More Stuff I met this lovely woman last night, pre-Boston Blogs meet-up. We dined on Indian cuisine and discussed dogs, geocaching and the annoyances of PowerPoint users whose ambition far exceeds their skill level. I had to leave just as people started arriving (45 minutes after everything was supposed to start- I've never been someone who believes in being "fashionably late". 8 o'clock means, unless someone says otherwise, 8 o'clock.) but it was interesting to put names to faces and overhear people passive-aggressively bitching at others for not linking to their site anymore.
Oven Update The good news is our shiny new General Electric Gas Range was delivered at around 10 this morning. The bad news is the Thermonuclear Device is still in the house as well. Best Buy scheduled a delivery but the man who helped us forgot to schedule an installation and take-away. Grrrr. While I'm sure we can manage cooking with the microwave and Foreman Grill alone for the next few days, it's still deeply annoying to delay gratification for a few more days. The new site is more or less finished. It's run on Movable Type and looks exactly like this one. I'm having some difficulty exporting my Blogger archives (has anyone had any experience with this?), so I think I'll post them as static pages. I'm sure my more intrepid readers won't mind the occasional outdated link or two. Or seventeen.
More Weird Dreams Jon, my mom, my grandparents, my brother, my sister and I are standing in my mother's driveway, looking up at the aurora borealis, vivid and bright in the western sky. It's the middle of the day, but no one seems to care. Someone- I don't remember who- mentions it would be a good idea to walk over to the parking garage across the street (in real life, my mom's house is in a fairly rural area with no garages nearby) and climb to the roof for a better view. The inside of the garage is a big, cavernous space, with a stairwell to the roof running along the outside wall. As we climb the stairs, I begin to worry whether or not there are guard rails along the edge of the roof- it's windy and I'm terrfied ed that I might get blow off. As we exit onto the roof, I notice that there aren't and guard rails and experience terrible vertigo. I slam down onto my hands and knees, desperate for anything to hold on to. No one else notices anything. After a few minutes the aurora borealis stops and the crowd that's gathered starts to leave. As we're going back down the stairs, I glance at a stranger. Before I know what he's doing, the stranger has casually jumped off the stairs to the concrete floor below, killing himself. The floor of the garage has changed into a Costco-style food court, so we decided to stop for some lunch. As I'm eating, a stranger sits down across from me and starts questioning me about my grandfather's suicide attempt (in this dream, along with so many others, he's alive but doesn't talk). I can remember telling her about it, but can't remember the context or circumstances. My grandfather glares over at me, angry and mortified that I would talk about this with a stranger. I mumble something about it being a "personal issue", look over at him, and wake up.
Winding Down This blog's days at blogspot are numbered. Six more, to be exact. Posting until then will be sporadic at best- the time that I'd normally spend writing will be spent tweaking and retweaking colors, settings, and templates over at chaosfactor's new home. I'll let y'all know when it's time to make the jump.
TEASE The weather was beautiful this morning- there was a high 40s / low 50s thing going on as I walked to the train station at 7:30 this morning. There were little gray mounds of sad snow, cowering underneath a tree or beside a rock wall here and there, but the feeling of winder finally being over, the one that started Friday afternoon, was still with us. The fog rolled in at around 2 in the afternoon and you could practically hear the temperature as it dropped back to somewhere around the freezing mark. I wanted to go running when I returned home, but it was just too cold. If I can't run in shorts, I'll stick to the treadmill at the gym. Something totally separate from the weather is bothering me and I can't figure out what it is.
It's Monday afternoon and my desk is a mess My workspace is an odd backwards C-type shape- there's far more space than I need or will ever take advantage of, so the area that I don't directly occupy and use invariably gets piled high with CDs, electronic equipment, empty coffee cups, notes, half-used labels, writing utensils- you get the idea. Every Monday morning I try to tidy the previous week's worth of junk, but so far I've only completed about a quarter. I've good reason, though. Everyone in the department received new NexTel phones- of course, the newer phones are larger and heavier than the older ones and are missing the one feature that made the old version worth keeping, namely that little flip-up earpiece that kept the keys from being pressed by accident- and I spent the morning programming phone and direct-dial BEEP BEEP numbers. Friday afternoon I decided to run the 7-odd miles from work to my house. It's a very good training run, mostly because it's very start-stop-start-stop and doesn't involve lots of hilly terrain. Through the city, down the Southwest Corridor, through the Arnold Arboretum (very spooky and chilly after dark) to home. It took me 75 minutes, so hopefully that will be a good benchmark to work from. The weekend was good, but nothing particularly exciting happened. With the aid of my recently-purchased GPS device, Jon an I found our first two geocaches (containers full of trinkets hidden at precise latitude and longitude coordinates). The first was far easier than the second and we (temporarily) gave up on the third. As the weather gets warmer, I'm really hoping that geocaching will become the default excuse to get outside for a few hours. Speaking of recent purchases, we're finally replacing our thermonuclear device of an oven! I'll be able to bake again without fearing for my life, my home, and half my neighborhood! After six months of careful research, planning, and setback, we essentially stumbled blindly into the local Best Buy Saturday afternoon and bought the most expensive gas range on the sales floor. It's being delivered some time Thursday. We spend Saturday evening with Jon's cousin and rented two surprisingly underwhelming DVDs- The Ring and Ice Age. I never understood what exactly The Ring was trying to be- was it creepy, gory, ha-ha-you-expected-to-be-startled-but-weren't, or something else entirely? The Japanese original, Ringu, is supposed to be better. If you have to choose between the two, take the latter. You can't help but compare Ice Age to other recently-released animated films- it doesn't have the humor or detail of Shrek or the craft of Lilo and Stitch. With the exception of Jon Leguazamo, the voices are very much Bored Celebrities Pretending to be Strange Creatures. You can practically hear Ray Romano flip through the script as he rattles off his lines.
Tech Question Big changes are afoot here at ChaosCentral. Two questions for my fellow blog geeks: 1- Blogger, Movable Type, or wordpad-as-html-editor? 2- What hosting/domain registration service do you use? How much does it cost? Is it worth it? I know, technically that's five questions, but it's important I know these things. Comment or e-mail you answers. Thankseversomuch.
Iraqi Moratorium Simple. I'm not writing about Dubya, Tommy Franks, Colin Powell or anything else that's happening in the Middle East until it's over. Y'all already know how I feel, so I don't see the point in endlessly repeating myself. Not even 24 hours have passed and I've already reached my point of total saturation. I may even have to cross NPR off my list of news sources.
No, no, no The rest of this week's been all about sameness and denial. Same stuff at work, denial about what's going on in this country. Here's a bit of text from one of the Yahoo! Groups that I read regularly:
> > Highly offended > > Calm down, Charles. It was obviously a joke. It's not like he said that > Bush is a corporate crook who's idiotic behaviour over the last year has > turned the entire world against the US or anything. That's my job. > > May I say FUCK YOU, bad behavior or not. Truth is, other countries have used America's kindness in creating their own economies and industries for years and now they turn against us. I think you are an idiot in some stupid country that thinks it knows best. Oil? Maybe it is about that. But guess who taught those sand bugs to make profits from oil when they were still using wooden tools? If it is about oil, that oil is just as much ours as it is their's and let's face it, they wouldn't be able to dig it out if it weren't for America. Add to that the pussy wipe French who couldn't save their own country from a gas fart if they had PEPTO BISMAL and an ass plug handy. And as for England, if you are from there, that country at least has balls enough to stand against an evil, unlike they did in WW2 until they almost had their asses wiped by the Germans, who in their turn, couldn't rebuild their country without prejudice, hatred and mass murder. And another war starting--thanks to them. Appeasement? Hear of it? It helped Hitler. French resistance? That might have been the French collaborating so hard with the Germans that their skins became one. So yeah, fuck you and fuck those who hate America. It's still the best country to live in no matter what and when we come out of this, with or without the help of other jealous and dim witted, countries, and we will, we will profit from it and others will be better off for it in other countries, of course not acknowledging it or paying off their debts like America always does. We are not perfect and we admit our mistakes unlike the liars of other countries, who, being so small and insignificant in the scheme of things can afford to lie back and hide in the sand, hiding their own hypocrisy. Terrorists suck and so do those who think they can support them. So yeah, fuck you and all you America haters. I don't agree with war and I don't always agree with our leader but I can tell you, I'd rather live in America where I feel safer than you jerkoffs other countries.I don't get it. I simply do not understand this vitriol and hatred, something that this individual felt perfectly comfortable sharing with a few hundred strangers on a mailing list that has absoultely nothing to do with politics, let alone our current dalliances in Iraq. "Sand bugs"? That's so wrong on so many different levels that I'm not going to touch it. This whole "USA singlehandedly WON WWII!!!" revisionism makes no sense at all. It's a fundamental right of an individual or a state to stand up for what they believe in. Blah, blah, blah- political and sociological arguments aside, what's going on inside this man's head? Are we attacking Iraq through one huge act of misplaced anger? As much as some people may wish it, chances are fairly certain that Saddam Hussein didn't have anything to do with September 11th. Yes, he's repressing his people, and yes, he's used chemical weapons on them (one word for people who think the US couldn't do something as bad- Tuskegee), but how does that make him any different from half-a-dozen tinpot dictators that exist in the world today? North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Cambodia- off the top of my head, they've all got just as bad if not worse human rights records than Iraq. The mass media has whipped a lot of us into a foaming-at-the-mouth attack dogs. After this is over, what next? Do you think the people of Iraq will support a government of right-wing ideologues? I'd be curious to know just how much money members of the Bush administration will make from this "regime change"? How are we going pay for all this? Bush's proposed 2004 budget contained no money for any of this, let alone places like Afghanistan. WAR WAR WAR. KILL KILL KILL. IT'S PAYBACK TIME, SADDAM. ALL THOSE MUSLIMS LOOK THE SAME TO ME. ... Osama who?
