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The Jaroslaw Post

12 July, Monday.
From a Polish paper, regarding last night's friendly against the US @ Chicago: "American commentators paid notice to the occurence, frequent in their country, that they are the hosts of the match and yet 80% of the fans are cheering for the opposing team." I'd say it was more than 80%. Already before the match my father said, "The American team is going to feel like they're in a foreign country." And it was true.
A US-Korean girl goes back to Korea and she feels "sad" for the "stick-thin" Korean women, who "all look the same," and who have to endure the "pressure" to be "smartest, most beautiful, and the best cook/wife." To file under "What America does to people." No, dear, I am not condescending to you. Why should you deserve even that? You are, after all, merely another small example. You have allowed yourself to be that.
25 June, Friday.
Unknown people continue to visit here. Who are they? What are they looking for? They do not burden me with any sense of obligation to update this blog; monologue performances are not obligatory.
A woman is smoking. She looks exhausted in an indeterminate way: prematurely old, or yet hanging on to middle age. Her eyes are keen, the brows bent and sharp. She has the appearance of dishonesty and unapproachability of someone who has fallen into the habit of staring helplessly at her own past.
An imagined conversation. "And what does your interpretation do to all the other ones?" "It adds itself. There is room at the inn. No, I don't believe that. My reading is finally the correct, the true. The thought of that has been my reward in the writing. Those who believe that a novel has many intepretations have only the reward of creating a defensible complexity, a self-sufficient involvement. And I have tried to be simple."
4 March, Thursday.
Downstairs at the library this morning for the bagel and coffee, I see a construction worker reading a poster about a "New Course Offering in Gender Studies: History of Queer Life and Politics in 20th Century Europe." I can't resist: "Hm. What do you think?" "Scares me, man." Yes. Well, it scares me when I suddenly think here of... Gresham's Law.
But then there is this, written on the blackboard beside the cash register: "Drink up, my friend, and pour for me, / that I may to the cup surrender all my pain / And if you see me dying, tell the boy, / 'Revive him! Quick, take up your lute again." -Moses Ibn Ezra. And Isaac Babel is already in this.
Yes, one thing I miss about the world outside the university is that there is so little of what might be called public text. The only written things, besides advertisements, are the news headlines, the half of the front page above the fold, in the newspaper boxes. As I walk down Michigan or wherever, I always peer keenly at these half-pages, even if I have seen them before. They are a totem of the verbal. A few years ago there was something in NY called "Poetry in Motion," I see it's still going strong, although personally I have never seen it outside of NY.
25 February, Wednesday.
This blog has gained a life of its own. If you type "Why did the Irish want to emigrate to America" at, this page is the second one to come up! Thus primitive information technology leads to, perhaps, serendipity. [Note: I have never asked myself why the Irish, of all people, wanted to emigrate to America!]
16 November, Tuesday.
I am still sitting at the table. I don't pick up the cards, but I still keep an eye out on the dealing. I thought that this evening would be a good time to mention that.
Recently a friend in Russia quoted some things from my blog in his, it was oddly flattering to be anthologized like that.
It is entirely possible that I have not had, and will never have, any original experiences or feelings, anything that has not been described by literature before. And I am not bothered by this. Perhaps because it would not be possible to have experienced, within one lifetime and within one personality, all of the feelings described in literature.
And. One of James's late novels culminates in the description of rather unusual experiences by the male protagonist. One may say that the object of the novel is to train the reader to become convinced that such an experience is possible. Recently I have had it myself. Then I referred mentally to the novel, my favorite James novel, and I felt that I had achieved something. My life has intersected with the life of a Jamesian protagonist, and because of this, I now have more of a right to write about James. Or, it is less arrogant for me to write about James now. Less strange to write about a novel in which a man of 59 describes the experiences of a man who is at most half that age.
27 October, Monday.
Who was the person who couldn't remember "Jaroslaw Post" and looked up "Jaroslaw newspaper" on google? Very cute.
