Thursday, March 31, 2005
This morning, it finally occurred to me that the month of March is nearing its end. In business speak, I suppose you could characterize this as the end of the quarter. But I keep thinking about that span of time. Three months. Three months present itself as more momentous than whole years in my past. In three months, the facts of my reality will have completely transformed. It's not possible to comprehend that, except to acknowledge that the plates are shifting beneath the ocean, that something wicked this way comes. Suddenly, the pace of Dave Eggers You Shall Know our Velocity comes to mind, feels accurate.
I needed some cheering up, so I watched the second episode of The Office, the US edition. It's starting to cut its own path away from the UK version, and some of it is really funny, even while being so inappropriate that it's nearly impossible to talk about by the water coolers. There was a scene in the second episode where Carell very poorly attempts to imitate an Indian accent, and this silent Indian woman just whacks him with this Sister Souljah-style thappard that me all warm inside. Man... good times.
For further cheering up, tomorrow is 826's annual comedy night. If you live in the Bay area, and somehow managed to stumble onto this blog, I urge you to go for two reasons. First, 826 Valencia is an awesome concept that, because of its grand success in SF, has started to spread to NYC (in the BK!) and LA (and we will forgive them the involvement of Mr. Jackass himself, Phil Jackson, because... you know, it's for the kids). Second, I'll be there. No, just kidding- second, Patton Oswalt is supposedly quite a cut-up, and there is always the promise of a special guest with this crew. Eggers is massively connected in San Francisco, so I wouldn't be surprised at whatever luminary decides to join us.
In the movie Sideways, Pig Vomit explains his dedication to Pinot Noir as tied to the grapes' very delicate and difficult nature. The fact that it's not straightforward and easy to grow, that it can easily be harmed and ruined is the very reason for his fascination with Pinot. While I had many nits to pick about that film, that was one beautifully captured idea. Pig Vomit was, of course, describing himself really, and pointing out why he was lovable, which is one of the many reasons the film pissed me off.
But I guess I can explain why I'm a fan of Eggers' writing in that same vein. His writing is flawed, undeniably. When he's not writing short stories, his work is always problematic in one way or another. It meanders off, or it tries to be too clever in parts. Imperfections. You occasionally get frustrated when you read Eggers; you're tempted to skim or skip parts. I'm complaining and pointing out all the negatives, because that's far easier than explaining what it is that makes him so worthwhile. There are little diamonds of truth in his books, and always some sort of subtle payoff that stays with you. I read You Shall Know Our Velocity at least two years ago, and there are still parts of that book that occur to me periodically.
In a completely different Sideways reference, NPR reported on coffee slurpers this morning. I'll be the first to admit I had no idea that you could taste "wine and chocolate notes" from a sip of coffee, but I can relate to the tasters' habit of spitting out the coffee after tasting it. That's pretty much what I do with any coffee I've ever tasted.
NPR also covered the congressional pendulum in terms of party views on the AARP this morning. Stories like this contribute to my continuing disillusionment with those sleazebags in Congress. Let me know when the revolution starts, I'm ready to sign up.
Also... I think I want to be John Locke when I grow up (not the philosopher, the Yoda-esque crazy mofo).
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
- To go easy on the US version of The Office. Look, it's not as good as the UK original, and Carell is not Gervais. But he is Carell, of I love lamp and That's a stupid thing to say, and you're a stupid person for saying it fame. Also, creepster Rainn Wilson is worthy of notice. Yeah, yeah, it's a rip off show, but you know what? I'll take a rip off of a fantastic show over another episode of Joey any day of the week. Besides which, you can't browbeat Carell & co. so much about this when Gervais is signed on as one of the executive producers. If Gervais blesses it, it can't be all that bad. I'm going to keep giving it a chance, if I can figure out when it regularly airs (note to NBC- idiots, not a good plan to switch time slots after the first episode airs).
- Arrested Development is going to go off the air some day soon, for it is far too fine a show for Fox to keep around. And I am going to weep when this happens. Who would have thought Jason "Teen Wolf Too" Bateman had this kind of comic timing in him? However, if Fox actually manages not to make "a big mistake" (TM GOB), I'll be even more filled with glee, since aforementioned Ricky Gervais has promised to guest star next season.
- Even with the flu, nothing could induce me to watch Grey's Anatomy. Instead, I recommend that anyone who hasn't checks out Gray's Anatomy. That's worth 80 minutes more of your time than the tv show.
- I can watch Kindergarten Cop again, even though it is a thoroughly braindead movie, featuring the governator who ticks me off regularly. Still, with catchphrases like It's not a toom-ah and There is no baath-room!... well, I think it's worth re-watching every so often just to brush up on your Schwartzanegger quotes. My brother would recommend Predator for this same purpose, but hey, I'm a girl, I like the goofier Ah-nuld better.
- Damn you, Kal Penn! Are you going to make me watch an effing Ashton Kutcher movie? This might be unfounded, but the preview to this film really put a bee in my bonnet. Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, random other white dudes, random other white chicks. And then at the end, the credits said starring Ashton Kutcher, Amanda Peet, and Kal Penn. Um... wtf?!? If Kal Penn is in the film, can't we at least see a snippet of him? Is the sight of a brown supporting character going to scare off a potential audience? I don't get it. All I know is, I'm not sure what's going to win out here: supporting the brown folk in the theater vs. extreme hatred of Ashton Kutcher.
- I'm officially old- I remember watching Dead Poets' Society as a youngster and feeling really sorry for Robert Sean Leonard's character, this scrawny prep school aspiring actor whose dad is not exactly supportive of these dreams. Upon seeing this again, I thought to myself what a wussy- have a little backbone and stand up to Red, kid and also ugggh... drama queen much? when Leonard's character commits suicide. I know, I'm a heartless b*tch. Oh... actually, an old heartless bitch.
