Tuesday, July 05, 2005


number forty-six

My first ever US Independence Day celebrated abroad is also celebrated millions of miles away from the planet at breakneck speeds. 828 words.

[NL]—I forgot to take my camera to the Fourth of July party. If I had, I would have had the digital technology to capture this moment of my international life: Dan still has wet hair from the cannonballs he was doing earlier as he lights off tubes of sparks that sail over his privacy wall. In front of him, nine or so people sit and watch; eventually they break into a cracked and variously certain rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. It is not the first holiday I have spent while expatriated from my country, but it is the first where that is an overt irony.

This is Dan’s party, and he has been good to us. There is plenty to eat and drink—he’s even barbequed ribs on the brick grill that came installed in his back yard. He and a DEA agent have been diving from the top of the pool house into the smallish pool. People are friendly and happy, and there is very little to indicate that our little American party is so estranged from its nation of birth. I am standing approximately one thousand miles away from the last place I celebrated the Fourth of July. I strongly suspect that the police will be called at any moment: today is just a weekday for Monterrey, and what we are lighting up sounds enough like gunshots to possibly alarm an already tense northern Mexican community. The police never come, though, possibly because all of the neighbors are at work.

This has been an eventful long weekend, full of sci-fi and Independence Day parties. Today, before coming to Dan’s house, we watched Guerra de los Mundos in the VIP theater at the mall. Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise examined the working-class freedom-fighting father in a hostile, alien-ravaged world in a way that was informed by the events of September eleventh. I ate a Philadelphia cream cheese and manchego crepe during the post-apocalyptic apocalyptic turmoil.

On Friday, Sunshine attended a more official party at her employer’s, an annual black tie event that is orchestrated to reacquaint area VIPs with the charming nationalism of their American guests. A celebration so structured and premeditated that the night is very much more like work than gaiety. Sunshine and her coworkers are instructed to mingle in Spanish and spend very little time talking to people that they already know. Classy background music provides the ambiance, wine sparkles, there is a great attempt made to produce classy hors d'oeuvres from “typical” American cuisine. This party is confusingly enacted on a date close to, but never on, the fourth day of the month.

I had assumed that I was not invited to this function due to the fact that I am not an official spouse and this is such an official party. When it became apparent that I was sort of expected to go, it was already way too late for me to have the suit dry cleaned in time. I was ambivalent: on one hand, it would have been interesting to see such an classy shindig; and on the other, well, it seemed so much like work. Sunshine had been preparing for nothing else for the past week, working with committees for decorating and catering and inviting and et cetera. She seemed to have had a good time when she came home that night; but she came home exhausted and she seemed equally glad that the whole thing was finally over.

By last night we had taken our first road trip in México, braving the flames of the sun to travel down the way to Santiago. Sometime early on the morning before we did this, 83 million miles away from where I am sitting, a US space probe, moving at 64,000 miles per hour, fired a washing-machine sized bullet at a moving comet, finally scoring a direct hit fifty-two minutes after midnight last night. The first fireworks already, with it being a holiday in only two American time zones. The Deep Impact space probe had traveled over 266 million miles in a 172 day flight plan. Both the impactor and the delivery vehicle sent back thousands of riveting digital images. The whole maneuver was conceived to help Earthlings study of the origins of the universe by taking a good look at the insides of an ancient comet. This feat was pulled off with only very slight deviation in trajectory and impact predictions that were worked out before the probe’s launch in January. This is wonderful space news, and a towering testament to math and engineering, evident both in an elliptical orbit somewhere between Venus and Jupiter, and here in this room where I watched the whole thing unfold wirelessly on my laptop. I think about this feat of science every time the DEA agent cannonballs into the pool, sending a plume of water into the neighboring yard.

NASA’s Tempel 1 Deep Impact mission and other news can be found here.

Quiet Reading Room

This is a quiet reading room. Often, I find it is uncomfortable to digest long tubes of columned text directly off a computer screen. This journal is dedicated to the collection, percolation, and ultimate integration of my personal experiences. Subjects that I want to examine and then talk about--sometimes talk a lot about--€”are presented here. This central content can tend to thousands of words, maybe millions. I was afraid that readers were leaving the presentation boggled, spinning, googly-eyed. Or perhaps when confronted with twenty-four inches, or yards, of monitor sprawl they were just giving up. I am not even certain that I have necessarily solved this inevitable content problem of modern information enjoyment, but here is what I have done.

After long and highly scientific routines manipulating double-blind control- and test-subjects, peer reviewed journal publications, and hours and hours of hands-on experimentation, I have crafted this quiet reading room. There is no scientific way to control the length of the articles I write, but careful handling can somewhat soothe the contextual presentation. In other words: I have dropped the traditional speculation about lexicon, and attacked the question of the matrix itself instead. Brilliant. After years of diligence what I eventually crafted is this reading room.

The walls are contoured to relax instead of constrain; the paper is made to soften instead of reflect. The light is dimmed--just so--€”to prevent strain, angled to prevent umbra, and color-coded to soften harsh red lights and deepen wimpy light reds. There is nothing I can do to control aural environment, but my recommendation is that it should be kept quiet. About ambient sound: these entries are probably best read as far as possible from emergency vehicles, preferably from beneath the muffler of a vintage fire fighter pilot's scarf, puffy old duvet, or snow that is still falling.

My theory is that the wide web world is filled with potent and material opportunities that are just too difficult to digest for many people to take part. Enjoyment of this stuff is regulated to the routines of crawlers and robots at the peril of humankind's peaceful future survival. In an attempt to delay this likely outcome: welcome to this quiet reading room. It is for people like you to relax, kick back, and hate my content for better reasons than the dizzying vertiginous specter of its lousy dpi presentation.

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