What's wrong with me?? If you're a semi-regular reader of blogs in the Boston area, or you happen to live in the Boston area, you've no doubt been made aware that today's the first day it's been above 45 degrees in, oh I don't know, three and a half years. The cloudless sky is a deep shade of blue, birds are chirping, squirrels are going crazy trying to find their buried acorns, and people are actually being nice to eachother for a change. I'm sure it can't last… My weekend was a lot of fun, too: Jon and I took it easy Friday night- Chinese food and a movie. We watched the recently-purchased Ameile, which was as good as people say it is- a wonderfully acted, beautifully shot, fantastically written film. I'll have to watch it again before I'm absolutely certain, but I think it will settle comfortably within my 10 Favorite Films. Yes, she is referring to me. Meeting for coffee or a meal was something that had been in the cards for quite some time- I bailed on her the weekend before, mostly because I'm not very good at planning my social calendar and accidentally booked two bru/lu/nches at once. For some totally unknown reason, I had (mistakenly) gotten it into my head that she was vegetarian, so I suggested Grasshopper, a good (but not worthy of the 20-minute hike from the MBTA we both had to make to get there) vegan Vietnamese restaurant in Brighton. There's a Boston Sports Club close by, so I left my house a few hours early and had a leisurely workout. I arrived slightly before 12:30, but due to the aforementioned hike-and-a-half, Rev was a few minutes late. Of course the waitress had to say something- "HE BE WAITING FOR YOU LONG TIME. LOOOOOOONG TIME!" While patience is a virtue I've always had, a thick skin for being embarrassed isn't… Lunch was fantastic. Topics of conversation ranged from childhood religion to Asperger's Syndrome to Mary Sues to Why We Blog. Rev's smart, funny, and (in case you're wondering), a real cutie. Two hours later, I took a bus over to Harvard Square, poked around for any new comics or books, found nothing, then took another bus and met up with Jon and a friend who likes in Arlington Heights (who, I was surprised to learn, keeps a "b-log" as well). After waffling about what we should do that evening, we went up to New Hampshire and had a pleasant meal with my mom at a Japanese steakhouse in Nashua. Home by 10, bed by midnight. Yesterday was Jon's cousin's 44th birthday, so we spent the afternoon and evening with her and her two boys. We had a nice meal (it was quite the Eating Weekend) at Legal Seafoods- the excellent food was only slightly marred by the incredibly slow service. So it's Monday again. Something's going on inside my head, possibly brought on by seeing and interacting with so many different people or maybe the weather or maybe something else entirely, but I'm actually in a good mood for a change. We'll see how long it lasts.
I Am going to do something tomorrow that I've never done before. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm still sort of nervous.
Friday Five 1. Do you like talking on the phone? Why or why not? I don't mind talking on the phone, but I find it incredibly boring to chat. Friends have commented that I'm very curt over the phone- I simply feel that a face-to-face conversation is 1000% better than over the phone. 2. Who is the last person you talked to on the phone? My grandmother, last night. 3. About how many telephones do you have at home? We have a land-line that's mostly used by the TiVo and telemarketers. No more telemarketers after April First, ho ho ho. 4. Have you encountered anyone who has really bad phone manners? What happened? Did I see the sun on my way to work today? Before I was promoted, I worked on the helpdesk for about two years here at the Law Firm. Surprisingly, the secretaries were always far ruder than the attorneys. One of the current helpdesk staffers, the one who's leaving at the end of the month (thank goodness for small mercies), has some of the worst telephone manners I've ever heard in anyone. He's every bit the stereotype of a bad support specialist- he's rude, he cuts people off, he sighs, and he's so fucking loud. Even thought I'm thirty feet away from him, I can clearly hear ever single word he says. 5. Would you rather pick up the phone and call someone or write them an e-mail or a letter? Why or why not? From the three choices, I'd rather send an e-mail. Actually, it all depends on the urgency and point of my communication.
No more twiddling with the template At least until next month. I promise. I have not been feeling myself recently, and I'm not too sure why. There's a definite fog of upheaval and turmoil at work- two people will be gone at the end of the month, no one's really sure if and when we'll be updating Microsoft Office/Windows to XP or whether or not we'll be switching document management systems. There's a constantly changing group of about half a dozen consultants who sit in the empty bays across from me- none of them seem to have cell phones with a vibrate function. Their phones ring constantly; it's like some sort of summertime cyber-bog in here during the afternoon. Had a nice IM conversation with him last night. Through the magic of the internet, I was able to see the last ever episode (for now) of Farscape, a good week-and-a-half before it airs in the US. I won't spoil anything, but the episode does end with the assumption that another season would have followed it in a few months. [Magic, spolerific televisionwithoutpity-esque text follows- don't highlight unless you want everything *ruined*]: "Nutralize invaders for analysis!" I don't think John and Aeryn are dead- they've survived tighter cliffhangers before. However, if we never see another new episode of Farscape again, this one does have some nice closure- John is finally able to complete the tapes he's recorded over the past four years, the wormhole threatening Earth is closed, and most of the characters have found some sort of peace and/or resolution. I don't think they would have been nearly as casual with season 4 if they knew that it was going to be the last, but it was good nonetheless. Dunno if the'll keep it with the SciFi broadcast, but the BBC version ended with TO BE CONTINUED. Boos, hisses, and general negative energy sent to Bonnie Hunter and her lackeys at the SciFi Channel. It was amazingly short-sighted of them to cancel the only show that they'll be remember for decades from now- you think Crossing Over or Termors: The Series will be seen as quality television?
The ink that dare not speak its name Thank goodness Boston's a two-newspaper town. While I normally believe the worth of The Boston Herald to be about half of the paper it's printed on, this editorial in Sunday's edition caught my eye while out and about last weekend.
just another word for nothing else to lose… Jingoism! Jingoism! Rah rah rah! Ultranationalism! Superpatriotism! Rah rah rah! Freedom Fries! Freedom Toast! God bless America! United we stand!!! Stomp that stinky cheese! Pour that wine down the drain! Break your way into your local art museum and tear down those Monet and Lautrec paintings!!! Burn Descarte!! Kill Tintin!!!!! I'll have you know I bought this DVD last weekend merely out of spite. Well, that and it's supposed to be a fantastic film. *ahem* [Deep breaths] OK. While I'm not a Francofile by any stretch of the imagination, I have to wonder if people like Walter Jones and Bob Ney realize how knee-jerkingly ridiculous they look today, let alone 10 or 20 years from now. Last time I checked, grown adults and countries were allowed to express dissenting opinions. One of the reasons the UN was created, and certain countries given veto power, was to specifically prevent member nations from settling petty squabbles with a both-guns-drawn, shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude. Go France. Stick up for what you believe in. Question, investigate, and always remain skeptical. There. I'm done.
Multiculturalism in Our Day Note to Bush Administration, FOX News Anchors, and anyone else who can't seem to keep their sticky hands off the metaphor: Please stop referring to France and leaders therein as "weasels". It doesn't translate well. At all. Calling a woman "une belette" is a term of endearment, conjuring up images of soft, furry, loveable feminine animals.
Thud thud thud The sound of my heartbeat- no, that's not it. The sound of my shoes hitting the pavement- nope, not it again. The sound of me hitting my head against a wall? Maybe. Stuff's not that bad, so wrong again. It's a sound, a repetitive noise that I can't identify or pinpoint. Maybe it's the metaphysical sound of my day- regular like clockwork, boring to the point of tears. Or perhaps it's my relationship with the weather- conforming, constant and cold. Weekends are never long enough. I spend far too much time Sunday evenings wondering where the two days have gone. What on earth did I do Friday evening? I can't remember…. Ah. Got it. Because we thought we weren't going to have a car this weekend- I finally fulfilled an extremely belated birthday/Christmas present for Jon by having the car repainted. Two years of tiny nicks and scratches (more often than not caused by the author of this blog) vanquished with a new coat of paint- Jon was going to rent one from a friend of his who works for a Major Car Rental. Jon was going to take him out for dinner as a thank-you for a greatly reduced rate, but because the care was finished Friday morning, we didn’t need the rental but Jon took him out for dinner just the same. I had my first Friday evening alone in an age- had an extended gym visit, hunted for new comic book releases (there weren't any), went to Best Buy and bought three new DVDs, and got home about an hour before Jon. Saturday, we visited my grandmother. She's either the best actor in the world or the life of a widow isn't affecting her as much as it does others. She was up and walking around, looking more alert and human than I've seen her in years. She cooked a big lunch for us (corned beef, cabbage, carrots, and potatoes- certainly not my favorite, but it was good nonetheless). She's still deep in the grieving process, but she's surprising everyone with her progress. Once home (it's 110 minutes of mostly highway driving from our house to hers), we had dinner and watched Road to Perdition. It was a great, well-made film, but I think they could have done better than casting Tom Hanks as the lead. While he was excellent as the father-on-the-run-looking-out-for-his-son's-welfare, he didn't portray the darker aspects of his character as well as someone else could have. Mostly from his ubiquitousness over the past decade, Tom Hanks has reached a point in his career where, regardless of what he does, he'll always be Tom Hanks Portraying Someone Else. Sunday made me realize how much I need to start using my Palm Pilot again. Two lunches were scheduled at the same time, but one took precedent over another. I think I've given up on brunch buffets for the time being- eating too much too quickly always has nasty consequences. Because it was such a beautiful day yesterday, I decided it was a good time to really break in my running shoes- down to Jamaica Pond and back. However, too much too soon meant I was hobbling around for the rest of the afternoon. Will we see temperatures about freezing this week? I hope so. While I may prefer this type of weather to 95 degrees and 98 percent humidity, erm, Too Much of a Good Thing is making me long for balmier temperatures. Spring, were are you? Come back, I've grown tired of the same thing day after day and miss you something awful.
