13 April 2004

Cookie Fortunes [Filed under: Uncategorized]

There’s a Chinese take-out restaurant across the street from my office, and I usually buy my lunch there once or twice a week. Not surprisingly, I am always given a fortune cookie with my meal. Yesterday, my fortune read:

Depart not from the path which fate has you assigned.

I have no intention of challenging the wisdom of that little gem… but I should say that this restaurant gets the best fortune cookies. They’re a constant source of joy and enlightenment. I think if I eat there enough, my elevated consciousness may lead me to transcend this earthly existence entirely. Some other little nuggets of distilled wisdom from recently consumed fortune cookies:

  • In silence man can most readily preserve his integrity.
  • Wisdom is only found in truth.
  • To be loved, be lovable.
  • You have an unusual equipment for success, use it properly.
  • It tastes sweet.

Go forth in understanding and spiritual harmony.

NP: Broken Social Scene, late night bedroom rock for the missionaries

9 April 2004

Kundera on Blogging [Filed under: Uncategorized]

First and foremost: Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events are being made into a feature-length live-action film starring Jim Carrey (this is old news, but worth repeating) and the film is set to be released December 17, 2004. Somehow, a TV promo spot [requires QuickTime] has already made it online. It looks exquisite. The casting for Klaus looks a bit off (too old, too tall, too skinny, too un-bookish, etc.) and I have no idea how they’re condensing an as-yet-unfinished series of thirteen books into a single movie, but I’m thinking this could be great. Really, really great.

I’m finally getting around to reading Kundera’s Book of Laughter and Forgetting after finally finishing Sigrid Undset’s Jenny last week. My friend from work tells me that women like Kundera, but I have enjoyed reading his books more than almost any other author. I was quite pleased to come across the following passages this morning while I was waiting for my car to be fixed (translation by Aaron Asher):

Graphomania (a mania for writing books) inevitably takes on epidemic proportions when a society develops to the point of creating three basic conditions:
(1) an elevated level of general well-being, which allows people to devote themselves to useless activities;
(2) a high degree of social atomization and, as a consequence, a general isolation of individuals;
(3) the absence of dramatic social changes in the nation’s internal life.

But by a backlash, the effect affects the cause. General isolation breeds graphomania, and generalized graphomania in turns intensifies and worsens isolation. The invention of printing formerly enabled people to understand one another. In the era of universal graphomania, the writing of books has an opposite meaning: everyone surrounded by his own words as by a wall of mirrors, which allows no voice to filter through from outside.

One morning (and it will be soon), when everyone wakes up as a writer, the age of universal deafness and incomprehension will have arrived.

No, the irony of my posting this here is not lost on me, thankyouverymuch.

NP: Franz Ferdinand, 40 ′

P.S. —I have a new address and phone number. I don’t know if anyone who cares reads this, or if anyone reading cares, or if anyone cares, or if anyone reads this, but here is the new info:
Michael Hoke
4400 East-West Highway #916
Bethesda, MD 20814
[cell] (202) 236-5705

14 February 2004

Bland repose [Filed under: Uncategorized]

On certain days, amid the wandering refrains, the vague and fleeting impressions, and half-formed conversations I carry on with my inner self that constitute the majority my brain’s activity, a color will creep and leave its humor in everything I think and dream. Today is an orange day.


Beloved! amid the earnest woes
  That crowd around my earthly path
(Drear path, alas! where grows
Not even one lonely rose),
  My soul at least a solace hath
In dreams of thee, and therein knows
An Eden of bland repose.

And thus thy memory is to me
  Like some enchanted far-off isle
In some tumultuous sea,—
Some ocean throbbing far and free
  With storms, but where meanwhile
Serenest skies continually
  Just o’er that one bright island smile.

NP: Beth Orton, Sweetest Decline

28 January 2004

Points in no particular order [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Things not to be happy about:

  • My dear friend B— moving to Italy this week.
  • Ice storms.
  • The zipper on my coat breaking…and we’re having ice storms.
  • Joining Friendster, and having precisely two friends.
  • Having to move…and then having to move again in six months.
  • Not getting to talk to my sister on her birthday (happy birthday, Suzie!!), mostly due to my own incompetence.
  • Everything else.

Things to be happy about:

Things of no importance either way:

NP: cEvin Key, Frozen Sky

18 January 2004

Impending Departure [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Excerpt from “Departure”

It’s little I know what’s in my heart,
What’s in my mind it’s little I know,
But there’s that in me must up and start,
And it’s little I care where my feet go.

I’m getting restless; I don’t know where I want to be, but I no longer want to be here. If I end up going to law school, I fear it will be for no better reason than to provide myself a change of scenery. I have always been largely indifferent to my own fortune; I’m not terribly concerned with how I fare, so it might seem odd that I would fear making such a decision. I am also a professed fan of whimsy and caprice, so an insistence on having good reasons would be entirely out of place for me. The problem is that I have compelling reasons not to go. Acting without reason is caprice, but I am beginning to think that acting contrary to reason is folly, or perhaps even perversion. I have not the energy to secure my happiness, but I still don’t want to indulge the perversity of spirit that would attempt to achieve my own destruction. Unfortunately, the old imp of the perverse is alluring in its mischief, and difficult to resist. I wonder…where might I find myself in September?

NP: Stars, What the Snowman Learned About Love

7 January 2004

A Cause for Celebration [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I woke up yesterday to a wonderful story on NPR: a new study has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine concerning one of the many benefits of caffeinated coffee. Evidently, drinking coffee regularly reduces the risk of developing type II diabetes by half. An article in the Arizona Central states, “the study’s co-author stressed that no one should conclude that coffee is a ‘magic bullet.’” Perhaps this study alone is not sufficient to conclude that coffee is the drink of the gods, but all the evidence taken together is quite compelling. A study in 2002 showed positive effects of coffee on memory in the elderly (Ryan, Hatfield, & Hofstetter, 2002, “Caffeine Reduces Time-of-Day Effects on Memory Performance in Older Adults,” Psychological Science, 13(1), 68-71). I’ve found references to several other studies showing that coffee reduces the risk of heart disease, colon cancer, and even impotence and pregnancy (though the “magic bullet” warning seems particularly appropriate here…).

A fig for tea-drinkers: I raise my cup to coffee!

NP: Wilco, She’s a Jar

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