Sunday, July 26, 2009

Making up lies

From the perspective of "society," I value honesty to a fault. I think this is a rationalist thing, and part of why rationalists tend to have poor social skills. If I hear someone say something in public that I know to be less than completely true, my insides clench into a horrible, convoluted knot, and the only way to relieve the tension is to correct them.

For example: Say I go shopping with my mom and some incident with a salesperson occurs. If she later recounts the tale to my dad in my presence, and adds an embellishment or two, it's essentially reflexive when I butt in and explain how it "really" happened. Or I may hear John tell someone that he likes something I know he doesn't actually like, or say that something that happened last week happened years ago or to somebody else. Obviously, these people (who are dear to me) have their reasons for amending the "truth," so nobody likes it when I point out the discrepancy. But it takes an extreme force of will to suppress these corrections. I basically have to leave the room and if I never say anything, it might bug me for days, like the time Chris misplaced a Haribo raspberry.

I realize that functioning persons bend the truth from time to time for the greater good. Like I guess it's accepted that when you go to someone's apartment for the first time, you're supposed to effusively compliment the decor. But if I feel like people's compliments are disproportionate to the actual awesomeness of the place, all my phoniness sensors get tripped and I actually feel kind of upset. "To what end?" I guess it's my resistance to join in on the fakery (to be polite, you might say), which brings the full force of my unimpressedness, my hater self, into relief. This doesn't win me anything but self-righteousness; it annoys everyone around me. People might respect, in the abstract, my refusal to be polite if it requires dishonesty--but it gets me into trouble all the time. All the time. And yet. Beyond exercising my powers of suppression, I find it hard to believe I'll ever change. Maybe that's just the naivete of being in my 20s. Good thing I only have about three months left.

I made blue cheese dressing to go with dinner. Did you see Mark Bittman's "101 Simple Salads for the Season"? It's divided into categories: "Mostly Vegan Salads," "Vegetarian Salads," "Salads with Seafood," etc., escalating in evilness I suppose. But why bother creating a "Mostly Vegan" set? Couldn't he have just bumped the salads that weren't quite vegan into "Vegetarian"? And put the "vegetarian" salads with anchovies in the seafood set?

The New York Times is infuriating!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Things I Can Tell About Your Taste in Music from Your Tattoo

There's this stocky Asian dude with a ponytail who's always at the gym at the same time as me. I never felt I could infer anything about him, beyond the fact that he, you know, likes to stay fit. But yesterday I was doing leg curls and he was on the assisted pull-up machine, and I noticed he has a big tattoo of the grim reaper on his calf. Suddenly I understood him in a new way. I was like, Oh, he listens to metal. (I actually probably phrased it that way in my mind; I might as well say, "I was like, I was like, Oh...")

So I decided it was nigh* time for another stereotyping post. In the search marketing industry, we call this kind of post linkbait. People just LOVE this-is-like-that posts, or shit like "7 Things Your Marketing Team Can Learn from Harry Potter." (If the butt of the analogy isn't something timely, it's something geeky, like The Princess Bride. Excuse me while I commit suicide.)

Anyway. WFA, Things I Can Tell About Your Taste in Music from Your Tattoo:


butterfly tattoo
Too easy: Dave Matthews Band.

Chinese Characters

chinese character tattoo
Eclectic: When you make a mix there's always at least one song without lyrics. You were like, the first person to get into Norah Jones.

Literary Quote

[Photo removed at request of the person in it, believe it or not]

Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, you know, that kind of pseudo-intellectual garbage. ("first thought = best thought," Jesus ... every tattoo is always already a cliche. Also, is this girl's head on backwards?)

Full Body

full body tattoo
The Cure. You can't hide your sadness with ink, "lordofpain."

*misuse of "nigh"

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My parents had good taste in TV

Almost all the shows they liked while I was growing up are shows I'd still watch:
  • Black Adder
  • Northern Exposure
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Seinfeld
  • Get a Life
Etc. My mom was also into some genre-y shows I never watched (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek in its various incarnations) but the geeky masses seem to agree they're worthwhile.

My favorite TV show of all time is My So-Called Life. One of the few shows I can think of where my age at the actual time it was on lined up with the characters' (sophomores in high school). One thing I loved about it was that the characters wore the same items of clothing multiple times. Like, Angela had her favorite boots or her flannel shirt that she wore with different outfits. In this, among other ways, it was a cringe-inducingly realistic show.

