Men. Women. Just Saying.

Heart-rending story in the New York Times, The Life and Death of Therapist Bob Bergeron.… but perhaps not in the way you think. Depending perhaps on whether you are gay, a man. I’m not, but the beauty-fade? The loss of looks?  Getting old? The Creeping Decrepits, my son calls them. He, however, is only eighteen years younger than I, so he’ll get his. (He’s a Good Boy.) (Also a Senior GeoTech engineer, so I probably won’t be sending him this post.) You know the first thing I was thinking? Ladies,  do we kill ourselves when our looks disappear? The bright and shiny looks of youth? Noooo. And guys: this meat market, the whole guy hookup thing. Of which the Bergeron obit writes so blithely, so blindly. You think maybe it’s a tad empty? A tad suicidal, in and of itself?

Continue reading “Men. Women. Just Saying.”

North Korea: Failure to Launch


I never watch the news, but you know what I saw on the news? The fucking humanitarian aid, the food and supplies, North Korea receives?  The North Korean people are told that these are tributes. To their Leader. Then, if they’re lucky, I guess they get to eat.

I imagine the sun shines and the rice grows to the greater glory of the current Kim. I imagine all of creation has been made into one big tribute—especially the bad parts. For there is no one for turning his own crimes into personal glory like the professional narcissist. But even if all you know is the amateur, it’s all the same. The absence, the carefully cultivated inability to acknowledge other people. These people are the Sun King, in their own lives.

Continue reading “North Korea: Failure to Launch”

Letting Go Of Steve

steveJobs had been teaching us to say goodbye to all that for decades — we just didn’t know it.

… in these final years, when the auditorium lights in would go down and the crowd would go wild for Jobs, who increasingly greeted his followers and touted the latest neat, new thing even as he wore the look of a person who was not going into that future with us.

He would be getting off here; we were to proceed without him … Let it go and look ahead was the message all along.
Hank Stueval in the Washington Post

Okay, I’m going to cry some more.

Such a lovely piece. Not that Steve’s death has sunk in—I can’t think of anything weirder than seeing the words Steve Jobs and Dead together. Was there ever anybody more alive, more publicly embracing of this temporary condition we call our lives. And Jobs and I had so much in common. Hippies who wouldn’t take direction from anybody, the kind of people who have to do things their own way. Perhaps that’s what made it so personal; I recognized his star—you know, the one by which you set your course. Not that my own outcome didn’t fall apart, but still, if you are born that way, you are. Continue reading “Letting Go Of Steve”

The Shock of the New


On Richard Brody’s New Yorker Blog, the DVD of the Week is that fave, that treasure, Terrence Malick’s Badlands.

Brody writes:

It’s a jolt to see “Badlands” again after having seen the new movie; what seems, in the earlier film, to have been mere hints, adornments, and suggestions—background gleams, silhouettes, shots of nature and landscape, a fascination with the celestial, a sense of the cosmic …

And I am like, stop right there! What about those crickets and other night cries in “Days of Heaven.” What about those “background gleams” that sure as hell came to the forefront in the prairie fire. Silhouettes—Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, swiping at the fire with what was it, their shirts? Tricky fire, it seemed so small, so manageable, before it swept the plains. Just clumps of grass.

Grass. What a motif, throughout Malick’s work. The New World … nothing but grass whispers, until, y, Colin Farrell appears like a god, from nowhere the natives had imagined, ever had reason to imagine. The Thin Red Line. Must I go on? It is a pleasure to go on.

Then a commenter gets his pants in a knot. I make it a rule not to read comments, because they always spoil the damn piece.

… Kael’s opinion wasn’t based solely on the performance style of the actors. She says, “Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek) are emotionless, and the film looks at them emotionlessly.” She says that “Kit and Holly are kept at a distance, doing things for no explained purpose; it’s as if the director had taped gauze over their characters, so we wouldn’t be able to take a reading on them.” If any “mistake” has been made, it’s been made by you, Richard Brody, in your consistently skewed interpretations of Kael’s words.

Like Pauline Kael was someone to look to on the subject of emotion? Kael, as quoted here, is so misguided, I can’t help but think she was threatened by all that Malick foretold—not her kind of film. And film was hers, then.

For if Kit and Holly represented anyone, it was precisely nowhere kids like them: bored, without resource, without a future. Kit grabbed at what everyone grabs at now: fame. Via murder? Does the shooter care?

And Holly? Didn’t you know phlegmatic girls like Holly back in school?

Then you didn’t grow up in a small town. Where no one gave a thought to a college education. Where your life held no surprises. Only risk.

I left Mr. Pants a reply. Funny how you can care about a film.

Maybe it’s an age thing, or where you grew up, but nothing could convey that empty forward push of people like Kit and Holly than their “emotionless” demeanor. Which shows them as all the more lost, in the modern world to come.

