Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why I hate the Statesman

So, they published my letter last week, and despite my emphatic NO when asked if I wanted my email published with it, they published my email address with it. I've received mostly very kind letters in support of my actions, but today I received an email that was so ridiculously stupid that I have to share it with you. Against my better judgment, I also responded, though I probably shouldn't have. Enjoy!

The first email:

Mr. Cox:

I thought it necessary to reply to your editorial letter submission
in the 06/21/2008 Austin-American Statesman.

You seem to be expressing quite a bit of disgust and disappointment
because the government "animal control" people did not reply quick
enough to satisfy you. You then have the audacity to suggest that
the dogs would have perished, if their owner had not shown up
in time.

My question to you: Why did *you* not do anything about the
situation? Why did you sit idly by, and leave it up to "the government?"
If it had been an infant baby instead of dogs...would you have done
*nothing*?

Off the top of my head, I know of four things you could have done, if
you had bothered to take on adult citizen responsibility:

1) You say the incident happened at a local (assumed retail)
establishment. Did you not think to *page* the owner of the vehicle?

2) Did you not think to tap firmly on the car, or step on the bumper
and rock the car, in hopes that a potential armed car alarm might
be activated, and thus alert the owner?

3) You say the windows were cracked, if only a little. Is that not
enough to insert a coat hanger, and unlock the vehicle? (And perhaps
also activating the aforementioned hypothetical alarm.)

4) Could you have inserted something like the spout of a floral
watering cam, and given the thirsty dogs some relief?

It seems that you did absolutely *nothing* to help the dogs, except
for wringing your hands, waiting for someone *else* to do something.
Do you also expect "the government" to provide you with health care,
an education for you or your children, unemployment benefits, etc.
If some "unsavory characters" are creating a terror or nuisance in
your neighborhood, or place of employment, do you just allow it
to continue, until "the government" arrives to do what *you* should
have done - taken an active role in handling the situation?

It is this lazy attitude, and lack of responsibility, that is leading to the
downfall of society...*not* the less-than-punctual response of the
government entities.

Take note of the quote that is appended to my signature.


--

Greg Heilers
Registered Linux user #328317 - SlackWare 10.2 (2.6.13)
AUS

For a revolutionary email program:
http://sylpheed.sraoss.jp/en/
.....

"The most terrifying words in the English language are:
I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

-- Ronald Reagan


And my response:

Even though the clearly snide, condescending and hateful tone of your letter makes me feel like I should do otherwise, I will reply to your accusations. Owing to the fact that the Statesman only allows 150 words to make your point, I couldn't write an essay about it. I only made the comment about the animals dying to drive home a point in my letter.

1. The first thing I did was talk to the GM of my establishment and urge him to page the owner, but he refused. I even argued that a different manager had done it in the past, and the owner had come right out (another car that I reported on a different day). Still, he wouldn't budge.

2. No, I did not think to try to set off an alarm. The establishment is a very large grocery store, so they wouldn't have heard it anyway, and it probably just would have freaked the dogs out, so even if I had thought of that, I probably wouldn't have done it.

3. No, at that point, I was not yet ready to get arrested, fired, and get my organization possibly sued for breaking into someone's car while I was on the clock. If I felt, at that point, that it had been a life or death situation, then yeah, I probably would have, or had the security guard do it, or made a more urgent call to the police. Obviously, you idiot, if it had been a human infant in there, the situation would have been more urgent. (And I don't care what anyone says, a dog is not a child.)

4. When I met with the other 2 women in the lobby of the establishment, we discussed, at length, various ways we could get water into the car, including in the lid of a coffee cup, but due to the fact that the windows were so narrowly cracked, short of sticking a whole hose in the car, nothing would really fit (see #3 above). One of the women threatened to break the window, and I said, "Have at it, I won't stop you."

And yes, in response to your question, I do expect the government to supply health care, educate me (um, ever heard of public education, or are you one of those "libertarian" idiots who doesn't believe in public education, and that poor people don't deserve it?), and to provide unemployment benefits. I also fully support social security and medicare/medicaid. I suppose you're one of those "politically incorrect" idiots who believes in anarchy and self-reliance while with the same hand, greedily reaching out to the government's hand at every turn. Do you enjoy the roads you drive on? And for that matter, do you appreciate paying only $4 for gasoline, because if the government didn't interfere, you'd be paying at least 4x that? Do you enjoy having clean water in your tap? Do you enjoy the fact that employers can't use your health records as a determining factor in whether or not you're hired somewhere? Do you utilize public parks? Do you have a social security number, or a bank account? Do you benefit from quality standards in the food you eat at restaurants or buy in your local grocer? Are you married? Did you spend your stimulus check (or did you donate it all to Ron Paul)? As I mentioned before, did you go to a pubic school? Do you appreciate environmental standards, so that corporations can't (at least in theory) wantonly destroy every inch of this planet with pollution? Have you never called, or needed, the police for anything ever in your life?

