Writing

Remember Voyager

You’re barely beyond the grasp of our small sun refusing to let go. Wave goodbye to our last, demoted planet. Next stop: Alpha Centauri proximity, year 19600 AD. In the time it took humans to evolve from neanderthal to digital lemming you’ll cross the lawn to say hello to our next-door neighbor. If there’s life there that resembles your gold-etched humans, they’ll be more human than I. Here I carry a practical supercomputer in my pocket that can connect to Dial-a-Prayer across 13,000 miles, guided by a cranial electric storm, while mapping the walk where I tripped over a lost, tilted grave. You cross 13,000 miles in a fraction of a second, steered by a computer less powerful than a Pac Man watch. Who knows what seed you carry. I fell to Earth before you left our atmosphere. Blink three times if you miss me.

2xl: 2016-01-18

It takes 11 lbs of force to strangle a human being.

A bit more weight than a bag of sugar or a gallon-and-a-half of milk.

Or 20 average paperback romance novels.

Or 22 hard drives with 9 million songs or 6 million books or god knows how many ones and zeroes that can be forced to squeak and bleat into the unending silence.

The Gripmaster Pro ™ requires 11 lbs of force per finger, “appropriate only for individuals requiring extreme and extraordinary grasping power.”

The NYPD modifies their service firearms to a 12-pound trigger pull.

In 2012, NYPD police officers wounded 9 bystanders outside the Empire State Building; there were no superheroes in sight.

Your choice: the Beretta Model 455 SXS Express Rifle with walnut hand-checkered grip and fore-end, side-lock action, case-hardened finish and double triggers or the Ithaca Model 37 Deerslayer II pump shotgun.

Take home that 11-lb turkey…143 minutes in the oven and 11 greasy-forks picking at the carcass.

An old rule of thumb: when a baby reaches 11 lbs they’ll start to sleep more soundly at night.

Khloé Kardashian reveals how she lost 11 lbs in a month!

I’ve lost at least 11 lbs on at least 11 diets including low-carb, low-fat, low-calorie and the cabbage soup plan.

But the 11lb bullfrog is just a myth, the Internet tells me (but the Internet tells me a lot of things).

A newly-hatched Sauropod, a dinosaur known for its immense size, weighed around 11 pounds, about as much as a housecat.

Maybe you’re more comfortable thinking of this as 5 kilograms or 3/4 of a stone.

I can curl an 11-lb dumbbell 192 times in a row…and counting.

Reported time of application to unconsciousness due to strangulation range from 7 seconds to a minute.

He nailed a rope to a beam on his patio.

She tried to drive away.

The most important things weigh nothing at all.

Reading Montaigne 1.01 – By diverse means we arrive at the same end

Montaigne begins the main body of the essays with a brief meditation on the nature of mercy as seen in the dynamic interplay between vengeance and pity. Starting with a thought on the contradictory manner by which we might seek mercy from who seeks vengeance, or how we might “move them to commiseration and pity,” Montaigne notes the contradiction that “submission” sometimes has the desired effect, but so do the “contrary means” of “audacity and steadfastness.”

Their Names

In no particular order, but for two.

  • Debi B.
  • Elliott Smith
  • Frank Stanford
  • Mark Rothko
  • Molly Brodak
  • Spalding Gray
  • Genevieve T.
  • David Berman
  • John Berryman
  • Chris Cornell
  • Vic Chesnutt
  • Robin Williams
  • Anne Sexton
  • Mark D.
  • Weldon Kees
  • Marina Tsvetaeva
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Lara B.
  • Johanna M.
  • Lew Welch
  • Chuck G.
  • J. J. Johnson
  • Kirk B.
  • Rachel Wetzsteon
  • Nick Drake
  • Carl McCunn
  • Jocelyn W.
  • Diane Arbus
  • David Foster Wallace
Commonplace notebook (a red Rhodia? notebook)

Books, Collecting, organizing (MAS 1)

From Episode 379:

All you book collectors out there. Do you have the same problem or are you really organized about it? And should I take time during the sabbatical to organize it? Or not really?

