Thursday, August 30, 2012


Sometimes I do the right thing.

Today, I held the coffee shop door open for the world's slowest stroller-laden mother of two, even though, had I shouldered past, I could have been halfway back to my house and covered in muffin.

This morning, I sent a measured email to colleagues suggesting that, in future, we do X, despite the fact that what I wanted to write was: XBJKLWEJLASDF.

I have listened, patiently and with appropriate murmurings, to people discourse on any number of topics in which I have no interest whatsoever.  I should note there aren't many of these topics -I have a high boredom threshold- but in case you would like to bore me in future, they include a) Your child's potty training b) NASCAR c) Ars subtilior d) Dog grooming.

Other times, though, I do the wrong thing, and the rightness of the wrong thing -its electric, sparkling whoosh- shoots up my spine as if I've hit the third rail.  The power of the right kind of wrongness lies in its direct line to desire: whenever you do the right kind of wrong thing, you're finally admitting that, despite what you told yourself, you've wanted it all along.

And thus it was that I came to this.  A small thing, really: a browser plugin that allows you, finally, handily, to replace all of the baby pictures your friends plaster on Facebook with something you choose, like cats, or daleks.  Free at last!

It's a small thing, a stupid thing, but it points at something larger: the fault line, growing though not undbridgeable, between folks who are parents and folks who are not.  I doubt that many people with children will use, or even find it particularly funny.  But I do. 

The plugin touches something in me.  It's something a little bit nasty and not at all compassionate, an aggrieved something, a something both judged and judging.   To admit to it makes me uncomfortable, but I have to say that when I think about the app I feel the zing, the delectable spark, of doing the wrong thing, of having someone else speak, at last, the words that have been rotting on my tongue.

Hey!  Parents!  No one thinks your kids are anywhere near as interesting or awesome or gifted or so all-fired-cute as you do!  You're programmed to think that way; get some perspective,  have some consideration, and spare us the constant updates on your progeny!  Your kids are only doing things the hundreds of children I see every day, and in fact every other child on the planet, have done before!  Only your kids are probably doing them more obnoxiously, because you've obviously made them the center of your universe!  

The vitriol I carry around on this surprises me.   I wonder, as I always do, if I'll feel differently when -or if- I have children of my own.  I like children.  I spend most days of the week with them.  They're cute.  I enjoy seeing, from time to time, a photo.  And if the point of Facebook is to share your life with others, and your life consists pretty much entirely of your kids, are you, as an over-sharing parent, really doing anything wrong?

Is it fear?  Do your posts make me worry that I'll have no life apart from kids if I become a mother? Or does my irritation come from feeling judged, from that air of superiority parents adopt, as if you couldn't possibly understand the great sacredness of my undertaking, you poor childless boob.  Is it the frequent and the self-righteous prioritization of children's wants over adult concerns?  Is it jealousy?  Or does it come from grief: I used to have a friend, but now all I've got is Tommy's Mommy?

Probably a little of all of these, plus a soupcon of genuine boredom.  But I get it, parents: that's your story and you're sticking to it.  Keep it up.  You're dong the right thing.   I'll just be here in my corner of the Internetz, turning your children into cheese.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dallying with the Don

8/26/2012: 82% and lollygagging

Mood: Equable

Drink: Tap water

One -yes, at last, one!- interesting thing about Don Quixote: Cervantes has begun to evidence a fillip of self-awareness.  He's set up his book as a history of a history, a scholarly work several steps removed from the events in play.  This allows him to do some narrative layering -sometimes with spot-on results. 

I read this passage and thought, YES, OH GOD YES.

"It is stated, they say, in the true original of this history, that when Cide Hamete came to write this chapter, his interpreter did not translate it as he wrote it- that is, as a kind of complaint the Moor made against himself for having taken in hand a story so dry and of so little variety as this of Don Quixote, for he found himself forced to speak perpetually of him and Sancho, without venturing to indulge in digressions and episodes more serious and more interesting.  He said, too, that to go on, mind, hand, pen always restricted to writing upon one single subject, and speaking through the mouths of a few characters, was intolerable drudgery..."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Only Peripherally About Don Q

08/22/12: 81%

Mood: Fetid

Drink: Sparkly Garbage

I have this to say about Don Quixote: Shhh.

It's the dog days, and I seem to have embarked, pun oh-so-shamelessly intened, on the worst kind of wallow.  I got back from vacation on Saturday.  I did quite a bit of work on Sunday, not much work on Monday, a pittance on Tuesday, and absolutely nothing today in a slow deceleration that reminds me, alarmingly, of that film montage in Up in which a couple of lovebirds go from bounding up the hill to picnic to staggering up the hill to die.

