vr

a novel

Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

January 1997

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

From: SAGReiss
Date: 1 January 1997
Subject: No fun fur Murtilda

She's had her last lunch and after tomorrow she'll get nothing more exciting than catnip. She hasn't complained yet about her missing bowl. I guess we'll hear about it in the morning, if not sooner. Yes, John, I find it gratifying to add new characters who are also badass geek motherfuckers (crasyjane/Kate and Pnambic/Daniel), but, no, I don't see any reason to throw programmer bits at them. There's not really anything to program for the time being, and I haven't heard any complaints about what you've done so far. It's just that I'm such an Antigeek that I feel it validates our work if the big boys come and play. This morning the assholes who had five hours of open bar last night actually did come down for their free breakfast, and no, they didn't tip. What a bunch of cheap cunts. I had this one table of young punks who said they couldn't find their coupons, an unlikely tale given that they had winter coats on. I told them I would have to charge them for breafast. They said no problem and ordered a cheap bottle of champagne (sparkling wine, to be precise) and a pitcher of orange juice. They left me fourteen dollars, so who cares about their little con game. Otherwise there wasn't much to do, since there were too many waiters on, so I read the paper. That shit is really weird. First, why do three two-hundred-pound men need the help of a gun to rape one woman? Second, how dumb do they have to be to videotape the action? (When will we see the video at Blockbuster complete with John Madden's lay-by-lay and yellow chalkboard drawings?) Third, why didn't they learn from their recent exploits, a drug rap for one and another rape charge for another which he managed to settle out of court? Fourth, if Michael Irvin can't get laid at will, there's no hope for negatron. Nichelle has brought back a Triple-A guide to Seattle (named for Sealth who was paid $16,000 for the privilege, but my guess is they stole his land too for that price). I can get a job and make money in that town. There are ten badass hotels where I could get a good job. I'll just write to them this summer. I had been a little worried about quitting and driving off across the continent to a new city. It may be a little weird, our version of Beavis and Butthead Do Amerika with the fucking cat in tow. Besides Nichelle drives an automatic transmission. I've never done that, or seldom. No matter. There's always National Public Radio, and I'm very good at choosing restaurants. How does one know which one is Beavis and which one is Butthead?

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 3 January 1997
Subject: the best (breast?) porn on the web

I think I have found it. After a long hard day (though Gabe's is admittedly longer and harder) of picking the cat up from the vet on the bus, baking a loaf of bread and eight cinnamon rolls, I decided to take a MOOer's advice and check out an adult site. I can understand everyone's paranoia about minors visiting websites. We've got a disclaimer on our site. And on our MOO. But this is just too good to be true...

The first thing you see on the page says COCKSUCKERS free cocksucking pictures. Next to this is a thumbnail photo of two girls licking a big red glossy wanger. But it gets better. Beneath this, it warns that the site may contain nudity and language not suitable for minors. Check it out.

But please... only if you're over 18.

Nichelle

From: SAGReiss
Date: 4 January 1997
Subject: Hockey Night in Kanada

I finally know why negatron hates his country's national passtime. It seems that in this bowl season all the weird-silly sex stories can be found in the sports pages. Yes, negatron, whose identity of course was not revealed to the public, took it up the bum three hundred times while playing hockey in the junior leagues. Wait a minute, three hundred times? That's what it says in USA Today, so it must be true. Now I figure that at the junior level three years would be a long time to play for the same coach. That means they were doing it about twice a week, about average in the States for married couples of different genders. Yet this is what Graham James has pleaded guilty to in Calgary. Of course he did win that championship back in the winter of 1988-89, so they've only given him three and a half years. Besides, the judge noted the defendant's acknowledgement of guilt and his show of remorse to justify the seemingly leniant sentence. The defendant spoke of his "selfish" behavior. Perhaps it would have been better if he had given head from time to time... Matilda has been lethargic since her hysterectomy, if that's what it's called. She shows little appetite and hides under the bed. She'll sit with us or sleep with us for a while, but then trots away. I'm going to take a nap with her now. I worked a double yesterday and a morning shift today. I'm tired of working and not making any money. I need to work at the Four Seasons in Seattle...

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Katie
Date: 6 January 1997
Subject: prague diary

Hi,

this is the first day from the prague diary i was telling you about. i wrote it as mainly as a letter to a group of friends, thinking it might make a change from a postcard. if you want to forward it to the list--feel free.

--kate

-----------

This is a combination of a letter and a diary, so it may read very strangely. Disjointed, and random. It's a straight transcription of the stuff i scrawled into a collection of Czech school exercise books. I had been planning to photocopy them and send those on to everyone, but they turned out to be almost illegible. Any references to time may confuse the hell out of you...

As i started to write this yesterday I found how different it was to write by hand and not by typing. My language, my construction changes, so this may seem very unfamiliar. It is now Sunday 22nd December, about 4-30 in the afternoon and I am ensconced in the corner of a warm dark cafe in a small square in the heart of the old town of Prague. I have an endless supply of cigarettes, shitty coffee, and a babble of so many languages around me. The walls are covered in paintings that look like the bastard offspring of Klee-like creatures. Arrived in Prague about lunchtime yesterday.

3pm ish, Saturday 21st. Sitting in a small tea house, the chess players at the same table have just been asking if I am a poet, as I pull out a notebook and pen to write. They ask: what is my profession? am i american? denying everything, they explain, chuckling, that english speaking, somewhere under 30 and dressed in black, they expected to hear that I was a self-proclaimed poet.

The combined patterns of soft-spoken unknown czech and of gregorian chants in a very japanese tea-house in a small yellow and white painted courtyard in prague are rather comforting. Frightening, though, to be so without language. I am fighting to remember the words for such basics as yes and no let alone please-thank-you-sorry-hello-is-this-seat-taken-a-glass-of-beer-how-much-is-that. Yes, the gunpowder tea, and it comes in such a perfect low plump stone pot with paper thin china cups that sign language and pointing and smiling finds its own way for the moment. So, without language, i'm reduced to helpless, apologetic smiles and a growing embarrassment. When someone came over to the table, and asked a question, Matt broke into his carefully prepared request for drinks, only to see the guy blush, laugh and stammer in frighteningly competent English that he was asking if he might sit there, if the seats were free, that he did not work here. First faux-pas of what will, I'm sure, be many.

They are glancing warily across the table from time to time, between rapid head scratching chess moves. Looking at them, I think they are father and son--he young, long dirty blond pony tail, small scrub of beard on his narrow chin. A student, or at least a student very recently. Long red jersey and big snow-stained boots. The other is older, with silvering dark hair, grey stubbled rough unshaven chin and cheeks, filthy old loose jeans a black polo neck, grubby with stains and a little too tight around jowls he didn't have in 1968. He looks like he is on the second day after a long session of drinking, a slept-in standard issue prague intellectual, for sure. Encouraging the younger man, asking him questions as they play chess, exclaiming from time to time.

Har! He just turned to me, grinned broadly, and started to sing in a very pleased. hoarse, soaked voice, "You're a motherfucker. You're a motherfucker! We are motherfuckers! We are motherfuckers! I'm a motherfucker! You're a motherfucker! We are motherfuckers!" before cackling and turning back to his game. The younger man hisses something at him, blushing furiously. I laugh, politely, not knowing what the fuck is going on, and breathe the tea--in a dark blue cup, white inside, pink-orange scent of temple of heaven tea, and the snow is still dripping from my shoes. Iced snow, gritty mixed on the streets, slippy on tiny flat, square cobblestones, people slip-sliding their feet forwards instead of walking. Bundled into coats and hats, but it is not as cold as I had feared. Arriving after flying over snow-laden countryside, flat, bright thick white, hardly broken by the sharp-edged dark woods and single lines of trees breaking through by narrow roads.

Old guy has just muttered "check!" to a response which looked much like "oh fuck, I didn't see that coming." Hands shaken with a friendly grimace and more tea poured, whilst a man with a most extraordinary beard fills paper bags with black shreds of tea from a pale wooden cabinet.

Flying over the snowed land, single hills poking up through the flatness, clouds of steam blooming into the air from a power station, it was impossible to judge the scale of anything. Blasted from lack of sleep, and early morning travelling, the sun was painfully dazzling on landing.

Chess over, and packed away, the old guy turns to me again, "Are you a writer?" "Um, no, sort of, yes, a technical writer," I explain, eloquently. I shuffle my notebook for a moment, there is a silence, I peer into my tea and then he puts his hands to his chest and declares, "I, too, am a writer!" He grins, and repeats himself, "I, too, am a writer! It is only in the near years that one can say 'I am a writer!' Before, it was only: 'Who am I? I am a Bloody Bastard!' And I give my words to the other bloody bastard. And you, another bloody bastard gives the words to some other bloody bastard. And some bloody bastard gives the words to me."

How the hell do you express a concept like that when you have only a few basic nouns? Explaining Samizdat, what it meant to be a writer in Prague, not being allowed to write. How can you react? Nodding, smiling, struggling to understand the words and phrases and his pronunciation, raising thimbles of tea in a toast, confused and struggling with a lack of words. I want to ask him about his writing, about having to hide words, tell him I know about Samizdat, but alI I can do is smile a little weakly. Asked my name, I say 'Kate', a few times, until he nods, turning to the son and asking 'Caterin?'. Yes. He asks for my notebook, I misunderstand, thinking he is asking what I am writing--explain that it is just my journal. No, he wants me to write down my name, he wants to write an acrostic. Again, I misunderstand--tear out a page and give it to him. Finally, he has my name, a pen and paper. He puzzles over the letters, rubs his face, fubs his chin, whole palm rasping over stubble skin, hovers pen over paper, writes, crosses out, jumps up sending everything flying, staggers off. Returns, scrambling under the bench for the vanished pen, knocking over the just-mopped tea again. He writes, looking annoyed, shows me--reading/translating his scrawl. I understand not a word but 'eternity', but he takes more paper, and rewrites in a fair copy:

"Keys from
Afternoons are probably in other
Terries
Other terries may be in
Eternity."

terries? terrors? territories? No idea...
He signs and dates it, unreadable signature. I feel awful, not asking for his name, wondering if I should attempt to return the favour, feel awful for not knowing who this man, this bloody bastard, this finally allowed writer is. There is a moment of painful, paralysing embarrassment. He wanders off again. I make gestures to a watch I do not even wear, jump up, escape, smile, say goodbye to the son, and leave, feeling horribly foolish. Walk, scurrying from the courtyard into snowstreets, into a square, ten off, wandering past buildings, under wood-clad arches, heading towards the river.

