Saturday, June 28, 2003

To Do List

Spunky the monkey is an organized sort...or seems so...and has this great list of things to do before you die...

This is on the list--staying at the ice hotel...

Is it OK to steal from someone else's to do list?

Some stuff on his list I did--I swam with dolphins. I swam with pink dolphins. I got a Ph.D. The dolphin experience is much more memorable. In fact, I think it might also have been more difficult to accomplish as well.

On mine that isn't on Spunky's: 1. High speed car chase with cops; 2. Spend some time in prison; 3. Massive (or respectable) fiction output--not a novel, though; 4. Fame as intellectual-type-thingy person...But only the pseudonymous kind where no one knows what you look like and cannot bug you. Can you get everyone to argue with you though--and defeat them--without being famous? My actual desire is only to defeat others...perhaps argument. The triumph of my perspective over all others. 5. Some kind of dictatorship/benevolent despot/absolute power position--preferably of the world or at least the U.S. 6. Pet monkey ownership The complexities of which I've previously discussed. You know, come to think of it I would also like my own elephant. I would like to see whether I could form a deep emotional bond with an elephant.

I'm starting to realize why it is hard for me to accomplish things. Like...I haven't even been working on that whole benevolent despot plan at all. It's easier for a man to be a dictator but it isn't impossible for a woman. It helps, of course, to marry the dictator...After that, it's cake pretty much. So I can either (a) Somehow rid myself of my current husband or (b) Encourage him in his urges toward power. Neither of these seems too promising or appealing.

But Catherine the Great didn't expect to get where she was either. So I'll keep waiting and hoping. 'Cause you never know.

This is only a small sample of the things I'd like to do before dying.

Thanks Spunky! You've given me something to strive for!
Grandpa's blog

This guy (whose blog I cannot figure out how to read) set up a blog for his grandpa! Grandpa Caleb's blog

That is so cool. I wish my nana hadn't died before the blogging things started or before I figured out the internet. She would have loved it! She was totally open to everything--a poet, a thinker.

My grandpa would also be a kick ass blogger. He'd give those conservatives a run for his money. Man, my grandpa is the most conservative person on the face of the earth maybe. And I love him. He is perhaps also the most loving, giving, kind, warm, gentle person I've ever met. Except when he talks about democrats--but it is all talk. He treats every person with kindness and understanding.

My grandparents are probably the reason I try never to pre-judge others' characters or intelligence. They didn't go to college but know so much more than those with more formal education. Their politics differ from mine but they always treat and treated every human being with the utmost kindness and respect.

Well, if I can get my act together I have been planning to hook my grandpa up to the internet. I wonder if he would like it?!? I think if he could figure it out (although he's very smart maybe it is hard to figure out at first?) He has so much curiosity about the world.

I really can't wait to view all of Grandpa Caleb's video addresses.
Childhood Dream

On excitement machine I read this link about a trailer

For some reason I interpreted movie trailer to mean live-in trailer. Duh...

This reminded me of a childhood dream I had of having my own trailer, being a writer and travelling from place to place. The idea of living in one place seemed so dull. (Nor did I want to be married. The best I would concede was marriage to an airline pilot or someone who would be gone all the time.)

I thought that I would find incredible adventures in Kansas City or San Francisco and then when I got bored, I could just move on.

Of course the trailer of my dreams was an Airstream Travel Trailer. Even back then, I knew kitchy quality when I saw it.

A site with pictures.

As soon as I could talk and people asked me what I wanted to be I said 'a hobo.' I had a little story about hobos and we used to go to a restaurant 'Hobo Joes'...

Now I realize: My dreams haven't changed that much. However, I have gotten a bit bogged down as of late.

Hobo Joe's possum recipe

Are you a hobo?
Oh, dear...

Maybe I like that picture because I'm trying to quit?


Here's what I wrote about my deep need for nicotine back in November--this was about the time I started smoking again...

By the way G, (below) has a different take on things. Maybe this is parochial but I tend to take what I know from here and transplant it to the rest of the world. Think about the totally divergent views here--then assume that anywhere you go you'll find thousands of diverging interpretations of politics and daily life. There are Indians who hate spicy food and French people who hate cheese.

But G did say something about revolution as well.
G's photoblog from Baghdad

my favorite picture

Even if you're not all Iraq-obsessed these have aesthetic appeal.

G: Another Iraqi blogger with a wry sense of humor who can tell a story well.

Link from Salam

Friday, June 27, 2003

Political Stuff Worth Reading

It affects me emotionally in the way I'm wimpishly trying to avoid...but she's such a damn good writer. Honestly, I think she may be the best contemporary essay writer. And without a doubt the best political writer.

I worship her prose while am not completely doubt-free about all her ideas. On the other hand she has an unexpected take on things--not the usual idiotic stuff whose conclusion you anticipate in the first 2 seconds.

