Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Solitary, poor, nasty, short and brutish? Just work harder, God will Know

which is just my way, on this effing hot night here in the only state that really matters, of introducing quotes from my favorite philosophers. And if you didn't AT LEAST get Hobbes out of my title, you should go back to Junior High and pay attention this time.

Anyway, here, the wit and wisdom:

"I must obey the inscrutable exhortations of my soul." -Calvin

"If people could put rainbows in zoos, they'd do it." -Hobbes

"There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want." -Calvin

"There's more to this world than just people, you know." - Hobbes

"I go to school, but I never learn what I want to know." -Calvin

"If you couldn't find any weirdness, maybe we'll just have to make some!" -Hobbes

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.

I'm rooting for ice.

Because when you live in South-Central Hell and you see this on the weather website at 9:45 AT NIGHT!



You just pray for ice...

ice cold ice....

And you want to kill the fucker who is claiming it "feels like" two degrees cooler.

Asshole.

I'm cranky.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fanboy Goes the Final Step.....

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a complete computer illiterate and slavish follower of fashion. Consequently I am a complete Apple fanboy. But until today I had held out against the siren song of the iTunes store. In fact I had never purchased any digital music online, instead holding to the principle that hours wasted searching LimeWire and Torrent sites was a more economic way to get obscure 96 kbit/s renditions of scratchy songs from the past.

But today, with all the pride of a scairt dog, rolling over and pissing on itself in an ecstacy of surrender, I signed up for iTunes. Gave the mod swine my credit card number, home address, phone number, probably signed my soul away.

But BOTH Flamin' Oh's albums for only $9.99? Oh baby, no way I couldn't sell out. No freaking way. I got "I Remember Romance," "I'm the Gun," "So Cruel," and "Medical Mess," and all the other hits we used to swing to in Minneapolis.
I've got cancer, and VD
Diabetes and a broken knee
I wear glasses
Still can hardly see

I'm just a medical mess with only 6 weeks left...
(unintelligible ranting further obscured by shitty mixing)

I'm a bleeder
with a million cuts
I'm on a diet
with ulcers in my guts
I'm psychotic
I think I'm going nuts!
Sure, I sold my soul. But it was completely worth it.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

DID MICHELLE MALKIN HAVE A STROKE?

I'm led to Michelle's homepage by some commie link claiming she said something stupid about something political. Nothing new there - the traitors will stop at nothing to smear the true patriot. Then I look at the picture that she and her techie defenders-against-the-French have placed on her website and it looks like this. Which just about stops me flat. Because on previous visits to her site she had always seemed far too attractive to have a job. A right thinking woman with looks of her nature should have ther third child on the hipbone, and another on the way when her husband returns from the Church, or bar. But a quick look at her picture suggests that something alarming has happened. Her left eye (aha! The rebellious and evil one) is twice the size of her right one and the left side of her mouth slumps down and out in a way that suggests pictures of Vladimir Lenin just before the end. To check this theory out I did a quick GIS and discovered this picture of St. Michelle that is less than four months old. While her mouth is still a bit crooked (in an appropriate way for a breeding machine for the next generation) it is also relatively bilaterally symetrical and her eyes are the same size.

I'm not suggesting (yet) that croissaint eating collaboration-monkeys have poisoned her, but a quick photoshop flip-flop (Need I mention that Kerry was a flip-flopper, or that his boss, Clinton, got a blowjob?) proves that the alarming monster she has become, could be cured by some sort of process that split her and reconstituted two versions of her based on her assymetrical halves. We could probably take some cells and reproduce.. oh.. vetoed. You can't have a culture of life that researches how to create life. We aren't God, after all.

I think I would sleep with (in a manner only intended for procreation) with either of these versions of Michelle. But that, and rightly so, is a medical impossibility.

So, for the moment, I'm just suggesting someone calls a doctor for the poor, suffering woman. Stat.

Monday, July 17, 2006

And that one is OUTTA HERE!

