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