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May 2003

Making a Reservation at the Poorhouse

Hey! Here's another good one! You know that big tax cut that didn't make much sense to begin with? Yeah, that one. Here's another teensy weensy little aspect:

The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the US currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totalling at least $44,200bn in current US dollars.
. . .
The study's analysis of future deficits dwarfs previous estimates of the financial challenge facing Washington. It is roughly equivalent to 10 times the publicly held national debt, four years of US economic output or more than 94 per cent of all US household assets. Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve chairman, last week bemoaned what he called Washington's "deafening" silence about the future crunch.

Yay! that’s what I call leadership!

(Read some more info from the Financial Times, including the standard denials from administrative tool Ari Fleisher.)

Lies! Lies! Lies! Ye-ah!

AAAAAAARRGH! Again! And again! And again! And again! And again! What the fuck is wrong with everybody? It's not alien trickery, and it's more than just media bias. It's us that’s part of the problem, even if we're paying attention to what's actually happening. It's not even a new problem!

Last night I went to a fantastic AIGA event called Hell No: Designers and The War, where I got to hear an incredible array of people try to express their frustration, their anger, their stupefication, and even a little bit of their hope about the state of our union. Sure, they were preaching to the choir, but the feeling was pervasive that no one was really appreciating how far out of control things are going.

Trying to think of stuff to spread around on stickers or posters or something, I scrawled this stuff in my notebook:

Ugh. Feeling powerless again...

It's Not a Bug, It's a Sinister Feature

Hmmmmm, I’m beginning to comprehend how sinister Movable Type really can be. Ya see, back in Ye Olde Days of Blogger or Greymatter you would set the number of entries that would appear on the main page. With the dastardly Movable Type, you have to specify the number of days to appear on the main page, so if let's be hypothetical here you're either too busy otherwise or just too damn lazy and uninspired to post anything, your main page will dwindle and dwindle and dwindle until the shame forces you to post something anything! just to look like you're not slacking off too badly.

Which is a frequent reminder of something I’ve been noticing for a while now: I’ve become dull. Not a lot, and I don't even know if it's something other people would notice, but I can tell the difference here inside my own head. I don't mean that I feel like I’ve become boring, but it seems like a certain kind of motivation I’ve always had has gone along on its merry way. I don't feel the desire to write as much, to work as much, to run around as much.

To some extent, I think happiness and contentment has something to do with it. I’m not always trying to find distraction from loneliness and insecurity (ummmm...consider that a big thanks to You-Know-Who), and I’m not struggling so often to make sense of my thoughts by articulating them in writing.

The other factor, though and this is the part that I can probably sense more than others can is those damn antidepressants. Remember my little experiment in weening myself off them? Total disaster. Even if I could take the headaches, I couldn't quite handle the return of the depression-type stuff. So I’m stuck for a while, and I can feel how the medication just dulls my reactions a bit (and ov vey! The way it's obliterated that sex drive I used to have!). It's good in a lot of ways, not so good in a lot of ways. I’m never overcome by futility, but also I often start thinking about buckling down and being productive and then just think, "Eh. Screw it." It's a foreign sensation, and has taken a pretty serious toll on my writing, my ability to keep in touch with people, my ability to be creative just for the hell of it. If it weren't for deadlines, I’d be a total slug. (Hence, my appreciation for things like the demands of doing freelance work and the nagging, nagging, nagging brevity of the main page of his site.)

Thankfully I have an insatiable readership that keeps kicking me in the behind when I slack off, right?

Linky Love

Other things for you to read:

Blogging Style

I’m sure this isn't a scoop or anything but the Times ran another one of those increasingly common "explaining blogs to people who have no idea what they are" articles this Sunday in the Style section, of all places. It was OK enough, but I keep hoping for some articles about the particular culture of maintaining an online presence to look at the whole thing with a little more insight and a little less rehashing of the same old cautionary tales or view-the-sideshow tone. I realize that here are a lot of inherent problems with trying to summarize the raison d'être of a sprawling, heterogenous subculture, but I’d like to see a decent effort a little more often.

This is not, for that matter, so different from what has aggravated me for so long about "gay" movies.

The same writer also wrote an article about the magnificent Gawker and its ilk which did a better job of things, but I suppose it's less tricky with a more focused subject.

These articles caught my eye on this weekend in particular because I’ve been spending so much time lately trying to make some sense of what I’ve been doing here for these past four years or so. I’ve been incorporating and editing old entries, trying to pull them back into the overall record presented here, and thinking quite a bit about the various motivations and setbacks and quandries I’ve had while pounding away at my blog. I’ve written, culled, and presented a staggering amount of information (to give you some idea, the text of this entire weblog inluding metadata and comments dumps into a text file 2,000 pages long), and I’ve been trying to figure out a good way to extract the core narratives that have evolved over the years in such a way that they don't lose their context within the seeming randomness of the mixed bag of pithy observations and personal nonsense from day to day. Specifically, how could such a multilayered living document translate to print? It's an editorial and a design nightmare. Of course, I like a challenge.

