Thursday, September 30, 2004


I forgot about my Writing Underground meeting tonight. That makes two nights in a row that I've missed meetings out of sheer absentmindedness. It's a good thing I'm not doing this with my coursework.

Focus, Mastadge. Focus.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Punch-up at tomb of Jesus 

Fistfight at the Holy Sepulchre.

A little while ago I was asked about my wild sexual fantasies. I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint you. I have a few wild fantasies, but most of them aren’t sexual. What sexual fantasies I have don’t tend to be wild at all. In fact, they tend to be very sedate indeed, more along the lines of just being close to a woman: walking by her, aware of her presence, her scent, the brush of her hip, the pressure of her breast against my arm, that kind of thing. Or sleeping with a woman — not sex, just sleeping with her. Holding her. Being able to hold a conversation with her. Those are my sort of fantasies. So: sorry. No wild sexual fantasies to share, really.

Current mood: Lonely. Bored. Depressed. Somebody slap me out of it, please.


Went last night to see Maureen Fleming perform. Getting in to such performances for free is definitely one of the best things about being a student. Anyway, she's a Butoh dancer. Very powerful, deliberate movements. Maureen's apparently 50, looks like she's 30, and moves like she's, well, a contortionist. Wonderful, otherworldly performance, though I must say she's also very talented when it comes to not answering questions.

If you trust my judgment at all, or even if you don't, you must follow the link to read Paul Witcover's excellent story "Left of the Dial". Please read it.

Throat is still sore.

Work is mounting. The sharp stick in the eye is beginning to look preferable.

Today's quote, from Bruce Bethke's "It Came from the Slush Pile":

"What happened?" he demanded as he grabbed her roughly.

"You're hurting my roughly!" she cried.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Great Migration 

"Sirens" is now down. This week's music is "The Great Migration" from James Horner's The Land Before Time. LBT is one of Horner's most overlooked scores, although it seems to be in some demand now -- out of print, you're lucky if you can find a used copy for less than $50 or so. LBT was written shortly after Willow and in many ways is a great companion album; like Glory, Horner seems to have written it in the interim between his more aggressive early stuff (Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Krull, Aliens, Willow) and his more recent, sweeping style of Legends of the Fall (one of the finest scores ever written -- do yourself a favor and give it a listen), Braveheart, and Titanic. The music in LBT is playful, often almost whimsical, and frequently beautiful; the track I chose to put here is just the tip of the iceberg. If you ever have the chance to listen to the entire score, I heartily recommend you do so.

I, your friendly neighborhood Mastadge, have now gone more than a week without reading more than a couple pages for leisure. This is unprecedented, and frankly I'm not sure how much more of it I can take. I simply haven't had time to read, and when I've had the time, I haven't had the interest in looking at even more words on a page. This weekend I'm going to try to put aside a few hours to read through the new Star Wars book that comes out today, though.

I'm generally a very healthy person. Healthy, physically, anyway. I've got my suspicions when it comes to other things. But I've been aware for a while just how few fresh vegetables I've been eating. So last night, I had a salad instead of the disgusting greasy crap that's typically on the menu. And guess what? Today, I have a scratchy throat. Clearly this is a direct result of the change in diet. So, kids: whatever your parents say, don't eat your vegetables. They're bad for you.

My uncle built a sauna in his basement this summer. Pretty cool, huh?

I'm inordinately lonely these past few days. I don't understand why. Even being around friends isn't helping to satisfy the loneliness; just making it more acute somehow. Loneliness is one of my very least favorite conditions.

At least it's a beautiful day.

Monday, September 27, 2004

A beautiful day in the neighborhood. . . 

We've been having a tremendously beautiful Indian Summer going on here, despite that we didn't actually have any sort of real summer. The days tend to start off cold and misty, but the sun burns that off and soon it's hot and breezy and quite pleasant unless you're a fellow like me who sweats a lot and prefers the cold. As nice as the days are, though, the nights are much better. And last night was the best of the lot. The moon is waxing, almost full, but because of the terrain here most nights when I walk it's hidden behind trees or mountains or buildings. Last night, though, it was way up overhead, and it was bright. Brighter than I may ever have seen before. It was literally like walking in daylight -- an overcast day, maybe, but still. Wow. Of course, that in some ways defeated the purpose -- I love walking at night in part because of the depth of dark. But I thought it was worth note.

Last night the people with whom I went to Praha got together. It was nice, and the best part was the food. After all this commons eating, to have homemade garlic soup with homegrown parsely and garlic, then wonderful salmon with a dill sauce, a Czech potato salad (with edible flowers), homemade pastries, warm bread. Mmmmmmmmmm. Yummy.

And if anyone's interested, Matt Stover and R. Scott Bakker have been arguing over in this thread in the Dead Cities forum. Interesting discussion, n’est-çe pas? (I hope I got that right. . .it's been too long since I've taken any French. . .)

Quotes of the day:

"It is a language of beauty . . . There are many different ways to see something. Why should there not be a word for each? Imagine you wish to tell your lover she is beautiful. In your barbaric tongue you merely blunder and trip over your words. But in my language you will be able to tell in a thousand ways, all of them unique. If she is a woman of striking beauty and nothing more, tell her she is ahalailen. If you yearn to hold her, and walk with her beneath the moon, then she becomes detze w'haran. And if you adore her with a great, bursting passion you may wish to call her maye desse."
- I forget who said it. I'll have to get back to you.

"Terrorists! That's what the big army calls the little army!"
-Wolverine, Secret Wars (1984)

Now, back to work. And maybe in some small part of my mind wishing for a detze w'haran. Have a great day, everyone.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

In which Mastadge gets drunk. . . 

I love to walk, so the thought that my feet may end up deformed bothers me a bit. Between my parents, we’ve got bunyons, corns and gout. Don’t know whether any of that stuff is hereditary, but I do know I’m not interested in any sorts of painful growths and deformities on my toes, thank you very much.
I caught a glimpse of "paper" at a recent hi-tech trade show here in New York. By all appearances it's highly portable, and the exhibitors claimed it doesn't need an energy source to display text. I certainly didn't see one, but that would be so revolutionary there must be some hidden gimmick, like with those perpetual motion machines. (Come to think of it, the guy at one point admitted that you can't read paper in the dark, so maybe it's solar-powered?) I suspect it'll be a fad for a while, and then we'll forget about it, like we did with "shoes".
- Gabe M.
Yesterday stunk. Work, all day. In some situations, I don’t have a problem with that. I’ve worked 16+ hour days without breaks and been fine with that. But when I’m not interested in the work – when the work is mainly reading Virginia Woolf novels and Shakespeare criticism – it makes for a long, long day. I really should’ve read some Woolf before I enrolled in this darned class. I would’ve found out beforehand that she really isn’t for me, and would’ve taken a better class instead. Oh, well. So I woke up, made time to read the last 15 pages or so of Lucius Shepard’s novella Liar’s House -- the latest in his consistently excellent series of Griuale stories and short novels – and then, until about eleven pee em or so, it was nothing but reading stuff I really had no interest in reading. Well, except for an interlude during which we lofted my roommate’s bed.
This is the Christian Son of God Christ we're talking about here, who brings "not peace but a sword." Not the wussy Islamic "I'm just a prophet" Christ. The Christian Christ opens up cans of whoop-ass on tables and fig trees, and he's gearing up to kill billions of people who don't believe in him. Meanwhile, the Islamic Christ takes a backseat to Mohammad, who was a l33t desert Ninja warrior-prophet in his own right.
- Matthew C.
So, my roommate’s been insisting that I have to go out at least once this year. Doesn’t matter when, but I’m 21 now, we’re seniors – I have to go out at least once. Last night I decided to take him up on it. Now, those of you as know me know I’m not really the going out sort of person. I’m very anxious around people, I’m about one step above a teetotaler, I don’t like loud places – going out to bars and such is just not generally my idea of fun. In my three years of college, I’d been out once, in my sophomore year. Hadn’t enjoyed it at all. The place was too loud, too crowded, and I have a high alcohol tolerance so I didn’t get drunk enough to relax. Also I’ve got a very shy bladder, and the bathroom had enough traffic that my bladder stayed quite painfully full for a while. Not to mention the fact that I wasn’t yet 21 and I’m not a big fan of breaking the law, even when it’s stupid.

