Saturday, December 22, 2012

[This is just to give you an idea of what happens when I try to start writing a novel. It took me two and a half hours to write the following.]

Jonah washed his hands and felt alive. He stood at the tiny sink in his bathroom and washed his hands and watched his hands washing each other. Scrubbing, tumbling over each other, vigorously intertwining, his hands at that moment were more self-aware than any other part of him, including his brain. Such beautiful hands. What a relief it was to transfer consciousness to his hands for a few seconds and give his mind a rest. His mind was perpetually mired in the past or in the future, but his hands only cared about the present. Still, Jonah couldn’t keep time at bay for long. A song began unbidden in his mind:

You’re older than you’ve ever been
And now you’re even older
And now you’re even older
And now you’re even older
You’re older than you’ve ever been
And now you’re even older
And now you’re older still

He turned off the water and looked in the mirror. His hands didn’t mind being older, but they could afford not to, because they weren’t even aware of being older. That makes no sense, thought Jonah. He shook himself free from his trance and dried his hands (returned to their subordinate, unconscious state) on his roommate’s bath towel hanging from a hook by the door.
I’m 31, thought Jonah. I’m in my 32nd year.
He returned to his room and sat down in front of his computer. The browser was open to his Netflix Instant queue. He’d been trying to decide what movie to watch for the past hour and a half.

Friday, December 14, 2012

I tried to start writing a novel today. I wrote half a page. It was about a guy sitting in his room trying to write. I was sitting in Cake Shop. There was hardly anyone else there. I sat in the back, by the window. First I read from Elizabeth Costello by J. M. Coetzee. Then I took out my notebook and tried to write. What I wrote is stupid, of course. A few weeks ago I started a novel. I wrote about a page and a half. It was about a young woman moving into an apartment with another woman with whom she shared a mutual friend. That was stupid. It seemed okay when I was writing it, but then I reread it the next day and immediately saw how terrible it was.

I'm reading a lot these days. The more I read, the more I want to write. Anything I might want to write about is too personal. I'm still out of work. I apply for jobs all the time. I never get a single interview. I hate things I write online. I'm sitting in my room, listening to the Morphine station on Pandora. I want to write. I hate things I say.

The last two nights I watched movies called What Happened Was... and The Wife, both directed by Tom Noonan. Months ago I was watching the show Damages, and there was a character who was a somewhat eccentric police detective. Recently I was looking for Wallace Shawn movies on Netflix, and I came across The Wife. I started watching it and saw that one of the actors was the detective from Damages. That was Tom Noonan. But I started the movie too late at night and I fell asleep. That was three weeks ago. At some point I also added What Happened Was... to my queue. I watched it last night, and then I watched The Wife tonight. These were both plays originally. Both movies are great. Actually, my first, failed attempt to watch The Wife was an interesting experience in itself. Like many movies based on plays, it has a very moody and intense atmosphere. The incoherence caused by my drifting in and out of sleep while watching it was pleasurably dreamlike.

Just as I was getting up to go to the bathroom before leaving Cake Shop, the only other customer got up and went to the bathroom first. I had to wait at least five minutes. How absurd is this, I thought. Completely empty cafe and I'm waiting in line for the bathroom.

The only reason I left Cake Shop when I did was that they turn off the lights around 5 p.m., and at that point there's no daylight this time of year, so there's no light to read or write by. I had just finished my half page of failed novel when they turned off the lights. It was just as well.

I hate how early it gets dark this time of year. It's dark and cold by 5 p.m. and there's nothing to do outside. Nothing to do but sit inside and drink coffee and read. But I'm not going to go get coffee if I've just had a cup of coffee. Especially when it's $2 a cup. So I tried to think of what to do after I left Cake Shop. I decided to hang out at Housing Works Bookstore. I sat in there and continued reading Elizabeth Costello. If I hadn't just had coffee at Cake Shop, I would have gotten one at Housing Works. Their coffee is better than Cake Shop's. At home I have two varieties of Nescafé instant coffee: Classic and Taster's Choice Decaf House Blend. It may be my imagination, but I think the Decaf House Blend smells and tastes better than the Classic. As soon as my Classic runs out I'm going to look for regular House Blend, if such a thing exists.

At one point in The Wife, a character puts on a CD and plays a really cool song I'd never heard before. I recognized Michael Stipe's voice though, and I made a mental note to look it up later. The song is "Low". This movie was made in 1994, but this was the first time I'd ever heard that song.

