Retrospective: 19 February 2014: A Miniature Film Festival

[To see this post in its original context, click here.] The mystery illness I've been fighting off-and-on for well over a year now (and which may very well simply be stress (which seems— (wait! rabbit hole!))) returned this weekend, and so, in between naps, I used Netflix and iTunes to curate a miniature film-fest. The theme of the festival was John Carpenter and/or Kurt Russell (with exceptions (to be explained)) and included the following films (in the order watched) (and none of which I had previously seen):
    Big Trouble in Little China (1986 by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell) • The Thing (1982 by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell (and a moustacheless Wilford Brimley!)) • Robocop (1987 by Paul Verhoeven) • Stargate (1994 by Roland Emmerich starring Kurt Russell and James Spader) • Escape from New York (1981 by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell) • Escape from L.A. (1996 by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell) • The Thing (2011 by Matthijs van Heijningen)
I have been a huge fan of John Carpenter's They Live (1988 starring "Rowdy" Roddy Piper) ever since I accidentally saw it on the Fox 42 Late Night Movie sometime in 1994, though I don't think I learned what it was called until probably ten years later. I was talking with a colleague (whose opinions on film and music I hold in high regard) the other day about it, which is, in part, what prompted this mini festival in the first place, and he suggested that They Live would have been better if Kurt Russell had starred in it. Not knowing any of Russell's work with Carpenter, I could neither agree nor disagree, but something about his assertion didn't feel right. Now, after seeing four of Carpenter and Russell's collaborations, reacquainting myself with Jonathan Lethem's book/essay on They Live (entitled, appropriately enough, They Live), and remembering that Slavoj Žižek has quite a bit to say about the film (in part that it is one of the greatest leftist films to ever come out of Hollywood), I can say this: Kurt Russell would have been entirely too movie star for They Live, and would have lent it a completely different sense of irony and camp (I mean, just look at Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from L.A.!) than the decidedly working-class irony and camp lent to it by professional wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy. Before I continue: It has occurred to me that my mother is likely reading this. Mom, yes, I am writing about film, but please notice that I am not writing about film in any technical way: I do not know anything about lighting, or setting up shots, or what they're called, or editing, or really any of that stuff. I might be able to identify a wipe or a dissolve, but I couldn't tell you what they mean. I am writing about film from a literary/cultural studies perspective; I am qualified to do that. I am not qualified to write about film from a film studies perspective, and it is my lack of technical knowledge (and, obviously, a degree in film studies) which disqualifies me. Also, I love you and I got your Valentine's letter today, so thanks! Moving on. Mostly, I just wanted to present some notes I took in my head as I watched these seven films, but this seems to have turned into something made of paragraphs. I suppose the obvious thing to do would be to write one paragraph per film. Let's see what happens. Warning: Even though I hadn't seen any of these films before this last weekend, I'm going to write about them as though they have been seen (I mean, they're (nearly) all 20-30 years old), which means there may be spoilers. Big Trouble in Little China is fun and silly and attempts to present Russell as a truck driver, but he's entirely too pretty to really pull it off, which is fine, because the film isn't trying to be a serious piece of cinematic realism (what with its giant green fireballs and mythological Chinese demons). I don't mean to say that there aren't pretty truck drivers out there, either, but I'm aware that it's a difficult life that wreaks havoc on the body in ways most people would rather not consider, and I would imagine that maintaining Hollywood Pretty in truck stop restrooms is not easy. That same colleague mentioned above and I also talked about The Thing. What he said he loved about the film was how Carpenter refused to let the viewer ever know for sure if Russell's character had been infected or not. Said colleague seemed pretty convinced he had been. Again, I'm not so sure I agree. Carpenter does a pretty effective job of both cluing the viewer in to who's been compromised without also making it obvious (who the dog touches). Russell also unambiguously passes the blood test. It isn't until the very end that there is any ambiguity about Russell's status, and that's when he and the last guy simply decide to wait where they are, which is exactly what the thing had been doing for the 100,000 years before being extracted from the ice. Also, the special effects are awesome and gruesome and disturbing. Robocop doesn't exactly fit the theme of my mini-festival, but it doesn't not. I feel as though Verhoeven probably took a couple of cues from Carpenter. Robocop and Escape from New York share an awesome post-apocalyptic vibe and, strangely, a bad-guy with a high-pitched laugh. Also, Verhoeven's use of TV news and commercials is reminiscent of similar things in both Escape from New York and They Live. If I had seen Stargate when I was 13, it would have been the best movie ever. Russell manages to pull off suicidal father and military man by never moving his face or really ever saying much. Had he smiled (and at this moment, I wonder how much Russell's (goofy?) smile resembles that of the character Plucky Purcell in Tom Robbins' first novel Another Roadside Attraction), he likely would have ruined his entire performance. I should have used the Escape From films as bookends? I liked that Escape from New York had a slightly more serious tone despite its also campiness. Its indictment of U.S. politics and (east coast?) culture are reminiscent of They Live. I read on Wikipedia that the script was written in response to the Watergate scandal. It's oblique, but not opaque. The physical portrayal of the president made me wonder when we last had an obviously overweight chief executive. I just looked at Wikipedia's list of presidents: Taft was huge; Hoover may have been a bit chubby. Escape from L.A. is an indictment not only of the City of Angels but also of the film industry and especially of the so-called moral majority (I think one could make a fairly convincing argument that Carpenter at least knew about if not has read The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood), but probably that's been said a million times. It's also an indictment wrapped in camp (the cars! a revolutionary leader named "Cuervo Jones"! Pam Grier in drag in drag!) which adds bite to the satire. Snake Plissken is obviously the one-eyed king in the land of the blind. I should have used the different Things as bookends? No. So, the 2011 The Thing is supposedly a prequel to Carpenter's film, but the things that would make it a prequel are haphazardly tacked on at the end and make almost no sense. The film is effectively a showcase for better special effects but contains almost none of the serious psychological tension of the original which would have made those better special effects worth the time and money it cost to make them. I will say this though, the frantically waving tentacles and the way the one infected character rubbed his face on and then into the other, non-infected character's. . . . A good essay writer would now use that image to say something about all the films, about how they were all about the culture wars, or multi-culturalism, or how science and society often rub each other the wrong way, and ultimately, how we can't help but infect one another with our ideas and ideologies, but these are just notes, and this is just a blog, and I'm not a film writer or even a serious student of film--I'm just a guy who watched a bunch of films between naps during a recurrence of the mystery illness this last weekend.