So I’d been out to the bars once; been drunk, never. Last night I went out, left shortly before midnight, and got drunk. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First came the whole Getting Dressed adventure. You see, I have here no casual clothes. I’ve my everyday bumwear, and then I’ve got my churchwear. So I ended up in my roommate’s clothes. By some miracle, despite that I’m taller fatter and heavier than him, they fit. And, for the first time in at least thirteen years, I wore jeans.

But getting back to the bars: How drunk did I get? Can’t really say, as I don’t have anything to compare it to. But I was drunk enough, briefly, to relax enough to—I was going to say to dance, but honestly what I did was more to make a travesty of dancing than actually to dance. In terms of getting drinks, I think I was actually doing better than the girls. Tim bought me a couple shots, “not as a gay thing, but to help you get drunk.” Owen bought me a drink for “not having a drink the whole time we were in Prague.” And so it went. As for people . . . Loren was very surprised to see me at a bar; what surprised me was that he recognized me. We had a class together once, two years ago, and to my recollection never had so much as a conversation. Fran remembered me too—same deal. And some guy named Gabriel (“like the archangel”) said he could see in my eyes that I was a genius and wouldn’t shut up about it. I also bumped into Steve, which is always pleasant. This floor was much more interesting when he lived here.

Having never before been drunk before, it was an interesting state to be in. I was moving more slowly and clumsily than usual; my comprehension time was down by a little less than a second; I was talking a bit more than usual and saying some relatively nonsensical things; my situational awareness and peripheral focus were way down; and I fear that for a moment my inhibition against staring at womens’ breasts fled as well, until I realized it was gone and returned my gaze thenceforth to eye level. What surprised me was that I was aware of all this happening as it was happening; even while I was being a fool on one level, on another I was actively cataloguing the changes I was noticing in myself. It was also interesting watching the others get progressively more drunk, as I don’t tend to be around drunk people. Watching how their behavior, their complexion, their posture and carriage and attitudes changed over the course of the night.

Toward the end of the night, Jamie started having a little trouble remaining upright. I first noticed this when she stumbled backward into a chair (“You saw that?” ); later she started going over backward a few more times, so I positioned myself where I could steady her with a hand to the back when she started to lost balance, and before long she was competent to stand and walk unassisted again.

On the whole this was a lot more enjoyable than my last night out. The places we went weren’t nearly so crowded, and on the whole I was just more comfortable. We got back here a bit after three, I got to sleep around four, woke up around seven, and the rest is history. I guess I should really get back to Woolf and Shakespeare now.

Have a great day, everyone.

EDIT: "you looked druuuuunk last night . . . just... not like yourself . . . congrats"

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Stuff and other stuff. . . 

"What are you, a walking dictionary?" - Professor Cody
To seemingly everyone's surprise but my own, Patrick Doyle has been hired to write the score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Obviously this has all the John Williams fanboys worried, but I've been championing Doyle for several years -- he's one of my favorite film composers, and I expressed my desire for him to write for Harry Potter a couple years ago. Anyone who doubts his ability to write for this genre need only listen to his wonderful score for A Little Princess. So yes, I'm well pleased. Maybe this assignment will finally get him some of the popularity he so justly deserves.
"Do you know how to drive?"
"I know how to drive. Why do you ask?"
"Because you look like the kind of person who would like to walk."
The most fun I think I’ve ever had in a college course must have been in my planetology course. First of all, the professor, Eric Johnson, is a very funny friendly guy. Second, the table I was at was awesome: Wyatt and Eric and a couple others. Near the end of the course, every table/group had to do a project; most people made boring videos and so forth. Not us. We had to be sure to outdo everyone else. We decided we’d make a video of the whole history of the solar system. For the birth of the sun, we filled a balloon with hydrogen and introduced it to a blowtorch, but that was a wussy little explosion that could hardly be seen on the camera. So we went to two balloons. Still pretty wussy. Soon we got impatient. Got out the duct tape. Attached probably two dozen gas-filled balloons together. WHOOOMPH! We nearly lost our eyebrows, and the camera. But the effect was cool, and let me tell you none else had a giant explosion in their project. For the asteroid belt, we got footage from a high-res video game. For some reason I can’t recall, we had a talking skeleton. Yes, we rigged up an articulated skeleton with very thin string and had a talking skeleton in our video. Other goodies in the presentation include but are not limited to: Us getting to hit Eric repeatedly over the head as he spun on a swivel stool; a melon being dropped out of a window; yours truly being covered in melon pulverized from a high-speed impact with an iron bar; the fragments of that same melon being duct-taped back together; toilets; hula hoops; a hose spraying water at high velocity at a group member hiding behind an umbrella (representing magnetic fields protecting the earth from radiation or some such); weird funky dances representing seismic shocks; and more. Yessir, that class was a good time.
"I don't think you're gay." - Sally
It’s occasionally quite bothersome that the rest of me cannot keep up with my mind. Which is not to say that my mind is particularly quick – it’s not – maybe fair to middlin’, I’d say. But the rest of me is rather slow. In speech, I tend to immediately form relatively eloquent, interesting sentences –- but my mouth can’t keep up with them, and I end up stumbling and managing quite inarticulately to bumble out some half-witted phrase. When it comes to movement, I often know what to do to pick something up or manipulate it smoothly and efficiently, but my muscles fumble the attempt, and I end up a graceless klutz. My reflexes and reaction times tend to be quite on the slow side, despite that I see things coming and know how I should react in plenty of time. It’s sometimes a frustrating state to be in, and sometimes too I end up wondering whether my body is really that much slower than my mind, or whether the slowness is the result of some weird kind of self inhibition. If the former, why don’t I get used to it? Why do I constantly think I’ll be able to keep up with myself when I nearly never do? If the latter, what do I need to do to get over it? Maybe it has to do with something odd I've noticed about myself: I’m always sure I can do anything, that I’m up to tackling any challenge – yet I’m equally certain that I’ll fail in anything and everything I do. Go figure.

