Monday, October 30, 2006

Vanishing Point

I recently had a genius idea for a post.

I was at the gym on the elliptical, simultaneously gazing at (and thru) my image in the semi-reflective window when I realized I had a tree for a nose.

Yes, that's right.

A tree for a nose.

Allow me to explain:

When dusk hits and the light outside begins to fade, you see more and more of yourself in an otherwise transparent window. But you can still see the outside world — as I did — and what you see depends entirely on your point of focus.

So you see yourself for a second. And then, instead of seeing your reflection, you notice the world outside.

But this transition, contrary to popular belief, is not altogether instantaneous. Rather — for me at least — there was a central point of transition where my field of vision would confuse the outside world with my reflection.

For example: when focusing on myself, I noticed my nose was unusually large... and yellow. I focused on my nose to try and determine the cause... only to lose focus on myself, and instead see a row of trees just above the horizon.

Where I imagined my nose to be was one tree with a few remaining yellow leaves (most other trees were bare).

But about this time — when I realized that tree was acting as my nose in this reflection — I was back to seeing myself again.

(I have to imagine I looked rather cross-eye during much of this).

This exchange of focal points continued until a train went by and swallowed my mouth whole. And by that I mean: as it went past, its image through the window was transposed over the reflection of my mouth... such that steel replaced my lips, and I waxed poetic with notions of Shakespeare's Lavinia trying to speak.

This all struck me as being rather profound at the time. So profound, in fact, that I endeavored to write my observations "first thing" after returning home. But instead I showered... ate... and then went to sleep. And then Friday passed. Then Saturday, and Sunday. And I kept thinking to myself "I really need to sit down and write about that."

And then finally, today, I turned to my computer with that very intention — only to since find myself repulsed by the very idea. Whatever poetic notions I had last Thursday have since faded, only to be replaced by inner-chidings.

I mean... what was I thinking?

However ridiculous, and however pathetic, the truth is... I do wish I could go back there again.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

And We Drown

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Murder & Intrigue

Murderball has a near perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where many reviewers tout it to be one of the best films in 2005.

While I wasn't nearly as excited by it as were the "professionals," I can — at least — see their point. It is compelling, and I would even wager to say that the things I didn't like about are reflections on myself rather than the film itself.

You see, Murderball is a documentary about the America rugby team for the Paralympic Games. The rugby players are all quadriplegics with varying degrees of paralysis.

But how, on earth, could someone paralyzed from the neck down play rugby?

Good question. Or I would say "good question," because I went into the film wondering the exact same thing. And so what happens throughout the course of the documentary is this miraculous thing that American schools could use a little more of:

You learn something.

I learned that many quadriplegics can use their arms and hands, though the degree to which they can depends on their injury. I learned a valuable lesson in the difference between the Paralympics and the Special Olympics (two very different games one should never confuse in the presence of paralympic athletes).

"We go to the games to win," says one rugby player. "We don't go there for hugs."

(I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.)

The lessons continue from there, almost by happenstance. And by that I mean: this film doesn't overtly teach the "walking" public about spinal chord injuries but, in the course of interviewing/filming the athletes, the knowledge just... happens.

What you see in the interim is one of the most brutal teams sports I've yet to witness: it really is rugby in that the players slam their chairs into each other to "tackle." Chairs overturn, players bleed. There's screaming, yelling, and a lot of practice involved in winning the gold. It was actually "fun" to watch the fractions of games we see, and I couldn't help but think I'd like to sit in on one as a spectator sometime.

But I also felt tremendously uncomfortable watching players dangle upside down, waiting for referees to flip them right side up. And sometimes seeing them struggle off the court to dress, eat, open cards, etc... made me want to jump in and help (which is precisely the sort of response that offends them... since they know, in time, they can manage to do just about anything without assistance).

Still, it's the same thing I feel when I see someone with an armful of bags struggling to open a door. You open the door for them because you know, if you were them, you'd like a little help.

Ditto with seeing someone in a parking lot, lifting their parent or grandparent from a chair and putting them into the seat, then struggling to fold the chair and throw it in the back. The last time I saw this happen (within the last month, I'm sure)... I actually turned to walk towards them. Stopped. Sort of hesitated. And then turned and walked to my own car.

