The Thought Sink
(Existential Journalism)
Wednesday, November 03, 2010:

Time is not kind. I won't bother trying to summarize everything that's happened in the past five update-free years; I know all my readers are gone, with perhaps one exception. Hi Alfred! So let's just get to what has prompted me to write again:

My father has a carpentry job, the first in months. He needs someone to help him, and yesterday I agreed to do it. It will probably take around a week. I was very hesitant about it; being in close quarters with my father can be a hell worth no amount of money. I'm not sure why I said yes, exactly. We started today, and before I was even officially "on the clock", dad was demonstrating his masterful talent for bullshit.

To my surprised relief, though, he mellowed out pretty fast once we got in the shop and started working. I've been starting to develop a sense in the past month, probably a decade overdue, that he needs art in some form to be happy, and through that happiness somewhat mentally healthy, and that form for him is usually carpentry. Which is something he's been doing less and less of for the past five years or so.

I started this post too late. Let's see if I can power through.

Several years ago my father tried to start a business making rocking horses. Many people pointed out to him over and over that his business plan wasn't so much full of holes as entirely composed of a single giant one, but despite this he persisted in pouring roughly thirty thousand dollars into that hole over the course of two years. He never really appeared to come to terms with the fact that it wasn't working; instead, he just eventually ran completely out of money. At present count, there are twenty-six completed rocking horses still in his workshop, hanging from ceiling hooks; this does not include the shelves of parts for horses that were never assembled. These are the leftovers, the ones dad couldn't give away as gifts, or convince friends to buy and give away as gifts themselves.

I haven't spent much time in his workshop since the router accident.

(Nope, looks like I can't power through. Crap. This is getting fixed in the morning, when this message will be removed.) 
Wednesday, March 02, 2005:
  Words Fail

There may be times in your life when you make a statement with great emotion, believing it to be very important; and then, later- maybe many years later- you realize that you didn't really understand the meaning of what you were saying when you said it. You realize that as important as you thought your statement was, it was yet a far more serious thing to say than you knew. And then this amazing thing happens: you discover that despite this, despite not knowing the true meaning of this important thing that you were saying at the time when you were saying it, you meant it anyway.

Marriage vows can work like this. When I was fourteen years old, I told my father I would never trust him again. I did not understand what that meant at the time; never the less, without intending to, I ended up doing it. Words are funny like that.

I ask myself, very often, "What should I say? What needs to be said, and how should I say it?" This question is a source of a great deal of frustration in my life. And the lesson I have learned from it, against my will, is the same that guides the advice of a wise and compassionate person on comforting the grief stricken: do not try and converse unless they ask you to; only make your presence known, and be with them in silence.

There are times when there is nothing to say.

What to do then, when words will not serve? Faced with the task of giving someone terrible news, and wishing to find some way of not hurting them with it, should you not speak at all? Of course not. Why does it hurt so much, then, if this is clearly what we must do? Why is there a heartbreaking necessity of lying about reality, and a heartbreaking impossibility of lying about it? Sometimes I have thought: The Universe is Shoddy.

You can get sick of words after awhile. You can hear people talk and talk for years without doing anything, and then you realize that talk is not action. Talk is cheap, plastic crap turned out by the slave-wage Indonesian child factory workers of our brains and shipped out to our mouths and our own ears to keep others placated and our minds fooled. Except, sometimes it is not, sometimes talk is finely crafted, slow aged poison made with intent to hurt, to wound deeply, to scare, to terrorize; to do the worst work of action without the raising of a finger. And then sometimes talk is just lies.

Talk and action. Talk, and action. It makes you want to never speak again. Cannot talk sometimes be action? It seems like it ought to be. It seems like speaking up ought to be taking action. It seems to me like taking a stand and saying what must be said over and over in the face of incredible opposition and threats to life and limb ought to be worthy of being action. I admire anyone who does that. But maybe it is just talk.

Sometimes, I think I might have something to say. Sometimes I think that there might be important messages out there, waiting to be discovered, and that if we could just find them and give them to each other then things would start making sense. And much better than that: we would know what we should do. And then sometimes I see people sneer at truth; I hear them mock ideas powerful enough that they force others to stop and think; and then I think, there are no messages for these people. They cannot hear.

At these times I find that I stop speaking; I stop writing; I stop believing in words.

What do you write about after you learn that words fail?

What do you write about after you learn that some people will not listen; that good words can be meaningless and bad words can be meaningful; and that sometimes words will not serve simply because there is nothing for you to say?

The Universe is Shoddy. Language is to truth as the sea is to a ship. Speakers and Sailors embark at their peril.

Still, it may not be the best way to get there; but it is the only way.

Alright then, if that is the way it is going to be. I can deal with this. I can accept it. I have the serenity for that; just as I have the strength to make changes. We can arrest language and strip from it the title of communication; we can seize words and divest them of their assumption of meaning. We can construct a dialogue which is tenacious and supple, that falls like a hammer but cuts like a knife. We can learn to tell the differences between what is said, what is done, what is thought, and what actually is; and when we find truth we can fire it with speech and forge it with action.