Walking randomly, following routes that look interesting, following the city, walking through an incredible mixture of gothic and baroque buildings, small squares, dark alleys, slipping around on thick ice. Walked into a small courtyard that had a floodlight on the ground, and danced around making shadows larger than Harry Lime, as big as the building, looming over the white plaster, arms stretched as wide as the house. Then back, walking, letting the city lead, in the way that so many old cities do, following natural routes to certain places, direction announcing itself with no map but the streets themselves. Sensing crowds of people around a corner, and knowing that the bridge was near. Suddenly, the bridge-gate looms in front as I break out at the end of a small road, floodlit solid dark silver stone, with the bridge stretching forwards. Wonderful that this is only a footbridge. Snow covered, punctuated with glorious, over-the-top baroque statues of saints and christ and who knows who, silhouetted against the almost dark sky. The lights of the castle, of the hill, of the city, sparkling against the deepening blue of the sky across the river. How to describe a place so many times seen but never visited before? Only 4pm, but solstice dark already, standing in the centre of the bridge, leaning over the stone edge, between dark statues textured with frozen crusts of snow in the folds of carved cloth. So cold with the frigid air moving over the water below. Longest night of the year, absorbing the shapes of the city, thinking about other places, other people in other cities, where it is night, day, early morning, thinking a silent toast at the turning of the year, hoping that it will get a fuck of a lot better soon.

Walk to the other side of the bridge, avoiding giggling skidding kids being run along, hands clasped by two grownups, and careful stepping old ladies in furry boots, with stuffed shopping bags of Christmas food. Reaching the end of the bridge, going around and under the arches, staggering down curved slopes, following bowls of candles flickering in the snow against dark railings, looking up into warmlit windows of the early night, wondering who lives there with such a heartbreakingly beautiful view across the city. Snow drenched play-park, deep, hardly trodden snow with a line of tall dark skinny leaf-stripped trees at the ends of the water and a small group of teenage girls, giggling over shared, illicit booze. Resisting the urge to fall into the snow, face down. Too powdery to build or throw, the snow squeaks and crackles, ice underneath as i dance about, gracelessly, making impossible footprints instead. So cold, I wonder if I still have knees--I can feel my thighs, my shins, but only a cold absence inbetween.

Heading back under the bridge, sit on a snowy bench--too cold and wet to sit there long--but there are huge numbers of ducks, all swimming along in perfect single file, all quacking the standard duck 'I am waiting for something' quacks. Curving back, away from the river, into squares of painted buildings, I see a car with perfect, untouched snow on the bonnet. With a sudden wave of excited glee, and a terrible graffiti itch, I pull out a long stemmed pen, and hover over the snow canvas, wondering what to write. Hand paused over the surface, looking for something...obscure, accidental phrase, previously written onto skin, constructed in alternate words by two wine-soaked brains: and nothing seems to change, because old gods vanish. I cackle, and it looks great, words cut, written into snow, so temporary, so completely meaningless, so portentous, able to provoke a "huh?", a "what the fuck is that?" or a "damn, where have I read that before?" Look up and see that I am in front of the John Lennon wall--site of years of graffiti. Overloaded, overlayered, multicoloured words. More cars! Must find more cars! Circle back round, seeing the bridge from the side, lights glaring up from the water to sillhouette the bridge-saints, making them all look as through they are wearing cast, bridge-tall trains, long cloaks of shadow. Freezing, freezing cold. Need coffee, beer, something, somewhere warm. Seen a bar that had looked good before. Amble around in circles for an hour, looking, exploring, stopping in a bookshop, peering into galleries, pondering nothing much, and go for dinner instead, having walked almost full circle down almost familiar streets. Food was fine, wine was drink, room was gloriously warm, and the music was an excruciating mishmash of eighties pop.

Now warmed and fed, back to the bridge. Almost deserted, although it is not quite 9pm. So cold, that as the water flows over the river wide weir, it rises in clouds of freezing white mist in the dark air--huge rolling clouds rising over the edge of the bridge, shrouding the black stone statues. It looks like a hot spring, but the air is so cold, the skin of my face feels like it belongs to someone else. Too cold to stay on the bridge, but it is so surprisingly beautiful in the dark I want to stay there, air clouding around me. Too cold. Walking back to find a bar. Must drink beer!

This time, the bar is easy to find, and it's lovely. Warm, so warm. Beer in hand (tasty! cheap! less than 40 pence for a half litre), skin thawing, ears glowing as the blood unfreezes, watching people gather, move, talk, drift around, read and write. A soap opera unfolds at the next table. Three people, all in their young 20s, czechs, with a complicated game that shifts and changes through the evening. At the start, girlfriend and boyfriend, kissing, touching, a shiny new relationship and they seem unable to break contact at all, pressing skin against skin, sharing breathing. And then there is the third, another bloke, who is in the official gooseberry-spare-part-ghost-at-the-banquet role. He is glowering unhappily into his tea as the other two squirm together and kiss. As the evening spreads through, this changes, and he seems to return to what must be his normal role--the jester, the fool, stirring trouble, joking and flirting with both of them. There is a game of musical chairs each time one goes to the bar or the bathroom. Each of the three is jealous of the relationship the other pair has. Each knows the effect that each has on the other. They are all close friends, and who can guess at the history of these three. The theory? Girl and gooseberry are flat mates, official boyfriend and gooseberry have an ongoing flirty-friendship, maybe more. They are all glowing with beer and jealousy and love and hormones and anger and desire, and head out into a complicated night. Entertaining to watch as I work my way through the beer...shifting patterns, easy to read.

More beer drunk, warm, happy, comfortable but tired, and the bar is closing--time to head back to the hotel. But on the way, car bonnets everywhere are covered with perfect snow. Virgin snow. I can't resist. Every smooth one gains words--stupid, foolish stuff. Obscure jokes and random words, made up quotes, song lyrics, pointless exclamations, misquoted lines of poems. Twenty, maybe thirty cars are adorned and I wish I could see how people react when they find this trail of cars adorned with gibberish, bizarro nonsense written in perfect-pretty calligraphic scrawl in the snow. I think it's hilarious, but I am drunk. The police watch me, but ignore me--harmless nutter. Things have changed here, for sure. If it had not been so cold, it would have been fun to find more and more cars, but writing my way up the string of parked cars in Wenceslas Square, it's back to the divine, gloomy art-nouveau extravaganza of the hotel.

Back in the room, laughing over a translated magazine, in the tatty glorious room with the incredible windows, room lit with the lowest wattage chandelier in the world, dripping art-nouveau-meets-louis-the-something crystal, and the advertising lights on the other side of the square. Fall asleep, hypnotised by the rolling flicker of the czech flag on the roof of the building opposite, shimmering pale-soft white blue and red through the windows, casting wrought-iron balcony shadows across the white sheets.

From: Katie
Date: 6 January 1997
Subject: Re: Poor man's Xanadu

Thanks for forwarding me those mails. I haven't reread Kubla Kahn for too many years, but the sounds of the poem lurk around in the back of my brain thanks to my grandmother reading it to me instead of a bedtime story when I was very young. For a long time, when a child, I had Kubla Kahn muddled and bound up with one of the Narnia books, perhaps because of the sunless seas at the start. I forget which one, and it's not important. My grandmother was a strange woman: barking mad, and known not very fondly by my family as 'the evil dragon bitch', but she had taste. She was stuck back in the 1930s, in her glory years, and only had a passing acquaintance with reality. She was vaguely on the fringes of the Bloomsbury set, studied psychology in her copious spare time and wrote bad poetry in French. She left me part of her library when she died a few years ago, and it was only then that I found out just how widely read and just how strange she was.

Being snotty and english about this, I doubt that Kahn every rhymed with man and ran in english-english. The sight-rhyme remains strong, though, and perhaps a triple rhyme would overload those first few lines. This poem is dripping with alliteration, almost to the extent of split line anglo-saxon poetry, and demands to be read aloud.

I went to look for a copy, to reread it, so I could make some sort of sense in this mail, but I spent half an hour not finding it and gave up. I moved recently, and I don't have enough book shelves--everything is stacked three deep in no particular order and it annoys me on a daily basis. So you are limited to reminiscences about my grandmother for the moment.

--kate

From: SAGReiss
Date: 8 January 1997
Subject: Ministre des Phynances

Dave, a frat boy part-time bartender of impressive two-hundred-plus-pound bulk, told me about a bad time he had in Ithica. "Two guys came in who were on furlough from Attica. They used their prison ID to get in, so someone had already made a bad mistake. First, they gave me a hundred-dollar tip and told me to keep the chicken wings coming. We ran out of wings and they began to get ornery. The bouncer told them to quiet down and one of them punches him right in the nose. I jumped over the bar and wrestled him to the ground. All of a sudden my whole left side went cold. Someone pulled me off and sat me down. I was drenched in blood. The fight rumbled on. I heard the boys from Attica talking about their guns. 'Fuck, I've just been stabbed. Somebody better get these guys.'" Breakfast was quite an ordeal. Nichelle wanted some sperm 'n' egg combo with hard boiled eggs and bechamelle (white) sauce. I make it with milk, but we only had cream. I managed to get the sauce to stand up, but the eggs cracked and took too long to boil. The sauce turned, Nichelle didn't want the half-cooked eggs, so I ate them with some steamed spinach and sausage. Meanwhile she made herself scrambled eggs with onions and parmesan cheese. As I ate the runny eggs she almost puked on the table. She's odd about eggs. She threw hers away and cried and was grumpy. The cat misbehaved. Tonight I'll make a roasted stuffed chicken, liver on toast as an appetizer, and she's making a lemon pie for desert. Sounds like too much food to me. I think we'll go see Beavis and Butthead on Friday. Are there any special precautions we need to take? Yesterday I briefly got on Yahoo chat. To set my profile I had to check boxes in various categories. Under lifestyle were: kids, gay lesbian and bi, seniors, parenting, teens. I left that one blank. I've also begun using MSN again. They've screwed it all up a la New Coke and, yes, there's a button to click for Classic MSN. I've downloaded (Well, Nichelle has.) their Palace-style V chat. Nichelle asked me if I thought our MOO would ever flourish. There's so much shit online. Who the fuck knows?

