30 May 2006


Today I spent many hours sitting in a smallish blue car that was produced by a large American automobile company.

Today I traveled across the parts that one seldoms wants to see of several different states.

Today I saw more distinct approaches to urinal design than any person could reasonably expect to encounter in a single day.

Today the wife read The Yellow Wallpaper to me while we sped across repetitive miles of highway.

Today I ate a meal in a restaurant perched precariously between the northbound and southbound traffic.

Today I crossed a state line four inches before the wife did because I remembered to extend my arm to the front of the dashboard.

Today I thought of many pointless things because the person in the passenger seat took a nap during the majority of the middle state.

Today, I must say, was a rather good day.

29 May 2006


I am not feeling particularly writerly today, for, I must admit, I am tired and have much driving to do tomorrow. You see, the wife and I are heading off on an expedition to visit a dear friend and family tomorrow. Hence, I shall be sporadically posting for the next week or so, but promise a frenzy of activity – both studio and writerly – upon return.

But, today, I offer you something I found by accident online this morning. I was looking for a mentor of mine from a past epoch, and while doing so I ran across a review of one of my pieces from a show I was part of in Nashville – a pleasant thing to unexpectedly encounter, at least when the review is good. The review is from Nashville Scene, a weekly alternative paper.
The sense of being out of place takes its most outraged form in a tightly constructed rant by Thomas Knauer in which he wrote out 16 rules for living in America on yellow legal pads. They include things like “Don’t be gay,” or be afraid of Americans because they like shooting stuff. The rules come with explanations, sometimes sidebars, some digressions and little bits of collage added for emphasis. Knauer lined up the sheets and took clear photographs of them in a neutral, scientific setting very different from the bar where he composed them. The results are entertaining, with enough self-ridicule to go with the indignation.

So, I shall leave you with A Not So Simple Guide to Surviving in America As Devised While Drinking Third-Rate Whiskey in a Seedy Bar Downtown, and I shall pack my bags and prepare for the night’s sleep in preparation for the journeys in front of me.

[click image above to view entire project ]

Addendum: Two days later.
This appears to be the week of The Guide. I just learned that an online journal - Meat: A Journal of Materiality & Writing is planning to publish The Guide in their next issue. It may be a small journal, but I am pleased that the effort to cross back and forth between art and journals is moving forward.


28 May 2006


the futility of urban living #2
change machine

[click image above to watch ]

this one does have an ending, sooner or later.

27 May 2006


interactive performances #1
holding my breath

[click image above to view ]

26 May 2006


It is time to return to the studio. For the past few months that has been a daunting premise, the goliath in front of me. You see, I have once again managed to think and doubt myself into an absolute terror regarding that place. Not that I have anything against thinking or doubt; quite to the contrary, I would generally consider myself among the strongest proponents of the reflective practices. But, alas, it has perhaps gone too far. Thus, dear readers, I begin a new phase in my practice and you shall be in on it at the ground floor. You, too, can watch as I put aside the redundant circuitry of my over-analysis and return once more to that dark neglected room that I call the studio.

the futility of urban living #1
the cloverleaf

[click image above to watch ]

24 May 2006


23 May 2006


I may not have told you this yet, but when I was little I wanted to grow up to be a fire truck. Not a fire man, or a fire truck driver, heck, not even a Dalmatian that might ride on a fire truck, I wanted to be a fire truck, the thing itself, brass fixtures, shiny dials and nozzles, bright red paint job and all. I cannot quite be sure why I wanted to be a fire truck, but I did. At that point the problematics of biology seemed a trifling matter. Perhaps it was because they seemed such useful things – fire trucks that is – or perhaps, as a child, they were rare and exotic sights in the wide world into which I was just beginning to adventure, though they were commonly seen in the hard-paged books I was just beginning to read.

I am not sure exactly when I gave up this desire to be a fire truck, but I still thrill every time I encounter one; I have even been known to skip about and clap when one drives by. Thus, yesterday, I ran across two men flushing out the fire hydrant down the street, my familiar joy sprung to the surface. I realize there was no fire truck present, but the force of my associations is such that all fire truck related accoutrement produce a palpable wave of excitement.

The only other thing I remember wanting to be as a child is a student. Seriously. I used to fantasize about studying mathematics at Princeton – you see I participated in the state math competition at Princeton as a child, which surely produced an idealized site for my preadolescent aspirations. [In fact, I shall be recovering my trophies from my parents this summer.] This fantasy never really when past the college stage; it wasn’t about doing anything in particular with math, having a job, or discovering anything new; I wasn’t interested in anything as base or callow as that. I simply dreamed about playing with numbers somewhere where the other people around me would understand that impulse.

I never did go to Princeton, nor, obviously, have I found a way to transform myself into a fire truck. I don’t particularly regret that I no longer expect to literally fulfill either of these fantasies; what I do miss, though, is the ease of faith I was able to muster as a child, that remarkable capacity for projecting myself into the most far-fetched possibilities without a moment’s concern for logistical difficulties. Along with forgetting how to draw – a practice I developed a phobia for at a surprisingly early age – I miss this ability to project into possible futures the most. When I think about it, it doesn’t seem such a difficult thing to master, but then it always proves to be a far more elusive skill than one would expect, what with the burdens of logic, doubt, and experience.

At the same time, though, across all of the years I have never really replaced these two childhood dreams – even if I no longer have simple faith in them. Those initial fantasies of a life of books and scribbled notes and frantic explorations has propelled my nearly every move for over two decades, and while I no longer expect to become a fire truck, I must admit I have never quite put that wish aside. No matter how strongly my rational thoughts compel me to limit myself to the physical possibilities of my flesh and blood existence, I still find myself running in childish glee at the simple sight of a fire hydrant releasing its reservoir of water, drawn back to whatever it was in those early years that brought me to forgo concerns of the human/machine boundary. In the end, I must admit some part of me still wants to be a fire truck.

