2.27.2002 There are moments, and it is only a matter of five or six seconds, when you feel the presence of the eternal harmony...a terrible thing is the frightful clearness with which it manifests itself and the rapture with which it fills you. If this state were to last more than five seconds, the soul could not endure it and would have to disappear. During these five seconds I live a whole human existence, and for that I would give my whole life and not think I was paying to dearly. - Dostoievski
Worthwhile stories I should write down before I forget: 1. The budget forum. I really should have written that one down weeks ago. 2. The story of me getting yet another job today. This one possibly involving an apron. Featuring a cameo by Adam Conover.
But tonight, it's four square night. And I don't have time for anything.
A few days ago, during a chemistry lab, I turned to a woman who works in the bio building and asked her for a job. And to my surprise, she gave me one. I guess it was only a surprise because Nick Viti has been frantically trying to get a job for a month now. He's written e-mails, I've heard him interviewing on the phone, no job. I didn't even put down what I was doing and I still got a job. (Just as a chemistry lab sidenote, I actually managed to get a drop of hydrochloric acid on my face yesterday, and have yet to develop an appropriate super-power. More than anything, I just developed a slight burning sensation and the embarrassment of having to stick my head in a sink).
But I didn't know what job. So before today I had a nice little share of anticipation, having yet to find out just how I would be paying for my tomatoes and haircuts. Unfortunately, it turns out that my job is to sit in a stuffy closet with walls lined with chemicals, typing numbers from labels into a laptop from 1995. It's a cute little irony, the type of thing I would expect for having imagined anything even remotely exotic. I spent five hours today staring at the sides of various viles, scratching away pools of powdery residue to squint at faded stock numbers. I think every professor in the bio department walked by and laughed at me at some point. But it's money, and that's more than I have right now. And I set my own hours, so my workday is over when my mp3 player runs out of power. Could be worse.
In the seventh grade, where I was growing up at the time, the cool thing to wear was sweatpants. And not "I'm fat and lazy and I don't go out so much anymore" sweatpants, these ones were more baggy, and very cool. Usually black. They were tough. But my favorites had no pockets.
At the same time, I was head-over-heels crazy for a girl named Leah. We had one science class together every day at sixth period, but the rest of my day was arranged around catching glimpses of her. During the absolute best trimester, I would see her twice at her locker, once on my way to math if I went the long way (which I always did), and then at lunch. Lunch was a spectacular length of time, and mine was certainly devoted to staring at this girl.
We passed notes every day, it was always the highlight of my day. My friends didn't know about it, we were very secretive about our relationship for reasons that I've never understood but that were entirely my own. Some strange manifestation of shyness. When she would hand me a note is passing, usually in some sly manner, it would burn in my hand until I could read it. I remember the amazing anticipation of each of those notes. And it's not like she ever said anything, really, but they were everything to me. I saved them all in a space I had created underneath my childhood rock collection, hidden away in a drawer.
I would stay up at night writing carefully-worded notes. There was a science to it, writing everything I felt in the most ambiguous ways I could. Telling her how much I felt without saying it, without revealing my weakness. I still believe that I felt much more in those days than I've felt in years. Such purity of emotion. And when I finished writing whatever note, I would hide it away until the morning, when I would fold it up and tuck it into the elastic ankle of my sock. My favorite sweatpants had no pockets. So by the time I gave it to her, the note was almost always bent to the shape of my ankle. She always frowned at that. She had a great frown.
