Category Archives: Personal

North and east into God's country

Last month the Idle Monkey Trainer ventured up from Texas and thence Denver and thence north and east to see us.  Drinks were had, old times in Tokyo reminisced upon, the future speculated at.  Always a good thing to see old friends.  A few days ago he posted a nice profile of the local area.

Temporarily assigned to open an office of a Japanese company in Houston, he has been in the States a few months.  He reports that this time has not tempted him to make a permanent return.  He’s ready to get back to Tokyo.  America, he says, seems empty.  I have to admit, there are days I agree.

North and east into God’s country

Last month the Idle Monkey Trainer ventured up from Texas and thence Denver and thence north and east to see us.  Drinks were had, old times in Tokyo reminisced upon, the future speculated at.  Always a good thing to see old friends.  A few days ago he posted a nice profile of the local area.

Temporarily assigned to open an office of a Japanese company in Houston, he has been in the States a few months.  He reports that this time has not tempted him to make a permanent return.  He’s ready to get back to Tokyo.  America, he says, seems empty.  I have to admit, there are days I agree.

Killer

Straightaway after graduating from college, I spent a month in Hawaii trying to surf.  Emphasis on the “try” – I did way more flailing than surfing.  I did get to see some killer waves up close and personal, though, paddling out into the surf after a friend of mine, a fairly accomplished surfer, Hawaiian-born and raised.  I was born in Montana and raised on a farm in western Nebraska.  I had no business being out in 5-foot Hawaiian swells, none whatsoever.

I’m a pretty strong swimmer, but Hawaiian waves don’t care if you’re a strong swimmer.  I came very close to drowning at least twice, and got plenty pummeled the rest of the time, fighting for oxygen and the primal fear of tons of rushing saltwater.  It was sublime.

Naturally I’ve been fascinated by surfing ever since.  From a distance.

So multiply those waves by 4 and you’ve got the waves at the Eddie Aikau surfing competition recently held at Oahu’s Waimea Beach.  It was the first time in 5 years the waves have been big enough for these psychopaths.  Killer.

[vodpod id=Groupvideo.4163942&w=425&h=350&fv=%26rel%3D0%26border%3D0%26]

more about “Best Waves and Wipeouts of The Quiksi…“, posted with vodpod

You might want to turn down the volume so as not to be subjected to the music.  Spotted at The Awl.

On political involvement

Was driving back from the high north country late last night with my dad and we got to talking like two guys up way past their bedtime do.  Various viewpoints were expressed, politely, tiredly. In general outlook we are largely on the same team; we just differ (sometimes vastly) on how to put it into practice.

The details are not of much importance.  Fundamentally, my father is eminently willing to engage in the mucky day-to-day praxis of putting political ideas into actual practice.  I am far more fastidious, very reluctant to get my hands dirty, at least not without a full supply of Lava soap on hand.  And is there any Lava soap yet invented that can get the greasy stain of politics off your hands?  I doubt it.

But  rather than re-invent the wheel, I will let Plato speak for me (though in place of philosophy I might insert writing, or literature, or combine the three):

Then there remains, Adeimantus, only a very small group who consort with philosophy in a way that’s worthy of her . . . Now, the members of this small group have tasted how sweet and how blessed a possession philosophy is, and at the same time they’ve also seen the madness of the majority and realized, in a word, that hardly anyone acts sanely in public affairs and that there is no ally with whom they might go to the aid of justice and survive, that instead they’d perish before they could profit either their city or their friends and be useless to themselves and others, just like a man who has fallen among wild animals and is neither willing to join them in doing injustice nor sufficiently strong to oppose the general savagery alone. Taking all this into account, they lead a quiet life and do their own work. Thus, like someone who takes refuge under a little wall from a storm of dust or hail driven by the wind, the philosopher–seeing others filled with lawlessness–is satisfied if he can somehow lead his present life free from injustice and impious acts and depart from it with good hope, blameless and content.

–Republic (496a-497a)

Quote from Plato spotted, serendipitously, this morning at Maverick Philosopher.

Libraries make me happy

I have a job.  At this job I can walk upstairs and go into the library.  This makes me happy.

Even better, I now have access to a state-wide network of libraries and, better still, the entire University of Wyoming collection.  Currently a couple obscure and expensive biographies are winging their way to me: Nabokov: The Russian Years ($43 on Amazon) and Kafu the Scribbler ($66). Been wanting to read both for several years each. They’ll be here in 3 to 5 days, for free.  In my biblio-centric universe, that’s poetry in motion, man.

Some people look up at the starry cosmos and feel paradoxically puny and connected to something larger than themselves.  Me, I go into a library.

Logic

The scioness spent the first 18 months of her life in Thailand, but these days she’s turning American quick, fast, and in a hurry.  To wit:

Scioness: Give me a cookie.

Me: Please.

Scioness: Give me cookie, please.

Me: You just had a cookie.  You don’t need another one.

Scioness: (pauses to think) Give me two cookies, please.

Re-reading The Snows of Kilimanjaro

About six years ago I gave up reading Hemingway. I did this because every time I read more than a paragraph of him, my own writing became rank imitation for weeks afterwards. At that point I had read and re-read everything he wrote. Some of his short stories I can still virtually recite.  I decided it was time to break free. When I made the jump across the pond to Thailand, I took no Hem. (Though “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” was heavy on my mind.  More on that later.)  Until about two days ago, I hadn’t touched anything by him since.

So I was in the public library – wonderful thing, public libraries, by the way, after having lived in the Third World where such a concept is unheard of – looking over the DVDs when I saw The Snows of Kilimanjaro. Snows-of-KilimanjaroIt stars Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner and it is not very good.   I imagine it was pretty ground-breaking at the time in its use of animal footage and the Paris parts are interesting.  But the ending is classic lame Hollywood, transforming Hem’s stringent ending into an unearned redemption, and the plotline is badly skewed to reflect the prudish sensibilities of the 50s. The main highlights are the parts where lines from Hem’s story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” are incorporated directly into the dialogue.  Which, naturally, made me want to re-read the story.  So I commenced to do so.

What a work of art.  I appreciate it more than I did when I was younger, with more life and writing under my belt.  Ultra-real dialogue entwined with the sort of stream of consciousness that Joyce et al. could have learned a thing or two from.  Magisterial descriptions and experience pinpointed on bare turns of phrase.

If the story has a weakness, it is the constant reference to real historical events that now, nearly a century later, are fairly obscure.  Wouldn’t take more than a quarter-hour on Wikipedia to remedy the gaps in my knowledge, I suppose, but that’d be quite a lot of distracting info to keep in your head while re-re-reading.  It’s a weakness that runs across a lot of Hemingway, actually, the constant references that were common knowledge in 1936, say, but have since been misted over.  Having said that, it’s not essential to grasp all the references to grasp the upshot.

I wonder if Hem wrote this story at least partially as a warning to himself.  I wonder if he re-read it himself, in his sad declining later years.  Myself, I took (and take) the story as both a work of art and a warning.  When presented with a chance to join the workaday world that half decade ago, I re-read “Snows”, declined, and got on another Pacific-hopping plane.  I’ve sometimes questioned the wisdom of that decision but never its intent.

Hem’s anti-hero died with the bitter taste of self-inflicted failure in his mouth, at the literal and figurative foot of the mountain he failed to even attempt to climb. Most wouldn’t blame him.  It’s a steep steep path to the peak of a literary Kilimanjaro.  Failure is a near-certainty, success a remote chance.  As Hem said elsewhere,  if that daunts you, it should.  So I do my best not to let it, and climb on anyway.