August 30, 2005

Bits and Bobs

Am still chilling with visiting friends, and don't have time for a real post, so some scraps of the week's dialogue will have to do. Later I will post at length about the crazy guy with the castle and the crocodiles. (Oh my god, dude, you have no idea. Three words, my friends: "Fellowship of Isis.")

In the meantime:

Skillz:As we were walking along we came up with a vaction manifesto---

Diablevert:---And you're going to plaster it on the internet with a Midi file of "Margaritaville"?

Skillz: I feel that you are undercutting the seriousness of my manifesto.


Following a discussion about the merits of putting all the breakfast ingredients---eggs, bacon, butter, jam---on a slice of toast and eating it that way:

Diablevert: I find it nast, but, I mean, if that what you wannna do...(shrug)

The Librarian in Red Sneakers: Now you sound like my mom talking about homosexuality.

Posted by Diablevert at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2005

So I Says to Mable, I Says

The Librarian in Red Sneakers:And I didn't really want to walk through there late at night, because on my way over that afternoon I already had that run in with that guy who was looking at me like...

DDK:Like a long-distance mammogram?

L. Red SneakersYeah. Pretty much.

Posted by Diablevert at 09:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005

A Short

I've been busy the past few days, 'cause I'm working and have visitors in town, but I shall have more leisure next week to post some ramblings. I've read a bunch of books, at least; I might do something with that. But in the meantime,

From tonight's conversation...

Skillz: I contend that the rise of Christianity can be attributed almost entirely to the love of bacon.

Sadly, this led to a discussion of the diatary habits of 3rd century converts.

Posted by Diablevert at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)

August 18, 2005


I went to Howth the other day, because it was lovely out. Perhaps I shall make a short post about it later. In the meantime, I downloaded a bunch of boring, blurry, but pretty photos from my camera phone, which you will now be subjected to. So, the first in a series:

Boats in Harbor.jpg

Boats in Harbour, Howth

Posted by Diablevert at 07:44 PM | Comments (3)

August 17, 2005

A Short: While in the course of doing me an editorial favor...

Strunk, my better angel, told me something I probably ought to have tattooed on my forehead: People do NOT speak with semicolons.

Duly noted.

Posted by Diablevert at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2005

The Most Retarded Mystery Ever

I have lost my phone. In the stupidest---or perhaps, if you are feeling kind to me, most mysterious---way possible. I've tried everything I can think of, and by the day after tomorrow I think I'll have to give it up and simply get a new one. (I can keep my number, I've checked.) But I like my phone and without the steep steep discounts of a new plan switchover, I probably won't be able to get that model. So I put the mystery before you, my scant score of readers, for help and advice.

The sequence of events is this: Early Saturday morning, I was preparing to leave the house to go to work. I was checking my email and glanced at my computer clock; I thought it was running a bit fast so I pulled my phone from my left front jeans pocket and checked it against that. This is the last time I remember having the phone. I saw that both clocks were in agreement which meant I should really get a move on if I didn't want to be late, so I left the computer, decided to change my sweatshirt for a different one, went to my room and did so, then went downstairs and gathered up my bag and jacket, and poured some coffee into my travel mug. I walked out the door of my house, noted that it was pissing down rain, and as I made my way down the street, dug my umbrella out from the depths of my bag and unfolded it. As I reached the end of my block I reached into my left front jeans pocket to get change for the bus. Finding it difficult to manage umbrella, coffee mug, and change groping at once, I stopped for a second and set down my coffee mug on a large knoll post at the end of somebody's driveway. When I reached back in my pocket I realized I didn't have my phone with me. Total time span: Ten minutes.

At the time, I checked all my pockets, figured I must have left it back at the house, and continued to work thinking little of the matter. Indeed, I was so certain that I must have left the phone at the house that I didn't even think of looking for it when I came back until I was about ready to go to bed.

