Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Things I do and do not believe in

First, let's start with the positive:

I DO believe in Paula Abdul. I know it sounds strange, but I currently adore her. A couple months ago I quit the workout facility that will not be named because it was charging me more than $50 a month to feel guilty about not going. So I started running. When it became clear that my squatty body was made for something else, I turned to Paula. She always is so encouraging, telling me I did a great job. You know, even if it's on a DVD and I hear the same thing day after day, it's nice to have that in my life. I look forward to it. She's a good dancer with a huge amount of kinetic intelligence. Plus she seems very, very nice. I've never seen her on that singing show but I did just buy another one of her dance workout DVDs. I haven't done it all the way through yet, but I did hear her say, "OK, we're going to learn the hoedown." I mean, really.

OK. Enough of that. But realize I REALLY REALLY believe in Paula Abdul. That Emilio's an idiot.

I DO NOT believe in the thermo-protective powers of fleece. I just don't. It may be cozy and soft, but I believe it does not have the warming powers of a natural fiber. I have never had on a piece of fleece outerwear and thought, man, I am WARM. It's more like, man, what the hell use is this thin piece of nothing I'm wearing? I think the popularity of fleece is a conspiracy, and that everyone who raves about it is getting a cut. Now, that said, it is very cold in my apartment, and I don't have a leather sweater for just lazing about in, so I am *considering* buying a fleece pull-over. So, um, any suggestions?

And here's a new one to add to my list: I DO NOT believe in dry cleaning. I asked my hotel in Florida, in order to make up for the maybe-maybe-not bed bugs in my room, to launder my clothes. I had read on the internets (man, I never get tired of saying that) that bed bugs die in the dryer. Well, instead, my clothes came back dry-cleaned. It was pretty funny to see my ratty t-shirts and pajama bottoms on hangers and hermetically sealed in the hotel lobby. Now, without getting into too many details, I can tell you that I don't think they're clean. I mean, they're pressed nicely. But how can they be clean without getting wet? It's unnatural. I believe in the cleaning powers of wet.

OK, that's all for now.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Opinions expressed in this blog reflect only those of the blogger

*Spoiler alert level: This blog entry contains some details of "The Last King of Scotland" that might either be heard from an inconsiderate speaker at a party or read in a somewhat detailed review of the movie. Be warned.

Jeffrey and I saw "The Last King of Scotland" yesterday. I think Forest Whitaker was very good and scary as Idi Amin and the movie was definitely compelling, but a couple things are not sitting quite right with me about the movie. It's seen through the eyes of a young Scottish doctor who, through happenstance and personality, becomes Amin's personal doctor and then closest personal adviser. The doctor, Nicholas Garrigan, also is oversexed and has the habit of going after married women.

Well, this guy never existed. Why is it that when the story of a brutal dictator who killed and tortured at least 300,000 people in his country (some accounts list 500,000) is told, it has to be through the eyes of a fictional character? It's like the drama of this person who is the embodiment of homicidal madness is not enough. They have to sex it up with a white guy. I don't know if that's a commentary on the filmmakers or who they think their audience is or their actual audience.

Also, there's not a preponderance of violence in the film, which is fine. What is there is pretty intense, cheaply amplified with loud, percussive music. (Of course, during these scenes I was burrowed in Jeffrey's shoulder, yelling, "Protect me!") But the stomach-churning scene of torture (that seems to last forever) is on ... a fictional white guy. Again, hundreds of thousands of actual Ugandans die during the time frame of the movie, but the most you see of them is black and white pictures. And yes, they're horrible photos, but they flash on the screen so fast you can barely make them out. I just wonder whether the violence/race/reality disparities reflect some hidden and not-yet-discerned biases.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

On a scale of one to very very wrong

How wrong is it to bring a sensible snack (a baggie of Baked! Cheetos and Teddy Grahams chocolatey chip) in to "The Last King of Scotland"?

Just. Um. Curious?

