Photo essay

Thanks to Mike for pointing to Douglas Ord’s work. Light shattering as it shines through a window, but somehow undamaged by the passage. The Korea Postscript (far down the index page) in particular says Important Things, I think, in a way that opens a door for me. Highly recommended, but you may need some patience if you are not sucking down the bits with a wide pipe.

There was a point

There was a point, not long after I finished university, and spent 10 months or so holding forth nightly, Ouzo-and-water in hand, for the entertainment of the patrons on the porch of Stavros’ Irish Bar in Mykonos, Greece (where I spent some time writing software for a small hotel and making sure that the owner’s VIP gun-running buddies and their mistresses had clean sheets and plentiful champagne) that I stopped thinking that I actually had anything to say. Or that there was any point actually saying it to anyone. Well, not exactly that, perhaps – I made a deliberate decision to Stop Thinking So Goddamn Much. I think it had something to do with the fact that the other straight guys (of whom there weren’t really that many on Mykonos during the Season) were by and large not the Thinking Type, and it seemed to me that they were perenially achieving much more demonstrably significant levels of romantic success with the Swedish stewardesses, French public servants, and other maddeningly delightful examples of European femininity that constantly littered the beaches and bars, confident of their hetero groovethings amidst the heaving seas of Mykonian man-on-man action.
Ka-chunk – spurious causal connection made : reduce cerebration, increase fornication. But with my regularly scheduled rocket-fuel rants on the porch of Stavros’ place on the nature of life, the universe, or why the hell the Man in The Moon scared the sh-t out of me so badly, and my almost complete lack of wonderchicken-booty shaking disco action, the young ladies I tended to attract, if any, were more of the cerebral variety, who, without putting too fine a point on it, tended to be less carnally-inclined. Or English, which was worse. At least that’s how it seemed to me, sad, mad, alcohol-soaked bastard that I was. My tendency after a certain point in the evening to stagger over to the bar and do stately (if somewhat legless) sirtaki dances with portly, 50 year old Stavros put even them off. Stavros always had one or two young women under his arm, a fact looked upon with an amazing lack of remonstration by Effi, his long-suffering wife. Didn’t do me any damn good, regardless.
Left : After. Right : Before.What was I talking about? Oh yeah : there was a whole nexus of things that made me turn from the life of the mind (“I will show you the Life of The Mind!”) to a life lived in the moment. Not that I stopped reading, or thinking, or even talking massive quantities of sh-t to my friends while drinking beside bodies of water and trying to figure it all out, during my twenties and early thirties. But I did consciously do a trade-in of introspection, bookishness, and analysis for random danger, booze and swashbuckling, and spent the balance received on plane tickets to wherever it might be, eyes closed, that my index finger landed on a world map. And I’ll tell you, my friends, I had one hell of a ride.
All of this, in sub-Mike Golby-long-story-long fashion, is meant to leave a minotaur-fearing trail of crumbs to the point of this post : I don’t feel as if I have much to say today. Or for the last week, really.
‘Cause sometimes the habits of a decade and more well up, lapping gently around my brainpan, and I find myself saying to myself, as of old, “f–k it. Crack a beer, sing a song. Let the accountants fritter away their lives on the details.”
But blogging has been good for me, I suppose, and though I find myself logging into Blogger, ready to say : “Well, I’m tapped out. Go read Jonathon or Mike or Tom or Shelley (except she’s also tapped out at the moment) or any of the other fine and fascinating folks in the neighbourhood,” well, here I am, a long-ass post later, and I’ve ended end up talking about Swedish Stewardesses (oh dear lord, the Swedish stewardesses), and had an enjoyable time doing so.
That, from where I’m sitting, is a Good Thing. I hope you agree, gentle reader, but if not, well, the hell with ya.
(Oh, and the ‘Me Tarzan, You Jane’ stuff? Didn’t work worth a damn. You just can’t fake being good-lookin’ and dumb as a post. Live and learn.)

Well, I was young, OK? comments.

Get Your Torture On

The Guardian : The US has been secretly sending prisoners suspected of al-Qaida connections to countries where torture during interrogation is legal, according to US diplomatic and intelligence sources.
“After September 11, these sorts of movements have been occurring all the time,” a US diplomat told the Washington Post. “It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can’t do on US soil.”
By torturing them.


Because there may be (one or two) People Still Living who still haven’t seen this, and because I’ve emptied a few bottles this evening (spot the telegraphing of the thematic whatchamacallit! Yes! I am win!), and because every time I see it, it makes me giggle like a Robotic Giggling Machine from the Future, I give you Gonads and Strife. Enjoy. Again.
(And if ya liked them apples, be sure not to miss the epic Schoolbus!)
Edit : Unrelated flash oddness – Why is the dog being pooped on, and why does Panasonic™ think that’s a good thing? Only the Japanese public knows.