What about my responsibility to behave in a civil manner, and trust that the laws that have been set up to not only protect me, but to protect animals, will be enforced? Do you really want to live in a society where no one is obligated to follow any rules, and everyone can just go about smashing up other people's cars because they want to? If someone rear-ended you in a vehicle, would you get out and immediately start beating them to a pulp, or would you call the cops? Well, it sounds to me like you might do the former, but I don't want to pass judgment. I'm sorry if I believe that laws and civil behavior standards are in place for a reason. I know there are instances where they can, and should, be violated, but I wasn't there yet in this particular situation.

So take your self-righteous, blow-hard bullshit, and fuck off. Better yet, go back to keeping your head buried in the sand and ignoring reality, and stop sending out such stupid emails. What are you, some undergrad college radical at Berkeley, living off your trust fund while at the same time chanting "down with the government" or something?

Sincerely,
Mr. Cox

Calling Dr. Freud, calling Dr. Freud!

I've been having a rash of weird dreams this week, some of them outright nightmares about bearded men in my bedroom lingering in dark corners.

But last night I had a dream that I was hanging out with my friend Bryan, and we were at some suburban Target in the middle of nowhere with....Hillary Clinton! Just the three of us, chilling out, shopping for Hanes and a new blender. Except I was bombarding her with questions about Obama, and what she really thought of him, and the conservative press, and why she said and did some of the things she did. And the really funny part was that it was just like we were great friends: she was answering my questions, and making jokes and I totally loved her! In the dream I was saddened that her political persona was so diametrically opposed to her real person.

Then, inexplicably, we went to one of my ex-boyfriend's houses to watch Dirty Dancing in his bedroom, which was pretty awkward, and I totally didn't want to be there, but we'd gone in Hillary's bus, and I didn't know how to drive it.

Um...anyone...?

Rethinking the Suburbs (again! or, still....)


The Atlantic article that I posted about back in February is quoted in a NYT article from today, entitled Rethinking the Country Life as Energy Costs Rise. The specific quote is, “Many low-density suburbs and McMansion subdivisions, including some that are lovely and affluent today, may become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s — slums characterized by poverty, crime and decay,” declared Christopher B. Leinberger, an urban land use expert, in a recent essay in The Atlantic Monthly.

The NYT article is one more in a long line of articles recently extrapolating the rising costs of living in suburbia, or exurbia, and how home prices are plummeting. People are realizing that this whole $4 a gallon thing is probably gonna stick around, and only get worse.

Basic household arithmetic appears to be furthering the trend: In 2003, the average suburban household spent $1,422 a year on gasoline, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By April of this year — when gas prices were about $3.60 a gallon— the same household was spending $3,196 a year, more than doubling consumption in dollar terms in less than five years.

...

But life on the edges of suburbia is beginning to feel untenable. Mr. Boyle and his wife must drive nearly an hour to their jobs in the high-tech corridor of southern Denver. With gasoline at more than $4 a gallon, Mr. Boyle recently paid $121 to fill his pickup truck with diesel fuel. In March, the last time he filled his propane tank to heat his spacious house, he paid $566, more than twice the price of 5 years ago.

Though Mr. Boyle finds city life unappealing, it is now up for reconsideration.

...

Juanita Johnson and her husband, both retired Denver schoolteachers, moved here last August, after three decades in the city and a few years in the mountains. They bought a four-bedroom house for $415,000.

Last winter, they spent $3,000 on propane for heat, she said. Suddenly, this seemed like a place to flee. “We’d sell if we could, but we’d lose our shirt,” Ms. Johnson said. Recently she counted 15 sale signs. One home nearby is listed below $400,000.

“I was so glad to get out of the city, the pollution the traffic, the crime,” she said. Now, the suburbs seem mean. “I wouldn’t do this again.”


