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Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo If Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo had managed to safely hitchhike from Milan to Lebanon dressed as a bride as part of her conceptual art thing (the Brides on Tour project) thereby demonstrating that she could put her trust in the kindness of local people, this success which would have been novel, would have broken with any kind of expected narrative. If I were to describe to you her project — two woman in their early thirties dressing up as a brides and hitchhiking across the Baltic states, through Greece, Turkey, and into the Middle East — you would most likely say, “What are they thinking, they’ll be raped and killed and their naked corpse thrown into the wilderness.” You’d think she was either naive or had a death wish. Her success in braving this cliche and breaking the expected narrative would not be marked by an event. It would be marked by a lack of an event — the lack of death — and it wouldn’t have generated any kind of international press coverage. In short, as a conceptual stunt success would have been failure.

Instead someone identified as MK picked up Giuseppina Pasqualino di Marineo at a gas station outside of Gebze and performed the obligatory roll dictated in the situation. He raped and killed Marineo, removed her wedding dress, and tossed her naked body into the woods. He also took her cell phone and used it to make calls, even if he did switch the SIM. He needed to be caught, I suppose to satisfy the story. Art against barbarism.

And so this it is the cliche and the expected narrative that is newsworthy. The story confirms the trope of the barbaric Middle East against the civilized West. In some ways it is worse than this though because Marineo working as a conceptual artist makes even her impulse to bridge this gap and work to dissolve this trope seem not only naive but dangerously delusional, and this gap I think undermines the entire impulse behind her project. She demonstrated that she not only could she not trust the locals but that she should be very, very afraid of them.

The project was doomed to failure from the beginning.

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My Virtual Wife

My Virtual Wife by Matt Briggs

In 1995, my wife and I registered for our first internet service account. We shared the e-mail address that came with the account. Our only point of reference for an address was our postbox. We shared our mail box. We also shared our phone number, and answering machine, the only other point of reference. There was a certain amount of security in that we had only a single point of contact so we could send ourselves e-mail with the confidence that the other person would see it. We could keep on each other’s virtual lives. Even the phrase virtual live seemed high flown, theoretical even, thirteen years ago.

Within the year we had both moved our own Web-based e-mail accounts because the addresses would outlast our internet service providers. The old address had the name of the ISP, Earthlink, in it. The old address required a client to access. The old address was my wife’s initials and last name and seemed cryptic and in it’s lack of relation seemed to provide a collective secrete handle.

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Unanswered Messages

Before the list [of the dead] was released, Lamir Buzzanelli said his 41-year-old son, Claudemir, an engineer, had called him from Porto Alegre to say he was in the plane and about to return from a business trip.

“My hopes are not too high because I’ve been calling him on his cell phone, and all I get is his voice mail,” Buzzanelli said, his eyes tearing up. — The Associated Press

Presence (or lack of presence) is no longer indicated by life in the physical body (or lack of life in the physical body) but rather the ability of the network to respond to a query. I am here because if you e-mail me I will respond. If I do not respond–

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An Education in Lies

When I returned from Basic Training, I started looking for classes to take in writing. I was just past the registration date for the University of Washington Experimental College where there was a short story class taught by Richard Berman, M.F.A. The title at the end of his name, tacked on like P.H.D. seemed to indicate a professional status as a writer, certification by a board that confirmed his abilities as a genuine writer, although I was unsure what it meant. I had missed the registration date, but I called the school in the off chance there might still be a spot. They took my name, and I thought, that was it, I had missed my chance this quarter to study writing. I viewed this as a major setback because I only had nine months before I went to Whitman College in Walla Walla and I intended to have a novel finished before I went. Every week counted. I had to prove to myself that I could become a writer. I had a schedule to follow. As I understood it, it was a lot of work to write a novel.

Richard Berman, M.F.A., called me himself. He said if I brought the check directly to him with my application, he could almost certainly find room for me in his workshop. I asked him, how would he evaluate the material?

“I don’t understand,” he said.

“Don’t I have to apply?”

“I can hear that you are a serious writer,” he said. This was enough for me. Someone could hear how serious I was.

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Organizational Incompetence

Iron Mountain Burning RecordsCompanies or non-profits are founded because they provide a public service (a good) of some kind or another. A writing center supports writers. A cancer research center works to cure cancer. A secure storage company stores valuable records. The enterprise is founded to meet these needs. The need (customers) in a sense own the company in that their demand of the company’s services or products dictate the viability of the company.

However, the enterprise is also interested in “owning” itself and so begins to defend its resources from external draws on its resources. When this identification happens for the enterprise, customers are no longer seen as customers but as parasites feeding on the organization’s resources. The enterprise begins to starve the parasites (not realizing it is more of a symbiotic-deal) and they start to fall off. Perhaps the enterprise realizes it actually needs the parasites, but from then on the question is no longer about providing service but doing as little as possible for the blood sucking bastards.

Thus, you end up with an off-site secure record facility becoming the place most likely to thoroughly burn and destroy all of your records. In fact if you set out to destroy your valuable documents, there wouldn’t be a better place. If you wanted to discourage writers, found a writing center. In fact, if there is anything you want to accomplish, find a way of making money to the opposite thing, and the resulting business will accomplish your ends.

