Monday, May 30, 2011

Day 84

Worked most of yesterday, into the night.  New ideas getting harder and harder to come by.  Earlier, when I said I'd solved all big problems: that was incorrect.  Turns out a small crack can hide a big chasm.  But that chasm is being filled.  Thought by thought, agonizing intuition after agonizing wiping out of prior agonizing intuition.

A break is needed.

New books arrived, including The Flamingo's Smile, a collection of essays by Stephen Jay Gould.  Don't know why, but I've never read any of his material before (maybe an odd piece in the New Yorker).  So far I'm thrilled with the book.  I'm more interested in natural history/popular science these days, and Gould is about the best writer in that genre I've found.  Also, the fact that it's a book of essays makes it easy to dip in and out of.  (I also started The Myth of Sisyphus, but that's clearly going to require more concentration.)

Tutoring all afternoon.  Then, leftover pozole.  Got a great new recipe.  Stewed pork!  It's what's for dinner....

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Day 82

Woken this morning by loud and prolonged howling.  Wife got up and for some reason left the Monster out to run around (his usual routine is to go back in kitchen lair rest area after wife wakes up and feeds).  He sat by the window, I guess, and got angry at the cats.  Too much yowling.

Finished two books yesterday--The Comedians and The Ghost Soldiers. The latter got better the more I read it; the former did not.  I'm trying to finish the Eco book but the writing is so poor it's difficult.  It actually makes me angry this book was reviewed as well as it was.  It reads as if it were written by a computer program trying to mimic English--a computer program written by someone who doesn't speak English, even.  It's filled with all sorts of glaring grammatic errors, and the prose style is muddy and awkward beyond belief.  Half the time I read it I honestly can't figure out what the meaning is supposed to be, so poorly phrased is so much of it.   How could anyone recommend this book?

I ordered nine more books online yesterday.  Tried to start reading Passage To India yesterday but it didn't do much for me.  Maybe another time.  I've ordered a lot of books on genes and natural history; I think it's time to read some non fiction.

Diet continues.  No alcohol and long walks in morning (plus cardio, etc).  I feel like I'm fighting a war against my stomach.  Every day I look down at him like he's an arch enemy.  Eventually he will be defeated.  But he is a wily and relentless opponent--he won't go quietly.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Day 80

Going to get my tux altered for an upcoming wedding I had the unpleasant experience of learning that I have gained so much weight that the pants are beyond alteration.  Sweet lord how depressing.  I started a diet last week but I guess it'll take a long long time to get down to where I was when I married.  I've been trying to find a tennis clinic group out here but the coach keeps offering me times that conflict with my tutoring.  I think he's given up on me as a result.  The real key for me is eating dinner no later than 6:30.  That, however, is often not possible if I want to eat with the wife.  Stephen Fry seems to have a lost a lot of weight by walking every day.  Maybe that's a way to go.  Not that I don't exercise.  I do.  But clearly I need to do more.  How else will I be able to appear in Milan for the 2012 collections?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Day 79

The End of the Affair

When we last left our hero (and Johannes) they were sitting in their rental house reading and waiting to go back to the concert venue.  We were both of us, I think, steeling ourselves for a fairly unpleasant concert.

And then we got there.

And it was fine.  Better than was outstanding.  The wind, while not completely gone, had subsided enough to be pleasant.  The music was underway, and it was excellent.  El Ten Eleven, the first band we saw, consists of only a drummer and a guitar/bassist.  The guy (let's call him the bassist, since that's his primary wombat) plays a riff to the drums and loops them into a pedal.  The riff repeats and he plays a new riff over it.  Pretty soon a fairly complicated set of interlocking patterns has built up from all that looping.  (He alternates between guitar and bass while effecting his loops, using a double-neck instrument for most of the set).  The songs build slowly, gathering in intensity as the loops accumulate.  Then, inevitably, he does something that strips away all but one or two of the built-up loops.  The tension subsides, and then there's another round of loop-building.

Some of the songs do tend to sound alike.  But the thrill of watching Kristian (that's the loop-builder's name) build up each new song from nothing was significant.  He was also plainly very happy to be up there performing and his joy rubbed off on the crowd.  Neither J or I was necessarily expecting that El Ten Eleven would put on a great live show.  But in fact, they did.

After El Ten Eleven came Rubblebucket, a Brooklyn-based band which featured a horn section, eight or nine members, and a lot of uptempo craziness.  

The El Ten Eleven experience was about standing and listening.  The Rubblebucket experience was about dancing.  Sadly for everyone there are no pictures of me dancing.  But dance I did.  Because that is what I am all about.  

