Hello, Failure

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

Monday, June 30, 2003

Failure of the Day: OLD

I'm pooped. And Chris is even more pooped than me. He never gets run down or sick, but he has had a nagging cough for going on 3 weeks now.

Part of it is that neither of us has had a vacation in over a year and a half, but do you know what else it is? I'm mortified at just how utterly, utterly true this: it's that we're old. Me, I could never run around without getting sick, but for Chris this is something of a revelation. He's made of iron, I swear to god. He can go for days at a time with neither sleep nor food. I've seen it.

He turns 37 in a few weeks; I'll turn 37 four months after that. Last night we watched a bit of VH1's I Love the 80s tribute to 1981 (as if that weren't enough of a give-away of our general decrepitude). I remember 1981 really clearly. 1981 sucked. 1989, now that was a good year. I could do all kinds of things in 1989 that are totally impossible for me now—and I don't just mean sleeping with incredibly arrogant singers of local bands. But I digress. My point is that my very own youth is now the stuff of popular nostalgia. And that is very weird indeed.

I don't actually have any sort of horror of aging; really, it's mostly just fascinating to me—the body never runs out of things to do that are totally weird. And on the plus side, I've been looking forward to being a prime number age again, so 37 should be pretty cool. But seriously, our vacation next month can't come soon enough.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Failure of the Day: Fuck. The. Sun.

You heard me. I said FUCK the sun. Because this is just goddamn ridiculous. It was 97 in San Francisco yesterday. Ninety-Seven.

As I was standing outside the comic book store waiting for Chris, a woman walked past me talking on her cell phone. She said into the phone, "So you know those electric buses that run on the wires? Well one of the poles that holds the wires up started to melt, and it fell down and smushed a woman! Right on Van Ness, this afternoon!" Now, I have heard precisely nothing about this on the news but I have decided that the story is Absolutely True nonetheless. Chris doesn't believe it, but I told the story to the comic book store guys and they believed it too.

To be fair, Chris lived in Sacramento for some 15 years, so this weather is no big deal to him. He doesn't even wear short sleeves. Chris is largely impervious to weather, although even he couldn't sleep under the covers last night. I myself had to wrap a chunk of blue ice in a wet towel and sleep with it on my back. Not since the blistering heat of summer in Seattle have I had to do that.

Are you getting the picture? I used the word blistering to describe SEATTLE for chrissakes. I hate hot weather. Hate. It.

And for all you East Coast and Midwestern people who are shaking your heads in amusement about California weather wimps, I don't even want to hear about it. You had air conditioning. In cars, in restaurants, at home. I don't. And I am LOADED with self-righteous indignation and no small amount of crabbiness about it, too. So watch it, buster.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Failure of the Day: It's Not So Much the Heat as the Humanity

I love puns. That's an old one I wrote for a poem about my trip to New York in 1997, but it applies to today, too.

First of all, it's 80 goddamn degrees. I know, I know, that's barely tepid compared to other parts of the country, but I don't live in other parts of the country for exactly that reason. I live 15 blocks from the Pacific Ocean. I live here so I can complain about the unusually warm weather when it is 70 degrees—80+ is out of the question. Does anybody know who I might speak to about that?

And yesterday's focus group. The highlight was definitely the little machines we all used, which were called "perception analyzers." It was just a dial that we turned to apply a numeric value to our reactions to a TV commercial. But I've read a lot of Phillip K Dick, and a machine called a perception analyzer evokes all manner of other ideas of what a machine like that should really do. I myself would rush out to buy a device that gave me a numeric value that rated how my perception of a situation matched up against someone else's, or against some sort of objective perception. (Ooh! " objective perception!" That's my oxymoron of the day.)

For example, I expect I'm way off the mean in my perception about today's weather. San Franciscans get to be sun bunnies maybe 4 days a year, but they take to it with gusto. I imagine most people are thrilled with this weather while I am barricading myself in my apartment, wrapping frozen towels around my neck, and swearing out loud in an empty room. And that's confusing to me…if you love the sun so much, why the hell did you move to San Francisco in the first place?

The focus group, as it turned out, was sponsored by Phillip Morris USA. I expected as much; why else specify that they were looking for smokers and non-smokers to participate in the group? But others were not so bright, and they spent a lot of time working themselves into a self-righteous frenzy about how they resented being in any way involved with helping Big Tobacco create more effective pseudo-"Talk to Your Kids About Not Smoking" ads. They weren't so resentful that they left and forfeited their $75 though.