What do you write about? Do like they had you do in school. First, make a list. Now,

Pick a topic: 
Thursday, July 08, 2004:
  Primary Master Hard Disk Fail

Perrine's Literature, the textbook for my recently completed Composition and Rhetoric II course, defines poetry at one point as "a kind of language that says more and says it more intensely than does ordinary language."

The are times when the economy and specificity of technical jargon approaches poetry; five impassive words glowing faintly in white on a black screen constitute an impressive understatement. I found myself reading them over and over three months ago, when the hard disk drive of the obsolete, patchwork amalgam of computer parts that hunches under my desk lost its will to live. There was no warning for this.

I was maddened by the thing at the time, maddened to the point of dropping all other tasks and wasting hours booting the computer in an attempt to get it to wake up. I did this despite the fact that there was no important information for school trapped on the computer, and other computers were available to me to do school work. I was angered by the sheer lightning-out-of-the-blue-sky randomness of it, angry enough that I obsessively focused on it to my detriment. Eventually I had to move on to more pressing things, but I was bitter indeed.

I kept playing with the drive over the next few weeks; with practice I managed to coax it back to life briefly, and it willed me the data in its trust, so there are no longer any hard feelings. May it rest in peace.

But I still have no computer. And the Chattahoochee Technical College library is closed for the break between quarters. So to write these posts, I pretty much have two choices: The Cobb County Public Library System web browsing computers, or my mother's. The public library computers disconnect you every thirty minutes, and the librarians will get angry if they notice you've been on one too long. This is just a minor annoyance, but I let it bother me more than it should. Right now I am at my mother's place, The Accursed Schoolhouse A whole lot has been going on here lately; but I am going to have to start to tell you about it tomorrow because it is now ten thirty post meridiem and I need to go home and get into bed so I can get up tomorrow at five thirty ante meridiem and go to work.

Wake rested. I will be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004:

Greetings, people of the internet. My name is Robin. This is my Thought Sink.

My thought sink is a blog I created in October of last year, with a specific idea for what I would put into it, a general idea of what I wanted out of it, and a vague idea of who might read it.

I am a person who wants to improve himself, his life, and his world, in that order. All of these things, as far I can see, have been in great need of improvement. So I decided to fix them, even though I did not know how to do so yet, and write down here how I did it.

I started out well, with both the writing and the improving. But before long I got tripped up. I have problems- you can read about some of them in the small archive of this blog- and they are real and serious problems and tackling them once and for always is a great task. And when I grappled with myself, I allowed my publishings to get farther and farther apart. The last post published to this blog was on April fifth, three months ago. After that I floundered.

I am not floundering anymore.

In this blog I have stated that I will keep returning to it- the blog- until it is finished or I am dead. I want to explain here how primary that is. This is a blog about how I become a better person; and gaining the ability to make a long-term commitment and fulfill it is integral to that task. If I become a better person, I will learn to do this and finish the blog. If I do not become a better person, I will die first.

I have also stated that this blog will have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This is still the beginning. I still lack direction, I still lack relentlessness, and I still lack confidence. But I am no longer quite so lost, and I am definitely not stagnant.

I started this blog because I commited to changing myself, and that created a need for a creative exit. I am still not sure why I need that creative exit, but I named it a 'thought sink'. This blog is, first and foremost, my thought sink. I have returned to it because I need it to fulfill my commitment to myself. I have attempted to take control of my life for the first time, and as I have become more and more proficient at staying on top of the uncertainty of my life in the past weeks, I have built up a backlog of thoughts to sink. I have returned here to sink them.

I had trouble writing before; I think that will be less of a problem now. I think I know the name of my block: it is my uncertainty, the uncertainty that I am on top of right now. If I do not know what will happen tomorrow I can hardly write about it; and in my anxiety the past dissolves into nonsense. I am doing everything I can to keep my vision clear right now; I can see weeks ahead, sometimes as much as a year. This is good.

So I am again ready to try and put my life into words. Except that right now it is eleven o'clock at night, and I need to go to bed, because I have to go to work early in the morning.

Good night. I will be back tomorrow. 
Monday, April 05, 2004:
  The Gap

I had a sublime moment earlier today. Something good and important happened, and in the ensuing reassesment of my situation, it dawned on me that I really, really, ought to make a post to my blog.

So here I am.

I make so many mistakes. I am making them almost continuously, and this is funny, because I still get so worked up about each and every one of them. I have little or no capacity to prevent them, but I get worked up about them anyway and get upset and distracted because of it and as consequence make even more mistakes. Sometimes, when I am in a good mood, I start laughing uncontrollably about this. Sometimes the laughing precipitates another mistake.

I have lost track of which information I have and have not diseminated into my thought sink. Some of it I have held back because it requires explanation; some of it I have held back because I am a dork and I want to say it when it will have more impact, like after I have explained why it is important, even if the facts themselves are simple and straightforward and easy to understand.

