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:


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

29 September 2003

Ethical Dilemma [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I’d like to test your moral intuitions. Perhaps you might recall my dearest Caroline, perhaps you might recall the regularity of my Monday visits to her place of employment, perhaps you might be wondering if she remembered me this week with a week away separating me from her memory. Perhaps you might wonder if I saw her at all, or if the other girl was again working my regular section in Caroline’s stead. Wonder no more. The inexorable wheel of Fortuna spins on, and Caroline has been relegated to working a more populous and pleasant section of the restaurant than the loud and smoky bar area that I have made my resting place. I have made it my public and regular habit to sit at a two-chair table on the North-East end of the bar, but she is now working the South-West end. The past few visits I have caught a few fortuitous glimpses of her shining smile as I sat reading at my table, but my server has been Margaret (who, I should say, is also quite lovely, very friendly, and good about not pestering me too much while I read).

Thus, the ethical dilemma: is it morally permissible to request that I be seated in Caroline’s section, rather than taking my regular table in the seat-yourself bar area? In doing so, I would be overtly breaking an easy and established habit, declaring through my actions that it is Caroline that draws me to the Brewery, and not the horrendously un-vegetarian menu. I would be proclaiming my admiration for a barmaid who would be perfectly happy not to have her patrons doting on her. I would be diverting my funds from the deserving pockets of Margaret’s apron to those of Caroline simply because she was the victor in a capricious comparative judgment of beauty. Am I morally reprehensible for having such thoughts? Would I be blameworthy for making the switch?

NP: Hilary Duff, Anywhere But Here

25 September 2003

I’m back! (sort of) [Filed under: Uncategorized]

I have safely returned from the beautiful San Juan Island, complete with renewed zest for life and a bad case of the post-vacation blues. It was a wonderful trip, and I enjoyed immensely seeing everyone, and the SCUBA diving was fantastic, and I want to write all about it, but… despite my missing Hurricane Isabel directly, I am still feeling the after-effects of her fury. We never lost power, but we did lose our internet connection, which is still out, as far as I know. Why? Because Comcast is the worst company ever. I understand that they were hit by an unavoidable and severe storm, but since I signed on with them I have experienced nothing but constant service interruptions, horrible customer relations, busy signals because they don’t have enough staff to handle call volumes (even during non-hurricane periods), and an absolutely useless homepage (I won’t even link to it, because I refuse to send them any traffic). If you do happen to visit their page, I challenge you to try to find any useful information about local service interruptions, their efforts after the hurricane, anticipated fix dates, or anything that a customer without service might find interesting or useful. Go ahead and try. The up-shot of this little rant, of course, is that I have to relegate my internet time to lunch at work, or I have to stay late and type from the office, and because of our corporate firewall, I have lost all access to my shell account. Comcast sucks.

I do wish to note, however, that as the children in Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events mature, so do the books. The silliness of the previous books is much diminished (though not absent) in Book the Tenth: The Slippery Slope, but we learn lessons in privacy and decency, as well as something about C. P. Snow, Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Friedrich Nietzsche. If I had to choose three authors who most helped me survive during graduate school, that would be the list. Add to that that Lemony Snicket plays the accordion for the Magnetic Fields, and you may begin to see why I’m such a fan of his work. Or maybe you don’t. Eh.

NP: The Magnetic Fields, Long-Forgotten Fairytale

17 September 2003

And he’s off! [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Goodbye, world. I’m leaving you for greener pastures, bluer skies, and fresher air—in a word, Seattle. I’ll be gone a week (don’t even think of stealing my stuff—my mean and nasty roommate has sharp teeth and claws to chase away any would-be baddies). I’m going SCUBA diving on Monday at Edmonds Underwater Park, so if I don’t return, you might check there. The water is supposed to be a balmy 50° F… I’m so excited.

Lemony Snicket Day approaches. Book the Tenth: The Slippery Slope is out on Tuesday—don’t forget!

Yale finally got around to rejecting me today. It hasn’t quite been a year since I applied.

Note to self: Beauties board trains in Tenleytown.

NP: In Grid, Tu Es Foutu

14 September 2003

Wunderbar!!! [Filed under: Uncategorized]

Jasmin Wagner (formerly Blümchen) has released a new single! Word was, some time ago, that she had given up on singing to pursue a career in movies (she appeared briefly in the surprisingly not-horrible Driven). It seems, however, that she released a Best Of… 2 CD compilation and DVD containing all her videos back in July to build anticipation for her return to Pop Stardom. Last week, she released Leb deinen Traum [Live Your Dream], which, as Jutze pointed out, sounds like a poor-man’s t.A.T.u. Of course, any resemblance to frequently half-naked Russian teenage lesbians who don’t sound half-bad when covering the Smiths is, in my book, a Good Thing.

NP: Jasmin Wagner, Leb deinen Traum (surprise!)