Thursday, December 30, 2004

Life Offline

Since I inadvertently sabotaged my computer at home, I've been enjoying a life unplugged from cybergames. I'm now using a terminal at the public library. How exciting to be among people after so long. Loving the writing life I've been living since my classes ended at the beginning of the month. Will probably be back online (and at home) next week, so expect to hear from me after then. Until then, have a peaceful and blissful new year. Happy birthday, special K. Wybac, Pablo; napisze kilka slow niezadlugo. Wszystkiego najlepszego. Let go my Eggo! (And no, I don't smell like waffles!) Peace.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

New Holiday Flava

Take that, Take That! Laughed my arse off the other night watching MadTV resurrect their version of the Fantanas.



Remanufacturing the totally manufactured group is puro genius; I especially adore Two-Litre Beth--the "new" girl on the beach who can't get enough of that love gravy.


That's 2-Litre Beth in the grape.

Don't you wanta Fanta now? I know you do.

For an interesting history of the soft drink that inspired the Fantanas (as well as some great postmodern decontructionist analysis--"a post-ethnic, multinational, transracial, global village, lip-syncing girl band meets prefab boy band, retro-swinger, Austin Powers/Ocean's 11 semi-camp, quasi-kitsch, virtual nostalgia, club remix, neo-urban, alterna-brand, anti-Cola … vibe"--check out this article from Slate.


Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Ludachristmas

Top 10 Ludachristmas Awards (in ascending order)


  1. Christmas in July

  2. Snow in Texas (even if it is December) & the people who write about it on their blogs (wink, Lori)

  3. Strangers who ask me if I'm ready for Christmas

  4. The whack-ass clerk at the post office trying to "help" customers by suggestive selling postal insurance & confirmation receipts on every piece of mail

  5. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (although we do secretly love this one!)

  6. Minimally talented pop stars singing bad holiday songs

  7. The miracle of the Christmas fetus

  8. Any "miracle" involving magical babies at this time of year (i.e., Jesus)

  9. Double entendres involving African American comedians & Ho, ho, ho

  10. Unkie Ken for giving a turkey to his No. 1 employee--both men are vegetarians (especially when all the other vegetarians in the office received giftcards!) ¿Cómo se dice tacky?


Saturday, December 18, 2004

Falling Stars

Enjoyed the Geminid Meteor Shower Monday evening by standing out in the cold for about 30 minutes. I saw three falling stars. Several years ago during my first year in Japan, Mr. & Mrs. Mukoyama--the gaijin* wranglers--knew I was quite the amateur astronomer and decided to gather me and the other American professors late one night to search for the optimal site for viewing the 1998 Geminids--supposedly one of the best meteor showers of all times. We drove for hours in the rain and cold, huddled together in the back seat of their tiny Japanese sedan. Finally we parked somewhere along the side of the road and set up telescopes. Why? I don't know, because the cloud covering was so thick you couldn't see a damn thing! We spent hours politely looking through the telescopes, drinking strong coffee, and basically freezing our asses off in the wintry rain. When we finally got in the car to return, things went awry: Mr. Mukoyama, who had seen better days probably several decades earlier, got lost in the fog and winding backstreets of rural Japan. The trip back to our apartments lasted more than three hours. I'm sure I had to get up the next day to teach my classes. Monday's meteor shower was much better.

Tonight I'm looking forward to walking down to Nikola's apartment to celebrate his 30th birthday with the great unwashed Serbian diaspora. (They really are quite clean; I just enjoy using the word "unwashed.")

---
* The term gaijin (外人) is incredibly offensive to me and other boy-intellectual types; it literally means "outsider." A more appropriate and acceptable term is gaikokujin (外国人)--a person from another country. I always use the 2nd option when speaking to Japanese about non-Japanese. Among other non-Japanese, I typically use gaijin much like African Americans use the term "nigger" among themselves.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Goodbye for Now

Bill Moyers signed off from PBS's weekly news program Now tonight. If you've ever wondered why I never make plans on early Friday evenings between 7:00 - 8:00pm, it's because I have to be home watching this amazing, intelligent, insightful, and compassionate journalist/intellectual. For many years, Moyers has been at the top of my guest list for my fantasy dinner party. He's retiring from this program and will certainly turn up in the not-too-distant future exposing corruption or inspiring awe, empowering the weak or making America a more beautiful and stronger nation. Thanks, Bill. Every chance I get, I sing your praises to my students.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Finality

Is it just because I was so damn tired this morning, or is Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again" the same song as the theme to The Bugaloos? Both of them had a profound influence on me. And if so, Michael Gore is a friggin' genius!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Szybki numer

Arguably one of the worst films I've ever seen (next to Sideways), The Quickie tries to pass itself off as a thriller. I saw the DVD at Premier Video last night when Stephen & I went to rent some britcoms to get us through the lackluster evenings of ever increasing darkness and boredom. Sarah and I saw it at the kino at the Palace of Culture (PKiN) in Warsaw. What better place to see a horrible Russianesque film than Stalin's gift to the Polish nation? We spent days laughing about the soundtrack. "Sataaaannnnnnn!" should always be so funny!

Despite working with a huge word deficit, I'm managing to get the novel written. Don't ask me too much about it, 'cause I'm not supposed to tell.

Exercised this weekend, thanks to motivation and sunny weather. Walked and jogged at White Rock Lake Saturday morning for about 40 minutes. Sunday, Stephen, Nick & I rollerbladed the entire length of the Katy Trail. That took slightly more than an hour.

Tomorrow I complete my humanities course with an exam, grading, and some minor paperwork. I'll write another quickie in the next few days.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

'Nough Said

"You go to war with the army you have."

-Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense

Friday, December 10, 2004

Deconstructing Remembrances of Things Nutella-ed, or I’d Like to Teach the World to Spread

The Politics of Nutella, IHT

Ah, so many sweet, early morning breakfasts with gooey and nutty Nutella spread across slices of bread or eaten directly from the knife as it exited the jar. My forays abroad have always brought out those tendencies inside me to deny all things américain and, like the honest chameleon, adapt, adapt, adapt to my surroundings, surrounding myself in the local colour (as it were…) so that I am one with all that is, which (simply put) means I eat several kilograms of the good stuff when I’m in Europe. And like the beautiful Europeans (and my inner Euro-Frankie), I don’t gain an ounce.

Breakfast this morning with Tami & her family at El Jordan was just as tasty and just as glocally-defined: migas a la mexicana. And a huge pitcher of agua de horchata to go. And like my fat compatriots (and my inner fat-Frankie), I feel stuffed and bloated now.

Turned in grades for my government courses last night. I have to give my humanities final Thursday, but until then (and afterwards, until mid-January), I’ll be busy catching up with my word quota for the novel as well as working on smaller projects & goals. I love my students, and I’ve already started missing some of them, knowing I probably will never see most of them again. Pebbles in the ocean. Water in water.

Wednesday I spent the majority of my energy and time working toward not giving in to my sour mood brought about by minor professional setbacks. When it came time for bed, I started reading long entries from old journals & notebooks. Such funny stories & events, and forgotten poems, songs, and pieces of music! We were up laughing and reminiscing until past midnight, and we went to bed much happier. Here’s a poem I wrote on the ferry from Okinawa to Fukuoka on December 29, 1998:

East China Sea

I’m done
With not knowing the good I should do;
Done
With knowing the bad I have done.
Though certain neither is much concerned
With paying 500 yen for bad coffee &
Texas toast (or writing bad poetry)
On a slow boat from Okinawa.
There hasn’t been a good war
In my lifetime.
But even I feel destroyed
And rebuilt like
Europe, like Okinawa:
The grass doesn’t grow so deep there yet.
The bullet pits in the graveyard,
Buried in the shell of a tortoise.
The sun shines on the empty islands,
But my hands freeze.


Monday, December 6, 2004

Echo Chamber

A huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that my graduate course is over and all assignments submitted. Now comes the hard part about making more decisions regarding the ever elusive Ph.D.

Happy St. Nicholas. Today is his feast day, according to the Catholics at least. I got my treats yesterday from Stephen's mother: nuts, chocolate-covered nuts, white chocolate-covered nuts, tangerines, an orange, an apple, and two bags of dried fruit (I forget what kind). Afterwards, we browsed Half-Price Books's art/art history section before heading to Shayne's place with beaujolais nouveau in tow. (Well, Stephen and other Francophones within my blogosphere, did I spell that correctly? I should hope so: I've been drinking the stuff since Thanksgiving 1998 in Osaka, after returning from the UN Conference on Human Rights in Asia. Ah! my life used to be so interesting!)

Finally heard from Sonia. She's been busy writing a play ever since the Sheik died. I was afraid she had been murdered and buried beneath the sands outside of Dubai. The after-school drama entitled Bitter Baklava starred Meryl Streep as Juanita (her mother) and Jennifer (pronounced Hennifer) Lopez (pronounced Lopeth) as Soniacita, and promised to win at least one Emmy. I guess I'll have to put that story on the back burner while I instead try to meet today's quota of words for my novel.

Right now, my belly is growling at the people sitting next to me in the library, so I should hurry and pick up Stephen from work for lunch. See you!

