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Archive for June, 2011

Be cheerful

[UPDATE: Um, I just re-read this and holy cow I was tired last night. So, yeah, editing. My apologies.]

Oh awesome! Singing in the Rain is on. Old fashioned? Yes. Hokey? Yes. Amazing? Yes. Uplifting? Yes. Sigh. I wish life really was like it is in the movies. Here’s a fave dance scene from the film. Cyd Charisse just captures and embodies the sex kitten here. I love story through movement and music. Sigh again.

Speaking of story through movement, I’ve been reading a great deal about Camille Claudel, Rodin’s lover and muse and remarkable talent in her own right. She was ultimately institutionalized at the behest of her mother (who disapproved of her choice of career as sculptor) despite very likely not being crazy a whit. Her doctors routinely wrote letters to her mother begging her to have her released from the hospital. Mom never relented and she never visited her daughter the 30 years she lived behind the walls of an asylum. Camille died there. If she was crazy at all, it’s because she had to negotiate that kind of treatment from someone who was supposed to care for her. And because she lived in a time where a great compliment to her work was the following. Take your time with it… She was described as “A revolt against nature: a woman genius”. Sigh.

Anyway, how beautiful is this?

The Waltz -- Camille Claudel

I wonder if this site accepts freelance submissions…just a thought.

Good DC band. Thanks Miss Caroline for having nice taste in music.

In honor of the late, great. This is one of those films that my family sat around and watched on Sunday evenings. This actually explains a lot about where I come from intellectually and why I have the sense of humor I have. Love. So much.

I have wanted to say the following almost … wait, let me count…yeah, one million and twenty seven times in my life at various times. Here, have a laugh:

Sister Juli felt it important to remind me of this poem. It helped Juli. Thanks. I wish I knew more people like you.

DESIDERATA
~Max Erhmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

And while we were talking, this song came on her radio and — well, it’s just appropriate on so many levels and will always be the sound of home.

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Hunkering down

Hey there. So, I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately — and I think I’ll stop now — about how much time I’ve wasted in my life. I’ve given an extraordinary amount of time over to people, events, thoughts, etc. that were just not productive uses of time. If the goal is joy in life — and it is — the worst thing you can do is give your time to those things that spread apathy and cynicism as a rule and, in extreme circumstances, actually actively work toward misery (man, those are the worst because most of the time these people don’t even know they’re doing it). Bleah. No more. When I was younger I used to see these older women who had “mean wrinkles,” the ones you get from frowning and being angry all the time. And I also noticed the “fun wrinkles” (yes, these were my childhood designations for these things) which were the laugh lines around the eyes and mouth. And I resolved then — as much as I was self-aware enough to realize that I was prone to these things — that I would have the fun wrinkles. So, mean-wrinkle makers, be on your way. I’ve no use for you. I mean I hope you get happy and all so you can actually really enjoy your lives and not just give that appearance. You know most people can tell the difference, right? And when you think you can contribute to the creation of fun wrinkles, I’ll be around.

Moving on…

Heh.

Can’t. Stop. Playing. (h/t Mr. Brown)

I’ll be down by the Washington Monument tomorrow playing in a charity softball tournament so I’ll miss this.
But you should go…

Speaking of softball, the coach’s recap follows. Because I’m proud of my team, that’s why…But first, your weekend music. I’m feeling this song. It’s been a while but I’m glad the feeling’s back.

Dawgs,

Congratulations, you are now a member of the Major League Division champion DC Dawgs. With our rout of LSU last night, we guarantee ourselves at least a 5-1 record in the division, with the only possible tie being with Ohio, who we beat earlier this season. So no matter what happens the rest of the season, we’re guaranteed no worse than the 9th seed in the tournament and a first-round bye. Which means no 8:00 games on the first day of the tournament (unless they screw around with the schedule) and the possibility of playing one of the teams that had a play-in game. Which is a roundabout way of saying that we’re in pretty good shape going into the tournament. Now, on to the actual recap.

They say it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog. But we all know that’s pretty much bullshit. Especially when the other dog is much, much bigger and has years more experience. That’s about how it went down.

