Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Way the World Works

There's this game I play called "Diner Dash." I'm not sure what genre it would fall under, although I've heard it called an RPG and a point and click, but that makes it sound more complicated than it is. In it you are a waitress (RPG) and you are working towards a goal by waiting on tables. You have to seat customers, take their order, bring them their food, bring them their bill, and bus the table by clicking on things in order (point and click). You have limited time to do this, shown by little hearts beneath them--take too long the hearts go down, seat them next to loud customers, hearts go down. No more hearts and they leave and you lose money. I had played nearly to the end making the standard goal, but never the expert. Now the trick to making the most money is not, as you might think, keeping the heart gage full--thus the happiest customers. No, the trick is to do things in groups. Take all the orders at once, bring all the food at once, give all of the bills at once and bus all at once, EVEN IF IT MEANS SOME CUSTOMERS WAIT and lose hearts. As long as they don't lose all of the hearts you're good. Oh, and they are dressed in different colors (red, yellow, blue, green) and seating them in the same color seat will get you points too. Not sure what that means. At first this realization annoyed me because it just made me think of my days in corporate retail. A store would get more penalties if it had happy customers, but wasn't selling what the big bosses thought it should be selling, than having slightly unhappy customers, but selling whatever the product was. My husband's book store for instance outsold everybody on Mystery and Sci-Fi, because he and a co-worker cared about those departments but they didn't match the quotas on best sellers because my husband and the others weren't into pushing a title they thought was stupid (Dan Brown anyone?) Never mind that the numbers matched--the regional directors would come down and make them send back the good sci-fi and mystery in favor of the best sellers. The fabric store I worked in had trouble getting enough flannel because the parent company was in southern California and couldn't believe we needed flannel all year long, so that's what I thought was going on in this game--teaching us to do it one way, happiness be damned. But then I began to realize that by being "proactive," instead of "reactive," sort of saying, "No, I won't take your order until the table next to you orders as well," actually helped you guide the course of the game. It became less frenzied and more rhythmic. Can life be like this as well? I actually think that I'm pretty good at grouping things in my life and helping others see the value of it--proactive, not reactive. This is the time for me to do this--don't let anything interrupt you, but I'm not a master at it. I don't, for instance, know how to do it for people, to guide people to the conclusion I'm looking for. It's why I'm not a salesperson. I can't seem to sacrifice the little happiness for the bigger picture. At the same time, I'm not sure if it really is the best way to run things if happiness, not money or efficiency is our goal.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I didn't realize I talked about them quite so much

This was a birthday present from N, the friend who wanted to see the DaVinci code. She told me she saw it and knew I had to have it. I was opening it in her car and peeling back the brown wrapper. I saw the Folies Bergere part and thought, "Oh, how nice, she knows I like poster art." And then she said, "Did you READ it?" Hoorah! When my husband saw it he just slapped his forehead and shook his head.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Happiness of the Katakuris

Just watched very possibly the most absurd film I have ever seen, and I have seen some strange films. Japanese musical/horror/comedy/family/live-action/clay-animation (claymation is a copywrited term for Will Vinton--geek rant) film. This is from director Takashi Miike who normally does serious horror--well serious splatter. Now I really am taking the Japanese thing too far--I recognized the cop as the actor in a commercial for L'Arc~en~Ciel's Tomarunner game. I can spot actors in 4 languages! Sweetly heart warming, utterly cheesy. Very fun

This has been quite a Japanese week. Watched "47 Ronin" on Saturday. Caught parts of "Kagemusha" and "Rashomon." Watched the last part of the "Hama Mike (Real Name)" trilogy Wednesday and now this. The last part, "The Trap," was actually very hard, very dark and disturbing. I enjoyed the first one the most. There's a dual casting in TT that was so subtle my husband didn't even catch it. I'm not sure if it was supposed to be symbolic or literal.

Bubble Tea

I'm posting in the middle of the day! Wahoo!

Totally random post because I'm on lunch break and I feel like it.

