Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Touchdown in Reykjavik

We did it, we're here! It's been literally a non-stop day. We woke up Tuesday morning, having taken the day off from work, and cleaned up the house and ran last-minute errands to prepare for a week away. My mom drove up from the airport (working around the 35W closure) with my brother Andrew (from New Orleans) and his son, Kai. I made them lunch: gyros with BBQ sauce, it's freakin' delicious, and then we went on with packing and cleaning up, driving out to the airport around 5pm.

There was a little mix-up when we checked in. Apparently this employee named Ben checked someone else in as me, so when I showed up they wondered why I was checking in twice. It seems he had confused me with this Icelandic woman named Kristin Fridriksdottir. She was sent back down by TSA so we met and got the mess cleared up; I'll post a picture of us later, so you can see the similarity.

The flight was nice and long. Rebecca got us some excellent noise-canceling headphones so I listened to music, watched Malcolm in the Middle and The Simpsons (pointedly ignored Bridget Jones' Diary 2) and updated my travel journal. Rebecca slept much more than I did, and we were both groggy when we touched down in Keflavik (I'll check spelling later) and caught a bus out to another shuttle bus which took us to our hotel, Room With a View, in Reykjavik. It was hours before the place opened, however, so we wandered up and down the street at 8am in search of any restaurant that was open. We found a "bistro" attached to another hotel and had breakfast there, though really we were supposed to be staying at that hotel to do that.

After the meal we went back to our hotel--actually, we're renting an apartment for four nights--and found the owner and a friend dumpster diving. He was very friendly and let us in four hours early; we spent two of those hours napping, and now it's about 2pm on a Tuesday. I'm sitting in a bookstore cafe updating my blog. More later!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fun With Stupid Drunk Blondes

I'll allow that I don't know very modern convention. I have a grasp of what it means to be polite and how to behave in a considerate manner, but there are also rapidly updated trends into which I have not tuned. But nor will I say that I should endeavor to be made abreast of them.

A few years ago, I was enjoying karaoke with some friends at a bowling alley/bar in Nordeast. Some of these friends were people I'd seen frequently, a couple were such that I hadn't talked to in years, and a few more were people I hadn't known but liked immediately. And I like karaoke, and I like it better when we've had a few drinks, and we were drinking that night.

My turn came up and I took the microphone. I had signed up to perform "Our House" by Madness, nice and simple, a catchy favorite. I hadn't finished the first verse when suddenly this drunk, screechy blonde woman came reeling over, announced that this was her favorite song and immediately began "helping" me sing. She was short, about 5' 3" or less, of slight build, with a cute face and long golden hair. I was given to understand that it was her birthday and a couple tables had been pushed together to seat her large group of friends. Her "assistance" to me consisted of slurring intermittant lyrics, waving hysterically, and shrieking to her friends that it was her birthday.

I was a little put out that I wasn't permitted to perform as well as I might otherwise, but to show there were no hard feelings I thought I'd buy the girl a drink. It was her birthday, after all, and she was quite merry. I went to the bar and ordered the tastiest drink I knew, an amaretto sour. I tasted it myself to be sure of its purity, and it was delicious.

I walked over to the girl's table and flagged her down; it took her a moment or two to refocus and recognize me. I said, "Happy birthday," and presented her with the drink. Her face fell and she stared at me very hard. A very tall man who resembled a young Justin Timberlake in white and blue basketball clothing loomed behind her and slid one protective arm around her chest, and he also stared very hard at me. I looked back at each of them and assured them it was just a drink for her "help" at the microphone and to wish her a happy birthday.

Her expression darkened and she took a sip of the drink. Immediately she screwed up her eyes, stuck out her tongue, and made hacking, gagging noises. "This tastes terrible!" she informed me. "What is this?" I informed her it was an amaretto sour and a quite good one. She showered me with a few more unfavorable adjectives, and her attendant idiot man-child glowered at me.

I regret that I lacked the wherewithal to snatch the drink back and return to my seat; as it happened I only glanced at each of them sullenly and returned to my seat. I'm now given to understand it is impolite, and perhaps even threatening, to buy a drink for someone you don't know. I don't feel this indicates society is evolving in a direction to my liking.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Goddess of Strength in the Face of Adversity

Almost two years ago, I was attending a Minnesota Rollergirls bout at Roy Wilkins Auditorium. It was great to see them because their skills have only skyrocketed... actually, I think it was the end of season match, so it was a big show. Yeah, I remember, because I was unhappy about being stuck up in the balcony. I was isolated from all my friends (audience and team members alike), watching them mill about downstairs. I was also really upset about that dance team, something like "Cheer Dorothy Cheer" or something. Their sound was terrible, the dance routine was unskilled and uncoordinated, and the humor was gratuitous. I almost walked out due to this act alone, but I just kept slipping out to the bathroom and hitting my flask, and eventually the bout started.

