Saturday, January 31, 2004

"I don't have a problem with gay people, Jewish people, black people, or green people"

After a few days of feeling like I was never going to find my own kind here, I finally got dressed in my eighteen layers of silk longjohns, heavy socks, earmuffs, Dad's wool coat, the red fleece top, the grey hat, and so on. Seriously, for those of you who have never lived in a snowy clime, I have one critical piece of advice:

Pee before you get dressed to go outside.

Thus padded and thickened, I went for a little walk down Nine Mile Road. Detroit's northern suburbs, unlike San Francisco, are built on a perfectly logical round grid. Eight Mile Road, which of course was made famous by Eminem, is the ring that marks the border between Detroit and the 'burbs. It is eight miles from the center of the city, hence the name.

Incidentally, Eminem's mother was recently carjacked at a gas station. But I digress.

So there's Eight Mile, and then Nine Mile, and so on out to at least 23 Mile Road (according to my folks). Some of the mile roads also have other names. Long Lake, Square Lake, Walled Lake. Five Mile is also known as Fenkell, Eight Mile as Baseline. Fifteen Mile, where I went to high school, is also known as Maple. Sixteen Mile has at least three names, depending on where you are--it's a little like what the Japanese did to Tokyo after the war, when they changed all the street names to confuse invaders (I will reserve comment about horses and barn doors.) Then there are spokes radiating out--Woodward, Livernois, Coolidge, Greenfield, Southfield.

I am having to relearn all of this, and some of it is completely new to me. I grew up downtown, and didn't need to know the fine points of northern navigation. I knew how to get to Pontiac for teen night at Isis, where I admired the Goths but couldn't replicate the makeup. I knew how to get to school. Ferndale and Royal Oak were easy to find off Woodward, which runs like an arrow straight to the heart of Detroit. Rings and spokes: it's a bit like Burning Man. I suppose I could go farther with that, and assign clock positions to the spoke roads, just to make it easier for myself.

Anyway, I was walking along Nine Mile, which features a few big apartment complexes, a television station, and a shitload of snow, and I got yelled at by some yahoos in a big fancy new black pickup. I'm completely puzzled by what they saw. I mean, dad's overcoat. I looked about as female, from thirty yards, as a Christmas tree. Maybe because my hair was down. I dunno. But I've lived in a predominantly gay city for so long that to have a guy honk and yell "how much?" at me was completely alien.

And infuriating. It didn't help that my feet hurt, a situation created by the fact that I'd grabbed the wrong boots on the way out, and was in fact wearing our friend Tim's. With the hard plastic orthotics for his flat feet. So I stamped back to the apartment in a huff, wreathed in ice crystals, and demanded the keys to the car so I could drive to a gay neighborhood where I would feel at home.

The fact that I found such a thing was miraculous. One change Detroit has made for the better since I was a kid is that it's a lot more open. There's a women's bookstore now with an actual plate glass window, instead of vandalism-proof cinderblock. You don't have to drive way the hell out, or know a password, to visit a gay bar. And the batch of boisterous gay African-American kids that came tumbling into Java Hutt in Ferndale tonight weren't making any secret of what they were.

And when the blond, white, straight manager 86'ed them, he was very careful to tell them it wasn't because they were gay, oh no. I was torn. Sure they were loud. Maybe they were bothering other patrons, although it looked to me like people were more amused than anything else. But they were making me feel a little less homesick. And when he made the statement that opens this entry, I was incensed by his patronizing tone.

It's like, white, straight, and Christian are the default position. And like those of us who are anything different should be grateful to be tolerated. When I was growing up, Detroit was 60/40 black/white, which rather makes African-American the default around here. And the last census told us that soon enough, "white" will be the minority in this country.

I can't wait, personally.

progress report

1. It is astoundingly dry here, between the oxygen machines, the air purifier, the central heat, and the fact that it's winter. I'm starting to wish I had a CamelBak because I can't seem to get enough water down.

2. Lately the chicken tenders from Kroger have had rather a lot of pepper on them. Mom has threatened to sic me on the chicken tenders people. I am like a blunt instrument.

3. I know who the Salem Stalker is, but why has Marlena apparently gone bad?

4. Television is every bit as stupid as I remember it being.

5. Scottland, PA is a very funny film, especially once you realize that it's Macbeth set in a fast-food joint.

6. I have been out of the apartment once since I got here Tuesday night. It's now Saturday morning.

7. Dad is up to the Hittites.

8. I move any of my mother's stacks at my own peril.

9. I finally thought to go on Tribe and do a search for interesting people in this zip code, and almost all of the 144 people who came up are apparently Goths or Goth-curious. Quite a few are also interested in Chaos Magick. Which makes me suspect that had I stayed in Detroit, I would have headed in those directions as well, simply to preserve my sanity.

10. If you know me, write to me! I'm starting to feel like an ingrown hair.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

have they moved Burlington?

My mother and I have eaten too much chocolate (the crisper drawer in the refrigerator is stuffed to the brim, no lie) and we are getting loopy in the living room. I'm on her computer checking my web mail every three or four minutes for News From Home, and she's on my computer playing Spider Solitaire. I'd left a game open and gotten up to do something, she saw it and sat down, and we've been here like this for. oh, I dunno, four or five hours now. It's a good thing I'm not compulsive, she says.

I don't know where to start. There's my last night in SF, how beautiful and sad and intense it was; being with my friends in the small, Chinese-red Rite Spot Cafe listening to Mark Growden push sex out through his accordion and drinking sparkling water because I wanted to stay sharp, stay present, stay awake as long as I could. One by one as my friends left they would motion me to follow them outside and I would snag my coat and go out to receive things: spools of yarn one friend's departing roommate had left in a closet; a lunch bag with a candy bar, a black votive candle, and a bar of lemon verbena soap; my first Growden CD.

One unexpected and welcome gift was ArchitectX's, and it was a list of things for me to remember while I was gone. I won't share it all, other than the line "I cannot fail." I cried for the third time that day, and he gave me his handkerchief. How many men his age actually carry two cloth handkerchiefs? I went back inside and Growden was singing "Fuck Boy" to Snufkina, who I thought was turning a little red where her collar rode low on her back; she was wearing her furry hat with the ears and he was growling "kitty ears" at her between verses. She and Spark were giggling together and I was happy, sitting behind them, watching the candles burn down. And occasionally snaking forward to filch one of the foil-wrapped chocolate Hanukkah coins Spark had laid out on the table between them.

I've lived in San Francisco for almost thirteen years now, but it has never felt as much like home as it did at that moment.

The flight to Detroit occurred much the same way all my trips do, in a state of suspended lunacy. I usually stay up all night before I fly, packing. This time I was packed in advance, so instead I wrote that weird long entry about light and skin flakes. Then I repacked, just for what the hell, and took a cab through the rain and darkness to the BART station. By the time I got through the supervised strip-tease they call Security (I was giggling madly as the man next to me and I put our belts back on together) I was totally punchy and feeling no pain.