Aside: I have yet to watch the full first season of Freaks & Geeks despite many, many recommendations because I watched the first few and was mightily offended at how much was borrowed from MSCL: essentially the whole structure of the show (kind of uncool, smart girl gets kind of cooler, tries to ditch old friends to make a play for the cool stoner crowd including hot badass figure (played by Jared Leto/James Franco), etc.)). I mean, what? Why do people talk about how great F&G is without mentioning in the same breath that it owes its existence to MSCL? The latter had already failed on the same concept despite a fierce following so I don't know what made anyone think F&G would succeed. Anyway maybe it gets better a few eps in (MSCL certainly does) but I was sorta unimpressed. That's hype for ya, folks. Which makes me wonder if I can ever watch The Wire. (Yeah, yeah, yeah. Save your breath.)

Anyway, Angela's mom was also very like mine (hence unlike any other, sunny sitcom mom; the mom in Calvin & Hobbes comes pretty close), in that she was overprotective and nosy and sensitive and hence annoying, but ultimately a really fucking good mom. Angela was often embarrassed of her parents but all her friends were jealous and wanted to hang out at her house all the time.

In the context of this blog post, TV and my mom are "tightly coupled."

My mom reads my blog, but I never censor what I say with that knowledge. I can use the F word and generally be a jerk and she still likes me. I mean, I came out of her womb, unconditional love and so on, but I get the feeling she actually likes my personality.

With no offense to either of my parents, I've noticed that they seem less discriminating about their entertainment as they get older. Like happy to watch Random Hollywood Blockbuster 2 just to get out of the house/heat and then describe the experience as "fun." Whereas they used to have a decided bent toward the quirky.

Do our tastes deteriorate as we get older, right along with our muscle tone and eyesight and tooth enamel? Is it voluntary or involuntary, i.e., taste is like a muscle one must clench all the time and eventually we get tired of it? Like we eventually lose interest in wearing hip happening clothes and just want to be comfortable? At what age does one throw up one's hands and give in to the latest courtroom drama?

Friday, July 17, 2009

This weekend is going to be big

Last night we picked up Jeff and Maureen from the airport and went to Murphy's for dinner/drinks. My favorite thing we talked about was designing a chart to be titled "Big in the '80s" with bubbles of varying sizes, corresponding to just how big that thing was. But I can't decide if it's better to keep it real (e.g., "AIDS") or get shit wrong, like include stuff from the early '90s. Of course we were quickly shouting out "Disco!" and "Movable type!" I like people who aren't afraid/ashamed to push a joke to its logical limits, eventually rendering it quite unfunny. You don't know what the barrier is until you break it. To put it another way, there's only one way to prove that dishes don't wash themselves.

Within the next 24 hours, at least a few more out-of-towners are arriving, among them Chris Starkey, Sam Starkweather and Chris Tonelli. I have created a Venn diagram to illustrate syllabic overlap among their names.

Does that even make sense? Did I spell "Chris" correctly? This diagram is dedicated to Kathy Rooney.

Yesterday I had lunch with yet another Chris, family name of Marstall, who, it turns out, knows both the CEO and IT guy where I work. (Motherfucker knows everybody. I guess that's what happens when you stay in Boston for a while, since the non-transient population is only like, 5,000.) We talked about our mutual dislike of the pressure to tip "well" (i.e. 20%+), regardless of quality of service, and conversations that begin with "What have you been up to?"

Nonetheless, I'm going to tell you what I've been up to (only the things that aren't the same every day, duh): Buying a big dresser at a secondhand store and lugging it up the stairs with John (which made my ass really sore) and putting all my clothes in it; hanging art, some of which fell down due to thinness of walls; revising a sucky poem, which still sucks; slowly reading a book of Joy Williams stories on the train (Taking Care). I find these stories devastating, even the ones that aren't very good. Oh also I bought some new clothes. Summ'ry ones. Oh, also: This issue of Ekleksographia (I promise I didn't just type a bunch of random letters) curated by Amy King; includes great poems by my awrsome friends Dan Boehl, Heather Green, Farrah Field and the aforementioned Starkweather.

It's a promise: After this weekend I will post some pics of the apartment and peeps in it. See you soon.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The full poem I blogged about last week is now up on Chad's blog, and here he documents the bike ride it inspired. Big thanks to Chad for doing this and big hugs and kisses to him and his beautiful wife and handsome son. I'm going to miss them.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Did you ask for the happy ending?

