Thursday, 30 December 2010

Deconstructing the pinwheel: what do I want?

A confession: I don’t like starting sentences with “I,” yet I must to relate. To the audience, you folks out there, eyes bloodshot from staring a computer screen. Essential to how I’ve always approached writing is the understanding that writing is for the reader. When pen presses paper, the aim is to share knowledge, get feedback, and hopefully tap into the human experience. Send a groove down a reader's spine or just make someone laugh. Different aims, all true. That’s a simple part of what I want.

There are things big and small I desire. I want world peace and I want some clams (both fried and wallet-sized). Peace of mind and at least one good laugh per day. For Nabisco to bring back onion-flavored saltines, and to manifest the powers of telepathy and telekinesis. To finish my novel right quick. For all my friends to receive their New Year’s resolutions, to feel flows (in the Beach Boys sense), and be healthy, wealthy and wise as my grandfather would say. Speed up my actions, slow down my mental machinations. And use more alliteration, hallelujah!

A contemplation: progress is inherently good. I’ve always been pridefully preoccupied by the scientific method and the pursuit of knowledge; I want to be proud of many things, and I am. I wish for insight and effervescence to counter the tears, toils, and trials of life. Because life is worth every hardship for the myriad rushes and love we feel. Cheers to a year without condemnations and apocalyptic declarations such as “fuck the world” or other such nonsense. I want to know myself; that’s lifelong as well as yearlong. I want to know others and them to know me. People to work together to conquer their problems.

I speak to so many different people over the course of a day; here's a simple thanks to them and to the technology that connects us. I want some really good, really buttery popcorn and a great movie. I crave style and flair, compassion and tolerance all around me.

There are worthy pursuits I don’t have, and I all can do is be the best me I can be and maybe I’ll get lucky. Maybe I won’t. But wanting is not a sin. And what I really want in 2011 is the better of everything, the best of you, a sense of continuity and spontaneity (each day can be full of both, thankfully). Inspiration, dreams, and progress. No, wanting is certainly not a sin.

Cheers to getting what you crave this New Year.

Life is unexpected. New Years, cheers, and the annunciation of happiness: who am I?

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? “Who am I?” and “what do I want?” are ying and yang. One year ago, I didn’t know who I was, didn’t want to know, and that was a bad sign of a bad first. I had inching reminders of a broader view of who I was and was supposed to be. But I’d begun to push the important questions far away from me and that very wrong action paralyzed me. That’s part and parcel of succumbing to my dark side, something I talk a lot about on this blog as something I’ve overcome. For someone who’s now emerged from deep in my own psychogenic, psittacistic bullshit, it’s worth repeating.

I expected little from life. Took things for granted. Was blind by ignorance--an unwitting reality I regret. And unnaturally heartless.

At this time last year I was positioned down a path of misery, chaos, and shame. I was too afraid to make the right choices—the hard, but ultimately meaningful and right choices. A streak of anxious and neglectful decisions stemming from not understanding or acknowledging the responsibility of affecting others positively ensued chain-reaction style. I walked around as a ball of brooding sarcasm and indifference—I lost the love of my life, disconnected, got lost and didn’t want to be found in my perplexing, internalized, neurotic maze. Alienated friends and family, did not produce much, was not true to virtue; I lost a year I’ll never get back and can only grab onto for its brutal and razor-edged lessons. I would stare aimlessly and ignore all the people who needed and wanted me, dazed and consumed by anxiety and its pal, the anxiety attack. 2010 pummeled me into the ground and only in the past 2 months have I had strength and courage to never lie again, to change, change back into my true self and evolve from there. Sidestep, then step forward. These negative emotions and events (which felt gigantic and untenable as they were happening) did not spark my actionable insight; as anything negative cannot produce something positive. Only my rediscovery of the good and useful effects we can impart on each other—that’s what drove my epiphany to its now-present and logical course.

If I had a time machine… well, I don’t. No one does. No one can go down the road as I did and be alright. It’s not alright to beat myself up, to transfer that onto others, it’s not alright to look in the mirror and yell at the top of my lungs, “get a hold of yourself!” and then not set my life straight. I’d slap myself hard (and punitively) just to feel anything then, in those dark times. Can't cut off phone conversations when I felt the urge to sleep for 10 years and prayed for life to pass me by; that's a perversion of my before-then-and-now-once-again can-do attitude, a corruption that brought me heavy shame at any moment I'd pause to think sentiently about my surroundings. A harmful wish I don't have within me to repeat.

It's not alright to tire of thinking. Of questioning. It’s not alright to second guess arbitrarily, to shut down my emotions for fear of spillage, for fear of anything. Fear isn’t alright. Fear is evil, and a creeping death of everything in your life that could spark any passion or want. Fear is regression and baseness and baseless in any sane reality. Fear is degeneration.

But I don’t fear 2011. I’m paying homage to this year's worthwhile challenges with self-motivated, self-generated true hopefulness and happiness. I’m a positive person at my core and my core is exposed. Except I won’t go nuclear. In fact, 2011 is a year to affirm who I am. Warm, all-ears, and always searching for conversation, but these are adjectives. Who I am is what I’ll do, what I’m commited to. Committed to being there for friends anyone who needs an ear or a hand. Committed to living well, treating others fairly, handling every situation with openmindedness and honesty. Giving my best every second of every day because it’s what I want to do, and what I want is a big responsibility of who I am. Committed to not needing New Year’s resolutions to unfurl my bumbles, yet thinking of every day as a resolute opportunity for improvement.

I shoot up every morning out of bed and into the daylight. 2011 will be more of that. Life is filled with ups and downs, triumph and heartache, yet glorious that we have an opportunity to experience both. Well, especially that whole bit about triumph and happiness. Now and onward is a quest for the apex of excellence (and hard work) in everything pursued; here’s a toast to leaving nothing on the table, all on the line. Who am I? Someone who can honestly say I’ve imbibed the spirit of hope and wonder and I’m never coming back down.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

The Seeping Wisdom in Tea Leaves

“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.” Those words were uttered by Captain Jean-Luc Picard almost every episode in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I didn’t drink tea too often before I got hooked on ST:TNG when I was a teenager. Isn’t it funny how a character I admired pushed me into a tea habit?

I'm sitting sipping my tea with the Captain. We're singing Gilbert and Sullivan, cheers, passing time between the cold of space and the decisions of running a star ship.

But, I sit here, tea as my comfort, the frost glazing over the window panes, the past year of my life riding by in my brain. The tea warming my senses, reliving all the pain and all the good. Even in the worst year of my life yet, there was good, love that thrived. Sights, lights, and heights, even amongst the grim lows.

The brewing of my favorite blend is a process of maturation, starts off raw and aromatic, but unconsumable. Then the water takes time to boil--kettle poised to call out its readiness. Then it's steeped and finally drunk. And when mulling over all that I've been through and the simple joy of drinking something as tasty and layered as tea... I'm thankful for it. Truly. A good tea hits you in the jaw and when you come back for another punch, it's the other fist, the one you didn't expect. Tea is an old friend, ageless and taken however one's personality dictates; for me, strong and without anything added. You can share a pot with a friend and each have it your way. Together as individuals, yet sharing something that's been shared by discerning connoisseurs and casual sippers alike for generations.

Or maybe it's not that grand at all. Maybe it's simple. Maybe it's something to drink after dinner for digestion. But some happy metaphors do exist in my caffeine-addled mind. The fact that cup after cup, I keep coming back for more, that means something.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

You Kill Me

Movie Review: You Kill Me (2007)

Ben Kingsley will be forever known as Gandhi, but in this wondrously off-beat dark comedy, he's an alcoholic hitman (Frank) searching for his piece of mind. It sounds strangely like a pop song tucked away for years that you somehow know the lyrics to--fresh and familiar at the same time. Underneath the laughs and killers' smiles, You Kill Me is a story of redemption. Rising from the ashes--something we all support. Exiled (more like sent on an all-expenses-paid cruise) from Buffalo to San Francisco, Kingsley's character meets Téa Leoni (Laurel), and that's where the struggle comes. They're both screwed up, burnt, and in need of being mesmerized by each other. Works very well on-screen.