Monday, November 29, 2004

Novel Idea

I've finished about half of Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem! A Low-Stress, High-Velocity Guide to Writing a Novel in 30 Days. I think I'll do it. Even better: December has 31 days.

Baty suggests writing a Magna Carta of sorts to keep you focused on the things that interest you as a reader while you write. My list includes novels that are
  • realistic
  • heady
  • poetic
  • in motion (on a journey)
  • mythic

or contain

  • forbidden desire
  • lies
  • adult characters with maturity
  • strangers
  • undertow
  • puzzles & Rosetta stones
  • strange settings
  • barren landscapes
  • hallucinations & visions
  • tension
  • complex characters

Some of my favorite novels are listed here to give you a sense of what I enjoy as well as what I tend to write about when I write fiction and how:

  • Giovanni's Room, James Baldwin
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • Frisk, Dennis Cooper
  • Less Than Zero, Bret Easton Ellis
  • The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez
  • Querelle of Brest, Jean Genet
  • The Immoralist, André Gide
  • Damage, Josephine Hart
  • The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
  • The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Oscar Hijuelos
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
  • The Moon and Sixpence, W. Somerset Maugham
  • Confessions of a Mask, Yukio Mishima
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • 1984, George Orwell
  • Fathers and Sons, Ivan Turgenev

I've written several short stories and poems since I was ten years old, but I've always wanted to write novels. I'm several thousand words into a handful of novels I've begun but haven't yet completed. Baty's "system" of pure exposition under deadline appeals to me; I've spent the majority of college and graduate school doing just that, delivering some of my best prose hot from the printer to under-appreciative professors. So, I'll try this method with something I'm not very emotionally attached to and see what comes of it. One month. 50,000 words. Wish me luck.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ukrainian Lesson

It’s exciting to see democratic optimism in the world these days, particularly within a country whose citizens are willing to fight for liberty and equality themselves. Since Ukraine has been in the news for the past several days, I decided to hold a mini-lesson here at Crash Course.

Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It is slightly smaller than Texas, which is quite large for European countries. The population is about 48 million; per capita income is about $5,300. Huge chunks of western Ukraine were once part of Poland. Poles still talk about L’viv like a soldier talks about a missing limb. Ukraine was considered the breadbasket of the Soviet Union despite two famines that were ordered by Stalin. Millions starved to death while crop yields were shipped east. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine became an independent country.

The capital of Ukraine is Kyiv, transliterated from the Ukrainian (Київ) instead of the Russian. When speaking of Ukraine, never never never use the determinate article! “The Ukraine” no longer exists linguistically or geographically. (In Ukrainian, this shift was taken care of by replacing на (na) with в (v) in the locative case. By using “the,” Ukraine was seen as but part of a larger country (Poland, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russia, Soviet Union).)

I lived in Ukraine during the summer of 2000, studying Ukrainian language and history as well as politics and economics at the Ivan Franko State University of L’viv. My colleagues and I traveled quite a bit too, visiting the Trans-Carpathian Mountains, Odesa on the Black Sea, Kyiv, and several other places in between.

According to their history, it was a Ukrainian who “discovered” coffee grounds in a Turk’s bag on the battlegrounds after some battle involving Turks and Ukrainians (as you can see, I probably wasn’t listening very closely to the lecture that day); hence, thanks to Ukraine, coffee made its way to Europe. Ukraine is also where Easter eggs originated.

To keep abreast of the current situation in Ukraine, please check out Neeka’s Backlog. When I have more time, I’ll post some other interesting links regarding Ukraine.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

What Not To Be Thankful For

The American collegiate semester system, particularly the autumn term, sucks. Labor day and Thanksgiving are like two great parentheses around the entire semester, with no real break at all in between. At least the spring term has MLK Day, Easter, and spring break--an entire week off from class (and, at least in theory, assignments). But since I was in third grade, I've spent my Thanksgiving holiday playing catch-up with assignments. Today I'm completing a 12-page research proposal, due Monday. It's not like I've been procrastinating either: I've been working on and off this paper for the past several months, honing and perfecting it with every new strain of information. And I'm very close to being done now, at 12:41, after working on it for only the past two hours. But the fact that it's due directly after one of the most important American holidays is criminal.

I'm becoming a more vocal advocate for fall break. Several years ago, I read about a handful of universities and colleges that began scheduling a week's vacation from school during the fall term in order to cut down on the suicide rates of students at that time. It seemed to work. Duh! I always try to cancel a couple of classes for my own students in the fall just to give them more time to rest from the constant struggle of school, work, and their social lives. But I always run the risk of being reprimanded by departmental deans and directors for giving my students unsanctioned breaks.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, but because of this assignment, I've already turned down three invitations to dinner today. Since I don't eat turkey, it's always just easier to schedule another work day when most people are too busy being gluttons to interrupt. But I do have lots of things to be thankful for. I won't bore you with a list. But the sunny and blue sky today (after several days of severe storms and rain) makes me doubly thankful.

Monday, November 22, 2004

What Happens If It Actually Works?

Watched Primer Sunday afternoon at the Dallas Angelika. It is a science fiction film about time travel, but instead of relying on digital effects, it has an edgy realism about it that keeps you interested and intrigued.

After having spent the majority of my childhood waiting for aliens to abduct me or for time travelers to return to the East Texas farm, this film felt like something from my memories or my dreams. Shane Carruth, the 31-year-old screenwriter/director/actor/composer, is an amazing fellow. I especially liked his score for the film: lots of simple piano melodies accented by sine waves and backward digital audio. Even more bizarre was seeing bits of Addison and my university used as location shots. I highly recommend this film.

The trick is to know that it actually works but, like Nietzsche's übermensch, to decide at the end of it all to declare, "Once more!" without hesitation. No regrets. No anxiety. Just a love of life so strong to have the cajones to complete it over and over again. Just the way it was.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

How Ashlee Simpson Can Redeem Herself & Her Career

  • Return to Saturday Night Live, appearing on "Weekend Update" to apologize
  • Every time she attempts to apologize for lip-syncing & disparaging her band, a recorded apology interrupts her
  • Finally, after the apology, she should sing something a cappella

The longer she waits to do something, the worse it will be for her to redeem herself and her career. Not that I really care about her or her career, but I do think it's just sad and pathetic that she's laid low since coming out on national television as a goddamned talentless idiot.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Un-American Football

Things you don't want to hear in heavily accented English from the Hispanic maintenance man carving out a hole the size of a Fiat behind your refrigerator with a drill and jackhammer: "Oooooouuuuuuuuuu! That was my hand!" Our conversation Wednesday, when the "work" began:

He: Oh, you work from home.
Me: Yes, some days.
He: Ah, you are lucky.
Me: Except when you're carving out a hole the size of a Fiat behind my refrigerator with a drill and jackhammer, preventing me from doing any sort of real work.

But at least I now have an excuse why I'm not productive on the days I work from home. Too bad there aren't more holes the size of Fiats that need to be carved out with drills and jackhammers in the apartment. I could get used to this unproductivity. Perhaps I should just go ahead and outsource myself to some poor Bangladeshi.

Well, it's almost noon, and I do need to get some things accomplished today despite the noise (from the drills and jackhammers as well as the screams in English and Spanish). Pray that I don't need to put my chores away and rush the maintenance man to the hospital any time soon.

The Fiat-Sized Hole Behind My Refrigerator (As of Lunch Friday)


Polski Fiat, c. 1978

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Back-Up Plans

Monday afternoon I was put in front of my class and asked questions regarding a research proposal I barely understood. While my peers seemed to be perfectly engaged in a conversation with the professor (and before my turn arrived), every back-up plan I’ve ever made to get out of such situations kept running through my mind: coughing fit, vomit, diarrhea, bloody nose, crying, vanishing into thin air. But when my turn came, I used the politician's trick of not answering the question put to me but answering the question I wished would’ve been asked. I suffered through the remainder of the class, surviving yet another seminar without coughing fit, vomit, diarrhea, bloody nose, crying, or vanishing into thin air. Only three more meetings to go.

Here are our Jack-O’-Lanterns for this year:

Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Jesus Titty-Fucking Christ

Exhausted from staying up all night, burning the names and addresses of known Jews, homosexualists, abortionists, intellectuals, unionists, Arabs, liberals, socialists, feminists, performance artists, race-defilers, among others I call “friend.” If only the Jews had such foresight when Adolph Hitler was democratically elected! If you don’t hear from me, it’s probably because I no longer have your contact information. You’re safer this way, as your secrets will die with me.

Thankfully, we had international election monitors on hand to help out this year:
“[I]nternational monitors at a polling station in southern Florida said Tuesday that voting procedures fell short in many ways of the best global practices. The observers said they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan, that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela, that the ballots were not so simple as in the Republic of Georgia and that no other country had such a complex national election system. ‘To be honest, monitoring elections in Serbia a few months ago was much simpler.’”
Yep, that’s about it: America is a first-rate Third World country.

