Thursday, July 31, 2008

new song

Here's "Song of Salt and Clay," a thing of odd provenance.


Brought to you by random coincidence,

Doc Nagel's Top 100 Things

22. Jokes. I just love 'em.

Apparently, the world's oldest joke is a Sumerian fart joke, which I don't find particularly funny.

I just saw this this morning, which is timely, because last night my loveliest Lauren was regaling self, Christina and Guerin (on the occasion of X-ina's birthday) with jokes. She's a really good joke teller, and, when pressed, can dredge up absolute oodles of 'em. My friend Imj can also tell a joke like nobody's business, and, without any instigation at all, will launch gag barrages at innocent bystanders.

I cannot tell jokes. I have no head for them. I can write satire, but mainly I can interject what Imj described once as "cognitive dissonance." Still, I'm evidently funnier than the ancient Sumerians.

21. Multiple-course dinners. I just love 'em.

Speaking of birthdays, I'm planning a gigantic dinner party for mine, coming up in a couple weeks. At present, I'm sure of only one of the amuses gueules and nearly certain about an entrée.

I started taking cooking seriously years ago, to give myself something to make the world seem right when nothing else did. I've put together a handful of huge food orgies, including a 9 course dinner, that I'm going to try to surpass, at least in tastiness, this time. It takes hours and hours to eat that amount, so you really have to prepare people ahead of time and be realistic about the size of each course. We're starting at around 3, but I figure the main course won't be until 9.

But man, it's fun cooking that much stuff, matching dishes, giving the meal a real sense of direction.

Monday, July 28, 2008

and now, incivility

With any luck, Emerson was actually right about something when he wrote that "foolish inconsistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." After having written about civility (to be precise, calls for civility, that is, demands for certain critical ideas to remain unspoken, as though criticism was always uncivil), today I have a question sparked by two recent news stories about radio asswipe Michael Savage.

(Obviously, I'm not interested in being civil toward him.)

The stories both concern protestors calling for Savage to be fired or his show pulled off the air because of some hateful, badly misinformed, deliberately and idiotically outrageous statement of his. Most recently, he claimed autism is over-diagnosed and the real problem many of these kids have is the lack of an abusive father. (Really, I am not making it up. Savage's concept of fatherly guidance is to tell his kids to not be morons.)

The punchline is, the program is losing individual advertisers, but not losing revenue. He's very popular. The market, in short, has spoken, and what it is saying is: There's a whole hell of a lot of people in the US who really love being lied to, very loudly, by abusive shitheads.

Therein lies my question. Is this what people want in radio entertainment? Where is the fun in it? I'm tempted, but resist, imputing that the pleasure is in having someone express one's hateful, asinine urges, a sort of Two Minutes' Hate by proxy.

My other question is how I can get in on this kind of action, because for Savage and Limbaugh and Imus and O'Reilly (and a bunch o' others) it's quite lucrative. I'm qualified, too: I can yell, I have irrational hatreds (mostly of the Philadelphia Flyers, but we can build on that), I could even write my own material. I think I have the vocabulary down, too: "moron," "destroying America," "nutcases," "whiners."

I'll work cheap, too, to start. I'll take $100,000 a year, and be happy with it! That's a big savings over a lot of the professional screamers out there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


I'm still more vaguely annoyed than analytically critical of the fact that Dauenhauer comprehends silence sub specie human signification and expression. I have to keep in mind that my annoyance has to do with the overly-rationalistic and cognitivist slant I infer or impute to this approach. First of all, I could be wrong. Secondly, it may not matter that much. Third, I may have to admit that the phenomenon he's describing and naming as silence simply isn't what I have in mind.