Thus, I still sometimes wonder why I fixed upon fire trucks. Perhaps even as a toddler there were already subtle concerns over power and authority embedded within my psyche. Perhaps such unconscious machinations continue to drive this fascination. On the other hand, it may simply be that fire trucks are really, really cool, and I, unlike the rest of the world, have had the wisdom and insight to aspire to be so grand. And seeing that I have yet to find a properly compelling counter-argument to this explanation, that is my story, and I am sticking to it.

22 May 2006


As a preface to tomorrow's post, and by way of tantalizing you with regard to impending revelations, I offer you this image. You shall have to await explanation with bated breath.

21 May 2006


Pomp and circumstance is playing; odd, flat-topped hats are being tossed; cars and vans are being packed. It is graduation season, and, for the first time in quite a few years, I feel oddly aligned with those robed marchers collecting their diplomas today – or at least the rolled-up place holders feigning officialdom until the genuine artifacts make the journey by mail four to six weeks later. While my undergraduate days lie deep in my past – or so it seems sometimes – I, too, have been tapping into the transitional anxiety that is the hallmark of commencements everywhere.

Last night I had planned to write about that sense of flux and expectation that accompanies this time of the year. I had one of my favorite quotations at the ready, when the world intruded – as usual. So, today I shall attempt to bring together my gathering thoughts and the invading world. This afternoon John Adams [the second president of the United States], Evan Pinto [a graduating senior from the New School University], and Nelly Furtado [the pop star] shall have a conversation.

There is a John Adams quotation that has slumbered somewhere in my head off and on for the past fifteen years, which has recently awakened into my consciousness again.
My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offenses; upon contrition; upon the duty as well as the necessity of [enduring] with patience the inevitable evils of life; in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation of which I am but an infinitesimal part.

While I have never mustered a faith in god or religion for myself, these words from Adams explain my anxiety now as well as they did twelve years ago when I marched down Middle Path to receive my first post-secondary diploma. In these words I find voice for my anxiety – an Enlightenment precursor to the Serenity Prayer, eschewing the self-help niceties. Here I encounter my greatest anxiety, the concern over what “infinitesimal part” I will be. My greatest fear is of not being a part, of contributing nothing of import – though I must admit it is often unclear whether this is really a masked desire to be important.

Whatever my motivation may be, though, I continually return to this concern as the central issue of the transitional anxiety that has accompanied each of my commencement ceremonies, including the figurative one of my present situation. But apparently this is not a universal sentiment. Yesterday afternoon, while listening to NPR, I heard a report on the ill-fated commencement ceremony at the New School University. They invited Senator McCain to deliver the address. While many of the students protested and heckled (rather impolite of them) I was most disturbed by the comments of one Evan Pinto [sp?] – a graduating senior – after the ceremony:
You know, I just spent the last three years of my life sitting at my desk doing homework and I wanted some recognition for that. I didn’t wanna… I didn’t want to have to listen to somebody think about what he thinks the world needs to do. I put a lot of solo, isolated work into myself the last three years, and I want recognition for that.

I don’t know what gap I feel between this student and myself – along with the doubtless thousands of like-minded students receiving their degrees this spring. Perhaps it is age, economics, or simply the nostalgic perspective I undoubtedly feel toward my own undergraduate commencement those many years ago. It is not even that large of a gap, just a mingling of anxieties. Between John Adams and Evan Pinto we see the dual pulls of egoism and altruism, of the past and the future. Between these two quotations we find transitional anxiety.

Mr. Pinto has missed something about his graduation: the fact that it was a Commencement ceremony. It is not accidental that the primary definition of “commencement,” the collegiate degree conferral ceremony, is “The action or process of commencing; beginning; time of beginning.” Pinto’s words, though understandable, distress me – not so much for their self-congratulating desires, but for their regressive fixation on the past.

This is the nature of transitional anxiety; it is the problematic negotiation of the past and the future, even as the present seems insignificant in the face of these dual pulls. Transitions are inherently about being in between; positionality is entirely in flux. In this light Pinto’s words are perhaps understandable as a reactionary response, dealing with the uncertainty of tomorrow by overemphasizing the value of his past – though I nevertheless find it disturbing that he doesn’t want to hear about the world; he just wants to be praised for doing his homework.

So, as I was thinking through these issues last night, pondering the relationship between Adams’ humility and Pinto’s, well, lack thereof, a third position popped up, one that completely abnegates both the past and the future – perhaps abnegating all potential for anxiety: Nelly Furtado’s new singles as performed on Saturday Night Live. I do not know if you caught the act, but it was – how should I put this – special. Not only did feminism suffer at Ms. Furtado’s hands – or vocal chords – but so did intelligent thought:

[this is a duet, in case you don’t already know]
Promiscuous girl
Wherever you are
I’m all alone
And it's you that I want

Nelly Furtado:
Promiscuous boy
You already know
That I’m all yours
What you waiting for?

Promiscuous girl
You're teasing me
You know what I want
And I got what you need

Nelly Furtado:
Promiscuous boy
Let's get to the point
Cause we're on a roll
Are you ready?

Roses are red
Some diamonds are blue
Chivalry is dead
But you're still kinda cute

Promiscuous Girl – the first single from her new album “Loose” – puts aside forethought and questions of past or future considerations in favor of the immediate present – the “I am here now and might as well do something to fill the present moment” school of thought. This, too, may be a response to some cultural anxiety – or just pandering to adolescent misconceptions of adulthood. I may be wrong, but I get the sense that this is tapping into a larger social sensibility, one that is lacking a sense of historic connectedness – either to past or to potential future. Not that this is a new phenomenon in popular music – in fact, it is more probably the norm – but Furtado’s response seems a singularly hopeless worldview.