Rubblebucket was a more satisfying live music experience, for me, than El Ten Eleven.  They got the crowd riled up, they laid down some grooves, they had a trumpet player who did some body-surfing in the crowd while he played.  They had a percussionist.  It was high-energy stuff.  Great ending to the show.

I'm going to pass over the EmCee who asked us to observe a moment of silence so we could 'feel the desert' and then told us to try and practice "Wishcraft."  (By praying for world peace or some such).  Certain kinds of hippies can actually make me want to vocally support war.  He was one of them.

On the way out, we stopped at the shrine that had somehow been assembled in the middle of the music area.  It's hard to do justice to its good-natured insanity in only a few photos.  But I'll try:

The large figure in the center is the Virgin Mary.  The other figures around her are..uhm...NOT the Virgin Mary.

On the way out Johannes insisted we stop and take a photo of an airplane that someone had mounted near the entrance of their property.  Apparently, in doing so, he fell over and ended up rolling around in the dust.  Sadly I missed that spectacle. 

That night we ate leftovers, watched True Grit, and generally chilled out.   I learned J thinks Matt Damon is a bad actor.  He learned that I disagreed.  We agreed, as I recall, that I was right.  About that, and just about everything else.

The next morning we got up, cleaned, and headed out.  (Finishing off a few of the blueberry muffins I'd made before we left).  I dropped J off at the Palm Springs airport and headed back.  

Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 78

Today is going to be a day of errands.  Have to get tux fitted for upcoming wedding, go to doctor, go to optometrist, all sorts of good stuff.  Tutor.  Binks will be alone all day which means, I don't know what.

I'm going to finish the trip report tomorrow or the day after.  Right now I'm going to go exercise before my day of driving around.  Nice dinner last night with wife at our local neighborhood bistro, but it involved me eating more, and later into the night, than I have been for at least a week.  I'm on a mini-diet right now, in preparation for our upcoming June vacation to Puerto Rico ("Port of Rico.")  So nothing big here today, I guess.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Day 77

Very tired after a late night working and poor, dream-confused sleep.  The Comedians is excellent but grim.  The last half of Get Him To The Greek, which I caught last night when trying to fall asleep, was fairly good.  It's very dark here now which is unusual for LA.  My 13 year old just took a second SAT.  He did worse on this one than the past two.  That is not at all good.  I meet with him tomorrow.  We'll see.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day 76

Two more photos from the hike
A few things I forgot to mention about the events in the last trip report:

-After failed hike to sculpture garden but before successful hike in cattler rustler's canyon (rustle rustle) esteemed companion Johannes repaired both of our holey shoes using needle and thread.  I guess all those years he told me he was doing a surgery residency weren't wasted.

-J and I can't be around each other for any length of time without one of us (me usually) finding some subject to repeatedly mock about the other.  This time it was Google Maps.  For the first day we were together J seemed to be checking his iphone every ten minutes.  Then, on the drive, any time I wondered out loud if a gas station were near or where we should eat he would inevitably respond, "why don't we check Google Maps?"  After a while I had the idea that everything J did was based on google maps and that all questions that the world could offer could be answered using it.  So, for the rest of the weekend, any time either of us had any question about anything, I would say, "Check Google Maps."  What year did Proust finish In Search of Lost Time?  Who's the starting goalie for Manchester United?  What kind of bird is that, there in the road?  All of these questions, I suggest, should be--nay, must be--answered using Google Maps.  At one point, after telling J that if he checked Google Maps he could actually see into the future, I started laughing so hard I had to pull the car over.  I'm laughing now just thinking about it.

I'm not sure Johannes thought it was as funny.

-On our cattle rustler's hike, we got a brochure that showed photos of animals common to Joshua Tree.  Among them was something called the Dusky Chipmunk.  Because we are, basically, both of us nine years old, this also struck us as hilarious.  Everywhere we looked dusky chipmunks seemed to frolic.  In great thundering herds they ate up the horizon blacking out the land like locusts.

Well, not really.  But in our imaginations.

* * *

Okay, back to the narrative....

When we last left our two (dusky) heroes they had completed a grueling one-mile hike in Joshua Tree National Forest.  That over, we (they) headed to the festival.  The band we both wanted to see (El Ten Eleven) didn't go on until four pm, but we figured we'd get there early and enjoy the atmosphere.  Ogle the hippies, as it were.  I don't know.  (Originally, we'd planned to go to the festival when it opened at 11 am, but after Johannes found a video on YouTube of the morning's featured artist playing an instrumental piece on his guitar entitled "Dolphin Love Bliss" (really), we reconsidered.  Wisely, I think.  There's only so much dolphin sex I can listen to in the morning.)  

