Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Puppy Love

Yesterday, while walking home from an improv show at the Annoyance Theatre, something truly magical happened. Or possibly it was something spooky: you decide.

When I leave an improv show I often find that everyone around me is trying to be a lot funnier than usual, as if to try and get in on the act. It can be annoying, but usually it's just a symptom of the ebullient high spirits which accompany a really excellent piece of performance, especially one in which you've been laughing for twenty minutes at some guy who's talking in an effeminate-yet-indefinable fake foreign accent, and trying to hide the fact that he's just watered down his imaginary salsa.

It made sense at the time, I swear.

Anyway, I was in the same jokey mood as those around me, which I usually express in story-telling mode. So as we walked down the darkened residential streets I began trying to amuse someone with the story of the Peculiar Dog Man of West Argyle Street. The Dog Man is not an urban myth, but a vaguely unsettling neighborhood character whom I see from time to time, walking his white American Eskimo Dog (I put this particular breed before you as a likely guess). The thing about him that makes me frown and cross the street when he's nearby is not anything particularly menacing. Rather, it's his simple propensity for engaging people in prolonged conversations that they do not want to be in.

Now, I've only ever seen him actually do this with other dog walkers: he'll blink his big, bleary eyes and start asking someone painfully obvious questions like: "So do you like dogs?" while their unknowing pet answers the call of nature. Because I don't actually have a dog, I assume that I'm immune. But I do in fact like dogs quite a bit, and I'm always concerned that I'll accidentally lean down and pet his before looking at its owner, unwittingly pinning myself into a half an hour of semi-decipherable small-talk.

The people whom the Dog Man talks to always look like they're trying to escape: they shuffle their feet and lean their bodies purposefully backwards while giving uncomfortable half-smiles and making hopeful comments about how late it's getting. The Dog Man himself keeps a cheerful disposition through it all, tugging gently on the American Eskimo's leash.

My friend was very much charmed by the description of this character.

"Tell me more!" he said seriously.

I was just about to explain reluctantly that I didn't really have any more to tell, when we happened upon a pair of people standing outside of a dark apartment building. One of them was in house slippers and a muumuu, urging slowly towards the door. One of them had rheumy eyes and a little white dog with him.

"That's him! That's the Dog Man!" I hissed, and lo it was. Up close he looked even crazier, and he grinned at the air around us - he never looked distinctly in our direction, but into the streetlights beyond - as we passed by. We stared over our shoulders for half a block, unable to believe our luck.

That is the magic of Halloween, ladies and gentleman: just when you think you're sort of making a scary story up, it comes true.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007


This past weekend I've been unable to read my new New Yorker, owing to the fact that I wanted to finish Cancer Ward first. But finally, last night I had nothing holding me back, and I began reading an article by Adam Gopnik about the emotional and artistic politics of novel abridgement and additions. Little did I know that it would make me so damn mad.

One of the abridged books being discussed is Moby Dick, a favorite of mine. When I first read it (not too long ago, in fact), it caught me off-guard with its humor, as well as with the beautiful way in which it combines insanity with philosophy. As such, it was only with measured restraint that I was able to stop myself from condemning outright the idea of an abridgment. I tried to give it a chance - Gopnik seemed at first to be praising the cuts, and so I wondered, Am I wrong? Am I being unfair?

But what decided me was learning that "The Whiteness of the Whale" was one of the chapters that Orion – the publishing company whose “slim classics” series Gopnik was writing about – snipped out. Moby Dick can simply not be Moby Dick without its contemplations of evil and hopelessness intermingling with the most basic facts of reality and work. That chapter embodies much of what I love in the novel, and I was furious that Orion would cut it, and that Gopnik, whose writing and opinions I usually respect, would condone their cuts.

Luckily, the article at least was not that simple. Yes, Gopnik began by saying that Orion's abridged versions are not simple savagery. They have not made trash out of masterworks, per se. Rather, they have done what any good modern editor would do when faced with these pieces of complicated magnificence: they cut out the authorial excesses, and made them into good and digestible stories. Which is of course to say, they've excised the genius.

So, point for Gopnik.

But what I find really maddening is the idea that a “good modern editor” would find it necessary to cut out the most interesting parts out of a book. Yes, this notion is a bit debatable: certainly I have heard from some writers/publishing folk that editors today are actually doing less and less (whether or not that is actually a good thing). But something rings true about Gopnik’s glib aside: the modern publishing world does seem to gravitate towards the marketable, for the same obvious reason that publishing houses have marketing departments.

But why do people, the market, need novels to be slimmed down and shut up? Do we lack in passions? Intelligence? Grit? Certainly a world in which Cormac McCarthy could make it to Oprah’s Book Club is not a world in such dire need of simplification.

In fact I think that the problem is more complex. My experience, such as it is, has shown me that writers today are often taught that they should write for their audience instead of themselves. That's not totally crazy: most novels today are not created in an atmosphere of aristocratic plenty. If you're lucky enough to be a writer all the time, then you're a writer for a living, and as much as one might rather consider their work as pure art, it also becomes a commodity. I think this may result in authors fearing their audience just slightly, who then might alter the work to fit the vision of a made-up readership, instead of the original idea, the needful idea.

It’s only natural that this would bleed over into the editorial process. Really, an editor should be the one who is most concerned with the audience: they should be the rational creature who looks into the eyes of an alternate world and figures out what, if anything, needs to be done to make it comprehensible.

All this may be straying a bit far from my original topic. But my essential fear and frustration is that we are allowing ourselves - readers, writers, and editors all - to accept less than the naked and tumultuous truth of things. Less than the most beautiful and terrifying world that a mind can dream up.

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Après le Déluge

The area around my building is a little bit wild, in the sense of wildlife and wilderness. Part of the reason for this is the fact that the neighborhood is full of Vietnamese and Chinese dives, with their attendant scents and sounds: roast ducks strung up by the neck, garlic fighting decayed vegetables, odd scatterings of breadcrumbs outdoors being attacked by a legion of pigeons.

The pigeons themselves add another component: this is the type of pigeon swarm that clearly thinks with one mind. They're usually to be found in a refuse pile near an unnamed parking lot, shuffling nervously whenever someone walks by. If a car should be so audacious as to approach, or if a person does something fishy, they'll all jump into the air en masse and waft around the half-block radius between my house, the El, and a random pair of buildings. In the air they can look somewhat majestic, a giant many-membraned creature, an animal that can explode in many directions and then re-condense at a moment's notice.

I have not yet been shat upon by these pigeons. Here's to hoping.

Finally there is the peculiar weather. The weather that I walk through, the weather that I live in, is actually quite placid. There are occasional light showers, sunny skies, mild cloud cover. I'm not talking about Chicago at large, but only the neighborhood around my home.

Many a time I will walk out the door in the morning, or get off the train in the afternoon, and see streaks of water across the pavement, trees with tell-tale water-laden branches. The air will feel thick and the clouds may cluster and begin to look ominous off in the distance. But somehow I never end up caught in the rain; somehow, the rush of weather always passes and the threat is gone. I walk outside after the storm.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Into the Open!

I have a habit of associating my sympathies immediately with whichever character I am first introduced to in a book or short story. I then proceed to view the story through their eyes, since the best writing, in my mind, provides not only a situation unusual to my life, but also a viewpoint. This is also the way I prefer to study philosophy: first immerse yourself into the world of a philosopher, and come to understand the world through the lens of their work. After that, you'll be ready to critique them: you'll emerge, blinking and sleepy and suddenly remember that not everything Lacan ever said is valid for your lifestyle. But now you'll know why.

So some more notes on Cancer Ward: I initially found it difficult to distinguish between Kostoglotov - the book's "hero" (notwithstanding that I find that a ridiculous way to describe a character, akin to the vague exclamation "I win at life!" But in this case "protagonist" didn't seem right, since the action is moved forward by the thoughts and feelings of an ensemble cast.) - and Yefrem. The latter is a bit more of a tough, a womanizing man's man who is, under our gaze, drawn in by the Christian sympathies of Lev Tolstoy, and then killed. Enough of Yefrem.

The reason for this was that the character with whom you enter the cancer ward is Rusanov, the living, breathing emblem of Soviet bureaucracy. To him, there is little difference between Kostoglotov (whom he calls "Bone-Chewer") and Yefrem, because both are crude and objectionable. Kostoglotov is also an exile, and his presence in the same ward as Rusanov is representative of Rusanov's fears: that he, he!, a great Soviet comrade-in-arms, has been reduced to fever dreams and communal bathroom, a life and death shared with the basest of society.

