Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Non-Binding Postulate

I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to understand,
knocking on a door. It opens.

I've been knocking from the inside. —Jelaluddin Rumi

In the months that joined my freshman year to my sophomore, I faced a fairly typical crisis: I didn't know what on earth I wanted to do with my life, and my major (pre-med) didn't seem to hold my attention.

All I knew, really, was that I spent a good portion of chemistry class writing poems about the study of chemistry in the margins of my notebook. I'd already changed my major from pre-med to psychology once (and then back again, at my parents prodding), and I was especially entralled by a required writing class.

And then, later, I signed up for a literature class as an elective. That was it for me. I switched majors without telling my folks (they would've been crushed!), and I went from majoring in pre-med and taking humanities electives to doing the reverse.

Shortly after I filed the necessary paperwork, my chemistry professor asked me to meet him in his office after class.

"What's this I hear about you changing your major?" he asked through his thick Egyptian accent. "You want to study English?"

He stressed the word English with a bemused glimmer in his eye.

"You're my best student," he said. "Why would you want to do that?"

I was taken back, first of all, by his assertion that I was his "best" student, and I assume to this day that he was using flattery strictly in an attempt to keep me aligned with the sciences.

What he didn't know was that, prior to college, I was terrified of chemistry (in high school, after a lecture on how important it was to keep tabs on our lab keys, I dropped mine into a beaker of hydrochloric acid). Not to mention, I'd spent two entire weeks of this guy's class thinking he was talking about some chick named "Lynn" every time he'd refer to the natural log (ln) of something.

But that's besides the point. He told me how rewarding his profession was, how highly paid chemists were who worked "in the field," and how I'd make a "great doctor" too, if I'd only stick with it.

And I have to admit, his arguments were much better than mine. I have to imagine I sounded like quite the pansy when I said I wanted to switch majors because I wanted to read all of Shakespeare's plays, but in medicine I'd never have the time.

"You think there's not time?" he said, quoting something from the bard I've since forgotten. "You have to make time. I read Shakespeare. I read Rumi — you know Rumi?" he asked.

Rumi is a 13th century Sufi mystic whose poetry had grabbed my attention just a few months previous. My professor was Muslim, but I was nevertheless surprised to hear him so quickly refer to one of my favorite poets, even if they did share the same fundamental religion.

"You think about it," he continued, offering a few more words of disapproval. "Just be sure you make the right decision."
A few days later, there was a poetry jam on campus. The aforementioned professor showed up and read passages of old Arabic poems in their original Persian language. He scarely had to look at the pages, as he had so much of it memorized.

The central poet was, as you may have guessed, Jelaluddin Rumi.
So he'd proven his point. And though I stuck with English after all, I truly appreciated his efforts to keep me from straying to the "dark side" of the Arts & Sciences building. He'd shown more than modicum of interest in my future, something my own pre-med advisor (a biologist) failed to do.
I mention this chemistry professor not only because his interest in my future meant something to me... but also because I was never concerned with our religious differences — even when I did a class presentation on Sarin nerve gas, and threw in a quote or two regarding an Islamic faction. I mean, I knew he celebrated Ramadan, and I knew he had a white Christian wife. That was it. He was my chemistry professor; I was there to learn, and he was there to teach. Religion had nothing to do with it.
Years prior to that, during the first Gulf war, it never occured to me that the conflict was a battle between Western Judeo-Christian ideology and Islam. For me, it was the U.S. against Iraq (two nations, not two religions), and it had something to do with Hussein invading Kuwait (to reduce it to its simplest apolitical factor).

And for as long as I can remember, I found news of ongoing conflicts in the Middle East between the Palestinians and Israelis — and the Catholics and Protestants in Ireland — to be, for lack of a better word, disheartening.

I understood the differences between these various faiths, but I also understood their similarities. But in my teenage naivete, I didn't understand why they couldn't made progressive use of their shared ideologies. And that, even as I studied the political conflict underlying their mutual struggles.

But the fact remains that — even as the news frustrated me — I was still somehow removed from it. I felt badly for the people caught in the middle, but I was — and this is where I have cause to blush — I was primarily just so glad it wasn't happening where I lived.
Even with the bombings in Oklahoma... and the unabomber... threats to our daily way of life seemed to be primarily (though not entirely) domestic. Of course there was always the fear of that proverbial "other" (a la the Cuban missle crisis, the Cold War, etc.)... but for the most part we've had it relatively easy the past few decades — and I do mean relatively.

And then, of course, the events of September 11 serve as a rather profound interruption.

But if we can all agree that history is rife with sundry turning points, I'd argue that 9/11 was rather seismic, to say the least.
As though the significant loss of lives wasn't enough, the attacks also showed the American people that its government had a big gaping hole in its lines of defense. And our government, in an ego-maniacal knee-jerk, exploited this tragedy as an opportunity to strip away our civil liberties, one by one. But we were OK with this at first, right?

"If taking off my shoes at the airport will help us catch terrorists, then by-golly I'll do it!"



This, my friends, is that "slippery slope" we studied in high school.

And as for Iraq, well... the expression "red herring" comes to mind. Or did we find bin Laden when I wasn't looking?

But this, too, is besides the point.
I don't know if it's because I'm older and wiser (stop snickering!), or if it's just a reflection of the impact September 11 had on me... but I find it increasingly difficult to distance myself from the daily news.

And even as I would say my faith in man is at an all-time low — even as I note just how terrible people are to each other even in the comfort of our comparably "peaceful" environs. Even as my blood pressure rises at the mere thought of daily traffic jams, middle fingers, crowded resaurants, threatening neighbors and my 53F apartment — I cannot help but feel a profound drop in my stomach (empathy) when I read stories such as this.

