Wednesday, December 29, 2010

the bright-eyed choke on ambition

i'm in arizona now. haven't been able to write much because of traveling and getting ready for next semester, when i will be living in dc and interning for amnesty international. i might be living alone for the first time, ever. i really can't get through an episode of law and order svu without having to change the channel. you may be wondering if moving to a new city alone to work for an organization that deals with the worst human rights violations in the world is like facing your deepest fears all at once. that's a great question, thanks for asking. maybe i WILL be able to conquer all these fears at once: BAM!! and my time in dc will be a smashing success. or maybe it will be like treading water and not even waiting for the ladder to be pulled out of the pool, but saying that they can go ahead and take it- go ahead and take this ladder guys, i plan on swimmin for a while! then they pull up the ladder and then i'll be drowning.

living with someone else is nice because there is another heartbeat under the same roof. i can make them tea when they're sick.

Monday, December 20, 2010

winter, 4 am

i would like you to tell me everything. tell me of the night building the fort in the forest. of the plan to run away on a train. of the waves of lake michigan on your high school graduation. of the sleeping porch at your old house.

i would like to take those things still ailing you. give me the bird skeleton you found in your backyard when you were young. your matches and tylenol and headaches. what you saw that night. your sadness for your father. give it to me. time has proven ineffective, i will fix it for you.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

tide pools & oceans

the snow will never look like ash, sheyner ponim. it will always be white and beautiful and look like falling stars. we can learn icelandic and find the meteor impact you're so curious about. when we paint our room, it will be the color of the ocean on the map above our bed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

to broadcast all our dark dreams

my friend keeps recommending that i should read about noetic science, and i want to, but my brain is currently so drained i can't sit and read, so i really haven't gotten any farther than thinking about reading about noetic science. looking up flights to dhaka is basically all i've done the past few days.

also in the past few days i've somehow burnt almost each one of my fingers, on too-hot food and candles and lighters. now they are calloused like i've been playing guitar and i can barely feel it when i type.

maybe i would be able to focus if you would stop touching me with your gaze. it's not fair to distract someone like that.

one of the reasons why so few of us ever act, instead of react, is because we are continually stifling our deepest impulses. henry miller

"Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with a desire for what its monstrous law have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. You, Mr. Gray, you yourself, with your red-rose youth and your rose-white boyhood, you have had passions that have made you afraid, thoughts that have filled you with terror, day-dreams and sleeping dreams whose mere memory might stain your cheek with shame—"

“Stop!” faltered Dorian Grey, “stop! You bewilder me. I don’t know what to say. There is some answer to you, but I cannot find it. Don’t speak. Let me think, or, rather, let me try not to think.”

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Saturday, December 11, 2010

felt your poltergeist love like savannah heat

I don't have a problem with obsession. I think it makes me more creative. Doing everything possible to impress someone is exciting. It's like I'm walking in a hallway that is not all the color taupe.

If there is truly a seductive quality to fixation it's that it makes everything more interesting. Day to day life comes in brief flashes of euphoria and desolation. And nothing in the hallway is taupe; the colors are dazzling, called 'muse' and 'manic.' Maybe some people find it terrifying or unbalanced. I think I'd rather sometimes be terrified than always be bored. The payoff can be huge; a high risk gamble that can give you everything or take it all away.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

in crooked streets of petersburg

I can't focus on writing or studying at all so these are some pictures and quotes I like. I hope my last post wasn't too crazy. You might notice I changed the name of my blog. I'm still in love with Bob Dylan but I wanted to change it because I didn't think it was fitting anymore. 'Arcana dictum' means 'secret words' (or something like that) in Latin. I wanted to call it 'arcana imperii'- 'secrets of the empire' but that also translated as 'state secrets' which I think has a different connotation that doesn't really make sense.

"As a writer, the only thing you have to offer is yourself. And your unfounded fears, your inexplicable quirks, your desires- as disturbing as they might be- are all part of you. So they all have to be in there too, somewhere, and this is probably one of those things that's applicable to most other things in life too." charlie kaufman

"If I had a rare quality, however, it was getting people to talk about themselves, listening, being always fascinated at the dignity, complexity, frailty and strength of ordinary people. The quality was surely borne of my own very ordinary background." walt harrington

"She sighed in the dark. 'What do you want out of life?' I asked, and I used to ask that all the time of girls.

'I don't know,' she said. 'Just wait on tables and try to get along.' She yawned. I put my hand over her mouth and told her not to yawn. I tried to tell her how excited I was about life and the things we could do together; saying that, and planning to leave Denver in two days. She turned away wearily. We lay on our backs, looking at the ceiling and wondering what God had wrought when He made life so sad." jack kerouac
fantasy love is much better than reality love. the most exciting attractions are between two opposites that never meet. andy warhol

"america i used to be a communist when i was a kid and i'm not sorry." allen ginsberg

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

exoskeleton of a spaceship

When the schism within yourself gets bigger, sometimes things fall in between and are lost forever. Is that too strong a word to use here, 'forever'? Are things really lost forever? Or are they put somewhere in the cellar of our mind when they resurface when you have forgotten that part of your life ever happened, and make you wonder if anything is truly sprung from within you or if it is the reinterpreted meaning of everything you have ever experienced or read or seen. Did I even just make that up or did Chuck Pahalniuk say it in Invisible Monsters?

