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ebogjonson's May 2006 archive

May 31, 2006

ebog link dump 00001

Sorry about the postus interruptus but I am a bit in the shit what with a deadline and some brain maintenance issues/concerns. I'm looking to be back on the stick in day or two, but in the meantime here are a few links:

Posted by ebogjonson in link dump at 8:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 23, 2006

D M Lockart was right!

The preznit really is riding in an Argo jeep! [Image from Ex Astris Scienta]

Posted by ebogjonson in politricknal sciencesscreened at 8:03 AM | Permalink

May 22, 2006

rips - Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham died in her sleep on Sunday.

Her impressively long life was full of chapters, but Dunham's long association with Haiti - her fieldwork as an anthropologist and choreographer, her long residence and numerous philanthropic activities there - holds particular interest for me. I know a few Haitians (my father, for example) who always rolled their eyes at the mention of her name. She had never spoken out against the Duvaliers, Dad would complain; she glamorized the voodoo practice that in his doggedly materialist view kept poor, uneducated Haitians shrouded in superstition. Me, I've always been willing to forgive her getting along to get along (it's not like she was Duvalier's lawyer), and moreover, her interests dovetailed with concerns of my own.

Shortly before Dunham left Haiti, she experienced a personal crisis that revealed her ethical sensibility in matters of belief. She decided to perform a ceremony in which she would promise the loa to consummate the kanzo, or second voudun initiation, at a later date. She wanted to perform the kanzo rite itself before she departed, but Herskovits had written her warning against it; he had been cautious about tackling things that were beyond his reach while working in Dahomey--the place of origin of many of the voudun mysteries. After observing the kanzo several times, she felt uncertain about undergoing the trial by fire. She was concerned about her "moral position" in making promises for future initiations. Questioning her own motives, she asked, "Could Herskovits tell me, could Erich Fromm, could Téoline or DéGrasse tell me what part of me lived on the floor of the houngfor ... and what part stood to one side taking notes? Each moment lived in participation was real; still ... without conscious doing or planning or thinking I stayed outside the experience while being totally immersed in it." She longed for an indication of possession to prove to herself that she was sincere. [link]

My mother had occasion to meet Dunham in Haiti a few times, and her recollections of these passing encounters are always lit by the soft, warm, glowing light of vaguely abject gratitude, a kind of ambient halo-effect that middle class colonial subjects tend to project onto civilizing, uplifting visitors from the metropole. That the great Miss Dunham (American, ligh-skinned) would adopt her little, benighted island as second home reinforced my mother's fragile, complicated Haitian pride, and the reversibility of the equation - the question of Dunham's gratitudes to Haiti - was never much on my mother's mind.

Me, I wasn't born in Haiti, so my Haitian pride has an ocean in the middle of it (this when it's distinctly Haitian at all), and has to fully encompass empty leagues that my mother has at best only traversed. So instead of my mother's gratitude I feel a kind of anachronistic kinship with this African American artist looking across a gap at something that may or may not be a stand-in for her own, lost authentic blackness. Dunham's quest for unimpeachable proof of her own sincerity though possession brings to mind all the voudounistic, hipster Haitian ciphers I've lucked into in Brooklyn and Boston over the years and immediately begged off of, not out of any particular skepticism but out of fear: "I went to the hounfour and all I got was this lousy t-shirt." Which is to say I can imagine Dunham being devastated if she started a fateful initiation and the loa didn't bother to come calling or riding.

[photos from the Library of Congress's Katherine Dunham Collection.]

Posted by ebogjonson in haitimemory at 5:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

mary cheney is a lesbian talking android

See the Crooks and Liars video and judge for yourself.

Kiss kiss, Michelle and La Shawn!

Posted by ebogjonson in talking androids at 2:33 PM | Permalink

May 21, 2006

home, severed/explosive home

1 - The severed roast duck head pictured above was found on the sidewalk outside my apartment in Downtown LA today. Sitting off-frame to the bottom left was a homeless man, his face broken, pockmarked and smeared with what I am assuming was duck grease. He seems satisfied, tosses crumbs at pigeons.

Meanwhile, the duck head seems to be smiling.

2 - The news article below was found on the internets:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A simulated suicide bombing will be filmed in downtown Los Angeles this weekend in a campaign by prominent Iraqis who want to dissuade the bombers who have wreaked a devastating toll on their country.

