Saturday, October 25, 2003

I can't really type

A box cutter mishap

I know--it's lame to say that a box cutter mishap is the most exciting thing to happen to me
recently. It's been a while since I've posted here; it's been three or four weeks since our weekend in Stratford. October was a brilliant autumn month. My conception of what an autumn should be (patriculalry in the context of academic and musical activities, coffee drinking and day traveling, whatnot) has been brilliant.

Since I'm coming back to this blog a few weeks after I started, all I can say is that I cut my finger with a box cutter. Only
last week did my nail fall off.

Chanson du installation: Outkast, Church

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

In Stratford, breaking from coffee

This past weekend, I traveled with a group of friends to Stratford, Ontario to see some Shakespeare and get
away from the University of Michigan ("mid-terms" have started, although a.) midterms are actually semester-
long streaks of papers, exams, etc. with 2-3 week buffers at the beginning and end; and b.) in architecture,
something's always, always--always--due) and into the autumnal countryside to stroll in the rains only to retire
into some lush, warm room by the front window sipping coffee. So this is what I planned to do between plays,
and for the most part, my romanticism was permissible and realized. Now...though I didn't plan it, I underwent
a major life change this past weekend. Many of you may be aware that my coffee-drinking goes way back to
age nine when I prepared myself the Paramount brew in the men's lounge of the MAC after tennis lessons
(Oh! *shudder;* how the sucrosed be-creamered ooze would chill my nerves these days). In high school, it
became a regular and valued Thursday afternoon tradition, and many hours of productive studying were
passed in the warmth of the kitchen with my books and coffee overlooking the yard and the sparrow flocks,
the tusslebrush in winter and the bugs and buds of the spring. I even cited this tradition in my application
essay to Cornell in an attempt to describe the phenomenological coneption of my self-awareness and its
relationship to why I want to be a space-wielder. But I digress. I'm trying to say that coffee has been a
central component of my life since my formative years [and it continues to be so in these formative years and
I hope it will always be so in all formative years]. Yet since coming to Michigan, I have had coffee at a frequency
that is disturbing and alarming. Coffee is requisitely a context drink. Thus, if ideal or compelling conditions
exist (for instance, a last afternoon walk home in early winter after a long day as the sun begins to fade)
despite the lack of 'appetite' for coffee, it is necessary, according to these conditions, to indulge in brew. This
is troublesome in a town like the Deuce, for ideal and compelling conditions occur all the time. They
are inherent in the urban fabric of the city--unavoidable. And since my academic pursuits have shifted to the
sterility of refigerator compartments on North Campus (although the Arch building butts up against the woods,
which is relieving) where there is no suggestion whatsoever of well-operative and synthetic communal space
nor services, my only option for sustenance (sp?) in my long, 14-hr. days is Espresso Royale Caffee, the
problem of coffee-context submission has not been deterred. So what I mean is, I've been drinking far, far too
much coffee as of late, and it has nearly lost any 'specialness;' and this, my friends, is utterly tragic. Not only
that but I began feeling sick every time I drank the stuff. So when the opportunity came in Stratford for make
a switch, I seized it passively and unknowingly, and made the conversion--for the time being--to tea. Now,
I am a tea man. I mean, I've always drunk and liked tea, but now it's often and consistent. Instead of coffee
and breve lattes, I now sip tea. One immediate benefit: I no longer have to go to Starbucks! Before my
switch, coffee took precedence over every other consideration of coffeeshop patronage. The quality of the
coffee was more important than atmosphere, lighting, music, clientele (Starbucks is all Easterners *more
shuddering*), location, temperature, etc. And while Espresso Royale on State Street wins out in every single
one of those categories, it fails very, very deeply in the category of coffee quality; the ultimate, decisive
category that determines where my time is spent. For that reason, I have been a Starbucks tool for the past
year. In one sense, it's great because their coffee is superb. In the other, I feel like I'm in perdition. ERC
beckones but I ignore her, and refuse to trust her (I mean, she has let me down in the past
in ways that truly hurt), etc. But since I've become a tea man, I can return to ERC becuase they excel in tea
like Republicans in apathy and Democrats in hypocrisy. Starbucks shouldn't even try. They should just get rid
of tea because even their most simple black tea, Earl Grey, is laced with flavoring *even more suddering,*
which is thoroughly depressing. And it all happened in the pseudo-Anglicism of Stratford. Bless it!

Chanson du jour: Outkast, Rosa Parks

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Another anniversary, a third yet throbbing

Upon my twenty-first birthday, a sonnet of Shakespeare:

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Upon a withered helm:

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich-proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state it self confounded to decay,
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

