Wednesday, November 23, 2005

T minus 1

Today the top news story was the millions and millions of Americans who would be traveling this holiday (that is, Thanksgiving) despite the high(er) costs of travel. Whatever. I, on the other hand, will be spending my holiday (that is, Late Semester Catch-Up Day) the same way I’ve spent it since third grade: finishing up assignments that will be due during the last two weeks of the semester and working ahead as much as possible so as to have some breathing space after the semester ends.

I had to make a short (15-minute) presentation in one of my courses Monday, and I enjoyed the time when my professor could not merely read from the text but had to (at least pretend to) listen to the interesting things I had to say for once. I wish I could do a presentation every day: it might make the course tolerable. And intellectually stimulating.

Yesterday Texas music (and indeed world music) was diminished by the death of Chris Whitley—an exceptional musician with a divine gift for songwriting. I had only recently began listening to him (thanks to the payola system between music corporations and broadcasters), but over the past few months the two CDs of his I own have caught up (in terms of use) with some CDs I’ve owned for a decade. [For more info about Chris, check out the sidebar with links to his official site and to some tracks.]

Today is Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan, and for whatever reason, I have very distinct memories of this holiday from my two years there. On the first LTD, I painted my living rooms walls pastel green, thereby killing several brain cells because I couldn’t open the windows (it was rainy and cold outside). Come to think of it, my memories of my first LTD in Japan are a bit fuzzy. But the following year I was in Osaka at the United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Asia, staying with my pal Tak (whom I met in Israel the previous summer), drinking beaujolais nouveau for the first time. The cult of beaujolais nouveau is strong in Japan: some connoisseurs charter boats to go out past the International Date Line in order to get to drink it earlier than those poor suckers left in Japan. (It’s always released the third Thursday of November.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all my faithful (and even faithless) readers; I hope you have a great holiday. (And for those of you who also will be celebrating Late Semester Catch-Up Day: remember not to work too hard!)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

"Exporting Democracy"

PhosphorUS - Phos-for-You No, this is not some secret symbol from some long-forgotten Da Vinci cult/Skulls & Bones good-old-boys club. It's a molecule of phosphorus--a chemical that was used to burn the skin off Iraqis (both military and civilian) in our attempt to turn that country into a democracy. U-S-A! U-S-A! I guess the "logic" behind its use is that if we murder all the Iraqis, then Iraq will be democratic de facto--insofar as the good old boys of Halliburton actually believe in and/or practice democracy (because they'll be the only ones left there). Yeah, I know: I'm living in a fantasy where a piece of paper protects basic human and civil rights, but at least I'm not burning people alive in the name of having those people believe the same lie.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Big Murtha Fucka

Finally, an elected official that has big enough testicles to take on this illegal and morally reprehensible war. Kudos to Congressman Murtha, Democrat from Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District. I love how the bastards (and at least one bitch who made it to the evening news tonight) have tried to label him a coward despite his years of military and public service, especially those bastards (and at least one bitch) who have neither served in the military nor have had their own children serve, especially during an actual war. Fuck 'em all. There are 10,000 ways to support our troops. None of them includes standing around saying, "I support our troops." At least one real way to support our troops is not to have them destroy a country's infrastructure and murder 10s of thousands of civilians in a country that absolutely never posed a threat to our own security. I can think of a handful of bastards (and at least one bitch) who would make good war casualties. May they never know real war, and may they finally see how wrong they truly are.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Szukam sponsora

Oh, what the hell!
Attractive college student seeks discreet benefactor. My interests include music, art, international travel, and long strolls on the beach.
I should've thought of this a long time ago....

I wish that shrill, whiney incompetent fuck would stop bitching about what absolutely every thinking and feeling human knows to be true. And no, I'm not talking about your mother! I'm referring to our "reprehensible" Vice President. Reminds me of a church sign I saw recently: Cheney is a liar.  Period.

