Monday, December 25, 2006

Happy Holiday

How do you get in the "holiday spirit" when you don't buy into the myth behind it? That's something I have struggled with for quite a while. Yes, it's been secularized but as a secular holiday, it doesn't have much of a clear reason for being. Wishing one another peace on Earth? That's nice, but why is it any more sincere at this time year? Giving gifts is nice too but there are plenty of other times when it might be more appropriate.

Well, I read a piece yesterday that made me feel a little happier with the situation. It talked about how Christmas has evolved into the perfect American holiday. As a patchwork of borrowed rituals and mythologies, Christmas is a great analogy for a country founded and populated by immigrants. It's the quintessential melting pot holiday, from the 12 days of Saturnalia (ancient Rome) to the decorating of trees (Druid) to the winter solstice (every pre-Christian civilization) to the lighting of candles (Judaism). Then throw in Hannukah and Kwanzaa and you've got the perfect all-purpose festival. I had known most of this before, but the way it was presented suddenly made more sense to me. I think if it were acknowledged by the promoters of the holiday that it was a joyous amalgam of celebrations, I'd like it even more.

But anyway, I'm feeling pretty festive now. Still not expecting Santa down my chimney but I've got a nice bottle of pinot noir just waiting to be uncorked with dinner tomorrow and that's reason enough to celebrate.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Ideal vs. The Reality

It's been a particularly difficult and weird week at work, and I intended to sit down and write about it. And I will. But as I imagined recounting this story, I also realized that this is not what I had planned this blog to be. This was not supposed to be a place to delve into all the little things that make up one's daily life. I mean, you can do that with your friend at lunch, or over the phone, or even online, in one of those essential but totally ordinary conversations that we have every day, countless numbers of times.

No, this was a place for bigger things. A place for hashing out the big questions. The universal topics. The thoughts that needed to see themselves written out. Not my stomach flu or my vacation. So what happenend? Reality is what happened. The universe reminding me yet again that things rarely turn out the way we want or even expect.

So let me get back to the work thing. Back in July, as I was (as we freelancers like to say) between assignments, a friend recruited me to work for her in a full-time position. The job was in a small non-profit cultural instituion, in the development (fundraising) department. I was ambivalent but I took the job. Lousy pay but great benefits. It did not take me long to realize that the place was badly run. But okay, I came in, I wrote my grant proposals, I got paid. There were a couple of good people in my department. The job had its stressful periods and required more sustained mental engagement than I really wanted to give it, but I did. Because that's what you do. You do your job to the best of your abilities.

Over the six months that I've been there, the political situation and the atmosphere in general has become more and more unpleasant until it is now downright toxic. There are a lot of very real reasons and causes for the ills that beset this poor place, but that's doesn't excuse the powers that be from taking action to stop the ship from sinking.

Honestly, I've never worked anywhere where there is so much outright hostility and acrimony between individuals and departments. It's a conspiracy theorist's playground. None of this nastiness is directed at me personally, but a huge amount is directed at my friend, who runs my department. This week in particular, it seems the gloves have come off. No one is even making an effort to hide their animosity and malice. My buddies and I look at one another and shake our heads. I can't understand how anyone expects that a) we don't notice or b) we don't mind or c) we have any desire to take sides. So the last few days I have spent picking my way through a minefield, all the while trying to get out a proposal and a final report, and complete my goals and projections for the coming year.

I had a worse job. I had a hateful job that I kept for four years because I had to. I used to say I worked in hell. That place was depressing and demoralizing, but everyone felt that way. We were all in it together. This is different. I don't feel personally oppressed, as I did at the other place. But I feel as if any minute I'm going to get caught in the crossfire. The whole thing has been so surreal. I half expect to come back after Christmas and find that the whole building has collapsed under the weight of nastiness that's filling it. Just crushed to dust.

When you say you work at a museum, there's a certain cachet attached to it. Y'know, it sounds kind of classy. But the reality of it is, it's a half-assed operation run by a bunch of amateurs who are constantly sniping at each other, sapping whatever positive energy there is there.

