Thursday, July 31, 2008

Just because we love talking about and hearing about what's going on with our health.

Today I was wide awake at 3 a.m.
The day before today I was wide awake at 3:30 a.m.
It's not like me.
I think I need to stop drinking my second cup of coffee.
Today was the third day in a row I had a crushing headache. I'm confident it had nothing to do with the coffee consumption. On the other hand, consuming the second cup was directly related to me hoping that it would help kill the debilitating, mind-numbing migraine.
Yesterday I read about neurologists; I read about migraine medications. All the remedies for migraines involve unwanted side effects. I had forgotten that I had been taking feverfew every day and that had been helping, I think. I started taking that again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Angry Sandwich Artist Just Wants to Make Your Sandwich

I had a strange, slightly disturbing experience when I ventured out today to buy my lunch, which I haven't done in awhile. I thought it might be good if I wasn't starving all day, since I didn't have any breakfast again. I thought it would be good to go to Subway, and, when I got there, the line was very short, but then the horror began. First of all, it was taking the man a long time to get sandwiches for the one person in line. She ordered two. Then the timer went off for the bread baking in the oven. Steam was streaming from the top of the oven. It smelled really, really, good, and I was really, really hungry. The man, who had thick glasses sliding down his sweaty nose, had small beady eyes that darted around without looking directly at anyone. It seemed like he was getting stressed out. He was probably about five feet tall, and in his late 40s. As the timer went off, he started to take the baked bread out of the oven and place the pans of bread into a glass cabinet. He wore plastic gloves and decided to put an oven mitt over his plastic glove, and take all the bread out of the oven and into the other bread shelf case with one hand. He finally gave that up and put both oven mitts on his plastic-gloved hands. With his back to me, he asked me what I wanted. I had a headache and didn't feel like shouting at him, so I wanted to wait until he was actually facing me, but I didn't answer him fast enough and he was getting impatient because he wanted me to tell him. So I told him what I wanted. As he started making it, I noticed that he used the same plastic gloves he had on under the oven mitts. Maybe I should not have questioned this, and maybe it makes no difference, but I thought, I wonder how clean those plastic gloves are now? Shouldn't he have put new plastic gloves on? Am I really going to want to eat this sandwich after he made it, knowing where these plastic gloves have been? Am I being too picky? I'm really not a picky person, and I've never been particular about cleanliness, but I do tend to wash my hands when I'm cooking in the kitchen every time I touch something different than the food I just cut up or prepared or got on my hands. Maybe these are the early signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder -- it starts gradually, and then I just get more and more particular about everything being in complete order and completely clean. No, no, no .... that could NEVER HAPPEN. Anyway, I boldly yet politely asked him if he thought those gloves were clean. He snapped at me, "Why wouldn't they be?" And then he looked mad. I looked up at the oven mitts resting on top of the bread cabinet, then back down at his gloved hands. He jerked off the gloves and said, "Never mind," in a rough and impatient way, and grabbed a fresh glove. Then I realized a very angry man was going to make my lunch, never mind anymore about whether his plastic gloves were clean. Then I told him, "I think I'll just go somewhere else," suddenly realizing I don't want Angry and Unsanitary Man to get his hands on my roast beef. He said, "No, it's OK." I said, "No, I'll just go somewhere else," and as I walked out the door he was pleading with me not to leave.
Then I got some Chinese take-out, which was really tasty, came with an egg roll and a fortune cookie, and will leave me with leftovers for tomorrow, all for the same price as one sub and a macadamia nut cookie would have been. I was glad I got out of there. But I couldn't help wondering if I was being obsessive-compulsive or not. I don't know what was inside those oven mitts. Maybe an old spot of marinara sauce, maybe bacteria, maybe germs, maybe a little mouse house or spider web, or ... or ... I know, probably nothing.
So, when I got back to work, I polled my co-workers about whether I was rightfully put off by the sandwich artist's plastic glove debacle, whether it could be reasonably categorized as a debacle, and whether it could reasonably be a reason for concern for the well-being of my sandwich, or at least my mental health.
Response from co-worker #1: "I'm all out of Pepsi. I'm going to the Dairy Mart across the street. I like Pepsi."
Response from co-worker #2: "...." (munches silently on her food, as the lunch hour is almost over.)
Me, giving up on the possibility that co-worker #1 will ever be interested in anything I say in casual conversation, and prompting co-worker #2: "Would you have wanted him to make your sandwich?"
Co-worker #2: "I probably would have felt the way you did."
Response from co-worker #3: "Paper or plastic?" (He holds up his new lunch bag, made of recycled materials, from Wal-Mart, and reads the message on the side of the bag.)

