Friday, December 29, 2006


Writing is hard. This is my problem lately: I start writing some introspective piece, then I get pretty far into it and I realize that it's like pulling a piece of yarn from a sweater. You pull one string and the whole thing starts coming apart. Writing is thinking, and the more I start thinking about things, the more complex they get. And it seems like as soon as I start putting things on paper (or computer), I get frustrated because I think, this is not true. I mean, it's not a lie, it's not like I'm making up who I am as I go along, but it's not the 100 percent real truth. Especially here where many things can't be discussed or I don't want to discuss them.

I think we all have this tendency to make everything a narrative, with a pat ending, all nice and neat and tied up with a bow, but the reality is jagged and curved and cut into pieces. You can take the bird's eye view or you can really be honest and get down into the curves and sharp edges. But I look at those and sometimes I don't like what I see. I write about myself and try to do so with some honesty, then I take a cold hard look at it and realize these things I don't want people to know about me may be things that I need to change.

I've always had this thing about fiction, that it's somehow inferior because it's not true, but lately I've begun to see things a little differently. Maybe in some ways fiction is more honest than nonfiction, because in fiction everything is made-up and there's nothing to cover up. Because it's actually less complex than reality, it's easier to get to general truths without wading through the compounding details. It's easier to get into that close-up view with fiction because it's in the realm of character rather than the realm of reality. You're criticizing the character, you're not criticizing me as a person. And I've never been very into creative writing but sometimes I am tempted to switch to writing short stories or semi-autobiographical novels rather than writing about myself and what's really happened to me and attempting to make some kind of narrative out of it. Do you know what I mean? Or am I just rambling?

Going places

It's dark and I'm going 70 on I-10 headed to Downtown, towards the Wells Fargo building lit up like a Christmas tree in the distance. Blue Oyster Cult plays on the radio. I feel like I'm in a movie. Maybe because of the music, or because of the speed, or because of where I'm going, or most likely the perfect combination of the three, but at this one moment I'm excited to be alive. I sing along, street lights are a blur at either side of me on the freeway.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

From an interesting essay by anchorman Brian Williams in Time:

"It is now possible — even common — to go about your day in America and consume only what you wish to see and hear. There are television networks that already agree with your views, iPods that play only music you already know you like, Internet programs ready to filter out all but the news you want to hear.

The problem is that there's a lot of information out there that citizens in an informed democracy need to know in our complicated world with U.S. troops on the ground along two major fronts. Millions of Americans have come to regard the act of reading a daily newspaper— on paper — as something akin to being dragged by their parents to Colonial Williamsburg. "

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Top 10 lists for 2006

I've gotten into the habit at the end of each year of making lists of the most memorable things I read/watched/listened to, and I thought I'd share that here this year. Yes, I'm aware that many of these were not released in 2006.

Books - Not a big year for heavy reading. I think Madam Secretary was my Mount Everest this year.
  • Ash Wednesday Ethan Hawke - surprisingly good book written by a celebrity
  • Blue Like Jazz Donald Miller
  • Freakonomics Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • Harry Potter, Books 1-3 J.K. Rowling
  • In Her Shoes Jennifer Weiner
  • Lost and Found Carolyn Parkhurst - funny
  • Madam Secretary Madeleine Albright
  • Mockingbird : A Portrait of Harper Lee Charles J. Shields
  • White Oleander Janet Fitch
  • Why Do I Love These People? Po Bronson

Movies - Ah, the year I subscribed to Netflix.

  • 7 Up documentary series
  • Akeelah and the Bee
  • American Dreamz - hilarious satire
  • Cars
  • Click
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • I Heart Huckabees
  • Late Night Shopping
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada - looks like it was filmed in El Paso
  • World Trade Center

Music - I admit it, I listen to Top 40 radio. A lot. Some of these are songs and some are albums.

  • "At My Most Beautiful" REM
  • Chopin Ballade No. 1 in G minor
  • "Crazy" Gnarls Barkley
  • "Hate Me" Blue October - read the lyrics
  • Hopes and Fears Keane
  • Hotel Moby
  • "Over My Head" and "How to Save a Life" The Fray
  • U2: Best of 1980-1990
  • Vivaldi Concerto for Violin and Two Cellos - I heart Vivaldi
  • Why Should the Fire Die? Nickel Creek

TV - What happened to all the dramas? And it was a big year for reality TV.

  • "30 Days" - Morgan Spurlock is a genius
  • "Everybody Hates Chris"
  • "Iron Chef America"
  • "Little People, Big World"
  • "The Office"
  • Oprah Winfrey Show 20th Anniversary Collection DVD - highly recommended
  • "Project Runway" - so addicted to this show
  • "The Soup"
  • "Survivor"
  • "VH1 Nocturnal State" - best thing on TV after 1 a.m.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Funny poll

Vote in this poll on NMK. I wonder where those two people live, because I want to move there.

Christmas shopping at the liquor store

I went into a liquor store for the first time yesterday. A few minutes earlier I had been in a grocery store--the grocery store with its wholesome smells of baked goods and ground coffee and fruits and vegetables. But the smell of the liquor store reminded me of a warehouse. It was a very utilitarian place, both in smell and decor. Here's your liquor, and that's all. No Christmas decorations or cheery displays, just shelves and shelves of every alcoholic beverage imaginable, and absolutely nothing else. No shot glasses or random gift items. No food products of any kind, not even the usual display of candy bars. It didn't seem like the kind of place you'd want to buy anything that you were later going to ingest.

I went up to the counter and asked a gray-haired man at the cash register to get some small bottles of Bailey's and tequila from a shelf behind the counter. Then I asked which brand of tequila he would recommend. Cuervo, he said, and it looked like he knew what he was talking about, so I took his advice. I bought the Bailey's and Cuervo. Got carded, of course, paid and left. And that was it, my first trip to the liquor store. I don't think I'll be going back any time soon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Person of the Year

Time magazine names You as the Person of the Year. I think that's an appropriate choice, but I'm not as excited about it as I could be because, personally, I'm not a big fan of YouTube. Blogger, yes, YouTube, not so much. To me it's too much like regular TV, where you can just spend hours and hours watching mindless stuff.

According to Time Managing Editor Richard Stengel (in the "To Our Readers" section): "Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger, and Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, Poor Richard's Almanack." I think that's stretching it just a little.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The postmodern Christmas Eve

I'll admit to feeling a little Grinch-like this Christmas. Last year's Christmas Day was OK, but Christmas Eve was hands-down the most disappointing I've had so far.

First of all, I had to work. On Christmas Eve! But as the saying goes, the news never sleeps. It wasn't too bad, though. I was happy because I got to come home early (around 8 p.m. instead of the usual 11 or 12). As I drove home I imagined myself coming home to a nice Christmas Eve dinner with the family. I envisioned some nice turkey cooked in the oven, cranberry sauce on the side, mashed potatoes, corn, and a salad. And then after dinner maybe we would all watch a movie together (It's a Wonderful Life, maybe?). Then I would fall peacefully asleep in anticipation of the unwrapping of presents on Christmas morning. This is what my family usually did on Christmas Eve in years past.

Instead I got home and this was the scene: my sister (I'll call her V.) and her friends were sitting on the couch watching a marathon of "My Super Sweet Sixteen" reruns on MTV. My other sister (A.) was talking on the phone. My mom was not home. She had left the house to see some friends of hers. And after a careful inspection of the kitchen, not only had she not made the fancy Christmas Eve dinner I imagined, she hadn't made any dinner at all. My stomach went into shock. I sat in the kitchen, totally bummed out, pretending to be interested in "My Super Sweet Sixteen". Finally hunger won over and I decided to make my specialty: grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches.

When my mom and A. had both arrived home later that night, and after all V.'s friends had left, we all decided break with tradition and exchange presents right then instead of waiting for the morning. Which felt extremely weird, but no weirder than any of the other things that had gone on that night. "My Super Sweet Sixteen" replacing It's a Wonderful Life as Christmas Eve viewing. Tomato and cheese sandwiches replacing a turkey dinner. And everyone sort of doing their own thing. I think you could definitely say my Christmas Eve last year was very postmodern. And maybe I'm more of a traditionalist than I realized because it bothered me so much.