Just had bubble tea for the first time. You'd think being interested in Japan I'd have had this before, esp. since I like Tapioca, but it's rather expensive and I was afraid I wouldn't like it. Well, I don't LOVE it, but I don't hate it either. The flavor was Earl Grey and the tapioca was flavored with Raspberries. It gave the tea a milky flavor and it was disconcerting to have the tapioca come up the straw periodically (could have been solved with a smaller straw, I realize), but the flavors worked well together and the tapioca was well done instead of being hard (which I kind of expected. What's funny is it DID NOT go with the crispy eel sushi I was eating for lunch. Fish and raspberries--not so much. Should have had plain flavor, or drunk it after the sushi.

I do love Newbury Street in Boston though. I only work in town one day a week now which is unfortunate in summer as there is so much going on, but there are SOOO many people as well. Like the fact that working in town is nice because you don't have to drive, but then you have to take the T... Enjoy what you have.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Driving in Boston

Inching along in a log jam of traffic yesterday on the Mass Pike I watched an Audi a few cars in front of me weave in and out of traffic determined to find the lane that was "moving" and yet for the whole half an hour that we sat there he ended up still only a few cars ahead of me. Sure there were times his lane pulled ahead, but then mine would catch up and he would switch back. The only thing he accomplished was to make the line that much slower. There was a great article that a friend sent me years ago on the physics of traffic and it has been determined that weaving in and out of tight traffic will really gain you nothing and in fact cause the very blockages that you believe you are defying. (Sidenote--an unfortunately side effect of so much of interest on the internet is that it is impossible to store all of the articles that interest you over the years in the vague belief that you will someday want to reference them to others) The article also pointed out that if all drivers maintained a reasonable distance between their car and the car in front of them, many traffic jams would be alleviated or avoided all together because the traffic would move as an inchworm does, in ordered segments. The problem is that that Audi driver (and his ilk) believe that beating others by those one or two car lengths is worth it. What do they care for the poor, cowardly driver at the back of the line who will never be able to change lanes and will thus simply get pushed further and further back.

Attaching an older blog on driving:
On driving

Sunday, June 11, 2006

On a much lighter note

My husband found this. I love science in action!

Or to paraphrase Bill Nye (not to be confused with Bill Nighy), "The Mentos of SCIENCE!"

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Talent for Life

In 15 minutes it will no longer be my birthday (well, I'm not sure it really is my birthday, but I've beaten that dead horse with my friends, so I'll let it lie). Warning this may be a little rambly and it may pass into the next day before it goes up, or not.

I've always felt too old. I was sad at 18 that I could no longer be a child prodigy. At 24 I actually wrote a poem called, "On Turning 24 and Feeling it is Too Old." I looked for it to put it here, but I am glad to say I don't seem to have it on this computer. (Read an amusing line, I think in a link from Mirror up to Life that said that everyone writes adolescent poetry and that bad poets publish it, and good poets destroy it). In it I did berate myself for intellectually knowing that 24 was not too old, or even old, but emotionally not being able to see it, and the last line was the realization that I would probably feel this way for a very long time. And I was right. Every year I try to think, it's only a number (I think I used the term nearer to death), and quite meaningless. That comparisons to others is a pointless exercise--I can think of others more together, I can think of others less, and everyone has their own path--I would not want their choices. But I don't feel that I've done anything worthwhile in my life--so I should go join the Peace Corp., but I don't.
I had a therapist who made me graph my life as I saw it--high points and low points--to see how many things I had accomplished. I can console myself with it, but should I console and accept it, or should I berate myself to do better. Unfortunately berating myself just makes me want to stay in bed forever. So I really should try harder on that acceptance thing, shouldn't I? Or is that berating too. Accept that I don't accept?

Mirror up to Life has a great metaphor from football (and from theater) about talent. That it is not that the talented do not make mistakes, but rather that they are able to recover faster and better from the mistakes. On stage when someone forgets a line I am very good at improvising back to a semblance of meaning. I am very good at taking the low budgets or left over things and making art out of them, but when something serious goes wrong in my life, it is not that I never recover, it is that it seems to take me so much time.

I took time off from college. It was supposed to be a semester, maybe two. It became two and a half years, thus when I went back I already felt too old.

