Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to the longest-running* yet least-read** blog on the internet! Here you'll find me writing about all the things that I write about, which strikes me, just now, as somewhat recursive. In any case, enjoy :)

* not true ** probably true

Friday, March 31, 2006


Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Have I mentioned lately that my son is extremely cute? I think I'll have to up the starting bid.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Untamed Spaces

Saturday afternoon at a café by the river. There are louring clouds and a fitful breeze. Rain seems inevitable, and given the humid heat, welcome. The river is rippling, unpolished pewter.

Planted in precise squares along the waterway remade expressly for the tourist industry, trees are dropping their leaves at a pace that far exceeds any sort of leafy regeneration. One to my left rakes the gray sky with tortured, leafless branches. Twisted black lines on a backdrop of dead gray; an imitation of winter sparseness. But of course there is no winter here; only times of more rain or less. Nothing as wild as the seasons for Singapore. Nothing so messy, so—unconfineable. At one degree north of the equator, there is a place for everything and a fine for everything not in its place.

It's a day for loveless lovers to pick apart each remembered gesture, each misspoken word. It is a time to call up the ghosts of the taste of his or her lips, the particular vintage of sweat-dampened skin. It is a time to try and remember that heady blend of perfume and stale cigarette smoke and pheromones, the feel of crushed felt and vinyl and stockings and chilled, eager flesh. A time to remember fumbling, trembling hands and stuttered words and brittle starlight. A time to remember, if you care to, her flexed calf, the sweet swell of her breast in dappled moonlight, your shaking limbs, her unsteady breath.

Time, too, to remember how it ended, and how you were half-mad with it.

Time to remember a time before, when violence drove you out your bedroom window one harvest moon night, to walk twenty-eight miles to your brother's house, and when you arrived, footsore and full of wonder and anger and a sense of your own unconquerable Self… Time to remember that and so many other days and nights and hours and moments when you found that you had slipped somehow into some wild space in between work and school and home and sleep and dinner and church and haircuts and grocery shopping and watering the lawn and commuting and the evening news…

That is, if one were so inclined. I am not. These images, these phantoms of the past have sprung unbidden on me this afternoon. I have no particular desire to take a trip down to the heart of darkness once more, whatever wonders it may hold. There was a time when I would brood on such things, on such a day.

Is that the difference between twenty-five and thirty-five, I wonder? Or is it simply the difference between single and married, between being childless and being a parent? I don't really know. Maybe all three. I could call up for you the shades of loves past; I could quote incidental poetry and lend you a taste of my history, both bitter and sweet—but what would be the point? It should come as no surprise to you (or me, for that matter) that I have loved before, that I have felt passion that brought down all my reason. That there were times I wandered amidst the ruins of myself, that I have dwelt, if only briefly, in wild spaces. It should come as no surprise that passion led inexorably to a bitter end or that all my Xanadus tumbled in upon themselves. But it was all quite literally long ago and far away, and for the life of me I couldn't tell you what lesson there was to be learned from all of it.

More importantly, you who are reading this already know this story, these stories. You've experienced them for yourself, I have no doubt. You've loved the wrong person or the right person in the wrong way or at the wrong time. You have, at one time or another, felt the very core of you being ripped away, be it in passion or sorrow or, God help you, both at once. You have known the coffee spoons. You have dared to eat a peach. You have heard the mermaids singing each to each, and you have learned what it is to drown and yearn for drowning, for the cessation of breath. You have learned that both passion and loss will give you an appetite for annihilation… and if you are reading this you have, one way or another, turned away from that siren's call. The dead don't read blogs.

Or perhaps you have no idea what I am talking about. It doesn't matter. If you understand me, you know words will never be able to explain what it's really like, whatever 'it' may be. If you have never experienced anything close to what I'm talking about, then all you can get is the false impression that you have some idea what it is like. You don't, my friend. Not yet at least.


I don't know what makes me think of these things, besides a leaden sky and turgid waters. Maybe it's just that Singapore is so small, so contained and controlled and predictable that I am in danger of becoming small and contained and controlled and predictable. Of course that may be an unkindness to Singapore, an easy out.

Maybe it's important to remember that I once contained sound and fury, even if, in the end, it signified nothing. That I, like Whitman, contain multitudes. Maybe this mood is only a tap on the shoulder from my subconscious, reminding me that I have been to untamed spaces. That I carry them inside me, forever... as do many. That if I am looking for depth and significance and untamed lands, I should stop searching Singapore and start searching the faces and the words and thoughts around me.

So tell me, Dear Reader, do you have a clue as to what I'm talking about? Tell me your stories; sing to me a verse that the sirens sang to you. I have grown tired of all my old stories, but I never grow tired of Story.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sticky Issues: "You Passed"

Sticky Issues: "You Passed"
Originally uploaded by MercerMachine.
Too small? Can't see? Click on image, then click on 'all sizes'. Simple, no?

Friday, March 17, 2006

An Issue of Faith

When I was young I wanted to be a priest, or a preacher. Trouble was, I didn't believe in religion. God, sure. But not the god found in the Bible or the Koran or any other holy book. Just God as a creator, as the prime mover. Omniscient, omnipotent, sure. But not one who handed down any commandments. God doesn't care if you eat pork or take his name in vain or commit adultery or murder or any other thing. Or if he cares, it's in no way we are capable of understanding. God, I believe is utterly disinterested in rewards or punishments. He gave us free will. He wouldn't revoke it in the afterlife, if there is an afterlife.

Which brings me to the issue of faith.

