Category Archives: Bibliophilia

A Mixed Bag

This has to be one of the most polyglot places on earth! First of all, there are six alphabets in common use by residents: Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, and Ge’ez. Think about that for a second–I frequently see storefronts with signs in four scripts! On the streets and in the shops you’ll hear residents speaking Hebrew, Arabic, English, Russian, Armenian, Yiddish, Amharic, Tagalog, and I’m sure many others I have not heard. As for the tourists, I have picked up conversations in German, Spanish, French, Polish, Italian, Danish, Mandarin, Dutch, Norwegian, Korean, and probably others I have not recognized.

What there is not so very much of is food that Liam can eat! It’s a hard place to be a fussy vegetarian. There aren’t even the fast food places that you see in some other Israeli cities. Everywhere you turn there is hummus, falafel, bread loaves, pickled vegetables, ice cream, bagels, coffee, and various meats–and not much else! No rice, no green salads, no soups, no Italian, no Mexican… in short, almost no Liam-food! Needless to say, I am not eating very well.

But whether the two are connected or not, it’s not been a huge problem because I have very little appetite and have been sick a lot the past few days. Something here has not agreed with me. Last night I hardly slept a wink, a combination of construction noises, loud kids, and feeling sick as a dog. So to-day I feel predictably weak and listless. *grumble* I am having a great time intellectually, but my body is saying “take me home NOW!”

As far as the brain-work goes, things are proceeding tolerably well. I had my first meeting to-day with an Israeli academic, and that seemed to come off smoothly enough. He gave me a lot of great leads for works to read and people to contact, and a lot of excellent advice about working in Israel. He put my mind much more at ease vis-à-vis actually spending time here talking to the Haredim and working with Israeli resources. Not that the project seems any easier: far, far from it! But I am learning what I need to do, and that’s an excellent step in itself.

I did some walking to-day again after the meeting, heading over to the Zionist Central Archives and attempting to speak with the curator of the photo collection. And from there I walked up to Jaffa Street at its northern end and walked down towards the part I already know. On the way I slipped into a few markets, including the large shopping spread on Ben Yehuda Street where I finally had lunch. Right now I am sipping a drink at a coffee house, and when it’s done and the camera has finished dumping the day’s photos, I’m probably going to stumble back to the Old City and try to get to sleep early. Maybe if I can sleep early enough in spite of the light & heat, I’ll be able to sleep through the obnoxious construction noise…

In spite of it all, though, this is shaping up to be a great trip. Sure, I’m sick as hell, and tired, and it’s damned hot, and I can’t get good food; I miss my animals, my girl, and my family. But I am learning a lot, collecting photos (many of them research, as I’m studying the social construction of space), meeting people and having interesting conversations, getting a lot of exercise, studying Hebrew through my tapes and practising it everywhere, picking up more Arabic incidentally, enjoying the people-watching, and getting in a tolerable amount of reading. I even picked up a couple of Hebrew books to study with, and one that’s important to my research and not being translated. I am physically and emotionally exhausted, but in many ways I am revved up and enjoying myself immensely.

‘…Shine A Light On Me’

Well, the water’s still out in my flat, so life sucks that way… I hate taking a walk to use the facilities or shower but… *shrug* It’s supposed to be fixed by Monday night so life will be back to normal soon enough.

To-day I learnt that the finest bookstore in all of Southern California is going out of business after 35 years. The Midnight Special in Santa Monica has (had?) the best selection of history, politics (left), philosophy, sociology, and critical theory of any book shop I’ve ever seen (or likely will again). It’s extremely disheartening to see such a long-time bastion of sanity in an insane consumerist economy be destroyed by the predatory practices of the tourist trap mentality that’s taking over the area. I am quite bitter. Anyroad, they’re on 2nd st. in Santa Monica and everything is 40% off for the next two weeks, after which the doors will close for good. Their Website is still up and can be seen at, in case you’ve never heard of them. I am going to miss poetry readings there… Hell, I’m going to miss every part of that place. *big_sigh*

As a tribute, I’m going to use a quote to-day that they’ve been distributing on bookmarks for many years now. Better advice you will seldom see in the quote section of this site. Viva la librería!

Enough bad news for one night. More to come to-morrow. Seizure…

“Hungry man, reach for the book, it is a weapon.” -Bertolt Brecht

I Am Clearly Mad

Only six weeks to go in the semester, with six papers to write (three of them large research papers), and what do I do? Choose absurdly difficult topics for two of them, and then get distracted by Michel Foucault. I am thoroughly obsessed now with the possibility of combining my interest in philosophy and critical theory with the writing and analysis of history. This is all well and good, but I need to be working on such changes in my approach over the summer, not NOW, when I have so much work to do! I am a foolish little masochist.

Not only that, but I have an opportunity to get a paper published in the school’s literary journal, and I haven’t gotten around to finishing it. I have until Friday, so… one more day to get all of my sources properly cited and the final draft stuck on a CD and submitted. I hope I can concentrate on this stuff to-morrow, because I’d really like to get this one in… I need to improve my prioritisation.