I do not think that I have yet said that I am living with my father. I am. I have been living with my father since the middle of January. One of the reasons I am doing this is because in my room at my father's house I have great big desk. This is helpful with schoolwork.

I am in a really good mood right now, which is why I cannot sequence my thoughts. It is also why I am writing this so quickly! (I love it when I can write quickly! It is the best feeling I know. Literally. Which is kind of depressing. Which makes me laugh. Which makes me realize I have lost sequence again.)

It is important that things be important, even though they cannot always be so. I have not in the past fully realized the importance of this.

When I was in high school my mother bought me a copy of the book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens. I read some of it. Then a fluke of continuity resulted in me taking the new 'leadership' class my high school's principal was starting, and the book was the class text. So I read it all. Some of the book is good, some is mediocre. A lot of it was completely inapplicable to me. A lot of it was applicable to everyone.

The author of the book was the son of the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which you may have of heard of. The son's book was basically the same book, except with youth metaphors.

One of the habits of highly effective people, the second one if I remember correctly, has to do with the management of time. Phrased as a scientific law, it would state that all activities have two traits which determine their priority: Their urgency, and their importance. All activies have a varying amount of both. Urgency is the extent to which an activity is attached to a certain point in time, generally an impending one. Importance is how unable you are to do without perfoming it. Based on whether they have relatively high or low amounts of either, all activities can be separated into four categories. Urgent and important, not urgent but important, urgent but not important, and not urgent and not important.

For example, specific television shows are generally urgent, but not important. Because you must watch them while they are on, but you can usually do with out them. Answering the telephone is generally urgent, but not always important. Lots of things are urgent and important; we call them emergencies: Fixing a flat tire; Preparing your IRS Tax Form 1040 on April fourteenth.

The second habit of highly effective people is that 'highly effective' people spend as much of their time as possible doing things which are not urgent, but important. Excercise is not urgent, but important. Your taxes were, until April, not urgent, but important. People who spend more time doing things which are not urgent, but important, manage to head off lots of things which are urgent and important. They also spend less time doing things which are urgent, but not important.

I think this idea has philosophical applications, as well as its practical ones.

Because, there is also the category of not urgent, and not important: Just sitting in front of the television, regardless of what is on, is in this category. That that is neither urgent, nor important, is obvious to most of us even though we do it anyway.

But once you relieve yourself of the illusion that urgency equals importance, you will find that what really is important is not always clear.

Somethings are obviously important. Taxes are obviously important.

Some things are not obviously important. Is my thought sink important?

It is definitely not urgent.

For a while, I felt like I had really quit. Not because I was not writing, but because it did not seem important that I was not writing. Then something good and important happened, and in the ensuing reassesment of my situation, it dawned on me that I really, really, ought to make a post to my blog. I found that moment to be sublime.

The reason that I found that moment to be sublime was that it was about looking forward to beginning a task. It also helped that I had just been put into a good mood. You are less apt to find anything sublime right after your dog has been run over.

My apologies for the painful reminder to anyone whose dog was recently run over.

I said that writing quickly is the best feeling I know. Maybe I got that wrong. Or maybe I was not specific enough.

Writing quickly feels good to me because it means I want to do something and I am able to do it, and I am doing it. Looking forward to beginning a task is about wanting to do something and being able to do it, and doing it.

It is the same thing. It is the best feeling I know.

There was that post I posted, last fall, where I stayed up all night to finish it and did not get any sleep and nearly did not make it through work, but I felt great all the same because I had wanted to do something and been able to do it and had done it. That is the feeling. And the sublime part is looking forward to that feeling.

When you do not look forward to a task- that sucks. That drains you. This does not. I hate my life so much, and I always make mistakes, and I hate my mistakes so much, and there is nothing I can do about them, and I am scared of people and I have shitty, shitty, social skills, and I have failed at almost everything over and over and over again; and so I very rarely look forward to doing anything. I cringe and shy away from challenge. I look forward to not doing. That is how I became a quitter. But I have not yet quit this blog, and I will not. I have to keep saying that, or I am afraid I might.

It is sublime to see a task before me and look forward to tackling it. It is the best feeling I know. It makes me write quickly.

*     *     *

This post is titled 'The Gap' because it is about the gap between winter and spring quarter at my college. In The Gap, you are between obligations. Nothing is urgent. You have a week and a half between winter finals and the first day of spring quarter. As The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People tells us, most of us lose it in The Gap. My goal, at the start of the gap, was not to lose it. Not urgent, but important.

I intended to write this post at the start of the gap, and explain about that sublime feeling of looking forward to adversity. I did not do that, and it did not seem terribly important at the time, because I was trying to do things which were not urgent but important. I made a lot of other mistakes, too. I did a lot of things that were not urgent, and not important, too. But I got some very important things done, and I found out that they had, in fact, been somewhat urgent. But I could not have found that out unless I had done them.

