Friday, February 21, 2003

One Paragraph Story

It was the most amazing kiss he'd ever had. At least this is how he remembers it now. At the time he barely registered the kiss as it was an irresistable action and led to a period where all self-consciousness vanished. He was fussy and critical most of the time but she was a girl who could leave milk out on the counter to grow warm before he'd had his cereal and he wouldn't complain. Virtually everything she did left him speechless it seemed. She spoke so quickly and sentences would pass before he could catch up. Still, it wasn't easy to understand another in those days or to think of what they might need or want. For this reason, nothing could last when you were young. So when she didn't want to be with him anymore he didn't try to alter that course but in a very half-hearted way. His failure to attempt to change her mind wasn't due to pride or not primarily. On the one hand, he lacked hope that there was a chance for reversal. The question of how to modify his exile made him too helpless to think past mere wishing. On the other hand he hoped that there was another one like her, somewhere. Another one like her. That was less a hope than an assumption. Weren't there millions of people lined up in one's future that you would meet and connect with--one by one? It wasn't much of a surprise when he found out he was wrong since that discovery happened so slowly he hardly saw it until it covered his days like a web. He supposed that the reason nothing fit anymore was that he was older and it had only been so few months out of all these years of being alive when he hadn't had that sense of being wholly alone.

Somehow that worked so much better when it stayed in my head. Still, I suppose it's useful to have it out of there now.
More Bads

Very Unnecessary Deaths

Daintily, our very own underwear warrior reminded me of just one more terrifying thing I read about the current situation. Many civilians in a war die from hunger and illness. Everyone in Iraq relies on a distribution of basic staples from the Iraqi government. (I posted a story about this from the NY Times recently.) If the infrastructure is destroyed people will not be able to get food. Most people have no reserves and are phyisically weakened by the economic situation. This means that there will be an immediate need to feed millions of people which probably can't be met immediately. Thus, mass starvation is possible and perhaps likely as a result of the U.S. led attack on Iraq.

The story is in this week's Economist but I can't seem to find the link right now.

Many people starved in Afghanistan during the attacks. Whole villages were wiped out by hunger even though bombs didn't touch them because of the disruption caused by the war.

It's not as if we needed more reasons not to attack Iraq. God, all I can hope is that there is some foresight and planning when it comes to the needs of the civilian population. After reading some of the insanely unrealistic projections of the fabulous and wonderful results of the war I get the feeling that the people in charge are not competent or inclined to plan for anything that might go wrong. At the moment the war looks inevitable and all we can hope is that it is over quickly so that hundreds of thousands or millions of people don't die. Of course, it is horrible if anyone dies. One person being killed or starving is horrible. A whole country starving to death because of something my government is directly responsible for is unthinkably horrible.

There is currently starvation in Southern Africa. go to Oxfam's website if you want to do something about that. The world's attention is turned away from that. So even those people are indirectly harmed by the upcoming war.

The only way for it to be over quickly is for the U.S. to win immediately (since obviously the U.S. will not surrender for a very long time). So I guess I am hoping that the U.S. wins immediately and that it is all over fast. Of course, if social chaos and civil war is the result this will also lead to widespread bloodshed and starvation.

Loss of Civil Rights and Freedoms

Domestically, we can no longer be sure what our legal rights are--but we no longer have the ones we had previously.

Here is a current tally of the civil rights we have that are no longer legally protected--and can be violated--by the current government

I got it from this guy's post on Adam Felber's blog

Bads and Goods


Onset of cold and fear of onset of cold

Pulled muscle in shoulder

Work to do all weekend

Missing my chico

People telling me what to do

The war, a war, this war, any war

Wobbly old chair

Wanting to sleep and sleep and sleep and having to work and work and work


Paprika, cayenne pepper, all pepper products

Hot tea

Wonderful sun filled living room

Life changing possibilities of new chair

Beautiful adorable siblings and wonderful family (missing them)

Steady job for now

Silk covered batik pillowcases in bedroom

To see el chico soon

Collected Short Stories of Mavis Gallant

Wednesday, February 19, 2003


Spunky the Monkey alerted me to a way in which the 'future' (which is actually now--you figure it out) may be upon us.

That future...about which I have been so disappointed for its failure to involve jet packs and metallic fabrics and instant facial transformation (without the 'killing you before you're 30' Logan's Run thing), space travel for the masses, the conquest of all disease and social disharmony...may contain at least one of those mind-blowing travel technologies we were led to expect (and not just things that beep you carry in your purse).

