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November 6th, 2007

(no subject)

I've found the cure for Sunday afternoon lethargy. A good laugh, with two cups of coffee.

November 22nd, 2006

(no subject)


I was procrastinating on a quiz site when I discovered this little gem.  This must be Sophie’s Choice for certain of my friends:

17. The New Yorker is...

a. One of the most important magazines for writers of modern fiction and poetry
b. One of the most pretentious magazines for writers of modern fiction and poetry


But let’s instead consider procrastination via writing something else… a travelogue! 

I visited Paris, something chronicled best in the facebook pictures of the same.  I managed, par la grace de dieu, to attend class and catch my flight despite the wrenches thrown into my uncareful plan.  Once there, I spent time with two friends from high school as one of them hosted us in his Paris apartment.  Naturally, the damn place had a living room twice as big as my room and a view of the Eiffel Tower from his balcony.

Let me alter a long monologue about my travels before it gets more boring, for me if not for you.  At the present, I can barely stand recounting it again.  Paris is fantastic no matter how you slice it.  When you have a host who knows the lay of the land and a conception, however misbegotten, that dealing in euros is like Monopoly money, Paris is beyond comparison.  Ile de la Cite, the Louvre, excellent food, I had all these.  Yet I will just point out a telling anecdote before moving on.

One of the people I met through Ranjan was another NYU student. I cannot stress enough how much he resembled Jayne Cobb.  The good man looked like him, talked like him, and thought like him when it came to semi-drunkenly considering his relations with certain people and what he should be doing right now.

Jayne succeeded in completing my thought when I was considering whether we should go to the second-best falafel we could ever have in our lives (the first being closed for Shabat).  Once we were there, and enjoying the utter deliciousness that is Paris, our group of ten moved on the gelatteria… without me.  My two friends, who were the entire reason I came, missed me not at all.  Twenty minutes later, I found the group wandering through a nearby street.  Even after encountering them, the only sympathy I elicited was from Jayne and the two friends close to him (and offering him good advice to counter his Cobb-like tendencies).  The three of them cooed appropriately (well, not Jayne, but the two women) when listening to my tragic story of being left behind.  My two friends shrugged while apologizing for the mix-up.  I was less than mollified at their sangfroid, and it drove home the entire point: while meeting (and hanging with) their friends, life was good, but between the two of them I was an outsider.  They routinely finish each other’s sentences.  Attempts at clever rejoinders are no match for a twin from another mother.

So while recovering from a viral infection diagnosed by my British GP, I decided to attend the Brussels trip that the General Course programme had subsidized.  Considering that I had already paid, this was an even better decision.

I had a fantastic time.

We actually spent more time touring medieval Brugge than we did Brussels, capital of Belgium.  Brugge’s population peaked sometime in the fourteenth century, and since then the city has never grown.  It’s extremely disconcerting to be in a city which was perhaps the most populous in Christendom seven hundred years ago, but which now is a relic to former glories.  Tidal shifts and silting of its harbor implied bad things for the city, and Calvinist control of the Scheldt estuary sealed its fate.  Nevertheless, now it’s a tourist destination due to its unspoilt medieval heritage and excellent chocolate.

But to finish before I lose my inspiration (or rather, loosened tongue and lowered standards)…

I spent most of my time there in the company of three girls, one of whom I vaguely knew before.  Besides the time spent staring at Hieronymus Bosch triptychs, the most enjoyable time I had was with them.  We started with cavalier introductions halfway through barhopping, and ended the first night drunkenly pledging to hang out in the future.  Little did we expect that in the course of an exceptional dinner (both in terms of taste and cost), we would be getting along marvelously and spent the rest of the trip as a quartet.  The four of us went through late-night Brussels together, enjoying ourselves, buying drinks for each other, snapping photos that should never see the light of day, and stumbling our way back to the hotel.  It was six different shades of awesome. 

We made cracks about each other, one of them resulting in a still life of a table with an empty wine glass, lipstick, chocolate, and more.  Each of us was represented by an object; I ended up with the lipstick because they had convinced me the night previously to pose with a purse.  Damnably amusing.  Somehow we ended with a ferryboat confessional; on our way from Calais to Dover we opened up to one another and discussed various things that people in their early twenties find important.  Life is good.

November 19th, 2006

(no subject)


Well, Thursday night was somewhat clichéd.  I saw Waiting for Godot in Covent Garden.  I enjoyed it, even if the deliberately excruciating aspects mean that I wouldn’t want to see it again.  Fount it an indictment of the human condition, a profound criticism of the meaningless of life, and a depressing assertion that nothing changes and death can come any day; it makes no difference when.