I did my taxes. I have never done my taxes before, and I did not know where to begin. It took some figuring, since I could not ask my mother or father for help. They insisted they did not know anything about the subject. I figured it, though, and I expect a return of the lordly sum of twenty-five dollars; that is from my wages at Atlanta Bonded Warehouse. Working for my dad is under the table.

I was doing my taxes because my Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) said that completing my tax form would greatly help me fill out my FAFSA. I filled out and sent my FAFSA during the gap, too. That took some doing as well, because it meant that I had to ask my mother how much money she made in the past year. She did not want to think about that.

Then I applied for transfer to a four-year college. That one was the easiest, and it was the one that upset me the most, because it asked me what I had done since I graduated from high school.

I have not done anything worth mentioning since graduating from high school.

I twisted my mother's arm until she sat down and figured out how much money she had made in the past year, and then I twisted her arm some more until she would give me some advice about the college application. She told me I should just put 'I worked'. I did.

The college I applied to is Georgia Southern University. It has minimal entrance requirements, low tuition, and it is in the middle of nowhere. All in its favor.

I found out, in doing these things, that the GSU deadline for most financial aid was 'postmarked by March 31st'. I had my stuff in the mail a week before then; but it could not have waited, and I would not have known unless I tried to do it. So I am happy about this.

And so my blog did not seem so important. And I started wondering if it was. It can be hard to tell. And it is not like I am doing a good job with it. Is a good book important? Is having a good time with your best friends?

I did not get to looking for a new job during the gap. I spent too much time on my taxes, my FAFSA, and my GSU application. I hedged a lot. I had to collect a lot of information. I was terrified of making a mistake.

Spring quarter classes began on Monday, March 29th. My instructors are an incomprehensibly thick-accented Moscovian refugee for precalculus, an eccentric, frumpy, yet impressively organized woman with... claws... for introduction to psychology, and a young, gregarious, pirate-humored internet entreprenuer for what unexpectedly became a 'hybrid' half on-line, half in-class Compositon and Rhetoric II course.

Last quarter, when I had only one class, and I never got around to posting about it, I had a middle-aged, skinny, shaggy, pimply, heavy smoking, sweater-wearing instructor, with a doctorate, who was very nice to us, but told us that the words 'the', 'a', and 'an' have no real meaning and are interchangeable.

For the entire ten weeks of the class there was a wall clock hanging on the wall above and behind his head, upside-down and tilting slightly, displaying randomly selected times. The instructor had nothing to do with the wall clock. He was only in that classroom for eight hours a week. But I thought it was funny.

My goal for this quarter is study skills. I will need study skills to get through MAT 194 and and ENG 193. I have a lot of goals for this quarter. I might not achieve a lot of them. But that study skills one is a priority.

It is important.

There are a lot of good and bad things about community colleges. One of the good and bad things about community college is that your peers are much older. During the last class, a middle-aged black woman who I had gathered was- and I am not exaggerating- a preacher- handed out business cards to everyone. According to her card, her name is Tincie, and she is, in addition to being a preacher, an 'Employment Marketing Representative' at the Georgia Department of Labor's Cobb/Cherokee County Career Center. She told us to call her if we needed a job. Tincie is a big woman, with a big voice, and I know this is insufferably cheesy, but she has a big heart too.

Tincie had sat in the front of the class and participated vocally in the discussions. So had I. But we were not even aquaintainces; I did not know her name and she probably had not picked up mine. Neverless I recieved a card from her.

I did not get to looking for a new job during the gap. I was not doing anything last friday, at the end of the first week of spring quarter, so I gave it a go.

I have been to the Career Center before. It has decent job listings for professionals, but for someone unskilled like me it can be pretty frustrating; plus it is a long drive. My resume is pathetic.

But after my last job search I decided that driving to the other side of the county for three or four mediocre leads was less of a waste of time than spending an afternoon filling out applications to places that were not even hiring. I called the number on the card to make sure they were open, and got Tincie herself. She told me to bring a copy of my resume and come on in.

My resume is pathetic. I spent three hours grappling with it, and it was still pathetic, so I gave up and printed out some copies and came on in. When I got there I found out Tincie was not even supposed to be at work that day; I got lucky.

There is an awkward system at the Career Center which I do not want to take the time to fully explain. You look up the listings on the computer, but it does not give you any contact information. To get that you have to select up to three jobs on the computer, and then get in line to see a representative, who takes you to a cubicle and checks to see that you are actually qualified for the jobs, and then gives you the contact information. Getting job listings this way can take a while.

What do you know? I took the time to fully explain it.

Anyway, Tincie came out and found me before I had relearned to use the computer system and picked my three jobs, and sent me in to see a representative without having to wait. She had some particular employer in mind, who was hiring a lot. She said it was a shame that I had not come in the day before when they were at the Career Center, taking applications.

Me going on in kind of messed things up because I had not actually picked listings yet for her to show me, and so I had to go right back out again and relearn the computer system and pick some jobs. But then I got to go right back in again.

