Category Archives: Having a livejournal moment

The Statement of Steven Siwy

I don’t usually write about work, because that’s my real name up there, and writing about work on the web is a fantastic way to lose your job.  For that reason, I’ll try to be deliberately hazy with any identifying details.  But I must speak, for this may be my last communication with the outside world.

My immediate superiors have decided to get some machine for the reception area that pisses out fragrance into the air.  It’s basically an industrial-strength Glade plug-in, because your business is growing, and you need next-level choke-the-air-with-perfume solutions.

The miasma now looming over my desk, like the threat of devourment by an unnamable Great Old One dressed in tapered khakis and a pink Newport News twinset, is named, I’m told, “Fresh Air.”  I imagine one develops a sense of vicious irony, working for a company that makes fragrance-pissing machines.

But now my breathing grows labored, my sight grows dim, and I fear I can type no more.  Blasphemous magenta flower-print patterns dance at the edges of my vision, and beneath it all, across the nose-withering gulfs of time, I can hear the music of the insane pipers who dance endlessly around the throne of the blind idiot-god of olfactory chaos: “Potpurri-ri!  Potpurri-ri!”


Failed his saving throw vs. mortality

Aw, man.  Gary Gygax died.


I bought the D & D basic set when I was, like, eight, I think.  I didn’t have anyone to play it with until I got a little older and a) thus, so did my younger brother, b) some kids around our age moved in up the street.  So I contented myself with rolling up characters,  reading the monster descriptions in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and drawing dungeon maps on graph paper.  To this day I write in all caps, having developed the habit because it made my writing more legible on graph paper, which we also used for our homemade character sheets.

Anyway, D & D was hugely influential, on me and on our culture, so I lift a flagon of mead to Gygax’s memory.

The dreams that should’ve died; the ones that kept you lying awake when you should’ve been all right

When I were a lad, in our senior year we got to write up little profiles for ourselves along with our photos for the high school yearbook. These commonly included a favorite quote, and the one I used was “When in difficult country, do not encamp.”

Ha! Good one, brain! Did you know that I was only a couple of years away from fixing to encamp like a motherfucker, psychologically speaking, for the next decade or so? Perhaps you did. You do enjoy irony.

The depressive’s habit is to be an extrapolation fiend. There are no mere phenomena; everything’s a synecdoche for some deeper truth, and those deeper truths are always bad. Did I break up with a girl this one time? I am incapable of relationships, and probably unlovable. Do I write only sporadically on my blog? I will never be able to finish school, and am probably a shitty writer and not too bright. And so on. Why move, if there’s nowhere to go, and even if there was, you’re not good enough to get there?

The project to replace that kind of thinking with something more like, “Hey, this is some shit that happened,” is an awful lot like what Joel Johnson’s talking about in this 43 Folders post, called The Economy of the Heart.

Also, from the comments, I’m thinking I might want to look into the work of Pema Chodron.

…and here’s a related idea: personal retconning.

Going to a book club meeting would require getting out of bed

Somewhere on the web, I do not remember where, I read a recommendation of Inglorious, by Joanna Kavenna, as a good book worth reading, especially if the reader has the experience to appreciate everything Kavenna gets exactly right about having a depressive episode. I’m not very far into it yet, but I’m enjoying it quite a bit (though it’s a hell of a pivot from the last book I read).

This is a cover letter that Rosa, the protagonist, writes, which is probably the most perfect example I’ve seen outside my own head of the very cover letter I feel like a fraud for not writing every time I apply for a job:

Dear Madam, I am a person of inconstant aims and mild destitution. I find this combination of qualities excludes me from many jobs. But working together, I’m sure we can exploit my talents successfully. I still have a cream suit, a relic from a former life. I am unexceptional in every way, and eager to serve. You can find me in a borrowed room, in west London. Yours faithfully, Rosa Lane.

I can see why the Publisher’s Weekly reviewer quoted on the Amazon page would say “but Rosa’s repetitive, nonresolving woes give the novel an unpleasant quality, something like Leaving Las Vegas meets Groundhog Day.” The novel’s prose style is halting to the point of almost resisting the reader (though lovely and erudite in a way that makes me miss having a decent vocabulary). But for Christ’s sake, the point-of-view character is depressed. Repetetive, unresolved woes are maybe, y’know, to be expected. Upon seeing that bit, maybe someone more generous than I wouldn’t have thought Oh, precious, was it unpleasant for you to read about that? My heart bleeds. but I couldn’t tell you for sure.

I got nothin’

Actually, I have a few things, but I haven’t been able to pull them together into a post yet. In the meantime, watch this nice video, and consider this an open thread in which to discuss how much you love my new Twitter feed, or whatever else moves you.

UPDATE: Okay, here’s a joke Digby likes to tell, to describe Democratic electoral strategy:

Here’s a little story from a book called “The Genius of the Jewish Joke” by Arthur Asa Berger:

Three Jews were going to be executed. They were lined up in front of a firing squad and the sergeant in charge asked each one whether he wanted a blindfold or not.

“Do you want a blindfold?” he asked the first. “Yes,” he said, in a resigned tone.