[Though I also get the sense that this may have been an ill-conceived attempt at rejecting sexual double standards – the Spice Girls gone pseudo-gangster – that fell profoundly short of the mark. See the final lines of Promiscuous: “Promiscuous Boy; we're one and the same; so we don't gotta play games no more.”]

Anxiety is a strange thing; when facing it, it seems an inescapable condition. Adams, Pinto, and Furtado each seem to be attempting to cope with their anxiety about their roles in the world. [Adams once said of his vice-presidency under George Washington: “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”] Adams seems to have had a firmer grasp on the world than I do at the moment, but I have to believe I am following a better course than the other two.

To be honest, I am not quite sure where this all ends up. Perhaps more than usual, I am using the blog today to write though the anxiety pounding in my ears for the past few days. But then, I now can happily amuse myself by imagining what a conversation between Adams, Pinto, and Furtado might be like, although every permutation I invent ends up with a heavy dose of whining, some inappropriate sexual advances, and John Adams bitch-slapping the other two in a fit of righteous indignation. Hooray for righteous indignation!

20 May 2006


Today, gentle readers, we will learn a little bit more about the narrator, i.e. me. I lack the stamina to write what I am really thinking of writing, so I shall substitute a peak behind the curtains, a little behind the scenes glimpse into the so-called psyche of your faithful writer. This evening I shall offer you three obscure facts.

Fact One:
I have a cactus named Phallus. The wife and I bought Phallus when I was moving into my first apartment in Des Moines – during the days of great distance. We found Phallus at the Home Depot in West Des Moines – for those of you who do not know that area: 1] count yourselves lucky, and 2] it is essentially a shockingly long strip-mall, one that made me feel a bit squeamish the entire first year of my exile. Anyway, we found Phallus at the Home Depot, and I knew right away that that was his name – I name all of my plants. In fact, that was why we purchased Phallus. I mean, who could resist having a cactus named Phallus. So, I have had Phallus for just about four years now, and he has grown rather larger than he used to be. Some day I should probably re-pot him; the wife and I think it would be rather clever to have a Phallus larger than either of us.

Fact Two:
I have a bear named Nony. Actually, that is a nickname; his full name is Anonymous Bear. I found Nony after a Halloween party at the Cranbrook Academy of Art – I am pretty sure it was the Fall of 2001. Someone had come to the party as a Mike Kelly sculpture. Since I had been one of the people throwing the party, I had to go back to the party site the next morning to clean up and deal with the recycling. That was when I found Nony – though that wasn’t his name yet; it took a few days to find his name. He was in a corner of the lounge smelling of beer and cigarette smoke, but I am pretty sure he was neither drinking nor smoking: he is a somewhat clean-cut bear. After setting the lounge right I took Nony home and gave him a bath. He has been with me ever since. I sleep with him most every night I am not with the wife, and some nights even when we are in the same place. I am very glad to have found Nony; he is a rather good bear.

Fact Three:
I collect random things. I mean, I have some very odd stuff. I have six paint-by-number Last Suppers, an odd blue-leather stuffed poodle, an array of needlepoint kitchen scenes, and this, a Jesus TV lamp. I generally keep Jesus Lamp on my bedside table for reading and the like. Jesus Lamp is one of my favorite random purchases. To be honest, I am perpetually enamored with the random crap we have made/consumed in this country. I find Jesus Lamp simultaneously distressing and charming. I am pretty sure there are better ways to remember one’s savior than a decorative lamp for atop a console television, but who am I to say. I just like having My Own Personal Jesus, a kitschy little piece of heaven.

Thus, dear readers, you have your three random facts about the narrator. Tomorrow, I shall write what I had intended to write this evening, that piece of exposition with a purpose that I could not muster the energy for tonight. Hence, I leave you with slightly more knowledge than you had a moment ago.

19 May 2006


Yesterday, in a bold move during the Senate Intelligence Committee confirmation hearing for General Michael Hayden – the nominee for the position of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency – the Bush administration rolled out its new comprehensive policy initiative. Bypassing a more traditional presidential speech or an announcement from the new Press Secretary, the announcement came in the form of Senator Pat Roberts’s [R-Kansas] opening remarks – showing renewed cooperation between the White House and Congressional Republicans.

Roberts used concerns about recently discovered NSA activities as a means to present the Bush administration’s new effort – the “At Least You’re Not Dead Initiative.” Roberts stated, “I am a strong supporter of the first amendment, the fourth amendment, and civil liberties; but you have no civil liberties if you’re dead.” Both the administration and Congressional Republicans believe that this bold new plan will be applicable to nearly every voter concern, and will have far reaching implications for the upcoming mid-term elections.

One source offered a litany of applications for the new initiative, including:
“I understand that you need medical care you cannot afford, but at least you’re not dead.”

“I realize that your tour of duty was scheduled to end two years ago, but at least you’re not dead.”

“We recognize that no person could support themselves on the current minimum wage, but at least you’re not dead.”
Another official suggested that this policy may be most effectively used to address the recent rash of scandals that has plagued the Republican Party. “It could be worse than having your Representative under indictment; you could be dead.” The official also emphasized that while this new strategy should be effective for most congressional misconduct, it would probably have its limitations when used to counter murder charges.

Some insiders consider this to be the most significant initiative to come from the White House since the “Mission Accomplished” declaration of 2003, explaining that this new program will give both the President and Congressional Republicans a revitalized platform for reframing their recent difficulties.

The same insiders cited both initiatives as impeccable examples of successfully using the Humpty Dumpty Gambit. [“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”]

There has been no official response from the Democrats, but one staffer pointed out the similarity to the moderately successful campaign slogan used by the Bush team during the 2004 election: “He may be incompetent, but at least he isn’t Cheney.”