The most discouraging aspect of this election was the assessment that despite the millions of dollars spent on registering and mobilizing the youth (18 – 30 year olds), there was no indication that they actually voted. Did you think those free CDs handed out by the fistful at Rock-the-Vote rallies didn’t come with strings? Reminds me of something Bart Simpson once said: “Damn Generation X-ers! We need another Viet Nam to thin out their ranks.” Send the bastards to Iraq. Hell, just throw ‘em out the plane over Falluja: you’re bound to hit some insurgents, no?

Significant that in my humanities course yesterday, a handful of students wanted to argue with Kant regarding transcendental idealism—his revolutionary notion that the human mind does not sit passively back and merely interpret empirical reality but rather is actively engaged in the creation of knowledge. I’m beginning to see their point.

Despite the polarization of the latest round of the Culture Wars, I’m oddly at ease with the election results. Perhaps it’s from teaching political science for the past 1½ years; it’s all been demystified. Or maybe it’s all the meditation and yoga: I’ve simply transcended partisanship (much like how the Chairman of the Republican Party claimed it’s because voters are tired of partisan politics that they overwhelmingly voted Republican—you just can’t argue with that kind of logic!). So, I’ll continue practicing Eastern religion, reading European philosophy, speaking foreign languages, having public, anonymous group sex, spending tax money on abortions, drinking the blood of Christian babies, using the metric system, and generally thinking deep thoughts until they force me to board the train.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Problem with Democracy

The problem with democracy is that there are just too many damn voters, which means long lines winding through sketchy parts of town in bad weather. Why not let the elite among us (i.e., me) vote on your behalf? Allow me to represent your will in electing your representatives. I know what's best for you. Really. My system: if you want me to vote Democrat, I'll vote Democrat; if you want me to vote Republican, I'll vote Republican. As more and more people allow me to vote on their behalf, I'll tally the vote for either political party. If Election Day comes and it's a tie, then I'll stay home: it'll be as if all those people voted but without all the wasted votes. I really don't mind voting for a political party I don't believe in: it's what I've done since I turned 18. Besides, I already live on the bad side of town. And I like the rain.

The Onion's feature article ("Republicans Urge Minorities to Get Out & Vote Nov. 3") was so brilliantly funny that I made overheads to show all three of my classes yesterday. In humanities, we were talking about the rise of satire during the Enlightenment, so it fit nicely with the topic of the day; of course, humor is always appropriate (i.e., necessary and/or required) in government courses, especially after three sessions on civil rights.

In old Celtic culture, satire was, for all practical purposes, the equivalent of a curse or the Evil Eye. Can you imagine! Things like, "You are so qualified to vote in a democracy," could mean serious trouble for those it was directed at.

The most irritating thing beside the Frost-Sessions battle for District 32 is getting conservative propaganda mailed to me at my business address. Just because I own a small business does not mean it's appropriate to send erratically offensive campaign material smearing such progressive (and historically American) mainstays as workers' rights. Isn't this a misuse of public records? As a radically libertarian socialist (yeah, it's an ideological position on the back side of the political spectrum; I think there's probably three of us in all of America), I'm amazed that there are people who claim to be conservatives but would rather see all workers die penniless and homeless than to concede that corporatism is not, has never been, nor ever will be capable of or interested in increasing social stability in this country. Family values simply do not equal corporate values. Irony of ironies is that conservatives are the ones using "family values" in their sound bites ad nauseam.

My final political rant for today: if President George W. Bush has done such a good job protecting America, then why did the attacks of September 11th take place on his watch? And why didn't any of his staff get the axe for failing to do their jobs? Take that into the voting booth with you.

Seriously, folks: don't vote yourselves out of liberty, or more importantly, a job. Either way, it doesn't really affect me: I have a passport and an empty credit card. Thank god for corporate America!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Grocery List

Leave it to Trey Parker & Matt Stone (in their new film Team America) to equate male-to-male oral sex with the ultimate expression of American patriotism. I think it's a lesson we all need to learn. Over and over again. "America--Fuck yeah!" said in my sexy, porn star voice.

Watched I Heart Huckabees Wednesday evening (btw, this is one of the most clever film sites I've seen): it's just as inspiring and life-changing as What the Bleep, but hilarious. Lily Tomlin is in perfect form, as evidenced by her adept darting around the lawn while the sprinklers are on. We'd all do much better with her as the existential detective on our case.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Anybody up for writing a novel? I think I'll take a rain check.

Yes, I admit: my blog is becoming less and less interesting. It's been reduced to a mere grocery list of movie titles and inconsequential errata. I insist that this is not due to the fact that I've recently stopped thinking deep thoughts. On the contrary, I'm probably thinking considerably deeper thoughts these days. But my work schedule is getting the best of me. And I've recently begun working on a new project which I'm hoping to finish by the end of the year--if I can maintain my workload as well as successfully complete what has turned out to be possibly the most mind-numbingly boring class of my entire graduate career. I'm only 6 weeks from the end of the term. Then I'll post all the deep thoughts you can handle!

Wanted to write something brilliant about Derrida's death and what he meant to me ("great Rosetta stone of my hieroglyphics"), but I'll have to take a rain check on that as well. In the meantime, I recommend Taylor's personal essay. (But wot! no Nietzsche?)

Monday, October 11, 2004

Recognizing Nonpatterns

Humans are ever so adept at recognizing patterns; they are not so adept at recognizing nonpatterns. Hence, the popularity of conspiracy theories. And dada (despite the fact that it is rarely recognized as dada).

A nonpattern I've recently recognized: the ubiquity of Homer Simpsonisms. Within the past few months, I've read quotes from America's favorite dad on everything from wedding announcements to funeral programs, expressing emotions ranging from "do'h!" to "woo-hoo!" I'm sure somewhere along the way, trademark infringement (if not downright violation) is at issue. But what to do when a nonliving entity takes on a life of its own? (Yes, I do expect answers to all rhetorical questions.)

Suffered through several hours of study and work over the weekend. On page 50 of the text for my Logic & Methodologies course, I learned that 1=1. Of course, I had learned that somewhere around first grade, but apparently I didn't learn it sufficiently (enough) before paying over a $1000 (including tuition, fees, and books) this fall. Does prior, free knowledge ever really count? On page 112 this morning, I stumbled across another jewel: "Tedium never advanced any science." I marked it with big, swirling lines running off the page. I would even be so bold as to expand that notion to, "Tedium never advanced any enterprise." Perhaps during my professor's three-hour monotonous monologue this afternoon, I'll raise my hand and ask her to confront that most obvious sentiment which she has robustly ignored since August. (And yes, I'm still waiting for an answer....)

My wish for this week: No (more) funerals. No (more) sadness. There is a sharp decline in productivity of the living when people die: the senselessness of it all envelopes the sadness and feelings of loss to where the most banal act (reading a textbook) takes on the most blasphemous connotations.

(Rest in peace, Theo. I hardly knew you, but I liked you a lot--which is saying a lot these days.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

The Weight of Sin

I just finished teaching that large altar piece at La Salle des Povres that was created during the early Renaissance. There are no demons in this depiction of the final judgment. Instead, the condemned fall into Hell by the sheer weight of sin on their conscience. Remove the concept of sin from the scenario, and it would be a good description of how I feel today. And the part that makes me feel worse is that I know so many others who feel even worse today because of weightier issues.

Sunday, October 3, 2004

Saints Be Praised

I’ve spent the majority of the past three days writing and studying for an exam in my political science course. My head is reeling, and my eyes are tired. Meanwhile, my friends are enjoying a day at the State Fair of Texas. I'm glad it's started to rain.

Can’t not mention Thursday’s presidential “debate.” I showed it to my second semester students during class, prefacing it with a mini lecture entitled “The Dirty Little History of Presidential Debates.” Remember when the League of Women Voters used to sponsor them and they weren’t so scripted? I admonished my kids to focus not on the mannerisms and facial expressions of the candidates—because the media would certainly do enough of that for them—but instead to think about the arguments and the words used. Finally, about thirty minutes into the spectacle, I could stop yelling at them for being such media whores and cutting up every time someone stuttered or pursed his lips. It was exciting that the media didn't play by the rules (regarding camera angles, etc.), and I was happy to see Friday that after a four-year hiatus, the media was once again checking facts (or just check out factcheck.org). Greenblatt wrote a beautiful op-ed ("Friends, Americans, Countrymen"), so I won’t pontificate further.

Speaking of pontification and beatification, perhaps one day in the sad and meager future President Bush will be canonized because of his great Christian faith. It’s happening to Austro-Hungarian Emperor Charles I. How much did that cost?!?!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Style vs. Substance

Fish conducted an interesting in-class assignment in a freshman rhetoric course in which speeches by Bush and Kerry were analyzed. Bush won out on style; or rather he won on the simplicity of his statements and the unsophisticated logic of his arguments. Now if only someone would pay for some basic diction lessons. And perhaps some lectures on culture as well as meditation classes. Then even I too would consider casting a vote for Bush.

