Friday, February 29, 2008

Happiness is a Warm Gun

Yes it is...

A bit melodramatic, but you get the point. Have a nice day.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Il Giudizio (or, Turning Forty)

Pisces Horoscope for week of February 21, 2008
[courtesy Rob Brezny]

Many people sincerely think that they will be called before God to account for themselves on Judgment Day. If you yourself have held that belief, you can stop worrying about it. The fact is that you were essentially called before God on Judgment Day last week (though it might have happened while you were asleep and dreaming), and everything went great! You passed your test! Your score wasn't perfect, and there were some demerits in your final evaluation, but the most important thing is that you made it! There will, therefore, be no more Judgment Days for you in the future. God found you worthy, and now you can go on living your life without fear or guilt. Congrats, Pisces! You're free!

Rien de Rien

In honor of the upcoming Oscars on Sunday, I'll finally write about a film I've been meaning to address ever since I saw it last summer: La Vie En Rose, the story of the life of Edith Piaf. Much has been written elsewhere about the performance of Marion Cotillard, and I agree that her transformation into Piaf from her teenage years through the time of her death was absolutely amazing. [NB: I actually think Julie Christie will win the Academy Award Sunday, and if she does, I won't be disappointed.]

I also found many parts of the film itself emotionally moving, though it had its fair share of melodrama and the typical "biopic" narrative. As Huntington wrote to me at one point, many film biographies of popular musicians follow the same arc: the rise and the fall and the rise again. This is also true in this case, but I found some aspects of Piaf's life -- and Cotillard's interpretation -- particularly heartbreaking.

One example is the filming and overall mood of the scene in which Piaf awakens from sleep thinking that her lover has arrived from Paris, only to learn that he's been in a plane crash. Another is the scene at the end in which Piaf is on her deathbed and seems to fade in and out of consciousness, while the filmmaker shows us flashbacks of some earlier events of which we were unaware.

I didn't ever really know much about Piaf before seeing the film, and I've only listened to her music a bit. However, I found myself moved to tears during one climactic concert scene in which Cotillard/Piaf interprets Je Ne Regrette Rien. Below is a clip of Piaf herself singing one of her signature pieces:

I dedicate this post in a way to the sweet and understanding Lynette, who has at least once or twice written in such a heartfelt way on the subject of regrets and letting them go. I try to be mindful of the futility of regrets as often as possible, especially because I have so often felt so dogged by so many of them...

So, here's to having no regrets.

No, nothing at all
No, I regret nothing
Neither the good nor the bad
It's all the same to me
It's paid for, wiped away, forgotten,
It's all in the past
With my memories I've set fire
To my troubles, my pleasures
I don't need them anymore

* * *
Non, rien de rien
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien, qu’on m’a fait,
Ni le mal, Tout ça m’est bien égal!
Non, rien de rien...
C’est payé, balayé, oublié,
Je me fous du passé!
Avec me souvenirs
J’ai allumé le feu,
Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs,
Je n’ai plus besoin d’eux!
Balayé les amours,
Avec leurs trémolos,
Balayés pour toujours
Je repars à zéro...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Up Next: The Fig Bar of Acrimony

Thought for the day; for no reason in particular.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Enjoy the Night as Much as You Can

My cold drips on, though I'm feeling much better. It's interesting having a death-rattle type wheeze in the chest, but I'm feeling fine with the OTC remedies courtesy of Long's. Thanks to those who offered their Get Wells.

The Caldo de Pollo from El Bajio restaurant on Saturday afternoon was a lifesaver and, as I just explained to a coworker, seemed at the time like the best thing I had ever tasted. Nothing goes together quite like winter illness and some hot, salty broth. The bouillabaise on Sunday—while a noble experiment—wasn't an absolute success, though I'm looking forward to leftovers tonight.

Unfortunately, the stank of homemade salmon broth is becoming the bane of my existence, and rediscovering the scent of fish on various saucepans and utensils days later is almost enough to make me retch. I now can see more clearly why some people have an aversion to le poisson. Sometimes the little things make one grateful for not having to work in a cannery or on a dangerous boat off the coast of Alaska in order to put food on the table.

Sunday night I stumbled across the verse below, which made me once again very glad to have discovered the Sufi poet Hafiz a couple of years ago.

Coincidentally, it's supposed to start raining again later today and continue through the week, which will be nice for further hunkering down under the covers in what I like to think of these days as my cozy treehouse.

*     *     *     *     *
It rained during the night
And two puddles formed in the dark
And began chatting
One said,

"It is so nice to at last be upon this earth
And to meet you as well,

But what will happen when
The brilliant Sun comes
And turns us back into spirit again!"