Retrospective: 27 November 2013: What I Hear Behind Siri’s Voice/s

[To see this post in its original context, click here.] And right away, the computer told me the answer to the question, set the timer for thirty minutes, did so in a tone which implied it was happy to do these things, it was happy to be of service, in a tone which implied that it could do nothing other than be happy to be of service, in a tone which implied, deep in the hinterlands of that tone, deep, somewhere deep in the programming, and because computers are only as good as the humans who program them, a certain over-caffeinated, patronized, disgruntled, I-live-in-California-but-spend-all-my-time-in-a-cubicle ontology. Do we think these things are not somehow expressed in the code that runs the things that run our lives? The number of simple traffic warning displays that have been hacked to read zombies ahead or you're going to be late, and that we even know what easter eggs are, let alone are able to go looking for them should indicate the degree to which dissatisfaction and a kind of general powerlessness is part of everyone's subconscious, is part of programmers' subconsciousnesses. I want the programmers to be contented, calm people. I want the programmers to be well-practiced in the art of meditation. I want the programmers to practice mindfulness. If my body is made of billions of cells, and every single one of those cells (excluding, obviously, sperm cells) contains all 48 of my chromosomes, and one of those chromosomes can contain up to 440 million nucleobases, and the ordering of those nucleobases (the only good thing about the movie Gattaca was its title) is what makes me me, then I want the programmers, even though they're obviously not writing binary code directly, to take care with each precious 1 and 0. A friend of mine, when looking at the brand name of the relatively hi-tech trashcan in my kitchen once said, "Hmm, I expect 'Simple Human' is the last thing I'll hear before I'm struck down in the coming robot apocalypse."

