Thursday, December 27, 2007

What comes when I try to write...

"All of your anno Domini
the whole year long
has turned to
anno servi, or two, or
better yet:
ano polaco...
in a piece of the wor(l)d
where slave and Slav
de-fine the di-stance between
six years—nine, but who’s counting?
seven hours, and
365 degrees,
the temperature at which this flesh burns."

Monday, December 24, 2007

California Dreamin'

Just a week after returning to the States from Europe I had already had enough of Dallas and crap at the university.... Or at least I knew I was going to have already had enough, so Stephen organized a blissful weekend away to San Francisco (while I was still in Germany) since he and Kris were going to be there for work. And Jola is there.... So many wonderful people I care so deeply about in a wonderful city by the ocean. I read chapters in the U.S. history textbook for the class I TA for on the flight, so technically it was a working vacation.... Anyway, here are some of the photos of that most relaxing getaway (where gallons of coffee were drunk at Bazaar Cafe, we sat through an hour-long reflexology session, did qigong (as well as napped) in the sand on the beach, and ate incredibly delicious meals at ethnic restaurants throughout the city. I guess gluttony is yet another form of relaxation....).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

15 Songs for a Solstice

...to help keep the cold in on the first day of winter. (As if most of us needed help with that.) Here's to a new season of personal (and universal) growth.

For those of you not on MySpace, I'm currently reading Edmond Jabès' The Book of Margins. After only the first 35 pages, I can definitively state that it will be one of my most favorite books I have/will ever read:
The word is distance within non-distance, that is, the width of a gap that every letter stresses while bridging it. What is said is always said in relation to what will never be expressed. At these extreme limits we recognize ourselves.

This winter will (always already and yet again) prove the truth of the infinite distance I must travel in order to recognize myself in the extremities of the here and now. And now to the soundtrack that will be playing on that trip:


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Skin Deep

There are already so many things wrong with the story about the French woman who received the first face transplant. Like how did she “lose” her face to begin with? Well, she took an overdose of sleeping pills in a botched suicide attempt. She didn’t wake up when her pet Labrador retriever started chewing on her face. But she did wake up after it had already gnawed off her lips, chin and most of her nose. Note to self: feed the dog before killing yourself. Or better yet, kill the dog first!

I’m thinking this would’ve been a ripe time for another suicide attempt, but no: instead medical science in all of its vast uselessness decided to cut the face off a brain-dead woman and transplant it on our heroine. After a couple of near rejections of the face—we could be here all night if I was going to pursue this line of thought!—it seems the face was there to stay. Now she has regained nearly full use of her facial muscles. Or the facial muscles of the other woman. I’m not sure exactly where one woman ends and the other begins! Our heroine is currently “satisfied with the aesthetic result,” according to her surgeon.

Of course, none of what I’ve written or thought about thus far concerns the real problem at hand. The most disturbing aspect of the article I read in the New York Times is the final two sentences:
Ms. Dinoire’s [face] is a bit crooked, with one side slightly higher and one eye more open. But it is not unlike that of a typical Frenchwoman trying to convey a vaguely insouciant sarcasm, with hints of mordant wit and a certain je ne sais quoi.

I have lost all respect for the New York Times for publishing such an offensive, misogynistic and xenophobic article. I have lost all respect for modern science for thinking it was within acceptable ethical bounds to perform such a surgery in those circumstances. And I have lost all respect for Labrador retrievers, or as I shall henceforth refer to them: “face eaters.”

It all reminds me of something my mother used to say when I was a kid: “Beauty is only skin deep, but ugliness goes clear to the bone.” (She would know.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Excerpts

Something I've been doing for the past several semesters is offering excerpts of my academic work here at the end of the semester. When I'm not writing here--which is happening more and more frequently--I'm most likely working on papers such as these. The work I did this term just about did me in altogether: I started working on the first paper in May, but I was able to write the second paper in just a few weeks. It seems I always shoot my load on one project (usually the one for my major professor and mentor) and then do a second quickie. (And yes, all academic metaphors must be sexual; otherwise, you're not doing it right.) By the way, my first essay earned me a "gifted," and the second one was termed "brilliant." (I'm not braggin'; I'm just saying....)

In die Fremde der Heimat:
Celan’s “Schibboleth” and the Ethics of Translation


Mem’ry, in addition to being short, is also (always already) a matter of convenience. A covenant both enjoins and excludes. Our inclusion in a community is a function of how we enact our communal memory—which flags we pledge allegiance to, which political slogans we cry out, which language community we find ourselves born into—in short, how we embody our covenant. Memory is the shibboleth we use to segregate: it either allows passage or cuts off the return passage home. This scar—this syllable pain, this wounded word, this death sentence—bears the memory of our covenant, a circle of forgetting, bereft of a center. Memory, therefore, is what must be transversed, transported, crossed over, and translated; it is the liminal border between the alien and the homeland, the superliminal space where the blood of the Passover sacrifice demarcates between the Chosen People and the(ir) other. Memory is the shibboleth—mispronounced, death-bringing, inarticulate; the unsayable that demands utterance, performance, invocation. The promise—the sign of the promise—the promised covenantal sign scars the human body. This scar—a genital, genitive scar—wounded by the past, is passed on to future generations, to those also born of the wound, born of disaster.

The half-mastness on both sides of mem’ry bisects “Schibboleth” with a reference to a political act: commemoration of the dead, of national heroes. Yet this flag at half-mast (from the fourth strophe) is not (necessarily) the same flag to which the poet has sworn no allegiance (from the second strophe). Instead of being unfurled in the market square, demanding allegiance, this flag at half-mast signifies the presence of death. Yet Celan’s dead remain doubly absent: not only are they no longer present (having been murdered and reduced to ash) but neither have they been properly buried and mourned for. No national flag had been set at half-mast to commemorate them. They are absented in both language as well as cultural memory, and it is an inherent characteristic of Celan’s poetological project to call those absent dead back into presence through language and to rescue them from forgetting/forgetfulness.

But just as Heidegger wants us to think being as some thing other than beings, so we too are called to think the other as some thing wholly other, as something more than the sum of all others—uncoordinatable and incalculable, unbounded and aporetic, unmappable and undateable. The wholly other exceeds all Cartesian coordinates as well as any Cartesian cogito: all that I can know of the other is that I do not know.

Initiation into Redon’s Initiation to Study

The fifth and final work in Redon’s two-woman sequence is his circa 1905 Initiation to Study. This oil painting is marked by a flattening of the pictorial space as well as by a sharp delineation of line of the two figures. The priestess is clothed entirely in blue; the novice wears white. Instead of holding a red branch as in the 1896 oil painting, the novice casually holds a scroll that has been partially unrolled. It seems that the natural element from the first painting has been replaced with a cultural artifact; the mysteries of nature have given way to the mysteries of a secret society whose knowledge is written down on the scroll. But no text is exposed; to the viewer, the scroll is empty and blank.

Though the novice’s eyes are still downcast, we get no sense of her emotional state from her otherwise expressionless face. The priestess, however, appears somewhat sterner than in previous depictions: she is clearly frowning, and the severe profile line only accentuates her one visible eye. Redon’s noirs were often populated by round, globe-like eyes, but in this series, the women’s eyes are almost always closed, further resisting the viewer’s gaze.

