Friday, August 31, 2007

A Fact About Our Nautical Friend, The Squid

Squid are very good at smalltalk!

Researchers at the Society for Nautical Research in Kempsy, Ireland have taught a select group of squid to communicate using an innovative system of symbols. The squid are given a large waterproof boards with over 100 pictures on them, representing everything from simple nouns like 'fish' to a symbol that denotes that the squid is asking a question. The squid touch the various symbols with their tentacles to communicate, often forming complex sentences. After months of painstaking training, three special squid have become quite adept at the system, and repeatedly ask their trainers how their days have been going and whether they can have more fish. The squid have proved adept at smalltalk, engaging trainers on long, pointless conversations about the weather and what was on TV last night.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

An Antaomy of a Crush

I remember giggling myself near half-to-death when I saw a singer at some 16th Century Italian choral concert whine in a perfect castrati squeal that when his Love looked at him sweet arrows pierced his bleeding heart. It was just so mawkish a sentiment, so utterly unapologetic about its creepiness, and so perfect in summing up what it feels like to have a crush that I couldn't help to blush. Because I had been there before - sugary arrows of love and everything.

For me having a crush is an exercise in various kinds of agony. When I like a girl I can't speak, look at her, walk near her, or exhibit any of the signs biologists use to determine life for fear of embarrassing myself whenever I'm around her. Then, after I bumble my way through a conversation or two with her about, say, cartoon characters or giant squid and the crush deepens, I will realize that I spend a sizable chunk of my day - from one to three hours, I'd guess - rehearsing what I will say to her and thinking about how cute her cheeks are. And then after I do talk to her all I can do is wonder whether she likes me or not, whether, when she laughs and touches my shoulder - does that mean that she likes me? that she, perhaps, might have a crush on me, too?

But the worst happens when the relationship moves - as it inevitably does - to its penultimate stage of casual e-mail flirting. This is the stage in courtship where you've been out on a date or two - you might have even kissed - and are slowly sorting out the second or third or fourth date through a salvo of e-mails. By this point I'm reduced to an awkward lump of nervousness, checking my e-mail once every five minutes or so to see whether she's responded. When she does respond it feels like I've just been given a bag full of candy and straightaway I will write and re-write my response until it's a little polished jewel of wonderfulness that, as I'm about to hit send, I know will charm her completely and then she'll call me instantly and we will rush into each others; arms and make out a lot. Then, after I hit send I realize I just sounded creepy or accidentally propositioned her. And I hope like hell she doesn't realize how nerdy I am.

Of course, there are rules to these e-mails. One must let a respectable amount of time pass between when you get a response and when you yourself respond. It must not be too much longer - or too much shorter - than your interlocutor's last e-mail. But above all these e-mails must spin the illusion that you do not, in fact, have a crush on this person; that your heart doesn't make 16th-century Italian noises whenever you get a new message from her; that you haven't imagined what it would be like if you kissed her right now.

I don't need to say that whatever initial charm I could throw out into the relationship is scuttled around this point in the process.

I tell my friends that I hate crushes. That I don't have time for them, that I'm not in a romantic mood right now, that I don't know anyone who I could have a crush on. But the truth is that I love crushes. It's like O become a secret agent: I have an agenda hidden to all but myself, except rather than kill someone I want to give them hugs and tell them how they're cuter than most common varieties of bunnies.

And I think maybe the deeper satisfaction of a crush is that it gives you something to do, a thing of beauty to mull over, and some hope to look forward to. Your days, while being as formless and generally pointless as ever, will sometimes surge with a sense of purpose and joy. However flimsy, however delusional that joy actually is. Because the girl sent you an e-mail or waved at you.

But there is a real beauty of a crush that I tend to overlook, in favor of the sheer craziness of it: you get to care for someone. And care, love, kindness - no matter what word you use - is one of the most beautiful things I can think. When I have a crush on someone, if they called me up at four in the morning waking me from beautiful dreams about hanging out with Mark Twain to ask me nonchalantly if I could make it over to their place to eat ice cream I would act like it was completely and utterly cool and not in the least bit inconvenient and I'll be over there as soon as I can. This is not the sort of care that I hold for most of the people in my life. If it were anyone else I would yell at them and tell them to call in the morning are they smoking crack or something. But with the crush, I have this almost unfathomable spring of care for them, and that care is fresh, and amazing for its even being there.