I hope you watch these movies. They're both streaming on Netflix. The climactic speech by Noonan's character near the end of What Happened Was... hit close to home for me.

I'm taller than Michael Stipe.

The other day my roommate gave me a big bag of NYC condoms. She's a medical assistant, and I guess they had a surplus at her office. I counted them: 172. They expire in April 2017, which means I'd have to use three or four every month until then in order not to waste any. Which means that in about four years you can expect a blog post about my big bag of expired condoms. (I already made this joke on Facebook and Twitter.) Maybe I'll give some away.

My roommate has her friend over tonight. They stay up all night drinking and talking. I've got my box fan turned on just to drown out their noise.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The 50 best words that exist

Inspired by Elisa's post, here are the 50 best words that exist, according to me. It took me an hour to come up with this, and there are probably 200 words I forgot. But these here are the words my brain decided to recall first, so they win. (It was hard to resist the temptation to include place-names. If I did include place-names, the list would be about 80% place-names.) Slang is included. Parental discretion is advised.
  1. Sockdolager
  2. Formidable
  3. Anhedonia
  4. Cock-a-leekie
  5. Mulligatawny
  6. Cantilever
  7. Insufferable
  8. Suffrage
  9. Saffron
  10. Boobs
  11. Micturate
  12. Caldera
  13. Lahar
  14. Gangrene
  15. Daft
  16. Traduce
  17. Fuck
  18. Cocksucker
  19. Futile
  20. Querulous
  21. Squirrel
  22. Voluble
  23. Cunt
  24. Cum
  25. Yeoman
  26. Comptroller
  27. Cock
  28. Deciduous
  29. Templar
  30. Platypus
  31. Onanism
  32. Irrupt
  33. Abreaction
  34. Catharsis
  35. Toyotathon
  36. Inexorable
  37. Indefatigable
  38. Pone
  39. Cunnilingus
  40. Autofellatio
  41. Carotid
  42. Thrum
  43. Antediluvian
  44. Dowager
  45. Yokel
  46. Sackbut
  47. Bonerific
  48. Amazeballs
  49. Oblivion
  50. Nards

Friday, November 2, 2012

Number of books read in my life, by decade

Pre-20th century: 4
1900's: 1
1910's: 1
1920's: 4
1930's: 2
1940's: 2
1950's: 6
1960's: 21
1970's: 16
1980's: 8
1990's: 31
2000-present: ~150

I can't believe how low some of these numbers are, especially the 80's. But I think my records are pretty accurate. It's embarrassing that I've read more books published in the 21st century than the 20th (only 92). Now that I think about it, there were some children's, young adult's, and Star Trek books that I haven't accounted for, because my memory doesn't go back that far. So this is mostly a list of "adult" books.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

On Saturday I read from Just Kids by Patti Smith as I walked from my apartment down to Myrtle Avenue all the way into Brooklyn. I was reading about Patti and Robert's life in their first apartment, the second floor of 160 Hall St., just off Myrtle. I found it and took a picture. In 1967 when they moved in, "the walls were smeared with blood and psychotic scribbling, the oven crammed with discarded syringes, and the refrigerator overrun with mold." The rent was $80/month. Today it's a $1 million townhouse, up for sale.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Roger Ebert

Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe

A couple weeks ago I checked out from the library two memoirs by people born in the 1940's, Roger Ebert and Patti Smith. Their lives are somewhat different. Smith's book is focused mainly on her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and reads like a novel. Ebert's book is more episodic and reads more like a biography. I'm enjoying both in their own ways.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow

Saturday I went up to the twin villages of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, made famous by the guy under the tombstone pictured below, and took some pictures. The whole set is here, if you want to take a look. Here are a few of my favorites. Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


"In the final years of his life, O'Hara published frequently in The New Yorker, but now, living in isolation in Princeton, he became so prolific that no magazine could possibly keep up with his production."

—Frank MacShane, introduction to Collected Stories of John O'Hara (1984)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Last night's movie was Septien, which is warmer and funnier than this trailer makes it out to be.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I've been watching so many TV shows on Netflix that I've been neglecting movies, so now I'm trying to catch up on everything I might have wanted to see in theaters in the last couple years but couldn't because tickets cost too much. The other day I got around to watching Michael Winterbottom's The Trip, starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Funny as hell.

