2010: Week 29 Blots

BLOT: (25 Jul 2010 - 02:06:27 PM)

Hot swampy hikes, riled up neighbors, and I don't know...other things

I had this feeling that there was something about yesterday worth posting about. Something, I don't know, specifically worth posting about. In retrospect, I have a few general happenings but if something big and beautiful did happen, I do not recall. Yesterday is not a blank, but yet another sleepless night left me feeling drained to start. Then I went hiking. Well, walking. In the woods. Where does walking in the woods end and hiking in the woods begin? Elevations? Rocks? Went down to Hays Nature Preserve about 8am-ish (originally we were going to get down there about 7am-ish) and walked around for a bit. For those who don't know Hays, it is kind of swampish hiking. Not a lot of hills (though there are a couple of small ones), mostly just flat walking beside streams and creaks and swamp pools of water. Some good thick vegetation to keep it cool and lots of insects.

On days where the water is clear, you can see turtles and things like gar under the water. Yesterday, the water was pretty murky and so we didn't get to see much besides lots of insects. Dragonflies, butterflies, mosquitoes. Tons of them. The trees were loud with the sound of chirping. By 9-10am, about the time we were getting ready to leave, it was already getting hot and not many people were showing up. Most that there were there were attached to a boy scout troop who was helping to build some benches. Some of the guys were too young to lift the heavy planks, so I stopped off and helped carry a few boards for them. Good, thick, 6x6s. I'm glad. I like to see people upkeep things like that, especially since Hays doesn't cost anything to enter and, while it doesn't have much to do...does remind me of growing up near the swamp.

By the time we left, the car-thermometer was reading 92 degrees. By the time we got back into Huntsville, that had jumped to 110 (this is road temp, mind you, not necessarily air temp). Thanks to that, we decided to go back home, cancel any and all plans to go out last night, and just sat around for a bit.

Eventually, we had to go and do a few errands around the apartment (take clothes down to wash-room, check mail, etc) and so braved the heat for a bit. By that time, it had reached a "ouch but not SUPER ouch" level and so off I went. Except, on the way back from the mail-box, I got stopped by a neighbor who I have only exchanged a few words with who flagged me down and spent 10-15 minutes talking about getting in a fight with his wife's boss's son. It was bizarre, and one of those things that has happened before. Not precisely like that, but similar cases. What would make someone think that a person, sweating and obviously heading back indoors, would want to wait around outside and hear a "blow by blow" detail of a mostly verbal altercation? It's like the time someone contacted me after reading a book review on my website and was asking about that book because she was writing a paper for an honor's class, and then proceeded to tell me about this boy and how awesome he was and how he never noticed her and so forth. She was like 14, spilling her guts to a stranger online. I actually, that time, got up and walked around to make sure one of my roommates wasn't playing a joke. When I did kiosk work in the mall, about once a week someone would come up and start ranting about something. So far, and knock on wood, it is not so bad here at the library but I imagine it's just a matter of time. I have had one guy talk about his UFO experiences, another talk to me about Jah, and another talk about how he loves it when anime bad guys are so bad-ass that they don't have to be bothered with things. So, three or four times at the desk over a couple of years, not bad. At least no one has told me about burning down his family castle with fairy fire yet and how he has to live with guilt due to it (actually was told to me at Book Gallery).

Today, I'm at work all day. And the A/C was apparently only turned on shortly before opening, which means we have a great big library with 80-90 degree temperature slowly being cooled a non-aggressive air flow system. Good lord. At any rate, it's not so bad. I have a little fan blowing on and it serves double purpose of drowning out some of the incidental sound as I'm looking answers to research questions today.

Me in 2010, Hiking

BLOT: (24 Jul 2010 - 07:37:11 PM)

Book Review and Thoughts: The Millennium Trilogy as Phenomenon, Thriller, and Literature


How good are they? Well, I was entertained, but I'll spoil it right out and say that the whole thing is essentially a liberal revenge fantasy (as English majors and school drop outs take down the government with all their fancy equipment...sort of). Larsson has a way of repeating certain phrases (you will get tired of the words "iBook" and "Kalle Fucking Blomkvist", I guarantee). Both Blomkvist and Salander as pigheaded, borderline uninteresting characters. You become enamored of their actions, but find little of their soul to dig into (unless reading, again and again, how Salander refuses to talk to police men constitutes a soul). Blomkvist could easily go toe-to-toe with Robert Langdon for the title of most self-satisfied quasi-biographical character, except while Landgon is Brown in an action setting, Blomkvist is Larsson stone-walling government workers while pulling in thick slices of all available skirt in a thirty-mile radius. He gets laid, a lot. And then the story talks about how awesome in bed he is. This happens more than once. Speaking of "more", it made me more than a little annoyed. I've read at least one article that asks if the trilogy is really feminist, since every woman can't help but go to bed with the liberally minded reporter and, with a couple of exceptions, end up taking it hard when he goes into his "I wasn't looking for a relationship" speech (Salander plays a similar game, sometimes, but while Blomkvist beds skirt with something like grace, she beds older men with something like a daddy complex...).

