Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Taking Stock, 2006

Another year ends with the requisite lists and accountings, the arbitrary grouping of events and developments into a 365-day unit, the looks backward and forward, and so on. I would offer links, but the sources are, as we say in legal documents, passim, too numerous to identify specifically.

As a warm-up to posting something this afternoon, the last of 2006, I reviewed where this weblog was, where I was as a quasi-public being, at the outset of the year. In the dawn of the year, I read and commonplaced in this space Anthony Swofford's Jarhead. After explaining my frisson at one of his more notable sentences, I observed, "In a million years I could never write that sentence or any like it. And if I accidentally happened upon a sentence so laced with potential, I could never set it in its due context."

I hope that I was wrong, at least insofar as that sentence was a broad lament about my ability rather than a narrow observation about each writer possessing unique and inimitable gifts; in the next two or three weeks, as something like a resolution, I intend to begin blocking significant chunks of time into my schedule to write, and to write. And to write. And to ignore the voices in my head telling me to stop, voices like that reflected in my Swofford post. And to write still more. Until June 31, at least, when I pause to take dispassionate stock of my progress. This is not idle, not this time -- I've designated an entire room in my house, presently occupied by nothing more than a roll-top desk, a (not terribly comfortable) period-appropriate hardwood desk chair, and five lovely volumes of Edward Gorey, as a distraction-free zone, a studio, my fortress of solitude. There, the computer's wireless will always be turned off, the room always silent but for the sounds of cats padding around, my murmurings, and my fingers abusing these keys -- no music, no adornments of any kind . . . maybe a space heater, but nothing more lavish.

But that's next year; this is an accounting of the year poised to expire. This year was exhausting, as I wrestled with a few very difficult realizations about myself.

I am lonely. I don't mean this in its broadest sense. I am blessed with a loving and supportive family, and too many friendships to count, each of which I treasure. But I lack a deep spiritual connection with the fellow traveler I persist in believing I can find. Not only do I cope with this very poorly, my efforts at changing it are largely misguided and wasteful in ways that should be predictable enough to avoid. But I don't avoid them.

I'm no longer young enough to write off my complaisance. Knowing this doesn't seem to make it any better. I am diabolically inventive with regard to diverting myself, not that my diversions are all that creative in themselves. Rather, the invention comes in convincing myself, albeit subliminally, that manifestly unproductive activities (or inactivities) are more justifiable than they really are. Whole tracts of time disappear, as into an alcohol-induced blackout. Hours, days, Seasons.

I have lost the tremendous momentum I carried into and out of law school; I am treading water. The water is temperate; I am the fortunate residual beneficiary of the mighty effort I put into accomplishing the quantifiable goals that are the privilege of formal education. But I fare far worse in the real world's unboundedness. I seem incapable of choosing among several visible shores to swim toward. Once, I flung myself at new opportunities with reckless abandon in my personal and professional lives. But I have grown tentative. Choice and sacrifice are inexorable aspects of lives well-lived; an inability to choose, to commit, to take risks, characterizes the most unhappy people I know. Sometimes I wake in the early morning terrorized by the prospect that I am becoming one of them. I question whether the person I have become would have taken the chances I have taken -- moving to Pittsburgh, leaving a promising career for law school, falling in love -- that have led to my most gratifying moments. How disorienting to fear that you are no longer the person that brought you here.

I am lazy. Like "lonely," this requires qualification, since my occasional comment to this effect among intimates usually is resisted with an enumeration of those things I have accomplished and the various things I continue to do. That in objective, absolute terms I keep myself occupied, participate in non-work-related projects, socialize reasonably well, read steadily, is no comfort to me when I confront almost daily vast tracts of unredeemed time. For me, "lazy" isn't vitiated by crossing some threshold, after which it is my privilege to loll about in self-satisfaction -- it's about making the most of the array of opportunities I enjoy both as an accident of birth and a product of my strivings and effort. I am so fortunate in this regard that it seems sacrilegious to fritter it away.

Perhaps I am a servant of my own arrogance, deluded in my desire to do more, to make an impress on the surface of things, to validate my time here, the air I breathe, the space I occupy. There is humility, to be sure: I no longer imagine that I will write the Great American Novel, that I will reinvent constitutional theory, that I will star in the movie of my life story and get the girl in the end.

