December 11, 2010

And then sometimes the roof caves in.



October 27, 2010

“And in Boise they cut through a funeral or wedding or something, so many dressed-up people in the sun gawking at Pranksters gathered at a fountain and all cutting up in the sunspots, and a kid—they have tootled his song, and he likes it, and he runs for the bus and they all pile on and pull out, just ahead of him, and he keeps running for the bus, and Kesey keeps slowing down and then pulling out just out of his reach, six or eight blocks this way, and then they speed up for good, and they can still see him floating away in the background, his legs still running, like a preview—
—allegory of life!—
—of the multitudes who very shortly will want to get on the bus…themselves…”

[Tom Wolfe — The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, p. 113]

Friday night

October 23, 2010

For God’s sake internets — DO SOMETHING.

artifact minus cathy

September 19, 2010

out to sea

September 10, 2010

You wake up. More precisely, you rouse. You have, maybe, still a burp or two left to expel from the bottle of wine you consumed the evening before, when you were lounging about your studio apartment alone, watching dubbed episodes of MacGyver and Friends. It was only at that late boozy point, while observing a man in a mullet deliver victims from impossible disasters from the comfort of your futon and a frozen quiche, that you let loose, laughing at the ridiculousness both of the television setup and your own personal misery. The truth is, you realize, pulling a thick white drape onto the provincial sidewalk just inches from your face, that you’re trapped here. Fuck.

And when you awake, your thoughts assemble one-by-one into a clanging dread you know only another day can diminish. From your loft bed at the top of a sturdy wooden staircase, you can see the beams of light shining in through the arched windows of your apartment. From this you discover it is daytime and that you are not where you want to be. The light rushes in to pounce on your night-time comfort, reminding you that you are stuck here for another day, that you must find a way to fill the time until you can permit yourself another bottle of wine.

You begin to cry. It is the kind of crying that belongs to tortures much worse than yours — the kind that invokes conveniently religious pleas to absolve you of whatever punishment you have incurred. It is a brand of intensely complete emotional divestment that later you will almost wish you could access, were it not for the fact that at the time you felt so bad you dared semi-truck trailers to run you over in the middle of the street.

When you have fulfilled your depressive moments, either through sobs or naps or both, you think of your ambitions, which at this point do not extend terribly far. You had planned to run this morning, but it turns out that you are slightly hungover, and that it is no longer morning. Perhaps you will venture out this afternoon in your unattractive sweatpants. But probably not. Not to mention, the only food you can afford today is a baguette and jam, with an afternoon snack of canned green beans. Not exactly an athlete’s breakfast.

You would also like to work on your “screenplay,” which these days consists of little more than extended descriptions of the sound the train makes as it passes almost directly next to your window several times a day, and the feeling you would have if you were on that train. You would also like to incorporate the homeless man you often see on your walks home along the tracks; the drunk one with the punched-in face that makes it look like he has no nose.

At night you will traverse your tiny, bougie town, with its rustic cobble stones and delightful quaintness. You will look enviously into bustling pubs containing the word Breizh in their title, and you will be picked up by unattractive Bordelais con-men named Pierre who woo all stragglers with the same quizzical line about tabacs and cigarettes. You will arrive at your new friends’ apartment on the other side of town, and you will be fed great bowls of soup and full cups of wine. You will laugh, and you will discuss the Franco dictatorship with Luisa, and Allison will listen with you, and you will all listen to Neutral Milk Hotel, and you will feel like maybe everything could be OK. Later in the night, the whole lot of you will go out and discover an abandoned dog, which you will name Pinche Cabron, and who you will be sad to discover actually has a caring (albeit homeless) owner. You will cover yourself in water-soluble paint, and when you wake up in the morning on the floor next to Allison’s bed, you will think: ‘I can do this.’

And then you will go home. You will eat a frozen quiche and drink a bottle of wine and sloppily prepare for the English courses you must teach the next day to 8 and 9 year-old children who refuse to learn the meaning of “Hello.” Your breasts will be squeezed by a precocious 9 year-old girl, thus providing the comic relief 6 months of tension have built up in you. You will, for reasons you can’t explain, tear up as you tell a version of the Thanksgiving story that would have made you vomit in every previous incarnation of yourself. You will, however, not throw up, wishing only that you could be there.

During these months, as I have outlined above, you will cry and cry and cry. You will wonder if it is possible to cry any more. You will not understand the depression that has descended upon you like an eternity of fog. You will, more than is entirely comfortable, think about the ethics of suicide (selfish v. selfless?). You will romanticize your previous life to the point that it will not be recognizable upon your return, thereby disappointing you.