That sounds pretentious, and it is.  The only reason I had to make so precise and highfalutin’ my impressions of the philosophy and put it in such officious terminology is that I met Yuri outside the theater and joined his troika of doctoral students for drinks.  One of them, a phil major in undergrad, had spent years in Korea and Thailand embracing Buddhism, and he saw in the overwhelming bleakness of the play not quite a questioning of the human condition, but a message of transcendence and hope.  Damn yuppies.

I consider that I may have watched a different play than he.  However, he referred to Camus as finding some measure of hope in the existential issue of purposelessness, and marshaled Camus’s arguments to defend his interpretation of Beckett.  This was a mistake, as one of the other docs-in-training and I launched in, refusing to see our favorite author subverted for partisan purposes.  Actually, he and I spent time asserting the differences between Stranger and Waiting, insisting that the latter held noting but grim fatalism.

It was great fun, and we were out until 2:30, when Yuri and I stumbled into Rosebery.

I also have a tremendous headache.

October 25th, 2006

Exculpatory Evidence

I would like to state for the record that Vin's laugh is more of a whoop, which makes him sound approximately like an attacking velociraptor when he's amused.

Now, back to my paper.  I'm writing on Elizabeth I, Cecil, and intervention in Scotland in 1559.  Unfortunately, my love for this course is being tempered by a horrible requirement that I do more than read and toss about interpretations for three hours a week: they want me to write something.

This only becomes a problem when seven students scramble for the same sources on eighteen months' of history.  I was at Senate House, the University of London library, bumping my head in the staircases and trying to survive the overheated, claustraphobic sixth floor when I ran into two of my classmates, the pair who earlier insisted on showing me tea in the true British way: milk first.

While I murmured curses (in Spanish, so it doesn't count) that all three of us would be hunting the same works of two nigh-unattainable authors, I was relieved to discover that the third years were even more irresponsible than I.  They had dissertation drafts due on Friday, and weren't going to start finding sources until next week, scant days before the paper was due.  It brought a tear to my sympathetic eye to learn how languid their pace was.  I love these guys.

October 24th, 2006

So, after spending a good deal of time fairly alone, why not write about it? It's certainly more enjoyable than the lecture and distracts me from my desire to assault the guy behind me who is persistently and loudly clicking his pen.

I have spent the past week somewhat cut off from the enjoyable parts of social interaction, shunted instead into the stilted repertoire of responses at meet-and greets and with barely-acquaintances in class.

It began when I planned my schedule. I use 'planned' loosely. Let me avoid the details and focus on the scene: I never stopped moving during past the week. At the end of one lecture, meeting, presentation, or movie I moved on the next one. I bought stationery in West London, attended company discussions in Canary Wharf, and frantically avoided responsibility when one society turned out to be dominated by libertarian radicals. So I bounced around the city, being at times considerate, pre-professional, or a consummate student. I missed every dinner in the canteen, with its bland food made eminently worthwhile by the people there. Later I made sure they knew how I felt by telling them I only went for the food.

Rosebery was a transitory location at best; I left quickly and returned to work, sleep, or change before setting off again. With classes in the morning, meetings in the late afternoon, and presentations at night I was kept from the canteen and our happy little pub, let alone rest.

And it was good. I learned a hell of a lot. I learned a large amount about what I like and how that translates into what I want to do. Three or four people from Goldman and Citi insisted that I email them later. I now own decent writing paper after a semi-epic struggle to find bastions of an older era of communication in London, a city not exactly without history. I drank sangria while watching and commenting upon Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown with some fellow student-strangers.

Yet I have here been plunged into a charming strangeness. I am older, reliving the same life as I did from freshman year, but with enough differences to convince me that I live in some parallel existence, rather than true déjà vu. At times I am a man apart, a transitory figure here but for a year, a beast unknown to the freshmen and a throwback from earlier ages to the graduate students. The freshmen form cliques, to my bemusement, while the grad students charm and have fun before beating an inevitable retreat to the books.

This sounds far worse than it is, because I subordinate reality to writing, putting my experiences in the service of communication, which I slant to entertain and add color to illustrate, if overvividly, my sentiments and recollections.

It wasn't as bad as I describe, I swear, and I did spend time with my estimados compañeros. Monday was the night of an unexpected swell of Roseberians going out together just as I returned from the City. I stuck with the four I’ve dubbed my clubbing freshmen, since we inadvertently and always meet whenever going for a night on the town and at no other time, it seems. One of them drove this point home, calling me a vampire until she later saw me in the sober light of day.