In case I figure anything out, does anyone know a publisher?

Boomtown

Granted, I haven't even manged to drag my ass over to see Matisse Picasso yet, but I’ve already been wondering about the fate of Long Island City in the exhibit's wake. Now that I’ve got a studio just a frisbee throw away from the museum, I’ve been spending time over in that part of Queens and learning to appreciate its charms. It's still a bit on the drab side over there, but there's stuff going on, and I’d hate to see the area lose a grip on its newfound liveliness. Not that I’m eager to see it go quite the way of Williamsburg, mind you, but I’d like it to keep turning into a groovy place to work and run errands and stuff.

Ideally, I’d even like to say some day in the future that my little space there is actually my studio/office, and suggest that clients or whoever come out to meet me, which would be a hard sell if the neighborhood slips back into generic industrial drab. It'll be curious to watch the progress, either way.

Kiki and Herb at Large

Will I ever get tired of heaping praise upon Kiki & Herb? Lord, I hope not. I am all a-twitter, waiting to play usher this Saturday night so I can catch their new show running at the Cherry Lane Theater, which would be otherwise outside my budget for this month.

Working me further into a tizzy of excitement is a great article in this week's New Yorker about the pair as they take their leap into "legitimate" theatrical performance. (Andy also had some great things to say on the subject.) The article does a marvelous job of summarizing the way Kiki & Herb do such a mind-blowing job of going beyond drag or cabaret into a darkly comic realm of pain, crushed ambitions, fury, and pop appropriation. I was also happy to see someone articulate the fear that their long-running fans all have that this latest transition may strip the act of some of its bold, boozy anarchy.

We shall see, and in the meanwhile we shall keep our fingers crossed.

Fuzzy Elf

And another news brief from the Department of Stupid Ways to Invalidate Stupid Plot Developements in Comic Books:

NightcrawlerNightcrawler never went to the seminary and got ordained as a priest. He only THOUGHT he went to the seminary and got ordained as a priest. It seems as if his mind was being tampered with by some crackpot anti-mutant religious organization. And since it apparently never REALLY came up in conversation ever with anyone, they all just found out and said, "Duh, you were never a priest, blue dude."

On a similar note, I the only thing I really minded about X2 (which for the most oart I thought was lots of fun, with plenty of nods thrown in to the nerds of us out there who care about whether or not the government is after Franklin Richards) was Nightcrawler. The teleportation effects were great, but the character had nothing of what I always like about Nightcrawler the wiry, wise-cracking swashbuckler with the mischievous smile and furry skin, the one who always seemed curiously sexy. The movie's nervous, Jesus-freaky version with the goony pants and the brandings instead of the fuzz just left me cold, when not cringing in dismay.

Gadget Nirvana

The new iPodI have it, here in my trembling little hands. Oh man, it's so beautiful. If you held it, caressed its beautiful, touch-sensitive buttons and curved edges, you'd understand. Three times the capacity of my first one (up for grabs if anyone wants to buy one), but yet smaller, lighter, sleeker. Even the cables are thinner and less obtrusive. Even the headphones remote and the dock are simple, lovely objects all by themselves. Even more than the first iPod which struck me as the simplest, most beautiful design of consumer electronics ever this whole object is a masterpiece of product design, holding onto the elegance of the interface and basic object, but with just enough tweaks to improve on the details.

I caved in immediately when these were released last week, and it was agony waiting for them to finally start shipping. Once it finally left the warehouse in Taiwan two days ago (SARS be damned! I want my iPod!), I anxiously monitored its progress through FedEx's tracking system, hoping it would arrive before the weekend. And now it's here: my precious!

Apple is very shrewd. They lost sight of it for a while during the nineties, but they've really come back to this place where they understand how important sexiness and luxury and a well designed experience are for their products. If their products are going to cost more, they still need more than just great performance in order to succeed in the marketplace. Apple's design team understands that not only should the product itself be well made, but there should be a uniform if not escalating experience of excitement from the outermost packaging to the accessories to the thing itself. It's a design solution in many ways: pay enough attention to each part of the overall package and it won't seem like you've cut corners along the way. The little extras will feel more like parts of a richer whole, not just afterthoughts thrown in a box.

#928

This is my 928th blog entry (more or less there have been a number of guest writers, and I’ve deleted a few irrelevant technical announcements from former sites), having now combined into this one place all the posts ever made from all the blogs I’ve maintained for the last three-and-a-half years.

Phew!