With all cares behind me and the promise of vehicular manslaughter ahead, I zoomed off for my date in the Sierra Foothills. All traffic reports indicated trouble on the usual routes out of town, which is always good news for me. I was heading into the Sierras, where my sainted mother once lived, and where my doughty and true sister still does live. This means I've driven the 'usual' route to (essentially) Reno, 8-million times and I'm always glad to experiment. So I headed towards the Benicia bridge, but cut off towards Antioch, up highway 12, right on highway 113, a quick cut over to Pedrick Road, and the a slice up to Highway 80 at right about Dixon. This only left the traffic jam entering Sactown and the inevitable one just around Rocklin, which I avoided by cutting over to Roseville Road and cruising by the train tracks. Then, a stop at the store to purchase firewood and victuals, and it was up to Colfax and the campground. The lovely BAG was already there and, predictably, sitting reading a trashy novel she had purchased the day before. The campsite, at Bear River Campgrounds, is very nice, and the only thing that worried me was the family in the two campsites to the right of us. They were of a nationality that has many children (and don't you disrespect their culture by denying it, you pig) and all the kids were there. So were the two pickup trucks, the two dogs, and the consumptive grandfather. The consumptive grandfather sat just across the border between our campsites, speculatively staring at the dirt, pulling off of bottles of Corona, and in small and sequential steps, hacking up about half a lung.

As soon as I arrived, everyone in the family but Grandpa Tuber Bucolosis packed into the two pickups and headed off. The BAG and I sat around and waited for the heat to subside. It did, and we eventually had a lovely dinner. In memory of our trip to Italy I had purchased the bits and pieces necessary to make a crude approximation of Prosciutto y Melone and we slurped this down. I had also purchased some pork and potoes, but eating the appetizer and French Bread filled us up, so we hopped immediately to making a fire and watching it. Always the highlight of a camping trip.

The "people of a fecund race" returned in full brood and began to set up their evening. The did this in the furthest away of their two campsites, and were just the best behaved fellow campers imaginable. I cursed myself for being such a racist pig (actually I had another beer) and at about 10 that evening the BAG and I fell asleep in the calmest campground in America. It was beautiful.

Grandpa TB, strangely, continued to spend almost all of his time on our side of their campgrounds, separated from the rest of his family by 30 yards and two pickup trucks.

This is also where the dogs were chained at night, but I refuse to believe this actually has any comparison value.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Work Week from beyond Heck

So when you take a Monday off and still get an email early Monday morning saying that you need to meet with (certain faculty members) and RIGHT NOW ON THIS DAY(!) but then (certain faculty members) don't bother catching up with you until 4:15 on Tuesday (for a meeting that was scheduled at 3:30) you perhaps have an inkling it isn't going to be your week.

And when they tell you they need a presentation folder, 4-color, full-bleed, designed, layed out, printed and die-cut and ready to go in two weeks, you know you are in trouble. And when you finally sit down with (certain faculty members) and they have no photos, no text, no input of any kind, well.. then you don't know what to do.

This was that week. Fortunately one of (those faculty members) turned out NOT to be a faculty member and thus understood that "product" (as we call it in the biz) comes as a result of "work" (as we call it in the biz) and in order to "work" on "something," you must have that "something" handy. And this lovely person showed up every day this week and worked, and was only late once, and that time it was because she was being driven by (a certain faculty member). So we worked and worked and worked. I spent long nights sorting through stock photos and actually spent half a day gallivanting all around the greater metrop0litan area taking photographs of educational instutions and businesses. The first night I spent til about 10:30 sorting through online stock footage. On two days I was up at 4:30 in the morning and at the computer, pounding out succesive versions of the thing. On the day I was driving all around the greater metropolis, the general theme hit me of the thing hit me, "The World Begins Here"/"Home away from Home" and from that the highly efficient (woman who is not a faculty member) and I hammered out five concepts that would go into the piece and we were more or less away on design.

By the continued miracle of the woman (who is not faculty) and with the help of my boss Mike(cromanager) who had some really pretty good input, we got the thing to the designer on Friday about 2. It was a complete grind of a week, and all normal work went by the wayside, but we got the thing done and Mike(cromanager) let me take some of my comp time off to fly to the hills.

With grainy eyes, a mighty headache, and a generalized feeling of ill-will towards any tiny, furry critters that I might see trying to sneak across the road in front of the lesSUV, I am off and up those damned hills, to camp with the BAG.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Marginalized German Female Romantic Poet looks for Like-minded Goth

When the literati gather to discuss the canon, particularly the poetic canon, they often overlook historical and literary realities that help create that canon. I have here, particularly, misogyny in mind and the correlated pedestals and gutters into which women in poems, and of poetry, are symmetrically cast. On pedestals or in gutters, the work of female poets is easily ignored.

Such is the historical predicament of German female romantic poet Kattan Mous. For too many years now, Kattan has lingered in the shadow of her brother Anony, who is represented in poetry collections across all genres. Little is known of Anony Mous, and even less is known about his sister Kattan.

