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Vitreous Vitriol

Part 1

Albrecht Dürer’s Melancholy I

Holy Fat Blokes, Batman: Random comments; personal blather; talking to myself. These are a few of my favorite things.

Lobsters, Fat Blokes, and Kleist.

A little more ranting than I expected, but it’s Sunday night. Let us mourn the Pack. Let me apologize in advance. Comments welcome, as usual.

Happy MLK Day.

First: whoever “mimi” is, I’d like to thank her for visiting my site and reading through parts of it. Next: I brought back a few Masterlock combination locks with me from Idaho—they are my old locker locks from high school. I’ve forgotten the combinations, but I’m sure there’s a way to figure them out ... In addition, the whole house (4 people) is contemplating getting match.com accounts (the two who had been a couple just broke up, so we’re all single now)—the competition would be to see who gets the most responses in a certain span of time. The highest and lowest would get dinner paid for my those in the middle. If I go along with this foolishness, I’ll go straight for getting the fewest responses ... a free dinner can’t be bad, right?

Date: Sat, 19 Jan 2002 07:50:43 +0000
From: Mimi Byun <mimibyun@hotmail.com>
To: <hyperion47@excite.com&
Subject: to you from me, mimi

Hi Steve,

Found your site on kuro5hin and I have a little note for you on my website. Please feel free to comment! :)



Free at last: though I’ve used Linux for about half a decade, I’ve never been “exclusively” Linux (nor am I now), but my dedication to free software grows everyday. Free software provides for all my computing needs: browsing, email, text editing, and typesetting. Games are a different matter, but that’s life. And getting NetBSD on an old Mac IIsi was actually quite a lot of fun (and using it as a black-and-white X-term was just perverse).

Although both Vim and Emacs are two of my favorite pieces of software, and I really need to learn to use both much better, TeX / LaTeX is still tops for me, although I’m certain I never would have heard of it if it weren’t for my math courses at Pomona.

And LaTeX will be essential to some upcoming work. Although I last used it for a ’real’ project in 1997 (my math thesis), I’ve been planning to use it for my dissertation. I also want to be able to typeset the music I’ve written, and I plan on using it for putting together a book of my writing(s) for a friend’s birthday (still a few months away).

I have a dream: I get lots of dreams, and my favorite are still the ones located in large buildings with lots of long corridors, expansive chambers, and numerous “secret” passageways (often narrow, short, and twisting). I never have the exact same dream twice, but certain motifs and sequences get repeated, and usually I know it’s a re-run. I’m still rather fond of the one about the nuclear blast at my ’old’ house in Meridian, in which ash settled on both our old subdivision and downtown Madison. The one last week that included nasty lobsters, violent apes, fences, suburbia, fast-food restaurants, and underground, wood-panelled hallways wasn’t bad. Who needs the Sci-Fi channel?

At the beginning of the year I decided against making any “resolutions”; being honest with myself about following through was more important than overachieving idealism in this instance. Setting reasonable goals interested me more, and I was pleased to read The Fat Bloke’s Guide to Becoming Less Fat by TheophileEscargot.

As a “fat bloke” myself (about 6’3" or 4" and 250lbs or so) who has spent the entirety of his 20s at a weight and body-shape unbecoming anyone hoping for a happy, healthy life, I was encouraged by the above-mentioned diary, though I failed to post a comment to the entry. I suppose I differ from some of the posters, in that I thoroughly enjoy participating in quite a number of sports (in particular, volleyball, soccer, fencing, and basketball), and I’ve always loved the ’rush’ of getting one’s ’second wind’. However, I’ve been a non-exercising, lazy turd for much of the 90s (and beyond), and the only ’sporting’ I’ve been doing is sporting a spare-tire.

With that in mind, it’ time to somehow affect a significant, yet realistic, change in lifestyle over the next several months. Actually, the establishing of new habits is one thing I have in mind.

In other news: while I still *like* the Minds Eye’s production of The Lord of the Rings, the BBC version is definitely better in most regards. In any case, I need to get a cable so I can pipe sound from the cassette player to my sound card--these cassettes won’t last forever, so I’d like to rip the tracks to mp3 at some point.

Regarding media, movies, and all that shit. It’s nice that we, the American people, have been given so many war/battle movies in the last year: Pearl Harbor (PH), Behind Enemy Lines (BEL), and now Black Hawk Down (BHD). I’ve seen the first two (rather unwillingly, but when family is involved, it’s hard to say no), and I do not plan on seeing the most recent offering. In what is perhaps his worst review ever (ok, they’re all so bad that perhaps I’m exaggerating here), Jon Katz writes:

Some critics have dissed Black Hawk Down as yet another Jerry Bruckheimer shoot-’em-up crammed with explosions and square-jawed heroes. I disagree.

