Categotry Archives: Pre-Trip Posts

by

Edits Complete – ADO Coming Soon!

Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Pre-Trip Posts, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

After a torrid night of typing amidst the rages of what is almost certainly a sinus infection at this point, I am pleased to announce that I have completed constructing the second draft of my second novel, American Dream On.

There are still some very minor inconsistencies to iron-out, a couple last things to fact-check, and a few other small formatting issues that will keep me from sending draft copies to preliminary readers before I leave Albuquerque in four hours. The upshot, however, is that it will take me very little time to complete these last i-dottings and t-crossings, enabling me to send out copies quite soon.

The elation I feel for this is heavily mitigated by my ongoing illness and my predictable sadness at leaving New Mexico. It’s been a great visit, if one of the most sedentary, featuring the revitalizing time with parents and friends that has made coming back to Albuquerque so important every year. This trip in particular has yielded important talks and a deep-seated feeling of family, not to mention ever-winnowing progress toward a readable manuscript of what I have every hope will come to be considered a major work.

2010 seems ready to deliver on the same highs and lows that marked the previous year (see previous post). Today, I’m looking forward to Waffle House, making it through two plane flights with sinuses intact, seeing Philly friends and Pandora, and making it home. Tomorrow, maybe, you should be looking forward to a nice long read.

by

Never Been to Austin

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, Tags: , , ,

For the first time in a long time (maybe since Reykjavik, Iceland?), I will be visiting a previously unvisited town today exclusively via airplane. Not that I expect to get much beyond the airport (which Em would have you believe doesn’t count), but hey, Austin! For a town in Texas, I’ve heard good things.

Thus begins a three-week tour of the West that seems all the more meaningful for our recent absence from said region. We’ll be in the Bay Area tonight (one night only – come see as at Mario’s in Berkeley at 8 PM!), then trekking down to Fresno for Christmas or so, then over to Albuquerque for New Year’s.

The trip is slated to feature family, friends, food, and hopefully the conclusion of my ever-lengthening editing process. Currently at 33% of chapters and 24% of pages, still aiming (perhaps stretching slightly) for a January 1 distribution to volunteer readers.

And now I have to go scoop up the cat, who will be spending the next three weeks in Philly. Oh Pando…

by

Travel Wednesday Round-Up

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , , , , ,

Have been working furiously to prepare for Thanksgiving, which we’re spending in DC with Fish & Madeleine (think I got that spelling right), starting in just a few hours. Have been terribly remiss in updating things about my life, but there’s a good deal of news to report, if only blippily under the time constraints…

1. The Book Quiz II is done, but not being launched yet, because I’m actually being (gasp!) strategic about my webpage for once. Launching the quiz on one of the least Internety days of the year (everyone’s out traveling today) would be a classic Blue Pyramid approach, but I’m thinking that a launch at weekend’s end when everyone’s returned to their computers and are preparing for CyberMonday is actually optimal timing. So you’ll have to wait just a few more days to find out what other book you are. Quick preview, though: I’m apparently Jane Eyre.

2. Fordham went pretty well. I got to debate in a demo round between 4th and 5th round, running an emergency case I’d written about why RNC chair Michael Steele should publicly condemn Sarah Palin. One of our novice teams broke to novice semifinals, then won their semi round, advancing to finals and ultimately finishing second. While it’s not as glorious as being in the varsity outrounds, it shows that I’m probably doing something right that the younger generation is having such success. And it bodes well for the future, which is where it’s at. Taking the long view is a big part of coaching. At the end of the semester (we’ve basically hit the end of the line for tournaments the team can afford), I’d say we’ve exceeded expectations, with a varsity break, a novice break, two novices on the NOTY board, and countless winning records.

3. American Dream On is 105,820 words (~423 pages) and counting, with 14 chapters to be written in the next three weeks. Last night’s session was one of the best, writing a highly anticipated chapter that went even better than I was hoping, I think. I have to review it, but I’m pretty excited. The final push will take the book up to about 125k words or so, but I’m pretty optimistic that I’ll make deadline with other priorities (quiz, debate, etc.) fading out as December 15th approaches. I can’t wait to have people read it, but I’m highly conscious of the need for one solid round of editing before it makes the rounds of the volunteer reading corps. I do think that the palpable excitement of getting it out to people will fuel my energy for making a more prolific than average push to actually hit the deadline, which only further ups the excitement.

4. We got our car back, not having to pay any part of the ~$11,000 worth of damage to the vehicle. It’s pretty sobering that a crash where one’s car receives an out-of-control onslaught while stopped can do damage worth about 40% of the car’s original paid value, but such is the nature of things. So far, all the repair looks good (it’s guaranteed), but it’ll get a nice little workout on the way to DC today. All signs point to it being fully functional, though, so I’m grateful for that (in addition to, you know, surviving the ordeal in the first place).

5. I’m now running late.

by

Assessing October

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , ,

October 2009 is one for the ages.

It wasn’t the spookiest October, though one could easily argue that the moment I resigned myself to death made this the literally scariest October on record. Certainly one hopes that this much abject fear is not revisited frequently. And the renewing inspiration of surviving what looks like a deadly threat is always worth experiencing… it had been since May 2005 that I’d had a near-death experience!

It wasn’t the most volatile October by any stretch. Most any prior month seemed stormier for one reason or another. Not that this was devoid of ups and downs. The obvious aforementioned down aside, Em struggled with a more difficult time in grad school than anticipated and I flitted between exhaustion, frustration, and excitement in wrestling with my book and getting some perspective on debate coaching.

What it might have been, almost certainly was, was the most productive October ever. And given that October tends to be high-energy and high-productivity for me, that is saying something. I have tended, the summer of Loosely Based aside, to write more in October and to feel more inspired during the month than any other time in the year, although March tends to be competitive. But this October, though there are about 38 hours remaining in the month (that I won’t be writing during), I have written 34,533 words of American Dream On, making it arguably the most prolific month of my life. That’s over 1,100 words every day, on average, counting several days of no writing. It’s also ~138 pages total, putting me on pace to write well over 1,500 pages a year at this pace. Not that I’m saying I can keep that up, but at the same time, it makes my 3 books/year aspiration look pretty manageable.

American Dream On now stands within 1,000 words of Loosely Based, meaning the next writing session will almost certainly make it the longest piece I’ve ever written. The target size is increasing a bit over time, standing now in the vicinity of 125,000 words as I try to tie everything together and leave myself enough time to explain things. It may run longer as I’m thinking I may need 65 chapters instead of 55, which may even put my December 15th deadline in some jeopardy, though this can be mitigated by stepping up my game. After all, I’ve hardly felt like I’m writing at a breakneck pace. This has actually felt pretty comfortable, pretty sustainable. I’ve likened it to cruise control. I think I could get closer to 50,000 words a month if I really pressured myself.

I know I’ve talked about all this a lot, that I’m probably becoming a rather dull stuck record on the numbers games, writing, and the issues entailed therein. But the discovery of this productivity, really unfolding and getting into high gear this month, is almost certainly the second most exciting discovery of my life (behind finding Emily). The idea that I could conceivably write six books in Princeton, creating a serious portfolio for myself after nearly three decades of struggling with endless ideas and only one manuscript, this makes my whole life seem worthwhile. Let alone if any of those six books catch on, securing some sort of life for myself in this state on a permanent basis.

I’m trying (and failing, evidently) not to get too far ahead of myself. One book at a time, one idea. This book, being in the works for eight years, is certainly going more quickly than something that I just came up with might. It may prove to not be very good when I get around to editing – I can already anticipate that it will require more revision than LB did. There’s a lot of slogging to come and I can’t imagine that I’ll really end up averaging 1,000 words a day over 365 days.

But it’s possible. And after going to sleep at night for the better part of three decades asking myself what I’ve accomplished, telling myself that I’m falling short of my potential, it’s a mighty fine change. I somehow think it would be hard to keep up that narrative for myself if I wrote 4-6 books by the time Em’s done with her program. So, yes, one book at a time. But I can start to see the light on the edge of my life and it feels like the culmination of most everything that’s ever mattered.