A dialectic is established on the vector of a perceived value: record storage or the support of writers. Similarly, value travels from the customers to the company or back from the company to the customer. In order, to defend itself the enterprise must actively work to tilt the transaction in its favor. Thus, it might cut corners in areas that are normally invisible in the transaction. They might use slave (or intern) labor or not building any kind of tested and effective fire safety system. The end result is that the company ends up inadvertently working against the public good for which it was originally founded.

(I recall now that someone else wrote about this, but I can’t recall where I read it.)

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Wonder Bread

My father recalls visiting his family — the Rooney’s — in the 1960s and to buy store bought bread was still an event. I image it was difficult to control homemade bread. It is difficult now when even homemade bread is manufactured with a machine, so that what you are getting isn’t homemade by their standards but instead a freshly made machine made bread.

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The State of Main

My father knows he came from Maine. But the presence of the State of Maine in his life has only been a mystery. To say a mystery sounds like it is something to be solved. The potential for resolution is part of the pleasure of owning a puzzle. Put together the puzzle is a New England water mill on a day it snows — the same picture as the one on the box. This isn’t worth anything. You’ve already seen the picture. But apart, it is the potential of being put together. For my father Maine was like this. He sometimes took out the pieces and thought about them, but he never put them together. And this conception of gathering things and storing them in a box was how my father remembered his life. I don’t have a narrative shape to my father’s life — even the parts I know. For a son, I know a great deal of my father’s life, nearly half of it I share with him. He was nineteen when I was born, and in my earliest memories, he was only twenty-three years old. I hardly remember myself, now, at twenty-three. Even though I have known him as I have known my mother, longer than anyone else in my life, I still don’t understand the shape of my father’s life. I know certain events happened to him, but unlike my mother who constructs the story of her life over and over again, each version layering over the old one, each one controlling some nuance of her present life, my father exists mostly without a story. “I didn’t do it,” he would say. If you were to ask him, “What’s your story?” he’d feel put on the spot. It is simply enough to know he came from somewhere that isn’t Seattle, a somewhere that is Maine. And it is simple enough to know some of the incidents that have happened to him in his life, his drunk driving arrests, a short stint in jail, the death of his brother, Fred, but these are pieces and do not fit into a whole. Maine means certain things to me that they don’t mean to my father. For my father they mean the childhood he can’t remember in the way that West Seattle means the childhood I can’t remember, and to you, these things mean something else entirely. He was a child. Now he is grown. That is my father’s story. To put together the pieces I do know wouldn’t even result in a kind of solution but rather questions in how they relate to each other.

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Large Contiguous Land Mass

Large Contiguous Land Mass

What is Greenland exactly? It used to be a continent but has since been down-graded to an island, not even an island unto itself, but according to Wikipeda “an island associated with North America.” In a map of actual continents Greenland is grouped with North America.

I have an atlas. An atlas is a book people used to use that contained maps drawn by cartographers and had very little to do with satellite images. An atlas is a type of book like a dictionary that the Internet does better and I suspect it will disappear. In my atlas, Greenland is missing. It is pictured in the Arctic Ocean. The Western Coast of the island appears in the map of North America. But, there is no map of Greenland. So on one hand, as a large shape distorted beyond its size in by the Mercator projection designed to fit a round world on a flat and square book, Greenland benefited. It was even called a continent. On the other hand in a book, Greenland could go missing because it did not handily fit into North America or Europe. But, Greenland as many other marginal things has a place on the earth and a place on the web.

I imagine that life in Greenland would be frustrating. Where are you exactly people might ask? Greenland you would say. Is that in Wisconsin? Commercial goods would be difficult to find because whose market would you belong in? There wouldn’t be a VP of Marketing for Greenland. The North American VP of Marketing would be concerned with Canada, U.S., Mexico, etc. The European VP concerned with Europe.

Greenland, too, will most likely become an archipelago as the ice caps melt. A vast portion of Greenland is hundreds of yards under the level of the current ocean. In the future this will be sea ringed by the whatever remains above the higher ocean. Greenland will sink, and unlike Atlantis only few people will know it was even there. There used to be a continent that was really an island. Here is my atlas I will use to show them and will have to explain what an atlas is…

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George Saunders in Shouts and Murmers


Just reading this thing by George Saunders and I’m kind of appalled. I’m easily appalled though, and then quickly I’m embarrassed at even using the word appalled, as if I were a Victorian grammar teacher hearing the word “ain’t.” In fact I feel like I need to do something about this sense of being appalled. The fact of being appalled is a common emotion these days. President Bush and Oprah are appalled. I don’t want to be a person who gets appalled. I don’t want to feel moral outrage but rather a stoic and well worded response. There must be a Buddhist retreat or at least a Buddhist-retreat-in-a-can that I can consume on my commute to work since I am too busy to go to an actual Buddhist retreat. Being appalled is an expedient expression of moral outrage. Its kind of like burping.

There is something silly and sinister about Saunders’s piece.

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Future of Bestsellers

Shoot the Buffalo is a bestseller! A bestseller in the Small Press Distributor’s fiction list that is. It makes me wonder if in the future as the brick and morter store gives way to web-based stores if there will be bestsellers in all categories, bestselling titles with the word “Shoot” in the title, bestsellers among books with green covers, bestsellers by writers living on streets named “Ruffner.”

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