This is unfair, for Kattan was a genre-bender from the outset – in many ways defined the future of women in poetry. The first female poet to affect clothing in all-black, she also took her coffee and lovers in that fashion. A pioneer in the field of mascara-application. gaol-house tattoos, Gaulousies, and misery, she is perhaps best know in literature for her only written work, a seething poetic contemplation on mortality and dirt (We are told it is incomparable in the original German).

A DAY AT THE BEACH

Kattan Mous

I looked into a grain of sand,
And saw the earth, an orb
And lands
In a great universe absorb
and expand!
To include perhaps, even more lands
And lands and lands, and lands again!
And when I look, more lands within!

A solitary walker, me!
I swooned, I me, I reveried!
The lands include and bound the seas,
Beneath all of which, I understand
There lies more land,
And land, and land!

And each land promising only bliss.
Not sculptured garden or Arcadian myth
And then, at last I understand
We come from land
To go to land.

Can a little sister get a hand?
(REPEAT CHORUS IF YOU'VE GOT ONE)

Unfortunately (from a critical perspective premised on the unimpeded gaze of male hegemony) Kattan was not suicidal, lesbian, or cruelly beautiful. Lacking any of these key ingredients to a place in the pantheon, she was forgotten after her untimely death, age 93, at the hands of a mercury-based black nail-polish.

We are asked, "who did she influence?" and the tragic answer is no one. Consigned to the trashbin of literary history by the withering male gaze, she disappeared upon death, if not earlier. With this essay I hope to move Kattan from disfigurement to transfigurement - to find Kattan a place in the new canon, the canon of "forgotten" poets - poets with asyncopated rhythms, poets who deftly rhyme "moon" and "june," poets without love except from those whose fetish is to love the unloved (Kattan is rumoured to have dated Wordsworth), poets without the skills to pay the bills,

Kattan Mous, We barely knew ye!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Apologies to all Three Readers

One of the three of you noted that comments didn't work, so I've had to change to a canned template and start effing with it. Which is exactly how comments got lost the last time, so I suppose this only proves I'm either

A) Optomistic I can learn from past mistakes
B) Stupid
C) Living in an Illusion
D) Both B and C Which adds up to Republican

which is a lie, because the real answer is..

E) About to go to bed before my eyeballs fall out like that creepy scene in "The Time Machine" where the guy is in the machine and looking out into the cave and like the dude dies and then he gets all leathery like Clint Eastwood or Ann Coulter and his hair gets thin like Clint Eastwood or Ann Coulter and then he gets all shriveled up like Ann Coulter and then, like, his eye falls out. And everything.

Beach Bug (The Completion Backwards Principle)

Had to do an online school thing today, so took advantage of that to take the whole day off. Left for Felton yesterday (place has sporadic wireless) and worked up the coast today. Took a standard picture of a dumb bird which as everyone knows is a picture I take all the time and never get right.

This is an ongoing trauma.

As we headed from beach to beach we decided not to go down onto the beach on which some sort of hominid hunting/gathering was taking place. I did snap a quick shot of the the lovely naked man foraging in the water, apparently for food. There were no clothes anywhere in sight, we were the only car in the parking lot, and I was just a bit concerned that the super-genius life I've been leading has softened my once godlike physique to the point that I have now become below Mr. Neanderthal on the food chain. And if he offered me some kind of crud he pulled from out of the creekbed?

I'd rather eat Korean!

So we wandered on and checked out Butano State (?) Park which looks like a truly excellent place to camp. No RVs at all, no showers, and vault toilets. These are the kind of conditions that drive out the lesser camper and that's what we like. In addition, only 39 sites in the whole campground, which must at least reduce the chance of horrifying late night party noises wafting in from all sides.

Then it was up to Alice's Restaurant where, unnacountably, a really red firefly took a bizarre shine to the radio antenna on the car behind me. I raced to the car to get the camera. For the first time EVER an insect, bird or animal was still there when I got back with the camera and I snapped these photos with the long lens.

Then I had a delicious burritto and we returned to the Hell that is San Jose, and the certainty (for me at least) of work tomorrow.

While we ate, since I had the big old 400mm lens out I was interupted by a waitress who wanted to know about digital cameras. The big lens seems to be an invitation for waiter/resses and bartenders/resses to start conversations with me. I rather like that, actually, because in general I'll never see them again, I think (hope) it means my food won't have any bodily fluids in it, and I can usually give some good general advice. All in all?
A better day than if I had gone to work.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Korea.. The food of the future ("Ice Cream of the Future" still sucks)

So Michael Bauer, fresh from attempting to poison his innnocent pooch, notes that:
A couple of months ago, I attended the first-ever flavor conference held at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena, where for three days a group of scientists, chefs and journalists convened to talk about what's happening in the world of cooking.