Friday, August 31, 2012

I’m about to finish Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy, by Sarah Bradford. It’s my first real introduction to Italian history (book history, as opposed to pop culture history). It’s fun to learn about someone from history whose name you’ve been vaguely familiar with for years but didn’t really know anything about. I admit that I picked this book up because I’ve been watching the quasi-factual Showtime show The Borgias. At least one big scene on the show seems to have been entirely fabricated, but it’s an entertaining fiction anyway (and Jeremy Irons is the Pope, so need I say more?). But I’m glad I decided to check out the real history, which is even more interesting than the fiction, and infinitely more complicated. In the first half of the book, Lucrezia is actually a relatively minor character in her own biography, as so much of her early life was defined by her being a pawn in the political intrigues of her family. Just keeping the names and titles of everyone straight takes a lot of concentration. (That’s the thing about European history—everyone has multiple names, like Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, or Francesco Gonzaga, Marquis of Mantua.) But Italian names are fun to say, so that helps. 

The name Lucrezia (or Lucretia) Borgia is one of those “infamous” names of history, but as usual, the real person is more complicated and nowhere near as nefarious as the myth. Her father, Pope Alexander VI, and her brother Cesare, however, were indeed pretty ruthless, so if you’re into war, murder, torture, adultery, corruption, greed, and hypocrisy, there’s plenty of that too. The Borgias probably weren’t “the original crime family”, as the TV show’s tagline goes, but they certainly were as bad as any modern gangsters and would make John Gotti proud. 

Next I want to read Nancy Mitford’s biography of Madame de Pompadour, another one of those vaguely familiar names of history. Since I know as little about 18th-century France as I did about Renaissance Italy, that should be fun.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gesichtspalme Sonntag

I've had Susan Sontag's On Photography sitting in my to-read stack for months now, and the other day I finally started reading it. I'm not sure how much more I can take. I was annoyed when she said, "There is an aggression implicit in every use of the camera." I got more annoyed when she sneered, "While real people are out there killing themselves or other real people, the photographer stays behind his or her camera [...]. Photographing is essentially an act of non-intervention." She laments at "how plausible it has become, in situations where the photographer has the choice between a photograph and a life, to choose the photograph." Please. If you're so inhumanly callous that you would choose to take a picture rather than help someone in danger, you've got problems to start with, problems you would have even if you'd never used a camera. Did she actually believe that was something professional photojournalists did?

Then I got really, really annoyed when she said that "there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder—a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time." I mean, come on. As a photographer, how can I not be insulted by this? Predatory my ass. Why is seeing people as they never see themselves a "violation" anyway? What's wrong with that? As for "turning people into objects"? How 'bout no. The camera doesn't turn anything into anything. The person is still a person, and the picture is a new, separate thing. And that's all it is, a thing, a little piece of paper. It's not stealing anyone's soul, for christ's sake. There's no harm done. (No harm, that is, in merely taking a picture. Using the picture commercially without consent of the person is another matter, but that's beside the point.) And this idea of "sublimated murder"? Speak for yourself, is all I can say. This is the kind of comment that's too ridiculous to know how to refute. I mean, I take pictures of people for reasons that are pretty much the opposite of murder. Jeez louise. "Sad, frightened"? Let me tell you, when I'm taking pictures, it's probably the least sad and frightened I ever feel.

Eight of my Goodreads friends gave this book 5 stars! And most of them are people I like as human beings! What am I to make of this? Are any of them photographers? I doubt it. But, okay, I promise not to judge them until I've finished the book.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I still hate theory

I've always hated theory. I hate it because it makes me feel stupid. I hate it because everyone I know seems to "get it" and I don't. I hate feeling alienated because of it. I hate being too stupid to truly be one of the group, to be accepted. I want to be included. I hate missing out because I'm too stupid to understand things. I want to be smart enough to attract a girlfriend who is smart. I want to be respectable. I hate not being able to take part in discussions. I wish I could make you understand what this feels like. What if all your friends were tennis players, but you couldn't play tennis. That's what this feels like.

I tried reading Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes because it's about photography. I couldn't get past the first two pages. Here's a sentence from the second page: "The various distributions we impose upon it are in fact either empirical (Professionals / Amateurs), or rhetorical (Landscapes / Objects / Portraits / Nudes), or else aesthetic (Realism / Pictorialism), in any case external to the object, without relation to its essence, which can only be (if it exists at all) the New of which it has been the advent; for these classifications might very well be applied to other, older forms of representation."