Meaning Beyond Question

All I know is, my soul is a pest. Or whatever is that internal thing that has kept yammering away, lo these many decades. Always with a very clear idea of what is right. Not what was easy, at the time, or even possible. Certainly not taking my children into consideration, when I was young and most wretchedly married. Just, Move on, move on. You’re going to leave here, sooner or later. One of the leavings was without my children—and I have never been able to explain why that was something I had to do. Granted, I thought it would be a separation of months—but back then, and perhaps still, a girl who would do such a thing was a slut. Beyond slut: inexplicable. I simply knew that if I had to move to Iowa and live in married-graduate student housing, I would kill myself. Having seen the sad and depressed women who lived in the same at Princeton, which I figured to be a fucking palace compared to Iowa.

Women then had nothing to do but childcare, which is a really boring thing, as occupations go. And the grad student housing itself had wallboard that picked apart in shreds, the rooms were tiny, it was terribly hot. I saw enough. We lived in a cottage, as my then-husband’s family knew someone, a family so extended it was hard to go anywhere in America and not know someone. In truth, for a while I wanted to fit in with them, it was ever so much better than my family, which had no influence at all–except for my father’s fellow physicists, scattered along the Eastern seaboard at just enough removal so that every night, when we travelled north or south, there was always someone from whom to cadge dinner. For all six of us. Something I did not know was strange until I studied the whole autistic-spectrum thing and began to see my parents for who they were. People hugely without a social clue, which is where shades of autism show up. Who saw nothing wrong with arriving, four children in tow, just in time for dinner. I remember clear as day my father checking his watch, noting that it was ten to six, and, getting out his address book, punching into a pay phone the number of tonight’s potential suckers. And the worried look on the wife’s face of the wife, trying to make her bean casserole stretch.  Wondering, I realized later, how to feed another six people, while my mother sat silent, mortified—but then, she was always mortified—as the husbands talked physics or whatever the hell it was they talked.

The soul so intimately tied up with memory. When everything fell into place later, in adulthood, I realized most of what my soul had nattered on about was the normal. Healthful. Not a massively distorted life. It definitely wanted and still wants for me to live amongst people who love me, and whom I love. Something I’ve had very brief experience of. And trying to stay sane in the midst of thought-disordered people is the biggest damn energy-suck. The point always was, I coulda been a contender. Instead of a bum. Which is of course what I turned out to be.

Words to that effect.


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Who’s Sorry Now

Of all the scenes in the book, the one most resembling the later life of the Tolstoys is not a Levin-Kitty scene, but the final row between Vronsky and Anna just before she goes out to throw herself under a train. Tolstoy’s mastery of the feat of simultaneously putting the reader inside the heads of both characters as well as his own, as if the ball is being tossed from Anna to Vronsky to the narrator at high speed without ever being dropped, is one of the supreme moments of craft in all fiction … James Meek, LRB

A statement so disarming, I had to go find it.

In rereading even this small part of the novel, I was struck that Tolstoy turned Anna into someone who had to destroy. Was this supposed to be her guilt, then? Her self-punishment? The nagging, clinging woman she seemed to will herself to become was nothing like the Anna we first met. I suppose we all do this. Historically. Take great leaps of faith and then, as day follows night, render upon ourselves in spades precisely what society thinks of us, the society whose norms we have so dashingly ignored. The moral? Well, for one thing — when it pays off — this is probably how women have always gotten ahead, gotten a leg up in a world made by men. You have to defy.

The second part, the tearing it all down—perhaps it comes of not really knowing what love is. What it’s for. Romantic love is simply not transformative. Did Anna think so? I expect she simply struggled with and failed, as we so often do, at the more difficult task of finding meaning for herself. And it drove her mad.

What I found was a perfect bit of modernity …

“Oh, by the way,” he said at the very moment she was in the doorway, “we’re going tomorrow for certain, aren’t we?”
“You, but not I,” she said, turning round to him.
“Anna, we can’t go on like this…”
“You, but not I,” she repeated.
“This is getting unbearable!”
“You … you will be sorry for this,” she said, and went out.

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Special, Not Special


As a result of the blending of reality and fantasy, some women have chosen to willingly play along by a new set of rules in order to keep their men interested: They’re intentionally impersonating porn stars. Sadie, a real-estate agent, says, “A lot of guys have come to expect P.S.E. [the “Porn-Star Experience”] as a common thing — snatches waxed bald, access to every hole —and plenty of women are more than happy to provide. A few might enjoy it, but for most it’s harrowing. I think there’s a fear that if they can’t make it happen, their boyfriend will retreat online.” New York Magazine

Continue reading “Special, Not Special”

More Than A Disgrace

Rereading Seymour Hersch in The New Yorker. Christ, it’s searing. Explain to me what the Rumsfelds of this world, the Gonzales’, explain to me what the prize is. Or is it just that when you no longer feel what other humans feel, you are capable of anything.

These mild men. Not-men. Our own, pale Eichmanns.

The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservist but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoner in Iraq.

According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.

“Generate more intelligence.” That’s bureaucrat for: “If you torture them, people will give up the really valuable information.”

Jesus, the gasping stupidity of it all. Continue reading “More Than A Disgrace”