Thought for the day #2
'You know, the very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common- they don't alter their views to fit the facts, they alter the facts to fit the views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.' (courtesy here)I am sick to death of this damnable situation. Really. I'm tired of Dubya tellin' us that…. He hasn't decided… whether or not… this Great. Country. Of. Ours… Will be goin'… T'War. Terrorterrorterror. Sept11Sept11Sept11. Tax cuts. God Bless You All. Goodnight.
Friday Five 1. What was the last song you heard? The Les Rythmes Digitales mix of Placebo's Slave to the Wage. I was listening to it as I walked from the shuttlebus to work this morning. A cheery and highly appropriate song to begin the day. 2. What were the last two movies you saw? About Schmidt and Ocean's Eleven, not counting the last half-hour of Purple Rose of Cairo. 3. What were the last three things you purchased? Besides food, they would be the DVD of The Aztecs, two dozen roses for my sister's dance recital, Farscape Vol. 2.5 DVD set, and a copy of Pale Blue Dot. That's going back about 10 days. 4. What four things do you need to do this weekend? -Either pick up our newly-painted car from Maaco or rent something to get us around this weekend. -Laundry -Visit my Grandmother -Go to the gym. 5. Who are the last five people you talked to? -Jon -The Ex (via AIM) -My soon-to-be-ex manager -Gram - My soon-to-be-ex bay neighbor/soon-to-be-current manager
Two random thoughts: 1- Any homo who says they never ever sneak a peek in the gym locker room is lying. 2- Following on the above, any man, regardless of orientation, who shaves his nether regions looks absolutely ridiculous.
"HEY!!!" There's a five-minute window in which I have to leave my gym on weekdays in order to be at a certain T station on time to catch a bus that drops me off a block away from home. If I don't leave the gym on time, or the T decides it needs more than 20 minutes to make the trip from Downtown Crossing to Forest Hills, I'm screwed. Well, not really. If I'm feeling less than frugal, I'll take a cab ($10), or I'll simply walk home, which takes about a half hour. Last night was one of those nights. The T pulled into Forest Hills just as my bus (#51) left. I decided, along with the two dozen other people who missed that particular bus, to take a cab. The cab stand, usually 7 or 8 cabs long, was completely empty. Everybody's pissed off. Taxis trickled by, and 15 minutes later it's my turn. As I walked towards my ride home, as 20-something woman, completely oblivious to me and the people waiting behind me, steps right up and starts to get in. Before I know what I'm doing, I start shouting, "Hey! There's a line here!" She looked back at me and in an instant I realized that she must not have seen the line- she starts apologizing profusely- "I'm sorry, I'm sorry". I was in the cab and away before I realized how rude and crazy I must have seemed to her. I was mortified. The cab stopped outside my house and I tried to pay him with a $20, but he only had a few singles for change. He told me not to worry about it and the ride was free. Moral of the story: If you're rude and pushy to strangers, you'll get a free cab ride home.
Last Night's Dreams I wonder what my subconscious is trying to tell me now. I'm inside a huge, possibly subterranean, room with a very low ceiling. There's a stage at the far end. I'm surrounded by a large crowd of people. Production positions were being given for the third Harry Potter movie. I desperately want to be the director, but know that it's already taken and I'd have to settle for production manager or something similar. Names are called and people push their way to the stage to take their assignments. I get stuck with second-unit production manager, so I climb up on stage and watch as first the technical people, then the actors are chosen. Everyone that's picked goes through a door to the left of the stage, and as I'm waiting for the crowd to thin out, I think how similar all of this is to that bit in Goblet of Fire when the Tri-Wizard contestants are chosen, but that can’t be happening now, because we will be working on the third movie, not the fourth. It's my turn to go through the door, but instead of being outside or anywhere else, I'm standing in the hallway of the house from Malcolm in the Middle. No-one's at home, but as I look around, I see the house isn't a set, but real. I also notice that random things from my mother's house start appearing, and that my sister has moved into one of the bedrooms. As I go from room to room, the whole house slowly transforms into my mother's. I open the front door to see if we're in California or New Hampshire, and I'm happy to see that I'm in California now.
Roll up, roll up, roll up!! Ladies and Gentlemen! Boys and Girls! Young and Old! The Amazing Repeating ChaosFamily Show is about to begin! SEE Younger Brother! Fearless and selfish, this 25-year-old Man-Child only perceives what he wants to! As far as he's concerned, if it doesn't effect him directly, it doesn't exist!! WATCH Younger Sister diligently practice her last-ever college dance solo for an entire three months, then FEEL her wrath as Younger Brother decides he's got better things to do than attend one of the three performances this weekend! GASP IN AWE as Younger Sister calls Older Brother in tears!! BOO and HISS Mother as she makes excuses for Younger Brother, as if he's a wee babe of eighteen months!! INSIDE! It's Never-ending! The PROPS and SET may be different, but it's the same show, over and over and over again!!!
Thought for the day
- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot- A Vision of the Human Future in Space
- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot- A Vision of the Human Future in Space
'Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," ever saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there- on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.'
My condolences to his family and all the lives he has touched. The world is a better place because of him.
My Dad OK. Big stuff with this post. Sorry if this comes out more rambling than It should. If you spend a few minutes browsing through my archives, you'll notice that a few themes pop up fairly regularly, with my Dad's death in 1997 at the age of 54 being one of them. I realized today that I don't think I've ever written about him, about my relationship with him before he died. I'm only really coming to terms and some sort of peace now with how complex it actually was. To understand him, you have to go back about 65 years, to a lower middle-class Louisville, Kentucky. My dad, Charles, was the youngest of four children. He had three older sisters. My grandfather, who died in 1976 in his early 60s, was a very smart man, but somehow contented himself with the lowest of janitorial positions- at schools, at hospitals, those sort of places. My grandmother, 8 years his senior and about a foot taller, waited on her family hand and foot. It was all that she lived to do. Both families had been in the Louisville area for at least four generations, and there was no reason for my father not to settle down when he got older with a nice girl of Bavarian descent and do the same. From what I can gather, the relationship between my father and grandfather was strained at the best of times. When my grandfather had his first heart attack in his mid 50s, he was essentially bedridden until the day he died. My dad was expected to take up all the chores and other manly things around the house- after all, his mother and sisters were only women and couldn't be expected to do that sort of thing. Dad was in high school and resented this a great deal, but things came to an explosive head when he was accepted to MIT to study Physics, but there was no way in Hell that he would be leaving his family. My demanding ogre of a grandfather made sure that every day of his undergraduate work was spent at the University of Louisville, a school that didn't even have a physics department at the time. When the Vietnam War started, my father quickly enlisted into the Air Force. He became a B-52 pilot and flew hundreds of missions over Vietnam- the most horrible thing he experienced during the flights were surface-to-air missiles locked on his plane. They bore a frighteningly surreal resemblance to flying telephone poles. For a while he was based at Pease Air Force base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and that's where he met my mother. He married her and started a family quickly- my mother would say that she knew something was amiss when none of his family came to New Hampshire for the wedding. Fast-forward eight or nine years. I'm seven or eight years old, and I know at this point that I'm not the son my father wanted to have. I'm tall, sickly, and severely uncoordinated. Tests say there's nothing wrong with me most doctors suppose I'll "just grow out of it". By this time my grandfather's dead. I don't think twice about there not being a single photograph of him in the house- it's simply the way my family is. Books and Culture played a huge role in my childhood. For as long as I can remember, my dad read to me every night of my childhood. It wasn't just Clifford the Big Red Dog, or Richard Scarry, mind you. It's Tolkien and Tintin and Asimov and Jonathan Livingston Seagull and The Little Prince and all sorts of books that I take for granted. We went to the Museum of Science or the Boston Aquarium or the Museum of Fine Arts so often that I once threw a temper tantrum when we went to Boston and didn't get to see the dolphins or the oddly-shaped model of the Tyrannosaurus. Every eight months or so, we drive to Louisville, but on our way there we always stop for a day in Washington to visit the Smithsonian or Air and Space Museum. I have an oddly-disconnected memory of a Kabuki performance scaring the shit out of me when I was about four or five. While we're in Louisville, we're treated like red-headed stepchildren. We're shuttled from one house to another, never really feeling welcome or part of the family. My mother, to all intents and purposes, is ostracized altogether. No one ever comes to visit us. My grandmother died in December of 1990 at the age of 90. I've never been back since. Dad would never get mad and never