19 December 2008


Too busy to post something new, so here are the collected Twitter haikus of vanillagrrl, so far:

Throat December raw / Steamer jollies up the milk / Mmmm, a hot latte

Winter frost etches / Map of crystalline subway / On picture window

Cat stands on my lap / Insisting on attention / While I tweet again

Excellent haiku! / Today is your newfound friend / In the digisphere!

Eek, it's eleven! / Only three hours for work / I like the pressure

Rubbing my cold hands / together to warm them up / I will type faster

Writing about films / I have not yet seen is like / Dancing about Maine

So much work to do / For the next hundred minutes / Not allowed to tweet

15 December 2008

What would Pa Ingalls do?

Hello in there, hello!

It is too freaking cold out today for me to want to go back out, now that my child is safely ensconced at school, which is just as well because I have a ton of work right here in front of me. I'm warming up fingers and mind for painting, IFS writing, and reassembling my kid's room, not to mention packaging up stuff to send and planning dinner and sewing up seams to slim down a couple of pairs of pants. Zounds! I do need to do something physical besides painting, though. My back's all achy. Maybe I can work on all my projects and then go to the rec center for a swim and sauna. That would be a fine goal for today.

This morning I thought of Pa Ingalls when I was making my second cup of coffee, and how surprised he would likely be at how long I had been up and how little I had gotten done in that time. But I did deliver my child to school and now am hunkering down to my work. "Make hay while the sun shines," sings through my mind whenever I think of him. Today I figured that would be a nice little tool to keep in my pocket: "What Would Pa Ingalls Do?" I don't want to shame myself into anything, but I do want to feel that same sunny determination to make the most of each day we have when we're here.

Which reminds me of one of the things about the SUV-driving/McMansion-owning Evangelical Christians that troubles me the most: I fear that all the focus on things being better in the next world keeps folks from being fully invested in this one. It's such a bad setup, on so many levels. If there's revelation then there's The Rapture, which I am always amazed people really believe could happen. One guy on This American Life was talking about his experiences calling certain people when he was not certain if the Rapture had happened (and he, by extension, had been Left Behind) and when they answered he was so relieved: "Phew! The Rapture hasn't happened yet. If it had, Aunt Shirley would not have answered her phone, because she'd be in Heaven for sure." It feels like pure permission to mess things up in the here and now in some perverse way. All the good folks will go away and then it will be really bad, Hell on Earth, so who cares if things get a little crappier right now? We're like those proverbial frogs in the pot on the stove, constantly adjusting to worsening conditions, even though we know things could get really, really bad.

What inspires people to be their best selves? I know my father yearned to have that near-magical aura of competence and integrity epitomized by Charles Ingalls and Jesus, but didn't have the foundation for it. (To me the evidence for that is in how "deceitful" he always accused everyone around him of being.) In my little universe I feel I'm just now learning how to truly rely on others and to be relied upon. I'm learning how to rely on myself (I've discovered it's amazing what the always-true statement "I have a rich inner life" does for my self-confidence). I do feel people around me know I'm a little odd or something. Perhaps it's the having only one child thing, or my short fuse. But it's okay. It's a way in which we know each other, and recognize each other's limits, and no one has to fake anything or lie about anything.

Being with my family makes me want to be my best self, as does making commitments to my friends, my writing group, and others in my circle. I do like to rely and be relied upon, and to live my life in a way that is honest and true. Knowing there are people in my life and out there on Twitter doing the things I want to be doing, and reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie stories, all give me something to reach for. Knowing people publish books and have babies at the same time is good, as is knowing it is possible at approximately my age to be centered and ambitious enough to be president despite all apparent obstacles.

A belated Parade of Lights update, speaking of all things Ingalls: Last weekend, the youngest and I went downtown and dressed up in costumes and walked with the Boulder History Museum folks, mostly because a neighbor is on the board and asked us if we'd like to join in. I had just seen something about our town celebrating its 150th anniversary and felt a pang of wanting to participate in that somehow. So we said yes to our neighbor. The funny part is we went to the museum before the parade and picked out our costumes but we didn't know what other people were wearing. We decided to dress as Laura and her Ma would. So on the Saturday of the parade, I felt very casual and underdressed when we arrived downtown and saw how everyone else was dressed. But looking back I felt it wasn't all bad to have us plainer folk along, either, representin' for those settlers way back when who didn't have silk dresses with petticoats.

10 December 2008

A good cause for the day, with a way to help right away

My friend sent out the following this morning:

I don't usually forward mass email campaigns but I feel very strongly about this issue. 350.org, an international climate campaign, is calling on people all over the world to take action to safeguard the survival of all countries and peoples by signing the "Survival Declaration."

They're on the ground at the UN Climate talks in Poland right now, and they need our help to put pressure on the delagates from the wealthier countries on higher ground not to forsake the island nations that have the most to lose if the oceans rise. The e-mail they sent me is below, or just go straight to their declaration here: http://www.350.org/survival

Thanks! Love, Jessica


Dear friends,

I'm writing again from the UN Climate talks in Poland, where one thing has become heartbreakingly apparent: for some people, these negotiations aren't just about numbers and compromise and diplomacy. For some people, these negotiations are about survival.

People toss around a lot of lofty words at the UN, so let me be clear. I'm not talking about "survival" as an abstract concept, or some distant problem for future generations. I'm talking about countries and peoples getting quite literally wiped off the map within decades. I'm talking about human lives and livelihoods being destroyed by the impacts of climate change here and now.

Here's the worst part: the countries facing the biggest impacts of climate change are also the countries most poorly represented here in the United Nations.
With the static of the UN and the distractions of a 24-hour news cycle, the countries fighting on the front lines of climate change struggle to get the attention they deserve. Case in point: last week 49 of the world's most vulnerable countries endorsed the 350 target that the latest science calls for. Instead of recognizing the importance of this call, some EU leaders have been backpedaling on their already weak climate commitments.
The time has come to change the conversation in Poland, to send one clear message that cuts through the static.
That's where you come in. If we come together, we can amplify the voices of the people who are most threatened by climate change.
Can you take a stand for survival by signing the pledge here? http://www.350.org/survival

Youth from around the world are spending the next 24 hours pressuring their country's UN negotiators to sign on to the very same same survival pledge--and their efforts will be made much easier if they have people like you supporting them from every corner of the earth.

We'll put your messages directly in front of world leaders by staging a high-profile delivery on the last day of the negotiations. This plan will only work if we get enough people signing on before the end of the week to make it count. With your help, we can make the "survival principle" a key message of the UN negotiations. And upon that principle, the world can build an equitable global climate agreement around science-based targets--targets like 350, the safe upper limit of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere.

When I landed in Poland for the UN Climate talks a week ago, I thought I knew what to expect: a few meetings, some beaurocratic backpedaling, and some frustratingly slow progress on a global climate treaty. I wasn't prepared for feeling moved, deeply, by the stories from those on the front lines of climate change. These are stories from countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu, island nations who are losing their crops and drinking water due to the ever encroaching sea. If climate change remains unchecked, by the time I retire there may be nothing left of these nations but waves.

We can prevent a climate catastrophe. The time has come for the world to stand together. Please join us.

Thanks for all that you do,

-Jon (and Bill, Jamie, Jeremy, Kelly, May, Phil, and Will and the entire 350 team)

The list

OK, time to write down those resolutions? priorities? plans? goals? impulses? all of the above_X_ for the new year.

Finish my novel. Cross everyone's paths. Let everyone run amok doing their things -- those crazy dirty tricks guys and my rock-star wanna be who can't stop herself from shouting about the food industry and her sister the chef who is trying to be three people in one, oh, and that architect, those cute, flirty folks over at the FDA, and I've been listening in on. They're onto something. Together they'll be a happening! A jam! A meltdown! A brainstorm! A stick, a stone, it's the end of the road....

Be the best partner to my sweetie. Help him in every way.

Be a good mom and a solid advocate for my daughter in school.

Be a full and present participant in my writing group at every moment.

Keep taking pictures.

Keep talking with family and friends.

Keep on eating well, and together. That is some social glue, getting together over dinner.

Remember to get outside and move around and breathe deeply every day.

Do another couple of house projects this year.

Move us forward somehow, by redecorating? Try painting and other ideas, like making built-in bookshelves, adapting window ledges to look like rock or metal or marble.

08 December 2008

Joys of the season

It's these little things we do to spur each other along, to draw each other in. One of us starts to do the Sunday crossword puzzle, and the other sidles up to help. I start a painting project that gets us to do some necessary reorganizing. My sweetie does the yard work and I come out and I come and pitch in so that it all gets done in a weekend. Then we both feel better. I vacuum the floors; my sweetie vacuums the couch. These are such little things, but they make such a difference in our life together.

05 December 2008

What if it's the collective consciousness, not the collective unconscious?

What I'm on about this week:

The Big Three's plea for cash, when what they should have done is started innovating like crazy in 1973, when we got our first inklings of problems like these. I can't believe their nerve; I've lost my compassion. I mean, those guys couldn't have shared a jet to come talk? Or proposed they conference call? Come on, where are their strategists? Where are their heads? Stuffed deep into their own pockets, searching for lint in the recesses. I swear. It just makes me want to buy a hybrid Subaru even more than I did before. Now it's spite. (Sounds like the tagline for a silly movie: "Mike Masca and the Revenge of the Blue-Masked Meanies. First it was a crusade. Now it's spite.")