Imagine, if you will, how you felt on September 11. Now imagine if every building you went into, every bus you rode on, every school your children went to... carried with it the very real threat of an attack.

That, it seems, is the state of affairs in Iraq.
There's been a lot of talk lately about throwing more U.S. troops into Iraq and Afghanistan... and then seeing whether or not the U.S. Senate exercises its "power of the purse" in an act of protest. That could mean, in a word, sending more troops but giving them less equipment.

But here's what I want to know: didn't our meddling in Iraq significantly exacerbate the political unrest that has since thrust the Shiites and Sunnis into a civil war? Haven't thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians been killed in the resultant blasts? Aren't we the least bit responsible for that?

And here's the kicker: is washing our hands of the situation really the best thing we can do?

A majority of the American public agrees that we shouldn't have gone there in the first place. And a majority of the American public agrees that we weren't aggressive enough in Afghanistan from the onset (if we had been, wouldn't we be gone by now?).

But no matter how strongly we feel about these Promethean conundrums, we're all left holding our head in our hands when confronted with the next question:

What do we do from here?
After I read the aforementioned story yesterday afternoon, my thoughts turned to Rumi, and then my professor (just in case you wondered about the madness behind this tangential monster).

Rumi — like Christ, like Buddha, like Mohammed — was a purveyor of peace. His poetry focused on love of life, fear of death, human psychology, spirituality and his frustration with the often ruthless state of the world:

you have set up
a colorful table
calling it life and
asked me to your feast
but punish me if
i enjoy myself

what tyranny is this

Eight hundred years have passed since Rumi, but so little has changed.

What tyranny is this
— indeed.

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLV)

but i can't sit up straight

wool skirt lined with silk
slips and slides against nylons
i slouch painfully

in regards to e-mails my brother sent with photos from afghanistan

part i
my server says i'm
approaching storage limits
why can't i delete?

part ii
seriously folks
he's been back more than a year
and they're saved elsewhere
this was my dinner last night

lean pockets are gross
(she says without prejudice)
more cereal please
i shouldn't have taken that last no-doz

my heart is ready
for the indy 500
which i could run now

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Right of Passage

I'm one of those people that's constantly running into others.

And I mean that literally: I really run into others.

I'm notorious for it at work, especially. I round a corner just as someone else is. We come within an inch or two of bumping heads, utter "Oh, excuse me!" and continue on.

For this reason, among others, I've taken to making regular use of hallway mirrors (which exist here to house security cameras), where they exist. So when I come to an "intersection," I check to see if someone is rounding the corner before I continue.

This has helped avoid countless collisions, as I patiently step aside and wait for the path to clear.

But it never ceases to amaze me how these encounters persist in those hallways without mirrors. Time and time again, I have people running out in front of me; walking in the opposite direction with their head down; etc.

In which case, I wonder if I simply don't understand walkway etiquette.

You see, I figure since we drive on the right side of the road, we should similarly walk on the right side of a walkway (hallway, sidewalk, etc.). I'm even prepared to switch to the left, should I ever journey across the ocean to see the Queen!

I also believe that anyone proceeding straight-on in a walkway has the right-of-way over anyone entering the walkway from the side.

And yet, I often wonder if I'm the only one who obeys these unspoken rules.

Cause I'm really tired of running into people, and I'd like to know if there's a handbook out there I should be following.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oscar & the Grouch

As of yesterday, I've been posting pseudo movie reviews on this blog for exactly one year. And though I ran out of time yesterday and so couldn't post the "Weird search words people use to find my blog" entry I had planned on, I figured I'd at least steal a moment or two today not only to commemorate my anniversary (I can't believe no one got me anything!), but also to rant about this weekend's biggest news.

And, no, I'm not talking about Iraq or Iran or China or even that tiny little baby born four months early.

I'm talking about the Oscars — that annual event I watched religiously as a child, though I generally hadn't seen even a tenth of the movies up for honors.

I do a little better these days. I've seen a sizeable handful, though not all, of the "big" movies this year. And though I'm nearly as fanatical about good theatre as I am good literature, I'd say there's only a small chance I'll intentionally watch the show.

A gradual decline in respect "for the Academy" — that began with Jerry Macguire and continued with Gosford Park — reached a pinnacle of sorts when Million Dollar Baby was all the rage a couple years ago. I broke down and saw* the film after digesting gross quantities of critical acclaim. What I saw then horrified me: terrible writing, a plot full of holes and hokey devices, theatrical politicking, etc. I deduced at that moment that the rumors were true: the much-coveted "Oscar" and all it implies really does boil down to politics and money.

That's not to say I absolutely will not watch this weekend. If I'm home taking care of errands, and it's on, I may keep it in the background. But I certainly won't dedicate too much time to the affair.

And I will say this: if Forest Whitaker doesn't win Best Actor for The Last King of Scotland, there truly is no justice in this world.

*Want a copy of Baby? I have two! I bought a used DVD for $2.99 while visiting my parents though, unbeknownst to me, a friend had mailed a copy to my home address. Let me know if you'd like one — I can get it to you in 3-7 days!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLIV)

thoughts concerning belly splinters

can a cat die from
eating a wooden chicken?
i wait patiently

i always do this!

the box that won't shut
reads "please open other end"
well now you tell me
get a conference room, girls

your restroom banter
makes things uncomfortable
please will you leave now?
to the person who recommended someone down on their luck "just get used" to being unhappy

looks like suicide
hotlines aren't really your "niche"
volunteer elsewhere

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Road, Rage against the Dying of the Light

Having myself been cut off by an SUV driving 50mph in a 30 this morning — swerving through a lane of parked cars on the right to get in front of me — I think it's absolutely ridiculous that this woman was even arrested.

And the fact that she has been held in jail for over a month is a crime entire of itself. And what of the people who cut her off? Didn't their actions put others at risk, too?