So there you have it: the ideal vs. the reality. Kind of like my plan for this blog. Hey, what do you know! There's my bigger thought!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pre-holiday bug

I have been laid low all weekend by a nasty virus. Friday night was spent clutching my toilet bowl. Saturday I shuffled painfully from bedroom to kitchen to living room sofa and back to bedroom again. By mid-Saturday at least I could eat again. That is to say, it was staying put. But absolutely nothing was appetizing, except raspberry sorbet. Cool, sweet and thirst quenching, the perfect apres-sick food. Also works for a hangover, by the way. Flavor is optional. Today is marginally better but I'm still exhausted. This is the longest 24-hour bug I've ever had. Don't know if I'll go to work tomorrow. The christmas party is tomorrow evening though. I don't really care that much, so it won't be a tragedy if I miss it. Guess I'll see how I feel in the morning. Wonder how many sick days I have left.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why is it?

Why is it that I always put myself out for my friends but they never seem to want to reciprocate? Is it that everyone else is just so self-involved? Or am I just bad at picking friends? This leads me to the larger question: why are some people the ones who others do things for, and why are the rest of us the ones who do the things? My theory is, it's pheromones. But who knows. Maybe it's gravity.

I had dinner with a friend tonight. An old friend, in fact she's now the friend, of those who I still see, who I've been friends with the longest. We're pretty close. We've been through some stuff together. But I've come to realize that her comfort and convenience always comes first for her. So tonight, well...forget the details, but suffice it to say I'm pretty annoyed at her disregard of my situation. And this leads me to another larger thought. Maybe I should start a "why me" blog. And maybe it should be communal. A place where we could all come and complain and carry on about the things that really piss us off, but that we feel stupid or petty complaining about in other venues. I think it might be good. I think it could get very creative and very entertaining.

Yes, I'm going to have to think about this.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

God, I love online banking!

I do, I love it! I resisted for a while but I'm so glad I finally gave in. Just paid my Amex bill. Rather, I scheduled it for payment in two weeks. Now, as soon as the bills come, I schedule the payment and forget about it. I haven't been late with anything in months!

I gave up trying to balance my checking account a long time ago. When all I did was write checks it was easy. But now that I pay for stuff with my debit card all the time, and take cash out from the ATM, who can keep track of it all? I used to worry about it, but now if I want to know what my balance is, I just go online. I'm telling you, this is a wonderful thing.

And no, Bank of America did not pay me to say that.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This is where you find out how geeky I really am

I was reading this article in the paper today on the way home from work. It was about how this guy who was a master cryptographer during the Cold War is now working on analyzing the mountains of data gleaned from DNA sequencing. It went on to say how biology at the pure science level has become an information science. Now the people working on cutting-edge biology are physicists and mathematicians and the like. It was at this point that I got really excited. Why, you wonder? I'm neither a biologist nor an astrophysicist. In fact I'm not a scientist at all.

I discovered a while ago that one thing that really tickles my brain is when I notice how systems and processes in one realm have analogs in other realms. Examples: after watching countries in Eastern Europe form and break apart and reform after the fall of the Iron Curtain, it occurred to me that it was like plate tectonics. The rules that govern how the planet works also govern how the people on it work. And the same with space.

So I'm reading this and the writer in me is jumping up and down, yelling, "There's a story in here somewhere, I just know it!" Kind of like the little kid who saw the huge pile of horseshit and got all excited because she was sure there had to be a pony in there somewhere. There may in fact be no story at all in there, but it made the rest of my commute home very happy.

More on this subject as it oozes out.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I am SO there!

Have I mentioned how much I am enthralled with Mars? I have, right? So imagine my delight and excitement to read that it looks like there may be actual water on Mars! Actual liquid water that actually flows...well, from time to time, anyway. But water means life is possible. I'm not talking about indigenous Martian life, although that may be there as well. I'm talking about human life that's going to be there. I think it was highly likely anyway, but this just about seals the deal. I can be packed in, like, an hour! Sadly, realistically, I'm sure I won't get to go. By the time that mission gets off the ground, I'll be too old and of no possible use. But at least I hope I'm around to see it happen.

