Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Future is the Past is the Present

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Haves & the Have-Nots

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Of Fiction & Reality

Everyone who reads does so for a reason.

Whether it's to learn, to understand, to research... or even to escape.

And I admit now that I've spent most of my adult life reading to fulfill the first three categories. And yet, though, on rare occasions I find something that truly allows me to escape.

One such book was released this past weekend. And though, yes, it's a "children's" tale, there's something to be said for the pleasure I derive from reading it. I truly look forward to it, and can scarcely pull it away from my eyes, even to work.

And so, yes, I admit: I've been reading it on lunch breaks. I've been reading it at the gym. I've been reading it before I drift off to sleep.

But before you judge me, remember this:

I become so engrossed in the text — so busy transforming words into images and allowing myself to be that proverbial fly-on-the-wall — that I can hardly turn the pages fast enough. And so when lunch is over and I walk away from the book, I sometimes have a difficult time adjusting to the stark contrast between the two.

I am leaving, for lack of a better comparison, a high drama world of witches and wizards, slowly reacquainting myself with a reality I'd prefer, quite honestly, to not acknowledge:

Loved ones suffering without the insurance to cover them. Families torn apart by custody papers. Wars with daily death tolls spread across the news. Brothers who aspire to join them.

And always, still, those broken sirens that wail over and around skyscrapers like an injured T-Rex.

For brief moments in the day — those moments when I steal away into another world — I think less of these things. I escape, quite literally, and I'm not the least bit ashamed for it (though my explanations surely have you thinking otherwise).

Now here's the thing:

Sometimes we cannot escape. Sometimes life presents us with experiences that no words, fictional or otherwise, can soothe. The spell is broken and — despite our best efforts — we read the same words (the same sentences) over and over, unable to comprehend even the simplest passage. It is during these times that our stomachs burn with a sort of anxiety (like now) that knows no language.

You try to read. To escape.

Only to realize that you cannot — for the life of you — turn the page.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Orange You Glad (WARNING: Soapbox Alert)

TWENTY-FIVE percent of all Western pharmaceuticals are derived from ingredients originally found in rainforests; and yet, only 1% of rainforest plants have been explored for medical purposes.

Kind of makes you wonder what's there, just waiting to be discovered... right?

Well. At the current rate of destruction, there won't be much. In fact, 137 plant, animal and insect species — indigenous to the Amazon rainforest — become extinct every day. And this, often in the name of North American consumerism.

And so, to those of you who give me strange looks when I tell you that, though I love orange juice, I only drink varieties from Florida's Natural and Trader Joe's:

  • More than 20% of the world's oxygen is produced by the Amazon Rainforest. Not only do they help us breathe, but they help cut down on greenhouse gases
  • More than half of all of the Earth's plant, animal and insect species inhabit tropical rainforests.
  • 70% of all plants confirmed to have properties that fight cancer growth originate in rainforests
And yet:
  • 1.5 acres of rainforest are destroyed every second; 150 acres every minute; and 200,000 acres a day
  • The number of rainforests from 1950 to 2005 was reduced by half — during this same period, the number of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere skyrocketed (remember, the trees absorb CO2 and exhale O2)
  • At the current rate of deforestation, the last remaining rainforests are expected to disappear in 40 years
  • Rainforests cannot be regrown
  • Rainforests are typically destroyed for the following reasons: timber harvesting, cattle-grazing, and crop-growing. American companies that grow oranges for orange juice are a serious culprit here (Ah, there's the rub! And take that, store employee who gave me a weird look today when I asked if you were just out of Florida's Natural, or if you'd stopped carrying it)
  • Rainforests that are destroyed to grow crops (mainly: oranges -- just in case you weren't paying attention) only remain viable for a few years before the land is too dry to be of use to any crop (including the lush wildlife that was once indigenous to it). The land resembles dried up mud cakes (see below) and lacks any of the nutrients needed to sustain any plant or animal life — hence the "need" to burn down more land for companies to graze their cattle or grow their oranges
  • Rainforest land is ridiculously inexpensive to purchase; add to that the soil is rich in nutrients for 1-5 years (before it completely dries up), and it's a cheap way for companies to grow various fruits, ultimately laying waste to land that was full of rich resources that could've been explored & harvested for medicinal purposes without damaging the ecosystem

1-5 Years after Clearing

So that, Mr. "You're-So-Freakin'-Weird," is why I only buy two brands of Orange Juice.