Retrospective: 25 November 2012: Reading The Loop by Jacques Roubaud, pt. 7

[To view this post in its original context, click here.] map 1: Bifurcation A: §132-145 map 2: pp349-383
And I despised myself for being there again, for being unable to stop myself from being there in my suffering and in the abandonment to absolute suffering that being there signified, as the light, unforgiven, fled beneath the door, withdrew from the wooden floor, from the windowpanes, from the ceiling, the books, the chair, from my hands, from my eyes, from all my attention to the sky, gathering in the clouds, in the still very luminous estuary of daylight between the rooftops. (p351)
[the flies] flew through the luminous air amid the motes of dust following irresponsible Brownian trajectories . . . (p358)
An image to which I have been returning and returning via irresponsible, mental Brownian movements, and like the proverbial moth (because it burns after all and every time) is the luminosity of her eyes during those first few months, particularly in the dark, like lanterns of deep blue in the bedroom, like (and here is the problem with most figurative language) ignis fatuus or swamp lights (the problem being that yes, they did, I suppose, lure me to a kind of watery death, but really all I was trying to describe was their color and intensity (and, of course, the watery part of the simile stands in direct contrast to me getting burned by revisiting the image)), but there the image nonetheless is, tempting in its happy associations, but ultimately tragic. I am, of course, afraid that "tragic" is too much, sounds maudlin, and yet, and yet . . . I go first to her eyes, and then to the image of a Polaroid photo taken around that same time, where both, or rather, all four of our eyes are shining (drunk, in love, drunk on love), and then to a poem, a wonderfully silly poem that used my last name (her eventual but also now no longer last name) in a rather nice bit of wordplay, and then probably back to her eyes glowing in the dark, before lurching (can one lurch within Brownian movement?) off to some other once-happy, now no-longer-but-hopefully-someday-again-happy memory, Brownian lurching, Brownian tripping, Brownian falling back to those eyes which said things never otherwise said, which said things her voice would (also around that time) deny or avoid, and here is a trap into which I can easily fall and say, "And here my troubles began," but it's not true, because if it is true there, then it's also true at a point/moment behind that one, and if true at that point, then true at a point/moment behind even that one, and on backwards down a slippery slope which extends back, eventually, past my birth and toward the Prime Mover, and only then does it approach the Truth: Our troubles began/begin with the In the beginning, they begin with the Word.

