Thursday, December 30, 2004
But okay, time to stop being so coy (point taken, Abhi). And this is also for J, because she was right.
Turns out, Houston is sort of worth it. I've only ever lived on coasts, east and west, so I always approach Texas like an alien visiting another planet. Actually, I approach a lot of things like an alien observing another planet, but that's a story for another day. And in this case, it's with good reason, because Texas is its own weird world.
But it turns out Houston has a ton of redeeming qualities. I guess it all depends on your perspective, on your context, which is an idea which took center stage in the many late night talks my cousins and I had all week. I've been to Houston before, but I was much younger. We went to such mind numbing places as The Galleria mall, and drove around the city looking at the high rises. That's what happens when you're younger though, I guess. Thinking back on it, until I was about 12, every visit I made to New York City gave me the impression that it was just filled with Indian apparel and food stores, since we spent the whole time in Jackson Heights. Similarly, I saw Houston from the eyes of my parents, and my uncles, and so it seemed devoid of anything stimulating.
Seeing it this time, through the eyes of my cousins, who are so amazing that it takes my breath away to talk to them some time, gave me a newfound respect for Houston. I kept ranting about where this money was coming from, but there is a lot of money spent on the arts in Houston. We went to a sculpture garden flanking the MFAH and the CAM, and there, in this small little clearing are sculptures by no less than Giacometti, Miro, Rodin. Downtown, on Main street, more sculptures. Even more still peppering the medical center (which is something of a city unto itself).
There are two chapels by the Menil museum in Houston that are weirdly amazing. The Rothko chapel is something you could easily make fun of on the surface. Rothko in general is easy to jeer. Somehow, though, sitting in the chapel is really evocative. Similarly, the Byzantine chapel is an experience. Both places feature, in some ways, very spare art. The Byzantine chapel has an amazing fresco in it, but what's really impressive about both chapels is the way the very design of the chapels enhances the entire atmosphere. Odd, in a city like Houston, with so many cookie cutter condos and high-rises, to really get a sense of what architecture can do to a place.
My cousins also took me to Project Rowhouses, another place that just gives the feeling that there are a lot of possibilities, that there are people making things happen in real time. I don't know. I just know that this trip was very energizing for me.
Of course it was also very relaxing. My cousins and I regress into this adolescent behavior, or maybe it's not even adolescent. I think we just really have a love for words, the three of us (yes, I know that may not be apparent from the way I craft my posts)- there is something we all seem to relish about the impossiblity of translation. So when we get together, it becomes this bizarre mish-mosh of as many languages as we can manage. English, Gujurati, really lousy Hindi, and a little Spanish thrown in for taste. And then of course, words we make up. One of my cousins came back from India recently, and picked up the word bond as an adjective. She isn't completely confident she's using it in the correct context, but we just decided to take ownership of the word, to create our own definition. So whenever someone does something kick-ass, something ballsy, it's "so bond."
We talked every night until 2 in the morning. We went to a bar that is a clothing store by day, cool ass bar by night. We went to different cafes every day, and none of them were Starbucks. We stayed up one night baking scones because we were so wired, we needed to expend our energy. We cheered each other on, talking about 2005, what lies ahead, the disappointments we have had, the possibilities that lie before us. We acted like idiots, we had deeply intellectual discussions. We understood how each of us have really different constraints in our current situations, how different our contexts are, and yet how many similarities there still are tying together our experiences. We sincerely wished each other well, which is something that you learn is rare in this world when you come right down to it. We said we'd meet like this again, but we knew it was a unique moment in our histories, a time that will likely never come again. It was the perfect way to end the year.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
I have to go back to packing, because in a few short hours, I am off to the Red State to end all Red States, to visit my cousins.
If anyone is reading this, all the best over the holidays!!
Friday, December 24, 2004
The first, which was supposed to be sent to my cousins by today at the latest because they're off to Mumbai tomorrow- I decide to send express priority mail. The second, sent to another set of cousins who live in the same effin' town- I decide to send regular 2-day vanilla priority mail, because they're going to be around for the holidays. Today, I find out that the express priority mail package never was received, while the vanilla mail package got there without issue today. USPS... you will pay...you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
This is why I always tend to lose my cool during this time of the holiday season. It seems, despite the best of intentions, something always goes wrong to detract from the spirit of the season. This is particularly upsetting to me today, of all days, because it was such a banner day until this very moment, this moment that followed 30 minutes spent with the USPS Customer Service department (and I assure you, the USPS uses the Customer Service title very loosely).
Cheerier post tomorrow...
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
- Brimful: Way to intimidate Richie Rich, Mr.T!
Mr. T: Works every time.
RR: Yeah, the way Mr. T rushed the net, I was thinking 'has Mr. T had lunch? Because he sure looks hungry!'
Brimful: And he's hungry... for balls!
Yes, we're juvenile. Thing is, there were about seven hundred 'balls' jokes before this particular one, but this was the only one that originated from me. Why is it that men can make juvenile 'balls' jokes casually for hours, but if a woman makes one, they're reduced to such laughter that they can't even keep up a volley? I'm not complaining though... I have to admit that getting a laugh goes a long way for me.
After mailing out about ten Christmas packages, I was walking back to my apartment, taking in my neighborhood. The sun was shining, the streets were lively but not congested. On the corner, a market was selling bright, lovely looking tangerines. They called out to me and I went to buy them. Just as I did, a mariachi positioned himself in between the tangerines and oranges, and proceeded to serenade the sidewalk for the next ten minutes. It was perfectly perfect really.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Although here's something with which I can definitely take exception:
From McSweeney's Recommends:
Southern ComfortSays me: Oh no you didn't!
Says Believer webmaster Max Fenton: "A bottle of Southern Comfort, some ice, some friends- you've got yourself a party."
Let me count the ways that Southern Comfort is your worst nightmare:
- 1) It tastes like cough syrup on its best day.
2) It cannot be mixed with anything (and for you good ole boys [because I know there are so many of you perusing this blog], yes, I've had an Alabama Slammer, and yes, my original statement still holds).
3) It is the drink of choice used to lure under-age girls into getting hazy and vulnerable (well, at least, before the days of roofies, I guess).
4) Too much of this stuff will give you a hangover that neither Jack nor Jim can rival.
Anyway, (rant)I had to have what at work we would refer to as a "difficult conversation" with a relative yesterday, and it sucked up one side and down the other. It's weird, when there's such an age difference between us. For so long, I treated this cousin of mine like a child. Like aw, how cute that she can't write an essay for college or she doesn't know what she wants to do after she graduates, how adorable. But yesterday, she asked me to write a cover letter for her. An effing cover letter, people! Most hilarious part? She said she'd been "researching how to write one all day at B&N." Should one really require four hours of research to figure out how to write a cover letter? So, that was it. I had to cut the chord, go cold turkey, and tell her that she needed to grow up. Amazingly, I managed to suppress the urge to read her the riot act about the fact that, at her age, I found a profession and a job all on my lonesome without any family guidance. Because that would have come off sounding like an old, bitter curmudgeon who thought she was an overindulged brat. But let me tell you, I was thinking it. And for that, I feel conflicted. I mean, maybe it's my own fault, because I spoiled her just as much as any other member of my family did. We held her hand through it all, so should I really be surprised that she now carries herself as though she's entitled to be treated like a princess? (/rant)
Sigh. Fact is, it seems reflective of a larger issue, which is this lackadaisical approach some women take when it comes to thinking about a career and a direction for their lives. I'm not trying to indict all of womenkind, so please note that this is not a sweeping generalization. And I'm also not passing judgement on women who choose to value having a family and raising children above a career (more power to them, I think that's harder than anything I'll ever do with my life!). What I don't understand is this- if you aren't married, shouldn't you at least be thinking about a career? Not necessarily a high-powered one, either, I'm not asking you to gun for the CEO position, but at least some career of some kind. Just because you've decided you'd rather eventually get married and have kids, does that give you license to just tread water aimlessly until then? I do not understand! It breaks my brain when I meet women like this, especially because some of them are intelligent, but just have no motivation to apply that intelligence in any kind of a productive fashion. I mean, shouldn't you have some of your own personal motivation? Isn't there something you can do with your life that is productive that also makes you happy???
