Mar 29, 2004

With the windows rolled down

I'm off ballyhooing across the country to see if maybe this time Echo will answer "count the spoons."

It's On the Road take 7, the second time driving the whole way and the first accompanied as David, my 17-year-old brother, is coming along for his own adventure via upstate New York.


I'm taking the fight to the Philly, my friends. I'll be living in the nicely named Ambler in my first apartment, 15 miles North of the city and a neighbor of Villanova. My plans include working for a wage to pay off the dogs - I'm looking at possible work at a gas station, graveyard groundskeeper, want to look at newspaper printing and will generally look around when I get there - and working on some of those writing projects that seem like good ideas but can't be touched in school. And the nice thing about Philly is that it?s not as clich?d as New York (or Chicago, or L.A.).

I'm fully planning on finishing the B.A. and going to grad school to sell my soul for porridge. Just because you?re worried.

I'll be gone from here for a few days, obviously. I considered writing posts and figuring out how to have the automatically update, but it seemed like a con. But then I don't have a problem with cons so maybe, yeah, let's just say it wasn't pomo enough. I suggest you read Sarah Hatter or Jeremy Huggins in my absence. Not that they're anything like me. I just enjoy reading them and you might too.

For you Hillsdale folks I'll be making a one-day-only-April-Fools-special appearance at Hillsdale, or something like that.
I like to think that one day Snuffleupagus learned he could stop the jokes about his name by giving a cold look and saying "If you say that again I'll kill you."

Mar 28, 2004

Mellowing and maturing, Cookie Monster took to music under the name Tom Waits.

Mar 27, 2004

When we grew up, Oscar the Grouch was replaced with Ezra Pound.

Mar 26, 2004

My wriggling masses

I think my entire blogroll is on hiatus. Pretty close. It's worse than summer even and I'd try to poke around to see who else is blogging that I find reading but I don't have the time and am fighting to keep of the hiatus list myself.

My uncle's been talking about branding, about names as brands. It's interested me, especially the question of why some people embrace it and some people shy from it. I haven't been able to talk it out so I'm not sure if I want to go anywhere interesting with it.

At least Marxism admits that people have backgrounds.

The tee shirt reads "It's almost finished" which can be read a number of different ways, more ambiguous than "Kill me now!" though, no less ironic. Hippies, as viewed by punks, were terribly serious and lacking in irony (which, when you think about it, is why they can be so damned annoying).

You can tell a lot from the way a person walks and the walk and the amount you can tell are both greatly exaggerated when the person's 16.

"Something like that" as our very best passive-aggressive phrase.

The basic taxonomy of blogs out there is really cheaply done.

"Wicked cool" the only in phrase where everyone knows and has always known it was a joke, though "bloody" is used that way in American English.

Even if I don't say "Futuristic fears and how the forms of power have changed from the Orwellian conception of Big Brother to the faceless oppression in cyberpunk," even if I just say "Changes in futuristic literature after George Orwell and the Cold War," I still get really funny looks.

Old friends are weird. In a good way and not all in the same way. But weird.

One can fake one's self out of writer's block, or something like that.



Mar 25, 2004

Thoughts re: foreign policy and the Congressional inquiry into Sept 11 terrorism

1) Palestinian statehood with a stable government and economic prospects are essential to a US foreign policy.
2) Both parties are moving away from a diplomacy-first policy and want action.
3) "Actionable intelligence" isn't the worst of buzzwords and raises the policy question one ought to know how to answer: "What is actionable intelligence?"
4) Our foreign policy history is horrible but not horrible in consistent enough ways to learn a clear lesson from our messes (e.g., intervention or isolation? We've messed up both ways?) and that's a big reason why I have no idea if we should or should not have invaded Afghanistan before Sept. 11.
5) The secret service and special forces are both more and less present than we think they are or want them to be.
6) The Cold War was confusing. This is a lot worse.
7) We're overdue for a thinking through of our hodge-podge of foreign policy.

Mar 24, 2004

What's the difference between an art community as conceived by Andy Warhol and one as conceived by Ezra Pound?
For today
Gideon Strauss asks the question, what reading do you recommend that one might understand our world today?

To put it in a Hillsdale way, what canon do you have for now?

Mine's in the works. I expect it to include film as well as fiction and philosophy.

Mar 22, 2004

Malls are the carnivals of the late 20th century.
Ambiguity and mystery
The young Church of Christ pastor, wandering the streets of New York, comes upon the Cathedral and from the Cathedral chanting – we give thanks to thee for thy great glory oh Lord God heavenly king…

After the Mass he stops the priest and demands to know how he can join.

"Because," my Anglo-Catholic priest tells me, "I'd never seen beauty in Christianity before."

