Wednesday, November 30, 2005


A difference between philosophy and literary studies: in philosophy, the distinction between a piece of “commentary” or “secondary literature” & a piece of new philosophizing is far less clear-cut than the distinction between a piece of literary criticism & a new work of literature. In the latter field, the commentary almost never gets read as a literary text in its own right (with some very rare exceptions – Lawrence on American literature, Olson on Melville, Zukofsky on Shakespeare – but even then, such books are often put in a special category of “poets’ criticism”). On the other hand, Kripke on Wittgenstein, Heidegger on Hölderlin, Derrida on Heidegger, Cavel on Thoreau and Emerson, all of these seem every bit as important as other works by the same philosophers less directly moored to previous texts.
Wittgenstein: “People nowadays think that scientists exist to instruct them, poets, musicians, etc. to give them pleasure. The idea that these have something to teach them – that does not occur to them.” (Culture and Value, 36e)
An undergraduate philosophy professor of mine, newly arrived in southwestern Virginia, meets his backwoods girlfriend’s father and introduces himself as a philosopher. “A philosopher? So, what’re some o’ yer sayins?”
Zukofsky on Shakespeare in prose (Bottom: on Shakespeare) every bit as “poetic” as Zukofsky on Mallarmé in verse (“A”-19).

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bad Writing in High Places, pt. ii

A photo snapped over this long holiday weekend at the base of the grand phallic Yorktown monument, commemorating the 1781 siege of Yorktown which ended with the surrender of Cornwallis’s army to a combined Franco-American force under George Washington & the Comte de Grassi – and thereby pretty much ending the Revolutionary War. Now don’t get the idea that I spend my holidays visiting battle sites: on the contrary – I’ve driven thru central Pennsylvania a hundred times, and never come closer than twenty miles to Gettysburg. Okay, I once stopped in Scotland to snap photos of the site of Drumclog (Scott, Old Mortality), but that’s about it. Let’s just say we happened upon this whacking great erection blocking out a lovely view of the York River, & with my constitutional inability to see an inscription without reading it, I had to linger and read not merely the inscriptions on the four sides of the base, but all the plaques the Daughters of the American Revolution had laid round about. One of them – reproduced above – strikes me as a neat epitome of the degradation of public discourse in these United States over the past 200 or so years:
We are now friends with England and with all Mankind.
Benjamin Franklin, 1783
American Peace Commissioner

Now that’s lovely – as fine a balanced period as one could ask for from le philosophe Franklin, transatlantic representative of the age of reason.
This great peace monument is a symbol of the sacrifices in lives and property in the Revolutionary War, which ended at Yorktown and which brought us our independence. It symbolizes, too, the peace between the mother country and America – a peace not seriously interrupted since 1781.
Horace M. Albright, 1931
Director, National Park Service

Oh dear. Public stolidness not unrelieved with turgidity. Without questioning Mr Albright’s history (perhaps the War of 1812 was a “serious interruption,” or those tense years when Henry Adams, junior legate to the embassy in London, was waiting for the UK to cast in with the Confederacy), one notes how a Hooveresque concern for “lives and property” manages to make the Revolution, once figured in terms of Roman virtue, a matter of capital investment.
The Treaty of Paris was the first step toward an alliance with Great Britain which has grown stronger through two centuries to become one of our most important alliance relationships. Political, cultural, economic, and defense ties between our two nations are firm and lasting.
Ronald Reagan, 1983
President, United States of America

I suspect Reagan wrote this bit himself – at least it’s hard to imagine one of his speechwriters guilty of these two sentences of unremitting, bland boilerplate. Would Lincoln, would Pitt, would Burke, for God’s sake would that toad-eater Tony Blair have allowed those two solecisms – “alliance relationships” and “defense ties” – to appear over his name? If the Gipper’s shade is listening, an “alliance” is by definition a “relationship”; and “defense ties” is merely a lazy, bureaucratically crippled way of saying “miliitary ties.” I’ll content myself with addressing the dead; there’s no-one in the White House now who reads or listens to anything.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Ad Interim

Off tomorrow morning to spend some quality time waiting in airport lines – er, that is, off for a wee Thanksgiving break, to give my students a respite from my increasingly incoherent teaching, to get a breath of the autumn in latitudes with actual seasons.