Yes, the future will soon perhaps produce something downright futuristic! (Unfortunately, people will still wear levis and cowboy boots and the like.)

Yes, it is anti-gravity fighter planes.

Hey, that sounded pretty good. Finally, anti-gravity. After all this time.

Except we're living in the dystopic future not the utopic future. We're living in the soylent green/ 1984 Future not the Star Trek 'and that was before humans abolished war' future. The future where everyone is packed in together (the 1970's future) and only the wealthy can afford good condiments. Not the future where everyone lives in peace and harmony (the 1960's future). And we may get the downside of the 1950's future with crazed genetic mutations and so on. And not the upside of the 1930's future where the robots clean your house.

Bummer. So the anti-gravity will just be used to kill people or some other creepy thing and not for George Jetson-like charming antics. Still, it's something, I guess.
Some Questions

Do fat people always know they are fat?

How fat is fat?

Do ugly people always know they are ugly?

Do beautiful people always know they are beautiful?

Should I get a subscription to the Economist because I want one so badly even though I cannot afford it and weekly information about the real world will drive me to the brink of insanity?

Are we punished for our sins?

Are we doomed?

Do I actually have to be coherent--or god forbid entertaining--on this blog? Can't I just mutter to myself and swear like I do most of the time anyway? flkjssh? hsit! shit!

Why does anyone bother?

Why do we take the trouble? What's the point?

How do therapists stay in business when it's mostly a big scam and they're really dumb anyway?

Do all the people who find 'love on line' eventually come to hate each other one day?

Why am I such a schlump?

How bad is it to be old? Do you even know you are old or are you always in denial about it?

Where do all these people get all that money? How does anyone afford anything they sell at Pottery Barn? How can they pay for new cars?

When will this be over?
Junk Mail Escape

Mark had a bad day (he's the everything is wrong guy).

It made me think about a time I spent in the Amazon. Yes, the people there had less than I have ever seen any people have. Most of them did not have houses. They slept on boards raised up from the ground. It was the flooded forest and so the places they lived flooded during the rainy season--I suppose it wasn't worth the trouble to put on a roof or walls. They had one change of clothing if they were lucky. Most people owned: one ragged t-shirt, one pair of shorts and about 50% of the time-- a pair of rubber flip flops. A gringa went there to live and gave out some basic medicines but there was no medical care to speak of. (Most people do not have medical care of any kind in many countries. We get used to hearing it but when you find out people died from a disease that would take $1.50 to cure it seems much stranger...and worse of course.)

It wasn't sad for me. I was there as a tourist. Of course, I cannot forget that people slept on boards and so on but it wasn't like a refugee camp or a war zone--it was a stable place with interesting people you could learn from and talk to. It was not the worst place I have ever been--people had a nice community with little violence and fear. The difficulty of their lives is wrong, it is unfair, it is part of an unjust and unnecessary cruelty in this world but they did their best anyway--foraging daily and trying to get a little something more from visitors like me.

As there is mostly a barter system (no stores so no money to spend) you are encouraged as a tourist to bring things to trade.

I brought a lot of gift sample lipsticks. Estee Lauder 'raging mauve' is now worn by the lovely women of the Amazon.You pretty much give away all the stuff in your luggage in the end and get back some piranha tooth necklaces and parrot feathers and things made from gourds and beans. Spears were cool. Piranha soup. Not too horrible tasting grubs, etc. (Oh, by the way piranhas don't eat people. You can swim in a river with thousands of piranhas. However, it's best not to do so when you have open wounds.)

Am I bumming you out? Sorry. I have this habit of trying to make a simple point but then digressing.

What does this have to do with Mark's bad day? Well...besides the fact that life was at its most basic for most of the people I met

Anyway, besides seeing people who lived with so little--besides seeing the most amazing life forms I've ever seen and the darkest and most star filled nights--the thing I can never forget is that there was no junk mail. No phones. No electricity. No plumbing. No mail at all. No flyers. No television. No radio. No commercials.

No one paid taxes (obviously you cannot pay taxes on a fish you caught for soup that day). No one could ask anything of you really. No one could want anything from you. You didn't have anything.

Being greedy, I was wishing I could have a comfortable life and still be isolated in the same way.

Simply my name, my car, my very presence on this earth has created piles and piles of MAIL. I have left a record, a paper trail...stuff--so much stuff. There's no starting over and there's no way to get away from it. But sometimes wouldn't it be nice not to have an address? To be somewhere THEY could never find you and try and 'suggest' in their friendly way what you should do--buy their insurance, vote for them, shop at K-mart, save money by buying things that cost money, etc.

