Saturday, March 20, 2004

On silence 

The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of Noise. Physical noise, mental noise and noise of desire -- we hold history's record for all of them. And no wonder; for all the resources of our almost miraculous technology have been thrown into the current assault against silence. That most popular and influential of all recent inventions, the radio is nothing but a conduit through which pre-fabricated din can flow into our homes. And this din goes far deeper, of course, than the eardrums. It penetrates the mind, filling it with a babel of distractions, blasts of corybantic or sentimental music, continually repeated doses of drama that bring no catharsis, but usually create a craving for daily or even hourly emotional enemas. And where, as in most countries, the broadcasting stations support themselves by selling time to advertisers, the noise is carried from the ear, through the realms of phantasy, knowledge and feeling to the ego's core of wish and desire. Spoken or printed, broadcast over the ether or on wood-pulp, all advertising copy has but one purpose -- to prevent the will from ever achieving silence. Desirelessness is the condition of deliverance and illumination. The condition of an expanding and technologically progressive system of mass production is universal craving. Advertising is the organized effort to extend and intensify the workings of that force, which (as all the saints and teachers of all the higher religions have always taught) is the principal cause of suffering and wrong-doing and the greatest obstacle between the human soul and its Divine Ground.

-Aldous Huxley, from Silence, Liberty, and Peace (1946)

While we're on the topic of rampant consumerism and its effects on the human physical condition, please do indulge in a very special anecdote by David Cross.

And for the hell of it, just let it play.


Friday, March 19, 2004


Yup, it's a probablistic certainty: Mars once harboured liquid water for a geologically significant period of time. Thank you, jarosite.

Need more evidence that the U.S.A. has atrophied into an ignorant nation of thoughtless, hypocritical, uncultured pussies? Say no more. Parents Television Council and Concerned Women for America, thank you both... and choke on my exposed tit (because your children are watching).

For those of you who practice or are interested in radio astronomy, including the desire to keep an intelligence-seeking ear trained on the heavens, a little bit of money has rained down from on high onto the parched field of effective, old-fashioned technology. Thank you, Paul Allen.

Jim Carrey may have turned his back on his genius history as an onanistic, physically self-depricating savant, but I really, really want to see this flick. Thanks, Jim.

Search and browse 4,500 news sources, updated continuously? I think I'm in love. Thank you, Google News (you can have my other tit).

I don't have a link to this one, but it's a gem. My neighbor, the blight of humanity, has a hobby of playing with a whiney yet fantastically loud motorcycle all evening long. He once actually banged on my door because my stereo was too loud (?!). This lazy neighbor just spent forty minutes with a gasoline-powered leaf blower in his front yard, spoiling an open-window afternoon for all of us, when it would have taken him a maximum of ten minutes with a rake. To make things even more imteresting, he then opted to push his mountain of shit into the cement drainage channel. See news link number two.


I acknowledge my ethical imperfections. I try hard, you know? I don't eat meat, I pick up stray dogs, hell, I even sweep ants out of my sink and put them outside.

Nevertheless, it beings me a shameful amount of pleasure to witness this moment of pure, precise (double!) embarrassment of Donald Rumsfeld.

White heat, it tickle me down to my toes; White light, I said now, goodness knows...


Thursday, March 18, 2004


For weeks I've been searching for a copy of a truly embarrassing photograph that I took of Steven way back in 1997. We had gone to the World Odyssey of the Mind competition in College Park, Maryland. It was an absolute joy because, as we were all sixteen and seventeen years old, it was an utter thrill to be handed a deluxe dormitory suite for the days that we were to be there. We argues against mixing parents and students and, since we were smart-ass champions, we somehow shamed all of our chaperones into leaving us the fuck alone. Much insanity ensued, including a rather terrible incident involving an overflowing toilet and the resultant distribution of particulate fecal matter.

Regardless, we had this hat thing going on. Everyone brought odd millenry for the purposes of drawing attention and making known our domineering attitudes as performers. One hat (mine) was in the style of those worn by Greek fisherman. It was similar to a beret, but it was beige with an embroidered brown trim, balanced by a rather fey little bill. To be honest, I can't remember the exact circumstances leading up to it, but, long story short, I snapped an amazing photograph of Steven wearing this hat, tipped downward suggestively, leaning against the doorframe, shift pulled up to his tits, revealing a youthful bellybutton and two teensy nipples. God, I knew the moment I'd clicked the shutter that I'd captured an instant classic.

