Frequency: Have (inevitable)

HAVE (inevitable)

have you any need to ask why

Johnnie and Charlie are in some ways as close as two brothers can be, bound by their mutual loss and their lack of any other immediate family, though each resents choices that the other has made, and when they see each other, conflict is inevitable.

have you made your move

Some of the simulations the bioterrorism group plays are realistic, while others are absurd. In one game Howard plays a Khazak terrorist who dumps thousands of gallons of mercury in Lake Baikal. Environmental catastrophes are inevitable, and almost impossible to contain.

have you come

Dave and Jenny have dietary differences. She’s almost vegan, though sometimes he’ll talk her into eating fish. Dinner at her house is always tofu or some kind of textured vegetable protein. It’s inevitable that after sex he’ll make up some excuse about an early start and grab a chili cheeseburger on his way back home. He doesn’t like the idea of having choose which hunger to sate.

have they come for us

Howard always double-checks the locks, even the locks on the windows. He locks the door of the conference room when they have a meeting. Everybody he works with has their tics; paranoia is an inevitable outcome of working with paranoids.

have you had your say

When asked at Thanksgiving, Howard opines that the next terrorist attack on US soil will hit Los Angeles. It’s inevitable, shocking that they haven’t hit it yet. The entertainment capital of the world and so on. Probably not planes. Maybe something in the food supply. Maybe a movie theater, for instance, through toxins in the popcorn butter. His mother pauses before passing the mashed potatoes, and says she’s felt safe ever since they moved to Orange County. If it isn’t the rioters in LA, it’s the terrorists.

have to ask for your help

It’s the last thing she wants to ask of her father, but Maggie can’t think of anyone else to turn to, and he won’t even hear of any other arrangement. Still it frustrates her how he keeps hoping for the miracle cure. He spends his days researching alternative medicine sites, and every evening has printouts for her perusal. Just like with her Mom, his optimism is unflappable. He refuses to accept the inevitable.

have you had a good time

It doesn’t take long for Helen to regret the one-nighter with Johnnie in the back of the rented Airstream. It wasn’t bad in the doing, as these things go, but she didn’t even really care for him that much. It doesn’t take long for her to begin the inevitable cycle of self-psychoanalysis. It wasn’t about Johnnie at all, now was it?

have I found my place

Old buildings come down and new edifices rise in their place. Men of means find their way into deals and profit from rising valuations. It’s the way of the world, the harmonious flow of concrete and capital, as inevitable as manifest destiny.

have you even a name for this

The inevitable dream of water, unclean water, stagnating in an abandoned and decrepit pool.

have you some time for me

One of the stranger moments in her night with Johnnie was when, after they had sex, while smoking cigarettes on the couch, Johnnie confessed to Helen that as a teenager he had committed some minor acts of arson, some fires in dumpsters, an abandoned house on the outskirts of town. No one had gotten hurt, still it was destructive, and he felt sort of bad about it. He supposed his fascination with conflagrations was inevitable, in some kind of sick fucked up way, given what had happened to his mom and dad. Helen found herself wishing she had a bathrobe, and gathered her underthings from the floor. Charlie had never talked with her about the fire.

Frequency: This (roles)

THIS (roles)

this work is not my own

Johnnie finds the smell of wildfires strangely calming. People in California don’t freak like you might expect them to. They’ve got their roles to play, all of them, feng shui experts and firefighters, dogcatchers and arsonists, bankers and insurance men, police and masseurs.

this hand is more than a word

Of all the roles she’s played in her time, Helen never thought she’d play the part of one-night-stand to her lover’s brother. But sometimes familiarity breeds more than contempt. She knows it’s a mistake even while it’s happening. Is not his desperation or flattery that makes her let her guard down. It’s the fact that he smells like his brother, and she misses that scent.

this is just a little part of the big picture

Kent loves the new roles he finds himself playing in the community. A man of means with the wherewithal to sponsor a hot air balloon in the fight against childhood leukemia. He doesn’t really understand how the five grand he paid to sponsor the balloon is going to help the kids with the cancer, but he loves to watch it rise, he loves doing his part, and his date thinks he’s just wonderful.

this play will not end well

Of the roles he plays well, Dave is perhaps at his best as a consoler. The last few weeks of a campaign are hell on a losing candidate. In almost every campaign, it’s clear who’s about to bite the dust well before the fat lady sings. As Dave watches his candidate flop about like a fish on the rowboat floor trying to sustain the delusion, Dave himself is preparing a soulful speech for election night, reminding his man that the other team fought dirty, while he fought hard, and played his best hand, with honor, and so on. And there’s always the next election, almost always. Losers usually come back for more.

this air is not good

When she’s not doing the social work with the hopelessly fucked-up kids from poverty-stricken, violent, broken homes, another one of Jenny’s roles is the environmental crusader. Dave goes out his way to buy a hybrid SUV, but she’s still not impressed.

this letter will find no answer

Charlie explains the engagement to a doubtful friend with insider knowledge as emerging from the need to fill a hole, that there’s a kind of gravitational pull that he and Anna have towards each other now because of what both are missing. Their roles have changed and it’s more about each other now than it was before what happened happened. It’s like they have each lost a leg and can no longer walk without each other. He says this on his fourth scotch. And, he says, he still loves her. His friend says Charlie better stay away from the moon, then, if he’s really going to go through with it: tides change.

this need will see no end

Different men play different roles in Helen’s existence, she reflects as she watches Johnnie “twittering” his upcoming travels from his cell phone on her couch. Some themes in her love life are classical, others are more like television channels you flip by with the remote control or websites that you surf through.

this spell will change what you can see

Howard is a secret fan of Robert De Niro, and considers Travis Bickle to be one of the actor’s greatest roles. His approach to crime, so simple, so satisfyingly effective. Sometimes Howard will throw a line into a boring meeting, referring to a new optimized airport security infrastructure system measure for example as a mighty rain that’s gonna come and wipe the scum from the terminals.

this page will not turn

Among the various roles that time plays, in Anna’s experience, healing is not one of them.

this animal can think

Dave himself is neither racist nor homophobic nor isolationist nor particularly religious, but his candidates must play many roles, must be fishers of men who cast wide nets in order to catch enough voters to save the day.