- Even though he makes a lot of crap-tastic movies, Robert Rodriguez made me swoon when he talked about resigning from the DGA with Peter Guber. I'll live to eat these accolades, I'm sure. But who else can get away with putting the line Are you a Mexican or a Mexi-can't into a screenplay?
p.s. I have to admit that I was gloating when Duke went down this weekend. I don't keep up with NCAA much, but I just can't stand the fanatical ravings of Duke fans. This is particularly hypocritical considering the teams I generally cheer for have some of the most annoying fans on earth (the Red Sox, for example).
Friday, March 25, 2005
Me, I'd been waiting to go, yearning to go, but not wanting to disturb. Manhattan is precious to me. I didn't want it to feel I was barging in, trying to cheer it up prematurely. But ten days later, I could bear the separation no longer, and dragged a nervous A along with me. Everyone, it seemed, was suddenly so nervous- that's what I remember most about those days.
We used to park at the PATH in Jersey City, take it to 33rd Street through Hoboken, walk or subway it the rest of the way. Simple routines like that had to be reconsidered. We forged new paths which were really old ones we had not taken in a while. NJT to Penn Station, and on a night like that one, just warm enough, we walked it the rest of the way, the 8 scant blocks. On a night like that, normally, you felt you were floating. That night, it started off as plodding.
I always hated Times Square, hated the way it was spilling over with pedestrian traffic at any hour. Hated that it had become a bastion for teenyboppers hoping for a glimpse of Carson Daly or for tourists from the boondocks waiting to get taken for a ride by some con artist. Hated that people were so often so overwhelmed by Times Square that they would just stop in the middle of the sidewalk, mouth agape, taking it all in. Yes, yes, I was B&T, but that label meant nothing to me when I was in Times Square. We were fugitives; they were tourists. I looked at the visitor in my city, and thought The f*** you lookin' at? Get the f*** out of my way! I used to walk down a seedy parallel avenue speckled with strip clubs to avoid the cheeriness, the hullabaloo of Times Square.
But that night, there was no getting around it. A was insistent that we cut the well-trodden path, take solace in the masses. We did. We walked up the avenue like we were being pulled into a charybdis, let ourselves fall into the flow of the crowd. It was the only time I can remember Times Square as a gentle thing. The movement was still there, there was still a current, but it lacked velocity, it lacked volume. And everything about that moment rang false. This pathetic version of Times Square was not the object of my hatred, and I missed my disgust suddenly, acutely.
We turned onto 42nd, and with us turned a man with a boom box hoisted over his shoulder. He strutted by, then stopped to crank the volume, the recent hit drifting through the warm and vaguely humid air: "I was gonna get up and find my broom, but then I got high. My room is still messed up and I know why..."
A & I exchanged smiling glances, musing over this man easing down the road, the only one we'd encountered that night that didn't have the nervous look on his face. We looked back almost as though to witness it again. "I was gonna go to class but then I got high", and a woman sidled up to the man. Curvy and vibrant, she nodded at him in approval and then started dancing beside him, singing along "I am taking it next semester and I know why, because I got high". And as she walked on by the man, I realized that A and I had inadvertently joined in the chorus- "because I got high, because I got high", the whole collective of us giggling involuntarily. I grabbed A's arm, urgently squeezing it, as if to acknowledge what we had discovered. We hadn't laughed in 10 days.
Thursday, March 24, 2005
It's not out of the ordinary when Holi is celebrated in India for bhang to be consumed. It's also not out of the ordinary for my family to make requests of other family members for various things when one is travelling to India. How these two intersect follows...
K mami was going to India about 15 years ago, planning to return close to the start of Holi. With a 2-year old and a 5-year old in tow, she's going there alone. Now, this might translate to sympathy from your families, but in my family it means only one thing- since the kids were traveling with her, baggage allowances went up significantly. And so, everyone starts placing their orders (keep in mind, this is 15 years ago, when you couldn't simply access most Indian goods by taking a quick drive to your nearest Little India). So... her brother-in-law, V mama, puts in his request, asks her to get him some of that stuff that goes into bhang. She puts it on the list, describes it exactly that way when she seeks it out in India.
So there she is, waiting in the customs line at Logan, carting along two rather young kids, bags filled to the point of bursting, and the customs inspector decides that her bags should be inspected. Even though she's annoyed that she will probably have a heck of a time re-packing these bags, she complies without much of a fuss. The inspector does his thing, until he comes to a bag of dried leaves. "What's this?" he asks. At first, K mami doesn't really know what to say. She shrugs it off, which probably makes her look ridiculously suspect to the inspector. So he asks, "Who asked you to bring this?" Now, K mami's normal nervous energy has been eclipsed by full-on anxiety and she decides it's time to zip her lips.
She just says that the bag is stuff that goes into bhang. The inspector calls over another official, and next thing you know, my mami is sitting in an interrogation room, getting ready to look at the wrong side of a jail cell. This is particularly crazy when you consider that my mami doesn't even break 55 on the highway for fear of getting a ticket. She's just petrified and confused. The two kids have been escorted to their dad, M mama. Mass confusion abounds. M mama has no idea why his wife is in trouble, and his wife is similarly baffled, but neither of them can see each other. After a melee of madness in our family that lasts for 30 minutes or so, V mama finally comes clean that maybe, just maybe that stuff that goes into bhang is an illegal substance. Um... yeah. At this point, the moment shifts into sharp focus for me. I'm young, my brother's sitting next to me, we're all together as a family trying to figure out what's going on. And then V mama says bhang has "merri-ju-wanna" in it. At this point, my brother and I lose our sh**. We're equal parts terrified for my mami and cracking up hysterically. All the adults in the room look at us like we're a pair of idiots... but it turns out, we're the only ones that recognize what has happened.
Let's just say, after that, V mama was not allowed to request anything from family members traveling to India.
