Thursday, April 29, 2004

Its only 10 a.m. and already I've run a gamut of emotions.

Happiness for a woman I travelled the world with who wrote to say she is getting married.

Humor at the guy on the news who said if someone wants to pray to a talking head of lettuce named Ralph, go ahead.

Dissappointment to note that breakfast would consist of a single, rubbery bowl of stale Corn Chex.

Irritation at an email attachment that wouldn't send.

Relief that the dentist said my wisdom teeth were healing fine.

Elation on the open highway listening to Supergrass and Fleetwood Mac.

Frustration when traffic ground to a halt.

Fear when the ever present military helicopters paused overhead.

Sorrow to realize today is Bob Edward's last day on Morning Edition.

Nausea when the train lurched to a sudden halt in glaring morning sun.

Wonder at nomad songbirds who painstakingly rebuild home every year.

Desire toward ubiquitous summer-dress girls on metro.

Rage toward Bush's latest outrage.

Boredom at work.

I've already had a full day. Time to go home.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004


Lost 4 hours worth of work when the Citrix box blinked.

Cicadas on the way. Got the deep fat fryer revved up.

Got a treatment due at 12 midnight. Haven't started, but:

The bass guitar arrived at the UPS store today.

Might wind up wearing my Attorney's undies and T despite my best efforts. (Recall that whoever doesn't finish their script treatment by the deadline has to wear the other's underwear and T-shirt: he explained that its a little known punitive stipulation in the ipso facto quid pro quo ad hominim habeus corpus act, which somehow applies. Don't ask me.). Fortunately, he keeps himself immaculately groomed and wears Italian silk boxers, unlike me. I keep myself outfitted in coffee-stained T's and have frumunda cheese stalagtites dripping out of nipple-high tightie whities.

Juz' kiddin.

Most days I smell like a peach.

Went to the Pentagon to get fingerprinted for paperwork that should have been completed 4 months ago for a security clearance that nobody can figure out how to file which, if and when I receive it, I will not need to do my job.

It is necessary for me to have this clearance so I can go from the quiet, peaceful basement to the hectic, congested 8th floor without needing an escort.

Except that this level of clearance (Secret) does not allow me to walk unescorted on the 8th floor. For that I need the next higher level (Specialized clearance), which nobody will grant me while I'm a fellow because it costs $20k minimum to acquire and I don't need it to research World War Two (my current specialty).

So I can't get properly cleared b/c I don't have a certain job level and I can't get to the job level without the clearance.

In other words, Catch 22.

Still, it was worth wasting the afternoon to have the privelage of wintessing an all-achronym exchange between two security officers which accomplished absolutely nothing except wasting the afternoon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Today I was forced to stab two former colleagues in the back.

It wasn't pretty, but it had to be done.

Situation, this: My boss indicated that funding had been secured to add two additional fellowships (the same job as mine and a co-worker friend of mine from AU). The higher ups were considering accepting two people from the initial round of job applicants they'd recieved last year but hadn't hired (instead they'd chosen me and this other guy).

Upon hearing the names of the two applicants -- both of whom went to school with us -- me and my co-worker simultanously choked on our coffee. This was especially remarkable owing to the fact that we weren't even drinking coffee at the time.

One of the two people was the absolute *least* impressive grad student I met at AU. She excelled at one thing: blending laziness with incompetence (in a way that only lazy *competent* people like myself can appreciate). She was no Mensa finalist, either and if there was a contest to determine the brightest candle on the cake, she would be a fudge rose buried in butter frosting. In fact, I'm not sure she even passed her qualifying exams. If she did, it was a miracle bestowed by benevolent upper-level faculty members who could not bear the thought of having her around another year. She was also very nice and I wish her well. Providing I don't have to work with her or rely upon her for anything else ever again.

The other woman I did not know very well except that the one class we had together she competed with lazy/incompet woman for sheer ineptitude. She cemented her reputation as "most annoying student in class" by whining and moaning about every little thing -- including a particularly memorable moment when Dr. Kraut (whose no-nonsense name says it all) was forced to set her straight (in front of the whole class) about the audacity of trying to torpedo a planned weekend class session because she "didn't like to come to campus any more than she had to." I was also forced to critique a "paper" she produced, which was the worst piece of shit I was forced to read my whole 2 years there (it was worse than undergraduate work). It was supposed to be a final draft but was, in reality, just a hodgepodge of nonideas with proper pagination. What bugged me most was that she couldn't even make the effort to fake it, which is really what grad school is all about.

After telling us the names, my boss requested input from us. I withheld immediate comment in the interest of propriety.

Later, whilst donating blood at the Pentagon, I read a passage in Catch 22 (a fucking *brilliant* book recommended to me by a reliable source) in which Yossarian tells his friend not to give their commanding officer the input the officer explicitly solicits.

The friend does not heed Yossarian's advice to remain quiet and the commanding officer punishes the friend mercilessly for speaking up.