Steven isn't gay, unlike some (okay, many... maybe even most) of his friends, but this picture gave all of us eternal taunting rights.

Since I still can't locate it (I'm getting worried), I thought I'd substitute, temporarily, some nice nostalgic shots of the birthday lad from Europe, way back when we were all 20 and 21. It doesn't seem so long ago, but, jesus, it was. That, I suppose, is the moral of your birthday story, Steven, the intuitive knowledge that our mortality is the enemy of desire for experience. The three of us have settled out to an extent since the whirlwind across Europe, but, as evidenced by your successful admission into Case Western's law program (hip-hip hoorah!) we've not forgotten.

To sum I'll give you a line from the inimitable, yet dead, Lenny Bruce, and I hope it serves as encouragement as well as some sort of esoteric reminder: "I'm a hustler; as long as they give I'll grab."

Happy birthday, fag.

How not to pour a Guinness 

I'm not going to mention which establishment did this... three consecutive times, the last two of which, seen here, arrived with an inch of beer in two cola glasses. I knew better than to order a Guinness there as previous experiences had taught us that the bartender was in the 'room-temperature' camp and, occasionally, would pour more head than liquid. But whatever, right? I mean, it's just a fucking beer. This chap, Rus, got a bit catty with it, and a few times his responses coupled with those of his girlfriend embarrassed me (who knew that could happen?!) so significantly that I found myself going quiet and filling my mouth with food to avoid having to join in on the vicious commentary. I don't think this reflects badly on either of their characters, it simply draws a line in the sand and makes obvious to everyone exactly who is willing to say what in front of whom.

Granted, our waitress was more spaced out than Megan or I, but she was entertaining, and even she was laughing at the Guinness with us. Had I not been a driver I would have stayed behind to apologize (on my behalf only) for the embarrassment I felt for her and the table of southeast Asians behind us. I was so irritated after our dinner that my attitude has been tinted by the experience since. Ugh, it's tiring.

It's tiring because I don't like to put people in their places when said people are friends of friends. Hurting the former hurts the latter. So I bit my tongue; I bit it hard. Hence, evenings with Rus and ladypal will never again be allowed to transpire at a location that I frequent, but rather at one of their dives, where I don't feel provoked by their behavior.

So, Nice Spot that I Enjoy and Will Not Name, please forgive me, as I felt it neccessary to guard my friend rather than your establishment on the night in question. I hope to visit you again soon, but, from now on, only on Fridays, and only with my inner circle.


Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Never trust a man with lily-white hands 

Oh, damnit--according to the rumor mills, the Gossip are going to play tonight in Little Rock. With no notice I'm presented with two options: 1) foget about the show, son, you've got students to tutor tonight and Chase Manhattan Bank's auto finance division doesn't care what band you spent your money to see, or 2) students? fuck 'em, I wanna hear "Lily White Hands."

Here's an .mp3 of "Fire/Sign" by the Gossip. Mmm... Southern girl chanteuses... sloppy electric guitars... clapping.

Scanning around for information on the uncertain show, I found this rather poetic prose review of the Gossip's first full-length album:

In 2000, lo-fi garage rock significantly widened its following with the release of two albums: the White Stripes' De Stijl and the Gossip's That's Not What I Heard. Although the stripped-down rock & roll revival didn't start with these bands, the two records got the critics buzzing and packed indie rock kids into the clubs to see what the fuss was all about. Luckily both bands were worthy of the hype. They channeled the blues through the basics of rock — a strong singer, hip-shaking riffs, and a steady beat. That's Not What I Heard, the debut album from the Gossip, was recorded in drummer Kathy's (no last names here) garage. Frontwoman Beth swings her voice down like a gavel, sounding like a gospel punk working the corner on numbers like "And You Know" ("And you know it's gonna feel good... I would do anything to have it"), "Hott Date" ("Come on give me what I need"), and "Where the Girls Are" ("Girl, I love you like no other. I'll be your missus, your mistress... let me love you all night long"). Beth is beautifully unapologetic in her lust, with a powerful voice and primal desires. She tells women what she wants, what she needs, and how she's gonna get it over rusty-nail riffs from guitarist Nathan. Kathy gives the songs an extra punch on the drums as the Arkansas trio gives Southern rock & soul a riot grrrl kick in the gut.
-Jennifer Maerz

How can you not want to go to a show of a group whose lead vocalist "swings her voice down like a gavel?"

You know it's a dilemma when you're hoping that the rumors are wrong just so you won't have to make a decision.

