A Song of Forgetting

The universe will poke you every once in a while. It just wants to make sure you’re paying attention. On the way to school this morning, I was telling my son a story about his grandfather. The story wasn’t particularly deep or meaningful. Just a story you tell your kids so they maybe learn a little about you and their grandparents.

As soon as I dropped him off, Peter Gabriel’s cover of “The Book of Love” by The Magnetic Fields came on the radio. The song is almost certainly not about being a parent but I believe that Gabriel’s sings with him on it in many of the live versions.

Anyway, my Dad passed away around this time several years ago. This morning between that story coming up and this song coming on, the universe poked me not so gently to remind me not to forget.

Sneaky Words

There’s a lot to unpack in this sentence. It’s said by a character we aren’t sure if we are supposed to like. Does the author put in this character’s mouth to portray false profundity? Does he do it because it might redeem the character to the reader? Does the character understand the challenge of this sentence?

Wonderfully complex writing hiding in plain sight.

The simple depth of those who are close to the edges of existence.

From Trust by Hernan Diaz

Millenary of Questions

I looked up the word “millenary” and the adjective definition is “suggesting a millennium” or “relating to a group of 1000.” In context, this character is describing her father’s beliefs in the early 1930s. I’m struggling to understand how this word fits here. Does it mean that there are a thousand ways men rule over women? Is it describing the father’s belief that this related to some millennium of subjection?

It promised independence but was another knot in the millenary subjection of women to the rule of men.

From Trust by Hernan Diaz

Home Ownership

I had the ultimate yak shaving homeowner day. My wife left the mower outside on Thursday. I went to move it Friday morning and it was out of gas. So, I went and got the gas can. Then, someone pulled up to the house and I got distracted. Completely forgot about it. She tried to move it Saturday morning. The battery was dead.

So, this morning, I went to see about it. Well, she had put gas in it but left the gas cap off. It rained a LOT last night. There was likely water in the gas tank. Now, I need to drain it and refill it with clean gas. Off to the store to get a siphon pump. No idea if we ever had one. Get the pump, come home and get it drained. I look and there’s a good bit of water in the fuel. Back to the store to get some fuel treatment to hopefully bind to the rest of the water that’s likely still in the tank. I do remember to get more gas just in case.

I come home, get the fuel treatment and the gas in. Now I’m ready to jumpstart the mower. Well, the battery was too dead to jump off. We used to have a 12v battery charger. That was 3 or 4 moves ago and it’s nowhere to be found. Back to the store for the battery charger.

Meanwhile, I see a storm is coming. I have to get the dead lawnmower into the shed. It takes me 30 minutes to figure out how to disengage the transmission to get it into neutral. I get it into the shed just as the rain starts. I wipe things down, put away some tools, shovel a clean spot out in the shed so there’s no hay or shavings in case I need to lie down and get under the lawnmower.

I get everything set up to charge the battery. The power outlets in the shed don’t work. I flip the breaker and it trips immediately. No time to figure that out today. I get the tools back out. I take the seat off the lawnmower and it takes 8 screws/bolts to get the battery out. I put the tools up. Take the battery, the new charger, the new extension cord, the tools, etc, etc back to the workbench. I get it all set up and it appears to be charging.

That was 5 hours of work in the sun and on the ground. Three or four trips to the store. Absolutely nothing accomplished.

MOST OF US PREFER to believe we are the active subjects of our victories but only the passive objects of our defeats. We triumph, but it is not really we who fail–we are ruined by forces beyond our control.

From Trust by Hernan Diaz

I don’t think I should be proud of this but I have felt this way keenly in my life. I’ve never been able to describe it as well as this. It’s a negative feeling yet its draw is inexorable.

What was truly surprising, even to himself, was that he had started to look for signs of acknowledgment in everyone he met. He was hungry to confirm that people noticed the hum enveloping him, the quiver, the very thing that estranged him from them. However paradoxical, this desire to confirm the distance separating him from others was a form of communion with them.

From Trust by Hernan Diaz

The Truth of Work

People think programming is cool and fun. I spent 30 minutes pondering the nature of truth while typing this inanity:


iex(15)> true and false

false

iex(16)> not (true and false)

true

iex(17)> true or false

true

iex(18)> not (true or false)

false

iex(19)> not (true or true)

false

iex(20)> not (false or false)

true

Rediscovering Silence

I think about this a lot when running or hiking in the woods. It’s one of the main reasons I’ve never been a music listener while outdoors. I’ve even recently started working in silence. No podcast or music or any sound. Just me in my office with the window open when the weather cooperates.