raised his voice- that was my mother's job. He was the immovable object to my mother's irresistible force. He became a workaholic, while my mother was left to go insane taking care of three children and a dog. They both made a lot of mistakes while we were growing up, but I can seen now that they did the best they knew how. From the ages of 13 to 23, Dad and I were constantly at odds. I hated that I couldn't be the Golden Son my father wanted, and he had no idea how to contain, control, or relate to a sullen and troubled teenager. My mom thought I was nuts and should see a psychiatrist, my father just laughed at me. They were two constantly opposing ideas that rarely met at the center. Dad was fired from his job while I was in college, around the same time I was coming out. I don't know why he was fired, but he eventually found work in upstate New York. Instead of packing up the family and moving, he rented an apartment for weekdays for himself and drove the 200+ miles every weekend to New Hampshire. My mother flatly refused to move. A few years later, he quit that job, took another job in Ohio, and was laid off six months later. He was living at home in New Hampshire when he died- he literally fell down dead at the gym one Tuesday morning. Nobody knew anything was wrong with him, but we later discovered that he had his first (very mild) heart attack in New York but conveniently neglected to tell anyone. [The above adds an extra layer of insanity to my grandfather's suicide. My grandfather saw in intimate detail what a sudden violent death did to us. He experienced it right along with everyone and saw how much it hurt.] A few weeks before he died, I had a chance to sit down with my father and Talk. We talked about his father, about how they never got along and how my dad didn't want to leave any barriers like that between us. We were working at the mortar, freeing the bricks that made up the wall, and for the first time in my life I saw him as a person, and not the stern arrogant know-it-all that he could so easily become. And he got to meet Jon. He only met him twice, but they got along really well. And he's dead. So is my grandfather. I'm the eldest male in my family now, which is kind of scary to think about. There are so many aspects of my Dad that will be forever clouded in my mind- I watched the first season of Six Feet Under with my hand covering my mouth. I've never seen anything before or since that dramatizes the sudden death of a family member so well- and he's become more of a symbolic figure in my mind that an actual person, but I'm not bitter or resentful about it. That's the surprising thing- I don't see any of this as being good or bad- it just is. We haven't experienced any more or less tragedy than any other family. The same bus comes around the corner for everyone, it's only painted a different color sometimes. I've taken what I've been given and try as hard as I can to get on with my life. Don't we all?
Taken Away At my karate pretest last night (tonight's the two-hour real test, *shudder*), I noticed that one of my fellow students happened to be reading a book from the Left Behind series. Left Behind is the religious equivalent of Harry Potter- a ten- (soon to be eleven-)part series that takes The Book of Revelation as serious, literal prophesy and how a group of people deal with The End of Days. It's got fire, brimstone, damnation, and redemption. It's a publishing phenomena, claiming over 50 million copies sold worldwide. It's also (IMO) total hooey. I don't think
Paul John (at least I didn't say Ringo) ever meant Revelation to be taken as literal fact and I believe that anyone who actually sits down and does a deep reading of the text would agree. It's easy to forget the context in which Paul John was writing. It was a time when Christians were The Other, The Enemy- think deeply religious Muslims in the US today. With the rise of Christianity during the first few centuries AD, there was a string of deeply anti-Christian (yet also wildly popular) Roman Emperors. Given his circumstances, Paul John was very anti-Rome.
There are about a dozen passages in Revelation that everyone knows. Arguably, the most famous of these is the 666 passage identifying the anti-Christ:
Paul John wrote Revelation in Greek, but he also had an extensive background in the Hebrew language. Both languages treat the relationship between numbers and letters similiarly- it's an extra added subtext that the layperson wouldn't be familiar with. So, if you write out (calculate) those numbers in both Hebrew and Greek, they both equal the same thing, (man)- Ka'sar Nerwn and qhsar rn = Caesar Nero, the emperor who essentially spearheaded and popularized the Roman anti-Christian movement.
Without the context, 666 makes very little sense and you can twist or interpret any way you want. Revelation is full of similar metaphor and symbolism. That's why it gets as much attention as it does- a seven-headed sea dragon rising up from the sea is a far more compelling image than Jesus telling everyone what a good idea it would be to be nice to each other for a change. I think it's because 21th century pop culture has lost the ability to interpret metaphor that the Left Behind books are so popular. If you read Revelation in 5th century Rome, you would recognize the images and meaning- imagine a Roman citizen somehow watching an episode of The Simpsons, with all its references and in-jokes, and you'll see what I mean.
This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man's number. His number is 666. (Rev 13:18)666? Is that a tattoo? A street number? A date? This is where things get tricky, and knowing background and context makes all the difference.
Monday Back to work again. At least there's no snow, no major fires to be extinguished, and everyone who's supposed to be here has bothered to show up. It was a good weekend. Friday evening we went to a party in Jamaica Plain (as socially and demographically mixed as you'll get in a Boston neighborhood), a 30th birthday for one of Jon's work colleagues. The house was something right out of The Royal Tenenbaums- semi-wacky family inside a huge rambling building with random doors, staircases, and a large closet filled floor to ceiling with 70s board games (maybe). We reacquainted ourselves with an old friend Saturday evening and watched Ocean's Eleven- a stylish and nicely disposable film with solid performances and a good script- at his house. Hopefully, there won't be another two years' passing before we see him again. Didn't do much of import on Sunday but go to the gym and had a nice long run. After about 6 weeks of trying, I've finally given up on the Brooks Beast. I pronate (flat feet) pretty badly when I run, but had a fair amount of luck with Saucony Hurricanes (white shoes had become brown/gray after about 8 months of use) in the past. The Beast, like the name suggests, is a huge heavy shoe, probably more ideal for someone thirty of forty pounds heavier than I am. They were pretty uncomfortable- at first I thought I needed to break them in, then I thought I wasn't stretching properly, but I was really worried last week when shin splints made me stop only after twenty minutes of moderate running. Was it the shoe, or was it me? Had my arches finally fallen to the point where I'd no longer be able to run? Marathon Sports to the rescue! They guessed that the Beasts may have had too much motion control and set me up with a pair of Mizuno Renegades, which (using only yesterday afternoon as a test) are much more comfortable. I don't have much to look forward to this week- karate tonight, a karate belt test tomorrow, dinner with a friend Wednesday (I'm hoping to get my collection of Sandman comic books back from her- she's had them for over a year), but that's about it. Hmm. On second thought, that's not nothing after all.
Milford Area Senior High Youth in Government, c1992
(Yes, I do think I was wearing all black in this picture. Oh dear...)
Friday Five 1. What is your most prized material possession? This thing:
Of course, I've had mine for about two years, so it's not nearly as shiny or unscarred. I used to have to buy a new portable CD player every six months or so- it would constantly be sat on, stepped on, run over, dropped from a great height, etc, etc. This mp3 player is almost indestructible, the memory sticks hold about 4 hours of music each, and the rechargeable battery lasts for a little under a week. I love it.
2. What item, that you currently own, have you had the longest?
I don't know. Probably one of my Doctor Who novelizations, bought when I was 11 or 12.
3. Are you a packrat?
*snicker*. I come from a very long line of packrats. My mother is a packrat. My grandmother is a packrat. My grandfather was too- when we went through his personal affects, I wasn't surprised at all to discover he's kept every single card or letter sent to him over the past 60 years.
4. Do you prefer a spic-and-span clean house? Or is some clutter necessary to avoid the appearance of a museum?
Clutter. I'm far to easily distracted to keep a compulsively clean house.
5. Do the rooms in your house have a theme? Or is it a mixture of knick-knacks here and there?
Through pure accident, the dining room has red walls and a mostly red carpet. When showing people around the house, the inevitable "Red room- red room. Over there" joke gets told. We laugh and giggle for hours.
No tchotchkes at all. Both Jon and I hate them with a passion.
Memory This post reminded me of extracurricular activities I did while in high school; the only thing, actually, outside of bit parts in a few plays. Youth in Government was a state-wide program for teenaged public-servants-in-training. You spent most of the school year drafting pretend bills, leading up to county-wide mock elections held in the spring and then you'd overrun the capitol for a weekend, pretending to be legislators. You could run for anything- state house, state senate, governor, state supreme court judge, that sort of thing. One year, I was very keen on a bill that would have banned bodily internment- you either had to cremate a body or send it out of state for burial. I was a little more outspoken and
pretentious "radical" back then- it never got past committee and I don't think I was prepared to back it up with any sort of logical or reasoned argument...
