Friday, April 23, 2010

Writing Project Update

Slaughterhouse is taking the weekend off. Content next Tuesday. Thanks.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Slaughterhouse 66

END TIME: 10:30 PM

"Elaborate on the 'Turtle vs. Hitler's Skull' question; Briefly explain why you would rather display Hitler's Skull than keep a pet Turtle and what you find to be interesting about the idea of Hitler's Skull as an artifact. Then, pick an historical artifact that you would actually like to display in your living room without coercion and explain why."

From the Chuck Klosterman book "Sex, Lies, and Cocoa Puffs" here's one of the questions he asks to determine if he can really love someone:

"3. Let us assume there are two boxes on a table. In one box, there is a relatively normal turtle; in the other, Adolf Hitler’s skull. You have to select one of these items for your home. If you select the turtle, you can’t give it away and you have to keep it alive for two years; if either of these parameters are not met, you will be fined $999 by the state. If you select Hitler’s skull, you are required to display it in a semi-prominent location in your living room for the same amount of time, although you will be paid a stipend of $120 per month for doing so. Display of the skull must be apolitical.

Which option do you select?"

(I chose Hitler's skull, because I have a hard time with pets with my schedule the way it is.)

I’m not sure that my home is the appropriate place for the display of historical artifacts, but given the premise of the question (which I’m assuming has to do with what value someone places on money, and if they’re willing to do something socially repulsive in order to make a sum of money, versus performing a simple task against the threat of a fine)

My concern about choosing a historical artifact for display is it would have to be interesting enough that I would be willing to look at it all the time, but not so interesting that it would draw throngs of people, or require armed security, or lead to me being interrupted at all hours of the night by even the benignly curious. This rules out most religious artifacts or anything relating to Elvis. It’s also why Bill Gates had no issues with buying Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks – he already lives in a gazillion dollar compound that you can’t just stroll into.

If I had to choose something that were aesthetically pleasing, it would probably have to be small, to be displayed properly. For instance, there’s a Star Wars toy in my curio cabinet, from one of the newer movies that I haven’t seen. At the bottom of it, there’s the word “Coruscant.” If you open it up a little plastic figure floats up and down for a few seconds. Why? What does it mean? It looks and behaves like a little snow globe. Why do I have it?

Because several years ago, my then-wife and I lost a game of Uno with three other couples, and the penalty required us to display said object in a prominent place until the next game. Well, much like Robin Williams in the game “Jumanji”, one of the couples moved back to the Midwest, another player moved to California, we split up and I’m somehow forced to follow these rules as if they were some sort of a blood oath. I’m going to be stuck with this damned thing well into the next life. So the question’s not if I’m capable of doing it; that’s been answered. But what should it be?

I think it would be interesting to have something that looked fairly ordinary, but had a terrific story behind it. I thought that the first wrist watches that were displayed in the Louvre Museum were fascinating, and the knowledge that those were crafted without the benefit of modern tools or even much in the way of lighting or magnification boggled the mind.

Maps would be excellent. How on earth did Lewis and Clark know that river went in that direction? I have a GPS-enabled phone and I can’t find my way through clearly marked neighborhoods with signs. These guys found prairie dogs! I’m not good with vermin, so when these guys hauled off and sent one to President Jefferson as a gift, that might have been taking the exploratory spirit a little too far.

Ultimately, my home is a spectacularly bad destination for a historical artifact, and I’m more of a “going places” person than a “collecting things” person. But I think an early draft of a map or an early attempt at a clock that you could wear on your wrist would be amazing.

Writing Project Update

WORDS THIS WEEK: 1000. Illness, projects, what have you.


SUBMISSIONS THIS WEEK: 3 (Kelli, Kelli, Kelli, Ken, Ken, Ken)

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: "Elaborate on the 'Turtle vs. Hitler's Skull' question; Briefly explain why you would rather display Hitler's Skull than keep a pet Turtle and what you find to be interesting about the idea of Hitler's Skull as an artifact. Then, pick an historical artifact that you would actually like to display in your living room without coercion and explain why."

The background, and the answer, appears shortly.

500 WORDS FINISHED BY: 4/16-17 midnight

Friday, April 09, 2010

Slaughterhouse 65

END TIME: 11:33 PM

“Write a diary entry.” –Ken Faikus

Dear Keyboard,

Today was full. There was no work of the occupational variety, which granted me one day where everybody could conceivably hate me behind my back without worrying about my potential appearance. There was a great deal to accomplish but there was no set time frame in which to accomplish it. I was awake early enough considering the lateness of the checkout time last night and I don’t think I slept late enough to inspire any resentment. I got the pictures done that I said I would do this morning and got those sent over after three tries. The camera saves the pictures with preposterously high detail and the SMTP servers for Google don’t allow this sort of foolishness.

Looking back on the day I think that I got everything done that I needed to. I remembered that I forgot the scotch tape when I was inadvertently reminded at 9:30 and I remembered that I forgot the maple syrup at 6 PM when I was on my way someplace else. I remembered to buy lucky cereal and I’m laughing sardonically at the last time that I had any of it, which now seems more than a million miles away.

I didn’t eat very well today but I ate sufficiently. I did work out for an hour, running a glacially slow three miles and doing an abdominal workout. I renewed for another year at the gym and gleefully noted that the charge for my membership comes to 50 cents a day.

