Thursday, May 27, 2004

At work there are two choices of bathrooms to use. One is on the second floor, the other is on the underground level. The one upstairs is plush compared to the one downstairs. The one upstairs routinely has: toilet paper, running water, clean(ish) stalls, and a conspicuous absence of wierdos.

The one downstairs, whose only recommendation is that it is conveniently located near the food court, is cramped, filthy, and often without sanitary supplies (i.e. soap, TP, water). It is also often populated by an odd assortment of urban rifraff: harmless homeless guys, roughnecks, loiterers, rapscalions. Yesterday I slipped in there for a quick appointment with a urinal and, midway through my business, noticed that the guy at the sink (standing about 6 inches from me since the entire room itself is no more than 5 feet wide), was staring directly at me. No, not at my thing (get your mind out of the gutter), but at my head. He was staring at me and absently rinsing his hands at the same time.

Except he wasn't washing his hands, he was just putting his hands under the automatic (laser triggered) faucet and pulling them away. *KACHUNK SSSSSHHHHHH KACHUNK* was the noise the sink made turning on and off.

The guy stared.
I pissed.
The guy stared.
Sensing danger, utilizing a vestigal instinct left over from my days braving inner city high school bathrooms, my bladder engaged its own automatic shut-off mechanism.
I stood their, engaged in particularly prolonged version of "the shake", waiting to see if the guy would leave.
He didn't.
I glanced at him sideways to see if he was having some sort of other trouble my peripheral vision could not comprehend.
He wasn't.
He stared at me even harder.
Added to my confusion was the fact that the guy seemed to be a new immigrant from the Middle East or Central America. It is difficult to say what gave me the impression of newness, perhaps it was the odd fit and style of his clothes (sort of 70s-ish country, but not affectedly so). In any case, it was possible that his obsessive behavior could be explained by a simple fascination with the novelty of a laser-operated sink. But that hardly explained the staring. In my limited experience, no culture in the world values a man staring at another man's ear whilst the latter engages in evacuating his bladder. I think it was Hammurabi who immortalized it in his famous Code 5000 years ago: "Ever avert thyne orbs from the earlobe of thy Pissing neighbor."

Another possibility (I considered) was that there was something horrible and fiendish crawling out of my ear. Perhaps the black-haired creature from "the Ring". Yet that made no sense in light of the continuous hand-rinsing. Everybody knows that doing battle with deadly horror movie creatures is filthy work. You'd wash your hands *after*, not before.

Which led me to conclude that perhaps he had just completed his dirty work and was merely making sure that his hands were clean before fleeing the scene. I considered peeking over the stall to see if I could spot the remants of his savage crime: the freshly severed head of a co-worker, a shriveled ear necklace tossed casually in the corner, a rusty machete. But there was a better alternative to getting at the bottom of this mystery:

I began to whistle faintly, notnchallantly, as if there was nothing left on earth better to do at that moment than fill that tiny, awkward space with some tuneless melody.

Then, abandoning all pretense of pissing, I stowed my gear and fled.

The guy stared at me all the way out, even half turning to do so.

*KACHUNK SSSSSHHHHHH KACHUNK*...the sound echoed down the empty corridor, chasing me until I reached the crowd and the noise of the shopping center.

Fast forward 24 hours.

This morning I re-entered the bathroom, having totally forgotten about yesterday's "incident". I stood at the porcelain pot, unlimbered my howitzer, and prepared to saturate the evil white deodorant bar with organic minerals. Only to hear...


With terror gripping my heart I glanced over my shoulder, only to see the beady eyes of my new (friend? nemesis?). Yes, he was there again this morning.


On off on off on off.

Opting for a strategic retreat, I disengaged and slipped out without even pretending that I was going to wash my own hands.

A new thought just occurred to me:

Could this guy be a ghost? Is there a message in his crypic behavior? (Yeah: D-O-N-T...D-O...D-R-U-G-S)


Everybody should sail on over to Pataphysical Grafitti (Posting of 5/27/04) and check out pics of my wedding, lately developed by the lovely (and photogenic) Beth, and posted by none other than the Dr. of Love, Sex McGinty himself.

