Hello, Failure

Of all the enemies of literature, success is the most insidious

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Failure of the Day: They Might Be Giants

Who I'm obsessed with lately, and who are playing in town tonight, and who I am not going to go see, even though I can afford it and don't really have anything else to do.

I just ran down to Goodwill to get some of those $3 t-shirts I love so much, and I stopped into Green Apple to see if they had the CD "Lincoln" because it's one that I don't have of theirs, and I dreamt about the song "Kiss Me, Son of God" night before last, and they had it so I'm listening to it right now, and it's great of course. And I love "Ana Ng" even more than "Kiss Me, Son of God," and don't even get me started on "A Self Called Nowhere" and "Meet James Ensor" and about a million other of their songs that are just 17 different levels of wonderful.

And I'm still not going and I've never even seen them live before, and really the only reason why is that I am a sloth.

(I read a thing about sloths recently, now that I think of it; I forget where. But they apparently literally sleep like 23 hours a day and during that one hour they are really, like, groggy or something, and can barely be bothered to notice even if you poke them with a stick. And you have to ask yourself what purpose these creatures serve on the Earth and then you realize: metaphor. And that's incredibly brilliant because it's still creatures other than the sloths doing the work.)

But so the general jist is that TMBG make me happy all the time and I'm a moron for not dragging myself to Slims or wherever the hell they are playing tonight. Maybe I'll get really lucky and "Gigantic," (the TMBG documentary) will be playing in town soon and I'll get all motivated to see them next time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Failure of the Day: Fancy

As in Flights of. I don't imagine anything I've written in this blog left anyone with the impression that I am in possession of any degree of emotional maturity, but it's getting Springy outside in that "it's 61 degrees instead of 55 degrees" way that signals a good old San Francisco Springtime, and what's a girl to do except let her thought wander toward inappropriate crushes on celebrities?

By way of a disclaimer: Let's be clear, the thought of so much as actually kissing a person other than Chris makes me physically recoil. Truly. My chest and shoulders just go YUCK and pull back. I can't even really think about that realistically. So I'm not talking about anything real. This is parallel universe stuff at best. OK? OK.

I can actually justify my crushes on Paul Westerberg, Martin Amis, John Cusack, and so on. These are smart and talented fellas. Plus, I am extremely good at coming up with justifications. And I'm some kind of adult at least, and these strike me as respectable choices of men to have a little thing for. But yesterday I watched a little bit of an incredibly bad movie called Sweet Novemeber, and last week, I saw The Replacements (which is never about what I want it to be about), and it's just that all of a sudden like, I found myself thinking, "You know, when he plays a guy who is more or less an earnest loser, Keanu Reeves is really very appealing."

And then I have to go flush my head down the toilet because I am so appalled at my own self. I loathe Keanu Reeves. He's awful. He can't actually even speak convincingly. But god help me, the sun is shining through my window and suddenly, he's just dreamy. And damn him all to hell for being so attractive anyway. I'm not made of stone, people! And and and, Chris gets all distracted whenever Stockard Channing is on TV, so it's not like I'm the only bad one.

Ah, crap. Who am I kidding? I'm the bad one. God, I'm so ashamed!

Monday, April 28, 2003

Failure of the Day: Statistics

Flu 1/ Nancy 1
Finally, whatever bug I had last week has largely been banished back into the atmosphere. I accomplished this by hurling it at high velocities into handkerchiefs, consuming cup after tiny cup of cough syrup (and a full bag of Chips Ahoy! chunky style), and cutting back my smoking by 2/3rds for about 4 days. A high price to pay but worth it to emerge the victor.

Jelly 1/ Nancy 0
Dinner at David's on Saturday night was an incredible 5+ course extravaganza as expected. Fantastic to watch Chris, who after choosing the pasta over the roasted tuna entrée, looked on as David pulled a ball of pasta dough out of the fridge and began rolling and pressing it into fettuccini. Just like the Iron Chef! I whispered. This was after we ate a salad composed almost entirely of red and yellow flowers, but before the desserts, a blackberry tart and a chocolate crepe cake. Dessert is where my battle was lost: David cleverly kept the lights low and I ate several bites of the cake before discovering that in between the layers of chocolate, crepe, and little bitty nuts were thin layers of raspberry jam. For 36 and 1/2 years, I maintained my boycott of all jams and jellies for strictly conceptual reasons. I can't bring myself to eat things that can be described as "goopy," and Poof! all my good and nonsensical work was shot to hell. Fuck me, it was good though.

Thinking about writing 1/ Actually writing 0
No but I've got really, really good ideas about this one pivotal chapter of my novel. Last week's breakthrough is how I figured out that this particular chapter was pivotal. This week, I'm stuffed full of ideas about what to do to it. At some point, I might actually stop thinking about those good ideas and try to actually write them down.

Bourgeois laziness 1/ Work ethic 0
Fully intended to do our own laundry, but got sucked into the lure of Wash and Fold again. It's just that when you walk into the laundromat and there are like 20 washers on the spin cycle and you know that each washer translates into like 3 dryers being used up, and there's not a whole lot worse than standing around the damn dryers waiting for one to get freed up, and even if you manage to get one, you really need 3 so everything takes forever to dry and you're stuck there for like 2 or 3 hours, and really Wash and Fold is only like 80 cents a pound.