Afterthought:
Now that I really think hard about it, at the end of all this writing about my start-and-stop, start-and-stop lunch hour, I believe I was having flashbacks to the days I worked in restaurants and had to take things out of the ovens with the community oven mitts, which, incidentally, were home to a restaurant just across the street at the old and now-defunct steak restaurant. Those mitts were absolutely disgusting inside. Everyone used them, and they never got washed. They were greasy and dirty inside, and old and falling apart. Now I know I'm not crazy. I just have to search inside myself for answers, rather than turn to my co-workers for validation. I'm glad I worked this all out just now.

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Recent Brush With Art

Last night I read my big picture book that contains photos and a biography about Salvador Dali. I've had the book about four years but am just now discovering that Senor Dali was a fascinating, twisted, narcissistic, paranoid, idiosyncratic person (I might argue if I need to that these words aren't labels; they're mere "descriptions"). One might guess about all those things after taking in his artwork, but, prior to my purchase of said book, I had only seen the more tame pieces of work he has created and had only a superficial admiration of the artwork itself, without giving much thought at all about the artist. He lived a parallel life with two of my grandparents, having been born just two years before they were. For some reason, I assumed he lived a lot longer ago than he did; he actually only died in 1989. If I would have had to guess, I probably would have had no idea, no frame of reference to his age or date of birth or date of death. Someone asked me recently if I am able to disassociate the artist from his work; specifically, he was referring to Michael Jackson, of whose music he is a fan, and I find it challenging to do that. I then thought of Salvador Dali, about whom I knew nothing, yet have admired his artwork for a long time. I guess the answer is that it depends on who the artist is. Of all the famous paintings I've seen by artists in general, I felt more connected with the surreal, serene, mysterious and cryptic scenes of Dali's paintings than with the landscapist floweresque wildlifery standards. According to the biographer, there is much anguish and madness beyond what appears on the surface. I suppose that's partly what makes it good (I ask myself: "If a person or object has much more to it than meets the eye, does that make it worthy?"). It's also pretty.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Wow! A Sewing Project!

The little one in the house fashioned together a pouch for her Nintendo DS. She used an old shirt, some scraps of material, and a metal zipper from an old Cheetah fur coat, all of which she cut apart. She cut rectangles of the part of the shirt with a design. She sewed the zipper onto the piece of shirt, on two sides to make a case, and then sewed an inner pocket in it to hold the games. It took her about three hours, but she worked steadily until she had a case. A couple months ago, she took various body parts from stuffed animals, and a duck head from an old sock, and made a new stuffed animal with all the old parts. I still haven't figured out how to use our sewing machine so she can get busy on that. It's a tragedy. Something that sounds so simple is stumping me and collecting dust. Several people who know how to sew on one have come to my house in the four months since I bought the sewing machine, but none of them knew how to thread it. I thought it would be easy.

The Italian Job

A quiet, peaceful weekend, except for the bikers everywhere. Once I got a couple good-nights' sleeps, the extreme noise pollution didn't bother me. Well, it didn't bother me as much. Sometimes I just need a little rest, and then everything's fine. Oh, also, as the weekend wore on, that meant that the biker fest was coming to a rest, so having the end in sight helped.
Last night I watched The Italian Job, a movie I rented that came in the mail. After watching the first five minutes, I thought there was something familiar about it. Had I rented it before? Had I seen it in the movie theater? It was all very vague. I knew I must not have been paying very much attention to it when I watched it, so I knew I must have been at home. As soon as I saw Charlize Theron in her red Mini-Cooper, I was sure I had seen it because I suddenly remembered the big scene at the end, the climax of the movie, when a whole bunch of mini-Coopers saved the day. Despite the annoying Hollywood-ness, the arrogance of Mark Wahlberg, the flimsy plot, and the fact that I'd seen it before, I miraculously held out 'til the end, except that I fell asleep before I got to the end and finished it in the morning. It couldn't have been all that bad. Now I find out there's a sequel coming out next year. Why did this crime/thriller/adventure/car chase/gold thievery movie hold my interest? I will explore the idea fully, knowing that no one cares; that is, unless Mark Wahlberg happens to Google himself and finds this post. Anyway, the cast consisted of a really good group of actors. The camaraderie of the group and the quirkiness of the actors were somewhat compelling. Plus, I wanted to see what Charlize Theron was doing. Edward Norton's always pretty good. I wanted to see what he was doing. The complexity of the plan to steal the gold (twice) was somewhat interesting. Now that I've got my thoughts together, it was the cast. It was all about the cast. The plot was crap.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Have Motorcycle, Will Come