Everyone was just a pile of warriors. Almost everyone. One person was no good and never would be any good, and her teammates had to suffer for it, but whatever. It's a difficult game! But it was an impressive match because all these athletes of advanced skill were fighting as hard as they could for the prize, and it was a real spectacle. No matter whom you were rooting for, you could not have gone home disappointed because the performance was that high.

Between matches, Team Slytherin... I mean, the Garda Belts were milling about, getting assembled. I don't know what their status is now but at the time they were viewed askance by polite society, I think. They were kind of rough and dirty, but even pro-wrestling cultivates its heels as well as its babyfaces. You've got to have an adversary, you can't just have four heroes who struggle against each other, there's no emotional investiture when that's the case.

So the Garda Belts were setting up or something, and the audience was booing them. They hadn't done anything wrong, they were just getting booed on principle. A couple of them made faces and flipped off the crowd, most ignored it, but one woman set herself apart.

She had short, blonde hair, I think it was pulled back in barettes. She had strong, dark features, and I think she was tall and the muscular side of lean. I dunno, I could be turning her into a deity in my mind. She just had this one moment that I won't forget. She had to skate over to the other side of the track for something, and the audience focused on her, increasing its booing and insults. I felt it was a bit much.

But she just straightened up, tilted her head back and smiled most winningly at the people. She threw her arms out wide and basked in all the noise coming at her, as she arced by slowly on one skate. The hatred increased, and she only glowed. It never phased her at all, not in the least way. There are other people who could've faked that kind of "I don't care" attitude but it wouldn't have felt like this. It would have seemed flimsy and a little annoying. There was a light burning inside of this woman and she was truly joyful in the moment.

I don't remember her nickname or her player number, but I will never forget her expression. It was one of those moments for me where my vision reduced to this one fragment of a scene and I probably forgot to breathe. Now it lives in my memory, and whenever I'm facing adversity or just having a crappy day, my mind pulls up this image and I feel embarrassed for my weakness. I modify my attitude and behavior to honor her memory. I have no idea who she is or what she's like in real life, but in the Tarot of my mind she is an icon of courage, confidence, and grace.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I Was Just Thinking...

Note: Maybe it's an exaggeration to say that half of all public library patrons smell, but I can produce empirical evidence that at least a third of them are redolent with something their body produced and that two weeks developed. And as far as noises go, there are some it's okay to be mad about (cell phones, bursts of music) and some that I feel ashamed about getting mad about (moaning). Maybe I need to start finding private libraries in which to hang.

Note: 'Banger was walking south on Hennepin, eyeing me. He was all dressed in baggy black gear, I happened to be wearing khakis and a red shirt and red tie. Once in a while I dress in traditional Target apparel for a little irony. My imagined conversation:
Him: "Dude, I don't recognize your colors. What gang are you?"
Me: "Uh... South Sixth Street Pitbulls?"
Maybe not uproariously funny, but it certainly did occur to me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

More Self-Examination

Huh. There's nothing to freshen your awareness like directing someone else's focus upon your context. I invited someone else to read my blog, then came home and looked at what I'd amassed thus far and was not very impressed. I'm just kinda... droning.

Well, I have created a few other blogs, hidden around and with unannounced names, and these will have specific purposes for various creative endeavors. I just need to keep them all recorded so I have them straight. It would not do to post the news crap in the creative effort blog, for example.

But the main thing is that I really want to keep writing. I want to write all over the place and write many things. I think if I keep myself cycling in this habit it'll be easier to continue, could become second nature to me. It never has been before, so this is an interesting exercise to me, both to imbue myself with the habit of writing as well as the practice of refining technique and usage. I'm a little self-conscious about how narrow my working vocabulary is - I may not have cause to expand it in daily conversation, but in the written media I have no excuse.

BI-cycle! BI-cycle! BI-I-I-cycle!!

Have you ever waken up with just an awesome mood? For me, this is as unprovoked and apropos of nothing as my biochemical depression. Today everything just feels right. My skin feels especially clean, my clothes are especially comfortable, and I'm looking forward to the day's challenges. My work-based entanglement abruptly resolved yesterday and suddenly I have amazing database super-powers that I can't wait to use today! I'm a little put out that one requestor actually withdrew his project because, after days of begging me to grant him access to some tables, he just discovered he had the access all along. Damn.