It's like when I was trying to write an ethnographic piece and I realized I stole an exact phrase from James and the Giant Peach. I didn't even remember it, until I was thinking, what inspired that? And then I was trying to retrace where this image could have come from, and I realize, it wasn't "inspired" by anything, it was stolen from Roald Dahl from a book I haven't read for ten years! And then all of a sudden I am wondering if all I am doing is winding all these things up inside myself and then regurgitating them. Or if somehow when you think the same things as someone, even for a second, your minds become permanently connected in ways you don't even realize until it comes up again. This thought is too disarming so I take a shower to relax but then I absolutely have to get out of the shower because I am thinking of all these ideas that probably no one has ever thought of or will ever think of again, and if I do not immediately write them down they probably will be lost in the schism and how could I deprive the world of hearing this?

And I see, all these things are connected. My professor and Dave Eggers and my friend from New York all compared Chicago to Oz in separate circumstances: in a book, during dinner, in a lecture. Like Oz from the Wizard of Oz. Either one of them was constantly comparing Chicago to Oz in front of the other two so they all had this metaphor at hand, which I actually don't have a problem with and I quite enjoy, or somehow they all came to it together from different life experiences. It probably has nothing to do with the fact that they were all at some point located primarily in Champaign, Illinois and it is reasonable comparison to make. It must be some sort of weird mental connection. Like when I heard this song by Phish and they say almost the exact same thing Mary Elizabeth Frye said in a poem. Do they all have some sort of ESP and they are trying to filter these thoughts through as many veins of society possible but really they are all coming from the same artery? Or are these sentiments so pervasive once put out there that they resurface all over the place? Well, I've noticed it happening. Maybe they didn't think that the same person would remember all these little references, but I do remember them, because they were never really gone they were just misplaced in the schism. How can people think that everything isn't all connected? When I read a comparison of Chicago to Oz in a book, and then my professor compared Chicago to Oz, and then my friend COMPARED CHICAGO TO OZ. And really, this is just a small example because these things are happening all the time. These things aren't accidents. In the Game of Life it says "We have an unfortunate propensity to place undue significance on accidental patterns." This is wrong, but perhaps even worse, this is boring.

white noise

He made eye contact with me and said he liked my writing; that he understood it and it excited him and he thought maybe we saw things the same way. I looked at him and it was like I had already been in his bedroom and everything would be perfect between us, forever, because that kind of statement was irreversible.


"the water went shuckashucka and kissed her again and again." p.44 How We are Hungry

I wonder if there is something about snow that absorbs sound more completely than any other element. It seems to drink in sound the way the moon is drinking the night. When I walk through it at night I feel like I can't hear anything but my own thoughts freezing and shattering on the ground.


Friday, December 3, 2010

it's beyond my wildest expectations

I believe that today more than ever a book should be sought after even if it has only one great page in it. We must search for fragments, splinters, toenails, anything that has ore in it, anything that is capable of resuscitating the body and the soul.

Henry Rollins

This was on the way back to school after Thanksgiving break. I couldn't exactly capture it, but at times we couldn't really see the road in front of us because of the sunlight and it looked like we were driving into the sky.

It's gotten very very cold the past few days, and we had our first snow. For the last 2 days it has been snowing almost constantly. It's the ethereal, slowly falling kind that makes you feel like you're in a snowglobe that was just shaken. Or that gravity has suddenly taken a break and all the stars are falling down from the sky to cover the ground. It never really gets dark because even the dim streetlights are reflected in the bright velvet carpet.

I only have 2 weeks left of my undergraduate career, so things have gotten kind of crazy. I am feeling a strong desire to take advantage of everything that I have available to me here before I leave, so I've been reading a lot (for school and for fun!) and going to speakers and talking to my professors all the time. I have been so inspired by some reading I've done lately that I have been marking up all my books with pencil and highlighter to express my appreciation. Staying in, watching the snow, reading and drinking white russians has been more satisfying than most other things I've done lately. Once my teacher called all the reading and books available to us all the time a 'riot of literacy.' I really like that description- when I read I am in the midst of a riot of literacy.

"because to deny one's curiosity about things like this was small and timid, and she was neither and didn't ever want to be either."
Dave Eggers

The other day I saw Michael Herzfeld speak, an anthropologist who speaks 7 languages and has lived in 15 countries. He was so brilliant that the whole time he was speaking I was taking down notes as fast as I could write.

"I want to make more films, write about more ideas and places and people, and know more of the lives that intersect with mine...I want- at whatever cost of frustration, rage, and thwarted compassion, and in the face of the bigotry that destroys the work of love and the spaces of its enactment- to remain engaged, for as long as I can, in the impossibly affecting and perversely alluring world that we make and remake together."