I guess if you have enough money to buy a $415,000 home and commute, you don't think too much about fuel costs until they're an issue. But I find that so strange. How could you not? It's like when I was watching The Unforeseen, the documentary about growth in Austin, when they talking to the couple who bought the home in a tract subdivision out in the middle of desert nowhere, with fake grass and trees planted everywhere. The couple was shocked when suddenly they were being forced to ration water, not being allowed to water their lawns, and their home values were plummeting.

Oh, really??? What did you expect? I'm not righteously blaming these people necessarily; I understand the desire to own your own home, and it's just not doable in the city for most people. It's sad, though, the position these people have put themselves into.

And speaking of that, one more reason why I'm changing my stance on welfare medicine: the CDC reported today that 8% of Americans now have diabetes. And another roughly 16% have pre-diabetes risk conditions.

I asked a good friend this morning who originally pointed this out to me if my new stance against socialized medicine* made me a Republican, and he said no, it just made me someone who didn't want to have to pay for other people's bad choices.

*I'm not really against socialized medicine per se, just against a welfare system. I think people who take care of themselves and take preventative measures should be rewarded, while those who don't should have to pay for the extra care. As my friend said, he thinks this country knows the difference between someone who gets fat and lazy and eats badly and someone who needs help because they were in a car wreck. Touche.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Thursday, June 19, 2008

AvP



Looking for housing in Portland has been an eye-opening experience, but not in the ways you might expect. I understand that Austin is a desirable city with lots to offer: steps away from nature; a local, unique vibe in the culture; lots of art; low crime; a friendly population; overall good weather; beautiful scenery. But let's face it: it's also incredibly overpriced for what you get. Especially considering that as big of a city as it is, there are very limited job opportunities. And now that everyone is converting shitty apartments all over town into overpriced condos, there is swiftly becoming a very shrunken rental market. Gone are the days when you can survive in this town on minimum wage, or even really twice minimum wage.



So I expected Portland to be very expensive and for house-hunting there to be a formidable and frustrating process. It's a coastal city, everybody loves it, they have severe anti-sprawl laws to prevent suburbs and create density. But it seems like a renter's market. I have no idea what it's like to actually try to buy a home there, but renting? It's cheaper than Austin.

In Portland (at least what I've found so far) you can get a 1,000 square foot, 2-bedroom home, with wood floors, huge windows, a yard, right on the bus line, 2 blocks from the MAX (light-rail) line, a block or three from restaurants, coffee shops, bars, grocery stores, and cafes, for about $1,200. And about 2 miles from downtown. (Incidentally, within the downtown area, which encompasses several square miles, all the public transportation is free! Buses and trains.) And that's not rare. Hell, I've found 2-bedroom, corner-unit condos in brand new high-rise buildings downtown for $1,050!

That tells me either that the economy there totally sucks (which may or may not be valid), or these ads are all fakes, like the ones in the back of the Chronicle, where when you call about them the realtor says, "Oh, I just leased that unit literally an hour ago! But I have this other great unit, just a little more expensive....", or it's just a lot cheaper to live there. For whatever reason.

So why is Austin so expensive? There aren't a lot of great jobs. The traffic is wretched. There is no public transportation to speak of. All of about two neighborhoods are walkable, at least as far as anything useful is concerned. And the voters of Travis County just elected Laura Morrison to city council, which means, apparently, that they share her vision of being anti-density, anti-light rail, anti- toll roads, pro-parking lots, pro-sprawl, pro-McMansion Ordinance.

I just don't get it. I was talking to a friend of mine at work who's my age, and grew up in Austin (5th-generation), and he blames a lot of it on out-of-state real estate investors coming in and jacking up the market to be more along California's real estate level. Even though it's totally unwarranted.

I don't really know enough about real estate to agree or disagree, but it makes sense. The market has to be determined by something, and despite what it claims, Austin is very sprawly and big, so it shouldn't cost so fucking much to live here. When I moved here from Dallas, I was in shock when I learned how much apartments rented for here. And that was almost 10 years ago.

I do think Austin is a wonderful city and has a lot to offer (I'd still rather live here than almost anywhere else), but when it comes to its "progressive" reputation, it really has a lot to live up to. And I get more and more scared everyday that it never will. Being progressive is more than shopping at Whole Foods and supporting gay marriage. It's a lifestyle, and a way of thinking about things that looks to the future and tries to create a better world for everybody, not constantly yearning for a past that's gone and sucking as much money as possible out of people just trying to live in a nice place without offering anything in return. I'm pretty sure light rail is officially dead in this town forever. That's really a shame, and really depressing, because the time to build it was about a decade ago.

