Sunday, July 24, 2005
Thursday, July 21, 2005
Obligatory extrapolation to the larger world: how sad is it that New York City lacks even a single decent radio station?
Monday, July 18, 2005
Now that life's documentation is nearly entirely electronic I've developed an anxiety complex about computers and email. On a given day I may be so sentimental as to save every last inconsequential email missive. Or, on another day I may feel strongly that the past is the past, nothing to be done about it, and hit "Delete" repeatedly and with confidence. My feeling on the matter changes daily, which is why I have a derelict desktop computer from 1999 sitting on the floor of my apartment, unused but not-quite-trash.
I have an old email address, which served me for many years but is now rarely checked in on. I only get junk anyway but I have a number of folders containing various communications between me and friends/acquaintances/lovers, some still around, some long gone. I am paralyzed with indecision - do I take the leap and delete the email address, or continue to log in occasionally for trips down memory lane of dubious value? I checked it today, semi-hopeful that 30+ days had passed since last log-in and Hotmail would've made the decision for me, but no, I have not been allowed to shirk responsibility that easily.
I'm not sure what it means that the records of our existence are no longer physical but instead trapped inside clumsy, hopelessly obsolete machines or else floating in some digital soup on a server mainframe lord-knows-where. I'd wager this contributes to the sense of disconnect I, and many people I know, experience regularly. At the very least it saps most of the symbolic portent from communication: one can burn letters, but deleting emails just doesn't elicit the same catharsis. It's a pattern of degradation, in the meaning and value of how we relate to each other, that began with the telephone and continues unabated in the new virtual world. Maybe this is good, maybe a more tenuous hold on the past means that the past will grip us less fiercely, enabling a certain freedom from the dictates of past experience. Maybe it's bad, maybe we're just losing that much more. Maybe it's neither, just another change we'll surely adapt to (though notice how "adapt" and its corrolaries - adaptability, adapter - have taken on electronic connotations in common speech).
In the spirit of ambiguity, here is the body of an email, sent to me long ago by someone I used to be close to. It is actually, I believe, the only email ever sent to me by this person. Many will be familiar with the Edward Lear rhyme. Incidentally, the band Luna included an interpretation on their farewell album, "Rendevouz," released last September. I had forgotten completely about this email. When I read it now, I hear the Luna song; so maybe, even with all the disconnection of the digital age, some conduit of connectedness prevails...
the owl and the pussy cat went to sea in a beautiful
pea green boat
they took some honey and plenty of money wrapped up in
a five pound note
the owl looked up at the stars above and sang on a
"oh lovely pussy, oh pussy my love, what a beautiful
pussy you are, you are, what a beautiful pussy you
pussy said to the owl, "you elegant fowl, how
charmingly sweet you sing! oh let us be married, too
long we have tarried, but what shall we do for a
they sailed away for a year and a day to the land
where the bong tree grows, and there in a wood a piggy
wig stood with a ring on the end of his nose, his
nose, a ring on the end of his nose
"dear pig are you willing to sell for one shilling
your ring?" said the piggy "i will."
so they took it away and were married next day by the
turkey who lives on the hill
they dined on mince and slices of quinces which they
ate with a runcible spoon (a spork)
and hand and hand by the edge of the sand they danced
by the light of the moon, the moon, they danced by the
light of the moon.
possibly the single most romantic story known to man.
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
If you are going to position yourself against fascism then you must be against fascists in all their forms, be they president, pope, or suicide bomber. I mean you, Christopher Hitchens – it is irresponsible to so blithely laud the defeat of one third-rate despot at the hands of a leader whose main motivation was a supreme sense of entitlement. I guess “contrarian” now means ignoring the fallacies of your own ideology.
John Tierney is a dolt.
As if abstract monetary values are the sole measure of social cost. Dolt.
Space travel is nice, though it can’t but seem slightly trivial when here on the ground we’re stumbling around as if afflicted by vertigo.
Why is the American League so much better than the National League?
Pavement are an object lesson in the failings of rock journalism. When confronted with a band intent on signifying nothing, writers bend over backwards to pin their own significance upon them, only to crucify them later by those same manufactured standards. This says something about rock criticism, not the band being criticized. You cannot practice within the media machine and then hope to shirk your share of responsibility for the deviancy of the machine – let this be a lesson, ye writers of Pitchfork.
Ideology is the enemy. Always, always, always.
We are all doomed, but the beer is cold and our friends are smart and beautiful.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
That was when I felt a hand on my shoulder and as I looked up, there was a cop who said "No drinking on the train." I confirmed his statement by repeating it and said "No drinking on the train." He looked at me, the paper I was reading (a copy of a copy of a discussion on the behavior of flies with amputated wings from 1874), and the "Mike's Hard Lemonade" bottle. Then he walked away.
