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May 13th, 2010


10:37 pm - I genuinely advocate for a return to aggressive use of DDT
Woke up this morning and ran a somewhat respectable 12.5 minute mile. (Somewhat respectable because of the altitude and because I'm a mildly asthmatic Dance Dance player rather than a runner. Which means among other things I go for wind sprints.) This was my first time running barefoot, and I gotta say I really prefer it (presuming a safe surface).

Christopher and I walked through the mountains and saw many wonderful things, a few of which I have photographed but none of which are yet uploaded. Hardest to photograph but most remarkable were the lights in the sky - near 11am, for maybe a minute and a half, there were six clouds striped in rainbow colors, as though Halloween smoke bombs had been set off in the sky. It did not seem caused by nature at all, although it was, and it was like nothing either of us had ever seen. On the way back to the car, we received confirmation that dogs are superior to breadcrumbs; Koko, a small and not terribly rugged pomeranian, had marked every juncture of the path and had no trouble following his own smell to guide us.

Christopher and my new scheme (we scheme on these walks, and Val is working and therefore not around to stop us) is to move beyond ninjas, gypsies, zombies, vampires, and pirates and to begin to self-identify as bandits. Possibly we will wear bandit masks, like El Zorro. Possibly we will sometimes claim to be brigands rather than bandits. Either way we intend to be skulduggerous. In other words consider this notice that bandits are now on trend.

I spent a pleasant few hours weeding the yard while eating blackberries and galia melon (which I correctly surmised was a cross of honeydew and cantaloupe, just from the smell), and Val and I headed to the river to watch the sunset.

There are basically no mosquitos in New Mexico. Christopher lived here more than seven years, is outdoors constantly, and saw a group of them once. In four months here, Sharon has seen (and killed) two that looked lost. A swarm showed up today and bit me 11 times in a few minutes, some through my clothes. I have singlehandedly sustained the entire mosquito population of New Mexico.

Since I don't have my special cream with me (figuring there were not mosquitos in New Mexico, a major selling point), Val has dosed me with steroids and Benadryl, such that I am now both covered with welts and slightly loopy. The best description of how I feel is "glrrrrrrrrrr." (Note to self: always bring special cream. You have been bitten by mosquitos in the dead of winter with three feet of snow on the ground. You are Romie, and they will find you.)

I shall have a lie down soon, but I must stay focused for now so that I may partake of tea and cookies.
Current Location: Rio Rancho, NM
Current Mood: groggygroggy

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08:59 am - A Stew of Cloves
I have never had a favorite color, although I like certain colors for certain things (yellow kitchens, blue houses, red game pieces, green shirts) and certain hues next to other hues. I wonder whether visual artists generally are less likely to have favorite colors. (I include photographers in this.) It seems to me we tend instead to have design principles.

I have discovered sugar ants in Val's office. I was happily killing a dozen whenever I needed a break, until I realized Val was not aware of the infestation. Immediately, Serious Measures were undertaken, although they continue to be supplemented by my more individually targeted execution style. I am probably the most thorough and inefficient exterminator in history.

Last night, I took a long bath full of various potions, as Val's first order of duty upon moving was to stock the guest room and guest bath with luxurious objects in order to lure, for instance, me. The bed is much better than my bed at home. There is a beautiful desk full of adorable stationary. (If anybody wants a letter, send me your address. I will probably write something inane, but it will be on pretty paper.) Point being: I took a bath full of exotic spices in the desert. That is some indulgence.*

Christopher and I have decided that celebrities would be more likely to read fan mail if it was from other celebrities, so we have decided to send mail to celebrities in care of other celebrities. "Dear Macy Gray, could you please get this to David Bowie." "Paul McCartney, if you run into Serena Williams." Surely the celebrities would make every effort. It's the mail. It's their duty.

Watched Orlando**; a hit and miss script, but visually inventive, and interesting by virtue of dealing with ideas that are not often dealt with in film. I wish it had been a little less in love with itself and a little more focused, but it's worth watching for the spectacle and the sense of humor.

The calendar next to the stove has a photo of blue-footed boobies looking ridiculous, which always reminds me of my mom. (Galapagos is her favorite Vonnegut, and the boobies are why.)

