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Author Updates

Monday, December 29, 2008

Buying books online this morning, had first moment of Kindle Envy. Had to consider this a bad sign. (Kindle being computerized contraption sold by Amazon.com into which one can load vast numbers of “e-books” in a matter of seconds for reduced price.) Have resisted reading about the thing or caring, largely due to repulsive name. Kindle. Like some hideous cross between a spinning child’s toy and one of those odious Japanese electronic “pets” one had to “feed” in order to prevent its “death”. Also because electronic books seem to be threatening or at least confusing already crumbling publishing industry and challenging whole notion of books as actual tangible items one can hold in one’s hands and pull off of shelves and snack on.

But wanted to buy Trollope’s He Knew He Was Right and there it was, electronically, for 99 cents. Could be downloaded onto Kindle (assuming one had one) in seconds. Felt physical craving for it. Fully suspect that sudden desire to read Trollope novel is fleeting urge. By the time book arrives in the mail—did order the paperback item—will have lost the urge or will be unable to sustain desire through entire 900 pages. 99-cent electronic version thus perfect for instant gratification and limited attention span.

Initially felt same way about iPod (end of civilization) and now am compulsive user, madly downloading African jazz, French pop, Italian anything, and—new favorite—strange electronic business that isn’t exactly music but reminds one of steaming power plants as seen across frozen rivers. (Are there any frozen rivers?) Electronic gadgets opened up whole new world of music, so perhaps shouldn’t be so resistant. Then again, imminent collapse of publishing industry and, therefore, so-called “income” makes purchase of Kindle highly unlikely. Must await economic rebound and gadget with less repulsive name.

Posted by Stephen @ 10:40 AM EST

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Obama inaugural invitation to Rick Warren cold water dumped on enthusiasm for new administration. Trying not to care so much or view with usual ironic detachment, but currently not working. Seems to legitimize homophobia (Warren won’t hire openly gay people and equates homosexuality with incest and pederasty) as just another valid “opinion” one can agree or disagree with. Like racism and anti-Semitism? And this guy destined to become —thanks to prominence of speech—voice of moral authority. As if that isn’t enough, Warren big blustery cheerleader for “purpose-driven life”. Enough to make one want to crawl back to bed. Had been making plans for big inauguration-viewing party, but feel kind of silly about it now. “You can come to the party, but we want you to know we don’t like you or approve of you and consider you illegitimate second-class citizen.” (Can go visit certain family members for that reaction.)

Something creepy and disturbing about the goatee--like big, grinning clown mouth drawn in hair around smaller, grinning mouth. One can only hope Warren has Ted Haggard style problem stashed somewhere in back of closet. So often turns out the ones with Jesus as invisible Best Friend think his magic powers confer immunity from exposure.

Howling wind purposefully driving snow against windows for third day in a row. Legitimizing another purposeless driven day of reading more about Oedipal Madoff financial scandal and finishing another Stefan Zweig novella.

Posted by Stephen @ 09:52 AM EST

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Still reeling with shame and self-loathing over major faux pas. Decided to go to funky massage place across from gym following workout to deal with neck and shoulder problems related to new 100$ (whatever) pillow. Basically, Swedish foam lump has turned uncomfortable and detrimental to health, but due to absurd price tag, cannot give it up.

Opted for the chair massage because of minimal price and because idea of getting naked in funky and no doubt germ infested massage place unappealing. Sat in chair, fully clothed, and glanced briefly at masseuse as she approached. Rambling conversation about decline in business due to economic collapse. During lull in conversation, felt the need to fill space to reduce guilt associated with being “served” in this manner and so asked: “When is your baby due?” After three seconds of silence, knew Major Mistake had been committed. Began to sweat from every pore and muscles turned to concrete. Faint giggle somewhere in the distance above. Followed by humorless: “I am not pregnant.”

Longed for trap door under chair with direct access to Hell. Surely Sudden Death Syndrome strikes some adults. No? Mindless chatter to try and cover Major Mistake only Made Matters Worse. Excessive tip to try and compensate only Made Matters Worse. “But what was I thinking? Your stomach is totally flat!” Only Made Matters Worse. Rushed out into traffic in shame and humiliation. Know better than to EVER ask that question. Onset of Tourettes?

Will have to cancel gym membership and possibly move to new city to avoid chance of bumping into masseuse in near future.

Posted by Stephen @ 07:02 PM EST

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Despite ongoing perception of being viewed largely as teetotaler social pariah and no-fun dinner guest, have received—inexplicably—numerous invitations this year to holiday-ish cocktail parties. Three over the past weekend alone and several more upcoming. Usually accept invitations and then forget the date and time, but lure of free food IN THIS ECONOMY too appealing to pass up. Most amusing was unveiling of complete Turgot map of Paris from 1739. Ariel view of entire city, including every building, window, and tree, completed nearly a decade prior to invention of hot air balloon. One of the few remaining such maps from original copper plates. Cocktail party held in Charles Street art gallery and “cabinet de curiosities” on Beacon Hill. Among the curiosities were centuries-old medical instruments and several of the guests. Unexpectedly lively and ribald gathering. Gathered several new phone numbers for vaguely planned eventual dinner party. Best such gatherings in the past have been with collection of mostly unknown guests.