Katz completely misses it (and I wish I’d missed /. today). It is another shitty Bruckheimer flick. If anything redeems it, it’s Scott’s direction, not Bruckheimer’s production abilities (I would direct the reader to the Onion review of the movie, in which Scott’s attention to detail and his extreme focus on the action are discussed). I can’t think of a Bruckheimer flick that can’t be described as vapid or insipid; Scott is a hack, but a flashy, interesting one at least.

I am ambivalent about historical revisionism of the three movies mentioned. PH needs little discussion, as it fails on so many grounds anyway (do the history, or do the ‘love’ story, but by $DEITY, if you’re going to do both, at least do it well); BEL, while exciting at times, was one of the most tasteless movies I have seen in quite a while. I study literature for a living, and I’m quite aware of theories of fictionality, etc. And in some regards, the revisionism of these movies is little different from the revisionism of Schiller’s Wallenstein or Maria Stuart, two of my favorite tragedies. But despite the fact that all the movies mentioned were either released, or in post-production before 9/11, they are all cheap attempts at using the viewers’ ‘patriotism’ (or, straight, old-fashioned nationalism) to achieve a reaction. I’ve read reviews of both movies in which the viewers like the movies specifically because they painted the US in a positive light. Give me a break.

What disturbed me most about BEL, can be explained by way of looking at one particular scene. Early in the movie, ‘our hero’ is eating with a few colleagues, and they talk about ‘why they’re there’, ‘what they’re doing’. They don’t know, but they are seeking a purpose. This is used cheaply later in the film, when ‘our hero’ feels the need to go back to get the film of the atrocities ... else, what did it all matter? However, the ‘Bosnian conflict’, ‘Yugoslavia’, etc. are things that most Americans still don’t understand. Aristotle praised poetry/literature/art over history because unlike history, which deals with particular historical events, which may not have any ‘lessons’ for us, poetry/literature/art forms a whole tapestry, it generalizes, and it creates meaning. [I may or may not agree with old Aristotle, and I know many people don’t, but it’s a good starting point for considering the distinction between history and art]

Jingoistic WWII movies are less harmful because we already have a national mythos about that war; against such a backdrop (of actually having a grand narrative, a comprehensive vision), telling a fictional or even fictionalized story (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List) is pretty much harmless. It’s hard to challenge the established norm. BEL creates meaning about Bosnia; it fills a void; it gives an answer to “why were we there?” and “who were we fighting,” but it does so in such an irresponsible manner (too many examples to mention here). At a time when we are engaging in a so-called “war against terrorism”; the main media sources provide no useful coverage of this “war”; most people are just going along with our dip-shit, fuck-wit “President” (sorry, name-calling); and everywhere you see people putting up flags, singing the national drinking song/anthem, and demanding “unity,” jingoistic, let’s-go-beat-the-shit-out-of-them-foreigners movies claiming to just be good, old-fashioned entertainment just seem like pro-war propaganda (state-sponsored or otherwise) to me. I’m waiting for a movie that comes out this year to be directly comparable to the most (in)famouse of propaganda flicks: Triumph of the Will (1934). Like PH, BEL and BHD, I expect that film, whatever it may be, to be totally without any sense of irony.

While I often love “historical dramas” (Wallenstein and Maria Stuart mentioned above, for example, as well as Götz, and Die Ermittlung), there is one that I am quite ambivalent about, and that one is Kleist’s Die Hermannsschlacht—a jingoistic pro-german(ic) tragedy from the Napoleonic Wars. It is a thinly veiled reference to the war(s) against Napoleon, despite its Roman-period setting, and although it sports some of Kleist’s most powerful language, it is mean-spirited, nationalistic, and celebrates genocide (or perhaps, a type of ‘xenocide’) against the Roman enemies.

Like Apollo 13 before it, BHD attempts to portray a ‘single’ event rather than a complex historical scene, and by so focusing, it may have saved itself from the sort of irresponsible revisionism from which PH and BHE suffer. Then again, one character’s name was changed because the ‘original’ turned out to be a child rapist ... wonderful heroes we have. I guess I can’t judge it unless and until I see it, but I’m wary, nonetheless.

I have nothing more to say (important or otherwise)

—20 January, 2002

I was always a bad student: I just got good grades. Now, I wasn’t as terrible as Jacob Borg and the even worse trouble-makers of the district. However, I rarely did my work, I didn’t study at all, and I did everything last-minute. In general, teachers liked me; however, I had my share of conflicts.

All in all, I was sort of a pain in the ass; it mainly had to do with my bad attitude. I remedied much of this once I went to college.

I am impulsive. I love planning things, it’s just that I rarely follow plans, if I actually complete the planning stage. I do things on a whim. I am not, however, spontaneous. I make impulse buys, I procrastinate, and I get sudden urges to do things. The rest of the time I mope around and do little.

—21 January, 2002

LaTeX, PHP, and the like: My current project is going well. I edited my pieces of writing (sketches, short stories, poems, translations), “TeX-ified” them, and put them all together in one big LaTeX file. I began by using a bunch of “include” statements to include each piece of writing separately. This made it easier to edit individual pieces; it also made it easier to rearrange texts, insert new texts, etc. Once I had performed several rounds of proor-reading, I decided to put everything together in one large file. I am now reading The LaTeX Companion (Goossens and company) and figuring out how to add external graphics (my drawings, for example), redefine section headings, etc. All in all, it’s quite educational and I’m sure what I’ve learned will aid me in preparing my dissertation. It’s also nice to be able to say that I’ve typeset a book.

After the last MadLUG meeting at Steep & Brew I decided to check out what online resources are available for learning PHP. I found a great tutorial and manual at www.php.net. My main interest is in putting together a PHP-based web-frontend to Postgres so I can redo the various databases used by Monatshefte. Speaking of Monatshefte, issue 93.4 just came out; it was the first done by the new team (Adler, Gross, Krause), and it looks pretty good.

However, after thinking about it, I realized it might be possible to put together a rather simple web-based document processor by using PHP, LaTeX, and dvipdf (or a similar program). The general idea is as follows: one could choose one of several templates. Each template would be a form on a webpage; one could have fields to choose particular global styles. Text fields would be used for paragraphs, addresses for letters, etc. Submitting the form would have PHP insert the fields into a LaTeX template file. This file would then be run through LaTeX; the dvi output would be passed to dvipdf, and the resulting file would be loaded in the browser (for download, printing, etc.).

In other news, I’m cleaning up my document directories, updating websites, and all that jazz. I downloaded all relevant email from Yahoo! and Excite, and now I can archive those messages. I need to do the same with my Eudora folders. I have some old journal/diary entries that I find too embarassing to keep for posterity’s sake; they do have some excerpts that I want to keep, but there are longer passages that need to be deleted. Sort of like historical revisionism, only different. I should also clean out and clean up my bookmarks ... who knows how many dead links are lingering around here and there?

Finally, next week I’ll get to go watch Muzsikás & Márta Sebestyén (Thursday) and The Reverend Horton Heat (with Nashville Pussy; Saturday). Two concerts, one week. Not bad.

—13 February, 2000

I have too many Laibach CDs: I count nine. In addition, I have “Jesus Christ Superstars” on mp3, so I’m up to ten albums. As it stands, have more Laibach music than I do AC/DC music, Muzikás, Metallica, etc. Of course, whether or not this is a good thing is a different matter all together.

It’s amazing the things one finds when one searches through old papers and the like. Moldy old currency from Eastern Europe has a tendency to show up, for example. I have the manual for my 6-speed mixer, but I can’t find the warranty for my chair--the chair has broken, but it should still be under warranty. The same cannot be said about the computers I own; luckily they’re still working, more or less.

A UW-Madison music professor by the name of Chris Taylor gave an inspired and inspirational performance of Beethoven’s second piano sonata today at lunch. It is a classical sonata by structure, but as the fourth movement in particular demonstrates, it contains a variety of elements that contrast with the concept of classical structure.

Franz Kafka’s parents burst into his bedroom that fateful morning only to discover their son had undergone metamorphosis to a disgusting bug.

Immediately his father rushed to his desk, picked up Franz’s collection of sea invertebrates and threw them out the window.

Mrs. Kafka, in dismay, asked why he had done this, to which Mr. Kafka replied, “With Franz like this, who needs anemones?”

In further witty news, I’ll provide a link to humorous comments regarding Wal-Mart’s decision to carry its own brand of wine. Numbers 11, 7, and 2 are my favorites.

I received the “official” Pomona College reunion material in the mail. Time to register ...

—19 February, 2002

[ Part 1 | Part 2 ]