DDT

Bedbug hell

From Gothamist. When we had an infestation of “the brown bug,” a neighbor told me to take the 7 train to Jackson Heights, get out and go to a Chinese deli where there is an old woman who, for a few $20 bills, will let you take a few scoops of bright yellow powder that “will kill them.”

The Strait of Hormuz / The Strait of Malacca

Chokepoints


Would it be easier to block the Strait of Malacca than the Strait of Hormuz: EIA/DOE inquiring minds want to know.

Spam, Theatre-based Counter-electronics

Create your own schematic

Israeli boarders would have been well advised to shield the transmissions of their targets. In 2007, against Syria, they easily scrambled signals, “injected” false information into networks – and they should have at least blocked cell and sat and ship-to-shore communications from their flotilla. Next time they will.

My own ECM battle is going well from a technological standpoint, even the most sophisticated spam emails are being stopped. These are semantically smart messages, designed to stoke an author’s ego “great site” etc. Lately they have also begun mirroring successful messages. Am beginning to develop Stockholm syndrome.

Rig Names

Oil Rig - thanks to Peterson Security

Piper Alpha… Deepwater Horizons… rigs have beautiful names.

The Deepwater Family:
Deepwater Discovery – Drillship type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 2000
Deepwater Expedition – Drillship type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 1999
Deepwater Frontier – Drillship type rig. Owned by Deepwater Drilling LLC. 1999
Deepwater Horizon – Semisub type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 2001
Deepwater Millennium – Drillship type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 1999
Deepwater Nautilus – Semisub type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 2000
Deepwater Navigator – Drillship type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 1971
Deepwater Pathfinder – Drillship type rig. Owned by Deepwater Drilling LLC. 1998

A few (all offshore):

Borgland Dolphin (a semisubmersible rig)
Cuu Long (VietSovPetro, 1982)
Dada Gorgud – Semisub type rig. Owned by Socar. 1980
Deepsea Trym
Ekofisk X – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by ConocoPhillips. (Also Eldofisk)
GSF Key Manhattan – Jackup type rig. Owned by GlobalSantaFe. 1980
Mad Dog – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by BP.
Ocean Whittington – Semisub type rig. Owned by Diamond Offshore. 1974
OffRig Pioneer – Semisub type rig. Owned by OffRig Drilling ASA. 2008
Perro Negro 4 – Jackup type rig. Owned by Saipem. 1977
Petrojack IV – Jackup type rig. Owned by Petrojack ASA. 2008
Petrolia – Semisub type rig. Owned by Petrolia Drilling. 1976
Rowan Gorilla IV – Jackup type rig. Owned by Rowan. 1986
SC Lancer – Drillship type rig. Owned by Schahin Cury. 1977
Scooter Yeargain – Jackup type rig. Owned by Rowan. 2004
Sea of Azov Rig 02 – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by Chernomorneftegaz.
Searex 10 – Tender type rig. Owned by Marlin Offshore International. 1983
Searex 4 – Inland Barge type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 1981
Shahid Modarress – Jackup type rig. Owned by NIOC. 1974
Shelf 7 – Semisub type rig. Owned by Lukoil. 2004
Sneferu – Jackup type rig. Owned by Egyptian Drilling. 1980
Snorre Rig 01 – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by Statoil.
Super Sundowner XXI – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by Nabors Offshore. 2006
Thistle – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by BP.
Transocean Polar Pioneer – Semisub type rig. Owned by Transocean Inc.. 1985
Transocean Wildcat – Semisub type rig. Owned by Vildkat Holdings Camyan Ltd. 1977
Troll – Platform Rig type rig. Owned by Statoil.
Viking Producer – Semisub type rig. Owned by Viking Drilling ASA. 1969
West Titania – Jackup type rig. Owned by Seatankers. 1981
WilStrike – Jackup type rig. Owned by Awilco AS. 2009
Zoser – Jackup type rig. Owned by Egyptian Drilling. 1982

There aren’t many old ones. I sought them out.

Via. Subsea.org

It’s so wild. It will all end in tears.

All the best parties do.

Communities and Contempt

Parasitic Computing


A compelling takeaway I didn’t include in my post about Richard Nash‘s speech was his emphasis on how writers crave community. This was his lead into a demand-based publishing model, and had a queasy resonance for me. I applied to graduate school for this reason — I wanted to find other writers and gather a group of people together whom I could snipe and gossip about writing with. But this was an error. I don’t think it’s what I nor anyone else needs as an “artist.”

