Face The Sun: Let There Be Light!
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are exclusively those of its author, and are not in any way meant to reflect the opinions or policies of the US Government.

Past Travelogues.

Finland, Estonia, Petersburg

Kirovograd, Ukraine


Tirana, Albania

Macedonia & Romania

Budapest to Bucharest

Balkans and Poland.

Christiania, Copenhagen.

Northern Norway

Northern Finland


Kashgar, briefly

More to come, Inshallah, as I go through old paper travel journals.

The DC experience, archived.

July '05
June '05
December '05
October '04
More to come should interesting things happen to me. Ever.

Blatent Plagiarism

The nation's largest chain bookstore has indicated that, due to lack of consumer interest, it has stopped selling books.
--Frederick Raphael, The Glittering Prizes

I feel this is the equivalent of a surgeon, skipping through a radiology department singing, 'I don't have cancer, I don't have cancer!'
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

Mum is crying with her faced turned away from me, gulping and honking like an injured seal. And I'm rolled up in the back seat wishing the old man would stop the car and make her walk. That or buy her a fish.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

I love it when well-educated women sweaar -- the words regain their original power and meaning when delivered unexpectedly with so much poise.
--Phil Robinson, Charlie Big Potatoes

She lived with her mother, who looked like an old labrador, and an old labrador.
--Will Self, Great Apes

When I was small and would leaf through the Old Testament retold for children and illustrated in engravings by Gustave Dore, I saw the Lord God sitting on a cloud. He was an old man with eyes, nose, and a long beard, and I would say to myself that if He had a mouth, He had to eat. And if He ate, He had intestines. But that thought always gave me a fright, because even though I come from a family that was not particularly religious, I felt the idea of a divine intestine to be sacrilegious.
--Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Quality is merely the distribution aspect of Quantity.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

...In the frank brilliance of the bright sun, which, as we all know, is the friend of heroes.
--Jose Saramago, All the Names

He stuttered so badly that you could go out and buy yourself a chocolate bar while he was wrestling with an initial p or b; he would never try to bypass the obstacle by switching to a synonym, and when the explosion finally did occur, it convulsed his whole frame and sprayed the interlocutor with triumphant saliva.
--Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister

To Stand on Jericho's Walls and Face the Sun.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

On October 7th, 1998, Matthew Shepherd exited a bar in Laramie, Wyoming in the company of two gentlemen. These gentlemen later tied him to a fencepost on the prarie, beat him to the point of brain damage with the handle of a pistol, and left him to freeze to death in the night. He remained comatose for five days, until he died on October 12th, all for the unpardonable sin of expressing his attraction for another man.

Topeka, Kansas: Home of the Reverend Fred Phelps. Rev. Phelps sees himself as a true messenger of God's Word and God's Will (capital Gs, capital Ws), and took it upon himself to come to Shepherd's funeral to shout: God hates fags. He brought a cohort with him to carry signs: AIDS cures fags. God Hates You. Repent and be Saved.

God has spoken to Phelps again, on the five year anniversary of Matthew Shepherd's violent end. Phelps is now crusading for a monument to mark the occasion. Marble or Granite, carved in Shepherd's image with a plaque attached, to read as follows:

Matthew Shepard Entered Hell October 12, 1998, at Age 21 In Defiance of God's Warning: ''Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.'' Leviticus 18:22.

The monument is to be placed in Casper, Wyoming, the right-wing Republican town where Shepherd was born. The mayor of the town, Barbara Peryam, is doing what she can to block the statue: "I refuse to let Casper be defined by hate." Admirable.

But her hands are tied. In the park in the center of town, there's a granite replica of the Ten Commandments, given to the town in 1965 by the Eagle Club, a faith-based community service organization. The park is public property; the 10th court of appeals (in Denver, which has jurisdiction over most of Wyoming) ruled that the town is welcome to have the ten commandments on public land, as long as statues representing other views are present.

Rev. Phelps represents "another view."

Hannah Arendt reported from Jerusalem on the banality of evil: beneath the veneer of civilization, the world is shitty place to live. Phelps seems to fit nicely into that world view. God knows I'm proud to be an American.