Clearly, I'm not in the holiday spirit just now...
Friday, December 17, 2004
- At LAX- an Indian woman near the Air India terminal had turned a fleece baby blanket (with blue and yellow clouds on it) into a poncho. Would someone please stop the goddamn poncho craze already? Then send a memo to this person informing her that, even if the craze were in its heyday, it would not include things that should only be found in cribs and bassinets.
- Why was I in such a rush to get back? If I had made a weekend out of it, I could have gone to a museum near USC to see an exhibit on the Body that I have only heard tell about. It sounds equal parts creepy and fascinating. Plus, I could have met the famous madman, and maybe even the comedienne extraordinaire of LA (who's apparently not feeling very funny at the moment, according to her blogpost of yesterday- send good thoughts her way, we've all been there!)
- Traffic on the fucking 405 and a bad cab driver= car-sick brimful.
- The woman who told me the American and Alaska airline terminals were close together never tried to walk it with an over-the-shoulder garment bag and heels.
- People wearing strong cologne or perfume should not be allowed to travel on airplanes.
- Why did I complain about Southern California in the past so much?? I can't remember. Everything I saw was beautiful, everything said you know you want to be here. Especially if you don't have to use your car too often and get on that damn 405.
- A non-smoking room should be defined as a room where no one ever smoked, where the smell of tobacco and lung cancer is in no way detectable. It should not be defined as I sprayed air freshener up in here and removed the ash tray.
I realize that the above is a list of mostly rants, but tucked in there, you might notice a little nugget of positivity that in actuality encapsulated the 3-hour tour. Okay, it was slightly longer than 3-hours, but it felt very short. But what an amazing place, what a fantastic campus, and what cool people. It's times like this that I start to feel very Costanza-esque; I start to think there's no way this will work out, because I'm not meant to be this happy. But here's the question- is it worse to be unaware of what you want or to know what you want and fail to obtain it? What happens to a dream deferred? And if you pretend you don't want something, does that really protect you at all? Is it better to just face the facts that, as Hemingway would write, you're simply a goner for a dream? Very weird how I seem to have bigger crushes and love affairs with academic institutions than real people, and how I feel more bitter about being dumped by an academic institution than a guy. What's that all about?
Oh, and I also had a dream on Thursday night, an isolated dream that just involved me throwing up. Yeah, I wasn't nervous at all. A little anxiety is a good thing though. It keeps me on your toes, forces me to get it together. The only way to conquer my anxiety is to feel I'm adequately prepared, and walk in there with a determined look on my face that says bitch, game on. Of course, to the untrained eye this same look could be interpreted as Am I in the right building, and am I going to be late? But that doesn't matter. The face I prepare is not for the ones I meet; it's for myself, for my own piece of mind.
On the surface, I was doing better than most though. When the others were sweating bullets and starting to get that tense look on their faces, I was pulling out the Mentos and offering the Freshmaker with my best goofy foreign advertising-style grin. Call it public service, because my idiotic comedic routines seemed to calm down those around me as well.
Well, this was an exciting way to spend my Friday night... let's not do it again, shan't we?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Whenever you apply to any sort of academic program, it seems that there is always a question asking you to explain any hardships you have had in your life. Somehow that question always puts life into perspective for me. I can feel as ill-fated as Wile E. Coyote at times, I can twist around every life experience I have had into a failure of some sort, and I can convince myself I am my own Sisyphus, pushing that rock up that hill in an equally futile manner. But then I think about that word hardship, and I know that I'm just acting like Wendy Whiner or Debbie Downer (TM SNL). I know that, in fact, I have had no real hardships, especially none that I've not been able to overcome.
And then, if you're in just the right frame of mind, and the right thing happens, you suddenly realize how much good luck you have had. That is what happened today. So now, tomorrow doesn't seem so daunting!
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
My grandfather has never, ever consented to eating meat, and that includes eggs. And though he is not materialistic, he is always tickled when he is given gifts of any kind by his grandchildren. Last year, I sent my uncle Christmas cookies, and my grandfather called me the next day, inquiring whether I had thought to include any that had no eggs for him. As it turns out, I had, but they were fairly tasteless and I was dissatisfied with them. So, this year, I set about to concoct cookies for my grandfather that met the following specifications: a) no eggs or egg-substitutes (he doesn't trust those) and b) something with more of an Indian flavor to it. I tested out my hypothesized recipe today and the experiment was successful, so my grandfather will have something worthwhile this year. With all apologies to Badmash:
Merry Krishna Cookies
3/4 to 1 cup roasted pistachios, shelled
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
8 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 to 3 tablespoons ground cardammom
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Using a food processor or mini chopper, pulse the pistachios until finely ground. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a medium bowl, cream the butter, superfine sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with rubber spatula. Combine the flour and cardammom in a small bowl, then add to the butter mixture, mixing on low speed until just absorbed. Scrape bowl once more. Add pistachios and mix until just combined. Knead dough gently into a smooth mass.
Pinching small pieces off the dough, roll dough into about a 1 inch ball. Place them onto ungreased baking sheets, about 1 and 1/2 inch apart. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the undersides begin to appear golden. Meanwhile, place the granulated sugar in a small bowl (You can add in a little cardammom to the granulated sugar if you like for extra flavor). Let cookies cool for about 3 minutes, then toss them, a few at a time, in the sugar bowl while still warm to coat completely. Place on racks to cool completely. Makes about 36 cookies.
Did I mention that baking is one of my coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety?
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Never mind the bollocks- what really counts is this: Friday, I am heading down here to interview. I am nervous, I am excited, I am anxious, I am optimistic, I am inconsolable all at once. It seems like a lot of people I know right now are in this zone of uncertainty, where the ground beneath your feet is not quite reliable. Interesting- it's easy to write about things that don't matter, like the ridiculous thoughts that pulse through your head after a night of drinking, but almost impossible to write coherently about things that matter so so much. Is it just superstition, this fear that writing down your most secret hope might automatically invalidate it? I'm being fiercely protective of my deepest hopes and fears.
Of course, the advantage of this is the feeling of living a secret life, having a secret identity. I'm undercover. You can't help but relish the idea of the shock it will elicit if all the pieces fall into place, and you achieve your final secret goal. I'm a big fan of surprises.
An old friend wrote today and reminded me of my softball team from my first job. We were easily the most lousy team in this intramural, silly little league. We were procrastinators, so when it came time to choose a team name, we looked at the list of teams on the roster, and came up with the highly original Team 14. Three seasons later, we were still going by this name, even though there were 16 teams in the league by then. Our first season, we lost every game except one that we won by default (i.e. the other team didn't show up)- we celebrated that victory at the bar as though we were the Red Sox beating the Yankees. Our team motto was "We always win at the bar." We were threatened once by a new team member- he showed up to the game suited in a completely professional-looking uniform, brand-spanking new. He got up to the plate and struck out in three easy swings. We started to call him KC at the bat. He would not play our reindeer games, though. He didn't understand the satisfaction we derived from our mediocrity, and went on to search out a new team that understood him. But, especially because I'm probably the worst softball player that ever walked the earth, man, I loved that team.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Have you ever had this stuff? It's magically delicious, people. It should steal Lay's motto, because truly, no one can eat just one.
The one great thing about getting sick is the morning that you wake up and realize you're not sick anymore. The congestion and fogginess have not just declined, but actually dissipated altogether. I probably could have woken up yesterday with that feeling, except that I went a little too many rounds with Mr. Belvedere on Saturday night, and I'm not talking about that portly dude who decided to be a butler for a middle-class family. I thought drinking expensive vodka would be a good way to keep the drinking in check, since there's only so many drinks you can afford at $10 a pop. The stupidity of that rationale should be apparent to anyone who, in college, would start out with a few Sam Adams, and end the night with Milwaukee's Beast.
