Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm here!

Is there anything about an airport that doesn't make you feel schlubbenly? The day inevitably starts with hasty bathing and then the lines make you feel bovine. I miss the romance of air travel when I was a kid.

2:19, the night before a trip

Should be: Packed; asleep so as to avoid morning groggi-/grouchiness
Instead am: *very close* to achieving the former; avoiding the latter by lurking on adult beginners piano forum, which essentially amounts to piano porn.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Leavin'! On a jet plane! Don't know when I'll be back again.

I mean, really, I'll *most likely* be back on Monday. But one never knows, now does one, now does one.*

I'm going back to the homeland this weekend for a short visit. I'm so excited. Yesterday at work started crazy and stayed crazy, with a major spike in craziness around 11:15. That's 4:15 to you 9-to-5ers. That happens sometimes -- I honestly think there's something in the air on those nights because I can tell early on that everything is going to be weird. But I'm not exhausted today, which is good. I also think we did the right thing, which is the most important.

OK I gotta go do laundry and figure out what I want my sister to make for me while I'm home. That's one of the comforts of home (along with cottony soft Cottonelle, right?) -- family members who stock the fridge and make your favorite meals when you come home. This time she's stymied because I'm a pescatarian again (that's right! I haven't written about it, but it's true!). So I think I'm going to make a tofu lasagna while I'm there. I'm just so excited to be in the heartland again!

* With apologies to David Foster Wallace.

========

Update: I went onto iTunes to look up that jet plane song, which I am learning was written by John Denver and not the cast of "Armageddon," and I found 2 (!) versions with explicit lyrics! Of a John Denver song!!! My gods, what would the Muppets think?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

How being an editor has damaged my brain, Example oh, let's say 267

I'm learning how to play accompaniments to songs just using the basic chords in their respective keys. My assignment for this week (after my teacher went through several folk songs that I never learned as a kid) (she didn't list any Vietnamese ones!) is "My Country 'Tis of Thee." So I'm going through the song today: My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

And the first thought that pops into my head: Well, that's just redundant. Why the second personal pronoun?

Seriously. I don't think I'm ever going to be a musician.

"American Beauty" is on TNT again tonight. I caught part of it the other night, too. It's funny, when I first saw it in 1999, I thought it was going to be this major movie that could maybe make a big impact -- as big of an impact as a movie can make, I guess. But then it sort of disappeared and I just forgot about it. And now it's on again and I'm watching it, and it's entertaining, but there's not that much enduring profoundness for me. I guess the closer I get to quiet suburban desperation (and by closer I mean knowing people who I can believe might possibly be living it) the less interested I am in seeing it on television. I mean, I think it's well-done and the acting is really good. But I wonder if the time for torpor has passed.

You know, maybe it's the commercials, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Remember how I said Cillian Murphy is probably mean?

Well, here's another crazy thing I believe. And I don't even believe this to annoy Jeffrey, either. Here it is: I actually think this guy William Fichtner, who played a blind guy in "Contact," actually is blind. The thing is, I don't even believe it actively or anything. If you asked me, I'd say, of course he has sight. He was just acting. But whenever I see him and he's sighted, I'm hit with a predictable moment of surprise. I'm sort of like HM, that guy every cognitive science student studies in college. I have anterograde amnesia about this one thing.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Maddy and me

We're on our own this week, so you know what that means: She's been making a mess of the place. Pots are everywhere, not to mention shoes and clothes. Also, when she goes to the store, all she gets is feel-good junk food in the form of 100-empty-calorie packs of garbage. I tell you what.

I spent most of yesterday on the couch, feeling debilitated because I had tried out a new exercise DVD. Of course, as I write this, Heather Mills is dancing THE MAMBO with a friggin' back walkover on the television. She is really surprising! I have to admit that I watched in total fear that she would fall on the stage. Not only did she not fall, but I can totally not tell which leg is prosthetic. She was really good. I have to admit that I feel a little inspired by her. To do what, I have no idea.