Can someone please tell me what that sentence is supposed to mean? What human being actually communicates that way? I don't even know how to begin to try to understand it. How can you expect me to keep reading if I have no hope of understanding even one thing about what he's saying? Why does he say professionals and amateurs are empirical? What does that even mean? Why does he say landscapes, objects, portraits, and nudes are rhetorical? What does that mean? What the hell does "the New of which it is the advent" mean? I cannot begin to understand this sentence.

I get so angry when I read something like this. Something that doesn't seem to care about communicating with a real human being in the way real human beings communicate.

In college I took an introduction to literary theory class because I had to for my major. I hated it so, so much. I've never hated a class like I hated that class. Throughout school I was bored or indifferent with a lot of classes, and sometimes I liked a subject but didn't like the teacher, but with this, I just hated the subject so much. The teacher was cool, but that didn't help. One time I broke down in tears as I tried to explain to her why I hadn't turned in a particular assignment. I hadn't turned it in because I couldn't do it. I was incapable of doing the kind of advanced abstract thought you need to be able to do for literary theory.

I hate being inferior. I hate how it separates me from people I don't want to be separate from.

When I started college I was a music major, the best part of which is that you don't have to write papers. It's a subject that's not based in language or verbal thought. I thought I would never have to worry about writing papers. But then I switched majors to English. I didn't even like English class in high school. I never took honors English, I took regular English. It didn't occur to me to apply for honors English. Not only did I not give a shit about my academic career, I knew I was not smart enough for honors English.

I don't understand why I turned out this way. I wish I could make you understand how I feel. As the years have gone by after college I've thought about it less frequently, but when it does come up, like when I'm reading a blog or comment or essay or just a Facebook status and I don't have a clue what the person is talking about, it all comes bubbling up to the surface. It's like I'm back in college again, sobbing uncontrollably because I know how inferior I am.

I don't want to sound like I'm mad at anyone. I guess I'm just jealous that everyone is smarter than me. But that doesn't mean I'm mad. I just want to get this off my chest once and for all and explain how it feels. If I can make you all understand how I feel maybe I can relax finally and stop letting it bother me so much.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The 10 Most Important Albums of My Teenage Years

I was going to call this my ten favorite albums of my teenage years, but such a list would consist mostly of Beatles albums. So by calling it the ten "most important" I can get away with including just one token Beatles album to represent all of them. But it's not a random choice—Please Please Me was the first Beatles album I bought, and one of the first rock albums I ever bought. It was a gateway album. Until then, I hadn't thought of myself as the "kind of person" who listens to rock music. It was exciting to finally be getting into something other kids my age were into. 

The second album on my list was another kind of gateway: it enabled me to be identified as a person with "good taste" in music, which in turn led to my making friends with other people who had "good taste" in music. (Throughout high school, there were only a handful of us who fit that description.)

Beyond that, you can just think of this as a list of the albums that most affected my emotions and personality. I came up with the list very quickly, listing them as they came to mind with as little thought as possible. I hope I'm not forgetting anything.

What does this list say about me? Seriously, you tell me.

1. The Beatles — Please Please Me (1963)
2. Ben Folds Five — Whatever and Ever Amen (1997)
3. The Smashing Pumpkins — Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
4. Beck — Odelay (1996)
5. Led Zeppelin — Led Zeppelin IV (1971)
6. Squirrel Nut Zippers — Hot (1996)
7. Pink Floyd — Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
8. Ben Folds Five — The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner (1999)
9. Phish — Billy Breathes (1996)
10. No Doubt — Tragic Kingdom (1995)

P.S. I never actually owned the last album on the list. I borrowed it from my sister all the time.

Monday, August 13, 2012

I just finished What's for Dinner? by James Schuyler. It's mostly dialogue, and it's very charming. It's the kind of book where the author has a lot of affection for the characters, but in a really wry way. Similar to A Nest of Ninnies, but more serious. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Visit my new street fashion photo blog

...which I am calling The Clothed City. Hopefully I will be able to accumulate enough pictures of people in interesting clothing to post one every day. So far I've just put up some shots from my Flickr archive. Actually I should have spaced them out more instead of posting them all at once. Hmm. Well what's done is done. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I asked out a stranger on the subway