My expectations are definitely different this year, in that I really don't have expectations. I may have to work again. And I know that if I want that Christmas Eve dinner I'd better be prepared to make it myself. And watch Christmas movies by myself if necessary. I am trying to look at it as just another day and not expect it to be the way it was in the past. The same way you unwrap a present and try to be happy about whatever it is even if it's not really what you wanted, I'm prepared for whatever I get: the traditional Christmas, the postmodern Christmas, or something in between. Maybe it all just doesn't matter as much anymore. We find our time to be together, why does it have to be in one particular way, on one particular night? We're older, the world is different (Exhibit A: the very existence of a show like "My Super Sweet Sixteen"), and things are not going to be the same as they were when I was younger. I should learn to put my expectations away. But honestly, I am sad about it, especially on a gloomy day like today. I wish we all made more of an effort to do things together and to hold on to long-standing traditions. I wish there were things I could depend on, things I could look forward to. At this era in our family, it seems we don't have these sacred traditions that we aren't willing to break, and that really makes me sad.

Monday, December 18, 2006


From an article in USA Weekend:

"A few weeks from now, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls will welcome its first 150 students. Winfrey built the state-of-the-art school for poor girls with potential; she personally interviewed every finalist (from a pool of more than 3,000 applicants) and plans to teach classes there via teleconference.......When these girls leave the academy, she believes, they will become the doctors, educators and leaders who will 'turn that continent around.' "

I really can't describe how much I love this idea. This is probably the best idea I've heard about trying to change the situation in Africa. If I had a billion dollars I think I'd try to do something exactly like this.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


The key to a happy holiday is low expectations.

Not a baby

My baby sister turned 21 today.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I'm well on my way in my quest to try to watch every documentary on Netflix, lol. The latest was Street Fight, about the 2002 mayoral election in Newark. Really interesting if you like politics. I didn't know corruption like this still went on in America in the 21st century.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Stu's take on science vs. religion. I've always wondered what 'non-denominational spiritualist' meant.
This week's cover story in Time has some really good ideas about reforming education. I've seen some of these ideas in action in my college education (esp. the "teamwork approach" to learning) but definitely not in high school. Unfortunately, if you're not a subscriber to Time you'll need to watch an ad before you can access most of the article. Still, worth reading.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Latest batch of photos

A few obligatory holiday photos:

A pretty poinsettia plant. What happens to poinsettia plants after Christmas?

Mom's holiday dining room table.

Taken this morning:

Northeast El Paso desert. I don't know what that white spot is. It kind of looks like a bomb going off.

St. Francis of Assisi who watches over the front of the house.

Classic rock

Awesome radio station: 99.1 The Eagle.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Cheesecake bites

I can't think of an unhealthier snack than cheesecake bites from Sonic. Bits of fried cheesecake dipped in sugar. Which I was lucky enough to sample yesterday. Right after which I thought I might have a heart attack.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Movies I re-watched this weekend that were funnier than I remember:
-Clueless: Brings me back to 8th grade, when people started saying things like "As if." Art of word play is brought to a new level. Check out this quote page.
-Mean Girls: I played hooky from school one Friday to watch this. I remember eating a huge bag of popcorn and laughing like crazy. Tina Fey is my idol. This movie is hilarious. Also captures high school pretty well, I think.
-The Wedding Singer: I've watched this movie so many times I can recite the dialogue. "Julia's last name is going to be Guglia?" Still funny every time I watch it. And I love the '80s motif.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Excellent essay by Eleanor Roosevelt in the This I Believe project.
The highlights of my college days were my two stints on my student newspaper, in spring 2002 and summer 2003. Both times I was hired as a "correspondent" earning $10 per story, essentially a stringer. I didn't get paid much at all, but in a lot of ways it was the best job I've ever had.

I really felt at home among the journalism types. One thing that can be said about journalism is that no one does it for the money. Or they do, in part, but they also have to love it since the financial rewards are so small compared to what you find elsewhere. My editor from my first stint at the paper remains one of the coolest people I've ever met. A short guy with a crew cut and glasses, he was funny and smart and dedicated. I can still see him smoking cigarettes in the back of the student union. Once after a meeting of the newspaper staff, he said to us, "Isn't this what you all want to be doing for the rest of your life? So go out and do a good job." You could tell he really loved what he was doing. Best of all, he told me he liked my stories and gave me some good assignments.

When I was researching a story I felt like a different person. I was determined to do an excellent job on my stories, and because of that I found a boldness in myself I never knew existed. In my new role as a footloose, hard-nosed reporter, I would ask the tough questions. I decided I was willing go anywhere and talk to anyone to add to a better story. In other words, I was willing to risk making a pest of myself, something I would never do in my regular life.

In my two semesters I ended up talking to all sorts of people. I would go around campus, long skinny reporter's in hand, jotting down quotes in my bad shorthand. I marched into the UTEP police station and asked to see some records about an accident that took place on campus. I asked students what they really thought about the financial aid office. I went down to the Don Haskins Center and interviewed some cute kids at a basketball camp. I talked to fraternity boys and sorority girls about their rush weeks, and I asked a dietician about the dangers of diet pills. But I think my favorite story of all was an interview with Phil Jones, the Australian digeridoo player who gave a demonstration on campus one afternoon. He drove around the country giving demonstrations on the benefits of deep breathing and playing the digeridoo. For some reason I thought this was extremely fascinating. I came up with a huge list of questions and interviewed him for about 10 minutes, you'd think I was interviewing some famous rock star. Sadly, the story was cut and never saw the light of day, but I did find out more than I ever wanted to know about the digeridoo.

On more than one occasion my stories would get cut like the Phil Jones story. More often, they were banished to the inside pages of the paper. But a couple of times my editor would give me a plum assignment and my story would end up on the front page. Maybe this is silly, but even now those occasions still come up when I think about what I am proudest of in my life.

I look back and see a colorful collage of experiences, a collection of things I would never have seen otherwise. But it ended up being a bittersweet experience because at the end of my second stint I had to admit to myself that I was not cut out to be a reporter. When push came to shove, I was too much of a marshmallow to ask people things they really didn't want to answer. There were times where I felt like I was really annoying people, where I got embarrassed and lost my nerve, and I didn't like that at all. I could put on the aggressive reporter persona for a couple of semesters, but I knew I couldn't do it as a career. Sure, it was rewarding to think about a lot of people reading what I wrote and getting something from it, and it was fun getting to meet new people and see interesting things, but in the long run, I knew I wouldn't enjoy the day-to-day reporter tasks of making a million phone calls, banging on people's doors, and asking annoying questions. Being a reporter isn't my calling. It was hard to admit, but I knew it was so.

After that summer I quit the newspaper and spent the rest of my time in college studying things like math, computer programming, and software engineering. Yet somehow those days as a correspondent will always be special, more fun and exciting to me than any of the time I spent churning out code in the computer lab. Me as a bold and adventurous journalist, who knew it was possible? I'll always be glad for that experience even if it was short-lived.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Does anyone else think this is a bad idea?

12 Months of Monet

This painting is the December picture in my Monet calendar. It took me by surprise when I turned to it. Claude Monet actually painted that? Interesting.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Where is home?

I've lived in this house for over a year but I don't think of it as home. Maybe because it's in a different area of El Paso than where I grew up. I live in the Northeast but I used to live on the Westside. To be completely honest, I never really liked the Northeast much. And now, due to circumstances beyond my control, I live here. It's not so bad. This is a fine house. Nice neighborhood, great view of the mountains. But when I drive home from work now I don't think of it the same way I used to when I was coming home to the other house, where I was just so happy to be going home, to that neighborhood I knew I so well, to that sense of comfort and familiarity, you know? I live here, but it doesn't feel like home.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and for a second I think I'm back sleeping in my bed in the old house, the one I lived in from age 5 to 17. I remember the ugly flower pattern of the bedspread and how the moonlight used to come in through the oleander bushes outside my bedroom window. I remember waking up sometimes when I heard my parents talking late at night. I haven't lived there for seven years but for moments in the middle of the night my subconscious mind thinks I'm still there.

And I suppose I still think of that house as home. Home even though I don't live there and will never live there again. The house has been sold, painted white on the outside from the original red, remodeled on the inside. Another family lives there. My own family is all grown up and scattered. There's no going back, obviously. The house I knew exists mostly in my mind at this point. But maybe your childhood home will always be the one "home" you come back to. When you're young your house is your whole world, and the streets and the neighborhood and the house itself become ingrained in you in a way that doesn't happen when you're older. It was 12 years of this and this and this happening, the happy memories, the sad ones, the fights, the lazy weekend afternoons, meals shared, holidays spent, here's where I used to ride my bike, here's the backyard I used to play in, here's where I skinned my knee. So many individual moments with that setting as the background for it. Maybe that's why my subconscious mind always returns there. I grew up there and I can't imagine feeling the same way about any other place.
Yesterday I saw An Inconvenient Truth. My first impressions of the movie were about the slide show. I gave about a million PowerPoint presentations in my college career so I suppose I had an expectation that the slide show would be somewhat similar to that. Namely, boring, with the bullet points and the remote control clicker and all that. But instead it was this beautiful multimedia extravaganza, a seamless integration of facts and video and really effective charts and graphs. The one graph about the correlation between CO2 levels and temperature, where Al Gore climbed onto the stepping stool, that was genius.

