From Craigslist:who put the dead bird in my mailbox? - w4m
Date: 2008-04-20, 12:56PM EDT
a) how did you get into my mailbox in the first place, it is locked
b) did you kill the bird
c) it died horribly, that much was clear
d) you’re psycho
e) do I know you
f) if I do know you I don’t want to know you
g) if I don’t know you, what did I do to inspire you to put a dead bird in my mailbox
h) I don’t know how to disinfect a mailbox from a dead bird, I’m worried about diseases and have used five different kinds of cleaner but still feel like the bird’s still in there still and like my bills and my catalogues and my coupons have dead bird on them
i) it was a hummingbird, I looked it up - they don’t even live in New York - this is so f*ing psycho, I can’t believe this
j) are you the mailman?
k) I’m always nice to the mailman
l) the super didn’t care when I told him what happened
m) the neighbors didn’t care either
n) do you have some kind of problem with birds
o) don’t put anything else in my mailbox
p) unless it’s an apology
q) no, I take that back, I don’t even want an apology
r) what am I supposed to do with this bird - it’s in bubblewrap in a bag in a shoebox in the freezer right now - am I supposed to bury it - where? how? in a construction site where they’ve jackhammered through the concrete - where is a person supposed to bury things in this city?
s) I could drop it in the Gowanus canal, but that seems undignified
t) I could drop it in the ocean, but the ocean is so big and it is such a small bird
u) I could drop it in the toilet but it would probably get stuck
v) I hear this whirring around my ears every time I go to the mailbox and I’m pretty sure it’s ghost bird, and I’m all “it wasn’t me that killed you, bird!” but still the whirring doesn’t go away until I get to the stairwell
w) am I supposed to eat it - maybe you were trying to feed me - don’t you know I’m a vegetarian
x) if this was Ricky, I’m gonna beat your ass, mama told you stop bothering the zoo
y) if this was Gina, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, how many times I gotta say I’m sorry
z) I could drop it off the roof, maybe it will reincarnate while falling and I can start reading my mail again
Have you ever been bored?
Yes, in my childhood. But it must be pointed out that childhood boredom is a special kind of boredom. It is a boredom full of dreams, a sort of projection into another place, into another reality. In adulthood, boredom is made of repetition, it is the continuation of something from which we are no longer expecting any surprise.
—inteview with Italo Calvino, Paris Review (1992)
Somewhere underneath all of this there is a root story that has to do with celibacy. The celibate status of its priests is basically the Catholic church’s last market advantage in the Christian religion racket, but human beings are not designed to be celibate and so problems naturally arise among the population of priests forced to live that terrible lifestyle. Just as it refuses to change its insane and criminal stance on birth control and condoms, the church refuses to change its horrifically cruel policy about priestly celibacy. That’s because it quite correctly perceives that should it begin to dispense with the irrational precepts of its belief system, it would lose its appeal as an ancient purveyor of magical-mystery bullshit and become just a bigger, better-financed, and infinitely more depressing version of a Tony Robbins self-help program.
—Matt Taibbi, “The Catholic Church Is A Criminal Enterprise”
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh!” he whispered. “Yes, Piglet?” “Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
—A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh (1926)
Why I love Columbia Heights: Earlier tonight I was late to the xx show and careening down the stairs at my Metro stop, two three four steps at a time, shoving old ladies out of the way in the race to catch my train. And right as the car’s in sight and I’m making a dash for it two guys on the platform start chanting: “Make it make it makeitmakeitMAKEIT,” and I get there and the doors close in my face and they’re all, “Awwwwwww” and then the doors by magic open back up and I leap in and they’re all “Woohoo!” It was like that scene in Hook where everyone chants “I do believe in fairies I do I do” and Tinker Bell comes back to life.