[If you hadn't noticed, my daily commute is really getting to me.]

You Know You Need Your Own Blog When...

...you post comments on someone else's that are so dern good they merit their own entry.

And so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the poetic stylings of "ds":

words today

again fog today has slowed slow and
no school for it and us.
the stretch morning coffee.

snow stopped us for days. now we
wait under fog.
I cannot become accustomed to work
when it does not happen.
the weekends are ends to
separate empty days.
and this was before the weather.
sun covered the empty summer.
leaves blew across the desolate
and the fall. now stuck between winter and flowers.

I have stuck work between. stuck
anger lust failure want fear
in the between, and stays with
empty. this is perfect. a
human is in my being, but
still loves. today there
was so much fog you could
not see the stoplights they
cancelled school people drove
slow and walked like ghosts I put
my hat on and smiled there was no
work and no nothing everywhere.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Six Characters in Search of an Author (Book Review)

After it took me such a shamefully long time to make my way through my last literary sojourn, I decided I needed something short to get my reading glasses back into that proverbial saddle.

Something quick; and yet, something I've always wanted to read.

So I consulted my pathetically long MUST READ list. Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author screamed up at me from the page, having been a neglected member of said list for more than a decade.

This 1921 play is up there with Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot (1952) in regards to scripts frequently cited as having changed the face of theatre. And though I promptly added it to my "list" after taking a Drama I class back in high school, I figured I'd be assigned it eventually, so I never stopped to read it on my own. And yet, no matter to which echelon of academia I climbed, no one ever assigned Six Characters. Instead, I read from Beckett's repertoire over and over (not that I mind — he's a personal favorite), whereas the Italian playwright was simply mentioned in passing.

And now that I've finished Six Characters, I can understand why teachers and professors alike prefer Beckett to Pirandello. And yet, even still, I regret that I didn't read Pirandello sooner. I don't find his absurdism (technically, I know, we can't call it that) to be as existentially poetic as is Beckett's, but the idea behind Six Characters is so... original... that I think any member of the Theatre of the Absurd would be hard-pressed to say they weren't influenced by it.

But that's not to say Six Characters is lacking in existentialism — or even absurdism, for that matter. Rather, the play centers both on the tragedy of man's existence, as well as the inability of an author to accurately capture the essence of living. This realization serves to exacerbate the characters' sense of futility and — ultimately — their anxiety.

Allow me to explain: Six Characters in Search of an Author is a brilliant example of meta-theatre, with the main players being wholly aware of their existence not as "people" or even "actors" — but as "characters" in a tragedy.

The play begins with these six characters interrupting a dress rehearsal for a yet another work by Pirandello. Several actors have convened for the rehearsal, and they're most confused when these six "characters" make a dramatic entrance, demanding that their story be told.

What ensues is a brilliant exchange between the characters, the actors who eventually concede to play them, and the director who wants to bowdlerize it all.

Point being, the characters bring with them a real tragedy that the actors cannot even begin to fathom. And the characters articulate concerns that their story can only be told by them, as no actor or director can interpret their experiences without distortion:
How can we understand each other... if in the words I speak, I put the sense and value of things as they are inside me, whereas the man who hears them inevitably receives them in the sense and with the value they have for him, and the sense and value of the world inside him? We think we understand each other but we never do. (20)
Not only is it impossible to truly feel the suffering of characters, played by actors, but even in daily human interactions, we can never wholly convey our feelings. Every attempt at doing so is hampered by the limitations of speech.

And you understand this further as the characters tell their story — as they act out bits and pieces of their true experience for the actors. Or as the Father later quips, they have "no reality outside of this illusion" (59).

He continues, to the director: "You should distrust your reality because, though you breathe it and touch it today, it is destined like that of yesterday to stand revealed to you tomorrow as an illusion" (61). Conversely, the characters are bound to a fate that recurs time and time again, reliving their heartache with the same veracity as the first time the scene was ever played.

Even more telling is the anxiety they feel whenever an actor or actress tries to recreate the scene after them, or the anxiety they feel when the setting cannot be exactly as it was, as when the Stepdaughter bursts into laughter while watching the "leading lady" play her role.

The Father aids her defense.

"It has such a strange effect..." he says to the director. "I admire your actors, sir, I really admire them... but assuredly... well, they're not us..." (51).

In both instances, the actors are forced to confront the futility inherent in their theatrics. That is to say, no matter how good the performance, the actors will never be able to truly capture the characters' experience.

Pirandello probably didn't know it at the time, but I'd wager he touched upon something that fuels our 21st century thirst for reality television. Why pay actors and actresses to act out scenes, when you can throw real people into a pit and see which one is eaten by the lions first?

He also alludes to one of the central dilemmas of stage acting, by way of the Stepdaughter, in that you can only show one scene at a time: "But to play [the entire scene] in the garden, as you want to, won't be possible.... because [the Son] stays shut up in his room" (58).

It is difficult, as the director articulates in his response, to show two places at once even though events — ones crucial to the final outcome — are occuring simultaneously throughout the home.

Once again, television (and cinema) are able to remedy this, in a way, though I think Pirandello would argue (and I agree) that nothing — even still — captures the experience of living.

In this and countless other regards, life is its own tragedy. And we all play a part that, try as we might, can never be recaptured. Not by artists, not by writers. Not even by photographers or memory.

And so, even as I mark Six Characters in Search of an Author from my MUST READ list, I'm adding another item elsewhere: see Six Characters performed on stage.