The 60-second edited film, a simulation of a Baghdad marketplace bombing that will kill or injure 200 people, will air on Iraqi TV in six weeks. [full story]

3 - Crazy fucking town, right? Simulated horrors contest with actual ones for your attention, producing cognitive dissonances, leisure schizophrenias. Because even though it doesn't look like it from that lo-res snap, that duck was totally smiling at me.

Posted by ebogjonson in city of angels at 2:57 PM | Permalink

May 19, 2006

uh, did I say "talking androids"?

I just really want to thank god and the Academy for these google results for search string "talking android".

Also: I want to share this just for kicks.

And, of course, it goes without saying that I should link to wikipedia, which just has to have a great entry on Reed and Mumbo Jumbo and the talking android.

Huh. I guess a stub is a start, right? This brings to mind two things:

1 - Every time I try to do a search for something like "talking android" I think with sadness of the old Africana.com article and encyclopedia database that was deep-sixed by AOL and the new managers of AOL Black Voices.

2 - Every time a search for black subject matter on wikipedia produces a stub instead of an article I feel incredibly fatigued. I think: I barely have enough energy to update my dumb blog; now I have to get up early and write and 500 word entry on Ishmael Reed? And what with my copy of Freelance Pallbearers being in a box at my mother's house and all...

Posted by ebogjonson in afrofuturismtalking androidsvideogames and other cracks at 3:57 PM | Permalink

there are actually more like 10 to 12 differences

The next time somebody asks you what the differences between New York and Los Anegeles hipsters are, tell them there's at least 10,000 different reasons in just this photo. Then make them name them all. [got to the pic]

hat tip gawker

Posted by ebogjonson in city of angels at 1:23 PM | Permalink

mission accomplished!

an actual honest to god photo from the whitehouse. [link] hat tip atrios.

Posted by ebogjonson in politricknal sciences at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

May 16, 2006

cj walker had a dream of hair

A list of famous dream inspirations, including Madame C.J. Walker's inspiration for hair grease:

"He answered my prayer, for one night I had a dream, and in that dream a big, black man appeared to me and told me what to mix up in my hair. Some of the remedy was grown in Africa, but I sent for it, mixed it, put it on my scalp, and in a few weeks my hair was coming in faster than it had ever fallen out. I tried it on my friends; it helped them. I made up my mind to begin to sell it." [link][hat tip boing boing]

Posted by ebogjonson in dream log at 4:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

tony snow don't know nothing about slurrin no tar babies

What frickin' morons. White House Press Secretary and ex-Fox News talking head Tony Snow on NSA wiretapping:

Having said that, I don't want to hug the tar baby of trying to comment on the program... [Hat tip Crooks and Liars.]

Scholarly debates about folkloric origins aside, "tar baby" is pretty much not something that needs to be coming out of the mouth of a presidential press secretary. A communication professional's job to understand and navigate such nuances, but time and again we are asked to choose between believing these Republican mouth-pieces are incompetent or racist. I likely don't need to tell you where my money is...

Posted by ebogjonson in mediapolitricknal sciencesrace and other identities at 1:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

black commentator on net neutrality

I was mistaken when I said earlier that there was no black web media coverage of net neutrality. I should have checked The Black Commentator before I typed, since - lo and behold! - last week's issue included a thorough (and typically feisty) piece on the issue by BC editor Bruce Dixon:

America's black misleadership class, which is nearly indistinguishable from its black business class, has struck again. In a stunning coup, a mainline African American voting rights group has been enlisted on the side of AT&T and other telecom monopolies in their legislative push to privatize the Internet and roll back hundreds of agreements with local communities that force these monopolies to extend Internet and cable service to poor and rural communities around the country. [full story]

It's a good piece, well reported and effective in eviscerating a number of talking androids working for the telcos, and it follows up previous coverage by Dixon. I shouldn't be surprised by the article: my lapse in attention aside, BC has always been a great source of black political POV and I've always been a fan. The site provides exactly the sort of aggressive, independent, smart black media I naively kept trying to build in my various previous lives under corporate umbrellas. Which is to say it's precisely the kind of thing that can't be done when the people above you are white folks who understand "black" as being synonymous with "entertainment," or the people below you are mediocrities who couldn't hack it in other parts of the company and thus cling to the black division as a life-preserver / HR-run bantustand. (Sure, white companies do black media in order to reach back audiences, but it's also a great way for them to manage their own internal diversity problems by giving scads of disaffected, glass-ceiling prone negro employees something to do.)