And I can’t wait to have people start reading.

UPenn this weekend – debate has given me the perfect break and pacing and interspersing my secluded life with real human contact and discussion, just as planned. Very excited about the teams that are going and the potential to do well. Every weekend, like every book or chapter, is a new opportunity to maximize potential, to start fresh. Every round one starts with the possibility of winning the tournament. It’s amazing how easily I’ve been able to manifest my own need for competition into the vicarious joys of coaching. Maybe not that amazing, if one thinks about how competitive coaches can be, but it’s a relief for me that I don’t feel a big void from not competing. And if I start to, there’s always APDA Cup.

If you need me, I’ll be in the rented 2010 red Corolla with a spoiler and a sunroof. I miss the Prius already.

by

Wired

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Pre-Trip Posts, Telling Stories, The Agony of the Wait is the Agony of Debate, Tags: , , , ,

As bad as I felt last night at this time is as good as I feel tonight. What a difference, as they say, a day makes.

I have just rattled off over 3,000 words (~12 pages) tonight, in a remarkably fast and focused session that has yielded what I am convinced is some of the best work of the whole novel so far. This brings American Dream On over the 70,000 word threshold (71,408 words/~285 pages) with just under two months to go and helps offset the fact that there will be no writing tomorrow night. It’s kind of too bad, because I’m in one of those grooves where baseball players find the ball looks as big as a grapefruit. Suddenly, after a week of angst, the dam has burst and things are flowing once more. (Though it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m on to a different chapter entirely, one that did not carry with it some consternating problems from the get-go.)

And Vassar pulled back on their threat to only break to semis, once again going with quarters, joining the ranks of virtually all modern tournaments. And it looks like I will be participating in the APDA Cup, thus getting a chance to compete in rounds that are adjudicated and are not demo rounds for the first time since 2006. (Yeah, I guess I thanked the BU Finals panel for judging my “last round ever”. Oops. We all know I’d debate professionally for a lifetime if I could.) And while I knew that this time yesterday too, it seems a lot more exciting today for some reason. Probably because the whole world does. And I’m almost short of breath and insanely full of energy for quarter till five in the morning, when I should be lapsing and a little tired. And given that the alarm’s set for 9:00 tomorrow, the earliest I’ve been up in weeks, to get ready to go to Vassar, this is all looking a little problematic.

But I don’t care that much, mostly because I’m in the throes of a manic phase of the sine-curve lifestyle. And the mania may be seen as problematic for some people, but I don’t know who those people could be. Being on the upswing of a roller-coaster, sailing upward on a high-energy high-productivity euphoria, this is about as good as it gets in this lifetime. I mean, yeah, the super-contemplative revelations are perhaps a little better, but this is a darn fine second place. I feel like running out into the middle of the early morning rain, whooping with joy at the fact that I get to be alive to see this kind of mood. I wish everyone could be here to feel this. I feel I’ve known people who never get this excited their whole lives.

I don’t know how I’m possibly going to sleep. It may end up an all-nighter and I’ll crash hard after round three at the tournament. But I should try all the same. Try to walk away from the euphoria to get a little shut-eye that’ll ultimately serve me well tomorrow. In the meantime, I leave you with this:

Wooooooooooooooooooooooooo!

by

You Can Never Escape, You Can Only Move South Down the Coast

Categories: A Day in the Life, Just Add Photo, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

At least, I hope the cat won’t escape.

Pandora and I are heading to LA today. She’s going to her new two-month temporary home with Em’s cousins in Altadena, then I’m on to the BH to hang with Russ for a while before festivities officially begin for Jake’s wedding.

Given that Pandora has never once been in the car without meowing at least three times per minute with increasingly mournful cries, the next six hours are going to be an adventure.

Here’s the unsuspecting Pando, just moments ago:

Here’s what she’d look like if she knew what was coming:

(This photo is completely unaltered by any program – it’s just a result of the fun effects of flash photography in the dark on cat’s eyes.)

Finally, as a bonus animal pic, here’s a great one Emily snapped in the Academy of Sciences on Saturday:

Updates from the road possible; upon return definite.

by

Mariners Baseball: A New Day, A New Way

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

Trying to ride Obama’s coattails into ticket sales? Trying to distance itself from the Bill Bavasi era? Trying to highlight an ABCABC three-letters-or-less rhyme scheme? Trying to simply point out that tomorrow is, indeed, another day?

Whatever the motives behind my beloved Mariners’ new marketing slogan, I’m wildly excited to be attending my first game at Safeco in nearly six years tonight. Today opens a 4.5-day trip to the Pacific Northwest, the last venture therein as part of the West Coast Farewell Tour. Emily, her sister, and sister’s husband will be meeting up with me tomorrow.

Tickets to a whole three-game series? Check. Randy Johnson’s return to Seattle? Check. Ken Griffey Jr. vs. Randy Johnson? Check. The only three-day sunny streak in the Puget Sound all year? Check.

It’s 5 in the morning and time to get to the plane station. When I return, it’ll be time to have discipline and get serious about things again. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to rooting for the home team.

by

2009 West Coast Farewell Tour Commences!

Categories: A Day in the Life, Pre-Trip Posts, Upcoming Projects, Tags: , ,

If you need me, I’ll be at Russ’ for the next nine days. If you’re David Kunkel, please respond to my e-mails because I’d really like to break the streak of years where we’ve just missed seeing each other.

Possible posting from the road, depending on how much time I can spare from sun, video games, and cards.

by

2008

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , , ,

Somewhere along the way, Time Magazine lost its way. Maybe it was the influence of AOL, long nicknamed “A-O-Hell” by my generation, which itself is somewhere between the nickname of “Generation Y” and “The Millennial Generation”. I’ll take either one, but I’ve always preferred “Generation Why” (this is probably the third or fourth time I’ve made this observation on this blog alone).

AOL killed my computer in the transition from high school to college. This was the computer that was a present from my parents to take to college, was exciting and new. It came with a trial AOL account that I used to connect with other fellow “pre-frosh” en route to Brandeis, few of whom were worth meeting in person. I got it in July and by the time it landed with me in Waltham, it was rapidly becoming cursed. Two weeks into school, it went off the deep end entirely, prompting Compaq to send a series of head-scratching techs to the remote ends of campus searching for Scheffres Hall. Their confusion only began in looking for a third-floor dorm room on a locked hall and ended with wondering why Compaq felt their time (probably $100-300/hour) was worth more than Compaq just replacing or refunding a computer that two of the three techs literally labeled as “possessed” on the work order form. Two people with hundreds of dollars an hour’s technical training using the word “possessed”. So much for technology, progress, experts, us being in a place beyond medieval witch doctors. The writing on the cinder-block wall, or at least on three sheets of carbon copied paper. Somewhere in a “box of doom”, I still have a yellow sheet, now even more yellowed, in papers I just refuse to throw away. Like the 16,000+ e-mails I’ve sent at work, they’re records and it all counts.

Or maybe none of it does. Just ask Time.

Time’s selection of Barack Obama as 2008 Person of the Year is hardly egregious, especially in comparison to some of their past picks. The original mandate from Henry Luce, who was at least a journalist despite myriad other problems (do we have anyone we can call a journalist anymore?) was to pick the person who had influenced things most, for good or for ill. Who was an emblem of the change that is innate to a year. Somewhere along the line, as with so much of America, an interest in true depiction got replaced by an interest in happy-talk. George (HW) Bush won in 1990 instead of Saddam Hussein. Rudy Giuliani won in 2001 instead of Osama bin Laden. You won in 2006, prompting the ire of nearly everyone and my supposition that everyone should start putting “2006 Person of the Year, Time Magazine” under their “Awards and Accomplishments” section of their resume, if only to ridicule the selection. End of history indeed.