In “file under weird” news: it appears that I got a perfect score on my Literature mid-term. Weird, eh? I thnk she fudged a couple of extra points that I didn’t deserve, since I gave short and shoddy answers to a couple of questions. Whether or not I knew the material is irrelevant- I did not demonstrate that on paper. Why, with all of my wacky health problems, I can remain so hard on myself is unaccountably strange. I am clearly mad. Someone should lock me up before I hurt, err, someone else. *grin*

At any rate, I, my madness, and I, are now going to step off this precipice and into the waiting arms of sleep. My cat is making strange devil-noises, and the computer fans are giving me a headache. The room reeks of old dust. I crave chocolate and beer. And there is no Easter Bunny.

“Modes of thinking, such as love, desire, or any other of the passions, do not take place, unless there be in the same individual an idea of the thing loved, desired, etc. But the idea can exist without the presence of any other mode of thinking.” -Baruch Spinoza

You Don’t Know Jack!

Did I mention that yesterday was Jack Kerouac’s birthday? Definitely one of the twentieth century’s finest, and most distinctive, novelists (and a damn fine poet to boot). I’ll admit that he’s something of an influence on where I want to take my own prose as I struggle to find my voice as a fiction writer. Obviously, my style as an essayist is not going to translate well to a literary setting! *grin*

To-day I got to sit through the world’s second-worst traffic school (Robin’s recent story still has this one beaten); it was tortuous for such a hyper person to sit through eight hours of babbling that had nothing whatsoever to do with traffic laws. Instead, a 72-year-old Polish concentration camp survivor and former DMV examiner held forth on every trivial aspect of his life, from his second wife’s inability to respect his obsessive habits to his recent experiences in visiting the Ukraine to his alcoholic son’s current gaol term, and on and on and on… it was hideous. Then, I got to watch a video from the 80s on drunk driving, with a bouncing picture that made me so ill I stopped watching and just stared at the wall, listening. Eight hours, and not a word on traffic laws, no tests, nothing. It seems to function more as a punishment than as a learning experience. Something about the word “school” in the name “traffic school” had led me to expect something a little different…

On the Website, I am experiementing with a guestbook; I’ve got one running, but I still need to customise the interface. I found the code in a free software repository, and have been tweaking it slowly to meet my needs. Also, in the history section, you’ll find the first posted essay in that field- a survey of modern Chinese foreign policy. Many more to come, rest assured. I’m picking easy ones to post first. *grin* Many I have to track down, and many more are hand-written, and will have to be typed up (*ugh!*).

To-morrow, breakfast with grandmother, then more studying on campus. Fun! I have lots of Maths work to finish, as well as an expanded version of my ‘Gimpel’ paper to complete. I’m having a tough time keeping up with this semester- I’m far too scatter-brained and over-stressed for this kind of work-load. What with my finances, my health, Robin’s health, and figuring out what I want to do for graduate school, I am completely swamped in stress. Ah. well; keeps me on my toes.

“Power operates only destructively, bent always on forcing every manifestation of life into the straitjacket of its laws. Its intellectual form of expression is dead dogma, its physical form brute force.” -Rudolf Rocker

{note: reference is to defunct version of this site.}

Midnight Confession

Guess who forgot to write to-day? That’s right…. me. *grin* I spent the day getting ready for school (semester begins to-morrow), reading The Unbearable Lightness Of Being, finishing that computer for Dave M. (which I must deliver early this week), and making late 60s mixtapes.

Anyroad, it’s time for sleep, so… Good night! Oh, and if you missed it, the title is an allusion to a Grass Roots song. A damned good one, too. Now bugger off.

“Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” -Gore Vidal

The End? Or Just The Beginning?

It’s the end of January! I have written so much this month, it’s unbelievable. I have another dozen or so “poems” that I haven’t formatted yet. Then there’s the four essays for class. I also have a few new ideas for some short stories. I’m finally getting over the trauma of losing a year’s worth of work to that server crash. Just when I’d started to take myself seriously and save my work, fate deals me a crushing blow. Bad joss. Oh, and I’ve made a few penpals through a Web site, which is interesting. I haven’t had a penpal since before e-mail… *grin*

High Fidelity was excellent; highly recommended, if you’re anything like me. Hmmm, maybe that’s a little too restrictive. Just read it anyhow. So.

I have a bunch of stuff I was planning to write about, but I think I’m going to go and start a new book instead. A nice relaxing weekend before the semester starts sounds just about right. “Don’t you wish you were me? I know I do!”

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.” -Epictetus

Ahh, What A Day…!

I had the most amazing day to-day. I wandered around Point Fermin with friend-Mindy, and we talked about a million-and-one things. I broke out a lot when we first got there (damned sun!), but soon the body acclimated, and things were good again. There’s more graffiti, but it’s still just as lovely as it was last time I was there. When the wind had picked up a bit, we repaired to the Library on Broadway, which is one of my favourite coffee houses, and talked some more. We have an amazing amount in common, and what seems different is thus far complimentary. She’s an excellent conversationalist, and we can bounce from subject to subject with reckless abandon; if she enjoys my company half as much as I hers, she’ll never get rid of me. *grin* All in all, the perfect day- scenery, company, conversation, coffee; what more can I guy ask for?