Bet it'll be nothing like I expect.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLIII)

to the woman in the large SUV who intentionally slammed her door into my car, not realizing i was still inside

part i
it's not my fault your
vehicle filled the whole spot
i glare, you panic

part ii
you're just lucky i
direct my distaste for mankind
inward and not out

to the makers of fine plastic wear

part i
the tip of your fork
is lost somewhere in a bed
of yummy white rice

part ii
that tip - my needle
that rice - my private haystack
you owe me a lunch

i guess you could say it's just another average day for those of us karmally-challenged

sure i could move but
there's no escaping karma
what's a girl to do?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Everywhere Signs

If only it were that easy...

From "Shear Expressions" to the "Mane Image," the names of hair salons generally aren't worth more than an eye roll. But this one actually made me chuckle.

RAPID -- and with only one arm, too!

Just don't look too creepy while you're doing it.

I've heard of faux Bibles in which bourbon is stored... but an ENTIRE CHURCH of bourbon Bibles? Yeah, I'll be there next Sunday. I hope they have Wednesday services, too...

Before you even get a chance to ask: yes, I went inside and bought the t-shirt.

You can't tell from this photo, but there's actually a zoo behind those bars.

Oddly enough, this was also a tagline once rejected by the makers of Kleenex.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Art of Man

The quality of these photos isn't so great (I took them from a moving vehicle using someone else's camera), but you get the idea.

When Life Hands Me Lemons... I Take Pictures

I know these are a little late — they were taken Super Bowl Sunday, or in the days following. But I also realize that when you talk about craziness, a photo or two can go a long way to back up your story.

So allow me to explain:

When I returned from a 24-hour roadtrip Sunday afternoon, my apartment was chilly, to say the least. I was cold even with a sweater on.

Please note, this thermometer is right above my radiator. Also note, this wasn't the first time it had dipped so low.

But I was thirsty — I'd just come in from a roadtrip, remember. So first things first: let's get some water...

...or not. It's on. I promise. It's just that I live in a parallel universe where water isn't just clear... it's invisible. That, or the pipes are frozen. You take a guess.

So I contacted management Sunday evening. They arrived Tuesday morning and tried heating the pipes under my sink. I was told that one neighbor's pipes were also frozen, and that the pipes in the basement leading to our respective units were in a similar state.

I should add that, in addition to their own space heater, maintenance borrowed mine to try and better the situation.

And though those pipes "thawed," nothing seemed to get the water back on.

"We'll have to wait until the pipes in the basement thaw. That should fix it."

Later that afternoon, I received an e-mail from the office telling me the pipes in the wall under my cabinet were ALSO frozen, and there's "nothing we can do with this crazy weather."

The next morning (Wednesday) I was leaving for work when the maintenance guy pulled in asking to look at my pipes (tee hee!). They wanted to try the space heater option again, this time leaving it on ALL DAY in a tiny confined space.

But I was so preoccupied with what to do with Maude for the day (she eats stuff that's left on the floor, remember), that I didn't even think to say to the maintenance guy: "Hey, don't you think that's a fire hazard. I mean, all of my FLAMMABLE cleaning supplies are under there."

But I saw he had shoved them all to the side, so everything was fine, right?


All it took was my boss saying "Hey, isn't that a fire hazard?" for me to say "You know, I think that's a fire hazard."

I tried calling managment to ask them what they thought and/or to see if they could check back in (otherwise, they wouldn't return until the end of the day), but they didn't call me back.

So my boss gave me the nod to take a long lunch break so I could drive home and remove everything from under the cabinet.

Including, yes, lamp oil. When I picked up the smoking hot bottle and read the "WARNING: KEEP AWAY FROM ALL SOURCES OF HEAT" disclaimer, I was glad I'd made the long trip home.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to take a picture until after I removed everything (expect for the lamp that said oil went into). But at least you can see how confined the space is. Now imagine it with about a dozen bottles of 409 and other 409-type products, some of them aerosal.

Here's where the story takes a turn for the better.

Well. Sort of.

You see, when I walked into the kitchen, a small stream of water under high pressure was spraying all over the countertop, and onto the floor.

So — alas — there's hope!

Please ignore the lime deposits. Try as I might, they seem to be there forever.

While I tried to figure out how to redirect the stream, the maintenance guy stopped by. As I later found out, management had received my message... they were just a tad slow to respond. So they sent maintenance back to check in (by this point, it was around 1).

So... cool. They stopped back in. But I'm a bit of a clean freak (don't judge me by the contents of my kitchen cabinet), but this guy tracked in every variety, shade and color of mud, snow and slush. He had done this Tuesday as well. One day, fine. I'll deal with it. But two days in a row when it's so very easy to clean off your shoes in my entryway (he didn't even try to knock the mudd from the bottom)?

Let's just say I was a tad irritated.

This is after I wiped up the "bad spots" with a paper towel (Maude — genius cat that she is — was licking them, so I had to act fast on the piles), but before I got to mop.

But, hey, at least my water is running now....

Talk about things we take for granted.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Problem Being: I Have No Idea Where I'm Going

Dear Landlord,

As I will be vacating my apartment at the end of my lease, I understand that you could be showing it to potential tenants. It is also my understanding that, per the [tenant ordinance], I have the right to two full days notice before anyone enters my apartment. Because my residence has previously been entered without notice, left unlocked and in other various states of disarray on more than one occasion by your staff, I take this right very seriously.

Therefore, I am requesting that you comply and always give me a date and time two days before my apartment will be shown. On those occasions when I am given two days notice but am unable to be home at the time of the appointment, PLEASE assure that it is left in the same state it was upon entry (e.g. no mud caked along my floors). That includes engaging both locks on the front and back door, shutting any doors that are opened inside of the apartment, etc.

I appreciate your understanding — I’m concerned for the safety and well-being of my cat, as well as the security and cleanliness of my dwelling. So if you could please make sure I’m given the appropriate notice, and my apartment is left in the same state it was upon entry, I’ll make every effort to be as accommodating as possible.