I ran for and was "elected" as a state supreme court lawyer my senior year. Up until this point, I was all set on going to law school and becoming a lawyer- this was simply a logical prelude to everything else. Flash-cut to me sitting at a table somewhere in the court library in Concord. Books piled high around me, confronting the never-before-heard-of concept of precedent. Christ, that was boring. 85% of my argument had to be based on previously-heard cases. I liked the act of presenting my case, getting up in front of 7 (or was it 9? I don't remember) faux-judges, but I found all the research to be stultifyingly boring. That's when I decided communication would be a better college major than pre-law. Of course, it changed two more times later on, but that's another story.
Grrrr. Argh. With eight episodes left in what is probably the show's last season, I'm not sure where Buffy the Vampire Slayer is heading. While it hasn't reached the depths of about two thirds of last season's episodes, I'm really starting to tire of the "Something! BAD! Is! Coming!!" drumbeat. Buffy lectures the Potentials ad nauseaum about how they've got to be ready to sacrifice everything, be prepared for anything, yet turns around and refuses mystic mojo assistance which is possibly her only chance of defeating The First. I know it's not bad writing, but it makes Buffy look like the worst type of hypocrite. All the Potentials know (because Buffy's been beating it into their skulls with a sledgehammer for the past dozen episodes) that there's a high probability they could be killed in very short order. Buffy seems to expect them to accept this with no problems, yet doesn't seem to be willing to sacrifice anything herself (which, of course, is totally out of character for her, given what happened at the end of season five). Even though I never would have thought it possible this time last season, I'm really starting to warm to Andrew. I love how he's a great big flaming nancy boy geek and there's nothing self-conscious or cynical about him. He's dumb and flawed but totally sincere, which leads me to believe the whole stubborn and short-sighted Buffy is being written this way for a reason that will be made clear over the remaning weeks.
A Wednesday Post Ugh. I haven't been able to think of anything particularly interesting or compelling to write for the past few days. Yes, we got more snow than I've seen for almost a decade. No, I didn't get to stay home from work yesterday. I can't decide which is more screwed up- the fact that The Law Firm was open, or that I arrived bright and early at 8:15. I got through my first act of Emergency Home Repair last night with flying colors. Somehow, a shot glass found its way into the kitchen sink's garbage disposal. Two seconds of KRKRANNKKKARKCK!!! actually did a good job of chopping it up. I was able to fish out the base of the glass, but most of it had been smashed into tiny pieces. Instead of bursting into tears or fleeing to the office with a plumber's phone number in my hand, I calmly reviewed the installation instructions, followed the last three steps in reverse, removed the main unit and carefully flushed out the remaining shards. Go me. Maybe the next post will be less boring.
Friday Five 1. Explain why you started to journal/blog. Interesting question. One that I'm not sure I want to answer in such a casual or flippant way. I think I started the blog to somehow find my Writer's Voice again, something that I'd been missing for six or seven years. Also, writing here helps me balance all the dull, dry technical writing I do at work- I find that 15 minutes of writing about something non-computer related helps me to reset and rest my brain. I keep this journal online for strangers to see as a self-check to make sure it's coherent and not the same thing over and over again. 2. Do people you interact with day to day or family members know about your journal/blog? Why or why not? I know that Jon reads by blog from time to time, but he's the only one. I want to be able to write honestly about what's going on in my life, and as I write about my family and work quite a bit, I think I would start censoring myself to avoid offending anyone in Real Life. 3. Do you have a theme for your journal/blog? Green, gray, and other cool colors... No, there's no theme. 4. What direction would you like to have your journal/blog go in over the next year? I'd like the entries to be longer and make more sense. 5. Pimp five of your favorite journals/blogs. OK (In no particular order): Jodi I love her acerbic wit and I love her photography Mad Genius He's a triple-threat- He's funny, he's smart, and he has the ability to translate both into written words. Data Jockey Revolution Nine For good or for bad, unless you know and interact with the writers in real life, blogs are huge, sprawling works of fiction. The first lesson I learned with fiction writing was, at the core of it all, you need a character either in conflict or self-discovery for your story to be interesting. I have dumptrucks of respect for both of these people for writing about deep personal issues (the former's recovery, the latter's coming out) in a way that's interesting and compelling but never self-pitying. Jhames Because the quality of his writing matches his talent for design. Any blog that's listed to the left is good reading, IMNSHO. Which, of course, brings up something I've been thinking about for a while. While there are some great blogs out there, there are also some horrible ones. Self-obsessed, preening weirdoes whose sole presence on the internet is to show the world how beautiful and wonderful they think they are. Maybe I'll start an Anti-Blog list…
My ideas for curing VD If you don't have a Special Someone in your life, today's another one of those weird holidays that companies and marketing executive seem to love. Ignore them. Go out with friends, go out with yourself, or just stay home and watch a movie. Today's a day just like any other. If you do have a SS, put all the money you would have spent on overpriced flowers, candy, or an expensive meal into your savings account. Purchase something simple, like a card, or better yet, make it yourself. Write something nice, something meaningful, and give this to you SS before you enjoy a nice meal at home. And then… April 11th (or some equally random Friday or Saturday), withdraw the money, make a reservation at a nice restaurant, buy some flowers and surprise your SS with a nice night out. You don't need a ultra-commercialized holiday to tell someone how much you love them.
A fool and his money... Go ahead. Stock up on duct tape, plastic sheeting, peanut butter, jelly, and crackers. I think that's a great idea. And while you're at it, go to OfficeMax and buy the biggest, most expensive desk you can find. That way you'll be equally as protected from a nuclear attack- you'll have something to hide beneath and be protected from those evil evil atoms.
Back up, buck up, beat up It's happened again- I've written about a dozen posts over the past few days, but none of them made it here. Some of them were almost finished, some of them were just a sentence or two, but they all started to spin, then went down that bathtub drain of Writer's Block that was installed about seven years ago by a horrific professor in a creative writing seminar. Here's what's going on: Why didn't I write anything about Jon's 30th birthday? I was able to smuggle his sister in from LA without him knowing and plan a party for thirty-odd people without too many problems. I guess I don't need to process the good things that happen in my life- they come, they go, but in the end they're very easy to deal with. My grandmother is doing much better than I expected. Jon and I went to visit her Saturday afternoon, and while she does have the stooped shuffle of a woman who's been on this planet for 85 years, she was up and moving around, tidying the house and baking a batch of (by her own admission) terribly dry hermits. While she'll never be the strong, powerful figure she was to me as a kid, I know she'll be able to find some center and balance for the days and weeks to come. Both my supervisor and another manager resigned at the beginning of the week. While I'm sorry to see them go, I'm worried about who will be hired to replace them. Or department doesn't have the best track record for hiring (sane) people; while the person who replaces my supervisor will be the third person I've seen in that position, the person who replaces the other manager will be the fifth. I've no desire to apply for either- they're both largely thankless, workhorse-type jobs. I'm going back to karate tonight. I spent about 80 minutes last night practicing my forms and one-steps- I'm mildly pleased with myself that I haven't forgotten everything. Karate's been put on the back-burner (I haven't been going) since the dogs left back in November. While I'm glad that I'm returning (I think this is something I need now more than ever), a lot of my old anxieties may come back. I'm by far the slowest, least-coordinated person there. But, I need to keep reminding myself, that's OK. I'm still better off than the average guy on the street and I've got a phase 2 front-kick that could break someone's jaw…
I know I'm about 7 months late, but This is absolutely fantastic- possibly the best album I've heard in years.
Great Googly-Moogly #2 Look on the bright side. This poor woman now has a great story to tell at cocktail parties.
Nerve The Boston Sports Club at Downtown Crossing is my primary gym. I have one of their platinum memberships, which means that I can go to any of their gyms in the northeastern United States. If the need arises, I'll use Copley Square location (a pit- horribly laid-out with terribly ventilation), the Newbury Street location (the basement and sub-basement of an office tower), or the Fenway location (arguably the best of them all, with great equipment and new treadmills). Over the past few months, I've noticed small, discreet signs popping up in the men's locker room, advising against "inappropriate behavior" in the sauna and steam rooms. If I have the time after a workout, I really enjoy a ten-minute zone-out in the steam room- I feel like I'm sweating out all the shit and bad stuff that's happened recently, I concentrate on my breathing, but I've never been privy to any of this "inappropriate behavior" the signs warn against. This morning when I was done with my workout, I noticed that the stream room at Downtown Crossing has been "closed indefinitely" because of this "inappropriate behavior". This pisses me off on so many different levels. I trust none of my readers are under any sort of misconception as to what's going on-- silly faggots got caught getting each other off once too often. Jesus-fucking-Christ, people, can't you exercise one iota of self control?? There's something deeply engrained within gay male culture, deep down at an almost subconscious level that says we're somehow entitled to do this, that furtive sexual contact at the gym or behind a dumpster or in a public restroom is somehow OK. It's not something I've ever understood. It's not 1950 anymore. You can go to a bar or a club without being afraid that the cops will kick down the door and arrest you. On the other end of the problem, this grade-school attitude BSC seems to have- a very small group of people can't seem to use something properly so we're going to take it away from all of you- is almost just as bad. Escort the offenders out, revoke their memberships, but don't shut something down like an annoyed principal. So yeah, the selfishness of other people is something that's been on my mind recently, and diddling around and getting caught after seeing and reading all the "don't diddle around in the seam room!" signs strikes me as being very selfish indeed. If you want to hook up with a stranger from the gym, by all means do it. Go back to their place or go back to yours, but keep it in your pants for the half hour that it takes to get there. You can wait and delay gratification for that long, surely?