But. You will make friends that you will keep for the rest of your life. People you would never have met under any other circumstances, and who — because of your shared misery (and, it must be said, frequent joys) — know more about your substance than most anyone else. You will see places that people have been talking about for thousands of years, and you will realize that what they failed to mention is that there are seriously a shitload of cats at the Coliseum. (I mean, like, thousands of cats.) You will drink real champagne with one of your best friends on New Year’s Eve on the balcony of an apartment in suburban Paris, and it will be more exciting than any party.  You will ride your bike along the cliffs of Brittany in the middle of a snowstorm in a flimsy oversized fleece jacket, and you will unhinge your jaw to laugh at the sea. You will walk the banks of Pont-Aven, making a brief foray into the Bois d’Amour to imagine just what Gauguin saw there. You will eat the most fucking delicious butter biscuits you have ever had in your whole goddamn life.

And when you come back, two months earlier than expected and severely damaged, you will yet again proclaim the experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that you wouldn’t give up for the world.


September 6, 2010

Cathy Minus Cathy: my tribute to Cathy

August 26, 2010


"Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate! Chocolate!"

"The bathroom scale is an irrelevant, inaccurate, insulting, confidence-crushing, personality-ruining device!"

still flamin’

August 13, 2010

I’m like a moth to light—er, bigotry:

My unwitting interlocutor:

[“Governor Paterson’s ploy is brilliant. He has offered them state land elsewhere in New York City to build the mosque somewhere other than at Ground Zero. If it is not a victory monument it won’t matter to them where they build it. If they refuse, then that is an admission it is intended as a victory monument.

Whereupon the state government can intervene and Bloomberg and his merry band of useful idiots will be forced to back down.”]

NB Reilly says:

Aug 11, 2010 at 11:39 PM

Really, JK? Not about religious freedom? Really?!

OK, so let’s say a governor of some state (any one!) asked a Jewish synagogue to move to a less “controversial” location (for whatever reason!). How do you figure the mainstream Jewish population (not to mention the ADL) would likely respond to such a request? I mean, seriously, just consider it for like 2 seconds.

No, not seeing it? Fine, then allow me to imagine some sample dialogue for you:

Governor: Hey, gentle, law-abiding, perfectly-within-your-rights Jews, you know, given the totally hysterical reaction your mere existence provokes here, we’d really prefer it if you’d move somewhere outside of this arbitrarily defined zone of unwarranted resentment and bitterness. We’ll even pay for it (not that that’s at all constitutional, but hey, when has that ever mattered)!

Rabbi: But, governor, we’ve already tried to secure a location elsewhere, and it didn’t work out. Why are you singling us out? We had nothing to do with what happened back there!

Governor: Yeah, yeah, I know, but hey, look, it really would be better—come on, let’s admit it, better for me—if you just moved a little farther away. Nothing personal, of course, it’s just that everything about you disgusts the fair people of this city. Oh yeah, and they maybe think you’re pissing on their rubble and want to kill them. You understand, right?

Rabbi: Um, no, not really. Remind me again what we have to do with the terrorists? And won’t we just be proving the bigots and fear-mongers and politicians right by moving, in spite of our genuine appeals to religious tolerance and this little thing I call the Constitution, and the minor fact of standing up for what’s right just because it’s right.

No? Then forget it. We have every right to be here. Someday we’ll be just a neutral dot on the horizon, while your cynicism will stand as an embarrassing testament to the barbary of a bygone era.

So, yeah, you’re right, I guess I would call that a victory monument.”

Yeah, so, I might have been a little bit drunk when I wrote that. Whatever.

nbreilly gets into a flame-war (7.31.2010)

August 10, 2010

via Tablet‘s (laudable) coverage of the ADL’s bigoted response to the Cordoba Center, a proposed Islamic community center to be built MERE BLOCKS from the blessed rubble of Ground Zero.

[addendum: is totally right, but uses the word “site” way too many times in that one paragraph toward the end.]

Foray #1.

NB Reilly says:

Gur: “Suppose the 9/11 terrorists had been Jews, and that Jews later wanted to build a synagogue near the place. Even if the synagogue-building Jews were moderate, tolerant, and as different as day from night from the terrorists, we might think that it was in bad taste for them to build a synagogue so close to where the atrocity had happened.”

No, actually, we might not, unless we held the (bigoted) position that the members of a group ought possess collective guilt for the actions of its extremists, however unaffiliated those margins may be from the rest of the group. This community center has nothing to do with Al Qaeda. I don’t see the connection.

