morning till eleven or twelve at night, sometimes till two in the morning, and sometimes all night. Their food was usually bread and water, sometimes a few potatoes, sometimes rice boiled in water without salt. It was brought to them to eat at their embroidery frames. The seventeen slept in a garret on three beds. When there was no work they had Sundays to themselves, otherwise they worked on Sunday. Jouveaux moved his establishment from Hackney to Stepney Green at four o'clock one morning, because the neighbours had called out "shame". The girls' shrieks had been heard, and they had been seen seeking in the hog-trough for food. [From Times (Law Report 23/5/1801]
So, now I'm really cheered up. Life could be worse.

Bakersfield Hopping

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back to the sheds

I've spent most of the day Bakersfield hopping. It's amazing what a gold mine of material this place provides for writing. I'm about 1,100 words in on an essay and I finally managed to get from Brundage to the Kern River bridge. I'm rather pleased so far, so what do I do to celebrate? I scrawl more words here.

I guess this proves me to be a word junkie. I'm always looking for them, even in pictures.

Not just Cricket

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Sometimes blogdex is a really great tool. Thinking about contemporary music (though I admit I was listening to some stuff on the Beta Band site with some amusement) I think turret a phone could put most modern bands out of work. But that's just my opinion.

In an unusual synchronicity to a recent post on Roy Harper— who had a defining song called When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Creasenot just cricket came in at number three tonight. This is just too good, I've got to jump on the bandwagon. Confused by the rules of cricket? You won't really need them to enjoy this game, though I suggest all American readers click on the link just to check them out.


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It's coming up soon, so book your tickets: Testyfest explains a lot about Montana. I'm sure the bulls find this foodstuff quite regretable.

I found it while poking around The Complete Catalog of Questionable Cuisine.

Roy Harper-- The Spirit Lives

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A recent e-mail from Traci, now Roy Harper's wife (congrats and all that), informs the anxious public that preorders for the 2 cd live recording of the RFH gig on Roy's 60th birthday will commence on September 10th. Traci also reports that a new tour dates page has been put into place. A few snips from The Spirit Lives remind me why I empathize with Harper so much:

"Well, Johnny Rotten was a fan of mine at one stage. And although punk felt like the same thing happening again that had happened a generation earlier, when you're booted out there's very little you can do about it," he says now, looking back.

While lots of pre-punk tendencies have been reaccepted, from wah-wahs to flares to prog, one thing that never has been is the strong sense of pastoralism and Wordsworthian romanticisation of the countryside, always prevalent in Harper's music . . ."I do pay a decent amount of homage to my roots" he agrees. "I try, the majority of times I pick up a pen, to refer to the whole of me and that includes those references, which I couldn't throw out."

"I have an emotional being which is huge," he acknowledges. This could be a boast, but it might be an affliction.

At 60, Harper is aware that his roving, angry, inquiring spirit has meant that he's been too large to harness for mass consumption.

"With me, it's the material," he says. "A 20-minute song is unplayable on radio. Most people don't have the attention span to get through even a quarter of that. So you need a certain dedication to approach my stuff - which cuts out 90 percent of the population to begin with.

I've been wondering about the attention span thing. I surfed randomly into Write the Web to find an interview with one of the creators of Blogger. Evan Williams states that his notions about the blogging "concept" are Frequency, Brevity, and Personality. I've seen lots of one word, or one sentence fragment, logs. I don't like them much. But then, maybe I've just missed the boat. There is brevity, and then there is shallowness. I like things that are long, rambling, and deep. Can't you tell? I must, because I love Roy Harper.

Tap in my Living Room?

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I just had to show it as I saw itTapping in?

I am excited by the latest ploy to bring religion into the mainstream; the Pope is joining forces with the Scotch in a charity benefit. The auction includes some unusual items, time with celebrities and whatnot. The come on promised Spinal Tap in my living room. This is not at all what I had in mind.

I suppose it doesn't get more postmodern than this. A replica of a replica of something that doesn't exist.

Looking at the array of items present to benefit the River Fund, I was struck also by a signed piece of artwork. A print of Jackson Brown album cover artwork, signed not by the artist, but by Jackson Browne. I can only imagine the type of person that would buy that!

Another questionable thing was a ride in Nick Mason's 1962 Ferrari to benefit Breef. Conspicuous consumption, to help repair the damage caused by greed and consumption. Can you say "ironic"?

motor on in

Just one of the many delightful hotels on Highway 99 (now Union Avenue) in Bakersfield, California. All the big stars like Clark Gable and John Wayne would stay in these places on their way to the Sierra Mountains.