Friday, September 24, 2004

I'm what to the where now? 

You're Laurel Gand, Andromeda!

Which Legionnaire are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Cat and music. 

If you've missplaced a long-haired tortoiseshell cat with a red flea collar, a cat that despite being pretty pissed off about being out in the dewy grass is pretty affectionate and given a couple minutes of coercion willing to come over and be stroked, then head on over to New Res, because your cat's hanging out in front of NR1.

What am I listening to now while I do my work? Dukas' "The Sorcerer's Apprentic" and Camille Saint-Saëns' "Danse Macabre" and Joseph LoDuca's "Building the Deathcoaster". Which one doesn't belong?

What do I want to be listening to, and am pretty annoyed to have left at home? Mahler's Eighth Symphony. When it comes to Beethoven and Dvo?ák, I prefer their Seventh and Ninth Symphonies, but with Mahler it's numbers Two and Eight. Mahler's Eighth. The Symphony of a Thousand. It's massive and beautiful. If you haven't heard it, you must.

I'm also kinda bummed that I left my collection of Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras, or even worse some of his later Chôros. Brought most of the scores I wanted with me, but forgot almost all my classics at home.

Back to work. More tonight, I hope, if I have time.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


The Conan music is down. This week's clip is "Sirens" from Harry Gregson-Williams' Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. This score is a whole lot of fun, buckles a good seven out of every ten swashes (as compared to 9 for, say, Cutthroat Island -- which actually loses a point for being too bombastic), and gets quite a lot of play -- but for the most part, it's not very innovative. Fun, but not terribly classy. "Sirens" is an exception. This cue is, according to Jonathan Broxton, "a uniquely breathy, almost orgasmic ballad of seduction and peril. Cleverly, the vocals grow more insistent as the cue wears on, continually calling to the unwary sailor, while the orchestral performance becomes wilder, and more ragged, as if trying to resist the sirens charms." A great track. I like it a lot.

Harry Gregson-Williams has been a very hit-or-miss composer so far. He's done some great stuff, especially in collaboration with John Powell (Chicken Run, etc.), but he's also done some very mediocre stuff and some complete MV garbage. However, he's been signed to score the upcoming film The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and his Sinbad score proves that he's up to it.

Don't have time to write much tonight. Busybusybusy. I have, however, had a topical request from a reader. Addressed to "Mastadge, My Beloved..." she wants to know "about the girl Mastadge fantasizes about. What would the perfect woman for him be like? Wild sexual fantasies?" I wonder: dare I oblige her?

Monday, September 20, 2004

The Third Side of the Coin 

I’m going to keep this short today, for a very simple reason: there’s a blog entry more eminently worth reading than anything I’d say. This one:
Sexism is not a women's issue, it's not a men's issue--it's a human issue. And to list all the things that men have going for them that women don't is to ignore that the gender system is just as harmful to them as it is to us. The line that men must walk in order to be considered men is as tight a rope as the one we walk in order not to be considered objects. It's this kind of separation that keeps us from transcending such a system in the first place. We should be banding together to say "fuck all of this." Instead we snipe at each other and draw lines in the playground sand.
Click the link above for the rest.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Lord Byron's Novel 

Hmm. Wandering girl was wandering again today. I was sitting outside, doing my work, and she must've gone back and forth past me at least five or six times. If she's still wandering next weekend maybe I'll ask her why she's wandering, seeing as it doesn't seem to be wandering so much as walking back and forth, again and again. Maybe she just enjoys the little hike? Maybe she's looking for someone? Who knows?

I read in that spot a lot, when the bench isn't wet and it's not too windy. Of course, while I'm there I tend to read very slowly. At first, the glare of the sun off the pages is a little harsh, but once my eyes grow accustomed to it, there's still the beautiful view to keep me occupied, not to mention the people passing by. I'm sure I've before mentioned that I love watching people. Though I don't like being watched, so I guess I should watch it.

In the literary world, it's been announced that John Crowley's turned in his next novel, America: Lord Byron's Novel. For those who don't know, Crowley is one of America's very best prose artists. His Little, Big is a veritable classic, and his collection of short fiction that just came out, Novelties and Souvenirs, is tremendous despite the terribly boring cover. Crowley talks a little about this new novel in this interview:
I’m just finishing a novel which could be described as being about Byron, but which is actually odder, or more impertinent, than that: it is a novel by Byron. I’ve always loved Byron -- I once wrote a play about Byron and Shelley, and a story told by Byron is in my new collection of stories called Novelties and Souvenirs. I love his letters and diaries -- more than his poetry. I’ve always wished he’d written a novel -- it would have been great. So now he has.
Read the rest of the interview, too. And then go and read some of his books while they're still in print (at least three of them, in fact, aren't -- and two of those are nigh impossible to find. Morrow: reprint the first two volumes of the Ægypt tetralogy NOW, please.).

Lucius Shepard's huge new anthology Trujillo has also finally come out, and I can't wait until I have the time to dig in. I've also finally managed to track down a copy of E.R. Eddison's Zimiamvia trilogy, the follow-up to his The Worm Ouroboros. I've been holding off reading Worm because only the first in the trilogy has been in print, but this summer I'm definitely going to make the time to go through all four of them.

Craig's parents came up yesterday, so we now have a TV (which means it's now on a goodly bit of the time, which is unfortunate as far as I'm concerned, but hey -- Craig uses it to break up his work, and as he tends to work a good bit more, and more diligently, than I do, I'm certainly not going to complain.). We also now have the carpet, the fridge, and a chair that isn't painful to sit in. Plus some of his mom's chocolate chip cookies. I also finally got to meet one of his sisters, who's, as it turns out, an ornithologist.

This evening I went down and saw Steve and Maryann and all of them. Turns out one of my next-door neighbours from last years is living in their house, and seeing as I never actually met her last year I finally learned her name this year. I also met their two new kittens, which were very amusing until one of them threw up and then rolled in it. (My cat, Sheba, must be the coolest damn cat in the world, though. I miss her.) (And dammit, it sucks trying to right "though" when your G and H keys aren't working.) While down there, we all watched Eurotrip, a rather unfunny comedy with a couple funny moments, and one of the worst endings I've ever seen. Michelle Trachtenberg was in it; I'm one of the few people in the world who liked her character Dawn in Buffy, and she's got a pretty face, but for goodness' sake, somebody feed her! In one scene she strips off her shirt and ends up in a tiny bikini, and her ribs -- ugh -- I'd be afraid to touch her for fear of (1) breaking her or (2) my fingers getting stuck in between those ribs (not to mention my own discomfiture when it comes to intimacy, particularly of the physical variety -- but we're not going to get into that here). Yet another young woman who might be really attractive if she'd put on twenty pounds or so.

Well, I've droned on here long enough. I need to go finish my work. I was supposed to read Uncle Tom's Cabin this weekend but between German and Woolf didn't have time. But it's only been fifteen months or so since I've read it so I'll flip through it before class and should be fine. Anyway, until next time!

Pirates and perfumes! Arrghh! Avast! Euughh! 

Disclaimer: my keyboard's crapping out and the G and H keys are dying. So there may be some spelling mistakes in here.


