Monday, June 28

Mug. Hand. Bass.

I've been walking around for two days with a black elastic hair thing on my wrist. The kind that's like a round, stretchy piece of string with a metal bit crimped onto it. I think the technical term I want is 'pony tail holder'.

In Bath, Molly was cleaning out drawers and had a whole cardboard spindle full of them. I grabbed ten or thirty before she threw them away. They're good to put around rolled up t-shirts and boxer shorts. Before we left they were everywhere in her room, because they have the Property of Random Distribution. The Scattered Nature. This is an attribute shared with bobby pins, spare change, and dirty socks.

Bottles behind the bar.

Tonight we went to a pub where a bunch of people were clustered around a soundboard and some mics with two guitars, one violin, a mandolin, and a bass. I sat and drew bad pictures while alien language and familiar music flowed around me. Like a rock, or a moss-covered log half-submerged in the stream of everything that's going on. I was happy.

Maybe I'm hoping the Property of Random Distribution will transfer to me by some kind of totemic or sympathetic magic.

Playing.

Sunday, June 27

shucks

Thanks, Alan. And here I was getting all disgusted with my written output again.

having done

stipulate that when i am dead
it will not matter much to me
how i am remembered
that most of the dead are forgotten
within a lifetime or much less
and that few if any
are remembered honestly or fairly

i still wonder what the hell
anyone will know about me

say that i
was unusually quiet
and often confused
no judge of wine or horses
bad at cards
a terrible lover

i will hardly argue

but please
for the love of god
or in defiance of same
be able to recall some single great thing
some moment, something made, one act
that was real.

Friday, June 25

green and grey

Today, Levi and I sat and drank tea across from a gray, slightly battered communist-era apartment building with green glass panels on the balconies. Earlier, I had been looking at the other side of the building where the balconies were little glass boxes that looked exactly like algae-filled aquariums, except for the one at the top with all the flowers that looked like a planter. The interior of the tea room (four tables and shelves full of tea paraphernalia for sale) was done in red-brown wood. I kept noticing red flowers on a bush behind a wrought-iron fence, the threat of rain, and all the people walking past.

Like usual, we talked about politics and activism. Here's a basic problem: Why are the people who are the most dedicated and willing to work for change so often the most misguided? To state it another way, why are the radical ends of the great curve of political ideas split between stupid and malicious, while the bulk are stubbornly indifferent? (See: thoughts.)

Afterwards, we walked through the rain and took a tram to the country's largest shopping mall, where despite the rain, Levi's dad and the rest of the band played government-sponsored country music for a smallish crowd, some percentage of it instantly recognizable as homeless. A girl in a very white shirt with very dark hair walked around and tried to hand out European Union literature. The band wound up with a Hungarian rendition of "Puff the Magic Dragon". Levi tells me the possible drug-song element doesn't really carry over in translation. Towards the back of the crowd a little circle of logoed (System of a Down, Korn, NiN) alterna-kids stood around and tried to look uninterested. One girl danced and sang along. You could tell everyone knew the words.

more: thoughts

Thursday, June 24

I tried to catch everything, but the Hungarian text at the bottom of the screen kept snagging my attention and dragging it away from the English dialog. Sort of the inverse of the logophilic tendencies that usually make it so easy for me to watch subtitled films.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed The Ladykillers. As per usual, the Coen Brothers demonstrate a genius for quirk and a knack for hiring music talent.

In tangential connection, courtesy of the fine Christian folks at Bob Jones University, a George Washington quote:

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is, in extending our commercial relations to have with them as little political connection as possible.

(Pretend there's a little cartoon here. It's George Washington reading a volume labelled something like The United States, 1798-2004 and thinking "Dammit.")

Wednesday, June 23

Rexroth, The Dragon and the Unicorn:

We think of time as serial
And atomic, the expression
By mechanical means of a
Philosophical notion,
Regular divisibility
With a least common divisor
Of motion by motion, so
Many ticks to a century.
Such a thing does not exist.
Actually, the concept
Of time arose from the weaving
Together of the great organic
Cycles of the universe ...

a tiny shop, in the afternoon
while the hungarians argue
politics i watch people passing
on the street, clean sunlight on the
narrow floor, the precise motion of
watchsmith's tools.

when i was a child
the small perfections of timekeeping
mechanisms were fascinating,
like the broken radios and minor appliances
i pried apart. repair was always
hopeless, as doomed a prospect as
the wild animals i tried to rescue
from countless deaths. my successes were
meager: a single speaker wire
soldered into place, one rabbit
who took to formula and eyedroppers.