Echo... Echo... Echo....

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The Unofficial Love Boat fan site gets over 12,000 hits a day?

Don't ask me why, but when I was transcribing Ovid's Metamorphoses(see below) a cheezy history of the American TV show from the 70s was blathering on in the background. Now I have new reason to admire the British and the Japanese. Evidently, the show was cancelled in the UK and in Japan almost immediately, instead of enjoying the eight year run it had over here. I don't know what that says about the US, but I know it isn't good.

I spent a bunch of time this afternoon at a site that passed me by the first time: The Institute of Official Cheer is just what I needed today. Though I often harbor the secret desire to club people that are too happy, the acerbic humor of every corner of this site is just right. I played around months ago with images from some old cookbooks, but I couldn't begin to compare with The Gallery of Regrettable Food. There's lots of other great stuff available from the main site, but the motel postcards were a bit wanting. I got better stuff on Highway 99 back when I lived in Bakersfield. Meg was taken with the guys regular writing, but it didn't do it much for me. However, in short smartassed doses along with his cultural artifacts I liked it fine.

Picking up a meme from Dragonthief [I feel so weird calling people by their blog names, it's like the old CB days of "handles"], have a look at a great way to discourage bizarre search requests.

Echo and Narcissus

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Sometimes things get stuck in my head. I spent months thinking about Percy Bysshe Shelley's Mont Blanc, particularly these lines: "Thy caverns echoing to the Arve's commotion, / A loud, lone sound no other sound can tame" (30-31). I was firmly convinced that the sound was one of mourning, because of the similarity of scene depicted in the surrounding lines with images from Thomas Gray, and Milton before him. My point of origin at that time was Milton's Lycidas. Tonight, I traced it even further back, and the connection and reason for its resonance with me (why on earth would I obsesses over such a thing?) became clear.

Here's the deal. Lycidas is a pastoral elegy [shepherds and sheep as a metaphoric device, poem to help console after death, elegy is not eulogy, for the non-English majors] written for a friend that Milton probably didn't even like all that much. The first real image of sadness is:

Now thou art gon, and never must return!
Thee shepherd, thee the woods, and desert Caves,
With wilde Thyme and the gadding Vine o'regrown,
With all their echoes mourn.
What got to me was that this same cluster of caves, woods, and sound produced a certain dark downturn in Shelley's poem— so that's why I connected it with Milton's elegy.

Now, I think that Milton may have meant the image, powerful as it is, almost tongue in cheek. There is strong reason to suspect that he stole the scene from Ovid. He even used it three years before in Comus. It comes from the story of Echo and Narcissus, a story that I didn't know until tonight.

Echo and Narcissus by Poussin

You see, Echo used to like to talk. When she heard the words of others, she could not keep silent, yet she could not be the first to speak. As most everyone knows, the gods liked to fool around a lot. Juno was worried that Echo would tell on him, so he cursed her to only repeat the concluding sounds of what someone else had said. Of course, there was this really handsome dude by the name of Narcissus who she decided she had a thing for. What transpired is nicely translated by Alan Mandelbaum:

            One day, by chance, the boy—
now separated from his faithful friends—
cried out: "Is anybody nearby?" "Nearby,"
was Echo's answering cry. And stupified,
he looks around and shouts:"Come! Come!" — and she
calls out, "Come! Come!" to him who called. Then he
turns round and, seeing no one, calls again:
"Why do you flee from me?" And the reply
repeats the final sounds of his outcry.
The answer snares him; he persists, calls out:
"Let's meet." And with the happiest reply
that was ever to leave her lips, she cries:
"Let's meet."; then, seconding her words, she rushed
out of the woods, that she might fling her arms
around the neck she longed to clasp. But he
retreats and, fleeing shouts: "Do not touch me!
Don't cling to me! I'd sooner die than say
I'm yours!" and Echo answered him: "I'm yours."
So, scorned and spurned, she hides within the woods;
there she, among the trees, conceals her face,
her shame; since then she lives in lonely caves.
But, though repulsed, her love persists; it grows
on grief. She cannot sleep; she wastes away.
The sap has fled her wrinkled wretched flesh.

