ebogjonson.com's brain maintenance archive

personal mental musings and other diary-type yackity smack

August 21, 2007

i've been meaning to write you

I really have! It's just that there's been a lot going on.

Correct emailing practice does not exist. The true mood of the form is spontaneity, alacrity--the right time to reply to a message is right away. But do that and your life is gone. So you reject the spontaneous spirit of email; you hold off replying for hours, days, even weeks. By then the initiatory email has gone stale, and your reply is bound to be labored. You compensate for the offense with a needlessly elaborate message. You ask polite questions to which you pray there will never come an answer. Oh, but there will. [full item]

Posted by ebogjonson at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

July 15, 2007

the room

Writing is something you do alone in a room. Copy that sentence and put it on your wall because there's no way to exaggerate or overemphasize this fact. It's the most important thing to remember if you want to be a writer. Writing is something you do alone in a room.

Before any issues of style, content or form can be addressed, the fundamental questions are: How long can you stay in that room? How many hours a day? How do you behave in that room? How often can you go back to it? How much fear (and, for that matter, how much elation) can you endure by yourself? How many years--how many years--can you remain alone in a room?

- Michael Ventura

To that I would add:

What did you do in the room today?
Did you run from the room or did hang in and face whatever it is that was locked up in there with you? (Keeping in mind that you brought whatever it was in with you.)
Did you walk out of the room or write out of it?

Me, I'm terrified of the room, kinda. I'm trying to scurry out of it even now by posting this, making you, gentle reader, my unwitting accomplice and enabler.

(Thanks, Kelley.)

Posted by ebogjonson at 11:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 26, 2007

i'm just loving the world into a crisis of change

Sorry for the non-posting, but your droog and humble narrator has been a bit distracted the last month or so. The list of stuff that's gotten in the way of the bloggery is long, but the main culprit has been a fairly mundane and workaday time-crunch, some pals having employed me since the start of April to think about the Internet for them. As a result, '07 has been crap when it comes to the posting, and those of you who are still around to read this update-cum-apologia really do walk super-saintly in the light of the god/patron saints/loa/whatever of personal publishing. I mean, I have literally stopped telling people I have a blog, such is the wasterlandery of EBOG'07: January I was recovering from Kenya, February I was tending to a sick nana, March I was recovering from tending to a sick nana, and April and May I was out earning the Yankee dollar, bringing us up to the present, five months with a grand total of 10 posts tops. Crap, I tell you!

More cryptically, I will also confess that since about New Years I've been in the throes of one of those periodic, every 7-years or so psychic spasms, a kind of transformative life-seizure that threatens to reset about everything before it wanes, leaving me with little in the way of spare cycles to devote to, say, Alberto Gonzales or Imus or the new LCD Soundsystem record. It's a shame, because so much is happening about which I think I have a cent or two to throw in, but thems be the proverbial blogger-breaks. Fortunately, the world is so chock-full of smart, entirely google-able people who are constantly saying things I would have said, just as well and better. Everyday I read the blogs and feel outraged and depressed, sure, but also old-fashioned inspired at how many fine people there are out in the world putting words and ideas and pictures and things together. My only regret is that all of you don't live in Downtown LA, thereby allowing us to have a pint together, develop crushes on one another, run around and plot world domination, or, barring that, utopia. My template for the way I feel about my blog-roll and daily blog reading habits is Fort Greene, Brooklyn in the 1990s, a time and place when everyone I ever wanted to know lived a few blocks away from me and did the same work I did, when we all belonged to the same dial-up BBS (!), i.e., Omar Wasow and Peta Hoyes' New York Online. Aging "golden age" cranks are a bore, I know, but I really do have to say that I have seen the rise-and-fall of our era's last/best promised land, and its lingering hold on my thoughts and inclinations is precisely why each and every one of you seems so familiar to me. It really and truly is like we all got high together once in someone's park-facing apartment; it's completely amazing.

Since we're all buds here, I feel like I have to warn you, though, that posting will likely continue to be similarly thin heading through August, this because on top of everything else I've been accepted to, er, an intensive six-week workshop for writers preparing for professional careers in science fiction and fantasy, held annually in Seattle, Washington, USA. So I might be out of the loop a bit. I head to Seattle in couple of weeks and won't be "back" (whatever that means. I'm barely here now) until 8/3 or so, and I've been warned that the pace of writing (a story a week for six weeks) has made it difficult for bloggers and journalers to get their entry-a-day in. We'll see.