The women appear within a space defined by heavy brown lines to the pair’s left and right as well as beneath their feet. The light brown floor recedes a short distance before ending at what looks to be a white plaster or stucco wall behind the figures. The pictorial plane, nevertheless, is further flattened with blotches of paint that transgress across all three strong defining lines. No shadow or shading interrupts this compression to give the viewer any impression of dimensionalized space. Redon flattens the vertical as well by repeating the light brown of the floor in the upper right. Moreover, the illusory depth is shortened by the dark pink tones of the oil paint: Redon uses the same tone for his signature and the dominant background behind the priestess. In this way, the surface and the background are the same color, disrupting any sense of depth and preventing any penetration beyond the work’s surface.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tiempo libre

I became a free man again as of 1:33 yesterday afternoon when I submitted my grades and went through the official (and ever-so-asinine) “check-out” procedure at the college.

It’s a bit hard to enjoy the sweet relief that should be flowing my way after two nights of disrupted sleep, though. But yesterday when I got out of bed around 4:00 (after waking at 3:00), I spent the time fairly productively: I began working on a creative writing project I’ve been thinking about for a few months now.

And there are so many other projects that need to be started: cleaning (and possibly moving), planning my spring courses at the college (especially the online version), covering some ground in my reading assignments for the next term, and taking care of myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve neglected those things for far too long; although I have made it to the YMCA three times already this week.

Last night when I woke up at 3:00, I was too tired to even get out of bed and try to do something. I have an appointment with my neurologist Monday. We’ll see what pills she tries to throw my way this time as I adamantly insist I’m not taking anything she prescribes.

Wednesday afternoon I met Shellie and Blake for lunch at the Polish deli/café in Plano. We shared plates of pierogi (blueberry and potato-cheese) and naleśniki. It is really nice to finally feel like I’m part of a cohort (of sorts) at the university. It’s been years since I felt like I was part of a group of like-minded people who enjoy each other’s company.

Since submitting my last term paper (the one the professor called “brilliant”), I’ve spent far too much time on MySpace, that horrible online (anti)social network. If anyone wants to add me as their “friend,” please feel free, but you’ll have to use “soleo” as my last name. I try to ensure that my students will (at the very least) have a difficult time finding me anywhere online. And if there are any bloggers out there who want me to add their site to my links, send me the URL.

Ah, so much housecleaning … and most of it metaphorical.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I am the walrus.


There's nothing quite as funny as the number of drugs I've taken over the past few months (years) to help me sleep. But the week of Thanksgiving, I stepped down from the Amitriptyline pony I've been riding since September. Now I've reverted to constantly waking up throughout the night and then waking up for good around 4:00 AM every morning. What's funny is that I don't seem to mind too much: with the meds, I was groggy even with eight hours of sleep, and now without them I'm considerably more awake. Even when I'm tired. The next step: get off this shit Rozerem that never did do anything it was supposed to do. According to several friends, it only makes me angry and bitter. I certainly have felt very on edge since I started on it in May. At first I thought it was just all the coffee I was drinking in Europe and all the shitty administrative annoyances I had to endure in Marburg. But it wasn't. Well, at least not just that. Even without the strong Euro-kava, I've been one angry fucker all term.

And yesterday I grew even angrier after spending almost three hours at the dentist office. One must suffer if one wants to be beautiful. And yes, my teeth are indeed beautiful. For the first time in my life. Too bad it took throwing almost $700 at them before they took on the glamor sheen of celebrity. But I'm only now enjoying my first coffee since yesterday morning. And I'm sipping it through a straw. And I must go brush my teeth immediately after I'm done. But even with the unbearable pain, the expense, and the inability to eat or drink for most of the past 24 hours, it really is worth it.

Once, on an osobowy (oh-so-slowly) train from Warsaw to Szczecin during the summer of 1991, my compatriots/companions decided to sing songs by the Smiths to help me sleep. (And to support my growing dependency on angst and ennui.) I need those friends now to sing me to sleep....
  • Asleep
  • Unlovable
  • This Night Has Opened My Eyes
  • Back To The Old House
  • Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now
  • William, It Was Really Nothing
  • Girl Afraid
  • Half A Person
  • There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
  • Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me
  • Reel Around The Fountain
  • That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
  • The Boy With The Thorn In His Side
  • Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want
  • Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others

Friday, November 30, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Ah, the last of the Bullet-Point Fridays!
  • I started this segment when I returned from Germany and began the fall semester just to ensure that throughout the long and difficult term I would sit down at least once a week and post something on my blog. And now it’s almost over.
  • Well, not quite: I still have to submit another essay Monday. My research on the Redon painting has been fairly interesting, but—ohmygod!—I have no energy to just sit down and pound it out. I wrote about half of it Thanksgiving Day. While most of my compatriots were stuffing turkey down their throats, I was fasting and writing—what I tend to do best on that holiday. And I spent more than three hours at the museum Wednesday, so I have plenty of information to write about. Just tired.
  • I exhausted myself with the first essay due before Thanksgiving. And thankfully that proved to be worth the effort. My professor wrote that I was “gifted.” (And I’ve hence decided to start a “Gifted & Talented” program for my Ph.D. curriculum! Too bad few of my colleagues will meet the requirements….) Of course, I started the research and reading on the flight to Germany last July, so it’s fairly accurate to say that I’ve done some serious thinking about my topic over the past 4½ months.
  • Perhaps I will start my Bullet-Point Fridays again come January. But I think I’ll change the name: no good ever came from bullets. And “bullet points” imply a reduction and a leveling that I hope to never be guilty of.
  • I submitted my translation portfolio for the term this morning. I feel like after the first draft I was no longer doing translation but merely leveling, making the text palatable to the pack of illiterate philistines who were in the class with me. After several classmates complained that one particular sentence was “hard to understand,” I declared, “Perhaps I should just translate it back into Polish, and then we’ll see how well you understand it!” If nature abhors a vacuum, then I’m certain she would indeed hate my classmates as much as I do.
  • So, it’s time to go to bed. I still have so much more work to do over the next couple of weeks: exams to write and grade, essays to grade, grades to submit. And my winter break is quickly filling up with things wanting to be done and read. (And I’ll try to write so much more consistently throughout the week that Bullet-Point Fridays will be unnecessary.)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Tu boda en mi boca Thursday

"A mixed tape for un-mixed people." AKA La música para coger.... I mean, let's just cut to the chase. I'm not getting any younger!

