Thursday, January 29, 2004

Embrace the Pig

"Acceptance" seems to be the theme of the week... acceptance and change. The Serenity Prayer — which I mumble to myself rather frequently and declaim aloud in meetings at least once a week — asks God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I can't change, the courage to change the things I can, and (here's the punchline... I love prayers with punchlines) the wisdom to know the difference. It has occurred to me lately, as I survey the trashèd wasteland of my life, that I am peculiarly lacking in that particular wisdom right now. I see that things must be changed, but I don't know what to change, what things are even changeable.

For example, there is the question of my Stuff and the mess of my room. I have tried relocating my Stuff, putting my books and videos and unseasonal clothing in boxes and shoving them down in the basement. That didn't work, because as soon as I ran out of new books or movies or clothing I had to go into those archived boxes to find something to tide me over... so up the boxes come, back into the room and all over the floor as I rummage through them.

I have tried to accomodate my Stuff with more storage-type furnishings. But as soon as I do get (and fill up) a new dresser or bookshelf or jewelry case, then I start adding more stuff to be stored, and the newer furniture is immediately insufficient for the newest Stuff. And then there's the problem of keeping the stuff in the storage-furnishings, the tidy habits that I try to instill in myself: I have to actually put the clean clothes away as soon as I wash them, put the dirty clothes in the hamper when I take them off, put the books on shelves when I'm done reading them, put the jewels into the box when I'm done wearing them. I have found these habits rather difficult (dare I say impossible?) to keep up.

It has of course occurred to me that I would be better off with less Stuff. Do I really have to have all of the books I've ever read out where I can see them? Must I clutter my rare horizontal surfaces with the various objets d'art, souvenirs, and tchotchkes I have collected over the years? How many articles of clothing do I actually need?

This last query yanked me up short when I thought about it yesterday. I mean, one of the reasons I have so many clothes is that it's hard for me to figure out what to wear if I have too few choices. But then I've also become baffled by too many choices. And really, how many of each thing does a person need, even keeping in mind the necessity of variety?

Last night I wondered, since I am out of socks and underwear and undershirts, but I still have plenty of clean pants and shirts and sweaters, if perhaps I need to have more of the underneath-type clothes to be commensurate with the number of outer-crust-type clothes I own. On the other hand, it would also follow that maybe I need to have fewer outer-crust-type clothes so that I will run out of them at the same time I run out of underneath-type clothes. It suddenly occurred to me that it was possible to have a discrete number of articles of clothing, a numerically set wardrobe based on how I actually use my clothing.

So, exactly how many of the staples, socks and underpants and undershirts, do I actually need? Let's say thirty pairs of each, that way I'd be able to change them every day for a month before having to do laundry again (though I generally change every other day, since my bodily secretions are rather less than the average Joe's, and my skin and hair dry up if I bathe daily... so staples would last two months, or I'd need fewer pairs of each).

And then if I could get into a habit of putting them in the hamper when I was done with them, since these are things that I only wear twice, I could cut down on the mess a good deal. That's a big "if," but worth a try.

So with "staples" separated from "fashions," there is a sort of order established: it's a new concept for me to think of different kinds of clothes differently based on the different ways I use them. My "fashion" clothes, my pants and sweaters and what-have-you, are often worn more than once or twice... in fact I wear them until they become unwearably wrinkled or smelly. I often wear the same pair of pants for a week at a time, or rotate between three pairs over the course of a month, until they become stretched or stained.

On the other hand, I like to wear a different top every day; and unless I spill something on it, I can wear a sweater or overshirt three or four or even five times before the wrinkles or smells set in; but once worn, I don't want to put it back with the unworn clothes. What I usually do is hang these articles off the back of a chair or a doorhook or some other convenient protruberation. Then they fall on the floor, or pile up to extraordinary height, and contribute mightily to the overall messiness.

So to cure the messiness, two solutions present themselves: either set up a system by which worn-once-or-twice-but-yet-not-dirty clothes would have a place to be, separate from clean unworn clothes and from dirty worn clothes, instead of hanging off of things here and there; or else radically reduce the number of multi-wear clothing articles and rotate them more frequently. Say, have only fifteen of each and wash the whole lot every forty-five days. The first solution requires me to take on new habits (which I am discovering is bloody unlikely), the second to get rid of a large portion of my Stuff (which would be excruciatingly painful).

Furthermore, to remain within the concept of a discrete number of articles of clothing, I would have to get rid of a piece of clothing for every new piece of clothing I bring in, or else only allow myself to buy a new article of clothing when and if an old article becomes unwearable. Neither of these shopping-restrictive ideas sounds like fun.

But to return to the whole acceptance-and-change theme (remember the first paragraph? I barely do), it comes down to the courage to change what I can change, and the wisdom to know whether or not it is changeable.

For example, when I quit drinking, I had to accept my nature as an alcoholic but change my behavior as a drunk. I could not change my alcoholism, it is an inescapable fact, a peculiar arrangement of nature and nurture and my own past actions, over which I could exercise no current or future control; I could, however, with the help of other alcoholics and faith in a higher power and the performance of the twelve steps, stop drinking. I accepted the thing I couldn't change, and then changed the things I could. The same concept applies to the other problems in my life.

I have reasonable proof that I am not going to change certain things about myself... I mean, it's fairly clear to even the meanest of intellects that I am incapable of putting dirty clothes in a hamper with any kind of regularity. And following the evidence of my hampered hampering-abilities, one can discard the abovementioned worn-but-not-dirty system as being too difficult to maintain. Therefore, logic dictates that the thing that has to change is the sheer mass of the clothes themselves. Rather than trying to force myself to become a tidy person, I have to curb my shopping impulses; since I apparently can't change my slovenly nature, I have to address my Stuff-addicted behavior instead.

I embrace the pig, and to do so I must dismiss the shopper.

On a previous occasion in this diary I pondered the idea that a good one-shot system, some setup that would require a little bit of labor to create and very little labor to maintain, would be the ideal solution for the problem of my room. And now, months later, I have discovered a possible system:

Let's assume a sixty-day wash cycle. If I wear a pair of socks, a pair of underwear, and an undershirt two days in a row, I will need thirty of each. If I wear a shirt or sweater three times, I will need twenty of each. And if I wear each pair of pants five times, I will need twelve pair. That's pretty straightforward and simple.

Then there's outerwear: I need a raincoat, an overcoat, a parka, and a windbreaker; I have all of those, without duplicates, but could use an extra light jacket for variety. And perhaps it would be wise to maintain a small supply of extra-weather garments, like heavy wool sweaters and zephyr-light golf shirts (stored at the top of the closet) for those few days of the year when the weather becomes really inclement... maybe five of each.

That's just my everyday clothes. For gym clothes, I can usually wear a t-shirt twice and shorts or sweatpants five or six times, so assuming I go five times a week, I should have sixteen tops and eight bottoms. I won't address suits and slacks and dress-shirts, I so seldom wear them that they aren't worth bothering with. And I will not worry myself with shoes, today's shoe-fashions are so ugly that I am not likely to overbuy, and they don't take up that much space, and they are very useful to build barricades preventing Grandmother's wandering in and poking around.

So a solution presents itself. A goal around which I can focus my energies, sorting out the clothes I really like and finding a proper place for them, choosing a specific number instead of judging the individual usefulness of each item (and all of my items are useful... if I didn't like them at all, I wouldn't have bought them). It will be hard to get rid of the rest, but not as hard as it has been to live with all this stuff in my room.

And I'm pretty sure I don't have thirty pairs of underwear or socks, nor thirty undershirts, so there is some shopping required for this system to work... and it's not the buying of new things that has to stop, but rather the accumulation of things... I can buy anything I want, so long as I get rid of something else at the same time.

The tidy among my readers, those people who routinely clear out their closets and give away old clothes, will probably wonder why it took me so long to come to this rather obvious conclusion. All I can say is, it takes some of us longer to come to the same conclusions that other people reached years ago. First-century Greeks knew that the earth was spherical some fifteen hundred years before Columbus convinced Queen Isabella of the fact (if he did, which one doubts) -- Ptolemy of Alexandria proved that there were 365.25 days is a solar year a millenium or so before Pope Gregory II solved the quarter-day calendar problem with Leap Year. It was well over a year ago that Luiz Fernando suggested I investigate Space Clearing (Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui) to solve my clutter problem, and I'm just now getting around to simply admitting that getting rid of stuff might be the solution to my difficulty.

And after I solve the problem of my wardrobe, I might be able to tackle to problems of my books (do I change the desire to have them where I can see them, or change the habit of keeping them at all?), my tchotchkes (should I change the place that I keep them or change the fact that I keep them?), and/or my love-life (should I change my lack of a boyfriend, or change my desire for a boyfriend?), et cetera, ad infinitum.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me as I work all this out in print. Love you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Rocky Road

It's amazing, the therapeutic powers of a big bowl of Dryer's Rocky Road ice cream slathered in Hershey's chocolate syrup, especially when taken in conjunction with four and a half hours of pretty boys on television (in all sorts of places... two contiguous Law & Order: SVU reruns featuring particular hotties, the new Real World has two I like, and Everwood on the WB is just crawling with them). My cares just floated away.

In order to hang onto that carefree feeling, am going to wear sweats to the office today. That way, not only will I be terribly comfortable, but also I won't have to change for the gym. This will save me mountains of time.

