daily preciousness

Friday, May 21, 2004

Wanna swap?

Have you ever wanted something so much that you would do practically anything for it? Looks like gmail is something that people have grown to covet, despite the fact that it will probably go public in a reasonable period of time.

Thursday, May 20, 2004


this is truly frightening. What is controlling policy? Prophecy is controlling policy. Not analysts. Not experts. But a dusty old volume of hate, lies and hoo-doo.

Great. That's just what I wanted to hear on a gloomy Thursday afternoon when I'm already in a bad mood!

This is truly scary:
When Pastor Upton was asked to explain why the group's website describes the Apostolic Congress as "the Christian Voice in the nation's capital," instead of simply a Christian voice in the nation's capital, he responded, "There has been a real lack of leadership in having someone emerge as a Christian voice, someone who doesn't speak for the right, someone who doesn't speak for the left, but someone who speaks for the people, and someone who speaks from a theocratical perspective."

When his words were repeated back to him to make sure he had said a "theocratical" perspective, not a "theological" perspective, he said, "Exactly. Exactly. We want to know what God would have us say or what God would have us do in every issue."

Wonderful. So go ahead and share your not left, not right but just down the center social science on gay marriage and just feed whatever you want into that president's ear. Wonderful.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

the face of love

is so beautiful. It makes me smile from ear-to-ear, just thinking about all these people sharing a special day just to proclaim their love for one another.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

pop-up ads in class

This was a first. I've never seen a classroom completely distracted by a pop-up ad. Until tonight, that is. The professor was right in the middle of n interesting presentation involving idealism, realism, pragmatism and eclecticism. Right in the middle of the Plato/Socrates/Aristotle/Alexander the Great teaching relationship, we got a pop-up right in front of us on the big viewscreen.

Some hot guy was mugging for the camera, gushing about his car insurance or something. It was incredibly hard to focus, since a gif was blinking like a strobe light and caught my eye everytime the professor walked in front of it.

And the after-effects have caused me to now blog about it. (This is a not-so-clever attempt at not studying, so I should end this right here, but I have two more points to add.)

Other oddities in class today: The founder of pragmatism, William James and his mentor, Charles Peirce, reached the thesis of their philogophy "ism" with a story about a squirrel.

It's a picnic. A bunch of academics are sharing potato salad and BBQ out in nature. At some point during the event, James leaves. Another fellow sees a squirrel and endeavors to chase the squirrel around the trunk of a tree. Being philosophers, somebody in the group asks if the guy chasing the squirrel was going around the squirrel. Half the group says that he is -- the man is both north, south, east and west of the squirrel. The other half votes that no -- he was never encircling the squirrel since the animal was always on the opposite side of the tree. The philosopher comes back to the festivities and is posed the question: did the guy go around the squirrel? His answer, so simple yet so profound, informs his major work of philosophy: "It all depends!"

I love that story.

Third notable point of the evening: I got cruised in the library. The Catholic library of the school. Wild, random and vaguely disturbing... makes me wonder if he's studying to be a priest!

This doesn't surprise me at all.

Of course, there's going to be another terror attack. Of course it will take place in D.C. And of course it could be one big event or a series of smaller ones.

It's so predictable. It's almost like somebody planned it. From the nightmare, a whitehouse scenario...

Monday, May 17, 2004

end of civilization

...That's what they called it when they desegregated the schools 50 years ago. The court made the ruling and with all due haste (or something resembling it), the ruling was carried out. Circumstances, educational parity, carefully hewn social distinctions all shifted. With the frightening speed of a dodgeball game, a new way of thinking was hurdling towards the slow-to-change.

They kicked and they screamed, but they eventually relented. (Or, they went to private schools.)

The world really changed for people. They were right. Brown vs. the Board of Education ended the civil support of an unfair system. And in doing so, ended civil support for a terrible disparity.

One of the speakers at today's events in Cambridge said that many people feared it would be the end of civilization as they knew it. And the fact is, they're right.

Now it's time for a more civilized civilization.

cocktail umbrellas

At 12:01 a.m. Monday, I was sipping on something tropical and twirling a little red umbrella made by oppressed third-world factory workers. I looked at the delicately fabricated little drink umbrella, pondering the sad existence in the cocktail umbrella sweat shop somewhere in mainland China. I had so much in common with the people who toil day in and day out so that my tropical drinks can have the garnish that I so richly deserve.