Luke Wilson chimes in as Frank's AA sponsor, and there's this understory of his Polish gangster family back in Buffalo getting outsted by a rival Irish gangster family. You want to see Ben Kingsley, the legend, working at a part-time mortuary, part-time hitman monk who Bill Pullman's character accuses/compliments of "living like a Mormon." You want to admire his obsession with assassination efficiency. His strained smile, gumption, and grey morality make the protagonist a truly entertaining psychological viewing prospect. It's not a movie chock full of one liners, although there a few; it's a movie wholly unique, yet brings up the question, "why wasn't this done before?" It can be watched in any mood and will have you marveling at the care and craftsmanship that the refined Kingsley brings to the role. Worth every awkwardly-calibered second.

Monday, 27 December 2010

My Animalistic Love of Winter

“I am a timber-wolf, dark and violent.” He said, he being me. “I am a wolf, lone and vengeful.” Such are things I said as a brooding teenager treading through the snow drifts after shoveling the driveway. Winter has always been a favorite season. But when I got a little older, I thought of myself as a bear: burly and with a hardened Russian spirit. “I am a grizzly bear, ferocious and powerful.” He said, he being me. “I am a bear, loyal and unflinching.” And I love salmon. It works out.

There are more concrete reasons that I like winter: snowboarding, wearing sweaters, thick and hearty soups, the sound of howling wind over snow, the feeling of needing a beard. When I used to nurse the urge to nurture my darker side, a beautifully involved feeling of desolation would wash over me: the abyssal cold twisting nature like no other season.

Early in school, I liked marching around in boots, feeling like I was part of some unified force when I didn’t feel a part of the scene; winter was stark enough for that lonely hope, one I thankfully don’t carry anymore. That feeling went away quickly in the latter half of high school, but the quiet and wonder that winter brings, remained.

“I am a sea lion, ork orking, laughing, flapping my tail, warm when others are not. Am I a fish or a mammal?” Yes, a sea lion. Everyone likes sea lions. And they’re group animals. With whiskers. Like me. See, I’m addicted to people, and the winter has some great holidays of coming together. Chanukah, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, families and friends huddled around a fire. Treats in abundance. Fine teas satisfying. If I could be reincarnated as a non-human animal… a sea lion. The beast of ice floes that makes a comical throaty call, yet can bite when it needs to. Have you ever wanted to be a sea lion? What winter animal would you be? What word best describes winter for you?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Nine

Movie Review: Nine (2009)

I'm biased. I think Daniel Day-Lewis is the greatest living actor, bar none. So imagine my surprise when I read multiple reviews that he was miscast in this. There's no such thing. Daniel Day-Lewis can play God better than God. He plays Guido Contini, based famed director Federico Fellini and does a superb acting job with what he's got. I dug this movie, even though other people I know have seen it shoved it aside.

But, the main problem here is that the script assumes we're already familiar with the body of work of a fictionalized Fellini, the struggling, writer-blocked Contini. The movie is about his recent and current career struggles and the women in his life, all whom he has some complication with. Because he has complications with himself. Underneath all his wild success, he's rebelling against the responsibility of his talent and artistic vision to keep on creating.

The movie is done in two parts, the current reality and all the musicality that persists in his mind. All the songs are imagined by the genius of Guido; unfortunately not all the songs are genius. But, they all are enjoyable. What makes this movie a recommended view--is really the style. The style of the period and of the actors and of the music and the sets and all the strangeness that just needs so natural for Daniel Day-Lewis's character and for everything in the film. While the script has a lot of holes where it's not explained the why and how the characters came to connect, the gestalt of the movie is fashionable, exhilarating, and sparkling with sensuality. So, see it for that.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The Splendiferous Rhapsody of Old St. Nick, Part 2

Our hero Santa Claus was at the orphanage, listening to all the children’s wishes; scenes of sugar plums, giant waterslides, and the aurora borealis backdropping the childrens’ wondrous faces. The acid still seeped into his brain—a psychedelic yuletide sponge. He saw through the eyes of the children he made happy. Made whole for a day with satiation and bliss.

After the last child parlayed their wish to jolly St. Nick, he stood up walked towards a loose brick in the wall. He took his white gloves off and cradled its rough surface in his hands. He stared at the porous imperfections, multiplying the bricks in his mind, building something, something palatial. These children, so innocent, deserved something regal to offset the hardship in their life. He closed his eyes.

Even stoned as he was, he had a dilemma. Long ago, when he was first hired as Santa, he had to sign a contract. The H.R. department in heaven has very strict regulations and even stricter accountants. As such, presents are actually deducted from taxes. And distribution is proportional and fair in heaven, which is why Santa is able to bestow such grand gifts on the gregariously wealth and everyone on down the line who pays into the program. If he were to break this contract, he could be in grave danger of losing his Santa powers. But, on acid, he couldn’t weigh the consequences as he normally would. As he would if he were cozy in the north pole by his fireplace overlording his elves tinkering in the workshops which his wife plays the lute.

Santa cried, cried a tear of joy and sadness. And he broke the brick on the ground. From the tatters a liquid began to sprawl across the floor, syrupy. He manipulated the goo with his mind, transforming the run-down orphanage into a palace complete with playpits, game rooms, gilded swing sets, and a Rockefeller-esque tree. The children gazed with amazement at the regenesis around them.

Santa said to them all, “this is for you. This is for your joy. And don’t you worry. If you look under that tree, your presents are all there, one for each of you.”

And all the children ran to the tree to open their presents. Santa waved goodbye to Brian and walked into the street. Walked back with a smile and a gleam in his eye. His cellphone rang. The number was Heaven. He answered: “it’s been a lovely evening here in the city, how was yours?”

Friday, 24 December 2010

The Splendiferous Rhapsody of Old St. Nick

“A micro-brewery? That’s fantastic! Thank you, dear.” Exulted Santa, ironing his long johns.
Mrs. Claus kept knitting in her chair. “I thought you’d enjoy it. You can install it on top of the old workshop.”
“Yeah, the kids don’t enjoy the tickle-me Elmoes as much as they used to. It’ll give a new meaning to merry.” Santa air-kissed from across the snow-flake wallpapered room--cozy, fire-place heated, filled with crisp imagination.

Blue-hued and bright-starred, the black night was fast approaching and Santa would soon be visiting all who were naughty and nice; divvying out gifts with gusto. After tidying up and getting into garb, Kris Kringle climbed in his sleigh and commanded Rudolph and crew to tally-ho from the North Pole down a bit to the waiting world. And up he landed in the great city of New York. Just outside of New York, he plunged down the chimney of a house on a quiet street, surrounded by quiet houses and quiet people, and quiet trees who wished they were evergreens. As he dusted soot off, his vision immediately panned towards the milk and cookies on the table. Like a drunk to a kebab, Mr. Joviality lapped up the milk and cookies with a ho ho ho.

Little did he know that the oatmeal was spiced with two tabs of LSD. Acid. Abra cadabra. Soon, Santa’s ride would be through the eyes of wunderkind. He drove through the night, depositing presents under ornaments and hopes for the latest and greatest presents. As he metabolized the treats, the world tilted. He had to take a rest. Sit down. So, Santa found a swell bar down in some indecent corner of the city. Sat down.