Greg Drescher, the organizer of the event, kicked off the program with a very provocative idea:

"Anglo-Germanic palate is in slow decline, and Latin and Asian flavors will change the landscape."

And this, predictably, makes me think of another reason that Korea will shortly rise in the estimation of the US. It has a cuisine that suits us.

As always (and Koreans would hate this) I think of Japan. When we think of Japanese food, what would most US citizens come up with?

If you said "sushi," you, like me, are part of "most" US citizens. Sushi is the most Japanese of exports, although cartoon chicks covered with the semen of multiple masturbators (and possibly tentacles) are rising on the charts. But what percentage of US citizens actually "like" sushi? The farther you press into the flyover states, the lower the percentage drops.

But what percentage of US citizens love them some the Barbeque (BB-Q in the vernacular)? I'm up at 90% or so on this one. And the Koreans make themselves some kicking BBQ. With the bonus that a good Korean BBQ joint lets you cook it at your own table if you want.

What's that you say?

"Not very exotic?"

Right you are. It's only BBQ. And sushi, right up to the poisonous varieties and the ones covered with the eggs of gutted fish at the top of the endangered species list? It's as exotic as cysticercosis with a bit more fun involved. But Korean food will bring you the exotic food, it will just be in a million small dishes surrounding the main one. That means you can look like you are eating exotic food while you are really eating cooked beef or pig.

It's a dream for the US.

So this, out of order from the arguments I was going to make -- full of intent, logic, and meaning, is one small reason I think that Korea may be the next Asian "flavor of the month."
And since the last one, Japan, has enjoyed a 'month' that has lasted almost 40 years?

I want to see what happens....

Oh, yeah.. that "ice cream of the future?" It's something called Dippin' Dots and it has been the "ice cream of the future" since I was a youngster, which was long into the previous millenium. I first saw it at the Santa Cruz boardwalk, where conventional ice-cream and cotton candy had much more appeal for me. If you want to invest in the future of the past (Did I just quote the Moody Blues?) you can check them out here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

No Jim, I'm Not Romulan.. I'm Reman...

IN THE SHADOW OF GODS: BEING AN ACCOUNT OF MY TIME EXPLORING THE FOREIGN LAND OF ROME (In several sections)
Roman Ghosts • Landings • De Face of History • Pitched onto the Cobblestones • Land Of Leisure and Idleness • Bar Room Revelations • Gabriel • Vatican Rag. • Live! Dead! Catacombs! • Back to the Bar • Wherever I May Rome


ROMAN GHOSTS
“You stand like a marble statue, trying to act so hard”

Rome has ghosts. I suspected something the first day I was there. I was impressed with each marble monstrosity I encountered and depressed with most Italians.

Like many feelings this made little sense. I should have been a sucker for Rome. I took five years of Latin. My mother is Italian. I know how many parts Gaul was divided into. I canem for caves when not feeding the Capitoline ducks or wondering who guards the guards. My chest is hairy and I like red wine.

With so much overdetermined I should have slid happily into Rome on its bed of brilliant provolone, wine-sharp tomatoes, and brightly paired melons and ham. Instead I felt uneasy and far from home. Eventually I unpacked that feeling – I was in the world’s largest mausoleum. There was no real animation. I do not mean to say that life didn’t go on. Social life in Rome can be frantic and exhausting. But like skeletons dancing in a graveyard it mocks the life it apes.


LANDINGS
“As the plane touches down my watch says ”3:02” / But that’s midnight to you.”

The Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters (POSSLQ) and I set down in Rome. I was still completely unmoored from the traveling I had done in the previous two days. I flew from Seoul, Korea to San Francisco, CA and then less than 24 hours later I returned to the SFO airport and decamped for Rome.

I had one night in the Bay Area, and it was the most confusing night of my life. But I was so unmoored from any particular time-zone that when I got to Rome it was just one night of sleep before I felt right again.

And so I set out to see Rome.

There is little new to be said about Rome. Perhaps it is that I have nothing new to say?

Rome is old and enduring, which is both its charm and its banality. I saw what needed to be seen. On the first day we powered through the sites/sights that folks back home would ask about. In a one-day introduction to the fine bus system and ankle-shattering cobblestone roads of Rome we saw St. Peters square, the Piazza Novona, the Trevi Fountain, and the Spanish Steps. Once seen under pressure, we later revisited them at leisure. But on this day we made sure the tourist stuff was under our belt as soon as we could have it there. We also had much red wine with lunch. Italians drink as much as Koreans although perhaps for different reasons. And face it, mom and I are Italians.