The exciting news on the piano front is that I'm now officially playing Bach's Minuet in G, which I had been practicing in secret. It's the one that goes Doo doodoodoodoodoo doo doo. Doo! doodoodoodoodoo! doo doo. You know that song? The first part of the song is fairly pedestrian, but the second part is one of the prettiest passages that I've ever heard. It's amazingly hopeful and perfect for the spring.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Secret abilities I wish I had and could just bust out

And these are in no particular order:

1. Do a standing back flip.
2. Pick a lock.
3. Dance really hot hip-hop.
4. Drive stick-shift, particularly of the level that would allow me to elude chase.
5. Shoot flawless pool.

And of course, you know, telekinesis and generating fire with my hands and eyes.

Friday, March 23, 2007

...

I sometimes think that the good thing about losing my mom when I was 24 was that I'd never have to lose her again. That's fucked up, isn't it? It's also wrong, because I seem to be losing her all the time. Sometimes every day. I lose her when something happens in my life, or when I'm proud of myself, or when I'm sitting here, watching the hands on the clock go around and I can't get up from my chair, even to get a Kleenex, because I'm crying and coughing and curled up in a ball.

People who die on TV (read: Grey's Anatomy) are bullshit, because they're always brave. Well, she was scared, and we were scared to talk about it. And we still don't. What the fuck are we waiting for?

Sometimes it seems like there's not a thing I did when I was taking care of her that I'm not sorry for. I should have done it better. I'm not sure how far back it extends, but for sure that period. Maybe my whole life.

My delicious new toy

Because I can't do anything easily or simply, I ordered one of these last week for roasting garlic in the oven. It came a couple days ago and I set about roasting right away. I am ridiculously excited. I just finished snacking on roasted garlic spread on warmed Asiago ciabatta bread. Every bite was like heaven, a fancy-breaded heaven we won't be able to afford once we buy a house. After I got finished eating the roasted garlic, I actually sucked on the garlic skins. Gross, true and delicious.

Weird fact I just discovered: If you click on any story on the New York Times Web site, and then double-click on any word, a little window will pop up defining the word. Every word, like statistic or John Edwards. Isn't that the coolest? Try it!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

... can't trust that day

Yesterday was very busy for us. First, I had my piano lesson, in which I crumbled predictably. One of my books has my teacher playing a complicated accompaniment beneath my very simple melodies, which I had been playing, at best, shakily at home. It's like, hey, you're feeling OK about this piece. Let me try and f you up. It works every time. Now she has me doing this thing where I can skip notes but I have to stay in rhythm and time if I make a mistake. And that only goes against EVERYTHING I KNOW. The first time she had me try that, I fell apart so badly that I just waited until the time ran out on the song and said, "There, now I'm done!" We have a good time, though.

Then Jeffrey and I found enlightenment at the mortgage office. See, we had been looking at houses roughly based on the quickie calculation instrument on the side of the Web page that says "In order to afford this house, you have to make this much." And I'm like, hey, we make that much! Well, then we talked to the mortgage guy, who told us that would come out to, oh, $2,600 a month. I was like, um, we can't afford that. Not even close. So we're going to have to save some more money while simultaneously adjusting our expectations lower. Best to know this now, I suppose.

Last night we pitted the two Truman Capote movies against each other: "Capote" and "Infamous." I'd never even heard of "Infamous," but it had a metric ton of stars -- Gwyneth Paltrow (in a most inexplicable singing-then-immediately-disappearing role), Sigourney Weaver, Daniel Craig, Jeff Daniels, Sandra Bullock, Hope Davis, Isabella Rossellini and Peter Bogdanovich. It was also much more of a comedy than one might expect for a quasi-factual movie in which 6 people die in particularly gruesome fashions: 2 people by hanging, 3 by shooting and one with a slit throat. I mean really. Of course, I read that "Capote" was a little darker than any movie about Truman Capote should be. I can't tell how factual either one is; Sadly, both Truman Capote and George Plimpton are dead so I can't ask them about their books. In Capote, he's fairly despicable, using the killers to propel his book project. In Infamous, he falls in love with one of the killers. That's not to say that you can't use someone you love or vice versa, I guess. Anyway, both are pretty thought-provoking about the death penalty and whether people are all good or all evil or if they necessarily are somewhere in between. But I will suggest that you not watch them right before bed. I had very, very scary dreams last night!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Lazy Sunday