At the age of fourteen, the boy had managed to find the nearest horse stables, which he would visit frequently—secretly—by bicycle. Imagine him there, a young boy lurking in the fields, leaning against fencing in the meadows, perhaps under the strawberry, pale blue sky of early autumn, longing to be close to these huge, mysterious creatures that created such strange stirrings in his loins. Eventually they came close enough for him to touch them and smell them, a scent he would describe over thirty years later as “astonishingly wonderful.” This was no copycat version of the fabled play Equus (in fact, it was still years before the alleged British case of bestiality that the play was loosely based on), but instead a real developmental experience for an otherwise normal human being. This is what makes it so extraordinarily interesting. Three years later, the teenager purchased his own mare, took riding lessons and began a “long courtship” with the female horse until, finally, the pair consummated their relationship:
“When that black mare finally just stood there quietly while I cuddled and caressed her, when she lifted her tail up and to the side when I stroked the root of it, and when she left it there, and stood quietly while I climbed upon a bucket, then, breathlessly, electrically, warmly, I slipped inside her, it was a moment of sheer peace and harmony, it felt so right, it was an epiphany.”
This case study reveals that, again, it’s not only mentally deficient farmhands that have sex with animals. And neither, it seems, is it simply unattractive, unsavory men who can’t find willing sexual partners of their own species. In fact, shortly after obtaining his medical degree, this particular man married a (human) woman and had two children with her. But their sex life relied on his imagining her to be a horse and—perhaps not surprisingly—the marriage didn’t last.
—Jesse Bering, “Animal Lovers: Zoophiles Make Scientists Rethink Human Sexuality,” Scientific American
Okay, now that I’ve had a full five days to mull it over, some pros and cons of my new house:
Con: Feeling like an early twentysomething again with five roommates, a designated shelf in the fridge for my food, and one wall of our living room adorned by an ironic American flag big enough to backdrop a Huckabee rally. Pro: Getting welcomed into a new family.
Pro: Bedroom on the third floor + high ceilings = calves of steel. Con: Possible fungal diseases from dingy bathmat next to the shower. Must investigate further and/or consider wooden clogs.
Con: No more Whole Foods nearby; now all I have is the local Giant supermarket with its army of burnout cashiers fumbling the frozen corn and causing checkout lines to back up all the way out to the generic-brand cracker section. Pro: Wait, is that three whole boxes of Cheese Nips for six bucks?
Pro: The bus to work is just short enough that I can keep whapping the alarm until it’s a half-hour before work but just long enough that I can knock off a few book chapters or read a long magazine piece on the commute. Con: Driver’s a bit spotty on the left turns; bruises on knee proof.
Con: I’m not in Logan Circle anymore, where everything I could’ve possibly needed was in short walking distance. Pro: I do get to roam around a greater portion of D.C., no longer confined to a cramped two-square-mile radius. Bonus pro: Not that I didn’t love Yuppieville, but Mt. Pleasant feels more like an actual neighborhood. Bonus con: Though with that comes a lot more catcalling, and even though I’m not on the receiving end of any of it, the other day I berated a bunch of day laborers for harassing a woman who was walking by, and they then started insulting me in Spanish. I wish I remembered what they said because some of the phrases sounded like keepers.
Pro: My tiny little bedroom is as cozy as a mother bear’s underbelly. Con: On Sunday morning at seven am I was treated to the sounds of horrid little children squealing outside my window and what sounded like throwing yes they were hurling each other into the fence and making it jangle and crash. May need to invest in a BB gun.
Con: We have a TV in the house which will eventually subsume my life. I was raised without TV so whenever there’s one around I’m drawn to it like mold to bread. Pro: Apparently we have cockroaches? And that wasn’t mentioned in the open house? Wait, that’s not a plus…
Since one of the occupational hazards of journalism is the atrophying (from disuse) of the journalist’s powers of invention, the journalist who sets out to write an autobiography has more of an uphill fight than other practitioners of the genre. When one’s work has been all but done—as mine has been for over a quarter of a century—by one brilliant self-inventive collaborator after another, it isn’t easy to suddenly find oneself alone in the room. It is particularly hard for someone who probably became a journalist precisely because she didn’t want to find herself alone in the room.