How do I know Florida's Natural and Trader Joe's are safe? Others may be as well; I just haven't discovered them yet. I do know, however, that I haven't purchased Minute Maid or Tropicana in over a decade — they both list Brazil and/or Costa Rica on their labels.

And because of the frequency of destruction in the name of orange growth, it's fairly easy to determine whether or not your OJ (or any fruit product, for that matter) is rainforest friendly: just look on the label. If it says all of the oranges were grown in the U.S. (mainly, Florida), then it's rainforest friendly. If it mentions places like "Brazil" or "Costa Rica" (in place of or in addition to Florida), then you're dealing with a company whose practices are contributing to a very serious problem.*

Besides, when enough people participate in a boycott... it can work.

*Just so you don't think I'm a complete nut**, I do believe there such a thing as a healthy, eco-friendly clearing of forests — particularly deciduous forests whereby older trees are removed while they're still good for building but otherwise nearing the end of their life. Especially when new trees are planted to keep the cycle going.

**Regardless of whether or not I am one. Because I am.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

On Laziness & Technology

So there I was brushing my teeth with my $4 disposable vibrating toothbrush when the battery came to a sudden halt.

Well now how I am supposed to brush my teeth? I thought.

And then, as if by instinct or divine intervention (possibly both), my right hand proceeded to move in circular patterns -- up and down --

Ever so slowly.

Ah, yes, I thought. I remember this.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Conversations with My Five-Year-Old Nephew

Him: So I'm back to walking again.

Me: Really? Where are you walking to?

Him: Everywhere. But I need a walking stick.

Me: Why do you need a walking stick?

Him: Because I'm an old man now!

Me: What? You're just five! How can you be an old man?


[He hung up the phone.]

Post Script: I haven't been reading and commenting on your blogs this week as much as I would like. With the car buying and such, it's been crazy these past few days. Hope to catch up with everyone by early next week.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth (Movie Review)

Everything you've heard about this film is true.

It's haunting. It's violent. It's a fairytale for grownups.

And it is possibly one of the best films you'll ever see that posits a war in the backdrop.

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) takes place during the immediate aftermath of the Spanish Civil War — which happened to also overlap with WW II. It chronicles the nightmarish fantasy world of a young girl, Ofelia, (amazingly well-played by Ivana Baquero) whose mother has remarried a captain in Francisco Franco's fascist army. The captain has located Ofelia and her now-pregnant mother to a mill in the Spanish countryside, where he and his men are attempting to sniff out those few remaining guerrilla "Republicans" (believe it or not, the "good" guys of this conflict).

Tragedy surrounds Ofelia on all sides, causing her to retreat to an underworld in which she is the lost princess. The resulting visual effects are haunting, reminding me oftentimes of one of Spain's most noted 20th century artists (and a personal favorite of mine) — Salvador Dali.

Beautiful. Sad. And oftentimes a bit too bloody for my tastes. There were even some scenes that required more suspension of disbelief that I like to allot for a film (and I'm not talking about the fairy tale portion — rather, stretches that occur in scenes taking place in the "real" world). Otherwise, it's no wonder Pan's Labyrinth was so highly praised this past awards season.

See it. If you haven't already.


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Mean Girls (Movie Review)

So it turns out not all teen movies have to suck.

In the tradition of Heathers and Ten Things I Hate About You, Mean Girls (2005) is proof that satire, wit and a healthy dose of dark humor can — in fact — take a film that appeals primarily to teens and make it more than tolerable for a wide audience (though, be warned, it's nowhere near as dark at Heathers, but it's certainly darker than Ten Things).

I credit Tina Fey, long time head writer on Saturday Night Live, for that. She adapted the novel for the big screen, and also plays the role of the self-deprecating math teacher, a veritable superego to Lindsay Lohan's lead character.

And it was precisely because this film starred Lohan — whose real-life antics I'm quite tired of hearing about in the media — that I delayed watching it for so long. But much like so many reviewers out there, I was actually pleasantly surprised by her ability to be something other than a Paris Hilton-esque nuisance.

Lohan stars as a new student at a wealthy public school in Evanston, Illinois — a Chicago suburb. Though American by birth, Lohan's character spent most of her life homeschooled in Africa. She's down-to-earth, intelligent, witty, and well-liked. Though it's no surprise the students along the "periphery" are the first to welcome her to join them at lunch. But when the school's "plastics" (i.e. spoiled rich girls) also take a liking to her, her outcast friends encourage her involvement with them — if only to report back to them on the goings-on of this much-despised clique.

