<= 2003.02

2003.04 =>

[MARCH 2003.]

ei tränen

Sorry, this is an "I can't post" post.


melodramma eroi-comico in 3 atti

My God, Tosca ruled—even from our nosebleed seats, where we couldn't quite make out anyone's facial expressions or the soprano's décolletage. The people next to us had brought opera glasses, logically enough, but we were young and inexperienced in these matters. The average age in the theater was probably over 60. Keep taking your prescription drugs, people, keep opera alive.

I tend to forget that Phoenix is now the sixth-largest city in the nation, and especially that Tucson is the thirtieth-largest—bigger than Las Vegas, bigger than New Orleans, bigger than Atlanta. There's such a dearth of culture in this state that often I wonder what everyone does—but the Arizona Opera, at least, does put on performances of a quality to match the demographics. Of course I am an idiot and did not get season tickets and now the season is over, but if you live in Phoenix or Tucson you must catch this show in the next week, before it too is gone.


how weather affects your life

Americans with SARS are getting better faster than those in China. Why?

(Fall of 1967)

Heavy, heavy, heavy, hand and heart.
We are at war,
bitterly, bitterly at war.

And the buying and selling
buzzes at our heads, a swarm
of busy flies, a kind of innocence.

—Denise Levertov

Going to see Tosca tonight.


true grit

My stepfather writes:

If you wish to learn what is occurring and will occur in the days ahead, I suggest that you keep current with David Hackworth's site, especially the emails from recently discharged and current servicemen and women....if you can read it without vomiting. Also, Soldiers for the Truth is comprehensive. For a preview of the slaughter (of Allied Forces, Iraqi troops and civilians) in Baghdad, read this after action report of the last great US armed forces urban battle. After 40 years, we have replicated the Johnson administration and its cabinet of Ivy League educated "Best and the Brightest" -- a disaster which will ultimately dwarf the tragedy and losses of Vietnam whether we win, lose or draw.

I heard on NPR this morning that everyone in Baghdad has been stocking up on Valium. All the pharmacies have run out. They're giving it to their children, taking it themselves.


pole-axe, polecat

Thanks to everyone who wrote in and/or linked in support of yesterday's entry; I concede that the math is symbolic and simplified, but it was the best way I could think to unite a rhetorical gesture with something concrete. Through Jen's good offices, it apparently is getting a mention in the Boise Weekly.

Thoreau's Civil Disobedience (he gets thrown in jail for not paying his poll-tax during the Mexican War) is of course the beginning.

It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it practically his support. If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man's shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, "I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico;—see if I would go"; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute. The soldier is applauded who refuses to serve in an unjust war by those who do not refuse to sustain the unjust government which makes the war; is applauded by those whose own act and authority he disregards and sets at naught; as if the state were penitent to that degree that it hired one to scourge it while it sinned, but not to that degree that it left off sinning for a moment. Thus, under the name of Order and Civil Government, we are all made at last to pay homage to and support our own meanness. After the first blush of sin comes its indifference; and from immoral it becomes, as it were, unmoral, and not quite unnecessary to that life which we have made.

Chapter Ten is down with a stake in its heart. Two more to go.


people are bloody ignorant apes

Yes, I'm sure it is a jackhammer or woodpecker, and not a psychic portent of people dying on the other side of the world. This is like how I woke up in the middle of the night with SARS, but it seems to be better now.

Hell is oneself.


Hell is other people.


I should be lighting candles and writing letters; failing that, I should at least be taking a closer look at the geopolitics so I might have something cogent to write here. I don't. I get dizzy spells; the nausea comes and goes; for minutes at a time the higher functions of my brain shut down and I look at things without seeing them. It's not noble or nice to be so afraid for your own small life. Confusion, guilt. Regarding the pain of others.


where ignorant armies clash by night

Something outside my window sounds like automatic weapons firing. It has been starting at six in the morning. I don't know what it is; there's only a blue outhouse and an orange construction vehicle out there, with no one inside.


shock and awe

I figured it would start while I was away. What can I hope but the obvious things?—that it's over soon, that we don't kill too many thousands of people, that once the last bunkers are busted Europe will be able to swallow its rancor at our abominable diplomacy and help us rebuild.

Thursday night I went and saw a production of Happy Days at a tiny black-box theater in back of a coffee shop. Beckett has been my favorite playwright since college, but for a long time the only emotion I really associated with him was a creeping dull dread, now and then leavened by a nasty smirk or a shock of horror. The back of my copy of Molloy quotes the New York Times Book Review as saying "Behind all his mournful blasphemies against man there is real love." I never really believed that; I just admired him because I thought he had basically got the human condition right. I certainly never thought that one of his plays would bring me to tears, as this one did. Who knows why: because the war was on, because love is a car driving off a pier. In one of my college classes we debated whether Beckett's characters even qualify as human. Back then I suspected that Molloy, at least, did not—but it turns out that they all do. The love is there, too; without it the plays would not exist. The people are real people, as is Beckett, as are we, singing our songs while the mound of earth engulfs our throats.


markets soar on talk of war

Happy St. Patrick's Day, happy Purim. I'd raise a glass of Guinness or a drop of wine in celebration, but, you know, the meds—and the war.

