Random neuron firing, lame philosophy, literary pontificating, movies, sex, clothes & other femme stuff

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Fresh woods and pastures new

Finally. Months late. Mikarrhea is moving to http://www.mikarrhea.com.
Please update yer blogrolls and bear with all the bumps of transition.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Third Factory

If you haven't yet visited Steve Evans's elegant site, Third Factory, you should. He's smart, writes really well, reviews widely & informatively, and has stocked up a ton of alluring goodies, esp. on poetry. His reading lists alone --like Jordan Davis's-- inspire awe. Greta & I being hopeless Roland Barthes partisans (indeed, at this very moment Greta is sitting with her laptop at the dining room table trying to put a paper together reading Woolf's The Waves through Barthes' A Lover's Discourse; she's having a hard time, owing doubtless to the opacity of the latter [she may have to settle for reading the one against the other]), I was pleased to see that Steve published a few years ago an excellent retrospective essay about Barthes he's made available. Check it out.
Ozymandias redux redux redux . . . .

click for 800 x 600

Waving at the distant Ozymandias stuff again has brought very kind emails (thanks again!) from some who (like all but six unfortunates) weren't in the stands during the original bout. Brian Richards has drawn my attention to Guy Davenport's essay on the circumstances of the sonnet's composition, which i'm now eager to read. i must admit i had such meagre knowledge of them i was completely unaware Shelley seems to have produced "Ozymandias" in competition with his friend Horace Smith, whose sonnet, the egregiously titled "On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Desarts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below," was published a month later than Shelley's. In hunting around for stuff on the web about Smith & Shelley, I found the image above in a gallery of lit-inspired (Bukowski & Yeats, too) designs at the superannuated site of the beautifully named Tadhg Aidan O'Higgins. It nicely juxta- and superimposes the two sonnets over a desart setting. Theorizer of literary taste and value might benefit from considering Shelley's poem against Smith's. Ditto Keats's orthopteran sonnet against Hunt's (on the web side by side here, along with a vote bizarrely showing Hunt besting Keats by a factor of three-to-one [sample comment: "John Keats's was very long, and too many similies. Leigh Hunt's was simple and nicely written."], confirming once more the sagacity and helpfulness of some literary information circulating the web.).

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Giants and Girls

You simply can't miss out on the copious Giants and Girls gallery.

Thanks to the ever-spectacular boynton.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Pome of the day

Thank goodness he wasn't talking about women. No relation, of course, to mikarrhea. More on men's masturbatory problems in future posts.


In vain we scan the springs of human woe,
To find a deadlier or more cruel foe
To erring man, than this sad self-pollution,
This damaging wrecker of his constitution.

In its foul march it tramples vigor down,
Darkens the soul, usurps the mental throne,
Prays upon the vitals of its filthy slave,
And drags him early to a hopeless grave.
Could this truth to all be known and foreseen,
A sea of misery would be spared the world,
And hell's own engine from the land be hurled.

The fire of heaven on Onan quickly fell,
Cursed was the culprit ere he sank to hell,
Brief was the period 'twist the noxious deed
And the dread chastisement, pollution's meed.
Just as certain now as then, is the indulger undone,
Not by ethereal stroke as there we see,
Bur equal in effect and certainty,
For death results although by slow degree.

---Published in an 1855 issue of the
Ohio Medical and Surgical Journal.

Submitted by David McNeil to RALPH
the Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy, and the Humanities
Volume XVIII, Number 2 --- Late Fall, 1999
Merry sport to brighten monotony of military dog-handling
On Jan. 13, Spec. John Harold Ketzer, a military intelligence interrogator, saw a dog team corner two male prisoners against a wall, one prisoner hiding behind the other and screaming, he later told investigators.

"When I asked what was going on in the cell, the handler stated that he was just scaring them, and that he and another of the handlers was having a contest to see how many detainees they could get to urinate on themselves," Ketzer said.

via WaPo
All the great historians were poets

Taking a cue from Gary Sullivan, Jonathan Mayhew, unacknowledged legislator of the world from Kansas, invokes a rarely-invoked power of his poetic license to declare the Reagan administration "not to have happened."

Michaela Cooper, unacknowledged legislator of the world from Massachusetts, supports Mayhew's move, saying breathily, "The cultivation of poetry is never more to be desired than at periods when, from an excess of the selfish and calculating principle, the accumulation of the materials of external life exceed the quantity of the power of assimilating them to the internal laws of human nature."
Le Plaisir du Texte #27

It's been too long since I've visited deep-browed Ray Davis's uberous demesne, now going by the name pseudopodium.org, so I'm tardy noticing some wonderful recent posts on the central role of personal pleasure in criticism --a view I flog ad nauseam (very well, I contradict myself; I'm fat, I contain donuts), for example, here, here, and here. Check'em out. He's much smarter than I am. He, too, has a disagreement with the ruler-wielding Aaron Haspel (whom you may remember from The Great "Ozymandias" Debate, here, here, & here) but wisely throws up his hands rather than allow himself to be dragged into wrangling: "[W]hat are we supposed to do when someone argues against the possibility of taking pleasure in Frank O'Hara?" What indeed? At night sensualists jump on rulers with a thump . . . .