Well, I looked every place I can remember being and no soap. The way I see it, there are two solutions, broadly:

1) A Clicker-in-the-Freezer Situation. During the course of some action so banal I have absolutely no conscious memory of it, I set the phone down, where it has possibly fallen into a crack, etc., as when you get up to get a drink while watching a movie and put ice cubes into it, leaving the clicker in the freezer, and then sit back down and don't realize it's missing until the movie's over, by which time you don't even remember having gotten a drink in the first place.

2) It fell out of my pocket at some point during the hundred-yard walk between my door and the end of the block where I noticed it was missing.

Working against 2 is that the last place I remember having the thing is my jeans pocket; pretty hard for it to fall out of that. On the other hand, I also tend to carry the phone in my left-hand coat pocket, particularly when I'm wearing the coat I was wearing that morning. If I thoughtlessly transferred the phone to my coat, my jerking around my shoulder bag and rooting in it to get my umbrella might conceivably have pulled my coat in such a way as to tilt the pocket so something could fall out. On yet a third hand, the possibility that really worries me is that I might, at the same time as setting my coffee cup down, have removed the phone from my pocket so as to better get at the change, kept in the same pocket. While I can totally see myself absentmindedly putting the phone down and leaving it there, this is countermanded by the fact that a) I noticed its absence at the time, and b) I remembered to grab the coffee cup, so it's hard to conceive how I could have put the phone next to it and not grabbed it at the same time. On another hand---note undrunk coffee---I was about half-asleep at the time.

Well, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drews? (Possibly some of you may be Encyclopedia Browns, you iconoclasts, you.) Any thoughts? If I don't find it in the next couple days I'm gonna have to buy a new one; at the moment being un-contactable except by email is a pretty serious problem for me. And perhaps even a mild disappointment for you: No phone means no camera phone, and what will I post here if not colorful blurs? Anything that works for you in these situations? St. Jude has not been taking my calls. And I've tried just about everything else, even the Baker Street Irregulars.

Oh yes, indeed. See, since my block is really small and residential and suburban, I had a bit of hope that if I lost it along here somebody might have picked up and want to return it to me, as opposed to just nicking it. So I put up two signs, right around the spot where I think I may have dropped it, asking anyone who's found it to return it to me. And yesterday evening this produced not an actual phone but instead a passel of neighborhood children, who wished---having, they emphasized, nothing better to do---to have permission to look for my phone for me. So I said sure, explained to them the boundaries of their search area, and promised them ice cream if they delivered. And did they? No. Granted, I had earlier that day retraced my own steps looking for some sign of the thing and come up with bubkis, but really, what use is having a gang of loyal street urchins if they don't miraculously bring you necessary scraps? What kind of kids don't come through for ice cream? Little buggers.

So, they're no good. You must help me. Comment! Speak! I will welcome equally helpful advice or words of comfort, though knwoing my friends, what I will probably get (and deserve) are derisive wisecracks. Wiseacres! Yeah, you heard me.

Posted by Diablevert at 05:59 PM | Comments (1)

August 13, 2005


Dart Interior.jpg

Interior, DART commuter train.

Everything in there is green, although the seats have faded to a sort of olive. It's maybe just a little tacky.

Posted by Diablevert at 03:26 AM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2005

Two Snatches of Tonight's Conversation

M: So then she took me down there to Greystones, and we're drving around, and she's like, "This is the council estate." And one the guys in there? Has a boat in the driveway.
HK: Well, you know, actually, there are a couple coucil estates down there, I mean, there's the okay one, and then there's the kind of rough one.
M: Right.
HK: Right.
M: And the one with the boat?
HK: Well, that was the rough one.
a pause

Later, during a conversation about cable channels:

M:We couldn't get sky at that place. All we could get was Channel 5.
HK:Ah, Channel 5.
M:Yeah, before they got CSI all they had was like, The Naked News.
HK:Remember how after September 11th they did the news clothed?
M:Yeah. Outa respect.

They stared at me kinda funny when I kept laughing at that last bit. I took a while to calm down. Of course, by then I was tipsy.