Anyway, we got the fest around two.  Here are some photos of what we saw walking in.

The fire truck was notable for having a plaque on it that said "Dr Bronner's Magical Soap."  As long-term blog readers will remember, I wrote at length about a documentary the wife and I saw when we first moved to LA about said Dr Bronner.  He is, to put it succinctly, a fascinating and fairly insane human being.  (He thought part of the secret of the history of the universe involved Mark Spitz.)  I have no idea how that fire truck connected to the good Doctor, but that's okay.  I still liked it.

The "Free Dancing" sign was in front of an area closed off by RVs and the fire truck.  Inside it, people were listening to a heavy-beated reggae and shaking somewhat rhythmically.

The giant rocking horse speaks for itself.  

I regret not taking a picture of the large purple amethyst-shaped structure where people could sit to absorb the healing energies of the planet.  It's probably because I was too distracted by the wind.

Because let me tell you: there was some wind.

We had prepared, in packing to go to Joshua Tree, for extreme heat.  We'd brought sweaters and jeans and jackets for the cold.  But we had not prepared to be in a sandstorm.  And unfortunately it was a sandstorm (or close to) that greeted us that Sunday afternoon at the festival.  Sand was everywhere.  It blew into our eyes, it blew into our mouths, it made it almost impossible to stand facing anywhere but away from the wind.  It was miserable.  There was no way you could watch music in that kind of environment.  That's not true.  You could watch it; you just couldn't enjoy it.  Standing there it felt like we were seconds away from being lifted up and taken away to Oz.   

So, after a brief debate, we left.  The plan was to come back in an hour and hope that the wind had died down.  Neither of us were especially optimistic that would happen (it had been at least moderately windy the whole time we were there).  Nevertheless, after scarfing down the chicken curry burritos we'd bought from one of the few food tents that hadn't shut down due to sand blasting damage we drove back to the house feeling, both of us, far far less dusky than we had on the drive in.

Although the burritos, it should be said, were excellent.

To Be Continued....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Day 75

I am going to continue my trip report tomorrow, I think.  It takes more time to deal with the photos and today I'm going to focus on work.

I worked all day and into the night yesterday.  I have solved all the large to medium/large problems in the play and am now left with small to medium problems.  I had thought this advance would be welcome.  Instead I find myself missing the large problems.  The large problems intimidate because they seem unsolvable.  The small problems, however, seem so picayune as to be beneath one's effort and time.  For example, Sam, one of my characters, has gotten fired before the play starts.  The reason she got fired could or could not be important.  I mean, I could make it interesting and expositive of her essential flaws and character (and should, I know).  Or I could just say she did some random X and move on.  It's not a sexy question, at least not yet.  But I have to infuse her backstory with the same amount of effort and love as everything else.  Genius, as Henry James said, is an infinite capacity for taking pains.  I think about that quote often.  (I'm not saying I'm a genius, obviously.  But only that it's what I aspire to.. genius in the work, I mean.  In this work at least).  It's like in Pawn of Prophecy (another touchstone book in my life, believe it or not)--Durnik telling Garion that he works as hard on the iron joints that are under the wagon, that no one will see, as those above.

Actually that's not relevant here, now that I think about it.  Sam's backstory will be seen, albeit glancingly.  The point is, yes, big things are made of small things, and God is in the details and all that, but details are hard to engage for the very reason that they are details.  You want to build continents, not figure out the color pattern on the scales of the snake that lives in one corner of the barn in the hero's first girlfriend's barn.  But, in the end, that's how you build a continent.  By working out all the snake scales.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Day 74

Yesterday, my friend Johannes sent me some of the approximately 40000 photos he took while at Joshua Tree.  I'm putting a few up right now, with the idea that I'll do more later.

The hotels around the festival grounds were cheap and desultory so we stayed in someone's home.  (This seems the normal way, from what I could gather).  I booked the place at the last minute so I didn't have high expectations, but it turned out great.  This is the view from our back porch.  That's a fire pit.  There was also a hot tub, a horseshoe pit, and a charcoal grill.

Both nights we were there, J made fires inside that fire pit.  In so doing, he proved his barbaric machismo.  I grilled hamburgers, and onions, and zucchini.  J insisted we grill a cucumber.  I don't know why.  Well, yes I do.  It's because he's not very bright.