Frequency: Be (ships)

BE (ships)

be still

Dave’s mother used to wake him and his sister with “Good morning Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea.” She’d bellow it up the stairs, and he was never quite sure what it meant, but it comforted him, even though he would almost always have rather stayed in bed.

be a man

Kent writes a check and ships some flowers and candy to his mother at the home and he’s feeling good enough about himself that he picks up the phone to promise a girl he met the night before sweet things if she’ll let him whisper nothings in her ear.

be of good form if you can

Anna with Susanne over Pringles and French onion dip tells her sister about the dream with the lifeboat and the disappearing people, how every time she blinks, another person is off the boat, and there’s never even a sound of a splash, just one less person on the boat, and the rescue ships always almost visible, just off beyond the imminent horizon, but never close enough, and Susanne holds her hand and nods and then says something cryptic involving strength and ancient Greek mythology. Anna wants to cry but instead she grips her sister’s hand tightly in her left hand and eats more Pringles with French onion dip with her right.

be with me again

Alone in the beautiful world, and all the ships at sea.

be many when one will not do

On a date Kent uses the phrase “when my ships come in.” When his date, a real estate agent named Melissa, corrects him, “You mean when your ship comes in,” he replies, “Sweetheart, I have no intention of stopping at just one boat.”

be not long away from home

Johnnie ships out of reality with a head full of psilocybin, thinking of home, and his mother, and oh how she burns.

be one of our people

Crazy suggestions, insane ideas, come up in some of these meetings. They were talking about the Cole incident and somebody suggested it might have never happened if they used better camouflage, that if they had painted the ships the color of the water, the terrorists might not have seen the boat in the harbor. Sometimes Howard wondered who these people were around him, and how they could possibly get away with selling all this shit. But the government was passing out money in great heaping baskets to people just like this paint salesman here, buckets of it for the taking.

be at one with the land

One by one Maggie ships her most treasured belongings off to old friends and family members, even people who have done her small kindnesses. She reviews her options, and considers a green burial, to be buried in a shroud in a small patch of woods near her hometown. It sounds sort of peaceful, and less grotesque than embalming.

be of help if you can

Jenny suggests that they go on a cruise to see Antarctica, and Dave points out that ships sink, that they might not only die in freezing cold water, but also despoil the nature she so loves by dumping tens of thousands of gallons of diesel fuel on the ocean floor. He’d rather do the hotel room in Manhattan or the beach in Bermuda. He has a way of spinning things darkly that doesn’t always appeal. She gives him a look that says he’s not getting any tonight.

be another if you can change

It’s not that the idea of a cruise bothers him. Dave doesn’t have anything against ships. But you can get all the same decadence in Vegas, with guaranteed good weather, and better floor shows. He tries to make a joke of it. He tries sometimes not to be cynical. He tries.

Frequeny: At (giant)

AT (giant)

at the time he was a boy

When he was a boy, Johnnie saw a film in which a group of adventurers were shrunk to a microscopic size in order to pilot a spaceship-like vessel through a human body. Sometimes Johnnie wishes he could shrink at will, to see the world from the perspective of a bug, or a one-celled organism, so that he could see everything giant and new again.

at home he was different

Johnnie had once been a quiet, even bookish, boy, for whom the world seemed like a giant playground, full of wonders. But then one day his vision went dark, and the world has never been the same since.

at play in a different world

Kent made giant strides, and found himself living in a house on the beach in Malibu that even a few years earlier he would have never dreamed he would be able to afford, entertaining neighbors to whom wealth had come casually and without effort, people who had never known hunger or fear. He loved to serve them lavish dinners, to light a cigar afterwards and reminisce about the old times, when he was poor and desperate.

at work we could see the change

Soon after she heard the news, Maggie’s career grew to feel like an exercise in futility, an endless run on a giant hamster wheel. She no longer cared if her team made quota, and she wondered why she ever had. Some people might respond by throwing themselves into their work, as if normality was all that they could cling to. Maggie decided to quit the first day somebody asked her if everything was ok. Of course she seemed distracted. Terminal illness has that effect on people.

at home we try to change our way

Charlie and Anna are trying to crack through a giant wall between them. Early indicators are positive. Working on the problems they share gives them something to do, something other than to remember or to regret.

at first she was kind

Charlie and Anna were drawn back together by a giant sense of shared guilt and regret for the moment which they both knew would define the rest of their lives, as much as they each wanted to deny it, if only because they would need to in order to survive. The ice between them started to thaw but slowly.

at this place we would try to make a go of it

At times it is unclear who is the predator and who is the prey. As the security apparatus develops and strengthens and unwinds, as lines are drawn in new sands, Howard can’t help but notice its gaping holes, and of course he too feels the sensation that we might very well lose control and get caught up in the giant web we spin from our fears.

at his word we take him

Anna loved Charlie, though she sometimes wondered if she could trust her instinct to pull him closer to her, or if her need to be with him now was simply borne of her own giant sense of desperation. Being alone with the guilt made her feel so isolated, so cold.

at the time he could still learn a thing or two

Charlie at 22 met Helen at 24 at a club in Greenwich Village. He was there to drop something off. She was there with friends. He was dressed up in a black suit and she wore a delicate perfume and a small black dress that left just enough to the imagination. They drank giant martinis and made small conversation, some of which was charming lies. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever or would ever see that night and later she taught him things, things he would never want or be able to forget.

at the water his will would give out

It comes and goes this grief. Charlie will be just fine for days then he’ll pass a lake, a pond, a stream, and a giant swell of it will rise up in him, and he’ll be gagging back a sob that throbs up through his gut, a storm of empty.

Frequency: I (unemployed)

I (unemployed)

I can only try

It could have been anything or anyone. An unemployed man, a homeless person. It could have been a toy floating in the water, beckoning. Her back was only turned for a couple of minutes, talking to a neighbor about sunscreen or something, and then he wasn’t there. She was on the antidepressants, and maybe that made her less aware. Or something. It could have been anything. He just wandered off. There was no screaming.

I will try to show you around

There were a few months there when Charlie was between things. While he was unemployed they spent some time at the beach cottage and he really felt like they bonded during that time, father and son.

I need to find a different place

Johnnie alternately describes himself as “a traveler,” “a searcher,” “a free spirit,” “a freelancer,” “a seeker.” He never describes himself as “unemployed, living off of a dwindling trust fund,” though if the truth were to be told, that’s exactly what he is.