Lists 1. I've been aching for a calzone for weeks. I'm not even sure why, I think I've only had three or four calzones in my life. And the other odd part is that I'm not sure that the desire is even a little bit reflective of the food itself. When I asked the man at the counter for a side of ranch dressing, he asked me, "You mean, instead of the sauce?" And I realized that I had little to no idea what I was ordering. Yet I've been aching for one for two weeks. It's been manifesting itself in strange ways. I've been catching myself referring to Keelin as "calzone." I really think that I've fallen prey to some sort of subliminal advertising. I don't know, the whole thing is pretty strange. 2. I have a test in seven hours and thirty-six minutes. How ridiculous is that? They just keep firing 'em at me, and I wish I could say that I keep knocking 'em down. This one will go well, I'm sure of it. I've never done poorly on a neuroscience test, and if I do, it will be devastating. But it should go well. 3. Happy song recommendation: Ben Folds Five - Kate 4. Sad song recommendation: Elliott Smith - Last Call 5. Somewhere in between: Phish - Theme From the Bottom 6. Tonight was another night at the library. I've become so acquainted with the small details of that building that I've become accustomed to treating it as my den. I wear pajamas, I walk around barefoot. The tendons in my ankles snap when I walk, and people look up from their books as I slink around the halls. After everyone had left the area I was sitting in tonight, and I was fairly confident that I wouldn't be joined anytime soon, I actually got up on the table amongst all my notes and photo books and attempted a head-stand. I had been wanting to do that all night. Second floor lobby area near the computer room, the west-most (most west?) table near the walkway. I fell off that table attempting a head-stand. 7. I don't think this fish got enough attention the first time around. 8. From Keelin's current away message: "How do you turn a dishwasher into a snowblower?" "Give the bitch a shovel." I've actually heard several different versions of this joke in my lifetime, usually told to me over the dinner table by my father in an attempt to aggravate my mother. But along the same lines, I will share with you a treasure that was passed on to me by my father that was passed on to him by his father: The Four Levels of Ugliness A. The Bagger - Everyone knows this one. The paper bag over the head. A lot of people I know seem to suggest alcohol as a viable substitute. B. The Double-Bagger - Like the first case, only with a second bag, just in case the first bag breaks. C. The Coyote - Have you ever woken up next to someone only to realize that something is incredibly wrong with your capacity for decision-making? Well, if you share a single bed like I do, there is no feasible way to make it work besides putting your arm underneath the head of your mate. "The Coyote" is when the person you're lying with is so ugly that you actually chew your own arm off to get away undetected. D. The Double-Coyote - Like "The Coyote," only you chew both arms off so that you can never make the same mistake again. 9. I can tell from the patronizing characters crowding the letters of Google that the Olympics are over. I didn't watch a single event, and the most I did to monitor the various competitions was take a second to glance at what activity the poorly-drawn Google-bunny was involved in. The curling bear was my favorite. But they were all patronizing. 10. Sometimes I just enjoy life.
Last night, after flipping myself inside-out and taking a bath in a tub full of hard liquor to achieve a new level of drunkeness, I moved by osmosis to the MultiClub party across the street at the Old Gym. Despite its multi-club backing, the party itself wasn't anything special, its main apparent appeal being the prospect of free beer. But at that point more alcohol was the least of my worries, even assuming I could successfully hold a cup of liquid.
The party became worthwhile when the entire building lost power. No music, no lights, total fucking darkness. And it was great. It was great watching how a crowd of Bard students responds to something like that, I really wonder how consistent the reaction would be at other colleges or given a different age group (reading this now I'm scolding myself for being such a psychology geek, my apologies).
At first, the crowd responded by lighting their lighters, and it was really peaceful. Everyone regained a sense of who was around them, and there was a lot of talking, which there hadn't been before. But that could only last for so long, so eventually the lighters went out and the yelling began. People were chanting "LIGHTS! LIGHTS! LIGHTS!" which I found ridiculous, protesting for something that the entire security staff was undoubtedly rushing to regain, having lost power themselves. Things continued to degenerate for a few minutes, and a lot of the yelling turned into a collective monotone screaming. Thankfully, that stage of madness was put to an end by the guys distributing the free beer, who managed to fashion a beat out of some large wooden boxes. Within minutes, the majority of the group was dancing to the simple songs of the beer men. After a few minutes, their song would stop, and people would either applaud or start screaming again for lack of any visual stimuli. But then the beer men would start up a new beat (I can't say that they were all that much different, though they were playing songs on one hollow wooden block). In the middle of track 3 power was restored, and I quickly lost interest in staying.
(The next part is a tad hazy).
And then I awoke at 6:13 AM, somewhat surprised. "I guess I went to bed. Good for me."
A beard is like a tiny sweater for your face. I haven't shaved in six days, and now it's too hot everywhere I go. Imagine really wanting to remove an article of clothing and being physically incapable. So despite the fun I was having hanging out downstairs, I left the party to shave. And I do mean party. At 5:37 in the afternoon. Oh, Bard. College is really preparing us for the real world.