The bad part of my Sunday is that I had such a headache that I had to sit around and relive the events of the evening before, and that, of course, leads to my typical overanalysis. I know I should not do it, and yet, leave me to my own devices and it's impossible not to go in this direction. Give me some room, cut some rope. Give me just two minutes from under the microscope. Is it a girly thing? Or is it just a sign of someone with too much time on their hands? This is the flow of what went through my head yesterday:
Now that my head no longer hurts, and I'm no longer sick with the flu, I've conveniently pushed all of those parallel streams of thought into the back of my head. Whoever said avoidance is a bad way to deal with conflict can kiss my grits.
Friday, December 10, 2004
This makes me irrationally unhappy. Mostly because I think any show that can make good use of the Charlie Brown Christmas theme and The Final Countdown deserves to be on the air as long as humanly possible.
Last evening and this morning, the fog has started to exactly bring to mind The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I am TS Eliot's bitch, incidentally, although that might have already been evident from my sidebar, come to think of it. But I remember that this poem was the first one that really stopped me in my tracks. I can still recall reading it on a piece of mimeographed paper and actually pausing to catch my breath. I can remember the weariness, the perfect weariness in the delivery of the poem the first time I heard it read out loud, by an intern at a summer school. Weird how so much of it still holds true all these years later:
Do I darePrufrock is the ultimate poem that captures inertia, that captures that conflict of wanting to do something and also coming to grips with your insignificance. Sigh.
disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
for decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse
See, I do love the fog. I love how it shrouds everything, softens all the edges. I like the comfort of the warm, wet blanket when I'm walking on the street. I can hear Van Morrison's Sweet Thing lacing through my head. And should I leave, I will miss that most about this place.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Last night, as I was driving my car home, I realized that, since getting rid of my old car, I don't have a good sense of how many miles I can still drive once the fuel light comes on now. This little piece of minutiae caused hyperanalytical thoughts. I started thinking again about extremists. My friend K has never allowed her tank to dip below the 1/4 mark... in fact, I truly question whether she has knowledge of the existence of a fuel light. On the other hand, there are the Kramer's of this world, who love to see how long they can push the limits of reason, who seem to get a rise out of running on empty. I had an ex-bf who ran out of gas at least twice while I was driving with him. I don't mean, running on fumes; I mean stalled out car on a dark deserted street in the middle of the night.
But it got me thinking that there is a certain comfort in the extreme. K is calmly confident that she will always have enough gas, because, like clockwork, she fills that tank up at her predetermined time. I look at her like she's cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, but she is serene in her knowledge that this is her way, and it has never failed her. On the other hand, on both occasions that my ex-bf ran out of gas, he too showed no signs of distress. He just laughed and cheerfully jumped out of the car, running out to the trunk, where he knew enough to keep a plastic cannister for fuel, and walked off into the darkness to find the nearest gas station. To him, it was never omg, I'm such an idiot for running out of gas; it was a simple shrug and this will make an amusing anecdote.
And here I am, stuck in the middle again. Me, I don't have the good sense to religiously fill the tank, but when the fuel light comes on, I fret and think can I make it home or do I need to pull over at the nearest gas station? I am not rolling with it, one way or the other. I'm constantly dissatisfied by my behavior because it's always so moderate, it's always so ambivalent:
Some will laugh, and some will sit and cry
But you just sit down and you wonder why.
On a completely unrelated note, I dare anyone to compete with the funny that is J- her comments to my posts are funnier than anything I've ever written.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
Sweet dreams are made of these
I could not be kidding you more, but what can I say, if we're going to keep it up with the suggestive lyrics, some times I want candy, eye candy, that is. My friend S sent me this picture today and I was definitely pleasantly distracted for a bit. And no, I'm not talking about the two little boys, although their sweatshirts have some potential significance in my life as well... just maybe... but that's for another time.
Why these three? Do I really have to even explain? I mean on the left, you have the player- attractive, comes off as quiet, but probably has had plenty, if you know what I mean. In the middle, you have the marrying kind- cute, nice, the big selling point being his sense of humor and the idea that he's not so gorgeous that you would constantly be nervous he might stray (a big liability of the player, I might add). And then finally, on the right, you have the bad boy- oh yes, pretend you're not interested, he's a little unkempt, he doesn't bill himself as good for you whatsoever, but you can't help yourself. What do all these archetypes tell me? The player will likely make you hate him one day, the bad boy will definitely make you hate yourself one day, and... why oh why can't I ever fall for the guy in the middle?
Hmm... now, who can I blame this shallow post on? Oh, I know, my colleague, who I like to call Richie Rich. True conversation between us this morning:
Richie Rich: You have to go to the holiday party.
Brimful: In fact, I really don't.
R: Well, if you went, who would you go with?
B: I was thinking of taking P.
R (eyebrows raise): Wouldn't that be leading him on?
B (defensively): We're just friends.
R: Well, it would start gossip around here.
B: I'll just introduce him as a friend of my brother's.
R: That will just make people think you're trying to keep it on the down low.
B: Wtf? Maybe I should tell people he's my boyfriend, will that stop rumors?
R: Potentially. Maybe you should introduce him as your lover.
B: (after a minute of laughing at the visual in my head) The problem is, P would totally play along with that, to the point that it would become embarassing.
R: Yeah, but it would be fun to freak everyone out. Do you know how uncomfortable you could make everyone if you introduced him continually as your lover?
So, it's been that kind of a day, you see. Richie Rich also spent the rest of that discussion warning me that some other dude in our group likes me. Some times I think Richie Rich missed out on an active high school and college social scene, and is now trying to resurrect it in the workplace. First of all, I don't think said dude likes me. Secondly, if he does, why must Richie Rich point it out? As soon as someone tells you something like this, it can throw a totally awkward vibe into everything. Now I have to worry, am I giving the dude the wrong idea by saying hello to him in the hall? If I laugh at a joke he makes during a meeting, do I run the risk of being asked out? If I was asked out, would I say yes? I don't need these questions running through my head.
Oh, and there is a really cute Indian consultant dude that just started working with me, but I can't bring myself to get worked up about him because he's, like, eleven.
Zounds... it's like the estrogen is on eleven up in this joint today. Any suggestions on how to go back to my usual tomboy ways? (And yes, I know, a good start would be not to post a drooling tribute to a bunch of pretty boys...)
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
In the jingle jangle morning, I'll come following youWhy? Stupid reason- because jingle jangle is the only term that adequately describes the feeling in my head right now, that sound that loose change makes rattling around a cage, that feeling that you're just not quite right. Very weird, though probably a sign that my immune system is launching an all out counterattack against whatever virus was wreaking havoc through my body the last week. I love immune system imagery, by the way. This goes back to the very first time I saw The Fantastic Voyage, which is truly an awesome B-movie from the '60s. When the white blood cells attack... well, that seems like the best way to explain an immune reaction ever.
Most iconic musicians should never be covered (should you have any doubt, take a listen to Limp Bizkit's skewering of The Who's classic Behind Blue Eyes). That said, Dylan is the one musician who actually benefits from being covered from time to time. So, I respectfully submit my favorite Dylan covers:
I've been thinking about Dylan since his 60 minutes interview, and since he creeped me out of my socks the evening I saw him on a Victoria's Secret advertisement. The guy is nothing if not confusing. I had a friend in grad school who worshipped Dylan and Elvis, had every one of both of their albums. Which is interesting to me now that I hear Dylan aspired to be Elvis at one point. That seems hard to believe to me, when I listen to an album like Blood on the Tracks.