I got hitched in July 2002.

Monday, May 24, 2004

This link
takes you to a funny site about what a *real* PC war simulator might be like.
This guy
made it to the North Pole.

His blog was really interesting to read.

His journey was arduous and fraught with danger.

He overcame much and is a *much* worthier human being than I, who stayed nice and safe at home.

Despite all of these things, the goal of his journey was more for himself than the ages. See my blog entry of 3/10/2004 for further proof that I am no blind believer in the universal need for such milestones.

By reaching that human-designated hub, that place of cold and emptiness in an entire universe of cold and emptiness, nothing happens. Sure, the guy is probably fitter than he was, he might have more self-knowledge, or a healthier attutude toward ice, but he could have trekked just as long and just as far walking circles in a flash freezer.

Not to detract at all from the skill and strength required to undertake this journey.

I think his own words express my sentiment more than my own words do. Here they are:

I've had 68 days to rehearse a speech, yet when I turned on the video camera and counted down the last few feet on my GPS, I didn't know what to say.

I still don't. I felt a huge mixture of emotions today - overwhelming joy and happiness, relief, sadness, frustration that I'm here too late in the season to reach the Canadian coastline. I thought of Dominick Arduin, who died this spring trying to reach the same point. And I thought how strange it is that there's nothing here. It's a bit of ice, just like any other.

I knew that all along, of course, but it still seemed so odd that the only proof is a number on the GPS. I sat down on my sledge and within moments I had drifted away from it. It's a cliche, but it's true - the important bit is the journey, not the destination.

And what a journey it's been so far. I've had way more than I bargained for - the conditions have been worse than ever and I've had to dig deeper than I imagined possible just to keep going. My motivation and my goals have changed drastically - at the start, this was about competition. Making a statement. I've come to realise that the only competition was with myself, and that the only thing I'm 'conquering' is my own self-doubt.
This post deleted due to uninspired content. More later.

Friday, May 21, 2004

I was on, looking up a tidy little word Fishfry used in a comment ("maquette") when I came upon a strange little automated link. It said "Get the Top 10 Most Popular Sites for 'maquette'".

Er...say what?

Fascinated by this nonsensical association, I clicked on it, only to discover that this concept has its own dedicated .com

Its a design firm site decked out in hideous orange and brown, so hip I need to muss my hair just to read it. What exactly it designs is not made clear on the home page. I think they assume that if I don't already know what they design, then I'm too hopeless to capitalize upon the service they offer. Partly due to this feeling of inadequacy, and partly out of horror at the jaunty (if a bit mysterious) "Visit Asterix Group!" hyperlink, I fled.

Back to the e-dictionary and its strange top 10 lists...

"circumambulation" resulted in a broken link above a site gushing about the vision of poet Gary Snyder, who fuses every new age philosophy into One and explains the internal contradictions away with paradoxical koans. (this result, needless to say, left me bemusedly apoplexic)

seeking the top ten sites to give me "the meaning of it all" left me with such a confused mishmash of sites that I have a sneaking suspicion that whatever poor fool was forced to compile these top 10 lists were hopelessly out of his/her league (probably just some greenhorn fresh from communications school, given a dictionary, a T1 line, and told to "go get 'em").

"Ray Leota rock" left me disheartened by the distinct possibility that this strange and mysterious totem, property of my attorney (who, for reasons which have never been made clear to me, must, upon encountering Mr. Leota, hurl the rock into his face) will ever have even a single (let alone 10) websites dedicated to its unique and undersung existance.

