# 01 Sep 2005, 07:57AM: Mentions Gordon Korman:
MC Masala this week talks about classic stories. Kristen, your discussion of Anna Karenina a few months ago is one reason I wrote this.
He knows that the Kauravas are aching to start a war, and in the end he can't keep that violence at bay. Even as he deliberately walks into the setup, even as he tosses the weighted dice, tragedy approaches relentless.
# 01 Sep 2005, 10:08AM: Nice Moment:
The BART conductor told people getting off at Montgomery Station at 8:30am: "See you again in eight and a half hours."
# 01 Sep 2005, 10:13AM GMT+5:30: Phillip Robertson Is Braver Than I'll Ever Be:
I have the freedom to yammer on about literature. I'm not in Iraq.
Hajji Qais had been on Al Mutanabbi street for 10 years and the vendors all knew him. He sold greeting cards for births and anniversaries along with Christmas and Easter gifts, cologne and pens. He wore a beard and was also known as a devout Sunni who had no problem hiring Shia workers or spending time with Christian colleagues. Aside from stocking a few items related to Christian holidays, there was nothing unusual in his shop. He wasn't a known member of any political party, and he was, according to his neighbors on Al Mutanabbi Street, a generous man who often gave money to the poor.
No one in the district will speak openly about who killed him, including his own son.
Ahmed Dulaimi, a young guitarist for Iraq's only heavy metal band, told a story that has been going around Baghdad these last few weeks. There was an ice seller selling ice from a small shop on the sidewalk in the Dora neighborhood. One hot day, a man came up to him with a gun and said, "You shouldn't be selling ice because the Prophet Mohammed didn't have ice in his time." Then the gunman shot the ice seller dead. This story terrifies Iraqis but they often laugh when they recount it, because it is absurd that anyone would get killed for selling ice or shaving a beard. It is also true that the ice-seller anecdote follows a pattern of killings around the capital where Islamic militants have regularly assassinated Iraqis for violating strict, and utterly random, codes of behavior. The point of the ice-seller story is that now, anyone in Iraq can be killed for any reason at all. After Hajji Qais was killed, more than one person mentioned these spontaneous assassinations, and they spoke about them the way they'd describe a sandstorm, an all-encompassing thing that no one can stop.
# 02 Sep 2005, 09:20AM: Life, Liberty and Property:
I have been watching CNN. The Houston Astrodome now has its own ZIP code and the people who run it have cleared the Astrodome schedule through December.
What is the proper function of a government? Before everything else - before schools, before unemployment compensation, before alcohol regulation, before the CDC - a government has to protect its citizens from malicious forces inside and out. That's why we have an army and police. Right now there are parts of New Orleans that have fallen into anarchy. Property lost its protection first, but now life has as well. Oh God.
# 02 Sep 2005, 11:55AM: Impulses:
What we are now learning about the devastation in the Gulf combines with a growing desire, borne of my working life, to become a manager, a good one.
# 05 Sep 2005, 10:24AM: Agreement:
Like Seth's, my birthday is also approaching, and I would urge that anyone thinking of buying me a birthday present instead donate to one of his favorite charities. Other preferred charities include Fix Our Ferals. Alice and Steve got some laughs out of their friends by informing them that Leonard and I had given to Fix Our Ferals as a wedding gift partially because I don't like cats.
Seth makes wonderful points about altruism.
There is a certain strange randomness to where and when people donate; it's so often reactive rather than following a plan or policy....
There is some diversity in the kinds of problems people are prepared to help with, on many, many, different levels and meanings of "prepared"....
If I showed up in the Katrina disaster zone today, I would be worse than useless....
There is really a dizzying regress that we necessarily run up against when considering how we could become more useful against the problems of the present and the future....
....But after spending five hours yesterday reading about New Orleans, Biloxi, Gulfport, and people who will actually know what I have only heard about in literature, I want to agree with Johnny Gunther that "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"; so if you are stuck and dizzy in the Garden of Forking Paths this afternoon, please at least give what you can to the American Red Cross.
# 06 Sep 2005, 07:38PM: Jobs:
There are bunch of job openings at Salon. Whether you know marketing, sales, or tech, you might find a place at Salon.
# 07 Sep 2005, 07:07PM: Future Travels:
I'm going to be in Washington, DC and New York City in the last several days of October. If anyone who reads this wants to hang out around then, please let me know! Adam, I know you'll be in Estonia, you fellow traveler.