I dislike perfumes. Don't know why, exactly, but they bother me. My clothes always smell like whatever perfume is in the detergent (until they start smelling like me! I'll leave it to you to decide which is the more malodorous!), and it bothers me (note to self: check to see how expensive unscented laundry detergent is). I wear only unscented deodorants, because deodorant perfumes drive me nuts. In a bad way. (Of course, I naturally sweat a lot, so how effective even the most powerful antiperspirant deodorant is is anyone's guess.) I prefer unscented soaps and shampoos, and don't wear cologne. And when a woman is wearing anything more than the most mild of perfumes, it's a giant turn-off. Which is odd because I don't tend to mind smells. I don't mind smelling a flower, and I don't mind the smell of cut grass, or the garage-smell of gasoline, or the smell of mold in the forest. I don't mind the smell of people -- in fact, on the whole I generally prefer human-smell when it's not covered up by perfumes. I like barn smells, and beach smells (excepting those times when something particularly rotten has washed up), and storm smells and desert smells. Don't tend to like city smells, though. Cities tend to smell rotten in an unnatural way. Especially in enclosed spaces like subways and so forth. Right. So there you have it. Smells.

Now, it being pirate day or some such, I thought I'd talk a bit about, y'know, pirates. Maybe give the old piratey misconceptions rant. The first big misconception about pirates is that the captain ruled with an iron hand. Generally, the captain commanded only once an attack had begun. The rest of the time, everything was decided by a simply majority vote (hear that, Iraq: even the pirates had a democracy! Get with the program!). Even the captain was chosen by a vote. The closest pirates had to a commander was the quartermaster, also chosen by vote, who was in charge of supplies and dividing the loot, as well as settling disputes. Loot was shared equally by all, except the captain and quartermaster got two shares.

Pirates also tended to be very loyal to other pirates, not just to their own crew. At least among the Caribbean pirates, they didn't cheat each other, didn't steal from other pirates and didn't hide treasure from each other -- being caught doing this would get you marooned. They also made sure pirates injured during attacks got extra pay.

There wasn't buried treasure. Anything gained was quickly spent on drink and women.

Oh, and there was no walking the plank. They'd either kill prisoners or demand a ransom.

If a ship surrendered to them, they were usually gentle for the time . . . torture was sometimes used, but that was common for the time period. They wouldn't kill those who surrendered. They wouldn't steal from the private passangers, just the ship in general. Doing this encouraged people to surrender. When they didn't, the pirates showed no mercy and killed everyone on board. Some ships forbade rape, others didn't. How violent they were depended on the crew and the agreement they made when they came on board.

Pffft. I need to go read a bunch of The Voyage Out.

Friday, September 17, 2004


Rate your professors!

We're finally getting the effects of some hurricane or other up here. A beautiful rainy day, though a little humid for my tastes despite the rain. It's finally beginning to cool off, which is good.

All of my classes were cancelled today, which was nice, but left me bored. I read the sixth Lucifer collection, Mansions of the Silence, which kicked my ass just as much as the previous volumes. This story is awesome, and if you're not reading it, you should be.

I'm also still reading Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, which are both very good. Haven't had much time to read recently thanks to coursework and all.

Trying to figure out what to do after school. Go to grad school? Law school? Get an internship somewhere? Join the Peace Corps? Become a dentist? Anyone with any suggestions, let me know.

Day before yesterday I managed to do quite a number on my left knee. For the past couple days it's hurt to walk, and I've occasionally been limping, but it seems to have healed now. Not that I'm using it much; not doing much walking, considering the rain and all. I wish I had a sword up here, as it's tremendously helpful to me having a sword to swing around. Not only does it keep my upper body in almost reasonable shape, but it just helps me to calm down and focus and fret less. Sticks are no substitute. Also wish I had my dog up here. But on the whole, while the dog might be more fun, I think the sword might be more useful -- and practical. The dog eats a lot.

I saw that girl that I almost kind of ate lunch with the other day today, but only in passing. Said Hi but nothing else. I wonder if I happen upon her in a circumstance that doesn't involve cold raindrops falling upon our umbrellaless heads whether I'll have the balls to actually talk to her. I also wonder why I'm so fixated on her over such a stupid thing. It tends to happen, though, that when I get a thing into my head, it doesn't leave my head until I'm convinced I've resolved it one way or another. Like I still feel bad about that darned chipmunk I ran over in Maine more'n two weeks ago.

Tonight I watched Unforgiven again. The first time I saw it, I didn't much care for it. Thought it was boring. Now, I think it's a truly tremendous movie, one of my favorites -- though not one I watch frequently. It's a powerful, honest movie, and even if you don't watch many movies, and even if you don't think you like westerns, you should definitely watch it. Definitely, definitely I say.

"Hell of a thing, killin' a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have."
"Yeah, well, I guess he had it comin'."
"We all got it comin', kid."


I do believe, my friends, that I am seven kinds of damned moron.

On the other hand, I have now actually met one of my next-door neighbours, which is an improvement over the past couple years.

Bee Tee Dubya, anyone interested in seeing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow?

Thursday, September 16, 2004


I was walking tonight (now there's a surprise, huh?) when I noticed a light around which were at least six large spiders. Not very spread out, either; all six had their webs within a cubic foot or so. This is odd; spiders tend to be territorial and don't put up with such shenanigans. I guess the light attracts enough insects to keep them all happy. . .

There are still plenty of deer about this year, but I've seen far fewer skunks, rabbits and foxes than in previous years.

And I'm tired and a little depressed so I'm going to bed.

L'shanah tovah, chaverim.

Lost Nukes and Immortal Souls 

A lost nuke may have been found off the coast of Georgia. Could it be the nuke that didn't go off in Korea recently?

And now for some ever astute and amusing political commentary from Nick Mamatas:
Now that the sheen is off the fake hand-off to the local puppet government, it is once again safe to be against the Iraq war. Kerry, the pro-war hopeful back during the nomination process is now claiming to be against the war, despite voting for it. You see, he didn't vote for the war, but only for the authorization of force. This is much like voting for holding a watermelon out the window and giving permission to let go of the watermelon at any time, but being against it hitting the sidewalk.
Follow this link for the rest. (Of course, "The Medium Lobster urges courage, for the longer the US military remains bogged down in this desperate debacle, the safer America will be. After all, with all these terrorists in another country far away, it is inconceivable that there would be any left to strike at the United States.")

I've been doing a little wondering lately about souls. Specifically: what the heck is a soul. It's been years since I've done any reading about souls, and even then there wasn't much that I could find to read, but I seem to recall (and my recollections may be entirely off, especially since I have none of my books here with me to back me up) that the whole idea of the "immortal soul" comes from the Greeks (Aristotle?) and that there's precious little about souls in the Bible itself. In fact, I'm not sure there is a definitive or authoritative definition of just what a soul is. The common view seems to be that it's a conscious entity, the anima, the thing that animates the flesh, the pure humanity that is weakened by the flesh, and when the flesh dies this soul thing flies off to Heaven or Hell or wherever. But I've also read other ideas, that the soul is not conscious when distinct from the body, that after the body dies the soul just goes into a sort of non-existence until it's reunited with the body for Judgment, and so on. I wish I had my Bible here with me so I could go through and see exactly what it has to say about souls, but I don't -- but the whole concept of the soul intrigues me. I'm not even sure that I believe such a thing as a "soul" exists, although there are some experiences I've had for which I'd have a hard time accounting barring a thing like a soul.