Thursday's blog entry 1/ Friday's blog entry 0
Meant to write a thing about watching "On the Beach" for the first time and being totally blown away by how grim and hopeless it is and LOVING it and also noticing for the first time how much Gregory Peck looks like that actor Billy Campbell, who Chris still calls the Rocketeer, but who I call the Pointy Man on account of he was last on a TV show I called the Pointy People, which got cancelled last year. Have a total crush on Gregory Peck now, who is dead, but not so much on Billy Campbell, who is alive, and isn't that just like me.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Failure of the Day: Ugly Bag of Mostly Water

Have you seen John Stewart's impression of Larry King? It consists largely of JS as LK interrupting interviewees by shouting "I like Toast!"

And so when I wrote Chris an email yesterday saying that my voice was incredibly gravely and gruff, I was craving nicotine like crazy, and that I would have eggs and toast for lunch, Chris realized that I did not, in fact have the flu, but that I was turning into Larry King. "The Larry Kingification Process has Begun!" we shout.

Fortunately though, I remain fairly convinced that I do have the flu (as opposed to SARS) mostly because I read someplace that SARS is characterized by a loss of appetite, and I have been ravenous every minute of the day. I am also whiny and demanding (and menstruating, thanks for asking), and may I just inform you that in response to my cavalcade of bodily function unpleasantness, Chris hopped out of bed this morning and ran to the store to get me cough syrup, cookies (because one cannot take cough syrup without having a cookie immediately following), soup, and donuts. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I won the husband lotto.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Failure of the Day: PETA

As promised, I have some thoughts about PETA. I should start out by saying that it is impossible not to oppose vivisection, cosmetics testing, and fur clothing as unnecessary and unnecessarily cruel. But PETA has demonstrated repeatedly that it is not enough merely to care about animals. PETA wants you to care about animals more than human beings and humanity as a whole.

There was the notorious billboard of a famous man who was currently undergoing chemotherapy, which implied that his cancer was his own doing because he drank cow's milk. And the ad that compared a hamburger to the Holocaust. Those are tasteless, sure, and PR gaffs of hilarious proportions, but I love the 1st amendment and PETA is certainly free to continue to exercise their right to make themselves look like the anti-humanitarians they are.

But my real problem is with the destruction of scientific research. I can set aside the fact that there's not a person in this country who hasn't directly benefited from medical testing on animals. (Ever take an aspirin? Were you born in a hospital?) But let's say those young, able-bodied vegans have given up anything that ever been within 3 feet of an animal. Good for them!

There's just one thing. Same as the Moral Majority, same as the anti-abortion zealots, it's not enough that they choose it for themselves—they need everyone else to choose it too. And if the rest of humanity doesn't agree, well, I guess they have to make the choices for us. It's a predatory belief system, the hallmark of fundamentalists.

But whoop-de-do; there have always been zealots, and they have always irritated independent thinkers. But it seems to me that to destroy labs containing who knows how many years of research into the factors of a disease process necessitates a belief that not only will you, members of PETA, never get any sort of illness in your life, but that no one that you know or care about will ever get sick and need medical care either. The odds? Not so much in your favor. Aye, there's the rub: the cure you destroy may be your own.

But what right do humans have to experiment on other sentient beings? As I have previously stated, I am fairly content with my place on the food chain. I am also pretty sure that A) even if I weren't content with it, there's not dick I can do about it, and B.) the food chain is not a political issue. Pass all the laws you like, the big animals will always eat the little animals. Nature is not cuddly. It is not sweet and not gentle. It is brutal and gory and cruel. Chris had a guinea pig that ate every last one of her babies. Would PETA have protested her?

Finally, there's an argument to made that that the animal model is not perfect for testing whether something will work on human beings. It's a strong argument, and I agree with it. It's not perfect; it's only the best one possible. It doesn't always work. But it doesn't always fail, either, and human suffering is reduced because of it. You have to admire PETA…it takes guts to oppose the reduction of human suffering.

The following paragraph is hard to read and harder to understand. But try. It describes how scientists in Milan have reversed the damage in the central nervous system of mice with MS.

Widespread demyelination and axonal loss are the pathological hallmarks of multiple sclerosis. The multifocal nature of this chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system complicates cellular therapy and puts emphasis on both the donor cell origin and the route of cell transplantation. We established syngenic adult neural stem cell cultures and injected them into an animal model of multiple sclerosis—experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE) in the mouse—either intravenously or intracerebroventricularly. In both cases, significant numbers of donor cells entered into demyelinating areas of the central nervous system and differentiated into mature brain cells. Within these areas, oligodendrocyte progenitors markedly increased, with many of them being of donor origin and actively remyelinating axons. Furthermore, a significant reduction of astrogliosis and a marked decrease in the extent of demyelination and axonal loss were observed in transplanted animals. The functional impairment caused by EAE was almost abolished in transplanted mice, both clinically and neurophysiologically. Thus, adult neural precursor cells promote multifocal remyelination and functional recovery after intravenous or intrathecal injection in a chronic model of multiple sclerosis.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Failure of the Day: Respiration

I shouldn't complain (yeah, right); I hardly ever get sick anymore since I stopped having to leave my house for work. I haven't had so much as a cold since the month before my wedding, some 18 months ago. And after 35 years as a twice-a-year flu/bronchitis/strep girl, a year and a half is pretty damn impressive.