Posted by Diablevert at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 07, 2005

Trite, perhaps, but neat all the same

Okay, so maybe wack-ass pub names is played.

Waxie Dargle.jpg

The Waxie Dargle, Granby Row

I still think that's neat.

(And apparently it's also a Pogues song. Hunh.)

Posted by Diablevert at 07:26 AM | Comments (0)

August 06, 2005

Lorrie Moore: Birds of America

So, another book I read: Lorrie Moore, Birds of America. People keep telling me to read Lorrie Moore. When people mention great short story writers, people to look to for an example, people mention her along with Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Alice Munro. More than them, perhaps. So I think I read her with a raised eyebrow and a calm heart, full of great expectation.

Having finished the book now, I think it was a most peculiar experience, in that the stories in them seemed better to me the closer I was to their surface. I often think of the experience of reading like slipping below waters; line by line the text crawls up your goose-pimpled skin until it closes over your head and you're in, and for all that you're reading you're not hearing the words themselves but simply seeing the story they're telling you, and the words are the colors of the world, its scents and sensations, its moods and feelings. That's how it is for me, anyway, but I have always found reading easy; I wonder if that's true for people who don't find it so, if even mid-way through a book they have to string the words together like beads upon a thread to see the picture. For me that sense of immersion is complete , though perhaps not as complete as when I was a child, when upon occasion you'd have to physically remove the book from my grasp to get my attention.

So what was a bit weird about the book was that I liked the stories better before I had sunk into them. When I read the first couple, I was struck hard by the craft that went into them, their neatness, as you might marvel at the work of a master carpenter, the whole vessel solid and smoothly worked, clean of line and suited to its function, with all the nails hidden and nary a drop of glue to hold together the joists. I read an interview with her where she said she only writes about a story a year nowadays; and reading these you can believe it. (She's also a professor of writing and english). The dialogue, in particular, is well-crafted, but in a peculiar way. She's famous for the realism of her dialogue, and for her humor, which is a rare thing is most literary books --- there's an attitude among people who plume themselves on reading "serious" literature that if it's funny it must be dumb, unless by funny you mean ha-ha-the-universe-is-cruel-and-absurd. Moore is so obviously intelligent that this prejudice is eradicated.

But that's the thing about her dialogue; it always feel right, like something someone would actually say in real life --- a much more difficult trick that it sounds; almost every reader is so in the habit of cutting fictional characters slack in this department that they'll not put out of joint by dramatic exposition so orderly it might as well be printed on a musical staff to illustrate the high notes. But it never feels fluid; it never has the dodge-and-weave, slapdash rapidity that real talk often does. It reminds me a bit of the paintings of Norman Rockwell in that way. There's a painting of his of a crowd of people praying, about a half-dozen faces, half-shadowed, where you can see clear as day the bunched wrinkles around the second knuckle of an old woman's hands, the burnish on every bead of the rosary she has wound around them, the spiderweb of wrinkles on the apple of her cheek, all this with a clarity of detail usually reserved for photography alone. But Rockwell's paintings have none of the spontaneity of photography, the sense of a moment snatched from life with the shutter-click; instead the feeling you get from them is of infinite patience and care, the artist sitting hunched over his easel with a tiny brush, laying in every separate wrinkle with a feather-stroke. And this is how Moore's dialogue struck me; hyper-realistic, but at the same time thought-out and worried over, wrought.

That's about the only way she reminds me of Rockwell; Rockwell is popular because he used his great realist gift to create scenes of idealized domesticity, scenes that evoke amusement or nostalgia or patriotism but never, ever the least discomfort. Comfort's about the last thing you can find in a Moore story (which is not to say that you never find it) her characters are itchy in their own skins, and their humor has desperate edge to it. It's acerbic, jabs of wit flung out with great strength almost at random, as last ditch-attempt to keep off the screaming mimis. Almost all of her characters seem a little lost in life. They are where they are because that's where they ended up, and not because of what they chose. All the granduer of tragedy is in knowing you must make a choice, choosing, and realizing that you chose wrong; Moore's characters seem too befuddled and bemused to make it through any of those steps, and so their unhappiness acquires no dignity. That's probably far more true to life, but I respected them less for it and sympathized with them less because of it. And this I think was part of why I liked the stories better before I became immersed in them; when you're still on the surface it's easy to respect the skill and the craft but as you sink in, as you feel more deeply and walk around inside these people's heads, I often found them difficult to like.