Coming down to O'Hare, I suddenly had an idea of what it must feel like to be native to California, or some other temperate clime. Looking at the neat white squares and circles and oblongs, I couldn't figure out what I was seeing. Remember that I generally visit my folks in the summer or fall; I haven't seen so much snow in at least four years. Longer. Holy Toledo, I thought--and please don't ask why I've been cursing like the Boy Wonder lately, I'm not sure either--that's snow! And those black sticking-up things, those are trees! Wow!

Being here is like living outside of time. All day I've sat in a heavily heated apartment. Everywhere I look there's a box with a sleeping cat in it. At 5:30 this morning I woke up to my father lighting a cigarette in the dining nook (can't smoke in the bedroom, where all the oxygen machines and tanks lurk) and we sat looking out at the snow, talking about the Sumerians and how to make a rubber stamp out of an eraser. Now my mother and I sit up late and crack each other up. The smallest cat moves from lap to lap, complaining because we squirm around too much.

I have with me some of the things I was given--the soap, the CD, a jar of homemade body scrub. The candy bar is of course a memory. And things I was lent--a handkerchief, a book on Kabbalah (yes, interested party, I did end up bringing one of your books with me.) And I think of how good it is to have friends that are family.

You may be a moron, Mom and I joke to each other as I read her the instructions for printing out a coupon from a site touting a new kind of cigarette ("Make sure your printer is on. Make sure there is paper in your printer,") but we will still sell you our cigarettes. I can't explain why this is funny, except that we still laugh about an incident where I essentially made Mom stick a York peppermint patty up her nose the wrong way on an airplane about fifteen years ago. It absolutely does not translate. It is the language she and I have had since I was small enough to ride in a Snugli and puke quietly down her back in the Petites department at Marshall Field's. Thirty-some years of my dad watching indulgently as we gasp for air and try to psych the other one out into laughing again.

It's also good to have family who are friends. I'm glad I got old enough to appreciate that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

all things have the same shapes, or, bring on the deep woo-woo

I recognize that this is kind of gross, but I have a big flake of dried skin sitting on my desk from where I peeled it off my heel earlier this evening, before I went out. It's about the size of a small tooth, if the tooth were thin and flat. I love my clogs, but they rub against my heels in this odd way and leave callouses. Go ahead, tell me that you've never picked at your callouses, or cuticles, or scabs. Chewed a bit of your own skin with curiosity, or tasted your own blood.

I'm waiting. Speak up.

It's really no different from having an actual tooth, or little bleached bird skull, or the reconstructed skeleton of some small animal. No different from having a preserved bit of fur. A couple of years ago, I liked a boy so much that I gave him my cat jaw on the second date. Not as much of a non sequitir as it sounds; he collected bones and made art from them. Except of course that this bit of skin is on my desk, and not part of a diorama depicting, oh, the lives of early Miwok hunter-gatherers. Which reminds me of another story, with sex in it, that I will save for another time.

God bless editors, can I just say that? I may be a disgrace to my kind, but I'll say it: I love editors. But I'm taking a while here because it has been an incredibly long and dense day, and if I just go straight into it, I might lose something.

The first thing that strikes me is how quickly things die when pulled away from our bodies. I know; the outer layer of skin is essentially dead while it's on the body. And all those keratinous structures upon which we lavish so much money, time, and fetishization--I speak of course of nails and hair--all dead. I always find it amusing when a shampoo ad says that the product will make your hair "full of life," when in fact the only part of your hair that's alive is still percolating under your scalp.

But then you cut the hair, or peel away the skin. You cut off the nail. And it finally looks dead, alien. Separate. You can observe it as being different from you, part of some other system, perhaps. The artifact or end product of some other process than human life.

So the second thing is how much my shed skin looks like a similar-sized piece of mica. Obviously it's not reflective like that fine, smooth surface, but the color and layering are similar. And the translucence. Another thing the skin must be away from the body for us to understand: light passes through us. Tattooed people know this, those of us with ink sitting a few layers down. We'd be wasting our time, money, and endorphins if our skin didn't let that color show.

We are porous to light. There is something in this idea that comforts me, even as I curse twelve--no, almost thirteen--years in Northern California that makes such a statement come so easily off my cynical Midwestern tongue.

We are porous to light. Light comes in, and sometimes goes out as well. Too easy to forget. I feel more and more exposed, like I'm being peeled, like the light outside is seeking its counterpart inside. It's not bad, it's not even entirely scary. It is huge, though, and I sometimes feel like too weak a vessel to contain the feeling. Even before this transition began, I would occasionally have flashes where I saw the world as a vast multicellular organism, each cell with an animal in it, or a plant, or people sitting at the dinner table. Next to and under and surrounded by other cells, all just the same, all with the same weight, all with the same importance, the same value. It is an image that comes more easily these days, and I feel as much as see it.

A piece of skin, a pane of mica, the striations in the cliffs that run along the roads of much of the American West, the sign of huge masses of stone rubbing uneasily against each other, jostled by the energy of a living earth. Photos from the Spirit show us that Mars is littered with rocks (big surprise); and I wonder, when they drill for core samples, whether what they get will be striped, proof of more layers. Proof that everything is layered.

The laminar structure of this hunk of abandoned self tells me that certain natural patterns reflect others. Down in Pescadero over Christmas, for example, I stood on the beach and realized that the rain- and ocean-groomed sand looked like the scales of a snake. Glittering black sand formed a net over the lighter sand in a pattern of diamonds, and those diamonds fit together into larger diamonds. I stood with my back to the ocean (respectfully!) and admired the massive shining snakeskin, broken here and there with rocks and hanks of seaweed and those ubiquitous ragged blue chunks of styrofoam. It was like being in grade school again, and being shown how the nautilus is reflected in the Golden Mean . Which I am just now learning is a useful way of calculating the rate of growth of living things. Hmmm. Snake scales in the sand for me, fractals for Snufkina (who is looking for a tattoo artist who can handle that), bones arranged to look like other things by my friend the sculptor, who looked askance at the cat jaw in its tiny Ziploc bag, a bone much smaller than anything he used.

One of the best things Robert Heinlein ever did for us--and I am not counting some of the later novels, which were just embarrassing--was write a short story about a man who invents a machine that can measure how long a person will live. The story itself is nothing special in terms of character development or language; it's workmanlike on those counts. But the really cool part is his depiction of a human lifetime being like, well, a worm. Long and skinny. At any given time, we are only seeing a cross section, but the whole lifetime is still present. I wouldn't have used a worm myself, but then I didn't write the story. I would go Heinlein one further (he's dead and can't stop me) and note that the worm isn't really discrete.

Think about this. When did you really begin to exist? When the egg welcomed the sperm? What about those two components? They were in your parents when they were born, albeit tiny and undeveloped. Isn't that amazing? We have, each of us, existed in some form or another for billions of years. Also, we have all the stuff to manifest every stage of our development. We still have the DNA to make fins. And gills. And tails! Scientists know this because occasionally those particular switches get hit, and the townsfolk recoil. I am still disappointed, myself, that I did not get a tail like a monkey's, but I soldier on.

The specifics change but the basic nature is the same.

