Sunday, January 30, 2005

Pictures on the fridge

With the holiday season having drawn to a close, we've taken the kids' pix from the seasonal cards and refreshed our refrigerator for the year. Some of it is pretty intense. Right there on the fridge is Eric's kid, next to a picture of Hilary's kids. Which is wierd, because Eric used to go out with Hilary before I did way back in the 80s, years before Eric and Laura introduced Mary and me. And it speaks particularly well of Mary that she's hanging a pic of an ex's kids on the fridge, even if, as she says, it has nothing to do with the kids and everything to do with the fact that, photographically speaking, it's the best picture of the season, which appeals to the photographer in Mary.

Now back to work. Settling into a new cube right here in the heart of Princeton, America's most corporate university town. Walking to work, strolling past the Lindt chocolate store, Banana Republic, Coach store, fishmonger, patisserie and other ridiculous stuff. The only useful thing is the drug store, where to stop on the way home to get hair gel (this being New Jersey) and benadryl. Gotta love doing it on foot.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Project management

So now I've sold a project, albeit a small one, and I've got to manage it. Management's an odd thing. It's one of the things you've basically got to do to make more money if you're operating outside of a real "star" context. It's an interesting problem, I suppose, without being a really compelling one. Would be easier if I had a strong drive to dominate. But don't.

And now I'm called on to make all of these kinds of decisions I hadn't thought of as being managerial. Will we wear suits? Can we expense lunch? What time do we come in? Hmm.

In other news, I'm not yet convinced that Wilco is all that, like I've read. Seems awfully derivative from Pavement.

Showdown day nears

That's right, fair readers. On February 3 some New Russian developers will present plans for some tacky houses with fake siding that they plan to build across the fence from our backyard. They like to stomp around and bluster about how they're being mistreated. We like to haul our merry band of academic misfits and smooth VC types to local government meeting and break out the big words and the violins about how this is going to tear out neighborhood up. It will. Keerist, I have a stand of trees across the back fence from my yard. Princeton Borough wants to let it happen to get revenue from the property taxes. It's gonna be interesting.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

My outfit today

Ended up wearing my green suit today because I pulled brown socks out of the sock drawer in the dark, so I had to go with the brown shoes. Then I had to go with a pinkish-red checked shirt and red tie because all the white shirts I had had shrunk too much to be worn with a tie. So I look like Christmas.

So what's up with white shirts, I ask you? Do they not seem to shrink more quickly than colored ones? Is there something in the dye of the colored ones that guards against shrinkage? I'm befuddled.

I was going to write a quasi-indignant thing about the anniversary of the opening of Auschwitz and reading Andrew Sullivan's review of some Abu Ghraib books, but I'm sure that line of thinking is readily available elsewhere. Never again? Great idea.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Paradoxes of positivity

Generally speaking, if you try to stay positive, you'll be happier. Stands to reason. However, if you're positive about everything, continually look on the bright side, you really internalize this practice, and in time it gets harder to figure out what you don't like. When you don't know what the bright side is anymore, it's hard to know what you actually want.

I suspect that many mid-life crises grow out of this. In the absence of positive desires, you pick the inverse of what you've been doing. You can only take the long view for so long, then the subconscious snaps back and says: "Since a sports car etc. is the last thing you've been thinking about for god knows how long, it must be what you want."

Of course, this is only true of more abstract things. There's no confusing the relative charms of, say, overcooked broccoli and sausage pizza, even if, as I discussed somewhere below, adults are prone to fake enjoyment of less than tasty vegetables for the benefit of their children, in a rather perverse flipping of the old eros/thanatos thing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Great Moments in Me -- Nailing the Nobel Laureate

The year was 1989, Gorbachev was king, Eastern Europe was cool, art, literature, what have you. It was in this context the Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Laureate in Literature for 1980 and a man with a deeply furrowed brow, came to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the "southern part of heaven," to give a reading. The University of North Carolina put him up in fine style, hosting the reading in a lovely newish 300-seat auditorium space in the addition to the art gallery. The house filled.