With my car in the shop and my plans to attend the student-faculty mixer this afternoon slipping down on my list of priorities, I'm slowly giving in to the tiredness from cleaning the living room this morning. Can't imagine how I could read and study today, but maybe after a little nap I'll be recharged. Every now and then a gust of wind blows some leaves down from the trees. It looks and feels autumnal despite the heat. Last night--when the car wouldn't start and I had to cancel my 6:00 class--I sat on the sofa and longed to be anywhere but here, where I would be able to either take a bus to work and arrive in a reasonable amount of time or afford the cab fare to campus. Working as a 2nd class college instructor is wearing me down, and I'm even more determined to find a fulltime teaching position, giving up (or rather upgrading) my 2 part-time positions for a decent salary and some benefits.

While cleaning I listened to the Franz Ferdinand CD over and over. I like this album a lot, but every time I try to hum or sing the songs I automatically switch to something by the Talking Heads ("Pull Up the Roots") or the Dead Milkmen ("Beach Song") .

Speaking of the Dead Milkmen and Franz Ferdinand, here's an excerpt from "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)."

Okay, look at you
Don't you look like Siouxsie Sioux
How long did it take to get that way
What a terrible waste of energy
You wear black clothes say you're poetic
The sad truth is you're just pathetic
Get into the groove get out of my way
I came here to drink not to get laid
Don't try to tell me that you're an intellectual
Cause you're just another boring bisexual
("I met Andy Warhol at a really chic party")
Blow it out your hairdoo cause you really work at Hardees
80 pounds of make up on your art school skin
80 points of I.Q. located within

You'll dance to anything by the Communards
You'll dance to anything by Book of Love
You'll dance to anything by The Smiths
You'll dance to anything by Depeche Mode
You'll dance to anything by Public Image Limited
You'll dance to anything by Naked Truth
You'll dance to anything by any bunch of stupid Europeans who come over here with their big hairdoos bent on taking OUR money instead of giving your cash, where it belongs, to a decent American artist like myself! You'll dance to anything!
Ah, that takes me back ... to listening to Franz Ferdinand this morning....

Thursday, September 23, 2004

What Problem?

"How do you intend to resolve problems by allowing half-nude women to mingle and party with men who dress like women?"
Eshrat Shaegh, one of the women elected to Iran’s Parliament, commenting on women who show too much hair and men who wear colorful clothes.
What problems could possibly arise between half-nude women and men who dress like women? Jealousy?

It's important to remember that today is my friend Olja's birthday. Happy birthday. I'm sorry we won't be able to celebrate this year as we did just last year in Ann Arbor.

Celebrated the equinox yesterday by attending meditation at the Crow Collection. Met some interesting people there and ate lunch with them and our instructor afterwards. That was a much more meaningful way to spend the afternoon than forcing myself through more philosophy of science texts for my Ph.D. even though I know I'll have to spend Friday doing just that.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Scarification

Despite always having a fondness for the scars that traverse my own skin, it wasn't until I met Chris in Japan that I learned I had (for lack of a better, less controversial term) a scar fetish. We had only met once at the Halloween party just a few days after I arrived, but we had hit it off, and we were drunk on absinthe and talking frankly about so many other things that evening in Hagi. He told me he had fallen out of a tree just weeks before leaving his home in New Zealand to commence his teaching position in Japan. So what; he fell out of a tree. I've known lots of people who have fallen out of trees, myself included. But then he told me about his scar and asked seditiously, "Do you want to see it?" "Sure," I replied nonchalantly. When he removed his shirt, I knew I was in love . . . with scars! That tree all those miles away in New Zealand had marked him for life. It was as if a great limb from that tree was now growing across Chris's back, forever tying him to that event. I developed a knew appreciation of my own scars as well as the scars of others.

Many people I've met over the past couple of years have had severe scarring on their arms or faces and necks. I want to travel those smooth pink streams that must have been created by horrible torrents of pain and agony. I've even started remembering scars I've encountered in the past, before I learned of my secret fetish. For example, during my first year in college I met Liz who had a scar on her hand. One day I touched it, and she twitched for several minutes afterwards.

My own scars have developed even more significance: the nice, straight scar on my head from chasing my sisters and aunt through a barbed-wire fence on my grandma's farm when I was probably five years old; the fat, thick scar on the back of my left leg caused by a rusted bicycle seat when I was in third grade; the horizontal, grinning scar on my right hand I gave myself while cleaning out a tin can for a science project; and the tiny, nick on my nose from a metal dump truck given to me on my second birthday.

Scars tell all kinds of stories and bind you to past events and people around the globe. I know I'll never forget Chris's scar; I was even tempted to ask to see it again when we hung out in London last December. Nor will I forget Olivier's scar on his hand from a drinking glass that broke while he was washing dishes (yeah, what were the chances of that!), particularly after I cursed him in such a way as to make my Gypsy grandmother--at least the one that taught me about the evil eye--proud: "Every time you look at that scar, I hope you remember how happy we were together." Someday he will die with that scar, remembering how happy he was all those years ago.

Now I have Stephen's trinity of scars from his appendectomy a couple of weeks ago to keep my morbid fascination company:

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Déjà Vu, or Here We Go Again

Déjà Vu: If It All Seems Familiar, There May Be a Reason
NY Times, September 14, 2004

New & interesting research being done on the experience of déjà vu, some of it just down the road at SMU. I spent a large chunk of my youth dealing with what I considered extreme & frequent cases of feeling like I had already experienced something before. And this evening while teaching, I had a mild episode of familiarity: the person, the conversation, the seating arrangement, my position in the classroom. It took me back to remembering how I felt when these episodes were so much more frequent & intense. I used to document them, noting location, duration, and situation. Some common characteristics of people who experience déjà vu include the following:
  • lively & frequently stimulated imagination
  • frequent travel
  • advanced education

Disappointing to find after all these years & strange experiences that I'm a textbook example for something that I used to consider made me unique. I've even had déjà vu partners or companions: people & friends that would experience déjà vu simultaneously with me, or people that would (as if) trigger déjà vu for me. Of course, like most things, these experiences have faded in intensity and frequency over the years. I sometimes wonder if déjà vu is connected to the linguistic part of the brain because conversations often trigger it. And conversations in other languages have made for some freaky encounters abroad, particularly with people with whom I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I could have never spoken before, especially in whatever particular language I was speaking to them in at the time. Perhaps sleep deprivation & insomnia somehow activate déjà vu as well. When the brain is tired and already tricky, you better watch out! he writes shortly after 2:00 AM after a long day of teaching, just one day after working nonstop for eleven hours. Too bad I can't just force myself into thinking that I'm still asleep and sweetly dreaming this entry, but then there would be nothing for you to read when you wake up in the morning sweetly refreshed from a restful slumber.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Whose Tragedy is it Anyway?

Here is a letter to the editor I wrote to my (undergraduate) alma mater's newspaper regarding an on-campus commemoration in 2002 of the September 11th attacks. Perhaps there's something in it we can be reminded of again:
Although I fully support commemorating the events of September 11, 2001, and its victims, I have to respond to [your] casual use of 3,000 American flags to do so. Inappropriate is the symbol that does not point to the reality behind that symbol. Worse is any attempt to whitewash and distort that reality. I hope that in this case it is the former.

If we are sincerely commemorating the victims of the attacks, would it not be appropriate instead to acknowledge that almost one-sixth of the victims were not citizens of the United States? Why efface the nationality of almost 500 people? To lose one’s life one year in such a horrible event and then one’s nationality—albeit “symbolically”—a year later amounts to little more than revictimization. Could not a more meaningful yet less specific symbol have been found to embrace each individual we wish to memorialize?

The great tragedy of the attacks was the indiscriminate destruction of so many individuals. Let us not become complacent a year later and merely rely on the all-too-easy symbol of the American flag to give our exercise of grief ready-made meaning.
Almost immediately after the attacks, I began receiving emails and phone calls from all over the world, and I live a thousand miles away from the nearest attack! I'm glad I didn't know anyone flying that morning or working in southern New York City or at the Pentagon. For whatever reason, I became a bit obsessed with the workers of a Japanese firm. What were their families going through when as they were preparing to go to bed in Japan they heard the news of the first plane hitting?

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Psyche vs. Soma (Imprisoned in the Body)

Before heading into my humanities classroom this afternoon, a student stopped me to ask about the first writing assignment. I had stipulated that they could choose any text to write about as long as it had been created before they were born. My student wanted to write about a U2 song. I secretly hoped it was a song from Boy (1980), fearing it was more likely from The Joshua Tree (1987). I had to ask: it was "Sunday Bloody Sunday" from their 1983 album War. I was listening to that album when I was 15 and in high school, drugged into submission by the painkillers that my father took after one of his several back surgeries. A great song, a great album: "Brothers, sisters torn apart." It was released a year before my student was born. And the circle of life continues.

Heard a snippet of Brainstorm's "Maybe" on PRI's The World during the drive back home. Not only had I forgotten all about that song and that band, but I forgot how much I loved that song. This rediscovery prompted me to foolishly spend my down town searching the Internet for a copy of their album Online. (To save you time, you can order your own copy at BalticShop.com.) It's funny that over the past couple of years I've been seriously trying to recreate my personal music collection to resemble what I heard while I was living in Central Europe. Dare I just move back?

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

London Blitz / Quiet Patriotism for All

Yesterday--the anniversary of the beginning of Nazi Germany's blitz over London--I sent the saddest, most pathetic email of my life to that great city on the Thames. Oh, London, we hardly knew ye!