I'm not dying, but I'm sure as heck not doing much of anything else, either.

I'm supposed to be working right now: three days of slog at a job that relieves me, during the normal course of events, of the time and energy necessary for penning the next great American novel or manuscripts on spec or invitations to fabulous parties or my signature on credit card receipts for stuff like actual chairs. 

Instead, I don't know if I'll have that particular job (my company's contract with the system is out for bid) or if I'll be scrambling to find something else.  I can't even scramble just yet- still waiting on a solid answer either way.  I'm finally in possession of the the time to relax, to loll expansively toward ALL THOSE THINGS I'VE BEEN MEANING TO GET TO, only I'm not getting to any of them.  Even leisure has palled: I should socialize, get out of the house, but....meh.

Cue self-loathing. And more wallowing.

It's worth knowing that you require, in the ointment of your leisure hours, the fly of work.  It's also kind of gross.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Instead of Don Q

08/16/12: 72%

Mood: Dark

Drink: Tea

Books I have gobbled since July 3 while pretending to read Don Quixote: 6

The Long Goodbye, Anne Tyler
Crappy Romance Novels #1, #2 (names have been changed to protect the innocent.  By which I mean my ego)
Broken Harbor, Tana French
Dare Me, Megan Abbot
Desert Solitaire, Eward Abbey


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I Am Here

Blowing Rock, NC.  Yes, for real, that is the view from our porch.  I'm on vacation!  Kind of.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

I Am Here

Asheville, NC

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Don Quixsnorte.

"You take a long time to tell it, Senor Don Quixote."
                                        -The Curate

Truer words never spoken!  (August 8, 2012).  At 58% and slogging forward, the experience of reading Don Quixote has distilled itself into a titanic battle against literary intertia.  I want to stop; everything within me cries out to stop; I cannot stop.

Neither can Don Quixote, who will be in the middle of speechifying -actually, truth be told, he'll be long past what you thought must necessarily comprise the middle of his discourse, because if it weren't the middle, but were more toward the front end of things, the dude would still be standing there speechifying as the skyscrapers tumble and the clouds mushroom and the nukes are deployed- he'll be in the middle of speechifying, closing in, only to duck around a rhetorical corner and emerge, like a first-class featherweight, primed for more.

It's rather impressive, truth be told.  Watching someone extend themselves beyond the outer reaches of your imagination is galvanizing.  Think of the Olympics, of the Curiosity Rover, of yourself at the end of a couch-to-5K program.  It is satisfying to have your limits belied

It's also monumentally soporific.  They should sell this thing to insomniacs.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

I Am Here

Bloomington, IN

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

Like your cervical spine, every aphorism has its breaking point.  For me, it's this: I'd really like to see some dancing about architecture.  Our skyscraping bones, our gargoyle hearts: when you get down to it, why the hell not?

Which is not to say that the exposition of art, its vivisection by trained professionals, doesn't drive me up the wall.  Today, I went to see this:

And I read this:

"Balancing the monumentality of Al-Hadid’s sculptures is a quality of light that seems to animate and deconstruct them. While she leaves behind the folkloric, mythological, and historical narratives that inspired previous works, Trace of a Fictional Third continues her interest in themes of time and motion. Cascades convey liquidity; undulating fabrics merge with more solid structures. And examples of the human figure, more overt than in prior work, are both voluptuously corporeal and spectral."

I mean, wtf?

The work is called "Trace of a Fictional Third," by Diana Al-Hadid, and I liked it better before I knew the title.  The copy is from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts website, and as artswriting goes, it's pretty mild.  (The last time I attended a Musicology lecture, I had to run from the room with my hands over my mouth to prevent vomitous hilarity.)

This stuff bugs me.

It's not the vagueness or the grandiloquence of the prose (the wtf factor) though these things grate.  Nor is it the transgression of the boundaries of modality: there's nothing wrong, in my view, with words about art.  Rather, it's artspeak's assertion, implicit yet terrifically strident, that there must be an explanation.

I don't want there to be an explanation.  I just want to listen to some tunes.

It's why I'm not a Musicologist, although I love music; it's why I wasn't English major, although I'm passionate about words.  To me, art is achingly simple: a call and response, that most basic, most vital cell of human communication.  And I'd dance to it all night before I'd lay it out on the table.