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8 November 2005 to 19 October 2005
Some things from the second half of The Blue Octavo Notebooks.  


Sin always comes openly and can at once be grasped by means of the senses. It walks on its roots and does not have to be torn out.  

Poseidon grew tired of his seas. The trident fell from his grasp. Silent, there he sat on a rocky coast, and a gull, stupefied by his presence, flashed in wavering circles round his head.  

But here is something for you to tell your workmates downstairs: we here shall not rest until we have made a drawing-room of your shaft, and if you do not all finally go to your doom in patent-leather shoes, then you shall not go at all.  

All human errors are impatience.  

It is comforting to reflect that the disproportion of things in the world seems to be only arithmetical.  

One tells as few lies as possible only by telling as few lies as possible, and not by having the least possible opportunity to do so.  

Association with human beings lures one into self-observation.  

Two tasks at the beginning of your life: to narrow your orbit more and more, and ever and again to check whether you are not in hiding somewhere outside your orbit.  

Many people assume that besides the great primal deception there is also in every individual case a little special deception provided for their benefit, in other words that when a drama of love is performed on the stage, the actress has, apart from the hypocritical smile for her lover, also an especially insidious smile for the quite particular spectator in the top balcony. This is going too far.  

Our art is a way of being dazzled by the truth.  

There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don't even listen, just wait. Don't even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can't do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you.
Today my brain seems to have cross-wired déjà vu and short-term memory, so that everything I try to remember recedes infinitely and incomprehensibly.  

I am trying more coffee, only because I can't think how to try less.
Just a handful of things from early in Franz Kafka's The Blue Octavo Notebooks, which is currently causing me to beam wickedly every few seconds while riding the train:  


Leopards break into the temple and drink to the dregs what is in the sacrificial pitchers; this is repeated over and over again; finally it can be calculated in advance, and it becomes a part of the ceremony.  

The unfitness of the object may cause one to overlook the unfitness of the means.  

Anyone who does miracles says: I cannot let go of the earth.  

He runs after facts like a beginner learning to skate, who, furthermore, practices somewhere where it is forbidden.  

The crows maintain that a single crow could destroy the heavens. There is no doubt of that, but it proves nothing against the heavens, for heaven simply means: the impossibility of crows.  

One cannot pay Evil in installments -- and one always keeps on trying to.  

They were given the choice of becoming kings or the kings' messengers. As is the way with children, they all wanted to be messngers.  

He gobbles up the leavings and crumbs that fall from his own table; in this way he is, of course, for a little while more thoroughly sated than all the rest, but he forgets how to eat from the table itself. In this way, however, there cease to be any crumbs and leavings.  

On the pretext of going hunting he leaves thehouse, on the pretext of wanting to keep an eye on the house he climbs the most unscalable heights, if we did not know that he was going hunting we should hold him back.  

The voices of the world becoming quieter and fewer.
Darkwell: Fate Prisoner (2.3M mp3)  

Another one for an introduction to Angel Metal.
I can tell from the way he puts the empty potato-chip bag down beside him that he's going to leave it there when he gets up. He has too deliberately kept it beside him, not stuffed it under the seats. It's an in-house convenience-store brand, which probably shouldn't exist to begin with, and between it and the newspaper, surely he could have afforded something less idiotic for breakfast. The old woman across from us is watching him, too.  

The train pulls into the final station. He gets up, without the bag, and starts to go. "Oh, come on, take your trash with you", I say. "Sorry," he mutters before even turning, trying to flinch away from me but kind of bouncing back off the rubber edge of the doorway as he does. He retrieves the bag. There's a trash can on the platform, exactly where this door opened. He drops the bag in the trash and lingers there a moment, carefully looking away from me. The old woman walks around to the other side of the can and stops right across from him. He looks up at her. I'm behind him, and can't see his face. She puts on her reading glasses, inspects him sourly, and then nods. To him, to me, to herself.
There are good mistakes and bad mistakes. For a good example, watch New England Revolution defender Michael Parkhurst on this goal by Youri Djorkaeff. Parkhurst demonstrates excellent awareness, anticipation, positioning and self-confidence. He also misses the ball, springing Djorkaeff on an unimpeded run to goal. He recovers instantly and nearly catches him (but doesn't), avoids fouling to give Matt Reis a chance to make the breakaway save (which in this case he doesn't) and does not get red-carded to force his team to play the rest of the game and a potential decisive overtime (which doesn't turn out to happen) shorthanded. Although Parkhurst's initial decision did result in an opponents' goal, it was still right, as were his subsequent failed attempts to recover. Every defensive play has risks, and if he tried the same things on a hundred repetitions of this one, I doubt the Metrostars score on any other of them.  

