Saturday, August 28, 2004

What If?

I've a friend who is forever harping on and on about Garrison Keillor and incessantly quoting sections from the latest Prairie Home Companion. I've never really been sold on him, to be honest. K. thinks he's not vulgar enough for me, and there may be some truth in that.

Vaara may have changed my mind, though. He's posted a absolutely wonderful exerpt from Keillor's latest book, Homegrown Democrat. It is a must-read. A teaser:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Keillor then goes on in even more delightful detail. So, yes, by all means read on.

I, of course, agree with him completely. Big surprise, I know. Nevertheless, it got me thinking a very depressing thought. Even most of my somewhat conservatively-inclined friends (yes, there a few) admit that Bush losing would not be the worst thing that could happen to America (or the world, for that matter). Indeed, I suspect there are lots of people on the right who might even prefer he lose, in order that somebody else take the fall for all that he's sown thus far. They will, of course, in the end be absolutely delighted if he wins, but I really don't sense the mass sense of urgency for their man to win that Democrats like Vaara / Keillor / I (et al) do.*

That said, I'm a bit concerned: what with our increasing outrage and activism (all much needed, mind), should we also come up with a contingency plan if things don't work out? Or is this really our make-or-break last stand? If so, terrible thought, is this what revolution has come to in a modern democracy? Or, alternatively, have we set ourselves up for such an apocalyptic denouement in order that we might be able to pat ourselves on our savvy rhetorically-gifted selves and pragmatically say: "Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT bad. But hey!" If we honestly believe the rhetoric, however, what do we do in the event of a loss?

Not sure.

* I am, of course, not referring to certain extreme elements of the Right that truly believe that a non-Bush vote is the same as voting for a fetus-eating lesbian who dares to speak French, and thus MUST be stopped at any and all costs. Their bountiful presence on the internet notwithstanding, they are a minorty worthy only of a minute's pity-scorn usually reserved exclusively for people who call back telemarketers after receiving their message on voice mail.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


I mentioned yesterday that there were only a few things that I missed about living in the States. I should, to be fair, and I'm nothing if not fair, take the cue from that which I loathe the most about America, its news media and president.

The technique President Bush is using against John F. Kerry was perfected by his father against Michael Dukakis in 1988, though its roots go back at least to Sen. Joseph McCarthy. It is: Bring a charge, however bogus. Make the charge simple: Dukakis "vetoed the Pledge of Allegiance"; Bill Clinton "raised taxes 128 times"; "there are [pick a number] Communists in the State Department." But make sure the supporting details are complicated and blurry enough to prevent easy refutation.

Then sit back and let the media do your work for you. Journalists have to report the charges, usually feel obliged to report the rebuttal, and often even attempt an analysis or assessment. But the canons of the profession prevent most journalists from saying outright: These charges are false. As a result, the voters are left with a general sense that there is some controversy over Dukakis' patriotism or Kerry's service in Vietnam. And they have been distracted from thinking about real issues (like the war going on now) by these laboratory concoctions.

It must be infuriating to the victims of this process to be given conflicting advice about how to deal with it from the same campaign press corps that keeps it going. The press has been telling Kerry: (a) Don't let charges sit around unanswered; and (b) stick to your issues: Don't let the other guy choose the turf.

At the moment, Kerry is being punished by the media for taking advice (b) and failing to take advice (a). There was plenty of talk on TV about what Kerry's failure to strike back said about whether he had the backbone for the job of president -- and even when he did strike back, he was accused of not doing it soon enough. But what does Bush's acquiescence in the use of this issue say about whether he has the simple decency for the job of president? (my emphasis)

The L.A. Times sums it up pretty well here, even if they do give themselves a bit too much of a free pass. Good thing there's E.J. Dionne. (Via Atrios)

Monday, August 23, 2004

The Smell of Pigskin

You know, I've not missed too much about America while living abroad. Sure, at times I crave a quasi-Mexican delight that is really quite bad for me; sometimes, I find myself fondly reminiscing about something as simple as crushed ice from a fridge (water shortage be damned!). But, more than anything else, I've really missed American football, especially of the college variety (past equivalents to slave labor notwithstanding).

I'm one of those people who don't really follow a particular college team, but really just look for good games. This is what I tell myself and others anyway. It's not often that I admit this, but for reasons detailed in this post over at Charlotte Street , for no reason at all, none that is immediately discernible anyway, I'm elated a certain team in the SEC flirts with a .500 record and a crappy bowl named after an even crapper steakhouse.