Another, more levelheaded group of freshmen went to see Jeff Sachs speak at St. Paul’s on development and global warming, with me in tow. Subash, our impresario and catalyst, is someone who drifts effortlessly among his peers. I’ve only met one other guy to lead such a charmed existence, Vin, a masters student who delights in scandalizing people and has an entrancingly blunt and open manner. Vin, slightly drunk, came into my room late in the week to comment that he hadn’t seem me in a while. After hanging out, we met Friday for lunch, and afterwards he never refrained from making a point of how taxing it was for him to get up that early.

In the department of unexpected meetings, a kitchen run to check on chicken became a very long conversation with one of my floormates, skillet in hand the entire time as we chatted on subjects from Devil Wears Prada to planning a trip to Istanbul. And the chicken was delicious, thank you very much.

October 23rd, 2006

(no subject)


I have as one of my—not larger failings, though it is preeminent in its own group—more troubling habits an outstanding inability to begin writing in anything I deem important.  The prospect daunts me.  I can construct outlines, but from the moment I begin to craft the first sentence, turning it over and over in my head like Camus's civil servant in The Plague, I am able to place to place few words before the well runs dry and I, unsatisfied, consider revisions to the meager amount that I have already written, again like the unfortunate M. Grand.

I write now in the midst of a lecture, writing’s previous importance now amusingly reversed into a distraction from the incomprehensible tedium.

That, in brief, explains everything.  Anything it does not explain is not worth knowing.  From my sputtering start on the GMAT to the slow, if erratic more than glacial, rate of posting.

There, I assuage your vanity, revealing that my concern for your regard of me is paramount in my thoughts and considerations.  I offer these small sketches as a way to win your favor; consider them as little tokens for your enjoyment that I offer with a desire to supplicate.

I have begun imitating Clamence.  The end is near.

But in his spirit, I offer you that most prized item: Judgment.  A few glimpses thereof follow.

Overhead in London, at the Citigroup presentation:
Guy 1: "A pink shirt?  That's too flashy"
Guy 2: "What was he thinking?"
Guy 1: "Yeah."
Guy 2: "Yeah.  This is a banking house, not a fashion house"
Guy 1: "Yeah."

September 28th, 2006

As penance for not writing anything recently, I bring you more from The Tactical Field Guide to Romance:

Dear Uncle *****,

I am currently engaged in an operation to outflank a recently disbanded enemy formation and in need of advice. Currently my plan of attack is a series of probing attacks designed to lull the defender into thinking my advances are nothing more than friendly attempts at banter. I have intelligently engaged another female to "talk me up" to the aforementioned party. Thus by lulling the enemy with a false sense of safety and by gaining some measure of trust via another trusted party I plan on creating a flank attack that bypasses her defenses on the personal front.

Due to the engagement of a neutral third party to lower the defensivness of the other side I am afraid that they will get to the "can't we just be friends" stage, something I fervently hope to avoid.

Yours in trust,
Playing the End Around

Dear PtEA--

An enemy force that is seemingly defenseless is still an enemy force. In such a case, maneuver your force to an overwatch location on defensible terrain, establish communications to your rear area and to friendly units on your right and left, and then order the men to begin digging deliberate fortifiactions. Once you are in a secure and defensible position, send forward aggressive recon patrols, to find weaknesses in the enemy's wire. Careful and deliberate probing can then begin.

Preplot artillery to cut the enemy's lines of communication, to shut them off from support from other enemy units. Once you decide to launch your assault, conduct supporting fire to isolate and confuse the enemy, launching a diversionary attack along the expected route of attack. Once the enemy is focused on the diversion, launch your main effort through the previously identified gaps in the wire, moving quickly to your objective.

Once on the objective, do not allow the enemy to rally their forces, instead keeping up constant pressure to prevent reorganization.

Don't forget to rearm, resupply and reequip friendly forces on the objective, and expect counterattacks from the isolated enemy forces.

Oh, and dude, if she gives you the 'i just want to be friends' spiel, tell her what old Uncle ***** once told a gal when faced with that statement: "I have enough friends. I just wanted to f**k you." You'll feel better with one less friend. Promise.

Uncle *****.

