24 February 2009

bits and bobs

budget update: i'm 11 euros over budget and it's the 24th. in my defense, i have bought two trips this month: a may weekend in dublin with the ladies, and semana santa to barcelona and southwestern france (darling). meanwhile -- and revelations like this are why we budget to begin with -- i am 38 euros over on alcohol. and i repeat, it's the 24th. and my budget for alcohol was, um, 150 euros. well, well, well. in brighter tidings, i am 140 euros UNDER on shopping!

in television news: i love how the latest episode of flight of the conchords was all around fort greene. jogging in the park, dekalb avenue, chez oscar. it's good to see the old hood again. i'm back in love with hbo, after burning through true blood and now getting into generation kill. not only does it borrow the wire's lingo-laden conversational style and slightly difficult-to-penetrate plotline, but like any hbo show it features friends from series past. i recognized ziggy sobotka right off the bat -- after his dad frank sobotka's turn on true blood -- but it took me a while to place that other guy, who i now remember as being one of the dickish police brutality cops who did things the western district way. awesome.

finally, i saw a great band the other night. they're called columpio asesino and they're the rare spanish band i've heard that i've loved. they sound a little bit like yo la tengo, with dashes of pixies. go check it out...

23 February 2009

19 February 2009

the final push

the sun has been shining for a week, days are blindingly bright and pleasingly warm. my wool coat hangs quietly, passed over for that wonderful harbinger of spring: the denim jacket. yesterday i spent the afternoon on my terrace, soaking in these sneaky february rays.

we're not out of the wilderness yet as far as winter is concerned, but these sunny stretches hint that we're in the final push (as my dad used to say). meanwhile, the weather is doing wonders for my disposition, and i think i may even have a bit of a tan...

18 February 2009

bug-building game

a clue on today's times crossword brought a blast from my past. i haven't thought about cootie, the game where you assemble plastic insects, in years -- decades maybe.

i can't say i remember the rules to this game, but a quick look at wikipedia suggests that the rules are staggeringly simple. the six body parts -- legs, body, head, ears, eyes, tongue -- correspond to the six sides of a die; you pick up what you roll. now why would such a facile and strategy-free game be so beloved, one of its manufacturers' best-sellers?

is it because they are bugs? i mean, if you had to collect six other things -- straws maybe, or shoelace tips -- i can't see 50 years of success. but cooties, kids love them. looking at that picture, i remember being particularly fond of the tongue.

or maybe kids don't need too much zip in their games. remember candy land? or chutes and ladders? i loved when bill and nikki played go fish on big love a couple of weeks ago. why would anybody over the age of 4 play these "games" anymore? i suppose they're like primers, getting kids versed in the rituals of dice rolling, marching your piece forwards or backwards across a board, drawing and discarding, etc.

do kids even play board games anymore? i wonder if they go straight to the video game console; instead of building plastic cooties, designing insect societies in sim antfarm.

16 February 2009

guest bloggership continues

my latest installment is up at crucial minutiae. go have a look and leave a comment if you fancy!

15 February 2009

2008 movie round-up

i think the oscars are tonight so here is my two cents.

best movies i saw
1. milk
2. rachel getting married
3. vicky cristina barcelona
4. iron man
5. frost/nixon

worst movies i saw
1. revolutionary road
2. indiana jones and the kingdom of the crystal skull
3. speed racer
4. burn after reading
5. sex and the city

movies i still would like to see
1. man on wire
2. the class
3. harold and kumar escape from guantanamo
4. che
5. happy go lucky

movies i will definitely not be seeing
1. the curious case of benjamin button
2. australia
3. valkyrie
4. the reader
5. the gran torino


there are certain items that i always purchase in the u.s. not that they aren't for sale in spain, or that the spanish versions don't suit my needs. but i have my routines and tendencies and these dictate shopping.

bras, underwear and socks. only purchased in america.

the funny thing is that a girlfriend of mine revealed that she also buys these three things only at home. which made me wonder, are we all doing this? what do you buy only in the states?

12 February 2009

walking home

A rare mild night in February; leaving my friend’s house in Chueca I decided to walk the 30 minutes home. Cold weather sends me running for taxis and subways – especially after 2 a.m. But tonight there was a full moon and it felt good to stretch my legs.

It has been a while since I’ve walked through the heart of this city; normally I avoid these crowded streets. Usually I walk with my head down, dodging people and lost in the music playing through my headphones. But late at night I stick to the main drags and stay alert. No music, head up, listening.