What Dylan did mention that I can understand, that I think everyone can understand, is that his early work had a sort of magic to it that he can't imagine recapturing now. I don't want to tie this into youth or innocence, necessarily. But I think there are times in one's life, when everything aligns perfectly, and something extraordinary is possible. The old sayings of it's never too late, sure, they hold true, but it is also true that there are times that things are in synch, opportunities present themselves and beg to be taken. It brings to mind the beginning of life, the conditions present in the early atmosphere that could have sparked the very beginning of those first amino acids forming, of that first cell forming, dividing, replicating.
A little Dylan on the brain is a good thing. Since I'm not a child of the '60s I can't necessarily relate to every political significance behind his music, but I do relish some of his lyrics. Your heart is made of stone if you can listen to Visions of Johanna or I want you or Don't think twice, it's alright or, my personal favorite, If you see her, say hello and not be moved at all. Just typing the names of those songs reduces me to a shell of my former self.
The 60 minutes interview made me think a lot of another artist I like a lot, who is a complete recluse about interviewing and stardom. That old curmudgeon, Van Morrison, has been complaining for years about people treating him like a prophet or some sort of phenomenon (see Songwriter, or better yet, Cleaning Windows for evidence of such whinging). The problem is, music transcends. When you hear something that transcends, it's difficult to think of the person behind it as a mere human, whether that's true or not. I don't mind that musicians decry being treated like prophets, that will keep them honest, but I also don't think it's crazy to be blown away by someone who makes really good music. If it is, then lock me up, folks, because I am heading to the funny farm. But I think they must know, those musicians, because otherwise, how could Dylan write this:
Every one of them words rang true
and glowed like burning coal
pouring off of every page
like it was written in my soul from me to you
Monday, December 06, 2004
True voicemail left on Friday afternoon by my friend A stuck in NJ suburbia:
Hey, it's A, I was just calling because I needed to talk to somebody who does not have a baby or is putting an addition on their house.I didn't know whether to laugh or feel sorry for the poor guy.
And now for the verbal vomit:
True things that are killing me right now: the pliability of a mob and the persistence of ignorant hatred. I was reading about this today, and I remembered distinctly when this all transpired, even though it was so long ago, and I am, in so many countless ways, removed from events that unfold in India.
My parents are pretty devout Hindus. When we were young, I remember that my father wanted us to get involved with the VHP, mainly because it was a Hindu group mobilizing in the US. He thought it would be a good way for us to be educated about Hinduism. Fortunately, I had already been swimming in Indian religious texts, both child-oriented and otherwise. We spent only a brief time with VHP-associated people, but it didn't take long to see that they were isolationists. I continue to be baffled by people who move to the US to congregate solely with other Indians and Hindus, but I lack the fire I once had to get up in arms about it.
I want to rant and rave about this in a long post, but there is really no sense to it. I feel I am amply tolerant of other people and their beliefs, but I will never tolerate the way the VHP mobilized and defended the destruction of a place of worship in Ayodhya. I don't know any devoutly Hindu person that can defend this on the basis of their religion.
But mostly, when I think about it really carefully, I am so very grateful to live, to have been raised, in a place where I have never had the social pressure to feel the kind of prejudice that fuels such violence. It's easy for me, in the safety I've enjoyed, to decry this kind of blind hatred. But it seems clear that I have no clear way of conceiving what sorts of tragedies lead to such a deep-seated sense of separatism and antagonism... Kosovo, Rwanda, Gujarat, Jerusalem... I have no true understanding of how these things get started and can't seem to be stopped, no matter how many books I read about it, how many pictures I see capturing it, how many accounts I hear told of it. And I have to say, I feel strangely fortunate to lack the ability to comprehend it.
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Since I'm still coughing up a lung or two, I'm sort of on house arrest, which is driving me batty. That too is funny, since I have wasted a whole day away indoors without a second thought in the past. Yet, make it mandatory, and I am a ball of angst, itching to get out. There is no sense in baking anything, since no one would trust eating anything out of this germ-infested apartment, even if I sterilized the kitchen and wore a mask while putting things together. No, I sound like an utter invalid. If only I had someone to give a guilt trip, this would be the perfect opportunity.
Today, I got a letter addressed from Daniel Handler & his wife. How cool is that? Okay, it's not that cool, once I realized it was a letter inviting me to a screening for A series of unfortunate events benefiting 826 Valencia. Actually, hang it all, that is still cool. 826 Valencia is a really fantastic idea, that grew out of such a simple and unselfish motivation. I haven't decided whether I'm going to the event though. The thought of going to a screening like this, littered with hoardes of little twirps... oh sorry, I'm hating on the youngin's again. It's not that I don't like little kids. Okay, maybe it is that I don't like little kids. I like them just fine in a one on one setting. I like them even better when I'm related to them. But put me in a Target on a Sunday afternoon, and it's automatic birth control for life. Hopefully, the Daniel Handler crowd of children will be a little more civilized, but I think that's a wee optimistic, especially considering how much sugar is available in abundance during the holidays. Cornholio comes to mind...
I think I'll pace around my apartment some more now.
Friday, December 03, 2004
When you're sick, there's little to do except further numb your mind with television. This will be the excuse I use for mentioning that Wednesday evening's episode of Lost freaked me the hell out. I don't think it was just the Nyquil talking- all the scenes with the psychic, and the final scene with the weirdo Ethan Rom dude (cousin of Tom Cruise)... twisted.
Please let me feel better by tomorrow.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
I'm still smarting from getting schooled at Texas Hold 'Em several times by cousins five to ten years my junior. There wasn't even vodka involved. It's a sign that I don't give my cousins enough credit. I was continually convinced the youngest one had nothing in her hand, and would try to call her bluff, only to be met with trip aces or some such. I demand a rematch. That's all I have to say about that.
Last week, I went all girly and spent far too much on moisturizer at L'Occitane. Because, you know, moisture is the essence of wetness... and no, I do not tire of Zoolander references. Hey, when it's cold, the heat gets turned on. When the heat gets turned on, it gets dry. Sure, I went a little overboard with the math, and felt the need to buy something with 25% shea butter. What in the world is shea butter, by the way? Tawk amungst yaselves.
I love this lunatic and his rantings. I love the way that some people have to write. It's not in them to be silent on the page. I am also intrigued by the tightrope of creativity and madness. Technically, Nikolai Gogol was a total nutcase. And yet, you read The Nose and it's just pure genius, even in its insanity. It's important to the arts, I think, to do a better job at titrating drugs, at modulating their effect, so that pharmaceuticals make life bearable for those struggling with mental disorders without dulling them completely. Help them mind the tightrope.
This weekend, I'm picking up and reading a short biography on Marie Curie, because she is another case in point. She struggled with periods of great depression, and yet won the Nobel prize twice. Too often, arts and science are set up as adversarial, as contrary to each other. In fact, I think they're strikingly parallel. You look at great artists and great scientists, and both display eccentricity and passion. Both live and breathe their work. Both require a creative mind. I used to share an apartment with two Literature grad students, who used to say that life could exist without science, but not without art. Why must it be one or the other? Life must depend on both; even in the most ancient of civilizations, both artistic and scientific tendencies are unearthed.
Oh, how I love being sick, as I can ramble completely incoherently, and completely pass it off on being dazed and confused.
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
And yet in some ways, this complaining about technology one minute and swimming in it the next reflects a typical problem of mine, of being too much in the middle, of always seeming a walking contradiction. I'm a cynical dreamer, a hopeful pessimist. And I really mean both. I really am that jaded, and I really am that romantic as well. I crave adventure, and yet recoil from it just as much. I don't mind, as long as I continue to force myself to oscillate. I know I could be a drug addict or a complete pollyanna, but I aspire to neither such extreme. I don't mind these brushes with danger and temptation if they are equally accompanied by quiet nights spent musing over the whole of the moon. As long as I remain removed from complacence, I can continue to breathe. Maybe some people are just meant to remain restless, meant to stay nomadic. But what of someone like me, who could never be satisfied wandering or rooted?
