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Monday, 19 June 2006


Breakups have a way of reminding me how beautiful life can be, and sad. I wish it could have been you, rhetorically at least, in a parallel life, one a lot like this one. It's just that it wasn't. Now, we're on the other side.

The last time I saw you, you were wearing sunglasses and eating a hot dog, or maybe soft ice cream. Everything seemed incongruous, but especially your indifference.

When we were young, you followed close behind me and held on to my shirt. It turned out the body was just a giant stuffed panda. We sent styrofoam flying, everywhere.

You called me to come help calm Bismarck, and I fed him treats until his mouth went dry, spittle lacing his jowls. A neighbor had to come and introduce me. You have such a beautiful face.

One time you dreamed we made quesadillas on a terra cotta floor. So, for our first date, we bought tortillas, cheese, and avocados. You walked around the grocery with your hands in your pockets, an image that makes me giggle.

It's a cliché, I know, to say I wish things had turned out differently, but I wish it still. I will never forget you, baby, I promise. end of article

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Something every day

If you bite your tongue long enough, you'll start tasting blood. end of article

Thursday, 08 June 2006

Still point, or the beauty of symbolic links1

Since 3:20 am on Tuesday, 6 June, my servers allowed three pieces of email to be queued for delivery. Thanks to procmail, two of those pieces of junk email never made it past /dev/null. The third piece of junk email was delivered this afternoon straight to my inbox and, surprisingly, surprised me. The volume of my email traffic reminds me of what email was like in the mid 1990s, back when I used Eudora, and I'm already getting used to the idea of only getting email that matters.

The day after I returned from Indianapolis—Tuesday, 6 June—was the eleventh anniversary of my brother’s suicide. Houston was mentally ill when he died, so it’s not entirely clear the young man who died at his own hands was entirely in control of those hands which killed him. While I can't say I love him better than when he was alive, I do love him more. We often related to each other as rivals, rarely expressing affection or kindness. We did sometimes have fun together.

Though I wouldn't call a visit to one's father’s grave fun, Houston and I were too young in this picture to know enough to be sad. I think the emotion I was feeling at the time was respectful. Houston, on the other hand, is busy being a fashion maven. It's hard to tell because of the small picture, but Houston's on the bleeding edge of haute couture with his sunglasses on upside-down. Authoritative line below the eye and graceful, almost playful, semi-circles above, the upside-down sunglasses have the added benefit of encouraging even the unhip to hold their chins up and look down their noses just to keep their specs on.

After my father died, my mother moved us to Marina, California, where she still lives. In 1971 when she bought her home, it wasn't worth all that much, beautiful though the avocado (Joyce would have said “snot”) green linoleum and friendly the bilious orange carpet were. The carpet was especially nice because the white folks (read: non-Korean) who lived there before us had used straight pins to keep it down. Good things Koreans don't wear shoes indoors because finding those pins was fun!

Just as I remember we moved into that house with almost no furniture, I also remember the orange binky and wicker laundry basket Houston fell asleep in. I think Houston slept inside the laundry basket with some regularity. The laundry basket cradled him and kept him safe, something his later life could never do.

Houston fell ill when he was eleven and nearly died. “Doctors” at the Silas B. Hayes Memorial Hospital and specialists at Letterman Hospital dubbed it “Devic's disease,” a rare form of multiple sclerosis that attacks the optic nerve. Why Houston went from 100 lbs. to 56 lbs. in the course of a month was never explained.

After puberty, Houston began gradually recovering his physical health, though his eyesight never fully returned. Even given the hellish aftermath of his autoimmune system or whatever the fuck befell him, Houston had a sense of hilarity. In his early teen years he made many friends. His guy friends were usually trouble makers. Even before becoming ill, Houston was a bit of a disruptive presence in school. Houston also had more than his share of girlfriends though photogenic is not exactly the word that comes to mind here.

When Houston moved from his pre-teen years to his mid-teens, his bodily health (excepting his eyes) and musculature were excellent. We were nearly exactly the same height but I always felt he was maybe half an inch taller. Houston's rambunctious friends matured into juvenilely delinquent friends and together they started what was perhaps Marina's first gang, “HBO,” for “Home Boys Only.”.2 Houston was a badass and he found himself verging on adulthood and in trouble with the law. He was never caught with product, but he did beat a number of people up. At this point, the only reason I ever messed with him was because I was his dumb, self-righteous big brother. My familial proximity and self-absorption didn't let me see that in addition to possible drug problems his mental health had been shattered.