I went to a graduation (not mine) a few weeks ago that was complicated and bitter for a bunch of reasons best explicated elsewhere, but in the midst of what was a classic downward spiral I was literally shocked out of myself by a speaker on stage exhorting the exiting class to "love the world into a crisis of change." (Does anyone know where that line is from?) What a strange and random and dangerous thing to hear while brooding your way into a comfortable and easy funk! Because, first off, there are underlying ways in which loving the world runs counter to the grain of my temperament, brain-chemistry, outlook and so on. I mean, the world sucks most days, it seems fucked and populated by vast numbers of annoyances and mediocrities, so the thought bubble over my head at any given moment tends to be something along the lines of "what a moron you are!" or "jesus fucking christ can you stop making bullshit sounds with you mouth!" or "my only (other) regret is that there is no actual hell for you to go to!" To love such a world calls for a fundamental re-orientation, and to love it into a crisis of change requires (as I understand the idea, at least) not just a passive encounter with the world's notional lovable-ness, but the active, constant introduction of newsness and goodness into said word, a commitment to making true and useful and decent things for other people in hopes that your honorable work of addition might engender something similarly new, who the fuck knows what but it better be better than this shit.

So, if you ever find yourself wondering exactly what I'm up to at any given moment and the blog is no help just tell yourself: oh, right! Gary is supposed to be out loving the world into a crisis of change! I have no idea what that actually means but lack of info seems to me to be the valuable part. It's like that scene in The Matrix when Trinity tells Neo he's been down that street before, he knows exactly where it leads. That movie is bullshit on a bunch levels, but it's right that you might as well be dead the day you get sure nothing will ever change.

Posted by ebogjonson at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

March 17, 2007

thanks for asking!

I will take care of you

I just wanted to thank everyone who wrote in ask how my nana was doing. ("Called in" for those of you I trust with my cell number.) The shorthand answer that I've been relying on is "as best can be expected," and, despite its aspects as autopilot, I guess that's as true as anything I could say. Diabetes, three heart attacks (well, one heart attack and two "cardiac episodes"), a non-functioning artery in her gut, a month in the hospital, 89 years working at thankless, largely manual labor on the bottom social rungs on ye olde Planet of the Earths: I should be grateful Saint Anne is just plain alive, in no pain and (relatively) mobile, that she is able to rouse to varied levels of excitement whenever the one-minute-to-the-hour teaser for her favorite re-run comes on. (Monk and any Law & Order show, basically.)

As best as can be expected, like I said.

Me, I'm doing as best as can be expected as well (thanks for asking!) which is to say I'm not exactly sure how I'm doing. First there has been the problem of recovering from the specific, unsettling horror of having spent all of Black History Month 2007 in Kendall, Miami. I mean, I can't really begin to describe how much energy it took for me just to get up to the humid Kendall morning, this given the choking, ground-hugging miasma of family BS and social pollution that hangs the place like a malevolent, soul-stealing fog. H.P Lovecraft's tombstone sez "I AM PROVIDENCE;" and effective description of the terror that is being stuck in Kendall could only be approached by a writer with contemporary Lovecraftian instincts and illnesses, someone who could legibly claim "I AM KENDALL" as his or hers. Calling Kendall a locus of ancient, corporate, mall-ish, suburban, unthinking, bourgie, non-black Hispanic, post-Cuban horror just scratches the surface.

(There is also a whole post to be written in the aftermath of my time in Kendall about the maddening judgment/mis-identification hijinks that occured whenever I encountered certain types of older, conservative Cuban folks, racist Cuban folks in a word, who thought I was some kind of bedredlocked rebel from their lifelong campaign to escape various forms of darkness. This post ain't it, however.)

Part of my problem is that thinking about all this provokes random, largely inexplicable fits of anger in me. The classic feelings of helplessness, as described in the relevant literature. For example, I literally wanted to write above: "AS BEST AS CAN BE EXPECTED, I said. Are you fucking deaf?" I wrote the line in and then deleted it, completely baffled by myself. Grief, no grief; sadness, no sadness; stress, no stress, helpless or helpful: I'm not so much confused by the fact that my head is fucked up (as worst as can be expected?) but by the specific contours the fucked-uppedness takes, as in the above almost-outburst about people not listening. Who could I possibly be yelling at in that highly specific way? Who isn't listening? Who strikes me as akin to deaf? Everyone has been pretty much grand, and those who haven't, well, they acted just as I expected them to, so really: no skin off my nose. So why the rage? I can't get mad at inaction from a god I don't believe in.

Like most everybody I have a hard enough time processing abrupt familial deaths, but the process of taking a slow stroll up to one involves its own series of wild, conflicting confrontations. Last time I posted I was grateful to have made it to Miami in time. Now my unique damage (maybe; incorrectly claiming uniqueness is a bad look for spring) is that I am, well, outraged that she's dying, this because it strikes me as an injustice even with the 89 years and counting. I'm not dwelling on all this in full-on rage, not letting existential anger distort my day-to-day living, but my adolescent science-fictional (luciferian?) impulses remain strong enough that my default thinking about the whole, er, death thing is that it's fundamentally unnecessary.