The audit is almost over (this, by the way, is a sort of internal audit, performed by teachers' unions all over the country because some fucknut named Hudson in Chicago twenty years ago objected to being charged agency fees), and all bookkeeping will be taken out of my hands soon. I have to try to remember, in the future, to not accept it when people lay things off on me. I mean, I've been trying for months to get the bookkeeper to take over all of the bookkeeping, but I didn't have the authority (or, truth be told, the balls) to make him do it, and I couldn't get my boss to do it even though the boss agreed that he should be doing it rather than I. But nothing happened, and I just kept on doing the bookkeeping regardless.

I guess it makes me feel more important when I am put-upon... revelling in an image that I heroically rise to the occasion when necessity demands. But looking at the wreckage of the financial files that were left in my keeping, I would have to say that I did a totally half-assed job of it, there was no heroic rising of any kind involved. I sucked at it, and I allowed myself to continue doing a sucky job. My bad. But I don't care anymore.

(PS: an hour after posting, I got to the office to find an envelope of documents dropped off by the bookkeeper for the auditor early this morning; almost all of the missing documents were in it. I oughtta kick that man right in his head, making me hunt all over the goddamned office for documents he had in his goddamned house... AAAUUUGGGHHH!!! But, like I said, I don't care anymore).

On to more interesting topics:

I was watching Entertainment Tonight, last night in bed before I went to sleep, checking out what people wore for the Golden Globes. I didn't like Nicoles Kidman's dress, those big gold paillettes made her look like a casino display of some kind. But everyone else looked just lovely. And what's wrong with Stephen Cojocaru's mouth? Like Steven Tyler without the lycra. And aren't cojocarus those weird chickens in The Legend of Zelda and the Ocarina of Time? (a websearch reveals that there was one "cucco," the chicken creatures, named "Cojiro" to be found in "Kakariko" Village... I guess I conflated the words in my memory). I like the guy, personality-wise, he's bright and funny... but bubula, you need a serious makeover... just don't go to Joan Rivers' surgeon.

So anyway... to catch up on some of the doings I talked about in the post before last, The Return of the King was absolutely fabulous. The pacing, which was my main complaint in both previous episodes (The Fellowship of the Ring was too meandering, and The Two Towers was too action-packed) was extremely well done in this one; one would get all twisted up in the action sequences, but before I'd get too tired from bracing for action, a nice quiet scene would follow in which I could relax and gather my strength. They also cut back a bit on the foley effect during battles... not so much of the sound of swords entering flesh, no echoes of breaking bones, fewer screams of the dying (which made The Two Towers so painful to watch). And I was very happy with the ending... perhaps the longest happy ending in film history. People kept teasing me that everyone dies at the end, and I wasn't sure if they were really joking or not (since I'm about the only adult left on the planet who hasn't read the novels). The three and a half hours just flew right by. A great pleasure of a film. (I was also very excited by the trailer for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which is coming out in June... eeeeeeeee!)

The Winter Extravaganza went quite well, also. Caroline was wonderful in her performance of "Little Red Corvette," I was thrilled to have the elusive Miss Daisy among us delivering Shirley Bassey's "This is My Life," Miss Gay Marin (in perpetuity) Candie Swallows visited and gave us a spectacular discoed-out rendition of "My Heart Will Go On," and our own little Grand Duchess Angelique did the terribly cute "Popular" from Wicked. There were a whole lot of performers, most of the Court was there, not to mention visiting dignitaries from Modesto, San Jose, San Francisco, and elsewhere. We raised well over $800, pumped by a single $100 donation for a command performance by the wonderful Mama Portugal.

And, on a more personal note, I looked fabulous. I took a few pictures, not many, but I left my camera in my purse, which is in my suitcase, which is in the car, so I can't upload them yet... Caroline took a great many more, but hasn't gotten them developed yet. I'll hopefully remember to post them when I get copies.

That's all I have to say for myself today. I have to get to work now and see if I can accomplish anything better than mere damage-control today. I hope you have a super-duper day!

Monday, January 26, 2004

Ego Blaster

Sometimes I'll be jogging along through life, reasonably content with myself, when suddenly a number of things will pop up and throw my many inadequacies in my face. Suddenly my self-esteem is shattered, shredded, slaughtered. I stand naked in the wreckage of my life, weeping over my failures.

Today's just one of those days. Well, I'm not actually weeping yet, but I am more than a little irritated with myself. See, one of the drawbacks to these very generalized factotum-type jobs, like mine, is that you can't play exclusively to your strengths. You have a hundred things to do, and maybe fifty of them you're great at and fifty of them you suck at. And while the things you're great at might outweigh in importance the things you suck at (especially when being evaluated), the things you suck at still have to be done, however half-assedly you do them.

I totally suck at filing, and I totally suck at remembering little errands and tasks. Ordinarily these things are just my little shortcomings, I accept them and try to work around them. But today is one of those days where I am being asked for files I should be able to just put my hands on, but simply cannot find no matter where and how hard I look, and I am being reminded of little tasks and errands that I forgot all about, some of them important, some of them I forgot months and months ago.

It's been just one thing after another all morning... I got here at ten a.m. and am just now, three and a half hours later, enjoying the first bit of quiet in the day, the first succession of moments where someone wasn't asking me to find something I was supposed to have filed or remember something I was supposed to have already done. There were all these files for the audit that others assumed I had, while I assumed they knew me better than that and would have provided copies; there were little tasks that people wondered if I'd completed yet, and I had to admit that I'd forgotten all about them; there were papers that I was supposed to have sent in and made copies of, given to me months ago, which were still sitting in my "To Do" pile. All this and more, an absolute barrage of my own failures.

And it's not like I was jogging along, reasonably content with myself; my self-esteem has for the most part been flying at half-mast recently. I've been kind of disgusted with myself for my inability to perform all of my obligations, to take on new good habits, or even do my own damned laundry. So this is just the universe kicking me when I'm down.

I am so beleaguered and benumbed, in fact, that I just agreed to let someone send me eight magazines every month for a dollar each. I only caught a couple of the titles they threw at me, GQ and Field & Stream, and I'm sure the other six are equally pointless. At least I had the presence of mind to make sure there was an easy opt-out mechanism in the form of a mail-in confirmation card. But still... Field & Stream? That's just wrong.

Right now all I want to do is go check into a hotel somewhere and go to sleep, a clean bed in a clean room with none of my wreckage in it, where nobody can call me or talk to me or pester me in any way. Of course I can't even afford to check into a motel right now, unless I were to find one of those roachtraps full of whores and crackheads and crackwhores and heads. There are plenty around here, just a few blocks away in fact, but I've woken up in enough of those to last me a lifetime (really, once is enough), so I don't think that would quite fit the bill.

So instead I will just sit here and hate myself for a while. But only a little while. One of the blessings of being so absent-minded is that I cannot hang on to any emotion, either positive or negative, for very long. Grudges and hates just evaporate after a while, as do joys and loves. You may be left with a memory of them, but not the feelings themselves. The memory of a hate you can talk yourself out of; the memory of a love you can cherish to your bosom. But the feelings themselves are ephemeral things. They come, you feel them, and they go.

The trick is to not make any permanent or repurcussive decisions while experiencing the feeling. Like getting married and having children while still in the first throes of love. Like killing people in the heat of hatred. Like slashing your wrists in the fits of despair. Like racking up your credit card on celebratory purchases in a spree of euphoria. When you're angry with someone, wait until you're not angry anymore to discuss it with them; when you're thrilled with an outcome, wait until the excitement dies down before you make further decisions based on that outcome. It's all about being prudent.

Otherwise you could end up subscribing to Field & Stream. The horror. THE HORROR!!!

Ah, well... I have to get back to the daily practice of picking up my dropped threads. I have phone calls to make (another thing I totally suck at), flyers to print, errands to run, treadmills to tread upon, bottled water to drink, dinner to eat, books to read, porn to peruse, and a bed to sleep in.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

One Sick Queen

Here we are with yet another head-cold. I thought it might be allergies, because the acacia is blooming early and I don't feel sickly, no shivers or aches or sleepiness... just the stuffed sinuses and dripping clogged nasal passages. But it started raining yesterday, and I still feel all drippy and clogged, so I've begun to discount the allergy theory. And then to blow the theory completely out of the water, both Caroline and Grandmother are displaying the exact same symptoms, and neither of them have hayfever allergies.

I should have known it was a cold: this is the most inconvenient time to have one. I have a show to do this weekend, an important show, but runny noses and eyes and full maquillage just don't go together. So in order to keep the nose and eyes dry, I'm going to have to dose up on antihistamines, which will probably make me dopey. Drippy or dopey, those are my choices... unless of course the antihistamines don't work, then I can be drippy and dopey. A drippy dopey drag queen.

And though I haven't felt sleepy or sickly, I certainly have been sluggish all week. Last night I finally started and finished a project that I should have been doing piecemeal over the last two weeks, preparing for our annual audit. But since separating and organizing all of the bank statements, returned checks, and invoices from the last year would require a great deal of floor-space, I always put it off until there was nobody else in the office. And then when I had the office to myself, I put it off and put it off and put it off because I just couldn't make myself do something so boring and meticulous.

Fortunately, Caroline offered to help with the tedious part, since she actually enjoys that sort of thing... it's part of her job in a pathology lab to file and archive tested specimens, and she assured me that attaching returned checks to invoices and separating them by month is a walk in the park compared to filing thousands of pap-smeared glass slides and petri dishes full of organ-parts and phials of old blood. I'll take her word on that.

