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2003.09 =>

[AUGUST 2003.]

the source

Overheard in my law office, re: Fox News: "Joseph Goebbels could never have come up with anything half so sophisticated."

I'm working weekends and everything, generally 9 to 12 hours daily, which is fine for the short term, considering how much time I usually spend feeling sorry for myself on the couch. Somewhere in his diaries Kafka mentions the "meaningless satisfaction" of finishing his job for the day; it's there. I can make copies and prepare documents in accordance with the Nevada Rules of Appellate Procedure until the cows come home. I'm not really there, and it isn't really happening.

It would be an easy life in certain respects. Every night I could come home and have a beer and fall asleep to visions of my mushrooming bank account. The days would be calm. Ha.

Goethe says, in his verse proverbs that remind me of Blake even though I can only half understand them:

Alles in der Welt läßt sich ertragen,
nur nicht eine Reihe von schönen Tagen.

Anything in the world can be borne, except a row of nice days.


voglio e non vorrei

I'm not entirely sure when I get back to Portland; probably about 17 September. It sort of depends on the course of the trial for which I'm currently doing paralegal work here in Reno. Hoo hoo, the high life, I'm too sexy for this goddamn shirt.

If you have thoughts that tend toward goodness, please send them. I am an inconstant wretch but I will try to send some back.


seventh circle/the useless

See, this is the problem; even if I do find a job one day, it's going to be as a content developer for fucking eBayTV. The hell with it.

I don't know where these spells of vitriol are coming from, given that life in Portland is generally pretty good. But after a couple rounds through the agent-solicitation machine, I'm starting to suspect that my completed novel is too conventional a family drama and, well, too boring to attract much interest; meanwhile I have grave doubts about the value of the new, riskier book I am starting; and there is no money on the horizon—

It's probably best if I go offline for another while. In any case I'm leaving for Reno on Friday. Maybe in a month I'll have something nice to say.


the rest was gamma rays

Inevitably, the New Mexico family visit led to the question always asked by people who I only talk to every few months: "Any news on your book?"

"No," I say, "afraid not. You'll be the first to know." At some point—probably at Christmas, when my money runs out—this will mutate from an exercise in patience into something more sinister. Indifferent Universe, I only want to keep warm at night.

I have replaced the poo-puter with a new desktop featuring: a) a DVD drive; and b) a reelylong monitor cable; so if the mood strikes me I can lug the monitor over to the coffee table and enjoy fine movies from the comfort & privacy of my sofa. Or I would be able to, if I didn't have to go to Reno on Friday. One day I will find work in the city where I live, but God knows when. Anyway, now I can turn the laptop into a very expensive typewriter by wiping it clean of everything but Word, which one hopes will make it less jittery. Plus I had the idea (which I should have had three years ago) of using Word macros to compensate for the backspace and delete and enter keys that haven't worked since the Great Coffee Spill of 2000. I haven't done the laptop-in-coffee-house thing since the summer of that year, when I knocked out the terrible first draft of Approaching Zero over six weeks at the excellent Café Abir. It may be time to try that again.


the black hole

I am learning to divine from the Maya calendar, a little. 10 September 1978 equals 12 Mol 2 Cawuk. A child born on Cawuk will have a troubled and harassed (mulom kuchum) life full of punishment from the ancestors.

I tell myself (and in general I believe) that I keep writing because it's the only bridge out of solitude, that a finished book is a sort of escape pod that you send spinning into the void. Its shape must be geometrically perfect, or nearly so—otherwise it won't survive the journey. Where it lands is not the point. I like to think that even if no word of mine ever encounters the printing press, their existence will still make a ripple in the universe, even as a stack of unread manuscripts in the basement. I have engendered them, and they have escaped the event horizon of myself. And the hollow of night will not swallow them. And the hollow of night will not swallow me.


maxwell's iraqi electric squad

The old feeling that this life is made of sleek, vitreous, infinitely cold matter, and I am just skating along its boundary like a stone over a frozen lake—

It will take time. I need to embed.

Visiting family in New Mexico this weekend. More airplanes, more wind.

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Iraqis who have suffered for months with little electricity gloated Friday over a blackout in the northeastern United States and southern Canada and offered some tips to help Americans beat the heat.

From frequent showers to rooftop slumber parties, Iraqis have developed advanced techniques to adapt to life without electricity.

Daily highs have soared above 120 degrees recently as Iraq's U.S. administrators have been unable to get power back to prewar levels. Some said it was poetic justice that some Americans should suffer the same fate, if only briefly.

"Let them taste what we have tasted," said Ali Abdul Hussein, selling "Keep Cold" brand ice chests on a sidewalk. "Let them sit outside drinking tea and smoking cigarettes waiting for the power to come back, just like the Iraqis."

Here are some tips from the streets of Baghdad:

-- SLEEP ON THE ROOF. Without power -- and hence without air conditioning -- Iraqis have taken to climbing up stairs in the hot nights. Some install metal bed frames on rooftops, while others simply stretch out on thin mattresses. "It's cooler there," said Hadia Zeydan Khalaf, 38.