My friend at work is funny. He's actually moving to London next year because his wife is an art historian or something over there and makes a decent living. So he told me that he's trying to convince himself that Austin totally sucks now and make himself hate it so that it won't be so hard to leave. Maybe in a way that's what I'm doing too. I just don't seem to have any patience left for anything here. But I know the root is just an impatience and excitement to begin my new life. I'm looking forward to it. I am enjoying what time I have left here, though. In the past week, I've been to Barton Springs once and Deep Eddy twice (it would have been Barton all three times, except it's closed on Thursdays. Grrr!!). Just to lay in the sun and soak it all in. I got very sad at Barton Springs on Monday. That place is so incredible, and the people-watching is a riot. I hope someone, somewhere, figures out a way to save this place from itself. I might just want to come back someday.

"Bring it on."



When gas prices started climbing so swiftly several months ago, I somewhat self-righteously proclaimed, "Bring it on!" to high gas prices. It's going to hurt for awhile, but I think in the long run, high gas prices cn only really bring out positive changes. As it turns out, some website called "Foreign Policy" (linked by Andrew Sullivan) has compiled a list of 5 reasons to love $4 gas. Some of which seem a little dubious, but others (like the mass transit boom) are pretty certifiable.

Along those lines, the Economist this month has an interesting little article about the Brookings Institution declaring Los Angeles the greenest city in the country! Come again?

Los Angeles is, after all, a symbol of environmental degradation. It became car-oriented well before most other cities. “If I lose my car it's like having my legs cut off,” explains the doomed hero of the 1950 film “Sunset Boulevard”. These days the metropolis is renowned for jammed freeways. Talk to the mayor of almost any Western city and they will outline their plans for avoiding Los Angeles' fate.

Brookings's number-crunchers calculated carbon footprints mostly by studying highway traffic and household energy use. They excluded local traffic and industry because the statistics are bad. Top of their green list is Honolulu, in Hawaii, whose residents accounted for 1.36 tons of carbon each in 2005. Los Angeles, at 1.41 tons per person, narrowly beats Portland, Oregon, which is widely proclaimed as an ├╝ber-green city. New York comes fourth. At the bottom of the table, spewing out more than twice as much carbon per person as Los Angeles, is Lexington, Kentucky.


It's a short article, and interesting, if you're as obssessed with this kind of shit as I am.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

10 Years


Karen's latest blog post made me sad today. Well, sad and happy. It basically says that when she thinks of Austin, she thinks of the home that she, Victor and I shared on 37th street in Hyde Park.

I know what she means. It sounds corny to say, I guess, but that house is deeply symbolic to me. It was the last time everyone was in Austin together. It was the last time we were all single (as in, unmarried). It was the last time we'll have multiple parties in one year, and have everyone we know show up for all of them. It was the home of the last real dance party we had (Halloween, 2003). Which also happened to be the last year there was a Halloween party for which everyone was excited and actually dressed up. Two serious romances were begun in that house. One of which is still thriving, and one of which is...not.

It was just the last time everyone in my circle of friends was all together. As I've said before, probably the biggest regret of my life is never having had that tight, crazy, undergrad college experience. Well, in a way, my early years in Austin I think have stepped up and taken the place of that. Hell, I moved here when I was 21: all of my growing up has been here. All of my biggest mistakes, most painful experiences, and biggest joys have happened here. I would say the years 2001 through 2004 or so were some of the greatest years of my life. I made the friends that I know I will have forever (some before that, and some after, but the bulk was during that time), and I had probably the most fun I've ever had in my life during those years.

Making films, traveling, endless parties, shows of friends' bands, art openings, film screenings, late-night, drunken four-square games, looooong nights at La-La's and the parking lot of the Draughthouse, summer bicycle riding through the city at sunset, a million packs of cigarettes and bottles of Knob Creek. Those years will always be so special and meaningful to me. I've never been more open to things and people and experiences in my entire life, and maybe never will be again.

Life here has been good to me. It's bitch-slapped me into next week a few times as well, but overall, I think Austin will always be my Home.

I can't wait to see Karen next month and stay up all night talking and drinking whiskey and cracking each other up. I love that girl so much it breaks my heart.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You and your letters

I was the official Cart-Pushing Bitch in the gargantuan parking lot at work yesterday, and around 11:30, I noticed a silver Volkswagen, license plate X62 VZW, with two little dogs locked inside, and the windows only cracked about a half inch. In triple-digit heat!! Naturally I was furious and called the manager, who naturally wouldn't make an announcement, because god forbid we might ruffle the feathers of a single customer, even though it means animals are being tortured.