And tonight the streets were empty, eerily calm and shiny. Heels echoing through a vacant Sol and cavernous Plaza Mayor. The minstrel song of a stumbling drunk brushing across the cobblestones, angry garbage trucks devouring bins, the sporadic questions from strangers – directions or spare change – only briefly interrupting the silence.

Do you ever walk through your city and feel like you’re dreaming? Like if you closed your eyes you could lift up and float away?

09 February 2009

calling the kettle racist

second column is up at crucial minutae, check out calling the kettle racist. and leave comments!

08 February 2009

a couple minutes late?

though i'm sure in internet time a couple minutes midas well be a couple years. surely you have all seen, or heard about this already. but it was just last night that i saw this for the first time:
i'll admit that i spend a ridiculous amount of time in front of my laptop, most of it taming the beast of google reader and thus somewhere on the scale between forboding and downright depressing. and while i like babies or whatever in the backseat or rolling around on the floor, this clip is the most balls-out feel good three minutes i have spent on the net in a while.

what i love about this is the same thing i love about burning man. here's someone working their ass off for no reason other than to create something cool and share it with people. granted there is a built-in audience but what we see before us is nothing beyond raw talent and dedication. i find that to be inspiring.

honestly, who's cooler here: beyonce with her amazing hair, clothes, styling, backup dancers, beats and choreography or this dude in his tiny room with a webcam? i kind of love him more, for the lack of commercialism, for the rawness of it.

and i know he's been on oprah and probably has a book and a reality series and a line of strappy gymwear coming out -- i am a bit late on this, i admitted that from the beginning. and of course he's piggybacking on the awesomeness of the original video. my point is that i love people creating art out of the dusty corners of their shitty apartment for no reason other than that it is bursting out of their skin.

ps. time to be youtube sensations friends; how fun does this look? let's remake this one: "forever more" by moloko. check it out here. i dig those drunken style dance moves. call me when you're ready to start rehearsing.

07 February 2009

jacki's viewless reviews - australia

she is a headstrong and proper british woman, daughter of a brilliant but ruthless land developer who has gone missing in the australian outback, thought to be captured by aboriginal savages. he is a convicted criminal who was banished to australia to serve his sentence in the wild. he has scrapped by on raffishness and chivalry alone, and is now attempting to make a name for himself as an outback tourguide/bodyguard.

despite their natural dislike for each other, these two end up on an adventurous mission to find the missing father. their cause is helped tremendously by jackman's aboriginal friend and guru whose loincloth and spear belie his wisdom and authenticity. though kidman is reluctant to take advice from this "savage," she is forced to reckon with the question of who are the real savages in this colonial world? are they the criminals and natives, as she has always believed, or the businessmen like her father who would destroy their fragile culture in the name of the (australian) dollar.

no good epic about a british colony would be complete without a certain dose of "fuck you england" and in this aspect "australia" does not disappoint. though our heroine may find her father, can she ever find her way back to the comfortable superiority and advantage of her former life? armed with a newfound respect for the land she hated and accompanied by the man she grew to love, kidman's eventual "fuck you" to england reminds of us of that other great ozzie-starring epic "braveheart," which i have also not seen but am sure i know everything about.

06 February 2009

two leaves

i've done two things in the past few days that qualify as leaves on my tree

first off, i pitched my first article to a magazine! this is something that i have been thinking about doing for a while and am finally pulling the trigger. i have another two ideas that i'm going to pitch this weekend. attempting to break into this field is like resetting the dial on my job-hunting mechanism. no more resume/cover letter combo; no more trolling through job postings (actually, those are their pitches to us, aren't they?). now i have an idea and sell just this piece of myself. it's refreshing, actually.

and today, inspired by the website get rich slowly, i spent ten minutes creating a personal budget. i've never been one to overspend, and i have a fairly good idea of where my money goes, but as an exercise in financial responsibility i'm going to put a spreadsheet to the task of proving me wrong.

(confession: i secretly kinda like spreadsheets and i don't get to use them much these days. yes i'm a nerd, but spreadsheets -- all those orderly boxes, beckoning to me with their subtle rigidity and infinite possibilities -- are relaxing to me. the quiet despair i often feel when staring at a blank document; the steady calm of looking at a blank spreadsheet.)

i digress. suffice it to say i've got a spreadsheet that i can play with every day and be a responsible ox while i'm at it. two leaves on the tree, and counting!