18 May 2006


Tonight, dear readers, I bring back something old for you, something that has not been seen for quite a while. Tonight, I revive one of my earliest media pieces, and what it lacks in technological sophistication it makes up for in, well, something, I suppose. Tonight I bring to you… Chicken King.

Click image above to play the game

Chicken King did not have a long life in my oeuvre, but he was influential. From Chicken King it was only a hop skip and a jump to what became the Four Inches OF Ego empire. So, I suggest playing the game that started it all. And when you are done with that, go ahead and download the paper doll set to enjoy with your friends.

Click image above to download the paper doll set

17 May 2006













[u ]


16 May 2006

40°15’N 76°00’W

There is a town in Pennsylvania that shares my last name. In fact, it is a mere thirty minutes from the town in which both of my parents grew up. While it is not a particularly large town – I cannot conceive any practical reason to go to this town – I find it odd that I have never been there. I have known of it since I could first read the map during trips to visit my grandparents. So why, in the course of all of those trips, have I never been to this town? You would have thought that at some point I could have convinced my parents to sidetrack just that little bit, or that during my travels as an adult to visit relatives, or on one of the many trips through the area, I would have made the detour myself.

At this point, some twenty-seven years after I first became aware of this town, there has developed a slightly sinister sense surrounding Knauers, PA. The originally benign question of why I have never been there has developed a vaguely foreboding tinge: Why have I never been there? It seems unlikely that such a small distance should be so insurmountable for so many years, that I should have never seen the one town in the country that so improbably shares my name. I have begun to wonder what questionable past may be hidden there, why my parents may have secreted this spot away from me and my prying eyes all through my childhood and adolescence. I have passed nearby Knauers at least a dozen times since I graduated from college and not once have I made the slight turn north off of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Have there been subliminal warnings implanted deep within my psyche concerning this town? Or perhaps I just have a precognitive understanding that I should stay away, that I would be risking dangers akin to those of meeting my doppelganger should I draw near to the town?

I may have blown the whole Knauers, PA thing out of proportion over the years – I suppose I don’t really think there is a conspiracy of deception keeping me away. But, it does seem strange to me that I have never been there; it is just the sort of road trip I would normally plan. I must admit, though, that a certain allure has grown up around not going to Knauers, mythologizing the town – or village, or hamlet, or whatever it is – as an absent site in my family tree. I really do not know much about my family; it just never seems to come up. Somehow Knauers, PA gives me a locus, an unknown geography, on which to project a narrative – though it is a narrative I have never actually given form. I suppose I just like knowing – or perhaps more accurately, believing – that that narrative is there and having a place where those stories, unformed as they are, can reside.

15 May 2006


I don’t remember my first day of school. I don’t remember class picture day in the second grade when I did one thing or another. I don’t remember my first crush, the first goal I scored, my ex-step-siblings. There are so many things I do not remember. I do not remember most of my life – perhaps less of it than other people, or so it seems. It is not that I have a particularly bad memory; I am generally quite adept at remembering information – whether it be numbers, directions, trivia, or scholarly material. I simply do not remember my own life – or at least very large chunks of it.

Most of what I know about myself I know through other peoples’ retelling. I know I went through a phase of wearing ties in the fourth grade because my mother tells me so. But it is not just the trivia of my existence that I do not remember; it falls upon the wife to be the mental archivist of our life together.

I suppose I do not try very hard to aid my memory: I have never kept a journal, not do I feel a great obligation to photo-document the places I go, the things I do, or the people I see. Perhaps I do not remember my life because I am simply too lazy to do so. If I were to bring on board a few mnemonic devices and a better filing system for the ephemera, maybe I would cease forgetting myself. But, somehow, I have the sense that it runs deeper than that.

There are myriad equations used in psychology to describe the processes of forgetting. A German psychologist named Herman Ebbinghaus pioneered the study of forgetting in the late nineteenth century. There are products, devices, classes, and seminars by the bagful out there to improve the ways we learn and remember information, to aid us in taking tests, to retain more of what we read. But these are all of the things I am already good at. I just can’t seem to remember me.

Sometimes I do remember events in my life; it is not that I forget everything. More commonly, though, I remember things that have happened without my role within those events. I might remember a certain exit on a highway indefinitely, but could not tell you anything about what I may have done there, or why I might have been there in the first place – though I never have the sense of any criminal blackout or anything of a sinister ilk. Instead, my memories come more in the form of “We have been here,” but the “we” is indistinct. I assume I am part of that “we,” since, for some reason, I have a memory of a place, but I might as well not be, it is outside of me. This may be the defining element of my not remembering: events in my past exist as profoundly outside of me, as if of some other history waiting for me to memorize rather than remember.

It does not seem to be forgetting that I experience: the lack of memories does not feel like things I used to know, but no longer do. Instead, it seems that I just cannot remember to remember. It is not that I do not remember what I did this morning: I do not think there is any deficiency or defect. Rather, I simply slip out of the events I took part of, leaving memories experienced by some outside other rather than through a subjective lens that would be me. But then again, perhaps that isn’t quite right either. It isn’t that I remember in the third person omniscient; I do not have access to anyone’s state of mind, not do I sense any objective reality to the memories. It is more that I do not sense any perspective, no emotional orientation tied to the motions and moments. Things simply occur, as they have and as they will continue to do.

I am not sure when I began forgetting to remember myself. I used to think it was just my childhood that I didn’t remember, that I had blanked it out for whatever reason. I thought, perhaps, I just didn’t want to remember that past – though I am pretty sure it wasn’t that bad, a bit unstable perhaps, but not bad. But, as I grow older, I still do not seem to remember to remember myself very well. If I do remember something it will be just as likely be played out by Fisher-Price characters in Fisher-Price sets as by the actual people and places – this, the Fisher-Price performances, has apparently become one of my memory vessels. Most often, though, I will only remember words, simple descriptions in the form of “We went to such-and-such place,” along with an equally vague qualifier determining whether said event should be regarded as pleasant or not, essentially a rudimentary algebra of my past.