With this passage weighing heavily upon my mind, and hesitant to say anything negative about another person whose only fault is commonplace ineptitude, I decided to make the plunge anyway.

I drew my dagger in the form of an obliquely written email and sank it (ever so delicately) into the unwitting backs of my former colleagues. "I recommend broadening the applicant pool," I said.

Then I sent it.

There is no guilt. It was just a matter-of-fact business decision. The less nincompoops I have to contend with the better. This city is full of sharp, talented women who could do a helluva good job. No need for deadweight (says the guy blogging on company time).

Perhaps, as Yossarian's friend did, I just disembowled myself by voicing my objections in writing.

Not worried about that either, somehow.

In fact, jot me down as just not giving a shit about very much at all when it comes to this sort of thing.

Monday, April 26, 2004

I want to give a shout out (a plug, if you will) to a very new, very cool fiction writing website that I think all of you fic writers will dig:

It is called Storystream and can be found at the link to your right (unless you are upside down, in which case you've got some serious issues and ought not be poking around online).

Storystream is a site where writers can post stories and collaborate with other writers. It is geared to "group storytelling" in which one person starts a post, and others contribute to it, etc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must divulge my relationship to the site's author: he is a friend and a member of that elite cadre of professionals known colloquially as "code crunching gods" (don't let the mild manner fool you -- he spends regular amounts of time hurling digital lightning bolts and eating children). In human language his name is "Karim" and I wouldn't risk asking what his name is in binary -- the sound of the words alone would shatter your tympanium like a fax transmission played through the soundboard at a Who concert. (How's that for a cumbersome metaphor?)

The point: go to his site and check out Storystream. Post often and tell your friends.
Blogger Users:

Anybody else notice that Blogger is no longer instantaneously publishing posts? It often takes 24 hours or more. Also, lots of links to folks blogs tend to lead to obsolete posts, as if the link feature were really pointing to some sort of archive.

Just wondered if anybody else was having the same problem.

See below for a "real" post. Of course I put "real" in quotes so I won't have to define it, or be precise, or commit to anything one way or the other whatsoever. Instead, I will let your subjective understanding of "real" determine if I was somehow trying to be ironic or hyperaware.

P.S. Ceci n'est pas une post
Spent yesterday covered in dirt, hauling slate, and staring at bugs. Capped it off with a campfire, barbecue chicken, and a drive through blinding rain.

Not shabby for an unexpected daytrip to West Virginia. The wife went to plant flowers at her dad's place and I became her last-minute Driver B. What sort of flowers, you ask? I have no idea. Yellow and red ones. Ones with greenish stalks. Perennials or bi-annuals or bifurcatationals. Posies. Primroses. Ivy. I'm a boob when it comes to gardening. If I can't eat it, smoke it, or generate exotic aphrodesiacs out of it, I don't want to have anything to do with it. Even then, I'm at a loss. The one time I tried planting tomatoes I got a HUGE bush (watered every day) and -- after a summer of toil -- got two (2) tiny cherry tomatoes. (Note: it was not a cherry tomato bush -- they were supposed to be big red ones.) I've killed bonsai's. I've killed African Violets. I've killed cactus. I even killed a pot of weeds I left in a fallow pot last year (they were overtaken by pernicious prize orchids that I was subsequently forced to poison).

So yesterday, instead of assisting in the garden, I was put on wood chopping and campfire building duty. I chopped up a termite-ridden stump, took the pieces to a flat spot in the forest, manhandled nearby stones into a crude druidic ring, piled dry leaves under the termite-stump, and build a prideworthy blaze...until the rain started.

I have always longed to live in a teepee or a shack -- unfettered by rent and the usual trappings of suburban domiciliatiousness (mortgage anxiety, the need to match curtains with couches, vacuuming). I figure after the nuclear war I can prop my teepee up against a tree on my father in laws spread and ponder my days away walden-style, staring at insects, drying meat, and burning things.

The wife is none too pleased with this scheme, as it fails to include suficient comfort and sanitation for her needs. She would be perfectly happy to live next door, of course, but has made it clear that shaggy, grizzled mountain men (even of the married-to-her variety, would not be welcome among the orderly, efficient household she would have established without my presence. This is indeed a problem. A flaw, of sorts. I think she will come around soon. Perhaps as soon as it takes her to realize that, if we lived in a teepee, we could have a dog. Currently, our landlords do not permit animals in their house, as animals would undoubtedly despoil the oil-stained, ripped, sunblanched carpet that currently graces our floor. The beauty of a teepee is, if/when your dog shits on the floor, you just have to wait for rats to eat it. Problem solved. Except that rats can devour your nose and ears while you're asleep, if you have leoprosy. Note to self: if going to live in a teepee, avoid contracting leoprosy.
(Note: Native Americans probably had workarounds for this admittedly risky form of sanitation, but such knowledge has not filtered its way down through the textbook romanticism I am basing my dream upon.)