There are a lot of people I like who view my kind of wants - long life, going to Mars - as irresponsibity akin driving a Hummer, another set who thinks you can't be a card carrying member of the African diaspora without a firm belief in highly specific forms of hoodoo. And that's fine, really: you all can stay behind if you want to. Our conceptual tribe shares a lot of opinions, but self-consciously "responsible," non-science-fictional progressives often tend towards a zero-sum worldview that I reject, a guilt-driven mythology where the good are poor, denied and martyred, while only vampires, racists and thief capitalists live well and long, this at the cost of innocent human lives. Whatever. The way I see it it's always possible to live well and honestly and decently all at the time. Our choice isn't between, say, war for oil and a reduced, but "sustainable" standard of living; it's between making oil companies rich and doing the hard, largely scientific and technical, work of figuring out how to get exactly what you want without killing people or wrecking the environment. So why not try to live forever? Those stem cells aren't people like some claim they are; forever only requires drinking blood in the movies; I promise to remember you if you insist on dying like you were told to.

And despite all that random techno-optimism l am still angry. I guess the thing is that in addition to thinking it'd be great to live forever, I also genuinely don't see any reason not to assume future generations won't get what I want, on average having impressively longer life-spans than we do and making the accident of me riding on the historical-living shortbus akin to being cheated by history. Being one of those people who has always identified with Paradise Lost's Lucifer, I tend chafe whenever I feel forced to make peace with anything that strikes me as random, structural or circumstantial. I want to spit at anyone (especially anyone looking forward to a good 40 more years) who tries to tell me a "mature" reaction to Saint Anne's involuntary, pre-ordained decrepitude involves bending the knee to something as dumb as a number. (89 in this case.) I want to shout at people who think there is something greedy about wanting to live. I'm not really interested in the number unless it adds up for me, which is why I tend to want fourth, fifth and sixth opinions, why I think NYC beats LA because the last call is later/bigger. I'm perfectly willing to keep rolling the dice, keep seeing the doctors, keep refactoring the parameters until something gets fixed or something runs out - money, time, life. I wouldn' t want to bankrupt my kids or my neighbors to pay for my medical care, but if I already have a wad why not peel some off and toss it at the doctors? (Which is another way of saying: we haven't come within a mile of being financially burdened by Saint Anne's care. All we've risked so far is our comfort, and yet everyone is making peace with the idea that her fate is sealed. She's 89, you know. She's doing as well as can be expected.)

And don't get me wrong: I'm also completely down for accepting/defying the death sentence by throwing a party. There is a blog meme out that has involved asking the classic "what would you do if you had six months to live" question, and me, I would go sit on a beach (Lamu?) and read, get high, surf the web, play videogames, eat shellfish, do some writing and (Sweet Lord Jesus willing!) get laid pretty and plenty. You can join me or you can collect my corpse when it's time if you feel so inclined, or you can let it float out to sea, not my problem, I'm dying so I'm kind of focused on myself these days, sorry.

(Although, if you were able to collect my head, I would greatly appreciate it, as I'd like to have my brain frozen on the off chance that it can be reanimated at a later date. Thanks!)

I asked Saint Anne what she most desperately wanted to do when she got home and when she said "change into my own clothes," I have to shamefacedly admit I was disappointed in her, angry even. When it became obvious during Black History Month that she was going to survive, part of me fantasized that she'd jump up from her hospital bed and take up roller-skating or something, that having hit a kind of rock bottom she would now bounce, that some long unresolved, lifelong desire would come into focus and that she'd get her GED, see the pyramids (I'll push the wheelchair), do yoga, learn how to make the perfect soufflé - who can say for sure but her? Just something. Instead, she walked through and out of the shadow of the valley of death in order to watch re-runs and sleep in Kendall (aforementioned hell-on-earth Kendall!), every day receding just a bit more from us, her body and mind failing in tiny stages.

I know it's not her fault. She's just too tired to take up roller-skating, too beaten down by the facts and the numbers. (Let's not even get into a month on your back in a hospital in Kendall.) When Saint Anne was 88 she walked, talked and carried herself like a 65 year-old, but one year later time has finally caught up with her. Now she seems like what I imagine 89 should seem like: her movements are tentative, she uses a walker. She sleeps half the day and even though her lassitude alarms me, the second and third medical opinions (my mother is of a mind that fourth and fifth opinions are selfish and extravagant) view her decline as natural. It's not as a form of theft, I'm told, it's the inevitable end to a sort of bonus ++ period of sprightly-ness, Saint Anne's strength up to now an overtime that the universe had gifted her with and that had now expired. Turn that frown upside-down, little one, is what they are saying. To every season, turn turn, etc.

