Great presidential moments

I think I’ll remember two things about the Bush administration. First, the great moment of hubris just after the Iraq Invasion when he landed on the aircraft carrier in San Diego announcing to the world: Mission Accomplished. Second, his pathetic address to the world in early October this year that the world financial system was like a house of cards. He was right about his second assertion. Too bad he didn’t give a shit before the house fell down. Of course, when you are a crony capitalist, things always seem to go right for you.

Published in: on December 27, 2008 at 4:23 am  Leave a Comment  

Busted beyond repair?

The best part of the 2008 US elections are that they are over. The Republicans comapaigned on the usual issues: abortion, gun control, tax cuts for the rich, deregulating everything, toughness on terrorism, Obama’s a Commie, etc. Yawn. Obama campaigned on change. Yawn. (Just for the record I consider Obama a right centrist from my left wing orientation.) Of course, the bigger issues were the excesses and consequences of global capitalism, The Iraq War, US foreign policy, not just terrorism, and who gets the spoils from the oil fields in Iraq if the US should occupy and dominate the country for decades.

Now, that we no longer have Bush, the worst president ever, what will happen? After eight years of Republicans breaking everything, what can be done to fix some of them?

Published in: on December 26, 2008 at 3:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

Drunk on cheap interest rates

Today’s NY Times has a nice succinct article on the US economic relationship to China and the latest financial bubble. See Chinese Savings Helped Inflate American Bubble.

Published in: on December 26, 2008 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Holidays

The mighty State Street system has been down for almost a week because of modem problems. But now we are back and we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Published in: on December 25, 2008 at 12:29 pm  Comments (4)  

Oh, you play chess

I was sitting in the bar last Saturday afternoon. I was intently studying a chess position on my pocket chess set. A woman sitting across the bar from me came over and startled me by asking if I was OK. I said, yes, why do you ask? She said you looked so intense I thought something might be wrong. I showed her my pocket chess set and explained I was studying a position in one of my Internet games. We hit it off pretty well after that and we plan to go on a date sometime.

You would not think women would be interested in a guy sitting in a bar and playing with a pocket chess set by himself, but I have struck up many good conversations with attractive women because of it, and I have some good phone numbers arising from it too. You never know when chess might lead to romance.

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 1:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Romance and the immortal game

Towards the end of November I was sick of chess. Then my chess addiction overwhelmed me again. For me, something mystical and almost spiritual grabs me when playing before sunrise while I am still in my jams and slippers and I am drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The loneliness I felt before falling asleep fades. The sun rises. The construction workers begin work across the street. Until then, I am oblivious to everything except the board.

I’m studying a game I am playing right now where I am about to go a pawn up leaving me with a passed pawn of my own in the center of the board. The strategy seems simple: protect that pawn and move it down the board to get a queen. Other games I am playing are not so clear. The possible combinations of moves seem beyond my intellect, imagination, and control.

My pocket chess remains my constant companion. It along with my iPhone guarantee me a game no matter where I go. Whether I play or not, I derive comfort from knowing I could.

I am starting to enjoy analyzing the games I’ve lost. They seem like failed romances and lost loves. I may have lost, but I was once there in the heart of the game. I recall the opening moves when anything seemed possible. Most of the time, I do not outright blunder, but make a series of less than best moves. Then my intuition kicks in. I feel I am going to lose before I actually spy the event. Then the eventual opponent’s move that beats me appears from the mist. I know intellectually the game is over before she makes the move. I hope she does not see, but she does.

Chess lends itself to metaphors for warfare, morality, and romance. Beyond its extreme intellectual challenge, chess excites the imagination because of these metaphors. One goes beyond the struggle to master the space and time and value inherent in the game.