Yours forever,

I mailed this letter today, though I haven't the slightest idea where I'm off to from here. I'm taking suggestions.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLII)

on confusing offline with online

offline at work i
almost called him washington
(that's not his real name)

i scream, you scream

it may be cold out
but still i crave good ice cream
someone explain this
i'll have the chickenpox primavera, please

is it just me or
does varicella sound like
a type of pasta?
frustration, as dictated to a friend while stuck in a parking lot traffic jam for 60 minutes

my bladder is full
and patience is running thin
this trip: my wasteland

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Government Agency to be Modeled after '24'

It's official.

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff announced Tuesday that he's spearheading a new terrorism division that will work in conjunction with the Department of Defense.

The new division, termed the United States "Anti-Terrorism Unit," will be modeled after the Counter-Terrorism Unit as seen on the Fox bombshell, 24.

"Between all of those cool gadgets they use to intercept phone calls, and the way they can unscramble information sent over a secure internet connection, we think a similar organization could really prove useful in our ongoing War on Terror," Chertoff said.

"Plus," Chertoff added, "That Jack Bauer guy is really hot."

Skeptics of this proposed Anti-Terrorism Unit were quick to remind Gates and Chertoff of a disastrous attempt in the mid-90's to model yet another agency after a blockbuster hit.

Both chiefs were quick to wave off any concerns.

"In no way, shape or form does the ATU resemble the senior [President] Bush's Impossible Mission Force or 'IMF'," said Chertoff.

"Besides, we're dealing with an entirely new enemy now," Gates chimed in.

The news of the ATU arrives as the debate continues to heat up regarding the efficacy of pre-existing government agencies.

"Call me crazy," said one concerned American. "But isn't that what the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the Secret Service are supposed to be doing?"

The CIA was under fire by the 9/11 Commission for its failure to detect and/or prevent the 9/11 attacks. Additionally, it was "bad information" from the CIA that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"That's what's so great about the ATU," said Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "Even when they receive bad information, Jack Bauer is determined to get to the bottom of the situation — and in less than a day!"

"Certainly, we're hoping our new Anti-Terrorism Unit won't involve as many deaths and personal tragedies as what you see on 24," Gates continued. "But that's a risk we're willing to take."

"Also, we'd like to avoid any presidential assassinations or nuclear explosions in metropolitan areas [as seen on 24]. But otherwise, we think the folks at CTU really know what they're doing," added Chertoff.

Actor Kiefer Sutherland has been tapped as a potential candidate to head up this new division.

"The experience he's garnered by playing Jack Bauer could prove invaluable to the success of ATU," said Gates. "If nothing else, we'd like for him to serve as a consultant."

Sutherland was unavailable for comment.

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLI)

never take out the trash while wearing flipflops

five second trash break
turns into 10 cold minutes
blinds fall, engage lock

at least maude didn't chew on your ipod

baby tomato
sits like a tooth-marked clown's nose
on your fallen coat
concerning the death of anna nicole and all the anna nicole's to come
(paris hilton, nicole ritchey, lindsey lohan, etc.)

morning noon and night
we watch tragedies unfold
for entertainment
why should i hide in my car in shame if i want to nap during lunch?

science proves what i've
believed for most of my years
please may i nap now?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Full Metal Jacket (Movie Review)

I know, I know. As someone who watches a lot of movies — and as someone who is particularly intrigued by Stanley Kubrick — I should've watched Full Metal Jacket eons ago.

And I did. But I was 14 the first time I watched this movie; a particularly tough age to get past the language and violence as a means to understand the function of either. To make matters especially complex, I originally watched this movie with my older brother and his best friend — himself a member of the Marines. Hearing them shout and laugh at the movie — when I found it to be somehow disturbing, and sad — often prompted me to leave the room.

"Is that what it's really like?" I'd ask.

"Yep," replied his friend. "That's exactly what it's like."

From there, he and my brother would return to calling each other "pogues" and "Jarheads" while I struggled to balance the images on screen with what was then my fairly Republican approach to world-affairs.

Add in a few years, a dash of wisdom. And a war I'm morally opposed to... and suddenly I understand quite well just why I was so bothered by the film the first time around. It wasn't so much the nightmarish quality that marked other Kubrick films, a la Clockwork Orange (1971), as it was the truth behind the nightmare.

Full Metal Jacket takes places during the Vietnam War, with the first quarter of the film being dedicated to a group of men undergoing basic training for the Marine Corps. Here you see how "killers" are made and spirits broken — all the while without disrespecting the Corps (a fine line that causes the film to appeal to pacifists and soldiers alike... not that the two are mutually exclusive).

Later, the film continues to follow one of the newly inducted Marines, a loveable, wise-cracking newsy nicknamed "Joker" (played by Matthew Modine) by his Gunnery Sergeant (played by real-life Marine, R. Lee Ermey). Joker mockingly inscribes "Born to Kill" on his helmet, a notable contrast to the peace symbol he refuses to remove from his uniform. His smart remarks eventually "earn" him a ticket to the lines, where U.S. forces are in dire straights. And while Joker is a pacifist at heart, he's anything but a pansy on the field. But that doesn't make the ensuing violence any easier to cope with.

Or to paraphrase:
Joker [Relaxing in the Barracks]: I'm so bored, man. I can't wait until I'm back in the field where there's some real action.

Joker [Raising his automatic rifle minutes later, after the enemy attacks their base for the first time]: I hope they're just pulling our leg. [Shaking] I'm not ready for this.
In sum: a great movie that's just a couple clicks shy of Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985) in terms of timeless, similarly-themed films.* I'd recommend anyone revisit both for a renewed perspective on the current state of things.


