12 July 2007

Dept. of Richochets and Gooseflesh

Jon Lee Anderson establishes some field cred, and Ian Frazier horripilates at the "uncanny scent of our beginnings."

I never read thrillers growing up, unless you count the Hardy Boys. And no spy novels, apart from "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," by John LeCarré, which I had to read for a fourth-year class on espionage at SFU—the class I was in, incidentally, when the attacks of September 11th took place. I didn't play with G.I. Joes, and, frankly, never understood the ecstasies my Egyptian friend Kareem found in them, flinging himself, and the figurines, around the pool deck at his Toronto home, spittle flying from his mouth—Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat, Snake Eyes, noooo!!!

All of which is to say I was unprepared for Jon Lee Anderson's ducking, barrel-rolling, ricocheting account of American opium eradication efforts in Afghanistan, "The Taliban's Opium War" (July 9, 2007). About midway through the article the prose turned all And then we heard an explosion over the ridge; there were shell casings and bone fragments all around. We poked our head out of the foxhole, and I had to remind myself that I wasn't reading a paperback I'd found wedged between two bus seats. And just seconds after that admittedly disparaging thought, I had another: Shit, the guy got shot at, for four hours, in Afghanistan. He's got more street cred—field cred, whatever—than Fitty. (Audio here.)

I had two more thoughts, too:
1) Invite more goateed, tatooed DynCorp employees to my next barbecue. How cool would it be to get them all hopped up on Bud and amphetamines and pair them off in human cockfights?

2) Save a little of that opium juice from the knocked-over and broke-open poppy, fieldworker Khalil! I'll swing by around eight. You can show me what to do—we'll make some tea, rub it on our gums, whatever.

Ah, I was going to write more about the insouciant little article that followed Anderson's (hence the post title), but I've run out of time for the moment. It was Ian Frazier's "On Impact," the tale of a meteorite (or perhaps something more sinister) that recently fell into the New Jersey home of Srinivasan Nageswaran. Although I know Frazier's name, I can't call to mind another of his articles. In this piece he's delightfully breezy, and he has a fine ear for slang. Tell me you don't love a guy who could write three opening sentences like these:
"People get excited when strange objects fall from the sky. We seek portents and meaning, we venerate the object, and we horripilate at the uncanny scent of our beginnings, or end. Even wised up by science as we are, we tend to freak."
("Horripilate"—I looked it up—means "to cause one's hair to stand on end and get goosebumps," as in "I horripilate at the sight of blood," or "Hitchcock movies horripilate me.")

07 July 2007

Dept. of As It Is Lived

Woke this morning and rolled over to read the last two columns of a David Denby film review. It's my fifth morning in my tiny new apartment.

My curtains are drawn, but the windows are open, and on Nelson Street I can hear the cars and fire trucks, of course, but also bicycles and four kinds of birdsong—a squall, a hoot, a gurgle, and a pinched whistle—and pedestrians and their low conversations, footfalls, and pockets jangling with change.

The Denby review, of a film called "Evening," had a beautiful line, and I very much like the idea behind it:
"The two women look at the past, compare marriages, and make an accounting of their mistakes—which turn out to be merely life as it is lived, not as is hoped for."
I'm going out for a coffee, as it is drunk and not hoped for. That means a choice between the 7-Eleven and the better, pricier cafe, with something existential hanging in the balance. You want anything?

03 July 2007

Dept. of Our Home and Native

I spent my Canada Day on Mayne Island, in the company of two old friends. I took a ferry to get there; it was slow and the passengers were few. There's something about an empty ferry—the expanse of vacuumed carpet, the odd reassurance of the cafeteria and its fixed-seat tables with raised edges, the whole enterprise heaving and shuddering like a fat lover. The diesel and creosote of the car deck. A cup of coffee and a magazine.

The Sunday run from Victoria hits Pender Island, Saturna, and then Pender again before getting to Mayne's Village Bay. I got a good ways into this week's New Yorker, but I stalled in the middle of John Cassidy's article about the hedge-fund machine. With 45 minutes left in the voyage, I reclined on a moulded plastic bench, flipped the magazine over my face, and began promptly to snore.

Thanks to Finnigan, late of Playa del Carmen, for the illustration, which has Ontario in a bit of saucy contact with Michigan. Does this mean Canada is a Red State? Quick—what's the past tense of "drag"?

Happy Canada Day, all.