And the message of the movie, of course, is a very serious one. I had no idea that Al Gore was so dedicated to studying this subject. He's a very credible and authoritative speaker on global warming. Out of all the things that I've seen or read on global warming, this movie has been most convincing to me of the seriousness of the issue. This problem is on such a huge scale with such great ramifications for the entire planet. But it just seems that fixing it is going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. How do you get the entire world to change? Particularly when some U.S. leaders are still waffling on the issue of whether global warming is happening at all. I'm worried. I'm very worried.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Dull Men's Club

As seen in this morning's El Paso Times, the Dull Men's Club website.
Quote from the FAQ:
"Are dull men the same as boring men?
Dull men accept their dullness. Boring men are dull men who actually believe that they are interesting.
Dull men tend to be introverts. A boring man is an extroverted dull man.
The character Norm Peterson from the television show 'Cheers' is a dull man. The character Cliff Clavin is a boring man."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

There are times in life when you realize how ignorant you are, how little you know, and how limited your experiences are. And that untested values really aren't values at all. *Sigh*

Reading habits

As of today, the class I'm taking is over. Which means I can put aside deep philosophical essays and read whatever I want. Currently in line waiting to be read: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling, The Blind Side by Michael Lewis, A Mighty Heart by Mariane Pearl, and La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind by Beppe Severgnini. My "eyes are bigger than my stomach" when it comes to books. I check out four books from the library, there's usually no chance in hell of my being able to read them all before they're due. And then I have this (bad?) habit of starting one book, reading a few chapters, then starting another because I have the attention span of a 12-year-old. It's hilarious because my sister reads books exactly opposite of me. She is always reading exactly one very serious book at a time. It will take her months to read, but when she finally finishes it she really has a great understanding of it. This is probably a better way to read books, but I'm way too impatient for it.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Saturday I went to see Trans-Siberian Orchestra. This was an experience. I love it when you experience something that is so amazing you just can't stop smiling. This is a must-see if you haven't seen it.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Quote from my church pastor in this morning's bulletin: "It's been said that evangelism is 'one beggar telling another where to find bread.' "

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Interesting blog: A Nun's Life.

Friday, November 17, 2006


The assignment was handed out almost two weeks ago. Realistically, I know I could have turned this out in two days if I was forced to, but instead it has taken me more than a week to get halfway through it. Rule of procrastination: if it's due Monday, most of the work takes place Sunday night.

Recommended old movies

The other day I was thinking about how I don't really watch old movies anymore ("old" meaning pre-1970). I used to try to watch more, mostly as a matter of education. I'd rent Hitchcock classics and old musicals or watch TCM. Some were admittedly a little too dated for me, the acting too unnatural, the material a little too censored. But of the relatively few old movies I've watched, those that I've liked, I've liked a lot. Here are my personal favorites. Rent these if you haven't seen them, I can almost guarantee you will like them.
  • Casablanca
  • On the Waterfront
  • Rebecca
  • Vertigo
  • The Best Years of Our Lives
  • Rebel Without a Cause
  • It’s a Wonderful Life
  • Splendor in the Grass
  • Singin’ in the Rain

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I love summer, something probably having to do with my being born in May. If summer could go on all year I would be happy. Summer is my season, and I really, really dread the onset of winter. From the heat of August, it looks so dismal to me: the cold weather, short days, dark nights, the holidays that never quite meet your expectations. And yet here we are, and somehow in the midst of it I never hate it as much as I think I will. Winter/the holidays is something I have to be coaxed into enjoying every year, but I usually come around. The weather is usually not as bad as I think it will be. This is El Paso, after all, and it gets cold but not snow-y cold the way I imagine it does in other places. Today the high is about 70 degrees, there's a beautiful clear blue sky, and it's just about perfect. And despite all my humbugging about the empty crass commercialism of Christmas, I get sucked into it just as much as everyone else. The process of buying presents always ends up occupying me for about a month. There's really no point in denying the fun of trying to pick out just the right things for other people, and getting presents for myself is, of course, not a bad bonus. As for the long nights, those bother me more than anything else, but if I turn on the TV, toss a log into the fireplace, and serve myself another piece of pumpkin pie, they're not so bad. In fact, they're almost *gasp* enjoyable.

So I think I've made my peace with winter for this year. I don't see it as such an unwelcome visitor, spoiling my summer fun. Which will last until next summer arrives and I realize how great it is and then have to go through the process all over again.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Where I've been

Places I've spent at least a day in:

  • San Antonio
  • Austin
  • Del Rio
  • Fort Davis
  • Lubbock
New Mexico
  • Las Cruces
  • Alamogordo
  • White Sands
  • Carlsbad
  • Santa Fe
  • Ruidoso
  • Lincoln
Other U.S. states
  • Des Moines, IA
  • Ames, IA
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Seattle, WA
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Reno, NV
  • Grand Canyon
  • Tucson, AZ
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Lake Powell, UT
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Lafayette, LA
  • Juarez, Mexico
  • Caribbean cruise tourist traps (Cozumel, Mexico, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, Grand Cayman)

I wish this list was much, much longer, especially the "Foreign" category.

I hope this works

I just upgraded to Blogger beta. My blog now has labels, cool.
So for tonight's class we watched I Heart Huckabees. One of my classmates made a (delicious) fancy rum cake for the occasion, so there we all sat eating cake and watching this bizarre movie, which I won't attempt to explain except to say that it's blatantly philosophical. Cake and philosophy and a movie, now there's a class. If only there were such a thing as existential detectives.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Via kottke: how to be interesting.
Aimee Mann has a new Christmas album. I like this review of it on Amazon.

Funny word

Funny word that came up in a discussion this week:

bathos - n. insincere or grossly sentimental pathos

Definition from American Heritage Dictionary via

Thursday, November 09, 2006

View from overseas

Perceptive observation of George W. Bush at a press conference.

Unknown White Male

I watched this movie last night. I've heard the rumors that this was a fake documentary, and I could definitely see how one could think that. There does seem to be something fake about the whole thing, like either a) the subject, Doug Bruce, was faking losing his memory and duped everyone around him or b) everyone in the documentary was in on it and they were all just acting. The family didn't seem emotional enough to me. And why did he agree to videotape his ordeal? And how does he know some things but not others? He recognizes people speaking Russian but he doesn't know what it feels like to swim in the ocean? But I think the parts that convinced me that it wasn't a total fake were seeing how he acted compared to his old friends. Something in his eyes, childlike. Innocence compared to their cynicism.

Interesting concept

From Wikipedia:
"Kairos is an Ancient Greek word meaning 'the right or opportune moment.' The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos and kairos. While the former refers to chronological or sequential time, the latter signifies 'a time in between', a moment of undetermined period of time in which 'something' special happens. What the special something is depends on who is using the word."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

They did it! Hooray :-).

28 Up

This weekend I watched the documentary 28 Up. I heard about this series years ago and was always intrigued by it. Every seven years, the director Michael Apted follows up with a group of people he first interviewed at age 7. It's meant to be an observation of class in British society. The director deliberately chose a group that included children from upper-, middle-, and lower-class backgrounds. Admittedly, a lot of the commentary on classism is lost on me since I'm not from the U.K., but still, it's pretty clear what different worlds these groups of people live in. At 28, most of the upper-class subjects are in professional careers (lawyer, filmmaker, etc.), while many of the lower-class subjects are still working the same low-wage jobs they had at 21 (sausage factory worker, brick layer, etc.). Obviously, privilege, or lack of it, has played a huge part in determining the paths of their of lives.

Apart from the class issues, the documentary is pretty affecting as an observation of the life cycle. These are all average, ordinary people for the most part. None of them is now a celebrity or a CEO or a political revolutionary. None of them has even departed radically from the path they were on seven years ago. But it's still interesting to see the changes that happen in seven years, from the uncertain 21-year-olds in budding careers or at the end of their education, only a few married, to the more-settled 28-year-olds, most of whom are now married and settled into careers. The conversations are more philosophical and reflective; questions turn to marriage and children. It's fascinating to hear people reflect on their lives, on things they said when they were age 21 or 14 or even 7, and to discuss the reverberations of events that happened in the past that still affect them many years later.