Despite my days of studying, I didn't do very well on my chemistry test. But instead of freaking out about it, I opted to get a really horrible headache, and then freak out about it. Uggh. So, I'm going to spend most of my day being a bastard, relentlessly moping over things that are now over and out of my control, because I'm a bad person. Bad people know that they're bad people, it's just a question of being bothered by it.
I've earned a break in my studying by doing exceptionally on the problems tonight. For all my bitching and moaning and hating the semi-constant drudgery that is my life this semester, it could be harder. It could be organic. It could be nonsensical and unending.
Speaking of nonsensical, tonight is four square night. The word on the street is live electronic music and three jugs of Carlo Rossi. While three jugs doesn't sound like all that much, it's a great deal when you consider that a jug is something like four and a third bottles of normal wine. Plus, you have to figure in that Carlo Rossi is, by volume, completely awful. Put another way, on a scale from one to ten, it's not very good at all. But it punches you in the stomach, and it does it fast, which it seems, at least to me, is the reason that one would drink poison in the first place. And as much as I love dizzied abstraction, it gets to the point where I put the glass to my lips, and upon imbibing even the first sips, some nerve in my body goes, "AHH! AHH! He's doing it again! DAMMIT! Doesn't conditioning mean anything to this asshole?" But I probably won't be drinking anyway, what with an exam twelve hours away and all. Probably. I do however appreciate that I'm learning about four square from a word on the street, and actually have nothing at all to do with this week's game.
I posted some four square merchandise, but I have yet to test the quality of the product. I don't know, give me a few days before buying stock in our retail line.
2.19.2002 Lists 1. Stupid fucking chemistry has me stupid fucking stuck at the library all stupid fucking night. 2. These Mac keyboards are so nice, I wish I had one, I'd hug it. 3. But I can't help the feeling I could blow through the ceiling if I just turned around. And it wears me out. 4. The library is no fun anymore. All my favorite people are gone and have been replaced by cheap replacements who have no enthusiasm for being stared at by strangers. I've tried to pick new favorites from the new usuals, but even I know that they just won't do. They just won't do. 5. I think I love staring at people, and I'm not sure if that's strange. 6. When I got to the front of the line in the cafe tonight, I took a long look at the chef, and thought, "Julia." I then caught her eye, and asked, "Is your name Julia?" I had successfully produced the name of a girl I'd never seen before. I was just as surprised as she was. "I have no idea how you knew that." "Frankly, I don't either." She doesn't really look like a Julia. 7. One girl at the library keeps showing up in all red. And I mean all red. Red shoes, pants, shirt, sweater. Her folders are red. Even her pen is red. Maybe she will do. And after she left last night, there were a couple bits of red trash where she had been sitting, and it made me very happy. 8. I've been expecting a package at the post office for two weeks now. I go every day, nothing. About five days ago I went up and actually asked the women at the desk if they had seen my package. After giggling for a moment (that never actually happened, I just thought you might have appreciated it having happened), they assured me that nothing had shown up for me. It must be lost. Check with the sender. Did you save your receipt. Imagine my surprise when my package showed up today beaten to all hell. Somebody went to school on this thing. "Excuse me, did this really arrive on the tenth?" "That's what it says." "Why didn't I get a notice?" "Did you check your box?" "I was just in here a few days asking about this, you told me I 'should have saved my receipt'." "Always save your receipts for packages, just in case something goes wrong." "What?" "Do you need something?" "No, I guess not." 9. The "shift" button on this godless keyboard doesn't work, scratch number 2. 10. More chemistry. Statistics. Waking up. Showering. Droning my way through another Wednesday.
Cleanliness. The problem is that the line in my mind for what is unbearable is greatly different than that in Keelin's mind. I can tolerate a whole lot more than she can, so accordingly, she ends up cleaning up too much of the damn mess! And while this isn't so much a problem for me, because honestly, who enjoys cleaning up, it makes me feel extremely guilty -- both because I realize that she is doing all the work, and because she tells me on almost a daily basis that I should feel guilty for not having cleaned the dishes yet. "Has my not cleaning the dishes in any way hindered your ability to eat? Have you needed any of those plates?" "No, but you shouldn't leave them like that. That can't be good." "Good for whom? For the plates? For you? For the food? For who?" "I don't know, it's just gross. Do the dishes! You said you'd do the dishes now do the dishes!" "I will do the dishes!" "When will you do the dishes? You said three days ago you'd do the dishes and -" "And I will!" "When? When you feel like doing them?!" "Yes! Of course! Because there's no fucking reason to do them any other time!" "(And then she just starts screaming)."