Today I was stuck on a hill in an air-conditioned room, surrounded by the brilliance of a sunny, balmy, weather-perfect day. Being outside on this day contains one extra annoyance that I could do without: grating noise pollution. I don't mind the motorcycles. But the noise! Oh, the noise, noise, noise! Somehow every single biker on the continent found out there was a motorcycle festival of some sort here and now you can't even tie your shoe here without running into a couple of Harleys. And the people who ride them, the stereotypical leather jackets, bandannas, long, white hair, tattoos, red-white-and-blue accessories, black leather boots, and ... what have I missed? Nothing about the bikers themselves bothers me. I think it's fascinating to see the widespread biker culture and how people seem to slip so easily into social norms, create themselves into the stereotype they aspire to be, and then when they do it for so long they don't know how to be anything else. I am also amused to feel what it must have felt to live in the 1960s in an area where law-abiding, tax-paying residents feared the motorcycle gangs and Hell's Angels-type clans, feeling maybe a little wary about all the intimidating bikers closing in all around them in a grocery store parking lot or rest stop or accidental stop in the midwest on a deserted strip of flatland in front of a biker bar; today, 40 years later, it seems that the perpetuation of the stereotype is but a novelty, and the relics from the past still wandering and playing are but a curious cultural phenomenon, at least from my angle ... But can I just roll down the window of my car to enjoy a little bit of the cheery, breezy, beautiful air outside, after I've been holed up in an air-conditioned room all day? No, I cannot. The obnoxious roar from the motorcycles behind me, in front of me, and beside me steal any tiny sliver of relaxation and weather appreciation I might have hoped for. Add to that the exhaust fumes from the added traffic to this city-turned-metropolis. I hope they're having as much fun as it seems they're having.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

More on Crimes and Misdemeanors

Fast forward to another conversation with a different friend fawning over "Crimes and Misdemeanors." He says it was his all-time favorite Woody Allen movie. I aired my complaints, centered on my disappointment about all the negativity and pessimism emanating from the storyline and dialog, especially the part where the guy feels horrible at the end of the movie for the crime he's committed, and has to live with the guilt tearing him apart on the inside for the rest of his life. My friend tells me that the human despair, about those and other events, that is so successfully conveyed to the viewer is why it's so good. Maybe. But the ability to convey that feeling of guilt and despair to me, the viewer, doesn't make me feel all good about it as a movie. My friend's favorite line comes from Alan Alda's bit about comedy failing when the truth is broken, rather than just being bent.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Last night I had insomnia. I thought that if anything would cure it, it would be watching the unfinished movie I started the preceding afternoon. Woody Allen movies run like straight dialog; the scenery is meaningless and useless. If you only listened to the whole movie you wouldn't miss a thing, unless you happened to deeply appreciate the sight of New York City buildings and lackluster costuming. Someone once told me "Bullets Over Broadway" was one of the greatest movies ever made. How could that be? Someone else told me "Crimes and Misdemeanors" was his all-time favorite movie. How could it be?
Amazingly, finishing "Crimes and Misdemeanors" from 2:45 a.m. to 4 a.m. did not put me to sleep. The movie ended, and I felt sorry for all the characters' plights at the end. If I remember correctly, "Bullets Over Broadway" ended in bullets over Broadway, and, in other words, a very unhappy ending. Since I was fully awake and it was only a few hours ago, I remember that "Crimes and Misdemeanors" ended with the commission of crimes and misdemeanors. Why does negativity result in critical acclaim? Why can't the story end in some semblance of hope for the future? Something funny to leave you amused and hopeful at the end? I suppose we're supposed to erupt into fits of laughter at all the witty banter and pessimism that fills Woody Allen movies. I suppose that, maybe, he's made so many movies that, after awhile, all that negativity is expected and appreciated and passes for profundity and intellectualism because it is repeated often enough.
Why do people like Woody Allen movies? I keep watching them, hoping I will find out.

Sunday Afternoon

Questions to Ponder After Seeing The Dark Knight:

Does that guy from Lost who played the mayor in Batman wear mascara and eyeliner? Does he have permanent makeup? Does he just really only have very, very, very thick eyelashes?

What happened at the party after Rachel fell out of the window? Where did the joker go? How did Harvey Dent get out? Why did the scene just end (surely there must have been more to it)? Was the scene just a victim of bad editing?

Why does Maggie Gyllenhaal look so much like Kirsten Dunst in this movie?

What part did Anthony Michael Hall play?

Doesn't Two Face have a whole set of adventures in the Batman stories?

Why don't I feel happy at the end? Shouldn't I feel happy at the end?

Should I have watched the 2005 Batman movie before I saw this one?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Pie, Yard Sales and Sunshine Made Me Happy Today

Today the roastedness of the day made me feel ecstatic about my central air. I did something in pure ancestral fashion, thought much of my grandmother today and made a rhubarb pie. She had a rhubarb patch in her back yard and made rhubarb pie every year. It was one of the few items she made that I could appreciate in a way that made my taste buds happy (other times we would look back and appreciate her food in a different way --- for the bizarre, humorous, her-back-is-turned-so-I-can-feed-it-to-the-dog moments). Most of the time, she made concoctions loosely based on recipes, but with every ingredient substituted for something so far away from the original ingredient that the result was something that forced us children to learn to be polite when something tastes horribly, horribly wrong. (Acquiring poker-face skill, another reason I could appreciate her food.) I probably liked the rhubarb pie because it was one of the few things she made with sugar in it. Anyway, she died and I never got the recipe. Today I tried to find a recipe that involved not making a top crust for the pie and I couldn't find it. I don't know how she made it, and I don't have any specific memories, but I remembered that she said the stalks can't be too thick and that she used corn starch to thicken the filling. I remember the first time I tasted the pie, and I remember that the resemblance of the rhubarb to celery made the rhubarb pie just about as unappetizing as anything else she made. After the first pie, I got over the celery consistency and started to really be happy about rhubarb.
Today we went to four yard sales, at which we came away with cooling racks for cookies ($1 for two racks, still in original package), iron wine rack ($2, like one I used to have), binders (free), Spanish-English dictionary (free), MP-3 player ($5), metal rake ($1), round bird cage ($5), vtech cordless phone with answering machine, still containing amusing message from prior owner ($15 but available at nearby store for $45), Corningware glass cooking pot with lid (50 cents), and a pile of clothes ($5).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Note to Analytical Friend

I cringe inwardly, overcome with reluctance to open up. I fear the feeling of being placed under a microscope, not quite ready for the full analysis of my moods, my grammar, my elocution, my subject matter, my characters, my interests and my dislikes that is sure to come. I wait for the questions in utter non-anticipation. (What's the opposite of anticipation?) Whatever it is, I am feeling it. I am afraid for the feeling of knowing that I will have less anonymity today, as my words are read by someone who I know would be very interested. It's good to share. It's bad to feel that because I share, I look to be captured between two sheets of glass, treated with dye, placed on 3X and gazed upon with your light illuminating me and the full magnification lowered down onto the glass that holds me in. Hello, friend who reads my blog today. Can't you see that I'll never be the same now that I've been placed under the microscope, in my verbal illustration? Can you see that the meaning might be lost if you study me too much, and force me to explain any further than I already have? Don't be too hard on me. Just look and enjoy. Don't spend too much time here and think too much about what I wrote. And please don't try to second-guess, like I know you will. You've heard most of this stuff already, and you've had plenty of time to question me. I'm glad I have you, my analytical friend, and I appreciate your interest, but you just can't look too close, or you will see all my faults and inconsistencies, and you might just destroy my self-proclaimed artistic integrity and I will catch a debilitating case of writer's block if I am forced to explain any more. That's all I have.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Sick Day

Last night I could feel, like a brewing storm, the first signs of what would become a debilitating headache. Like the leaves being blown by forceful gusts of wind to reveal their silver undersides. Like thunder rumbling or a gurgling stomach, warning of what's to come. I took some medicine before bed, but you can't make a storm go away. You just have to endure. I woke up, not wanting to move my head. Took more ibuprofen. No improvement. Took some strong, black coffee. Still no improvement. Took a sick day. Ah! Now I'm starting to feel better. Finished a good, funny book. Sad that it is over. I believe it is the author's first novel. She is British. Her writing style reminds me of Nick Hornby's, who is also British, and who wrote High Fidelity, About a Boy, Fever Pitch (all made into movies), A Long Way Down, and How to Be Good. I'd heard long ago about how it is expected in European culture that husbands and wives will stray and have affairs; that it is common and accepted. I wondered how that could be true; how that would not irretrievably ruin the balance of trust and faith in the relationship; how feelings would not be crushed and self-confidence for the cheated-on spouse would not have eroded; how the children (if any) would not suffer. The Nick Hornby books I've read and the book I just finished (by Debby Holt) touch on fidelity, affairs, and how life goes on. But the story is not so significant as the tone of the book; it's all a backdrop for comedy, comedy that is funny because it is about events that the reader can easily relate to (do not misinterpret that as a statement that someone has ever been unfaithful to me; no, it's not true!). The story is really about how the artist/housewife recovers from her husband leaving her for a young, beautiful woman. The book kept me laughing and kept me interested. The stories in the Hornby books and the book I just finished reaffirm to me that, even if affairs and infidelity are common, it would be impossible for people not to suffer the natural consequences, in Europe or elsewhere. But it's more about getting into the main character's head and feeling what she feels, laughing at what she's laughing about, and appreciating life with her as she gradually gains her confidence and independence after 20 years of marriage. I think I can get much more involved in a book when it's told only from the main character's perspective, rather than forcing me to jump around every chapter or so into someone else's head, as in William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying or Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera. Both were somewhat exhausting to read and not really funny at all. Life is funny. Why shouldn't books about life be funny too?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Anatomy of Descendants and Class

The smallest member of my household, soon to be age 1o, and still very little, said something so witty and funny Friday that I want to remember if forever (as if there is a forever). But first, before I get to that, the other member of my household said something interesting Friday, while we were driving, about how the Mayan calendar created in BC times ends in 2012, so many people believe the world ends then, since the Mayans were so accurate in predicting the future as it pertains to cycles of the moon and in creating a very precise calendar. The Mayans predicted a cataclysm on December 21, 2012, but scientists believe it is not an accurate prediction; some say the Mayan odometer will just be re-set that day.
Anyway, the little one and I were driving, and for some reason she brought up the concept of social classes. She talked about the difference between the rich and the poor. She immediately tried to think of a better word for "poor." She wanted to illustrate for me what she meant. She held up her left hand, saying, "This is the rich." Then she held up her right hand. "This is the poor ... no, this is the ..." she paused while evidence of philosophical pondering graced her face. I helped. "I prefer to replace the word 'poor' with 'financially challenged,'" I said (I like to throw that in whenever I can).
"OK," she said, now holding up both hands. "We've got the rich" (she holds up her left hand again) "and we've got the financially challenged" (she holds up her right hand) (she sounds really smart now). "And ... " she looks around for another placemaker in addition to her hands. I knew she was looking for something she could call the middle. I was thinking to myself, I wonder if she's going to ask where we fall. Will I be explaining that I think we're in lower middle class? We've never talked about it before.
I offered my hand for the middle.
"No, I've got it," she said. She held up her bare foot --- her right foot --- and said, "This is the middle class. We're the pinkie toe." I said, "You're right. I think we are the pinkie toe. We have a roof over our head, we always have food to eat, we pay our bills, but there's not much left over."
There was a woman driving a convertible right in front of us. The car was brand new and had a dealer's plate on it. I pointed to the car and asked, "Where do you think she fits in?" to which she replied, "She's the big toe."
"Why not rich?" I asked.
"Because," she rolled her eyes at me as if I were clueless. "There aren't any rich, rich people here. Rich people live in Hollywood, New York, Hawaii, places like that."
"You don't think any rich people live here?" I asked.
"No, they wouldn't be here if they were rich," she said.
I thought about how we were the pinkie toe. My sister's probably in the big toe category with her husband. My parents are in the pinkie toe category. Their parents were the pinkie toe (actually they may have been more precisely in the middle; I can't be sure). My children will probably be the pinkie toe. Their children will probably be the pinkie toe. There's probably not much I can do. It feels OK. Why fight class when odds are stacked against someone from significantly changing? Just be, and be happy.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wednesday

Tonight, talked into an evening out, I tried salmon roe sushi. Today was a soul-crushing day, full of more of the same non-stop work that leaves me feeling like I got nothing of what I should have gotten accomplished and more of that one-thing-after-another and usually four-things-happen-at-once-and-none-of-them-good type of day.
The best part was trying to unwind and then being able to talk with other adults at dinner, which makes me feel human and alive and less soul-crushed.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tuesday

Today I stepped into the inside of my neighbors' place for the first time. He asked me if I wanted to see some knives, to which I responded, "You mean, for sale?" to which he affirmed. Usually my mind doesn't work that quickly and I don't always guess right, but I was happy that this time I was right, with nothing to go on except an unfamiliar SUV in their driveway. He also told me that he meant to give me the newspaper leaning against my door, because the newspaper person gave them two yesterday. I didn't learn anything new in my perusal of the news. I get frustrated by the fact that the newspaper always places a lighthearted story, something unusual or possibly funny, in the bottom corner of the front page, usually about some random event in another part of the country, and then there's a tiny two-paragraph story buried in the paper about something huge that happened in our state. Today that front corner story was about how Merriam-Webster's latest dictionary has 100 new words in it; and buried on page five is a story about a 19-year-old woman who was shot Sunday at Taco Bell, not too far from here, and that the father of her two-year-old child has been arrested for her murder. That's about the extent of the story buried on page five. According to other news agencies that are more aware, the man is only 22 and has been arrested about 17 times in the past four years, some of those arrests directly pertaining to his abuse of her. Police said she was shot in her vehicle, went inside Taco Bell and asked to use the phone, jumped over the counter and hid in a closet, and he followed her over the counter and to the closet and shot her six times.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Wanted, Kinky Boots, and Strike!

This weekend I watched Wanted, even though I almost always steer away from action movies, which have never really interested me. I find that they almost always lack substance and instead draw upon car chases and mindless violence, and if it was truly playing into the formula, nudity and sex; but I thought Wanted would have something more. It didn't.

Some other movies I watched this weekend that looked better and had more substance included Kinky Boots and Strike! I fell asleep watching one of them and woke up watching the other. Kinky Boots had far more potential and a positive comment from a credible friend about it being one of her favorite movies. It is about a man who reluctantly takes over his father's shoe factory after his father dies. The man has just enjoyed his freedom and moving into his first apartment with his girlfriend when he found out he was being compelled to return. A feisty transvestite enters the picture, and I am supposing that the transvestite's big, red, high-heeled boots inspired him to transform the shoe factory into something a little more exciting. I don't know though; that's where I thought the movie was heading when I fell asleep. When I woke up, Strike! was on and it caught my attention so much that I was suddenly wide awake at 1 a.m. Kirsten Dunst and Gaby Hoffman played girls who attended a private school and were trying to stop the board of directors from caving into pressure from the neighboring boys school to go co-ed. I woke to a line from the headmistress of the school, saying that the influence of the men would be subtle and insidious, as always, and that their influence would slowly reduce the women's and female students' roles at the school into insignificance. That's the kind of movie I like. Something that makes me think.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dialogue About Putting Newly Discovered Vocabulary Word to Use

