Saturday, December 28, 2002

Almost a month. So much happens in a day, though, let alone a month. My brother got sick on the 23rd and ended up having surgery on the 24th, then eventually coming home for recovery on the 25th. It all sounds different when you use numbers instead of the names of the days. "Christmas Eve," "Christmas Day".
The ER was actually busier than I thought it would be a couple of days before Christmas, but when I thought about it that way -- the ER was busy on the 23rd -- it's a different concept. Christmas, a day like any other. Except that we remember one day that wasn't like any other. As I stepped outside the hospital that night after hearing that my brother had to undergo surgery, I kept looking at the sky for angels. But stuff happens Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Someone has to be on duty in the maternity ward; in fact a friend of mine just happened to be working on the floor on which my brother stayed at the hospital Christmas Day. She's a nurse now, yet somehow different to me that all the others in uniform I saw there.
So, the hustle and bustle of Christmas was a little different this year -- hustle and bustle to and from the hospital instead of the supermarket and my sister's house. Quite obviously my mind is still reorganizing after the craziness.
We live in an apartment that overlooks a main street and a freeway. My balcony faces the freeway and all day Christmas day I would look out my window and watch the cars. Sometimes I leave my window open at night and listen to them swishing by -- they never really stop. They slow a little, but there's always someone going somewhere, 4 in the morning, 3 in the afternoon, midnight, 6 AM, doesn't matter. Life just goes on and keeps rolling like the cars on the road and the parts in the factory across the street, or the spinning earth that kept spinning even when the son of God squeezed out into the world. I wonder if Joseph was afraid for Mary when the baby was on the way...Some may call that idle and unholy speculation, yet if they were not people like the rest of us the moment of the occasion is forfeit.
Anyhow, life goes on. Perhaps my speculation isn't unholy, but it may well be idle.
An MTA bus just passed my window.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Friend Athos sent me a comic and it managed, as do many things on the internet, to drag me from my work for a few moments -- long enough for me to write this blog entry. The internet is such a phenomenon, radical, yet recognizable; we have tv, on which you can channel surf for hours on end meaninglessly; we have the paper, where you can read all kinds of articles which may or may not pertain to you, depending on how much time you have in your day for the activity in question; we even have libraries and bookstores in which a person may pore over thousands of tomes and volumes of information that is only tangentially related to him or her. But the internet is a phenomenon of it's own, something to which we have a draw, like the subconscious, something to which no one will admit, yet to which all subscribe: You know of what I speak -- the times you plan on just checking your email, but end up playing those Flash games, or you want to look up information on a movie and end up reading criticism of government health policies worldwide. You see, that's just the draw of it; it's so large and yet so immediately accessible. If technology has increased our capacity to accomplish tasks in a more speedy manner, it has also increased out ability to waste time more effectively, so to speak. Like my blog about torri gates (below) -- at no point in history before the past two decades would a man be able to develop a philosophical position on the placement of torri gates in public and personally styled Japanese gardens without some sort of prior knowledge of eastern horticulture and religious symbolism -- all in 15 minutes.
I'm always eager to find out what people read on the net. Some only stop at news sites and checking email. To me that's like going to the grocery store and picking up bread and milk (which you can actually do on the internet now) -- the bare necessities. But in my Freshman year of college, I was introduced to a new kind of internet browsing by my roommate, inspired in my life by There was a little scrolling ticker you could place on your screen and as you watched it would parade random websites and searches before you, search requests which were sent in by people, mind you, and were therefore sometimes questionable. Even so, I was always fascinated, sometimes only morbidly so, at how much gunk is out there -- I don't know how many pop bands popped up and clothing sites swirled by, but there was a lot between them as well, random things which I cannot even duplicate in my mind now. Even with all the websites about topics like ancient druid rites and varieties of antarctic wildlife, people were still looking up the same stuff that was in the news, on tv and in libraries. So I resolved to use my time, made much more effective by high speed connections and hands trained by years of typing papers, to look up information that I generally wouldn't find elsewhere, or at least would not know where to locate. Afterall, if you can waste your time in the grocery store line reading the "info" in the tabloids, or in a bookstore browsing easily on the same topic, why spend such valuable time as ten minute breaks (only ten minutes!) on reading the same stuff?
I will not waste your technologically enhanced break time with the details of the outcome in my years as a websurfer, but the overall result has been a refreshing outlook on the world. All those generations trapped in the microcosm of subculture and geographical boundaries -- it would be a shame, I think, to set down the opportunity to access the mind of the global village for the sake of keeping a tight grip on myopia.
Of course, maybe that's what Adam thought before he bit into the knowledge of good and evil - a bite we've been trying to chew since then and will likely never swallow; if that's the case, then such wanderings into the dark corners of the electronic subcurrent of reality are written on our genes and we're merely keeping up a tradition as old as the origin of our species.
God bless technology. And thanks for the comic, Jeff.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Well, went to Oregon for Thanksgiving and visited with my old roommate and his family. It was a friend of mine and I driving up there from So Cal. (So Cal sounds so commercial, like one of those generic supermarket brands. Ick)
Oregon is a different place. In Oregon the fog hangs onto the trees like spiderwebs over a dark corner in a house, or an old man's wispy beard, unperturbed by sunshine or wind. The road out of northern California twisted up and down, past the far off and mysterious Mt Shasta. We were driving through that area going up at about 5:30 AM, so the mountain's shadow appeared to us like a phantom. In fact, at first I thought I was hallucinating. Finally, as we drew closer, its snowcapped peak loomed on the horizon, like the pillar of God's presence over the sleeping landscape.
Further into Oregon, the sunrise refused to come. Six o'clock, six fifteen. Jeff said, "We're pilgrims in an unholy land."
I laughed.
In Oregon I think my beard grew faster. Perhaps it was the wind, or that mountain man feeling when you can walk on occasion through trees and grass that aren't plotted by the city council. All I wanted to do was trounce around in hiking boots or sit in a park and read. TV sounded boring. I liked that.
While I was up there I read Melville's Bartleby. It's somewhat a disgruntling tale to me. That character standing there like some stubborn ghost, refusing to leave, refusing to work, refusing to do anything, even move or take money, simply on the basis of preference. Yet annoying as he seemed, I could not help but gawk at his bravery in jealousy. There are times that I long to do the same. I think that's the biggest draw of the story. Green eyed laziness.
I wanted to ride a horse up while I was up there. Funny thing is, we really didn't spend all that much time in the country side. It was just the knowledge of that presence; the river flowing through Portland under the bridges as if the very city was built from the bones and blood of a sleeping giant. We visited my old roommate's cousin's house and they had quite a few horses. The cousin simply refused to believe that I really wanted to ride a horse. Said it was the romance of the idea. "Everyone says they want to ride a horse, but no one really knows what they're in for. No one really knows..."
I've wanted to ride a horse since I was a young boy, but the smirk on horse cousin's face repelled me from the idea of riding one of their horses, even when the offer was placed before me willingly. Maybe next time. I'd rather not have an experience tainted by the rusty cynicism of superiority. Okay, maybe that was a bit harsh.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