Well, kids: you witnessed the proposal as well as the acceptance here first. Now it's time to pick the wedding music. Here are some of the tunes that have come to mean various things to me over the years, including love, lust, sex, and other (useless) emotions. (By some of the titles, you'll see my idea of love is complex, to say the least. I mean, "Rotary Club"?!?!) My one wish: Miguel accepts my music collection as he has accepted me--unconditionally.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Today is Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan. After (only) two years in Japan I still have no idea what that means or what is celebrated. But I was always thankful to have the day off from teaching.
  • When did the day after the US Thanksgiving start being referred to as “Black Friday”? It seems like I’ve heard that phrase before, but it’s only been over the past couple of years. What a horrible thing this over consumption is: people feeling as if they have to buy gifts for one another, a nation’s entire economy based solely on over consumption and reckless spending for a so-called Christian holiday, and then the utterly useless news reports about over consumption and greed and then the interviews with poor people who can’t afford to buy what they want for their children and then the interviews with self-proclaimed shop-oholics or compulsive buyers! It’s enough to make me run screaming, especially when the soundtrack to this shopping season—tinny carols about some Jewish baby born in modern-day Palestine—comes over the PA!
  • In honor of the Japanese holiday, I declare myself thankful to be counted among those who labor to make this world a (little) better place.
  • I always enjoy teaching Marx in my classes. When I taught government, I would spend about a week on political ideologies, slowly introducing socialism in small doses until the majority of my students would insist on knowing why we in the gloriously free United States didn’t fully embrace Marx’s philosophy. I had a similar experience teaching Marx in my philosophy course a couple of weeks ago. One student exclaimed, “I’m poor, and I don’t see anything wrong with what he’s saying!” Another student questioned, “Why were we taught that he was the enemy?” My answer: “Why don’t you write your president and ask him?” I’m all about pushing the limits.
  • There is no free market economy. It’s a lie and a myth and a delusion all rolled into one. A free market economy in principle would not allow monopolies to exist, would not insure bank deposits, would not bail out corporate failures, etc. etc. The only good thing about the US economy is all of the Marxist-inspired policies we have implemented to protect consumers and workers and the public. And we have a long way still to go.
  • "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Proletarians of all countries, unite!"
  • My favorite new story this evening: the First Baptist Church of Dallas was robbed last night (on Thanksgiving Day). The thieves got away with eight plasma televisions plus a lot of other crap. I think God’s message this holiday: stop watching your fucking TVs when you’re supposed to be worshipping me! (I wonder if Homeland inSecurity will come knocking on my door if I declare that any church that has eight plasma televisions deserves to burn.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Thursday

A random selection of music to be thankful for:
Just thinking about the multitude of ghosts that haunt every Thanksgiving and the network of friends around the globe who have made this a special holiday: 44 years ago President Kennedy was killed just a couple of minutes drive from my home; 10 years ago Michael Hutchence was found dead; Sonia in Kumamoto and the apato I painted green with the windows closed--I don't think my brain cells have really fully recovered; Tak & family in Osaka with my first bottle of beaujolais; Jola & the girls in Warsaw with several other bottles...; Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade way back in 1986 and the crappy meal in the basement of the Empire State Bldg.; "In this fateful hour..." over and over; and now me alone with a stack of books and one painting by Redon to keep me company.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Thumb drive? Check. I do, after all, need to record the grades of the precious students enrolled in the US history course I TA for.
  • Stack of history quizzes? Check. I finished grading them over breakfast this morning, but I told my professor I wanted to re-evaluate a couple of them just to ensure I’m being fair (and consistent), so I’ll return them Monday. I’m still a bit perplexed by one student’s response: “Truthfully, I have no idea of what I should write because I haven’t read the book just yet. Fortunately [sic], there isn’t a way for me to pass this class having failed two of the last tests.” It continues for a couple of pages. I don’t like this conflicting sympathy-annoyance I suffer from: I really am too sensitive at times to be a professor, but I also work ridiculously hard for my courses, even the ones that only annoy me and waste my time. (After my last presentation, there was a hush before the professor exclaimed, “That was a damned good protocol!” I felt like crying, relieved after putting myself under that much pressure for a two-page paper.) But, of course, I’m not a freshman too lazy to read the assignment. (If I skip a required text, I have some deep-seated reason … usually. And I always make sure it’s one I won’t be tested over.)
  • Sophie’s World? Check. I read it originally back in the fall of ’97 in Japan. When I moved into my apato, it was one of the few books left by a prior occupant. Because it was in English, I read it. I was annoyed because of its overly contrived narrative. I cringe when I feel like someone is trying to trick me into being educated. Now it’s a required text for my introduction to philosophy course I teach at the community college downtown. I had/have no say in the matter. But after drinks Tuesday evening with my brighter-than-average colleagues, I just may finally stop hating this book. Both of them swore that it was a more-than-suitable text for an introductory course. I’ll trust them (since they are so painfully freaking intelligent). Lesson learnt: stop fighting the flow and see what there is to learn instead of overly complicating things.
  • Knitted skullcap? Check. In the mornings here, the temperature has been quite a bit more tolerable: in the mid-40s. It’s almost as if things are starting to cool down like they’re supposed to this time of year. In Poland I would’ve already had several days of snow by now.
  • Crappy Apple laptop? Check. Thankfully it isn’t a problem connecting to the wireless here at this college campus (where I spend my “free days” writing, working, and doing research). I wonder how many other people here aren’t really supposed to be here? I spend more time at this school than I do at either the campus where I teach or the campus where I’m a student. But no one’s ever asked to see my identification or to justify my presence. At least I finally started bringing my own computer instead of using the one’s in the library.
  • Internal (and upcoming) deadlines? Check. One paper due Wednesday. Another portfolio/project due on the 30th. And a final paper/presentation on December 3rd. Final exams in history to grade; five-page essays and final exams in philosophy to grade; eternal and continual paperwork to endure for classes taught as well as taken. Yes, I’m almost done with this term. But now I have to buckle down in order to check these things off. One by one.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Music Thursday

A random selection of music to enjoy the new beaujolais with:
Drink a bottle for me.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Northern Latitude Dreaming

Instead of just sitting still long enough to grade 39 quizzes in US history over my break/office hour I've instead read through a couple of blog posts, did a search for Joris-Karl Huysmans' novel À rebours at my university's library (we have several copies), and ate a 280-calorie dark chocolate "energy" bar. I've holed up on the 5th floor of the library, sitting next to a window from where I can see--apart from a few office buildings in the distance and a handful of cars in the parking lot--a line of trees running alongside the western creek on campus. I seem to have caught fall fever: I don't want to be in love or run naked in nature. Instead, I'd really prefer to wrap up in some warm clothes in front of a fire somewhere and read a good book (perhaps Huysmans' novel) with a warm drink and even warmer cats. Considering this is Texas and today's high is in the mid-80s, it is unlikely I will get to have this experience any time soon. Even the promised thunderstorms don't seem to be on their way.

I have slightly more than a week to complete my term paper over Celan, about two weeks before submitting my final drafts for the translation workshop, and maybe three weeks before my project on Redon is due. Then there's final exams in US history to grade and then finally my final for philosophy is scheduled for December 11th. Now if only I can get through these damned 39 quizzes to set the rest of the term in motion. Ah, December! when life comes due.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Homeless – More than 400 veterans from America’s most recent illegal and immoral wars have turned up homeless. Veterans have long accounted for a high share of the nation’s homeless. Although they make up 11% of the adult population, they make up 26% of the homeless on any given day. According to the V.A., some 196,000 veterans of all ages were homeless on any given night in 2006. Some 44,000 to 64,000 veterans fall into the chronically homeless category, those who live in the streets or shelters for more than a year.
  • Assaulted – Roughly 40% of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent illegal and immoral wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military. (More than 11% of the newly homeless veterans are women.)
  • Addicted – Meth and crack are widely available, both in the military as well as back at home. As is alcohol and other drugs.
  • PTSD – If only the P were true….
  • Depressed.
  • Mission not quite accomplished.
  • Biblical segue:
"Then he will say to those on [the ideological right], 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

[I fought your goddamnedmotherfucking wars for you and you didn’t even give me health insurance.]

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

  • Veteran or victim? Patriot or patsy?

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Music Thursday

A top-10 list of random significance:
I'm working on creating an iMix dedicated to this new feature on Crash Course for those of you who frequent iTunes, but it may take a while to perfect. In the meantime, visit these artists' sites and buy their music.

Update: Here's the link for the iMix:

Unfortunately iTunes does not sell many of my suggested songs. What can you expect?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • The first definition of "bullet" listed in the OED is "a small round ball." I think first of a child's ball: small, probably red, and rolling across a street in front of an oncoming car.
  • When I was living in Shimonoseki, I often traveled by Shinkansen, Japan's bullet-train. Speeding down to Fukuoka (sometimes purposely mispronounced "Fuck you, okay.") for a day of gaijin (that word still grates on my sensibilities) shopping was a luxury I grew accustomed to, especially during my last semester in Japan: time was running out; time was of the essence. And I could turn a 90-minute one-way trip into a 20-minute breeze just by paying more than three-times the cost of regular trainfare.
  • I made up for the cost and convenience by factoring in Shinkansen tickets when traveling home to the US or back to Japan to serve out my two-year contract: if I could get cheaper airfare from out of Kansai--even with the Shinkansen fare--I would go that route. Direct flights from Osaka were always more acceptable than stopovers on that half-assed Korean peninsula. Plus a trip to Osaka probably meant a trip to nearby Kyoto as well. If time wasn't an issue but money was, then I could take advantage of several other transportation alternatives: the overnight ferry or the long-distance bus service.
  • My preference was the overnight ferry: not only was the cost bizarrely low compared to just about everything else in Japan--$5.00 for a can of Coke!--but the ferry also included an onsen, or traditional Japanese public bath.
  • The time I've spent wet and naked in the company of foreign nationals cannot be measured. (I'm just saying....)
  • Over the 1998 Christmas vacation, I spent probably no less than four hours a day at the onsen where I was staying in balmy Okinawa.
  • Perhaps it's been a way of recovering from the years of Texas summers and droughts I've suffered through. Perhaps I'm more fish than human. Perhaps I didn't have a clue what else to write on a Bullet-Point Friday.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • It’s like, you know, flamenco piano: when you hear the first measures of just such a beast you recognize the form (flamenco) but don’t recognize the medium (piano) because your ears are not trained to interpret that form through that medium. After a few moments, a new synapse fires, and you are better prepared to hear flamenco piano again: a new possibility has been created in your world.
  • It’s like, you know, when human beings rely too heavily on infrastructure designed to keep them safe (i.e., guardrails, stop signs, traffic lights) that they behave irresponsibly because someone else is policing their reckless behavior; they have a false sense of security because they’ve relinquished responsibility for their own actions. (It’s also like, you know, when parents expect legislation to supplement their demonstrably poor parenting skills: they want society to be policed instead of being responsible for the raising of their own children. I mean, think of the children!) Remove the guardrails and pedestrian accidents fall 60% because pedestrian and driver behave more responsibly when they must think for themselves. If I choose to jaywalk, then I’ll be sure to look both ways—twice, even—before jumping out in traffic.
  • It’s like, you know, trying to get through a lecture on Berkeley’s immaterialist idealism when your students would much rather hypothesize about “crazy people” or “people on LSD” or “the blind”: if someone falls in the woods and no one is around to perceive it, did the person really exist in the first place? (Thankfully, for Berkeley, God is omniscient and omnipresent: He’s always watching/perceiving! And even if you don’t believe in God, He still believes in you.) I sometimes wish my students would stop invading my sensory world so their drug-induced craziness would simply stop existing, even if only for me.
  • It’s like, you know, hotdog!
  • It’s like, you know, accepting the alternate relationship with truth that wanders to supplement one’s acceptance of truth that remains coordinated on a grid. To start walking with the right foot (techne, the logos of techne, the word: “technology”) is quite alright as long as the next step is with the left foot (organic, systemic (uncoordinatable) episteme, the organicity of the epistemic); otherwise, you spin around in circles going nowhere. And no guardrail is going to protect you from doing that!
  • It’s like, you know, attempting to speak language as such without using any of the words from the language of humankind. Or perhaps like, you know, speaking a word to(ward) an other all the while speaking a word as (an)other. This too shall not pass.
  • It’s like, you know, Liberace’s famous question: “Would you rather have roses on your piano or tulips on your organ?” Vote now!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Das ist der Deal


Rarely does a day go by since I first heard this song in Germany that I don't stop to listen to it or sit down to watch this video. Yes, yes: come marry me! (And that's only a message to my secret love..... Miguel, I hope you don't mind finding out this way!)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • I had my first setback in about a month or so after beginning my new insomnia medications: I couldn't get to sleep Tuesday 'evening' until about 2:00 am (Wednesday morning). Now I'm still recovering from that episode. The only thing I can figure out that was in the least bit different was that I drank a Dr. Pepper at 3:30 that afternoon. It was the first soda I've had in two months, and the only reason I drank it was because I 'won' it by filling out a survey about alcohol use on campus. From now on, I will only drink water (and alcohol) on campus. Perhaps I need to 'update' my responses on the survey.
  • I skipped working yesterday afternoon and instead spent about 90 minutes at the YMCA. I felt I needed a break from the multitude of assignments and projects after working almost nonstop Wednesday afternoon/evening until about 9:00 pm. Yea: endorphins are my friends! (Unlike Dr. Pepper.)
  • I'm taking another 'break' this afternoon: we're going to the Texas State Fair. I know I'm going to spend all weekend working, so I might as well try to have a little bit of fun while I can. Besides, I spent my morning office hours grading exams.
  • I'm excited about my books from Amazon being shipped: Gadamer, Jabes, and Plato. God, am I a dork or what? I used to be one of the cool kids (at least as an undergraduate), but now I'm quite the stuffy old graduate student surrounded by books ... and very few friends. (Even Dr. Pepper is not to be trusted.)
  • Perhaps Tiny Tim (or is it Tiny Tina these days?) can bring a little joy back to my life.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Well, I kept my cell phone on buzz from late September until today hoping that I'd get that call either from the MacArthur Foundation or Sweden. No such luck. I guess I can switch it off (and hold my breath) for another year.
  • Since besides keeping a fairly sophisticated monthly budget I don't dabble in economics, and since rarely do I delve into cutting edge scientific research, I thought I'd surely be shortlisted for either the prize in literature or maybe (as a last resort) the peace prize. I guess I need to write more than term papers and angry blog posts. And perhaps do more than save the world everyday from my utter disgust.
  • Congratulations to Doris Lessing, whoever she is. I browsed through the table of contents of the Norton Anthology of British Literature last night and couldn't find anything by her. If Norton doesn't bother with her writings, why should anyone else? Perhaps she's just trans-canonical.
  • Congratulations to Al Gore, whose name was in the news just a couple of days ago when a British court determined that nine statements in his film on global warming were in error. Thankfully he wasn't up for the Nobel scientific prize. Polar bears drowning, indeed! (Although I have to admit I chuckled out loud during that part of the movie when the computer-animated polar bear went kerplunk into the Arctic waters! Ah, good times. Of course, if you were in the audience and couldn't tell that that scene/scenario was designed purely for an emotional response, then perhaps you deserve a Nobel for naiveté and gullibility.)
  • No Nobel. No Genius. At least I'm in good company.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Genocide Schmenocide

I'm loving how the Turks have taken to the streets to protest the passing of a House bill (in committee) calling the Armenian Genocide "genocide." Perhaps someday our government will actually do something about genocide instead of sitting in committee debating whether a genocide should be called genocide.