My sense that she has suddenly, abruptly declined hinges on the fact that I only knew and believed what I could see about her health. Saint Anne only seemed like a 65 year old when she was 88, she only looked that way to a me stuck there observing with mere human eyes, an amateur's mind assessing the situation without the aid of a medical degree or advanced diagnostic equipment. All these years that I've been smiling at her with such smug paternalism, marveling at how black really didn't crack, at how fresh and young she persisted in being while I (me!) was getting disturbingly older, there beneath the surface something was slowly unraveling, failing, running out, waiting for 89 to blow up in our faces.

Maybe if I'd had eyes capable of seeing beneath surfaces, see down to the unraveling in real time, she'd still be looking like a 65 year old. When I was in Miami I was in her hospital room late one night when a technician came in with a fancy sonogram machine to check for blood clots in her legs. (This was early on when no one knew what the fuck was happening.) I stared over his shoulder as the machine peered into her and for the first time in my life I desperately wished I'd become a doctor the way my parents had wanted me to, because if I had I'd be able to read the sonogram and maybe help save her life.

(That said, I don't think a hypothetical "Dr. Me" would have been able to save my father's life, Dad being the Thomasian sort who only trusted the results of his own experiments. He got himself killed when he ignored his doctor's orders and started tinkering with his heart medication dosage, this because of some advice he'd picked up on Google. Not likely he would have taken my medical advice or aid, but there are timeline paradoxes aplenty there: he wouldn't have taken my advice, but Dr. Me's? Dr. Son He Alway Wanted? Hmm...)

When I asked the sonogram tech what the results where he told me that a doctor would have to read it, which really made me want to weep with frustration. Like my father I have a hard time trusting in anyone's competence, starting with god and my parents and going right down the list. It's complete hubris, I know, a real pain if you have to work with me, but my core belief has always been that if I want something done right I really need to do it myself, forget prayer or parents or co-workers or Saint Anne's doctors or any of it. Forget even myself as currently constructed, by which I mean screw getting that medical degree I mentioned earlier. What I really need is the as-yet-unmade ebog of the future. The post-singularity, more-better one with X-rays eyes and six robot arms, each limb a surgical tool, or a drug factory, or a medical tricorder, maybe a mechanism for the delivery of healing nanomachines. That guy even has a seventh arm with a spike at the end that (this is going to pinch a little!) goes in at the base of the spine and allows for full sensorium, networked VR, the better for him and Saint Anne to spend all day at the beach in Lamu, for him to help her with her GED homework, to make that perfect soufflé. He would hold her gently in those robot arms and she'd live forever, which would make him feel useful and proud. He'd think: it really is just the least I can for the woman who raised me, who wiped my bottom. They would not live in Kendall.

But I don't have the time or the resources to be that guy, so instead I guess I'll have bend the knee afterall, say thanks and goodbye, Saint Anne, make soothing, cooing sounds at her like a good little mammal, like the word-less, animal sound was some kind of appropriate exit music. It really makes me want to scream.

Posted by ebogjonson at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

August 29, 2006

one year later

new orleans one year ago

A year ago I had just moved into my apartment in Downtown LA. It was a happy, auspicious move for me, but in many ways (most?) I was completely freaked-the-fuck out. I had just left a high-stress (but lucrative) gig under generally annoying circumstances, and I had also just moved to a new city where I knew few people and certainly didn't have the socio-professional network I was leaving back on the East Coast. The oft-touted attractions of LA - the beaches, the mountains, the industry - are of limited interest to me, and my new neighborhood was tripping me out as well, our spacious loft situated in a zone that is not so much post-apocalyptic as it is post-virtual, the streets seemingly stocked by some invisible programmer with quasi-autonomous non-player-characters from a game I barely understood and less wanted to play. There was piss everywhere and our building was full of very nice folks who claimed I'd soon be feeding on a uniquely downtown nutrient that they shorthanded as "the energy," but that I quickly came to believe was an essence distilled from the suffering of downtown's largely black and male homeless population. It seemed completely crazy to live here, but I do/did, so I very understandably came (by various associative and commutative properties) to think of myself as completely crazy as well.

Being primed by the peculiar mental state I was this time last year, it didn't take much for me to see Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath as a world ending sign. It seemed at first the stuff of myth, and then when nothing happened except suffering piled on suffering it made myth seem beside the point, if for no other reason than there is no book in any testament where the exile or death of large numbers of black people portends anything in particular. That kind of thing is just business as usual, a heckuva job.