Not astonishingly productive in this last month, but things will improve. I have a file of things for this blog. Here are a few:
"In 1940, less than 8 percent of Americans lived alone. Today that proportion has more than tripled, reaching nearly 26 percent. Singles number 86 million, according to the Census Bureau, and virtually half of all households are now headed by unmarried adults... A scattering of restaurants offer communal tables, enabling those arriving alone to share conversation. "It makes good business sense to cater to these people who are hungry and looking for an invitation to eat out."  [CS Monitor, 151003]
"The art of a fellow sufferer proves that one is not alone in heartbreak and serves as the crucial lesson in how pain is to be endured, even turned aside for a time; music such as this makes one stop thinking only of one's own misery, as long as it plays in the mind... He paid for such attempts at creative greatness. Episodes of moral daring in his life were always followed by episodes of fearful cringing. [Algis Valiunas in The Weekly Standard on Prokofiev, 1003.]
24 September, Wednesday.
I have been in Chicago for some time now. No escape since Spring, and no prospect of anything. Maybe Arizona in December, who knows? The new quarter, the new year, starts on Monday. Another caesura. Four years gone, here. "I have been here for four years." "Prove it," I imagine someone might reply. I can assemble a stack of paper this high. So?
7 August, Thursday.
No news is good news, right? I am spending my summer in various heavily air-conditioned buildings. I promise to write on a more regular basis, really. Especially if you all write something back.
I am thinking of re-designing my website. In particular, I want to make a new page to describe my 1998 trip from Warsaw to Bombay by land. There was no guidebook about the whole trip back then, but there is a Lonely Planet now. Still, a lot of people ask me how I did it. It's a lot easier, first of all, if you can get your hands on a non-US passport, which means that most of you should be OK. And it's a great trip, so if I can do anything to push anyone into it, I'd be delighted. BUT of course I don't have time for it, and I am afraid of nostalgia, of writing now about all those things that happened five years ago.
And I would feel bad going back to the past like this when I have nothing "really good" up my sleeve. I don't want to feel I'm regressing, right? Well, what could I do? The trans-Siberian from Warsaw to Beijing or Mongolia is one trip that I've been hoping to do for a few years now. There is always the trip from India to Hong Kong, taking in SE Asia and the "wild West" of China, and also the place where I want to go most of all now: Tibet. Then there is Africa: North to South, and East to West. And the American journeys: from Chicago to Alaska, and to the Southern tip of Chile. The first one is boring (no people), the second is not quite feasible right now.
8 July, Tuesday.
I was lazy, but I also wanted to perform an experiment, to see how many people would continue to visit this place when I stopped updating. Well, I seem to have created a minor perpetuum mobile here.
One really good blog, which inspired me in the first place, seems to have fizzled out. Here is what this person wrote: "These blog pages are not for my friends or family, as they don't look at this. My friends are the ones whom I speak with more frequently and could care less about my trivial babble. These pages are for those strangers who are either bored out of their mind, or who are searching for something outside themselves maybe. Well, whoever you are, best of luck."
OK, nice, but also somewhat... vacant. Tough, in an American way. Maybe the main reason I still write here is because it gives me a small feeling of performing a charitable act, like putting a dollar bill in a bottle, corking it up, and setting it afloat.
News from Singapore. A plan for expanding the downtown area in the next twenty years. "Citizens can... re-energise in a vibrant area of unique character and identity. Live, work, play and learn at the same time. Enjoy enriching cultural activities in open spaces. Experience round-the-clock life and vitality." ...Mr Mah emphasised that Singapore cannot afford to stand still, especially with Tokyo, London, Sydney and Barcelona remaking themselves, and Shanghai and Dubai adding to the competition. He said: 'We must make our city a great place to live, work and play. It can then become more exciting and vibrant, attracting talent and helping to create jobs.' (Singapore Times 270603.)

Are countries being superceded by city-states? Certainly for me cities are much more important than the countries they happen to be in. Also, the plans for new Singapore remind me of a traditional village, plus skyscrapers. In the 20th century, modernist doctrine destroyed the human-urban coherence of a village. Now the village is coming back... fifty times denser than before.
"Americans want the work they want do to be done cheaply by foreigners who, they wrongly assume, will inevitably transform themselves into Americans.In turn,the downtrodden Mexicans who come here and their elite advocates in America romanticize Mexico, a nation that brought them the misery they fled, while too often deprecating the place that alone gave them sanctuary." --Victor Davis Hanson, Mexifornia.
