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[JANUARY 2005.]

canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook?

An alert reader reveals that the gullible Russian media have picked up on an email hoax; those creatures were actually picked up by some enterprising Australians and New Zealanders doing deep water trawls in 2003. Fortunately, even with this revised news of their origin, they aren't any less bizarre, and in fact we learn useful things: z.B., the lumpy shark is lumpy because of its enormous goddamn liver that helps regulate its buoyancy. So ignore the Russian text, which we can't read anyway, and look at the pictures, which in themselves are not falsifiable, and are awesome.


lil' lisa's slurry

Nik sent me pictures of some really alarming and possibly hitherto unknown deep-sea life (12 photos in all, click through if you want to be terrified); I don't have any Russian, but J. was able to figure out that they had been washed up by the tsunami. We don't know why it says "from 10 to 50 years" at the end of the headline.


fake bi russian speaker reporting for duty! the article says it will take 10-50 years for the ocean to heal itself, more or less.



I have no idea who reads this thing any more—with the infrequency of postings has come some echo of the general privations that Burke thought were "great, because they are all terrible—Vacuity, Darkness, Solitude and Silence"—[continue to remark on lack of content, in lieu of content]—

Reading Faulkner's biography last night made me feel inadequate because there is an outside possibility that my book is not as good as his, but this has since evaporated, because most of the time I am seriously not fighting Faulkner for immortality, no matter what Harold Bloom says; I want enough money to pay off my debts, with some left over to send to Guatemala so that I won't be reborn as a parasitic jawless fish, and then I will have nothing rather than less than nothing, and I can start over.


email fish in the email sea

Reading through some of Ezra Pound's early poems, and surprised at how bad most of them were, I came across this stanza (one of the better ones):

There are there many rooms and all of gold,
Of woven walls deep patterned, of email,
Of beaten work; and through the claret stone,
Set to some weaving, comes the aureate light.

Which meant that the Ezra Pound in my head started reading in a Strong Bad voice. But the OED says:

email: [Fr., = enamel.] Used attrib. in email ink, ink used on glass, porcelain, etc.; email ombrant Pottery, a process in which the impressions of the design appear as shadows (see quots. a1877 and 1957).

a1877 KNIGHTDict. Mech. I. 796/1 Email-ombrant, a process which consists in flooding colored but transparent glasses over designs stamped in the body of earthenware or porcelain. 1880 C. A. JANVIER Pract. Keramics viii. 95 In these the pattern is..exactly the opposite of the émaux ombrants. a1884 KNIGHT Dict. Mech. Suppl., Email ink... Colored inks—black, white, red, blue—used with a quill on glass, porcelain, ivory, marble, bone, mother of pearl, or metal. 1957 MANKOWITZ & HAGGAR Encycl. Eng. Pott. & Porc. 83/2 Email ombrant, an illusionist style of decoration like lithophane but the intaglio decoration was filled with coloured glaze (usually green) which produced a monochrome picture in a variety of tones. Developed at the Rubenes [sic = Rubelles] factory by Baron A. du Tremblay in the 1840's.

I'll be in Wisconsin until Tuesday [dairy joke].


possum gonna getcha

While cruising around the Internets for info on the Mayan language Achí (and believe me, there's not much) I found the excellent Rosetta Project at Stanford's libraries, which is trying to assemble at least scanty information on every language out there, including dead ones; for instance, there's a monograph on Proto-Elamite, the language of love. Most living languages have a translation of Genesis, since everyone needs to know why women and snakes are bad, and also a glossed vernacular text, which in the case of Achí is a retired shaman interpreting dreams. If you think you see a lot of incidental Spanish words in there, you're quite right.

Y julaj xinwachic'aj jun wuch'. Ri wuch' cachic'axic na utz taj ma ri wuch' rire xa ral co chicop pero mera pícaro wi, o mas utz ajmanyo. Xu'an julaj wuc'a'am numeyo, pues xelek'axic. Ri wachic' elek', elek'om. Carelek'aj ri wuch' meyo y carekel'aj jal, carelek'aj quinak' y carelek'aj ac'. Ronoje carelek'aj ri wuch'. Y querelek'aj ixokib y querelek'aj cosas jik'obal. Ri wachic' re wuch'.

And once I dreamed about an opossum. To dream about an opossum is not good, because though an opossum is just a little animal, it is quite mischievous and crafty. So dreaming about an opossum is not good. Once when I carried my money, it was stolen. The dream meant robbery. Robbers. The opossum steals money and it steals corn. It steals beans and it steals chickens. The opossum steals everything. And it steals women and fruit. This is the significance of dreaming about opossums.

As a child, at my mother's encouragement, I touched the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum—which no, you are absolutely not supposed to do. My father hustled us out of the room before the guard took notice.



dude, hit that tanizaki. 'some prefer nettles'. 'makioki sisters'. 'portrait of shunkin.' dark, strange, subtle, and fascinating shit.