For contrast, watch goalkeeper Nick Rimando on Jack Stewart's opening goal in DC United's collapse against the Chicago Fire. It gets funnier with every replay. Rimando is nearly at the back post (otherwise ungarded, you'll note) when the corner kick is struck, with two players almost directly in front of him. As the ball swings in, he charges wildly across the goal mouth, flinging himself uncontrollably into the air in apparent anticipation of a Jim Curtin header that doesn't come that close to happening and he'd have been wildly lucky to touch if it had. This not only puts him yards out of position for the ensuing shot, but since he'd assumed personal responsibility for the back post, opens the exact space into which the shot goes. This is dismal individual decision-making, woeful defensive organization, obliviously self-destructive team play, and probably even flawed coaching. Repeat this one a hundred times and although Chicago won't always score, it will almost never be Rimando's actions that prevent them.  

DC is now in the off-season. The Revs host the Eastern Conference Final on Sunday, and Michael Parkhurst just won Rookie of the Year.
I consider Jagged Little Pill a landmark album, both subjectively and objectively, and maybe more significantly for the way subjectivity and objectivity (and private and public) interrelate, so I'm actually pretty thrilled by the idea that its tenth anniversary is even worth noticing, never mind celebrating.  

But how many times over the last ten years has anybody said "Man, if only those songs on Jagged Little Pill were slower and quieter!" Jagged Little Pill Acoustic is elegant and interesting on its own terms, but if Jagged Little Pill itself had sounded like this, a whole decade never would have happened.
Excellent scientists are lining up to play the admittedly entertaining game of seeing who can think up the cleverest way to explain what's wrong with "Intelligent Design" to other excellent scientists. This is not only pointless, but reinforces the companionably inane idea that scientists find "Intelligent Design" threatening, which of course they do not, since anybody actually teaching high-school biology will naturally dispose of non-scientific objections in the process of explaining the whole concept of science to begin with. Scientists object to "Intelligent Design" not because it is threatening, but because it is insulting.  

Here is an attempt, then, to explain both what's wrong with the idea, and why intelligent (as opposed to "Intelligent") people hate that there even needs to be a discussion over it.  

1. Reading a statement about "Intelligent Design" at the beginning of a high-school biology class is like reading a statement about Scientology at the beginning of a Catholic mass.  

2. The government requiring high-school biology teachers to read a statement about "Intelligent Design" at the beginning of their classes is like the government requiring Catholic priests to read a statement about Scientology at the beginning of their masses.  

3. More precisely, because high-school biology is hard enough to teach to begin with, the government requiring high-school biology teachers to read a statement about "Intelligent Design" at the beginning of their classes is like the government requiring Catholic priests to read a statement about Scientology, in English, at the beginning of a Latin mass.  

If you can find an actual person who thinks "Intelligent Design" belongs in schools, try that on them, and let me know if it helps.
Looking out the window of my new office, you can see my old office. This sounds symmetric, but my old office had no windows. The new windows don't open, so there's still something to dream about, but they're eight floors up, pointed west along the curves that the commuter rail and route 2 follow out of Cambridge and over the hills into Lexington and Concord. Toy trains hum past, below, and in between them I can watch people furtively scurry across the tracks through surreptitious holes in the fences. On the other side of the tracks, cranes are either building or destroying something, and I'm never sure which. Later in the day the sun arcs down from over the building itself and glows in at me. On the good days, when I can accept that my company is paying me to learn, without obsessing too much on the lack of obvious ways in which they seem prepared to help me do anything with what I learn, this is a pleasant scenario.  

The old office was across the street from a pond, around which loops the paved path on which I'd been doing most of my running. The new office is just around the corner from a paved bikepath that runs eastward into Cambridge or westward into Arlington. The pond loop had the logistical virtue of being uninterrupted, but the section of the bikepath I run has only one intersection that requires waiting for traffic. The pond loop runs through trees, around water. The bikepath runs through neighborhoods.  

The new office is a short walk from a subway station. My house is a short walk from another station on the same line. It was possible to reach the old office via public transportation, too, but not expediently, so for nine years I mostly drove to work. Now I ride the train. This is cheaper for me, since the company pays for passes if you waive parking, which I assume is also cheaper for them. I hope it's cheaper for society, too, although it's a government-run subway system, so it's hard to guess. My car is a slightly better music-listening environment in acoustic terms, but on the train I can also read. Some kinds of routine daytime errands were easier to run with a car, but several are a great deal easier without having to park one. Mostly it's less stressful. From inside a car, the roads are an obstacle course and their occupants an anonymous enemy. From outside, in it, the city is a place filled with people.  
 

So from driving to and from a windowless room, and running in woods, I have switched to walking and riding the train to a watchpost, and running past homes and schools. My days are not necessarily more beautiful, and certainly no more natural, but they are clearly more humane. I am more a part of the city I live in. And although I'm not sure it's the place I should be living in, if it makes questionable sense to live here it makes no sense to live here and not be here.
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