I knew it couldn't last forever: sooner or later I'd catch something. At first I though it was allergies since Sunday was a day-long game of Dodge the Dander. I did a pretty good job of avoiding Chris's sister's cats and I felt fine all day. And when, on Sunday night, my throat was scratchy, I figured I got off easy. A little bit of coughing beats the hell out of a nebulizer and Benedryl drip in the ER, which is how these adventures with kitties turn out a little too often.

But I got steadily worse yesterday and by last night, it was pretty clear that I've got a bug of some sort. Also not much of a surprise I guess because avoiding the cats on Sunday entailed hanging out in the backyard with a ton of kids under10, those sticky little germ factories.

Now, what would you do under the circumstances? Dry cough, tightness in the chest, low-grade fever…look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn't be looking up the latest SARS info online. You would! You know you would! And I do in fact, have all the symptoms. Everyone who has any kind of cold or flu has all the symptoms. But it's also a fact that no one could muster up very much surprise upon hearing that I had a new disease. Doesn't it just seem like something that would happen to me?

I don't actually think I have SARS. It's just some bullshit tot-borne infection. And the only thing really crappy about it is that it seriously interferes with my ability to smoke, and I've got less than 6 months left in which to get all that delicious nicotine into me, and that's what really sucks.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Failure of the Day: Susceptibility

For all my whining, I love Easter. We had a lovely time with Chris's family and Lisa's pals yesterday, and I did a swell job of making nice with the normals.

It's hard for me to not respond to a resurrection holiday, for fairly obvious reasons, I think. It affects me (or rather, it impacts me, to use the jargon du jour). I got most of my tattoos on one Easter or another, until that got silly, but I feel like I was on to something with that. What's not to love about a day when everyone is celebrating freedom from death? And more than that, a certain revitalization; a new life.

That's how I feel. I'm reading Chris's copy of The Art of Fiction by John Gardner and I tell you what, it's pretty seriously doing it for me. Last night's reading before bed gave me, I think, the thing—that one piece of information I needed to finish my novel. There were about 2 paragraphs in the chapter on Interest and Characterization, and after reading them, I knew exactly how each of my chapters needed to be structured, I could picture in detail the arc of my overall narrative, and finally figured out the crux of the story, what it is that I'm really trying to say. (you know—the theme: the thing you're supposed to know before you start writing.) And I might even know how to do it, theoretically at least. I dunno if I can make the words do what I need them to do, but just the fact that I know what I need them to do is a pretty big breakthrough for me.

So yeah, I'm feelin' it. Revitalization. It'll probably be long gone by tomorrow, but for today, I'm just going to soak it up.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Failure of the Day: Bass Guitar

Holy Jesus, people, have you heard the new White Stripes? I don't know enough about old-timey rock from the late 70's to know who exactly they are ripping off in each song, but as near as I can figure, the White Stripes are a sort of sincere Spinal Tap. And Jiminy Christmas, it rules.

Chris, however, is a self-proclaimed White Stripes bigot for reasons even he isn't sure of. He said, "I liked their single, but of course, they hired a bass player for that track." I said, "You know, I think the White Stripes prove that bass is superfluous in rock and roll." I don't actually believe this at all. It's just that Chris plays bass, and he makes such a cute sourpuss face that I am always trying to think up stupid things to say that will cause him to make that face.

Anyway, I need to go put on a LOT of smudged eyeliner now, and some really tight jeans, and go get stoned behind the bleachers.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Failure of the Day: Inter-racial marriage

OK so first, let me say up front that I think inter-racial marriage may well be the only hope for human kind. Racial deconstruction is about the best way I can think of to nuke all racial division and hatred while still preserving all the cultural coolness.

And second, let me say that it is still a matter of some debate as to whether I myself am a part of an inter-racial marriage. Are Jews a race? Or just members of a religion? Honestly, I haven't the slightest idea. I know the arguments for both ways of looking at it, and the reason I haven't decided which one to personally believe is that I can't be bothered to give a shit about it.

That said, we're going to Chris's sister's house for Easter on Sunday. No one in his family is the least little bit religious, but his nephew is 4, and so all the brightly colored holiday stuff must be paid attention to because it keeps him busy and having fun. I myself do not know the ingredients of a happy childhood, but it seems like paying attention to all the candy and mess-making holidays is a damn fine way to start, so I'm all for it.

And it's not like the little get-together at Lisa's house will be about anything other than that. Sure, it's one of the Christian high holy days or whatever, and a fairly happy one I guess, unlike the week+ of events preceding it, which strike me as maudlin and kind of icky. And I'm still not entirely clear what the deal with the palm fronds is. And then it all somehow gets summarized into eggs and bunnies? Jews are weird, but at least there's nothing in our religion that makes people dress up like 6 foot tall rodents.