# 08 Sep 2005, 04:21PM: Little Things:
My column got moved to Sundays. Will Franken has shows this Saturday. Yesterday was a Hindu holy day celebrating Ganesha. Also yesterday, the Captivate screens in the elevator broke and we saw PC reboot screens instead of news and ads. The sun's been setting earlier. I caused a car accident in late July and I'm still afraid of driving or riding in a car, especially on the 101, where the accident happened. I've had some dreams and nightmares about it. No one got hurt in the accident but I have a bruise from where the airbag went past my hand and it is fading very slowly. I was playing a They Might Be Giants CD when the accident happened and now I have to desensitize myself. My friend Zack just moved away to San Diego. A Salon Premium member, telling me about his trip to Samoa, recited to me the poem carved into Robert Louis Stevenson's gravestone there:
Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home front sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
# 09 Sep 2005, 11:34AM: Your Sense Of Disenchantment:
# 10 Sep 2005, 10:18AM: Correction:
As of tomorrow, my column will appear on Sundays in the ANG publications in the East Bay (in Oakland, Hayward, Pleasanton, Alameda, Fremont, and I believe Vallejo), but will appear on Mondays in the San Mateo County Times.
# 10 Sep 2005, 04:21PM: The Play, The Play:
It probably behooves me to watch these Indian plays when they appear at UC Berkeley. Anyone want to come with? "Harvest" sounds more accessible than "The Man of the Heart."
# 11 Sep 2005, 05:18PM: Volunteerism:
MC Masala column as word-of-the-day calendar. Featuring "supererogatory."
I could be an ambitious capitalist and grow my disposable income, then give many thousands of dollars each year in donations for good works. Then I could hold decadent press conferences, featuring chocolate fountains and booze-spouting statues, listing off the names of cats I've neutered and cheerful multi-family dwellings I've built - indirectly, of course.
# 14 Sep 2005, 05:42PM: Spring Break:
"Arrested Development" has gotten to me. I am now constitutionally incapable of yelling "Whooo!" without subsequently yelling, "Spring Break!" I'm not the only one.
# 15 Sep 2005, 08:57AM: KSUM:
This morning, during the KQED pledge drive, I heard that they were giving away Salon Premium memberships. (I'd heard rumblings of this a few days ago at work.) Then I heard that another pledge thank-you gift was a gift certificate for Planet Organics, which I also patronize. Guesses for next incredibly Sumana-targeted premiums: date with Josh Kornbluth, dinner at Herbivore (the vegan restaurant on Valencia), the entire oeuvre of Gordon Korman, a donation in my name to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a BART Plus ticket....
# 15 Sep 2005, 01:53PM: Useful Glossaries:
VerticalResponse has put up simple glossaries for direct marketers (shiver) who use email and physical mail.
# 15 Sep 2005, 03:57PM: Table Talk:
I have to monitor bits of Salon's forum, Table Talk, to see whether people are stupidly complaining about Salon Premium there instead of, say, emailing for help. There are forums where people aren't stupid. In the "Families Who Think" section, the best is the Word Soundbite Of The Day thread, where people share cute things their kids have said.
In "Work Life" we see "True Tales of the Office" and stories of odd coworkers. And in "Private Life" we see the awesome thread of "Misinformation, mistakes and bizarre misunderstandings".
Unfortunately, any given forum online will eventually, probably, suck. And this is true of Table Talk as well. One thread used to be fine in its stated mission of discussing the Fox TV show "House" but then descended into Television-Without-Pity-esque sniping over the female characters on the show. The thread on "Arrested Development" is headed in that direction.
And then there are jerks who comment on Cary Tennis's advice column. Some of them are nice, but the jerks ruin it, as usual. They almost universally castigate the advice-requester for being imperfect and weak, for not constantly self-flagellating in penance for her crimes (but if she does, what a martyr-wannabe!), for not "Setting Boundaries", whatever. Nope, there aren't real people behind these letters, not at all! They just exist for my amusement, like novels! Fiction, really!
Every once in a while the letter-writer will actually post within the forum. Then sometimes the jerks soften their tune, but of course there will be some intolerant ass who doesn't, just to show the letter-writer how wrong he is, how stupid and selfish and racist and intolerant -- you dare to exist?! to think you deserve my approval?
The letter-writer usually isn't seeking approval. She acknowledges that she has a problem and is seeking help for it. But the jerks ignore the admirable metacognition and help-seeking behavior, and harp on the problem as indicative of moral weakness.