But even with that part of the job farmed out, there was a lot I was supposed to be doing but didn't even get started until Caroline came over yesterday to help with the files: I had to print out all of the meeting minutes from the fiscal year in question (we run on a July 1 to June 31 year), any changes to the constitution or bylaws, summaries of the distribution of salary release (people who are paid by time released from their district workload), lists of officers, and copies of all flyers and publications put out. Instead I sat around with my thumb up my ass, checking out pictures of young men on party-boats at Webshots and reading my own Mannersism archives (from the fiscal year in question, at least). I also ran errands (like taking Grandmother to the hairdresser and then to lunch, and getting my own nails done), produced and mailed off my General Service newsletter, and did some emailing and phone-answering... but not The Project. Anything but The Project!

Once I did finally get started, at six o'clock on Friday, unexpected challenges arose: most of the minutes were easy to find, I'd filed them all in one subdirectory, but I couldn't find any of the minutes from Fall 2002, because I hadn't written them, and the computer on which they had been written was gone (fortunately I found copies in JB's daily log from the semester... she really ought to do all our filing, she's a wonderful archivist); there had been changes to the bylaws during that fiscal year, but I had never updated the document after the bylaws had been passed, and so had to spend over an hour hunting for and editing in the new bylaws' text; and then it took me forever to get the release time summaries worked out because the arrangement was altered three times after the former president and treasurer resigned in January '03; and though I am pretty good about keeping my publications and flyers filed on my computer, I am not perfect, and so spent a lot of time hunting through folders for misfiled newsletters and announcements... and then I had to print everything, about sixty pages.

Caroline crapped out around ten-thirty, after about two hours of work and two hours dinner-break, but performed a job that would have taken me four or five hours (and made me completely crazy); but since I had to have all this ready for Monday morning, and had been allowed weeks to perform the chore, I stayed until it was finished, finally going home at midnight. There were a lot of pieces missing from the files, returned checks and paid invoices and the like that had been mislaid and perhaps even thrown away by accident; I can only hope that the IRS or somebody from the outside never audits us for real. But at least it's all done as best as it can be done, and I have all of this fiscal year's files organized as well (I had to, they were all mixed in together) so that next year we won't have this problem.

We are also going to be turning over all of the labor related to bookkeeping, the filing and the invoices and the check-writing, to our bookkeeper. That's the other reason I had to get all of the files from this fiscal year straightened out, so I could hand over the entire kit and kaboodle to the man who has been drawing a released salary for the last calendar year for work that I have been doing (and doing badly, too). He's supposed to be spending at least three hours a week on this stuff, and I know I don't spend anywhere near that much (though I only do it once or twice a month, and parts of it get put off for whole years, so it tends to back up into huge projects), so it shouldn't be too hard for him. He is a professional accountant, after all, as well as an accounting teacher.

Now I know I must be sick... I just wasted an hour of my life and several minutes of your time describing in excruciating detail a project that was so boring I'd rather eat glass than ever have to do it again. I'm going back to my beer-swilling straight boys on their lakes with their board shorts and tattoos and vaguely homoerotic shenanigans. Or maybe I'll just go back to bed. Caroline and I are finally going to go see Return of the King today, and I'll need all my strength for the three and a half hours of sitting.

Oh, and if you find yourself at a loose end tomorrow, drop by the Bench & Bar between four and seven for the RGDC Winter Extravaganza, you'll see a super-nifty drag show co-hosted by the wonderful and hardworking Royal Crown Count Margaret Ramirez and some big dopey drag queen dripping snot into her fur muff. There will be food, raffles, auctions, and other entertainments as well. C'mon by, it'll be fun!

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Slouching Toward Whatever

I wonder sometimes where these peculiarly adaptable phrases originate. I mean, the whole "slouching toward..." meme of phrases has yielded rich verbal ore ever since Yeats jotted it down (in a different verb-tense) as a thumping good tag-line in "The Second Coming" (which also gave us the terribly useful "Things fall apart; the center cannot hold"). But where did he get it? Was it divine inspiration? Or did he steal it from a lesser-known source?

I was thinking of this today when I was rereading a passage in a novel I didn't really like the first time I read it, but I couldn't remember exactly why I disliked it, so I thought I'd give it another chance (besides which, I'm out of new books again — I'm also out of clean socks, and wondering if there isn't a correlation). In the second chapter of Vincent Varga's Vadriel Vail (goddess, how I love alliteration), the abbott of a Trappist monastery used the phrase "slouching toward celibacy" to describe the lustful private transgressions common to young monks.

I thought the phrase very memorable, as well as wonderfully descriptive. There's a sort of reluctance inherent in slouching, as well as a furtiveness, but it is nevertheless a forward momentum; it perfectly describes a young man's faltering attempts to reign in the pleasures demanded by the flesh. I could imagine him slouching down to hide an inopportune erection during chapel, or slouching down to protect his masturbatory activities from the eye of God, guilty and furtive but nevertheless trying to be good.

It also made me think of how young people do tend to slouch, and why they do it. I've been a posture-nazi ever since I was eleven, when I had my back corrected by a chiropractor after falling out of a tree. While he was readjusting the disalignment in my spine, he gave me all these exercises to avoid back problems in the future, such as making sure my heel made it onto a stair before I stepped up, keeping my head on an axis above my pelvis so that my back bones take the weight instead of my back muscles (and also keeps the spinal cord from becoming stretched, which can cause pinched nerves), and walking around holding a broom horizontally behind my shoulders to encourage better breathing and torso development. And since I had a teensy little prepubescent crush on my chiropractor, I followed his instructions to the letter, and was soon gliding about as erect as a knife.

I think I slouched mostly as a protective gesture, keeping my head down and my arms in front of me to ward off any blows or jabs from hostile forces. But there was also a laziness involved... in childhood, your muscles are so very resilient, and they hold firm easier than they contract... with my heavy melon head, it was easier in the short term to let it and my shoulders hang off my backbone, like a lily on a stalk, than to retrain those muscles to keep everything piled up where it belongs.

However, when I was taught proper posture, I discovered that it allowed me to move gracefully in a somewhat feminine manner, and feminine grace was my greatest desire in childhood; it also made the most of my awkward height, making me look bigger and giving people the impression (however false) that I wasn't afraid of them. This psychological trick of a haughty stance, I discovered, was a greater protection than physically guarding my face and solar-plexus by curling them together in a fetal ball.

I later discovered, interestingly enough, that though I slouched for protection, many youths slouch to look tough. It's the body-language of the shoulders that makes the difference: if your shoulders droop and you hold your arms in front of your chest, your stance is protective and withdrawn, like a rolled-up mealy-bug, and visibly weak; but if your shoulders are thrown back and your elbows somewhat akimbo, your slouching stance is both aggressive (face-forward, chin jutting, crouched to spring) and insouciant (relaxed and unconcerned, exposing the vulnerable throat to evince invulnerability) at the same time, the very epitome of cool. A friend of my late teen years (on whom I had a huge crush, incidentally) strenuously resisted my attempts to correct his slouch, certain that his wolfish posture was attractive to the opposite sex. Maybe it was — it certainly made the most of his well-shaped but slightly recessive jaw, which sort of folded up into his neck when I did occasionally get him to stand up straight.

And then tall people tend to slouch, anyway. Slouching brings your face down to the level of other people's faces so you can be closer to them, as humans relate to each-other mostly through their faces; a six-foot-six former minister of my Grandmother's church was such a person, and he jokingly blamed his question-mark posture on having spent his entire career bending down to hear normal-sized people speaking.

But a tall person is also tempted to slouch because it minimizes the difference between himself and others; one of my neighbors' daughters, an extremely pretty girl who stands six-foot-three in her stocking feet, has the most ghastly posture I've ever seen, although as an accomplished young athlete she does know how to stand up straight... she slouches on purpose in social situations to minimize her difference. In the tribal society of human communities, it is always tempting to conform; you hardly ever see short people slouching, they're too busy trying to bring their heads up to the norm.

I have discovered, though, that the slouching is more off-putting than the distance or hauteur of standing perfectly upright. Slouching in either an aggressive or a protective posture says that you are either an asshole or a coward, and people aren't usually impressed by those qualities. People are drawn to the tall, and will invest them with admirable qualities that they may or may not possess: strength, dignity, foresight, leadership. Nobody laughs at anybody for being tall — they may ask how the weather is up there (whereupon you say "it's raining" and then spit on them), or insist you should be good at basketball, or opine that it must be nice to be able to change lightbulbs without getting a ladder (it is nice), but they don't ridicule tallness... unless you try to mask it by curling up into a weak and defeated posture.

Body language is a key element of human interaction, and your body makes an inescapable statement with its natural size and shape, a statement that you can only make ridiculous by trying to make it say something else. By amplifying the attractive qualities of whatever your body is already saying, you can express yourself to people more effectively.

So if you're tall, stand up tall and act with nobility and strength... because if you cringe, you're seen as ungainly and sneaky, taking up more space than you should. If you're round, be jolly and nurturing, because a sour disposition on a plump body bespeaks gluttony and selfishness. If you're really hairy, be warm and hearty, lest you be seen as gross and animalian. If you're small, go ahead and exude vulnerability and childlike sweetness, because that's how people will want to see you; if you act belligerent and cocky, you're accused of Little Man Syndrome and people will see you as trying to compensate for shortcomings (pun intended). If you're very thin, you must be graceful and serene, because if you move clumsily or too quickly, you will be seen as creepy and spiderlike.

Now, of course, people will say it's dishonest to alter your personality to suit your superficial appearance; however, I am not speaking of personality changes, but rather behavioral changes. You can't walk in high heels with your knees far apart, you can't operate a drill-press wearing eighteenth-century lace cuffs, you can't dance the Can-Can in a suit of armor, and you can't twitch your head around if you're wearing the five-pound St Edward's Crown. And just as the clothing you wear dictates what movements you can comfortably make, so the body you inhabit must dictate how you should conduct yourself in society... not your personality, not your soul, but merely the way you act, the way you portray yourself to others: your body-language.

