Monday, September 27, 2010

My Friends Model Joy, My Cat Models Stoicism

The absolute highlight of my weekend was Saturday afternoon when I got to spend a few minutes catching up with Alejo and Christian at the 17th Street Festival. It was heartwarming to see how they've thrived and made for themselves a beautiful extensive family, and have learned to share their multiple talents (music, web design, etc.) with other people. I'm glad to see my 'brothers and sisters' doing well.

I also got to see Dennis and Roy at the festival, and share a few minutes with each of them. It was fun and fulfilling.

However, I felt misanthropic for most of the weekend, and I didn't do much other socializing. Instead I watched tv, read a lot, studied a little Coptic and continued my ongoing war with the bedbugs.

This latter has been going on for a month now, and while they haven't been as bad lately as they were at first, there has been a resurgence. I now know I'm going to have to be even more aggressive on a nightly basis. As for pobre Manuel*, he has now had to endure two baths. And he has been an absolute prince about it. Other cats I've known have screamed bloody murder while being bathed. Manuel stoically endures the procedure, and merely tries to get out of the water as quickly as possible.

My main concern is that I don't poison either he or myself in my attempt to get rid of the little biters. Of course, when I saw the story this morning about the young man surviving the shark attack at Virginia Beach, I was grateful I only have bedbugs, and not bedsharks.

*As a rule, bedbugs hate pets because they don't like wading through all the fur, and Manuel is very furry. Still I wanted to take precautions that he not be a carrier. He's been less distressed about the situation than I have. A model of stoicism.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Anticipation and Summer Recap

For those of us on the east coast of the US, autumn technically begins at 11:09 pm this evening. (The equinox is at 0309 hours UT on September 23; eastern daylight time is UT minus four hours, putting the equinox at 11:09 pm September 22.) I look forward to the fall every year. I look better in fall clothes. I like the 'settling down' feeling everything gets. And midway through the fall is my favorite holiday, Halloween-Samhain. I usually take a few days off around that time and simply chill out.

This summer has been tumultuous. Some of the changes have been good, some have been bad, and some I will feel the implications of for years.

At the beginning of the summer I hung out with few friends. I have begun to do my part to repair some damaged relationships and not only get out of my apartment more, but also get out to actually meet other people. I enter the fall on an improving trend in socializing.

We started the summer frantically trying to figure out what was wrong with Mom's health, and we're ending it with her in rehab recovering from heart valve replacement surgery. In the middle of the summer (literally the middle, since I spent Lammas there) I went to Alabama to visit with my parents for a week. I gained some insights into my family's dynamics, and a new appraisal of my father.

Over the course of the summer I realized I am agnostic, and I left off all pretensions of faith. I simply put aside any attempt at active belief or disbelief, and realized that not only will I not receive answers by divine revelation or insights, but also that I have far more responsibility for my life than I am comfortable with. I reckon I will do well to become accustomed to the discomfort.

One giant honking FAIL this summer: I dropped the ball on initiating an exercise regimen, and on getting my weight down. Surely these are the big projects of the fall.

Finally, I like to note one ten-second moment of awesome that occurred this summer: as I was walking home from the Metro station one weekday evening, I was passed by a runner, a tattooed Asian male, a total mesomorph, zipping past almost silently in his Vibram Five-Fingers footwear. In a word, he encapsulated the athletic and graceful potential of the season. Beautiful.

Friday, September 17, 2010

TV: Cops and Vampires

I forgot one other summer TV show in my last round-up: The Glades. Again, this show demonstrates what great casting can do. Matt Passmore is dead-on as the jerk-with-a-heart detective, and all the other characters (the hard-pressed buddy, the geek, the conflicted girlfriend, and the conflicted girlfriend's growing-up-to-fast son) fill the constellation of the show well. Most of the episodes are well written, and the camera work eschews the glare of CSI: Miami. (In fact, I'd say the camera work is even better than that of Burn Notice, the other Miami-based tv show.)

With almost all the tv shows I watch, I usually do something else while watching them. The writing is light enough, and the plots formulaic enough, that I can follow the show while picking up the apartment, playing with the cat, even studying sometimes. This paradigm does not hold for The Vampire Diaries. When I watch the show, I have to sit down and stare at it (unless I stand up and stare at it, which happens). I talk back to the show, I tell the characters what they should or should not be doing, etc. The show is much closer than the Meyer oeuvre to how my inner teenage girl would write vampire stories. And given that they have killed off characters I thought would be returning, I can honestly say that when I watch it, I'm not sure what will happen next. Also, they eschew the weird pseudo-religionism of Supernatural, which makes the show much more palatable (although I still love Supernatural, if for no other reason than the rare glimpse of Jared Padalecki's forearms - *swoon*). The Vampire Diaries is simply a well written vamp-teen soap opera, with engaging characters, multiple plot lines, and enough sufficiently creepy situations to keep me riveted all the way to the last second of each episode.