Finally, the weekend. For me, that means house-stalking (we're not ready for the kill yet, just looking) with Jeffrey and hours of cramming for my piano lesson tomorrow. We saw a couple of very nice houses today. I generally like to see a house when it's empty, because I feel a little uncomfortably voyeuristic if all their stuff is there. On the other hand, having stuff there helps me imagine how our life might be. As we were walking around our favorite house today, Jeffrey said, "If they have the same books and movies as us, we'll know they're like us." And sure enough, they did. We saw a lot of David Foster Wallace, one of my favorite writers, including "Infinite Jest" with a bookmark really far in! Also, two copies of Gravity's Rainbow, which Jeffrey has. I really, really liked that house, but it's expensive. We're going to meet with our mortgage person tomorrow to see what kinds of houses we should even be looking at. Probably we've been looking way past our limit. But we'll find out more tomorrow.

The piano is going OK. I'm learning the key of D major right now, which hasn't stuck to my brain yet. And I'm not even close to halfway through the scales yet. Last night I sneaked ahead in my piano book and found a really beautiful arrangement of "Amazing Grace." It was so moving that I felt like I didn't even have the right to be playing it. It gave me a great appreciation for the writers of those piano books, who are very good at pacing and giving you pretty pieces that you can play. It's weird, though. I really want to be able to go back and play those pieces that used to be so hard for me, just to see how far I've come. But when I went back and played "Jingle Bells" last night, it wasn't that easy. Damn it.

Oh, and PS. Dear HBO. I'm really, really tired of Rome. Thank you.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sunshine

Today is objectively, inarguably, gorgeous. Sunny, breezy, perfect. I spent an hour on our balcony reading and then napping. For some reason, everything reminds me of Iowa today. Out in the sun, I felt like I was smelling Cedar Rapids. When I went to the store, I thought of when the big Hy-Vee store opened up on Mount Vernon Road (the first of the modern Hy-Vee stores in CR) and how my friends and I used to hang out there. It was the first serious magazine rack in Cedar Rapids, way before Barnes and Noble came to town. It was cool, man. I really miss Iowa today. I even thought, maybe we could move back there. I said to Jeffrey, "Everything reminds me of Iowa today." He said, "You know what would really remind you of Iowa? Living there." He's not so eager, I guess.

I think part of the nostalgia blast is that we're looking at houses and everything is so expensive here. My sister got a really beautiful house for $100K. Also we're thinking of children, and of course, education. I had a great experience in Iowa public schools. They're some of the best in the nation. I went to a post-hippie elementary school that didn't have walls; all our classrooms were separated by big chalkboards. The school also had "Family School," which let the children choose a lot of their own curriculum. I was not invited into that program, but I heard good things about it.

Sigh. I'm sure it'll pass.

Yesterday afternoon I ate something that made me feel sick to my stomach so I stayed home. I spent most of the day in bed, and then peeked my head out sometime after 6. I caught "Super Size Me" on MSNBC, which was a weird place for it. Once again, like when we saw it in the theater, it made me really hungry for McDonald's, which I very rarely eat. I eat it maybe once a year, and always when I'm on the road. After Jeffrey and I saw it in the theater, we immediately wanted some fries. That's how insidious their good-tasting fries are -- after you see a documentary about their ill effects, you really want some. They really are like a drug. I even found myself lamenting the fact that they got rid of the Super size!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Uh-oh: A thought

Jeffrey and I were walking around today through what Julie calls our fishing village neighborhood. There are a lot of small, independent businesses there, and we make it a point to patronize them -- to a point. There's a small used bookstore that's closing for good downtown, and Jeffrey lamented the fact that we didn't have a good used bookstore anymore. I said, sure we do, the Internet. And he said it's hard for independent businesses to compete with what the Internet can offer.