Howie, David and I were chatting about our sorority social order. "How did *I* become the bad one?" was what Howie wondered aloud. David and I thought it was clear! Some people are just born that way. Like cocktail umbrellas are born in China.

That was about the time when the bartender (also David's graduate assistant) made an announcement that gay marriages would start to take place en masse (also in Mass.) at the stroke of 12:01. We lifted our drinks to that! Unfortunately, the umbrella stuck me in the nose. Ew.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

pungent stings and guilty passions

It was in the hand's graceful arc 'round the clock face,

In the moon's ellipse through the sky,

In the clever, canny calendar of an eclipse and among the rolling hills alongside the Potomac. Inside these circles, Benjamin found himself. And moments of brilliance found him.

From the Gale Resource Center's Gay and Lesbian Biography:

Pungent Stings and Guilty Passions

Throughout his life, Banneker never married, and there is no evidence of his ever being romantically involved with a woman, a fact which has led many historians to speculate that he may have been homosexual. Some unwitting self-revelation is evident between the lines of some of his early essays, including one cited by Bedini where Banneker claims that poverty, disease and violence are more tolerable than the "pungent stings .. . which guilty passions dart into the heart."

Banneker's self-isolation and love of drink is sometimes cited as at least a partial explanation for his lifelong bachelorhood. But his grandmother, parents, and sisters were known to be people of considerable Christian dominance, and he always lived under their supervision. His father died when Banneker was 28 years old, leaving him as the sole caretaker of farm and family. The responsibility, says Bedini, "he assumed with his customary seriousness [at] an age when he would have been seeking a wife." As he grew older, his reliance on the Bible as a daily guide to living may have hindered any natural homosexual tendencies.

I'm so glad that I read this! I was just following the end-of-the-chapter advice to "select a person mentioned in this chapter and learn more about him. Make a journal entry notes about what you learn." Brilliant!

And so I did.

a readingful afternoon with Jefferson

Jefferson Airplane. Wasn't that a band from the 70s? I don't know. Was it Jefferson Spaceship? Maybe. Well, I have a friend named Jefferson who is neither an airplane nor a spaceship. But he has a good sense of humor and a kind heart. And he's a lawyer, so don't fuck with me, or he'll sue your ass so quick that you won't know the name of the hurricane that knocked your trailer for a spin.

But I'll know, 'cause it will have been Hurricane Jefferson, 'cause he's my lawyer, bitch!

So anyway, Jefferson and I had a pleasant brunch at Clarendon Grill today. Then we went shopping. Nothing called out to me. But it was a mildly entertaining consumer experience. Now I shall buckle down and get a-reading on my textbook. This is a sad comment, but I've found several typos in the first seven chapters. Let's hope that it gets better before the end. I shouldn't be bitter, but I am... I mean, the only book that deserves the named "Foundation" was Asimov's.

At least it's a pretty readable book... I don't have patience for books that aren't engaging and interesting anymore. But this is a pretty snooze-free zone with this one, luckily.

Nothing like the long, drawn out yawnfest that was The Known World.

This book had so many things going for it... It had fully developed characters and crisp, honest writing. The intricately developed psychological framework was there so that I really believed I was in the head of a black man (who was a former slave) who actually owned slaves himself. But it was just a long, drawn out story that didn't seem to go anywhere. And I even went to the book reading at the local library hungry to like the book. No such luck. The author was a little short with some of the audience's questions. And he was just a bit too flip with his responses. I mean, he wasn't out-and-out disrespectful, but he came close enough to piss me off.

I went ahead and got a copy since the author had won the PEN/Hemmingway award, a fellowship from NEA and a Pulitzer. So despite the fact that I now own two copies, I wasn't terribly impressed by the readability of the book.

//looks at clock with a guilty conscious// Hmmmm. I have now spent about half an hour not reading or studying, so I feel like I should get some work done. I will read a few chapters, then write some more.

All in all, a readingful afternoon....

Pax out.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

the end of free speech

It was fun while it lasted, but unfortunately free speech is wasting away like so many of our other rights. Thanks, G.W.! Please don't make me an enemy combatant for posting this!

