Tuesday, March 25

what's wrong is everywhere

back again, and none too sure of what to say.
there's a war going down
i never wanted to see begin
and never expected to see stopped.

this is me hoping
that the war proceeds to something like its stated ends
as fast as possible
because there are no better alternatives

this is my free acknowledgement
that the destruction of iraq's government
is by no means without its positives,
that there are things worse than war,
that some of the protest against this one
is misinformed and even malicious

this is scorn and sickened disgust
for much pro-war sentiment
and most of the rhetoric i hear
and the raging willfull mindlessness that everywhere
shrouds itself in the cheap trappings of nationalism
and calls itself patriot.

this is a lot of ambiguity.

here are some unequivocal statements for balance:

i now believe
that the government of this nation
is on some deep level insane
(i concede that others are more so,
but i don't think it changes the basic fact).

i believe that christian radio
is populated by evil, hate-mongering fucks.

i wish that walt whitman had been right about america.

the bitter strings,

the jealous sound
and
the fire theft
(which is more or less to say
sunny day real estate
except not)
are going to be at knickerbockers
my favorite underrated small midwestern venue
on friday.

they rock.

Monday, March 17

C: Like Don Juan de la Mancha?

F: Who?

B (singing): I am I, Don Quixote, the lord...

Thursday, March 13

flee from me, keepers of the gloom

(yeah, we've cycled around back to euphoria)

looking in the mirror
i can see my own shadow on my face
in the light from where the sun
is just touching the edge of the window
i'm not quite sure how that works

it's down now anyway
the sun i mean

it's unreal how much healthier
a room gets to feeling
with windows open
and voices drifting in

makes me feel like drifting out

right after this song
hey lady...

you can't resist her, she's in your bones

The second CD I ever bought is still one of the best I own. Whatever you think of Weezer's post-Pinkerton material (and if you dis Pinkerton, we're done talking), the Blue Album is still worthy of high volume with the windows open on a day as beautiful as this one.

Reading Dave Eggers' A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius in the same two weeks as binging on countless e2 nodes, losing all semblance of regular sleep patterns, and stepping up the caffeine-alcohol-carbohydrate intake cycle all while alternating between restless boredom, crashing despair, and sagelike contemplative repose edging towards euphoria — this has done things to my prose.

Not good things. I can see that.

conversation is good, right?

V: Sex wax?
I: Yeah, that's what it's called. Sex Wax. It's like the brand name or something.
B: Not like... You know.
M: You know, like that Weezer song.
B and A, nearly simultaneously: Surf Wax America?
V: Oh yeah!

time passes

A: You could make little casts of your belly button.
B: Or nipple casts. Nipple casts would be cool.

later

S: Pull up a chair.
B: Awright.
S: My you look feminine tonight.
B: ...
J: Wow. Are you always this condescending?
S: Did you just call me "condescending"?
B: So you think I've got enough hair for dreads?
S: I dunno. Are you thinking about dreads?
B: I dunno. Maybe.
S: Take off your hat.
B: ...
S: (distinctive laughter)
S: Ok, put your hat back on.

time passes

B (singing): It's... a... duck blur...
J: Yeah! That's it.

Tuesday, March 11, 23:26 CST

the mix cd and how i want to give you one

Inspired by Brokentype, and my desire to be the kind of person who makes mix tapes and CDs and finds that people actually like them...

All right, here's the deal. I am going to go buy a big spindle full of blank discs, and then I am going to sit down and make a mix CD. I'm going to put some thought into it, because I'm going to try to make it represent what it is that I'm listening to right now, as much as I can without spending way too much time, and I'm pretty willing to be flexible about what constitutes way too much. What's more, I'm going to do the same thing next week, or at least the week after next, since next week is spring break and I'm still cherishing the illusion that I will figure out somewhere brilliant to go, and I'm going to try to keep doing it, week after week, month after month, you get the idea, but not so regularly that it becomes a grudging task.

Here's your bit: Write me an e-mail, even a really simple one, containing an address that the US Postal Service, for whom I generally have way more respect than use of the term snailmail might indicate, will be able to do something with - and I will send you some music. The most recent version of Whatever I Want the World to Know I'm Hearing will be yours, free of immediate monetary cost.

It won't always be a CD. Some times it might be a tape, or a wax cylinder, or, I don't know, a stack of crude ink paintings on cheap typing paper made while listening to something. I do that once in a while.

