furia furialog · Every Noise at Once · New Particles · The War Against Silence · Aedliga (songs) · photography · other things · contact
12 April 2005 to 19 March 2005
There are two songs I never finished that periodically come back to mind. One was an awkward story about ecocatastrophe, extraterrestrial emigration and constructed aesthetics called "The Death Rose", which I was working on interminably in Cakewalk at the point a decade ago when I decided that my MIDI array was keeping me from ever finishing songs. Switching to analog instruments for a while did, in fact, radically improve my productivity, but it also orphaned that song, which sounded wrong to me whenever I tried to reinvent it outside of its programmed loops. Every once in a while, though, I still find myself arbitrarily humming "...merging our hyyyyyydrofarms into a terraformed commmmmmmpromiii-zeh-...", which probably in itself tells you enough to guess that nobody is really missing much. But we'll never know for sure. Only the me that still took the song seriously could have finished it.  

The other song was even more stilted, a weird poetic-justice revenge fantasy crossed with an insurance procedural, told as the suicide monologue of a protest-casualty activist's widow driving an explosives-laden Toyota Celica into Manhattan from New Jersey. I wrote the lyrics to this one in 1986 or 1987, and obviously it would come off very differently now. Writing-wise, its biggest problem was that I used more specific place-detail than I was actually familiar with, and never took the time to go find out whether that particular block of the Avenue of the Americas, or that particular inbound Holland Tunnel lane, had any of the properties the events of the song required. Also, it's not clear what I had against Celicas. Possibly these problems could be fixed.  

But I've never been able to think of another name for the character in the song. The widow never identifies herself, but she repeats her husband's name several times, quoting news stories and police reports and insurance forms. The name I invented, at random, entirely for the way the consonants and vowels of it fit the melody, was Randall Thierry. I am nearly certain that I had never heard the name of Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry before that, but I certainly have since, and Terry is not at all the kind of activist I meant. It seems like it should be incredibly trivial to switch out "Randall Thierry" for a name with a similar shape, like "Matthew Delaney" or "Carlo Fiori" or something, but I've never thought of one that doesn't sound wrong to me when I sing it. In my head, the character's name is Randall Thierry, and that means the small story of his accidental fictional martyrdom and has been pre-empted by a real man's sadly non-fictional idiocies.  

So next time you feel like self-censoring some pretentious, awkward, overwrought, underinformed thing you half-invented, just remember that you grow too quickly out of every precious delusion, and whatever the realities that supplant them offer us, it's almost never deeper comfort or higher inspiration. We should write down, every day, everything we can imagine we believe. Otherwise, how many of them will by tomorrow we already have lost?
We looked for you in this nearest water
until there was nothing in our hands but your salt
and though we tell parables of your fears
that we only ever believe as a kinder doubt than truth  

we miss you in this city you left behind
in precious figures and previous shores.

The only way I ever get to make an unabridged iMix is when its organizing rationale involves buying the tracks from the iTMS in the first place. So here.  

Thanks, M&J!
I want to be faster.  

Yesterday I ran in my first real road race, where the measures of reality are formal registration, a race number, and officially tabulated results. I did the 5 miles in a recorded time of 34:44, which was a 6:57/mile pace, good enough for 48th out of 416 finishers and 666 entrants, and 14th out of 51 men ages 30-39.  

5 miles is what I usually run, four or five days a week, and I almost never go farther. 7:00/mile is how fast I try to run it any time there aren't any mitigating factors. 6:57/mile is a good pace, but my personal record over that distance is 6:51/mile, twice, not even under race conditions. I'd be disappointed in myself for not pushing harder to beat that in this race, but those PRs were set back in the fall, and over the winter the ground conditions and a flu and a couple injuries have kept me at much slower speeds, so I opted to just take this one easy and see how it went. Race conditions are different, psychologically, and I don't have enough racing (or even running) experience to be able to factor them out and tell how near I am to my physical capacity. So I ran not to beat myself, but to be sure I wouldn't crash.  

And now I want to do better. Never mind the high-school track-team that finally passed me in the last mile, I turn 38 today and thus will be in the 40-49 division by the time I have enough running experience for serious goals. As a 40-year-old in this race, 34:44 would have got me 12th. 6:00/mile would have won. In all, 15 men (and one woman) older than I am ran faster than I did, including two guys in their 50s. I'm 38 and haven't even been running for a year yet, so surely this is not my limit. I am only just beginning.  

