Dec 30, 2009

Worse than the time before

Tom Waits on what you get out of working in movies
One hundred posters, minutes, days, and influences
We still need Marx when we study religion in the 'post-secular' age
John Starkey, Indiana photojournalist, dies at 67. May he rest in peace.
9,000 pages of Nietzshe now available in digital facsimile
Can LA change public perception of public transit?
David Foster Wallace was not a grammar oracle
What the Large Hadron Collider will accomplish
How the right wing hijacked the thriller genre
Jonathan Letham reviews Patricia Highsmith
Books most likely to be on 5-finger discount
David Levine's authoritative images gallery
Large Hadron Collider and the second try
Review of Best American Short Stories 2009
Herta Müller and her discontinued people
Mountain Goats: Experiments in sincerity
Can we hope for another communism?
Sugar Ray Robinson's 'transcendence'
Conservative of the year: Dick Cheney
The horrid tradition of end-of-year lists
How not to build a revolutionary party
James Cameron's white guilt fantasy
Polarization of Supreme Court clerks
40 years of the Whole Earth Catalog
Defending the faith of nonbelievers
War where we find it (photo exhibit)
Forms of writing = forms of thinking
Zadie Smith: "The real slim Zadie"
What the Arab media cares about
How to teach physics to your dog
Freedom is being a bike courier
The where and how of reading
Germany's exported Christmas
25 ways to get smarter in 2010
50 years of listening to aliens
Puddles and the modern city
Top ten years of the decade
When Rigo will return home
Dissertations on the Dude
How Zadie Smith reads
NPR's Jazz of the year
A year in book covers
The decade in design
Graphing gravity wells
New Russian writers

Dec 29, 2009

This was his Florida now

The phone was attached to the wall in the kitchen, which was okay, since that was the only place he could smoke. He smoked while he waited.

Stan couldn't see the sea from here. Couldn't see the sky. There was an orange tree, though, where the oranges were starting to turn ripe for the winter, and he could see between the backs of bright and flamenco-colored houses to the warehouse store with a blank beige wall and the steel steps of the loading dock. At night when the window was open you could hear the trucks back up. In the morning when the wind was right you could hear the highway going up to Orlando. He smoked and waited. He watched out the window at the houses and the back of a superstore as an old neighbor lady in a night gown seemed to scowl and inspect the grass of her brown back yard. He waited. He smoked again. The woman went inside and night came slow, pink and then gray and then murky night, and he still waited for the phone.

He waited in the morning when the papers came, crashing into the backstops of the doors down the street, and waited when the commuters he could see through the bent blinds in the front all drove off. He waited when the mail came. Waited by the phone. He lit his cigarettes with a plastic lighter that said FLORIDA in an arc over a bouquet of oranges. Six months in the sate and he hated Florida now, and this was his Florida. He flicked the finished cigarettes into the sink when he was done, then saw they were still smoldering, letting off single spirals of filter fiber smoke and he stood up and ran the tap. Soggy butts lined the bottom of the sink like slugs.

Around 11 he ate two hot dogs. He boiled them on the stove. The old lady was out in the yard again, walking around with a pointed stick she kept poking into the ground. He wondered if she was watching him. The phone was between two sheets of wall paper, hung between the seams. It was white but yellowed as he watched it. The cord was kinked in places, stretched out until it lost the loops in others. It didn't ring. He picked it up a couple of times to listen, but hung up again and sat down in the chair between the stove and the window.

He ran out of cigarettes at about 1. He smoked the last one and instead of putting the pack back in his pocket he let it lay on counter. He played with the edges for a few minutes, turning the pack and turning it again, and then took $5 and hustled down the block for some more. He cut across the lawns, jogging, and then walked fast past the low row of stripped stores: Chinese food; dry cleaners; laundry mat with a woman in sandals slumped in the molded metal chair; empty; hair salon; empty; and a corner grocery with lettuce and broccoli browning, match-3 machines in the back with high stools and a little, hard-faced grandma behind the bullet-proof glass. She was sorting and stacking magazines, racking them facing out through the glass. and didn't look at him for a long time. When she finally did he slid the five through and said what he wanted and she found his brand, found his type, rang it up, made him change, printed up a receipt and passed it piece-at-a-time through the glass.

He lit the first one outside, but then walked back, smoking as he went, his exhales over his shoulder. It was a bright day, for winter, and the sun looked solid. When he got to the door he could hear the ringing. He dropped the key. When he pulled it out of his pocket he spilled spare change across the concrete steps and dropped the key and the phone rang, paused, and rang. Stan put his shoulder into the door when he turned the lock, panicking as the phone's each pause seemed to last too long, and when the door clicked he flung it open and fell inside, slammed it into the white wall hard and he ran as the phone rang, across the six steps to the kitchen. He said her name. He cracked as he cried it into the phone, "Linda!," he said and his throat was dry, but then there was nothing except a tone. It was flat. And dead. It was one tone extending forever in an infinite line, extending unbroken or interrupted, extending unstopped and unstopping without even a waver, a quiver, a moment of modulation.

It extended even as he hung it up. He sat down heavy and stared away from the phone, staring at the window, not through it at the houses and the old tree and the old woman in the yard, but at the window, the surface, the glass. He could feel that tone between his eyes. He shook out a cigarette again.

Dec 28, 2009

That they might float away like angels
"Doc had outrun souped-up Rollses full of indignant smack dealers on the Pasadena Freeway, doing a hundred in the fog and trying to steer through all those crudely engineered curves, he'd walked up back alleys east of the L.A. river with nothing but a borrowed 'fro pick in his baggies for protection, been in and out of the Hall of Justice while holding a small fortune in Vietnamese weed, and these days had nearly convinced himself all that reckless era was over with, but now he was beginning to feel deeply nervous again."

-- Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice

Dec 25, 2009

Self portrait of us in a warm bakeri on a cold week for weinachten
I wanna ask the angel when

I wanna ask the angel when. Can we could we, will we here. But when. Tidings bid and peace promised as if it were only infinity unfurled. If this is real, then when. Learn to hope, it has been said. I would ask but then the angel would or maybe should ask it back, throw it back and ask it at me: yes and when? Or perhaps not that question which was mine, but instead another, a better one with a clearer answer and one that is not so abstract, a question where with the answer in the thump of organ tissue blood and flesh.

For an angel, if this was or there were an angel then it might be right at the end of that to ask. Don't assume the angel knows. This is God absurd. Don't assume the symbols from a story boiled down. Accept or anyway start at least with the weirdness of this. Something of the dada's been diluted now. But this is. God gives up: God no more: no more power and heaven empty, no glory, transcendence, no force or army no more. No more all in all and all and God's an accident here, no longer absolute but contingent now -- and didn't this used to be the insult for the enemies of YHWH? Your God is sleeping, crying, too small and human, away or indisposed, and now it's true and chosen. Now a choice. The insult embraced, weakness preferred. God here gives up being over all. He'd rather be a baby.