And in that That Really Sucks category, a choice no parent should ever have to make.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Theology/Civilization and Recovery 

1) Today I went from feeling like a wretched turdmonkey most of the day to feeling pretty good about myself. I may elaborate tomorrow, or I may not.

2) There's some footage from the upcoming Robert Rodriguez/Frank Miller movie Sin City online. Click on the link to check it out. I may talk a little about it tomorrow, or I may not.

3) Over the past week I've watched Alex Proyas' film Garage Days. He made it after The Crow and Dark City and before I, Robot (which I still haven't seen). It's a departure for him from his usual dark sci-fi flicks; a return, apparently, to his Australian garage band roots. It's a decent comedy, surprisingly fun and warm-hearted though it doesn't break any new ground, but even if you've got no interest in the subject matter, watch it for the tremendously beautiful cinematography. But don't look at the case; on the American release at least, they have, in typically boneheaded fashion, spoiled the ending in the tagline. Morons. Even so, I recommend this one.

4) "The Road to Masada" is now down. If you really need to hear it, let me know and we'll work something out. Next up, a couple short cues from Basil Poledouris' Conan the Barbarian -- which is, without a doubt, my favorite film score. Say what you will about the movie, but the score is absolutely first rate. Beautiful and brutal, it's an operatic tone-poem -- and if a score could have muscles, this would be it. Surprisingly (since I tend to love loud, bombastic, frenetic scores), some of my favorite pieces are the quieter bits. "Theology/Civilization" is a piece of music I've wanted to skate to for more than five years now, but my footwork's not equal to the music, and besides, I haven't anyone to dance with. Maybe someday. "Recovery" is a piece that appeals to me tremendously for some reason. I don't know why, but I can repeat it for an hour and not get sick of it. It's from the scene in the movie after Conan's been crucified, left for dead and resuscitated by his friends. Anyway, these'll be up for a week or so; if you have problems downloading them, be sure to let me know.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Master of Social Ineptitude: A Practical Example. Plus: Mushroom Clouds and Ret-Slavery 

I went into the commons today for lunch. My usual seat in the booths was taken; all the booths, in fact, were full, so after a quick glance to see if there was anyone I knew to sit with—there wasn’t that I noticed—I turned and looked elsewhere for seating. There was a pretty large table empty, so I pulled out a chair, sat down, and started eating. A minute or so later, a girl came over, asked if I minded if she sat at that table, too. Not at all, I said. She smiled, sat down to my right, one seat between us. A minute passed. Oh, crap, I started thinking. I’m supposed to say something. My name’s Nathan, I said. Her look said: It’s about time, I was getting nervous. She said, I’m Rachel. Hey, that’s my sister’s name. Or maybe It’s nice to meet you. Or, That’s a pretty name. No, probably best to start with Nice to meet you. Damn, I’ve been trying to come up with a response for so long anything I say’ll sound forced and awkward. Silence. So, what do people say? How does this whole getting to know you stuff work? Damn, I feel stupid, and I’ll bet she’s feeling pretty awkward ‘bout now herself. More time passes as we eat. We engaged in that nervous glancing at each other, then pretending like we weren’t and glancing anywhere but at each other business. Beginning to feel like an utter fucktard, I came out with the standard question she’d probably heard from everyone she’s met over the past week: What year are you? Freshman, and you? I’m a senior. She chuckled nervously. Okay, now what do I do with this new bit of information? How the heck do I turn interest and curiosity into a conversation? More silence. Damnit, Nathan: Say something! I replied to myself: . . . . OK, she’s a freshman. Where does this conversation, if conversation it can truly be called, go from here? I know how I’d write this damned scene, but how do I speak it? Crap. Ummmmm. . . Is it what you were expecting? D’oh! Stupid question, but too late to say anything else. Surprised, it seems, that I’ve finally spoken: Excuse me? School – is it what you expected it to be? Yeah, pretty much. I was going to go to [some other school], so it’s quite a bit cooler here. I smiled, not sure how to respond. More silence. Nathan, you moron. You’ve held conversations with people before. I’ve seen you do it. I know you can do it. – Yes, but those were all with people I already knew. Face it: I have no clue what to say.

And so on. I managed to awkwardly establish that I’m an English major, find out that she’s majoring in Business Management and wants to go into Real Estate, and trade a few words about an unidentifiable bit of food before she made up some excuse about having to get to a class and got out of there. Of course, the class thing seems a prevarication, an excuse to get away from the creepy upperclassman, seeing as after I was done I headed over to Miller and saw her on her way to New Res. Not that I blame her. Goodness, but being extremely shy and even more socially impaired can be a pain.

Moving on.

Several times over the past few years I’ve heard crap about "Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome" – usually either in the context of the Black Panthers or someone defending their hatred of white people, or of black people trying to excuse various crimes. Some guy beats his infant son to death, and it's somehow the "white man’s" fault. The root cause is slavery, they say. Boo-frickin’-hoo for people whose ancestors were slaves, but slavery ended in America almost 140 years ago. If you’re being discriminated against on account of your skin color, that’s wrong, but using something that happened to an ancestor a century and a half ago is ridiculous. Heck, my skin’s white and my ancestor was a slave more recently than any of these “PTSS” peoples’ ancestors were slaves. The sins of the father aren’t held against the offspring, and sins against the father aren’t any excuse for the offspring. Seriously, if you’re going to hate me, hate me because I’m an asshole and your scorn is my just desert, not because some of my ancestors may have enslaved some of your ancestors. And if you commit a crime, it’s your fault and your responsibility and has nothing at all to do with what happened to your great-great-grandfather.

By the way, check out the Black Panthers’ ten point plan. Newsflash, fellows: you can’t get something for nothing. A lot of people have a hard life. A lot of peoples’ ancestors had hard lives. Life will always be hard, and some people will always be getting the raw deal. It sucks, but it's the way things are.

Eh. In other news, Colin Powell says that Thursday’s four-kilometer mushroom cloud in North Korea was “not any kind of nuclear event.” It’s a giant friggin’ mushroom cloud. Who cares whether or not its trigger was nuclear?

New York Times
The Australian
Chicago Tribune
LA Times

Yeah. Now, here's a picture of my Caleb at about eight months and 85 lbs. He'll probably be between 130 and 150 when he's grown:

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Last night I was at the CA picnic when one of my fellow CA-ers introduced us to a song we were sure not to know. I was very sure indeed that I would not know it, as I know very very few of the songs we sing, not having been exposed to any of them at all until less than a year ago, so imagine my surprise when—I did know it! Every word (well, not quite; the version I know is gender-neutral and has a couple differences in tense, but that’s trivial). I’d been singing it in shul years, ever since the service at my synagogues was a bit English-ified for the Ivrit impaired. Interesting, huh? Or maybe just to me.