I do not like the look of this

You know those people who find gold coins on the beach, or winning lottery tickets in the breeze? Johnnie is sort of the opposite of that. Unemployed, bleary-eyed, and hung-over, Johnnie can go to the most beautiful places in the world, only to find the ugliest scenes.

I have to go away from my home

While he is flush and unemployed, Johnnie stays on the run, driving his way from one coast to the other and back again, keeping on the road, stopping only for fuel, coffee, drugs, and one-night-stands. Just passing through.

I will think on it long

Howard had been fascinated by dioramas as a child, and one day while his mind was unemployed by the threat assessment in front of him, it occurred to him that terrorists might think of places as sorts of dioramas too, the humans so many figurines to be immobilized and frozen in time.

I will go down to the well again

They went back to the cottage six months later because the therapist suggested it might be cathartic. The island was all but abandoned, the unemployed beach covered in snow. They walked along the water and remembered the day.

I must ask for an answer

Howard sometimes thinks of the quiet toxicity of the Cold War, and how certain concepts, such as that of the thankfully unemployed neutron bomb, might have ever been thinkable. Then he thinks about IEDs and metal detectors at schools and wiretapping and waterboarding and other things. Then he gets back to work on a diagram of Jersey barriers to be installed in front of a Department of Education facility in Kansas City.

I will try your other number again

Charlie dials the number that he has kept unemployed, secreted in a sleeve of his wallet behind his Krispy Kreme card buy-ten-dozens-get-one-free card for so long. While he knows it would destroy Anna if she knew he still had this longing, certain desires are hard to let go of under any circumstances.

I am not who you think

As an entrepreneur, Kent considered himself to have never been unemployed, even when he was without gainful income. Sometimes he got the vibe from someone, say in a singles bar or a chamber of commerce meeting, that she or he though Kent was a fraud. Just because he thought outside the box. Just because he could think different. Where others saw nothing, Kent saw opportunities. That was his secret weapon.

Facebook Posts: 2007

December 2007
Scott updated his status.
is looking forward.
Scott updated his status.
went to a Norwegian literary critics’ debate and didn’t get all the jokes. Finns tell good jokes.
Scott updated his status.
went to a Norwegian literary critics debate and didn’t get all the jokes.
Scott updated his status.
ate lutefisk.
Scott updated his status.
is in Kristiansand to witness an oboecution.
Scott wrote on Adam Sol’s timeline.
A small whale, harpooned from a sheer cliff of a fjord, then eaten raw, in a berry sauce.
Scott wrote on Scott Hermanson’s timeline.
Yeah! Good to have the job security.
Scott updated his status.
is back in Bergen.
Scott updated his status.
is in Paris.
Scott wrote on The” Kill-an-Oboist” Concerto by Strauss’s timeline.
We promise to help Øyvind look after the barner if you don’t survive.
Scott updated his status.
is going to Paris for the weekend.
Scott updated his status.
is writing
Scott wrote on Irina Rasmussen Goloubeva’s timeline.
Scott updated his status.
is felt the baby kick.
November 2007
Scott updated his status.
is displeased that he spent most of the day tidying his hard drive, but happy with Leopard.
Scott wrote on your timeline.
Thanks, Deb. Really happy to have the job security. Now we can look for a house that will fit all four of us.
Scott updated his status.
is now got permanent tenured position at UiB whoohoo.
Scott updated his status.
is in Chicago.
Scott updated his status.
is going to Chicago for the weekend to eat turkey with family members followed by a wedding.
Scott updated his status.
is doin ELO stuff
Scott wrote on Scott Hermanson’s timeline.
Go Scott! I love the word count graph. Looks like you’re picking up speed.
Scott wrote on Talan Memmott’s timeline.
When you exchange those scotches, do actual bottles arrive in the mail? If so, I want in on it. Duty on booze in Norway is a killer.
Scott wrote on Irina Rasmussen Goloubeva’s timeline.
Good luck on your defense! Wish we could make it, but Jill and I will be thinking of you. Just remember, it’s all about the party afterwards. I’m hoping to be in Sweden in March. Hope to see you guys then.
Scott wrote on Špela Berlec’s timeline.
Happy B-Day. Wow, are you young! Do something foolish, you still can get it with it for a decade or so.
Scott updated his status.
is further on down the road but you know still in Norway.
Scott updated his status.
is teaching, etc.
Scott updated his status.
is preparing to watch television.
Scott updated his status.
is avoiding a deadline.
October 2007
Scott updated his status.
is has written 1200 lines of a 2000 line poem for a new project.
Scott wrote on Scott Hermanson’s timeline.
Hey you’re reading the Black Book too. What do you think of it?
Scott wrote on your timeline.
I am reading it, though it’s going slower than My Name is Red, which I liked quite a lot. Pamuk’s pretty good. I also recently finished What is the What? That was a good one — Eggers’ novel about a Sudanese refugee.
Scott updated his status.
is has writte 1000 lines of a 2000 line poem using only the 200 most common words in English, and not sure why.
Scott wrote on Elizabeth Losh’s timeline.
Happy Birthday, Liz, from rainy Bergen. Have a great one.
Scott wrote on your timeline.
Thanks, everybody, for the Bday greetings.
Scott updated his status.
is writing a 2000 line poem using only the 200 most common words in English, and not sure why.
Scott updated his status.
back in Bergen, contemplating the rain
Scott updated his status.
going to Oslo to get his passport fixed then to Geillo for some design conference.
Scott wrote on Eric Dean Rasmussen’s timeline.
Thanks for letting me know about the review — great piece.
Scott wrote on Megan Rettberg Smith’s timeline.
Want to play scrabble, sis?
Scott updated his status.
back in Norway, glad to be home, but now the rain has come and soon the dark begins.
Scott wrote on Eric Dean Rasmussen’s timeline.
How’s life in Sverige? Also, join Scrabulous, man, it’s what facebook is for.
Scott updated his status.
back in Norway, glad to be home, amazed it isn’t raining.
Scott wrote on Eric Dean Rasmussen’s timeline.
Are you now in Sweden?
Scott wrote on your timeline.
That’s what I’m there for, yes. And the Unknown reunion.
September 2007
Scott updated his status.
going to going to California with an aching in his heart for the GTA exhibition at the Beall Center.
Scott updated his status.
going to going to California with an aching in his heart for the GTA exhbition at the Beall Center.
Scott updated his status.
going to Audiatur 2007, and appreciating strange forms of poetry.
Scott updated his status.
back in Norway, has taught a class directly after spending 27 hours in airplanes and the world has that kind of edgy surreal jangly jetlagged edge to it now .
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where he has bonded with Kangaroos and will tomorrow return to the great wet north before heading to Los Angeles next week.
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where he is nearly over the jetlag and will soon visit kangaroos.
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where he has been “poked” and has no idea what one should feel when online “poked.” He retires, and parrots conspire to keep him awake.
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where has been “poked” and has no idea what one should feel when online “poked.” He retires, and parrots conspire to keep him awake.
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where has been “poked” and has no idea what it really feels like to be online “poked.” He retires, and parrots conspire to keep him awake.
Scott wrote on Alicia Guarracino’s timeline.
Hey happy Bday. I hope that you are experiencing the best that South Bend has to offer. As I recall, that includes chocolate and some Irish bar with cheap pints.
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where the weather isn’t really all the much different from Bergen, though the Indian Ocean is a lovely shade of azure. Nonetheless, he cannot help but
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where the weather isn’t really all the much different from Bergen, though the Indian Ocean is a lovely shade of azure.
Scott updated his status.
in Perth, where the weather isn’t really all the much different from Bergen, though the Indian Ocean is lovely azure.
August 2007
Scott wrote on Alicia Guarracino’s timeline.
That is, how is Notre Dame treating you — I see it’s a several year program. Enjoy the time to write, and tell Steve Tomasula I said hello.
Scott updated his status.
still in Norway.
Scott updated his status.
at the library