And where were the Turks when Hitler himself mentioned the Armenian genocide? If Hitler can talk about it, then shouldn't meager American politicians have that same freedom?

Hell, why doesn't Turkey just gang up with Azerbaijan and 'reveal' the facts about the genocide there perpetrated by the Armenians. (Maybe in the future the Azeri lobby will get a House bill through committee calling the Azeri Genocide a "genocide"! That'll be political progress at its finest!)

Fuck all of you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

American Justice/Global Injustice, or Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?


I just finished reading two articles from the IHT: German claiming CIA torture loses final appeal and 40 years after Che's death, his image is a battleground after doing some serious thinking since finishing my class this afternoon. I taught the Hindu creation myth today.

Brahma grows bored and so creates Maya to play a game with. She convinces him to create the world of illusion: the universe, the stars and planets, the animals and plants. Then she tells him to create an animal that would be intelligent and aware, one that could appreciate Brahma's creation. So after creating humans, he asks Maya when the game would begin. She cuts Brahma into millions of tiny pieces and puts a piece in each human. Then she makes the pieces forget who they are. The game consists of the pieces finding themselves again.

So, what's the purpose of the game? To win? To lose? To move beyond the illusion of the duality of winning and losing? Is the purpose of the game merely to continue the play? These are all questions that washed ashore during discussion. Is the Holocaust or the illegal and immoral occupation of Iraq just humans taking the game too seriously? Am I taking their game too seriously? How serious are the charges of kidnapping and torture made by Khaled el-Masri? (Alas, not serious enough to be addressed by the US Supreme Court.) Can anyone take Che Guevara seriously after forty years since his murder (also conducted by the CIA/US government) and after the sale of millions of T-shirts with his iconic, revolutionary gaze?

I think the game makes me sick. I only find myself nauseated.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Remembrance


One of the many blemishes part of Putin's blemished legacy, Anna Politkovskaya was murdered a year ago.

Observance

Today, on Columbus Day (Observed) I’m sitting through a lecture on early American history—yeah, academic calendars don’t quite match up to national holidays. (When I was at UD—boo! hiss!—I was told that we would not be off on Labor Day because “we are not laborers.”)

But today, I too feel like Columbus: discovering something that millions of people already knew about. (Thanks, Lisa Simpson!) My discovery: I need a break from sitting through lectures and spending far too many hours in front of a computer doing research and writing.

A modest proposal for renaming the day observed today:

  • Stolen Continent Day
  • Genocide Day
  • Taino Heritage Day
  • European Legacy Day (celebrating the effects of smallpox and “conquista”)
Indeed, perhaps we all should just walk backward into the ocean….

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Visual Culture

After a relatively short run-through of the DMA this afternoon, I came up with the following six contenders for my project in Visual Culture. I'm really not ecstatic about any of them: I would much rather write about the work of someone I know a little bit about, like Anselm Kiefer or Magda Abakanowicz, but we've already been scolded for choosing only recent subjects (from the last 30 years). Since I have no interest in recreating the canon, I thought about either an Asian or pre-Columbian work, but I didn't find anything today that grabbed me. These six, despite being fairly canonical--hell, they're hanging in a Dallas museum!--caught my eye; plus I thought I'd be able to say something new and interesting about each of them, assuming that someone else hasn't already exhausted these works.



Thomas Wilmer Dewing's The Singer, 1924



Arthur Garfield Dove's Up the Alley, 1938



Edward Hicks' The Peaceable Kingdom, c. 1846-47


Max Liebermann's At the Swimming Hole, 1875-78


Odilon Redon's Initiation to Study - Two Young Ladies, c. 1905


Paul Serusier's Celtic Tale, 1894

Friday, October 5, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • I'm enjoying my trek through Daniel Weissbort's From Russian with Love, a book about his friendship(s) and (professional) relationship(s) with Joseph Brodsky, translation theory, Russian, literature, and death. It is everything that John Felstiner falls short of. Throughout Felstiner's work (specifically Translating Neruda and Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew), he steers the reader toward this totalizing conception of identity and poetry: he reads Neruda and Celan as if their names were always in capital letters, as if they were homogenized, monolithic, unified Cartesian subjects, as if his biographical/literary/psychological/physiological uncoverings and excavations had the final say on what their poetry was all about. Weissbort, on the other hand, speaks toward an actual and real person he met, befriended, and knew, and yet who escapes any insincere attempt toward totalization: was 'Joseph' a Jew, how much of a Jew was he, how does his translation of his own poetry speak the same as their Russian versions. 'Joseph' is always moving away, eliding Weissbort’s efforts to read him, his words, him through his words, his words in his (own) voice, his words in his Russian (or Russified English). Felstiner reminds me of why I stopped reading literature and poetry all those years ago; Weissbort makes me want to read everything Brodsky ever wrote (as well as everything Weissbort ever wrote).
  • I have approximately 50 pounds of books about Mark Rothko I need to work through this weekend as I prepare for an in-class presentation on the Rothko Chapel next week.
  • Tonight is First Friday at the Ft. Worth Modern. I thought I would take myself out for the evening to enjoy the new exhibit and then maybe a nice vegan meal at Spiral Diner. (I can’t wait for the Spiral Diner to open up in my neighborhood!)
  • Tomorrow is already “full up to the neck”: German class from 10:00-12:00, a visit (during the Texas-OU game) to the Dallas Museum of Art to come up with a subject for my term paper, and then Lauren’s party in the evening celebrating the release of Superficial Flesh. Perhaps one of these days I’ll actually have some down time and do some pleasure reading or spend an afternoon just brushing my cats. Maybe December.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Satellites


I've been meaning to write something on this tired, old, useless blog (or perhaps I'm describing myself) for several days now, but nothing seems to come to mind. Today, though, is a special day: the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik--Sky Lab's older punk-ass Soviet sister. Without her, where would we be today? I can pretty much bet that the bus stop in Warsaw where I used to catch my bus would not have been named Gagarin.

And we wouldn't have had such beautiful songs such as these:

Rickie Lee Jones' "Satellites"


or Lou Reed's "Satellite of Love"
.

Here's U2's version of the Lou Reed classic from the early '90s:
.

I don't know if a big image and three embedded videos from YouTube count as a real post here at Crash Course, but since I see others doing it, it must be alright.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Conversation over breakfast of Swiss oatmeal this morning included Alan Watts’ lecture over the coincidence of opposites, Huston Smith’s Zen training, and the metaphysics of becoming (as opposed to the Heideggerean notion of Gellasenheit, a letting be). All this before 7:30 a.m.
  • There is no front without a back, no heads without tails, no sickness without health, no I without you.
  • Now that it’s almost 9:00, I can also think about bringing in Parmenides’ attempt toward deduction: one can’t make negative existential statements, nor can one make positive existential statements (because by saying what something is, then one is implicitly saying what something is not—if this is a dog, then it is necessarily not a cat—which takes you back to the first premise).
  • Therefore (in all of its metaphysical/rhetorical glory), all is one.
  • There is no Buddhist monk without a dictator-general.
  • And every poet has her other.
  • But who is the poet’s other? The rhetorician? The philosopher? The linguist? The poem’s reader? The poem? The poet herself? All and (n)one::all is (n)one.
  • It’s now 9:02, and I still have so much more work to do....

