Compendium Hermetica
And yet, it moves.


I suppose we shall soon find out the difference between a war criminal and a terrorist. As long as the investigation doesn't take Mr. Kissinger to France or to the Hague, he should be able to execute his duties.

posted by Brian | 10:40:00 AM link |


So it's Over the river and through the woods - traveling to the family homestead for Thanksgiving. Happy Holiday. Please indulge in that most America of deadly sins - gluttony!

posted by Brian | 7:16:00 AM link |


Greatest Hits

While writing this evening, I went back through the document that has served as a journal for almost four years now. Of course in those years I have also filled notebooks with my writing and, more recently, a weblog. IN my case the digital archive has the conspicuous advantage of legibility. That is something that my handwritten journals cannot offer years later, or to be quite honest, even 10 minutes after writing.

So I spent some time going back through those journals. I find myself dwelling on the same questions and on the same problems as I faced years ago. There are also entries however, where I wish exactly for what I have now. I suspect that what I find most disturbing is the fact that I am beginning to measure my adulthood in in terms of many years - that I am frighteningly continuous with the person who wrote these entries four years ago.

Some things about me that remain the same:

Existential Queasiness - not quite Nausea, but I still can't get past that we " die at last, too soon" - probably never will stop being fascinated by Sex and Death and how the two are related. I know its juvenile and a trademark of maudlin adolescents, but these essential phenomena that figuratively bracket our lives seem like they merit more than the moribund commodification they receive from television. To wit, from March 11, 2000:

When we are children, we don't even know what it's like to be an adult. And when you get here, you wonder if you would have gone on if you had known that adulthood is the smaller undiscovered country, but it's also the next to last time that you won't know what the next phase of existence will be like. And it's the greater portion of our lives that we can expect to know what will follow day after day. That's what it feels like right now. I remember being a child standing in our front yard between the twoenormous maple trees - I didn't know a thing about love or desire or work or anything beyond the immediate needs of a child. Now I feel like I'm standing in Mongolia - alone on the roof of the world, I can see what's coming for a hundred miles. Here comes the twister.

Other continuities:

My relationship with J

A search for discipline in writing

A search for discipline in an exercise routine

A deep ambivalence regarding writing

An abiding love of Sunday mornings and cups of coffee enjoyed at the Market (and elsewhere)

The fact that I have known Alayne since 1999 (!)

A deep concern with my friends' happiness

A delight in music

A delight in music that is mostly sad and desolate

A precise sense of what makes a perfect day

Other items which I will not list here (sparing you and me both, buddy)

Apparently I am generally a happy person, but have recurring issues that may wax an wain in intensity, but follow me through life. I also maintain, however, a resolute sense of what pleases me and what constitutes a good life. This may seem like an elementary discover to make at the age of 29, but identity can surprise you when you realize how fixed you have become. While the arm may extend far from the foot of the compass, the circle it describes is the same. Given my self narrative (you have one too, admit it), varies between the mytho-heroic (Odysseus, the man of many paths - the man of constant sorrow in yet another guise), an elaborate conceit by Martin Amis (an arrow fired through time), or a simple and beautiful metaphor from Middle english (a beautiful and awful white bird flying out of and into the night so, so quickly), the constancy of identity feels like a heart being made obdurate (by sin, Mr. Milton). We like to think of ourselves as dynamic, interesting, ever-changing. My predictability (as well as my sudden nostalgia) gives the lie to my sense of constant change in myself.

Keep in mind, I like my continuities, they simply suprise me as they seem legion. The quintessentially American narrative remains one of self-authorship - or re-invention. But I offer a caveat: we code our flaws and strengths into everything we create - that includes our selves.

posted by Brian | 10:38:00 PM link |

Though I understand the use of templates produces standardized blogs, seeing an Icelandic version of your blog does give you pause. But I quickly regain my composure - since this blogger has covered the new James Bond film, I no longer have to see it. Thanks.

NB: Post corrected on 12-25-02 to actually reflect the true nationality and language of the blogger, per comments! Thanks.

posted by Brian | 7:17:00 PM link |



Quietly, Admiral John Poindexter has crept back into public service. The man who admitted to not telling the President of his scheme to finance the arming of the contras using funds generated through the sale of arms to Iran has now ensconced himself in a position at DARPA. He is busily overseeing the Information Awareness Office, a project or series of projects that make John Ashcroft look like a privacy advocate.