I was on the M train going home after work, alternately watching and pretending not to watch—in an intentionally visible wayan attractive twenty-something woman talking to her friend about her sex life. It was hard not to keep looking at her, which was fine with me since I had no intention of not looking at her. She was somewhat short, but not really. She had sort of curly dark hair, thick dark eyebrows—but not really all that thick—and a face that I guess I would call a Jewish face. This is probably a wrong thing to say, but I say it with true praise and warm feelings. I'm just trying to give you a ballpark picture of her appearance, so make of it what you will. She might not be Jewish at all, who knows? Also, she wore browline glasses, which never look less than fantastic on a woman, I think. As she spoke, her facial expressions were wonderfully expressive. (Strong eyebrows are always such a help in that area.) However, I should admit that her face was not exactly the first physical aspect of her that drew my attention. When she had boarded the train, I was reading a book, and so my eyes were what you might call downcast. It was from this perspective that my gaze landed instantly on her legs and her perfectly wide and shapely hips, which were encased in the most exquisitely formfitting pair of beige(?)-colored Capri(?) pants, above which was an inch or so of bare skin followed by some sort of magenta (wild guess, I don't remember) top, and eventually, yes, her face. Although I find the word annoying, I will go ahead and say that she had a general look you might characterize as "hipster", if that helps you. (Contributing to this vibe was her suggestion to her friend that they pick up some PBR at the store later.) In other words, she was a hot, nerdy, cute, hot, beautiful Brooklynite, aged 21-25 or thereabouts. Just my (stereo)type!

Meanwhile, I was listening as well as looking. I couldn't hear every word, but she mentioned that she'd been with a guy the night before, and that it (it = sex) had been good but not as good as she'd been hoping. "How so?" was the approximate question asked by her friend. "Oh, just that he was only into the same old positions..." began the approximate answer, which trailed off more or less exactly as that ellipsis indicates, according to my memory. But in general she sounded quite pleased with the experience and was in a quite cheerful mood. The two friends talked a little more about this, that, and the other, and soon it came time for them to switch to the J train. I followed them as they exited the M, went down the platform a little way, and boarded the waiting J.

By this time my heart was pounding out of my chest. Having made brief eye contact already, I knew it was likely she had noticed me following them on to the train. The sex talk also contributed to my accelerating pulse. Standing very close to her, I was about to speak, but the timing wasn't quite right, so I waited until they got off the train, luckily just one more stop.

"Excuse me," I said as we stepped onto the platform together. We continued walking.

"Yes? [or a word to that effect]," she replied pleasantly, seeming not in the least surprised.

"I wanted to ask you..."


"This isn't something I normally do, but..."

"That's okay, ask away." (I don't really think she phrased it that way; I don't remember any rhyming. But it's as close as my memory will permit.)

"Well, I was just wondering ... if there's any way I could buy you a drink sometime."

Now she did seem surprised, which surprised me, but neither her surprise nor my surprise was bad surprise. Smiling, laughing, possibly blushing (I never know how to spot blushing—I feel like it's a myth), she said, more or less, "Oh, actually I'm dating someone right now but that's really flattering, thank you!"

I acknowledged her reaction with an appropriate expression of good-natured gentlemanly resignation, smiling right along with her and saying, "Yeah, I just saw you and had to ask."

"It's very flattering. Thank you."

"Have a good night," I said, gracefully taking leave and heading back in the direction from which we'd come.

"You too!" she said over her shoulder.

After waiting a minute or two for them to leave the station, I turned around again and continued toward the exit. I crossed to the opposite platform, as I had to go back one stop to catch my M train.

I was sad that she wasn't available, but I'm glad I made her feel good, and that she had a friend there to witness it, which I'm sure made it all the better for her. I'm not a person who goes around doing nice things for people, so hopefully this doesn't sound like bragging. It's just that it feels good to be able to do something like that every once in a while. Quite the adrenaline rush too. I chugged a tall cup of water when I got home.

And that's the story of the second time I've asked out a stranger on the subway. (Sorry if that's anticlimactic.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Resuming Howards End, which I started a couple years ago, right away I come across some passages that seem to relate uncannily to my life at the moment. Maybe I'm too eager to see myself in any book I happen to be reading, but this still stands out....