Her voice and bones are all that's left; and then
her voice alone: her bones, they say, were turned
to stone. So she is hidden in the woods
and never can be seen on mountain slopes,
though everywhere she can be heard; the power
of sound still lives in her.
Most people know the rest of the story; Narcissus falls in love with his own reflection and all that. From a modern standpoint, at least, the mourning of Echo would be just a bit undeserved, now wouldn't it? That's the irony of the image. I never realized this before.

Man, I love this stuff. Sorry if it doesn't qualify as most people's idea of blogging, but this was a big revelation to me and I just had to spit it out. If I talked a bit more about myself, you'd see a strong connection between what happened to Echo and what happened to me not long ago. But I've quit wasting away, in fact if anything I'm a bit swollen. But that persistent feeling that if I shut up, there won't be anything left of me just won't go away. So, I continue to talk too much. Even if I don't have much of anything new to say.

Laurie Anderson

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I haven’t been able to sleep before 5am lately. This triggers uncontrollable thinking. One of the things that’s been on my mind is how people construct identity. Looking at people on the web is like looking at a tiny sliver of reality, and trying to fill in the blanks. It’s a selective piece, and I suspect I might not like many of them, if I really knew them. But it’s fun playing with the pieces, shoving them around, looking for overlaps in experience.

Performer is making toast. Names of former boyfriends are written in ketchup on the bread, then toasted. From the book Stories from the Nerve Bible

I was listening to a radio station compiled by one blogger. On their playlist was a tune by Laurie Anderson I hadn’t heard before. In the 80s, I was floored by Anderson's United States Live. It’s a five record set that is hard to characterize. Yes, it’s performance art; but it’s also quite musical. Growing up in the suburbs, a lot of the images had deep resonance for me. "I dreamed I had to take a test . . . at a Dairy Queen . . . on another planet"

The last Laurie Anderson record I bought was Strange Angels in 1989. It was a really odd coincidence, because at the time I was reading a lot of Walter Benjamin and she wrote a beautiful song about him. But I suppose I just wasn’t ready for an album of "songs" rather than cultural observations. I bought the book Stories from the Nerve Bible a few years ago, but I didn’t realize that there was a companion CD, The Ugly One with All the Jewels. The song I heard that triggered my interest was "The Salesman." It caused me to want to catch up a little bit, so I ordered that CD and Life on a String from 2001.

In some ways, it’s like reliving that past experience. The Ugly One with All the Jewels is like a pared down version of United States Live with a more international focus. I listened to it on the stereo one afternoon, and when I couldn’t sleep that night/morning I put on Life on a String to listen to through headphones while I lay in bed. It was beautiful, in the same way that Strange Angels was beautiful; but there is a difference. I’m different now, and it meant much more to me than Strange Angels did then.

Some records are just great on headphones, some aren’t. As I found out during the week long power outage last winter, Tom Waits’ Mule Variations isn’t. It’s too heavy on the panning, and is too jarring for the "inside your head" experience. Life on a String is a glorious headphone record. Maybe it’s Anderson’s partnership with Lou Reed (his binaural records are pretty good), or maybe it’s just that the electronic translates better to that listening space, but it’s quite compelling when listened to in this way.

I noticed some interesting differences in geographical perspectives in the lyrics though. The thread that runs through the songs is an image of the rarity of whales, and being able to see one surface. Maybe that’s the east-coast perspective, but whale watching is a big sport in California as they migrate by. It doesn’t have that quality of rare experience to me. At the photo shop I worked at, I saw hundreds of pictures of whales. But I suppose it's just that photography has this power to make the uncommon, common. Does it cheapen our experience? I suppose it's a trade-off, because it also exposes the common to a new light.

I noticed that she has a new album coming out soon, derived from a stage production of Moby Dick. I suppose I’ll have to start paying attention to her again. It’s strange how some things fade in and fade out. They come back into your experience through odd chains of connections. Listening to Stories from the Nerve Bible I’m just floored by Anderson’s control of language. She uses the pacing and breathing of the spoken word to create sculptural space. What is it with me and sculptors? There is another one I can think of that may have written "Jeff" on a piece of toast and set it to flame, but that's another story entirely.

Laurie Anderson creates some very compelling spaces. Learning about people through fragments also creates some odd spaces as well. I wonder what sort of picture people form based on musical references in others’ writing. It can’t be too accurate, but it is quite interesting.

Luther and Sheena

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Sheena and Luther Davis

I've got to write a story which involves Luther this weekend, so I thought I'd put his photo up to inspire myself.

