Monday, January 26, 2009

Extractive Personality

Most people change their phone's generic voicemail message to a personalized greeting. I appreciate that. I would like someone to produce an accounting for how much time is lost listening to the infernal standard greeting, the one which gives 45 options of things you might want to do instead of leaving a message. My guess would be that the number would be so high we would all be in danger of falling into a deep depression over it. The economy could turn around if only it weren't for the lost productivity and entrepreneurship.

No matter how soothing the voice, my veins shrink to half their original circumference and years come off my life as atherosclerosis sets in my cardiopulminary system every time I hear, "If you want to send a fax, press star. If you want to leave a callback number, press 45." Calls have been dropped from cell phones while drivers cross states, waiting to get through the endless options. "If you want to leave a number but not a message, press 17. If you want to hear an impression of your favorite Jewish comedian, press 18. If you want to hear an impression of your favorite gentile comedian, press 19...." There is relief when the beep finally does give way to expression. I'm calling someone on the phone! If they can't answer, I want to leave a message! What I don't want is to have other options. The only other option is to hang up and then have that aneurysm in private, because that is the only possible conclusion to what is a grandly stultifying experience. Type A personalities do not have an easy life.

These are the moments the zen Buddhist tradition was made to counteract. I wish I knew something about the zen Buddhist tradition.

Something that was extremely satisfying to me was when I cleaned my keyboard. I spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone today, mostly catching up with friends I have, through no fault of their own, ignored for months. I didn't mean to ignore them, it was completely something I was going through. Call it a hedgehog phase, where all I wanted was to curl up on a ball an be left alone. The requirement of such mature behavior is to call people you care about and explain yourself, so that hopefully they won't give up on being your friend.

While I was on the phone - this is the extraction part - I noticed my keyboard had cat hairs here and there. I pulled those away and looked more closely. The cat hair was only the tip of the iceberg. Underneath the cat hair was a layer of lint, lintberg? tiny little lint bunnies hanging out behind the "d" and "v" and most of the keys. I tried to get at them with a pencil, but the tip wasn't long enough. Using the pencil was like popping a zit that you just KNOW goes much deeper than the initial bloop of release yielded. There was more lint, and I could see it but not reach it. I found a sewing needle and used the blunt end to poke around and pull out little balls of lint and cathair. I do not have words for the way it made me feel, but suffice it to say that "orgasmic" would not be an overstatement. "Satisfying" is too benign, although it was satisfying. I am having trouble finding the exact adjective. What comes to mind is that it might be like the experience of a dermatologist, excising the bacteria fouling a tiny pore, and then performing the excision one at a time, over and over, until the entire visage is free of contaminants.

Well, that was a whole paragraph of writing which will not go into the writing portfolio. I'd like to say I could attribute it to drunkenness, but no. I don't think blogging sober is very zen, but it was the best I could come up with.

You Got a Problem With That?

Yeah, I said "buttery prose". Robert DeNiro was on "Sesame Street" the other day talking with Elmo. It's just that kind of a world.

Has anyone watched any good movies lately? Or is there no one reading this anymore?

I ask a lot, I know. To write whatever I want, publish them for the world to see, and then demand feedback after not posting for weeks and weeks.

The new year's going allright. Everyone's healthy and not missing a limb and for that I am grateful. By other standards, it's okay. School is going well for my daughter, work is changing a bit for my husband, and both are good. For me, I'm a bit disappointed with one of my classes and therefore have lost some motivation to work hard. That is a bad thing. I am working on it.

I have a paper due tomorrow and I feel as though I (or anyone) could throw a few words on a page and get an A. The class is supposed to be about the methods of studying a particular subject, but we spend an awful lot of time in class listening to anecdotes. We listen to the nuts and bolts of history, then are supposed to write about a particular force - continuity, change, etc. - that it feels disconnected. It feels like something is missing. That drive me nuts. When I feel as though I could teach the class better than the instructor, that is not a good thing. I felt that way in Math 111 last year. Focused class lectures with clear learning objectives help students immensely. I don't like paying to teach myself.