Coming from where I came from, surrounded by poverty (a distinctly American poverty, mind you, but when you don't have enough to eat or money to pay for medical treatments, you're poor in any country) listening to people saying 'you gotta have faith' in the face of hardship… Well, I grew up thinking of faith as the thing you had when you didn't have anything else. In my less kind moments, I thought of faith as an excuse not to get up off your ass and do something about your situation. More compassionately, faith was what you were left with when you'd run out of options... rather like when Tinkerbell dies in Peter Pan. Usually faith was just a poor substitute for planning, and if God didn't help you through whatever crisis you were going through, then your faith assured you that when you died at least, everything would be okay.

But even in elementary school I never believed in a God that would reach down out of heaven and, with a flick of His finger, remove an obstacle from my path. He may well know when a sparrow falls, but He does not stoop to catch it. At best He is the Eternal Witness; and if He is that, that is sometimes enough. From someone who has suffered many things in utter solitude, I tell you that is an article of belief that has power.

So anyway, I substituted endurance for faith. Like Matthew Ryan said, nothing very good or bad ever lasts. Time rolls on, and the intolerable situation is inevitably replaced by some other situation either better or worse, but at least different. I learned to grit my teeth and squint into the wind. Eventually my capacity for endurance became my Achilles' heel, but I've written about that at length elsewhere.

What's surprising to me is that it's taken me 35 years to really understand that the passive faith of my childhood is not the entirety of faith. There is at least one other side to it. I'm talking about, for lack of a better phrase, 'active faith'—the kind of faith or belief that allowed Gandhi to stare down the British Empire and empowered MLK to change the face of American society for the better. I'm talking about the kind of faith that is so powerful that, even after the person is dead, their faith-based actions continue to move in and shape the world.

I'm talking about faith as an engine for action, rather than a shield for the powerless.

That's what I wish I had. The motivation of faith. Instead, I find myself in a morass of conflicting impulses and motivations, the dog-ends of desires, the abandoned constructs of a half-dozen 'meaningful' directions. All of which leaves me standing still, blinking and puzzled at the beauty and ugliness of the world, physically vibrating with the need to have purpose. I'm puzzled and angry and longing for that sense of purpose and direction that has eluded me all my life. I am an arrow without a target. I am a sword cutting only air.

Dear Aliens,

Please don't visit our planet, however the likes of NASA plead, beg or cajole. We are, as a species, utter twats. We wouldn't know what to do with any advanced scientific knowledge you might be able to offer us. We can't even manage to put people whose homes were destroyed by hurricanes in a place safe from hurricanes, much less do things like, oh, end poverty, war, disease or Bill o'Reilly's 'career'.

In short, dear aliens, stay as far away from us as you possibly can. Whatever it is that has turned us into idiots barely able to find our own assholes with two hands and a flashlight may be catching, and then you too might end up with leaders like this. Twice.

When we call, just pretend you can't hear us, ok? And if we ever manage to colonize another planet, you may want to think about clearing out of this arm of the galaxy entirely. I guarantee property values will plummet.

Of course, I am the exception that proves the rule. I've never done a dumbass thing in my life. Oh, wait, yes I have. Lots of times. But nobody ever paid me to be the leader of the free world or the director of a national emergency agency either.

So maybe one favor, dear aliens? Could you maybe point some sort of ultra-high tech device at Washington, D.C. and demand that all Republicans and (Joe Lieberman) resign immediately or be turned into blobs of snot or something? And you could just turn everybody at Fox into blobs of snot, no warning necessary.

Thanks, love ya,


Lost in translation

Language, as much as I love it, is a flawed tool.

I don't know how to express how I feel. Not because I don't have the words, but because words are so clumsy, so... imprecise. It's not melancholy, or sadness, or angst. It's a general, pervasive longing for something. What, I have no idea.

The morning sun dribbles into my study at an oblique angle, and the dog lies on the floor, ears cocked to the neighborhood sounds, but otherwise is still as a statue. Tomorrow my son will be one year old. The curtain shifts in a fitful breeze. My body, ravaged by seven hours of non-nicotiene supply known as sleep, seems to be buzzing at right angles to the world. It feels as though my head is swivelling around on broken glass.

The world is a beautiful place, and I am happy to be here. But this longing, tinged with a species of dissatisfaction, is like a pebble in my shoe. It keeps distracting me. It ruins my focus.

I am longing for something besides a cigarette. I wish I knew what. If I did, perhaps I would be able to explain it. Or satisfy it.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ladies: if you plan on getting raped, don't do it in South Dakota

...and if you do, don't stick around ifyou get pregnant. It's now illegal to get an abortion in South Dakota for any reason other than to save a woman's life.

I can't be the only one who is feeling vomitously disgusted over this.

As soon as Alito is confirmed as Supreme Court Justice, the Right Wing nutjobs in America do this. It's been planned down to a T. they've been waiting a long time to put something up that will challenge Rove vs Wade, this time with a Supreme Court stacked on their side.

Will the Supreme Court hear this case? They have to. Will they strike down the SD law as unconstitutional? I give it a 60/40 probability that they will.

But that 40% scares me.

If that happens, the 50 states will fall into a patchwork of abortion-legal and -illegal states, further dividing a country that has been polarized by two scandal-ridden elections, a futile war, political and corporate pillaging, profiteering and sophist punditry, and a President that feels no remorse about trampling over the constitution or sending troops to die over a lie.

I don't know my America anymore. I view it from the distance of Singapore; like an oil painting, you must take a few steps back to begin to make out the whole. Up close, I knew America as colorful, vibrant, sometimes garish. Now, removed, I see violent discord amidst a clashing, dangerously imbalanced composition.

I wonder if my America ever existed at all outside my skull.