Frequency: They (distributed)

THEY (distributed)

they made us part

Anna could blame herself, and sometimes she does, though the accident was of course objectively not her fault. The blame could be distributed a thousand different ways. It is this diffusion that causes her so much pain.

they should learn to answer for what their men do

During his twenties, Charlie worked with an outfit that repossessed and resold automobiles. He mostly worked on the sales end of things. His customers had universally poor credit, and the whole business was somewhat predatory. But Charlie figured it was a matter of distributed risk. Some of his customers were able to make the note. Others were not so lucky.

they take away our home

As the subprime market started to falter, Kent was lucky enough and smart enough to move some of his assets to cash. Then there were a couple of foreclosure opportunities he couldn’t pass up. He figured his obligations were distributed over a long enough time frame that he could cash in on the downturn, rather than suffer from it along with the schmucks who got in over their heads without knowing what they were doing.

they are not kind to us

At a show in San Francisco, Roger meets an artist who has a theory that the repressed angers of people all over the world are distributed through natural forces and cataclysms of various kinds, a sort of Freudian Gaia hypothesis.

they come around and study us

Intelligent alien life forms, the dealer Johnnie buys hash from explains as he weighs out a couple of grams of Afghan blond, are distributed in extremely small ships in the upper atmosphere, using nanotechnology to record our every move. We are, the man claims, not really autonomous agents, but in fact some other species’ experiment. The reflective hulls of their ships are what’s actually to blame for the greenhouse effect.

they may let us live

When Howard has dreams, they often feature a beautiful, healed landscape, with a kind of distributed serenity, but utterly devoid of human beings.

they say this is kind

When he grows tired of the traffic and shopping mall culture or is feeling particularly entrapped, Dave loads some coastal webcams into his browser and indulges in the globally distributed idea of California that he rarely experiences in real life California.

they show their hand

Howard wonders if people really buy the nebulous idea that a shadowy network of distributed vigilance is protecting them. From what he’s seen, the whole apparatus is like a box full of Lego pieces from various sets, which no one has quite figured out how to assemble.

they take back all we make

Though they are together, they are alone together, physically proximate but psychically distributed from each other, bound primarily by their enduring sense of loss.

they do what no man would want them to

Though you can never say never, flight patterns are now distributed in such a way that no plane is likely to crash into the skyline of a major US city again. The fighter jets now have more than enough time to scramble, and you can bet no one will hesitate to shoot down a commercial airliner with terrorists onboard.

Frequency: His (psychological)

HIS (psychological)

his part in this is small

Howard always enjoys poker night with the boys from risk assessment. He rarely wins, but the psychological thrill of taking down an anxious actuary with real math skills cannot be overstated.

his animal will think on it

A psychological profile of Kent would describe a man who easily gives in to his impulses. Never call him Clark or he might put on a show.

his three men will come for you

Insofar as some of the people he had been associated with were involved in organized crime, Charlie’s experience of that world had been nothing like the Godfather or the Sopranos or any other of those stereotypes. They were businessmen. Threats, while real, were mostly psychological. He was not a made man or even an Italian, and this reflected in his work. Charlie had not ever been involved, for instance, in an actual murder.

his work will come to an end

Roger’s shift from being a “studio artist” to becoming a “site-specific artist” was mostly a psychological one, but it got him out and about more often.

his read on this is off the page

When his work took him to hostile environments, Howard always thought to check his own psychological state. Sometimes a crowd of teenage boys running down a road, for instance, is just a crowd of teenage boys running down a road. Other times, the same sensory input could yield a different response, and make Howard want to flee.

his turn is over

Terror is a context-sensitive psychological state. Something that seems innocuous, or even beautiful, in one context can seem a horrifying and deadly threat in another.

his house is not a home

At a certain point they both realized they would need some psychological help, some sort of mediation, to get through it, to shorten the distance between them, to survive.

his need to think is not great

Johnnie never obfuscated the purpose of his use of hallucinogenics. He never considered them “mind-expanding” substances, he simply wanted to use them periodically to alter his psychological state, to get “fucked up” in the sense of switching the television to a different channel he did not ordinarily subscribe to.

his sound did make us change

Johnnie had a type of psychological addiction to the club lifestyle. He was never a big dancer, but the music, the smoke, and all the bodies throbbing, put him into a sort of flow state, in which past and future didn’t seem to matter, present transcendent.

his first call did not bring us home

They went through with the funeral ceremony at the church, and though they did not believe in God, the ritual was itself a kind of cold comfort, a psychological ice-pack.

Frequency: With (dominated)

WITH (dominated)

with so little to show

It’s not as if Johnnie never had any ambitions. He did go to college for a while, and got some formal musical training. He’d had some good jobs too — for a while he’d had a union gig as a forklift operator. But he fucked that up just like he fucked up the band. He isn’t one to admit the extent of his internal turmoil, but his life is dominated by a kind of pain he can think of nothing but drugs to combat. He feels detached from his own body and mind.

with his good name off the page

In Thailand, in a safe place where he was sure none of his conservative clients would ever hear about it, Dave paid top dollar for the services of an exquisite professional who made him feel so dominated that he wept in the throes of it. He found it liberating, this giving in.

with the big picture in play

The San Diego real estate market was on fire. Kent turned three properties and made a half a million dollars in the space of year without putting so much as one penny down. He was no fool and he knew that someday it could all come crashing down, but he grew more confident with each successful deal. This was no time for risk aversion. This was a world dominated by high fliers, men who could pull the trigger. He hadn’t felt so high since the dot com boom went bust.

with the day away from us now

Charlie is on the platform, and the boy is on the train. The train is pulling away, and Charlie is dominated by overwhelming sense of powerlessness. He wants the boy back, off the train, safe in his arms, but he can’t move his arms. He can’t even wave goodbye.

with the spell over now

In Albuquerque, there is magical night with a painter he knew from college. The peyote makes them both see things they have never seen before: Johnnie feels dominated by something approaching love, for the land, for this girl, for this moment. But in the light of the day they both have headaches and feel strange around each other. She makes him chili-fried tofu and egg whites, but something has changed and soon it’s time to get back on the road. He can see her relief as he packs his things to go.

with one hand where I can see it

At a certain point Kent is working so many deals and dealing with so many terms and lines of credit that he has trouble keeping track of them. Balloons, ARMs, floating notes. But he never lets on that he doesn’t understand or lets himself feel dominated by the brokers. No chinks in his armor.

with the world up in the air

Anna’s dreams aren’t all bad. Sometimes she can fly. She stands at the edge of the roof of a tall building, dominated by the urge to leap and catch the wind. Knowing she can fly but hesitating in order to feel the breeze against her skin.

with a change in the point of his word

There were slip-ups between the birth and death of their child. Dominated by his desire to be with Helen again, if only briefly, Charlie allowed himself to change “never again” to “I will never permanently leave you,” and felt ok about it.

with no word to form

With the insurance money and the settlement from their parents and with the loving environment their aunt and uncle provided for them, with so many positive influences, Charlie had other options than to get mixed up with the kind of people he did in his twenties. It wasn’t that he needed the cash, more that he needed to feel like he was a part of what his friends were into. And the danger itself was a thrill. He was dominated by a kind of quiet but persistent tendency towards self-destruction he would be hard-pressed to explain, and he could hardly imagine a life without some degree of danger.

with people to study the answer

Her therapist thought the dream meant she felt dominated by forces beyond her control. Anna knew that they were paying their therapists largely just to restate the obvious, and she was ok with that. She just needed a safe place to talk.

Frequency: As (applies)

AS (applies)

as if you could tell me

Howard applies a certain skepticism to what he is told about the operation in Iran, as the information comes from someone who takes special pleasure in lording his security clearance over everybody else in the group. Know-it-all says that something big will happen there soon, though he won’t say what. Maybe he’s right. Probably he just watches the Sunday talk shows like everybody else.

as if these words could make you live

Roger applies for a grant to study the monumental art of ancient cultures, and he is shocked when he gets it, and so he finds himself expending precious fossil fuels flying across the ocean to find himself wandering among obelisks on well-tended greens. If they speak to him, he does not hear them, and they can’t explain what they mean. But they do inspire.

as I turn away from you

Helen applies some effort toward getting past her past, though she never really succeeds.

as we turn off a little more each day

Both Charlie and Anna understand that they are going through a pivotal period in their relationship, and as much as they both try, they move a little further away each day. Charlie applies for a new passport. He says it is for business, but they both know better.

as the spell would work no more

The blue dogs are running a hell of a campaign against his boy down in Georgia, so Dave applies some of the old tricks, using codewords for race and class, manufacturing some inconsistencies in the old boy’s service record, even digging up a few choice details from the divorce papers. He even works in the phrase “soft on homosexuals.” Still, they keep turning it back on him, and the polls don’t look good. Once those dogs got sink their teeth in they don’t let go.

as you see oil and water

Somehow Johnnie ends up driving Anna to the rehearsal dinner, and the old awkwardness between them still applies. She knew he thought she was backing Charlie into formalizing their bond, tenuous now as it had ever been, and he knew she thought he was probably hopped up on coke or something worse. At least one of them was right.

as a new hand would try to move us

Helen applies for a marketing job at Google and the interview goes well. The hours are long, but the options are satisfying, and there’s a luxury bus with wireless that picks her up in front of her house every morning, and she joins a company tai chi group that instills a new sense of harmony.

as we see each other even now

Maggie applies for an experimental treatment a specialist recommends, but she’s already ruled out the most exhaustive chemo regimen as an endgame. She doesn’t want to spend the last of her days hairless and nauseated. She doesn’t want to put that on her friends, or on her father. Some days takes the likelihood of her immanent death surprisingly calmly, preferring a quick exit to a prolonged sickness. Other days she wants to tear a hole in the world and sneak right out of it.

as you turn away from me

Howard applies for a transfer out of the bioterrorism unit after only a couple of months on the job. The ambiguity and the magnitude of the threats are just too much for him to deal with logically, and the enthusiasm with which some of the people on his team discuss disease just creeps him out.

as we think and turn it over

Kent flips the condo and applies for another mortgage, and is fucking amazed at how little collateral he actually needs to have to get it, even with his shaky credit history. They don’t even bother to check.