There are two other requests, however, and I get to write up the training documentation on this procedure. I'm delighted, and there's no sarcasm there: I really do like writing up training documentation, it's an exercise by which I reexamine everything I take for granted. I force myself to review a rote procedure with fresh, unknowing eyes and flesh it out until a complete outsider, a total n00b could come in and do this job if, for example, I'd been killed in a political protest.

Today is so nice, in fact, that I have Queen in my head. "Bicycle Race" is reverberating triumphantly throughout my skull, though I couldn't tell you the last time I've heard the song. It's just these strident chords loosening channels of endorphin down my neck and into the big glowing furnace in my chest. I can hardly sit still: I want to go out and punch out a moon window into the side of a building!

Hmm. I hope that if I did somehow develop the ability to shoot plasma bolts out of my arms, I wouldn't automatically go on a spree of rampant destruction. Obviously no jail could hold me, but I wouldn't want to have to constantly glance over my shoulder for government agents or snipers. I'm really not clever enough to be a super-villain, I have absolutely no sense of strategy.
===
Christian Fredrickson
"Nulla dies sine linea."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Clothes Hoarse

I'm just having the worst time trying to find new clothes. On the one hand, I'm looking for colors and a cut I like (usually Van Heusen or Geoffrey Beene); on the other, I need to find garments that hang well on me.

The difficulty with the first is that I only like dark colors, earth tones, such like. This isn't the season for that: I should have stocked up in autumn and winter, because now everything is a palsied pistachio or lavender.

With the latter point, I have little to no ability to assess how a garment looks on me at time of purchase. Weeks later, yes, I'm highly critical or have established a favorite shirt. Through trial and error (and accidentally remembering what my tailor told me) I know my shirt size and neck size, but remembering my pant size is irrelevant because different brands choose different sizes for themselves. Even within a brand, 34x32 means different things across different models of pant. Compounding this problem is the fact that I don't like to use the fitting rooms - even when I do, I'm usually alone and have no way of determining whether a garment appears well on me.

Additionally, I really dislike polyester and polyester blends. I'm averse to linen and gabardine in pants, but I love wool. Not going to find wool in a springtime wardrobe, though.

But yes, always, I know there are worse problems to have.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Varied Set of Privileges

A bunch of stuff happened recently. This weekend we had a couple friends over and started a fire in the backyard, had some beers and talked. That was very pleasant. The weather is warming up but at that point it still felt like we were coming out of summer and starting to chill down in autumn, so the fire was appropriate.

I had Editing class last night, which I always enjoy very much. The instructor seemed a bit ill or distracted, I hope everything's okay. My group's newsletter is coming along: one student, fluent in WordPress, has volunteered to construct it all online, so that will be awesome. Then she and another student invited me out for drinks, which was a unique experience. Buca, surprisingly, stopped serving at 9:30 pm, though their sign says 10:00 pm, so we walked up to McSomething's, up on Hennepin and something. We just talked and had a couple drinks, talked about all manner of outrageous stuff. We really seemed to enjoy each other's company--I say that with a little amazement because it hasn't happened in a very long time that someone else has been "hey, you're interesting enough to hang out with of my own volition."

This morning, as the bus was pulling away, some jackass in a dark blue two-door car (MN plates MUH-175) decided not to give the bus right-of-way to come back in the lane (though everyone should know buses always have right-of-way). The driver honked at the bus, pulled up beside the bus driver, and flipped him off.

I can't relate to that mindset. I can't put myself in the mindset that thinks, I have the right to shit on everyone around me. Then I start guessing, were his parents neglectful? Does he just have a mental disability, benign enough to keep him out of an institution but malign enough to make other people regret his existence? What kind of person clearly launches into fault in a traffic altercation and then abuses the victim? I guess it's kind of the same mentality that drives people to buy an SUV or vote Republican, and it comes from a history of not having received enough love during one's formative years. That's the nearest I can figure.

Friday, April 11, 2008

One for a Man, Two for a Horse

Last night in Memoirs class, we went around the room and discussed each other's work over the course of the semester. People spoke up at random to cite a memorable passage from someone else's writing, and simultaneously we took turns going around the room to write these snippets down. We went around three times, so I had three people's memories written on a little slip of paper.