The (extreme) right candidate & why he's the wrong candidate: Our fidiotic (and yes, I'm sure you know what the F stands for) vice president said today that if we elect John Kerry president, the US will be vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Hmm. With this "logic," we can assume that under President Bush there have never been any terrorist attacks. It was all a bad dream.... Thanks, W., for making the world so gawddamned safe.

General Pinochet has lost his immunity and now can be tried for being the cruel, inhuman piece of shit he always was. Now if only something could be done to bring justice to the American bastards in the CIA who put him in power in the first place. (By the way, I just visited the CIA web site and thought this entry under "Values" was interesting: "Service, sacrifice, flexibility, teamwork, and quiet patriotism are our hallmarks. " Quiet--or rather covert--patriotism indeed!)

On the days that I could actually sleep in and get more rest, I toss and turn; on the days I have to get up and out and on the road, I'm stuck in a stupor from not sleeping well the night before. Damn those alien implants! They probably explain why my application to the CIA didn't survive the phone interview all those years ago. Some arrogant, piece-of-shit bureaucrat "interviewed" me by phone when I returned a call asking me to schedule an interview. It was all quite surreal, having an advanced degree and at least 3 languages on my tongue at the time, to be talked down to and ridiculed when I tried to explain why my reading skills in Japanese were scored differently than my speaking skills. Let's see: when you speak, you don't need to know 3000 Chinese hieroglyphics! I guess teaching myself Japanese while I lived in Japan was a waste of time as far as Agent X was concerned. I'm glad (looking back, of course) that I didn't get to the next round: every job I've had, I've had to deal with the frustration of being the most intelligent and enlightened cog in the wheel. Can you imagine how frustrated I'd be in the so-called intelligence community! Agent X: analyze this.

Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Push butt / Rub hand gently under arm / Stop auto at ally

I think I shall go into cryptology--not necessarily breaking codes so much as creating new, indecipherable ones.

It would be more useful than soap star (estrella de la telenovela) . I just don't have it in me anymore to care about the drama of small & pathetic people. Class dismissed. Now go home and think about all I tried to teach you.

And no, this isn't about you . . . anymore than it's really about me. Just like the last entry: there was no specific object to my hatred & disgust. It was pure & uncompromised by any other person.

We shall see. We shall see.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Nobody Likes You

You are a big, fat, stupid, lazy, ugly, retarded fuck. You have shit for brains. You look and act like a moron, and your stink attracts flies. You will never amount to anything. You are a waste of oxygen. You're unprofessional, unattractive, insensitive, and incapable of any creative thought. You're mean and rude and loud. You're dumber than a rock. I wish I'd never met you. And it's not just me: nobody likes you. We'll all be glad when you're gone.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Dzień Franka

The Olympic games have been eating away my oxygen these past few nights like Sylvia’s tulips. I often get annoyed with the announcers mythologizing the American athletes; and I’ve adopted my own system of naming: Paul Hamm has become “the Hammster,” and Michael Phelps has become “the Phelpsinator.” Try to outdo that, Mr. Costas!

You know, it’s been hard for me to feel sympathy for those who don’t place or medal. It’s the fuckin’ Olympics after all! So what if you’re only 5th best in the world at synchronized pole-vaulting. At the very least, you could have a fulfilling career in porn after your nation shuns you for not bringing home the gold. You know, I mean most of them have really hot bodies.

Gymnastics are nice, but I’m still too much a fan of Nadia’s. You remember, perfect score of 10 . . . seven or eight times! Try to outdo that, little Ms. Carly!

Yesterday Lori declared a day for Frank. Thank you! I celebrated by going out for Chinese after spending most of the afternoon driving from south Dallas to north Plano (believe me: a far, far distance; if I would’ve been in Europe, I would’ve traveled through most of Benelux!) in the pissing rain.

It seems I’m set to begin teaching as well as taking courses this Monday. My government classes are all set, and I submitted my syllabi yesterday. After I finally returned home, I even began reading the first essays for my graduate courses. Over the next week, I need to prep my humanities courses, but now that I have all the supplemental material from the publisher, it should be a breeze. The most difficult part will be deciding which sections to cut out of a course over the entire history and cultures of the world.

Now excuse me as I go for the gold….

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Just because you’re accepted…

…doesn’t mean you belong.

Okay, here’s the skinny: I’m not moving to London this fall. Yes, I concede that I may be passing up the opportunity of a lifetime, but I also concede that I’m passing up a level of debt that would take the remainder of my lifetime to pay. Let’s see: debt-free at 40 or approximately $100,000 in debt with a graduate degree from LSE? You do the math.

As many of you know, I was accepted into the London School of Economics’ European Institute to study the political economy of post-Soviet transitions. I will continue studying such things—‘cuz I’s just no good at nuttin’ else—except at the University of Texas at Dallas, where I’ve been accepted into their political science Ph.D. program. (And at least there I won’t always have to spell program with 2 m’s and an e! Programme, indeed!)

LSE did not offer me any assistance. Neither have any of the several grant-making institutions I’ve applied to over the past two years. (Rotary Club of Dallas: kiss my ass!) Moreover, I haven’t even been guaranteed housing in London: “There were over 6,800 applications this year for approximately 2,700 places and this means I have had to disappoint many students.” Let the disappointment begin!

I am disappointed. Sad. Depressed even. But I’m sure that I’m making the best decision possible for me … and for the we of which I so enjoy being a part of. But I won’t have too much time to dwell on what-might-have-beens since I’ll be teaching two government courses as well as two new introductory humanities courses throughout the fall term while beginning this Ph.D. program.

So, apologies to Chris, to Sarah, to Olja even: I won’t be in London this fall. But you’ll all have a place and a friend in Dallas to visit. Send postcards.

And there’ll always be the chance of a post-doc.

“It’s an honor just to be nominated….” (Sound of puking in the distance.)



Throughout the Democratic National Convention and ever since the publication of the 9/11 Commission’s report, I’ve grown annoyed with the issue of America’s enemies. Instead of asking who they are, why hasn’t anyone asked why? Why does the US have enemies? I’m neither racist nor naïve enough to believe that they hate us because we love democracy and freedom.

Finally, on a recent edition of Now with Bill Moyers, political philosopher Benjamin Barber addressed the issue. Unfortunately, the transcript hasn’t been made available online yet, but Barber’s own site is worth reading if you’re interested in something like democracy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Shyamalama-ding-dong

Tossed and turned throughout the entire night until I woke up with the words from “Don’t Dream It” from The Rocky Horror Picture Show in my head:

Whatever happened to Fay Wray
That delicate satin draped frame
As it clung to her thigh
How I started to cry

This morning I learned that Fay Wray died at the age of 96.

Watched M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village over the weekend. I wasn’t too impressed; the most interesting thing about this film was Sonia’s interpretation that it was a metaphor for the Bush administration: a society based on lies, self-deception, and fear, that comes to the brink of falling apart when it’s self-created bogey man becomes real. It’s interesting to take this interpretation further and look at how the village’s emissary to the Real World is blind, and that the medicine that could so easily save the lives of the villagers is so readily available, yet the elders didn’t have the foresight to take some with them. Blah blah blah.

Now that we’ve covered the most interesting part of the film—i.e., our over-intellectualized interpretation of it, I should at least mention the most annoying part: the overly dramatic nonuse of contractions.

Enjoyed spending the last three days with two of my best (and oldest) friends in the whole world. We basically moved from table to sofa to café and back, talking and reminiscing for hours about life in Austin, Japan, Europe, etc.


Friday, August 6, 2004

go to the gym hear music read scary books

I found the above phrase used in an online personal ad today. I think I need to meet this person. How does he know I'd hear music at my gym? Why does he insist I read scary books? It's all a sweet, sweet mystery.

Reminds me of a cookie Stephen brought to me a few weeks ago: Hippo Vanilla Butter Sugar Cookie. There is just nothing wrong with those words strung together like sweet, sweet pearls!

Submitted grades this morning after spending a couple of hours grading exams. This summer semester is finally over. And I accepted two humanities classes for the autumn term in addition to my two government courses.

Tomorrow morning we leave for San Antonio to visit Sonia, whom I haven't seen in four years.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cult of Personality

I finally found a personality cult I could join without reservation:  Teresa Heinz Kerry’s.  Her speech last night at the Democratic National Convention was brilliant and inspired; I even got a bit choked up when she began greeting the crowd in her many languages.  Is it possible that we may have a polyglot in the White House again!

On a related note, David Brooks is an uncritical ass.  His commentary on PBS throughout the convention has been tedious and insipid.  He criticized former President Carter for not specifically addressing “Islamist” terrorism, and his comments after Ms. Kerry’s speech corroborated his lack of critical thinking skills, complaining she did not offer any quirky anecdote about her husband.  What it must be like to be an intelligent (and opinionated) woman in this world who can only be read within the confines of her relationship with a man!  I concede that the only reason she spoke was because her husband is running for president; however, a big chunk of her speech was clearly about women not being allowed to have their own voices:

“I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is. It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it. My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called "opinionated," is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. My only hope is that, one day soon, women—who have all earned the right to their opinions—instead of being labeled opinionated, will be called smart or well-informed, just as men are....