This silence was a great discovery. Without the foreground of other people’s words, I realized that the glorious beauty of nature was in its silence. I looked at the stars and heard their silence; the moon made no sound; the sun rose and set without a whisper. In the end even the noise of the waterfall, the bird calls, the rustle of the wind in the trees, seemed part of a stupendous, living, cosmic silence which I loved and in which I found peace. It seemed that this silence was a natural right of every man, and that this right had been taken from us. I thought with horror of how for so much of our lives we are pounded by the cacophony we have invented, imagining that it pleases us, or keeps us company. Everyone, now and then, should reaffirm this right to silence and allow himself a pause, some days of silence in which to feel himself again, to reflect and regain a degree of health.

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

Being good at reading code is so much more important than being good at writing it.

Defining Irony

This profile of Michael Stipe goes on to explain why the author likes this story that Stipe shares. It touches a nerve because there was a time in my life where it might have been me in that Jeep. I don’t think I was ever that actively hostile to anyone but in the depths of a drunken night out, who knows? My time in Athens contains some of the brightest days and some of the darkest nights of my life. I was a person town in two and self-medicating to hide it all from the people around me and from myself.

Late one night, in the early 1990s, Stipe was in Athens, hanging out with Todd McBride, who was then the lead singer of a great bar band called the Dashboard Saviors, and the wonderfully eccentric singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt. The three were at The Grit, a cheap, vegetarian restaurant that has become one of the college town’s more iconic downtown eateries but which at the time was in a different building, closer to the edge of town. As McBride explained when he told me this story more than a decade ago, “The Grit was in this depot kind of building then — it was down at one end and this frat bar was down at the other. The place was closing up, we were getting ready to leave, and we were kind of hanging around outside The Grit, when this jeep full of frat boys comes by, throws a beer can at us, and screams, ‘Fuck you, faggots!’ Then they crank up the stereo” — at this point in his telling of the story, McBride began to sing the indelible song that was pumping from the jeep’s stereo — “It’s the end of the world as we know it / It’s the end of the …”

From “Michael Stipe is Present” in The Bitter Southerner.

There’s a reason that R.E.M. is my favorite band. Their music was a life raft I tried desperately to hang on to. Living in the town where they came to prominence made it all the more important to get lost in Swan Swan Hummingbird on repeat and spill my darkness into the chorus of Cuyahoga.

I’m pleased to have left a large part of myself behind in that place and time. But, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded occasionally of how close I might be to slipping back into the mindset, the actions, and the consequences of a life lived with little regard for others or myself. There’s nothing wrong with being humbled and being humble.

Sad, is it not? And not just for the Chinese, but for humanity in general, which loses so much when it loses its differences and becomes all the same. Mao understood that in order to save China it had be closed to Western influence, it had to seek a Chinese solution to the problems of modernity and development. In posing the problem Mao was truly great. And he was great in being wrong about how to solve it. But always great, Mao: a great poet, great strategist, great intellectual, great murderer. Great like China, great like the tragedy it is now enduring.

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

Do web developers even look at their sites on mobile? This is the website for the World Games 2022. Probably an organization that could afford a decent website. So many overlays. A cookie warning. A chat prompt. A pop up to drive people to a particular page. A search overlay. A menu overlay.

None of this is content or necessary. Just lazy.

Elvis Lives On

I just saw the new Elvis movie. It was excellent. Even if you don’t care for his music, it’s still a well made and well acted movie.

Baz Luhrmann has a distinctive style that lends itself to Elvis’s story. He also has a great sense of the motion and rhythm of music and interprets that through his direction in a compelling way.

The casting was perfect even if the Hanks role is a bit stunty. His performance has a few layers to unpack which work well with the less nuanced and more instinctual performance of Austin Butler’s Elvis.

Permanent Record

We’ve long told young people that one of the dangers of being extremely online is that anything you post is permanent. That stuff will follow you. It will be found if someone decides to look hard enough. And now, this Senate candidate is finding that out.

Fireworks are Dumb

I know many folks have dogs that hate the sound of fireworks. Ours do too but the 20+ horses on our farm were surrounded on 4 sides by massive fireworks tonight. We’ve already counted 6 shoes we will have to replace and a dozen fence boards that will need to be replaced or repaired.

So, we are looking at around $500 worth of repairs, plus the danger of a scared running loose horse, and it’s not even the Fourth yet.

Not a fan of this holiday.

