Friday, May 28, 2004


Seeing as how I'm moving to a city that I've spent a total collective maybe 36 hours in, it's not surprising that I own maybe 6 or 7 maps of Manhattan right now. It's amazing how many ineffective maps can be produced of the same area. You'd think they'd start cribbing off of each other or something, that people would realize marking all of the subway entrances the same color, regardless of which line they are is just a bad idea.

In any case, the one thing they all have in common is the small blank square with "World Trade Center Site" written inside of it in tiny script. How did this become the accepted terminology? Not "FORMER world trade center site" or "future memorial site" but simply the name of the former buildings with "site" afterwards, as if it was waiting for something. However, this does make a lot of sense:


1. The place where a structure or group of structures was, is, or is to be located: a good site for the school.

2. The place or setting of something: a historic site; a job site.

3. A website.

Definition 3 nonwithstanding, this usage of site makes some sense. Not an official memorial (which, if it ever goes up, with be almost certainly dissappointing and overwrought). Kind of like driving past where your old house used to be, and pointing to the K-mart that is now there. There's the site of a crime, a gravesite, a historic site-- all three apply easily. What is kind of disturbing, however, is the uncertain temporality of the word. Site implies past, present, and future conditions. The actual destruction was so traumatic that we've chosen to completely remove this square of land from the boundaries of time, like it's the moon or stonehenge or the pyramids. It's immense, too large to comprehend, so instead it's a "site," a detatched locale that is placed on a pedestal.

I think this area needs a de-siting. The new plans proposed now that they've figured out there's not enough money to build everything look very promising in a de-siting sense. They show interesting, but non-monumental, pedestrian parks and plazas. I don't think this city needs a pit going 100 feet into the earth, or a waterfall, or even a 1,776 foot tall skyscraper (symbolically bile-producing in my book). I didn't mean for this bit to turn into a diatribe on antimonumentalism. However, I can't wait until the hole in the skyline stops being a hole.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

This is not a rendering. I swear. The fact that this is not only theoretically possible but budgetable, salable and buildable brings up a lot of issues for me.

the big big [media] whoredom

I was talking to Melissa today over vietnamese food. I was explaining my burnout recovery / method of dealing with boredom when I'm home: read profusely, listen to music and watch incredibly bad movies with only a beer as company. I realized that my objectives are different with each form of entertainment. I'm a notorious music snob-- at least with pop music. I stick to the more esoteric, difficult neighborhoods of rock, with occasional cheap forays into country and blues. In reading I run a similar fun-but-challenging gamut, but I allow myself more leeway with the occasional dirty escapist pleasure (mostly sci-fi novels from my childhood). I'm less picky with text. In movies I get equal amounts of pleasure with art-house flicks and awful action movies (provided there is beer). The editing and dialogue of The Transporter is easy enough to decode to make the hour and a half entertaining. I'm also able to get enjoyment out of bad-cinema disgust, whereas bad music just makes me want to leave the room. Maybe it's the added detail and complexity in a movie that makes this possible; maybe it's just the influence of my friends that has made me so tolerant of lousiness in one and so abohorrent of the same in another.

I'm not going to pretend that there's any worth in treating all art as worth thought. In any medium, I'm a firm believer in quality-- at least that quality, as a concept, is valid. Recognising it on my own is often somewhat difficult, but I have no problem enlisting the help of my friends, websites, and the occasional book or newspaper. The issue is more in the nature of analysis itself-- should I be enjoying the experience itself or the mental dialogue that is created? I can watch awful, campy films but still think about them-- picking them apart to see how they are made, second-guessing the director, the actors, the editor. The same thing applies when listening to insipid, formulaic music-- I pay attention to the production, the bassline, the lyrics, figuring out what committee or focus group or fashonista decided to EQ the guitar or sequence the melody or select the theme.

I read an article in adbusters a few months ago that suggested this sort of experience is damaging to our mental health. It is easy to slip into a zone where everything is worth analysis-- every bottle and can in every movie becomes product placement, every truck on the highway is part of some evil globalising economic force. It's a kind of distracted attention-- no serious meditation on a single theme, rather a schizophrenic constant reevaluation of the same idea, the idea that our world is fucked up and that that, itself, is kind of pathetically, nihlistically funny.

I know I'm not like that. At least, I hope I'm not like that. I'm not flexible enough for yoga and I don't affirm anything, but I'd like to believe I'm capable of coherent, meditative thought. It's a good thing I'm moving to the loudest, fastest, most distracted city in the union.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

meta-blog pt. 2

So this is not a journal. But it's not intended for an audience the same way as previous attempts at personal internet expression; here it's more of an "if you build it they will come" ethos. The problem with that is that if someone actually does let me know this is being read then that will change my intentions; the audience is no longer fictional.

That could be good and bad. The pieces would have to be tighter and more comprehensible. I'd have to care how this site looks. But then I'd be proving myself to people through text. Weblogs are all, at some base level, screaming for attention. The moment when I start proving I'm cool by name-checking books, movies, and cds, that's when this becomes untenable. Spreading uninformed opinions and worthless musings is excusable; acting solely to spread knowledge of your good taste in media is an infraction punishable by death.