LSU has been chomping at the bit to get into the league, and you could tell they were excited to get the chance to play. I got to the field around 5:45 and started setting up the bases when the entire LSU team comes strolling up at like 5:50. I was immediately impressed, because we’re lucky if most of you slackers are there by 6:45. They started warming up, taking batting practice, doing infield drills, and various other things to make it look like they knew what they were doing. But then the game started.

We put up a couple of runs early on a two-run homer by Marieo, but their defense locked us down for the next couple of innings. And while they weren’t scoring runs, they managed to make it feel like they were hanging with us through the first two.

But then in the third, our bats heated up and we hung eight runs on them thanks to a two-run single by Michael “I be strokin’, that’s what I be doin'” Strok, a Grand Slam by Marieo, and a double-turned-homer by Austen.

We held them scoreless through the first four innings thanks to some solid defense. In fact, they only had six hits in the whole game. And they were all singles. Sarah had first base locked down like it was a job, our outfielders — all seven of them — always seemed to be in the right place, and Scott handled some tricky plays at third.

Special thanks to Dan and Don for supplying us with our two other starting females. In addition to solid defense, our ladies combined for six runs and three RBIs.

It was a solid night at the plate for pretty much everyone. We had 12 different people score a run, 10 different people get an RBI, and eight people do both.
We scored a season-high 21 runs, and gave up a season-low two.

But our performance at the bar was even more impressive. The Tigers were good sports about the drubbing we’d just laid on them, and we played flip cup with them for a good three and a half hours. We split the Last Team Standing award, mostly because the bar staff wanted to go home. So we represented ourselves well both on and off the field. It was a solid night all around.

Our next games are this Saturday against American and JMU. If you haven’t RSVP’d for that yet, please do so here: http://go.teamsnap.com/26467/availability/list

It looks like we have a light crowd right now, so everyone should get plenty of playing time. They’re only exhibition games, but it would be nice to make a strong showing against two of the better teams in the league.

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Quickly because editing calls but I need a mini brain vacay — awesome of the day: I took a late afternoon walk around the block here in Old Town, Alexandria just to refocus my eyes and clear my head and, as I’m strolling with nothing particularly floating through my mind, the fugue was interrupted by a “Damn!” I look up and driving past me slowly, nodding in appreciation, hip-hop thumping from the back speakers, an early-twenties player letting me know that he liked my stride. Now, forgive me for pointing this out. It’s just that I’m fully aware that it happens less and less frequently and that one day will cease completely. So, thank you young dude with the bass beats. Damn right back at ya.

Things for consideration:

Speaking of hip-hop, Ali continues to promote the art and thank God for that because it brightens my day every time. I’d like to rock this choreography out. You may not believe it, but I actually can.

This is on instant Netflix and I hear it’s good so it’s on the agenda for soon. I like old Ryan Reynolds. Nothing better than a good-looking man who appears to be self aware enough to understand the retributive nature of kindness. I’ve had my fill of those who ignore that truth.

I got a reprieve from having to worry about moving right away, which is nice. But I will have new landlords. Updates as they occur.

From Mr. Joseph, with the accompanying statement. I absolutely love this song. But agree with his statement wholeheartedly:

Every once in a while a work of art comes along that defines a generation so perfectly that it sears itself into the collective conscience and is remembered for decades. This is the complete antithesis of that work of art.

Finally, I’m starting to see coincidences everywhere again. I’ve apparently done something right recently and have hit the proper path again. This pleases me. Hopefully whatever I’ve done makes a positive difference for someone else as well.