Good thought 

Sobriety is a ground state. Like all ground states, it begs excitation, frequent temporary elevations to a higher energy state which, thermodynamically, unstably sheds any gained energy and returns to whence it came.


Sunday, March 14, 2004

Bluegrass vs. Nemesis 

If it keeps on raining, levee's going to break
Sometimes events arise that, when viewed or experienced in rapid succession, draw out the distinctions between the happiest aspects of my life and, in counterpoint, the angriest.

All week I'd been looking forward to the Runaway Planet show, and not only out of the usual eagerness to get beer, get relaxed, and get it on. Oh no, friends, it goes much further than that now. Yesterday marked the close of the first full week since my brother's release from prison and his subsequent (bitter, on my part) installation as my new roommate.

Things have gone relatively smoothly between the two of us since his arrival. As he's settling in were both having to habituate ourselves to our respective terrible habits. He turns the heat on when I've got the windows up. He cooks meat and leaves the lard in the pan. I let dishes accumulate in the sink until the weekend. I listen to Aphex Twin, he listens to Bocephus. All in all there's nothing more taxing going on than the predictable awkwardness of the situation.

Regardless, after a full week of this old-new living arrangement, I was ready to fucking pop. Megan knew it. God bless her, and god bless her for being on spring break now--she's going to be the focus of all my distress for the next six days (sorry, lady).

Yeah, Megan knew it. I'd been able to get away from the house Friday night by drinking beer with S&M at her family's lake house (which was, I might add, bungalowtastic, scrumtrilescent, and totally the shizzle). After returning home Saturday, I expected that Megan, driving home from Fayetteville, would be as tired as I was and therefore not up for going to the show. I was greatly surprised (and thankful) when she called me from the road and told me to get ready to go. Soitenly.

So we go, we have a little bit on the drive there, squeeze some cash out of our debit cards, and aim for the Shiner Bock tap. We missed the first part of the set (and it still doesn't feel quite right to be at Juanita's), but it didn't matter. We found a good spot and parked it for a glorious couple of hours of dervish-like hippy chicks, coveralled hippy dudes trying not to sway to the beat, a prostitute neighbor (who, by the way, gave quite an impressive oral demo for one of her friends on a Coors Lite bottle... only minimal tooth-clinking), and fucking good music.


It's hard to find an appropriate word when one knows exactly the sentiment one wishes to convey. Shit, I don't even know if English has a good term for what I have in mind. In French, one occasionally hears reference to something that's vaguely referred to as le système d, "d" being short for the (fake) verb "debrouillarder," to lift the fog. In the most general sense it represents how collective resourcefulness can, sometimes inexplicably, reliably solve most difficult situations. I always heard it in reference to overdue assignments at the university or some other form of what Americans might narrowly call cheating. If I say to Gilles, "Say, Gilles, have you forgotten to have that paper ready today on Dr. Hicherot's new transcription factors?," Gilles might shrug a little and faintly mumble, "Eh... le système d," and that would be that. Gilles would be completely confident in knowing that he could buy hash or cigarettes for a few of his frineds in other labs and have them work with him, guerrilla tutoring instead of handing over of a finished paper, quickly enough to turn the paper in by the next morning.

And that's what Saturday night was: le système d, writ large. We got to get away with something for a couple of hours. It felt like cheating on a test or something along that line, and loving it because your friends are all in on it and you can all look at each other across the room and start smirking with the thought, trying intently not to laugh out loud and draw the teacher's attention. Wait, Megan's a teacher now so I guess that's a bad analogy. Whatever, you get it.

As another measure of pride, I'm pretty sure that Megan and I listened to the intro to "Intergalactic," at maximum volume, at least thirty times. You can't mess with the humble lumberjack deejay. I'm just sayin'...

Now it's Sunday night. I was thrown awake at about noon when the flock of my family descended, with uncanny coordination, on the house to visit Andy and take pictures of him holding a baby and being casual and whatnot. The house becomes a deafening whir of lawn and garden, ESPN, hamburger, baby talk, Target, Wal-Mart, sale, cars, ad infinitum. I love 'em all when you isolate them in small groups, but when you put them all together they meld into a unified demon, like the bad guy from Tron, and they become Nemesis. Jesus christ.

After I tutored I proactively spent the better part of the afternoon raking and seeding and shit out in the yard, sweating but enjoying the time outside of the range of Nemesis. They've left now, Andy's at it on the phone already, and I'm just tired and, sighing off today's experience, still smiling (and a little hungover) from last night.

P.S.--Steven: why the hell weren't you out there Saturday?


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