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My cupboard can get bare sometimes but I will always have mustard in the house. Mustard is the one condiment I cannot do without. Sure, as a kid I was a ketchup man. I wouldn't even use exotic ketchup like Hunt's. It was Heinz 57 for me. Even when Hunt's managed to make their ketchup pour slower – it didn't matter. As I grew older I switched to Barbecue sauce, but now that I've matured it is mustard for me. It can be Grey Poupon, stone ground healthy stuff, or French's Classic, but if dinner calls for a condiment, I'm
There are times when you've written so much that you run out of words. You've been writing all day and all night. Still you keep writing. Just when you think that there is nothing left to say, you reach deep into a pocket of some pants you forgot that you had and you find a few more words. But you are not yet done. You need still more words. You stop. They do not come. There must be a cache of them left hidden somewhere. You think – what about that time when I had words coming out of my ears.
More bleary-eyed musings, I'm afraid. I feel like I've missed out on something very important by skipping The Simpsons. The moment that the term "cheese-eating surrender monkey" was coined was perhaps the pinnacle of 20th century culture. But I was doing something else, who knows what? I should have been watching TV. The irony is exquisite – people think that watching TV is a waste of time. Is it worth picking up the thread of the show so close to the end of the run? I stopped watching the show after the first year. Is it too late to resume now?
James at 15 made quite an impact on me as a teenager, I feel sheepish to admit. Hardly anyone has heard of the series, which was cancelled after the second season. I didn't miss a single episode. The emotions that the characters displayed on the show were so heartfelt. The episode where James loses his virginity to a Swedish exchange student that he had a huge crush on sticks out in my mind. The show was honest but not preachy. Even the music (by
Englad Dan and John Ford Coley
) was poignant. I cried when his lover returned to Sweden.
Lately I've been starting books without finishing them. I never used to do that. Well, maybe not never. I'm "in the middle" of
, by Ayn Rand. I started it because it was my girlfriend's favorite book, you know how it is with a new girlfriend. I liked the first third of the book, but I got busy and haven't had a chance to finish it. Meanwhile I've come to admire Rand's philosophy. Perhaps I should admit that I'm not going to finish it. After all, I'm not going out with her anymore. We got divorced. Ten years ago.
After nearly two years and the endless post-9/11 pressure cooker I would have thought that President Bush would have mastered the teleprompter. He hasn't. Whenever he gives a speech in one of the White House offices without an audience he has that deer in the headlights look. We've gotten used to it, and we don't freak out every time we see it. Bush is smarter than he looks, much smarter than those speeches make him look. Still, you'd think he'd have it worked out by now. It may not come naturally, but I think "appearing on TV" can be taught.
Conan O'Brian is underrated. When David Letterman had his slot it seemed like he got a great deal of acclaim for the hipness of the show. After Letterman left for CBS I was among the many people who was sure that Conan would fail. Late night audiences are both quirky and fickle. It is really rare for a network to find a show that works in that time period so they tend to experiment. With Conan NBC managed to get it right in one try. I watch his show whenever I get a chance. He makes me laugh every time.
I wouldn't call it writer's block, but sometimes the words don't flow. I'll work on a piece for hours and end up with just two or three strong paragraphs, maybe a killer concept. But something is wrong. It doesn't sound right – muddled perhaps. I cut some stuff that took me an hour to write. Agonize some more. I put sleep, though I know it will be easier to fix with fresh eyes. I keep at it, add some links, fiddle with a sentence here, a word there. Why don't I just put it down and come back to it later?
I enjoy the brilliance of a good philosophy book but I've often wondered why they're often so densely written. Earlier I wrote an essay that had an underlying philosophical theme and I found myself writing prose so opaque it pained me to read it. After much effort I bludgeoned it into a (barely) comprehensible form. It should be possible to write a clear philosophy piece but the exact method escapes me. I could have spent another six hours on the thing but sometimes it is better to release your art into the world to make room for the next thing.
What the hell am I doing? My clock is on the fritz. I know I'm still there, but I'm not quite right. I should be practicing. Every night I say tomorrow. Then tomorrow comes and I don't. I feel myself slipping a little bit each day. Except, once in a while, I feel fine. Claudia called me this morning and told me about Abe. I should have known it before she called me dammit. I would have known if I had practicing. But I wasn't so I didn't. I hope she felt better after talking to me. I hope so.
