May 28, 2005

Around the www

Who is my neighbor? according to a cartoon rat.

The last supper and the ritualized and bureaucratistic recording of the last days of the condemned. (via Open Brackets)

Hitchens harshes on English departments and shows, once again, that he nostalgically longs for the previous age when things were right.

A pocket guide to the apocalypse.

May 26, 2005

The Fisherman of Bolotnikovo

The lake in a central Russian village has disappeared overnight - BBC WORLD NEWS

The fisherman woke up to the early dark. The window above his bed was open and he smelled the air of the predawn May day and thought it would be nice day. He thought it was nice to wake up to this sort of day when the sun would shine on the lake and the fishermen would take their shirts off and stand on their boats above their water letting the sun warm their skin.

The fisherman rose, as was his custom and as has always been the custom of fishermen, before the day began, and went down to the lake. He saw the other fishermen on the road, friends and co-workers and competitors, and he waved, lightly lifting his hand from the elbow. You can see the lake, going down the road, splashes of blue between the trees. But the fisherman of Bolotnikovo wasn’t looking this morning and so it wasn’t until he came over the last rise, around the last bend, that he saw the lake was gone.

There was no water. The lake had entirely disappeared, vanished overnight. Now there was just this crater with a muddy, debris-strewn bottom.

The fisherman said, Oh my God, what’s going on?

It wasn’t the most eloquent thing he’d ever said, he knew that, but it did express the reaction of the fishermen as they gathered along the edge of the former lake and looked out the empty lake. They peered over the edge. They stood there and just sort of stared.

In some parts of the world, fishermen are known to be liars. In other parts of the world they are known to be crazy, always seeing crazy things like monsters and mermaids and gods and ghosts of ships. Sometimes, they are even known to be both. So when the fishermen came rushing into the village just as the sun was coming up on a May morning that looked like it would be nice, the people of Bolotnikovo were skeptical. Who had ever heard of such a thing, of a whole lake vanishing in the night? So they went to look and like the men said, the lake had disappeared.

The whole village took the day off and went to the vanished lake, standing on the edge of the crater and staring. An old woman got tired and sat down and said the Americans had done it. They dug a tunnel under the earth and sucked the lake dry. No one knew why the Americans would want their lake, but then, no one knew why a lake would disappear.

It was the fireman who pointed out that the trees around the lake were gone, carried away with the water, pulled out or down by their roots and tearing up the dirt of the beach. And it was the fireman who organized the men of the village to search the empty lake, in case someone was caught in the calamity of the disappearing lake and trees.

It would be a calamity, he said, if someone was caught in that. They could never survive. Some people were glad the fireman took charge, and felt safer since he said this with authority. Others thought he was silly, since no one was actually missing, but they wanted to go down into the lake bed and get as close as they could to this impossible thing that had happened, so they didn’t say anything. The fireman was trained for a variety of calamities. Fires, certainly, but also floods and generally the range of natural disasters. He was not trained for disappearing lakes. His first thought was to look for the lake water, which must have gone somewhere. Then he thought that sounded crazy, so he announced a search for the possible victims of the calamity. Besides, searching would give them something constructive to do until the officials came down from the capital.

The officials came down from the capital, with scientists and a television crew. The scientists walked to the edge of the empty lake and said hmmmmm, which was not the most eloquent thing they’d ever said. The old woman told them her theory about the Americans. The scientists didn’t know why the American’s would want to steal the lake, but thought that - yes - it must have been a tunnel.

It was an underground cave, or something, the scientists said, but it wasn’t very convincing.

The TV man said it was like a plug had been pulled on a gigantic bathtub and the camera man took a picture of him standing on the edge of the lake with all its water missing. They started interviewing people and an old man who said he was the mayor said, un huh, this is what happens.

I’ve seen this before,
he said, which surprised everyone because they had never seen or heard of anything like this. Seventy years ago, he said, a couple of houses were swallowed into the earth whole. No one knew if he was joking, or lying, or crazy.

A pretty little girl said she'd heard the bells from the church under the lake ringing yesterday. Oh yeah, she said, there were stories about the church under the lake and sometimes people heard the bell, or saw the glint of the stain glass. The whole lake was, you know, kind of darkly mysterious.

The boys jostled each other to the front the camera to get on TV and to agree with the girl. Dark, said one. Mysterious, said another. They’d used to go swimming out there, dare each other to swim out there, because it was really deep and dark and there were rumors. The lake hasn’t always been here, a boy said, it just appeared one day, you know, back in the time of Ivan the Terrible.

The next morning the fisherman of Bolotnikovo woke up in the early dark. It was just his habit. He lay in his bed in the dark and smelled the air and thought it would be a nice day. It would be a nice day for fishing, but now the lake was gone. He wondered what he was going to do.

May 25, 2005


Paul Ricoeur, a French philosopher known for his work phenomenology, who wrote more than 20 books on topics including linguistics, metaphor, memory, time, psychoanalysis, neuroscience, exegetics and hermeneutics, died yesterday at the age of 92.

