Category: Journal

Le Voyage dans la lune

I fashioned a small pod, mostly out of paper and aluminum, as per the instructions from a kit. The trip there was exciting, until we passed orbit range (it seated two), when it became alarmingly clear that we were in space in a ball of paper and aluminum, and would probably die soon, quickly, and painfully. “Shit, this was a really stupid idea.”

Space travel apparently fosters a kind of delirium, and at one point I almost stepped out of the pod for “my first spacewalk,” eerily placid, until my co-pilot stopped me, thank god.

I arrived in the middle of the night. The moon base was very much like an airport, men with flashlights guiding me to the terminal. Even the insides, filled with rows of grey, plastic seats, mostly empty due to the late hour, but marked by the occasional woman thumbing idly through a magazine, looking up at me briefly as I passed. “Aww,” I thought. “Astronauts’ wives.”

The moon had been colonized for what felt like probably 10 or 15 years. Everyone there worked there, like I’d imagine Antarctica to be. Once outside the station, I found myself in a concrete plaza, with benches, a pedestrian street, some small shops and restaurants, by the look of things. Seemingly desolate beyond a block or two away. Small amenities. Dozens of people out enjoying the warm, artificial atmosphere. I looked up and saw Earth, fully illuminated by the sun.

I was giddy with pride that I had made it here myself. I approached a family eating ice cream, struck up a conversation. “Have you been here before?” “Yeah, you know, a couple times.” Nonchalant. “Would you believe me if I told you I got here in a pod I made myself?” Disinterested, incredulous, polite laughter.

The return trip was a bit more harrowing. I remember it being loud and painful; it required that I sever some wires connected to nodes grafted onto my skin, each snip producing a vague, metallic, dizzy, nauseous kind of pain. Alarms were sounding, I didn’t think my pod would hold up. I must have blacked out, and soon I was parachuting down into the Pacific.

A week or so later I told Ben and Jon about my trip, and invited them on another. We made it up there with no problems, hung out in the plaza in the sunlight. Looking up, construction was being done on a kind of stained-glass balloon, a big sphere in a stylized, color-saturated tribute to Earth, meant to inspire, I intuited, a reverence for all we had accomplished as a species.

Suddenly, a small firebomb was hurled unsuccessfully at a security helicopter, when we realized that the political climate on the moon was unstable, and that we had to leave before things got ugly.

We raced down dark flights of stairs, hurried but not frightened, though I didn’t have faith in my ability to get us back and was beginning to panic. “Guys, I should tell you, sorry I didn’t tell you earlier, but, getting back is kinda hard, I almost didn’t make it last time, I’m not sure we’ll be able to do it, and even if we do I know it’ll be really uncomfortable, I’m sorry.” I did feel guilty. But I guess the adrenaline got me through it, and before we knew it we were tumbling safely down a chute into the basement of some facility back on Earth.

I woke up around 5:30am, still brimming with pride at what I had done.

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I feel like I’ve been asleep for four months.

I dreamt that I:

  • Saw Essex Green at TT’s, and was drunk and disappointed
  • Bought the new Air record, and was disappointed
  • Saw Red Sparowes at TT’s on Thursday, and was drunk
  • Played Wii for the first time at Jon’s place on Friday night, and was disappointed
  • Saw Clinic and Holy Fuck at the Middle East Downstairs on Saturday, and was pleased
  • Saw Pan’s Labyrinth on Saturday afternoon at the Harvard Loews, and thought it was very good

There were more parts, but truthfully I don’t remember them.

It’s 60 degrees, and I may go to Magic Night in Harvard Square tonight.

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Ten Jars

Last Supper OrbIn a position to invent my own responsibilities, and to realign them on whims, I don’t get very far. Even if I remain productive, it’s a fractured, diffuse, directionless kind of productivity, composed of many tiny islands, sealed in vacuums, free of context or import. Meanwhile, everything that I’m not doing screams with an urgency that what I am doing can never match. Being fucked with by the sparkly allure of things in my periphery, even the most worthwhile sparkly things, undermines all the effort.