“Do you want a blindfold?” he asked the second. “Ok,” said the second.

“Do you want a blindfold?” he asked the third. “No,” said the third.

At this point the second leaned over to the third one and said “Take a blindfold. Don’t make trouble.”

UPDATE: Aw, fuck the Twitter feed. It’s redundant to my Facebook “status” field, and I have more fun with that.

The opaque mind of the muzak DJ

Can someone please tell me what the hell “Greensleeves” has to do with Christmas? ‘Cause so far at work, I’ve heard bossa nova, mariachi, and smooth jazz versions, among others that I may have forgotten about.

UPDATE: Sometimes my readers stop me in the street and ask, “Steve, in your experience, when arranging a performance of ‘God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,’ does it improve that performance to include electric slap-bass?”

Reader, it does not.

So I was just chatting with my *very* good friend…

It makes me happy when people I know do well for themselves, because it’s important to me that I be able to drop their names in conversation. Melissa Walker has performed admirably in this regard by becoming a published author of young adult fiction. Her first joint, Violet on the Runway, drops today. I urge you to buy multiple copies, because, of course, the more successful she is, the more mileage I get out of saying I know her.

Honestly, though, congratulations to you, Melissa. This is a super-awesome accomplishment.

Civil service, your path to fame and fortune

So I have this friend named Graham.

No no, let me revise: Massachusetts has this friend named Graham.

At your service

Meet Graham Campbell, a top 10 kind of guy

Campbell wanted to be an officer, not a white-shoe lawyer, from the time he was 5. Loved the sirens. At Buckley, voted “Most Likely to be a Civil Servant.” Became a volunteer firefighter at Vassar. Took the police test before his senior year and went to the academy after graduation.

Later, a funny thing happened. Kith and kin decided what he had done was very cool. He became a rock star among friends. He met a terrific group of guys on the force. What mattered to him most was that they not dismiss him as a dilettante. “I wanted them to say, ‘I’ll go through a door for you.’ ” They did.

He and his partner saw a lot. They answered a call from a woman who screamed that her boyfriend had hit her. They found the guy and he admitted he had. Then Campbell noticed a knife sticking out of his back. He had hit her after she had stabbed him.

I, of course, am already composing my rebuttal letter to the editors.

Seriously, a love note across the top of page A3 in the Sunday Globe? I’m cutting it out and putting it on the refrigerator. Way to go, you charming bastard.

We’re all gonna die

My desktop weather widget thingy tells me that it’s 68 degrees Fahrenheit outside.  The date, as you know, is January 6.  This is insane.  Global warming will kill us all.  I figure we’re a week, week and a half away from total ecosystem collapse.

On the plus side, it’s nice to have the option to wear a Hawaiian shirt to the food riots.

If you never say your name out loud to anyone, they can never ever call you by it

I have a theme in my head, and this Regina Spektor video is one illustration of it (said theme has nothing to do with the title of this post, except in the ways that it does).

Apart from my metaphysic, I would like additionally to link you to another Regina Spektor song, Better, which rocks my socks in a similar manner to Tegan and Sara’s “Take Me Anywhere.”

Also, this. Patrick Nielsen Hayden calls it one of the most beautiful pieces of music of our age, and I want to agree with him. I read somewhere that people love bowed string instruments so much because they most closely approximate the sound of the human voice, which seems totally true to me except when I’m humming the saxophone parts of Morphine songs.

How the fuck did I not know..?

In my travels in Intarspace, I frequently come across news that is no longer news,* and am astonished that I’ve made it this many years into my life without encountering this information until now.

I have two from this week:

First, while reading the CNN obituary for Gerald Levert, I discovered that he did a supergroup album nearly a decade ago with Johnny Gill and Keith Sweat.** Holy shit. How could this possibly have escaped my notice for that long? I can’t even fathom the seductive power that must be contained in such a work. It must be like musical Spanish Fly. Jesus.

Second, while reading the ISB, I discovered that William Shatner did a cover of Pulp’s “Common People” for his Has Been album. Again, where the fuck have I been?

Cultural tardiness like this makes me impressed with myself for having come across Yacht Rock only a few months after it ended.

*Number one on the list of “news that is no longer news,” by the way? Just for my brothers and sisters devoted to street-corner pamphleteering? The Good News. He’s been dead for two thousand years, kids. It’s really, really not news anymore.

**His real name!

Get out your periodic table! That’s me on the bottom right!

It cannot be coïncidence* that I’ve spent the entire weekend playing Guitar Hero.

Lauren has been watching a metal documentary, and is clearly no stranger herself to the metal.  From comments, I followed a link to the Wikipedia page for Lemmy Fuckin’ Kilmister.  Imagine my surprise as I learned that “Kilmister” — and a metal-er fuckin’ appellation you will not find — is actually the surname with which he was born.

His name, his moustache — Lemmy is the genetic culmination of the Heavy Metal branch of the human evolutionary tree.  I will hear no argument on this subject.

And it’s really goddamn satisfying to play “The Ace of Spades” on Guitar Hero.

That is all.  Go about your business.

*If I can’t have a fuckin’ umlaut, I’ll take the fuckin’ dieresis.