So much for the legacy of a notoriety that had the guts to pick Gandhi 17 years before the Nobel Peace Prize had failed to do so (and it was too late as they tried to make up for it with their lame posthumous recognition). For a group that picked Hitler in ’38 and Stalin in ’39, demonstrating a foresight in recognizing the two most devastating and influential figures of the twentieth century before each had done much of their killing. And maybe 1941 is where it turned, picking FDR instead of Hideki Tojo.

Of course, there’s a part of me that says maybe Time knows too much. Maybe there’s a reason Tojo was passed over in 1941 and bin Laden in 2001. And it’s not just about wanting to be patriotic. But this is not the post for such conjecture, until maybe later.

Which brings us to Barack Obama. Clearly the second I clicked the revealing link into the Time Magazine article, I was expecting to see Obama’s tall grin looking back at me. Having been surprised and disappointed by so many picks in the past, I was almost surprised to find that my supposition had been correct. And yet, upon reflection, it became clear that this was not the right pick.

Think this is a special nod to the wave of change that seems to be coming with Obama-mania? Think again. This pick in an American election year has become a knee-jerk reaction for Time. W won in 2000, Clinton in 1992, Reagan in 1980, Carter in 1976. So really, this was the President-Elect’s award to lose all along. They probably had penciled it in for whoever won in Time board room meetings in January and moved on.

And seemingly more than any previous pick, Obama seems to have changed the landscape of how people think they’re looking at America. (After all, wasn’t Katherine Harris really the influential force in 2000, while W was just the beneficiary bystander?) Obama is an agent of action, a force for change, the first great rhetorical leader to hit the political scene since JFK. How could you pick anyone else?

And yet, my temptation is to say that 2009 is really the year for Obama. Not that people can’t win multiple times or, indeed, even back-to-back years (only previous back-to-back winner: Nixon in 1971-1972). Time even seems to acknowledge the fact that they’re jumping the gun, setting themselves behind the eight-ball with a title “Why History Can’t Wait”. And of course, a la my thoughts about 1941 and 2001 and even JFK, maybe they’re ensuring that they literally jump the gun. An assassination of Obama in the next year would be the most expected, telegraphed, universally anticipated assassination in world history. It seems painfully ironic that such cynical fear follows an individual known for inspiring hope and disparaging attitudes of terror. And yet I haven’t spoken to a single person about the historic Bryant Park rally on November 4th who wasn’t mentally scanning the crowd for firearms from the moment he and his family hit the platform.

So maybe Time’s hedging their bets, knowing that they can document the innocence and hope and anticipation that comes with Obama now, either on the precipice of its horrific fall or at the base camp of its tremendous climb to the future. Either way, it’s about the safest pick in history.

And yet, I doubt 2008 will be remembered for Obama. 2009, yes, whatever happens, but not 2008. 2008 will be about the melting of America’s economic standing. 2008 will be about the clash of hubris and reality, the tormented battle between those clinging to the Titanic’s decks and those packing up banquet food into lifeboats.

Time’s Person of the Year (then Man of the Year) was started in 1927, just in time to make an amazing pick in 1929. While they didn’t select anyone directly related to the collapse of the stock market and the American economy, they chose Owen D. Young for his “Young Plan”, a desperate effort to offset the German reparations payment schedule. What a prescient selection in determining how history would look back on the 1920’s! The Young Plan failed, of course, and the rest is profound history. But Time knew what it was doing back then.

So who really represents 2008’s influence on the coming years? The obvious road seems lined with some combination of Ben Bernanke and Henry Paulson. The team that will be remembered for destroying the greenback dollar, plunging it into unprecedented worthlessness. With a mutual effort of eliminating interest rates and ratcheting up the printing of money, Bernanke & Paulson are the duo that are setting the dollar to its destiny as just another failed idol in the story of human belief.

So they’re the obvious pick, the real safe picks, the clear standouts. But for symbolic flair, neither of them, nor the pair, are my selection. My pick for 2008 Person of the Year is Bernard Madoff.

He’s a late entry to the contest and maybe disproportionately influential because the selection is made in December. He probably became important after the story on Obama had already gone to bed. But he is the single clearest embodiment of the attitude of 2008 and what this year means to history.

Can you imagine any other time in history, save maybe the late 1920’s, when the profit rates of a pyramid scheme would be able to pass themselves off as the realistic results of sound investing? When there would be so little oversight and investigation that a charlatan of this magnitude could be appointed to run the NASDAQ? Is there any more profound human embodiment of American greed, faith in money, reverence for capitalism, belief in the systems it invented, and total trust in the infinite upward spiral of wealth? Bernie, you really hit this one out of the park, and just in time. If only you could maintain the defiant refusal to face facts that we see in Rod Blagojevich, you’d be beyond perfect. Reading about the board room meeting you called where you admitted what happened, followed by turning yourself in, revealed that you have shreds of accountability that don’t really resonate with the America I know. Maybe you’ll have to share it with the still-clinging Illinois Governor.

But sure, Obama’s fine too. A hat-tip to the future, as even the great picks in ’29, ’30, ’38, ’39 were. Up near the top of the article, Obama admits his own fears, despite the image he’s projected to the nation. He outlines four scary priorities for the nation:
1. Economy
2. Afghanistan
3. Nuclear Proliferation
4. Climate Change

Oh boy. While I agree that no one could deny the precision of #1, it’s #2-4 that make me roll my eyes. Escalating a war may be his hidden solution to #1 (indeed, this picture hit me like a ton of bricks as the explanation of why government policy has so thoroughly greased the wheels of the economy’s slide, especially on the employment front… in an era where the all-volunteer military and lots of wars are big priorities, you have to de facto draft people by giving them no alternative jobs), but it offers nothing to a pacifist who has come to realize that we are in a post-conquest era in history. Nuclear proliferation? I posted over a year ago about how Iran will get toasters. It’s not that I don’t believe the world would be better off without nukes spreading further, but frankly, the worst nations in the world already have nukes and trying to maintain peace by keeping a stranglehold on science and technology is about as futile as shutting down the Internet by cutting physical cords, one at a time. And don’t even get me started on climate change. If you really think climate change is a third of the threat that most people seem to, then total, unrecoverable economic collapse is your only hope.

My hopes this season are pretty scant. I hope to get to New Mexico so I can bury myself in warmth, friends, family, green chile, and a part of the world that has managed to inspire me through some of the darkest times. I hope for a little snow, a bit of cheer, a lot of thought and reflection. I hope to find the energy to light at least one candle, to buy at least one gift, to make at least one wish for the year to come.

May God be with you.

by

But I Can Feel, I Can Feel: A Counting Crows Show on the Verge of Everything

Categories: A Day in the Life, All the Poets Became Rock Stars, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Just Add Photo, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , , , ,

It must be observed that this has been a week beyond the average.

To attempt to capture it all in some sort of laundry list seems to trivialize it (as, indeed, the very nature of the phrase “laundry list” captures). Besides, I sort of gave a preview in this post just 12 days ago. To think of a time when I was “searching for direction” seems almost laughable now in the face of directions very much found (chosen?) by the collective perspective.

If nothing else, the turmoil and heightened activity is certainly well captured by my recent prolificity in this very format of communication. It is surely oversimplification to say that when one is writing more, it is a reflection of more events worth living through – but no doubt the volatility in my own mind (or perhaps “mind at large” as my Dad would put it) has manifest in an outpouring of understanding. Like I said, I need to process everything and I get there too.

I imagine Adam Duritz to be somewhat like myself. This is quite an understatement – I have spent much of my life believing Adam to be somehow a kindred spirit, and no doubt a fostering of this perspective through highly empathetic lyrics is at the core of Counting Crows’ success over the years. I was not even the first person to describe a CC show as a “religious experience” to myself – I had heard many others say this was so before I even particularly new many Crows songs. And yet the discovery of the truth of the statement was in no way contrived or unduly advertised when I saw them for the first time in New York in 1999. I dubbed it “the perfect show” and am still unsure if it’s ever been eclipsed.