Upon undertaking this strange hyperlink excercise I am left to conclude that despite its appearance of having been an incredible waste of time, it has the potential of shedding insight into some of the most obscure and abstract (need I say "abstruse"?) words in the English language. I think you will find it a valuable addition to your own online toolset.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

GodddAMN. (Sorry God)

Just finished up the last session of the "policy conference". Today's session ended with an hour long jargon-filled bulleted powerpoint enabled "backbrief" summary, followed by a hopelessly generalized ten minute pep talk by some big Pentagon muckety muck. (Summary: blah blah blah your mission is important blah blah blah)

Yesterday we were treated to a 5 minute cameo by another big huge muckety muck from the Navy. (Summary: blah blah blah your mission is important blah blah)

As I sat in the hotel ballroom today I attempted, with some difficulty and only limited success, to withhold a vast quantities of post-legumal gas which had built up in my sweetmeats over the past 24 hours. My efforts in this direction were geared primarily to forestall the possibility that, upon release, such an outpouring might either:

a) startle my co-workers into enough wakefulness to realize that instead of taking notes (as ordered) I was drawing filthy pictures on my government-issue steno pad

-- or --

b) blow the G-2 Intelligence Chief's horrible toupee off his head

Failing either of those calamities, somebody might realize that I was not actually the silicon-based data-entry unit ordered by Operations last year but was instead a flesh and blood asset, capable of being demoted, downsized, and re-hired in the exact same position as a high paid government contractor.

Either that or shipped out, shot to pieces, and reassembled by a lab in Delaware.

Every conceivable scenario would require several months of preliminary paperwork, a screening, an agreed-upon declaration of intent drawn up by reprasentatives of seven separate agencies (of which I am a member of none) and approval by two entirely distinctive chains of command.

All of which is fine, of course, except that there was plenty of work to do. Starting with shading in the tits of the hairy, cock-gobbling transvestite I was drawing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Wow, I just succeeded in hijack ranting not once but twice in the Glassmaze comments section (sorry Ramsey)I must be angry this morning. No, its not that: its just that mention of Frank Herbert (author of "Dune") brought up bad memories of a certain poetry professor I had in college who, as an undergraduate, hurled a chair at Herbert in a classroom dispute. (See this link to read an interview of the man

Thinking about Ralph Angel reminded me that I can't stand poets. Not that I can't stand poetry, per se. I write it myself from time to time -- usually very late at night or when I'm extremely moody. I even like reading poems sometimes. I especially like poems written by people I know (because they are personal) and by people I know nothing about (because sometimes not knowing anything about the author makes reading about their irritating self-absorbtion more bearable)

So I like poetry, I just can't stand poets.

I hate their pretension. I hate their posturing, their self-importance, their smugness. I hate their aggravated irrelevance. I know, its not nice to hate. I hate them anyway.

Poets were the first masters of the sound-byte. You get a line or two of Keats to open a chapter (or worse, Rilke or William Carlos Williams) -- some brief observation that is like a mental ours d'ourve to get the brain juice flowing. You get a bunch of "ye" and "pale" and pointless pondering, pining, prancing among fairies in enchanted glades. Or worse: you get modernists who wear levis, drive pickups and try to be both tough and poets at the same time. What a gas. The day I get my ass kicked by a lumberjack poet I may revise this opinion, but until then: even modernist poets are wussies.

I long for the day when the words "poetry slam" and "body slam" are synonymous.

Poetry is all about terseness. It is all about making the perfect statement. It is all about not rhyming, not having fun. The most poetic thing I have ever witnessed was Captain Natty chucking a book of poems across the dorm room and stomping on it like a bug. That was one poignant, succinct moment. Words can do it no justice.

(note: John Donne and Baxter Black receive blanket amnesty from this tirade)

Wow. Three rants in one day. Its a new record. Does it count if one of the rants is actually a continuation of another?
Spent yesterday at a policy conference for POW/MIA affairs.

No, it is actually *duller* than it sounds. Nothing worse than hanging out with a bunch of squares discussing future meetings. The only interesting part was the guy who described (in graphic detail, with full color slides) what goes on at the Dover forensics lab where they handle (and attempt to identify) all bodies and body parts recovered in Iraq. To put it obliquely: he mentioned that they have done over 3000 DNA tests on remains even though only 500 +/- have died over there. I'll leave it up to you to guess how 500 bodies turn into 3000 discreet samples. I think the baggie industry owes Bush a debt of gratitude.