Over the years I’ve been a book accumulator, hoarder, and collector. And I’ve been an organizer, piler, filer, and database-wielding reprobate capturing every detail of every one of the, at the time 1000s!, of books I owned. I’ve arranged books by author, title, year, size, and even color…sometimes with subgroups (poetry! crosswords! mysteries! books about books! books about words! books about books about words!). You get the idea.

And here’s what all of that has left me doing: tossing them all onto shelves in vague clusters by topic and sometimes even vaguer projects.

The work of hyper-organization isn’t particularly rewarding in process or results. But there is great pleasure in seeking and finding—and in its own way, not finding—a book. Going down rabbit holes when a title or cover grabs me, wandering the paths of memory with a book I’ve loved, thinking of tussles with books I didn’t, getting lost in yearning for a book that didn’t love me to change its mind. That’s the good stuff.

Note: MAS is a series in which yr humble servant answers questions—
explicit, implicit, and imagined—from his favorite podcast, Robyn O’Neil’s Me Reading Stuff.

Reading Montaigne 1.00: To The Reader

While reading Montaigne intensely, it’s impossible not to take a moment to note the sheer complexity of the language machine that goes to work with this single letter. Think of Montaigne as a proto-blogger 1 and the brief reader’s note at the head of his collected essays exemplifies why. Montaigne writes:

This book was written in good faith reader. It warns you from the outset that in it I have set myself no goal but a domestic and private one. I have had no thought of serving either you or my own glory. My powers are inadequate for such a purpose. I have dedicated it to the private convenience of my relatives and friends, so that when they have lost me (as soon they must), they may recover here some features of my habits and temperament, and by this means keep the knowledge they have had of me more complete and alive.

If I had written to seek the world’s favor, I should have bedecked myself better, and should present myself in a studied posture. I want to be seen here in my simple, natural, ordinary fashion, without straining or artifice; for it is myself I portray. My defects will here be read to the life, and also my natural form, as far as respect for the public has allowed. Had I been placed among those nations which are said to live still in the sweet freedom of nature’s first laws, I assure you I should very gladly have portrayed myself here entire and wholly naked.

Thus, reader, I am myself the matter of my book; you would be unreasonable to spend your leisure on so frivolous and vain a subject.


  1. not the proto-blogger, as it’s rather more complicated than that; if it’s reasonable to compare Montaigne’s essays to blogging, it’s also reasonable to compare any number of earlier people putting pen to paper to write letters and journals with half—or more—of an eye toward publication []

2XL: 2022-10-19

As I know now, choosing same-day delivery of a single book in a dog-sized box full of plastic.

As I know now, still shoveling the food my crying self didn’t have into today’s maw, the nerves in my feet and hands afire.

Trampwaddling through the meat section, I nose and nudge the shiny plastic packages of flesh, nauseated at knowing the social intelligence of the cow, the clever friendships of the pig, the sour smell of block and blade.

Not nauseated enough.

I indulge every appetite until I’m sick and then do it again.

A few more minutes of driving and I’ll park, ascend the stairs around a museum of glass silvering in the new sun, boats rising and falling on the water behind me.

I’ll cross a short bridge, the faint sweet stink of manure from the slow-moving train, the acrid exhaust of cars, the reek each steelcased animal riding tire or track.

I’ll descend, framed by the redbrick historic train station on one side, the similarly clad courthouse on the other.

For a moment, at the edge of the busy crossing, I’ll forget about my coffee order, wondering if I should wait for the robotic voice telling me it’s safe to walk.

I’ll teeter on the edge of an answer to how this can be, to what I can do.

I’ll hear the faint peal, the summons, the answer in my mother’s voice, her final rictus, her nothing now.

I’ll carry the dead weight of myself, the skin sack I swing in place of my convictions, no stoplights to slow me down.

RIP Grandpa Lott

[ca. 2009]

Grandpa Lott was my dad’s dad. Except that my “dad” was really my adopted.

After he quit smoking he always smelled of Wrigley Sugar Free gum, bubble-gum flavor, in the pink pack.

He was always ready with “Grandpa Lott” food: sun tea, kiwi fruit, cookies and biscuits made from tubes, pot roast cooked in a pressure cooker. Every time I visited he’d send me home with zip-loc bags full of each.

Setting aside those confused final days 15 years ago, he never hurt me, unintentionally or otherwise.

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