Friday, September 23, 2011

No where to run to.

It appears that the theme for today is refuge.

As in, taking refuge.

Folks have slowly dropped off my Skype feeds.

A few people have waved the white flag my way to say they're heading home to start the weekend early.

A few people are using the "working from home line", not realizing that it's a euphemism that works better for some than others (1).

And I, of course, am puttering around in my blog, because I'm trying very hard to get back into the mindset of the work I need to do today.

Yesterday ended poorly with BIG, and my response has been the kind of mental frustration that saps your attention and leads you to rail angrily about the fact that someone wants you to feel nervous for what might happen to their $600K annual take.

Which you can feel is more or less fair. That's the beauty of things.

But digging out of these mental ditches is nothing short of a drag. My best laid plans are sitting there, staring at me from my to do list. My body quite literally feels physically exhausted. My brain is bouncing from one thing to another. My motivation has been shot to nothing. The rest of the day is stretching out in front of me like a deserted stretch of highway.

I'm writing phrases like "deserted stretch of highway".

And I'm starting to wonder where it is that I can go to hide out from the world. 

When everyone else is heading for the hills, where do you go if you're already there?

1. If I've been waiting for something from you since yesterday, when it was to be turned over to me by the mysterious COB, and I still don't have it...what you call "working from home" I read as "staying home to watch the last episode of All My Children."

Must be funny.

The other day I listened as a Republican politician explained, with a kind of indignant condescension, to an interviewer just how wrong she was.

Using his own publicly disclosed finances as an illustration of who exactly would be impacted by the proposed changes in the tax laws, the politician explained that, of the roughly $600,000 he made on an annual basis, some $200,000 was spent feeding his family and keeping a roof over their heads.

That meant that he had just $400,000 left to re-invest in his business.

Oh, the humanity.

A mere $200,000 to shoe and feed his children.

But even leaving that ridiculous statement aside, placing the idea that we are to feel some sort of empathy for the fact that this individual is ONLY clearing $600,000 annually into a cookie jar for a rainy day, there is the offensive idea that the proposed tax changes would potentially cause him to have to lay people off.

Because that's what the issue at hand really is.

It's not about not having enough money to keep food on the table, it's about asking others to make sacrifices you are not willing to make. It's about having no idea what it is to live from paycheck to paycheck to such a degree that you expect others to understand the stress of having to live within a $200,000/annual household budget.

Because I don't.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A tale of two authors.

Today I heard the authors of two books - each earning the kind of early critical praise that makes you think this literature thing might just catch on - interviewed on NPR.

Two different shows. Two different hosts. Two very different authors.

The interesting thing?

I had actually read about both books before hearing the interviews. One instantly caught my attention, the other I thought of as having a clever, but not particularly arresting, idea behind it.

And now? After hearing the author interviews?

I've completely flipped my opinion.

The author of the book I thought would be completely fantastic seemed uninteresting and a bit vacant. The author of the book I thought would dissolve under the weight of its own conceit was charming and funny and just the right kind of dry.

I feel that I might have found a way to judge books by their covers in a whole new way.

No. I'm not saying it's right.

I'm just saying it is.

Overnight sensation.

So, I know that I've already mentioned DC Comics' New 52, the reboot of their comic book universe that's intended to attract new readers and save the superhero-making industry from a slow demise.

But here's the thing.

I can't get my hands on most of them.

Sure, this isn't particularly surprising. My rural city was hardly high on the list of places the myth makers down in Gotham were targeting. I never imagined we'd be getting all of the new titles. As much as I would love to read Frankenstein, Agent of Shade, I didn't figure he'd be tromping his size 17s up this far north.

But, no Wonder Woman. No Batman. No Batgirl.

I've snagged a copy of Action Comics #1, with its brand new boho Superman. I have a copy of Justice League. I have my fingers crossed that, next week, I'll manage to land an Aquaman.

I could, of course, get copies of pretty much anything that I wanted online.

No. Not from a friendly virtual neighborhood comic shop.

From eBay...where folks who snatched up first editions of DC's New 52 promptly turned around to resell them.

Ignore the fact that many of the books are getting panned.

Red Hood and Catwoman for mixing up the terms "reboot" and "booty" and serving up heaping helpings of misogyny. Green Lantern and Wonder Woman for horrifyingly graphic depictions of violence in books that have been rated "T" for teen readers. Action Comics for being intensely boring (1).

But forget about content or quality. Forget about those folks who are earnestly interested in following this pretty significant moment in the arc of comic books.

Buy 'em up and sell 'em off. Folks will surely pay any price. You are absolutely, positively going to score a profit.

What could possibly go wrong?

1. Yeah. That was mine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The good folks at MacArthur have announced the newest list of geniuses.

I am not on the list.

I'll give you a minute to come to terms with that.

It's okay. It's taken me a bit as well. We'll get through it together.

But here's who is on the list.

No, not Kay Ryan, though she's on the list and we're all very happy for her.

Francisco Núñez, many congratulations, (1) but we're not talking about you today.

Peter Hessler? A. E. Stallings? Ubaldo Vitali? Great names. Very geniusey.

But no.

No, the person who made me send up an actual cheer would be Mr. Jad Abumrad, who I have actually referred to as a genius in the past and am now heartened to hear that I'm not alone.

If you're not familiar, Abumrad is the co-host and producer of WNYC's Radiolab, a show that makes me very, very happy. The show knits together great journalism, incredibly textured sound and fascinating new ideas.