I had somehow contrived to get to the west coast before the truck with all my furniture and comfort infrastructure, so my girlfriend and I spent the first few weeks of our new existence living like mildly discomfited squatters, sleeping on a too-small futon, not enough underwear, eating the same take-out over and over. (The grub choices downtown after dark are fairly constrained.) We in no way imagined that our situation bore any relationship to what the displaced survivors of the hurricane were going through, but we did wonder if some new regime had somehow been instituted, some line in history crossed where diminishment and deprivation would increasingly be the norm. What if there is an earthquake we wondered? A dirty bomb in a truck? What if it happens before my books and my telescope and my tools get here? Before I can imagine taping the windows up and putting towels under the door and making a brave face forthe Lady and saying, well. At least we can catch up on our reading. We had the feeling that something like the loss of an entire city must by definition permanently re-order the basic facts of life for everyone, and the feeling felt incontrovertible for a few weeks, inevitable, world historical. And then the truck arrived. The first thing I did was break out my drill so I could build a flight of vaguely cubist stairs to get us up to our loft bed as easily as possible. I moved the good TV so that I could watch it while I was working. When I was done all I could think was that the stairs look nice and that it really is true that there is no meaningful outrage to be had among the comfortable.

Before the arrival of the truck we obsessively followed the coverage of the disaster on a busted TV that had been left in the loft by the previous occupant. It served up pictures and sound, but they were fucked-up pictures and sound, the images and audio distorted as if fighting the grip of some powerful electromagnet, perhaps a tractor beam. I didn't think to take a picture of the images of Katrina as processed by that TV, but I did record an image of James Blake playing Andre Agassi in last year's US Open. We aren't even tennis fans and the tv's funny flicker gave me a headache, but we rooted for Blake all the way anyway, structuring our evenings around the matches. Watching the Open offered us a kind of useful normal, an easy counterbalance to the other images that were still streaming from the screen all day long. We weren't even disappointed when Blake finally lost, made no half jokes about him letting the race down. Instead, we mentally thanked him for all those well-layed matches. There's always next year, we said.

james blake playing andre agassi at the 2005 us open

Next year is here now. Looking back my introduction to LA I am amazed that I stayed here, think: you were kind of out of your head. But what else was there to do in September of 2005 besides go a little off? The moment seemed to call for it, and the subsequent return to a livable middle suggests the simultaneous advent of both real relief and of complete retreat. Slavoj Zizek has a line about utopia where he says (and I'm paraphrasing) that utopias can't be pre-imagined, that the impulse towards utopia is something that strikes you like lightening when you find yourself at a life-or-death juncture, which is to say, precisely when the choice before you is a new world or death. I imagine that thousands of people likely had that lightening strike moment in New Orleans last year, that for the vast majority it came too late to do them any good. You couldn't count the possibilities that drowned after the levees broke, but how many are being pieced together day by day in isolation, away from the television, fragile and portentous? Sitting in my loft the way I still do, watching the various feeds, would I know a utopia if I met one? I want to say "probably not" because I'm negative that way, but really: it's impossible to say. It's only been a year, and you can't tell anything in a year.

Posted by ebogjonson at 3:53 PM | Permalink

August 8, 2006

oh, fudge

Did I just post about getting up early and stuff? Did I mention that I've spent most of the morning on Myspace?

(my first myspace blog posting)

I suppose the logic is that if I get all this wandering, posting, blog reading, emailing shit out of my system before 8AM PST, I am ahead of the game.

Also: This morning I found a very nice blog by black comic / sci-fi writer Pam Noles. She has an interesting post up about a gender-related dust up at the "black creators" panel at the most recent San Diego comic con. (I, of course, had made a not to attend the con that day, but let the usual, proverbial shit got in the way. A lesson to me, let that be.)

Posted by ebogjonson at 8:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

ay em strat-er-rer-gems

So the idea is to set the alarm to get me up early in the morning as if I had some kind of day job, this ideally putting me at the desk before any of my various demons (notorious layabouts!) wake up. We'll see...

Posted by ebogjonson at 8:10 AM | Permalink

July 9, 2006

499 coffeeshops to go before I sleep


This is the view from Joffrey's Coffee Co in Kendall/Miami. My mom lives hereabouts and Joffrey's is one of the only places nearby that has free wireless, the local Borders and Starbuck's being the kind of places that force you into bed with T-Mobile.

I can't get a damn thing done here. It's quiet and there is food and the ladies behind the counter favor completely chilled out Kruder & Dorfmeister-type remixes but I can't stay focused on the work I came here to do. It's the wifi. There is always an escape hatch ready for me to jump through. But what am I running from? I want to be doing this writing, don't I?

