Saturday, July 30, 2005

Finally, finally, finally, I can start annoying people by insisting that they refer to me as "Doctor". It's done.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Travel Weakens The Mind

Every so often I meet someone who will, by way of conversation, speculate as to how much better the world would be if we didn't have things like "countries" and "borders" and "passports", and instead just learned to live in peace as "world citizens", sharing and sharing alike and revelling in our common humanity. If the person has read a book within the preceding two months, they will sometimes speculate further that the fascistic country-border-passport complex to which we are beholden stems from "fear of the Other", and it is then that the temptation is strongest to test their faith in our common humanity by pouring a drink down their shirt.

I am worried that prolonged exposure to the Australian system - now with over nine million visa subclasses! - is going to turn me into one of these people. Please, a slap in the face. Hard enough to bring me to my senses, not hard enough to loosen any teeth.

Recent Events In London, As I Had Them Explained To Me

A man in a heavy jacket leaps from a moving bus, hops the turnstile and runs into the Tube station, scattering commuters before him. Hot on his heels come five men brandishing automatic pistols, shouting "Stop! Police!" and things of that nature. The jacketed man collides with a flower seller and lands awkwardly in the middle of the concourse. The first pursuer to catch up stands astride him and shoots him five times in the head.

As two of his colleagues begin to give the body a few desultory kicks, the remainder turn their attention to the horrified group of onlookers. An explanation of some sort is required. "No ticket," they say, pointing to the corpse.

I don't believe anything I read in the press; my friends are far more reliable.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Thoughts Upon Watching Mr & Mrs Smith

  • Why am I doing this?

  • What's that song they're playing for the second time, the one prominently featuring the word "pachinko"?

  • You know, someday they're going to remake Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid - it's inevitable; they just need to finish up Chopper Chicks In Zombietown first - and when they do, they'll have Butch and Sundance fucking survive at the end.

    UPDATE! Some questions have answers, some don't.
  • Friday, July 15, 2005

    "The First Homicide Attacks In Western Europe"

    I've manfully suppressed any urge to comment on last week's blowing up of things in London. The spectacle of me, halfway across the world, openly weeping, invoking the Blitz, and waving a tiny Union Jack on a toothpick might have been unseemly.

    However, the explosions were apparently even more momentous than I imagined during my impassioned Vera Lynn singalong. As E. Volokh points out, Fox has summed matters up thusly:
    New evidence suggests four bombers blew themselves up on the London transportation system last week, killing at least 52 in what could be the first homicide attacks in Western Europe, officials said Tuesday.
    You know what they mean. And yet, no.

    I'm not as anti-Fox News as many folks over here; they do some things quite well, and aren't really much worse than all the other inane cable news channels. However, their refusal to countenance the phrase "suicide bomber" is hilarious.

    Thursday, July 07, 2005

    "The Bus Has Long Since Pulled Out And Here I Stand At The Side Of The Road. In The Rain."

    Excellent interview with David Markson in Bookslut, here. Particularly love the ending.

    I read Wittgenstein's Mistress when I was an undergraduate and enjoyed it very much, although I suspect that my near-total (and ongoing) ignorance of philosophy meant that I missed a lot of clever stuff. I subsequently resisted the temptation to bluff Wittgensteinia at parties based on this book, knowing deep in my heart that I'd end up saying something like "If you're the last person left alive in the world, you'll talk to yourself a lot in this weird staccato style and live in an art museum." As for Heidegger, forget it. I recall browsing through a bookshop near the University of Chicago with a much more knowledgable friend (same one who recommended Markson, come to think) and asked for a capsule review of a weighty tome called something like "Heidegger's Crisis". "So, R," I asked, "what is or was Heidegger's crisis?"

    In a voice loud and a tone anguished enough to alert the entire store to our presence he said: "I'm a Nazi! Argh!"

    And that is all I know about Heidegger - although unlike what I understand to be true of most Heideggerian knowledge, it still makes me giggle to think of it, so there's that.

    Sunday, July 03, 2005

    The Parable Of The Directions

    I'm in an unfamiliar city, wandering home from a strangely familiar bar, when I'm accosted by this fellow. He's not obviously insane. He's carrying things in respectable-looking bags; they look more like a payload than a makeshift bedroll. On an otherwise dark and deserted street he approaches me, and he asks me for directions to [name of city elided] State University as we both stagger down towards the streetcar tracks.

    I am as happy as a tourist who finally knows the answer, but my directions - consisting as they do largely of the phrase "head southeast!" - do not please him. "Do you know where you're going?" he asks, "Or are you just incoherent?"

    Two options, not mutually exclusive. "Seriously," I say, pointing very seriously, "that way. Take [name of street elided] Street."

    He looks unconvinced. "You couldn't give directions to a retard," he tells me.

    "No, it actually is that way," I say, still feeling childishly happy, "Southeast of here."

    Eventually, we're a block apart, yelling at each other. If any schoolkids were playing a midnight game of pickup lacrosse nearby - perhaps to improve their reflexes in the absence of the floodlights - they would be scarred for life by the language that we're using. The bitch of it is, I'm right. I know for a fact that the place he's trying to get to is ten minutes' walk southeast of here, that being the direction in which I'm heading. I'm angry because I shouldn't even have responded to this asshole, but the novelty of being able to give directions in this particular city overwhelmed me.

    "You're just another American asshole," comes his response, "just like all these other Americans."

    This is most unfair of all, especially to the Americans. "I'M NOT AN AMERICAN, YOU MORON!" I yell.


    "TELL YOUR FUCKING GOVERNMENT THAT!" say I, as he boldy wanders off in the wrong direction. In other news, my visa expires on Monday.