A conversation over dinner

A conversation over dinner with a few of my Korean colleagues a couple of nights ago. In and of itself a little odd, that, conversing over dinner. Koreans tend to get the business of nourishment fully completed before chewing the fat, but a couple of these folks were Korean-Americans, and a couple others well-versed in the oddball ways of us hairy barbarians, and cut the requisite slack, as it was a ‘western’ meal : massive slabs of pizza and long styrofoam trays of gleaming, oily chicken thighs.
Predictably, it was about America, and the outrage upon outrage that the American government is perceived to be heaping on Korea and the rest of the world. The talk turned to the latest : North Korea as one of countries on the List, one of the countries where contingency plans to use nuclear weapons – in case of ‘surprising military developments’ – were being discussed.
A sense of outrage is building in this country. One of my colleagues said “They are talking about using nukes against North Korea, if necessary. I have family there. My father came from Pyongyang during the war.” Another nodded and said “Mine too. I have family in North Korea, a lot of family.” Heads nodded around the table. Almost everyone at the table, it seemed, had some relatives north of the border, close or distant, most of whom they’d never met. “We’re an occupied country,” said one of the men at the table, a Korean-American in his forties, “we have been for 50 years!”
I had to agree with him. It’s quite clear that the presence of US Forces may have staved off another invasion by the North, but the fact remains that South Korea has been a puppet for all these years, willing or otherwise, and the pumped-up, football field cheerleading that Pretzelboy and his cronies are spewing is doing nothing to ease the anger, the fear, and the rage that is bubbling to the surface. Quite the opposite, in fact. Anti-US sentiment is crystallizing everywhere – and this in a country that is ostensibly a ‘staunch ally’ of America. Set aside f–king Olympic medals, we have ‘axis of evil’ rhetoric, threats of nuclear strikes on family members, unilateral, illegal steel tariffs, Jay Leno making lame jokes about dog-eating, and Nogun-f–king-Ri, to name a few things that have pissed people off in the last month alone. Even my new freshman students, uncomfortable and standoffish in the early days of this semester, have warmed to me visibly when they found out that I’m not American.
America is making itself many, many enemies around the world recently. Far more, far more widespread, and far angrier, perhaps, than the scattered few that took down the Twin Towers in New York. Shrub and his cohort are stoking the fires of resentment and hatred all around the planet, and it’s the ordinary goddamn American on the street, in New York or in Paris, in Washington or Manila, that will lose their lives as a result, when next the next bomb goes off, the next airplane crashes into a building.
It astonishes and saddens me daily, with each new outrage delivered deadpan by the Resident and his handlers, that the American people are allowing their government – a leadership not even clearly mandated by an election – destroy what good is left there, and throttle what goodwill still remains in pockets amongst the peoples of the nations of the world. Dark days, my friends. Dark days.

Comments? comments.

"Worldwide interstimulating inscription"

“Worldwide interstimulating inscription” : Who will be the executor of your e-state, the beneficiaries of your last blog and testament? If I kark it tomorrow (which is never outside the realm of possibility), of my few and meagre works in this life, these bits and bytes right here might well remain the longest. Maybe I should install that Dead Man’s Switch after all, and rig up a script to make the bastard launch a Terminal Comments Thread, where my dearly beloved could hold a virtual wake, trash the place and pelt me with rocks and garbage one last time.
That’s a little morbid, perhaps, but it is interesting to think that thanks to things like and the mighty GoogleBeast, our children and theirs and so on in serried ranks into the future will be able to experience the textual voices of their long-dead ancestors, us, and read about the minutiae of their lives, their thoughts, and the truth about which f–king member of Radiohead they apparently resembled thanks to yet another online quiz. I wish I were able to read the journals kept by my grandparents, or my father, when they were young (and alive), and learn what made them tick. They might be disappointingly puerile, but on the other hand, they might not.
It’s a mind-buggering world we’re building. There are big bobbing icebergs of implication to all this technology floating around out here, and I for one am still bashing my head against them on a regular basis.
Ouch! f–ktacular. Just did it again.

Eulogize! comments.

Mike Golby shares his innermost

Mike Golby shares his innermost. Harrowing to read, and hopefully cathartic for him to write. I am constantly amazed and humbled by pellucid writing like this all around me, by these sudden radiant windows into the lives and minds of other people, multitudes of them…we are truly blessed to have these voices helping us stay the course in our own lives.
I hope you’ll join me in wishing Mike and his family well, and I hope Mike will understand if I continue to celebrate the bottle in my own life, while he continues his struggles against the evils it can bring, and has brought to his family.