It is time. I needed time to heal. I needed time to grieve. I needed time to find my rhythm. I have found my voice. I have learned to speak, it is time for me to sing. The world is brand new, full of hope, full of joy. Death and destruction lie in wait, but I do not have to yield. Evil is ready. It has been gathering force. It is time for me to find the light. Keep facing the light. Keep stretching for the light. Keep straining until you feel you can strain no more. It is time.
One thing that really annoys me about writing on the Internet is that it is so easy to be misunderstood. This is generally true of the written word. It is especially so for formats that encourage quick informal communication. Weblogs, email and on-line forums share these characteristics. Each medium has evolved some simple conventions to convey nuance, but these don't always work. My dry sense of humor, which I help to convey in person through auditory queues, often does not translate well to the web. Luckily they have yet to perfect a method to punch you out via the web.
Irony is as much a part of the fabric of the universe as mathematics is. I can't go through a single day without shaking my head at the absurdity of it all. Whenever you get a thousand people together threy wiil start to behave like cookie batter. Some parts will clump together, other part will separate. Us and them. Cookies and chocolate chips. Leaders, followers, usurpers. They are all he same. Mike Tyson fought again. He lost but he was gracious in defeat. Who bet on that? Not many . France got eliminated in the World Cup, but not us.
Each time one of the tropical fish touched the surface it looked as if a drop of water had fallen in. An observer with a different angle might have thought that it was drizzling. Just as the ripples circled outward the fish would add a new disturbance and start the whole cycle over again. The sea grasses would undulate just below the fish, adding a gentle rhythm to the waves that were barely discernable. If you looked closely you could detect some the tidal forces that animated the vegetation's movement. Whenever an insect would land it upset the delicate equilibrium.
A mood is such a fragile thing. I go into a movie in one mood, come out with another. I discuss the movie with my friend and then her mood bleeds into mine, which mingles with hers. The mental cloud of dust dissipates. My memories trigger some moods my senses trigger others. I can control my moods, but I usually don't want to. This is a pity because otherwise depression can set in. It's just that it doesn't feel like it's really me if I don't let my moods air out. Another one of those things to balance I guess.
How could anything be this pristinely white, big and fluffy? I was seven years old, crossing the ocean in a 747 jumbo jet. Those clouds looked so inviting from my oval window. I wanted to reach out and feel their softness through my fingers. I imagined myself lounging on those comfortable clouds just below. I stared at them for a while. As the plane shifted to a lower altitude I was amazed to find that we could fly though them. Once we came closer I realized that the clouds had no substance. But even today, I don't quite believe it.
Even mediocre movies have the power to make penetrate my defenses and cause my heart to ache. HBO is doing a Keannu Reeves thing. They don't call it a festival, but lately every mediocre movie he's been in is on. Reeves sounds a bit off to me - do you know what I mean, DUDE? Not that it matters – "close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades," as they say. When he plays the sappy dope it works on me, perhaps especially. I find myself rooting for the guy, hoping that he gets the girl in the end. And he does.
The waves, Ron Howard, the Lakers – everywhere I look I see patterns. The earth seems like this warped space where everything is so different. Ripples repeat, each one different, but the pattern is recognizable. I'm sure it all makes sense when you just do the math. Albert Einstein taken to the third power multiplied by some universal constant yields Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods. If we took the trouble to really get to know hummingbirds we'd no doubt discover that once a generation there's an exceptionally smart one. Or perhaps you could go to Hawaii and surf that perfect wave.
Progress is obvious provided that you employ the correct unit of measure, otherwise you may confuse victory with defeat. Even the most gifted orator can only sway the opinions of twenty percent of his audience. Rarely can logic change the minds of the most committed. In the short run there is a limit to how much progress you can make, but over time people are more malleable. Better yet, each generation of children have very different opinions from those of their parents. In a mere generation, discrimination against minorities went from a commonly accepted behavior to one that is taboo.
Technology is partially responsible for our current obsession with beauty. Sure, our brains are wired for it, but until modern times our standards were different by necessity. When mirrors were scarce the only way that common people could see themselves was by looking at their reflections in some pool of water. Furthermore, there was no way for even the richest people to see what the best looking people of their day looked like. Without electronic media, the universe of faces was limited to the people you would actually meet in real life, and perhaps those of whom portraits were painted.