September 27th, 2006

This is practically a retrospective by this point:

I spent the two weeks penultimate to leaving making my best attempt to remain in perpetual motion, a figure moving too quickly to think or to enjoy.  Somehow I spent that fortnight sleeping little, never feeling tired, and bouncing around the country.  There weere signs, naturally, of my preoccupation upon movement and making sure that no one was neglected (and to paraphrase Nappy, thus neglecting everyone).  I left for St. Louis and informal reunion with most of my friends.  I spent three days there, living an intinerant life and sleeping on a different couch every night.  Rashied commented that we saw too little of each other, which was both true and my largest regret of the trip.  This, though, I chalked up to bad timing, differing schedules, and my tardy warnings.

Somehow I'll rectify that.  Just have to figure out how.

I spent several days in Orlando at my brother's soccer tournament, enjoying a relaxed time punctuated by rain, matches, and paterfamilias' occasional tantrums.  He and I nonetheless had several conversations that were at their best straightforward, heartfelt, and surprising.  We talked about life, the universe, and everything.  I think it was reassuring to him that I would make the trip for my brother and outline to him what preferences and plans I had.  Clarity is his favored virtue when dealing with us.  There were interludes of that quality devolving into pedantry and needless criticism, but nonetheless it was pleasant to get his honest opinion.  Too often it's masked by recusals or sudden criticism from another quarter of the conversation, things which are too common to note.

Regardless, I was more tired in the days afterwards when I had nothing to do than while I was living a busy and harried life.  Some things are truly beyond me.  I enjoyed, and then regretted, a few days' malaise before deciding to inject some activity back into life.  I finally finished books from the two doctors, and I succeeded in getting a hold of each as well as the Dean and arranging some lunches.  Even TC managed to carve out some time, through methods beyond human comprehension.

I spent a nice bit of time at Rice.  Most of what happened there was wildly entertaining, but only interesting to those there, who already know.  The propriety is also debatable. 

The best I compromise I can find between telling and germane is that while I was in Houston, two issues of the Rice Thresher were published.  I was quoted in both, anonymously for my own protection.

August 16th, 2006

As much as I would like to have a more concise entry than this, anything further edits get dangerously into the banal. My older sister came into town for the weekend, she who vacillates between sweetness and tyranny (Dictatorship with a Smile!). She was tempered, however, and good-natured even when things don't go her way. I saw, in a single, otherwise banal moment, unmemorable to anyone else, the value of her attitude. She lectured my brother on a point of minor importance. He had been whining and demanding that someone take care of one of his problems before she called him on it. I can't quite do her justice, but where the rest of us would have ignored or placated him, she showed her obstinacy has its benefits when she prevailed upon him to admit he should shut up and fix it himself. He doesn't get that often enough, given that the three older children, who would normally not tolerate self-pity, have already left.

My entire family rarely does something together. With the six of us together for the last time until next summer, we made the most of it. And when we all get into the same car, the result is either priceless or tragic. This weekend, it was a little from Column A, a little from Column B.   The former came when my younger sister and brother discussed whether he would move to Sugarland, Houston's paragon of suburban mansions on multi-acre lots:

L: If you moved out here, you could hang out with Tom DeLay
B: But I don't even know who Tom DeLay is.
L: That's exactly what he's looking for in a friend these days.

Meanwhile, my father and I almost went to war. I bridle at his insistence that he be part of my day-to-day decisions and be kept current on every aspect of my pre-professional life. Ordinarily I would have no problem with this, but he'd rather I constantly brief him on subjects of interest-- test scores and jobs-- while he makes no effort to find out nor takes much interest in anything I do that isn't listed on my résumé. He's been a passive figure for the past three years, starting with when I applied for college, where he was more obstacle than counsel. At that time, I was accepted into my top choice, only to find out three months later that he wouldn't let me attend. While we are occasionally open with each other, he usually parents via communiqué.

At breakfast on Sunday morning, he dictated a course of action to find an apartment in London. I told him bluntly that I had already done most of what he recommended, and he followed with questioning whether I had actually done so. He insisted that I should already have a flat by now if I had actually done what I claimed.

I will be the first to admit that after making my objections, I often concede minor arguments with paterfamilias if he becomes too stubborn.  Accusing me of lying in not so many words has the opposite effect. We exchanged a line or two and the argument began to heat up-- but then, my mother signalled the waiter that we were ready to order.  Peace was reinstated as we redirected our attention to him.  In my family, decorum trumps feuding.

August 4th, 2006

(no subject)

Instead of explaining the disaster that was the Copacabana, I'll post this instead:

You Are Dr. Pepper

You're very unique and funky, yet you still have a bit of traditionalism to you.

People who like you think they have great taste... and they usually do.

Your best soda match: Root Beer

Stay away from: 7 Up

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