The meltdown. This is the first major financial crisis in my adult life (I'm not counting my cousin-in-law's experience of being in Korea during the Asian meltdown, nor remembering President Carter's environmental speeches and resetting our thermostats two degrees lower to 66 because ours had already been at 68, back when I was 10). The financial crisis feels very much like being in the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 and being only 17 miles from the epicenter: it doesn't feel like it's over yet, even when the ground seems to have stopped rumbling and roaring. I'm still ducking under my desk and waiting for the dust to clear. It feels like it's going to be awhile.

New media: Two things caught my attention this week in this realm. First and worst, the Rocky Mountain News is up for sale. I am sad to see this. I think having a two-newspaper town is a good thing, and I like the way Westword is the little yappy dog that nips at their heels. But I also guess those guys and gals have been shopping their resumes around for a while now, knowing full well if they hang on they may go down with the ship. It's terrible to watch these ships go down, too. It is like watching another great ocean liner sink, having already seen the movie Titanic yet feeling helpless to stop it despite having all that information about what went so wrong. Do we have to recast newsgathering and dissemination as something completely different? Must we turn to grassroots support as we do for vital services like community radio? How many people who listen to community radio actually donate? Can that number be increased if the loss of that resource is threatened? Second: in a news story this week about a local man who is a key member of Obama's transition team, a graphic was embedded in the story that was a little amusing, but also rather shocking to me. (Here's the close-up, if you can't make out this key member of the team.) I was just shocked that they would completely surround an advertising graphic in a news story. Were you surprised when you saw that, too?

I keep thinking about the Spot.us independent reporting-for-pay model; what seems to me to be missing is a way to gauge a reporter's credibility. A newspaper or other institution can open that door for an individual, but it's harder for the individual to push that door open themselves. So how do you create a new, yet credible, institution that is devoted to gathering and disseminating news? Busy minds are working on this problem as we speak, but I think it's like a lot of things (e.g., the healthcare system, the gut-brain connection, and the new killer news app) in that there's plenty of room for solutions from all corners, all comers.

01 December 2008

Five gift ideas for the chronically frugal

In some ways I am profligate (I do love to eat at restaurants), but in other ways I am so frugal by upbringing and personal predilection that this new belt-tightening everyone is bracing themselves for already feels like second-nature to me. Anyway, here are a few fave frugal gift and craft ideas for when you're feeling strapped for cash but want to get creative:

1. Mix CDs. They are windows into your soul. What songs still get you going after all these years? What are you listening to this week? People love getting them, and drawing all sorts of conclusions about what is going on in your personal life based only on the songs you choose.

2. Make some refrigerator magnets. Get prints of your favorite photos and mount them on magnets that you buy from an office supply store. Often these are sold in business-card size, but you can stick two side-by-side on the back of a larger image (just peel off the backings, butt them up against one another, aligning the ends, and with scissors or a craft knife trim off any extra photo paper from around the edges).

Or with tiny, super-strong magnets, you can turn other objects into magnets. The magnets are too small and too strong to be useful on the fridge on their own, it turns out, but they set off a little brainstorm for me. I went online and ordered some neodymium disc ones, pretty small, that weren't too strong. Good magnet fodder includes tiny dolls, rocks, single earrings, buttons, and random crap I find around my house. I also use those clear pebbles decorators and florists use, which work if you can find decent ones that you can see through. They have a nice magnifying effect and look great with something glued onto the flat side. You need a strong, transparent-drying glue (it's nasty and fumacious but E-6000 is probably the best one I have found) and some fun magazine pictures, photos, or papers (origami with metallic detail works well, as do many wrapping papers). I started making so many of these I bought hole punches (a 1/2" one for the smaller pebbles, and a 1" punch for the larger ones). What's fun about them is being able to back them with anything. I gave my daughter's teacher a set of magnet pebbles I'd made by punching each of the kids' faces out of a copy of the class picture a couple of years ago.

3. If you're feeling ambitious, you could bind a book. You'll need a lot of supplies: boards, fabric or paper for covering the boards, glue, end papers, binding cord or ribbon, and the paper for the inside. You also need a vise grip and access to a drill, so this project is not for the faint of heart. But it can be so satisfying to make a personalized journal or photo album by picking out just what you think they would like and assembling it yourself.

4. Make a set of stamp-art note cards. Cut some nice thick paper or card stock in half, fold each half, and make potato stamps for printing a design on the front of each one. Cut a potato in half, and scrape away anything you don't want to print. Dip your stamp in some tempera paint and print onto a card. Make a few items of different sizes so you can mix motifs and accents.

5. Apples. Everyone loves apples. Even if the recipients don't eat them all, I once read about a study finding that one of the sexiest scents to humans is of dessicating apples. Think of it: A snack, and an aphrodisiac, all in one! Rinse them, polish them with a dishcloth, and place them into a paper bag that you decorate with some crap you've found around your house. Add a few filigrees with a colored marker, and you've just charmed the socks off some neighbor who is now mentally scrambling for what she can gift you with in return.

26 November 2008

Breaking news

Holy heck! I have been feeling that earthquakey shift in my consciousness again tonight: The definition of news has just changed for the good. I've been mentioning Twitter: well, I just picked up my computer for the first time and found that a bunch of scary stuff is going down right now. A thousand people may be dead in Mumbai. (**Edit: Now I'm hearing possibly 100 dead, 600 injured.**) The Indian Army has gone into the Taj Hotel, where they had found unexploded grenades, and terrorists were supposedly on the 18th floor, all this information broadcast in blurts from mumbaiupdates since about two hours ago. Just as I was getting up to speed on the situation, I saw the post stating that the Indian government wanted to stop the broadcast of all tweets containing the text "#Mumbai." (People agree to post with a "hashtag" in front of a topic to make it show up as trends; one can search for the string "#mumbai" and get all the news before it's even fit to print.)

It felt eerie and unsettling to tweet a query to someone who seemed to be in the middle of this maelstrom (**Edit - but who I later learned was in Boston **) and ask directly whether the government's fear is of endangering civilians or is there a possibility it could mobilize aid more quickly? Thirteen minutes ago an update came: "This is exactly what #Mumbai doesn't need: a certain tv station following the configuration of the police. That's what I'm getting at" and then a few minutes later came: "SUCCESS - the NDTV website is no longer broadcasting live video from the #Mumbai front. Thank you NDTV." So security is the issue, and too much news can be harmful, apparently.

Yet it's a torment to know this is happening right now. We can tweet about blood drives, and I can post on Facebook and hope my messages go out across those six degrees, but that's still halfway around the world. I suppose that distance feels a little more spannable with Twitter, but it's still vast.

25 November 2008

I'm Open!

So many meanings, that little exclamation. In the game, ready for any move needed, receptive, allowing for alternatives, even vulnerable. Living online the way I have been coming to do has thrown open some kind of floodgate in my concepts of identity and how good other people out there are but there are exceptions, there are other elements to be aware of, too. I know full well I am also making myself more Googlable, for better or for worse. And I can't help it: it makes me nervous.

What doesn't make me nervous is going to my writing group. I have gotten a good sense of where people are, and where I am. I try to bring in work I'm happy with, but I always get pulled up just right. I'm always surprised and impressed by their insights about my work. This week I brought in a piece that is still mostly a rant, but I got just the criticism I needed to revise it into something that has meaning and value, instead of just leaving it to stew in its own juices.

I keep wondering why it is that I think back on the film Slumdog Millionaire with such affection and it's in part the children, as I said in my Movie Habit review. Although they are forced by their circumstances to try to survive, having been orphaned by a Muslim-hating mob, all their naïve, energetic striving proves inspiring. I also admire the energy and verve of the lead character, Jamal (Dev Patel). It does take a lot for a boy in the slums to become a chai-walla at a call center, and Jamal's face and his entire stance reveal the chasm between these worlds. He persists, despite the hopelessness entailed in coming from the slums of one of the world's megacities, a much more damning fate in India than it is here, incidentally. There's something eternally optimistic about the colors themselves: the blue of plastic tarps setting off a rich palette of yellows, browns, and reds throughout, the film organizing a kaleidoscope of color out of the chaos. I returned to this because of Opal Dream, the film we're screening for our block kids' movie night, which is dark but not too dark. It's definitely not as fluffy and effervescent as Ella Enchanted, or Enchanted or any of the Disney films (although Bambi's pretty darned tragic), but it's a good and provocative story. It's not about people who are being good all the time, probably the downfall of a lot of potentially interesting tales that come out of Hollywood these days. It's about people who are forced to deal with circumstances outside their ken. It's like I said to my friend the other day: even if you don't agree with it, it puts a draft out there to edit, gives you a place to start thinking about some issues.

23 November 2008

Do they deserve a break today?

I was just considering whether to try and zoom down to Denver to catch a smidge more of the film fest, and had picked out a shorts program, which turned out to be a "first-look" or student program. That brought to mind something another selection committee member said at one of our selection meetings: that we give students a handicap in judging their films but truly they have so many resources at their fingertips, so much expertise and equipment around them, that they don't really deserve the kinder, gentler appraisal. She went on to say she's is often a lot more impressed when people on their own gather up the resources to make a film than she is when they're in film school. Food for thought, eh?

21 November 2008

We are what we feed our kids

Rocking my world this week: a couple of talks, and Twitter, all inspiring in completely different ways.

The first talk was a tirade about what we are allowing schools to feed our kids for lunch every day. Ann Cooper, who turned things around in the Berkeley school district, unleashes her fiery torrent of rhetoric and statistics to paint a damning picture of a society that has allowed our government to climb into big businesses' comfy pockets and beds.

