Kirk Israel's commonplace and blog. Quotes and links daily since 2001.
I have only ever had one friend as crazy as I am. Once, we painted a giant fireplace onto a wall in her apartment as decoration for a dinner party we were hosting. Later, toward the end of the party, she led our guests onto the roof, bringing with her a boom box playing Strauss. I climbed up the fire escape in a ball gown. I held out my hand. We waltzed with speed and gusto. Our friends and professors looked on, terrified: there was no railing.

I haven't done as much dancing in the seventeen years since I ended that relationship. The breakup happened like this: we had planned an elaborate outing in Sonoma County. The picnic supplies took days to gather. We left early, got home late, and as she told me when she hugged me good night, everything in between had been perfect. It had been a perfect day. The next morning, I wrote her a letter telling her that I did not want to be friends with her anymore.

I had my reasons, of course. As I say, she is crazy. I am, too, but in a very different way. The immense effort it took for me to spend a whole day with her and ensure that it was "perfect"--that I did nothing to offend, upset, or bother her--proved to me that we just didn't work. And I thought: When a relationship does not work, each party has the right to exit. It will hurt, but we will get over it, and we will both be better off in the end. The thing is: the pain hasn't gone away. I still miss her. I still dream about her. And lately I have come to think that part of the problem lies in how I broke things off: unilaterally. I took matters into my own hands, as though there were no rules governing how you break up with someone.


Consider how far we have come from the ethics of the Iliad, in which Achilles is glorified for choking a river with the blood of his enemies. We now understand that moral excellence lies not in the use of physical force but the abstention therefrom. Humanity has been slower to acknowledge the reality of psychological injury and trauma, and correspondingly slower to see the rules that govern violence in that domain. I propose that one of those rules is that you are not allowed to "just walk away."

I am not saying you can never break up or get divorced, but rather that all is not fair when it comes to these endings; you cannot simply cut people off; you are not free to leave at any time. If your life is entwined with someone else's, then a new arrangement between the two of you must be the product of an agreement you can both live with. Also, you must be open, forever, to revising that agreement if and when the other person offers reasons for doing so.

Those requirements are robustly ethical. In that letter to my friend, I made the usual excuses, arguing that the relationship was in some way "toxic"; that this was the best course for both of us; that the break "had to" happen. Whether those claims were true, enforcing them without her consent was wrong. It was like shoving words in her mouth and forcing her to say them. Instead of deliberating with her about how to move forward, I took matters into my own hands: I tore out a part of her life, and a part of mine, violently, because that violence seemed to be in my interest. If that kind of behavior is not wrong, what is?
Agnes Callard, via Harper's Magazine from From "Romance Without Love, Love Without Romance"
I'm not fully endorsing the stance of this article, and would point it's kind of specific to what it applies to. But I am so often saddened when I notice I'm a bit of a social hub (as is nearly everyone) where some of the spokes just can't get along. I don't want to discount the reality of "toxic relationships", nor condemn people who need to draw an absolute boundary.
And then there's the one you write
that makes even you laugh.
You never want to see her again.
You don't want to see her handwriting
on a letter. You don't want to come home
and see the little yellow light
flashing messages of regret.
You don't want to pick up the phone
and hear how much she's been missing you.
Couldn't you meet for a drink?
Not any more. Maybe in a year or two.
All you want to do now
is draw a line under your life
and get on with the past.
Do you make yourself perfectly clear?
You sign with just your name,
a businesslike touch
which makes even you laugh.
Hugo Williams, "All That".
Kind of a counterpoint to that last bit, a poem I ran into 17 years ago.

Chris Jones, running against Sarah Huckabee Sanders for governor of Arkansas, has a mighty impressive ad.
Is Mercury in frickin' retrograde? A dozen techie things, large and small, are failing. Infuriating.
What if the communicator badge popped every time Picard did The Picard Maneuver?

Striking essay - Nowadays in movies, Everyone is Beautiful and No One is Horny

I've always appreciated love scenes and nudity in movies, their verisimilitude and how they show sex as part of a real and multifaceted life. And admired the generosity of the actors involved (and now, hoping they weren't unduly pressured into it...)

Maybe some of the appreciation is a relic of a sunday school upbringing... one where you know right where every naked person or sex scene in your parents book collection is.

Sometimes it means I have to work on my understanding on concerns about the objectification of women. Like, I understand "no one wants to be an object", no one wants to be valued only for one thing, a thing that can be found in many other people, and thus have their individuality wiped away. But for me, the intrigue is sensuality as one facet of a more interesting person... it always implied a bridge between the mundane and the promised land, a hope that the chasm between regular life and making an affectionate skincentric connection with someone wasn't impossibly wide. As I put it long ago, I've always more easily seen the appeal of the stretchy tanktop vs fancy peekaboo lingerie - stuff trying to hard to put a frame around sex, isolating it from the rest of life.

(Found that essay linked to from headspace-hotel, where there's more thoughts on the appeal of lived-in bodies over carefully manicured temples.)

(more concise version)
Making Juneteenth a national holiday is good but kind of a study in too little too late. Newspaper classfieds of formerly enslaved people trying to find their loved ones are heartbreaking.
Make way for ducklings? More like ducklings making their way for us!! (Melissa and I got hella lucky with our new place, this pond is a 5 minute drive or half hour walk away!)

(Melissa couldn't head out with me and band buddies today, that's Sophie and Matt)
For a brief time in the early 90s I was the "webmaster" for Tufts University's Comp Sci department. I hand drew some icons for the homepage - strong Keith Haring energy.

Plus of the new place? Melissa using the big ol' grill!
I'm very set in my musical ways: I like purchasing single mp3s (or the equivalent), and then resorting to youtube rips if I have no other option. I've rated all my music ever since my iPod only had room for "3 stars and up", and then have good, better, best (3+ stars, 4+, and 5, respectively) smart playlists, and then try to listen to the "good" playlist (in reverse chronological order) daily, so I form a connection with the music. Anyway, Apple has a curious algorithm for assembling a thumbnail for a playlist, and mine has been consistent for a long while:

I think it's picking "A,B,C,D" so in my case, Ani "Buildings + Bridges" DiFranco, BPA ("Toe Jam" with David Byrne - fun sort of NSFW video for that), CAKE ("The Distance" was my senior solo), and Dar "Cool As I Am" Williams.