Another obstacle in the way of the journalist turned autobiographer is the pose of objectivity into which journalists habitually, almost mechanically, fall when they write. The “I” of journalism is a kind of ultra-reliable narrator and impossibly rational and disinterested person, whose relationship to the subject more often than not resembles the relationship of a judge pronouncing sentence on a guilty defendent. This “I” is unsuited to autobiography. Autobiography is an exercise in self-forgiveness. The observing “I” of autobiography tells the story of the observed “I” not as a journalist tells the story of his subject, but as a mother might. The older narrator looks back at his younger self with tenderness and pity, empathizing with its sorrows and allowing for its sins. I see that my journalist’s habits have inhibited my self-love. Not only have I failed to make my young self as interesting as the strangers I have written about, but I have withheld my affection. In what follows I will try to see myself less coldly, be less fearful of writing a puff piece. But it may be too late to change my spots.
—Ellen Malcolm, “Thoughts on Autobiography from an Abandoned Autobiography,” New York Review of Books
Translation is a slog. It’s mostly women’s work, and it’s not a job from which you can retire comfortably (unless you are lucky and skilled enough to make it into the top echelon where publishers are interested to hear the new discoveries you made about a 400-year-old classic). When you do turn in a year’s worth of work in exchange for what must end up being $.75 an hour—more likely to be a multigenerational soap opera than a work of art—you get the added bonus of the news that if you’re an academic, translating can actually hurt your chances for getting hired or making tenure, or you get some jerk showing up at your reading to harangue you for translating the German “reise” as “holiday” instead of “trip,” because obviously the author intended “trip” and by choosing “holiday” you have changed the meaning of the entire work. Or maybe you have some yahoo declaring that translation is an impossible act and philosophically suspect. After a 35-year career of this, I would probably be a little angry.
—Jessa Crispin, “In English, Please?” The Smart Set
—Nikki Graziano, Found Functions
Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within… By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.
—Paul Auster, City of Glass
One day while teaching a class at Yale, Shizuo Kakutani wrote a lemma on the blackboard and remarked that the proof was obvious. A student timidly raised his hand and said that it wasn’t obvious to him. Kakutani stared at the lemma for some moments and realized that he couldn’t prove it himself. He apologized and said he would report back at the next class meeting.
After class he went straight to his office and worked for some time further on the proof. Still unsuccessful, he skipped lunch, went to the library, and tracked down the original paper. It stated the lemma clearly but left the proof as an “exercise for the reader.”
The author was Shizuo Kakutani.
—Steven George Krantz, Mathematical Apocrypha
Why didn’t anyone tell me about Anthony Lane’s 1997 review of Titanic for The New Yorker? I just came across it and… yes, yes, yes. He adored the film, much like I do: It’s as grand a dumb movie is there is, all torrential tears and watery dream visions and no brain. Better still, Lane captured perfectly what’s so splendid and magical about my favorite scene in the movie, in which a ninetysomething Rose is gazing at video images of the submerged wreck and the whole century-old tale comes (yes, I’ll say it) flooding back to her:
This is the aged but still blooming Rose (Gloria Stuart), a survivor in every sense—”Wasn’t I a dish?” she says, looking at the drawing. From here the story unfurls in flashback, as she recounts her distant experience. Cameron’s achievement is to shrink that distance: as Rose peers into the video monitor that displays the wreck, you see her face reflected in the screen until past and present are no more than a breath apart.
Even finer are those sequences where the Titanic is resurrected; rather than simply cut to the spring of 1912, Cameron sends his camera gliding along the decks and gangways of the encrusted vessel until, as if in fulfillment of a wish, she melts into life. This may be the most beautiful special effect ever seen; in its peculiar magic, at once decorous and delirious, it feels closer to the Cocteau of La Belle et la Bete, say, than to the tedious wizardry of recent blockbusters.