In the meantime, as I am honing my plans to get "off the grid" (or should I just call it the "matrix"?) I need to do a lot more rock-hauling and log splitting. It makes use of many muscle-groups I am not accustomed to operating and makes me grateful that I can come home to a warm shower and a sympathetic companion who will not chew off my ears as I sleep.

Friday, April 23, 2004

I keep hearing complaints about how reservists serving in the military were blindsided by the war: they didn't know they were actually going to have to fight, they didn't think the government could prolong their tours of duty, they didn't think their families would have to cope so long with them gone. Heck, they just wanted money for college. They just wanted medical benefits. Etc.

I'm not particularly sensitive to these complaints. Let me explain why.

I am sorry that anyone has to fight at all, and equally sorry for reservists and full-timers, but I'm not *extra* sorry for reservists.

Reservists volunteered. They chose to be where they were. They accepted the training and the benefits, and knew very well that war service was both possible and, if it came, would require sacrifices for unpredictable lengths of time.

Our society has lately come to idolize its military -- both the humanity of its soldiers and the romance of service. We lionize our military caste, describe all soldiers as heroes, and brook no broader criticism of the mission out of an exaggerated "respect" for the fine people in our military.

The military *is* full of fine people -- I work with many such and have known many more. Some are relatives of mine. And ye, while I firmly believe that a vast majority of the people in the military do not over-estimate their own importance in the context of either society or the war, the few who complain about the great sacrifice of having their career schedules disrupted do nothing to advance my sympathy.

The simple fact is, regardless of how much sacrifice occurs, I don't want to lionize the military in principle. I don't want my fear of offending these people to disarm my ability to critically examine our nation's broader usage of the military.

I want the military to remain what it was conceived to be: a last-resort tool of the state, nothing more. I don't want to love it and I don't particularly want to respect it, although there is much about it that inspires such emotions. I am a patriot and wish to maintain a healthy distance from this institution -- as a check to its power.

Anything else is too dangerous.

The moment we accept that reservists are victimized by having to serve longer or in more dangerous conditions than they'd anticipated, the military stops being a powerful last-resort institution of coercive force and becomes instead a social program designed to uplift the underprivelaged. In other words, the story becomes about the soldiers themselves and not about the war (or its aims) as a whole.

As a social program, the military becomes indespensible and entrenched. Militarization results. Who can criticize a war if it is fought by a poor kid who just wanted money for college?

So I am adopting a purposefully cold line. I'm going to hold back my sympathy for the very real, very human feelings of these soldiers (and their families) with the hope that soldiers in our military never again accept the decision to join the armed forces lightly, or for the wrong reasons.

I want us, as civilians, to begin to stand up to militarists who think that the military it is the sole guardian of democracy. This is a blatant lie that too often goes unchallenged.

Even though I oppose the war, I want us to be able to look our soldiers in the eyes and tell them that they must sacrifice whatever we demand of them because they agreed to and becuase we (civilians) ordered it. We can let no amount of concern for their private lives impede our judgement if we really believe that we are putting our military to a use protecting us. (Arguing about this latter point is important and sadly underemphasized in public discourse, but entirely beside the point here.)

So reservists who just want to get home and see your families, I say: sorry, Joe. You volunteered to fight, now fight.

With assistance from my attorney, I have now adopted a new yardstick by which to measure my progress through life. The assistance he provided consisted of a ranting, barely coherent message left on my answering machine containing the following insight:

We (he and I) should no longer remain complacent about the fact that, upon the threshold of Age 30, neither of us are rich, famous, or fugitives from the law.

I simply cannot argue with this observation. Nor with its implications.

Granted, my Attorney is a clinical psychopath, but he is very well adapted. You would never know that beneath the suave, competent exterior is a calculating, cold-blooded villain.

So it is clear that I need to come up with something to satisfy at least one of the three requirements, and preferably one that can satisfy all three. (Note: hard work to get rich is not an option.)

Perhaps we need to perpetrate a big Con in which much money is made, and retirement is had in Monaco. Perhaps a Heist or a Caper in which some famous statue (i.e. the Statue of Liberty) vanishes, which will then be hawked for millions on Ebay under an assumed name.

The part that concerns me is the "fugitives from the law" part. This worries me, not so much for the implicit suggestion that some form of lawbreaking had to have occurred (or at least been *perceived* to have occurred, to be legally safe about it), but because as much as it would be helpful to have companionship as a fugitive, I cannot have my attorney co-jointly running from the law with me. It is an inherent conflict of interest. If we got in trouble, who would bail me out of jail?

I see only one real solution to the problem. We must find someone else to become a fugitive. If it is someone near enough to us, a tell-all expose after a sensational trial should garner enough fame and fortune to last awhile. Any volunteers?

(Suggestion: start by revealing to me all of your serets, then go commit some sort of flashy, daring crime.)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Hm. Hows this for wierd:

Adrian Kronauer is in the next cube over from me. He was radio host for US Army radio in Vietnam during part of the 60s. Robin Williams played a somewhat fictionalized version of him in "Good Morning Vietnam".