At that picnic there was also volleyball. I hadn’t played volleyball in at least six or seven years, and my ballistic coordination wasn’t up to the task. I fired my first and only serve directly into the net. Good one, Nathan. But I did manage to hit a whiffleball a couple times with a giant stick.

Today, as I was sitting outside enjoying the weather and trying to enjoy the Virginia Woolf book I’m currently working on, I noticed a girl walking by, then walking by again, then walking by again. Passed me at least three times within fifteen minutes. This caught my attention for two reasons. One, I recognized her as one of the (few) people who had been in the commons when it opened on Wednesday (actually, there have been more people than usual in the commons early this year, most of them freshmen—I bet the numbers will go down soon); I remembered that only because on that morning she had looked troubled enough that my Go Try To Get Her Tale Of Woe Out Of Her instinct had kicked in almost powerfully enough to overcome my innate and supreme wussiness that prevents me at all times and in the vast majority of situations from approaching people and especially girls and especially girls that I don’t know. Anyway, today she passed by several times in few minutes, so I kept an eye on her, and she was indeed wandering seemingly at random. This intrigued me; for the past three years, I myself have been the resident Random Wanderer on Campus. People who don’t know me tell me, when I’m introduced to them, one of two things: either, “You’re the guy who never wears a jacket in winter. Don’t you get cold?” or “Yeah, I’ve seen you wandering around campus.” So if it turns out that there’s another random wanderer around now, I guess I’ll have competition. Except I’m not a competitive person, so I guess I’ll just have company. Of sorts.

Today too I was working on my family tree when I found an Allston who married into the family quite a while ago. I have no idea how common a name Allston is, but it’s one I’ve only ever seen once before, so I’m thinking of shooting Aaron Allston an e-mail asking if he has any idea whether this person is an ancestor of his. It’s a long shot, but I think it would be fairly interesting in a puerile fanboyish way to find a branch of the family that relates me however distantly to him. Plus if he was related and anyone in his family has any kind of genealogical records or notes, it could help to fill in some gaps in my own records. So, is it worth a shot, or should I just leave the man in peace?

Oy. And it’s getting to the time of year where the insects and arachnids start migrating toward the warmth – which is to say, inside. I’m getting sick of pulling spiders off my bed, though I’m far from ungrateful that they’re mostly so far daddy long-legs and little jumping spiders rather than those bulky hairy fast critters that you really don’t want biting you.

Out of curiosity – has anyone else tried to download that .mp3 I put up the other day? Has it worked for anyone?

Bookstore Horror Stories. 

Read 'em and laugh. Or weep.
On one of my first days working at Barnes and Noble, a woman and her husband approached the information desk, and said very quietly, "That man is exposing himself to me." She was gesturing at a man sitting in one of the easy chairs that litter the store. The man was wearing spandex jogging gear and had an unfastened fanny pak on the floor at his side. He was holding a magazine against his lap in an 'I'm naked under this magazine and I probably won't buy it so you're gonna have to put away a magazine I touched with my dick' manner, and staring straight at us when I looked over. Not knowing what to do, I told the couple that I would take care of it and approached the general vicinity of the accused flasher to straighten the shelves in a 'I know your dick is touching that magazine' manner. He became visibly nervous, so I left him alone for a minute to 'pack up.' When I returned, he was gone, and the magazine lay on the chair for me to put away.
There are plenty more. Just follow the link.

Also, head on over to Catherynne M. Valente's LJ:
Look at us. We are not Lost, we are not the Greatest, we are not Boomers, we are not X, we are not Y. Look at us, look at the twenty-somethings with hands shoved into our pockets, grunting noncommittally at a world we still cannot affect. We are grown up, we have come of age, and nothing has changed. We do not make eye contact; we do not form ties that bind. We are not shocked, we are never appalled. We believed as many as six impossible disasters before breakfast—what is another, and another, and another? We pride ourselves on our disillusion, we navel-gaze because our navels have never betrayed us, we mock everything with sardonic gesticulations practiced in front of the mirror each evening. We stand apart, because apart is all we know, all we trust. If we stand apart, we cannot be implicated, we cannot be hunted, we cannot be found.
Click on the link for the rest.

Saturday, September 11, 2004


People have been trying to come up with a good nickname for me for several years. None has stuck. I prefer Nathan, though many call me Nate and that doesn't particularly bother me. Online, I usually go by Mastadge, but that's not a nickname, really. Now, though, I finally seem to have a legitimate nickname. This summer, my brother, for reasons too asinine to describe here, started calling me a Mean Fish. And it seems, for some reason I can't imagine, to have stuck. So: if you need a nickname for me, there it is. Mean Fish.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

"You're always so "Nathan." I wonder what such a state of mind feels like."
-- Professor Navarette

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

The Road to Masada 

As many of you know, I enjoy movie scores. I've decided that once a week or so I'm going to put up an .mp3 of a track that I find significant or pleasant or whatever. I don't have much webspace, so each week when I put up the new one I'll have to take down the old, so if you're interested, listen promptly.

The first one I'm putting up is Track 4 from Jerry Goldsmith's Masada (1981), entitled The Road to Masada. Masada was a TV miniseries, based I think on the novel which in turn was based on the actual events. If you don't know what happened at Masada, stop reading my blog and go do some research. The short version is: The Jews were besieged atop a Masada by the Romans. The siege went on and on, the Romans built a giant ramp, and when they finally got up the mountain, the Jews committed suicide rather than be killed. I would have instead fought and tried to take some of the Romans with me, but had they done that I guess this would have been forgotten as yet another battle lost to the Romans rather than take on the tragic, almost mythical martyrdom aspect it's now got. Anyway, apparently Goldsmith had long wanted the opportunity to score a film about this event, and it shows -- "The Road to Masada" is one of the catchiest marches he ever wrote. Very fun, memorable, energetic music. It's too bad the CD is oop and so hard to find.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The Modern Word 

I'd just like to take this opportunity to plug an outstanding little website called The Modern Word. I visit it fairly frequently just to see what's new; it's very interesting and very useful and more people should visit it. Even if for no other reason than to check out their daily-changing literary quote, you should head on over at least once a day.

Today was the first day of classes. I'm taking a seminar on Virginia Woolf, whom I've never before read -- that is, in fact, the main reason I enrolled. I'm also taking a course on New England Women Writers, a course on 17th Century English Lit, and Austro-German Culture in preparation for my trip to Vienna in January. The Woolf course especially has a ton of reading.

So what books have I got for these courses?

In the Woolf class, we're obviously reading a lot of Woolf: The Voyage Out, Jacob's Room, Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, A Room of One's Own, Three Guineas, and Between the Acts. For the 17th century course there is The Tempest, an anthology of poetry, and of course Paradise Lost, which may very well be the single greatest work yet composed in the English language. For Austro-German there is (Part 1 only) of Goethe's magnificent Faust, although a different translation than the one I've read; the romance The Nibelungenlied, which I've been meaning to read for several years, The Adventures of a Simpleton, and Witiko, which was translated by my professor. For NE Women there're the usual suspects: Dickinson, Beecher Stowe, Perkins Gilman, etc, plus several others. The teacher of that class is a great guy with a knack for finding good stuff. He's also one of the few English professors here who not only doesn't scoff at SFF but actually teaches courses on it.

