Monthly Archives: March 2005

slow, yet kafkaesque

3/31/05

Tessa says I’m not allowed to write a blog tonight because I don’t feel well and I have to be in shape to take care of a newborn. So instead, I’m posting a collage of her belly at 12, 18, 30, 37 and 39 weeks. So there.

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that Sally Forth sure said a mouthful

3/30/05

We moved several boxes today, and I found some nuggets. Here’s one: the 1995 Pink House Halloween Party invitation from the days when we were plaguing Chapel Hill.

I don’t think anyone can say we didn’t do these things right.

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click for big version

pimpin’ ain’t easy

3/29/05

My nephew Lucas, who shares the same bizarre sense of humor with my brother Kent, has a few random images on his blog today, so I thought I’d do the same. Besides, my beloved Powerbook is in the shop getting a bigger hard drive, and I’m going through terrible withdrawal. If I thought skipping out on the Celexa was bad, this no-computer-havin’ thing is like going cold turkey on glue-sniffing and heroin.

Anyway, this first one interests me because we’re having a baby – wait, don’t leave! – and it’s amazing how many of the reflexes we keep into adulthood. This pic is from a Rangers baseball game where the bat shattered and flew into the stands. Every single person, regardless of age, makes the exact same flinch as if they were infants:

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I like this next one because when we were growing up, people used to say, “well, be thankful you don’t live in Italy – they pay three dollars a gallon there! So “three dollars a gallon” came to mean, for me, a world where there was mere anarchy, and the falcon could not hear the falconer, and fire rained down from the heavens. Looks like it’s just another day in Malibu, CA:

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Sometimes when I’m feeling blue, I look at this map of the United States – it’s the typical Bush/Kerry red-blue map, except it is done by counties, and the map is skewed to represent population (I believe it’s called a “cartlinear” image). It should make progressives feel a little better, or at least think that we’ve got a nice blue cock for Florida:

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Fellow Tar Heel David Rees writes the infamous “Get Your War On” cartoons, and, well, this one from the latest Rolling Stone needs no explanation:

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bearded like the pard

3/28/05

Dear as-yet-born baby,

You are really freaking me out. I mean this in an incredibly loving way, but here in the waning days before your arrival, I am suddenly seeing you at six years old, screaming your brains out at me because I didn’t put the right lunchpail in your school satchel, and it’s all quite chilling.

We watched The Happiest Baby On the Block DVD today, and I prayed that one of the “5 S’s” would be able to quell your shrieks. Or will you not shriek at all? You won’t be a boy, so there will be no urine on the ceiling, but I have heard tales, O, such tales!, of babies with colic who scream for three solid months unabated.

I hold your mom’s belly, massaging it, hoping that it will relax those ideas out of you, but it’s really just superstition. They say that in order to have the brains of a homo sapiens, we had to come out of the womb early, so the first three months will actually be a “fourth trimester,” with you as naught but a fetus on dry land. I have lowered my expectations; like all humans who watch movies, I had been convinced that babies come out looking like – well, what five-month-olds actually look like.

I should be ready for this. I changed diapers three times a day for my sister, I assuaged the screams of about 20 of my newborn cousins, and I raised our next-door neighbor from about ten weeks to two years. I have seen it all. I have seen my sister’s pinkie dangling from her hand when Sean shut the door on it; I saw Sean’s bloodied face when he rolled his walker down the basement stairs. I have been on a road trip to New Mexico in a Winnebago with five toddlers screaming in blood-curdling tandem. And still I’m afraid.

A few years ago, I would not have brought you into this world. I thought this place was so awful, a rotten country with moronic leaders and terrorists willing to blow us to bits. I told your mother that there was no way we were bringing you into that atmosphere. The world hasn’t really changed, so I guess I have.

I had to realize that my existence wasn’t going to last forever, my petty theories were worthless, and that the best moments came in glances rather than declarations. When I got my act together just enough, someone as fantastic as your mother agreed to hang out with me for life. Since then, I had to find the fine line between my Mormon survivalism and my laissez-faire nihilism, and when I did, finally, I knew it was okay to hang out with you for life too.