But about BC: knowing a few things about the economics of this biz I have always been slightly afeared that one day I'd wake up and BC would be gone. Concerned that my slack, do-nothing worry in many ways reproduced the various apathetic horrors I have beheld, I just went and subscribed to the site and urge you to do the same. It's a painless buck a week and your kharmic debt to all the late-great black media you didn't previously support will be considered paid in full.

Posted by ebogjonson in internet tubespolitricknal sciencestalking androids at 10:36 AM | Permalink

alphonso jackson is a liar

Remember talking android (and HUD Secretary) Alphonso Jackson? It turns out that while I was in Vegas he "confessed" to "lying" in remarks about screwing Democrats out of government contracts:

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson apologized yesterday for telling a Dallas business group that he had rejected a HUD contract because the contractor had criticized President Bush.

Jackson said he made up the story. "I deeply regret the anecdotal remarks I made at a recent Texas small-business forum and would like to reassure the public that all HUD contracts are awarded solely on a stringent merit-based process," Jackson said in a statement. "During my tenure, no contract has ever been awarded, rejected, or rescinded due to the personal or political beliefs of the recipient." [full story]

I suppose that there are senses in which saying "I lied" is better than saying "I broke the law," but I don't think the mitigation effect works when both things are said in the same sentence/news cycle. Alphonso Jackson should resign.

Posted by ebogjonson in talking androids at 1:29 AM | Permalink

uh, i thought said "good luck, rene"

"The crowd jammed into Port-au-Prince's central plaza grew angry when told they would not be allowed to watch Preval give his inaugural address unless they stood behind cement barriers erected well away from the palace gates." full story

Posted by ebogjonson in haiti at 1:19 AM | Permalink

good luck, rene preval

"René Préval, a quiet bakery owner who five years ago became Haiti's only elected president to leave office after a full term, was sworn in to a second term Sunday, restoring constitutional rule for the first time since an armed rebellion forced out President Jean-Bertrand Aristide two years ago." full story

Posted by ebogjonson in haiti at 1:14 AM | Permalink

May 15, 2006

what i learned in las vegas

Apologies about the postus interruptus but I was in Las Vegas, NV last week attending an honest-to-gosh bachelor party. I don't have much to report re: the festivities, but I will share that as I drove home I was struck by the number of people that seemed to be living year-round in scorched middles of nowhere off the 15 in NV. (Even google has trouble fathoming them.)

My upbringing in the temperate zones of NYC makes it highly unlikely that I'll ever intuit what motivates a body to park a trailer home within hissing distance of the Mojave. Basic housekeeping in such a context becomes (to me) an indication of perverse stubborness, flash baking newly washed linens on clothes-lines in 105 degree sun, for example, only legible to me as a form of self-abuse. It just seems insane (or maybe a kind of dishonest) to expect a bed made with such sheets to afford one any restful or cooling sleep, ever.

The more trailers I saw (not to mention the three or so actual townlets), the more convinced I became that people who willingly live in such places must be in the grip of powerful, overriding fictions. It has to be fiction; the region's facts - the killing heat, the fickle indifference of traffic and tourist dollars, the dead zone half-lives of war games and proving grounds - strike me as signature drivers of depopulation, mental lightening bolts that only power the abrupt conviction that one needs to get the hell out of Dodge with a quickness. I try to think of what might counter-balance those facts as I drive - i.e., what might make me move to such a desert - and I'm not a mile in before I not so much give up as recoil. I am literally unable to believe it, and that, of course, is the whole game. I mean, I'd just spent several days enthusiastically teasing underlying, largely self-serving facts from every spin of the wheel, spying kernels of the genuine in every cash-related kindness or bought simulation of intimacy. I'm up, I'm down, I really am her most favorite customer ever. So who am I kidding? I obviously not only know exactly what it's like to tell oneself that the heat isn't as bad as folks make out, but I also know how to then make it so via the telling.