About Point Fermin… I absolutely love it down there. It had been almost two years since I’d been there, and I didn’t get to wander very far this time (due to allergies, and then wind), and so will have to go back soon. I love wandering around on the rocks, and taking the walk from the broken walls all the way to Cabrillo, and sadly, this time I didn’t even make it down to the rocks. *sigh* Another day, hopefully soon. If you haven’t been, go. Now.

Lately I’ve been enjoying Pablo Neruda’s poetry. One of these days I’ll have to learn Spanish, just to read it as it was written. Having grow up around it, it shouldn’t be too difficult, right? I mean, I can read quite a bit of it already because it’s in my face wherever I go! *grin* Despite having a greater interest in French and Italian, mayhap Spanish would be a more practical next choice. *shrug* We shall see.

To-morrow I’m planning to force myself through a speed-read of Opium Wars, so that I can get that paper written. Unless something else comes up. (Please, someone, save me! I don’t want to read it! I can do it Monday, really!) Oh, and I have decided to start work on an XTC compilation for my motoring pleasure. The Tom Waits set is just about done, and I need only master them. I’ll need to buy more blanks soon (damn). Oh, oh, oh, I forgot! I stopped at Tower on the way home from dropping Comrade Mindy at her automobile and picked up Ani’s new album; I am putting it on now, so I’ll tell you all if it’s good.

I have a million things to talk about right now, but not with you. Hah. I’m going to go work on something creative; I would recommend you do the same.

“I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for the truth; and truth rewarded me.” -Simone de Beauvoir

Ladies And Gentlemen, May I Have Your Attention, Please?

Just kidding. Nothing important to announce to-day. You may leave now if you like. However, do remember to keep your hands and arms inside the Web site until the crazy man has stopped spinning. Oh, I forgot; it is both Mindy’s and my grandmother’s birthday, so happy happy for both, ja? Other than that… nothing important.

Hmmm, well, I do have something about my history class I’d love to rant about, but I probably shouldn’t ‘cuz I’m still so piss’d off. Maybe another day. *grumble*

Also, Comrade Mindy recommended an author to me to-day, and I am quite curious. You see, I can count on one hand the number of times someone has successfully recommended an author to me out of left-field (i.e., I wasn’t already interested), and most of those were in my youth. I’m largely self-educated, and have always picked out what I wanted meself; I’ve been very intellectually isolated most of me life. Definitely the black sheep in my family- nothing in common with anyone. Anyroad, most times folks recommend authors to me and completely fail to impress. Mindy has previously turned me on to T. H. White, and whilst I haven’t finished the book yet, it’s quite enjoyable; however, I already had heard of the book, and seen the film made out of the first part. This recommendation, though, has me really curious. Fella name o’ Nick Hornby (I had never heard of him), and the title I picked up is High Fidelity. Read a few pages in the Barnes and about laughed myself silly with all of the great pop culture references (Elvis Costello, mix tapes, the Smiths, the Guns of Navarone). It might just be my bag, but we’ll have to see. Soon’s I finish The Opium War, I shall devour it. I’ll keep you, my loyal vassals, informed, of course. I know you all hang upon my every pronouncement. *grin*

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

DNS, Shelves, And A Film

Well, y’all may have noticed the DNS outage that kept morthaur unavailable for most of yesterday. It seems to have been resolved, but now, of course, I may be having a hard disk issue with my file server- the array needed to rebuild this morning. I hope I don’t have another failing disk, but now I’ll have to find time soon to scan them all. *sigh*

I did add two extensions to my first two bookcases, which brings me to a total of 66 shelves in the living room (more properly called the library, I guess!), plus 15 in the office and two in the bedroom. My lust for books is obviously insatiable. Speaking of which, I blew my gift cards at Barnes today, and another dozen fine volumes are mine…. happy happy me! I was finally able to get Shelby Foote’s massive Civil War narrative, much of which I’d read in library as a bairn, but never finished, and could never justify buying ($75 for one book is a bit excessive, even if it is over 3,000 pages). Anyroad, I was able to space things out well, add some knick-knacks, and now have about two shelves worth of free space in my history section, which should serve me well over the next year of school.

Finally, I’d like to point out that happy little me will be taking Robin to see Cold Mountain in a few minutes. The poor girl will have to suffer through another of my oh-so-boring history flicks; at least this one has a romantic story she can get into to make it worthwhile. If it’s any good, I’ll let y’all know, of course.

Had A Good One?

Yeah, I did, too. Made out like a bandit with the Barnes gift cards, so most of my gifts come to-morrow. Oh, do I have a busy day to-morrow! Run to the bank, order parts for that new engineering system, spend my gifts cards (already got that all worked out! *grin*), and get to IKEA to buy extensions for two of my bookcases, since I’m just about out of room. My collection just gets better every year, dunnit? *grin*

Welp, I be tired so that be all. Except…

“Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” -Lennon.