I'm not stupid. I don't believe for a second that Phillip Morris USA actually wants anybody to talk to talk to their kids about not smoking, and I certainly don't think that asking parents to go to the Phillip Morris USA Web site to get anti-smoking info is any sort of step toward convincing people that their Aim is True. The marketing people at Phillip Morris were on crack for even thinking about trying to convince people that they are anything other than drug dealers. But seriously people, can we at least be a little bit honest about our motivations here? Can anybody muster up any actual desire o help any company big enough to hold a massive focus group with their ads? Would you feel any better about McDonalds? Ford?

So please. Spin the dial, take your check, and learn to live with in a world with people who don't always act in a way that you approve of.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Failure of the Day: Et Cetera

I would now like to draw your attention to the best place to find money that I ever known. Yeah, yeah, everybody knows Craigslist. But have you looked at the Et Cetera job board? You have? Oh well, so much for my scoop. But so, you think it's cool, right?

There are plenty of ladies posting there because they are far too rich too look after their own spawn and they would like to pay you to do it for them. There are people who want the lovey-dovey aspect of dog ownership but will pay you to handle the picking-up-the-poop-on-the-sidewalk aspect, which I suspect is a position very similar to what the rich ladies are looking for. And there are all the other jobs that fall into the miscellaneous category by definition (Smog technician) or by choice ("Fitness mentor" which is really just a sales job to get fat ladies signed up to the new fat ladies-only gyms popping up everywhere, including 24th and Clement, replacing the video store with the HUGE porn selection, damnit).

I go to et cetera because it is the focus group and clinical trial clearinghouse. I love focus groups. For $75 an hour or thereabouts, you tell marketing people why their product sucks. I say to you, in voice that barely conceals my delight, BEAT THAT. I find it to be an excellent use of my time. I've been doing focus groups for years. They have some rule now that you can only do one every six months but I am choosing to interpret that as one every six months per market research firm. After all, how will Greenberg Qualitative Research in Berkeley know, if they call me next week, that I did one for Nichol's Research in SF today? I'm sure as hell not going to tell them.

Here is my favorite focus group story: in 1995 or so, back when I was the poorest SSI poet of them all, I got a call for a focus group to taste test different brands of mustard. It paid $60. It is not possible for you to imagine how much money that was to me then—it was more than my grocery budget for a month. But here's the thing: I am violently, profoundly repulsed by mustard. Now, keep in mind also that I have never tasted mustard, even a tiny speck of it; it is the condiment equivalent of effies. But holy cow did I need that 60 bucks. So I said yes.

To make matters worse, the focus group was at 8 AM. I suspect that even people who like mustard don't want it first thing in the morning. But it would only be gross for an hour and then I could use a bit of the money to buy something like huge tub of chocolate pudding in which to drown myself.

I showed up to the place completely nauseated, but determined. I sat in the corporate interpretation of a plush waiting room while they called people into the various rooms. They called everyone in the waiting room (some 40 people) except for 5 of us. The chipper receptionist then came in and addressed us as group. She explained that they always overbook focus groups to cover for no-shows and that we wouldn't be needed that day after all. But, she said, they would be happy to pay us anyway.

I think, with apologies to Chris and the whole wedding day thing, that may have been the happiest moment of my life.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Failure of the Day: Meatballs

Chris is out of town on business again. He left yesterday; he'll be back tonight. Not a huge trip or anything; just enough to make me a little mopey. I'm pretty good at putting a good spin on it for myself…sort of.

I figured I would take myself out to dinner and then to a poetry reading not too far away. I wound up working a little later than I expected and when I finally finished, I was starving. I had planned to go Pluto's and get their giant Caesar salad with flank steak, but Paul said this afternoon that the last time he went there he found a bug in the salad. I'm not sure if that was an actual event or an example of their general decline, but the idea of that was enough to ix-nay Plutos.

And then my brain got all complicated—it was too early to go to dinner and then go directly to the reading, but I was famished. And I didn't even know where I would go. After three years in Seattle where the pickins were slim, here I'm surrounded on all sides by really great restaurants, and I was just sort of immobilized with choices.

And then I thought maybe I wouldn't go to the reading. (That is a thing I do: decide for positive sure that I will do something and then spend all day telling myself I will do and then just poop out and realize I can't be bothered.) Maybe I would just go to Green Apple because all of a sudden I had a bee up my butt for After The Quake by Haruki Murakami, which I've picked up and put back like seven different times. But then I thought if I went to Green Apple, I should go before I eat so I'd have something to read while I was eating. But that was no good on account of the extreme hunger. So I decided to eat first.