He just borrowed my tape.

At the moment, for some reason, he is reliving his radio days and saying "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD Morning Vietnam/Baghdad" to whomever he is speaking to on the phone. He keeps calling her "Sandra" and it sounds like a radio interview. All you NPR junkies prepare to hear this bit a bit later -- the pattering sound of the keyboard in the background is me, blogging.

I think I need to lessen my dosage of allergy medication. It seems to be producing hallucinations.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I'm excited. Yes, folks. I know it is difficult to tell from my face, but don't let this mask of apathy and measurable indifference fool you.

After work today I'm going to Atomic music and buying an electric bass. After having spent several years denying that I needed another bass, I have finally come to my senses.

The reason I "need" a bass is because it represents a huge, gaping hole in my music studio -- one of the last, I might add. Over several years I have pieced together various essential items: guitars, computer, fancy sound card, lots of cables, harmonica, egg shaker, mixing console, guitar effects processor, amp etc. I've erected a barrier of junk and trash between my work console and the door so as to "claim" the office as my territory (my wife won't go in there). I recommend this approach for the territorial among you. It is less smelly than pissing on everything I want to take sole possession of, although I keep that as a backup option. But I digress.

The electric bass will fill in a conspicuous void which, up until now, I have filled with synthesizers and oscillators. No big deal. Lots of musicians do this (probably some you wouldn't expect). I'm not even such a music snob that I feel that synths just can't even come close, cuz they can. They suck at emulating horns and the human voice, but they're not bad at handling drums and bass (or anything percussive). But the reason a real bona fide bass is necessary is because a bass is played differently than a synth: its unique physicality leads the musician to different (although not necessary superior) places.

Synthezizers can create bass pulses (and slapping) well, but not bass slides. As with the human voice and horns, sliding up or down a string has a long "envelope" of sound with much possibility for unique voicing.

I like bass slides.

My favorite bass player is the guy from Blues Traveller (I never knew his name)

He rarely did bass slides, and he never slapped (which I like), but damn. His smooth rock-solid riffs were what gave the lead singer the room to take them to the edge. He was like the heavy weapons guy in the platoon. He was like lemonade on an esplanade overlooking the Coral Sea. (Just fucking with you -- seeing if you're awake.)

So I need a bass to plug a hole in my heap of soundmaking junk (most of which I underutilize due to a jarring and everpresent defect in my character that makes my enthusiasm for acquiring gadgetry much stronger than my ability to put it to proper use).

Last night as I drifted off to sleep I thought about my first electric bass. The day I got it I was so damn proud. I'd already played the electric guitar for a year or so, but decided to switch to bass because it was a much sought after niche.

Anyway, I got my bass -- an apple red Gibson Epiphone of the most hideous appearance. I thought it was ugly and awkward from the moment I saw it. It crashed to the cement several hours later. Man, I loved that bass.

It finally broke or got sold off. I don't remember which. I bought a beautiful 5 string bass in college, never liked it much (it was too pretty and 5 strings is too highfaluten for a bass). I traded it to a heroin dealer for a Rickenbacker clone with old-school tone). I think Purple Paulie or Sex McGinty ended up with that one. My favorite memories of the bass was really more about the music I played on any given instrament: I played a fat jazz song on Eleazar's P-bass. I played a fat jam with Purple Paulie on some crappy two-stringed bass that he and Sex McGinty used to keep. I played some seriously simple, fun old rock and roll in a band on Semester at Sea.

Today, in homage to my past, I re-energize my bass-playing career. Bass never was my best instrament, but damn if I didn't feel like the phattest shizzit on the block cranking that amp up to 10 and blowing the roof out.

Its a Yamaha fretless, by the way. Some model number or other.

I just noticed on Blogger's main page that they advertise "their" email system: Gmail.

I am saddened to see this here for two reasons:

1. Gmail is not Blogger's email, its Google's. I know that Google bought Blogger, but it compromises the fine people at Blogger to make it seem like they were the ones behind the creation of this dangerous email system.

2. I like Google, but the economic model behind Gmail is truly ominous. The way Gmail works is it scans the contents of your email and uses your word choice to target you with advertising.

Color me paranoid, but when people start scanning my correspondence for particular words, I get jumpy. Google might not sell my word profile to the government, but advertisers will. (Remember when Jet Blue sold its customer list to the government for a security "study".) Already the US Government has created an integrated electronic data snooping and compilation tool. Someday you'll say something somebody doesn't like. You'll end up on a list. Businesses will deny you loans. Somebody will decide that your thoughts give comfort to "terrorists" (terrorist = anybody a person in power is afraid of who doesn't play by the rules established by the powerful).