May he rest in peace.
Today my parents have been married for 25 years.

May 21, 2005

Movie notes

Um, actually, the first three Star Wars were really bad too.

I watched The Wild One, it's still really difficult to imagine a motorcycle gang listening to jazz.

Northfork, with a bleached landscape of funeral-parlour quiet absurdism and the quasi-fairy tale vision of America as a place, of death, passings and unknown angels, may be the best movie I've seen this year. I especially liked the church missing the forth wall, the G-men's circular greeting, the silent cowboy writing prophecy, the boat on the plain, and the guessing game in the diner.
Rain in the forest
It's raining, he said, and it was.

We stood, looking up at rain coming down through the green-gray light of the trees. A line of water leaked over the edge of my yellow hard hat.

A frog croaked somewhere in the weeds.

May 17, 2005

Tristan Egolf, an experimental author some compared to Faulkner, who wrote Lord of the Barnyard, Skirt and the Fiddle and the soon to be published novel about Amish werewolves, died on May 7 by a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 33.

May he rest in peace.
"They ought to make it a binding clause that if you find God you get to keep him."
          - Philip K. Dick

May 15, 2005

People I met on the Greyhound

Elmer, the red bearded Amish farmer from Ohio, who talked to his family in
Pennsylvania Dutch until he fell asleep.

Chicagoan, who was trying to sell a gold necklace with the line “come on, let’s see some of that corporate money.”

Sioux, who asked for money and then, when I turned him down, gave me a not-really-reproachful-sermon on the sameness of all places and peoples. “Cool, man,” I said, “but I don’t have any money.”

Flannelled Fargo native, who told me he’s really from Portland and was just here on a layover 15 years ago when he met his woman.
Fargo grandfather, who built a four-course meal around hash browns.

Fargo grandmother, who said somehow in the space of a sentence I didn’t quite hear, the words “BMW” “Root beer floats” “the Pulitzer” and “99 cents.”

Pretty librarian, who said, apropos of nothing I could hear, “to all intents and purposes, he should be dead.” I stared until she noticed, and then went back to reading.

Girl playing pool in the sports bar named Sports Bar, who told her friend to tell the guys they were from Josef’s - “What’s Josef’s?” “Cosmology” - and sunk six balls in a row.

Sleepy bus driver, who swerved a lot the night out of Fargo, then decided to stop for the snow in Dickinson, MT, and went into the diner kitchen to wait for a phone call saying the roads were clear. We waited three hours.

Minnesota sisters, Bri and Jordan, going to their mother’s wedding in Montana. Brie spent the trip reading, doing the big sister act, or calling ahead to see if it was snowing and to plead with somebody not to do crack while they were there. Jordan became the sweetheart of the back of the bus when she harassed the sleepy bus driver for information, and then started a group game of hangman.

Wigger, who was quite taken with Jordan, reading a bio of Tupac, and spent the afternoon singing “back it up, back it up.”

Guy with the grizzly pony-tail, who laughed a lot and kept suggesting that somebody “twist one up,” going back to MT from Knoxville. He didn’t have any money, and bummed a cigarette at every stop and traded me his white oak walking stick for a can of peanuts.

Little girl with big brown eyes who pointed out the scenery to Wigger, saying “ah-wah! Ah-wah!”

Girl from Quebec with the boyfriend from Texas, who spent half the trip trying to get the little girl with brown eyes to play with her instead of Wigger.
Man with an atlas, who kept tabs on exactly where we were and assuring us the bus in Billing’s would wait even though we were an hour late.

General, who was a big black man that never said anything to anybody and was wearing black and white camo, knee-high boots, a military jacket and cap.

29-year-old Woman going to Seattle to celebrate her 30th with high school friends. Catholic, daughter of the Billings political journalist, who complained a bit, apologized for complaining, shared some yogurt-covered pretzels, then fell asleep on me all the way to Spokane.

Simon, an Italian grad student studying linguistics in the US who said he was riding the greyhound to see “how the other half lived,” who stood in the aisle to hit on the 29-year-old, got distracted by my questions about school and talked to me about philosophy, who was called a “homo” and told to “sit down," who gave me his e-mail and said he'll send me his recordings of Derrida lectures.

Prison construction guy, who kept saying “lemme dive, I’ll do a hundred all the way,” and told us how he’d always come home drunk or stoned and couldn’t remember his wife’s name and she’d be like “how come you calling me Dog and Dude?” Marriage only lasted eight months, he said, ‘cause she was crazy.

Jeremy, who met me at the Spokane depot with coffee and a book.

May 10, 2005

I'll be gone for a few days. I'm leaving this evening, to ride the bus back out to Washington (west of Seattle), for three days of silence - reading and sleeping and looking at the country and listening - as if the bus were a monastery.

May 5, 2005

Suggest one book for the summer.
How I know it's finals week

1. All of the doodles on all of my notes for the last two weeks are of people being trapped, hung, impaled, enslaved, beheaded, buried or dismembered.

