In other news, University of Vienna vanishes into space-time discontinuity the size of a pea

I was, this morning in the shower, thinking about trackbacks and how my theory is they were a product of the obsessive-compulsive micro-managing personality of Mena, who once, years ago, mailed me when I linked her blog, asking me to change the text in the link to the correct name of her blog, I suppose for the search engine mojo or whatever, and how otherwise it would probably have taken a long time for anyone else to come up with the idea of trackbacks. And I was wondering, as I often had, what the hell the appeal of trackbacks ever was, since you could always see who was linking you from your traffic stats unless the link wasn’t sending any traffic your way and if it wasn’t who cares? And I guess, a trackback would be so other people could see who was linking you, and who cares if they do? Some people, I suppose. So for them, trackbacks might have been a good thing. I was never too crazy about them, because all mine did was show, on practiclly every post, how no one was linking that post. And I was also thinking how trackbacks are now dead, basically, due to trackback spammers, thanks a lot guys. And I was thinking how it would be ironic, or not ironic, but, well, funny, if Horst’s post on this topic, which I had just read, shortly before thinking all this stuff, got lots of trackbacks.


Girl: Who are your favorite female singers?
Man: Pff. Umm.
Girl: ?
Man: Uh. Annie Lennox is good. Cindi Lauper has a good voice. Uh.
Girl: ???????!???!!
Man: Oh, and of course Shakira.
Girl: Only third?
Man: Shakira, Shakira, Shakira.
Girl: Third place?
Man: So, so many singers. You know? Hard to… you can’t really rank… so, so many. Things to take into… to consider. You know?
Girl: Dad, dad, dad. Shakira is number one, Jennifer Lopez is number two.
Man: Naturally.


I was following this Orthodox Jewish guy around in my car, two guys actually, two young guys, then more, they were walking down the sidewalk and standing on the corner and I was looking for a place to park because I was on my way to a therapy session and my therapist is in a section of town where there happen to be a lot of your orthodox types and I always find good restaurants or a nice looking kosher shop looking for a place to park.

Cause kosher shops, you know, they can’t park just anywhere.

And I was looking at these guys, thinking, that’s a great look they have going. Dark suit, dark shoes, white shirt, you can’t go wrong. And I had to think about my grandfather. Not my Chicago-Irish paternal grandfather, the one who drank, the one who married the hot, young divorced Montana-Swedish singer with a kid already, the one who always said, You’re a gentleman and a scholar, the one who died before I was born, but my mother’s father, who also died before my birth, the one who spoke Yiddish, the one who suffered for years from diabetes and finally killed himself with a loaf of fresh bread when they left him home alone.

Yiddish, in Washington State. I listen to a radio station in Vienna, Oe1, which is so totally intelligent and interesting I’m kicking myself for not listening to it earlier. They have the most wonderful, smart programs and stories and music there and yesterday they had a special about Klezmer music and the scene in New York and they said around the turn of the century, the one 105 years ago I mean, there were a several million Yiddish speakers in New York, if I understood them right. 1-2 million, something like that. Or in the United States? or around the 1930s and not the turn of the century? I wasn’t listening too closely, I was driving, man.

Klezmer music is good music. It really rocks. They played a lot from the 1920s and 1930s, and to be honest the vocals, at least what they played… I can listen to the instrumental stuff longer. But any music gets on your nerves after a time, and what do I know anyway.

My mother still spoke some Yiddish with us, because her father had with them. Or she spoke it with me at least. I never spoke it to anyone, I know that. I feel like the ass end of American culture. I remember what it was like before it became homogenized and industrialized. As far as I know, my family is not Jewish, although there is this one great-great-grandmother who came from Alsace we’re not sure about. That would be his grandmother.

I used to work at a mortgage bank, back when I lived in the U.S., and there are these rules and conditions printed on the back of property deeds and they include, still today, things like, “the property may not be sold or rented to Jews” and so on. It’s illegal and carries no legal weight and no one pays attention to them; they’re just this historical appendix hanging there. It would be impractical to remove that stuff from millions of deeds, they just pass laws making that bit void. But what I’m saying is, I don’t know what I’m saying. He spoke Yiddish is all I’m saying.