And not a moment too soon. I find myself (as the charismatics say) "convicted" by John Latta's burst of blog-loathing (prompted by his reading Virgil Thomson's letters):
Do it ever come down that—full of bullion and bumptious—one of you prints out a passle of such bloggery talk, essential “stuff” come down out of the zone blogique, harry’d by its muchness, “happy at the thought,” though gummed out taut on tenterhooks to read it all, and you—oh, The World itself gets its gumption up to demand something of you and that revery-look you wear so affably, and, well, you don’t get back to them pages blogeoises for, oh, a few days? It does me, and it undoes me. I find myself full of kittle and contempt, bilious at the perusal, fanning through the pages like a sneer-wind, worse it is than yesterday’s news in yesterday’s newspapers. (For those, the common consent is, can at least serve for the wrapping up of the post-repast fish bones . . . or the pre-prandial fish guts . . . or the lousy book by Stanley Fish you.) Is it sensible to write junk day after day? Or pour over the books of wayward saints for pre-chewables, quotes and queries for th’international short attention span? Maybe it’s not.
Haven't met a harangue like that since the last time I cracked an Edward Dahlberg book. Glad Stan Brakhage comes to the rescue & saves our reading pleasure. "BEAM 4," ARK, nicht wahr?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Tom Raworth: Tottering State

Bliss! another cold front has descended, which down here means that one is almost tempted to put on a sweater at night (longtime Florida residents can be seen venturing out of their condos in parkas and mittens…).
After many dippings-in, and almost a decade & a half of having the book glare down at me with slighted hurt from the shelf, I finally read thru Tom Raworth’s Tottering State: Selected and New Poems 1963-1983 (The Figures, 1984). (And this after having read a half dozen of his single volumes, as well.) The selection’s been superceded at least twice now, I believe, but in cases like this I’m inclined to think of books of poetry as rather like fine wines; the pages might yellow and get spotted, but the contents are just as satisfying as when they were first bottled.

I saw Raworth read at least twice back in the day, when I was living in the DC area and found myself at least on the margins of a very lively “scene.” The nerve center of that scene of course was Rod Smith, working at Bick’s Books in Adams-Morgan (where I got Tottering State) before he shifted over to Bridge Street Books in Georgetown. I remember Raworth, a big shaggy hulk of unreconstructed Englishness, lighting up a cigarette between readers at Bick’s upstairs reading space, then, finding no ashtrays, flicking his ash into the Tibetan bowl gong that Rod used to summon the audience to quiet down and prepare for poesy. Raworth reads like no-one I’ve ever heard: a dense, rapid spray of words, poems over before they seem to have begun, the performance almost as lively as the mercurically shifting words on the page.

There’re a lot of books of poetry asking me to read them, but I regret having put off Tottering State for so long. For one thing, aside from the sly precisions of Raworth’s musical ear, the constant bitter ironies, and the poised sense of line, the poetry is really a great deal of sheer fun. Take, for instance, “Love and Pieces,” whose title seems to play games with early Creeley, but whose last lines place us smack-dab in the neighborhood of Raworth’s own rapid-fire delivery:
met language static
on the street
thinks he’s one
of a new elite
you have to learn
you can not teach
“there goes the town of spanish boot”
“only the buildings”
julius reuter
service de pigeons
i can not prove a second ago
to my own satisfaction

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Stupid Days

Busy, busy days, barrelling towards the end of the term, trying to make up time lost to Wilma (tho no longer anticipating “Gamma”), “looking forward” to finals. I try to avoid doing what I ought to be doing – some of it perfectly respectable, to be avoided simply on Oblomovian principle, other bits just plain stupid. Reading around. The schizophrenia of re-reading Antony Easthope’s Poetry as Discourse and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe’s Poetry as Experience at the same time. (My own magnum opus: Poetry as Rhinoplasty.) Steven Helmling (who’s written a – quite good – LZ biographical essay), The Success and Failure of Fredric Jameson (SUNY, 2001), quotes a passage of FJ that is either of a ravishing, beautiful difficulty, or the most purple thing since Stephen Dedalus’s dreadful villanelle (are those last two words redundant?):
Barthes thought certain kinds of writing – perhaps we should say, certain kinds of sentences – to be scriptible, because they made you wish to write further yourself; they stimulated imitation, and promised a pleasure in combining language that had little enough to do with the notation of new ideas. But I think he thought this because he took an attitude towards those sentences which was not essentially linguistic, and had little to do with reading: what is scriptible indeed is the visual or the musical, what corresponds to the two outside senses that tug at language between themselves and dispute its peculiarly unphysical attention, its short circuit of the sentences for the mind itself that makes of the mysterious thing reading some superstitious and adult power, which the lowlier arts imagine uncomprehendingly, as animals might dream of the strangeness of human thinking. We do not in that sense read painting nor do we hear music with any of the attention reserved for oral recitation; but this is why the more advanced and rational activity can also have its dream of the other, and regress to a longing for the more immediately visual, or be sublimated into the spiritual body of pure sound.