Arundatai Roy on Imperialism

from: Link from Between the Lines

On the Narmada Dam

From Sleeve Notes

Roy seems to drive everyone crazy. I think many might be jealous.
If you are into revenge here is a way to avenge yourself on spammers.

There's some spam I sorta like--I like the desperate crazy letters from Africa and I like the ones with weird names (the Sweazy Parleveccio story is still in the works).

Nabbed this link from Supersam--Hey! Supersam tells us how to get rid of superspam.
Zainab is a woman blogging from Iraq

I hope she keeps on writing. She seems to have one entry thus far.

One of the things she suggests is that what people care about is being able to live their lives in a normal way, which no one can currently do. If that is impossible then they would rather have Saddam. She claims there will be a revolution.

This reminds me of several times Iraqis were interviewed before the war. I remember several people said--both of them women--that Iraq was a powder keg waiting to blow and that Saddam or someone like him was the only person who could keep control over the place. This might have been alarmist or simply wrong. Or it might be true of anyplace that there needs to be either a fairly efficient web of working social institutions OR a fairly scary system of punishments for those who step out of line. Or maybe I've been too influenced by Hobbes.

I hate to say it, but it makes sense to me that some people in Iraq might want to return to the way things were given the current state of affairs. And it should make sense to anyone who's read oh, Hobbes, Rousseau, Locke--but especially Hobbes of course. The main reason anyone gives up their personal complete freedom for a government is because anarchy makes life nearly impossible. It is virtually a war of all against all in Iraq it sounds. The strangest part of course is you have the American army intruding and restraining movement, etc. Yet not creating social order or harmony or a sense of security. Sort of the worst of both worlds--like the West Bank or Beirut more than Cleveland. They were promising Cleveland with the fall of Saddam but what has been delivered so far is quite different.

I think Americans have a difficult time imagining what it is like to actually live under another form of government or under radically different economic or social circumstances. This probably isn't unique to us--People in the U.S. are slammed not for travelling but many people throughout the world don't travel or know much about the rest of the world--besides the U.S., that is. In fact, it's from travelling that I found out everyone is just as ignorant as we are, for the most part and has pretty kooky ideas about the rest of the world.

This lack of wide experience combined with an ideological perspective that interprets all other places through a U.S. value system makes the choices others make unintelligible to the U.S.--and to those in power in the U.S. Why wouldn't everyone prefer to live as we do? But I think the people who jabber this rhetoric don't in fact know much about how people truly live in other countries or what they would want. This explains their simple mindedness about how the Iraqis would respond to the current situation and their failure to anticipate what would happen.

(I really, really don't think people in other advanced industrial democracies are all that more broad minded or knowledgable in spite of their contempt for Americans. In my experience Germans or Brits are sometimes appalled by cultural, political, economic, culinary differences--even when you run into them when travelling. Just different ones.)

There's an incredible amount of rhetoric about freedom in the U.S. that got its flavor from the cold war--First, the idea that Americans are free and second, the idea that no one else is--that we are the 'freest.' Finally, the idea that because it is so great that we are free very little else matters--like social equality. There's even this hint that we are lucky because the government 'gives' us our freedom. But of course, the government doesn't 'give' us our freedom. Human beings have a right to be free. I don' t have to be grateful to the U.S. government for 'giving' me my freedom. Any unreasonable encroachments they make on my freedom are unjustified and I am completely in the right to resist them.

But it is also hard to imagine for many after all this talk about freedom why some people would trade their freedom for security or for economic reasons--or why dictators could be popular (Saddam wasn't but Pinochet and others have been in certain sectors of society. Castro is reasonably popular in some important sectors of Cuban society.) I think it is disturbing for people to relinquish freedom or have it taken from them. But there are conditions under which no one's freedom means all that much--i.e., dire poverty, economic or social chaos.

The Iraqis don't sound much 'freer' now to me than they were before and it seems unlikely that most people could handle that level of economic and physical insecurity before acting--particularly when they were used to a much more orderly situation (albeit a very unjust and dangerous one). So maybe the powers that be should read Zainab's blog. Unfortunately, they'd probably just respond with more repression rather than working harder to improve conditions.

Link from Salam Pax

Thursday, June 26, 2003

New/Old Writer

jose garcia villa

I'm into old anthologies. I say to anyone who quests for fame and acclaim to read old anthologies.

As this piece by Kathryn Chetkovich --whose boyfriend's name I won't mention since that would be all to cruel-- indicates when we write we also crave some form of acclaim.

I have this self created mental audience of slavering fans. A nobel prize committe in my head. So I don't have this problem. Still, I do understand.

I got the link from Moorish Girl--who writes a kick ass blog mostly about literature.