Community is a distraction, one concealing the hierarchies of a dying industry and glomming up the cozy entry-level inefficiencies that once made it possible to make a living as a freelance writer or hack journalist. Community is comfortable, but ultimately inimical to individual achievement. In the nebulous non-being between becoming amateur and professional one is encouraged to wallow in the same ideas as one’s peers, and a close-knit community becomes a self-reinforcing echo chamber of status, etc. The only people accelerated and empowered by such an environment are sociopaths — at least at the level I’m at.

The game changes once you’ve built something worth protecting, which is why [visual] artist colonies (grouped studios, shared leases etc.) and arguably the upper-tiers of the art school swindle function so well — they generate income and reduce inefficiencies — but there is no artistic benefit. And, until every individual component of an artistic community is capable of producing income, community is just another parasite drooping off the withering flanks of postpostindustrial cultural production.

In The Red Room – Paul Bowles (re-re-reading experiment)

Here’s a link to In the Red Room if you feel like reading along….

First gloss: story of a man escorting his elderly parents around Sri Lanka. His mother meets a strange young man in the botanical gardens, who invites them all (quite forcibly) up to his villa. They spend a few tense moments alone in a peculiar red room before leaving. On the parents’ last day in Sri Lanka the narrator finds out who the young man was, a deranged young man who shot his young bride and her lover in the room and likes to relive the scene. The narrator agonizes over whether to tell the story and decides not to. But he realizes his mother may well have known the whole story all along.

Second read: Markup I marked sections in the beginning, where the young man began speaking — and I started paying particular attention to what he was saying — then I marked the description of the red room itself, which I’d glossed over, the young man’s actions really are weird, he coaxes them out by offering to sell the house and then offers a personally inscribed book of poetry. He becomes pushier and bossier, much more realistic; the sensation of being trapped in someone’s horrid little chamber is much louder on a second read, the climax of the second scene (with Sonny) comes as he returns to the room after leaving them alone for a long time:

Again we sat in silence, Dodd now shielding his eyes from the glare. When Sonny Gonzag returned, he was carrying a glass of water which he drank standing in the doorway. His expression had altered: he now looked preoccupied, and he was breathing heavily.

They hurry out soon after seeing this. They take a frightening walk back through his garden, which seems exponentially more dangerous — and I’m still snaring a little on this part, and then they are removed progressively from the scene; first by an evening, and then by the length of the trip (several weeks) which is when Sonny’s story is revealed. Finally the last scene is the narrator deciding not to tell his sensitive folks (a callback to the beginning) and then realizing his mother had already sussed out Sonny’s story (and had presumably been thinking about it ever since).

As I’m about to embark on a third read, the structure of it becomes really compelling. This is a reported event told in the first person. [ I [My parents’ trip to see me in a strange place [[the strange encounter with Sonny] parents thinking about the strange encounter with Sonny]] – Thinking about mother’s strange reaction to thinking about Sonny]. The title is “In the Red Room.” So this is really intricately structured. If it were Sonny all by himself in the third-person, or even 1st, it would just a re-telling of that weird incident, but by being about the parents reaction, and then his reaction to the parents reaction, it scoops out a sort of mis en abyme, nesting interpretations like Russian dolls.

Third read focuses on the last few pages: I’ll read it from the moment they leave Sonny’s place. Immediately the never-named narrator’s perception of his mother Hannah leaps out. I didn’t realize Sonny had followed them to the gates through the creepy jungle! They don’t mention the experience at dinner. But they parse it the next day (“we felt sufficiently removed”):

I kept waking up in the night and seeing that awful bed, says Hannah. [The narrator says it] was like watching television without the sound. You saw everything, but you didn’t get what was going on. The kid was completely non compos mentis, you could see it a mile away, Dodd declared. Hannah was not listening. It must have been a maid’s room. But why would he take us there? I don’t know; there’s something terribly depressing about the whole thing. It makes me feel a little sick just to think about it. And that bed!

