Saturday, February 28, 2004

Na-na-na-na-not so long after... 

For the past week I've been listening to this band, the Kills, about whom I can find very little information. The band is an odd mix for description; a distinct punk element is there, but I can't accurately lump them with the 'neo-punk' mess that has reemerged in the past years as they spend much more effort on simplifying rythyms to silent, minimal, essential cores. Additionally, the Kills are hauntingly harmonic, sad voices of kids my age saying what they know in the most gorgeous manner possible without stereo recording effects. It's brilliant, listening to them. I do know that the main players of the band are American Alison Mosshart and Englishman Jamie Hince, and that, after the dissolution of their respective prior bands, Jamie and Alison began exchanging tapes across the Atlantic. Once the tediousness of that slow process revealed itself, Alison left for England so the two could progress.

Thank heaven they did, as now I have "Keep On Your Mean Side." If you get a chance to listen to the track "Gypsy Death and You" (a Velvet Underground reference?) you'll be softened into crying after the loud control of the rest of the album .

You knock on her door
She don't recognize your voice no more
So she got on an airplane
Na-na-na-na-not so long after

Straight down form the fever
Lain down in a hotel bed
Wouldn't take no phone calls at all
Didn't want no more voices in her head

If that's the way that you feel
Then that's the way that you feel
If that's the way that you feel, honey
Then that's the way that you feel

In the blue part of the evening
Sometimes it's hard
She thinks she hears you coming
But she's stuck against the wall

She want what what she want
So she do what she do
But now when she looks at you


Covers one eye 'cause she can see into your mind

She no longer wants to.

If that's the way that you feel
Then that's the way that you feel
If that's the way that you feel, honey
Then that's the way that you feel

In addition, can America actually claim groundedness when people start buying $120,000 showers? Thanks, Hollywood, for spending enough money on a costlier way to get wet to send a poor student to a private school for six years. Your sense of perspective is priceless.


Friday, February 27, 2004

"Chonchau, ton nom me semble chinois!" 


We left the United States at different times, not really knowing one another aside from our shared French classes and various scholarship program-oriented events. I was eighteen, Shawn was twenty four.

When I got to France, I met up with the rest of the school group at our hotel in Paris. I was overwhelmed by the city. I wanted to go sin, as quickly as possible, in the home and seat of literate excesses.

On my nineteenth birthday, Shawn and I went to visit the Moulin Rouge with Frances, our ballerina friend. On our way out of the hotel, we paused at the sound, rapidly surging toward us in the city darkness, of an indistinguishably blurry mass of rollerbladers. The chain seemed to last for days as we waited for their passing before being able cross the street. Surely this is a sign, I thought to myself, that my adult life will be graciously surreal and unpredictably outlandish. Later we came back to the hotel and got drunk on the hotel roof with our university's valedictorian.

At school in Orléans we bonded through our (lucky) proximity. Not only were we the two lucky students who were placed in homes in the central part of the city, but we were within walking distance of A) each others' homes and B) the bar district. Nights at le Key West on rue de Bourgogne were often capped by difficult (due to laughter and poor balance) walks home across the pont Georges V.

[I had typed the most beautiful, flowing prose explaining my adventures across Europe with Shawn but, alas, Blogger has destroyed it in a terrible and unfortunate error. These things seem to happen with increasing frequency, so, although I may not be with Blogger for too much longer, I hope to have reconstituted the minutae of this post later today, with pictures!]

And Amber, you trip me out!


Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The most fundamental institution of civilization? 

This dialectic (unilectic?) has reached a feverpitch and, from the inside, listening to the public debate has become repetitive to the point of ineffectiveness. I don't even hear it any longer.

Yet I certainly heard this.

I fail to recognize how, by any measure, modern marriage could be considered 'the most fundamental institution of civilization.' Shouldn't that be, oh, 'justice,' or even, and I'm going out on a limb here, 'freedom of speech?' Or maybe it's just that by 'civilization' George W. meant 'religion.' His statement makes much more sense in that light, marriage as a fundamental religious institution.