Thursday, September 27, 2007

What there is to learn

If nirvana is reached only after the extinguishing of desire, which, of course, includes the desire not to desire, because desire causes suffering, which defines the life of samsara, yet Buddhist monks can march toward a greater freedom from suffering within samsara on the way toward nirvana, can we not too desire their success? I can only pray that when Rangoon is painted red it won't be with their blood.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scivias

I remain
Together:t(w)o-gathered
A union w/o unity
Identity w/ difference
Singable yet always (yet) unsung remainder
Twinned coils twining through
Here & (t)here & no(w)here:now/here
Wo ist der Mensch?
W(h)er(e) ist der Mensch?
Here- her- he- ach
And a thou-
Sand hands to hold at night
And an eye
T(w)o-ward
Hath an ear
Near- 'ear 'ea- æ
Farawaywayawaywayaway
Let be--this subjunctive that terrorizes time
I'm set ... for now
Know- now- no-

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Il y a / n'est plus

A hundred years of his undying death articulating as if the singular unsaid, unsaying, unsayable, in its fully exteriorized impossibility against the homogenized totalization of a text, an other. He always already (yet) exceeds his own excessive supplementarity. I hereby sign and countersign your centenary as we both recede in our mutually singular oblivions.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Stop having those miniature emotional outbursts (read: breakdowns) when you translate sentences like, "The baby with the head like a balloon died in the hospital while she held his hand," or you're never going to finish this translation assignment by Monday. Tochman's reportage is difficult enough without getting emotionally involved with the people he writes about. Besides, you'll have plenty of time to cry after you finish the Ph.D. when you find yourself even more unemployable.
  • I have to admit that I hate Apple more and more. Their software is utterly non-intuitive and buggy. I feel the vein in my forehead start to throb and my right eye begin to twitch every time that damned spinning rainbow mouse icon appears because that usually signals that I'll soon have to reboot. And why, oh why, can't they not release iTunes updates every fucking week? (Or when they do, make it smart enough to not require that I have to delete all the old shortcuts and add new ones?) And how much longer will it take me to figure out how to add Polish and Japanese fonts to this PowerBook? I've been trying for a couple of weeks so far with no luck whereas I had no problem with all my PC machines. (And yes, I've visited all the help sites and have downloaded various fonts packages, and yet still I can only type in the Devil's language (read: English).)
  • Offer to take Jason to the Stevie Nicks' concert next time she plays Dallas. Hell, if he is interested in spending his birthday listening to Tori Amos wail away at the piano, then he's got to be a fan of the spinning lace and chiffon of that witchy-witchy woman with the soul of a poet.
  • Remember the pure bliss of sitting at all those coffee shops in San Francisco just last weekend with Jola, Kris, and Stephen with no agenda, no plan, and no anxiety about the sheer immensity of my insurmountable workload waiting for me back in Dallas. That was the best (and most necessary) get-away of all times.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rugged Ascent

This afternoon I had my students do a close reading of Plato's Allegory of the Cave for the entire class period, and I have to say that they did an amazing job. I remember being wowed by Plato when I first read him as a college student, but several years later (and after one absolutely useless semester at the University of Dallas--the most narrow-minded, ideologically driven mockery of education) I just don't get that excited about Plato. Derrida? Yes. Blanchot? Heidegger? Yes, yes.

I wanted my students to get a feel of how a much more advanced philosophy course might be, doing a hermeneutical exercise for an extended period of time. Of course, we only covered two of the four-page excerpt, but I had students who I had assumed had already checked out of education altogether raise their hands and want to argue/discuss/interpret/analyze. One student in particular--one who has never spoken up in class before--started doing a Freudian analysis of Plato's allegory. Granted, he had never heard of Freud before, but his interpretation was dead-on. (I have colleagues at the university who would've been lost with what this college freshman was saying!) I joked with my students that they were doing advanced philosophy and that I wanted them to dumb it down a little.

In my own philosophy course this afternoon we read a short poem by Celan, taking three hours to barely cover the three stanzas. My head is still spinning. And of course I feel even more like I need to go back and reread all that Plato I haven't been excited about in twenty years. Being/Becoming a professor opens up all kinds of avenues of (feelings of) inadequacy.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Don't stress out about misplacing/losing my debit card. With lack of sleep and new drugs and several frustrating factors worming their way into my otherwise sedate and calm life, I'm bound to lose more than a little plastic card along the way, especially when my wallet has barely recovered from the move back into my Texan life. I've narrowed down possible places I could've left it: the ATM, doctor's office, the college, the university, Fadi's restaurant, my office, my classroom, the faculty office, the copy room, the car, Starbucks in the basement of the Bank of American bldg. downtown, my home, or (perhaps worst of all) my wallet.
  • Don't cry out loud. Keep it inside; learn how to hide your feelings. (This Melissa Manchester moment was brought to you by the letter J and the number 3.)
  • Drink strong coffee while having even stronger conversations with Jola and Stephen while enjoying the cool afternoon in San Francisco starting this afternoon until Sunday afternoon.
  • Write that short bio my boss asked me for three weeks ago, and begin looking at the teaching schedule for the spring '08 term.
  • Accept the vajra when it strikes as it is always already striking yet again.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Professional Experience Optional

I love my teaching job. Really. My students are bright and inquisitive and ask really difficult questions. It's easy to see that many of them are engaged with the subject. Of course, I have a few slackers and wanna-be dozers as well, but most days I feel more akin to them—thank you, insomnia!—than those students who always raise their hands and want more information.

What I’m utterly sick of, however—and mind you, it’s only the third week of classes—is the shitty secretarial/clerical pool who can’t seem to do one fucking thing except sit on their asses and scold you for something completely out of your control. I still don’t have a key to my classroom. I was hired last April, but the key request wasn’t submitted until after the fall term began. And the one person on campus who duplicates keys took the past week off for vacation.

So I calls the gurl who should be able to get things done and am told I needs to just contact the campus police via the emergency phone to have someone sent up. My first thought was to simply pull the emergency alarm—feigning ignorance and misunderstanding—and fuck up the entire campus at least for a few minutes.

Of course, campus police feel they have more important things to tend to—and they really should; no argument here—but my class and I sit in the hall until about a quarter past before someone appears with a key. And I have to show my faculty ID, blah blah blah, because I look “like just another student” to the trained professional campus security force. Funny how some back-assward compliments tend to just piss you off.

Yesterday my email account stopped working, so while on campus this morning I called IT to solve my problems. Instead I’m confronted with Bitchy Bitchison. Now I don’t want anyone reading this to think I don’t like bitches. That’s just not true. Some of my best friends are bitches. But if she didn’t sound so completely laughable with her deep southern accent when she scolded, “Wahn thang atta tayme, now!” my head would’ve exploded right then and there.