Old anthologies are full of extraordinarily good writing by people who you might never have heard of and who may be utterly forgotten in a little while. What does that show? That lots of celebrated writing sucks and good writing falls by the wayside. (Chetkovich mentions that she knows this but it is no consolation.)

So I found this poetry by this writer Jose Garcia Villa in a Modern Library anthology of 20th Century American Poetry published in 1944. And it was breathtaking. When I saw he had a Spanish name and was an American poet I couldn't believe I'd never heard of him.

I say that I collect these anthologies and old cast off literature for some kind of educational reasons but I'm probably rationalizing because I've got dozens and have to move soon and know my shrine to the semi-famous or near-forgotten is going to weigh a hell of a lot. My collectomania has got to stop but I feel guilty throwing any of that away. Who will preserve the name of those writers of forgotten or middle brow fiction?

But Garcia Villa's not out of print so maybe I'm just ignorant.

Here's a link to one of his poems. This isn't as striking as the others but is still good.
Finally, my fiction crap

Trying soooo hard to abandon reality...So here's the first installment of one of the stories I wrote last month: Safety[for lack of a better title]

Augustina worried that her charm was somehow false, that her charm might be wrong somehow.

This was just many of her worries. The problem was she couldn’t sleep. Lying awake at night certain thought plague her, too much time to think in the dark.

She could only take so many sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can be addictive. She knows that if she took them every night she will soon be unable to sleep at all. Ordinarily, her husband would make love to her at bedtime. This burden of thinking solved by the business and pleasure of sex which pulled her mind apart allowing her thoughts to fragment enough long enough to allow fatigue to take hold, putting waking consciousness on hold temporarily.

He had been out of town too much lately for him to help out and she lay awake in the dark for hours. Her dreams were of being awake so then she could never tell when the morning came how many hours she had slept. It never felt like enough, though.

She had heard that some women rejected their husbands or of couples that lost interest in sex but because she so needed that brief respite from thinking this had never happened to her. Her husband perhaps needed it for other reasons. The regularity she had come to expect made it more dangerous than he thought to leave her alone.

Over the phone she would say things like “But don’t you cheat on me?” “But don’t you want to cheat on me?” He would laugh, incredulous. Part of her charm was the surprising things she would say. “What about when you have a cocktail in the hotel bar? Aren’t there lonely divorcees hoping for a traveling businessman like you to keep them company for the night?” When he said he never noticed lonely divorcees and almost never had a cocktail before bed she asked “Well, what about prostitutes? Doesn’t the concierge or bellhop hint about prostitutes they might bring you?”

He carries his own bag, he never speaks to the concierge. He says he’s pretty sure that hotels like the ones he stays in don’t have concierges. He laughs. He is used to her flights of imagination.

She knows that she asks because if she were a businessman, traveling anonymously through towns, she would sleep with lonely divorcees, prostitutes, maybe even the bellhop or concierge themselves.

She doesn’t like being alone. She can’t do celibacy for much longer.

There aren’t as many prospects for her, Augustina, as for a traveling businessman. Yes, another teacher flirts with her, even looks at her longingly. But he has red hair and Augustina has an aversion to red hair. Even with the children, as much as she tries to stop herself from thinking it, she dislikes the very fair children. The redheads are the worst but even the towheads, even the dishwater blondes. They look weak, they look soft and ill formed. She cannot help but imagine their bones as glass tubes similar to those of florescent lights. Breakable, filled with some sort of milky substance. Sickly, not strong. Even the thinnest black child seems more sturdy than a robust red head. The boys disturb her more than the girls, though. The size and shape are not the problem. The problem is the color.

Then there is her innocent appearance. That tends to get in the way. It is not her body—which she knows is ripe and sexy. It’s more her face—angelic, sweet. She cannot overcome this handicap. She doesn’t know how to be a temptress.

Her seeming detachment from reality, the fragility caused by her terrible imagination makes her perfect to teach young children. Her uncertainty in the world is why her husband loves her. It is why everyone loves her. It is why so many men loved her. While she is strong and robust outside, inside she is weak and afraid. That has always been the secret of her success.

Her husband loved her ever since she cried over the old man who ran the typewriter store right when computers started to dominate the market. Just a few tears, a few tears for the doomed man in his doomed store.

She has a similar problem now. Danger surrounds her, she believes. And of course this may be the reason that her husband is gone so much. To make the money to beat the danger off. They have enough money for this, but because he has started on the path of making money he cannot step off now. And the path of making money takes him further away from her. Although it seems his heart is still with her.

Augustina believed, when they first graduated from college, that if they had a house with a tree in the backyard, they would be safe. This was what she wanted—a house with a tree in the backyard. If she had such a thing, what bad thing could happen?