So I took it upon myself to call 311 and report the car to animal control. Right when I was finished, two more customers walked in the lobby and wanted to also report the car. So one of those ladies called 911.

I wrote up a quick note to stick on the windshield of the car just to, you know, let the owner know they'd been reported to both 911 and animal control, license number and all. I wanted to make the note really nasty, but I kept it to the facts.

About 45(!) minutes later I noticed a lady walk up to the car, read the note, then stand outside the car for another 10 minutes talking on her cell phone. I assumed it was another customer reporting the car a 3rd time, but nope, after leaving the dogs in the car another 10 minutes to talk on the phone, she finally got into the car and drove away.

The real point of this story, though, is that it took animal control over 3 hours to show up. It was almost 3:00 before I saw their little paddy wagon circling the parking lot looking for the car. I didn't say anything to them, but I wanted to go ask them why they even bothered showing up. After 3 hours, if those dogs had still been there, they probably would have been dead already. The women I ran into in the lobby were seriously contemplating busting one of the car's windows to pull the dogs out.

Naturally, being at work, there's no way I could have participated in that business, but I wouldn't have stopped them.

So this morning first thing I got up and fired off two letters, to the Chronicle and the Statesman, complaining about the abysmal animal emergency response. I sure hope the human emergency response if better than that.

Oh, and fucking bitch that left your two cute little dogs in the car, I hope someone locks you in a steam room for 2 hours at the gym tomorrow. I just don't get it. Why would she even bring them with her? Why can't people just leave their dogs at home when it's this hot? Anyone who would do that is mentally ill.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Old habits die hard



Some people say that in relationships, timing is everything, above all else. I don't completely believe this, but I don't disbelieve it, either. We bring to every relationship we form the sum of all of our experience, along with our current situations. And if we can't imagine our lives having turned out any differently than they are now, most likely it all has to do with one or two decisions we made, perhaps haphazardly or impuslvely, a long time ago.

Which is why "fate" is bullshit. Any of our lives could just as easily have gone a totally different direction if we hadn't ask that person for their phone number, or moved to a different city, or not gone out for drinks one night. It's sort of too overwhelming to think about, but it's something I tend to obssess about. Rather needlessly, of course.

Some very close friends of mine that I respect 100% recently undertook the viewing of Six Feet Under.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that SFU is kind of like my religion. It is what allowed me to be born again. I'll spare you the details (of course, if you've been reading this blog for the past 3 years, you already know the details....), but suffice to say, SFU pretty much ranks right up there with being born as one of the greatest things that ever happened to me. It literally changed my life: it opened up a whole new world to me, and totally altered my philosophy.

But I was also in the deepest, darkest trenches of emotional warfare at the time, fighting a losing battle against enemy insurgents in my brain that wanted to kill me. And SFU was a revelation. Why it was a revelation is too much to get into at the moment, but it was.

And the thing about my friends watching the show is this: they don't really care for it. I haven't discussed it in detail with them because I'm a coward and don't have the stamina for it (and I wouldn't want to put words in their mouths anyway), but I think they find it silly, pretentious and maybe slightly laughable.

Hmmm.

I know I'm overanalyzing here (surprise!), but if they see so very little of what I see when I watch that show, then what can that possibly mean?

Probably very little, actually. It's a fucking TV show.

But it's my TV show!!! It's what inspired me to change my life and become a therapist and go back to school. Hell, it even inspired me to practice a particular kind of therapy.

But maybe....just maybe....

If I saw the show now for the first time, assuming that my life were still in the same place it is now, would it still mean as much to me?

Hard to say, but probably not. I bet I would still like it a whole lot, though. When you find something (or someone) that speaks to you so profoundly, it's impossible to separate that from the circumstances or history.

It just is, it just does. So I can't hardly blame my friends for not seeing in Six Feet Under the same magic that I did: our lives and situations while watching it couldn't be more different. There's nothing more to be read into it than that.

Of course, I still think they're wrong and I still find it disappointing, but there is no deeper meaning than that.

A relationship with a TV show, or any piece of art, can be as complicated (or as simple) as any relationship with a person. It all depends on where you are, where you've been, and where you're going.