Mar 21, 2004

Today the war in Iraq has been with us for 1 year and the Republican party for 150.

Why they share an anniversary I do not know.

Mar 19, 2004

You can't control me

"Well," said my friend’s mother, simplifying the mysteries of pop culture for moms, "now that the movie is out, only black Batmen are cool and the blueBatman is for little kids and he can't be seen with any of the blue Batman stuff."

"Do you know about this Dan?" Mom said.


Next week I walked up the street wearing a brown shoe and a black shoe (both untied), with one pant leg rolled up and one down, a real live 8-year-old prophet against mass culture.
With me in Rockland

He doesn't say anything and I keep talking. It’s almost a look but no, it's just stillness.

He knows I'm lying.

Not that it's lying. It's a - it's a creative telling, exaggerating, spinning. It's a good traditional American pastime and it's more interesting this way and it's Bear up a Tree or On the Road or that politician's honesty or the last seven stories I told.

But he knows he knows. I'm lying.

He doesn't say a thing and almost looks at me sideways but I stop to watch him stop to catch what he said and it's only stillness.

Hell is other people, the man said, but very very few people. Certain people. The ones we call at 4 a.m., the ones we write letters to in our head, the ones where all our conversations are catalogued, the ones we've known so long and so well they're part of the reason we are who we are. This is that sort of friend. All of mine are, but this is the first one and the most significant one and the one who, right now, knows I'm lying. It's not even a lie, really. It's not a Kantian Categorical crime I couldn't live with everyone committing. But he knows.

It's just something he knows, sitting there, my friend, just silently my friend, who knows me well enough to catch the deceptions I believe, who holds me down to give the demons a chance.

Mar 17, 2004

Where is here?

The internet is Oaklandish.
What you factor for
My friend, the emo-writing Noah Greene played some thrash-punk at the Roxy with his band The DeLater Incident.

It was, in his words, "Hillsdale Anti." Or maybe it wasn't.

Mar 16, 2004

Absurdism & Surrealism

Both practices of “not what you think” counter-intuition, both deliberatly irrational, cynical, anarchical and revolutionary, they nevertheless are distinct. Absurdism has the logic of a child’s joke and Surrealism that of a dark dream. The imagery is close enough to be identical, for Dali’s melting clocks could have been Carroll’s and Carroll’s cat-less Cheshire grin could have been Dali’s.

What is different is the tone, the role placed upon the viewer is the role of child, in Absurdism, or mad poet in Surrealism. Lynch’s cowboy of doom in Muholland Drive and Gilliam’s giant-wearing-a-boat-hat are akin in imagery but divided by tone, difference of emphasis of humor or vision.

Dadaism - that over publicized hyper-reactionary meta-multiplying until death - occupies both Absurdism and Surrealism. It’s generally billed under Surrealism but can be more playful and is, after all, sharing a name with the French word for a hobby horse and an infant’s word for father.

The internet, often an absurdist enterprise itself, has wonderously preserved the early dada journals, giving us an easy look at Dadaism as it was to itself.
Your daddy he's an outlaw
And a wanderer by trade
He'll teach you how to pick and choose
And how to throw the blade
He oversees his kingdom
So no stranger does intrude
His voice it trembles as he calls out
For another plate of food
      - The White Stripes
Rest in Peace: John W. Seybold, 88, pioneer and innovater in computerized typesetting, is dead.

Mar 15, 2004

When pomo kills

Apparently, when we weren't looking, postmodernism, killed sound in poetry and dialouge.

Which is so slanderrous as to be ridiculousness. Here is where it "killed" sound and here dialouge.
"and no doubt could buy it again"
Woundwood, my uncle's latest work, has truly impressed me.

The poem is marked by a symmetry that is developing rather than repetitive- beginning with an extra fine Watermen felt tip pen and ending with "This same Waterman pen/for virtually all my poems/ for the past twenty years," beginning with a boy singing and ending with his brother joining him on the chorus.

It's the progress that makes the symmetry deeply satisfying to me. What I am attracted to in Woundwood is the calm, the maturity as peace. Here, Ron's wolves appear and he knows they are dreams; he knows his monsters are outgrown but lingering, dusty duplos; he knows the terror of war is offset by the grin of a child. Criticism - the biting and the stupid - has come up regularly in Ron's work as he tries to deal with it: admit to it, defend against it, consider it, crush it. It's the last response I discovered I had by seeing it in my uncle. It is the last response always tempting me, the response of unmuted rage at not being taken seriously, that brawlers demand to "let me at him," that urge to crush the opponent.

Ron once told me he was whittling away at the chip on his shoulder. He was getting older and it smaller. In Woundwood the criticisms come again but this time they hang, they rest, they are accepted and he's not angry at his detractors and his devils. The response is a peace, a contentedness.