In the end of 2000 I had some problems in my marriage. I didn't really recover from them for about 3 years. Only now do I feel that we are back financially where we were in 2000 and I pray every day that nothing new will happen, that we can be stable for awhile, all the while listening to a clock somewhere that says, "You must make up for lost time! You're too far behind." Mentally I even feel three years younger, like I was in a coma. Can I just say that I am three years younger? That my husband is as well? That we have three more years to do better?

I feel as if I have no talent for life--for the fumbles of it, but I know that is silly. There is no such thing as a talent for life. We are all alive, therefore we are living, muddling through. There is no plan, no guideline, no should of or way it should have been or should be (see the previous post). I believe myself too clear eyed to believe in all the crazy plans--to believe in the secret. Maybe I have bigger blinders on than anyone because I desperately want there to be a secret, an answer but won't look because I know it will disappoint. Afterall if I have learned nothing else from literature, I have learned that. Maybe I shouldn't read so much. I know I shouldn't think so much. A good friend (who is also a therapist, but not my therapist) once said in a sort of free therapy session, "Boy, you've got a lot of should'ves to keep up with." At the end of Pleasantville, the mother says, "It wasn't supposed to be like this." Toby Maguire's character says (paraphrased), "It isn't supposed to be anything." I know that and I don't know it, if you know what I mean.

All of my life has been spent in the dual sides (Gemini after all, another belief system to make us think that there is order) of desiring stability and desiring adventure. Even now, when we are finally stable I keep thinking what will the next thing be--should I go to grad school, I want to move, I want to change, there has to be more/better than this.

These are things I've written of which I am rather fond. They aren't that original, but I like my language:

There is no Answer

Life has a way of happening
Whether we watch or not
And sometimes it will
Backhand you, just to see
If you're paying attention.
Life goes on; what else can it do?

Time slips past like an errant dog
Dashing between the legs
Laughing at your call.

Overheard in Passing

Life: Why do you linger, when your work is so transitory, a moment, less than a moment?

Death: I linger for the living. I have nothing to teach the dead

Life: Living is the surest and hardest way to die

I had a moment, driving last week, a moment of clarity when I realized that my 20's were spent in the 90's. That doesn't sound like much, but it seemed startling to me as if I thought of myself as an 80's child and that was all, but I lived through the 90's and I'm living now, my 30's in the first decade of the new century. Affected by it, different moment to moment. It all seemed so clear in that instant, so, dare I say it, Zen, in the moment, all the things we strive for. Having seen it, I know now a little better what I am looking for, even though I have lost it again. I remember once saying to my husband that I felt like I had ruined his life, as if had he never met me he would still be 23 with his life before him. What vanity, as if time moved with me, but we are all the centers of our own universes and it is only by the effort of will that we can see anyone else's. And what power I ascribed to myself--to create or destroy lives. I know and I do not know, simultaneously.

Well, it's a 45 minutes later. I have no better answers. Welcome new year.

(And it's my 50th post--how apropos)

One last thought on "Foucault's Pendulum"

I finished it in much longer than an afternoon, and I realized the point that literature is about the universality of experience. Most books are about what they are about. You need both in the world, but if I could only save some I'd save the ones with meaning.

There is an amazing passage in the end of FP that essentially explains the fascination of something like "The DaVinci Code" while transcending it. I've copied out a lot of it because I think it's important (and I like to copy out chunks of books that I like). The ellipses indicate that I've removed bits that are more plot specific.

"People are starved for plans. If you offer them one, they fall on it like a pack of wolves. You invent, and they'll believe. It's wrong to add to the inventions that already exist" ...

We offered a map to people who were trying to overcome a deep, private frustration. What frustration?...Threre can be no failure if there really is a Plan. Defeated you may be, but never through any fault of your own. To bow to a cosmic will is no shame. You are not a coward; you are a martyr.
You don't complain about being mortal, prey to a thousand microorganisms you can't control; you aren't responsible for the fact that your feet are not very prehensile, that you have no tail, that your hair and teeth don't grow back when you lose them, that your arteries harden with time. It's because of the Envious Angels.