Yes, I watched that interview Goddess help me. On beyond a train wreck, it veered drunkenly into the land of mass-media schadenfreude and never returned.
Music that's currently bouncing around in my head: That bit in Tubular Bells when things go all twiddly and Sesame Street.
Michael Makes The Connection One of the better NPR Talk Shows, The Connection, did a program on the Science of Suicide earlier today. For those of you interested in what I sound like, my call comes in at 23:35. My life-long dream of saying "thank you for having me" on a nationally-syndicated NPR program has been fulfilled! In hindsight, it does sound a bit pompous and I sort of wish I had only said "bye".
Googlisim I'm going to use all those weird google hits to my advantage. I do searches for my name when I'm really bored, so why not others? Josh Roberts Joshua Goodwin Roberts We went to UNH University of New Hampshire together. We lost touch after graduation. E-mail me if you'd like.
Yikes Has it really been almost a decade since Tales of the City aired? The reviewer's right when he calls it quaintt, especially compared to something like its more-nekkid-yet-half-as-intelligent grandchild, Queer as Folk. This program embodied such a zeitgeist for me- not only was it my first real look at San Francisco in the 1970s, it was also my first drama in which gay people were portrayed as complex individuals and not overblown stereotypes. April of 2003 will mark the tenth anniversary of my coming out of the closet, and this miniseries was such a touchstone for me. There were half-a-dozen of us who watched my off-air video tape over and over again in college; We knew all the lines, could spot all the boom microphones and flub-ups, and even had our own (highly obnoxious, no doubt) *eeeecgh*NormanNeilWilliams*eeeecgh* in-jokes. I never got around to watching the two sequels- two of the best three characters were recast and I couldn't imagine Mona or Mouse as anyone else. For good or for bad, I've never had such a dynamic time in my life as the spring and summer of 1993. The springtime always has a feeling of excitement and renewal, and whenever we reach that muddy time of early April, I 'm reminded of so many different things. Change. Discovery. Erasure's 'Chorus'. Kissing a boy for the very first time (I'm even able to look back on The First with something approaching nostalgia now, but that's another post). As much as I may like winter, I love that feeling of change even more. Whether internal or external, there's always such organic electricity in the air. We're finally shedding our hides and coming out of our holes, face towards the newly-warm sunshine and smelling the budding trees and plants- spring in Boston and New England is like nothing else in the world. I love it. I'm ready for it. One of the most beautiful things I've ever seen happened a few Aprils ago, back when Jon and I were still living in Boston's South End (the place to be for Boston's Guppies). I was outside, wandering the blocks surrounding our apartment. It was shortly after dusk. I turned a corner to go down Brookline Avenue or some place and noticed how the street lights were catching the newly-sprouted leaves on the (maple? elm? I can't remember which) trees lining the street, covering about twenty feet up with a glowing light-green canopy. I didn't rush home to grab my camera like I usually do, because I knew it wouldn't translate a tenth of what I was experiencing. I stood on the uneven brick sidewalk with my mouth open, marveling at the urban and unexpected beauty of it all. Only two months to go. Eep.
I Dream I'm not sure what to think of this one. My sister and I had done something- I can't remember what- and we we're on the run from the police. I'm driving a car with her in the passenger seat, and we pull into a train station. We abandon the car and rush for the platform, hoping that the train that's about to leave will get us out of there before the police arrive. It turns out that the train's actually been hired for a birthday party. A bunch of pre-teen girls are boarding while I try to talk one of the mothers into giving us a free ride. Eventually, I kick the engineer off and my sister and I pull the train out of the station without any of the moms, only the girls who get very annoyed with us that they're not going to their party. As we go down the tracks, the train changes into this weird SUV/train hybrid- it shortens to only one car, and all the little girls are sitting in the seats in the back. Because it's a hybrid, I realize that I can take it off the tracks and onto a road, which I do. Without my wanting it to, the train has now fully transformed into a huge SUV/Minivan thing. We're driving down the road when I notice that the conversion isn't 100% complete- I forgot to switch from train wheels to normal car wheels and the train wheels are carving ruts into the road. I flip a switch, change the wheels, but know the police are still chasing us. I ask the girls where they want to go- they don't seem to phased at all by being kidnapped- and the girl who's having the party says that she wants fried chicken. We take them to a greasy spoon diner, and as they're eating their chicken, the police turn up. Leaving the girls at the diner, my sister and I head back to the car/train and drive it away. Somehow, we return to the tracks but the police are using some weird power to pull up each section of track as we drive over it, like that scene in the penguin episode of Wallace and Gromit, only in reverse. That's when I wake up.
Ann Coulter is a lunatic She's nuts and doesn't believe half of what she writes. Listen to this if you have any doubts.
Ugh [From mom's cousin to my mom]
Hi, It would be wonderful if you could get a copy of the very special words that Michael said at his grandfather's funeral. I would be so happy to send a copy to my brothers. They have both inquired about the day's events, and I feel that was really the high light. Do you think Michael would be willing to share that? It was such a positive look at a difficult situation; you're right Michael has a gift. Let me know. Talk soon. Love Jan[From mom to her cousin]
Hi Jan and Ray, Thank you so very much for all the care and love you have shown to me during this horrible fiasco. That's all I can call it at this point and feel it was so senseless. But, I have to accept what has been done and what's in store for me. I think things are going to be very difficult for my Mom but right now, I'm going day by day. There is nothing more I can do. I hurts. I will sent Michael a note for his eulogy. He should do more with his writing but seems to be stuck somewhere. I could see him a famous author some day if he wanted. Again, love to you and Ray. Please keep in touch.[From mom to me]
Hi Honey, Wanted you to see this note and hope you have a copy of your words. Love to you. MomMind you, this comes after I explained that there would only be one copy of what I wrote/read, it was in longhand with scribbles, margin notes, and what have you, and only my grandmother would be able to keep it. What I read was verbal, something for a very specific time, and I want it to stay that way. I saw a zillion copies of what I read/wrote for my father's funeral floating around afterwards, and I always felt that it somehow lessened importance of the whole thing. Perhaps I'm being selfish, but I don't want someone, and certainly not someone who wasn't there, reading it out of context.
Another Thing I'm the genealogist for my family. I've constructed a database with almost 800 names, tracing our family back as far as the 1400s. One of the branches that's always stumped me was my mother's father's mother's side. I found out at the funeral that I've been spelling the surname incorrectly- it's actually Douglass, not Douglas. I found out last night, via the SSDI, that
Herman Douglas Harmon Douglass, my great-great grandfather, was born exactly 100 years (to the day) before I was. Neat, huh?
Thinking I think my life has returned to normal, or at least it's back at a relatively even keel that can be considered normal. I don't know if I'm grieving properly or not. When my father died, it was a grief that was all-consuming. Instead of altering my world-view, it completely changed it. The way I saw things and the way I dealt with life completely changed. Age certainly changes things, both with me being almost thirty and my grandfather being eighty-four. I had been preparing myself for his death for a few years, but the sheer violence and selfishness of how is the hardest for me to understand. He didn't believe in life insurance. There was maybe $2000 to be paid at time of death, and he made sure his funeral costs would be taken care of. However, unlike my dad, my grandfather put any money he would have paid to life insurance into a bank account- my father was too lazy and didn't believe in such crazy, money-wasting schemes. My grandmother has a modest six figure stash, between blue-chips, bonds, and what have you. Her house and car are all paid for, so she'll live out her life in relative comfort. Anything that's left when she dies will go directly to my mother, which I think is a gigantically huge mistake. To say that my mom's bad with money is like calling Everest "a bit of a hike". [Unnecessary detailing of my mother's monetary problems deleted- it's not something you either need to read or be vicariously embarrassed by] [Even more stuff removed] I think I'm finished crying. What I still have to deal with is the anger. Right now, I see this anger as a large bird-bath full of oil. The calm surface reflects everything around it, so I've absolutely no idea how deep it is. Is it as deep as my hand? My arm? My torso? If I'm not careful, will I slip and fall in, plunging to a bottom that may not exist? Right now, it's a battery- a source of energy I can tap into if the need arises. That's why running is helping so much right now. I went to my first spin class for about 18 months last Thursday but left wanting to hit something. With running, my speed and duration is only limited internally- I can always go faster, always run farther. Before the weather turned cold I was running home from work- a good 7 miles. From the waterfront to the start of the southwest corridor, from Forest Hills through the Arnold Arboretum to home. It would take me 80 minutes, but I would be high as a kite for an hour and would sleep well that night. I can burn off some of that anger, some of that negative energy. Treadmills are to outside running what frozen yogurt is to ice cream- a passable alternative, but not nearly as good as the real thing. Surprisingly enough, I'm not able to drain that energy as efficiently with karate, which might have something to do with why I haven't been for almost two months (!!!). I'm going back on Wednesday, so I'll have to check then.