Dear ones,
Enjoy the night as much as you can,

Why ever trouble your heart with flight,
When you have just arrived
And your body is so full of warm desires,
And look:

So many meadows of soft hair are
Planted upon you.

Why ever trouble yourself with God
When He is so unjudging
And kind

Unless you are blessed and live
Near the circle of a
Perfect One?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Your Future is There Inside Your Cold Cold Heart

Just what I love: Getting a nasty-assed cold right before a three-day holiday weekend. Vive la Presidents' Day! I was supposed to be immune from sickness for the rest of the winter, if not the year, after being ill during my Christmas trip to New Jersey. So much for that karmic fantasy. The weird thing is that I can barely hear out of my right ear; I hope that doesn't foretell an imminent nasty infection. I'm at work, but I'm on the drugs -- the best Kroger store-brand melange that money can buy (one thing I never do is brand-name medication -- the price on that stuff is so jacked up you might as well flush your money down the drain, I tell ya!).

Also, I'm a (recent) committed user of cotton handkerchiefs, but during a juicy illness like this, you'd better believe that I'm singlehandedly destroying the Pacific Northwest by going through handfuls of Kleenex.

The three faithful readers shouldn't feel compelled to send condolences. It's not that bad. Nothing some extra time in bed won't cure -- and lounging on my ass in bed is something I don't mind at all. It's also something I do particularly well.

On another note, I'm thinking of hopping on a train to Santa Fe for my fortieth birthday at the end of the month and spending two nights there. The train leaves here at around 1pm Thursday, I'd get into Santa Fe around 3pm Friday, spend two nights, then do the reverse trip on Sunday afternoon. Santa Fe is one of my favorite places in the world, and I haven't been there since a really nice trip with an ex (The One) in fall 1999 (which means that, yes, there'll be some potential for a depressing nostalgia factor, but what the hell). In fact, Santa Fe is probably one of the few places I'd consider living that isn't on a coast. In any case, this trip is an option, since it would be nice to do something "different" and go away somewhere for this [cough] milestone of a birthday.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I've Been Looking for a Good Book about Drag Queens and Crackwhores

And, inadvertently, thanks to a link from Miss Jill, I think I've found exactly what I'm looking for. And used copies are available on the evil Amazon for less than three dollars. An excerpt:

"My boyfriend is standing over me with a knife. Two nights ago, after he had come home from a three-day crack binge, he decided that I could have the rest of the month to get my stuff together and move out of our, well his, penthouse. He then returned to his regularly scheduled cocaine programming and hadn't come home since. Until now.
Hey, it should be a fun read.

In addition, Miss Jill's post reference another project that looks entertaining: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure. However, admittedly, those types of projects are somewhat limited in entertainment value unless taken in small doses over time; otherwise, they feel like the kind of book that you can get the entire gist of merely by quickly leafing through while standing in the aisle at Borders.

Oh, and even though the joke is getting tired, the above is my homage to another Drag Queen Crackwhore of sorts.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Excuse Me While I Go Blackle That

Okay. So thanks to my "Live Traffic Feed" tracker thingy (see lower right hand of blog), I discovered the existence of "Blackle" yesterday. Has everyone known about this since 1997 or something?

According to the "About Blackle" information page:
Blackle saves energy because the screen is predominantly black. "Image displayed is primarily a function of the user's color settings and desktop graphics, as well as the color and size of open application windows; a given monitor requires more power to display a white (or light) screen than a black (or dark) screen."

In January 2007 a blog post titled Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year proposed the theory that a black version of the Google search engine would save a fair bit of energy due to the popularity of the search engine. Since then there has been skepticism about the significance of the energy savings that can be achieved and the cost in terms of readability of black web pages.

We believe that there is value in the concept because even if the energy savings are small, they all add up. Secondly we feel that seeing Blackle every time we load our web browser reminds us that we need to keep taking small steps to save energy.
So what do you think about that? Feel-good self-important computer-hippie virtue-enhancement project? Or is there something to it? I'm especially curious about what the Angry Young Man might have to say about this.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to train myself to start "Blackling" all those fun facts I have to look up about 18,249 times a day.

London 0 Hull 5

For Miss Jill, just in case this isn't already in her repertoire.

"Amongst all the dross / The lies and the grief / There are so many things you just wouldn't believe..."

As Exciting as Watching Your Fingernails Grow

That's how exciting this post promises to be. I guarantee it.

Every now and then I try to make a conscious effort to break out of habits I have, just because I think it will be good for me. In addition, being exposed to (or should I say, subjected to witness) the habits of others frequently annoys the shit out of me, so I figure if I can reduce my own habitual behavior, I can claim -- at least to myself -- some kind of moral superiority while I'm cursing my habit-laden friends and colleagues. I'll work on that moral superiority thing another time, but right now we're talking about fingernail length.