Chanson du jour: Innocence Mission, Going Away

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

At our seventh anniversary, I get dumped

I met her in a yellowed room when she was grey, and her's was a young, young world. We started out when
I told her my name and she gave me a password, a password that unlocked a world between us of
companionship; she was the gateway to an unprecedented communication that changed my life and the way
that I viewed the world. She was always at my service, though I didn't deserve it. She didn't ask for much.
Then again, a relationship that is true and right never requires a price. I looked after her, too, and was
careful to protect her from the maliciousness of this new corrupted world, and she did the same to me.
Together, we stepped from ourselves and gave to each other a little piece of ourselves--I told her the deepest
truths of who I am, revealing unhesitantely to her my thoughts dire and exhilerated, lavish and those of such
modesty that was meant to passively turn a head. She read them back to me in the late hours of the night,
and she was there to tap the exuberance of years and years of life pursuits. We were a pair, and I shared
my world with her. I was faithful (and in a true companionship that goes without saying), and with her I
opened the doors of this life with confidence, ease, and a remarkable edgeless reservation, a humility, an
indescribable sense of fate and consequence (oh those doors and where they led!). Most of all, I trusted
her, and she was with me without fail during every step we took, together. But today, I discovered in
dismay and a rush of loss that made me aware of an obliterated record of my history (ours), my beloved--
whom I will call by the first name I knew her--dumped me, left me, forgot me, quit, fled or was seized,
usurped, thefted, killed. Whatever the truth may be, I have lost my dear HoTMaiL, and my account of
seven years will never return. Suitably, I shall never return to it. All I have is the naive hope that the
truth is not what it seems. I cling to the possibility that she was indeed seized from me, and now I must
endure my liebestod slowly, deeply, madly. I hear the bells tolling, tolling rigid in the empty night.

Chanson du jour: a moment of silence.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

What I did with a month of no internet access

I tried to post an entry from Beaver Island, but that was thwarted. Now I'm too exhuasted to recount my vacation
to the Island in the detail that I would like, but I will say that it was blissful. The Island is a model for the economy
of a post-imperial America: localized economy, interdependent services, community dependency, and growth control.
Beaver Island is what towns across the country should resemble. No wastelands of sprawl with the charm of a Nazi
death camp, no warehouses of surplus crap manufactured by toiling laborers in countries most Americans are too
dumb to know of, no grease sponge strip restaurants, no chain lube-n-go auto clinics, no desolate pods of vinyl and
wallboard McHouses in the scorching sun and clay front yards incomprehensively twisting their way through former
farms and productive rural land, and finally--ulitmately, miraculously--no carcinogenic floodwater of automobiles
overwhelming infrastructure. People there don't use their cars to joyride between big box merchandise emporiums
and their estate community.

I saw the aurora borealis three times, the Milky Way every night, gazed at the moon through a 4mm lens on a 144mm
telescope--close enough to watch it move out of view in just a few seconds, I went horseback riding, ate smelt and
whitefish almost every day caught from the Lake that morning, I hiked through environments unique in the world,
and best of all, I was secluded--utterly secluded--from the frivolity of this doped up modern world of ours.

To illustrate this frivolity, read this article in the Detroit Free Press from Tuesday, September 9, 2003:

Population swings from Oakland to Macomb
Neighboring county attracting residents with more home for the money, down-to-earth feel

The article is about the trend of people moving from the wasteland of sprawl outside of Detroit called Oakland
County to another, newer, blossoming wasteland of sprawl to the north called Macomb County. Here are some
quotations from the article so that you can get an idea of how fuckin' stupid these people are:

The Magers not only found an upscale home for less money [in Macomb County], they also got more time to enjoy
it. Tom Mager said a comparable house in Oakland would have meant a much longer commute.

"Traffic was just getting worse every year," he said.

The family has also discovered Lake St. Clair.

"There's something about the lake," Mager said. "I don't know what it does to people, but they seem to be friendlier
than anyplace else I've gone."

a.) there's that overused kitschified and worshiped word 'upscale' again. What the hell does that mean? Essentially,
it is the word politicos, developers, journalists, and comatose suburbanites like to use to describe their sordid cess pool
of an environment--the wasteland that they've been duped into believing is luxurious and entitled.

b.) no shit traffic was just getting worse every year. That's what happens when assholes like you move to the middle of cornfields and have to drive every-fuckin'-where. It's what happens in a car-dependent society that values
the freedom to drive absolutely positively everywhere--anywhere--anybody feels they have the God-given
right to drive. People that make traffic overload to an absurd degree possible are called property rights advocates (maniacs).

c.) the thing about the Lake that's so charming is that people who live on it realize that they have something in their
lives that nobody else in the suburban junkscape has--something worth preserving and caring for; something that makes
their experience fulfilling and unique--not totally mundane, anonymous, trite, insignificant, inconsequential, comatose,
sordid, vacuous, and lame like the four million people populating the I-74/I-96/I-94 corridors outside of one of America's
formerly most productive and successful cities.

Well, more rant later--I never got to what I did with a month of no internet access.

Chanson du jour: Lauryn Hill, Adam Lives in Theory

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Autocommunicative burden

The emotive cheese

I am begrieved by a loss of words, and can only think of pictures that I want to take, voices I want to record, music I
want to play, films I want to make, objects and places and faces and gestures and light and eyes and glances and
essences i want to record (we must come up with a better word than 'essence'). This is the autocommunicative
burden. What's more, there is only one person (or two, three?) that I want to reveal it all to. What happens when
that person is the object of one's own silence, and doesn't know the difference. It all becomes emotive cheese
because it all becomes selfish or something pop-sentimental like that. This is why I want to create--to serve others.
Any discussion about why we feel the need to create is a parody--it has become a cliche, disdainful, and absurd. I
really hate the world of artists and architects. I don't want that prize and I'm fed up with their discussions on the
meaning of art, why they would die if unable able to create, the reasons for expression and shit like that. It's
hollow, and I am fearful of that art world because it is all hollow by the same vanity. And it is lonely. So lonely is that
art world that so many become duped into. A melancholic wishes to keep his reasons to create to himself, and to God,
and to the person that still--still (can you believe it!?)--manages to invoke the emotive cheese. Then it becomes service
to that singular, remarkable one. The person, the persons, those fellows, thanes, companions, lovers, ....