Baby born in slime, slick with fluid of birth and afterbirth and blood - I remember blood but it's later denied - mucus and crying, contingent, accident unto us, boy unto us and born, contingent to die and dying already. The face all squished: all babies alien. Misshapen head and features mushed at first. Here's a cord that has to be cut, umbilical, cut and clamped and knotted purple where a belly button will be, drying until it falls away.

Dec 21, 2009

The whole world green

In the ascending elevator the people were unhappy and complained. There was no sun. It was Florida in Spring, green and glowing, warm and with recorded birdsong symphonies broadcast from every bush and bunch of flowers in the resort. But, the people said, there was no sun. The elevator opened on the eighth floor and they got off, glum and silent. They were replaced by a young couple in sandals and swimwear with towels and the elevator descended again. It was all shiny metal and mirrors, and the pair saw themselves reflected there, on the inside of the elevator, smiling and holding hands as they went down. The pool outside was perfect blue, the kind of water where you can see straight through and it seemed, to them, a perfect day.

A mallard landed in the pool leaving little ripples, a gentle wake of his glide. His head was green and held high and he swam in a circle, a surveying king. Besides that it was empty.

The young couple brought their own towels, taken from the room, and draped them over the plastic poolside chairs with their sandals and his glasses and the key to the room. Then he saw and pointed out the resort had whole stacks of towels there all ready by the pool. The towels were white and thick, folded in stacks that seemed endless. She said, "well, now we know for tomorrow," and it seemed like tomorrow was a long way away, and when it came it would last for forever, and everything was at peace. Then they swam in the pool, under the overcast sky, and the place was mostly empty and completely calm as they swam. The woman did laps back-and-forth and the man floated on his back and looked at the sky. He closed his eyes, and with the light through the trees, everything was green. She swam underwater and came up to surprise him. She laughed and made a funny face and they laughed. She wiped the water from her eyes and he kissed her.

Around them, though, everyone was unhappy. At the restaurant an older couple ate without speaking: he the clams with wine sauce, she the roast beef with couscous and asparagus spears, both of them frowning and picking. Out in front of the resort, where the shuttles were supposed to stop, a man in board shorts and a flowered shirt kept shouting, "Is that what you want?" At a bench outside a boy played a gameboy while a man, maybe a father for whom this was custody, asked questions that were not answered. He phrased each one as if it was interesting, and then paused and said, "hmmmm?" At the hot tub two little girls splashed and jabbered as their father tried to read the USA Today. The younger girl splashed and shouted through the bubbles and the older one saw the mallard dripping and waddling and began to screech "he's so cute!" until the father snapped the paper and said he was trying to read. The hot tub was immediately silent then except for the bubbles, and the younger girl began to cry. Against all this, above it, behind it and around it, ignored, the birdsong kept playing, trilling and tripping like happiness with a whistle.

Then on the third day when the couple woke up the woman was sick. She had a fever and ached and it felt like the flu. This was the third day at the resort, the fourth they were married. She threw up in the bathroom. Her head hurt and throat hurt and she lay in the bed and wanted to cry or at least sleep. The man went and got nyquil at the supermarket outside the resort, driving a mile and then two to find it. He bought cans of soup and orange juice and rented two movies. He had to wait to be checked out because the clerk, a pregnant woman chewing gum, was talking to the police about two teens she'd seen stealing condoms. They were, she said, dumb little fuckers. Then he went back to the resort and up the elevator, letting himself quietly into the room.

The woman was asleep but woke up to say, "you're here," and he crawled under the covers and held her. "I'm here," he said. He told her what he bought and she said he was wonderful. The afternoon air was sweet and came through the curtains open to the balcony. He held her and watched the curtains. She sighed and closed her eyes again to sleep.

Dec 20, 2009

About to pop

Writing while riding on trains
A history of shooting sideways
Terry Gilliam and the Imaginarium
Edward P. Jones' Ballad of America
Edward P. Jones and black nostalgia
Edward P. Jones after the MFA program
Charles Dickens' savage and magical style
David Foster Wallace's German hit, Un Enlicher Spaß
Can a man who makes his living off of war be a humanitarian?
Derrida, unofficial translations and copyright challenge
Why David Lynch didn't do Return of the Jedi
Arab homosexuals were invented by the West
The David Foster Wallace grammar challenge
The minister who heads the brothel lobby
Censorship, obscenity and comics in Canada
Women and the mastery of the short story
The destructions of Patricia Highsmith
Mathematician who subtracted himself
David Foster Wallace: "Wiggle room."
Paul Auster's artistic oblivion
Zomia and the anarchic ideal
Writing advice from Dr. Suess
Interview with Thomas Lynch
David Bryne's movie voodoo
Hubble advent calendar
Lady Gaga, feminist?
Graphic design '00
Missing the point
How you say "Lolita"
Trademarks of illegality
No bookstore in Loredo
Value of a short story: $3.99
Best Jazz of the year, decade
Super heroes throughout history
Evangelicals and intellectuals
Looking for life in the multiverse
Gary Johnson, the next Ron Paul?
Attempts to rehabilitate Lenin studies
Photos of the odd and strange everyday
Movie of the decade: There Will Be Blood
Asking for forgiveness for 10,000 deaths
Obama and his Niebuhrian foreign policy
Breaking down the brilliance of Kind of Blue
Oral Roberts and the return of the prosperity gospel
Sugar Ray and the rise of urban African-Americans
A criminal justice system practically built to perpetuate crime
Anxious middle class caught between prole zombies and vampire toffs
Robert P. George, architect of the newest declaration of Christian Right
Crime of shadows: trolling for predators in the corners of the internet
Oral Roberts, Pentecostal with TV empire, dies at 91. May he rest in peace.

Dec 17, 2009

The last time I saw Oral Roberts

"Oral Roberts, the Pentecostal evangelist whose televised faith-healing ministry attracted millions of followers worldwide and made him one of the most recognizable and controversial religious leaders of the 20th century, died Tuesday in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 91."

1. In the bowling alley in the afternoon everything was quiet and the TV would be on wrestling and religious programming. The woman that ran the place was always watching prosperity preachers. Her son watched wrestling. She liked the charismatics. He liked the Undertaker. It was mostly empty in the afternoon, a dusky quiet, a business that wasn't booming. She left the door propped open to the parking lot and cleaned the tables and floor and cooked hotdogs before the league bowlers came in in the evening, and the only sound was really the TV. They'd switch it back and forth without fighting about it, and after awhile the shows seemed seamless: Chris Benoit and Joel Osteen, the Undertaker and Creflo Dollar, Christan Cage, Oral Roberts, Word of Faith and WWE.