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I should have written this earlier but this one goes out to you Pops. Because of you, I read and understand the following. And am unafraid to be touched by it. Greatest gift you ever gave me and I thank you for it. Happy Father’s Day. I hope the grandkids made the day one to remember. Also, I watched The Majestic tonight. You were right. Good stuff. Thanks for the suggestion. I love you.
From The Kiterunner:

Hassan popped a mulberry into his mouth. “It’s coming,” he said. I could hardly breathe and he didn’t even sound tired.
“How do you know?” I said.
“I know.”
“How can you know?”
He turned to me. A few sweat beads rolled from his bald scalp. “Would I ever lie to you, Amir agha?”
Suddenly I decided to toy with him a little. “I don’t know. Would you?”
“I’d sooner eat dirt,” he said with a look of indignation.
“Really? You’d do that?”
He threw me a puzzled look. “Do what?”
“Eat dirt if I told you to,” I said. I knew I was being cruel, like when I’d taunt him if he didn’t know some big word. But there was something fascinating – albeit in a sick way – about teasing Hassan. Kind of like when we used to play insect torture. Except now, he was the ant and I was holding the magnifying glass.
His eyes searched my face for a long time. We sat there, two boys under a sour cherry tree, suddenly looking, really looking, at each other. That’s when it happened again: Hassan’s face changed. Maybe not changed, not really, but suddenly I had the feeling I was looking at two faces, the one I knew, the one that was my first memory, and another, a second face, this one lurking just beneath the surface. I’d seen it happen before – it always shook me up a little. It just appeared, this other face, for a fraction of a moment, long enough to leave me with the unsettling feeling that maybe I’d seen it someplace before. Then Hassan blinked and it was just him again. Just Hassan.
“If you asked, I would,” he finally said, looking right at me. I dropped my eyes. To this day, I find it hard to gaze directly at people like Hassan, people who mean every word they say.
“But I wonder,” he added. “Would you ever ask me to do such a thing, Amir agha?” And, just like that, he had thrown at me his own little test. If I was going to toy with him and challenge his loyalty, then he’d toy with me, test my integrity.
I wished I hadn’t started this conversation. I forced a smile. “Don’t be stupid, Hassan. You know I wouldn’t.”
Hassan returned the smile. Except his didn’t look forced. “I know,” he said. And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.
“Here it comes,” Hassan said, pointing to the sky. He rose to his feet and walked a few paces to his left. I looked up, saw the kite plummeting toward us. I heard footfalls, shouts and an approaching melee of kite runners. But they were wasting their time. Because Hassan stood with his arms wide open, smiling, waiting for the kite. And may God – if He exists, that is – strike me blind if the kite didn’t just drop into his outstretched arms.

And, of course, a memory song for you.

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Augh! Note to self: Don’t try to drive home for lunch when the GW Parkway is under construction.

Few things…

Yay! Looking forward to it. This last film reminds me of Lord Somber’s assertion, when I expressed incredulousness that I could like something that bad people could also like, that people like the same things for different reasons. Good thing to remember next time you discover that the creepy guy you always see around also really likes the new Eminem song.

In the interest of trying to do things differently, let me just say that something has been brewing in me lately. I said to a friend the other day that there’s really no excuse for being an asshole. And I do believe I’ll say that again. No excuse. Especially if you’re being an asshole to someone who’s never harmed you. But this says it better than I ever could.

While stuck in traffic, my sister filled me in on what she knew about this. One of her biggest issues is that people are being murdered in the street in Syria but we MUST stay in Libya to protect the people. Sounds like we need that high-grade oil they have. Damn that George W. Bush, war-for-oil bastard! Wait…

Good quote:

“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or hunk of coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds its spot and takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore so it eats it!”
~Daniel Dennett

Note it:

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UPDATE (again): Little Miss Mackie is a guest blogger over at Haughty By Nature and she’s written a pretty funny summary of the Real Housewives of Orange County Reunion Special. I’m more a RH of Atlanta fan — for obvious reasons — but nonetheless I give it to you because a) as mentioned, funny; and b) she’s a good egg and is all girly and stuff but is unafraid to play like a boy and I respect the hell out of that. I hope she keeps writing.

Quickly because I’m working…

Challenge of the day: Give credit where credit is due. If there is an irritant affecting you, make sure to be annoyed at the irritant, not the ancillary rash-like symptom. Nothing is cured by mistaking the symptom for the cause. Even if the rash seems to enjoy, um, being a rash (?). Also, recognize that this kind of vagueness is why people find you a little odd at times. Also also, self-awareness is good.