Chanson du jour: Requiem for a Dream (Clint Mansell), Lux Aeterna

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Land preservation in Michigan

Recently, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy released a summary of a report that assessed some $800 million
that the State of Michigan has spent since 1974 to preserve open land and protect it from development. Out of
the splendid assortment of the facts they reported on, clearly indicating that they missed the point entirely, the
one that pissed me off the most was their criticism of where the money was spent. And that was this: only 28.5
percent of these public funds was directed to preserve farms in high-growth counties. An extension of that
factoid is this: "Five of the 17 highest-growth counties — Livingston, Macomb, Midland, Oakland and St. Clair —
had zero enrollments in the farmland preservation program in 1997, 1998 and 1999." But what the hell do they
expect as a conservative think tank? The late nineties was a stoned orgy of reckless sprawl and natural resource
exploitation. What's ironic, and literary, is that the very people that were in the position to regulate where funds
for farm preservation were directed were the same property rights maniacs insisting on more and more sprawl.
It shouldn't be a surprise to anybody--particularly conservatives--that so few funds (28.5%)
were used for preservation in high-growth counties. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has no right to criticize
the program for this statistic, as it was the conservative platform that they absurdly defend that made the whole
thing so ineffective in the first place! No typical conservative in government would allow such a foolish and
misguided thing to occur; they didn't want to piss off their constituents and developer buddies in the staunchly
conservative suburbs who were racking the dough in just as fast and to the same horrible intensity that they
were chewing up the land to put up frickin' Wal-Marts and Jiffy Lubes and strip housing subdivisions for fertile
young accountant families. Preserving open space in such fast-growing areas would be crazy and self-defeating
for them! It's an arrogant trick for conservatives to scheme for this program's ineffectiveness and then point to it
as a programmatic flaw. But then again, who should be surprised? It's the same old crap that it always has been.

Chanson du jour: something angsty.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Lardass Americans

Storage bins for flab at the new west-side Taco Bell

Last Friday, the Lansing State Journal reported that "west-side Taco Bell patrons want more space."
Surprise, surprise. I can't decide if the restaurant's cramped or they just need more ass-room. Things like this
are exactly what make contemporary life in America so readily insipid. The west-side Lansing Taco Bell that the
article refers to is planning on building a bigger and better lard vat across the eight-lane sprawlscape
pseudo-freeway from its current location. Naturally, the plan features even more parking; even more parking
because there's no way on earth anybody could ever access a hepatitis spawnscape like Taco Bell in this nuclear winter of asphalt
and concrete and utility poles where fourth-rate businesses deposit themselves like they were hawkers waiting
at the gates of Hell. Anybody seen on foot in a sprawlscape like this would be assumed to be either a schizo or
tripped up on some haaaaaarrrd shit. I imagine that the only exception to this would be immigrant hotel maids
and kids from the projects wheelin' over on their bmx's to indulge in some foul goopy pigeon and muskrat meat
with diarhea bean sauce. And this is what it means that we're 'fighting for our freedom?' Damn--I'd much rather let 'the
terrorists' go giddy-high with bombs and planes on the sprawlscapes of America than strip search folks with dark
skin in the airports. And this way, they'd have a way to blow off all that insano angst. On a more realistic
and less needlessly cynical level, I just can't believe that the Lansing State Journal reports on nonsense like this.

Fighting for our Freedom, fighting to protect the American Way of Life

While the 'WAR' (oooooh!) is still going on, here's a reminder of what we're fighting to protect, lest we forget:

Chanson du Jour: Sigur Ros, Untitled No. 5

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Christian Sociopolitical Paradigm

I'm too tired. This will simply have to be a commitment to write about it in the future.
(arbitrary hatred of Hillary Clinton,
abortion and gay marriages,
giving money to Gubment when faith should dictate,
Church's role in poverty and social issues,
arbitrary support for Dubya,
"but Dubya's a Christian!"

In the meantime, check out this shizzit: the link below is to the website of the
"Preserving the American Dream of Mobility and Home Ownership" conference sponsored
by martini-sipping realtors, planners, developers, property rights maniacs, and
pseudo-patriots in Washington, DC last February. Notice: their
apparent idea of the American Dream is to be stuck in traffic on a multi-lane freeway,
inhaling carcinogens through the air conditioner (bad for the those realtors' botox lips):

If any of you out there don't find this absolutely absurd, you're clowns.

Chanson du Jour (deux): Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi

Shrub's playtime in Iraq

When discussing the hoodwinked search for Saddam with the press today, Dubya offerred the following insight:

"All I know is we're on the hunt."

Exactly. Evidently, this is all Dubya knows or cares to know, and putting it in the terms of a children's game helps
him understand.