Lots of comments sections all around the Internet fall into the abyss. They fall faster if they are free, if reputations don't persist, if there's no moderator. But people pay to join TT, and there's moderation that stops people from libeling each other, and people's pseudonyms and reputations persist. And the people who run it care, and have clueful FAQs and community standards. And still the stupidity roams. It's everywhere.
# 15 Sep 2005, 05:18PM: Compare and Comedicize:
Josh Kornbluth is improvising his way towards a new monologue this Saturday. Perhaps you'd like to watch with me?
Heather Gold is also developing a new piece. I hope it's about law school!
As usual, Will Franken tops other comics:
Thursday, Sept. 22 - The Purple Onion
Headlining with guests Jacob and Sherrie Sirof and friend from Canada whose name we can't say due to legal issues
# 15 Sep 2005, 10:19PM: Considering Trek:
We had a boring assembly a few weeks before the eighth-grade graduation ceremony. The ceremony was probably the week after the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. A teacher
passed around a clipboard upon which we wrote our full names as we
wanted them laser-printed on our diplomas. In a fit of whimsy I put
down my middle initial as Q (which it's not). In Trek, Q is omnipotent. My adolescent feelings of powerlessness - ridiculously transparent.
At graduation we had a "Reader's Theater" where all thirty graduates could say a few words. I think they played a Garth Brooks song about a river and a journey. We all held roses in little water-filled plastic cylinders with green rubber gaskets.
I don't remember what I said. Given that I then had an obsession with clever analogies (another reason I loved Snow Crash), it may have been, "Life is like a math book. Some of the answers you get at the end, but some you have to figure out for yourself."
Another Trek fan at school, one of the people who were the closest
thing I had to a friend, took my suggestion and Q's words from the final episode. He came up last in the Reader's Theater and said, "All good things must come to an end."
On the way home my parents discovered the Q on my diploma. They were kind of upset and worried that this would harm me in some unspecified way. It hasn't.
# 19 Sep 2005, 07:40AM: Sick Seth:
Seth is in the hospital with appendicitis! It looks like he'll be okay, for which we are grateful.
There is a very gross yet interesting word that I'd never seen before in this article about appendicitis.
# 19 Sep 2005, 02:05PM: The Pearl Of Great Price:
I will own any label you please. Crackpot, dreamer, shoddy thinker, weak-minded. None of these matter for I have found the pearl of great price. And the transforming power of that discovery and of that joy lies at the center of my life.
Oh yeah, non-Mormon Christians have a PGP reference too.
# 19 Sep 2005, 02:50PM: We Need Jimmy Carter, We Can't Afford To Settle For Less:
Thank you to all who attended my recent birthday party. At least four well-wishers donated in my honor: two to Fix Our Ferals, one to the Red Cross, and one to an unnamed low-overhead charity. And several people made the ultimate sacrifice - listening to me drone about writing the column. (There was no column yesterday because I was an irresponsible flake who didn't get a good one in on time.)
Alice and Steve brought drinks from Beverages & More, including Cheerwine. A colleague and I just tasted it. Cheerwine is like a lighter Cherry Coke, and it has real sugar instead of corn syrup. Recommended.
As at the Fourth of July party, I put on the CD of presidential campaign songs. The lyric that best sums up the 42 songs:
Wait for the wagon
The Millard Fillmore wagon
Wait for the wagon
And we'll all take a ride!
# 21 Sep 2005, 02:11PM: But You'll Never Find The Right Bijou:
Am listening to Bargainville by Moxy Früvous right now. How did I go so long between listenings? "King of Spain" should be on anything we send into space to explain ourselves to aliens. Or to cheer them up after a long day of abducting people.
# 21 Sep 2005, 02:21PM: Instant-Messaging Tidbit Of The Day:
Leonard: "i will put the auto-coffinfish on a war footing"
# 23 Sep 2005, 08:07AM: Thoughts On Violent Movies:
Roger Ebert's review of Chaos provoked correspondence between him and the movie's makers.
Your answer, that the world is evil and therefore it is your responsibility to reflect it, is no answer at all, but a surrender.
# 24 Sep 2005, 11:20AM: Resourceful Leonard:
I was daunted. Then Leonard directed me to Jammer's review of the Battlestar Galactica miniseries. Now I've read it and I'm ready to watch "33" with Leonard, who has been patiently waiting for me for about three months. Onwards.
# 25 Sep 2005, 11:43PM: Sudden Activity:
In an abrupt departure from my usual sloth, I went to Oakland Arena for the first time, watched the Sangeet Awards, stayed at Sarah's place, saw Vinay and Alice and Steve, played Girl Genius and Once Upon A Time, and still have hours of Weekend Stuff to do. Early morning wakeup it is.