Murderball confirmed what I've heard so many times... that people who step in to help don't understand that the person in the chair wouldn't go out if they couldn't handle getting back in. But, man, if that isn't sometimes difficult to walk by without at least offering.

And I think that's what bothered me about the film — the thing that says more about me than it does the documentary. I want to help people but, sometimes, you've just got to realize...

you can't.

Friday, October 27, 2006

I've Heard about Her

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Urban Oasis

The Lonely One

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Neologisms VI

What the Newscaster Meant to Say

What I Heard
(And what I'm fairly certain he actually said)

An irrational fear of gay furbies

Sample Sentence
The human resources director was fired for refusing to promote countless furbies, despite their superior communication skills and immaculate grooming habits.

"Let it be noted that this firm will not tolerate that sort of senseless homofurbia," the company's CEO told reporters.

The former HR director was unavailable for comment.

Neologisms V

What I Meant to Say
Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin C

What I Said
Recommended Daily Violence


  1. A level of violence that at once relieves the day's stress without inflicting pain or harm on either oneself or others.
  2. A value to be issued by the MPAA and/or the FDA at some point in the future. Will likely denote the amount of violence "safe" for kids from day-to-day, as in two episodes of Tom & Jerry and one Spongebob.
Sample Sentence
After a marathon of saccharine Hollywood romances, Drake took his young bride to see Saw III in hopes of achieving Daily Recommended Violence levels.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quote of the Day

Today someone said something to me that — given the context of the conversation, and the tone in which it was spoken — struck me as being the loneliest thing I have heard in an era... Or at least thus far this week.

"We all make our own choices in life, now don't we?"

Sounds innocuous enough now that I'm typing it. But. Still. It was the "now don't we?" that really hit me.

(Not to mention the context, which I haven't the energy to discuss.)

Nemo (or, "My Life's Amibition")

In this squalid life of waning ambitions, I determined today to add "see own word included in dictionary" to my "Do Before I Die" list.

This aspiration occured to me quite suddenly when I began to daydream during someone else's conversation. I "woke up" just in time to mishear the latter part of the dialogue.

What was said: Should we send it to [some guy who's name starts with "N" and ends with "O"].
What I heard: Should we Nemo him, then?

I was about to comment on how clever it was that this woman had just used the name "Nemo" as a verb when I realized... she hadn't (rather, she had just misspoken someone's name as such).

So while the conversation continued without me, I defined "nemo" as a verb and wrote a few sample sentences in my head. I waited until it was my turn to speak.

"So, what you're saying is, the meeting I just went to — where no one was there but me — that meeting was unoffically cancelled without any notice? OK. Gotcha. Hey, what do you think about using the word 'Nemo' as a verb? You know, like with 'finding Nemo,' only letting 'Nemo' stand on its own? As in, 'I'll try to nemo my boss and see what he says?'"

As I walked away, I realized the flaw to these semantics: I mean, "find" is one syllable, where as "Nemo" is two. So we're not saving time by substituting "find" with "Nemo," but darned if it doesn't add a little flavor to this dry language.

(And people at work think I'm "strange"!)

Friday, October 20, 2006


I often compile lists. So often, in fact, that the mere habit borders on compulsive behavior. Here's what I mean: I've not even finished a paragraph, and already... a list of my lists.

  • To do lists
  • Grocery lists
  • Miscellaneous shopping lists
  • Must read lists
  • Must watch lists
  • Do before I die lists
  • See before I move lists
  • Funny things people say
  • Weird things I saw
  • And so on
I don't always have the previous list handy and so will start a new one, oftentimes intending to add it to the previous docket once it is found.

This results in a pile of lists, which can become a tad overwhelming. As with today, when I opened my faux leather padfolio (think: an adult's Trapper Keeper) only to find a fountain of papers spilling over the edges. So I set about to go through the lists and make a NEW list of all the things not yet purchased or done.

In the process, I came across a few "notes to self": my way of saying "add this to the list of things to eventually write about" — the longest list of all and, most definitely, the list that seldom sees items crossed off.