While I don’t know when I began forgetting to remember, I do know when I started trying to remember to remember. It was when I met the wife. It was from her that I came to understand that other people really do remember their past, that they can sense it as part of themselves. I began making an effort so that I would have stories to tell her, things to share with her. I started asking my parents about my childhood, scouring photo albums hoping it would spark memories. For a while it worked, I think. There seemed to be a period of active retrieval back in the nineties – so much so that the wife and I reveled in it, celebrated what we considered exciting new recollections. But now it seems more likely that I was gradually unveiling the memorized stories and images from my period of study.

I think I now remember more of what I do than I used to, though not necessarily more of myself. My memories still seem to follow the format of a vacation recorded entirely by a single photographer: that person who is implicitly there, but never quite registering as part of the trip. I accumulate greater reservoirs of moments than I used to, but still I can’t quite make myself a part of them.

Perhaps this is good enough; maybe this is all the system that is my mind needs to get by, but sometimes I still find it disconcerting, or more accurately disconnecting. This all makes some of the most basic questions difficult – I often find “How are you?” to be exceedingly problematic to answer. I don’t mean the simple version of that question, the one checking on my immediate state of health; I have problems with the broader scope of the question, the occasional query of my general sense of well-being. This paucity of remembering makes comparison challenging, knowing if I am better or worse than my historical average an impossibility. How am I to know whether I am behaving normally if I do not normally remember me?

Perhaps this is why I am so drawn to the film Memento, why I spend as much time as I do with dictionaries looking for ways to make my words more subtle and nuanced, why I do a lot of things actually. I have never tried to court a wide range of friends – in fact I seem to cap the search for relationships in the single digits. I tend towards routine and simplicity, pattern and practice. I don’t think I do this as a repetitive aid to memory; instead I seem to keep my field of experience to a minimum so as to have less to not remember.

I get the sense from other people that I should be unhappy about this relationship with my past, that I am missing something fundamental to growing up or being an adult, that I may somehow be incomplete; sometimes I even have the feeling that they may be right. Perhaps I would be less afraid of the world around me if I remembered it better. Perhaps my life would be easier, or I would be a better person. Maybe, somehow, from the beginning, I got the whole remembering to remember thing wrong, I somehow taught myself an incomplete system just as I taught myself to write in cursive from a handwriting chart that omitted the instruction to connect the letters together [this event was repeatedly recalled for me by my mother].

In the end, though, I am most drawn to the specific grammar that surrounds my memory, the linguistic configurations I must employ to adequately describe my not remembering to remember. Saying that I forget my past too closely aligns itself with a perceived loss, a sense that I possessed something only to have it disappear, or be taken from me, at some later date. How should I best describe this, my sense of never having had much of my past, of existing in isolation from myself, or a few inches to one side or another? Is “not remembering to remember” even a meaningful concept, or does it inevitably lead me to a recursive impossibility.

Still, I have yet to find the words to fit my relationship to my history, to those strange permutations of forgetting and remembering through which I filter my past. It may not really matter whether I ever do, but it somehow seems important – not in a clinical way, but personally, as a means to making sense of myself, to reconciling my narratives. I think what it really comes down to is a desire to find the narrator of my memories since it doesn’t appear to be me.

14 May 2006


Sometimes Sunday is the perfect day. When one can commit to bagels and lox, blankets on the couch, and curling up with someone you love – whether that someone be a person, a pet, a stuffed animal, a book, or whatever else is open for interpretation. It can be a day to bother with nothing, and not bothering to be bothered by anything either.

Today was just such a day, one filled with such magnificent laziness the likes of which are not often seen. The brief forays made out into the world were made solely to indulge desires – once to get bagels, lox, and the New York Times, and again to get some Sprite to mix with orange juice: a form of comfort drink for me.

Today was a day for watching the Discovery Channel, reading languorously, and having that extra cup of tea.

Today was a day for too many pillows and getting tangled up together, but being slow to bother getting untangled. A day for flopping over however your body falls, making minor adjustments, and then staying put.

Today was a day for getting very little done, but just enough to justify taking the day off; the sort of activity that requires just enough tautness to keep you from feeling utterly slack – physically and mentally.

Today was a day to just be here today; the day you just don’t get around to all the other things.

Today is not over yet, so I shall keep the writing short. I, instead, am going back to the couch to spend the rest of today where I would rather be.

13 May 2006


I think many things, all kinds of things actually. I don’t think there is a minute that goes by in which I am not thinking of some thing or another. Wait, see, there I go again. Just thinking away as though I were built for it or something. Never ceases to amaze me, you know, that thinking I do. I think of big things and small things, though I am most particularly fond of the slightly below mid-sized things that I think about without even really thinking about it. I ought to try marketing this stuff, or perhaps copyrighting it, this thinking thing. Who’d have ever thought? And since today is a day for thinking about things, and thinking about the thinking about things, I shall share some of the things about which I am thinking [about].

Today I have been thinking about the word “Stop.” Other than its moderate success in connection with stop signs, there are few words more often ignored than the word “stop.“ On can endlessly implore: Stop committing genocide! Stop undermining our educational systems! Stop scratching yourself there! Stop being such a douche! But, still, people will insist on committing genocide, educating poorly, scratching themselves inappropriately, and being douche bags. Alas, the word stop seems to be so ineffectual that it perhaps needs to be replaced. Maybe we need to borrow from the German language the ability to produce special composite words – maybe something along the lines of "stop or I will kick you in a very sensitive place so that you will cease doing that irritating thing." Stop seems to me to be such a simple request, but – considering the number of remarkably stupid things this species does each year – perhaps I am mistaken.

