Hello, Failure

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

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Failure of the Day: Fortune

Honestly, I'm almost embarrassed to talk about this (but obviously, not too much so). It's another one of those things that prove what a seriously lucky motherfucker I am.

I love focus groups. This is not news. Seventy five or a hundred bucks for an hour or two—you can't beat it. I just participated in a group that was somewhat longer than usual: 3 hours yesterday and 6 today to "ideate" about products and services for people with MS. During the 9 hours, 3 meals were provided to us, in addition to all the soda we could drink and all the M&Ms, crackers, and cookies we could eat. And at the end, no shit: $750.

This was a special kind of group; we were carefully screened to prove that we were "lateral thinkers." I could have saved them loads of time on that score, having read Lateral Thinking by Edward De Bono in the late 80s. Their screening test was composed in part of the lady on the phone asking me to play with a paper clip and to tell her what the shapes made me think of. I told her I straightened it out completely and it made me think of a cigarette. I didn't mention that pretty much every object I look at still makes me think of a cigarette, but it didn't matter; I was in. I am way lateral, baby.

There were nine of us in the group and I have to say, except one woman who didn't really ever get the whole "ideation process," it was a very cool group of people and I had a good time. So the next time you start feeling bad for me because I have to stay inside when the temperature gets above 75, just remember this little story and get back to the business of secretly resenting my welfare queen, cripple handout good fortune.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Failure of the Day: Tress

You know what we haven't talked about in a while? My hair. I have plenty of thoughts and ideas that have, you know, depth; don't go thinking I don't. But it's like this: I'm hot. It's the third day of a hideous scorching heat wave that necessitates my staying indoors during daylight hours and doing little more than working while my little fan coughs semi-cool air in my general direction, and if I want to talk about my hair, I'm going to talk about my hair, goddamn it.

So: I changed the side of my part. I do that every 5-10 years, just to keep things, you know, fresh. But then I got all wacky, threw caution to the wind, and decided to dispense with the part altogether. That necessitated a thorough rethinking of my bangs. That rethinking was immediately followed by an unfortunate transition period characterized by what I called "bang fangs": the two curls that were positioned at the far left and far right side of my forehead were about an inch longer than the middle curls. But only sometimes.

Because here's the thing about hair as curly as mine: it's a different length from day to day. No kidding. So I couldn't just cut the bang fangs because I knew as surely as I know my own name that the pieces I cut would suddenly shrink up into unmanageable puffballs the next time I washed my hair. So I bided my time through the bang fangs and sure enough, this week all my bangs are the exact same length.

And that's not even the exciting news. I have an appointment with an honest to god hairdresser. The San Francisco members of naturallycurly.com swear by Alexander G, which by some incredible magic is on Clement @ 32nd. They say Alex is the Man. The curly haired girls, they flock to him.

Now, I haven't had my hair cut in a salon since 1988, after some salon bimbo spent 3 hours circling the chair and finally started snipping at my hair one curl at a time. Sister, I can do that. And thus, I did. The result is that my hair hasn't changed a bit in 15 years save the part switching twice a decade whether it needs it or not. And also it was cherry red, then green, then pink in Seattle. But other than that, there's been not a lot of variations on my particular theme.

So I don't know if I'm going to let Alex cut my hair. I know I'm going to dye it to within an inch of its life, though.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Failure of the Day: The All-Purpose Epithet

It could mean "sophisticated" or "prestigious." No, wait—it does mean that. I keep forgetting that just because people use a word to mean what they want, it doesn't lose its actual definition. But when "President" Bush told Bob Woodward that he (Woodward) traveled in elite circles because he mentioned that people were still wondering where those dang WMD were, Bush didn't mean anything close to the dictionary definition of the word.