Stop thinking about it, declares the father. And she does (in scene). They don’t return to Colombo. The trip passes by quickly. Strange repetition of the gas metaphor, that’s a powerful one that keeps coming up, the clove tree, the smokey room. Maybe just emphasizes the claustrophobia. “I was thinking of the crimson blazer and the botanical gardens” — is this just a callback? Why does the Indian lawyer immediately complain about the stale air? Penultimate scene follows, the parents reflecting on their trip, and Hannah suddenly figures it out – it was like being shown around a temple — she says and then the hinge of the whole story:

No, I’m serious. That room had a particular meaning for him. It was like a sort of shrine.
I looked at her. She had got to the core without needing the details. I felt that, too, I said. Of course, there’s no way of knowing.
She smiled. Well, what you don’t know won’t hurt you.

The son reflects on her statement and acknowledges that even though her stock phrase (what you don’t know won’t hurt you) seems so patently untrue, for once it was. The story end in scene (leaving the frame unclosed): I nodded my head and said: That’s right. (Giving the mother the last word, or leaving an ambiguity open, reflecting the unknowability that exists between all human beings.) Giving credence to the last interpretation, the mother and father are presumably dead from this distant vantage point.

Read Four, the first few pages: “I had underestimated their resilience, they had made a greater show of adaptability than I thought possible;” “not tempted by the distant or more inaccessible points of interest”… “(Many of the Sinhalese found it strange that I should call my parents by their first names, Dodd and Hannah; several of them inquired if I were actually their son or had been adopted.)”… repetition of the parents need for comfort is repeated over and over. They are fragile, I think is the point, content to observe. Just as they are about to venture into the outer wild (i.e. the botanical gardens) is this graf:

As usual, the events were late in starting. It was the spectators, in any case, who were the focus of interest. The phalanx of women in their shot-silk saris moved Hannah to cries of delight. The races themselves were something of a disappointment. As we left the grounds, Dodd said with satisfaction: It’ll be good to get back to the hotel and relax.

It was the spectators… who were the focus of interest. Okay, here’s something weird, because it puts them in a tourist position and then reflects on what Sonny makes them do, which is observe them observing the room and their growing discomfort. “We’ll look inside and come out again, she promised,” Hannah says of the botanical gardens. And is that what the point is? That experience, witnessed events and the perception of them change people?

Fifth read – taking apart the mechanics : Sonny is so manipulative! Makes them sit down for a beer and then he’s been watching and talking to their driver. Sonny complains about the birds. Mornings they are singing.

We huddled in a short corridor while he opened a door, reached in, and flooded the space inside with blinding light. It was a small room, made to seem still smaller by having given glistening crimson walls and ceiling. Almost all the space was filled by a big bed with a satin coverlet of a slightly darker red. A row of straight-backed chairs stood along one wall. Sit down and be comfy, our host advised us.

We sat, staring at the bed and at the three framed pictures on the wall above its brass-spoked headboard: on the left a girl, in the middle our host, and on the right another young man. The portraits had the imprecision of passport photographs that have been enlarged to many times their original size.

Hannah coughed. She had nothing to say. The room gave off a cloying scent of ancient incense, as in a disused chapel. The feeling of absurdity I got from seeing us sitting there side by side, wedged in between the bed and the wall, was so powerful that it briefly paralyzed my mental processes. For once the young man was being silent; he sat stiffly, looking straight ahead, like someone at the theater.

This is the core of the story, in the red room. Everyone is silent and the young man is stiffly staring. Then the narrator asks if Sonny sleeps on the bed. Sonny leaps up and hurries away, then spends time away. He returns long after, holding a glass of water. Hannah is still expectant! Why? Did she engineer this whole thing? And then the narrator’s perception of the mother. Okay, so the whole thing is about the mother and the son. Specifically the son’s perception of the mother’s perception. And now the parallels between Sonny and the narrators are coming apparent:

[Westin on Sonny} He’s mad as a hatter, but there he is, free to do whatever he feels like. And all he wants now is to get people into that house and show them the room where the great event took place. The more the merrier as far as he’s concerned.

This is such a tight, complicated story… here’s the paragraph about his perception of their perception of the incident although the unpleasant incident in question is really his memory of his parents’ perception of the event, I think:

I myself felt a solid satisfaction at knowing the rest of the story. But being old, they might well brood over it, working it up into an episode so unpleasant in retrospect that it stained the memory of their holiday. I still had not decided whether to tell them or not when I went to their room to take them down to dinner.

He decides not to. But the mother has actually figured out the story. But I still don’t get the ending: Well, what you don’t know won’t hurt you. So is this just about how much Hannah knew in the red room? It’s confounding! Another gloss, this sentence jumps out: “They had no interest in taking photographs, and this spared me what is perhaps the most taxing duty of cicerone: the repeated waits while the ritual between man and machine is observed. They were ideal guests.”