I am 38 today, and just beginning many things, and looking forward to all the beginning I still haven't done.
Nightwish: Where Were You Last Night? (1.3M mp3)  

Metal and New Wave should get together more often.
I trust this finds you all well, and I'm flattered and humbled that so many of you were so quick to not respond when I asked if anybody wanted to not know how the trip went. I like to think that in essence we are ambassadors and scientists at once, and you are our patrons in everything but the monetary and emotional and canonical senses.  

I hope none of you will be offended by this format, but as you well know if you've traveled abroad in the past few years, the cost of importing envelopes has become simply prohibitive. I set my camera to its highest optimization before we left, so hopefully even with so many pictures the page will only be a little bit slow to load, and I truly believe you'll agree that it's worth a few minutes of modem squawk to get a direct secondhand glimpse of what most of us have only ever read about seeing in book reviews excerpted on radio programmes.  

This, obviously, is what we have traveled so far to see, and we are dumbfounded by our great luck in spotting such an archetypal example on our very first day of searching, almost within the first hour. Clearly this is not as large as they come (for scale, the penguin visible in the upper left is about four inches tall, and 250 yards upwind), but the thrill of encountering one in person, in the wild, is obviously qualitative, not quantitative. We wished all of you could have been there, although there would only have been room for one more on the way out, and two on the way back.  

We tracked it for almost an eighth of an hour, but eventually we were driven back into the helicopter by the mosquitos and locusts and bears. Locusts smell terrible. They don't tell you that in the guide books. I guess if they did, nobody would come. Anyway, here Enrico and Ivanzo are comparing scalp wounds. They all look appalling at this altitude, of course, but in the end the only one that even required prayer is the sort of Datsun-shaped one on Enrico's left arm. His left arm, I mean, which you can just see below us on the ground as we hover trying to hear what he's yelling up to us. It's hard enough to understand their language without the bears.  

The ecological situation in the entire basin is dire almost beyond ellipsis. When Perry and Walters were here just two weeks ago, we would not have been able to see the delta at all from this angle. Today it lies almost half a mile below sea level. It's hard to stay silent, much less unscented. Confronted with this much depreciation it's almost impossible to believe that geotaxic problems are really caused by anthropedogogical errors of scale. This is a failure of culture, not of infraculture, and you can't just come here and presume to fix what is broken. We tried that in the Vanjj and the Oyulta and Costa Azulpelo, and this time we've promised not to repeat our mistakes twice. So we still write the letters, as our conscience demands, but we mail them only to ourselves, at a rural post office so small that three of them fit into a building that used to be mosque, and then a Fotomat, and then the National Museum of Ministries.  

How fittingly ironic, then, that the defining moment of the trip would hardly be about zoography at all. After all the miles, and all the hours with tweezers and echinacea, it's not until we are back on the mainland sitting comfortably in a local theme-pub, surrounded by gleaming lucite and lavender thrushes, that the true significance of what we've seen begins to rise back up my throat. Like only an elite few before us, we have gone on a journey to the edge of despair and we have brought it back with us alive. Surely any of you would have done the same in our place, and yet just as surely, sometimes when it's amazing a thing is done at all, you have to do it yourself.  

All too soon, though, it is time to go. We've made lifelong friends, some of them our lives and some of them theirs, and one or the other of us will never forget. This enchanted country has touched us, somewhere deep inside, possibly our RNA, although we won't know for certain until we can get home and have the tests done. But as so many members of the government take a moment from checking their parachutes to smile at us and wish us well just before the plane reaches international airspace, I feel like we have accomplished something after all. Our therapists didn't believe us then, and they probably won't take us on again now, but I think we've had the last word. I write it on a scrap of inflight magazine, and let the thin, sighing wind carry it out the door and away.
I hereby officially claim to have just now coined the term "klog" to describe a blog about your work activities. While there are a small number of previous uses of this word as an abbreviation of "knowledge weblog", I assert that blogs deal with knowledge almost by definition, so there's no compelling reason to have a separate word for that. Whereas the idea of blogging about your work -- and I mean as a function of your work, to your work audience -- is interesting and worth distinguishing.  

In the klog model, documenting what you have done and why and how it went becomes a visible, primary worker activity. Klogs are abstracted out of inherently constrained task-specific fora like source-code repositories and bug-tracking systems, which allows them to be more expressive and to deal more broadly with motivations and connections. They also separate the process of documenting your work from the question of whom to document it to. A klog simply klogs. Readers make their own decisions about how or whether to follow. I suspect that a collaborative corporate culture with klogging at its core would be significantly more effective and a lot more interesting to participate in.