The same applies to everyday life. Take stock-market crashes. They happen because each individual makes a wrong move, and all the wrong moves put together create panic. Then whoever lacks steady nerves asks himself: Who's behind this plot, who's benefiting? He has to find an enemy, a plotter, or it will be, God forbid, his fault.

If you feel guilty, you invent a plot, many plots. And to counter them, you have to organize your own plot. But the more you invent enemy plots, to exonerate your lack of understanding, the more you fall in love with them, and you pattern your own on their model...."Of course, you attribute to the others what you're doing yourself, and since what you're doing yourself is hateful, the others become hateful. But since the others, as a rule, would like to do the same hateful thing that you're doing, they collaborate with you, hinting that--yes--what you attribute to them is actually what they have always desired. God blinds those He wishes to destroy; you just have to lend Him a helping hand."

A plot, if there is to be one, must be a secret. A secret that, if we only knew it, would dispel our frustration, lead us to salvation; or else the knowing of it in itself would be salvation. Does such a luminous secret exist?

Yes, provided it is never known. Known, it will only disappoint us. ...someone had just arrived and declared himself the Son of God, the Son of God made flesh, to redeem the sins of the world. Was that a run-of-the-mill mystery? And he promised salvation to all: you only had to love your neighbor. Was that a trivial secret? And he bequeathed the idea that whoever uttered the right words at the right time could turn a chunk of bread and a half-glass of wine into the body and blood of the Son of God, and be nourished by it. Was that a paltry riddle? And then he led the Church fathers to ponder and proclaim that God was One and Triune and the Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, but that the Son did not proceed from the Father and the Spirit. Was that some easy formula for hylics? And yet they, who now had salvation within their grasp--do-it-yourself salvation--turned deaf ears. Is that all there is to it? How trite. And they kept on scouring the Mediterranean in their boats, looking for a lost knowledge, of which those thirty-denarii dogmas were but the superficial veil, the parable for the poor in spirit, the allusive hieroglyph, the wink of the eye at the pneumatics. The mystery of the Trinity? Too simple: there had to be more to it.

Someone--Rubinstein, maybe--once said, when asked if he believed in God: "Oh, no, I something much bigger." And someone else--was it Chesterton?--said that when men stop believing in God, it isn't that they believe in nothing: they believe in everything.

But everything is not a bigger secret. There are no "bigger secrets," because the moment a secret is revealed, it seems little. There is only an empty secret. A secret that keeps slipping through your fingers. The secret of the orchid is that it signifies and affects the testicles. But the testicles signify a sign of the zodiac, which in turn signifies an angelic hierarchy, which then signifies a musical scale, and the scale signifies a relationship among the humors. And so on. Initiation is learning never to stop. The universe is peeled like an onion, and an onion is all peel. Let us imagine an infinite onion, which has its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere. Initiation travels an endless Mobius strip.

The true initiate is he who know that the most powerful secret is a secret without content, because no enemy will be able to take it from him...

But if existence is so empty and fragile that it can be endured only by the illusion of a search for its secret then...there's no redemption; we are all slaves, give us a master.

What he goes on to say, but not in one clear sentence, is that life itself in it's everyday, in his child, in the beauty of the sunset is the secret, but that that will never be understood.

I return to "Infinite Jest." We are all dying to give ourselves away to something--to believe. It's like looking at comic book fan boys or sci-fi geeks. They're all gathering all of the esoterica of knowledge in the hopes that it will add up to something bigger than themselves. It could be sports nuts, or activists. In Britain there really are sad guys in anoraks watching trains, counting and timing trains. It's where the term trainspotter comes from, but the term can be applied to anyone. And they're all looking for the missing pieces that will cause it to make sense, but reality always disappoints. Like asking Shatner why the Xenons of planet Xeneria did so and so (and yes, I know that's not really an episode, but I don't want to be a geek and go look one up, which I easily could do) and being disappointed that this actor neither knows nor cares. We're all looking for a God to look up to to make our own lives better. Sometimes the God is an object (when I get that new car--it will all come together), sometimes it's a person, but I've known very few people who weren't doing it. Trying to find something that as humans we are missing. I don't know what it is and I do know I'm looking.


Red Queen asked that I make a permanent link to A Hat A Day so I have complied.