Yes, that's it. Certainly that's what he means. Modern marriage, the kind that allows civil divorces and confers tax relief upon the newly wed, is not a fundamental (and therefore static) foundation of civilization, but, rather a fundamental aspect of a religious tradition with no connection to modern social theory and civil rights. Marriage is a fundamental aspect of our superstitious roots, a relic of social organization in the face of an auspicious illogical spiritual authority. Yes, let us honor the austerity of God's presence in marriage:

Marriage used to be an exchange of goods: a fertile daughter can bring us a few cows and maybe some dried meats. Needs changed and marriage became an exchange of goods: a fertile daughter can bring us huge tracts of land... and a castle! Needs changed and mariage became an exchange of goods: a fertile daughter can bring us a title... and fealty! Needs changed and marriage became an exchange of goods: a fertile daughter can make babies to help us plow the fields... and to go to work in textile mills!

We must now honor God and our traditions by never changing the perpetually changing institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

Fuck it, I'm done. I need a job in France.


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

You're the rod, I'm water 

Oh, Kim


Lately I've become completely immersed in blog culture. Before I had access to high-speeed internet services, my time online was metered by a frustratingly staccato dependency on dial-up transmission rates. When I started doing low-level but high-end graphics work, I took the step up to a hardcore computer, got me some cable and, mercy, let the gates collapse under the weight of what wants to be found...

Socially, this is a truly odd process. Over the past, say, six months, I have gradually invaded the private lives of dozens of interesting people on a regular basis, most, curiously, never being acutely aware of my specific knowledge of their lives. I have deep insights into a fair number of people with whom I don't even socialize. Is this as odd as it sounds? Is this the arrival of permuted relative voyeurism, a compounding of social theory through actual anonymity? Is it a desire of the somehow socially bereft? Is it a significant new bud of human interaction, an evolutionary trend in communication philosophy?

Sometimes I read something, a thought had by someone and subsequently written down, and I'm struck. I am absolutely taken with the force of words, focused by an idea expressed so clearly... so clearly that I pause with the shock of having understood this distant stranger.

While honing my physical shape, I quite naturally think a lot about sex. Love, too, but not as often. I hear myself telling friends lately that sex and love are the last areas not yet fully integrated with the rest of my life. I haven't exactly lived up to the gay male promiscuity cliche the past year. No regrets. Besides, few men could have held on through the ride I've endured. The extended periods of abstinence haven't exactly been by choice. If you've been reading the Xxxxxxx for awhile, you know I'd jump Xxx if given half the chance. But an obessession doesn't count as "integrated"; its shape and weight throw my life off-balance. I can't yet say I'm completely ready to let it go, for whatever reason. Maybe I'm afraid it's the last good chance I'll get; a ridiculous idea. Of course there will be other men. Of course I'll fall in love again. Of course it'll hurt like hell. All this the mind knows. But the heart, the dick, they're slow to learn.


Printemporal concussion 

Saturday morning, I woke up (involuntarily) early enough to see this searing horizon as looming spring ushers in an ebullient set of optical atmospheric effects. The supersaturated red doesn't translate well on filming media, but it nevertheless reminded me of something my dad always used to tell me during beautiful dusks that began, "Red sky at morning, sailor's warning..."

I support Grey Tuesday 

For those of you who have an ear cupped to the door of licensure arguments in art, you'll already know just what Grey Tuesday is. For everyone else, visit this link to learn about the status of a genius album whose progress has been fiscally interrupted by EMI under a thin umbrella of weak copyright infringement legislation.