This all got me to thinking about the following passage from Michael Taussig's Mimesis and Alterity: (hat tip on Taussig to JC/rupture)

...[M]ost of what seems important in life is made up and is neither more (nor less) than, as a certain turn of phrase would have it, "a social construction." [...]

With good reason postmodernism has relentlessly instructed us that reality is artifice, yet, so it seems to me, not enough surprise has been expressed as to how we nevertheless get on with living, pretending - thanks to the mimetic faculty - that we live facts, not fictions. Custom, that obscure crossroads where the constructed and the habitual coalesce, is indeed mysterious. Some force impels us to keep the show on the road. We cannot, so it would seem, easily slow the thing down, stop and inquire into this tremendously braced field of the artificial. When it was enthusiastically pointed out that race or gender or nation were so many social constructions, inventions, and representations, a window was opened, an invitation to begin the critical project of analysis and cultural reconstruction was offered. And one still feels its power even though what was nothing more than an invitation, a preamble to investigation has, by and large, been converted into a conclusion - eg. "sex is a social construction," "race is a social construction," "the nation is an invention" and so forth. The brilliance of the pronouncement was blinding. Nobody was asking: what's the next step? What do we do with this old insight? If life is constructed, how come it appears so immutable?


I think construction deserves more respect; it cannot be name-called out of (or into) existence, ridiculed and shamed into yielding up its powers. And if its very nature seems to prevent us - for are we not also socially constructed - from peering deeply therein, that very same nature also cries out for something other than analysis. For in constructions place - what? No more invention, or more invention?

Absolutely, Mike T.. "What happens in Vegas never happened" is not a theory of plausible deniability but of antimatter. Do I leave the anti-particles behind in the anti-city out of a generalized fear of their explosive potential, or out of the more specific, personalized worry they will bind to the mundane (but pervasive) fakeness of my regular life and blow it up, leaving me in possession of the same net-nothing as before, only now painfully counter-pointed by the memory of whole, glittering cities made out of the same unstable isotopes? Which is to say: Is it more Vegas that I need in my life, or just more?

Posted by ebogjonson in brain maintenanceplacessex type at 5:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

May 9, 2006

every day we're hustling

Spent a large portion of last weekend back-reading Emeka Okafor's The Timbuktu Chronicles, a technology and entrepreneurship blog focusing on sub-Saharan Africa. (Someone turned me on to Okafor a while ago, but I've forgotten who; apologies to you if you know who you are.) In between lots of optimistic blog-and-tell (apparently the African swimwear manufacturing sector is heating up), Okafor does some neatly programmatic prognosticating about a possible, tech-driven African renaissance, wondering, for example, whether the West's (or at least the Bay Area's) reignited "need to grapple with the tangible tactile 3rd dimension" has application in Africa:

The now almost retro cyber-age had emphasized the importance of all things digital at the expense of those objects we can grasp. The merging of the bit the biological and non-biological atom in the developed world is on track courtesy of robotics and nanotechnology, while in areas south of the Sahara the 'made' atom has barely gotten of the starting block. The uptake of technology in Africa has been symbolized almost completely by cellphones, computers and information -ICT as it commonly labeled. As a result the nerves are beginning to sputter into life, but the equally important muscles and sinews have not even begun to coalesce.

In a Timbuktu Chronicles post "Fundamental, Unsexy and Absent" the non-existence of an industrial mechanical base was highlighted and its pivotal nature emphasized. The boring 'old' industries of Metalworking and various types of Manufacturing and Chemical Engineering have had to bow off the stage in the developed west while the young upstarts of the information age, biotechnology et al bask in the spotlight. This could rightly be considered progress in the industrialized and developed/ing countries, but not where industrialization has experienced a still birth and these industries do not even exist. The ability to communicate effectively does not confer the title of 'developed' on its wearer's head, ICT is to a large degree an enabler and facilitator.

Okafor is bullish on the idea that the post-hobbyist instrumentalities and practices popular among our local DIY types will open up transformative zones of people/entrepreneur driven growth and industrialization. It's a compelling, current, optimistic scenario, and if I have a nano-sized nit to pick it's that "reignited" interest in the atom in the West or no, places like Haiti or portions of sub-Saharan Africa have always already being zones of intense "maker" activity. The atom hacking and hustling required just to keep head above water in some places means that people are constantly surrounded by a nimbus of modification. It's like a literal poor man's version of Madeline Gins and Arakawa's architectural surround, an enveloping "architecture" that exists not to support Gins and Arakawa's (art)project of life-extension but plain old life-continuance, maintenance, life-not-dying-enance and so on.