I have another, sweeter wacky-tobacky-related memory, but I'll have to post that a little later. The alien who is trying to burst out of my head has still not succeeded, and my efforts to drown him with water, drugs, and alcohol have all failed.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
You know what will freak you out? Waking up, still groggy, and hearing what NPR calls parentese- oh lawd. This explains my idiocy well- my parents are not the huggy, cooing type. I'm pretty sure my father read me engineering manuals to put me to bed; I distinctly remember trying to help him pronounce the word manufacturability at age 9. You know what? That is still a hard word to pronounce, native English speaker or not. Anyway, when listening to all this goo-goo ga-ga sh** first thing in the morning, I was convinced I was still asleep and having some sort of Teletubbies nightmare.
It's possible that the alien dude that popped out of John Hurt's stomach way back when may be currently lodged in my cranium. It's pounding at all sides of my brain. I don't like this guy very much at all. At lunch, I unwittingly had a sandwich laced with something horseradish-y in it. That cleared out my sinuses and head for a few minutes. But then the alien returned, and he's dancing again. Which in turn reminds me of GNR before Axl lost his mind and started wearing cornrow extensions- We've been dancing with Mr. Brownstone, he's been knocking, he won't leave me alone. Ah, the good ole days.
An intriguing development in India I heard about today: it could possibly be illegal to make patent-protected drugs there soon. I probably shouldn't even be pondering an issue like this while I'm nursing a headache, because it's quite complex. Right now, India is one of the leading manufacturers of cheap drugs because they can make US patent-protected medications without penalty, as long as they don't sell it back to the US. Previously, this was a minor issue, since there was a general fear that manufacturers weren't really making the right drugs, i.e. your generic Prozac might be diluted with crap that puts you into a coma. However, in recent years, India has really legitimized their generics, mostly because of their scientific infrastructure and availability of skilled labor. Of course, that likely sent the drug companies into a frenzy. The chain reaction begins- US drug companies lobby the Congress/US government, the US government starts pressuring India, next thing you know- legislation is afoot. This could mean especially bad news for HIV medications- the generic versions of these are commonly made in India, and are thus affordable to those afflicted in Africa, India, and other third world areas. If manufacturers have to license the rights to make these meds from companies, prices will increase substantially.
It might be simple to end the story there, with a hearty Kyle, you bastards! But I can't quite do that. Patent protection was created to encourage innovation- not to be a capitalist pig, but a lot of times, the promise of monetary reward fuels innovation, and a lack of monetary reward extinguishes it. Patent protection does allow companies to continue to spend money on research to advance therapies. Those early HIV meds would never have been discovered were it not for patent protection. I don't know what the solution is- with something like HIV, you want everyone that needs it to have access to the meds. But you also want companies to keep working on improving on the meds that are already out there. How to do both together is tricky, and if you have the answer, I hope you're working in infectious diseases or public health somewhere.
The alien is soft-shoeing again. I'm going to try to drown him with water. If that doesn't work out, I might have to switch to more potent potables (suck it, Trebek).
p.s. I caught some of the RnR Hall of Fame where U2 was inducted. Before I knock them, I will say that Until the end of the world is my fave Achtung Baby song, so I thought it a cool choice to perform. Apologies to die-hard fans: Bono has officially jumped the shark. Based on his behavior, I expect to see him in a seedy Vegas lounge any day now. He's become the caricature of himself. Watching it, I felt rather badly for the Edge and Larry Mullins (who has definitely made some kind of deal with the underworld- dude doesn't look like he has aged in the slightest). Not so much for the other guy, because I always forget who he even is.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Speaking of sparring, it's probably wrong to find this amusing, but I am kind of enjoying the fact that Hugo Chavez is such a thorn in the Bush administration's side. I know he has a lot of shady allies, and is far from flawless, but I'm still impressed by loose cannons that call the US on our imperialist tendencies, especially under W. I should be offended by the fact that he made a crack about Condi being politically illiterate and that he said Condi couldn't stop talking about him because she wanted to marry him. But, well... I find him funny (picture me hiding my face in shame). It's some kind of stupid, unintentional double standard on my part, because I know if some dude said such things about Condi in the US, I'd probably skewer him. Am I just that much of a sucker for a Spanish accent?
In other news, this story made me think of the following phone exchange:
Me characterized by my oldest and best friend: "You take a long time to decide to do something. You play your cards close and tight. But then, when you choose to bet on a hand, you bet, like... really, big."The NY times article I cited above doesn't necessarily directly relate. But I continue to be intrigued by the thin line between madness and innovation. A telling excerpt from the article is the following:
My addition: "Yeah, I'm all in, and my car keys and my clothes are on the table."
To which he replies: "Yeah... so K has been seeing this therapist for as long as I can remember..."
"In recent decades, scientists have found that bipolar disorder is widely variable, and that its milder forms are marked by hypomanias, currents of mental energy and concentration that are less reckless than full-blown manic frenzies, and unspoiled, in many cases, by subsequent gloom."Of course, the impressive part about some of these hypomaniacs is that they never actually get depressed. But I do think research, science, or indeed anything to advance an idea or a cause requires a kind of intensity that could easily be mistaken for insanity. Or maybe that just makes me feel I can put my loco tendencies to good use, someday.
Last night, while packing (not suitcases, packages), I watched The Incredibles- wtf, why am I demolished by animated characters? That was ridiculous. And it was the second time I'd seen the movie, and still, weepy mcsobster (TM J) at all the prespecificied moments. Now, contrast this with the fact that P&V often seem to forget that I'm not an XY (TM Mimosa- btw, I am quite bummed out that she's quit us indefinitely)- last weekend, they treated me to a dissertation on the term dropping the Cosby kids off at the pool including what constitutes a Rudy, a Theo, a Sondra or Denise, etc. Maybe I should have watched The Incredibles with them to demonstrate that I've got estrogen to spare... or to kick me of the habit of getting all verklempt over animated effing characters. The first time I watched Beaches, it was with a pair of guys- they were so merciless that I can never think of that movie as anything other than a comedy. There are some things I don't want tainted however. A couple of weeks back, my brother watched Lost with me, and made such fun of it that he ruined the episode for me. Excuse me, but don't mock my Naveen- even tomboys have their line in the sand.
We have to write a composition for Spanish class today, and I feel like I cheated. Our teacher asked us to type the composition, and I couldn't figure out how to put accents and other squiggly things on the letters. So I switched MS Word to the Spanish language setting. Um... so it turns out when you put it on that setting and do a spell check, it basically corrects all your mistakes and checks your grammar. Whoops.
p.s. I can't seem to stop looking through this site- I need help, and perhaps Charles Barkley does too.
I'll take take take all that you have for me
What do you know, I actually came through on a promise. The picture is an example of reason #6,545,399 that I will cry 1000 oceans when it comes time for me to leave the bay area. I was wandering around my neighborhood the other day, and all of a sudden, in the place of a trendy Mission apparel boutique was a wacky little shop that called to me. Inside awaited a wall of Pocky! The picture does not do it justice, nor does it capture all the other wackiness in this store dedicated to Japanese kitsch, including chocolates and candies that are made to look like sushi. Best part about the shop- the dippy, frenetic cashiers. Blinking, smiling, crazy Mission girl behind the counter doesn't even bat an eyelash as I snap a picture of the Pocky display. And when I check out, she asks, "oh my god, have you tried the Green Tea Pocky? It's new!" I wanted to ask her if there was LSD in that particular flavor, but she was just too pleasant to kid like that. I love my neighborhood. And so I shall be mopey no longer. Anyway, Abhi, can you guess which Pocky was for you??
Speaking of the bay area, turns out TMBWITW was in Oaktown this weekend filming The Mistress of Spices. I'll admit to not liking that book or Devakuruni's work very much. I also must say that this article on Aish and the film was really poorly written in certain portions. And finally, I will just remark that the pairing of Aish with Dylan McDermott is going to cause my brother's head to explode into a million pieces. He went nuclear when he realized she was getting paired off with Henderson in Bride & Prejudice (actually, he went ballistic during that movie for many other reasons as well). I don't get the whole ooh, Dylan McDermott thing. On the other hand, after talking to SP this weekend, I realized I have to get my Gael Garcia Bernal fascination in check. My friends have started to give me that look that says "please speak no further about him, or we will be forced to testify against you when he takes out the restraining order." And my brother had to point out that Bernal would not be waiting for me at Machu Pichu, in case that was motivating my plans. It's SP's fault most recently though, since she told me that Bernal refused to introduce Antonio Banderas at the Oscars in protest against him singing the nominated Motorcycle Diaries tune. Come on, I'm not made of stone!
And...some shady shiznit regarding celebrities and the pharmaceutical industry here. This is another one of those gray zone issues that drive me batty. Should we raise awareness about depression? That seems like a no-brainer yes. But should we do it through Pfizer and GSK pay-offs to celebrities like Lorraine Bracco and Shawn Colvin? Seems a little more in the hmm, well... category. Meanwhile, the congress and W. are too busy worrying over the Schiavo case to think over these real gray zone issues that need tending (oh yeah, and getting the FDA to do its job, another thing that drifts in and out of the government's attention). The grandstanding going on in Congress lately is becoming so blatant that it's making me ill- first the whole steroid nonsense, now this. See Jeff's entry for some good raging around this topic.
NPR had a piece this morning on natural hormones that have been advocated by such notable flakes as Suzanne Somers as an effective therapy for management of menopause. The piece highlighted an issue that always drives me crazy with the granolas around here: just because something is natural or organic, doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you. High levels of estrogen in menopausal women, whether through internal cascades, through drugs, or through natural supplements from soybeans increase a woman's chances of developing breast cancer. If the FDA could get off its a** and properly regulate pharmaceutical drugs, maybe, just maybe it could even expand and finally take a long, hard look at all these natural supplements and whether they are putting people at health risks. In the meanwhile, I'm treating the headache that has developed in the back of my skull with a tall glass of water, and a cease and desist on reading any more news today.
Friday, March 18, 2005
But what I wanted to say is this- don't think, because of my self-absorbed jackass tendencies, that I'm not aware of what I missed. I am, and it is killing me:
- All kinds of South Asian authors reading their work, some of it for the first time publicly. That's the kind of stuff that puts me into spells. And only in NYC & maybe DC is such a thing possible, to gather these types of luminaries into one place at one time. Yes, here, we have the occasional drop in from Arundhati Roy or Jhumpa Lahiri or Abha Dawesar, but never so many South Asian authors all together. And if you think that's not a big deal, you are even more foolish than I am. There's something vital about critical mass.
- As if there aren't enough stars in my eyes thinking about those authors, think about the other authors, the ones I read up voraciously whenever I have a spare moment. Like-
- Anna- take a minute and consider the "paradigm of blogginess" (TM J) that is Anna. I've never even met her but her writing is fearless- it's fierce, it's heartfelt, it's unapologetically her. She's the standard. All of that and she looks like a supermodel. Intimidated much? Yeah, you should be, but the thing about her is, it's somehow quite clear that she's not a hater. And so I missed the chance to meet another 24K girl.
- Manish- to tell the truth, I'd have never found Sepia Mutiny or any of the blogs that I now regularly peruse were it not for the beauty of Manish's blog. Even though I know I missed out on meeting him, I know that I would have been tongue-tied and twisted, just an earthbound misfit, I. I would have been speechlessly star struck, I'm sure.
- J- and this particularly breaks my heart. I was in LA in December for less than 24 hours and so I missed the chance to meet J then. Then I went to Houston over the holidays, not realizing that J was there and missed her that time too. And now this. And does she respond with a sigh, an eye roll, a that b*tch is crazy? No, she writes the sweetest thing on earth on her blog instead. And I am reduced to dust. There are moments of such hilarity on her blog that I've feared being branded insane for my automatic outbursts of laughter upon reading. Not to mention, television & film studies? Can you imagine the kind of coolness that is J? When my sides were not aching from cracking up at her jokes, I would have been transfixed by all the undoubtedly superb stuff she is up to.
- And last, but not least- SJM. Don't let him fool you, yeah his blog is wicked, but this dude means well, really well. If SJM hadn't given me the swift kick in my pants that I so clearly needed, it would have taken me much longer to realize the amazing people I missed and that actually might have not been repulsed at the idea of meeting me. Not to mention, I might have had a chance to get another embarrassing story out of him.
Other reasons I must stop wallowing: 1) tonight I am being taken out to Gary Danko. Or, as I like to call it, Gary Swanko. It's a little over the top, and I can't understand half of what is on the menu. But sometimes, you have to get a little crazy. 2) I made a Pocky-related discovery last night, which I will attempt to show you all on Monday (Abhi, this one's for you, man). 3) it's completely counterproductive. If you're at the bottom of a hole, what good does it do to sit around describing the dirt at your feet? Grab a hold of something, and start climbing, b*tch!
p.s. The title line today comes from Tool's Sober, which I heard on the way home last night- is it weird that this song never fail to make me smile?
Thursday, March 17, 2005
Music has never been absent in my life, but there was a time when I used it to define what I was going through. You have an experience, and then you hear a song, and think- yes, that's exactly what happened, that's how I feel. But then music exploded- it did not exhibit duality, it was multi-faceted. A good Dylan song can convince you that you have good reason to be depressed. Or, the memory that comes to mind today, a good, angry, guitar-raging song can propel you into motion, keep you going when you feel you're running on empty. I had this memory of college, working late in the labs, just me and W, my best friend, this dude who was driven by exactly the same things. We'd crank up the tunes. It was Geek USA that would do it for me every time- the apathy, self-loathing, a little too melodramatic to be taken seriously. And suddenly, the entire tempo of the lab was different, faster. Things were moving, things were getting done. And so, come to think of it, music can also evoke such clear and perfect memories, so that the song and the memory are inseparable. Happy Birthday, Billy Corgan. You were good back in the days before you lost your mind, shaved your head, and started drinking from the same well water of crazy as I'm Miss World. Then again, maybe you were never that great, but you were there, you bore witness to my youth.
"Sear those thoughts of meLast night at dinner, SP hit me with another cease-whiner. That girl is a piece of gold, a 24K. I'm impressed by people that can stop you from wallowing without even having to shake you senseless or beat you up verbally. She didn't even tell me to have a little persepctive. SP came at me with logic. Every whine got an even, measured response that made it 100% clear that I was unwarranted. It only took two bitch attempts before it was obvious that I was defeated. She could make a lot of dough if she became a therapist. Too bad she's off saving the world from plagues and the like instead.
alone and unhappy
I never liked me anyway
If by chance
we should fail
don't be so sad"
Just because it's amusing, and it annoys many of my coworkers, every time I screw something up today, I'm going to sigh and mutter "ah, the luck of the Irish." Try it, it's fun for the whole family.
Wednesday, March 16, 2005
I realized something today. To quote a really bad movie, "oh my god, I am an assh***!" The phrase 'an embarrassment of riches' and 'jackass with a lack of perspective' keep circling around in my mind. More on that later.
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
I heard about this on Sunday, but was distracted by my own wallowing from thinking about it until today. The only great white shark in captivity, one I'd seen in December when I drove out to Monterey on a particularly beautiful day, after over 150 days at the aquarium, chomped two soupfin sharks over the last few weeks. It confused the marine biologists involved- normally, the sharks in that particular tank are fed well enough that they do not feel the need to attack the other fish. The tank is truly something to see, as well, a million gallon massive structure. You only see the great white once every five or so minutes, because it disappears into the back depths of the tank. What's interesting about the story is not that the shark attacked, not that it reverted back to its innate nature. Well, maybe that's interesting too. But the interesting twist is the hypothesis that the soupfin sharks lost their innate nature. They may have become too comfortable in their cozy environment, forgot that they still had to have their wits about them. Observers claim the other fish and shark were wary enough to keep their distance from the great white.
In other fishy news, NPR had a piece on the EPA's new rules for reducing mercury emissions. What does coal have to do with fish? Well, not much actually, but mercury does. Mercury levels in fish are what may contribute more to children being exposed to mercury (transmitted from their mother during pregnancy- thanks for being a strict veggie, mom!). And since the fish that seem to rate highest in mercury levels are imported, there is little the EPA can do about that. And it's not clear that the coal regulations will translate to an appreciable reduction in mercury emissions. But here's to hoping.
The story about coal reminded me of how a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. When I was about eight, my parents bought a coal stove. Though they're called stoves, they're really more like something of a furnace, installed in your living room. I overheard my parents debating the purchase one evening. Pros: cheaper than oil at the time which was a big sell, would put the fireplace to better use than previously in our household. Cons: needing to store a big old pile of coal in the garage, and possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Little nerdita that I was, I ferreted out every last piece of information on carbon monoxide I could find. An odorless, colorless gas, the ultimate in intangibility, the silent killer, took whole families out at night. Yeah, that sat really well with me. Every night, sleep would make my eyelids heavy, but I'd be convinced that maybe it was the effects of the carbon monoxide. Was I panicking, or was it the carbon monoxide, slowly suffocating me? The parentals tired of this pretty quickly, and succumbed to my anxieties, buying a carbon monoxide detector. But I was convinced that didn't work. Two years later, my father got tired of shovelling coal, my mom got tired of the messy blackness of our garage, and the coal stove was retired. And I slept peacefully, much to my parent's relief.
Since the teeniacs had been visiting me, I knew about the latest changes to the SAT. I know they claim it's much harder than the hack version I took way back in the dark ages, but I will refute that to the grave. They've removed the analogy section and replaced it with a required written essay. That verbal analogy section haunted every honor roll junior's dreams. Sure, it's a letdown for one of the teeniacs, who'd spent last summer learning a new word every day so that her vocabulary would be tough enough to handle the madness of that analogy seciton. But I'm guessing it's a better test this way. I could rant about standardized tests, but they'll never be done away with, and there are better things to fume over right now.
Also, you can hear a new Postal Service single here. I don't care if crappy television shows and movies have started using their songs everywhere you turn. Just as Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah remains heartrending, the Postal Service is still a good listen.
Monday, March 14, 2005
It started with a broken cell phone. The cell phone that's a joke really, so old and worn, the first cell phone you ever bought just snapped in two, two minutes after landing in Newark. An ominous start. The rest blurs. New Jersey one night, a morning spent worrying, buying toothpaste and scowling at the ladies who lunch. A 2.5 hour escapade to the Bronx. Take NJ Transit to Penn Station, Penn to the 2, the 2 to the Bx21. Past the projects and smokestacks, Manhattan fading from memory into the greyness of the Bronx. The Bronx, which might be permanently enshrouded in that weary grey, if it could be. Cold, biting winds. A night with strangers, putting on a face, trying to pretend that being here is not a defeat in some ways. But it is. Walking into a building that reminds you too much of your college dorm rooms. Shuddering. Feeling that same sense of resigned familiarity- yes, this might well be the best you can do. Knowing it's ungrateful to even think it, and yet, thinking it just the same.
A sleepless night, a morning blanketed in snow. Snow that billows in the air like it was shot from the machines they some times had on the lame mountains of my youth. Because there is no sense that nature has anything to do with anything here. Not having seen snow for so long, you're not filled with nostalgia. Just more weariness. Into a morning, and then an afternoon, of pretending not to feel destroyed by your very presence at this place. Awkward conversations, empty laughter, you can't wait to be free.
An hour ride to Manhattan- take the Manhattan express to 5th Avenue and 80th. Tourists congregating by the Museums, cabs in every direction. The money has colored everything a little greener, a little cheerier. Step out onto the street, and immediately, like the freezing gust you expect, a surge of energy overtakes you. Manhattan is alive, demands attention, propels. Manhattan cabs, how you have missed them. Take one cross town to the upper west side in mere minutes. The key is waiting. You take it to the 18th floor. The city welcomes you. The Bronx ignores you, Manhattan welcomes you. Come on in, we're open for business. Down Broadway, the same stores, the ones you find in every city, but somehow here, it's as if this is where they were always meant to be.
An Italian restaurant, could you be more cliche. And oh the nostalgia now. The long trudge, take the 1 or was it the 9 back to Penn Station, and run to catch the train. Only to wait in Newark for 35 minutes to get back to the place where you started. And feel Manhattan slip from your reach, like it's done so many times before, so many years ago. It was your refuge, and yet it rebuffed you, the paradox of the pulsing city.
The baby, the baby, you have to see the baby. The Seinfeldian reference is the chorus of your life suddenly. You're inhabiting an old life, but it doesn't fit anymore. And yet it can't be shed. It has its requirements. You have to see the ba-by. Babies, as it turns out. The first, not cute, and not even friendly, going through a stretch of stranger anxiety. You respect the kid's obstinance, but wonder why you've been asked to coo over her. Telling them then that you have to go, but the words are in a foreign language to these ears. Impossible. Where could you have to go? $35? We'll chip in, we'll pay. You are stuck. And there is another baby. And you're off, being carted around. And truth be told, it's just as well, because these people are a known quantity, warts and all. And when you're keeping it together with dental floss and chewing gum, known quantities are about the best you can manage. So your perfectly laid plans fall to complete disarray. The second baby, a little misshapen, but affectionate. You decide he's tolerable. Two glasses of wine. An outing to a chain restaurant. A glass of vodka. Two more glasses upon your return. I had too much to drink, I didn't think- that's what you wanted all along, to be numb, to stop the thoughts from pounding in your head.
Dreamlessly sleep, wake and realize it's the day of your departure, and you don't even care. Go through the motions, say your goodbyes, and get on the plane. The Fortress of Solitude encapsulates you- in it is everything and nothing about your life. The experience vastly different, but something unplaceable is exactly you. It's the them's and the you's. The people that live in the fantasy land, the matrix, where everything works out, and it all pays off, and then the you's. There's a bitterness that you didn't know you had in you that has suddenly emerged. It's the sort of grudge you can't bear when you live in San Francisco, one that comes out of its cage when you visit the Bronx or New Jersey. It's the ring, it's Lethem and Ellison, telling you that maybe, just maybe you've ceased to exist.
Wednesday, March 09, 2005
I must be in denial, because I have never been so unprepared for a trip in my life as I am for this jaunt to the east coast (and yes, I'm still griping about the weather for any of you keeping track). I have approximately two hours to pack. And I still haven't kicked into panic mode, which is when I actually get anything done.
My current plans on the east coast look a little like a game of Pong, if you are old enough to get that reference. Hell, I hardly remember that game. Anyway, I'm feeling like I have not planned this trip very well. I think this is the detriment of having a job that involves so much structure; I just have no energy for planning in other realms. Over the next five days, I'll be in NJ, the Upper West Side, the Bronx, and who knows where else.
However, here's to hoping I meet a few more bloggers in NYC on Saturday- should the planets align, that would be reason for glee indeed.
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
Two: It's really hard to whine about anything to do with my life at all after listening to first-hand accounts on NPR this morning about two marines who were seriously injured in Iraq. If you can listen to Sgt. Brad Kasall talk about trying to tend to Lance Cpl. Alex Nicoll's completely shattered leg, then discovering a grenade has been thrown in the room, then jumping on top of Nicoll to shield him from the blast (!), and not lose your breath- well, your heart is made of stone. Nicoll lost his leg. Kasal took 40 pieces of shrapnel to his body. And this is considered a happy story, a story of heroism and hope.
So, yeah, I'm going to hold off whining for a bit, thanks.
But I will mention, this season, Bill Maher has really established himself as a full-blown idiot. Yes, he occasionally has his points politically and on religious matters, but he might well be retarded when it comes to science. Last week on his program, he said he didn't believe in vaccines. Dude! Kids in the Hall alumnus Dave Foley had the best retort (paraphrased): "Well, you know, that Polio vaccine kind of worked out though, didn't it?" Thank you Canada.
Monday, March 07, 2005
I have U2's "Seconds" banging in my head right now. It's the drums, and the bass, the march. It's foreboding. Which, unfortunately, is quite appropriate at the moment.
About an hour ago, I received some news. It was of the torturous variety- it can be summed up as follows: "We are writing to inform you that we have made a decision. You will find out what that decision is in about one week." WTF?!? What kind of "informing" is that?!? It might be hard to believe for people who read this blog occasionally, but being angry is not my natural state. In fact, I find it incredibly uncomfortable to remain in that state for very long. But letters like this are slowly chipping away at both my sanity and my inner peace. F***ers.
Unbelievably enough, I never thought I would write these words, but I'm yearning suddenly, helplessly hoping, longing for Southern California. All of a sudden, all of my excitement about visiting New York, all the hope of rediscovering the finer things about the east coast, all of it has dissolved. Nay, spontaneously combusted. Now, I know it can be recovered. I know that, likely by tomorrow, it will be back, and I will be back to being cautiously optimistic. But right now, there's no tangibility. There's only this moment, this news, and anger at the ulcer that is likely growing by the minute.
Less angst-filled, touchy-feely post tomorrow...
Since I completely wussed out on Saturday night, and drew a blank on story-telling, I decided I would embarrass myself throughout the blogosphere with this little recollection. When I lived in NJ, I was up for traveling anywhere with little notice. So off I went to New Orleans for a long weekend with a couple of acquaintances. It was a week before Fat Tuesday, so the nightly Bourbon Street outings were heating up, but not as crazy as they must be on Mardi Gras. The first night, we did the usual touristy thing of going to Pat O'Brien's to drink Hurricanes. I took two sips of mine, decided I wasn't going out this way, and passed it to this woman, Cindy, who proceeded to drink the whole thing, and was not heard from for the next 24 hours.
The next night, I found my drink of choice, Hand Grenades. I can honestly say that if I had one of those today, I'd take one sip and need a pitcher of water. They are sickeningly sweet- I'm convinced it's a throwback to the frat party punch of choice- grain alcohol + kool aid mix + dash of water for solubility. Three hand grenades later, all was crooked with the world. We had run into C & M, two guys we knew in NJ, who just happened to be visiting the Big Easy that same weekend. M, your typical belligerent drunk, punched a horse at one point that night. A police horse. Not good.
The other women had ditched us hours back. Cindy & I were walking with C & M. We thought we were walking to a bar, or some place productive. Twenty minutes later, Cindy & I were staring at a hotel facade. We went upstairs. We entered a hotel room, and finally the edges started to appear around the alcoholic blur. I turned to C & M with fire in my eyes, and yelled, "Motherf***ers, we just walked your sorry asses home!"
To which, they replied hopefully, "You can stay." Cindy & I looked at each other balefully. Both of us were well-lit, and were tired of walking up and down Bourbon Street, and then to this crap-ass part of town where C & M were staying. On principle alone, we were not falling for this shit though, and walked out of the hotel, trudging back to Bourbon Street. Cindy was doing better than me. She had learned her lesson from the Hurricane incident, and had been nursing beers all evening. The Hand Grenades had fueled me out of that seedy hotel, but they suddenly shifted their influence, and I was dead tired. So tired that I wound up sitting on a stoop from sheer exhaustion. I told Cindy I just wanted to watch everyone walking by, and she pretended that was true for about ten minutes. Then she talked me into getting up and walking the three blocks to our hotel.
The next morning, my friend Mel decided brunch was in order. She approaches traveling in a military manner. There are places to go and see, and hangovers and sleep deprivation are not impediments to her thinking. She had made reservations at a well-reviewed brunch place (The Court of Two Sisters, for any of you who have been to NO), and we were all going, damnit all to hell. I had just enough time to wash my face, down a bottle of water, and throw on the first pair of jeans I could find. They just happened to be the same jeans I had worn the night before. Yes, gross, but Hand Grenades were involved, and besides, this is supposed to be an embarrassing story, no?
So, we made it to brunch, and it was truly upscale. A jazz band was playing, people were well dressed. But I started to notice that people were staring at me. I wanted to stare back and say, "What, you've never seen a brown person who tied one on the night before?" After ten more minutes of disapproving looks, I finally mention this to Mel. She's behind me in line for the buffet, and all of a sudden lets out a yelp, and then a peel of laughter. I turned to look at her, and she was looking at the back of my jeans. There was a mirror right next to the buffet, and as I looked back to see what had sent Mel into hysterics, I noticed that there were two, large round black marks on my ASS.
Moral of the story: No matter how tired you are, don't sit on a stoop in New Orleans. Also, Hand Grenades are bad.
On a completely unrelated note, on Saturday, because the weather was so beautiful that it was impossible to do all the responsible things I should have done, M & I were wandering around the city and came across an exhibit of Ajay Gulati's work. If I wasn't pondering a near-term end to my employment, I would have bought at least one of his pieces. His web pictures do not give a true sense of the texture he is able to achieve on his canvas. M & I walked out of the gallery with a rabid crush on Gulati, though we both think he might be batting for the other team (not that there's anything wrong with that). Sigh. A fine weather day in San Francisco makes it hard for me to believe I live here, in the city that seems like a permanent vacation if you're not careful.
Friday, March 04, 2005
The only things I did cross off my list of to-do's (and I should note here that I don't actually have a list of this kind, because that would require a level of organization that I wholly lack) were two letters that drained me so thoroughly that I could not write anything else yesterday. The first was an epic letter to my friend W. I've not written him in ages, and this was only the first episode of a miniseries, but I had to start somewhere. Letters of this variety force me to stop and take stock, and that is something I always dread. Yes, I'm in a continual state of denial. The second was a professional letter that had to walk a tightrope between adulation and nausea, confidence and arrogance, enthusiasm and desperation. That one nearly killed me.
Upon entering my office this morning, on my chair were a bag of lemons. I wondered if this was some sort of commentary on my state of mind or work demeanor. It turns out my friend T had picked them from a tree in his yard. Well... you know what they say... so, lemonade it is.
Odd bits from NPR this morning:
- a report that an amputee wounded in Iraq plans to go back into active service reminded me of a documentary I once saw on the Battle of the Bulge. In the case of the Battle of the Bulge, soldiers were forced to return to the battlefield after sustaining serious injuries because of the sheer numbers required to continue that fight. Psychiatrists were brought in to counsel the men who were put back into active duty, but the interviews of these men could make anyone's blood curdle. They were so defeated, so aware that they were being sent to their death. I know it's not the same in this case, but it still gave me the creeps.
- A blind woman will race in the Iditarod. This story caught my notice because of my place of residence. This weekend, while people like Rachel Scdoris are racing on sleds in grueling, freezing conditions, a bunch of idiots in SF will be dressing up as dogs and pulling shopping carts through the streets (most likely in a heavily drunken stupor)- yes, it's the urban iditarod. I can't necessarily summon up the creativity and energy required to participate, but I do appreciate the silliness of it all.
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
I should point out that the teeniacs are not completely mindless either. On Monday night they educated me about mitochondrial diseases on the way home on BART. Ah, there is hope!
Random observations regarding Spanish class:
- I forgot that we had homework to complete, so I rushed home last night before class and threw the class cd in. The cd reenacts classroom scenarios in Spanish. After listening to a teacher leading her students through calisthenics, I come upon a chapter where the teacher is asking the students to sing. They burst into Cielito Lindo- you can hear a clip of it here, in case you aren't familiar with the ay, ay, ay, canta y no llores chorus. This caused me to burst into a fit of laughter, since I have heard mariachis belt this tune out raucously every damn time I try to sit down to a meal in my neighborhood. Oh yeah, it's cute the first time. Then, it's really not.
- I take Spanish classes at a Jewish Community Center. As if that's not bizarre enough in and of itself, I walked into class last night, sat down, and the first thing that catches my eye- a book entitled, no joke, GI JEW.
- El profesor goes through a list of adjectives to describe people. He gets to tonto, and says in his meek Spanish accent, "Is not nice, no? You know... the Lone Ranger, si? Su compadre, si? Why they call him Tonto? Is mean, no?" And then he shakes his head sadly. That one goes under funny because it's true.
Also, Dennis Overbye is quickly becoming my favorite scientific reporter, though I've only read two of his stories. The last one was about the farewell, cruel world star. This one is about annoying jackasses who keep asking "Who's the next Einstein?" Physicists are really an amazing lot. It seems to me that the really accomplished and astounding physicists are also philosophers. And there's something poetic about their approach to the universe. I don't know. Even the idea that some physicist may come along in the next century or so and turn everything that Einstein proved/theorized on its head- the equal parts arrogance, intelligence, and vision that takes just blows me away. In an acid trip sort of way. Physicists seem like the ultimate seekers of truth. I had a professor that used to ask us in class if light was a particle or a wave, and then would gleefully respond "Yes!" to his own question. When I sat down with him to really talk to him about it, he held forth on how it's not that light is somehow schizophrenic; it's that we lack the ability to define it. It's nearly semantic. I don't know why, but all these years later, there's something about that I love. This idea that answers are not black or white at first pass, that it takes many iterations to get from grey to the absolute end of the spectrum.
Note to the east coast: Stop snowing. Please. Don't make me regret visiting you.
Tuesday, March 01, 2005
I don't have a psychology degree, but I'm starting to wonder if I should get one. Within the past 24 hours, 3 people have spent an hour a piece in my office having meltdowns of various degrees. 1) These people do not report to me, 2) I am neither a counselor, nor an HR rep [anyone who knows anything about me knows that would be the biggest career blunder of my life], 3) Asking me for career advice/lift-me-up good sentiments is like asking Dr. Kevorkian to give you a reason to live when you're on life support. Oh, and also? 4) I have work to do. Get the f*** out of my office!
Okay, so the last bit was harsh. This is what I get for testing out what would happen if I left my door open a bit more often every day. It's like I suddenly put an open for business sign below my nameplate. Great.
Last night the teeniacs and I went downtown. The weather was finally clear and it was the perfect kind of night to walk around Union Square. I realized last night that I rarely visit this part of San Francisco. It's consumer central. It makes me want to learn to sew so that I can avoid ever shopping for clothing again. At night, it's not quite as bad, as you can peacefully wander around looking at window displays. The teeniacs, predictably, were enthralled and squealing with delight the entire time. They're going back tomorrow on their own, so that they can spend their day funding mindless clone stores like The Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, without an eye-rolling older cousin in tow. And I have no problem with that, as long as they don't get lost on BART.