I'm convinced there is life out there somewhere. But who knows, maybe Earthlings will be the first to venture out, the first to colonize other planets. Again, that's probably not so. But maybe. Years ago, I read a great book by Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness. It was one of her Hugo or Nebula prize winners. In it, a representative of the planetary alliance (forget exactly what it was called) made a first visit to a new planet. This new planet had a highly advanced civilization but they had never ventured into space. They had never even built aircraft. Why not? Because there was no bird life on the planet. They had never seen creatures fly, so it never occurred to them to try it. So you never know.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Router issues

Hmmmm. Seems as though my wireless router has bit the dust. After trying all kinda things and making several tech support calls (2 to Verizon and 1 to Apple Care), I've given up on the darn thing and just plugged the ethernet cable into my Powerbook. Not that it really matters right now -- the computer is spending most of its time on the desk. At least I can get online.

Question now is, do I chuck the stupid router and get a new one? It's probably a rhetorical question since nobody fixes this stuff. Also my printer died. I only had it for about 3 years. My first printer lasted me for at least twice that, probably longer. I would still be using it except it's so old, nobody has the drivers for it any more. I hate how all computer stuff is so disposable.

New router, new printer. Not cause I want to, but because I need to. Ho ho ho. Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

R.I.P. Sweetie

I realize that that might be a little misleading. No, Sweetie did not get flushed away. I just thought it would be appropriate to post a photo of her in a typical pose. She loved to drink out of the toilet. So there she is, doing what she loved.

After ten years of being a Splendid Cat, Sweetie developed kidney problems, as older cats often do. Fortunately it was not a long, protracted decline. Within about a week of my noticing that she was not eating very much and was acting kind of sad, her kidneys were in near total failure. I brought her to the vet, suspecting it might be a kidney-related problem, having been through it several years ago with another cat. A quick exam, a couple of blood tests, and within an hour we knew that her prognosis was grim. Rather than drag it out and make her remaining days miserable with misguided attempts to prolong her life, I told the vet to put her to sleep. He agreed with my decision.

Her funeral, if you could call it that, was like something out of a Stephen King novel. After leaving with vet with Sweetie wrapped in a blanket and stowed in a carton, I took her to my ex's (and my former) house for burial in the family plot. Actually it's a patch of brambly earth behind the old stone garage. It was 8 PM by this point and completely dark. So there we were, by the stark light of a bare bulb, digging a grave in the Pet Sematary. Quite funny, actually. A good way to end a sad day.

Friday, November 17, 2006

A thought from the subway

I'm wondering today if people behave the way they do totally in response to others around them? Not just reacting to someone who annoys you at work or bumps into you on the street. I mean, do we calibrate our behavior to elicit certain responses from others? It's obvious we all do this sometimes. A woman will act silly or sultry or do what's necessary to attract the attention of a guy she's interested in. Or a person in a relationship will do things or say things to please his or her partner. I'm talking only about adults here, not kids. People free of the need or desire to get the grownups approval or to torment their siblings.

We like to think that we "are who we are" and that it comes from the inside. But how much really does? It'd be interesting to be able to observe people when they're alone. Be the proverbial fly on the wall. See if the girly girl belches out loud, or the surly guy watches weepy movies. Guess I'll just have to wonder.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Out From Under

There are some signs, itty bitty though they are, that Things might actually be getting better. In my life, not necessarily the world. And as I said, itty bitty. Itty witty bitty. But hey, I'll take 'em as I find 'em. To quote Richard Farina, an old hipster from the 60s, been down so long it looks like up to me.

I don't really believe in fate, but I do believe in the the law of averages. Of the cosmic pendulum. Of how nature abhors a...well, besides a vacuum, a too-muchness of any one thing. And so, if you wait long enough, and struggle mightily enough, a long stretch of crappy life can in fact come to an end. Of course to counter that I also believe that certain people are blessed with -- not luck exactly, although it presents that way to the outside world -- a capacity to attract good things to them. I'm convinced it's pheromones. Some people have it in spades, some of us are running on empty.

But even for those of us who were at the back of the line when they were giving it out, life doesn't have to turn out to be one long unrelenting load of shit falling on our heads. We just have to work a lot harder for the good stuff. So maybe that means we value it more, I don't know.

