Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day.

It's not perfect. It's a little chaotic sometimes, a little warped. There are fights, carping, yelling, bitching. There is dysfunction, past and present. There is unnecessary showboating. Injuries, both external and internal, do occur.

Still: I'm really f-ing glad to be back home.

Some things are missing here: a quorum of available friends, a cadre of specific friends I already dearly miss, decent produce, a good karaoke place, and for now, living quarters I can call my own.

Some things are also gloriously present: persons whom I love desperately; a return to my previous job (at least temporarily), where I have friends and colleagues I respect; WHUR; frosting; the promise of cherry blossoms; the feeling of home.

My friend's son, who is 5 years old, made the cookie at left for me. I was asked whether I would like the cookie "burnt, or unburnt." I chose "unburnt" and here is the lovely result. In case you cannot distinguish, the cookie is meant to be shaped like a doughnut, but with a smiley face attached to it.

A doughnut with a smiley face: It takes certain 5-year-olds to express certain emotions in exactly the right way.

Friday, March 20, 2009

An Interesting Post.

Lately I've been looking at The New Yorker's offerings online. The New Yorker is the only substantive thing I read lately, unless I get adventurous and pick up a book. Otherwise it's a steady media diet of Entertainment Weekly (which, don't get me wrong, I adore), food magazines and e-mail.

The New Yorker site features a surprising number of blogs, one of them titled Interesting Times. The description is: "Semi-regular thoughts on foreign affairs, politics, and books, from George Packer."

Seriously? This struck me as possibly the worst blog title ever. Why not something more evocative, such as Wow, What a World or Here's What I'm Thinking or What's the Deal with That? I mean, who would title their blog with just a garden-variety adjective followed by a temporal noun? Oops...

Some time ago, I encountered the observation (don't remember where) that when a person responds, "That's interesting" to someone when he or she is talking, that is a blaring sign that the listener is really fucking bored. In this context, "stultifying" may be substituted for "interesting," and Packer's blog may as well be titled Whatever, I Just Don't Care. (However, it's worth noting that when faced with a list of blogs with which I'm completely unfamiliar, one of the few I clicked was Interesting Times. Now what does that say about me?)

Ever since I heard that comment, if someone says "that's interesting" when I am talking, my first instinct is to apologize, to pack up my conversary and hit the road. My banter has been labeled "interesting," the conversational equivalent of being voted off the island. What could be more damning?

However. In my case, when I am listening and I say something is interesting, about 50 percent of the time, I actually mean it -- it's just that I simply have nothing else to say. So, if someone is telling me about, say, the intricacies of a boxing match while I am watching it, I may actually find that interesting, but am unable to offer more than my approval for hearing about it, and maybe another question. I'm not going to be able to say something like, "Yeah, I remember when I was in the ring, that was totally true," or, "Exactly. Remember that classic match in 1994?"

Often, when I find myself using the word "interesting," it's not because the other person is boring. It's because I am boring and have nothing else to say. This sometimes makes me think about trying synonyms, as if using a different word would make me sound any less like a) I am insulting you or b) I have a tea bag for a brain. What if I broke out fascinating, absorbing, intriguing, or some other word? I'd sound more like Barbara Walters, for one thing, but would it break me out of the ennui of "interesting"?

How often do you use the word, and what would happen if you tried to stop using it for one week? Now wouldn't that be... enthralling?

Music: "Another Day"

Thursday, March 05, 2009

One Night Stands: "Waltz"

Thank you to Kristie and Jackson for introducing me to blip.fm, another venue through which I can attempt to impose my musical tastes on other people. So far, I have a grand total of one follower. Bless you, 2Serenity! If anyone else happens to be using blip.fm and wants to join the crowd, my handle is UncMo.

If you like piano-heavy music, and I think you know I do, then by all means take a moment to contemplate Ikuko Harada. Unfortunately, it is very hard to actually listen to Ikuko Harada, because her music doesn't seem to ever be released in the States (and she is not on blip.fm).

Radio host Chris Douridas chose the Japanese singer-songwriter's Piano in a 2005 NPR roundup of most overlooked CDs, but somehow failed to mention that it was only available as a ridiculously priced import, and therefore quite overlookable. Music from Harada's band, Clammbon, also remains unreleased in the United States, judging by a search on Amazon.

I managed to get a digital copy of Piano and have gone back to it regularly over the last three years. "Waltz" is the only lyricless song on the album -- the other songs feature Harada as a vocalist, singing in Japanese -- and it is one of the most beautiful, happy-sad songs I have ever heard. Everything on Piano sounds very casual, but in a way that feels more serendipitous than sloppy. I love the whole thing. I also love the way Harada sings wordlessly over the music in "Waltz," and how playful, meditative and rhythmic the music is.

I will try to post direct links to this and other songs by Ikuko when I get past a technical glitch on my other site. In the meantime, here's the imeem link.

Music: "Waltz"

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

I Got Nothin'.

The apartment I am leaving isn't much, but it does occasionally let you in on some secrets through the windows. If you wake up early enough, and look out the window enough at the relentlessly changing sky, you can catch glimpses of wonder such as that poorly captured here.

Does anyone look at sunshine streaming through clouds in this way and not think of God? This morning, it looked like mercy. I felt mercy for the fact that I was a near shut-in last week, paralyzed and overwhelmed with the sadness behind me and the transition in front of me. I felt mercy for being awake way too early, and way too far afield from the person I want to be. I felt mercy for being unemployed and yet not being the yoga-practicing, book-reading, gourmet cook I imagined I would be in this block of free time. I felt mercy for being silent and boring. I felt mercy for never giving my friends as much as they give me. I felt mercy for being alive.

And then it was gone.

Music: "Power Fantastic"