Let them gather dust in dark corners. I could have done nothing else and they were there, part of it.
Knowing how to ask
Don DeLillo's Body Artist asks the question "What is time?" but badly wants to ask "If I turn around fast enough, can I see myself?"

Sparse, paced, poetically written, contemplative.
The finest review of The Passion
It's too loud to explain.

Mar 12, 2004

My dullard stare.
(nose running headache sleep for 14 hours throat coughing not talking phlem)

Mar 11, 2004

Ball of the Absurd

I stand under the street light with my duffle bag at my feet and read on an Ave in Seattle waiting for Jeff to come on the 9:36 bus. I read, standing there, as if it were an act of protest, yet quiet and I am only waiting.

Down the slope of the street, rolling bouncing bop bop bop, comes a basketball. It rolls past me, rolls under the police car idling at the light, sticking under the cruiser. No children come, no children appear here, no one racing to retrieve. There is no source for the ball at all and from all evidence it is without cause, a miracle a spawning of the street of the hill of Seattle itself.

The officer, hearing something, looks up, looks in his mirror. I advert my eyes. At the green light he pulls away, slowly, loosing the ball into the street, resuming the roll of its wandering.

A woman jogging along the street stops the ball. She stops, body settling into stillness, holding the ball in her arms, lost dog hurt child, and squints up the dusky street.

The officer stops. Car pausing in a turn not taken as he leans out toward the woman. Where did that come from, he asks through the passenger window. Demand masking his own confusion, making it all hers. Down the street she says, not knowing how to believe, not expecting belief, not understanding what was. She bends a little, letting the ball shift to one hand as if to bowl it uphill, return it to the children, the children who aren’t there.

She straightens, looks into the empty dusk, looks to the officer. Just set it on the corner, he says, and she does. Relieved of unknowing and uncertainty and incoherence and returned safely to her jog. The officer straightens, and pulls out pulls forward knowing it’s taken care of, not explained not understood but taken care of and Not A Problem.

They leave the corner empty, to me and my book under the street light with the ball. Me, my story, and a ball deserted for less absurd things. The unaccountable abandoned.

I laugh in the empty street, and put the ball of the absurd with my duffle bag.

Mar 6, 2004

So I'm on my tour moving west. I hit Hillsdale Thursday afternoon and Friday and now am going to Metzgers, then Minneapolis Sunday morning, and wandering wobbling west from there, dogging to the end of the world (where I live.)

Expect my return to blogging next week. If any of you live along 90/94, wave to me.

Mar 5, 2004

When the net's working we call them friends

My complete surprise going incredulity at realizing what I've done is networking. Really? Can you do that without wearing a suit?

Mar 4, 2004

Driving through the images of MT

I have a meeting,


with Gen Custer’s ghost.

Mar 3, 2004

Countin' one eyed jacks and whistling dixie in the car

"The problem with creativity," said the man who played the finest of jazz, "is you never know what to expect."

And as a true Sillman, the planningist of planners, would tell you, the unexpected is never never never a good thing.

Planning. It's Murphy’s law crossed with a Puritan ethic - a Prussianist rule that demands that this family is always early and driving around the block until it’s acceptable to actually knock on the door, that has my grandmother showing up at airports 4 or 5 hours before departure time, that had my great-grandfather driving off without family members because they "weren’t ready."

"Dan," my brother says, "this isn’t the shortest way."

No, I say, but 3 minutes be damned I want to enjoy the scenery. Which is, to a Silliman, an exclamation of revolution, an announcement of anarchy - an act of unsettlement on par with casually describing the complete instability of our currency.

Im - imp - improvise. Impish impromptu solos and stopping to see if you can catch snipes or where that curly road curls to or what do those flowers taste like and who wants to drive to Mexico tonight (we have $5).

But you gotta have a plan man, understan'?

Well, says my Neal Cassady, we’ll cross that bridge when we fall off it.

Mar 2, 2004

Garver, talking about his daughter, makes a point in favor of litury in an interesting sideways way.
Vehicles in motion
Part of an ongoing series of a weird legend...

1) The first time I drove horses the team spooked.

2) The first time I drove a riding lawn mower I drove it through the rear wall of a tin shed.

3) The first time I dove a stick shift I crashed one company truck into another.
Things you can change

I once knew a man named John who had a big black beard and a deep tan. One day, in the middle of the summer, he shaved the beard leaving translucent white skin bare to the world.

Why? we asked. Why in the middle of summer? Why so rashly?

"Sometimes,” he said, "you just want to change something. You look at your own eyes in the mirror and just want to change something. And there’s nothing you can do. Nothing you can change. So I shaved my beard."
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