Lots of thoughts lately on marriage and sexism, not necessarily at the same time; unsure how to organize them. Partially spurred by a couple of articles I ran across recently, both upsetting for different reasons. The first was an article about divorce in the Atlantic ("hat tip" to Allen) which questions the relevance and rationality of marriage in contemporary society, noting that Americans report more faith in marriage as an institution compared to other nations, while sporting much higher divorce rates. Americans are remarkably immune to cognitive dissonance. The depressing part was the suggestion that humans are wired for serial monogamy on a four-year cycle. Ugh. I don't want to get married, but nor do I want to remodel my life with every election year.

I didn't even read the other article, from Time, just a paragraph that made me want to puke (awkwardly inserted, possibly unintentionally ironic promotional link intact; emphasis mine):
Getting married for life, having children and raising them with your partner — this is still the way most Americans are conducting adult life, but the numbers who are moving in a different direction continue to rise. Most notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May that births to unmarried women have reached an astonishing 39.7%. (See pictures of love in the animal kingdom.) How much does this matter? More than words can say. There is no other single force causing as much measurable hardship and human misery in this country as the collapse of marriage.
For "More than words can say," read "There's no discernible evidence for this claim."

I mean WTF? Really? No other force? How about, I don't know, poverty? Just a guess. If all the poor people would just settle down and get married, things would be awesome? Where do people get the chutzpah to make outlandish claims like this? P.S. That's not an antisemitic remark, the author's name is "Flanagan." You know, like in Cocktail.

I've been feeling grouchy this week about never having any free time. Every weekday, I wake up at 7, leave the house at 8 and start working about 8:30. I try to leave by 5:30 for the gym. I get home around 7, then cook dinner and eat with John. By the time we've cleaned up and I've checked my mail and email, unpacked my bag and repacked it for the next day, it's 9 or so. I'm one of those insufferable people who needs eight hours of sleep to feel fully functional, so that leaves me with two hours of unscheduled time per day. If I have any errand-type or logistical things I need to do (pay bills, make a phone call, do laundry, what have you) I have to do it during those two hours. I almost never use it to write because I'm too tired to think creatively. Sometimes I read a little. Sometimes I try to get in bed before 11 so it's not so hard to wake up at 7 (it's been near impossible for the past six weeks because of all the rain and the light never changing).

Essentially, even those two precious hours end up feeling mostly unusable. I just sort of wander around, straighten up the apartment a little, apply unguents and ointments to my perpetually itchy skin, maybe pluck my eyebrows. I never work on a "project." I realize I'm basically whining. I think most people escape this feeling, if they do, by not "cooking" per se, or exercising less. Or sleeping less. But I don't want to cut back on any of those things. I guess what I want is to be at work less, but I like my job and want to keep it and do well at it. Am I destined to join the perpetually dissatisfied? My Dad is fond of reminding my family aphoristically that "Life sucks and then you die." He's the king of the joke-as-refrain. "Let's ram this heap right through the barricade." "Today is another marvelous opportunity for achievement."

My dad loves that old cartoon about the guy who discovers the singing frog and thinks it'll make him rich, but the frog won't sing for anyone but him. (This fits into the same genre as Calvin & Hobbes, wherein animals and/or inanimate objects having special powers they only reveal to one person, or alternatively said person is crazy (in the case of an adult) or has a wild imagination (in the case of a child). The mistake of course would be to resolve the ambiguity.) The guy never gets rich of course and if he wasn't crazy before goes crazy I think. As a kid I kind of hated when comedies had unhappy endings. It wasn't the same as a real unhappy ending, it was played for laughs and that disturbed me. It was pretty common in cartoons, maybe even the norm. See the Roadrunner toons (yes, it's unhappy if the coyote always loses/"dies"), The Flintstones (Fred always gets displaced from his own home by the saber-toothed tiger at the end). Life sucks and then you die.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lighten up, it's just fashion

Silliman yesterday (but I read it today) linked to a post on A Tonalist Notes with the words "The fashion of poets." With no offense intended toward author Laura Moriarty, this really got my hopes up and I was a bit disappointed when it ended up being mostly about jeans. Just an issue of thwarted expectations since her post and jeans are certainly interesting enough in general. This did prompt a longer fashion post by Nada Gordon which revolves around the issue of costume.

This is close to my heart as I've long professed that clothes should be more like costumes. This view dates back to a time when I was ~21 (attending Rice, of which I have many a fond memory) and wearing an outfit I thought was supremely cute: a round-neck pink sweater vest over a collared white shirt with a gray schoolgirl skirt, black tights and black shoes. My boyfriend at the time walked in and said, "Is that a costume?" I'm pretty sure this made me cry.