* Yes; baths do use less water than showers, but it is still like being in a hot tub in the snow.
** 1994. Directed by Sally Potter, based on Virginia Woolf, starring Tilda Swinton and featuring Billy Zane.

Current Location: Rio Rancho, NM
Current Mood: nerdynerdy

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May 12th, 2010


12:07 pm - Again and again
Ciro worked on a film a few weeks ago, and one of the dancers in the film subsequently asked a mutual friend (my friend foremost, but also Ciro's friend and the dancer's friend) whether Ciro might have any unsatisfactions in his marriage she could exploit because she'd like to hook up with him. This dancer was told by our friend this was not acceptable and the friend went on to warn Ciro (who then warned me) that these schemings were going on.

The situation is resolved, but what bothers me about it is that it's not unique. This is at least the fourth time this has happened (although I'm counting times we were engaged and not married) - the fourth time I know about. One of them I was present for. This is what happens: we are out with a friend or friends and meet another friend of theirs. (This is the first time I have not also met the pursuer.) Brief pleasantries are exchanged. Immediately afterward or the following day, the new acquaintance makes clear to our friend that he or she wants to get with Ciro. When told no, they pout about it and act like someone's unjustly punished them. (This includes the time I was present when they talked about how much they wanted to fuck him, and who cares about his wife, who they didn't realize was standing right there. When told "that's her there," they were not embarrassed or apologetic; on the contrary, they were extremely resentful I'd unfairly gotten in their way.) These are not people Ciro has flirted with or complained to; they're virtual strangers.

I understand that desire for someone isn't affected by whether they're married, and is sometimes heightened by it. And I obviously understand desiring Ciro; that is a position on which I hold strong and substantiated views. What I don't understand is whatever societal shift has made this style of approach not transgressive, not illicit or dangerous (whether legally or to your social standing). It is one thing to say (discreetly and with an awareness of possible consequences) to a married person, "hey, if you're interested. . .", with a hope they'll be open to the idea but an assumption that you'll have to fade away quickly if not. It's another thing to say to a friend "I am going to try to get your other friend's husband to commit adultery; since he hasn't shown an interest, can you help me out?" I am troubled by the shift from "I want this person, so maybe I could ask if they want me too, even though" (which is brazen but not quite villainous) to "my immediate sexual gratification is more important than your friendship with either of these people or the integrity of their lives, and I would like to be publicly cheered on for my moxy as I pursue this target."

Again, I understand the rush of "I was able to take what I wanted no matter what," but society condemns that impulse in realms that go beyond the sexual, and for good reason; it's essential to civilization that people mitigate short-term impulses that are destructive in the long term. (Stable family groups are more necessary to species survival than one-night stands; we've all pretty much agreed to that, whining to the contrary*, as it allows us to do things like put spouses through college, raise children, combine finances, use fewer household resources because we don't need duplicates, etc.. It is not an exaggeration to say that marriage in some form is the essential basis of civilizations - one of the reasons the lack of support for gay marriage rankles. This is not to disparage single people so much as to say that a society of all single people is unstable.)

What the hell happened to American society? And how can you possibly get across to someone how inappropriate this stuff is if they don't know already? It's like having to teach "punching random passerby is wrong and not funny" - it's something one-year-olds know instinctively and I'm not sure how I would make common ground with someone who lacked that instinct. It's frightening. Perhaps it's another emergent property of the "relative truth" meme, the damage that just keeps giving.**

* mostly from evolutionary psychologists of dubious scholarship (a condition endemic to the profession)
** It's always fun to blame things on TV as well, people not distinguishing between reality and fiction -- in which case thank God they're not running Macbeth all the time, or Oedipus.

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May 11th, 2010


11:34 pm - Atheism and Me
Although I am an atheist, I find it productive to hold opinions on God and to maintain beliefs about salvation. For me, God is not "real" in the sense that I do not believe there is a being of any sort who has any plans or makes any judgements, or who acted as creator, savior, permeates the world, flows from being, etc.. God is, however, a valuable abstract concept, much like art, freedom, friendship, wildness, and so forth. For instance, I will drive down the highway and the thought will occur to me at random: "I am grateful for my life. I am grateful that I got to exist even for a moment." I am definitely grateful to someone, and that someone is God. Also, there is no God and I was not made by him. This is obviously a hard position to get across to both atheists and Christians, although it is often shared by theologically-minded ministers in non-evangelistic Protestant churches - your more socially liberal Methodists, Episcopalians, etc.. The ones whose sermons sort of treat God as a metaphor, but a metaphor for nothing besides itself. They and I get along.