The first was the word "canswer" which, I swear, was the way I accidentally typed the word "cancer" when writing something for work. This happened, unintentionally, several times in a single day, and I remember thinking of all the possible therapeutic uses for such a word.

But that is not the purpose of this entry (not that I intend any purpose, but that I hope to find one).

No, no... the "note to self" that really got me thinking was — you guessed it — the title of this entry.


A word which occurred to me one day while nursing a sick stomach. Not a flu or cold or food poisoning sort of sickness, so much as an existential squeeze in one's abdomen. I was experiencing a sustained tug of nothingness, for lack of a better word, and the single, discernible thought that occurred to me was this:

I wish I had some Peptoabysmal.

From there, I wrote in my head potential taglines for such a product ("Feeling Empty? Drink Plenty!" or even "Relief for every existential crisis!")... and even had some fledgling ideas for commercials and magazine ads. I imagined characters from a Bosch painting wandering in to their nearest pharmacy, demanding bottles of Peptoabysmal... and walking away with smiles on their pink-moustashed faces.

But revisiting that note today, I was reminded instead of a poetic obsession I once harbored for words like ennui, weltschmerz, and even oubliet. They made frequent appearances in my writing, once upon a time, but now I hazard to think they may very well be realities. I often find myself with nothing to say, even in those rare moments when I have the time to say it.

But this, too, is not the point of this post.

I hope.

Instead, let us discuss another word: the first verb I ever invented.


I was 14, maybe 15. However old one is in the ninth grade. We'd been studying Shakespeare and talking about some of those words he created, when we were asked to come up with our own.

Skepticulate occurred to me without pause. So I said as much, and offered a definition.

1. To be lied to so much, you doubt anything anyone says to you.
2. To cause others to lose faith in someone, or something
ant., gullibulate

As in, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf spent so much time skepticulating the villagers that no one believed him when a crisis was near."

There's also the obvious noun form, skepticulation:

1. The process by which a person gradually begins to question something or someone.
2. The act of skepticulating.

As in, "She would have trusted him, had it not been for his prolonged skepticulation."

But this post isn't so much about skepticulation, either.

I was at the gym last night, re-reading the first section of W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn (which I have been trying to read for six months, but have been unable to finish because all previous reading was done either on the train, at lunch or while riding an exercise bike — none of which I have been able to do for quite some time, due to the lack of a free gym or a need for public transportation at my current abode... and the complete and utter lack of actual breaks at work) when I revisited this passage about a man who saw crystalline shapes everywhere. And then I thought of Leonardo Da Vinci, and that circle he drew around man.

It was about then that I realized the power of cliches: that everything really does come full circle. That everything is somehow connected, even if by chance. That sometimes words that piqued our poetic sensibilities once upon a time are very much alive and well... in the most parasitic, ineffable way.

I'm reminded now of high school geometry. I'm reminded of those postulates and hypotheses... and how all of our theorems were just a few steps away from "living" proof (or in a word: conclusion).

Which begs the question: when did I get into this mess? And how, on earth, does it end?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Diary of a Crazy Cat Lady

Pet ownership is not at all what I remember it to be.

But this may have something to do with the fact that the only indoor cat we ever had growing up used my father's head as a litter box early some mornings (and so the era of "indoor cats" was substantially short-lived).

Most of our cats lives were short-lived, for that matter. We lived in a rural area replete with racoons, possums, coyotes and even foxes (not to mention, the usual dangers posed by man: speeding cars, drunken hunters, etc). I hate to say it, but I don't recall a single cat living past three years of age. And even that may be stretching it.

Our dogs usually got a little better treatment. We did have one get shot by a hog farmer (I was only seven or eight at the time and was TERRIBLY traumatized by that). After that, we started to tie them up, a procedure which inflicted an entirely new degree of horror on a girl with an almost unhealthy degree of empathy for animals. Shortly thereafter, we got our first "strictly indoors" pooch... a cocker spaniel who enjoyed life well into her teens.