The imminence of rain has hung over the skies of Los Angeles for the past couple of weeks. Today at about 1, the clouds darkened, threatening deluge, so eagerly we looked to the smog swathed grayness above, hoping, waiting. Outside the library, I felt a few drops, but it was a poor showing. Rain cleanses me, I feel, and sometimes when I drive through it, I feel cheated and dirty, like those days I sit at home or in my office indoors and miss the press of the sun's heat on my skin, trading it up for the ghostly luminesence of flourescent lights and computer screens. Unnatural.
The consciousness within me balks when I come indoors. It's like the unnatural bites in and drains the venom of simulacrum and plastic into my blood, making me weak and sickly. Trying to escape, my mind races frantically to find some escape; I get a headache and have to step out; I have trouble breathing and need fresh air. And if I am strong enough to douse those urges, I find myself feeling sleepy from inactivity, dozing amidst the pale light and paperwork, all the names swirling around me in a thick ooze of numbers and letters and miscellaneous symbols.
This afternoon, to keep from sleeping I looked up torri gates on Google: I'm feeling lucky. The people's string of virtual conversation about a religious symbol seemed strangely out of place; religion is where people are, where their consciousness is; the digital multiverse didn't seem to have a language for the explanation needed: What exactly is sacriligious now? Is it putting a torri gate in a garden? Submerging a cross in a bottle of urine? Rejecting tradition or change? The fascination is peaked by the taboo -- what will happen? Will we get away with it.
Yet, across the gate between what is seen and what is unseen, the goings on of heavenly beings are, I imagine, untroubled. The worst has already been done, the head of a prophet served on a silver platter, the statue of a god broken and discarded, the Almighty throne challenged by the hand that served it. The meaning is lost down here, yet we ask the same questions, unsure whether the meaning was supposed to be important, unsure of whether there is some significance to a symbol beneath the surface of lucidity, the icons written on our genes, but unintelligible in writing or speech. They are natural and engraved on our very subconsciousness, somewhere between soul and frontal lobe. Meaning or none, they remain, unreachable, unerasable, but grounded firmly in the beginnings of humanity many years ago, a time forgotten but simulated in our lives everyday.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