I decided I wanted something with meatballs and Ernesto's is closed on Mondays so I thought Gaspare's would do even though it's not so good. But as I was walking there I kept thinking, in a town full of great restaurants when I can go anyplace I want, why would I go to a medium-crappy Italian place? But by that point I was at Gaspare's. I actually had my hand on the door before I made myself turn around.

I thought since I would have to get on the bus to go to Green Apple, I might as well get on the bus now and maybe look at some of Clement Street restaurants. There's a place called Q that I'm mildly curious about. So I get to Clement street and lo and behold, Burma Super Star is open with a big sign that says Now Open Mondays! Burma Super Star is nearly my favorite restaurant on the earth. But then I thought it's not so good for one person because no way could I go there and not have the tea leaf salad, but tea leaf salad and something else was too much and tea leaf salad alone was not enough.

I finally found this mysterious Q restaurant, but it got disqualified by announcing on their menu that they put things like mango salsa on one of their meat entrees and I tend to reject that on principle. In addition to being anti-fruit, I am especially anti hot-fruit-and-meat combinations.

But by then I was practically at Green Apple and I had gotten so hungry that I stopped being hungry which happens sometimes for reasons I really don't understand. But so in I go to definitely, definitely get After The Quake by Haruki Murakami. And they had it in paperback and I found it easily but the cover had a drawing of three goddamn effies. I swear, there's some sort of truly heinous effie media conspiracy. I bought it though, and immediately tore of the offending portion of the cover.

I finally took the bus back out to my neighborhood and got rice and wontons at Yet Wah, which is one of my all time favorite dinners.

And it may be long and of no interest to anyone at all, but this is the completely true story of what happens to indecisive, yackity-brain girls in the big city.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Failure of the Day: The Incredible Bulk

Oy. This was our punishment for missing Daredevil, I think. Holy crap, this is a stupid movie. And also full of Anti-Chris and Anti-Nancy goodies. They rate movies for sex and violence so you know when that's in there, but do they rate them for needles and effies? No. (Effies: amphibian creature, starts with the letter F, Kermit The…etc. You know what I mean. Hate them so much I can't even type the word.)

So the whole first pointless exposition segment was chalk full of needles, so I had to cover Chris's eyes and tell him when it was over. The whole second pointless exposition segment was chalk full of effies, so Chris had to cover my eyes until it was over. Nice. Thanks a lot, Ang.

Or how about the Angry Man himself, who spent most of his digitized time making me think of words like "hippity-hoppity." He bounced all the hell over the desert, but not before having to punch the lights out of three Incredible Hulk Dogs, one of which was poodle, for Chrissakes.

And then there's the wildly unnecessary split screen effect, used in what seemed like nearly every scene. It was a neat way to look at four different angles of a single boring thing. And lest I forget, none of the fancy-pants military and scientist geniuses ever figured out that you don't actually have to do anything to stop him except wait for him to poop out. But they went right on firing missiles and guns at him.

About the nicest thing I can say about the movie is that I was occasionally mesmerized by Sam Elliott's moustache, which is most perfectly trimmed thing I have ever seen, but I kept waiting for him to say "Beef. It's what's for dinner."

So yes, it was terrible and as an added bonus it was long. Super extra bonus: I'm writing about the goddamn thing today, same as everybody else, I suspect.

Friday, June 20, 2003

Failure of the Day: Oh, I don't know…

Seem to have replaced the moodiness with an overall blahness. Can't seem to get motivated to do much of anything, including go to the YMCA, which I really should do but really don't want to. About the only thing I do want to do is eat garlic bread. That's an idea I can really get behind. Everything else, not so much.

It's a little soon to be my little Estrogen Olympics, but if it's not that, I am left with no alternative but to chalk it up to my being a general pain in the ass. A more honest assessment, if not a particularly pleasant or flattering one.

Perhaps these will do for you what that occasionally do for me:

Barry Lank's Teeny Tiny Brain
Failure Magazine
T-Shirt Hell
Play Battleship with Mr. Insult

Thursday, June 19, 2003

Failure of the Day: Slow Day: another potpourri

How long is five months to me? Long enough for the pharmacist at Walgreens to know my name.

Wolf! Decided on the title of my novel…no, really. Not telling though.

This week, I have enough work to do, I've won all the Yahtzee games we've played, I got all the bills paid on time, I am still just overwhelmingly in love with the new Metallica CD, and have no overall complaints. I responded to this turn of events by getting really moody. I don't know why.