A man in a long overcoat parks himself next to St. Nick. “Hey, I know you, don’t I?”
Santa stares right through him. “Can you get me a drink?”
“Alright, bub. What can I do ya for? I mean, just ‘cause you asked so nice.”
“Something with fruit and punch in it.”
Right and away, the warmly-dressed gentleman comes back drink in hand.
Santa inquires, “what’s that?”
“Witch’s brew. You’ll like it, it’s mellow and loud, a liquid paradox.” He slid the drink over.
Santa sipped. “What brings you here? You look like someone who has somewhere to be.”
“And this coming from a man dressed like Santa Claus?”
“But I am Santa Claus!”
“Right, right. Really well-made red suit. They sell those at Brooks Brothers?”
“Custom made. But really.”
“But really.” The man stared directly into our Santa. “Truth be told, I just couldn’t handle tonight. Or tomorrow even.”
Behind the man’s face, Santa saw an etch-a-sketch scratching the lines to brewery to be erected in the stead of the tickle-me-Elmo shop. And behind that were a thousand mirrored reflections before the taking of a toast and tea. He sipped his drink, full lipped, and some splashed in his curly white beard. “What can’t you handle?”
Slumping, “I run an orphanage. It’s full up and filled with children without presents. We usually don’t have enough money to buy presents for all the kids, so we try to put on a show for them, but even that fell through this year. I tried to put on something last minute, but kids are smart, really smart. I hope I haven’t made them sad.” He paused. “If you really were Santa, I’d ask why don’t the downtrodden get gifts just like everyone else.”
“What’s your name?”
“Brian.”
“Well, Brian, money doesn’t grow on trees, and if they did. Well.” Kris scratched his scruffy hair. “The North Pole is sort of located in what geologists call tundra. Hard for trees—well anyhow. I know what we can do. Let me make a phone call.”

Santa whips out his Blackberry and dials up his wife. “Hey honey, listen, I’ve finished most of my rounds here, but I need a favor. Miracles, well, miracles take logistics. And I think I’m about to perform one and I can’t figure out why this phone feels like peppermint.”
“Are you alright, dear? What do you need?”
“Fire up the old sleigh. Take the list. Start at entry 4,381,930,183. There’s someone here in need. You dig?”
“Dig what? Yeah, it’s fine. You do what you have to.”
“What are you wearing? We’ll get nast—”
“Honey, I can’t talk like this around the elves.”
Santa’s mind churned out some centerfold action. “Thank you, you’re saving my cherubic cheeks on this one.” *click*

Santa took the overcoated man by the hand. “Lead me to the children.”
Off they went to the orphanage. A sad and simple place where thin beds lined the walls, and all the children slept soundlessly but not soundly. Santa let out a loud “ho ho ho.” The children awoke, rubbing their eyes to reality.
Santa snapped his fingers. “Have I got news for you, kids! Someone tells me you’re in need of Christmas cheer.” He blew out his breath and out appeared red and green lights hanging from the walls, music, loud, happy music. “Time to rumba!”

Santa sung as he saw lava floes bursting giant marshmallows:

A rhapsody, a rhapsody to all.
The kids with smiles and riled up
All the while. They hold in, sad,
Yet glad to have heard of the jolly
Old man by golly full of cheer,
Here to bring you presents
the finest of the year!

Clearly I must dearly say
That Old St. Nick was not about
To let scrappy children such as yourselves
(while there still are Elves)
Go to bed amuck and alout
Alack and alay
And be anything but merry on Christmas day!

So step up, come one, come all
And tell Old St. Nick what you want
On this grand holiday ball!

And so one by one, the newly carefree children seized the opportunity and lined up. “Now children, make one line. You’re all nice boys and girls, so don’t be naughty." Brian nudged them into an orderly fashion. Tears ran down his face as he faced the smiles of the children, happy to awaken to the thick laughter of a man tripping on acid in a bespoke, felt, red costume. Their wishes were all simple, and St. Nick, Old St. Nick was glad to oblige.

To be continued...

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Visionary Dead Poet Ginsberg Seen Searching for Proof of Contemporary Intellectual Discourse

NEW YORK, NY—Famed beat poet Allen Ginsberg arose from the grave yesterday evening according to eyewitnesses. At around 1:30am Thursday, Gregg Jenkins, a cemetery worker recollected from a hospital bed. “It was awful. He just kept mumbling and mumbling, repeating the same things over and over again. Something about a flying squirrel and Marx. I don’t think I can ever go back.”

The corpse of Ginsberg wandered from the cemetery to the Tap and Cap, a bar in the East Village. There, he was lauded up to the stage (where without the working digits, due to rotting flesh) to hold up any sort of print volume, he continued to mumble under his breath in what we think was about "the lack of concise, civil, peaceful debate in any realm of post-modern human interaction, especially politics." The crowd loudly applauded before huddling around the microphone for autographs. Ginsberg could not oblige because of the aforementioned non-functioning hands.

He was last seen in what we think was "lamenting the continued lack of true freedom of expression without fear of repression and the intrinsic inequality of such barbarism" at the NYU International Forum and Show for the Poetically Departed.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

372 years ago

372 years since the last lunar eclipse like the one that happened 2 nights ago on Dec 20-21. At first, the moon was a ball of blue. The kind pop godesses sing about with saccharine lyrics and easy breezy beats. I like those songs.

I stayed up until the wee late hours, moving around my house, angling my view to try and catch every corner of the unique experience. Sometimes the clouds would pass through, but as 3AM came, it looked like Mars swallowed up the moon.

The next will occur in 2094, and hopefully my kids will be able to say they saw what happened on Mulberry Str--I mean, what happened in the unique late night sky.

The transient colors of excitement (lunar eclipse 2010)

A hue, first blue,
true, it is new
to me and to you.

Unless you happen to be
a golem or an ancient belltower
perched high and lean,
pointing towards the sky
'til captive eclipse you glean.

Orange, orange hewn into the moon,
a cue to view a scene,
a sight so few have seen--

And you, you with your gaze transfixed,
and this poem written with olden glitz,
glammed to grasp a glimmer, a slice of rusted moon--

When long ago in caves we etched the sight of sights
ciphered in the heights of dreams;
we scratched with stoic runes.

That you and I have seen keen the blight of light entrancing:
a luna black from blue to red
now back to white, white as bread.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Girlfriend Experience

Movie Review: The Girlfriend Experience (2009)

Steven Soderbergh's The Girlfriend Experience is a movie best seen when you didn't mean to see it. There's a whole category of films like this: ones that are meant to surprise and expose, and in so doing, innovate. Sasha Grey plays a Manhattan call girl, a self-proclaimed sophisticated luxo-priced escort for those who want something between meaningful date and booty call. Told in a series of interviews both formal and informal, she runs through a lineup of manipulative men for her monetary gain, but in the end they run through her. The exception and half the story is of her boyfriend, whom she considers an enigma until he corners her aggressively one day after she naively wants to run away with a client. Jealousy, possessiveness, and rage rear their commonly ugly heads.

Plot aside, it's truly a tragedy in every sense. She loses money, her hopes, her emotions. She's deluded and defrauded. Most of all, her problems would vex even the most adjusted anatomical faculty in the School of Hard Knocks. I'll recommend it just for that, and that I got to say School of Hard Knocks. The lighting and ambiance is puzzle-perfect. Grey basks in the ugliness and darkness of her often untenable situations with quietude and what at first glance appears as stoicism, but underneath is bewilderment and a strange innocence.

Don't sit down with a bowl of popcorn to see this, instead intend to do something more highfalutin and let it draw you in unqualified; that's the magic of this movie.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Game shows, pop culture, and the great beyond

The birth of a new game show is a grand American design; think of it as a fabricated city gleaming: all sparkles and miracles. Opportunity. All eyes transfixed on presentation; red carpets and spotlights. Chance, circumstance, and trivia wrapped into the alluring host-contestant rapport and esprit de corps. Exhibit A: Million Dollar Money Drop aired tonight and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I knew about it 'cause I heard people talk it up a few days ago, mentioning how it looked worthy of their Monday night. So I'm talking about it here.

