Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I will not be controlled.

In a concession to my advancing age, and, more specifically, my back, I finally broke down recently and bought a backpack. I do a lot of walking to and from various forms of public transportation for my epic daily commute (East Bay represent! Sigh...)and carrying my gym bag, laptop and handbag was actually causing me medical issues. I didn't need anything fancy, just "big."

Maybe it's a testament to how impatient I get with Amazon, and how little attention I really pay to anything that isn't a picture, but the bag I ended up with is so beyond a "backpack" and so overdesigned, that I'm not really sure what I was thinking. The fucking thing is trying to micromanage the contents of my entire fucking life! There are 23 pockets and they are LABELED—you know, so I don't put the cell phone where the PDA is supposed to go, God forbid. It kind of reminds me of Derrick when we're packing the car: "Hm, are you sure you want to put that there?"

Here are the compartments on my bag:
Front mesh pocket for bike helmet (presumptuous much, backpack? I don't HAVE one.)
iPod pocket
iPod cord pocket
PDA pocket (um, how about you hold my meds instead!)
PDA charger pocket
cell phone pocket
cell phone charger pocket
mouse pocket
5 pen holders
key holder
cd case
ANOTHER cd case
headphones pouch
laptop adapter airport pouch
USB port cord holder
phone port cord holder
spare battery holder
laptop pouch

And those are just the ones that have the helpful icons. The rest are presumably meant to just be ritualistically opened and closed however many times a day your OCD calls for.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Poem of the Week

I wanted to post a happy poem today. I failed, but it was worth it. Usually, any story or poem about 9/11 just makes be feel a vague, abstract numbness, but not this. It's one of my favorite poems.

Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100
by Martin Espada

Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on this shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook's yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes.
Alabanza. Praise the kitchen radio, dial clicked
even before the dial on the oven, so that music and Spanish
rose before bread. Praise the bread. Alabanza.

Praise Manhattan from a hundred and seven flights up,
like Atlantis glimpsed through the windows of an ancient aquarium.
Praise the great windows where immigrants from the kitchen
could squint and almost see their world, hear the chant of nations:
Ecuador, Mexico, Republica Dominicana,
Haiti, Yemen, Ghana, Bangladesh.
Praise the kitchen in the morning,
where the gas burned blue on every stove
and exhaust fans fired their diminutive propellers,
hands cracked eggs with quick thumbs
or sliced open cartons to build an altar of cans.
Alabanza. Praise the busboy's music, the chime-chime
of his dishes and silverware in the tub.

Alabanza. Praise the dish-dog, the dishwasher
who worked that morning because another dishwasher
could not stop coughing, or because he needed overtime
to pile the sacks of rice and beans for a family
floating away on some Caribbean island plagued by frogs.
Alabanza. Praise the waitress who heard the radio in the kitchen
and sang to herself about a man gone. Alabanza.

After the thunder wilder than thunder,
and the shudder deep in the glass of the great windows,
after the radio stopped singing like a tree full of terrified frogs,
after night burst the dam of day and flooded the kitchen,
for a time the stoves glowed in darkness like the lighthouses in Fajardo,
like a cook's soul. Soul, I say, even if the dead cannot tell us
about the bristles of God's beard because God has no face,
soul I say, to name the smoke-beings flung in constellations
across the night sky of this city and cities to come.
Alabanza, I say, even if God has no face.

Alabanza. When the war began, from Manhattan to Kabul
two constellations of smoke rose and drifted to each other,
mingling in icy air, and one said with an Afghan tongue:
Teach me to dance. We have no music here.
And the other said with a Spanish tongue:
I will teach you. Music is all we have.

From Alabanza: New and Selected Poems 1982-2002

Friday, July 27, 2007

I hurt you because I care.

The Family Wainwright, minus Loudon

Coming from a family of slightly unhinged writer-types (and one entrepreneur who, strangely, makes more money than all of us combined) can be tough. Reading each other's work and learning, whether we want to or not, about each other's innermost thoughts/insecurities/demons can create, uh, an interesting dynamic. Like when you read a sex scene in a novel your dad wrote! It's interesting! Or when you write a poem that describes your uneasy relationship with your dad and you show it to him so he can critique your form! Also really interesting!