Cooper says in her talk that if we send our children to school and we feed them bad food, that's what they learn. And what happens? We get sick. I think she's right: there's something we can do about all those additives and preservatives and hormones and pesticides we're allowing the USDA to dump on all our crops because Monsanto's too big to fail, because we've got to keep doing business with them because it's our patriotic duty and not to do so would destabilize our economy too much. We can stand up and say, our kids need real food. The problem is a lot of parents don't know it's not nutritious; they assume if it's coming from the government, it's good for us. There's a midwestern stoicism among some of my relatives that is thrift-based and also very stoic. But there comes a point when those top 10 companies responsible for feeding a huge percentage of our country's population must be recognized as having a greater interest in their short-term profits than in their consumers' long-term health. And we have to be willing to stand up and say, not only is $8 billion a year not enough money, but we must double that at least and spend it in different ways to get value for our money, that is, the health of our children and our planet.

I have some friends who are starting a new venture, writing a book and starting an NGO, both called Goodness To Go. They are trying to provide a roadmap and toolkit for anyone wanting to start a new venture. (I will definitely put in a word to advocate employing social media in their networking strategies, given all I have seen and done this week. Just this week I signed up for some stuff on Facebook and started wearing a little white ribbon tied in a double-knot to symbolize my belief that any human being should be able to marry the person of their choice. The social media explosion makes enterprises like this seem so much easier. Such amazing opportunity. It is Web 2.0. People are reaching out to one another online; there's no going back. No putting that powerful genie back in any teensy little jar.)

One Less Coffee, One More Lunch might be a good name for a charity that supports school lunch improvements (that name might be too scolding, tho -- we can sleep on that awhile longer). You could give people a way to set up little electronic accounts that let them donate their Starbucks money weekly or monthly or even daily if so motivated. Heck, offer to give away a bunch of espresso makers to provide a direct incentive for saving money and resources (all those paper cups and plastic lids and stirrer sticks and napkins, not to mention the gas and pollution expended on auto trips just for coffee that's been flown halfway around the world). Channel all that not-spent-at-Starbucks money into feeding kids better foods, getting fresher, cleaner, more local produce and staples into school districts to support total community health.

My gosh, you could even have an app with little buttons you push to pick one or more causes you'd like to support. I want to send bikes and books to Akumal. To buy kids nutritious and fresh school lunches that stoke their appetites and imaginations. To publish novels that let people know it's okay to be who they are, or to write what they have to say.

The second inspiring talk I heard was a talk by Ken Robinson an engaging and urbane fellow, just my type (and the English accent never hurt his chances either) who spun a good twenty-minute tale (all you get at TED talks, apparently). His was about learning and how schools teach kids, delivered in quite the opposite way Ann Cooper speaks, softened and readied by funny jokes and self-effacing patter. He related a triumphant anecdote about a woman who took her child for a consultation, imagining ADD or ADHD or something equally dire. The doc invented a pretext for leaving the child alone in the room and turned on the office stereo on his way out with her mother. The girl was up as soon as music came on, moving around the room.

"She's a dancer," was his diagnosis. "Get her into a dance school." And it's true. She was and we all know people who must move to be able to think. (I think our daughter has that bent. She would be great at circus school. Can you imagine what our friends and family would say if we were to announce, "We're sending our daughter to circus school!") I think a little friend of my daughter's mom is like that: I see her running all over our neighborhood, deep in her world. I feel the same need to nurture my own key strength, I suppose; I have this inner world that requires me to park myself in front of a keyboard and record something, anything, fairly often. I have to write to think things through, and I need some restorative time alone or at least quiet pretty much every day. But I have a musical intelligence, too, so I find loud music organizing and appealing, especially when performed right in front of me. I crave quiet more as I get older, I notice, but I'll still take earplugs and go listen to some live music just about anytime. And I need to work up a sweat every day, too. And our schools need to be places where all of these behaviors are valued, not just places where people are taught to think "straight" so they can hold jobs.

I'm glad I saw those talks. I would considering starting something, and it makes me want to get back to what my character is doing in my novel (o how I love saying that: novel, singular. Still feels right to combine the two. Ahhhh). Maybe I'll have to volunteer to user-test my friends' new NGO starter kit.

In other news, I'm feeling a little mindwarped, like I've just had my first warp-speed flight and lived to tell the tale. Honestly, it's all because of Twitter. At first I didn't see it. Now I think it's amazing. I love it, really, but feel strongly compelled to issue one huuuuuge caveat: I think mania and Twitter would not or do not go well together. That's my safety tip for the day ('coz I'm all about that, dontcha know?): manics, take your Twitter in appropriate doses for your tolerance. It's has an addictive allure; the rabbit hole is endless. Use it with care and discretion and it can be your friend; abuse it and it can be your enemy.

Those are my pearls for today. Ciao and peace and out.

20 November 2008

I heard the news today, oh boy

Here's my personal reaction to a film I saw at Starz Denver Film Festival last weekend:

Stop the Presses! The American Newspaper in Peril

As a home-based worker (a writer and mom) I rely heavily on the newspaper for my initial hit of what's happening in my world. I straddle two major demographics as I have my feet planted firmly in both the print and online worlds. In the audience during the panel discussion that followed the screening of Stop the Presses!, Mark Birnbaum and Manny Mendoza's documentary about the decline of the newspaper industry and the need for new solutions for its ills, I saw how vast the gulf between those two worlds can be.

Listening to that panel discussion, I arrived at my own personal conclusion about all this talk of newspapers losing their audiences, the single-copy subscribers: I have had it up to my eartops with being lumped in with any other enormous group, whether it's the dinosaurs who only read newspapers and magazines, or it's Generations X and Y, who get their news exclusively online, or from talking with friends. We're not so one-dimensional, we the people. Take me for an example: I get the local daily delivered to my door, the Sunday New York Times, The New Yorker comes to my mailbox weekly, and I read books I check out from the library. We don't get cable nor do we have a TV in our living room, so we don't watch much, and what we do watch is mostly Netflix DVDs (I still feel badly for abandoning my local shop).

But I have also started using social media tools like Facebook and Twitter of late, which means I get and can provide instant updates whenever I want them whatever or whomever I choose to befriend or “follow” as long as they “tweet” or post brief messages on Twitter. Along with trolling for periodic updates by intriguing and popular people, I also signed up for CNN, NPR, BBC, and a few other newsgathering organizations. I am not much interested in watching movies on my iPhone but would consider watching TV episodes that way. I'm too cheap to buy a lot of stuff from iTunes. I still like to have the CDs for music I like, although I can see how those days are numbered. I still like having a physical artifact. I also prefer to do my crossword puzzles in pencil; doing them online isn't quite as satisfying.

See what I mean?

How will newspapers attract and keep readers like me, who value a variety of information streams and formats, without condescending to us or trying to give us too much of what we don't want or need? How can they make their news feeds indispensable, and get a return on their investment of staff salaries and benefits? Stop the Presses! doesn't answer the question, but it doesn't make any condescending presumptions, to its credit. I for one am anxiously waiting, watching, and even examining how I can personally can help solve this problem. It still seems like the world is still waiting for that killer news app.

One person during the panel said an argument has been advanced by an NYU prof that "there is no business model for newspapers, because there's nothing else like them.” Suddenly I feel we're getting warmer. What if that were the one assumption we took back to the empty drawing board? That whatever the model, it may not look anything like the previous one. What would we do differently? How can we support the Third Estate as one of the important pillars of our social world and reward people appropriately for the effort and risks involved in reporting stories? I think folks like Spot.Us and The Poynter Institute are on the right track; it's just convincing individuals that it's in their best interests to buy investigative reporting as well as books on Amazon and trinkets on eBay. A tough row to hoe in this barren climate.

19 November 2008

Wow me: Nine tips for filmmakers trying to get films into film festivals

I had to ask myself tonight whether I give films in film fests a bump in my reviews just because they're part of a festival. Did I like The Brothers Bloom and Slumdog Millionaire even better than I would have otherwise because they were screened at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House last weekend and I had a press pass? I'd have to admit that might affect my judgment a little. The first film I attended to a press screening to review for Movie Habit was The Hours, adapted from the beautiful book by Michael Cunningham. I still cringe at having given the film four stars because I don't ever feel a need to see it again. Mostly, I preferred the book. I liked my own internal images of Virginia Woolf, and now Nicole Kidman is all mixed up in those forever. She was terrific in her breakout film, To Die For, but she has seemed a bit opaque in the way of a porcelain doll ever since. Today, the thing I really remember about The Hours is Meryl Streep straining eggs with her fingers. I could watch that all day. But it alone wasn't worth four stars; I was just so impressed that I got to go see the movie for free. (I was less impressed soon afterward when I realized that my reviews took at least a couple of hours to write, plus the time spent watching the film and getting to and from the screenings. "Free" in this context quickly turned into a little joke for me.)

So here's a bit of advice on how to get your film into a film festival. Incidentally, I speak from experience. Now that I have been on the selection committee of a film festival for two years running, I have had some time to reflect on my experience plucking the gems out of the submission stacks. I figure it might be helpful for all you ambitious filmmakers who want to get your films into festivals.

  1. I don't care about the packaging. Sure, it's nice for you if you have good graphic design, but a DVD in an envelope or clear jewel case with the title scrawled right on the DVD with permanent marker is all I really need, as long as your DVD will play.

  2. Hold your pizza parties to reward your faithful friends and family after the labeling and packaging and addressing parties. We've received some really filthy DVDs that weren't even pornos. (The one porno we did get was an accident; some mortified filmmaker's assistant called and begged, "Please swap the disk you received from us with the one we are overnighting. We sent you the wrong one." I was never enlightened about whether the porno they sent first was a copying error or another film by the same filmmaker.)

