Saturday, May 31, 2008


Commencement. I live close enough to a university to almost hear the speeches. A recent enough grad to remember the farce that passed for commencement when I graduated. Some of us get to graduate to better speeches -

Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer, and better still, seems to be a person whose ethics come from common sense and good practice.

Here's to commencements that deal with things that matter. This is my best recommendation for the weekend:

Friday, May 30, 2008

Little Favours

Little favours -

A visiting World War II veteran - I thank him on behalf of a small country often overrun

A visiting painter no longer able to paint - I tell him about Goya painting as he went blind, about the heartbreakingly compelling paintings of his later years

Making a friend where I never expected one, and in a way that I didn't expect

After months and months of not writing, sitting down and writing uninhibitedly, joyfully, and pointlessly

Facing a fear and finding nothing there to fear but myself - which still quite a bit to fear

- things that come to you unexpectedly, and which briefly render life meaningful and intelligible

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


What I wanted to do yesterday was write about the weekend, or some such thing, but by the end of the day I was so tired that nothing came out but...moose. Well. The weekend was lovely. Really, it was very nice. All friends and food and lying around the house watching The Wire. It was good.

The quote of the day is Oscar's: "Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much"

Things I learned at my Corporate Employer, perpetuated at the Current Employer: if someone annoys you or is trying to get you angry, be extra friendly to them. Pretend that you have no idea that they are being nasty. Be unduly helpful. Smile. Don't be afraid to go over the top. Calmly and slowly re-state whatever message you are trying to get accross. Nothing annoys people quite as much as feeling wronged by your sheer overpowering friendliness. It gives them no recourse but to look like a an unpleasant and anti-social fool, which is after all exactly what they are if indulging in such behaviour.

I have found good use for the American Myth of Friendliness. There is much more social pressure here in the US than in Europe to be Friendly and Cheerful at work. Sometimes this annoys me; but most of the time it reminds me of a couple of things that are extremely useful:
a) acting (not to be confused with pretending to be) cheerful and friendly quite often helps me feel cheerful and friendly
b) having a social behaviour that is more or less dictated helps maintain a healthy separation between work and private life
c) there are always a few people that you can be honest with when the gap between the social behaviour and your actual feelings gets too big; but this way you can keep it to people you trust
d) when feeling extremely unfriendly, one can always adopt the above passive-aggressive cheer

Tuesday, May 27, 2008



Thursday, May 22, 2008


I had planned to do useful things this evening. Do laundry. Learn Java.

Instead I have eaten more than is reasonable, had wine, and watched the Daily Show. Yeah, it sounds good to me too.

Some days I'm impressed that I am adult enough to have dry cleaning. And then there is The Colbert Report. And now George Takei is getting married! You go, George. Here's some lovely, non-George-Takei-related parody. Colbert being very funny to George W.'s face. Mostly for the Europeans, though some of the Americans may enjoy the reminder.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I haven't been very Meaningful lately, probably a good thing too, but I guess on should do more than post youtube videos once in a while...

Recent events then? Last weekend we went to Shenandoah, always a good thing to do. It was not quite the trip I had in mind though, and I'll be nice about and keep my comments to saying that it made me value how easy and pleasant it is to travel alone with the Spouse. Still, it was beautiful, and on Sunday we got to see some of West Virginia, a place of greatly underrated natural beauty. George Washington National Forest is amazingly beautiful, even in the rain. The Spouse and I both like rain, but it did put a stop to any hiking. And then home, to dinner with friends and a reminder that mostly friends are good.

We're trying to get to planning a trip north this autumn for a wedding, even though we have no money. Potentially the trip would be both really fun and quite expensive. We'll see! I'd like to go.

Doctor Who - so we've been watching the Christopher Eccleston series of Dr. Who. For the first time ever, I cried at not one, but two episodes of a sci-fi series. Ye gods, if you like sci-fi and haven't seen this, you really should. Particularly Father's Day, The Empty Child, and The Doctor Dances. Yes, we watched the lot in one sitting because it was impossible not to. And then, when you have watched them, go to the BBC episode site and click on the Fear Factor link with the minute-by-minute responses by the kids.

Memorial Day weekend is coming up and those of you who remember my last year's Jolly Awful Memorial Day Marathon may be pleased to learn that this time things look better; the Spouse will be around for most of it and some of his friends will be around for some of it. My friends...well, who knows what they're up to.

Friday, May 16, 2008

My life baffles me

I'm listening to Billy Bragg's Sexuality. I can't be bothered about thinking, and the song is a happy one. Sometimes I think I'll forget that there is a world outside all this puritanism and political obsession. I need a break. West coast? Vancouver?

I'm going to watch my husband play Final Fantasy something or other. Anybody have problem with that? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Doctor

I wish that doctors would be a little more knowledgeable. You know, like the Doctor.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Friday's post

It's Friday which means that, yes, it's time for a singalong! Bring out The sound of music. No, seriously, here's your participation request for the day: I am bored with blogs I know. Fake Steve is letting me down. Stellegasie is too busy with Romania to post. I need something new. Fun blog recommendations? Please? And since here at QB we're for equal exchanges, I will highlight two blogs on my list which I especially enjoy.