Oh wait, another interesting part was talking to a UK born forensic anthropologist based in Hawaii who related how he (as one of the top scientists working on Korean War remains) wrote a report on something to do with North Korea. The report was instantly classified to a level higher than he (as a foreigner) was able to obtain. Now he is not allowed to read his own report.

Today I used my newfangled clearance for the first time to look at declassified satellite images. Fun. I'm ditching the rest of the sessions, though. I have a pressing appointment with Starbucks.

Monday, May 17, 2004

I signed on to see what sort of rubbbish I'd written earLIEr today and as usual it made me sick. I am a disgusting human being, full of boredom and loathing. I smell nasty, too. Wait, that's not me talking. What's happening to me?

Note to readers:
In case you cannot tell, the droids have taken over my brain again and, although I (or whatever remains of "I") do not blame them, they are now in control of my mind and body, to be used for whatever purposes (nefarious or fair) they so devise. They wish me to remind you that you will be next if you don't watch your attitude, buster.

Note: if your name is not "Buster" then the aforementioned statement does not apply to you. In this case, you may proceed with whatever you were up to before being threatened by someone elses droids. If, however, you intend to change your name to "Buster" any time in the near future, then the issue is rendered murky. In order to avoid confusion, the droids request that you file e-form 877b ("b" for Buster). Here is a sample of the form, not to be mistaken for the real one, which is completely different:

FORM 877b Buster Declaration Form

1. I,_______________affirm that this is (or will soon be) my name.
(your name here)

2. I,___________________ am not lying.
(your name here)

3. I,___________________ promise.
(your name here)

4. If my name is Buster, I submit to all droids forthwith without recourse, alternative, and without any expectation of additional insight into the nature of this threat.

This will do it for not. Get that form filled out keep it handy against the day when they come for *you*.
Back from the Midwest. St. Louis is not a bad city, all and all. I was thwarted in my plans to ascend the famous arch, but there will be another day for that.

Spent the week combing through records of servicemen killed in Vietnam. Someone is evaluating whether certain people deserve to be added to the Vietnam memorial wall in D.C.

I'm glad that someone is not me -- some of the cases were tricky:

One guy wanted another tour in Vietnam so he could spend another year with his mistress. The army refused to grant it to him so he jumped out of a 5 story building onto concrete.

One guy died of heroin withdrawal.

Another guy died of an overdose of malaria medicine.

A great number of men died of long-term illnesses unrelated to service (especially cancer).

One guy died when a buddy of his threw what he thought was a dummy grenade into the middle of a party (by "party" I mean a group of 3 G.I.'s and 3 local Vietnamese women...). The grenade turned out to be live.

There were numerous "weapon malfunctions", grenade practice accidents, murders, booby-trap injuries, car accidents, bullet wounds, heart attacks, and wasting diseases too numerous and horrible to describe.

One tough guy died of "acute laryngitis".

There were a few obvious army cover-ups where the guy who drowned in his own drunken spew was described (in a letter to his mother)as having died "peacefully in his sleep".

Several guys accidentally doused themselves in flaming gasoline while clearing shrubs from base perimeters.

The saddest cases of all were the ones where the guys received grevious injuries, were retired from the military, and died years after the war. Judging by the nature of the wounds as described in the medical reports, those were no "golden years". (See Ron Kovic as portrayed by Tom Cruise in "Born on the 4th of July")

All in all, what began as a routine plunge into an anonymous pile of mouldering files turned into a strangely poignant encounter with issues of life and death. If only the lives of soldiers had half the longevity of the paper trail that survived them...

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Reading the back page of the Washington Post today makes it appear that G.W.B. is reaching the (recently rejivinated buzzword) "tipping point" in his relationship with sane conservatives. It appears that moderate, no-nonsense conservatives such as Senators McCane, Lugar, and Hagel finally have been joined by others on their side of the aisle in wondering just what the heck goes through the president's mind.