Later, before the baby, when she was still running she came to realize that it was more than a tree and a house she needed. What she needed was a certain kind of tree in a certain kind of house in a certain kind of neighborhood. And only then would they be safe. That it wasn’t the tree or the house at all, really. It was money. It was a certain amount of money. Bad things were less likely to happen to you if you lived in a certain kind of house, surrounded by polished wood. A house that was cool in the summer, with oriental rugs on the floor. A house with more space than you need.

This, she thought, is the reason we all buy things. Not for the things themselves. But as a guard against the loss that threatens us daily.

When they first started out they had only an apartment, but she knew that wouldn’t be enough. Running farther and farther through her neighborhood she saw that there were many houses with many trees but some of those houses were not the kind where trouble stayed away. The neighborhoods with houses too close together, with houses where the front yard was cemented over to use for parking. One tree might be left. It might even flower in the springtime. Yet it wouldn’t afford enough protection.

There were already things in these neighborhoods that made her want to cry. Not the things you expect—the crippled, the maimed, the starving. Instead it was the usual sort of thing—the man who ran the joint ice-cream and fried chicken shop. Some kind of imitation Kentucky Fried Chicken. No one was ever in there. The cartons and buckets sat unused on the glass partition, the chicken uneaten. A hopeful immigrant, doomed to failure. Even before they had much money she would buy chicken, throw it away. She ate the ice cream.

She safety pinned money to her shorts simply to buy things from him.

Kind. He was always so kind. His good customer service in the hope of making her a regular customer would break her heart. It tortured her when he said ‘enjoy your ice cream’ or offered her an extra napkin. She wanted him to hope also. If only for a little longer. She wondered if he knew his dream wouldn’t last long.

Yet, when she went through the better neighborhood, when she went to places without doomed fried chicken selling immigrants she would become cranky. She would hate those people who lived behind their safe walls with their cool green grass and immaculately manicured gardens. ‘Why do they have all this when I don’t?’

At least, in the neighborhood she hoped she would never live in, the houses made you believe that the people here had some kind of gratitude. They would adorn their lawns with decorations, the cracked plaster virgins, the fading plastic Santas, the flags which hung from the porches that said ‘Welcome,’ and matched the yellow trim. Aesthetically, the people here didn’t necessarily know when to stop. They were so happy to have their houses.

For her though, things like plastic siding, a tiny napkin of lawn, a plaster virgin, anything broken like a rusty swing set was like a sign, a neon sign to fate saying: “I’m here. I’m vulnerable and unprotected. Come get me.”

She knew she had to live without those things. To live in a safer way.

To be continued next week (yeah, I have to do something to the ending so it makes sense...)
Although the internet is probably going to ruin my life sometimes I'm rather grateful for it...

When the Trade Center was attacked newspapers like the New York Times saw how important it was to put a human face on those deaths. To keep the victims from being mere numbers. To show that each life lost mattered to many--the unique value of each person.

I wish we could do that with all these atrocities in the world. It would be harder to be sanguine about the Iraqi civilians (as people keep saying...they are so 'few') when we knew the human cost and had some sense of the individual identity of those killed.

The Iraqi Body Count website doesn't do that. It does say when, who, where. Often not names but just places. I think when people celebrate the 'success' of the war they should consider those who paid the ultimate price. It creeps me out when I see the smiley faces of the policy wonks. They are the faces of people who won at sports. During WWII--even after military successes--did you see this kind of face on anyone?

Link from Daintily
Sodomy is legal!

Let us celebrate the fact that our gay brothers and sisters and more adventurous straight people (in certain states) can now get it on without fear.

I was alerted to this breaking news by open sewer.

Thank you, Jesus.

No, I really mean that! I forgot to mention that I am a Christian. (Really...actually...this is not sarcasm.)

Hard to say what Jesus would think about such specific legal things. The documentation suggests Jesus wasn't that inclined to talk much about politics and sex. At one point he did make it pretty clear that if you ignore the poor when you are rich you will burn in hell in the worst way, though. I find that scary enough without having to worry about sex too.

Maybe I too should learn from this and stop talking about politics and sex all that time?

But I personally think Jesus must be glad for the rectification of injustices. I don't have a crystal clear picture of the workings of the universe or the causal role of the divine, etc. I tend to assume that the good things have divine origins. So when something good happens I say: Thanks Jesus!

Who are these weirdos who argue in favor of the ban? Sheesh.
One more ode to Salam Pax

Yes, I'm swearing off politics of the pundits/don't know shit/irate-for-no-reason sort. For my own peace of mind and the like.

I think there might be another kind of politics--I don't know what sort. A human kind. Non-posturing...Hard to explain--non-professional, non-journalistic, not about advancing one's career. I still want to know what's going on, I still want to resist the forces of darkness even in my less than miniscule way. Maybe annoyance, outrage are inevitable if those are my goals. But to avoid head-exploding levels of frustration and/or mind-numbing sorrow there's some stuff I don't want to read now.