When I was little I was attracted to flashier attire than I now wear. In a shop in Vancouver, when I was about ten or eleven, its name, back then, was “The Gay Blade”, I remember insisting that my mother buy me a paisley shirt. She said I had what her father would call “fingerspitsengefoo”. I said what’s that and she said it means you’re a flashy dresser. When I learned German, I found out that would correspond to the word “Fingerspitzengef

On the way to school

I try to speak English to Gamma so she’ll learn it. Sometimes she speaks it back to me, sometimes our conversations sound like this:

Gamma: (riding on my shoulders) Wieso sagt man “Glatze”? Woher kommt das Wort, eigentlich?
Me: (Sigh.) Um… I wonder…
Gamma: Ich meine… naja, von “glatt”! Nat


I’ve got a pattern going on here don’t I. I can see it.

    Right now this works as a joke, doesn’t it? Just asking. In two weeks it’s vapid nonsense. But for a single fortnight… a two-week window of significance.

TV, radio, hammer: increasingly what… increasingly sophisticated forms of entertainment.

“It was probably just some little, tiny job too, wasn’t it?” he said to me when I explained how my finger got blue.

“I was hammering in a single… a single thing to keep the tortoise in, because she keeps trying to escape.” A single stake-like contraption to fill a hole in the fence. Got my finger on the first swing. When I hurt myself, I’m very efficient.

It’s not really that bad. It only hurts when I play a B-flat on the A string. Unfortunately, this new song I’m learning has a few of them. It goes from B-flat to D above that, so I’ve got my hand stretched out and press down with the right corner of the tip of my index finger, seen from above, which is the part that got smashed.

It had to be the B-flat, too, the note that, every time I play it, I have to think, why do they have to call it a B in German? In German, a B-flat is called B and B is called H. There’s a historical reason for it but I prefer to complain about it.


When I was a kid, my dad had this transistor radio that got AM, FM and several short-wave bands and I used to lie in bed at night and reel through the stations and press the little button that lit up the dial.

Just kidding. I mean, not kidding, he did have a radio like that, and it played an important role in my young life. I mean, kidding that I’m going to do another appliance post this… ok, either you get the joke or… if I explain it it’s not funny.

Maybe it’s…

Enough cellos and enough appliances for a while, is all I’m saying.

I didn’t write anything because I… for several reasons. Mainly I was in too good a mood until yesterday, when I was too cranky. And we had a three-day weekend here, and I don’t do weekends.

And I was busy doing stuff. Fixing the flowerbeds in the yard. Flattening my left index finger with a sledgehammer. Well, not a sledge hammer, just this blunt, about eight-pound hammer I use to hammer in stakes and stuff.

I used to work… I worked in a cannery summers when I was in college, for a while. Squirting big machines with a high-pressure hose, mostly, washing off the algae that grew so fast in that hot, moist, deafening climate. Every now and then I let a dead mouse ride past on the conveyor belt because then the ladies found it as they picked sub-standard green beans out of the other beans and we all got a ten minute break as the heavy-duty cleaning crew came in and disinfected everything.

I was… so long ago and I remember my job title: nubbin-grader operator. There were these big rotating bins with perforated sides; sliced-up beans fell into them and were sorted by size.

There was this one guy there, a boxer, little guy with solid, big arms, told lots of stories about beating people up in bars and driving grain threshers east of the mountains, and harvesting corn and coming out covered with red mites.

One day the boss praised me as I left, for doing whatever constitutes a good job as a nubbin-grader operator, not falling off the catwalk and not getting your hand torn off by the hypnotically-rotating drum I suppose, and I was so pleased by his praise that I stepped into an open drainage trench in the concrete floor and nearly broke my leg.

Since then, I’ve noticed that I take praise poorly. It makes me unwary, and I stab myself in the hand with a chisel or hit my finger with a big hammer so hard the tip ruptures and blood squirts. It was actually kind of cool. Blood dripped onto my other hand and I wiped it onto the injured finger on my way into the house to get a bandaid, and I noticed it made the finger look even scarier, so I wiped it around a little more to make it look even worse before showing it to Alpha, nonchalantly. “Eh, hit myself with the hammer again.” Drip, drip. She disappointed me by remaining cool.

I don’t know. Other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter so much. Someone says something nice, I send them a mail playing dumb and asking them to elaborate, just to drag it out. They say something nasty, I ban their ISP and delete their comment, or whatever the real-life version of that is. Or not. And besides, I’m far too nice, no one ever says anything nasty to me.

I used to listen to various preachers on that radio as my family slept. The dial glowed blue and they talked about redemption or sin or whatever. Later I found a station that played Alan Watts. The summer I was 17 they played the Ramones and the Sex Pistols and I thought, Wow.