Plain as that.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bored and the City



I almost started to panic when the opening credits began and Sarah Jessica Parker's nasally little voice started "catching up" the audience on where the characters left off 4 years ago when the show ended. The film whirled through TV clips on the band of a bright pink rollercoaster, while the audience cheered each one, and I knew I was done for. There were two-and-a-half hours left of this? And I just spent $9 on a tiny little martini called "The Miranda?"

Shit. I took another bite of my pizza and settled down into my seat for the long haul.

It's not really that the film was so bad, as just, so....well, unnecessary. 40 minutes in, when the completely contrived climax occurred (which also happened to be the only good part of the movie: where Big stands Carrie up at the altar, which, if you didn't see coming 5 years ago, you were a fool), I was ready to call it a night. Oh, but wait: There are still almost 2 hours left. It was also a little disenheartening, and also somewhat of a relief, to realize, about 2 minutes in, that I just don't care anymore. I have zero emotional investment left in any of those storylines, and that's okay. I especially have little patience left for fashion and shoes, which I never cared about to begin with. The movie, however, is basically just a big, giant commercial. Shameless and dull. I always defended the show when people criticized it for those reasons, and especially for criticizing the implausibility of these women having this much money and spare time. Who cares? That's like saying Superman is unrealistic because he can fly. It completely misses the point. But as I watched the movie, or rather put toothpicks between my eyelids to keep them open, I think I started to see people's points about the sheer shallowness of it all.



About midway through the film I leaned over to Tom and asked how many days we'd been trapped inside the theater.

It's especially sad, I think, to see the things you love destroyed from the inside. I still love the show (I own every season on DVD and still frequently watch the heavily edited re-runs on TV late at night), but it's all a little bit tainted for me now. There is absolutely no reason for this movie to exist except to make money. It adds nothing new to the story, and even worse, the whole damn thing ends exactly where it began! Nothing happened in the entire film! In two-and-a-half hours. We got one good joke made by Samantha that was pretty hilarious, but that's it, really.

Apparently a sequel is already in the works, but I can't for the life of me imagine what on God's earth it could be about. Maybe the homos, which were always treated dismally on the show (and was one reason I actually hated the show for awhile at the beginning), will get to be real people instead of one-note caricatures (and pathetic ones at that) and the movie can be about them.

The best part of the movie though, and worth the price of admission alone, were the legions of young girls (and some old enough to know better) in their mile-high heels and evening gowns, strutting around with their cocktails...at the Alamo Drafthouse on Sunday night..... Afterwards throngs of them posed in group photos in the lobby in front of the film poster, while they had the poor Alamo employees take their photo. One girl, in line for the bathroom afterwards, screeched, "I can't believe Carrie Bradshaw is married!"

Oh dear.

The next night, I was having a little insomnia and decided to flip on the TV for a bit. I happened to catch Inside the Actor's Studio just beginning, and the guest that night was Sarah Jessica Parker.

Man, in combination with that, and hearing her on Fresh Air a couple of years ago, it made me sad that she is the embodiment of Carrie Bradshaw. Despite being the star and philosophical center of the show, she was always my least favorite character, and the one I found least interesting. SJP, as a real person, though, is so unlike Carrie. She's modest, a bit conservative, and smart as a whip.

I wonder what could have been if SJP had injected a little more of herself into the show, and not been such a "character?" But I guess that's not the point. I'll always have my memories, and probably won't be going to see the sequel.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Tagged for Songs

I was tagged by Bryan. The rules:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.


(In the interest of full disclosure, I pretty much only listen to singles and certain songs off records now. I couldn't even tell you the last time I bought a CD, and my musical taste has become very pedestrian.)

"Paper Planes" by M.I.A.
I don't know anything about this song; someone put it on a mix for me recently, and I can't get enough of it. Bryan has some interesting background on it on his list.

"4 Minutes" by Madonna
Whatever. This song is fucking awesome. I love the little horns sample.

"The Greatest" by Cat Power
Used to excellent effect in My blueberry Nights recently, and everytime I listen to it, I get that bittersweet feeling in my gut.

"SOS" by Rihanna
Any song that can get me to actually listen to "Tainted Love" without wanting to shoot myself in the head and jump out a stained-glass window is all right by me.

"The Way I Are" by Timbaland
Rules. End of story.

"Here Comes the Sun Again" by M. Ward
This song just makes me feel good. I love listening to it while I drive with the windows down.

"Breakin' Up" by Rilo Kiley
I've never listened to Rilo Kiley before, but I know I'd like them. Again, this song was on a mix. But it's so damn catchy. I need the record.