In a story in The New York Times about the MacArthur announcement, Abumrad refers to the show as "the central creative mission of my life".

Which, seriously, makes this announcement all the more fantastic.

And now I have to go figure out how to return $500,000 worth of comic books and Sharpie markers.

What can I say...I counted those chickens before they were hatched.

1. And thank you also for finally motivating me enough to learn how to finally use the accent keys on the

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In which I re-use a book cover and get all philosophical.

So, about all the posts this morning.

This is my last morning in San Francisco and it is, mostly, a day of hanging out and waiting for my late night flight back to my rural city. It means that I am operating completely without schedule and, thanks to a bit of persistence, enjoying the incredibly fast and highly-functional wifi connection of an incredibly empty Starbucks.

What can I say. Sometimes The Mermaid really earns her keep.

But here's why sitting in a Starbucks clacking away on a earns a post. Or, more precisely, here's why sitting in a Starbucks clacking away, posting to my blog, on a earns a post that is not filled with post-ironic scorn and/or sarcasm.

This Starbucks is largely empty.

The Starbucks less than a block from here, the one directly attached to a hotel and the size of a New York City apartment kitchen, was packed like a circus act. People were ill-tempered and short, oblivious to the short-order cook frenzy of the counter staff who, to their great credit, assaulted no one why I was in the store, and most, it seemed, who had never actually ordered anything in a Starbucks. My favorite being the woman who, in this extraordinarily busy place, with a line of some 20 people behind her, decided allowing her seven-year old to place the family's order would be a good idea.

We'll leave aside that the kid was ordering lattes for herself, her siblings (1) and an unknown number of people with a fondness for making the lives of Starbucks employees miserable.

And we'll leave aside the fact that the kid couldn't remember the order and kept running back and forth between the increasingly frustrated guy at the counter to her mother who was, inexplicably, standing in the middle of everything while one daughter was apparently texting a novel-sized message to a friend, one of the boys began eating a sandwich snagged from the case and the youngest was turning his pockets inside out, shaking them, declaring how much sand was in there.

And, finally, we'll leave aside the fact that, when the counter person, watching as the line now snaked to the door and the list of highly-specialized drinks (2), asked the mother in the most polite fashion possible, if she could please give him the list of drinks so he could be sure he had them right, she bellowed back at him to come to where she was at the pastry display so she could point to the exact items they wanted.

And so, knowing that I wanted my morning to include both a chai and a chair and some Internet, I walked past that scene of familial terrorism, and discovered this place, with its big glass windows, empty (3) counter and disarmingly friendly employees (4).

All it took was going a block, a block that meant moving away from, not towards, the frenzy of Union Square. It was doing the opposite of what would be expected, and it paid off.

1. There were four of them, the oldest being perhaps 12.
2. They were like snowflakes. No two were the same.
3. Though now beginning to fill. All good things must come to an end.
4. It also includes a view of a large black and blue banner for the Folsom Street Fair. If you don't know what this is, I strongly suggest that you do not Google it in the presence of your children or most of your elderly relatives. It falls in the NSFW category...which is why I giggled a bit when the perfectly coiffed women of a certain age who came through here wondered to each other what went on at the street fair. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest they were not from here.

With a grain of salt.

So, yesterday, we had the event that was the reason that I came to San Francisco (1).

One of the people there used an example in her talk that caused The Freelancer, who was in town for other reasons, to turn in his chair and pull a face.

I did not return said face.

One, because as the person who had brought together this particular crew of people, that would have been really, really rude.

And two, because I found what she had to say really, really interesting.

This individual, we'll call her The Ecoliterati, calculated the miles used to make two separate salads. One she made herself, the other purchased.

The salad that was purchased? The ingredients used - sea salt, pepper, oil and lettuce - traveled more than 35,000 from farm to table. The other, the one that she made, used sea salt that she made by letting sea water evaporate, local dried red peppers that she crushed and oil and lettuce that were also gathered locally. She brought the mileage down to something like 36 miles. The salt and pepper alone were just about a mile.

I eat horribly. I know that. As I've said in the past, while Leopold has done very little to change the way I dress, my eating is far better when I'm cooking for the both of us than when left to my own devices. But this simple example - which was actually designed for school children - has stuck with me and really made me think.

After our first summer in our rural city we're already re-thinking how we'll do next year's farm share. The other night I made a pretty amazing salad with fried green tomatoes made from tomatoes Leopold grew in our yard and lettuce from a farm nearby (3). But little reveals like The Ecoliterati's salt and pepper thing, really does inspire a person to do a bit more.

Maybe not The Freelancer...

1. Yes, that's true. If this were a Nancy Drew mystery about the mysterious identity of Artboy (2) that first line would be written down in a notepad of some sort and might well lead the gang to jump into their speedy roadster. 
2. No. I know. It's really not all that mysterious...but soon we'll, maybe, be having some fun with that.
3. Pretty sure the eggs and flour I used killed any illusions of it being low mileage...

We are experiencing technical difficulties.

The wireless connection in my hotel is free and, might I say, worth every penny.

Facebook will open but posting is generally impossible.

I have no access to my work files.

Yesterday, as the day progressed, I lost the ability to access my personal e-mail.

Pulling down directions from Mapquest has not worked.

Posting to this blog was not happening at all.

Except now. At 6am.

Though it won't let me insert any artwork.

Or, actually post.

Which means it's not working.

Remember when I was saying how I didn't really like traveling?