Not going to happen tomorrow, maybe. But the day after? We think McCarthyism could never happen again. I used to think that. Now that Bush is in office I'm not so sure. Daily that man and his cronies shock me with their lack of historical perspective, with their ignorence, with their arrogance. (Coupled with the fact that no amount of stupidity on Bush's part seems to faze a public more interested in having a president who will never, no matter what, deprive them of the comfort of hearing trite, jingoistic truisms about American greatness.)

To the people responsible for Gmail I say [*extending my middle finger*]:

Filter this, fuckers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Imponderable #5767

People who know me as an adult occasionally wonder what I was like as a kid. You can get something of an idea from the pics on my "King of the Hobos" site. All you have to do is lighten my hair to pure white and cut it into a bowl shape. (When I was in 6th grade I had blue hair: blue because I always always wore a sweatshirt with a hood -- a look, I might add, that gangstas subsequently stole.) (I never brushed my hair then and still don't today.)

But my looks are beside the point -- today I am wondering about something I used to do as a child. I learned it from a playmate. You try it (follow me):

1. With your fingers, stretch the outer corners of your eyelids UP until you can barely see. (then)
2. Grinning goofily, say these words very loudly: CHING CHING CHONG CHING (then)
3. "I am Chinese!"

-- then --

1. With your fingers, stretch the outer corners of your eyelids DOWN until you can barely see. (then)
2. Grinning goofily, say these words very loudly: CHING CHING CHONG CHING (then)
3. "I am Japanese!"

Practicing thus, you can (like I did) become quite adept at recognizing and emulating the visual and linguistic habits of these two venerated and ancient cultures. My own early embrace of multiculturalism prepared me for a life of sensitivity toward the nuances of (and between) foreign societies.

Now, entire libraries of books can be written on issues relating to the way in which children teach one another about the world. I am fascinated by the knowledge that kids pass on day by day to each other, circumventing adults entirely: the ancient, filthy rhymes that no adult would *ever* teach a child (let alone millions of them, since every kid can recite them by heart), etc. Much of what I learned as a child had probably been passed from one child to another since the medieval English decided to upgrade from Middle English to whatever we now speak. But I'll leave that to scholars and sociologists.

What I am pondering, have been pondering for at least a decade or more, is...what do foreign children say/do to mimic their perception of Americans and their language? Are Asian children squashing the corners of their eyes in an attempt to make them more "round", and shouting gutteral gibberish to mimic English's germanic phonemes? Are the filthy rhymes of other cultures preserved forever in the secret language of children, too? (Are other children as hideously, if unconsciously, racist as I was?)

Anybody know? I've probably pondered this question on this blog before since it has never been adequately resolved in my mind.

Imponderable #5768 (for the guys)

Fellows, why.


I will say it again:


Why do so many of you reflexively flush the urinal you are standing at BEFORE you have completed pissing?


I cannot understand this behavior. Not only does the proximity to the falling water increase the liklihood that you will be splashed, but there always exists the possibility that you will not be done pissing by the time the bowl fills up again. This will necessitate a second flush or worse. It might result in an example of perhaps the Greatest Imponderable of Them All: the Strange Ever Present Existence of the Purposefully Unflushed Toilet -- examples of which can be found in every public men's restroom in America. Usually the Purposefully Unflushed Toilet is accompanied by distressingly indelicate odors and a certain physicality which is best left undescribed.

This third imponderable must wait for it likely defies rational explanation so back to the "premature flushing" problem...

Is flushing a urinal in the midst of making water somehow conceived as a time-saving device? I assure you that it takes just as much time to flush a toilet during as it does after a piss.

This behavior is about as rational as wiping your hinie *before* evacuating your bowels. Or is it?

Monday, April 19, 2004

I saw "Kill Bill 2" this weekend. It was very very good. If you saw the first one, you'll be happy to know that this one finished the story quite nicely. If treated as two distinct movies, the first one certainly had more action, but this one had its share of vintage Tarantino quirkiness. To me, the two movies really don't stand alone: they're just one long flick with a 6 month intermission. "Reservoir Dogs" is still my favorite Tarantino, but I admire "Pulp Fiction" almost as much, and KB just might surpass either after I see it a few dozen more times.


Not much else to blog about. Thought something would hit me during the course of the day, but it didn't.

Go have an adventure of some kind and report back to me, will ya?

Friday, April 16, 2004

Back after getting my teeth yanked. The operation went smoothly, thanks to a new (old) friend:

Nitrous oxide.

I've never had that at the dentist before. I'm going to ask for it again.

Dentist: Turn toward me so I don't accidentally crack your jaw whilst I extract this tooth by the root. Just a little twist now...

Me (high): Wee. Isn't this fun?

Dentist: These bloody stiches will dissolve in your mouth with time.

Me (high): Stiches that dissolve? Wow. What will they come up with *next*? Say, that reminds me about a joke I heard once from a used car salesman in Sandusky...

Since the op the mouth has been fine. The Vicadin didn't hurt, either, but its not my cup Nor are the antibiotics. In fact, if I turn green and barf on you just ignore it: antibiotics don't agree with my system. Otherwise I'm fine.