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Columbine
Date: 8 January 1997
Subject: Re: Ministre des Phynances

>I think we'll go see Beavis and Butthead on Friday. Are
>there any special precautions we need to take?

Bring a good book.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: SAGReiss
Date: 9 January 1997
Subject: McGinn, McGann, McGunn

Mrs. McGinn, the Man (cf. 10932 dicks), came into the restaurant. I said hello. It was kind of awkward. I said I didn't know where Corinne was, though they had been to my place before they left. We spoke about her. It seemed a safe topic. She said she'd heard I was working on the internet. I said yes, well not professionally. Then we got busy and I had other things to do. Finally I thought, why not? I wrote down our URL on a dupe and gave it to her. Speaking of Corinne I fear I may have to take her off the list. Her SU account may have closed. I shall do so with a heavy heart if this message comes back to me. Corinne and Jeff have always been on the list, even though they have very seldom actively participated. I guess whenever they settle down (unless they settle down in Madagascar where finding an ISP may be a problem) they'll get accounts and send me their new addresses. They are the closest thing to friends that I've got, but we seldom saw eachother (about once a trimester) and they seldom answered my river tides of snail- and e-mail. Yet they were faithful readers and I hate to see their symbolic presence go... The French government is suing Georgia Tech's program near where I used to live in Metz (Lothringe) because their web site is in English. Am I missing something? Can't they just say: "Fuck you," and put the site up from Georgia? We fucking served 183 people on New Year's Day and each got twenty-five dollars, or sixty-eight cents a head. They got a hundred dollar tip in the bar. "Bend over and say 'Happy New Year!'"

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 9 January 1997
Subject: March 17th-January 9th

Aristophanes: Lysistrata
Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
Bukowski, Charles: Ham On Rye
Burroughs, William S.: Naked Lunch
Caroll, Lewis: Alice In Wonderland
Caroll, Lewis: Through the Looking Glass
Conrad, Joseph: Heart of Darkness
Defoe, Daniel: Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles: David Copperfield
Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations
Faulkner, William: The Reivers
Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
Freud, Sigmund: The Interpretation of Dreams
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von: Faust
Hardy, Thomas: Jude The Obscure
Hardy, Thomas: The Mayor Of Casterbridge
Hemmingway, Ernest: The Sun Also Rises
Lowry, Malcolm: Under the Volcano
Mathews, Harry: The Sinking of the Odradek Stadium
Mathews, Harry: Tlooth
Miller, Henry: Tropic of Capricorn
Marlowe, Christopher: Dr Faustus
O'Neill, Eugene: The Iceman Cometh
Ovid: Orpheus in the Underworld
Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein
Stravinsky, Igor: An Autobiography
Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver's Travels
Thompson, Hunter S.: Better Than Sex
Thompson, Hunter S.: The Great Shark Hunt
Williams, Tennessee: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Williams, Tennessee: Night of the Iguana

Nichelle

From: Katie
Date: 10 January 1997
Subject: december/january

seeing nichelle's list prompted me to look at the pile of recently read books. in case you're interested:

Auster, Paul Leviathan
Basho Narrow Road to the north
Beckett, Samuel Dream of fair to middling women
Borges, J.L. Book of imaginary beings, Ficciones
Bukowski, Charles South of no north
Calvino, Italo Our Ancestors
Crumey, Andrew Pfitz, D'Alembert's principle
Defoe, Daniel Moll flanders
DeLillo, Don Mao II
Eco, Umberto How to travel with a salmon
Gibson, William Idoru
Gide, Andre The counterfeiters
Hamsun, Knut Hunger, Dreamers
Kennedy, A.L. So i am glad
Kerouac, Jack Dharma Bums, Desolation Angels
Koestler, Arthur Darkness at noon
Perec, Georges Life a User's Manual
de Sade 120 days of Sodom
Sterling, Bruce Holy Fire
Tomin, Lucas Ashtrays
Ovid Metamorphoses
various songs from a jade terrace
various anthology of japanese poetry (penguin ed)
(forget who, crap anyway) Hallucinating foucault

of the less obvious stuff:

ashtrays was interesting, if flawed. written in english by someone for whom it's their third language--after czech and french. found it and read it in prague mainly because my SO played the author in a film years ago.

crumey's stuff is worth a look, but skip his first novel (music in a foreign language). worth reading pfitz first.

hallucinating foucault stank--over educated,and highly sentimental first novel.

pale fire annoyed me--the ideas and the story were fine, but they alternated rather than being worked into a single piece.

cheers
--kate

From: SAGReiss
Date: 11 January 1997
Subject: Minot, ND

"The Rev. Charles David Hess, 47, of Lebanon Street was arrested Thursday. He was charged with promoting a sexual performance by a child and promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child, both felonies, and obscenity, a misdemeanor." And what was the crime? He downloaded some kiddie porn pics from the web. If this holds up in court, we really have given in to fascism. I could see the guy who fucked the kids, the photographer as an accomplice, even the guy selling the forbidden photos on the 'net, but an innocent pastor who simply likes to watch some unconventional stuff? How did he promote anything? What is a non-obscene sexual performance? So I go to SUK.MI.DIK.com and the girl turns out to be seventeen and I'm a felon? The shit is coming down and it looks weird to me. The chicken soup was delicious. As usual I couldn't find a receipe that looked good to me (They all wanted me to boil a chicken to make the broth.) so I just did it the way I thought best. I boiled the carcass and bones for an hour, cooked carrots and celery and onions in chicken fat and strained the broth over the vegetables. Nichelle made some noodles, very tasty. We braved the cold to see Beavis and Butt-head which was mildly amusing. At first I had a hard time understanding them because of their laughter or breathing or drooling noises. I take it, negatron, we are to meet in the land of the Sioux, either Chippewa "nadoweisiw" meaning little serpent (Petit Bob) or Ottawa "natowessiw" meaning speaker of a foreign tongue or barbarian (Random House), or Dakota or whatever they call themselves, some cheesy white-trash outpost on the edge of the Great Plains. At least it will be summer, so you won't need your extension cord.

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 13 January 1997
Subject: I shot Murtilda (but I didn't fuck with Microsoft)

Nichelle will be home soon, in a mood, as negatron once said, when he found out he was losing some of his student loans, to commit atrocities. She had a job interview which they called to cancel just after she had left for the bus. I figured I'd make the bread before the fight starts. Murtilda wanted to help, but I didn't feel like playing, so as she leapt towards the kitchen table I grabbed the flourescent pink water pistol Nichelle had bought for such occasions (with the explicit approval of the vet, the ASPCA, the Humane Society, the NAACP, Medecins sans Frontiers and several other groups for the prevention of cruelty to animals) and dowsed her furry ass. She's learning fast. I think she already recognizes the awsome powers of this tool of human destruction. Pretty soon we may have a well-behaved little cat. If that weren't enough, I've suffered 'puter meltdown. Ever since last night, when I foolishly logged on to Yahoo chat again, I can't connect to shit, nothing but those dumbass 'illegal operation' messages. What makes me think that being on seventy-two different kinds of chat will somehow maximize the odds of finding human beings online? Anyway Dreamscape wants to help. We tried some things and they will call back shortly. We've got nine files listed under a winsock search. Perhaps that has something to do with it, but I don't think so. I worked this week-end and made a century. Now I've got three days off with no money, no fun, no drinking (I've quit again due to extreme financial hardship. I figure if I stop spending a hundred and fifty dollars a week on booze and alcohol, assuming I can avoid any more of these female or feline abortions, we may have enough money to move to Seattle this summer.) and a broken 'puter. Actually Nichelle is on the phone with Mr Dreamscape right now reconfiguring our dial-up network or some such thing. Anyway I'll make a tomato pizza tonight and a riccota cheese and broccoli calzone tomorrow. At least we eat, though what's the point without wine? I think she can get a job as a cashier in a greeting card shop. When are we going to upgrade our white-trash lifestyle? Nichelle has suggested I try to write a straight book. I don't know if I can anymore (I write better standard French than English.) nor if I'm very interested. I guess I could photocopy the Oxford Original Spelling edition of the sonnets and tackle them one by one. The idea is tempting, especially if I'm going to be sober for any period of time, but I still think it'd be more exciting online. Trouble is no one can find the time or the energy or whatever. I s'pose I could do it through e-mail... Or I could try to write a normal book, but with a hundred and fifty-four sonnets I might have trouble keeping it under five hundred pages. I think we'll just send an e-novel excerpt as an attachment to an e-mail. I've found a publisher who does both on- and offline books. Fuck, maybe I should just play the lottery more often...

Nichelle

From: Nichelle
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: Mr. Sensitive

Yes, I put a period after Mr. So shoot me. I don't even know what time it was when I got up and vomited. I guess tuna wasn't such a good choice for lunch. I came home from work more than two hours early after having yacked twice in the employee's washroom. So as I was lying there recovering, Gaby kept telling me just to lie still and go to sleep. Go to sleep yourself. Lie still. Shuddup.

Ah, the wonders of modern technology. Now we can have lovers quarrels online for an audience of strangers.