For years, I've dutifully clipped my fingernails at least once a week. And no, I never clip in public, and the clippings always get flushed down the toilet so that my enemies (or friends who are fed up with me bitching about their dumb-assed habits) can't fetch them from the dustbin and take them to some voudou priestess who will concoct some kind of tool that renders me dirt poor and sexually unattractive (oh, woops... too late for both... but you get the idea).

I generally can't stand the fingernails to be more than about 2 millimeters long. Otherwise, I start getting all twitchy, thinking about all the nasty shit that can collect under there, or the possibility that I might scratch my cornea in the middle of the night and eventually end up blinded by some nasty infection. It also kind of makes me shudder if I see some random guy out in public who has an index finger nail that's about half an inch long. Grosser than gross (though not quite as vile as looking at the mutilated fingertips of those borderline psychotic nailbiters among us -- eek!). Thus, I generally keep my nails pretty much trimmed to the quick at all times.

But a couple of weeks ago I decided to Go Wild and bust out of the habitual shackles that mentally enslaved me. I started letting the nails grow. Last week, I flipped open the nail file tool on my mini Swiss Army knife keychain and actually filed down those sharp edges instead of clipping. I have to say, nail filing -- in addition to being way too effete for words -- might be one of the most bullshit time-suck activities known to man (surpassed perhaps only by writing about nail filing). Give me instead the satisfaction of sitting down for no more than two minutes with a nail clipper and concluding with a pile of keratinized detritus any day.

I'm coming up on three weeks of this little experiment, and after one round of effete nail filing, I have to say, I'm ready for the clippers. Take a good look at those pearly, perfectly shaped nails in the photo above, because in a couple of days, it's back down to the quick, baby. Some habits are just here to stay. Maybe next time I decide to bust out of my rut, I'll choose to explode a habit with a little more relevance -- like the habit of staying in a relatively unsatisfying job, or the habit of avoiding the dating game at all costs, or the habit of being irresponsible about my debt-income ratio. Today: fingernails; tomorrow: retirement account!

Oh, and, if you didn't notice at first glance, yes, I do have the dominant trait of mid-digital hair. Look closely.

How about we end with a little survey? Are you a frequent clipper? An effete filer? Or is there absolutely no rhyme or reason to your nail hygiene?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Step Away from the Splenda

Research released Sunday reported that rats on diets containing saccharin gained more weight than rats given sugary food.

In the experiment, funded by the National Institutes of Health and by Purdue, nine rats received yogurt sweetened with saccharin and eight rats received yogurt sweetened with glucose, which is close in composition to table sugar. After receiving their yogurt snack, the animals were given their usual chow.

At the end of five weeks, rats that had been fed sugar-free yogurt gained an average of 88 grams, compared with 72 grams for rats that dined on glucose-sweetened yogurt, a difference of about 20%. Rats fed sugar-free yogurt were consuming more calories and had 5% more body fat.

I have one more important reason to avoid artificial sweeteners: They taste like ass, and definitely not in a good way.

What's Worse Than Discovering You're HIV Positive?

I’ll tell you what: a lot of things. I think anyone reading this can easily come up with a good long list without my help. But for one example, how about the following: Being HIV-positive and not knowing.

Maybe some would argue with that assertion. I did, and I did my best to keep myself “ignorant” for many years, although I had suspicions and fears for so long that any stress related to “knowing” could surely not have eclipsed the stress of wondering, avoiding, and being in so-called denial.

I think about HIV every day, but I’m not consumed with anxiety about it unless I let those thoughts spin out of control. But as a positive person, I can’t imagine not thinking about it. Aside from having to remember to take my pills and capsules—all in coordinating blues and whites, like Delftware—I would say that, in some sense, having HIV has come to define who I am and what my world revolves around. Although again, I have to say that I’m not consumed by it. Those statements may seem paradoxical: I’m defined by HIV and yet I’m not. My habits and thoughts revolve around it so often, yet I’m happy to let it recede into background noise, like a radio playing in another room while I read or clean the house or get on with all the mundane business of living. The radio is audible, but not the focus of all attention and activity. Hey, I can multitask. With a soundtrack.

* * *

I’m prompted most strongly to write this now because a friend—not a close one, but someone I’ve known a very long time—was just diagnosed as positive. My tendency is to say yet another friend. Yes, another one, in my age group: under forty (or very nearly so). I had also discovered just before Christmas that a 34-year-old friend with whom I reunited after many years was also positive.

