Monthly Archives: November 2006

Radio Silence and the Spider Robots

We are both under the weather (or rather, she’s sick, and I’m feeling dangerously on that post-nasal-drip, wheezing, sneezing, sinus-that’s-really-a-pip verge of sick), and there’s still a million things to do, not to mention a holiday in between here and there, and I am as reluctant to write one of these notes as I usually am sad to read them, but until a week and a half from now, when we get back from putting money down on some ponies (yes, there’s still ponies running this late in the year), I will most likely not have a chance to write anything new in this space (recently I saw something somewhere about someone having compiled a list of excuses in the “sorry I haven’t had anything to say lately” vein; but I can’t recall where I saw this, and what magical combination of words could I possibly drop into the Google tubes to find it again, and don’t you hate that feeling?), and will leave it, for the time being, to the sleepless investigations of the robot spiders. Or something. Happy Pilgrims and Indians, friends and robots! And see you soon.

Variety Acts

Emily says that when she tells people that she’s reading in February with Stephen Wright (the novelist) at the 92nd Street Y, they sometimes assume that she’s talking about Steven Wright (the comedian). They tend, she says, to get very excited at the prospect of this lineup. I personally think it’s a fantastic idea: fiction writers and comedians! Why not? I’ve never been to the Poetry Vs. Comedy Variety Show, but I believe that anything that gets people out to a reading—any theme or twist or shtick that makes it more like a show, and less like a trip to the dentist—is a good thing (cf. the comedian Jim Gaffigan‘s mildly reactionary bit about how a gift of a book isn’t really a gift, it’s a homework assignment). Literary Death Match III, in spite of Quick Fiction‘s devastating loss in the final round to the sharper geography skills of McSweeney’s, was the most entertaining reading I’ve ever been a part of. Fiction Vs. Comedy? As Wright says at the end of his interpretation of the titular joke in The Aristocrats, I’d like to see that, actually.

The Best of All Possible Democracies

Because I just moved last week, when I went to the polling site for my new precinct yesterday, I had to fill out a paper ballot. The ballot itself was straightforward, although the note that said that my entire vote would be voided should I fill in one standardized test-like oval incorrectly was a little intimidating, and the light was rather dim sitting at a folding table in the foyer of the borough’s municipal building with my ballot shielded for privacy by a rough-hewn scrap of corrugated cardboard, folded in thirds like a fire screen. I didn’t need to show any identification to vote; I just had to put the ballot in an envelope, seal it, write my name on the outside along with my old and new addresses—but then what? The precinct staffers said I needed to stuff the envelope in the ballot box. Which was where? On the folding table, sitting next to the cardboard privacy shield—it wasn’t obvious that the thing was for ballots, though, what with the bottom flaps being only loosely folded together, not taped up; also, the hole on top, also roughly carved, was hidden by a police officer’s hat and ticket book, making it seem like this was not a popular method for the precinct (although reportedly the preferred technique elsewhere).

Walking away from the jury-rigged little box, I wondered, is that poor wee vote in there really going to be counted?

But then I thought, on the other hand, I knew where to go to vote; no one tried to keep me from getting there, either through lies or threats or other thuggery; I didn’t have to wait in line; I didn’t have to use a poorly—or maliciously—designed machine; and the poll workers, although disorganized in a let’s-put-on-a-show-in-the-barn kind of way, were likewise well-intentioned.

But then I thought, in the world’s oldest living democracy, is it so crazy to hope for just a slightly better baseline?