So what are the itty bitty signs? Not important, except to me. But the upshot is, I'm feeling more optimistic about things today. Even though mostly nothing is different, I am. No, I was not in danger of doing damage to myself. I was not even angling for a Prozac prescription. I was just oh-yeah railing impotently against The Injustice Of It All. Today, I just don't care so much. My god...I'm almost happy!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Feeling a little buggy

So I finally got to the end of the Week From Hell. Hysterical (and not in a funny way) day Friday right down to the wire -- the 4:00 PM deadline. My stuff was done on time but this was a multi-person project and some others were not prompt. But I couldn't enjoy my Friday evening because I had to run out and go directly to see a freelance client and work there for 3 hours to meet their deadline. This morning I had a class, then went back to the freelance client to finish up. About an hour into it, I start feeling a little...well...not great. I keep working but after another hour or so I had to call it quits. I was feeling really crappy. Really fatigued, headachey, not quite nauseous but definitely queasy.

I told my client I had to go home. Sweet guy that he is (and I mean that), he was very concerned. He offered to give me cab fare. It was a bit of a walk to my car but I think the air helped. By the time I got home I felt a little better but more tired. I lay down on the sofa, put on the TV and fell asleep for about 3 hours. Can't tell if I'm really ill or if it's just my body's delayed reaction to several weeks of stress and overwork.

Whatever, I'm not moving tomorrow. Hell, I'm barely moving now. Yup, I think it's back to the sofa for me!

Friday, November 10, 2006

I've got those Second Draft Rewrite Blues

Sigh. It's been over three months since I had the reading of my play. It was the first draft; the reading was purely for the purpose of helping point out things that need to be fixed. And believe me there are plenty. But happily (very VERY happily) it's structurally sound. The basic plot framework is in good shape. The story as a whole works. The characters are basically sound.

The actors gave me lots of great feedback. They even found things in the characters I didn't know was there. How cool is that! That's what I love about theater. It's alive, it really is. You create these (hopefully) fully-formed characters and set them loose in a world and there's no telling what they'll do. They can surprise you. Seriously! There are times when I've tried to make a character do something and they absolutely did not want to. They'd resist and resist and I'd finally have to give up. Often I feel like I'm just following them around, eavesdropping. But anyway...

I've got my first draft. I've got lots and lots of notes. And I haven't been able to get started. Part of it has just been me digesting it. Letting it percolate. But then of course there's the whole thing of how overwhelming and daunting it is when I think about how much work there is to do. It took me five years to wrestle this thing to the page the first time around! I don't think it will take me nearly that long for this go-round. But even so, I look at it and I kind of, well, deflate. I know once I get started, how I look at it will change. (see my previous post about writing)

But then there's this goddam working for a living thing! When o when will the government realize it needs to subsidize its artists? Plenty of youse know exactly what I'm talking about. But in the meanwhile, we are forced to put our primary purpose on the back burner and spend all those precious hours at some other labor. And what is the result? The result it....

I've got those Second Draft Rewrite Blues!!!!!!!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Give me chocolate!!!!!

Today was a major chocolate day. Unfortunately, I didn't have any. The needle on my stress-o-meter was way, WAY off the scale. This whole week in fact. And last week. Difficult deadlines made even worse by the geometric growth of the amount of work needed to be completed by then. Then being tomorrow (Friday). And after tomorrow, there's another one next Wednesday. And in between there's a deadline on Sunday for a freelance project I managed to sandwich in there.

I did finally get my chocolate -- on my way home from the bus at 9:30, I stopped at the 7-11 and got a bar of dark 60% cocoa. But by that time I had kind of decompressed. It was good of course but not as necessary as it had been hours earlier. I think I'll take the rest to work with me tomorrow so I'll be equipped to handle anything.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Post-Election Pronouncement

Yessirreee, I'm feelin' pretty good about this election. When's the last time I've been able to say that? Not for quite some time, I can tell you! And on top of that, Rumsfeld's departure. It's good to be on the winning side once in a while. But it's not just the winning of course. It's that it offers the possibility of undoing some of the damage that's been done to the country and many other parts of the world in the past six years.

I'm not going to get into details or policy or anything like that. I just wanted to say that for the first time in a long time, I feel not quite so in peril. That's a very good thing.

