1999 Notebook: Interval XXXVIII

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22 December 1999
Dog Oil
All my friends know about my almost pathological aversion to dog oil. Their dogs know it too, and torture me endlessly. (The wretched creatures have nothing better to do.)

And just when I thought I'd firmly established my perimeter defenses against the pernicious invasiveness of dog oil, I discovered a terrible new source: prepackaged, synthetic dog oil.

It seems that some mad scientist has concocted an artificial dog oil, which he bottles and sells.

Why, oh why, oh why, would someone create such a noxious amalgam, when half the civilized world is already coated in noxious canine grease?

23 December 1999
Bonfire Editing
Recently, James and I were cleaning house the old-fashioned way: with a huge bonfire.

James is much more expeditious than I am when it comes to most things, including, as it turns out, archival preservation.

"You're not going to throw that out without even looking in it, are you?" I asked as he tossed a box of yellowed papers into the inferno.

"Hell, yes!" he replied without hesitation. "If you looked at everything headed for the flames, you'd never throw anything away."

As I watched the fire consume canceled checks from 1966, I had to admit that his laissez-faire approach did not lack intellectual rigor.

24 December 1999
Dusty Cowboy Hat
I saw a man in an English pub wearing a big, black cowboy hat. That seemed strangely sad, even on a normally maudlin "holiday" like xmas eve. Even worse, the cowboy hat was covered in dust.

Very sad indeed.

25 December 1999
Red-Green Reversal
Mickey told me about a friend with a curious ocular condition; I think it's called something like red-green reversal. Something like that.

In any case, here's how it works. When a person with red-green reversal looks at something red, like blood, s/he sees what most of us would describe as the color green. Similarly, when the person with red-green reversal looks at a pine tree, s/he sees red.

I was fascinated by two facets of this condition. First, since it's a permanent condition, a person might never know s/he had the condition. I'd wager that most people with red-green reversal went to their graves never knowing that their red was not our red.

Mickey told me that his friend was deeply disturbed by the diagnosis.

"You mean the color I see when I bleed is the same color you see when you look at grass?" she asked immediately after the diagnosis.

Mickey told her, gently, "yes."

"And I guess that means," she continued, "that I see the color of an emerald when I look at a ruby."

"I guess that would be true, too," replied Mickey.

"Hmmm ..." said Mickey's friend.

Mickey said his friend never really talked about her condition again. I guess they weren't very close friends.

I'm watching red lights on a green tree--or perhaps they're green lights on a red tree, and wondering if a temporary case of red-green reversal might make this tedious day a little less onerous.

26 December 1999
Happy New Year, Perhaps
I'm afraid the published version of my artist's notebook of sorts will be out of date for at least the next two weeks. I am reluctantly moving my laboratory's operations to a small island off the coast of Thailand, an island without electricity, breweries, or even the most primitive telecommunication infrastructure.

I'm spending the next couple of weeks on a bump in the ocean at the insistence of my laboratory technicians, all of whom are panicking about the Alpha25-to-K nonsense. After initial precautions to avert disaster proved ineffectual, I installed four hundred lithium-ion long-range freighter batteries in one of the laboratory's most secure catacombs.

But were my technicians happy? They were not.

I pooh-poohed their superstitious pseudo-millennium fears about the catastrophes so-called experts predict for 1 January, when computers may cease to function reliably. Since computers have never been reliable, I calculate that the first day of 2000 will be almost exactly like the last day of 1999, albeit with a few more people trapped in elevators than might otherwise have been expected.

And then Yuri told me about the Russian nuclear missiles.

"Doctor Comrade Rinehart," he said, "do you know that Russia has nuclear missiles targeted on our city?"

"I always assumed that was the case," I said nonchalantly.

"Doctor Comrade Rinehart," he continued, "some of my friends--alcoholics to the last man--programmed those very missiles. And with what? This I will tell you: with 6502 CPUs from old Apple II computers, the Radio Shack operating system, and the tape of a duck, that's what!"