This was one of the numerous artworks inside the house where we stayed.  It was by far the most disturbing.  (Many were actually pretty nifty.  My favorite was a butterfly made by looping thread around nails, that hung in the bathroom).  It hung above and to the left of the TV and seemed to follow you about the house with its deep mysterious eyes.

After we got there, on Saturday, we went to the store and bought supplies.  (Wisely, we did NOT check before heading out to see what supplies the house had already, so we ended up buying a lot of stuff we didn't need.  Oh well.)  When we got back we decided to hike from our house to a nearby sculpture garden.  All the roads were unmarked and both of us had, for some reason, decided to set out on a hike on sandy roads wearing shoes with holes in them.  We quickly accumulated large coatings of grit around our feet.  After a time, we gave up the quest for said sculpture garden and turned back.  As we passed one of the houses on the way back, a fairly angry-seeming dog popped out from behind its fence and ran into the road behind us, growling and barking.  Johannes and I moved past it quickly, worrying somewhat that it might try to attack.  As soon as we passed its property, however, it stopped and watched us depart.

Oh, also, J kept trying to tell me it was a coyote.  Probably the thoughts of the upcoming cucumber-grilling had confused him.

The next morning we went hiking in Joshua Tree National Forest.  The first photo shows a large expanse of said trees.  The second shows one of the views of the hike ("Hidden Valley.")  The hike involved a box canyon where cattle rustlers used to go to hide out and rebrand their stolen cattle.  I made a mental note of the place, planning on going there with my next herd of rustled vicuna.

Here are a few more hike-related photos, taken from my camera:

To Be Continued....

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 73

Got back from Joshua Tree on Monday afternoon.  Hoping to put up many photos as well as a blog post from travel companion and stalker of the dusky chipmunk, Johannes.  If not, I'll post about it myself, but not at this moment.   The very short summary was that the trip was great in many ways; the music was only a small part of the enjoyment, and there was much merriment and a certain amount of paintings of rabbits with antlers.  Jackalopes, as it were.  Also, an iron sculpture of the head of a bull.  And a large dodecahedral building (at the festival) painted purple, meant to represent an amethyst, that was supposed to channel and direct the energies of the universe to anyone who sat inside.  The inside was painted green.  Something to do with the different chakras that green and purple represent, respectively.  I don't know.  The festival, in other word, was a thing of for and by hippies, but LA hippies more than San Fran hippies.  So, more yoga and insane philosophy (something called the 528 movement, which I have to research) and less "groovy let's end the war by meditating."  Although there was some of that too.

But it was all pretty great.  And I will post more about it soon including, I hope, some photos.  (Johannes was a madman with the camera).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 69

About to hit the road to Joshua Tree. Yesterday had some good mojo, including a visit to a 'doctor' who told me she liked to round down blood pressure numbers from odd to even ("I like to round down to the even number") and a store with a weekly fight night run by an amateur cage fighter (Johannes got in there and threw him around, just to show him).  Wife got home very late, unfortunately, but still time for good banter and shenanigans.

Idea for a skit we came up with: before (or after) the wave of beaver trapper come to canada, a wave of porcupine trappers.  Try to make coats out of the fur, find they're painful and unpleasant to wear.  Then, hit upon the beavers instead.

Back in two days.  Electric hippies, here we come...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Day 68

Well I put up an entire post yesterday about the Joshua Tree Music Festival (where I'm going, with Johannes, tomorrow) and now it's gone.  This makes me grouchy.  I had cut and pasted descriptions of some of the artists playing at the fest into the post.  Oh well.  Not sure what happened there.  Problem with blogger.  It was up for a while, anyway.

Going to get Johannes at airport, then buying supplies of all sorts.  Probably we should get javelins, I think.  And scuba equipment.  So there's a lot to do.  Right now am very groggy.  Worked all last night on play.  Watched first 2/3 of Floating Weeds, surely one of the best movies ever made.  (Last saw it circa 2005, so it's essentially new to me at this point).  Poor wife is working all day and all night.  Luckily she gets off service today.  She needs a break.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Day 66

Turns out my American History student is actually taking Modern European History and that she wanted help not preparing for a test, but writing a paper.  The subject?  Was Marshall Petain a patriot or a traitor?  (Her answer: the latter).  At the end of the session, I told her to rent The Sorrow and the Pity because, well,  it's so good.  The best documentary ever made.  (Really.  HIGHLY recommended.  Long, but easy to break into separate viewing sessions).  Also, it's about Vichy France.  So there was some relevance.