Monday, November 06, 2006

My Pre-Election Pronouncement

First of all, I have to say THANK GOD FOR CALLER I.D. It has protected me from a non-stop barrage of last-minute (or in this case, last-week) electioneering and pleas and harrangues to vote for this guy or that guy. I absolutely intend to vote tomorrow. I'm adamant about voting. But I already know who I'm voting for and these folks aren't going to change my mind.

This is the first election in a long time that I feel hopeful about. I'm resisting the hype that says the Republicans are going down hard. I don't want to get my hopes up. But it's a major moment for sure. Their stranglehold on the government is about to loosen up. And the slow erosion of the checks and balances that has historically held those in power accountable will hopefully be stopped.

But that isn't what this is about either. I've been thinking recently, in light of the New Jersey State Supreme Court's decision about equal family rights for same-sex couples, that there are two kinds of legislation. The first is the kind that comes from visionary leaders who change the course of social interactions. The creation of Social Security. The TVA. The WPA. Civil rights laws. These were innovations. They induced changes that would not have happened on their own.

The other kind of legislation is the catch-up kind. The kind that simply codifies behavior and actions that have already been going on. Things that were initiated at the grass roots level by individuals agitating for change. That's what the whole same-sex marriage thing is. It's going to happen. It's a natural force like gravity or plate tectonics. And the best thing the government can do is fold it into the legal system as soon as possible. I know that won't happen. But (and here's where we get to my pronouncement) I'm telling you that within 10 years or so, it's going to be the rule rather than the exception.

And within 20 years, no one will be using gasoline in their cars any more. But that's a whole 'nother thing.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Shop till you drop. Or not.

This is the Grand Gateway Mall, one of five malls at this intersection.

Okay, here's the deal about buying stuff in China. I know that everything we have here is made there. So naturally we would all think that everything must be really cheap there. Not so! The same rules that apply here apply there. With a few variations.

Here's a for-instance. Say you want a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans. Yeah, if you go to the factory outlets, you can get some insane deals. First problem is, it's a big freakin' country! There's factories in lots of places! Second problem is, which factory? The garment factories are contractors. The guys who ran up that last batch of Lauren jeans are now working on North Face parkas or Sears flannel shirts. And they don't put signs out front saying, "Now appearing...Ralph Lauren jeans!". So you have to know a guy. Now if you want socks, that's a no-brainer. Just go to Datong (aka "Sock City"). There's also a Tie City. But really, how many ties and socks can you own?

The same applies to leather goods, shoes, whatever. I was told by he who knows that if I wanted to go up north to like Harbin where the furriers are I could get a full-length mink or sable coat for, like, $300. But I was absolutely nowhere near Harbin, which is in Manchuria, which borders Russia. Also, considering the time of year and the weather, it would have looked rather odd for me to be sporting such a garment. But you get my point.'re looking for jeans. You go to the mall. You go to their version of The Gap or Old Navy or The Limited or Abercrombie & Fitch. Yes the prices are a little lower, but only by about 20-30%, which if you wait for a sale you can get here.

So now we come to the knockoff goods. The fake Fendi bags and the fake Vacheron Constantin watches. Things in this department are not what you'd expect either. There was this big enormous marketplace, kind of like a permanent street fair, where all the vendors of pseudo goods sold their stuff. It got closed down recently. Partly because of pressure from the real manufacturers, but mostly, I think, because the property just became too valuable to house a bunch of crappy little one-story stops. It all got torn down to make way for (what else?) a giant multi-use office tower/upscale shopping mall/5-star hotel/luxury condo units. But I digress.

Now in order to get the really high-quality knockoffs, you gotta know a guy. Fortunately, we did. The guy met us at his cousin's or his aunt's boutique. We went into the back, out the door, up the stairs into a private little showroom. I wanted a watch. No particular watch, just a nice-looking watch. I found one, an Omega Constellation. Not the real thing of course, but a nice looking watch. I thought I also might like a new wallet since mine is falling apart. I ended up with a "Gucci" wallet. Very nice but now that I have it home I don't like it. It doesn't work right for me. Same with the "Fendi" purse. It's too small and everything gets all jumbled up inside. So now what do I do? I can't sell them on eBay as genuine because they're not. I can't very well list them as phonies either. So I guess I'll just wait until somebody I know needs a gift. But at least I got a watch I like. Cost: about $30.