  3. Take stills during production that you can send us for our promotional materials, or, if you forgot to do this, use editing software to extract stills. Remember that these images may be blown up or shrunk to tiny thumbnails, so bold, high-contrast images often work best.

  4. Don't worry about giving us perfect writing; we have to rewrite your synopses to suit the program and other promotional materials anyway.

  5. We'd prefer to watch your film free of a time code displayed throughout or a watermark on every frame; every year I hear some sniggering about the stencil "Screener Copy." Look, all the films go directly into big stacks in cloth grocery bags. We carry them from the film fest offices to our screening rooms (sounds so much more glamorous than living rooms, no?). I've been tempted to take films on trips that occurred during my viewing months, but I don't because I couldn't stand it if I were to lose one or more of your DVDs. So trust us. None of us want want to leak your film on the internet, really. If we love your film, we'd prefer to surprise the dedicated film fan who attends our film festival if we love it. Nor would leaking your film be our first impulse if we don't like it.

  6. It's tough to do comedy well, but I judge horror infinitely more harshly. Like the Peggy Olson character on Mad Men, it has to prove itself especially well to get my blessings. Just shocking or showing something gross or disturbing isn't enough. It has to have some redeeming value, some reason for watching this horrorshow or zombie flick.

  7. In your submitting your film and my giving you somewhere between a few minutes to two-plus hours of my time, we are entering into a contract with one another. I agree to watch your film with an open mind as long as you sustain the rules you declared early in your film convincingly throughout your film. If it's experimental, fine; it still has to have some internal logic or a discernible reason for being. If you're going to change your story's rules or tweak conventions, because that's half the fun for many of us creative folk, do so with all the confidence and imagination and heart you can muster. Put yourself in my shoes: I'm putting myself in your hands and hoping for the best; please don't give up on what you've pledged part of the way through my time with you.

  8. If you send me any fancy promotional stuff for a film you are submitting to a film festival, be forewarned that your film could suffer a bit of backlash on my part. Go ahead and promote it like crazy once your film is accepted -- our staff will love you forever. Until then, keep everything but your film under your hat. Every film in the stack is equal to me until it proves itself otherwise.

  9. When you do write your synopses, remember that we are all curious about new ideas but no one wants to be told how to think about a film (which means, for example, avoiding superlatives like "best" and "greatest"). Let us be the judges. A good film speaks for itself.

I sincerely wish you all the best. I am always hoping for something great every time I watch a film, whether I am popping into my player a DVD you burned days earlier on your laptop and submitted to the festival or I'm all dressed up and attending opening night at the Starz Denver International Film Fest. More than anything, I just want to be wowed.

14 November 2008

For the love of it, not for the parties

I love Roger Ebert's attitude about attending the Toronto Film Festival. His is a lot better than Rex Reed's!

And I had to laugh when I read in another critic's Toronto sum-up: "Ricky Gervais is so charming as a cranky dentist haunted by a recently deceased Greg Kinnear, the time seemed to pass in minutes."

13 November 2008

Message to my girl

I'll lead today's post with my favorite song in all the world, which is "Aguas de Marco," or Waters of March, by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

It's lyrically beautiful, it's long enough for me, and I imagine it is responsible for many thousands of people learning Portuguese (a number that may one day include me). This display of the lyrics is lovely because you can see the original alongside the translation. On KGNU, our local community station, on Friday afternoons is that super-silly Afternoon Sound Alternative show with the lovely and talented Agent 99 and Barry, who has curated a fine collection of Aguas de Marcos in his electronic nook over here. I love this song because we're all connected by all these things: the sticks and stones and nails and words and joy in our hearts, the communities and rituals and languages and the wine we share.

Becoming a parent is like Jobim's song about everything: like putting a human being on the moon, it organizes us and splashes us with all the grit and heft of pure humanity. It's no longer just an intellectual idea, a wish for the future, a symbol of hope. It's flesh and blood and sweat and tears and you are bound up with this person and their constellation of people from here on out. It makes your family bigger than you, which is a good and healthy thing. It makes you ask for help, and shows you who your friends are.

So I know you know this stuff but I am feeling the need to compile a few pieces of advice that I wish I'd known or understood from the get-go about having a child. I'm gonna want to say this stuff sooner or later, so might as well do it now, right?

My top ten pieces of advice based on my few years of experience as a mother so far would be, in no particular order:

  1. Every day, tell your child something you would love to hear someone say to you, or that you wish had been said to you when you were a child.

  2. Sometimes what looks like malingering is much more complex.

  3. I looked up one night when my little one was about one year old and realized I'd been so anxious about not waking her after she'd fallen asleep that I wasn't going in and kissing her or stroking her cheek when I felt like it. Once I saw this in myself, I felt terrible, feeling like I had traded warmth and accessibility for adherence to rules and systems. I cried a few remorseful tears. And I started going in more and giving her a kiss on the cheek or head before I went to sleep. I think she started sleeping better after that, but maybe that phase was over. The points of that story were not just that you want to be the kind of mother who checks her child in the night but also that sleep problems occur in phases. Sometimes you just have to wait them out and be there for your kid as much as possible when they have night terrors or other disturbances, even when you fear you're giving them the wrong message by sitting up with them in the middle of the night.

  4. Take your child outside and enjoy some different scenery every day.

  5. Breathe deep. Again. Remember that weird yoga teacher you didn't like (he was a bit odd, I agree) who told you to squeeze out all the breath all the way down to your tuchus? That deep, at least a few times a day.

  6. Don't take it personally. Whether it's unasked-for but well-meaning but ignorant advice from others or it's criticism from your kid. Or it's your fears of inadequacy as a parent. We all get that.

  7. Family comes first. You don't owe anyone explanations or need to tell anyone about anything concerning your family, especially in public places when your child is melting down or would rather you didn't talk about them. (This was big for me since my skin is a different color from my kid's, and I always felt I had to reassure people that I was carrying an overloaded screaming brown child out of the grocery store because I'm a mother, not a crazed maniac making off with someone else's kid.)

  8. Try to meet your child where he or she is. Get down low and try to see things from their perspective.

  9. Give yourself breaks. Don't feel bad about asking for babysitting or housecleaning help when you feel overwhelmed -- or a little before that. People want to help you, and when they can't, they will let you know.

  10. You definitely know this already, but read to your baby every day. Even in the early days when they're a little lump of sleeping babyness, read a paragraph of the book you are reading out loud. They need to learn all about you and your voice and they just love to listen to their mother's dulcet tones.

Good luck, girlfriend!

10 November 2008

Ghosts in the machine

All three of us who live here have independently come to the conclusion that we share our house with at least one ghost. Maybe more. My sweetie and I practically spoke over each other as we confessed to each other for the first time in twelve years that we hear sounds all the time. Our little one just asked me if ghosts really exist, again. They're one of those things I've never seen for sure, but I told her I can't rule them out.

I think we have ghosts, the young miss announced. I think they're real.

Who would know better than a little girl who spent most of her first six months hearing a chorus of voices she has probably been listening for since?

I think they hide behind doors. Maybe they like the downstairs. You know, where it's not all nice like upstairs. With the floor all covered with kitty litter and stuff? What, Mom? Maybe they like that!

Can they come in the cracks? Because I think I just saw one over there. Do you think there's more than one? Probably usually they live in a family, just like us.

08 November 2008

An eligible girl

My posts have been rambles, haven't they? But fun to write.

And I'll keep circling around and trying to sort out all my thoughts about this election and what it means, because I haven't thought them all yet. Today it occurred to me that the thing this election shattered for me was any cynicism I had left about one person making a difference. He's my age, I keep thinking. There are no excuses, there's just you and what needs to be done most in the world.

But my sweetie pointed out over dinner -- because we have to talk about her a little when we're on our date nights -- that throughout this election cycle it has really rankled that he can't say to our daughter, "Someday you could be the president." And it's true. Half a world and five months has separated her from that particular opportunity. Even though her ideas about the world have all formed since she lived in this country and learned English as her first language, she's not eligible. At least she will grow up knowing that people who look like her are presidents, CEOs, firefighters, ballerinas, teachers, artists. Because they are.

In the pool today, she kept saying, "Do you think I'm eligible to jump off the diving board?" I think she wanted me to say she was not, but I said she probably was by now, as she is such a good swimmer now. A few minutes later we saw a little tiny kid, maybe four, jump off, and swim out to the edge, which settled the question for good. I think she could swim her way out of the deep end now, too. I think she really is "eligible."

06 November 2008

Rambling but impassioned rant o' the day

Ooh. Double-posting action here, baby.

I got off my thought train at this station, the station of privilege, the only place I feel any claim to in particular. I consider us relatively lucky, having been able to ride one tiny outer wave of Silicon Valley's technological boom, only to land here just in time to catch one tiny wave more.

And now.

I saved the phrase I wrote: ... everyone listening for the sound of bricks and mortar crashing earthward in a mushroom cloud of dust and chaos
It just didn't fit anywhere and so I am saving it for something else. That's how this time feels. Something else is coming. I don't know what it is or what it will feel like. But it's imminent. We're all in suspense, waiting for the sound of the other shoe falling, the collapse of the detonated building.

I'm still on this social synchronization kick. I don't know what the synchronizing events are.