Perhaps most damning to the overall enjoyment, even more so than the repetition as style, is the shape of Larsson's story payout. If you borrow a technique from Vonnegut, and plot a story's pay-out versus the distance into the story, then all three novels form a shape much like a lower-case mu. Starts out in some deep nadir of disinterest, starts to into a storyline, begins to get exciting about 150 pages in, then (after Larsson has ostensibly hooked you) starts to drift back down into a comfortable saddle for a leisurely ride in which a rich parade of bureaucratic details seep out until, around page 400-450, the tension once more mounts and it all boils over to a...hold up, here are another 50 pages in which un-exciting aftermath can be discussed. If the second book avoids that last bit, it is only by ending abruptly mid-thought.

For another time, I can't help but wonder: what if Larsson had been alive long enough for this to develop? Could the books have been retooled to better structure? Could some of the repetition been smoothed out. Could they have dropped a few characters who drift in and then drift out (a boxer character in the second novel comes to mind, introduced and piled on with fanfare, including one of the only extended fight scenes in the trilogy, only to fade out before the climax and absent in the events of the third except as a mention). Could he have been convinced to drop the LOVER boy with a capital L aspect of Blomkvist, or to make Salander a little more viable as a character? Maybe fix some of the goofy aspects of the hacking (they are pinging each other's ICQ address? a hacking tool that uses Internet Explorer effective in a world where everyone seems to use a Mac laptop? about the only good "hacking" was using online, anonymous message boards to leave each other notes). There are some good, if not great novels, buried underneath but they feel rough, unpolished. He was developing into a rich, quasi-political style that would have served him well for future novels but the result, as is, is overstuffed and feels unverified, like the rough strokes of a painting's outline without fine details being finished. C'est la vie.


BLOT: (23 Jul 2010 - 02:39:01 PM)

Is BP committing a scientific ethics violation? The case of the pre-quieted consultants...

With a newly sealed Gulf Oil Leak being potentially threatened by on-coming storms, we are no doubt dangerously close to reality ripping off a Michael Crichton dinosaurs (I just hope we get to use 'raptors in the War on Terror), but there are other interesting things going on. In BBC's article, BP accused of 'buying academic silence', Robyn Bresnahan discusses a proposed research group of Gulf Coast scientists that BP will pay (and handsomely) to discuss what is needed for the restoration project. Except that they are going to require three things:

(a) The scientists will not work with any research that will not "conflict" with their BP research (this presumably means all research that might be different than BP's report),

(b) The scientists will take instructions from BP's lawyers,

and, (c) The scientists will not speak or disclose the data for either three years or until after the restoration plan has been approved by the US government.

Essentially, if you work for them, it seems to suggest that you will come to the conclusions their lawyers need and you will not disagree with this conclusion, or perform any other work that might conflict with it, until after legislature has acted upon "your" data. In piece-meal, none of these three parts seems too outrageous for corporate science, but put together they add up to something that leaves a little bit of a bad taste on the tongue.

I'm not sure what BP can gain from this, either. Let's say you get data that is damning and BP takes fixed data in front of congress. In three years, or possibly sooner, the scientists can come forth with the real data and publications and if BP committed full on fraud, it could be bad for the already beleaguered company. Of course, three years is a while. A lot of people have already stopped caring about the oil spill already, in three years we may have a significantly different congressional outlook and we could have a different, more business-minded president. Maybe that's the gamble. And maybe any scientist who took money and allowed bad data to be published can be painted out to be an attention whore dissenter who does not reflect the majority opinion?

What's your take? Evil business practices or just standard legalese made to sound more devious than it is?

Scientific Ethics

BLOT: (22 Jul 2010 - 03:38:41 PM)

Another sleepless night, dreams of hell, heaven, and the labyrinth...

Just like last night, I had a more or less sleepless night (though I did get sleep, but let me get around to it). This time, rather than staying up and watching movies, I ended up staying awake and reading books and graphic novels and listening to audiobooks. Maybe it's just me, but that somehow made the night feel more worthy. Around 4am, maybe a little after, I reached that "oh, now I'm sleepy" stage and went to bed. Woke up before my alarm went off (since I'm not working today, the alarm was set for 10am) and get on up and start tending to some stuff. Except I realized I felt kind of like crap (two sleepless nights in a row) and at some point in time went back to bed with the idea that I would hit snooze a couple of times and get a few extra minutes of a nap in. What ended up happening was I slept actually deeper than I did last night and only woke up, exhausted and sick feeling, after noon. Of course, if I am getting a cold, that explains the weird energy shifts. It also explains the dream I had right before waking up...

