Jan 27, 2007

My sentence of the week:

Lawyers hurried through the cold without stopping to look at the men in yellow hazmat suits.
Somebody else's mail
He wanted to say, God, the things we want. He said: "How is the party." -- Pynchon

You could save $5,000 a year. You have won. You could win. You could change your life today. You have been blessed by God today. You could avoid hell and bankrupcy and late payments and bad debt and bad health and hunger and thirst and, and car trouble and loneliness and boredom. Today, you could.

You. You are late. You will have your gas turned off tomorrow and your couch reposessed. You have doctor's bills. Psych ward bills. You must make a payment for the full ammount. You have a small penis and a bad marriage. You owe, owe, owe, owe and we know that you will make this right because you wouldn't like what we would do now would you, would you. We didn't think so. You better sign this and put something in the mail today.

With other people's mail, the promises promised to you are never promised to you. They mean someone else. The threats they threaten are meaningless like a mad man waving away up on the top of some hill. There's freedom in not being you.

Sharika loved that.

It wasn't that she wanted to know what all those other yous were being promised. It wasn't that she wanted to know about them. Their mail was pretty much the same as hers. But their mail wasn't hers and so she could read it and it would never never make a difference to her. None. The threats would never make her lay on the floor with a blanket over her head. The promises would never make her buy an extra bottle of wine. Never. They meant nothing to her. So she read them everyday.

Today was the 532nd day.

Sharika turns her little key and opened her little box and got her little mail. She walks over to the trash can at the end of the bank of boxes. The trash can was overflowing with promises and threats. There's probably a machine somewhere that licks all those envelopes closed. They've probably programmed the machine so that it likes to lick envelopes closed and licks a billion billion envelopes everyday and the envelopes are sent away and when they come here they mostly end up in the trash can. The trash can looks like it's coming unstuffed, coming unstuffed in a loosed confetti of promises and threats all licked shut by a slave-machine.

Sharika dumps her mail in and she starts to pick out some things that she'd like to read. A fat white one with a window. A magazine offer. An insurance ad. Seventeen doctors bills. Twenty-two cell phone bills. Fourteen unknown envelopes. Then the mail lady sees her.

The mail lady is mean. She's so mean that if you tell her someone named Bazooka doesn't live at this address any more and probably never did because you doubt that any mother ever named her baby Bazooka, she will stare at you and not say a word. She will stare at you mean she's so mean. She's so mean that she delivers bad news and bills extra early and she'll hold Christmas packages until Spring. She'll open them up and look at them first and drop them to see if they break. She's so mean man, she'll call the cops. She will. She'll call the cops just as soon as deliver the mail. She called the cops on Jerald and he's blind. He didn't even know he was talking to the mail lady and he just said good morning and she called the cops and swore out a hand-upon-the-gospel oath that he was a cocaine dealer. Un huh. She sent him to jail she's so mean.

The mail lady sees Sharika and Sharika looks away. It's federal crime. You get the cops called when you're reading someone else's mail and you going to jail in Kansas man. Just like that - Kansas.

Sharika looks the other way and pretends like she's looking for cigarette butts. Cigarette butts are embarasing but people don't look at you when you're picking up butts and it'll never get you sent to Kansas. She picks one up and it's crooked and someone drove over it so it's flat and she pulls out a lighter. The end of the butt is just a little past her fingers but she lights it. Smokes - one two three and then it's gone and she throws it back where it was and looks for another. She pretends like she's not picking up mail. Mail? No. Never get no mail. Never heard of it. She walks away like she's following a Gretel-trail of of butts up the hill.

Kindred Pill watched all this. He watched from the window everyday and whatever he let it build. His apartment stank of sweat in the Spring and Summer and in the Fall and the Winter it was cold. He hadn't had the gas turned on in five years and he only left those three rooms and a broom closet to buy Chinese food in paper boxes. There were ashes in the sink and ground into the carpet. He sat at the window and he wrote. He wrote about the people he saw walking up and down the hill. Not stories, just spews. He called them spews. He deleted all of them because no one cared about those people and no one cared what he could spew. He didn't care. The public wanted certain things. The public wanted certain things, things with beginnings and middles and ends and wants. He wrote things like that and his apartment was cold and it stunk and he sat on the chair and he looked at Sharika and then he looked at the window. There were spots on the window where the rain had dried. Yesterday, when the rain stopped, the spots were taking on the light in rainbows. Today they were all gray.

He was, on the 532nd day, two-thirds of the way through a novel about a planet of people called the Eligeos. The Eligeos never needed anything. If you took a toy away from an Eligeo child the child would play with a stick. If you took the stick and everything away she would stare at you peacefully. These people, they needed nothing and they wanted nothing and so they were always happy and it drove everyone else mad and so everyone went and killed them. There was only one of them left on the 532nd day and Kindred Pill was writing the words "You are going to want to die!" when he knocked his paper box of fried rice off the edge of the table.

The box was closed. He bumped the table with his knee and the box bumped off the right edge and it fell sideways and it hit the carpet and, splosh it exploded off-white rice all over the off-white carpet.

You are going to die. Kindred wrote. You are going to want to die and then you are going to die. But first comes the desire. You are going to want it so bad that you are going to say I want I want I want and you will wish you had never ever wanted anything.

Jan 24, 2007

Howard Hunt, who led Nixon's bungled White Water break-in, was had a checkered record with the CIA, and whose memoir is due out next month, died on Tuesday of pnemonia at the age of 88.

May he rest in peace.

Jan 18, 2007

The words of Moses

At first the words still rose. Uncalled for they would come up until his eyes burned and his throat seized and he would rush to the corner and dry heave into a bin of oil rags.

No man can be holy, the words would come, no man can be wholly holy but that his lips be burned by God, but that his soul be seared by the Spirit, but that his wretchedness be ripped away by the righteousness of Jesus Hallelujah. No man. No man. For man is but a worm, a detestable centipede walking on one thousand feet of sin. No man, amen. No man, amen. No man can stand before the holy God.

When the spell was over and he could hear again, he would hear himself spitting in the silence. He swallowed the words down, never saying them aloud, swallowing them and choking them until he lost whatever lunch he'd eaten into the red rags' bin. He would be left heaving, his nose running slightly and his eyes smarting, he would heave and heave and everyone would watch him.

They would stand there, looking awkward and feeling weird and no one would say anything and all there was was the sound of him trying to spit that feeling away.

Jesus, his boss would say then. Are you okay?

His boss didn't call him by name. None of them did, usually. The lady who worked at the shipping and receiving desk would call him Moses and the guy visited once a month selling tools would say Hey Mo, but the rest of them didn't use it.

That was okay, he didn't use their names either. It wasn't that kind of shop and except when he was spitting and heaving and choking back his preaching words, the silence was comfortable.

Sometimes the only thing he would say all day would be, Yeah, I'm fine. I'm fine.

He left the light on so when he was walking home in the evening, when the desert of the Red Bluff Reservoir was turning from tan to brown to red to orange to gray and black, he would see the light when he was passing through the cigarette-and-glass-littered grass and stepped over the curb.

He would see it and it would feel like someone was waiting even though he was glad no one was because he didn't want to have to say anything. He wanted to let the silence grow. He wanted to let it grow until the words all went away and he couldn't impersonate the voices of God, couldn't steal the lines of the minor prophets. Moses wanted the darkness to fall and the spaces to grow and the stillness to wrap him away.

The light bulb was good for that. The magazines were good for that. The picture pages in the stack of magazines warped from the rain and curled and dried again. The shop was good for that too. There was work there, nuts and bolts and grease and wrenches. Moses took things apart and he put them back together and he took things apart. He tore things down and Moses didn't say anything.

Part 1: Moses

Jan 10, 2007

Look into the cracks
Incomplete thoughts on philosophy on the mid-week

The interesting question here is not, contra the title, 'Why the Jews Rejected Jesus,' we have know why (why Christ said they did, why Christians said they did and why they said they did) since the begining or even since before. The interesting question is what did it mean that they didn't, how that non-event acts an internal contradition, a self-disjoining, that pushes, creates and haunts. The attempt to explain why something didn't happen has shaped the formation of that culture from the Romans, who wanted to know why you would follow the dead king of a people who wasn't a king, to the apocalyptic efforts of the 20th century. This abscence has been troubling from Paul's turn to the Gentiles to the recent attempts to prepare for the rituals necessary to reinstate Law-of-Moses sacrifices in an as-yet-unbuilt temple. This is an essential insecurity, one of the kernals of contradiction that always trouble the center of a thing. We could be talking about American Liberalism, and find this founding absence, or about the art of Diego Rivera. The thing carries itself and its undefeatable counter argument, if it's consistant. The success is fitted with the failure. And also the other way around.

The implication, of course, is that this is a problem and to point it out is to criticize. Internal coherence is, after all, the method used to divide good theories from bad. To show that the good theory and the bad are not divisable is damn the good. The counter here is that internal coherence does not internally cohere, thus every edifice is cracked, thus you stop being able to see the edifices for the cracks, losing the accepted and understood focus like a man who suddenly sees the reverse in the reversable image.

Another method might be ethics. This would be to say look into the cracks. Fall through.

This is how I read. This is how a read Derrida. And philosophy. And this is how I read such that I continually abandon philosophy for stories.

Beatboxing virtuoso. Lennon's Christmas card. Protests on Thursday. Best movies about typography. The nuclear physicist who's always described in terms of Greeks. Jiggle the handle, the landlord said. Oscar Wilde the Catholic aphorist (or 'violent papist'). Yuppie part 2, or Gen. Next? The Boshevik and Marxist who died by his own pick. Christian painting isn't bad, it's homoerotic (note nice new blog). Daily monster project. The tricky thing about skiing in Duabai.

Jan 7, 2007

The books of 2006

1. American Jesus, by Stephen Prothero
2. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
3. The Zizek Reader, by Slovoj Zizek
4. Vows, by Peter Manaseau
5. Shane, by Jack Schaefer
6. V., by Thomas Pynchon
7. Bodies in Motion and at Rest, by Thomas Lynch
8. Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
9. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
10. Ferdinand de Saussure, by Jonathan Culler
11. Tracks, by Louise Erdich
12. Jacques Derrida, by Geoffery Bennington & Jacques Derrida
13. Something for Nothing, by Jackson Lears
14. Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
15. The Sound and the Fury, by William Faulkner
16. Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow
17. The Secular City, by Harvey Cox
18. The Satanic Verses, by Salman Rushdie
19. The Night of the Iguana, by Tennessee Williams
20. Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton
21. Travels in Hyperreality, by Umberto Eco
22. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon
23. The Gay Talese Reader
24. Child of God, by Cormac McCarthy
25. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenger
26. The Corpse had a Familiar Face, by Edna Buchanan
27. The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien
28. No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy
29. In Dubious Battle, by John Steinbeck
30. The Revolution will not be Televised, by Joe Tripi
31. Bartleby the Scrivener, by Herman Melville
32. Talk Talk, by T.C. Boyle
33. The Riders, by Tim Winton
34. Mystery and Manners, by Flannery O'Connor
35. Outer Dark, by Cormac McCarthy
36. Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
37. Hip, by John Leland
38. The Little Friend, by Donna Tartt
39. The Fragile Absolute, by Slavoj Zizek
40. Escape from Film School, by Richard Walter
41. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy
42. Wise Blood, by Flannery O'Connor
43. The Best American Crime Writing, ed. Otto Penzler
44. Mammoth Book of Pulp Fiction, ed. Maxim Jakubowski
45. The Grand Piano, by Perelman, Watten, Benson, Harryman, Mandel, Silliman, Robinson, Hejinian, Armantrout, Pearson
46. The Autograph Man, by Zadie Smith

a) I consume a lot of media. I watch movies, TV news, read newspapers, magazines, blogs, online sites. Books are the only things I count, though. Books are the only things I give account of, treating them like evidence of an education.

b) My tastes are tending towards the American Gothic and the Southern Gothic. They're tending toward American writing. I hate memoirs. I'm still mixed in my feelings about Hysterical Realism.

c) The most influential book I read this year was The Zizek Reader, for very personal and practial reasons. The best was Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury, which I hadn't read before, though the novel that influenced me most was probably Blood Meridian, which also made me a McCarthy fan. I'm reading McCarthy these days like I read Graham Greene and John Steinbeck (and also like I continue to return to Kurt Vonnegut and PK Dick).

More to follow, maybe.

Hear the thumping. Thumping like what? Like somebody's here, somebody's lost.

The robin got lost while God was off counting sparrows and hairs. The robin flew through an open space. She flew through a window that was up when the day was clear and locked again later when it was cold. She mistook the room for spring.

Thump thump. Thump thump.

The bird was banging into the break-room window. Where a little outside light leaked in. Flying into it and falling back. Flying into it. For hours. For a day.

Thump. Thump.

The red breast of the bird in only really red in the sunlight. In the dusk of an empty warehouse it's more the color of pale liver.

Jan 2, 2007

Dumpster conversation

The dumpster in the alley off of Agusta Ave. has graffiti on the whitewashed side next to the sticker. The sticker, in caution-colored yellow, says "Do not occupy. Do not overfill." The graffiti says "Do I contradict myself? Yes! I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."