I say this because I'm currently working on a short story that is based on an extremely sensitive event in my family history. Actually, it started as a short story, and now it's more like a short novel, which probably means it has become overwrought, full of confusing tangents and, well, bad, but I digress. I've been feeling a little weird about the whole thing, like, "Am I appropriating a story that doesn't really just belong to me?" or "Is it wrong to write a sex scene with a character based on my brother?" or "Will anyone in my family talk to me ever again after they read this?"

Then I read this awesome article about the Wainwright family in Vanity Fair. Holy crap! They completely embrace the "interesting dynamic" and write about each other all the time. Then they perform shows together and sing songs about how much they hate each other! Check it out:
Loudon turned 50 on Sept. 5, 1996. The next day, his friends and far-flung family members joined him onstage for a celebratory show at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, New York. Kate was there. So were Suzzy, Rufus, and Martha; their half-sister Lucy Wainwright Roche showed up, too.

Early on, Loudon dove right into the soup, playing that good-time ballad about nearly losing fetal Martha, "That Hospital." If Lucy felt left out, she no longer did when he sang the heart-wrenching "Your Mother and I." Rufus got zinged with "A Father and a Son." Kate took the stage and scored one for the women's side with "Go Leave." Loudon counterpunched with "Unhappy Anniversary."

Maybe it's weird to view the Wainwrights as role models for using creativity to enable more functional family dysfunction, but whatever! I love them now.

Also: in Martha Wainwright's awesome song "Factory," I'm not really sure, but I think the person she refers to as "the chick with the dick and the gift for the gab" is her brother.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I'd like to take this moment to heart Copyranter.

OMFG, people might actually be reading this blog now. Big thanks to ad biz blogebrity (did I just use that word? puke.) Copyranter, who linked to my post on corporate anthems today. If you want to die laughing, read his blog.

Um, I guess this would be a good time to finally decide whether this blog is going to be about bad advertising, good poetry or gynecological exams. For the time being, it will remain a stupefying mix of all three!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Earthy, spiritual, psycho.

There's a thin line between the rustic, earth-goddess look that many yoga studios/every store in Berkeley try to go for with their signage, and the somewhat scary, cultish look my local Bikram yoga studio has actually achieved. I pass this sign almost every day on the way to my local Gold's Gym (whose logo uses bulging, steroidal yellow type—they know their audience!) and it always unnerves me a bit. It kinda seems like it was carved by students at the end of a class when they were completely dehydrated, on the verge of heatstroke and pretty much crazy. Of course, if you've ever taken a Bikram class, you already know that it is in fact a cult, and it should seem perfectly natural that their sign bears a resemblance to this:

Postcard from Charles Manson

But in terms of creepiness, this studio can't hold a candle to the Funky Door Bikram studio on 2nd Street in SF, where massive windows provide passersby with an intimate view of limber, half-naked sweat-o-philes grabbing their ankles. I can't even count the number of times I've passed by that place at lunch and seen several middle-aged men just guilelessly standing there, watching and eating Subway. I admit I sometimes watch too, but only to see people faceplant when their hands fly out from underneath them as they try to execute a downward-facing dog on their sweat-slicked mats.

Monday, July 23, 2007

"We have a dream of youthful love and power."

God bless corporate anthems. The best are just sorta bad, the worst are so deeply horrific that they send the listener into a hypnotic state. Some, like Ahhhhh Fujitsu and The Symantec Revolution, are just unabashedly, spectacularly, transcendently bad. Just look at how many adjectives they force me to use.

The Fujitsu anthem starts out like a Mexican wedding song. Then the Japanese jazz singer starts in and you've got some kind of 1960's James Bond theme song on your hands. But there's also these Flower Power undertones, with lines about holding hands and "smiling at each new hour". It's this kind of genre bending that makes me smile in the deepest, darkest, coldest corners of my jaded little soul.