2. The snackbar looks like an apocalypse survival center for nerds who hate to sleep.

3. On command, I can tell you the all requirements necessary for a univocal term to be a univocal term and write for four pages on "thisness" and the problem of individuation, but am struggling to think in complete sentences.

4. The only people who don't have the jitters from on coffee are the people using Methamphetamines and the guys who are always drinking their third pots by lunch anyway.

5. At the last three parties I've been to, someone has flipped out and done something that is beyond their pale of normal stupidity. Like, yell about panopticons, hit someone in the face for laughing at their hat, etc.

6. I walked into a store and when the cleck said hello, I said, "So how are finals going?"
Cause for divine wrath

My favorite Sinfest strips are the ones with God or the Devil, so I was happy to see God show up again today - laughing - and thought the last one was, uh, familiar?

May 4, 2005

Awareness, Openness & Humility
My paper synthesizing the ethics of Girard, Berry & Derrida is finished and up:

"The ethical message is this: wait wait. Look again. Do not think we have so easily escaped. The violence has already begun."

May 3, 2005

In this manner, II

There was this guy, in New York I think, but it doesn’t matter. He bought a phone and a tape machine and he put the number in the paper with an advertisement soliciting apologies. It was for anonymous apologies, anything. He didn’t care, it was just this space he’d created for people who wanted to apologize but couldn’t, a public confessional. It was an automated answering service for the guilty-feeling, a place to confess in a world without priests, a world without gods ready and able to forgive.

He got hundreds of phone calls a day. People called him Mr. Apology and the tape machine ran for 10, 15 years. Until he died. Mr. Apology took all the tapes of all the apologies and spliced them and sorted and filed them. He rigged some of them up so callers could call in and listen to the apologies. I heard some of the apologies, once, on PRI.

There was a woman sounding sappy and pious apologizing to her dead mother in hopes the dead can hear us. There was a man apologizing for adultery, and a child apologizing for being vandalizes. A runaway girl calls to say she’s sorry, but mostly just lonely. There were a few jokes, a few justifications and half apologies, a few responses to other apologies.

This man called the apology line, and for the first minute of the tape he just breathes.

I’ve never told anyone this, except my shrink. he says. I accidentally killed my younger sister when I was a very small child.

My lungs seized at his stuttering, his stumbling not to cry, and I thought, I wanted to hope, that this was just an overactive conscious, that he just somehow blamed himself. That he was just a kid, he misunderstood. It wasn’t really his fault.

I was putting her head inside a plastic bag, he says, and putting a rubber band around her neck, just to see her face turn blue, and I guess it was a lot of fun, and I didn’t mean . . . anything bad to happen.

He didn’t mean it, didn’t know, didn’t realize. And then he sees her stop, sees death in her blue face and suddenly the sees evil and it is his own, suddenly looks with horror, with guilt, at his hands holding a plastic bag and a rubber band.

He hides. He hides the bag and the rubber band and he never tells his parents. They think it’s crib death, sudden infant death. They think it’s an unexplainable tragedy and they never know it was him, never look at their son and see a monster, never see his face as the face of a murderer. He sort of wishes he could tell them, that he could tell this to them, that he could receive their forgiveness, but he knows he can’t. He knows no forgiveness, knows it is impossible. I started to cry.

When I try to pray, I think of him.

(see part I)
News & etc.

1. My last paper - a 13 or 14 page something on ethics - has to be finished tonight. My three in-class finals are on Thursday and Friday and the other one's a take home that we're supposed to get together and do Friday afternoon or evening. So if anything mildly interesting shows up here it's because I'm procrastinating.

2. I'm going to have a 9-hour layover in Fargo, so if anyone knows someone there I should meet or something interesting to do in Fargo between 2 and 11 p.m., let me know.

3. The girl next to me is trying to edit something by this friend of hers and he keeps telling her she's "the worst best friend ever."

4. Peter Leighthart has a horrible piece in the most recent Touchstone. Most, but not all, of the especially horrific opinions of Michael Medved's speach have been cut from the Imprimis version.

5. My dad has work lined up for me this summer, doing tree work for a guy I worked with the summer before I went to college. Should be 4o hours a week and over $1o and hour. I'm thinking of maybe still trying to get something that's part time in the evenings as well. But then I'm going to have to do the reasearch for my thesis and my independent study this summer too.

6. I haven't decided if I'm going to walk for graduation. It's not the type of thing I would normally do, but then everyone seems to think I should.

7. The word of the week is haggard.

May 2, 2005

A creative non-fiction essay-writting contest, for 20-something year olds, by Randomn House. Due Novermber 24, 'o5, 5oo - 5,ooo words, grand prize $2o,ooo, runner-ups get published.

(via Huggins)
'I didn't try to be primitive. I just had bad microphones.'

Hasil Adkins, a wild, one man rockabilly band, who was halfway between Hank Williams and Iggy Pop, who sang about love, sex, loneliness, decapitation, hot dogs and chicken and who symbolized American scrappiness and proto-rock 'n' roll, was found dead of unknown causes at the age of 68.

May he rest in peace.