Also want to point out the new link to my friend Duncan's website. He is a painter but I hadn't seen any of his work. I love it! I really, really like art like this. He is having a show in Arlington, MA starting a week from Sunday for anyone around.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Da Vinci Code II

Well, like I said, I hate to judge on others word if I can help it. Grabbed from the library on Saturday, read on Sunday. That should tell you something right there, but I routinely read books in a day, Harry Potters, Ruth Rendells, John LeCarre's, and I started skimming by the end.

This is how it begins:
"Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery."

This is how Foucault's Pendulum begins:

"That was when I saw the Pendulum. The sphere, hanging from a long wire set into the ceiling of the choir, swayed back and forth with isochronal majesty."

One has a voice, the other doesn't. The best I can say is that it was better than the movie, and not the worst writing I've ever read by a longshot; oh, and that it made more sense than the movie. I still can't understand why this should have so grabbed the public's imagination.

I'm told that Angels and Demons is better but still pedantic.


I love his writing. I always have. I found the writing before I knew anything about the strange, tortured man and I'm glad, because the writing has become subsumed to the image. The writing is exquisite and never cliched and full of all the pain that is living. Poor, lonely, needy Tru.

The movie is good, Hoffman's performance is breathtaking. I understand--I don't necessarily forgive--when he sells out the killers, sells out himself, would sell out his best friend to get that laugh at a party, to make life ironic and light when he knew that it wasn't. Grabbing that moment of adulation in a crowd rather than anything lasting--tomorrow may never come, after all. And you know he knows it's a lie too. He sold out Perry Smith, and yes, Perry was a dangerous and disturbed man who had murdered a family almost because they were there, but Truman played him to get that story, and lied and played with another human being's feelings and life to write the book. And what a book. A book he could never live up to again. What does it mean to write "non-fiction?" Is that even possible? Is it possible to do it and still have it be a good read? I didn't expect James Frey's book to be the truth--I was amazed that people thought it would be. What we remember is never the truth because we could never look at ourselves the way we really are--we cannot see how good or beautiful we are and we cannot see out bad and ugly we are. Memory fictionalizes everything around us--and a good story has to tighten it more, tighter narrative, stronger through line. The bit by bit, the unconnected, unflattering, uninteresting is tossed. But what about when it's not your life?

Wanted to link to this article that I found at A's blog "Mirror Up to Life," and this seems a good place for it.

It's about the play "Frozen" and what happens when truth is "accidentally" made fiction. It's about plagiarism too and how ideas distill down in our heads.

Also want to take a moment to plug "Mirror Up to Life." My friend A writes it. A is my friend and A is married to A who is my friend. When I first started this blog I thought I would refer to all my friends as B like Andy Warhol in "From A to B and Back Again," but then I started to use initials so they could find themselves if they were looking and realized I have an awful lot of friends whose name begins with A and several whose names begin with B. Strange...
Anyway, A's blog is on theater and it poses some very well thought out moral dilemmas for our modern age, specifically in theater, but stretching to the world, which is good because I think of A (shall we say A-masc.) as a very moral person, and someone I try to emulate when in moral dilemmas.

What a long time between posts

I've posted elsewhere and I've written so many posts in my head that it seems sad that I cannot get them down here at my beloved Novel Eye.

First, movies:

Now that the TV season is over it's time to devote ourselves to our Netflix list. It's such a strange list for a week.
V for Vendetta (I posted)
Everything is Illuminated (ditto)
Capote...(post to follow)
The Hill (1965, Sidney Lumet directs Sean Connery and several fine British actors in an anti-military film shown on Memorial Day, well, it's the BRITISH army, not us, right...)
Oldboy (harrowing Asian film about revenge--very disturbing, very well shot)
Breakfast on Pluto (Neil Jordan directs Cillian Murphy as a transvestite against the background of Catholicism, the 70's and "the Troubles), good, and Murphy is amazing. The tragic no-win humanness of it as in Jordan's "The Crying Game"
Matchpoint (Woody Allen's view that even when you get "A Place in the Sun," it's not so sweet--note, Scarlet Johansen is NOT Elizabeth Taylor)