Dec 31, 2005

Babies and travel: eveything else is death and drudgery

"And I'd disliked her sighs. She sighed too much, I announced to myself one day, and worse, her sighs were weary, were groaning and exhausted, the sigh of an old person who'd sen everything and couldn't believe she was now being held, at the end of a journey she could never describe. The sighs were withering, were mood-killing, and finally I complained about Charlotte's sighs, to no avail. She'd responded with another sigh and that, I now know, was the end of the end.

"I was a fool."
                  - Dave Eggers, You Shall Know Our Velcity!

Dec 29, 2005

Evidence of terror

There was this cat.

He looked like an LSD burnout. Like an old man never recovered from what he'd seen. One eye was scarred half closed and the other open too wide and wandering. He was wearing this dirty white fur and a weird looking head, alien shaped. When I stepped on the porch he looked at me, wild eyed and scared and ready to freak and when I took another step he ran. He ran through the rail in a leap, crashed through the boxwood bush in a leaf-trembling tumble and scratched himself up into a run out over the winter-dead lawn into the street.

In the street the cat ran against traffic running like he was chased by the devil. Or by devils. By terror, by horror, by unnamable panic.

He hit the car on the side of a tire, taking the tire's turn to be thrown down to the pavement and then lifted off into the exhausted air. A tuft of fur was torn off and puffed into the aerodynamic wind, flowing up into traffic like a bit of litter. The cat didn't land on his feet, like cats are supposed to land on their feet, but took a three somersault tumble coming up confused and crazed. The cat screamed, like cat's aren't supposed to scream. He screamed a scream taking everything into account, counting all of the luck up until now as a trick that was no longer working. This time he couldn't escape and this time everything was wrong, off balance. All of his lives and his feet were lost.

Taking all this as evidence of terror he ran again. He ran again and he ran into the second tire of the second. Not to the side of it but head on in nto a horrible crunch leaving him laying there, in the traffic. Broken. Dead. The cat was silent. The car skided, squealed, and kept going.
A list of lists for 2005

Best 20 movies.
Best reviewed movies.
Best 50 albums.
Best 100 selling albums.
Best novels.
Best 100 selling novels.
Best newspaper writing.
Best media errors and corrections.
Best photos.
Best newspaper photos.
Best inventions.
Best Caliornia wines.
Top banished phrases.
Top Google searches.
Top CIA "ghost prisoners."
Top U.S. treaties.
Top fonts
Top 1,000 titles bought by libraries.

Dec 26, 2005

Odessa Nelson, who was majoring in musicology, who was recently engaged to one of the finest young men of the community, who was the sister of my best friend, died from a skiing accident on Thursday at the age of 22.

May she rest in peace.

Dec 25, 2005

'See, your salvation comes'


on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

        - Isaiah

Merry Christmas to all of you.

Dec 24, 2005

'I count the holes they leave':
Wandering broke around downtown Detroit

The ice was working to slush in the afternoon rise to 33 degrees, slush slopping up around the sidewalk's lights like collars. Coming down the iced-up stretch coming off the two stadiums, Ford and Comerica, I passed a dozen bars, all of them expensive looking to a guy with just quarters in his pocket, and a liquor store and some restaurants advertising “cuisine” instead of food. Not a single coffee shop, though, not even a Starbucks where business people might pick up a soy cappuccino and listen to Sly and the Family Stone or something. Apparently Detroit doesn't drink coffee.

Sorry man, I said to a panhandler in the same brotherly jive he was using, I'm broke as hell.

Yeah okay,
he said.

But hey man, you know where I can find a coffee shop?

Isn't that one across the street?
he said.

That's a bar, I said.

Ain't they got coffee?

They got beer. I just wanna cup of coffee.

There's a hotdog truck front of the court house.

The hotdog stand was closed and anyway what I needed in addition to a cheap cup of coffee was a place to sit for a couple of hours while I waited for a friend to finish his interview and accounting house tour. so I kept walking. Set off in a zig-zaggy pattern crossing the street when there wasn't any traffic and accidentally following the trolley car calling itself the Detroit People Mover.

I ended up on the steps of a public library, Skillman branch, looking at the decorative stone work of stylized swastikas. I'd seen the design before, in a rod iron stair railing in a house in Grand Rapids built by a German woman in the '30s. They were a little embarrassed, when I asked. Said they'd been intending to replace it and said, a little accusing like maybe I was a Nazi for noticing, that most people didn't notice, because it was so stylized. Not that you can really stylize something that's as abstract as a swastika, but they were stylized in the sense of being muted. Racism without the garishness of being spray painted on the side of a synagogue

This the old library? a man on the street said.

Yeah, I said.

They got a baffroom?

Prob'ly, I said.

Lady at the front desk said I didn't need to check my bag but could she look and I showed her and she said nice bag like she wasn't looking for drugs or guns or bombs, but fashion. The children's section was empty when I went in, so I found a table with a green covered reading lamp by the books about turtles and penguins but was kicked out after a few minutes for not being a kid after 1 p.m.

I'd finished reading LeRoi Jones' play The Toilet when I fell asleep on the hardwood table, head down on my arm. Woke up with the cell phone buzzing around in a vibrating techno-death rattle on the tabletop, buzzing to say they were down at the accounting house and now I could go home. Over the aisle two men were asleep, one of them snoring and one of them smelling like he'd pissed himself. The man across the table from me didn't move, his white-bearded chin down asleep on his hands holding open the middle of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men.

Dec 19, 2005

The revision and extension of my "death of God" paper, Speaking of God: Explorations in the possibility of theological language, is now up on the paper's page. It looks like Dr. Blum and I may be co-writing a longer piece based on this one.