*Admittedly, Brazil deals moreso with the effects of a government instilling the fear of "the other" at home, where as Full Metal Jacket deals more with the psychology of war on the individual. And yet: they work quite nicely together. Companion guides, as it were.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

OK, so lately I've used this blog as a personal soapbox from which I shout my apartment grievances like the disgruntled city-dweller that I am.

And while it's true this is easily my worst domestic experience ever, the fact remains that various oddities and circumstances truly do follow me wherever I go. I've spent much of my life trying to determine if I'm persistently doing something wrong that I could change in future life experiences.

But no matter what I do or where I go... strange stuff just keeps happening.

Or to quote my pediatrician when I broke both of my arms at the same time, the same year I broke a foot, a toe and a finger: "No, your daughter doesn't have leukemia or bone cancer. She just happens to often be at the wrong place at the wrong time."

Or to paraphrase a friend in a recent e-mail: "I don't think it's you. But I think maybe you drove a busload of nuns off a cliff in a previous life."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

And in light of my recent gripes and complaints, I thought I'd revisit some of my other living arrangements... if only for a point of comparison. Or, barring that... to give the populi yet another reason to laugh at (and/or 'with') me.

I had four roomates at my first abode, and the four of us moved together about six times in a matter of 10 years. Two of the four were often physically ("Stop hitting yourself, stop hitting yourself!") and verbally ("You're rubber and I'm glue...!") abusive. The other two frequently bossed me around, even limiting the amount of time I could watch television. They refused to let me stay out with friends past 10 p.m., even on weekends and they NEVER let me ride my bike alone. For blogging purposes, let's call these people "Mom" and "Dad."

Determined to break free from these controlling roomies, thereby exerting my own idenity over their authority, I moved into an apartment at the ripe age of 19. While I was moving in, a middle-aged male who lived down the hall hung out in my kitchen, drinking Coors light (which he'd spilled all over his dirty white t-shirt) and repeatedly saying, through a drunken slur, "My name is John, and I would never hurt your daughter" to my parents. Three months later a heavy rain hit, and that basement apartment flooded. I was forced to relocate to another unit in the same building. I was offered no reparations for the hassle.

Disillusioned by the previous incident, I soon relocated to a quiet, full-sized home in the country, where I was to have a single roommate (the "stop hitting yourself!" boy referenced above). But said boy took on a live-in girlfriend (later his wife and — still later — his ex). Three people, with rent being split just two ways. This struck me as being a terrible injustice, and my complaints went unheeded. So I moved.

At my new place, a guy in his late 20s/early 30s eventually moved in across the way. He had serious emotional and psychological problems, and his mother even warned me of this a day or two after she helped him move in. He listened to acid metal which — luckily — I couldn't hear once I walked into my own place. He was always depressed, and often would come knocking on my apartment door, drunk, well after midnight. He just "wanted to talk," but sometimes his mannerisms made me quite uncomfortable.

My next move was a bit more extreme, shall we say. I paid a small fortune to rent a nice, secure place with a view. I loved it: the laundry room was across the hall, and I couldn't hear my neighbors. We were all fairly private, but friendly when we'd see each other. Everything was near perfect (rent aside) until an ex-boyfriend took to standing outside of my door, knocking for hours on end, while simultaneously using his cell-phone to call my home phone. This continued, off and on, for months.

So I moved.

Right back in with "Mom" and "Dad." I felt like quite the nomad by this point, and I hadn't the slightest idea where I'd be off to next. And though I stayed there for much longer than expected, I never unpacked. Not even my clothes.

The next place wasn't too bad. Unless, of course, you consider it to be a "bad thing" when you come in from playing tennis only to notice a beam of sunlight shining out of your door, where someone had chiseled away wood around the lock in an attempt to get in. Or unless you consider it to be a bad thing when the one of the mother's of your neighbors children (he had several) knocks on your door in a panic trying to locate her baby's daddy. But, honestly, other than these two incidents... some weirdness at the gym... and a neighbor who had a fetish with smearing, um, "nose treasure" all over the elevator panel... this place was OK.

But, still, I thought I could do better. Though it was soundproof, many of the neighbors were a tad skeevy, and there were rumors of a prostituion ring being hosted in-house (I didn't wholly doubt the rumors, either).

So I moved. And as for my next place... Well... If you've been reading this blog, you know that what happens next.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Because I'm So Immature...

...this really cracked me up.

Friday, February 09, 2007

When Common Sense and Fashion Clash

I'll be the first to admit I'm not the most fashionble person. I prefer comfort to style, even if that means wearing my Keen walking shoes into the ground, and donning the occasional pair of overalls. To me, "doing my hair" when it's shorter means throwing on a patch-quilt bandana or a hat. When it's longer, I'll pull it back into a couple braids... and then put on a bandana or a hat. I still wear those old school baseball t-shirts, and I'm a HUGE fans of soft, hooded sweatshirts.

Sure, I'll dress up from time to time... I don't even mind flowery dresses. And I wouldn't even say I'm completely ignorant when it comes to fashion sense: I like to think I know what looks good... but I generally make sure that whatever I wear is comfortable, fairly simple, and not too tight. Point being, I'm not exactly a follower of the runway, and the winter months are no exception.

When this time of year comes around, I'll wear whatever is warmest. And by the time the thermostat drops to 40F or below, you can rest assured I'm throwing on a warm hat before I leave my place (usually the green one with Oscar the Grouch's face around the rim). I don't care if it "messes up my hair." I want to be warm.

I never realized what a novel concept that was until this past Christmas, when my mother — the same mother who always forced me to "button up" and "put on a hat" when I was a kid — told me she wanted a matching scarf and gloves as part of her Christmas.

Matching scarf and gloves. No hat.

And the more I thought about that, the more I realized I hadn't seen my mother in a hat since one of my family's last snowmobiling adventures in the early 80s.