Trying to describe a Counting Crows show to the uninitiated (or those who, heaven forbid, don’t like or know the band) is a little like Plato struggling with the forms. Yes, we’re still talking about chairs and rooms and people, but you’ve never really seen any of these things in your life until you’ve been to a CC concert. I realize that I’m sounding hyperbolic to the point of undermining what I’m trying to express, but really. For emotional sponges like me, a CC show is like an oxygen tank for asthmatics. Suddenly, for the first time, there’s enough of everything I need.

Last night’s show was no exception to any of these rules, though there are a few cautionary notes. It was both a summer show and a double-headliner, both slight drawbacks from maximal emotional flood. They’re on tour with Maroon 5 of all people, a band that is perhaps the least like them of anyone they’ve ever toured with and seems to combine vapid, repetitive sound with lyrics that sound like a kindergartener regurgitating the most average pop songs they’ve ever heard in staccato. It occurred to me early in the show that they selected this matchup to heighten the contrast between the opener and closing act to pack an even tighter, more profound emotional punch.

But the summer shows (yes, it’s September, but it was an outdoor concert with summer-type billing) tend to be shorter, slightly less focused, and a little more crowd-pleasing. It’s important to stress that these are all questions of degree – the lamest Crows show ever is still probably the best concert experience you’ll ever have this side of Simon & Garfunkel.

But it’s worth noting because I feel that even Adam got in too deep too quickly in last night’s show and had to back off a little bit. Which both heightened and flattened the effect of the message, making me wonder if there isn’t something even larger and less grapplable going on that we’re just scratching the surface of.

The stage featured an almost pyramidal array of stair-steps toward the drums, keyboards, and then a massive fake-brick wall peppered with a large screen and several smaller ones. The most striking component of the set-up, though the clustered sodium lights were notable, was a huge clock in the center of the wall, set to 11:00. It’s the eleventh hour, and Adam’s letting you know. Already, the chills were underway.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Adam in such a mess as a show began as last night. Emily leaned in and remarked something to this effect, implying he was somehow intoxicated, but it looked much more to me like he was grappling with some kind of emotional chasm that was entirely unchartered. He couldn’t get some words out through teary bleary overwhelm. He changed everything about every song, peppering the opening “Round Here” with plaintive cries of hope against hope. The only thing familiar were strands of “Have You Seen Me Lately?” intermingled with new riffs into the song, made all the more stunning when the second song of the act was the original “Have You Seen Me Lately?”.

But before I even knew that was happening, the screen filled with upraised arm silhouettes clawing for some sort of solace or retribution, all aiming at 11:00 on the wall. It was the most viscerally moving and distressing thing I’ve ever seen at a concert in my life. This was on display for the whole final third of a “Round Here” rendition that must have taken ten minutes. I was openly weeping, not even knowing how to take this and being altogether sure that I was not ready for the depth and breadth of the show I was about to witness.

It was thus at once disappointing and relieving that the rest of the concert never reached the tremors of that level of expression. It’s exceedingly rare for a CC show to peak on the first song, but it felt like peering over the abyss, building up as though to jump, and then thinking better of it and dancing on the edge instead. Enough Maroon 5 fans were walking out as the show went on anyway that we have ended up with a concert for a thousand people had he pushed it. And that’s not what summer shows are about, no matter how close they fall to October.

While the show had many obvious and more surficial themes, including a concerted effort to include every song with any sort of reference to California (there are many), key threads of desperation and hope against hope in the face of overwhelming odds seemed to carry throughout. You could argue that these themes are constants for Duritz and company (company probably including me), and you might be right, but it doesn’t make it any less relevant. Those may be the themes of the last decade or so, after all, and the coming few years. If indeed we have years to come.

Early on, it formulated in my mind that the show felt a bit like Adam’s suicide note. And then again, perhaps just a love note. Isn’t every suicide note a love note? And of course, I’m sure I mostly just have suicide on the brain in the wake of David Foster Wallace’s recent action. Then again, it’s worth noting some stark similarities between DFW (born in 1962) and AD (born in 1964). After all, they look like they have something in common:

I’m not the only one that sees a resemblance, right? Then again, for that matter:

Perhaps I’m pushing things a bit far, but this is how CC gets its fans to relate to what’s going on. The intro to the show featured a tribute to the late Isaac Hayes and I was practically expecting something similar for DFW at the show’s end. But DFW didn’t make music, and for all I know Adam Duritz didn’t even read him.

Still, the thread of self-destruction was prevalent in the show and it was hard not to see it as a possible farewell. The unbelievable stripped-bare vulnerability of “Colorblind”, the dramatic trauma of “Cowboys”, the mostly seemingly ad-libbed earnest regret of “Miami”. Every song seemed to have some tie-in to the entire question of deciding whether to exist, though once one starts looking for something in a CC set, it’s hard not to find it. By the time the “feathered by the moonlight” line from “A Murder of One” was folded into “A Long December”, I was just about ready to lose it again.

And then, a sudden retraction, almost as though he was scared of what he was saying to himself, let alone the fans. “Come Around” closed the set, after a brief explanation that the song was about coming back to cities on tour, no matter what else was going on. A song, for the first time, about constancy and a lack of change. And then, after the briefest encore departure in history and only one more song, just four words, each a sentence, loudly into the microphone: “We. Will. Be. Back.”

There was the briefest of hopes that he meant tonight as he walked off stage, but the first strands of “California Dreamin'” over the stereo indicated that he was making a promise for the future. Or maybe trying to convince himself. It’s a weird thing to say to your hometown crowd when half the show chatter was about staying at home with the parents and doing laundry, seeing old familiar places, how much he loves Berkeley, which he sees as the town where he grew up. It’s the kind of thing you say to Pittsburgh or Cleveland or the Philippines when you’re not from there, when those places are remote and perhaps vaguely undesirable, but you’re convincing people to tough it out and wait for you.

And maybe he just means that about the planet. It would certainly be understandable, if so. It’s not an easy place to be, sometimes, and not looking much easier. Me, I have reason for personal hope right now. I haven’t even begun to engage the 10-year reunion homecoming implications of this weekend’s trip for which I depart tonight. I almost wrote a post called “High School Never Ends” a month ago and it still needs to be declared. I joked with Fish about offering live updates on the blog after each interaction with classmates.

But I think, for now, I’d rather feel things in the moment. Live each second as it comes, no matter how packed and overwhelming. There is anticipation, excitement, dread. Reason to believe there’s no idea what to expect. I am ready, I am ready, I am ready, I am fine.

Round Here
Have You Seen Me Lately?
Los Angeles
Richard Manuel is Dead
Colorblind
Ghost Train
Cowboys
Miami
Washington Square
A Long December
Come Around

Rain King (with Augustana, Mr. Jones alt)

by

An Hour After the End

Categories: A Day in the Life, From the Road, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , ,

“I suppose you are wondering why you are here.”

Seven billion souls shuffling their feet, which many at once notice are not exactly feet while somehow failing to not be feet. Even those who did not have feet just moments before now have these quasi not-feet feet. They at once seem to be in perfect health and yet be a collection of mid-size blue bubbles, slightly suspended off the floor.

“I’m sure you have many questions, and it is our work here and now to answer them. We will try to, ah, anticipate them. That is something you will find us very good at.”

A good-natured half-chuckling from the seemingly endless company of bubble-people entities behind the speaker. They are at once bubbles and highly reassuring, trustworthy people. The half-nature of everything is less unsettling than one seconds ago seemed to suspect it was.

“For example, many of you are wondering where you are and what this is and what this has to do with anything from, ah, before. I both appear to be speaking and yet not using language and yet you understand perfectly well. Yes?”

Seven billion souls murmuring, each to themselves, to the speaker, a general sense of affirmation.

“I think if you search your inner perception, you will understand exactly where you are and what this is.” The microscopically briefest of pregnant pauses to let this sink in. “Now then, this is a very unusual and special circumstance. Normally, this is a very private and intimate matter. We would normally spend a great deal of what you think of as time with you individually first before ever bringing you into this type of experience.”