The pork-laden Homeland Security bill combined with this ongoing development has me at my wits end! When will we say enough is enough? Write your senators and representatives now and let them know that you oppose this. Also demand that they, as Trent Lott dismissively offered, "re-examine" the suspect line items of the Homeland security bill. We are no safer now than we were on September 10, 2001 - but we have lost a great deal more tham 3,000 lives. We have lost the liberty of 300 million.

posted by Brian | 1:55:00 PM link |

Charm City, in the manner of Harper's index:

Chance in ten that that a citizen of Baltimore is addicted to heroin: 1
Chance in four that a citizen of Baltimore lives below the poverty line: 1
Rank of Baltimore among US Cities by Per Capita Murder Rate (Descending): 2
Year in whcih Baltimore enjoyed its peak population: 1956
Percentage decrease from that high as of 2002: 40

Despite this, I like Baltimore. It takes resilience to maintain the number of events, cultural organziations, cultural facilities, and civic dialogue that Baltimore has in spite of some formidable obstacles. It maintains fabtastic art museums, the National Aquarium, and two symphony orchestras with a population of 600,000. Additionally, it has a phenomenal punlic radio station in WYPR (one that is located less that a block away from my house). Despite Maryland's recent succumbing to the national pathology for electing republicans, it is largely Democratic and there exists a long tradition of civic dialogue and political involvement.

In some ways, the Baltimore of my imagination has always had one chief citizen and civic exemplar: Edgar Alan Poe. It is the city of gothic imagination and proportion. In fact, just out my window there is an extremely old church whose spire contains thin, arrow-slot style windows - five in the shape of a very narrow cross. It dominates the sky outisde my window, especially on cloudy days, of which there are legion here in Baltimore. It looks as if the cornerstone should date from the 17th century instead of the 18th. It seems less a product of enlightenment than some throwback to a wild, Gothic imagination - a mind which ideas overtake as if they were the wind across a blasted heath.

Of blasted heaths there are few, if any, here. the city is thick with foliage and trees. It is still quite beautiful. In fact, this morning when talking with J., we agreed that when we talk about fall, we are talking about fall on the eastern sea board of the US. Rolling hills covered with deciduous trees rampant with color - arched boughs raining leaves over two lane roads, leaves blowing across the pavement - bright cold mornings when the wind pierces your coat and sears the lungs. It is what we imagine when we sing "Over the River and Through the Woods."

True, I miss the sunshine. The 300 plus days/year that we enjoyed was indeed a luxury. Baltimore has made me aware of many luxuries that I enjoyed. That I took for granted. It is educational, living here. If anything, it is illustrative od the adage that civilization is only three meals away from barbarism.

posted by Brian | 7:36:00 AM link |


A note: this may be the last update for some time. I have added a link to Stand Down - the Left-Right Blog Opposing the Invasion of Iraq. While I have the occasional screed against the adminsitration, these folks are more balanced and more focused. Cooler heads will prevail. Thanks to the Jerry at Civia for the reminder on this one.

The reason for this sudden outage: I am making a transcontinental move starting on Tuesday. As such, I will be without internet access for some time - how long, I cannot say. Before then, I want to mention that I am leaving some of the greatest friends in the world. Of course I do this with mixed emotion. But I must add that I cannot wait to move, for I am looking forward to seeing Her once again.

So tonight, when the clouds have finally blown across the sky leaving a dark blue sky to soak up the light from downtown skyscrapers - tonight I feel like Odysseus, setting sail once again with the surf pounding on a distant beach, its song as alluring as the sirens' - yet more enduring. And somewhere over the slow, sad music of the water, is Penelope.

posted by Brian | 11:14:00 PM link |

This morning I had planned to spend some time writing about some ideas contained in a book I’m reading while connecting those ideas to Bowling for Columbine, the latest effort by documentary film-maker Roger Moore. I awoke fully prepared to discuss the culture of fear. Instead, an article about the actions of a regional government in Spain caught my eye.

It seems officials in Extremadora, the far western region of Spain, have grown increasingly wary of their information technology being controlled by a U.S. Corporation, the ever-maligned Microsoft. In this suspicion, they join the Germans who (barring a regime change initiative by the White House) currently seek a way to disentangle the Seattle-based company from their own IT infrastructure. Spain also joins the Italians who, for security reasons have converted the PC’s of the national telephone company so to avoid the well known security-gaps of Windows and its inextricably entwined Office suite. To this end, Extremadora has begun a mass conversion of the operating systems of government pc’s – converting them from Windows to Linux.

Linux, in its various versions (Redhat, Mandrake, etc.), is an operating system predicated on the beliefs of the open-source computing movement – the idea of free software with source code made available and modifiable by the community of users who work with the software. The software remains free as long as users who modify the code make those changes or new incarnations available to the community. Its advocates associate free operating systems and applications with free minds. Named after Linus Torvald, Linux has to date been a field of collaboration of the hardcore developers, power users, and those with enough technical expertise to make their egalitarian views on computing take a form other than buying a Mac.

The conversion went as poorly as one would expect. Government officials spent as many as ninety days moving between two systems whose functionality had been compromised in the attempted conversion. Linux machines have had difficulty with multimedia files (getting device drivers to work has been problematic for some users). Documents and files did not translate well. Most users now have partitioned drives so they may switch from one system to another. In some cases, they simply have two machines on which to carry on the work of state.

Recent weeks has seen better tidings for these IT defectors. Web developers still encounter difficulties in the creating documents that look the same on the two platforms, and will continue to face difficulties as long as Internet Explorer maintains its monopolistic grip on the browser market. Opera, Mosaic, and Mozilla users face similar difficulties everyday.

Following a domino theory of market share, Microsoft has brought some resources to stop this change on the periphery of the empire. Given the difficulties that it is facing in Central Europe, and the fact that Great Britain has also started to consider switching to an open source platform., Microsoft has some concerns. That much (and more) is contained in the article. What I find interesting here is the collision of government, a transnational monopoly, and nationalism all in a place where these factors have met before.

First of all we must realize the degree to which anyone must be galled by Microsoft in order to undertake this step. You are so fed up that you are willing to, as our President might say, “go it alone” in terms of technical support and application development. You must be willing to accept the possibility that you will not be able to read documents or have your documents read by an overwhelming majority of other computer users. Imagine the ire required to make giving up vast libraries of software palatable. Not to mention the difficulty and expense involved in such a conversion.

There are two reasons this difficult path may appeal to a local government in Spain and one of these may, in fact, appeal to anyone. Primarily, charges levied against Linux by Microsoft should be regarded as tendentious extrapolations of fact. For what Linux lacks in official technical support, it makes up with its tremendous user community and copious amounts of literature devoted to it. Linux users participate in a project with tens of thousands of authors. Microsoft, whose own technical support is infamous, especially with the advent of XP, wants you to believe “unsupported” means “alone.” They also would like you to ignore the sheer number of critical bugs and possible points of exploitation created in the constellation of Outlook, Office, Outlook Express and Explorer. They demonize alternatives and fill you with the existential dread of the inability to register your own existence while in the middle of a crowd.

Secondly, this administration has clearly signaled its willingness to align itself with Microsoft. Historically, when governments and monopolies collude, we call it fascism. Here we call it “privatization,” or “complex market forces.” With the settlement gutted and, stuffed, and mounted, Microsoft enjoys the imprimatur of the Bush administration. This comes at a price – the fortunes of companies so inextricably linked with the United States of America then suffer the same fortunes as our own international reputation. IN this case, Microsoft finds itself in a situation where all things American are now viewed with the suspicion that Europe reserves for a unilateralist world-cop. Microsoft has enjoyed the unilateral power to alter standards that the current administration now wants try out: the power to alter standards of statecraft , leadership, and international law.

Now let us view the actions of the Extremadoran municipalities through a final prism: recent history. They react against the chauvinistic actions of entities that feel that the rest of the world has little choice in their actions: the United States and Microsoft. The Spanish have had their fill of Corporate Nationalism. Francisco Franco, after all, is still dead.

posted by Brian | 6:08:00 PM link |
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