Now, granted, my mother comes from a generation that believes in feathering, teasing, fluffing and curling their hair before any adventure outdoors. So I can understand not wanting to undo all of that hardwork with one foul swoop of a sockcap. I mean, it takes her about 20 minutes (and a bottle of White Rain) to do her hair, which compares to my 5. I don't really have a lot of time invested in the whole ordeal, so there's not much damage a hat can do.

But, still, there's got to come a point where common sense takes over, a woman says "Screw the hair!" and throws on some wool contraption to lock in the heat. Right?


Apparently not. You see, after the matching scarf and gloves, it was only $5 more to throw in the matching hat. So I did. And I commented to my mother, even as she opened the package, that I knew she didn't really wear hats, but figured she may as well have the complete set... just in case.

Jump ahead to this past weekend, where my mother boasted that during a recent walk in 10F temperatures, the only thing to get cold was her nose and, yes,... her ears.

"Were you wearing a hat, Mom?"

She just looked at me.


Yesterday while running errands, I noticed a cute little girl — maybe 2 or 3 years-old — wearing a fleece bunny suit (essentially, footed pajamas complete with a hat and floppy rabbit ears), sitting in comfort in an otherwise cold, metal shopping cart. Her mother was pushing her through the parking lot, and the girl was untouched by the cold.

But as for her mother... her mother was wearing a waist-length leather jacket. Her ears were beet red as she pushed her way through -7F temperatures and a cool breeze.

She was, as you've likely suspected, not wearing a hat. But her hair did look rather cute.
So over the past few days, I've been taking note of such things. And I've noticed that for about every 10 females I've seen, only about 3 are wearing hats.

For those of you keeping notes... it's dipped as low as -25F with the windchill this week. And for those of you who've never experienced weather like that: it's friggin' cold. Definitely, and most assuredly, hat-wearing weather.

Or so I thought.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Republican Banana

Cashier: Swipe your cardigan please.

Customer: Huh?

Cashier: Could you please swipe your cardigan?

Customer: Ummm...

Me: Swipe your card again.


I walked away from that conversation repeating those words over and over, having never before stopped to consider the similarity.

Card again // cardigan
Card again // cardigan
Card again // cardigan

Yeah, I'm easily amused.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XL)

apparently you've not caught on to the fact that when i get sick, i get really sick

i don't want your germs
but you're intent on sharing
when you cough i wince

thoughts concerning commercial hype

part i
call the police fast!
someone stole the "super" out
of "super bowl ads"

part ii
fear and violence
depression, sadness and booze
common thread for all

while i'm thinking of it

that game was boring
like watching pawns clear the brush
for a bloodless coup

i sure hope that's not a fire hazard

super space heater
shoved under a cabinet
blood pressure rises

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Curious Travels of the Amazing Ski Goggle Man

The journey home started off like any other: scrambling to leave on time; accepting that we would instead be two-hours late; and using the interim to safeguard my apartment for my ill-adventured cat.

And it was, as many of you know, freakishly cold this past weekend. Near zero before the windchill; somewhere in the negative teens thereafter. It was the sort of cold that made the insides of your nose feel like they were freezing shut.

But the next time you hear yourself complaining about the weather — the next time you simply can't believe how cold it is — remember this: it could always be worse.


Washington and I were about 70 miles into our drive when we approached a dinted blue sedan filled to the brim with clothes, a coffee pot and other sundry items that one throws into the car when relocating on a whim.

"That looks like all sorts of crazy," Washington said.

"No kidding," I said, looking to my right as we passed this tiny blue beast.

What I saw when I looked over was, I'm sure, as embarrassing for the driver as it was for me. You see, he happened to be looking at me just as I was looking at him. Eye contact was most assuredly made, even though I had a difficult time making out the driver's pupils through the thick plastic goggles he was wearing.

Yes, that's right. He was wearing goggles.

Or ski goggles, to be more precise.

"Why was he wearing ski goggles?" you ask.

Because his driver's side window was nowhere to be seen. Rather, he was driving on a state highway, in "wind chill advisory" weather... with little to protect him from the elements.

My thoughts immediately turned to concern, as my own car (whose passenger side window rolls down quickly, but takes a good hour or two to roll back up) is in a similar state. What ensued was a 10-minute conversation with Washington solely about this man.

Trying to figure out why he hadn't tried to block out the wind with clear plastic. Trying to figure out why he wasn't wearing a ski mask. And, yes, ruminating about the various scenarios that would even lead to his apparent conundrum: bad break-up; dropped out of college; family emergency back home; etc..

[It's true some time was spent chuckling about the ridiculousness of what we had just seen, but let's not talk about that.]

"Crazy is a few cars behind us," Washington said as we pulled into a regularly-scheduled pit stop.

"If he turns here," I said, "let's buy him a coffee."

"Coffee?" he replied, pointing at a nearby Wendy's. "I'll buy him a frosty."

After I rebuked Washington from his unnecessarily cruel remark, the Ski Goggle Man made his way into the Wendy's.

We talked for awhile in the car, trying to determine our course of action. And then we talked some more after we got behind the guy in line at Wendy's.

"Just say something," I whispered. "You're better at starting conversations than I am."

"No," he said. "You're the one who wanted to buy him a coffee."

"But you talk to strangers all the time!"

Meanwhile, Ski Goggle Man stood in front of us, with his chapped hands sticking out of his pockets, gripping the insides everytime he'd shake.

We got out of line and decided to break for the restroom, where I worked up the courage to approach this mysterious wind-whipped man.

But Washington beat me to it. Rather, I joined him at SGM's table, where we explained that we'd seen him on the road and figured he was having a really bad day.

"Yeah," he said. "I'm moving from Colorado back home to New Jersey, but when I rolled my window down in Kansas, I heard something snap and it wouldn't go back up."