Oleg Filimonovich Kostoglotov, however, is fairly unique in the ward in that he seems to be getting better (I haven't read the end yet, so don't tell). While the men around him sink out of society's view he is becoming lusty and bold, remembering what it is to be in love, and listening to the strains of Beethoven's Fourth as they drift over the trees surrounding the clinic. He's not out of danger, either from the cancer ward or from his tumor: either could swallow him in a moment. But for him the world is approaching, not receding, and he is able to run up and meet it and perhaps even escape

"Into the open!"

I must admit that lately I've been feeling an unwilled distance from the world: it's a familiar tune to those who are young and employed in a job which is just fine. In the morning I go to the office after a half an hour brushing hair and teeth and getting dressed. All day I remain on two floors of a building - cheerful, bright floors, but nonetheless I sometimes wish I were an errand girl, simply to have somewhere to go. Then at night I am ostensibly free, but I'm exhausted, and often end up staying at home. Again, that's fine. But sometimes it feels like a five o'clock world without any whistle blowing.

Yesterday I walked by a coffee shop & patisserie (I feel like that's the right word for it since it's wedged in between a million French Vietnamese restaurants, and it sells Napoleons) on my way to the train. The cafe is right by my house, but I never get to go because they aren't open on weekends and I eat breakfast at work. I noticed that it looked empty, so I decided to stop in for an espresso and a pastry as a small treat. This small act outside of my routine made me feel incredibly alive, at least for those five minutes.

I can't decide if that is a good, or an terribly sad thing. Perhaps both. At any rate, I have now begun associating my emotions much more directly with Kostoglotov: he the confused, hormonal, trapped and sensitive person. Like him, I want to run outside.

Into the open!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Endocrine, La Comedie Humaine

When I was younger, my mother always considered me to be the more sociable of her children. It wasn't that my siblings were loners, exactly; rather, she took pleasure in telling me that I could "make friends with a tree stump."

Her words.

Lately, however, I've been moving a great deal, which can make a girl shy. And on top of that I have a full-time job making me tired, actual ambitions which occasionally cause me to hunker down, and a person who's almost always at home whom I like a lot better than most of the chumps you just pick up off the street. So when Dave and I do end up hanging out with someone new, sometimes I feel like a conversation jump-start might not go amiss.

Luckily, there are books. You might not think that something that creates such creatures as "bookworms" and "nerds" - generally solo beasts - would be such a social (if you will) aphrodisiac. But you must consider how many books there are: many are written by utter cranks, or are, through their mere earnestness, wildly hilarious. Yes, regular "intellectual" books can also stimulate conversation, but those are the pieces of literature which I discuss with people I already know.

The absolute, number one best-ever book for guaranteed success at a party (or anywhere. In a funeral home this would go over well) is a little jewel called Gunfighting at Home and Related Subjects by one ER Fenjohn. Who this mythical man Fenjohn might be is hazy and unclear. We see a photograph of him at the beginning of the book ("Author answering the door at night with gun in pocket and hand on gun.") and we get certain insights into his character through all-caps exclamations like "I AM A GUNFIGHTER," as well as hand-drawn cartoons featuring two cons named Whacky and Frosty. But what is his essence? From what dark womb did he escape? Why does he look so much like Hugh Hefner?

The answers to these questions are not for us to know. But I do know that this book is as good as the first time, every time.

The second book in my aresenal is a more recent acquisition (I should point out that both of these books are technically Dave's), which was picked up at a local used bookstore this past weekend. The book, Gustav Eckstein's The Body Has a Head, is, at first glance, simply an anatomy text. Certainly it describes the body and its organs, the mind and its methods. But a glance at the book's description on the back cover makes it clear that this is an odyssey of a stranger kind:

"Looking back, it seems all indirection. The earliest memories are scanter than other people's, only occasionally a clear one. Cheese -- ridiculous. There was an inborn love of cheese; on a half-dark wintery morning, because it was Christmas, I was permitted to walk what for my legs was miles and when the grocer had weighed the cheese he sliced off a slice from what was my mother's, gave it to me, because it was Christmas, and I could nibble it all the slow way home, and there was the tree."

From there it really only gets better - for example, the title to this post is also the title to the chapter on the endocrine system.