At times like this, when I start thinking along these lines, I pause and take a sip of tea. I breathe, and think, I'll hike Machu Pichu, and start to plan out the steps required to accomplish this minor goal of mine. Because here is a single-serving (TM Fight Club) ambition. It's bite-sized and tangible. Abhi much more eloquently captured this problem I seem to always struggle with... I'm paralyzed by the idea of insignificance, and yet simultaneously feel this urgency that I must make something happen today, now. And then, like Don Music on Sesame Street, I feel the urge to bang my head against a piano, yelping "I'll never get it, never!"
...I did nothing. I did absolutely nothing and it was everything that I thought it could be.Okay, that is not a completely accurate description of the time I've spent away from blogging, but it is accurate in relation to anything tech-related. The most techy thing I did during my absence was listening to my beloved iPod mini on the airplane. No e-mail, no internet, no instant messaging, no text messaging. And it was all I hoped it would be.
Here's how my little vacation started:
On my trip to the capitol of the red state to beat all red states, my flight was delayed. This meant my connection at IAH was going to be tight. In fact, the check-in assistant looked for seats on other airlines before I boarded because they were so convinced I would miss my connection. Since all the other airlines were booked solid, the check-in assistant gave me a smile, a shrug, and cheerfully said, "well, maybe you'll make it." I shook my head, walked away dejected, and spent the next two hours reading Founding Brothers, which is actually pretty fascinating.
So my flight landed in IAH at 9:00 pm, and my connection was scheduled to leave at 9:10. A number of passengers had similarly tight connections. The moment the little bing went off, the lot of us sprung into action, jumping out of our seats, tapping our toes anxiously for the flight attendants to open the door. Since IAH is a rather expansive airport, I headed straight for the gate attendant, who was inundated with harried passengers demanding to know their connection. He asked me where I was headed, and when I told him, he asked my name. My stomach sank. Then he told me where my gate was, and that the flight had not yet taken off. My stomach jumped. Then I realized how far the gate was, and a sudden surge of adrenaline pulsed through my veins.
Cue techno music and my best Run Lola Run impression, my legs carrying me faster than my cardiopulmonary fitness should allow. I am singular in my purpose, and the airport people-watchers have melted away from my thoughts. And just as I approach the gate, the completely empty gate, an attendant comes out and watches me barreling forward. He yells "Are you on this flight?" And I nod, because I can't breathe anymore. He says "Well, stop running! We're gonna wait for you." And I stop, my lungs having their way with me, my legs turning to rubber, but all I can think about is loving that gate attendant. The holiday spirit causes me to give people a ridiculous amount of credit for being decent, but that's what I happen to like about the effect of the holidays on me, so screw it.
Onto the flight, the last passenger on, everyone aware that I've been running, since my breathing is still shallow, and let's just say I'm glowing from my sprint, I take my seat. I think to myself, I've made it. Just then a flight attendant's voice comes on the speaker, and chirps "Those of you in the front of the plane may have noticed that there are no pilots in the cockpit. We're working on locating them, and think we should be off the ground in the next 30-45 minutes." And my lungs have a good laugh at me.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
So, this is that freaky toy I mentioned yesterday. Even though you can't see the solar-powered head bob, perhaps you can appreciate the wackiness of this toy- is it a man? A child? Is it fishing? Is it meditating? Why is it smiling? It's a mystery! Also, all the instructions are in Japanese, so I can't decipher the full breadth of its capabilities.
Treasure hunting is a fun pasttime. I like finding out of the way places. On a minor level, this included finding a Trader Joe's just outside the city that was not overrun. Last night I thought to make a quick trip out to that TJ's, when I was shocked to find that it had disappeared. In its place was a cheerful "we've moved!" sign. It turns out the new Trader Joe's was only around the corner from the old one. I went, expecting the usual stress-free shopping experience. I was sorely mistaken. As if the word had suddenly hit the street, this new TJ's was completely inundated by shoppers, and aggressive ones at that. Much chagrined, I quickly collected my shopping items and high tailed it to the check out.
At this particular TJ's, the hard liquor is situated after the cash registers. I do not understand the logic of this. Will you grab a bottle on your way out and turn around to pay? I don't know. But, as I was waiting in line, I started eyeing a bottle of Belvedere. MMMmmm... I thought... maybe... should I? I continued to stare at the bottle, pondering the purchase. Then I noticed the checkout cashier glancing at me pitifully, like I was a first-class alcoholic. At moments like that, I wonder why the Hunter S. Thompson in me doesn't kick into high gear, and I never come up with something truly shocking like telling the cashier, "Yeah, and could you put a case of the cheapest vodka you have on my bill as well? Thanks!" Instead, I just scurry off embarassed.
Incidentally, Trader Joe's Szechuan soy noodles in garlic broth will cure what ails you. My sinuses and throat felt like a million bucks after a nice bowl of that.
I'm dropping a colleague to the airport this afternoon, as she's off to LA. I wish I was going to Southern California for Thanksgiving- not because I particularly love So Cal, but because I have no love for the red state where I will be spending my holidays. Oh well... there's always Machu Pichu to look forward to...
Monday, November 22, 2004
Though I could try not to be shallow, I will succumb and admit that it was difficult to be completely moved by the message of Motorcycle Diaries because Gael Garcia Bernal is so ridiculously good-looking (I've been quoting Zoolander with unhealthy frequency lately). And so is Machu Pichu, for that matter. When I got back from the film, I promptly called my most adventurous friend, and told him we were going to Machu Pichu. He humored me and said he would go. He will live to regret that quick appeasement, as I plan to hold him to this exchange some time next year.
I do think that the film was not so apt at depicting its main premise, that of the way that lives can run in parallel for a time. And I do so love that premise, because it's the story of some of my closest friendships. Such transient friends are some times lamented, but it's not really their fault. A movie that depicts such a friendship perfectly is Il Postino incidentally. That movie makes me swoon. I am a complete and utter sucker for Neruda. Motorcycle Diaries was still a great movie, but I just left very curious about the relationship between Granado and Guevara, still wondering after their different motivations and how their paths wound up diverging so dramatically. Maybe I'm just not so great at picking up subtlety though.
This weekend, I made Arnold Palmer's. I don't know why they are called Arnold Palmer's. Apparently, on the east coast, they are referred to as Half-and-Half's, which just brings to my mind something for your coffee. Anyway, if you prepare a fresh lemonade base, you use a nicely flavored tea (something in the black tea family but with a little flavor to take the edge off- I used a blackberry tea), you dilute it just right, et voila, a fine Arnold Palmer. I test them on my brother to assay my results, as he is extremely finicky, and hates drinks that are too sweet. He gave it his seal of approval, and subsequently drank half of the pitcher. But at the end of it all, I thought it would have really livened things up if I had used this recipe instead.
My friend P went on a trip to Kyoto, and brought me back a present. It is this strange little fisherman figure (I assume he is a fisherman, but that might be a twig in his hand rather than a fishing rod, I'm really not sure), that is solar-powered, and nods its head in peaceful bliss and approval when the right amount of sunlight is showered upon it. I have to admit that I can be quite transfixed by the thing. I would post a picture of it, but it would not capture the nodding, which is really the whole point of the toy, I suppose.
Friday, November 19, 2004
I don't have a good reaction to the pressure of putting on a happy face. This must in some way relate to my upbringing, because, in the Indian friend circle of my parents, everyone would have to behave syrupy sweet, while subversively stabbing daggers into each other. And no one could ever say something was going badly. That is how, eventually, my parents' friends all embraced the idea of interracial or interfaith marriages. If their children did that, they couldn't bemoan it to their friends as something embarassing, because how would that look? So, instead, even if they didn't really believe it, they would put on the show, and would suddenly become advocates for love and tolerance. It cracked me up that, eventually, my aunties could be heard saying things like "Well, my Peter, you know, he is more Indian than my own daughter even. He asked me to teach him how to make samosas yesterday." The need to one-up each other eventually won out over the need to conform to society, as it turns out.