Retrospective: 13 June 2011: Dictionary Definitions

[To view this post in its original context, click here.] I am currently teaching a class on fictional reference materials. Every time I say or write that, someone (rightfully) asks, "What does that mean?" The answer I have been giving usually consists of examples: The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, & Moby-Dick. Another answer I could give might be "fictional content in a non-fiction wrapper," but then what do we do with the example of Moby-Dick since it is just the opposite? That's one of the questions the course is asking. I recently gave my students the following assignment:
Pick an English word that either 1.has always interested you 2.you don’t know Write a new dictionary definition of this word. 1.Be sure to include all parts of a dictionary definition (as we have discussed them). 2.Try to include as many ways of defining as you can. 3.Think about the things we’ve discussed so far. 4.Obviously, you may (and probably should) make things up.
All of my students did really interesting things with this assignment, and I am really excited for their upcoming fake (?) encyclopedia entries. Three students gave me permission to share their work here: 1. Angela Allmendinger: Juggernaut (ˈjəgərˌnôt) n 1. A professional comic entertainer who performs wearing a spacesuit and whose sole form of entertainment is to juggle and make balloon animals shaped like black holes. During the Cold War it was common for parents to hire these entertainers for children’s birhday parties. 2. A type of highly trained astronaut whose sole responsibility when residing in a spaceship and/or when in orbit, is to juggle for at least 16 hours a day. Due to a lack of gravity when in space, these professionals must not only undergo extensive physical and technical training, but must display otherworldly hand eye coordination and reflexes. These professionals can be identified from the conventional astronaut by their brightly coloured spacesuit. They are especially coveted by the organizers of space programs who wish to make compactly sized spaceships, due to their ability to fit a large number of themselves into a small space. [from English verb to juggle + noun astronaut] Related noun: (derogatory) Space clownboys. 3. n The title of a 1983 classical-rap-electro musical production, written, produced, and performed by the South Indian Playwright, Abhinandan Karunanidhi Mitesh Karnataka. Inspired by Andrew Lloyd Weber’s production Jesus Christ Superstar, the story follows the personal exploits of the Hindu god Krishna after he is transformed from stone into a living god by Brahma. The bobble head stone souvenires for this production are still worshipped in some parts of Puri and Orissa. [from Hindi Jagannath, from Sanskrit Jagannatha lord of the world, from jagat world + natha lord] 2. Moritz Bareiß: turtle noun, adj., verb pronunciation: AE /ˈælbəˌtrɒs/, BE /ˈsiːˌɡʌl/ ■ noun 1 a small bird with gray, red or green feathers which lives in South American rainforests and primarily feeds on the leftovers of tourists (sometimes also called → touristbird). 2 informal A person who tries to receive approval and, more often, money, by making positive remarks about ornithology and/or ornithologists: He was such a turtle, you know, behaving like a bird-lover, just to get enough money to buy himself a telescope. 3 a children's game where three or more children try to confuse ornithologists by dressing up like birds. ■ adj. 1 the opposite of (→ boring), very interesting, exciting: I really enjoyed my Literary Studies II - course. It was very turtle. 2 used only by ornithologists: knowing a lot about birds, especially turtles: She is so turtle, she knows absolutely everything about turtles.verb 1 to make positive remarks/ to act very polite in order to receive approval (in some cases also: money): They finally called him the greatest ornithologist of all time after he had turtled around for over two hours. 2 to live on the expense of others, e.g. by eating their leftovers. etymology: Origin: mid 17th century: from Spanish tortugaviar, the name Spanish conquerors gave the bird after the first specimen was caught and documented by the discoverer Alfonso-Rodrigo Lacaza. First appearance in the English language in the first half of the 18th century in various scientific texts. 3. Carsten-Tobias Weigold: superperforator /’su:pə’pə:fəreɪtə/ n. In 1912 a big problem arose in the production of cheese. As a result of the industrialization, new efficient ways and techniques of cheese production, and the growing demand for cheese on the food market, modern cheese was produced and sold so fast that this lactate product was not stored long enough anymore to develop its typical holes. As a solution to this problem Edmund Emmentaler invented the superperforator- an electric device that shot holes into the cheese. This special device could easily be included into the production process of cheese. Today the superperforator is still used and is shooting holes into cheeses that normally do not have any holes- an idea which marketing strategists came up with to increase the collective aesthetic conception of customers for cheese. Moreover, the selling of cheeses perforated by the superperforator made the cheese production more profitable because in fact the customer gets less cheese than before but is buying it for the same price. Due to the great success of the superperforator device in the matter of cheese production, it caught the attention of military strategists. In 1915 Edmund Emmentaler was assigned to modify the superperforator for military purposes. In a short period of time he modified the concept of the superperforator and developed a device very similar to actual superperforator which today is known as the machine gun. Even in the field of medicine the superperforator found use. The Italian doctor Silvano Silly developed a modified version of the superperforator to make Caesarian deliveries faster and more efficient.