Not so much confusion among seven billion souls as utter lack of recognition of what is being discussed. Yet not with the frustration of misunderstanding so much as the best-natured curiosity regarding what this could all possibly be about.

“In terms that you are used to perceiving, I would say we don’t have room for you all individually. You all came in such a rush. We couldn’t possibly accommodate you all with so little notice. Of course, that has nothing to do with the truth of operations here. We could, in fact, seamlessly accommodate the normal circumstances without the slightest of inconvenience or difficulty. But there is, no doubt, something to be said for making this transition gradual. And where you come from, there is no question that we would be beset by such practical challenges.”

Some acknowledgment or general sense that this all must be about to make sense in a minute, so there’s no use fighting over the details now. A collectively unuttered “fair enough”, if you will.

“Now then, a moment ago. An hour ago? Time is another concept that we will be weaning you off of here, but for now let us communicate as though bound by the temporal. An hour ago, something happened. A very significant something. And it brings us to this, this moment, this collective gathering.”

Seven billion wracking heads (minds? bubbles?), peppered with just the slightest handful of knowing staring at the floor. As though one could sink through a floor one isn’t even making contact with that isn’t quite a floor. The concept of universal paradox, of reality simultaneously being impossibly unreal and yet feeling more real than any prior memory or experience, is starting to sink in. They are becoming acclimated to it, like breathing underwater or at very high altitude. Each moment, the impossible is becoming easier and everything is innately what it is not and it is okay.

“Perhaps you have heard of the Large Hadron Collider? An ambitious project of your species, designed to simulate what leading scientists declared to be the origins of your universe. Using principles much akin to those of, ah, your greatest weapons of self-destruction.”

Those who’d been feeling the faintest glimmers of the desire to hide now are thankful that these blue bubbles appear impossibly alike. And yet they seem to radiate varying levels of familiarity and communication, as though other identical blue bubbles are somehow just like they still perceive themselves, encasing fully identifiable bodies that somehow seem aligned with the prime of one’s life. It is all infinitely processed and reprocessed each moment. There is the sense of the progression of time simultaneous with a great universal all-time at once. And all this is distracting from efforts to blend in, to hide, to shield.

Meanwhile, of course, there are others who have only the vaguest idea what is being discussed and have never heard of Colliders nor scientists nor weapons of self-destruction. And they have only the slimmest clench in their stomach-bottoms that they are about to be informed of something terrible, a death in the family or an attack on the community. This feels like all the bad news of before, rolled up at once, and the apprehension is rippling across seven billion bubbles.

“There are some of you, a scant few, who predicted this might happen. You should not feel wronged or cheated, saddened that you were not heeded. You shall come to understand that it is perhaps for the best that your cries were met with derision and, ultimately, silence.”

Only a very few of the souls can follow this chain of logic, but they float rapt. Can any others be truly said to be less attentive? Even when incomprehensible, there is a sense that these are most essential matters that are coming to pass.

“You see, while this Collider proved, in some absolute sense, to be the most destructive force in your history, it was relatively painless. It was instant. It was immediate, here and gone, a snap of the fingers, a blink of the eyes. And the alternatives, well. They were not so simple. Which is not to say, of course, that there needed be alternatives with the same ultimate outcome. Nothing is inevitable, nothing at all. There were, however, likelihoods. Probabilities. Actions create other likelihoods of actions, in a prevailing course that leads to a great deal of suffering.”

A dull ache of remorse and concern is now welling, like a crick in the back of most necks of the souls. Not, of course, that they have necks so much as a ball of uncanny sensations.

“Perhaps a metaphor would be more fitting. It seems your species is fond of examples.” The slightest acknowledging motion toward the row behind the speaker. “After all, you will come to learn that your entire time just before has been a metaphor. It is one of the great realities of life that life itself is modeled as an unending cascade of examples. Most fitting indeed, then.

“So, it is, perhaps, the pulling of an electrical cord. A plug. The plug has been pulled, and the power gone out. One instant, one burst, everything gone. Which is unfortunate, of course, for power. However, as compared to a slow draining of power, where one first must give up one appliance, and then another, and then a third, constantly struggling on the way down to maintain control. How shall they be compared?

“Or another view, perhaps, that of the disappearance of the crops. This is perhaps more accurate. Is it better to be beset by a drought over vast time, with death and suffering in each day, as the losing battle of survival is fought on and on? Or would, perhaps, it be better to experience a single tsunami, an instant flood that wiped out everyone, crops and people and animals alike, in a single apocalyptic day?”

The penultimate word sends shockwaves that are immediately calmed, in the same manner that everything here is profound and then gone, replaced by its opposite. There is a sudden torrent of understanding. The crowded hall, seven billion incomprehensibly strong, now suddenly feels a closeness, an intimacy, as though each were in their regular living space, perhaps where they slept, with only a few friends as though gathered at their deathbed. It has all become terribly clear, stark and frightening and yet somehow relieving.

“And thus, you are here. And it is not so bad, yes? It is perhaps, acceptable. Fair enough. A fitting end. It cannot be said that you were treated unfairly?”

Here this seems utterly ridiculous and then immediately obvious over the course of the few short sentences. They have gone, almost instantly, from being wronged to being set right. And come to it of their own volition.

“Thus, what we’d most like you to focus on, to consider, ponder, discuss amongst yourselves, is this. With the recognition of life as metaphor, with your experience just upended as a series of exemplary lessons… what can you see in this incredible reality? What do you take from being gathered here, just an hour after scientists who had delivered so much knowledge and understanding promised yet more with the touch of a button, with their simulation of the creation of all things? Is there anything to be learned from this?”

The question at first seems rhetorical, then hangs on the air as truly thought-provoking. Slowly, without yet turning directly to other bubbles to engage in the alluded discussion, there is a sense of understanding overriding the relief. Of the childlike joy of putting together a puzzle that initially seemed complicated, far too intricate. The feeling of a concept snapping together like it was obvious from the beginning. There is the sense, if not the reality, of nodding one’s head vigorously eighteen or twenty times with increasing speed, letting out a little whoop, and then almost crying from sheer exhilaration and exhaustion. No one seems immune to this tidal wave of emotion as it ripples up, down, and around, washing the seven billion souls in a deeper sense of depth than they have ever felt before.


[This post was written in its entirety before I left for Colorado, but more than half was lost due to an uncaught internet disconnection and lack of sufficient backup. I think I liked the original version slightly better and I was despondent in my inability to post it before leaving. I have just now, in Steamboat Springs, completed the post a second time. So it goes. This is why the post is categorized as both Pre-Trip and From the Road. But at least, God willing, it is up for the reading.]

by

On Mars

Categories: A Day in the Life, Awareness is Never Enough - It Must Always Be Wonder, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , ,

So there may be rocket fuel on Mars. It’s in our drinking water and now it’s on the Red Planet.

What would we be more likely to find as the remains of a past civilization, a past effort, than this explosive ingredient? Maybe from the rockets that left when things got too bad. Maybe from the rockets whose red glare signaled the end. Maybe from other explosives. Maybe from fireworks to celebrate on the way down.

Could there be a more profound time in our species’ history to discover the remains of Mars? To give us just enough clues of past life now departed, past trappings of destructive civilization now broken down into dust? Sure, October 1962. Maybe even August 1945, now just 63 years in the rearview mirror. People said it was a miracle that we discovered space travel just after, made it happen on the vision of the same President who nearly ended it all before we got the chance.

Maybe it was a miracle. Maybe it’s time.

Humans have a hard enough time paying attention to their own history. Even though the species is the same and the people sometimes occupy the same land or speak the same language, something seems wholly irrelevant about time long past. That was then and this is now.

But what could be more now than space discoveries? What could make history more relevant than it being brand-new? What could make experience more powerful than it being experienced by those we can only imagine, those we never met, those who killed themselves before we began to be?