Shortly thereafter I realized, better to look cute by my own lights and anticipate such comments and/or unspoken judgments from the unstyled masses than conform to avoid them. So now I attempt to costume-up my outfits whenever possible. (It's not always possible, because I don't always have the time/energy to put into crafting an "outfit" per se before leaving the house. In which case I just wear "clothes.")

And now, a list of ways, mostly obvious, to Costume It Up (meant to be gender-neutral) and hence have more fun and probably more sex:
  • Evoke an era, bygone or futuristic.
  • Evoke a career other than the one you pursue (e.g., waitress, bike messenger).
  • Evoke an age bracket other than the one you belong to.
  • Evoke a tax bracket other than the one you belong to.
    Evoke the dress of a foreign nation. (Without, you know, being racist about it.)
  • Evoke any adjective, strongly (e.g., "autumnal," "sporty").
  • Imitate the canned stylings of a catalog (e.g., Anthropologie or J.Crew).
  • Mix patterns (dots & flowers! paisley & stripes!).
  • Don't always tone your wacky colors down with black or denim.
  • Add more jewelry or other accessories (scarves, belts, hats).
  • Add a "blazer."
  • Bright shoes. See Adam Golaski. Who usually wears a suit, but when he doesn't, he's wearing very bright sneaks.
  • Hair products.
  • Makeup.
  • Wear your parents' clothes (or your kids' for that matter).
  • Cultivate some signature bullshit. For example, Shafer Hall always wears Western shirts. With shorts. I'm not sure I've ever seen Jessica Smith wear something other than a dress.
Most importantly, expect people, your friends especially, to look at you askance as though you're wearing a costume. Do it enough and suddenly everyone thinks you have style. The more often you CIU, the more outlandish you can be without people being all, WTFAYW.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Doing circles in the squares

A few days ago my excellent friend Chad emailed me requesting a poem I wrote seven years ago, just before I left Houston for grad school in Boston. I brought it into my first workshop with Bill Knott; Chad was also in that class. He wanted to use it as inspiration for a goodbye bike ride around Boston; he's moving to Oklahoma soon.

I apparently didn't think enough of the poem to back it up when I switched computers a couple of years after that, so to find the poem I had to fire up my old laptop for the first time in about five years (it looked so small!) and search through the docs for the word "coasting," since that's the only word from the poem I could remember. I didn't recall the title (and I don't save my poem files by title anyway) or anything else about it really, aside from the occasion of biking wistfully around Houston. Since I never revised it or tried to publish it or anything, I was pretty sure I'd hate it, so I was pleasantly surprised to actually like it, and to realize my poetic stylings haven't really changed all that much. It's a little more sentimental than I'd permit myself to be now, and with more similes, and not as "wise-ass" as John put it, but I recognized a lot of "moves" I'd be as likely to pull now. Also, it was largely about my brother, which I didn't remember at all. My brother has kind of been one of the two or three major subjects of my poetry. After love and death.

A few lines/phrases I liked from the poem: "I bike around the blocks I know, saying hello and goodbye. It's early / morning, and the air is still waving // from yesterday's heat"; "A glitch in time"; "walking Berlin in his long coat and deep snow"; "the new adversity"; "like a good lie"; "The wind / blows the fountain all over my face // and the street" ... does that last one sound like bukake? Didn't make the connection when I wrote it.

I hope Chad doesn't have the opposite experience -- discovering it to be worse than he remembered.

We are 75-80% settled in the new place. We really liked our old apartment but this one has a lot to like too -- two balconies, lots of light, a big, clean kitchen, etc. Also, it's got French doors, between the living and dining rooms, which is threatening and appropriate. Some of my readers know I once had a run-in with a French door.

I need to make this blog the #1 result in Google for "the french exit"; right now it's on page 3 though I swear it was on page 1 a few days ago. Apparently it's a band, "for fans of Cat Power and PJ Harvey"; fuckers. (I mean the band, not CP and PJH. They're lovely.) They're kind of fucking my SEO here. Also, from Urban Dictionary I learned a connotation of "French exit" I wasn't familiar with, namely that it may entail skipping the check. Readers, I assure you, my FE's never involve said faux pas.

I'll post pics of the new place soon. Tomorrow, Kathy and Martin will be in town. Yay! Happy 4th.