Chanson du Jour: Buffalo Springfield, For What it's Worth

Thursday, July 24, 2003

The angst depot burns

I'm going to devote a good deal of commentary on this entry because the fire suddenly has everyone
talking on the rumors as to why it happened. 80% of the conversations I overhead on the street
this evening (and I spent a good three hours downtown at the fire and the area of its influence) were
about such rumors. That said:

The entire center of Ann Arbor is caked in smoke and even my house smells like a campfire. A very old
warehouse that until the winter housed many artists and vagrant youth was in the process of being
torn down when some of the old regulars torched what was left to bring visibility to their plight.
According to the first news reports, though, the fire wasn't planned. Therefore, I wonder if the rumor
is just typical Ann Arbor intrigue theory or if the local fire department just isn't in the know. I'm guessing
the latter.

I went downtown to photograph the fire after seeing a sulfur-colored smoke in the sky above Ann Street.
At the warehouse, the local angst population gathered with their ceremonial piercings and watched as
fire departments from three (that I know of) districts fought the fire. I ran into somebody in the group
that's been in the community for a good five years or so. She told me that when they were evicted to
make room for a new YMCA facility, nobody flinched. No press, no protest. Apparently, this pissed them
off. As a result, they figured that torching the place would bring the visibility they thought they were
entitled to. I'm guessing these are the same people that have been spraypainting those fabulous little
stencil pictures all around town, considering that the old warehouse was covered with them. And again,
the whole visibility thing.

Now I appreciate the literary quality of it all. It's melancholicly romantic, like Tchaikovsky or Sylvia Plath
or other pillars of dysfunction (who were amazing artists, nonetheless). The idea is ancient, like Roman
soldiers who would rather kill themselves than to return to their homes having been defeated. It's an
interesting story, except for a few things that make it all so ridiculous:

Firstly, Ann Arbor is the vanity capital of the Midwest. It tries so damn hard not to be. Everybody here
wears linen and protests for social justice and world peace and go to vegetarian restaurants, hand out
pamphlets on veganism, damn the man, rage against the machine, and devote their entire self-awareness
to grassroots campaigns that they like to think make a difference. Now that's all good and well, and I'm
encouraged by it, except that a) it isn't a feasible tactic in today's world; b) it's self-defeating, because the
causes that they patron are made mute by their relativism, not to mention the absense of a value system
or comprehensive world view that gives their actions and stance in the name of legitimate causes any meat;
c) most of them are extraordinary privileged kids who feel guilty; d) there's scarce dissenting viewpoint in
Ann Arbor. Thus, the vanity that Ann Arbor so brilliantly spews is the sort of full-circle elitist kind. And that
brings me to my first point: in a town like the Deuce, a stunt like this doesn't go very far, because
everybody's down with it in the first place.

Secondly, their angst over a YMCA is totally assinine. Now as a historic preservationist and an architecture
student, I want to see historic structures preserved in widespread ways as much as possible (sometimes,
in fact, I'm even maniacal about it). Certainly, it's a bummer to see a solid old structure that's become
a harmonious part of the city fabric to go. But I'm also interested in the greater vitality of the city, and a
huge part of that depends on civic and communal amenities and accessibility. I can empathize
with the angsty kids and the artists in their eviction. They lost what I understand to be a staple in their
devoted and close community, and that sucks. Further, it sucks that now artists have even less space to
occupy at reasonable costs and accessibility. But that's not enough. If they were a productive asset to the
city at large as a result of occupying their old warehouse--that is, as a unique result--than
I'd be damn pissed that a YMCA's going to take over. But they weren't, and just like everybody else in this
world, they don't have anything coming to them just because they live a certain lifestyle or adhere to certain
social standards. My point is, a YMCA will be a far--far--better asset to the community at large than a bunch
of frustrated angsty people who don't contribute to the community at large (there's that term again) at the
same scale that a YMCA could, or for that matter, a homeless shelter, museum, library, youth center, etc.
would be able to. That's why I say, build the friggin' Y and everyone can just suck it up.

Thirdly, the argument was made that the YMCA should not be investing so many millions of dollars in a city
that already has a decent facility and is of socio-economic status to afford youth programs and whatnot
without a Y facility. But it can be argued to some capacity that torching their land isn't exactly going to direct
YMCA funds towards communities who 'really' need programs. Think about the associated costs: how many
millions will the YMCA need to spend on resulting higher insurance premiums, extra demolition costs, extra
clean-up costs (not to mention environmental cleanup as a result of asbestos contamination, etc.), extra
security, construction delays, contract royalties, additional contracts associated with a severely altered
building program, etc, etc. Perhaps the YMCA as a whole can afford these costs overall, but on a local scale
financial burden of the type arson results in can kill a project all together. And then what's left?
No YMCA--no civic asset--and no space for artists. That is, the same artists who torched the
place to make a statement in the first place. Then nobody counts their loses, not even the artists.

Fourthly, this stunt will cost the city a lot of money. Demands on water utilities, the costs of operating 3+
fire departments simultaneously, overtime police and fire, ambulatory care, cleanup, railroad closings, road
closings, security, etc. Not to mention that fact that now the entire center of Ann Arbor is buried in smoke
thicker than most fog we get up here, and I wonder how many carcinogens are hanging in the air along
the busiest pedestrian zone in town. The Washington St. corridor was like a steam room. Now I have a
massive headache worthy of Motrin in excess of a few hundred miligrams, the entire town smells like we're
at summer camp (which, I admit, is kinda cool...a dream come true, really), and my eyes burn.