And who's to say that the body language that reflects your spiritual self is any truer than the body language that best suits your physical self? Isn't the path to self-knowledge contingent on aligning our inner and outer realities? I think it is. And I think you've got to accentuate the positive, because if you are portraying negativity to other people, those people will be disinclined to try to know you... and then what's the point of all your spiritual honesty if nobody knows who you are, what you think, why you exist?

So having covered everything from William Butler Yeats to the reason fat people should be jolly, I guess I will take off my Pedant Hat and go do some real work. Stand tall, my darlings, until we meet again!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


The famous Monday Morning has finally come. Never mind that it's actually Tuesday. A Monday Morning, when capitalized, in my lexicon, is a day when you actually start doing all those things you've been putting off. I'm always going to start my diet on Monday, start my exercise regimen on Monday, start getting to work early on Monday, start keeping track of my gas mileage on Monday.

Yesterday was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and since I work in one of those sectors that is always taking days off (Academia, which outruns Banking and Government with its number of excuses to stay home), I spent the entire day lying in bed... except for the times I got up to eat cookies, and the three hours I spent watching television in the living room. I had actually gone out there to play Prince of Persia, because I had a headache from laying in bed too long, but my VCR is broken and the X-Box is connected to the pre-stereo television through the VCR.

See, there was this previously-viewed copy of The Sound of Music that I bought at Mediaplay for $4.99 on my birthday, and when I put it in the VCR it was chewed up and spat out. But in the usual Manners fashion, I just left it there on the television cabinet instead of throwing it away; along comes my uncle who winds the chewed tape back into the cassette and shoves it into the VCR to see if that fixed it; the tape became jammed in the VCR, and now we can't turn the VCR on, even though we took the cover off the machine and extracted the tape (and threw it the fuck away this time)... it just hums a little, tries to play a tape that is not in it any more, and then turns itself off. Hooray!

So, returning to the main thread, I spent all day yesterday in bed, as well as the latter half of Sunday, eating very little except these new frosted chocolate cookies put out by Mother's and the occasional brace of scrambled eggs or hunk of longhorn cheddar. In all that horizontal time this three-day weekend, I finished reading The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan, and watched a lot of videos scraped up from the bottom of the video box: three episodes of Jeeves and Wooster that I had quite forgotten I'd taped about four years ago (according to a news clip that made it on to the tape after an episode of Chicago Hope, which posited the possibility that an as-yet-unnamed White House intern may have had an affair with President Clinton), the entire run of Further Tales of the City taped off Showtime (except for about five minutes at the end of the second episode, the first tape ran out while Mother Mucca was telling Anna Madrigal that the man she was dating was actually her father), then The Age of Innocence (an absolute orgasm of Gilded Age costumes and sets), all three instalments of The Brotherhood series (perfectly dreadful grade-C films, horribly written and horribly acted, with no apparent purpose except to showcase gorgeous young men in boxer-briefs, and one just fast-forwards through the rest), and Wigstock (which requires no justification).

There is a kind of wisdom at work with all this laying about... when you've lain in bed for so long that you get a headache from laying in bed, then you've lain in bed quite long enough. It gets it out of your system, an exhaustive dose of leisure. And now I feel quite finished with laying abed, and am ready to get up and do things now.

So today is my Monday Morning:

Today I am going to not eat cookies, candy, cake, or pastry.

Today I am going to drink at least eight glasses of water.

Today I am going to do forty minutes of cardio at the gym.

Today I am going to pick up at least one thing off the floor of my bedroom and put it out of the way.

Today I am going to make phone calls when I think of them instead of putting them off until later and then forgetting about them.

Today I am going to do my work instead of putting it off until tomorrow, because God knows what tomorrow is going to be like.

Today I am going to do my best without expectation or guilt or any of those pointless time-wasting emotions.

This week is going to be a bit of a bear... our auditor is coming this week, so I have to spend a good deal of time and effort getting the financial records in order; also I have a big show coming up this weekend for which I have to confer with my co-host and do rather more than just plan an outfit and a song, and I haven't even done that much yet; and I have to get out a General Service newsletter this week. All this on top of all my usual busy-ness. But I'm sure I can manage so long as I stay focused on the thing in front of me and don't let myself put things off.

I think I've got to get out of the habit of waiting for The Perfect Moment to do things. I put off making phone calls until I feel fairly certain that the caller is not busy, and I never make phone calls before noon or after ten p.m. for fear of disturbing people, and there is no one time between those two cut-off hours when people are invariably at liberty and sitting idle next to their phones. I put off any and all room-cleaning activities until I have a whole day to devote to the project, and by the time I have a whole day to myself I'm much too tired to spend the whole thing cleaning a room. I plan to not go to the gym because I expect I will be too tired by the end of the day (and I usually am, too), but I also know I'll never get to the end of a work-day with the feeling that I'd just love to go walk three miles on a treadmill. And getting back into the habit of eating right and increasing my hydration is constantly subjected to provisions and conditions that will not come to pass unless I force them to... I'm always waiting until the cookies are all gone, but I still buy more, I always wait until next week to start drinking water, wait until next month to restart my daily prayer-and-meditation routine, next year to do this or that, next lifetime to do something else.

But there is no Perfect Time. Now is all we have. Today is all we get. Tomorrow is always a day away, and by the time it gets here it isn't tomorrow anymore, it's today.

And today I have to go to work. Right now, in fact. I'll talk to you... later!

Friday, January 16, 2004

When All Else Fails

What can I do to entertain you? How can I enlighten and fascinate you? Shall I do a little dance? Recite a little poem? Share my hopes and dreams?

Well, if I did a dance, you couldn't see me... I lack that technology (but I got up and did an abbreviated Charleston, anyway, just for you). I don't know any poems, really, only bits and pieces of them ('Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe... Tyger, tyger, burning bright, in the forests of the night, what immortal hand or eye could frame thy fearful symmetry... In Xanadu did Kublai Khan a stately pleasure dome decree, Where Alph, the sacred river ran, Through caverns measureless to man, Down to a sunless sea...). I don't really have any hopes; today is quite enough to be thinking about, without trying to formulate what it is that I really want in this world (I have everything I really need, and all my parts work, what more can a girl ask from life? I also have a tiara, a thirty-four waist, and really cute black dress shoes...).

I do dream a bit, though.

Caroline and I saw Big Fish on Wednesday, and absolutely loved it! It was so much fun, a beautiful story, great cinematography, wonderful writing, all of the wonderful Tim Burton whimsy with none of the usual counterbalancing darkness, Billy Crudup and Ewan McGregor to drool over, Jessica Lange and Albert Finney to admire... and an ending that had the both of us crying like little girls for a good ten minutes. We jointly recommend the film, but caution against trying to make too much sense of the narrative. The best way to approach the film is not with just a suspension of disbelief but with an entire expulsion of disbelief... it will all make perfect sense by the end, so worrying about it in the beginning is just wasteful.

Afterward we repaired to the Asqew Grill (fine dining on a stick!) for dinner. Over orders of basil lamb with garlic mashed potatoes and Italian sausage with polenta Marinara, we talked about dreams. Caroline had just had a dream about being a contestant in one of those dating reality shows, but in this one it was a sort of free-for-all where a bunch of women were introduced into a room full of Slavic youths who were looking for American brides. Most of the boys were of the Bel Ami Czech type, but this one really tall and not terribly lovely blond boy (Carlone doesn't care for tall blonds, preferring the black-hair-and-blue-eyes combination on girlish youths) claimed Caroline for his own; while Caroline was filling out the necessary paperwork with INS, she cleverly substituted the name of another boy she fancied for the boy who fancied her, and ended up actually marrying him before she left the room.

The reason Caroline related this dream is because about halfway through she woke up and had to go to the bathroom... but she was so interested in what was going on, she wanted desperately to return to the dream. And so after being awake for about fifteen minutes, she went right back to sleep and picked up the narrative exactly where she left off. She had never been able to do this before and was very pleased.

This led me to tell of a dream I recently had, the first time I ever died in a dream. I was a mobster of some sort, and I was shooting at this other mobster guy in a large house or hotel. I had this ridiculous gun with unlimited but very weak and tiny bullets, and he had a shotgun with only one very powerful bullet. So I was trying to kill him before he could get that one shot off, and I must have emptied a hundred or so rounds into him and I knew he was dying, but he was dying too slowly... so instead of wasting any more bullets I just gave up and tried to hide until he finally dropped dead. I was hiding behind a bed in this really quite attractive red-and-black laquered Art Deco bedroom (paging Doctor Freud, paging Doctor Freud), and the man I was trying to kill (with whom, incidentally, I was in love, but he obviously belonged to a rival gang) used his one shot and hit the bed behind which I was crouching. Well, I of course thought he'd missed me, and so sat up and aimed at him again with my silly little gun. "You realize I got you, don't you?" he asked as I emptied a couple more rounds into his neck, "through the mattress, right on top of your head."

It was the most peaceful feeling, dying in a dream. I could feel there was a great bleeding hole in my head, it didn't hurt at all, but I knew that you can't live with a shotgun wound in the top of the head; suddenly it all seemed so silly and meaningless to have been involved in all this struggle and killing. Nothing mattered, and it was wonderfully calming. So this man I killed and who killed me lay down with me on the floor, and we died in each other's arms, cuddled together as a couple might cuddle together on a sofa to watch television, and the last thought I had as I drifted into black oblivion was "This is nice." Then I woke up.