It’s far too early and already, since this post idea came to mind, the internet has run away with the idea of life and been lambasted for it. NASA is trying to reign in science fiction imaginations with cold hard science. Water isn’t life. Perchlorate isn’t rockets. Conjecture isn’t evidence.

We have to dig deeper, further. We have to excavate. We will probably need to send our own species to look for the last one. We will probably need samples and endless debate, theorizing until one piece of evidence stands so irrefutable that it changes our view of the universe overnight.

But make no mistake, it’s there. We have never been less alone. We have never been closer to the edge of our collective ego. With apologies to Jake, the space program has never seemed more relevant.

In time, we will likely find that our obligation, our debt of gratitude to the long-gone beings of Mars, is to not repeat their mistakes.

If we have time.

by

Where Were You in Chicago?

Categories: A Day in the Life, But the Past Isn't Done with Us, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , ,

Oh, Chicago.

It’s been eight full years since my last visit to the Windy City (outside of one of the worst airport stopovers in modern history). The city of my almost absolutely ideal weather (could stand to be a little drier in the summer, but otherwise perfect) and almost absolutely horrible everything else. Past visits to Chicago have been almost universally bad, marked by high turmoil and tension, argument, and almost unending apprehension. Something about the length of time spent seems to correspond to the extent of the badness, or at least the fallout. The one decent visit was in late ’97, where my Dad and I flew to a debate tournament in Florida via Chicago, with a few hour layover. We didn’t really have time to check out either of the city’s colleges I’d applied to and they put massive amounts of milk in my coffee without asking and it was bitterly cold and we were both a little grumpy toward the end. But nobody got hurt.

And that was by far the best visit. Maybe it’s no wonder that I didn’t give much consideration to either of those colleges when I’d gotten in.

But still to come was the last visit, eight years ago and change, which still stands out as one of the worst trips of all-time. It didn’t help that I’d been anticipating the trip with a wildly inexplicable sense of foreboding that proved as prophetic (though not as seriously so) as I’d feared. I was going into a Model UN conference that I’d been guilted into attending, nearing complete exhaustion with the politics and format of collegiate Model UN. This trip, which proved to be my last lifetime MUN conference, cemented my feelings while just seeming to waste my time. From the 20th day of Introspection ever: “Never been so bored in a MUN committee in my life. That’s 6 years of effort there.”

The trip was not without upside. Chicago is not only a place of bad feeling for me, but of incredibly intense feeling. The severity of emotional spurring gives it a vague potential that I would be more inclined to pursue if the downside tendencies of my state in the city didn’t just scare me. I spent the first night of the trip wandering around the city by myself, lost in reverie that culminated in me literally yelling at myself as March was about to cross over into April…

Sometimes I think I should walk around with a tape recorder. Walking back from that convenience store, I swear I figured everything out. Well, not everything, but more than I’ve had a handle on for a long time. Talking out loud works so much better, especially in cold night air. If I could maintain that focus for days on end, life would almost feel easy. Instead, I end up blinding myself to clarity & getting crowded by my frustrations. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, I wear it on my tongue. & I don’t consider that a problem, if only I could express myself as well to others as I can to myself. Seems like they’d be easier to convince anyway.

After the conference concluded, there were then plane delays trying to get out of the city and it felt like that place just had me in its clutches. Note to self: Plane delays where one has incredibly impatience and anxiety about getting out in time are usually a warning sign. Proceed with caution. Or, as I told myself at the time (day 21 of Introspection): “I’ve got to learn to start trusting my instincts. I might hate my intuition, but it’s always right.”

In my memory, I think I’d folded the two days that followed my return into nothing, or transplanted them as being prior to the trip. But that’s only how it seemed in retrospect, because the trip was so awful and everything crashed to pieces 48 hours after my return. But those were a pivotal 48 hours. A very good 48 hours. Until Ben Brandzel caught me reveling in the downstairs portion of the Usdan cafeteria and uttered the worst joke I’ve ever heard in my life:

“So, has she told you about her book yet?”

Though I felt like he’d just winded me with a sucker punch, I refused to be fazed at the time. In less than 36 hours, though, it was all over. With less warning but as much seeming foreknowledge, I had been felled by this comment just as Lisha’s “Doomsday” Prophecy of ’93 had unwittingly unraveled that situation. Of course the comment had nothing to do with anything, but it sure made it feel like the events had more to do with fate than anything I could control.

I went into freefall. A good bit of this is discussed in my recent post about April. There’s no need to hash out more details and I really should wrap this up anyway. In the swirl of retrospect, the trip and everything that followed were inextricably bound with each other and a sense of powerful, living destiny.

Was there destiny? I don’t really believe in destiny, but it’s hard to argue with what transpired. The wake of the events of March and April 2000 convinced me to start “The Streak” and I never missed an APDA debate weekend thereafter. I decided that I might as well continue with my resolution at the advent of the millennium that I would devote myself to the one thing that was going well in college. The relationship that ended in such a crushing fashion turned out to feel more and more like a dodged bullet than a sincere loss. All of these things led directly to fuel everything that happened in the next two years: staying at Brandeis, debate success, and Emily.

This time around, I don’t feel any sense of foreboding at all. It’s almost uncanny how calm I feel despite the history, despite it being April. Another rejection of destiny, perhaps, or just an openness to change. It’s certain that even the slightest inkling of bad feeling would get blown up in my perception given the context, so it’s really all good. I can’t wait to see Fish, meet his new girlfriend and other friends, see Wrigley, give this city a fourth or fifth or sixth chance.

Forty years after “something very extraordinary died there, which was America,” I’ll be heading back toward the city named for wild leeks once again. My baseball streak is at 3 games, after a beautiful complete game by Felix Hernandez last night. I have a busy day at work, made somewhat more challenging by a mild migraine. I’m getting on a vessel of one of the plane companies that has still managed to stay solvent. Life is mixed, but life is good.

We’ve come too far to leave it all behind.

by

Life as an Emotional Ocean

Categories: A Day in the Life, India & Nepal '08 Trip, Politics (n.): a strife of interests masquerading, Pre-Trip Posts, Tags: , , ,

I don’t think I could possibly encapsulate what the last week has looked like in my life, but you can tell it looked like something with the absence of all the posts. It’s like someone going quiet in a room for an extended period of time, but still giving clear indications they’re awake… when the posts go dry for awhile, you know something’s brewing and bubbling, but it doesn’t even bear expression yet.

On Friday, I return-guested on the Mep Report, so keep an ear out for TMR #101 if you like that sort of thing.

Early in the weekend, Emily’s last surviving grandparent, Thelma Garin (1911-2008) passed away at four in the morning. She had, for a while, been unaware of people as specific identities, but we had spent a last hour or so at breakfast with her before leaving Fresno in early January and it was a nice farewell. We should all be fortunate enough to see 96 (though I’m not convinced that I want to… as I told Fish, as me when I’m 94), but it is always quite sad to see someone move on to the next step of existence.

Because I simply had to be at work on Tuesday (many others’ schedules had been altered so I could preview databases that last work day before leaving for India) and the service for Em’s grandmother was in Fresno on Tuesday, I had to miss it. So Em went down there on Monday morning while I stayed by the Bay and tried to take care of things for the trip and not think too much about it. I’ve tried to remain rather tabula rasa for this most exotic trip of my life so far, not anticipating any specifics or experiences since (A) I know I can’t and (B) even if I could, I’d rather be bowled over with the full force of surprise than to anticipate. It’s rather the way I see movies, or idealize seeing movies (one can’t always manage it).

Yesterday was sort of a mess. We got to preview the databases without a hitch and then I had a farewell party at FYCC, where I will no longer be working directly within Glide. Some peeps were clearly more broken-up than others, and I don’t know to what extent people believe that the trip down the block to the main building will be a short and accessible one. Psychologically, it’s almost like moving across the Bay. But I intend to hold people to visiting and I will definitely be back, to deliver deadlines and train on databases at minimum, and likely to just say hi as well.