Looking back on the past six months, Margaret realized the chaotic nature of our daily life, and its difference from the orderly sequence that has been fabricated by historians. Actual life is full of false clues and sign-posts that lead nowhere. With infinite effort we nerve ourselves for a crisis that never comes. The most successful career must show a waste of strength that might have removed mountains, and the most unsuccessful is not that of the man who is taken unprepared, but of him who has prepared and is never taken. On a tragedy of that kind our national morality is duly silent. It assumes that preparation against danger is in itself a good, and that men, like nations, are the better for staggering through life fully armed. The tragedy of preparedness has scarcely been handled, save by the Greeks. Life is indeed dangerous, but not in the way morality would have us believe. It is indeed unmanageable, but the essence of it is not a battle. It is unmanageable because it is a romance, and its essence is romantic beauty. 
Margaret hoped that for the future she would be less cautious, not more cautious, than she had been in the past.

A few pages later (dialogue beginning with Margaret):

"...I believe that in the last century men have developed the desire for work, and they must not starve it. It's a new desire. It goes with a great deal that's bad, but in itself it's good, and I hope that for women, too, 'not to work' will soon become as shocking as 'not to be married' was a hundred years ago."  
"I have no experience of this profound desire to which you allude," enunciated Tibby.  
"Then we'll leave the subject till you do. I'm not going to rattle you round. Take your time. Only do think over the lives of the men you like most, and see how they've arranged them."  
"I like Guy and Mr. Vyse most," said Tibby faintly, and leant so far back in his chair that he extended in a horizontal line from knees to throat. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Forgot to mention this on here, but a few months ago I made a foray into art modeling, and you can see the result here. (You can only see my knees, arms, and face, but it might still be NSFW.) It's a portrait of Lux Alptraum, CEO of Fleshbot. Since this was so far outside my normal realm of experience, I had no idea how nervous I would be when the time came to undress in front of total strangers. Turns out I wasn’t nervous in the slightest, and had a really fun time.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Mitfords and more

A couple months ago I bought the above book on impulse, having never heard of the author or her family. It was so good I immediately wanted to learn more, so I read this:

I read the above book in 20 days. It's over 500 pages long. This pace is completely unheard of for me. I couldn't get enough, so before I even finished the above I started on Nancy's books, the two that made her a literary star:

I'm in the middle of Love in a Cold Climate, which is a sequel to The Pursuit of Love. Very funny and enjoyable. All this British stuff made me want more British stuff, so I Netflixed the classic Brideshead Revisited miniseries. It's one of the best miniseries I've ever seen. Very beautiful and sad. I haven't read Waugh but now I want to read all of him. He was a friend of Nancy's and also makes a brief appearance in Jessica's memoir.

This is a good year for living in the past. I would like to live there mentally for this year if you don't mind. Maybe I'll continue doing so next year. I'm not concerned with the future though. The future is full of news and nothing but. That's how it feels to me when I think of it anyway. Other people can worry about the news. Worrying about the news would not be healthy or productive for me, so this is what I'll do: I'll read about the past and learn things, and this way I will feel fine about not paying too much attention to present reality. I think this is a good plan. I've really gotten more into reading in recent months. Nonfiction, which I never used to read much of, has proven especially satisfying. I finish nonfiction books much faster than novels. It's interesting to think about why. "Real events" seem more urgent, I guess. You want to know what happens next because it doesn't just happen next, it actually happened next! Anyway, if you'd like to follow my lead, why not start with the very books I've mentioned? Can't hurt, I promise.

Monday, March 5, 2012

My job search, an example

Here is an ad for the kind of job I would like. Whenever I find an ad for a job I might want to do, this is what happens. I read the description and say, that looks like fun. Then I read the Requirements and see how obvious it is that I will never get that job. For example:

On Figure Photographer, a leading online merchant offering top designer and name brand apparel and accessories at significant discounts, is looking for an On Figure Photographer to join our Production team. This position will report to the Director of Production / Photography Operations.
Responsibilities include:
  • Photograph Men’s & Women’s apparel on model in a fully-digital production environment for Bluefly’s online catalog, maintaining the quality and consistency of the Bluefly brand.
  • Team with others in Production to insure product is organized and efficiently moved through the production process, ensuring that the number of products photographed meets the needs of the business.
  • Work hours for this position will be weekdays and could include some nights and weekends.
Skills required:
  • BA Degree
  • 3-5 years of on figure photography experience
  • The ability to work with Photo Producer and Art Director to reach needed shot count
  • Similar consumer products experience a plus.
  • Must be up to date with current digital photography technology, have strong studio lighting skills and model direction.
  • Experience shooting with digital cameras tethered.
  • Knowledge of Mac applications including Photoshop, OS X, RAW file conversion, Capture One and basic photo editing skills.
  • Excellent communication, verbal, written, and interpersonal skills.
  • Ability to work in fast-paced and growing environment.
In addition to providing a dynamic, highly motivated environment, Bluefly offers its employees: Competitive salary, health and dental benefits, 401K, commuter/parking benefits and an employee discount.
Bluefly is an equal opportunity employer.