But I'll say this: eggs and bunnies beat the crap out of the fuckin' seder. A 4 hour dinner, (and let's be honest: not a very tasty one) after which you run around looking for the afikomen (a hidden piece of matzo). And where do kids even find it anymore? It was always, ALWAYS in a LP record jacket—where else can you put a brittle and crumbly square foot of cracker? And nobody has LPs anymore.

But I'm really making a big to-do about nothing. It's not like his parents will say "Happy Easter Chris! Too bad your wife's people killed the savior! Have some ham!" But I can't help it, it's a teensy bit weird for me. Doing an Easter thing makes me want to have a smidgen of Passover this year. If only because with only Chris and a 4 year old to compete against, I could totally find the afikomen this year.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Failure of the Day: Everything that is not Stardust Memories

Every once in a while I wonder if that is still my favorite movie or if my list needs to be revised. But it was on cable yesterday, and really, it's still right there at the top of my list.

I had a job interview a few years ago to be a writer for, I think, Listen.com, and the interview was going gangbusters because I had mentioned that the Replacements is one of my favorite bands, and my main interviewer was a huge Replacements fan. But that guy's boss came to interview me and he asked me what my favorite movie was and I said Stardust Memories, and he asked why. And I was fucked. I had never thought to put it into words before and I totally flubbed the question. And I didn't get the job and I'm totally convinced that it's because I couldn't articulate what I liked about my favorite movie.

So OK. After watching it again, now I know precisely why it's my favorite film. Ready? Here goes:

It's the only piece of art I've ever seen that is able to conclude, in a way that is not intellectually bankrupt, that it is not morally bankrupt to find a way to make yourself happy.

That's why.

(I know, I probably still wouldn't have gotten the damn job. They're bust now anyways.)

But I still feel squidgey about it being my favorite film, and I think that's because the movie is a great paean to self-absorption. And we're gonna get into a great spinning spiral of self-loathing here because then I have to say "if my favorite film is a great paean to self-absorption, what does that say about me?" And already you see my problem.

But maybe it helps that my second favorite movie is a tie between Wings of Desire and The Adventures of Buckaroo Bansai.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Failure of the Day: Corpses

Tricked you again! Sounds like the lead-in to a morbid war blog entry, huh! Nope.

Earlier today, Chris suggested that we go see Night of 1000 Corpses at the Alexandria. That's the Rob Zombie movie that supposedly is so gross that it made the movie executives who screened it all vomit. In some circles, that passes as a selling point.

I told him that I usually draw the line at 750 corpses. I am hopeful that the matter is now settled.

But it begs a question…1000 corpses? That's kind of a random number of corpses, isn't it? And it seems…kind of not adjusted for inflation or something. Like Dr. Evil saying "One MILLION dollars!" and his henchmen all having to say, "Um…"

I mean, 1000 corpses? What's that, one cemetery full? That's not so many…seems like the townspeople alone could dispense of them. Wouldn't even have to call the deputy from the other town. Doesn't Night of 100,000 Corpses sound a little more promising?

But more than that, I'm not sure corpses alone are scary anymore. Because, look, CSI is the #1 show in the country. And that show revels in corpses! Calcified, broken up into pieces, stuffed into vats and stewing in their own fat turned to soap…that's prime time TV! 9 PM! And the investigators are all fingering the goo and smelling the foreign substances always found up in somebody's something; they love it! I sometimes wonder if they are not cross-marketing it as a dating show for necrophiliacs.

So I don't know. I think Mr. Zombie might have missed his mark with this. Not that I doubt that the movie is revolting; I'm sure it is. But maybe he needs to pick a different gross out thing to focus on, flesh eating bacteria or something, that's not so mainstream as corpses.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Failure of the Day: TV

Surprised, aren't you? You were all ready to hear a rant about my having to finally fork over my first quarterly estimated tax payment. But it's April 15, and everyone is bitching about the IRS right now; you can read that any ole place.

Nope, my beef is with Tuesday night TV programming. Getting right to the point, is there any good reason why 24 and Smallville have to be on at the same time? Last night? Bubkas. NOTHING on TV at all. Of course, Chris is never disappointed because he can always count on the Game Show Network. (His fondest hope is that someday all the episodes of Match Game will come out on DVD. ANY idea how much I wish I had made that up?) But by and large, Monday night is a waste of air waves.

Now, we don't really watch all that much TV. Wednesday and Thursday, there's an OK block from 8-10. Or there used to be until they switched and now probably cancelled "Ed." (Shut up. It's about going back to your childhood and finding you true love, so come on! How could we not?) And yes, Survivor. You wanna make something of it? I didn't think so. You watch it too; I'm just admitting it, is all.

But those nights, the shows we watch are on the same network, so they are conveniently scheduled consecutively. On Tuesdays, though, it's Fox and the WB, and both at 9 PM. Now, we have two TVs and two VCRs, so it's not like a crisis or anything, but we stop watching TV at 10 PM and go about our evening business. Which means we won't watch one of the shows until the next day at the soonest. I, of course, am not a BIG CHEATER and so do not get my co-workers to tell me what happened on the show we taped but did not watch. I don't SPOIL IT FOR EVERYONE. But sadly, not everyone is so trustworthy.