Posted by ebogjonson at 2:58 PM | Permalink

June 10, 2006

rips valerie

[...] Been too preoccupied to post the last few week or so, mostly because I've been thinking about a friend who passed recently. No great revelations or observations in my head, just the usual questions and sadness.

[...] It's funny how you can be preoccupied by "thinking about something" and yet have a head full of holes and ellipses and unfinished sentences. Some things are get thought but remain unspoken, some are unspeakable, some you recognize as being pointless as utterance in that there is no real audience for them except (of course) for the missing one, who, as far as you can tell, can't get the message. (Can you?) So you sit and keep thinking, and if you are particularly attuned to your own rhythms and pitfalls you find something to do with your hands. Blogging was obviously not one of those things. Instead I've been running my mouth to folks on the phone, I've been playing videogames and going to the gym - completely mundane and banal. I think crazy things on the elliptical trainer, like how getting hit by a train is such and awful, gruesome way to die. I stare out the gym window at the LA skyline and shake my head, think what kind of crazy guts it takes to kill yourself that way. I listen to music and the words make all kinds of unexpected sense to me. I stop in the middle of a set, rewind for a second listen. I am desperately grateful for every chance to pay attention, connect.

[...] Everyone is avoiding the word "suicide" except when they are using it privately. But we don't know what happened, do we? When there is so much ambiguity about an event choosing one possibility over another says more about the chooser than the event we are purportedly trying to understand. So what is it about me that makes me keep turning to one point of view, one interpretation? What do I get out of it?

[...] I don't think I've ever fully gotten over the death of someone I have known in any kind of intimate, liminal way, but that's no unique pain; it's likely the same for everyone. The literal and figurative arms that have held you can be those of a lover or parent or child, or maybe just those of a favored dance partner or fondly remembered teacher or trusted co-worker, but no matter the connection these are people that for the rest of your life you could put a blindfold on and still ID - from their smell, from the characteristic hang of a hand around your neck, from the particular, tell-tale route their mind likes to take from point A to B . Their loss is a tragedy in-and-of-itself and then on top of everything it goes and cuts you off irrevocably from the parts of yourself that were forged in partnership with the lost/gone person. These parts of you - memories, places, songs, offices, apartments, streets, friends in common, whole years and biographical chapters - go not so much gone themselves but become hazy and unstable. How can they ever be trusted again, all these people, places and things whose were either made or verified in common?

[...] You lose someone you have known particularly and you rediscover the hard way that your brain is a social organ, that X% of its circuitry, maybe more, was wired collaboratively. Even if those circuits have been sitting dormant for decades there is a sense in which they are at peace with their quiescence as long as the other coder (partner in code?) is still there in the world, doing their thing. And then they're not in the world and besides the sadness and anger and guilt there is all this feedback, a buzzing in your ears that indicates a node in the network is missing.

[...] You lose someone you once knew particularly well (but not so well lately) and you sit around wishing everything was different. That you had been there more, that you had reached out or checked in more effectively. And then you're dumbstruck - yes, of course. Everything already is different, has been for years. You should have grieved a little the morning you woke up and it occurred to you that you had not spoken to them in months and months and months. You should have

[...] I want to write "rest in peace, Valerie" but I can't. The words feel a formal affectation concerned more with the problem of ending this post than with anything to do with my grief or her life. I guess I want out of this post in a way that actually means something, but that's a taller order than I feel up to now. So how about I just stop?

[...] But rest in peace, Valerie. I miss you. You really did have a great, gigantic laugh. It burst out of you and made everything it attended yours.

Posted by ebogjonson at 11:40 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 at 5:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 9, 2006

500 coffeeshops to go before I sleep

Found this on Slashdot:

Cubicles: The great mistake Even the designer of the cubicle thinks they were maybe a bad idea, as millions of 'Dilberts' would agree.

Robert Oppenheimer agonized over building the A-bomb. Alfred Nobel got queasy about creating dynamite. Robert Propst invented nothing so destructive. Yet before he died in 2000, he lamented his unwitting contribution to what he called "monolithic insanity."

Propst is the father of the cubicle. More than 30 years after he unleashed it on the world, we are still trying to get out of the box. The cubicle has been called many things in its long and terrible reign. But what it has lacked in beauty and amenity, it has made up for in crabgrass-like persistence.

[...]

The cubicle was not born evil, or even square. It began, in fact, as a beautiful vision. The year was 1968. Nixon won the presidency. The Beatles released The White Album. And home-furnishings company Herman Miller (Research) in Zeeland, Mich., launched the Action Office. It was the brainchild of Bob Propst, a Coloradan who had joined the company as director of research.