Frequency: Sort of a Project (Description) in Progress

A friend recently emailed to ask me what the hell I’m doing on my blog. A first tentative stab at explaining my plans for Frequency:

It started out as a poem using a list of 200 of the most common words in the English language (from an arbitrary list found online at, which is not necessarily accurate), each word serving as the first word of ten lines, and each line using only the words from the list. I was going to do a combinatory Flash thing with that. But then I decided to add a couple of other constraint components, turn it into a novel, and maybe skip using Flash (or not, I’m still not sure). I’m using the 100 most common flickr tags and downloading 20 creative commons photos marked for each tag. The prose texts each include a single word from a sequence, according to wordcount (, of the most commonly used English words beginning in order from the word “frequency.” The prose texts are meant to respond in some way to both the photo and the line of the poem they will go with. I think that that user will navigate by selecting any word in each given line of the poem, which will take them to one of the ten lines that begin with that word (either via a random link or I may let the reader choose which line from a dropdown menu under each word). On each given page, the poem text and the photo will appear, and the prose text will be read as audio (and probably will also be visible with a mouse-over on the photo). So in terms of the narrative, the presentation will be completely nonlinear (or nonchronoogical) and arbitrary, though the poem text will have a kind of logic to it, as the lines will come in a kind of chain (the next line will always begin with the last word chosen). Anyway, it’s ballooned from an idea for a project that I thought I could get done fairly quickly to a 2000 segment poem/fiction/image project that will take me some months to complete. I’m posting the sequences (sans images) on my site, mainly because it’s forcing me to read and revise them as I go, and also so that I have some sensation of progress as it comes along (and so that the couple of people who read this site and aren’t spambots can, well, read something — there ought to be some reward for being human and reading at the same time). The way that I’m writing this is a bit different from other new media projects that I’ve done, in that I’m separating out the design/layout from the writing. First the words, then the rest of it.

Some things I’m interested in exploring in Frequency include:

  • an obviously constrained writing practice that nonetheless results in a coherent narrative.
  • a hypertext intended to deliver multiple fragmentary but coherent reading experiences in multiple reading sessions.
  • the idea of the collective (un)conscious — will a text derived in part from the words most often used and in part from the tags that people most often choose to put on their photographs in some way reflect a collective consciousness (or not)?
  • a Creative Commons fiction. I’ll be releasing the work under a CC non-commercial attribution license — the same one as I’m getting the photographs under — and I’ll encourage people to remix the work under the same license.
  • a story that is also a separate but related poem.
  • the idea of “atomistic fiction” — in some ways this is a continuation of a thread that Nick and I were exploring in Implementation — the idea of writing a novel that both “works” in whole and is composed of distinct “narrative moments” that can be isolated from each other.
  • creating a work that could be delivered in different ways (and in different formations) in different platforms. The blog draft, the more complete eventual online version, a print book, and I’d like to be able to read it in some fashion on my mobile phone or iPaq.
  • a weird fun word game I can play every day for a good long while that is more fun than a crossword and more productive than Scrabble.
  • And well, contemporary America in the late age of fear, of course.

I’m not sure I’ll successfully address all these things, and given that I’m only 14% done with the fiction texts, I hope it doesn’t get boring before it ends, but anyway, that’s what I’m up to here now. Any of the above may change. Who knows? I’m hoping to use some of the upcoming research time in Chicago to put a further dent in it, but I’ll likely be working on it interspersed with other research things (articles, ELO projects, and the ahem, academic book) well into next year.

Frequency: Are (violent)

ARE (violent)

are you many in number

When Howard has nightmares, they frequently feature violent, unstoppable invasions, swarms of creatures both alien and familiar.

are we your people

Anna’s family encourages her to go to church, saying that it will bring her comfort, and so they both go a few times, feeling lost and willing to try anything. The ritual itself is calming but Anna grows queasy when she thinks of a deity so capable of beauty and nonetheless so arbitrary, so violent.

are those we put down still part of us

Anna develops horribly violent associations between blood and bodies of water.

are they even men

Howard’s tasks, and those of thousands of others like him, seem like an incredibly Sysiphusian way to combat an invisible, violent, and omnipresent threat, so many drops in a bucket the size of an ocean.

are you here to give me my end

Truth be told, Johnnie loved driving under the influence of certain drugs. He loved a lot of dangerous things. He didn’t want to hurt anybody, though he was nearly sure he’d someday come to a violent end. The woman he was with was moaning, and Johnnie had one hand on the wheel, one hand in her moistness. He was thinking about death and driving fast to another night in another city.

are you part of the answer

For some strange reason, men had been fighting over Helen ever since she was a teenage girl. It was nice to feel wanted, but she never liked watching two guys resort to a violent confrontation over a part of herself that neither one of them would ever really touch.

are you more than animal

Certain security measures are violent in their impact both on the human psyche and on the devastated landscape, denying both humanity and environment presupposed natural rights.

are you mean or kind

Dave sighed whenever they gave him that garbage about running a clean campaign. He was always quick to remind the softer candidates that nice guys finish last, that politics is a violent contact sport. Save the world after you get into office. Right now it’s eat or be eaten.

are you through with your America now

In Anna’s dream, the barbershop is a violent place. The pole out front drips with blood, and the barber is after more than a quick trim.

are they still my people

Among Charlie’s friends are several men who have come to violent ends. Some fell from the top of a building. Some jumped of their own free will. Some others might have been pushed.

Frequency: On (medicine)

ON (medicine)

on that little can be said

Anna took the pills the doctor prescribed, while Charlie’s medicine was mostly scotch and a few other bad habits he had nearly left behind.

on this thing I can say little

At the anthrax seminar Howard reflected that satellite images of major cities have a similar abstract quality to macro images of diseased organs. Howard watched Powerpoint presentations about impossible distributions of medicine and supplies. Howard imagined an army of nurses in HAZMAT suits dispatched across the metropolis like an astronaut invasion.

on the day of the end I will form a still point

Johnnie decided to leave Los Angeles the day that he saw some kid on meth pummel another kid nearly to death over a vial of ADHD medicine in the back of a nightclub. The band didn’t stop playing and nobody jumped in to stop it, not Johnnie, who was feeling the wall for textures at the time, as some girl from Raceida had her hand under his shirt, feeling his chest hairs and playing with his nipples. What frightened Johnnie later was how beautiful it all seemed to him at the time.

on his picture she just put her hand

The medicine numbed her, but did not stop her from weeping for several weeks after it happened. Not hysterical sobbing, but tears just the same. When she was done crying, she would just caress the boy’s picture, or stare off into space.

on my word we will follow you down

Bush’s rhetoric aside, they hadn’t found Bin Laden down any rabbit holes, and Saddam’s hanging was a circus sideshow, hardly the kind of medicine they needed. Just more to hate.

