essays

The Life Of A Text In Its Footnotes

Cusack was of middle height but had extremely broad shoulders. He usually wore a broad-rimmed soft hat and instead of trousers wore knee breeches. Carrying a heavy blackthorn, he would come into a pub and shout at the waiter, ‘I’m Citizen Cusack from the Parish of Carron in the Barony of Burren in the County of Clare, you Protestant dog!’

This comes from a footnote in the great paean to literature I’m reading now, a text which functions like a magical barcode; as my eyes scan it, my mind fills with a whirl of crashing ideas…


One Youth’s Literary Greatness

There is nothing so deceptive and for all that so alluring as a good surface. The sea, when beheld in the warm sunlight of a summer’s day; the sky, blue in the faint and amber glimmer of an Autumn sun, are pleasing to the eye: but, how different the scene, when the wild anger of the elements has waked again the discord of Confusion, how different the ocean, choking with froth & foam, to the calm, placid sea, that glanced and rippled merrily in the sun.

This was written by a teenage James Joyce. His great biographer, Richard Ellman, writes:

The example may give heart to adolescents who are searching their own works for evidence of literary immortality, and not finding much.


Terrorists Are People, Too

U.S. Marine Platoon Gunnery Sergeant Ryan P. Shane, from the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment pulls a fatally wounded comrade to safety while under fire during a military operation in Fallujah. (upper right) Shane and another member of 1/8 pulled their fatally wounded comrade under fire. (lower left) Shane (left) is hit by insurgent fire and (lower right) lies wounded.

U.S. Marine Platoon Gunnery Sergeant Ryan P. Shane, from the 1st Battalion of the 8th Marine Regiment pulls a fatally wounded comrade to safety while under fire during a military operation in Fallujah.


Shit Should Cost Money

Yo, what’s up, starving artist here. Guess what? I like to eat food. Trouble is, no one’s buying my shit. I haven’t eaten a square meal in days. I’m down to cooking my shoelaces on the tar when the sun comes out. I don’t know. Maybe it sucks. Maybe no one’s interested. Nobody’s got time. I understand. But I got another theory. It’s all about this thing called the internet, where you can, like, type a few words, and click your mouse a few times, and download basically whatever you want for free. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. I’m using the internet right now. I’ve downloaded hundreds, maybe even thousands of movies, because I can’t get netflix in Korea and the only dvd rental places around carry Transformers, Transformers 2, and Transformers 3, and that’s about it. I love movies, and I can’t help myself, and if I could pay a reasonable price for them, I would. In a heartbeat.


Google Glass: You Are Already A Cyborg

Have you ever seen Koyaanisqatsi?

This isn’t the best pickup line, I’ll admit. Regardless, Koyaanisqatsi is this crazy “mondo movie” about how shit is fucked up. You can see it all in the first two frames of the film, if your media-addled consciousnesses crammed with the need for instant gratification can hang on through camera shots lasting far more than three seconds each: ancient, primitive people had everything right, but modern civilization is destroying the world. Okay, simple (or simplistic) enough. The director of this film, Godfrey Reggio, a former monk, said in an interview somewhere that this movie (and its sequels) are all about how evil doesn’t come dressed in the form of a monster or a two-horned devil, but instead as temptation: as flashy technology promising to make our lives easier.


On Looking At A Bag Of Chips

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The Chinese logogram for beautiful, 美, is a picture of a man, 人, wearing a goat headdress, 羊. Thousands of years ago someone thought there was nothing more beautiful than a guy wearing a dead goat on his head.



A Brief Note On Ron Paul And Byzantium

This is an interesting video of two “pillars of economic thought”, Ron Paul and Paul Krugman, debating the role of the government in the economy. I’m only seven minutes deep at the moment, but I’m already struck by the remarkable ability Ron Paul has of utilizing obscure and abstract language to sound intelligent, while Paul Krugman comes off as brilliant by explaining his ideas with quick, down-to-earth words that my brain’s stomach finds far easier to digest.


(I) Quit Facebook

 

 

It began over seven years ago for me, this daily addiction of checking the online personas my friends and acquaintances had constructed for themselves, and for a long time it was a lot of fun. Never mind that I could have read or even written who knows how many books—could have learned to play an instrument or two—with the time I spent scanning these images and crafting this profile. People wrote to me, commented on my pictures, and with each red like that popped up I got a little shot of self-administered dopamine that only furthered my addiction. It also seemed an excellent way to find out if people were available, though since so many pretty girls refused to even state their relationship statuses I suspect that ultimately it was more or less as reliable as the dark ages before the internet, when one had to ask around (or just ask the actual person) if one was interested.


Marguerite Yourcenar

I was into science fiction and fantasy novels when I was younger. This adoration of unknown and nonexistent worlds came about as a result of a rejection of the world I knew: when I was six my family moved from New York City to Maine, and I went from being a happy, popular, and talented student to an outcast and a failure. This was an overnight transformation. I was still the same person, but my surroundings were different.


The Republicans Are History

There is an unspoken doom in a piece from this week’s issue of the New Yorker on the question of whether Texas will turn blue—if demographic change in America means that the Republicans can no longer get their presidential candidates elected. Every week this magazine churns out thousands of words on this subject for upper middle class liberals who want to understand Republicans without actually talking with them, and this piece is little different except for the way it ballets, on its tippy-toes, around one single basic inevitable conclusion:


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