You're right; I totally forgot about Tanizaki! Once upon a time I read half of The Makioka Sisters, thought it was awesome, and then the goiter or something got in the way. I'll go finish it off.

For a couple of years now I've been getting a bunch of spam from Brazil, and I'm pretty numb to it, but I did have to stop an appreciate an advertisement for PreLife, a proudly Cuban psoriasis cure. PreLife devolve sua qualidade de vida!



Kenzaburo Oe, A Personal Matter. Philip Roth doing The Stranger, in Japanese. I'm told that something like half of Oe's books are about children born with birth defects—this actually happened to him—and I could see a lot of them taking the same course. Bird, a sad-sack English teacher and frustrated intellectual, discovers that his wife has given birth to a child with a brain hernia, i.e., the brain is protruding from the back of the skull and gives the child the appearance of having two heads. After some encounters with grotesque officials at the hospital (which inevitably reminded me of Kobo Abe), some guilt-ridden conversations with his wife (who is being kept in the dark about the baby's condition), some infidelity and drunken benders and humiliation at the workplace, Bird decides that the baby has to be killed. Things continue in this dark vein until a sudden reversal and intrusion of moral sense at the end, which somehow fixes everything. So if you were all right with the weird redemption-by-moral-choice at the end of The Stranger, you might like this one too.

Actually, despite my misgivings about the book's structure and the often-clunky translation, it was a better read than I'm probably making it sound. Oe does differ from Camus in that his setting is less a placeless allegory and more a recognizable human society. There's also much dark comedy in Bird's continual guilt over his actions, and Oe knows how to draw out the transgression-and-remorse cycle in an entertaining way. It read quickly, and my bullshit detector only went off occasionally. But I'm still trying to find a Japanese author other than Abe who I really like—if any of you have ideas, I'd love to hear them.


I'm not dead or anything, just tired. After the Christmas vacation blitz I had a several-days' run of the legal research that isn't really frequent enough to qualify as any sort of "day job," but pays some portion of the bills, and while the Arcade Fire put on a good show, it caused us to miss the last BART out of San Francisco by five minutes, after which followed a terrible experience walking around Mission Street in the middle of the night trying to find a bus terminal, which drove home that often there is nothing genteel about genteel poverty—it just sucks. Under these circumstances it came as a great blow to learn that Fred's Market no longer stocks cat litter. And if that got me down, think how the cat feels.


against teleology

I am still a can with a hole in it. But I am grateful as I should be for this quiet slow life, for this house and education that I am renting with borrowed money, for the café that will let you write in the dark while California floods outside. If philosophy does (or ought to) consist in assembling reminders for a particular purpose (and I like that working definition as well as any), then the most needed of those reminders would be that there is no being separate from becoming. I tell myself this ten times a day, and still I constantly forget it. It is so easy to think that once my book is done, once my education is done, once some unspecified quantity of money drops from some unspecified celestial treasury, then I will have reached a point of stasis. But that point of stasis will contain only the same sun and coffee that are here now. And now I am young.


the flooded embarcadero

I have slightly changed the ETA date to fall on what will be the last day of my mid-twenties, calculated by dividing the span of time between turning 20 and turning 30 into three equal portions. I would like to say that I finished this book in my mid-twenties. It's a minor miracle that any work at all has been getting done around here—the entire computer infrastructure broke down and it took three days of fighting the network and its component machines to get everything almost back to where it was before the spyware attacked and the wireless started failing. Took a bus to Emeryville, in the rain, to buy a notebook card at Best Buy because no one else has reasonable return policies—you can imagine how awesome that was.

If I were to compile a cheesy "You Know You're Attending Berkeley When..." list, number 9 would explain how you get a piece of email titled "The Pornographic Imaginary" and nearly delete it as spam before realizing that it's actually a call for papers.


type "i" for inventory

2003 was a terrible year of dashed hope. 2004 was given over to retrenchment and repair, a whittling down of expectations, some necessary growing up, and eventually cautious optimism. 2005 may not move beyond that cautious optimism, but to maintain it would be enough. I no longer want the moon—or at any rate, I don't expect it.

Last year I returned to Portland after my precipitous flight to Reno, assembled another band and made a very limited dent on the club circuit, released a very limited-edition live record, wrote about 60% of a novel far superior to anything I had previously done, went on an extended vinyl binge, developed a software application, had my first legitimate appearance in a literary publication, met a magpie, moved to California, started a doctoral program.

This year I will finish that novel and beg New York City to validate it, continue with school, get up to reading proficiency in German, fill the most glaring gaps in my knowledge of Western philosophy and literary theory, get better at the piano and cello, learn at least to make some tolerable sounds on the viola and saxophone, record and release another home-studio album, ride my bike more, buy more and better groceries, keep the house clean, be good.


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