Some days I just coast through, doing my best possible imitation of myself while paying the little to no attention to the swirling things that are going on around me. I guess it's easier than being dizzy.
Due to my Saturday night "show my brain who's boss" campaign, my sleep was interrupted more than once (I believe) by trips to the ever so elegant South Hall bathroom. I woke up three times with the same awful stomach pain, went through the same identical process of finding and putting on the only t-shirt I could scrounge in the dark, and making my way across the cigarette-littered hallway. The third time, however, I never made it to the stall because I became distracted by the words "IF I HAD AN OPTION, I'D TAKE IT," which were written in monstrous black letters across several walls of the small South Hall bathroom. I remember thinking, first, "could you be more specific?" and laughing in a scared sort of way, and then wondering why, if I was in a dream state, would I have a stomach ache as real and as painful as this one? And then it was over.
I saw Waking Life today with a few of my friends, and I really enjoyed it. The whole movie is basically a series of discourses on existentialist philosophy, that works in a peculiar style of realistic animation. But I love existentialism, I'm trapped in an existentialist mindset that affects the way I think about every single aspect of my life, so it's comforting to hear some of those ideas expressed by others. It makes me feel really strange that no one I know really ever expresses any interest in existentialism, or at least no interest in discussing any existentialist thought, but right now it's really the over-riding frame through with I consider everything. It's not even that I've read much existentialism, it just makes logical sense to me. Reality is a fascinating thing. That's why I'm going into neurology. Anyway, more later. Tonight I'm going to poison my mind with the rest of South Hall. Enjoy your night everyone.
I just set up Keelin's computer so that tiny little women dance and strip on top of her taskbar at the bottom corners of the screen. It's great, because they're absolutely awful. One of them responds to the music she listens to, and actually dances along -- it's nice. The other one though, she's just a stripper. She doesn't discriminate against silence, she shows up every fifteen seconds, regardless of what Keelin is doing, and starts removing her clothing. I think this is what all girls, especially girlfriends, want/need in their lives -- a 110 pound professional model/dancer removing her clothing throughout the day. Checking e-mail? Doing research? Writing your feminist philosophy paper? There she is. Your friend, your confidante, your MP3 dancing virtual stripper.
Oh, worthless banner ads, you bring so much unnecessary and nonsensical pain to my loved ones, and I love you for it.
Sometimes, when I get bored during class, I come up with algorithms. I'm not proud of it, but I can't help it. I'm a geek, and it keeps me awake and looking like a productive member of the classroom environment. Anyway, I came up with this one this morning during a short discussion of analysis of variance. I don't know the symbols for a lot of mathematical concepts, let alone the ways to write them in internet explorer, so I'll just write it out logically for the few of you who might find these things fun.
a way to tell if any number is divisible by eleven: if the sum of the digits of (a number minus the sum of its own digits) is divisible by nine, then the number is divisible by eleven.
[2464 - ( 2 + 4 + 6 + 4 )] = 2448 [( 2 + 4 + 4 + 8 )] = 18 18 / 9 ? yes, 18 is divisible by 9, so 2464 is divisible by eleven.
the adam conover exception rule: As you most likely learned in the fourth grade, all numbers with a factor of nine (54, 81, 963) can be quickly discerned by the fact that the sum of their digits is divisible by nine (try it). So, of course, if you choose a multiple of nine, and plugged it into my aforementioned eleven algorithm, you will get an affirmative result that may or may not reflect an actual eleven factor. A quick way to check for this is to sum up the digits of your number before applying the algorithm. If it's a multiple of nine, the algorithm won't (necessarily) work.
the evil todd exception rule: The algorithm actually works for all number n>8, even primes. Useless. Absolutely useless.