But somewhere in-between, I witnessed all varieties of pet tragedies; one cat, for example, died defending her kittens from a predator (a tom cat or a possum — hard to tell for sure). I spent that summer bottle-feeding her litter, only to lose the runt (who was also blind) early on to an end I'd rather not mention; and still another to a local boy my mother gave two of the kittens to one day while I was at softball practice (they still needed to be bottle feed at that point — something he was not prepared to do). I cannot even begin to express how angry I was with my mother when I returned home to discover the missing kittens... and how nauseous I felt when he brought one of the kittens back several days later... she was emaciated and sickly, and weighed less than half what she had when she was in my care. It took great attention to get her back into shape.

[Which I did, only to later have her get run over when my parents refused to let me bring her indoors.]

I was maybe nine at the time. And the incident was just enough to transform my empathy for animals into an almost disheartening sense of despair for life in general. Suffice it to say, that was not a good summer.

Aside from incidents such as that, pet ownership was generally "easy." You fed and watered them, and you snuck them inside when your folks weren't looking. But predators were always a stressful concern.

So when Maude came to live with me, I thought having an indoor cat would be a veritable peace of cake. Aside from the inevitable concerns associated with big city landlords, there are no predators in my apartment to speak of. I keep the place clean, so there's unlikely to be a bottle of poison enticing her on the floor, and I'm careful to only leave out "safe" toys when I'm not at home.

But I've since determined that I may very well be cursed when it comes to pet ownership. Though Maude is alive, healthy and well to this day... she's in such a state despite herself.

Regular readers likely recall the ponytail holder incident that cost me just over a grand. And while I don't want to jinx myself by admitting that nothing so awful has transpired since then, we haven't been without close calls.

Here's a snapshot of Maude's day-to-day:

  • Maude regularly sneaks into my shoe closet, and my clothes closet, when I'm selecting the day's wardrobe. She does this quickly, and unnoticed, which has resulted in her being shut in the door once, and repeatedly locked inside for 5-10 minutes at a time (luckily, she loves being in there, and I always look around for her after a sustained period of silence)
  • Ever since the ponytail incident, she refuses to drink water from a bowl. She now only drinks from the faucet or — if I don't leave that on for her — a water fountain made especially for weird cats like her
  • As a result of this quirk, she's taken to jumping up on my kitchen counter to catch water dripping from the faucet. Clean freak that I am, this grosses me out and has resulted in a substantial increase in the amount of time I spend cleaning the kitchen
  • One night I woke up to this awful screeching sound. I ran into my living room, only to discover one of Maude's toys in the water fountain; it had soaked up ALL OF THE WATER, and so the engine was in the process of burning out. (She throws her toys in the air, sometimes for great distances... I imagine she was attempting to disembowel her stuffed polar bear when the incident occurred)
  • Because of some unusual post-op behavior, we suspected Maude had a touch of taxoplasmosis, and so I spent the last month giving her an antibiotic, twice a day (turns out she probably was NOT a carrier, but with my sister being pregnant, I didn't want to risk it). Ever given a cat a pill? Not fun at all.
  • While I keep the number of "treats" to a minimum, since they're mostly for adult cats, I was giving her the occasional treat as a thank you for swallowing the pill. One morning I didn't do this, and Maude contested by disappearing for over 30 minutes. I searched my closest and under the bed before leaving (I ALWAYS make sure I know where she is before I leave), only to later find her just sitting in her covered litter box. She refused to come out until I opened the bag of treats.
  • Last week I returned home only to discover three piles of vomit on three different rugs. I immediately panicked, wondering if she'd discovered a stray ponytail holder again. She seemed OK... but then vomited again an hour or so later (again, on three separate rugs). I made an appointment with the vet, but then cancelled after she successfully ate (and digested) food.... much to my relief.
  • I discovered a possible cause for her upset stomach a day or two later when my stereo delivered deplorable reception. There were little bite marks up and down the wire antennae, and she'd even succeeded in gnawing all the way through one part of it (not to mention the speaker wires — only one works now). I must've forgotten to spray these wires with Bitter Yuck, because I doused all other cords with the stuff several weeks ago (when she first showed an interest in electrical things)
  • This week I awoke to the sound of her playing noisily in the hallway; I decided I was thirsty anyway, so I got up and went into the kitchen... only to see a beloved post card (previously on my fridge) sitting on my dining room floor, the corners of it chewed away. The magnet that had been holding it there was in the hallway upside down... it had a few teeth marks in it, but apparently didn't meet with her tastes and so was otherwise unscathed.
  • When I mop, Maude does one of two things: sticks her head into the mop bucket and displays a level of curiosity that borders on "Hey, I wonder if I should try that water!" OR she runs across the freshly mopped floor, slides... and then licks the cleaning agent from the pads of her feet. Maude now hates it when I clean, as I have to lock in various rooms as I mop elsewhere... I'm not sure, but I suspect Murphy's Cleaning Oil isn't good for kittens.
  • She weighs less than five pounds, and yet takes up half the bed. She gets right up next to me, and I'm terrified of rolling over her. So I remain in the same position, pushed to the side, before she gets up after her "cat nap," starts making a ton of noise playing with things that aren't toys... and gets kicked out of the room (at which point she entertains herself for awhile, but then comes back to my bedroom door and paws at it — no claws out, luckily — until I let her back in).
I could go on, but this post has already overstayed its welcome. Essentially, I'm starting to see an entirely new world of dangers in my comfy little apartment, and I'm terrified Maude is going to succumb to an untimely end I had previously assigned only to outdoor cats.

