Saturday, December 30, 2006

Random Observations

  • The lights of LA County really do look like diamonds in the night. My honey and I went for a drive at around 2 am because neither of us could sleep. We ended up in the hills above the city with all of LA opened up before us, sparkling.
  • A few years ago, when Ray Charles and Ronald Reagan died within days of each other, I was annoyed at how Reagan's death and its ubiquitous news coverage eclipsed Ray Charles' death, especially as I have a lot more respect for Ray than I ever did for Ronny. I feel as though, with the deaths of James Brown and Gerald Ford, the universe is righting itself; The Godfather of Soul can out-funeral Mr. Appointed to Office and Pardoned the Crook any day of the week.
  • My nephew just celebrated his 17th birthday, and was annoyed with me that I missed both Christmas with the family (the first Christmas of my life that I haven't been in Minnesota) and his special day. He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I WILL be in town next year, and that we WILL smoke a cigar, go to the casino, and get a tattoo together.
  • Did you hear that George W. Bush was asleep when Saddam Hussein was executed? How is that okay? This was a major world event, one precipitated by our war of choice in Iraq, and arguably the high point of Bush's reign (in that he actually set out to do something - remove Saddam from power - and actually did so), and the man is asleep? And it wasn't even late. I don't even think that the evening news had come on in DC, and W. was tucked away and dreaming? This is not how a world leader should act.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Soy muy inconstante en mis vicios

I quit smoking last month. A whole month early for a New Year's resolution, although I assure you it was quite by accident that I quit at all. Because up until I quit, I really was enjoying the smoking. I had made a deal with myself that I would smoke until I finished the dissertation and then I would quit, which enabled me to very happily engage in this vice, knowing that while it was unhealthy, it was unhealthy with a higher purpose and a limited scope. I wanted to do nothing but sit around, smoke, drink coffee, and work on my dissertation (okay, not really the dissertation part, but it did enable the smoking and the coffee drinking).

Then I got sick with a very nasty allergy thing, which made smoking completely unpleasurable. And if a habit is expensive, bad for you, and unpleasurable, then there is really no point.

The other night my honey and I decided it was high time to do some drinking. And it was. It was a totally necessary boozy night together, where we let loose a bit and talked the kind of big, romantic, sentimental talk that comes out with the hard spirits.

During the course of the night, I smoked a cigarette.

This was a very good move because I had been having dreams in which I am smoking, and I always wake up from these dreams feeling partly like I somehow failed by desiring in my unconscious mind a cigarette and also feeling partly like I would like to go and smoke a cigarette. Which, as I said, I did. And I didn't like it.

And the next day I really didn't like the lingering taste of it in my over-the-hill, dry, hungover mouth, which means that I am, for the next year or so at least, over smoking.

As an aside, I was thinking about getting old, how as I age I have less of a tolerance for drinking, and I realized that I wasn't actually that hungover; what had changed wasn't my body's tolerance for drinking, but rather my tolerance for having a hangover. Because I know that in my younger years, I certainly drank a lot more, winding up in the morning more dehydrated, more headachey, more close to heaving, and still I would get up and do whatever it was that I had to do that day, usually something along the lines of going to work for 12 hours, drinking some more, and maybe studying or writing a paper in there. Whereas Wednesday, I pretty much watched Law & Order and the various other marathons (South Park, MXC) that have hit the cable airwaves.

Which also means that I am back on the healthy. I say this not because these things (not smoking and being healthy) necessarily must go together, but because in my experience of my life, they do go together, seemingly without any prodding on the part of my rational mind. Because I already started doing my yoga DVD again (say what you will, this $10 Target DVD packs a serious workout) and I just got a little part-time gig at a bike store to which I will be riding my Surly Grrl. And, thanks to my honey, we already eat well.

So what am I going to resolve for twenty o seven? The obligatory quit smoking, exercise more, eat better resolution seems to have fallen in place on its own accord, so I can't really take credit for it at all. Of course, I have many other vices, many other ways in which I need improvement. And I have the other obligatory resolutions, too - finish the diss, revise, defend, get a job (no, not a job, a career) - the usual.