BofA sent me another offer for cheap life insurance. I've been meaning to get a policy that covers both Chris and I, so I filled the thing out. But then I noticed that it was accidental death policy, so I read more fine print about what kinds of death they paid you for. It excludes sickness, and some other things. And then I have to sit around thinking not just about one of us dying, which is a fairly crappy thing to think about in the first place, but the likelihood of the various causes of our deaths. Now, I'm not squeamish about thinking about this kind of thing—it makes Chris really sad, but I just go, eh, what can you do? Might as well be prepared. But this whole business of having to figure out whether I have $18 a month worth of a chance that I will die in a fiery plane crash seems morbid even to me. Maybe I will hold out for a regular life insurance policy so I can die whatever way I want.

In response to Paul, who recently inquired as to the conventional wisdom about how to kill zombies, I have re-thought my position. I originally thought you wouldn't even have to bother with killing them—you could just out-run them seeing as how they are so slow and shlumpy. But that doesn't really answer the question. So now I think the best way to kill a zombie would be by putting a rock in the middle of the road. The zombie would trip on it, not be able to get up, and then die of thirst.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Failure of the Day: The Silence of the iambs

OK I admit it; I thought up that title and then had to think fast to come up with an entry that was even vaguely related to it because I thought it so cool. Phase 2 of thinking up a cool title? Immediately assuming I stole it from somewhere. A quick Googling confirms that although I am not the only person who thought of it, I don't seem to have stolen it outright so ok. On to ad hoc topic.

After spending yesterday's entry continually referring to myself as a poet, I have to wonder about the extent to which it is still true. I haven't written a poem in over 18 months. I'm trying to not even think about poems because I'll get all distracted and put my novel aside until the poem is done. That's true theoretically, but really, I wonder if I know how to write poems anymore. If I started one, could I even finish it?

I've become really, really wordy since finishing NaNo—anyone who's received an email from me can attest to that. All of a sudden, I'm rambly. I go on and on. I have verbal bulimia. I still think of writing one line at a time instead of in stories or premises, but now I put them in full sentences instead of just pretty little clauses.

I expect to finish the second draft of my novel by the end of the summer. After that, I'll need to send it to people to read, which I think might entail not writing it for a little while. So I'll have to go back to poems. I think that might turn out to be the deciding factor as to whether I do NaNo again this year—if I suck at poems, I run straight for Self-Portrait in Other People's Genitals, I guess.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Failure of the Day: Poetic Perks

Just got an email from Jennifer, who I think is an all-around swell person—she is the person responsible for the fact that I have my very own ISBN, which I may yet get tattooed on my ass.

Her press, manic d, has worked some of its magic to get a guest list set up for this weekend's Lou Read show at the Warfield, and I received an invitation from her to sign me and Chris up. Which is lovely, really. I like Lou Reed a lot.

Digression: Lou Reed is the only person who has ever made me thoroughly star-struck. In 1986, I found myself backstage at the Amnesty International benefit concert in Atlanta. We didn't even have tickets, for chrissakes, and we still managed to get backstage—such is the magic of Youth. And, I think, boobs. Anyway, I did fine saying hello and shaking hands with Sting and Peter Gabriel and such, but when Lou Reed walked past me, I turned to stone. I just wanted to touch his leather jacket, and I was frozen. I couldn't even raise my arm.

But so it occurs to me that there are damn few perks that come from being a poet, but the Lou Reed guest list would have to be one. I'm pretty seriously wracking my brain trying to think of what the others are…I would say "getting to sleep with other poets" but I'm not sure that counts as a perk, really…(It's a step up from stand-up comics, though.) Having David West cook for you definitely counts, but other than that, I'm coming up pretty blank.

Man. I hope Chris wants to go on Sunday if for no other reason than I'm not sure, after hanging out and giving readings for 15 damn years now, that I can wait another 15 years for the next perk to come along.

Monday, June 16, 2003

Failure of the Day: Cinematic Medical Memoirs

Finally saw Frida this weekend, which is what I did instead of going to Bucky's birthday dinner (because I was still just too utterly exhausted on Saturday night from my long work week to move off the couch). I loved Frida, and if it wasn't the Nancyest movie ever, it was pretty damn close. I thought they really kind of underplayed the disability/ medical hell part, and I would have liked to see more of that.

But then that got me thinking about what the Nancyest movie ever is, and I think it's this little indie film called Medicine Show, which is a romantic comedy about a guy with colon cancer. That sounds pretty unlikely, I know, and neither romantic nor funny, but so it goes. It's a pretty terrific movie that had no theatrical or video release; it's only ever been on cable. I stumbled upon its first-ever airing last month, which might make me the first person other than the director's mother to see it.