This is going to stop being about me, I swear. You have to understand that when you fight for emotional survival the way your mom and I did, the way I had to negotiate myself out of the school playground without getting traumatized, the way your mom had to outlast the cruel vicissitudes of her father, it has taken all of our wiles to get here. Further, we decided to be “artists,” for lack of a better word, which hinges our financial future on things that are, well, “all about us.”

I know you’ll cure us of that solipsism right quick. But understand that your parents are going to need a while to get used to the new arrangement. I can’t wait to meet you. Come out soon, and come out as painlessly as possible, as your mother will not be taking any drugs.

Oh, and shoot for April 6 or 7. You know, if you can.

with love,

your future dad

celextant says bear nor-norwest

3/27/05

Adventures Off Celexa, Chapter 17

I’m really, really bad when it comes to refilling my prescriptions, and it’s usually through the grace of God or by accident that I manage to get my new dose of meds at the end of every month. I’ve been on Celexa for nearly three years now, and I know the drug inside and out, but I’ve never had the occasion to go cold turkey for four days. Especially the way I did it Thursday through Sunday last week.

Put simply, I kept forgetting. I know there’s some irony in there, but I’ll leave it to the biopsychology/English double-majors to figure it out. As the drug wore out of my system, the forgetting became worse. Those of you on anti-depressants may know what I’m talking about. I’ve been swimming in emotional and physical molasses.

Here’s what withdrawal is like: first, you get these weird crinkles in your brain if you turn your head too fast, almost as if your eyes have turned, but your brain is slow to catch up, and the time in-between is fuzzy and painful. I was used to this; it happens when I play hoops sometimes in the middle of fast, furious games.

On Friday night, however, we went to see the brilliant Shockheaded Peter at the Little Schubert theater, and the play, which hits you like a traffic accident involving Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, did some crazy things to my cerebellum. Later that night, the headaches – more like weird swirlies waves of discomfort, started a low pressure system just off the north coast of my left eye.

And though I was becoming desperate for the drug, I forgot to get to the drugstore AGAIN. Another day without the SSRI, and on Saturday, I began to feel as though I were walking through seventeen feet of Mrs. Butterworth maple syrup. Just getting up for some water took about three minutes of strategizing. Moments of ecstasy were followed by strict bursts of annoyance. I can only imagine what would have happened to my psyche if the Tar Heels hadn’t gone to the Final Four. Which they did, by the way.

By Sunday, sunlight was having a weird effect inside my eyeballs, and I knew it was time. Celexa is water-soluble, meaning that it begins to leave your body the second it is taken. I stumbled to 7th Avenue – downhill, thank god – and grabbed the pills from the pharmacist like a drunkard circa 1883.

And so I’m back in the cool, cool breeze of my wonderdrug, and I learned a few things: first off, keep your meds current, because if there is some trauma that shuts down the city for a few days, you had best be prepared.

Secondly, I had always been told that coming off Celexa was like having a really bad flu. It was definitely bizarre and uncomfortable, but it was nowhere near as bad as the frickin’ flu. I now have a little more faith in my ability to wean off the pleasure pills, and that, in itself, is as comforting as the drug itself.

poppies for young men

3/24/05

I have oft waxed adoring of my friend Jiffer Bourguignon – the story of my old housemate can be found here and my usual penchant for picture recreation can be found here. Not content to get her post-grad degree from Columbia and watch lots of network television like the rest of us, Jiffer decided to go to Afghanistan and see what could be done. This, might I remind you, is someone who used to steal my Pop Tarts so often that I had to padlock my kitchen cabinet.

She has sent a number of pictures from the scene, making her the second close friend to report back from the Afghani front [oldtime blog readers might remember my interview with Colin Soloway (the reporter who discovered John Walker Lindh, the “American Taliban”) a few hours before the Marines took Baghdad].

Jif’s pics were so evocative that I asked her if I could post some on the blog. She said I could, and if she has a few minutes on Afghanistan dial-up, maybe she can say a few words in the comments section.

This first one is the most haunting to me; she called it “What It’s Like to Be a Woman Here”:

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This Afghani girl was at the same bazaar:

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This is Jiffer herself grabbing kebabs:

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Near the marketplace:

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The famous “blue mosque” of Mazar-Ali in Mazar-i-Sharif:

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On New Year’s Day of the Afghan year 1384, the spectators watch…

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…a game of Bushkazi, basically polo with the body of a headless calf as the “ball.”