The place I'm going with this has to do with my idea about death. For several years now, I've thought that we don't really die all the way. Especially if we've produced bambini, of course, that's obvious. But even if we haven't. A lifetime of rubbing up against other people's lives, leaving stuff there, stuff that's helped, stuff that's hindered. And what happens to that part of us that is energy? When my grandmother died a few years ago, suddenly I noticed that my cooking improved markedly, and I had this weird compulsion to start knitting; I was convinced she had taken up residence. My mother still talks to her father, who died when I was eight. Marjorie lives on in my work, even though she passed away my first year of college. I know she is resident in the hearts of her students, as well as the people with whom she acted, or sang, or made puppets. The law of conservation of energy tells me that we must go somewhere.

I've been telling myself this, rather glibly, for a while. And now the theory is coming up against the practice. My father has been alive in some way for thousands of years; he will continue to be alive in another form, albeit a different one, after his body ceases to function. Maybe I will be able to talk with him the way my mother talks to her father, although I expect his visits will be announced by the strains of Bob Seger and not "Tsingano Vizen." Perhaps he will visit my dreams and we will sit in the dining room at midnight with the lights off, eating cereal together. My father's function in the greater organism may change, but his significance, his value, his impact, will not.

Whether this knowledge will make things any easier remains to be seen. I sort of doubt it. I imagine, not having been through this before, that it's still going to be pretty awful right around the actual shedding the mortal coil part of the operation. I take tremendous comfort from the knowledge that he feels pretty good about the life he's led, that he's pleased with the work he performed, and that he loves and is proud of me, even when I doubt whether I've contributed anything of value to the world. Especially then. I'm also glad that he has gone ahead and retired--he emailed the other day that he's been reading a lot of history lately, and enjoying it; he's letting Arthur Koestler convince him that we actually descended from some fearsome Central Asian nomads and not those goat-herding Middle Eastern ones. I look forward to being home and talking to him about that.

I'm scared, yes, and sad. I've been crying a lot lately. But we have some time. Weeks or months or years in these forms. Eternity in the other. The small shapes of individual lives mirror the larger shapes those lives add up to, which in turn...

Sunday, January 25, 2004


caveat emptor: this one gets pretty raw at the end

Feeling pretty fragile today. Actually managed to get eight hours of sleep, albeit starting at 4 am; but that doesn't seem to be taking the edge off. Heaven knows how I would feel if I'd only gotten six or less, like much of last week. Might also have something to do with the fact that all I've had to eat so far today is the world's oldest Dove bar (showing bloom on every surface, a couple of millimeters thick: I should have demanded my 69 cents back) and a deviled egg from the kind people at the Van Ness Food Company. I am boiling water now. Hopefully some noodles will stabilize me before I head back out to see yet another play about the Holocaust, oh joy.

As long as I've been in motion, I haven't really had time to think much about why exactly I'm going home. I mean, I talk to people about it, but I'm so focused on remaining calm that I don't necessarily totally engage with what I'm talking about. I try to stay calm because I'm trying to keep people from showering me with too much sympathy. How can I explain this better? From the people I'm close to, the concern is totally welcome. From people I don't know as well--or maybe more accurately who I don't really care for one way or another--the sounds of sympathy are too high-pitched for my heart. There's someone in particular I'm thinking of, a woman from the dojo, who I've actively avoided since New Year's. I know if I tell her what's going on, she'll flood me. While I'm sure she's sincere, I just don't want to... reveal any emotion... to her.

I am not explaining this well. Suffice it to say that my patience is very thin right now, and particularly today I feel like I need to focus all my energy on getting ready to leave, getting packed, staying centered. Last night I went out with Almeida, and that was perfect; she was totally the right person for me to see. She has a family situation that has been a source of much sadness and anxiety for a few years, and we talked about ways to resolve it, and being able to do that actually made me feel a lot better. I remember the original event, and how hopeless reconciliation seemed at the time. Now there are signs that things might be fixable, and I'm pushing her to think about that. I've always found the line where there's life there's hope a bit trite, but last night it started making sense.

Often things that seem irreparable aren't, but we need the time to see that.

I'm also sad because my romantic universe is off-kilter; someone I'd hoped to see before I left is not apparently available this weekend, and I'm torturing myself with the possibility that it's because he is too busy going on dates with other people, sexy well-dressed people who are not currently all teary and needy and hair-trigger and breaking out around their hairlines. The dates with other people thing is not a problem; the I don't get to see him part is. So I'm on myself for having let my perception that we were getting closer get the best of me, and I'm wrestling my shadow again, and I so do not have time for this. As I write I realize I feel like I'm regressing; I just need to be held, a voice is whimpering, and instead I get to go see my second play of the weekend about the freaking Shoah. Alone. There's a strong chance E will be there, and I'm not ready for that, and then I come back to my studio and try to finish packing, and write notes for my article, and enter receipts into Quicken, when what I really want is a little basic affection, and not to sleep alone tonight, when I am about to face a month or more on my parents' couch.

Sometimes this polyamory thing I am trying to learn from my friends makes total sense, and works well within the structure of my life as it currently stands. And sometimes, like this moment, I so wish there were one person in my life who was really devoted to me, and to whom I was devoted, who I could turn to right now, who could be with me right now and not looking at their watch to figure out when they need to get home to their real partner, or at their cell phone to see if the person they're hoping to have sex with later has called, or at another woman at the party to speculate on whether the man she's with is really a boyfriend or just a friend. I am feeling the lack of a mate so keenly I can barely breathe. Of course, that might just be the snot.

I know that I have to learn to be my own hero, and I've been succeeding more than I've been failing, the past couple of years.

But right now I'm failing.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Snufkina kicks some ass

So I'm not going to tell the story, because it's hers, but the short version is that Snufkina saw a drunk hassling a woman on BART, and went to her rescue, and there was blood and stuff involved. While ten other people sat by and watched. She's brave, Snufkina is; I am reminded of a conversation I was having recently about how so often we encounter some noisy confrontation between strangers and aren't sure whether to intervene. In fact, she's here in my lair, and like two teenagers writing a letter to their friend, I'm going to get her to put down the bat finger puppet and come over and say hi.

Ok, so I've stopped playing with the bat finger puppet (who was chasing the mouse finger puppet, mind you) to chime in...although I don't know if I can do my dear friend's blog justice...she is a highly skilled writer...and I am a lowly peasant. But apparently I do kick some ass. There was indeed a drunk, hassling this poor woman, and I put the bastard in a choke hold and pulled him off of her while 3-4 men on the train just sat there mute - how dare you interrupt my important paper reading? Ok yikes...that's enough for now...but next time some damsel in distress needs saving, I hope to be there...he he.

ArchitectX talks about primate dominance games and their manifestation in every facet of human culture; Snufkina and I just had a whispered conversation (there are other people crashed out here tonight) about the difference between the way boys and girls fought in high school. In my school, Effete Central, of course there were no fisticuffs. We just tried to outsulk each other. But a friend who went to a tougher school tells me that when the boys fought, it was mostly talk while the combatants waited for someone to pull them apart. Whereas when the girls took off their earrings and high heels, they were deadly serious.