on his hand he could write a line or two

Those couple of months when he was hitting the medicine pretty hard, Charlie saw Jacob’s ladder just about everywhere he turned.

on the day your boy would part from you

The medicine affected Anna’s dreams. They were no less terrifying, just slower. The circus clown with the child’s mirror, lethargically dabbing on the pancake, contemplating what he would take from her next as he painted on his maudlin grin.

on your word

Dave was an agnostic, but he supposed if there was a hell for PR men, he’d just have to get in line and take his medicine.

on her need would he try his kind hand

Sometimes Dave and Jenny got into playing roles. The doctor administering the dose of medicine. The detective and the prostitute. The vice-principal and schoolgirl. Sometimes edgier things. Very kinky stuff they got into.

on word and form he would set his answer down

Roger said that the inspiration for his installation “morgue wall” came to him while he doped up on cough medicine, watching a documentary on television about amputees coming home from the war.

Frequency: For (qualified)

FOR (qualified)

for you I would write a page

Dave felt fully qualified to spin even the most embarrassing of personal failings into a two or three point bump in the polls. If Bill Clinton taught us anything, it’s that Americans love contrition.

for your mean hand would be still

Dave paid interns to pick through garbage left in dumpsters behind the enemy’s campaign headquarters. That qualified as academic research, in his book.

for even little men have their part in change

Howard understood that sacrifices have to be made for security far more than he understood what qualified as irony.

for us I would think and long

Both Anna and Charlie spent far more time than their therapists thought they should choosing the grave site and struggling with the few words the space on the stone allowed to sum up the all-too-brief life of their child. At a certain point it had become a morbid kind of self-indulgence, but it qualified as a kind of bonding, in a way.

for time will form a different picture than your own

At a certain point in his career as an artist, Roger was both uncomfortable describing himself as an artist, given the modesty of successes, and yet also deeply certain that he was not qualified to be anything else.

for each man will go down the same

Howard was too surrounded by the fear to let it bother him very much, but he couldn’t avoid doing calculations as he walked down the street of any major city. Which building qualified as a target, how many causalities one could expect given the worst case scenario. It was not paranoia, just a kind of heightened awareness of possible outcomes.

for our people we found little here

Johnnie’s career as a musician never really qualified as a job or as a calling for that matter. Johnnie was into Rock and Roll because it was the easiest way to justify his attitude, and he didn’t stick with it for too long.

for air we must live on

Helen was well qualified as an interior designer, and she had a good sense of wide open spaces. She looked for light, air, and spaces that didn’t feel enclosed.

for we must change and move on

Helen had never qualified a relationship as serious. She never expected it to last, and wasn’t really sure if she wanted it to.

for she went out and the day went down

Maggie, who in the past qualified mornings almost exclusively in terms of drivetimes and lattés, finds herself putting time into sunrises, the cacophony of birdsongs, the feeling of the cool mist on her skin, slowly and gently warming.

Frequency: Was (automatically)

WAS (automatically)

was a time before will be one after

Though he was automatically sardonic, Roger never gave up on his capacity for wonder. He was not religious or even spiritual, but he had what you might call petty epiphanies about his life, the world, nature, marketing, gum flavors and so on. He had revelations in the strangest places. He would see something in a suburban cul-de-sac or a shopping mall parking lot that just took his breath away.

was a picture you could see us in

When she first heard the news, Maggie didn’t weep, though she didn’t move from the couch for nearly two days afterwards. She sat there knitting, almost automatically, her thoughts out there somewhere away from her body, away from her life and all she knew. The needles, the sound, the rhythm, the making of something soft, textile, durable.

was such a good show back then

At any sort of railing, Johnnie automatically thinks of jumping, if only for a moment. He never actually leaps.

was men who made us part

Johnnie and Charlie both loved Ed and Mable dearly. Ed and Mable died in a hotel fire when Johnnie and Charlie were ten and thirteen. The fire it turned out was arson, insurance fraud. Both the boys were scarred for life, though they were nowhere near that seaside hotel where the conflagration occurred. Even when he’s completely zonked on downers in some strange place, Johnnie automatically checks for fire exits.

was air between us

On the street Anna finds herself automatically reaching for his tiny hand, never to find it, never to touch.

was his name she would think of

Somehow every time she moved, even halfway across the country, Helen almost automatically found herself a new steady boyfriend, almost always the same type of man, without even trying, without even thinking. Absurd, really. And at some point she would inevitably slip up and call him Charlie.

was the house our place a land

Howard automatically drops a Euro in the busker’s case, though he doesn’t want to stick around to hear the story written in the old man’s face.

was little we could want for

Christmas displays fascinate Roger. Something about the consumerist impulse to automatically generate wonder through the consumption of electricity and plastic models of mythical figures has a great deal of appeal to him. The more over-the-top the better. Call him a vulgar American. Of course he wanted to go to Disney World. He always wants to go to Disney World.

was another before you came

Anna’s expression automatically sours at the mere mention of Helen. Johnnie was usually the one to mention her, as if the old wounds had simply healed and gone away. He had a sadistic streak in him, Johnnie did.

was a long time back America was different

Howard automatically feels a twinge of guilt every time he orders a new delivery of Jersey barriers, whether in front of an embassy or in the blighted cityspaces back home. Security aesthetics are brutal.

Frequency: He (Anna)

HE (Anna)

he will read the letter

Anna had certain desires, and they were not all easily described. There was something that she wanted to recapture, even if she wasn’t sure they had it to begin with. Some things she could make clear, such as her need for security, her need to be secure in him, and to have a sense that they still had a future together. A desire to see a way out of it. A desire to know that she is not alone.

he will form a point

Anna knew that the topic was dangerous, but she also knew that he would not leave her. He would not leave her because of what they shared. They both tossed and turned at night, with the same beautiful memories, the same horrific dreams.

he will help when he can

Anna’s nightmares are more symbolic than Charlie’s. She sees strange omens, disappearing men, cast off garments hanging in sky. He is more of a literalist: a drowning boy, variations on the same, over and over again.

he can go away again

Anna and Charlie had been through the Helen issue before, more than once. She knew that he loved Helen in a different way than he loved her, but not a better way, and that if he felt lost enough, he might simply wander off again.

he must not part from her

Anna sometimes dreams of limbs without bodies.

he will follow you down

Anna sometimes wishes she had the strength to cut and run. She tires of being the one who always has to hold it together.

he will come in time

Anna is embarrassed by her own need to need to be saved, by the thing in her that always feels like it is falling.

he is not here now

Anna’s dreams of childhood toys are always somehow monstrous.

he will be old and with time will follow

Anna reads with jealousy of tropical birds that mate for life.

he has so little here now

Anna knew that he was nearly as lost as his brother, devastated by all that they had lost when they were just boys, and now this. And her alone to anchor him, just when she needed him to be her strength.

