17 December 2003

Picture Perfect [Filed under: Uncategorized]

[img] Me rocking the flu [36K]

Me, so sick last week that all color had left the world [photo courtesy my new digicam]

Last week sucked. I was sick, and being sick sucks. Plus, a whole bunch of other suckage contributed to the overall suck-fest. I’m pretty sure I almost died Tuesday night, before the fever broke, and I was having difficulty speaking for a couple of days. But I am better now, and by “better” I mean “able to breathe.” So the suckage is subsiding. Plus, I start my vacation in three more days, so my vision is starting to get all rosy-colored and everything looks that much more pleasant. Big company party tomorrow night (tonight! look at the time!) and then the final episode in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and on Thursday I get a pizza party, and then a free lunch on Friday, so this week is all peaches but the cream.

Pointless update, I know. But really, they all are.

NP: Circulatory System, Inside Blasts

30 November 2003

Unction [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I am currently reading Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saaverda. It is lighthearted and free-spirited in much the same way as Sterne’s Tristram Shandy or Diderot’s Jacques is, so I have found myself laughing heartily along the way. But the book is, to say it plainly, about a madman who, when faced with windmills, sees giants, and to whom flocks of sheep appear as so many valorous knights. He routinely loses himself in wild fantasies and imaginations, and performs the most outrageous follies to commend himself to his love Dulcinea del Toboso, who doesn’t as such exist, and who nevertheless is oblivious to señor Quixana and his amorous devotion. I am troubled, as I read, only by this: that I live my life in much the way that the Don Quixote lives his. Many of my exploits, motivated by strange and unaccountable fancies or imagination gone horribly awry, are carried out in hopes of commending myself to some half-imaginary woman who will remain forever ignorant of my efforts. I am a constant hero in the narrative constantly running through my brain, but the castles in which I pass my nights are likely no more than paltry inns and fieldhouses, and I have little doubt that I have donned a basin or two as a helmet in my time. It is difficult reading, this story of Don Quixote, because Cervantes paints his portrait with a bit too much integrity, and the madness has too much method in’t.

A salve for my spirits—to find a perfect expression of my pain. A snippet from Ernest Dowson’s poem “To a Lost Love” :

from “To a Lost Love”

I knew the end before the end was nigh:
   The stars have grown so plain;
   Vainly I sigh, in vain
For things that come to some,
But unto you and me will never come.

On a wholly unrelated note, also from Dowson, his poem “To His Mistress” :

To His Mistress

There comes an end to summer,
   To spring showers and hoar rime;
His mumming to each mummer
   Has somewhere end in time,
And since life ends and laughter,
   And leaves fall and tears dry,
Who shall call love immortal,
   When all that is must die ?

Nay, sweet, let’s leave unspoken
   The vows the fates gainsay,
For all vows made are broken,
   We love but while we may.
Let’s kiss when kissing pleases,
   And part when kisses pall,
Perchance, this time to-morrow,
   We shall not love at all.

You ask my love completest,
   As strong next year as now,
The devil take you, sweetest,
   Ere I make aught such vow.
Life is a masque that changes,
   A fig for constancy!
No love at all were better,
   Than love which is not free.

NP: Depeche Mode, Shake the Disease

19 November 2003

The Destruction of All Things Beautiful [Filed under: Uncategorized]

It’s inevitable, I suppose, that anything good will ultimately be destroyed. We as humans have a very low tolerance for beauty and a nasty habit for violence and the dismantling of grand structures. Yeats says that “All things fall and are built again,” and it’s the continual rebuilding, the necessity of rebuilding, of what we once had that drives me to tears.

All in all, this internet thing is pretty cool. I feel connected, I can read the latest news from my desk at work (but only during my lunch break—honest!), I can post silly bits of drivel and feel as if I have expressed myself in some important way. It may be delusional, but it is easy, effective, and universally available. All good things. The problem is that people want to destroy it. They want to exploit and co-opt the easiness and effectiveness of this medium to make money (a reasonable goal in itself, I suppose), but without regard to the cost of their actions. These people, we call them spammers, and they’re evil. They consume bandwidth with alarming voracity—bandwidth that you and I pay for, they clog the search engines with irrelevant and undesired pseudo-content, and they’re always trying to do it in more subtle ways.