I'm not really going anywhere with this, just setting the stage for the post S will write when she gets home. I'm sleepy, she's sleepier; we're off to sleep the sleep of the just.

Thursday, January 22, 2004


There's a wonderful interview with Professor George Lakoff on why the liberal left is so flummoxed by the conservative right. I read Lakoff in school as a linguistics student and could barely follow; either he's gotten simpler or I've somehow gotten smarter. I'm inclined to believe the former. Anyway, he's still on his "frames" kick, and talks about how the Republicans have systematically set about framing the national debate since 1973. It's definitely worth a read.

Speaking of frames, but not of politics, I'm paging through a guide to mammals that my mother sent. It's informative and beautifully illustrated (and heavy on lemurs, which is all to the good), but I just stumbled across something that always makes me nuts.

My gripe is with the common habit of referring to a group of animals where females outnumber males as a harem. I wish I could remember who I was just talking to about this; someone who told me that the practice goes back to the Victorian-era explorers. it may seem like a little thing, but it definitely creates a 'frame', an easily-grasped mind map that carries with it certain assumptions that may be dead wrong. The word 'harem' alone is loaded--if your first thought when you hear it isn't of scantily-clad women waiting around to service their master, you're a better man than I, Gunga Din.

And it doesn't begin to cover the reality of the family groups to which it is applied. One really good example (and nobody who knows me will be surprised by this) is the ringtail lemur, lemur catta catta. At first glance, you might think, 'harem'. There are a lot more females than males in the group, and the males have little to do with raising offpsring. Mostly the males engage in 'stinkfights', where they rub their tails against glands in their wrists and then wave their tails at each other. But it's not even fighting in the bloodshed sense; it's more like, oh, extended name-calling. If there's real defend-the-group fighting to be done, it's usually done by the females.

None of which is obvious from the term 'harem.' Another way of framing our perception of these groups would be to imagine them as groups of female creatures who keep some males around for that thing males can do, and ignore them the rest of the time. It's just as accurate, and not as connotative.
violent candy

I haven't been feeling especially profound the last couple of days, or for that matter, particularly intelligent. Not only do I need to get packed and ready to leave for Detroit, but I've had an article to write, a plagiarist to deal with, and I need to sanitize my studio so it can be used as a guest room for a visiting dignitary (part of the deal I have with the larger space to which my space is connected.) Did I mention that I haven't been sleeping much? Would that I had a good story for that, but I can only say that for one night; otherwise it's all about slogging around online and sorting through what must be fifteen years of accumulated stuff. And doing laundry.

Have you ever seen a cat do that thing where she sits on her rump and raises one hind leg to clean it, and then forgets what she's doing? Gets distracted by something else? And there's that leg up in the air, forgotten? I love that. That has to be one of my favorite cat things, just as much as I like when dogs with floppy ears get their ears kind of folded inside out. Especially when the cat tries to play it off, yeah, I meant to do that.

Right now, I am that cat. No intimation of rumps or tongue baths intended, although you can go there if you like and it makes this post more interesting (I'm told sex sells.) No, I keep lifting something up to deal with it, and getting distracted, and object or project one is still mid-air. Yes, yes, yes, I have a list. I have several. But they're not all in the same place, or even legible. And if I'm not wearing it around my neck (which is not a bad idea), a list is only so helpful.

So I sit at my archaic computer, waiting for it to load whatever morsel of data I need, and then I'm up and putting books away, or starting a collage, or reading something, or sorting receipts. And I've been eating these Chewy Spree things. I remember when Spree came out; I was a teenager, and they were sort of the succesor to SweeTarts (which, incidentally, now also come in a strangely gritty chewy format.) They're not chewy in the gummi sense, and they're a little larger than the old Spree, but the flavors seem to be about the same. They're pretty good, even if there's no chocolate on or in them anywhere. I probably shouldn't have eaten all seven ounces over an eighteen-hour period, though, especially now that I've finally read the label and discovered that they're all transfats, corn syrup, and pine tar (not really on the last; old joke between my father and I).

What I find striking--pun intended--is that the tagline reads: "It's a kick in the mouth!" Now, I find that rather disturbing. I think, kick in the mouth, and the first image that comes to mind is losing my teeth. Which will probably happen if I eat any more of these things, but that's not what they mean; a short sharp shock, versus nasty slow decay. I have to wonder, who came up with this and thought it was enticing? Isn't there another way to indicate that what we have here is a bright green bag of very tangy, vaguely fruit-flavored candies that resist the teeth just a little more than your average gummi bear?

It's part of a disturbing trend I've noticed--and this is backed up by the online 'zine beerframe--towards attaching aggressive adjectives in unlikely places. Lately it's been happening to colors, but just as often to foods, and sometimes to both at once. Check out, for example, "explosive green!" ketchup.

Why is this?

Is food not exciting enough that it needs to blow up? That it needs to kick in your teeth? Is this barely sublimated fear of terrorism? A sense that we don't work hard enough for our food and must learn, once again, to fight and kill it? Food that fights back: that's what the packaging is telling us. Now I recognize that this sort of branding is most common in foods that are being marketed to kids. And there's a historical precedent for marketing food to kids with violence: think of the Kool-Aid guy breaking through walls to provide his malic acid goodness to children everywhere who were afraid of real juice. Or the rabbit who was always getting the toast kicked out of him when he tried to get cocoa puffs. A-ha, it's coming clear. The people building the products now are my age. The violence/food meme is strong in us, and we're transmitting it wholesale to the next generation.

I'm reading Robert Anton Wilson right now, and you really don't want me to analyze this phenomenon along his cicrcuit model of human consciousness.

Chewy Spree? Anyone?

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Maori's elegant answer to a tricky question

At the breakfast table, the question arose: what do you say when your intimate partner gets you undressed and notices that you're, well, clean-shaven someplace you weren't before? Do you wait for them to say something, do you offer an explanation, what?

Princess suggests: say you were feeling frisky.

me: don't say anything. Pretend nothing is unusual.

Maori: No, don't say anything. When he--or she-- says something, look down and shriek.

Then start shaking your jeans out.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

is it that time of year again already?

Is anyone else self-conscious about going to the gynecologist with poorly-shaved legs?

Or is it just me?

The plagiarism excitement continues apace. Everyone has a different idea how I should handle it, from laughing it off to blackmail ("sound business practice", counters the offerer of that piece of advice) to legal action.

I've gotten three hours of sleep. I can't think about this and the upcoming KY-and-cold-tools adventure at the same time. I think I have to go to the corner and get a chocolate croissant, and then everything will be okay.

taste my squirrelly wrath!

I've been up for way too long, even for me, tracking down the work of another writer in my field who publishes exclusively on the 'net. Comparing my stuff--the work I get paid for--to his, looking at phrases, looking at publication dates. And my initial suspicion is accurate: I'm being plagiarized.


I haven't been this angry--shaking angry--about something in a good long while. I can't articulate all of the why right now, because I'm exhausted and cold and hungry on top of everything else, but I can identify one piece that especially pisses me off.