ELO Meetup and E-Lit Conference Guide for the 2007 MLA Conference

ELO Meetup at the MLA

As we have for the past several years, we are planning an informal meet-up for people affiliated with or interested in the Electronic Literature Organization at this year’s MLA conference. This year, we are planning on meeting at the “Big Bar” at the conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency, after the “Electronic Literature: Reading, Writing, Navigating” panel, from 5-6 PM on Friday, December 28th. We plan to converge on the bar and have a drink or two. Afterwards, for those who would like to continue the conversation and take advantage of the world’s best deep-dish pizza, we’re reserving some tables at a nearby restaurant. If you’re only planning on joining us for a drink, just show up at the Big Bar at 5PM. If you want in on the pizza, please send an email to Stefanie Boese (sboese2 at uic dot edu), indicating how many people plan to attend and your preference for sausage, spinach, or mixed vegetarian pizza. We’ll put the order in ahead, so we won’t have to wait long in the restaurant to eat. We will “go dutch,” splitting the bill evenly and paying in cash.

Electronic Literature & Related Panels at the MLA 2007

This year’s convention features several panels (“New Reading Interfaces,” “Electronic Literature: Reading, Writing, and Navigating,” and “Electronic Literature: After Afternoon”) that are explicitly focused on electronic literature, and several that are more tangentially related to the subject. Below is a mini conference guide focused on e-lit.Continue reading

Frequency: It (determination)

IT (determination)

it was then that she went to him

Maggie thought often of her mother, an immigrant and survivor, who had lived with such strength and determination, but had died so comparatively young.

it could change the world

Maggie had once been a farm girl, a 4H-er who had won prizes for gargantuan vegetables and fatted calves. She thought back on that girl, so full of energy and determination, and she loved that earlier self in a way that was more melancholic than narcissistic.

it is more picture than word

Howard tries to avoid feeling cynical about his work, though he would be a fool not to. He attempts to find some reserve of determination in the fact that the sacrifices that others are making in the name of the same cause are so much more profound, and so much more senseless, than his own.

it made us part

In spite of his determination and resolve, Charlie could not shake the image from his head. He slept less and less, spent more time at work, smoked like a chimney.

it would work in the end

We simplify and mythologize the lives of previous generations. We admire their determination and Technicolor optimism. We dress like them at costume parties, listen to their music, and make their fashions new again. We grow warm with false memories, with imaginary nostalgia. We make-believe that their lives were ever so much simpler than our own infinitely complex duration.

it is good to be home again

Ralph and Maggie spent the night going through the box of things her mother had preserved from her own childhood. Maggie admired the determination on the face of her grandmother, readying the family for the journey to a new world. She hugged her father in the warmth of the flickering firelight.

it could turn out to be different

With hard work and determination, they could make it work, they could get past it this time, they could have a family again and do all those things that normal people do to feel happy together, whatever those things are.

it is a mean sentence

Roger pretended that the reviewer’s determination that his work was “austere, cold, and lifeless” did not bother him, but in reality, he found himself torn between a kind of infinite resignation and a desire to tear the man limb from limb.

it was not my place

Dave’s sister’s determination was that his gift to the nephew had been too extravagant. He had shown up his lily-livered brother-in-law and somehow exacerbated tensions. Extravagant. The christ. The damn thing wasn’t even new, he got it used on eBay. Poor kid would end up even more fucked up than his bible-beating parents if they kept it up was Dave’s humble opinion.

it could come from water or the air

Howard’s group had arrived at the determination that another horrific attack on the homeland was an actuarial certainty. The question was not if but how and when it would occur.

Frequency: That (relation)

THAT (relation)

that animal like us

She had the strangest dreams in relation to children, and thought that perhaps they might try again later.

that long day will come

Sometimes Anna would catch a glimpse of a family enjoying what seemed to be a perfect moment, and contrast that image in relation to her own experiences of family life, which were never perfect, if not always completely fucked up.

that look will not help you

The darkest of Maggie’s dreams during that period were in relation to clowns wearing absurd disguises. The treatment of her body had begun to make her feel that everything she had valued in her life before was just another layer, easily peeled off and cast aside. She was afraid of what might be underneath.

that you will take to the air

Their relation would always be strained by their mutual desire for a kind of innocence they had never really shared to begin with.

that word does not mean much

Johnnie smokes a pack a day. He has little concern about health risks and things of that nature. Death doesn’t really concern him. In fact he has little to say in relation to his personal future in general.

that is all what can be said

He had no time for the weekly religious rituals of his aunt and uncle. He went sometimes to please them, but thought church was cold comfort given what God had done to them. In relation to religion, the adult Charlie retained almost nothing except for an odd affection for the song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” which for some reason had comforted him as a child.

that is your long day

Maggie’s relation to time was starting to change. As she contemplated death, she thought more and more often of her childhood, and she began to wonder if her adulthood had been anything but an aftermath.

that picture may part men

Charlie eventually followed advice and sought out the assistance of a therapist in relation to the nightmare that he could not shake. Always the same image, and nothing he could do to stop the water from coming.

that my people call oil

Howard was pragmatic in relation to matters of environmental consciousness. He acknowledged that many of the interests he traveled the world trying to help secure were actually oil interests, but they overlapped with human interests in a variety of ways, in that the outcome, or at least the goal, was the preservation of human life. His sister gave him grief about all his work-related globe-trotting at Thanksgiving, so he started buying carbon credits to cover his jet fuel guilt.

that could be your number

For a period Anna saw everything in nature as in relation to the death of their child. There were a few months when she couldn’t go for a walk without bursting into tears. A cracked robin’s egg, a dead rat, a fallen leaf, roadkill, you name it.