Blogs like Where's Raed? aren't in this category of irksome bullshit, of course. (Same with Notes of an Iranian Girl. But what blows my mind there is that she's so young and thinks such interesting stuff.)

I am always amazed by the posts of Salam Pax--he's an excellent writer but what I also appreciate is that he approaches things from such a human, basic, humble level. There's this sense you have when you read his blog that he's taken on a kind of responsibility for telling others what he is seeing. Were things otherwise maybe his writing would never have been discovered. He seems to have become a celebrity under the worst possible circumstances. He now gets to document what its like to see your city descend into chaos--when prior to that you'd only read about that sort of chaos--in Beirut and elsewhere.

Maybe there is this basic need to communicate to others. You might ask--why does it matter if I know the details, particularly when it looks as if there is nothing I can do? But it's unimaginable what the world would be like without people who told the truth as they saw it--not to make money, or get a cushy job at the National Review or be invited to great parties on the Upper West Side. But because they saw something unjust and terrible and had to speak out about it.

Isn't it strange that this is the thing people so often lose their lives for--speaking out, telling a story, documenting injustice? Complaining? (God, I would be long dead.)

I don't know--reading Salam Pax's blog makes me wish that it were possible to get the news straight from the people who actually live in each country. I wish that I could read blogs from Havana or Beijing or Pyongyang.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

I Didn't Get What I Want Yet

I'm suddenly started to realize I didn't get what I want in life yet. I remember one day I realized: I won't get to have everything I want. I put that thought out of my mind.

But it bothers me: I've compromised so much.

In fact, often I have to say to myself, that's what I wanted, not what I want.

I've even forgot what I want so unlikely is it that I could have everything I want.

It's a tragedy, really.

Sure, some of the things I want are things that cost lots of money. Well, of course. That is one of the things I wanted. Some of them are relatively affordable. For example, a pet monkey. I wanted a pet monkey. I don't have that!

Naturally, there's a bit of a problem with pet monkeys. They take a lot of work and time and attention. Some expertise is involved. So I also want (or wanted I should say since my wants have become so few, so pathetically scaled down as of late) someone to take care of a pet monkey.

However, I also have some ethics. And I realize that my pet monkey might not be happy just anywhere. My pet monkey needs to live near it's natural habitat. India? I guess? Well, somewhere cool and lush. And it's important for my needs that this house be on the edge of a verdant jungle with waterfalls within eyeshot. And I don't want anyone else swimming in my waterfall pools so that they will be pristine so I need to own the land the waterfalls are on. I want the furniture to be tropical hardwood, but not harvested recently for obvious reasons. Antique tropical hardwood.
Anything else just rots right off the bat.

And I like the ocean so I can't just live in the jungle with my pet monkey. I also need a home near the ocean.

Which requires a private jet.

I'm very close and attached to my family and so I can't spend all my time in my house in the cool rainforest (yeah! That's it--a rainforest. Preferable one without too many large hairy spiders or else many servants to catch the large hairy spiders.)

Thus, I need the cash to fly my private jet to see my family. And many rooms for their visits, etc. Also, I need enough money to keep them off my back when they realize I'm spending time out of the country where I may be less accessible. And obviously, cel phones and good phone service (my father especially demands that I am available by phone at all times).

And when I think about it this all seems quite complicated. Hence, I do think I need many servants. Not merely servants but well-educated asssistants. Not only to care for my pet monkey but to manage the many complexities which seem to accompany monkey ownership. I'm sure there is paperwork to file with all the stuff and multiple countries and so forth. And to basically do all the paperwork that life requires since I'm not very good at that. And perhaps give my backrubs and tell me I'm a brilliant genius.

But that's it... That's all I want. I'm still trying to understand why everyone can't have everything they want. It's probably just a mental thing right? Undoubtedly, if one simply conceives of things correctly, believes, truly believes one will receive them. Isn't that how it is supposed to work. Someone told me this once anyway.
Switching to fiction...

After a day of obessing over the miconceptions, lacunae and confusion on Andrew Sullivan's blog I have come to realize that I can't handle politics or the dark reality reality of this current time. I don't know whether it was the long time I spent away from things like that (so I lost my tolerance) or what...

I think sometimes about brain clutter. I mentioned before that I once spent several minutes thinking about the career of Kevin Costner--in all sincerity. I used my skills as a rational creature, honed through the eons to think about how Kevin Costner could make a comeback. (If you are reading this Kev--start playing campy villians in indie movies. That's all I'm going to say.)

My life is horribly cluttered. Within eyeshot in my study are things like: A collection of imported frog figures, Maneki Neko a lucky beckoning cat, a Byzantine crucifix reproduction, two unused lampshades, a 7 year old laptop, a collection of racy Italian comic books, stacks and stacks of papers and about 200 books (only about 1/5 of the number of books I own I'm ashamed to say).