It was one of those rare-for-other-people-but-not-for-me kind of coincidences. In fact, I can tell you exactly when I saw it because it was the day that I wrote the "Reading Material" blog entry, which makes it May 16, interestingly enough, one month ago today. In that entry, I lamented not being able to find a book to read about a woman with a lot of diseases, because I hadn't finished writing it yet. What I was getting it is this thing that I am nearly always looking for: that specific combination of medical hell, beauty, and a precise marbling of Fuck Off. It's very hard to find, as you might imagine. I lamented the lack of it in this blog at 11 AM; Medicine Show debuted at 3 PM. Would that all my pleas were answered so promptly.

All of which is either very encouraging or very discouraging, depending on either luck or fame. Because I can see something like a little genre developing for these kinds of stories, and one wouldn't necessarily think they would be incredibly widely appreciated, but the difference between the reception of Frida and the reception of Medicine Show is pretty stark—Oscar noms vs. a Friday afternoon debut on Cinemax. It might be that people are more interested in the medical history and attitudes of famous artists, especially when you get to see Selma Hayak's excellent breasts several times in the bargain, rather than just Jonathon Silverman's excellent ass.

None of which is to say that Medicine Show is as good as Frida—it isn't—only that there's a thematic similarity between the two. And that kind of puts me back where I started because I don't know if Frida was more successful than Medicine Show because of the whole famous artist/excellent breasts/better film aspect or because Frida didn't take place almost entirely in a hospital. I know this though: if it was really because of the latter, I'm seriously screwed.

Friday, June 13, 2003

Failure of the Day: Temporary Cell Death

I sort of got to thinking about this after a thing in Jeff's blog about how much less he's writing now that he's reading Ratner's Star. I don't know if this is what he meant, but it made me think of how sometimes the thing I am reading just totally fills my head with stuff to write about and sometimes a different thing empties it out.

My head is currently in an empty phase; I haven't touched my novel in a full week, and it's driving me crazy. Part of that is because I'm incredibly tired from all the hours of work I'm having to make up for last week's slump. By 8 PM every night this week, I can barely focus on our nightly game of Yahtzee, which is what we've been playing because I'm too tired for Stratego.

But I think it's also because of what I'm reading, which is Hard Laughter by Anne Lamott. I decided to start reading her after a few weeks of reading her columns at Salon.com. I especially liked her commencement address. So I looked up what else she's written, found a novel about her father's brain tumor and went Bingo! Nancyville. Picked it up used at Green Apple last weekend.

I'm about halfway through it now, and it sucks. Aside from the fact that it's only second-hand reactions to the tumor (and I'm really only interested in first-hand experiences), the people having the reactions are all goddamn hippies and other New Age sorts who thought they were being super cool when they eschewed organized religion but then had to rush around like fools trying to find all kinds of substitute mystical gobbledy gook to fill the hole. I sort of knew all this going in, but I like Lamott's writing and thought there'd at least be a couple really cool passages about hospitals and doctors and such, and I could bounce around off those. So far though, I've got poop beyond how scared and sad and fucked up they all are. And the thing that annoys me about that is that everybody already knows that part of the whole "being seriously ill" business. Isn't the point about writing about something like this to add a new perspective? It's like being an astronaut and writing a book about it that says only, "It's hard to be in space because there is no air." Like, duh, OK?

But I'll finish the damn book because I almost never put a book down once I've started it, and it reads fast enough, so what the hell. And I'll be back to nice, easy 8-hour days next week, and hopefully the all the yummy creativity cells in brain will resuscitate themselves.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Failure of the Day: Maternity

Now that the Monstrous Child who was staying with my neighbors next door has gone home, I have returned to the relative peace and quiet of just the one screaming boy. The visiting child was a horror show of the results of bad parenting—he couldn't have been older than 7 and he was such a horrible nightmarish screaming brat that I find myself leaning all the more toward the childless side of the fence.

The Horror Of Andrew, the visiting boy, whose name I know because the mom screams it at 60 second intervals, starts off his day, and mine, and everyone else within a one block radius, by screaming "Trix! I want Trix! Trix Trix Trix! Did you HEAR me? I! WANT! TRIX!" for about 10 minutes. Once fed, he and ADD boy resume their usual activities of Tarzan calls, airplane screeches, and arguments over who is the champion of whatever they are doing. This is punctuated by the mother shouting his name back at him, which I think is what passes for discipline.

By noon, he is back in their kitchen, some 5 feet from where I sit, loudly and repeatedly demanding more food. "I'm hungry NOW!" he shouts and stomps his feet. "For the LAST TIME, I want ice cream RIGHT NOW!" The mother shouts his name a few more times. This is repeated for some 30 minutes, and then again several more times throughout the rest of the day. The boy who lives there, whose name I also hear screamed regularly but could not begin to guess how to spell, should be starting kindergarten in the Fall. It's terrifying to think what these children's schoolyard behavior will be like.