There are at least two ways of supporting a football team. One is to choose a team, according to success or style of play, or even because "everyone else" does. To my mind this is precisely not supporting a football team, but supporting "success", "popularity" etc. The other way consists in a kind of curse inflicted on one at an early age, a throw of the die that one cannot actually remember but which in any case determines one's allegiance forever. In this second instance, you find yourself wishing you did not support the team in question, you wish you were indifferent to how they are performing, even as your hand reaches for the T.V., just out of curiosity you understand - before curiosity turns to quiet elation or frustrated disappointment. You can tell yourself you are no longer particularly bothered about football, that your choice of this team is in any case arbitrary, that practically none of the players even come from your home town. These nice observations are useless, the protestations in vain, for all are casually refuted when, driving back from a country walk on a Saturday afternoon, you find yourself asking your friend to put the radio on.

In other words: Go 'Cats!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Greatest Democracy?

George Monbiot's latest column in today's Guardian, in which he tells us that a vote for Nader is a vote for Ameircan democratisation because, well, near as I can tell this is the only reason Monbiot comes up with, Nader is 'courageous' (i.e., not beholden to the ubiquitous evil of 'THE CORPORATIONS!'), is indicative of the stuff that I hear on a daily basis at the university. There is, of course, no assertion that Nader would actually be a good president, mind you, at least in the traditional sense of getting legislation through the Congressional committees let alone to the floors of the House or Senate; far more important to Monbiot is that the American president be progressively democratic, whatever that means. If that is the case, Mr. Monbiot, forget Nader -- he has nothing on Giblets:

Giblets will not settle for promoting anything as pansy-ass as Democracy! He will not rest until every single country in the world - including countries where are no countries such as Antarctica, Atlantis, and the Moon - into Ultrocracies, democracies so ultra-democratic that the will of the people manifests itself as an immense avatar-being of pure energy that roams around the countryside turning garbage into food and corpses into high-paying private sector jobs!

More to the point, though, what in the world does Monbiot mean when he refers to America as 'the greatest democracy on earth'? Outside of a mere platitude that apparently softens the blow against any American cheek who may be reading the column, how might one justify that claim? It's certainly not that (a) more people are actually involved in the democratic process, or (b) that people are (or feel) better represented by its leaders, than anywhere else in the world. This isn't to say it's any worse, mind you -- certainly we could name several places that are worse on the democratisation spectrum that Monbiot seems to have in mind. But is America REALLY a better representation of the democratic process than, for instance, the Netherlands, or Belgium, or even Britain? Wouldn't it be a far more poignant column to say, for example, Americans have effectively demolished their own democratic ideals by not caring, by being too stupid, by being too lazy, by working too hard, etc., and let 'THE CORPORATIONS' take control of their country? That they, not simply the politicans, are to blame. (This line of reasoning is most often heard when dining or drinking in Western Europe.) Or, perhaps even more poignant, to say that democracy as such is in dire straits worldwide, that the situation in America is only the most illustrative model of a pandemic malaise, and something far more radical than a democratically elected progressive president is going to fix it? (This line of reasoning is most often heard when dining with very cynical expats from America and Western Europe.) As it is now, though, Monbiot doesn't really seem to be saying much at all.

Ding Dong, Phish is Dead

I know very little of their music, though have always liked what I've heard, but even am rather sad to it finally happen: Phish is no more. Sorry, Brad P.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Late Night Blather