(This is a random aside, but I had a chance to hear Madeline Gins speak/read last year in LA. She was fascinating but scattered, and when the audience started tiring just a bit of her shtick she disdainfully saluted the crowd and spat "Goodnight, plants!!!" at us before storming off the stage. Completely amazing.)

Okafor name-checks MAKE Magazine and the transit from there to there (and potentially back) could fill the pages of several well-designed magazine special issues. How long, for example until we see a "MAKE: THIRD WORLD" issue? ("MAKE VISITS THE GARAGE LABS OF SUPER TINKERERS FROM TURKMENISTAN TO NIGERIA TO PARAGUAY!!!") How about a February MAKE exclusive: "BLACK MAN HACKS TRAFFIC LIGHT!! USING XBOX SCRAPS!!!" As much as MAKE contemporizes Popular Mechanics and Heathkit (there's also a hint of "In Search of..." thrown in there somewhere, but that could also just be the taste of nutmeg) it also indulges in stealth deployments of "Budweiser Presents A Black History Month Special: Great Black Inventors," MAKE's central "genius in you" storyline implicitly suggesting the existence of "genius in them" angles, "look what I made!" being less than six degrees of separation from "didja know what they made?"

Or is that "didja know what we made?" The communitarian storyline might be the spécialité de maison of middlebrow, corporate-sponsored, African American media but MAKE still a kind of freedom that when applied to US blacks (pun not intended, but noted) takes on science fictional overtones. Even correcting for the distorted ways people talk about Africa it seems a universal black affliction, infecting even Okafor's straightforwardly earnest postings. His hopes for a coming maker golden age seem the stuff of a hacked Cyptonomicon, but then that's likely why he put "The Timbuktu Chronicles" on the header and not "Sub-Saharan African Technology Today."

Posted by ebogjonson in afrofuturismnext levelishsolid state projects at 9:02 PM | Permalink

alphonso jackson - shameless talking android

talking android alphonso jackson

You know, the Bush Administration really is a talking android goldmine.

HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson (pictured in android glory above) recently bragged to an audience that he likes denying government contracts to qualified minority contractors on the basis of the contractor's political opinions. (Hat tip digby):

After discussing the huge strides the agency has made in doing business with minority-owned companies, Jackson closed with a cautionary tale, relaying a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor.

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the prospective contractor. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe." [full article]

Don't get me wrong: telling a hack political appointee that you can't stand the man they fellated in order to get their gig is probably not a tactic that will earn you an A in Procurement Negotiations 101. Still, bragging about fucking over a contractor for political reasons is even dumber, as Jackson has copped to breaking the law. Dude should resign.

Take note that Jackson's comments were made to a minority professional group, as other talking androids will likely seize on the fact to argue that Jackson was only speaking "privately" "in-group" about the "realities" of the contract process. (The deployment of the word "brother" in his little anecdote will figure prominently in any such reading, if not explicitly, than psychologically.) This "in group" defense has roots in the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill controversy, when Harvard prof Orlando Patterson (another talking android) speculated that Thomas was at worst guilty of letting his hair down with Hill on the basis of a mistakenly perceived racial affinity, a faulty assumption on Thomas' part that he was within a circle of racial intimacy.

In so much as there's a grain of experiential truth to that reading then or now, it's just a pinch of salt to flavor the steaming, monumental pile of extruded mediocrity that is the talking android as a general type. It's one thing for James Six-Pack to step over any given line, but it's another for the heads of HUD or EEOC to step over the lines their departments are sworn to enforce. Managing contracts or prosecuting sexual harassment claims are/were Jackson and Thomas' jobs, making their infractions not just political scandals but indications of the rankest incompetence and unfitness. These people complain about affirmative action yet one after the other are revealed as unable to do their jobs without white Republican patronage. But what you do expect? As the old joke/slur about black conservatives puts it, the Alphonso Jacksons and Clarence Thomas's don't switch sides out of principle, but because "the line is shorter over there," and who needs a shorter line more than your average talking android?