Beyond that, I had more to say: about, for example, how I've begun reading Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward. I haven't actually finished the first book of the Gulag Archipelago yet - a book which contains phrases almost literally crystalline. Cancer Ward is a bit less personal, less elegant. But at the same time the narrative and character development in the book are dreamy and tight-knit, and it may be a better overall piece of literature in my opinion.

But more on that later. It seems a bit ridiculous to talk about Solzhenitsyn in the same breath as ER Fenjohn.

*** Image credit: code poet on

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Friday, October 12, 2007

So Fantastic

Here's the problem with an active imagination: sometimes it goes places that you never wanted it to go. In a sense, this goes back to my last post about weird fears, but there's more to it than that.

A couple of days ago I got this week's New Yorker - a big victory for me since it means that the post office is effectively recognizing the correct address for me after all my moving around. I'm always fascinated by their Annals of Medicine - ever since I started reading Atul Gawande (or perhaps ever since I developed a morbid fascination with the defective human body) I've been hooked. They tend to follow modern literature in their choice of diseases to focus on: autism, dementia, schizophrenia, and in one case a truly spectacular piece of strangeness called Lesch-Nyhan Disease in which the mostly-male victims are constantly impelled by a dark force to chew off their own fingers. If that doesn't make you shiver with fear, I don't know what will.

This week the spotlight was on the scannable brain activity of patients in vegetative states. As discussed by specialists in the article, many patients in persistent vegetative states are refused treatment by insurance companies (big surprise there!) and generally left be, under the assumption that they are thoroughly unaware, and that little improvement is to be expected.

The article stuck with me, and not simply because the neurologists quoted throughout were indeed able to find normal brain activity in several of the patients they visited. Instead, this got me thinking about the black hole that is a human hopeless case. The vegetative patients in the article were referred to as zombies. As zombies. That's not just funny or weird; in a psychological-defense kind of a way, I think that it is accurate.

If we look at a patient with brain damage, we see a slowly decaying and barely living thing; a creature more helpless than a baby, breathing through science. And in most healthy human beings, this invokes deep fear. Pity yes, anger maybe. But fear. Here is a fate that may be worse than death in several different ways. Way 1: Your mental life is incapacitated, suggesting that the soul either does not exist or is trapped in uncomfortable limbo between life and death. Way 2: You are buried alive in your own body, and no one will ever know.

And so on. To me, recognizing the existence of such a human condition seems almost like a talisman, drawing them towards me. A goose walking over my grave if you will. This is what makes a vegetative patient like a zombie in some sense: they bring their emptiness to you and (through no fault of their own) breathe it slowly into the space that you occupy. It's eerie, uncomfortable, and completely unfair, but there it is.

That's the trouble with imagination: it's morbid and it's absolutely free, living a life of daunting flight among grounded creatures. It makes us fear that our lives have been dreams had while dying, that everything is the blink of an eye.

Of course some of the worlds it builds are made of gingerbread instead of garbage. But for example, is this a good dream, or bad?

(credit to Keith):

"I have this recurring dream where I find this book I've written and it's really really brilliant. Eventually I realize that it's a dream and the book will be gone when I wake up, so I sit down and transcribe the whole thing out and put it in a secret pocket in order to slip it past Dream-customs at the Border but somehow they find it every fucking time."

And when my imagination is stronger than reality, causing my mental image of things to take precedence over actual fact (ex.: yes, but I can imagine him being a crack addict. Yes, but I can imagine that that's the kind of bitchy thing s/he would do), is that a good thing?

(I guess it is when the statement goes: Yes, but I can imagine that I got the manuscript past Dream Customs. I can imagine that there is a race of invisible people who occasionally watch us, occasionally place a hand on our arm, a chin on our shoulder. Gently, gently). It could be.

*** Image credit: wimpers on

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Things that go bump

Yesterday I was exhausted. Don't know why, for whatever reason. So when I got home, after missing several trains and standing in the new encroaching cold (a good thing, by the way), I sat on the couch with Matthea Harvey's new book Modern Life (which I've mentioned before).