I’m startled that it’s apparently so difficult to grasp the bigotry here (particularly for those of us who grew up hearing about how we were directly responsible for the murder of Jesus Christ).

And to Benjamin Entine, you’re right, it isn’t prejudiced to set “requirements of mutual respect,” although it would probably be useful if those terms came from a point of actual respect rather than unthinking, vengeful, conflationary — and yes, I believe it bears repeating once more — bigotry.

[Gur rebuts:

“NB Reilly: If you think (as I do) that having a convent at Auschwitz isn’t a good idea, does that mean you also have to think that the Catholic order that wants to have it there is somehow responsible for what happened at Auschwitz? I don’t think it means that at all: this isn’t about collective guilt; it’s about what’s in good taste….]

Foray #2.

NB Reilly says:

Gur, I absolutely do not buy your “taste” argument, which I view as a cover – a particularly sturdy cover, but one which I will nevertheless attempt to dismantle.

First, as several other commenters have pointed out, the Islamic center is not ON the site of the World Trade Center, but nearby, so the taste argument is irrelevant. Moreover, I don’t see why an Islamic center is particularly offensive. I would no more like to see a mosque on the site than a Christian church, or a synagogue, or, for that matter, a Burlington Coat Factory. The site is sacred to itself, not to any particular religion.

Not to mention the fact that this Carmelite convent analogy you keep bringing up is apparently more complex than you indicate (by the description from the very site to which you link):

“The convent controversy revealed the conflicting claims to Auschwitz. When Jews heard the word Auschwitz, they naturally thought of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the death camps, which were the site of the murder of some one million Jews, or Auschwitz III (Buna Monowitz), the work camp where many Jews were worked to death or to near death before they were sent to the gas chambers… They did not think of Auschwitz I, the prison camp, which had been the site of Polish incarceration, torture, and death.”

As I see it, any issue of “taste” here refers not to the specific Christian affiliation of the convent (surely there are many Christian structures and landmarks in the immediate vicinity of the camp), but to the fact that it’s AT Auschwitz. Building just about anything at Auschwitz would be in poor taste. I mean…it’s Auschwitz!

Unfortunately, unlike Auschwitz, the World Trade Center site is far from an established memorial, and that needs to be remedied. But the answer most certainly is not to use the site as a pawn to seize debate on religious tolerance for the benefit of a few paranoid Republicans. Cause you know that has nothing to do with taste.

[Gur re-rebuts:

“NB Reilly: If what’s meant by calling the concern for taste a “cover” is that people who are raising that concern are disingenuous or arguing in bad faith, that really they/we are all just bigots, then there’s only so far that debate can proceed. I mean: I imagine most people who think the community center *should* be built are genuinely concerned with religious freedom, but it’s not only that I take them at their word, it’s also that we wouldn’t get very far, in debate, if I said that religious freedom was just a cover they/you were using, that what really motivated them/you was an aversion to being on the same side of an issue as Republicans. There’d be no way you could disprove that. You could produce examples of issues where you’ve agreed with Republicans, even examples of Republicans you’ve voted for, but it would still be open to me, if I wanted to keep on saying that you were disingenuous, to say that what was really motivating you in _this_ case, was an irrational fear, and that lofty principles were just something you were hiding behind. Wouldn’t it be kind of silly of me to do that, though? I mean: how can I know what your motivations really are? I have to accept that they’re what you say they are. Anyway: re. taste and distance. If you do grant that it would be in bad taste to have an Islamic Center right at Ground Zero, then it’s not clear at what distance from Ground Zero taste should cease to be a concern. The cafeteria for the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC is in a separate building from the museum itself, but I can see how someone might object to its being *anywhere* near the museum. Would someone objecting like that necessarily be unfeeling about the fact that people need to eat sometimes? The Cordoba House case is different because freedom of religion is constitutionally protected. That’s as it should be, but I don’t see how there’s an infringement of that freedom in this case–CH’s organizers are at liberty to ignore the ADL’s advice.”]

Foray #3.

NB Reilly says:

OK, fine, Gur, I admit I was accusing you of bad faith, which I can’t prove. I was also accusing the ADL of bad faith, for that matter, which I also can’t prove. Doesn’t matter. I’ll take you at your word. (Theirs, not so much.) And if you want to accuse me of bad faith—you know, hypothetically speaking, of course—fine, whatever.

