2012-05-25 03:56 pm

On the relative merits of methods of dying

Preferred method of: Hemingway, Russian soldiers, school shooters, people with a gun
Advantages: quick; painless (assumed); clean death for victim
Disadvantages: messy death for whoever sticks around; requires a bullet; requires a gun

Preferred method of: pretty much everybody up until the Romantics
Advantages: preservation of honor; saving face
Disadvantages: not necessarily quick or painless; lack of skill is no guarantee of death; tea-bagging by opponent essentially negates saved dignity

Preferred method of: David Foster Wallace, anyone with a bedsheet, anyone with a curtain, anyone with a rope
Advantages: easy set-up; easy to improvise; required materials found in common households; asphyxiation may mimic falling asleep
Disadvantages: possibility of botched execution, in w/c case asphyxiation extremely painful; possibility of protracted dying; possibility of suffering

Preferred method of: emo kids, chefs, sparkling vampires
Advantages: easy set-up; easy to improvise; required materials found in common households
Disadvantages: clichéd; messy clean-up; does not preserve dignity

Blunt force trauma (i.e. running into a wall)
Preferred method of: that guy in "The Mummy" who ran into a wall to get flesh-eating beetles out of his head
Advantages: build up enough speed and you're pretty sure to die
Disadvantages: pretty damn terrifying; not to be done unless one actually has beetles in their head

Autodefenestration (i.e.  throwing oneself out a window)
Preferred method of: office workers, Japanese office workers
Advantages: almost certain death guaranteed in locales under the influence of gravity
Disadvantages: only effective above specific height; minuscule chance of surviving; time between launching and contact with ground offers ample opportunity for "flashbacks", i.e. pre-death emotional trauma; hence not entirely painless

Road vehicle impact
Preferred method of: hitchhikers
Advantages: similar to blunt force trauma, but without mandatory build-up of speed on victim's part
Disadvantages: endangers innocents; slight to moderate chance that death is not immediate, and, therefore, painful

Rail vehicle impact
Preferred method of: that selfish idiot who delayed your commute for two hours while they cleaned his brains off the tracks
Advantages: quick; certain death
Disadvantages: requires pedestrian access to railroads; not necessarily painless; traumatizes innocents (e.g. train driver, conductor); does not necessarily preserve dignity (see 'Rail vehicle impact, preferred method of')

Carbon monoxide poisoning
Preferred method of: does anybody actually do this deliberately?
Advantages: certain death; painless, feels like falling asleep
Disadvantages: requires carbon monoxide; requires long period to take effect; possibility of being 'rescued' by passersby, in w/c case damaged brain and muscle functions will make it hell to live; in event of rescue, further attempts at dying no longer feasible

Carbon dioxide poisoning
Preferred method of: babies, pets, and things that stick their heads into plastic bags
Advantages: requires only ability to hold breath indefinitely, or a plastic bag
Disadvantages: similar to carbon monoxide poisoning

Sticking head in oven
Preferred method of: Sylvia Plath
Advantages: similar to carbon monoxide poisoning
Disadvantages: requires an oven; trademarked by Sylvia Plath; one will not only be branded a copycat, but will be posthumously sued by the estate of Sylvia Plath

Preferred method of: hunger strikers, but we were just trying to make a point, man!
Advantages: certain death
Disadvantages: extremely long and protracted; extremely painful; duration makes it possible for relatives and rivals to taunt one from bedside

Dehydration (i.e. walking in the desert until one keels over)
Preferred method of: hermits, Bedouin outcasts, Europeans during the late 1800s
Advantages: certain death; possible religious experience
Disadvantages: similarly to starvation, extremely painful; visions and hallucinations may not necessarily be comforting; requires hot weather and/or a desert

Preferred method of: Juliet, Romeo, and other women, so I'm told
Advantages: multiple types of poison; customizable death; depending on poison, does not leave scars or physical marks; preserves dignity
Disadvantages: requires poison; requires knowledge of poisons; requires calm; may require falling asleep; may be painful; may induce vomiting; may not take effect immediately