Language Theory Week 1

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I knew it would happen. Jeff dropped the Milton seminar, so now, even though I'm not really in the class I volunteered to present Lycidas next week with Leslie. Shouldn't be a problem, I love that poem and I've researched it a bit before. Really fun stuff, unlike the stuff that follows [don't read it, it's painfully dry scholastic shit placed here for archival review purposes]

Notes on:

Native Tongues by Nancy Lord
Nine Ideas about Language by Harvey A. Daniels
What Makes English Good? by John Algeo
Phonetics by Edward Callary
The Minimal Units of Meaning: Morphemes

From Language: Readings in Language and Culture Bedford 1999.

Writing rant

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I discovered an interesting correlation between the amount of writing I do, compared with my site statistics. The more I write, the less people visit. It’s curious, really. Oh well, I won’t let that deter me. I have a big problem with shutting up. It’s not that I don’t listen. I do that too. My problem is that I do too much of everything. I never learned what enough is. Compulsive overachiever, that’s me.

I like learning stuff; you can learn by listening, and you can learn by talking. When you talk, you have to examine what you just said to make sure it makes sense. If it doesn’t you move to correct, to clarify, to examine. I can’t imagine learning in silence.

Lacking anyone to talk to, I’ll just talk to myself. Some people take it as a sign of craziness. Guilty as charged. Writing is different; it’s not the same as talking. You can take it back. You can delete what you’ve written (as Shauna did a day or so ago on her blog). I do pay attention to what other people say, and what they are comfortable and uncomfortable with. It’s a mystery to me. I’m comfortable with most things; including the idea that someone could easily find me boring. I change things up, and include pictures and personal stuff. I keep reading other people to see how they deal with the process of learning in a written environment.

What I am uncomfortable with is physically watching other people write. It seems like dancing about architecture. But I’ve got to do it soon, it’s been assigned. I learn more about the writing process by reading what people write about it, or listening to what they say about it. What can we possibly gain by charting how often someone chews their pencil?

I just needed to rant. I’m done now.

Adventures in Music

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adventures in music

On a thin line

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I was thinking tonight about how much I measure things based in popular music. I think part of my allergy to Jamaica Kincaid’s "On Seeing England for the First Time" was based on my presumption that the topic had been dealt with so much better by a few white males who will never be the part of any curriculum.

As I went to the store, one of those songs came on my stereo: Living on a Thin Line

All the stories we've been told of kings and days of old
But there's no England now (there's no England now)
All the wars that were won and lost
Somehow don't seem to matter very much anymore
All the lies we were told (all the lies we were told)
All the lives of the people running round and castles that burned
Now I see change but inside we're the same as we ever were

Living on a thin line, Oh tell me now what are we supposed to do?

If they listened to Jamaica Kincaid, all the people of England would just die. However, most people really don't find this an acceptable option. Like poetry, songs don’t present answers, only questions. If they attempt to present answers, they generally fall flat. We don’t have Milton’s faith anymore; it’s one of those castles that burned. Humanity became displaced, though as Davies says, inside we’re all the same as we ever were.

A much deeper treatment of the problem is One of These Days in England by Roy Harper. But they’re white males, immediately judged exempt for consideration both for their gender and their existence outside the academy as musicians. I don’t like exclusion, whatever the reason. Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?

Death, Chance and Time

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It wasn't assigned for the seminar, but Milton's On Time hit a chord with me.
Fly envious Time till thou run out thy race,
Call on the lazy leaden-stepping hours,
Whose speed is but the heavy Plummets pace;
And glut thy self with what thy womb devours,
Which is no more then what is false and vain,
And meerly mortal dross;
So little is our loss,
So little is thy gain.
For when as each thing bad thou hast entomb'd,
And last of all, thy greedy self consum'd,
Then long Eternity shall greet our bliss
With an individual kiss;
And Joy shall overtake us as a flood,
When every thing that is sincerely good
And perfectly divine,
With Truth, and Peace, and Love shall ever shine
About the supreme Throne
Of him, t' whose happy-making sight alone,
When once our heav'nly-guided soul shall clime,
Then all this Earthy grosnes quit,
Attir'd with Stars, we shall for ever sit,
Triumphing over Death, and Chance, and thee O Time.

I really admire people who have faith like this. It doesn't come easy these days. Time flies, and it's back to school tomorrow. I'm not triumphing over Death, Chance or Time any time soon. It's the "Earthy grosnes" that I'm stuck with. I must admit that the idea of forever sitting doesn't seem like much fun. I do like to move around occasionaly, so even if I was wrapped in stars, I suppose I'd like to move around a bit more than that. [disclaimer--- I'm not a religious guy, I just love religious poetry sometimes.]