But then I thought about it: What if the Internet, as an aggregate, is like Wal-Mart for small, independent businesses? I shop online because I can get anything I want for cheap. It's very convenient. And aren't those the reasons people say they shop at Wal-Mart? I make a personal decision to not shop at Wal-Mart, but that seems like it might be a little empty to me now.

The second thought I had when we were out walking was that I wondered if dogs' paws hurt when they walk on the hard concrete. That made me feel bad for them. My feet would hurt if they were on the concrete, and I don't even shuffle along as fast as they do. Maybe that is mitigated by the fact that their weight is dispersed over 4 feet, however. Then again, their feet are really, really small, and they actually only walk on the pads, which are even smaller. At any rate, I wonder if they should wear little pawshoes.

File this under "Things I believe that drive Jeffrey crazy"

"Batman Begins" is about halfway through on HBO right now. Jeffrey has already proclaimed, "Once this is over, I'm going to put the DVD in and start it back up again!" The movie highlights a major difference of opinion between us: I think Cillian Murphy, who plays the bad guy in both "Batman Begins" and "Red Eye," maybe and/or most likely is a mean guy in real life. I mean, he seems really, really bad in those movies. Look at the way he shakes his head when he says "It's the Bat-man!" At the very least, I think, he's maybe not very nice.

Yesterday we had a lovely food day. In the morning, Jeffrey made us garlic/spinach/cheese eggs for breakfast, which was a lovely start. Then we went for a long walk through West Ghent, looking at houses that we can never afford. One did have a charming servants' quarters in which we might be able to squat. Then, after we went crazy at Harris Teeter, we came home and made pita pizzas. I roasted some garlic and spread it on the pita with olive oil, olives, hearts of palm, mushrooms, red pepper and several kinds of cheese of varied levels of stinkiness. It was so good that I'm making it again tonight!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

You really can't go back home

So I downloaded "Third Stage" from iTunes yesterday to which to rock out while I cleaned up for a couple friends coming over after work. Originally, I was going to buy the album used online, but I wanted it right then. Also, I found the old cassette tape I'd given my sister, so I felt that I had the necessary supplementary information that made downloading just the music sufficient. As a side note I must say that iTunes is friggin awesome (I know, no news here). I want. They have. We exchange a tenner, then I have. And I don't have to make any small talk with the dudes at the record store about how sad it is that Brad Delp died. Or even eye contact. And people say we have an increasingly isolated society. Yeah, if "isolated" means happy to not see or speak to anyone to get what we want, sure!

Anywho, I should have known something was wrong right away when, even as the songs were importing, I fast-forwarded past "Amanda." It was the first song on the tape, and the song we heard necessarily more than the others. It's a great song. But I couldn't hear it again. I thought of the song that I really wanted to hear, "Hollyann." I was singing it in my head, "Oh, Hollyann! We made the dark into light! We saw the wrong and the right!" See, even now, I'm thinking that maybe I should go listen to it. But what I learned yesterday was that I had, some time in 1993, worn out my Boston-listening ears. And I didn't even know it. It's like when I'm doing a million other things at work and then I look down and all my cookies are gone. And I'm like, fuck, where did those cookies go? I didn't even savor the last bite!

And so it was with Boston. I didn't even savor the last harmony.

I don't know. That's not the most apt analogy, but it's all I got on this 23-hour day. I'm off to walk in the gorgeous weather. Maybe I'll try again with Boston sometime.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears!


I got a catalog from the Popcorn Factory today with their big Easter spread. Almost all of its thoughtless-gift vibe made me sort of sad, but this item made me laugh. It's a $20 chocolate bunny with extra ears, because that's everyone's favorite, they say. It reminds me of an Emo Philips bit that I heard when I was a kid. He said his school psychologist gave him a chocolate bunny to see how he would eat it. If he ate the ears first, he'd be normal. If he ate the feet first, it meant he had an inferiority complex. If he'd have eaten the tail first, he'd have homosexual tendencies, and if he'd have eaten the breasts first, he'd have an Oedipal complex. And he asks, what does it mean when you eat the eyes first and scream, "STOP LOOKING AT ME!"?