Relaxation, reflection

I had a lovely relaxing day to recover from Poynter. I played the piano for an hour in the afternoon, and then Jeffrey and I went to our favorite sushi place, Daruma, which I'm sad to see appears to be falling on hard times. Then I spent the rest of the night chatting with Julie and watching Demetri Martin clips on Comedy Central. Now we're watching 49 Up! It's the last one in the series for now.

I've been thinking a lot about relationships and friendships. I met so many people this week who I really came to respect. At first I was tired from my long week and not sure of how well I would get on with everyone. But, as always, my first impressions were off. For instance, I've never known anyone who worked in television news; I don't even watch it. So I met all these TV people and I didn't think I'd like them very much, necessarily. But I found that we all had so much in common. Now I'd love to go see a TV station.

There was one woman there in particular who really rubbed me the wrong way at first. But I finally realized that it was because she was just like me. I can tell that she puts people off and is critical of herself and others. So I sat down with her on the last day (jeez, was that yesterday?) and we had a great talk. I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned this week was that I need to be more open, and to let go of judgment. This isn't new to me, but it's always good to be reminded.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

525,600 minutes

I'm back in my own bed after a very reflective day. We gave presentations today about how we would develop ourselves as leaders. Mine included a dramatic interpretation. One guy did speed haiku to demonstrate time management. One woman passed out tequila shots -- before noon. It was a fun day.

When I was working on my presentation, I got really emotional. My sister called and I just started crying. It would be the first of two times I'd disintegrate into a mess in as many days. I was feeling really judged by the woman who was there to help me with my personal development plan. I felt like she was attacking me personally. First I got defensive, and then I got angry, and then I just cried and cried. Lan was great, and I finally figured out that it was because I missed my mom and the unconditional love that she gave me always. I mean, I feel loved now, but it's not the same.

The second time I lost it was on the plane home. One of the instructors had used "Seasons of love" in his presentation on Tuesday. I sang along with it in my head all week. So on the plane I listened to RENT. Then I just started crying and crying.

So here's the conclusion that I reached: I don't think I'm better. I really want to be, but I don't think I am. I don't know if I dealt with the illness, or how it made me feel about my mom, or my dad's illness. I mean, I'm walking around without falling and reading without flipping out. I'm just not all better.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dude, where's the car?

Today we talked about "multi-platform journalism." Online, primarily. They kept talking and talking about the business model and "keeping people from the off button" (that's the tv guys). Henry Ford said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." And here's what I think: we in the organized news media are giving people faster horses. And really, they're not much faster. They're only a little faster. And somewhere out there is the car. I think about it all the time, actively. Where is the car? What is the car? It's out there. We just have to find it. What scares me is that no one seems to be looking for it. But I really want to find the car.

It reminds me of what I have taped to my monitor at work. It's based on a Schopenhauer quote, which I read as "Talent hits the marks no one can hit. Genius hits the marks no one can see." I want so badly to hit the marks no one can see.

Also it's possible that there are bedbugs here. I had a couple bites on me this morning. And when I called the front desk just now, the guy said, "I can't tell you for sure if there has been a recent problem. I'll have to talk to my manager." That immediately made everything itch.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Poynter, Day 2

So there's a tv journalism workshop going on this week, too. Whenever our groups pass each other in the hall, there's a slightly awkward beautiful people v. lovable homelies vibe. It's almost as though a musical could break out.

Today we learned about leadership style and got back the results of our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I am, they tell me, an ENTP. Apparently I am quick, ingenious and good at many things. Also I'm stimulating company, alert and outspoken. Well, thank you very much, Ms. Myers and Ms. Briggs. Of course I can become brash, rude and abrasive, too. AND I become rebellious and combative. Well, tell me something I don't know. Seriously, though, it gives me some insight into things I can try to, well, combat.