Sarah and I were living in Evergreen, again, except it was an Evergreen stapled together out of decayed pieces of Huntsville. If you knew Evergreen, I could kind of explain it, but since most of you...well, let's try anyhow. Down in Evergreen, Highway 31 (the same one that meanders somehow up here in North Alabama) cuts through the center of town. Near the center, there is a little shopping center that is just a Family Dollar and a CVS pharmacy. A closed down old indie hamburger joint is beside that (Sleepy's? Or is that the burger joint out of Popeye? Maybe both?), and south of that is a Piggly Wiggly shopping center that used to have a TG&Y's and something else and now has, I'm not sure what. I think it was the second Bill's Dollar store for a bit. The first Bill's dollar store was north of the CVS on a small side road besides a closed down gas station and an old feed store down a side road. Also down this side road was this strange, cement embankment that most have been for looks years ago and when I was growing up was mostly for kids to see if they could somehow run up it. I think the Feed store is still functional, but the rest of that area is empty now, just closed buildings. Down by the Piggly Wiggly is another small side road, this time with houses. This all fits inside of a pair of T-intersections. The CVS fits kind of in the middle of the T's, with some empty space out beside it. Now lift this whole hog and put it so that the side road by the Piggly Wiggly is the road up here that goes down by Hobby Lobby (but shaped more like the old side road) and make the old gas station with the decaying buildings behind it a house, white and flaked, and that's where Sarah and I lived.

We had lots of family coming down, and it felt like something that happened often. Our furniture was old and sparse, so there were going to be people sleeping on the floor in the living room and in a couple of the side rooms that were furnitureless and vague. In what felt like the "second" or guest bedroom, Sarah's Nana and my grandmother were going to share a mattress. But this is where the dream gets odd. Somehow, the mattress (which was odd in that it had some sort of wood structure built right into it) had started showing rotted holes and coming out of the rot, or maybe causing the rot, was heaven and hell (though the dream referred to them in the capital-H sense, I'll keep them lower case, because this was definitely not the Christian's Happy Guidebook to Metaphysical Places entries...) Heaven was kind of a cloudy water and hell was kind of this shadowy, liquid fire. And they were bursting through in multiple places, almost always in pairs, heaven flowing out right beside hell. If you came in contact with either one, got either on you, you would become it and fall into it. Which is one of the weird pieces of the dream. While people were scared of being infected with hell, everyone was equally scared of being infected by heaven. The job came down to me to fix it. I first suggested that we just take the mattress off, but that was considered a bad suggestion. Not only did the grandmothers require a mattress to sleep on, but there was some confusion about whether heaven and hell were seeping out of the mattress, or whether they were seeping out where the mattress was, and removing the mattress would just expose them. I started rebuilding the mattress using shards of glass and tape to seal the holes (though both were clear, the clarity of the sealants made the holes appear unfilled, if that makes sense outside of a dream), and it was going well enough except I did not have enough tape to finish it. I had to go the store.

This is where the dream shifted and I was outside in that weird decaying Evergreen/Huntsville hybrid, and it was mostly ok up until I turned down a side road, and someone stopped me to have a conversation and wouldn't stop talking to me. I became nervous, because I was unsure if I had told everyone the mattresses were still unfixed. Somehow, I got past the person talking and went into the building that was kind of like Hobby Lobby on the outside, but the inside was the labyrinth. Stores and hallways and chunks of everyday life in tunnels and great rooms. And towards the doors with their too bright light (bright light always represents the outside of the labyrinth) was this massive stair-way thing. It was like an escalator but on a massive scale, some huge mechanical device. And in the dream it was understood that it had started to rot with heaven and hell, too, and I had somehow fixed it...and we were all waiting to see if it would work. And it started to work. And Sarah found me standing there with bags of tape (and glass?) in my hand, and there was some sort of moment where I remember thinking that the grandmothers could just sleep with their heads facing heaven and their feet toward hell...and somewhere around here I woke up. There were a few other scenes that I don't remember, but in the context of the dream they were some sort of speculation and memory (a dream where I remember something that wasn't previously disclosed in my dreams isn't too rare for me...my brain likes filling in holes). If the dream was entering the labyrinth, though, then there is probably no way I could have left. In most labyrinth dreams, leaving brings about a flood that wipes everything clean, though I wonder if the dream was going to make heaven and hell the flood, this time. Strangely missing from the dream was The Beast, though the realization that I had waited too long and the grandmothers were probably already infected was kind of like The Beast, in that I felt like I was being chased by something due to it...

Upon waking up, though, I immediately felt like crap. Meaning this dream was sort of "cold & sinus" dream. Took me about an hour to really get up and functional. Even now, my eyes feel puffy and my nose hurts in that way that noses ache right before they get snuffy and stort flowing. My throat aches some, but not too bad. Like it was sore and still thinks of itself as sore but isn't sore any more.