I think chess players are all partly romantics even though it is a game that computer programs have now mastered beyond humans’ ability to beat them. The computers play the game differently than the human mind. They play a game of sophisticated mathematical calculation while humans play a game of geometric patterns bolstered by unconscious metaphors. Chess players are not afraid of failed romances, for they are romantics and many romantics enjoy the suffering caused by lost loves.  If chess was only cold calculation for humans, they would not play it.

I am thankful for chess these cold late Autumn days. A new game always awaits. Hope always attends the opening moves. Victory just might be possible if only I get it right this time.

Published in: on December 18, 2008 at 11:56 am  Leave a Comment  

No care

Wrote some in the morning. What does it matter if you are not a writer?

Played chess the rest of the day in various venues and formats. Blew every care from my mind

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  


From The Red and the Black:
Chapter Nineteen
Thinking Leads to Suffering
“Everyday events are so grotesque they keep you from seeing the very real misfortunes of our passions,” Barnave

Even the chapter titles and quotations blow me away.

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 4:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Great or Petty Vanity

Are there any Great Books? For some reason, people passionately debate the issue. I believe there are Great Books. Would one study philosophy without first consulting Plato about problems? How would we engage in our philosophical discourses without the philosophical canon, unless we had the peculiar brilliance of a Wittgenstein?

The Red and the Black is a Great Novel. The translation of it I’m reading is a Great Translation. Two assertions with no argument to prove them. Yet they are more than feelings.

Are there Great Loves? Yes. She loves me and I love her passionately and without remorse of any kind. We cannot and will never be together as we wish. The brief moments I spend with her leave me with more longing than I previously imagined possible.

Reading a book I style as Great, leaves me with a longing to write, which surely must be as silly a desire for an old man as wanting the love of a young woman. I see wanting to write as a petty (or Great?) vanity I refuse to relinquish, for my friends are exactly correct: I am not a writer and never will be. It is merely an affectation and excuse for haughty indolence. I must simply wake one morning and tell myself I won’t write much during the day, or better yet, not at all. It is better to read a Great Book than scribble.

People like me best when I don’t speak. Wanting someone’s approbation through silence and accepting that that is all there is for me, seems kind of ugly. But I grow tired of fighting and resenting. From here on when people ask me what I do, I will tell them I read books, the Great Books in particular. People will think me a fool, but it is better than saying I try to write each morning.

Of course, I’m not ready to give up this blog. Writing and blathering are two entirely different things.

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

An order

The sky nothing but blue. A radio station playing Baroque music in the background. I think of those long ago lost days when I was young and in the Marine Corps. I don’t look back with pride or regret. Most days, back then, I had orders and duties to perform. Life seems simpler then if not easier. Today, I have no guidance or orders, except one. My heart tells me to love her. I must obey or be nothing at all.

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 11:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Dinner 2008

We were having Christmas(?) dinner. She mentioned in passing that I was not really a writer since I had never been published. She’s the last of my friends to tell me so. Quite frankly, I am glad that they have all officially told me.

Here’s the deal though. Tomorrow morning, I’m going to write. By noon, I’m going to feel good about it. I will have lived my dream.

I hope everybody has a nice day living theirs.

Published in: on December 12, 2008 at 1:59 am  Leave a Comment  


Last night, I started reading Burton Raffel’s recent translation of Stendahl’s The Red and the Black. It seemed almost an entirely new and better book from the first translation I read of it. I am an imperceptibly different person since I read it the first time. The text tempts me more. Desire takes hold.

My writing in the morning goes better than it has since summer began. It burdens me less and is no longer loathsome. The way I feel about my writing too often mirrors the way feel about myself. Some days, I absolutely need the writing to go well.

My feelings about reading and writing go hand in hand too. Neither work well unless they work well together. I recall reading Stendahl’s Charterhouse of Parma several years ago. I made several attempts to get into it, but always found it silly. Then the love story captured my imagination. I couldn’t put it down until I finished and even then I was tempted to immediately start reading it again. I recollect those days with Stendahl were days of good writing.