Even if it is about as creepy as saying that you have arrows of love stuck in your bleeding heart.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Growing Up

Before I had my first kiss, before I got drunk at my first party, before I’d ever made a meal from scratch or paid a bill or got a haircut I liked; when I was an awkward young boy who mostly just thought about the eruptions of pimples on his face and fostered a guilty suspicion that somehow I was different from everyone else, that I was weird, and I believed that this unspeakable weirdness irrevocably quarantined me from peers – back when I was twelve or thirteen and was slowly becoming me: I listened to Leonard Cohen and read Milan Kundera, artists who I only realize now were my initiation into the mysteries of adult life. I would memorize their stories of doomed love affairs and baffle myself at their philosophies. In childhood I had been able to parcel out the world into neat packages. There were the good guys and the bad guys, and the stories were simple, whole, and sweet. It would be underestimating Cohen and Kundera’s influence on me to say that it was from them that I realized how compromised and complicated the world really was; they did so much more, they introduced me to the visceral sort of human struggle I would spend the next ten years or so trying to come to terms with. In their stories people hurt each other not because they were evil, but because that’s what people did. Life hurt. And I was stunned by that realization.

I had only started to get the first aches of crushes: daydreaming about taking girls I’d barely spoken with on dates and kissing them and having sex (this fantasy all the more passionate for how unclear sex actually was to me) and I could already see that something was growing in me that I couldn’t contain or satisfy. I couldn’t stop thinking about girls. And I could get any girls. That middle ground of sexual frustration was, to me, an uncharted span on the map of life. I had read nothing about it, seen no movies about it, everyone on TV looked so assured and witty when they talked about love. I must be different, broken, wrong.

And then I started listening to Leonard Cohen. Cohen knew where it was at. Just look at these two stanzas from the song Take This Longing:

Your body like a searchlight
my poverty revealed,
I would like to try your charity
until you cry, "Now you must try my greed."
And everything depends upon
how near you sleep to me

Just take this longing from my tongue
all the lonely things my hands have done.
Let me see your beauty broken down
like you would do for one your love.

These words meant nothing to me at the time, but I could intimate that they were important. There was a clue to my frustration in the puzzle of Cohen’s love affairs. I knew that when I could understand them and feel a connection to them, then I would have somehow broken out of my childhood, although I couldn’t express it like this at the time – I just, to be fair, pretended to know what Cohen was on about, and left it at that. So I listened to the album over and over until I had memorized every line, every image. I can sing along to the whole thing, even today.

And underneath all this emotional longing, there lurked beneath Cohen the figure of the messianic prophet. That there was, beneath the texture of loss and love, a deeper love, a religiosity that as a purely secular young whelp I could only indulge in by not admitting what I was doing, by singing along, but not listening to the words that I sang.

Milan Kundera brought me into the same world of sex and mysticism, but he spoke in a learned lilt that I recognized immediately as a style, as cool. His stories were chock full of that same heady and opaque burble of sex and infidelity; but he also built his stories around people philosophizing, trying to crack the veneer of life to find some meaningful core. His characters, for all their emotional backstabbing, were not just petty players in an afternoon soap opera. I mean, they were that – but they also moved around a world of ideas. And while I was shocked by the ideas themselves, I was more shocked by the idea that you could think vigorously about how to live your life. That you could have ideas. I knew then that I would unlock that door to adulthood and the frustration, the confusion, and the compromise would be illuminated by something richer, something I could not have before expected: art.

Maybe a year or two after I first discovered Cohen and Kundera, after buying more albums and more books, I started writing myself. And looking back at my early attempts at fiction and poetry, while of course I feel the requisite embarrassment at everything you’re meant to be embarrassed about: the clumsy technique, the self-importance, the mawkish melodrama; I am more struck by how back when I somehow decided that I wanted to writ, I was speaking with a voice that I had cadged from Kundera and Cohen. In some ways, those early attempts at stories outshine a lot of the work that I did when, dizzied by drugs and adolescence, I fell in love with my own sonorous voice; or even worse – the stuff that I wrote in College that tried to tackle the Big Ideas which turned out as bad as you could expect. Those attempts at fiction failed because their intentions were impure. I wanted to write them to show how good a writer I was, to show how much intelligence I could bash against my emotional problems. My early work – and the work of Cohen and Kundera who inspired it – seem to me something purer, inspired by the love of the story, by the love of art.