Comp Theory Notes

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Notes on:

"Teach Writing as a Process Not Product" by Donald M. Murray
"Writing as a Mode of Learning" by Janet Emig
"How to Make a Mulligan Stew: Process and Product Again" by Robert M. Gorrell

From: Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader NCTE 1997

Brundage Lane Streetwalking

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somewhere on Chester Avenue, near Brundage I think, Bakersfield, CA

I used to spend a lot more time streetwalking and a lot less time sitting in this room reading, writing, and thinking.

Laura Trippi

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I stumbled onto a very acidic personality on the web that I just had to know more about: net.narrative.environments seems like a journal concerned with many of the same issues I am. But other than the name of the writer, and it's academic tone there are few clues about the writer. So I did a search, and found Laura Trippi's resume. MA in intellectual history, low marks for tact. I lose respect for people when they use dictionary definitions in posts for anything other than comic effect. Blogging about blogging has been a constant topic of fascination for me. I'm always curious what people think they are doing. Anytime narrative gets mentioned in the same sentence with blogging, it gets my attention.

Though I'm not interested in game theory per se, digressions into the narrative elements of gaming and blogging in this entry make me question my own fuzzy definitions of narrative. The presence of narrative in any discourse which is marked by division into days, hours, minutes, etc., is for me a given. Even a collection of links is a narrative of a certain kind, showing the temporal discovery of these events in the environment. Narrative doesn't have to be sequential, in my opinion anyway. I think the narrative drive is the drive to make sense of time (as described by Augustine of Hippo in Confessions) and because of this, it's never far from all human activity. So the division of two forms of blogging (linking and narrative blogs) seems really like an artificial construct with little validity. I think that the primary difference between blogs and hypertext is the presence of a time element; past a certain point, you let go of the document as it scrolls back into an archive. This greatly facilitates the writing process, in my opinion. I feel as if hypertext, without the element of time, becomes ultimately meaningless to the typical user. Therefore, Trippi's key question seems misdirected:

How are constraints of the software shaping the narrative dimensions of weblogging? To the extent that the division of blogging into these distinct subgenres reflects more than the constraints of software (not to be pedantic or anything), what does it tell us about identity and narrative construction in networked environments?
These concerns seem secondary to me. The software creates the narrative dimension. How is identity constructed in a public, networked environment? That is the real question. The rules regarding the construction of identity are loose and individuated. What rules people choose to adhere to in their blogs is far more interesting than any limitation by software; software changes quickly, people change slowly.

Given her observations in her blog, it seems strange that I would have to search independently in order to construct Trippi's identity. Her web site is an odd combination of well developed portal and personal reflection. I liked it, though I am a bit uneasy about the whole thing.

New favorite

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A new addition to the favorites list.

There are a lot of blogs that I sort of randomly surf through, looking for traces of personality. Links are nice, opinions are interesting, but personality is really king with me. The random nature of surfing makes it hard to put your finger on why you like something, or why you don't. The links I've chosen to display on the sidebar are purely based on the fact that I like these people, as people— not as mere sources. I decided to add Dragonthief. The reason why I hadn't before was because he lacked the somewhat standard "about" information which I consider important. I want to know that I'm reading actual people, rather than online personas. I'm sensitive to that. I don't want to be put on.

His latest entry shows a real consicousness of what can be at stake in journaling. But, more than that, he's demonstrated why I spend so much time surfing. He took an idea, alluded to in someone else's journal, and extended it and made it his own. Though I still don't know much about who he is, I've decided to add him anyway!

Can't get my motor to start

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I went out about 2am last night to shop for groceries (doesn't everyone?) and my car nearly didn't start. Of course, it's a three-day holiday weekend. I managed to get to the bank to get some cash, wondering how I would get it sorted out before Tuesday.

When I got up today, I decided I'd at least give it a try. People in Arkansas are just so freakin' nice. A guy at the service station a couple of blocks away agreed to bring a battery to me and put it in after he got off work. Problem solved. No hobbling about on my bad ankle, trying to carry a battery home. Of course everything is closed up tight tomorrow, so I'm glad I got it sorted out today.

I decided that since I often rant about broad issues in things I write for school, that I'd put a few of them here as extended entries. It provides a better archive, if I want to find them again and besides somebody out there might be amused or find something to argue with in them.