It can’t always get worse

I went to visit my mom down in Georgia last weekend and got home Wednesday. I have accomplished exactly nothing in the three days since. Haven’t worked. Haven’t read a book. Haven’t cut the grass, done the laundry, or washed the dishes. I’ve barely been able to get my teeth brushed and shower.

I did do a self-tape audition for a film. But that took two hours of psyching myself up.

Even with therapy and medicine, sometimes I have to almost hibernate so I can emerge more like the person I need and want to be.

Why would I write this here? One, to document it for myself so I know that, sometimes, these periods happen and I always make it through. Two, in case you or someone you know might struggle in similar ways. You should know that you are not alone and that this time will pass.

Rest up and I’ll see you on the other side.

The Flesh

A Mongol legend told to Ossendowski via Terzani. Some prophecies become fact.

Thirty years before, the King of the World had made a brief visit to a monastery near Urga. When he arrived all the altar candles had lit spontaneously, all the braziers had begun burning incense; and he, the mythical King of Agharti, described for centuries in the sacred texts, had sat on his throne before an assembly of the most important lamas of the time and forecast the future of the world. He began with the words: ‘More and more shall men forget their souls, and care only for their bodies …’

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

Traveling Alone

Here, Terzani nails one of the joys of traveling alone. It seems a shame that our constant connection via our devices makes this release nearly impossible.

the sense of relief that always fills me when I know that I cannot be reached, that I am not booked or expected anywhere, that I have no commitments except those created by chance. How wonderful it is to mix with a crowd as an ordinary traveller, free from one’s own role, from one’s self-image, which at times can be a cage as tight as that of the body; to be sure you won’t meet anyone with whom you will have to make conversation, and to feel free to send to the devil the first person who tries to start one.

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

Money for Nothing

I’ve never beheld the appeal of gambling. Sure, you never know what could happen but the possibilities are highly proscribed. I was always drawn to those vices where true serendipity and the unknown might meet. Something that teetered at the edge of oblivion where even the Fates dared not venture.

Gambling always seemed stupid to me. If winning a one. off handful of cash will change your life, then you really can’t afford to be losing any. If you can afford to lose, winning won’t matter so why bother at all?

From Dead Man in a Ditch (The Fetch Phillips Archives Book 2) by Luke Arnold

A Changed Tune

Interesting to compare this to what Terzani wrote in Giai Phong which was dismissive of “the rumors coming out of Phnom Penh. He doesn’t reflect on that oversight here but he surely felt it.

What had happened in Cambodia between 197 and 1979 under the Khmer Rouge regime defies any fantasy of horror - it was more frightful than anything a man could imagine. The whole society was turned upside down, cities were abandoned, pagodas destroyed, religion abolished, and people regularly massacred in a continuous purificatory orgy. A million and a half, perhaps two million Cambodians, a third of the population, were eliminated. I looked for those I had known and found no one. They had all ended up as “manure for the fields' - because, as the Khmer Rouge said, even the ‘counter-revolutionaries’, or at least their corpses, must serve some purpose.

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

Stay Busy

I don’t know if we can pin this ever-vibrating busyness for all the depression in the world but it sure isn’t helping. The thing that sounds so nice here is the idea of time to reflect on what has happened throughout the day. That is something I should find more of.

My gaze lost in infinity, I felt as if thanks to that Hong Kong fortune-teller I was rediscovering not only the pleasure of travel but that of life itself. Gone was the anxiety; no longer did I feel the passing of the days to be fraught with drama. I listened to those who spoke to me and enjoyed what was happening around me; I had leisure to put my impressions in order, to reflect. Time and silence - so necessary, so natural - have by now become luxuries which only a few can afford. That is why depression is on the increase.

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

Ginger

I don’t get it.

You have zero knowledge of building native Apple OS apps. If you were going to build a native MacOS/iPadOS/iOS app from scratch right now, are you building three apps or one with Catalyst? Are you using SwiftUI? You have to learn everything, so what’s the state of the art?

Something Lost

He’s writing about Singapore in 1993 and the question is even more prescient here and now. We focus on STEM and software boot camps and “hour of code” and all the ways we are trying to force kids to be better inputs for the machine. We are making a trade for which the cost is as yet unclear.

Once upon a time, even in Singapore, schools taught children how to think. Now they mainly teach them how to programme. But what happens to a society that grows up like this, without learning to make distinctions, with only the computer’s logic of ‘yes’ and ‘no’? What happens in the heads of children who grow up with the impression that every problem has a solution, and that everything is at most a question of software?

From A Fortune-Teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani

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