Jumping off a bridge and drowning
Preferred method of: Virginia Woolf, Quentin Compson, jilted lovers
Advantages: multiple symbolisms (e.g. River Styx, Lethe, the world rushing to engulf one's sorrows, death and baptism, etc); it's... romantic, I guess?
Disadvantages: cold; inhospitable; actual drowning excruciatingly painful; moderate to large chance of pre-death emotional trauma; body may decompose before found; body may not be found
2011-06-19 05:03 pm
Entry tags:

Honey... I'm sleeping with my books

I have this bad habit of reading in bed. Novels, shorts, magazines - anything that has words, really. I read until the words no longer make sense, then tuck whatever I'm reading next to my pillow so I have something pleasant to greet me in the mornings. I also have this other bad habit of not returning books to the shelf right away. This means that after a few days, the stack next to my pillow grows so unwieldy that it begins to interfere with my sleep, like a knobbly literary tumor.

Today I decided it was time to restore my books to their rightful places. (Their comrades on the shelves wanted it too - how they would topple over each other in a mad attempt to reach the bed!) Halfway through, I noticed that some of my older titles were missing. They weren't on the shelf, or on the dinner table, or in my bags, or on the ironing board. They couldn't be lost in the subway since I never read on public transit, and nobody'd borrowed anything in a long time, so they *had* to be here somewhere!

Let's check the more uncommon places... in the shower... behind the toaster... under the bed...

Oh, there's a shape! A rectangular shape! MANY rectangular shapes! Let's get the flashlight to confirm... and yes! Books!

Doesn't take much guessing: I'd apparently been knocking books off for *months* in my sleep, and the only reason it hadn't been so obvious was that I'd "lose" very few of them - one or two - per stack, and I'd have finished them long ago by then. In the end, three books and one magazine were "lost" and rescued. Here are the titles, for the curious:

- "Norse Myths", by Kevin Crossley-Holland
- "Reading in the Brain", by Stanislas Dehaene
- "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Other Pieces", by James Thurber
- Scientific American Mind, March/April 2011

Monster under my bed must be pretty well read by now. Don't think I don't know you were *really* the one stealing my books, bub. ;)

(P.S. If this were an attention test... I just flunked it pretty magnificently. ;)
2010-11-21 04:13 pm
Entry tags:

Why I Can't Write

There must be something wrong with me. I've been hesitant to write for the past few months, for reasons I can't fully understand. Basically, words and ideas strain to get out of my head - until the moment I take out a blank page. Fear. Nothing comes out. In a painful parody of Zeno's paradox, my fingers come ever closer to the keyboard, finally touch the keys - but cannot make that final push. But letter-writing, journal-writing, all these *other* nothing-activities are effortless. Facile.

Maybe I haven't come to fully accept the image of myself as a writer. On the internet, in this insulated, insular sub-genre fandom, I can hide behind a different persona, pretend to be a different character, *pretend* to be someone I believe, with full faith and confidence, I can be - until I exit that character. Then it's back to the daily routine, and I haven't been able to get even *that* settled enough that I can solve the issue of who I really am once and for all.
2010-08-06 08:29 am
Entry tags:

Dog Days

If I were a dog,
My life would be a detestable, flea-ridden mangy mess
Lost in metal scraps and garbage cans and unwinnable fights over the snake-infested grassy lot
In the side street across the cafeteria where I lost my leg.
A downhill run from the church to the kennel, familiar, uneventful -
Were it not for the butcher who leapt in my way,
Spittle flying, knife thirsting
For the taste of my testicles in blood broth and soup (with barbecued heel on the side).
A leg's a fair trade for a hide.

If I were a dog,
This would be my life, horrible horrible life.
But it would be all the life I'd have lived
So I guess it'd be okay.
For then I wouldn't have lived and lost;
'Cause I wouldn't have lived at all.
2010-07-28 07:43 am
Entry tags:

Sage advice

Avoid building your plans around friends, because even best friends can die on you.
2010-07-21 06:29 am
Entry tags:

Why is it

... that when I write, my ideas transform into these clunky, unwieldy, convoluted long constructions that never seem to have a point and hardly make for good impact?