I often think of the myriad things going on beneath my feet all of the time that I will never see. I am not even talking about all the worms and dirt and fungi and hell and stuff; I am just talking about the things we have put down there. You know, the pipes and ducts and doo-hickies. Every time when I pass a manhole cover I wonder about all the various activities going on underground – that is after I get over tittering about thinking the word “manhole.” All the underground stuff brings back to mind the scene from Ghostbusters II when they found the old subway line filled with ectoplasm. I am also fascinated by stories of campuses having networks of underground tunnels – as both my high school and undergraduate institution supposedly did. But, as I was saying, it is amazing to me all the pipes and tunnels and conduits we have put underground to make our world more convenient, and I will never see this world that makes my world go. Thus, when I walk around, I always look for ways to get down there, even though I would probably chicken out if I ever found a way in.

Booze. I like booze. I find myself thinking about it often – real booze that is. I don’t go in for those frou-frou liquors; I, instead, think about things like bourbon and scotch, gin and vodka, or, if I am feeling like something soft, beer or wine. Yep. Booze is good. It so often seems a good idea. I don’t mean in drunken excess or anything, but a little good booze goes a long way. I don’t really spend a lot of time thinking about booze, but when I do, I think it is a good idea. Today seems a good day for a little time with some booze; a day for a little drinking and thinking, if I may say such a thing. Mmmm… booze.

Today I have been thinking about the students I have taught. [Pause for an aside to send a shout out to all you Drake kids.] Today I miss them; actually, more to the point, I miss teaching. I really do like teaching, and, if I must say so myself, I think I am rather good at it. But today I have been thinking about certain students in particular: those few who didn’t suck and actually made teaching incredibly rewarding. It is not that I dislike teaching the average ones, but today I have missed those who did incredible things. I recently got a letter from one of those students thanking me for doing what I do: that was pretty freaking cool. [If you are out there reading, thank you.] This weekend those students who arrived at Drake when I did are graduating, but I am not there. I feel like I am missing something. It is not that I regret my decision to leave – you have no idea how glad I am to be living with the wife at last – but there is definitely something missing as graduation season rolls in and I am, well, detached.

But mostly today was a day for extraneous thoughts, gratuitous thoughts toyed with and developed only to be let go of to flitter away carelessly to wherever it is excess thoughts go. I searched for a few monumental ideas – I may have found some for all I know – but I did not feel obliged to hold on to them. A few things stuck [see above, one through four], but not with any great intention. Today I felt filled with the frivolity of thinking, rolling it around in my mind, stumbling across a thought or two, letting a phrase or fragment straggle and stick [again see above]. But, by and large, today was a day for thinking, but not remembering.

Today I thought many things, perhaps tomorrow I will remember.

12 May 2006


Today I get to write about politics and language all at the same time, and of the ineptitude with which so many in the former approach the latter. I am not talking about a Bushian butchering of a word or two, or a Dan Quayle misspelling – insert “You say potatoe, I spell correctly” to the appropriate tune here. Today I write about a local political blog, one that seems to assert a reasonable amount of pressure in the area’s democratic politics. While it may, on many days, be a relatively valuable source of information and ideas, yesterday it crossed a line, one that the writer seemingly refuses to recognize, one that has perhaps broken new ground in the violation of tact.

**Note: This would perhaps be far easier to write about if I were to just link to the blog in question, but it seems ethically dubious to do so, thus I will not. Instead I shall muddle through the occasional convoluted sentence with all due determination, and hopefully you will bushwack through whatever grammatical thickets that may entangle my writing.

In the post in question this particular blogger continues his recurrent complaint about too many candidates not being on sites like MySpace. To solidify his point he reveals that a recent MySpace search has, in fact, found someone on MySpace with the same name as a candidate for the United States House of Representatives in our district, and this person on MySpace had committed suicide five years ago. Further, this blogger gives us a link to the page memorializing the deceased, and then proceeds to explain that it is ridiculous that:
when someone searches for XXXX in the busy world of MySpace, they won't find a way to send a donation or volunteer for the XXXX for Congress campaign. Instead, they'll find a touching memorial to a young man who killed himself three years ago.
At face value this post brings up two major questions: one analytical the other ethical.

First, the analytical: does this writer seriously consider MySpace to be a valuable and viable forum for politicians to get their message out. MySpace has emerged as a forum for adolescents, whose online variants for adults usually specialize in dating or cheating. While I agree with the writer that politicians are not adequately utilizing online media, one also must choose one’s online activities carefully. MySpace is a rather beleaguered site at the moment considering all of the problems with online sexual predation – I believe Dateline is up to its sixth episode on this topic. I don’t see this as a particularly useful arena for a politician at the moment, unless they are courting an op-ed piece in a local paper. Further, as I would say if I were actually on MySpace, “It is, like, so a year and a half ago. I mean, the only people there now are a bunch of dweebs and pervs.”

Secondly, there is the ethical issue. Suicide is tragic. Period, the end; whatever one’s moral position on suicide may be. While the writer’s point is made that the candidate in question does not have enough of an online presence – none of them do, tact and decency should win out and perhaps persuade him to choose another of the candidates to exemplify this. I have checked, and other candidates in the same race could have been used to illustrate this point. I have the feeling – and we will get to further evidence regarding this from his comments – that the writer could not help himself but to jump at the comparison to a dead person, and further to utilize the relation to the common phrase of “committing political suicide.” I understand these inclinations, but this blogger is, inevitably, taking advantage of this connection for his own rhetorical advantage. While he may not be intending to be disrespectful, publicly outing this person’s tragic death is not for this writer to do. [The fact that dead boy’s friend has publicly commemorated him does not expose him to the whims of the public domain.] There are myriad activities that are legal, but ought not to be done; this, sir, is one of them.