Friday, May 14, 2004

photo idea

So I have decided to create some photographic works in which people pose like the photos of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. I plan on doing it this evening with friends. In the meantime, I have to locate a leash, a hood and some other supplies. Until then, I'm just going to work on my cheesy grin.

I know what you're thinking: Jeffrey, your grin is cheesy enough. Why practice? Or maybe you're thinking: What?! You must be some kind of sicko to think about recreating these horrific photos. What's up with that?

Well, I'll tell you what. The only way for me to counteract this horrible thing is through comedy. I have to make fun... That's the only way I can triumph over it. I have spent the past few days in utter horror. I have not been able to fathom what on earth these prison guards were thinking. I mean, how could they treat human beings like that? I know that there have been studies on cruelty. I know that scientific study isn't really required, based on anecdotal evidence (i.e. mankind's history of atrocity and violence). But it just doesn't wash with me that the whole mission motto was "hearts and minds" and that's the first things you lose when you perpetrate this kind of injustice.

Oklahoma is NOT okay. That much is clear, with Senator James Inhofe's comment that he was "outraged about the outrage." I would love to see that jerk witness his family tortured and humiliated like that. "How you like it now, bitch?" That will be the question I will ask of him after I show him his wife is hog-tied and stacked shoulder-high in a love-pile while I'm mugging for the camera. We'll see how angry you are at "humanitarian do-gooders" then! (And since when do American politicians sneer at being a "humanitarian?" Oh yeah, that's right... since 1990.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Sleeping through class

I wish I could blame the calm, hushed tones of NPR. But I can't. I managed to go to sleep while I should've been getting my *ss to class. My busy day reduced me to a drowsy slumber. And I didn't wake until 6:00. "Fine," I thought, I can make it to class by 6:30. I did a quick check to see what the room number was and realized that class by 6:00, not 6:30! Stellar. Good planning, there.

So I find myself feverishly zooming towards campus, knowing that I can easily slink into the back of a crowded auditorium and nobody will be the wiser. Oh, but it's not so! I find a tiny, cramped room fit for about 25-30 students.

And they're facing towards the door. Yep. Terrible room layout. (And they're educators? Even I know to lessen student distraction by having them face away from the door! Come on!)

All just waiting to stare at me with cold, righteous stares as I trundle in loud and late. So I refuse to do it. I bite my lip and wait outside the door.

Break! They'll have a break, I realize. I can just slip in after half of the class is over and it will all work out.

So I do the math and figure that the class will have a break around 8:00. So that's what I'm waiting for, right now, for the class to let out for a bathroom break. I just hope I'm right!

New shoes

Upon sitting down for a lesson, I got a comment from a chatty female 4th grader today.

"Mr. B -- you got new shoes," she exclaimed, pointing at my feet. "They look like Ronald's. From McDonald's."

"Are you saying I have clown shoes, Tashicah?" I ask, in mock horror. "Yeah, Ronald McDonald." The thing is she didn't realize that could be taken as an insult. She just thought that they were shaped like clown shoes. No slight intended.

"Yeah," agreed Jesse, a bona fide crack baby. "Yeah, they look like Army man shoes. Like Ronald McDonald Army man shoes."

So I guess that I'm some kind of clown soldier to these kids: a dangerous killer with a silly streak. Funny thing is that they're right! Except for the "killer" part. If they only knew the real story.

Pictures in the news.

The hooded prisoner, standing on a box, with wires taped to him... Horrific. These scenes of brutality hit us like an improvised explosive device. And we're caught unawares. These pictures can make quite a difference in the way a conflict is percieved back home. I hope it will change a few minds this election season, too.

I found these pictures of the 1990s. They're every bit as brutal as the current crop of pictures. Enjoy.

In the station of the metro

In a Station of the Metro
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

This is an amazing poem. Reading it reminds me of so many metro rides. Rivers of people pouring from train to platform, down steps and into the waiting orange seats. What's so evocative is the simplicity. Pound merely states the obvious... The concrete station, like a giant tomb, is a drab, dark setting contrasts vividly to the colorful visages of the people inside. Stunningly beautiful in its utter simplicity.