Some of the phrases I worked so hard to get right, he uses, but he throws in another word or two, moves things around, perhaps to circumvent the "the three same words in the same sequence" rule. And then the phrases make no sense whatsoever. Most of the juice is sucked out of them, but not all; enough so that they lay around helplessly, aware that they are weakened, but not enough to kill them entirely and put them out of their misery. I mean, I sit here reading these lines out loud, making sure they dance as best they can with what little I know about my job, and along comes this [expletive deleted][expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] and kneecaps the poor things.

Another thing that sucks is that I think I've met this man. I want to call him up and ask him what he did before I came along. I want to call all my acquaintances who do the same work and suggest they start going over his work with a fine-toothed comb.

I've never been this angry about something related to writing, which is interesting in its own right. I've had editors break my work down to its subatomic particles to be reassembled in some new, barely-recognizable form. I've been terribly misquoted. I've even, god help me, raised the ire of the Brecht-can-do-no-wrong people. But this, this theft offends me more deeply than any of that ever did.

Hopefully sleep will calm me down.

ten deep breaths still didn't do it

Blogger does it again. I wrote what I thought was a rather amusing post about my sudden desire to use dollhouse miniature-making techniques to create a 1/12th scale SM dungeon, and Blogger went and dropped it somewhere. Drat! I had a link to a site with pictures of the Thorne Rooms and everything, and that's not as easy to find as you might think. Most of the pictures of the Thorne Rooms are in expensive books that the people at the Art Institute of Chicago want you to pay for, not easily accessible on the Web. And no, Narcissa Niblick Thorne did not (to the best of my knowledge) have an SM dungeon in her collection.

So instead. I offer an edifying post on Gothic Dancing. Sadly I was mistaken and the move "Catch the Bats, Release the Bats" is not included, but I am anxious to try out "Testing the Scratching Post."

Monday, January 19, 2004

down the rabbit hole

Whoops, did a bit of a disappear there, and I'm not back for long. Today I am trying to be virtuous and wading through file boxes of paper, looking for time bombs. Yeesh. But here are some keywords for the past few days:

1. computer malfunction
2. last minute reversal on fire opera attendance; backstage assistance therein
3. short skirt, spiderweb fishnets, platform boots with four-and-a-half-inch heels
4. bleeding freely from cuts incurred in said fishnets at said fire opera
5. crashing in the Castro in Princess' guest room
6. trading distracting web sites with Princess' roommate (see sidebar: don't say I didn't warn you)
7. way too FREAKING cold here
8. even more FREAKING cold in Michigan, and I'm T-minus one week on that
9. transcendent experience involving two very small pieces of Michael Ferruti (?) chocolate
10. fun with the ferry

I'll be back, spelling some of this out. In the meantime, remember the great man in whose name we have the day off.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

oh, please, enough already

Standing in line at Cala to buy a couple of bags of shredded cheese, I overheard a customer at the next register enthusing about "that new carb-free ice cream."

I had no idea they were working on carb-free ice cream.

Before I even start wondering how they manage such a thing, what miracle of modern technology (remember that one of the first fat substitutes was whipped rayon) makes such a thing possible, I need to come clean about one thing. I'm not a physically big person. My BMI has always been in the low-to-"normal" range, I can get my Jewish girl butt into size-tens everyday and size-eights on special days, and I've never really felt the need to go on a reducing diet. I mean, I'm rounded, and heavier than I apparently look, but my weight is not one of my first concerns. It's not even in the top twenty. So I feel a little weird commenting on issues reductionary, because I know I haven't struggled with my body the way a lot of people have, and do, and will.

That said, carb-free ice cream? Often when they develop a food free of one thing or another (fat, sugar, eggs, carbs, gluten, whatever happens to be the day's demon), they have to throw in something else that often turns out to be just as evil, or worse. Olestra. Saccharine. Mineral oil (don't laugh; one writer seriously suggested the replacement of food oil with mineral oil in mayonnaise and other preparations.) The aforementioned whipped rayon. Sometimes the replacement is benign (rice flour for wheat flour, say) but sometimes it's downright scary. Sure, Olestra passes through your system undigested--but it pulls along any fat-soluble vitamins it finds along the way, namely A, D, E, and K. So they have to formulate the oil with added vitamins to replace the ones it's going to take out, and then you have the whole question of whether the added vitamins are of the same quality as the ones they replace.

saccharine. Cancer in lab rats. Need I say more?

Margarine, a veritable hotbed of transfats, may not prove to be any better for us in the long run than butter.

Take a look at the Snackwells designed to be fat-free (not the sugar-free ones.) They're absolutely loaded with sugar, which some nutritionists feel is worse for dieters than fat, because sugar in any form screws with your cortisol levels.

So the question becomes, if you're giving up the carbs, what are you getting in their place?

The second question: What if you just ate real ice cream, but less of it?

A-ha, therein lies the real problem. We do not trust ourselves to eat properly unless we're told how. Listen to the authoritarian tone many diet advocates take, especially those pushing virtual starvation diets. We're not built to survive long on 1,200 calories a day, yet that's what most reduction diets, whatever they're called, are based on. Regardless of our body types, our activity level, and the quality of the food we're eating.

Laura Fraser says all this much better in her book Losing It, which I recommend without reservation to anyone who has ever even thought about dieting.

Carb-free ice cream. Jesus. I find myself saying this a lot: carbs are not the enemy.

In other news, vis a vis yesterday's post, AX just sent me a link to a piece by Clive Thompson that largely focuses on the phenomenon of blogging teenagers. Apparently half of the blog community is made up of teenagers. Interesting stuff.

Monday, January 12, 2004

stalling for time while thinking about gilbert and sullivan

So I know I promised to post the coelacanth piece, but the weekend was just too busy and, even by my standards, the thing is too damn long. SO, no massive ugly ancient fish for you just yet. Trying to build up some, y'know, anticipation here.

Something I find really curious is what we might call the blog biorhythm. Here on Blogger, of course, when you sign in, the home page gives you a list of the ten most recently published posts. It just occurred to me that different times of days seem to yield different sorts of entries. For example, I tend to post between 2 and 5 in the morning, and the other people who are up then often seem to be college students, or occasionally people within my own age cohort.

Meanwhile right now (just around 3:30 in the afternoon, Pacific Standard Time), there are several entries in Portuguese. I can't tell if they originate from Portuguese or Brazilian bloggers, but I'm guessing that this is a good time of day for blogging in one or the other of those places.

The other group that seems heavily represented right now are teenagers. It took me a minute to make the connection--I'm a mite disoriented today, for generally pleasant reasons--and then I got it. They're getting home from school right around now. Or if they're between here and the east coast, they've been home for an hour or so.

Reading a couple of the entries really sent me back in time like a shot. The girl who alternates between breathless description of trips to the mall and her certainty that nobody understands her or ever will. The blog devoted entirely to overwrought poetry. The preponderance of "lmao"s and "lol"s, the talk of boys, parents, and whether our friends really like us or not.