I'm not expecting a lot of takers on this. I'm not sure I'm expecting any takers on this. I would be happy if I got a few, and one way or another, it's going to be a standing offer.

Tuesday, March 11, 0:49 CST

So I didn't see Rilo Kiley tonight, but I wanted to.

What I did do - and this I didn't think I wanted, but in retrospect if I hadn't maybe I would have given up after the first five minutes - was stand in line hoping for a dozen people to trickle out of the bar so they would let us - us in the all-of-the-people-standing-here sense, not the people-I-came-with sense, because I didn't go with anyone - in so we could hear the music and pay them to give us beer that there's no way most of us really need on a Monday night, least of all me.

And then I gave up and walked away. I'll bet it was a good show. In fact, I'll bet it's finishing up right about now, and for a few seconds longer, it probably still is a good show.

This is the last week of classes before spring break, and my midterms are all over, all three of them, so for all practical intents and purposes, folks, we are already entering flux time. In fact, we have been edging into flux time for longer than I can really nail down, maybe for something like a month, but it is about to kick into overdrive and this is good, because I have been telling myself that things are getting entirely too concrete, entirely too worn-in-the-grooves, my sense of things slipping is slipping, it is time for something to kick loose again and let the jagged edges, the ragged free-flying debris, tear gaping holes in everything where air and light and fast moving road surface can show through.

Monday, March 10

16:00 + some odd minutes

(Yeah, now that you mention it, I do have an alarming tendency to take a single point out of context and beat it to death instead of addressing an entire argument.)

Brent:

I am saying that reputation counts. If we were Vulcans, anyone could say anything and we could evaluate their statements with pure logic. But if somebody talks about a master race descended from Plutonians who run a shadow government intent on tilting the Earth's axis, then begins to discuss theories about physics, how much would you trust their statements about physics?

Thing is, this is where we drift back into the territory of pure ad hominem. Yes, "reputation", or at least prior knowledge about a speaker, is useful. It can lead you to ask what people's real motives are. It can help you to see their arguments in a different, maybe more helpful light. It can help you reduce the inevitable confusion that language introduces by meaning slightly different things to everyone. And yes, it can serve as a warning that perhaps you ought to be careful, really careful, about what this nutjob is saying - or that maybe, all your instincts to the contrary, this chick has a good enough track record that it's worth your time to listen, because it could just be that she knows something you have missed. All that's true, but it can also be dangerous, *especially* that last bit.

Logic does not indicate and (more importantly) experience does not show that people who are raving lunatics are more likely to be wrong about everything, or that people who know what they are talking about are never raving lunatics.

Posit a somewhat eccentric and by many accounts unpleasant practitioner of alchemy who believes that the course of history is literally encoded in the physical dimensions of a building destroyed some 1600 years before his time. Feel like taking his advice on physics? How about math?

If Isaac Newton is not a strong (or recent) enough counterexample, I submit Ezra Pound, Bobby Fischer, and Wernher von Braun.

(Whoops. The Second Temple bit the dust in, I think, 70 CE/AD. Newton lived 1642-1727, so adjust that 1600 years bit as needed for your own chronological comfort.)

Sunday, March 9

Early this morning: Put the bottle down, Nate.

Oh yeah. That was like a year ago. Sorry. Flashbacks. Nevermind.

This afternoon: Guided by Voices, Do the Collapse. Maybe this one is atypical, but I like it.

That's the price we pay
when we deceive
One another mother
She opens up for free
Everybody's got a hold on hope
It's the last thing that's holding me

Saturday, March 8

Actually, I think it's ad hominem (ad + the accusative of homine, to the man). Or maybe I'm being obtuse and hominum is neuter, which does make more sense. Nevermind.

So maybe I was right about the Latin.

Anyway, about the whole thing.

Eric's right; it's an ad hominem attack and it doesn't say the first thing about the merits of an argument from the Vatican - or anyone else - against the war.

I also understand what Brent's saying. I hesitate to characterize "the Church" as a monolithic entity, but when an institution of its kind makes an effort to influence the actions of a government, it's not just making an argument. It's making an appeal based on its own power and perceived moral authority. This isn't a debate, in the formal, rhetorical sense, and I don't think anyone truly expects its outcomes to be based on a logical evaluation of opposing arguments.