Ah, old-school weirdo comedy. You disappeared, like the time when chocolate bunny ears had value because there were only 2 of them per bunny torso.

20 bucks!

More than a feeling

The Associated Press reports that Brad Delp, the lead singer of Boston was found dead in his home on Friday. When I read about it, it brought back a lot of memories for me. Our house was a den of guitar rock for about all of my childhood. My sister and I sang along to "Third Stage" (in tape form, even!) probably once a day from the moment it was released until we went off to college. We found each possible harmony -- sweet and sour -- that we could throw at the songs. We memorized all of the lyrics, even for the songs that really should have been fast-forward songs. Cool the engines! Slow this rocket down! I mean, come on. I already miss it so much.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Even the losers get lucky sometimes

But it turns out that I did not. I, like thousands of others, got caught up in Mega Millions fever. I don't know, something about the statistical negligibility of it all just drew me in. At work, we created our little pools, made our little agreements (you get $100,000, we split in 3, et cetera), fantasized our little post-work worlds. I know how stupid it is, but you know, I had at least $5 worth of fun tonight.

Monday, March 05, 2007

More on faith (don't say it too quickly)

In Vietnamese culture (as I know it), if you don't like some kind of food, it's said that you don't know how to eat it. The onus is on you, the eater, to try to understand the food and to appreciate it. Well, as my little capital-F Faith experiment draws to a close, I have to say that I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to have Faith.

I think it's really important to examine your beliefs, and so I did mine. I thought, is it me? Am I not open to religion? I really wanted to approach it with humility, because of the large and detrimental role hubris has played in my life. So I really searched my soul, and I just couldn't do it. But maybe the problem is that I only explored one major religion. I guess I was waiting for some kind of epiphany or something. "Oh yes! This makes sense to me!" But nothing did. And the same old reasons I left my family's faith before I was 10 came back into stark relief.

We watched Jesus Camp, the Academy Award-nominated documentary about an evangelical Christian summer camp, this weekend. And even though there are some scary and sad moments in it (I recommend it for everyone), there was a little girl in it who talked about living a life full of love, and not hate. And I thought, well, whether or not the people in the documentary live that ideal, I surely would like to. I simply think I'd be happier because of it. So for now, I guess I'm just back to searching.

I also read this very interesting article in the Times Sunday Magazine about the science behind the apparent inherent human drive for religion. It's pretty beefy, though. Set aside some time for it.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A snippet

Setting: Our dining room. I am practicing the piano. Jeffrey is playing a Star Wars game on a laptop at the dining room table behind me.

Me: 6/8 time is bullshit!
Jeffrey: I am a robot. Correct that: I am a droid.
Me: I wish I were a robot. Then I could get this timing!
Jeffrey: But you wouldn't get joy from it.
Me: I get joy from precision.
Jeffrey: You are very unusual.

A lot of conversations end this way.

Friday, March 02, 2007

And now, "uni-tasking." Or, "tasking."

Today I'm playing "Sonatina in C" from Adult Piano Adventures, which is not nearly as fun and dirty as it sounds. I've discovered that it takes my brain 100 percent of its capacity to play music. I start to play it through pretty well, and the moment my mind strays from the next set of notes, it all falls apart. Here are some examples of what I've been thinking when it crumbles:

I wonder how many more times Jeffrey can hear this friggin song.
I wonder how many more times I can hear this friggin song.
Hey, I'm getting pretty good at this!

And then it all disintegrates, a la "He chose ... poorly" from The Adventures of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

My brain needs to learn some discipline.

Baby dimebag? Why yes, you read my mind.

I had to do some visual research tonight for this story, which EVERY PARENT SHOULD READ. Here's what I found.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Universal sufferage

Luis says that everyone is a treasure, everyone has a treasure inside them. Lauren says that everyone is f*ing crazy. John says that everyone suffers.

Me, I guess I think they're all right.