One sense of silence I find myself desperately resisting is the notion of silence as either refraining from entering discourse, or of being prohibited from entering discourse - where discourse is mainly political. For instance, in Art & Fear his bizarre screed on 20th and 21st century art, Paul Virilio tells us that:

Nowadays, everything that remains silent is deemed to consent, to accept without a word of protest the background noise of audio-visual immoderation -- that is, of the 'optically correct'. But what happens as a result to the SILENCE OF THE VISIBLE under the reign of the AUDIO-VISIBLE epitomized by television, wildly overrated as television is? How can we apply the terms of Paul Valéry's aphorism in considering the question, not of the silence of art so dear to André Malraux, but of the DEAFNESS of the contemporary arts in the era of multimedia? (p. 71)

Assuming for the moment that this isn't insane raving*, Virilio's point seems to me to be that silence has been stripped of its signification and power, stripped down to meek acquiescence. This seems to have happened as a result of the cultural, aesthetic, and perceptual domination of audio-visual media. In order to be heard, it seems, one must also be seen, and vice-versa. To appear to exist in the era of multimedia, one (something, someone) must be in multimedia.

Now, this last bit doesn't seem all that outrageous. Baudrillard says much the same thing (and while we're at it, cf. the character "Mike Teavee" in various incarnations of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). So the first question is how this has had the alleged effect on silence Virilio claims. And the second question is, what kind of a phenomenon is silence, such that this could happen to it?

That's where he loses me. At the level of mass media, I guess I can admit that silence has lost authority, power, cultural meaning, the capacity to mean. If you like.

I spend a lot of time with people, or more specifically, person: my loveliest Lauren. A lot of that time is silent, in more of the sense Dauenhauer gives it. Does that silence have only the character described by Virilio? I suppose that's for us to determine, isn't it? (Not that I think we individually command our own expressions' meanings, but simply that, in this case, we can express silence toward one another or with one another more meaningfully than Virilio's analysis of mass media and art seems to offer.)

So, if I don't want silence to be reduced to the realm of human expression, and if I don't think silence can be overdetermined by media culture, and if silence manifestly isn't the absence of sound (something that not even the most profoundly deaf experiences, since sound is also vibration), then what the heck is it?

There's a grossly semantic level to this. I can stipulate what I want to name silence and go about my business. But phenomenologically, if I aim to say what the phenomenon of experiencing silence means or is, I can't rely on stipulation. I have to evoke that experience as such - but as such a what?

*Virilio's text is written like that. I think it was the text of a couple lectures, so I can't be sure he wasn't actually yelling at the audience. In any case, that's how it felt to read it. I kept asking myself why he was yelling at me. Meanwhile: SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

quarterly results

Given recent troubling economic newz, I thought it would be a good idea to present Doc Nagel, Inc.'s quarterlies. This is important information for investors, because, obviously, if a corporation is profitable, stockholders' wealth increases, and if a corporation isn't profitable, the corporation lays off workers. The people who take the big risks in a market economy have to know whether they're going to be richer, or whether other people are going to be destitute. Without that information, it would be very difficult for extremely wealthy people to continue to balance their stock portfolios in order to make damned sure that they continue to be extremely wealthy. They would be more or less at the mercy of economic forces that they could not control, and which would determine their chances for a livelihood or a decent standard of living. Terrible to contemplate.


Doc Nagel, Inc.'s diversified industries remain fundamentally sound. Doc Nagel, Inc. U continues to offer on-line fake degrees in fields ranging from A to Z. Okay, so no one has matriculated at Doc Nagel, Inc., U in months and months, but considering the degrees are absolutely free!, we're not losing any money there. The political satire department has, as all our shareholders know, been closed since 2003, when the satire bubble burst. We are exploring options for starting that operation up again, with a more cautious approach to the market. And no more free massages and lattes. The outrageous perks of the satire boom are a thing of the past. Quit whining. Finally, we look forward to a strong third quarter from our music department. We can't say why.

I realize this looks more like a projection than a report of earnings. One might think I was evading the issue.