A cicerone is a tour guide. Oh, wait. So glancing through this again I’m seeing the “adopted” sentence again. So there’s some vexing unanswered question between the narrator and his folks. I guess. Red room, womb, seems sort of a weak read… the dad is really castrated, weak and withering in the sun, unable to catch up to his wife, forced to send his son out to protect her from Sonny the Singhalese. Why was Sonny telling their driver the only thing that was going too far? And what one earth does Sonny do when he rushes out of the room. Something gross: Drinking a glass of water… His expression had altered: he now looked preoccupied, and he was breathing heavily.

Sonny was the son of a major official and stayed out of prison for his crime, and existed now as a sort of creepy, threatening presence, coaxing people into his house. And what is a bhikkhu? A Buddhist mendicant showing people around the temple, so there’s a connection back to the narrator calling himself a cicerone. I guess that’s what the story is, the tension between why he brought his parents out, what he wanted them to see, what they did see, what they took away from it versus what he wanted them to take away from the experience… so it’s about tourism on multiple strange levels, and showing people things, and the half-baked reason why and never being able to penetrate into the consciousness of your own family, let alone the motives of some bizarre foreign country.

Takeaways from Second Semester of my MFA

  • After experimenting with a new medium (digital video), I remain convinced that writing conveys character and complexity better than any other I’ve encountered thus far (and I’m including CAVE writing in that). But after watching a couple of television series back-to-back on pirate television stations, I think the best plot-writers are probably working in television these days.
  • Developing a more rigorous reading process – specifically re-reading stories – will be the next big challenge of my writing career. For decades I’ve read like a journalist, sifting swiftly through text to find nuggets of information. But if I’m going to learn how to really draft my own work I have to learn how to slow down and process what I’m reading. I will plunge myself into the great works of short fiction this summer, as recommended by my workshop leader – DH Lawrence, Raymond Carver, Rudyard Kipling, Sommerset Maughm, Paul Bowles, Isaac Babel… am also going to plunder from next semester’s short story seminar whose reading list includes:
    Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy: Great Short Works of Leo Tolstoy; Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Forty Stories; “Ward No. 6”; Joseph Conrad: Great Short Works of Joseph Conrad; The Shadow-Line; Edith Wharton: Roman Fever and Other Stories; “Bunner Sisters;” Willa Cather: Collected Stories; D. H. Lawrence: The Complete Short Stories; Isaac Bashevis Singer: The Collected Stories; Philip Roth: Nemesis.

  • I will skip the Willa Cather.
  • The “multiple scripts” metaphor (imaging different, conflicting perceptions of a scenario) for writing dialogue.
  • Transcribing while editing video and cutting when things get boring.

    More to come…

  • Jim Shepard on Close Reading

    Suggests a structured process of reading and re-reading. The first read is reading as a human, the second as a writer (marking it up), the third re-read is of the last few pages and the fourth focuses on the beginning. Finally the fifth read will hopefully unravel the work’s internal mechanics: the nerves of the story, the most urgent moments.

    Ugh, re-reading stories…

    Robert Coover

    A History of the Future of Narrative: Robert Coover from Scott Rettberg on Vimeo.

    Robert Coover came to speak with us last week. He’s a writer’s writer for sure, someone who burrows deep into text and wiggles around with it. He lectured on electronic writing, an obscure discipline he’s become an unlikely patron saint of. Unlikely in that he’s fairly old (he hit his stride in the 1960s) and that he’s a writer rather than a computer programmer or other operator. [Print is now a subset of digital literature, says Coover, since all but the print itself is produced digitally.] Coover thinks multimedia and hypertext have yet to mature as media, and made an analogy to American literature. Right now we are in the equivalent of the pre-Revolutionary America, adrift in a new medium, and just like Ben Franklin and Thomas Paine we are all amateurs cranking out our little pamphlets. It took a hundred and fifty years of American publishing to create Moby Dick, and since no one in our program had grown up completely saturated in digital media, we were doomed to flounder in the new medium.

    We also got to look at Coover’s CAVE writing work — this is an immersive three-dimensional writing program that lets you have complete control over every aspect of the experience. CAVE writing is really just [x,y,z] coordinates tagged with XML, but it’s a powerful ensemble effect; albeit one beyond the limits of a single human being to create a work (such as novel or symphony) bigger than themselves.