But, dear reader, it did not stop here. If this were all, I would have merely chalked it up to a misguided effort to encourage greater participation in the realm of online activity, a case of impeccable hindsight. But then I went on to the comments section following this post. Following his first rebuke from a reader, our problematic politico responded:
This other XXXX gave up his life three years ago. I think that a politician who is not only alive, but running for high public office, ought to have more media prominence than a dead man.

Maybe I'm making my point in stark terms, but I don't think it matters to the dead man. He's dead.

I'm more concerned with what the living and breathing XXXX is thinking about putting his name out in public. If he wants to be our nominee for Congress, his campaign needs to show more initiative.
When pressed again, he opines:
To that point: I'm not seeing either of you anonymous commenters writing anything on the substance.

I'd rather be in bad taste than be vapid.
And when another commentor, as someone who has lost someone to suicide, points out the problem of using this relationship – that is, the candidate and dead boy having the same name –our blog-master decides to muscle up with his personal experience instead of facing his problematic writing, responding:
I'd like to point out that YOU just used your brother's memory to score political points.

Do you think I don't have experience with suicide?

I have just as much experience with suicide as you do…
I may not be a professional rhetorician – nor do I play one on TV – but this, my readers, even I can see as problematic. While this blogger is imploring candidates to do better, he is unable to accept the possibility of being criticized himself. He is making the classic mistake of separating form and substance. He firmly believes that because his larger point has validity, his argument remains unimpeachable.

This, at last, leads me to my larger point – if it can be called one. Perhaps it is more of a reflection, or a musing. Anyway, language is, in many ways, substantive. Words are not merely words; they carry meaning, sometimes of great importance; they externalize hopes, needs, and desires; they attach to and produce actions; in extraordinary cases they can fundamentally change the world we live in. How we speak is essential to what we say. Why else would I labor over George Eliot’s prose – happily I might add – while eschewing the simple readerly pleasure of an airport novel? Why else do we recall the speeches of Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Kennedy, yet be unable to remember a single word Ford uttered? [Thankfully Kennedy chose not to go with, “Don’t ask what we can do for you, but what you can do for us.”]

I would not spend so much time on this particular event ordinarily – blogs are not always the centers of tact, writerliness, or wisdom one would hope them to be. But this seems to be emerging as a prominent issue in my thought and activity as of late: the question of how and why one speaks. This example also reflects the larger mode of political rhetoric in the wider public arena. It is a space where the most extreme example wins out, where perceived efficacy trumps reasoned appropriateness. The problem, in this case, is that this writer has a serious and valuable point to make, but making the point emphatically became more important than making the point well. Far too much of the world around us has become emphatic when, in fact, it is really rather boring. So this candidate is not on MySpace; yawn. Because this topic was important to our blogger, he felt compelled to make it interesting – perhaps some journalism lessons asserted themselves. Unfortunately not every topic is interesting, or at least emphatically so; and not all efforts to make them so are appropriate.

It reminds me of a question I received at one of my recent campus visits. I was asked -- I shall paraphrase: “With all the media and noise out there, how do young designers cut through it all to be heard?” I could have given a sexy answer involving faster computers, bigger toys, and enlarged phalluses, but, instead, I responded, “By having something to say.”

Perhaps I do not live in a world where that is enough, but I think it is a risk worth taking.

**Note: If you really wish to find the blog in question, it shouldn’t be too hard to do if you have any Google skills. To the writer in question, I apologize for taking quotations from your blog without citing you, but please see the note above concerning the reasons for doing so.

11 May 2006


Remind me to never complain about the depictions of men in advertising. Not because the images and concepts are not horrifying, but simply because they are, at least, not the depictions of women.

Today the wife came along with me to take care of a household chore. Not that this is such a rare occurrence; I am just trying to paint a picture here for you. So, as I was saying, today the wife came with me to take care of this familiar household chore. There was little else to do practically this afternoon – despite the crushing amounts of grading for her to do and the quantities of writing for me to dispatch – so off we went. While at the site of domestic preparation I encountered a pair of images that reminded me of a recent history that makes the Burger King “Manthem” commercial – which I so recently railed against – seem a veritable ERA promo. Today we went to the launderette.

There I found the remnants of bygone advertising – though not-surprisingly still in use. I have never actually seen anyone obtain their laundry soaps, softeners, or whatnots from one of these select-o-matics, but I suppose they are still restocked with all the modern conveniences – note that Fab is was nowhere to be found in this one. And of course, if laundry aids are to be sold, there must be a woman in Donna Reed attire to guarantee that the purchaser is buying the right thing. Surely a man wouldn’t know anything about laundry – heck even a woman in slacks is problematic [just remember that Mary Tyler Moore actually had to fight to wear Capri pants on the Dick Van Dyke show]. Then again, laundry is what women do – hence further confirming my need to figure out my proper gender assignation.

But this woman is from the fifties – or at least the perpetual depiction thereof that was held on to throughout the sixties and into the early seventies. Surely things have changed… But wait; what is this I see?

Here are the disposable laundry bags gladly displayed by the lovely Ms. Blonde. I, personally, have never seen anyone quite so happy about a bag full of laundry before, but then again I may be doing it all wrong. Heck I can’t even get my gender performance down properly, so I would assume I am doing everything incorrectly if I were you. I would estimate this woman to be of seventies vintage, but with the endless recycling of clip art one can never tell just when she showed up at this particular launderette. For all I know this machine was made and installed just before I moved here. Why should anyone come up with an original representation when it is so much easier to reuse a perfectly stereotypical one already in hand.