I am returning to a place I like: writing in the morning with a sense of peace and tranquility and purpose. Then reading a good book after the writing is done. The construction work on the new building across the street does not disturb me. The pounding almost comforts me as an antidote to a silence I do not want.

For me, writing means writing lots of words I must eventually throw away. I guess that is why I like writing this blog, even though I regret much of what I have written. I move on each day to a destination unknown. Writing intensifies and mutes desires in an almost contradictory manor. I don’t worry much about throwing words away.

At this time, I want to objectify rather than feel much at all. The passions are something to be studied rather than lived.

Anyway, the morning’s been spent. The petty challenges of the afternoon and evening await me. Then tomorrow comes with another couple of challenges. But after that…

Published in: on December 11, 2008 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hyperbolic geometry

Siittng in Tempo, reading Spinoza’s Ethics Part III, studying some hyperbolic geometry too, I discover I am exactly where I want to be.

Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 11:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Meanwhile I was still thinkin’

Alone last night, sitting in Tempo drinking coffee and eating French Toast, I tried to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. It occurred to me go back to plan A. Be a well respected published writer.

So, this afternoon I rummaged through one of my closets until I found the college geometry book I wrote at El Ranchero in 1993. I’m going to rework it next year. It will be so quirky and strange it will be pretty.

The writing mission upon me once again feels good. My experience has been that when you find something you really want to do, things get a lot easier.

Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 6:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

The second draft

I think I mentioned I wrote the first draft of a novel earlier this year.  Actually, the first draft seems as if it wrote itself for it is an alien work to me now.  However, I am plugging away at the second draft.  The first draft was written in the third person omniscient.  I am changing the second draft to first person, which basically means changing everything in the manuscript.  I only have the energy to work on it early in the morning before sunrise, then only for an hour or two.  After that, I feel spent the rest of the day.

I will not quit on this exercise though.  It started as a labor of love when I wrote the first words in a white hot fever.  It has turned into a philosophical exercise now.  I read a comment by W. G. Sebald that fiction in modern times should be written in the first person or risk being inauthentic, or something to that effect.  The comment fits well with my current emotional state.  These days, pretending to be objective seems a cheap trick, a trick that will fool nobody.

There is something almost mathematical about working on the second draft of a novel.  During the second draft the novel emerges from the womb.  Let’s face it, idle vanity produces the first draft.  One drifts and dreams and says anything merely for the pleasure of hearing one’s voice speaking, if only into a silent void.  During the second draft, one must make sense of the emotional content of the material, tame it, and control it.  I’m always reminded of Part III of Spinoza’s Ethics when working on the second draft of a novel, for even emotions, desires, and passions force their logic upon us like a good piece of mathematics does.  One can be unruly, yet not too so.

I would much rather have spewed something other than this post.  But this is what I have.  Like the second draft of a novel my back seems against the wall today.  I went home feeling abandoned and alone last night.  The feeling remains.  But why shouldn’t it?  I have spent another morning with my words.  The babble depresses me.  These cold short overcast days seem as if they have no end.  Maybe, I am fooling myself that they ever will.  Darkness comes from the soul.

Published in: on December 9, 2008 at 12:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

Southern wind

You can feel it.  A southern wind blows in.  After these past few frigid days, it ts welcome.  I don’t want to freeze this hard this early in the year as I have the psst two days.  I love the heat.

And life goes on.

Published in: on December 8, 2008 at 2:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Some football

Sitting at the bar on a Saturday night. About to watch the Oklahome vs. Mizzu football game. I’ve got Mizzu and 17 points for some whipout cash. Then there are the drunk out-of-town chicks. But that will be later maybe.

Published in: on December 6, 2008 at 8:13 pm  Comments (2)  

You say it best …

I’m sitting on Sandy’s couch. She is passed out in bed–totally drunk. No, we did not have sex.

Her boyfriend did not take it well when she told him about the job in Dallas. I guess he totally flipped out. I did my best to listen to her about the whole ordeal, but she was not making sense. I thought the best way to console her was to not say anything, just listen.