I understand your jobs are shit. And seeing your plaques that read “In Honor of 5 Years of Service,” “In Honor of 10 Years of Service,” “In Honor of 15 Years of Service,” and “In Honor of 20 Years of Service” above your desk everyday has got to just rub you as raw as your inner thighs when you think back to a whole constellation of bad decisions that got you this far in life. But you have insurance—I don’t. Your paycheck—despite my almost Ph.D. compared to your Associates of Secretarial Training (I’m not making this shit up!)—is much more than mine since you’re fulltime and I’m barely part-time.

Is it too much to ask for a little respect? If not for my degrees, professional demeanor, maturity, functionality, then at least for the fact that once, a long time ago, I too served as a secretary/clerk, but that I used my secretarial powers for good and not evil. And that I got out of the secretarial pool to evolve into the super boy-genius you see before you. And I probably type just as fast if not faster than Thou. So fucking do your job and stop telling me how to do mine!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sweet Substitute for Joy!

My neurologist prescribed a new drug for me yesterday to take in addition to Rozerem, and last night was my first ride on the Amitriptyline pony. It’s classified as an anti-depressant, but since the only thing I tend to be depressed about is my insomnia, my doctor prescribed it for my insomnia. It didn’t do much for me last night in the sleep department, but I woke up in an appreciably better mood than usual. I actually sang out, “Good morning!” to one of my neighbors. She was scared and ran inside to lock her doors. You see, I’ve conditioned most people in my life to fully appreciate my asocial, misanthropic self.

On the commute to work I found myself mostly flipping between the classic rock stations and actually enjoying the gratuitous guitar solos I’ve shunned since the early ‘80s. When I heard Coldplay as I was scanning the other listening options, I immediately shuddered and switched back to the oldies. Amitriptyline strikes again, I thought. What else could make me both sing greetings to my neighbors and listen to hair bands from my teenage years? Was it depression after all that turned me into my post-punk, spiked hair, black-clad self? I’d probably be married with kids in college and living in the ‘burbs if I could’ve gotten a decent night’s sleep in the past few decades. I’d be driving a Lexus instead of that damned sensible Camry!

Perhaps tonight I’ll up my dose and see where the Amitriptyline pony takes me tomorrow down the stony path of self-rediscovery.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Nur ein bisschen

All throughout the German language course Saturday morning I kept thinking that the grammar my teacher was going over was too easy for me and that I should transfer to a more advanced level. Then we had to open our mouths and introduce ourselves, and the realization that I have absolutely (or at least almost) no vocabulary under my belt or in my head hit me square in the face. Worse: we had to read a short passage from the textbook and then translate it into English. I started to think that perhaps I should drop down a level instead. Or two. Maybe I'll just ride it out for a couple of weeks.

I like my teacher. That's an improvement over the angry (and smelly) Romanian from this summer. She talked about being a girl during the Berlin Airlift, jumping up and down on the mounds of rubber at Tempelhof with excitement when the one plane would tilt its wings to let the children below know that it was going to drop chocolates with tiny parachutes down to them. I almost always like people who can share stories from the Cold War. I wanted to shrink her and put her in a tiny box for my desk and make her jump for joy every time I lifted the lid and dropped a Hershey's kiss down for her.

I especially liked how she introduced herself and then immediately admonished us not to pronounce her name "like Americans." Now that's the German efficiency (and domineering) I can get behind! Ah, we shall see, no?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Bullet-Point Friday

  • Insomnia - Since returning from Germany two weeks ago I haven't been able to sleep past 4:30 AM. Most days I'm awake before then. (I'm usually in bed by 10:00 PM every night.) I'm just about at the breaking point physically as well as mentally, especially when I have as much work to get done during my typical day-to-day as I do. I fear my philosophy course--the one I'm teaching downtown--is suffering because by the time 11:00 rolls around I'm yawning and ready for a nap. I have an appointment with my neurologists (sleep doctors) Tuesday morning. Hopefully they'll put me on some better medication.
  • Next Friday I fly to San Francisco to hang out for a couple of days with the ever-lovely Pani J. I'm looking forward to the escape from Dallas--yes, even though I've only been here for two weeks! Even more, though, I'm excited about spending time with one of my absolute most favorite people in the world. Jola and I were neighbors in Warsaw for almost a year, and I know I wouldn't have been able to last that long in such a miserable city without her continual friendship, insight, and hilarity. Can't wait for those long chats over good coffee while staring out over the Bay.
  • Tomorrow I begin the German language course at the Goethe Center. Am I ready to focus yet again on that language in an attempt to develop some sort of fluency and literacy after such a crappy experience this summer? Stay tuned to find out.
  • Exercise - Will I ever return to my pre-Europe schedule of hitting the gym 4-5 times a week? I'm afraid that all the weight I lost while in Germany was just muscle mass. I miss the sweat. I miss the endorphins. Ah, sweet endorphins! Perhaps before the German class tomorrow I can make it to the Y for a quick 30-minute workout.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Spam from the Great Beyond

Bobcat JesusIf you are reading this, then the Lord Bobcat Jesus has come down in his infinite flames and glory, surrounded by heavenly hosts and neighborly guests, in order to take those whosoever believeth in Him into the folds of his celestial paradise for eternity ... or until the boredom settles in. Millions of His believers have been called into heaven, and you, dear, have been Kept Down on earth.

Rumors are surely abounding around the globe about the disappearance of His followers, but in case you haven't heard about it already, then you must just assume that there is a huge worldwide conspiracy to suppress the fact that Bobcat Jesus has returned for His chosen.

I was one of them. So there! See, I was right. All those long, preachy sermons about how the flames of hell will lick the boils on your ass if you don't believe in the sacrificial graciousness of His Lord Holyroller were not in vain. Whereas my cup of everlasting mercy shall overflow, you will lick the dregs of your Dixie cup of Tang.

The only way out of this infernal predicament is to clasp your hands together oh-so-tightly and repeat after me: "I was wrong. There is a Bobcat Jesus. I believe in Bobcat Jesus. I offer up my worthless piece of shit self to your unlimited grooviness and love."

Only if you say that three times fast and really really mean it, then maybe--just maybe--Bobcat Jesus will pick you up next time he swings by planet Earth. Keep your fingers crossed!

The only trouble with this is that some people would rather waste their time believing in Jesus (without the "Bobcat") than accepting the Bobcat (perhaps without the "Jesus"). Thanks to I Blame the Patriarchy for the Good News!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Poet/Novelist/Writer/Blogger/Scholar


toothpastefordinner.com

Guilty.

I wrote bad poetry until my poetry was published by a publisher of bad poetry. Then I was too humiliated that my heart-wrenching poems were enclosed in the same volume as this stellar work:
There once was a mouse.
He saw some cheese.
He went for the cheese.
But it was a trap.
There is no longer a mouse.
In college, when I was president of the English honor society, I organized Bad Poetry Readings. If you showed up with none of your own bad poetry, I would hand out that collection and have each person find an equally bad poem to read for the group. I haven't written poetry (too) seriously since.

A few years ago, when I was gainfully and woefully underemployed, I too participated in a "write a novel in a month" program. My novel remains unfinished--like much of my life--as I do actually concentrate on finishing the Ph.D.