In comes Milosz, who swaggers around on stage and reads many a poem, including a new one, which included a line like

"and I look at you seated on the edge of my bathtub naked --
Jane, or Jennifer, or Mary, or Ingrid, or whatever your name is this week --
as at an abstraction."

This was not cool. I was not generally Mr. PC, but I knew odious when I heard it. He offended otherwise, as well, and at one point in time between poems he said: "One thing is certain, man's greatest enemy is abstraction." Hmmm.

I was dressed well that evening, wearing a nice blue blazer with a costume jewelry pin in the lapel and my great uncle RB's demi-bowler, so I was ready to testify. When question and answer time came, I raised my hand, was recognized, and stood up: "Mr. Milosz, you've told us that man's greatest enemy is abstraction. Which man?" Almost everyone in the house broke out laughing, save for the oldsters who were shocked, shocked.

And I sat down, having achieved my two aims. For I had escorted to the reading the stylish Claudine Murphy, Colorodan MA candidate in English, waitress at the esteemed Pyewacket, for whose attentions I was vying at that time with one Norwood "Chip" Cheeks, formerly of the Sex Police but more recently directing videos and appearing in VW and Sony commercials, and this tall floppy-banged guy Rick who looked like Brendan Fraser and rode and adult trike around campus in an act of substantial anti-macho defiance. In time, Rick and Claudine would hunker down and form a very tall couple, but on that evening, embarassing the desperately retrograde Nobel Laureate before a good-sized crowd as well as his date, your blogger did well in general and in particular.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Semion Pavlych, pt 1

It's cold outside, about 15 F, or -9 C. But I can't even think the thought "It's cold out" without hearing another voice break in: "Cold. You call that cold? I'll tell you when it was cold. November 7, 1941, our troops were gathered on Red Square to set out to face the Fascists, and it was -22 C (-8 F). Now that's cold for you." In Russia, you must understand, the WWII generation is even more revered than in the Brokaw generation: everything was more heroic then, even the weather.

This was the voice of Semion Pavlych, or Senya, dedushka (grandfather) extraordinaire. It was the fall of '97, I was in Moscow doing research and living with a young self-declared radical intellectual in an apartment belonging to his grandfather, Senya. Senya was happy to see me. The 200-odd dollars I gave him a month was the most money he had ever earned. So he was thrilled to provide me with his version of bespoke service. When he saw me haul a 5-liter dispenser of distilled water into the apartment, he proposed -- for the same price -- to bring me water from the spring out on the farm where he lived a couple of hours away. So that's how I got my drinking water, personal delivery by train, then subway, then bus: probably 24 hours work for about 8 dollars, and he loved each and every one of them.

Note that it was all made possible by deeply subsidized public transportation, one of the many subsidies so taken for granted by the Russians that it can't be taken away. Like our mortgage interest tax deduction.

Semion Pavlych, pt 2

There is a well-known literary type in Russia, from Gogol's Korobochka (in Dead Souls) to Ilya Kabakov's aptly named "Man Who Never Threw Anything Away," from his 10 Characters series of the eighties, of people so extremely retentive that they never get rid of anything. I didn't know they actually existed, but that's what Senya was. When I got to Moscow, the room where I was going to live was filled with an enormous mound of old papers, milk cartons, tools, parts of pieces of furniture, picture frames, in short, anything composed of physical matter, and therefore valuable. While I recovered from jet lag sleeping in a room only half full of stuff (and into which the mound would be moved), Senya sorted through the mountain and distributed it elsewhere throughout the apartment.

Collecting was not a habit Senya had gotten over. If Oleg (the grandson) or I tried to dispose of a bottle or a TetraPak when Senya was around, the diligent grandfather would always rescue it from an ignominious end in the waste basket and file it in a more appropriate location. Tetrapaks, after all, are good for storing nails and screws. So we got into the habit of hiding the trash whenever we thought Senya might be by with a load of water. Or even, perhaps, of taking it out.