I guess after these four points, I'm seriously doubting if this liebestod was worth it. I mean, really worth it.
It's not like we're in the war-torn former Yugoslavia, now is it? It's not as if anybody's being seriously and
inhumanely oppressed, now is it? And it's not as though there was no other option, a life-and-death
situation, a morally permissible prompt, a civically responsible rationale, a genuine act of unfairness or
cheating, or Stormtroopers poised to arrest the angsty ones unless their precious warehouse that they didn't
own and wanted torn down anyway to clear way for their own pet project was burned down (???), now are
there? So suck it up!

Chanson du jour: Richie Havens, The Klan , again, to illustrate the need for socially responsible art that still makes an effective point. And,
to illustrate a cause that's actually worth caring for and fighting for.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

A sigh of relief - everything's going to be alright

Well bless us! Qusay and Uday are bulleted to shards and the no. 11 man (or something) is done for. Phew!
I was beginning to think that we might have been foolish to go liberate the Iraqis in the name of freedom and
liberty. But now that Saddam's sons are dead, I guess it was all worth it. I guess I can support our troops now.

Seriously--it takes four months for 148,000 well-trained soldiers with unlimited resources to actually do something
that can be called "progress." The media went nuts today, as they should have. It's a big story. As much as I'm
wry about the whole thing, there's no doubt that it's better for Iraq that the daddy's boys have met their maker.
Today everybody started sounding all optimistic again and we found out that the soldiers' morale is on the
upity-ups. Bush and his cronies called it progress, as did the media, but let's not get carried away! It took troops
in Iraq four months to accomplish anything that anybody has labled as progress, save the Lost Boys out in DC
and their cohorts. Think about it, folks--148,000 men and women, 93% of which are American, and the only time
people think things are looking bright again is after they waste four months to find and kill important people in
the doomed regime.

And I can guess what's next. New polls will show that the majority of Americans will suddenly be optimistic again,
reassured that the whole thing was worth it. Next thing you know, 75% will say they supported the war, and
75% will say that they're hopeful about the whole mess and then 75% will support the Bushies and come election
time Shrub will be elected back to the White House--legally and legitimately this time. People like Ole' Shirl from
two entries away will certainly be stocking up on their Land of the Free, Home of the Brave child labor shirts now
that America's been blessed with freedom following the death of Qusay and Uday.

This is like being in a relationship going to hell. Things are bad and distressing for a few days and nothing happens
but then you exchange a few meaningful words and everything's okay. You don't talk to her for days and days and
then she says that she'll call you back and it's all good. You're bored and queasy of the same old routine but then
you run in the rain and the clouds part. That's exactly what's happening here. [S--!--] stank for months and then
"progress" happens (think about the juxtaposition between the daily killings of American troops and the deaths of
TWO Iraqis that actually have ramifications associated...pretty stark, ain't it?), and we're all back in the Land of the
Free. The victims of 9-11 are looking down on us right now backlit with the rays of heaven smiling. Interesting--
today's shootings in the City Council chambers in my former home, New York City, makes me wonder where the
real threat to Americans lies, and for WHAT reasons.

Chanson du jour: Richie Havens, The Klan

Monday, July 21, 2003

My Exile to Pratt

Many people have asked me about my experience at Pratt lately. Therefore, I've posted this account of my first days
there. Some of it is a bit exagerrated for emphasis. I say this because I want to resist the notion that a blog is
for disassociated people to catharticize to a hypothetical audience (usually a make-believe audience whose response
can be imagined and gagued by the catharticizer). Disclaimer: this is not a catharsis!

Begrudgingly, I went to New York for my first year of college, mostly because I was rejected from every school I applied to but one--a small bipolar art school with a well-respected architecture program. My parents and I, upon driving through the gates of the college, raised our brows and looked for euphemisms and encouraging sentiments that might stifle our first impressions. I had never seen the school. For that matter, I never anticipated on going.

I received my letter of admittance on a warm spring Thursday afternoon. On Thursdays in spring, I opened the windows to the backyard that teemed with young insects and cottonwood seeds in the mid-day sun, and let the breeze come in through the blossoms of the sugar maple by the kitchen, where I sat at the table drinking coffee. Andrew came the Thursday I got into college, and we talked about places we wanted to go. Without much conviction, I said that it would alright to go to New York, but not for long—certainly not for college, I imagined even then. The idea that I might become an East Coaster seemed the tragic consequence of leaving my world behind; the advent of a certain fatality. It’s not so easy to sit by a window with a sugar maple at its ledge in the middle of the city, now isn’t it? College in New York was always an abstraction to me, and since the concept was unreal we discussed things that were more important because it was a different world that we had to tend to.