In preparation for class, we had to assemble a portfolio of our work as well. This would consist of the rewrites of three essays (the long one and two short ones), to include the original rough draft with instructor's notes, plus our own commentary on the revision process, and an extra sheet talking about a reading we attended. I went to see Chip Kidd talk about his book 'The Learners,' but instead he mostly talked about his career as a graphic designer of book covers--for which, admittedly, he has garnered considerable fame and esteem.

I've written here twice about revising my essays, what an interesting and rewarding process that is (no sarcasm). It felt good to clean these pieces up and assemble them in a folder. I was pretty proud of my work and thought fondly of the other pieces that were being left out, other writing not meant to be included. I was feeling pretty inspired by how much I'd achieved and all the work I've put out. Good dog, XN.

As we made the rounds in the classroom, though (and you knew this is where the twist would come in), no one really seemed to recall anything I'd written. One woman remembered my supervisor dumping half a tank of my Sea Monkeys on the floor of my office. Another woman recalled "the moon has been accused of silver," from a creative writing exercise we did about color. Two little fragments from three and a half months of writing.

Evidently, I am considerably less impactful a writer than I'd fancied myself. Did I not try hard enough? Should I have taken more chances in creative expression? Should I have sought more striking passages to relate my experiences? Was the subject matter itself uninteresting?

Maybe I should dig out my old spoken word jazz from thirteen years ago, when I was fresh and exciting, caffeinated and naive. Maybe I should plunder my old journals for subject matter, study my creative expression from way back when I didn't know any better. Maybe this "show and don't tell" technique I admire so much has its drawbacks.

A long, long time ago when I had regular pen pals, a couple people commented that they never knew how I thought or felt about things. Many other people tell me I'm strongly opinionated, but a couple people still insisted they had no idea where my feelings lay. I didn't know how else to express myself, I thought I related past events pretty well. They said I did but without any implication as to my reaction to them.

I never knew how to take that. No one harbors any ambiguity over how I view Minnesotan traffic, for example. Who could listen to me mourn the pretty girl/stupid guy dynamic and have any question as to my feelings on that? I didn't know where I was vague, and when I asked for examples these plaintiffs couldn't provide any.

So then what? What is it I'm lacking? What do I have to do to captivate the imagination and carve a hole for myself in the memory of others? Where is my technique weak? What else do I have to learn, and where do I go for it?

Random Thoughts

I love that there's a Facebook quiz called "Are You A Father?" Rather than despairing that the situation has come to these dire straits, I simply appreciate the activism involved, the initiative taken by concerned parties to help young men find out whether they've sired a bastard or not.

**

Walking through the Skyway, listening to my Shuffle, it suddenly occurred to me I really would like to see Killing Joke open for Alice in Chains. That is one show I would definitely attend. Not sure who the other opening act would be.

**

Saw No Country for Old Men last night. "Beautiful and sophisticated" is all I can say about it. Anything I point to in the film will fall into one of those two categories. Everything was so thoughtful, there were no wasted actions: it was a real samurai of a film. I could happily start a Coen Brothers library.

God Damn You, Nikon

I remember this old camera commercial from the early '80s, maybe. The message the company wanted to get across was that most consumer-grade cameras had too slow a shutter speed or had lenses that required this. The problem they were stating was that, when you took pictures of action scenes they came out blurry and crappy looking.

The example they pushed to embody this was of a nice summer picnic with friends. A bunch of mid-20s men and women are playing frisbee, jumping around and laughing, and then one dude whips out a camera. Immediately everyone freezes in place: bodies are caught in mid-leap, holding perfectly still off the ground. Frozen rictuses plaster the faces of his man's companions, silence overtakes the grassy park landscape as the dude runs to one corner, gets a shot of everyone, runs to another spot for another picture, finds another angle, etc.

It struck me as terribly sad. This guy just wanted to preserve a fun moment with his friends. He wanted mementos to look back upon maybe 20 years later, admiring his body before it had gone to pot. He wanted to recall those glowing, warm, sunny days after life had dragged everyone in separate directions. But he couldn't because his camera was that crappy. Only a space-time anomaly could permit him to take good pictures.

I felt awful for him. The poor guy probably knew nothing about cameras. He probably got an invitation to this picnic a month in advance and tripped out to some general store to pick up a camera. He probably hefted a couple plastic models, turning them over as if to suddenly glean the specifications he would need to evaluate them by. A cherry red Kodak in his right hand, a turquoise blue Canon in his left: his brow furrowed and his mahogany irises flicked back and forth between the two models, making up criteria on the spot, assessments based on size and apparent function. Huh, he probably thought, the Canon has all these extra numbers that the Kodak doesn't. But the Kodak comes with a strap. He probably began envisioning scenarios in which a strap would come in handy, like locking his legs around the base of a tree to enable him to dangle over the edge of a cliff and get a shot of a nest of eaglets. If the camera happened to slip from his fingers for whatever reason, the strap would prevent it from spinning down to the rocky beach many yards below.