I realize that doesn't really illustrate my original point though, which is just that I can't understand why it's not allowed to be down some times. Especially if you have a legitimate reason to be upset. Must you snap out of it immediately and put on the grin? Isn't it okay to wallow a little? Is this what happens when so many people in the country are medicated? Or is all this ranting really just reflective of a need for me to be medicated?
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Better: Subsequent change of music station yielded the new Wilco... as that dude from Crank Yankers would say, "Yay, yay, yay!"
Best: People who give seminars or presentations while holding a beverage. I don't know why, but you get so many extra cool points in my book for pulling this off. I had a chem professor in college who would lecture for two hours strong with a ceramic mug of black coffee in his hands. He was not quite as cool as I initially imagined, since he would also walk around while lecturing, inevitably spilling splashes of coffee on his khakis. Still, irrationally, I just like the look of giving a talk while having a cup of something in your hands- it gives this air of confidence and nonchalance that is nice. Of course, if I had it my way, for true amusement factor, I would have people drink martinis while giving a lecture. Now that's entertainment.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
On the one hand, perhaps he does not deserve my sympathy. He does not do a very good job and he takes credit without remorse for things he was not integral in accomplishing. But it's not entirely his fault. He was bred this way, within the corporate structure. It's the things that got him ahead, it's negative reinforcement. In the end, he's a sacrificial lamb, a symptom of a bigger problem. Writing about work is not interesting to me though, it's just what happens to be on my mind after the 5 o'clock mark.
My best friend from college e-mailed me today to update me all about his ongoings as a new father. It's amazing, but almost every new parent I have met exhibits the same tendencies: their writing turns mostly incoherent and focuses on the wonders of their new child. Fathers are particularly funny, because they seem convinced that they have been involved in some landmark breakthrough accomplishment that has not been previously witnessed. However, this line from his e-mail was kind of sweet, even to my cold, cold heart:
he often cracks a smile in his sleep, a sight so sweet it makes you shiver with joy
On a completely different tangent, yesterday I was trying to throw away old tapes. Of course, I could not do that without putting each one in the player. The last one I stuck in suddenly blared If you're all alone, when the pretty girls have gone, honey I'm still free, take a chance on me (the lyrics might not be completely accurate, as it's been awhile since I've heard this song). Gave me the giggles for a good five minutes.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Some drama unfolded with the muffins, because the recipe called for whole wheat flour. Strangely enough, I did have whole wheat flour on hand, but when I looked in the container where I keep the flour stored, I immediately started cursing and gnashing my teeth. Meal worms had infested my flour. The scientist in me was having trouble letting that go. Worms do not just spontaneously appear; they either were there from the start as microscopic larvae, or they somehow found their way into my bag of flour which was stored in an airtight container. I think the former was the case, because the wheat flour was organic (that was the sound of my eyes rolling). Anyway, a quick trip to the local market, and an hour later, pumpkin muffins. Not too bad. But now I am unreasonably paranoid about the possibility that these meal worms may have infiltrated my pantry and may one day appear in my sugar or baking powder.
Speaking of being unreasonably paranoid, I saw a commercial last week for VH1's Motormouth, and I was horrified. Is nothing sacred?? Anyone who commutes by car knows that at times, jamming out in your car to whatever happens to be on your radio or cd player is the only way to maintain your sanity. Just yesterday, Rock the Casbah kept me from unleashing a fury of "you wouldn't like me when I'm angry"-style road-rage. I was unabashed about this, but what if I am suddenly a victim of the reality tv craze?
Monday, November 15, 2004
Two or three years ago, my brother and I started in on one of my cousins. At the time, he was a 33 year old doctor with a high-rise flat that he owned. We called him RTP for a while because his cell phone was permanently attached to his ear and he was always ready to party. But you can see that's not very catchy. So, inevitably, after one particular evening of watching my cousin scam on women ten years his junior, we started to call him Ol' Dirty. And that name has stuck like white on rice. Even when I call him now, I can't help starting the conversation with "Hey... dir-tay!" My brother has taken it one step further in cheese factor and says, "Hey, dir-tay, baby I got your rupees, don't you worry." I don't know. We're a bunch of idiots, what can I say?
Here's a perfect example of why I love this city of mine: I'm giving my old car to a high school honor roll student. She's been here for a year, having just moved from Brazil. Since she's moved here, her mother and father separated because her mother fell in love with her 11-year old brother's teacher... another woman I might add. And, yesterday, they all had brunch together to show the 11-year old boy that they're one happy family. You can't make stuff like this up.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
So, this morning, as I was pulling my scarf up to my nose to keep warm, I was listening to NPR cover Fallujah, and I am just so disheartened. I don't know how people even entertain the notion of bringing babies into such a disturbing world. That's all I can really write about it. Other people are writing about it with more precision, and more feeling. I just feel nothing but despair, and a feeling that there is an inevitable cost that we still do not realize for all of this.
So, my thoughts drift to my family. My family celebrates three holidays with massive fanfare. The first is Rakshabandan- when we were children, we translated this holiday to be "in which the brother gets the sweets and the sisters gets the cash." The second is Diwali, which is basically just an excuse for our massive extended family to congregate, cook excessive amounts of food, and play cards until 3 in the morning while heckling each other good-naturedly. The third is Christmas. I have no idea how Christmas wound up being the paramount of all holidays in my 90% Hindu family. If anything, I think that, as children, we may have created a version of Christmas for ourselves. But something in me swells to recall my dad or some other cousin's dad getting dolled up in a Santa suit when they had only been in America for a decade at most, saying "Merry Christmas" with a cheerful accent. Even now, when my masi tries to burst into a rousing version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, well, it's enough to make the most straight-faced person dissolve into giggles. One of my cousins tries to goad her into it every year, which I find a little wicked, even if I do enjoy the end result.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
- My disdain for all things avocado. Something about the texture of avocado just doesn't do it for me.
- My stance against mixing fruits with foods that are not sweet. I am four square against it. But people insist on putting papaya or apples in a perfectly good salad. I know I am committing some kind of massive California blasphemy but there it is. By the way, this applies to chicken-apple sausage as well... I do not approve.
- The word organic makes my eyes roll into the backs of my sockets. Most of the time, organic = expensive. And expensive = overpriced.
- My inability to cheer on most California sports teams. LA Lakers- that would just be wrong. If you ever have cheered for the Celtics in your life, you are officially banned from cheering for the Lakers ever. 49ers- longstanding disgust, even (no, especially) in the Montana years. Raiders- I try to like you, but then you whine and you don't deliver, and going to see one of your games at home means risking life and limb more often than not thanks to your maniacal fans (I'll still pick you over the 49ers any day of the week though). Giants- sorry, I just can't get into it, especially not with the last two years the Red Sox have had.
- My dependence on Seinfeld references for communication. Somehow, the show doesn't seem to resonate as much on the west coast.
Now that I've purged that from my system, let me also add that I love California dearly. I'm as true of a blue state advocate as you can get, apparently, because I can honestly say that I have loved living on both the east (North of the Mason-Dixon, mind you) and west coasts.
In honor of Diwali, I must bow down to the myth of Ganpati, and how he got his tremendous elephant head. You have to love Hindu myths; they're on par with the Greeks for gore and malice in some ways. My mother loved telling the story of Ganpati to me when I was a child; in retrospect, I have no idea what wisdom she thought she was imparting upon me. Well, actually, I do, but it's twisted, and I'll share it in a second.
Ganesha, the child of Parvati (from some kind of immaculate conception, by the way), was instructed to guard his mother's door while she bathed. The God Shiva, Parvati's husband, returned home having never met this child, and was infuriated when the kid wouldn't let Shiva into the house. Hey, people, he's not called the God of Destruction for nothing- so he chopped off Ganesha's head in a fit of fury.