I got to work from home yesterday. I actually got more done from home than I usually do around the office.

And (best part) is today I actually had cause, occasion, and rationale to take my brand new 256mb USB jump drive to work on...(catch this) keychain.

Yes, you heard me.

While the rest of you suckers are geekily clipping bulky electronic storage devices to your S.U.B.'s (suburban utility belts), *I'll* be spry and unencumbered with the equivalent of 150 floppy disks on one small device in my teeny weenie pocket.

Not to gloat or anything.

(I made sure I was swinging my keys as I entered the office.)

Where was I.

Oh yeah: can't wait to see "Kill Bill Vol. 2".

Monday, April 12, 2004

Went to the spa town of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia this weekend.
Didn't "take the waters" like you're supposed to when you're at places
like that. I love natural springs, but only hot ones. The "medicinal
value" of "spring water" is complete crap. Unless it is polluted, water is
water. Sure, some is higher in various minerals, some is lower. Big deal.
One banana has more minerals in it than ten gallons of water.

My wife pointed out that in the old days people rarely bathed and probably
had lice and drank polluted water, so spring water probably was healthier.
George Washington bathed there. No joke. They have a little tub of luke
warm water that he used to wash off in. The thought of George Washington's
lice floating in that little pool was enough to make me queasy.

Folks are trying to turn Berkeley Springs into a yuppie hideaway (like
Sonoma or Sedona or Vale). They won't succeed. West Virginia is
inordinately resistant to new forms of wierdness. That's partly why I like
it. Plus old spas have lives of their own not wholly owned by the momentary
conceits of any single generation.

I'm particularly fond of their heavy limestone bathhouses, their art deco drinking fountains, the inevitable photos of ham-armed beauties from the 20s, the rotting taxidermy displays. Such places truly are fonts, not of medicinal water, but of an even more powerful potion: optimism -- the belief that something transformational can be found taking a holiday to a wet crack in the ground. This is a belief more reliant upon hope than demonstrated much so, and with such proven results, that any distinction between the two blurs until they flow together, seemless.

Such places collect the hopes of dead presidents and celebrities, of wounded veterans, of tired holidaymakers and family men; they recall moonlit trysts in secret swimming holes, and toppled ice cream cones, lapped up by opportunistic dogs but
still longed for (years later) by toddlers (now teens, now adults, now
gone)...these form not a spring but a flood and the channel is no tiny, stone-lined bank but time itself.

After Berkeley Springs we went to my father-in-laws place on Wild Boar mountain. Its a rough frame cabin on a perenially moist, rocky slope. It was subdivided into cabin lots a long time ago, but most of the places have been abandoned. I'm happy about that fact. No point in going up to the mountains just to find yourself in the suburbs. Yesterday it rained so we sat by the potbelly stove and rustled newspaper. The world outside was made up only of ghost trees, mossy slate and bright yellow daffodils
mistwashed to grey.

I could get the hang of that kind of living. I'd take an axe to the door of one of those single room A frames down the road, chuck whatever the termites hadn't already taken care of, and get to work. It'd be an extreme remodeling makeover -- in reverse. I'd scrape off the paint and the wallpaper, tear out the light fixtures, import some rats.
I'd chop firewood and get the potbelly glowing orange. I'd set up a rack of
amplifiers in the loft and wire the place for sound. Then I'd plug in the
electric guitar, unplug the brain, and wait for the fog to roll in. When
everything was good and quiet and there were no sharp lines to be seen anywhere, I'd stand at the windows overlooking the ledge and start to play.

Twenty years later I'd come back, all Rip Van Winkleish. Big grey beard, broken teeth, gingivitis. I'd tear into chicken like a wild animal and laugh indelicatly at all the wrong things. You'll ask me how I'd been and I'll say 'good' and mean it. You'll know I'd been dreaming awake, and, upon hearing mine, you'll know your own dreams, mortgaged heavily, are coming due.

Or maybe that will be me talking to myself after twenty years in this neat little box I come to every morning.




Twenty years of got my starbucks.

Twenty years of got my painkillers.

Twenty years of a stone-written guarantee, renewed daily, that there will be no unforseen adventure or romance, no risks without abundant reward.

Or maybe things just seem like that today because there is too much watery sky, and tomorrow, too much predictable lightning. I wonder, though, if lightning can ever be known in advance -- by weathermen or anyone. Can it be regularized, examined in advance, blunted, made dull. I doubt it. Some things, maybe. Never lightning.

*lifting up my coffee*

Here's to tomorrow.

May it rain spring water.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Saga of my Tooth (Volume 411, Spring Ed.):

Three months ago my cool, geeky dentist who loves his job told me to get my left wisdom teeth out on account of one having a cavity.

I prevailed upon him to try to fill it anyway. A man only needs two teeth (one to grind against the other) and I figured two back wisdom teeth would suffice in a pinch. Why remove a perfectly good tooth just because its got a cavity?