There was a little ukelele in my room, the strings long since too rigid to play. It hung in the corner. Later, in the depths of the Moscow winter when somehow the charms of neither Moscow television nor my dissertation could entertain me, I pulled an old photoalbum from the wall of books in my room. The album showed a history of Senya's brood, including a great many shots from within the Stalin-era (stalinka) apartment building on Ulitsa akademika Vavilova. Apparently, Oleg's whole family had lived in the room I was then in back when Oleg was born (ca 1975), for there was a lot of diaper changing and cooing going on in the pictures. And in the pictures, in the corner, hung the ukelele.

Things the kids say, plus

Natalie, at age 4 and a half, says "I willn't". You gotta love that.

Also, let the record show that I called the bad guy in The Bourne Supremacy correctly (we watched the second half of the movie tonight). Not that I deserve a medal or anything. With a PhD in literature I had damned well better be able to read plots. Otherwise Columbia and the State Dept. would have wasted all that money they spent on me. Suckers.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Videoconferencing for freedom and family

Recently read about how videoconferencing is being marketed to immigrants so that they can see their families back home that they haven't seen for, oh, say, 8 years. Great idea.

But what about terrorism? Couldn't Al Qaeda use these same video links to exchange top secret coded messages about destroying freedom and democracy? Shouldn't we send in thick necked types to monitor these transmissions? Surely the CIA and/or FBI will have trained multilingual professionals analyzing all video traffic and sniffing around. Otherwise they will have failed in their duty to secure the homeland, right? Or maybe we're better off leaving videoconferencing in the hands of trained executives.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Beware what you ask for

I think I was recently bitching about global warming. Now it's cold as all get out, eight degrees right here in Princeton tonight, and the walls of our house aren't doing much to stanch the flow of energy outwards. If any of you young folks out there are thinking of purchasing a home, let me just say this: look out for so-called "masonry frame" walls. That's an inspector's way of saying concrete, alias no insulation. Not a warm fuzzy.

Watching The Bourne Supremacy tonight. That Jason Bourne sure does have a temper. Running around killing people, pointing a gun at poor Julia Stiles's pretty little head (though the It girl of a few years back is really just happy for a role, honestly. She's too old to make the high school romances with a black guy movie yet again). Makes me think of Rodney King: why can't we all just get along. I see where this plot is headed, however. The guy who's about to retire is the one who hosed the whole Treadstone unit, mark my words. We'll check back in tomorrow night when we watch the other half of the flick.


Thumbing through my old copy of Fear and Trembling looking for a specific passage from 20 years ago, I found lots of underlining. In college, it seemed like if I didn't underline stuff, I wasn't really studying. Now I look at these cool old marked-up editions and it's almost unbearable, I can't read em. It's a terrible shame.

In other news, Mary and I spent a little time watching the "50 Greatest Moments in Reality TV" the other night. I was thinking the "50 Greatest" feature might lead to enhanced quality, but I was wrong. The only good thing about reality TV is that, like football, it keeps people stupid enough to watch it off the streets and out of restaurants, at least temporarily.

Too much diet soda. Why don't they keep more seltzer here at the office? Is it really so challenging?

I'm obviously just sitting here trying to think of things to write, no. I think my blog is much more compelling when I get out in the streets and see stuff.

Oh yes, oh yes. It's time for a return to a little feature we like to call song du jour. Today's feature comes from a Detroit-area band called Northwind, ca 1979, a band fronted by the father of a colleague of ours right here in the great Garden State. With no further ado, I give you Zandor.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More signs of aging

I remember how galling it was when, growing up, some friend of the family or distant aunt says "I remember when you were only as tall as my hip," or whatever marker. I just thought "oh please." But when you see somebody's kids after three years or so, it's all you can say, or think. Ah well, one for the ages.

Mixed bag with a dream

I looked through recent posts and saw that I had twice held forth on Graham's attempts to master speech. Very similar posts. I guess you can see we're sort of fixated on this. I guess also that it's not unusual to see topics get revisited on my blog. It's like hanging out with me in written form, so I'm gonna repeat myself.