And even as I sit here this morning, my left ovary is starting to pound in preparation for this weekend's ovulation as if to say All This Can Be Yours. To which I can only reply Huh? Who, me? I am not in possession of the world's most maternal spirit, after all. I do have lovely and brief fantasies about a little girl whom I would make curly-haired and whom Chris would make tall…The fantasy involves me in a London hotel room just finishing up being interviewed by Martin Amis for the Observer, who had many interesting questions about my novel. Chris comes in from taking Isabel, who is 3 or 4, out to breakfast. Chris is respectful, as he would be, not wanting to disturb my Quality Martin Amis Time. Isabel has no such hesitations though, and runs across the room and pounces on me to relate the story of the giant pancake she ate. Chris says quietly and with mock irritation, Sure, she's happy now, but she cried her eyes out when she discovered that there were no elephants in Piccadilly Circus.

This is my fantasy life. And on better self-image days, I can admit that it is not entirely impossible, even if seriously improbable. But the idea has its pull even without the literary fame accoutrements. And although I don't imagine that parenthood is comprised solely of such warm snapshots, I expect those occasions, however rare, in which they do occur make it All Worthwhile. At least that’s what they tell me.

But then again, that's a pretty big gamble if the rest of the time the little monster is screaming for Trix.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Failure of the Day: A New Way to Worry About Writing

I think Chris and I have moved one step closer to becoming the Literary Power Couple of our dreams. Actually, just of my dreams—to Chris, being part of a literary power couple ranks just below being skewered and roasted on a spit. Well, I think it would be swell, anyway. I tried to tempt with visions of cocktail parties in the Hamptons, to which he replied, "The Hamptons? Are there rides there?" I think he was thinking of Marine World.

The step we took toward that mighty end was an argument/discussion we had last night about an idea I had about what I would write if I were to do NaNoWriMo again this year. It popped into my head yesterday around Mile 9 on the exercise bike. I thought it might be cool to write the next in a series of Self-Portrait in X autobiographical novels. My topics, really, my only ever topics are sex and disease (and not in that order, seeing as how I already wrote Self Portrait in Doctor Appointments). I thought the next installment might be Self Portrait in Other People's Genitals, although I thought of an alternate title last night while I was falling asleep: Coming of Age: A sexual picaresque.

Chris didn't think it was a very good idea, although not for the reason I was worried about. I thought he wouldn't be comfortable with my spending a month writing about the people I've slept with. The reason I worried about this is that it is, in all honesty, kind of a shitty thing to do during the month of one's second wedding anniversary. So my guilt about being selfish enough to consider doing that kind of pokes at me. But no, his objection was based on the idea that he believes I am capable of more than just the same stuff I've been writing about for the last 20 years. He thinks I should take the opportunity to expand my repertoire and try something new.

And in a way, I know he's right, but in another, I totally disagree. I feel like I'm already expanding my repertoire by branching out into prose. It's only the subject matter that remains snugly entrenched in my safety zone. But then I find myself arguing that I am not as good as he thinks I am, and seriously, how stupid a thing is that to argue?

Anyway, I've got several months to decide if I even want to try another NaNo, let alone the thing I will write about. But I have to admit that I am just completely thrilled to be in a marriage that includes petty squabbling about my future literary output. Hamptons, here we come.

***Disclaimer: It's only fair to point out that I don't even know where the Hamptons are, let alone what it's like there. The idea of it just sounds like the place where one might go if one were looking to hobnob with, say, Kurt Vonnegut. It might even have rides, for all I know.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Failure of the Day: Time

Well, this never happens. After a week of being almost totally bereft of work to do (and fretting about it mightily) this week I am swamped. Swamped! And it's OK because it means that I can make up the hours I missed last week, but it sucks too, because now I have to make up the hours I missed last week. So I haven't had time to do much of anything: blog updates, novel re-writes, renegotiating my soul timeshare with Satan.

I still make time for the Y every day though; it's almost like a little treat to get out of the house and think about something other than the macro conversion to XML tags I need to add to the Microsoft Enterprise Learning Library documents.

Huh? Whose life is this, anyway? Doesn't sound at all like mine. Sweating my ass for 14 miles a day on an exercise bike is treat? Too busy to write about myself? What kind of crazy bizarro world is this? I haven't even had any proper candy for weeks, although I had a giant bowl of Trix for dinner last night.