While we're on the subject of books, here're the books I brought up for leisure reading (obviously I'll not have time for even half of them, but I like to have a good selection from which to choose):

"I Will Fight No More Forever" - Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce War by Merrill D. Beal
Nights at the Circus by Angela Carter
The Tyrant by Michael Cisco
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Gift of Stones by Jim Crace
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Chess Garden; or, The Twilight Letters of Gustav Uyterhoeven by Brooks Hansen
The Course of the Heart by M. John Harrison
Signs of Life by M. John Harrison
She Wakes by Jack Ketchum
Throne of Bones by Brian McNaughton
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Fencing Master by Arturo Pérez-Reverte
Gates of Fire - An Epic Novel of the Battle of Thermopylae by Steven Pressfield
Liar's House by Lucius Shepard
Hard Freeze by Dan Simmons
Hard as Nails by Dan Simmons
Clouds End by Sean Stewart
Iron Dawn by Matthew Woodring Stover
Jericho Moon by Matthew Woodring Stover
Star Wars: Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover
a Mark Twain omnibus reader thingie
The Labyrinth by Catherynne M. Valente
Y - The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
Circus of the Grand Design by Robert Freeman Wexler
Quin's Shanghai Circus by Edward Whittemore

I figure I'll finish very few of them with all the reading I've to do for class this semester, plus finishing the novel for my senior project, etc.

It occurred to me today while I was in class that I would very much like a massage. Now, before you snidely remark Wouldn't we all?, let me say that it wasn't just a flight of whimsy. I've never had a massage. I had an opportunity to have a professional massage while I was in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic earlier this year, but I passed up on it. I didn't go into the spa at all, in fact; while everyone else was in the spa I was out hiking the mountains around the valley town. Why didn't I go into the spa? The reasons are several: first, I'd been around other people constantly for three weeks at that point, and I really wanted an afternoon to myself, on my own. Second, I'm very self-conscious, often to a ridiculous extreme, and a spa is not the best place for very self-conscious people. Even if I had gone into the spa, I doubt I could've had a massage, though. I'm not sure I can explain in a way that makes sense, but I'm very sensitive to touch, and a massage just seems too intimate a thing to be administered by someone I don't know, someone I'm in fact paying to give it to me. In fact, I'm not sure that there's anyone I know whom I'd be able to relax enough around to get a massage. Which, to me, is a shame. I've mentioned before that my mind, my imagination, is not at all visual. I suspect, though I've no way of testing it, that my imagination works more tactilely than most. I cannot see in my mind's eye, but I can imagine pretty accurately how things feel, and I suddenly got for some reason to imagining how a massage would feel, and now I want one.

And now, back to work, for there's much work to do -- too much, it being only the first day of classes. . .

The other day, my dad were comparing the ways his firm wastes money to the ways in which my school does the same. He went first. His complaint: that they'd installed a big ol' TeeVee in the lunchroom, so that come lunchtime everybody was staring at the blaring (and expensive) box rather than socializing. Guess what my first complaint was going to be? Hunh.

Switching gears, if you're new to this whole college business or would like to read an amusing essay/rant/lj post about college, check out this old thing from Nick Mamatas. Good stuff, mainly.

Quote of the Day:
Back then, in one of the coal camps over in Knox county, a man got drunk and started beating his wife. She ran to her brother's cabin. Her drunk husband followed her and started banging on the door. Her brother yelled through the door. He said, "John, I know you're drunk but I got a shotgun. If you come through that door I'll cut you in half. You know I got to do it."

The drunk came through the door. The brother cut him in half. The coroner's jury ruled that when that man came through that door, he committed suicide.

-- Jack Cady

Monday, September 06, 2004

School and stuff 

I'm back at school. It's odd. It's my senior year, and I feel like a freshman again. Last year and the year before I was fine, but coming up today I was nervous and anxious and I didn't understand why, but it seems my roommate felt the same way. It's odd. One difference is that most of the people I knew at all well either graduated last year, or are out of here for the semester/year, so my social life is going to be quite different from last year's.

The school's network has crashed, so I can't get my course schedule until tomorrow, so I hope I don't have an early class tomorrow to miss, because that would be an inauspicious start.

One thing I've noticed recently is that I don't seem to be writing well. It seems to me that I used to be able to write amusing, coherent sentences, and string them together into amusing, coherent paragraphs and rants, but recently what I've been writing has been very directionless and disjointed. Don't know why that is, but I hope it will pass. Yes indeed I do.

Now, I'm back at school, so I'm going to get away from the computer for a bit and see what's what.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Quote of the day 

"If there is one piece of advice I would give every writer, it's that the old maxim, 'write what you know', is bullshit. Write what you feel, what you connect, what you guess, what you chance, what you dare, what you dream, what you don't know. Then see if there's someone brave enough to publish it."
-- Christopher Fowler

Bigger and bigger 

I cannot substantiate this, but I think I've gotten bigger over the summer. Put on a centimeter or so, and maybe two more around the middle. I guess that frequent dogwalking and swordswinging and furniture moving isn't enough to offset the sedentary lifestyle required to write thousands of words of fiction a day, every day.

I'm trying to get packed to go back to school tomorrow, but there are two obstacles. First, I've been doing laundry all day, as my bag of clothes is the first thing that goes into the car. Second, I can't get into the car, because my mom's out (in my dad's car) and she must have her spare car key with her, so I'm locked out of the thing. Doesn't take long to pack, though. Five minutes to disconnect all the computer cords and another five to get it downstairs and into the car. Five more minutes for the trips up and downstairs to get the various small stuff I use -- lamp, clamp-fan, window-fan, screen, trashcan, alarm clock, eating utensils, soaps, etc. On the whole, aside from the laundry, it's about a half-hour process, max.

Does anyone remember what classes I'm taking? I sure don't. I know I'm taking Austro-German Culture to prepare to go to Vienna in January, but that's it.

A reading update: Terry Pratchett's off my fecal list for the time being. His early Discworld stuff is awful, but I recently read The Truth (was it Gabe M who recommended it or Kage Baker? I don't remember. . .), and while I doubt Pratchett will ever make my list of favorite authors, this book was very amusing and quite enjoyable. I also recently and finally read Roger Zelazny's Isle of the Dead, after Stover threatened me with bodily harm if I didn't read it, and I liked it quite a bit. Not nearly as much as Stover does, but I can see how influential it was to him: there was a lot of especially its last three or four chapters in Heroes Die. Currently I'm re-reading Stover's Shatterpoint, which is tied with Iron Dawn for his weakest novel (though his weakest novel is still better than a lot of writers' best), and I'm definitely liking it more the second time around. (For the record, I must link to my favorite "review" of Shatterpoint. It must be read to be believed.) I'm also reading Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which so far is incredibly captivating, and I hope he can maintain it through all six-hundred pages or so. Which brings me to the other lengthy part of packing: deciding which books to take with me to school for leisure reading.