Tomorrow I resolve to figure out what to resolve for Y2K+007.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

I have become obsessed.

How Did I Miss This?

In the famous words of El Vez, The Mexican Elvis, I hope that everyone enjoyed a Merry Merry Mex-Mas!

My honey and I unclogged our drain. But more to the season, he also made delicious cookies that we brought to the guys at the corner bodega.

I discovered something about myself: there is a decided gap between the person I am and the person I want to be. I like to think that I am the rational and open-minded person I would like to be even as I act like the more stubborn and somewhat petulant person I am. This is something to work on in twenty o seven.

And I discovered a new holiday.

Friday, December 22, 2006

A Delicate Balance

I am learning, or trying to learn, or knowing and trying to accept and come to terms with the fact that writing a dissertation is a delicate balance of thinking with extreme focus while retaining a view of the big picture.

Here's what I mean:

I have found that I drive myself into a state of neurotic paralysis when I allow myself to think of all that is ahead: hundreds of pages, rounds of revision, a defense, a job search - all of which seems impossible and insurmountable. And so, I instead try to focus on the very small snippet that I am actually writing. Today, my intro chapter. I want to get through contextualizing Sommer and leading into Brubaker and Cooper. Hopefully this will generate two pages of writing. That is it.

The problem with this focus, of course, is that it doesn't seem like progress. Two pages. Of what will be a 300 and something page book. It just seems so miniscule. And then it flips back to the big picture again, that two pages does not get you through a book and revisions and a defense and a job search.

But I got some sage advice today from Bitch Ph.D., who reminded me to keep a little perspective, to realize that the big picture is not so horrible, and to remember to enjoy the sunshine and the good things that exist everyday.
Sidenote: I am feeling so iffy with the writing and major life transitions that I cold emailed Bitch Ph.D., thanking her for her blog and asking her for advice. And the nicest thing happened - she wrote me back a really positive and motivating email that made me realize that everything will be okay and that these crazy feelings, though normal, aren't necessary and shouldn't rule my life. If you doubted that there are good things in this world, put that little bit of human compassion in your pipe and smoke it!

In the interest, then, of recognizing the good in the day, I will close on this: I will finish with Sommer, transition to Brubaker and Cooper, and then have a drink. Later I am will get together with friends and then go to see El Vez, The Mexican Elvis perform. I will spend the Christmas week with my honey, and we will celebrate the fact that we are making a life here, together. I will talk to my friends and family; I've even been promised a Christmas Day Tarot Card reading as a present. There are good things in this world, dammit!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Living with Complexity

If Los Angeles has one lesson to offer the world, it is that things are never as simple as they appear. Yes, yes, this is ultimately a fairly obvious lesson, but one that we need to be reminded of, often.

Example: American Apparel. A very hip clothing boutique that has conquered LA and NYC and probably parts of your town, too. When I bought a Cars-R-Coffins sweatshirt for my honey, it sported an American Apparel label.

So the advertising for American Apparel is atrocious. It's creepy and it looks like porn. Moreover, the founder, Dov Charney, is accused of being quite the misogynist: allegedly hiring women at parties, sleeping with employees, decorating the office with Penthouse spreads, giving vibrators as gifts, and conducting job interviews in his underwear.


And at the same time, Charney produces all of his clothing here, in downtown LA. At double the minimum wage. He provides health care, lunch, and English instruction to his employees. What's next? Stock options for all low-level employees, of course.

I bring this up because it reflects the strange transitional space I have been living in for the past however long, where things are very grey (and not always in the comfortable grey style of Percy Grey Baby), very complex, and often conflicting; a space where it is difficult to find my footing. This dissonance is, indeed, the very stuff of life. As I said above, things are never very simple, and perhaps the key to contentment is giving up the fantasy that they should be simple. If we (and by we I mean me) train ourselves to seek out the anomaly in all situations, maybe we can come to appreciate it and to celebrate the fact that life is often an exercise in managing irony.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Things I Love in my Neighborhood: Part III

Tell me this isn't awesome! Something of an LA landmark, the House of Davids has put on its Christmas finery.