To make a long story short, I got three or four mediocre job listings. The best one is for Home Depot; their new landscaping stores are hiring a lot of seasonal workers. I went down there that day and applied.

Funny thing, while I was going through the job listings on the computer, I came across one that I recognized as being from my current employer, Royal Staffing Services. They have not called me with an assignment since February, and I did not even get that one. I made a note to call them and ask them if the listing was bogus, and if it was not, why they were not calling me.

The weekend was a bust. There is a pendulum motion in my level of responsibility; any productive period must be followed by an equally unproductive one.

Have I mentioned that I find looking for a job sickeningly frustrating?

And so my post arrives at today. The beginning of Daylight Savings Time is killing me. I hate Daylight Savings Time. Six months of setting the clock an hour ahead just to trick people into getting up earlier and going to bed earlier.

Ahem. I was saying about today. Let us just say that I am still working on those study skills. I walked two miles, though. Broke a sweat. That was good.

About two o'clock in the afternoon, the white cordless telephone standing upright in the middle of my desk rang. I leaned over to look at it. The built-in caller-id read 'ROYAL STAFFING'.

The nice lady on the other end was calling, unlooked for, to offer me an assignment. Back to Co-Pack, tomorrow morning, bright and early. I took it.

There is a part of me which feels cheapened when I do not choose my own course. I wonder how much of the rest of the world is bothered by this. I am not back in school because I forged resolutely ahead; I am back in school because my mother nagged me incessantly to distraction. Even if I am the one doing all the work. Even if she does not know the first thing about college. She made the decision, I did not. That makes me feel icky inside.

So I am not going back to work tomorrow because I persistently sought out employment. I am going back to work tomorrow because the nice lady noticed my name on the list and remembered it and called me to ask if I was still interested. She made the decision, I did not. That makes me feel icky inside.

And the work is not high-paying. And it can end at any time. And they might tell me that they do not need me after all when I show up tomorrow morning at six-forty five ante meridiem, and send me home.

All the same, I felt really, really good when I got that call. Partly, it could be a lot of things. Partly, it could be that it meant I did not have to keep looking for a job for a while. Partly, it could be that basic human need for acceptance. It feels good to be employed.

But mostly, it was the thought that here was a task which I knew I could handle; A surmountable obstacle. Everything in my life is so goddamned complex. Co-Pack is simple. It is not easy, but it is straightforward. I will pack boxes, for eight hours. And I am looking forward to it. I want to do it and I am able to do it and I will do it. Getting called in was good, and important.

I am still going to follow up on the Home Depot job. That is something not urgent, but important. I am not going to rest on my laurels. (what are laurels?) I am not going to lose it in the gap.

I made myself a turkey and cheese sandwich, on a hoagie bun. It is in the refridgerator, in a brown paper bag, with a Michigan Apple. I have to get up early tomorrow morning, and it is now after midnight. I started writing this post at seven o'clock, in the library at school, and I am finishing it more than five hours later in my room in my father's house. For some reason blogging from this room makes me uncomfortable. I prefer the library, but it closes at nine.

Dad just walked in the door. He was at shule, or the synagogue, because to-night is passover night. He is going to bed. So am I. Sleep is now urgent and important.

May Azrael leave you and all those you hold dear untouched this night, and may you all have good days tomorrow.

Every day I am more and more convinced that everything is connected. 
Tuesday, March 09, 2004:

Something was/is/went (will go, can go?) wrong.

It took me a while to realize that something was wrong; I had gotten a handle on showing up to blog, and I had been so focused on overcoming that obstacle that the idea that it was not all clear sailing beyond did not want to sink in. So for a week I came to the library and sat in front of the computer and failed to write. Eventually I did realize that I was wasting my time.

The poet, the one who said that "unnamed poems are like unnamed children", whose name I still need to go look up- he also said that poets should read good poems for three hours every day, or they will exhaust their resources prematurely. At any rate, staring at the blinking cursor on the screen for sixty minutes straight was driving me batty. I felt that my clutch had disengaged; I was pressing down on the pedal quite hard, and my brain was screaming, but nothing was coming out again. I took a break, and went back to my beloved library and checked out Catch-22, by Joseph Heller, which I have been meaning to read for years.

Somewhere or other I picked up the presumption that Catch-22 was satire of the style found in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy; they do bear a very strong resemblance at times. Very slowly, though, the book revealed that it had more in common with Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. After reading so much Vonnegut in the past months, and absorbing his relentless criticism of the Vietnam Conflict by contrasting it with World War Two, the idea of a satire that in any way specifically criticized World War Two stunned me. Catch-22 was excellent, confusing, hysterical, witty, too long, profound, and horrific.

Thanks to synchronisity, when I turned on the television for the only time all week and started surfing, I found the end of Catch-22 playing on the AMC channel. The scene where Snowden reveals his secret had been filmed, and then the secret itself had been edited out by the Federal Communications Commision. The effect was quite like that at the end of the televised version of Shawshank Redemption, in which Red says that Andy swam through a river and came out clean on the other side.