To me, the most poignant interview is with Neil, who is homeless. This man obviously has some form of mental illness, yet you can tell he's very intelligent. He was homeless at 21 and is still homeless at 28. He travels around living off social security, staying at any place he can afford. They're interviewing him by a lakeside in Scotland where he's temporarily living in a trailer. At one point he comments on the mindlessness of modern life, he says something like, well, suburban life only buys you the privilege of riding a commuter train 5-10 times a week and staggering home, coming home on weekends to watch TV, only to do it all again on Monday, and that it's all a form of brainwashing. But then the interviewer says, well, do you think the people who live that suburban life would prefer a life like yours? Then he says something like, at least I have the kind of life I like, if I had to live the suburban life I'd end up trying to kill myself.

And you think to yourself, this guy is nuts, but in a way, don't we all at some level recoil at how desperately boring and unfulfilling modern life can be? Is it really anyone's dream to work that 8-to-5 just to pay the bills then come home exhausted, too busy and tired to contemplate anything? And yet all the other subjects of the documentary seem to live a version of it (some of the women are homemakers, so there's sort of an exception, but I would argue that it's still your conventional life). You finish the documentary thinking that it's disappointing that most of us can expect our lives to be so predictable. But what else is there, really, besides your family and/or your career? Yourself and your experiences, I suppose, but that gets old. That tendency to settle down is always there, like the laws of gravity. The moral of the story is that most people do end up settling down into predictable lives, mainly determined by what circumstances they were born into. Most people just accept their fate in life, whatever it is, and make peace with it. And I don't really know if that's good or bad. Shouldn't we all be a little more outraged at this? But we're not, most of us just float through life unaware of how different it could be, eking out whatever happiness we can get.

I would definitely recommend this documentary series, especially to someone in their 20s. This is the kind of film that makes you think about your own life and how your family background has affected where you are today. Warning, it is very British, I definitely wish there were an American version, but you will still get a lot out of watching it. And there are two later installments I'm looking forward to seeing, 35 Up and 42 Up.

Election Day

Perfect read for Election Day.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Birthday pie?

Anyone else find it weird to have pie replace cake at a birthday party?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sort of like having my own radio station

On Tuesday I spent a few hours uploading most of my CD collection to my computer. This because I was bored and I'm too cheap to spend money on new music. I wanted to get some more mileage out of CDs I never listen to. You know, the CDs with a few good songs on them, but the rest are filler, so it's annoying to skip through the entire CD to find the songs you really like. So on Tuesday I culled the best of the collection--100 songs in all that I compiled into one playlist. I couldn't wait to hit the shuffle button. It's almost like having my own radio station. Very cool.

Interesting aside: I came across a single of the Sarah McLachlan song "Adia" that I bought some time in 1998. *Eight years ago.* Wow, I am getting old. Talk about your lost classic. It's a great song, probably up there with my Top 20.

Innie or outie?

I'm your classic introvert, something you could probably already tell by reading this blog. I once took the Myers-Brigg personality test and answered in the affirmative to every single question regarding introversion. Yeah, I have a pretty bad case of it, lol. It's really difficult for me to start conversations, even with people I already know. I tend to dread social situations, most of the time I'd rather be left alone in my world of text and information and TV and music. Not that I dislike people, but to me they are like a puzzle I don't think I'll ever solve. So complicated and illogical. According to things I've read, the "suitable career paths" for me are computer programming or writing.

And then I look at my sister who's my complete opposite and I almost have to laugh when I think about how different we are. She's so friendly and outgoing she can talk to just about anyone with ease. She has a lot of friends and she is always out and about visiting them. She's been the leader of several school clubs. She has made tons of money as a waitress, and give her anything to sell (i.e. a box of candy bars, jewelry, tickets to a fundraiser) and soon it will be gone, replaced by a stack of cash. Far from dreading social interactions, she thrives on them. People tell her she should be a businesswoman or a social worker.

It is just bizarre to me that people can be wired so differently, especially people who have the same parents. How can things that are so difficult for me come so naturally to her? OK, so I'm a little jealous. It's a small consolation that my sister probably looks at me and thinks the same thing when it comes to school and making good grades, since that has always come easily to me but is something she struggles with.

Introversion has its advantages, but if the choice were mine, I'd be an extrovert. It just seems more practical, not to mention more fun. What's the use of having all this information in your head if you're not going to share it? No more worrying about the world's problems when there are friends to see. And finally an end to awkwardness and embarrassing silences. If only there were some sort of trade my sister and I could make. Half your extroversion for half of my nerdiness? I wish.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A vegan Halloween Lunch Box. That is adorable. I especially like the baked apple shrunken heads.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Miscellaneous blog posts

  • I'm 24 and I already feel this way.
  • I read this post a while back and really related to it since I was a vegetarian for years as a teenager but decided to scrap that four years ago and eat meat of all kinds. The teen years, I refer to those as my peanut butter sandwich days.
  • The Hamlet Weblog. I've never heard of anyone so excited about a Shakespeare play.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The week

I remember thinking to myself this week, it seems like I never do anything anymore. It's been months since I've gone anywhere outside El Paso. I haven't been to the movies in a while, and I haven't been to a concert in at least a year. Maybe once a week I'll go out to a restaurant, but it's always one I've been to a million times before. I do the same job and watch the same TV shows and even those were in reruns this week. Yeah, it was a pretty boring week. No wonder I can't think of much to write about. Hopefully that will change soon.

Ode to U2

There are bands and then there are Bands. And of the Bands, for me U2 is The Band. I was, unfortunately, too young to know much about U2 back in their supposed heyday in the 1980s. Of course I knew some of their songs from the radio, "Pride (In the Name of Love)", "Where the Streets Have No Name", "Sunday Bloody Sunday", etc., but until the past few years not much beyond that. I think I'm sort of unusual in the fact that I've become a true fan mostly based on their most recent albums, in the Bono-as-humanitarian-extraordinaire era of music.

It was 2002 when I was given the album All That You Can't Leave Behind as an Easter present. At first, I thought, oh, these songs are nice. "Beautiful Day", nice enough melody, though not what I would consider really innovative. But then the more I listened to the songs on this album, the more I was impressed by them--Bono's voice the perfect mix of soulfulness and vulnerability, the shimmering guitars that are like an ocean of sound. But most of all the lyrics. When I really stopped and listened to the lyrics I was blown away by how smart and poetic they were: the spiritual, romantic, and political themes, the biblical allusions sprinkled in, the way they are just elusive enough to keep you guessing what they're really about. Love and world peace. Bedouin fires and Noah's ark. And if you want to see me cry, "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out of."

I ended up listening to that album quite a few times over the next year or so and was so impressed I begged my sister to buy How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb for me for Christmas in 2004. But after being so impressed by their previous album I was honestly a little disappointed by it. I had high expectations, and I thought it was good but not nearly as affecting as All That You Can't Leave Behind. I listened to it a few times. Then I literally lost the CD for a few months. I eventually found it again but didn't listen to it much. Until a few months later, that is. I can remember the exact night I "fell in love" with this CD. It was New Year's 2006, the loneliest New Year's I've ever had, over a year after I had received the CD as a Christmas present. I suppose I was in the right state of mind to be really affected by the music. I stayed up until 3 a.m. listening to the whole album, and I loved every song I listened to more than the last. Listening to these moving lyrics about third-world poverty and love and individualism, with the simple but profound "Yahweh" as the conclusion, I was just amazed at how great it was. Something clicked, and since then I have listened to this album over and over, mostly when I've been down and in a serious state of mind or depressed by the messed-up condition of the world.

And what's so great about U2 is that there's still more to discover. A week or two ago I bought one of their greatest hits collections, and it made me realize there's still a huge treasure of songs from the past that I haven't heard. How can a band can be so creative and still relevant after nearly 30 years of playing music together? This is probably the only band where I could see myself owning every album they've recorded because they're just that good. I really admire music that you can listen to over and over and find new meanings in every time you listen to it. I sometimes go to this website where they offer the supposed meanings for U2 lyrics. Which is cheating, I know, but it's cool that a song can be thought to have so many meanings and that it's sort of a puzzle that keeps you guessing. Their music is satisfying in that it's both popular and fun to listen to but at the same time has a serious message. Where listening to most pop music is like eating sugary candy, listening to U2 is like eating a really delicious meal.

It's funny to think about the sets of circumstances that lead you to appreciate some things. If I had been given a different present for Easter or had never recovered that CD I lost or had somewhere to go on New Year's I probably wouldn't be writing this post. Maybe I'd be writing about the Beatles or Pink Floyd or something. But instead, for me, U2 continues to be The Band.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Time essay: Original Patents. This is funny.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mmmm, chocolate

I've found my new favorite ice cream: Haagen Dazs Mayan Chocolate. As printed on the pint container, "Rich chocolate ice cream with a fudge swirl and a hint of cinnamon." Yum.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Paragraph I read before falling asleep last night:

"There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else. You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw--but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that the landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of--something not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat's side? Are you not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it--tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest--if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself--you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say 'Here at last is the things I was made for.' We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all."