It's a bit past my regular bedtime, the World Poker Tour has on the Challenge channel has finished, and I'm still unable to sleep. I thought I might sit down with a book, but everything that's not been boxed up (this, despite the fact we're not moving for another couple of weeks) has been read and is ready to be returned to the library. I then thought that I might, you know, actually get something written for the thesis. But, as has been the case for a couple of weeks, I'm dry. One of the more interesting things you learn when you're writing a thesis (dissertation, for you Americans) is that while it's really damn easy to write during the first year, by the time you've hit your third, you'll have more luck getting a tan in Glasgow than getting any words on a page (sure, it happens from time to time, if you happen to be outside when the clouds break, but you're better off staying inside a pub and watching football). I think this is because, to be very simplistic, you really have no clue what you're talking about most of the time during when you're getting started. I know I didn't anyway. You get accepted with an overly ambitious proposal -- say, the philosophical linkages between the 'fractured texts' (so pomo!) Pascal and Herman Melville, you realize it is overly ambitious within one month of actual research, which you never bothered to do when writing the proposal, but you're far too stubborn to admit this to your supervisors so you plow ahead, amassing loads of false starts and rabbit trails that total some 40,000 words, only to realize later, when reevaluating your status as a student due to financial constraints, that you've spent a year talking a bunch of shite, making connections that really ought not be made outside of a footnote or a cultural studies journal that you at this point hold with the utmost derision and scorn, and that while humanities research in general is kind of wanky in itself, you're threatening to cross the boundary into a level of autoeroticism that is not only intellectually unhealthy but, due to the alcohol and various illegal substances that would be necessary to make it through the endeavour, very likely physically debilitating. Thus begins year two: but you're still not quite ready to throw away those 40,000 words. That's a lot of work, after all. Surely that section of notes on Andy Warhol's car crash paintings will fit somewhere! You opt, instead, to 'set aside' most of year one for 'future reference', and decide a different angle of attack, sans Pascal this time. The next thing you know, you're in the middle of the third year, you have amassed several massive binders of notes, each with faintly apocalyptic messages of doom etched onto the covers, a wall of post-it notes referencing books whose titles, if you can read them, no longer ring any bells, and at least three burned CDs of miscellaneous manuscripts, all of which are different but in ways you can no longer divine, and a vague clue growing more ominous that you have absolutely no idea what to do with it at all. To top things off, by the end of the third year you've come to realize that you actually did have a good idea back in year one -- if only you'd followed through on all that Pascal stuff. Silly cow. By year four, the writing-up year you've been waiting three years for, if only because you don't have to pay full tuition, you're resorting to whispering to yourself half-hearted analogies from your everyday life for inspiration and insight, which prompts your new wife to suggest 'If you're not busy, maybe you could take the trash out for me.' Tonight's analogy: maybe I could enact some kind of typical Windows malfunction, like a blue-screen memory dump. How, I asked myself. Suggestion, to nobody in particular: 'See those two big black binders over there labelled Everything You Need to Know About Hegel, could you please be so kind as to put it in the oven? I can't bear to do it myself.'

Let's Make This Guy an Internet Celebrity

Okay ... I don't necessarily endorse everything on this site, and there is perhaps something deeply objectionable even to thinking this particular video funny, but I'm fairly sure the butt of the joke had a good time, too. So . . . no blood no foul. In other words, Enjoy.

Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results

This editorial in yesterday's Los Angeles Times really irritated me this morning.

The phrase "the war on terrorism" is a dangerous euphemism that obscures the true cause of our troubles, because we are currently at war with precisely a vision of life presented to Muslims in the Koran. Anyone who reads this text will find non-Muslims vilified on nearly every page. How can we possibly expect devout Muslims to happily share power with "the friends of Satan"? Why did 19 well-educated, middle-class men trade their lives for the privilege of killing thousands of our neighbors? Because they believed, on the authority of the Koran, that they would go straight to paradise for doing so. It is rare to find the behavior of human beings so easily explained. And yet, many of us are reluctant to accept this explanation.

Religious faith is always, and everywhere, exonerated. It is now taboo in every corner of our culture to criticize a person's religious beliefs. Consequently, we are unable to even name, much less oppose, one of the most pervasive causes of human conflict. And the fact that there are very real and consequential differences between the major religious traditions is simply never discussed.

Anyone who thinks that terrestrial concerns are the principal source of Muslim violence must explain why there are no Palestinian Christian suicide bombers. They too suffer the daily indignity of the Israeli occupation. Where, for that matter, are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against the Chinese? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam versus those of Buddhism and Christianity.

[. . .]

It is time we recognize that religious beliefs have consequences. As a man believes, so he will act. Believe that you are a member of a chosen people, awash in the salacious exports of an evil culture that is turning your children away from God, believe that you will be rewarded with an eternity of unimaginable delights by dealing death to these infidels — and flying a plane into a building is only a matter of being asked to do it. Believe that "life starts at the moment of conception" and you will happily stand in the way of medical research that could alleviate the suffering of millions of your fellow human beings. Believe that there is a God who sees and knows all things, and yet remains so provincial a creature as to be scandalized by certain sexual acts between consenting adults, and you will think it ethical to punish people for engaging in private behavior that harms no one.