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out, out, brief candle

3/23/05

Opinion About Terri Schiavo No. 195,783,483

I’m sorry, but I have fucking had it. For those of you living in a Unabomber-style hut with no access to the in-tor-net, Terri Schiavo is a woman who starved herself nearly to death 15 years ago, went into a potassium coma, and has been in a “persistent vegetative state” since. Her husband has been fighting to take her off life support, but her parents have sued to keep all the tubes in.

She is awake, but utterly without recognition, speech, or any sign of self-awareness. She does not see, does not care about anything, cannot register thoughts, and stayed “alive” only because they drilled a hole in her stomach and fed her liquids. Now the court ordered the feeding tube out, and America has promptly lost its shit. The most unforgivable thing the media has done (among a host of unforgivable activities) is to constantly reuse this picture:

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This image has become the de facto representation of Schiavo, as she appears to be looking straight into her mother’s eyes and registering pleasure. In fact, Schiavo is looking right through her mother and doesn’t even know she’s there. She doesn’t even know that she herself is there. It’s a stunning lapse in media ethics when this picture is used as tacit proof that Terri knows anything about anything, and has been the torch around which countless numbers of disturbed right-wingers have flocked like pathetic moths.

In an era when we’ve killed so many innocent Iraqis, when the bodies pile up in Central Africa, and 350 million Chinese have no safe drinking water, how the fuck does Congress get hijacked by this woman’s parents? Republican lawmakers intend to ride Schiavo’s lifeless carcass as far as it will take them, and it would be laughable if it weren’t so ineffably sad.

And contradictory. Bush himself signed a right-to-die act as Governor of Texas, but we’ve come to expect such brazen acts of flip-flopping from him. Worse are the legions of rabid conservatives, the very same assholes who have no problem executing as many Death Row inmates as possible. It’s so fucking sickening.

Would there still be morons wearing their plaid shirts buttoned to the top, trying to sneak bread and water into Terri Schiavo’s hospital if she were African American? Or a MAN, for that matter?

Why are conservatives like this? What led them to be such CONTROL FREAKS? It’s as if their own lives are so infinitesimally small that they can find meaning only in fucking with the private tragedies of the rest of us. When are Americans, even those of you in the Red States, going to wake up to the fact that your blessed Republicans are making government more intrusive and unwieldy ONE FREAKISH ISSUE AT A TIME?

If I ever get even close to Schiavo’s state, I want it known, here on the blog and searchable for centuries, that you can feel free to kick that fucking plug out of the wall socket. Our Woods Warrior has a thought-provoking post about this, stating that many people who have tried to commit suicide change their minds as they leap off the bridge. In the throes of the moment, we may be substantially elastic in what we thought we wanted. I can grok this all right, but still, I HEART SCIENCE, and if Science says that I won’t be able to tell the difference, yank out that feeding tube and have a big party in my honor. With Jaegermeister.

Fresh like, unhh; Impala, unnh

3/22/05

If you want to critique culture, you better stay abreast of it, which is why I subject myself monthly to an hour of “Top 20 on 20” on the XM Radio, which plays a loop of the nation’s biggest hits of the moment. It’s an excellent crib sheet to remain aware of what’s selling, and like a good workout, it’s exceedingly painful with occasional rewards.

Before I say anything else, I’d just like to point out that I have rocked as hard as any other middle-class white kid. I moshed to the Clash when I was 15 at William & Mary, I threw toilet paper at Dinosaur Jr. in 1993 and I took ecstasy while watching a Japanese noise band play vacuum cleaners at a warehouse in New Orleans.

I also studied violin for twenty years, piano for twenty-three, and my tastes admittedly run in the high-harmony Brit pop clusters of the Beatles, Squeeze, XTC and the twisted orchestral pop of the Smiths and Cocteau Twins. Yet when I first heard “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash, I made my mom pull the car over so I could take it all in. In short, I feel like I’ve done the fucking work. I still look for those moments of epiphany. I am not some ninny-come-lately who thinks that all new music is crap; I long for decent new music, I breathe in it.

So it is with genuine innocence that I ask: what the blithering motherfuck is going on with current rap artists? No, I don’t mean Outkast or anyone doing something intelligent, I mean shit like “How We Do” by The Game Featuring 50 Cent. The music is terrible; it’s just a terrifically boring sample played over and over to a soulless synth beat, with these two guys talking, basically, about themselves.