Had brussel sprouts for dinner tonight. Somebody in Karla Cook's vegetable coop snagged them at the Trenton Farmer's market. I'm not a big fan, but I pretended to like em because Natalie was watching. I wonder how prevalent this is, adults not actually liking individual vegetables but feigning pleasure because we're trying to indoctrinate our kids. I never really trusted my parents when they made all those "mmmmmm..." noises while eating vegetables, although it was down South so there could have been a lot of butter on there. I mean, there are some vegetables that are good, but very few of them are good at all without adding fat and/or something in the garlic/onion family. Honestly.

Had a dream the other night in which I went to a used car lot where my old Volvo was on sale for $800. The catalytic converter had been fixed, and it appeared to have been detailed. The engine sounded good, and it drove well. I was conflicted, despite the fact that my newer Volvo is swankier, perkier, and has a CD player. But it lacks those classic Volvo good looks and the general air with academic disdain. I suspect this was an inverted midlife crisis dream, where my subconscious pretends want the boxier, frumpier car because it's in denial.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Jimmy Kimmel to head Harvard

In response to the unfortunate remarks by Larry Summers on gender and quantitative aptitude last week, the Corporation of Harvard University has unanimously decided to rusticate Mr. Summers and install in his place Jimmy Kimmel, formerly of Comedy Central and ABC. Commentators are viewing the move as an attempt to appease and mollify the community of feminist scholars. Kimmel, whose tenure at The Man Show established him as a preeminent authority on contemporary gender issues, could not be reached for comment, but issued a statement through a spokesperson attesting to his desire to: "Work with the many and diverse communities within the greater Harvard community to refocus on the core missions of that fine institution, lux, and, to a not significantly reduced extent except when constrained by unforeseeable budgetary exigencies or strongly voiced alumni opinion, veritas."

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

KK Krushed

It's been pretty amusing to watch Krispy Kreme slide down from it's greasy perch, aided by Marketwatch's Herb Greenburg, who's kept the donuttier front and center for some time. When I was a kid, there were two Krispy Kreme's in North Carolina that we went passed with any frequency, one in Winston Salem and one in Morehead City. A few times a year we'd be near them and we'd stop in and get a dozen or so of the little melt-in-your-mouthers, and inhale them. Pure joy.

So when, ca 1995, I was on the pier off Christopher Street letting the dog run off the leash and I heard that a store had opened in Chelsea, I promptly leashed up the pup and went up and got a dozen. As good as ever. A week or so later, I got more.

Then the novelty wore off. Krispy Kremes are the culinary equivalent of cocaine or a dotcom. Pure fluff, plenty nice, but no staying power. Sure, I still inhale them when they're free, but I'd actually rather go to a Duncan Donuts, where the coffee is better and the donut at least weighs your hand down a little. And Tim Horton's donuts tower over both of them, despite the satisfaction it may give our friends from Canadia to hear that.

Update from Graham

We've always said we need to keep a journal of the things Natalie, and then Graham, do and say. Here's where it's gonna happen. Thanks, blogspot!

Graham is still dragging his feet on speech a little. "Mamamamama....", "Dadadadada", perhaps "Up" (Mary's convinced that's what he's saying when he points up the stairs). Certainly "Nanana..." means food.

Graham has been on a basketball kick recently. He throws things into any repository, particularly those containing water, the toilet, the tub. In the last few days he's taken to throwing things over the top of the gate at the top of the stairs, so they go crashing down stairs. This has been particularly cute with the plastic basket that holds the bath toys, which he can barely heft up to the top of the gate but makes a great sound going down. He's so proud when he carries that one.

