March 31, 2002

cross-legged jabbering

I’m trying valiantly to study for my media law quiz tomorrow, but it just ain’t happening. All I want to do is drink plantation mist tea and draw pictures of lighthouses, trenchcoats, fedoras and sailboats. I want to dig out my Sam and Max comic book and do some firearm studies, maybe learn how to draw a stunning pair of crossed legs.

Sigh. Watch out, this is coming clear out of nowhere:

I must note that I don’t feel my level of college suffering is much worse than anyone else’s… it’s just that other students don’t have the words nor the forum in which to organize and argue against their captors. I have placed upon myself the burden of vocalizing the restless souls of kids that yet feel unfulfilled in college. When it gets down to it I really enjoy this burden. It’s cathartic, it’s chopping wood, it’s using tools I gleaned from the Collegiate Machine against it, and it has a kind of romantic deception to it. Call me Herakles. I’m gonna learn everything I can from my master, and end up killing the poor bastard.

I’ve been grappling with the problem since freshman year (a handwritten 100 page journal started at the tail end of 1999, and the two that followed, is evidence of this) and though I have made little progress in making myself more content, I’ve made significant headway in developing an unfortunate anti-college manifesto. However, all effort has not been lost, quite to the contrary. I did make myself much more marketable by changing my major from jazz to writing. While my future is still uncertain, it will now hopefully involve minimal intimate contact with gutters.

I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance what seems like ages ago (I think it was only a year), and while it wasn’t the greatest book and didn’t shatter my world like all the praise said it would, it gave a few pages on college that were worth thinking about. I wish I had the book right now so I could review those pages, a bit wiser, to see if I still hold them as true as I did then.

Honestly, I don’t want to be miserable in my environment, and if I could find some way to reconcile my passions with college, I would do so in a heartbeat. In first grade we were supposed to draw Johnny Appleseed. I drew him getting eaten by a venus fly trap. In third grade I asked my teacher why, when we changed seating charts, I was always in back. She said it was because I was always drawing and listening at the same time. While I was able to draw all day and still do an excellent job in school, if other kids were to follow my example they might have been less fortunate. Junior high offered art classes as an outlet, high school had heavy involvement in the music program, and I still need to strike the balance in college. After nearly three years at the anvil, crudely hammering away at molten thoughts, I’ve found little commonality that naturally brings my two worlds together.

I love the people of college. I love my friends, I love Wooch! I love the nerds, I love the hotties in the hallway that make me quirl, I love my professors… I love how college gives me an excuse to chill with all these great people with interests that can be so similar and so different from my own. Yet I hate the things that dominate my time and distract me from the people. While I do enjoy alone-time, and would quickly go crazy with people jabbering around me 24 hours a day, too often alone-time becomes synonymous with homework-time in college. It’s either people, homework or sleeping. Lately with me, it is thinking about doing homework, distracting self with more interesting work, sleeping.

Beckons. Media Law. Heidegger. News Editing. Spin the roulette wheel and decide which one will get done tonight.

March 29, 2002

mwef tuth slush

I’ve gotta stop with these morning updates. I need to eat a hearty breakfast, as lunch doesn’t come until 2:00 on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Today’s precipitation is a mix of rain, snow and mushy hail, that falls sideways and fills your windward ear with slush.

College needs more words to describe groupings of the days of the week. Weekdays and weekends are fine for the business world, but students live in different universes depending on the Monday/Tuesday modifier. We could call the three-day group ‘mwef’ and the two-day ‘tuth’. Both not nearly as beautiful as quirl, but sometimes ugly words rise up to fill a needed space, and there’s no time to be discerning in judgement.

March 28, 2002

anomalous wakening

Tuesday/Thursday mornings are wonderful this semester. I don’t have class until 11:00, and because of some strange collegiate anomaly I am able to wake myself up without artificial means, usually between 8:00 and 9:00. That gives me a solid 2-3 hours where nothing is planned, my mind is envigored and homework drops away like daisy cutters into the soft Iraqi sands.