Before work yesterday, after my interview with the card shop lady (who *did* hire me, so screw the bagel shop) I sat at the cafe across the street drinking some mint tea and reading some bullshit ladies magazine. Lovers, ladies... Yes, some apostrophes missing there. That's OK, e-mail to Gaby is like writing a love note to your english teacher who then corrects it with red pen and returns it to you. Anyway, I read a nice article about oral sex in this cheesy magazine. Surveys (of course), what men like, what women like, etc. I liked one of the answers: "Well, I can't really remember what I like." Ha ha ha. Amen, sister. Or another good one: "Well, he just tries so hard, goes so fast, when he should just go slow and let his tongue be soft and I'd come in about five seconds." I hid the magazine as the kid who made my tea walked by. Felt so criminal. And what did the men say? One said: "Well, pretty much anything will do the trick, actually." Men are such pigs. And it's not just teenagers, or stupid men, or men who haven't been with very many women... You should see the shit that Gaby likes on the web. These great big jiggly glossy hooters. And the shots of girls with spoo drooling down their chins. Horrifying. But that's the story of my life. Sex or a blow job, and if I want anything, it's self-service in the shower. I should have been a nun. Shit, Julie Andrews did it and she got a husband and 8 kids without having to give birth to any of them. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Nichelle

From: SAGReiss
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: B-

As to written porn, you all know what I like, Sade, Miller, Buk, and what I don't like, Lawrence, Nin. I'd like to show you what photographs I like, but I haven't seen any yet, even if I knew how to download them and send them as an attachment. What I'd like to see is Joe and Jane at play in their bedroom, no bulging breasts or biceps, no half a cup of creme anglaise or whatever it is they substitute for sperm. All of which begs the crucial question of the moneyshot. Obviously one cannot take a picture of a woman having an orgasm, or rather one can, but there is no way for the viewer to appreciate it. A flush of the cheeks, an acceleration of breathing, contractions of the vagina and sphincter, not exactly the stuff of visual art. Which brings us to the grotesque "I'm coming" grimaces so common to porn pics and flics. A woman's orgasm is an internal phenomenon, externally manifest only to a physically present participant or witness. The tradition for representing ejaculation calls, of course, for coitus or fellatus interruptus, which I find off-putting and self-defeating. How can one pretend to depict pleasure by cutting it short or weakening it? Any man who has ever tried this bogus and widely-practiced method of birth control knows exactly what I'm talking about. Of course men are all pigs, sexual dogs, whether negatron and the Palm sisters, Swann and Odette, Celine on the streets of antebellum Paris, "ou on pouvait encore baiser debout et pas cher," or fratboy and his drunken sorority slut on Rohypnol, which I've actually taken as a quite-effective sleeping pill when washed down with whisky. My doctor, a ninety-pound, Edelzwicker-guzzling spinster, said: "Comme ca tu ferras des economies. Si tu en bois deux, t'auras l'impression d'en avoir bu trois." As we say in Alsace: "E loch isch e loch," which I'm sure negatron would be happy to translate, if he ever stopped typing with one hand long enough to write us some e-mail. My own sex drive seems to have gotten lost somewhere between Chuchita and Stiff Lips by way of Calamity Kate. I don't think I could explain why even if I chose to, which I don't. Eating at the buffet is, thus, basically out of the question, though my Cro-Magnon cock fully agrees with Fred, on the subject of the crack-house ho's he meets on the way to and from work: "I don't mind a quick blowjob, but I'm not taking my pants off."

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Katie
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: prague journal (2)

second part of the prague journal...

-------

Two pieces from a prague magazine, found in the hotel room.

"An apologize: We let Igor Savic, Karlovy Varcky chief magistrate, won the horse race in the article 'Fulfilled Dream about an Impossible'. We apologize to him: he passed the prizes over, of course. You can see our confidence in this town represant sport spirit."

"Strainer from a prince: The prince Alexander von Hohenzollern (25), a sprig of a lateral line of the last German royal and Imperial dynasty works his way up in a junk shop. The noble suffering from dysgraphia and dyslexia turns out shelves in a Heidelburg branch of Werner Metzan (50), the penny-king of junk goods, for a monthly gross salary of three thousand marks. The great-grandson of Imperial court can hope for an early promotion--he is said to become a head of the branch of Metzan's kingdom in the time-honoured imperial town of Aachen. Metzan, the chief, the lord of 40-junk shops and shops selling cheap plastuc dishes, is overflowing praises of his noble employee: 'The young one is making progress. The other day he passed a driving test and he is trying to extend his education all the time. Al ot of customers visit my shop only to see a life prince.'"

Label on a loo paper dispense in the bathroom of a prague bar:

'Big Willy--Der Super Spender'

-----------

Sunday 22nd December.
Wake just before ten--the last time for breakfast in the hotel. Light is only white--sky, snow, sheets and the grey buildings outside. There is almost no colour as I open my eyes, head messed by foolishly complicated dreams. Stumble into yesterday's clothes and downstairs to breakfast. Crappy food, and barely anything left. Drink horrible airline-like coffee and insipid orange squash. But the room is astounding. A mezzanine over the main cafe/bar of the hotel. Perfect art-nouveau, untouched since it was built in 1905/ Never changed, never restored. Glorious, complicated wrought iron and brass, lighting, windows--fabulously over the top, but so tarnished and faded that the gaudiness has gone. After breakfast, wonder how to spend the day, but I am impossibly tired and sleepy and the ten minute nap turns into a three hour sleep, collapsed in such deep sleep, Matt wakes me to see if I am still breathing. Around 2pm, the sky still white, but faint winter sun just yellowing through. Quick! Time to go out! Must explore! Must take pictures! Must walk, and find, and see! Bundles into layers of clothing for a grand expedition, charge outside, ready to walk around the entire city.

Stepping out of the vast revolving doors, the forst thing I notice is two men--americans i think, of the hey wow, man generation--pointing at cars, darting between my scrawled upong cars. Har! Brilliant! They look mystified and amused. I want to fill the whole of Prague with snow-inscribed nonsense. The streets are slighly less treacherous now. More ices has been melted by tromping feet, but other patches are more smooth-shiny than an ice rink. Back to last night's cafem blood and brain screaming for coffee.

Four coffees later, sky falling greyblue dark outside the tall wondows, still in the cafe. I don't think I will be moving for a few hours yet. The urge to run around has faded in the warm cafe light. Nested in a corner, the evening unravelling around, letting an absence of activity unwind the tension and unpleasantness of the last few days in london, blurring the edges of difficulat decisions about Question.

And now it is 7.15, and I'm drinking boor and i have just caught up to the present, writing this and looking arounf at the clusters of people in the cafe, and not knowing if this is a diary or a letter. And talking about head-hurting ideas of quantum computing. And hearing the roar of milk being steamed, and the multi-lingual conversations of locals, and american 20-somethings and euro-trash backpackers, and the pages of newspapers turning. And watching smoke curls under lights, and people attacking the cream on their hot chocolate with long spoons. And my hand hurting from using a pen after all this time. And it feels good to be here, and not sitting in the midst of a family christmas, trying hard to be polite, and being frowned at for not cooing over someone's sprog.

Sitting, drinking too much, realising that the longer one stays, the fuller the glasses are filled. Having foolish, disjointed, broken language conversation about such a mix of nonsense.

Back in the hotel--midnight--playing an annoying game with room service.
Call the porter to find out.
"No, No, call reception."
call reception: "do you have any wine."
"No, champagne or beer."
discuss, ponder. fuck it--champagne.
call reception "champagne, please."
"no, you must speak to the porter."
call the porter "how much is the champagne?"
"300 crowns."
the porter hangs up.
Hmm, is he bringing it? fuck knows. the foolish thing? the porter and the receptionist are standing next to each other at the same desk.

So, waiting. Drunk , but not enough, having spent the whole day not moving in the bar--having a wide-ranging, arm-waving, chain-smoking discussion with a german woman who has been living here for a while. Talking about complexity of numbers, evolutionary art, the restrictions of language, the confusion of translated poetry--is it the same poem?--how to discuss abstract art, the cold, the process of learning a language, and so on and so on.

And now I have champagne. Although it has no connection to champagne, and even sparling wine would be a glorification for this stuff. There is no room service, but matt ventured downstairs. Eurgh. It is monumentally sweet. Ack, revolting. Bah, fuck it.

"the alcohol content of a zebra!"-Matt on "Bohemia Sect", the charming concoction from the hotel bar. Teethcurlingly sweet, for something labelled 'sect', but fuck it, £5 champagne-who cares? Successfully avoiding all the things one is supposed to see-no visits to the castle yet, or to the bizarro astrological clock. But-saw the wonderful statue of St what's-her-face and the campy jesus-one of the most famous religious statues of the baroque period, and the paper-cutting christ -Jesus of the cross, draped with words so that he looks like he has just produced a fantastic cut out (yes-from a single piece of paper) and is about to wow the philistines. Mary, however, looking up, seems to hope only that he will clean up after himself. The story of St What's-her-face (aka St Luitgard)-a barking mad nun who had late night visions of licking the wounds of christ. Hmm. Sure. This is seen to be the best of the statues on the bridge. Prince Charles has pledged money to save her from the elements, saving her from losing the look of wonder on her face. Made in 1710, btw.

The gold inscription round the paper-cutting christ was only added in 1696-by a Jew found guilty of blaspheming in front of the sculpture. His punishment was to pay for the letters of the inscription to be added-in gold-and it reads "holy holy holy holy Lord", but in Hebrew.

The legend on the writing paper is either "I am happy" or "Be very happy"-I was told when I bought it, but I forgot already. Oops.

I have to go to St Vitus' cathedral, and dance, or shake. Or perhaps not. There is a radio in the hotelroom-it is wonderful green-blue plastic, but it only has a single dial-a volume control. No channel. No on and off. Think 1984, V for Vendetta. Truly odd to see it. The telephone is bright orange, and a masterpiece of 1960s design. I want to steal this fabulous curvy thing.

Monday 23 xii 5:10pm

Hogo Fogo Kaverna-sitting scoffing peanuts and working through a bottle of "Rulandski Cervene" which is, um, red. Yeah, it's red. Cafe a nice place -old steel pipe factory-chequerboard floor, strange beasties on the walls, odd bones hanging from the ceiling. It's pitch dark, and snowing outside-lovely to see the white drift of flakes through a dark sky.

Finally crawled out of bed at noon. I'd woken at about 7:30 with an horrific crash of hangover, stumbled out of bed, glugged down a few glasses of water, and only then wondering if the water was drinking water. Oh well, I haven't thrown up yet, so I'm assuming that it was ok. Last night, drinking grim, sweet champagne out of minuscule glasses, spent about 2 hours cavorting round the lobbies of the hotel. The place was deserted, lights almost non-existent-just spilled light from the grand, wide staircase cascading down through the centre well of the building. The staircase was designed to glide down, to process, to drift in evening dress and vast frocks. Each floor is arranged around a lobby, that is open through the height of the hotel-each level with brass and wrought iron art-nouveau railings around the central space-huge, but terrible paintings, sofas to overlook the movements up and down the stairs, frondy palms in corners, fantastically complex green and gold plasterwork designs of ivy, oriental carpets. From midnight to 2 am-roaming up and down, lounging on each and every sofa, imagining whispered conversations overhead from one balcony to another, picturing the chaperones sitting tutting on the sofas as their charges snuck around from door to door, chaps in frockcoats leaning on fireplaces, blowing cigar smoke into the soft gloom. Deserted, but for a couple of people vanishing, giggling into a corner room. The atrium is topped by a curved glass roof, but going up to the top floor, arranged in a rectangular corridor around it, with frosted windows opening onto the roof space, iron girders holding up another, higher glass roof. Pretty in the low electric light, but I must remember to go and look upstairs during daylight.