Wait, sure I do. They're not just national tragedies. They're also moments like this one, when people are electing great new leaders who bring energy and hope and creativity to the problems they approach. We sync up when one of us achieves an amazing feat, like putting deploying humans and robots on missions out into our solar system, and getting most of them back. (Most people old enough to remember the terrible exception, the Challenger disaster, remember where they were when they heard about it. I was in a class at UCSC. We were stunned. It was the same situation as when I heard about John Lennon. I was in high school, and just shocked. I had to talk to my friend Bill Kennerly immediately, I knew. Someone had to tell him; he was the biggest Beatles fan I knew at the time, so I believed the responsibility automatically fell to me because I knew this fact about him. I think he wasn't at school for some reason and when I did call him it turned out I was the first person to tell him. Like his mother wouldn't have noticed? Duh, sure she would've. But I digress.)

So what if we all held Obama's example of youthful energy up as an example of what each one of us can do instead of wasting our tears on things gone by? But it's suddenly getting so rough to survive all the medical problems that are causing people in this country to lose their savings and then homes. Perhaps that's one of those hidden causes, a secondary cause perhaps, of the foreclosure crisis. It wasn't just bad loans to people who never proved they could pay them, in which both parties have had a bitter dram of their own medicine lately, now, haven't they? But when you look at people who believed the low-fat high-fructose corn syrup mythology that the big food corporations were selling at the time, a lot of those people are overweight now. I might be wrong that their health expenses are greater, but certainly if you just look at the increase in Type 2 diabetes among the general population over the past couple of decades it is quite shocking. And health costs have doubled in the past seven years, "no limits" the unspoken motto of the insurance industry. It sickens me how public health has declined, at the people's expense and to the benefit of the big ag companies in this country over the last twenty years. Where's the bailout for these folks? (Oooh, I see a plot point in my novel here, the basis for a great class-action suit that would alter public health forever.) And I know, I keep coming back to this, but I believe that people have the gut-brain thing all backwards. What if we treated brain stuff by treating our guts? How could that help us understand the rest of our brains?

Change we can believe in!

Why blog? Why write?

Why think?

It's such a joy to turn myself loose whenever something catches my eye, however large or small the idea. I'm always happy about knowing something about something new, ya know.

The kids in my daughter's classroom have been a joy to get to know this year. My kid tests me like always and everyone else is trusting and testing me right on schedule. I swear the brown kids have collectively breathed some kind of sigh about me and decided I am on their side. I think it's because I really like each one of them.

It's a source of endless fascination to all of the kids that they are different from one another, in shape, size, color, hair, you name it. There are mixed-race families of all kinds, Indians married to whites, whites adopting Indians, black and white, gay and straight folks, young parents and older ones. Despite feeling their differences acutely, the kids resemble one another in almost every way, more than they can fathom at their young age. But they are growing up with a brown man as our country's president!

Anyway, on the 5th, the kids were abuzz with election news. "Tyson" came up to us on the playground before the first bell. He and I had been in a little jousting match lately; he'd been making a point of telling me he didn't want me to answer his questions when I came in to volunteer.

"That was quite an exciting election, wasn't it?" I said, as Tyson practically sputtered his words. "This election was all about change!" Tyson declared. "Change we can believe in!" He said the school vote had come to 380 for Obama and 150 for McCain. I haven't heard otherwise since.

Once all the kids had filed inside the classroom, and as soon as coats and bags had been stowed, the Spanish-speaking girls got down to rapt and rapid conversation. "La-li-la-la John McCain," I heard, not able to keep up with the urgently murmured words. One of McCain's supporters, "Meghan," before even hanging up her coat, made a beeline for the teacher. Meghan poured out a stream of frustration and sadness that lamented the vote having gone the wrong way for her and everyone in her family. The teacher nodded and empathized with her frustration but without totally agreeing with her charge's politics and not disclosing her own. She and I understood each other. But the children did not know whom the teacher had supported in the election. (That's why I found one of the ads for one of the Colorado ballot issues so offensive -- it almost made me vote against it.)

This historic election makes me happy for myself, with my threads of African and Native American descent along with the "Scotch-Irish" und lots of German. Who knows if anyone else in my ancestry was disavowed along the way (Jews, perhaps?). My ancestors did not uniformly seem to be the kind who advanced because of their tolerance for other cultures, other ways of life. Now all that mixing we have been doing all along can come out of the cultural closet. It may continue to reverberate and reveal to us something about how unnecessary that boundary truly is in our world. But it makes me positively overjoyed for my daughter and her peers, these truly wonder-filled sprouts of joy and energy bursting out into the world. From across the street when I was in the little school, that big public school made of bricks and concrete and pavement seemed so white and sterile. Now that we are families of that big public school, it feels warm and welcoming; it has a supportive structure for the many things everyone needs and wants to provide for this new crop of learners and workers.

Speaking of workers, I still can't believe how early they start inculcating the kids with information, though. Such is the pressure of the testing they do in the third grade that if the Leave No Child Behind folks had their way, the kids would all be able to work at McDonald's by the time they were eight. For us that timetable isn't quite right. But I'm continually amazed at the blistering speed with which they get new concepts. The testing drives that intense exposure to math and language.

I wonder if there would be a way to build into such a large entity -- the U.S. public school system -- some new adaptive approaches using specific developmental markers that indicate readiness for learning. Of course, all that has to be supported by nutrition that supports mental health and learning. Because you can't learn if you're not healthy; if you're chronically unhealthy, you're likely to be poor, and if you're not now, you may be soon if you're not very careful. And you have to have the money to provide a long enough school day that they have playtime, too.

How does a community support total health? Isn't it kind of like what parents are always urged to do in the magazines: provide enough nutrition to get through the time. Remove sources of stress (that's huge). Have available fruits and healthy snacks available in every way, not just the highly processed, simple-carbohydrate, oversalted and -sugared stuff that leaves you gasping for a Coke to jack your sugar levels back up to their precarious heights again an hour later. You rezone your neighborhoods to allow every neighborhood a bodega stocked with affordable, fresh veggies and fruits, breads, dairy, eggs, and other essentials. Oatmeal and granola alongside some of the more familiar options. It's a start.

So those are my priorities, again: public health, food, learning. It's all one thing. How do we the people take those things back from the corporations that are holding them hostage?

05 November 2008


Hey now! Hey now!

Time for the dream team! (Stretch it out all long and Spearhead-style for maximum effect.) As someone who recently made her father-in-law smile when my sweetie and I said we were going to see Michael Franti and Spearhead, which we described as "socially conscious hip-hop," I suddenly feel like it's my kind who are in the mainstream. Talk about a new sensation. I love the way it makes me feel like America is part of the world again. No longer a superpower standing alone in its own universe with its own laws.

Everyone is suiting up for the big game ahead. Time to get some work done, and with a Democratic majority and Obama at the helm of this good ship (really she still is good at heart and that's what this election brought out in people), we have a chance at reversing course and setting a new direction, one that adapts to our existing resource pool -- which is vast and includes raw resources, infrastructure, an educated and willing workforce, support for innovation, and millions of people who just voted in this election wanting something or at the very least someone to believe in, to work hard for.

The experience of this election does make me feel like rolling up my sleeves and getting to work in a new way. I'm less fearful. Although I've decided not to use the real drug company or name (you who have heard/read my rants know which drug I'm talking about) in my story. I decided I like the weird side effects in my fictional drug better anyway. I will, however, include a bibliography to offer some source material to back myself up with folks like the former high-level government employee whom I interviewed, who reminded me that there can be malcontents in our midst: "Whistleblowers aren't always model employees." I want people like that to know I am not just pulling this out of thin air. That people really do play dirty pool for money and here is how and why they do it. Because it's not only the malcontents who blow whistles. Perhaps I'll write this book and this kind of stuff will come to look like a dusty old relic of an outmoded economic system. People will write me off as some kind of paranoid crank while I'm like some 1960s radical who can't quit carping about corporate malfeasance well into my eighties.

Last night I kept coming back to my computer for the election maps and to watch this barometer of feelings streaming past again and again last night as the results were coming in and the race had not yet been decided. Suddenly the results just flooded in, and Obama had handily won his Electoral College victory had been handily won by 9 our time. Just as I was finishing reading to our little one, we heard the whoops in the street. I jumped back online again and the words from Obama supporters were all positive: hopeful, elated, victorious, proud, overjoyed, amazed, and the everpresent sassy, which appeared in both camps' postings. It's fun to set it to 11PM Eastern Time and watch the emotions shift gears.

Today I also feel jetlagged, maybe in sympathy for those hard-traveling campaign workers of all stripes. It ain't easy at any level of the campaign. And my heart goes out to those conservatives who didn't get their pick, too. I can't help it, being the bleeding-heart liberal that I am. I know they thought they were holding some line, but it turned out that line was drawn in sand, and there are too many of us on the "other side."

It is just thrilling to be here to see this happen in our country, right now. Another forty-something woman said to me today, "I really didn't think we'd see this happen in my lifetime. An African-American or a woman in the White House." All present agreed. She likened it to the way people said to her grandmother back in her day, "Oh, sure, when they put a man on the moon."

This election has been a great reminder that someone like Ferran Adria could still come up with a process for plunging purgatory into a deep freeze. It may prove true that anything is possible, and this certainly proves, again, that one person can bring about great change.

04 November 2008

President Obama!

What a moment in history this is! A few minutes ago I was reading a story to my little brown girl and we heard the whooping in the streets. We sprang out of bed and ran down to see if they'd called the election and yes! It is true! Barack Obama will be our next president! Oh, my goodness, to think that in 1963 the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. inspired a march toward true equality that is culminating in Barack Obama's presidency, his position as leader of the free world. I finally feel like it will be a truly freer world as a result.

And what a relief this is. All day I had to keep reminding myself to take deep breaths. I've been walking on pins and needles wondering whether the Republicans would pull out some last minute flood of votes or lines would be so long at the polling places or the glitches so numerous that polls wouldn't close until midnight and the vote wouldn't even be counted until three in the morning. So it is huge to see victory come this early (even if it is due to the Electoral College factor, which I'd rather see us do without entirely).