Caroline was interested that I'd had a dying dream for the first time, though she'd had them ever since she was little... but her dying dreams were always scary and painful. I related that I'd never felt pain in a dream, though I had felt fear of pain before. Mostly my nightmares were about betrayal and powerlessness. But dreams about death have always been very peaceful and calm.

As I was telling Caroline about the dream, though, I remembered a dream I had some months ago (I think I wrote about it here) where I killed a man and then made love to him as he was dying. This had been another first... I almost never have sex in my dreams, and I had certainly never killed anyone before, so it was very disturbing to me... especially since I remembered it so clearly, the beauty of his naked body and the terrible waste of his death, the texture of his skin under my mouth, the size of his penis, the softness of his mouth, my power over him. I've been afraid to look up the possible meanings of these dreams.

Anyway, we continued comparing our dream habits: Caroline's dreams tend to have a logical narrative thread, where mine usually meander all over the place and don't make any sense; Caroline feels sensations in her dreams, pain or cold or flavors or what-have-you, where I tend to register sensations only intellectually, knowing that I just felt or tasted when I didn't actually experience the sensation itself; Caroline often leaves her body in dreams, and watches the action as if it were on television, but she is never anyone besides herself, where I often change characters and viewpoints in my dreams, become other people, but never see the action from any perspective but a human one; and death is a common terror in Caroline's dreams, where I dream of it terribly seldom and then only recently, but it was always rather pleasant.

I have often considered studying dreams as a hobby, but it seems to murky and odd a field of study. Most of the dream books I've read for interpreting dreams have seemed overly mystical and silly, fortune-telling books as vague as Tarot for Dummies or the horoscopes printed in the comics pages. And then there is this reticence about knowing too much about my own subconscious... perhaps I fear finding out for sure that I'm really crazy, or at least a bigger psychological mess than I already suspect.

So anyway... there are some dreams of mine, for your entertainment and edification, as well as a couple of Caroline's thrown in as a bonus. Hopefully in the near future I will be able to come up with something a little more riveting to offer you. I've been having difficulty writing lately, particularly a difficulty thinking of things to write about, and I'm not sure why that is. Perhaps it's because I'm avoiding writing something that is taking up all the space in my brain? Perhaps, perhaps.

Pleasant dreams to you, and to me, and to this guy...

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Well, Obviously...

I finally talked to my sponsor yesterday evening, and I am so glad I did. We got a lot of things sorted out that I was worried about in my last entry. Like the tiredness thing... my sponsor has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and so knows a lot about fatigue and its multifarious causes, chief of which are sugar and caffeine. Although my coffee intake has remained the same, it is inescapable and obvious that my sugar intake has at least tripled in the last two months... ever since I went completely off my diet in honor of the Holidays. It's been all about candies, cookies, and pie every day for two months, and at the same time it's been all about not sleeping at night and feeling generally tired most of the time (except immediately after eating).

What masked this quite obvious explanation was the fact that I have eaten huge amounts of sugar for most of my life, and my intake of holiday cookies and Christmas candy this season has not been any more or less than I used to eat all the time. But what I wasn't taking into account was the fact that I had been eating right and exercising for the previous few months, detoxing my body from its accustomed sugar-processing activities, while I was losing that famous twenty pounds. My body got used to having protein and vitamins in it instead of sugar and starch, and is now reacting to the resurgence of sugar as if I had never been a big sugarfiend before.

So obviously I've been suffering from sugar burnout these last few weeks, and that's why I am so tired all the time, and yet not able to sleep at night. Unfortunately I still have a lot of cookies and candy lying about the house and office, and I don't know what to do with it all. Maybe I should have a Carb Party and make everyone else eat it all. But in the meantime, I can remind myself that just because the cookie is there doesn't mean I have to eat it.

We also discussed the various possible causes and single possible solution to my feeling of stagnation, which we think may be the symptom of a crisis of faith. My belief in God as an agent of growth in my life seems to have waned somehow, and I will be revisiting my first three steps before getting on to my last three steps. More on that later, when I have had time to stew on it. Really important writing is usually left to ferment at the back of the closet, like a jar of pickles, before I start chewing on it in print.

In other news, television has been sucking so much recently that I started playing one of my nephew's video games in order to keep myself entertained in front of the idiot box... Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which is quite definitely the most aesthetically beautiful video game I've ever seen. I watched Matthew playing it when he first got it, and was mesmerised by the gorgeousness of the architecture of the sultan's palace. A lot of thought and expertise went into building this game's sets, and the game itself was exciting and fun to watch. Of course, this attention to detail steals disk-memory from the game-play, and Matthew got through the entire thing in only ten hours, much to his disappointment. I was there to see the very end of the game, which was so horrendously anticlimactic that we were both sitting there with our mouths agape when the Evil Vizier unexpectedly just dropped dead in the middle of a tirade. We were sure he was going to turn into a dragon or something, kick it up a notch to really challenge the player, but you give him a good slash across the ribcage and he flopped down dead and that was the end of the game.

But anyway, Matthew finished the game, and I figured I'd give it a shot, even though I know perfectly well that I won't be able to win. Thing is, I have no hand-eye coordination, and there are a number of places in the game where you really need it. Like this one move where you climb up a narrow walled-in space by leaping from one side to the other and back (the Prince of Persia is quite the gymnast, and apparently has no fear of heights); you have to hit the A button the very second the controller vibrates, or else you plummet to your death. And then there are the sheer numbers of buttons and sticks and triggers on the X-Box controller, I get so confused with the A and the B, the X and the Y, the white and the black, the action-stick and the view-stick, the left trigger and the right trigger... all of which do entirely different things. I could barely manage my old N-64 controllers with the one joy-stick and one trigger and four buttons, the X-Box controller is completely beyond my managing.

The coolest thing about the Prince of Persia, with his gorgeous blue eyes and glossy black hair and fabulous cheekbones, aside from his ability to run alongside walls and turn somersaults in midair and go flipping from rope to rope over bottomless pits and to take off portions of his shirt as the game progresses until his rippling torso is quite bare (tell me there weren't any fags involved in the development of this game) is that he can turn back time when he makes a mistake. You take a flying leap that turns out to be the wrong leap to take, and all you have to do is squeeze the left trigger and you back right up again to the safe spot. That would be really cool to have. Suddenly wish you hadn't said something? Get in an accident that could have been avoided if you knew it was going to happen? Just push the little button on the Dagger of Time, and voilà, you get a do-over.

So anyway... life beckons, I must go now and do work. I haven't done any of the things I was bitching about not doing in the last post, so perhaps I ought to see about doing some of it. Miles to go before I rest, and all that. And I'm going to the movies with Caroline tonight (we will see Big Fish), and tomorrow I'm meeting with Angelique about Court matters, and on Friday I have to take the Grandmother down to San Jose for a family birthday party.

One thing after another until you get to the end. And really, am I in such a big hurry to get to the end? Especially since I know the Vizier just drops dead without turning into a dragon or doing anything remotely cool? Enjoy the scenery and flip from flagpole to flagpole while I can.


Monday, January 12, 2004


Sorry to leave you all hanging on such a grim topic, but I got all busy and shit. Well, not busy so much as unavailable. I had nothing to say on Saturday, and was so involved with slowly and desultorily tidying my living room and strenuously not cleaning my bedroom, I wouldn't have had the time to say anything if I'd had it to say. By the time I got back from church and had my nap on Sunday, I wasn't up to thinking much... I just watched television all evening, read bits and pieces of Right Ho, Jeeves (thanks, Anonymous Sympathizer, for the tip) and then played The Sims a while. And today I was at this very long, completely inconvenient (at the Airport Hilton, miles from my computer, the withdrawal symptoms were fierce and at one point I had to resort to playing Rummy on my Palm Pilot during a lecture on Prop 56, the Budget Accountability Initiative... vote Yes in March, sweetie) but nevertheless rather entertaining union-staff training seminar for work; there were three really cute men there, too — which, added to the free breakfast bar and free lunch, and the other giveaway freebies (thermal nylon lunch-bags, rubber stress-balls printed to look like planet Earth, luggage tags, and about a hundred different pens), made the day pretty goddamned bearable.

But here I am back, suckling at the electronic teat of the CompuMaster at home, after dinner out and grocery-shopping with the Grandmother, and I felt I really ought to just "check in." I was trying to write every other day, and managed to do so for two whole weeks; but like the rest of the things I've been intending to do lately, it didn't quite work out as I had planned. And it's not like my plans are unrealistic, either... I'm just not doing anything.

There's this fine line between "taking it easy" and "wallowing." I have a feeling I've crossed that line. I don't want to do anything, I don't want to go anywhere, and I don't want to see anyone. I do do things, and go places, and see people, but only the things/places/people I can't avoid easily (because avoiding things/places/people on purpose would constitute doing something). To make things more difficult, all this shit keeps happening to me that make my messes so much worse and my inactivity so much more noticeable.

First off, last week as Caroline and I were headed to the store to pick up some bread, I ran over a chunk of asphalt that had come loose from the street in the rain and punctured my tire. So not only did I have to change the tire (which always makes me feel terribly butch), and not only did I have to take half the crap out of the trunk to get to the spare, but I had to take the time and energy and $130 I can't really afford in order to take Miss Jane down to get a new tire. In my usual manner, though, I drove around on the doughnut for four or five days before I remembered to actually do it. While the tire-man was checking my other tires, he noticed that one of my brake-shoes was worn to a nub and would have to be replaced soon, another expense that I definitely can't afford right now (although it did solve my dilemma as to whether to buy the black thigh-high boots or the Suzanne Somers marquise and brilliant mesh bracelet for my single January Treat... I now cannot afford to buy either).