Monday, January 17, 2005


Ahhh, MLKJ day, the most undercelebrated of all holidays. We too are guilty, though we did do some jogging around in Natalie's new sneakers with the flashing red lights. Takes me back to MLKJ days of yore, like the time I tried to call a party the same day when I was living in that freezing house outside of Chapel Hill and nobody at all showed up, despite the fact that I made some epic recordings by overdubbing my classical guitar to some fine percussive effects I got by banging my bass against the coal stove. Or MLKJ day of 1990, must have been, when I went onstage at Cats Cradle and pretended to be imitating Morrissey doing a tribute cover of Public Enemy's "Louder than a Bomb." It made a lot of sense, lyrically. Think of Morrissey singing this:

In my home,
I got a call from Tony Rone,
The FBI was tapping my telephone,
I never live alone, I never walk alone,
My posse's always ready and they're waiting in my zone.

Yes, that was a fine moment in MLKJ day history. May James Earl Ray burn in hell, right next to Ashcroft.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Today we went to Flemington for some outlet action. A sad, declining outlet town, lots of vacant space, nothing like Woodbury Commons or the one at the end of the LIE. Predictably, Graham falls asleep in the back seat as we pull in and I sit in the cold car with him as he sleeps, reading old issues of the Economist that were stuffed into the pocket of the backseat. Review of a book about the Steve Ovett-Sebastian Coe rivalry. That was good stuff. Those pale Brits were fast, good role models for us back in the early 80s. And they hated each other.

Natalie and Mary have lunch in and bring me sandwich from little restaurant with chintzy curtains, slow moving Santa and Ms. Claus, and other porcelain figures. Also a hard working fireplace. When Mary takes a turn I go inside and find that, old ladylike as the place may be, I like the it. Further indication that I'm turning into an old lady. I eat a piece of Natalie's leftover pizza that turns out, by Mary's account, to have fallen on the floor. Still was OK.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Open Season

2005 Visiting season opened today as Frank Miller of Columbia's Dept. of Slavic Languages stopped in to America's most corporate college town for a visit, earning himself a sure slot on next year's holiday letter roll of honor. Who will be next to join the few, the proud, the italicized non-family member out-of-town visitors? No wait, Kirill Postoutenko of USC slipped in earlier, though that was technically 2004.

Saw the new version of the Manchurian Candidate this weekend. It's good to see Meryl Streep getting roles and even having an opportunity to act some, though it's hard to see her as the Angela Lansbury evil one. The funny thing is that the Manchurian thing in the title is a private equity firm, clearly modelled on Carlyle. Private equity just sort of sounds evil, I guess. Oxymoronic, even. Much is imputed to the PE firm, though, as if they had Halliburton or Bechtel-like infrastructure. I kind of doubt it. They just like money.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

New kid on the block

Took a friend to lunch the other day near the office, which is to say, in the jewelry district, the heart of kosher lunchland. I thought we'd go to Gan Eden, our longstanding favorite for Bukharan Glatt Kosher delicacies, but when we got to the familiar staircase leading up to it, we found that it no longer existed, having given way to a Barbeque place. But there is still Taam Tov, back at 46 West 47th.

Lets see how they stack up

Taam Tov vs. Gan Eden

Gan Eden - Stairs only, three floors up above wholesale jewelry polishers
Taam Tov -- Elevator, enter through retail jeweler, proceed along left wall, ride in comfort to fourth floor

Food and Bev
Gan Eden -- Good soup and shashlyk, in various flavors. Never remembered to pre-order manty.
Taam Tov -- No complaints. Fabulous Bulgarian bread and cool pickled salad plate with little purple eggplants. Good kebab. They even had seltzer.

Gan Eden -- Like a Soviet library or school cafeteria, no color, no windows
Taam Tov -- Like the cafe at a small Russian museum, for example, the Akhmatova museum off the Fontanka in Petersburg. Colored tablecloths with flowers. Notes of warmth.

Feeling of Security
Gan Eden -- You felt a little bit naked without a Kalashnikov. Most women present carried food.
Taam Tov -- Small sidearms should suffice in most situations. Several women sat and ate food.

In short, what initially seemed like a loss would in fact appear to be a huge gain. And there are free deliveries for order $6 and up!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

More and Morrissey

(incidentally, is anyone else getting sick of the stupid puns I use as titles for the days blog? They're just as bad as the ones on the daily email, yet I can't stop myself!)