But if living lies in the effort, in the undaunted aspiration, it seems necessary to remind oneself that there is more to do, more fibres to weave into the fabric of things, and that each of us is responsible for being a better person -- more humble, more loving, more involved, more productive by whatever definition suits the context and the person.

2006 wasn't a bad year for me, not really. It was a necessary year. 2006 will only reveal itself as wanting if I fail to heed all that it has taught me. That said, I'm happy to see it go -- better things lie ahead.

Thus, I raise a glass to all of you: may the next year bring you all health, prosperity, and happiness by whatever definition you choose.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Housekeeping in Progress

So the three of you who have continued to visit after my long hiatus might be interested to learn that I'm not going anywhere. I don't pretend that I'll post as frequently as I used to, or that I'll post as frequently as I have been of late. I am, however, building up to updating the template with some of the handy new tools Blogger is providing. Before I do so, however, I'm working my way through my old posts, applying categories to each.

My new template will include categories, by Gawd, and feature a radically reduced and updated blogroll, among other improvements. I'm approaching my two-year anniversary, after all, and it's not like I have nothing to say. Not for the first time during this blog's tenure, but in a far more systematic and determined way, I'm about to begin writing more seriously outside the blogosphere. So once again I return to the original idea of this blog as a repository of annotations to myself, a collection of observations and ephemera -- in general, as an annex to more dedicated writing. Or so the story goes.

In any event, as it stands, starting from the beginning, I've categorized something like 60 of nearly 700 posts. It's a start, and an unsurprisingly engrossing task for the obsessive-compulsive. It might take a couple of weeks for all of this to come to be, so be patient.

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Berube on Kubrick's Silence in 2001

While he attends the MLA, Michael Berube has posted, in two parts, his 1993 essay offering a novel explication of 2001 as, inter alia, a political rumination steeped in the Cold War that prevailed at the movie's 1968 release. The point is not the accuracy of the account; I've read no scholarship on the movie, and can't gauge whether Berube was fair to the accounts he sought to correct. I do find his account salutary, however, and it does an excellent job of combining excruciatingly close analysis of the film's very limited dialogue with big-picture consideration of the political context (not just the Cold War, but the space race generally as well as the near culmination of the Apollo missions), as well as an intriguing contrast between the movie as filmed and the novel treatment Arthur Clarke offered as a post hoc explication of the bare screenplay. (Indeed, when Berube's done with this part of the analysis, one wonders how Clarke and Kubrick worked together well enough to bring the film into being.)

Regardless, for those who love the movie and the filmmaker as much as I do, it's a worthy, if lengthy, read.

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Five Things

It seems I've been "tagged," and since it comes so rarely I feel obliged to entertain the meme. Too bad it's an especially difficult one. The theme is Five Things You Might Not Know About me, which is made all the more tricky in a pseudo-anonymous semi-confessional framework (one my parents sometimes read - Hi Mom!), but here goes:

1. I don't wash my hair every day. I take a shower every day but I only shampoo every second or third or fourth day if I haven't done anything extraordinarily dirty or sweaty. It's a habit I picked up a few years back when I had long hair. I have always had trouble managing my mop, and my stylist at the time suggested that overwashing wasn't making taming it any easier, and she was right. Now, my hair is shorter, albeit on the long side of professionally acceptable, but it's still thick and shaggy and still wants to go wild, so the reasoning still applies.

2. When I was maybe twelve I was tricked into taking a sip of diluted urine by a six-year-old bully who lived nearby. Bad enough that I fell prey to the bullies in my school and class, but even the young ones got the best of me.

3. When I had long hair, I let my stylist put in blue-ish lowlights alongside my premature grey streak to make it "pop." And it's probably this effect that I miss most from the long-hair days.

4. As literate/-ary as I claim to be, I spent all of my first twenty years reading crap, and I am continually filling in the classics that I failed to read as early as I should have done. For example, I only just read Walden Pond, and I'm almost finished with Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea. Today at the Barnes and Noble fire sale downtown I bought Hemingway's Garden of Eden as well as Ian McEwen's Atonement, which might be too modern to be a true classic, but still seems like something I should have read quite a while ago. In much the same vein, I have never read any Tolkien.