Michael Herzfeld

He also wrote this about Rome:

"Rome was perhaps not the first place in Italy to warm my being; but its massive, contradictory, and ultimately irreducible presence made it the place that can still, in an unguarded moment, wring from me the eye-stinging tears that come, unexpectantly and with embarassing force, only from the desperate beauty of gloriously shattered ruins madly entwined with a raucously undisciplined present."

That makes me want to go back there more than anything I've ever read.

Also, I had lunch with my friend again that I wrote about having lunch with last spring. As we were talking, I remember how I sounded in the conversation last time. Last year, and for a lot of my academic career, I would say that the words that most aptly described my feelings toward school and my own abilities were 'self-doubt' and 'anxiety.' Sometimes I felt so consumed by fear of failing and everything I could do wrong that I didn't even want to try. This time, though, we talked about our goals in writing and traveling and I realized that my viewpoint has totally transformed. I've finally been able to focus on the part of my brain that thinks that I can do things, that I am not lacking any innate ability, and that I can selectively ignore those people who tell me that I can't. I guess, in short, I have learned that there is often one of two things that you need to think in response to the feedback that people give you: "thank you," and "fuck you." So I've been trying to keep that in mind, and the people that I've been around lately have made it so much easier. I think that might be part of the problem- that I feed off the people around me so much that I basically become a mirror of my surroundings. I need to work on that, I know. I also know that a lot of my ideas and hopes for the future are quixotic. I am starting to think more and more that those are the only real plans that can motivate me, and the biggest tragedy wouldn't be to not fulfill them, but to lose my desire to even try.

"From every hesitation, you can draw new intellectual nourishment. You need to have some level of order in your life, but don't succumb to the urge to overdo that order."

Michael Herzfeld

Sunday, November 28, 2010

this must be the place

last week i was home for the thanksgiving holiday. the break was mainly nice, but some of the memories that resurfaced when i went home were too much. there is something about going back within the four walls where you first felt those things that makes them come back with an intensity that doesn't seem to have faded with the passing of time. the people who used to have power over you get it back, despite all the growing you've done. less of you belongs to you and more of you is in their hands, again. all the walls that were put up and reinforced with experience and pain and 'learning the hard way' fall apart, and it's as if you never left. as if all your work in dimming the sting of those experiences was for nothing.

i felt that this week, as i do every time that i go back home. no matter how much i want to remember that those things do not define me anymore, i can not deny how much i still care. i wrote about this in one of the first posts i wrote last year, but i want to write it again.

She was gone during those years when adultish longings hatch. Those of us who remain captive in our small teenage worlds tend to transfer our longings (loneliness, desire, beauty, friendship, sex) onto our hometowns, hanging them from the trees we grew up near
and the houses of the first people on whom we had crushes, like Christmas ornaments, where they remain, powerful and sad, whenever we go back home.

i still can't believe that someone could write something that perfect. anyway, i'm back at school now, and i'm happy. it still overwhelms me going back into the mindset that i used to be in that seems to overtake me when i go back (not that i'm that much older or have that much more perspective now). i love the people and experiences more than i can articulate, but i can't think about them too long. i still like the feeling of watching the horizon fade behind me and thinking that with each passing mile i am farther from some things that still torment me. maybe that's running from something, or maybe it's looking for something i still haven't found.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

sea change

and to 'scape stormy days, i choose an everlasting night.
john donne

one of my two of my favorite things to describe: the sky at different parts of the day and year. those were some photos from the inky frozen granite chicago night. i hope you are all having a fantastic first few days of the holiday season, and last few days of late fall before winter.

In keeping with the tone of the nightsky, my friend Mike took this in Colorado. I love it so much and I guess he took it by accident. This really makes me want to explore the West. Also I like that people are beginning to know the kind of stuff I like and sending it to me. Let's keep that going.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

sun child

you must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ray bradbury“It had the gravid air of a place where things might happen”

All moments, past, present and future, always have existed, always will exist. The Tralfamadorians can look at all the different moments just that way we can look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains, for instance. They can see how permanent all the moments are, and they can look at any moment that interests them. It is just an illusion we have here on Earth that one moment follows another one, like beads on a string, and that once a moment is gone it is gone forever. Slaughterhouse-Five
blood transfusion snowy white television whirlwind lithium formaldehyde vice
i had to walk down this really thick red velvet staircase and suddenly i'm in the middle of this secret party in paris. people are speaking french really quickly to me and there's champagne everywhere, and the music is coming from a gramophone in the corner. they'll find out i'm living a double life.

“Touching him was always so important to me. It was something I lived for. Little, nothing touches. My fingers against his shoulder. The outsides of our thighs touching as we squeezed together on the bus. I couldn’t explain it, but I needed it. Sometimes I imagined stitching all of our little touches together. How many hundreds of thousands of fingers brushing against each other does it take to make love?” Safran

Tell them everything is worth it and that the richness of life is only ever enhanced by its inevitable, brief flashes of sadness and loss. I Wrote this for You

all photos are from ppapertissue