He drilled most of the tooth away.

Then (after jamming many sharp metallic objects into my mouth, prying apart my jaw with a clamp, applying a pry bar with my nose as a fulcrum, cursing, sweating and shrugging) he informed me that he could not complete the job.

Now my semi-urgent need to get my wisdom teeth out was suddenly much much more urgent.

"You'll need to get it done within a month," he cautioned.

"Don't wait any more than two months," his hygenist informed me after he had left.

It took three months and a week for my newfangled insurance policy to come through.

I went to an insurance company dentist today to get a referral for an oral surgeon.

"It not impacted. I take out tooth," she said.

"Um," I said, gazing around the empty office, noting the shoddy, ancient equipment, the iron maiden hanging above the door, the fingernail scratches in the plaster...

"Ok...?" I said.

She numbed me and inserted a tooth key.

Ever seen one of these things? They look like wrenches but are as thick as your thumb.

Long story short: after jamming many sharp metallic objects into my mouth, prying apart my jaw with a clamp, applying a pry bar with my nose as a fulcrum, cursing, sweating and shrugging, she informed me that she was only partially able to extract my tooth.

Ain't that sorta like being partially pregnant?

"I'm going to have to refer you to an oral surgeon," she said, sweating profusely, glancing at me out of the corner of her eye to make sure I wasn't going to collapse on the floor due to blood loss or impending shock.

"By the way," she said as I was leaving, "I wouldn't wait to get this done."


"Get it done today or tomorrow," she added.

She called my house an hour later to check up on me.

I see an oral surgeon in five days...

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

This Morning's Post

This morning on metro:

Censorship. Google screening email. More bodies in Iraq. Election. Monument to the slain somewhere. Father of the answering machine died.

Read about "post punk" punk rock and how it will save the world by being loud and angry.
Read about a "post metal" metal band and how it will save the world by being loud and angry.
Read these things in the "Washington Post".
Read last week about one of Nirvana's members putting out a metal compilation that will save the world.
Read one day later how that album definitely won't save the world.
Read the day after that how Scandinavian metal bands are at the top of their game.

Read about a pop rapper with pretensions of being just like another no-name rapper nobody remembers from seven seconds ago. Just another piece of shit that floated before it sank.

Read the face of a tired girl in a wrinkled skirt. Wished I merited more than a single line in a tiny chapter on transit. Wished more people had the courage to wear wrinkled skirts.

Remember how Marilyn Manson was a rock cliche the second he stepped onstage, but nobody cared? Now he's an old-timer and people forget that he was derivative. It seems important to care about who was first, because somehow it makes us feel less manipulated, more "real" perhaps (like the Velvatine Rabbit). We were there on the ground floor, man. Woodstock. Lalapalooza. We listened to the New York Dolls back in 76. Back when ideas were important and people were real.


Axl Rose is fat. It doesn't mean he's going to save the world, it just means he's an even bigger asshole.

Beyonce has lasted exactly eight seconds and therefore passed some sort of pop milestone. She is now some sort of diva (a term reverbrating with condescention since it seems only to apply to black female vocalists). A shepherdess of young talent. What does Beyonce sing again? Oh yeah, that won a grammy

What will be next, I wonder, in post-father-of-the-answering-machine America?

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I'm actually busy today and for the rest of the week. I can't believe it. I also get to go on a one week, work-sponsored record gathering gig to....

(the exciting state of...)


Yay. I won't knock it. (After staring at the ass of Northern Virginia for 3 months, you'd be excited too.)

More importantly, after reading Glass Maze (see link to your right) (unless you are reading this upside down) (then its on your left) (Note: if you are *inside* your monitor, cease reading this and immediately seek professional help.)

after reading Glass Maze I thought it would be cool for *somebody* to make a program that simulated a million monkeys typing at a typewriter to see how long it would take to generate shakespeare.

It is a very difficult problem because:

a) what exactly consitutes "generating shakespeare". If it must be "uniquely" Shakespeare (i.e. the word "I" would not count) then how many words would one have to write in a row before something uniquely shakespearian becomes the result? This requires a comparative analysis of every adjacent bundle of words in Shakesepare with...everything else ever produced in English.

b) if a monkey produced a perfect foreign (i.e. Swahilli) translation of Shakespeare would it still count as Shakespeare? If not, then none of us have ever read anything by any author whose work has been translated into a language of our understanding.

c) does spoken Shakespeare count? I am quite certain that Shakespeare spoke certain phrases aloud during his lifetime. Cannot those phrases, ululated by his own vocal cords be considered "Shakespearian"? If a monkey wrote, "I'm positively famished," or "Fair doxy, would thee like to emulate the beaste with two backs with me, withal?" there is every likelyhood that these phrases were uttered by Shakespeared during his lifetime. (And when identifying potential spoken phrases, one could not fail to consider that there might be multiple individuals lumped together Voltron-like into the "Shakespeare" we all know.)

c) if a rock tries to mimic Shakespeare, would we have any basis for judging its success?

d) not sure if "C" has anything to do with the quandry, but maybe we can find 1,000,000 Zen buddhists work on that for eternity and see what answer we get.

d) the exact order of letters in a Shakespearian sonnet can be construed as characters in a combination. With 87 keys on a keypad, every single additional letter has a potential of being one of the 87. By letter two, there are already 87 x 87 possibilities. By letter three, its up to 87 cubed. This number gets very large very quickly.

e) as in law, can the SPIRIT of Shakespeare count over the LETTER of his writings?