F Yes

Winger is back. And the good news is, if she was only seventeen in 1988, that means she's in her mid- to late thirties now, and you no longer have to feel dirty when you listen to the song.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Post-Poynter, Pre-BSG

A full day. I flew here to St. Pete this morning, and got about 30 minutes to rest before my first session of "Leadership for New Managers." I've met a couple interesting people, including a teacher from South Africa, at their equivalent of the Poynter Institute. He goes to countries where there has either been very recent conflict or is about to be conflict to talk to journalists about how to be responsible in their roles. What an amazing job. He said he'd been to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Rwanda. I asked him about how places like that move on from genocide. He said sometimes they can't, but they really, really want to. I'll be interested in hearing more from him in the coming week.

I'm really excited for this week. To get the most out of the week, I need to stop myself from judging harshly. I'm really going to work on that. Because already, in the "Getting to know you, getting to know more about you, getting to like you, getting to hope you like me" session I have pinpointed a couple people who really like to talk a LOT. And I know that bothers me because I like to talk, too. But mostly I'm here to hear the instructors talk. Whew, that was a tough sentence to spell.

OK, well, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the other thing I've been looking forward to for a month, which is the return of Battlestar Galactica. It's on in 26 minutes. I think there's going to be some drama between Lee and Kara, which I love. I really hope the show doesn't get canceled. It's the first show I've really gotten into in a dramatic way since "Felicity." There really are a lot of commonalities.

OK, this one is for you, Lauren:

Saturday, January 20, 2007

New rule

OK so my new rule is: Wine with every meal.

It makes me very happy. I like to think that I'm a cute drunk, as opposed to a mean drunk. I just laugh and laugh and laugh. And then I start to tell a story, and then I just laugh again. And this is after half a glass of chenin blanc, which I think is pretty much the cherry kool-aid of wines.


A bit better

I'm doing a little better, I think. Yesterday was very, very emotional. Today, the active crying has been usurped by unpredictable fits brought on by stress. Like herpes breakout crying.

I'm mega-excited to be going to Poynter tomorrow. I really need to be rejuvenated, and the timing couldn't be better. I need to remember why I took this job, and why I still say "I love my job" when people ask me. And why I still think I mean it.

Tonight we're going to Virginia Beach Restaurant Week. We're beefing it up. Ex-vegetarianism is rough on the animals.

Friday, January 19, 2007

That time of year again

Every year, around this time, I start to get very emotional. It happens in different ways -- maybe I'll lose my shit at work, or get in a very odd fight with a friend or I'll just find myself staring at a wall. It'll happen a couple times before I realize what's going on. And today I remembered: I lost my mom 8 years ago, January 24.

The rest of the year, I seem to be able to manage it. And I don't think about it all the time, and when I do think about it, I don't cry as much as I used to. Hardly ever, really. But my emotions have a way of knowing this anniversary is coming up before I do.

This never goes away, I think. I think when you have such a big loss, every event in your life suddenly falls into two camps: When you still had this person in your life, and since she's been gone. Today I saw on Grey's Anatomy a character talking about losing his dad. He said, "I don't know how to exist in a world where my dad doesn't." And another character said, "Yeah, that pretty much doesn't change." And it's true. It doesn't change. There's a profound feeling of loneliness that I've never been able to shake since she died. I mean, I forget it sometimes, but then I look down and there it is, gripping me.

I think my mom would really be proud of me right now, and happy for me. And I know a lot of people would tell me that she is. And you know, I believe in that in theory, but I just can't feel it. Jeffrey and I are talking about getting married, but I decided a long time ago that I don't want a big wedding because she's not going to be there.

I have to try to stop crying.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

A rough night at work

So I'm lazing about with my current favorite late-night snack, baked Cheetos and low-fat ice cream. Jeffrey's at the remote, alternating between two favorites, "Munich" and "Caddyshack." Both socially relevant, he says.

My big news right now is that Jeffrey and I are going to France in October! I'm in manic research mode right now. I think we're going to try to stay in 7, so we can walk to most things. Plus it's prestigious, and you know how much I like that. Paul gave me some learn to parlez francais mp3s. Plus I took a BeLingual course when I was 9. So by the time we go, we'll be ready!