Now that our elected leaders have grown entranced by pseudo-problems like gay marriage, even while the genuine enemies of civilization hurl themselves at our gates, perhaps it is time we subjected our religious beliefs to the same standards of evidence we require in every other sphere of our lives. Perhaps it is time for us to realize, at the dawn of this perilous century, that we are paying too high a price to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.

I'd sign on board with some of this. Yes, I do think we often treat religious sensibility with kid gloves. And yes, I think it is wise to reflect on the 'standards of evidence' that we require of each. This is, I think, the extent of my agreement. Those who know me well, know that I am not a worldclass apologist for religious belief; that I, in fact, lean more toward a kind of materialism than a redemptive spiritualism. As such, I find LOTS to criticize about religion. E.g., while I understand the ideal rationale of traditional Islam's treatment of women, I find much of its practical application abominable; while I think Zen Buddhism may indeed have a lot to teach the closed-off minds of the West, I also recoil when I recall its pivotal role in mobilizing the tyrannical Japanese war effort during WWII; and while Christianity has helped shaped a lot that is good about the Western world, much of what we now regard as 'good' came through centuries of what we'd regard as 'bad' (namely, war, colonization, etc.).

Now, the more commonplace reaction against an editorial like this is to point out the wholesale objectifiying of a religion: that there is no Islam as such, but rather a religion called Islam, in which adherents claim to follow the principles they (subjectively) create for themselves. Such an argument would point out there is (in a sense) a plurality of Islams, and that the singularity 'Islam' is a product of intersubjectivity -- i.e., that no one person can create the concept of Islam, that Islam is not a relativistic construction, but is 'created' collectively, through intersubjective compromise, agreement, and disagreement. What you end up with is a concept of Islam (or any religion, for that matter) that is neither one determinate thing nor the simple product of individual perspective. 'Islam' is, on the contrary, an empty signifier, into which individual perspectives are poured and objective meaning derived; the derived meaning, of course, is dependent upon the perspectives (or complex of perspectives) made available and/or 'agreed' upon. There is, in effect, no individual perspective without collective meaning, and no collective meaning without individual perspective. The upshot of such an argument isn't so much that the editorial is battering a strawman, as it readily accepts the possibility and actuality of the examples it cites, but that its wholesale criticism of religion based on the narrowness of its examples is feeble and unwarranted.

There might be some truth to this. What I'm far more interested in lately, though, is how the 'narrowness' of examples like these actually DO indict religion (but how, potentially, religion isn't really all that interesting without the indictment). For instance, I am becoming more convinced by the arguments that modern religious sensibility, as it becomes increasingly focused on individual, stratified spirituality, is becoming indistinguishable from the structure of capitalism. The most obvious corollary is that of currency currency. Just as gold is no longer the standard of value for modern currencies, but now a commodity amongst many in which one can invest, the truth of modern religion is also a potential investment (and not simply a revelatory foundation). I talked about this on one level above, but it is especially clear, too, when thinking about concrete examples like 'personal salvation', 'heaven', 'hell', etc. You reap what you sow, so it goes. Ask, and you will receive. Die to the old self, and be born again. Even the notion of No-Self in much of Buddhism is presented as being a mark of 'understanding', which somebody like Nagarjuna would seemingly equate with 'nirvana' itself; and even when it isn't, one would be foolish to think that 'Eastern' religion is without its share of sympathetic magic designed to help the individual. The returns on one's investments are, of course, different in different religions, but the structure remains the same.

The problem with this, though, is (as has long been cited) that inasmuch as capitalism involves BOTH a necessary stratification / deterritorialization (i.e., individuals & individual investments, and their hunger for new adaptations and contextualizations of these investments) AS WELL AS a greater dependency upon a network of others for those investments to be cashed-out (i.e., made meaningful / actualized), we are embroiled in a latent schizophrenia. The former resists the latter, and thus the market spreads like mad; indeed, it is a kind of madness. To me, insofar as religion resembles Capital, madness would be its constitutive condition. This is not necessarily the worst thing to say about religion, though. Kierkegaard is famous for saying that the 'knight of faith' is precisely INSANE.