I've been losing sleep over what exactly Bush's definition of the word might be. I've really been wracking my brain. A guy tells you A is the reason for doing B; A turns out not to be the case, and people who say, "Then why did we do B really?" are elitists. Here's what seems to be the underlying message to the exchange: to the Right, B was the right thing to do by definition. They didn't need a reason. A was a good reason but it doesn't really matter because they believe that B was inherently just.

So: in this usage, the elite are those who do not accept that this particular preemptive war was inherently just; that is, people who do not believe in the infallibility of Bush's judgment on these matters.

And here's why I've been losing sleep: "elitist" is one of the favored curses of the Left as well. It is used to impugn the credibility of any critique of materials that speak to non-mainstream experience. It posits that notions of quality of art itself are elitist. That is, a cliché-ridden poem about being outside of the mainstream culture is by definition as valuable as, say, the best poem by Wanda Coleman because to suggest otherwise is to demean the non-mainstream experience itself, not merely the poem.

So: in this usage, the elite are those who do not accept that all material that speaks to and about the non-mainstream experience is of equal value; that is, people who do not believe the social identity of the creator determines the value of the art.

So, there you have it: the Left and the Right agree—we hate those elitist bastards. And by elitist we mean those stupid idiots who think they are so smart, they actually believe that their dogma is better than our dogma.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Failure of the Day: Big Ass Check

I wrote and mailed a check today for over five thousand dollars. That’s a record for me—and don’t we all keep track of the largest check we’ve ever written, like it’s some mark of adulthood? Do 60 year-olds still get impressed with themselves for re-setting that record?

Even as I type that I expect the answer is No; at some point the idea of paying a lot of money for something must become more of an annoyance…oh, but, wow…even as I typed that I thought better of it. Wouldn’t it be cool to pay a lot of money for a thing that you really wanted and could actually afford to purchase? And the answer to that is Yes.

But here’s the reason for my flip-flop: the check I wrote today was one of four that went to the IRS. So on the one hand, I kind of was impressed with myself for having figured out this whole "independent contractor" business and having done a very reasonabe job of managing my income to such a degree that when my expected tax bill came due, I could simply pay it. On the other hand, I could have purchased a shitload of John Fluevog shoes with that money.

And that would have been more fun, but more impressive? I don’t know.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Failure of the Day: Movies

Happy half birthday to me. Tomorrow is 6 months without smoking. I almost suckered Chris into letting me have a cigar to celebrate but then chickened out. I’ll try again at 1 year.


Jersey Girl: Conveniently showing at the 4 Star, just around the corner. I liked it more than I expected to. I like Kevin Smith more on a macroscopic level than on the micro, which is to say that his general ideas and stuff are lovely but his dialog is awful. Not so here, I thought. All the characters managed to speak without looking like they were excreting necessary exposition or unnecessary attempts at cleverness. Very sappy as everyone else has noted but I appreciated the sensibility, the certain calmness with which the half self obsessed NYC jackass/half lug head New Jersey father dealt with sexuality and his daughter. Nicely done.

Oleanna: A remnant from Chris’s David Mamet obsession. The interesting thing about this piece of vile stinky should-NEVER-have-been-made crap is that it could never have been made if it weren’t written and directed by Mamet. I don’t mean his star power or pull in Hollywood got it made; I mean that after we watched two hours of what is basically just a conversation, we looked at each other and said “You know, the two characters could have totally resolved their differences if only they hadn’t been made to talk like that!” This is what I mean to say: This movie doesn’t exist. We opened the box and David Mamet’s verbal tics flew out and stuttered like flapping wings for 2 hours.