DEFACING HISTORY
“Match me a slingshot/with every streetlamp in Queens/And I’m gonna show you more broken glass than any girl ever seen.”

One thing I noticed immediately is that most of Rome is covered in spray-paint. Roman graffiti artists seem to have all the will of US crews without their skills. Graffiti was quick, dirty, and artless. And it was all over any piece of art that wasn’t guarded by fences or water. Walk up in the Borghese Gardens and what wasn’t graffitied was defaced or destroyed. It went beyond the tagging urge, it crossed over into mere destruction. I detected a civic sense of self-loathing. Or perhaps it is just excess youthful civic pride. After all, the very word “graffiti” derives from the Latin word graffito, meaning something like a “flat scribble.” Which would work if you believed, for a second, that the kind of person who spray-paints on marble is literate. And if you believed that the low quality of the graffiti in Rome, primarily tagging, would probably dissuade you.

A quick internet search seemed to back up the notion that the graffiti is not based on noble sentiments. RomeBuddy notes that, “much of the spray-painted graffiti seen on the noble marble edifices of old Rome may indeed be rooted in anarchistic reaction to old values.” So despite my warm-hearted conjecture that little Roman lads and lasses are in fact historians with attitude, it seems more likely that they are unhappy idiots with spray paint.

RIDING WILD, FROM COBBLESTONE TO PITCH

The sense of civic self-loathing I detected in Roman graffiti is also played out daily in a form of automotive cultural immolation that makes Seoul Taxi-Drivers seem like Driver’s College Summa Cum Laude’s.

And the soccer team flops. Jerks.


LAND OF LEISURE AND IDLENESS
“I don’t want a holiday in the sun, I want to go to the new Belsen!”

Wandering Rome I sensed it had a lack of desire - a lacuna where will would be. Even the beggars just lay there on the ground with a cup in front, perhaps a kid, and an air of ennui a French Philosopher would envy. Businesses opened and closed randomly. Service was lackadaisical. People wandered the street with lazy randomness. The only time I saw any one move with any impetus was when they drove, which they did with a lazy disregard that was breathtaking to watch. Each driver drove like they were extending a permanent finger to every other driver on the road.

In general it seemed that everyone was too bored to care. I was in a land of idleness and leisure. Nowhere did I see anyone who seemed to be planning for the future, no one working hard, no one with a plan beyond the immediate scam. Admittedly, I speak no Italian and saw a small cross-section of Rome. But that was also true of Seoul and there at least I sensed some urgency.

Here any sense of urgency worked at geologic speed and with a casual disregard for property and others.

When I came to Rome I had been warned of “thieving Gypsies.” Beyond a mere force of nature, the Gypsies would come in hordes, led either by children or a Gypsy Woman (who was almost always described to me as suckling an infant). They would arrive so quickly, they would strike in so many waves, they would be so quick and efficient that I would be rendered of my wallet, some of my clothes, perhaps even my pride.

By my fifth day in Rome I was praying to every Roman God I could name to bring this cataclysm down. To bring me something that seemed to have belief, desire, desperation, even criminality behind it.

But this never came.

I was in Rome and I didn’t understand it at all.


BAR ROOM WISDOM
“It’s, it’s a ballroom blitz!”

So I spent some time in a local bar. The bartender was young with very good English. Like most Italians who wore t-shirts, his shirts were in English. No matter what else can be said about the imperial projects of the United States, we have won the t-shirt war. The bartender was about to head to Belgium to study electronic music at a conservatory. He wanted to be the next John Cage. I never did get his name. I’m sure he offered it to me, but the bar was very loud and I am partially deaf. The bar, even when I was to the sole patron, played 40-minute tapes with vague themes. When the bartender asked me what kind of music I liked (He liked Sigur Ross, who I had heard of, but never heard) he translated my Husker Du response into a 40-minute tape of the Clash playing live.

I liked that.

In conversation the bartender offhandedly expressed the view current Romans had about old Rome in a one sentence declaration that, “I’d give anything to live in it one day as it was.” I thought this odd from kid who clearly had a plan for the future.

I asked him, in a tipsy way, how Rome dealt with it’s illustrious history and he broke it down as a contest between those living in the past and those thinking about the present.

He said, ‘It’s a war between the architects and archeologists.’

He added that the archeologists always won.