Posted by ebogjonson in talking androids at 12:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

mr. jeb goes to port-au-prince

Imposter President Bush is sending his election expert - Jeb - to Haiti to represent the US at Rene Preval's upcoming inauguration. Hide yer babies and ballots.

Posted by ebogjonson in haiti at 12:26 PM | Permalink

May 5, 2006

always the last to know

Apparently I was on the radio on Wednesday, commenting on Haiti for Ed Gordon's News and Notes.

Posted by ebogjonson in haitime me me at 11:26 AM | Permalink

May 4, 2006

yahoo in haiti?

Actually, not Yahoo, just Kevin Sites.

I haven't been following any of Sites' trips through the, uh, "hot zone" (i.e., global trouble spots from Sudan to Uganda to Iraq to...) so I don't really have any context for the Haiti episodes. I'm glad the thing exists, but I can't say I'm particularly impressed. Sites' is a decent reporter, covering the basics and conveying appropriate outrage and human empathy, but his schtick feels like Anderson Cooper on some kind of post-extreme sports high. Similarly, seen in terms of internet media, the Hot Zone franchise doesn't do anything that, say, the BBC's website doesn't do just as well and with none of the tendentious "maturing medium" self-importance that comes from being a Yahoo product. (Isn't Yahoo getting out of the original programming biz anyway?)

Still, being master of your own sinking internet ship has its upsides, chief of which is the freedom to go to Haiti off-season (i.e., post-elections) if you feel like it.

Posted by ebogjonson in haiti at 5:27 PM | Permalink

adam kidron, nina hagen, the slits

Friend of friend Earl W. chose to ignore this website's handy comment functionality in order to write in that Adam Kidron, although responsible for "Nuestro Himno" and UBO, did also manage to produce a few good records by Nina Hagen and The Slits, to wit:

Your hit on Adam Kidron brought back memories, but I think you were a little harsh. Does the verdict of history have room for the fact that the man also produced key records by Nina Hagen and The Slits?

I dunno, Earl; you tell me. The way I see it, a stopped clock is right twice a day, too.

However, I always endeavor to be on the right side of history, so duly noted. Thanks for playing!

Posted by ebogjonson in race and other identitiesvideogames and other cracks at 1:19 AM | Permalink

May 3, 2006

the island resort - a dream

wherein I dream about going to work on a tropical resort. This was a long dream, so it is broken down into parts, the first being below:

I dream that I have taken a summer job working as a waiter or bartender on some kind of island resort. The dream logic is that I am going to (finally) indulge myself in a clichéd whim, that I am going to do it before I get too proverbially old. I've never driven cross-country. I never moved to Japan to teach English, never applied to film school. The one time I gave everything up for love I in point of fact hedged my bets, trading in an old life as a writer for a new one managing internet companies. What I am (dream)thinking is that I have earned a summer playing in the sun.

The resort is run Club Med/Fantasy Island style: guests fly in against the backdrop of a pinkish sunset, guests are greeted and garlanded with orchids, guests happily give control of their lives over to attentive staff for a week or two, to pleasure machines and instrumentalities that hum away constantly and invisibly, guests fly off. Me, I'm here to be staff, so I fly off from Los Angeles in a mildly decrepit charter jet that touches down hard at a strictly functional, single-runway. (How many hours later? Is this island in the Pacific or Atlantic?) My only greeter is a punishing, noontime sun, and I think to myself that I have landed behind the curtain, a backstage to the place where all the dreams are being made.

There are at least a hundred other summer employees flying in with me and no sooner has the plane stopped taxing than we join a slow moving queue that starts right there in the plane's aisle. The queue snakes out of the cabin door, down the simple stairs that have been wheeled up to the plane, and across the weed and grass-cracked tarmac for hundred and hundreds of yards, all of us shuffling towards a bunker-like building that sits in the distance behind shimmering heat haze. There is no sign of anything suggesting a high-end resort, but the bunker sits directly against tall, thick line of trees. I imagine the resort lying in splendor behind those trees, in the cooling shadow of low, lush green mountains that huddle at the horizon.