I understand Mark's dilemma. I got a message on my car today. It said: "I spent two hours shoveling this space. And you took up too spaces. (Well, I think that's what it said--it wasn't very legible.) That was not very POLITE."

I honestly did not realize--I SWEAR--that a folding chair stuck in a bunch of snow could actually mean that the person was coming back and not to park here. Why didn't they make a sign? (I'm glad I didn't steal the folding chair at least--I'm apt to take things off the street.) What do I know? I'm from a place it doesn't snow.

I had bad karma after this and everything went downhill today--rapidly. But at least the message left on my car was personal--addressed to me. No nice stationary--just a paper bag. I'm sure they imagined me as evil and terrible--the dastardly selfish parker--but my car would not go backwards or forwards so I left it where it was. I was his (I imagine it was a him) imaginary enemy.

But it isn't as bad as a bagel store flyer.

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Story in one paragraph?

I need my mind to take some things off...No, I need to take my mind off some things. As usual, my own foolishness. I read short stories--as usual. My heroin. But it didn't work this time.

I'm building up a tolerance. No, I built it up long ago. I can mainline 12 short stories in a row. Or even more. If only someone would take them off the market. They are everywhere. They may ruin my life.

Like any addicted person, I prowl and search for what I want. I become elated when I think I've found it. I stay up all night feeding my habit. My health suffers, my work suffers, I withdraw from society. I even consider not having children--they may interfere with my reading.

How did I get hooked, you might wonder? The to write my honors thesis. There they were: The Best American Short Story Collections. Why did I ever sit in that section? It seemed like the perfect solution. I'd sworn off novels (my addiction to them is also powerful.) How long could it take? A short story. It seemed like nothing, so easy, so quick. I'd be done before you know it. I could take a 'break' and go back to writing.

I did finally turn in that honors thesis. A year after it was due. And it's been downhill ever since. It may sound like I'm exagerrating. I'm not.

I wasn't even an English major. I started out as one and switched to Government. The problem with being an English major was that it destroyed the fun. Sort of the way doctors can't smoke usually. They vividly imagine what is happening in their lungs and it destroys the pleasure.

Oh, stories are so very, very good.

I think...maybe if I write a story this will work and give me a bit of a high? I wonder if it is possible to write a complete story in one paragraph? Writing stories doesn't give me the same high as reading stories. It is more like methadone. I don't care if my stories are good--not really. I only care for their mind-scraping effects. It is like literature for me generally--I hardly remember what I read and I never read for any edifyin' purpose. I read only to escape. The reason that Anthony Trollope works better than Michael Crichton (sp?). I can't say for sure. Merely that if I find out the premise of a strong genre based novel I will read the first 10 pages, 10 pages from the middle and the last 10 pages. I am impatient and hate suspense. The 30 page method doesn't work for Trollope or Dostoevsky and that is really the only reason I read them--they work better for my escapist purposes since they last longer.

I think the idea that reading is enlightening or that great books are more than great stories is probably false. For me, anyway. What I care about is a good story and the writers I most admire tell stories and tangle them with some sorts of complexities that make you forget they are only stories. Some mysterious complexities for me--the person who switched majors (not that it mattered since Derrida or Lacan really didn't bear any close relation to literature that I could see). The power a book has on me is unanalyzable and I don't bother to analyze it. For my addict purposes contemporary novels usually suck...horribly. I am afraid to read those which are the most celebrated since they fill me with outrage that lasts for many days. That book Cold Mountain is the last of those 'books of the year' that I dared to read. I hate Jane Smiley, I hate all the Janes. I can't stand any book that has been sponsored by Oprah's book club. Maybe things like The Correctionsare good? I'll never know since I can't bring myself to read books like that anymore. And I hate Thomas Pynchon. A lot.

The addict fears bad dope almost as much as withdrawal. So now I'm off to forget. It doesn't last since you have to come down sometime but if you are lucky and hit the jackpot in what you read the haze will stay with you for at least a day and sometimes several. When it clears, of course, you have to start all over again.

Monday, February 17, 2003

I'm a survivor!

Maybe that TV show has taken the verve out of this word.
Today I was reading this book about people who survive 100 days in the open ocean in rubber rafts and the like. Survivors.

I thought to myself: I'm a survivor!
Miel, the survivor....

There was that time that...and then that time that...and that time that...