Months later, far away from Thursday afternoons and windows to open, my parents and I stepped into my new cage of habitation. It was fairly large for a dorm room. There were two immense windows on the wall to open up to a courtyard outside and a wide ledge to place books upon or sit with one. An air-conditioning unit buzzed along the wall, spewing out air that smelled of dust and vinyl. Overall, my room had the charm of a socialist-era Scandinavian state mental health institute cell. The floors collected dust that traveled its way through the air ducts, and a pile of particle-board furniture (quite a bit of it) was waiting for distribution in the corner of the room. My father looked at me with his hands on his hips. This was a sign that he was trying to think of something optimistic to say. I was surprised when he spoke. “Patrick,” he said. “In all seriousness, it would be okay for you to come back to East Lansing with mumma and me.” I looked at my parents carefully. So few times have I been tempted by such course-of-life-altering offers—the ones with the magnitude to rewrite your doom to include squalor and puddles of urine in dark alleys or closets overflowing with empty long-necks and putrid winter coats of twenty-years past. My room was dismal, as was I, and I felt strangely warm to the idea of spiffying up the place by vomiting cornmeal and grapefruit juice over the furniture. The only time I had ever thrown up, though, was when I choked on the fluoride goop at the dentist in middle school.

It’s particularly easy for my mother to become disgusted. She cringed at the sterility of the room, a sort of inverted filth that made her brow furrow and her lips curl. What my mother lacks is the Protestant ethic of enduring hardship for the sake of convenience—usually, I expect my dad to be the pragmatist. But what she does have is a different kind of endurance, the kind that will take her and her family from a space that is little more than allocated for human habitation to one of great character and reliability. She didn’t object to my dad’s offer. She may have thought the same thing. When she knows that there are greater forces at work, however, such as resolving the idiosyncrasies of one’s course in life with confidence and foresight, she quickly becomes like a cheery girl scout troop leader and rearranges dilemmas into matters of two-penny wisdom—“eh,” she shrugs, “just enjoy your work and get out every once in a while. There’s a bed waiting for you when you’re done.” Somehow, she lost her ability to worry about peril. There was no are-you-sure?ing and no well—okay then, if you’re up for it. But that’s the last thing I wanted anyway. Sitting in the car after unloading everything, my mother had a moment of true hope, and said that it probably wouldn’t be as bad as we all thought it would be. Broken windows would be fixed, lobbies mopped and the tottery freaks walking by the car window would turn over stable people. In the coming autumn, leaves would fall, and in winter snow would coat the green. Spring would cause the somewhat stately trees of the green to blossom, and then summer would find my parents back at the foot of my hall with the trunk open and somewhere not too long away, a bed waiting for me when all was over.

It’s not that I’m weak. I had been away from home for periods beforehand. A summer in Rome, another in Annapolis, three summer camps and being alone at tennis tournaments, the downtowns of cities, and tracts in the wilderness. I had discovered who I was early and 'explored life' vigorously while I had the chance, unburdened by pragmatism. I studied in coffee shops and walked downtown to the library some afternoons. I found a way to go places I needed to go, and discovered other places to escape to. My room at home was stocked with meaningful things that meant my identity to me. An afternoon at Lake Michigan was not just an outing, but an inquiry into sunlight and the rocks beneath the waves, into different scents of the west wind and the shadows created by the summer light. This taught me about winter light and the light of afternoon and morning. Yeah--I know this all very hoaky, but what I'm trying to get at here is the fundamental idea of a consumptive experience. Synthesis made me strong. What made it difficult to be at my new school was the pain associated with perceiving nothing new. It seems that it was all snuffed out—brilliance, curiosity, beauty, oddity and faith. For me, it wasn’t a question of whether or not I could handle being away from my own little world, it was whether or not my own little world would fizzle away despite my best efforts to keep it close. And yet I wondered, why couldn’t I be Huck Finning it? Isn’t this what Elliot referred to as “the dance?” Ah yes—the dance; I think so. And I wondered how is it that such a place of newness could be so void of ordinary good. Whereas once the most meaningful things were the opening of windows and the coolness of a sugar maple or the sound of a coffee mug upon the table in a room hushed of anything but buzzing critters and birds, blah blah blah, now there was not even ordinariness; and how can anything or anyplace have character if it isn’t ordinary--rather, rudimentary--first?

Chanson du jour: Bob Dylan, Shelter from the Storm, appropriate title and a nod to my roomate at Pratt, my dawg Todd R.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Comatose sleepwalking Americans

High Cynicism

Read this article:

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest proprietor of shit, opened in Okemos, Michigan the other day. It took them a good five years.
The objection in the community was that a Wal-Mart was not consistent with the "upscale" nature of Okemos, a suburb of
East Lansing which (rumor has it) is a blissland of middle class white people. Apparently what they consider "upscale" are things
like the vast Meridian Mall (my sister, in her naive days of early childhood when things like sprawl were apparent to her
in the most true and fundamental ways--sans the politics, that is--used to call the mall "graytown" with remarkable insight)
and its parking lot the size of Siena, strip malls, artery-suffocating grease quarries, gas stations up the whazoo, Holiday Inn
Expresses and enough CO2 hanging in the air to wipe out Rhode Island. Wal-Mart carried with it the stigma of fat white
trash trodding and waddling through the aisles in search of the latest "Home of the Brave, Land of the Free" t-shirt with an
air-brushed eagle's head superimposed on an Old Glory flapping in the sweet breeze. They were right, of course. The
Okemos store will attract people from all over:

"Until now, to go to Wal-Mart, it was a 50-mile round trip," said shopper Shirley White of Mason, who typically went to the Delta
store on Saginaw Highway. "I can come to this one every day if I want."