Dec 13, 2005

The Ludwig papers:

1. Short summary of the Tractatus
2. Wittgenstein and the Dissolution Principles
3. Counting Wittgensteins
4. The Mind of Wittgenstein
5. Wittgenstein's Queer Problem

Well that was more writing that I realized, but I'm particularly happy with 3 & 5. I think. Some sleep might change my mind. It feels good to have all that written, anyway.

Dec 10, 2005

Speaking of tongues: notes on saints, confusions and cultures

Johnny Cash, Anthony of Padua, C.S. Lewis

The photo project, by Jeremy Huggins.

Dec 9, 2005

Waiting for the final wave

It's not an ominous place. It's not the sort of place that just somehow sets you off on a line of thought of wonding about the end of the world, or how to spell 'armageddon.' It's a suburbia full of mostly nice old people and temperate weather, with mountain views and sea air and it's pretty much like a travel brochure, tinged with that sappy quaintness. All the old people are always moving there because of how nice it is and the only undercurrent of uncomfortableness they say they feel is a niggling concern for the almost final obliteration of the rural Northwest community it once was. There are only two dairies left. I guess they'll be there until their owners die. There's one for-show horse farm, an organic farm, some tourist-friendly lavender fields, and a rusted grain silo.

The silo is square, an ugly tin tower in the middle of town rising from the tile roof of a Mexican restaurant. The restaurant's painted up tastefully colorful but then the silo comes out of the roof like a hideous interruption, looking really weird with walls of dull tin ungracefully rising to the top with corrugated gables. It stands there towering with all the horror-flick animosity and ominousness of a monster rising from the sea.

Mr. Bodds owns the copy shop under the silo. Every day he drives to work in an RV. Every day he drives the RV fully loaded with canned foods and valuables and everything he'd need to survive and he backs it into the lot behind the silo so he'll be ready, ready to run. So he'll be ready to run from the tsunami wave. He's been predicting a tsunami for at least ten years now, writing weekly warning letters to the weekly paper citing a mixture of opaque apocalyptic legends from local tribes and scientific papers from out-of-work scientists who have short wave radio shows. Sometimes Bodds says it'll be an earthquake that sets off the tsunami, breaking that whole peninsula loose from the land and sinking into the sea, setting it loose to go crashing into Canada. Sometimes he says it'll be a planetary alignment disaligning the gravitational pull and pushing the water up into a wave wiping up the mountains. Always, though, every time, he says it will be total disaster.

He's got a big map on the wall, color coded for disaster. It shows the whole stretch of land from the Puget Sound to the Pacific, everything above the Cascades and below the Strait of Juan de Fuca is there and all of it's inked over in pink and green and orange and blue and each color is linked to water, how much water will wash everything away.

He sells survival kits but his plan isn't to hide out and survive. If you ask him what he's going to do, he's going to escape. He's going to run out to the supply-stocked RV and drive the two-hour road along the coast outrunning the tsunami's wall of a wave to the turn where the road sneaks down the side of the mountains going south.

People ignore him. They ignore his letters and survival kits and ominous predictions. They think he's a kind old man but little kooky crazy and they try to get his wife to make their copies so they won't have to talk to him. So he wanders around making copies and fantasizing and muttering everything will be destroyed, and it's kind of quaint.

Another retiree moved in last month. Gray-haired and from California, another one in a town full of people seeking this temperate zone, a pleasant place to pass away. He has gray hair and a beard he's let grow and he's like everybody else. Except for the sign. He walks up and down the street with a handmade sign lettered in black electrical tape. COMING, it says, in capital letters, The tsunami is COMING to the Northwest. They had a picture in the paper and my mother clipped it and sent it to me and he doesn’t look crazy. He's smiling and he looks like someone who likes to laugh when his grandchildren open Christmas presents.

So the other day someone was asking what I was going to do, when this was all over. I said grad school if I can get in and he said what if you don’t and I said journalism. But that's a finicky field too and hard, you know, can be hard to get into so he said so what if you don't do journalism and I thought about last options and about the ominous shadow of that ridiculous silo.

Street prophet, I said, taking a drink of water. Apocalyptic street prophet.

Dec 6, 2005

Cyberpunk googlezon
An interesting piece of cyberpunk video concerning current dystopian fears about the information age, about the internet, the media, corporations, capitalism, and ourselves.

Aside: There is, I think, a very common very bad reading of futuristic literature, both utopian or dystopia. Rather than reading it as predictive of the future, as a genre akin to prophecy, it's better read as a projection of now. This allows us to move past the too simple debates about why such a future will or will not happen, and gives us interesting insights into what an era thinks of itself. It's more akin, really, to horror flicks, in that you temporarily buy into the over-the-top story, let yourself go with the exageratedness of the genre, and later look at the substrata of fear.

(via Will Farnham from Japan.)

Dec 4, 2005

Thesis outline

Kenneth Lee Boyd, who murdered his wife and his father-in-law, who confessed to the murders but said he didn't know why he commited them, and who had an I.Q. of 77, died of lethal injection on Friday December 2 at the age of 57. He was the 1,000th person executed in the United States since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the death penalty in 1976.

May he rest in peace.

Dec 1, 2005

Ed Peterson, an amateur botanist who spent 40 years searching and re-searching the deserts, fields and mountains of Southern California for wildflower seeds, who collected and cataloged 20 pounds of seeds a year in an attempt to preserve California's wildflowers, who could predict where in the Santa Monica Mountains a particular clump of flowers would grow, died in his sleep on November 14 at the age of 100.

May he rest in peace.