I had already seen many a ruin but after a while their tatty glory faded into the background. You had to keep reminding yourself of their context – the lost glory they represented. I ordered another beer and made it of the .41 Liter variety. I had to be sure that he understood that I was a writer, or at least a wannabe, and alcohol is international shorthand for that. I asked why no one had ever thought to take just one of the grand ruins of Rome and restore it to pre-collapse glory? I had seen a book that did this with clever semi-transparent overlays, and as a marketing guy at realized I would pay a lot of money to visit a pristinely re-modeled ruin (ex-ruin?) and I would not be the only one.

He couldn’t hear that question. It made no sense to him. He rambled about how some places could be redesigned and told a story, intended to be cautionary I think, about how poorly this sort of thing had ended in the past. His response contained two related thoughts. First, that Rome today couldn’t compare to Rome of times past. Second, that attempts to recreate such glory (even simulacra) would be pointless.

As I wandered drunkenly home a phrase entered my mind unbidden, as unbidden phrases do. That phrase was “haunted by marble ghosts,” and to me it explained what I had observed.

Romans lived in the shadow of something so vast that they could never escape it. Romans were haunted by the stone ghosts of ancient Rome.

Why would modern Romans try? How could they compete with the ruined history that surrounded them? Worse, they can’t destroy it – it is their meal ticket. So every day, wherever they went, there it was, their history, mocking their dreams.

Every day is a series of casual insults from the long-dead. You ride the bus to work in the shadow of the aqueduct. What did you do yesterday? You pass by the enormous Monument to Vittorio Emananuelle II (and his substantial ego). What will you do today? St. Peters, or any number of other basilicae loom beside you wherever you go. What could you do today? You take your cappuccino in the piazza, any piazza, and you are staring at a fountains built by Bernini or Michelangelo. What could your children, or your children’s children do?

It’s hopeless.

You can’t compete. So you don’t.

Marble ghosts haunt Rome.

VATICAN RAG
“When in Rome do as a Roman / Clutch the cross to your abdomen”

The Vatican is an elephant in the corner. It is the ultimate representation (and art collection) of the superiority of the past, continually reminding modern Rome of how pathetic it is.

Italy must be the only country that has a sovereign religious state smack dab in the middle of its capital. And the Vatican has swing. One reason Rome is such a great tourist destination is that it is an “old style” city. One reason it is an “old style” city is that, by law, no building in Rome can be built to height greater than the dome of St. Peters. At the “request” of the Vatican.

This may be a sensible thing to legislate, it gives tourists clear views, but it is also an ancient tail wagging a ratty dog. The past trumps the present.

I toured the Vatican over three days, and it is mind-numbing. Paintings of famous artists elbow each other for space on the roof of hallways! But, in many ways, its power and influence dwarf and diminish Rome.

The Swiss Guards at the Vatican wear outfits that would look comfortable on the average oompa-loompa. The outfits are two-colored Swiss monstrosities that billow in weird places. A Swiss Guard can resemble an ambulatory multi-level mushroom. But, they have guarded the Vatican for over 500 years, so it occurred to me that they might have insight. After a bit of digging around I met a Swiss Guard and invited him for a drink. We talked.

“As we wandered from window to window in the Vatican,” I began, “I noticed a tennis court on the corner right above where the line for museum turns. Does anyone play tennis out there?”

The guard nodded. “Certainly. Many who work at the Vatican are old, but many are fit. More keep arriving.”

I thought this must be true. New blood may be scarcer in these secular times, there will always be a stream of repressed gays, obsessives and the honestly religious to refresh the Vatican. It's the big time. Just as there may not be many good actors in local repetory theatre? There are great ones on Broadway. Same with the Vatican. On the pines, big audiences, the biggest great-white-way ever.

I asked the guard if the Pope played? He claimed the new Pope (the "Rat" to Vatican insiders) plays fiercely. He doesn't like to lose and isn't above tricks that come with age. He has a mean dropshot, and woe (and perhaps eternal damnation) to the young collar who tries to play the game straight. The Vatican hasn't played the game straight since... well, they've never played the game straight...

A successful Papal opponent plays just well enough to lose and thus doesn't jeopardize chances at advancement. A well-timed hamstring injury has been key, more than once, to the career well being of a young member of the staff and if there are any service aces on this court, they are served by ‘Rat.’

As I left, I had a sudden vision of Papal dropshots bouncing over the restraining fence and showering down on tourists and Romans, waiting patiently in line for entrance to the Vatican. It seemed like an appropriate image.


GABRIEL
blow your horn”

I talked to Gabriel Moyer about this. Gabriel is a good-looking 17 year-old multi-racial American who speaks three languages. Gabriel immediately attached himself to my idea. Gabriel was dressed in a DKNY shirt and Polo shorts so it’s not surprising where he took the idea.