For this reason, I now check my floors multiple times (for ponytail holders and such) before I leave for work or go to bed; I sometimes walk back into my apartment after locking up because "I can't remember" if I shut the closet door; and I regularly rearrange furniture to minimize the number of exposed electrical cords.

In short: I've become quite OCD, compliments of Maude.

And to those of you out there who encouraged me to get a cat — to those friends, family and co-workers who said indoor cats were "easy" to take care of, and too smart to cause any real trouble —

I'm holding you all responsible for this. Your bill is in the mail.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Stop Looking Down

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sleep Perchances a Dream

While I did look up The Science of Sleep's overall "rotten" rating before watching it... I didn't read any of the reviews. Suffice it to say the 69% rating it received had me expecting a mild to moderate disappointment. And the very anticipation of disappointment was, well... disappointing.

Michel Gondry's previous feature film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is among my favorites (I know, I know... I've already made that known countless times on this blog). And if I had the impression there'd be any use in a Top Ten list, Sunshine would most definitely be on there (though, to be fair, my "top ten" would likely include no fewer than 20 films). So the mere thought of a D+ average for Gondry's newest had me crestfallen.

Much to my surprise, then, I actually enjoyed The Science of Sleep (2006). I wouldn't put it up there with Sunshine, though it is the sort of film I'd recommend to my friends. It's whimsical and charming. And the stop motion animation throughout is the sort of imagery that leaves a smile on your face.

But that's not to say it's altogether flawless, and I can see why some critics are hesitant to dish out heaps of praise: it lacks the depth of plot that made Sunshine so compelling (perhaps Gondry could've used Sunshine co-writer Charlie Kaufman on this project as well). And it's difficult to pinpoint an actual "purpose" for the film. Is it about a man recovering from his father's death? Is it about his reconciliation between his French and Mexican parentage? Is it about a dreamer at odds with a cubicle world?

Or is it, as most of the trailers lead us to believe, a movie about a boy who likes a girl who doesn't like him back even though they're clearly meant to be together?

Before I hazard a guess, it may be worthwhile to note that the one thing I hate about writing fiction for a critical audience is the assumption that everything must have a point... that there must be a central focus; rising action; falling action; etc. While it's true that, at any given point in our lives, we may be preoccupied with a particular event, said event is seldom the only thing that drives our thoughts. Rather, every day is a compilation of catalysts and consequences that propel us further towards (in-) action.

It always struck me as unfair that a story, then, could only have one purpose. Or even that it should have any purpose.

Am I saying the The Science of Sleep is without focus?

No. I'm just saying I wasn't so much concerned with finding, dissecting it, and pinning it to a wall. Not to mention, a movie that deals so much with the variegated nature of dreams should, itself, be a patchwork of sorts.

And so The Science of Sleep paints the dreamworld of its main character, Stéphane (played by Gael García Bernal). Stéphane is a 20-something artist who falls so deeply into his own dreams that he often fails to distinguish them from reality. The end result is a film that, itself, switches between dreams and reality, often transitioning so fluidly that even the viewing audience is unable to tell one from the other (this, in part, because Stéphane has painted a reality for himself that somewhat imitates his dreams — where water is made of cellophane; cities are made of cardboard; and trees ride freely aboard ships).