My honey and I walked up the street to snap these photos last night. Just to clarify, the 19 Davids and the ornate fencework are permanent; the fake snow, Santa hats, lights, amplified electronic Christmas Carols (yes I know you can't hear the music, but imagine the lights and sound coordinated in a rich visual and aural concert to delight the senses), the black Santa heads, the new year, and Mr. and Mrs. Claus are all part of the holiday extravaganza.

Proof that too much of a good thing is sometimes just the right amount. While we were snapping our pics, at least 10 other cars stopped to admire the spectacle. Everyone wore the same dopey grin (bumper car smiles), which suggests to me that the people behind this house are, in their bizarre way, really giving a great gift to whoever happens by. Because you can't see this house and not smile, not feel like giggling, not feel somehow lighter for having seen it.

What remains something of a conundrum, however, are the intentions of those real people behind the house. I know, I know, after years of schooling I should recognize the Death of the Author and realize that once a piece of art is put in public, it becomes the property of the public to be interpreted in any number of ways. But still, it's curious, isn't it? Are they just tacky, with the 19 Davids? Or are they astutely commenting on taste, wealth, and other social truths? The black Santas certainly suggest the offering of a gentle racial critique - that we need to broaden our horizons of perception - but the Mr. and Mrs. Claus, I suspect, are a more simple representation of the couple that lives there, bedecked as they are in what I can only guess are their old glasses. And clearly the marking of the New Year is simply that, the celebration of time elapsing that we all more or less engage in at the year's end. Do they love Christmas, or do they love being an obnoxious spectacle? Do they even see this as an obnoxious spectacle?

It's fascinating to mull over, with no ready answers at hand, as any theory can be quickly knocked down by some contradictory element of the whole that is the House of Davids at Christmastime.

Foucault, according to Tom, suggested that life be lived as a piece of art. Whether that art be Precious Moments figurines, a dash of Vegas, or a bit of the old classics recontextualized into a new milieu doesn't really matter.

Friday, December 15, 2006


It's been a strange time.

Maybe it's the writing and the anxieties wrapped up in that, or the move, the day to day stresses that plague us all, or the larger stresses of trying to wrap things up in Minnesota while starting my life here. Whatever the source, I realized this week that I have been a complete nutjob lately.

I've been able to take a step back from myself and think, "Who is this crazy lady? This clingyneedyscaredcrabbyjealousstressy weirdo? How did I turn into this, and how do I turn myself back into what I was? The spunkyfunkyfunnythoughtfulconfidentpositive woman?"

This was a big revelation.

Then followed the other revelations. How my weirdness has affected others (namely my honey). How I need to buck up, get my self-confidence back. How I need to let go of all the irrational fears I've been harboring and the negative attitude that's been hanging over me.

So that's where I'm at.

Revelations lead to resolutions, the ones that follow being of the pre-New Year variety; vague but necessary affirmations about the life I want to live. I'm determined NOT to stay in this weird blue funk any longer. Although I don't exactly know how to get out of it, I'm determined that this weirdness is only a temporary state. I'm determined that I will be happy and confident again. That I will give up the ghosts of the past, the regrets that haunt me. That I will write this dissertation, defend this dissertation, and move on to the next phase of my academic life. That I will be able to see all the awesomeness that is Los Angeles and immerse myself in it. That I will once again be the kind of woman, friend, thinker, lover, and partner that I can and should be.

And that, my friends, is where I plan to be.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Perfect LA Christmas Tree, Or Things I Love In My Neighborhood Part II

Fully acknowledging my Midwestern proclivities, I have to say I'm finding a lot of Christmas decorations to be, well, disorienting.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the snowman and the candy canes stuck in the green grass look odd. And they feel odd. The weather is BEAUTIFUL here right now. Warm but not too warm, sunny but still green - December perfection. So why the snowman?

But this is a work of art. This takes all the fun of a California winter and just makes it more fun!