As one might expect from Harvey, the book is beautifully off-balance, with deer-ostrich Frankensteins and sailboats escaping from the sailors into a storm. And as I was turning the page to poem 4 ("If Scissors Aren't the Answer, What's A Doll to Do?") I heard a horrible retching sound, then laughter from above, from nearby. One of our neighbors is a recent graduate of the Art Institute, and he has been taking stop-motion animation shots out the window between our doors. This requires the window to be open, which really doesn't bother me; it's not as though it's inside my house. But it does, I have discovered, greatly amplify the sounds I hear from outside.

I tried to ignore it, but there it would be again: pause, vomit, and then the same gurgling laughter. I couldn't tell if the laugh was coming from the same throat as the other expectorant, but it sounded to me as if the person were vomiting up blood. In the dark, in the cold.

And there came one of my greatest terrors: for some reason, I've been harboring this fear for awhile (a nightmare fear more than a stressful, conscious one) that some terrible thing will happen to void my entire sense of meaning. In dreams, it takes different shapes: diseases, war, aliens, and ever since 28 Days Later came out, ultimate zombie apocalypse. And there was this sound from somewhere near or even within my small building: violent death sounds, and sounds of devilish delight in it.

I think that the lucid dreamscapes of the Matthea Harvey poems couldn't have helped. Certainly, if I hadn't been exhausted, if I hadn't felt like throwing up myself on the El earlier in the day, I might have thought first of idiot frat boys laughing as they drink too much or punch each other in the stomach. I might have thought: I might be wrong.

But unnameable terrors are not rational, of course. Like this one: later in the evening David and I began watching David Attenborough's Life of Mammals series, specifically, the meat eaters edition. Clearly, the Siberian tiger was one of Attenborough's favorite, because besides calling it the "ultimate graceful killer" or some such thing, he smattered the documentary with eerie images of muscle and orange and black.

Suddenly I remembered reading The Giver long ago, probably in the library of my elementary school. There's a scene in that book where Jonas's younger sister is clutching a rhinoceros toy (or was it an elephant?) and Jonas, already the receiver of the world's memories, tells her Did you know that there used to be real rhinoceroses? And she laughs.

With a chill, that was the feeling I got watching the Siberian tiger run across the snow. It was so big, so real. Was there really such a thing? Could the world really change so much as to erase something like that?

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Friday, October 05, 2007

The Silence of the Grave

Working from home today only makes my questions about riding on public transportation more insistent. Here I am, in my pajamas, with no need to commute, and I feel like I am having El flashbacks. Only without the benefit of having had an enjoyable drug experience to flashback to.

Here's the thing about the train: it makes people evil. And I don't just mean other people, I mean me as well. When I am walking down the street or interacting with people in my office I make a conscious effort to be reasonable, if not in fact kind. I make way for those who are passing, I chat with people, I smile and attempt to be accommodating when it's appropriate.

Commuting, however, turns people into altogether different animals. I'm not sure why - we're all going to work, which is not a place most people want to be anyhow. And yet, any sign that an outside body is going to slow you down on the way (crowding the train, getting in your way, or, as an alternate example, driving just below the speed limit on the freeway) seems to makes ones personality boil all the way over. Once, on the train, a woman roughly pushed me out of the place I had been standing for ten minutes as we mutually tried to exit the train, then turned to me and said, between her teeth, "ExCUSE you!" Of course, she could just have been a jerk*, but it's difficult to know for sure.

The El is almost always quiet in the morning, and quite often in the evening: it's a lull broken only by exhuberant children, mysteriously reunited friends (I've seen this more than once, and they always talk loud), and cell phone conversations. Perhaps this is what allows us to encase ourselves in self-interest: a pact seems to exist between riders of the train, refusing to acknowledge that the time spent in transit is real, agreeing that we are not really interacting with one another. And so, when one person's self-interest rubs up against another (as when, for example, two people standing equidistant from a newly open seat must fight silently to claim it), the experience is highly abrasive. Not only are we forced to remember that other people exist, we are also forced to accept the fact that they are having none of your train-induced solipsism.

I just read a story by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky which addresses this anxiety perfectly: a scientist answers a call for the development of new fuels by harnessing the power of people's ill-will. While testing the product, the city government disconnects a train car - which is outfitted with a sort of malice-converter - from its locomotion, smack dab in the middle of morning rush hour. As the commuters onboard grow more and more malevolently impatient, the car begins to chug along.