After years of prototyping and studying how people work, and vowing to improve on the open-bullpen office that dominated much of the 20th century, Propst designed a system he thought would increase productivity (hence the name Action Office). The young designer, who also worked on projects as varied as heart pumps and tree harvesters, theorized that productivity would rise if people could see more of their work spread out in front of them, not just stacked in an in-box.

The new system included plenty of work surfaces and display shelves; partitions were a part of it, intended to provide privacy and places to pin up works in process. The Action Office even included varying desk levels to enable employees to work part of the time standing up, thereby encouraging blood flow and staving off exhaustion.

But inventions seldom obey the creator's intent. "The Action Office wasn't conceived to cram a lot of people into little space," says Joe Schwartz, Herman Miller's former marketing chief, who helped launch the system in 1968. "It was driven that way by economics."

[...]

[Stewart Brand, co-creator of the Whole Earth Catalog] says that the most productive people he knows have developed ways to work outside offices, not in them. Brand himself worked out of a converted shipping container in Sausalito for seven years and now commutes to a beached fishing boat a few yards from his house. He sees two workspaces rising up to compete with the modern office: homes and what might be called the third space--i.e., Starbucks.

full article

I've got a fairly narrow rotation of "third spaces" that includes the above pictured Groundworks Cafe in Downtown, LA. Having access to range of sunny public spaces, each with their own mood and tenor, is amazing, but they all also have their own unique distractions - bad music, for example, or the seductions of eavesdropping or over-immersion in the (perceived) lives of the staff. Then there's what me and my cafe buds like to shorthand as TML -> Too Many Ladies.

Another thing is that the ubiquity of wireless access means that the great, subversive weapons in humanity's fight against the bosses (loafing, IM, debating whether or not that forward is "work friendly") suddenly become weapons against yourself in a cafe.

Time permitting (wink-wink; what else do you have but time when cruising the wireless-enabled coffeeshops of LA) I'll upload more pics of the various places.


Posted by ebogjonson at 2:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

October 7, 2005

lady and cat



lady gives cat love; sauces seem sad

Posted by ebogjonson at 9:58 PM | Permalink

October 4, 2005

humility inc

My man calls me up with a martini-fueled brainstorm yesterday: "Accept your lameness," my man says, "it's what makes you human/not an asshole." He announces that he will soon be building a Dr. Phil-type self-help empire on the back this insight and that he intends to plow the resulting proceeds into the shooting of cinematic genre epics (and associated videogames) whose core aesthetic conceit will be the image of Africans on horseback. Like, lots of them.

My man rocks. He dreams the funny, big, transformative dream. Me, in the grips of a monster case of geographic dislocation, PTSD, and general disorientation, I am thinking: I should maybe get down with his program. How's that serenity prayer go again? "Eshun-Elegba, grant me the strength to change endure accept yackity smack what it is I need to change endure accept yackity smack?"

My man's proposed empire is built out of humility and I have always had a hard time with humility. This is an odd trait for someone whose inner voice is long practiced in telling him "you suck!", but a certain aristocratic and high-yellow grandiosity is unfortunately one of my main defects, so much so that my own ambition inhibits my ability to do the work at times. I mean, why bother? It won't be a good as the other man's work, or even the work of my countless in-group friends and pals and neighbors. And I'm getting gray on top of it all, should finished that shit circa 1996.

(And by the way? You suck.)

Moreover, I've been down with the Miltonian devilish thing - i.e., that it's better to rule in hell than serve in heaven - for so long that accepting my lame lot feels a little funny. Accepting my lameness may hold the promise of a liberatory exhale, but it also holds the terror of a final seeming admission of defeat. Ruling in hell keeps the game afoot. I mean, the thing about the devil isn't just that his ego prevents him from serving his lord, it's that the motherfucker figured/figures he has some kind of actual shot. Dude believes he just might win, which is reason enough by his lights (and I guess mine) to risk it all. Fidelity to possibility - which is to say to himself - even past the point of seeming reckoning is what keeps the devil in hell.

When I think about the devil and lameness and me and my man, what I come away with is that my man is full of god's love. Not like a hot Cylon is full of god's love - which is to say, full of fundamentalist insanity - but full of god's love in the measured, post-Vatican II, socially conscious way the lay teachers at my Catholic high school were filled with god's love. It's the only possible explanation. He proposes to not only forgive himself but to lay out a path whereby others can come to forgive themselves in turn, which is to say, lay out a path whereby others can come to forgive themselves through him.

Me, I self-abuse by identifying with the devil. My man - unguarded by drink - bursts with Christ-like enthusiasms.

It must be why we're friends; we need to start a production company.