It bothers me when my mind gets cluttered...It is even dangerous as my mind weeds stuff out (or rather, my mind is like a sieve) and I'm always afraid it will save the Kevin Costner references or the names of characters from the show "The Jeffersons" but omit crucial poignant moments from childhood or perhaps even my social security number.

For a number of years I've tried to avoid this clutter. If I never went to the gym I would in fact be utterly disconnected from pop culture (except for things reported in the NY Times--which I can't cure my husband of buying).

Why does such information stick to us like glue whereas important things--like the text of Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner or the details of the Krebs Cycle--disappear?

Is there some evolutionary explanation? Perhaps we perceive celebrities as alpha-hominids and ourselves as betas (or whatever is lower than betas--gammas, I guess) and somehow unconsciously believe that their prospects for mating/gathering, etc. are crucial to the survival of the group?

In fact, information such as "Water water everywhere/And all the boards did shrink/Water water everwhere/And not a drop to drink" is also not critical to survival or perhaps anything at all (except under special circumstances). Still, I find it more life affirming, more heartening and bracing then information about Demi Moore. I'm not a snob--I loved the movie "GI Jane."

In any case, this whole politics things has created a great deal of brain clutter. I read things that I regard as specious rhetoric, sophistry, deception--things containing actual, bona fide fallacies! (Lacunae are more common. Informal fallacies are rampant but formal ones are relatively frequent.) I froth, I foam...I get more worked up than an AM talk radio host does about Hilary Clinton...

I write the equivalent of 5 page rebuttals on this thing. Then the next day I think 'Wha?! What was I thinking? Who the hell cares?'

It's just not good for me.

The weird thing is that I get just as incensed--perhaps even more--about fiction. For example, I have this peculiar antipathy to Thomas Pynchon that even extends to anyone who really likes Thomas Pynchon. So it isn't as if I'm going to be calm and reasonable. I mostly just going to self-publish my own crap with the occasional diatribe and essay thingy and so forth. For one reason only: That makes me feel good and the other makes me feel bad.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Editing, Miel, Editing

I don't currently plan to do anything 'professional' with my blab-o-mania. I like to blab, I despise human contact (except for those times my 'needs' must be filled--which is fairly frequently, luckily for my marriage), I do not want anyone else to tell me what to do, I type fast. It seems that I truly should seek a career as a blabber. (Especially when I read books like How Proust Can Change Your Life. But that's another story.)

However, this would require a kind of skill I lack. Perhaps several kinds of skills. I'm not sure what they are or how to get them so channeling my wild blabbing, going to some kind of graduate school or whatever those paid blabbers do, actually doing work--that is all out.

It's a bit sad, I suppose. Even so, even as I blab in obscurity it occurs to me that I need editing. Desperately.

You may ask: Why, Miel, why? No one reads this thing!

It's the principle. Also, I didn't write in here for months and then I re-read what I wrote and said: Sheesh! Don't you edit? (I also don't remember writing any of these things but that is another story.)

And then--after hanging my head in shame at my own chastisement--I proceeded to commit the same sins against terse and clear language that I did before.

Like all my realizations and resolutions, this is bound to go nowhere. But I enjoy upbraiding myself at times. Makes me feel like I'm in charge here.

I made the mistake of linking from the fabulous Iranian girl's blogto Andrew Sullivan's blog. It's amusing in many ways. He blames the left for being against gay marriage. Somehow this is more of a 'right' issue. Tee-hee.

It made me think--what are these labels? There is a strong moral content to each 'side' on the political spectrum expressed in a conviction of the perfidy, maliciousness, moral bankruptcy of those on the opposition. It seems to extend to evaluations of character of the persons in those camps.

It helps me make sense of things like ethnic cleansing because if you can think that someone from your same race and social class and nation who lives two dorm doors down from you deserves to die--well, I guess that demonization sort of thing is rather easy when you come down to it.

Sullivan seems to believe, roughly, that the left is deeply immoral (Earlier I promised to use the word 'evil' sparingly and I'm trying to make good on that vow). I find this so strange. I have strongly held political beliefs and I become angry at times. I do think that the quest for power and wealth at the expense of the good of others are wrong. However, I don't tend to see those who disagree with me politically as necessarily immoral. Stupid, misguided maybe--but not immoral.

Ordinarily, you might say I am leftist--I suppose I would like to be leftist. But I struggle with that because there are some perspectives that other leftists have that I vehemently disagree with. So I feel like a poseur when I claim to be a leftist.

I'm a girl without a label at times. But overall I'd say I'm one who hopes for a socialist paradise.