He imagined he might actually find himself in such a situation. Something awakened in his heart, something young and bright. He had a curiosity about the world, one that he'd lost upon entering high school.

And then it died again, at the picnic, as soon as it became painfully aware what a crappy camera he actually bought. As his vibrant young friends held in the air, he saw his legs slipping and his body falling, cartwheeling to the jagged rocks below, the cheap camera exploding on a boulder as violently as though it had been packed with TNT. As he imposed upon the patience of his friends to angle for another shot, he came to realize that the world was much uglier, much more tawdry than he'd ever imagined.

That commercial made me feel terrible. The fact that they were trying to sell a camera that compensated for this difficulty didn't improve anything.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Which XN Complains Abundantly About Things

I've had three topics in succession, as I sit here thinking of things to write about. Instead of touching on any of them, I'm confronted by how judgmental I can be. I don't like that. I want to be a social observer but I don't want to be some callous bastard who puts himself above others.

Not sure where that line is. Somewhere between "his hair is matted and grown long to swoop down over one eye" and "he gave himself a toilet-swirley and is covering one eye in an attempt to block out the pain, oh forlorn." Show but don't tell is a technique one of my favorite authors implements to a fine degree. Rather than coming off as a dry recitation of observable fact, it places you in the world he's creating. I wonder if there's a subtler insinuation of...

Awesome. I'm trying to not be judgmental, and a huge flock of teenagers just came into the library. They're all trying out their own fashion statements.

This is like, "Okay, today I'm going to eat responsibly," and then I'm presented with a $150 gift certificate for Wuollet's (purveyors of delicious baked goods laden with sugar and butter, for those not familiar). I have to stop looking around and change the topic.

I got all my essays rewritten last night, that was very satisfying. It was eminently helpful to have all that feedback from students who were forced to read my material, to use their feedback to shape up my piece into a slightly more complete work. I would love to form a writer's group so as to secure this kind of feedback but I know it would suck. It's impossible to form the people I would want to write in a group with. Past groups were beset with tremendous difficulty: the writers abjectly refused to discuss certain topics, one guy had no original ideas and only ripped off the other writers but expected to be praised for his innovation, and then you get those writers who show their hand at the beginning of the association. You know exactly what you're going to get from them as long as you work with them. Someone who's always going to write about her accidental pregnancy, or always going to write about their short stint in jail, or always going to write about so-and-so succumbing to whatever disease. I don't intend to be disrespectful to their plight, but I don't enjoy trying to form a creative collaboration with someone who purposely digs out a deep rut in which their wheel may spin endlessly.

"Let's write about our favorite fruit."
"Once, my brother who has lumbago ate an apple. He gnawed at it painfully for a while, ravaged as he was by lumbago, unable to break its dense rind..."

"Let's write about places we've been."
"I went to see the Grand Canyon, but my brother couldn't come. He has lumbago. It is slowly overtaking his own body to the point where he cannot even enjoy simple pleasures such as the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore, or even a deep breath."

"Let's write about anything but lumbago. We are forbidden to write about lumbago at all."
"This essay is about all the things I can do that my brother cannot. I can sleep in my lumbago-free bed. When I cough, it is a healthy, vital cough that does not spread lumbago. I easily crush apples with unlumbagoed jaws. My legs, blessed with an absense of lumbago, pump and charge about the yard, beneath the window of my bedridden brother."

I can pick up trash on the street, I can visit elderly and enfeebled neighbors in their homes, I can donate my computer time to charity and separate my recycling. But when I write like this, I feel like deep down I'm just a bad person.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Writer who Writes Written Writings

I'm rewriting my essays tonight, as I have been in the recent past. See, I have to present my portfolio tomorrow in "Memoirs and Creative Non-Fiction" class, and apparently I can only do any work at the last minute. What sucks is that I make straight A's: there is no negative reinforcer for my irresponsible behavior.

Yesterday I completed... well, I didn't name the essays originally. I always forgot a title when I hacked them out at the last minute, and also I'm terrible at titles. Look at the titles to these blog entries: unless I'm quoting something relevant, my titles are shite. But I'm challenging myself to name these things: The Lives of the Sea Monkeys is about a tank of Sea Monkeys I tried to raise, resulting in disaster. (Check out that title, huh? That was ten minutes of conjuration.) The second essay, Quos Deus Vult Perdere, is about the cultural impact of e-mail technology against my own fascination with pen-and-ink correspondence.