Once the queue has moved enough for me to get a fuller look at the airport I see that there are dozens of other planes on the tarmac, each slowly spilling their own cargo of summer staff. I have two immediate realizations: almost everyone here is white, with a smattering of black and brown and Asian faces, and almost everyone on the tarmac is just a few years out of college, the even mix of men and women all looking a good ten-to-fifteen years younger than me. Many have come to work here in groups, some of which seem large enough to have been split between several planes, and people break off from the lines and rejoin them as needed, chattering excitedly and high-fiving and hugging, our progress towards the bunker slowed by these reunions to a hot, near crawl. The traffic flows only one way, and after each plane has been emptied of passengers and refueled it backs away from the throng, roaring off into the sky. I think to myself that it should bother me just a little how everyone arrives here and no one leaves, but then this doesn't feel like that kind of dream to me, like a horror movie or nightmare. I think to myself that, anyway, it's the beginning of the season. What kind of idiot leaves paradise this early, before it's even started to bloom?

Hours pass stop-motion style, the sun changing angle overhead. I'm not frightened by the strange lack of context or activity on the tarmac, but I am confused. I wonder whether the resort is in some financial distress or is just poorly run. There seems to be too much milling about, and the bunker seems too small to hold or process everyone. Despite the large number of new arrivals there doesn't seem to be any HR or orientation staff. I don't feel hungry or thirsty but can imagine both, wonder if anyone will pass out from the heat and the sun, where the bathrooms are.

I am three-quarters of the way to the bunker before I see my first resort official. Up until then it's only been pilots and bored flight attendants and fuel technicians sweating in the sun (we were all told to bring single carry-ons, so there are no baggage handlers), but now a small, perky white woman is moving methodically up the line, a clipboard and neat stack of manila envelopes in her hands. She spends just a few moments with each person, nodding at them and handing them an envelope, sparing a few words here and there. When she get to me she flashes what feels like a particularly friendly smile.

You must be Gary, she says. Welcome.

Before I can wonder how she know I am me, she hands me an envelope with my first name written on it in a school-marmish cursive, keeps plowing up the line behind me. I open the envelope and find the application I had mailed into the resort's management company, but closer inspection reveals that the "Gary" recorded here isn't me. The last name, address and SSN are all wrong, as is (most glaringly) my date of birth. According to this I am 49, a middle-aged male looking to while away a few months in the sun with children half his age, or maybe to marry a wealthy, vacationing dowager.

I drop out of the line to bring the mix-up to the staffer's attention. She frowns at me, rifling through her stack of envelopes. When she finally finds the right envelope I tell her, No harm done; at least I know that I'm not the oldest person here. She makes an uncomfortable stab at a laugh that leaves me tight with embarrassment. I may not be the oldest person here, but in her mind I was clearly enough of an outlier to be grouped with him. I peer up and down the line for this other, older Gary, hoping not for solidarity but for a chance to disavow him, but endless rows of 22 and 23 year-olds smile back at me. Their rote enthusiasm and youth, their well-exercised bodies strike me as an implicit indictment. I feel fat and old in comparison. I wonder if I have made a mistake coming here.

By this point the multiple queues snaking away from individual planes are converging, picking up speed in jerky fits and starts as groups of friends (found or newly made?) organize and re-organize themselves for advantage that seems largely social, rather than positional. I feel like I am the only person on the tarmac actually trying to get to the bunker. For a brief spell the queue's endless shuffle leaves me standing next to a young woman of vaguely Middle Eastern / Mediterranean extraction, and she quickly morphs into an ex-neighbor from my waking life. She will turn out to be the only person in the dream I actually know, and even at that early stage she seems a strange choice for special guest star. All I can say for sure about the actual, undreamt of girl is that she was plainly pretty, sweeter than she was smart. She had road-tripped into LA from a tiny Midwestern town with a group of friends and ended up happily waving good-bye at them as they drove home, her planned, week-long visit turning into a six month stay on the ratty couch of a warren-like, transient-filled loft. She worked odd jobs and partied before eventually disappearing back into the heartland, and I remember her mostly from awkward elevator rides in the early morning or late evening, both of us silently meditating on disappointment or hope as was appropriate to the hour.

As in waking life, we have very little to say to one another in the dream. A hug and a few awkward expressions of surprise at having run into each other "like this" exhausts our entire universe of possible exchange, and during the queue's next spasm of expansion and contraction she starts drifting towards another part of the line. There is a moment or two during which I could safely, plausibly stop her, perhaps suggesting that we reconnect on the other side of the bunker, but I let her disappear, worried that she'll take my overture as a come on. I think a little wryly to myself that if I actually wanted fuck her (in any particular way, as opposed to just ambiently or categorically) I likely would have found a way to be more "on" conversationally, but to what end? I don't want to talk to her, I'm just worried that I won't know anyone else here or make any new friends, that I'll go all summer with no one to talk to.