George Will -- an unapolagetic right-winger with a devastating pen and a penchant for relying on logic to win arguments -- writes:

"This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts."


He follows it up by excoriating Bush for offering only vaguely formulated, generally incoherent "bromides" about people yearing for freedom etc.

Will has discovered the truth about what the "neocon" philosphy really is: not a true (or even new) philosophy, but an approach. It is basically ordinary conservatism that refuses to compromise. It generalizes wildly about what is good for the world, assails all critics as "liberals", "elitists" or "non patriots", and then, when challenged, hides behind personal faith.

In the ordinary dialactic between "liberal" and "conservative", both sides contribute ideas. However much each side may disagree at any given moment with the other, many ideas become cross-pollinated between them. Thus it is that men like Will can at least grudgingly concede certain points to his philosophical opponants. "Neoconservatism" concedes nothing, hears no one. No dialectic, and no dialog. Everything is black or white, with us or against us, no nuances, no compromises. "Neocons" love freedom, all enemies of neocons hate neocons, therefore all enemies of neocons hate freedom. People who hate freedom are terrorists.

This "new" approach is actually an old, anachronistic (some would say patriarchal) style pulled from the dungheap of 19th century modernism, given a messianic spokesman (George Bush/Jesus), and sustained (with mega millions and PR firms) for the benefit of rich, corporate elites.

It will fail for the same reason communism failed: because the world is too complicated to be ordered from the top. Because people are smart to distrust corporate-sponsored government. Because people are correct to form groups to protect their interests (labor unions, environmental groups). Because when a philosophy of greed (free market capitalism) supplants a philosophy of inclusion and open-mindedness, the very freedom it purports to revere -- the very freedom that sustains it -- falls victim. Because, if lost, a war will discredit the philosophy that spawned it *regardless* of its other (possible) merits and, make no mistake:

We are losing a war. It would be glib to say "win the battle, lose the war", but in a guerilla war, there really aren't battles. "Hearts and Minds" became a hated catchphrase during Vietnam because we realized we couldn't win them through warfare (or humanitarian aid). It was a myth and a smokescreen. We have not forgotten our history, we are purposefully ignoring it. That is the neo-con way. That is why our credibility is gone.

And as our credibility goes, so, too, goes the short-lived "American Empire" neo-cons are so fond of touting. The moment we put a name to it, we lose it. (Ironically, it seems that 1960s post-modernism *isn't* dead after all.)

George Will can see it.

William Safire can see it.

Henry Kissenger can see it.

Can *you* see it?

I'll be out until a week from Monday. Peace.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

I spoke to my old man on the phone last night. He was bummed.

He is in Pittsburg at the moment, attending a nationwide conference for Methodist ministers.

(Note: he is a Methodist minister)

For those of you unfamiliar with the Christian Church, Methodists are one of the largest Protestant sects. Unlike Southern Baptists, the United Methodist church is organized along centralized, hierarchical lines similar to those of the Anglican church from which it sprung in the 1700s.

Although Methodists had initially been one of the strictest Protestant groups in terms of ritual (very methodical), they have since become among the most moderate of Protestant groups.

This is especially true in the West, where the church is more progressive than in other parts of the country -- especially the South.

For years now ministers, including my father, many friends of his (and mine) have fought a very determined battle to allow for the inclusion of homosexuals among the ranks of the clergy (i.e. ministers).

Sometime in the 80s language was added to the Methodist book of discipline that disallowed the ordination of "self avowed, practicing, homosexuals". This was a pre-emptive shot fired by conservatives to ward off what they perceived to be a growing acceptance of openly gay ministers.

The battle has raged ever since, and has grown to include issues of gay marriage and the relationship (or not) between "sinfulness" and homosexuality. It is often a surprise to people to discover that Christian doctrine is *not* unified along the issue of homosexuality: a great many good, practicing Christians and their churches accept gays with love and understanding.