In any case, I was thinking about salvation (salvation from what? I don't believe in Hell. Bear with me.) It seems to me salvation through Grace is a nice idea - the idea that you are saved, period, no matter what you do - that no matter how much evil you do, God loves you and you don't deserve to suffer forever. That would seem to excuse a lot of bad behavior, but not really. It's still bad. It still hurts people and needs to stop - or be stopped. It just says you have value anyway and deserve compassion even while people are stopping you. Salvation through works is good as well - the idea that simply through working at it, you can become a good person and enter a state of grace. (Here I am using "grace" to mean something slightly different, in the same way I might use "oneness with the Tao.") I like the cognitive-behavioral backbone of salvation through works; it says that you can become a good person simply by starting to act the way a good person would act in that situation - that you can still have doubts and weaknesses and flaws, and it doesn't make you less saved as long as you go through the motions you need to go through.

What I find damaging is the idea of salvation through epiphany. Epiphanies happen, obviously, but to matter they have to be either a realization that one was saved before the epiphany (salvation by Grace), thus allowing you to forgive the past which held you back, or by a realization that certain actions must be undertaken (salvation through works) - and those actions must then be undertaken. What I don't like is the idea that epiphany is a central part of salvation - accepting Jesus into your heart, being filled with the spirit, etc.. It's essentially an excuse to procrastinate - an excuse to put off doing something you think is desirable if you don't have one, and a free ride if you do. You don't have to perform good works to be saved - you've accepted Jesus into your heart! And this is not a state of Grace that extends to all God's creatures - it's just special you and your personal revelatory moment.

I mention this because I think people wait for epiphanies all the time - the have a romantic notion that someday something will happen that will make them really realize clearly they need to quit smoking, or leave a bad job, or any of a thousand changes they say all the time they need to make. They wait for "a real wakeup call," after which they will immediately manifest all the correct behaviors. This is the winning the lottery version of a savings account. This is the "pulled off the street by an agent" version of movie stardom. These things are possible, but not likely.

It would be awfully nice if things suddenly got much easier, but they don't. If you want salvation, you're just going to have to put up with the withdrawal and the planning and getting turned down by publishers and being hungry while you diet. There are ways you can make this easier, but not easy. Why would it be? Incidentally, if it is too hard today, God loves you anyway, and it doesn't mean you'll fail again next time.

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11:02 pm - I do not excel at travelogues
There is a giant mountain outside the door, and it is so dry that when it rains the moisture evaporates many feet above your head. Christopher and I walk Koko (a small pomeranian) each morning and use it as an excuse for a ramble to spot wildlife. Notable so far have been a western tanager and a snake I haven't positively identified. (It was tan, of uniform color, not shiny, diurnal, and fast moving. I know my poisonous snakes, but my ability to ID non-poisonous is fairly limited - partly because the best way to make a positive ID is to know what the underbelly looks like, which is usually not possible.) There are dozens of dark-colored hummingbirds and small lizards. The river is brown right now, and the vegetation is silver. The ravens are working hard to imitate other animals, for reasons we can't fathom; it took us several minutes to track an eerie frog call to one of them. We had fresh trout for dinner and blueberry pancakes for breakfast.

I continue to drink a great deal of water and wear a great deal of sunblock, which is not much change for me. Val has observed that by being least adapted to this climate I am most adapted to this climate, since I assume most climates are equally hostile and take strong precautions accordingly.

Visited a wonderful bakery around the corner and had a good cannoli for the first time in . . . ever, probably. The pastry was not hard and the filling was (properly) made of ricotta instead of cheap whipped cream. So I finally understand the point of them.
Current Location: Rio Rancho, NM

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May 9th, 2010


09:40 pm - The Effects of Travel
I spent about 12 hours in a back seat today, alternately napping and surveying the scenery; through this masterful effort, I am in a different timezone and at a different altitude: Rio Rancho, just outside Albequerque, New Mexico. In other words: Home of Val. I have been warned to drink lots of water, slather myself with lotion, and avoid alcohol for at least 24 hours; I have also been supplied with both advil and a humidifier. This is the first time in perhaps a decade I have spent much time in a mountain or desert region. As a final warning, I have been told to look out for rattlesnakes and to assume that any and all food is green-chile flavored.