By noon, waking again, hangover had faded to a blur. Headed out to the main city square, past painted, plaster moulded buildings-including a huge, and wonderfully simple hawk lurking above a doorway. Square filled with a christmas market-with an overpowering smell of mulled wine that rocketed me back to memories of the christmas market in Münster, 20 years ago.

Lovely bookshop in the square-found a calendar with pictures by Jiri Kolac-someone whose work I'd seen and fallen in love with in a big exhibition at the MNO foundation in Barcelona a couple of years ago. No copies of the book of his work-although saw volumes of his poetry (but there were no translations). Leaving the square, found a wonderful antiquariat-books and maps. Bought an old map of the Czech Republic, from just after the second world war, when the boundaries were defined, and a gorgeously simple set of maps of New York from 1946. Still no sign of a decent coffee yet, and I was feeling crappy and undercaffeinated as all hell. Walking towards the ghetto, finally found the cafe Bartouche-high place with high, curving gallery and high backed brocade sofas, dark yellow walls and huge double height glass doors. Coffee was lousy, but it was coffee, which made a difference. All the coffee here seems to be the same brand segafredo. This must make Italians laugh-sega is slang for 'wank'. So I have been drinking cold wank coffee for the past 3 days!

Leaving the cafe, it began to snow. Walked through the ghetto, far grander than I had imagined, to the old cemetery. This is a tiny place-but for hundreds of years the Jewish community was forbidden to expand their burial ground. There are over 20,000 bodies buried here, some as much as 12 bodies deep, and the whole space is a crazy crush of tombstones, chaotic from subsidence. A field of broken teeth, jutting up in random angles, clustered, packed tight together blanketed in deep snow, with just patches of the red stone, and the blackened stone showing through. The cemetery dates back to at least 1439, and until 1787 was the only permitted Jewish burial place.

Rabbi Loew ben Bezalel-the chief rabbi and the creator of the golem, was buried here in 1609, at the grand age of 97.

It is a strange place-300 years of a population buried in a tiny graveyard, surrounded by high walls and elder trees. Doubling back, went to the Pinkas synagogue-started in 1479, expanded with a gothic vault in 1533, and covered with a renaissance façade in around 1635.

I knew nothing about what was in this building when I walked through the doors. The walls are painted with the names and dates of the 77,297 Czech Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis. Only around 15,000 Jews survived the war. The regular red and black lettering in this building, painted white, simple arched space, is overwhelming. Entire communities, destroyed, recorded as a list of names, by village and by town. A population systematically destroyed. A group persecuted for hundreds of years, but surviving, almost entirely wiped out in a few short years. This year, only around 1000 of those people still survive.

The ceremonial house, on the other side of the cemetery, houses an exhibition of paintings and children's drawings from the time of the Terezin ghetto in 1945, by those awaiting deportation. Of the 140,000 who passed through the ghetto, over 80% died. And each childhood drawing I saw was blurred in my mind by the expanse of red and black names of those who died.

The names in the Pinkas synagogue are newly painted-just completed. The memorial had been made originally in 1956-but, shockingly, plastered over after the six days war, in 1967, by the Czech government.

I left the place shaking, unable to absorb the scale of the destruction of life. The Hebrew name of the cemetery is Beth-Chajim: House of Life.

I can't come close to describing these places, or how I felt standing in them. Words are so often inadequate, and I do not have the skill to use the words to their right effect here. But I do not think the image of those name written walls will go from my memory.

Walked slowly away from there, in the growing dark, and the snow. Hungry now, looking for food, something to solidify physical presence. Found a strange dining room-deserted. Even had vegetarian food-but that was off. The menu was terrific-said that the food was prepared by Mrs Somebody-or-other and her team, and that the prices were calculated by the responsible manager Mr Unpronounceable. Left, with nothing to eat. Still cafe searching, back to the square, where I resisted buying a broadsword. Each corner turned seemed to unveil a different city, on a different scale, in a different style. Sat in the very sterile cafe Milena-overlooking the incredibly complicated astronomical clock-pride and joy of a city of clockmakers. The coffee stank, and the food was slightly worse, and the flashing christmas lights were on the verge of driving me insane.

Vanished back across the square, round a few more corners, and found this place, where the wine bottle grows emptier, and accordingly, my handwriting deteriorates further.

Finishing wine-food quest. Heading back to Bethem square, where there's the default fish restaurant that was closed by the time we staggered out of Gulugulu last night. Again, turning down corners that looked nice, walking through perfectly quiet residential squares, away from the main tourist shopping drag. New theory-if it has a vaulted ceiling, the food will be 'traditional'-meaty meaty. Game, mostly, accompanied by overloud music or, horrors, a real live pianist. All the restaurants here seem very brightly lit-canteen, or fast food style. Ended up at the fishy place-nice, plain, cheapo. Bizarro south seas meets middle Europe carved wooden benches. Stopped at another bookshop on the way, and found two novels by Lucas Tomin-the bloke that Matt had played in 'Enemies of the State' on TV about ten years ago. I had made a note to look for his stuff a few weeks ago-not recognising the name. There's a picture in the back of one, 'Ashtrays', and strangely, they still look alike. Incredibly so. Matt had been cast partly for the likeness between them, but they have grown from teens to 30 in the same way. He's living in Prague again-would be incredible to find him. Matt had met the mother, the writer, and the writer of the screenplay, but not Lucas. Sitting now in Klub Architect, a low cavern that disproves the theory about vaulted ceilings! Very dark, with lights hanging low over the wooden tables, bare stone walls and arches, people poring over tracing paper architectural drawings, and reading in corners.

One routine that happens in each cafe-the unlayering as people sit down-peeling off hats, coats, scarves and gloves, and a few minutes later, as they thaw, pulling off a big jersey, then after a few more, a second jersey is dragged over the head. And leaving, the whole process is reversed. It adds several minutes to a departure. Too early, and the effect is not quite right. You have to get that final warm layer on the moment before you hit the frigid air.

Flicking back through what I've written-I've left all sorts of things out: standing in the courtyard of the church under the chain-the church of the Knights of Malta, standing in the snow at night, hearing the organ music leak through the high windows during the mass, or crossing a small bridge, and seeing a huge dark wooden water wheel turning slowly in the river, covered in icicles sticking sideways from the slats. Just bits and pieces, but there is so much here, so many surprising sights tucked around corners.

Smoking Sparta cigarettes-the most ubiquitous brand-not bad, a little rough-sitting in this overheated hotel room at 1 am, pinkskinned from the bath. A perfect bath! The room is three times high as it is square, black and white tiled to five foot up, then peeling once-white paint, with odd patches of grey where there was scrubbed off mildew. The bath tub is vast and deep-sitting up, the sides of the bath are shoulder high. Completely submerged in deep hot water, the bath was barely half full. Staring at the words of a Kafka story-I felt almost obliged to read some Kafka here-but not reading in the steam, thoughts drifting loosely, mind latching on tiny visual details, odd memories, half dreams, foolish ideas. Ah, I love good baths. The shower at home is so totally useless, one may as well stand under the kitchen tap, or hold a watering can of tepid water above one's head.

I can see the moon from here, and it is just one day from full. The lettering on the building opposite has lost the light from a few more letters. It does not feel like christmas, and I am pleased. The light is making an odd irregular ticking, as the glass of the bulb gets hotter. There are a few cars, and each one that goes past seems loud in the brown road snow slush. I can see someone watching television in a dark room across the square-their face lit dimly in a dark blue glow.

Read to sleep, eventually, in the over-dried room. Fitful sleep, broken dreams. Reluctant, so reluctant to wake completely in the morning-drifting half awake, half snoozing, occasionally slipping under for half an hour. Gazing at the light, changing and shifting sideways across the square as the day grew. Unbearably comfortable under thick white feather duvets, stretched on my side, facing the huge balcony windows. Waking dreams in the soft warmth, pulling me deeper into the bed. Matt had gone out-to find a razor, breakfast, chocolate, not easy perhaps, on christmas here, leaving me drifting through the morning.

Eventually hauled myself out of the warm sleep of the bed, and into the day, but not till well after one o'clock. I was being deliberately lazy-choosing not to leap up first thing in the mornings, charge around town, seeing all the sights, and spots and extracts of culture that the guidebooks think obligatory. Bah!
Pottered downstairs into the hotel cafe. What a place-even more ornate than the main body of the hotel-it feels rather like an over decorated cake, and the addition of the very christmassy fake poinsettias may have tipped the balance here-along with the pianist, tinkling away, adding dozens of extra frill notes between the notes of every tune, looking like he had not moved from the piano stool for well over thirty years. Expensive place-one has to pay extra for the privilege of being there, and for listening to the music. Full of tourists taking pictures of each other grinning in the splendour of this turn of the century apparition of a room. Having vanished upstairs again to add another three layers of clothing and my foolishly glamorous 1930s velvet hat-complete with an array of green and black feathers-time to explore a little more of the city, venturing for the first time out of the old town. Stopped by the statue of Wenceslas (aka Vaclav) with the flowers still laid on the steps to commemorate the student who set fire to himself back in 68. When he did this, he poured kerosene over his body, then lit a match. When he caught fire, he ran through the square, screaming, begging for someone to throw a coat over him, extinguish the flames. He spent three days dying in hospital, begging the 30 others not to do the same. They had agreed that every day, for one month, one would burn himself on the steps of the statue in protest. They listened to him, and changed their determination. In many ways, that was the final public act of resistance, protest went underground, and there was a greater acceptance of a fate that could not be overturned. When he was buried, however, 800,000 people followed the funeral procession. The authorities disinterred his body, and moved him out of the centre of the town, fearing that his grave would be a focus of protest. The National museum, at the top of the square was closed for christmas eve.

Walking through the snow bound park behind that, and crossing the first really car-filled road into the new town, the feel of the place changed. Greater dilapidation, darkness, lack of activity. The scale was different-grander in many ways, larger certainly, fairly plain but with a more deepset Baroque influence, but worn down, tired, abandoned-like a merchant's town where the ships have stopped arriving.