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Imprisonment & deportation of journalists at LAX

An appalling piece by Elena Lappin, a British journalist with the Guardian, documenting her detainment, interrogation, handcuffing, imprisonment, and deportation. Where? Los Angeles. Why? For arriving at LAX on an ordinary reporting assignment, without a journalist's visa.

via Discourse.net, Michael Froomkin's blog. Froomkin, a law professor, has a wonderful analysis of/screed against against the infamous torture memo.

He also provides a link to another blog, Whiskey Bar, that sets especially purulent passages of the memo against the hypocritical Christian banalities sanctimoniously intoned on another occasion by its evangelical lead author, Mary L. Walker, evident soulmate to the wacko Lt. Gen. Jerry ("my God is bigger than his god") Boykin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Matters, under whose charge falls the Military Intelligence department, whose officers, you remember, are the drivers of the Abu Ghraib torture trolley. Why are so many evangelical wackos involved in the direction of torture at the highest levels of our government? WTF are they doing anywhere near the highest levels of our government?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Islam puts pubic hair on your head

Earlier, I was tying a scarf on my head and having a little trouble adjusting it. Having posted that last bit about how onerous it is for women to maintain appropriate coverage out in public in Iraq, it hit me again what an unbelievable pain in the ass it must be to have to always make sure that not the slightest stray hair on your head is "showing." No "showing" your hair, even if it happens to decide to show itself. If an Islamic woman removes her veil in the forest, is she really "showing" her hair? Is it like in Judaism, where they cleverly get around this question by saying you have to cover your head in front of god? After all, god is supposed to be everywhere. (Irrelevant aside: Max once asked my ex, if god is everywhere and I punch the air, am I punching god?, and my ex, going with the flow of the logic, said, yes. Max replied triumphantly, so then when I pee, I'm peeing on god!)

The Japanese taboo against pubic hair comes to mind: apparently, in the Japanese hierarchy of obscenity pubic hair is considered even more obscene than the genitalia it surrounds and obscures. I remember watching Japanese porn videos in a Tokyo hotel: all pubic hair and genitalia were meticulously digitally fuzzed out, but semen prodigiously splurted from behind the digiblur, and the camera's authoritative sharp focus confirmed the presence of, if not caressed, skinfold puddles of it. Now, if I had to label something the offensive part, it'd be the cum, not the genitals. But then again, that's me. (Always weird to be reminded there are such cultural differences-- makes me wanna do research in comparative obscenity-- although, come to think of it, that's basically just another name for the first fifty years of cultural anthropology)

What's the natural consequence of suppressing through social mechanisms of shame the display of some part of the body? Um, could it be to eroticize it? By collectively agreeing to (or at least acting within the boundaries of) a taboo on pubic hair more stringent than that in the U.S., the Japanese pack pubic hair with a greater sexual charge than we.

OK, so you see where I'm going. . . . Islam, by enforcing women's head covering, is effectively trying to turn all women's tresses into Japanese pubic hair.

Shouldn't a "correctly" socialized Islamic person seeing a woman's head hair in public have pretty much the same charged response as a "correctly" socialized Japanese person confronted with luxuriant undergrowth between a woman's legs? The charge might carry attraction, revulsion, or some combination of the two. But the sense of significance, of scandalousness, of rarity, and above all of the female hair-violator's unambiguous and blatant sexual display would attach almost inevitably, regardless if a particular spectator were male or female, straight or gay.

I wonder if some Islamic men think of the West as foremost a civilization where women constantly run about displaying their pubic hair in public and freaking everybody out . . . .
Reporting from Iraq while female

via here
Because it is considered inappropriate for a woman to be out on her own and daring to ask questions, the man you're talking to -- bureaucrat, cleric, armed militiaman -- won't talk back to you. He'll look away when you talk to him, and will talk back to the floor, the wall or any man who happens to be with you -- usually your driver.

The woman is supposed to be chaperoned by a mahram, a close male relative, but the driver will do if no one else is available.

Driving around presents its own challenge. It is considered shameful for a man to be seen in the back seat of the car with a woman in front next to the driver. A male Iraqi colleague from Najaf pleaded with me to let him sit in the front as we left a meeting with tribal chiefs who came to the door to say goodbye.

"They will say he is not a man to let a woman sit in the front," he said. I stayed put and told him it's time the men got used to it.