If I were like Sullivan, I suppose I could just delude myself into thinking that the views I don't like are not 'really' the leftist views. It amazes me that he doesn't have to struggle with himself as he allies himself with so many who regard gays and lesbians as deviant or worse. He seems to think !Bush! is going to come out in favor of gay rights one of these days.

The Canada thing is great. But isn't there a reason why it happened in Canada?

If you are a neo-conservative I would imagine that Canada is your Babylon, is it not?

Even so, none of my disagreements with the left take the form of agreeing with the right. Sometimes, they take the form of admitting that in some ways I am a liberal.

(For example, I sometimes have thoughts like this: We NEED the rule of law. When you have good, just laws and these govern society as opposed to individual choice--well, that's just a good thing! And my current worry is that some of the recent developments indicate the rule of law in the U.S. is becoming weaker and weaker and maybe some of our institutions are not the rock hard protectors of liberty we might hope for.)

I wonder what neo-conservatives are for sometimes and where this moralizing comes from. I think--aren't they simply for the absolute protection of private property and wealth at all costs? Weak (or no) labor laws...weak protections against forms of discrimination...weak (or no) environmental protection...every man for himself...The moral elements seems to be: Capitalism is intrinsically good and anything that interferes with the growth of capitalism (even if chosen in a democratic manner--such as the social policies of the U.S. prior to the Reagan years) is evil.

Their current schtick seems to be 'we are for democracy.' That is Sullivan's schtick. Yet if a form of government is chosen in a third world country that prevents capitalism from flourishing in even the smallest way then they don't seem to have many qualms about squelching democracy. They don't worry about the way differences in power and wealth give some control over social institutions.

Actually, rather than democracy I'd say the neo-conservative is mostly for voting. They really like people to vote and then what happens after that is their problem.

So are they 'for' anything over and above the golden idol of private property?--E.g., they seem a bit torn between libertarian freedom and privacy and big brother-ish social control. Or the libertarians seem to fuel the rhetoric but the big brother types seem to determine the policy.

This is painting with a broad brush--but I'm trying to gesture at the question that bothers me. This is: Where does the moralizing come from? Where does the righteousness come in? The views on the right (rather wide, in the end, as Sullivan's punditry proves) seem to be fairly disconnected from anything I would attach to traditional morality--e.g., loving kindness to one's fellow human, generosity, courage, honesty, charity, etc.

E.g., the whole Christian concern for the poor, the sick, the orphan, the widow, the prisoner. I'm pretty sure the left and old-style liberal has that bag sewn up in political (if not private 'faith-based') terms.

Rather than a moral perspective it seems as if for neo-conservatives an economic theory has been embraced in the way you would expect a religion or moral perspective to be embraced. An economic theory plus a near-religious patriotic fervor (but one that is concerned not primarily with the well-being of one's fellow citizens but with the power of one's nation-state and its world standing).

The moralizing aspect seems confused to me. I see that the idea is that somehow the creation of wealth and protection of property is understood in a moral light. That's pretty obvious. I see that the same goes for the patriotism--loyalty to one's country is given a moral value (not just loyalty but the desire for one's country to dominate). At the same time, this does not follow any traditional understanding of morality...Even the religious elements about personal conduct are not crucial to the neo-conservative (as Sullivan proves).

I think the economic theory is mistaken. I.e., the idea that any form of wealth redistribution or socially shared wealth will lead to economic collapse and chaos. They are probably correct that redistribution through taxation or other means (land reform, e.g.) will lead to less overall wealth I think the cost is worth the benefit since the wealth is concentrated less in fewer hands.

But even if it weren't mistaken it just doesn't seem like a 'righteous' view. One to get all on your high horse about.

As for the patriotirc fervor--that I also don't get. The country is beautiful, the culture produces wild and interesting things as well as massive amounts of trash (but, whatever--anyone who has traveled will be quite aware that the trash of other nations is just as various while not as widely exported). It's hard to generalize about 'the people' so different and various are we. The constitution and form of democracy we have in the U.S. is something to be glad for (even though certain elements--such as due process--seem to be experiencing a fairly concerted attack recently) given the currently available alternatives. But there are lots of other countries whose democratic process functions just as well or better. [For the sake of argument I'll leave aside the major problems...]

And there is no historical evidence to suggest that the U.S. will lead the world in a moral way or use its power for good in all cases. So why the unquestioning faith in this? And why would it take a moralizing form? [Oh wait--I forgot the whole neo-conservative spin on the cold war. Never mind.]

I guess what I mean to say is: Even if you agreed with some of the neo-conservative way of interpreting history and current events you'd have to wonder where the sanctimoniousness comes from.

Isn't it a civil religion of a sort?

I really find myself falling back on some kind of pseudo-philosophical psychoanalysis to explain the high dander of the neo-conservative. Will to power--poor are weak, strong crush weak--certain people find this notion quite satisfying. That's the best I can do at this point.