-- SIT IN THE SHADE. Many Iraqis head outside when the power's off. "We sit in the shade," said George Ruweid, 27, playing cards with friends on the sidewalk. Of the U.S. blackout, he said: "I hope it lasts for 20 years. Let them feel our suffering."

-- HEAD FOR THE WATER. "We go to the river, just like in the old days," said Saleh Moayet, 53.

-- SHOWER FREQUENTLY. "I take showers all day," said Raed Ali, 33.

-- BUY BLOCKS OF ICE. Mohammed Abdul Zahara, 24, sells about 20 a day from a roadside table.

-- GET A GENERATOR. Abbas Abdul al-Amir, 53, has one of a long row of shops selling generators in Baghdad's Karadah shopping street. When the power goes out, sales go up, he said.

-- CALL IN THE IRAQIS. Some suggested the Americans ask the Iraqis how to get the power going again. "Let them take experts from Iraq," said Alaa Hussein, 32, waiting in a long line for gas because there was no electricity for the pumps. "Our experts have a lot of experience in these matters."


all that is the case

After a month of occasional battle with recalcitrant screws, I have removed the doors from the bathroom towel closet, and hey presto! built-in bookshelves. Peyton (happy birthday!) lent me her big bag of paint swatches and now I entertain chromatic fantasies; bedroom in blue, lemon-sorbet dining area, a coffee office.

Frequently asked questions, Malheur County, Oregon:

I want to get married. How do I get a license?
Marriage licenses can be used anywhere in the State of Oregon. The County Clerk is responsible for issuing them. There is a three-day waiting period, then the license is good for 60 days. There is a $60 fee; cash or money order are accepted - no checks are taken. Identification is required, either driver's license or a witness will be accepted. No blood test or physical exam is required to obtain a license.

How can I bail my friend out of jail?
For information about jail questions, call: (541) 473-5126 or (541) 473-5125

When is my trial?
For information about trials or jury duty, call: (541) 473-5171

Where can I get a restraining order?
For information about restraining orders, call: (541) 473-5127

What kind of weed is this?
If you have a weed you can't identify, you can call the County Weed Inspector for an onsite identification, or collect as much of the plant as possible, including the root, put it in a plastic bag and keep it as cool as possible. Bring it to the Weed Inspector's office at the County Road Department, 1001 Barkley Drive in Vale, or to the County Extension office at 710 S.W. Fifth Ave. in Ontario.


heat gun

The verdict: my computer is made of poo and I am getting a new one. For instance, I can no longer copy & paste the repellent text from this article about pigs growing human hearts and lungs—

Awful dream: I am buying babies on eBay. I don't actually want them. Spiders land on my head. Someone tells me that tzolkin, the name for the Maya sacred calendar, is also Spanish slang for breasts. "Oh good," I exclaim, "now everyone can titter at my book!"



Hey! This site's stylesheets are no longer effectual in my Internet Explorer, and I don't know why. Is this happening to anyone else, or is my computer just made of poo?


the first law of askesis

It is possible to live without vitamins, without air conditioning, without an ontological proof of God; without chocolate, light or dark; without health insurance or the Bill of Rights; without the concept of limit; without mahogany; without offset printing, taxonomy, geese, any theorems at all; without the live bacteria in your yogurt; without élan or isthmuses or twilight or Motown or those certain shades of blue; without the friction coefficient of bare skin; without the reciprocation of another human breath, any night, any night at all.


the steamboat went to hell

1. And what do they even mean by a "Defense of Marriage" act? Are they implying that if America were not full of sodomites, my parents (for instance) might still be together? The institution is long bankrupt.

2. I have a plan for the subjugation of emotion. Through judicious reading in the Great Books of the Western World and Eastern philosophy, cardiovascular exercise via bicycle, a weight regimen, tennis of all sorts, a well-balanced diet, daily piano practice, ear training, mastery of German and French and Japanese and Greek, a compassionate appreciation for the plight of the Third World, therapeutic psychopharmacology in conjunction with abstention from toxins, art therapy, group therapy, and aromatherapy, in as little as ten years I might reach the point where, while certain visceral responses will always remain, I will no longer be able to speak of feeling anything in the sense of having any dominant reaction to external stimuli other than detached observation.

3. I do not consider them "failures." I consider them "false starts."

4. "It is awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything in the daytime, but at night it is another thing."


four cardinals

Lucifer was never expelled from the Mesoamerican heaven: war and peace, life and death, heaven and underworld, good and bad, were all in the nature of God. And so they remain for Maya traditionalists to this day. Modern Quiché daykeepers told anthropologists Barbara and Dennis Tedlock that what worried them most about non-Maya Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant, was its denial of the earth's divinity and confusion of the world with evil: "He who makes an enemy of the Earth makes an enemy of his own body."