The Symantec Revolution is clearly based on "Good Vibrations" by Marky-Mark and the Funky Bunch. I just. Can't. Even. I mean, you try to explain this.

Oh, and then there's the glorious Ode to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act of 2002. This law was passed after the Enron scandal and the song is a warning to would-be white collar criminals who find badly-rhymed rap with soaring synthesizers appealing. Who the hell even produced this? The SEC? God, what I wouldn't have done to be in on those meetings.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Poem of the Week

I've decided to post a favorite poem roughly once a week, starting...now!

This is a long one.

There May Be More Of This World Than Can Possibly Exist

by Olena Kalytiak Davis

Not just the cosmos you have thickly sown into the small field
just east of your heart, but all that is held
in disbelief, in unfaith. Not only the barbed paragraphs of scrub
willows or the thoughts as thin as telephone wires,
but what's left of the salt lick of your soul,
or of the woman you married.

And what isn't: that half-built house, laid bare and open,
forsaken by the suicidal bricklayer, the carpenter's deconstructing
hands. The winged mail carrier, just now
rounding the corner, feeling depressed again,
praying for deliverance or rain. No, not just that.
Not only the Dostoyevsky reeling
in his walkman: but everything the brothers did, thought about
doing, said...

And all that is held so high.
And everything that is swimming, way underneath it.

Not just the trajectory, not only the first stone
or the second, but what's left in your wrist, that which is
ancient, the african village that dances inside you, the medicine
you are feeding and the whole sky. The sky that's no longer refusing

the ground and the heretics, the martyrs; the skeptics now willing
to take certain things under consideration:
the god that exists and the one that doesn't.

Not just the determination of the stars, but the stars
newly determined to understanding the clear
clear night. The blind appetite
of the senses, so well fed, it's dreaming of vinegar
and malt. And everything else
you can't, as luck will have it, bring yourself
to consider: the white-tailed deer stepping gently
out of the scratchy thicket,
her soft warm tongue, sweet and fresh as milk.

And all those quiet hours when you thought you knew
what you were talking about,
but were only scrubbing your soul with salt,
saying: let what is grain turn to grain,

just not meaning it.

And Her Soul Out Of Nothing, 1997

Friday, July 20, 2007

SFO, black turtlenecks and cocktails.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the opening of an exhibit called "From Prototype to Product" at SFO. Actually I had the pleasure of drinking for free in the reception area while Derrick escorted members of the Industrial Designers Society of America through the actual exhibit in the United Terminal. I got there too late for the tour, and for some reason airport security wouldn't let me through with a glass of wine and no ticket. Jerks. I mean, it's great that SFO is big on hosting cool exhibits, but it's a shame when they're only available to those flying into or out of the country on United. And are international flyers really the best audience? I, for one, cannot focus on anything meaningful when I'm traveling. Even my brainiac friends admit that their compromised attention spans limit them Us Magazine when flying.

Anyway, the exhibit consists of somewhere around 75 prototypes of well-known products from design firms like IDEO, FuseProject and Apple. Um, I hear it was cool? I did manage to get a look at the soon-to-be-released $100 XO Computer from FuseProject. The idea behind this kid's laptop is to make it economically feasible for any school to expose their students to computer technology and help them build the skills that are becoming ever-more-critical in the information-driven world. According to the lead designer on the project, schools in Nigeria have already placed their orders. I'm thinking it would be a hell of a lot easier and lighter to transport to and from work than my Mac. Read more about it at the One Laptop Per Child website.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Just take a deep breath, relax and think of pop drivel from 1994.

This morning I had my annual Ladies Exam at Kaiser, and this was the poster that was plastered on the ceiling directly over the examination table. It's hard to make out in this photo, but basically it's a concert poster for Better Than Ezra with Hootie and the Blowfish. WTF, you may ask. WTF, indeed. Is this what the Ob/Gyn staff thinks helps us relax our vaginal muscles? Or are they insinuating that listening to these bands is about as pleasant as being probed with a cold metal speculum? Wait, I think I just answered my own question.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Batshirt crazy.