All's going well until she develops a crush on the lead Plastic's ex-boyfriend, at which point all of those proverbial bets are off.

The plot sounds formulaic, I know, and it is in a way. But it also pokes fun at itself, all the while still offering a moderately compelling storyline. I mean, c'mon. It's a teen comedy, so you know there's a little bildungsroman here.

Still, good enough to warrant a B- on my abstract grading scale. But they get extra credit for mentioning Walker Bros. Pancake House, the only place to go for delicious, mouth-watering blueberry pancakes.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lower Your Oil Costs! No Money Down!

So apparently North Korea was awarded large amounts of oil in exchange for shutting down its nuclear reactors.

Now I'm not suggesting anyone out there do anything rash, but when you consider the price of gas these days ($3.52/gal here), desperate times call for desperate measures.

I'm just sorry Kim Yong-il thought of it first.

PS - If you don't hear from me for awhile, search for me either in a North Korean prison, one of those secret CIA detention facilities, or the closet where Trey Parker stores bloggers who infringe on his copyrighted material.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I Hear Ann Arbor is Lovely This Time of Year

Every year this fine city requires its residents purchase a "city sticker."

This sticker isn't an automatic pass for free parking. It doesn't offer a discount, or even the guarantee of expensive parking (which is most often all you'll find, if you're lucky enough to find anything). And if you don't live in this city — and so don't have a sticker — there's no penalty for driving here, or no additional fee at toll boths or anything of the sort.

In fact, this "city sticker" really only serves one purpose:

It prevents residents from being fined $140 every time a police officer wanders past their car.

That's it. That's all it does.

How much does such a sticker cost, you ask? $10? Maybe $25?

No. The city sticker costs $75 — or $80.50 if you buy it any place other than a city office (and, let's be honest, who wants to stand in line there?).

The very notion of this sticker infuriates me, as it has no added value to the user, beyond fine prevention. I mean, we all know we have to buy license plates. That's a given no matter where you live. And, OK, so it costs me three times as much to plate my car here as it did in my home state, but at least plates serve a standard, universal purpose, right? They identify your vehicle in case of emergency, pull over, theft, etc.

Which just goes to show the city sticker can't even serve on that level, without being superfluous.

I bring this up because I purchased a car this weekend (or sorta did, since they didn't have what I wanted on the lot but claimed one of their dealerships in a neighboring state did). Now, because I won't be able to pick up my car until Tuesday (hopefully — I won't believe I have a new car until I'm driving it away from the lot) — and because city stickers expired this weekend — that means I had to purchase a city sticker for my old car, even though I'll (keep your fingers crossed for me) only have it for two more days.

And I know what you're thinking: it's only two days. You live in a city with millions of people. What are the odds they'd ticket you?

Those of you who know me — and my peculiar brand of luck — know precisely what those odds are.

Besides, I saw online that they allow you to "transfer" stickers. All you have to do is take your old sticker (which will be in pieces, since they're impossible to peel from your windshield) into a city office, and they'll give you a new one.

No prices were quoted, so part of me hoped that meant it'd be free, though I suspected otherwise.

So I went into a certified sticker "dealer" last night. Explained how I'd only have my car for two more days. Confirmed transfers were possible. Purchased my sticker. And then said:

"There's not a fee for transferring is there?"



More silence.

"It'll be $27."

In addition to the $80.50 I just paid? Are you kidding me?! UGH!

I realize $27 isn't a lot of money, particularly in comparison to the $140 ticket I'd otherwise get. But, c'mon, now I'm just ticked off on principle.

And for the record: I read that the police were out full force, starting at 12:01 last night looking for scofflaws; and in the next week, they'll be patrolling city-certified parking garages for missing stickers.

God forbid they directed their resources towards fighting crime, helping the poor and — egad! — busting government corruption.*

*City stickers (among other things) can only be paid for in cash. City, county and state officials here have a long history of underreporting cash earnings as a means of lining their own pockets.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Quote of the Day

Spoken to me by a friend whilst on the phone:

"My butt just locked my car."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix (Movie Review)

I won't explain myself -- and my obsession with the Harry Potter series -- again.