My (now former) boss that I dislike (I think I can start talking a little more liberally about this since I no longer work for him) gave me what I thought was the best goodbye present of all of not showing up for my party. But then he waltzed in 50 minutes late (standard operating procedure, really), making me wonder if he’d intended to sandbag his arrival so I could have a little fun at my party or if he’d just been himself. Most likely the latter, but the impact was the same for 50 good minutes, so so it goes. I managed not to say anything tremendously rude, despite thoughts of lines like “I am just so glad to not be working for you anymore” coming to mind.

Meanwhile my boss that I like remained stoic as always, though he seemed to confide in others that he was concerned. It was sort of cute. And a bunch of other folks were appropriately sad, which was nice. I think it’s perfectly fine to be happy that people are sad to see you go. I feel like many people resist this concept as perhaps self-serving or just inappropriate, but deep down you know we all feel this way. It’s the only real confirmation we get, other than from blatantly sincere people, that we were ever worth our salt in the first place. Now this doesn’t mean I was gloating or rubbing it people’s faces (and in fact I was reassuring people that they’d be far more fine than they thought), but it’s just sort of nice to be missed.

And then my supervisee managed to slip a note into my coat on my way out that I didn’t discover till dinner, and that pretty much made me cry. It was tough to not reconsider some of these decisions to take the promotion and switch things around, but my need-for-challenge-brain looks forward to not starving for awhile. And my boss-I-dislike showing up was a good reminder of what’s at stake as well.

Meanwhile, the world at large of economics and politics and such was aswirl with the upheaval and change that seems to be becoming the norm. The stock market was poised to plunge 500-1000 points and then Bernanke swooped in and again sacrificed every other economic interest in favor of saving the market. At this point, it feels like a legitimate concern that my bank will be drawing money away from my savings account at a rate of 0.5% by the time I return from India. If anyone has any solid schemes or things they want to start up (Jake, I’m looking at you) that seem likely to return more than a penny a day that savings accounts will be making soon, let me know.

I guess that’s the theory, right? That I’ll say and do things like the above concluding sentence? And that will jump-start the economy? I’ve never really had money before, so I’ve never quite grappled with these things. A little secret, though: unless Jake specifically (or someone else I believe in) comes up with a really good scheme, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do something risky. I’m far more likely to invest in the Bank of Mattress. And I’m sure as all get-out not moving it over to stocks or property or something insane right now. So good luck with your theory, Fed, it requires a lot of people being a lot stupider than I can imagine.

But this is America.

And in America, the coronation of Queen Hillary I is back on track after some early snags. I can’t really predict South Carolina, but I’d imagine it’ll look a lot like Nevada or maybe a little closer. But given the polls in Florida, it’s hard to imagine that SC will matter for doing anything other than knocking John Edwards completely out of the race. He will make his withdrawal speech the night of the SC primary, yielding a little more support for Obama, but certainly not enough to move the 20-point deficit Barack’s running in Florida. And Florida will be just big enough and long enough before Super Tuesday to swing the table toward Hillary and end it.

On the Republican side, Fred Thompson just saved the hung convention. John McCain was almost garnering enough momentum (crazy as it seems) to start charging toward the lead, but Thompson dropping out swings Florida to Huckabee. The problem is that Giuliani, McCain, and Romney are all competing for the exact same kind of voter and that person is very different than a Huckabee voter. Thompson single-handedly kept Huckabee from winning South Carolina by a solid margin (without Thompson, he probably would’ve won SoCar by at least 40-35), and I thought, since he’s friends with McCain, he would stay in for Florida to do the same thing.

Florida will be razor-close and really difficult, but I think Huck will just edge Giuliani and McCain will run third. This will be result #1317398543 that “stuns the pundits” and it will turn everything on its head. “Can Mitt Romney survive a fourth-place finish in Florida?” “Can John McCain become a comeback kid again?” “Is Huckabee now the front-runner?” “Why won’t Rudy drop out since he hasn’t won a single delegate yet?” But all four will remain, and Ron Paul will be not talked-about but continue to post 8-12% everywhere (except maybe Florida). And then each of those four will win at least two states on Super Tuesday. And it will be a Mess.

And I will be in Delhi.

But first, this morning, I will be voting in the primary that actually matters. I watched the bulk of the Green Party debate the other night and concluded that by far the only candidate who had the whole package was one that apparently dropped out at the end of the debate. And I really wasn’t impressed by the person he dropped out in favor of, Cynthia McKinney. It’s not that McKinney isn’t well-spoken and doesn’t have a history of standing up for good things… but the only thing she’ll be known for on the campaign trail will be her outburst with Capitol security. I’m also not wild about someone who was a Democrat to get elected and then switched affiliation to the Greens after leaving Congress. If you’re going to jump ship, at least do it while you still have some voice and influence. This kind of move just seems more self-serving than anything, and I don’t think it serves the party well.

And while I still like Ralph Nader a lot, I think it’s best for the health of the Greens to move on from his perennial candidacies. We need a candidate who isn’t going to just throw up a white flag and encourage voting for sell-out Democrats in swing states, but as long as we’re sure of that, then Nader isn’t doing the party a lot of favors by running again and again. He’s visible, but low on credibility at this point, and is risking associating the Greens as a platform for his personality instead of an actual serious and ongoing party. For the overall good of the Greens, it’s time to move on. And to be fair, he hasn’t even announced yet (he has a proxy running in the primaries), so maybe he recognizes these arguments already.

Say what you will about what this says about me, but this all means I will be casting a protest vote in the Green Party primary, for Jared Ball. The only wasted vote is a vote for someone you don’t fully believe in.

And I get to vote this morning in the February 5th primary because Berkeley at least (and probably much of California) opens in-person balloting early for just this sort of thing. If you’re curious, here’s a schedule of the Green Party primaries and then the convention is in Chicago in July. If Fish were still going to be around then, I’d seriously consider going. But I doubt he will be. And if McKinney or Nader are the nominee (and really, no one else seems to have much chance), it will probably take the wind out of my sails a little. Not that I won’t probably support them, but you see my reservations above.

But the real thing I have reservations for is India.

Again, I have no expectations for this trip, no thoughts, no anticipation. I know what a whole lot of flying looks like (~27 hours each way), but that’s about where it begins and ends. I’m going to let India wash over me, lap up and take me under. I will be armed with a composition notebook and pens, but no internet or way of accessing. I’m going to be off the grid for the longest time I can recall since going on the grid of this series of tubes. I intend to pretty much post my whole account of the trip upon return (depending on length and possibly edited for some people’s privacy concerns), so don’t think the accounts and descriptions of the event will be withheld without expressed written consent or something.

Take care, everyone. Don’t let the country collapse too much faster than the current pace. Not that you really have control over that, but the illusion of control is what this country is all about. I’m going to go find out what another country is all about. I may just be impressed.

We’ll find out.

by

Winter World Tour 2007-2008

Categories: A Day in the Life, Keepin' it Cryptic, Pre-Trip Posts, Quick Updates, Tags: , , ,

As I’ve often been known to say, change is the only constant. This has perhaps never felt more true than this week, which is simply over-brimming with upheaval and possibility. Forget ungainly metaphors about baby steps and windows and doors. Every door and window in the whole house has burst open and is flooding. Equal parts elation, nervous apprehension, and general anticipation.

As I told one of my assistants today, “I am an emotional ocean.”

Sadly many of the details are not public yet and I do still have to try to play ball with a world that thinks privacy is not an outdated relic. So it goes. What I can announce, however, is the EmStor 2007-2008 Winter World Tour.

I feel like we should have a corporate sponsor. Y’know, if I weren’t a Non-Profiteer and believed in that sort of thing.

The EmStor 2007-2008 Winter World Tour

21-25 December 2007

Albuquerque, NM

Parents, Nuevo Friends

26-28 December 2007

Berkeley, CA

Work, Beth Visiting

29 December 2007
6 January 2008

Shaver Lake, CA

Cabin with the Garin Clan

7-22 January 2008

Berkeley, CA

Work, Little to Report

23 January –
10 February 2008

India & Nepal Trip

Featuring 7 hours in London, partial Garin Clan

Yeah, you read that last part right. India & Nepal. For 2.5 weeks. With a stop in London. Oh yeah.