Posted by ebogjonson at 3:12 PM | Permalink

August 19, 2005

moving

[the following was written yesterday and posted today. Which means today's post will likely be coming tomorrow.]

Getting ready for the big move LaLaish next week. The last five or so days have been marked by an inclining line of smallish detail and repetitive action - paying movers, turn-off calls, filling containers, throwing out trash, packing, post-packing - the peak/crescendo coming this morning with the near-simultaneous arrival and departure of the flatbed conveying my containers west. I watched the truck leave and then stood on my soon-to-be ex-sidewalk for an uncomfortable while wondering what I should be feeling, but the best I could come up with was "empty." Between the packing and the long good-byes (to a live TiVo, for example, and Mike and me's project to watch every episode of Angel) I hadn't sleep all night, and as I stumbled off to Mike's to crash (my own bed being gone) I felt disoriented, disembodied, weightless.

Except for the trash on the floor, all my shit is gone. I kept thinking this on the short walk to Mike's. I am completely fucking shitless.

Moving always inspires unpleasant confrontations of the me-on-me sort. I have no reckoning of the hours I've put into contemplating yellowed scraps of paper, but they must number in the dozens. Each scrap was not so much a record as a branching where I was asked to choose between literally shredding the past and wallowing in it. Documents related to youthful financial indiscretion were the most powerful talismans, as were the physical traces of the proverbial pussy hunt. Old receipts, unpaid bills, scary tax documents, collection notices for accounts (ATT celly?) I forgot I had, the transcript of my brief and incomplete brush with graduate education, emphatic letters from long-gone lovers, manuscripts, drafts - whether shredded or piled they comprised a not-so-thin layer of detritus left over from a kind of negative New Years, a non-celebration honoring a pernicious strain of memory where the past lingers in perpetuity as debilitating anti-possibility.

Contemplating the draft documents was a whole special kind of hard. Why do I have so many drafts? I wish the answer was "because I'm a writer," but the hermetic nature of my output suggests quite the opposite. I'm actually a hoarder, a lexical retentive who shits out literal piles of it in order to better fill the bottom of desk drawers. In the last few days I've held in my hands two short novels, maybe ten stories, card stacks for at least six screenplays. All of it unpublished/unshot, of course. Who knew I had been so fruitlessly productive? Some of this shit is so old, it's printed in dot matrix on perforated paper and comes topped off by now incomprehensible headers identifying long-disappeared printer locations, the printer at the old 824 Broadway Village Voice building, for example. There's a Virgin and a multiplex at 824 now, has been for years.

Now that the moving is done, I think it'll be good to get the fuck out of here and perform another memory purge in LA. (I packed the shredder.) I'm infinitely grateful to Cambridge/MA for being the place where I met Ingrid and Mike, and I'm glad for the many, many other amazing people this place brought into my life. Still, I can't say that I'll look back to the last three years as much more than an interregnum, a transitional zone where I sat back a bit and let some of the lies I'd been telling myself about my career run their course and collapse. The day-job I had here is ultimately what taints this place. The more late nights I put into my gig, the more I sacrificed, the more my ascent was linked to constructive engagement with organizations/persons I had previously found objectionable, the more the gig itself became a matter of interpreting fickle organizational mandates (as opposed to following core creative or ethical precepts) - well, the more of all that, and the more hollowed out I was becoming. What will likely endure feels less than the sum of my recent effort: a few sterling lines added to my resume, an impressive salary history, a raft of lessons learned, a more-than-passing acquaintance with the great crack of mediocrity that runs like an active fault-line through the world and (by virtue of an awful distributive property) myself.

Fuck it. What I need to do is to accept the gifts of this time (friends, the lady, the man's money in my pocket) and learn its lessons (bought-out corporate negroes are boring, white corporate negroes are worse; strive to work for self or for the undeniably like minded; speak and lead under my own steam and in my own name, as opposed to with/under the sign system of the various media machines) without wallowing in the oddly soothing pleasure of scab-picking. Which means fuck this too, i.e., this posting, or at the very least the tone/modality this posting represents. These words are a form of dangerous and constricting self-abuse (auto-asphyx without the eros), and now that I've adequately indulged myself - look at the time! - it's off to the enormous room to see some people I like and will greatly miss. These are people who will tell me to stop whinging when they read these words, people who tonight will stare brightly into my face to ask/demand if I'm excited about my move. Their belief in the world's possibilities will beam out at me like a searchlight. They've (god know why) decided that I'm a reliable mirror for their faith, and I'll not dishonor them or it by blah-blah-blahing the shit on my floor into an existential metaphor.

It's just the most banal of facts, really. There's inevitably some shit left on the floor when you move, doubly so when you like to keep things and think about them. No more and no less.

Posted by ebogjonson at 5:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)