Comments? comments.


Having a look at the referrers log, I found that someone had Googled here scant minutes earlier on the faery wings of the search string ‘where+are+the+brothels+in+pusan‘. I find this amusing as hell. The answer, my horny, pathetic friend, is
a) near Camp Hialeah (the US Army loves its hookers and drugs),
b) ‘Texas Street’, a nasty little area with equally nasty Russian ladies catering to the appetites of the Russian sailors, and
c) a place called ‘Green Street’,
the latter two of which are odd in a city without street names, but any taxi driver will know that of which you speak.
I’ve never been, myself, but I make it a point to know these kinds of things.
You’re welcome.

It’s all part of the service here at the Empty Bottle… comments.

Myth and Metaphor

There is no way I could say it better. Joseph Campbell, from Thou Art That : Transforming Religious Metaphor :

A mythology may be understood as an organization of metaphorical figures connotative of states of mind that are not finally of this or that location or historical period, even though the figures themselves seem on their surface to suggest such a concrete localization. The metaphorical languages of both mythology and metaphysics are not denotative of actual worlds or gods, but rather connote levels and entities within the person touched by them. Metaphors only seem to describe the outer world of time and place. Their real universe is the spiritual realm of the inner life. The Kingdom of God is within you.
The problem, as we have noted many times, is that these metaphors, which concern that which cannot in any other way be told, are misread prosaically as referring to tangible facts and historical occurrences. The denotation—that is, the reference in time and space: a particular Virgin Birth, the End of the World—is taken as the message, and the connotation, the rich aura of the metaphor in which its spiritual significance may be detected, is ignored altogether. The result is that we are left with the particular “ethnic” inflection of the metaphor, the historical vesture, rather than the living spiritual core.
Inevitably, therefore, the popular understanding is focused on the rituals and legends of the local system, and the sense of the symbols is reduced to the concrete goals of a particular political system of socialization. When the language of metaphor is misunderstood and its surface structures become brittle, it evokes merely the current time-and-place-bound order of things and its spiritual signal, if transmitted at all, becomes ever fainter. It has puzzled me greatly that the emphasis in the professional exegesis of the entire Judeo-Christian-Islamic mythology has been on the denotative rather than on the connotative meaning of the metaphoric imagery that is its active language. The Virgin Birth, as I have mentioned, has been presented as an historical fact, fashioned into a concrete article of faith over which theologians have argued for hundreds of years, often with grave and disruptive consequences. Practically every mythology in the world has used this “elementary” or co-natural idea of a virgin birth to refer to a spiritual rather than an historical reality. The same, as I have suggested, is true of the metaphor of the Promised Land, which in its denotation plots nothing but a piece of earthly geography to be taken by force. Its connotation—that is, its real meaning—however, is of a spiritual place in the heart that can only be entered by contemplation.
There can be no real progress in understanding how myths function until we understand and allow metaphoric symbols to address, in their own unmodified way, the inner levels of our consciousness. The continuing confusion about the nature and function of metaphor is one of the major obstacles—often placed in our path by organized religions that focus shortsightedly on concrete times and places—to our capacity to experience mystery.

Comments? comments.

Buddhist tradition calls this samvega

Buddhist tradition calls this samvega :

“the oppressive sense of shock, dismay, and alienation that come with realizing the futility and meaninglessness of life as it’s normally lived; a chastening sense of our own complacency and foolishness in having let ourselves live so blindly; and an anxious sense of urgency in trying to find a way out of the meaningless cycle. This is a cluster of feelings that we’ve all experienced at one time or another in the process of growing up, but I don’t know of a single English term that adequately covers all three. It would be useful to have such a term, and maybe that’s reason enough for simply adopting the word samvega into our language.”

[via a rather disappointing thread at Metafilter]

BurningBird, Mike Sanders, Steve Himmer…

BurningBird, Mike Sanders, Steve Himmer, Elaine, AKMA, Mike Golby and others have been spinning up a conversation about belief, something about which I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over the years. It’s a fascinating, enlightening rolling colloquy that continues to renew my enthusiasm for this blogspace we’re exploring (to explore strange new blogs, to seek out new ideas and new css designs, to boldly go…well, you get it). That said, I’m not sure if I’m going to take part in the conversation this time. I will, however, point you to my favourite contribution so far (which perhaps in part explains why I don’t care to participate at the moment) this play from the Accordion Guy :

Moses (blubbering): I’m…I’m r-really sorry, S-sirs…I know I could never be as smart as y-you guys…I’m just an ignorant pigf–ker…
God: Dude, don’t say “pigf–ker” in front of Jesus.
God and Jesus look at each other and begin laughing riotously.