"He reflected how much, in the many years that had passed, he had defined himself by his difference from his friends, differences felt in that degree of detail which is obtained by continuous careful talking."
"Christianity spoils its believers as spoilt children are spoilt."
Iris Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood
Don't you hate it when people keep telling you their dreams?
Mum and I are at the beach, somewhere in Marin. She's lounging in a deckchair, wearing sunglasses, very glam. A plane swoops low over the city. Something falls from its belly. I stare, uncomprehending, until the penny drops. I pull Mum down and try to shield her body with mine. "Is this another one of your silly nuclear war nightmares?" she asks, irritated. The fire sweeps towards us across the water and burns the clothes off my back.
I wake up, terrified, and go to work. It turns out that the headquarters of Red Hat and Caldera have been destroyed by atomic bombs. My coworkers and I discuss it, bewildered: What was the point of that? Who will be next? Above our office, the bomber engines grow louder.
I wake up, terrified, and go to school. Russell Crowe tries to seduce me, but I'm more interested in his lasagne.
It's on genetic engineering! Celebrity guest is Eduardo Blumwald of UC Davis, inventor of a tomato plant that desalinates salted earth. $5 donation requested. All welcome. Fun will be had.
The Bedrock Theater Company is doing a reading of Macbeth, with Debbie Leeding as Macbeth. I'm the director, and I urge her to underplay "sleep no more".
Sarah Michelle Gellar deliberately runs me over in her SUV.
My friends Jonathan and Recheng have a baby boy and name him Giaaq.
We drop off Nancy and Colin at Circus Circus in Reno, but as we're driving away I realize it wasn't Circus Circus at all. The sky turns black.
"The ancients decorated their sarcophagi with symbols of life and procreation, some of them even obscene. For the ancients, in fact, the sacred and the obscene were very often one and the same. Those people knew how to honor death. Death is to be honored as the cradle of life, the womb of renewal. Once separated from life, it becomes grotesque, a wraith - or even worse. For as an independent spiritual power, death is a very depraved force, whose wicked attractions are very strong and without doubt can cause the most abominable confusion of the human mind."
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain, translated by John E. Woods.
Auden, towards the end of his life, repudiated the poem I quoted from last week. "The reason (artistic) I left England and went to the US was precisely to stop writing poems like "Sept 1st 1939", the most dishonest poem I have ever written," he said. "A hang-over from the UK. It takes time to cure oneself." And: "If, by memorability, you mean a poem like "Sept 1st 1939", I pray to God that I shall never be memorable again."
The Onion has excelled itself.
So my baby brother Alain turned 32 yesterday. 32! The fact is, people are always as old as they were when I first met them, so that Jeremy is permanently 24, and Kay will never be older than 10, and Alain is 19 months old. We're practically twins.
He's wanted a proper American football for ages, and I tried to buy one from the online NFL store last year, and they screwed me around, so I didn't. So no link for them. Anyway, I was at the Seybold keynote this morning, and after I'd finished absorbing fun facts about Apple (10.1 looks pretty slick), I went into Copeland's Sports on Market and demanded the finest football money could buy.
It was really expensive. But it's pretty fine. It's a Wilson, which is good, apparently, and it's made out of dead pig; also good, I'm told. "Designed for the serious competitor/professional" it warns, in a handsome navy font on cardboard of beaten gold. "To revitalize tacky grip, buff with a stiff brush." Words to live by.
I'm planning to be in Queensland in January, so I'll give it to him then. I thought about keeping it as a surprise, but then, you know, I thought better of it. So I called. Yay, international telecommunications. I love how you can just punch in a number and be talking to your brother 13000km away.
"To revitalize tacky grip, buff with a stiff brush," I told him.
"You bought me a blow-up doll!" he cried in glee.
It's the right football!
"It's sitting on my desk, quietly glowing," I said.
"That's what it'll do when I get it," he said. "Except I'll make a few passes."
"Oh you can't play with it. It's way too good."
"Only indoors," said Alain.
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
NOT, I'll not, carrion
comfort, Despair, not feast on
Not untwist -- slack they may be -- these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry: 'I can no more.' I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.
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