What else do people talk about? Pop culture. Celebrities rising and falling. Average Joes mimicking the highs and lows of all the famous names flying around. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. This post is not to knock consumption of morning or evening gossip, but to talk about the three phases of our conveniently imagined protagonist, Michelle. Or Michael. Whatever pickles your violet.

As a kid, Michelle just wanted to see something amazing and be entertained. If Michelle doesn't get it, well, cravings take over, emotions fly, perhaps a cry. Sometimes it's necessary to be wowed. And sometimes there's a whole lot of wow in front of us that we don't see. Either way, that's the game show. The spectacle. The fantasy that the audience surrounds us and cheers our success and enlivens our spirits when we're down. So Michelle makes that her goal to have those cheers all the time.

Michelle grows. She goes to college. She gets a job. She thinks she has things figured out. A plan. She's gone through a few struggles. Her parents got divorced. She's seen her share of interpersonal heartache, seen turmoil on the news, pulled her hair out for deadlines, drank too much, slept too little. She's getting a little bored in her cubicle. At the water cooler she talks about Perez Hilton. Starts checking gossip. Talks to her friends about it. Her friends are in same boat and oblige. The spectacle is farther away than she would like. Living vicariously through the glitz and glam seems achievable and soothing. Her weeks point towards the weekends.

One day a thought crosses her brain. A thought that's wafted into her mind plenty of times. But now she pauses. Is this it? "Is there something I'm missing?" She thinks about the existence of God, of fate, of cosmic significance. Is she special? Is she ordinary? She doesn't dare think she's ordinary. But being special is hard to fathom as well. "Things used to make sense. Why don't they anymore?" There's no turning back. She has to choose. Her beliefs are stacked around her in chaotic piles. She longs for the mindlessness of hearsay and celebrity weddings. It doesn't satisfy her, but still she tries to add it. She craves the spectacle, but it's fleeting.

Michelle will end up alright. Alright. A word the late, great William Safire deemed nondescript and non-sensical. But it's just about the most perfect thing in Michelle's theoretical life. The truly loyal, amazing people in my life, those that stand apart, those that mean something--they're not archetypes, not parables. Less predictable than my hopes and fears. We all scratch and claw sometimes, but I just want to say that as you gather round and enjoy the important people in your life, think about who they are. If they've struggled, are they struggling, what question flashes through their mind before they commit their troubles to the dream world.

Life is far better: more unpredictable than alright.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Don't commiserate to relate

Immediately after the Giants' game, my friend Brian checks his Facebook wall and the entire home page smothered with people complaining about the Giants choking last second against the Eagles. First off, I'm a Giants fan and I consider the Eagles to be the Giants' biggest rival. But it's just a game and it's not worth the negativity. Were you on the field playing it? Did you personally blow the lead? Nope. Then don't worry about it. Why let a football game ruin your day?

It's just a game to enjoy watching. Teams win, teams lose. It's fun to feel involved and a part of a community, but there's a limit where posting about how much you want to strangle a player on your Facebook is needless. It's negativity. Negativity without purpose except to invoke the same sad experience in others. That's a simple concept most people understand. Commiseration brings people together. People love to whine and complain about things they can't control--ironically like I'm complaining about people who complain about sports losses. I suppose I'm thinking that maybe someone will refrain from clicking "share" on Facebook next time they feel fire rise in their belly after their team loses. 'Cause it's not your team. It's the team you root for. Rooting does nothing concretely, but should enhance your viewing experience. If it doesn't, it serves no purpose to you.

Back to my soapbox on general commiseration. In anything, people have the tendency to bond over all the crap in life that pushes us down. Ask yourself, how often do you do this? Does it get you anywhere? Could you have been talking about something positive, spread joy instead of "well gee, Bob, you're right, mechanics all suck." And don't think this is a gender thing. Men and women are equally culpable in the negativity column. They both yell out "fuck, shit, damn" and rage rage rage. Rage against the dying of the light, not against a bad punt return.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Poetic forms

Special night with a special lady with special food and special music. Reggie, Reggie Watts serenading me still today in my head. Hilarious and off-beat, Reggie's show was unexpected, uncanny, and almost undefinable except as soulful and hilarious.

If you find a Reggie Watts show near you, snatch up the tickets and prepare for something you've never seen. He beat boxes, plays piano, does impressions of anyone and everyone. It's everything entertainment should be.

It's poetry, the kind that makes you remember the definition of reverence. The you in this story is a hypothetical eager person, someone ready, willing, and able to push through life with a smile.

Speaking of poetry:

To be written in a moleskine of a specific color

Out and about
and under lights.
Joy is stout
held against a city night.

A form, formed in talk of haikus, sonnets,
free flow, and modern diatribes
soaks into me,
the idea mellow, calm, and warm--

If I were to rhyme, and if I were to sing,
I'd sing about this, about us, about mornings,
evenings, about soft, serene, and heavy things.

About simple joys, wrapped in questions,
wrapped like sins, virtues, last call trains--
that life will always be a happy leap,
and never, never too late.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Is it better to be lost or found [in music]?

When I picked up my first bass five years ago, it was huge. Unmanageable. Foreign. A beast of burden. I wasn't very good, and really I'm not a virtuoso now, but recently I've had a feeling I hadn't felt since I was locked in with the drummer of my band in his basement in our last practice before the end of school and the end of one of the best unities possible. Of bangin' on the same beat, of groovin', laying down the backbone. Could last all day, in my memory it can. I don't have a band, but I have a feeling.

That feeling of connectedness to music. It's an emotion, though I'm not certain of its name. Is it insight? Joy? The fretboard is smaller, malleable now. Natural. There's some sort of edge, some frontier I crossed to become musically confident. Wrote a song the other day. And even if it becomes nothing. What a feeling. Is it better to be lost or found in music?

I close my eyes, fold back into my chair and "Idioteque" by Radiohead plays. It's calm, sad, invigorating, and quietly hopeful. Peace in the beats. When song is done. I stand up and look at my planner. See what's up and move to the groove.

People say they get lost in music. Some listen to their iPods as they cross the street. Some don't own a pair of headphones. Some travel around, strumming what they strum. Are you lost or found?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Mother

Movie Review: Mother (1996)

I’ve seen Mother plenty of times, from the release 'til now. Seeing it once again, I’m reminded how it’s a true classic. Albert Brooks plays the role of a dejected science fiction author, recently divorced, and searching for the root of his writer's block. To wit, he moves back home to rekindle the simple joys that lead him to his profession, and to deconstruct his relationship with his mother who treated him with shame and cheapness.

This leads into the comic bickering between the mother, played by Debbie Reynolds, Albert Brooks, and the sports agent brother played by Rob Morrow. Every line is crafted with such perfect sarcasm. The mother is constantly explaining in embarrassment why her son is with her, with eventually leads into one heck of a realization later down the line.

Produced simply, the movie focuses on the growth and discovery of a man who never really grew up. Not to spoil the ending, but the epiphany moment is worth the whole thing. Both Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds' characters are layered, special, and worth the understanding exposed through pain, laughs, and wonderful mother-son dialogue that can only be seen here.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Pride

Pride is why I do it. Do anything. Accomplishing a difficult project—that rush after completing something useful, wonderful, excel, outlast, outmatch, or outwit. I now trust myself to feel pride in doing the right thing. Back a few centuries I couldn’t have said that out loud without a serious throttling from a preacher or two. Why is pride a sin? Aristotle, who viewed pride as a virtue, said pride strengthens the other virtues, and that pride shows of us the value of our hard work and morality through emotional and social payoff. Of course not everyone feels good about good things. Some people have a malicious sense of pleasure, that happiness is a zero sum game; some people can’t see the difference between pride and hubris/vanity. Some take more than they give.