I can see the Earth's shadow on the edge of the moon tonight. As I stare at the reflection in the water I remember the folk tales told of the
of Chelm who tried to catch the moon in a barrel. I suppose the moon was quite a formidable part of life in ancient times. A moonlit night such as tonight would have been far different from the pitch-black darkness of a moonless one. Nowadays who even notices? The streetlights even out the nights. It is probably my imagination but it feels cold to me, even from here.
Swedish fish taste far better than Gummi Bears do despite the latter's greater renown. Patriarchal stereotypes perpetuated by media reporting have reinforced the notion that bears are cuddly even as they portray fish as cold and emotionless. These biases are unfortunate at all times, but unchecked, they can imbue some vague anthropomorphic qualities to what is really just some sugar candy. The capriciousness is particularly unfair to the much better tasting fish. Astonishingly, this analysis is based on taste alone. If texture were accounted for, the flexible fish would outclass the stuff, and shockingly small Gummi bears. Sadly it isn't.
Most trees are pacifists by temperament but oak trees are different. Many confuse the soothing disposition of an oak for a laissez-fair philosophical outlook, but this demonstrably wrong. While oaks aren't as mobile as palm trees, their deep roots tie them to the earth with a tenacity that has often be deified. Oaks won't start a fight, but they'll defend the ground they stand on to their death. If I had to go into battle I'd surely keep the pines and cacti in front of me where I can see them, but I'd happily have an oak at my back.
Looking out my window I could see that half my neighborhood had experienced a power failure. More accurately, I knew it from what
I couldn't see
. Electric lights are an ingrained part of my mental picture of "the neighborhood." It didn't occur to me that without them, my nighttime view isn't much to look at. It was a cloudy night. I could barely make out the water in the marina. Usually the reflections from the streetlights illuminate the water quite clearly. It brought home the meaning of those satellite pictures you see of the border between North and South Korea.
Six silver balls were loaded into the cylinder above the coil. Each ball had been machined by a CNC to the most exacting specs. They were polished until their reflections could be used as a make-up mirror, at least if their surfaces had been straight. On the other side Lamar balanced four coins. They were quarters, the old kind, and the ones that you could count on, with the eagle. Lamar had not tolerance for those souvenir quarters. Too wimpy he thought. There was no sense in accumulating those coins when they would just cause worse problems than they solved.
Is there enough time to do the things I want to do? I am rationing the things I want to do before I die over the next thirty years, but what if I dies in two? It is easy enough to adopt
as a motto but how many of us can sustain the discipline required to continually
sieze ithe day
. I certainly don't have it. In many ways the people who have had a close brush with death have been given a gift that allows them to cherish each moment. Adversity can train even the moist reluctant minds.
Rubber tires never break… That is the version of "grace after meals" that was commonly recited at camp. It is a meaningless sound-alike phrase meant to duck compliance with a religious requirement. The attempts to legislate the pledge of allegiance out of the public square will meet the same level of quiet resistance. The 9th circuit court is notorious for picking fights where none exist. After all, without the "San Francisco circuit, how would the culture wars food fights find new life? All they accomplish is that they give the kids new things to make fun of. What a waste!
I'm just up to my ankles with tasks to complete before I get to sleep. There are four thousand dinosaurs who still can't believe that all this ice came. They just sit there, frozen, waiting for the day that they will be awakened. Would we even care what they looked like Stephen Spielberg has already shown us what they looked like – but who cares? I would point out to the dinosaurs that first of all, the are dead. No matter cold the ice surrounding them is, they are already dead. They just don't know it yet. Just try convincing them.
John Prine is an under-appreciated musical genius. He is fairly well known among other recording artists and (almost by definition) among the
but not by the general popular music audience. Prine is known as a "musician's musician." Each field of human endeavor seems to have an analog to this. There are athletes who are appreciated by their peers but are relatively unknown. At least in sports these people often become famous as coaches. Scotty Bowman was no Wayne Gretzky but at least he became the greatest coach ever. It is a pity that John Prine can't become a coach.
When you see a fish from above the water it the refraction makes it looks funny. Once you break the surface and go underwater you've left your world behind as surely as if you had arrived in an inter-stellar rocket. Most every creature around you can "fly." The density of the water means that even humans can adjust their altitude (depth) to a certain extent. In many ways the undersea world is an inversion of the sky. Big sharks (eagles) swoop down (up) to prey on the smaller fish (rodents). You don't even realize that you're wet until you surface.
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