-C.S. Lewis, Chapter 10 "Heaven", The Problem of Pain

Monday, October 23, 2006


I just subscribed to Netflix and I can't get over how great this service is. Netflix is sooooo much better than a video store. No more driving down to the dingy shopping center where the video store is. No more having the movie you want to rent all sold out. No more stressing out about having to watch the movie in five days. And the selection is fantastic. For example, I've been wanting to watch the 7 UP series of documentaries for literally years and could never find them at the video store, but the whole series is available on Netflix. It's amazing and miraculous. I should do a commercial.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Working nights

The house was dark and quiet when I got home from work around 11:30 Monday night. Some nights my mom and/or my sister are awake when I get home and I stay up and talk with them just before they go to sleep. Not tonight. Disappointed, I went to the kitchen to get something to eat and when I turned on the light I noticed something: the house was clean. Not just sort of clean, but really clean, clean the way a hotel room might be when you check in. The house had been slightly messy before I left around 4 that afternoon, but now the kitchen was spotless, a new tablecloth had been put on the table, the rugs looked like they had been vacuumed, and all the stuff that had accumulated on the couch had been put away. It was like some magical cleaning fairy had come by while I was gone, but of course I knew that magical cleaning fairy was my mother. Somewhere in the nearly eight hours I had been gone she had managed to clean the whole house. This happens when you work opposite schedules. You miss things. Events happen that you are entirely oblivious to. I had no idea why my mom picked a weekday night to clean, and I wasn't exactly going to wake her up to ask her. I made myself a quesadilla on the spotless stove then sat alone on the clean couch to watch late-night TV.

And it reminded me of another, sadder, memory of the last job I had where I worked at night. It was my first real job, as a cashier at a big-box store that shall remain nameless. It was during the holiday season. I remember getting home from what had been a horrendous night. It had been so busy my boss wasn't able to give me a break during my six-hour shift. I was tired and hungry. I remember standing in the dark at the door of the house with my key, exhausted and so happy to finally be home. When I opened the door and went inside to the entryway it was quiet and dark the same way it was Monday night. All were asleep. And then I saw the glow of Christmas lights, the Nativity scene on the front table, and the decorated tree. You see, every year a few weeks before Christmas it was our family tradition to spend an evening together hanging ornaments on the tree and stockings over the fireplace, settting up the Nativity scene, and decorating the house with wreaths and garland. And this year while I was at work cashiering like a madwoman, they had done it all without me. At that point I burst into tears.

Some things you never get used to. I've had sixteen months of working nights at my current job and I'm used to the schedule for the most part. I've tricked my body into thinking it should be wide awake at midnight, but it's still difficult to accept the ugliest part of working at night: the lost time, time that could have been spent with loved ones instead spent in service to a corporation. All work requires sacrifices, but more often than working a "regular" schedule, working nights you have these large and small moments of pain in realizing what you missed that make you wonder if the sacrifices are worth it.

Update: Project Runway finale

Jeffrey won. Unbelievable. No indication of it in the finale, it seemed in the bag for Uli. I can respect the guy's designs even though they aren't really my style, but it was his attitude during the show made me cringe more than anything else. And he already has a fashion business, why not give the prize to someone who is truly just starting out?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Project Runway season finale is tonight. I'm excited. I hope Michael wins.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

As presented by NewMexiKen, NPR's 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. None from my Top 20 made the list (I only wish my knowledge of music were that sophisticated or diverse), though I spotted a few favorites like "Good Vibrations", "Let's Stay Together", and Carole King's Tapestry album. NPR has a story for every musical work (some aren't songs but albums or musical scores). Worth spending some time on.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Whimsical life goals, part 1

1. Travel. Italy first, for the language and food and museums. Then the world. I'm talking Bhutan, Iceland, Argentina, Morocco. I would love to see some amazing out-of-the-way places, places no one thinks of where you can have a real adventure, maybe in Africa or Eastern Europe.
2. Have my own house. I already have this pictured in my mind so clearly--the charming little house in the city with wood floors, cream-colored walls, and plenty of windows with ledges where I can sit and read or watch people pass by. Warm in the winter. Small backyard where I can grow fruits and vegetables in the summer.
3. Get married (or close to it). *Blush*
4. Write a book. Non-fiction, probably, fiction just feels like lying to me. Some intricate, compelling, layered story that would require years of research.

The sunset

Today I drove to work along the border highway in the last light of the sunset. It was unbelievably beautiful. The sky looked like it was on fire. A sea of red-orange clouds and I drove toward it like I wanted to get lost in it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Best songs ever

I was thinking about what I wrote in the last post about my list of the "best songs ever." I've never come up with an actual list, but after I wrote that I thought it might be fun to try. So here are my Top 20 most favorite songs, the ones on my hard drive or in my CD collection that I listen to with great delight, the ones I turn the volume up on and start singing along with when no one's looking. I thought 20 was a good number, 10 would be too few, anything over that would be overkill since there are so many songs I like. There's a definite theme- a lot of classic rock, a lot of what I would refer to as "lush melancholy pop anthems." They are listed in no particular order, since ranking them would be a pointless and impossible task. Without further adieu:
  • "Time After Time" Cyndi Lauper
  • "Silver Spring" Fleetwood Mac
  • "You Get What You Give" New Radicals
  • "Roxanne" The Police
  • "Wouldn't It Be Nice" The Beach Boys
  • "Drive" The Cars
  • "Just What I Needed" The Cars
  • "Masquerade" Madonna
  • "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" U2
  • "One" U2
  • "Sounds of Silence" Simon and Garfunkel
  • "Brown-Eyed Girl" Van Morrison
  • "Paperback Writer" The Beatles
  • "Something" The Beatles
  • "Let It Be" The Beatles
  • "Tiny Dancer" Elton John
  • "White Houses" Vanessa Carlton
  • "Linger" The Cranberries
  • "I Can't Tell You Why" The Eagles

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Retail therapy

I'm not above a little retail therapy. Purchased today:

- haircut (badly needed)
- pair of blue corduroy pants
- sweater and two long-sleeved T-shirts (cold weather looms ahead)
- U2: The Best of 1980-1990 ("I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" on my list of the best songs ever, on sale for $10)
- Lunch at Barnes and Noble- a turkey and cheese pannini and vanilla Italian soda. I managed to leave the store without buying a book, a major accomplishment.

Nice way to spend the day and a hundred dollars.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Paris Hilton

Not that I really admire Paris Hilton, but I think it's cool that a person like her even exists. She hasn't done much in the way of proving herself to the world, and yet she has all the confidence in the world. You get the idea that if you spent one day living her life it would be the most fun you've ever had.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I know writing is ultimately about being honest. But how honest is too honest? Sometimes I'm in the mood to write soul-baring truths and I'm tempted to turn this into a sort of tell-all journal. Write freely about minutiae of daily life. There's a phrase in Italian that I read in a book that I love: parla come mangia. Speak the way you eat. Or in this case, scriva come mangia. Write the way you eat. But for various reasons I don't do this because "it would be irresponsible."

Confession: I do have a journal. A paper journal where I name names, write about the day's events, and write about my feelings and insecurities, usually at night before I go to bed. I have been keeping journals probably since I was 11 or 12. Sometimes I will go back and read what I wrote. Then I realize why I don't write like that here--I realize how bad the writing is. Things I notice when I go back through my journals:

1) I repeat myself a lot. The same issues come up, the same feelings. I think to myself, you're writing about that again? Let's move on.
2) I will jump from one topic to the next randomly and write a few lines about each. Details aren't filled in and so a lot of times it doesn't make much sense.
3) Sometimes I write about the most boring things. There's no sense of priorities. I will recall that something major happened one day and instead of writing about that I will write about something trivial that happened a few hours before.
4) I will be freaking out about a particular thing and I will elevate it to crisis status. A few months later I'll look back at it and wonder why I worried about that at all.
5) I will read something and not remember that it happened. Not even a vague remembrance. That's scary. Or sometimes I will write about a person and then a year later I'll read what I wrote and not even remember who that person is.