This explains the painting at top left, and on the home page: "Just for today let me say I think I find myself at the point where the difference between sadness and cheer, interest and detachment, lies behind in the road like a shuffled coil. It's all one, it's all fate, it's all something." HJ to AC Benson in 1895.
"We are treated by the Americans with a mixture of patronizing pity and contempt... Perhaps the mistake we make is to continue to regard them as an Anglo-Saxon people. That blood is very much watered down now; they are a Latin-Slav mixture, with a fair amount of German and Irish. They are impatient, mercurial, panicky." Harold Macmillan. Diary. Sept. 27, 1952.
"In 1935, during the depths of the Depression, the Bryant Park Open Air Reading Room was established in the backyard of the NY Public Library to engage the minds of the jobless thousands. Now... after an absence of 60 years, the reading room will return." From the NYT.      
28 May, Wednesday.
Yoga session: 13 women and 3 men, including yours truly. And the teacher. That makes 14:3. Come on, guys! The thunderstorm broke just at the end of class, that was very nice. Yes, a day full of nice things, a day that already in early evening seems like a room full of diverse and fragile and obscurely precious paintings and vases and furniture and unnamable morceaux of human or natural craft.
The gray morning, strange as it always is after four hours of sleep; the deep green canopy of trees in mist, the canopy of the trees and mist together, in the quads; the book sale at the Div school, for the fourth time--three paperbacks; the new photo of 111 S. Wacker; an email from Africa that isn't a scam: "We are here trying to save the government from itself, but it seems to me that under the calm surface the people are restless. That is why I am excited to leave tomorrow..."; the yoga; the falafel and tomato juice; the nap and the awakening; another email about tomorrow; here.
James praises his own relief at immersing himself in an Italy stuffed with history and art: "It is fortunately the exhibition in all the world before which, as admirers, we can most remain superficial without feeling silly." Now, the Westerner can feel this in Asia, and perhaps the Asian in the West.
23 May, Friday.
Wisdom teeth out on Tuesday. It was done in an hour and a half, and then I jumped out of the chair with happiness. "That's it? Great!" The aftermath came later. For three days now I haven't been thinking about my thesis. How strange. Not to mention no yoga for two weeks now.
An article in the NYT about blogs. In their inimitably sneaky style, they put what they think into the mouths of the people they allow to speak. "The confessional nature of many blogs had redrawn the line between what's private and public." This blog isn't confessional. It only "works" with people who know me. It's a kind of "confession a clef." And if it has redrawn my line between public and private, it has made my private things even more strongly private.
The article also says that there are three million blogs out there. I pity the future historians who will have to wade through this stuff. Nah, I bet the grad students will do it!
17 May, Saturday.
From the department of the overheard: this morning, on the central quads, two girls:
--"Guess whose wife is here!"
--"Steve's wife is here?"
--"Oh, I really want to meet her! Is she pretty? Is she nice?"
There is a lot here, but try to keep your commentary to under 1,000 words. And on Thursday, downtown:
--"Change, sir? Anything? A quarter, a dime..."
--"Here you go... no, I changed my mind."
--"You don't deserve it."
--"I do deserve it!"
--"I know you don't deserve it! And don't try to argue with me!"
Back to the University. Here is a flyer which I transcribe verbatim: "Students Organizing Support Presents: 'Displaced--Sleep-out on the Quads--What's it like to lose everything? Come experience one night of displacement, and raise money for victims of natural disasters. May 22nd 2003, Thursday 7pm-10am (Friday) / Sponsored by SOS and SGFC." [SOS=Students Organizing Support. SGFC=Student Government Finance Committee.]
OK, so how about setting up a concentration camp on the quads too? Off-duty Chicago police could play guards, which would dovetail nicely with what many students think of them anyway. No food allowed. Everyone is infected with lice, for starters. This could be like a marathon sponsorship, except that people contribute for every hour you're there, instead of every mile you run.