Later I was sitting in class next to an Italian girl. The guy sitting next to her on the other side passed her a sheet of paper that said "Can I please have your email address?." She wrote her address down and passed the sheet on to me, thinking he wanted all of his classmates' email addresses. As I was writing mine down he bent over and took the sheet away saying "I don't want yours!" The girl felt sorry for me and offered me a separate sheet of paper to write down my email address. Sweet pity.
Tomorrow I'll work from home.
(If this inspires you to go to the NYAM library to see the hairball, please pretend to be interested in the books. It breaks the librarian's heart when people come just for the hairball.)
I think sometimes that silence is the best option.
Really though, it was my own failure that discouraged me. I came in trying to write, wanting to write, and I failed.
But tomorrow is another day.
In the meantime, let's ask an old Irishman to weigh in:
"Youth has an end: the end is here. It will never be. You know that well. What then? Write it, damn you, write it! What else are you good for?" (James Joyce)
It’s the Coney Island so familiar from images in a million movies- the Ferris wheel, the abandoned drop-ride, the immortal Cyclone (an extra ride for a buck less!). The crowd, at least in these summer months, puts me on serious edge because I grew up in relatively quiet suburbs while these people are half my age and pass the school year at gladiator academies like p.s. one hundred fifty fuck-knows. God is the only reason tough kids don’t pick fights with civilians like me.
Tired of the same old excuses keeping you at home all weekend, or buying things with money you don’t really have, or trying to convince yourself that the bars you frequent are worth the exorbitant cost of drinks, or sitting in subways waiting to do any of these things? Look no further- come to
Looking out from Nathan’s Hotdogs to the boardwalk, seeing nothing but blue sky- it’s a halting feeling- truly the edge of the city. All at once a New Yorker’s hustle/bustle attitude can fall away. There’s nowhere left to go, the finish line is in sight- go take off your shoes and rub your feet in the sand. And watch the pressure because glass from a million broken Snapple bottles lines the beach just below the surface.
Being the only one of our group to bring swimming trunks, I thought I was ahead of the game- yeah right! You know that salt residue left on your skin after swimming in the ocean- a dry/rough/sticky… anyway, why after swimming in the ocean at Coney does that sticky feeling seem multiplied and dirty? And why, after drying in the sun, was my hair more matted down then it would be after the same treatment at
Wait- don’t tell me, it doesn’t matter- I’m not so paranoid as to think I could get herpes just from swimming at
Saturday, July 09, 2005
Half of the money will be used to ship free food to Africa, thereby making sure that even the last African farmer will put down the rake and stop cultivating land because he can't sell his produce if food is given away for free next door.
The other half will be used to hire more cleaning ladies, doormen, and janitors for the offices of International Relief Organizations in African cities. Those are the best paid jobs here, so a whole generation of African MDs and MBAs will continue to connect calls and wait tables for UNICEF employees.
The farmers and workers of Africa are turned into beggars and its intellectual elite is turned into servants (and they still don't know it's Christmas time at all).
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The previous post about diffusion of responsibility was well-articulated and, as it turns out, prescient. The biggest tragedy of this mess we're in is that both sides practice in supreme self-delusion, each taking on faith that the other side has precipitated its own destruction and each refusing to acknowledge the real consequences of their actions. And that leaves the rest of us - the majority of us - stepping on and off the subway cars day in and day out, beset on all sides by warmongers and apologists.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
Take book publishing: in the old days somebody owned a Publishing House. And this guy had to decide if he wants to get a little richer and embarass himself by publishing the Pamela Anderson novel or if he wants to impress his peers by publishing a translation of really amazing Russian poetry. Ideally the Publishing House was named after him and his name was on each and every book. He just had to make sure to keep a certain standard. Today, Publishing Houses are owned by other Publishing Houses that are owned by media conglomerats that are owned by investors that are owned by shareholders. Although everybody would like to publish a good book even if it won't sell, no individual has the power to make a decision like that anymore.
The same is true for all other businesses. Behind companies putting Vietnamese kids to work in sweatshops or selling firearms in Sierra Leone there aren't fat capitalists with top hats and monocles that could be held responsible, but investors and shareholders.
And shareholders don't feel individually accountable. It is like a firing squad at an execution. There are 20 people with guns, but only 10 of the guns are loaded. So after they killed the guy, nobody knows who actually fired a bullet. And even if you did fire a bullet, it doesn't matter because the other nine bullets would have killed the guy anyway. So everybody walks away from a dead body but nobody feels responsible for it. The same diffusion of responsibility that helped executioners keep their peace of mind is now used to publish bad books (and sell weapons to Sierra Leone).