August 4th, 2005

Before Blogging

The entry I just wrote on Waking Life reminded me of a time when almost no one had the slightest idea what I was thinking about. It felt strange to perceive so much distance between the overexposed "me" in front of you right now and the underexposed "me" that was sitting at the Catalina in January, 2002 surreptitiously recording the dialogue to the film so that I could quote it properly in the paper I was going to give in Albuquerque the following month. And that got me thinking of that solo drive to New Mexico and back, when I experienced a much needed flash of freedom in what were extremely claustrophobic times for me, both politically and personally. Back then, I was wondering how I would share my experiences and with whom. Now I have an audience, however limited, and have a hard time recalling the relatively recent time when I had no outlet for my random reflections. Am I better off now? Is it even possible to pose that question? Entering the world of Live Journal was like finding a way to use a part of my brain that had lain dormant my entire life. Yet now I sometimes I get the feeling that the parts of my brain that were working before that fateful day at the end of August, 2003 have been shut off themselves. Once you've lost your innocence, though, there's no going back. And pretending you can borders on the pathological.

Because It Is August and I Love It So

From Denis Johnson, The Incognito Lounge --

Here in the electric dusk your naked lover
tips the glass high and the ice cubes fall against her teeth.
It's beautiful Susan, her hair sticky with gin,
Our Lady of Wet Glass-Rings on the Album Cover,
streaming with hatred in the heat
as the record falls and the snake-band chords begin
to break like terrible news from the Rolling Stones,
and such a last light -- full of spheres and zones.
August, you're just an erotic hallucination,
just so much feverishly produced kazoo music,
are you serious? -- this large oven impersonating night,
this exhaustion mutilated to resemble passion,
the bogus moon of tenderness and magic
you hold out to each prisoner like a cup of light?
Sad to think that the line about wet glass-rings will no longer be palpable to people of my daughter's generation. Even I only caught the tail-end of the LP era in rock, though Kim more than made up for my belatedness with her leaving-records-all-over-the-place ways.
  • Current Music
    Her - Richard Buckner - Dents And Shells

A Chill To Cut the Heat

My friend Jonathan reports on his blog -- August 3rd, 2005 -- about a disturbing lagniappe included in his Amazon order. This is an excerpt from the letter he wrote in response:
My order arrived just fine. However, included with my brand new copy of Judith Wajcman’s Techno Feminism was a “promissory note” for “eternal life” "by the authority of God" for the “forgiveness of sin [presumably mine], public and private through faith [again, presumably mine] in the blood of jesus christ [presumably from inside his body and not purchased on the black market]” [material in brackets added for clarification].
I haven't been using Amazon because Barnes & Noble is a considerably "bluer" corporation, but had to do so yesterday for an order placed through my Department. I wonder whether my selection of Ulli Lommel's Richard Hell-starring Blank Generation and Maya Deren experimental films will prompt some Amazon staffer to send me a similar note.
  • Current Music
    That's All For Everyone - Fleetwood Mac - Tusk

How's That For Hitting the Bullseye?

I don't usually do memes. I even neglect to respond when my friends tag me, even if I don't mind being tagged. But _luaineach drew my attention to a meme I couldn't pass up. You answer a few questions and it tells you what book you would be if you were a book. Anyone who knows me well will be delighted with my result:

You're Invisible Man!

by Ralph Ellison

Most of your life, people have either ignored you or told you that you
were wrong. You've been duped, mistreated, misled, and neglected. Maybe it was because
of your race, or some other uniqueness that people were quick to condemn, but now you
just want to crawl into a hole and disappear. After all, nobody knows your name. But
you just might speak for everyone.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Sometimes the relatively random is right on the mark.
  • Current Music
    For The Sake Of The Song - Townes Van Zandt - Townes Van Zandt

Bad-For-You Bliss

We took Skylar to see the beautiful and eery Hayao Miyazaki film Howl's Moving Castle for the second time today. It was the perfect follow-up to last night's half-viewing of Waking Life. And both pictures are good matches with Last Year At Marienbad, which Kim was obsessing on last week. The common thread of these superficially disparate films is the difficulty of distinguishing between experiences that we have "for real" and those that we only have in a dream state. What I'm sitting at the computer to write about on this thunder-filled evening, though, is not that but the extreme deliciousness of the comfort food I prepared for me and Kim tonight. She wanted pasta without red sauce. I made spaghetti and tossed on the remaining reggiano from our last pesto extravaganza. She wanted eggs. I drove to TJ's and picked some up. And there, wandering the aisles I know so well, the line between film and life dissolved. I couldn't stop thinking of the scene in Howl's Moving Castle when Sophie starts to make bacon and eggs, only to have Howl walk in and take over the cooking duties. So I picked up some Niman Ranch dry-cured bacon and, after wresting permission from the lady of the house to fill it with that distinctive odor, fried it up alongside the over-easy eggs. Now I'm finally getting to eat my incredibly fattening and indescribably delicious creation. Al dente spaghetti, good parmesan, fried eggs, and high-quality bacon conspire to make a feast that's a disaster for the arteries and waistline and perfect for a dark and stormy night in Tucson. My point, other than sharing my excess, is that it was Miyazaki's film that inspired a desire fulfilled in material consequences. Am I dreaming? Perhaps. But it's a dream of cruel, unhealthy food savaging me with bliss.

More Fun With Quoting

The CNN story on Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri's new videotaped warning to the British and American people provides another example, in my estimation, of the subtle way in which reporters can use quotes to impart color to an outwardly neutral story. Here's the first mention of President Bush's response, immediately beneath the subheading "Bush Defiant."
Bush was unswayed. "He's saying, you know, 'Leave,'" he told reporters at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he had just met Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
I'm sure that this is an accurate transcription of what Bush actually said. But I also know that the reporter didn't need to quote this statement at all. The quotes that follow, while hardly eloquent, put the President in a more dignified light:
The U.S. president described the ideology of al-Zawahiri and his adherents as "dark, dim, backwards. They don't appreciate women. If you don't agree to their narrow view of a religion, you'll be whipped in the public square."

Their goal, he said, is to spread their point of view throughout the world, starting in the "broader Middle East. And part of their goal is to drive us out of the broader Middle East."

But Bush said the United States would not bend to the threats of al Qaeda or of al-Zawahiri.

"They're terrorists, they're killers and they will kill innocent people trying to get us to withdraw from the world so they can impose their dark vision on the world. That's what they're trying to do, and the comments today by Mr. Zawahiri absolutely reinforce what I have just told you. We will stay the course; we will complete the job in Iraq."
Sure, we've heard all this hundreds of times. I'm sure there are grooves in Bush's brain carved by the flow of these talking points. But at least he sounds somewhat presidential in delivering them. The lead quote, by contrast, with Bush's use of "you know" to emphasize a point obvious to any second-grader, makes him seem hopelessly overmatched. And I'm not sure that's a good thing. Believe me, I welcome any opportunity to make the Bush Administration pay for its selfishness and arrogance. Yet something in me still bridles at anything that smells of the mainstream media's supposed "liberal bias."

In the end, I don't think making the President look more foolish than he already is makes sense. Fools can get away with a lot more than people respected for their intellect. Wouldn't it be better if we had a clear sense that Bush is responsible for the atrocities being committed in his name? Personally, I'm waiting for the day when W is admitted to the same chamber of infamy to which Richard Nixon was assigned during Watergate. That will only happen, though, if people think he is capable of owning his decisions.