This is definitely weird. I say that because it's true and because I'm testing to see if I'm really me by quoting from Buckaroo Bansai, which I still seem to be able to do. A little…I can dance. Whew. That part of my personality still seems to be in place. But jeez louise, what's next? If I start eating vegetables or something, I hope somebody will stage an intervention.

Friday, June 06, 2003

Failure of the Day: My Soul

I don't want to sell my soul outright, but I would be open to discussing a timeshare. Because there's fame and fortune and all that, but what I really want is some seriously kick ass Stratego skills.

We recently bought a Star Wars Stratego game. I'd never played before, but Chris spent decades utterly demolishing his sister's meager Stratego defenses. So it's kind of No Fair to begin with. To make matters worse, he is not even the teensiest bit competitive, whereas I would cheerfully eviscerate a puppy if it made my chances of winning at something one percent better. (Are you getting the feeling that I am maybe not a nice person? I am getting that feeling.)

But it's a cool game and I am getting the hang of it. I even won the first time we played, although that might have been some precise combination of beginners luck and husbandly compassion. But I haven't won a single time since then, and goddamnit, it's pissing me off.

So Satan, if you're out there—and by there I mean the Internet, so I think you are—I have a deal for you. You can have my soul every other weekend during the summers if I can stop looking at Stratego strategy web sites and just win some damn games. OK?

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Failure of the Day: My Relationship with my Neighbors, I'm afraid

My beloved man just came home with the new Metallica CD, St. Anger, and I'm pretty damn happy with it. I am playing it loudly at dinnertime with the windows open. Sorry folks.

I've been in just the right mood for this after the satanic landlord debacle and the I-Still-Work-Here-But-I'm-Not Getting-Paid-Because-Everyone-Else-Is-Too-Busy-To-Give-Me-Something-To-Do work problems. And the job hunt lends itself to rage in the best of circumstances. So James and Lars are doing their part to egg me on, and I appreciate it.

I tell you what, too, the CD sounds great even if when I read the title my reaction is "hmmmm...somebody's been reading Nick Cave lyrics." And speaking of lyrics, it's very important that I study this latest Book of Hetfeild tonight...it is a little known fact that Metallica is my own personal oracle. They tell my future. I'm not kidding. And it's looking like my future is really, really pissed off. But I suppose I would be pissed off if I were my future, so it kind of makes sense.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Failure of the Day: English Majors On A Rampage

We mailed off a response to our satanic former landlords yesterday. It was a good letter—we addressed all their points in a concise and profession manner, we used words like aforementioned and spurious, and we explained in detail how and why their allegations against us are entirely false. But it just wasn't, y'know, satisfying. So to ease our Moral Outrage, we decided to compose another letter.

Dear Lying Assholes:

Although we were briefly shocked by your ludicrous, malicious, and greed-driven accusations, we quickly recovered ourselves when we remembered that you are lawyers as well as landlords, and as such, this type of behavior is quite typical. The only thing we could truly be surprised at is the enormity of your ignorance. Shouldn't you, as attorneys, have been aware that you presented us with a signed document attesting to the condition of our apartment? Never mind as attorneys—as individuals with some sort of central nervous system? Are you unaware of your own actions?

But we are generous people, so we should perhaps assume that you possess some degree of self-awareness and know that you presented us with that document. In which case, we must also assume that in your fantasy version of the events now playing out, we would be so terrified and intimidated by the spectre of your letter and its accusations and threats as to cower, drop our pants, and open our wallets in hopes that the monster will go away. How unfortunate it must be for you to watch the events unfold somewhat differently.

You accuse us of acting in violation of our lease. Unfortunately again for you, we, as graduates of a truly fine kindergarten, are able to read words on paper. This surprisingly useful skill enabled us to know what the lease allows and what it does not. And it is this very knowledge that we use to point out not just the absence in the lease of the rule you say we broke, but the presence of a rule you yourself broke. Part of the problem of course, is that you included a copy of our lease with your letter. Handy tip: when making accusations, don't include the proof that the accusation is false.

That you could make so many obvious and laughable errors is understandable—after all, your heads are clearly so far up your asses that you resemble nothing so much as a Bosch painting. But that you thought we would fall for such an obvious and artless attempt at pickpocketry—that is truly offensive.

Please rot in hell at your earliest convenience,

Nancy Depper
Chris Rose

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Failure of the Day: Pretentious Drivel

So me, I'm getting right back on the horse and applying for more jobs that I'm not really qualified for but that sound cool. The latest candidate is a Content Developer and Writer position for a company that does museum exhibit design and fabrication. Here's the cool part: in their ad, the qualifications they asked for were "a background in fast fiction and/or haiku writing." No shit. They also asked all applicants to complete the following writing exercise and include it with the resume:

In 15 words or less, write about your favorite animal or historical character. In addition (not included in your 15 words) describe the photo you would choose to accompany it. After you have completed these two items, explain why this exercise was difficult to do.