Pride is keeping to my commitment of posting to my blog daily, writing a chapter, making someone laugh, seeing wayward joy parading down the streets with a smile. Pride is job offer, a letter to and from a lost relative, pushing myself an extra mile, drilling a 3 point shot. Pride is being there for my friends, and that I have friends who are there for me. It's deleting a whole page if I know it sucks and knowing there's always more to learn, say, and do. Pride is a skyscraper, Aston Martin, my great grandfather’s antique pocketwatch, Albert Einstein, Roman aqueducts, microprocessor fabrication, my favorite bassline and my favorite charity. Pride is in the soul of humanity when compassion is our backbone.

Achievement as a human race inspires, but individualism, the most important application of self-worth, catalyzes us into great action. I feel warm inside when I see progress and love, but when I triumph, I have that emotional reinforcement of “damn I might be able to invent cold fusion or assemble some IKEA furniture without smashing two components together in a tizzy.” Motivation from merit. Hallelujah. Praise the patron saints of self-respect.

A lot of people complain of the constant encroachment on individualism, and it may be true. I hear friends and strangers talk about corporate interests trying to homogenize our identities for easier marketing. The commercialization of passion. The victimization of the small-business. The herding of the creative into focus groups. Is it relevant to anything you can change and act on? The answer could be yes or no, but don’t just say yes or no, don’t just look at things in red or blue, black or white, grey or absent: there's no pride in that. A wiseman (in a movie) once said, if you’re good at something, you should be good enough to get paid for it. Just simmer on it—it might be untrue for you, but true for some. Pride is courage and bravery--its original latin root. Self-reliance to deign your destiny so far as how you get what you want. Humility isn’t the absence of pride: it’s the enemy of hubris and indignation.

Pride will be your barometer if you trust yourself. I went through a lot of mistrust in order to see that.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Rent-a-writer

If anyone is in need of copyediting, I can do so in any manual of style. General editing for any type of document, college entrance essays, business letters, doesn't matter, I can edit it. I'm also available for hire as a writer of anything: ghost writer, letter writer, scripts, write you a clever license plate.

Charging fair market price. Contact: brent at hotsauceforthesoul.com

A Night in Dreams

What if your mind was a radio station taking requests for dreaming topics? “Hello there caller, what’ll it be?” “Well, I’d really like to be driving a Lamborghini down Highway 1 when all of the sudden aliens arrive with bad intentions. I infiltrate the mothership and repel the entire extraterrestrial invasion with only a flare gun and a dog whistle. Earth throws me a giant party at the Playboy mansion to celebrate my triumph.”

Ever since I was a kid, I had that phrase stuck in my head—“a night in dreams.” Sadly that I'd look forward to sleeping, just for mental exercise, to spend my nights beyond the level of detail found in my days in elementary, middle, and high schools.
There’s power in dreams. Insight through revelation of the sub-conscious. The lucidity of visualization. Or perhaps simply because we think there’s power in dreams. All of the above, but it’s more than just the illusion of meaning or the meaning of the illusion. It's an adventure--something we all want life to be.

A Night in Dreams, the name of a play or a movie. It’s so simple, not even masquerading as clever. Why is it so magnetic to me? I’ve written multiple pieces entitled as such. And I keep coming back for another slice of pensive pie. Still remember some strange dreams I’ve had over the years, some were nightmares. No one talks about dreams, partly because they’re irrationally set and executed; they’re private and require context that most people are not willing to impart. Psychoanalysis aside, dreams captivate our sleeping hours, and the context is what fascinates me. How the brain can work and work all day, and at rest materialize fears and hopes into a sprawling story we can only often claw at remembering fully?

The oldest one I can recall was a nightmare from when I was about eight, maybe nine. My neighbor Eric and I would play Doom on the computer. The secret level of Doom 2 still scares the fried rice out of me. The room around me was a deep burgundy, the ceiling, the carpets, everything, all the furniture. A baroque palace where Bogart would brood over scotch. A beautiful, Marilyn Monroe-type reclining on the couch, and I’m seeing this from first person, but I’m still a kid in the dream. All of the sudden a pinky demon busts through the wall, a big motherfucker about a half-ton, slobbering acid, neon-green toxic waste foaming around the mouth and foot long incisors. And a bad temper. The woman on the couch screams so loud, it should have jolted me out of bed. Didn’t think my brain could create such a high pitch without fingernails and chalk. The demon chases me down, knocks me under a falling bookcase. He then goes after the woman, now shaking, backpedaling into a corner, knocking over several potted plants and urns. Her scream hasn’t stopped for a second, so loud and high-pitched it’s bending the physics of the room. Floor tilts, both she and the demon lose their footing, sliding to the other side of the room, her scratching at the floor, trying to get away somehow out of a room with no windows and no door. The pinky demon eventually grabs her and takes a bite out of her. End of dream. A recurring dream that bothered me for a while, and just recounting it, snags me to this day.

The fear in that nightmare is simple and gruesome. Direct and pungent evil. Dreams I had in middle school and high school had a sinister, subtle quality. Stranger and roundabout. Imagine the rubble ruins of the Parthenon, flat and high on a plateau in the sky, dark and purple clouds shoot lightning. Rudimentary dark and stormy night with the twist of my entire school class in a conga line, moving to primal drums. Shoulders bouncing, and I’m in the pack. Going round and round the rectangular stone platform. The facial expressions of everyone are obscured, but somehow I strongly infer that everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do. I step out of the conga line, gaze up at the menacing sky from the center, everyone still in form, hands on each others’ shoulders, marching. I look back at them, trying to figure out how to get back in line and I can’t. Wasn’t necessarily a nightmare, but it always seemed to vivid, and that one recurred as well.

Perhaps most amusing was the one that started in a giant zeppelin. Purple sky, purple balloon. I suppose violet lenses are common in my dreams. I’m strapped in a parachute, ready to be dropped over a warzone. Out the cargo hold I fly, all of the sudden, I’m in a two-dimensional plane and I’m Mario in a purple suit and Luigi is with me and we’re dodging goombas in the sky. Pipes flow from clouds, weaving between all them, and blocks with question marks etched in pure black paint. All tinged with purple. When I hit the ground I’m regular me in three-D in a cave with millions of people--a wide hollowed out cavern with blue-purple walls and it’s the end of the world. Girl next to me says it’s the apocalypse and that the people in charge want us to procreate. I’m excited and scared and wondering how the cave is so well-lit and why I’m there. I stand up to go towards the exit, and bright-phosphorus-white energy glows from the entrance. I find a man in a foreman’s hard hat and ask him about it. He tells me that the grey goo end of the world has come and that the only way to abate the self-replicating nano-plague was to seal the cavern with searing plasma, and that human beings just needed more time. But I didn’t need more time. He kept talking about time, how he couldn’t believe there wasn’t enough time. There weren’t any clocks, just desolate rock relief. People are being rolled around in wheelbarrows. I can’t discern what they’re doing, if they’re dead or alive, and the foreman is gone. I’m all alone. The tunnel isn’t so bright anymore and all I want is to feel the air rush against my face as I roll through the sky and clouds once more, even in two dimensions. Stood there wondering how people could live in a single passageway, all lined up against a wall. Linear tunnel, pockmarked and promised to be terraformed. That one stuck with me for a while as well.

Now dreams like these foment brain activity with their strangeness and vivaciousness. Jaggedly, I think of the rhyme, “vexed by the hex of the man with the Rolex.”