Mundane Back to work. Another start to another week, with the same projects, same deadlines, and same histrionics. Given all the wailing and moaning and gnashing of teeth I've heard about the department budget recently, you'd think I was back in non-profit. Sadly, this is not the case. Saw About Schmidt on Saturday. Nicholson's got the dowdy, passive-aggressive sixty-something widower down like no-one else could, but I wasn't sure what the film's ultimate message was supposed to be: Q: He's sixty-seven. His wife's just died. He's spent his entire adult life lying to himself and everyone around him. He hates his daughter's soon-to-be husband and all the crazy relatives that come along with the marriage. What should he do? A: Take all that rage, anger and disappointment and squish it into a little ball. Lie your head off at the wedding and realize afterwards that your whole life has been a worthless sham. Never, under any circumstances, be honest. You'll only hurt yourself in the end. It's an anti-road movie, isn't? Schmidt goes off on an adventure, out on the open road where he's supposed to Find Himself and come to terms with how much of his life he's wasted. Instead, he racks up parking tickets, destroys a few Hummel figurines, and manages to end the movie worse off than he started. I'm fairly sure that's what the filmmakers intended, but I'm not sure why. I think this is one of those movies that will take a while (50 or 60 years, maybe) to fully appreciate. Oh, and (more) admiration to Kathy Bates for not being afraid to flash her ass and tits. I hear she's got a semi-regular character in the next season of Six Feet Under. She's fab.
Different Destinations The book's front cover is pitted and scarred. The back cover's grip on this life is guaranteed only with a few strips of electrician's tape. Inside, there's a journey to another world. A place of gray and black, broken by the white and gunmetal of common objects that that look startlingly alien against the lunar background. Of all the children's National Geographic books, this one- Adventures to the Moon!- is by far my favorite. I never tire of the two dozen photographs that detail Our journey to the Moon. The funny looking men in their lunar buggies make me feel happy. In a world where all grownups can get along, there's hope for the future. I'm five. ... The classroom is dark. I've never been in this particular place before. Even though everyone was given the opportunity to stay in from recess to watch the Space Shuttle return to earth, there's only about 7 of us here. Atop the rectangular stand, the black-and-white television looks even smaller than the one at home, but the image's clear enough. From the gray wash of sky descends a weird dolphin-dove creature, far too bulky and clumsy-looking to be the vanguard the next generation of space flight. As it smokes to a landing, I wonder if some day I'll ever be inside it. I'm in the first grade. I'm eight. ... Changing after gym is always awkward. There's still too much unspent adrenaline in the air, too much new testosterone. I look around me, unsure what to think of the shirtless boys screaming at each other, burning off energy. The screams go up an octave or two when one of the home-ec teachers- a girl!!- comes barging into the room. "the Space Shuttle's blown up!" she yells, and the next few minutes are spent tearing on remaining clothing, tying shoes, and sprinting for an available television. That teacher from Concord was on it, right? Common myth had it that my homeroom teacher was one of the finalists. It was almost impossible for him to hide his aching disappointment so long ago, but now, all we can do is crowd around the (color) television and gasp as that image of the explosions and two contrails gets branded into the back of our heads over and over again. I'm in the sixth grade. I'm thirteen. ... The stupid fucking pictures won't load. I've got to complete seven grants and their funding by lunch, but all I really care about is seeing the new photographs from Mars. As I click Refresh and Refresh and Refresh, the anticipation rises, but not in a bad way. This is new and this is exciting. This is history, and I want a piece of it. Once I finally get through, I go right for the photo with the largest dimensions. Even though it takes another half-hour to fully load, I stare in awe at a photograph transmitted from millions of miles away. It looks like Death Valley. The universe suddenly shrinks to something smaller, something less complex, and once again I feel part of a whole far larger than I can ever imagine. I'm a year out of college. I'm twenty-three. ... The news travels up the basement stairs from the radio as I watch my WinMX downloads. The Space Shuttle missions have felt like wheel-spinning for the past decade-- we should have colonies on Mars now, forget anything on the moon. Where's the 2001 that Kubrick promised me? As I refresh cnn.com, I realize that I'm listening to history once more. Later on in the day, ten points to the CBS anchor-woman for explaining how fast mach-23 is, but minus 10 for asking a NASA spokesperson if terrorists could be involved and minus about 10 million to the late middle-aged anchorman who constantly refers to the Soviet space program. I wait for the government's announcement at 1 PM and briefly fantasize a Dubya off-the-cuff speech that echoes JFK's of 1962- "We will go to Mars by the end of this decade; not because it is easy, but because it is hard. We will do it as a global community of human beings, coming together as individuals, but leaving this planet as one". Instead, he quotes some blood-and-thunder prophet and mentions God and Heaven too much. Please, please, please don't let this be NASA's death-knell. I need to believe in The Future, to hope that I'll live to see our race's exploration into the night sky above, that we won't fall victim to budget cuts, War-Time Posturing, and anything else that will keep our feet planted firmly on the ground. Seven people died today. Seven faces, diverse and true, smiling from their bright orange suits, eyes full of promise. They will always be remembered.
Gossip at work "shhhh." "I think the Manager of Word Processing is starting to go crazy. She called the Help Desk earlier today because she couldn't open a .jpg, and then I had to go down right after lunch to help her with the scanner. It turns out she was trying to scan a legal-landscape document, but was freaking out when the exported information wasn't showing properly in Word. Turns out that the information was importing properly, but she was forgetting to change the size and orientation of the resulting document. These are easy, basic things, so why is she having so much trouble? That whole department has such a high turnover rate as it is. The two old bats that run the place hate everyone….. blah blah blah blah…."
Friday Five 1. As a child, who was your favorite superhero/heroine? Why? Aquaman. I had a huuuge crush on him when I was little. I remember being quite distressed by the episode when he gets turned into a gigantic fish. Or shark. Or something. 2. What was one thing you always wanted as a child but never got? Aquaman. 3. What's the furthest from home you've been? Glasgow, Scotland. 4. What's one thing you've always wanted to learn but haven't yet? Mandarin. 5. What are your plans for the weekend? Relax.
Comment Away As the initial blast radiation starts to recede, I've decided to reactivate my comments link. Good stuff, bad stuff- feedback and constructive criticism is always welcome.
I love the BBC I'm currently listening to Making Terror, Breaking Terror, a three-part documentary on the history and context of global terrorism. The program takes a long, hard look at the seeds of such horrific acts, the brainwashing of the "martyrs" who commit them, and the prevention we can take in future. The BBC has archived all three parts on their website, so if you have an hour-and-a-half to spare, I'd heartily recommend you give them a listen. In his column this week, Dan Savage does a great job of deconstructing and debunking the Rolling Stone -> Drudge Report -> elsewhere report of "25% of all new HIV-infected gay men purposely sought out disease" bru-ha-ha of last week. Statistics are such malleable and subjective things- I can't help but be reminded of the mid-80s "survey" that found gay men, on average, contract several STDs every year and have slept with thousands of people in their adult life. The religious right sank their claws into this information (I'm certainly not going to link to any of these sites here, but I'm sure you can find them yourself if you look hard enough) and have run with it for the past 20-odd years, empirically proving the danger of taking studies, facts, and figures out of context. All that information came from one place- an anonymous drop-in STD treatment clinic in San Francisco. Information from a handful of atypical individuals is then extrapolated for an entire subculture. That's Bad Statistics, and any statistician worth their salt laughs at such "evidence". Unfortunately, most people don't. Regardless of my opinion of the present and future of HIV/AIDS education and prevention, the average American will believe anything presented in a mass-market publication. Articles like this can be damaging, but organizations like GLADD need to be a little more staid and objective with their responses. Approach it calmly, address each issue, and prove it's innacuracy or falsehood. You'll make both your point and more friends that way.
Is our leader learning? Before my politics, before my interpretation of semantics, and even before how something looks comes how it sounds. Because of my theater and communication training in college, I think I notice diction, articulation, cadence, and phonemes a little more than your average individual. I can stomach Dubya's "public" speaking voice pattern for about thirty seconds. I wanted to sit down and force myself to listen the the State of the Union address last night, to what he had to say, but I couldn't. His medium was so garbled to me and I didn't feel like digging through all the tics and whirrs to reach the message. Dubya uses and emphasizes wrong words, stresses wrong syllables, and tosses in random pauses at wrong times. It's as if he's taken all his skill from some CONQUER YOUR FEAR OF PUBLIC SPEAKING! TODAY!-type late night TV guru. It's the pauses that bother me more than anything else. While it might work in a corporate boardroom (watch his head turn as he tries to make eye-contact with each member of his television audience), it looks even more stilted when it's done over such a mass media. Maybe the RAM in his head can't accept new information until the old information has been purged? Let's start with last night's very first sentence: Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished citizens and fellow citizens: I hope that wasn't his speechwriter's fault, but I'll bet it was originally supposed to be "distinguished guests and fellow citizens". Dubya is almost bearable when he sticks to the script or talks about economic issues, but whenever he starts to adlib or speak to domestic affairs, it's like watching the first day of auditions for a high school debate club. Am I being too harsh? I don't think so. Regardless of his or her politics, the Leader of the Free World needs to be the best communicator in the country. If you can't sit in front of a television camera and form coherent sentences, you shouldn't be president. That's another reason why I'll never take residence in the Oval Office. Of course, on the opposite side of the spectrum, you have someone like Patrick Buchanan, who moves his head and mouth when he talks, but nothing else. Watch his unnerving dead-eye stare into the camera the next time you observe him talking (and long may that day be in coming) and you'll see what I mean. While he sounds fine, all his body language is either weird beyond measure or nonexistant. If you've never done it before, check out Prime Minister's Question Time, Sunday nights at 9pm (I think) on CSPAN. Watch Tony Blair, along with his enemies and allies, speak. Dubya wouldn't survive five minutes in the House of Commons. And while I'm in Full Rant Mode, isn't it a bit hollow to be making all this noise about stock dividends and being double taxed? How many taxes are applied to something like, oh, I don't know, payroll? Federal, state, city, meals, gasoline, etc, etc...