Love the fairy (as does the bird so contentedly perched on her head)!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Fun Weekend

It started as a very good weekend. Friday night I got together with my friends H & J, who just moved out here from Chicago. We saw the Parks plays, spotted a celebrity (Katherine Helmond, the woman who played Mona the grandmother on "Who's the Boss?") and then went to Cat & Fiddle, a fun little spot on Sunset. Saturday night my sugar and I went to a potluck at H & M's (my other friends I met in Chicago) cute little house in Echo Park and got to meet some more cool people.

Now it's Saturday night, 2:00 am and I wake up. Here's me:

Why am I awake? Why am I boiling hot? (Kicking off the covers). Oh wait, I'm not boiling hot, I'm freezing cold! (Pulling the covers back on). Hot, cold, hot, cold. This sucks! My stomach feels gross. Maybe I should drink some water. And brush my teeth. (Drinks water, brushes teeth, paces a bit in discomfort, gets back in bed). Oh my god, I'm going to hurl! (Races to the bathroom, just making it to the toilet).

So yeah, a big toilet full of puke. This was not I-drank-too-much puke, either. That I can deal with with just a simple "What were you thinking?" and a touch of remorse. No, this was stomach flu puke, and it sucked, especially because stomach flu puke makes me cry and shake. I woke up my honey and made him hold me and generally annoyed him through the rest of the night. The rest of the night where I couldn't fall asleep for more than an hour or two.

That was how Sunday went, then. Little snippets of sleep, tender tummy, headache, general misery, me feeling way too sorry for myself, hot, cold, hot, cold, flat 7-Up, water, jello, and one can of soup that I forced myself to eat. And then around 2:00 am, the fun starts again. I'm pouring myself a glass of 7-Up and have to run to the bathroom. Good-bye, Chunky Chicken Noodle.

The good news is that I've kept down saltines and water and 7-Up today and generally feel better. Plus we went for a walk and I did pretty well, and once we got home, I was able to fall asleep for a good 12 hours. Which is why it's nearly 3:00 am and I'm posting and am hoping to get back to my friend the dissertation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Sticking with the Quiz Theme

Feel like wasting time?

I do, I do!

Try this.

Thanks to Krissy for that one.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Ooooh Yes, I Am 100% Sexy Man

Never underestimate what you can find on the Internet if you are trying to avoid writing a dissertation:

congradulations you have finished the sexy test. you are 100% sexy

you made it. you are the sexiest man on earth. congradulations man cause you did it. you can now call yourslf the sexiest man on earth.

How sexy are you?
Create a Quiz

Friday, December 01, 2006

My Own Personal War on Christmas

Christmas makes me grumpy; it has for many years. Not surprising, really. I have issues with consumer culture, and Christmas is the big whammy of consumerism. I'm also broke, and have been for years, meaning that trying to find proper gifts in this consumerist melee on a budget is just too stressful. Plus I'm usually overworked at Christmas, grading and working on shows and all the rest (not this year - just full time dissertating - a whole different kind of stress), so I'm usually exhausted and sick and in no mood to deal, and to top it all off I'm a non-believer. So Christmas equals pagan ceremony usurped by Christianity usurped by capitalism equals Karen is a big grouchy bitch.

In my first year of grad school at the U, my nephew gave my whole family the stomach flu. I spent two days after Christmas vomiting every hour on the hour (with some diarrhea thrown in for fun), sucking on ice cubes because I couldn't keep water down. When I got better, I spent another day on the couch watching a Quantum Leap marathon on the Sci Fi channel. This is most appropriate emobidiment of my "Holiday Spirit" that I can imagine.

I am happy to report that this year, I am not celebrating Christmas in any traditional sense. Since I am going to attend a workshop in MN in January, I've made the decision to skip the holdiay travel horrors and not head inland for the holiday. And since I now live in sunny California where there is no snow, it doesn't even feel Christmassy at all, so I won't have to be burden with the guilt of being a Grinch or a Scrooge. And my honey and I decided to skip the present buying, so we don't even have to deal with the angry masses out shopping. Perfect.