[but no, this isn’t Pater – or EP, or LZ –]

Scriptible is not however the poetry that actually tries to do that (and which is then itself condemned to the technical mediation of a relationship to language not much more “poetic” than the doctrine of the coloration of orchestral instruments and the specialized, painfully acquired knowledge of their technologies); it is the prose stimulated by the idea of sound, or the sentences that something visual – unfortunately, our only word for it is the image – calls into being by suggestion and by a kind of contamination. We don’t write about these things, it is not a metaphorical representation that the sensory pretext summons but rather something related by affinity, that prolongs the content of the object in another, more tenuous form, as though to prolong a last touch with the very fingertips. (Signatures of the Visible 2-3)
James Buchan, Capital of the Mind: How Edinburgh Changed the World (John Murray, 2003) – and that, uncomfortably, is the British title; the US edition, where vulgarizations usually occur, is Crowded with Genius – brings alive the 18th-century Scottish Enlightenment, Em’bro, that “precipitous city” thru which hurry (dodging the wind) the portly Hume, the capacious Adam Smith, the whoremonger Boswell, and the beleaguered James MacPherson, whose “Ossian” poems remain (as of two days ago, when I tried them once again) entirely unreadable. Dr Johnson read them, pronounced them fakes, and took none of MacPherson’s bluster:
MR JAMES MACPHERSON – I received your foolish and impudent letter. Any violence offered me I shall do my best to repel; and what I cannot do for myself, the law shall do for me. I hope I shall never be deterred from detecting what I think to be a cheat, by the menaces of a ruffian.

What would you have me retract? I thought your book an imposture; I think it an imposture still. For this opinion I have given my reason to the publick, which I here dare you to refute. Your rage I defy. Your abilities, since your Homer, are not so formidable; and what I hear of your morals, inclines me to pay regard not to what you shall say, but to what you shall prove. You may print this if you will. SAM. JOHNSON
Hume glumly apologized to his friend Gibbon for what by 1776 seemed like a Scottish national imposture: “Men run with great Avidity to give their Evidence in favour of what flatters their Passions, and their national Prejudices.”
Somebody was having a party earlier this evening; a mariachi band echoed through the neighborhood for three hours, but now no noise besides the constant, depressing rain.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Curmudgeonliness, British and Cynic

Bob Archambeau remembers Donald Davie. I too remember DD, from an hour spent in his office at Vanderbilt University (they were trying to lure me there for graduate school), where he footered constantly with his pipe (unable it seems to keep it alight for more than three minutes), grumbled in a curmudgeonly fashion, told me to read Bunting, NOW, and scoffed at my enthusiasm for Robert Duncan’s “eclecticism” of influences: “indeed – an eclectic fudge.” A year or so later he mailed me a copy of the syllabus for his swansong graduate seminar at VU, on the Objectivists; the seminar came to appreciate Rakosi and Niedecker very much, he noted, but decided that Oppen’s obliquities were often not worth the effort (!). (Zukofsky, I observed, was entirely omitted from the syllabus, as untangling him – according to Davie – would have dominated the semester – hmmm.)

My favorite of Davie’s critical forays? A Gathered Church: The Literature of the English Dissenting Interest 1700-1930 (RKP, 1978).
Diogenes of Sinope (404 – 323 or 314 BCE):
Of what use is a philosopher who doesn’t hurt anybody’s feelings?

A. I am Alexander the Great.
B. I am Diogenes, the dog.
A. The dog?
B. I nuzzle the kind, bark at the greedy, and bite louts.
A. What can I do for you?
B. Stand out of my light.