Retrospective: 24 March 2009: “Blood From the Shoulder of Pallas”

[To view the post in its original context, click here. One of the things I like best about this post now, several years later, is the broken image link.] [text from Watchmen; images borrowed from the internet] "Is it possible, I wonder, to study a bird so closely, to observe and catalogue its peculiarities in such minute detail that it becomes invisible?" "I believe that in approaching our subject with the sensibilities of statisticians and dissectionists, we distance ourselves increasingly from the marvelous and spell-binding planet of imagination whose gravity drew us to our studies in the first place." "Until we transform our mere sightings into genuine visions; until our ear is mature enough to order a symphony from the shrill pandemonium of the aviary; until then we may have a hobby, but we shall not have a passion." "unwittingly refined from the original gleaming ore down to a banal and lusterless filing system." "We were not twitching nervelessly in stifling, stinking darkness, head first down the gullet of the swooping horror, our tails dangling pathetically from that vicious scimitar beak for hours before finally our hind legs and pelvic girdle are disgorged, our empty, matted skin curiously inverted by the process." ". . . antique and functional stretches of descriptive prose which nonetheless conveyed the violent and terrible essence of their subject matter effortlessly."

Retrospective: 01 September 2008: *Not* What I’ll Be Reading

[To view the post in its original context, click here.] Here is a reminder that the first installment of This Is Not a Reading will take place on Monday, September 15th. You should come. Here is something I worked up for the reading and then decided against using: Using the words "Reading," "Rainbow," and "Lburton," I made this chart:
book: R(18) E(5) A(1) D(4) I(9) N(14) G(7) page: L(12) B(2) U(21) R(18) T(20) O(15) N(14) line: R(18) A(1) I(9) N(14) B(2) O(15) W(23)
So, for instance, I went to the 23rd line of the 14th page of the 7th book whose author's last name began with the letter G (that book being Ferdydurke by Witold Gombrowicz), and found "them with my whole body, but he sat down, so I too had to sit down." I then, for the sake of meaning and ease, copied out the whole sentence connected to that line:
At the sight of this horribly banal and utterly commonplace Form I threw myself on my texts, covering them with my whole body, but he sat down, so I too had to sit down, and having sat down he proceeded to offer me his condolences on the death of my aunt, who died long ago and whom I had totally forgotten.
After I collected all seven lines/sentences, I deleted and rearranged and deleted some more, and came up with the following paragraph (but sadly no more, which is why I don't think I'll be reading this at the not-reading):
My grandfather waits, as the reader must have guessed, in the monastery library. Was there, or was there not, any possibility of breaking the muddy, ominous sort of peace? If there was, the question was how to go about meaning it. And now, as he looked up into his own, he thought for the thousandth time how his heart ached with love. But Mr. Krap tells me that the whole issue’s been reopened, and that its most universal effect is deception; but even its most particular effects have something of the same three local tycoons. At the sight of this horribly banal and utterly commonplace form I threw myself on my whole body. But he sat down, and having sat down he proceeded to offer me his condolences on the death of my grandfather who waits. And during this hiatus, the last of a muddy, ominous sort, I had better get round to describing him. I found no trace of Adso’s manuscript. It was obvious. The resistance of the committee to Mrs. Silver’s smiling face—how pretty she was, how sweet and gentle and full of kindness, and I just met the whole railroad issue, and Bernick’s in conference with the same character. So I too had to sit down, and having sat down long ago, I had totally forgotten.
Instead, I think I'll be reading from a longer piece written with a smaller rainbow. You should show up and find out what happens!

Retrospective: 19 June 2007: The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