Otherwise the whole perspective of the neo-conservative seems (1) unconnected to morality and thus not a reliable source for self-righteousness and (2) essentially an amoral view--one that does not lend itself to any kind of scorn for those who, e.g., believe in global warming or want the government to pay for poor children's lunches and checkups and fillings.

And this is why I hate surfing the web--because it makes me think about crap like this.

Eight weeks! I had eight weeks free from blog punditry, newspapers, the internet...I just checked out. And shit--in one day I'm back to blabbing 'til the cows come home.
Laundrymat Embezzlement

Fussy's speculation about her kid and a laundrymat re-ignited a childhood memory

It used to be my job to go to the laundrymat and do the laundry. I was pretty young then...about 11 or so. My mom would drop me off and in about 7 hours she would pick me up.

What did I do in those 7 hours? Well, she'd drop me off with a whole bunch of change. It seemed like a fortune in change. And unfortunately, there was a 7-11 right next to the laundrymat. The way I looked at it (I didn't get an allowance as a child) the change was my 'commission.' If I could do the laundry on the least amount of money possible I could spend the rest. So I would pack 8 washloads into 3 machines and then use the rest of the money to buy candy and comic books. Mostly, I sat around in the 7-11 and read the comic books. I read them all, actually. My favorite candy was in this burlap bag thingy....Little cherry rock-type candy.

This is why it took 7 hours. I realize now it was probably a way to get rid of me so she could study.

But now I'm thinking: Wow, I embezzled. From my own parents. And we were poor and everything. I never discussed the issue of the 'commission' with my mother.

Who teaches us to rationalize our sins? Is it simply some internal instinct? Or do we learn it somewhere?

She never really taught me how to do laundry. She had a lot of faith in me, my mother. In fact, when my youngest sister was born I wasn't even in high school yet and I remember my parents one day just handing her over to me. A six-week old infant. No instructions. I think they assumed it was obvious. I did alright--she has no complaints. I'll never forget the first day, though. She just sat in my arms and squalled and screamed.

I think back now to this and shudder. Thank God the kid (who in fact isn't a kid anymore) is still alive.
Thank you for telling me about the mutated subway roach on my leg!

I love it when he says: "And no thanks to anyone who saw me walking thru Grand Central w/ it on my coat...for not telling me. "

Yes...people just don't look out for each other anymore.

Also that he [she?] calls the roach a 'she' and not an 'it.' Yet claims to hate roaches.

I hope this writer did go home for the day. If I was the boss I would give said roach-traumatized person a whole week off but I guess that is why people like me never become bosses.

Breaking up as a form of class warfare

Monday, June 23, 2003

More on my spouse...

He's just a really nice guy...

Like the other day I didn't want to wake up. I was having this dream that I had two of my own pandas--and it was so emotionally satisfying for some reason. I had these pandas and then I knew they would have babies (not likely in real life but this was a dream) and I would have even more pandas.

And I realized this was truly all I needed in life: Pandas! Why didn't I think of this before?!?

Apparently, when he tried to wake me up I told him not to because I was having this wonderful dream about pandas. So he just let me sleep. Alas, I had to wake up sometime. And face my panda-less existence.

I really identify with this guy...

groped by an 8 year old

Being your teacher has sucked

Try not to get hooked on the best of craigs I obviously did

Sort of back to the internet for a bit

Just thinking about my middle sister

And how we have all these dumb little quotes and things we say when we are around each other...TV shows we watched when we were kids seemed to have become permanently implanted in our brains.

There is this one episode of Star Trek where Spock mindmelds with these plastic scurrying creatures who have minimal higher consciousness and he says during the mindmeld "Paaaaiiiiinnnnn." Apparently the creatures (which we called 'the throw up rugs') were in...yeah, pain.

We didn't have TV for many years and then we had black and white TV. So that technicolor wow of the old Star Trek truly had us transfixed. We did not have cable either for a long time so Star Trek fell on our empty and fertile minds and its utopian/humanist/cheezy 1960s perspective shaped us for a lifetime.

And how I say this when I have a headache. As I do now.

Or how I have this habit of saying: "Can I ask you a question?" And my sister always says: "If it's not a personal question." Which is from The Life of Brian. Which we unfortunately had on a tape and watched virtually every day for a year. That, and Young Frankenstein. We were depressed teenagers but we enjoyed comedy.

It is nice to be married to someone who--even though he hasn't seen the movies/shows that are part of our geeky quote pool--understands that when I lie in bed saying "paaaaiiiinnnn" I'm really joking.

Oh...I just realized my excuse of the month is one of those movie quotes...from Afterhours. Where the main character babbles something to this German s/m artist guy about not being together and he doesn't know what's wrong with him, etc. And the German guy says "lack of discipline?"