It turns out she got the idea to write about Petain through Lord of the Rings.  (She was curious about "You shall not pass!" which lead her to Verdun which lead her to Petain).  So, that endeared me to her, obviously.  Not that I much like LOR (I was never a Tolkein head), but that she displayed that level of geekiness.  It's what we like to see.

As I told her, it's not much of an exaggeration to say that every single French play written between the years of 1945 and 1970 deals in some way with the legacy of Vichy.  At least every one that I've ever read.  Novels too, I'm sure.  And since I was a French major in college, I had to endure quite a number of said plays.  Of course at no point during those studies did we actually learn the details of what HAPPENED in France during the War (events are so pedestrian), but still.  It's a subject near and dear to my heart.  And Sartre's.  "Do not be a collaborationist pig," was essentially the summation of my college studies in French Literature.  A lesson I still follow to this day.

So my reading up on the Grange and the Haymarket strike and the Taft Administration will avail me nothing.  Oh well.

More tutoring this afternoon and evening.  I've started reading Graham Greene's The Comedians, about the situation in Haiti in the 60s.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 65

Terrible day yesterday; Binks ate a half a bag of almonds on Sunday night (left on an end table; he pulled them down and chewed through the bag).  So yesterday he was terribly sick.  Profuse vomiting and diarrehia in morning followed by a long day of general physical discomfort.  I spent the morning and early afternoon following him around and watching to make sure he didn't get worse and occasionally taking him outside, to vomit and excrete.  A good moral for you kids out there: if you eat a quarter of your weight in roasted almonds, you will be sick.

Binks, I'm sure, had no idea why he'd woken up so sick.  The idea of connecting his Sunday night's depredations with his Monday morning illness would not occur to a dog.  And thankfully he's now back to normal.  But yesterday was stressful. Poor Bear!

* * *

Finished Howard's End, a book whose final 2/3 do not live up to the promise of its opening.  Not a terrible book, but one deeply flawed--by a semi-incoherent philosophical substructure; by a massive implausibility at the core of its plot (Margaret's marrying Mr Wilcox); and by a prose style that lurches dangerously between the archaic, the glib, and the sermonizing.

Watched Kurosawa's Stray Dog yesterday, about a Tokyo cop whose quest to find a stolen gun leads to a larger examination of post-war Japan.  Found the pacing tedious but still enjoyed a number of the set sequences.

Today I go back to tutoring American History.  Mostly I get my American History tutoring jobs at the end of the year--May and June.  That means that this time of year I have to reread American History textbooks to prepare.  Right now I'm reading about the Grange.  No one ever talks about the Grangers anymore.  Why is that?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day 64

There's an emotional and spiritual vagueness to Howard's End, a kind of murky sense of half-felt emotion that I associate with Bloomsbury, turn-of-the-century literature.  Victorian certainty has begun to erode but it isn't gone altogether, and the hard clear lines of Modernism haven't yet emerged.  It's a strange era and the book has that strangeness about it.  I don't entirely know what to make of it.

Day 63

Back to work today after a day of errands (contact lens issues) and tutoring.  The White Noise session was even more painful than I anticipated; luckily my student had a good handle on what she wanted to say and we didn't have to work too long.  No caffeine yesterday which meant I slept long and deep and now feel great.  Dreams were intense and weird but I won't go into them.  I'm getting near the end of Howard's End but I'm going to wait and post about it when I've done.  I'm resolved to finish at least three of the books I have going right now in the next week.  Eco's History of Beauty will be next, and then James Tate's book of poetry (which is starting to grow on me).   Discovered yesterday that our back yard now holds a second bee hive (we've had one from the time we moved in).  Seems like a lot of bees for one yard.  On one hand, they're good for the plants.  On the other hand, they are bees.  May need to have that taken care of, though I'd prefer to just ignore it.  That's the best way most of the time, I find.  Just ignore things, and let 'em fix themselves.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Day 62

Tutoring session last night with my 13 year old went fairly well.  Mother thankfully did not blame me at all for son's recent so-so showing on practice SAT.  Turns out many of his problems were due to the intense pressure he puts on himself to succeed.  In doing timed test sections with me, in his house, he feels relaxed and is able to work.  Doing the same sections at a test site, he seizes up.  He's one of the few students I've ever had who puts more pressure on himself than I do--who wants him to do well more than I do.  Except his wanting to do well does not necessarily translate each week into him doing all his homework.  Anyway, I tried to calm him somewhat about the test, reminded him that, after all, he was only 13 (and still scoring better than half my 17 year olds).  I've only tutored one other 13 year old in recent memory, and that one was a while back.  I think I've kind of lost sight of their unique psychologies.  He's a fascinating boy.