(That's what hyperlinks are for.)

But I will say I enjoyed this film quite a bit, which should come as no surprise to anyone who's kept up on my almost-medical condition.

That's not to say this fifth film (of seven) is necessarily as good as the previous. I didn't expect it to be -- each book is longer, and so directors and screenwriters alike are forced to cut more and more out in order to transform 900 page books into 2 1/2 hours. It's no measly task, and I think both parties deserve fair credit for keeping the film on track with the main storyline.

[Even if they do rely more and more on quick clips of The Daily Prophet (the preferred newspaper for all non-muggles) to fill in narrative gaps]

In The Order of the Phoenix (2007), Harry returns to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for his fifth year. That means he's 16, and so going through all of the typical rites of passage for that age (first real kiss, growing body, angst, confusion, attempts to define "self," etc.). But Harry also has the added distinction of being the most famous boy at school -- a modern day "savior," really.

But, alas, no one believes Harry when he says He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Lord Voldemort aka "Tom Riddle") has returned to destroy their world, and even The Daily Prophet is siding with the Ministry of Magic in trashing Potter and his hero, head master Albus Dumbledore, positioning both as "liars."

With all of the world against him, Potter thus feels all the more alone (something any teenager can relate to). But once he realizes the Order of the Phoenix (a group of "good" adult witches and wizards) is by his side, he aspires to likewise prepare his schoolmates -- even after Hogwarts is taken over by the Ministry.

And there, in typical J.K. Rowling fashion, is the part where the author inserts political and social commentary, with the Ministry and its failure to recognize the truth -- all the while inflicting torture on those it deems to be in the wrong -- bearing an uncanny resemblance to past and present governments. Recent infringements of certain civil liberties in the "real" world certainly come to mind.

Fast notes about the movie:

  • I'd forgotten how altogether creepy Luna Lovegood was
  • Neville Longbottom plays a pretty big role in the book, particularly in a cetain fight scene. I was sorry to see him back in the shadows in the film
  • Like the book, this isn't as good as the third installment, but I preferred it over the fourth
  • Don't take little kids to see this. If thy're not old enough to read it and understand it, they're not old enough to watch it.
  • This film is the darkest thus far -- but that's to be expected, since each book is darker than the previous. Thus, it feels a little less escapist as Potter battles more "serious" demons -- both external and internal
  • It's still escapism as a whole, and I realize I sound like a real dork by even writing in such detail about the series
  • I don't care

Anyhoo. I'm off to do something intellectual.

Just kidding.


Friday, July 13, 2007

On Distance

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot

The distance between two points — any two points — is interminable. In which case, Zeno was at least half correct.

Imagine, if you will, two objects located at coordinates immediately next to each other, separated only by the tiniest fraction of space.

At first glance, these points are a negligible distance apart; infinitesimal, even. But if the objects at these points — people, for example — proceed in opposite directions, running into a variety of attractions and distractions along the way, it may be an eternity before they meet again. But an eternity, by definition, is endless. And so essentially synonymous with never.

But it's possible, right? It's possible for these two objects to continue on in a straight line, never straying from their "Y" coordinates, for example, and at some point in time, to meet again head on, collapsing into one other?

It's like using Mapquest to find the shortest distance between you and your destination, and then doing the exact opposite of what you're told. For example: traveling east until you arrive, when a drive five miles west would've taken you there in minutes.

It's a wonder — a miracle, really — that we should ever really arrive anywhere.

In other words: even when we appear to be near something (someone), in nearly all respects we're actually quite far apart.

It is for this reason that — even among crowds, even among family and friends — that we can sit beside another living, breathing object and feel so entirely distant.

So alone.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bull Crap

Y'a know, I've been skydiving. I've driven fast on un-posted highways. I've gone on long road trips with no one but myself. I've jogged the strip in downtown Vegas at 5 a.m. I've swam in the ocean, fired an automatic weapon and even — now here's the real shocker — taken the red and blue lines, alone, late at night.

(But not all at the same time)

All of these things may seem unnecessarily dangerous to some. But they all have at least one thing in common: there was no immediate danger and — even with skydiving — so long as you go into a situation prepared (and your parachute is packed correctly), there's a good chance you'll come out alive. That's not to say I had absolute control of every situation; just that these were calculated risks wherein the potential for life-threatening danger was relatively small (insofar as it wasn't immediate).