I might have done this exercise even if I didn't want the job, just because it sounded like a hoot. Here's what I wrote:

15 words (including title) about leeches:

Qualities of Hindsight
Bad medicine, but
We fear the worm instead of
Blaming the doctor.

Photograph: large leech jar, mid 19th century

The modest porcelain jar is emblazoned with the word "leeches" and cheerfully decorated in a familiar shade of green—it is the same hue used for modern hospital surgical scrubs. One can imagine the two discrete responses the sight of the jar would evoke in the patient: quiescence and faith. The craftsman succeeded in creating a piece of equipment whose practicality is not overpowered by an ostentatious display. And it is porcelain for good reason—the patient presumably would not want to see the instrument it contains until it was absolutely necessary. The jar itself achieves its functional goals, as do the leeches it contained—after all, they were required only to suck the blood. The only failure was the doctor's, who cured no one with this treatment.
The difficult part about creating the writing samples to the required specification was not the limitations imposed by the form, but choosing a subject that would be suited to this exercise. I wanted a subject that would be simple enough to be described briefly, but that evokes a complicated response. In order to do this, I chose a creature whose size and shape could be described well enough in a single word, "worm," but whose history, through no fault of its own, still horrifies. To further highlight this complex relationship, I chose a photograph of a physician's leech jar—a fascinating and not unlovely creation, but one used to further man's folly. As such, the jar itself serves as a metaphor for the leech.

Yep. I wrote a hailu about leeches! For a job!! And sure, it's pretentious and full of graduate-student platitudes, and most of it is a complete lie...I chose the subject because when Chris came home from work yesterday, I showed him the assignment and said "What should I write about?" And he shouted, without so much as a moment's hesitation, and for reasons I still don't understand, "Leeches!" So that's what I wrote about. What would you have written about if someone had shouted LEECHES! at you? And (eat your heart out, Jeff, by which I mean thank you) I got to talk about NaNoWriMo in my cover letter as a qualification for the position.

Sent the resume et al off this morning.

Monday, June 02, 2003

Failure of the Day: Reality and Realty

Have I mentioned my phantom smells and phantom tastes?

I have carte blanche to eat whatever crap I want today on account of my ovaries/jackhammers, and the crap of the moment is itty bitty Krackel candy bars, which Chris keeps a mighty supply of in the house at all times for just such feminine road construction. But I ate one and it tasted just like watermelon! Now, the question is, did it really taste like watermelon, or did I just think it tasted like watermelon?

This is a trickier question that it might seem. Because even if Chris comes home and eats a Krackel and tells me conclusively that it does not taste like watermelon, that doesn't prove that the one I ate didn't taste like watermelon. But the weird thing is, even if I had saved half of the watermelon-tasting Krackel, and Chris ate that and said conclusively that it does not taste like watermelon, that STILL wouldn't mean that it didn't taste like watermelon to me.

But here's the thing: Odds seem pretty good that the Krackel didn't have any watermelon flavor, it's more likely that I was having a sensory hallucination, which I do more often than really anybody knows. I experienced a watermelon taste, and my experience was real, even if there wasn't a real sensory trigger.

Here's a story: We have this cookie jar, a ceramic thing of Batman and Superman busts back to back. Chris loves it and I do too, but when I open the top, inside, it smells like poop. I mean very explicitly and exactly like poop. It smells only like the regular inside of a cookie jar to Chris. He has been scrubbing and washing and soaping and disinfecting and scouring this cookie jar for years, seriously. Poor guy, he just wants to put some damn cookies in his cookie jar. I feel bad, but I can't stomach the smell of the cookies when they come out of the jar, the cookies are ruined for me, and Chris can't abide by that either, and as a result, our cookie jar is now where we keep garlic and onions.

Now, I really can smell the poop. Chris cannot smell the poop, but he has to behave as though there is a poop smell (although this is purely out of courtesy, devotion, and a truly inhuman amount of patience); he doesn't accept my reality because either A) he can't smell the poop or, B) the poop smell isn't "really" there. Is there a difference between not being able to smell it and it not really being there? I don't know. But it's easier for him to accept my reality and keep our cookies elsewhere than it is for me to accept his reality and try to eat cookies that smell like shit. And I wonder if this isn't the way consensus reality should break down in all cases…we'll accept hallucinations as true when that is easier than the hallucinators accepting the reality.

Also, our old landlord is the devil.