I am elated.

Little did I know this was a tipping point.

31 October 2008

Haunting me

There's this funny voice that whispers insistently, I've dodged a lot of bullets! Is this some form of post-traumatic stress disorder popping up in my face -- my oblique way of remembering some of the stuff I've been through? Or is it a reminder to be thankful for each and every moment of good health and well-being?

Today the little princess and her neighbor friend were digging for worms. (There's nothing like letting the kids dig holes in the garden, I tell ya. Not much is sweeter.) I cleared weeds from a small patch and when my daughter urged her younger pal to check his gardening gloves for spiders, "Because of what happened to you, Mama. Remember when that spider bit you?" And I do.

The bullet I dodged that time was not taking steroids. There have been a couple of pivotal moments when I have decided against drugs (Prozac, steroids for the spider bite) and have been so grateful later. These decisions could have taken me down different paths entirely, healthwise. I've never heard anyone say they were glad they took steroids -- my mother finally refused steroid treatments even though in the medical world a course of steroids was a fairly common response to her diagnoses. It just always seemed to make everyone around me who took them so much sicker. And I wonder if Prozac might have knocked me off my pins. I know people who started taking antidepressants and felt better, like they wanted to live instead of commit suicide. Their lives have literally saved by taking medications. But when they don't get the right medications for what's ailing them, look out. Watch them closely.

The other reason I have that voice in my head is because it's true. Maybe that's why all those friends used to say to me they thought I'd do great things (a memory that has been transfixing me ever since I saw The Secret Life of Bees last weekend with my BFF). Because I did beat a lot of odds to be here now doing this thing that I do. I am grateful for that.

Ok, I have about fifty things to tidy and clean up. Gotta dash!

30 October 2008

I'll help in other ways this time

How differently I parent from the ways my parents brought me up! The inciting incident for this thought was a blast email from a friend asking if any of us had a bed we could spare for some political volunteers who are coming a-canvassing in our fair swing state this weekend. I really wanted to write back and offer our guest room. But we had just been reading On the Shores of Silver Lake, one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books, and in it Laura describes how suddenly their little home became a lodging house for all these men who were coming through on their way to claim homesteads. One night they'd have a few men pull up who had nowhere else to stay, so they fed them and gave them beds; the Ingalls girls had to go up to their room and stay there until the men left in the morning. Sometimes they were up until the wee hours cooking for as many at 15 men, in shifts of meals and dishes. They had to put them in the barns and outside sometimes; their little home didn't house 15. I know I probably don't have to worry about an Obama volunteer in my house now, but the facts are that I have a child whose innocence I am guarding with my life, and I know what can happen when parents aren't so careful with their kids. So not this time.

29 October 2008

I voted today! And now I want my own Mini-Obama to manipulate

I'm tickled at what I found when I Googled how to volunteer for Obama. Obama's website is called MyBarackObama.com. It reminds me of "Mini-Me" from Austin Powers, and of my friend in the cold northern reaches of the country who calls her iPod her "Mini-Tom" (as in Tom Gray of Gomez). It makes me feel like I've got my very own Mini-Obama right here online, or better yet, in my phone. There is something alluring about having a pet mini Obama right there in my portable digital devices, like your pet having a life online in Webkinz. I like this idea. I should develop a little game or iPhone app!

Last Wednesday we went to see Synecdoche, New York (make it rhyme with Schenectady, from whence the lead character hails). Synecdoche is the first film by Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter who turned Susan Orlean's nonfiction book The Orchid Thief into the surreal cinematic experiment that was Adaptation, and wrote The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He's in the midst of a raft of PR for his movie -- his future probably depends on it. One quote that stood out from an article was that people are so used to calling directors "auteurs," when what that means is "author." He was talking about the director being the one said to have the vision, when he felt that without the writer, there would be no vision in the first place. He appeared last week, coming in at the tail end of the screening, in time to see a big laugh at Dianne Wiest's character's transformation into a mimic of Caden, another synecdoche. Perhaps Kaufman will do for this orally challenging word what The Police did for synchronicity.

Kaufman submitted to a barrage of questions from lots of wannabe filmmakers and college-educated folks who like to hear themselves think out loud, not unlike myself. People would ask about influences -- "Were Michel Gondry's videos for Bjork songs an influence when you wrote Adaptation?" Kaufman would just say, "No." This happened a few times, like when someone said they found it quite Brechtian how Philip Seymour Hoffman's character, Caden, wasn't very sympathetic. "I disagree. I thought he was very sympathetic. I really tried to make him more sympathetic," said the filmmaker.

Listening to: George Michael, "Freedom" ("You gotta give what you take.") (And yes, it came up on a random play, followed by "Love Fool" by The Cardigans.

28 October 2008

That's what makes me the mom

Cleaning cat boxes for the zillionth time I thought, as one of my cats studied me while I worked, that's what really makes me the mom, as much as providing a warm lap and loving and feeding them when they're hungry. Really what separates you from all the others is that total willingness to clean up the excrement and excesses of the other. It makes me happy that I have a partner who also wants to help our child and pets in the same ways -- in fact it makes me want to do better, and so we wind up competing to do well by our daughter in a most healthy way.

There's always this terrible pull between writing and other work, and here I sit, choosing to write about it. My friend has made it her normal thing to do projects, and her place looks fantastic as a result. I have put so much time into my writing and reading and viewing and just being the mom that I haven't invested it in my surroundings, and we are still just getting by. It's time for something different, an amazing find. It's time to rent a truck and go touring Kansas to look for furniture. Paint the inside, start with some completely different ideas and found objects. We could even recover what we have, too. That's my kind of challenge. If we did a little road trip, maybe just for a weekend, picking somewhere within 300 miles that had a couple of promising sales coming up, perhaps I could write in the car. Judy wants to go to the Western Slope -- I could take her and poke around over there, I suppose, although I suspect there are so many people like me already poking around that the pickin's are slim.

I liked my idea of making over our place with lots of sliding doors. For cabinet doors, bedroom and bathroom doors, shower doors. Then we could do something more unified in our house. Brushed steel or nickel tracks suspended from the ceiling, with doors of metal, wood, and glass or wire mesh. It would look super mod and I could do things like enclose my dresser so the cats wouldn't get on it. It would work for bathroom cabinet door/mirror, and for the shower. Perhaps a sliding corner cabinet door, too?

I'm listening to Sia singing "Rewrite", and now "Sweet Potato." What amazing songs! They're all on the CD Colour the Small One. "Breathe Me" reminded me of the brilliance of putting that song over that final episode of Six Feet Under, with Claire (Lauren Ambrose) driving away from all she'd grown up with in her hybrid car, instead of the hearse. Sia's was such a perfect voice to express that feeling, that moment.

20 October 2008

Why I will vote for Obama

My sister has had some questions about Obama, and said in her most recent message that in conversations about him with liberals, her questions (like whether Obama has a legal birth certificate and can prove his citizenship) had been met with anger. This is an open letter in response to some of her comments and questions.

I suppose the anger you are encountering could be anger that Obama's citizenship is even in question, and that the real issues facing us are being obscured by petty and easily disproved technicalities. As a liberal, I have been feeling a lot of frustration, disbelief, and embarrassment around politics. I'm angry with myself for not having done everything I could to get people to vote in the last two elections; I never dreamed things would get this bad this fast. I do get indignant when I imagine four more years of Republican tax cuts for fat-cats and not for the folks who really need the breaks right now. (Especially since so many among us swallowed the fiction that we deserved more and therefore could just put it all on our credit card to come due some day and now holy shit it's that freaking day right now, a whole lot sooner than expected.) Some people thought we'd all be making more money by then, still cranking out more goods and services that the rest of the world couldn't match or live without. But now, at the end of Bush's reign, we are seeing a "talk-to-the-hand" free-market capitalist who has enriched a few and impoverished many, a lot of our skilled labor now being bought and sold overseas, and the rest of us picking over a much smaller, meaner range of jobs. We see a total believer in the trickle-down theory of economics (look it up on Wikipedia -- it's worth understanding, to know how these guys think). At the end of Bush's two terms, with a national debt of a gazillion dollars (see http://www.brillig.com/debt_clock/ for the current amount) and a campaign of senseless destruction in Iraq waged on false pretenses, I can't say I see someone who has the good of his country in mind.

When I hear that McCain has voted with Bush 90 percent of the time, I don't have a lot of confidence that he is all about change. (And here are a few of my thoughts on Sarah Palin.) In my humble opinion, if McCain really stood for something new and different, I believe he should have started differentiating himself long ago so that by now he could have a real story to tell, something a little more current and relevant than "I survived the 'Hanoi Hilton' (and yet still support waterboarding)."

This summer, I went to Mount Rushmore with my family. As we listened to the stories they told about the legacies of the four presidents (Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson), I was angry at how far from their ideals our current administration has fallen. I have enough patriotic feeling for this country to take that offense personally; I feel completely let down by our current leadership. I knew when Bush took office that he would not be the best representative of my ideals, but I feel much more betrayed by his policies and attitudes than I ever believed I would or could.