I’m thinking about this now because a couple of weeks ago I stumbled on The Unbearable Lightness of Being in the library and picked it up. A week after that I was trolling through a friend’s music and picked up the first Leonard Cohen album I ever had. So there I was, here I am, reunited with the works that started it all. And it feels odd to look over my shoulder and see me ten years ago listening to the same music, reading the same books, and to feel a continuity, and a growth.

I iz in ur newspapers of nashunal rekkord, harbriningin teh apockallps

Yes friends, we have yet another irrefutable sign that the rapture is at hand!

LOLcats in the WSJ.

Glory glory soon to be! I will be lifted on high to meet my maker! And the sinners, all of you horrible people who refuse to read my blog, you shall be cast down into Hades. The end times are most definitely these times.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Thoughts On Art And The Body

Another comic by Bill Kliban.

Here’s my question: do we forget ourselves when we’re moved by art?

A deeper question that motivates this is: what the hell is the nature of that artistic experience? Is there a single sort of ‘artistic experience’ that can cover the appreciation of all the arts, from dancing to poetry? Or are they all member of a broader class of experience? Or are they simply all called ‘art’ because of some linguistic misnomer, the same way whales were once thought of as fish? But we’re not going to get into that larger question right now.

I was thinking about this all last night at a mellow rock concert. All us kids were mustered around the stage, ignoring anything else that wasn’t held in the yellow and red gel-lights that flooded the small stage. Now, what I was thinking was that when we are moved by art, when we stare at the woman playing keyboard singing her heart out on the stage, we forget ourselves. We stop thinking of our own individual fabric of memory, thought, and body, and are somehow dissolved into something else – namely the artistic experience.

In Kant’s Third Critique I think we see a bit of this. Kant thought that all aesthetic judgments were universal, at least ideally; and that when we viewed art we did so disinterestedly – that is, ignoring the bias of personality. So when I look at a given work of art and call it trash, I don’t mean “Me, Brendan Mackie, who had a bad day today and is a white male in 2007 America, think that this work of art is a piece of trash” I mean “This piece of art is a piece of trash for everyone at any point in time” and implicitly “any dissenting opinion is a result of a failure of judgment or taste”. The disinterested viewer, the ideal viewer, will have the same reaction to a piece of art no matter who they are. It is up to the viewer of the art to get into the space in which they can filter out all the inessential quirks of their personal experience to experience something artistic that is somehow common to all people. (If anyone out there knows Kant better than me, and thinks that I’m butchering the Third Critique here, feel free to drop a comment about it – I haven’t read the damned thing in two years or so.)

But there’s something really unsatisfying about Kant’s view – especially my canned version of Kant’s viewed. Some of the pieces of art I love the most appeal to me not just because of their intrinsic universal value of the me as art objects but because of some personal value I can’t expect other people to share. I like Mirah, for instance, because I listened to her with a really good friend – and also, of course, because I think Mirah makes good music. Even if we partitioned off the personal pleasures of a given piece of art from the non-personal: thereby saying that the pleasure I get from my association of listening to Mirah is not an actual aesthetic pleasure, but more an aesthetic epiphenomena, limiting the aesthetic feeling to only those things that can be expected to be universal; that doesn’t solve the problem of cultural taste. We do not even need to look far beyond our own houses to see the tyranny of culture. My father, for instance, an open-minded and tasteful individual, cannot, for the life of him, understand much rap. But I can. Because I have been inculcated into how to listen to rap. Siilarly, I can’t understand modern dance to save my life and think that every piece of modern dance is a pile of pretentious poo. And while I might very well be right in thinking that, I’m open to the fact that I might not be able to appreciate good modern dance. To read a piece of art requires an understanding of a cultural grammar that we cannot expect to be universal. So we can’t expect our appreciation of art to be universal.

But we can ask a Kantian question and constrain it, and maybe then we come up with something worthwhile: if, without personal association and with the required cultural literacy, is there an essential universal quality to art?

Okay. So that’s just the set-up for my insight. I was wondering, as I watched all these people nodding along to the music last night, that we somehow forget our bodies when we are in the throes of the aesthetic experience. That we lose ourselves, our partictularness, in favor of a deeper, more universal connection to art.

Now I don’t know whether that’s an accurate description of what happens to us when we look at art, but I think that it points to the borders of the aesthetic experience. We have to be really careful when we’re talking about how people respond to art. There’s been an awful lot of ink and hot air thrown about what happens when a person looks at a painting or something and scratches their chin and calls it beautiful. I’d say that the only thing that the aestheticians can agree on is that the aesthetic experience is important. For some reason. Though I’ll be damned if anyone can agree why art is important.