The recent upswing in evangelical Christianity -- fostered by televangelism and the (uncontested) rise of the American South as the sole claimant to American morality -- has pushed homosexuality to the forefront of church agendas everwhere and...

...the conservatives are winning. Ignorance is easier to sell than acceptance.

In the case of Methodists, declining church attendance in urban, Northern and Western areas has elevated the (conservative) Southern wing of the church to a preeminant position.

At the current national conference in Pittsburg, the Southern-dominated agenda includes shrinking the number of representatives from other parts of the country and, in effect, lessening their influence over church doctrine. Simultaneously, the Southerners are initiating motions to further disenfranchise, marginalize, and ostricize gay people. They feel that hating and rejecting gay people is more godly than loving and accepting them. This is why my father is bummed.

It made national headlines last week when a jury of Seattle Methodists rejected the expulsion of an openly gay minister. Conservatives are afroth. They are trying to overturn the ruling and ensure that such a ruling is never permitted in the future. (The debate is similar to the recent Episcopalian ordination of a gay bishop)

Although you may not be Methodist, or even Christian, people like my father, my misister friend Johan, and the other good Methodists out there struggling to undo years of sanctioned homophobia need our support.

They need to know that even if they do not win the battle this time, the struggle is far from over. History is on their side. Gay rights is one of the last pieces of unfinished business left over from the Civil Rights movement. Its about the freedom of people to openly be themselves without persecution and that is worth fighting for.

So speak up, you.

Speak out.

And don't let the bastards grind you down.
is interesting.

Little Bohemia is up for sale for a cool $2.6 million.

For those of you who are not closet Depression-era gangster-fans, Little Bohemia was the hideout of John Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Harry Pierpont and the whole Dillinger gang. After inspiring J. Edgar Hoover to create the FBI's most wanted list, Dillinger and his crew spent a summer laying low at Little Bohemia. Eventually the feds showed up, shot the place full of holes, and discovered that Dillinger had given them the slip.

Its easy to get Dillinger confused with his criminal contemporaries of the 20s and 30s: Pretty Boy Floyd, Dutch Schultz, Bonnie and Clyde, Al Capone, but in terms of sheer badassedness, Dillinger smoked them all.

An uneducated, ex-con bank robber from the midwest, Dillinger became famous for daring heists, audacious escapes, blowing safes, waving a tommy gun around, posing for pictures, running roadblocks in stolen cars. People sometimes considered him a sort of American Robin Hood, but he was in reality just a tough, resourceful triggerman with a knack for publicity.

Here are some of the highlights of his career:

He carved a gun out of wood and used it to bluff his way out of jail.

He shot up a jailhouse to rescue his gang.

At a party (in his honor) the night before a trial, he put an arm around the prosecutor in front of a photogropher and got the poor sap fired.

He ducked out of Little Bohemia seconds before the feds shredded it with gunfire.

He got J. Edgar Hoover REALLY pissed.

He and his gang robbed police stations and banks all over Chicago, Indiana and Ohio, dazzled the press, and killed cops.

Eventually his gang was hunted down one by one. He eluded capture for awhile but was eventually betrayed by (what else) a girlfriend. Cops shot him dead.

After his death, there were "Dillinger sightings" for years (until Elvis took over in the 70s).

Check out this picture
of this guy -- it says it all:

What a bad mofo.

Monday, May 03, 2004

My Subway Superpower REVEALED!!!

For weeks I've been meaning to reveal this amazing talent of mine (daily reinforced) but...well...I forgot. Apparently I have had to sacrifice super-memory in the process.

Ok, picture this:

A long subway platform crowded with hundreds of people. Me, a daily rider, picking my way among the throng, seeking an empty place on the platform in which to stand.

But not just any place..

A *special* place. You fellow riders know of what I speak: that magical place on the platform which corresponds precisely with the location of a door the *very next train* will soon occupy.