2. At the abandoned gas station on the corner, a kid lay among the leaves and stains of brake fluid, antifreeze and oil. The kid had had the spirit since he was ten and was, before this, in seminary. A sort of seminary: it was a school of eight in the basement of a charismatic church, unaccredited, with a curriculum of prophecy and prosperity, faith, visions, healing and miracles. The boy was also getting his GED. He had a spot at ORU if he finished the equivalency. He had been prophesying a lot, lately, "seeing the invisible," "doing the impossible," "filled with the spirit." He was starting to preach some Sunday nights. His schizophrenia flared up in the Fall, though, and he thought he saw snakes and the devil. The police thought he was high and he had a knife so they shot him three times at the Shell station, and he died there, several miles from the church.

3. Up on a hill in the hills East of Bakersfield, the elderly woman was alone since her husband went home, and no one had worked on the yard since he died. Her house was set so she could see the sun sink through the city. The place was overgrown with olives trees and oranges that fell to rot like a carpet in the weeds. She got a discount on the yard work since she was a window and when they came one of the men agreed to carry her letter down to the mailbox, a prayer request and her last will, legacy tithe to Oral Roberts. The rooms were dark except for the orange light of the sun setting in smog, and she stood in the window wearing her oxygen mask and watching the men at work on her yard. When they finished she gave them lemonade and glasses with ice and copies of Expect a Miracle.

Dec 14, 2009

Jonathan Franzen

Problems arise from the conflation of what something is and what something should be. For one thing, Franzen’s definition of the literary novel doesn’t really leave space for a failed work, something that takes the human condition as its subject, but isn’t successful. He also, at this point, took a little hop-skip and said literature is about “people as they really are” – as if realism were as natural as breathing. In fact, novels are not and never could be just simple reflections of reality, but are always and have to be constructions, artificial and formal mediations, interpretations.

Moreover, it’s not at all clear that this description of literature as being about “people as they really are” will divide writing in the way Franzen wants to divide it. It doesn’t seem obvious that a story about a man turned into a bug, just to use Franzen’s own example, is about humans “as they really are,” in some way that, say, Leonard’s story about former ’60s radicals on a for-profit bomb spree is not.

Read the entire essay, Jonathan Franzen, honesty and the lines of literature, @ The Millions.

Dec 11, 2009


Dec 10, 2009

"... behind every lurid desire lies a grace waiting to overwhelm you into seeing the world differently"
            -- Tim Parrish on Denis Johnson's theology in Jesus on the Mainline

"... a man dressed as an elf allegedly told the mall Santa that he was carrying dynamite"
            -- AJC, Man dressed as elf causes mall evacuation

Jesus, Denis Johnson and Lou Reed
David Foster Wallace's last work
Pynchon in California, 64-70
Best books never translated
The journalists in jail
Writing about war
Store closing
This recording
Colliding particles
The jazz loft project
Your best photo 2009
Langston Hughes in jazz
Stuart Little is not a mouse
What Roberto Bolaño read
Evolution and Brit birdfeeders
Top ten singers who can't sing
Lonliness spreads like a virus
Raymond Carver was the rage
5-part interview with Rene Girard
What happened to Cornel West?
No principle of charity in reading
Trotsky bio and history falsification
Books as sculpture and art objects
Science -- webcast brain dissection
Place your particle physics bets here
Apologizing for the uncool Christians
From Irish simian to Homer Simpson
"The Word of God was messing with us"
Attempting to authenticate Hitler's skull
Can a man be more than his rap sheet?
Is philosophy limited to the leisure class?
7,000-year-old corpses were cannibalized
War photographer: I just see dead people
2009's best fiction & non fiction from the LA Times
Midpoint in the postmodern Western: Way of the Gun
Raymond Carver and "this salvation of American literature"
Doctorow and Lethem write a new kind of apocalypse novel
David Hockney: the artistic equivalent of finding religion late in life
Malcolm Wells, champion of 'gentle architure,' dies at 83. May he rest in peace.

Dec 8, 2009

The last suite

The dust wasn't good for the cello. The cold wasn't either. The strings were slightly harsh, reverbing sharp, and the wood face was coated with the dust that was concrete and ash and still falling like dandruff on the city.

Carlton played and watched the people go by in parades. They had hard hats and coveralls and those little painters' masks hanging from strings around their necks. They were white with the dust. Baptized in it. It covered them like a fur, a thin and prickly fur, except for where their sweat had made streaks and swirls, and their hair was white, their faces like flour, their hands and arms, their coveralls and the tools they had, everything except their eyes where they blinked the dust the away was covered with a coat of the cremation. He played as they went by, bent over, played for the parade of slow and crippled men. He played, Bach and Bach and then the Beatles, and no one looked up and they kept coming, covered and trudging out of the financial district at night and it wasn't enough, wasn't enough, and no one looked up and Carlton just played until dark and cried.

He was going there again on the next day, feeling the dust in his skin even though he had showered again. He was working his way down into the city past where the subway now stopped, wearing his suit and America-flag tie with his cello strapped on his back when he saw the paper with the Saudi son's face, smiling and bearded.

The next day he signed up with the Marines.

Dec 4, 2009

HAP Grieshaber and the artist's problem of history

The artist, a funny-looking man who described himself as someone who just wanted to live on a mountain alone with his animals, was an answer to an often-posed theoretical question. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger once famously asked, “What are poets for in a destitute time?” Theodor Adorno, who left Germany to escape the Nazis, gave a name to the “destitute time.” He called it “after Auschwtiz,” arguing that poetry or any art in an era dominated by ideological murder of millions “is barbaric.” As an Orthodox Rabbi posed the problem, what can we possibly say that is credible in the presence of burning children? Grieshaber’s woodcuts show an answer. His works speak of the way humans relate to nature and to each other. His works speak about recognizing violence, rejecting violence, and hoping and working for an otherworldly peace, the intervention of an angel, a dove, a spirit of love.

Read the rest of the essay, Woodcuts in a Time of Destitution, @ The Currator

Dec 3, 2009

Back when Beaumont was mostly still a white street

He threw the gas cap, flinging it back as soon as he had it uncapped. It was one half twist left and loose, off and he flung it. His hands were shaking he was so mad.

The gas cap hit the pavement, pocked it, bouncing with a dull ding and rolling into the trash in the gutter of Beaumont. The black bag was split open, spilling out, the diapers and fast food wrappers, receipts and rotting meat bones spilled out into the pile of pieces of paper and stray cigarette butts scattered and bits of glass broken and sparkling there. In the middle of it all a box of frozen spinach was melting, a mush, oozing a mottled green, and the gas cap hit the box and hid behind a Big Mac bag that rustled.

The man's hands were thick, his fingers, fleshy. The hair on his arm continued up on the back of his hands and the first joints of his fingers had sparse hairs sprouting brown. He had plumber's PVC glue stained on his pointer and middle finger, the sealant a shiny, peeling skin. His knuckles were red from the cold and his nails were cut back but square, like the heads a screw drivers. He wrapped his hands around the T shirt he had, twisting and wringing it until it was wound tight like a thick rope, and then he fed it down the throat of the gas tank.

It took two tries to light the match. He was shaking and there was a November wind. Then he had it.

The parked police cruiser didn't explode but the fire seemed to flicker for a moment and then inhale, take a deep breath, and then the whole car was on fire. The black paint on the back bubbled and burned, the windows shattered and the ceiling liner was consumed except for black bits that fluttered up with the smoke. The headlight covers cracked, the tire under the gas tank popped and the paint on the police lights melted and ran. Someone called the fire department and said there was a police car on fire in front of the plumber's house at 19772 on Beaumont, so everyone was screaming to the scene to see if an officer was hurt and asking what part of Beaumont that was that, block or white. Almost everyone was there, including the chief who, if he won, would be the last white mayor, when the black officer came out unexplained and with his shirt unbuttoned from behind the plumber's house.

The smoke seemed to boil up in the afternoon, unfolding fragments of burnt police car up into the city sky. It sounded like a gargle from a dry throat, and that was all. The plumber walked the other way, swearing incoherently and wanting to punch something. He grabbed a bag that was wet on the bottom and threw it into a wall, but it just left a wet spot and a smell on a his hands.
What speaks

"... the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profaned riches of the world."
-- Abraham J. Herschel

"If I could do it, I’d do no writing at all here. It would be photographs; the rest would be fragments of cloth, bits of cotton, lumps of earth, records of speech, pieces of wood and iron, phials of odors, plates of food and of excrement.”
-- James Agee

Nov 27, 2009

Something let go

Nov 25, 2009

Personal recollections and shared reminiscences of the deceased

He used to stick his finger in the coffee to see if it was warm. Even when there was steam or the cup itself was hot, he'd plunge his pointer in like a dip stick. Up to the knuckle. Then he'd stick his finger in his mouth and nurse it. Every time.

Three years we'd worked together, since they hired us both for the holiday rush, and this was what I knew. About the coffee.

He used to lower his voice, too, when he was on the phone. He'd lower it so it was soft and he'd say in the unlikely event that you were to unexpectedly pass away, wouldn't you want know that your loved ones are cared for and financially secure? Isn't it good to have that peace of mind? Then he'd stick his finger in his coffee, and he'd smile if they said yes.

Nov 23, 2009

The detective's son

Look, the old man said.

The boy looked and the body on the slab was slightly green, somewhat wet and goosebumped, like the skin was moisturized like for an ad except instead of being a woman's long leg in warm water and light this was the flabby, fat and bat-winged arm of a greenish man in a morgue.

The old man asked the boy if he saw.

The old man was wearing a suit, with a long jacket over the suit jacket. They were both brown but their patterns didn't match. He was holding the boy by the shoulder. The old man was wearing a badge on a loop around his neck and the boy came up about that high. The boy looked, aware that his face was being examined by both the old man and the coroner too, the coroner an even older man who was all white with a condescending half smile, and the boy made sure his face showed nothing. He looked at the body, which was all laid out on the metal tray, and he said okay with his tone and face just flat.

The man on the slab had been stabbed, and the boy could see the wounds where they puckered, the black and purple oozing up and forming volcanic-looking ruptures on his chest. The coroner pulled back the sheet, plucking it away so the man was naked except for hairs, and then the coroner cut the man with a new knife, slicing down the center of the chest until the body belched open and the cavity yawned wet and gassy, rancid like sweet retch. The stabbed man's eyes were still closed even then, though his mouth was open like this was in fact a surprise. Then the coroner -- who still seemed to be smiling -- reached in with what looked like hedge clippers and there the bones in the chest went crack, slowly, crack, metered, crack.

Outside the old man lit a cigarette. It was fall and the leaves hustled after each other in half circles in the parking lot. The man had a mustache then, which he'd shave off about the time the boy turned 12, and when he smoked the boy could see how the hair around his mouth was brown just from the nicotine. You see, said the old man, I don't want you to grow up to be like me.
Tolls taken

The known and unknown worlds of Edward P. Jones
Cormac McCarthy is now "respectable" in Hollywood
Legal victory for
Radical Orthodoxy now giving the Tory Party ideas
The Warhol of the Internet, and then afterwards
David Simon on why he created The Wire
Churches unite on "most important" issues
Loius Armstrong and race and the Jews
Translating Tolstoy & the Russians
When the Stones really let "it" bleed
Nick Cave's soundtrack for Cormac McCarthy
Interview with Cormac McCarthy
Looking at the Bolano backlash
AP photographs of Afghanistan
Examining the uncanny like us
Christmas as Nazi propaganda
Zadie Smith's essay collection
The original Swiftboating
Studs Terkel and the FBI
A short history of "hello"
Mr. Grand Theft Auto
Raymond Carver's life
Art of the bar code
Nietzsche's piety

Nov 19, 2009

Another night shift waiting

Nov 18, 2009

This is you

Larry Flynt's first sexual experience was with a chicken.

I have no idea how I know that. I have even less idea how I knew that then, when I was what, 14? It certainly wasn't from reading Hustler. I assume, thinking about it, that I must have heard it -- or more likely read it -- from one of the anti-porn pieces that cycle through Christian circles. The idea must have been to demonstrate depravity. A chicken. Now I see that I have no idea if this is true, though, and it's not an argument any more than Larry Flynt's face is an argument, but at the time I was just bothered. Just like the cut-up concubine in Judges, and angels having sex with women in Genesis, and Noah getting drunk and naked, Lot impregnating his daughters, and David collecting foreskins, there was something fleshy and sweaty, violent and unsettlingly wrong and also there was this message implicit that this is you. This depravity is in you. This is life. All of us are only this far from beastiality.

The chickens we had at the time, the half dozen hens were being terrorized by an angry, angry rooster. The hens were losing feathers, and skittering around in constant panic and every time I fed them they'd squawk and squat, trembling, terrified, waiting to be mounted.

In Texas, at least at the time, you could see where some men raised their birds for fighting. There were whole fields of small white lean-twos with roosters staked out, strutting around and stretching their wings, one per white triangle. It was still legal to fight them up in Oklahoma then, and there were other places too, on the plains and Eastward, over into Arkansas, where men would gather around pits and fit their birds were razor blades to fight and cut and die. The argument was it was natural. They never had any hens, or anyway only a couple, and all the rest they ate or sold off as half-grown poults to the chicken farmers that wanted eggs.

Sometimes you'd see hens in the city, especially in poor parts where Mexicans and poor whites would keep them in re-purposed sheds, half-hidden in backyards except for the occasional escapee that'd be wandering up to the road, looking silly and startled. Mostly the egg men were in the country, though, and the chickens would spread out across the yard, running after roaches and pecking at dirt bugs. They'd tell you the flock was a whole social system, with a hierarchy that'd have to be reordered by fighting with every new bird. They all sold eggs, advertising with cardboard signs and selling at the same rate or only slightly higher than the grocery store. The eggs were never white, but were every other color, and sometimes you'd crack one and inside would be blood. Like a miscarriage. And sometimes, too, the eggs would not be washed and there'd be feces dried to the outside, and tufts of underbelly feathers. The farmers seemed okay with this, as if it didn't demonstrate some deep depravity, and they would say or at least, in being casual, imply that this is life. This is normal. This is us.

Watching the chicken squat in terror at the shadow of the hand I'd raised to throw food, squat and squawk and tremble wide-eyed as if I might rape it, I could only think, life is not okay.

Nov 16, 2009

Waiting for the last night bus

Nov 11, 2009

"It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind."

-- Kurt Vonnegut

Nov 8, 2009

To make a break

When asked he said, of course. He said, oh sure. He said you'd have to be crazy not to be afraid, so of course he was afraid of the fire. He had a little speech he'd give, a standard set of several lines about how it was dangerous and you hoped you never had to. It usually seemed to satisfy.

Floyd looked out the window at where the helicopters made their turns coming down with dangling buckets and dipped into the man-made mountain pond. They came up again, buckets swinging and sloshing, rotor blades chopping an uplift of air. He watched to where the helicopters came from the mountain, a little like ants in a black-dotted line, and he looked and there they disappeared again, going in with water to splash like a giant drop of rain. They disappeared into the smoke that smelled all sour with evergreen sap. The smoke was gray. It smudged out into the sky -- a haze, a smear, an edgeless cloud into which the helicopters were simply silhouettes and then gone into the gray. Oh sure, Floyd said, but he watched the mountain fire and his words were vacant, his mind elsewhere.

When he jumped to fight the fires he felt free. When he jumped he felt clear. He would be hanging there, his hands on the parachute straps and his backpack bearing a dangling chainsaw, an ax, a shovel and some wedges, his fire blanket, water, some spare chains and wrenches and a splash of gas and oil, and he would laugh, it was so crazy, and he would laugh and laugh and feel free. He jumped through the smoke, where he couldn't see, and then came clear and landed on the other side of the fire. He flipped the mesh guard down when he landed, started the saw, clamped the ear muffs over his ears and began to run.

He wore orange into the fire, walking bowlegged in the thick chaps. He felt the fire suck the air and watched it jump between the tops of trees, leap and deeply inhale, immolating everything up there. He watched as the fire reached out to flick his ear, watched as it gathered a gust in a curl and then unfurled burning bits and frags of black and flaming leaves around him, to surround him, and he held up his chain saw and ran, hopping straight-legged out in front of the fire. He ran and revved the saw, then picked a spot to make a break. He began cutting trees, toppling them in way, and he used the shovel to clear out shrubs and grass and get down to dirt. He splashed the gas into the pile and threw a match and sent a fire flaming back, a counter fire, quick and black, and he moved really fast, cutting, hacking and digging, sweat and soot stinging and streaking, and he moved, alone on the other side of the smoke, smiling like a very mad man.

Now Floyd watched from the ground, from the window which looked out across a parking lot and over at the other side of the blocky, brick medical complex. From his window he could see the Emergency entrance, where the ambulances rushed up a little ramp and rushed their wheeled gurneys through automatically opening doors. Behind the complex, in the background from Floyd's window, he could see the hills, brown now in Summer, and the mountains that were always green with fir, spruce and pine. The doctor of the ward didn't ask but Floyd answered anyway, volunteering it, oh sure, repeating what he always repeated about how you hoped but this was the job and, oh sure, it was normal. The doctor didn't ask and didn't answer, but only filled out the form he had on his clipboard, which Floyd couldn't see. Then he watched the mountains until the evening, when they disappeared into dusk and the smoke could be seen no more. He watched until the dark was everything and it was filled just with the frantic ambulance light. Then he lay down on the flat, hospital bed and curled under the light, scratchy blanket, and he sang a song softly to himself.

He could feel the fire on his face. He could feel it in the way each individual hair would singe and the way each bead of sweat would seem to boil in a slowly rolling streak. The fire turned his face red, burnt it like the sun. But he would swing his saw, the chain turning and tearing at brush and biting into branches, spitting out saw dust and a little oil, raggedly leaving stumps sticking up like broken thumbs. He ran to stay ahead of the fire, to keep ahead of the fire and fight it by making a clear space, open space, a safe place. When he ran, hustling always to the edge of the space he cleared, the equipment bounced on his back, banging and rattling as he ran. He watched the line of trees, as he worked, and the line of the fire, the slant of the sun and the possibility of clouds for cover. He always had to watch the wind. It was very important to pay attention to the direction of the wind. That time he didn't though, and he didn't see the fire unfurl to surround him, didn't see the burning bits of brush carried up and over to the other side, catching and connecting until the fire was all around him. He didn't notice when the wind changed, but only when he felt the heat from the wrong side, felt the air inhaled from all around. Then he unfolded the little, metallic-coated blanket they gave him the first day, and he rolled himself in it and laid on the ground. He assumed he would die. He heard the fire, from inside, and imagined it probably worse than it was, and he stayed on the ground, which was lumpy and sloped down towards his head. He was -- though he knew he shouldn't be -- happy, and free. He was smiling, under his fire blanket, and singing out loud about Jesus and the whole world he had in his hands.

He sang his song until he heard the nurse in the hallway. He didn't want her to hear him. She would think he was crazy, singing songs from children's church, and if she came in he would tell her too, oh sure, you have to be scared. She stayed in the hall, though, and so he was silent, curled up in the bed, smiling and thinking about the fire.

Nov 6, 2009

"... consented to be truly known, maybe even to the extent of not only letting the partner see the repulsive nest of moles under their left arm or the way after any sort of cold or viral infection the toenails on both feet turned a weird deep yellow for several weeks but even perhaps every once in a while sobbing in each other's arms late at night and pouring out the most ghastly private fears and thoughts of failure and impotence and terrible and thoroughgoing smallness within a grinding professional machine ... "

-- David Foster Wallace
Beer run

He asked if I minded and held up the can so I'd know what he meant. The blinker on the car clicked, dry and like constant throat clearing. I said I minded. I said it so he'd know I minded and didn't think I should have to say it, so he'd feel guilty for even asking to drink in my car when really I was doing him a favor. I said, Do you have to? I said it somewhere between incredulous and condescending.

I said it like I wasn't the one who'd agreed to drive my alcoholic older neighbor to the store to buy beer.

He said, oh.

It was a Friday. He'd gotten paid that day. Half in the bank so everything would look like it was supposed to and half in cash he could hide from the court and the order to pay child support. It was 4. We were stuck in traffic. Everybody was trying to get out. He had to be at work at 6 at the restaurant, but had asked if I'd take him to the store before he had to bike it up there, but now I knew I shouldn't have and thought, shit, I just want to be done for the day.

He said, so, and paused, still holding the beer, trying to reformulate the question.

He didn't put the beer back in the case, when I said it. He kept it in his lap, between his legs. He looked at it. His hands were shaking. His hands were veined purple and covered with the kind of skin that wrinkles like paper. His hands reminded me of my father's, and how mine would look when I was old. They were curled in his lap like cramps. The traffic light turned green, but the people in front of us wanted to turn left and couldn't so sat there, and we watched the traffic move in the other direction.

Nov 2, 2009

Red Scare of the soul

He sat at his desk, drinking. Thinking, drunk, he closed his eyes and felt it, reaching out and knowing, counting and marking in his mind the other desks, the hallway and hallways, the whole office and the other offices with other desks, all and each of them isolated in plots, counter plots and secret plans, the secrets and suspicions, files, office furniture and known and unknown missions a matrix in his half-sloshed mind. His toes were warm from the whiskey in his blood in circulation. He felt it.

He mentally made his way through files, fingering the tabs with names in block letters listing, last and first, suspects who to the service were servants, patriots and secret heroes, and who, to the world outside of normal and suburban mothers, children and lovers, wives, ex-wives and others, were mild and mid-level bureaucrats. He was, himself, if anyone asked, an under-appreciated analyst of the agricultural cycles and epicycles of, in particular, the Cynara cardunculus, or as it was vernacularly known and always said with an an article appended, the artichoke, specifically its production and consumption in the global market with attention to competition matrices, which was why, actually, no one asked except his mother, and she was the one who still called him Jimmy.

Most people and his mother would rather have it that way, this way, where they had their illusions, these hearty facades and friendly faces, innocuous offices in office parks and a confidence, casual and comfortable with contradictions and unexplained or explored connections. As long as they didn't know. But he had the files. He felt it. He had his suspicions of secrets and second motives, an intuition of movements and maneuvers in layers unseen, layers upon and within layers each more Byzantine, like a map in his mind of intelligence, intelligence, counter and counter-counter and counter intelligence again.

He said to his friend Ken, when they were drinking, as they did in the dark in the afternoon, "doesn't anyone realize, doesn't anyone fathom at least if not actually know how deep, how dark and deep and evil this goes?" But of course they didn't. The question, though, was not always asked as rhetorical, at least in the early years and when the snow seemed soft or the baseball game had been good on the radio. It was always answered as rhetorical, however, as every time Ken answered, "I know, I know, I know." He always ordered another for each of them and waited until again they were alone to say, like sighing, "I know. I know."

And of course he did. He very much did, though for him the conspiracy was not so dire, not so dark nor devoid of a certain pleasure. For Ken could conceive of the complex and apparently conflicting and fragmentary conspiracy his friend hypothesized and, more importantly, actually believed, as a kind of grammar game, like diagramming a nonsense sentence or writing whole Faulknerian paragraphs of completely correct and yet, paradoxically or perhaps not and actually unveiling something important or at least a point of undiscussed interest, sentences that had no meaning, such as "colorless green ideas sleeping furiously" or the one "did gyre and gimble in the wabe all mimsy were the borogoves" or, not to belabor but instead to appreciate the point being made, the other one once so popular in the Navy, when they served, with all the parts of speech constructed accurately with only alternate forms of one word, the versatile "fuck." So for him, for Ken, he knew, and was not lying to say so, but also he didn't understand.

He was too cavalier for the brutal singularity, the way that Ockham's razor could feel like the slice and slight squish of an eye. He didn't understand: the theory of conspiracy was desperate, the darkness and this falling feeling were better than the alternative simplicity, the Byzantine bizarreness better than the singular, obdurate, sole and soul-fucking truth James feared.

Because for James this was not an exercise of the mind. This was not intellectually entertaining and even if it had been that once it was no more. Now he felt it. It closed around him. It was a feeling of claustrophobic falling. It was a terror of forgetting. It was a thought he could not quite think, the kind one has upon waking or while wandering without a list in the supermarket, except accompanied by a choking terror, by this very real fear that forgetting meant death, or, not death, but like a ship sinking in the dark, the feeling of water already under the desk and rising up around the office chair and the stacks of paper there, and there, and there, and the room was already tilting, taking on too much, going down, dark and down, and the fear begat the panic and the panic more fear. He sat at his desk and closed his eyes and felt it. The horror rising, terror tilting. He tried to imagine in his mind the schema again of double-agents and deceptions, to connect the secrets betrayed and agents executed and map them all in another way, a way that worked, but instead he said, "how? how?" and he sat there. He sat there thinking, drunk (but now that was normal). He was the first, the first to have this Red Scare in his soul. It happened at his desk in an office park in Virginia.

The conspiracy was still better though, than the truth he'd been betrayed by Ken. He had one friend. There was one mole. He took another drink and tried to make a map, a matrix of traitor cycles and epicycles that would be another answer.

Oct 30, 2009

Sometimes in the silences

Tom Waits: We're all insects crawling on the shiny hood of a Cadillac
Ralph Ellison: What would America be without the Negros?
4,000-year-old skeleton, buried with dagger, unearthed
The secret origin of Stan Lee and the Marvel Universe
The dangerous Daniel Ellsberg (& the Pentagon papers)
Birther lawsuit unconstitutional, attempted overthrow
The RZA on the truth shall set you free from all things
'Mermaid girl' dies at age 10. May she rest in peace.
Malcolm Gladwell: Journalists must get smarter
The new but not really new Malcolm Gladwell
Not the Onion: Coyotes kill female folk singer
E.B. White: I hate the guts of English grammar
The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson 1
The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson 2
Fewer journalists to witness state executions
The conservative case against gay marriage
Secret service straining with rise in threats
Before Ira Glass, there was Charles Kuralt
Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis
Elie Wiesel to speak at anti-semite event
Republicans purge moderates in Florida
Richard Powers and patterns of uptalk
Sherman Alexie's advice: be nomadic
The Rosary: bringing it down to Earth
The anti-Nazi cleaning lady of Berlin
Why you should read Marcel Proust
Yale's intro to lit theory now online
Republicans purge moderates in NY
Exhibitionists living in glass house
The kinder, gentler James Ellroy
10 ways to reduce incarcerations
The Devil on This American Life
Distance and the author photo
Ad hominem Heidegger
Karl Barthes and the Nazis
Tom Waits talks to the CBC
R. Crumb talks about God
Introducing difficult books
The RZA talks to the NPR
Picturing the Depression
Newt Gingrich's game
Talking to Philip Roth
Bolano for beginners
Science in pictures
Black super heros
The last Yugoslav

Oct 27, 2009

Gnarl of seasons

Notes on honest language

1. There is, it seems, an internal contradiction in the Anglicans who are considering placing themselves under the auspices of Rome, in that they are schisming for more authority. This is not the most politically or religiously critical point opposing the conservative Anglicans or their possible place in the Roman Catholic Church, but I find the contradiction interesting & maybe, in a broader way, important.

Isn't it somewhat similar to the sort of radical, revolutionary things American conservatives have proposed, e.g., privatizing social security or abolishing the Department of Education, extreme & experimental things, in the name of conservatism & preserving a (fictional) traditional way of life?

Perhaps the Papal authority & Catholic orthodoxy is likewise a fiction, though the fantasy of an authoritarian, straight male Church has clearly driven some people to some weird measures. It is, it seems to me, schism in the name of authority, rebellion at perceived rebellion, & methodological apostasy conceived of as opposing an apostasy. The situation, I think, is one of holding orthodoxy as more important than charity, & imagined purity & homodoxy as more valuable than love, humility & respect. But there is, maybe esp., this problem of an internal contradiction & dishonesty.

2. The assassination of a leader, it seems to me, is an assertion of control against perceived chaos, an attempt to have control over a world that the assassin thinks should be, was, & would be under his control except for X, with X being whatever forces, personal or political, have broken & breached the dam of order & which will be affected, adjusted or corrected (at least symbolically) by the assassination. It is a response of fear to chaos, then, & an extreme attempt to regain control, motivated to some large extent by the fiction that control was once had.

This is also true of conspiracy theories about assassinations.

3. Why is it that certain fictions, esp. certain motivational fictions, can only function as fictions while concealing what they are?

My problem w/ motivational fictions in 1. and 2., above, is not that they're not true, but that they motivate to fear & violence. From that endpoint of recognizing & rejecting the fear & violence I see how poor -- how truly, horribly poverty stricken -- these fictions actually are. Part of that poverty, it seems to me, is the claim, or, even more, the need, for these fictions to be true.

There is a connection here to ideology & literalist readings, both of which must, to function, deny being fiction & conceal themselves esp. from themselves, adamantly & vigorously denying, for example, that a literalist interpretation of the Bible involves any interpretation at all.

4. There's something about technical language that "feels real." Evan Wright's work about the Marine's invading Iraq was praised for it's use of jargon, military acronyms, official names, etc., with that language connected to or even equated with authenticity & the feeling of "being there." David Foster Wallace often uses the same technique of technical writing, as for example in the short story "Mister Squishy," where he uses (or even deploys) the very technical language of marketing research to a) accurately represent the jargon-textured environment described, b) accurately represent the dense, inter-tangled, dialectical and deconstructioning reality of our, as Wallace might say, quote-unquote postmodern existence, & c) to give us, the readers, & also probably himself, the sense that the trick or manipulation of language is revealed as it's deployed (in contrast to the concealment & insistent denials of 3)) and is, therefore, esp. honest.

There is a strong sense in which this works. Technical language does give this feeling of reality and "being there." This is odd, tho., when juxtaposed with the very, very strong Anglo-American anti-jargon tradition. That tradition is so strong, cf George Orwell's Politics and the English Language or what he says about language in 1984, that even rather lame, mostly meaningless & cliched restatements of the orthodox, anti-sophistication sentiment are basically immediately canonized into commandments of "good writing," such as attacks on adjectives or the vague and not very helpful directiton to rewrite what "sounds like writing."

I think it's possible that there's something going on here with regards to the (unstable and probably incorrect) minimalist vs. maximalist split in American writing (where blue collar & not college educated = minimalist, e.g. Raymond Carver, John Cheever & all who follow Ernest Hemingway, while postmodern, hard-to-read & intellectual = huge, complicated works, e.g. Thomas Pynchon, Don Delillo, & everyone following Herman Melville & William Faulkner), but it also seems true that those who use technical language to achieve verisimilitude & those who don't are both worried about manipulation & dishonesty.

There's a sense in which, too, I think, that the very technical and jargon-textured language feels honest right now, in particular, because of the recent American experience of being manipulated (in this case into war, torture & disregard for civil liberties) by men who pretended to be less sophisticated than they were, basically using the schtick of "good ol' country boy" & "just us folks" to move Americans to support & embrace horrible, horrible things. In "Mister Squishy," Wallce used high-powered, well-educated market researchers to explore the manipulation within manipulation within manipulation, but you could do the same thing, I think, with the language of hack lawyers & car salesman ("I ain't a big city law-yuh"). This makes me wonder if writers aren't lagging behind salesmen, & if honest language isn't badly losing to dishonest manipulations.

5. Christopher Hitchens has an interesting trick of dismissing anyone who'd have a sophisticated & complicated response to his atheism. He calls them wincing & insincere, evasive, wittering & mumbly, while praising as bold & brave & truly religious the kinds of religious people who he elsewhere describes as basically stupid, insane & evil. Richard Dawkins does this too, at some points claiming the Pope, who believes life evolved & is evolving & that this is not in contradiction with Christian faith, doesn't understand Christianity, while saying that those who are not educated enough to understand even the basics of Charles Darwin & Gregor Mendel do completely & rightly understand the Bible & all of Christian theology.

This has the tone of someone insulting the goalie who can actually block goals, while praising the goalie who lets you score, but also & more importantly, it serves to legitimize the fundamentalist & least educated versions of faith, while also ensuring permanent marginalization. I assume Hitchens will not be converted during his debate tour, & also find unlikely that anyone is going to suddenly become an atheist after seeing their pastor spar with a prominent, pop atheist. Thus the result of the exercise, I think, will be that both sides can claim increased legitimacy, specifically w/ the claim "I have debated the other side," while the actual debate & ongoing conversation will be stagnant, fixed in a permanent stupidity.

I think I'd like to say Hitchens is violating a version of the Principle of Charity, if I can expand the principle to say that you shouldn't just attribute to your opponents the strongest argument, but should also find the best & most sophisticated opponents for the argument you opposed.

6. The above trick of dismissing the moderate & most educated opponents & instead legitimizing & permanently marginalizing those who are more aggressive & less nuanced is also, I think, an exact description of what the Democrats & President Obama have done to conservatism this year.

It's good politics (as long as the craziness is always a minority & you're not a minority in one of the local govts run by the now-raving right wing). I worry, though, that it's bad for a) the discourse (be it between Christians and atheists or American conservatives and liberals), & bad for b) the space available for intelligent & nuanced positions, & c) language that isn't captured by ideology, hackishness & partisanship, & d) all of us who believe in the Principle of Charity & want honest language.

Oct 26, 2009

A teacher today

Today I become a teacher. An official, stand-in-front-of-a-college-classroom teacher. Not that I meant to. It was kind of an accident, but here it happens that I am, today, a teacher.

Oct 23, 2009

Clear in the morning

I used to park my truck towards the sun, or towards where the sun would come up, so when I walked out of the Wal-Mart in the morning at the end of my shift, the windshield would be beginning to thaw. It was cold that Winter, my senior year. There was a blizzard when I went to take the GRE and I fishtailed off the road into a field of snow. I remember I sat there shaking, afraid of what hadn't just happened, watching the vortex of these fat flakes, suddenly still, gentle and drifting, and I remember the how the heater roared, loud now that I was stopped, forcing stale air up the inside of the windshield to melt the flakes as they fell to the glass. Each one, bloated by lake effect, would for a moment be perfect. Then each would collapse upon itself, becoming a spot of water.

Winters started early there, and the darkness was heavy. It never lifted and lasted from the early gray through to depressed afternoons and evenings that seemed to buckle under the weight of Winter. Winter there lasted late into the year, and Spring was just an oscillation of false hope and ice that covered everything.

The mornings, though, would sometimes be clear. They had a sharpness and they hurt to breath. My eyeballs would be dry and burned from the fluorescent lights, body achy from the forklift and four hundred, five hundred boxes, but in the cold, the iced-over world would seem new, and clear, and it would be, in a way, wonderful. Going back to school from work, I used to try to avoid the janitor. He always tried to give me the gospel again. He and I were the only ones on graveyard shift and I was his mission field and he didn't believe me when I said I believed. In the mornings, though, the security guard came by on his rounds and I sat with him once, and we had coffee in the quiet before the cafeteria opened. My voice was hoarse from not sleeping and he was quiet, sitting there, but I asked him about his tattoo. It was old, fading out blue, a death head, a skull with wings. I asked him was that a tattoo, which was a stupid question, and he said yeah. I asked him was he a biker, because the skull was Hells Angels, and he was bearded and had a face that looked like battered sky. I liked him and wanted to have him talk to me. It'd been a long time since I talked to a man. We sat there and we were silent and I just wanted to say, tell me a story. I asked about the tattoo though, and he looked at his coffee, the little cup tiny in his hands, and he said that was a very long time ago. Then we were silent, and I felt like I'd offended him. I tried to say something else but he shook his head. It wasn't, he said, somewhat defiantly, something he was proud of. It was stupid and a very long time ago.

I don't remember seeing him again after that. Maybe I stopped going to sit outside the cafeteria and watch the morning rush of tousled kids with crusty eyes and instead went home to shower, and sleep, and try to write a thesis. I remember the cars would be parked in the driveways, running, heaters on, warming up. I parked in the back of the parking lot, by a light pole, pointing the truck East at the optometrist and the Chinese buffet where the sun would come up about a half hour before I got off work. The frost and snow would still be on the window, but softened a little by the morning. I didn't have a scraper since I wasn't from the North and used instead an old library card that wasn't any good, anymore. I'd hold the edge at an angle, catching the edge of the glass, slicing the frost off in a big sheet.

The mornings were good, though. My heater was good. When I clocked out I'd take off my apron and I'd buy a quart of orange juice with the pulp in it. I'd buy a little bacon if I'd been paid. The sun would slant up over the trees by the time I was leaving, and the morning was like a single key played on a piano in an empty room, all possibilities, interesting possibilities, and possibly even in tune.

Oct 20, 2009

Learning to shoot

Covering Lolita
Ockham's broom
Lost racing pigeon
In praise of the cliche
The lessons of Vietnam
Named after presidents
Sherman Alexie laughs
Ray Bradbury's painting
Republicans defend rape
Barack Obama the writer
New biography of Dickens
Video tape interrogations
Dawkins' arguments evolve
Americna roadside rhymes
Talking to Michael Chabon
A Maurice Sendak sentence
Maurice Sendak's thin skin
Dylan defiant & invigorating
Why we watched balloon boy
Obama teaches English in Japan
When Joe Biden tells the truth
Glenn Beck in a land of Torys
Vonnegut: "Look at the Birdie"
Listening to Thelonious Monk
David Hockney's long road home
Vonnegut on schools of writing
Don't Ask, Don't Tell is done for
Proposing to redesign the dollar
Peter Paul Rubins, artist and spy
Whither withering conservatism?
Don't ask, don't tell in Hollywood
Maurice Sendak rewrote the rules
Richard Dawkins: I'm not strident
Junot Diaz on writing and despair
Jonathan Letham talks to Criterion
What does balloon boy mean (x5)?
Thomas Pynchon and Grand Theft Auto
Bookshelves as personal expression
Letham's novels for global warming
Youth pastor's murder leaves questions
Trying to read Hegel as if he was right
Donald Barthelme's suggested reading
James Joyce got tenure, not immortality
Michael Chabon has an "impulse to control"
Dylan does Christmas, and it's not a joke
Seriously, who would bomb a Zizek lecture?
Institutionalists economists win the Nobel
Photographing the agriculture of East Anglia
Thelonious Monk was an American original
Conservative Episcopalians prepare for exodus
Jonathan Letham's new novel's nervous energy
The memoirs are coming, the memoirs are coming!
Can young blood save Germany's Social Democrats?
For Safire, grammar wasn't a front in the culture war
Dylan does homage to vintage American Christmases
Why does the CIA act like it's involved in an Oswald cover-up?
What is it like to be in the military with gay men and women?
Mad at Wes Anderson and Spike Jonze and their kids movies
F.A. Hayek was a socialist & conservatives are all really Randians
Jack Kerouac set to music by Benjamin Gibbard and Jay Farrar
Donald Kauffman, collector fo toy cars, dies at 79. May he rest in peace.