Many moviegoers, and almost all critics, inveigh against special effects, but what rankles is the abuse of effects; Cameron has repeatedly shown that in the right hands they are as fertile and provocative as any other artistic resource. At best, indeed, they answer to our hopes and terrors of transfiguration: the metallic morphing of the T-1000 in Terminator 2 offered the most succulent image of self-replenishing evil since Dracula, and, at the other extreme, the way in which sunshine imperceptibly breaks upon the drowned corpse of the Titanic, and in which passengers start to stroll again upon its gleaming decks, is as bracing a prospect of rebirth as you could hope to imagine.
My pet theory used to be that Anthony Lane took no particular joy in movies, that he never actually fell in love with any of the films he watched, which is what allowed him to be so coldly funny in his reviews. But after reading that above passage, I have to say I was badly mistaken.
An old ’60s-era lefty reminisces: “Back during the Socialist Revolution days we used to get in fights over the book galleys that came in. Publishers would send us all sorts of great stuff. One time one of my co-editors took this big hardcover volume of Byzantine art worth about $150… we were in his living room screaming at each other about it.”
As a patient, it’s hard to articulate how being seriously ill feels. In a profound way, we are boiled down to our essential animal selves. We crave survival. We long for pain to end, for ice chips on parched lips, for the brush of a soft hand.
It pays to have a positive outlook, I think, but that in no way translates to “fighting” cancer. Cancer simply is. You can deny its presence in your body, cower at the thought or boldly state that you’re going to whup it. But the cancer does not care. You’re here, the cancer has arrived, and the disease is going to feed until your doctors destroy it or, at least, discourage it.
Then there’s the matter of bravery. We call cancer patients “brave,” perhaps, because the very word cancer makes most of us tremble in fear. But there is nothing brave about showing up for surgery or radiation sessions. Is a tree brave for still standing after its leaves shrivel and fall? Bravery entails choice, and most patients have very little choice but to undergo treatment.
—Dana Jennings, “With Cancer, Let’s Face It: Words Are Inadequate,” New York Times
I interviewed 12 of the men, and found it a fascinating experience. One told me about his experience of childhood cruelty and neglect and linked this to his inability to form close relationships with anyone, particularly women. Alex admitted sex with prostitutes made him feel empty, but he had no idea how to get to know women “through the usual routes”. When I asked him about his feelings towards the women he buys he said that on the one hand, he wants prostitutes to get to know and like him and, on the other, he is “not under delusions” that the encounters are anything like a real relationship.
“I want my ideal prostitute not to behave like one,” he said, “to role-play to be a pretend girlfriend, a casual date, not business-like or mechanical. To a third person it looks like we’re in love.”
I felt compassion for Alex. No one had shown him how to form a bond with another human being and he was searching for something that commercial sex was never going to provide.
But another of the interviewees left me feeling concerned. Darren was young, good-looking and bright; I asked him how often he thought the women he paid enjoyed the sex. “I don’t want them to get any pleasure,” he told me. “I am paying for it and it is her job to give me pleasure. If she enjoys it I would feel cheated.” I asked if he felt prostitutes were different to other women. “The fact that they’re prepared to do that job where others won’t, even when they’re skint, means there’s some capability inside them that permits them to do it and not be disgusted,” he said. He seemed full of a festering, potentially explosive misogyny.
—Julie Bindel, “Why Men Use Prostitutes,” The Guardian
it will not be simple, it will not be long
it will take little time, it will take all your thought
it will take all your heart, it will take all your breath
it will be short, it will not be simple
it will touch through your ribs, it will take all your heart
it will not be long, it will occupy your thought
as a city is occupied, as a bed is occupied
it will take all your flesh, it will not be simple
you are coming into us who cannot withstand you
you are coming into us who never wanted to withstand you
you are taking parts of us into places never planned
you are going far away with pieces of our lives
it will be short, it will take all your breath
it will not be simple, it will become your will
It means that a mother can huddle on the floor of a closet with her daughter for what seems like eternity as fierce gunfire is exchanged outside their home, as occurred here recently, and then find not a word of it in the next day’s paper.
—Marc Lacey, “Fearing Drug Cartels, Reporters in Mexico Retreat,” New York Times