I am very tired either because I barely slept last night or because I am 5000 feet higher up than I was this morning. While I was thinking about drones policing the borders of both Israel and the US, we drove past a few oilfields, and the two have combined into a science fiction short story idea I think is promising. However, for tonight, I am too tired and must to bed, covered with lotion.
Current Mood: tiredtired

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May 8th, 2010


03:16 pm - Morality!
I began my day with a conversation that went approximately like this.

Romie (on phone): How light do I need to pack? Are we talking "throw some books and makeup in a backpack and borrow clothes all week"? I know there's not much room in the car.

Val (through phone): Oh, no. Gosh. Bring whatever you want. By "pack light," I just meant that you don't need to bring shampoo and stuff because I have it. Bring everything. There is only room in the car for a small backpack. Don't worry about it.

It's another several hours before I start packing, so it remains to be seen whether I interpret this directive to mean "feel free to throw our stuff by the side of the road so there's room for whatever you want to bring." I say this affectionately but with malice, because I too can simultaneously espouse opposite concepts.

I spent a few hours yesterday paring down text for a company that makes ESL texbooks for China; it seems to have been lifted from a few "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books (because China and copyright law are rarely in the same room). This meant removing all of the regional dialect and references to God and America. It also meant untangling the more convoluted sentences and tortured verb conjugations. I feel without these things the text is much stronger, although still very hokey. Oh China. Oh Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Current Mood: quixoticgoogly

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May 7th, 2010


04:29 pm - Frankenstein at the DMA
Here you go: for mother's day I have made a video about Frankenstein's Monster.



It is fairly silly. It is somewhat an inside joke, not only because Frankenstien is a metaphor for motherhood but because the earliest film on which I was allowed to hold the camera instead of having to ask Dad was "Frankenstein: Man or Monster?" -- a project for 10th grade English. I mean, there are philosophical implications about the institutional memory of an art museum and the adult/child mockup that is Frankenstein, but that is probably thinking too much.

For breakfast, I met with multiple members of the Dodge family at Henk's (aka the Black Forest Bakery), a place that serves German food, German beer, and various baked goods. So I had coffee and a chocolate napoleon and several types of sausage and several types of sauerkraut and potatoes and bread with different mustards. And what I am getting at is that I will never need to eat again, although I think I would like to eat some more very soon.
Current Mood: sillysilly

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May 5th, 2010


11:54 pm - With a willow willow wailing
Ciro has been struggling for a few days with what seemed like an allergic reaction - suddenly sore throat followed by itchy eyes followed by sinus headache and residual congestion - with the complication that he's never in his life had an allergy to anything and wasn't exposed to anything unusual beforehand. The mystery is solved: it is not an allergy because he passed it to me. He passed it to me through kissing. Who, one wonders, passed it to him -- and how.

(If this was film instead of text, I would have just whirled around in my chair and the camera would have smash zoomed to my face. There might have been a gavel sound anticipating the cut to the next scene - or hand drums, walking bass, and a bleating trumpet beginning a credits sequence done up in silhouette. I am sad sometimes that my life isn't a '60s television action series, I won't lie.)

In any case, a sore throat is kind of miserable when you vocalize professionally. At least I know from Ciro's trailblazing that it should leave my throat sometime tomorrow. In the meantime, there is aspirin. Also, Val is in town and brought me cake and some kind of Chinese date fruit.
Current Mood: sicksick

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07:16 pm - it's been like a week.
From the annals of "seriously, guys?" I present to you British Petrolium.

1. There is an accident at our rig, but no spill.
2. There is a small spill of 1000 barrels a day and we have it under control.
3. Actually, it is 5000 barrels a day and we don't have it under control.
4. Actually, it is getting worse and we think it could get up to 60,000 barrels a day in the near future.

Well done, gentlemen. I am glad you didn't start by offering me gum, because then I would know things were really dangerous. Let's partner for a Mars mission.

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