David Foster Wallace: “This is water, this is water.”

April 17, 2014

I got a little carried away this morning following a rabbit hole of David Foster Wallace writing.

This 2005 Kenyon Graduation speech is a confusing bit of clarity. You may need one reading or sixty eight. But it’s an important thing to look at.

Take this for an example:

Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I’m going to be pissed and miserable every time I have to food-shop, because my natural default-setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me, about my hungriness and my fatigue and my desire to just get home, and it’s going to seem, for all the world, like everybody else is just in my way, and who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem here in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line, and look at how deeply unfair this is: I’ve worked really hard all day and I’m starved and tired and I can’t even get home to eat and unwind because of all these stupid g-d- people.

Or a snippet I found on this page:

I have come gradually to understand that the liberal arts cliché about teaching you how to think is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience.Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about quote the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.

What I’ve come to discover about the people, friends and family who seem to know me is that somehow sometimes, their regard for me and my opinions is so deeply inset, engrained, unwavering, set-in-stone that my position is unchangeable. Unmalleable.

A foundation of concrete and fuck yous.

I don’t understand this, as it’s the mind/person behind that mind who is making that judgement who seems stone-set in their ways. I’m a waffling piece of unclarity, uncertainty, and a hopeful chump for new information that will disqualify all the information I’ve collected to date.

Maybe they are too. Maybe we all think we are so uncertain in our certainty. But as the center of the universe, we all tend to flex non-existent greatness whenever we can.

I examine and reexamine thought processes ad nauseam. If I am heralded for doing a good job, I find all the wrong in those accolades.

If I am congratulated on an awful job, I wallow in a sea of remorse and self depreciation.

But I’m working on that.

It boils down to little more: everyone thinks they are the center of the universe. And in some cases, some are worse than others. Some people are cock sure their thoughts and hopes are heard by the arbiter and creator of the natural universe to the point that those thoughts/hopes will supernaturally influence the outcome of the loss of keys, the diagnosis of cancer, the healthiness of the food they’re about to eat.

That I can tell, there is no proof of the supernatural. It may be there. It may not. My friends with a propensity to pray have no more talent, ability, purpose than us natural kids with an absence for that kind of thinking.

I choose to think about things this way. I construct meaning from this method. I pay attention to the world from this perspective. I make effort to understand it from the different perspectives of those around me. I feel I’ve settled and not settled on this way. For now.

Just for now.

In the meantime, the routine. The boring. The monotony. Those are mine to enjoy. The best I can.


Donald Rumsfeld vs. The IRS

April 16, 2014

rumsfeld-tax

Apparently Donald Rumsfeld sends an accompanying letter with his IRS returns every year requesting them to simplify the tax code to be more, well, simple.

I found this at Kottke, who writes that it’s great that he agrees with Rumsfeld on something, and:

If only he had been less certain of his accuracy in an even more complex situation, like, say the whole WMD/Iraq War thing.


When you’re sick, the last thing you do — after dying — is check the internet …

April 15, 2014

On Sunday I wasn’t feeling great.

Over night on Sunday, I felt like someone kicked me in the crotch. Apparently there’s very little difference between stomach cramps and being punched in the balls.

On Monday, I was completely shut down. And by completely, I mean I got up to send a couple emails, but otherwise I was out for the count.

Tina took care of me. Luckily. She felt fine enough to do that.

I had some rice and chicken for lunch and the Xeroxed that menu for dinner.

Just before lunchtime, I checked the internet for what to do about stomach cramps. The results were less than great. With stomach cramps, I could have everything from appendicitis to some kind of cancer.

I probably had nothing more than a bit of a bug, but — goddammit — the internet is the worst consultant in the world.

I would have been better off just calling my mom. She would have said, “Get some rest and eat some rice” — which I did.

Or I would have been better off asking Jesus; because no answer would have been better than having the Internet worry me that I have appendicitis … or CANCER!

The next time I get sick, no internet will be consulted.

That’s it.


reflections on the observational universe

April 13, 2014

A few weeks ago, I was at Whole Foods on Halsted and Waveland.

We had descended into the basement-level parking deck and stood at the elevator bank waiting to go up to the first floor store. A dad walked up with his young son, who was probably 4 or 5.

When the doors opened to enter the elevator car, Tina was encouraged to go first. I followed her, and the dad and son followed us in. Not before I turned around, the son says, “Daddy, we’re upside down.”

I saw him out of my periphery. He was looking up at the mirrored ceiling. I smiled to myself and wanted to congratulate him on a stunningly astute observation. The dad replied “What?”

The son was pointing up toward the ceiling. The dad seemed to shush him, indicating that they were in public and his observations were silly. The boy embarrassingly hid into his father’s crotch, and looked at me smiling down at him and he stuffed his head away from me near his dad’s jeans pocket.

The Petit Prince flashed into my mind. “My drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a picture of a boa constrictor digesting an elephant.” images

Children who aren’t allowed to see the world with creativity and difference become stifled. They become the product of a insipidly sheepish world afraid to be different, or say things differently.