Day-glo paint on an electric chair. Electric dye in her lover's hair. A pretty light in the middle of the night. Made up for everyone to see. Swingin' on the branch of a broken family tree.I keep coming back to that last line from the second verse of a song about Edie Sedgwick. Rip it entirely out of context, and it does a good job of describing how I've always felt about my immediate family. We were so small to begin with, and now we're missing another person. The crowds at Thanksgiving and Christmas never grew past eight or nine people- I'm the only sibling who has ever brought a Significant Other to celebrate a holiday with us. We set a table for eight, then seven, and next time it's only going to be six. I want a brother-in-law; I want a sister-in-law. I want to be Uncle Michael. I want to see a squirming five-year-old play with their peas across the table from me, desperate to return to the TV or an unfinished game of Monopoly or Chutes and Ladders. Kids are so important, and I don't think I've been around any on a day-by-day basis since my brother and sister grew up.
Holes to fill For those of you who aren't regular readers, my recently-deceased grandpa was my mother's father. My only grandparent left is my mother's mother- my father's father died in 1976, and my father's mother died in 1990. My mom's an only child, which is why I've been so deeply involved in this horrible situation.
SAY SOMETHING Hauled another large garbage bag of gently-used clothing here this morning. Whenever I do this, I'm always tempted to return a few days later to see how much they've priced my stuff, and now that I live 5 minutes' drive from the place, I think I will. I hate, hate, hate, HATE driving through the one mile stretch of Centre Street that runs through Jamaica Plain. Not only is it a four-lane street knocked down to two because of all the semi-parked cars, no-one seems to look either way before dashing out into the road like a frightened goose. This morning, a woman wearing a hoodie walked right out in front of me, with her head turned the other way the entire time. It was very unsatisfactory to glare at the back of her hood. While I'm all for pedestrian's rights and believe they should always have the right of way, I'm sorely tempted with a lassiez-faire approach- if you want to run across the street with wild abandon, go right ahead, but it's only your responsibility if you get run over. And now for something completely different. I repeat the last moments of my grandfather's life in my head more than I should. Did he shoot himself knowing exactly what he was doing, or was he having a psychotic episode? I look through the pictures I've taken of him over the last few months, and scan for something- anything- that I might be able to take comfort in, but I always come back empty. The main problem with being the Family Photographer is that you appear in precious few of the pictures you take. Last August, I took dozens of pictures of my sister with him, my brother with him, all three of them together, at the Outback, but I have to go back at least two years before I can find anything of me with my grandfather. The funeral was better than I expected. We were only planning on around 20 non-family people to pay their respects, but a good 100+ people came. One guest, my Crazy Great-Aunt Helen's son Richard, would not have been welcome if my grandfather could control things beyond the grave (but he can't). There was a huge rift between him and their side of the family about ten years ago, and fences were never mended properly. I couldn't refuse Richard entrance, and I think the simple act of his being there was some sort of atonement. Like I did with my father, I wrote and read the main eulogy. It's wryly amusing to think that my two most captive and receptive audiences have been at funerals. I could have stood up there and stammered my way through the entire thing, and I doubt if anyone would have cared or noticed. So many people came up to me afterwards to compliment me on it, to say what a good job I had done, but cynical me had to wonder if people would say anything else- "What you read was crap!" or "Did you write that in the car on the way up here?"- then again, if they didn't like it, they probably wouldn’t have said anything. Masons of New Hampshire, your attention please. You know that part in the Masonic Funeral Service when you make the big deal about the evergreen sprig of Acacia or pine or whatever it is? I understand the symbolic significance of ever-green plants in relation to death, but please, if you are unable to obtain any actually green evergreen sprigs or branches, do not dye said sprigs green. The family of the deceased is bound to notice, and they'll only feel vaguely conned. Or something.
Silliness I love "individualized" mass-marketing when it blunders like this:
I don't know if it will be on the fridge as long as the credit card offer that encouraged me to celebrate my chinese heritage (note to ad-people: just because there are two vowels in a one-syllable last name does not necesarily mean that person is asian), but it's amusing nonetheless.
And by the way For those of you who are looking back at this entry six months from now, bored to tears with me complaining about how hot it is, please notice that I've not typed a single word about how cold it's been in Boston over the past few weeks. I find this type of weather so much easier to deal with than heat and humidity.
Michael Plays Detective You know what? I'm never going to understand why he did it. During the past 15 or so years of my life, I've done a lot of research into the darker aspects of humanity and our collective mental nature (Ha. That's a clever way of working my way around both not knowing the plural of or even how to spell 'psyches'). Especially in high school, the concept of suicide had a deeply-engrained place in my thought patterns. I thought about it a lot. However, even when I was in my blackest of moods, I never took that final step to do anything about it. I always had hope- hope that things would get better, that the future had more in store than what I was able to see directly in front of me. That's what I don't understand. How can someone lose Hope? Then I realized that I was taking my way of looking at the world, my thought patterns, and attempting to graft them on to his mindset or way of thinking. I'll never know what he was thinking in the minutes before he pulled the trigger. All I can do is surmise. But the thing is, I'm able to put together a fairly good approximation of what happened and why he did it. From not wanting to inflict the suffering that his own mother put him through during the last few years of her life (he was essentially an only child, she was a lunatic who only trusted the son that she had ignored for the first three decades that he had been around) to possibly having his remaining kidney diagnosed as cancerous to having a small heart attack the week before (shades of what killed my dad) to depression to simply being tired, yeah I can sort of start to comprehend why he would want to kill himself. That doesn't excuse him from being a complete and utter bastard for doing it, though. "He's devastated the whole family," My grandmother's said this weekend, and it's true. I'm happy that he's finally free from the demons that have haunted him for so long, and I'm happy that I hada chance to give him a big hug and to tell him I loved him last Christmas, but I'm am Incredibly Unhappy with the mess that he's left behind. I am going to die quietly in my sleep at the age of 95. I will say my goodbyes, make my peace with the world, and quietly slip out the backdoor while no one is looking. Actually, I was joking around with my brother earlier today- I'm going to die in an unfortunate skydiving accident when my parachute doesn't open and he's going to spontaneously combust. It seems that the men in my family must die with spectacle, for good or for bad.
I've been thinking about this next paragraph a lot over the past two days. I've decided to tinker with my page template, to remove the comments link, mostly because I don't want people I've never met commenting on this deeply personal issue. I can't even decide if I want to write about this in the first place. I'm hoping that writing here, putting the chaos of my head down in some linear fashion, knowing that it's got be cognizant and clear for people to understand, may help process it all. My grandfather killed himself early Wednesday morning. He took his .32 pistol into the garage and shot himself between the eyes. He was 84. There was no note of any kind, or any indication whatsoever that he was feeling suicidal. I'm only now starting to comprehend exactly what's happened. I spent most of the day Wednesday and part of yesterday in complete shock. After speaking with the police officer who coordinated everything, it turns out that he was severely depressed, and had been for quite some time. He was never the most verbal of people to begin with, and whenever the topic of depression had arose in his conversations with his doctor, my grandfather had specifically told him not to say a word to my grandmother or anyone else in the family. The officer seemed to think he had some unresolved issues left over from is Coast Guard service during World War II, but I', hoping to find out more when I speak with his doctor later. The funeral is tomorrow. My grandmother wants me to say something, just like I did with my dad. It's being held in an evil, tacky 70s paneling complex, in the exact same "chapel" as my great-aunt's funeral. There's irony for you- in life, my great-aunt and grandfather hated each other, my grandfather wouldn't piss on her if she was on fire, but that's another story for another time. My grandmother's financially stable for at least the next few years, which is a very good thing. For most people in her situation, finances are the first, almost immeasurably high hurdle to leap, but she's comfortably safe. The secondary chaos flying around during the past two days has at least added a wry sense of amusement to everything. I had to borrow my mother's truck (a 1986 2-wheel bottom-of-the-line Ford with no radio that my grandfather gave to her a few years ago) to make the Boston -> New Hampshire trip, and on my way up yesterday, it *died*. It died on Route 95, half a mile from the Hampton tolls. While I was pulled over in the breakdown lane, sitting in the cab waiting for AAA to arrive and feeling the semis shake the air around me, I couldn't shake the image of my grandfather and father, watching my predicament from a metaphysical somewhere, sharing a drink and laughing at the absurdity of it all.