Monday, November 29

silence is what i always come back to
- a state of mind, not a state of sound
since always there is something:
wheel-buzz on the blacktop road,
the breathing of a friend
stoned in the passenger seat

wind catching the edges of the markers,
the trees around the fence, the tall grass

the hum of some electric motor, shifting
thermodynamic debt from one box to another
in the grey light of a midwinter basement

truck traffic on the interstate
train whistles just down the block
grain rattles, drying
in a corrugated steel bin

rain outside an open window in the spring
snowflakes sift onto leaves and needles
cotton and synthetic threads
slide across skin

party to some stillness
so that i am a reflective surface
an echo, action or its absence
stripped of explanation
unconstructed, no definition
no excuse.

Sunday, November 28

this morning, while
unloading the dishwasher in my parents' kitchen
i listen to a radio sermon
the preacher is talking about christian humility
of which he suggests the apostle paul was a perfect example

it would be easy to flippantly suggest
that he's exactly right
but i've known christians
whose humility was real
and appealing, a ground for their faith
rather than an unsubtle expression
of some ugly pride

anyway, i've heard worse sermons by far
it's kind of a dying art,
the glittering and loquacious predators
of the broadcast pulpit industry

you used to hear good sermons, though
maybe my perspective has just shifted
but i remember the minister at my grandma's
church, this huge man with a huge voice,
and his images of the soul — broken jars
and the bright copper tone of new pennies —
have lasted longer than my catechism.

Saturday, November 27

a partial list of initial lines of things i have written with more than the usual number of line breaks (ill-sorted)

i just spent twenty minutes
the tango should not be that hard.
rounding out the month,
tequila tastes like death
too many words
colorado's unsurprisingly perfect weather
if all my trains of thought
i don't have time to be writing this
another october saturday
all day
oh god come quickly the execution of all things
late tuesday afternoon,
think of this as a PING
people talked me into reading the river why, by david james duncan
little experiment
one ring, oh yeah
admit it
one good thing about music
another room
if you aren't
the last day of the year is fading fast
weeks go by
i dreamed it snowed again
me: fuck!
back again, and none too sure of what to say.
(yeah, we've cycled around back to euphoria)
of all those i have ever read about,
there are robins in the tree outside the window
and the front page of the new york times says
you know the weird instant when
Sitting here, I'm looking
so we stand there
ever look around
so i was at home for a while this weekend
it shames me that the first thing i thought
december's weight is strange
of course it didn't snow
tuesday morning i left the room
outside, cold and mostly dry
in the library again
suppose the universe
Once there was a turtle.
i start to wonder about the visual hallucinations
drove laci to the airport yesterday
this is me,
you could learn a lot splitting firewood
There's no such thing as a blank slate
stagger, if not quite stumble in
modal thinking
the sense that you have been operating under false assumptions
people like to be written about
to the good folks of the united states
In other words,
leaving for missouri
j. michael straczynski was at least partly responsible
i am in an airport in omaha,
somewhere under them is a girl
unlike june, or even july
making my shaggy, sweat-soaked
i wonder why thankfulness is so hard to express
this place is a fucking mess
It is almost 2:00 AM,
soaked? well, not quite
between the latin i should be studying
lately i have been saying
and a year ago things were very different.
a list
i'm in a coffee shop eating 25 cents worth
there's nothing that dictates
if you wanted
we throw a disc for a while,
there is not going to be a perfect answer
a prediction of sorts
words are empty
i stood with my sister
different, this time
you have to choose, she said
i think i've written more in the past few months
it's 2:34 in the afternoon
the day is ended
one of my two best friends from highschool
footing on the bridge
coming home in
i suddenly felt deeply
some days
hoar frost clinging to last life beneath
there's always that moment right at takeoff when
sunrise 7:48 a.m.
yesterday the wind came into town and
the end of another semester,
may day, beltane, &c.
it's after 12:30; i'm sitting on
first, it is extraordinarily difficult
i am well convinced
a tiny shop, in the afternoon
stipulate that when i am dead
in prague, we stay at a baptist seminary
when we get back to the house,
Monday at the coffee shop,
today i got my pictures back from europe.
trying to escape
last night pulling onto 180 to go the three miles home
wednesday morning, shawn calls
should not waste the awareness of rain
wednesday morning, shawn calls
time is like some slow drug
justify yourself
across the windowpane
friday afternoon, sweet relief
today i skipped work
somewhere in a subdivision of hell
i leave the office around sunset,
we're as new on this surface

Monday, November 22

was going somewhere with this

we're as new on this surface
as frost on some november window,
strange as well as lost to this territory
the horizons of years and
long slow motions we can just now begin to see
and deep enough in time, there's no terrible
permanence to the things we lay down
our ink, our brick and steel,
our tracks and furrows, grooves and channels
our ways and means becoming
(the wreckage of our bodies
and so much pain besides):
silence after a while.