One will learn to hate the sideways the squares of there fold
as if the wind is waiting upstairs until
the last edge of the paint evades us  

one will buy hats to hide in this town
and never admit to arrive
in a stand of torn screens and autumn warding  

and will the certain fields to know why to come
and flatten with compass pull
and one makes morals of lines
to wrap like fleeing hearths around you  


but lift now from paper and walk the near edge of the world  

under the creased thirst of wept awnings and their older names
one steps from galleries of sawdust and caramel into uncharted air  

paint how along each lane there has beckoned you
and laden one's undoing with cougars inscribed on rockets  

and how one and there are in a mural of banished distance
wearing enmities and flour and weariness and salt
and resting brightly on the place where knowing alights  

there is a present tense of away that never falls on canvas maps
and only one and there are lulling it to see  

and the way these streets brush into leaves and foyers
is the way there is shading into you  

and how far can it be if you can walk there  

[White Oak]  

and then one has memorized boards enough and tendered excuses
that the year comes through the chair rungs and into our house
and we have made welcoming angles of our tables and ourselves  

each truce of there is a spark of lengthening cords
set into one in the sillworn history of crowded dreams
one has painted the weight of these doors apart and then together  

trusted the empty roads to remember why you've come
and imparted you with gravity's flair
and one makes bedrooms of signs
to have swayed like earths below you  

and one day there carried them.  

As I must assume you are already well aware, this story, or at least this draft, hardly qualifies as a mystery at all. Two things happen that might or might not have been the result of crimes, but the explanation for one materializes without any energy having been spent looking for it, and the other is rendered decisively moot at a point where there still seem to be several possibilities. Even curiosity is not invested in any single character for very long, so a reader with the hypothetical determination to try to interpolate a puzzle will do it without a consistent proxy within the story, which is usually even less satisfying than it sounds. I am often limited in the amount of procedural guidance I am able to offer within the field, anyway, and in this case my expertise is largely immaterial.  

But this is not your characters' fault, admittedly, and so perhaps should neither be yours. If the internal and collective dynamics among a set of people are sufficiently compelling and perhaps occasionally shocking, it is possible for the reader to have a sense of purpose where the narrative itself does not. If you opt to develop this project further, I have a few stray thoughts that may or may not be helpful, and may well be partially contradictory, so take them as you may.  

- Although it quickly becomes clear that your meticulous timeline is not a resolution device, it helps give the scene-structure something of an observant photographer's patient isolation of moments.  

- By shifting your narrative origin backwards in time, you could straightforwardly bring most of the flashbacks into the present, which I'm inclined to recommend. Admittedly this forces much of the now-present into the future tense, a technical flourish of which you're more than capable but maybe less than wise.  

- Combining your two major sets of characters might, in one time-consuming but ultimately tractable step, enrich their composite personality complexities. It would also eliminate the results of their deferred meeting, leaving your ending awkwardly unmotivated, but arguably it merely leaves the motivationlessness of the ending more directly exposed.  

- Your imposition of a moral climate is well organized, but remember that entropy is not exactly the same thing as amorality.  

- Serializing uncertainties sometimes allows them to unexplain and then complete each other, which can provide context for any number of dissatisfactions.  

- Some of our conversations, which in general I think you have fairly rendered here, may to modern readers be less interesting than the implied exchanges before and/or after them. Remember that syntheses translate less readily than theses.  

- I suggest that your own emotional loyalty undergoes two minor shifts and two major ones, and even if you disagree it might be a worthwhile exercise to identify the inflection points I mean.  

- Anywhere you find yourself paraphrasing history, see if you can't think of a way in which the context can be embedded into the responses themselves. I don't mean to obtusely surface your background into dialog, I mean to calculate the projection of the history onto the individual, and then let the silhouette represent the occlusion.  

- Ask your sister about method. Debating this between ourselves is only going to compound our ignorance. It may be more productive to pose the question in reverse.  

That's all I want to say for now. I have my usual reluctance to navigate when I'm being asked to steer. If I recall correctly, this Tuesday is your turn to choose a water and a Line.
Manic Street Preachers: Montana/Autumn/78 (2.3M mp3)  

I spent a while this afternoon loading my entire Manic Street Preachers collection and then sorting out duplicates and cleaning up the metadata. This is a dull and obsessive task, but it seems a lot more heroic when done with this song on repeat. Maybe the second-greatest b-side of all time. 1998, from CD1 of the two-single set for "If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next".
Site contents published by glenn mcdonald under a Creative Commons BY/NC/ND License except where otherwise noted.