5. I am absolutely horrid at remembering names, in art and life, and occasionally I blow it with faces as well. If I apply myself (and I have been lately, as I make more of an effort to get involved in my community), I can usually retain a real-world name for a while (character names from books, movies, even series I watch dedicatedly almost never stick and I've stopped trying), and if I'm fortunate enough to meet the person again within a few weeks it takes root. But no matter how long I've known someone, there's no guarantee that I won't struggle to find his or her name when I need it. I just had this happen a couple of evenings ago with a friend of seven years whom I hadn't seen in the flesh in a year or two. I went to refer to her in conversation with her husband (she was sitting right there) and it took the duration of a three or four second pause, during which I mimed a momentary hiccup of sorts (I've developed a bevy of compensatory tricks over the years) to call it up. This happens with colleagues, lovers -- pretty much everyone. It's creepy, and one of the personal tics I find most frustrating. There's a name for it but (natch) I can't remember. So if you happen to know me in the real world, feel free to help me out when you see me struggling.

And perpetuating this silliness, I tag the monkey, the brit, Emily, and the folks over at the Coup (which makes six, but I doubt I'll get all of the Coup to play along).

UPDATE: Jocelyn says that my confession of not-daily-shampooed hair and the regrettable urine-sipping instance has stripped her of her illusions. Says she: 'So, now, instead of sitting across from Moon and thinking "He's so smart, he's so idealistic, he's such a believer, he's so dreamy," I will now ALWAYS sit there and think "Yep, he's the boy who drank pee."' That's all fair enough, but from where I'm sitting, the relatively mild indignity of having once (heh, yeah) imbibed something I later wished I hadn't is nothing next to the other indignities I've suffered. For example, given the cumulative residual effects, psychic damage, and sheer embarrassment factor, I'd probably trade just about any of the rejections I've fielded from uninterested women (who, ostensibly, found me less than "dreamy") for another urine incident. It sucked, no doubt, but it left no scar. Well, that it happened due to the trickery of someone all of six o eight years old might have left a slight scar, but now that I'm a professional and thirty-something, even being outmaneuvered by someone significantly my junior is relatively easy to, er, swallow. Thanks anyway, Joc, for the backhanded compliment. :-)


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas, Again

In a striking bit of hypocrisy, Pope Benedict XVI, after just two days ago excoriating Italian legislators for proposing legislation to recognize civil unions that would be available to homosexuals, offered the following Christmas comments:

"Jesus came for each one of us and made us brothers," he said from his window overlooking St. Peter's Square as pilgrims and tourists began gathering for the Christmas Eve midnight Mass to be celebrated by the pope.

Benedict said people should strive to "overcome preconceived ideas and prejudices, tear down barriers and eliminate contrasts that divide -- or worse -- set individuals and peoples against each other, so as to build together a world of justice and peace."**

I believe that makes 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' the best available interpretation, which isn't saying much.

I'm not back to do political blogging. Just dropping by to note a shameful bit of bullshit for the heck of it. For Christmas, perhaps we should recognize the value of the latter message and just chalk up the former to, oh, well, I don't know . . . be charitable. After all, it's Christmas.
** For those who want context, His Infallibility's latter comments were aimed at the prejudice and hostility toward Christians found in predominately Muslim countries. Doesn't it just suck when someone interferes with your right to exist and exercise your own prerogatives within the private sphere without offical discrimination?

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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas

(if, you know, that's your sort of thing)

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Destiny or Acculturation?

You are 100% Pittsburgh.

Great job! There's nooooo doubt about it. You're from Da Burgh. You deserve a reward, so go have an Ahrn City or two. And GO STILLERS!

How Pittsburgh Are You
See All Our Quizzes


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Take a Holiday

The christmas lights pizzicato
in the gas station window
mimic the frantic rhythm
of a Pittsburgh police car's flashers.

The cigarette ads cornered
like fugitives behind the glass
and these words begin to form
around the edges of the fear

that I have no Idea worth this effort
to shape language to reflect it.
A major premise:
All poems must convey something weighty,

something fraught with consequence,
as reflected in the distorting glass
of an Other's conjectured perception;
A minor premise:

The goings on in my mind this evening,
holiday impending, banalities encroaching,
lack gravitas and moment;
Therefore: I have no poem.

[revised, 12/22/2006]

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