It’s vanity, I know, but I scan through my referrer logs from time to time to see how visitors to my site are finding me, what they’re looking for, and where they’re coming from. I don’t get many visitors, should the truth be told, but they do come from all over the world. It’s fun sometimes to see the crazy phrases that, when typed into the great Google beast, will receive this site in return. In the past few days, I have noticed several referrals from what on first examination looked to be personal weblogs. The problem was that they failed to reveal anything personal about the individual behind them. No “about” page, no self-indulgent or self-absorbed discussion, no silly photos of friends and family. Just headlines and excerpts from strange news articles. A quick ctrl-U to View -> Page Source showed unrevealing, almost standard blog mark-up, except for one very odd feature at the bottom the page, in every one of these links I followed. Always at the very bottom there was a hidden link to an /adult-webcam/ location. Not surprisingly, this link leads to a sign-up page for an “adult” website.

The fake blogs all seem to have been registered with Stargateinc on November 8th or 9th. Each is registered to a different person, but they all resolve to the same IP address. Evidently, some pr0n company is registering these domains, plopping up stolen designs with presumably stolen content, and visiting a zillion websites to spam their referrer logs. Because numerous sites publish their most recent referrers, this strategy leads to numerous links to the bogus sites that may then be catalogued by search engines like Google. With all these self-created links, the page rank in the search engine goes up, and they are more likely to be returned on searches. What this means for you and I, of course, is that the next time you go to find information on your favorite band or the latest news or a synopsis of last night’s episode of The Bachelor, you will have to sift through a ton of porn sites to find what you want. It also means that sites specifically targeting weblogs (e.g., Technorati) will be much less informative when this method of spamming takes hold.

All this is really just a long-winded way of pleading, “Why, oh why won’t you develop some self-respect, and some respect for humanity and what is good and human in you, and stop trying to wreck the great things we have?” Is it really too much to hope that people will one day wake up and wish to be decent to each other? Even Bill and Ted caught on…why can’t we?

On the other hand, Yeats also said that the fallen are built again, and that “those that build them again are gay.” These people helped me to solve my dilemma, to figure out why these sites were showing up, and how to deny them from accessing my site. I hope that they are filled with the joy of rebuilding, comforted in the knowledge that what little dignity we retain collectively as humans is promoted and passed on with each act of defiance and construction. My thanks to: net warriors, Nuisance Value, Adam at idly.org, Milo, AndrewU, and Vigilant.tv.

NP: Alsace Lorraine, If This Were the Past

16 November 2003

Good week for music [Filed under: Uncategorized]

This past week was, without a doubt, one of the best I’ve had, musically speaking. Monday night I went to Iota in Virginia (note to self: Erin McKeown, Amy Correia and Mirah coming soon) to see Po’ Girl with a couple of BLSers and two women from the poetry group I’ve joined. Po’ Girl is the new bluesy-folksy ensemble from Trish Klein of the Be Good Tanyas, whom I first heard on NPR about a year ago. The show was a perfect way to spend a Monday evening; the Rock Bottom never once entered my thoughts. Allison Russell has the most amazing voice I have ever heard live, and I am sure I’ll be forever in love with Trish Klein. The music was wonderful, the club was cozy and comfortable, the company was most welcome, and Tuesday was a holiday, so I got to sleep in a bit. A good night, all in all.

I did have to work a bit on Tuesday, but I got to work in jeans and a tee shirt, so I didn’t have to go to the Alkaline Trio concert in my corporate-drone uniform. The show, at the famous 9:30 Club, was part of the Vagrant Records Vagrant Tour, so there were four bands performing that night. I’m not a huge fan of No Motiv or From Autum to Ashes, but I have on occasion enjoyed a tune from Reggie and the Full Effect. They are usually quite sugary synth-pop with a hint of emo mintiness. Tuesday, though, it was all theatrics and Finnish death metal. There were multiple costume changes, multiple personae, and curiously blood-like substances rubbed on bodies. Quite entertaining, really. The Alk Trio was who I went to see, though, and they made the late night worthwhile. Well, them and the scenester chicks. Scenester chicks are the best. But the trio put on a solid show, playing mostly newer songs, but dipping from the older material from time to time. They opened with “This Could Be Love,” ended with a stunning “Blue in the Face,” and managed to hit “Armageddon,” “Radio” and “Enjoy Your Day” along the way. I couldn’t have asked for a better show.