Monday, 13 December 2010

Vicky Christina Barcelona

Movie Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona (2008)

I’ve always been a fan of Woody Allen movies, and of course there are Woody Allen Woody Allen movies, and plain ol’ he directed the movie Woody Allen movies. He throws a dud or two out there every so often, but this flick is definitely something of a different breed. When Scarlett Johansson (Christina) and Rebecca Hall (Vicky) talk about the strange situation they find themselves in, there’s the classic awkward fumbling about in every Woody Allen movie. The splitting of friends over some misunderstanding that leads into character growth and realization. Less laughs in this one, more chaotic and harrowing tangents to reach enlightenment. Laughter though at the situations, at Penelope Cruz’s insanity, her waving around a gun and errantly shooting Vicky.

Scarlett Johansson plays the classic Allen archetype: a soul-searching artist, reluctant to see herself as valuable or talented, instead replacing that with dread and surrounding herself with people who are magnetized to her. The main difference here is that Scarlett Johansson is voted as one of the world’s hottest bombshells, and Woody Allen has always been a small-framed nebbish with thick-rimmed glasses. The trademark off-key wit resides here.

Javier Bardem’s character has many layers worth peeling away. As Juan Antonio, he’s the catalyst for all the antics in the movie, yet confused about his role in the story. Once more with the tortured artist motif, Bardem plays it masterfully, wining and dining the other characters and the audience. He’s a voice of reason in this rough and tumble world of intellectualism, yet plagued by the insanity and uncertainty of those around him.

In terms of script and direction, this movie definitely challenges how you think of Woody Allen movies. There’s genuine realization about people not being who they appear to be—a life lesson in this movie that comes from betrayal, mental illness, and emotional compromise. While it isn’t the finest work of my childhood hero, Mr. Allen--it’s a movie you should see just for the intrigue factor.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Where did that come from?

Purple-painted fingernails plush against 40-year old black skin out of the corner of my eye tapping the back of the Metro-North seat. But what's really interesting is her white and blue scarf with Hebrew lettering on the back, the kind only worn indoors at religious functions to signify maturity and knowledge.

It's stylish and creative. Where did the idea come from to wear that out and about? It's not a warm scarf, just cotton and a little gilding. Didn't even match her gray and black coat. Maybe that's all she had. Maybe she thought it was funny. Maybe she's a rabbi.

A scene flies through my imagination. Where did that come from?

Mary, call her Mary, she won the lotto one day. This was the happiest day in Mary's life. Never had she felt so upbeat and bouncy, right as the theory of relativity. As she's walking home from the Ralph's Corner Deli where she bought her winning ticket, she passes a synagogue. It's getting close to the winter winds, that dead cold that feels like you're being smushed between bookcases in Sasquatch's Saskatchewan library.

Ducking in, she asks a rabbi, "Is it ok to rest here a second? It's been a hell of a day."
Rabbi Pinsker, a man who grew his beard more for warmth than ecclesiastical iconage, "of course, madam." With a strained smile.
"I bet you get many people coming in here just for this."
The Rabbi picked up a chalice to polish. "Some do. But you look like you really needed it.”
“I haven’t told anyone yet, but I just won the lotto. The number is so large. I check it every week, make sure I get there early when the jackpot is so large. Didn’t want to lose my ticket in the wind.”
“I have a feeling you couldn’t lose your ticket, no matter the weather.”
Mary gripped the Mega Millions lotto ticket in her coat pocket. Felt its crease, fingered its edges. She was reminded of how for every week for 20 years after she would submit her numbers, she’d dream of the new house, car, Vegas weekend, all the luxury, fine evening outings she would be able to afford with the jackpot. Now all she wanted was to be to choose to stay or go. All she wanted was to sit in her La-Z-Boy in her living room and take a nap. Then she’d call her closest friends and relatives.

So Mary said thank you to the Rabbi and left, went home and did we she wanted. People she thought she knew started to ask her for money over time, promising something in return, even something as basic as love. Still a young woman, she couldn’t find the bitterness in her about it, but it was annoying. Every so often she would pop back into that synagogue to talk with Rabbi Pinsker. Often, it was just about the news or a trip she went on. The Rabbi always listened and always gave her his full attention.

Over the course of eight years, Mary’s money began to dwindle. She was very generous with anyone who asked or needed anything, and her investments never panned out. Each day her smile grew a little bit weaker. She had to sell her 3rd house in Malibu, then her Manhattan penthouse, and had to sell her tract of land in Connecticut. The recession came and she lost the last her savings and moved in with her sister Joyce. It was a short run and Mary felt cheated. She felt ancient, abused by time, cracked over the jaw by people she thought she knew.

It was winter again, and Mary, on the way back from the Corner Deli with another lotto ticket, this time outcome unknown, stops by to see the Rabbi.
“Rabbi Pinsker, I’ve been coming to you for years. Do you have any advice for me?”
“I suppose. What do you need it on?”
She reached into her coat pocket, pulled out her freshly bought ticket. “Should I keep buying these? After eight years, I’m back to buying these. I could have owned an NFL franchise, but instead the world cheated me.”
“There were people that cheated you. The world has no such power. The world only provides. Besides, the chances of winning the first time were absurd, so it would be absurd not to keep playing a second time with equally absurd chances.”
“Rabbi, in that time, I’ve traveled the world and indulged in the finest things. I’ve eaten Kobe beef in an old Portuguese monastery south of Tokyo. I’ve schmoozed with royalty at the Monaco Grand Prix. I’ve owned a piece of Graceland. And now all I want back is a working heater in my sister’s apartment.” Her purple-painted nails caressing the lottery ticket’s sad face.
The Rabbi lead her to the back wall of the synagogue and opened an unadorned box. “You’ve been through a lot, Mary. For Jews, wearing this signifies maturity, adulthood, success through strife, as all people must learn. It will keep you warm as long as you remember to keep buying lotto tickets. As long as you keep remembering you used to dream of all the things you would do with a lotto ticket. And that now your dreams are different.”

Rabbi Pinsker tied the scarf around her neck. They hugged each other. On the walk home, she remembered that she didn’t know how much the jackpot was worth this time around.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Paradise

Some days are better than others. I think we can all agree about that. Well, if you won't, I will, 'cause it's true. There are a million cliches I can insert here, most of them muttered by athletes in post-game pressers to keep a state of normalcy. Although a lovely woman on the train pointed out such utterances also smell of recovering addicts; very insightful. Phrases such as "one day at a time," "you take the good with the bad," "one misbegotten leg before the other."

Nothing ever stopped cliches from being true, except for arrogant bastards thinking they're above aphorisms, NFL-era or ancient. Arrogant like those sad sods who post Youtube comments about the "real, imminent, and dangerous war between real music and pop music." Pine on you modern day Aristotles. I'll devote a blog to excerpting that hilarity in the near future.

But wait, back a bit. "A return to normalcy," Warren G. Harding's campaign promise to reconcile the horrors of World War I through his potential presidency, was criticized heavily for normalcy not being a word, not using normality. But both variations are now considered correct. Might have cost him his dream. And we've a had a president elected twice who can't articulate the most powerful weapons known to man. Nuke-cu-lurr. One day at a time.

Since his book prompted these frenetic questions, I must plug the departed Kurt Vonnegut. Mentioned him once on this blog and I'll mention him again. Reading Armageddon in Retrospect, a collection of until-then unpublished speeches and stories. Pick it up--worth it to grasp up every last bit of the greatest literary genius of our time. I'm reminded of how much of a realist he was, overt humanism pouring out with his epic wit and humor. Compassion married with cynicism. Always wanted to be like that, even before I read Slaughterhouse Five, infinitely amped up afterwards. Tried not to think about the ethereal and the hereafter, 'cause I'd thought about it before. 4 weeks or so ago, I also remembered that being jaded about anything whatsoever is bullshit. Vonnegut dismissed the oversimplification of some people with such large questions, not the consternation. These are the same questions humans have pondered since they were scratching rock etchings into cave walls; questions that pulse with inspiration and wonder. Questions that can't be answered in a single breath. But even after thinking about it, I'm agnostic. I'll keep thinking about it off and on. Some days more than others. So it goes.