I wouldn't say there's no value to keeping that journal. At the time of writing, it's a good release. And it's good to remember where you've been and what you felt at the time. Looking back I notice the patterns, the persistent worries and struggles, the things in my personality that I struggle with year after year. There are nuggets of insight in there amid the chaos. I suppose the key thing I realize is that there is some value to keeping that unfiltered journal, but that value is limited to myself. You can't really call yourself a writer just because you keep that sort of journal. I hesitate even to call that writing, mostly it is venting. I'm being honest, the most honest I ever get, probably, but I realize I am writing for myself and the value of posting it in public would be limited at best.

So that, in a nutshell, is why this is not a journal and I'm not very forthcoming about things sometimes. The days of coming home and sitting in front of the computer and venting are over for me. But I do want to be honest in my writing, and the question remains of how to do that. I want to spray paint my deep-down honest thoughts on my bedroom wall, so to speak, per an episode of Made. I want to show who I really am and not project some image of who I want myself to be. That's the struggle of everyone who writes, though. How deep do you want to go? You strive for that deep-down honesty, but how much of yourself are you willing to reveal? Or, put another way, how many people are you willing to offend? Play it too safe, stick to the same old topics and you're boring. Be too open and you're disrespectful and offensive. It's a fine line to walk.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What my life is like lately

Read for class-go to class-work-watch TV-sleep. Repeat.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Piano lessons

My latest undertaking to keep my brain from congealing: piano lessons. This summer I developed a thing for piano music--pieces like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, Chopin's Minute Waltz, Fantaisie-Impromptu, and the Ballade No. 1 in G minor (my all-time favorite). Even in pop music, I found my tastes veering to keyboards--Five for Fighting, Keane, Vanessa Carlton, Elton John. One day I was listening to the Moonlight Sonata and an idea popped into my mind: maybe I could play that. I had taken two years of lessons as a kid, and it sounded like a simple enough piece to play. It was probably slightly too advanced for the level I stopped at, never mind how much I had forgotten over the years. But the idea was formed and I now had a goal: take enough lessons so that I could play the Moonlight Sonata.

I already have a piano at home, and it was easy enough finding a piano teacher. But of course, the idea of playing the piano and actually playing it are two very different things. I had illusions of myself as the next Vanessa Carlton, with these beautiful melodies naturally flowing from my hands. Instead I'm sitting in my piano teacher's living room trying to puzzle out notes, fretting because I forgot a flat. Half the time it gets to be more about the notes than the music. I'm obviously not a natural-born musician. Moments of frustration occur. I go days without practicing. But sometimes I can hear myself getting better and that's encouraging. It's not such a crazy idea for me to be able to play a Beethoven piece. It seems attainable.

And the thing is, I really like playing the piano. It seems the piano is more natural to me than the guitar, the last instrument I attempted to play. I took a couple of years of guitar lessons, and when I think back, the guitar seems almost painful to play in comparison, with its hand contortions and calloused fingers. But with the piano the notes are all laid out right there in front of you practically inviting you to play. I like the the loudness and physicality of playing the piano--banging out the chords, pressing the foot pedals, playing good and loud so the whole house can hear. It's also very self-contained and I like that. You can play by yourself and it sounds just as well, no need for an orchestra or a band or fancy equipment. You don't need to know how to sing, either, good for a person like me with a laughably bad singing voice. Vanessa Carlton I'm not.

Anyway, so I'll keep everyone posted on my adventures in piano-playing. Chopin seems a long way off, but I'm giving myself two more months for the Moonlight Sonata. Finally, a goal.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The latest installment of the Life Props series (about "Spring and Fall", a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem) is posted over on feeling listless. "Most art, especially art that someone might describe as their favourite has that quality - you'll often describe it as a favourite for reasons that have nothing to do with the item itself and its true meaning." So true. *Sigh* what a great post.

Summer photos

I finally got around to getting some photos from this summer developed. My favorites from the set:

Ah, summer. Here are my feet in my favorite sandals.

Here's a picture of a vacant lot near my house. The purple flowers and clouds reminded me of this Monet painting.

My across-the-street neighbor's mailbox. In the background you can see the steeple of Trinity Lutheran church. I like living across the street from a church. At night the cross lights up and I can see it from my bedroom window.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Commercials I can't stand

  • The commercial for Colonial Penn life insurance where an elderly woman is trying to keep up with her grandchildren. She stops to put quarters into a parking meter. "Don't you wish life were just like this parking meter?" Such a tacky metaphor and I hate how it exploits the fears of older people.
  • The U.S. Army commercial where a young black man stands in the kitchen talking to his father. "Dad, I figured out how I'm going to pay for college." By signing your life away to the Army and being shipped to Iraq shortly after you graduate? At the very least, why can't the Army be upfront about its purpose? The Army is obviously not first and foremost a college financial aid program.
Andrew Sullivan on faith and religion. This is a great essay. Worth reading all the way through if only to get to the fantastic quote in the second-to-last paragraph.

Monday, October 02, 2006

"No matter how much they pay, the paycheck isn't enough." This post came up in a Google search. I find it pretty relevant.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

There's no better thing than driving back from work on a Saturday and seeing my sister's car in the driveway. She had brought a bag of pomegranates (picked from a tree in her backyard) and a loaf of French bread home with her. So we sat on the couch and sucked the juice from pomegranate seeds while watching The Mirror Has Two Faces. Good times. Then she showed me the gi-normous load of homework that she was stressing out over and I remembered how much work it is to be in college. I sympathized as much as I could. That's about all I could do. I wish she still lived here, that I could see her more than once a week and help her in some way. Forty-five minutes doesn't seem like such a long distance but it turns out it is. I miss her a lot.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Space blog

Last night I read an article about Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist. Her blog of the expedition on the International Space Station is fantastic. I came to it a little late, since as of today she is now back on earth, but the posts about her journey in the past two weeks are worth going back and reading. Read Page 2, where she writes about the weightlessness, the view of earth, and trying to wash your hair in space. I like how she writes about the details of everyday life and about her personal thoughts. You really get the sense of how meaningful this is for her. Video clips are included, too. In one you can see her necklace floating as she speaks to the camera, and you think, wow, she really is in space. It's a very interesting site, definitely worth visiting.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Here's an interesting Q and A with the obituaries editor of the New York Times.

The one-year plan

It's past midnight. The first minutes of Thursday morning. It's hot and there's no A/C. I'm in a contemplative mood. I've been keeping mum about a lot of things since I don't want to write some long, emotional rant about everything and nothing. I save that for pen and paper. But sometimes it helps me to write here, to write about myself, to take a step back and try to make sense of my life. So here goes.

Last night I made a list of four scenarios of what I could do in the next year. Four scenarios, all very possible, four different directions my life could take. Honestly, from one day to the next I change my mind about what I want to do. One day I'm so enthused about one direction, the next I think it's lame and want to do something else. I think about jobs I could do, degree programs I could apply to. I think about whether I want to have money or whether I want to have time. I think about how most people hate their jobs and how I don't want that to be me.

I think about this stuff all the time but I don't make concrete plans. In some ways I'm so organized--I'm a very scheduled person, I'm always on time, I did well in school. And yet something about planning rubs me the wrong way. The one-year plan, the two-year plan, the five-year plan. It reminds me of a corny John Mayer song. A professor once asked me, what do you see yourself doing in five years? I didn't have an answer. I don't think about the future very much. I never really have--in high school I saw adulthood as some big blank space that I'd figure out when I got there. Maybe I thought I'd die before then? Even now I don't think of the things I do as means to an end, they are just things I do to make pocket money and keep busy. I suppose in many ways I don't see myself as a full-fledged adult. I still think of myself as a kid and have the attitude that careers are for "grown-ups". The day I commit myself to something is the day I give up my freedom. I'm also self-defeatist and I think that even if I did have this grand plan it would never work out anyway. For whatever reason I don't really have a plan. But I'm 24. I should make some plans soon.

So the four scenarios, the four alternate versions of me. Sometimes I tell myself, just pick something, damn it. You can start in one direction, but you can always quit somewhere down the line. But can you? It gets more and more difficult once you are committed to something to backtrack and try something else. I wish I could see down the end of each path. But I can't, it's all just trial and error, and the errors can be harsh. Right now, one looks superior to the rest, but who knows about tomorrow? Yeah, I'm lost, I'm confused, I'm just like everyone else.

I have one comfort in all this, which is a belief that no matter what I choose I will eventually end up where I need to be. Call it faith or a belief in fate or whatever, but I think all rivers lead to the same ocean. Even if I make a rotten choice or two.