What else did I buy? Some truly kickass green tea. I got it at the tea market in Shanghai where Westerners rarely go. I also got a clever little tea maker. Total cost of tea and pot: about $12.

At a craft market I bought a very pretty shawl/scarf. Cost: about $4. And also a colorful wall-hangy thing. Another $4.

That's it, the extent of my purchases in the land of We Make Everything Cheaper.

Small digression

I just decided today that I hate my job. No, that's not really accurate. I don't hate the job itself, I just hate that it is keeping me from doing what I really need to be doing. And it's often very stressful and it drains me of all my brain juice. Sometimes by 3:00 it's gone. By the time I get home, I can't do anything creative. I can't think deep thoughts or write clever writings. I'm tired and downtrodden. At least I feel like I am. Something must be done.

But at least I have good health insurance.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More from China

This looks more like what everyone thinks China is supposed to look like, right? This is a party boat on I forget the name of the lake in the resort city of Hangzhou, about a 2-hour train ride from Shanghai. Compared to the grit and the hustle of Shanghai, this place was positively laid back and funky. Kind of felt like a Florida resort town but with no theme parks. And way less cheesy. Although the cheese factor was in evidence from time to time. But the lake is ringed by a beautiful public park with footpaths and oodles of restaurants and cafes. Our favorite one was called La Luna. Great place to sit in the evening and people watch. There were also dancing fountains (like those ones in Las Vegas, only in colors) and a light show across the lake. Very touristy, but still charming. of the things Shanghai lacked for me. Keep in mind that this is a very cosmopolitan city of upteen gazillion people. As a percentage of total population, Westerners were not that numerous but neither were they a rarity. There are plenty of American and European expats living and working there, plus a complement of travelers. Absolutely no feeling out of place. Just another body amidst masses of other bodies. I did go to a couple of areas where round-eyes congregate in the evenings, but as I was with someone who lives there, mostly I got the insider's view. Which was very cool. And since my companion is also American, I got the best of both views.

Food...some was very good, some was rather mediocre. I ate Chinese, I also ate Thai, Italian and Brazilian barbecue. (Told you it was an international city.) Had some crappy Chinese buffet breakfasts at my hotel, and had some decent American breakfasts at various cafes around town. Big surprise: I did not have a bad cup of coffee anywhere in China! No kiddin'! And forget Starbucks (which like everywhere else is on every other corner). I hate Starbucks coffee in any country. But at other cafes, at plain little restaurants, all the coffee was decent or better. They just LUV coffee! I also drank some superb tea (which I brought home). But I can't tell you how thrilled I was to hang out with a good cuppa Joe.

Next installment: What's good to buy. Where's good to drink. What's fun to do.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm back...didja miss me?

Yes, back from the mystic East. NOT! Shanghai is a big, noisy, dirty city in a big hurry. And this is coming from a New Yorker! I'm still sorting and analyzing my impressions. But for starters, Shanghai is not a very charming city. In fact, it really has no personality at all. Not surprising considering it's in the process of reinventing itself. Shedding its skin. Molting. Half the city is under construction and the other half will be soon. In another 5-8 years there will be precious little left that's more than about 20 years old.

This is a view from a very chi-chi bar on the roof of some building or other along the Bund, which is kind of like 5th Avenue if it were along a river. This bar had sand on the floor and beach lounge chairs out. This city lights up like Vegas at night. It was kind of like Blade Runner on steroids. Except it wasn't raining.

Full of contradictions and weird juxtapositions. More later.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Off to China tomorrow

Yessss! Finally! I have no preconceptions. Of course I have been told plenty. I sort of know what to expect. But (and this is weird coming from someone who's spent her entire adult life in and around New York City), I think I'll probably be overwhelmed by the immensity of it. A "small" Chinese city has several million people! That's a whole different scale than we're used to. And I think I'll also find it strange to be in such a homogeneous place. I'm so used to the Big Melting Pot, I think it would be strange to be in a place where nearly everyone is of the same ethnicity. Well, in just about 30 hours, I'll be able to see for myself. (Don't forget the passport!)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Is there a point to this?