These days, as you know, I get a lot of my information about the world around me from films. A couple of documentary films from the past couple of years made strong impressions and meshed with the feelings I am describing here. One was the one about the antimalarial drug, Lariam, called Taken As Directed. The other was Taxi to the Dark Side, which is about our government's policy and practice of putting people suspected who are suspected but never convicted of being terrorists (or merely associating with them) in places like Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Bagram in Afghanistan and torturing them, sometimes to death. I was furious when I saw that. It made me feel that the current administration's powers are out of control. I can't help being angry at myself now, since I have been one of the many people who has allowed this to pass unprotested. I feel a terrible responsibility for our nation having lost face in the world. We used to be a free and democratic people, tolerant and moral; with Bush & Co. as our chosen representatives, however, we seem fearful, reactionary, and willing to bend any rule for an immediate advantage. We seem just as capable of launching some kind of first strike as any of those "rogue nations" I used to feel threatened by after the Cold War ended.

Those are some of the reasons Obama's messages about hope and unity have great appeal for me. I would like to support a national leader who is interested in rebuilding something positive, who has a charitable interest in not just his fellow humans in this country but in his humans around the world. Too much of our country's current policy seems to be about getting and spending all we can now, and not enough is about building something sustainable and nurturing that will lift all boats here at home and by extension those abroad as well.

You can choose to believe those who would have you believe Obama is not a citizen, or is a Muslim, or is "just" a community organizer, but after having looked into some of those claims (and seen how easily debunked they are) I have concluded that they are all about fearmongering and are only distractions from the real issues at hand: namely, what are we going to do to fix this economic mess we're in? And how can we return to being a society with a leadership that treats everyone with respect and dignity?

This discussion you initiated seems like a good example of how effective that kind of fearmongering is: You didn't ask whether any of the candidates were taking stands on issues that were critical to your well being, but whether they were technically qualified to hold the office to which they aspire. I can't imagine that Obama could have come this far and spent this much of his and other people's money on his candidacy without all his papers being checked -- surely the man has a high-level security clearance by now, or we would have heard a lot more about it. You cited some figures about Chicago that carried the inference that Obama is personally responsible for Cook County crime rates; if you look at the history of that area, I think you'll find the picture is more complex than that. (Plus, crime rates are one of those things that always confound economists; they don't predictably correlate with any single factor but are influenced by a constellation of wildly differing variables in each community.) What I noticed was that you didn't say what your priorities are in a leader, nor what issues you would want to see tackled by the next administration. What would you vote for and why? And who do you think will be most likely to represent your interests?

I feel so fortunate as citizens of this country we have choices, and that we can solicit and receive a variety of opinions about those choices from everyone around us. I hope you'll spend some time considering your own beliefs and hopes for the future and cast your vote accordingly, after having done your own soul-searching (and internet-searching).

I have found some of the discussions and ideas on blogs about denialism a good resource for understanding rhetorical tactics in discussions like these. It really helps to be able to sort out researchable truths from fear-inducing disinformation.

May you vote thoughtfully and well, and for something/someone you truly believe in.

Peace be with you.

The next new thing

I've decided the next feature Google Earth should add is People View. Street View is amazing; you can get a bit of a feel for a place you haven't even visited. But I always want to check out what people are wearing, how cold it is, what the ratio of locals to tourists is, how hip or reg'lar its denizens aspire to be. And what a job: going to cities and snapping people on the street. That could be a WPA-scope project. Give people interesting jobs and potentially opportunities to create new connections. What else besides photos could people bring to each other, just by being on the ground somewhere? How could that benefit people?

19 October 2008

Making the world safe for Democrats

Matt Bai in today's New York Times Magazine: "Local [Virginia] Democrats told me that Obama's campaign office in the old maufacturing town of Danville was so unusual for a candidate of either party that its opening was treated almost as a curiosity, as if a smoldering meteor had smashed into the town green." My first thought when I read this -- and having just read that Obama has 50 campaign offices in Virginia, 42 in Indiana, and 45 in North Carolina -- was that Obama is making the world safe for Democrats all over the country. This is especially notable in places recent Democratic candidates have resigned themselves to losing. In his article, "Working for the Working-Class Vote," Bai cited Kerry's loss of Virginia by 9 percentage points in 2004, adding that it was "a relatively small margin when you consider that he never bothered to contest it." I was even more impressed to learn that in Texas, Indiana, and North Carolina, more people turned out to vote in the Democratic primaries this year than voted for Kerry on Election Day in '04.

Things might just turn out differently this time. And I'm ready to put a little of my own weight behind my words.

16 October 2008


This is super cool. Spill sand to make pretty pictures, which you can post to the gallery. Here's my sand art. Thanks, Centrechick.

09 October 2008

Movie phones and doorbell birds

This morning I was screening one of the films for the next BIFF. It is set in a South American country and depicts a way of life that is quite exotic to me from my mountainside perch in the arid inter-mountain west. I was also liking some of the sound editing on this film, including not only the ambient noise (talking, radios, tvs, people singing) but also the score, which is sparingly layered over all. It has interesting texture, nice beats, and at one point a marimba tune chimed over the film. When I heard the sound of a marimba melody, I jumped to look for my phone. I just did it again a minute ago, completely forgetting that the electronic internet device in my hand was also my phone. Silly!

Say, doesn't today's title sound like an album title? Hmmmm....

08 October 2008

Uploading fun

There are several things I feel I should be doing instead at this moment, but this one is the one that's calling. I feel like I'm starting to get the idea: the notion about standing up for what I believe in no matter what because a) no one will do it for me, and b) no one could do it for me because I'm the only one who has my perspective, my vision.

So I'm so excited that at this very moment the final video clip is downloading from my camera. Mmmm, all those movies I made in Chicago at the Baby Atlas bar, downstairs from Matilda, down the street from the Vic. I heard when some of the fellas from Gomez arrived in the upstairs bar after the show wind-down, at first they didn't know anything was up, but someone steered them down the incredibly steep staircase. "There's a sign, on the door, with your name on it!" "Oh, there is?" Can you imagine coming in and finding us -- 50 or so people who are in various stages from shock to delight to wonderment about your very presence and your talents, most with nametags, just on the other side of that door?

I am very excited about editing my videos! Woo! I may need to grab some new audio to replace some of the audio that may prove just too noisy and muddy for salvaging. I feel just like that editor I recently mentioned, Jen Dean, who said she realized what her role in film production was when she just wanted everyone to go away so she could be alone with the film. That's how I feel. And I think my pics are uploading to flickr, too, although I'm slightly less confident that this is really happening. We shall see.... *Edit* It wasn't happening -- my instincts were right on target. So I started that process over. And what I didn't take into account was how long it would take to get my videos into my creaky old version of iMovie.

Another funny story that I was reminded of, watching these video clips again: Many of us had nametags, most of us with our forum names on them. RuffStuff went outside for a few minutes, and a woman he'd never met before sidled up to him and said, "Hi, there, RuffStuff! I think you and I should go have a drink somewhere!"

Gomez started something for a bunch of us that feels like a continuation of an event that I feel a personal need to keep paying forward, carrying like an Olympic torch onward into new territory.

07 October 2008

Hallelujah, sister!

A new friend recommended The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeannette Walls, to me on Thursday. I bought a copy of the book on Sunday. I have about five pages left to read, and I can't wait to talk about it. When I called my mother about it I said I would have been shocked if she hadn't read it; of course, she had, and had recommended it to me a while ago. My sister had read it too.

What a story, "of a girl growing up with extreme parents," as I just described it to a neighbor ("Were they really rich?" one of her sons asked. "No, in fact they were really poor -- and sort of chose to be," I said). The story is so plainly and beautifully told. I loved a couple of things best of all: Jeannette Walls' unerring instincts to do what was right and healthy for her (getting a job, encouraging her parents to do what parents are supposed to do, getting out from under her parents and going to New York as early as she possibly could). And I had a revelation when she described how proud she was of her brother when he graduated from the police academy and became a full-fledged officer while their father is saying he didn't know what he did wrong that his son was now part of the "Gestapo."

For me, that detail put so much in perspective. I saw how that wasn't about their father's world view; it was a symptom of his personality disorder. And it made me feel better about my own weirdly narcissistic, borderline father. It helped to think that those absurd words that have been rattling around in my head ever since he said them to me when I was proudly heading off to school at Berkeley ("I just can't support what you're doing with your life right now") weren't about his beliefs but about his own set of delusions. I knew it to some extent then but I really see now how his reaction didn't have anything to do with me or who I was. Like my mother said, there was no logic to it. In a sense, it wasn't "about" anything at all except the peculiarities of the brain of a man who had spent many years drinking and drugging himself into some kind of oblivion.

So thanks to everyone who led me to this book and these thoughts. I'm grateful to Jeannette Walls for believing in her own ideas of right and wrong, of health and illness. It makes me feel more compassionate for myself and everyone I know when I learn of others who have been able to rise above gnarly obstacles and choose healthy relationships, comfortable existences, stable places for themselves in the world, despite the lack of evidence during childhood that those things are possible.

06 October 2008

Rats, caked again!

Random notes from the great Chicago experience:

Note I jotted to myself after looking at a lot of tall buildings: "Here in Chicago, all the buildings have skins."

And another little scene from the post-show party with Gomez:

Me: [talking about heaven knows what and gesturing wildly, only to scoop a gob of icing onto my hand and then onto my ass]

Olly: You've been "caked!"

Me (embarrassed but delighted): Ooh, I didn't know that was a verb!

Later I heard several people had been similarly afflicted that evening by that cake. Too funny.

A fun tidbit to overhear was Ian talking about his kid and how he likes to mess with the tuning pegs, so as a challenge, Ian will pick up the guitar and play it the way his little boy tuned it.

ocean told me that he asked Olly which musicians he admires most. Olly told him he would be most awed to meet Tom Waits.

Catch me up

Well, at last I'm catching up on breath, sleep, family and cat time, food. And able to reflect a little from here.