Like good CSS code. Or a hummable song. Or the graceful curve of the "wa" (harmony) in Japanese calligraphy.

I should aspire to such graceful simplicity. Instead, I'm stuck with a jumbled mind and cluttered thought! Such clarity would be as welcome as ice tea on a summer day!

Monday, May 10, 2004

Just thinking about Charlie

Just finished watching A Wrinkle in Time. At a pivotal moment, the character Meg reminds us that "Hope is the thing with feathers that's perched in your heart."

She's right. I'd forgotten that wonderful Emily Dickinson line. Thank you, Emily. And thank you, Charlie. You have reminded me of some things that I'd forgotten about for a long, long time.

Thank you for that, Charlie.

It frightens me.

The new adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time is frightening. It brings back so many deep emotions. I'd forgotten how much I loved that book. Funny. I don't remember the evil planet looking like a 1980s food court. I wonder what Madeleine L'Engle thinks about it.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

sharing the famished road

I'm so happy. An email pal took my advice and bought Ben Okri's book, The Famished Road!

I told him, “Prepare to be swept away by his dream-like world. Upon reading this book, I took a walk in the park and MY IMPRESSION OF THE WORLD had been ALTERED.” This is my ultimate compliment to his work, because I believe if an artist can change your perspective of the world, he has succeeded in creating a true work of art.

Okri is a master of a new and exciting genre of fiction, called magical realism. No. I lie. It’s not a new genre. It is, in fact, the oldest type of story imaginable: the fantastical tale nestled comfortably within the everyday world.

I won't preface your reading anymore, except to say that his book was incredibly thought-provoking and magical to me. Some passages I read 3 or 4 times outloud, just to listen to the words being spoken. Excellent prose!

Additionally, most American and European readers will have the added benefit of hearing a voice from a very distant land. As you know, voices from faraway lands that shrink the great divide of culture a little b/c the protagonist, Azaro, will face some of the same problems that all little children face. (This would be a great book to compare to Paddy Clarke, ha ha ha by Irish author Roddy Doyle.)

As I mentioned earlier, I suggested Okri’s wonderful piece to one of my jblend viewers. This is his response:

*** *** ***

i had the most intense dream last night. it was about the famished road. i was in the book. and the author came to me, hugged me and i felt more love than ever before in my life. this is a very brief summary of the dream and i think it's because i had just finished a trippy part in the book that my dream was related to the book...i dont know. i woke up, wrote it all down, and went to sleep with my roommate cuz i was too jazzed up to sleep alone. in my dream i woke up, told my friends about the book (i thought the book was a dream) and then fell back asleep in my dream. from there, i went on more adventures and flew around my house with all my friends looking up at me.

*** *** ***

His message startled me. I had experienced a similar dream while I was reading the very same book. The memory of the dream leapt out at me, like a frog jumping onto a bare foot. This was my memory: I was a disembodied nothingness, less body than vapor. I flew over the lights of my small mountain town, feeling my essence rise in the nighttime fog. The air was crisp and moist as I slid through it like a tadpole through clear water. I saw the streetlamps and the barber's pole, the cars' headlights rising over hills and lumbering around corners.

Peace came over me. Lesser and lesser I cared about physical form. And then the blue-flamed tongue of fire surrounded me. But the color blue was more of an idea than a hue. I felt love more than I had ever experienced before. It was as if every previous happiness had been merely a minor preparation for the intense contentment and joy that was now coursing through my being.

I remember nothing more about the dream, but I know I was crying when I woke up. I was exhausted from the intense sensations and emotions.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

cicada song

It's warm and balmy in sub-tropical Louisiana. There is a thumbnail moon rising in the mid-evening sky.

I heard a cicada yesterday at moonrise and I know there will be more singing tonight.

It's such a short life, the one they lead. I pity them, but I also enjoy their song.

During the three summers I spent on the island, the Japanese taught me their natural affinity for

the fleeting. I now share that love for the evanescent. These feelings that they�ve given me rush up to me now. This is why I love "tsuri" (cicada) music this time of year. The Japanese variety of cicada is very loud and it used to drive me a little crazy, until I understood the poetry of its song. It sings for only a few nights to mate, before it dies. In those moments, does it cherish it�s existence? It should.

As do we all.