Memo to self: forget the thought that anyone else might ever take a look at this. Just write whatever the fuck you want. But then...why bother? I write all day long. Who needs another place to put shit down? I can read my own writing all week long. I don't need the validation. I thought the point of this was to share. Why bother if no one's going to take a look?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

One week til China

A week from now I'll be in the air, on my way to Shanghai. What do I need before I go? A new larger memory card for my camera. Lots of pictures coming. I'm not going to buy anything else before I go, since I'm going to the land of cheap everything. Clothes, shoes, leather, whatever...I'll get it there. That's not why I'm going, but what the hell! Europe's so damn expensive now. At least I'll get the most for my hard-earned dollars.

We'll be taking the maglev from the airport to wherever it goes in the city. Fortunately I'll be with someone who lives there and speaks the language. I don't know one word of Mandarin! Should be an interesting experience, being in a place where I don't understand anything. I've been told that lots of street signs and directional signs are also in English. And there will be plenty of fractured English to split my sides over. I'm sure I'll find a few new entries for

I've been studying Italian since the summer, but hardly anybody in China speaks Italian. So I can try it out and make lots of mistakes and no one will know the difference! Hey, maybe just for kicks, I'll tell everyone I'm Italian. What do they know?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Wish I Was There

This is what I would like to see out my window. Mars, taken by one of the rovers. I love this picture. I love the wide-open emptiness and desolation. I would love to be standing in the middle of that, totally alone. Don't get me wrong, I like people. I like Earth. I like living and working in a big city. But I would love to know what it feels like to be that alone. It must be amazing.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Writing for me is like picking at a scab

Those of you who write -- I mean seriously write, whether it's long fiction, stories, dramatic works, whatever -- understand the whole notion of "process". However, it's one thing to know the word and that it somehow applies to what you's a whole 'nother thing to understand how YOUR PROCESS works. The writing that matters to me (as opposed to the writing that I get paid for), I've been doing it for about ten years. And I only just recently figured out my process.

It's different for everyone. It is! Mine, I've discovered, has the essence of organic lifeforms. Tiny ones, generally. Here's what I mean. As much as I try and work in a linear fashion, I find that my writing emerges in patches and grows outward in all directions. Kind of like a mold or a bacteria growth in a petri dish. Charming, huh? It gets more so.

I recently suffered through a block of sorts. Actually it was more like an unsolvable problem. But I kept picking at it and picking at it (kind of like a scab). Eventually I scraped away a tiny opening. Once I had that, I was able to get in and make the opening bigger and bigger. I picked off the scab, solved the problem and continued writing. But not only did I solve the problem with the plot, I also really learned how my PROCESS works, so I can consciously use it again.

I've known for a couple of years that, when I would run into trouble, eventually it would work out. But I didn't really understand how. Now I do. And you can too. Just pay close attention. It might take time. A long time. But it will come.

Floating in the Lagoon

This is the Lagoon Nebula? Isn't is gorgeous? Imagine living in a place that looks like that. I do, often. I love space. I've got this on my desktop right now. I stare at it and feel myself floating in it. How's that for serene?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spacing out...again

Just when I thought I'd gotten over the Pluto thing, there's this article about the general weirdness that astronomers are discovering in the Kuiper Belt. (Anyone know how that's pronounced?) Seems it's chock full of bodies that have no explanation for their whys and wherefores. They've divided them all into three categories: classical bodies, random bodies and I can't remember the third one. Some have really weird eliptical orbits. Some come in pairs, like Xena and Gabrielle. Yes, that's the name they actually gave to two of them. Who says scientists don't have a sense of humor. So anyway, it looks like things are looking up for li'l Pluto...seems it's actually living in the cool, funky neighborhood, where the neat stuff happens.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Absolutely NOT PC

Yes, it's September 11th. And no, I did not spend the day reflecting. In fact, I wish everyone else would stop with the reflecting and move on. Yes, it was a shock. And it was terrible. But it's five years ago. A loved one dies, we mourn. And we move on. So why are we still carrying on over the WTC victims? Were those people's lives any more valuable or important than any others? Were their losses more devastating to their loved ones than people who died on the 10th of September? Or the 12th? Or the next week, or the week before?