"The person who denies himself and sacrifices himself for duty gives up the finite in order to grasp on to the infinite; he is secure enough. The tragic hero gives up what is certain for what is still more certain, and the eye of the beholder rests confidently on him. But the person who gives up the universal to grasp something higher that is not the universal, what does he do?" (Fear and Trembling)

There are a couple of schools of thought about insanity. It could (a) be simply that, or that it simply propagates matrices of power and terror to spread, and thus something to be resisted (this would seem to be the editorial's position). Or, alternatively, (b) it could be regarded as the built-in resistance to these matrices of power and terror, the constitutive point that eludes the grasp of that which it constitutes. For (b) there is always MORE to, say, Islam or Christianity, than Islam or Christianity themselves, they are never quite themselves -- that this incompleteness is, in effect, their constitutive truth. Without this inability to be themselves, the world's religions would not be at all -- that there is nothing, no truth, outside religion to which it infinitely strives, only the material / concrete instantiations of this void itself.

You be the judge.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Return of the Real

Re: that last post. Bush's verbal mismanagement, his utter inability to say anything of actual importance without either some world-class torque on the level of a dizzying whirling dervish spin (i.e., 'More attacks in Iraq is a good thing because it shows how desperate the insurgents are'), flubbing the line, or simply resorting to a pathetic platitude that is so shockingly and obviously banal that even true believers cringe a little bit when they actually are put in a position to do anything but click their heels together and salute . . . . all of this is a clear sign of that to which all such postmodernists cringe (and, yes, I credit the GOP as being postmodern through and through), the return of the Real, that seedy underbelly that renders reality more than itself, the 'itself' of reality that is more than reality, and which occasionally, in glimpses, rears its most disturbing of heads. It frightens us all: it is that from which we recoil, which prompts so many sane, right-thinking Americans to stay away from the civil discourse in general, mostly because in this case it reminds us who has been leading American for nearly four years now, and if that doesn't fill you with dread and horror and sadness and a general disdain for the process that put him there, and doesn't make you wish for a double drop of whisky I don't know what will. And yet it also, ideally anyway, gives us some measure of hope, a glimmer of possibility that doesn't lie in some utopian future, but is here, with us, NOW, a feeling that we're not alone in noticing the horror, that together we can find some other headless Master to lead us down another path.

Taking Back Language

I've been having an ongoing conversation lately with Pat about the Republican appropriation of language in American political discourse. I.e., whereby the Republican agenda, simply by virtue of its purveyor's fine art of repetition and appropriate 'framing' (via talking points), is espoused before any actual content is presented (or at the expense of any content at all). For instance:

Well, frames are everywhere. Think of what happened on the very first day that George Bush took office. A press release came out using the words "tax relief." Now a linguist who looks at the word "relief" would say, "Ah-hah, there's a frame in which there is an affliction, an afflicted party who's harmed by this, a reliever, who takes away this affliction. And if anybody tries to stop them, they're a bad guy.

You add "tax" to that, and you get taxation is an affliction. And if the Democrats oppose the President's tax relief plan, they're bad guys

[. . .]

So the word "tax relief" goes out to every radio station, every TV station, every newspaper, day after day after day. Soon, everybody's thinking tax relief with the idea that taxation is an affliction unconsciously, automatically.

It is really easy, all too easy, to get frustrated about this, and simply to throw in the towel. Fortunately, though, we have people like George Lakoff to help make us a bit more aware of what is thrown our way. The more we're aware, the more we can actually be a bit less cynical (in the sense of bellyaching) and a bit more active in helping to reframe the issues that are important to us. Or, alternatively, it lends a bit more intelligence to our cynicism -- which is always helpful too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Well Said

"The other day, I was ranting to a friend about Kerry's vicious support for the apartheid wall in Israel, his gratuitous attacks on Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and his abysmal record on free trade. 'Yeah,' he agreed sadly. 'But at least he believes in evolution.' " (Link)

Thursday, August 05, 2004

For Those Who Didn't Get the Email

I emailed this out yesterday, mostly to friends who do not, for a variety of reasons, do not read Silentio. I had the intention at the time to quickly post it, but by that point the bottle of champagne was taking its toll on my already-stunted short-term memory.

Ding Dong... Ding Dong...