So it's a quandry. But one that would be easily fixed if the damn WB would just move Smallville to 8 PM, where it clearly belongs.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Failure of the Day: Many Ways of Blowing

I do. I feel like I suck a little bit because I didn't go to a thing yesterday that I sort of wanted to go to but then just didn't. We are World-Class Fritterers, Chris and I. We fritter whole days away. Though to be fair, when Chris fritters, he paints the windowsills, but when I fritter, I play BoxerJam's Know It All. So I guess there's frittering and then there's frittering.

So the thing was a reunion of sorts of a poetry reading community that I was peripherally involved with some 10 years ago. Most of the people were older than me and even though I was fucked up and on SSI and all that, most of them were a good bit more fucked up than I was. They were nice to me though, and for a while it was a pretty big deal to have some measure of acceptance at the Café Babar reading. Julia didn't much harrumph! at me while I read, and David didn't throw peanut shells, and people were generally quiet during my sets. And Julia went on to nominate me for a Pushcart prize, which I appreciated even though I didn't win.

Café Babar has been closed for a while now, along with most of the other long-time readings in town, and the people have largely scattered, found greener pastures, or are dead. I think part of the reason I didn't go was that the only people I really wanted to see are the dead ones. And the people who aren't dead and who I still want to see, I see already.

But maybe the other reason is that I feel weird…I'm not so incredibly fucked up anymore. In fact, I'm doing really, really well. I landed on my feet, and I'm not overwhelmingly worse for wear. But the thing is, I don't know if I feel weird because I'm worried that it would look like I was bragging or something about how well things are going for me, or because I'm worried that I would look like a big fat yuppie. I've got a husband and a job, for chrissakes!

And that's really pathetic. None of those people would begrudge me my happiness. Even the lunatic fuckwad who sued me for 100 million dollars said I deserved my remission. (Although that was the last time I spoke to him, and apparently that conversation is what inspired him to add me to his lawsuit against The Universe, so that's maybe not a good example.)

Anyway, my overall ambivalence won out and yesterday we just did laundry and ate burritos and watched movies. We frittered, yes we did, and it was lovely, in fact.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Failure of the Day: Good Will

All right. This is the 4th goddamn time I've tried to write this entry, and each version has been more morose than the last and I'm sick of it. You hear me? SICK of it.

15 year old religious fembot who wouldn't know about the separation between church and state if it bit her in the ass--I banish you from my thoughts. Come back when you've got an education and an opinion of your own.

IRS—fuck off. Seriously.

Dr. Phil—I'm boycotting you after your disgraceful and grossly unfair ambush of two woefully unprepared anti-war activists.

CNN, MSNBC, ABC, CBS, FOX—I am Jim Kirk in Star Trek 3, and I am kicking you in the face: I! Have HAD! ENOUGH! Of YOU!

The writer of the episode of CSI I watched last night—hang yourself. You actually made a character say this: "There's nothing harmless about death."

There are more, but I'm hungry and Chris will be home soon and we are going to the grocery store because right now, what I really need is a big piece of cake.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Failure of the Day: Numbers

Oh, my god, I hate my accountant. And the calendar. And the federal government and the IRS and my employer. This is absurdy complicated. I've been doing math for a goddamn hour, trying to figure out what amount I need to set aside from each paycheck so that I can have enough to pay A) the minimum quarterly estimated federal taxes, B) the remainder of my federal tax burden that I will owe next April 15th after having paid the quarterlies, and C) my state taxes. This should be easy: A+ B + C, divided by....and that's where I'm fucked. Or I was until a minute ago when I finally had an epiphany that I should divide by 24, the number of pay periods in a year. I tried dividing by 26 because it's really fucking hard to remember that being paid twice a month is not the same as being paid every two weeks. Seriously, I almost started to cry, I was so frustrated, and that was in addition to almost starting to cry when I got off the phone with Mr. Silverman when he told me that not only were my quarteries higher than he told me they would be day before yesterday, but even after paying the quarterlies that I would still owe $5610 federal and $1100 state come next April 15. But I talked myself down when I figured out how much of each paycheck would have to be put away now so as to easily pay that next year. And then I had to do more math to figure out how much of each check I have to sock away for my quarterly payments. And how many pay periods in a quarter? It took me 10 minutes to remember that a quarter is 3 months and not 4. And then I need to total those amounts to know how much I need to put aside from each paycheck to know I'm covered for everything.

But in truth the smart thing to do is to take the money I''m socking away for just the Federal and State taxes and put it in a higher interest account since I won't need to touch it for a year. The money I'm socking away for the quarterlies can just go in a regular savings account right? because I need to fuck it all off to the IRS every 3 months.