"Democracies expand individual rights past the barriers of race, class and gender precisely by encouraging imaginative identification with difference--by asking men to put themselves in the shoes of women, whites in the shoes of blacks, and so on. And minorities are always asking others to put themselves in their place because they know this is how equality will be experienced and become undeniable. Minorities also know that racism and bigotry are always a failure of this kind of imagination. In the face of difference, imagination is the only way to common humanity. Thus minorities also know that racism and bigotry are the perfect collapse of imagination." - Shelby Steele in the WSJ
What a beautiful quote this is. My impatient disgust with the young "peace-loving" South Koreans is precisely that they never imagine what the North Korean people are suffering. And I am especially encouraged by the hint about the connection between literature and justice--because there is no experience of reading a story without imagination, and because, indeed, reading trains the imagination. How else may the imagination be trained? I don't necessarily think that TV or movies can't replace literature here. And in that case, literature has to do something else...
12 May, Monday.
When I am in the shower in the morning, if it has been a good night's rest, I can tell what my mind was thinking about while I was sleeping. A nice morning, because at night I was thinking about the thesis. But during the day my thoughts change. Personal things, on the one hand... Great global things, on the other.
I am satisfied at having solved the problem of North Korea. The problem is that the North Koreans can destroy Seoul (population: 20 million) in minutes with weapons positioned 50 miles away, at the border. Therefore, Seoul has to be evacuated first. Create an artificial diversion--for example, a chemical plant on fire. With this as a plausible excuse, Seoul is evacuated without provoking a North Korean strike. Then launch a surprise attack against the North.
And I keep thinking about those guys in Iraq who kept charging the American tanks in pick-up trucks. This is like a classroom example of what happens when you have the wrong ideas. But it's only the most extreme example.  
9 May, Friday.
I seem to take longer and longer between updates, but I will let you all know if I do decide to quit this gig altogether. Meanwhile, Spring is in full force; in the last six months, one's body has simply forgotten that there could be warmth outside. And also, the trees are green! How about that!
"It's ridiculous," he said. "Everything in this city is getting expensive. How are you supposed to live? Thank God I'm nearly dead." [77- year old man in NY, quoted in the NYT]
A Vietnamese survivor of SARS. When she emerged from the coma six weeks ago, she said: "I couldn't even recognize my own body. It wouldn't do anything I wanted it to. It seemed to belong to someone else." [NYT 060503]
SARS in China: "In the development of human history, people inevitably encounter such disasters," the General Administration of Press and Publication said in a statement posted on the Web site "We think this is just the time to catch up on reading." [Quoted in some article recently. The recommended books are mostly Communist propaganda. But I am attracted by the paternalism, by the reminder of authority. In America, moral and intellectual authority are divorced, at least in politics. BUT the citizen can find out what books the President himself is reading--or what books his advisors are telling him about. That would be top secret news in China.]
"What?! I'm not paying a cent here. Never! I'll pay for a car wash, not for a brainwash." (Who do you think said it?)
23 April, Wednesday.
So many people have been hitting this page recently that I really ought to write something. Blame spring. Also, I think often these days of a comparison of one's experience of time, as one gets older, with the accelerating motion of  a falling stone. I forgot recently to scavenge for interesting tidbits. Nevertheless, they accumulate, willy-nilly... I'll write more later.  
A red poster. "Life is good. Feelings of loneliness, sadness and depression can be helped." Below, contact numbers for the university Student Counseling Service.
'Kim Guang Choel, a 27-year-old former railway worker in North Korea... contended that if refugees were guaranteed safe passage [through China], 'The cities will be empty. It will take only six months for there to be a flood.'" 30.11.02 NYT.

"The whole business of your life overwhelms you when you live alone. One's stupefied by it. To get rid of it you try to daub some of it off onto people who come to see you, and they hate that. To be all alone trains one for death." Celine. A scrap from an old issue of Forbe's that I've been carrying in my wallet. Now I can throw it away, whew.
"Experience, though coming to him in abundance... had never provoked him to any general reflection. He had never proceeded in an ironic way from the specific to the general; certainly he had never made a reflection upon anything so unparliamentary as Life. He would have questioned the taste of such an excrescence, and if he had encountered it on the part of another would have regarded it as a kind of French toy, with the uses of which he was unacquainted. Life, for him, was a purely practical function." This description made vivid to me a number of old Americans that I've known. Some of them immigrants, i.e., Americans with a vengeance.
'The leaders of the six countries whose scientists participated in the effort issued a joint statement--released by the White House--welcoming the work as providing a "fundamental platform for understanding ourselves.'' In addition to Bush, the statement was signed by... Chirac, Blair, Schroeder, Koizumi and Wen Jiabao.' On tthe occasion recently of the full decoding of the human genome. A moving little occasion. Especially the phrase, "platform for understanding ourselves." Even if in terms that are beyond the language we use in our human lives...