Which brings up the question: has anyone read the books, and if so, how do they compare to the TV series?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Summer Television Recap

I watch too much tv. I have it on in the evening, but I'm usually doing other things around my apartment, such as rearranging my books, picking up the apartment, doing the dishes, surfing the net, playing with Manuel, etc. Still I've developed opinions about what to watch and what not to watch. Here's my brief review of this past summer's shows:

1. Burn Notice is still the best summer show. It drooped only a little bit this past season, but over all it stayed strong. The casting remains excellent, and the addition of Coby Bell only served to strengthen the mix.

2. Rubicon is the best new show. Again, it comes down to casting, and James Badge Dale is a brilliant choice for the lead. (Also kudos to Dallas Roberts as the obsessive analyst and Arliss Howard as the Geffenesque boss—complete with gay lover.) The show is so quiet and understated that the understatement becomes part of the creepiness factor. I adore this show.

3. Syfy shows all have formulae, and the formulae are starting to wear thin. I watched Warehouse 13, Eureka and Haven, and I'll still watch them, but as a rule I wouldn't miss them if I spent the evening out with friends. Warehouse 13, due to its strong casting (C. C. H. Pounder is a goddess!) is still the best of these three, and I hope they bring back Claudia's love interest "Todd" (Nolan Gerard Funk—total hottie!).

4. Royal Pains and White Collar are still good shows. The Closer is still epic and at times moving. On the other hand, Rizzoli & Isles did not live up to the hype. It had a potentially good cast hampered by bad writing (they couldn't decide if they wanted another The Closer, or another Bones.)

5. Covert Affairs frustrates me. It features not one, but two total hotties, Sendhil Ramamurthy and Christopher Gorham (whom the directors have been taking pains to show shirtless as much as possible—and he is BUFF!). But the writing is really sloppy at times. The Iraning asylum-seeker episode was downright offensive. I watch it for the flashes of eye-candy.

6. Dark Blue went from disengaging and glacial to downright awful. Even the Logan Marshall-Green eye-candy couldn't pursuade me to tune in by the end of the season.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My "Deserted Island" Books

I recently challenged myself yet again to list my top ten 'deserted island' books, i.e., the books I most want to keep on my possession should I be stranded on a deserted island. There have been some significant changes from previous lists, and in the end I could only come up with 8 (!). Anyway, here they are:

1. Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead: A friend once told me that he thought he would be rereading and wrestling with David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest for the rest of his life. For me, the equivalent is Silko's monumental Almanac of the Dead. There is so much going on in this harsh tome (about an apocalyptic clash between the indigenous and Euro-American civilizations), and yet it is so beautifully terrible, or terribly beautiful. In the end there is hope, but hope that will be bought through lots of blood and pain.

2. Stephen Beachy, The Whistling Song: A postmodern On the Road, a book about the uniquely estadosunidense desire to find ellusive truth just over the next horizon, in the next town, with the next stranger who gives you a lift or let's you crash in his home.

3. Ryu Murakami, Coin Locker Babies: Unearthing the dark heart within the polished veneer of civilization. That dark heart is the pain of disillusionment, and the tragic results of resentment arising from false promises.

4. Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov: A sprawling novel of multiple voices, where the human condition is studied, laughed at and cried over. It's the crowning achievement of Dostoyevsky's life's work.

5. Kingsley M. Bray, Crazy Horse: A Lakota Life: a lengthy, assiduously researched and skillfully written study of the life of a great human being, and of the culture that nurtured him. Crazy Horse stands out as a man who carefully balanced his community with his inner life, and used the balance to become a great leader.

6. Subcomandante Marcos, Our Word Is Our Weapon: leftist polemic is supposed to be dry, demanding and dull as dishwater. This book is not. Subcomandante Marcos is a poet and an inspirational writer. When I read his words, I believe in humanity again.

7. Dan Eldon, The Journey Is the Destination: Dan Eldon's life was tragically cut short in a riot in Somalia. He left behind dozens of notbooks filled with photocollages from his travels and adventures. His mother culled out the best of the best, and put together this book, a visual musing on life, beauty and humanity.

8. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Phenomenology of Perception: This is the only book on the list I've not gotten all the way through yet. But even more than Sartre's Being and Nothingness, I want to understand this book.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Radical Queer Punk Skateboarder Nostalgia

It was a quiet weekend. I overspent myself in August, and I had to be a little more restrained in my shopping. Still on Saturday I metroed and bussed out to a suburban mall to look for ear posts and tunnels, since I'm increasing the bore in my earlobe piercings ever so slightly. I confined myself to buying only the posts and tunnels, but I looked around the mall for a few minutes in anticipation of a return. I especially lusted after a Steve Caballero skateboard deck, very similar to the one I had a few years ago.

I spent some time reading, getting through an early Dostoyevsky novella (The Double) and two-thirds of the way through a collection of fiction by John Greyson. He's a Canadian writer and filmmaker, and he involved himself in the "Queer Wave" of film and art in the late 80's and early 90's. Reading the book has taken me back to those heady days of radical queer underground cinema (e.g., Greg Araki's The Living End and Totally Fucked Up) and books (e.g., Justin Chin's Mongrel and Wesley Gibson's Shelter), and the subversive and transgressive feeling I had in the first few years after I came out. (My years of coming out were immediately preceded by my years of punk rock and skateboarding.)

The years leading up to and following my coming out were the most intense years of self-exploration I'd experienced. There were some very rocky, very scary times in there, but there were also some great times, too. Back then, having survived coming out, there were times when I felt that merely continuing to draw a breath was a subversive act. The world is different now, and I see the kids that grow up out of the closet (were never really in it, in some cases) and for all the world to see on tv, on Facebook, on Youtube, etc. and I am so happy for them. My hope back then for a better future for LGBTQ kids has to a certain extent materialized.

Hope is a good thing if it is grounded in reality. For that matter even a little fantasy is okay, provided that one isn't annoying or dangerous about it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Four Ways of Pursuing Fulfillment

To my mind, there are four* ways that a person can use toward making meaning and fulfillment in his life: career, love, volunteerism and hobbies.

A very few fortunate persons actually manage to find a fulfilling career in life. They enjoy their work, and getting up to go to work isn't a challenge for them. Most of us aren't so fortunate. Most of the jobs needing to be done in the world are not the kind that bring fulfillment, and we who have them must simply put up with the daily grind of getting them done.

Love can be very fulfilling in life, but love requires two people, and therefore at least half of the equation is out of one's hands. If an opportunity to love comes up, I strongly recommend not passing it by casually. On the otherhand, I highly recommend observing the other person and the situation closely. Sometimes what looks like love is only dependency, and all sorts of terrors can await those who pursue love blindly. Love is wonderful, but like a fulfilling career, it too is very rare.

Volunteerism can be highly fulfilling. When one finds a cause or effort that one wholely embraces and supports, and can lend one's energy and/or talents to it, putting up with the vicissitudes of ones daily grind can become worth the effort. It is important to know oneself first, so that a person can find the cause or effort that falls in line with one's own values. Also, one must have some flexibility in dealing with others, ranging from flaky volunteers to hardcore true believers.

Hobbies are an excellent way to funnel one's energy into engaging effort. It is especially easy when one chooses a hobby, to find a task with scalable challenges. In other words, as one improves in a given hobby, one can choose increasingly difficult challenges to pursue in it. E.g., if you've manages to embroider a particular design, the next design you choose to embroider can be more complex and therefore more challenging and engaging.

*I'm sure there are more, but these are the four that come to mind right now.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Urban Hell

It has become a running joke and/or standard operating procedure that whenever there is a big accident/crisis/lunatic freak-out happening inside the beltway, I call my mom and let her know I'm nowhere near it, of if I am, I'm okay. So yesterday evening I called her to let her know I was downtown, and not near Silver Spring and the situation in the Discovery Building. (Although at least once a month after work I go right past that building on the way to Borders, DSW, Strosniders, Whole Foods, or somewhere else.) I tell mom and dad that dealing with whackos, protests, motorcades, etc. are just part of life in DC. They range from merely inconvenient to terribly dangerous, but we simply have to take it all in stride.

I moved to DC for love (and to get the hell out of Charlotte, NC, a town which embraced the metanarrative of 'suburban hell' and made it its ideal.) I stayed for love, and when love failed, for the convenience of not having to own a car and easy access to museums and similar diversions.

But staying in DC has taken its toll. I arrived optimistic and eager. Now, almost sixteen years later, the optimism is gone, and enthusiasm takes a whole hell of a lot of effort to build up. This is a poisonous city. The natives resent all the newcomers. The newcomers are themselves here only to make some kind of career move, and only want to deal with people who can help them climb the career ladder. The few of us who don't fit into those paradigms have to make our own way, by our own devices.