Bootsie the dog

My dog Bootsie. Photo taken May 2006.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Further complicating my attempts to understand what postmodernism is, today I read this description of modernism by Berman from 1982:

"There is a mode of vital experience - experience of space and time, of the self and others, of life's possibilities and perils - that is shared by men and women all over the world today. I will call this body of experience 'modernity'. To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world - and, at the same time, that threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we know, everything we are. Modern environments and experiences cut across all boundaries of geography and ethnicity, of class and nationality, of religion and ideology; in this sense, modernity can be said to unite all mankind. But it is a paradoxical unity, a unity of disunity; it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish. To be modern is to be part of a universe in which, as Marx said, 'all that is solid melts into air.' "

Fall is here

The unofficial first day of fall--as of today the heat is turned on and the swamp cooler shut off until spring. Kind of a sad occasion since I hate winter and cold weather.

Monday, September 25, 2006

UTEP lost :=(

Unfortunately, UTEP lost to UNM this weekend, 26-13. I watched the whole mess play out live on digital cable on Saturday. I really get a kick out of the pictures of the fans--they seem to be a lot more fired up this year than in years past. Check out this guy who quit his job so he wouldn't miss the UTEP-Texas Tech game.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Update: dinner came out well. Everyone seemed to like it, anyway. Asparagus was slightly overcooked, but no cooking disasters. Who knew, I can cook.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Random thoughts

Today is my mom's birthday. I volunteered to make her birthday dinner--steak, mashed potatoes, baked asparagus, and garlic bread. We'll see how this turns out, I may be in over my head.

I filled up my car with gas for what seems like the hundredth time this month. I really hate waiting in line to get gas. To me it doesn't seem worth it to wait in line at the cheapest gas station. I'd rather pay $.05 extra per gallon if it means I don't have to wait.

Tuesday night I watched Knife in the Water on Turner Classic Movies. This movie gave me a scare--it was midnight, it's in Polish, and I totally expected someone to get murdered.
I like this post. Current priorities: 1) freedom, 2) family, 3) fun, 4) force, 5) fortune, 6) fame. Does that mean I should be a college professor?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In this week's Time magazine, the two songs The Edge says he wish he had written: "Wonderwall" by Oasis and "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Last Kiss

Last night my sister and I went to see the midnight showing of The Last Kiss. It was pretty good. It reminded me a lot of High Fidelity as far as the subject matter. Here's a good quote from the movie (I'm paraphrasing): Love doesn't matter because it's only a feeling and because it's a feeling it only matters to you. The only thing that matters is what you do to the people that you say you love.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Top 10 Nostalgia Shows

My top 10 nostalgia shows. I'm talking pre-2000 shows that I would totally watch a marathon of if I came across it while channel-surfing. Apologies in advance, I know this list sounds like an episode of "I Love the 90's".

  • Picket Fences - This was a show about Rome, Wisconsin, the weirdest town in the world. A pretty mature show for me to watch at age 12 or 13, but that was part of the appeal.
  • Blossom - My slightly nerdy, introspective teen role model.
  • The Wonder Years - Two words: Kevin Amold. *cracks up*
  • Full House - Growing up as the oldest of three sisters, I could relate to this show. Could never decide whether I was more like DJ, the oldest, or Stephanie, who was my age.
  • Saved by the Bell - Spent way too much of my childhood watching Zach, Screech, Kelly, Slater, Lisa, and Jesse. I watched an episode of this the other day and still thought it was funny.
  • Murphy Brown - Why I wanted to work in the news.
  • Quantum Leap - Loved the concept of this show plus Sam Becket is still my ideal man of all time.
  • Hey Dude - A Nickelodeon show about a bunch of teenagers who work on a ranch. Cheese factor was very high even for a kids show.
  • Party of Five - Theme music alone is worth watching this show for. Mopey, but you'd be, too, if your parents died.
  • Dawson's Creek - Caveat: first two seasons only. Dawson and Joey, that song by Sixpence None the Richer, the Paula Cole theme song. Sigh, this show is the 90's for me.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I love Poetry Friday on Reassigned Time. Poetry is not really my thing, but this English professor comes up with some amazing selections that keep me coming back week after week. This week's poem: "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats. I also have to mention "Pleasures" by Denise Levertov, the fantastic poem posted two weeks ago.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Magazine meme

I barely noticed I was tagged with this meme. How exciting, I've never been tagged with a meme before. Here are the magazines I read:

  • Time - I've been reading Time since I was 12 years old. What can I say, I was a weird kid. I don't always read it cover to cover but I usually try to get through as much as I can each week in the attempt to stay aware of national news.
  • O, the Oprah Magazine - I adore all things Oprah, but especially this magazine, which manages to rise above ordinary women's magazines with some really great articles and in-depth interviews. There's even a section about books.
  • Discover Magazine - Yes, I'm a geek.
  • Reader's Digest - I borrow this one from my dad. My dad always challenges me to the Word Power quiz. Plus I like the interviews.
  • USA Weekend - This comes with Sunday's paper and for some reason I end up reading it every week. The articles are hit-or-miss fluff, I mostly read it for the gossip page.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


For some reason I was thinking about PopText, a blog I used to read back in the day that had great reviews of pop music plus actual MP3s to download. I checked it out today and it looks like its on hiatus, but the "I'm taking a break from blogging" post is worth reading, along with the archives, of course.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The date on the calendar

It's hard not to notice what day it is. At work Sunday night I had to type in today's date a few times, which I found sort of strange given all that has come to be associated with it. When you see that date in print or hear it in conversation, everyone knows immediately what subjects are probably going to be brought up next, but there it was showing up as just another day, a mere matter of record-keeping. I almost feel like that date should be shelved and not used in the regular rotation of days, just taken out and set aside as sacred.

Before I left for the night I checked the wire service and there were at least a dozen stories on the anniversary of the attacks. I read a couple of them. Shortly after that I left the building and walked out to my car. As I often do, I glanced up at the Wells Fargo building a block away, probably the tallest building in El Paso, with its windows lit up in the pattern of an American flag. I have probably looked at that building a few hundred times before, but tonight a connection clicked in my mind that had never been made before. My brain froze for a second and I had a strange feeling in my stomach. It could happen here. I know how remote that possibility is, but I know that it's true all the same. It could happen anywhere and on any day at any time, even a beautiful clear September morning, and that's the scariest part of it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Rosie on The View

So I finally watched Rosie O'Donnell on The View. In high school I used to watch her show every day after school while eating a stack of Oreos and drinking Pepsi. I think I secretly wished Rosie O'Donnell was my cool but still nice older sister. There's a little of the same magic of the old show there. Surprising the whole audience with tickets to The Wedding Singer, that's something only Rosie O'Donnell would do. Finally The View is bearable to watch again. Oh and check out Rosie's blog,

Blue Like Jazz

Blue Like Jazz is the most honest book about Christianity (or "Christian spirituality," as Miller puts it) I've ever read. Not everything in the book rang true--some of the ideas were a little too nutty and liberal even for me--but so much did resonate with me, being a Christian but not the type of Christian that votes Republican and doesn't listen to secular music and gets married by age 21. It's different from many other Christian books I've read in that it dares to tackle the messy realities of life today--the postmodern condition and the uncertainties we all have about faith and relationships and ourselves. There are some really refreshing thoughts about faith, thoughts that I think most of us have at one point or another but that most Christian authors wouldn't dare to put down on paper. I'm talking about doubt here especially, an issue that most Christian authors won't touch with a ten-foot pole. It's a really smart book, and I especially like that it's not preachy, the author just kind of says what he has to say and leaves it to the reader to learn more if they are intrigued. Read this book if you're interested in spirituality, Christian or otherwise.
I so wish President Bush would actually give this speech.


I was reading through an assigned chapter about postmodernism and the world facing college graduates, and this description stuck in my mind:

"We have the feeling we live in a decentered world, a realm of fragmentation and incoherence, without a nucleus or foundation for experience.....Ours is declared an age of image and spectacle, and we are daily bombarded by a variety of sensory assaults--from the shopping center to the TV....We live in an age of "simulacrum," of simulations that take on a life of their own, appearing more "real" than what they represent--even more real than immediate material conditions....For those with the means and the time, life becomes a rich succession of manufactured events, a simulation of the past or future, the end being detachment from the concrete material and social conditions of one's historical moment. One defeats time and space and escapes the depressing features of daily life--the dark side of the new regime--through manufactured public performance."

From "Chapter Three: The Postmodern Predicament" in Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures by James Berlin

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Books I read in college

"I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. But please, if you're reading a book that's killing you, put it down and read something else, just as you would reach for the remote if you weren't enjoying a television programme.

Your failure to enjoy a highly rated novel doesn't mean you're dim - you may find that Graham Greene is more to your taste, or Stephen Hawking, or Iris Murdoch, or Ian Rankin. Dickens, Stephen King, whoever.