A-fucking-men! And hallelujah!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Urim and Thummim

I’ve had these stones for six years. I found them on the beach in Israel after swimming in the deep green Mediterranean. I like the way they fit together, almost like a yin and yang. They remind me daily that there is no fixed destiny, no predetermined fate. All questions asked of this oracle can be answered either positively or negatively, and yet they always already are both. And/Or neither. They teach me more about life than a year of Sunday school or the ooga-booga of G-d. And I control the questions and whether or not I put these rocks to the test, whether or not I accept what chance provides. I notice them every morning before I leave my home, and every evening before going to bed: balanced and balancing, stable and random, white and black. Nothing, yet all there is.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Between the Thing & the Symbol of the Thing

Started a conversation a few days ago about the pathological (mis)understanding of metaphor by fundamentalists. It's what I tend to do out of the blue as a sign (or a symbol?!?!) that I usually tend to think really deep thoughts. Fundamentalists (let's just call 'em "Fundies" for the remainder of this post) see symbol in all designs of nature: a rainbow as promise from G-d, a hurricane as punishment. But when it comes to something as (purely) symbolic and metaphoric as a text (i.e., the Bible), every word is a physical manifestation of some external reality (instead of something that has been translated into symbolic language).

Case in point: just left St*rfucks a little while ago after enduring an entirely useless conversation with the clerk ("barister," if you speak St*rfuckian). My bill came to an even $6.66. He wanted to know if I wanted to buy something else so as not to have to pay an even $6.66, as if paying an even $6.66 would eternally damn my soul. "No thanks, I'm not superstitious." Then he proceeds to tell me about some (stupid) customer a few days earlier who insisted on buying something extra so as not to have to pay an even $6.66! Funny how consumerism and (so-called) Christianity go hand in hand. It's as if (purely symbolic) money really means something else!

Friday, November 4, 2005

Transcarpathian Dreaming

It's November 4th, and I've had to open all the windows this afternoon because the heat of the apartment was stifling. Working on some old photographs, I came across this one of a sanatorium in the Transcarpathian Mountains of southern Ukraine. My colleagues and I stayed in cabins a short walk away, but we would make this trip at least once a day to buy supplies (i.e., water, fruit juice, beer). Over the week we were there, I got a (not more than usual) severe sinus infection, and I bitched and complained that I was not meant to live among grass and nature. "Take me back to the concrete and steel of L'viv," I would whine. No one took me too seriously because they had all already heard my tales of growing up on a farm in east Texas. It was at this time that I learned how to say, "Важко дихати." ["It's hard to breathe."--one of the few Ukrainian sentences I can formulate after five years of not speaking the language. (In fact, I found the entry in my language notebook dated June 30, Monday.)] I remember I was still sickly during the Fourth of July party a few days after we arrived back in L'viv. None of this sickness stopped me, of course, from drinking myself blind either in the mountains or at the Independence Day party or from smoking (at least) a pack of cigarettes a day. It's strange that I documented so much of my brief time in Ukraine without managing to write down the name of this sanatorium. I took a couple of photographs of it because I didn't have any sketching supplies with me at the time, and I wanted to sketch this building at a later date. That date hasn't yet arrived. But in the heat of the Texas November, I remember the slight chill of the evenings in the mountains in Ukraine, the liters of good, strong beer, the deep conversations with Van and my other fellow travelers and (fellow) intellectuals over shish kabobs and an open fire, Aaron playing the guitar that he borrowed from a group of nearby campers, Andrew playing some classical work on his violin, staying up laughing till it hurt making stupid jokes with Peter about a Ukrainian professor at the university. While the others were forced to continue their language lessons out in an open field, Liz--who swore she was having her period just to get out of the "voluntary" hike--and I would walk to the sanatorium for orange juice. I probably drank two liters a day just to flood my body with vitamin C to help fight the infection. When we weren't going for drinks, I would sit in the cabin by myself and nap or write in my journal, never thinking that there would come a day that I would look back on all that as if it were one of the most magical experiences of my life.

Here are some other photographs I found online.