To add insult to his situation, he was clearly in desperate need of cash. He had ordered a single sandwich (no drink, no fries) from the 99 cent menu. And his hands and lips were both so badly parched by the wind, he could scarcely hold the sandwich to eat.

"Here," Washington said, throwing a few ones onto the table. "We wanted to buy you dinner, but we wound up getting out of line because we didn't want to make you feel awkward with so many people around."

"Yeah," I added, pointing. "And there's a [MEGA-STORE] right over there. Maybe grab yourself a ski mask or a makeshift window."

I paused for a moment.

"Or a coffee. Just... stay warm."

He thanked us, and we left.

Suffice it to say it wasn't so easy to laugh about the "crazy guy in ski goggles" after we'd actually talked to him. My sole thought walking away -- aside from concerns for the hundreds of miles he still had to travel -- was my hope that this guy's a writer.

Whether he is or not, he has quite a story to tell.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXXIX)

to the man wearing ski goggles with his window rolled down, driving 60 mph in subzero weather

red in cheek and nose
i shiver just watching you
coffee is on us

i wonder if this is what the guy in the aforementioned haiku felt like

part i
i'm quite thirsty but
the kitchen pipes are frozen
and now i am too

part ii
this begs the question:
what's the freezing point for tears
hope it's not fifty
who i am kidding, our situations are only remotely similar

denver to jersey
kansas window malfunction
worst move home EVER
in conclusion

i'm sorry to think
what you signify for me
"it could've been worse"

Dear Apartment People

An honest-to-God e-mail sent by me last night:

I apologize for sending this directly to your work account, rather than using the online work request form, but it doesn't appear to be working (I get a "Servlet Service Exception" message whenever I try). I thought I'd try my luck sending an e-mail to you instead.

Essentially, I'm having problems with the temperature in my apartment again this winter — particularly with the freeze we've had the last several days. It's been consistently under 60F in my kitchen (usually closer to 55 or 56), and my hallway, living room and dining room are usually only a couple degrees higher than that. The only rooms I can keep anywhere near the city-mandated 66/68F, in fact, are my bedroom and the bathroom (the two rooms where I can trap in heat with my door). Just for reference, all of my radiators are open/on all of the way.

I was gone for 24 hours this weekend, but when I returned on Sunday it was 51F in my kitchen. I realize my thermostat is right next to my back door, but it's also right above the radiator.

It was cold enough this afternoon/evening, in fact, that the pipes in my kitchen appear to be frozen. Whatever the cause, I can't get any water to come out of them. Luckily, the water IS at least working in the bathroom.

Because of previous problems with people coming into my place unannounced, and leaving broken glass on the floor, and my front door unlocked, I'd like to receive notice of any maintenance so that I can be home at the time.

Also, as of this Saturday my bedroom door no longer latches shut. As this is vital to keeping in the heat, I would like for that to be looked at as well.

So, in sum, the three things that need to be looked at are:

1- Possibly frozen pipes in kitchen
2- Heat
3- Door latch in bedroom


Thursday, February 01, 2007


Sometimes I find myself drawn to complete strangers, if for no other reason than their apparent appreciation for music.

Take, for example, this guy I sometimes see at the gym: he treats the elliptical machine like his own personal Dance, Dance Revolution game. He'll stop the motion mid-stride; reverse it; move half forward, and then go back again... all to the beat of whatever he's listening to. Sometimes he bellows out loud; others, he'll free one or both hands from the bars to snap his fingers or thrust his arms to the side.

Last night, he was so into his music that he could scarcely board the elliptical to begin. From my own treadmill across the room, I caught a glimpse of someone standing on the floor, grabbing one bar of an elliptical with one hand, and balancing himself to dance with the other. It was, as I immediately suspected, this particular member.

I couldn't help but smile.

I'm the same way when I see someone singing or dancing on the train. Sure, for a split second I join the crowd by questioning their sanity. But I otherwise find their impromptu performance to be oddly compelling.

And then there's the guy I sometimes pass on my morning commute. I'm heading one direction in my car, whereas he's always making a long walk to the train in the opposite direction. He stands out to me, first, because our schedules are fairly in sync. And second, because he always has oversized headphones strapped to his head (the kind with their own antennae and FM dial). He's always chomping on gum as he walks along; always wearing pleated pants (usually tan); and always so engrossed in whatever blasts from his headphones (whether it's music or NPR or what, I haven't the slightest idea) that I imagine his walk — though actually quite long — occurs in a veritable blink.

Strange as this may sound, I realized recently that my days go better when I see him in the morning.

The guy at the gym reminded me of Jay Z when I first saw him. And the morning commuter reminds me of Dustin Hoffman (a la Rainman). In fact, if some poor, directionless soul should ever endeavor to make a movie about my life (I'm saying this tongue-in-cheek, of course), I'd like for Jay Z and Hoffman to both have cameos.

[I'd also like to create the lineup for the soundtrack, which I've been compiling over the years].

Speaking of which: it occurred to me tonight as I walked away from the elliptical and into the locker room that I'd spent the entire ride a million miles away from the gym. I have vague recollections of hitting "repeat" countless times on several songs but, otherwise, I can scarcely recall being there.

And let me tell you: there's nothing quite like walking away in a trance, so engrossed in music — completely unable to hear anything but a melancholy tune (see: REM's "Country Feedback") — to make you feel a million miles away from where you are (and yet: so close!).

Walking through rows of strangers: some of them lifting, some crunching. Some running, others stretching.

Watching them all at once, but still... listening... to that sad song in your ears. Desperate to comprehend everything; disheartened to realize you can't quite grab on to single thought.

So you listen harder. Take in the words. And weave your shaking legs through the crowd, as if teaching them to walk again.