Arrived at second cocktail party very late, when most of guests were extremely well lubricated. Excellent strategy for future events. Reduces need to engage in coherent conversation. Minimal questioning produces maximal inebriated gossip and confessions. Learned of several major financial collapses, one collapsing marriage, and one (not unrelated) affair. Also realized that at certain level of alcohol consumption, desire for food diminishes in most revelers, thus leaving more hors d’oeuvres for teetotaler social pariah guests. Carefully planning arrival times for this week’s holiday gatherings.

Posted by Stephen @ 06:39 PM EST

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Attended Boston Globe party for contributors to op ed page. Wrote five of those one year ago. Pleasant cocktail party with excellent shrimp and assortment of impressive literary and political types. Held in music room of St. Botolph Club, one of those Back Bay clubs where, once-upon-a-time, men smoked and discussed literature, politics and/or their mistresses surrounded by John Singer Sargent paintings and Irish maids. Paintings now replaced with expendable copies. Maids? Unclear. Frigid winds outside and overheated salon added to old-Boston feel—slightly stuffy and starchy, kind of cozy.

Celebrity glamour supplied mostly by presence of Anita Hill. Her face, after all, being familiar from television. No aging apparent from all those years ago at the hearings, and even prettier in person. Discussed teaching since we’re both at the same school. Had to fake certain amount of interest in/knowledge of academia. Has a generally earnest and sincere demeanor. Nervous, therefore, when seeing enfant terrible look come over S’s face, followed by his comment, in ironic tone: “Do you think Obama will appoint you to the Supreme Court?” Moment of uncomfortable silence ensued. That banished, fortunately, by her laughter. “THAT would be awkward,” said she.

Probably should have been more concerned with own faux pas of wearing blue jeans, but tie possibly compensated and salon mercifully dark.

Posted by Stephen @ 03:20 PM EST

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Just read story in NY Times of Malaysian “Karaoke Killing.” Man in coffee-shop-turned-Karaoke-venue assassinated for hogging microphone. No mention of murder weapon or song being performed during killing. Apparently, Karaoke rage somewhat common in Asia. Particularly enraging songs are “My Way” and John Denver’s “Country Roads.” Appalling story, of course, but having attended a variety of lectures recently, am sympathetic to audience rage related to hogging-the-microphone syndrome. Especially problematic are introductions, the kind in which introducers are offered up in layers--“And now to introduce the person who will introduce the person who will introduce…” Thus numbing audience before speaker even has a chance to begin. But hard to imagine rage reaching murderous proportions. Easier to simply nod off or assume “How interesting!” expression, as practiced by majority of students during my lectures.

Taught last class yesterday in confusion of relief and sadness. Relieved to get back to novel and to have been not murdered. Sad because psychotic amounts of preparation were useful as all-purpose explanation for lack of social and emotional life. Will have to resort to catch phrase of the day—“in this economy.” Dying to attend your Trim-A-Tree party, but can’t afford transportation costs IN THIS ECONOMY. Wish I could have bought you a birthday present, but felt it would have been irresponsible IN THIS ECONOMY. Planned to serve more than salad for dinner, but couldn’t justify a main course IN THIS ECONOMY. Would love to be "more affectionate”, but don’t have time IN THIS ECONOMY.

Celebrating end of semester by buying new Lanikai ukulele. Entirely irresponsible IN THIS ECONOMY and likely to provoke MURDEROUS RAGES in neighbors, but decided I couldn’t afford to give nephews Christmas presents this year, so feeling exceptionally flush. Just downloaded tablature for “Country Roads”.

Posted by Stephen @ 09:04 AM EST

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Decided to celebrate end of semester and psychologically stressful teaching experience by spending 4 days at woodsy yoga retreat. Called to make reservation and discovered cost for room with shared bath is $320 per night. “But it includes all meals and unlimited yoga classes, plus all your entertainment.” Really? Entertainment? “Yes, every night. Creativity workshops, lectures on deepening your practice, nutrition demonstrations, spirituality groups.”

Every supposedly encouraging word added to growing feeling of despair and depression. Creativity workshops? Deepening practice? Pictured hours of grindingly earnest chatter about “chi” and other amorphous concepts. Hearing two least favorite words in English language uttered in combination—“spirituality” and “groups”—set in motion spiral of imagined misery and images of prayer hands and pseudo-submissive bowing by people who can afford $320 per night for a yoga class and unlimited sweet potatoes.

Confronted with own essentially judgmental and unattractive nature set in motion spiral of intense self-loathing to compliment misanthropic spiral. Perfect storm of negative attitudes and rotten chi. Hung up the phone with feeling of defeat, plans derailed.

Ten minutes later started doing the math. 4 nights at $320=$1280. Plus $100 for gas, maybe $300 for assorted extras? Having saved myself all that by not booking reservation, felt elation of just having earned unexpected $1700 bonus. Bought expensive shirt and new underwear and donated $$ to new favorite animal cause. Calling expensive hotel chains today to generate more spending money.

Posted by Stephen @ 09:57 AM EST

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