For [John], the names of too many friends inscribed in the cold stone of the Vietnam Memorial testify to the awful toll exacted by leaders who mistake stubbornness for strength. That is why, as president, my husband will not fear disagreement or dissent. He believes that our voices—yours and mine—must be the voices of freedom. And if we do not speak, neither does she.”  --Teresa Heinz Kerry
Ah, if only she would’ve revealed some little personal tale about John, but in Spanish or French(!) as if to say, “I will speak with my own voice, but you must SPEAK MY LANGUAGE.”

Richard Clarke’s assessment of the 9/11 report is well argued and insightful, particularly regarding bureaucratic bottlenecks and institutional failures of imagination.

With the convention going on and my teaching till late in the evening, I haven’t had much time to work on other more meaningful and personal things such as this blog.  But the summer session ends a week from tomorrow.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

WWJT

Okay, I've been asked relentlessly who I was going to endorse for the US elections this November, and I've finally made my decision:


Who would Jesus torture?

Let the Crusade begin! Bush/Cheney '04

 

For other options regarding "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Crappiness," I recommend this site. Check out his hilarious gallery.

Lori, you might want to just delete all links to my site....



Saturday, July 17, 2004

May Day

I know that this issue is a bit dated; however, I felt it important enough to bring it up, at least in my little quadrant of cyberspace.  I wrote this article while living in Warsaw (spring 2002), and the reason I've been thinking about it lately is because my friends & colleagues in Poland, especially those serving in the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH), were horribly discriminated against (Pride festivities banned in Warsaw) this spring by not being allowed to have their pride parade.
 
If by chance you'd like to put in your 2-cents worth, feel free to send letters to the Polish ambassador to the US:  His Excellency Przemyslaw Grudzinski, 2640 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20009.

While most citizens of Poland were preparing for the traditional worker’s parade on the first of May, Polish gays and lesbians were busy creating their own tradition:  a march and demonstration down the heart of Warsaw.

The rainbow flag replaced the red flags waved by various workers’ groups elsewhere throughout the country.  No one, including the organizers, knows why May Day was chosen for the second time as the day to march for gay rights.  But even with other parades and other reasons to march, the Parade of Equality drew a crowd of about 500 people.

A parade in Central Europe has little in common with its American version:  no floats, no marching bands, and no civic organization members in funny hats.  Instead, there were speeches from various organizations such as Lambda Warsaw, the Campaign Against Homophobia, and the local chapter of Amnesty International.

And there were cheerleaders.  The Radical Cheerleaders is an ultra-feminist group of punk women growling unwieldy slogans at the crowd.

Despite the overly sentimental “We Are the World” moment—and by ‘”We Are the World” moment’ I mean the point at the end of the parade when the participants were encouraged to hold hands and sing along with the a recording of the U.S.A for Africa anthem—the atmosphere of this event was imbued with significance and solemnity.

Lacking the diversity of various sub-groups within the GLBT spectrum, it would have been easy to confuse this parade with any other demonstration.  Even with the banners espousing equality for gays and lesbians and an arc of rainbow-colored balloons, spectators along the parade route had to stop and ask what exactly we were marching for.

The past year has been a tumultuous time for Polish gays and lesbians.  Even though homosexuality has been legal for a handful of years, social acceptance in this country that claims to be 98% Catholic is slow—at best—in coming.  The recent debate over domestic partnerships has proven disastrous.  Even the leading proponents of these civil unions in the Polish Parliament are backing down from sheer frustration with the issue as well as with the people it would help most.

The media does little to help the situation.  Reading five different magazine articles about the same issue, one finds the same quotes from the same individuals.  It is almost as if there are only a handful of homosexuals in all of Poland.

Homosexuality still has the quality of a freak show here, for unfortunately, à la uncritical media everywhere, those interviewed during the parade were two of the three drag queens in attendance and a man of African decent.  And the few protesters along the route from the Copernicus statue to the Castle Square received almost the same amount of coverage as the parade in one televised news report.

Perhaps next year the date will change, making it more aligned with worldwide celebration of gay rights typically held in June.

One of the most basic tenets of democracy is the protection of minorities from the majority because ultimately we all will belong to the minority in time.
 
On a related note, Alanis Morissette comes out in favor of required reading:

"It [having sexual experiences with a female friend in my 20s] was lovely, I loved it. And while there's part of me that deeply wishes I was hardcore homosexual, unfortunately I feel I am deep down heterosexual. I really think [gay experimentation is] a rite of passage, and I highly recommend it to anybody who's pre-lifelong-commitment. Wouldn't this planet be a different place if all fraternities and macho communities were required to experiment with their sexuality? I think it would be really great; it should be like required reading."

-- Singer/songwriter Alanis Morissette to the Miami gaynewspaper The Weekly News, May 27.




Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Francophone Francophobe

It’s good to know the majority of words I’ve misspelled in the recent past have been French, a language I took one class in (no, not one course, but actually a one hour-long class when I was a sophomore in college). I dropped French after the first day and signed up for philosophy instead. (Yeah, that served me well.) As they say in Springfield, “Camus can do, but Sartre is smartre.”

And I may not be able to properly spell ménage à trois (oh wait, I just did!), but I know what one smells like.... Hee hee! And dear Editor (i.e., Stephen), what other non-Francophone can not only properly spell pamplemousse but order a vegetarian pizza in the Grand (Old) Duchy of Luxembourg and a café au lait in Montreal without any problem?

Le chat est bleu right back to you! (That’s the only thing I learned during my French studies. Everything else has been picked up during covert listenings to Pimsleur tapes, a drunken night with Poles at the Noir Désir concert, conversations with pretentious academics & artists, my world(ly) travels, as well as a shared car with a stoned Frenchman on the overnight train from Prague to Warsaw).

Speak my language: Franglais!

Monday, July 12, 2004

Book Burning

Disturbing trends and tendencies are developing in Fortress Amerika.

There certainly exists a disturbing correlation between the topics of these two articles. Here is a selection from each:
The Nazis were right in believing that one of the most powerful weapons in a war of ideas is books. And for better or worse, the United States is now in such a war. Without books, we cannot succeed in our current struggle against absolutism and terrorism. The retreat from civic to virtual life is a retreat from engaged democracy, from the principles that we say we want to share with the rest of the world.... So the crisis in reading is a crisis in national politics.


By requiring foreign journalists to obtain special visas, the United States has aligned itself with the likes of Iran, North Korea and Cuba, places where reporters are treated as dangerous subversives and disseminators of uncomfortable truths.... The USA Patriot Act ... placed antiterrorism measures in a peculiar conceptual proximity to laws supporting the control and removal of undesirable aliens, although with a new emphasis: As dissident writers seem to have disappeared from the public sphere, journalists have become the new subversives, even when they have no agenda at all.

Would it be possible for this great nation to continue by sheer inertia without either the most basic rights currently guaranteed by the Constitution or the minimum of civic participation by its citizens?

To counter the authoritarian orthodoxy, I solemnly swear to read more. So help me Sartre.

And from outside, in the great, big world, news stories filter in about human goodness: Women as peacemakers: from victims to re-builders of society. This story is one of the UN's 10 Stories the World Should Hear More About.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

25 Years Ago Today...

On July 11, 1979, the abandoned United States space station Skylab made a spectacular return to Earth, burning up in the atmosphere and showering debris over the Indian Ocean and Australia.

A namesake, a metaphor, a marvel. (By the way, "skajlab" is the Polish spelling for "skylab.")

Friday, July 9, 2004

Insomniac Attack

…or can it really be considered insomnia when I slept for almost 11 hours last night? I have faith that it will all balance in the end.

So far, my summer courses are going well. It’s exhausting as hell to be on for almost 70 students (about 35 in each class) for the entire evening, but I’m sure to value the experience. It’s truly amazing that there are no students I flat out dislike from the start!

Last weekend was blissful, spending time with Stephen. He took off work Friday, so we exercised at the Y, and then went rollerblading at White Rock Lake in the afternoon. Saturday we watched the fireworks in Addison with his family and Kris; then afterwards, we & Kris sat in her backyard solving all the world’s problems around the chiminea.

Sunday we drove out to east Texas to have a Fourth of July cookout with my sister and brother-in-law. Spent a huge chunk of the day out there watching the horses & cows and playing with her huge dogs. I ended up smashing my hand on a rusty gate, and I’ve been wearing a bandage since.

Monday we finally caught Godzilla at the Angelika—the original Japanese version with subtitles. Despite seeing the string move Godzilla’s tail and the miniature trains & cars, the film was brilliant in critiquing nuclear weapons as well as indicting those tendencies in man that are more primitive than a creature from the Jurassic period. Watching Tokyo being destroyed by the monster’s radioactive fire breath was surreal after recently watching The Fog of War that showed actual footage of America’s firebombing campaign in Tokyo (in which a mere 100,000 Japanese were burned alive). Things like that are hard to bear. And what were the Japanese who participated in the filming of this movie in 1954 thinking, having survived that holocaust just a few years earlier?