Now I'm up to the third assignment, my memoirs of South Korea. I had a working title too banal to mention here, I'll have to think of something else. This written work was the most interesting process for me: using my military service in Korea as the context, I was going to write about three women who worked the bars, compare and contrast them against each other and against myself. Then it turned out I had too much to say about the first one, so I eliminated the other two but expanded the scope of the memoir to include the politics of club life, the symbiotic relationship of sex slaves and the military overseas, and the governments that turned blind eyes to them. It needs some expansion, but only as far as the main girl is concerned: I need to write more about her, flesh her out somewhat, before I work up to the drama and climax.

That's the difference between this and all my other creative efforts: these essays are actually undergoing a rewrite. Usually I turn in a one-off, first draft, but I'm actually sitting down and reviewing the feedback and making alterations to the text. I think the difference is that I actually have some feedback to work with. Usually I can't coerce anyone to read my stuff with $200 and a loaded gun, but our little groups in class provide a captive audience that has to offer criticism. This is very helpful to me. In fact, when we're meeting in our groups, most authors listen to criticism and spend a lot of energy responding to it immediately, explaining themselves, justifying their choices. Not me: I sit there quietly and nod and ask for more. I absolutely do not explain myself. I go back home and consider the useful advice and disregard the inapplicable commentary.

But I'm writing! I'm writing now! A lot!

Passion and Aspiration (Low)

Short blog entry today: I wrote in another blog (short story in Psychopop's MySpace page) so that counts as writing for today. Also, I did a big job search on Craigslist (is that okay or is it pathetic?) and found a bunch of positions for writers and editors. I winnowed out the least offensive (I refuse to work for marketing) and we'll see if I'm worthy of notice.

I need to create more writing samples, however. I should be hitting Helium and Rafter, whatever it's called, just to get practice in writing random articles. I submitted one about the cancer risk of sodas and soft drinks but only because I'd written up a Pathfinder on that topic for an Information Systems class and happened to have it all in mind. I want to be able to do that kind of hard core research on any topic that comes down the pike, however.

I'm in my new cube, where my monitor directly faces a wide open space where all sorts of people walk by, so I... have to watch myself now. It's going to be dull.

I'm sitting in the library right now: I can see two monitors playing Naruto videos. I used to be so into that, I got caught up quickly and started watching each episode as soon as the fansubbers put it out, which was usually no more than five days after it had aired in Japan. Those crazy teenagers put out some quality work in a crunch period for free! That just astounds me. Any company should be incontinent with desire to hire them, and these kids are just doing an amazing amount of work pro bono. Anyway, I followed the show up to about Episode 110 or so before stupid Funimation licensed it in the States and the fansubbers were no longer operating within a gray market. What sucks worse is that Funimation will remove the original Japanese opening and closing sequences, replace it with bullshit music, and suck the spirit out of the series, like they do with all their anime licenses.

The fansubbers actually do a better job with it than Funimation will. They don't change the music, and they don't hire some talentless high school drama club to do the voice-overs. If anything, their work is beautiful: clear English translation with attractive graphics, occasional cultural footnotes, and karaoke lyrics (in English, anglicized Japanese, and kanji)! Point to the animation licensing company that offers all of that for their overpriced DVDs.

Well, whatever. I just miss enjoying quality anime. I hoped I could meet someone who was as into it as I am, or was, but that's an immature and unrealistic hope. Like hoping I could find someone similarly passionate about World of Warcraft. Those aren't adult goals. I don't feel like an adult, even if I did get married. It's hard to let some things go, but sometimes you have to cast them off even if the only reason is because it will cause conflict to retain them. It's rough, but whatever, everyone is mortal and nothing lasts for very long.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Benign Nemesis (The Devil of Small Things)

It happened again. I caught the 8:12am bus, the 4F northbound on Lyndale, and there was that kid in the back corner seat again.

I honestly can't tell whether it's a boy or a girl. I think it's a boy so I'll refer to him as "he." He's a teen in high school, probably busing up to the Nicollet Island school, and he lives farther south than I do so he's always on the bus first.

He wears blue jeans and some kind of fleece pullover. His eyebrows are slanted down in the middle, or they perk up on the ends, in the manner of a mythical sylvan-dwelling creature like an elf or nixie. He has a little pug nose, and his brown curly hair refuses to be styled. He keeps it clean and it stays in its wiry waves on top of his head. He has a thin purple metal earring in his left ear, and as of today he's wearing sandals without socks.