Response to Jamaica Kincaid’s "On Seeing England for the First Time," The Best American Essays, 3rd ed., 2001.

Jamaica Kincaid pissed me off. This made a lot more sense when I researched her a little, and found out that being agonistic was her primary mode of expression. That posture seems dated.

At the ball game

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baseball just isn't my sport

Installed IE 6. It's causing some really funky problems. Click away from the window, and text dissapears when you click back. Scroll the window, and the text returns. It makes no sense at all. Like baseball. Sitting on hard benches, getting drunk while next to nothing occurs for hours on end. I just don't get it.

strike the pose

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strike the pose, underneath the all you can eat sign

I've just found one of the most pathetic sites I've ever seen. While I wasn't looking for a good man, contains an online book written by a single man who purports to tell you how to find your perfect mate. Of course, he's still looking so the strategy couldn't have worked too well for him. He's striking the pose, complete with a "Where's Waldo" site design that is proud to say that no one has ever found all the pages. It contains everything I hate in web design: scrolling status windows, embedded audio files, fat cursive fonts, animated gifs, etc. Channeling Dan Ackroyd, it's truly, truly bad.

Why do people pose? I've never figured that out. Specifically choosing the most unflattering light, people ape some mythic pose that is supposed to say "you want me." It's sad, really.

The saddest thing about "the good man" is that he thinks writing self-help books makes him a novelist. I suppose there are worse jobs than writing cheesy self-help books. It's a Living tells the story of people who work as sewer cleaners, fat-suckers, dog-masturbators, etc., and like it. I suppose some people enjoy striking the pose as well. It pays very well, if you're one of the beautiful.

But most of us aren't. We're stuck with who we are. As Frank Zappa observed, There's more of us ugly motherfuckers than you, so watch out. Careful where you surf, you never know what you'll find.

Another interesting e-text just showed up. I've got to take the time to read it when I get a little bit ahead on my school stuff:

Romantic Circles is pleased to announce the publication of an electronic edition of Richard Brinsley Peake's Presumption; or, The Fate of Frankenstein, edited by Stephen C. Behrendt.

Peake's play, which appeared at the English Opera House in 1823, was the first stage version of Mary Shelley's novel. Because the English Opera House was not one of the "legitimate" theaters licensed to present conventional dramatic works (like Shakespeare), Presumption is a mixture of drama, music, and spectacle of the sort found in theater venues other than Covent Garden and Drury Lane.

This electronic edition combines the texts of the variant versions of Presumption in an accessible form for the general and student reader. It includes historical and critical accounts of the playwright, the actors, the play (including two early reviews) and the theater scene in 1823, together with an essay on the relation of Presumption (as a theater piece) to Frankenstein (as a novel). There are also selective bibliographical materials.
Behrendt's book on Blake's Milton illustrations is excellent. It's so weird that I begin to recognize all these names, based on the work I've done on Blake!

online poetry & movies

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I shouldn't say anything, but I'm crossing my fingers that things are sorted out. Oddly enough the campus mail server is having problems too, and the difficulty seems to extend all the way to Missouri. Technology can be so grand.

I've been looking at the various Ballmer movies that have been flying about, but I think Meg has found the definitive remix. It's really scary stuff. Somebody buy that man some deodorant.

On a lighter side, Mark Clarkson's cartoons are fairly amusing. My favorite is the Swami.

Reinforcing my hatred of contemporary poetry, Edward M. Housman's poem The Nature of Information just pissed me off.

Noise and randomness are information's constant companions
Poetry is a tangle of bits on a pedestal, in the mind.
Poetry is information fireworks.
A poem is a hard, sparkling diamond of information.
Poetry is compressed insight, unstable and likely to explode
Poppycock. Poetry does not contain information. Poetry contains relationships; the specific and concrete exists next to the suggestion of the vague and ethereal. Poetry is not tangled bits. Poetry is not noisy, random utterance. It is hard, yes. It can explode, yes. This doesn't. It fizzles. It's prose broken into lines so that it resembles poetry. It contains no complex relationships, and requires no thought. It does not create a poetic performance in the mind. Blech. Poetry doesn't make statements. It raises questions, it doesn't answer them. My only question about this utterance is why I wasted the time reading it.

Oops, I told myself I'd listen to the swami. Cheer the fuck up, indeed.

I must spend more time at the arcades. Now that's a web text worth exploring.

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