Now, let me tell you how my qualifications compare with the above, item for item:

  • BA Degree
  • 0 years of on figure photography experience. This is the first time I've even heard the term "on figure".
  • The ability to work with Photo Producer and Art Director to reach needed shot count. (I guess. This is pretty vague.)
  • No consumer products experience.
  • Am not up to date with current digital photography technology, do not have any studio lighting skills and model direction.
  • No experience shooting with digital cameras tethered. What the hell is a tethered camera anyway?
  • No knowledge of Photoshop, RAW file conversion, Capture One and who knows what you even mean by "basic" photo editing skills.
  • Mediocre communication, verbal, written, and interpersonal skills.
  • Very little ability to work in fast-paced environment.

Well, would you hire me?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

They say you don't need to have lived an exceptionally interesting life to write an interesting memoir, but I think it sure helps if you have. Jessica Mitford's life was certainly action-packed, and she writes about it with great humor and insight. I started reading her book Hons and Rebels, originally published in 1960, a week ago, and it's captured my complete attention. I'm sure it will turn out to be one of my favorite books I'll have read this year. Until now I'd known nothing about the saga of the Mitford sisters, and now I can't believe I haven't heard about them before. Here are a couple of passages that illustrate, in very different ways, Jessica's unique place in history. (Miranda was her pet lamb when she was a child, and Miss Bunting was a governess who taught her how to shoplift.)

A high point in my life came when Evelyn Waugh, a writer feller and one of the main Swinbrook sewers, promised me that he would immortalize Miranda by substituting the word "sheepish" for the standard "divine" in his forthcoming book, Vile Bodies. I was on tenterhooks until the book was actually printed for fear he might go back on his word. But there it was, in black and white: "He left his perfectly sheepish house in Hertford Street . . ." With Miss Bunting's help I lifted an extra copy from the Oxford bookshop, and hung it proudly on a tree in Miranda's field.

Later, her older sisters Unity and Diana would befriend Adolf Hitler. (Boud was Jessica's nickname for Unity.)

One possibility occurred over and over again; I could pretend to have been suddenly converted to fascism, accompany Boud to Germany and meet the Führer face to face. As we were being introduced I would whip out a pistol and shoot him dead. Of course I should immediately be felled by Hitler's guards; but wouldn't it be worth it? The awful thing would be if I missed and still died in the attempt. Unfortunately my will to live was too strong for me actually to carry out this scheme, which would have been fully practical and might have changed the course of history. Years later, when the horrifying history of Hitler and his regime had been completely unfolded, leaving Europe half destroyed, I often bitterly regretted my lack of courage.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My 2011, The Ten Funnest Reading Experiences of

Listed alphabetically by author, here are my ten favorite books from 2011 (most of which were published before 2011, some of which I started reading before 2011):

Veronica — Nicholas Christopher (novel)
Study in Pavilions and Safe Rooms — Paul Foster Johnson (poetry)
The Devil in the White City — Erik Larson (nonfiction)
Leaving the Atocha Station — Ben Lerner (novel)
Rogue Hemlocks — Carl Martin (poetry)
Appointment in Samarra — John O'Hara (novel)
Iterature — Eugene Ostashevsky (poetry)
Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan — Ron Padgett (nonfiction)
Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object — Kathleen Rooney (nonfiction)
Applies to Oranges — Maureen Thorson (poetry)

Three nonfiction books! I want to read more nonfiction in the future.

Now here are a few good books (listed in random order) I'm currently reading, some of which may end up on this year's ten funnest list:

Jamie Is My Heart's Desire — Alfred Chester (novel)
The Life and Opinions of DJ Spinoza — Eugene Ostashevsky (poetry)
The New York Stories of Elizabeth Hardwick — Elizabeth Hardwick (stories)
Selected Stories — Robert Walser (stories)
The Fermata — Nicholson Baker (novel)
Moving Day — Ish Klein (poetry)
Late in the Antenna Fields — Alan Gilbert (poetry)
Names on the Land — George R. Stewart (nonfiction)
Just the Thing: Selected Letters of James Schuyler, 1951-1991 — James Schuyler (letters)
Alexander Hamilton — Ron Chernow (nonfiction)