Opening into Charles square, the sense of the place changed again--a clean calm, with deep snow, dark trees and a few statues scattered about in the grassy area in the middle. The town hall-site of the first defenestration, Prague's favoured form of political assassination-is here. Cafe hunting, again, led into the back streets, places of brightly painted apartment blocks and offices, a mesh of tram wires crisscrossing over a junction between low, tired, paintflaked buildings. Everything was closed, few people about, apart from the dog walkers, and only occasional bursts of noise as restaurant doors swung closed. Ended on the river back again, with the sky just starting to drift dark into the evening, shrouded in the lack of clarity that always seems to mist over the city. There is a small island in the river-a summer pleasure palace and garden, bright yellow and white painted, cultural institute now, reached by a dark bridge.

Another place with deep snow, less walked that the streets. Snow covering the gardens once known for being the summer play place of decadent and lazy artists-loathed by Berlioz. Something rather sad about a summer place deserted in winter. Dogs romping, cold footed, in the snow, which scrunches as you dance around. Sunset is creeping halfheartedly over the sky, patterning the slow moving river orange, and making the tangle of claw bare branches black again the air.
Reaching the other side of the palace, the sun has almost set, and the snow, lit by far too many dimly burning black iron narnia-like street lamps in parallel lines by the bandstand, is no longer white, but cerulean blue in the shadows, surrounded by icing-sugar-mouse pink.

On the way to the river, had passed a street front building of plate glass windows, each one with a TV showing Tomato's video art, each one with part of a prose-poem white stickered onto the glass. Astounding work. Turned out to be the British Council. Odd to see the broken art-music-typography of Tomato, with their blurred light images of Soho here in Prague afternoon.

Walking away from the river, down dark and deserted streets, even the floodlighting, so prevalent, seems closed for christmas. Wandered into a dark, high baroque church. In the almost total darkness, the complex shapes, the overgilding, and the vast population of plaster saints and cherubs seemed beautiful-just a few edges glinting gold from the dull glow of the altar candles, as a tramp shoved and shuffled to himself in a pew by the door.

And now, back in the same old cafe bar as each time before-one of the very few places open tonight-the music is loud, the air is foggy with cigarettes, and smoke warm and I am tucked into a corner, rereading Koestler, and writing this, and wondering if and where I'll be able to find some supper.

Supper was a washout--crappy, insipid Italian food, like student cooking--but the place was open, adn the food was hot, and I could not even be bothered to argue over the bill. Then back to the bar to read, to drink beer, tea, whatever, to watch people, to complain under my breath about the new bunch of waiters who seem incapable of catching an eye or remembering an order, but find their own uselessness screamingly funny.

---more to follow

--kate

From: Katie
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: prage journal (3)

But before that, to the bridge to see the rapid boiling cold steam pour in clouds around the stone statues, to stare at the full moon, cold and small and distand, high above the National Theatre, to listen to a cello player sitting, with bright red frozen fingers, playing a mozart concerto in the ice-clouded night air. Spinning around on a patch of ice until the whole city span, blurring around me. And now, at something past one, just back in the hotel room after tripping about the night hotel once again, in overcoat and underwear, smoking, sprawled on a ratty velvet sofa in a third floor lobby, after another revoltingly hot bath. Sitting upright in the bath, the water almost to my shoulders, wondering why clear bath water so often appears green, and watching the reflection of my foot as I lift it through the surface, skin burning pinker by the moment in a steamed bathroom. Floating full length in the bath, head back, with the water lapping around my jaw, and steam condensing on the mirror. And in the lobby, the frosted glass globe of the light, suspended from octagons of copper and strings of crystal beads, casting light like that reflected from the surface of a noon swimming pool, spreads over the closed doors of the rooms, and inches over the cielings, barely touching the dark centre well where I smoke, watching shreds of smoke break up and vanish in the lack of light. On the stairs, a terrible painting--post-pre-raphaelite semi-naked pseudo-calssical broads draped in wisps of sea green gauze. It is almost too dark to see, but for their marble white flesh, skinny but for thier ample breasts and winsome smiles.

And it is Christmas morning and time to sleep.

Christmas day, and awake at a respectable time, realising that last night, at midnight, was the only time I had heard church bells ringing in this city. I wake up with a yawning, hollow craving for coffee, even though the coffee here is so bad I am tempted to give up caffeine for ever. Standing at the balcony window, the square seems almost deserted, shoplights off, only a few forlorn Christmas trees blinking to themselves. Official parental phone call time, that time on Christmas morning between mass and lunch chaos. So, round the corner to the main post office to get the duty done before breakfast. Like a train station lobby, with a couple of officials in a closed off glass booth, ignoring everyone milling around the telephones, except for the moment when one scurries out to scold me for smoking. There is a wall of grey blankets, and behind this, the cavernous, bas-reliefed space of the main post office hall, carefully pretending to be closed. Phone cards bought, phone system deciphered, I conveniently forget the dialling code for the town where my parents have lived for the past seven years and make a dozen false starts before getting through to my mother. She has no idea that I am in Prague, so after a long explanation, and after learning that she is preparing for some tap dancing examination in January (?), we do the whole happy christmas thing, and then I have to go through the explanation all over again for my father, who has misheard my mother. Mercifully brief, blaming lack of change.

I totter, hollow headed, across the street to the Palace Hotel for coffee. The place is a sparkling vision of mirrors and pink tableclothes. Rejecting the speical christmas 'business menu' from the officiously smiling blonde-highlighted Intourist reject waitress, I dive into a most peculiar cup of coffee and a vast chunk of chocolate cake. The furniture is swathed with a pattern common to all bland business hotels across the world, and sofas in London flats, and it clashes gloriously with the curtains. I wonder idly what was in the cake, as I hallucinate mildly, and rather boringly for half an hour about nothing in particular.

Drift around the streets for a while before deciding that it is most definately lunchtime, and head to a swank-o-rama restaurant back in Bethlem Square. After two and a half hours of fabulous food, too much wine, plenty of crisp white linen, good service and terrible, ear-wringing Bing Crosby Christmas songs, back into the cold air, stunned by inanities from the diplomatic family squabbling and moralising at the next table.

Sitting now in Gany's, a wonderful grand banquetting hall of a cafe, with neo-soviet glass ball and blue plastic lights hanging from lofty-cielinged baroque palster mouldings. I am calm and content again after two, three hours of a frustrating and infuriatinf double circle around the old town, constantly looping back and around, trying without success to find something, somewhere open. Bickering wildly, skidding on ice, grumping around closed dark streets, unable to find a cafe, bar, museum, or a shop that sold paper. Maps not making sense, guidebooks misleading, and tempers seriously frayed. Yelling my head off at Matt, and giving up on directions, turned another corner into an unsigned street. A street which hid a tiny artist's shop (yeah, the artist and the shop were tiny), stuffed with miniscule teapots and shelves of perfect, heavy art paper, and a happily lady-of-a-certain-age who talked and talked and talked aboaut having no grasp of grammar, having only one small desk for her, her husband and her son (all artists) and how she sent her husband directly to the factory for the paper. And how there was less 'snee' and 'less deep minus' a few years ago. And how the classical music festival in the summer filled the squares with music sound, and so on...

Without her glasses, wrapping the paper was an ordeal, but clutching it, and escaping, ended up eventually and fortuitously at Gany's. This place is so large and grand it should feel stark and echoing and overlit, but it has an oddly comforting faded grandeur and a low buzz of intense conversation and striped-aproned waiters gliding serenly between tables, and no sense of hurry, and no complaints over a single glass of wine stretched over two hours.

back in the hotel bar, What noise do zebras make?
This wine--Frankovka--tastes just fine after half a glass becuase it has numbed my tongue more effectivly than novocaine, combined with a high impact pile driver. Do not drink over a naked flame.

The pianist has just paused for breath, after the apotheosis of sycopation, tporn between an urge to play wild boogie-woogie and classic british pub-piano (a style noone should ever have to hear). "If among all the possible worlds, none had been better than the rest, then God would never have created one" said Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, who had clearly never heard this pianist segue from Silent Night to Jingle Bells in the middle of this charming christmas medly. I have never heard so many superfluous notes in such simple tunes, And the waiter is John Prescott in an ill fitting dinner jacket, and my tetth are turning a truly charming shade of black, courtesy of le grand vin Frankovka.

26th december.
A night of almost no sleep, just fragments of terrifying dreams. Night wrecked finally by a 7am bath in the room above. Whether the noise was amplified by the hour, or by an air vent, i have no idea, but it was stunningly loud, as though my ear was pressed to an amplifying chamber under a metal tub being filled by a waterfall. And when the bath was filled, i could only think someone was bathing their dog, because of the mestallic scratching, scarping sounds under the water. Sulked, head under the pillow, waiting for the light. And then the chores of packing, folding and rearranging to get all the extra books into bags that had arrived full.

Bill paid and bags stowed with a flower-frocked old biddy, over to Gany's for breakfast, only brekkie was over, so ate peculiar zucchini pancakes with pinkish sauce that tasted of almost nothing and only had a slight resemblance to food.

If it was possible, even more places are closed today than on the previous days, and each street is shut up and there are no books to be found, but the tea-house was open again, and it was more than pleasant to tuck up cross-legged on a window seat, drinking steadily more bitter green tea, and staring at the smooth shadowed shapes of the white plastered low vaulted rooms. Later, walking. More walking, just ambling round the city, with little direction or purpose.

Have only been to one gallery in this city--skipped the fake mammoth in the National Museum, and the ravaged European art collections in other museums. There seems little point just going for the sake of it when there are better collections in almost every other city I have visited. The lone exhibition was of young czech artists--not a bad show, although small, and only one piece from each person. Interesting range of sculpture, painting, photography, video and sound pieces. Nothing that really blew me away, although none of it, bar one very self-indulgent painting, was crap. Interesting presentation of the work, it was treated almost reverentially, like museum peices rather than gellery shows. Each piece had a room to itself, but that may have been an accident of the geography--the building was made up of small interconnecting chambers.

In another part of the gallery, a peculiar small group of mediaeval statues, all without heads. But in a beautifully painted room, the vaulting covered with very simple religious imagery. Well preserved, but worn down enough to soften the colours to a blur.