I took [my girlfriend’s] bike to McGhies to get tuned up and prepared for her fitting on Monday afternoon. I said hello to old friends at the bike shop and caught them up on the lives of those around me that they knew about.

They still ask how Nannette’s doing; I mentioned she just moved back out west. She’s now done triathlon camps and is looking to race more seriously. [My ex-wife] is doing a triathlon. [My girlfriend] is doing a triathlon. All around me are people training, people getting faster, people thinking of what that first race is going to be like. The first race is one of those experiences I would gladly not do over again; the bottomless nerves, the swimming paranoia, the confusion, the endless obsessing over transition. Give me the cold dreary professionalism and thousand yard start of my third race in Chicago, or my third in San Diego, or the fourth Las Vegas Triathlon. Races where I could identify the climbs by where specific weeds were growing on the side of the road, where every speck of what I was feeling was already burned in my muscles from years prior. The first of anything is always the worst when you never know what to expect.

The kids are doing great and ate well, they found each other’s Easter eggs and helped out and had fun playing together. They fell asleep as quickly as I wanted to, but I had writing and such to take care of. There are things to do, people to meet, and places to be tomorrow. Today was pretty good and tomorrow will be even better.

Writing Project Update

WORDS THIS WEEK: 1000. Slight improvement but nothing spectacular. I'm starting to get a schedule down, now I just have to feel like writing a little more and make some progress. Events are overtaking introspection, and it's incredible to get to live life rather than just hear about it.



THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: "Write a diary entry."

Sure, why not. Plane leaves at midnight and the entry will be on it.

500 WORDS FINISHED BY: 4/9-10 midnight

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Slaughterhouse 64


Choose one place in the world you would most like to visit. Explain your choice in terms of the social history of any significant period that interests you. – Kelli George

I’ve been lucky enough to travel a few places, but if we’re going to throw time travel into the mix, I would like to visit Japan in the early 1990’s to follow the career of Chad Rowan, the Hawaiian-born sumo wrestler know as Akebono.

If you’ve never seen a sumo match, it’s essentially like watching trucks fight. In a society where men’s height rarely exceeds six feet tall, Akebono stood 6’8” and weighed 500 pounds. He had longer legs than most sumo wrestlers, and he had the record and the reputation to achieve sumo’s highest rank, yokozuna.

And here’s the conundrum. A wrestler promoted to yokozuna has a few more responsibilities than soda commercials and grocery store openings. Sumo is heavily associated with the Shinto religion, and was this something that could be bestowed upon a foreigner?

Another Hawaiian, Konishiki, ascended to ozeki, one step below yokozuna. In 1992, the chairman of the Yokozuna Deliberation Committee announced, “We wanted to make doubly sure that Konishiki is worthy of being a grand champion. Therefore, we decided to wait another tournament.” Konishiki was quoted by the New York Times as saying, “If I were Japanese, I would be yokozuna already.” Apologies were demanded and given. He never made yokozuna.

Meanwhile, Sadaharu Oh holds the Japanese baseball home run record of 55 in a single season. Three foreign players have come close to breaking the record – Randy Bass, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes and Alex Cabrera – and each time that they faced an Oh-managed club late in the season, they were intentionally walked rather than given a chance at breaking the record. Bass was walked on four pitches in four at bats and would have been walked a fifth time had he not practically thrown the bat at an outside pitch and hit a flare into right field. The pitching coach of Oh’s team explained it would be “distasteful” for a foreign-born player to break the record.

Akebono became a Japanese citizen, renounced his American citizenship, converted to Shintoism, married a Japanese woman and followed every example and cleared every hurdle to become the first foreign-born yokozuna.

Something as trivial as wrestlers and baseball may not seem to present much in terms of social history. But sport can serve as a prism with which to view a nation as a whole, and try to remember the backdrop for this time period in Japanese and American relations. Toyota was dominating the auto industry and sending General Motors on the road to ruin (before the American mania for SUVs resurrected American manufacturers for a while). They had purchased Pebble Beach and Rockefeller Center. China had yet to coalesce as an industrial center. The fearsome Other to the American manufacturing sector was the Japanese. The real estate bubble was in full roar in Japan and their economic “lost decade” was just starting to occur, and they didn’t know it. (Japanese financial firms gorged themselves on a combination of hyperinflated land prices and extremely cheap and easy credit, and when the prices of the assets collapsed several “zombie firms” were seen as too big to fail. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this before.)

So in a sport that was central to the American identity, Americans were not allowed to succeed so that the Japanese league could retain its cultural moorings, and in a sport central to the Japanese identity, an American broke through and succeeded (and ultimately led to limits on the number of foreign born sumo wrestlers allowed to participate in professional sumo in Japan). I thought that the contrast of a society devoted to exporting goods, having spent an overheated decade as an economic powerhouse, that was fighting to retain its national identity through sport would be an interesting thing to see, particularly with the foresight of knowing how fundamentally different Japan’s global footprint would be in only a few years.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Writing Project Update - Plea For Continuance

It works like this. You can have something really good on Sunday night - I assure you, the question is excellent - or you can have something awful that I only have 20 minutes for.

I thought so. See you Sunday night.

NEXT UPDATE DUE BY: 4/4-5 midnight