This is what sometimes makes me uncomfortable with dismissing things as ad hominem (or as appeals to authority, whatever the Latin term is). Yes, it is a logical fallacy to assume that the character of a speaker has bearing on the logical validity of their statements. No, it is not entirely irrational to consider the motives and history of a speaker anyway. It is certainly an almost inescapable human behavior, and short of rewiring our own brains, it is probably better taken into account than ignored.

What stirs more disagreement in me is not precisely that this is an ad hominem attack. It is that if the Vatican claims the authority it does, and sincerely believes in it, and sincerely believes that a war would be the wrong action to take, then it is obligated to do no less than make its voice strongly heard on the matter. The idea that any party must remain silent until their own sins are atoned for is sometimes a dangerous one. None of us are innocent. (OLP disagree with me, but that's a topic for another day.)

As for appalling, I think there's plenty to go around. It is appalling to watch President Bush and the powers he represents systematically dismantle as many of this country's safeguards against tyranny as they can comfortably reach. It is appalling to watch the busy construction of the mechanisms of a future police state. It is appalling to know that this is done in the name of protecting 280 million of us from terrorists and terror states whose psychotic goals could scarcely be better served than by the slow, grinding processes they have given "our" own government license to put in place.

It is appalling to see the poisonous threads of racist bullshit and lingering, clueless apology for murderous ideologies and states that twine their way through the body of opposition to Bush's war. It is appalling to watch even the well-intentioned propagandize on the behalf of a dictator, and more so that this should further inure people to the real damage being done by the present administration of the United States.

It is appalling that the Roman Catholic Church as a single continuous entity (an illusion, sure, but one no less real to many people than the idea of America) is believed to retain any moral authority whatever in the face of a thousand years' history.

(I'm not satisfied with what I've written here, but I think I'll have to rely on future stuff to clarify.)

friday, march 7

of all those i have ever read about,
been told of, or encountered in practice
there are two philosophical schools
which are really accurate delineations
of either my life or what i ought to be doing with it

they can be concisely defined
as the why not philosophy
and the worst possible thing

("why not" may or may not best be written
with a question mark)

both are essentially self explanatory
there's nothing i can say about why not
that you couldn't derive from those two words

and although the worst possible thing
perversely enough (but not surprisingly)
takes a little more thought

anyone who has ever tried to crawl into a bottle
almost dialed the phone and failed
punched bricks with bare knuckles
said nothing, least of all what you really meant
when anything at all was required
probably knows what i mean.

why not is a kind of imperative
why not talk to her?
why not escape the earth's gravity well and fill the universe with life?
why not leave the windows open, drive a few thousand miles,
climb the rocks, take the backroads, leave the country,
admit that safety is an illusion, stop faking clever?

the worst possible thing
is walking quietly back to your room,
it is letting someone see the expression on your face
that reflects the self destruction charging through your brain,
it is in the bottle, in the dialtone you don't do anything with,
the sea you are not crossing, the ones you turn away from and the things you
should not say to the few who don't turn away from you
the keyboard where the strings should be
where someone's skin would be
a better instrument
that you aren't
playing

i fucking hate the worst possible thing.

Wednesday, March 5

one,

The Mad Hungarian1 across the hall is playing Pink Floyd, very loudly, and I am pondering some things.

Little things, like what exactly I'm doing with my life, if it would be possible to articulate my thoughts on God, and why I'm responsible for so much crashing banality. Big ones like whether the chili-pepper Christmas lights around the window unbalance the room and should I get more posters or something and why is fruit smuggled out of the cafeteria infinitely better than, say, this banana would have been if I'd eaten it then and there instead of putting it in my sweatshirt pocket?

1Actually, Levente's not particularly mad, in either sense of the word, but he's a big, vocal kind of guy, and mostly I just like referring to someone as The Mad Hungarian.

two.

Back it on, I say, back it on up. Start this over.

Writing's good. I like text; articulation is fun and obfuscation too some times, but external validation for your existence it just ain't. I don't want to be a writer, I'm just someone who happens to write... Fluently? Fluidly? Not a chance. Least of all now. This ought to be spun off in the pages of some notebook where it might hit me some day as a good reminder of where I was once (and I have a specific kind of notebook in mind, but my current volumes are all full of ink), not somewhere I'm trying to do something serious, right? But then who says this is serious, and why should it be?