Wednesday and Thursday were a bit hectic, but I got my new Alsace Lorraine CD on Friday, which is all kinds of swell. That night, at Burcu’s birthday party, Johanna gave me a mix with, among other things, a couple of songs by Alizée and an excellent track by 2raumwohnung called “wir trafen uns in einem garten.” I spent all day Saturday and today listening to my new CDs while trying to learn some new coding tricks.

I am happy.

NP: Pineforest Crunch, Collegeradio Listeners

3 November 2003

Bad Manners [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I have, for as long as I can remember, indiscriminately indulged the horrible habit of exclaiming my misfortunes, particularly those involving women or a lack of women. I realize, of course, that my pathetic display of self-absorption rates as the very worst of manners. My mother taught me better, and I am determined to be better. Let me never speak of such things again.

Of friends.—Only reflect to yourself how various are the feelings, how divided the opinions, even among your closest acquaintances, how even the same opinions are of a quite different rank of intensity in the heads of your friends than they are in yours; how manifold are the occasions for misunderstanding, for hostility and rupture. After reflecting on all this you must tell yourself: how uncertain is the ground upon which all our alliances and friendships rest, how close at hand are icy downpours and stormy weather, how isolated each man is! When one realizes this, and realizes in addition that all the opinions of one’s fellow men, of whatever kind they are and with whatever intensity they are held, are just as necessary and unaccountable as their actions; if one comes to understand this inner necessity of opinions originating in the inextricable interweaving of character, occupation, talent, environment—perhaps one will then get free of that bitterness of feeling with which the sage cried: ‘Friends, there are no friends!’ One will, rather, avow to oneself: yes, there are friends, but it is error and deception regarding yourself that led them to you; and they must have learned how to keep silent in order to remain your friend; for such human relationships almost always depend upon the fact that two or three things are never said or even so much as touched upon: if these little boulders do start to roll, however, friendship follows after them and shatters. Are there not people who would be mortally wounded if they discovered what their dearest friends actually know about them?—Through knowing ourselves, and regarding our own nature as a moving sphere of moods and opinions, and thus learning to despise ourself a little, we restore our proper equilibrium with others. It is true we have good reason to think little of each of our acquaintances, even the greatest of them, but equally good reason to direct this feeling back on to ourself.—And so, since we can endure ourself, let us also endure other people; and perhaps to each of us there will come the more joyful hour when we exclaim:

‘Friends, there are no friends!’ thus said the dying sage;
‘Foes, there are no foes!’ say I, the living fool.

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human 376

NP: silence

28 October 2003

Happiness is… [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I am convinced that happiness, if it is at all sustainable or durable, must for most people consist in resigning oneself to the pervasive and inescapable total crapness of the world.

NP: The Decemberists, Here I Dreamt I Was an Architect

26 October 2003

Love’s Wisdom [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I know, I know. Enough with the poetry already. One last poem and I’m done for awhile. Probably. I found this in a review written by Ambrose Bierce, who is one of my all-time favorite American authors, right up there with Poe. It was written by Alfred Austin, who succeeded Tennyson as Poet Laureate (in part because Swinburne was deemed “impossible,” being as Bierce said “Swinburne would very likely have knocked off the Prime Minister’s hat and jumped upon it”). I was startled to find such a bold and beautiful sentiment embodied in such a wonderful sonnet by an otherwise forgettable poet. I have for some time thought that the reasoning Austin presents is the strongest argument for suicide—not that one needs or, indeed, would likely resort to, argument—of the literal as well as more metaphorical varieties. It pleases me greatly to find it so well expressed:

Love’s Wisdom

Now on the summit of Love’s topmost peak
   Kiss we and part; no further can we go;
   And better death than we from high to low
Should dwindle, and decline from strong to weak.
We have found all, there is no more to seek;
   All we have proved, no more is there to know;
And Time can only tutor us to eke
   Out rapture’s warmth with custom’s afterglow.
We cannot keep at such a height as this;
   For even straining souls like ours inhale
But once in life so rarified a bliss.
   What if we lingered till love’s breath should fail!
Heaven of my earth! one more celestial kiss,
   Then down by separate pathways to the vale.