Then, this weekend, my cousin Kellie moved into her new place, and I sent off the dressing table that goes with the bedroom set Grandmother is loaning her (you remember, the one I don't use and wanted out of my room to replace with a chest or bureau or shelves or something?)... but I had to liberate the dressing-table (or vanity-table, if you prefer) from the drifts and dunes of my Mess. When one portion of my Mess is forcibly disturbed in this manner, it makes the whole Mess ever so much worse, especially since the thing that was removed from the room hadn't been shifted or even cleaned out in ten years. There was a ton of stuff in that dressing-table I'd completely forgot I had. And now it's all over the room, along with all the other stuff that was all over the room, and I can't fucking stand it... but I haven't the energy or afflatus to do anything about it.

Also this weekend, coming back from church, the shoe wore completely off the brake on one wheel, so it's making this ghastly noise and no doubt destroying the calipers and increasing the repair expense exponentially every time I stop the car... and I don't have the time, much less the financial resources, to either get the brakes fixed or to not drive the car. I can take it in on Wednesday and pay for it Thursday, but not before, and have to drive to the airport tomorrow and to my meeting and other places, grindgrindgrind all the way, and it's making me crazy.

I need to call my sponsor tomorrow, I haven't talked to her in a whole month and I miss her. I haven't called her in all this time because A) I wasn't at work when the little alarm reminding me to call her went off on my work computer, or if I was there I was too busy to actually stop and do it; and B) because I haven't done a single blessed thing toward my sobriety this month aside from just not drinking (which is simply the barest minimum), and I am somewhat disgusted with myself and don't want to have to admit out loud what a dreadful sponsee I am being.

All last week I didn't do all the filing and catching-up at work that I should have done and planned to do and wanted to do. I was too busy reading about serial killers and compulsively re-editing blog entries, not to mention reading all of Lance Arthur's archives (and loving every word of them). And now there are these two days at the training seminar, out of the office, and Wednesday the semester starts, Thursday is the first executive board meeting, and the whole thing is getting started before I finished up last year's messes.

I have a big Court show coming up soon (The Winter Extravaganza, 4 p.m. Sunday January 25, the Bench & Bar at 11th at Madison, Oakland), which is required of me as Royal Crown Countess and which I am supposed to co-host with the Royal Crown Count, and I haven't been in touch with her or with anyone in the Court to find out what I can do and what I should be doing and what they want me to do. I don't even know what I'm going to perform. I don't know what I am going to wear. And I am irritated with myself for being so lazy about it and also terrified of doing a bad job... and just as terrified of doing too good of a job, if you can credit such insanity.

I haven't fallen asleep before 3a.m. in days despite getting up at 8 a.m most days since the beginning of the year. I keep forgetting to call a friend I have been trying to remember to call since Christmas. I've only been to the gym once all year, though at least I have a bag of gym clothes in the car. I keep forgetting to plug my cell-phone into the charger. The inside of my car is as dusty as a pharoah's tomb. I have hemorrhoids. My eyebrows are growing wild, I have a tiny blackhead on my nose, and there is a hair tickling in my ear that I can't find to pull out. I am out of socks.

That whole overwhelmed feeling is here with me. And I just don't want to do anything. I'm wallowing.

But whatever. Nobody wallows as well as I. I'm going to bed now, (a bed on which I have to share space with about twenty books, a load of laundry, and several stuffed animals, so that my sleeping-space is only three feet wide... I might as well just have a twin bed fer chrissakes), as I have to get up grotesquely early to drive my broken-braked car to the Oakland Airport Hilton for the dubious pleasure of a couple more free meals and a few ganders at the three cute guys at the conference (oh yeah, and that whole professional development thing). I hope you're having a lovely day, and that if you are also wallowing you are enjoying the hell out of it. Kisses!

Friday, January 9, 2004

Faces of Death

I recently was following some links around and found myself in a most unlikely place: it all started innocently when my coworker and I were talking about the literary women whom Ernest Hemingway might have been friends with and who may have had an effect on his affectionate incomprehension of the female sex, the opinion of Hemingway's female characters held by modern feminists, and how the feminists who were perhaps his influences might have reacted to his female characters (that's the nice thing about working with teachers, sometimes you get into these really great academic discussions at work); in the course of the discussion I was talking about a woman writer who I think was friends with Hemingway, was certainly a force in the expatriate literary salons of 1930s Paris, and whose rather grim and humorless lesbian novel I had read in two separate classes in one semester ("Queer Love in Literature" and "The Modern British Novel"), but whose name I couldn't remember to save my life; so hunting up "literature paris 30s queer" at Google, I found my way to this odd Manitoban directory of queer people in history; I had to look around a good deal on the page I found before I came across the name Djuna Barnes, which settled my curiosity about the name I had forgotten, but the conversation was pretty much over with already and it didn't matter except to get the name out of my head; while poking around at the Canadian website (surprised somewhat by the sheer number of names, though many people were included on the most specious of evidence), I saw a name that rang a bell, John Wayne Gacy, the serial killer; I had no idea Gacy was gay (or even homosexual), so I followed a link in the entry to this quite macabre site; and once there, I was immediately absorbed in the accounts of various homosexual serial killers.

I was rather surprised to find these accounts so riveting. Under ordinary circumstances, I don't care for blood and gore, murder and mayhem... I don't read horror novels much, seldom ever see horror movies, and am no fan of violence in art or music. In fact, I tend to become unduly upset when, in the course of the film or book or whatever, a young person is killed — especially if the person is beautiful, or if the death was particularly painful or terrifying to the victim.

On the other hand, though I tend to shy away from horror fiction, I have a fascination for vampires, especially the beautiful and elegant Anne Rice variety. There's a sexual intimacy involved with vampiric killing, a sensuality and carnal ecstasy to the death, a kind of love for the victim, which I think is what makes them alluring as something other than just a killer. Characters like Gilles de Rais (of whom I first read in Quentin Crisp's How to Have a Lifestyle, in which the Baron de Rais was held up as an example of a stylish murderer) and John Wayne Gacy killed in a distinctly erotic manner, and such stories fascinate and repel me at once. Besides, the sex-and-death theme are almost universally fascinating (for reasons that I personally don't understand, but there are psychological studies that show the two equate almost automatically in the human mind... something I shall have to study one of these days).

But I think, in this particular case, it is the clinical tone of the true-crime report that makes these accounts easier to handle. The focus is more on what makes a killer kill, and how he is caught, rather than the effect on the victims, the terror inspired and the horrors endured. The victims were not ignored, of course, but I didn't find myself dwelling on them until I started encountering photographs in the articles, and by then it was the trail to justice that captured my imagination.

It baffled me that these men could go on killing and killing without getting caught. Granted, police method and forensic science have come a long way in recent years, and in the past it was often only a blatant piece of chance idiocy on the part of the killer that would bring him down (such as Randy Kraft, who was pulled over for drunk driving, with a corpse and a puddle of blood in the cab of his truck). But so much of the time they had chosen their victim pools well — several killers focused on homosexual loners, others preyed on transient types like sailors and truckers and runaways. If there were no bodies lying about, the police usually assumed that the young men just up and left for parts unknown, as young men tend to do, especially if they're homosexual.

The thing I'm finding, though, as I read these horrific accounts, and even more when I encountered actual post-mortem crime-scene photgraphs (nothing too graphic, but you could see that the boys were dead) dotted about among live photographs of the victims, is that rather than sickening me, they make me appreciate life so much more. When I think of how easy it is to kill someone, rather than being disgusted or appalled, I instead start thinking what a marvel the human body is, with one thing connected to another thing, and all the sensations and textures, pleasure and pain, and the whole miraculous mechanism poised in this precarious balance.

It also puts me in mind of an idea that I had once, quite a while ago, that it's the very ephemeral nature of living beauty that attracts us... the beauty of something that will grow old and die, or die at the height of its beauty, is so much more moving and fascinating than the beauty of something permanent and durable. It's why the young are more beautiful than the old, the living more beautiful than the inanimate — a beautiful man is more beautiful than a beautiful statue; a beautiful woman is more beautiful than a beautiful painting; a beautiful flower is more beautiful than a beautiful jewel, and a beautiful sunset is more beautiful than a beautiful mountain.

However, though it is the death that makes the beauty greater, it seems a terrible crime to end the beauty wilfully. Wasteful and awful and vicious to deprive the world of any of its beauty. And I find it odd, though not inexplicable, that my appreciation of beauty seems to have been enhanced by detailed accounts of such wanton destruction of that same beauty.

But now I think of it, one of the great draws of murder-mystery fiction is that it gives one a sense of justice and order... for although murder and mayhem, destruction and evil abound in such stories, there is always a detective who solves the mystery and brings the malefactor to justice. The horror of the killing is tempered and redeemed by the climax of desirable comeuppance. It gives one a sense that all is right with the world when an evil person is caught, when the forces of right track them down and punish them. It's all very satisfying, in its way.