I've been hearing some people saying that 9/11 was the bloodiest day in American history. Wrong! And wrong by such a large margin, it's ridiculous! On September 17, 1862, at the Battle of Antietam, 23,000 Americans died in one day. How's that for something to reflect on?

This country sometimes reminds me of a self-involved adolescent -- a very powerful and sometimes dangerous one. But our collective obsession with the WTC attacks has come to sound to me like just so much whining. "Look! Look what happened to me! It's the end of the world! It's the worst thing that's ever happened anywhere, ever! Look!"

Just fucking grow up already, would you! The worst, huh? Look at Dresden. Look at Hiroshiima. Look at Rwanda and Darfur, for god's sake. Want to learn from 9/11? Here's the lesson. Shit happens, often when you least expect it. Accept it, deal with it and move on.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

If it can happen to Pluto...

I've been thinking about what's happened to Pluto -- how it's been demoted from Planet to Dwarf Planet. And not only that, but it even has to share that nomenclature with a bunch of other rocks out there. Now I know that Pluto doesn't really care one way or the other, but you know, it could! One minute it's out there, orbiting around, thinking everything's fine, just the way it always is. It knows its place in the solar system. And then BAM! It gets the rug pulled out from under it (metaphorically speaking of course -- there's no over or under in space). Everything it knew about itself and its world has changed. It's no longer part of the family. Cut out of the will. Sent to wander with a bunch of crappy little hunks of ice and rock, way out in the wilderness.

And I figured, if it could happen to Pluto, why not to me? Or to you? It could, you know. The world is a perilous, mercurial place. When you step outside your door, you never know what might happen. You think you know who you are and where you belong but really...everything could change in a heartbeat. Your dog could die. Your identity could be stolen. You could get fired. You could lose your car keys. Shit happens, in ways that we can't anticipate. Just be alert, that's all I'm saying. Be prepared to take a tumble. Because you never know.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Words Fail Me...or is it me who fails the words?

Why is it, I wonder, that so many of us think that the written word holds more power or importance than the spoken one? Why otherwise would so many people be so interested in reading the blogs of strangers who, were they to encounter them on the street, wouldn't be the slightest bit interested in hearing what they had to say? We'd probably ask them politely to shut up. I dunno, maybe that's just my urban crankiness coming out.

But back to my original thought. Instead of writing, can you imagine would-be bloggers all holding forth on a street corner? They have that in London, don't they? Speakers' Corner. It predates the blog by, oh, centuries. Anybody with anything to say could just drag their little soapbox to the park there, hop up and share their thoughts with the passersby. I wonder how many actually stop and listen. So now we've got the digital equivalent. But there's a big difference between reading something and hearing it spoken out loud. There's a wonderful juiciness to spoken language that infuses it with more meaning and texture than the actual words carry. There's slang that looks foolish on the page (or the screen) that takes on a whole personality when you hear it. Ever gone to a spoken word theater performance? Then you know what I mean.

But then again, I'm a word geek. I write for a living. I think words are unbelievably cool. I cringe when they're mistreated. Which, sad to say, is very, very often. And every time a word is mistreated, somewhere in the universe...absolutely nothing happens

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Starting small...I mean really petty

Tough day in the New York City subways. And wouldn't you know it, I got the car on the downtown A train with the faulty air conditioning. Normally these days that's not a problem, I'm glad to say. Even if I'm shoulder to shoulder (to shoulder) with my fellow commuters, there's usually enough coolth to go around.

But here's what's really pissing me off -- since when did it get to be okay to bring baby strollers on the rush hour! First of all I don't understand where they're taking these babies. Clearly the (usually) women pushing the strollers don't appear to be on their way to work. So why can't they just wait an hour or so and make it a little easier for us working folks to get where we're going! How freakin' important could it be?

Thing is, they never used to let you do that. You'd have to take the baby out and fold up the stroller and carry the baby and the strolleronto the train. Takes up less room. More considerate to one's fellow passengers. But no longer.

Clearly not very important in the cosmic scheme of things. But then very little actually is. For me, today, this was worth a tiny little rant.