Next week I'm going to Poynter to learn some management skills. I'm really hopeful. It'll be a nice break, at any rate.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I interrupt this blog

to tell you that Demetri Martin is of the level of hilarity that makes me cry and pee. He's on Comedy Central right now talking about pillow fights (pillows fighting each other). They're made for relaxation. When he sees two geese fighting, it's a pillow fight in advance. Hot potato becomes a very different game when it's played by starving people. It becomes "my potato." I'm buying his CD right now.

OK then.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The mostest and the bestest

Friday night we stayed up on the porch with a friend, sipping wine and speaking in big terms. So today I'm thinking a lot about superlatives. A colleague once described his ex-girlfriend as "the nicest person he'd ever met." And because I'm a competitive megalomaniac, it made me wonder if anyone could ever describe me using a superlative. I put it to Jeffrey during dinner, and he came up with "smallest hands of anyone I've ever met." Also, "most Asian person I've ever dated." For him, "goofiest."

But the truth is that we're not looking for superlatives in our lives, I think. We're like exclusive colleges; we look for a good mix in a person. Plus, I have to think really hard to know the nicest person I've ever met, or even the nicest person I currently actively know. It seems like those superlatives melt away the more you get to know a person. Descriptions become more complicated, necessarily, I think.

In completely unintellectual news, Luis told me Friday that Coke makes your face look bad. Bloated or something. Well, that morning I had gotten into an argument and gone Betty Rubble on a smoked turkey leg and a couple liters of Coke. And Saturday morning I looked in the mirror and you know, he was right! I am a reformed Coke fiend with periodic lapses. But I have to say that I am just vain enough (in face only, apparently; I mean, look at me) to stop drinking Coke for that reason. I know it's bad for me, and I stopped drinking it with any regularity in college because I need neither the sugar nor the caffeine. Plus I saw that episode of Diff'rent Strokes in which everyone quits junk food (except for Arnold!) and they compare it to toilet bowl cleaner. And now it punches you in the face, too? Damn.

OK I gotta go. Forrest Gump is on again!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Happy to be unhappy

I talked to a good friend today who is going through a lot of crises right now; not the quotidian crises like having a fight with a friend or having a lead fall through or something. Like big deal, address-changing stuff. And he was telling me these things sort of matter-of-factly. And I said, "I'm sorry things are hard for you right now. It sounds very sad." And he said, "I'm not any more sad than I ever have been in my life."

It just made me consider the roles of sadness and contentedness in the human condition. I think sometimes it's just easier to stay unhappy than to consider what life might be like if you made some changes. This took me a long time to figure out, but I think it's not the happiness that scares people. I think it's just the change -- any change. I mean, Luis says that you have to suffer, it's just a part of life. I understand that. But I also saw on "Six Feet Under" the dad character saying, "There's no more inherent value to your suffering." And you know, that makes sense to me too.

I guess I suffer at work to help make the paper better in my eyes. And I'm willing to do that. I'm willing to battle for what I think is right, and that certainly takes a toll on me. But I can't see a reason to suffer in my personal life if it's something that I can change. Maybe I'm lucky, or naive, or forgetting something. Probably. But that's what it looks like right this minute.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Who were you at seven?

Jeffrey and I have been slowly consuming the 7 Up! series, which started about 40 years ago. Michael Apted interviewed several British 7-year-olds and then followed up with them every 7 years. We're up to 35 now, and it's been very, very interesting. Michael Apted (who has a film called "Amazing Grace" coming out, the trailer for which made me cry in the theater Saturday), definitely set out to show how children from different neighborhoods and different social classes fare. And truly, the children stay in their social strata pretty rigidly throughout their lives. It's a very compelling series.

One boy's journey is pretty heartbreaking. Neil starts out at seven extremely happy, literally skipping around Liverpool. His eyes are bright, and he talks about how he wants to be an astronaut or a coach driver when he grows up. Something about the black and white footage even makes him appear to glow. But by 14 he's awkward, and by 21 he's squatting in an apartment, having dropped out of university. By 28 he's just floating around, aimlessly and joblessly. He's dark and unhappy. I wonder, what could have happened to you, Neil? What took the light from your eyes? I mean, I know, everyone grows up and there are problems and there is disappointment. And sometimes it seems like growing up is just learning to keep it together. But the drop is really remarkable.