it has been years since i wore a watch
out of fascination or habit
these past few weeks it has been almost
necessary, navigating the channels and chutes
of this vast system for moving
homo sapiens sapiens
over a complex curved surface
whose topography the species renders
ever more complicated in its efforts to level.

the lifeblood of cities and towns
is channeled by the necessary illusion
of absolute, interlocking time

mass transit, the daily mail
metered utilities and trucks full of produce
all determined by the measured flow of entropy
(unwinding springs, tiny thrumming crystals
some isotope's decay: we keep order by
observing order's own slow death)
through the vast lattice they continually nourish —
it's as if civilization were underwritten by timex,
or sustained by a billion little flames kindled
from the sacred fire of some naval observatory.

all this, and yet
the experience of time
remains organic
like the city for all of its
deceptive steel, concrete and brick

the content and duration of any moment
is no more constrained and regular
than that of a street corner
or an open door.

Tuesday, June 22

Still alive. In Budapest. Being terrible at correspondence. Food good, public transport interesting, buildings old, language confusing.

Friday, June 18

Valium the bear, radiator with tea lights.

Thursday, June 17

A tree in Bath.

Tuesday, June 15

there are seagulls everywhere here. they're huge.

Monday, June 14

Tree + Steel Structural Element at Train Station

Sunday, June 6

chances

Safe to assume that entries here will be even more scattershot than usual for a while. This is because, on Wednesday, I am getting on a plane to England.

Friday, June 4

Via TNH, Estimating the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow is too wonderful a document not to share. There are other interesting things at style.org, too. This breakdown of nationality in the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, for example.

Thursday, June 3

Last night I sat in the couch in the living room while my room mates had a conversation on one side and an episode of The West Wing for which I had no context ran on the television. I kept switching my attention to one stream of information, only to have it quietly repossessed by the other a few minutes later. On one side, someone was going to censure the President - the one played by Martin Sheen, the one who makes fiction seem so much saner than politics circa now. On the other side, someone had still been really drunk at 5 a.m. and had to work at 8, and fried food was the best after a night like that. I had to agree. When I finally left, Reservoir Dogs was just getting bloody, but they'd cut out a lot of instances of "fuck".

I found myself in that state of mind where every sound is crisp and distinct, with weight, like being in a professionally edited scene where the footstep noises are made by a guy hunched over a box of sand and some woodblocks.

Some time after midnight, I piled eight notebooks, two sketchbooks, and a couple of folders on the floor of my apartment (because my writing table is covered in books and candleholders and things). I paid special attention to the way they sounded when I picked them up. I sat and looked at them for a while. I rearranged them, then rummaged around in bookshelves and under my bed to make sure there weren't any more. I walked to the kitchen and ate half a jar of apple sauce. When I came back, they were still there.

And I thought this is it. Everything of any value, excepting about four dozen letters and some electronic text, which I have written in the last four years.

It isn't much. It's probably too late to stop anyway.

Tuesday, June 1

pop linguistics

Via Neil Gaiman, the distribution of generic terms for soft drinks. Especially, check out this map. Of interest to anyone who has ever had the following exchange:

Southern Waitperson: Anything to drink?

Midwesterner: Yeah... I'll have a Coke.

Waitperson: What kind?

Midwesterner: Er. A Coke?

Waitperson: We got Sprite, root beer...

Midwesterner: Coca-Cola?

Waitperson: Sure thing, hon.

Equally fascinating would be a study of the distribution of terms for sandwiches consisting of loose hamburger in sauce on cheap white bread. In places I have lived or visited, I have heard sloppy joe, loose meat, made-rite, and ready-made. In Laurel, Nebraska, they are called taverns and are nearly always made with low-grade grocery store hamburger buns. The canonical public meal, served by default at high school sporting events, church functions, auctions, field days, and county fairs, consists of taverns, one or two kinds of potato chips, and "bars" - cookie or cake-like substances baked in shallow pans and cut into squares. Small styrofoam cups with a choice of ice tea, sugary fruit-flavored beverage, and coffee are also necessary.

This brief history quotes a couple of food encyclopedias tracing the sloppy joe to a loose meat sandwich in 1930s Sioux City. Sioux City is certainly the kind of place you would expect to produce both the sandwich and a name like "sloppy joe", but it's probably unrealistic to expect a single point of origin for such a basic dish.