I can't tag 7 people without including people Bryan has already tagged, so I'll just do a few: Tom; Ruth; Meredith.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

One thing we have George W. Bush to thank for...

While watching a matinee performance of The Strangers today, one thing that kept going through my mind was how art might change when Obama becomes President. I mean, who knows, the world might still end in 2 years, at the rate it's going now, but I suspect that with such a drastic change in leadership and ideology, the whole culture will shift in one day.



It's pretty common knowledge that pervasive fear, uncertainty, unrest, and anxiety in society make for the best art, generally, and that in times like these, the darkness of people's souls is reflected on screen. Even if the films being created have no bearing, overtly, on reality or politics, they're still reflective of people's anxieties and moods. Remember the Clinton years? How fucking happy and prosperous and hopeful everyone was?

And remember how fucking boring all the movies were? Especially the horror genre. It became self-reflexive, jokey, funny, meaningless. And most decidedly not scary. Who knew that when Scream debuted in 1996, that it would effectively kill an entire genre of film for almost a decade? It's not Scream's fault. The original is actually a pretty great film; I've seen it numerous times. And you can't tell me that the first 10 minutes didn't totally scare the shit out of you. Drew Barrymore, alone in a house at night, being tormented by a psycho in a silly mask: dude, that shit was fucking scary. And then she ate it. The biggest star in the film got eviscerated and (literally) hung out to dry in the first 10 minutes. You knew Craven wasn't pulling any punches with this one.



But while watching The Strangers today, I thought less of Them, which everyone claims it to be a total rip-off of, and a lot more of that first scene in Scream. Which, it seems to me, it shares a lot more in common with.

I enjoyed the hell out of The Strangers, but it's by no means a perfect film. It's predictable, it lost me in a couple of places, due to its slightly meandering nature and the complete implausibility of the protagonists' behavior (I mean, seriously, why didn't they get in the car and leave immediately when it was clear someone was in the house....?), and the abruptness of its ending. It felt less like the killers got bored than the director got bored. The whole "inspired by true events" coupled with FBI statistics at the beginning is just fucking stupid, and the director, in the couple of interviews I've read, seems like kind of a douche. It's bleak. Even too bleak for me, possibly. The best horror films, in my opinion, at least offer a sliver of catharsis, in one way or another. But nope, not The Strangers.

All of which isn't to say that it's not a fucking terrifying film, because it is. Director Bertino has a gift for sound and timing, and hopefully he's not a one-trick pony. But contrary to what some people believe, I think this is a golden age of horror and thrillers. Just in the last couple of years alone, I think some of the best horror films in decades have come out: Hostel (both 1 and 2), The Descent, Cloverfield, 28 Weeks Later. And I'm sure I probably forgot one or two.

War, terrorism, a completely bloodthirsty, bat-shit crazy president, religious fundamentalism trying to run our lives, economic depression, environmental catastrophe. As much as I hate to say it, these are the makings of great horror. I don't know why I love horror films so much. Perhaps The Strangers is brilliant. Perhaps, like Funny Games, except without the sneering condescension, it's telling us that we can't have it both ways: we can't delight in the suffering and terror of our protagonists and get to have some catharsis at the end, too. That's just not fair, and in some ways, it's not moral. We made our decision to pay 8 bucks to watch these poor bastards die, and die is what they will do. It was our choice. We made it happen, now we must live with the weight of our decisions.

But why do we enjoy the process so much, then get so bummed when it ends the only way it could, and how we knew all along it would? And then leave the theater depressed? But...sort of...invigorated....

Maybe it makes us feel alive. Maybe it makes us appreciate that our mountain of school loan debt that keeps us awake at night is nothing compared to having our house invaded by masked psychos that make us watch while our lovers are slowly killed.

Who knows? But if Obama actually manages to make good on any of his promises, I'm going to miss these heady days of horror.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Singing Hallelujah With the Fear in Your Heart

After a couple of weeks of indecision (and me waiting with baited breath), it's official: another one of my Top 5 Favorite People in the World, Collier, is also moving to Portland in August.

She's going up there in 2 weeks to find us a house to live in. We developed a list of ideal criteria on the phone today.

And also on the Collier news front: She's getting a book published! She sealed the deal with a publisher in New York last week. It's not coming out until 2011, but it's coming out.

So she's going to spend the next year writing said book, in our house, in Portland. While also tending to our garden.

Congratulations Collier!!