The premise of the series is a Jesuit motto: Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man. And for the most part, it seems true. At seven, I was in the paper because I'd found a couple errors in a book and had written to the publisher. I had written something in my letter to the publisher about not getting mad, and the interviewer asked me about it. I said, "I didn't want him to get mad. Some men do." Jesus. Well, today I'm an editor, and the other thing, well, I don't know. But it still seems about right.

We also saw "Children of Men" this weekend. I'm still thinking about it. It's set in the future, when humanity has suddenly become infertile. There are several long, continuous shots of warfare. There's also, hands down, the most exciting car chase I've ever seen. My stomach is still tense from it. Anyway, I much recommend it.

My Journey

... and by that I don't mean my bull-s meanderings through life. I mean my Steve Perry, my Neil Schon, my Jonathan Cain. My singer in a smoky room. My highway run into the midnight sun. My Journey. Anyway, if you're looking for a surefire pick-me-up, I quite recommend them. There's no way you can *not* smile while they're playing. Just a little tip. I picked up their remastered greatest hits yesterday. Jeffrey likes to turn "Any Way You Want It" into a hamburger ordering song. Fun for the whole family.

But on the subject of my bull-s meanderings through life, today is a big day for me. You may recall that the day that I got sick, I had done the Paula Abdul Cardio Dance Jam in the morning. Well, I never did it again, for obvious reasons. But today, I finally got back up on that horse. As many people know, I have no soul. But no matter. Sometimes (and I can't believe I'm saying this) it's the doing, not the doing well.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Another step backward?

I had to leave work today because I was feeling weak and shaky. I came home and slept for about 5 hours off and on, and awoke to a very weird, intense and short headache just over the right front of my head. The weird thing is that I had the exact same pulsing headache a few days ago, in the same place.

I also had a bad day on Saturday. I woke up and went to the front and my eyes began to flip out again. The TV made me sick again and I slept maybe 16 hours that day. It was as bad as it was maybe 2 weeks ago. I had hoped it was an isolated incident.


One bit of possible hopeful news is that I still need to see my ophthalmologist for a follow-up. I'll set up an appointment tomorrow. Maybe she'll be able to diagnose whatever this is.

A sad day

We found out today that Barbara, a former part-time copy editor at The Pilot, died yesterday. She had been sick for long enough that that was the first thing we called to mind. It's regrettable. The last I knew, she had ALS, but her doctors thought it might actually be Lyme disease, which was more hopeful. That was maybe a year ago. At the end of her time with us, she had so many pills to take, and her illness tried to stop her at every opportunity. She was too weak to open the bottle to drink milk with the pills, and the disease had robbed her of easy swallowing. She soldiered on.

Barbara couldn't help but bake for us. She made the most amazing miniature muffins and brought in loaves of banana nut bread still warm and crusty from the oven. I somehow remember that there was butter, also. Jim said that one Sunday, he ate 13 of these little heart-shaped waffles she'd brought in with fruit topping. Everything she made surprised us and brought us comfort. Once, when I got into stamping for a few weeks (read my previous post re: obsession) and I wanted to start my own f you card company (on the front of the card, DUCK BLUE. on the inside, you guessed it), she brought me in this gigantic box of stamping materials that she and her daughters used to use. There was even a soldering gun. It was an incredibly sweet gesture.

And that's what I'll remember.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Chapter II: It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right. I hope you had the time of your life.

Nostalgia has attacked me full-bore lately. First it was the empty Denny's building under Military Highway that reminds me of the Denny's on First Avenue in Cedar Rapids. And then there was "White Palace," which I unabashedly love and have seen maybe 17 million times. I stayed up until 3 a.m. this morning basking in it on HBO 2. Holy s, Susan Sarandon and James Spader are hot together.

Anyway, I figured all this nostalgia meant one thing: it's time for another installment of Judy and The Pilot.

