Wednesday, June 30, 2010


-Bulgakov's life and how it informs the novel
-First paragraph of chapter 32
-Behemoth: absurd, droll
-Why Pilate is so tortured?
-Is Azazello, or even Woland, a sympathetic, likable character?
-What happened to Hella?
-The greed of the citizens -- witness Berlioz's uncle grab for the apt.
-Absurdity of Bengalsky: symbolic of enforced institutional stupidity of Soviet life
-Kinship of Pilate and Master? Tortured brilliance
-Meaning of Mark Ratkiller
-Why did the devil come to Moscow? A lark? To teach a lesson?

time yet for a hundred indecisions, / And for a hundred visions and revisions

The Skype does not make me feel totally at home. Something off-putting about it. It's a hybrid. There's the disconnectedness of not being with the person physically, just like a phone conversation, combined with the responsibility in a personal interaction of maintaining some control over your facial expressions and reacting properly in some way to the other person's comments. It's almost the worst of both worlds. It does sort of alleviate that thing of trying to not talk over someone on a long-distance call where you have to pause and see if the other person's going to speak. It's much easier when you can see if they're going to speak. And of course it's nice to see someone's face whom you haven't seen in a long time. It was lovely just now to see A over the Skype line, precisely to see her reactions to what I was saying, which is exactly why I'm saying I'm opposed, because people can see my reactions. I'm not saying it's not magic, because there is clearly black magic involved in Skype, I'm just saying I'm not totally comfortable with someone else seeing my face during a long-distance conversation. Usually when I'm on the phone I pace back and forth, look in the mirror, generally am not presentable to others, because I know no one can see me. This is different, you feel as though you have to "prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet".

The whole thing brings to mind the part in Infinite Jest where Wallace discusses the invention of video-phone technology and how people eventually decided they didn't want other people seeing them, and created lens caps for their video-phones with tableaus on them meant to deceive the person on the other end of the line. It's interesting how prescient that seems now.

Phantom Pt. II

Ain't no sunshine when she's gone, and this house just ain't no home, anytime she goes away.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Second-grade fresh

The inaugural meeting of the International All-Russia Skype Book Club is tomorrow. I'm excited.

Рукописи не горят

Monday, June 28, 2010

I won't wait

Day of signifiance:

bought new sheets
cleaned the floors
watched two world cup games
cooked some rice
rode my bike to grocery store
got to bed on time

the upshot here is that I did go outside and I did shower. So the day wasn't a total loss. It was the most useful Sunday I've had in some time. I think Waylon Jennings/Johnny Cash were right; there's something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone. Kept busy on this one, though and did labor whose fruits I can enjoy for the rest of the week, so I really can't complain.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Lift up your hearts

I've decided at last that I like seltzer. If this comes as a shock to you, please don't be offended. I've only just arrived at the conclusion myself; there's no way you could have known. Think of it this way: every time God closes a window, he opens a bottle of seltzer.

Peace be with you.

And also with you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Do I dare to eat a peach?

The car rocking forward and back in the driveway last night.
The cycle screaming through the Esplanade this morning (back on the old racing wheel).
The trope in literature about how mournful a train whistle always sounds.
How nervous he was to see her, even after they had contracted a certain intimacy.
The almost infantile fears people have when others leave; That which is not here now may be gone forever.
How easy it is to talk about trust and how very hard it is to practice it.
If you're a train conductor you can't be embarrassed by the sound of your own voice.
The graffiti read: "Sorry Chris". A farewell.
The look of amused mock-awe and surprise on her face when she is presented with something.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

An afternoon spent laughing

-We'll start with a quotation of one of Barthes' parenthetical references which struck me:

(A squeeze of the hand -- enormous documentation -- a tiny gesture within the palm, a knee which doesn't move away, an arm extended, as if quite naturally, along the back of a sofa and against which the other's head gradually comes to rest -- this is the paradisiac realm of subtle and clandestine signs: a kind of festival not of the senses but of meaning.)

This is from A Lover's Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes, published in 1978. It's an amazing book. It describes in minute detail all the sensations of being in love, simultaneously from a detached philosophical perspective and from the perspective of one who has been in love. Barthes has been a lover, but is viewing love in a cold, dispassionate, academic manner. The juxtaposition of the two within the book is fascinating.

-The way it feels to wake up an hour before the real post-time, and put a pillow over your head, with utmost confidence that you'll be able to get back to sleep. So much confidence that you don't know you have confidence in it; you experience it as knowing you'll get back to sleep, as a fact. How many things can we really know with this kind of certainty? These moments are valuable when they happen, because they are so rare.

-Feeling of waking up in a cluttered, dirty apartment, wondering mostly why? Why bother with all this again? This feeling had passed by the time I was showered and getting dressed, but I remembered the panic there was in it. Not getting anywhere is what it felt like. This coffee cup I left on the corner of my desk was there when I went to bed last night, it is still here this morning; Nothing ever changes, nothing I do means anything. I don't know why the feeling passed so quickly but I was happy to let it go. Something in the bustle and work of getting dressed and ready to leave felt significant enough to reassure my nervous heart.

-Heaven help me, but the best thing I did yesterday was to let myself pass out at 11. I always wake up too early on Saturday anyways. This time I was prepared, though. Woke up at 6:30 feeling well rested, and I thought it had to be about 10 until I looked at the clock. Went back to sleep until 7:45, when I woke up with about 8 and a half hours of sleep under my belt (It's only 11:30 right now, and I've been up for four hours. What a lark!). It felt great, and it makes for a day of limitless potential, which I will now proceed to squander.

-Emptiness of the train seat that was full a minute before. Now, sun shines freely through a window that had been obstructed by the face of a stranger. She is gone now, to God knows where. I'm almost sad to see her seat unfilled. I had nothing to do with her, why do I grieve her absence? Is it that any trace of a loss hurts us as humans? Was it the way the light fell, that it just looked sad? I don't know, but it hurt me that she was gone. Human emotions are baffling.

[semi-appropriate lyrics that I was thinking about on the train while pondering the above incident:]

The person across from me, sitting in her train seat, reminded me of you.
And I looked out, past her cheeks, through the glass light conduit. The sun had sunk, disappeared into New Jersey; Oh why don't they have phones on these things?

What can I do? I'm stuck thinking about you.

Did you know my sweet, yeah that I once took the liberty of watching you in your sleep?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

KoS installment 4

"I know of only one way to walk," she declaimed lustily, "And that's with my feet on the clouds, and my head in the ground, as if I were an ostrich."

Sunday, June 13, 2010


I will not be cowed. I am not afraid. Etc.