For this, Stéphane reminds me a bit of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie. He's inventive and creative, and does just about every beautifully imaginative thing to capture the attention of his next door neighbor. He evinces the sort of childlike charm that most of us abandon with time: and this charm appears in his dreams; in his reality; and his sometimes painful struggle to separate the two.

In fact, as the film progresses the very thing that makes Stéphane so appealing bears the unfortunate side effect of bordering on mental illness. That is to say, Stéphane seems perfectly normal in the beginning — just a bit quirkly — but we eventually (and subtly) come to realize there's more to it than that. He ultimately suffers for his 'beautiful affliction.'

The end result: a string of surrealistic images that could have benefited from a bit more glue to hold them together (yes, I admit, this film is missing something). But, man, if it wasn't pretty while it lasted.

NOTE: About 1/4 of the film is in French; be prepared to read subtitles.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Tristram's Shanty

Though I wouldn't necessarily nominate it for any awards, I enjoyed Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005) substantially more than did my movie-watching companion. I found it to be clever, and witty, though at times difficult to follow (this likely owing to the fact that I watched it over the course of four different meals, spread throughout a week).

This "mockumentary" isn't so much based on the early 18th century satire, Laurence Sterne's The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, as it is a pseudo-documentary about the process of filming a movie based on the book (HUH?!). I appreciated this technique insofar as it underscores all that can go dastardly wrong when compelling novels are adapted for the big screen. And by that I mean: this film takes you "behind the scenes" in the faux-filming of an adaptation.

I should add that Tristram Shandy, the book, is one of my favorites from the 18th century. It's up there with Henry Fielding's Shamela in terms of anachronistic comedy (both novels were well ahead of their time). And, as the "actors" in Tristram Shandy, the movie, frequently lament... Tristram Shandy, the novel, is so complex — and so full of time jumps — that it's nearly impossible to film. The mockumentary setup, then, is perfect for the material.

Rather than attempt to condense a 700 page novel into 2 hours — or bowdlerize it at will to make it Hollywood-savvy — the film "adaptation" of Tristram Shandy is done with the same sort of wit and craft that made the novel such a joy to read. But it does this, of course, without really telling the story of Tristram Shandy.

Oh, mockumentaries. They're so very difficult to explain. Allow me to try again:

Tristram Shandy, the movie, is the fake documentary about the filming of an adaptation of Tristram Shandy, the book. It makes no attempts to imitate the novel, per se, but somehow derives from the same sort of humor the original text is known for. In other words: the film exercises a degree of charm and wit that sufficiently recreates Sterne. It does this by satirizing the very attempt to turn the novel into a film, and frequently jumps to the "behind the scenes" lives of the actors (playing themselves) playing the characters in the novel.

You know those "Making of..." special features on all the DVD's these days? Tristram Shandy, the movie, is like that... the whole way through. It's the main feature, and it's all fake. Get it? No?

I don't blame you.

Also of note — for those of you unfamiliar with British film — I should caution that they're much more, um, forthright when it comes to "tastefully" showing various anatomies you rarely see in American cinema (not the kind you'd watch with your folks, anyway). It was for this reason that the aforementioned movie-watching companion threatened to not finish the film — unless they started giving women equal "screen time."

(A protest which seemed to only further my amusement.)

Sigh. No matter how many times I attempt to explain, I can't quite seem to capture the film's raison d'etre. Watch it... and you'll know what I mean.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Know Why the Caged Mule Neighs

Monday, October 09, 2006

Study of the Midwest in Motion

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXXVI)

on taking my second lunch break in three months

this is what i call
the quiet before the maelstrom
breath found and then lost

on seeing three cop cars arrive at wal-mart just before midnight

this is contrary
to everything he stands for
elmo says be nice
people around here have too much money

when i think 'rolls royce'
i don't think 'bumper stickers'
that looks tacky, man
nothing screams irony quite like a missed photo opportunity

i stand with george bush
(sign beneath an advert for

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Portrait of a Dry Erase Board