This will be a sort of short chapter because I don't know how much I can say about being at home to take care of my mom except that it was hard, but somehow to call it hard diminishes it, like the word is not big enough to hold me and comfort me for all I went through and all she suffered. It also doesn't touch what I gained from the experience. But I guess that's for a better writer to negotiate. I can say that I always felt like I was making mistakes, and that I missed her so much, even then, and that I was always afraid to answer the phone. And that I have random medical knowledge that I wear like a badge (saline, antibiotic, saline, heparin flush).

I came home to Cedar Rapids in August of 1998. I lived with my parents so that I could take care of my mom while my dad was still working. I was jobless for a couple months, eventually getting a job at my hometown paper as a news artist. My boss was understanding, letting me cater my schedule to stay at home during the day and take time off to take my mom to the hospital on short notice. I was the only artist in the two-person department because The Elusive Kristin was on maternity leave. A cat lover, I could tell from the pictures around her drawing table. Well-liked at the office. Into indie music. One slow night, snooping through the flat files, I found her old engagement announcement. It's funny. To this day, even though I've only seen it a couple times, I still think it's one of my favorite pictures of Jeffrey.

I mean, I didn't know him at the time. I met him a couple months later when he came in to use the art department's computers to look up music Web sites. He was kind of scary to me, because I'd only ever seen him smoking behind the building in a black knit OJ Simpson hat. But we started talking. I was going through a phase in which I was asking everyone I saw what books I should read before I die. He looked me straight in the eye and said, "Um, the Holy Bible? It's written by Almighty God. You might want to check it out."

Seriously. Perfect, yes?

So the next day he brought in 2 books for me: Airships by Barry Hannah and Civilwarland in Bad Decline (which I hear Ben Stiller wants to make a movie out of, dammit) by George Saunders. Well, I found Airships to be misogynistic and pointless, and George Saunders is still one of my favorite authors. (Please, please read the story on the link. It's only 2 paragraphs, but it's really, really good.) So the next day I brought back the Hannah book and told him that it "gave me pause to think. For instance, I thought, what kind of stupid motherf****r would bring me in this book to read?" He responded, "The kind of stupid motherf****r who thought you might enjoy literature."


So that was the beginning. Work was a distraction, and flirting was fun. And then The Elusive Kristin reappeared, and I found out that she and Jeffrey had been engaged many moons previous. It was weird to me at the time, but at this writing seems much less weird. I plodded along, working and hoping that my mom would get better.

In January of 1999, she went into the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Her protein levels were way down because of ascites. We didn't know it, but she was never going to leave. The hospital staff saw our gigantic family there and moved us to the biggest room on the floor. We all spent a lot of time there, but I was at home asleep when I got the call early on January 24 that she had died. I don't remember much else from that day, and certainly nothing for public consumption, except for the fact that Denis called. He called me on the day my mother died. He didn't know, obviously. A candidate had fallen through or something so he was just calling to get a temperature check from me. When I told him she'd died, he asked when I might be ready to talk. I was ready to talk right then. I started five weeks later.

In the years that followed, I wondered if that call was somehow my mom watching out for me, sending me some shelter after she passed. And sometimes, when I'm not looking, that feeling comes over me again.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Chuc Mung Nam Moi (or, you say you want a revolution)

Jeffrey and I are ringing in the new year with a quiet night in with the Seven Up! series documentaries. It's a British series that follows a group of children around from the time they're 7, every seven years. It's amazing how much insight the kids have at 7, and how much they've learned by the time they're 14. Much better than those annoying little jerks in War of the Worlds, which was also on today.

I've been thinking a lot today about 2K6: The Year in Which Everyone Flipped Their S. I did a lot of new things last year, which is weird for me, because I hate to try anything that I'm not good at. I'm thankful for the opportunities I've had -- even ones that didn't seem like opportunities at the time. I guess I'm not one for New Year's resolutions, in part because I'm a HUGE one for resolutions just about every day of the year. In school, every new workbook meant a chance for me to try to write with better handwriting. If you have ever seen my handwriting, you know how that exercise ended up.

But anyway, here's to chances.