Alas, I can’t answer all questions tonight, so I will now return to bed. But, ah … more terrible math to make me jolt upright if I do doze off.

Thursday, July 8, 2004

Antarctic Recluse

Keeping inside from the heat as I prep for my two night courses (5:30 – 9:40pm Monday – Thursday), I wonder just what is going on out there, where (post) post-modern existentialists wear Chanel and drink lattes and I have to set up group email accounts for my 70 students so as not to “lose” them over the next five weeks. “Give me Chanel (and a double soy latte), or give me death,” he sneered through the windows of his frozen igloo, surrounded by cats and (dust) bunnies. Perhaps I’ll be able to poke my head out again soon. If not, then we shall meet again in August….

Until then, keep the Maureen Dowd coming!

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Shameless Promotion

If you're interested in what I've been up to for the past couple of years, or you're an audiophile looking for some nice, meditative music, check out my site on AudioStreet.net.

Now until the end of July, you can download mp3s of "Morna Linn," "Sarsen Caer," and "Tolmen Barrow." That's right: free downloads! Free like love & enlightenment & bliss.

While you're there, be sure to check out the links, read the reviews, and as always, you are welcome to purchase a copy of the entire CD from CD Baby, where the retail price has just been slashed to a mere $10.95. You can take advantage of the 10% discount if you buy more than one!

The CD includes my original photography of Caelum Moor just days before it was demolished and turned into a car dealership.

To hear samples of the other tracks, visit the official Caelum Moor site. Or purchase individual tracks at most online music stores.

Join Norm Hines--the sculptor who created Caelum Moor--and purchase your copy today!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Stink Bug

Check out Mz. Chrzanka's blog at halochrzanka. By the way, chrzan is Polish for horseradish; and I can confirm Mz. Chrzanka's horsiness as well as her radishness.

There was a huge stink bug (Stinkimus maximus) crawling up my front window. But it was not quite as huge as the spider spinning its nasty web out the backdoor.

Stephen introduced me to the genius of Soviet Kitsch. From the cover, you won't be able to tell what kind of music she writes, but you've got to hear Regina Spektor's voice and piano playing. I recommend "Carbon Monoxide" and "Chemo Limo," because if you have to choose....

Speaking of specters, here's a poem I wrote a few years ago:
The Leaving of the Ghost

3:52 in the morning
the black cat crossed himself
and crossed my stomach thrice
I woke up in your head
holding myself
with fat-free fingers
a word of love
on my low-cal lips
I became thinner and thinner
a white shadow instead of night
in my eyes
seeing dreams in my own dreams
magic left
with my will
I hear footsteps on the stoop
the clock—
four short bells
levitation, no longer my game
I pull the covers tight
breathe
my back back on the bed
finally a dog howls

Friday, June 25, 2004

Celsius 488.3

Was in Dallas’s first showing of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 this afternoon. I was surprised that in our very conservative village, there wasn’t more hoopla on its opening day. There was no line when we bought our tickets just less than an hour before show time. However, after walking around West Village for about twenty minutes, the press was beginning to arrive, interviewing ticket buyers in the lobby. The auditorium was crowded; the show was very nearly, if not completely, sold-out.

Throughout the next two hours, Moore convincingly argued the obvious. The most damning evidence against Bush was unedited footage of Bush speaking without Moore’s commentary. Or when Moore let the soldiers or the veterans of the war speak for themselves. Their words underscored their lack of experience and insight as well as their deplorable naïveté. However, Moore, although indicting not just President Bush and his warmongering cabal but the Democratic Party, the media, and corporate America as well, expresses great sympathy for our servicemen and women who are actually carrying out this administration’s seriously flawed policy.

The cuts and shifts in narrative were very well done and worked well to advance Moore’s gadfly politicking (of which I am a fan). I, however, would have preferred a bit more cinematic touch to the scene when Bush hears of the planes slamming into the World Trade Center while Moore ponders just what was going on in the president’s mind. Instead, a more compelling scene would have been footage of Bush reading with the children in Florida with audio from New York, or even vice-versa: minute-by-minute footage of New York/Washington with the children’s voices reading My Pet Goat.

Moore showed an amazing amount of restraint in both the footage he used and well as the issues he addressed. But, of course, he had the herculean task of sifting through what must have been thousands of hours of footage that could have been used to make his case. For example, there was no mention whatsoever of the many protests against the invasion of Iraq.

The story of self-professed patriot Lila Lipscomb struck a nerve. We first meet her raising a flag on her house in Flint, Michigan, and listing the family members (daughter, father, uncles, cousins, etc.) who have served in the military of the United States. Later, she reads the last letter her son wrote from Iraq, arriving just a week before she receives a call from the Defense Department with the news of his death. At the end of the film, she has traveled to D.C., where a witless woman accosts her, complaining that the protest in front of the White House is staged. “My son,” she starts, and then in tears, “My son was killed in Iraq.” All I could think of was my own poor grandmother who suffered through the loss of her youngest son in that other illegal and immoral war in Viet Nam. My family never survived his death, so much so that when I was a child—a few years after the fact—I had nightmares about my uncle’s death, and I never even knew him. I grew up certain that I wouldn’t live to be twenty because my namesake didn’t either.

Bush has lost the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And he has lost the war in America. My hope is that this film will help us regain the government of this great country.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Glib Gibberish

Came across this brilliant & hysterically funny blog yesterday and wanted to share it with my cyber-mates: Glib Gibberish. I know she's written only three entries so far, but I've been laughing and sharing her stories for the past 24 hours.

Sent off the application for the residency program this afternoon. As we said in Japan, "Wish me ruck!"

So far behind on my to-do list that I can see my ass when I'm facing the mirror. Hope to get a bit more caught up tomorrow.

Tonight Los Lonely Boys are playing at the Pegasus Plaza downtown. If we don't check them out, then we're hitting the cinema for some celluloid escapism.

Question of the day: which is better, tai chi or chai tea?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Solstice

Struck by the realization that my life has been out of balance not the way typical of most people (too much work & stress and not enough bliss) but just the opposite: years of pursuing my dreams & following my bliss but not enough pragmatism & practicality when it comes to work or a career. Education-wise, I’ve perfected my mind in interdisciplinarity, but my mind has not been disciplined within any one discipline. I have breadth but no depth. Shayne’s analogy about jumping into a new pursuit with both feet but ending up merely running across the surface, only getting her toes wet, on to the next thing was particularly insightful about both herself and me.

I’ve spent years exercising my mind and spirit and body, so I thought that I was fairly balanced. But the bliss factor far outweighs digging down into the nitty-gritty and immersing myself completely toward the career I long for. And realizing that my travels have been distractions is certainly a new perspective. My sister’s signature file—the one that implicates me with every email she sends—includes “Bloom where you are planted.” Yet I’ve never felt grounded enough to bloom. (Mind you, I’m only talking about my professional life. None of these musing are to talk myself into settling for the first crappy job that comes along: I already have the job I want for now.) It’s just that I’m beginning to see that along the way, I’ve neglected some of the basic steps that will lead me to the career I want. So, it’s time I step back, perhaps even take a couple of steps backwards, and make sure that I’m as grounded as I can be professionally before jumping headlong into the next phase.

To celebrate the summer solstice, Stephen, Kris, Theo & I had a picnic at White Rock Lake. It was wonderful.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Invitation

Dear all who happen to spend your hours at work perusing my little corner of cyberspace: I would like to acknowledge your presence (or the always already absence of your presence) in my life by building a page with photos and/or brief bios of you who read this blog. So, if you are game, please send me a snapshot (or otherwise staged photo) and some (kind) words about yourself. Thanks for playing. And have a safe trip home.

Also, always feel free to comment on anything I've written here.

Two more weeks before I give up my weeknights. The second summer semester begins on July 6th, and I'm scheduled to teach two courses between 5:30 - 9:40pm, M - Th. Despite having to figure out a time to eat my supper four nights a week, I'm looking forward to the interaction with my students. It always makes me a little sharper than I usually am because I prepare so much before I get to campus. My main concern now is that I get most of my tasks done before class begins, including the release of my second CD and a few applications that need to be prepared.

Watched The 24th Day this afternoon. My only critique is that I wasn't really in the mood to see such a heavy film today. The acting was good; the script was well written, though a bit claustrophobic; cinematography was nice. It may have been more appropriately produced as a play.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

419

Dear Sir or Madam:

Request for Urgent Business Relationship

I am an underemployed intellectual from north Texas, and I have nothing to do with Nigeria. However, because of my socio-economic background--I was indeed raised on a farm--I am sure I know a Nigerian level of poverty and filth. For this reason (and many more), I am interested in the importation of goods (bricks of gold) and services (Thai transsexual “relief” massages) into my own Fortress Amerika. As a member of the ad hoc committee set up by my government-in-self-imposed-exile, I am currently seeking foreign payment accounts with which I will be able to live the life I grew accustomed to while serving my country (as a Little Ambassador) under the auspices of a Fulbright grant.

My request is anchored on my strong desire to establish a lasting relationship with you and your company. I hence solicit your partnership to enable me transfer into your account the said funds. You have been recommended to me in confidence and I was assured of your ability and reliability to prosecute business transactions that require maximum confidentiality. In other words, send me all your money, you cheap bastards.