Either way, you make a good point about the arbitrariness of taste’s purview. Where DO you draw the line? Well, I draw it at the boundaries of the site itself, cause that can be officially defined, and not just shifted around for the hysterical purposes of a political shell game.

I still don’t think there’s anything specifically distasteful about an Islamic community center near Ground Zero. But even if there were, is it the Cordoba House’s responsibility to decide where that line is? That’s a rather unfair burden. What should they do, calculate a reverse-square ratio of distance to victims’ pain and then set their construction zone two standard deviations away? Yeah, it’s ridiculous, but can you come up with a more rational means of figuring this out? (I can: set the border at the site itself. There. Problem solved.)

… (cont’d below)

OK, so the ADL wants to define that line. Or at least, lend a helping hand. Not really their call, and as Marc Tracy said, a bit of a conflict of interest. Sure, the Cordoba House has every right to ignore the ADL’s “advice,” which I think they should. You’re right, this is a question of religious freedom. So what would the Cordoba House prove by agreeing that it’s harmful to the healing process for them to be there, and moving out 200 feet, 400 feet, 3 miles, whatever? They would be implicitly supporting the idea that they have some reason to feel guilty for what happened, that they are somehow affiliated with the terrorists.

Cause, you see, I don’t agree with your distinction of taste and guilt. A neutral space has no particular claim to matters of taste. As I’ve already said, I think the site is sacred unto itself, and that sacrality would be deranged by an incursion of any kind. But that’s not what you’re talking about. You’re talking about the specific claims taste has on an Islamic center—not a church, not a synagogue—NEAR the site. As I understand your argument here, it wouldn’t be in bad taste for a synagogue to build near the site because of its wholly neutral relationship to the site, right? Which means that the distastefulness of the Islamic center comes from some ionic connection to the site. Where does that charge come from if not from a residue of affiliation, of ideological complicity, of guilt?

So, fine, I won’t call that bad faith. I’ll call it confusion instead, and await your riposte.

[Gur death-rattles (more or less incoherently):

“NB Reilly: I have no desire to accuse you of bad faith, and I also think it’s odd that you should say “fine, whatever” about the possibility that I might accuse you of it, as though that sort of accusation is a trivial thing. I don’t think it’s trivial at all, especially when the “real” motive being ascribed to people is bigotry, but since I think that you’re ultimately motivated by a noble desire to protect religious freedom, I’m less offended by your having accused me of bad faith than I might otherwise have been. (Just as a general rule, though, I think it’s a good idea to call people bigots only when there’s really no other reasonable interpretation of why they’ve done or said what they’ve done or said. Not, as I see it, a condition that obtains in the case of the ADL’s statement or my support for it.) I _don’t_ think judgments of taste are entirely arbitrary. At the very least, it’s likely that more people would agree that having the Islamic Center at distance x from Ground Zero would be more offensive than having it at distance y, and at distance z even fewer people would object. Cordoba House’s organizers shouldn’t be _required by law_ to take account of any of that (such a requirement would infringe their religious freedom) but maybe they ought to look to their consciences, and do something the law doesn’t/shouldn’t require them to do. I’m sure some people would, as you say, interpret CH’s organizers’ building the Center a bit further away as implicit support for the idea that they have something to feel guilty about. But I don’t think most people, or most reasonable people, would interpret it in that way. I wouldn’t. The ADL wouldn’t. I bet even most Republicans (gasp!) wouldn’t. And CH’s pressing on with the project at its current proposed location in the face of the criticism they’ve received is a course of action open to interpretation as well; it’s not as though they have nothing to lose by doing _that,_ if others’ feelings matter to them.”]

GAME SET MATCH. I win, by complete obliteration, as judged by me.


July 24, 2010

Lying flat on my back, palms opened beaming, lips sawing in a cottony rustle with the click-click-whirr of backyard sprinklers, I pray to a black open chasm I still call God. Outside the sky has cooled, but here the air hangs with constant cycled refreshment. Staring up at the ceiling, my body is little, bones still tightly coiled, and I pray for the safety of my mother and father and everyone I love. Guilt and superstition, and I cast the net wider still, wishing outward towards everyone I know or have ever met and all that they care for, until, selfishly, I am praying for the whole world. I open my eyes up wide, hard black caverns ringed with light, searching. Against the ceiling, shapeless forms manifest and float away. Closing again, I slowly spin the world on its axis until I am turned one hundred and eighty degrees, fighting the physics of space and sound and sight. This feels like an accomplishment, so I fold my hands over my hollow child’s watermelon belly and fall asleep.