In the rich man’s house there is no place to spit but in his face.

I’ve seen Plato’s cups and table, but not his cupness and tableness.

I pissed on the man who called me a dog. Why was he so surprised?

Beggars get handouts before philosophers because people have some idea of what it’s like to be blind and lame.

I threw my cup away when I saw a child drinking from his hands at the trough.

(trans. Guy Davenport)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Ruskin at the Theatre, Adorno in Love, Burgess in His Cups

“We, of the so-called ‘educated’ classes, who take it upon us to be the better and upper part of the world, cannot possibly understand our relations to the rest better than we may where actual life may be seen in front of its Shakespearean image, from the stalls of a theatre. I never stand up to rest myself, and look around the house, without renewal of wonder how the crowd in the pit, and shilling gallery, allow us of the boxes and stalls to keep our places!” –Fors Clavigera, Letter LXI
Has no-one ever compiled a list of Adorno’s best one-liners?:
•Intelligence is a moral category.

•No emancipation without that of society.

•True thoughts are those alone which do not understand themselves.

And is there an essay out there on Adorno as philosopher of love?:
•Love is the power to see similarity in the dissimilar.

•Love you will find only where you may show yourself weak without provoking strength.

•If love in society is to represent a better one, it cannot do so as a peaceful enclave, but only by conscious opposition. This, however, demands precisely the element of voluntariness that the bourgeois, for whom love can never be natural enough, forbid it. Loving means not letting immediacy wither under the omnipresent weight of mediation and economics, and in such fidelity it becomes itself mediated, as a stubborn counterpressure. He alone loves who has the strength to hold fast to love…
The love, however, which in the guise of unreflected spontaneity and proud of its alleged integrity, relies exclusively on what it takes to be the voice of the heart, and runs away as soon as it no longer thinks it can hear that voice, is in this supreme independence precisely the tool of society. Passive without knowing it, it registers whatever numbers come out in the roulette of interests. In betraying the loved one it betrays itself. The fidelity exacted by society is a means to unfreedom, but only through fidelity can freedom achieve insubordination to society’s command.
(all from Minima Moralia)
When I was a pup I must have read forty or fifty Anthony Burgess novels, and always wondered what fuelled his ceaseless productivity. Now, thanks to the "NB" column of the 28 October TLS, I know: a cocktail of his own invention, known as “Hangman’s Blood”:
Into a pint beer-glass doubles of the following are poured: gin, whisky, rum, port, and brandy. A small bottle of stout is added, and the whole topped up with champagne. It induces a somehow metaphysical elation, and rarely leaves a hangover.
If you’re in South Florida, join me for one; I’ll find the designated driver.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Helpless in the Face of Bureaucracy

I've not read much Jürgen Habermas, having stuck in my mind somehow one friend's parody of him as a middling trimmer – [in ridiculous Dr Strangelove accent] "ah, yes, but vun must neffer be too extreme is zeez matters..." – but Steve Evans's musings last month on Third Factory have sent me to Philosophical Discourse of Modernity anew. I'm delighted by the big bit Steve quotes of an interview with Habermas, which deserves quoting again:
Adorno was a genius, I say that without a hint of ambiguity. In the case of Horkheimer or Marcuse, with whom, by the way, I had a less complicated and, if you like, more intimate relationship, no one would have ever thought of saying such a thing. Adorno had an immediacy of awareness, a spontaneity of thought, and a power of formulation which I have never encountered before or since. One could not observe the process of development of Adorno's thoughts: they issued from him complete—he was a virtuoso in that respect. Also, he was simply not able to drop below his own level; he could not escape the strain of his own thinking for a moment. Adorno did not have the common touch, it was impossible for him, in an altogether painful way, to be commonplace. But at the same time, in his case the elevated demands and the avant-garde claims were without the purely stilted and auratic features which are familiar from the school of Stefan George. If there was a pathos, it was the pathos of negativism—and this need not stand in contradiction to fundamentally egalitarian convictions. Adorno remained anti-elitist despite all his striking refinement. Furthermore, he was also a genius in the sense that he had preserved certain childlike characteristics—both the precocity and the dependency of those who have not yet grown up; when faced with institutions and bureaucratic procedures he was peculiarly helpless.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

And Who Is Left to Argue With?