I'm sort of glad this technology didn't exist when I was fourteen. Because I still have that diary, with its flowery cover and ineffectual lock, and I shudder to think about it being so public. Perhaps I'll feel that way about this forum, ten years from now. Maybe we all will. Dinner Satuday night with Snufkina and a friend of hers, Bandit, who is polyamorous and married. Bandit, a vivacious and opinionated woman, mentioned that she felt a little weird. She has access to the blog of the woman who had just gone out on a first date with Bandit's husband the night before, and this woman reads Bandit's blog in turn. The poly people of my acquaintance are (generally) very, very careful about open communication with everyone with whom they have intimate contact, yet even within that community, a member can feel a little weird when she finds the story of her partner's night with another woman in a public forum. So what happens to those of us who aren't working so hard along that particular axis?

When I first started doing this, it was partially a response to reading PRobot's blog. And it looked like fun. But I think blogging--especially amalgamated with the rise of online dating/meeting forums such as Friendster and Tribe--stands to have a profound influence on the way we communicate with each other. The death of mystery? A step on the road towards instantaneous psychic linkage between multiple minds as posited by science fiction writers? A valuable tool for creating openness and trust between people? Or a guarantee that the mental health workers will never be out of a job?

Will we come up with new ways to lie? Or will we embrace new paradigms that require us to move beyond lying?

Friday, January 09, 2004


I've been thinking about this post for a while, and originally I planned to start in media res (cf. the post on why I should have learned Latin, fabulous Latin, sooner) with a story about the relative nature of infidelity. But then I got an incredible endorsement from another blogger who not only linked to me, but told his readers that my writing was all these great mature things, and now I'm feeling a wee bit self-conscious. Flattered as all get-out, too. But also thinking that I should offer a caveat.

So, if you don't know me, and Marc sent you, consider yourself warned: sometimes I'm not only long-winded, I'm long-winded about sex and relationships, neither of which entirely make sense to me. Of course, from my conversations with other people, I know I'm not alone in that. So you have a choice here: hang in with my thrashing around today, or wait a couple of days for a longish and absolutely sex-free dissertation on the modern discovery of the coelacanth, an ancient and incredibly ungainly fish with fins on every conceivable surface.

Sex or coelacanths. Choose your own adventure.

Something I've been keeping an eye on lately is how my knowledge of my father's mortality has been influencing my relationship choices. For the past couple of years, I told a friend yesterday, I've been sad that my father may not see me married. It makes working weddings--especially Jewish weddings, where the bride and groom, and then the bride and her father, get hoisted up on chairs and danced around--incredibly hard. I had to leave one early about a year ago because I started wondering if my dad would ever be up on a chair, and I just lost my shit. Tear tracks on polyester tuxedo do not an attractive waiter make. My manager understood and mercifully sent me home.

It's not that my dad will judge me for not marrying, just that I know he wants to see me happy. Like most families, my folks like to see me happy in love.

That's the first piece of this. A parent's terminal illness as background music; and the way every relationship's dance is influenced, however subtly, by the dancer's desire to find a mate that will love him or her as well as the parent does. Look dad, it's going to be okay. There is someone who will cherish me as you have. Maybe I'll have forty years with them, like you've had with the person who loves you best. In a sharp moment I understand that marriage isn't just the transfer of ownership I always saw it as, a woman passed from father to husband, a business transaction, a hoary leftover. It is also, or can be, something else. Something finer and more subtle. I've been gauging the people I date accordingly, and that's a heavy load.

That's the first piece.

The second is libido. Ohhh boy.

Pop culture tells us that highly stressful situations affect how people express themselves sexually. I'm thinking of the Taxi episode where two people are trapped in a snowbound car and have sex to keep from freezing to death, or the gag in the film Airplane!, after the passengers realize that they're all going to die, and there's a young woman telling her seatmate that she wants to make love to him because she doesn't want to die a virgin. It's poignant the first time, but we keep cutting back to her telling the same story to almost everyone on the plane, including (my memory is faulty here) a horse, or at least someone dressed as a horse.

Like so much pop culture dreck, I'm finding this conceit to have a bit of truth within it. Because I'm especially stressed out right now, and it's playing merry hell with my libido--up, down, up, down. These days I'm a sexual astronaut on an EVA gone mysteriously awry.

I don't know if it's my age, and that hormone surge women get when they cross the thirty line, that "are we gonna use these eggs or not?" demand that I mocked when I was in my twenties and didn't know any better. I don't know if it's my desire to live passionately because we have so little time. But whatever it is, I'm strongly desirous.

And then I'm not.

And then I am.

And then I'm not.


I have a FWB who does his best to keep up, but I believe I'm sharing him with some other people, and he has an actual day job that he needs sleep to do, and I'm trying not to drain all his remaining energy. I have some other people I would love to get closer to, but I've just realized that I'm afraid that my energy's too jagged, too weird, that I'll emotionally hurt anyone who gets sexually involved with me right now. I'm a bad flight risk, I wrote in an e-mail to a friend. I feel like I'm too fragile and self-absorbed to be a particularly good partner. I swear myself to celibacy, and a week later I'm, well, doing something that has no appearance of celibacy whatsoever. I vacillate between reclusiveness and outright predation. I nearly hit on the barrista who rang up my mocha tonight because I found the way she asked if I wanted whipped cream on it suggestive.

And then there is the third part.

The unwilling homewrecker.

I try to be scrupulously careful about other people's partners. I've seen what happens when someone steps out without the explicit consent of their partner, and it's such a mess. I've been cheated on (and I use that term with reservations, because I think it's too loaded) myself, and confronted the outsider, who told me that she didn't really care how I felt about what had happened because a) she had assumed my partner and I had an agreement (we didn't) and b) she was in a bad place in her life and screwing my lover made her feel better about herself, so I could just go take a flying. I am, obviously, condensing a much longer conversation.

I was furious at the time. At him, for lying to me for nearly a year about something I didn't care about so much (she's not made of soap, she shan't wear out, said the old man when confronted with the news of his young wife's infidelity.) At her, for being willfully blind.

But as I get older, and more of the people I meet are in committed long-term relationships of one kind or another, I'm starting to see what might have been happening for her. And I'm starting to understand that the popular image of a single female trying to take someone else's partner away isn't the whole story. Sometimes you just meet someone that you like, and you become sexually curious about them. Were they single, you might mess around with them once or twice and have it mean nothing, a lark. Or it might mean a lot, but only for a little while, and then you would move on to something else with a heart lightened by the gift of your time together.

But they aren't single. Every time you admire their hands as you talk to them, your eyes slide over the ring. You don't want to cause them, or their partner, any grief. You don't even really want them all to yourself. Just, well, a loan. I imagine a woman ringing the doorbell. Can I borrow a cup of sugar and your girlfriend? The sugar I'll use (do you want some of my famous oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies?), your girlfriend I'll bring back in an hour.