This story scared the hell out of me. It’s long but worth at least glance. A New Yorker story on how Saddam used chemical weapons against his own people.

Later: Crash Test Dummies had it figured out:

When you go on camping trips

you’re stuck right out in nature

forage in the forest like a primate

using sharpened tools instead of hotplates

Yeah baby, just like that. Stick it right there. Take me back.

March 27, 2002

quasi-reflective jargon

A grisly fog is descending on campus. I watched as it tumbled down the mountainside and filled the dales and valleys with its muting fervor. I’m tempted to sit here in my 2nd floor watchtower and wait for the attack.

But then I realized I have class in a few short minutes; time that should be occupied with cramming some filthy Cocoa Wheats down my hole or something. I realized I see no dales and valleys… just a parking lot. A glorious parking lot that is slowly filling up with the necessary commuting culture of UMD. It’s a drainage ditch, a gutter. The automobile waste from years of yore collect within, and as evening falls it disperses back into the rich soil. Repeat for tomorrow. Repeat to infinite.

If on my walk I should fall into a large crater where the campus used to be, I will shed not a tear. I will pull myself up the muddy radioactive slopes, find some comrades, take to the Green Dragon and head back to Utah.

Ryan Hankins discovered the drafting table in the Wooch! Lounge. Hmm… how long have we had a drafting table? He started drawing a few caricatures, and after a few trial runs we decided to go professional out in Kirby Plaza. We got a few customers (Get yer caricatures drawn! Only takes a few seconds, it’s free and mostly painless!), and though most of them were Woochers we managed to sucker in a few other people to pose for our scrawling. While Ryan stuck with doing triangle jack-o’-lantern interpretations, my drawings faintly resembled the victims. We got bored after 15 minutes and moved the table back to the Lounge.

I’ve become very disenchanted with philosophy class. It used to be fun entertaining big questions with no answers. Philosophy was a challenging mental activity, and for a long time I was fascinated with its immense scope. Since my original encounter with philosophy our relationship has degraded into gritty answers that leave me unsatisfied.

The latest example is Heidegger’s Being and Time, which is an abstract mishmash attempting to define terms that (as far as my convictions go) cannot be defined. I lost interest after Hume, when I latched onto his abhorrence of abstract ideas. If it is not grounded in perceived reality, cast it into the flames, said Hume in so many four-letter words.

Heidegger apparently didn’t listen, and proceeds to define being… what we mean when we say something ‘is’, what it means for us to ‘be’, the pervasive spirit of human life, et cetera. He places it all in time, a necessary component through which we experience this being. It’s a cute exercise, yes, and I commend Heidegger for attempting such a huge bite of baguette. Why, I might even be interested in his words if my brain didn’t feel like its scabbing over in the process.

It’s just that… there’s no content in there. It’s all word-mongering, a playful romp through Intellectual-Land while reality sits in the backseat making out with your ‘tit fille. So what did you do today? Oh, I came up with a definition of being… yourself? Oh, I fucked your girlfriend. The usual.

[note to self: due to strong language, change Cromlech to an 18+ show]

Descartes ran the whole damn thing backwards. He had a mental breakdown in his early 20’s because he had no solid proof that reality existed. He patched it up with a deft, rational argument that not only proved the existence of himself (cogito ergo sum, baby), but proved God and the external world as well. For Descartes, everything was now wrapped into a tight little package… and he only wasted his life to do it.

If the guy had any sense at all, the breakdown would have come after his theory, when he realized all his work amounted to nothing. All Descartes would need is one tiny trip in logic (if man’s concept of God had not been planted by God himself, for example) and his entire theory would be blown.

And now I need to go to jazz and finish this thought later. College would be awesome if it didn’t keep getting in the way of my brain. The way it stands, I can’t fucking do anything.

Later: And I’ve forgotten all of the points I was going to make. Feel free to stop reading now, as the rest of these words are going to be forced, meaningless trash.