Suddenly I realized that virtually everything I survived was caused by my own neuroses. Well, the things I'm the most proud of 'surviving' amount to struggles against my own neuroses. The other things I hardly count. I suppose they are in fact the things that caused the neuroses in the first place, actually.

So I survived far. Still, I think that is pretty good. Isn't it really yourself who is most likely to do you in in the long run? And I'm going to keep at it--struggle and struggle against myself. Somehow I do believe I shall win.

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Scratch that last thought...

What I was talking about: You know how someone can get a measly amount of power and become utterly tyrranical in that sphere?

Suddenly I was worried about what grade school teachers and social workers would think about what I said and realized how dumb it was. I'm sure we're all aware of people--even in these good professions--who, when they have others in their sway--forget about the basic equality of all human beings and resort to controlling others.

I was wrong, though--since this only happens to some people (most teachers, social workers, some politicians--very few--I'm not too sure about CEOs) remain decent even when they have the greatest effect on the lives of others.

So it must be something about the ones who turn creepy in the first place. Perhaps there are some positions which would corrupt anyone? Still, those who are corrupt were most likely prone to corruption to begin with.

I was making fun of myself. I cannot justify my underachieving ambivalence by pointing to the high moral ground. Still, it was worth a shot.
Top or Bottom?

Power is bad for people...

We've all seen it--it can be bad for everyone from grade school teachers to social workers to corporate executives to politicians.

Maybe they were all already bad. But I choose to think that although they might have sucked up more than others in Jr. High they were once ordinary people like you and me...Well, mostly.

I see it in my own workplace--there are people who love the hierarchy (even when they aren't on the top-as long as they are above someone else)--those people will fight to the death to preserve the hierarchy and whenever an issue gets raised about someone else's being screwed the hierarchy-lovers main concern is to cling to the teeny tiny sliver of power they still possess.

Sometimes I wonder if this is not another reason (besides my tremendous ambivalence about virtually everything I choose to do and inability to fit in or take orders) for my tendency to underachieve and sabotage my own success. It seemed as if there was always a path before me to higher things and I noticed all the people on that path were sorta...yucky.

So I took the low road. And didn't make it to Scotland.

In any case, the most obvious thing just dawned on me: You can be on the top and have a 1 in 100 chance of not being a creep or you can be on the bottom and the odds of not being a creep are better.

And now I'm saying: Duh! Miel! If you are on the bottom the creeps are over you and you get squashed by the creeps.

Miel slaps forehead. Eep! No wonder my life is going to suck! Jeez...What a fool I've been.

Well, it's too late now. It was probably obvious to everyone else. Rumsfeld...all those people who run GE and Coca Cola and Chevron and General Motors. They are actually smarter than me. I think I assumed that because their arguments in support of capitalism, etc. were false they must just be dumb or something.

The consolation prize I suppose will be the opportunity for smugness about my moral purity. But now I'm thinking: I'd take power any day...over being squished? Isn't being a creep better than being ruled over by the other creeps and (possibly) being obliterated by them? Shucks. Why didn't I think of this before?!? All those good test scores down the drain. They never test for common sense.

"We only get one more day together"

"That's OK...that's 24 hours together. 24 hours of unbridled passion."
"You mean we can't use the bridle?"
this sounds more creepy than it is...

I was a peculiarly pious, compassionate child. One might suspect I was annoying but not because I was holier than thou, etc. I shoplifted like a fiend. Once my family went out of town and I remember writing to my best friend (we'd formed a 'girl gang') "Hey, let's go shoplifting when I get back!"

Still, I would always befriend any outcast. I cried myself to sleep when the Faulkland Islands War started. How dumb, I know. Still, what did I know? I was a kid and it was a war.

I'm saying this only to defend myself because I just remembered a peculiar sort of fantasy. I had a few favorite books. Among these were Robinson Crusoe, My Side of the Mountain and some book about a plague wiping out most of the human race. This sounds sick I realize but I honestly looked forward to the possibility of inhabiting the planet all by myself. When I wasn't dreaming about desert islands and wilderness survival I was dreaming of my own city....


Even worse, I would think about what buildings I would get to inhabit alone. Ay, mi. I dreamed of turning the altar of my church (which slightly resembled a canopy bed...something that I suppose I wanted) into a very large bed. Uh, once everyone else was gone, that is.

(What reminded me of this? The site abandoned places discovered on sleevenotes
Don't forget that all that is solid melts into air. Well, depending