Yes, that is a shirt she is wearing. With bat wings. With holes. So?

An inflated sense of youthful resilience.

This past weekend, a co-worker threw her birthday party at Pump It Up Inflatable Party Zone, a favored venue of the under-12 set. It goes without saying that hurling yourself through giant plastic obstacle courses when you're 30+ is a wholly different experience. As you plummet headfirst down the giant inflatable slide, your body reveals its many complex parts with anatomical precision: "Here is your mylohyoid muscle, which is immediately above the digastric muscle which holds the mandible in place--oops! That popping noise is your mandible unhinging." You can literally feel every muscle you never knew existed as one by one, they pop off your skeleton like banjo strings. Not that this stopped anyone from attacking every slide and trampoline boxing ring like second graders on crack. But god, two days later and we're all still paying for it.

Here's the slide where I threw out my back:

Here's my husband, Derrick after compressing his spine:

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Monday of my self-destruction.

So far this morning, I've dropped one of those heavy plastic floor mats with the teeth on one side on my (bare) foot, scalded my hand on an espresso steamer that decided to disassemble itself/explode mid-steam, tripped over aforementioned floor mat and spilled coffee everywhere, and dropped a glass of water. Also, it is "Staff iPod Day" at work, and someone's playing rap rock and pop metal over the office sound system. I keep scanning the office for the 18-year-old angry, white frat boy who's clearly responsible, but I can't seem to locate such a person. So, I've cocooned myself in the "Brainstorming Room" where no one can see me grind my teeth and mumble to myself. Lo, it is Monday and not quite 10 A.M.

Friday, July 6, 2007

"The ironic clinical universe"

That's how super-designer (sorry, I mean "The Prince of Design") Ora-ito refers to the Smiley brand line of antidepressant-infused beauty and skincare products. If you too receive the Daily (Reminder that You're Poor) Candy e-newsletter, you may already know what I'm talking about. I don't know, I like to keep my irony and my antidepressants separate. Especially where an actual transaction of actual money is involved.

Anyway, I see no point in taking a chance on happy pills Quisinart-ed into shampoo and face cleanser when exfoliating my liver with vodka tonics has long proven effective.

Also: given the sexual side effects of most SSRIs, antidepressants in lube seems a particularly hard sell.

The site offers an extensive explanation about what's in their concoctions, but after watching this video I am convinced the active ingredient is Ecstasy.


There's a certain amount of pressure copywriters feel to be well-spoken and articulate in front of our co-workers and peers. I'm not exactly sure why I decided to added this blog as yet another venue in which I need to watch what I say and how I say it. It's probably an illness of some sort. But the fact is, I'm not always on the ball. I frequently use four-letter words when I simply can't be bothered to say shit good. This morning, another copywriter I work with coined the word "kilomometer." Last month, she invented "strategery." Clearly, her weakness is adding extra syllables to words, which really makes her an overachiever if you think about it. I, on the other hand, am reductive, otherwise known as lazy.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Welcome to your hangover.

It’s the 5th of July and the weather is not cooperating with my headache. It’s supposed to be the hottest day on record for San Francisco, not that this city sets the bar all that high. Oakland is practically viscous sludge with the heat, but enough about the weather.

Last night, as I was trying to fall asleep to the soothing rumble of explosion after explosion after explosion right outside my window, I was reminded of this time my brother Chris, a sound engineer, worked the Milwaukee Big Bang fireworks show back in the late 80s. The show was supposed to be set to rock music, but his boss screwed up and supplied him with a blank tape, which he didn’t discover until, like, 10 minutes before the fireworks started. So rather than not playing any music at all, Chris substituted a Bruce Springsteen bootleg he dug out of his glove compartment. Sitting out on the hill above Lake Michigan, all I could hear was the white noise of a cheering crowd laced with the muffled chords of "Born to Run." It felt strange because none of us were actually cheering. We all just kept looking around at each other, thinking everyone else must be clapping. It was almost like performance art: playing applause for the non-applauding crowd.

The whole event got panned on the local news stations.