Still trawling my way thru Ruskin’s Fors Clavigera, now in the midst of Letter LXVII. Perhaps the ideal way to read Fors is as its first readers did, one letter per month – something dependable, to be looked forward to on a regular basis, like the new issue of Guitar World or the latest John Ashbery collection. JR writes like an angel, in long, ironically spiralling periods whose close descends upon you with the force of a piledriver. He is the unacknowledged legislator of the environmental movement: where Thoreau saw a train puffing its way past Walden Pond, Ruskin lived in the homeland of Marx’s industrializing Capital, looked out his windows to see the green & pleasant land wrapt in a poisonous black cloud of factory effluent.

There is much in Ruskin that is impossible to abide: his all-too-absolute self-assurance; his descents into the twee and cute; his vision of radical social order and subordination, which at times makes Dr Johnson seem like a liberal. But then, on almost every page, is some passage whose strength of style & rhetoric burns away whatever is false in it:
There are a few, a very few persons born in each generation, whose words are worth hearing; whose art is worth seeing. These born few will preach, or sing, or paint, in spite of you; they will starve like grasshoppers, rather than stop singing; and even if you don’t choose to listen, it is charitable to throw them some crumbs to keep them alive. But the people who take to writing or painting as a means of livelihood, because they think it genteel, are just by so much more contemptible than common beggars, in that they are noisy and offensive beggars.
Whatever in literature, art, or religion, is done for money, is poisonous itself; and double deadly, in preventing the hearing and seeing of the noble literature and art which have been done for love and truth. If people cannot make their bread by honest labour, let them at least make no noise about the streets; but hold their tongues, and hold out their idle hands humbly; and they shall be fed kindly.
But we have no Ruskin, no Arnold, no conservative cultural critics whose strength of thought and expression is such that they are always worth listening to, even if dead wrong. The recent New Yorker profile of Peter Viereck reminded me that such an animal once existed. His place has been taken by a vaudeville of pharasaical money-launderers & pseudo-intellectual buffoons: the sepulchral James Dobson, his eminently reasonable voice counselling us to beat our 18-month-olds with wooden spoons; the bloated & wobbly Bill Bennett, dispensing nostrums about “virtue” from behind the handle of a slot machine; the pasteboard grandpa Pat Robertson, praying death & destruction upon the Dauphin’s enemies, his face screwed up for all the world like that of a man at difficult stool.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

After the Great Wind

The blog has been dark for the last two weeks, as has our house: Hurricane Wilma cut power to 2/3 of a million people in Palm Beach County alone, and our power was not restored until late last night. The photo shows the view from our front door, immediately post-Wilma. Some other post-storm notes:

28 October
So I’m still here; as is the house and the family. I cannot say the same for the trees. Hurricane Wilma was a brief, thankfully self-contained, and absolutely terrifying storm. The leading edge was about 2 1/2 hours of drenching rains and threatening winds. The eye was 45 minutes of relative calm; my neighbors walked their dogs, I stepped outside for a smoke. The trailing edge was apocalyptic: an hour and a half of 100+ mph winds (one neighbor claims a tornado touched down on his lawn) blowing down fences and shredding trees. I watched from an upstairs window as limb after limb – 12-, 18-inch limbs – shivered down onto the driveway. Watched, that is, until J hailed me from downstairs that the front door was giving way to the wind. A double door, it was bowing inwards with every gust. Like a character in a Chuck Jones cartoon, I piled whatever was at hand against the doors – a box full of mailorder catalogues, a sealed carton of books (thank god that one didn’t sell better!), a cute little Peavey Backstage 30 guitar amplifier – and lashed the doorhandles together with a stray computer power cable. The chimney – none too sturdy at the best of times – was groaning like my hypochondriac uncle with every gust, and water came out of the fireplace in a steady stream. The sound of treelimbs breaking was a steady popping from outside.

The hurricane’s wake has brought a lovely cold front: the weather now is approximately like Ithaca in May: and a good thing, since we haven’t had electricity since Monday. Reading has been desultory, mostly a break from the back-straining work of cleanup: finished Moby-Dick the other day, and embarked on the umpteenth reading of Ulysses. I am fast becoming the Julia Child of the propane grill: a first-rate vindaloo the other day (but alas no rice), a pretty decent pot-roast last night. This will be the end of complex meals, however, since we cleaned out the refrigerator today.