Of course there’s always something arbitrary to how you choose to spend your time. Which is probably what a lot of people mean when they say they work well under pressure — it’s not the threat of a deadline that fosters productivity, it’s the conviction with which you act, knowing fully that this is exactly the correct investment of your time and energy. For the moment, you’re free of that responsibility, of choosing what to do, left only with the busy-work of doing it. And that’s a huge relief.

And the problem with having goals as ill-defined as mine is that there are no looming deadlines, only a vague understanding that this is going somewhere, eventually, assuming out of necessity that none of it is in vain. And worse, the gratification, the payoff, is not just delayed; that would make things a lot easier. It’s more than delayed, it’s practically invisible, the result of infinitesimal accumulations that never accelerate or burst with finality, but just collect like sediment, like that big jar of sub-quarter coins. And nobody would ever dream of working for that jar, much less ten jars. When you’re emptying your pockets at the end of the day, which jar do you choose?

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Ugly Books

The Order of Things: Ugly EditionI read 14 pages of this book wondering what in the hell he was talking about, when finally it said “NOTES [I] See frontispiece,” referring me back to before the copyright page, where the painting he’d been describing the whole time was hidden. It was a real trial in imagination and a ringing testament that mine sucks.

This was last summer, and I didn’t get much further before other books interrupted me. I’m back into it this week, but have decided to put it down temporarily because that cover is just such a giant fucking tragedy. Ordinarily I don’t let things like that bother me, but I mean look at that. I had to make an exception.

The Order of Things: Vintage EditionWhen I was entering it into LibraryThing, I noticed all the other editions, including the “User-Provided Covers” at the bottom of the sidebar. Two of those were this green and blue thing, which puts the painting on the cover, and doesn’t look like shit — in fact it has this nice, vintage, first-edition quality. On faith, I took it to be the 1973 Vintage edition, searched the ISBN on BookFinder, and ordered it used from Amazon (speaking of ugly) for $8, surprised that Amazon devotes pages to multiple editions of books so that you know which edition you’re buying used.

I signed up for LibraryThing forever ago, but never used it ’cause there’s something vain about manually cataloging all the books you own for people to admire. It’s kind of hard to stop once you get started, but I did stop, somewhere between all the books I love and all the books I’ve touched in the last year, which amounts to very little. Anyway, it can make recommendations for you, which I suppose would be helpful if you have about 200 items in your “library,” and somehow still haven’t heard of the books that are similar enough to those that even a computer knows you should read them. There are also a few very basic RSS feeds, and even though the system allows you to tell it when you begin and finish each book you own, there isn’t the stupidly obvious feed of “Current Reading.”

Another failure of the site is that, even though you can enter your edition’s specific ISBN, it seemingly doesn’t match user-uploaded covers with that user’s edition’s ISBN, so finding the edition with the cover you want is just a lot of Googling and guesswork.

Interesting note: the illustrations on the ugly Foucault cover are by Gene Greif, an artist “whose witty collage and montage album-cover illustrations for CBS Records,” according to The New York Times, “helped popularize retro style of graphic design in 1980’s [sic],” and who, incidentally, illustrates those little squares at the top of the iconic Vonnegut cover design. But, the illustrations themselves not being that bad, the blame should more accurately rest with Carin Goldberg, the designer of the cover, and probably the one responsible for the stark, pastel, two-tone background.

Also, I need to do something about the blog section of this site. I don’t know if it’s the font, or the borders on the pictures or what, but it really rubs me the wrong way. In fact the whole thing is starting to get to me.

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I’d been meaning to teach myself enough css, php, and sql to finally use WordPress, a powerful, flexible blogging utility, certainly moreso than Blogger. The process was faster than I had expected, and I’m really pleased with the results and looking forward to WordPress’ potential. Compare to my hindsightedly hideous Blogger site. Yuck.

The migration was easy enough, but the customization couldn’t have been possible without these sites:

…and of course all the WordPress documentation and codex.

Like I said, there’s still much XHTML invalidity, due entirely to Blogger, but I’ll be fixing this slowly (standards, standards, standards). Some formatting quirks I’ll be ironing out as well, so there may be varying degrees of garbling in the near future. I could say more, but I won’t, but I will say, “If you’ve thought about switching to WordPress, do it, if for no other reason than that you’ll learn so much about css and php in the process.”

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