I struggle with how to write about this without making it “just a story” or just an example used to illustrate a point, or to illustrate my particular brand of navel gazing that verges on (or spills over into) being uselessly self-indulgent. But while I believe that no one’s story or struggle or experience should just be fodder for an anecdote, the truth is that this recent news has touched me and made me spin off into thoughts about my own HIV experience that I want to explore yet again, and I have to believe that there’s nothing wrong—or insensitive—about that impulse.

I frequently remember a bit of dialogue from John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, in which a character takes great pains to make clear that a person who intersected with her life was more than “just an anecdote to dine out on.” It’s in that spirit that I launch from news of my friend’s HIV diagnosis into further personal comments about “this thing” that some of us are saddled with.

* * *

How did we arrive at this place? How did I arrive at this place—this cohort of the Post-Safe-Sex-Revolution-HIV-Positive? I wish I could say that I no longer feel guilty about being positive, no longer feel any shame or regret, no longer beat myself up for “doing this to myself despite ‘knowing better.’” Yet there are times I feel like I was one of the most irresponsible people in the world, and I mourn for both myself and others who may be in similar situations (realizing that those “situations” can be totally unrelated to HIV as well).

While none of that self-loathing or re-questioning is useful or productive, it’s once again like that radio playing in the other room: always there—the soundtrack to daily life. Sometimes the volume is cranked up a bit higher than at other times, but the drone never quite goes away.

I’ve thought many times of writing a post entitled “I Want Your Sympathy Even If I Don’t Deserve It.” The rational brain knows that there are so many things wrong with a statement like that, starting with the word choices of “sympathy” and “deserve,” which are usually the types of words I want to expunge from my vocabulary—or at least from the vocabulary of the HIV experience. Still, those words surface in the well of genuine emotion; they’re what I feel sometimes. Maybe it’s a variation on that theme—something I’m saying to myself: “I Want MY OWN Sympathy, Even If I Don’t Believe I Deserve It.”

* * *

Mostly, the rational brain believes that HIV and a lot of other things “just happen,” along with a lot of other shit in the world. Which is not to take a fatalistic tack and say that I or we or you or they can’t do anything to change the “shit” that happens to us. It’s just to say or to ask: What’s the use of blaming or pointing fingers?

I’ve done some stupid things in my life, and things that were done from a position of truly not caring about whether I lived or died. There’s more than a grain of self-pity in looking back at the person—me—who did those things and thinking how unfortunate it was that he felt the need to do them. I guess I think it’s a shame that he didn’t realize how valuable his life was at the time, but like everyone, I’ve learned some lessons through whatever means it took to learn them.

Again, I have to step back because that last statement sounds like I’m saying that I acquired HIV as a means of learning some cosmic “lesson,” which is not what I believe. HIV has been quite a lesson, there’s no doubt about it, but I certainly don’t think that it’s a lesson “doled out” by some universal power. I believe that some things come our way due to good or ill luck just as surely as they do due to our relative “stupidity” or intelligent behavior.

* * *

So I’ve been dealing consciously with this wily virus for almost six years now, and I was probably dealing with it unconsciously for at least a little while before that. Time flies.

Is life “better” since I’ve known? Was ignorance bliss?

Life’s different since I’ve known. It’s been better in some ways, and worse in others, often unrelated to HIV (at least at first glance). I made a decision to deal with life—or at least with HIV—in a head-on manner during a ten-day meditation retreat, even though that kind of confrontation had been scaring the hell out of me for years. In a different mindset, it’s so hard to grasp the obvious (and always factual) statement that “Either you’re positive or you’re negative. Those are the only two options.” It’s such a straightforward statement, yet so difficult to embrace or to convince yourself to verify. “I’m not sure” can seem like such neutral and safe ground sometimes.

I want to write more about this, but I feel like I’m spinning off into nonsensical streams of consciousness—which in their own way can be ok I guess. I hope to continue this sometime soon.

I’m left right now with a single feeling: Sometimes it’s compelling to want answers to so many things, but it’s for me it’s comforting to try to make peace with the questions that just keep coming and coming and always will. Like everything else, they can wait around in their own limbo, and if they’re never answered, that’s a perfectly fine outcome.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Calafragalistic Tuesday

Above is the view in the posh cubicle. I had filled out most of the absentee ballot -- except for one perplexing local ballot measure -- a long time ago, and popped it in the mail on Saturday.

I sincerely -- but not naively -- believe in Hillary's good intentions and long history of articulating and attempting to realize them. I'll just leave it at that.

And, yes, that is a genuine polyester fleece Gap scarf, in case you were wondering.

m00nchild: hopefully this (either my vote or my scarf) won't doom our engagement.