19 April 2008
06 April 2008
"I think I hear some choral music. One hears almost no music from these backyards. Knowing absolutely nothing about music, I conclude, in a scholarly way, that it must be Puccini because of the ascending and melodramatic scale of flats. Then I hear some dissonance and decide that it must be Berg or Schonberg. The soprano then hits a very high note and sustains it for an impossible length of time, and I realize that what I've been hearing is the clash of traffic and a police siren amplified by a light rain."
--from The Journals of John Cheever
05 April 2008
In Lower Manhattan on rainslick midnights when roiling steam pours out of the grates in long flumes, it looks like the city itself is breathing. Halitosis from the jaws of a concrete Cthulhuian beast. A boiled claw reeking of sulphur reaches from the sewer to drag you down to its ancient realm of sodden newspapers, lost coins, White Castle containers, discarded subway passes, forsaken lottery tickets, condom wrappers, cigarette butts, and the occasional finger. You cling to lampposts & postboxes, but the wet pavement is a sluice down the gullet of the beast, who salivates over you, squirming slab of beef. But it's a welcome demise, as demises go. Unlike the mummified limbo of empty parking lots and cheap aluminum siding somewhere in the yawn of the great wide nowhere.
03 April 2008
I suspect there are demonic pandas hiding in my cellar. I hear strange chewing noises late at night coming up through the vents. It's not the landlady at her fridge, gnawing on chickenbones after midnight - no, something more feral and unearthly is at work here. They're not chewing on bamboo & ferns, but the tattered souls of former tenants. Bloodshot goggle eyes peer out from the dark recesses of the stairwell when I go out to check the mail. The postman knows. He doesn't come inside anymore, leaves my packages on the stoop & hastens away. And those rumbling noises, like hell's empty stomach. Like a great furnace crying out for fossil fuel. There are jagged teethmarks in the wooden banister & everyday they seem to rise a little higher. Who do I call about this - an exterminator or an exorcist?
I'm in the midst of Barbara Tuchman's Guns of August right now, about the days leading up to The Great War (ha ha), trying to figure out why the hell anyone got involved in that bloody mudfest in the first place. Why it wasn't confined merely to a squabble between Serbia and Austria-Hungry while the bigger nations went about their business. Germany and France were looking for a fight, evidently. Itchy trigger fingers. They'd been looking for an excuse for years. I have yet to understand why Russia and England got involved. Treaties were in place, yes, but descending into nightmare just because your neighbor asks if you can lend a hand seems a bit hard to believe. Maybe people just took conscription much more seriously back then. Some perverted sense of honor. Or less focus on their own sense of discomfort.
The whole fiasco comes across as one big Rube Goldberg machine, starting out with an archduke getting smacked with a flyswatter and ending up in trench warfare. Four years of mud, shrapnel, barbed wire, mustard gas, and mortar fire. I have no idea how Wilson convinced America to get involved, having no great catastrophe to "avenge" a la Roosevelt and Bush. Yeah, Germany had a habit of sinking our boats which was most uncharitable of them, but was that enough to warrant hundreds of thousands of American deaths? I imagine America had recently emerged from the Spanish-American War with our uniforms barely mussed and figured this new one would be a similar jaunt. Go over, kick a few Germans while they're down, and be back in time for lunch. Certainly global warfare on this scale was unimagined and it never occurred to those in charge it would cost as much as it did. "Here, son, grab your bayonet and go make the world safe for democracy." How abstract. The lack of television probably had a lot to do with it, from America's perspective. Easy enough to send your young off to the majesty of battle when there's no carnage at your doorstep to disrupt your illusions of grandeur. After Cronkite's Vietnam we started to realize the whole thing was a lot messier than we'd imagined from all those Robert Mitchum flicks where children seldom had their faces ripped apart by grenade shrapnel.
And poor Belgium, getting trampled over because they had the misfortune of being situated between two bullies and contained some lovely flat real estate that made for superb parade grounds. Maybe in the future belligerent nations can conduct their warfare in the virtual realm and leave innocent bystanders alone. No, that won't happen. We like to get our hands dirty.
"Who brings the cheese on April 3rd?
The Cheese Weasel
He's not a silly bunny or a reindeer or a bird,
He's the Cheese Weasel
He's got a cute black tail
And tiny buck teeth
He doesn't bring fish, and he
Doesn't bring beef
So you'd better be good if you wanna get some cheese
From the Cheese Weasel."
For more information concerning the Cheese Weasel, consult his official website at CheeseWeasel.com.
02 April 2008
01 April 2008
Since Easter and April Fools fall so close to each other in the year, they might as well be consolidated to save time. Jesus is captured, tortured, crucified, and entombed. Then, while the disciples are mourning, he comes forth from the tomb. "Oh, we thought you were dead," they say, confounded by the resurrection of their leader. "Nope," he replies, "April Fools."