It's Monday again. I just realized that quite a few of my blogs fall on Mondays. Maybe it's that point in time when everything is just out of wack enough that I can see all the colors, like some cold prism that refracts life into a array of philosophical undertones.
Or it could just be coincidence.
Either way, Monday always comes too soon, and I found myself in the same bed in a new apartment when I woke up this morning, still uwilling to get up; but things don't have to change that much to take a turn for the better.
Everyone had had it last Friday: dragging their feet around the hazy blue-speckled-white office carpet amidst the dun 1970s looking partitions, just wasting time. Some of the guys over in Admissions were riding a scooter between the filing cabinets and the Assistant Director'd office; she obviously wasn't there, but it was Friday; even if she was, she wouldn't have bothered to say anything.
My boss was gone on a vacation thing of some sort at 1:00, so we had no boss, but moral convictions, a rock and hard place you find at religious institutions. It kind of makes me wonder what government offices would be like if they had religious affiliations. Can you imagine? The Buddhist District of Motor Vehicles.
Okay, there is something a little different from karma or jihad in a Christian institution (did I just make a statement?), but even after the weekend, even after 63 hours of freedom from files and belligerent phone calls, even after breakfast and coffee twice with no cubicle to follow, even then, Monday comes with a thud.


So I stared at my computer screen, wrote a few emails, ate some fruit salad and mulled over Bob's file. His parents are middle aged, rich, and unwilling to give him any money. But he wants money. And he's not going to go get paid minimum wage when he can just write a letter and claim that their house payements, his car payements, all the credit cards and gas...and, oh, he has to pay for his own food! The tragedy!!! What saviour can we find?
Stafford Loan, 3500. Apply for it or get a job.
And that's why I write on Mondays. Goodness, the students are so creative on Mondays, I don't know. Maybe they inspire me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Despite my oh so lofty meditations, life does occassionally take a turn for the ordinary; in fact, office life is anything but extraordinary most days of the week.
Saturday this last week I went to a concert with my girlfriend. It's amazing how much of a step outside concerts can be. I had heard a song or two by the band before, but my guesses as to what the group looked like were completely off. In the bathroom at the concert venue (somewhere in L.A.) they had these "waterless" urinals. I know, I know, a little too mundane an observation. But have you ever wondered exactly who it is that designs the porcelain? What does a meeting at such a company look like? What do the bathrooms in such a place look like? Anyway, this whole experience revolutionized the way I look at bathrooms. Soyinka has a character in one of his novels who creates an entire philosophy of life based on his contemplations of bowel movements. I didn't go that far, but today I was wondering what kind of perspective on life the person who figured out the flush mechanisms in toilets had. Didn't have time to find that, but this was kind of...interesting:
There's always more to the mundane.
So life goes on. Spent a few minutes this morning standing in front of the coffee vending machine wondering why it is that Regular coffee costs 10 cents more than French Vanilla. Go fig. I wonder if inside there's a little container with a label, kind of like the ones on those juice bottles: 10% Coffee (just what is that other 90%? I know it's not water.)
And that's it. The long day is almost over.