This last bit is important because he needs to keep his foot up on the armrest of the seats running perpendicular to his. In the back of our MTC busses, the last section of seating has two parallel rows with their backs to the sides of the bus, like people on a subway facing each other, and then a back row at the very back, all forming a horseshoe shape. He always sits in the right side (facing forward) of the very back seat, always propping his left foot up on the arm rest. He has only taken that stupid, annoying foot down once in all the time I've seen him.

It doesn't matter who sits in that seat in front of him. I've seen all sorts of customers take that seat: pretty young women, ragged immigrants, big burly tough guys, tidy businessmen; both genders, all ethnicities, all socioeconomic strata. The teen takes his nasty-ass foot down for no one, whether his ratty, dingy running shoes are dripping slush in the winter, or his funky bare toes rub the sleeve of a hapless rider in the summer.

He has a bookbag next to him, it takes up all of the seat to his left. It doesn't have to, it could sit on the floor or on his lap without a problem, but he keeps it on the seat. Once, when the bus was particularly packed, a woman wanted to sit there as there were no other seats. This young man rolled his eyes at her and glowered, and after a couple moments finally hauled his bookbag to his own lap. He needed her to know how much she was inconveniencing him. Anyone else would have smiled and scooted over, not just because she was pleasant-looking but because that's the decent thing to do. Whatever else may be said about Minnesotans, the vast majority do not begrudge you a seat on the bus when you indicate you need to sit down. The exceptions to this include crackwhores and transients whose sanity (and, consequently, social skills) is deteriorating, and then this surly, privileged teen who thinks an awful lot of himself.

Today he was reading Tailchaser's Tale. In the past he has read Inkspell and a Bleach manga. So he likes escapist fantasy and Japanese entertainment. There, we have something in common. We could have a conversation about these things, I could guide him to some prime literature, but I wouldn't. He is incivil and rude, selfish and inconsiderate, and most of the time I want to chop off his foot with a machete. It really gets on my nerves to see him prop his dainty foot up on the armrest, to see riders have to slouch forward in their seat to avoid contact with his foot.

But what do I do? I've thought about a little "hey, kid" advice, but the nature of Minnesotans is such that the offended party might turn to me and assure me it's quite okay, they only need the edge of the seat, the kid's not bothering them. Or someone else may tell me to mind my own business. But what do you do when something's happening that pushes one of your buttons? And what do you do when it happens every day?

I've tried to catch other buses. I get a sick feeling in my stomach when I know I've missed the 8:03am 4G bus, and I wait nine or ten minutes for the 4F to arrive, and I wonder whether the kid will be in the back of the bus, socially awkward and passive-aggressive. There was a long stretch when he wasn't, and I experienced tremendous relief. I was able to relax and listen to music or read or just stare out the window without the nagging, buzzing irritation of having to purposely ignore this snot-nosed little twerp.

I spent a whole busride attempting to transmit, telepathically, the message into his head that he should put his stupid foot down. I stared at the side of his face and visualized the sentence forming inside his skull. It was fruitless, the offending ped remained braced against the armrest, though he did look up nervously a few times all throughout Uptown. Apparently I can emanate tremendous loathing, but I can't focus it into a sentence. Oh well, practice makes perfect.

One savage winter day, I caught the bus after the 4F, and his 4F bus actually broke down. Our bus was already full of people suffering the sub-zero weather, and then his bus had to wait outside and board ours to compensate. The teen was wearing some strange royal blue skull cap, almost shaped like a tulip, that fit closely to most of his head and had a drawstring on one side. I've never seen that before. But he had to stand in the aisle, holding the handrail and occasionally glancing longingly at the far rear right bus seat, long occupied by more charitable, more deserving folk. In the midst of my glee at him having to stand I noticed one more unfortunate thing about him: he seems to stoop. He never stood upright but seemed to have a hunched back around the shoulders. This kid seems to have the deck stacked against him, and he lashes back in a few pathetic ways. It's frustrating to feel such irritation and such sympathy towards someone like that.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Food Review: Murray's

Being my birthday, I treated myself to a special lunch. I've lived in this city for almost twelve years and yet have never gone to Murray's yet. How could this be? I work across the street from it! I see it every day, I hear about it all the time, it's legendary. Today I decided to try it out.

The interior was amazingly elegant, probably moreso than anything I've seen in Minneapolis. It is old-school elegance, you know? The kind of restaurant where Real Power goes to discuss. I put on my best behavior and got a small table to the side, behind the liquor cabinet.