But I would never — never — participate in that running of the bulls nonsense in Pamplona. Because bulls are wild creatures. Because they're enormous. Because they're powerful, and surprisingly fast. Because they cannot be adequately controlled when forced into a stampede.

Or am I the only one who got that memo?

PS - I don't care what Hemingway said. I feel I should add here that I'm terribly opposed to bullfighting though — yes — I "get" that because bulls (when poorly treated and/or riled up) can be quite dangerous, it requires some degree of skill for a matador to stay alive. But, c'mon, there's no excuse for this. We're not talking about being attacked by a bull in the wild; we're talking about taking bulls out of their natural environment and then provoking them to attack for our own entertainment, part of which involves the ritual maiming and public torture of said bull. It's sick.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Olympic National Park
(or, "Ambrosia & Wanderlust for Mere Mortals")

Two friends (now married to each other) are taking five weeks this summer to drive, camp and hike up and down the West Coast, even venturing into some of Canada's national parks (Banff, etc.).

They invited me to join them at Banff, and I was about to buy a plane ticket for Alberta when Washington's best friend announced his wedding reception would be the weekend following July 4th — incidentally, about the same time my friends would be exploring Olympic National Park.

So I purchased a ticket for Washington state instead. And while I regret that I won't get to explore Banff just yet (it looks beautiful), I'll be the first to confess that this past hike was among the best I've ever taken (though for the last two hours I think we were all ready for it to be over).

We hiked for about eight hours, covering 10 miles with a 1,500-2,000 foot elevation gain and then a 6,000 foot elevation drop. The hike up certainly got my heart pumping, but the payoff was worth it.*

Beautifully clear skies, the Olympics all around us, and the ocean down below just to the west of us.

At some points we were so far above the clouds, it was difficult to tell the ocean from the sky.

Once we turned to head down the mountain, our narrow path carried us past meadows full of colorful wild flowers

And even patches of snow. For the first time in my life, I hiked through snow in the dead of summer. At some points our trail entirely disappeared under a bed of white, and we'd confer as to where we thought we needed to go.

There should've been two bald eagles in this shot — I spotted six of the them by the weekend's end, but never had my camera at the ready.

I would've expected to see enormous slugs further west in the park (closer to the Hoh Rain Forest), but we were pretty far east in the park, in a dryer climate. Suffice it to say I was pretty much in awe of these guys, which were gigantic in comparison to the Midwestern slugs I'm more accustomed to.

But don't get me wrong. Our trail was packed full of things you'd see elsewhere too. Still, there's nothing quite like stopping to add a little "extra" to the "ordinary."

The second half of our journey took us into a forest of monstrous proportions. When we wandered past some toilet paper knotted in the trees — our lone reminder of outside civilization, since we saw absolutely no one after our initial climb to the peak — I stopped to ask if we should check to see if someone was down in the ravine, possibly lost.

I didn't see anyone, but we did find out the next day that search teams were out looking for a woman who'd gotten lost during a similar hike just a couple days before. She went out for a day hike on Tuesday, but didn't reappear until Saturday, when she wandered out of the woods 20 miles off course. The cause for her state: snow had covered a portion of her trail, and she miscalculated where it picked up.

Luckily, she'd packed enough food to subsist. But her situation does allude to some precautions you should take before any serious hike:

•Don't hike alone
•Always give yourself enough time to get out of tree cover before sunset
•Bring a compass
•Pack a topological (or "green") map of the park
•Bring along GPS, if available

But this is all in addition to the other supplies (energy bars, lots of water, first aid kit, matches, knife, etc.) I bring along which — let's be honest — I go a bit overboard on.

Many of the trees were draped in Spanish moss. And the further down we climbed — and the closer we got to the river below — the more the trees were covered.

I have absolutely no idea what this transformer/transponder was doing in the middle of the forest. Any ideas?

The sound of the river below was sometimes pretty intense. And because we were constantly walking down pretty steep inclines, my knees, ankles and toes (note to self: buy better hiking shoes) were really starting to ache (substantially more than my muscles). But the sound of water was getting intense, so I thought that meant we were near the end of our hike.

Turns out we had about three miles to go. And we were actually just approaching a water fall.

But as I said before, the park wasn't just bears and giant slugs and eagles and the like. It was full of wildlife you'd see elsewhere, too. Even still, it's not everyday you spot an adolescent deer in the foreground of a vista like this.