The other thing I thought walking around in there was that their various brains felt mostly the same, though the bodies they were purportedly attached to were quite different. All her central characters seem to look at the world with a similarly jaundiced eye, and for some of them it felt wrong, felt off. I believed more easily in her women than her men, more in her middle- or upper-middle class characters than in her working-class ones.

But for saying all that --- and it occurs to me now that these reviews seem to be 67% bitching to 33% "but, actually, it was pretty good," --- her characters stick in my mind. Days after having read these stories, they return to my mind, and I find myself picking the book back up again, dipping here and there, re-reading now this one, now that. This happens to me, I think, only with the best books I've read, that you return to them to puzzle over them, because within them they enclose a certain mood, like a flavor, a scent, pressed between the pages. Or that they return to you, when some particular spark is stuck in life --- an anecdote told by a friend, an interaction between strangers on the other side of the street --- and you recognize in that flash some same small truth harshly outlined. And more than that, there are one or two moments which are just perfect; I'm thinking of a scene in the story "Agnes of Iowa," the conversation between Angnes and a visiting author where her hostility toward him melts away and they both sense their attraction toward each other. Moments like that --- Greta on the stairs in "The Dead," or Emma Bovary drawing on the tablecloth --- ones where you feel, yes, it was exactly like that, where the whole meaning of the story seems bound up in one perfect instant are my favorite things about reading. And they take some small portion of genius to achieve.

I don't know if Moore is a genius. Looking at all the stories together I can find plenty to citicize. But there is one story in there that I think might be perfect, "People Like That Are the Only People Here." I've read it several times and have been impressed with it each time, but the feeling I'm left with after putting it down is not one of respect or awe after having witnesssed someone pull off a difficult feat but of sympathy for the characters. 'Course, maybe I'm sentimental, and easy pickings: the story's about a mother whose baby is diagnosed with cancer. But I think that story will last. Which is more than most authors can ever hope for.

Posted by Diablevert at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2005

Finally, we have proof

O'Neill Bros.jpg

O'Neill Bros., Chancery Street.

Potato: Animal, vegetable, or mineral? No, my friend, no. Staff of life.

Posted by Diablevert at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)

August 03, 2005

Yet another book review, damn I'm lame

I read the Harry Potter book the other day --- I'll post my thoughts on that later maybe, though there's not that many of them --- but when I bought the book the bookstore was giving out copies of another book, for free, so I said what they heck. It's a new children's book called Lionboy, first in a trilogy. It's written by a mother-daughter team in collaboration under the name Zizou Corder.

I can't see it having the crossover appeal of the Potter books, as the language and characterization are kept pretty strictly on a kiddie-lit level. What makes me bother to write about it here is not so much the characters or the plot as the setting. More on that in a minute. First to dispense with the necessaries: Our protagonist is 12-year-old Charlie Ashanti. He lives in London with his parents: his mom is white and English, his dad is black and from Ghana. Both his parents are scientists, his mom a chemist and his dad a botanist, and together they study rare tropical plants hoping to discover new drugs. Charlie's a perfectly normal boy, except that he speaks Cat, an ability so rare in humans as to make felines everywhere marvel and awe. The plot gets rolling when someone with an interest in the Ashanti's discoveries kidnaps Charlie's parents. They try to nab Charlie, too, but he manages to escape with the help of some cat pals, and soon he's on the run and on the trail of his parents; in his quest to find them he falls in with a traveling circus-ship and befriends the lions there. Hijinks ensue, etc.