Other exhibitions have been closed over Christmas, and only the tourist tat is open, along with a few commercial galleries flogging gaudy post-chagall horrors. Circled round and round a few more times, and back to the teahouse--filling the last half hour before leaving for the airport.

As a tourist, I am a failure. I have not visited any of the grand sights, passing dutifully from room to room in the castle making admiring noises in front of cabinets of Bohemian crystal, or oohing and aahing over baroque confectionary in any number of churches. But I have walked almost every street in the old city, and could find my way back to many places, and have got a sense of the place stored away in the back of my head for another time.

Uneventful journey back to London. But, being England on Boxing Day, even in Soho, every fucking cafe and pub was closed.

---------

and that's the lot. thank fuck for that, huh?
--kate

From: Katie
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: (no subject)

after the fluffy prague journals, cooing over the wonder of everything, a spot of ranting.

i am severly fucked off. my company is closing. for the last fourteen months i have been running my own business. now it ends. and i am fucked off with the clients who don't even have the decency to call me up and let me know that the projects that would keep us busy for the next few months are no longer going to happen. three times in a row. we win a contract. the project gets cancelled. and there's nothing else new that we can get in time, because we thought we would have more work that we could manage. we could sit around, hope for new work, chase a few leads, but every damn day we are building up more debts. salaries. rent. phones. connections. and somehow i have to get out of the lease on the office space without the landlords devouring me. i hope that my staff can get new jobs soon. i feel like shit, turfing them out of jobs. i hope that i can get a job. i'm a lousy employee. i just can't take orders from idiots. and the london new media industry is almost entirely made up of ad industry fools. wankers. web jesters and avant-assholes.

fuck it. i can't sit around and watch this stuff happen. i was offered a chunk of money by my sales bloke, to keep the company going. but he wanted half the shares. joint control. no fucking way. he would want to turn question into the company i would never want to work for. i can't accept survival at any price. i think he'll talk himself out of it even before i tell him where to stick the money. ah well, i should have just about enough money left to close the company without insolvency or liquidation, which should keep my name off the 'never-touch-this-person-with-a-barge-pole' list. i guess i'll write another book that sells three and a half copies. and then try and sell my soul to the highest bidder. see if i can get minimum wage. oh, i forgot. there is no minimum wage in this country.

last night i had to go to a corporate party, held by clients of mine. they stood around and told everyone just how clever they were, planning, designing and building their gorgeous web site. then they wondered why i looked pissed off. so i lurked in the corner and drank too much of their wine before stomping home in an unappreciated mood. and i talked to someone there who works with matt. she spent about ten minutes telling me how unlike her expectations i was. how 'individual'. how 'different'. how unlike him. how 'unique'. so nice of her to stand there and tell me how odd she thinks i am. she didn't shut up until i walked away.

and i spent saturday night sleeping in the office after another storming row with matt. right now i don't have enough energy to deal with fragile egos. i've been walking on eggshells so damn long.

zot vanished through an unseen hole in the wall into the bowls of the building for an hour or so last night, reappearing covered in dark grey dust. cat got stuck in the bathroom and yowled. every damn creature i live with is neurotic as hell. even the bugs are looking twitchy.

i'll shut up now.
--kate

From: SAGReiss
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: Prince negatron

Yes, negatron can speak some German. You see, his great grandfather was court jester to the Prince of Lichtenstein, which he thinks makes him heir to the Hapsburg throne. We humour his harmless little fantasies because, after all, he is out all-powerful wizard, if not quite the Kaiser of the Holy Roman Empire, which, as I have said, was none of the three, even if our MOO is down and I have to e-mail the Archfuhrer. DM 3000 is not a bad salary at all, about what I make now and what I used to make teaching English in France, though certainly not right for a Hohenzollern nor quite enough to live decently in Heidelburg, which is a very expensive city. I'm sure Prince Al will do quite well for himself in Aix-la-Chapelle, seat of negatron's empire, or so he believes. When will I ever find people who can just read and write, read and fucking write? I can't help it if she's always sick. I come from a long line of peasants too mean to die. We don't get sick, we just get drunk, and we always go to work. I know I'm going to be scolded, that one's sex life involves emotional feelings and whatnot, but so what? I wrote an e-mail, a damned good one, I thought. I was even going to ask Nichelle to put it on the web page, but never mind. What's the big deal? She calls men pigs. I confess: "Guilty as charged." Then she gets all mad and stomps off to her wind ensemble audition. I only hope she's enough of a professional to stay her anger and play her horn. I had been trying to work that quotation in for weeks, and even so I had to edit it to fit the context. What Fred was actually talking about was the ho's trying to lure him into the crack houses. What he said was: "I don't mind a quick blowjob, but I ain't goin' behind no doors. You don't know what's behind 'em."

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Nichelle
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: Music for Prague 1968

At least my audition was good, though it seems there was nothing really to worry about. They have about twelve good musicians and an attention span of about a quarter hour, which is divided between all 45 of them. I don't really have any idea how many of them there are. They seem to have a rather loose attendance policy, and this is the first rehearsal of the semester. Of course I sound like shit, but I can still play Husa. I'm sick of explaining what I'm doing here in Syracuse. "Well, I just flew here because I'm a selfless woman who likes to give blowjobs." Fuck that, I don't want to talk about sex. Giving head doesn't have a whole lot to do with your own sex drive, and such interest in receiving it sounds like a healthy appetite to me. I'm not in a nice mood. I'm hungry (ate half a pancake, and a piece of toast with penis butter and jam for lunch) and my lips hurt. No more blowjobs. They put a strain on my delicate embouchure. Go try one of those crack-house whores. I'll work it into the budget.

Nichelle

From: Columbine
Date: 15 January 1997
Subject: Re: B-

>What I'd like to see is Joe and Jane at play in their
>bedroom, no bulging breasts or biceps, no half a cup of creme anglaise or
>whatever it is they substitute for sperm.

Ivory dishwashing soap.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: Katie
Date: 21 January 1997
Subject: hello, R U inot netse x?

heh. cheers for sending me that log file. made me laugh out loud. Fucking hilarious that he even took you guys half seriously. Razor, however, seemed surprisingly smart and polite compared to some of the arseholes i've talked to at lambda. the garbage they come out with in the hopes of a netfuck never ceases to amaze me. i am astounded by inanity.

take a look at this, from the other day, when the guest tried to join a guest in my room. the other guest was me as well, checking the location.announce stuff on verbs.

is this a crap pick up strategy, or what?

He pages, "sorry thought somebody else hey i know you I have heard alot oabout you!"
page ruddy uh oh...do tell
(to Ruddy_Guest) crazyjane laughs
l ~ruddy
Ruddy_Guest
look into his eyes and he'll tell you the rest!
He is awake and looks alert.
You sense that Ruddy_Guest is looking for you in Private Room E.
He pages, "I heard that you were really inot netse x and qite good at it"
page ruddy the guest you tried to join was me...i'm editing verbs. you heard WHAT? and from whom?
You sense that Ruddy_Guest is looking for you in Private Room E.
He pages, "may i join you"
He pages, "what I said and from various guests"
page ruddy Um, I think you have been sadly mislead then.
(to Ruddy_Guest) crazyjane suspects that someone has been spreading rather malicious rumours about her.
He pages, "i heard that you really enjoyed it and that you wrereinto many things"
He pages, "would you be inteested in it"

he kept asking until i @gagged him. somehow i figured that sarcasm would be rather wasted on this one, and that elaborate lies would confuse the poor lamb.

i used to keep a collection of all the pages i received along these lines, but it got so large it was depressing me and i trashed the file.

on a more general level, I am fascinated by people's descriptions. Whether they choose a physical one, or something else. Over the past few weeks, I have collected several hundred from Lambda and elsewhere, and they are overwhelmingly physical. And almost all in the realms of fantasy. I have lost count of the number of times the words flowing, powerful, handsome, alluring, beautiful, gown, robe, locks, and sword are used. oh, and eyes. there are eyes everywhere. blue. green. large. sexy. winking. Personally, I don't give a toss if someone describes themselves as the most stunning creature on earth--if they have nothing interesting to say, I'm not going to talk to them. And even in the realms of netsex--what does your alleged RL appearance have to do with sex in a text reality? i'm stating the obvious, so i'll shut up.

--k

From: Columbine
Date: 22 January 1997
Subject: Re: hello, R U inot netse x?

>And even in the realms of netsex--what does your alleged
>RL appearance have to do with sex in a text reality? i'm stating the
>obvious, so i'll shut up.

Damn it, it DOES matter. (Sorry. Every so often I'm reminded that I seem the only person on this list who understands the virtues of escapism, and it makes me cranky.)

I don't like how I appear in real life. If I put an obviously over-the-top description for myself, it's not meant for the viewer, it's meant for me. It is glorious to be able to pretend to be something you're not, even if you know that everyone sees through it. It is the same vicarious projection thrill as watching James Bond movies or playing certain kinds of computer games. It's an existence that you perceive as being in some way better than yours.

It's an acceptable mutation and one of the few tools we have (well, fiction is the best one, but I also seem to be the only person here into escapist-style fiction as well) for avoidance of a drap and wretched reality. The alternatives are:
1. become as gray as the world
2. go nuts (and I don't mean eccentric either)
3. over indulge in mind and behaviour altering substances
Since my dad is slowly in the course of drinking himself to death and I don't speak to him anymore, I think 3 is probably out, and I don't much care for 1 or 2 either.

End of screed. I'll go back to being quiet now; sorry about the explosion. You can tell me I'm wrong if you like; it won't matter.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: Nichelle
Date: 24 January 1997
Subject: How stupid my classes are. An essay by Nichelle.

"Nichelle is going to write an e-mail to the World about how stupid her classes are."

In this essay, I am going to write about how stupid my classes are. First, you should know that I am taking four classes this semester at LeMoyne Colledge. I am taking these classes: Anthropolidgy, Mid-evil Romances, United State's History, and Utopias. These are very interesting classes. I like them alot.

I fucking hate this miserable excuse for a university. So, why don't I lead you on a little tour of my own private Hell, OK?

Anthropology 101.
"Today we're going to talk about the Scientific Method."
. o O (great. S&M)
"Let us take for example the Woman's role in Society"
. o O (big mistake)

Fortunately, I had a little homework to do for my 11:30 class.