This was actually taken after our hike — when we picked up our car and headed into town for some grub.

The next day we toured the neighboring towns, visiting lilac farms...

Charming seaside towns...

And Fort Worden, a 19th century military fort designed to ward off naval attacks in the north Pacific.

This is the bunker area, our last stop before parting with my friends.

Shelters hidden in dirt reeked of alcohol and fireworks, with July 4th bottle rockets and the like serving as an ironic reminder of the fort's original intent.

On Day 4, we were off to the wedding reception, where I found these lovelies sprouting up from a sidewalk.

This was "lucky" 7/7/7. And so only three days after Independence Day. For those of you keeping track, this July 4th was the two year anniversary of my brother's return from Afghanistan. He heads to Iraq in January, something that has all of us holding our breath. He returned from Afghanistan with debilitating migraines, a rotator cuff completely torn from his shoulder (he's had surgery to repair it, though he'll never get it back 100%), and an inexplicable case of asthma.

After the reception, we drove 10 miles north to the Canadian border, passports in tow. Unfortunately, everyone in the states seemed to be going through the same checkpoint, and our wait to get across the international boundary was just short of two hours.

We didn't have two hours to kill, unfortunately, so that meant we had to turn right back around.

But before we did, this is the one shot I got of Canada: construction of a new customs building.

Pretty ironic when you consider the current Canadian building was already in much better shape than the U.S. side. Not to mention, neither the Canadians nor the Americans like it when you tell them you spent all of your free time sitting in line and so need to turn around to make dinner plans.

The Canadians will look at you funny, make you pull over, and then send you inside their building to have a piece of paper filed before they smile and wish you a nice day.

The Americans, guns on their side, scowl, and then have you pull over so they can search through your belongings with a fine tooth comb (as a side note, we were the only white people inside the building — everyone else was Middle Eastern or Hispanic — racial profiling anyone, anyone?).

Luckily, even with the full search re-entering the U.S., the line on that side was still MUCH shorter. So we turned our car south and visited the newlyweds at their new home, of which I was sinfully envious.

Day 5 was spent back in Seattle, which I enjoy visiting almost as much as Portland and Olympia.

All three cities are extremely eco-friendly. On this particular day, there was a city-wide campaign alerting people to homelessness in the city. I was told that when this campaign was first unveiled, some hooligans destroyed the cutouts by drawing mustaches and the like onto children's faces.

Some people have absolutely no tact.

Here a "real" little girl is sizing herself up against the girl on the cardboard cutout.

"I'm bigger than her!" she exclaimed, her face sobering a bit when her mother read the sign aloud.

And then it was back to my apartment in the Midwest, where recently so much of the grass seems painfully (and metaphorically) brown.

*If interested, you'll find more vacation photos at my Flick'r account.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLXI)

on seeing an uncaged bear for the first time

with all due respect
i don't want my face ripped off
please keep your distance

best. hike. ever.

beautiful vistas
sore muscles big climbs and not
a soul for miles

on attempting to visit canada

part i
three hours wasted
on flared tempers and long lines
there's no turning back

part ii
guess whose officials
were packing heat: ours or theirs?
think i wet myself

all i want out of life is a home
(or, "congratulations to the newlyweds")

so now you're married
and you have a new house too
mind if i move in?
get your hands off my bladder
(an open letter to the tsa)

part i
bag after bag you
wear the same old latex gloves
how'd you like my bras?

part ii
i'd say by proxy
their dirty laundry touched mine
and my camelbak

Monday, July 09, 2007

Mobile Nation

So I was back in town for less than 12 hours before another incident struck.

I was about 3/4 of the way home after a very groggy half-day at work when a Hummer -- which I had waited patiently behind as it signaled to turn left -- apparently turned in front of a Land Rover heading north (or the Land Rover was heading west and ran a stop sign -- I'm not sure who was at fault).

I heard the sound -- it was deafening -- and turned in horror as my peripheral vision detected said Hummer spinning into the northbound lane (previously, it was heading south and turning east). I double-parked my car, flashers going, and ran over to the Land Rover (which was on someone's lawn).

I'm no mechanic -- not even an insurance adjustor -- but it didn't take a genius to determine the vehicle was almost certainly totaled. The driver was crawling over his seat and towards the passenger side when I opened his door (turns out it wouldn't open from the inside). I confirmed he was (by some miracle) OK, before I did the same check on the guy in the Hummer.