So I am proud to announce that we anticipate no layoffs for the coming quarter. Effective immediately, there will be temporary long-term across-the-board productivity-center personnel permanent-position scale-backs, from which we hope to attain a 40% reduction in costs associated with compensation packages. Because the scale-backs are temporary and long-term, we can anticipate no serious reduction in productivity, since the remaining productivity-center personnel will absorb tasks. As a result, we are now able to project a fiscal-year balance.

Printed, bound copies of our complete quarterly report and fiscal year projections are available from our finance department at the address below.

Finance Department
c/o Complaints Department
ATTN: Arthur
Doc Nagel, Inc.
Turlock, CA 95380

Friday, July 18, 2008

the animal world, the human world, and the philosopher's fallacy

This is starting to look like a theme.

Today I spent some time with Maurice Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception, tracking down the role of silence in his account of speech and expression. In this chapter, he performs his usual trick of interpreting as the imposition of a dualism two competing accounts of a human phenomenon (meaningful speech in this case). He presents on one hand, what he boils down to the mechanistic, causal account of speech as an objective phenomenon (neurological, biological, behavioristic), and on the other hand, a purely subjective phenomenon (a meaningful and internal process of the thinking soul). Then he shows that the phenomenon itself, the lived experience of our meaningfully speaking to one another, is accounted for by neither, and hence that speech, like all other human phenomena, is "ambiguous."

Along the way, Merleau-Ponty also addresses the human world as such as a world of meaningful interactions and conduct, rather than a world of causal relations or of thoughts, and expresses this ambiguous situation as follows:

Everything is both manufactured and natural in man, as it were, in the sense that there is not a word, not a form of behavior which does not owe something to purely biological being - and which at the same time does not elude the simplicity of animal life, and cause forms of vital behavior to deviate from their pre-ordained direction, through a sort of leakage and through a genius for ambiguity which might serve to define man. (p 189)

Speech is one of the ways in which human being transcends the given, the mechanical, the determined, but speech is also conditioned by the given, the mechanical, and the determined. In short, you can't speak unless you've got the brain, mouth, teeth, larynx, diaphragm, but you also can't speak unless you've got something to speak about, something to express. In this way, he says, we both transcend but do not elude "the simplicity of animal life."

In my opinion, Merleau-Ponty is not one of the worst offenders among philosophers who dismiss or ignore the animal world, or the animal in the human. But he is clearly stating that all human phenomena, to be human, cannot be reducible to the animal. That means animal life hasn't the expressive or transcendent character human life has.

The key significance of this distinction, and of the phenomenon of speech, is that

speech implants the idea of truth in us as the presumptive limit of its effort... Even if this is pushing the principle beyond its limits and reducing things to the absurd, even if a linguistic meaning can never be delivered of its inherence in some word or other, the fact remains that the expressive process in the case of speech can be indefinitely reiterated, that it is possible to speak about speech whereas it is impossible to paint about painting, and finally that every philosopher has dreamed of a form of discourse which would supersede all others, whereas the painter or the musician does not hope to exhaust all possible painting or music. Thus there is a privileged position accorded to Reason. But if we want to understand it clearly, we must begin by putting thought back among the phenomena of expression. (p 190)

First off, I think he's dead wrong about the impossibility of painting about painting. There are some obvious cases in modern art, but in a deeper way, isn't all painting also an essay on the possibility of painting, and in that sense a painting about painting? (That is, if it's the capacity for self-reflection and being-for-itself that he's concerned about - and he is, he says so - then painting seems clearly to engage in that project, thank you very much.) He's also wrong about "every philosopher" hoping to exhaust the expressive power of speech by uttering some final truth. No doubt many do, but it's a strained reading of many, and couldn't be more incorrect regarding, say, Nietzsche.

