Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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Like my brownhouse:
   Club 667
Saturday, November 17 2001

So yeah, the First Lady, famous for being the wife of a famous American orator, is on the radio telling us about how bad the Taliban treats their women. And she's right, of course. It sucks to be a Taliban woman. Still, we can be sure that there would have been no such statement from the First Lady had Osama bin Laden kept to his cave and simply played checkers with his Arab visitors. Indeed, the treatment of women is not a whole heck of a lot more enlightened in Saudi Arabia. Perhaps the plan is to boycott their oil once we tap the Arctic National Wildlife refuge.
But back, for a moment, to the women of Afghanistan. I'd been shocked by the treatment of Afghan women for many months before September 11th. Unlike most Americans, I was interested in the place for more than its role as a host for extremist Islamic terrorists, and I kept up on the meager trickle of Afghan outrages that occasionally interrupted the Gary Condit soap opera and shark attack reports that passed for news in those days. In August, I even read James Michener's Caravans in an effort to further expose myself to the historical realities of this West-Virginia-shaped, Texas-sized nation in the center of Asia. It wasn't great literature, but it gave a good idea of the backwards medieval condition of society there. From having read that book, I know that cultural artifacts such as the burqa, public stonings, and rule-by-Mullah are deeply entrenched and unlikely to be replaced overnight. There were plenty of other centuries Afghanistan could have been dragged kicking and screaming into and the 21st may not yet be the one. Remember, in addition to imposing socialism and atheism, the Soviet invaders also attempted to impose enlightened western views of gender equality. They were hated nearly as much for the latter as they were for the former. Now, though, after 22 years of war, the Afghan population is 70% female and it's growing politically difficult to ignore their wishes.

All this international news on the teevee (in tandem with the many ideas of world travel emanating from Gretchen) would normally have me reaching for an atlas. But though Gretchen has lots and lots of books, she has few reference books that aren't dictionaries. As for me, I haven't had my own atlas since I was a kid. So today we went down to 7th Avenue in hopes of remedying the situation. We ducked into one of the little bookstores which bears the Gretchen seal of approval and looked at the several options. The Readers' Digest atlas, some soft-cover atlas, and then the Times of London Concise Atlas of the World. There was no contest, the Times of London Atlas had by far the best maps. It came in a box and cost $100, but when it comes to maps, it's important to have the best. The alternative is to be reminded of your crappy choice every time a geographical fact is researched.

Our old college friend Kristen |\/|@$$0|\| was in town today from New Paltz, so in the evening, Gretchen went and found her somewhere on 7th Avenue and brought her home. Kristen asked me how I was and I said I was reasonably happy. "What's that like?" she wanted to know. I told her that the key was finding things to do and create. At the time I just happened to be working on a work-related project in which the textareas of an HTML form swung open larger when you clicked on them while the others contracted, all based on a mathematical formula embedded in a single javascript function. It might sound like a trivial thing, but it was really satisfying. Making stuff like that keeps me happy. For her part, Kristen has been studying up on graffiti culture and perfecting her own tag. In graffiti culture, happiness comes from putting your tag on as many surfaces as you can. The best, the most satisfying surfaces of all, are very visible and inspire viewers to ask, "How in the hell did he get up there and do that?" As you might imagine, the internet has allowed graffiti people to interact as never before.
Later we all we went out to a bar in Fort Greene, Brooklyn (near downtown Brooklyn), a placed called the 667 Club. Actually, we were walking by it and somehow didn't see the sign. Gretchen read aloud another saying that ladies had free admission and she immediately turned and went inside, seemingly to mock the existence of ladies' night. Kristen and I thought she was just joking, so we kept on walking, but it was indeed the place.
Several of Kristen's New York friends were there, and later on Gretchen's friend Eulala showed up. We sat in the back beneath a large acrylic painting that looked like a yellow-orange-brown-black-themed stained-glass window. The house music was so loud that I couldn't hear what anyone was saying, so I just kept drinking whiskey and staring at the wall and thinking about my publication tools. After awhile I was rather drunk, but I kept underestimating how intoxicated I actually was. I never imagined, for example, that I would end up with a hangover.
Club 667 seemed like a pretty hip & happening place. A majority of the people there were African American, and a sizable minority appeared to be gay couples. We were even treated to a classic Kristen happening: right there at the bar, Kristen randomly ran into the woman who had been dating her Ivory Coast boyfriend at the same time as her back in New Paltz. They're actually good friends though.
We managed to catch a cab for the ride home. It was cheaper than our combined subway fare would have been.


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