Meecutio (addressing friends of a friend she just had dinner with who have not yet discovered how nerdy she is): I learned a new word this week. I was wondering if it was a word that was commonly used in conversation.
Teiron (suddenly discovering how nerdy Meecutio is): What?
Meecutio: 'Philistine.' Do you know what it means?
Draystello (reluctantly realizing he is being forced to engage): Mmm ... someone from Palestine?
Teiron: Yeah, that's what I would think.
Meecutio: Do you ever hear people use it in conversation?
Teiron: No.
Draystello: Uh, no.
Meecutio: I just wondered, because I heard someone say it, and I didn't want to ask them what it meant, so I looked it up later. It does refer to people who settled in Palestine ... (she goes on to describe the word as referenced below, in her earlier post, well rehearsed because she spent so much time writing and thinking about it a few days ago, regretting that she ever brought it up and realizing she may have had a little too much wine) ...
Teiron and Draystello shift nervously on the couch. Teiron turns his attention back to the Internet, while Draystello resumes channel surfing with the TV remote control.
Teiron (mumbling, looking down): I didn't know that.
Sanjaya enters, picking up on the conversation.
Sanjaya: Know what?
Meecutio: I was wondering if they'd ever heard anyone use the word 'philistine' in conversation.
Sanjaya: Isn't that someone from Palestine?
Meecutio: It can mean someone from Palestine who settled there in 12th-century B.C. It can also mean ... (she feels compelled to repeat the earlier recitation according to Webster's, not even approaching the curious distinction she wants to make between crass, prosaic, or priggish, as a necessary -- or not -- part of a person who pursues material instead of artistic or intellectual pursuits.)
Sanjaya: In what context did you hear it?
Meecutio: I believe the person who used the word was criticizing or poking fun at someone else's taste in movies. Coffee and Cigarettes, I think.
Meecutio, trying to feel relief that she isn't the only one who didn't immediately know what it meant, is more overcome with regret over her bold foray into intellectualism with strangers. She wonders if there will ever be a time her musings will provide fodder for a lively and thought-provoking discussion about life, luck, lunchtime, losing, lightning or love, or anything like that.
Meecutio tries to change the subject by pulling random photos out of one of Sanjaya's books from his coffee table.
In a second and perhaps more devastatingly fatalistic social move, Meecutio pulls out photo of Draystello's deceased older brother; Meecutio mentally hesitates, but not long enough, before showing him the photo.
Meecutio: Draystello -- is this you? Or your brother?
Draystello (politely looks at photo): Yeah, that's my brother.
Meecutio (with more regret): Oh.
Curtain.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sophistication

I re-educated myself about the word "philistine" today. I've heard it a lot and I heard it recently, in a conversation in which I was somewhat involved, but felt kind of stupid about not knowing what it meant. Usually I'll have no regrets about admitting I don't know what something means and I'll seek the immediate answer by asking, but something told me not to ask. It sounds like a type of philosophy, way of life, or belief. It's a hard one to remember. Its primary definition refers to people who settled in Palestine (Philistia) in 12th century B.C.
It's also a crushing criticism, especially as defined in Webster's: it contains a slew of adjectives to get to its point --- a crass, prosaic and often priggish individual --- and it hasn't even gotten to the heart of the meaning yet --- I had to look each of those words up first --- who follows material rather than intellectual or artistic pursuits. Ouch. I would have felt horribly unsophisticated if I had to ask at that moment. I might have been taken for someone who was Philistine, or perhaps unrefined, if I'd had to ask. I'm so glad I didn't. Then the definition goes on to say the word "Babbitt" is a synonym, which, of course, I also had to look up.
Philistine is a complicated word. It can be capitalized or not. It might make the speaker who uses the word sound really smart. Sometimes children might tend to want to be philistine so that they won't be branded as weird, out of place, or crazy, and there's so much pressure to not be any of those things if you go to most public elementary schools. All that ridicule for being different can really get to you after awhile when you're young and impressionable. I don't think to be considered philistine is necessarily going to be a criticism, in other words; though from reading the word it sounds like it is.
There are two sides to the definition --- of course it's a criticism with the adjectives crass, prosaic and priggish in there; but to isolate the part about it referring to an individual who pursues material rather than intellectual or artistic pursuits is a separate part of that definition. Is there a word for someone who's not crass, prosaic and priggish, and instead only someone who prefers materialistic rather than artistic or intellectual pursuits? Or are they inextricably intertwined? Is there a word for an athletic, cheerful, and relaxed individual, who prefers materialistic rather than artistic or intellectual pursuits? My question is why the latter part of the definition has to be paired with obvious insults. It sounds like a way for artistic and intellectual people to look down on the non-artistic, non-intellectual people. There's always some way to divide each other, label each other, and judge each other. I would hope that those with "intellectual" and "artistic" tendencies would be the least likely to judge other people for what they are or what they are not, for I would think that many people who are artistic and/or intellectual would be some of the most open-minded and non-judgmental people, for lots of reasons.
So much of society, from an early age when two-year-olds fight over toys, to purchasing BMWs, swimming pools and houses in the Hamptons, is all about "stuff," and being materialistic, and that is unfortunate, but I try not to look down on anyone for being materialistic. As if to say I'm not materialistic in the least. I can't make up my mind whether I like the word. I sure am glad that I learned five new words today. Obviously, it gives me a lot to think about, along with some other stuff. I'm not sure if I'll use them out loud.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

All is good. Sort of.

