Wednesday, November 30, 2005

heritage, merci oui

This week I am a PowerPoint presentation factory. Yesterday I did a valium-dance to no avail. Today give me liquor in bottomless flask, please. Where is that zen I conjured? Probably in a pocket of the coat I took off after being barreled by a list of tasks Monday morning before I even reached my office door.

The Good Doctor is about to leave the country for three weeks, and I am the creative, organizing, problem-solving, peace-keeping workhorse. So here I am finally killing my wrist with the mechanical mouse. Let us give thanks for job security and turkeys.

Back from making thankful noise in the Midwest, I am a criminal. I owe Pennsylvania $159 for driving 22 mph over the speed limit. I’d planned on demanding a nice sushi dinner from the bald trooper in exchange for my $159, but I hear that compared to what the ticket would cost in Jersey, I got a bargain. I send submissive thanks to the arbitrary authority-monster for stopping me in his state.

Still a frothing canine bite in my wallet. I believe the law should be amended to accommodate travelers who have been driving for over 10 hours. I was at about the 13-hour mark when the lights flashed behind me, initiating a budding animosity between me and the man.

Predating my life of crime, Thanksgiving in Illinois bore various sides of family, a many-sided gem which sometimes gets lost in the couch and oscillates in value depending on who’s holding and reflecting. Later, a family tipsy happened at The Bar: I had my first Jaeger bomb with my mom and my little brother who is just shy of legal drinking age, after which my dad and I kicked some ass at the pool table.

At a pre-Thanksgiving lunch with some members of my dad’s side of the family whom I barely know, one of them asked my dad: Been deer huntin’? My dad said (paraphrasing): Not lately. The last time I went, I asked myself, "Why am I in this tree?" I could be doing other things. I firmly believe everybody should ask themselves every day, "Why am I in this tree?" Wisdom in a hat.

Accompanying me on the drive was the HWJ Supa Funk 5-disc collection gifted to me by one of my roommates. One of my greatest pleasures is witnessing someone enjoying himself or herself singing and dancing while driving--how infectious! My hope is that I so pleasured many a fellow driver, dancing, pointing, and belting with all the soul I could muster as I sped by.

I don’t know karate, but I know ca-razy, you sexy thing-superfreak-brick house-macho man, I’m bad. I’m bad. Really, really bad. I am infected with these phrases and more. Billie Jean is not my lover, you see, but your love is a supernatural thing working at the car wash. Get up, get down. Anything goes here.

I got caught chair-dancing while editing a manuscript yesterday. The face of neuroscience will never lose its new red flush. Voulez-vous give thanks avec moi for this stunning opportunity?

Monday, November 21, 2005


An experiment while I try to keep my eyes open and focused on what’s physically before me dans l’hopitale—I am a moody writer, not very disciplined. It’s rooted in fear.

The experiment is to try to return from a mood done gone to a drumbeat that loosed a full-body sob wet with tears. At the time of the single drumbeat last week I was raw and receptive thoroughly to whatever might have hit.

Driving home from work a Tanya Donelly CD which I rarely listen to was playing in my car. The song was sparse and into it a drumbeat dropped right core, perfectly placed. I hadn’t noticed it before. An exquisite trigger.

I tried to remember whether Dave Narcizo, the Throwing Muses drummer who is a favorite drummer of mine, played on this album. Then my mind wandered through my drumscape. My grandpa used to play drums in jazz clubs. Until he was dealt a brain aneurysm.

When the aneurysm happened I was about five years old. I was sitting in the living room at my grandparents’ house, probably watching cartoons from a precarious city of cards I’d built for me and some imaginary Smurfs. I thought I heard my grandpa call my name.

I went to the sound and found him lying on his bed, his hand on his head. He’d been calling for Sally, not Sara. He told me he had a headache and to get my grandma. She was outside. I remember wondering why he couldn't take care of it himself if it was just a headache.

After my grandma came in things shifted course. The hospital in our little town was too lo-tech for what had afflicted my grandpa. We went back and forth to the hospital in Springfield for months while doctors doctored.

The aneurysm paralyzed the right side of my grandpa. His two drum sets in the basement occasionally got pounded on by my younger cousins. Years ago I wrote a poem about this and gave it to my grandpa in a frame for Christmas. It may be the only poem I’ve ever written with such direct, disciplined intent.

Hearing the kids pound innocently but recklessly on those drums directly below him while he could no longer play struck me deeply. It was a cruelly physical manifestation of emotional frustration I imagined he might be experiencing. What terrible tantalization.