So the bells chimed throughout Maaseik, Belgium, announcing the wedding of B. J. and K. Z., before the legal eyes of the Belgian government. It was a quaint, quick service, spoken almost entirely in Flemish, and thus mostly indecipherable to the likes of me. My linguistic deficiency aside, the only panic was that my witness, Katrien's best friend, would not show up in time. I did not understand why this might be a big deal until I realized that at 11.00, a few moments after I was supposed to kiss the bride, Belgium's national day of mourning was set to begin. But like a blonde-headed angel, and they're all blonde of course, E. came running into the little room, startling the mayor, who was wearing the Belgian flag like a sarong, announcing her intent to affirm my participation and consent. There wasn't a dry eye in the house as I prounounced, with pride I might add, 'Ja' to all the questions asked of him by the mayor, trusting that his English translation of the service was grenade-range accurate and legally binding to make all of this worth it. Should none of you believe that I, the traditionally non-marrying type, did indeed get married, I recommend that you ask to see (a) the pretty snazzy crystal glasses given to us by the mayor, adorned with Maaseik's town seal (sans copyright), and (b) the utterly confusing 'marriage book', at which I've looked and of which tried to make heads or tails, but have thus far been unsuccessful.

I thank you all for your warmest well-wishes, hopes, and whatever other good omens you have effectively thrown our way. It has been very appreciated. Upon our return to the States sometime in the autumn, K. and I hope to have some kind of ceremony -- perhaps a ring-exchange, wherein you are entrusted to threaten me with a vicious thrashing should I break the heart of the Belgian. I hope to see many of you there, or at least sometime soon before or thereafter. For those of you not in the States, but marooned on the isle I will soon be vacating for bigger, though arguably less alluring shores, I hope to see and celebrate with you soon. Meanwhile, I'll see those of you on the Continent soon enough, if I haven't already.

Best to you all.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

It's Come To This

It's go time. In a few minutes, I will be standing before the mayor of Maaseik, Belgium, completely clueless as to what he's trying to say, hoping that K. doesn't flake out as an interpreter, as she is wont to do from time to time. Barring something grossly more unexpected than that, I will be, the next time I post, a married man. What to think of all this? As the clock winds down, I'm thinking of fate and destiny as the romantic agencies of love and marriage, and I cannot but conclude that it is all complete bollocks.

The family is stirring in the next room, and I'm getting glares from those who walk by the computer room on their way to the toilet, so I guess I should do the pre-ceremonial mingle. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Matrimony Looms

I'm down to my final days as a single man. Oddly, and I say this with a bit of hesitation, something of a stammer, and a hint of a shudder, I'm not feeling too nervous about it. I'm not sure if this means that the reality of it hasn't sunk in: what with the herculean maneuvers it's taken to get this close to actually making this thing legal, and the fact that the wedding itself is a very small, very simple affair, forgetting that I'm getting married, and all that entails, I suppose, is a possibility.

As the clock ticks, and as we wait for the taxi that will take us to the train that will take us to the plane that will take me to a pretty radical shift in my person, I'm sitting here listening to music, in search for something that'll make the moment poignant, something that speaks. Is it, perhaps, the Velvet Underground's 'Heroin'? Perhaps. The Twilight Singers' 'Follow You Down'? Maybe. Super Furry Animals' 'Herman Loves Pauline'? Pretty close. But no ... it's none of these great songs. The song of the moment, our song -- mine and Katrien -- the one we sing while washing dishes and folding laundry and all those other banal moments of the purest love, is Whiskeytown's 'Matrimony'.

I've been saving this dress for my wedding day
Mama wouldn't have it any other way
She says when she married her waist was 23
I guess I'll never wear it anyway

I don't believe I plan to marry
Although I cannot explain exactly why
Somehow it seems to me that matrimony is misery
Simply a faster way to die

Saving all my money for my wedding day
You know my mama wouldn't have it any other way
She says when she married she didn't have a dime
I guess I'll spend that money some other way

I don't believe I care to marry
Although I cannot say exactly why
Somehow it seems to me that matrimony is misery
Simply a faster way to die

I've been saving my best thing for my wedding day
Because my papa wouldn't have it any other way
He says if I lose it early I'd have thrown my life away
But I swear I'll use my cherry my own way

I don't believe I care to marry
Although I cannot explain exactly why
Somehow it seems that matrimony is misery
Simply a faster way to die

So ... off to Belgium for the week. I'll check in periodically.