The waiter was breezy and chatty, and I accepted his recommendation for the lobster bisque, and got an 8oz. luncheon steak, top sirloin, that came with potatoes au gratin, and a side of mushrooms. The service was brisk, there was hardly any waiting time for anything. I had a tray of bread (a large roll, a small roll with asiago cheese baked on it, and five extremely salty toasted discs) and a glass of water.

The bisque arrived. It was heartier than any other lobster bisque I've ever had, which was good, as it featured chunks of lobster meat. It was also quite salty. I wondered if this was a technique to get people to drink more alcohol? Or maybe the old-school diners here were just used to a lot more salt in their diet than I was, which would fall in line with the stereotype of cigar-smoking, obesity, and hypertension when one imagines power-brokering fat cats.

The steak arrived, a delightful little ball of sirloin. I asked for it rare and got it perfectly rare - not blue, not medium rare, just seared expertly around all surface area. The interior was a deep raspberry and almost as smooth as fatty tuna sushi. I was halfway through it when I noticed the mushrooms had failed to attend it. I caught the waiter and asked if they were forthcoming, he breezed out back and glided back up with them in hand. Very swift service! I'm used to waiting much longer for any meat product: Murray's is certainly prompt.

The waiter had gotten it out of me that I was here for my birthday and provided, at the end, a personal little vanilla cake in chocolate frosting, with a candle burning on top. The gesture was quite appreciated. The longest wait of the whole lunch, however, was in waiting for the check and then in waiting for the check to be picked up. Still, it was not unbearably long and all the service was prompt, as I said.

I kept myself on my best behavior, as I said, putting my silverware in the four o'clock position when done eating and tilting the soup away from me, spooning it away from me as I ate. However, as I crossed the street to return to work, a cold wind hit me and I realized I had shown up with a tie but no jacket. It's just this kind of inattention to detail that prevents people from taking me seriously.

An Inauspicious Beginning

So I logged on to MySpace and happened to spot some random video labeled "the best video in the world." I watched it, it wasn't. It was by some bland UK band called Client. Whoever posted it added "Kraftwerk" and "Depeche Mode" to its tags.

There were three pages of comments slagging this band. I added one that said that this video was not the best video in the world (it wasn't), and whoever likened them to the other bands needed to be bitch-slapped (they sound nothing at all like Kraftwerk or Depeche Mode).

It turns out the band itself put the video up, and a very snotty Client X (the band members call themselves Client A, Client B, &c., how clever) wrote back to me, in private e-mail:

we supported DM, got signed by andy, did a duet with martin.. are Karl Bartos's fav band..... do your homework before you leave comments please!
client x


"do your homework" from a band whose slogan is "Innovate Never Imitate." Awesome. I want to revise my comment and note that, for 12y.o. girls, they are quite talented.

Update: Among all the other comments insulting them to a far greater degree, they have deleted mine from the list. I wonder how many snarky e-mail exchanges Client X had with other displeased consumers before she gave up?

Brand New Life

My left hand bears a sandblasted ring of white and rose gold; my right, a tiered band of titanium. The former is for my wedding and the latter my birthday, being today. I embark upon a revolutionary relationship and my 38th year of survival on this ball of mud hurtling through radioactive space.

I have to plan fun things to do for our trip to Reykjavik at the end of the month, but then what? Finish school, certainly, and I'm not far from that. And after that? Look for more suitable employment? Start visiting our remarkable friends around the country, around the world? I certainly intend to redouble my efforts to materialize my creative projects and ideas. The 'Thank You' cards I have in mind are going to be especially fun, as well as a certain website I've borne in mind for too long. I'm going to get this stuff done.

Right now my computer's waiting to be installed in my new cubicle (same job, new cube) so I'm walking around collecting my free birthday coffees at Caribou and Dunn Bros. Later I will pick up some bars (Minnesotan term for a baked pan pastry) for Editing class tonight - yes, I'm going to work and going to class, both after my wedding and on my birthday. Dedication? I don't see it like that. I see these things as being within my ability to do, so I must do them.

I hope I have many fascinating new things to chronicle in this burgeoning blog, starting with this day. Zei gesund.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Next Level

I did it, I'm all married and stuff.  Never would have thought it could happen to me... hoped, but never imagined.

I'll let it settle for a while, once my immediate environment calms down enough to let me take it in.  But I am all smiles.


"Forgive him, for you will understand him no better than we who linger on this side of the pale." - Geo. Herriman