In a tone that suggested he had just witnessed the murder of 27 cute little puppies, Gabriel said, “I have never seen so many 500 dollar suits ruined.”

I’m not a very fashionable guy (I have one suit for interviews and it is from Sears and cost under 200 dollars) so I asked him what he meant.

“Expensive suits,” Gabriel replied, “ruined by aging, no cleaning and no care.”

Something like the Coliseum, I thought.

So you’re Italian. And you buy an Italian suit. It is a classy suit, but that is the best it will ever be. So I suppose you don’t wash your suit. It can never be as clean and creased as when it came off the rack.

Why try?

Accept your shabby gentility and keep the vino rosso coming. It’s not just for lunch anymore.

LIVE! DEAD! CATACOMBS!
“Some people might say my life is in a rut / But I’m quite happy with what I’ve got”

My holiday was practically ruined by this “brilliant” insight. I’m glad it came late into my trip. We visited the Catacombs. Our tour guide was an unshaven man in a once-expensive suit (I thought of Gabriel) now hanging like a dishrag. He was tall, and perhaps handsome. He certainly had piercing eyes. The tour was interesting in its way. The catacombs are claustrophobic in a way that brings back the general tenor of Rome. History presses in around you like the walls of a cemetery hacked out of underground tufa.

Part of this, of course, is only that people were smaller 2,000 years ago. That reality is starkly expressed in the size of the looted tombs, which I pondered with something between wonder and boredom. I really wanted to see some bones but all of the bones in this catacomb have been long since looted. And as I thought this, and as I bumped my head against a bit of protruding rock it occurred to me that this was the same problem. In the Catacomb, as in Rome, the humans are gone and only the structures built for them remain. I couldn’t help but think that this was some kind of metaphor for modern Romans – forced to wander up and down, around and around, in paths that had been laid for them hundreds of years ago. It’s a fossil site where some poor creatures have the poor fortune to still be alive.

WHEREVER I MAY ROME
“Home isn’t where it used to be / Home is anywhere you hang your head”

I loved the ruins, I hated the ruined.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Rome in the Rearview

We woke up at 4 on our last day a quick kiss goodbye from my mom and within moments the driving service was whisking us through the entirely empty streets of Rome. We felt a bit sad and just kind of sat in the back seat holding hands, watching the empty streets and buildings whiz by. The driving service guy sped like an insane maniac and utterly ignored lanes. None of which was the slightest concern, since we were the only ones on the road.

A long line at the airport and then on to Amsterdam where I rented some wireless time so the BAG could send an email to an address her brother no longer uses. This email was asking him to pick us up. Oops. A long boring plane ride and then we landed in SFO, took BART (I had completely forgotten in runs all the way to the airport) to Hayward, then down to San Jose and sleep.

Rome was over.

By Saturday night, I had my traditional "welcome home" illness, and was in bed until Tuesday. I sorted photos, burned DVDs and stayed close the the bathroom. Aaaaaaah. Home again.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Bonus Testology of Linking from U-Tube




The performing Ape

Last Day in Italy..

Sure.. it's a month old, but I must finish my days in Italy.

This here day, was the last one...

Our last day began far too early. We had been in Rome, spitting distance from the Vatican, and we had still not been up in the cupola of St. Peters. This would not be the kind or thing that one could admit upon one's return to one's home. It would occasion some hilarity (primarily in others). So, POSSLQ and I decided we would beat the crowds by awakening with the rosy-fingers of dawn, and head off to the Vatican.

The night before, B-man and POSSLQ had talked about a group trip, but as I wobbled off to a drunken sleep they were still at it.

In the morning I awoke and the POSSLQ made some half-hearted attempts to pound on the door of the parent's room. On the way out we walked past Gabbo, who was sleeping on the couch in the the living room. As it turned out, Yvonne had promised everyone that she would wake them up and we would all go together. She had a credible excuse with the parents, in fact I had heard her feebly knock, but when the subject came up later that night, POSSLQ had not credible explanation for walking straight past Gabbo's uncomfortable sleep. But at that time, that morning, I had no idea of the extent of POSSLQ's betrayal of the family.

So it didn't matter at all when we walked over to the Vatican. The only thing that mattered was that I hadn't had time to get a shower (in retrospect this was all part of the POSSLQ's plan to get out of the flat before anyone could wake up) and the sun was rising. At least it was rising over a largely deserted St. Pietro Square, so I snapped a couple of quick pictures without anyone (or many people) in them.