# 25 Sep 2005, 11:48PM: Trek Memories:
MC Masala this week tells you how much I miss Star Trek.
Somehow, in the early '90s, when I needed it, "Star Trek" found me.
# 26 Sep 2005, 07:21PM: Definite Plans:
So my friend Angel and I will be leaving the SF Bay Area for Washington, DC on October 25th and returning from New York on Halloween. We haven't yet decided which day we'll go to New York from DC. The Acela sounds nice, but it's $200+, whereas Chinatown buses are around $20. But vacation is a time for splurging, right? But the train costs more than either of the one-way airplane tickets!
We're taking JetBlue there and Song back. If we could only take Ted for a third leg of the trip, we'd be trying all three of Southwest's daughters.
I hope to meet up with friends and acquaintances in both cities. John-Paul, John, Camille, Adam, Sabrina, Jeff -- who else?
# 27 Sep 2005, 10:11AM: A Not-Salon-Premium Exclusive:
I covered the Sangeet Awards for the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspaper Group.
In truth, the show was a concert, a sequel to the 2002 Heartthrobs tour (starring Bollywood's up-and-coming star Hrithik Roshan) and the 2004 Temptation tour, which also featured Shahrukh Khan and Rani Mukherjee.
The celebrities invariably thanked "San Francisco" for its adulation. This didn't seem to bother the people who had driven from Fremont, Milpitas, Mountain View or Sunnyvale.
# 27 Sep 2005, 10:57AM: Uncle Morty's Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House:
Evidently Leonard and I pop up rather soon if you use Google to look for information on ImaginAsian's TV show "Uncle Morty's Dub Shack," whose second season premieres on Oct. 14. I just remembered why I started watching in the first place: the weird name. I saw it in the TV listings and thought it might be related to The Asian Dub Foundation. Boy, was I surprised!
By the way, you can watch clips from UMDS online. I particularly like "DisRap" and "Tic Tacs" but almost all of them reward.
# 28 Sep 2005, 08:43AM: How TV Doesn't Work:
Kenny Byerly is blogging intelligently about the sitcoms of the new TV season.
Yes, it's for laughs, but if you continually go for easy laughs at the expense of the show's reality, eventually the whole thing falls apart.
# 29 Sep 2005, 10:29AM: Bill Nye The Science Stud:
Yeah, I'm not the only one who found Bill Nye powerfully attractive. Maybe it's best for me that KQED is not airing Nye's new show.
# 30 Sep 2005, 08:14AM: Subverting Through Capitalism:
Last night I ran the merchandise table at a Heather Gold show. Those "One Smart Cookie" shirts are really nice.
I keep forgetting that there are people who actually take astrology seriously. These are the people who tell me I'm a classic Virgo, organized and logical. They have not seen my bedroom or my desk or my inbox. I believe it was Harlan Ellison who suggested initially lying to such people, telling them you are a different sign than you actually are, letting them prattle on about how you are a great representative of the species, and then telling them that you'd lied and you're actually a [real sign]. I think it would take a lot to make me be a jerk like that, but I could see myself doing it.
Astrology is bunk and I've known it for as long as I can remember. Give me some double-blind Myers-Briggs science stuff and we'll talk.
# 30 Sep 2005, 11:16AM GMT+5:30: Uplifting, Inspiring, Secular Art:
I'm listening to Dar Williams, "What Do You Hear In These Sounds," and I see Jon Carroll:
It's the making, I think. The making is the important part. If you are lucky enough to be able to make something and earn a living, you should keep making it, because the ability to make something is a gift.
It's the only time we get to feel like gods: when we make something. Of course, not everything we make is good, but God himself has the duck-billed platypus to answer for....And then we do something else. As Samuel Beckett said, we "fail better."
# 30 Sep 2005, 02:29PM: Word Power:
As Jon Carroll has noted, book reviews can spoil you in another way:
The review is so wonderful I am almost afraid to read the book; more than once, particularly with the New York Review of Books, I have preferred the gloss to the text.
I won't go that far about today's main story in Salon, but it taught me the words "orthopraxy" and "frangible," and third page just keeps hitting nails on the head, one after another:
...they will retreat behind the carapace of "faith," which is really their projection of how things should be -- their prejudice. And since there is prejudice enough on both sides, we have arrived at an age of really horrifying division: people shouting across a gorge and hearing only the echoes of their own voices....
And the ending makes me think marriage will be wonderful.
Cogito, Ergo Sumana by Sumana Harihareswara is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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