Today is a day of not writing.  Instead I'm going to run errands all day.  I have to tutor this afternoon; then I'll cook dinner.  My student today needs help getting ideas for an essay.  The essay's subject?  What else.  It's White Noise.  The book I revile the most.  The book I spent two weeks writing mini essays about my several years ago (in this blog), trying to explain al that was bad about's back.  That means I'm going to have to skim it this afternoon, and then, worse, pore through it, this evening, to help my student.  It's like some horrible overrated post modern vampire.  You keep thinking that it's dead and it keeps coming back to fight with you....

* * *

Here's a great link, to a visual essay about the role of dogs in war.  Very moving (in a good way) with some pretty incredible photos of dogs in their army gear....

Friday, May 6, 2011

Day 61

Thursday Ritual of writing is always the same.  At 2:30 I start a movie.  Usually something difficult, from the Criterion Collection most of the time.  At 3:30 or so I stop it, unfinished.  At that point I sit on the couch for an hour thinking about whatever at that time I deem the largest unresolved problem in the play.  Eventually I start to get ideas.  Then I go to my study where I sit in a DIFFERENT CHAIR and think for another few hours.  At some point I feed the Binks, then close my study door so he won't come in for attention.  At 6:30, give or take, I eat 1/3 a chicken breast and some almonds.  If my ideas have lead me towards dialogue I will have started typing at that point.  If they're just going to backstory and meta-structure type stuff, I write them down in various organizational documents.  At 7 pm I open a Diet Coke.  I sip it slowly over the next two hours.  I make myself keep working until my brain is totally fried.  When that happens, I emerge from the office, microwave some leftovers, and watch Thursday Night TV (saving my favorite show, Parks and Rec, for last).  Sometimes this emergence happens at 8:15 (when things didn't go well), sometimes at 9:45 (when things went very well).  Never before 8.  The longer after eight it takes for me to emerge, the better it went.  Tonight I think I emerged at 8:30.  Not great, but okay.  I'm left with the ending to solve.  Just that!  Not a very important matter, the ending.

Actually it's somewhat true.  Many many great novels/poems unfinished.  Of course, the same is not true of plays.

Anyway, Thursday Ritual is key.  It's the intense, power-through, let all things alone and just THINK discipline thing of it.  No matter how badly I'm thinking or how miserable I am, I just sit there.  And sit and sit and sit.  It is much much harder than it sounds.  I just did it, and I'm done with the TV, and the one beer I get with it as reward (well, two tonight) and the excessive Kettle Chips that I also sometimes allow myself, as additional reward.  Now I'm reading a little before bed.  I'm counting this as tomorrow's post because it is tomorrow here.

Oh, I forgot to add.  Usually at about 11, when my wife goes to bed, I finish the movie I started that afternoon.  Sometimes, though--and this rarely happens--I find it too boring or uninspiring to force myself to go back to.  Such was the case with today's movie, one of Renoir's very last films, The River.  Its story was actually not horrible, but I couldn't get past its extreme datedness.  Plus the actors were just horrible.  It was adapted from a novel, also, which would have been fine if the novel hadn't aged so badly.  The movie featured narration taken directly from the novel, which did not help the overall...gestalt.  Or whatever.

Took the Binks to the vet today.  He has to get shots updated before he can be allowed to interview at the new would-be boarders.  At night told not to move certain cups from drying rack.  Cups must be in certain places?  First I'd learned of that.

I only drink Diet Coke--or any caffeine--later than 2 pm on Thursdays (well, if I have 'work hard all day and night' sessions on days other than Thursday I have one then, too, of course).  Part of me thinks I get so much done on Thursdays because of said Diet Coke.  Mostly though, it's about accumulation.  The map of intellectual progress--the graph--is not y=x.  It's y=a^x.  Every additional hour, the results get bigger and bigger.  They grow exponentially.  Obviously, since that's an exponential equation.

Except tonight some jackass from AT&T came to the door to harass my wife about getting some service he wouldn't explain.  The door right next to my study, I heard it all and had to come out.  My wife is far too polite to people who come to the door.  I immediately tell all of them to go away.  Really.  I assume that nothing important to me--no information I need to have--will ever come via a person at my front door.  The very fact that they ARE a person at my front door means, by definition, they are pointless and unnecessary.  My many brilliant ideas exploded by his droning incessant voice, I scowled and interrupted frequently. After being mean to him for a while I finally realized that his initial claim--he would switch us over to free fiber optic whatever just like they were doing everywhere else in the neighborhood!--was, of course, hooey.  What he actually wanted was for me to switch our Time Warner Cable Bundle to AT&T.  In a sense, he was telling the truth, I guess.  He didn't want us to pay him to switch us over--but he did want us to pay him, for the service.   Filled with rage, I told him to go away (even though the price he quoted me was cheaper.)  I don't like Time Warner at all, but at this point, I'm so angry--still--that I feel like calling AT&T and canceling my cell phone service, just to vent.  This, I know, would do exactly nothing.

"You're a young guy, I know I don't have to explain what fiber-optics are to you."  This is something he said to me!!!

If only I'd thought in advance to have some sort of large cat sleeping in a tree branch in our front yard.  That would have cut his meanderings short--being confronted with an angry puma.   Or even a moderately displeased one.  It still wouldn't be good.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Day 60

Well, no reflections on blogging are, in fact, coming today.  Things are getting slightly more busy than they have been over here.  My tutoring's picking up, the quest to find a boarding home for Binks before June has begun (we have to take him for interviews!), and my backyard llama grooming business is really taking off.

I am going to keep blogging for the foreseeable future.  I can't promise another thirty days, but, at this point, the habit of writing a few hundred words every morning is so ingrained in me that stopping seems pointless.  I would like for a few more of my posts to be more intellectually rich--less of "I did this, I did that" and more "here's what I'm thinking about this...."  But that is neither here nor there.  I will keep posting, on something, for at least another few weeks.

I learned a small cooking fact last night: "chili powder" is NOT, as I had believed, just the powder from chilis.  It is, in fact, a mixture that includes powder of chilis but also cumin, garlic, salt, and various sundry seasonings (depending on who makes it).  Generally real chefs avoid it, preferring instead to use the actual powder from actual chilis (Cayenne, Chipotle, etc).  So, no more chili powder.  Instead, cayenne.  Or, whatever.

This was learned (passive!) because I made tacos last night using a recipe from, of all people, Emeril.  They turned out fairly well--good flavor--although the question of what cut of ground beef to use is still up in the air.  The standard for hamburgers is ground chuck, 20% fat.  (As opposed to ground beef, which is a lower cut of meat).  That seemed a little fatty for tacos, though.  I'll try 10% fat next time, I think.

Binks got groomed yesterday.  He's been moody and sullen ever since.  He's like a dog-Samson, except that instead of making him weak, cutting his hair makes him grouchy.  His hair is the power to be joyous.  The longer it gets, the happier he is.  Now, as I told my wife, he's like a fifteen year old boy who just wants to lock himself in his room and listen to The Cure.

Random Link: This GQ Article on ex-NBAer Stephon Marbury's attempts to launch a business empire in China is worth a read.  How could it not be?  It's Stephon Marbury.  And, in it, he uses the phrase, "I want to own my own city."  Really.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Day 59

New grilled shrimp recipe is a keeper, I've decided.  Only trick is to leave the shrimp on grill long enough so that they come off without sticking and yet not so long that they get overcooked.  Tricky grilling anything delicate (fish, seafood) because of their tendency to stick to grill.  Oiling helps with the first side but by the time you turn it the oil is often gone.  Ah, the problems of suburbia.

Health has been mostly great for the last few months.  Combination of eating smaller meals during the day and taking thyroid medication seems to have done it.  No more than one or two very small dizziness episodes for the last sixty days.  That's good news for my pro hockey career, obviously.

Tomorrow I want to try and reflect on 60 days of blogging.  I know the last few days posts have been more and more cursory.  Truth is, I've run out of things to say.  I'm reading Howard's End, working on my play, cooking dinner, dealing with humdrum stuff.  Sure, once in a while I take part in a shamanic initiation, or go on a drinking binge with Gerard Depardieu, but mostly it's work and domesticity.

The good news today is that our next disc of Downton Abbey arrives in the mail.  Only three episodes on one disc, but still.  That's more than three hours of goodness.  Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 58

Watched Le Plaisir yesterday.  Directed by Max Ophuls, it takes three stories by Maupassant and sets them end to end in order to form a completed movie.  The stories relate only to each other by theme.  They all address, in some way, the nature of pleasure (romantic pleasure, specifically).  For me the best sequence was the one in the middle story, in which a group of high class prostitutes attend a village communion service.  The obnoxious salesman on the train who tries to sell them garters; the starstruck mayor of the small town who insists they all sit in the best pew in the church; and most of all, Jean Gabin as the brother of their employer, who picks them up at the train stop in the cart he uses to haul hay and fusses over them with a mixture of brotherly pride and romantic ardor--these were some of the best moments.  