This is what I don’t get: I love hip-hop/rap that is funny, is about subject matter like the universality of love, or even giant asses (“Baby Got Back”), political treatises (Public Enemy, The Roots) or something insanely catchy (Andre 3000 and Big Boi, De La Soul). Even if the song lacks all music, I’ll listen to any rapper expound upon anything external, but FUCK! All they’re really good at is yammering about their own solopsistic bullshit. What do today’s teens really see in these songs? Most of these tracks don’t even have a decent beat.

When Rashad McCants, star of our Carolina basketball team, makes a 3-pointer, he usually does the “diamond” symbol of Rockefella records (home to Jay-Z). What is Rashad really saying, that he believes in the ethic of Rockafella? And what does Jay-Z talk about, other than his own navel? I’m at a loss here. I just don’t get what there IS to these songs.

Yes, yes, I sound like an old fart. Too fucking bad. Someone has to ask the question. When our parents hated KISS in 1979, it was because they hated their style, their sentiment, their incredibly silly makeup, and it was just too darn loud. Our parents objected to what these bands were – I am not making the same mistake. I am wondering aloud what “How We Do” actually is, because I can’t see it even when I strain.

The rest of the Top 10 may be trite, but at least they’re trying. Green Day, despite their faux cockney accents and deep derivativeness, have excellent politics, and the songs actually have chords; they are trying to put forth an actual notion. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is just Em G D A (like about twelve other pop songs I could name, including, basically, “Wonderwall” by Oasis) but they are attempting something – and, I believe, succeeding.

But the ease with which rap artists can make a releasable track is indicative of how artistically shoddy these things are. There is a new number one song each week, and getting to number one is pathetically easy. It will soon get to the point where every artist will have one song, then disappear. You’ll have someone like Kelis release “Milkshake” and that will be it, every time. Rock and Roll Jeopardy will be insanely hard when covering this decade, unless each question can be answered “Who is Beyoncé?”

I’m all ears. Someone please tell me the appeal of “How We Do” and the like. The answers “you just don’t get it” or “the aural cortex of human beings has changed over the last 15 years” or “go back to listening to Erasure, ya ponce” will not be accepted.

wombmate wanted, non-smoker

3/21/05

The following was transcribed via a Morse Code variation from the baby currently residing inside my wife Tessa. When a certain word or phrase was unintelligible, I put the possible meaning in brackets [like this]. I hope I got most of it right.

***

Hello. Or not quite hello. I have roughly [two] more weeks until I will officially say hello, because I don’t exactly exist yet. My name is [unintelligible – begins with L, N or K?] and I wanted to give fair warning that I will be there soon. Wherever “there” is.

I have enjoyed my time here. It is warm, gooey and offers much in the way of nutrition. My host, who I will refer to as Maternal Unit, has been doing exactly the kind of jostling I like. I have four states of being: Awake and Kicking, Asleep and Kicking, Asleep, and Hiccuping. I confess I like the latter of these best of all. I will hiccup all night if I have to.

You may wonder how I am able to communicate with you. It is through an elaborate set of taps, kicks and [elbow swooshes] taught to me by a being I will call External Unit One. This External Unit is not my Maternal Unit, as I can differentiate their voices. External Unit One tends to become very agitated and I can often hear his high-pitched [complaining].

Yes, I dream. It may seem like I have nothing to dream about, but I hear almost everything, and about three months ago I was facing up and could detect light. Apparently in my youth, I was in a warmer climate. It has gotten much darker as I’ve grown. Maternal Unit says that by the time I am born, it will be light and “sunny again,” whatever that means.

There isn’t much room to move around anymore, and let’s face it, the fluids aren’t [holding the same charm] they once did. I don’t know why I am drawn to go lower in the Maternal Unit, but it seems right. It is time to say goodbye to this place. Once I loved every corner, and I explored, especially on the right side. But I am inexorably drawn away by an unseen force, more mysterious than I can know. External Unit One has hinted that this force is the [conundrum] faced by everyone on the Outside.

I am ready for it. I would like to see the Outside. I hope the journey there proves to be without too much pain for me, or the Maternal Unit. I am tired now and wish to go back to sleep, perchance to hiccup.