04 February 2009

goals: method two

my friend suggested drawing a tree, and labeling each branch with an area of your life you would like to improve. these are not actions, but personal qualities that you would like to develop. then, when you do something in your life that reflects one of these areas, you draw a leaf on that branch. little by little, you notice which goals are easier, which are getting the most attention, and which need more work.

i love this approach because rather than focusing on actions, it reaches deeper to highlight the parts of yourself that prevent you from doing these things to begin with. i believe that if you look at the underlying situation, the actions will fall out naturally, and you will know yourself better in the process. i also like that it is visual, providing a tangible, colorful reminder of personal ambitions.

so, looking back on my stated goals of yesterday, i propose my tree to have the followings branches:

- creativity
- productivity
- care for others
- emotional honesty

i think that all of my goals could be accomplished by working on these four areas. so there's my tree. what are your branches?

03 February 2009

goals: one month late

well, it's time for the third annual listing of new year's resolutions, cleverly called goals to make them seem more inspiring and fluid. let's look back at last year's, shall we?

  • continue with: yoga, guitar, feeling wonderful about birthdays
  • get nothing to declare to a solid 5 posts per week. bring readership up over 150 individual hits per day
  • get going on writing that monthly column
  • finish writing my novel in february. edit the two parts together and decide what to do with it
  • stay at present weight
ok. number one: check. yoga and birthdays continue to be positive enjoyable forces in my life; guitar takes a backseat but only because i'm busy with other stuff.

number two: not so much. nothing to declare hasn't been given enough attention, or the attention i give it doesn't amount to much, or it's hard to get people to write without paying them. i don't check page hit stats anymore, and five posts a month would be awesome. i'm still really proud and motivated by this project though, just not sure where it is going, if anywhere. advice? suggestions?

meanwhile, writing-wise, i did start a column, though not monthly. and the novel hasn't been touched in a year. i picked it up a few weeks ago and immediately put it down again.

number five, check.

so, not i haven't been as goal-fulfilling as last year. perhaps i need to lower the bar? or check in with them more often? but it's not as if i didn't have a productive year; i did accomplish a lot of things that i'm proud of. i suppose this exercise is just a guideline -- the idea is to be flexible and encourage yourself, not get yourself down, right?

the other day my friend suggested a completely new way to set personal goals and work toward fulfilling them. i'm going to do my goals both ways this year and see what works better. method one: the old fashioned way. here we go:
  • be a hard-working ox. earn more money, save more money.
  • try to turn writing from a hobby into some form of career.
  • write letters. specifically to grandma (monthly) but also to other people. use ink and paper to convey my love for my friends and family, whether over a short or long distance. keep a stock of notecards and stamps around and use them often.
  • cry more
  • revisit these goals more often
ok. how's that? i know my dad's reaction, which will be: these are not quantified goals. he'll say: number 1, save how much? number 2, what constitutes career? etc. but i'm not going to quantify, as i'm not sure how i want to do that yet. perhaps i can refine them more as the year goes on.

tomorrow, i'll frame these same ideas using method number two!

02 February 2009

guest bloggership

i am the guest blogger at crucial minutae, a very thought-provoking and lovely blog that is the side project of my friend joie's writing group in new york city. its creators are mostly all published authors, and i am constantly impressed by the variety and quality of their site.

i'm writing over there about the post-bush world outside of u.s. borders, focusing on my personal experience in spain, obviously, but also touching on other corners of the globe. so go check out my first piece, peruse the rest of the site if you haven't already, go buy the books of my hard-working hosts, oh and don't forget to leave lots of comments so they think i'm cool.

01 February 2009

crossed lines

this past fall i've been a part one of the coolest, most inspiring projects i've ever done. led by my roommate sky, a group of us envisioned and wrote an original play composed of 9 short, individually written plays. we set the guidelines as follows: each short play would be between 5-10 minutes long, would contain between three and four characters, and would share one character with the previous play and another character with the following play.

over the course of a month we wrote, critiqued and re-wrote the pieces, resulting in a truly original and moving piece of theater. the characters and situations varied greatly, but together they formed a cohesive thematic work. collaborating with eight other writers was an experience i am so grateful for and from which i learned so much. we named our play "crossed lines."

next sky held a casting, and cast a group of 20 amazing actors to interpret our work. a month full of rehearsals followed and in december i was able to watch our production in a madrid theater. it amazed me that in two months this had sprung out of people's minds and onto the stage. i'm so proud of everyone involved, especially sky for having the spark and motivation to envision and execute such a rewarding experience, not to mention write, direct and act brilliantly!

i'm supposed to be at the theater tonight, at the last performance of "crossed lines." unfortunately i mixed up the times and missed it. oops. still a little slow after the incredible cast party last night, hosted by fellow writer and gifted actress marta rubio. luckily, i'll get to see the dvd!