The snow is piling up. We have 5 inches. I'm planning to cross country ski today for a workout. I am going to imagine my frustration evaporating in that wintery forestland and come back with nothing to complain about.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Quote: Creativity

"Very few creative events flow as effortlessly and regularly as one of Johann Sebastian Bach's Brandenburg concertos. More often, they are characterized by the stops and starts, triumphs, reversals, sacrifices, and innovative choices, as the story of Rachel the shepherdess [from the Old Testament]. The story remorselessly clocks the ups and downs of any creative process, which characteristically contain stages of ambiguity, imperfection, discomfort, and sacrifice. It quietly demonstrates how the experience of creative achievement does not have to occur consistently through a project or process in order to achieve a desired result. Constant satisfaction is not an indicator of an ultimately satisfactory result. More usually, our most cherished creations withstand and even benefit from a little weathering.

In the first impulse to [begin a project] we are lightening and honey happy; madly in love. We have the strength to move any stone tablet from the top of a well single-handed. When the first flush fades, the reality sets in, and reversals of fortune, and inexplicable sacrifices and compromises, frustrations, disappointments, realizations of our own shortcomings and inadequacies, long lulls, patience, serenity, become almost routine...Having the courage to dispatch stop-and-go circumstances such as these with a soft yet measured heart is a formula that more realistically expresses the optimal progress of creativity and love...

And the setbacks temper the love, and the creativity, and the final product, rather than destroying it. The softness and the ability to be both gentle and bold yields fertile results. When we knit we can access some of these feelings. We work slowly while, to the untrained eye, life apparently passes us by. But we know better."

-----The Knitting Goddess, by Deborah Bergman

The book is full of stories, myths, and wisdom. Oh, and there are knitting patterns, but the real joy is the writing. If you're in the mood, it washes over you in the way only some books can, filling the dry cracks of your soul in a smoothing, buttery prose.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I sometimes cannot believe the things I feel compelled to share. The last post, for instance. Why? Why must I write such things? I do not have any idea. In order that it may be pushed down the page and therefore out of mind, I offer to share, as change of pace, recent movie rentals you might consider.

It seems I am in my Kryzystof Kieslowski phase, because this director has made all of these I am going to list here now:




(see them in that order, it's a trilogy)

"The Double Life of Veronique"

The cinematography for "Blue" and "Veronique" are absolutely exquisite. If you like color and interesting camera angles, these are especially good. Maybe you are like me: you like them but you didn't know you did. I understand.

Otherwise, still there is school and cold and kitty poop. Skiing at Hoodoo has been a lot more fun since we discovered the "other" side, where there are not a million people in line and there are easy runs.

Watch those and tell me what you thought.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bellevue Isn't Just For Santy Claus

Remember the scene in "Indecent Proposal" when Demi Moore's character rolls around naked on the bed with her million dollars? I was in the college library yesterday when the same urge overwhelmed me. All of those titles! All of that ancient history! To be surrounded by knowledge, skin-to-page with good writing, absorbing it by osmosis...

Now you know I am certifiably nutso.

I love my history class. It is historiography, or, the study of history. What the heck? Does it sound like a lot of liberal arts, social science clap-trap designed to get more tuition money without really teaching anything? Au contraire mon rossignol! It's fantastic. We get to read articles about entirely different subjects in history and then write a response paper based on an aspect of historical study. Is it a reconstruction? Is it about unexpected developments? What about causation? How does new technology affect life and society? This is the kind of thing that floats my canoe.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year!

2009 already? I expected to kiss my sweetie and ring in the new year properly. Except, I fell alseep watching a movie and so I went to bed for what was to be a two-hour nap. What really happened was, I hauled my aching behind to bed at 9:30 and did not stir until 2009 had been here for seven hours.

We're up in McCall, Idaho with my mom. Winter is a great time to get away, even though the travel can suck. We drove, in order to bring all of our skis and to have a four-wheel drive vehicle here, and had compliant weather to do so. After an afternoon and overnight in Boise, we are in McCall for the duration of the week.

It's beautiful here! The edges of the lake are snow-covered, the dock is piled high with snow. Four or five deer have been in the yard, where there is a pine tree under which they've taken shelter. I'll have pictures after I get home and download them, blahblahblah, technical claptrap.

Yesterday, we skiied at Brundage. It took me most of the day to get confident on the Bear run, but I finally did. We started at 9:30 am, and finished at 4 pm. We were all exhausted after that. My husband has found renewed energy with the new year, and has headed out to cross country ski with the sunrise this morning. He is nuts! But I love him.

The Occidental Tourist soldiers on.

Happy New Year!