Monday, May 24, 2004

wherein i confront my past

In my profile I claim that this weblog is primarly for organization. I'm obviously sidestepping the issue that posting your journal on the internet is different that writing in ballpoint in a blue mead notebook. However, it's not as different as it should be. Back when I kept a journal in a blue mead, I was still, for some reason or another, writing for an audience. I was probably more likely writing for a fictional future audience, perhaps after the journal had been published in hardback after my untimely death. That's what it's like being a lonely teenager. After that, I actually did start a website, where I kept a rudimentary weblog, with semi-regular postings and even an archive. I actually did this twice, once in high school and once in college. Each lasted about a year and then disappeared. These spurts of productivity coincided with (of course) periods of change and frustration. None of this has changed (except that popular culture has provided me with an easy, boilerplate posting process).

The question of the audience is still important. I'm writing this ostensibly as a journal, but with the possibility of an audience there is obvious provisional editing. Thus this is not a record but rather anonymous communication; it's a hopefully-less-pathetic version of a cry for help.

That's not the whole story, either. My writing skills tend to veer between pathetically self-depreciating plainness and baroque wordy overkill. This is probably as much a sort of mental game, like playing chess alone. I guess that's where the title comes in.

I've always been terrified of brain damage. As a kid I would monitor myself periodically to check and see if I had been getting dumber. Afraid of Alzheimers at 8. I'm still wary of Cruzfeldt-Jakobs and alarmed about the cheesecloth-like quality of my memory. I'm operating in a state of emergency; paranoia as fuel, a "nervous system" in its most basic sense. None of this is really helping me to figure out if I'll like New York.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

123 testes throwaway joke

This is an e-mail post. Just read a few blogs. Hope this does not become habit. Contrary to expectations, this was a postive experience-instead of losing faith in the originality or worth of my own writing, all I could think about was how I'd like to talk to some of these people. They seem to have interesting taste in books and film, and ideas that prove they're not just assimilate-and-store mechanisms for trendy thought. Odd that reading something on the internet would disarm my cynical reflex. I don't know how anyone makes this a habit, though.

filler, no killer

I should probably write the obligatory meta- piece about writing, the nature of a public journal, audience etc but I don't really feel up to it tonight, so I'll just throw in something lame and call it a day. I always wrote paper journals as if they had an audience anyway- a textual exhibitionist from the start. A drink of water first, however...

I really like my parent's backyard. I can't call it mine as I've never really lived in this house, nor do I really think its size or location are that wonderful. But the trees in the back just kill me. In the fall, if you're out back on a windy night, you can actually hear the wind moving. Wind isn't a continous force. It's a mass of air that moves around like it wants something, and on the right night when the leaves are dry you can hear it coming in from far off, and then spiral in and eddy in the tall trees next to the pool. If I wasn't so paranoid I'd like it more.

Something about this house brings out secret fears of zombies and serial murderers. I'd like to think I'm generally a laid-back, don't-lock-the-doors kind of person (this is probably untrue), but in this house every horror movie plays out a sequel with me as the victim. I shower with my eyes open, I always have a light on (even though lights attack zombies), and my back is never to the door. It's probably due to the fact that I'm the only one in the basement.

If I end up living in, say, southern california or arizona or new york, I'm going to miss basements. They beat attics ten to one. It's like a gigantic couch cushion fort was created out of your entire house. There are concrete floors and exposed beams, and cool windows that open onto semicircular corrugated steel.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

wherein i meet a legend

I went with my father today to a car museum. It was a private showing, just him and other random Kansas City businessmen of idiosyncratic linkage. One old man, who looked 60 but was probably 80 or 85, was simultaneously irritating and fascinating; he was clearly wealthy and completely satisfied with it, and had a love of non sequitors and bland statements which I wish I could share (I also wanted to throttle him). His name was Harlold Meltzer or something like that, I think. After witnessing the rise and fall of the Studebaker, when we were leaving, I asked my dad who the guy was. My dad, who I found out later does some business with him, instead of talking about his personal knowledge, the man's hobbies, work, or the like, instead said "Harold and his business partner, in the early 20's, invented Spam." This man had invented Spam. He had sold it to the army in World War II. He had then sold the rights to Hormel and made a ton of money off of the stock."

I just tore through my books stored in boxes in my closet at my parent's house. They moved after I went to college, so everything is still packed, four years later. After pulling aside mounds of Gibson, Vonnegut and Philip Dick novels, i found one of my favorite childhood books -- "Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things." I was a really boring kid. This book is still great, though. Harry's not in it. I'll have to write the editors; if horseshoes and long underwear make the cut, this one's got enough pop culture panache to have it's own section.

I feel like I've met a celebrity, this old man in a driving cap and peachy-pink short-sleeved polo shirt. This man invented Spam. Spam is not a wonderful creation; it is not record-breaking in technology or palatability. It has, of yet, had no huge effect upon the world as an object or food. As a concept, however, it has made it through the worlds of military ration and sensible nuclear-family kitchen staple, past the realm of last-resort cheap meat for the homeless and impoverished, into the realm of the uncertain signifier. Monty Python made it funny. It's often placed on t-shirts with the names of bands cleverly placed in the same font where the logo used to be. Most importantly, it now represents the millions of penis-enlargement and home-mortgage messages that are sent to the very corners of our electronic world.

It is utterly rediculous that this should sit so heavily on me. This man's creation is going to outlast his life; it's a household word. What does he think of this? I'd interview him, publish his story, but it would probably make a really awful book. It would make an equally awful special-interest story in the local newspaper. Nobody should care that this man invented Spam. I would try to wrap this up with something poignant, 'a la This American Life, but it's kind of embarassing and largely pointless. There is no thesis statement here. I met the guy that invented Spam.