Posted by Dakota on 11:46 AM link |

Friday, October 24, 2003

There's a language in Brazil, spoken by about 550 people, called Hixkaryana. It's one of the only languages in the world known to be OVS-- that is, Object Verb Subject (The Ball Kicked The Boy, rather than traditional english The Boy kicked the ball). While searching for more information on Hixkaryana, I started stumbling across really upper level linguistics texts, the sort of thing that a quick google or search on Amazon won't give you. And suddenly maybe it's for the best that I'm wishy-washy on pursuing this PhD. Do I want to spend my life cranking out papers on topics like this?

Realism and the need for a Phonological Semantics:
The respective advocates of Optimality Theory, traditional derivational Generative Phonology and other prominent phonological theories such as Declarative Phonology and Government Phonology have seemingly always taken it for granted that the phonological symbols on which each of these theories relies have identical meanings. Although somewhat limited by the notoriously oligarchical sociology of the field, this situation has nonetheless led to a significant amount of cross-theoretical comparison which has been oversimplistic in both formal and functional terms (e.g. Clements 1992; Roca 1997). Based on the four assumptions that (i) phonological symbols stand for predicates, (ii) phonological symbols are used unambiguously within any theory, though not necessarily across them, (iii) phonology is a natural science, and about things in this, the natural world, and (iv) the phonetic characteristics of utterances are not overdetermined, the simple purpose of this paper is to provide a preliminary illustration of how an explicitly formalised Phonological Semantics will indicate that phonological symbols emphatically do not have the same semantic content across frameworks which are radically different, and that the consequence of the possible incommensurability of the clutch of extant phonological theories is one which must be addressed with some urgency, since each can be seen to be making very particular claims about the logical, philosophical, and neurological status of phonological representation.

The rest of the article has been clipped.

It's pretty rare that I come across a paragraph on hardcore linguistics where I can't SORT Of begin to get the gist-- or at least, what the hell it is they're talking about in general. Here, I have no idea.

And that hurts.

Books on theoretical phonetics are now careening towards me.

Posted by Dakota on 10:08 AM link |

Thursday, October 23, 2003

The good people at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals staged a protest outside of the Australian Embassy two days ago, which I had the pleasure of walking past on the way to work. It wasn't the shouting or the slogans that made it so intensely PETAstic-- (Call: "Australia Tortures Animals!" Unenthusiastic Group Response: "Stop the Live Sheep Trade!"). Rather, it was the guy dressed up in a full sheep costume that gave the whole thing a surrealist air on a scale heretofore unseen.

As I was walking away towards work, they switched off bullhorn handlers. The second guy started the same chant as the first, but after three calls and three responses, he apparantly got bored with the chant and switched it up, screaming into the megaphone: "Baaaaaa!" The protesters clearly didn't know how to respond, so they didn't. He tried again, this time flailing his arms. The protesters baa'ed back at him. Recognizing his initiative as failed, he switched back to the standard "Australia Tortures Animals!" and the protesters seemed visibly relieved to call back: "Stop the live sheep trade!"

Posted by Dakota on 9:18 AM link |

Friday, October 10, 2003

Yesterday at the cyberstop on 17th, there was a guy who came in wearing a full kilt. He sat there, minding his own business for about an hour, when the people next to him finally had to ask: Hey man, what's with the kilt?

Without hesitating at all, he shot back: "Pants make my knees hot."

Posted by Dakota on 8:28 AM link |

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

In related news, it turns out that the phrases in Romani (Vlax/gypsy) on that page were all culled from the pages of the book 'Bury Me Standing.' Which is simultaneously impressive (who does such things?) and weird (indeed, who does such things?).

The gypsies say that Vlax is impossible to learn as an outsider (a Gadjo, if you prefer). That sounds like throwing down the linguist gauntlet to me, but is there any benefit to it? The travelogue has already been written-- and Bury Me Standing it is.