Happy Accidents: I caught this by chance on IFC while I was trying to stay out of Chris’s way as he put together the new DVD shelving unit in the living room. It has Marissa Tomei as an unlucky in love New Yorker and Vincent D'Onofrio as a time traveler who comes to find her. So there’s the whole “is he really a time traveler or is he just a nutbag?” thing and that’s plenty interesting in that KPAX kind of way, but really, it seemed like what she was struggling to believe was that he actually did love her that much. Nice how the idea of her being so happy was no less bizarre than his being from the 25th century. Quite good, I thought.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: At last the shelving unit was built and it was Couples Skate on the futon. I completely and totally loved this movie. I developed a whole relationship with Sam Rockwell’s naked ass, which was on screen very nearly as much as his naked face. Here’s the formula I am always looking for in books and movies and the like: 1 part pain, 1 part beauty. Stir. This movie was 1 part pain, 1 part weird silly stupid. Stir. And I swear to god, it worked damn near as well for me.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Failure of the Day: Gentlemen, Testify

I'm watching Condi and her "I'm annoyed but not showing it" face and I'm riveted. I got up early to watch this because I swear to god in the back of my mind I have the idea that she will crack under the scrutiny and start sobbing (Headline: "Compassionate" Conservatives Confess Complicity). I always expect that and of course it never happens and I'm actually disappointed.

Come to think of it though, if I get to choose which creep to watch break down into hysterics, I would prefer Ashcroft or Rummy. Ooh, or Cheney. I would personally enjoy that more and I expect any of those guys would put on a great self-flagellation show.

And is anybody else starting to wonder if the wrong Kerr(e)y is running? Don't get me wrong; I'm cool with John, but Bob is kicking ass in these hearings. Dude rules. Al Franken suggested it last week and I'm inclined to agree: Kerry/Kerrey in '04. It's a terrible idea from a marketing point of view I know; if we can't expect Americans to know that giant cheeseburgers make you fat, we can't expect them to differentiate between fellas on a homophonic ticket. But damn, that guy makes my little democratic heart just swell.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Failure of the Day: All of Last Week

We were sick again this week. It's like there is only one virus and we are catching it one symptom at a time. It was Chris's week to cough, and my week to sneeze. As per this particularly unusual spate of illness, Chris was worse than me and had to miss a couple days work. Poor thing could barely speak a complete sentence without doubling over with cough. Then on Wednesday his car broke down on the freeway and needed a new clutch. Then on Thursday my tooth broke and needed a new crown. I spent Friday at the dentist being reminded of the extent to which my mouth is gaping black hole of death…How many more teeth need crowns? Nine. Nine more teeth need crowns. Each of those may also need a root canal. So go ahead. Argue with me that my body doesn't hate me.

On the upside, the Novocain wore off just in time to avoid making me lisp during my short set on Friday night, which was nicely received if I do say so myself. We left rudely and immediately afterward because of the aforementioned Novocain wearing off and, you know, Ow, and because we were starving—neither of us had had time to eat before the reading thanks to the guy who needed to have a good long think on the side of the bridge.

For the record, I remained surprisingly chipper throughout. I can't begin to guess why but for such a crappy week, we both did a superb job of getting everything taken care of quickly and efficiently. Both the car and my mouth were fixed within 24 hours of their misfortunes, and with a minimum of fuss. Furthermore, Chris seems to have been genuinely delighted by Hellboy, which I also thought was just fine.

There's more, both good and bad but really all I want to show you is this, which wins hands down for news story of the week as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Failure of the Day: It is possible that 11 people are opening for me. It is possible that I am a last minute add-on. It is possible that I find meaning where meaning isn't meant.

Here's the scoop by way of what can loosely be considered a press release. I am again listed last and feeling free to read that in one of several different ways, depending on my mood.

It may or may not rise from the dead, etc., but this is the last actual chance to see GIRLS
AT SPANGANGA: and a fuckload of them, buddy.


A tasty selection of Chick Nite performers from the last year at Spanganga...

Amy Tobin
Tarin Towers Shuts Down

Daphne Gottlieb
Lauren Wheeler
Sherilyn Connelly
Meliza Bañales
Amy White

Lisa Geduldig

Lynn Breedlove
Jan Richman
Nancy Depper


/or whatever/

we'll see what happens.

Spanganga is closing! Chick Nite is happening in this particular incarnation for the