"What is a hypothesis we can make about women's roles?"
"Hmmm?"
"Anybody?"
(Spivak Nazi in the fourth row raises Eir hand.)
"You have to look at the way they are raised. Study them from a hospital and pick them. They're brainwashed at a young age."

Dante and Chaucer. English 442.
We sit down and wait for class to start. Sorority-type-girl enters. "Look, I painted my nails a different color." (this is really what was said) "So he gets off of the True Path and then what?" "What are you talking about?" "The *reading*, you know... the book we're reading?"

Dr. Novelli chooses at random some student journal entries.
"Rachel?"
"Didn't do it. I registered late."
"Mark Johnston"
"Um, I don't got it."
"Buzz?"
"Do you want me to read it?"
"Yes."
"In this journal entry I am going to talk about Dante. For those of you who don't know this, the Inferno was written in Italian. Italian, like many languages, is a European language, and is considered by some to be very flamboyant. Dante chose to write in this language to reach people whose native language was Italian and who didn't speak Latin. I thought this was interesting because some of the words Dante chose are very difficult and I had to go to a dictionary more than once..."

. o O (Maybe while you were there, you should have looked up the word "translation")

"still, his use of language presented vivid images to my mind, and I found myself seeing the things which he described..."

This whole thing reminds me of a performance I was a party to of the Muczynski Fantasy Trio (clarinet, cello, and piano). The pianist dropped out entirely for about half a page of the score, leaving the cellist and the clarinetist (guess who) in deep shit and completely freaked out. We didn't know what the fuck to do. We kept playing until her page turner got her back on track. She came in just in time, at the beginning of the clarinet rests, and I remember sighing loudly and hanging my head in disgust, shaking it back and forth in both relief and anger...

This is more or less what I was doing during his essay. This is more or less what I did all day.

I read my essay. Novelli's response? Some story I didn't understand about how the thermostat was regulated by tiny tubes and how somebody was hanging a blackboard.

History 322, United States 1800-1848

I wrote like crazy for an hour, filled up four pages, and have no idea what they say or mean.

But I did manage to save the best for last.

Utopias and Dystopias, English 402

Keep in mind that this is a 400 level English class designed for English majors. Seven novels. What is the first thing we do? Move the chairs into a circle of sharing so that we can all see each other. Discuss the expectations of the class. This is the form which we are supposed to use when we're Responding to the reading.

What do I particularly like or dislike about this Utopi or Dystopia?
How is it different from the world I live in?
How is this fictional world like the one I live in?
What ideas and principles are valued in this society?
How are these values upheld?
Is there any negative cost to upholding these values?
How would I like living in this world?

I ran like hell for the bus, not knowing whether it had come or not. For those of you who don't know me, I don't exactly have a runner's build. I just about had a heart attack. My chest hurt. I have a weird cough now. I have to work tonight. I have to work from 7:15 AM until 9:30 PM tomorrow. Now I'm going to go eat something. And that is all I have to say about my classes at LeMoyne Collidge.

Nichelle

From: SAGReiss
Date: 28 January 1997
Subject: Conspiracy
Attached: christine.jpg

The fattest, ugliest, meanest, but not dumbest, of the gay boys drove his sky blue convertible into a Pathfinder and some other car, one of which then careened into a house. Our new supervisor, who comes from a military family and is known to hate the sisters, was one of the four guys in the car. What he was doing out drinking late night with three queens is beyond me. They held a quick conference and decided to do the right thing. They left the scene of the accident. Unfortunately for them the license plate stayed behind. Two hours later the cops busted Brian, but he lucked out and only tested O.8. It always helps to have a good meal and a nap before taking the alcohol test. He's got a few odd DWIs and traffic violations outstanding, so he was promptly arrested for all kinds of crimes against the State. Under intense police interrogation one of the boys cracked and described a plan to claim the car had been stolen. The cops upped the charges to conspiracy. That charge I guess will be dropped eventually, but I doubt Brian can weasel his way out of this one. Leaving the scene of an accident is bad enough. How long the rumor mill at work can protect the new supervisor's ass I don't know. I don't believe that our usual illegal behavior outside of work can be held against us, at least those of us who drive. There's four of us who've solved the problem by not getting behind the wheel. DWI doesn't mean much to people who are legally intoxicated before their first morning drink, the theraputic drink as Malcolm Lowry put it. My fame and glory on MSN lasted less than twenty-four hours. I posted some shit on the adult writing BBS and was promptly told it was "too graphic" in a very non-judgemental e-mail I got to advise me that it was being deleted. On the other hand I continue to look for outlaw publishers on the web. I've sent some stuff of to one of them. I always feel hope until I remember that Cleo sent her book on Bangkok prostitutes to two hundred publishers before she found one. On the other hand it isn't a very good book, nor even very unusual. For those of you who read French, this e-mail from a Quebecoise I met on MSN. This girl is thirty years old and makes nineteen mistakes a high school student should be ashamed of. I am shocked. Can anyone on the internet, or anyone in Quebec, write French? For extra credit, find the nineteen mistakes. (Hint: punctuation doesn't count, accents do. No points off for retyping "soir".)

>Bonsoir Gabriel!
>
>je fut très enchanté de faire ta connaissance ce soir soir, je rencontre
>tres peu de francophone habituellement
>encore plus fut ma surprise d'en avoir 3 ce soir .
>
>Tu me semble très sympathique. comment ce fait il que tu parle c'est
>langues courament ?tu semble les
>parlé avec quand même beaucoup d'aisance.
>
>j'espere d'avoir la chance de te reparler
>
>Je t'envoie une photo de moi elle a été prise il y a peu pres 2 ans lors
>d'une compétition de sauvetage minier
>dans les territoire du nord ouest a yellowknife.
>
>c'est le metier que je pratiquais avant.maintenant je suis retourné au
>étude d'ailleurs je vais gradué mercredi.

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

From: Laurent
Date: 29 January 1997
Subject: Re: Conspiracy

hmmm..une competition de sauvetage minier..you do meet fascinating people
gabe.......

*smirk*

9102010551

From: Laurent
Date: 29 January 1997
Subject: uniform fetish anybody?

i'll send u a pic of me in uniform as soon as they give it to me (next week), then let me go (dunno when) and i find a scanner..

laurent, matricule 9102010551
8e regiment de transmissions

From: Columbine
Date: 29 January 1997
Subject: Re: Conspiracy

All this talk of pictures, Gabriel, reminds me that (please forgive me if I already posted this here, I'm going senile) I have finally signed my soul away and posted a picture of myself on my Web site ... after a fashion.

The site was redesigned top to bottom a few days back.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.
Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,
And woke far on. I did not know the place.
-- Edwin Muir (1887 -1959)

From: SAGReiss
Date: 31 January 1997
Subject: Poupus scoopus

My pleasures are few and seldom. I must be an unrepentent alcoholic. Without alcohol everything looks humorless and dreary. I'm a grouch. I don't even argue. I just say: "Fuck this," and leave. I'm dead tired of the MOO. I keep hoping to find some new internet forum to get excited about. I feel like negatron. I look for publishers online. My last two joys are expresso and cigars. I have taken up this last vice because I wasn't sure I had enough, now that circumstances beyond my control have deprived me of the life-giving spirits. For only ten ninety-five you too can have a cutting-edge, streamlined, metallic grey poop scoop with thirty-one zip-lock bags absolutely free. It's a big change for Matilda, especially since we had to move her poupus box to the living room this morning when three tiles fell out of the rotting shower leaving a filthy hole which opens to the external wall of the house. We got killed this morning, fifty-one covers for breakfast including SU assholes, teenage swimmers and a minor league hockey team, very quiet, polite, well-dressed. The sisters were going crazy, fifteen rugged young men with no teeth. Lunch another forty covers including SU assholes (The bitch meant to write fifteen percent on the check but instead wrote fifteen dollars, thus nearly tripling my tip.), these forty librarians who have been driving everyone mad all week for the grand price of seventy dollars a room, three meals included. After that another stupid fucking staff meeting which I won't bother describing. I like your new look, Columbine, and I like the picture too, even if it's somewhat less than revealing. I had imagined you with straight hair. negatron thought you looked good too. I guess you had prepared us to see a monster of some kind. I admit that I don't always understand cybertalk about "reinventing one's identity". I cannot see how writing some dumbass name, or pretending to be the opposite sex can wipe out years of internal and external conditioning. Is anyone so stupid as not to know that women get "r u wet?" pages? To me a much more interesting question is what the relationship between an ephemeral moment captured on black-and-white film six or seven years ago and my present dynamic being is. That face is not me, nor even mine. Nor is the name at the bottom of this page. Both participate in the image that you and I form of myself. Even the "I" of these letters is a narrative function and a literary creation. The difference between fact and fiction is interesting to MOOers, readers of Thomas Pynchon and other Star Trek fans. What I am interested in is the difference between fact and recorded facts, the difference between myself and a picture of myself or a letter about myself. Why fuck around with fiction when the problem is how to represent reality? We approach the mystery of our esthetic media not by disassociating them from reality, but by trying to come as close as possible to a reproduction of that reality. Obviously I am not arguing for the school of hyper-realism in art. Egytian art, medieval art, cubist art and abstract expressionism were all trying to represent reality and our experience of it. One is not more realistic than another. Each era uses or invents the tools it needs to conform to that representation. Perspective has been "invented" a dozen times in different places of time and space. Those who didn't use it acted not out of blindness but because they didn't see things that way. Some one may claim (probably not since I write in a vaccuum) that Miss_Bunny_Foo_Foo is merely searching for the best possible technique to express her relation to the internal and external world. That might be, but that is never the argument I hear from MOOers. They do not try to capture themselves in a text-based medium. They want to escape. Some one once accused my of being "genitally obsessed" because I said that a certain MOOer is a man masquarading as a woman. Of course I have never seen the genitals in question. He told me he is a man (and not to tell anyone else). They know what their name is. They do not look at the exciting question: "What is my relationship to that name, the name I was given, that I heard (in many cases) before I was born, that defines me in the face of a hostile society, that defines me even to myself, that inescapable, ineluctable, indestructible element of my identity?" Enough of that drivel. Does anyone use ICQ? I've got the URL to download it. Before I fuck up my 'puter anymore, is it something I should investigate?

RECTVM VINVM
Scott Alexander Gabriel Reiss

December 1996

February 1997

vr: 1997

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