The Maya shaman-priest who said that put his finger squarely on the force that animates and will probably destroy our civilization. The Judeo-Christian (and Muslim) tradition is founded on the belief that the earth is a kind of machine put here by God for the use and testing of man. Animals are little machines without souls over whom Adam and Noah were given dominion, to treat as they saw fit. No moral obligations of reverence are owed to the beasts of the field, much less to the forests and grasslands, lakes, rivers, and the earth itself. In their attitude to the physical world, and their denial of the old nature gods, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are the first materialism. The planet is a vale of tears, necessary for man's sustenance but potentially hazardous to his soul. He can use it but he must not love it.

—Ronald Wright, Time Among the Maya



Creo que la vida es buena. Tengo más (ordenes de magnitud más) que los miles de millones de infelices en el sur del mundo. Ninguna espada corta mi vista del sol. La soledad es una dolencia del lujo. Yo podría vivir a ochenta años y morir sin haber tocado nadie más—y todavía habría sido una buena vida.


a parable on loneliness

we will never meet the aliens
though we love the idea of hyperspace
it's too beautiful to be true
I suppose the aliens could build a giant cargo ship
and send their colonists off
with the understanding that generations would be spent in transit
or maybe they're potent aliens
who live a thousand years
but that's immaterial
because there's no economic incentive
(why even go to the moon?
I guess we could mine it
but it's hard to see how that would turn a profit)
as for interstellar travel
forget it
surely they want us
as we want them
but the longing is frozen over with fear
so we stay home
every night
under the boundless sky
and ossify


popular mechanics

I am going to the eastern Oregon rangelands for a few days on a TOP SECRET CATTLE MISSION. Back Wednesday, or thereabouts.

I always feel as if a puzzle is assembling. I always feel as if the river is quickening. These are constants, not particulars. All the same, the last chapter in the Book of Settling Portland has begun. It is likely to be a long chapter. We don't trust happy endings, they smack of the advertising world. We know it's deluded to hope for them, because isn't a "happy ending" nothing more than the artificial truncation of narrative? If we let a process spin out to its natural conclusion, the way it does in real life, then it always ends in death, the severing of a connection. Right? But we hope nonetheless—

Didn't Kitty and Levin deserve what they got?


first aid kit

Everyone's favorite new band is the nine-year-old Black Peppercorns.


so far from god

Efraín Ríos Montt, born-again Christian and former Guatemalan dictator (1982-83) who ought to be hung, drawn, and quartered for the baldest case of genocide in Latin American history since the Spanish conquest, who led daily televised prayer services as the helicopters dropped their payloads, whom Reagan once called "a man of great personal integrity," is running for president again. He could even win. These things happen.

Missive from Marlowe:

"Free speech" is a great summary of the First Amendment, but it has never adequately described the underlying concept. Since the day after Constitution was ratified, courts have been involved in an effort to balance the need for public order, peaceable assembly and "redress of greivances." The general doctrine we've arrived at is best summed—again, weakly—through the phrase "time, place and manner." In short, the government may—and has always—restricted protest (i.e., the redress of greivances) based upon any number of factors—when, where, who it is, what's their bitch, etc. Usually, this is a simple a proposition as telling someone, "Bobby, I know you want to tell us all about George Bush's reptilian connections, but this is a math class, and we're doing quadratic equations today. So now you may shut the fuck up." Or, better, you can't block the steps to city hall just because you don't like the mayor. Which is the nut: because human brains and prejudices are involved in the process, you get restricted protests depending upon who's in power and what it is they want to hear about least.

Since JFK, no protestors (except when Nixon actually went out on his own without the SS to engage them at the Lincoln Memorial) have had access or close proximity to the objects of their protests. Blame rifles and scopes, not malfeasance. The interesting thing here—and the real significance of the moaning you read on things like warblogging.com or whatever—is that elites on both sides of our political equal sign have, very Orwellianly, taken the opportunity to frame the issue in terms of "respecting [the protestors'] right to have their say." The implicit promise in "redress of greivances" is that once you've had your say, the government justifies its policies or changes them. That's what redress means. Since the debate has shifted from policy change to "access," well-meaning activists get bogged down in permit-application hell, and stuffed into TV cameraless ghettos. Our leaders feel no need to listen to critics, and have no desire to see them. That, not being told to go get in the protester's pen, is the real injustice. The activist community gets led astray pretty easily. Aside from actually VOTING, or taking up arms, the most effective forms of protest, therefore, are economic and small-scale—that is to say, refusals to lie or be silent, as hard as that may be, and poolings of resources to effect financial leverage. For instance, what if Harvard's endowment foundation at $20 Billion (that's with a B) dumped its Haliburton equities? Its students and alumni, many of whom lean compassionate, could get that done if they really wanted to. Or what if the Gates foundation and CNN put up a standing $5 mil "news bounty" for concerned citizens to report things like Enron and Total Information Awareness before they even get going?

But things like that take organization, skill, understanding and savvy, and worst of all, time. They're nowhere near as expedient or fun as getting stoned, yelling at the police, howling about misunderstood "rights", or throwing a trash can through a Starbucks window.


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