We were early. Which meant I got to stand in line, in the sun, with people all around, and me unshowered, at the Vatican. I tried hard not to sweat which, of course, made me sweat. POSSLQ distracted the people behind us who were talking, in cockney accents, about the length of the "queue" and the weather in London by asking them if they were from Minnesota. While they tried to digest how she had come to this conclusion, I was largely ignored.

15 minutes later they opened the doors and a whole tour (an "invasion" in the local vernacular) of Germans ran around the left of the line and cut in at the front. Swine. They deserved everything we ever did to Dresden!

When we got to the stairs, lo and behold, it cost money. Fortunately POSSLQ and I had enough money between us, to go on up. We had a choice. We could take the elevator up to the final 232 stairs, or we could take the stairs up to the stairs. Which was what the POSSLQ chose, so my fat sweaty self lumbered up the steps (which wrapped around the elevator shaft, so we could watch them whiz by) and we eventually reached the first roof.

This led to the famous 232 steps which were narrow and rotated counter-clockwise up to the top. The impassibility of the steps was exacerbated by the stupid fucking Norwegian chicks who got tired and sat down in the.. well.. not the middle.. because the stairways were too narrow to actually have a middle. But we all had to step over them, which made things slower. I can't imagine what the stairway trip would have been like when the place was crowded and in a heat wave. The Vatican must control how many people can go in per hour, but I saw no evidence of that in any signage.

Half way to the top you get to stop at the last little ring inside the place. It has semi-nice views that are partially blocked by a big fence.. you can see that the old fence used to only go waist-high, and it doesn't take much imagination to think of the kind of stupidity that must have caused the Vatican to fence the whole thing in.

Anyway, we rolled on to the top, which is surrounded by excellent views, but was wildly crowded even by the small number of people who were on it while we were there. That picture up above is some random shot from behind the Vatican.

We headed down the stairs, which was quicker, but just as steep (that picture includes my muscular calf encased in fashionable jeans!). When we got back to the deck between the "first" and "second" stairs, we took just a bit more time and wandered around until we got to see the backside of the statues that face out onto St. Pietro Square. The picture doesn't show it, but it was quite impressive.

Then it was back to the flat to face all the outraged relatives that Yvonne had left behind in the morning. I spent the afternoon drinking in the bar and POSSLQ spent the afternoon bookshopping. Well, she tried, but the guy who had, just two days earlier, guarunteed us that he was open "7 days a week" was in fact closed. We had dinner, of course, packed, and dreaded the prospect of waking up at 4 the next morning to get a ride to the airport, and then out from Rome.

The epic was drawing to a close.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Seoul Grows Closer?

It seems as though the chances of working in Seoul are increasing – if I want it. Now I am asked to send my photo to Mr. Park so he can forward it on to the college (which, as it turns out, is a Junior College according to its just revamped web-page). I think the photo is A) To prove I am white and, B) To make sure I look "good" enough. "Houston, we could have a problem!"

There is also a job interview down in Santa Barbara in one week from today, and that might turn into a job offer. It is in a language lab, but it is not instruction, Additionally, it is a 40 hour per week gig with no schedule flexibility. The job in Seoul would be 15 hours of instruction per week, and the rest being the mysterious "other duties" that faculty in the Community College System in California assiduously don't tend to. So that's points against, really.

One other thing playing into this is that as I get older I have to ask myself how many adventures I will be able to go on. The Seoul job, above and beyond all else, will be something drastically new, and that is normally a good thing. I could learn the language, visit the sites, get a little cultural knowledge. I think that Korea has the chance to be the "next" Japan, and that would be worth riding.

I would also be able to finish my Master's without as much 'stuff' going on around me, and I have a fantasy of taking some time to do a little writing. Perhaps only a fantasy, but one that I would not have if I were in SBCC or some similar position. Also, I'd get to work out my teaching chops on poor innocent Koreans.

I suppose the questions have to do with isolation. How well would I take leaving all my friends and family. It isn't like I see them a great deal, but the idea that I can see them whenever I want is one I'm fond of. A nice 10-hour $500 flight (one-way) makes that a little less likely from Seoul.

And then there is the BAG (New acronym for the POSSLQ – this means "Bizarre Alien Girlfriend" and also has the advantage of being easier to type). How well can we do in a bi-continental relationship? She has a brilliant plan for my first year of absence, which involves finishing her degree. But who knows if absence makes the heart grow fonder or just brings on a kind of forgetfulness?

And then there is the practical process of getting out of here. I'll have to move out, store what I want, sell a car I'm still paying off… there are issues, as they say.

I dunno, I'll work some of these thoughts out here… The thrill of being an expat, the "next Japan" The "BAG" list, some other things…. Interesting times…