Problems problems.

Nevertheless, somebody already solved all these problems by creating just such a site. Go here:

Monday, April 05, 2004

Happy Monday, all.

That is a Britishism, I believe.

Had a pretty good weekend, all in all -- the best in awhile. A good time at Butchie and the Artist's place (visit Butchie's nearly-complete website at...wait a minute the link doesn't work. I'll get it for you later.)

I still reek like this fat lady on the metro's cheap, stanky perfume. Is there some law that says fat ladies have to wear 5 inches of makeup and half a bottle of perfume every day? I'm happy to see people take care of themselves, and there are many large, beautiful women on this planet, but damn...why do I gotta be the one that smells like I rolled in cooking spray?

I spent last Friday in a self-medicated fugue after tweaking my back playing racquetball Thursday. I say "playing" racquetball, because usually that's the way it goes: my partner hits the ball, I hit it back, sometimes he scores, sometimes I score. Regardless of whether I win, I always come home and brag to my wife about my great victories on the court.

Thursday was different. I watched my partner hit the ball. I watched the ball bounce nearby. I watched his score climb and climb. After two quick, miserable games, I got serious...and promptly threw out my back by -- get this -- bending from the waiste in anticipation of his serve. Sometimes I throw it out by getting all crazy and doing stuff like: tying my shoe, picking up a towel, sleeping.

I am an old man.

Mind you, based on my spinal physiology, I've been an old man since I was 17. Don't let my (increasingly) chiseled good-looks fool you.

So I ate muscle relaxers and drifted away my Friday. Not a bad way to go if you're inclined to envy slugs. I'm not.

Regrettably, and despite my unwillingness to be a workaholic at work, I am an absolute frenzied, driven, madman when I get home. (Don't quote that: I've already copywritten it in 173 countries and am in negotiations to have it turned into a movie based on the screenplay). I don't have time to watch TV. I don't have time to clean the house. I don't have time to write me mum or plant primroses. All essential chores must be done quickly and half-assedly.

I only have time to: cook dinner, eat, and then try to work on creative stuff: music, or writing, or developing games. When it comes to music I can spend 12 hours at the studio fuelled by nothing more than high-calorie nuts, coffee, and an ever-present feeling that if I don't capture all of the sound bouncing around my skull, it will haunt me at night (which it does).

I routinely sleep 6 hours or less a night.

I still feel like there's not enough time to do it all.

Poor me.

Boo hoo.

I'll shut up now.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

When 2004 = 1954

Here is how your government protects you, culled from the FCC

Obscene Broadcasts are Prohibited at all Times

Obscene speech is not protected by the First Amendment and cannot be broadcast at any time. To be obscene, material must meet a three-prong test:

An average person, applying contemporary community standards, must find that the material, as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

The material must depict or describe, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by applicable law; and

The material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

I hope I don't have to spell out how frightening this is.

"Obscene" speech is not protected by the first amendment? Since when? I thought the great thing about free speech is that it is FREE. It can't be controlled or it ain't free. Hiding behind "ruining" children is an exploitative cop-out: these same people who are claiming to be looking out for kids are filling those same kids heads with:

Visions of eternal, painful damnation if they act bad.
Self-serving, un-nuanced versions of history.
Fear of change.
Fear of people with brown skin.
Fear of sexuality.
Fear of diversity.

Meanwhile, these same people are stuffing kids full of sweet tea and corn bread, puffing them up to be good, slow drones for the market economy.

Hiding behind the "public" nature of the "public" airwaves is a smokescreen: this administration's FCC already sold our formerly "public" airwaves to giant corporations.

"Contemporary community standards". Whose community? Yours? Mine? Jesus'?

"Serious" literary, artistic, political or scientific value. Who determines "serious"? Who determines "literary", "artistic", "political"?

It hardly takes sophistication to realize that these terms are always, constantly up for debate in society. More, the answered. Morons with bibles for brains like to pretend that Christian morality has remained consistant over time.

It hasn't.

It used to be considered decent to beat your wife if she disobeyed.

It used to be a common community standard to torture and burn strong women (i.e. witches), to cut people's tongues out for expressing doubt about the wisdom of the king.

It used to be considered christ-like to go to the Middle East and hack people to pieces for believing differently than you did.


I consider it "patently offensive" that somebody bleeped the word "Jesus" on Letterman the other night.

The FCC represents you, let them know how you feel about their efforts: