Sunday, August 31, 2008

there ain't gonna be any middle anymore

This session of Cram-athon 2008 is interrupted to bring you a few special news flashes. It's nice to see Federer playing like he means it, nicer still to see each of his opponents pushing him a little, hungry with the idea that they might just have a chance to take him down this year. It's equally nice to see Nadal playing strong- it would be really nice to see those two play in the finals again, assuming I am not drowning in a study vortex when the finals approach.

I am worried about Maitri and everyone else in New Orleans, who have been through enough without Gustav and db newscasters/pols/bloggers remarking on the irony of it all. It's not ironic. It's frightening and disturbing, and I just hope they get through it without serious damage to themselves, their spirits and their dwellings.

Also, everything I said in my last post, I am seriously tempted to take back. Everything I thought was positive and hopeful about the Obama campaign has been soured of late with the reaction some of his more 'fervent' supporters have had to McCain picking Palin as his VP running mate. Is it pandering? Sure, maybe. Is it insulting to try to woo HRC supporters by picking a woman who has completely opposing viewpoints to HRC on a lot of the issues? Perhaps a little.

But sweet sassy molassy, can people please stop the all-out assault on her? You can't have it both ways- you can't complain about how evil Rove's ways are, how dirty one side fights, and then make incessant remarks about a candidate of the ilk that have been floating around the internets the last few days.

Do I like Sarah Palin? Not one bit. I don't agree with her views, I don't think she's a particularly strong or able candidate. Does she make Obama any less of an attractive candidate to me? No. But, the thing is, who cares? I'm not who McCain is targeting. All those fervent Obama supporters that are currently sending me emails about Palin wearing fur and being an ex-beauty queen- those, too, are not the people McCain is targeting.

And let me tell you, it doesn't do the cause a whole lot of good to continually take a dump on Palin as a choice. I'm not even for McCain, and I find the bashing on her a little distasteful. Imagine what it would do for an actual supporter of McCain. Anyway, I wish people would just show a tiny bit of class. If you're really for change, you could start by not engaging in this sort of constant negativity.

Now back to my regularly scheduled program of hitting my head against the brick wall of degenerative diseases of the central nervous system.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

must be a sucker for it

It occurs to me, rather all at once just now, that perhaps it's not about an individual. Perhaps it's too much to expect so much from any one person.

I've complained before that the Obama-mania turns me off a bit. Last week, I'd gotten a bit razor-tongued with some classmates about this, when they were going hyperbolic about Obama's revolutionary ways.

Here's what I realized today, when I finally started getting it together and watched all the speeches at the DNC- it's not really about Obama anymore. I should have seen it in all the frenzy amongst my very young classmates. Sure, they were over-the-top about it. But they were engaged. This 23-year old was chatting it up about this and that, and, granted, most of what he said was extremely biased and perhaps verbatim from some recent propaganda circulating around. However, these are people who would usually prefer discussing the merits of my fantasy football picks (I missed the draft, so dudes, my automatically selected picks are atrocious) than anything political.

And then, in reflecting just a tiny bit more, because it doesn't take much reflection when you're being bludgeoned square in the face with the obvious, I thought, well, maybe it just doesn't matter. Maybe it's irrelevant that Obama is probably not going to radically change the country. Maybe it is a sheltered and idealistic notion to believe any one leader can. Maybe the point is the palpable feeling you get listening to all of these speeches, watching the composition of the crowd, hearing the buzz afterwards.

Because ultimately, what probably matters the most is that people believe. Maybe if they believe, then Obama really will change things, maybe the country really will shift. Probably not, but I'm not even sure that matters. What impresses me, all sudden-like, is that people have the ability to hope and believe again. The last 8 years have been taxing, to say the least. The years before that had plenty of moments of disappointment too. So, it's either ignorance of the past (what I probably had believed previously) or just amazing resilience (which tonight I'm more inclined towards) that leads people to engage this much again, put a stake in this that much again.

I know the few people who are reading this are likely thinking NO DUH. Perhaps. Perhaps the Dems just finally got their sh*t seriously sorted out and figured out how to run a convention without any division, pandering, or major missteps. Perhaps I'm drinking the Kool Aid and someone deserves a raise for some well-crafted speeches. But for the first time in a long time, today I thought, well, maybe there is a reason to hope. But it's not Obama that's the reason. He just found a pulse, put his stethoscope on it, and then described it out loud- and the people listening to him said, well, that sounds like he's talking about my heart. Then they looked around and realized everyone felt the same inside. And in that recognition, there was suddenly a burst of energy that unified them all.

Sorry for the cheese. It's particularly weird coming from me, and may well be a sign of heatstroke. Today's high? 108.

Monday, August 25, 2008

something so easy in how you're sweet to me

There are a few things I ought to be doing right now, which include:
  • studying
  • going to the market
  • keeping my crazy friend from becoming too estranged from me
  • studying

Instead, I am blogging. Just as, instead of being productive this morning and studying, I made these:

simple minds do simple things

I made a batch of these a few days ago, when I just needed a break and wanted to fool around a bit in the kitchen. In retrospect, it was a bit comical that I thought this would be the best thing to do with free time. I've just recently learned not to swear incessantly while rolling out dough. As you can see from the picture, I still didn't really master it, as the dough was a bit uneven, such that some of the edges got burnt.

Turns out it doesn't matter though. If anyone is interested, I'll post how I did this (and basically, how I did this involved a bit of web surfing at some trusted baking sites). All you really need to know is that, with a decent pie crust and some good, organic strawberry preserves, you too can make a faux Pop Tart. Even though it's certainly more effort than unwrapping a thin foil wrapper and sticking perfectly rectangular pastries into a toaster, I think it's worth the effort.

My vegan friends would disagree, I'm sure. The pie dough I used is all butter, after all. I remember a friend of mine going vegan over a decade ago, back when people were still trying to figure out if you could still eat fish and be called a vegetarian. I thought she'd gone vegan for health reasons, until she informed me that she'd taken to eating Pop Tarts every morning, because they were so filled with artificial flavors, preservatives and components, that you didn't have to worry about any part of them coming from some protected part of nature. Not that I have anything against vegans or Pop Tarts, but something about realizing that Pop Tarts are vegan cracked me up.

Anyway. I gave the foolish little tarts to a classmate, because it was his birthday, and it was just too early in the morning to be giving him a batch of cupcakes. He was happy with them. Really, there's not much to dislike about them- even the burnt edges don't really taste that bad. Perhaps in the future I will try to make versions that have frosting or something. For now, this has to be enough, especially since the summer is not yet over here, which means baking time remains limited.

Now I'm off to the market, which is slightly more responsible than blogging, but certainly less so than studying. But before I go, I must note that Nadal has quipped that he has to pull down his shorts so frequently when he plays because he has a bigger backside than most guys. And since I just thought I'd quickly take in a bit of early round play, I must say that I think he's right. Also, I love the Spaniard, despite the fact that some Spaniard sportsters have been giving Spaniards quite a bad name of late- but all the same, Fed, pull yourself together, man. I fully expect you to at least give Andy Roddick a proper trouncing. Despite what Roddick may say, this is your homecourt.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

you don't need to emerge from nothing

Sometimes I think we have this competition to see which of us is crazier. Maybe it's more of a fight of crazy vs. crazy. Because in a battle between crazy and sane, crazy always wins.

The bro-seph and I are close, but not really. I have low expectations of him, which is a strange thing to say about family perhaps, but true nonetheless. And as a result, he seldom disappoints me. The other day, I was explaining this to SP, who was amazed at how cool I can be about my brother always spending time with his girlfriend or neglecting to call me or never getting me anything for my birthday. Somewhere, deep inside, I'm sure these things annoy me a little, but certainly not enough to throw a fit over.

I'd explained to SP that we didn't have that kind of relationship, the bro-seph and I. He's not the person I turn to when I'm really upset about something, or need to sort out a complex predicament. I'm not sure who I turn to in such situations anymore, but that's a story for another day. What I'd told SP, and I had really meant it, is that there is only one thing I ever really required of my brother- that he be around to listen when I need to talk about my parents.

About this, he is pretty good, and that's where he's needed. Even though he and I don't see eye to eye on my parents, he understands the situation better than anyone from the outside. There are stories that can be told, and people get a laugh out of it, but they fail to see the crazy, fail to see what was so troublesome about it.

I thought of this incident that occurred with my father years and years ago, when he was in full-on insanity mode, rather than his more baseline out-to-lunch state that he now inhabits rather well. We were all living on the East Coast at the time. The bro-seph had uncharacteristically fled the city for the weekend, and even more uncharacteristically had actually managed to really enjoy himself at my place. We'd planned to go hiking on Sunday, the perfect completion of a non-urban weekend. But that morning, at 6 a.m, my mother had called me. She'd simply said, "I thought you should know that your father is driving to your house right now."

They lived 5 hours away. My father had already offered to visit my brother that weekend, and my brother had declined. The bro-seph and I are united in one thing- we never find comfort from the doting of our parents, mostly because there is not much doting involved. As I tried to find out from my mother what had possessed my father, my brother drowsily arose and heard the ruckus. He wearily got on his cell phone and called my father, who cheerfully insisted he was coming to visit. My brother begged him not to come, reasoned that it wasn't too late for him to turn around, and that there was little for my father to do. But my father said he had to do it, had to see my brother for himself, make sure he was okay.

Four hours later, he had, indeed, showed up at my doorstep. We all regarded each other awkwardly. It was clear on my father's face. He could see, suddenly, how unnecessary it had been. He laughed nervously. My brother shook his head, all the relief he'd amassed over the previous day gone. And just like that, my father got back into his car, and drove the 5 hours back home.

Whenever my brother and I have tried to tell this story to any friend, the reaction is always the same- omg, your dad's, like, so sweet to come all that way just to see you. I understand why people think that. I even understand how that is partly true. But when you've gone through a lifetime of wtf, insanity-laced incidents, this sort of thing is just symptomatic. It's just like the clinical syndromes I'm studying right now- one symptom, by itself, seems innocuous, nothing to worry about, but combine it with a good history, and all of a sudden, you're talking major illness.

The bro-seph gets that, and he'd probably get it if I called him right now. One of my friends is a little bit teetering on the verge of nutso-land right now. The latest approach has been disguising death-clutching co-dependence as concern about me. But let's call a spade a spade- the concern about me stems from my lack of availability to be a crutch. Just as with my dad, I'm pretty sure that anyone else would have the predictable reaction of awww, how sweet, he's looking out for you or there would be the even more tragically misguided ohhhh, maybe he likes you likes you, you know?

The bro-seph would know, though. He'd know in a heartbeat, because he's seen this kind of crazy. My dad didn't drive 5 hours out of concern for my brother, or if he did, it was horribly bad judgment- my brother certainly didn't benefit from the incident. No, there's no getting around the fact that my dad was motivated by making himself feel better. And, granted, that's fair game, especially when family is involved.

But I was too busy or too lazy or too tired to explain it all to my brother. He'd have understood, but it's not really understanding I need- I just need a break from it. So I wound up fighting crazy with crazy. I turned off my phone and went walkabout for a little while. It wasn't a particularly winning strategy, and I really now have left the impression that I am losing my mind a little bit. Sometimes it's better to give someone that notion than to confront them with the wrongheadedness of their ways, especially when they are in an unstable state. Or maybe I really am just crazy myself.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

when everything else is unclear, at least I know

This morning, I woke up early and made pie crust. Then I made a lunch of tofu and vegetables and salad. Then I went to class and paid attention and did not surf the web. Then I ate my lunch while stopping to talk to two administrators about various little projects that I have somehow entwined myself in. Then I went back to class, an interactive one, where a professor and I had a very good and useful conversation about meningiomas. Then I went to the library and caught up on some work while listening to a new mix that I can sadly not put on the mux at the moment because they seem to have run into some copyright issues (whoops, and boo). Then I walked home as the sun was setting. Then I ate my dinner. Then I went to Trader Joe's and bought blueberries for my once-weekly permissible baking extravagance. Then I allowed myself to watch a tiny bit of television while finishing up some more reading. And then I felt it was time to take a break.

Thanks for the support from yesterday's post, be it through comments, notes or just positive vibes. But the only way I know how to get through such times is what I did today- dive headlong in a series of trivialities. It's funny, if you take each thing separately, how insignificant it all is, because it felt otherwise like such a productive day.

At some point, do you call it hiding or do you call it living? I do these things as a kind of defense, a sort of shield. The shield of stuff-to-do. But I'm not sure it's that different from just getting on with the business of living. Pied Piper commented and emailed about something I'd written regarding how inexplicable it is, getting over things, moving on. And then I have a day like this and realize this is kind of how it happens.

It's just that one day, you wake up and decide you're not going to be down anymore, that things aren't going to continue to happen to you. And there's all that cheesy crap about being mindful that zen-masters talk about, but some aspect of it is true.

Obviously, I'm not doing a good job of explaining it at the moment. It's not the time to explain really, since I'm busy hiding or living or whatever you care to call it. Whatever you care. Because I don't really care what you call it. I just call it what needs to happen.

Because on a day like this, I realize, I can think back on the moment that I really first felt truly inconsolable. It was nothing so out of the ordinary really, nothing that would make a good novel, so typical, so run-of-the-mill. But that's the thing about being young- you don't realize how common your little heartbreak is. You imagine it's the only time anyone has ever felt that badly. You imagine you have some special capacity for feeling that makes you experience the pain more acutely than anyone else. Maybe you do, maybe you don't. Either way, doesn't really matter- the end is the same, you have to get on with living.

And I just remember that I don't know how it happened, or why. Nothing momentous, no intervention suddenly snapped me out of the black hole. I just remember that I woke up one morning and realized that I lived a block from the river. And then I went for a walk on that river and came to see that it was beautiful- everything was in bloom, the sun dropped glitter on the water, and on the bridge, the wind could make you breathless for a moment. It was like the world went from a black-and-white silent film to a technicolor musical. The rhythmic, synchronous rowing of the crew teams, the dedicated runners who made their way down the path with disciplined purpose, the roller-blader who seemed so fit but stopped midway to rest on a rock and light up a cigarette. The entire city was humming some off-tune symphony, seemed to be saying, Where have you been? We've been here all this time, and you never bothered to notice. And quite simply, it just seemed clear that, even though I was perhaps alone in some ways, I had this whole city silently offering me a cushion.

But it wasn't the first time I'd ever taken a walk on the Charles. It was just the first time I had been of the mind to see all that was happening around me. And similarly, I know I didn't do anything special today, and that I didn't accomplish anything really. I know I didn't cure myself of all my troubles, and that I still have a lot of I suck moments ahead of me. But I made a pie crust this morning, and it seemed that it just becomes a matter of getting into the habit of saving myself.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

this town is crazy, nobody cares

Didn't mean for over a week to pass by without posting, but these days, a lot of things happen whether I mean them to or not.

I'd love to spend a post telling you how funny some parts of Tropic Thunder were, and my love for RDJ persists much like a rooster illusion might (although SP gifted me a Rolling Stone in which there is an interview of RDJ that is so over-the-top in its adulation that I have a feeling the 15-year old version of me might have written it). I'd also love to tell you about my first (and definitely only) outing to the State Fair and the great joys of eating artificially colored spun sugar. I'd even more love to tell you of Vicky Christina Barcelona, which was not a great movie, but did something I thought would never happen- made me cheer for Penelope Cruz in a movie. She was so good in it, I was thoroughly befuddled. This cannot have been the same person who appeared in a crapfest with Tom Cruise. Also, if Javier Bardem and RDJ appeared in a movie together, I think I would turn into a puddle of goo. And then watch the movie 5 times.

Anyway. But I can't tell you any of that really. Even though I just did. I'm writing at the moment because I just need to write something. I am frustrated. I am a tiny bit frustrated with school, but I am more frustrated with myself. I am frustrated with my inabilities, and those inabilities don't have much to do with school.

So there's this horrible thing that happened to my very good friend. And I took it very personally, almost as though it had happened to me. And then I took it more personally because it quickly became clear that my friend had virtually no one else to turn to. And then.

And then this is the part where I fall short. And I don't know what to do with myself, or with him. I know he needs help. I know he refuses to get help. I know that, instead of getting help, he is spinning his wheels by fixating on the wrong things. And most of all, I know, and I know because I am getting that panicky feeling, I know he is latching on to me for dear life.

I've used the analogy before, but it still applies. He's drowning. But he knows how to swim. I'm not that great a swimmer myself. I am tired too. I've been trying to tread water beside him, telling him that he knows how to swim, telling him to stay afloat. But now we're getting to the ugly part. The part, when you're too tired to keep on going, and you start to drown. The panic settles in and reflexive, gut instinct kicks in and you grab hold of the person who's been trying to help you. You think they're strong enough, that they are so much stronger than you that they can stay afloat while buoying you as well.

But I'm not that strong, not that much stronger. And now I'm drinking water. And then this is the part where I fall short, because I don't drown, don't go down with this ship. Gut kicks in and I am on the verge of breaking free.

At which point, all I'll be is alone, treading water in a vast and endless sea.

Monday, August 11, 2008

turned you into someone new

Okay, first, some trivial matters:

I guess I am the only one, but sword of Zeus, I cannot get excited about the Olympics. I'm not really making an effort, but in addition, I might be actively avoiding it- I hate all the nationalistic Go America/Go India/Go Whatever Country, though I'm not really sure why, given that I cheered on Spain in the Eurocup without the slightest hesitation. Maybe once they start playing tennis, I will change my tune.

Still trivial, but a subject that will really test whether I have any readers left. People, I need your help. It all started yesterday, when I heard this new Keane song, Spiralling. Here was my stepwise reaction:

  • WTFFFF?!?
  • Was this recorded recently?!?
  • Okay, calm down. Why so crazy? Keane pretty much always bite other bands' styles (cough*ColplayU2*cough), so it's not so radical for them to sound like the 80s. Just got tired of stealing from their contemporaries, maybe.
  • There's something about this that reminds me of Naked Eyes' Promises Promises.
  • Oh lord, spoken word interludes... always hilarious, and even moreso when said interlude is as dumb as this.
  • Ooooh, RR called it, this is totally ripping off Human League's Fascination.
  • Okay, now I feel gross because I am actually amused by this.

I know, it's a mess in my head. I even edited out all the thoughts about chocolate (yesterday, I told a friend I wasn't going to a party because, I quote verbatim here, "I have peppermint patties in the refrigerator and they aren't going to eat themselves!"). But that's not why I need your help. What I need is this: songs released in the past few years that sound like they were ripped from the 80s, or at least seem to be paying homage to the 80s. Help! I will clearly do anything to get a comment up in here.

Crap, I ran out of steam. I had some less trivial things brewing in my head, but I think maybe they deserve a separate, somewhat coherent post.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

we're tumbling down, we're spiralling

Lately, whenever I am writing a post, I have a test looming over my head, or unanswered emails piling up in my inbox, or an ever-growing list of to-do's that always seems neglected. In short, lately, it just seems like I am not on top of my sh*t.

Despite all that, there's one thing I do not let slide. Stupid and wrongheaded as my priorities are, I do stand by them. I've devised a little strategem by which I am justified in baking something nearly every week. Sometimes, it is simple- stuff you've seen a zillion pictures of already, and I won't bore you with again. Other times, I am in the mood for experimentation. Last week, I forced a classmate to steal a gigantic zucchini from her grandmother's garden. I lived to regret it, as I wound up with two loaves of chocolate zucchini bread, and over a dozen zucchini muffins (pictures pending because the first loaf of bread got devoured at a party, and the second one, I sensibly froze).

It doesn't really even matter anymore. Whether I am in the mood for something practical, something I know everyone will eat, or something that will push the envelope. I just know that it has to be done. Every week, and if the week drags on and somehow it doesn't happen, I get a kind of twitch. I know something's off, that there's been some disturbance in the force.

with their journals and cafes

These were greeted well by those who ate them while studying for a final a week back. Me, I'm not a big fan. I've played around with chocolate cookies, and I've come to this conclusion- you ought not dilute down chocolate. It performs best in its pure form. So chop it up (soon to make a repeat showing, a few weeks ago, I chopped up a Toblerone bar in cookies, and those were some good times), eat it straight, or at most make a cream or sauce out of it. Otherwise, chocolate things always fall short. I write that, but I've far from given up on it. It's just that it always misses the mark. My classmates didn't care though, because of the chips. Those are Guittard, cappuccino flavored. And let's just say med school is not in shortage of coffee fiends.

Me, I have never been a coffee drinker. I recently forced myself to start drinking chai lattes, but only while rolling my eyes about the whole thing. So, these cookies did very little for me, except provide me with a small measure of sanity in an often insanity-inducing world. For now, that's more than enough.


It also bums me out that Bernie Mac passed away this weekend. Bernie Mac always struck me as what a man should really be. He reminded me of all the qualities I loved about my uncles. You know- grumpy and begrudging about stuff, but fundamentally good. He is something of an ideal to me- flawed, had a temper, but you knew he wouldn't hurt a fly. Complaining all the way, but doing extraordinary things for his family. I loved that about him, because it was so real. And as someone who does this every once in a while often, I liked that he wasn't afraid to talk sh*t about his family. To me, those imperfections and mania of internal family squabbles and drama and idiosynchrasies are what make life worth relating. And no matter how crazy your family seems to be, when you tell a story about them, someone always seems to pick out some aspect of it that resonates with them. Bernie Mac seemed to do that better than anyone else at the game these days.

Friday, August 01, 2008

sometimes I wonder- will I ever be the same?

So, blog fodder of late has been pretty far from scintillating. And I've been crap at keeping in touch or holding conversations. I don't mean this as a complaint, but at the moment, my energy is divided up between two things and two things alone- school and a friend who is going through hell. And neither of those make for very entertaining blog subjects.

Instead, I'll hide behind my favorite topic. You know what I love most about getting older? The way I feel increasingly comfortable embracing whatever the crap song I want to and proclaiming that I have infinite fondness for it. Sometimes, it's not even shame that held me back previously, just a lack of awareness. Especially with old songs. So old that they're sort of in our fabric. You don't think of these songs as good or bad, just as you wouldn't think of the moon as being good or bad- it's been around forever, it's always there, it provides you with light and darkness.

Yesterday I was doing the drive that I sometimes do, the one that takes me through an hour of doldrums to get to the promised land. On such drives, and with such thoughts as I have recently had on my mind, having good songs to keep me company becomes paramount. But yesterday's trip was a bit impromptu and, therefore, I had not planned out good musical selections. So I had to rely on the radio. This usually means I wind up on some country station, listening to some truly gut-wrenching song and wondering how in the world such lyrics are always confined to country songs.

But instead of that, I was just coming down a long stretch of freeway, dipping down and then climbing up. Just as the descent began, Baby, I need your loving miraculously presented itself on the radio. I know that some people will read this and think The Four Tops, really? That's your miracle? Go figure, but people, revisit the song. There is something transcendental about it.

Maybe it had such an impact on me yesterday because it's a song about longing, about losing something and wanting it back. The song very nearly celebrates its predicament. It sees the beauty in the mess, in the tragedy, in the business of offering up a bruised and frightened heart to someone who might well stomp on it. For some reason, I needed to hear that yesterday.

Also- it's got that groove thang, which doesn't hurt either.