Also, why is it that I feel envious of more fortunate but infinitely less talented musicians, and yet seize up whenever the reins are placed directly into my hands?
2010-06-29 09:04 pm
Entry tags:

I Love My Bed

... and I'm not going to leave it for the next 36 hours. God dayum, that was an exhausting flight. But every bit worth it.
2010-06-22 07:21 pm
Entry tags:


So, auditions here in Somewhere Else were yesterday. Called up the academy this morning to check on the results, and it seems I passed the practicals. Yay! :) Now that the hard part's over, all I need to worry about is theory and piano, and getting all the goods mom and dad asked for. So I'm going out to stretch my legs, run out, and enjoy the... well, there's no sun. Fresh air? And dance a little jig to celebrate, that kind of thing.

Ha, so I've still got that magic in me, I guess. Whoda thought?
2010-06-17 02:34 pm


In everyday speech, Southern Germans and Austrians (not sure about Northern Germans) refer to the past tense in the present/past perfect - i.e. instead of saying "I went to the park", they'll say "I have [or had] gone to the park". Now German grammar is such that perfect tenses have two forms: one for transitive verbs, one for intransitive. For transitive verbs, the construction is the same as in English -- "haben" (to have) + past participle -- while for intransitive, it's a little different -- "sein" (to be) + past participle. Thus, if you translate literally and quite crudely from German, you get: "I have cooked breakfast," but "I am traveled to the mountains."

So over breakfast I was wondering - is this rule hammered so hard into German speakers' heads that they will follow it no matter what? Or will they sometimes start out sentences intending to use a(n) (in)transitive verb and then change their minds midway so they end up with the other kind? If so, do they notice it, and do they auto-correct?

I'm thinking yes, they do make mistakes occasionally and correct themselves immediately after, but it will be fun gathering proof of this in conversations.
2010-06-11 03:47 pm
Entry tags:

Leaving on a jetplane

... but I know when I'll be back, and it's the end of the month. Most likely. Provided something calamitous doesn't occur.

Why the apprehension? Well, I hate airplanes. And I have little faith left in humanity at this point. More about this, perhaps, when I get back. Right now, hands are full with last-minute packing.
2010-06-03 08:57 am

Composition and cuisine

There was a violin concert today at the cultural center, sponsored by the Italian embassy. Free entry, though the embassy reserved the entire orchestra section for themselves and guests, leaving only the balconies available for the unwashed masses. We managed to wrangle a couple of seats in orchestra, though.

All in all, it was a mediocre performance, which was kind of a disappointment, considering how well-known the violinist was in Italy. Stooping posture, notes out of place, poor bow control, doctored passages - I could go on and on. The worst of it was how he would steal glances at the pianist's score and disguise it as "dancing" across the stage. I mean, sure, you're old, your fingers aren't as nimble, but after all these years of concertizing, surely a little familiarity with the piece isn't too much to ask? The only redeeming factor was his vibrato, which, though glib, at least lent a lyrical touch to the mechanical garble of notes. Monkeys typing Hamlet... how about monkeys playing the violin, for a change?

The food more than made up for it, though. Concerts like these are definitely worth going to, if just for the food. There was pasta (of course) with some REAL pomodoro sauce and REAL tomatoes (which is too much to ask for in this country), and even REAL fresh Parmigiano to go with it (a veritable dream on this side of the world). There were also people, quite a few of them, shamelessly picking the roses off the vertical planters on the walls beside the hall entrance. One woman actually had a whole bouquet of them by the time I saw her. Curiously, no one thought to stop them (though the attendants stopped *me* from trying to re-enter the hall to look for my program). I'd have gone and joined if not for my deep-seated association of fragrant roses with overbearing stage mothers who can scream and shatter glass. Let's not go there, please.
2010-05-28 06:55 pm
Entry tags:


So a wolf walks into a bar with a shiny new blog... and doesn't know what to do with it. Does he bite it? Hide it? Show it off to the world? In the end, he's come up with ten different conclusions, none of which make any more sense than the other (kind of like a philosophy discussion), so, in an attempt to exit intellectual limbo, he simply sets it on one side of the bar, orders a drink, and updates it whenever he feels like broadcasting his innermost thoughts to the world, in the manner of laundry hung out in the sunlit yard to dry. Because isn't that what blogging is about, really? You just take care not to show too much dirty underwear. :)

Anyway, yeah. Shiny new blog. You're welcome to polish it if you like. Make it shinier. Just take care not to break it or I'll run you out with this ten-foot furry pole. *waves*