So while I thought about this question, I kept on running into different questions that branched off that.

1) Can you experience art if you are a member of a marginalized minority group?

So much of English majordom is so obsessed by this question, and by the little questions that pop up around it – and I am frankly sick to death of it, and don’t think it leads us down any insightful avenues. So I will ignore it for now.

2) What about when you’re sick, or hungry, or tired – then can you have the aesthetic experience? And is it then diminished somehow?

3) And what about when you’re in a bad mood?

4) Is there are ‘right’ aesthetic experience to a given work? And a wrong one? If I say that Rhapsody in Blue makes we feel jaunty, and everyone else says it makes them feel profound – is my aesthetic experience wrong? Can you have a wrong aesthetic experience? What about an ignorant person who misread Huck Finn and thought that it was genuinely racist? What then?

5) Can we even adequately communicate the aesthetic experience? Or is it somehow beyond the grasp of our words? And if it is beyond the measurement of language – does it exist? I think of Wittgenstein, who argues that there can be no such thing as a private language, that there can be no such thind as words that refer only to individual things in our individual heads; and then I think of Einstein who said “Not everything that matters can be measured”.

6) Is the aesthetic experience even important at all?
Now, I have no answers to any of these questions. But if any of you out there have any – give them to me, I’d be interested to hear.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bus As Civic Space

I believe that Americans don't talk enough to one another. We don't discuss politics with people we disagree with, we don't mingle with people beyond our rather narrow habitual territories, we don't explore enough of the cities that we live in. We live in secluded villages of the mind, only rarely stumbling into the haunts of our neighbors. And this is okay. Faced with the overwhelming hubub of modern life, we can do no better than to fracture the civic mirror and pick and choose what picture we look at. But it would be nice to have a shared civic space in the American city - and I don't mean 'space' in the English major way here, no; I mean a real-life physical space. We have television, sure, but we only watch television - few of us actually contribute to it.

But wow, my belief in communicating with people who disagree with me sure got tested this morning. My seat-mate on the bus was reading a book, and I thought I would be nice and friendly and ask her what it was. She was a little hesitant, and actually turned the cover a bit away from me so I couldn't peer over and read the title. After a moment of two of squirming, she asked:

"Are you a liberal?"

Rather than saying yes, or that I was a progressive, or that I have a set of complicated political views that I don't feel can be summed up in a label like 'liberal' or 'conservative' I just said "I don't know." Which surprised my seat-mate, an overweight blond woman who was slurping gas-station coffee.

The book turned out to be Bill O'Reily's Culture Warrior. When she told me this I tensed for a fight, but told myself - well, okay, I should actually listen to her to see if I learn anything. She told me that O'Reily was the only person who really was brave enough to take on the real issues. And that Fox News was the only news station that had the courage enough to deal with unpopular subject. I was sitting there, thinking of all the funny things I could say to her, thinking of how sad it was that she had taken a drink of the Fox News Kool-Aid, and thinking that it is exactly this sort of ignorance that is the problem with America these days.

I told her that I thought O'Reily a great bully, and that he was leading to an era of divisiveness in America, which led to a lack of people who disagreed with one another - like me and her - from talking to each other. But I don't need to tell you what I said. You already know all the wonderful arguments I leveled against her.

But here's the thing: when I left the bus we both remained unconvinced. I had her promise that she would watch some Keith Olberman, and I promised I would track down a Bill O'Reily book and give it a chance. But the point of this - the insight I came away with - is that it's incredibly hard to talk with someone if they're working from a different set of assumptions farmed from a different universe of information. And that's the huge problem with Fox News in particular, that in its hectoring blaring echo-chamber of 9-11 doom, it distorts not only national discourse - but people's entire universe of understanding - so much that it becomes increasingly impossible to talk across that chasm.

But as soon as I write this, I think: so what? Is there really all that big a gap right now between Americans? Are we at a special juncture in our nation's history at which we are seeing a sundering of the national discourse, or did we ever have a monolithic discourse to begin with? Am I just teary-eyed and nostalgic for a myth, a myth of America where two people on the bus can talk to each other?

The trouble with Fox News isn't just that the most popular television news network in America spreads sensationalist propaganda when it doesn't make outright lies - but it's that by misinforming people to so great a degree, it makes it so that meaningful argument in which both sides can change their mind incredibly difficult, if not in some instances impossible. If, when she thinks of liberals, she thinks about latte-swilling Ragnorocks of bothersomeness, and I think of happy caring people, swilling lattes, there is little common ground for debate left. And that's a serious problem, a moral problem, one that will impress itself upon this country in the coming years.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

OMG You Have No Life

LolThompson by me.