For some reason, every time this has happened to me in the past few years, it's centered on one or another of the chefs with whom I work. Have I developed a fetish for white jackets and elastic waistbands? I don't know. How much of this has to do with factors one and two, as spelled out above? I don't know. Am I looking for someone to mend my heart by coddling my stomach? Good lord, I have no idea.

I don't want the whole cake, but couldn't I just sort of, well, run my finger through the frosting?

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

moral quandaries

Staying at AX's place is heady. As mentioned, he has plentiful heat and a fast connection. I adore his books. The place is clean and orderly. So it's a struggle to get out in the mornings, but his neighborhood is quite automobile-hostile. I have to be up early to go make sure I haven't gotten another ticket on my friend's car. Which is sometimes parked quite a few blocks away.

Which is why I was walking on a block this morning better known for its night inhabitants, many of whom make a living by renting out their bodies. I don't remember who I was reading--one of the many smart, articulate sex-workers out there--but she made the point that they don't sell their bodies, they rent them out. Different thing. Anyway. I found a wallet on the ground, one of those Japanese paper ones, with pretty women screened on the sides, and inside there was a driver's license, a cash card, two syringes, and a rusty razor blade (yes Mom, I had my gloves on.)

Hmmm. I know I should get these items back to their rightful owner, but I feel weird about it. At least the drug paraphernalia. At first I thought maybe I'd put up signs in the neighborhood with my voicemail number, so this woman could call me, but that seemed like a very poor idea. Then I took a closer look at the license and realized that she had a PO box, so I could just mail the stuff. But of course, you're not supposed to mail syringes. So I mail back the cards, fine; should I enclose a note? What could I possibly say? And then I realize that she's not, as I thought, one of the teenage runaways thick in the Tenderloin. Her birth year is 1969.

She's my age. No, five months older.

This made me incredibly sad. So I wrapped up the cards in a piece of paper. I found these on Hyde near Post, I wrote. I hope you're okay. Lame, but something. I'm going out to mail them now. The rest went into the trash.

The net isn't very strong. Too many of us are falling through.

And then in the "somebody hand me a hammer, my head doesn't hurt enough yet" category, I have to come clean and admit that I'm still reading PRobot's blog, and still finding the experience irritating, and yet I can't seem to stop. It's one of those loose tooth fixations, you know? The challenge right now is that he's started seeing someone new, someone he clearly thinks he has a future with, and the gooiness is making me queasy. Today's entry is particularly annoying. What was I, I think as I read about how intelligent, sweet, attractive, kind, and playful this new woman is, a speedbump on your way to her? Is it possible that I was none of those things to you? I feel like maybe he and I were dating in parallel universes, if such a thing is possible.

I don't begrudge him his happiness, mind you. And I don't wish it was me. Or rather, I don't wish it was me with him, although I would love to be as rapturously infatuated as he seems to be, with someone who felt the same way about me. No, the farther away from that whole situation I get, the more I realize that we really weren't suited to each other. For one thing, there was a major deal-breaker that I knew about from the beginning, but I chose to ignore it because I liked him so much. Note to self: Don't ignore the deal-breakers. I guess the thing that bothers me is that I feel like I've been overwritten like stale software.

Why it matters to me so much that my role--however fleeting--in another person's life can be so easily forgotten is a matter for serious contemplation. I mean, this is clearly about me, not him; this is my own problem.

That, and figuring out how to remove the cookie that makes it so easy to check his blog. It's the modern-day equivalent of driving by someone's house, isn't it?

Haven't I got better shit to do with my time?

I've debated whether to write about this here. It really doesn't reveal anything about myself that makes me feel like a good or admirable person. But part of the point of this exercise has been to acknowledge that all of us have shadows, and it's really looking like this period in my life is the one where I face mine.

Off to the post office.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

insh'allah habibi

Just came from my second troupe rehearsal, and the first where I was actually called upon to do anything more complicated than manage the stereo... the troupe manager knows what's going on right now, and keeps telling me that I should only think about the troupe if it makes me feel better. Aurora's mom died of cancer when Aurora was just sixteen, so she knows what she's talking about.

Actually, it seems quite a few people do. When I sent out the e-mail letting my friends know what was up, and that I was going to be leaving town for a while, many of the responses revealed things I hadn't known about my friends. Many of them have had parents with cancer. It's been enlightening. And they are all incredibly supportive--and understand that sometimes you really just don't want to talk about it. That you'll talk about anything else but that. They tell their own stories of going home, how it's an amazing and wretched and powerful experience. And most of them refer to it as a gift, which makes me feel better, because I've been using words like that for a couple of years now and wondering if that meant I'd lived in California too long.

So anyway, Aurora knows, but nobody else does, so the rehearsal was pretty jovial. Downright hilarious, actually. Here's one woman--the next newest member after me-- studiously practicing a phrase at the mirror, while behind her two of the more senior people are pretending to be snakes and biting at each other and laughing. The woman who had had me feeling a little overwhelmed at the last rehearsal had me hooting tonight; seriously, you could power a village on her energy. And then there were four experienced troupe members and they needed to practice a five-person choreography... so up I went. As unready, as unstable, as awkward as I feel. And they were all very kind and didn't laugh (openly) at how much I need to learn, and I sort of understood what was going on even if some of the moves were totally foreign to me, and afterwards they helped me write it all down, so those of us who don't know it can practice on our own.

I laughed a lot tonight, and realized that it's been a while.
gary larson

Gumming down a questionable spinach and cheese omelet at Bob's this morning, I watched a guy struggle with the door. Bob's is a classic diner, filtered through a vaguely Asian kitschiness; the walls and windowsills are a jumble of collectible plates, fancy empty liquor bottles, trails of elephants carved from tusks, a light-up painting of Niagara Falls where one of the falls moves, sort of. Macaroni with meat sauce jostles up against curry chicken over rice and pork chop with pesto on the dry-erase specials board, all accompanied by unspecified "veggies". The water glasses are standard-issue frosted plastic and the hot chocolate comes from packets older, probably, than the very idea of chocolate.

Anyway. This fellow is pushing against the plate glass door, clearly marked "pull" on our side, trying to get out. And I can't help thinking, Midvale School for the Gifted. Which leads me, inevitably, to muse once again on the particular genius of cartoonist Gary Larson.

How many modern cartoonists have worked their vision so thoroughly into the fabric of our culture? Think of every time you've turned to describing a Far Side panel as a way of explaining a point. You know, it's like the boneless chicken factory, you might say. What about the one where all the cows are standing up drinking martinis, and then one yells "car"? Yes, other cartoonists have introduced characters and ideas that really stick. Some stand in for larger concepts--Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football being an obvious example.

But Larson's got something else. I can't put my finger on it. Midvale School for the Gifted gets me every time because I went to a school for the gifted, and we were as likely, emotionally and socially, to push the door marked pull as anyone else. Now whenever I can't figure out how to do something, and the something turns out to be clearly marked or obvious in some other way, I'll say the phrase out loud and usually people get it. It is that ubiquitous.

Blah, blah, Ginger is another one, from What Dogs Hear. Lot of uses for that one. I wonder what it's like, being Gary Larson, and knowing that your sideways view has been so embraced. Bummer of a birthmark, Hal.