Later: So, Descartes proved the world. Big farkin’ deal. Hume said that there are two parts to a person’s mind. There’s the part that functions in reality, buys groceries and eats soup, and there’s the part that questions reality, sits within itself and unravels the mysteries of existence. For all the words he wrote on philosophy, Hume remained convinced that questioning reality hardly affects how we deal with reality. I can doubt the existence of my soup, I could convince myself it’s actually a barking snake, but for all practical purposes it is still soup. If I give it to another person they will think it’s soup, if I eat it it will react with my body like soup.

And so it goes when you feel you’ve reached the dead end of your philosophical career. You look back and realize that your brain got some splendid exercise wrapping itself around huge existential issues, and your capacity for reason is greatly expanded… but your life is just as meager and pathetic as before. You feel more clever, but you find you have fewer reasons than ever to be clever.

Such is are the pitfalls of philosophy that Neitzche observed. Nothing but a huge game of King of the Hill, going on since Plato and Aristotle reared their ugly heads. We have seen every permutation of You’re wrong! No, you’re wrong! and we are no closer to agreeing on a construct of reality. But then, how important is it that we prove reality, that we prove being or time? The twisted path of philosophy has meandered away from my desires and I’m forced to bushwhack it alone. Being and Time does not tell me how to approach that cute li’l number at the emo concert. Descartes’ Meditations do not explain how to balance my passions with school, nor where to direct my maelstrom of creative energies for the most profound impact. Hegel’s History of Philosophy details many ancient empires, but never tells how to make people dance beneath the Dane Empire.

As Neitzche said, a new philosophy is in order. A philosophy that shoots toward the horizon with enough passion to shatter any number of mental obstacles. No more tired old proofs or abstract definition parties. I need to hear words that matter, words that reverberate through my soul until I am rendered an awakened, shapeless pile of goo.

If I don’t find those words soon, I’m gonna have to write them myself, g’ad s’arn it.

March 26, 2002

the tele-psychic drinks green tea

Quickly now, as I need to get to class.

We figured out what was wrong with the phone. Unlike normal people that have only one phone in their room (and my mother tells freakish tales of a time when there was only one phone per household), Doug has two phones. When everyone ran around checking phones we never noticed his headset phone. Turns out the phoneline has been dead for a week because Doug knocked his headset off the radiator and it turned on. Apparently if a phone has been on for a whole week the dial tone sputters out and leaves you with a ominous silence that is difficult to diagnose.

So the phone works now, and I spent more than an hour last night reviewing my voicemail, calling my editor, talking to my sister and yowling at Doug.

Later: Ha ha! Take that, foul Media Law book! The writers have gone out of their way to make the topic of tele-psychics dry and boring, so I went out of my way to dump green tea on the book’s absorbent pages. Nyah! I have forsaken you!

March 25, 2002

fleshy content and vigor

Whoo hoo! What do we have here? Welcome to the skeleton of Cromlech 0.15. From these bones will be hung the new fleshes of content and vigor, all freshly renewed in the scratchy deserts of Utah.

Things are gonna be a mess around here for a couple days, and by a couple days I mean a couple weeks. Please bear with, for soon I will make it all worth your while by posting pictures of n4k3d w0m3n and such.

Wow I’m a nerd. I can spell in l33t sp34k without even looking at the keyboard.

Augh. Dreamweaver is fucking stupid. It’s wonderful that I have to go to class now and don’t have time to figure out how to make it stop pouting.

The natural progression of emotion: Whoo Hoo! Wow. Augh.

Our apartment phone has been dead since the Friday before spring break. My guess is that UMD forgot to pay the phone bill. The repairman (actually a surly college-aged fellow like ourselves) came by today and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. He picked up the receiver, fiddled with some of the phone jacks and left for class.

“We’ll be back tomorrow morning,” he said. I don’t want them to be back tomorrow morning. I want my phone fixed now. I want to call my sister, I need to call my Ripsaw editor, I need to hear a freakin’ dialtone before I go insane.

March 24, 2002

venomous man grit

Back. Duluth welcomed us home in a most hospitable way, with shimmering white sheets of northern lights dancing across the night sky. We watched as the folds coalesced into a single stellar chandelier, which continued to pulse with energy as the desert-blooded Woochers froze and retreated indoors.