I have an uncanny ability to pick those spots. And its not like its only happened once or twice. It happens almost daily and saves me the trouble of knocking down old ladies and kids in wheelchairs to make my way onto the train. It is almost as if I am a magnetic force on the platform to which the train aligns. I admit that it might simply be strange physics involved here, but who needs physics when you have magic to fall back upon?

Nor is it a foolproof ability, I admit that, but it happens enough that I know it is more than just coincidence. Some super heroes discover latent abilities of flight, others find that they can shoot ice beams from their knuckles or run really fast. I'll take my "platform positioning premonition" ability to the bank. I'll fight bad guys with it...somehow. Or maybe I should use my powers for evil? Hmm. I'll have to give it some thought.

Perhaps you have a super-ability no one knows about...

Went to a "Korean War Family Update" this weekend. 500+ people, all relatives of men who vanished 50 years ago in a war nobody remembers. The people were aged, tired, bitter, sad. They wore buttons with names and faces of their loved ones.

The government rolled out the power point presentations, summarized this past year of work, gently told the families that relations with North Korea were too poisoned to expect much progress for the coming year. There were grainy slides of forensic anthropologists grimly leaning on shovels on muddy hillsides. There were hideously wooden speeches so full of plattitudes, so full of "we will never forget you" and "you are all heroes" to seem appropriate. Too much spam patriotism for families who have waded through 50 years of officialspeak and undeliverable promises. Strained renditions of God Bless America. Second-tier desk generals describing how the "humanitarian" nature of the work required that negotiations not be "tainted" by the use of ordinary diplomatic pressure. Rambling, unfocused panel discussions. Incoherent (Iraq and Afghanistan) war stories uselessly thrown into the mix to prove that American's won't/don't leave men behind. Flung theories about government cover up. And the 5000 lb elephant in the room: the little spoken of truth that thousands of America's missing from that war simply deserted or (worse) defected.

For all of its dischord, it wasn't a shameful excercise: just a large, formal gathering of people unified only by the presence of absence. Its a difficult organizing principle, and an agonized attempt to demonstrate that the chaos of war can be harnessed by paper-trails, forensic investigations, and slide shows. Its an attempt to re-humanize a process (war) that, by its nature, renders human life anonymous, worthless, and ephemeral. It is existential to the extreme.

I was feeling vaguely disquiet about the apparent pointlessness of the whole meeting when an old woman and her daughter came up to me to ask how to do more research on their missing husband/father. (There are many who fervently hope traces of their missing can be found on the internet, the rough edges of war smoothed by the digital cataract.) After five decades of looking all they had were two sheets of brown microfilm photostats bearing his name. All these documents did was confirm the obvious: that he was missing. Even the day of his dissappearance was unclear. Some marked it by the day the Chinese overran his position. Others, by the day his shattered unit got itself assembled well enough to notice he was no longer among them. After I had shaken my head and told them that they had already gone as far as I could take them, the old woman smiled sadly and said "I guess there are always people in war that cannot be found."

She is proof that there are no patriotic speeches, or slick slide shows or fancy hours d'ourves good enough to fill her kind of emptiness and it is for her that we, the ones whose jobs it is to dig through mountains of paper and stone, keep working. In that moment the purpose of my job became clear: I'm doing what I do so that people like that woman and her daughter won't have to wonder what became of their loved one. It may be a small comfort after so much loss, but its worth the effort anyway.

On other fronts, I finally saw "Jackie Brown" Friday. I'd heard that it sucked, but after having seen the movie, I am in disbelief. It is phenomenal. In many ways it is more honest than Tarantino's other movies. It has far fewer gimmicks and is pure ghetto-noir.

I've been haunted by the scene where Samuel L. Jackson says to DiNiro (whom he's just shot),

"What the fuck happened to you, man? You used to be so *beautiful*."

And Bobby Womack's song "Across 110th St." has been on endless repeat in my head.


On other fronts: remind me to tell you about my subway superpower sometime.