I loved what people have been saying on the Gomez board about all of us -- regardless of who traveled to Chicago for the rock band's one-off-in-the-U.S. reprise of their first album -- never having to explain this Thing, this Love of Gomez, within this community. That was cool enough to experience last week; even more astounding was reality warp of suddenly being in the midst of a social occasion with the band in question. How many people ever get that chance?

More than one who has was in our midst have had that chance. ocean was a great example. (I loved meeting him and the fabulous Kim, whom I will share a plate with any time. Thanks to them, I had an amazingly fun trip to Chicago. I only hope in retrospect I didn't ask too much of their time!) Anyway, ocean has hung out with the Grateful Dead (and never found them all that gracious, truth to tell), with Robert Plant (his personal rock god), and with many others. He saw the Who with Keith Moon (I was just a couple of years too late); he saw seven of the fourteen shows Little Feat recorded for their live Waiting for Columbus album, can you believe?! (And which I had not been aware was made from so many shows.) Incidentally, ocean's trodden much of the same ground I have locally, too, having lived in my hometown, although he apparently interacted with a separate bunch of people along the way. He remembered some of the bands-about-town I do, like Tommy Bolin and Candy Givens of Zephyr, but not the awesome fusion powerhouse Fly and the Zippers or Dusty Drapes and the Dusters, who my mother was dancing to when she went out after she and my father split up. But enough about me -- what fine and fun people to hang with. I felt I'd known them for years.

And everyone was like that. centrechick, whose first-ever concert by anyone was Gomez, October 2, 2008, at the Vic Theater in Chicago, had been saying something about how one of the band members had more interesting content in his little finger than she did in her whole self, but I completely pooh-poohed that (on film, no less). She's awesome, and what's more, she's starting to Get It that she's not only just fine the way she is but maybe a lot more. I found myself as starstruck meeting jman and mrs. jman as I was meeting the band, especially after someone said to me, "I've heard she would fly to New York to buy a pair of shoes." And later I realized why I called jman "Jason" when I first met him: online I think of him and jasondent (who could not be in Chicago with us) as "the two Jasons," for some inexplicable reason. (Keep reading for more goofy misunderstandings.)

Cutest couple: guest & mr. guest. The way she looks at that man reminded me of how I feel about my sweetie. Dancing with mr. and mrs. rocknroll and Kat and guest for a while was amazing, and then it was fantastic going wild with ocean up front and center, and SweetErina and Barb up front too and squirrel and Drew and Stella and musicsaves (whom I may not have met) and rabidog and Bri and Kat and Fenn and the gracious and lovely mytvc15 and her significant other and I'm sure I'm forgetting lots more all around me. I kept looking around with amazement and gratitude at the crowd, just as I used to do at Dead shows. And it's easy to look back and say it in hindsight, but it was not possible for me not to see myself there. I feel I'm just as proud of making that experience a reality as centrechick said she was, in the cab with me and her friend Mitsuko on the way home. She'd just called her mother to let her know she was fine and on her way back to her hotel. Then she said to us, "Just so you know, at home, I don't even go to the movies by myself. So this is big for me!" Like Shannon, our new front-row kindred spirit, centrechick picked the right time to make things happen. She and lots of us talked with a bunch of the guys in the band. Olly was awesome. He's such a gentleman. I instantly regretted turning on my camera but I honestly didn't know what to do with myself and all the questions I'd had for them ("Where did the song 'Rie's Wagon' come from?" "Are you going to keep making records and touring together?") had long flown from my brain in the vibrating hum of the moment.

It was fun sharing our baby pictures, though. I do so love Ian, and have since before a phone interview in which he told a very simpatica me how he "loves the 'ladies' in West Hollywood," where he had just moved with his new wife. Back then I confessed his songs had me believing he was a gay junkie, and he laughed and said nothing. Later he'd said, "Sure, to some extent I do put on a persona onstage." (Does he remember that interview, or has he done too many -- and was he still drunk on the brandy Alexanders from the night before?) Look, there are faghags, and there are Ian-hags. Guess which I am. I'm sorry but the guy is freakin' cute. And he also has a very cute little one whose name in the din of the bar Mrs. ocean and I both misheard hilariously ("Was that m-u-e-l-l-e-r?" and me at dinner with Brains the next night: "Oh, his name is the Hawaiian word for chicken wire? Interesting!") Tom I love for his mind and wit. But I couldn't really think straight enough to have a good chat with him or Olly, or even approach Ben, with whom I may have the most in common out of all of them. Blackie and I had a pleasant jaw about racial segregation in Detroit and other places.

But I couldn't sustain anything that night: it was a little too loud, and the air was filled with too much pressure or some other ineffable substance that resulted from our all being thrown together in close quarters. I probably affected the mix by turning on the camera. I felt like the folks from the board had been warned I would be filming, and if anyone wasn't up for it, they'd let me know. In that time, that never happened, except for a feeble wave of a hand from one woman who continued talking with Tom when I swung my lens around toward them. All evening she kept saying no pictures (which made me suspicious -- does she have something to hide?) and later I heard she said "I never post there; I hate the board," but I don't think she really minded having Tom's attention while I was filming. I noticed, though, that I finally filmed the whole neon word when I panned around her while she talked with Tom: ASS. I could not help laughing when I realized what I'd done. All night most of my pictures and videos had only included the "SS" -- the word rose from the floor toward the ceiling, in enormous capital letters. But I had picked that moment to finally work it all into the frame.

Another hilarious moment culminated in my apology to mr. mytvc15 for not realizing who he was in the gang. I got dizzy and sat down. He was just the most welcoming and warm person; I thought he was the owner of the bar. He was being all chummy and was clearly a local, and when I got woozy he was one of the couple of people who asked if I was all right. I needed a Coke, and I asked him for one. He was so funny. "A Coca-Cola?" he asked, drawing out the long vowels. "A Pepsi-Cola? A diet cola?" "A cola-cola," I said. "No diet. Just cola." I needed the sugar. I'd just had a weird experience. I started eating appetizers and was enjoying one of the little roll-up baked bready tubes with pears and cheese and bacon inside, but then had a bite of the bruschetta and thought I was going to die. It's like it sapped my strength -- something about too much sharp vinegar. It was weird. I'd succumbed to my dizzy spell right after that.

"What is your name?" I asked him, and he said, "John. To you: John-John." And John-John-to-me as I think of him now was so attentive. I admiringly watched him dance through the room, mingling and smiling and chatting and making sure everyone was having a good time, and still not knowing he was part of our group I leaned over and said to Kim, "I want his job!" "What?" Kim said. It was hard to hear in there. ocean just laughed. "He's clearly in the hospitality industry," I said, full of admiration, like a groupie. "Well, yeah; he's a chef," Kim explained. "He is?" And then it all came out that he was mytvc15's husband and therefore one of the hosts. I felt sooooo silly, and not for the first time that evening. "I still want your job," I told him later, once I'd found out what it really was.

I told guest the next night that I had been so gullible that day. But it wasn't just that day -- it was all weekend. I believed everything I heard. (Me, asking about the three-song soundcheck we'd missed when Kim and I went for a walk before the pre-show free gig at Yak-zies, across from Wrigley Park: "What did they play?" Fenn: "They played 'Dude (Looks Like a Lady)." Me: "Really!")

Unspoken perhaps were all the questions that lurked in our minds about whether any of the band knew us by our board names/personas. I got a nametag but never found the marker, so never had a name all night. It's become a repeating motif: Gomez still don't know who I am, darn it!

But that's the nature of inspiration, right? That's why I went: to see what I could make of this, to see what parts are about Gomez and what parts are about me. To see who I am next to all of this. To go be me with some new people with whom I had something important in common for a few incredible hours of my life that I will never forget.

It was so intense meeting each person and seeing who they are "for real." I don't even believe it's still fair to say that face-to-face is the more real representation of the self. I think some of us are our truest selves online. But it was great fun to get this whole new layer of information about who we really were in person compared to all those online personas.

And I loved that I came right up against my own quirks: my gullibility, my glomming-onness, my social awkwardness (that I refuse to believe is a call for medication), my manias (I couldn't find things; kept wanting to change things that were perfectly fine). My desire to document everything, to set it down before I move on, to make sure there's a relic to savor later.

Something about the entire experience reminds me of getting back to my kidness, too: what I thought was important when I was little and still had some of that boundless optimism about the world and my place in it. I saw some before pictures of someone like that recently and I wonder what happened, and how I can make sure I never lose that sense of possibility. I love, as I've said here before, volunteering at my daughter's school so I can see the kids, so I can be another person who really tries to see them for who they are. They love that so: they sparkle so much when you do it, really peer in there and wave to them right where they are. That bright optimism is something I don't feel every day. But I did feel it when I decided to go to Chicago to unite with all these kindred spirits. And it absolutely was great fun to peer in and wave and hug and shake hands (and even a boob -- oops, sorry, rabidog! But I am quite sure you were the best possible person whose boob I could have squeezed upon meeting in person for the first time!). It was a delight to see who was who and how each person seemed to react to this amazing situation.

Again, it's more anecdotal evidence for that community-size notion that posits a community of 200 or fewer people is ideal and gives its participants a chance to have unique roles, to know each other better, and to reduce hierarchical distortions of relationships. I think we have that here: a community of around that size that was represented by a subset of folks who gathered in Chicago on October 2 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of a band's first recording. Now that's a club I am truly a part of. It was wonderful to spend a whole weekend without having to explain it.

I am a little skeptical anything like this will ever happen again in my life, but I loved, loved, loved being a part of it and will never forget it, nor regret taking the opportunity to hang out with my favorite band and their friends for a few incredible hours.