Daley on the homeless: "It isn't giving someone a bed and a sandwich. You have to rebuild their soul and their mind." March 17th. Interesting phrasing.
"I've always thought that the need to know the news every day is a nervous disorder." -Michael Oakeshott, quoted by Andrew Sullivan.

8 April, Tuesday.
A long time ago I figured out that my grand super-grand scale geopolitical worries are also metaphors. But metaphors of what? Do they have something to do with my fear of death, and with my sense that the attempt to hide or deny one's fear of death is a source of pervasive pathologies in the world? Today I found this stunning quote, in a story about a small girl:
"She knew his dressing-bag now--oh with the fondest knowledge!--and there was an instant during which its not being there was a stroke of the worst news. She was yet to learn what it could be to recognize in some lapse of a sequence the proof of an extinction, and therefore remained unaware that this momentary pang was a foretaste of the experience of death."
And yet, the metaphors of concern which arise as I look at the world out of my small window do not have at the back of them any grim satisfaction that at least "life" is always getting worse. Perhaps I am fascinated by being a voyeur, by the chance to watch the threat of death facing others. And also maybe in the international section of the newspaper I recognize and remember, writ large, the sufferings inflicted by fools. 
A few days ago, in the Korea Herald: "The Seoul government has decided to push ahead with an inter-Korean summit as a means of resolving the North Korean nuclear crisis. 'The South-North summit will be an effective venue to resolve the nuclear problem,' a senior Chong Wa Dae [=president's house] official said. 'Therefore, the summit should be pushed on a constant basis under this administration.'"
Someone said--yes, I know who, it's just not important who--said, "History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." No. History repeats itself, the first time as tragedy, and the second time... as tragedy. Or is it indeed farce when fools rush to ruin? It's not farce for the North Korean people. As for the South, it's enough to make one wish an apocalypse upon them all. Even for allowing a minority--the privileged students--to make all the noise, to set the tone. And to compensate myself for my shame at being driven to have such a wish, I become disdainful.

I was in a movie--one of those Spielberg movies celebrating scammers and cheaters--about a check forger who is so good that in the end he is released from prison in exchange for going to work for the FBI. The movie was based on a true story, and at the end there is an explanation: the fellow "is now a foremost authority on forgeries and also designs checks and documents for leading companies. For this they pay him millions of dollars every year." And the crowd exploded in laughter.
A nice moment. The unique beautiful soul of Americans. They were made happy by an unexpected satisfaction of their sense that the world ought to be generous, magnanimous. This is also why they have big refrigirators and big belles, and why the want to drill for oil in Alaska. God will provide, God ought to provide. An article in the NYT yesterday about people who feel patriotic about driving Hummers.
MCA photography exhibit, 30 images of architecture from everywhere: the photogropher says, "You pay only admission and spend one hour going all over the world--it's really quite cheap." Yes. I try to have the same kind of exhibits in my mind, of memory images from everywhere.
3 April, Thursday.
I thought the Monday update didn't go through... the beginning of the new semester is nice and quiet. I've just tossed a few photos from Mexico on the web. See the link on my home page.
Greetings to my lurking readers. I will have to start identifying you publicly, you oh so mysterious visitors from Harvard (today at 10:31am, March 31st at 9:45am...) and Princeton (when? uh-oh, the log list has run out!) and  IIT and... ...well, even identifying that place would be too much.
The man was barking at the dog.
31 March, Monday.
More blog has been placed in the archive to make for faster loading.
I see that other people are  not updating their blogs so frequently either... what is it? Spring fever? Feeling strange this evening, wonder if I am going to catch a cold again--that would be the third time this season. At least finally today I broke ground on the heart of my dissertation. The evidence has been sifted and collected and deposited... I now have a collection of more than a thousand quotations. And what to do now? I already see this evening that I will not be able to scroll up and down this 90-page thing with impunity. I will have to think about how to use technology here...
At least the distraction of the war has gone away... I lost interest when the US started losing.