Can Utopia exist? People have asked this for countless generations. That's a concept most people don't take one day at a time or with a sense of procrastination. They want it now and they search for it all the time. I search for it, irrational though it may be.

Kurt speaks of a misinterpreted Marx, how he's decried mostly because he called religion "the opiate of the masses." Earlier, I watched Religulous, a Bill Maher documentary about the absurdity of religion. To paraphrase Socrates, if you can't explain why you believe what you believe, you have a problem. What mantras do some of these crazy people wake up to? God is great? I am righteous? The world is encapsulated in one book by an unknown author? Two books? One day at a time? Make me a sandwich?

Utopia is an important concept, important in understanding what we want and understanding we can't always get what we want. What's your heaven, your utopia? Is it a mantra? A place? One thing, two things? Red fish, blue fish? A harem? A candlelit bath or a rocky crag to climb?

The Last Emperor, a rapper who blazes through verses like a wolf chews through mutton, has elegance to rhyme his version. Do we have to die to get there? I hope not, 'cause I can see the lip of my utopic entrance.

Possible superstitious dramatic irony aside, what is heaven to me? Where? A place of openness and love, of learning and endless energy. Of feeling, colors, and intellectual stuffing the air so thickly you cough up metaphorical pea soup. Meritocratic and meticulously designed, it's a place where spontaneity is just as beautiful as it is in everyday life.

Some days I think about heaven, and some days are just rock and roll. But all days are here for the taking, not for procrastination and not for the repeat rehabbers, as the impromptu train conversation with someone who just ran with my question showed once again. Like life and death, paradise is an off the cuff encounter or a hot chocolate in the freezing snow. Where's your paradise?

Friday, 10 December 2010

The essense of storytelling: TV show edition

Characters are popping off the screen and traipsing around your imagination, the colorful flicker washing over your living room and you’re as happy as a Paparazzi at a celebrity liposuction clinic. Why? Your favorite TV show’s marathon day is upon you. Whether it’s by network schedule or your own all-day relaxalatory tubular festival via DVD, Netflix, or Torrent, it’s one fine day.

One Fine Day, that was a good movie. George Clooney charming his way through a stress-addicted Michelle Pfeiffer’s File-a-Fax of doom. But even that can’t compare to 24 hours of Sports Night, 30 Rock, House, Family Guy or whatever strikes your fancy. Scrubs, ER, or Grey’s Anatomy your thing? Daria, Seinfeld, Charmed? The only thing stopping you is your ass not being a chair, beanbag, or bed. Whether with friends or in solitude, it’s a timeline you can follow. People getting into adventures right before your eyes, and life-lessons to be learned topped with your favorite poisons: insight, humor, or nonsense.

House has been playing in the background the whole day as I pound away on projects. Every time Hugh Laurie’s scruffy visage comes on screen, I have to marvel at what a truly interesting character he plays, how this show above most others, explores the dark side of human interaction, yet there is balance. What an incredible character. As a doctor, House is pure hero: his number one goal is to save the patient through whatever impossibilities pose to block him along the way. As a person, House is villain most of the time; selfish and bruising, always looking to harden those around him through the harsh belief that all people are deeply flawed narcissists just like him, no matter how they pretend otherwise. Yet, his wit and ever-fresh plots he cooks up for his own amusement hybridize his character into an anti-hero. At the end of the day, he tries to help his patients, even if others get caught in the emotional crossfire. Sadly, there are only a few episodes, mostly the amazing psych-admittance ones that show him trying to connect the humanity that makes him a great doctor to his outward interactions with those who respect him enough to keep getting burned.

The complexity of his character, his anti-hero-ness, the change in his medical realizations over the course of an episode… these draw me back to the next episode. What shows comfort you just by the sound of an actor’s voice? Even if that voice telling you your diagnosis is wrong and you should be fired for it.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

dot com

Hotsauceforthesoul.com is now active for your convenience. And it allows me to show off. Excellent.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The gold standard

By 1811, Napoleon had expanded his French empire from Spain to Poland, and had pissed off a lot of people in the process. Once revered for reforms that improved the quality of life for French citizens, he was reviled for his insatiable drive for continual conquest. With Russia threatening to attack him, his advisers opined against France attacking Russia because of the well-documented failures to penetrate Russia's wintry graveyard path to Moscow. So why hire advisers if he wasn't listening to them?

Living as we do, there are people that readily dole out advice unsolicited, and there are those that are in constant need of advice, and yet there are some, those few who both ask and give advice when in the natural line of a question. It's said that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. You don't have to be commander of the Grande Armée to understand that having trusted insight around you is worth its weight in golden French Franc.

Here's the tricky part. In trying to listen to sensible perspective from respected friends, still have to combine that with a questioning of where each sage-tastic nugget is coming from. And even when you have marshals of your own best interest helping to consider whatever predicament you find yourself in, you can always add Socrates to the chorus. "As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." and "Let him that would move the world first move himself."

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Marshal Brady

Haters gonna hate. That’s pretty much the gist of anything ever said ill of Tom Brady. The guy came from humble beginnings to create an NFL dynasty with possibly the world’s craftiest coach. Is Belichick a crybaby? Yup. That doesn’t make Tom Brady someone not to root for. Not that rooting for someone does anything, anyways. But, don’t hate. He studies, he performs. He doesn’t have time to wait around for hall of fame players to come to him—he augments the effectiveness of every single player on the roster. So the Patriots win a lot. Appreciate the galactic strategy and team management, how they replenish old with young talent. Enjoy the excellence.

A friend of mine reminded me of the negative attention such a model citizen gets. The Uggs boots “fiasco” offends people of a certain “manly” disposition. It’s bullshit machismo crap about a man that has proven his grit in the most clutch of situations. If the guy wants to wear ultra popular footwear intended first for women, then more power to him. He’s Tom fucking Brady, not Brett Favre. Favre has a massive ego and draws attention to himself needlessly through whining and dramatics. That's the antithesis of what the Patriots and Brady have been about. That's why they got rid of Randy Moss. Quiet confidence, not boisterous penis waving at Jets cheerleaders.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Love and Other Drugs

Movie Review – Love and Other Drugs (2010)

Love and Other Drugs isn’t a romantic comedy, it’s a great movie. Filled with nuance in its acting and writing, it’s one that you should run out and see, now. Both the main characters are played with depth, complexity, and charm by Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathway, who grow for having met each other. The change in Hathaway’s character is burrowed beneath sad and poignant layers of life having screwed her over. There are laughs and they were always warranted even when writhing against the depressed sarcasm of Gyllenhaal’s character’s fat millionaire younger brother.

I don’t want to ruin any of the twists and turns, but it’s a movie about very believable characters overcoming the problems of their past and present, and how they can’t be the people they want to be without each other. It's not all lovey-dovey: there are some seriously powerful moments of tension, moments where these characters that you'll get attached to approach the brink of romantic destruction. Really, do I have to convince you more?

This movie probably won’t get the acclaim it deserves because it’s masquerading as genre film, but you will be enrapt by this superb production that shows Hollywood can still put on a romance flick with grit.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The quick and the 5:35

I took the 5:35AM train home. And somehow I woke up before a full sleep cycle. A hobo serenaded me with "Under the Boardwalk" on a guitar half-made of duct tape. Josh Zuckerman band played at Wicked Willy's, all classic rock and amazing. Dancing and laughing, a good time.

Got into adventures and met some great people. Haven't felt so good out and about in a while.

Cheers to the explorer in us all!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Onto the pavement and perhaps a woodsy path

I got into jogging because my dad jogged, and I looked and still do look up to him. He inspired me and still does. Just got back from a run and I feel fantastic. My legs carrying me, the thought transmitted instantly. Left, right, left, right. The neural impulses never cease to amaze.