Budget forum tonight. That means we (four square) have to come up with some crrrazy surprises between now and 8 o'clock. Except I'm tired. And I don't feel that crrrazy today. And I just want to curl up in bed. Stupid budget forum.
Oh, Rashomon. So of course I had to tell my various friends the story of Matt from Wyoming (below), after all it was, as I told you, the most exciting thing to happen to me all day yesterday. Everyone reacted pretty much the same way, with a mixture of laughter and confusion. Everyone except Adam Conover, who immediately started dribbling on about how I deserved it for always putting his e-mail address down on random forms. "What?" This story is just too ridiculous now.
So, apparently, Adam receives some unsolicited junk e-mail from some guy in Wyoming, and decides that the appropriate thing to do is not to delete the message or to reply with "remove" in the subject bar, but instead to call the guy and leave a message, posing as me.
Now flash to poor Matt from Wyoming. He gets home from a long day of whatever the hell he does (Adam says he sells "Get Rich Quick" schemes, which is, I would think, as hard a work day as any), to find a message on his machine about business. So he calls the number, only to get me and the rudest voice I can make. (My parents have always treated telemarketers with the rudest disdain -- which is both an attitude and a tone, both of which I emulated near-perfectly on the phone with our aforementioned mid-western friend.) Now picture poor Matt, who is actually terribly convinced that I called him, so convinced that he actually played me the message off his machine, only to have me snap at him. (Matt plays phone message) Me: That's a cute trick. Matt from Wyoming: (Fake chuckle) Cute trick...ah...right...So, do you remember?. Of course it was a fake chuckle, it wasn't a trick, it was a real message on his real answering machine! I was so rude to this man! Me: Are we done now?"
And all this just because I signed Adam up as a Dutchess County Republican representative and campaign leader.
Here's a new one. I've never heard of this one before, but it took place, on my phone, two minutes ago:
(Phone rings) Me: Hello? Matt from Wyoming: Hi, could I speak to Ben Popik please? Me: Speaking. Matt from Wyoming: Hi Ben, this is Matt Thompson, calling from Wyoming. I'm calling regarding that message you left on my machine the other day. Me: Err...I don't believe I left a message on your machine... Matt from Wyoming: Are you sure? You said you wanted to discuss a new business proposition? Me: Yeah, I really don't think I left that message. Matt from Wyoming: No? Well, let me play you the message, maybe you'll remember it then. (At this point, Matt from Wyoming plays me the message, which, surprisingly, sounds remarkably like me. Or, maybe, I sound remarkably like generic man.) Recorded Me: Hi Mr. Thompson, this is Ben Popik, calling from 860-965-4224, and I was just calling in regards to that business proposition you wrote me about. Give me a call back. Thanks, bye. (Matt from Wyoming comes back) Matt from Wyoming: So, do you remember now? Me: That's a cute trick. Matt from Wyoming: (Fake chuckle) Cute trick...ah...right...So, do you remember? Me: Are we done now? Matt from Wyoming: Maybe you remember the letter I sent you. Maybe it had an 800 number in it. Maybe you called that number... Me: Yeah, that never happened. Matt from Wyoming: Alright, my mistake, sorry about that.
And the saddest part? That's the most exciting thing that's happened to me all day.
"If you are sitting in an exit row, and you cannot understand this card or cannot see well enough to follow these instructions, please tell a crew member."
Oh, the things I find in my room while cleaning. A paycheck in a pile of notes, a thumbtack in the meat of my foot (again), a United Airlines onboard safety card. But for the first time this semester, my half of the room is clean.
I have not so much to say. I feel relatively gross. "Existence is the search for relief from our habit, and our habit is the only relief we can find." I'm just tired. I need some new stimuli. I need some strangers. I need some people who don't know what to expect and don't have any expectations. I need a break from the buzzing sound. I need the kind of fleeting connection you can only find in passing eyes. And I need something to eat.
Please beware of them that stare They'll only smile to see you while Your time away And once you've seen what they have been To win the earth just won't seem worth Your night or your day Who'll hear what I say. Look around you find the ground Is not so far from where you are But not too wise For down below they never grow They're always tired and charms are hired From out of their eyes Never surprise.