Through oversight, I didn't post this here when it came out a few months ago. But with a computerized brain, nothing is really lost. From an interview with Oriana Fallaci (turning the tables on her, as it were):
"Muslims have passion, and we have lost the passion. People like me who have passion are derided: 'Ha ha ha! She's hysterical!' 'She's very passionate!' Listen how the Americans speak about me: 'A very passionate Italian.' Americans," she said, repeating for me something she told the American Enterprise Institute, "you have taught me this stupid word: cool. Cool, cool, cool! Coolness, coolness, you've got to be cool. Coolness! When I speak like I speak now, with passion, you smile and laugh at me! I've got passion."
Or is she passionate about having (or not  having) passion?
Geopolitical stuff continued... also from a few months ago, Brzezinski in the WSJ about the danger that, for some, "their exaggerated view of American power leads them to confuse preponderance with omnipotence." A nice distinction. So the stage is set for the classical drama (or tragedy) of arrogance and downfall. "The world," marinating in the tragic-classical sense of life, expects this; it expects reality to conform to literature. But America does not. Not only have they not read the dramas, but Sophocles is un-American, against the American sensibility. 
"Americanization is not a form of cultural imperialism, but the embodiment of modernity's promise of painless self-realization for each individual, in contrast to the demands made by more traditional concepts of emancipation."  [Winfriend Fluck.] But this is probably not true.
At a bookstore: "Please come back often." "It's a lot quicker to buy a book than to read it," I reply. A more clever reply: "Please agitate for socialism. People out of work will have more time to read books."
The WSJ reported that Americans spent $2.6 billion on birdseed, more than twice what was spent on food for the starving in other countries.

Kenneth Tynan: "But Americans can't handle misanthropy, they take it personally. No, my friend. We are above it together simply because we are together. How could I be happy without you?"
If you suspect that I am cleaning out an accidentally found file of blog-fodder, you are right. Maybe more tomorrow.
After a good run of reading very complex prose, I feel that my mind is changed, the way it is sometimes after speaking a foreign language. I exclaim, with bright brooding, "I am getting more and more intelligent," half-wittingly provoking laughter.
The important category of hors de concours. Beyond competition, beyond comparison, beyond... Thought of this with the Brahms trio op. 8, the last 40 seconds of the first movement. It's easiest to find in music, but it's in other kinds of encounters, too. Listening to the Brahms fragment while eating raw fish with X. That would be just too much. I would be afraid to do it.
21 March, Friday.
Happy birthday, Mr. Bach! Happy birthday to someone in Denver. Hello, spring. First day of "spring break."
X. couldn't hold out yesterday, he went home to watch TV. Later I watched too. A live broadcast from an armored convoy rolling across the desert at 25 mph. In front, a tank is bobbing up and down in the yellow dust. "People are watching this around the world, and this is shock and awe," said the journalist. Exactly. Jacques Chirac is 71 years old. But what would, say, his 21 year-old nephew think while looking at this video? He would want to emigrate to America. Because there is no such thing as politics for an ambitious young man; there is only the vision of achievement. Balzac, for example, was a poet of this. Now, in France, a Balzac would have nothing to write about. Except maybe the Algerians in les ghettos de banlieu. Or Chirac's awed and brooding nephew.
As soon as I get a little organized, I will post some more Mexico notes. Not that it matters. It is as far away from me now as the Hungary-Romania of last summer. Somehow, I have an attraction to circumstances and consequences that make it possible for me to ask, "Did this really happen to me?"
Supposedly, in Cambodia there is a place where for a couple of hundred bucks you can blow up a cow with a grenade launcher. What a tourist attraction!
-- is a novel that I respect more than I am fond of it. For every time I read it, I experience an intimate pain. Yesterday I understood this pain. In the first three hundred pages, the reader becomes intimate with the heroine, Isabel. Then she marries. She marries a man who is a stranger to the reader. She has a child with him. The narrative steps away from her inwardness. The pain is like that of seeing your intimate friend marrying someone who is not your friend. Or even like seeing your lover marry a stranger, in a different country.
After the American Civil War, laws in the South against the vagrancy of "idle and dispassionate persons." Sometimes the bringing together of two adjectives already has the illuminating power of a literary achievement.
[Note to myself: cut and paste into a new Word document, then save as web page/html, then adjust from Source.]  

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