[To view the post in its original context, click here.] Last Thursday, as I went about my normal reading of things on the internet, I was stopped by the phrase "quantitative social scientists" in a post on boingboing.net. It stopped me because just the day before, Cat and I had been talking about how sociology is portrayed by the media. (She and Kate are engaged in an informal research project about how sociology is represented specifically by the AP. Their results so far show that when the AP quotes a sociologist, that sociologist is more often than not foreign, and when not foreign, from an east coast, Ivy League school) Boingboing.net does produce some of its own content, but is mostly just a funnel/filter of the internet as a whole, and provides links (connections) to other things. So I followed the link provided by the good folks at boingboing to the original story, and was lead to a blog by Danah Boyd called "apophenia." Next to the title of the blog was a definition: apophenia: making connections where none previously existed Those of you who know me know that the above definition has more or less been my working definition for the word paranoia since 1995, and is mostly based on the following quotation from Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (I first read the quotation as a epigraph to "Rivkala's Ring" by Spalding Gray, a monologue I performed my junior year of college):
If there is something comforting—religious, if you want—about paranoia, there is still also anti-paranoia, where nothing is connected to anything, a condition not many of us can bear for long.
This "new" word, apophenia, which is better defined as "the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena" (K. Conrad, 1958), might appear to pose a serious problem to both my long-held definition of paranoia and my mostly tongue-in-cheek theory about the place of paranoia in liberal arts education, however, some further reading over at languagehat.com mitigates that threat. The main argument at languagehat (or at least the one that appealed to me and my interests most directly) is paraphrased thusly:
    -If the base definition of paranoia is the finding of connections where none necessarily exist, why do we need this word? -Well, since most people hear the word paranoia and automatically think "a psychosis characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur," then we need this word to differentiate between paranoia as defined by most people, and paranoia as defined by people who think they understand the inner- or under-machinations of a mental disorder better than most people. -Okay, cool.
So, let me please herewith say that I am retaining the definition, but changing the word. My mostly tongue-in-cheek theory becomes one about the place of apophenia in liberal arts education. Our lives continue unabated as though absolutely nothing of any consequence has happened. I end with a bit of apophenia for you to chew: A little over three years ago, I wrote a series of memos (nos. 180-184) (within the larger series of memos) about Spalding Gray, paranoia, and quitting smoking. That memos 180, 181, 182, 183, and 184 should also deal with the cessation of smoking is interesting in today's case because Cat has spent the last five years studying that very thing and how it is portrayed in the media.

Retrospective: 26 February 2006: The Sum of the Remainders

[To view the post in its original context, click here.] “What is interesting, as always, is the aftermath.” —Ben Marcus, The Age of Wire and String 1 Home 1.1 He sighed as he placed his left index finger on the light switch and looked down at her. 1.2 She closed her eyes and turned her face away from him as he obliviously dug his thumbnail into the rind of the orange. 1.3 They didn’t feel it move through them, but they saw the stain as it began to spread. 2 Work 2.1 Not noticing the puddle of water at his feet, he prepared to press the buttons required to receive a candy bar. 2.2 He looked his boss squarely in the eye, and said, “Good morning, Sir.” 2.3 She hit the send button. 3 At Large 3.1 He took the very center of the french fry between both forefingers and thumbs and squeezed, causing the hot center to squirt out like pus from a pimple. 3.2 They shook hands and agreed that perhaps everyone else was quite foolish for not listening to their warnings. 3.3 As she stepped from the curb, she sneezed.

Retrospective: 24 March 2005: Why is the Rocket Going Nowhere?