My fear doesn't lead me to interact with anyone else on line, and I don't leave my place to join any newly accreted crews, so my movement towards the bunker is relatively swift and unimpeded. My accelerating forward progress starts to strike me as an index of my likeability; I feel like a limp rag-doll sinking to the bottom of a toy chest over constricting cycles of under-use, newer toys below me being fished out for play and then re-stocked above me. As bodies peel off from the queue I wonder if there are people who will spend the entire summer like this, making friends at the airport and cycling through the line, never getting where they set out to go. I notice for the first time that more planes are landing, disgorging new arrivals. There must be thousands of us on the tarmac, and now and then some intrepid soul will wander to the front and ask this or that question about what is happening. I answer the questions I can, which turn out to be almost all of them, what with all the hours I've been waiting. I'm surprised by how much information I've stored, think back to how confused I was when I first landed. Everything seems so obvious to me now - the etiquette of cutting, the manila envelopes, the pattern-making dance of affinity and disinterest, all that movement and waiting and choice graphed on a single, curving line. I know a million things that the people behind me don't know and even if it's only by dint of just standing and persisting, even if the information is pointless and gifted to those who do no more than wait, I know it all the same. The knowing means I'm almost there.

Something changes in the dream just then, though, shifts invisibly under my feet as if I'm some kind of cartoon character striding across a map, left foot on one color, right foot on another. Just as quickly as it arrived my mild confidence that I know where I am goes all to hell. It's because of the bunker, because of how close to it I've gotten. The bunker reminds me that the things I need to know all lie ahead of me and not behind. The only real information I have about what's coming is a literal value concerning the queue itself, a variable that declines by one or two or five every time people peel off or enter the bunker. Ninety nine, ninety-eight, ninety-seven, ninety, eighty, seventy-seven, seventy - As the number of people in front of me enters a range that can be mapped to a plausible human life-span, I start mentally subtracting my own, current age, creating a second, nestled set of numbers (62, 61, 60, 53, 43, 40, 33) whose decline I track with an inverted, mounting anxiety. When that second, nestled value jumps down to a value less than my age my mind goes blank, gets filled by a cold, mute, voiding terror. Although I'm still walking towards the bunker I feel frozen in place, my limbs heavy and unresponsive. A reset button has been pressed somewhere inside me and I find I can no longer say exactly where I am or what I have come here to do.

And then I'm next, standing in front of a pair of sliding glass doors that lead into the bunker. In the dream I have trouble recognizing the door or the bunker, have to force myself to think through how I got there in step-by-step units. I know I got on a plane in LA, know I came here of my own volition, but the why's leading up to the flight have gone all hazy. The doors themselves are unstable, hard to pin down. They suggests portals and magicks and teleports, instrumentalities of displacement that work across great distances and perhaps states of matter, dimensions. The glass is tinted and I am unable to see through it, but I can tell without touching that the surface is cool, a border distinguishing highly differentiated zones of temperature, air-pressure and moisture.

A man sits high on tennis-official like chair next to the sliding doors. The angle of the sun and the brim of his hat prevent me form discerning his race or age, but I know he is smiling down at me.

Welcome to the resort, he says.

Something about this jogs my memory. It strikes me a something you would say to a guest, but as far as I can remember I have come here to work. Perhaps I am in the wrong place, standing on the wrong line?

I look over my shoulder at the tarmac one last time before going into the bunker. If I was awake I would gasp; there must be millions of them.

[to be continued]

Posted by ebogjonson in dream log at 6:34 PM | Permalink

May 2, 2006

scholars and gentleman

Bomani Jones has good piece up on ESPN.com on the impact the Duke rape case is having on Durham, NC. I haven't blogged at all about this case, largely because it was too depressing, but also because Bo and blogs like Hysterical Blackness have been better work covering the story than I ever could. (jimi iz also recently gave the story the patented, jimi-iz-treatment on his blog as well.)

Posted by ebogjonson in blogish at 10:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)