I felt better after reading the book; but for some reason I did not immediately go back to writing about my mother. Maybe one can concentrate on the subject of one's parent's history for only so long without going mad. Maybe I got distracted with learning how to prepare my taxes, or with the research paper that I have to turn in on Thursday.

Each time I go to the library I check out more books than I can possibly read, and end up returning most of them without doing so. When I picked up Catch-22, I got waylaid by the Science Fiction and Fantasy paperback rack, which happens every time I go to the library, and it would not let me pass until I took On A Pale Horse. The book languished on top of one of the many stacks of things in my room for a while, unattended and uncared for like most of my library overflow, until one afternoon when I, on the rebound from Catch-22's depressing, tainted love, seized it unawares and ravished it in one six-hour sitting. The book amused me.

The author of On A Pale Horse, Piers Anthony, put an extended author's note at the end of the book which amounted to an extra chapter. It has some cute anecdotes, and a discussion of the writing process.

Piers Anthony claims to be the only writer he knows of which never has writer's block. He says that he has become such an overman through the use of his secret writing technique, which he described in detail and demonstrated. It consists, primarily, of continuing to write regardless of whether or not he can think of what to write next. He says that when he hits a rough spot, he just 'starts a bracket ', and begins freewriting until he feels ready to return to the text at hand. He says his brackets are filled mostly with notes on other writing projects, and other parts of whatever project the bracket is in.

[There has got to be something else I can start a sentence with besides 'He says'. I have just used that phrase three times in one paragraph. Argh. "He says he does this. He says blah blah blah. He says he is a great writer. He says his daughter is cute. He says he likes writing in the freezing cold in a log cabin with a typewriter. He says Magee's Fez exceeds the Fed's fleece regs." Something is dripping on my shoulder. Oh no, wait... it is okay. It is just my brain.]


So the moral of the story is... wait a minute, I have not finished the story.

Well, okay, so I have finished the story. But I need to explain again about my perfectionism. For the umpteenth time.

I want to write this story elegantly, profoundly, and relentlessly. I want to be a machine. I want to crank out pamphlets until they bury the reality studio. I want to be able to publish my posts with the rhythm, grace, and punctuality of Cassius Clay's fists.

I do not know what really constitutes obsessive-compulsive disorder. It is one more disease which has been reduced to a buzzword, a scapegoat, an excuse, a label, and one more convenient ingratiating form of self-depreciation. I do not believe I am obsessive-compulsive. But if you believe that really, really, really wanting 'Mom, Part Two' to immediately follow 'Mom, Part One' is O.C., then feel free to think of me as such.

It is disheartening that progress so often appears to mean letting go.

So the moral of the story is that I can work on my thesised posts, but that when I get stuck I must go ahead and freewrite one, and come back to the thesised ones later, and hope that I can finish the thesised ones quickly enough that they still make some sense.

Anyway. The stickshift is in the first position; I am taking my foot off of the clutch.

May you have a bright shiny day today, or a dark velvet night tonight; whichever you find more appropriate. 
Tuesday, February 24, 2004:
  Mom, Part One

It is troublesome to describe my mother's childhood. I have a few facts, and some general suppositions, and a certain mood has been conveyed to me, but the truth is that there are some very big gaps. There is some design to this; my grandmother will often refuse point-blank to answer simple questions. It is not that there is some family secret that anyone is hiding; or rather, I know the secret already. My mother and her sister and their mother just do not like talking about it.

My mother's father was a faulknerian evil bastard.

This despite being Canadian. Who says everything but the weather is nicer in the great white north?

Grandma- I will go ahead and tell you, her name is Shirley- Shirley did not start the family until she and Lionel (the faulknerian evil bastard) moved from Saskatchewan to Chicago for his work. Lionel was some sort of a bottom-rung architect, and an entrepreneur on the side. A very unsuccessful one. Shirley had my aunt- let us call her 'Joan'- she had my aunt Joan there in Chicago. Two and a half years later they had moved their residence to the Lake Geneva area in rural southeastern Wisconsin. There Shirley gave birth to Robert, and two and a half years after that, on March twenty-first, 1958, she had my mother.

In my limited experience, rural southeastern Wisconsin is just about the friendliest, most beautiful, freshest smelling place on earth. But according to my mother, the children there are just as mean to eachother as they are everywhere else, and the neighbors that are not waving hello and inviting you over for lunch are cleaning guns in their bathroom and thinking rotten thoughts. So I guess it is a lot like everywhere else, if only with a starker chiaroscuro, and cleaner air.

I am not supposed to tell you even what I do know about what went on there. Lionel did some terrible things. They are very sensitive about it.

I can tell you that Lionel kept stealing the family savings: Shirley kept saving up money to fix the roof of their house, which leaked very badly, and Lionel kept finding it and blowing it all on something. Mom slept with an umbrella some nights. No joke.