Most of the fantastic elements in this story --- talking to animals, running away and joining the circus, spectacularly inept kidnappers --- are standard children's fantasy fare, through handled with fresh aplomb by Corder(s). The only truly bizarre part of it is the where and when. There's nothing about the plot I've outlined above which could preclude it being set in the present, but it's not. It's set in the near-future, a time when civilized people everywhere have stopped using oil---except for the denzians of the Empire (pronounced, one presumes, with a silent "evil" like the k in knife). No cars, no gas, practically no petroleum-based products, one gathers---the descriptions of household items and Charlie's personal belongings include several items which nowadays we would expect to be made of plastic, and which are carefully described as made of leather, metal, glass, or cloth. He does have a cell phone, though (solar powered). People seem to be poorer in this future, and to have revived some practically Dickensian occupations --- Charlie buys an eel sandwich from a fisherman's boat pulled up on the bank of the Thames. There are, however, gated compounds of the super-rich sprinkled throughout the world where all the old luxeries are readily availible. Something funky may or may not be going on with the schools, or maybe they're just shit, because Charlie doesn't go to one; he has a private tutor.

The Empire, it is heavily hinted, is what used to be the United States---a character named Thibeaudoux has "a southern Empire accent." Lest it depress my fellow Americans that we're all evil and stuff in the future, we have conquered the moon. Bonus! Besides, the Empire is nothing to the huge multinational corporations which are the book's real bad guys; it's Big Pharma who sent the wheels in motion for the kidnapping of Charlie's parents. We learn in an aside---as an aside--- that though the British government probably knows about the kidnapping of two of its top scientists, it's too weak and in thrall to the drug companies to attempt to rescue mission.

I read this book thinking the while, does this seem whack-ass to anyone else? If you could open the hatch and poke around in the unconscious of today's unreconstructed lefties, is this what they think it's gonna be like? That's this is what is plausible? And if so, is it not weird that it doesn't suck more? It's a future -topia. It's certainly not a utopia, what with all those multinational corporations evilly machinating right and left, and governments powerless to stop them. (Or at least the U.K. government. Drool, Britannia.) But neither is it a distopia, as everyday people like the Ashantis seem to be ably to lead perfectly happy, well-ordered lives, and there's the strong suggestion that all this worldwide economic collapse and social stratification has actually ended up improving the moral fibre, what with forcing people to get closer to nature and become more self-reliant and revive old traditions and whatnot. In Charlie's future, everybody takes their wicker basket down to the open-air market and buys fresh seasonal fuit and veg---because they bloody well have to. Sic semper technology. Except for cell phones. Those are just way too useful.

Posted by Diablevert at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2005

Splish Splash


Duck in the reflecting pool at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square

I saw this duck one day chillin' like a villian while I was eating my lunch. He was only there that day, but a week later, when I didn't have my phone, a mama duck showed up with six baby ducks. (One of whom was yellow instead of gray and brown. I mean, I ain't sayin', I'm just sayin'.) The thing was, the ducks had not been there the day before. And as you can see from the photo, the rim of the pool is of concrete, with a gentle slope on the inside but two sheer faces on the outside, the top one slightly overhanging the bottom. As the ducks were cruising around in duck formation, occassionally some of the ducklings would hop up on the side of the pool and walk around on the rim. Then one of them fell off, landing on the other side unharmed. Thus ensued a frantic round of Quacko Polo.

I had to go back to work a few minutes later, with the ducks still trying to find each other and a hovering crowd of lunching office wrokers and little kids trying to decide whether to venture over and heave him back in. (Is that thing about wild animlas smelling human on their offspring and rejecting them true for ducks?) So I don't know what happened; all I know is they were gone the next day.

This still leaves the mystery: how the hell did they get into the pool in the first place? The ducklings were clearly too little to fly, and as can been seen from the photo above, the rim of the pool is well over head height for an adult duck, so hopping seems out. Do ducks pick up their young by the scruff of the neck, like cats kittens? And where did they come from? And where did they go?

Posted by Diablevert at 06:56 AM | Comments (0)