I'm just the other side of a couple of important edges right now: Ones that define little things like coherence and the chances anybody'd get anything out of reading this, but also the one that's defined my obsessive need to hit that escape key, pound on the backspace, delete things and start over a thousand times. I'm not just ignoring the little things - I'm ignoring the big ones that should tell me to drop out of this editor, delete this file, and move on 'cause I'm not gonna produce anything.

I read most of the collected shorter poems of Kenneth Rexroth the other night, all but the most excruciating early stuff, and it's clear the man got better as he aged, when formal things and structures and abstractions tied to isms fell away or got replaced by solid simple words. It doesn't hurt that somehow I know a little more than when I first read these things and more things seem like simple words to me. Names of poets, Latin interjections, the ten thousand things and histories I didn't know existed, mysteries I thought were nonsense once. Learn a little and much can change. It's good to know I've learned a little. And anyway before I put the book down I stopped bullshitting myself that I don't want to be a poet, because sometimes that's precisely what I want, and pray tell me what's wrong with that?

Of course you could if you felt like it; I can even do it for you, coming at an angle to the question: Don't think funny typography makes for something else than prose, don't know thing the first about rhythm rhyme or verse, can't sing to save your mortal soul, don't want to sink a life worth living in the purest refuge of bad English major angst and ennui (Charles Bukowski wrote a thing about poetry readings that was right to the point, brutal, and I just stopped for ten minutes to find it, failed).

But see it doesn't matter overmuch because there are moments when I think that, yeah, that, I want to make something like that and even more important moments when I think this, I want to render this somehow not because it can be caught but exactly because it utterly cannot, nothing reduces to words and abstractions are the ground of everything you fail to know and I want to make one anyway because I've got absolutely nothing else to offer and I'm still inclined to speak.

Formalize a thing and you kill it, name it and it's gone, hold it too long alooking and something real leaves, but sometimes we've got no choice. We choose resolution and what we hope will be simple understanding where we maybe should know better about the simple part; there's nothing more human and maybe it's one of our better traits, if being more interesting primates than grubs and tubers and keep-an-eye-out for the rest of the jungle red in tooth and claw is a positive (and don't mistake me, I'm in favor, most days). So sometimes I want to write poetry, and even if I never do, I'm pretty much ok with wanting that.

It's the little things, even retreating further into unwarranted-upbeat Ash Wednesday solitude.

Tuesday, March 4

everything

everything2 ain't always my cup of tea, but it's one of those things I think it would be a bad idea to ignore. There's probably more brilliant and/or honest text swirling around over there than a dozen of me could write in several lifetimes of steady effort. Or at least it seems that way on casual inspection. I wonder if more than casual inspection would be as bad an idea as Usenet binging.

Here: A few straightfoward examples.

I don't have anything concrete to offer in support of that "brilliant" assertion, except that the cumulative effect of wandering through this thing for a few hours is pretty powerful, and it was a word that came to mind.

You're still here? Look, I'm serious. Hit up a node, like maybe The problem with people who think life is inexpressibly beautiful is that they so often try to express it anyway, and read it until you see a link that looks even halfway to interesting, and click on it. Don't try to keep track of things, just let it flow for a while. I'll bet you wind up somewhere interesting.

And this, this might be brilliant. Or at least it strikes a chord. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's all it does is strike a chord - it's not that one bit of text by itself. It's a couple dozen of them. But it too might might be a good place to start.

It's really hard to laugh silently in a library. Just try reading a phrase like this without incurring the wrath of the guy industriously studying some godawful academic complexity a few carrolls down.

meanwhile

You know how sometimes things fit together beautifully in your head, and then you actually start putting them together, and wonder what exactly you were thinking? Yeah, that's me.

more: harvest

Sunday, March 2

As regards yesterday, it is true that the pictures have no meaningful relationship to the text. In fact, there is less connection than one might suppose: I took them last Sunday a hundred miles from here in different weather. That tree is outside my window at home, not my window here, and there were no robins it it. The building in the background is my dad's rusty-tin-roofed shop, where he and I built the glass-fronted bookcase with those next to useless door latches - never got around to putting a catch in the middle of them before we carried it in the house. It has never been a problem, because the doors stick tight in the least humidity.

saturday, march 1

there are robins in the tree outside the window
for all i know they've been around all winter but
still, it seems a springlike thing



low were amazing
i'll never call them mellow again
that's just not the word



eric johnson was also amazing
random chance got us front row seats
i can safely say
i have never been that close to that much raw guitar talent