Parvati returns from her bath, finds the Sopranos-esque situation at her doorstep and gives Shiva a good dose of grief. Shiva barks at his henchmen and tells them to bring him the head of the first living creature they come upon, and of course, it's an elephant. So, the elephant winds up sleeping with the fishes, and Ganesha is brought back to life, albeit with the slight matter of having a trunk for a nose, and massive ears. You know, no biggie.
I'm not telling the story very accurately, but then again, neither did my mother when she recounted the tale to me when I was young. Many of the Hindu myths I have in my head were passed down orally from my grandmother to my mother to me. I've since gone back and read actual books on it, and seen how many liberties they have taken as they've passed the story down. At any rate, when I was going through a mouthy phase with my mom (which was, maybe, 5 years old- present day), I asked her why she was telling me such an awful story. I mean, this kid did what his mother told him, and got his head chopped off by his dad for it. What's the moral?
"See how much he loved his mother?" she would say, shaking a finger at me.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
I have this bad habit of interrupting people at work in the middle of a thought. I'm trying to stop myself from that, but it's a challenge. When my friends and I talk, the outside listener might think we are speaking in tongues. We interrupt each other and launch onto a whole different tangent before getting back to the original point, while throwing in a few sidebars for good measure. Unfortunately, that sort of behavior is frowned upon at my soul-sucking job.
I've been trying not to think of my job as soul-sucking lately, but it's not working. I'm reminded of a particular favorite moment of mine in the film A Fish Called Wanda. Kevin Kline's character is forced to apologize to John Cleese's character. Though he dislikes him, he knows that Cleese's character has something he needs, so he knows he needs to be conciliatory. But he struggles with the apology, to say the least. So there is Kevin Kline saying "I'm so... I'm so... I'm so very ss... f*** you!!!" And that, you see, is how I feel about things related to work most of the time. Sure, I could sing the same tune as everyone else and reason that the work I do does benefit people. But something is so off key, and I just can't seem to grin and bear it. Which just makes me hope the following is true:
You can't always get what you want,
but if you try some time, you just might find,
you get what you need
Random thought... why does Bono skip to 14... I think the Count from Sesame Street needs to pay him a visit? Also, Alice Coltrane is one interesting woman... I'm jealous of you So Cal people. First Mos Def, now this, or more accurately, first this, then Mos Def. Anyway, you can listen to a sample of an interesting interpretation of Sita Ram by Alice Coltrane. That tune gives me flashbacks of my grandfather singing my cousin to sleep when she was a baby. But that's a story for another time.
Monday, November 08, 2004
illusions of grandeur
When I went to Singapore, some time back now, I went to an aquarium. Normally, aquariums bore me. There is something so unfeeling about watching fish swim about in a glass cage. Last week, at work one day, we were asked how many pets we had owned as children and were told "fish don't count." The fish my family owned left an impression on me. Though my brother and I liked them well enough, the fish did not seem to like us. Or more accurately, did not seem to like their captivity. Once a week, my father would find one of them wriggling about on the carpet. These escape attempts happened so often that my father finally took pity on the fish and returned them to the store, asking the shopkeeper to set them free. I very much doubt that the shopkeeper actually followed my father's directions, but I always remember the feeling, at such a young age, of realizing that pets are not just playthings for one's personal amusement, but living beings.
Still, this fish was so breathtaking that it held me captive at the aquarium. This aquarium was striking, because, half way around the world, the fish are so strikingly different. This fish perfectly camoflauges with its surroundings, and looks, at first glance, like a plant growing on an ocean floor. I have always been intrigued by animals that possess this ability, shapeshifters and chameleons. I like the idea of blending into one's surroundings, of adaptability. It always tickles me pink when I am visiting a city and am stopped by another tourist for directions. It was not until I traveled half way around the world that I felt, for the first time, like a true tourist, like a fish out of water (cringe, couldn't help it). What is most interesting about the chameleon, the camoflauge artist, is that it changes superficially as an act of defense. This act of subterfuge changes nothing on the inside.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Yesterday, I was driving home and somehow came upon a radio station playing a cover of Yaz's Only You by Enrique Iglesias in Spanish. By Enrique Iglesias, people. Subsequently, my brain exploded, and I stopped trying to see the logic in anything. Life's absurdities can be a comfort at times.
I've realized recently that there are actually some Alicia Keys tunes that I like. That surprised me, since I've always thought of her as a bit of a diva who is a little overblown. But I have to admit, I like all the note-belting happening in If I ain't got you, and I like the sultry Diary. Weird.
Also listening to Love & Marigolds from the Monsoon Wedding soundtrack. I had a ton of nits to pick regarding that film, but the score was not one of them. Somehow, this particular piece is apt to calm my mood on this afternoon. I am determined to have a serene weekend. As a friend so aptly pointed out, it's important to go enjoy the outdoors before our current administration pollutes the environment such that the air won't be fit to breathe without a filter. And that was a wee vitriolic, but I'm clearly making progress.
I miss the good part, then I realized,
I started looking and the bubble burst,
I started looking for excuses
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Just to be controversial, Colbert is funnier than Stewart.
My brother and I talked yesterday and he gave me the dude, it really doesn't matter speech again about the election. Serenity now... hoochie mama... none of it works.
But, in the self-psycho-babble nonsense category, I think I need to delineate my angst regarding the election from my angst regarding getting into school (or, how I learned to lose my mind). It's really a strange thing, to be so frantic, and have so much of my ease of mind resting on something completely out of my control. I have to admit that I've lost the knack for that. Not that I loved the process when I was applying to college or grad school. But somehow, this time around, everything feels more urgent, and at the same time more uphill. Perhaps the benefit of youth is arrogance, and the pitfall of wisdom is an awareness that things don't always work out.
I find it strange, I guess, because I'm so comfortable with falling on my face in other areas of life. I have never minded the loss of control that comes with falling for someone. I have even learned to deal with friends who are flighty and unreliable, and have come to be pretty nonchalant about flaky behavior (which is a necessary trait to maintain sanity if you want to live where I do). I have never been shy about flopping either; I've never hesitated on a decision because I was so afraid it was a mistake.
And yet, here I am, most likely developing an ulcer because, ten years after graduating from college, I've lost my mind and decided that I want to do something. And even though I have a perfectly fine existence in terms of having a good job and friends and family, so much of my happiness seems to depend on this right now. I just want to live my life by the credo I always imagined:
Believe in love and love
Believe in death and die
Like work and work
- S. Fischerova
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I'm not going to worry about it anymore
I wish... really, sometimes it kills to care so much.
Yesterday, I was beckoned to a friend's place to watch the results come in. This was a big mistake for several reasons. First, my friend herself is so liberal and left-leaning that she couldn't even acknowledge the fact that things were not turning out the way the original exit polls had predicted. Secondly, she seemed so wound up about the results that she felt the need to incessantly switch channels, which is something I can't tolerate for very long. Thirdly, she invited another friend, who kept talking about how he was interested in the cultural divide in America and how he wants to be a catalyst for opening up the dialogue between the two sides of America. It's that last reason that was the deal breaker for me. Because, who does he think he is? And also, what dream world does he live in? I have to admit that, although I love my current residence in the liberal mecca of the country, it is filled with a lot of people who are out of touch with reality. Last night was no time for listening to that kind of thing, frankly.
So I went home, and tried to listen to Barack Obama's speech, since, in my mind, he is the one shining hope that came out of last night's outcomes. My friend wouldn't let me watch his acceptance speech, because, as she put it, "I don't care about the stupid Senate." See, I'm trying not to hate on my fellow Dem's, but they're making it really hard for me. Obama is some good news, and I know that good news may take years to really come into bloom, but it's a good sign.