Monday, September 23, 2002

The sunlight streaming through my window hardly made me alacritous to go to work this morning. Since I crawled from my bed the haze over my mind has not lifted, transporting me places against my will throughout the day -- work, home, Nairobi, Washington.
One of the higher-ups in our office is leaving. Wow. Today when she announced it, we all just sat there and stared, like babies being weaned, just stared and wondered. My first thought: We're so screwed.
She really gave us a month's notice, but that doesn't seem to make much of a difference in light of her years of experience. The budget's messed up, we've lost two key people in the office and counting, the director's going nuts trying to figure it all out, and our hope, our glue, the one person in our office that we could always count on for answers is off to the northwest with her husband. Wow.
So I sat there and stared at my computer screen. Helped a couple of students. I mean, seriously, how bad can it be? (I told myself). The whole place can't go down! (I told myself).

More than half of our office is female. I'm convinced that's an earth thing. I've never been to a school where there are more guys than girls. Supposedly such places exist, but they float somewhere on the fringe of my existence like Plato and his Republic, or those monkeys and their Shakespeare script, or Brobdingnag and Lilliput, a supposed contingency in reality, but nothing more than probability. The women in our office aren't even all married, an accentuation of my suspicions. It's the same story next door - one guy, thirteen women, not all of whom are married. This subset of society is unreal.
But south of Washington and west of New York, in my cubicle, I sat this afternoon and wondered how much of my reality is tainted by such caricatures; probability says that you flip a coin 100 times and the likelihood is that about 50 of them will be heads. But if you've had a good run of things you start to have a favorite, even if there's a 50% chance you'll be wrong -- my favorite is tails. My question as I vacated my mind: Any coins?

Monday, September 16, 2002

I spent most of the day alone today, in and out of social consciousness, so to speak. One of those isolation days, like a renegade electron refusing to be drawn to the center
Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot bear the falconer, Things fall apart, the center cannot, mere anarchy is losed upon the world.
Random bits of poetry show up in my mind on days like this, like my subconscious is frantically running a search program on all my archived thought patterns for answers. An intriguing phrase surfaces in the search, one of those things you forgot about until cleaning one day, and I stare at it for a few moments, savoring it, like wine in the cellar or the last piece of chocolate you thought you didn't have. Then, just as I have countless times before, I shove it back into the mental filing cabinet for later use -- there is no expiration on fine words, only our memory of them.

Turns of fate: One friend of mine got married this weekend, two broke up with their girlfriends. One friend of mine got a job, another's husband still can't find one. One friend of mine was commenting on how he's had a good year, hasn't been sick at all. Another's daughter was in the ER last night, shivering in the palm of God. The economy is getting better they say, business inventories increasing, but I have a feeling there will be a lot more lay-offs before things settle down again, whatever that means. A letter with a check, a letter with a bill, a stain on a shirt, the clean shirt I thought I didn't have, a telemarketer, a long lost friend's phone call.
Yet for all this, shall we accept the good and not the bad?
This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper

Monday, September 02, 2002

Labor Day. I spent the day sitting around. My girlfriend came over in the afternoon, so we went to the mall and sat around there, reading and watching people with all of their funny little antics. We noticed a Muslim woman selling Mrs. Fields cookies and I thought about how historically significant that is. She was dressed in a flowing dress with a black shawl covering her head like an astronaut without his globular helmet, as she reached out and cleared away old chocolate chip cookies. A dad passing with his little girl stopped to buy some of the other cookies and besides the shawl, nothing separated them; it was a free market economy moment. No vendettas or suspicions, or even accusations thrown at the little girl dressed in shorts and a tank top. Just cookies for money.
Sometimes I wonder what our ancestors would have thought of us today, had they been able to foresee it all, no explanations; would they have thought of malls as worship centers, all of us pouring our little offerings like tokens of our gratitude to Nike, Verizon and AMC theaters? Perhaps they would be so dizzied by all the bright lights and flashy messages which bombard us daily, but of which we have become completely oblivious for the sake of our own survival; all those hungry bodies on their crazy trajectories throughout the free market of our small gods, our 21st century idols.
Shopping is religious.

Monday, August 26, 2002

On my way to eat lunch on the library balcony today, I picked up "Animals and their Moral Standing," by Stephen Clark. The cover had a black and white picture of a forlorn looking beagle puppy sitting on a pillar, like some unheard soul, or a neglected street child. Photographers can write essays with a single shot.
I didn't even make it through one chapter, but it got me thinking about change, about how the ocean tide of humanity shifts our thoughts wherever it goes. Some animals, for example, seem to be worthy of rights, and I speak not only of chimps or primates; in some countries the bovine are sanctified, in others, felines are worshipped. I live in southern California. We eat dead cows on bread, serve them up by the pound (or quarter pound with the waxy product of their mammaries and roots boiled in oil). Monkeys are a target of ridicule by some (not myself).
Supposedly, some of the theory in the book by Clark was based on Kantian philosophy, but it is apparently not something widespread in this generation as the forms or utopian ideals might be. The Road Runner and Wile E., Sylvester and Tweety, Garfield and Odie, Bugs and Daffy, Cats and Dogs; all these render the blended animal morality unimportant in the eyes of the entertained masses.
By the way, I personally hate Tweety and the beep beeping Road Runner.

Saturday, August 24, 2002

I feel like a fish.
Gills inflated with the density of "real" life and the abhorrence of that which many call breath of life,
my fins guiding me toward something entirely different, something subterranean and unearthy--I am not in my element, here.

My brother says everyone writes memoirs these days. I think it kind of disgusts him in hard copy form, but electronic is completely different. Not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with newness. Personal histories and journals are not that novel (excuse the pun), but online, for the masses, for free, that's something different. The revolution begins here, in the chaordic shapeless and unbound, the place of freedom -- freedom.
I process official stuff for a living -- that's not novel. But the means by which I told you would have baffled even the most ingenious less than half a lifetime ago.
Here's to the next 25 years.

Friday, August 23, 2002

It's 9:27 PM on Friday night and I'm actually ticked off that I can't be at work right now.
Now that's messed up.
The campus is overrun by Freshmen and their parents, the banes of my existence, at least for about a week. Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just jumped in the car and drove until I didn't have any gas left, then walked as far as I could go before dropping.
And back at my office, the phone would ring and ring and ring. The applications wouldn't be processed. No appointments would be taken. My plant would wither, my keyboard would gather dust. Eventually they'd move someone else in, but how soon?
But no, I am shackled by duty and a sleeping economy.
So it's Friday night and I'm actually bothered that I can't be in my office.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

Another day. You know, it all existed before this was up, but somehow reality fades when unpublished, tomorrow, today, yesterday, last week, last year. Sometimes it feels like you're writing a book and tearing out pages as you go.
It's 5:42AM and work is looming before me, shaking its tentacled head and winking a malevolent eye -- come on, you've got to dramatize. That's the only thing that's given this race hope throughout history.

Or is it just a response to something that we all know, subconsciously, is going on, something that is really more dramatic than we can imagine?