[No worries, folks, I’m nowhere near the peak.]

NP: Gene, Truth, Rest Your Head

22 October 2003

Versification Diversification [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I have sailed on stormy seas;
I have felt a flowing breeze
Softly stir on starry nights;
I’ve seen the snow, on sunny heights,
The whirling wind of Winter brings;
The golden leaves on Autumn’s wings;
Spring’s softest rains, and strongest showers;
The quiet passion of Summer’s flowers;
I have witnessed all these scenes:
I know what ‘unrequited’ means.

NP: Blümchen, Eisblumen

19 October 2003

R.E.M. [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Finally, I’ve seen R.E.M. in concert. They have been one of my favorite bands for years and years, since Shari Kornelly and John Young and Greg Thompson first helped me develop some critical faculties concerning music. The show was a week and a half ago (Wednesday night) at the Patriot Center, a horrible venue for concerts, but the show was nevertheless superb. The setlist was perfect. I can actually remember most of it [update—they have the setlist up on the official website, and I had it right except for three songs I had forgotten. It is complete below.—ed] They played:

  1. Finest Worksong
  2. Begin the Begin
  3. Exhuming McCarthy [!!!]
  4. Drive
  5. Animal
  6. Fall On Me
  7. Daysleeper
  8. Bad Day
  9. The One I Love
  10. Rockville (Don’t Go Back To) [sung by Mike Mills]
  11. Orange Crush [!!!!!]
  12. World Leader Pretend
  13. I Believe
  14. Losing My Religion
  15. Find The River
  16. She Just Wants to Be
  17. Walk Unafraid
  18. Man on the Moon

The band abruptly left the stage after an underwhelming choice for last song, and we stood there clapping for a good ten minutes hoping for an encore. Our arms were getting tired and sore, and the clapping was audibly flagging as several people left the show, before the band finally returned to the stage and Michael Stipe announced that he had found a new burst of energy, and that they would play a little longer than they “were supposed to.” They then played the best encore imaginable, ending in my life’s theme song:

  1. Life and How to Live It
  2. Nightswimming
  3. Final Straw
  4. Imitation of Life
  5. It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Thanks, guys. It was, all in all, a horrible week, but the show was fantastic.

NP: R.E.M., We Walk

5 October 2003

de rigeur [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Comme d’habitude, I will be working late this week, and unable to gather the energy or time to write. Comme d’habitude, I turn to poetry to ease the tension. This time, circumstance would have it that I am reading Auden. I offer two to you so that you may read along with me:

Alone

Each lover has a theory of his own
About the difference between the ache
Of being with his love, and being alone:

Why what, when dreaming, is dear flesh and bone
That really stirs the senses, when awake,
Appears a simulacrum of his own.

Narcissus disbelieves in the unknown;
He cannot join his image in the lake
So long as he assumes he is alone.

The child, the waterfall, the fire, the stone,
Are always up to mischief, though, and take
The universe for granted as their own.

The elderly, like Proust, are always prone
To think of love as a subjective fake;
The more they love, the more they feel alone.

Whatever view we hold, it must be shown
Why every lover has a wish to make
Some other kind of otherness his own:
Perhaps, in fact, we never are alone.

Leap Before You Look

The sense of danger must not disappear:
The way is certainly both short and steep,
However gradual it looks from here;
Look if you like, but you will have to leap.

Tough-minded men get mushy in their sleep
And break the by-laws any fool can keep;
It is not the convention but the fear
That has a tendency to disappear.

The worried efforts of the busy heap,
The dirt, the imprecision, and the beer
Produce a few smart wisecracks every year;
Laugh if you can, but you will have to leap.

The clothes that are considered right to wear
Will not be either sensible or cheap,
So long as we consent to live like sheep
And never mention those who disappear.

Much can be said for social savoir-faire,
But to rejoice when no one else is there
Is even harder than it is to weep;
No one is watching, but you have to leap.

A solitude ten thousand fathoms deep
Sustains the bed on which we lie, my dear:
Although I love you, you will have to leap;
Our dream of safety has to disappear.

NP: Slowdive, When the Sun Hits