One last thing. I am told that there is a debate about when life starts here in my temporary home. I can’t remember anything more than five months ago. Before that, I was just a bundle of possibility and couldn’t have cared less. So here is your answer: life begins at four months. There you have it [you pro-life Republicans, so keep your hands off my mom and every other child-bearing female].

Love, Me.

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at least we think that’s what she said

perdu!

3/20/05

Okay, so this blog is going to be about the show “Lost,” so I’m warning you now, if you’re not interested, then by all means go visit some of my knitting blogs and quit telling me how to run my business. Seriously, I’m never going to grow up if you won’t let me, Father.

So: “Lost.” In full disclosure, we hung with the creators and producers of this show last summer in LA, and they are very smart, funny people – the pilot was among the best I’d ever seen, and I think they are doing an unbelievably good job at keeping the suspense going over the course of a season.

My favorite episode has to be the most utterly nonsensical one of the bunch: the one where we learn that Locke (the excellent Terry O’Quinn, the bald guy with the knife) was paralyzed before the plane crash. The reveal at the end was such great television that I had to yell for Tessa in the other part of the house – if crazy plot twists are wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

The show started out being Matthew Fox’s (the doctor) baby, but we’ve lost him in the last month or two, which is probably due to an old writer’s reflex; he was supposed to have died in the pilot. Funny how these ideas can work their way into later drafts, like an old prejudice that can never be fully extinguished. There are tiny bits of the Pink House movie that don’t entirely make sense unless you’d read vast plot twists of earlier versions.

By far, the most enjoyable character (for me) has to be Hurley, the obese vaguely-Hispanic dude whose big secret is that he is worth $150 million of cursed money. He got the cash by using a string of numbers uttered by a fellow inmate at an insane asylum to win the lotto – which, of course, are the same numbers that once emanated by radio from the “Lost” island itself. If, and when, they explain the “numbers” plotline, I will be duly impressed, because right now it looks like it was a fantastic idea in the writer’s room that they figured they’d worry about explaining later.

Another curious thing about the “numbers” episode: when Hurley tells his old insane pal that he used the numbers for the lottery, the insane guy freaks out and says “you let out the beast!” or something. To which I would have said, “well, you moron, you shouldn’t have repeated the numbers 500 times a day for 20 years!”

A few quibbles: I’m tired of Harold Perrineau’s problems with his son, and I’m tired of the Korean marriage. Everyone has really got to get over it. I’m much more interested in what J.J. Abrams does best, which is set up huge stakes and untenable positions for all his characters. It’s something “Alias” has always done well, and like “Alias,” he doles out his information in such a funereal pace that it can get quite aggravating. Aggravating yet titillating.

First off, we already have two bizarrely metaphysical reasons for the plane to crash: “bad things tend to happen around Walt (the boy)” and “really bad things tend to happen around Hurley, especially when he’s paid for it.” Combine this with Locke’s belief that the island offers “everyone a new beginning” and, of course, the giant polar bear that eats people and the other island inhabitants that kill at random, and the island itself is starting to look an awful lot like an ancient religion’s idea of Purgatory, Hell, or even Heaven.

I’m sure I’m not the first Jonathan Armchair to muse that the entire cast of “Lost” is actually already dead; shit, Locke’s ability to walk is straight out of the Mormons’ idea of a Celestial Kingdom, and Sayid himself said that there’s no way they could have survived the crash. The island seems to be a vacuum for lost souls, a temporary(?) resting place for the missing sock in our extra-humanist laundry.

I’m into this as long as the island itself is not there to answer questions, to teach lessons, and insert some kind of moral certitude into the affairs. The writers have already said that one of our beloved characters is going to get offed before the season’s over, so at least they’re playing with the same set of nads currently used by the writers of “24.”

Speaking of nads, “Lost” is co-written by an unusually large number of women, which has to be why it’s so compelling. I think we might be living through a Golden Age of Television right now (although I’d have to ask Va. Heffernan), given that so many shows have such excellent writing. The Tivo Revolution has really distilled the TV experience into a fine collection of cream and wheat – if you’re one of the snobs that never watches television because you think it sucks, you’re really not trying very hard, and, like Barney said in “The Simpsons” when Lisa tried to serve gazpacho at a barbeque, you should go back to Russia.