Seriously, at this point, I'm exhausted. I'm going to wash my hair and entertain myself with the cruelest and poorest taste image imaginable. I thought of it last night: a Klingon with Down's Syndrome.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Failure of the Day: Potpourri

No, not the little pouches of dried flower petals that Chris likes so much and places in the shopping cart with a bold and masculine sweep of his arm. I mean here's a list of random crap:

At some point, I decided my neighbors are from Turkey. I don't know if they really are but the language they speak sounds like what I imagine Turkish would sound like and that's really the best I can do.

In the mornings, I wear purple latex gloves that I've cut the fingers out of. It's a dermatology thing.

Part of me feels bad that I have not gone to any war protests, but another part of me is very pragmatic and knows that the protests are not accomplishing a damn thing. That first part of me thinks the second part of me is a lazy, over-rationalizing sell-out.

Are you a patriot if the thing you love is the idea of what your country was supposed to be but has never actually been?

The Turkish people next door have a 5 year old son who I can plainly see (and hear) has ADHD, but they don't seem to be aware of it at all. Unless of course all 5 year old boys generally run around screaming at midnight every night, which is entirely possible since I don't know the first thing about 5 year old boys. Or ADHD.

I like onion-flavored things, but not onions.

My 5 favorite books, in order are:
Breakfast of Champions (Kurt Vonnegut)
London Fields (Martin Amis)
The Complete Poems (Anne Sexton)
A Personal Matter (Kenzaburo Oe)
Billy and Girl (Deborah Levy)

Every one of those books was published during my lifetime. What does that say about me? Nothing good, I suspect.

I believe that raisin bagels are anti-Semitic.

I have not spoken to my mother since December 21, 1998.

I am confused about the whole "thumbs up" sign business in middle eastern culture. I saw a whole bunch of reports saying it was derogatory and meant more or less "up yours." But the news is showing all kind of Iraqi men giving two thumbs up and saying "Thank you George Bush!" and junk like that. What's up with that?

I am quitting smoking in exactly 182 days. Somebody better buy Chris a helmet; it's not going to be pretty.

I have never tasted mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles, cherries, pears, or jelly of any kind. I tried a tomato once, when I was 20. Ditto a strawberry, a peach, a plumb, and a kiwi.

For a long time, daylight savings time confused the hell out of me. It was explained to me as a child as a way to get an extra hour of sunlight and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how we got nature to go along with the plan. When I finally figured out that we were basically just tricking ourselves into thinking that we were getting an extra hour of sunlight by messing up the clocks, I felt I had grasped a great a truth about the way the world works.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Failure of the Day: Your money stinks of the corpse of the poet that you never dared to become.

That slogan was printed on fake 1-Euro notes and handed out in Paris at a protest of the sale of the vast collection of books and artwork belonging to Surrealist poet Andre Breton. Owee.

I have a variety of thoughts on the topic. (Not the sale of the stuff, the sentiment on the money.) My first reaction really was "Owee" when I read it because my poetic idealism tends to jump right in before the rest of my brain can finish reading and react.

Shockingly, I had a reaction to the sentiment printed on the money that wasn't entirely about ME. For starters, it's gorgeous. It's a little verbose, maybe, but I suspect that is a function of the translation. Even still, it is meant to stab you mightily in the heart. Which is does. It is pointed and effective and it hits its mark brutally. It's a brilliant protest, I think. And we're pretty short on those these days.

So then, who among the anarchists, the withering hippies, the unfocused and aging tribe of activists in San Francisco will come up with the new way, the new thing that will insist on being heard? No one is inspired by these predictable and dull marches to the Federal building. I'm not exactly a media pundit and even I know that the tactics used by the Left for the last several hundred years don't play anymore. They can't. They were moderately successful in the tired old 60s, but I am not convinced that the demonstrations did more to bring an end to Vietnam than an uncensored media did. For starters, the demonstrations relied on the news coverage to get their point across, and we don't have an uncensored media now, so who can be surprised that the demonstrations accomplish nothing?

It seems to that what is missing from the political activism of today is beauty. The beauty of the ACT-UP "kiss-ins" from a decade ago. The beauty of those incredibly dignified black men and women in business attire just sitting at lunch counters. They were righteous, and they could not be ignored. Where is that now? "Shave a pussy for peace"? That's what we're offered and offering instead of beauty and righteousness and dignity?

Instead of the base and predictable, couldn't we line the sidewalks of the main streets with people in long single-file rows who, at an appointed time, turn to face whoever they are standing next to and shake hands or something? The rubbernecking alone would stop traffic without lumping the blame on the protesters. And that not even a very good idea; just off the top of my head. Buy a ton of fish food and spread it out on the bay next to the bridge in the form of a peace slogan. Print up and sell a butt load of t-shirts with American flags on it that say "We're Sorry."

Or maybe print up a bunch of fake I dollar bills that say Your money stinks of the corpse of the peacemaker that you never dared to become.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Failure of the Day: 1974

We had nothing to do yesterday. Nothing! No work, no chores, no errands…for the first time in ages. Of course, we were mightily discombobulated because of Daylight Savings Time; we barely managed to be out of bed by 3PM.