Speaking as a third party, I can only say that Danger Mouse's "Grey Album" finally made me sit down and listen to Jay-Z, something I'd never before had an inclination to do. The long-story-short of this album is that DJ Danger Mouse took the vocal tracks from Jay-Z's "Black Album" and superposed them over backing and rhythm tracks created entirely from sampled portions of the Beatles' "White Album." The result is impressive, and, on a personal note, I now love Jay-Z for his "Justify my Thug" track, an ouvert homage (femage?) to the lady herself, Madonna. Kick it.

In keeping with the theme of this civil disobedience, just ask me and I'll give you some more details on how to obtain your own freshly minted copy.

Opiate laud 

Saturday, Spades and that slap game of cards, everyone must get stoned, an infamous recording of double retardation, slackness, Roland, Turn on the bright lights,I wouldn't risk it (get it?), foul, foul, and giggle like a (feminine) ghoul.


Monday, February 23, 2004

Paranoid eruption 

Almost two full years have passed since I completed my degree requirements and left the university student scene for my obligatory 'year off.'

The plan had been simple: in taking a brief break from school, I could concurrently save up some serious dollar for graduate school, practice some expository writing, get some painting in, and indulge in all the booze and drugs that I'd so long resisted (that I could afford) during the interim. High school had been my proving ground; my friends and I attended a public school that, as part of the ever-present desegregation programs, focused an inane amount of resources on the smartest students. There I learned the elevation of the academic, the poise of intellect that can be found in even the most babbling comedy of a nerdy wannabe class clown (ahem...). I worked hard. I behaved, persistently. No drugs until later, I affirmed myself. When the time came to enter college, I determined that my retinue needed streamlinging. My interests in science were the strongest (and, potentially, the most profitable) aptitudes that I could claim, so I pruned away my study of visual arts, French language, and music in order to concentrate all of my mental resources, focused like a laser, on the one area in which I thought I could shine. As a result, although I learned at a fascinating pace, college quickly became a dry institution, a spectacle of the separation of work and pleasure. I smoked my first joint before Christmas of my freshman year, and, already devoted to my degree plan, I had to painfully eschew the reemerging fondnesses for painting and music for fear of being a ten year undergraduate. I caved to the pressure after a study abroad and again assumed the mantle of the hopeful francophone. I quickly observed that my studies in French and my studies in biology were running antiparallel; in French classes I had great friends who would meet at the coffeeshop on Sunday to prep for our embarrasingly childish (but impeccably scripted) parody of "Le Petit Prince," but my labwork was requiring an intense degree of specialization and isolation for extended, boring, windowless periods of full-on fluorescent lighting and acrid chemical solutions.

In the study of biology I aimed to study life. In the practice of biology I studied the boredom and repetition of lab gruntwork. There was no dialectic between these two avenues. My frustration built quickly. I accepted a position in a slime mold lab studying molecular transport mechanisms, specifically in water-eliminating processes. The theory was fascinating in spite of the fact that the work wasn't in an area of particular interest. Experimental design was intensely difficult and trying, but rewarding and enjoyable no less. I worked hard enough to win a small grant for a few thousand bucks to fund my labwork (I recall a sleepless 90-hour period during the grantwriting process), contingent upon the cooperation of Dr. Smart, shall we call him, the laboratory head. And here was my downfall. Dr. Smart, a tenured and morbidly obese misanthrope, cared little about the success of his students. He doubted everyones' intentions, and was very open about this particular persuasion. Although I confessed a heady distaste for the minutae of labwork, I also pumped my desire to work in experimental design and project research. Within the week, I was working with picoliter volumes of indistinguishable clear solutions, alone in a lab away from the entire rest of Dr. Smart's research group and, by proxy, away from any of the intellectual flow of information I desired. I had never worked alone in a molecular biology lab, before, so, without any supervisory assistance I would consistently fuck up my reactions. Sometimes I would spend six days setting up a ligation reaction, only to find out that Dr. Smart had not ordered fresh Taq for the reactions. With nothing but old enzyme to run the process, I would know from the get go that the reaction would be weak if functional at all. Dr. Smart was (and is) an ingorant bullshitter, the competitive yet lazy human symbol of the research community. When I graduated, without ever seeing any of my grant money, I told Dr. Smart to fuck himself by abandoning his lab. It was, perhaps, the most refreshing day of my life, and my French degree still gives me much more pride than that ugly, apropriately called B.S. in biology.