Today was a perfect day. I had a couple cups of extra-strong coffee for the second day in a row, which made me move much too quickly but not cleverly enough to avoid mistakes related to being tired. Today is one of those days you want to make the most of, because the whole world is sunny and the temperature is warm and nice and not hot. I talked today about unpleasant stuff that happened in the past, and talked about how talking about it opens up old wounds and makes the pain come back to life. Haven't I learned my lesson by now? I was talking about that very occurrence, moments before I verbally recalled some of those exact same unpleasant events from a long time ago that made me think about feeling that way in the first place, and all that information was completely unsolicited from the person I was talking to. So then I ended up thinking that all my thinking was a waste and now I feel bad about the past and the present. Less thinking. Less talking. More moving forward. A perfect day. Except for that. We sensitive people have tortured souls.

Convenience Foods

I have finally discovered the fastest kid-pleasing meal to prepare, ever. It's even faster than waiting for fast food to come out of the window. This is day 2 of the super-fast five-minute dinner: 1) take tortilla out of package and place on plate; 2) spread two spoonfuls of spaghetti sauce onto it; 3) add shredded cheese; 4) microwave for 18 seconds; 4) fold in half. Meanwhile, open can of pineapple and cut up fresh broccoli. There you have it: an instant, well-rounded meal that covers the protein, dairy, fruit, vegetable and grain requirements. The end! I don't feel tired at all. I didn't even use what I consider to be "convenience" foods. Unless you count the already-shredded cheese that comes out of the package, or the pineapple that comes out of a can, or the tortillas that have already been made by someone else. It's really all about convenience foods, but they're relatively healthy convenience foods. Most people probably associate the concept of convenience foods with frozen or boxed concoctions made with corn syrup, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt, sugar, and preservatives and chemicals.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Riddle of Life: Doing What Makes You Not Tired

Some advice given to me recently was to determine, if you're worn out all the time, what part of your lifestyle doesn't suit you. The line of thinking behind that is to assume that if you were doing exactly what you wanted to be doing and it was the perfect thing for your life, you would have the energy and enthusiasm to carry on tirelessly and in perfect equilibrium. On the one hand I want to say, "Hey! That's me! It's time to change my life! I am tired all the time." On the other hand, I think, "Isn't it just natural to be tired?"
Isn't it great to step back from your life, imagine you're standing on a balcony, looking from a distance onto your present life, and take an objective view of it and determine what you want to do differently? I do that sometimes, and I might be able to objectively figure out that what I'm doing is not exactly what I want to be doing, but it rarely helps to put into action what I think I know to do from up there in the metaphorical balcony. It might just take a while to get from metaphorical balcony to real life. It might be a metaphorical staircase away, but in real time it might take a few years to get back down to the earthly level and improve it.
I recognize when I'm tired because I drop everything. I want to do something simple, like pick up a piece of paper, and it slips right out of my hands. Three times. The worst times of being tired involve something heavy slipping right out of my hands and onto my bare feet. I've done that so many times that I have learned to immediately move my feet out of the way when I think I'm about to drop something. I might want to open a jar of pineapple with a can opener so I can have a little snack. I might want to put the can opener away in a drawer and the can opener gets in the way to prevent the drawer from closing. I might want to find a spoon to get the pineapple out of the can, and on the way across the kitchen to get a spoon, I step on something tiny that digs deep into my foot, causing pain. I might want to get the pineapple out of the can, but then it falls off the spoon onto the counter as I try to get the ever-elusive food. When it takes so much effort to do something as simple as get some fruit out of a can, I know I'm tired. Does this mean my life needs to change? I go up to my metaphorical balcony and when I look down upon myself in the kitchen, I realize I may be trying to fit six jobs into one life (or that I may need to wear shoes in the kitchen). If only I could figure out a way to work, hire a cook, a maid, a gardener, an accountant and a nanny, life would be absolutely perfect. I'd settle for just a cook. Or just a nanny. Or just a maid. I'd have endless energy.