Perhaps Dr. Skajlab will revisit that writing project at a later date, perhaps when tenure is not looming quite so large overhead. Perhaps retirement. Perhaps when Wendy Faris reads the last sentence of À la recherche du temps perdu I'll be walking to the post office with my manuscript in a brown paper envelope to send it to a respected and reputable publisher of fine letters. Perhaps.

Until then I have much work to do on my dissertation. And all those writing assignments for my last semester of coursework. And articles to submit for publication in peer-reviewed journals. So it looks like I'll be able to delay and postpone the fear that I'm really a shitty novelist for years.

Until then, I'll just focus on the fact that I'm a pretty shitty blog writer.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Voices

Nothing abides. Nothing remains.

Today I found out that Ray Williams died. (We raise our voices.) He was the chair of the fine arts division at the community college I attended. (We learn to speak.) He listened, especially when I had something (important) to say. (We speak our minds.) He spoke to me as if I had something important to say. (He taught speech. And humanities.) Although we certainly were not close, he had a deep impact on my life. (I teach.) He was sensitive, and intelligent, and passionate. (I am still learning to listen when my students speak.) Rest in peace, Ray. (Your voice will be missed.)

Monday, September 3, 2007

Dog Day Afternoon

Saw a dog of a movie this holiday weekend: The Year of the Dog. Who in their right mind liked this film? And why did so many people recommend it to me? Just further proof, it seems, that human beings are ultimately unknowable.

I almost always take my cue from a film’s popularity: if it grosses more than a couple of million, then it’s probably not to my tastes. But everyone was talking about this film. Hell, even Saturday Night Live brought back Molly Shannon to host—only the second time a former female cast member returned to host—because of the success (or buzz) of this movie.

There wasn’t a single likeable or believable character. And a very fundamental note to the director/writer/producer: a real vegan wouldn’t be drinking wine or brushing her teeth with a big-name brand displayed on the tube. Those things typically aren’t vegan! I learned those things when I was a teenager on a farm in East Texas. I have no idea why someone in Hollywood wouldn’t be as smart as a dumb country fuck.

Another DVD I rented this weekend was Strangers with Candy. Still not sure what the point of that was. It was strange and bizarre, but I certainly didn’t find it funny. Thankfully the third DVD was a winner: Wanda Sykes’ stand-up routine filmed in Seattle. Now that made me laugh out loud.

To wash the gullet and clear the (mental) palate from crappy DVDs, I went to see the latest Bourne film this afternoon. Not quite as good as the first two, but still something worthwhile. I really like Matt Damon’s character, and I also really like Joan Allen’s and Julia Stiles’ characters as well. I’m glad Ludlum kept developing those female characters. Finally a film I would recommend.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Euro-Franz Say Auf Wiedersehen

Euro-Franz isn't one to cherish or even approve of long goodbyes. Perhaps he's said goodbye too many times. When he lived in Japan all those years ago, he was even known to pop in and out of town without a word. Somehow he was always able to book tickets for flights either too early or too late for others to care about showing up at the airport. Or to even know. He's left too many countries to name without so much as an acknowledgment that he was on his way out. Perhaps the best goodbyes are the ones unspoken that leave no residual emotional messiness. No remains for those who after all remain where one has left.

Which is why yesterday's orgazmo of farewells was particularly unwelcome. I didn't mind saying goodbye to my professors, but when I was forced to interrupt classes to announce to people I barely knew that I was leaving, a line had been crossed. It's nothing personal because I don't even know them. They certainly do not know me. We passed each other a few times in hallways; I perhaps noticed them in required gatherings. But there was never any real chance of a connection. We are far too different, and I am considerably more different than they, than Thou. Making such announcements made me want to cover my head and duck into a dark corner, abandon my bags and jump on the next train pulling away from the station, stick out my thumb and accept the next stranger's offer of a ride. Life is far too short to attempt or move toward something lasting. Like breath: you aren't doing it correctly if you only inhale. At least one half of the process is letting it all go. Escape. Release. Goodbye.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Köln

Cologne CathedralJust a week-and-a-half ago I spent a blissful couple of days in Köln by myself visiting museums and enjoying the culture of one of Germany's largest and oldest cities. Click on the image to see some of the highlights of that excursion.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Fauxhawk


Repeat after Euro-Franz: Don't fear the fauxhawk. The fauxhawk is your friend.

One thing I will miss about being in Europe: having considerably less social pressure about how I style my hair in the morning. Not that that ever stopped me before....

One thing I will not miss about being in Europe: mandatory smoking. Oh sure, there are "non-smoking sections," but each one I've seen still has ashtrays ... right below the non-smoking sign. I've suffered through enough secondhand smoke these past five weeks to equal at least one week of firsthand chain-smoking.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Documenta 12

Poppies at Documenta, KasselLast Wednesday Chris and I spent several hours walking through a huge chunk of the Documenta exhibit in Kassel. Here are some of my photos. I tried to mostly document the experience of seeing the art within this context, but I was also interested in watching others have their own experience. For the most part, I was disappointed in the works, but there were a couple that I actually took the time to note the artist and the title. Click on the image to open the thumbnail page.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Pieces of Me

If it’s not the hunger and lack of interest in any of the food I find on the streets here—I mean there’s only so many cheese pizzas, cheese sandwiches, tomato salads, falafel pitas, and gummy, cheesy pasta dishes with limp vegetables I can stomach—that will kill me, then it will be the utter inexplicability of my inability to sleep throughout the night. Last night I went to bed at a reasonable hour (11:30), but I was wide awake (again) by 12:45, and I couldn’t get back to sleep until almost 3:00. In the meantime—and I mean this in its meanest and most unreasonable sense—I began reading another life-changing essay by Derrida about Gadamer and the poetics of Paul Celan. And then I took out my iPod and listened to some tracks from my Lazy Sunday Afternoon playlist, just allowing my mind to drift and reflect in a letting-be (perhaps—as if—a move toward Gelassenheit). Perhaps it will be the anticipation of the arriving/letting-go that will finally do me in.

“There are pieces of me you’ve never seen. Maybe she’s just pieces of me you’ve never seen.” These lyrics by Tori Amos continually float through my head. Knowing that people—and ultimately all things, including the great to be (it)self—are ultimately unknowable, I know that I don’t even really know myself. So, how can anyone else know this me that I don’t even know, this no-ing, unknowable I that reverts to a me when faced with the face of the radically alter in its (own/un-owning/un-(kn)ownness) radical alterity? A good question to reflect upon and face at two-fucking-thirty AM. Kids: don’t try this at home without adult supervision. I am a trained professional, and it still hurts when I do it.

I like the subtle subversion of irreplaceability these lyrics hint at: as if to say, you don’t need to replace me with her because we are the same. Do you not see that which draws you to her is also present here in me? Do you not see that the continual/continuing race toward the (metaphysics of the) new is just as questionable as the issue of knowledge of self and other (it)self? We are ultimately reflections of one another, each other: “The killer in you is the killer in me.” (Lyrics by Smashing Pumpkins. Maybe I should just stop listening to music altogether.)

I like how da in German can mean both there as well as here. I like how nach can mean both to(ward) as well as after. This is a great language in which to lose oneself, especially when the first person-pronoun is never capitalized (except, of course, as the first word of a sentence) and the second-person polite Sie is always capital(ized). But true Gesprach takes place only between (ein(e)) ich und (ein(e)) du....

Speak my language.