Stone Parliament of Art
: I've been reading this blog for a good long while, and was very sad to see Ms. Stone hand it over. That said, Francesca has taken over in style, keeping to the spirit of the blog with lovely images, good ideas and cake. Carrot cake. Try it out, and say hello to the new girl.

Sassafras Junction: Mrs. McNasty (that's Ma'am to you) is one of the funniest, most unabashed people I know. No, make that the most unabashed. She tells the best stories; and if she every gets bored with teaching, she could just be herself at weddings and bar mitzvahs and still earn a living.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Unduly uplifting Appleness, or damn, Steve, this is catchy*

Some corporate happy happy joy joyness, to balance out the previous post. Also, the video kicks ass. I want that to happen.

*For those entirely indifferent to all technology, no matter how pretty, I will clarify that this song was the music for the Mac Air notebook
For the geeks reading this, why are you reading this? You've probably even seen the Lenovo spoof

How not to

Today is a day for being curmudgeonly. It started yesterday, or at least the preparation for it did: we went to see These Shining Lives at Centerstage. Theatre. Lovely.

Well, not so much. I have not hated anything, never mind a play, this much in a very long time. One could say that it is badly written, that the characters are cardboard cutouts to smother any actor. One could say that the dialogue is utterly uninspiring and the timing off; yet it could be all these things without my hating it quite so much. I'm a friendly person, folks, and while I have reasonably high standards for theatre, I value an interesting failure or a valiant attempt. This was neither.

They play follows women working with radium in a watch factory in the twenties. Everybody gets sick, a courtcase happens, everybody dies. Really, in principle there is nothing wrong with the premise of the play. The fact that it renders these women (and every other character) as types is not just bad writing though - it is moral misdemeanour. It is like writing a sanitised version of the Holocaust. A schoolbook version, in which no attention is paid to the humanity of anyone involved. Putting it next to Hearts from earlier this season is like putting that schoolbook next to Art Spiegelman's Maus; like putting a newspaper article next to the personal, honest, flawed stories presented in Hearts and Maus.

It made me cry. I always resent things that play on my emotions gratuitously. I resent the lack of humility in presenting a story like this based in reality; and I hate, with all my heart, the attempt to somehow make it uplifting in a storybook way.

I cried, not because of the miserable play. I cried because this year has seen so much illness and death already, because of all the things we've lost, because of all I stand to lose. I cried out of anger with lazy doctors and complacent bystanders. I cried with anxiety. Yes, if it hadn't felt so personal I might not have hated it so much, this wretched play. But isn't that exactly what could have made it a great play?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Two years on (almost)

I am finally watching that piece of classic Bawlmeriana, The Wire. It has a lot of profanity. And breasts. It is also an impressive piece of scriptwriting. Kickass dialogue. Great sense of humour in all of that depressing yet interesting drama.

Friday, May 02, 2008


I spend a lot of time feeling stupid. I know, it's a bit like complaining that I'm poor; I'm hardly Donald Trump (thankfully), but then neither am I destitute. Instead, I am comfortable; in a financial sense, that is. In an intellectual sense, I am decidedly uncomfortable with that same half-empty container. Here's the difference: I never thought I would be rich, don't aspire to being rich, and I don't think wealth is a virtue. Intelligence, however, has been a part of my set of expectations ever since I was a little monster* and realised that my brain was my best feature. I was a bright sort of kid, a small adult perpetually ill-at-ease with my peers. One learns to believe people when they tell you that you're smart; and in my case, I very quickly learnt that I could get by with little work.

Having grown into an adult at last, I am perpetually disappointed in myself. Not in my life, which is an agreeable sort of life, but in my own failure to make more of it. Faced with the opportunity to get qualified in a field more useful than my own lovely meadow, I quail, terrified of failure, terrified of doing something at which I am not already good. I would at this point contemplate what I want to do with my life and why I am so scared of this; but it would do no good. I've made no good decisions by thinking** - my heart is smarter than my head. It makes it hard to decide when I don't already know what I want. I should have known how it was going to be long ago when I read that most surprising of enlightening books, E.M. Forster's Maurice*** - I always identified with Maurice, stolid, slow, warm-hearted Maurice with his muddle, rather than Clive, who is so unfortunately good at reasoning himself into things. I'm with Maurice: I will know the right thing when I feel it, see it, touch it. Until then, it is all a muddle.

*When I say that I was a little monster, I mean that kindly - as a child (and to some extent as an adult) I stood out for having a harmless but very noticable deformity. It never bothered me much, but I always knew I wasn't going to be a beauty queen.
**Decisions made with heart: studying abroad, getting married; decisions made with brain: moving to Hungary, for a year and a half of unpleasantness, albeit educational
***Some books we love as art - Joyce, and Chekhov, and Samuel Beckett, and T.S. Eliot and Barbara Kingsolver; but some books are friends - Maurice, and Lord of the Rings and Tennessee Williams. You've known them a long time, and they have their failings, but they bring out the best in you and you can't imagine your life without them, even when you don't talk to them very often.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

at the end of a long day

Billy Bragg and Woody Guthrie. What more you want than Billy Bragg singing Guthrie's anti-fascist anthem? It's great for blasting out in the car on the way to work. Yes, the irony of that does not escape me. So maybe I should put up Guthrie's Roll on, Columbia, but I couldn't find a version I liked...