None of this is reasonable. I need to go to Oregon and find Peyton. I'll be back on Saturday.


fun world

Male sweat as mood elevator for women? The Mormon dating book said nothing about this.

From Rumors to Facts: Career Outcomes of English Ph.D.s (PDF). What does happen to them? After ten years, 53% were tenured professors. 5% were tenure-track, 15% were in non-tenure-track academic purgatory, and the remainder were in administration, business, government, or (a few) unemployed. They spent an average of ten (!) years in doctoral studies and graduated with a mean age of 35. For those who did attain tenure, the average time to reach it was 8.1 years. About 80% would do it again.


objects of desire

It's not influenza. What is it? It's spread to Canada.

Peyton sent me Dating: Surviving and Thriving in the Social Scene, a helpful guide to interpersonal relations for young members of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints. There are many informative diagrams, such as an "intimacy funnel" juxtaposed with a "commitment funnel," but the best is this:

Is "grand passion" less perfect than "perfect love?" It seems like a great thick arrow could only improve matters—but surely the creator of that diagram had no conscious idea of how sexual his drawings were.


the desert makes you choleric

I have nothing of my own today, but I have somewhere great to send you.

Take this quiz!

Which Humor Troubles the Disposition of YOUR Body?

Thomas Shadwell (1640-1692) was a comic playwright who considered himself the dramatic heir of Ben Jonson and the champion of the type of comedy Jonson had written, the "comedy of humours." Such plays allude to the medical theory that a healthy human body is composed of four humours kept in careful balance. Characters without such a balance have a predominant humour portrayed as a comic eccentricity. Dryden and Shadwell conducted a public argument for years on the merits of Jonson's plays. In the dedication to his play The Virtuoso, Shadwell claimed that "four of the humours are entirely new," and Dryden parodied this in his poem Mac Flecknoe:

This is thy province, this thy wondrous way,
New humours to invent for each new play;
This is that boasted bias of thy mind,
By which one way, to dullness, 'tis inclined;
Which makes thy writings lean on one side still,
And, in all changes, that way bends thy will.

—abstracted from The Norton Anthology of Poetry


sea chanteys

Alert reader points out:

hahaha, they don't show the dead on tv! It's bad for Homeland morale

At the iowablog they are having a far more articulate conversation about the casus belli than I could. (I don't read The Economist; it's expensive.) My head is in the sand and I am taking my pills.

But here is just the link for these troubled times: pirates are the new monkeys. (Thanks nGaw.)

We all have that image from the 1950s of everyone playing cowboys and Indians, but during the Depression, kids were absolutely mad for Treasure Island," explains Askew. "In a depressed economy, when our society is growing simultaneously more prone to, and more afraid of, violence, pirates offer a release valve, an inoculation if you will. It's a way to engage in fantasies of exploitation, exploration, and violence at a safe distance."


ultima ratio regum

Last night the war started just as I got to the airport. It was all over the television screens: images of fire, mostly, and charred bodies. I would not get on the airplane. I knew it was cursed. I called home, sobbing.


homer was right

Finite universe! Finite doughnut-shaped universe! I certainly hope so—infinity makes my pineal gland hurt. Ah, I hear the melodious strains of the cat vomiting down the hall.

Spent all day at the computer, except for a late and bleary drive out for drivethru Mexican. In the car, one of the novel's last puzzle pieces fell into place—or rather, I determined where the piece needs to go. It's not yet there. Writing this thing is sort of like constructing a jigsaw puzzle from 500-pound granite blocks; even after you figure out how to arrange it, there's a lot of hauling to do.

Now the emetic cat is trying to be my friend. Go away; you smell bilious.



Spent yesterday downtown with the manuscript, drawing up a battle plan for the remainder of the book with my trusty purple pen, and I think there is reason for cautious optimism. (For the moment we will ignore Napoleon's adage that no battle plan ever survives combat). But I am getting very tired of talking about this book in the conditional tense; at some point I would like to be able to describe it as it is.

I make the Coffee --- Boiling hot
And Full --- and then for Fun
I place a Napkin --- in Between
The Burger --- and --- the Bun.

DB: Listen, Emily ---- Carson and I are not going to wind up in the food preparation and hospitality industry, it's as simple as that. Take another guess.

TR (WHITMAN): I am Walt Whitman, I sing of the great arch,
Rising parabolically over the parking lot,
I sing of the food that comes quickly....

GK: No way, Walt ---- Dave and I are going to become authors.

SS: I got this other A by working at Arby's.