One day back home from vacation, and I have noticed two big changes. One, my entire face seems to be peeling off as the cooked skin makes way for the new stuff underneath, and two, I seem to be a lot more focused right now, a lot less distracted. A welcome change. Maybe just writing about it was enough to allow me to put things into perspective and calm myself. Or maybe not.

Anyway, got to go do laundry now. (For the record, my mom is willing to do my laundry, but I don't let her touch it ever since she turned my underwear pink a few years ago.)

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Back from Maine. . . 

I'm really tired, can't sleep, so am going to just ramble a bit for a few minutes.

First of all, go and read Walter Jon Williams' story "The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid". I must admit, I've generally been a little disappointed by WJW lately. His 1997(?) novel The Rift, a disaster novel about an earthquake on the New Madrid fault, kicked my ass when I read it, but so far his new space opera trilogy Dread Empire's Fall, while pretty good, just isn't as awesome as some of his earlier stuff. Just this year he was nominated for a Hugo for his novella "The Green Leopard Plague", though he didn't win ("The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge won, beating out both this and Kage Baker's "The Empress of Mars", which should have won), and though it was quite a good novella indeed, it just lacked a certain something. However, "The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid," despite a rather week ending, has just the right fast-paced zaniness, just enough plausibility to allow some very tongue-in-cheek suspension of disbelief, to make it a very fun read. I mean, how can you resist a story with Bloodthirsty Hopping Vampires, nitrogen narcosis, ninjas and sentences like this one: "Given that I hailed from a family of Aymara street musicians who also formed a private intelligence-gathering agency, at the moment operating in tandem with a water ballet company aboard a passenger ship disguised as a Tang Dynasty palace, I was not about to discount the less unlikely possibility that the old gambler and his nurse were a pair of assassins[. . .]"? Seriously, it's not the greatest story of all time, but it's a very fun read. So go and read it.

I'm back from my week in Maine, though given the driving time it was more like four days, and given how much several female members of my family like to shop, it was more like half that. Even so, I love the place. We spent our time up on Mt Desert (as in deserted, not the desert) Island, mainly. I'd forgotten, really, how much I love Maine. It's been five years since I've been up there, since I've sailed down the coast. Tremendously beautiful place. One thing I love about summers there is how wonderfully cool and beautiful it is. Sort of like Ireland and San Francisco. Just my temperature.

Critters I saw in Maine that I don't see on a regular basis: Humpback whales. Finback whales. Some other whales of a sort I'm not familiar with. Harbor porpoises. Seals. Hummingbird (despite my previous post). Bat (Not uncommon, but the condition I found it in, stepped on on the ground, was new to me). And speaking of wildlife, I accidentally ran over a chipmunk. I know I'm an unusually sentimental fellow, but fer cryin' out loud, should I still be feeling bad about this several days later?

Also in Maine I got the second-worst sunburn I've ever had. The first must have been when I was between eight and ten. Even back then, I always had a shirt on, even when I was swimming. I had two reasons: (1) I was (and am) extremely self-conscious, and (2) I knew that my fair skin burned easily. You guess which reason is predominant. For some reason, when I went to a water park that summer though, I decided that I would go shirtless. And I spent the next two days sitting with a fan blowing on my back, trying to rub SolarCaine or whatever it was called, that gooey green stuff, onto my blistering back. Ouch. It wasn't quite that bad this time, but it was bad enough. My face was lobster red and is still hurting now a couple days later. Painful. Ouch.

For my birthday, I got Messages from My Father by Calvin Trillin, author of the delectable Tummy Trilogy. Also got Charlie Wilson's War, forget the author. And I got a signed chapbook of Ray Bradbury's "The Pedestrian." My dad apparently thought it applied to me quite well. From my Aunt Paula, I got the book The Trouble with Islam. That book was recommended by my tremendously incompetent World Religions professor, and now given me by this particular aunt, so I'm finding myself increasingly disinclined to actually read the thing. I was going to buy a cheap-but-nifty-looking new sword, but when I returned to the store the next day, it had been sold.

I watched a bit of the Republican National Convention. Arnold Schwarzenegger had the crowds in his hand, delivered his speech very well, but said pretty much nothing. "IF you love your country, YOU ARE A REPUBLICAN!" The twins . . . what in the world was their speechwriter thinking?! Miller doesn't seem to understand that vitriol is not the same as strength. Cheney I fell asleep during, though I didn't find him as obnoxious as the others. I somehow managed to miss what Bush had to say.

The Chechen guerillas in the Russian school thing sucked. A lot. I wish that I didn't keep hearing al-Qaeda invoked in connection, though.

President Bush: Stop saying NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND and start making sure that no child gets left behind. You've spent four years talking about this, and have only made things worse. Teaching's an art, not a science, and this BS program is only making life a lot harder for both the teachers and the students.

I restocked my t-shirts while in Maine.

I also realized that over this summer, I have pretty much talked to nobody outside of my family. Not even online, not even in letters or on the telephone. After I realized that, I realized that in a more general sense, I've been withdrawing into myself this summer a bit. Last year in school I was probably more social than in the rest of my life combined. And then I came back to DE where I know no one, and I seem to have, as I said, withdrawn into myself. I'm too tired right now to think of another way to put it. I've also been trying to figure out what I'm doing with my life. I mean, right now I'm going into my senior year of college, but after that is pretty much a wall. What I want out of life . . . I want to get married and have children and be a good person, generally. Very vague. I'm a writer, but I doubt I'll be able to live off that, and what I want to do with my life, my career, after school. I have no idea whatsoever. I ask myself, What Can You See Yourself Doing A Couple Years Down The Line, and nothing pops into my mind. I ask my parents the same thing, and they don't really know, either. Maybe I'll teach. But I just don't know.

This week in Maine I also had one of my far-less-infrequent-this-summer-than-they-used-to-be phases of some powerful mix of desire for a girlfriend and simple carnal lust. I tend to be much happier when I'm not fixated on such things, so it confounds me why I've been turning back to them with such frequency this summer, although it's no great surprise that it hit me while I was in Maine. For one thing, I was lonely, and for another, there are a whole lot more girls around in a tourist town than there are in DE. But probably the most difficult part of the week was not dealing with the family as you might think, but simply keeping my eyes off of the women. A couple of interesting things: (1) I saw one girl who look EXACTLY like a girl I used to know, but couldn't possibly have been her. Still, the resemblance was uncanny. (2) A busload of girls from some school team came into a service stop my family was at. They were not wearing pants, but their garb didn't qualify as shorts, either. It was more the approximate tightness and shape of painted-on midnight-blue underwear. Yah. It was an effort not to stare. When the flesh is willing, the spirit can be pretty darned weak. Yeah, I know what you're probably thinking: Jeez, Man, Get Laid Already And Shut Up About This Stuff All The Time. Well, it's not going to happen. I'm a romantic, I believe very strongly in the sanctity of marriage (despite the atheism, oddly enough), and yes, I'm waiting for marriage to have sex. But I do go back to school in a couple of days, and I hope that being back among friends and work and everything is enough to get my mind back off girls at the level it's been on them, which is, though in some wise very enjoyable, a very distracting thing.

Oyah. Time to try again to sleep, I think.

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