Attenuated too thinly and borne back far too far into the past, the last thread's unrecoverable.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Snowe job

OK, so what's with last weekend? Well, it doesn't merit the delay. If I wasn't getting gentle-but-palpable noodges from some corners, I'd let it bob merrily off in our wake, scarcely worth the effort of retrieval, let alone resuscitation. But, whatever --a million years ago I spent a sunny October afternoon sparkling around Boston Harbor, practicing person-overboard (ok, pfd-overboard) drills in a day-sail sloop: I've a vague memory of the figure eight maneuver involved.

It begins, I think, by bearing onto a reach and tacking away a certain number of boat lengths from who- or whatever just fell into the water, so you have enough room to jibe around and enough wind to bring you back to the right spot in one smooth pass.

Mindful of the value of preliminary divagation, to recapture last weekend I should probably invoke Lucy Snowe and sail back a couple of boatlengths of weekends previous. Whatever else I may have forgotten about Villette, and it's basically everything except the protagonist-narrator and two or three other characters, I'll carry to the gates of senility the memory that twice during the novel, which otherwise faithfully follows the amble of several years of unremarkable existence in a quiet French town, Lucy Snowe turns directly to the dear reader and admits she hasn't been exactly honest. Remember several weeks ago, when she had described that perfectly uneventful afternoon? Well, it turns out that something really crucial to the story transpired just then, but she didn't feel like troubling dear reader with it at the time.

Say what? Um, Lucy, why narrate to the reader your confessing to a lie? Who would know the difference? You could just as easily make up a lie that you don't confess to -- rearrange the chronology however to suit your narratorial purpose -- how could we catch you out? Or go back and change what you said so you're not concealing anything. For all we know, after all, everything you tell us is a lie. I mean, you're a fucking fictional character!

Narratorial mendacity by omission--while nowhere near as culpable as the out-and-out lies of the narrator of Who Killed Roger Ackroyd?-- is mendacity nevertheless. Whatever it may amount to ontologically with respect to a fictional narrator, it's the weedlike bane of the friend-blessed narrator's personal blog.

OK, so a bunch of entries ago, I described the evening we played Trivial Pursuit at Mia's & how I got all I'm drunk and want to make out with everybody and Sherman got all respect my limits, bitch. One sentence in my post was not as truthful as it could have been: "As we were leaving, I gave Eliza a really unconstrained kiss & it made me happy that she was, well, very polite in enduring it good humoredly." The words following "she was, well" might be better emended to read "evidently willing to collaborate wholeheartedly in a transaction something like this: one girl dangles a nylon line and another holds a lighter to its end."

The point isn't which girl's who. It's that at that moment we're both the little melting cerebellum in the flame.

I gave Sherman time to drive Eliza home and say goodnight. Too much time, obviously: her windows were totally dark. Re-dressed, she brought out beers from the fridge & we sat on her couch. It was like 2:00. I called Greta, who was drinking whiskey with her brother at their parents' house sixty miles away, and told her I was at home and had fed the cats, which made her happy 'cuz she'd been worried about my driving. Eliza's hair was down, which was distracting. We drank beer, made out, talked, made out, decided we were staying at second, drove to Mobil mart for cigarettes, and eventually splashed into bed from all directions for hours. Had Greta been there with us the night before, everything would've happened pretty much the same, we assured each other before I left to get my kids for the day. This wouldn't go into the blog, at least not unless everyone was comfortable.

When I told her everything that night, Greta wasn't comfortable. We were sitting quietly in our living room, but it seemed we were veering --a helluva lot faster than we would have been, even in daylight, through a canyon in our own country.
Sour apples

I'm feeling really depressed and angry at Apple tonight. We have --I'm not even going to tell you how many Macs we have-- and I'm not counting the piles of clunkety Mac junk I inherited when my former employer moved (remember the LC? Mac II?). Well last week I bought myself a Sony Clié handheld and then discovered today that Sony doesn't support Apple (grrr David Pogue!), that they announced this week they're going out of the PDA business anyway, that the latest version of the Palm OS doesn't even install with the new Mac OS (Panther [what's with the team, car, and raw material names {cobalt}? what happened to plain old 10.3.5?] they should name their next OS something like my currently chipping nail-polish, autumn berry), and, worst of all, my "mainframe" (my central G4 powerbook pretending to be a desktop) completely died or at any rate lapsed into a persistent vegetative state augmented by endless loud depressingly wet clicks. I'd backed up many, but by no means enough, of my most valuable documents. I lost lots of mp3s and jpgs I had considered dispensable and not worth backing up until today.
Coming, mother

OK, I'm a complete asshole for taking so long to furnish the details I promised about another weekend of debauchery. So sue me. It's not an easy job finding time to blog when you are a parent (ok, noncustodial), have an insane girlfriend, and still try to pursue a life of creative full-time alcoholism.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Quiz on Bush's speech

So you think you were paying attention to George Bush's words at the Air Force Academy Graduation yesterday? See if you can fill in the blanks in the following quotations from Bush's speech with the actual words he used! If you really can't figure out the right answer, here's the text of the speech.