Open up the broken cup Let goodly sin and sunshine in Yes that's today. And open wide the hymns you hide You find reknown while people frown At things that you say But say what you'll say About the farmers and the fun And the things behind the sun And the people round your head Who say everything's been said And the movement in your brain Sends you out into the rain.
Away messages right now: Adam Conover - i square, you square, we all square for four square. Ben Rubenstein - hey man, away playing four square, yeah, you know, that game we all played in like third grade. i can only say one thing... it's still just as much fun especially when everyone is drunk. Dan Erickson - "Seriously, baby, I can prescribe anything I want. - Dr. Nick Riviera"
So apparently, according to the word on the street, Cat Power broke her thumb within two hours of my buying tickets to her show. Now, the real question is, am I being fucked over by chance alone, or is there actually some omnipotent being hellbent on bludgeoning my well-being with irony? I don't want to name names, but I'm looking at you, Jesus.
One of Jesus's lesser known miracles, where he made a firearm out of his own hand, and then used it to shoot off the thumb of singer/songwriter Cat Power.
My internet connection here at Bard couldn't be much slower and still be considered a connection at all. It's been days since KB/s has even been an appropriate unit. Right now, my download of Elliott Smith covering Bob Dylan's "When I Paint My Masterpiece" is incoming at 430 bytes/sec. So, basically, I could find Elliott Smith, establish a relationship with him, and have him play the song for me before my download finishes. It's like I have a modem connection, except I'm sharing it with thirty-five people. Ridiculous. Information gets onto my computer faster by osmosis. Ridiculous.
This is from the first page of my neuroscience textbook:
"Biological psychology is the most interesting topic in the world...No doubt every professor and every textbook author feels that way about his or her field. But they are wrong because biological psychology really is the most interesting topic."
The author goes on to recant the statement a little, offering that biopsych is probably tied with cosmology for the title of "most interesting topic in the world," because cosmology's pretty damn interesting. I'm finally excited about this class.
So apparently the Bard Observer, one of Bard's larger newspapers, is now advertising themselves as "supporters of four square." Their whole flyer is that statement, and information about their next meeting. There are two possibilities for what is going on, both of which are weird: A. They're trying to gain the support of whatever audience four square has by associating themselves with us, which is both unlikely and ridiculous if true. And weird. B.They're trying to trick Jon and I into attending their meeting. This is probably what's going down. Still weird. And what's worse is that we're going to go to the meeting, just to see who's strangely endorsing us. They're probably just going to try to wheedle us into writing for them. They did the same thing after we put out a newspaper making fun of them and the other Bard papers. I don't know, I guess I feel like if someone's going to go out of their way to trick(?) you into going someplace, you really should just go out of politeness. Think how disappointed they'd be if they really did mean to get us there and we didn't show up. But it's still weird.
Want to think about things differently? Wait until tonight, pick the right room, and cover absolutely every light source. Put a sock over the little red light on your phone, pin an opaque blanket over your windows, anything you can do to acheive absolute darkness. Maybe you want to turn on some appropriate music first. Anyway, total darkness is an incredible experience. After only a few minutes, your vision is consumed by beautiful colored patterns -- and you can't really feel the difference between having your eyes open or shut, and the distinction is irrelevant anyway. Your concept of time changes, your concept of space transform. Something changes when you can't see your own hands. There's something really appealling to me about that world. There's a lot less crap.
I just put drunk Keelin to bed. I don't drink often, I can never seem to get drunk, and once I hit the threshold of being drunk, I almost always hit the threshold of being sick. But more important than the physical nonsense is the fact that I just don't really enjoy being drunk all that much. When I'm drunk, it's like I have nearly a full grasp on all of my mental faculties, but an absolute inability to communicate thoughts. My mind is largely all there, but I lose my motor abilities. Like my conscious mind is trapped in the body of a complete and total idiot. So for me, being drunk is like an embarrassing movie starring my staggering body that my mind is forced to watch.
Keelin loves to drink. And despite the fact that more often than not she gets sick when she drinks, she can't seem to resist that world, doesn't want to. I don't mind her drinking, she doesn't drink that often, but I don't understand it. I honestly just wish I understood where she goes back to, into that world of strange staggers and dark, responseless eyes. She escapes into some imaginative void and I'm left on the surface to manage her physical remains. And I can't seem to join her.