1) Politics is boring. Especially Presidential politics.

2) Iowa is boring. And there's nothing wrong in saying that: I lived there for four years and I can't remember doing anything at all. I'm serious.

3) I have as much chance to secure the Republican nomination as Fred Thompson does. I will hereafter refer to Thompson as Admiral Jowls. Because that name fits him far better than Fred Thompson.


Should someone go to the Iowa Straw Poll, in support of Admiral Jowls, and say:

“This is our Super Bowl,”

then that person is boring they have no life. I don't think that they should be talking with the media about their chosen candidate, because people will think that the candidate is as boring as they are. Especially if that candidate, like Admiral Jowls, is not even an actual candidate yet. And Mr. Garcia [who is the person quoted in the Times], you are so fucking boring that it actually hurts, and while I have never met you, I hereby issue a public apology to all of your friends, relatives, colleges and acquaintances who have had to sit through all your tectonic boredom all these years because they have suffered from a great national tragedy; namely, Mr. Garcia being a boring loser. Guys, seriously, start a support group. I know I'd join.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Following Your Dreams Through Editing

This afternoon I was working on a squib that I found especially cumbersome. Every sentence I wrote was wrong standing around in the wrong place, like a drunk frat boy trying to fraternize in a solemn church. The piece didn't have a thesis - but that hasn't really stopped me before, as kind readers of this blog will know. The problem was that I kept on rereading what I had written, rehashing it, refocusing it, twisting each paragraph into something new, something that would fit, and nothing seemed to fit; after a while, I couldn't even think of what I was trying to fit it into.

But after several hours of tweaking, I think I've gotten something that, while I can't be proud of it, I at least can show it to other human beings.

Later this afternoon, following the habit of Mr. Sam Clemens, I took a notebook into bed with me and, struggling against the heat, scribbled a couple pages of a short story I've been working on about a guy who finds a Diabolical Machine in his apartment building. Now, what struck me was that I just wrote, knowing that later I would come back and pare back what was extraneous, tighten the limp descriptions, polish the rough edges until they shone. But I was scared, actually - thinking this too languorous, too lazy.

Now, the difference between these two acts of writing is that for non-fiction writing, you have a thesis to argue, while with fiction, your point's more blunt. In writing non-fiction, I can edit while I'm writing because I know, before I'm finished, the general point I want to make, and I can tailor each sentence and each paragraph to lead up to that point. But in fiction, I can get no clear sense of what I'm trying to do until the entire sprawling mess is in front of me. And even then it's pretty hard.

But I felt a deeper fear. A fear of the edit. Imagine a lifetime of editing, a lifetime of work spent trying to get every word right, to sharpen my thoughts until they could cut. Now, this isn't too dire - if you understand from the outset that, given the sweat and the ink and the tweak you can come up with some sentences that have some bite to them; but if you're like me, a poor little slob with a couple blogs, some writerly airs, and an internship; you have no such guarantee. Think of how exciting, how wonderful, editing would be if you knew that the words you were editing would stand for a year or ten; and think of how disappointing, how dull, how self-conceited it would be to edit and think that those words would stand for no-one, no matter how sharp they were?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Slacker Victory!

According to the New York Post, the Times has decided to say goodbye to its TimesSelect Service, which puts favorite columnists like Paul Krugman and Frank Rich behind a paywall. All I can say - and this certainly speaks to the sort of life I lead - is that this will actually raise my quality of life by a couple notches.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Teddy Roosevelt. He's awesome.

Image from LolPresidents.

Mental Floss has a run-down of the top ten reasons why Teddy Roosevelt is the most awesomest American President EVAR. And I agree. Roosevelt was brash, arrogant, and pretty politically incorrect - but he was also desperately charming. He basically invented the Teddy Bear. By which I mean it was named after him. Anyway.

Back when T.R. was campaigning for President as a member of the Bull Moose Party in 1912, he gave a speech in Milwaukee and a would-be assassin shot the former President square in his broad, moose-like chest. Roosevelt examined the wound and said to the crowd: "I don't know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot; but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose." and then spoke for ninety minutes more before going to see a doctor. Now if that isn't intestinal fortitude, I don't know what is. If I had been shot - if I had even heard a loud bang - if I, god forbid, ever mounted a stage to give a speech - I would wet my pants with nervousness. And T.R., well. He just kept on going. Which is just one of many reasons why T.R., I think, is the coolest President. Or the President I would most likely want as a friend.