Tonight's menu: grilled shrimp with penne and broccoli rabe.  So I need to go to the store.  That's going to be the next task of the morning.  Then, the work.  Then, jogging.  Then, pick up the Binks.  He's getting his hair cut today.  And other sundry grooming elements.  The Maltese has no undercoat of fur, which means that he doesn't ever shed.  (Fur is the dog equivalent to the skin of a snake, or bird feathers; it's genetically programmed to 'molt' at certain times every year.)  Instead, his hair just grows.  And grows and grows and grows.  If it's not trimmed every few months he starts to look like an enormous ball of fluff.  Worse, it grows in front of his eyes, and he can't see.  And that makes it very difficult for him to help out as a caddy at the local golf course.  Or, work on his sculptures.

It seems more and more likely that the kennel where we take Binks when we go on vacations will close at the end of the month.  This is a serious problem.  It's taken him two years to get used to that place.  We're going on a ten-day trip in the middle of June.  That's a long time for the Animal to be outside of the home.  We cannot possibly take him to a new place--somewhere he's never been--for that trip.  We have to locate a new kennel before that and take him there once or twice to get him used to it.  Which is going to be tricky and unpleasant, probably, for all involved.

If anyone wants to take care of a dog for ten days in June, let me know!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Day 57

Just found out that one of my SAT students didn't do great on a practice test he took on Saturday.  The kid is 13, trying to get in the 600s (or 700s) on Math and Verbal to get into various high level summer programs they run for the gifted and ambitious.  He did okay on the test, but no better, score-wise, than he did six months ago.  Which obviously does not reflect well on me.  Of course, I also found out that his mother let him stay up till midnight the night before the test and that he was exhausted going in.  So now I'm trying very subtly to pin the blame on her, while she, very subtly, is trying to pin it on me.  What fun!  (I say things like "if you weren't such a bad mother--and a bad person, really--this might not have happened.  Did you think of that?")

I feel like I should say something about us getting Bin Laden, but I'm not sure what that is.  I want to play the South Park song ("America!") but I have to go find it.  I guess what I wonder is how much of it is a symbolic thing and how much difference it will actually make in helping us be more safe.  I don't know any more about the issue than what I read in the paper, but it seems to me that in recent years Bin Laden has been more of a figurehead than an actual mastermind/director of terrorist attacks.  He's had to keep hidden and that's kept him out of the loop, as far as planning terrorist acts goes.  None of which is to say that I'm not celebrating his capture.  I am.  (I love America!)  I only wonder if it's going to have any meaningful impact in the war on terror, or whatever we're calling it now.

But it's good to know American Special Forces can kick ass, when the time comes.  Go Joe!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 56

Had a dream about an old friend from high school--someone I haven't talked to in 20 years almost--calling me up out of the blue.  Long conversation ensued about what seemed like nothing (though she did talk about how broke she and her husband were).  Only when she hung up did I realize she was asking--in a very subtle, masked way--for me to ask my father to help her get out of a traffic ticket.  [SI].  I had to call her back to say I'd help.

Yesterday we went furniture shopping, an act which always puts my wife in a good mood.  Well, maybe it's more getting out of the house that puts her in the good mood.  But she was in a good mood, that's the point of it.  We bought no furniture, but we did get to the West Side of town where one of our favorite Mexican restaurants can be found.  There, we got to eat spicy pork, putting ME in a good mood.  After dinner we watched the first two episodes of Downton Abbey on DVD.  Written and created by Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter on Gosford Park, Downton Abbey is the story of the relationship between the wealthy family and their servants living on a large--actually, immense--stately home in the English Countryside.  It is, essentially, Gosford Park as a mini-series.  (It even features Maggie Smith, reprising a very similar role as the one she played in GP).  Not surprisingly, both my wife and I totally loved it.  I'm sending back one of my Netflix DVDs unwatched tomorrow just so I can speed up the arrival of the next disc.

I am currently in the process of reading 11 separate books (I counted yesterday).  Surely that is not good.  Surely I should just pick one and finish it.  But, that seems in no danger of happening.  I don't know when I stopped reading one book at a time, but it's been a while.

Woke to find the Bink's receiving detangling and grooming from my wife.  He look disgruntled but patient enough--he knows a treat will come at the end if he sits still.  It's exactly like I used to look when I was a boy and someone would try to put me in my tie for Sunday School.  And then brush my hair!  Like I couldn't brush my own hair!! (Well, to be fair: I couldn't.  But that's not the point!)

Poor Binks.  The cost of beauty is not small.