29 October
The lights went on tonight for perhaps an hour, after exactly 5 1/2 days of no electricity. Then, with the distant explosion of a transformer blowing, they went out again. Sigh. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything quite so disappointing since the 2004 general election. Sad how dependent one is on electricity, yet how primitive the power grid remains.

Our street was blocked by tree limbs after the storm, which subsided at about 1.30. By 2 pm, a chap driving a bulldozer appeared and opened it up. Not for us – it turns out the South African bazillionaire down the street, who’s himself in the construction business, had summoned laqueys to help get a gigantic ficus off the roof of his garage – garages, I should say. (The same fellow for whom a propane tanker truck shows up every few days to refill the tank of his generator. Who cares about power outages? We can hike down the street and watch his plasma screen TV through the front picture windows. When we aren’t making instant coffee on the burner of a camp stove, that is.)

Our driveway was another matter. About an hour later, an angel showed up in the form of another neighbor, a hulking brute of a fellow (6’ 1” or so, probably 275 lbs, and most of that muscle, ponytail, extraordinarily elaborate tattoos) who’s rumored to be an ex-wrestler and the manager of a “gentlemen’s club.” His hobby, it seems, is to roam the neighborhood wielding a chainsaw and disposing of the most immediately troublesome silvan disasters. (We saw him the next day: no chainsaw this time, just a rake, and in front of his own house: “I had a little accident,” he said, holding up a bandaged hand, “only about 110 stitches.”)

31 October
Ulysses, in the 1986 “Corrected” edition, is one of the most heavily marked books in my library, every page scored with the traces of multiple readings – underlinings, marginal strikes, notes in a variety of inks and even in a chronological progression of my own handwritings. It’s only one of a handful of my books thus marked: “A”, Prepositions, Bottom: on Shakespeare, The Cantos, Eliot’s Poetry and Plays, Tender Buttons, the Riverside Shakespeare, etc. Every Joycean I know has a similarly marked Ulysses (usually far more heavily than mine); the chap who taught my JJ seminar in grad school had a copy held together with rubber bands.

A scriptural reading, like the way a Jewish congregation will make its way through Torah on an annual basis, or the church in which I was raised would have public readings of five or ten verses apiece by the young boys of the congregation, making its way through the entire Bible over I guess a decade or two. A constantly re-read book, one which one is always at some point of making one’s way through. No substitute for that “by heart” knowledge of a book. With every reading the pages become softer, the corners more rounded – the dust jacket wears away a bit more (or, if it’s a paperback, the cover gets more and more worn – my old blue California paperback “A” used to have a dent in the cover where I’d thrown it across the room in frustration one time, but I can no longer find the specific spot, the volumes become so beaten up).

2 November
10th day of the blackout. I’m sitting on the back patio enjoying the last hours of juice from a charge maybe 2 weeks ago on the iPod, trying to drown out the constant rumble of the neighbors’ gas-powered generators. Gang of Four, Entertainment: a fine record, but bits of it really do sound dated twenty-odd years on (musically, that is). Right before the storm, I picked up 4 Mekons discs and ripped them onto the iPod, adding to the however many Mekons albums already there. I’ve listened to all of those previously ripped records, repeatedly, and have been listening to them for some time – but I can’t say I’ve ingested them the same way I did groups and oeuvres when I was in my teens. Listening to Bad Group X or Bad Group Y or Richard Thompson or John Cale back then, I could at any point identify the point in the band or artist’s history when the track was made, could chart the musicians’ evolving style, their maturing or senescence. I can’t do that now with a band like the Mekons, which I’ve gotten into over the last decade. It’s simply a matter of time: I just can’t devote the same amount of time to concentrated listening, to following along with the liner notes and lyric sheets. I guess it’s a kind of concentration I miss, tho at the same time I’m well aware that I probably have a far wider range of interests and commitments than I did back then.

3 November
Getting sick of takeout and changing D batteries out of the lanterns and flashlights. And the temperature’s climbing again, along with the humidity. Homicidal fantasies flash thru my mind, and panic attacks about the work that wants to be done on my stark-dead laptop (the battery’s only holding a charge for about an hour these days). Tired of cold shaves, tepid drinking water, takeout food.