Who's your dream-Pres-best-friend?

Monday, August 6, 2007

A New Job! A New You!

So I've started a new job, and it's so damned strange: I'm just terribly worried that I might somehow break some invisible taboo that will leave everybody angry with me. Like I will make a pot of coffee and it will overflow. Or I will say something terribly uncool and obvious in the middle of a staff meeting and everybody will recognize me as a huge faker.

Of course, I feel this pounding background urge to have everybody like me. And it's really not at all possible to be charming and entertaining when I'm about as helpless as a newborn kitten who doesn't know how to read the damned bus schedule yet.

Interruptions and Connections

I landed in the Twin Cities sometime yesterday morning. My memory of the whole day has not yet congealed into a narrative, and I'm left with what is more of a series of images, barely connected to one another. Here I am in the airport, gathering my heavy bags. And then I am taking a taxi, making awkward conversation with my friendly taxi driver. Then I am in my new and temporary home, getting settled as best I can. And then, in an odd, very nostalgic turn of events, I went down to a reunion for my recent Alma Mater. And now, today, I am at work. But these scenes do not yet fall into any sort of reasonable story for me. They are little more than tiny little vignettes of a life, that might add to a full story given enough time, but right now are surrounded by so much blank white space.

Of course, the vast bulk of my time has been spent trying to get over the technical hurdles of living here: finding myself stranded in some strange-looking part of the city, for instance, having to bushwhack my way across four-lane traffic to try to find my house; or, simply, sitting on the bus and getting the anxious suspicion that I'm actually on the wrong bus and thinking, for the entire ride, that I should get off and turn around - then realizing that I am actually on the right bus after all. I almost feel like I can't speak English.

Here are some quick things that I am surprised about:

1) How the hell did my room get this messy in little more than 24 hours?
2) How nervous I am that I will just get completely lost in some deserted suburb and I will have to walk twenty miles back home - or worse, call one of my roommates and try to get a ride back home.
3) I can get so damned tired.

I have this deep and very basic urge to be somewhere safe and familiar - but the joy and the crappiness of being an ambitious twenty-three year old is that there are few places left that are safe and familiar. The world, as they say, is my oyster, ripe for the picking, waiting for me with open arms and all that! But first thing's first: I need to figure out the damned bus schedule.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

In A Nutshell, The Modern World

So here it is, folks, the high point of our Western Civilization, the apex of human achievement, when we Americans walk up to the metaphysical bank teller to cash our collective check of freedom we get this, and nothing more and nothing less:

I am sitting in the Palm Beach Airport, listening to Feist on my lovely new computer, using the free wifi to check up on the Top Chef wikipedia website. I am chatting with my friends on GChat, about to haul my slightly tanned Brendan-body into an airplane. This, my loyal readers, this is true freedom. All that I need now is a hotdog with bacon bits sprinkled on it. And you know what, I could get one, if I wanted.

You see, I've been camping out in my grandmother's condo for the past couple days, getting fat on mediocre restaurant food, watching cable TV and failing to check my e-mail. A week without e-mail! It's like a week, I dunno, without breathing, or without carbonated beverages! And now that I'm again plunged into the sea of internet connectivity, I am amazed by how simple and yet how essential this confusion of information has become to my daily life.

But you know that already. What's really interesting is that dark province that I ventured into over the last week, the one where we can't find the latest YouTube video of, well, some high cultural achievement, nor can we send our friends messages about how awesome the new Bourne movie will be. In this far-away suburb of the American experience, there is no GMail, there are no blogs, there's just cable TV. So. Let's do a quick recap of what I learned on my weeklong break in Florida:

1) I like the show Top Chef far more than I really should. The basic premise is that it's a reality show, with chefs. And the last episode was so emotional, damn. This chef called Joey got eliminated and it wasn't really his fault, not exactly. But when he found out he started bawling, his face red, these big fat true tears streaming down his cheeks and I just choked up there with him, because he was talking about how everybody said that he could never do anything and here he was, on Top Chef - and of course, he didn't deserve to be eliminated! not at all! Sara so should have been tossed right out on here lazy-bad-cheffing tchuckus. But there is no justice, especially not on Basic Cable.

2) I also like cartoons. Still. Now and forever.

3) And naps.

But now I'm back! So keep on looking out for the posts.