Driving home last week, I began thinking about the moment, if there was a single moment, when my grandpa realized what had happened to him and what that meant. If it were me, I might have clawed like an animal at the air around me—to rip and roar my way out of that wrong place I’d come to. What an alone and frighteningly stripped moment, when the passion that drives and dresses your identity is suddenly sliced.

Positioned in my own version of that moment—desperately wanting him to know right then that I was trying to connect and understand, feverishly wanting him to not feel alone or sad, neither then or now—tears streamed many and rapidly from my eyes and shook my shoulders. Uncontrollably.

This outpouring baffled me. I didn’t know it was in there, and it put me in a floorless nexus between the now and then. There is a stark moment, that stills and dizzies in the heat of the script forming, which is infinite and tuneless.

The changing of the season into cold compounds things: it's when I worry I haven't done a good enough job letting the people I love know how much I love them, or that I'll never be able to do so satisfactorily for either me or them.

There is tragedy in the aloneness involved both in my grandpa’s position, inexpressible at core, and in my unlightable quest to reach him as profoundly with an all-better-now as I’d like to. Tragedy, though, like everything else has at least one flipside—insight by catharsis for present and future reference.

Surely I'm missing some key clarifying component--it was the storm of unexpected tears that initially took me. Tomorrow I embark on a 13-hour drive to where my family and I will make thankful noise at a table stacked with turkey and stuffing, a wash of orange, brown, and red, wine-tipped.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

the prism in the bird pattern

My office door is shut and Momus is cranked. It is optimal that I isolate in here, cackling maniacally until the bugs (aphids!) work themselves out. Rarely do I jack up the volume while Momus is playing, but once upon a time, just after I bought Forbidden Software Timemachine, I played it in my car and took to pulsing the freeway. Soon I pulled into a gas station, pulled up right next to an African-American gentleman—of the gangsta sort. His car too was throbbing, but with bass and bitches. I bobbed my head, he thrust his hands emphatically at the steering wheel. The effeminate voice fluttering about homosexuality and quoting Keats over a delicate guitar in my car, juxtaposed with attitudinous rhymes, beats, and bling in his car, struck me with seizure trying so hard to compose and withhold. Lesson: lose composure, little one. Go ahead and laugh, even if it means sanitarium or subsequent gang war (e.g., Crossbones Split Rainbows Behind Belle Mead High School—Fierce Prism Ensues!).

In other rivalries, the circadian cycle is barreling across the plains in a direct path toward the Theban cycle. Expect more tornadoes and possibly the first on-land hurricane, in the eye of which a blind king will be exiled to a tower in the desert where the sky rains oil. His hair will grow long into a braid. This is the new tarot and milkmaid prophecy, purchased to replace aberrant augury.

Last night my roommate asked me if there were chemicals in the water. I stood on my head and then wrote a short novel called November 16, 2005. A top spins perpetually in that kitchen.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Eventual peace between historic enemies

It is now 9:56am. I probably won’t post this until much later, but I was just hit with the fact of the hurricanic wash of multi-tasking and communications that goes on, even within an hour’s time. I woke up at 7am and saw no person for the first hour. Since then, after having listened to news on NPR while driving to work, I have engaged in a text message conversation with my roommate, a text message conversation with another friend, checked all four of my e-mail accounts, glanced quickly at internet news, sent my phone number to a workmate in Ireland who will be in the area soon, sent a fax about an international conference listing to a different workmate in Amsterdam, sent e-mail to an author in Germany, sent e-mail to my favorite card trickster about the kickass Silver Jews CD Tanglewood Numbers, conversed with a girl at work about having the same shirt but in a different color scheme, conversed with a different co-worker about air-guitaring the shit out of the place later on, begun an e-mail dialogue with the aforementioned roommate, read or commented on five blogs including my own, ordered three Christmas gifts online, edited a manuscript in response to which I now have to e-mail the author with a question about an MRI reference which eludes me. I’m certainly missing more, and my boss isn’t even here to speak with. So much happens and so much slips by.

Last night I finished reading A Brief History of the Mind. Near the end, Calvin writes about speed of things happening these days, and about our capacity to react, the gap in between. It isn’t the speed of things that matters so much, but the relative speed, the speed of things occurring relative to our reaction time. The gap if not reconciled could cause doomful collapse, as in "the bigger they are, the harder they fall."

I am attentive to details—actually, sometimes the sort of focus and weight I put on the tiniest of things—involuntarily I consider a brief small-talk chat in passing an event—hinders me. That is, the smallest things, being events, require so much energy that just a couple of conversations in passing, deciding whether or not to have a cup of coffee, opening the door, retrieving the coffee, quickly come to seem like a month's worth of material.

Many quickly passing thoughts are packed into each event. There is a word for this, maybe, neurosis. For people without this "condition," much goes on unnoticed. So-called crazy people aren’t laughing at or talking to nothing; there’s just a lot going on within each nanosecond that needs responding to. Even things that are not really going on under the surface are relegated to under the surface, because not everything can be sanely handled by physical hand and eye.

Soul be made flesh, now I will uncover how the discovery of the brain changed the world.

Other vines twine as follows:
The price of stamps will increase.

Beer is healthy. "Hops used to brew beer may have some health benefits but researchers warn against expecting any significant effect by drinking a few cold ones." That means you must drink steadily until your health improves.

Intersex animals invade the planet! "Scientists have discovered sexually altered fish off the Southern California coast, raising concerns that treated sewage discharged into the ocean contains chemicals that can affect an animal's reproductive system." Fellas, you too could develop ovary tissue in your testes if you continue to play in sewage.

And a headline I can’t keep to myself: Catholic Bishops Turn to Lay Ministers...and ask, How do you like it?

Monday, November 14, 2005

something dead

—personal luna causes unusual emphasis on insignificant tics—

Eating salad with a spoon is difficult. The food was free, though, so I managed—but not without a co-worker drawing attention—again—to the fact that I was eating a salad instead of pounds of heavy pasta. Next time the lucky commenter will be told I have irritable bowel syndrome and salad is the only thing my bowels can handle lest explosions occur. I just like veggies, man. Concern yourself instead with world peace, curing cancer, your rocky marriage.

—sadness heavy like a planet perpetuates coffee not sweet and light enough—

Last week I bought Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks and Boards of Canada’s The Campfire Headphase, both perfect in their simultaneity for the mood that had befallen me: in combination peace wound with sublimely sad fluid flare, or vice versa. I’m an eternal child. While I accept occasional sadness and grump in trigonometric waves of mood and humanness, I don’t see why so many people can’t chip through their thick-muck walls of insecurity and misery enough to realize their similar human root plights, instead giving foreground to generally mean demeanors and sandpaper quips. (Yes, this is another way of saying, Can't we all just get along (even if we don't like each other?)

—phrenic porch makes a place for confetti to land when the parade ends—

Meanwhile, the thing having crossed my path four times in two weeks, I checked out of the library and fell in love with Ravel’s "Boléro"—a whole-body fall. A dark walk in the park and arboretum, "Boléro" becoming louder all the way, had me skipping and waving my arms along the winding quiet paths despite the threat of being scolded out after "closing," raped by randy deer, or tormented by colonial ghosts. This will hereafter be my retreat from occasional uglies.

Finally, a quote from my grandma: …he smells terrible this morning - must have rolled in something dead.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

back-porch synthesis: the news

Still percolating like a fish-flavored coffee, stewing between distant peaks, coagulating the finest primordial chili powders in the valley of my abdomen—In the meantime, some news:

New Jersey politics/theater: "Corzine and Forrester, both multimillionaires, spent upward of $70 million to succeed Codey, who assumed the office last year when Democratic incumbent Jim McGreevey resigned over a homosexual affair." For the past four years, I have lived in New Jersey, a balloonish melodrama. That one sentence is at brim with possiblities for general mockery and distasteful television movie plots.

The Great Pharmacist Shortage: Sounds to me like it’s out of hand. Apparently people are "requiring" more drugs these days, whether to manage their heart and/or their mood, and pharmacists are being pressured to help the growing number of prescribed pill-poppers to manage their candies. On one hand, this makes sense; on the other, shouldn’t the doctors prescribing the stuff examine what other drugs their patients are taking? This, of course, could dredge into a shouting about the shrinking presence of doctors seen at "doctor" appointments. On the third hand, should patients be trusted—or be burdened—all doped up, to keep track of their complicated chemical concoctions? There are gaps in this jenga. Meanwhile, budding pharmacists can make $80,000 right out of college, and employees are fighting over them before that time comes.

I’ve begun reading a book called The Brief History of the Mind by William H. Calvin, subtitled "From Apes to Intellect and Beyond." In reference to the mental capacity of early hominids, Calvin writes (paraphrasing since I can’t find the exact quote this minute), "Certain aspects of intelligence don’t have much effect unless you have the attention span to go with them." Attention span, my dwindling one, distracts me, without pun. Have we modern media hounds regressed into the cave, to before anyone had the attention span or planning capacity to think to peer out and see the things creating the shadows on the wall? I hope not. Here is what Flak Magazine has to say about stories in the news.

Several months ago at a rummage sale I stumbled upon a used copy of John Fowles’ The Magus: "…a part-autobiographical account of an Oxford graduate who moves to a Greek island and becomes drawn into a psychological 'godgame'. Complex and disturbing, it became a cult best-seller in the US." I had no idea it was a "cult best-seller" in the States. I have no idea what prompted me to pick it up, but I started reading it right then and there and could hardly stop until I finished. It kicked the wily ass of an apathy toward reading that had grossly infected me. John Fowles died two days ago.

So what do we have here? A homosexual multimillionaire politician doped up on cholesterol meds, Prozac, Viagra, and Valium, flipping channels and laughing inappropriately when he doesn't understand the jokes on every other channel jab at his pomposity and incompetence, while another engaging writer dies. On that note, I have manuscripts to edit.

This just in, from Pitchfork: possible hope for saving our attention spans! The rock opera, the novelistic album. How do I know? My own attention defecit caused me to stray from an editing task to an e-mail message to a totally other editing task and back to this article which I'd started reading earlier but forgot about.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

pink hearts, yellow moons, white powder and pep

While my brain bakes its own bread and stews on the island dotted with fluorescent cocktail umbrellas, here is what my magnifying glass found today:

It was all my e-mail spam come to life in an internet news article—after having come to life in a real live bathroom stall. Cheerleader lesbians. Soon to be in select theaters near you. While I could certainly think of cleaner and more comfortable places to do it—I’m usually too involved in the acrobatics of trying to relieve myself without touching the toilet seat or any of the urine having spattered on it, the floor, or the walls, which means squatting and hovering while keeping my pants and coat and sometimes bag at a safe distance from anything that isn’t me and yanking toilet paper all at the same time to consider it—it’s hot the pert and peppy twentysomethings were so impassioned they had to go pleasure each other right there and then. They certainly braved the Transgress Express. And then topped it off when the gruff one on her way out punched the girl who was waiting to pee.

A city snorting so much cocaine its remnants are in the river, after having passed through bodies and sewer—sounds like a set for Willy Wonka having passed from psychedelia into a speedier 80s binge. Kate Moss gets a mention in this short article for her "enjoyment" of some lines earlier this year, causing her to lose modeling contracts and general oompah respect.

Imagine if Kate Moss were photographed snorting cocaine while having sex with a cheerleader in a bathroom stall. O what we would have to talk about over tea when we should instead consider more serious topics like "intellidating."

Friday, November 04, 2005

the black mint parade: anise reigns

Rarely do I buy Altoids, but if I do I buy wintergreen, the green pack. Before wintergreen arrived I prayed for it. I prefer it for making my breath kinder, though the red pack is fine by me if for no other reason than that it is the original. There is also the goldish pack. Ginger. Different, but interesting. I haven’t bought any but I support it. Then came the black pack and I shuddered a full-body shudder. With the same furrowed eyebrows with which I question black licorice gum I questioned this black licorice "mint". Who eats these foul nuggets?

Last night I spoke with such a person, and my search for what I thought could only be a mythical creature ended. There is someone out there to hold this position. It’s reassuring and I commend both his bravery and capacity for the dark side.

Coincidentally, because that’s the way the train treks around the galaxy’s big black hole, I’d had an e-mail dialogue about anise earlier in the day. I have uncleverly dubbed the coffee where I work "the worst coffee." Because it is. It is, however, free, so sometimes I compromise. Last week I compromised on a day when my olfactory sense had assumed supernatural prowess. I smelled watermelon on the way to work, I smelled food grease in the journals. I smelled and tasted black licorice in the worst coffee, nullifying the previous version, because this was the worst coffee.

There is a taut rope tugging and warring between me and this black flavor. I like to think I’m a superhero and that I can conquer anything. A little veni, vidi, vici in one swift bang. So it bothers me that this flavor could hold me down like some malicious Jupiter, causing my body to pucker and punch at just a sniff.

When I was in high school, my best friend and I regularly went driving on the backroads. We each bought gargantuan fountain sodas and a bag of candy. Usually jelly beans for me. I was careful not to eat the black ones, but because it was dark I occasionally overlooked one. Purple is close to black in the dark. I tossed many a black jelly bean, some partially chewed, out the window. Finally, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even tried to like them. Periodically for the next several years I tried to eat the black jelly bean. Every time: full-body shudder.

When I was in college: ouzo. I had decided to go for a run for the second time in six years. About half a mile in I thought I might collapse with a sharp pain in my side. By the time I got home I could barely stand upright. The boyfriend I was living with had bought some ouzo and rented Philosophy in the Bedroom, based on Marquis de Sade’s writing. Holding the bottle he said, It’s Greek. You’ll like it. I was a classics major and had just begun learning ancient Greek. He pressed play.

Then he opened the bottle and a cloud of full-body shudder came out. I did my damnedest, sipping it though I still felt beaten by the run. I wanted to conquer and drink like a Greek. Romantics, ideals. However, the scent made the whole room throb (which persisted for the next few days, after which I forbade ouzo to ever enter the apartment again). My body a lost-sea boat, I fell into hallucinatory fever. Turned out I had a kidney infection and was subsequently very ill for the next week—all twined up in a Marquis de Sade attempt to get exercise and master anise. Black memory path.

The flavor still beats me. Anise and I have an ongoing air hockey tournament where I continue to allow the final disc in the door instead of bolting upright like a Hercules. I don’t expect to enjoy the black jelly bean, the ouzo, the secret anise, but I’d like not to fall to its sword every time. I know. I'm mixing metaphors in the dark.

People ask me why the self-torture. Someone suggested that the body naturally rejects things that will not be good for it. This makes sense. Were I to enjoy a basket of black jelly beans with a bottle of ouzo possibly my insides would turn to tar and death. My body indeed has warned me and I do not listen. It must be absolute masochism, some purely human drive. It’s why I’m not a god or superhero.

I think I have written about part of this before. Lunacy sets in. Forgive me.

Find out more about potential black death by foul spice:

Licorice International
Organic black licorice
A short outline and history from the encyclopedia of spices
Botanical, folk-lore and herbal information
FDA advisory on star anise teas
Altoids Curiosity Shoppe

Take thine enemy's name and conquer!

Best regards,
Anise Tachibana
Northern Front Licorice Pirate

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Black sites in the invisible universe of tortured torturers

The words "secret prison" caught my eye. Much as "hidden tunnel" or "enchanted forest" might.

"Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA's approved 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,' some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law. They include tactics such as 'waterboarding,' in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning."

Sounds like a terrible blockbuster movie that Generation Extreme and the aging lazy might slather their faces in popcorn butter to, may you pardon my biting morning judgment. Only it’s real. When something that seems like movie material presents itself as real, I generally have a swollen moment of disbelief—head bobbling, eyes lose focus and drool spills down my chin, followed by a uniquely child-like excitement.

As I giddily read the paragraph above, I glanced directly to the right of it to find a list of most popular articles at the moment:

CIA holds terror suspects in secret prisons
Harry Reid sparks a dramatic Senate standoff
Pentagon: Top al-Qaida operative escaped
Will Holmes make Cruise sign a prenup?
Bandleader Skitch Henderson dies at 87

She damn well better. What with the lunacy exhibited in his recent basely pedantic monologues on scientology and the administration of pharmaceuticals to people in the grips of psychological challenge. Loose cannon. Risky business. (Forgive me my pun. May I wedge my nose in the corner and dance like a Munchkin.) It’s nice to see such diversity of interests among internet travelers. Yeah.

Here’s a quickie from Wikipedia on waterboarding.

Apparently the CIA felt they should keep terrorists alive for interrogation rather than assassinate, as the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center suggested. "Some [CIA] officers worried that the CIA would not be very adept at assassination. ‘We'd probably shoot ourselves,’ another former senior CIA official said."

I thought it was only ok for low-profile people to loose-lip such faithlessness. Isn’t that the stock predictable talk of workplace-damners? "You can always count on This Place to screw up even a cup of coffee." Or: "We’d probably shoot ourselves." Here the castle crumbles and Jill climbs the mountain on her own. "Could the Zambians be trusted with such a secret?" I ask myself this at every crossroads—particularly at a trivia, where small-talk feeds the great protective phallus.*

*I tried to find a nice link explaining the way that stone phalli were erected (why not ride out syndrome: pun?) at crossroads in ancients cities to ward off evil; however, searching phallus at work proves difficult. Risky business. The trade-off: I learned the root of "trivia".