Some kind family member gave The Smiths album Rank, an OK live record. I thought I had all The Smiths studio work, but I guess not because there on songs on this record I don't know (B-sides?). In any case, a new Smiths song is often a breath of fresh air. Stephin Merritt had it right when, reviewing a Morrissey show in the Times, he said that the songwriter suffered from association with lame studio musicians. The Smiths hit on multiple cylinders, so it's worth having their records around for more than just homophobe baiting.

No no, Morrissey is the most singalongable of all. Nothing beats cranking up the car stereo and really belting it out with the guy, pure catharsis. You have to really breath and think about what you're doing to keep up. The challenge would be to get up and sing like that not in a car, but in front of people, really let loose. I remember when Jeff, the guy who owns Print Space on 21st st, had a New Year's Party back in the 90s in the lab with a Karaoke machine, and he just kept getting up there, taking the mike and singing his heart out. It was something to see cut loose like that, and it's hard to imagine letting down ones guard like that it without alcohol.

Taking it back

Upon further reflection, I was a little bit dissatisfied with yesterday's post, particularly the second half, which was a perfect example of sardonicism as a defensive posture (see Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason for more). The Christian Right's generosity with both money and time to humane causes can be genuinely befuddling to those of us in the My Dinner with Andre set. They advocate such nasty policies, and then do good stuff. Whassup?

Us blue staters have to fight against our own version of the paradox of anti-semiticism of which Slavoj Zhizhek has written so fondly. Here's how that plays out:

Gentile 1: "You can't trust that Jew merchant as far as you can throw him"
Gentile 2: "But he seems so honest."
Gentile 1: "Yeah yeah, but I see right through it"

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Giving it up

Anyone who's ever travelled much in the Second and Third Worlds will surely have witnessed lots of rosy-cheeked, corn-fed thumpers returning from missions in various exotic and miserable places. Sometimes they seem to just stand around handing out bibles, but they also do a lot of real charitable work. Similarly, I recall doing research on a hedge fund manager who had made huge contributions to things like prostheses for mine victims and a rehab clinic for lower-income women, but then was also a big RNC contributor. In short, born-again Christians seem more apt to volunteer than us secular lefties, showing a real tendency to give despite the fact that they advocate such heinous, xenophobic and morally reprehensible policies.

I'm sure that the there's typically some propagandizing point of delivery, you know, pro-life counseling and thumping lessons for the women in rehab, etc. And that's certainly the key, good works allow for proselytization, and the unit cost for delivery is pretty low. In fact, one can imagine some, and particularly Mormons, who can back-convert ancestors, running complex calculations to figure out where it can get the highest soul-yield per missionary hour. "Send em to Mozambique! They used to have a high birth rate there! We'll get oodles!" Canny subject populations probably sense an arbitrage opportunity and attempt to extract payment for each soul. Payment in kind, admittedly, might be problematic.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Nice weather we're having

I hate it when, on a warm day in winter, some dipshit says "Nice weather we're having." That's like saying, "this cheeseburger deluxe tastes good, so it must be good for me." This is classic Eros / Thanatos confusion. "Good idea," I think. "You leave your coat at home today, and we'll relocate millions a couple of decades hence."

This is an especially warm, and therefore bad, winter. Global warming is no joke. It's a much bigger threat to us, long term, than Al Qaeda. Even if, as our friend Hemant the Scientist has pointed out, the evidence for global warming is by no means incontrovertible and rising temps over the last however many years appear to be correlated with solar activity, the anecdotal case for global warming is so strong and the risks of being mistaken so huge that we have to act as if it were true.

From an economic, if not human life, POV, the tsunami just a mellow dress rehearsal for the coastal destruction that will come from rising sea levels.

Disagree? So tsunami.

Friday, January 07, 2005

A great feast, which I sadly missed

In late from the dentist, so I missed the pig-out at Famous Dave's, just south of the Raritan River bridge off of Route 1 here in the great state of new jersey!