The boy who drew pictures of a boa digesting an elephant become a orthodox to certain behavior. That is to say, they become “straight thinking.”

Then the colorless, fruitless monotony sets in. Tina and I often watch the zombies of our universe, crossing streets mindlessly. Driving cars as if it’s their little world and we’re just strangers in it.

I wanted to tell the boy to read the Petit Prince as soon as he could. Read it in english. Then read it in French, and understand its every nuance.

A couple weeks ago, I was picking up some things at our local Aldi. Aldi has a growing number of organic foods, locally produced and 1/3 to 2/3s less expensive than any other grocer in town. They also have the best prices on cheeses and other non-organic produce.

When we shop, we tend to make two to three stops. We’ve been eating smoothies every morning and if we shopped the local grocery store or even Whole Foods, we’d go broke before we could sip our first sip of juice.

Our Aldi is stuffed with diversity. Everyone from the best-looking couples you’ve ever seen to people who haven’t had a bath in weeks.

Speaking of baths, I was checking out in one of their infamous long lines. I was behind a young Asian girl who only had two bags of flour on the conveyor belt. The guy in front of her was about 6’3″, 350 to 400 pounds, African American. He wore a tattered brown coat and sweatpants.

When he finished putting his groceries on the belt, he brought a brown stick separator to place between his stuff and her two bags of flour. I noticed that she was sheepishly staying back on the conveyor belt.

Then I noticed why. An odor pierced my olfactory nerves so deeply, so strongly, my eyes started to water. It was as if I were in a portapotty after Lollapalooza and stuck my head deep into the toilet and inhaled deeply into my nose.

It was nauseating.

I watched as the cashier checked him out, and — as if the most professional customer service expert ever — she didn’t act like she smelled him. She was patient with him as he swiped his SNAP card and tapped in his pin. She smiled as she handed him his receipt and he smiled back in his thunderously jovial voice said, “Thank you. Have a nice day.”

The Asian girl finally got to the register, where remnants of the big man remained. The cashier swiped two bags of flour over the electric eye. “Shoot, I forgot something. Can I go back?” She asked the cashier. You could see the cashier look at the two items she remembered and think, “What a dumbass.”

“Sure,” said the cashier. “I’ll take these two things off. Go on.”

So the cashier rung up my stuff. We made small talk. Howdy dos.

The world keeps turning around the sun. The sun in the galaxy. The galaxy in the universe.

This speck in a vast sea of dark matter, clouds, and light.

You have a significant place, it’s just a speck, but it’s big. So be creative today. Make some observations that make other people embarrassed. You don’t want to be a dumbass who waits in a long line at the grocery store only to discover the third thing on your list is still back on the shelf.


Recommended listening: two interviews on NPR’s Fresh Air

April 8, 2014

I’m covered up with work, but while I work, I listen to the radio, both music and NPR.

Yesterday on NPR, Terry Gross aired an interview with Bart Ehrman, the UNC bibllical scholar who wrote “Misquoting Jesus” among others. He has a new book out just in time for Easter called, “How Jesus Became God.”

You can read about it and hear the interview here.

And today, Terry Gross interviewed a scientist and feminist named Barbara Ehrenreich about her “spiritual experiences” and how she views them from the perspective of an atheist and rationally-minded individual.

Check that one here. Both I can’t imagine my family and friends from back home listening to, but that’s par for the course.


Love shots of my favorite bands!

April 1, 2014

IMG_9452-Edit


Nature is naturally amazing!

March 31, 2014

These two images (below) I found over at TYWKIWDBI. I could post almost everything I discover at Minnesotastan’s blog. But these two were not to miss.

The first is this one:

orchid mantis

As Minnesotastan wrote:

I’ll bet you didn’t see the mantis on the orchid. … Neither did the fly.

The next image is fascinating as well.

It’s a group of ants squirting formic acid into the air after they felt threatened. What an amazing group protection plan.

 

ants spray

 

Read more about it here.


Vaccinations win again! India beats the odds, beats polio

March 25, 2014

CNN reports:

Howrah District, India (CNN) — Rukhsar Khatoon is too young to fully grasp the significance of her life: that she is a last in a country of 1.2 billion people.

She has become the greatest symbol of India’s valiant — and successful — effort to rid itself of a crippling and potentially deadly disease. Rukhsar, 4, is the final documented case of polio in India.

Her face has appeared in newspapers and on television. She’s been invited to national events by Rotary International, the organization that led the effort to rid India of polio. She is a literal poster child, an inspiration, a symbol of a feat that no doctor or health official thought possible even a few years ago.

Apart from the publicity, though, Rukhsar’s life has hardly changed, her future still a question mark.

Read on: 


Tuesday Inspiration: Langston Hughes, Dreams

March 18, 2014

hold fast

 

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Thanks, Cory Booker!

 


Let me distract you with these links!

March 11, 2014

trilobite fossil copy

I’ve got to get some stuff done today, so I’m providing you with links of distraction.

ABOVE: Impressive trilobite fossil (TYWKIWDBI)


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