Trip was incredible. Time to shower for the first time in a week and eat pizza.

I’m covered in man grit… gonna go fix that…

Later: Eep. My body apparently got the wrong impression of my showering actions. What I intended as the working up a fine lather my body interpreted as a harsh scouring with brillo pads. I lost a precious layer of skin down the drain (and the layer under that was stolen by my towel) and now all my scabs need to coagulate anew. So… tired… words stealing away thought.

Soft bed so inviting. No rocks, no sacks of venom.

March 14, 2002

ever since then I got disseminated

This is how new language gets disseminated. My article in this week’s Statesman uses the word “quirl”, which is an archaic word that somehow weasled past my humor editor and two copyeditors. The word is so distant from common language that it doesn’t exist, really. I invented ‘quirl’ in this conversation with a friend, and I liked it so much that I’m apparently introducing it into everyday use.

But what does it mean, this quirl? Why invent a word when there are thousands of others that could communicate a similar idea? In short, I’m a freak. In long, it explains something that I felt the English language was lacking. Shakespeare invented all sorts of words, so why can’t I? He was considered a hack playwright back in the day, and I’m just a shlock author.

Quirl is a verb that is a bit like swooning, but swooning suggests a much stronger flood of emotion (“to be overcome with ecstatic joy”) than quirl. Quirl is more controlled, more of an appreciation and longing for the object of one’s attention. You faint when you swoon but not when you quirl. When you quirl you stay awake to enjoy the object you are quirling. When I look at a beautiful girl and gently moan within, I quirl. It is a mix of the joy and sorrow that comes from seeing incredible beauty. You have been graced with a sight of pleasing aesthetics, but a voice whispers in your ear that the spinsters of life will never weave you together.

Pronunciation is still up in the air. I’ve been saying kwirl, but kwaerl is another possibility. Both have very appealing sounds.

Out of curiosity I checked the dictionary for the word quirl, thinking perhaps it did indeed exist and I was just a fool using a word incorrectly. Quirl does not exist, but ‘querl’ does, a noun that means a coil or twirl, or a verb that means to twirl or wind around. Surprisingly, this is close to what I intended with quirl. As a girl watches Johnny Cash with misty eyes I had visions of her idly twining her hair between her fingers.

My word has now graced newspapers across the campus, and hopefully by context people will be able to infer a meaning and adopt the word into their everyday vocabularies. When I return from spring break I expect to hear everyone telling stories about quirling in Cancun.

March 13, 2002

the cool is out there

This entry at USS Clueless made me cry. Dammit, I want my alien ancestors to drop by and hand me a plasma rifle and a flying car. Humans are too busy designing pocket computers and cordless internet to make the cool things that really matter in geek life.

Oh Dane, quit pissing in the holy water. We do have some cool things going: Backpacks with built-in flat panel speakers, sandals designed with one strap and no velcro, headlamps with three white LEDs that last 30 hours on a set of AAA batteries, snowboard boots with steel aircraft-grade wire for laces, huge three-season tents with only one pole, exploding camp stoves, hydration systems designed from improbable evolutionary tangents, epoxy…

There’s also old cool. The toaster style was perfected in the 1940s. Every product eventually reaches a crest of innovation where further improvement can only make it worse. Companies then can’t find anything better to do but ruin their product with shoddy construction and ugliness.

The cool is out there, but it ain’t in computers anymore.

March 12, 2002

blameless cordless

Like all cordless phones, my phone has a handy locate function. I press a button on the base and the phone chirps in agony as I rampage through the apartment, tossing aside piles of dirty clothes and homework, trying to find my lost child. Today I found myself wishing my cordless shaver had the same function.

The wireless revolution has its definite drawbacks. In the near future I will be able to lose my mouse, keyboard and Internet under great burial mounds of household detritus. Cords are the only thing that keep my world in order. Cut them and I’ll feel as liberated as an astronaut freed from his shuttle tether.