Oh, and Lionel kept a mistress, too, of course.

Shirley was a teacher, the only socially acceptable decently paying thing other than a secretary that a woman born in nineteen twenty-six could be. When my mother was near the age of thirteen, Shirley became determined to divorce Lionel, and went to night school to get her master's degree, for the salary increase, which she needed to support the family. The day she graduated, she divorced him.

My mother tells me- and I do not doubt this- that Grandma was not much of a mother during these years. Altogether, I gather it was not much of a family at all. The kids did not want to be at home; they spent as much time as possible with friends. My mother was the youngest and the least independent, and was by herself a lot. Her brother Robert was the closest one to her.

Robert is dead now. When he was about nineteen, three years younger than I am now, he was struck by a freight train at night on a trestle bridge and killed. What Robert was doing on a trestle bridge at night when a freight train was coming is a matter of some family debate. When I was young, I was told that he was running away from home.

My mother and her sister Joan became somewhat closer after Robert died. When my mother was twenty, in the summer of 1978, she and Joan each wanted to go backpacking in Europe, and since their friends were all too chicken, they went together. My mother sold her car to get money for the trip.

Mom and Joan bought summer rail passes in Europe that let them ride on any train in any country for four months. They would spend the day in a town, then get on an almost empty train at night and sleep their way to wherever they were when they woke up. They saw the sites, and the sights. There were hijinks. They got groped a lot because they were blonde. Sometimes they slept on park benches. Sometimes they got robbed. They met and traveled with unusual people, some of which they kept in touch with for years.

At the end of the summer of 1978 Joan got tired of traveling and went back to the United States. But Mom had heard about the kibbutzim, the commune farms that were flourishing all over Israel at the time, and wanted to see them. They parted ways; Mom headed southeast with some of her new friends.

My mother saw Israel during a very violent period. That seems a silly and redundant thing to say, as if I was saying she saw the ocean during a very wet period; but the PLO was very active in Lebanon in the late seventies, and very aggressive. Though it was not virtual wartime, like it was while my dad was serving in the Golani Brigade during the 'War of Attrition', it was still pretty bad: the PLO did not use suicide soldiers with backpack bombs then; they used land mines, artillery, and rocket launchers.

Also, it did not help that Mom spent most of her time on the Lebanese border.

My mother found room and board in exchange for work at Rosh Hanikra, which is the name of both a white chalk cliff face on the Mediterranean coast which opens into spectacular grottos, and of the kibbutz that sprawls immediately southeast of it. Rosh Hanikra is the very substance of the northern Israeli border (the border with Lebanon) in that area; the barbed-wire fence runs down a ridge and right to the edge of the cliff, where the land drops off into the sea. Somehow the grottos keep up a tourist trade in spite of this. The main road runs north along the beach until the cliff rises out of it; then the road turns east and into the Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra Compound. The compound is at the foot of the ridge, and it is encircled by its own barbed-wire fence, and guard towers are spaced along the perimeter.

When my mother first got to Rosh Hanikra with her current traveling companion, they intended to sleep on the beach. Some soldiers from the kibbutz driving a tractor north on the beach road came across them, and gave the two girls a ride the rest of the way into the kibbutz. The soldiers informed them that people found on the beach at night were assumed to be PLO members swimming in from Lebanon to plant land mines, and were shot on sight.

Later, she found they had been joking about the 'on sight' part. The rest of it was true.

(Rosh Hanikra's Offical Website is apparently down, and the Kibbutz Rosh Hanikra Volunteer's Website is suffering from some sort of a Java seizure. Wikipedia had never heard of the place before, and could only tell me about Rosh Hashana; I wasted some time and it has a stub there now. Luker the Running Man has some great photos of the area on his personal travel photos website, but I felt like I would be a scab to link to just the Rosh Hanikra page. Root around in there.)

My mother was in Israel for one year, from the end of the summer of 1978 to the end of the summer of 1979. For most of that time she was at Rosh Hanikra; there she tended chickens, washed laundry, and did dishes. I am sure she did other things as well. She learned Hebrew. She dated a soldier- not my dad- who lived there; she slept in his bunk in the soldiers' house, instead of in the women's dormitory.

Mom saw almost the entire country, tiny as it is, before she went back to America. At one point she went to see the Bedouins in the Sinai desert. She told me that she had been so excited to see people living as they had for thousands of years, a hundred miles from any sort of modern civilization, in an era before wireless communication; and then, as she was adoring the camels and the grass houses, she saw a little Bedouin kid wearing a 'Million Dollar Man' t-shirt.

Mom got caught in a sandstorm there in the Sinai; she sat in her plastic tent as it filled with sand up to her armpits and tried to calmly read a romance novel. She was being buried alive until some bedouins rescued her; when she came back after the storm someone had stolen most of her stuff.

My mother was hitchhiking back to Rosh Hanikra late in the spring of 1979 when my father picked her up on his way to visit his mother in Haifa.