[To view the post in its original context, click here.] “And he sensed percolating from the kitchen, humble, squalid, time-marking human thought, marking time in one spot, always in one spot, going round and round, in circles, as if they were dizzy but couldn’t stop. as if they were nauseated but couldn’t stop, the way we bite our nails, the way we tear off dead skin when we’re peeling, the way we scratch ourselves when we have hives, the way we toss in our beds when we can’t sleep, to give ourselves pleasure and make ourselves suffer, until we are exhausted, until we’ve taken our breath away. . . .” —Nathalie Sarraute [see also: memos 104 11_04_03, 108 11_10_03, 110 11_13_03, and especially 117 11_24_03] Here is an excerpt from my unfinished novel Zen Arcade: As he was walking into the kitchen, he decided the project of building a human shell from dead skin cells was no different from the man who had decided to record every minute of his life in a diary. In Adam’s mind, the man had started out writing things like “walked from the desk to the refrigerator, poured myself a glass of milk, drank it and walked back to the desk,” but had soon realized he was leaving things out, things like picking up and opening the milk carton, placing it back in the refrigerator, and closing the refrigerator door. The realization that he was leaving some things out led to other realizations, which led to writing things like “unconsciously sent a message from my brain to my right leg, the muscles in that leg contracted to lift my leg and move it forward,” and on and on until eventually, the only thing the man would have been able to write was “I am writing the sentence I am writing right now. I am writing the sentence I am writing right now” over and over and over again until he died. Adam thought that sounded very much like eternally pushing a boulder up a hill, always up. And so the same with building a human shell one sloughed cell at a time. As soon as you had found and placed one cell, 20 more would have fallen off. His original estimate of seven years as the project’s duration had been way off. It was probably something more like seven factorial, or—once again, it was too early for math, and so he focused on making some coffee. He was daily amazed that the coffee pot his parents had bought before he was born was still working, as he had been through at least three tape-recorders in that time, and he used the tape-recorder far less frequently than the coffee pot. He picked the coffee pot up. He took off the lid and put it in the sink. He reached into the pot. He extracted the stem and the basket. He set the pot down. He disengaged the stem from the basket and placed it in the sink. He took the lid off the basket. He placed it in the sink. He opened the cupboard door under the right-hand side of the sink where the trash can was located. He knocked yesterday’s grounds into the trash. He placed the basket in the sink. He turned on the water. He adjusted the faucet so that the water was just a little hotter than comfortable. He rinsed the lid. He placed it in the drying rack. He rinsed the stem and placed it in the drying rack. He rinsed the basket’s lid. He put it in the drying rack. He rinsed the basket. He thought, What is today? Is today the day I wash everything with soap and water? He put the basket in the drying rack. He turned off the water. He picked up the pot again, and dumped its contents into the sink. He watched the day-old coffee as it swirled down the drain. He thought, Now certainly I have deposited skin cells onto the lid, the stem, the basket, and the basket’s lid, and those cells will get mixed into the coffee I will drink, and then. . . . I would have to strain my urine. That wouldn’t work. Of course, none of it would work. The only feasible way to perform the task of building a human shell was to be dead. If he were dead, he would no longer be sloughing off skin cells. At least, he thought, in this thought process, the boulder rolls back down the hill. He put the coffee pot under the faucet, and turned on the hot water. He filled the pot about half-way. He swished the water around in the pot. He turned the pot over and dumped the dirty water down the sink. He watched the water go down the drain. He righted the coffee pot. He turned the faucet’s handle all the way to cold. He turned the water on and filled the coffee pot up to the prescribed line. He turned the water off. He removed the pot from under the faucet, and set it back on the counter. He grabbed the stem from the drying rack. He grabbed the basket with his other hand. He placed the thin part of the stem into the receiving hole in the basket. He placed the basket-stem combination into the coffee pot. He opened the cupboard just above and to the left of the sink. He grabbed the canister of coffee. He put it on the counter. He pried off the plastic lid. He set the lid down. He reached into the canister. He grabbed the plastic measuring spoon inside of the canister and lifted. He dumped the little bit of coffee grounds in the spoon back into the canister. He liked to start with an empty spoon. He dug the spoon into the coffee, leveled the amount by wiping his finger across the top of the spoon, and dumped the coffee grounds into the basket. He dug the spoon into the coffee, leveled the amount by wiping his finger across the top of the spoon, and dumped the coffee grounds into the basket. He dug the spoon into the coffee, leveled the amount by wiping his finger across the top of the spoon, and dumped the coffee grounds into the basket. He dug the spoon into the coffee, leveled the amount by wiping his finger across the top of the spoon, and dumped the coffee grounds into the basket. He dug the spoon into the coffee, leveled the amount by wiping his finger across the top of the spoon, and dumped the coffee grounds into the basket. He dug the spoon into the coffee, leveled the amount by wiping his finger across the top of the spoon, and dumped the coffee grounds into the basket. He put the spoon back into the canister. He put the plastic lid back on the canister by pressing down all the way around the edge. He put the canister back in the cupboard. He closed the cupboard door. He grabbed the basket’s lid out of the drying rack. He fitted it over the basket. He grabbed the pot’s lid from the drying rack. He pushed it down on top of the coffee pot. He plugged the coffee pot in. He opened the cupboard he had just closed, and took down his mug. He set it next to the coffee pot. He closed the cupboard. He sat down at the kitchen table. He waited.