GK: Fine. But not us, Hester.



tell me i beseech you

The Poetry Grinder is up. I was not thinking clearly when I designed the code, so there's no punctuation in the poem titles, and e.e. cummings will have to deal with being capitalized, but it's still better than flash cards.


pharm subsidy

Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) is the active isomer of Celexa (citalopram HBr); they've only been marketing it since December. It appears to have greater efficacy at lower doses with fewer side effects.

Anyway, this is what they prescribed me yesterday, along with a little cache of alprazolam (generic equivalent to Xanax) to be taken "as needed." Andrew Solomon says, "In my case, Xanax made the horror disappear as a magician makes a rabbit vanish." I would certainly like to be prepared the next time it shows up.


oderint dum metuant

I cannot believe he said this.

Last week The Economist quoted an American diplomat who warned that if Mexico didn't vote for a U.S. resolution it could "stir up feelings" against Mexicans in the United States. He compared the situation to that of Japanese-Americans who were interned after 1941, and wondered whether Mexico "wants to stir the fires of jingoism during a war."

Incredible stuff, but easy to dismiss as long as the diplomat was unidentified. Then came President Bush's Monday interview with Copley News Service. He alluded to the possibility of reprisals if Mexico didn't vote America's way, saying, "I don't expect there to be significant retribution from the government"—emphasizing the word "government." He then went on to suggest that there might, however, be a reaction from other quarters, citing "an interesting phenomena [sic] taking place here in America about the French... a backlash against the French, not stirred up by anybody except the people."

And Mr. Bush then said that if Mexico or other countries oppose the United States, "there will be a certain sense of discipline."

These remarks went virtually unreported by the ever-protective U.S. media, but they created a political firestorm in Mexico. The White House has been frantically backpedaling, claiming that when Mr. Bush talked of "discipline" he wasn't making a threat. But in the context of the rest of the interview, it's clear that he was.


zygomatic, xiphoid

March means GRE study has started—so you read the poems, sometimes the poems make you weepy, you try to memorize them anyway. Better this than all the bones and tendons and osseous processes in the human body, which my sister has to learn by rote.

The current shape of the book is a Part One consisting of chapters 1-8, followed by a Part Two about half its size with chapters 9-12. Yesterday I read Part One in its entirety; aside from the usual line edits there's maybe a week of cleanup to do. That's not bad. It could have been a train wreck. But Part Two is on much shakier ground and will take much longer—and I think there's a limit to how much more time I can spend. I'm getting so weary of these characters and this story. And that means the prose starts to slip, and the psychological sea changes get rushed, and then we're fucked. Once the life goes out of it, you can't fake continued interest; the reader knows.

At least I have a holiday in Oregon to look forward to.

Sunny skies. They train people for Middle East combat out here. We're what, maybe a week from war?


via lactea

I'm quite upset that the Elizabethan poetry class I took in college overlooked Robert Herrick, who I am just now discovering—I suppose his book of poems, published in 1648, was too late for the class's time constraints. My theory is that the Julia poems are called the Julia poems because he wanted a name that could scan as either two or three syllables, but we won't hold that against him, not when he can pack such a wallop into six lines with "Upon Julia's Clothes." He's even more economical in the four-line "Upon Julia's Breasts"; I suppose that what you think of poems about breasts is a matter of taste, but it certainly accomplishes its aim. "The Vine" is just dirrty, and he fills the coy-mistress sex-and-death quota with "To The Virgins, to Make Much of Time" and "Corrina's Going A-Maying."

Come, let us go while we are in our prime ;
And take the harmless folly of the time.
       We shall grow old apace, and die
       Before we know our liberty.
       Our life is short, and our days run
       As fast away as does the sun ;
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain
Once lost, can ne'er be found again,
       So when or you or I are made
       A fable, song, or fleeting shade,
       All love, all liking, all delight
       Lies drowned with us in endless night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying,
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

I mean, holy shit. I'll go a-Maying with you, Robert.


to make much of time

Chapter Eight is finished, and as respite I am off to the mountains again. We put up a couple of mp3s from the new album at the Muddy Bug site.


a thousand rosy riveters

Sorry about being absent; I have been hosting rock stars. Vienna Teng and Dani Linnetz came through town Saturday night to play downtown at the Grill, and the sofa-bed was ready for them. It was a typical Tucson visit: Scrabble, Mexican food, the cat bothering everyone, everyone admiring the giant terrycloth chicken. Vienna took advantage of the stop to count up the considerable amount of cash earned thus far on tour, which made it look like drug deals were taking place in my apartment.

Recently it occurred to me that, with this spate of book deals and college friends hitting it big and whatnot, I can now spend something like a solid half hour on Amazon clicking around things produced by people I know personally—and these are the people more or less my age, not the teachers/mentors, who would form an entirely separate list. I don't mean this in a snarky name-dropping way; it's just heartening to see that the world actually does reward talent to an extent. The barrier is permeable. These people who are making it, they're just people, if that makes sense. We can do this.

Julia made pirate penguin posters!


Nik suggested that I just get a T-shirt reading "Chapter Eight"; this would save time when people ask me what I have been doing.


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