If rumor is to be believed, two intrepid consultants consumed, in one sitting, Dave's Famous Feast, earmarked for 4-5. This after another, "senior" consultant quailed at the quantity. Much to his shame.

Dave's Famous Feast
1 Slab St. Louis style ribs
1 Whole Chicken
1/2 lb beef brisket
Wilbur beans
Cole Slaw
Famous Fries
4 small ears corn
4 corn muffings

They done us proud.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Na na

"Na na" is apparently Graham's generic term for food, which is good, insofar as it appears to be a "word", or syllables actually signifying something. "Ma ma ma ma" also seems to be significant. It's damned frustrating when your kid crawls, walks, and talks late. Particularly when you've gone to fancy dancy schools and the expectation is that your kids are going to be perfect too. But sometimes they're just slackers, or, rather, they are precocious in their slackerdom, underachieving at an age where I never would have dreamed of it.

This is kind of a bad week for blog wit, I think. How are you going to wisecrack in the wake of 150,000-odd deaths? At least for once 9/11 seems to have been sort of put in the rearview. Not only does the US have a chance to do something defensible for the world and burnish its rep, it really brings to the forefront some reality that poor design and a lack of planning can quickly kill many more people than all the sneaky Ay-rabs you can shake a stick at.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Some text, seriously

I drafted something very deep and reflective this morning, but if I flesh it out and post it, I'm going to start looking like some nudgenik of high seriousness. Sontag's dead, damn it, and I'll never have grey highlights that fetching, so there's no need to be all deep all the time.

No no. The Grouse must offer comic relief, even if he's sort of at a luck for fresh material.

Wooza wooza?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

The Blog and the Fragment

(This is an example of the kind of crap I leave lying around in draft form for days that I can't write anything. Simultaneously deep and pretentious. Like pretending I'm still in college)

Walter Benjamin once said that he wanted to put together a book which was nothing but quotes from other people. That was one the most of the most extreme versions of the enthusiasm for the fragment that was rampant in the eighties. Books or any intricately developed argument, it was assumed, could only distort ultimate truth and totality, insofar as the latter always resisted representation.

The blog, then, would seem like a godsend for those of the anti-representational bent. Surely as close to discursive cubism as Gertrude Stein ever got.

And yet, the blog seems so often so insubstantial, more like intellectual Captain Crunch. I remember discussing in hushed tones with Franco Moretti how important it was to one's intellectual development to flesh out a book-length argument, even if you know that the argument is scarcely water-tight, and that it becomes more attackable simply by virtue of its length. We whispered this so as not to offend another lefty luminary in the Columbia Comp Lit department, who had only collections of essays and a translation to justify her lofty perch. The point is, it's not about words adequately describing truth, it's about human brains growing.

Back as far as Heraclitus and through Socrates, the fragment has been a hip way to hide out, to adopt a defensive intellectual position. The example of the recently departed Sidney Morgenbesser, an intellectual legend who somehow never got a real book together, demonstrates this well. Lets see how the Morgenbesser Haggadah develops over time. You can't even make a biopic for this guy.

Monday, January 03, 2005

"Arghhhh!" redux

Some of the more attentive readers may recall the post "Arghhhh", in which I attributed gastro-intestinal discomfort to a chicken sausage from Whole Foods. The sausage deserves an apology.

As the days rolled on and various members of my family and friends throughout the greater Tri-State area puked and experienced abdominal pain said to exceed that of childbirth in its combined intensity and protraction, it became clear that no individual foodstuff was responsible. Mary speculated through clenched teeth that terrorists had finally poisoned the food supply.

In fact, there has been no authoritative refutation of this hypothesis. The CDC had no mention of an outbreak. Googling "Stomach Flu" (apparently a misnomer) brought only corroborative anecdotes, and few at that. says nothing about any food supply poisoning. Which is suspicious, when you think of it.

Not for naught, then, did your Grouser ring in the New Year covered in a thick coating of Graham's copious vomit. No no. We stood at the front-line of the centuries old struggle to preserve our enduring freedoms. And reeked.