I had to do a quite a bit of manual editing of all the stuff I wrote before I used Greymatter, which turned out to be more of a stroll down Memory Lane than a hassle. It was amazing to see how much has changed in my life over all that time. I started proper blogging a while after the dissolution of my last serious relationship and starting over again in my own place in East Williamsburg a time when I was still depressed, angry, tense, and eager to focus on something other than the difficulty of the previous few months. I wanted to sharpen my writing skills and put something in place that would make it easier for me to add new content to the website I’d been maintaining for a while. I wanted to tinker with some new tools that had just come out.

Since then, my weblogs have collected the records of my adventures, successes, my goofs, my failures, my insights, my cluelessness, and my changing attitudes. Crushes and boyfriends and friends have come and gone, some quite publicly and some with only the most obscure references. I’ve moved a few times, started and quit jobs a few times, gotten depressed and crawled back out of it, and grappled with the same damn insecurities over and over and over again. There have been a number of earth-shattering changes: finding out I was positive and finding the Rooster seem to be the biggest out of all of them.

For all that’s happened and all that I’ve changed, I don't really think that I’ve grappled with any more or less than anyone else. Whose life doesn't go topsy-turvy once or twice between the ages of 28 and 32? Or during any other four-yean span, for that matter? It's just weird to go and sift through all of that, and think about how publicly it all transpired (and also ponder the various gaps in the story, events and people I chose never to expose for one reason or another).

I’ve been thinking about how much energy has gone into all this writing over the years, and it made me stop kicking myself quite so hard for feeling like I never accomplish that much. Granted, it might have been nicer if I’d been paying attention to the effort that was underway so that I could have focused it and written an actual book or something, but I guess all the material is still here in case anyone makes me an offer.

All that stuff was also a good reminder about how my energy and my ability to articulate things ebbs and flows. Lately I’ve felt like I’ve barely been able to string two coherent words together. I’ve been almost completely incapable writing decent, thoughtful posts or e-mails, which has led to an enormous pile-up of overdue letters to people who've probably been offended by my silence. (It's not for any lack of care, I swear, and I’m trying to catch up, just so you know.) I'll get back in the saddle agian at some point I always seem to eventually. Life is a journey, right?

And thanks to everyone who had read this site, written for this site, or left any of the 2200 or so comments that have been collected (there would be more, but the demise of BlogVoices taught me my lesson about third-party comment services). Y'all are a huge reason this has all been worthwhile, and will hopefully continue to be a big part of life for years to come.

The Basement Blog

Jessie tried to post this image of his first blog in the comments, but I don't allow any HTML there. Check it out:

The Basement Blog

So what did your site look like when you first started out?

Unimaginable Hunger

I was getting ready to write all about how deeply engossed I became in Manor House this weekend, and what a fascinating experiment it was and how I think public television's reality shows are in some ways more sinister than their commercial-televison counterparts and how I can't shake the sound of Kenny the hall boy saying "She's a right cracking bird" and stuff like that, but then I got completely distracted by this very funny, nerdy spoof: A Blog for Galactus, the devourer of worlds. Hee hee!

I still wanna write more about Manor House, though, and what a fascinating look it was at class relations that never quite existed the same way here in the United States. The closest equivalent we might have, which would be much more controversial television, would be Plantation House.

Episode IV

(I’m paraphrasing for now): "We have seen our republic give way to empire, in which the will of the people has been corrupted by a despot."

Yeah, sounds like the beginning to Star Wars, but rather it was one of the opening remarks made by Gore Vidal tonight in an interview with NPR's Leonard Lopate. Gore, a master pundit, was sharp and witty and sly and completely entertaining, although I was a little disappointed that the interview format didn't really allow him to pull together many of the threads he introduced with his first remarks. He thinks well on his feet and had plenty of insight to share, but didn't always manage to answer the questions asked of him. I didn't really mind so much, though, just because it was so refreshing to find myself in a roomful of enthusiastic people who welcomed this critical view of the goings on in our country and the world today.

Standing outside the New York Society for Ethical Culture with a bunch of other enthusiastic skeptics/liberals was a nice change in tone from the small rally being held a few blocks south in Columbus Circle, where there was a cop on hand to intimidate each of the handful of people present to speak out against The United States' looming crusade through the Middle East. While dissent was carefully monitored down there, in our line we were realizing that one of the many reasons to stay within the warm, protective environs of New York City is the amount of other people here particularly older people who've been at this for a long time who really believe in the sanctity of civil liberties.

Speaking of which, one of the themes that came up over and over again was the amount of damage being done to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by the current adminsitration. Gore stated at one point that the best position for any Democratic hopeful to take would be one of a "restoration of the Bill of Rights," rather than any vague promises about moving into a new future. To that end, I’d like to present for your contemplation those very rights, as spelled out by our forefathers. Can you spot which ones are particularly at risk these days?

  1. Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
  2. Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
  3. Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
  4. Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
  5. Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
  6. Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
  7. Amendment VII: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
  8. Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
  9. Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  10. Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
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