That said, there's two big chocolate chips of truth in this cookie:

(1) The obvious self-reflectiveness of speech, unique among human expressive activity, is how it is that Reason is accorded its privilege. This is tautologous, it seems to me, but not emptily so. Reason is here defined, or at least delimited, by its expression in speech; that is, Reason is here understood as rational speech. So this notion could be re-stated: Because we speak about the world and our experience of it, and because we speak in particularly structured ways, those structured ways of speaking are our constant template for speaking sensibly. (All kinds of Kant stuff happening here that I won't go into for the moment, except to say that the content of this tautology is different for Merleau-Ponty than it is for Kant.)

The phenomenon of Reason has to be explained in terms of Reason being a product of speech, not (only?) a presupposition or precondition. Hence, we can't understand Reason or speech without going back to their origin in expressivity - the meaningfully lived interrelations of self-others-world.

(2) Speech, if it projects us in the direction of truth, leads us into the temptation to consider truth as a final attainment one of us might someday reach. Our utterances never reach truth in that sense, and the principle of that pursuit may itself be absurd. This is because our utterances are always conditioned by the beings that we are: neither purely animal nor purely rational, neither biological beings nor spiritual beings. Consequently, our speech, like all our expressions, says more than it should say, more than it is at liberty to say, and less than it wants to say, less than it apparently says.

Now if this is how it is for us as animals of words - animals of expressions, of lived interrelations of self-others-world - then why in principle would it not be so for animals of other expressions? I think that implicit in this account of the human phenomenon of speech is a blurring or erasing of the line demarcating the human from the non-human realms of lived experience. There simply seems to be no distinction fast enough to separate forms of expression absolutely, unless we slip back into relying on the rationalistic, dualistic notion of consciousness as mental stuff.

I'm going to go talk to my cats now.

academia is full of academics

I teach philosophy for a living, but it's more serious than that. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy. I read philosophical books. Philosophy is entangled in my life in all kinds of ways.

I'm also involved in this thing called academia, which is best described as an institution. In this institution are a whole bunch of academics. What are academics? For purposes of this entry, they are people who spend oodles of time interpreting the world as if it belonged to their own academic discipline, or to some academic discipline. They also spend oodles of time talking and writing about academia, and for some reason I read some of this stuff, for instance, the Chronicle of Higher Education's multi-authored blog called "Brainstorm." For the most part, I'm not sure why I read this. If you take a look at it, you'll ask the same question, I bet.

In addition to academics, academia is populated by other people whom academics think of as being "students," or "staff," or "librarians," or "adjuncts" (that is, other faculty who have no job security, few or no benefits, little or no autonomy over their labor, etc.). Academics develop presumptive characterizations of the lives, attitudes, behaviors, and motivations of these people on the basis of their being identified as one of these types. Students, for instance, are or should be people whose primary interest and central life pursuit is study.

I know, I know, it's hilarious. It gets funnier, though, because as a result of these presumptions, academics are continually stunned to find, for instance, that college students don't read much for pleasure. What next? Will surveys reveal that students aren't actually riveted to their seats by faculty lectures? Or that students don't regard faculty as brilliant sages? Maybe students even drink to excess from time to time!

Is there an explanation for this?

Obviously, I don't buy the neo-con bullshit that labels academics as "elites." Academics have no real power, and no real wealth. They couldn't drive a political agenda if all the reins of power were handed to them. They don't even have the ability to generate acolytes. The germ of truth in this otherwise slanderous stereotype is that academics behave with fairly astounding, and blinding, self-importance. Sometimes it's truly obnoxious, but for the most part it's expressed in mundane ways the Brainstorm column makes painfully evident: constant amazement that the world doesn't correspond to the well-reasoned conceptualization developed by highly trained minds.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

good economic news!
really! kinda! if you turn it sorta this way...

At long last, Federal Reserve Bank chairman Ben Bernanke has something positive to say about the financial and economic situation: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac won't go belly-up. We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief, now that the housing mortgage market is safe.

Or, no, wait. What happened is that the Federal Reserve Bank, which is not part of the Federal Government, but sets fiscal policy for the entire country, has gotten a promise of more bailout money (that is, tax dollars from you and me) to shore up the very troubled $5 trillion in mortgage holdings owned by Fannie and Freddie - which in turn are independent corporations established by the government to guarantee home loans.