  1. Each of you receiving a commission today in the United States military will _____________________________.

    1. be expected to vote for me this November
    2. also be awarded a dinner for two at the Olive Garden along with two tickets to a special military matinée of Mamma Mia
    3. also receive notice your commission may be arbitrarily extended for an indefinite period at the whim of Secretary Rumsfeld
    4. also win a complete set of American Tourister luggage in camouflage ballistic nylon practical for armoring Humvees too
    5. also carry the hopes of free people everywhere
    6. from now on have to surrender for the duration of your service any and all photographic or video recording equipment in your possession

  2. In some ways, this struggle we're in is unique. In other ways, _______________________________________________________.

    1. it's one of a kind
    2. it's not a struggle at all
    3. it's Vietnam all over again
    4. it resembles the great clashes of the last century
    5. there will be adverse consequences

  3. Fighting this kind of enemy is a complex mission that will require ______________________________.

    1. the Impossible Missions Force
    2. 500 billion more dollars
    3. my re-election
    4. minimizing political dissent by any means available
    5. the abrogation of the Geneva Conventions
    6. occasionally torturing evildoers to death
    7. all your skill and resourcefulness
    8. much lying on the administration's part

  4. Our goal, the goal of this generation, is the same: ____________________________________________________________________________.

    1. Power
    2. A comfortable retirement
    3. To be famous
    4. Screwing the generation behind us
    5. We will secure peace and defend our nation through the forward march of freedom
    6. We will defend our nation and secure our freedom through the forward march of peace
    7. We will secure our defense and advance peace forward through the march of freedom
    8. We will defend our nation's security through the forward march of peace
    9. We will march forward into peace and freedom with the security our defenses provide
    10. We will march forward to defend peace and our nation's security and freedom
    11. We will march freedom forward to secure our nation's defense and our peace
    12. We will secure our nation and defend the peace through the forward march of freedom
    13. We will defend our security and free peace to march our nation forward in purity and essence of our precious bodily fluids

  5. ____________ believe that _________________are essentially corrupt and decadent.

    1. Guelphs, Ghibellines
    2. Symphony performers, rap stars
    3. New Critics, Literary Theorists
    4. Christian monks, major corporations
    5. Elves, Orcs
    6. Christian fundamentalists, homosexuals
    7. The Nazis, abstract artists
    8. Communists, the bourgeoisie
    9. Freedom-lovers, terrorists
    10. Terrorists, free societies
    11. Evolutionary psychologists, radical scientists
    12. Republicans, Democrats
    13. Democrats, Republicans
    14. Supporters of N.L. teams, designated hitters

  6. With all the skill of our law enforcement, all the stealth of our special forces, and all the global reach of our air power, we will __________________________________

    1. still make fools of ourselves
    2. nevertheless fail to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, as long as our military controls their country
    3. nevertheless with much fanfare continue to wrongfully arrest Muslims, like that attorney in Seattle we were so sure was involved in the Madrid bombing
    4. strike the terrorists before they can strike our people
    5. still bomb the occasional wedding party by mistake

  7. The terrorist movement feeds on the appearance of ____________________________.

    1. wackiness I cultivate
    2. inevitability
    3. weakness in their opponents
    4. Osama bin Laden videos every few months
    5. Harry Potter videos every few months
    6. butchness their beards bespeak
    7. Punxatawny Phil on February 2nd

  8. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true ________________________________________________________________________.

    1. freedom is the path of progress and justice and democracy.
    2. progress is the path of democracy and freedom and justice.
    3. justice is the path of progress and freedom and democracy.
    4. democracy is the path of progress and justice and freedom.
    5. progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy.

  9. Voices in that region are increasingly demanding __________________________________.

    1. that America leave, immediately
    2. reform and democratic change
    3. security from violence and crime
    4. that we cease closing down in the name of freedom newspapers we believe publish hostile opinions
    5. my head on a platter
    6. reliable electricity
    7. HBO
    8. a regional tour in the forseeable future by Hoobastank

  10. Like ________________________________, the terrorists seek to impose a grim vision in which dissent is crushed, and every man and woman must think and live in colorless conformity.

    1. Pol Pot
    2. Stalin
    3. evildoers everywhere
    4. other totalitarian movements
    5. Congressional Republicans

  11. We will lead the world and keep unrelenting pressure on _______________________.

    1. the UN
    2. the French and the Germans
    3. anyone who dares to cross us
    4. the media to report things our way
    5. the enemy
    6. the sleep-deprived Abu Ghraib detainees
    7. the brave men and women of our Armed Services

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