Challenge for the rest of life: do not seek the douche. It will never surprise you and not be douche because, by definition, douche is what it is. Failing to seek it just means the probability of encountering it goes down. Douche is a part of life. But seeking it increases frequency of douche negotiation. So, avoid places, people, conversations, websites, gatherings, etc. etc. where you know the douche lives. Because that which you seek so shall you find. Amen.

I post this “against my better judgment” but I’m a huge fan of Klosterman and so I think I’ll be going ahead and owning that (despite the almost guaranteed misperception that’s likely to occur as a result. Yeah, don’t ask.) I was recently re-reading his diatribe on writing in one of his books and had thought of posting it full-cloth about a month ago. I will at some point I’m sure. But enjoy this piece now. Klosterman’s brilliant.

For all you goofy nerds.

Um…there might be something seriously wrong with people who are able to feel turned on during a riot. I’m just saying.

Totally pimp.

Because this is so stupid, here’s this (h/t Coach).

And now for the awesome. A new friend who likes to wear “strok”able pink socks took the following picture and I just cannot tell you how wonderful it is to have a friend with the presence of mind to realize that you don’t let something like this happen without making sure you take a picture of it. And then telling everyone about it.

Dateline: Gaithersburg, Md., approx. 1 pm on a workday, Highway 355.
Subject: Random goat running free like the wind with no explanation in sight
Awesome rank: 10/10

Born free b*tches

UPDATE: Sweeeeet. I found the Klosterman excerpt from Eating the Dinosaur online. As someone who writes — a lot — I’m amazed he was able to actually describe what the process is like. Dig it.

1 Sometimes writing is difficult. Sometimes writing is like pounding a brick wall with a ball-peen hammer in the hope that the barricade will evolve into a revolving door. Sometimes writing is like talking to a stranger who’s exactly like yourself in every possible way, only to realize that this stranger is boring as shit. In better moments, writing is the opposite of difficult—it’s as if your fingers meander arbitrarily in crosswise patterns and (suddenly) you find yourself reading something you didn’t realize you already knew. Most of the time, the process falls somewhere in between. But there’s one kind of writing that’s always easy: Picking out something obviously stupid and reiterating how stupid it obviously is. This is the lowest form of criticism, easily accomplished by anyone. And for most of my life, I have tried to avoid this. In fact, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time searching for the underrated value in ostensibly stupid things. I understand Turtle’s motivation and I would have watched Medellin in the theater. I read Mary Worth every day for a decade. I’ve seen Korn in concert three times and liked them once. I went to The Day After Tomorrow on opening night. I own a very expensive robot that doesn’t do anything. I am open to the possibility that everything has metaphorical merit, and I see no point in sardonically attacking the most predictable failures within any culture. I always prefer to do the opposite, even if my argument becomes insane by necessity.
But sometimes I can’t.
Sometimes I experience something so profoundly idiotic—and so deeply universal—that I cannot find any contrarian perspective, even for the sole purpose of playful contrarianism. These are not the things that are stupid for what they are; these are the things that are stupid for what they supposedly reflect about human nature. These are things that make me feel completely alone in the world, because I cannot fathom how the overwhelming majority of people ignores them entirely. These are not real problems (like climate change or African genocide), because those issues are complex and multifaceted; they’re also not intangible personal hypocrisies (like insincerity or greed), because those qualities are biological and understandable. These are things that exist only because they exist. We accept them, we give them a social meaning, and they become part of how we live. Yet these are the things that truly illustrate how ridiculous mankind can be. These are the things that prove just how confused people are (and will always be), and these are the things that are so stupid that they make me feel nothing. Not sadness. Not anger. Not guilt. Nothing.
These are the stupidest things our society has ever manufactured.
And—at least to me—there is one stupid idea that towers above all others. In practice, its impact is minor; in theory, it’s the most fucked-up media construction spawned by the twentieth century. And I’ve felt this way for (almost) my entire life.
I can’t think of anything philosophically stupider than laugh tracks.
2 Perhaps this seems like a shallow complaint to you. Perhaps you think that railing against canned laughter is like complaining that nuclear detonations are bad for the local bunny population. I don’t care. Go read a vampire novel. To me, laugh tracks are as stupid as we get. And, yes, I realize this phenomenon is being phased out by modernity. That’s good. There will be a day in the future when this essay will make no sense, because canned laughter will be as extinct as TV theme songs. It will only be used as a way to inform audiences that they’re supposed to be watching a fake TV show from the 1970s. But— right now, today—canned laughter is still a central component of escapist television. The most popular sitcom on TV, Two and a Half Men, still uses a laugh track, as does the (slightly) more credible How I Met Your Mother and the (significantly) less credible The Big Bang Theory. Forced laughter is also central to the three live-action syndicated shows that are broadcast more than any other, Friends, Home Improvement, and Seinfeld. Cheers will be repeated forever, as will the unseen people guffawing at its barroom banter. And I will always notice this, and it will never become reassuring or nostalgic or quaint. It will always seem stupid, because canned laughter represents the worst qualities of insecure people.
Now, I realize these qualities can be seen everywhere in life and within lots of complicated contexts. Insecurity is part of being alive. But it’s never less complicated than this. It’s never less complicated than a machine that tries to make you feel like you’re already enjoying something, simply because people you’ll never meet were convinced to laugh at something else entirely.