May I be excused? My brain is full.

Monday, January 05, 2004

part two

5. Making the gummi bears left over from seeing The Return of the King mate before eating them. Even if I'd already eaten all the clear ones, and had to fall back on red and orange.

6. Voicemail from a friend of a friend, a collage artist. She'd gotten some scraps of paper from our mutual friend, kozo paper I'd made about a million years ago, and was wondering if she could buy any more off me.

I'm totally tickled. If it's the paper I'm thinking of, I made it in a class thirteen years ago. Incidentally, the class where Princess and I became friends (according to his version of the story, anyway.) And replicating what was essentially an experiment is virtually impossible without the facilities to pound kozo, a smelly and insanely labor-intensive process that is yet more proof that once upon a time, the Japanese had way too much time on their hands.

Honestly, she sounded a little obsessed. I've seen a lot of paper, she said, and I've never seen any like the pieces you gave Lyn. Well no, of course not; I was totally screwing around when I made it. I wish I could find the woman who taught that class and say, see? It wasn't silly. Eventually someone found a use for it.

Now I just need to see if I can find what's left in the altar to wreckage that masquerades as my studio.

7. As the news spreads about my dad, I'm finding out that many of my friends and co-workers have gone through what I am, and god, are they being kind and warm and supportive. I'm really fortunate in them.
small but meaningful mercies

1. It has stopped raining, and the sun is brilliant.

2. My candidacy for the Brazil program is still up in the air; it seems that the panel needed more time to decide which of the finalists to send, and the email indicating as much somehow did not get sent. So I'm not not going, as I suspected when the notification deadline came and went and there was no word. Now I have to wait until January 10th to find out if I am going. I went back and reread the synopses of all the other finalists' proposed projects, and I think mine is probably the most unusual, if not necessarily the most interesting to a mass audience.

So, we'll see.

3. ArchitectX is offering me shelter for the first half of the month, and Princess for the second. Both have HEAT in their flats, which is a delightful change after the place I just moved out of, and AX has a stunning library that threatens to eat me alive. So the whole homeless thing is not quite so dreadful, and instead of having to find a new apartment, I can focus on getting my stuff in order before heading to Detroit. Blessings abound.

4. Alfred Molina is playing the villian in the next Spider-Man movie, and it looks like he shed the Diego pounds for the role. Right on.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

insider information

Marc over at Misanthropicity gripes about special edition DVDs that aren't particularly special. His point, and it's an excellent one, is that too many special editions lack juicy details.

I concur. I couldn't make it farther than ten minutes into the commentary track for The Matrix because listening to Carrie-Anne Moss reveal a total lack of affect was breaking my heart, and recently listening to the director and writer/producer of The Usual Suspects was occasionally frustrating--while they let some good details slip (Pete Postlethwaite had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before they shot the first scene in which he appears because he was out drinking with the producer, for example, and the explanation of Benicio Del Toro's character was quite helpful), they also hinted at other sordid little stories which they did not then come out and tell.

Then it dawned on me, I was once an insider. I know some good stuff.

Leonard Nimoy is incredibly gracious in person, and willingly spent his lunch hours at the studio where he was shooting some bluescreen elements talking to technicians and signing a vintage copy of his album "If I Had a Hammer" for my old boss. Bruce Willis, on the other hand, so raised the ire of the same technicians for a comment he made on Letterman about the film workers' union that once, while he was wired up inside working on Die Hard, some of them went out to the parking lot and spit on his car.

This is fun. In the first Jurassic Park, the first time Sam Neill's character sees a live dinosaur, his fly is open. In the same film, an exterior (the T-Rex roaring at the fence in the rain and darkness) had to be worked on extensively in post because there was a grip visible in the shot, eating his lunch. We had to take him out a frame at a time. Everyone knows that the bantha in the beginning of The Return of the Jedi is an elephant wearing a bantha costume; in the special edition of the same film, there are many banthas, but they're all just copies of that first one.

In Jumanji, when the monkeys loot the electronics store, the brand names on some of the boxes have been replaced by the names of the people who worked in the same room I did.

Wasn't me...

Saturday, January 03, 2004

ow, ow, ow

Reading someone else's blog... she appears to be a perky high school student, but god knows, she could be a burly 43-year-old security guard named Stan. Anyway. Black sans-serif text (no capitalization) against a bright pink background. And some lavender text that follows the cursor around like toilet paper stuck to a shoe. Ouch. My eyes hurt.

Here my one--ONE--New Year's resolution was to not talk so much shit about other people, and already I'm vivisecting this young woman's design sense.

I didn't even make it four whole days.

But really, my eyeballs feel like they're vibrating. And I'm also giving serious thought to getting back under the hood of my own template and making some changes. In my abundant spare time.

Another note of little consequence: I'm regretting that I never studied Latin in school. Thought about it, especially right after I declared my linguistics major, but didn't do it. Now my silly "learn 101 languages!" software has yielded up a bounty of Latin terms, and I'm having a lovely time. Here's the one I remember:

et cetera

(of course pronounced, if you're an ancient Roman, "et ketera") literally translates to and/the other things. "Cetera" is a whole word for "the other things." I love it! Those Romans were so precise!

Friday, January 02, 2004

the barnhart new concise dictionary of etymology

n. 1577, New Latin metastasis transition from one subject to another (a term in rhetoric), from Late Latin metastasis transition, from Greek metastasis transference, removal, change, from methistanai to remove, change (meta- over, across + histanai to place). The sense of a transfer of pain, or disease from one part of the body to another, especially of cancerous cells, is first recorded in 1663. Metastasize v. 1907, formed from English metastasis + ize.

Yep. Two nodes, about two centimeters in size, in the right temporal lobe. No edema, no bleeding. I hear the words and can't visualize a thing. Isn't it all grey goop in there? Is the cancer like raisins in oatmeal? Big fucking raisins. But small enough that the doctor says, we found it early. Let's radiate those suckers. My parents and I wrangle over the best time for me to come home. You don't have to come right away. It's New Year's Day and I'm walking around the Mission with the phone jabbing my ear, thinking idly that someone might consider mugging me in my distracted state, and how nice it might be if they did so I could throw them on the ground a few times. We don't want you to put your life on hold.

And I don't know how to say it. This is my life. Sometimes I have these flashes where I think, my god, this is my real life. It's hard to explain. In my real life, my dad has cancer and I'm going home to be with him, and to help my mom. In my real life, my editor and my sensei and my teacher all say, what do you need? Your job will be here when you get back. The dojo's not going anywhere. The troupe will be here, I'm just worried about you; are you OK? In my real life, my friend Princess comes over and we go out for Thai food, and then he sits in my studio while I clean and he writes a Craig's List posting to help me shed some unneeded art supplies. When he leaves, I hug him and say, you've always been there to keep me from falling off the couch, which is a reference to a story from our younger, drug-addled days (all three of them), and he tells me that it was easier this time.

This is my real life. My father is serene, my mother sounds like she's patched up with tape, and I'm a wisecracking zombie. But god, are people ever coming through.