Saturday, November 18, 2006


I ran into Jed on the way back from my piano lesson. He said he was going to dinner, and I tried to think up a lie, but alas, too slow, spit out the truth: "I'm going to go drink Scotch with Tamboli and watch Dune."

I'm pooped. Lousy piano lesson--I want to scream at my fingers sometimes, but that makes people on the metro look at me funny.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


I walked miles today, lugging a backpack and a heavy book. I swung by the tobacconist, picked up an edition of Ravel solo piano sheet music from the main library. There are some truly gorgeous pieces in here. I'm going to try the Pavane, and maybe the Sonatine later. Then took the metro back to campus in time to catch Jay before he got home so we could call a missing friend and leave him a voicemail of off-key singing, wishing him a happy birthday.

I'd like to smoke my pipe in the room I rent, but I don't know how to ask my lessor if I'm allowed without it being awkward.

Milton Friedman has passed away. I suppose with Nozick and Hayek, the last of the libertarian pedestals has now gone. I would have loved to have met the man. Few people I've never met have moved my life so.

We find these rough alliances, with conservatives who love values and liberals who love democracy--the fit is never comfortable, even if expedient. But Milton, he actually loved freedom. For better or worse.

You couldn't have done more with a life. Still.

I'll miss you.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Guinness Extra Stout

Nothing happened today. Sorry.

That's not true. I did memorize a poem by Lisel Mueller, and argued with some people about the quality of music. Gym, piano, South Park. Sudoku. Gershwin preludes are the shiznit! Also, this album is absolutely fantastic.

Seeing the food in your mouth is disgusting.

SCOTT: What's disgusting about it? It's just like normal food, but mixed up more. Is it the entropy that disturbs you? Or is it the fact that the more I chew it the closer it gets to being poop?

Look, I'm not proud of saying that, but I said it.

I drink a beer every evening. I find this an immensely pleasing habit that I shall have to plan for and continue.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


That was the worst episode of nip/tuck I've ever seen. The show may have jumped the shark.

How beautiful the world was today.

I swung by Student Health today for a prescription. I had expected to have to set up an appointment and have some things faxed from home, but the visit turned out easy. The receptionist was out but the doctor was in the waiting room. She asked if I'd been here before, and I said, yes, she had seen me last semester for a particularly horrific case of strep throat. She remembered me and wrote me a prescription on the spot. We had an enjoyable talk about what an effective and lovely drug Paxil is. She said many she'd talk to had said it changed their lives, and I told her I shared a similar sentiment. And we talked of the bad press it gets because of the devastating effects it sometimes has on people who suddenly go off it. I told her how it's nothing like the stereotype people have of antidepressants--it's so much more subtle than that.

There is an obvious tension here, for a man who, while sympathetic to utilitarianism, rejects it on the grounds that utility is not the end all. There is a tension for a man who thinks people who would hook up to the experience machine are making the wrong choice, when that man himself refuses to experience reality through his untampered emotions but rather prefers drugging himself, ever so slightly, for a more enjoyable ride. (Incidentally, the linked-to Wikipedia article is rather poor, and mischaracterizes Nozick's thought experiment, somewhat.)

This tension is only superficial. Let me explain what the Paxil does--to me, at least--and why it does not move me away from reality. Without Paxil, I enter a biweekly cycle of moods. Without fail, I spend 3-7 days happy, and then 3-7 days miserably depressed. Sometimes, during the happy part of the cycle I get really wild, completely extroverted, full of energy. I can make jokes easily, draw connections quite quickly. Usually there is no transition between the moods; the world just suddenly seems different. When depressed my thoughts tend to stick on certain things: I get very shy, unable and unwilling to talk to others. There's a feeling of heaviness and sometimes pain in the chest. I sleep a lot. I usually think of suicide constantly, and if not suicide I at least have a continual urge to cut parts of myself. I sometimes have mental images of blood, just gushing out of some part of me, skin ripped off or wide open.

Once I started taking Paxil, three years ago or so, the cycle vanished, or at least became much less dramatic. I still get happy, sometimes excessively so, and I still get sad, sometimes quite miserable. But the difference now is that my emotions are actually responding to the proper cues. Whereas before I'd get sad for no external reason, now if I get sad there's usually a cause, and so with happiness.

I contend that Paxil is to one's emotional response as glasses are to eyes. My emotions are still there, deep and low and light and airy at times, but now focused. And having a proper emotional response is near essential to having a worthwhile life. I don't take Paxil to escape reality or its sadness, I take it to bring reality into greater focus. Sometimes that means I'll be happier as compared to without the antidepressant--and sometimes sadder. But for the right reasons.

So make no mistake, I have no wish to rid myself of sadness, even were such a thing possible. I want to be sad when I should be sad. If a loved one dies, if a relationship ends, I want to properly respond to that event. With tears, if need be. The utilitarian cannot say such things, at least not without positing that perhaps a little sadness makes it possible for greater happiness later, and thus some sadness does increase happiness, on net. But for me the goodness of the response doesn't depend on the dubious proposition that it increases happiness later--I am saying that the pain is good in and of itself. And the joy.

Nozick speaks of this in The Examined Life, about the urge for emotions that properly map reality.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Jesus Christ, what is wrong with you people? Not even Scoplaw, who knows something about poetry, likes Eliot.

Prufrock is a masterpiece. It should depress, haunt, frighten you. Scattered couplets should stay crouched on your tongue for hours. It is impossible to say precisely what I mean!/But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen... You should feel trapped in immutable social niceties and graces, bound into a meaningless life where you rationalize away your regret as best you can and then stew in the failure of your own indecision--and how unimportant it is, measured out with coffee spoons. And would it have been worth it after all? You'll fear the loneliness, doubt the cure. Will they sing to you? Do you even deserve the song? That's Prufrock, an impotent hell, which I now have memorized.

Cheers to Courtney for her perceptive taste.

I don't know if I mentioned it before, but a few weeks ago Jay and I were at Eat First, catching the lunch special as is our custom and both of our fortune cookies said the same thing (I've kept the fortunes in my wallet):

There is a true and sincere friendship between you both.

We decided that the waiters had seen us come in often enough that they rigged our fortunes.

SCOTT: They think we're gay.

JAY: Get your arm off of me.

Today it happened again with the fortune: Friends long absent are coming back to you. I can only hope this refers to a friend of ours who about a month ago stopped coming to class and seemingly vanished off the face of the earth.

I've got like twenty minutes worth of poetry memorized at this point.