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Surface scratch

Howdy. I wish I had some insight on anything remotely interesting today but I don’t. Just some thoughts on personal stuff so, ya know, feel free to move along.

I think I may have finally had to accept that my body just doesn’t cooperate with me the way it once did. My shoulder is shot today after three softball games in the space of a few days. I used to throw my arm out when I was younger but it just didn’t bother me then the way it does now. I think that’s the secret of aging. It’s not that you didn’t get hurt at a younger age, just that you shook it off much easier. I could barely lift my arm yesterday after the game. The good news is, as I was lying in bed this morning, the muscle of my right shoulder began to spasm and shake which means it’s just muscle-related and not something deeper like, God forbid, a rotator cuff injury or something. So, I’ll be fine. At least physically.

But ya know, my heart hurts because I realized something else yesterday as well. My friends were kind of making fun of me for being a “deep thinker.” That is to say, I tend to talk about things with folks that dip beneath the surface. For example, when I meet new people, I like to figure out who they are, where they come from, how they approach life, what makes them laugh. I talk to them. People interest me. And the friends — and I know you guys mean it with love — giggle about this part of my personality. One seemed to suggest I might make a great call-in radio show host (at least I think that was the inference I was supposed to make). And while I know there was sweetness behind the ribbing I felt the need to apologize for not being shallow. Because more and more I’m starting to realize that living on the surface of life is what qualifies as fun. And my heart hurts because I finally had to accept that maybe that’s true. That maybe my natural tendency to go deep is kind of a drag. This is not an easy thing to accept. This is a lifetime of training and belief that there’s deeper meaning somewhere. And to have to acknowledge that having that outlook is, for lack of a better word, depressing is … man I don’t know. Depressing.

This is layered on top of another situation I found myself in yesterday where I really reached out to someone because I just needed to, because things have been unstable and they are beginning to even out and it’s like that thing where you hold your breath to get through the pain and once you know you’re out of the woods, you run home and relax and all the fear and insecurity and worry you’d been biting your lip through so you could survive just hits when you can finally let your guard down enough to let it. And so I reached in the midst of it…It’s strange because I figured that I had played sounding board so many times — often in ways that were terribly hard to overcome because sometimes reaching out is lashing out — for this person that I was safe asking for a return on that investment.

I suppose it’s just a truth of life that there are some who are comfortable with intensity and others who are comfortable only if the intensity comes from them. And I suppose I should be kind enough to recognize that, to some, other people’s intensity is not the spark of life. To some, it’s merely a burden that interferes with the fun stuff. Why go deep when there are fun things to be doing?

And so, tragic moment of self-awareness complete. Even people who care don’t really care if it gets in the way of the fun times to be had. The weird part is, I never wanted anything to get in the way. I just wanted to fit in somewhere. To add to, not subtract from. But I’m starting to discover if I want to fit in and get to have fun, I have to stop caring. That seems logically inconsistent to me. And it bothers me a bit.

But who cares? Lately, not even me.

Mack shows you how we play. Intense.

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