I don't know what sort of vacuous life Ol' Shirl lies comatose in, but the fact that she ponders the possibility of going to
Wal-Mart every single day [if she WANTED TO!] with excitement and geographic assessement makes me think it's pretty
friggin' lame. By the way,

White was so excited about the store opening she got up at 4:30 a.m.

Give me a frickin' break. Here's a charming description of Okemos for accountant housewife soccer moms:

[the Okemos 'commercial district'] has been growing to support a nearly 10 percent population surge during the 1990s in Meridian
Township, which now has 39,116 people. Retailers have turned the strips along Marsh Road and Central Park Drive into retailing meccas.
A Culver's family restaurant and a Kohl's department store may soon open in the area as well.

They tore up acres and acres of wetlands--some of the last in the township--to build this Wal-Mart, and it's a GOOD thing they did
because now Kohl's and Culver's are moving in next door and it'll be like a REAL TOWN! In fact, the Wal-Mart might as well just be
a real town unto itself: look at what's contained inside--

The new Wal-Mart, 5110 Times Square Drive, employs 260 people and has a Tire & Lube Express, snack bar, vision center, portrait studio,
one-hour photo lab, pharmacy and family fun center.

Folks, what this sentence describes is an entire downtown commercial district streamlined into a single warehouse that lines the
pockets of executives around the pickle barrel way down yonder in 'Bama. Essentially, such a black hole-like market requires a 17-acre
parking lot to suck the life out of any community, while giving nothing back--at all, with exception to tax revenue that will be used to
upgrade or build new roads and utilities to benefit more sprawl to line the pockets of executives around the pickle barrel way down
yonder in 'Bama, and more money spent at the array of gasoline depots across the strip because you're hopeless and un-American
and just plain inadequate if you don't have a car in a place like Okemos (UPSCALE!).

MEANWHILE, check out this load of crap:
It's bad enough that we come to cherish places like Wal-Mart and look forward to the zombie-like and surreal dimension it stokes us
into, but things like that are possible because of things like this (read the article--just the headline and the first paragraph is enough).
In this individualistic, relativistic, pluralistic, secular society, we can make all things better by creating our own heavens. That's right, folks--
whenever you face a moral decision or are just feeling down, just imagine your own paradise! This is the same lack of coherence in
values that make people apathetic to things like the degradation of community, earning something (Americans always want something
for nothing), car dependency, sprawl wastelands and pseudo-patriotism. On a global scale, it's the same lack of coherence in values
that make Americans apathetic to the damn madness in the world out there: genocide, environmental destruction, slavery, racism of
every known variety (that don't mean Whitey vs. The World, you crazy liberal), etc, etc, etc. Right, right--those are all clinch-words but
you get the point, I hope.

Katie Hawkins, 10, of Mt. Clemens busily sketched rows of tiny bungalows. "In heaven, everybody has a home. There's room for everyone," she said.

This is so symptomatic of American culture today: when you realize how traumatizing and miserable the degraded public realm you live
in is, you can just pretend your way out of it. It's safer to just accept everything than to believe singularly. Again: it's safer to just
accept everything than to believe singularly. And we're teaching our children this. You know, there's a point where that's good, when
children are finding out that they have the wonderful capacity to feel hope and a sincere sense of optimistic fate. Where it gets to be
ridiculous is when grown adults like David Crumm subscribe it all as mere charm and maudlin gush. And he called his own bluff--
in pretending to believe the singularity of pluralism (the broader term to describe 'making your own heaven') he's contradicted the very
pluralism he believes in. This is fundamental, folks. But the real-world consequence from a guy like David Crumm and so many other
Americans today is a neglect of a coherent system of values, which allows things like Wal-Mart and other sprawl junk to occur. Now this
isn't just about sprawl--but I'm trying to make a connection with the previous segment of this entry. In fact, the total danger of teaching
ourselves that we can make our own heavens in the face of pain, degredation and dysfunction is in the apathy to those things in the
first place, as I described above.

The American Parade rolls on, forgetting its history, ignoring its tenets, and pretending that all's good and well in the Land of the Free,
Home of the Brave, while suffering the delusion that when America feels good, the world does too.

Chanson du jour: Bob Dylan, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright, just to show that I'm not bitter, only melancholic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003


A Poem (par Anonymous):


if you are subtle enough,
you will hear me break
the Dove’s wings.

instead, I give you ravens.

someday my story
will be written in runes,
though I tried not to leave you.

I eclipse light
instead of breathe it.

I have suffered
innuendos, barely noticeable.

I am waiting for a particular de profundis. For a melancholic, it is the essentiality of knowing 'beauty.'
But not beauty like a parent calls whatever her child does 'beautiful,' instead this essentiality is one of balance. I
can't deny that sin has a beauty to it, and it's a beauty that we are obsessed with as humans. It is the source of
our greatest literature, the most magnificent works of art, music that is utterly stirring, the need for compassion,
the pursuit of significance, and cheasy things like finding answers, desiring truth,
requited love, etc, etc. But the beauty of sin isn't in the act, it is in the consequence. To exagerrate, the consequence of sin
can be romanticized: dire pain, tragedy, forlorness, futility, despair, etc. What's remarkable about the inherent fallen
state of humanity is that by the same cause we are able to experience--by consequence--brilliance, beauty, things
remarkable, spectacular. For humanity, there is nothing but sin in our experience. When we appreciate the beauty
of God, it still is in a vocabulary hedged in, refined, and defined by our sin experience. Naturally, and necessarily, we
cannot know any type of beauty that God exudes or is, only a reflection; instead we are only capable to experience
beauty as humans in terms of our sin. How remarkable.