Still, aside from that benefit, I am still repelled by the gruesomeness of these stories I've been drawn into. I feel this great need to read or see something pretty and happy, where nobody dies and everything turns out well at the end. Something Disney, perhaps, where only the wicked get killed and even then it's off-screen and quite bloodless; or a nice romance or comic novel with plenty of laughs and no tears at all. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Precipice Bayberry September

Not to mention arsenide, constrain, psychoanalysis, choral, foxhole, bare, hypothalamus, circulant, brittle, Angeles, charity, wind, Margery, librate, dialect, empty, obsolescent, humble, coinage, temple, cormorant, frown, admixture, centrifugal, depute, christen, core, cationic, ostracism, Carroll, Aubrey, executive, bisexual, drunk, inhibitor, culvert, Bonaventure, lease, hale, nervous, aristocrat, bestseller, clot, fuselage, pleasure, salivate, volunteer, joke, Lowell, mastery, ancestral, bystander, bracket, efferent, sidle, accompany, credo, aurora, sprang, businessmen, circuitry, eclogue, hum, Taft, whup, snigger, Birmingham, fungi, dichloride, cornmeal, alleyway, Arlen, urbane, bosonic, depredate, lighthearted, stone, wolves, alike, cicada, infrared, hexameter, Parr, inveigle, grillwork, parachute, checkerboard, combinator, clamber, portent, and ringlet. So there!

I don't know why, but I get the biggest kick out of these seemingly-random words in spam emails. I don't understand the purpose of all the words and names, but at least everything in this spam is spelled correctly (though I had to add punctuation and capitals), so unlike the usual run of spam. Some of the combinations spark the imagination, as well, such as "ancestral bystander" or "grillwork parachute" or "bestseller clot." Like the names of indie bands: Live at the Warfield, Choral Foxhole opens for Eclogue Hum and Infrared Hexameter!

But aside from the entertainment of random word generation, I have often wondered why people bother with spam. I understand that it costs absolutely nothing to generate and is therefore an economically attractive advertisement; but I wonder, what is the rate of return for this form of sales pitch? In my experience, spam and telemarketing are so universally reviled that it is difficult to imagine the target audience that actually responds positively to such techniques. What, I wonder, is the percentage of recipients who click on these links and graphics saying "Oh, yes, I do believe I can add inches to my penis with a pill (even though it's physically impossible to do such a thing, unless you taped the pill bottle to the end of your penis, your size is as immutable and hereditary as the shapes of your bones and the placement of your hair follicles)," or "Why, I would simply love to send all of my bank-account routing information to some anonymous person claiming to be the relative of a deposed African despot so as to help him launder his embezzled funds!" or "By jiminy, I really must see Paris Hilton having sex with a herd of goats!"

Of course, I can imagine people being interested in buying prescription drugs without a prescription, but I wonder at their naïveté in thinking that the licensing-mad US Government would allow a legitimate company to sell prescription medication without a prescription, and that the only way they'd get away with it is to offer placebos with fancy names. And do people really believe that the powerful cable companies would actually allow the sale of a mechanism that unscrambles pay channels? Do they not realize that the media industry controls the government? It's one thing to tap into physical cables, with the help of a disgruntled or greedy cable-installer, Comcast and AT&T can't guard every hub and employee, but I doubt very seriously if anybody could get away with manufacturing and selling these gizmos in public... unless, of course, they didn't work.

Well, I suppose hope springs eternal, and all that. And I actually do know people who are attracted to doing things on the sly, getting around Big Business by hook or by crook, involving themselves in an amazing amount of labor to avoid paying a few dollars into The System. And then there are people who believe you can get stuff at the Dollar Store that is just like the stuff you could get at Sak's, who think that the only difference between brand names and generics is the packaging, who believe that with enough persistence you really can buy unexpected antiques and real jewelry and original paintings at garage sales for reproduction prices.

But then, you know, people like that are likely to sign up for things; wouldn't it be more efficient to only spam the people who want the bargains and the go-arounds and the cheats? I know my sister is always signing up for coupon programs and "get such-and-such for free" gimmicks and stuff like that, she's a total easy mark. But not I. When I was five years old, my Grandpa Manners taught me something that I never forgot: There's No Such Thing As "Free."

When I was little, one of my favorite pastimes was going through the car wash... it was so much fun, back in the days when you could still sit in the car while it was going through the wash, safe and snug inside as the windows were bombarded by hot suds and hot water and hot wax and great cylindrical brushes and those cool moppy-curtainy things. One day we were at the gas station, where I read the sign over the pumps that said "Free Car Wash," and started pestering Grandpa to go through the wash, even though the car was quite clean, just because it was free.

But he explained to me that it was only free if you got a fill-up at the full-service pump (the fine print), and so you would end up paying at least the same amount of money in the difference between the self-serve price and the full-serve price while filling his twenty-gallon Chrysler tank: the purpose of the free car wash was to get you to spend more money on gas. He even wrote it out for me on a piece of paper, there would be a difference of four dollars and some-odd cents between the gas prices, and the car-wash by itself was only three-fifty (this must have been, what, 1972? Now a car-wash is twenty bucks at least, and don't even think you'll get it for free with any fill-up... you can't even get it for free with a complete lube and fluid change).

For some reason, that moment and the explanation really took root in my mind (I even remember which gas-station it was, the Shell on Piedmont and Pleasant Valley, it's still there), and I have viewed the word "free" with suspicion ever since. When someone says "free" to me, my first question is "what's in it for them?" And the answer is usually pretty close to the surface, if only you look.

Like those "eleven CDs for a penny" programs, where after you get the first set of CDs you are sent one or two wildly overpriced CDs that you don't really want (a dollar or two over general retail, and then with shipping and handling added on... note that it's always "shipping and handling," which is more than the mere postage) every month for the rest of your freaking life, and it's harder to cancel your subscription than to legally change your gender. By the time you cancelled your subscription, you've spent more on the CDs, including the eleven-for-a-penny ones, than you would have spent on the whole lot at Tower.

They do the same thing with book clubs, and seed-and-bulb clubs, and then there's the Gevalia coffee club where you get a free coffee-maker (which they claim is comparable to a $50 Braun but is really closer to a $15 Oster, though it at least comes in a lovely shade of green) and then you pay for a pound of not-very-good coffee every week at Starbuck's prices (plus "shipping and handling" of course) for ever and ever.

On the other hand, there is this line between gullibility and optimism. My very dear friend Dalton sent me an email some weeks ago about a freebie program that only asks you to sign up some of your friends in order to receive free movie tickets. I have been considering it, since for every person you get to join you receive a pair of movie tickets to any movie you like... the cost seems less than the reward; and Dalton's not stupid, or even gullible (though, I must incidentally point out, he used to have a lovely green Gevalia coffee pot), he just prefers to trust people until forced to not trust them, to initially assume that people have good intentions, to give the benefit of the doubt — where I tend to go in the other direction: the moment I read the program's webpage, my first instantly-wary question was, "what will they do to us once we've joined?" Spam us to death? Call us up on the phone and ask us to buy stuff? Try to get us to sign up for more things, like term life insurance and time-share presentations and entertainment coupons? Use us in some sort of alien lab experiment? The "get a friend to join" thing always sounds like a pyramid scheme, and is even what kept me from joining Friendster for a long time. I am suspicious, very suspicious.

So, much as I respect Dalton's optimism and good instincts, I will wait a while to join until I feel fairly certain that the hidden costs of these free movie tickets aren't more expensive than the tickets would have been at retail (with snacks). Maybe all they want to do is work up a focus-group of people who like seeing movies in theatres. Or maybe they want to encourage people to go to theatres so as to get them into the theatre-going habit (like drug-dealers do... the first high is always free). But my Grandpa's voice echoes in my mind thirty years later, "There's no such thing as free!"

Captialist corporations are fundamentally immoral creatures, much like wild animals, intent only on growth and propagation without any realistic limitations (being owned by people who think a twenty-percent return on capital is a reasonable expectation), barely constrained by industrial regulation, so I am very careful about placing my trust in them.

On the other hand, you can go too far in the not-trusting-Big-Business thing. For example, you really have to place a certain amount of trust in your banking institution and the billing centers of your various utilities and services. Caroline has absolutely no trust whatever and always pays all of her bills in person, with money-orders, retaining names and receipts for fear that some random employee will screw up her account or steal her checking-account information (though, interestingly, she loves free and will go miles out of her way to obtain objects she doesn't really want just because they're being given away); I on the other hand let my service-providers have direct billing access to my checking account because not having to remember to pay bills is a huge benefit in my life, one I am willing to pay for, at the cost of risking mistakes.

Besides, my giant-corporation bank has always been very trustworthy, every time there has been a mistake or a problem they have rectified the situation with courtesy and speed. But then, my bank makes a good deal of money off me, I think last year I paid over two hundred dollars in finance charges for account fees and transfers and overdrafts. Ain't nothing for free.

But I am always willing to pay a fair price for a good product. And while I love a bargain, I never really think that I'm paying considerably less for something than it's worth... if I am willing to pay more than I'm charged, and if the seller wanted to get more for it, he or she would. Nobody sells something for less than they paid, unless they are getting a substantial tax-loss credit for it. And if a vendor can afford to sell something for seventy-five percent off, then the person who bought it at full price must have been willing to exchange that extra money for the goods or services... if not, they're getting ripped off and have only themselves to blame.

I would certainly resent my bank fees if my bank didn't do exactly what I want and offer exactly the services I need. I know I resent the hell out of the DMV for making me pay fees for something I don't want... I mean, why would I cough up annual registration fees to pay the salaries of CHiPs who pull me over and then charge me more money in the speeding ticket? And I resent state and federal taxes to a certain extent, as well, paying for government expenditures of which I do not approve. But the cost of avoiding these expenses is potentially much higher than the cost of complying. The System is a rushing rocky river, and it never pays to row against the current... your choices are to get off to the side bank (where the bears and ticks can get you) or just steer down the middle.