What we chose to do might take some explaining. Although my main complaint about Seattle was Chinese food, Chris's main complaint was the total, state-wide lack of Wienershnitzel restaurants. You remember Wienershnitzel…hot dog fast food chain that used to be called "Der Wienershnitzel?" He loves that place. They do a thing with a pickle and rye bread…anyway, he can't get enough of it.

So in my capacity of Good and Loving Wife, I found a Wienershnitzel restaurant in Alameda. We had to download a map off the Internet of how to get there because despite having been born and raised in the county named for the town of Alameda, neither of us had ever actually been there. Alameda? Turns out it's an island. Who knew?

But it's easy enough to get there. We get out of the car and step into…1974. Not the Robyn Hitchcock song "1974" that is populated with pale hippies working in organic food markets in London, but our 1974, in which we are 6 years old and the whole world is centered around the little strip of Grimmer Blvd where there was a Taco Bell and a bowling alley. This strip of Grimmer is roughly equidistant between the two houses where we were busy being raised in vastly different homes. Chris may have focused more on the Taco Bell, but I focused more on the bowling alley, which was owned by one of Fremont's few other Jewish families, which is to say, friends of my parents. Anyway, there is feeling that I associate with that time and that place, a certain look to the cars and the people and the buildings. In my novel, I call it my Dead Planet Town: painted brick structures, dirty gravel parking lots, unpaved sidewalk next to the creek, and dented cars. I know now that it's just your run-of-the-mill, lower middle-class suburbia, but having never been anywhere else at the time, it sticks in my head as old-timeyville.

That's what Alameda is, Old Timeyville. But the fact is, the whole East Bay is like that to me. By now everyone knows the "pig latin for beast" joke, but seriously, I've got such issues with that side of the water. Maybe it's just that I grew up there and that part of my life sucked, but the east bay still looks like 1974 to me, which means I look like an egg shaped girl with a head full of puffy brown fuzz. And really, who needs that?

Maybe I'll sum up with a quip since I just thought one up:

1974…it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Failure of the Day: Deadheads

So, my accountant is nice. (That sentence ranks HIGH on the list of Things I Never Expected To Say In My Life. It ranks high for several reasons.) He's your basic New York Jew/ex-hippie kinda guy, and I generally like that particular phenotype, although I thought they were all Humanities professors and defense lawyers. Like when they finally cut their stinky faux dreds off, they automatically got handed a professional degree, an ex-wife, and exactly one kid. It's like the Standard installation. The Expansion Pak seems to be a baseball signed by Mickey Mantle and a framed photograph of Jerry Garcia. My accountant has all of the above.

I suppose Mr. Silverman (whose name, oddly, turns out to be Robert Krantz) needed the Expansion Pak because he isn't in one of those professions that those guys are able to tell themselves is all about Giving Back. How do you go from being a deadhead to a CPA? Is it a personal failure or a personal triumph? I don't really mean to make fun of Mr. Silverman because he really was very nice and helpful and I would recommend him based on my experience with him so far, but really, it's a strange juxtaposition. Everyone in the office including him were wearing jeans, and in the case of one secretary, swearing loudly and creatively for a long time without even a hit of self-consciousness when she spilled coffee on herself. All of which made it seem to me like an OK place to work.

And yet, he's a number cruncher. He helps people with money (and independent contractors) keep their money. He doesn't (I presume) tell them to like, cleanse their Karma by sending all that filthy lucre to orphanages in Bangladesh. He's all about safe havens and SECs and such. And that's a pretty big leap from dancing barefoot in a puddle of urine, I think.

I guess I just don't know how that happens. I mean, I do...but I don't. We all align ourselves with the subculture du jour when we're in our 20s and at some point we all have make certain choices out of nothing more than our financial best interests, but like, I started out as poet and a somewhat wussy punk rocker, and now I'm a poet and a copyeditor with questionable taste in clothes. That's not such a big leap really. But deadhead to CPA, I mean, whew. Yipes.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Failure of the Day: Punctuation

Again, I'm off in the all-too-specific land of copy editordom, but here's the thing: I read one of Chris's brilliant stories last night (written when he was 17, the fucker), and even at that tender age, his syntax and grammar were impeccable. But his use of punctuation is unique. And commas that appear where I don't expect them have all the characteristics of Mexican jumping beans to me since becoming a professional nit-picker; they completely spoil my concentration on the text, spitting up at me from the page in an orgy of slippery usage rules. Do they really have to separate every imperative clause? Or just the ones in which the meaning might otherwise be obscured?

When I took French in high school, we always pelted poor Mr. Koppel with questions like "But WHY is the noun garbage can feminine?" And he always replied with whisper-thin patience "Ask Le Acadamie Francais!" And that did a fine job of settling it for me. The idea that there was some ruling body in France in charge of assigning gender to nouns and coming up with other pointless language rules made a kind of sense, if only Oooooh, it's bureaucracy! That's why! (I should point out that only now, some 20 years later as I am writing this, does it occur to me that there might not actually be any such body in France. It might have been schoolteacher shorthand for shut the fuck up.)