Dreams and semi-sick bodies beside, I guess I'm going to read for an hour or so before getting some dinner with Sarah, and then maybe try and get some more sleep.


BLOT: (22 Jul 2010 - 01:18:41 PM)

This one is for Becca (amongst others)


BLOT: (21 Jul 2010 - 11:24:10 AM)

WHNT DOES have a report about the "Struttin'" video

I contacted WHNT via Twitter (LGT: their feed) and just had to ask if they had any information about the Struttin' that ass (Youtube) I linked to a couple of weeks ago, and they told me they did indeed (WHNT, but also embedded below).

Prior to this, about all I had found out was a confirmation of my suspicion than he probably goes into the downtown library. At any rate, once you watch the video above, enjoy the video below. One of my favorite Red State Updates combines the Struttin' video with World Cup hate parody.


BLOT: (21 Jul 2010 - 04:20:24 AM)

I should be in bed by now...

The plan, originally, was to get home from work and to sit back and watch the movies Mother and Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Total video time: about 3.5 hours. Assuming start time of 11:30pm at latest, I had myself being bed-ready by 3am. The actuality is that I somehow bled time until about 2am and then watched Out of Sight (late 90s movie starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, which I recommend). Which means that as far as three part plans go—movie one, movie two, sleep—I have come up oh-for-three. This is not too bad a thing, but it is all too typical of nights for me. It is also a byproduct of the caffeine I had to drink at work just to stay awake for the whole shift. Not that the shift was boring, I was just tired. So I drank caffeinated beverages for a couple of hours, which means it took me another couple of hours to get sleepy. At that borderline of "almost sleepy enough" I watched the movie. Insomnia, or whatever you call the condition of near-insomnia, is a viscious cycle. My one boon is that I do not have to actually wake up, not really, tomorrow until sometime around lunch time and then can sleep again until sometime around dinner time. This will help.

Bleeding time is a weird problem. Part of me would love to explore it, scientifically. The way that carefully laid plans drift, slowly, over the day. Where five minutes here or there adds up. Where walking to the car to get a CD you left behind turns into a ten minute block of time gone as you stop to pick up some trash, or to look at the stars, or just to listen to some distant noise. Where switching from one assignment to another accrues a dozen lost minutes as mental gears shift. I will not ever actually explore it: outside of my field and any such study would deem me, a horrible time bleeder, a hypocrite. I'm just interested as all.

Well, I am off to bed after a quick half-strength gin and tonic to seal the deal, but here is my thought for the day. Death, in movies and books, is a plot device. It moves the story forward. It almost invariably takes on four forms: the apathetic death (where the plot does not care), the tragic death (where the plot dwells upon suffering), the surprised face death (where the death is treated as a surprise to those involved), and the peaceful death (where a look of tranqility happens, sometimes tied into a noble sacrifice—it is a far better thing I do today...). Four deaths in nearly all of literature. Real death involves pain and time and suffering and crapping your pants and laying there, rigor mortis, like a brick while people you'll never know prod you, poke you, cut you open, and stuff filler inside of you so that you become an effigy of being alive just long enough so loved ones, if you have such, can say goodbye. If a movie featured a real death, it would be a non-event surrounded by sadness and family conflicts. That is, kind of, a plot device in itself: but the movie death would also have old lovers come out of the woodwork, our children realizing that they never really loved, or our bank accounts being found out and some heir being made newly rich beyond their wildest dreams. That's plot, story, suspense, tension. You have to move the plot forward, or dwell upon the sensation. I'm fine with that. But why the limited number of movie deaths? Why do they fall into the same rough categories over and over? Is this because we know them? Because we are comfortable with them? Laziness? Politeness? Curious thing, the way we portray our second greatest fear (the greatest being the unknown).


BLOT: (19 Jul 2010 - 01:18:36 PM)

Music you may not have heard of, part 1: Vanessa Van Basten

I've been wanting to try something like this for a bit, where I share clips and brief discussions about bands I dig (or at least songs I dig) but due to their country of origin, or self-released status, or whatever, are not likely to be something on regular rotation. The first one up, for no reason besides it was in my head this morning, is Italy based Vanessa Van Basten (LGT: Myspace). Their music is a mixture of post-rock and some darker, droning ambient. Never quite as apocalyptic as Lustmord or Apoptose, and not as soaring as a band like Godspeed! You Black Emperor. In the middle of those sort of influences. Their album La Stanza di Swedenborg comes out to eight tracks, half of which are more to the line of sound experiments than full pieces. Good music for reading at night, or for when you want thoughtful music but need just a little bit of an darker, deeper edge to it.

Clip from La Stanza di Swedenborg track 3: Dole
(LGT: Google Docs, click the download there to get mp3 file, about 1mb, about 1m30s in length)


Written by Doug Bolden

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