Lists into the soul

Do you think the food you buy says a lot about you? It seems to me that what you eat, and what your politics are probably both say a lot about you, though I'm not sure what it says, exactly. It's weird, though, how many people seem to think their grocery lists reveal too much.

Recently at work, at the end of the night, one of my managers was buying a handfull of stuff. I was off running some in-store errand, and he saw me walking back and said he was going to follow me back to my register, and have me check him out. His reasoning was that he didn't like people asking him questions about what he was buying, and he trusted me not to ask questions.

Huh?

Well, I disappointed him, because he was buying a very unique and odd plant and I made the mistake of asking him about it. Turns out he was buying it as an office-warming gift for his boyfriend's new office, but he jokingly expressed his disapproval at my asking.

Also, in the CD club that I'm in, someone mailed out their monthly CD to everyone with everyone's track listing written on his old grocery lists. Whether it was to save paper or just be unique, I don't know, but on the shared blog we have, someone pointed it out and said something along the lines of, "I feel like I know you so much better now, after reading your delightful shopping list." My first instinctive reaction was that I would never do that, because I don't want everyone to know what I buy at the grocery store, either.

But why not? Is it that personal? Customers often ask me if I judge people by what they buy. I'd never really thought about it, but I guess, yeah, occasionally, but not very often. Only if it's extreme. Like, the people who are always in gym clothes and buy nothing but boxes and boxes and boxes of frozen meals and 400 protein bars and 80 cases of Vitamin Water, and you know that's all they eat. I guess I sort of judge those people. Or just feel empathy for their future doctor bills.

Or the women who attend the Weight Watchers meetings on Tuesday mornings, then go shopping and spend $8 on a box of Weight Watchers brand protein bars, but then also buy 4 boxes of cookies and a bag of bagels. Or 3 pints of ice cream.

But I actually judge people far more harshly by how neurotic they are about how their groceries are bagged, or how many extraneous and totally unnecessary bags they use.

I mean, I'm really neurotic about how my groceries are bagged too, so I always bag them myself. Problem solved.

Does anyone else think their grocery lists are really personal? Do you ever feel embarrassed at the grocery store when you buy certain things? Cuz I do. I'm always embarrassed when I buy soda or potato chips. Or sliced lunch meat. I have no idea why, but for some reason I find buying sliced lunch meat kind of depressing.

I know, I'm a weirdo.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Jinx

I'm so hesitant to say anything because I'm sure something horrifically unspeakable is just around the corner, but I am so happy right now. For one of the first times in my life, everything is going my way. I actually got something I worked really hard for, and deeply wanted. I feel successful, like I really earned something I care deeply about, and like I'm on a train going in just the perfect direction. I'm so excited to start school and to start training and studying and doing something so meaningful to me that I can barely stand it. The excitement and drama and discovery of a new city awaits me.

Through an unexpected turn of events, it also looks like my dream of living in a tiny house with big windows and a garden in the back, with nearly everything I might need only mere blocks away might come to fruition.

Aside from being a therapist and a teacher, I want to be a prolific gardener so bad I can't stand it. I have this ideal in my head of this person I want to become without being self-righteous and indignant and angry about it. I want to just be it, and be content and loving about it.

Tonight at work I was so bored I made an arbitrary list of what being a good steward and sustainable citizen of the world would look like. For me. I'll never attain it, and probably won't even try that hard with a lot of it, but nevertheless, the list exists and it's something nice to strive towards. If you make your goals so easy to reach that you actually can, what fun is that?

1. Red meat - only twice a month.

2. Farmer's Markets - at least twice a month. No more shopping at profit-driven, lifestyle-selling, elitist supermarkets like Central Market and Whole Foods (this, especially, will never come to pass....).

3. STOP DRIVING!!

4. Stop buying anything new - only second-hand stuff.

5. Stop buying stuff.

6. Get a water filter and never again let a plastic water bottle touch your lips.

7. Flourescent bulbs (so easy, and yet I still haven't done it...).

8. Eat seasonally. As a religion.

9. Grow a goddamn garden already.

10. Learn to cook more stuff, and a wider variety. The freezer should be empty. Except for frozen fruit for smoothies, because that's okay.


I don't know that I've ever felt this at peace with myself, or where my life is at, before. Obviously I still have my doubts, my fears, things I get angry about, my regrets, the past I can't let go of. But that's okay. We all have those to some degree, but I've learned to forgive myself, to stop beating myself up so much, and to accept life as it happens.

This is all very new and strange and weird to me.