On one level, I know I am not responsible for whatever Houston did or did not decide to do to himself. Sure. But on another level, I also know that I could have been there for him more than I had been. I wish I had spent more time helping him cope with his handicap. Instead, I mostly lectured and reprimanded him. I only remember one time telling Houston that I loved him. It was a Christmas morning when he was still healthy. We were maybe eight and six. I think I might have told him again sometime when he was sick, but I don't remember it clearly.

Now that he's gone, in some ways I can pick and choose the Houston I know. I do it in my sleep. I dream that Houston and I are talking while visiting friends or just sitting around the house. In my dreams, Houston is always healthy and we rarely argue. I am probably kinder to him in my dreams than I was in real life, less aloof. In my dreams, Houston looks much as he did before he fell ill: handsome and healthy, irresistible.

I miss you, Houston. Rest in peace. end of article


1 I started this entry thinking I was going to write about cognitive harmony and symbolic links in UNIX file systems. Shows what I know.

2 Not that any of them would have said it this way, but that name was an admiring and ironic reference to a structure of power much stronger than their own collective and to which they had access through thin coaxial cable

Tuesday, 06 June 2006

Geographical Soma and Postfixing SPAM

Yesterday, I returned from my friend Jason's and his (then) bride-to-be Sarah's wedding in Indianapolis. The parts of Indianapolis I visited were incredibly clean and smoking is not allowed in public spaces, bars being an exception. The most interesting aspect of Indianapolis. without going too deeply into the gory theoretical details, is its manifestation of what Baudrillard would call the hyperreal.

June 2006 event calendar for RathskellerOn Saturday night, wedding guests were invited to The Rathskeller. That night, Possum were playing music that I would not call “dead” as much as “reanimated.” The calendar billed Possum as presenting “Your Favorite Rock Hits,” a tag which suggests the mass-cultural character of the material Possum reanimated but omits that those “Rock Hits” were reduced then submerged in a swirling medley replete with loosely-scripted patter. To escape the embarrassment of so transparent an acoustic come on, one had to enter wistfully and witlessly the nostalgia that eddied as Salt and Pepa's “Push It” flowed into Cyndi Lauper's “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” The feeling was frightfully and undeniably pleasant, reminiscent of what the characters of Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow experience as a giant Adenoid assimilates them:

[. . .] the Adenoid is blasted, electric-shocked, poisoned, changes color and shape here and there, yellow fat-nodes appear high over the trees . . . before the flash-powder cameras of the Press, a hideous green pseudopod crawls toward the cordon of troops and suddenly sshhlop! wipes out a an entire observation post with a deluge of some disgusting orange mucus in which the unfortunate men are digested—not screaming but actually laughing, enjoying themselves. . . . (15)

Possum's reanimated medley is a metonym for the racial and cultural streams which converge on the buckle of America's Bible Belt. Possum's concoction is not the brew of the exalted and over-attended Creole culture of New Orleans. Indianapolis does not produce gumbo or jambalaya but exudes reanimated nostalgia. It is the place where homogeneity blurs the edges of the cultural fragments it absorbs. I told Catherine if Indianapolis were a drug its name would be soma.1

When I returned to good ol' Athens, the SPAM count for the domains I host had increased from fewer than ten a day back to about forty and rising. Procmail was losing the battle of informatic mutation. Before leaving for Indianapolis, I had read a Slashdot thread that asked, unidiomatically, “The Time Has Come to Ditch Email?”, with a post by Just Some Guy plugging an article (by Kirk Strauser) explaining how to “Filter Spam with Postfix.”

I spent the time between 6:40 pm yesterday and 12:14 am today changing Postfix's configuration file and implementing Postgrey.2 Since then, two pieces of junk email have been delivered to all of my domains, with no false positives. end of article


1 In case it's not clear, I had fun in Indiana.

2 AFP548.com have an excellent article on deploying Postgrey on Mac OS X 10.4.

Work Cited

Pynchon, Thomas. Gravity's Rainbow. New York: Penguin, 1973.

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