Sunday, November 21

resistance & futility

Google has what appears to be a scholarly article / citation engine up.

I fed it "bearnes" and got a citation for my dad's master's thesis: "Factors in and feasibility of interest rate hedging by farmers" (TG Bearnes, Kansas State University, 1984).

glass beads?

This morning I was messing around in my room and found a stack of index cards from a history class I had a while back. They came from a brief flirtation with actually re-reading my notes. I remember clearing all the junk off my bed and laying out dozens of cards with labels like "Theodore Roosevelt" in an effort to map what I knew about the Progressive Era.

It didn't really work very well, because most kinds of hypertext don't map to a physical space very gracefully, and those were pretty much the terms I was thinking in: All these sort of discrete ideas/objects at different levels of organization (World War I, Teapot Dome, Muckraking), linked to all the other appropriate objects. Doing this on paper, it's easy to build chains of ideas by laying cards next to one another, but much harder to make a map of all the relationships you want to show.

So I was thinking about this, and I came up with a game. Let's call it Brennen's Card Game of History, or something like that. The basic idea is that you have a big, fat stack of index cards, each containing the name of an idea. For the purposes of this game, "idea" is fairly inclusive. People, places, historical periods, dates, ideologies, formulas, and physical objects are all acceptable. Ideally, each player will contribute cards to the stack.

The cards are shuffled, and all players are dealt a fixed number of cards. Two cards from the remainder of the deck are then turned face up on the table, and the players attempt to build a coherent chain of ideas between them. Branching might be allowed in some circumstances, but in general every card played has to connect to the end of one of the two existing sequences - blocking is thus possible. The winner of the game is the player holding the fewest cards when the chain is completed. Any given connection between two ideas can be challenged, with the burden of proof on the player laying the card (encyclopedias and Google come in here), but the challenging player is penalized if the connection holds up.

I'm not really sure about the game mechanics; a lot of stuff would definitely need to be roughed out in-play. One thought I have is that probably you should be able (or required) to introduce new cards as the game progresses. For example, if player one lays "1950s American Popular Culture" and player two lays "Jazz", a third card might be created reading "Jazz in 1950s American Popular Culture".

I wonder if it would be possible to come up with a set of constraints that would make competitive gameplay possible, or if some kind of third party Game Master figure would be needed to referee. Maybe the game would begin with a die roll determining the kinds of allowable relationships between ideas - for example, Causation, Sequence, or Classification. Alternatively, maybe this could be redesigned as a cooperative game of sorts - but then, where's the fun in non-zero-sum games, really?

Sunday, November 14

Earlier this year, just back from Budapest, thoroughly unemployed and saturated with an aimless despair, I sat down with a fountain pen and a stack of copier paper to write a manifesto. I wrote "justify yourself" across the top of the paper, because it was the single phrase that kept running through my head. I wasn't sure what I meant by that, and I wanted to know; to find out and in the process of finding out give expression to all the things that have informed my sense of wonder, of responsibility, of longing and incompleteness, of connection and unexpected sufficiency. I still do. The human animal has an amazing faculty for ignorance. A faculty our entire civilization, possessed of so much knowledge, is hellbent on augmenting. No matter. This is not an excuse. (In a certain vocabulary the things of the World must be overcome: they are an obstacle and a hindrance, but they are no excuse. This is true, and also not, because the world is or at least contains - is contained by - what we seek.) I feel I have lost touch again with the real life, the life you should never look away from once you have found it. And yet it's everywhere. In every unexpected or deeply known thing.

Thursday, November 11

I made a better vim cheat sheet.

more: vimcheat

tuesday, november 9

i leave the office around sunset,
a day of academic language and
bureaucracy leaking out of my ears

and walking to my car, the perfect
beauty of all light at november
dusk is everywhere. west, the sky
is full of near-flame, cloud and the
slashes of jet contrails.
east just above the university,
the sunfall is echoed
everything limned in pink:
a color so beautiful
in the state of nature
that it renders every
manufactured imitation brittle and false

here is some kind of symbiosis: a coaltrain moves below the
footbridge, and yellow light circles underneath
lamp-poles near the baseball park. somewhere
there are stacks and smoke, a plume of steam
and all these wires are fed, back to the places
where trains pass so much streetlit concrete,
stoplights and spotlights on billboards, yardlights
in farmyards and windows glowing out onto lawns.

Monday, November 8

Levi wants a vim cheatsheet to stick in front of his laptop keyboard.

This is my first effort. I think it might be too big to shrink to a useful size for the laptop, but I figure he can play with it, since things are grouped in blocks. There have to be a couple dozen of these things floating around, but writing something like this is a good way to figure out what you know about a system.

more: vimcheat.txt

Wednesday, November 3

Well, fuck.