Thus began my debauched two-year year off. All things have been valid invitations, suggestions of activity and experimentation. I've entertained every area of study from neurobiology to biological linguistics, paleoanthropology to public health. I've read science, non-fiction, history, and contemporary French literature. I've painted (a lot) and gotten pretty familiar with design and design programs. I've spent time with my neice. I've gone dancing, drinking, driving, smoking. I have done absolutely nothing.

Then suddenly, last fall I was overcome by a sudden zeitgeisty fear, a fear of having had lost control, a reemergent need to be back in school, to be working toward something discrete, for professionalization, and for a legitimate salary. All at once. Now, graduae school application due dates are looming and I've made little progress. I don't even know if I'm applying to the right places for my interests. Am I misrepresenting myself? Should I study design before science? Jesus, I don't know... it's a sham of an excuse, but, seriously, at 23 ought I know?

I am now so shocked by the quickness with which the past two years have passed that I feel as though I've just taken a precarious step closer to some unnamed edge, my tensions the expression of the knee-jerk response to grab wildly for a desperate grip to maintain the status quo.

I'm not sure in what she said it, but I believe Erica Jong once commented that "advice is what one seeks when one doesn't want to hear the truth." In this case, I honestly cannot tell whether Jong is speaking an absolute honesty or a terrible lie. I'm very open to suggestions.


Sunday, February 22, 2004

An arty thought on inhibition 

An observed difference that catches my attention periodically between people who do and who do not consider themselves artistic is the absence or presence, respectively, of the fear of pulling out a camera in a completely informal, spontaneous scene. True, one can gradually become more comfortable working with a camera or drawing materials or whatnot in front of friends, but when the time comes to really do some recording it still feels like pulling your dick out in front of a bunch of timid acquaintences.

I'm a pusher, not a homewrecker 

Gina and mom have been here at the house in a mad storm of pre-Andy cleaning. As his release from the pokey becomes increasingly imminent, I can tell that (most of) the family is getting incredibly excited. This excitement is a nauseating blend of enthusiasm and prepartation, something that I would expect of a soldier returning from a long international service. The home repairs that I've needed over the past year are finally being finished, and the fact that it isn't in my name is narcissitically crushing.

As bitter as I am about this whole cyclical sacrifice of my weekends, I must admit that, but, hey, at least it's finally being done. Besides my mom did get to (unexpectedly) find her wedding skirt and top. It is, how shall I say, amazing. I have seen photos of it (as in the three or four pictures that my parents even have of the ceremony) for as long as I can recall being interested in the human aspects of my parents' characters. I had never seen it, though, and that first-person tactile experience says much, much more than any photograph ever could. Firstly, I am awed at its size, or rather, its lack thereof: the waist measures an anorexic 21 inches. By comparison, my thigh is, at it's thickest point, about nineteen inches in circumference. I mean, I can palm 21 inches. When you hold the garment open, the cyclinder it makes at the waist seems impossibly small, considering that bones and organs and whatnot all have to fit inside. But no, that's it, that's the record of my mom's physical past, a cloth reminder of pre-fertile biology. Jesus christ, she was tiny. It's also made out of this white cotton with a kind of repeating quilted embroidery, roses I think. It looks so insubstantial in that it isn't billowy or veil-covered. It's so hip and fashionable, I think, musing on its slim, sassy sleevelessness, but then I realize that it was probably just my mom's way of, considering the poverty of their early lives together, only having to pay for a little bit of a high-end fabric for her wedding day.

Doomed universe 

It sounds fairly definitive now: the universe's rate of expansion shall accelerate infinitely.


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