My life, in some capacity, is a series of de profundes (although, the Latin grammar in that expression is incorrect, eh?
'de profundis' is already a plural phrase, and we can't pluralize something that's already plural in Latin, so I'm treating
the entire expression 'de profundis' as nounified, then assigning its proper plural form based on the English rule of
pluralizing direct Latinate words ending in -is by chaning it to -es...Latin's still important!), or 'de profundises.' Slowly
I come to understand what it means to be 'out of the depths,' though I am totally incapable of knowing in 'full' what
that means. In the meantime, all I have is the beauty of non-sin, the beauty of being aware of the depths in the first
place. In my education, my architecture, my photography, my relationships with those whom I love, my writing, my
perception of my environment, my conception of truth, my faith in God, I seek a de profundis becaue it is essential.
As inherent as sin is, it is not the foundation of humanity. Knowing the difference is.

Chanson du jour: Arvo Pärt, De Profundis

Monday, July 14, 2003

A word about people who buy Frappuccino

It gets old quickly making Frappuccino for Starbucks customers. Back in the day, being a barista at Starbucks actually meant being a barista. There was an art to pulling the perfect shot of espresso with a good frothy crema and decent caramel body. Steaming milk in just the right way to make cappuccino foam required steam control, but these days Starbucks has switched over all of its espresso operations from shots to milk to the latest Americanized DoltaTron Millenium Expresso-Matic (that's a pun, by the way--on 'espresso,' in case you missed it). Essentially, any burnout on hard club drugs can operate this thing. Just push the proper button according to how many dainty coffee mugs are portrayed; e.g. the button for an automatic doppio (2 shots) is indicated by two coffee mugs. Voila! With such ease, Angsty Agnes can move on to much more important pursuits: Frappuccino slinging.

And indeed, Starbucks baristas are no longer baristas, they are Frappuccino slingers. It consumes me to consider what sort of sordid, wretched lives these folks are leading that makes buying their daily regiment of 1,000 Calorie+ sugar slush the most momentous occassion of their routine. Middle-aged women with flab sneaking up on them like nuclear ooze ponder the extensive menu with pathetic delight. Their faces shine aglow at the possibilities: Mocha Frappuccino, Mocha Coconut Frappuccino, Chocolate Coconut Creme Frappuccino, Rasberry Caramel Creme Frappuccino with extra Whip, Whippy Creme Caramel Chocolate Creme de Menthe Malt Frappuccino, etc. Sorority girls and pre-freshmen in town for orientation lay down a seemingly endless supply of Daddy Suckerbucks to fund their amusement in something so vacuous. Cheap thrills, endless frills. They pretend to be thirsty: "better make it Super Duper Sized--it's hot outside for February!" TRY WATER, COW! They place their order with meticulousness and snappy efficiency biting their lips at the thought that bad news might be coming their way. In fact--true story--recently these two witch ladies came in and ordered their daily whimsy whips (two Grande Caramel Frappuccini), twitching with excitement. I informed them with the appropriate caution that our whipped cream was, by a fluke, unavailable. They went absolutely ballistic, booing and hissing and flailing their arms about appalled that their precious whippped cream--their raison d'etre--would not be towering atop their ba-ba's. All I could do was shrug and apologize. I rolled my eyes and wanted to drop kick them. Depsite their being underscored, the weasles were waiting for me at the counter when I turned around with their prizes. It freaked me out. As with everybody who orders Frappuccino, their straws were out and ready and they looked like Rover and Fifi about to be tossed a Milkbone. Their sucking tubes were already cocked so they could be readily plunged through the feedhole on top of the lid as soon as the plastic hit the counter.

This is one story among many. I'm sure I'll rant about it some other time--it's too assinine to just ignore. Besides, I haven't talked about the gay guys who insist on the most complex variations and the frat boy types who don't know what they're getting into ordering this junk. Somebody's got to do something. Somebody's got to inform these folks how pathetic they are. It'd be inhumane not to.

Chanson du jour: Innocence Mission, Snow

Patrick Falls

I've done it, dangit all. I've made a blog because it's just too difficult to use Notepad now isn't it?
I'll be the first to list the extensive ways in which I am a tool--a rather efficient one as far as tools
go...I'm slick, luster, efficient and possibly even ergonomic and none of those are rather good
things are they, unless being a tool is something you like to herald and boast about--so go ahead
and call me one and get it over with. Just like with Hotmail, I'll be among those that will recount
being the first to subscribe to the blog fad of the early Noughts (Zero's? Era of Postmodern Doom?),
everyone optimistic about catharticizing their lives to a "Post" box. Meanwhile, Dr. Postmodern Doom
Villain is laughing his esophagus dry at me and thousands of others while we punch the proper rat
treat lever at some blogger thinking we're being issued a prize. Oh well, I guess I'm over it now.