My metaphors are becoming a little too mixed, perhaps because I have been jotting in this entry for just a bit too long... in my usual fashion I started writing it this morning before leaving the house and have been returning to it in jabs and starts all day in between work tasks. As a result, I have quite forgotten what I started off to talk about, having meandered down a stream of consciousness to a rather unlikely and unexpected destination. A good writer always knows where to end a piece of writing. But I'll just stop here because it's 6 p.m. and time to go home.

Rum, nonetheless, exhibitor, stile, endurance, Minsky, messenger, medlar, Costa, brandywine, threadbare, ass, McCracken, abutted, cinema, pleasure, demarcate, balloon, addition, antique, deliberate, inquire, econometrica, repairman, lens, offspring, diagnosable, Uniroyal, ammonium, royalty, inhospitable, diode, fray, ordinate, inaccuracy, Morrison, fibration, arrest, bounce, gunshot, dental, melon, bobble, dapple, dam, explicable, bindery, splice, platoon, godlike, lithe, elephantine, empiric, joystick, misogyny, fiasco, Fayetteville, anamorphic, diffusive, Valois, backside, cowherd, catechism, considerate, ruinous, pontific, beauty, arsenal, mayhem, denotative, Acapulco, asteroidal, bran, compunction, kinematic, assemblage, cornet, mulligatawny, torrid, demiscible, prosthetic.


Monday, January 5, 2004

Oh, Please, No!

It's back to work today, and I'm not loving it. The first thing on my desk today, after deleting the mountains of spam (144 pieces over two weeks) and the answering-machine blanks (why don't people hang up as soon as they hear it's a recording, instead of waiting for the beep and then hanging up?) is all the dross and leavings of last year's mad dash out of the office. Bills, mostly. I had intended to come into the office on the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas to do those, but you'll remember I had that nasty cold as well as Christmas itself to deal with, so I let them slide.

It's such a simple task, too... just put the checks in the envelopes, attach the check-stubs to the invoices, mail the former and file the latter. But then there're the hours of resentment over how this isn't actually my job, it's actually someone else's job for which he is getting paid and I am not, and resentments always slow me down. And then while I was sorting the mail I found a letter explaining that there is a flawed formula in my per capita report spreadsheet and we owe the national affiliate for three months of underpaid dues (not a lot, but fractions of cents add up after a while).

And of course the office has been closed up for two weeks, so the carpet fumes have been building and the place is just a trifle smelly... and it's much too cold to open the windows. Though I must say it was a pleasant feeling to arrive in such a tidy office after the vagaries of home (I haven't cleaned diddly-squat in my house, those damned children kept getting in the way... and just when I get rid of the children I have to go back to the office, it's not fair!) Plus I get to start a new Daily Log notebook, starting off with a clean slate, tabula rasa as it were. If only I could close the old Daily Log and shove it in a drawer somewhere with all its unfinished tasks magically forgiven or obsolated.

But okay, do the bills and file them... done. Go get a bear-claw and coffee and ogle at the pretty boy at the counter (I finally found out his name's Ryan, I'd been calling him Pirate Boy for reasons that shall remain obscure because it's too long a story to put in parentheses), send some faxes, sort some mail, and voilà here comes Mr. Boss Man! Whom I haven't seen in a month, he started winter break early to attend his daughter's wedding in Bermuda (but he still called us every day on his cell-phone, drat this modern technology). And who first thing asks me to write out a full description of what the bookkeeper is supposed to do (like paying the damned bills) so he can make him do it. Ask and you shall receive, whine and get your own way. It makes me feel all better, and vindicates my coming in at ten a.m. (completely unrelated, but still...)

So now my old log is closed and stashed on a shelf (it can't go too far away, I'll need to refer to it) and my fresh new log is opened here with a fresh new cup of coffee and a nice clean desk... and now I have nothing pressing to do. Starting back to work in the new year is always like this, I get so accustomed to working on immediate projects under great pressure at the end of one semester, and then it all suddenly melts away before the beginning of the next. This is the time to undertake those time-consuming projects that I never can manage to do when there are so many other things interrupting me, like getting my filing done and updating databases and what-have-you; but it's so hard to motivate yourself when you're not actually putting out fires.

Oh, well, no need to start pressuring myself to do a lot of work on the first day back. It'll be quiet like this for the rest of the week, most of our members will stay away until the 14th, when the students come back. There's plenty of time to file and update and tidy.

In the meantime, I was trying to think of something cultural or literary or otherwise of general interest to talk about (my work isn't that interesting to me, so it must be boring you to tears). I haven't been reading anything new lately (grazing lightly through Nancy Mitford and Quentin Crisp just to pass the time), haven't seen a new film in a while (or even a new-to-me old video), and television has been living up to its reputation as an electronic wasteland.

The Simpsons last night was funny, in a way, at least I was amused by the anti-children sentiments (so timely), but I didn't sit and watch the whole thing. I was just too thrilled to have the living room back, I guess, without Jessie and Alex planted on the Disney Channel and scattering their stuff all over the place and arguing with each other, so I spent the whole evening surfing blissfully between channels, stopping for The Simpsons but mostly dancing about from The Forsyte Saga on PBS (such handsome men) to platinum-clad diamonique jewelry on QVC (ridiculously high prices, and what is "diamonique" anyway?) to Jackass on MTV (I love watching half-naked straight-boys injuring themselves) to Samurai Jack on Cartoon Network (dashing animation and offbeat humor, not to mention Mako's voice) to The Frighteners on SciFi (I had no idea what it was about, but kept trying to figure it out anyway, because murderous ghosts and Michael J. Fox just didn't seem to go together), and everything in between.

One of these days, I am going to sit down and watch The Forsyte Saga from the beginning. I keep falling into the middle of it and can't figure out what the hell is going on and how these people are all related to each other. I suppose I could read the book, which I bought for Grandmother when she watched the series, but I think I taped it then, when it was first aired, I should see if I can find the cassettes. I love Damian Lewis, he has such a fascinating face, especially in the tight-mouthed, slick-haired characterization he brings to the role of Soames Forsyte; and then Ioan Gruffudd is no slouch, either, all that ever-so-sexy Welsh goodness, I loved him in Horatio Hornblower (again with the seafaring fantasies, and I'm not alone, either... ooh, look, fan fiction!) and in Wilde (nude scene!) and in the risible 102 Dalmations (where even his beauty was eclipsed by Cruella's amazing costumes); and then there was Gina McKee (sorry, no good weblinks) who played Irene, such a beautiful woman, so unusual-looking, delicate yet durable, I could just watch her walking around doing nothing — and then of course it's a period film, with all the fabulous costumes and opulent sets and other costly whatnots that I love so.

It occurs to me that there should be a whole section at the video stores for Period Films. I find those tend to be my favorites, whether they're comedies or dramas or thrillers. I just love anything with lavish costumes and sets and all that stuff from other eras. Especially the eighteenth century, with all the lace and satin and high-heeled shoes and wigs and paint on the menfolk, and twice as much on their women, and those vast overdecorated rooms, the horses and carriages, the decadence of it all. Or England in the thirties, that's always fun, with the Moderne fashions juxtaposed against the Augustan architecture. The baroque periods of the sixteenth as well as the nineteenth centuries, with all that extra fabric and wood all over the place. Films about ancient Greece and Rome always cheat the costumes, the skirts are usually too long and the men all wear anachronistic underpants, but I still watch them.

We were talking the other day, a group of us at dinner, about the feeling that one should have been born in another time. So many of my friends feel like anachronisms in their own time; I know I do. But as we sat talking about all the historical periods that would have been nice to live in, we had to agree on the caveat that we'd need to be rich in those periods. The lives of the middle and lower classes were just too dreary in those past times, never before have those classes enjoyed the luxury and hygiene and freedom that we require today.

But really, with sufficient money, this era would be quite as comfortable and elegant as any other. With enough wealth you could surround yourself with period rooms and wear period costumes and ride period transportation to your sick little heart's content. I think the whole point of the modern era is that all the best things of all the past eras are still with us, still valued... even more valued. In other times, the old was routinely thrown out for the new, antiques weren't of any value until the civilizations that made them were dead and gone at least five hundred years; but our age is one where nostalgia and art-history are practically religions. And without modern inventions like film and television, we wouldn't have those past eras to look at, even... we wouldn't know what we'd missed.

Besides, there is freedom in the modern age that we didn't have in the 'Thirties or the Renaissance or any other time since Christianity and Islam spread their grim claws over the Western world. At no other time since the Fall of Rome could homosexuals be legally open about themselves and their love-lives (and there were times in the Roman days when it wasn't allowed, either). And if you ask me, velvet doublets and powdered wigs would no fit compensation for the open availability of love from another man.

Freedom and education are definitely worth the gracelessness of our modern art and architecture. And let's not forget modern health care, dentistry, exercise, nutrition, and media... they may be uncontrollable monsters sometimes, as problematic as plagues and popes have been in the past(and we still have those), but I'd hate to have to live without them entirely.

Well, I suppose I've babbled on long enough and wasted enough company time. I'm going to go do some filing for a while, then eat lunch and read some Horatio Hornblower fan-fiction. There's something about sailing-ships full of men, privateers and explorers and kidnapped cabin-boys, buggery on the high seas, Herman Melville and The Pirates of the Caribbean, open shirts and knee-boots and long hair and tight pants, the interplay of civilization and barbarism encapsulated on a wooden vessel and surrounded by danger and the unknown... it really sparks my imagination.