There's a town in New Jersey called Edison (if you've lived on the east coast and are Indian, chances are you have heard of this place). The town is shaped like a donut, and the hole in the donut is another town called Metuchen. So, basically, Metuchen is surrounded by Edison, but is its own entity. It even has its own feel to it. Edison is your typical central New Jersey, apartment complex, real estate cookie-cutter development, strip mall shopping extravaganza. Metuchen has a quaint downtown, colonial houses, and even a few little, nicely groomed parks. They peacefully coexist, and neither begrudges the other. I'm starting to think we should maybe adopt this model for the country. I know that's really cynical, but cut me some slack, I'm disenchanted just now.
I won't be talking too much politics in the next couple of months. I'm visiting family in the South during the Thanksgiving, and I will simply hold my tongue. Some times, you can get people over to your side more by doing than by talking. For example, most of my family is pretty much always going to be against gay marriage until someone in our family comes out of the closet. I keep hoping one of my cousins will take one for the team in that regard, but so far, they're only displaying heterosexual tendencies. In all seriousness though, change happens gradually, and experientially. When I was really young, my parents and all of their friends insisted that their children would all marry Indians. And the first person in my parents' friend circle (by the way, is friend circle a more common term among Indians than the general population? It certainly seems so...) who did not marry an Indian caused an uproar of massive proportions. Now, over a decade later, my parents, and all of their friends have pretty much all come over to the "Well, what can you do?" camp, and hardly bat an eyelash when they hear about interracial couples. First-hand experience counts for more than rhetoric any day of the week.
On a lighter side, got this e-mail this morning:
Did you also hear on the news as I did, that the 18-24 yr old demographic segment didn’t turn out in any greater proportion than in prior elections? I guess they chose to die instead of vote. I also liked the P. Diddy interview on CNN where he kept insisting that he was disenfranchised but could respond convincingly as to why, and when pushed he said it was because the candidates don’t “come to his neighborhood” as he grew up in Harlem. Then they asked him if he was going to vote and he responded “yeah, I’m gonna go to the East Side right after this.”
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Still, something a friend of mine mentioned today freaked me out even more about this election. I don't know why it didn't occur to me before. If Bush wins, he can pretty much do things his way, whole hog, no apologies. It would be his last term. Cheney has heart problems, so it's unlikely he'd be gunning for presidency in 2008. He wouldn't have to be moderate anymore, because he no longer would need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. It scares me, quite frankly. And I know that's my liberal lefty side screaming out, but still. I think there's something to be said for that. We need a cautious president. Caution abated the cuban missile crisis. That's a good thing.
And yesterday's post about the 18-29 demographic was mostly just ranting because so much really hinges on their vote. We have no Ross Perot. We have a bad economy, but not a deplorable one. We need the youth vote. I am closer to 29 than 18, but I think the whole demographic has a lot riding on this election, more than they think. It's too late to rant on the topic though, so I will just wait and see what unfolds.
I need some good news, frankly. I've had a bad run of it the last few days, and I know that the presidency is not something I should take so personally, but it really will make me feel even more disenchanted with life this week.
Why do I take politics so seriously, even though I have a profession completely unrelated to politics? Actually, it comes down to my upbringing. I was raised in a state where Democrat & Republican candidates flock in mass numbers, campaigning away before they are really known to anyone in the national media. I shook Al Gore's hand when I was in 2nd grade- yes, he was a Presidential hopeful even back then (I will always feel sorry for Al), even if it was just in my state for a month before he got weeded out. Yep, I was raised in a primary state. Voting was serious in my state. You got to see your candidates, and ask them questions. You saw immediate results. It's sad, actually, that it's only a few states that get this privilege. I love the quaintness of my home state (that and the state motto are the only things I love about my home state), especially stories like this, even if I don't agree with how they voted.
What's the biggest problem with these primary states? They are stark white, frankly. Most of them are not diverse, and do not represent a true cross-section of America. The political machine really needs to be reexamined. I know this in theory. But it's hard to resent it too much, since I had the privilege of growing up somewhere critical to that machine, and benefited as a result.
p.s. I love dailykos so much, I just need to give them a virtual hug. But then I have to also give them a little bit of lip for their link to that crappy outsourcing ad that Jason Alexander participated in, which is truly in bad taste.
Monday, November 01, 2004
My brother coolly remarks, after listening to me ramble about my anxieties about W getting another 4 years in office and the elections being too close to call, "Yeah, I don't even care anymore." That deflated me to the point of depression. My brother returned from watching Fahrenheit 9/11 with nothing but rave reviews; he even went to see it a second time with me. When I walked out of the theater rather unimpressed with the movie (I personally think there's so much vitriol in that film that it masks some of the points Moore is trying to make), my brother tried to coax me into the same rage he felt. And now, a few months later, he's inured. Sadly, my brother is often a good indicator of the 18-29 demographic in this country.
Also, my brother (and I promise that I do actually love him and get along with him really well) is a perfect example of the problem with that demographic as a whole. Everyone is just too cool for their own good. Heaven forbid that you should feel impassioned about something, that you should strive to make some kind of difference. Should you exhibit such behavior, you are just a clueless idealist that takes things too seriously. My brother always looks at me with this glance of dude, chill out, it's not that big of a deal whenever I get worked up about anything. I really dislike this notion that living life disconnected is a healthy approach. Escape is never the safest path... it seems a midlife crisis waiting to happen.
Now granted, I take it to the other extreme, to daily rollercoasters. My brother's good for me in that sense, since he's good at forcing me to do a reality check as to whether I am getting worked up over something worthwhile or just for the sake of getting worked up. In the case of the elections, I consider it a valid anxiety. I do think this is a very important election. I do find it incredibly depressing that I had to vote for Kerry, because I miss the days when I felt optimistic about a candidate. I did feel that way about Clinton the first time he ran. I remember what a coup it was for him to beat George Sr, and how the 18-29 demographic helped him accomplish that. I remember hearing him speak, and thinking, now this is my president. And even though he didn't amount to everything I hoped he would be, at least I went into it with hope. I do feel uneasy about Kerry, I can't deny that, even as a lifelong Democrat. He campaigns with a platform so similar to Bush that I feel he may actually be too right wing for me. But I can't abide by Bush, if only because of his religious views, and his stubborn colonialist attitude about the rest of the world. I just have little faith that my reason for voting against him will be compelling enough to get the rest of America to vote against him.
The nice thing about George Sr. is that there were multiple reasons for disliking him. I didn't like him because he took us into an ill-planned war and pulled out prematurely. But many others didn't like him because, during his presidency, the economy was in the toilet. The economy is not great right now, but in 1992, the economy was all the way down, past circling the drain, headed for the sewers. That, I remember vividly, even though I wasn't officially old enough to be stressing out about it. And then, on top of all that, you had the ravings of Ross Perot helping to carve up the votes in favor of Clinton. That was an unprecedented moment in history. Tomorrow doesn't seem like it will be so unprecedented, somehow.
Also... aren't the elections starting to feel like they should be covered by ESPN? Maybe it's just me, but I keep expecting John Madden to pull out a telestrator, circling swing states. If all the news coverage is going to treat this election like a stupid game, you might as well have ESPN cover it, since I'll take Rich Eisen or Stu Scott over Dan Rather any day when it comes to calling out a play-by-play. Of course, next best thing, I'll just watch The Daily Show cover the election instead.
Incidentally, both election campaigns should have taken all that money they raised and spent it hiring the marketing dudes at Sports Center- those guys make the funniest advertisements ever.
And finally, since this seems to have turned into a Monday rant, is it already that insane time called the "Christmas shopping season"- this has become an ever expanding season, it seems. Last week, there were already Christmas trees in many of the stores I passed. That's why this year, most of my friends & family are getting homemade gifts for Christmas. First of all, my family is Hindu, so I'm still not a 100% clear how we became such Christmas fanatics... more on that another time. Secondly, I refuse to participate in this consumerism crap. That's why I bought a new car this weekend. That was a healthy poke at myself, by the way.