It's like the FDIC, which insures bank deposits in case of bank failings. If FDIC doesn't have sufficient funds to guarantee that magical $100,000 per depositer in a failed bank, the federal government will pretty much have to pony up the needed scratch, because, if they don't, the whole system could collapse (in principle; I'm not suggesting that this is imminent, because, as Phil Gramm has noted, we wouldn't want to become a nation of whiners. That's just like us ungrateful peasants. Housing market collapses, jobs evaporating, inflation booming, energy costs soaring, and we complain about the government not stepping in sooner. What do we expect, anyway? The government has been telling us all along that there's no danger of recession and that the fundamentals of our economy are all strong. Now that they aren't, we have the nerve to start whining. "Waaah! I don't have a job! Waaah! They foreclosed on my over-priced only-chance house and now I live in a tin can! Waaah! Waaah!" Suck it up, America! Go back to work, or, if you don't have a job, go get one. If there isn't one, go back to school to get re-trained. If you can't afford college, get a student loan. Borrow your way out of debt and bankruptcy. It's the American way!).

Saying Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren't going to fail anytime soon is like saying the defense department is reasonably assured that they'll get funded next year.

Still, it's the first piece of good economic news we've had in a while, so let's celebrate. I'm thinking of taking out a loan, myself, as nothing more than an expression of my economic and political self-determination. Wooo!

Monday, July 14, 2008

thinking out loud

I'm working on a project on silence, for a paper for the Society for Phenomenology and Human Sciences. I've finished working through a book by Bernard Dauenhauer called Silence, which was helpful. I have some fundamental differences of opinion with Dauenhauer about the meaning of silence. But I'm also noticing, reading along, a more fundamental difference, that is very hard to come to terms with.

Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that attempts to describe and analyze lived experience and its meaning, tracing from that up towards the constitution of objectivity, reality, theory, and even truth. I like to think of phenomenology as the attempt to account for how it is that there is meaning, a world, others, objects, reality, theory, or truth for us. It avoids the positivist presumption that there just is reality out there, and all we try to do is match our concepts to it - naive realism.

But phenomenology, no less than any other philosophical approach, is deeply, tacitly, committed to a philosophical notion of rationality and experience. It's a slippery problem, but I don't think it's impossible to do something about it, even though it seems endemic to the "discipline" of philosophy.

The problem is what I am tempted to call the philosopher's fallacy, namely, the assumption that experience at all levels is fundamentally about, fundamentally for, and fundamentally directed toward the cognitive, theoretical achievement of rational sense of the world. One reason I think this is a fallacy is that philosophical writing from Plato onward has always made a point of distinguishing the philosopher's pursuit of truth from the ordinary person's vague, derivative, or distorted picture of reality. (In many cases, this is expressed frankly in terms of the philosopher's superiority to ordinary people.) Only rarely does a philosopher mention that the ordinary person's picture of reality suffices for the ordinary person. Alfred Schutz notes that, especially in the modern world, the ordinary person's picture of reality contains completely unreflected contradictions, and that these contradictions themselves aren't a problem.

So, going back to phenomenology, it shouldn't be taken for granted that experience really does have this cognitive trajectory. Plus, if philosophers would spend some time being honest about their daily lives, they might notice how little of their own time is spent in pursuit of truth, and how much of it is spent undergoing summer heat or immersed in CRT radiation. I might even argue that most of what we experience isn't about or for anything remotely cognitive in that rationalistic sense. I eat potato chips because they're salty, crunchy, oily, and go well with peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches, not for the sake of the truth.

Another way to look at this that I've been thinking about is that the philosopher's fallacy reduces our being to our cognitive being, and takes us out of the animal world we also live in. Now, perhaps we can't directly enough communicate with the non-human world to be able to philosophize with bats, cats, or even dolphins and chimpanzees (some of us would prefer bonobos, but they're probably not into philosophy). But does that give good reason to conclude that non-humans don't experience the world as meaningful, too? Or that our experience and its meaningfulness is so very different from theirs, that we we need concepts like reality and truth to describe it?

This last point has come to mind because Dauenhauer analyzes silence from a totally anthropocentric stance. Silence is, he says, an "active human performance." That puts the entire description and analysis under the categories of the signifying, the symbolic, the human-cognitive, the meaning-as-truth-pursuing. If pressed, I suppose I'd grant that Alexander and Arthur (5 month old kittens) don't have conversations, and so don't enact silence as anticipatory of someone else's utterance. I might even grant that kittens don't utter. But can they, do they, enact silence as anticipatory and (as Dauenhauer later calls it, in reference to Merleau-Ponty) interrogatory ways, standing silent before the world? Perhaps they don't then speak of the world, at least, not in ways that correspond to human speaking. But can they, do they act meaningfully in the world?

More to the point, for what I'm trying to write: Can human silence not be less than cognitively directed toward that sense-making, rational thinking? Even if it can't be outside of the realm of the meaningful, and can't be entirely disconnected from utterance (as Dauenhauer's account has it, and I think he's right, at least about human silence), must it be interrogative in its end?

Or, to quote Satchel Paige (apparently): Sometimes I sits and thinks, and other times I just sits.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

civility in public dialogue

Civility is the last refuge of a scoundrel.*

Lately I've been leafing through the Association for the Study of Higher Education's Reader on university and college management. It's recommended by Marc Bousquet, author of How The University Works, his trenchant, decidedly one-sided, and in my view almost entirely accurate analysis of the day-to-day economic and social relations of production in US higher education. Bousquet recommends reading the ASHE tome (it's 600 pages) to see how administrators have learned to think about higher education institutions.

One major theme is an eerily Hobbesian notion of higher education as a wild state of nature, an anarchical tumult in need of leadership, direction, and control. That basic ideological move puts the reader in the position of interpreting everything that takes place on a college campus as the result of a manager's having worked out some method for reining in the wild impulses of the folks roaming freely across the campus (faculty and students) and turning them toward some productive purpose. So, anything that appears to that reader as contrary to that reader's chosen purpose, that reader's direction and control, appears as an outbreak of anarchy and wildness.

One way this manifests itself in the everyday life of the institution has been bugging the shit out of me for a couple years now: calls for "civility." It never fails that faculty statements of dissent - even when they are logically and dispassionately composed - are met with replies from administrators calling for more civil discourse. (I will leave aside for now the actual content of administrator's responses, which in my opinion most often tend to be disingenuous when they aren't completely evasive or dismissive.) It's annoying when administrators complain that faculty are being shrill or disruptive, but I'm most appalled at the accusations that faculty are being overly argumentative or confrontational. Academic discourse is argumentative and confrontational. That's what academic conferences are all about. It's not the most socially pleasant behavior, I confess, but it's part of how we're all trained to act.

In any event, the call for civility is clearly a thin veil for a quite different discursive agenda. On one level, it's a scolding to the naughty boys and girls in the faculty who backtalk. On another, it's another form of evasion. It's also a revoltingly passive-aggressive act, a dismissal of the issue on the basis of an alleged objection to the tone of voice. Most importantly (and this is something I don't think all my colleagues quite dig), the demand for civility is an imposed restriction on discourse, with a broad, ambiguous meaning and power-effect. It attempts to restrict not only what one says, how one says it, in what forum and in what context, but also who speaks, when, how often. The demand is to meet the criterion of civility called for by the one demanding it - a criterion always left unstated (this is the key to the ambiguity of the power of the demand). It attempts to determine the speakable and the unspeakable, the (legit) speaker and one spoken to (and of). All of which is why it's the most popular item in the catalogue from Althusser-Foucault Power Tools.