Didn’t need to run the Olympic 10k to feel good from running, and I still don’t. That’s because of my start with running. My dad chugged and chugged away at it, and I do too, not only because it’s great exercise, but because it clarifies; shows us how to plan a path and take to it. Metaphorically, it’s progress. Moving forward, pounding away, taking the steps you need, dodging potholes and other obstacles. And you have to move forward to stay healthy. So there’s your dose of non-subtlety for the day.

Do you ever do that, readers out there behind the monitors? Appreciate the literal and metaphorical meanings of something like running? Sometimes I just step back and delight in the excitement of the simple; things that comfort us because of endorphin release and soothing cause-and-effect mentality. I run, I feel good. Straight and steady. Steady and true. So share a smile with someone about the easy things and the hard things. Those that require all we can muster, and those that just require stepping out the door and onto the pavement.

Friday, 3 December 2010

A simple, simple story

Tired from a long day selling door to door in Atlantis, Frederick Westmoreland paddled the plain canoe downriver from the seaport elevator to his house, buried in the cliffside. Anchoring it to the dock, Frederick unlocked his door and sat his canvas briefcase in the foyer. Only wanting to relax, he propped up his feet on the Ottoman, clicked on the TV, and immediately he heard the doorbell ring. When he opened up, a bulky looking man with a bulkier briefcase that weighed down one shoulder greeted him.
“Good afternoon, sir. I noticed your canoe. My name is Phillip Flintlock. Do you work down in the city?”
Frederick stared out behind the doorguest’s shoulder. “Yeah, down in Atlantis, I’m a jam salesman. Only the finest from the garden of Mrs. Mirevka.”
“That’s the longest commute this side of globe, and I think I can help.” Opening up the behemoth briefcase, Flintlock pulled out a catalog, colorful and glossy. “You have a fine canoe out there, but it’s old and slow. You’ll sweat away all the water in your body lugging that thing home. How about this motorboat?.” Out he pulled a heavy square, dusted it off. “Comes with a money-back guarantee. If you don’t get to work faster, full refund. You have nothing to lose, so why not?”
Frederick stared at the red-cavas-covered cube. “I suppose it would hurt. I’ll write you a check.”
“Very good sir. I’ll return tomorrow to see if there’s anything else I can do for you.”

The next day, Frederick carried the cube outside and pulled the bow on top. The only instructions on the box read: “open at dock.” Unleashed at the water’s edge was a motor boat fit for a Whitesnake video. Revving up the engine, Frederick grinned in glee. Something shiny, new, unexpected. And he could fit a lot more jam in the rumrunning speedboat than in his canoe. He started it up, and water rushed all around him and pebbles flew everywhere, breaking some windows. But he began down the river. The first part of his trip into work was truly uncomfortable. He bounced off the waves in the valley and his wake shoved aside all the other commuters in canoes. And even ran over his neighbor, Mr. Wong, although he wasn’t seriously hurt. His day at work: jam was sold, toast was covered, but he noticed people looked at him with some disdain. But he sold more jam because he got to work faster and could work later because he knew he would get home sooner. After hearing many complaints about his speedboat, he knew it wasn’t quite right for him.

Arriving at home, putting his feet on the Ottoman, Frederick heard a knock at the door. Phillip Flintlock was waiting, smiling. “Hello again Mr. Westmoreland. How do you like your new motorboat?”
“I have to tell you, it’s been a lot of trouble. People have been giving me dirty looks, I ran over my neighbor. You’ve gotta give me that refund.”
“Ok, ok sir. But you liked getting where you’re going faster, right?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“I have something else for you, something less gruff than the motorboat.” Flintlock pulled a cerulean canvas-covered cube, also heavy. “This is a jet pack, you just hover over the water, and it’s fairly easy to control, and you won’t hit anyone on your way to work because you’ll be above them.”
“Sounds nice. Alright, I’ll try it.”

The next day, Frederick pulled the bow on top of the cube and a chromed jet pack propped itself up. The instructions were simple: “tug each arm in the direction you want to go.” Strapping it on and firing it up, he lifted into the air, relishing the rush against his face. He flew down the valley, the sound of the jets shaking the walls of the canyon around him, making those below him cover their ears, some even bled from the ears. But, he eventually reached the docks at Atlantis even earlier than yesterday. During the day he saw some fellow commuters walking about dazed and disoriented. His heart sunk and knew he had to return this too, even though he got to the market earlier and could stay even later.

Flintlock once again came to the door to check on Frederick. “Mr. Westmoreland have I got something else for you—“
“Gotta give me a refund. I basically blew the top off the river.”
“Yes, the jetpack isn’t the most practical, but I think I have something else. A nuclear submarine can go beneath anyone and was made to be silent.”
Frederick accepted.

The instructions on the side were direct: “open in water and choose destination when ready.” The next day, Frederick pulled the bow off the top of the black-canvas cube. Unfurled was a massive cold-war era nuclear submarine, weighing several hundred tons and obliterating his quaint canoe in the process. Frederick climbed in and touched his finger to Atlantis on the digital map. The vessel lurched forward, cracked along the river basin walls. The fish in the river were crushed and rose to the top gruesomely, greatly upsetting anyone in the water. He got to work even faster than the previous 2 days, because it’s a nuclear submarine. But knew this was the last straw. He had to return the final contraption.

Once more, Flintlock came to the door. Before he could even say hello, Frederick interrupted, “Gotta give me my check back.”
“But why, sir?”
“I’ve ran over my neighbor, popped everyone on the highway’s eardrums, weakened the support structure of the valley, and killed all the fish in it.”
“But didn’t it get you to work faster?”
“Yes, but look at all the problems I’ve caused.”
Flintlock readjusted his briefcase. “I’m sorry Mr. Westmoreland, it got you to work faster, you’re stuck with the submarine. That was the guarantee.”
Frederick rolled his shoulders. “What am I supposed to do with that thing?”
“That’s up to you, sir. Just don’t sell it to a 3rd world dictator, that tends to cause legal problems.”

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Watch out! On early mornings.

Here's an old poem on the randomness of life.

Watch out! On early mornings.

A treatise by a trucker was made
to haul for months
barrels of oats on the back of steel-rimmed wheels.

Upon shaking hands
and signing the trade
a river of lava turned his cargo to oatmeal.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Adopt a Sailor

Movie Review – Adopt a Sailor (2008)

Catharsis is defined in the Random House Dictionary as “the purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, esp. through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.” And in the spirit of eating Chanukah dinner tonight, this movie is the quest of epiphany after cathartic meal-time sharing. Adopt a Sailor, a refreshingly pointed film, full on theatrics displaying and the strength of a young, charming, savant sailor who catalyzes exploring the anti-intimacy of a long-married couple. Chaos crying, and even joy ensue. The husband, an unemployed ex-film professor, bursts into constant philosophical angst and his “us vs. them” disposition clashes with his successful art-dealing wife, who has a savvy sense of place, but only through talking with the sailor is she able to truly reconnect with her emotions, long repressed under resentment for her husband’s progressively more esoteric ranting.

Ok, so that’s a mouthful, but so is this movie. It’s all dialogue—and all written wonderfully. The movie is basically a play with the advantage of camera direction. It knows exactly what it wants to be: a classic exploration of the distance people put between them. I was enamored with the couple’s neurosis and by contrast, how the sailor’s simple world-view provides them the grounding they need to salvage their relationship. Oh, and in revealing his own most impressive life stories, gives the couple the context that reality has to simply be attended to.

What does this all mean? See it. Bebe Neuwerth steals the show, proving a triangle doesn’t have to be equilateral to make theatrical sense.

Happy first night of the festival of lights!