I really don't like how much spite I feel towards strangers on the El. They bump into me, they take my seat (which could, arguably, just be called "a" seat), and I begin to honestly believe that they are stupid and cruel people. Hatred manifests. I do make an effort to take a deep breath and remember what I fool I'm being, but it disturbs me how little control I have over my emotions in these situations.

And so I like the deadly silence of the train, but I don't really trust it, and I don't understand it.

*Like the elephant "Stampy" in the Simpson's episode 'Bart Gets an Elephant.' Doesn't everyone remember that? Isn't anyone else's life composed mostly of inappropriately prevalent recollections of Simpson's episodes and Calvin and Hobbes cartoons?

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mise à jour

A little update: the Wes Anderson short Hotel Chevalier, filmed as a prequel to his new movie The Darjeeling Limited, is now available for (free!) download on iTunes.

As to the rest (of life, the universe, and everything) I have been blushing all day after speaking with an author I am hoping will speak at the Chicago Google office, but I don't want to air details on the unpredictable internet until everything is finalized. I am exhausted with happiness.

And one thing, a query to everyone who has dipped their pen into the same strange combination of cultural wells as me: does anyone else think that David Hemmings' character in Blow-Up (directed by Antonioni, god rest his peculiar soul) was the inspiration for the photography scenes in the Austin Powers movies ("Yes, yes, yes. No! No! No!")?

I mean, could it possibly just be coincidence?

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Monday, October 01, 2007


I can be startled fairly easily - I have an extremely low tolerance for shock, and am always the first one to jump when the killer in the movie wakes back up for one last stab at the blood-soaked hero. These shocks resonate in my system, causing trauma and developing into stupid nightmares in which I scream out loud and wake up (lightly!) strangling my bedmate.

Despite all that, I am not easily surprised. Surprise, for me, comes when something highly unexpected - on an intellectual or emotional level, as opposed to on the level of one's emergency-response nervous system - comes to pass. I've read enough Foucault to believe that pretty much any action can have unexpected results, so it's rare that something deviates so wildly from my expectations that I sit up and take notice.

However, in an amusing turn of events, this weekend something did. Some of you may remember that many moons ago (in October 2006, I believe) I posted on this blog about the strange woman I met outside of a Safeway in Mountain View. She, a paranoid, scruffy, corndog eating woman was collecting signatures and financial contributions toward a bill she wished to take to the state legislature in order to make pet abandonment illegal.

I gave the woman 10 minutes of my time, a careful signature, and a $10 bill. I little expected anything to come of it, except that perhaps she would be able to buy more corn dogs. Or even fruit! Who knows? Months upon months went by and lo, I had forgotten all about this strange person, who made me contemplate our personal role in a democracy.

Then, I got a letter. It was from Senator Sheila Kuehl (D) of California, and it thanked me for my interest in the issue of pet abandonment. Although she could not currently take action on that point, wrote Senator Kuehl, there is a Bill currently in consideration to protect pets under current domestic abuse laws.

And you know, you could have knocked me over with a feather. Having looked at the greasy sheets of lined paper on which my mystery woman was collecting her signatures, I never expected the petition to reach any sincerely concerned participle of the government. Of course, for all I know, those modest proclamations were merely mailed in and glanced over, with no effect even as lasting as a horror flick like The Grudge (of all things) would have on my delicate mental state. But something beyond me and my dangerously enlivened interlocutor came of that gray Safeway excursion, and I'm glad.

In oddly symbiotic news, this weekend I met the new dog that Dave's parents recently adopted, a teddy bear-looking entity named Maggie Munze.* Maggie was rescued from a puppy mill, and being around her was like no other dog-related experience of my life. She shared few characteristics with the dogs that I have known: no barking, no begging, no resting her head in your lap. And indeed, she had no idea how to play. Dave's mom said that she occasionally goes to her crate and picks up one of the toys they have bought for her, only to move it to a different part of the house and leave it again.

It was a strange experience. I think that Maggie Munze is suggestive of the effects that a lack of love can have on a creature: not only does she not understand how to show or receive affection, she does not fully seem to understand the purpose of it.

I think she'll get better though.

*Actually, her name was just Maggie when we arrived, but Dave had been pulling for 'Munze,' and so we just started calling her Munzie as soon as we walked in the door.

And finally, on a completely unrelated note: Matthea Harvey has a new book of poetry coming out soon, and I encourage everyone to check it out. She's strange beyond your wildest hopes.

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