I should point out I'm not referring to any particular incident of the last couple years. This is a trend, in political dialogue as well as in university governance (how many times have we heard politicos calling for more "civility" in Congress - as though how politely they address one another is as important as whether they're voting to spend federal money on continuing a hopeless military campaign, for instance). It's akin to the way appeals to the value of "free speech" are used to push a political agenda - but that's another story, I suppose.

*Apologies to Johnson.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

cat tower project

Well, we built a floor-to-ceiling cat scratching post and climbing tower. It was much less than half the cost of buying one, including buying tools. I took about 10 hours for the two of us, totally inexperienced, to build it, and that includes doing all the cutting, carpeting, and so on. Not bad. Here's a photo journal of the construction process:

stuff to build it

box construction

nailing the box together [the box is ridiculously overbuilt, with supports in the four corners and around the hole in the top, where the 8-foot 4x4 post goes]

carpeted interior, two doorways for kitty egress/exit/ambush

carpeting exterior of box

Alexander helping out

Arthur helping out

what would we do without their carpeting supervision?

or without Arthur's quality control?

luckily, it passed

They played on the tower for about an hour last night and a little this morning, before it got hideously hot. Siesta time now.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

fifth of July

Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Lauren and I cohabiting. We celebrate three anniversaries, in fact, but to me, the fifth of July is most important.

July 5, 2004 wasn't the best day of our lives together. I had spent the previous week moving my effects out of a household that had been broken for longer than I care to think about, and myself out of a relationship that had been broken at least as long. Lauren arrived late that afternoon with a carload of her stuff, moving out of another unhappy relationship. We were both terribly excited, which masked some of the overwhelming stress and uncertainty. It was a tough way to start a life together, but we made it, and created a beautiful, delighting life.

In retrospect, that says a lot about how we love one another and why suddenly it's been four years together. We've had a tremendously happy time together, most of the time. But also a lot of terrible times, a lot of sad and distressful times. This isn't earth-shattering. Everybody goes through difficulty. The beauty and delight abide, always.

What keeps coming to mind for me lately is that no matter how stressed, paranoid, upset, angry, confused, or certain of doom I have been, of all the people in the world, Lauren always gives me hope and joy. The hope and joy she gives make it possible for life to be open, free, meaningful, and make it possible for me to fight the good fights I have to, and to smile. That hope and joy, and grasping hold of that hope and joy, of the possibility for happiness, is what the fifth of July represents to me.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

guess it's summer

One lull later...

Been down to LA and back. We went down to LA for fresh air. The smoke from the wildfires was so thick last week that you really couldn't see down the road. I went for a typical lengthy summer walk one morning, and was sick the rest of the day. The weather in LA was lovely, the skies blue. Now we're back. 'sokay.

NHL free agency period began July 1. Penguins losing key players left and right.

This morning I rooted through my Yahoo bulk message folder, and found two comments sent by my loyal readers had been sent to purgatory. Yahoo email either is or ought to be notorious for misdirecting mail as spam and spam as mail. Anyway, straightened that out.

Results aren't in yet, but I've been fooling around with alternate guitar tunings. I was playing them on an old beater I bought for my office, and was getting a tad sick of the way it sounded. I brought it down to LA with us, played it in all kinds of odd tunings, retuned it to standard, played at Lauren's grandmother's weekly Saturday family gathering, and complained every so often about the sound and the difficulty of the action. I started talking about wanting a better 6-string steel string guitar.

On Sunday, after retuning it for the sixth or twelfth time the D string snapped. I restrung it, which turned out to be an ironic act, because Monday I finally decided that enough was enough, and we took it to a Sam Ash in Torrance and traded it in on a spanking-new Takamine.

I am now the proud owner of said guitar, which hasn't a name yet. I'm getting used to the sound and the feel of a steel 6-string, because although it's the most common kind of guitar, I've had least experience playing them. It's like a new toy. No, I suppose it is a new toy.