Dad was a charmer. Mom moved in with him until the end of the summer.

According to my mother, she left Israel at the end of that summer for two reasons: The first was that she needed to finish her college education; the second was that her mother, Shirley, called her long distance and begged her to come home, because she had been gone so very long, and Shirley was worried sick about her. 
Thursday, February 19, 2004:

Jack. I have jack today. Oh well. Carry on. 
Wednesday, February 18, 2004:

Four hours in the library, and I seem to have finally gotten a handle on cascading style sheets. (the stuff which controls this web page) I do not think I need to create a whole new template any more. I can do what I want with this one.

How does it look? 

Eleven is technically in the morning. Really.

A funny thing happened last night: after class I had an hour untill the library closed, and I was unexpectedly raring to go write something. I did not know what to do; I wanted to come back and work in the morning, and I knew that if I did start writing something, the library would close before I finished and I would never come back to the post. And I did not want to make up another silly filler post, like this one is. Silly filler posts are for showing that I showed up. So instead I sat down and started messing with my blog template, and voila, I fixed the bloody glitch in the sidebar! Does it not look nice?

Anyway, the issue at hand. I am here to write something.

I have lost the momentum I briefly had last fall. I am not really sure how to get it back. The last time I knew what I was doing, I was trying to lay a foundation of background descriptions before getting the blog fully under weigh. The truth is that that background is still necessary.

So before I say anything else about anything else, I need to explain about my mother. I have in fact already completed a post on that; but I do not like its tone, and some of it is outdated now. It is very difficult to describe my mother accurately without feeling like I am kicking a dying dog.

I am going to re-write that post and post a new version of it. If it is not ready tomorrow morning, then I will put in some filler tomorrow morning. Something will be posted tomorrow morning.

I think I can afford to name the post, because I will just call it 'Mom'. That does not mean I am ready to name my posts again yet.

Have a nice day. 
Tuesday, February 17, 2004:

Greetings and salutations, denizens of the world wide web.

I am late.

If you are just now finding this blog, the thing that I am late for is writing this blog.

Oh well. Planning to be at the library first thing in the morning was a bit aggressive. Still, I wanted to get here at eight, and it is now one. Also, I do not have time to write anything, either. Some might say that the trip was wasted.

Not so!

I have to go. I am going to come back tomorrow morning, and this time I mean in the morning.

I am going to keep doing this wrong untill I do it right. 
Monday, February 16, 2004:

Second to wasting time deciding on a name for a post is wasting time deciding on how to begin it.

In January I wrote around two thousand words of unposted, probably unpostable, Though Sink. All of it was wasted effort. I got so mad that I had not been posting that on Tuesday, January twenty-first, I decided to dedicate all of Wednesday- the entire day- to catching up my blog. I was immediately sidetracked. I mean I was already sidetracked on TUESDAY. Then I was sidetracked most of Wednesday. I finally got to the Library late in the afternoon, and decided to get in the mood by making some sort of declaration of intention. Hence, I posted that irritatingly cryptic previous post.

I wish there had been something to wait for.

I wrote a few hundred words and gave up. It had been a long day, and I suck.

This is how sickeningly pathetic I am: For that day, I had one, single, solitary goal, which required only the most straighforward execution. And I could not achieve it.

I got depressed after that. I have been depressed for a while, as I may have said.

I will not give up on this thought sink, though. It may always be a mediocre, sporadically updated blog, full of whining and 'if-only's, but I am going to keep coming back to it untill either I am dead or I think it is finished.

I wish this feeling of utter futility was new to me. I wish it were not so familiar that it bordered on providing a bizarre sense of comfort and reassurance; reassurance that no, nothing has changed, everything is still the same, and always will be. There is nothing more terrifying than an inability to rely on one's self.

I am afraid of falling hopelessly behind. New things keep happening, faster than I am willing or able to deal with or write about them. But I am starting to realize that the scenes flashing past me quickly blur into one static, endless, unremarkable landscape. Even going to college has not fundamentally changed anything about my life.

I kept wanting to catch this blog up all at once with an 'uber-post'. That cannot be done. The uber-post does not exist. I am going to stop trying to do that now.

One cannot improve one's self in five-minute overhauls, and not much else, either.

A quote is in order:
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not a single act, but a habit."

-- Aristotle

I am not going to write anything else tonight. It is enough that I am here at the college library. Tomorrow morning, when the library opens at eight o' clock, I am going to come in here and sit down and write for one hour, and then post what I have got no matter how bad it is, and then get on with the day.

At least that is what I am planning on doing. 

You cannot run away from weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?
 -- Robert Louis Stevenson

Weak souls always set to work at the wrong time.
 -- Cardinal De Rets

Convergence Vectors:


Blog Log:

These *were* the blogs I actually read at least once a week. I haven't looked at any of them for six months now; they may not even be there anymore. They were all very good when I read them.

October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / January 2004 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 / July 2004 / March 2005 / November 2010 /

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