Please note that this transaction is 100% safe and guaranteed since the law under which my committee was set up has empowered me to disburse all the funds found to be floating in the redundant account. I shall commence the transfer of the funds immediately after receive the following information by telefax:

(1) your company's name and full address
(2) your banker's name, address, telephone and fax numbers
(3) the account number and name of beneficiary.

Thank you, and God bless.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Political Bitchiness

God, how I love it when politicians and their ilk start talking trash. It's as if they are truly human after all. Case in point:
Ron Reagan, a television commentator, has frequently been critical of Bush. In 2000, he criticized Bush in Philadelphia during the Republican convention, which featured a tribute to his father. "What's his accomplishment?" Reagan asked then. "That he's no longer an obnoxious drunk?"
--from Sheryl Gay Stolberg's "Reagans not embracing Bush", NY Times/IHT

"Kinder and gentler than who?" Nancy sniffed after [Bush's] convention acceptance speech.
--from Maureen Dowd's "Epitaph and Epigone", NY Times

Being sick sucks. I've had some sort of respiratory infection since Monday evening. I'm sure the hour of tai chi, weight lifting, and 4-mile jog/walk didn't help, particularly after the shopping spree with Pablo on Cedar Springs, and driving to Las Colinas in the afternoon/rush-hour heat with no air conditioning. Yesterday I slept most of the day away, but today I feel much better but still feverish.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Bushmills Malt & Nicks

After spending a couple of hours last night preparing documents to send to London (regarding the great move (or not) this autumn), I ended up on the couch watching the Fleetwood Mac concert on PBS with a double shot of Bushmills single malt Irish whiskey ("aged 10 years")--on the rocks (of course)--with tears in my eyes. Stevie Nick's "Beautiful Child" always does that to me since "I was only 10." Here's an excerpt:
Sleepless child
There is so little time
Your eyes say yes
But you don't say yes
I wish that you were mine

You say it will be harder in the morning
I wait for you to say, just go
Your hands, held mine so few hours
And I'm not a child anymore

I'm tall enough
To reach the stars
I'm old enough
To love you from afar
Too trusting ... yes?
But then women usually are

I will do
As I'm told
Even if I never hold you again
Well, that plus the stress of trying to make a decision about London. After several weeks of bouncing from one extreme (I'm definitely going, come hell or high water) to the other (I am absolutely, most definitely not going), I've settled somewhere in the middle where I'd be happy to go and happy to stay. And I think that this position is probably more dangerous to my sanity because ultimately I have to make a decision. But right now I'm thinking I should probably pour another drink.

Instead, it's time to pop a sleeping pill to help battle the nightly insomnia I've suffered from this entire week. Tomorrow looks busy. Sigh. But Saturday morning I'm taking a meditation class at the Crow Collection, and I'm looking forward to that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Let the Rain Come Down

Today would be the perfect day to spend in a cafe with strangers, a huge bowl of cafe au lait, and a good book. But since I'm not in Europe or even Asia, I'm at home, online, listening to the rain drizzle down on the terra cotta planters outside my window, doing my laundry (because it's Tuesday, after all)--but in machines(!) that actually clean AND dry the clothes...--except that the dryer seems to be on its last leg because the clothes are still not dry. I have about another hour before I head to the studio to have my CD mastered, so I won't be able to head to Nodding Dog till this afternoon, if then.

The question of the day: if one were to buy Lori's car, would the inside smell like her hair? Any thoughts?

Stumbled upon Andrew Boyd's Life's Little Deconstruction Book: Self-Help for the Post-Hip last night while walking the aisles of Bookstop. His web site is equally brilliant. Two of my favorites:

  • 3. Dip into nihilism.
  • 6. Expose depth as another surface.

Monday, June 7, 2004

Ozymandias Memorious

"Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The long and level sands stretch far away.


--from Percy Bysshe Shelley's "Ozymandias"

I suspect, however, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget differences, generalize, make abstractions.

--from Jorge Luis Borges' "Funes the Memorious"

The death of Ronald Reagan has me thinking about my America in the '80s, a world he ruled over yet had no knowledge of. It's only now at 36 that I can appreciate the ironies upon ironies of his administration: relentless challenges to Soviet rhetoric and ideology with no clear understanding of his own, certainly no critique of it; virulently anti-big government yet quick to increase military spending at the drop of a hat; and finally, what about AIDS? What about AIDS?

The Iran/Contra scandal was not the only thing he was "out of the loop" about. And yet, just as there was little mention of Watergate when the great President Nixon died, we, too, shall speak no ill of the dead. And America is whole and complete and united and blessed by the Hebrew deity YHWH, whose statues, too, must lie in ruin amidst the sand. America will share in his great amnesia, and all will be right with the world.

As part of my own most serious (yet somehow sardonic) commemoration, if it were not for Ronald Reagan, I would not have studied Russian in college, lived in and traveled extensively throughout Central/Eastern Europe, become politically involved, nor be currently teaching political science (where I most enjoy teaching Marxist theory). So let us not forget about what lies beneath those sands: the underground.

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Missing the Company of Food-Eaters

This afternoon, Stephen & I took the train from the Hampton station to downtown Garland to walk around the historical square even though we were certain nothing would be open. Nothing was open. But the trip was fulfilling in that sort of way that getting no fulfillment can be.

The fast came and went. We ended it a few hours ago--after slightly more than 48 hours of no solid food. Still not sure of the benefits, particularly after the headaches began this afternoon as we walked around downtown Garland in the heat with nothing to do except board the train back to our side of town. I certainly do feel a bit more lucid and glad to finally fast after so many years of unquestioningly eating my fill. My last real fast was at the age of 18, when I abstained from food for four days. At the end of that time, I had visions and began speaking in tongues. I pray such conditions don't return.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll break my fast from speaking to people as well: I need to return several phone calls as well as call several people to arrange things for the next few weeks. Tomorrow will be a good day for such things.

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Dear Stalker



Okay, any thoughts on the cover to my next CD, a mini (less than 24 minutes) entitled "Digital Tsar"? I know the text on the back is impossible to read, but on the actual CD cover at real size, there should be no problem. By the way, the binary code on the front spells out T-S-E-R-O over and over, the name under which I release dance music. (The more serious, new age/ambient work is released under my name.) I'll schedule the studio this week to have it mastered. I'm looking forward to having another item on the shelves of my sad, little shop.

Stephen talked me into this damn-fool fast this weekend: I haven't had solid food since yesterday around 5:00 PM. It's easy to control the body; the difficulty is in controlling the mind and getting it to accept that just because the body is hungry, it doesn't mean you'll be stopping at the next cafe for a bite. I even started salivating when we drove past a Church's Chicken!

I'm not happy about my stalker from the past year getting my home phone number and leaving messages from a local number. Get a fucking life, for fuck's sake. I haven't talked to you in over a year, and I only talked to you twice in my life! That's what I get for not sleeping with him: if I would've just fucked him, he'd be long gone by now.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Incommunicado

First, I want to wish a happy birthday to my 17-year-old nephew Tim. You mean the world to me.

The American Dream baffles me. How did such a lie become so pervasive around the globe? The only thing more laughable is the Protestant work ethic brought over on that ship of inbred fools. If all colonizers are sexual deviants, as Andrei Codrescu claims, then why couldn’t the good sexual deviants colonize this lost continent? Of course, I’d be happy if just one good sexual deviant attempted to plant a flag on my fertile soil. Sigh.

I have been working so hard these past few days, and I still have so far to go. Reacquainting myself with my reader & writer selves. Very pleased with the new CD as well as the cover design. Filled with anxiety, loneliness, and a bit of boredom, however. And a strong desire not to talk to anyone, especially those who would sidetrack and/or hijack me and my time. I’m not looking forward to this weekend even though I should be excited about the several free films that will be shown as part of the Asian Film Festival. Instead, I feel blech and want to sleep till Monday.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Water in Water

If it’s been 15 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, then it’s been 5 years since I was in Beijing, shortly before the 10th anniversary. Which means it’s been 5 years since I was last in Asia, specifically Japan, my home for 2 years.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I determined that if it were not for the ESL job, leaving Japan would’ve been a mistake, something regrettable. Now I know that it wasn’t a mistake in the big picture. But I do miss it sometimes. Despite the hardships & loneliness, I was able to make it a magical place, especially after meeting Tetsuya & Jihad.

Thankfully, I’m still in touch with Tetsuya after all this time. But I haven’t heard from Jihad in several months. Perhaps he’s enjoying the North American dream somewhere in Canada now. Or maybe he’s still in Damascus. Who would ever believe there is such a sensitive & sweet boy named Jihad?

***

It’s always disorienting for me when I visit sites of tragedies: Tiananmen Square, the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Hiroshima. In some ways, it’s like the feeling I got when I used to stand on the roof of my apartment in Shimonoseki and gaze at the stars: sheer insignificance. But this feeling was not defeatist in the least; instead, I felt consumed by something greater than me (history, life, the universe), a part of this vast thing that somehow added significance to my own meager life. This is also how I feel when I visit my family graves every Memorial Day.