I guess I’ll get off her couch, stop watching her TV, and go home. After all, there’s nothing else to listen to.

You say it best when you say nothing at all.

Alison Krause

Published in: on December 6, 2008 at 12:45 am  Leave a Comment  

Sandy is going to Dallas

Five AM and I’m huddled beneath the comforter after just waking. My cell phone lying on the bed stand rings. It is Sandy, my pet name for her that nobody else knows, who lives in my building. I have not had a call from her in over a year.

“Are you awake? she says.


“Come up and keep me warm for awhile,” she says.

“OK, let me brush my teeth.”

I go up to her place in my jams. She answers the door wearing her bathroom and nothing else. We go to her warm bed and make love.

Afterwards, lying next to each other, she says, “this might be the last time.”

“What is going on?” I say.

“I think I am moving to Dallas for a new job.”

“What does your boyfriend think of that?”

“I haven’t told him. We aren’t going anywhere together anyway.”

“I’ll miss you,” I say, even though we have shared little except sex.

“You’ll miss the sex.”

“Yes, but I will miss you too,” I say.

“I have to get ready for work,” she says.

“I’ll let myself out. Call me and tell me what you decide,” I say.

“Sure,” she says as she heads to her shower.

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tempo, dreams, and reality

I sat in Tempo restaurant tonight,shortly before midnight, just around the corner from where I live. The place was mostly deserted and quiet. I ate breakfast and drank coffee. But most of all, I read a novel. Lost in it actually. It reminded me of a time when it was a place called El Ranchero back in the Nineties. I would go in there on Sunday afternoons with Euclid or Newton and study them while sipping margaritas at a corner table on the State Street side. That was after I broke up with the girlfriend I left my wife for. Those afternoons were a dream. Dreams and reality mixed back then as they do now as they have not for a long time.

Tempo was across the street from El Ranchero back then. Tempo took over El Ranchero, remodeled it, then they tore down the old Tempo building and put a parking lot there.

Tonight I read a novel for a good long spell, drank coffee, and got lost. When I pulled my head away from my book, I thought about those cold January and February days way back when–alone with Euclid and Newton–those days when wondered if I would ever fall in love again, or even cared.

Published in: on December 3, 2008 at 1:10 am  Leave a Comment  


A friend recently rebuked me for playing chess against the computer, she saying it was a worthless activity. However, I just beat a computer program playing at reasonably high level, a level I had not beaten it at before. I did it with a good pawn attack against the kingside, a rook sacrifice to open up the king’s defense, and finding the right mating combination before the computer could marshal its forces to counter attack.

I feel pretty damned good right now, sort of like apres-sex. I’m not saying chess is as good as sex, but it does have its exaltations and ecstasies at times.

Published in: on December 2, 2008 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment  

One more crazy

Summer 2018. I’d been out to the North Avenue chess pavilion playing chess. I went down to the local bar afterwards for a Bud–no shots anymore except on special occasions, for I was old and couldn’t drink hard.

She was sitting in a corner of the bar, reading a book, and looking as beautiful as the first day I met her there 42 years ago.

I could not resist. I walked over to her and asked her what she was reading. Gulliver’s Travels she said. I remember that I said. It’s about human folly. What are you reading? she said. The Brothers Karamazov. Yes, that always drove you a little crazy when you read that. Well, at my age you never know when it will be the last chance you have to read it and be a little crazy one more time I said.

Let’s talk she said. If you have time.

I’d love that I said.

Published in: on December 2, 2008 at 2:20 am  Leave a Comment  

So strange

When we were together, I would dream of chasing her, finding her, then she disappeared never to be found. Now, that we are not together, no matter where I am at in my dreams, she appears from nowhere.

Dreams are so strange. Life is too for that matter.

Published in: on December 1, 2008 at 1:29 am  Leave a Comment