Most all of this (and more things TBA) have just materialized in the last 48 hours. It’s kind of incredible. 2008, you are looking mighty mercurial. But exciting. Very exciting.

The downside of all this is that I have to jettison tentative plans for judging at the Brandeis 2008 debate tourney (8-9 February 2008), as I will still be in India. And I may also have to forgo a President’s Day Weekend jaunt to Chicago, though that can be delayed instead of cancelled since it’s not as temporally tied as a debate tournament. Although, who knows… maybe I’ll be up for more travel just 10 days after return. Chicago, you may make the Winter World Tour yet.

So, I’ll see you when I see you. Not a ton of these have the options of meeting up with people that, say, Boston & Chicago have. But certainly Albuquerque, starting tonight and for the next four days, will be a big opportunity for hanging out. Frontier, luminarias, and Pac-Man, here I come! Only 7 more work hours until almost non-stop holiday fun of one kind or another…

by

Assorted Thoughts Before Vermont

Categories: A Day in the Life, Let's Go M's, Metablogging, Pre-Trip Posts, Read it and Weep, Tags: , , , ,

All right. Turns out that this whole “keeping posts long and narrative” idea works pretty well, but seems wholly unfitting for times like the morning before I depart on a big trip. I have a long-standing personal tradition of firing off correspondence and/or public missives before departing on trips, of getting up a little earlier to do so. Deep down, I know that a large part of the reason for this is the heightened perception of the risk of death during travel. Even though it’s absolutely not true, human beings feel this elevated threat level on planes that in someone like me (even though I know cars are eleventy-billion times more dangerous and life-threatening) makes me want to tie up loose ends… or at least give people awareness of what I was considering on the final day. Truth be told, it’s really amazing how much of my life I spend anticipating and preparing for final perceptions like that.

What a wonderfully cheery thought for five in the morning. But hey, if anything, I’m opening up even more with StoreyTelling than Introspection, because long explanations sort of require back-story, and back-story often requires taking a can-opener to those rusty containers that long ago developed botulism.

Regardless, the point here is that I have all these leftover thoughts and ideas that, now that I’m back in the blogging spirit, would normally have found their home in delicious two-liners on Introspection’s format. But there’s no place to put them. So they’re about to go here… periodically I’m probably just going to have to do posts like this with relatively unrelated assortments. I don’t think any of today’s are cryptic… I already have a whole “Keepin’ it Cryptic” category/tag planned too, since there will be inevitably be times when some other person feels they have a right to privacy, or I don’t really feel like forcing the issue with some person I know right here on this blog. But not today. So this will be like the appendix post.

Speaking of which, they allegedly found the purpose of the appendix this week. Nifty, huh? There’s a reason for everything. The proof for God is in the logical purpose, people.

Baseball is clearly something I’ve still been paying attention to, since it’s October and that’s one of the things that makes October great. And I am blessed to be paying Comcast an inordinate amount of money to get channels like TBS, so I’m not missing out on the playoffs. Hosting the baseball playoffs on TBS makes about as much sense as putting Top Chef on the History Channel. Especially since it’s the second playoffs in 465 years to not feature the Atlanta Braves. You could sort of draw a link between the channel and the show (in the same way that APDA draws links to resolutions), but no one who normally watches the channel will want to watch that show, and everyone who wants to watch will be vaguely frustrated to have to find a channel they never watch. Maybe that’s the strategy though, TBS gets to spam adds for their bizarre shows at a whole new audience. In 20 years, the Anime Channel will bid for the baseball playoffs and we’ll be inundated with ads for the latest blend of medieval fantasy themed Japanese characters with crazy hair and soap opera interactions between innings. And I’ll have to debate with Em about the value of adding the premium Anime Channel for 2 months and whether Comcast will respect our right to cancel it even though they’re already taking $746 a month.

I tend to be exaggerative in the morning.

My only real point in bringing up baseball was to observe how completely unlikely it is that anyone could’ve envisioned a Rockies/Diamondbacks NLCS even a month ago, let alone earlier in the season. And yet it looks extremely likely that this will happen. Granted, the Phillies are in the exact same position as the ’95 Mariners in their Division Series … down 2-0 going on the road. And we all know what happened then. (Or maybe you don’t. The M’s won 2 games in NY, then came home and won the decisive fifth game in extra innings in the greatest game in Mariner history.) And given that the Phils basically are the Mariners from a few years ago (not really, but the pitching staff is… after all, Pat Gillick’s their GM), it’s all possible. But at this point, the Rockies will probably be winning the World Series, so I wouldn’t put much faith in a Philly comeback.

I’m also starting to believe that a 5-game series just might not cut it for baseball. Or if it did, you’d need to have a 1-1-1-1-1 schedule, instead of 2-2-1. But it’s way easier to just go 7 games instead of changing venues for every game. The first World Series was 9 games. You don’t play 162 contests to get ousted by a 3-game losing streak. It’s just too short.

(By the way, the paragraphs directly above will earn this post the category/tag “Let’s Go M’s”. This is not because the M’s were briefly mentioned, but that will be my baseball title in general. I’m trying to limit myself a little here.)

Ack! In finding the link to that series recap on Wikipedia above, I just realized that I’ve been incorrect in my memory about the ’95 ALDS for years! Apparently they used to do a 2-3 schedule for the ALDS!! Two-three?! So the M’s were down 2-0 going into 3 straight home games, which they won all of. I’ve been recapping that series incorrectly for ages. Wow. That really blows my mind. Whoever thought 2-3 was a reasonable schedule for a baseball series? See, this really proves that it needs to be longer than 5 games.

Hm. Now I’ve gotten myself so hyped up about baseball that I’ve forgotten most of what else I was going to say. So it goes. I should go pack and clean out the catboxes anyway.

I’m going to Vermont, by the way, for Stina & Dav’s wedding, which will be in Octobery fall colors confines near the borders with New York and Quebec. It should be beautiful, and a little chilly. Em and I are changing planes approximately 4,000 times on the way out, so we’re loading up the books. The next book I finish will put me over the top of last year’s total (21), which is right about the pace I’d like to maintain for a year. My commute has been very good for keeping me reading… and I don’t want to read much more than 25 books a year, because then I’ll never write. I can’t quite decide if I like David Foster Wallace or if he’s just messing with everyone (or, I suppose, both), but his imagery is some of the strongest stick-to-your-mind kind of stuff ever.

(Gah, now I have to add a book/reading category/tag too! This is getting to be too much. I’m now believing that the way I really should have approached this morning’s posting is to post 4-5 separate posts, all neatly categorized and separated. But that would sort of be like a strobe-light-blog, wouldn’t it? Hrm.)

Thank you, by the way, to everyone who has written me e-mails in the last few days about this blog and welcoming me back into the communication fold. I really appreciate it and I will respond to everyone individually soon, but sadly not before leaving. But I want to acknowledge how touched I’ve been by your reception… it’s good to know I haven’t alienated all my readers by taking a couple months off.

Also, to delve into the slightest metablogging, I can’t figure out why the second post I made here was labeled as the third, and thereafter all the numbers have seemed to be off by one. This is the kind of thing that really bugs me about using automated blogging software and what I was always afraid of. Having an accurate postcount is one of the things that I was excited about with automation, and the slightest inaccuracy (and what could be more slight than an inaccuracy of one?) drives me crazy. When I return (there’s no time now), I will have to delve into the actual files of this database and see if I can alter everything to restore order to the numbers. So be mindful of permalinking these few early posts. If I restore the numbers and they count properly, I’ll never change them again. As I look at it now, though, it’s possible that WordPress is just terrified of a sophomore slump – category #2 doesn’t seem to exist either. Don’t fear the deuce, WordPress!

Okay, now to clean Pandora’s box.

1 2