It doesn't matter. All I know is that you can get very little from a book that is making you weep with the effort of reading it. You won't remember it, and you'll learn nothing from it, and you'll be less likely to choose a book over Big Brother next time you have a choice."

from "How to Read" by Nick Hornby

I read this a couple of weeks ago and thought it was awesome. I had just been thinking about this subject the other day as I was thinking about college and all the amazing books I read during that time. My idea: to write down all the books I read in college, for my own recollection and for others to possibly get some ideas of good books to read for themselves.

Before college, in high school particularly, reading books was a chore to me. Junior and senior years, on top of the novels and plays we read as a class, we had to read "the classics" for reading comprehension tests that were given every six weeks. You could pick any novel off an approved reading list provided that you could pass a computerized test on it at the end of the six weeks. I always had the best of intentions, but about 90 percent of the time I ended up finishing the novel the day I had to take the test. The Hobbit. I think I read this but I don't know since I don't remember a thing about it. Jane Eyre. I rushed through the ending so I could finish it on time, which basically ruined the meaning of it for me. The Grapes of Wrath. I rushed through this one, too, not to mention the fact that I hated it. This was a horrible, horrible way to read novels, I think everyone would agree.

Even the books I read for "fun" on my own time were well-known classic-type books since I considered popular fiction to be trashy romance, horror, and mystery novels written at an elementary-school reading level. I was a book snob, and many a classic was slogged through just to say I had read it. At least there was no time limit like there was in school, but reading was still like running laps around a track at 6 a.m., done because it supposedly was good for me but with no real enjoyment. I struggled through Beloved and Slaughterhouse Five, not finding either to be nearly as fantastic as they were supposed to be. I bought a copy of Catch-22 at Barnes and Noble once, having heard it was a great novel, only to find it so weird that I read one chapter and never finished it. I tried to read Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Booooring (except for Pride and Prejudice, which I liked). I managed to read a few books that I liked and were meaningful to me, but for the most part I found reading a book about as fun as climbing up a mountain.

College was different. Freshman year I discovered the browsing section in the basement of the UTEP library with its cozy low velvet armchairs and amazing selection of new books. It was like finding a secret treasure. It was there that I found books like Geeks and Microserfs and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, books that were funny and modern and ironic and emotional, books that I actually enjoyed reading. I don't remember the first book that I checked out where it clicked for me (hey, reading books can be fun), but I do know that some time during freshman year I gave up on the classics altogether and started reading anything and everything I thought looked interesting--books recommended from bestseller lists, reviews in magazines, Oprah's Book Club, websites and/or blogs, whatever. I read what I liked and if I didn't like it I quit reading it. I read a ton of nonfiction with some modern fiction thrown in for good measure, and it was one of the most fun aspects of my life in college. Most of the books I read weren't considered great literature, but they all meant something to my life, whether they were funny or serious or informative or just had a great point-of-view. Most importantly, the books I read left me wanting to read more. Completely opposite from how it was in high school, now I go into a library or bookstore with great anticipation, even excitement, of what I might find, and that's really the only way it should be. Honestly, if you don't feel that way about reading, then don't read. Life's too short, find something else to do that you can get excited about.

Anyway, so here is my list of books I read in college that were most memorable. There are probably many that I've forgetten that I'll add later on, but here are the ones I remember most and would recommend, categorized more or less in order of how much I would recommend them:

On the Road Jack Kerouac
Breaking the Limit Karen Larsen
Assassination Vacation Sarah Vowell
Blue Highways William Least Heat-Moon
Around the Bloc Stephanie Elizondo Griest

Into the Wild Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air Jon Krakauer
Ice Bound Jerri Nielsen

In Cold Blood Truman Capote
Under the Banner of Heaven Jon Krakauer

No Greater Love Mother Teresa
Traveling Mercies Anne Lamott
A History of God Karen Armstrong

My Life Bill Clinton
Living History Hillary Clinton
Girl, Interrupted Susanna Kaysen
The Spiral Staircase Karen Armstrong
The Seven-Storey Mountain Thomas Merton

College crisis
What Should I Do With My Life? Po Bronson
Working Studs Terkel

How to Write Richard Rhodes
Bird by Bird Anne Lamott

The Bridge Across Forever Richard Bach

Geeks Jon Katz
Moneyball Michael Lewis
A Brief History of Nearly Everything Bill Bryson

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter Carson McCullers
Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
Never Let Me Go Kazuo Ishiguro
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Dave Eggers
Microserfs Douglas Coupland
Mr. Ives' Christmas Oscar Hijuelos
How to Be Good Nick Hornby
I Don't Know How She Does It Allison Pearson
Lying Awake Mark Salzman
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
Hooray, Alex the Girl is blogging again.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The end of civilization

Outkast was on The View this morning.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Cool blogs

  • The Irish Trojan by Brendan Loy, who was featured in Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts. Here's a post explaining the blog to viewers of the HBO documentary.
  • The Ross Blog by Ross the Intern on the Tonight Show. I've heard the blog mentioned on the Tonight Show a couple of times, so I decided to check it out. It's funny! If only they did give Emmys for "Best Flamboyant Television Personality on a Late Night Talk Show" (see Aug. 27).
You must try bubble tea at least once in your life.
I wish it would stop raining.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Busy again

"Busy" isn't a word I would use to describe my life in the past nine months since I graduated with my master's degree. I've worked part-time and the rest of the time....well, the rest of the time I've done whatever I wanted. Slept late, watched TV, read books, gone to Wal-Mart during the long, lazy afternoons, listened to jazz late at night, spent time with my mom and sisters.

It's a wonderful luxury to be able to be careless with time. There have been times in the past where I've been so busy that I've craved free time the way I crave water when I'm thirsty. But the past nine months I've had nothing but time; I've been swimming and floating in time the way you would in a pool of water on a hot summer day. I thank my parents for being good parents and allowing me to do this for awhile. To try to figure things out, to break the chains of commitment that had me going forward on a train I didn't want to be on in the first place. Time to think. Time to just be.

But those days are coming to an end. Not that I wanted to do that for much longer. It was OK for a season, not for a life. It's like the alarm went off in my head, nine months is enough time, it's time to quit being a bum, it's time to think about the future and making money and being self-sufficient and all that other stuff that regular people do. *Groan* but I know, it's time to wake up. So I'm back to being a busy girl--this week I signed up for more hours at work and I'm taking a class at UTEP in the hopes that I'll get somewhere I want to be. Yesterday I had two hours of class, then four hours of work without a break, and afterward I felt tired and it was like, welcome back to the world of being busy and stressed. It wasn't an altogether bad feeling. Here we go again, back to the real world.

Monday, August 28, 2006

A year later

Everyone in America should see Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts about Hurricane Katrina. You see those images, you know the ones I'm talking about, the dead bodies floating in the water, the people in line outside the convention center with no food or water, and you just wonder, how did this happen in America? This happens in Third World countries, not the United States of America, the richest country in the world. People were treated shamefully with no dignity whatsoever, and the poor, the elderly, and the sick were the ones who suffered the most. The government failed these people and basically allowed them to die.

My reaction to the documentary was shock, then sadness, and finally anger. You want to point the finger at someone, put the blame on Ray Nagin or Michael Brown or President Bush. And don't get me wrong, those people were responsible, but after mulling it over for awhile, I had this realization: at some level every person in America is responsible for letting something like this happen. Including me. Ouch. We live our comfortable lives and allow ourselves to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others going on all around us, even in our own communities, not to mention around the world. We allow people to slip through the cracks and live in poverty, and when a disaster like this strikes somehow we're surprised that they are the ones who get hit the worst?

And I think the government's handling of the situation highlights our national attitude problem, this attitude of I can't do anything, I don't matter, let's not prepare for a disaster, let's just wait for it to happen and then deal with it. Let's enjoy life now and deal with the consequences later. When we fail we'll pass the buck and refuse to take responsibility. We're extremely bad at long-term planning, witness the war in Iraq and our failure to deal with environmental issues like global warming.

And finally we are the ones who put the current leaders into power, leaders who 1) are incompetent and 2) care more about protecting the interests of the rich than protecting the poorest members of society. Not that I voted for Bush, but you didn't exactly see me campaigning against him.

Watching this documentary made me angry, not just at our government but angry at myself because I see all these problems in our society and yet I do nothing about them. This documentary really brought it home for me--this is what happens when we fail to act. And it makes me want to do something, protest or feed the homeless or donate money or build a house, anything so that I'm changing the world for the better and not just sitting around watching and criticizing. Maybe that's the whole point of the documentary, to not only make us angry but to motivate us to change.