I suppose though, if there is such a thing as Le Acadamie Français, the American English version is the Chicago Manual of Style. I read the hideous orange thing cover to cover when I started this job because I understood it to be that thing, that ruler by which grammar and usage is measured, but even now, even at this very instant, my brain is recoiling at the thought. Chicago? Says who? Who put them in charge? Was there a vote that I didn't hear about? My first two years of college all my professors insisted our papers were written up to MLA snuff, but my last two years, the profs all wanted Chicago. Was it some sort of horse race between the two and Chicago nosed ahead during the summer between my sophomore and junior year?

Like everything else, my problem here is conceptual. The Modern Language Association just sounds like the name of the organazation that should be in charge of these things. And as a Californian, it irks me that someone has apparently handed over the reins to a rich boy fancy pants college in the midwest. Bellow, Shmellow, it's just not right. And none of this is to say that the MLA styleguide is better than Chicago; the truth is, I have no idea whether it is or not. I haven't used it since I was a sophomore in college. What I'm saying is that is sounds better. So that when some poor French kid is learning English in high school, and she asks her teacher why you separate spans of numbers with an en-dash instead of a hyphen, the teacher doesn't have to say "Ask Chicago!" To which the student would have to reply "Oooooooh, Chicago! Where they film Oprah!"

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Failure of the Day: Adulthood

Push has finally come to shove. It's April, and I really need an accountant.

Having no clue as to where to start, I looked up "accountants" in the MSN yellow pages and searched by zip code. I found my guy right away, his office is only about 10 blocks from my house, and his name is Mr. Silverman.

Yes. I picked my accountant because he has the same name as my Ficus tree. It's kind of circular; I named the Ficus tree Mr. Silverman because Ficus trees seem like the kind of plants accountants would have in their offices, and I was a receptionist for long enough that I can't actually look at a Ficus tree without my brain picking up the phone and saying "Mr. Silverman's office, may I help you?" I never actually worked for a Mr. Silverman, but that name seemed about right.

So. Now I have to meet with him on Friday and bring all manner of financial paperwork and work out how the fuck this whole Schedule C, 1099 form business is going to work.


In cheerier news, the reading went really well last night. The audience seemed to like the bit from my novel, and the people who talked to me about it afterward all seemed enthusiastic and said they wanted to read the whole thing. I told my friend David that the only thing I knew for sure about the piece I was reading was that it was 5 pages long. And it's true; I don't think I would have been particularly surprised if it was horrifically boring, didn't get any laughs, and just be embarrassing overall. So this is good news indeed, and I am much heartened. That makes a total of 10 pages that I have showed to strangers and gotten favorable reviews (favorable reviews from friends don't count in the Nancy world). Only 140 pages to go!

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Failure of the Day: Language

No, not like yesterday's failure. I mean the language used in computer books and by computer people. I mean the lexicon. The crap I have to edit.

So there was this cool sci-fi movie/mini-series type thing some years ago called "V." A fairly obvious parable about German complicity--or at least complacency--during the Third Reich. Anyway, nasty lizard people come to earth to steal all the water. But they're cleverly disguised as regular looking people, and only a small handful are hip to What's Really Going On after somebody sees the hot chick second-in-command alien open wide and swallow a live mouse. (Which looks a lot dopier as a written sentence it than it was as a scene in the movie.)

Bear with me. I'm getting to the point. So a lot of humans, in proud The President Would Not Lie To Us form, think the aliens are all about the American Way and have only come to trade us the cure for cancer for some of the Earth's natural resources that we apparently don't need, 'cause we're only to happy to fork it over. And these trusting sorts, policeman and old money society ladies and such, believe in their heart of hearts that the Visitors are our friends and the resistance fighters are malcontents and rabble rousers and think it's a swell idea to let the Visitors pretty much take over the world and declare martial law. They pretty much hand over humanity, their own and everyone else's, on a big shiny platter.

(It occurs to me I could use this example to make a much better point than the one I am about to make. So it goes.)

Finally, after…what? 20 years? The Microsoft Styleguide For Technical Publications has disallowed this kind of phrasing:

"The Help screen allows you to research the topic."
"You can add and delete your contacts at will."

They look innocuous enough, don't they? Well, they're NOT! The first example posits that the user needs some sort of permission from the computer to look something up, and the computer is kind enough to grant it. That's a fairly creepy power dynamic. The second example is worse (and it recalls another, better sci fi movie): Contacts Are PEOPLE!!! You can't just go around deleting them. Or you can, but it is very bad and wrong.

I find it shocking, SHOCKING! that no one put up any sort of fuss that for 20 years, computer documentation writers happily had human beings begging computers for permission to work and being deleted like so much spam. It's creepy. But it strikes me as that same instinct to bow to what is perceived as a "superior" intelligence. To bow and then to surrender our humanity. Not to the computers (this isn't some stupid luddite rant; I love the damn things, personally), but to the lizard people, the techies. If they say we need permission from the computer, it must be so.

Now, I don't go around staking a lot of claims, usually, but if I must, I pick A) my place on the food chain (higher than cows, lower than whatever alien species finally does come and eat us up, and, as near as I can figure, roughly equal to viruses), and B) my inalienable right to elegant and precise language. So put 'em up, baby. Thems fightin' words.