"I'm OK," he said. "Is she OK?"

About that time I realized a third vehicle was involved -- a smaller sedan that had been heading south when the Hummer spun into it after hitting (or being hit by) the Rover.

The damage to her vehicle was minimal by comparison. She was uninjured, but clearly quite shaken.

The only reason I mention this is because of what happened next:

I asked if anyone had called 911. The first two drivers -- bear in mind, both were driving nice, new cars that come with moderately hefty price tags -- each told me they didn't have cell phones.

I was befuddled.

"Well," I said. "Do you want me to call?"

They nodded, and I did. It took another 15 minutes for police to arrive (we were on the border between the city and a suburb, and I half imagine they were arguing over who should take the call), during which period one guy borrowed my phone to call his wife. Later after the police arrived, the other one borrowed it to call a tow truck.

Now, I have no problem letting people borrow my phone for emergencies such as this. And I certainly understand the hesitation to buy a mobile phone, for fear of becoming a slave to it.

But I was nevertheless shocked. I mean, my car's entire worth wouldn't buy a new bumper for the Hummer.

Guess when you drive a P.O.S. you know you've gotta be prepared for emergencies.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Flick'r & Fade

So it's unlikely you'll be hearing from me for a few days.

And while I suppose many of you will be out enjoying the festivites, if you find yourself in dire need of a thirdworst fix, check out my new flick'r album (also available at the right of this page). You won't see anything profound, but it's (slightly) better than nothing.

Something to Believe In

I believe firmly in not allowing children to squeeze repeatedly, for minutes at a time, on their new bike horn while they wait in line at a busy checkout.

What, for that matter, ever happened to good, ol' fashioned discipline?

I know my parents used it on me, and I turned out just fine.

*twitch, twitch*

Major CATastrophe

If I were to describe my morning in too much detail, it might cause you to toss those proverbial cookies.

Suffice it to say, I was an hour late to work. I have hardwood floors AND rugs. And, no, this time it wasn't Maude.

For more details, watch this. Just go into it knowing this was possibly the most disgusting morning I've ever experienced in my life, and that link doesn't even begin to capture the actual horror of what I witnessed.

(Not to mention, clean up.)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Waste of Time & Money

In the last two days, I returned about 70% of the items I purchased for my new apartment. Rugs to cover up the water stains on the hardwood floor from God-knows-what. Curtains for the dining room. A new tea pot (the color perfectly matched my kitchen!) to replace the ruined one.

I've simply stopped caring about trying to make any "vintage" apartment in this city feel like home.

My boxes are unpacked.

We'll call it sufficient.

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Movie Review)

I can't for the life of me come to a definite opinion about this movie.

On one hand I found Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) to be unnecessarily profane, with too much of the obscene centering uncomfortably around minors.

On the other: I found it to be a rather thoughtful portrayal of how so many of us "pass the time" between sunrise and sunset (and vice versa), day after day.

Although the film surveys several characters, I suppose we could say the central two are the female performing artist (played by writer/director Miranda July) and the scrawny, newly separated shoe salesman (played by John Hawkes). Both are terribly lonely (not to mention charmingly quirky) but manage the day to day as so many of us do.

When they meet, there's an obvious connection; but Hawkes' character responds with a terrified retreat, whereas July does her best Amelie to woo him.

And July's character did remind me of Amelie though — I'm sorry to say — I didn't find "Christine" to be anywhere near as charming. But then again, that's not an entirely fair comparison: while I wouldn't hesitate to say Amelie is a more enjoyable film than Me and You and Everyone We Know, I also realize that the latter is trying to pack a lot more in.

So it's not entirely a film about two lonely people trying to find each other. It's a film about a world of lonely people, their secret quirky lives, and the tiny, infinitesimal (and yet at times insurmountable) gaps that separate them.

Still, at times I felt like this film tried too hard to achieve its Indie agenda, exposing itself as a wannabe rather than the genuine thing. And I hate to say that about it, because I do think Everyone We Know has its moments.

And also: be on the look out for the two boys who play Hawkes' sons. While I hated to see them in such awkward situations (the actors, not their characters), I think they both did splendidly. And the littlest one, probably six when this was filmed, is little short of a prodigy.

I just hope he didn't suffer permanent emotional damage as a result of his lines.