Posted by Dakota on 12:33 PM link |
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

I introduced one of my colleagues to the concept of the Amazon.com marketplace, and he's been buying books like a madman. He asked for recommendations; the only books I could come up with were Blindness (Saramago), Lolita (Nabokov), and Catch-22 (Heller). What this proves is that I'm faltering in my self-set literature schedule. Way behind. Way way behind. Sure, I'm slogging through Biswas right now (so many pages; so, so many pages), and Portnoy's Complaint was a delightful post-modernist romp, but I still feel way behind.

Posted by Dakota on 12:31 PM link |

There's no way I'm not going to this. 42 hours, 39 minutes away from DC. Just over 2600 miles of pure bliss.

Posted by Dakota on 12:27 PM link |

Thursday, October 02, 2003

In the process of refusing to do work, I've stumbled across a list of common phrases in Vlax Romani, the gypsy language of Romania.

These people are GREAT. Things to keep in mind, according to the gypsies:

--With one behind, you cannot sit on two horses.
--There are lies more believable than truth.
--Beauty cannot be eaten with a spoon.
--A daughter-in-law should be selected with the ears, and not with the eyes.
--The shadow moves as the sun commands.
--He who feeds the pig also holds the knife over it when it is fattened.
--A rabbit with only one hole will soon be caught.
--Such a daughter-in-law is good, as eats unsalted food and claims it salted.

And the kicker, for which the lastest book on gypsies to hit Kramerbooks in paperback was named:
--Bury me standing. I've been on my knees my whole life.

My handbook on Vlax Romani grammar hasn't come yet, despite the fact that I ordered it from Amazon almost a full ten minutes ago. Crushing me.

Posted by Dakota on 12:17 PM link |
My red dress has arrived, via Kelly Droney's mother.

It's her old show choir dress. It's one of the most hideous dresses I've ever seen. It's so perfect I can't handle it. Sequins on the top, stretchy and billowy on the bottom.

Saturday marks the annual Red Dress Run, and I can't wait. A thousand people, getting hammered beginning at 1, running starting at three, continuing the hammering process until 8, possibly after. I can't think of a better way to spend my saturday.

Posted by Dakota on 11:58 AM link |
Current Location:
The People's Republic of China.

Stop by any time: everyone's welcome.

Slouching Towards Bethlehem to Be Born

Comments and requests for dates should be directed to email.

And here I am.

And for all you random folks out there whom I don't know, for the love of god, email me. I'm abroad, know no one, and look forward to hearing from you. I'm especially looking at YOU, whomever YOU are who's Facing The Sun all the way from Kenya. And Sweden. And Canada. And whatnot.

Books Tackled, 2006:

1. Jarhead, Anthony Swofford
2. Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia, Dennis Covington
3. A Brief History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson
4. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, Anonymous
5. Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Dawn Prince-Hughes

This year's movies, in chronological order:

1. Kung Fu Hustle
2. A Wrinkle in Time
3. Pi: Faith in Chaos
4. My Big Fat Independent Movie
5. The Winter Guest
6. Voices in Wartime
7. What Dreams May Come
8. Farewell My Concubine
9. The Ring
10. Like Water for Chocolate
11. Sahara

Foreign Service Officers by day, Bloggers by day as well.

The Diplodocus
(Islamabad, Pakistan).

The Permanent Mission of Joshie
(Zagreb; Libyaward).

Prince Roy
(Chennai; Taiwanward).

Sue and not You
(Tbilisi, Georgia).

Life on the Mekong
(Vientiane, Laos).

FSO Globe Trotter
(Lahore, Pakistan).

Vice Consul: Diplomatically Transformed
(New Delhi, India).

Adventures in Good Countries

Our Man in Tirana
(Tirana, Albania).

Anne's Blog
(Kazakhstan; Greeceward).

(Bogota, Colombia).

Furnish Worldwide

Tasman's World
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

(Lome, Togo).

World Adventurers
(Seoul, Korea).

Aaron Martz

A for Adventure
(Chennai, India).

The Excellent Adventures of Nickie P
(Paris, France).

Permanently Disco
(Dhaka, Bangladesh).

Consul At Arms
(Kingston, Jamaica).

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