Actually, now that I think of it, I find it disturbing that this place is called a launderette – interchangeably a laundromat, but that is word for examination some other time when I am pissed off about modernism, automation, and the flying car the Jetson’s promised us but the world never delivered. But, back to the launderette, if we go to the handy-dandy dictionary widget – as I so frequently do – and look up the suffix –ette, we find:
suffix forming nouns:
1: denoting relatively small size: kitchenette
2: denoting an imitation or substitute: flannelette
3: denoting female gender: suffragette
I find it distressing that these three denotations are tied to the same suffix: that scale, value, and gender are wrapped so tightly together. It seems revealing, though, as a means of looking at the representations of women. While Burger King may tell me that I am not a real man, the force of –ette is that it demands that women not be real. –ette may have now jumped to the top of the list of my least favorite words, or at least induce me to actually start keeping a list thereof.

It is not so much that I am startled to find these representations at the launderette – or that the launderette is a launderette. I – along with you the reader, I assume – have understood these issues for years. But today it strikes me, as I am doing laundry, as particularly distressing. I wonder whether I – as the househusband – need to learn to adopt the postures and poses of these women of the launderette in order to properly fulfill my duties. I figure I could manage the hand gestures of the laundry aids sales-lady, but at this point I am not sure my hips could handle the laundry bag woman pose for more than a few seconds.

It always amazes me how culturally reliant we are upon stereotypes, and how willingly we still accept these uses and modes of speaking. I am not quite sure who I am referring to when I say we, especially since I am not sure what “we” I might belong to – some days I strongly consider petitioning to join some other species, perhaps the marmosets. But what has become evident over the past several days is that while I apparently am not a man, it seems equally obvious that I cannot be a woman.

Thus, I remain a man [provisionally] without a gender. I suppose I shall have to find some new pronouns. If anyone out there has some spare pronouns they wouldn’t mind loaning out, let me know.

10 May 2006


Dear readers...
Please pardon my lack of writing this evening; there is ever so much to do.

I promise I shall write extensively on the morrow.

It shall be right good.

09 May 2006


I knew I would pay recompense for last night’s disregard, for lightly dismissing concern for the sake of tea and bed. Today I feel doubly compelled to attain, to achieve something grand, but do not know exactly where to turn. My fingers feel fumbley, while the words themselves are tangled and muddled far before they find my fingertips. Today I am Mordecai:

with that mingling of inconsequence which belongs to us all, and not unhappily, since it saves us from many effects of mistake, Mordecai's confidence in the friend to come did not suffice to make him passive, and he tried expedients, pathetically humble, such as happened to be within his reach, for communicating something of himself. [see Daniel Deronda]

The words, as they race across the pathways feel like nothing more than expedients urging on possibilities, while, in fact, there is little to do but wait. I know this to be not true – or at least not quite so – but today the words, and the thoughts they perhaps correspond to, just do not come.

I suppose that is what I get for terminating last night’s line of thought, for rejecting the work offered for simpler – and more pleasurable --- delights. Now, those thoughts are gone and no new topics spring to mind, or fingertips. You might suggest that, despite my complaint, I am still here typing and, hence, have indeed found a topic. Heck, I am even quoting from George Eliot, but alas I fear I must insist otherwise. I am only stalling, filling time and space until I figure out what to write, looking from the bridge to the sunset for the figure it might bring.

Perhaps I am looking in the wrong direction, or for the wrong figure silhouetted against the sky. I have been thinking quite a bit about starting over, or at least looking in another direction. At the same time I sense how deeply engrained within me the belief that once one starts out on a path, one must see it through really is. Though, today I do not want to write a confessional – I don’t know if I ever do. I do not feel compelled to share the reasons for these feelings or beliefs, just as I doubt you would feel it necessary to read of them. Again, I am stalling, wading through the opacity of words tied up somewhere around my elbows.

Today I want a topic that matters, something grand and important. I pace the room interrogating the piles of accumulation strewn here and there looking for a theme to dislodge itself. Unfortunately the new words I find only reach the bottleneck of outgoing ideas already gathering in the environs of my elbows. They – the elbows that is – are actually feeling a might sore today, perhaps that is why I am fixating upon them.

Anyway. The new idea still is not coming. I could always pilfer from the latest New Yorker, or some unsuspecting blog. God knows I have pilfered inspiration before. I wouldn’t quite say I have gone all the way to plagiarism, but today I think I need to go it alone – whatever the hell that might mean. Today I am going to prove something to myself, even if it takes all day – and yes, again, the contradiction of struggling to do so publicly is not lost on me. If you haven’t noticed yet, I do not fear contradicting myself.

And still I stall. As you can clearly see, I am not procrastinating here. I am literally willing my fingers to form these words, pushing aside masses of clutter interfering with each coherent sentence. I am trying, folks, but still I cannot seem to lay claim to anything particularly worth saying. I suppose I could describe something or another, but I can’t imagine you really wanting to hear about the paperclip on the floor by my desk, the one I have been intermittently staring at without being able to bring myself to pick it up, the one next to the spare printer that is still sitting on the floor blocking the door from properly closing. It is a perfectly good paper clip, but I doubt you would want to hear about that.

It is not so much that I expect to write something that changes the world today, though I wouldn’t mind of course. But today, I feel that pressure for achievement, to say or do something of value, or at least something smart – whatever that might mean…

It is now hours later than when I typed the preceding ellipsis. I have done some work on other things, and I have taken a nap with the wife; I have even picked up the previously mentioned paperclip. I did a bit of work on some other projects and may have achieved something – though I cannot yet tell if what I have achieved counts as achievement. I am still a might tangled between those two elusive words.

I do not know for sure if the anxiety has abated now that I have done something, but I can tell you that the world is certainly intruding itself upon my consciousness this evening, that the recent blend of self-pity and self-loathing has little room to stretch its wings. I no longer feel myself as Mordecai – the need to clean the apartment overwhelms metaphysical considerations tonight. And now that the sun has set, there seems little likelihood of finding a future rowing toward Blackfriars Bridge. Perhaps today was not a day for grand things after all. Perhaps today is the day I tidy up the little things to make room for a grand new purchase. Perhaps tomorrow I shall do something large, while today is the day I put away the socks.