My Scheme of Order

Excavated axe head

My scheme of Order gave me the most trouble; and I found that, tho' it might be practicable where a man's business was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own hours. Order, too, with regard to places for things, papers, etc., I found extreamly difficult to acquire. I had not been early accustomed to it, and, having an exceeding good memory, I was not so sensible of the inconvenience attending want of method. This article, therefore, cost me so much painful attention, and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbour, desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn'd, while the smith press'd the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without farther grinding. "No," said the smith, "turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet, it is only speckled." "Yes," says the man, "but I think I like a speckled ax best." And I believe this may have been the case with many, who, having, for want of some such means as I employ'd, found the difficulty of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue, have given up the struggle, and concluded that "a speckled ax was best"; for something, that pretended to be reason, was every now and then suggesting to me that such extream nicety as I exacted of myself might be a kind of foppery in morals, which, if it were known, would make me ridiculous; that a perfect character might be attended with the inconvenience of being envied and hated; and that a benevolent man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep his friends in countenance.

-- The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Human Life

Human life can be compared to a person dancing in a variety of forms around his own self: thus the vegetables of our first picture book encircled a boy in his dream -- green cucumber, blue eggplant, red beet, Potato père, Potato fils, a girly asparagus, and, oh, many more, their spinning ronde going faster and faster and gradually forming a transparent ring of banded colors around a dead person or planet.

Another thng we are not supposed to do is to explain the inexplicable. Men have learned to live with a black burden, a huge aching hump: the supposition that "reality" may be only a "dream." How much more dreadful it would be if the very awareness of your being aware of reality's dreamlike nature were also a dream, a built-in hallucination! One should bear in mind, however, that there is no mirage without a vanishing point, just as there is no lake without a closed circle of reliable land.

Vladimir Nabokov, Transparent Things (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1972), 92-93.

His Grandmother in Waukegan

Belvedere Mall, Waukegan, IL

Last week, I emptied out my storage locker and brought everything here to my apartment. I don't have much except the Y'all archives, which consist of several boxes of videotapes, recordings in various formats (many of them obsolete), and a couple boxes of memorabilia, mostly things given to us by fans: drawings, letters, cards, etc. I feel like the curator of a very important collection. . . .

One thing I unearthed is a watercolor sketch my grandmother made many years ago, in the 60's I think. It's a panoramic view of the downtown intersection near where she lived in Waukegan, Illinois when I was very young. The crosswalks are busy with all sorts of people, stylish-looking men and women, children, even a sailor. (There's a big naval base in Waukegan and I remember visiting my grandma and seeing sailors in their bell-bottoms and Popeye hats, almost always walking in two's and three's.)

The painting reminded me of how my grandmother used to say that she was a "city person" and how much I liked the sound of that, because I thought my grandmother was the coolest person in the world, and I loved visiting her in her little downtown apartment, I loved the door buzzer and the accordian gate on the elevator, I loved eating crackers and canned sardines for dinner, and I loved going down to the candy store in the storefront of her building for caramel popcorn.

Starting with that first taste of urban life, I grew up knowing that I'd eventually move to New York, and I did, and I lived there for many years thinking that I'd never leave. But I did. And when I discovered the outdoors, the pleasures of living near the land, desert, mountains, forest, weather, animals, for a while I thought I might not be a city person after all or not any more.

Maybe some day I'll move to the desert. It seems like a good place to end up. (A good place to die at any rate because it's so dry your body will become dessicated and return to the elements faster.) But when I came to San Francisco last year to finish Life in a Box, I knew I would stay. I had the same feeling I had the first time I visited New York. The same feeling I had when I used to visit my grandma in Waukegan.

-- Stephen Cheslik-DeMeyer at the late and missed, February 2006


Harbor scene

I've been all over the world and have lived among every kind of culture and I can say, without any hesitation, that the most ignorant, rude, selfish, and self-centered people on earth are babies.

-- Dan Liebert

John Wesley Powell and State Expansion

Powell Survey, Colorado River, 1871

The concept of the welfare state edged into the American consciousness and into American institutions more through the scientific bureaus of government than by any other way, and more through the problems raised by the public domain than through any other problems, and more through the labors of John Wesley Powell than through any other man. In its origins it probably owes nothing to Marx, and it was certainly not the abominable invention of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Brain Trust. It began as public information and extended gradually into a degree of control and paternalism increased by every national crisis and every stemp of the increasing concentration of power in Washington. The welfare state was present in embryo in Joseph Henry's Weather Bureau in the eighteen-fifties. It moved a long step in the passage of what Henry Adams called America's "first modern act of legislation," when the King and Hayden Surveys were established in 1867. . . . it would assume almost its contemporary look in the trust-busting and conservation activities of Theodore Roosevelt at the dawn of the next century. But what Powell and the earlier Adams and Theodore Roosevelt thought of as the logical development of American society, especially in the West, was by no means universally palatable by 1890 -- or by 1953. It looked dangerous; it repealed the long habit of a wide-open continent; it recanted a faith.

-- Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West (Lincoln, Neb.: Bison Books, 1982 [orig. pub. 1953]), 334.


Bad Breath Comics

Yesterday, I got a 1/4 of a photocopied "Ron Paul, hope for apart of it" page (8.5x11 quartered? not sure how to say it best) tied to my front door knob with a piece of string . . . tied with a piece of string? Creeped me out.