"I believe 'duct tape,' or, better still, 'gaffer tape,' was what Yuri meant," Igor interjected.

Intercontinental nuclear missiles controlled with TRS-DOS, or, more accurately, Trash-DOS! That convinced me to temporarily relocate to Thailand, even though the chances of a poorly-targeted nuclear missile hitting its intended target were only marginally better than its landing on a tiny island in the Andaman Sea.

Should I not return, here's how to find me. Go to the docks at Trang and ask for Captain Ha; tell him you want to go to the Stare compound. (The password is Rainier Ale.) Don't let him charge you more than 5,000 baht.

Happy new year, perhaps.

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27 December 1999
Roselle Juice
Thai Airways served "Roselle Juice" on today's flight. It tasted a bit slimy, and greasy around the edges. Just like the real thing.

28 December 1999
Ugly Housekeeping Discoveries
It's getting toward the end of the year; it's time to tidy things up.

I ran across some writing I did years ago filed in an obscure computer directory; it was awful! Beyond awful! Embarrassingly bad! Wretched in the extreme!

I wonder why it is that I never find any gems among my detritus? Perhaps I'm a better editor than I thought.

Will this look that bad in five or ten years? I would like to think that my judgment is getting better as I age, even though empirical evidence would suggest that may not be true.

29 December 1999
My Other Notebooks
I've been working on two other notebooks this year.

A year ago, I decided to do a parallel photographic notebook along with this one. I reasoned that since writing something every day has been useful, a photographic equivalent might be similarly beneficial. The aborted snaportraits were part of the photographic notebook.

I thought that the need to fill a photographic notebook would force me to find or create an interesting image every day. In practice, however, many of the images--from a third to perhaps over half--were made to fill my daily quota. And, if only because of the photographic laws of probability, I made a few good photographs in the process. At the end of the year, though, I concluded that I didn't want to scan and publish the motley collection. And following on from that, I also decided to conclude the photographic notebook in a couple of days.

The exercise was somewhat successful in that it forced me to stretch my flabby optic muscles. My better images--intentional and otherwise--reminded me that there's much more to the medium of photography than I remembered. In addition, even the quota-filling pictures documented the mundane aspects of my current environments, omissions I've regretted in the past.

My other notebook of sorts was completely different, based on an idea I had a couple of years ago. Almost every piece I've ever made has been infinitely reproducible, either in the darkroom, on the printing press, in the computer, et cetera. Every piece in Water Prints is unique. To make a water print, I took a small test tube of water from a different source, anything from a friend's swimming pool, to the Gulf of Thailand. I then poured the sample onto a 23 by 31 centimeter sheet of cold-pressed, one hundred percent cotton Arches paper, and let it dry. The result: a uniquely and subtly discolored sheet of expensive paper.

Water Prints is my most boring work to date. I'll have to try to do even better next year.

30 December 1999
A Slow Year
Although I like to imagine myself as an unconventional person, I realize that I am essentially as conventional as a government clerk, a forager, or a shepherd. And so it is that I find myself in the conventional debate over whether or not to make any new year's resolutions.

This year, though, the decision's easy; the resolution is obvious.

I need to get back to work next year.

1999 has been perhaps my least productive year this decade. I've done a few hundred more entries in this notebook (the continuation of a previously-conceived piece), an abortive photographic notebook (which proved to be a series of visual exercises), my Water Prints, and Two Thailand Views. That's it, and that's not much.

And so my new year's resolution for next year is the same as it was for this and most of the preceding years: do something different, perhaps better.

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31 December 1999
The Last Word
It seems that I should write something significant on the last day of the 1900s, but I feel as profoundly unprofound as ever.

I'll end this chapter with a photograph that I'll begin this century (when I open the shutter) and finish the next (when I close it).

"The image always has the last word."
-Roland Barthes

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart