Thursday, September 27, 2012

Take THAT, Houston!

After pleading "GET ME OUT OF HERE!" about my last temp job, I didn't think my temp agency would be too keen on hiring me for anything else anytime soon! I was kind of resigned to sending out the occasional resume and watching my $10,000 dwindle as the months passed... But after being unemployed this Monday and Tuesday, they got me something else---and downtown!!! Hurray for downtown! Hooray for the bus that stops right across the street from my apartment, and then only one block from my new workplace! Hooray for getting to be around all types of people (not just college kids and mean office ladies)! Hooray for getting to walk around looking in shop windows at lunch! Hooray for grabbing a sandwich and sitting on a bench all by myself eating it while reading the Chronicle and looking at passersby, and then afterwards having a leisurely smoke (no smoking any more on campus...but I'm not on campus any more, hooray!), right next to this lady! I'd never heard of her, but what a cool story! The lady who saved Austin as the capital of Texas! Hooray!


-----------------------------------------------------------
from the Capital Area Statues website:

ANGELINA EBERLY

In 1842, six years after Texas won its independence from Mexico, the capitol of the young republic was an isolated village on the western frontier whose name had recently been changed from Waterloo to Austin. President Sam Houston thought Austin was an inappropriate location for the capitol of Texas, and campaigned to have it moved to a city he found more to his taste--Houston. When the citizens of Austin resisted his attempts to move the capitol, Houston sent a delegation of Texas Rangers to steal the government archives. They would have succeeded if it had not been for a fiery local innkeeper named Angelina Eberly, who heard the rangers loading their wagons in the middle of the night. She hurried down to the corner of what is now Sixth and Congress and fired off the town cannon, missing the rangers but blowing a hole in the General Land Office building. The cannon fire roused the populace, who chased down the rangers and recovered the archives near Brushy Creek. Had it not been for Angelina’s impulsive gesture, Houston would now be the capitol of Texas. In a very real sense, Angelina Eberly was the savior of Austin.

The Location

The statue of Angelina Eberly firing off her cannon was erected at the very spot this historic event took place: Sixth and Congress in downtown Austin, TX.

The Artist

The sculptor of the Angelina Eberly statue is Pat Oliphant, the most widely syndicated cartoonist in the world. Among his numerous prizes are the Pultizer Prize, the German Thomas Nast Prize, and the Premio Satira Politica of Italy. His achievements as cartoonist, painter, and sculptor have been celebrated in major exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institution, the National Portrait Gallery, and several presidential libraries (including the Lyndon B. Johnson Library). Recently he became the first artist to be exhibited in the newly restored Great Hall of the Library of Congress.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Old Flames






"Imperial purple makes a very fine shroud."

Theodora single-handedly saving her husband's regime during the Nika Riots.

Emperor Justinian AND his military-men were ready to flee during the massive 532 AD riots in Constantinople; Theodora, on the other hand, said she'd rather die wearing the royal color purple than give in to the stadium marauders.

After thus being inspired to take a stand, and after subsequently rallying his men to kill over 30,000 rioters and townspeople, Justinian ended up ruling for another 30 years.

The below intentionally purple notebooks that I bought today await:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Yawning Man

I woke up on my First Day o' Freedom relatively early, around 8:45am, and was all set to jump up and shower and go get a pedi (always a representative to me of a fresh start) and a good new pair of basic beige pants (always a representative to me of stability and preparedness). But I'd gone to sleep the night before with TCM on, and when I woke up today, 1958's "Tom Thumb" was on. I'd never seen the whole thing in childhood, just bits and pieces, and while lazing about thinking about what all I was going to do today, I got caught up in the mild cleverness. The first scene I saw was Russ Tamblyn's dance with all the toys. (I hadn't remembered that it was Russ Tamblyn, thought it might be Danny Kaye, but couldn't tell 'til later, cause Tom Thumb was so...tiny on the screen!)

Then came another mildly cute scene in the woods with the simple flute-player (just promoted to second woodwind in the king's band) who wanted to marry a fairy princess, but couldn't 'cause he was mortal; she was hinting around that there was only one thing he had to do to make her mortal, too, so they could marry. She meant KISSING her, but he asked, "What? Get promoted to FIRST woodwind?" After which she made herself invisible out of irritation. And then Peter Sellers turned up as part of an evil duo trying to kidnap Tom, and by that time, I was hooked on all the goings-on and so stayed lying in bed to watch.

One thing I kept thinking was that my two nephews, ages 7 and 10, might enjoy as much as I was. They're both clever and odd, and there was some clever and odd stuff going on in this movie. While they're used to seeing the latest action stuff for kids at the theater, and some pretty generic (from what I've watched with them) stuff on TV, "Tom Thumb" seemed like the kind of thing that might also catch their attention, despite its olden-style. (Plus, back on my birthday, while my brother, mom, and youngest nephew were in the dining room playing a board game, my sister-in-law, me, and the older nephew were all in the living room, engrossed in "Lolita"! It's not really a movie for a 10-year-old, despite its comic aspects, but he was watching intently, most especially whenever Peter Sellers came on the screen! Which made me think: "This kid needs to be watching some REAL movies instead of the stuff they're churning out today for 'the kid market'...")

OK, so once I got into "Tom Thumb," I was STILL planning on showering and being up and about afterwards. Until THIS nutty thing came on!



First of all, it completely cracked me up how LOUDLY he began his song! (Yawning Man, you're supposed to be inducing sleep!) :) After that completely inappropriately loud "IIIIIIIIIIIIII'M the Yawning Man...." (and the horribly catchy "uhh-uhh-uhh-uhh" chorus) though, I really did start to yawn uncontrollably while watching him! It was bizarre! And then I just snuggled down under the covers to watch the remainder of the movie, after which... I fell asleep again until 12:45pm. Stayed awake for a couple of hours watching Kardashian and "Pawn Stars" re-runs. Slept yet AGAIN 'til 7pm-ish. OK, whole day shot to hell. THANKS, YAWNING MAN!

And what's even more bizarre: I finally got out of bed at 10pm and got online, finally feeling awake... Until I looked this Yawning Man bit up on YouTube and watched it before posting here... Now I'm yawning and sleepy again! :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Advice

Tomorrow is my last day at the temp job that I've absolutely despised for the past 4 weeks. They STILL haven't hired anybody to start on the following Monday after I'm gone. During my month there, there were 6 people I set up for phone interviews, but only 2 people who actually came in to interview, both young women in their early/mid 20s: One fat and jolly. One prissy and composed, but trying too hard to be friendly. I wish I could have whispered to them both on their way out of the interview: "They'll try to make you feel like shit for no reason. If you LIKE that sort of thing, and if you LIKE completely shutting down your real personality while at work, and if you LIKE humorless co-workers, and if you LIKE Bible verses (Psalms 23:4) posted in the break-room (!)...then this is the place for you."

They should pick the "fat and jolly," I suppose. (The "prissy," self-centered one couldn't handle the demeaning shit after a few weeks. Like maybe the last full-time receptionist before me who quit after only 3 months.)

I leave this place tomorrow with one final anecdote to share here: Folders. Labels to be stuck on the tabs of folders. Simple, huh? Ya'd think so. But no... Yesterday, I sat there for minutes listening to an intricate explanation of putting labels on tabs. I didn't know what the fuck the woman was talking about, despite the ultimate simplicity of the task, because she kept going on and on about...? Finally, I must have had a LOOK on my face, because she asked me, condescendingly, "Do you not GET what I'm telling you to do here?"

"No, missus, I's too stoopid to figger out how to put labels on da foldahs! Please help dis simple gal!"

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Getting lubed up...


...for FINALLY jumping into the Theodora-screenplay full-time next week. I am going to give myself the end of September and all of October to get at least 70% of this stuff down in raw form. Once that much is done, the last 30% and the revisions will be no problem. ("no problem" = famous last words)

I'm about 1/3 of the way through Prokopios's "The Secret History" right now; Pro was an advisor to one of Justinian's primary generals, Belisarios, and so had firsthand knowledge of the goings-on of Justinian's Byzantine court in the 500s, which he spills out in gossipy (but, for him, pained) detail here. Pro is an aristocrat and is completely dismayed by the, to him, vulgarity of the Justinian/Theodora court (and especially the vulgarity of Theodora's actress/prostitute past), which he thinks corresponds with the current chaos of the empire as a whole.

Pro is the PERFECT skeptical teller/framer of this tale!

And this particular version of the text (edited and translated by Anthony Kaldellis) also has amazing related texts, like Justinian's decree banning the empire's former law that men of wealth were forbidden from marrying former "actresses" (slash "prostitutes"). (Theodora was both.) And a history of the famous "Nika riots," in which warring "sports clubs" at the Hippodrome suddenly joined forces to rush the emperor's box. (Theodora's speech famously saved her husband's rule here.) Pro's earlier description of the "fans" thuggery and appearance in general is so modern-seeming in tone, the conservative's dismay at the degradation of society as evidenced by the fashions of its young people:

The first thing that the militants did was to invent a new hairstyle, cutting it in no way as other Romans did. They did not touch the moustache or beard at all, wanting the hair to grow out as long as possible, as is the custom among the Persians. [My note: That was a huge issue of the day--the conservatives' desire to stick with the "pure" Roman ideals versus Justinian's alleged fealty to "Oriental"/Persian ways that conservatives felt were encroaching on the older way of life. Saying that Justinian's supporters followed "Persian" customs was a put-down similar to today's Republicans saying that Obama prefers the "European" model of society!] But the hair on the head they cut in the front as far as the temples, while letting it hang out long in the back for no particular reason... [My note: An early version of the Mullet!] So they called this look 'Hunnish.'[barbarian] Then, when it came to their dress, they all wanted to be stylish and each wore clothes that were too ostentatious for his class...The part of the tunic that covers the arms they wrapped very tightly around the wrist but from there until the shoulders it hung loose like an immense flap. And so whenever they waved their arms as they chanted in the theaters or hippodromes or shouted support for their favorites, as was their habit, this part of the tunic would flutter up and out and give any fool the impression that the bodies of these men were so strong and brawny that they had to cover themselves with such garments, not thinking that in fact a loosely hanging and mostly empty tunic reveals how scrawny the body underneath is. Their cloaks and barbarian trousers along with most of their shoes were also classified as Hunnish by name and style.

Holy Moley! How GREAT is this guy from 550 AD bitching about the young gangstas of his time period! Their weird hair! Their weird clothes disguising their scrawny, unmasculine bodies! This isn't staid, "ancient" prose, it's plain old bitching, a la bloggers of today! It's FANTASTIC to read, and really gives a sense of the ACTUAL thoughts of someone of the time period.

Pro isn't all stuffy, though. As author Kaldellis points out in his lengthy intro to "The Secret History": "Perhaps it was after he had witnessed this string of [political/military] disasters [under Justinian's rule] that Prokopios began to experiment with the idea that the world was governed by chance (tyche) and not the providence that Justinian so believed was on his side. This notion of random chance would feature prominently in the historian's works..."

While Pro seems on the surface to be (to me, funnily) overly dismayed by the hooligans that he feels Justinian is allowing, even encouraging, to run amok, he's also much more importantly concerned with Justinian's persecution of various religious (and other) minorities, as well as J's reworking of existing laws to suit himself, in the name of being "divinely endowed" with God's permission to act as he pleases.

That's why Pro is such an interesting narrator for this tale: In many ways, he's an overt antagonist to Theodora and her stirring rise to power from nothing. But while his lurid going on about her prostitute past (while very interesting) seems like the niggling of an old conservative, he also has some legitimate points about her/her husband's abuses of power while in office. Including their mutual betrayal of close friends, like the skilled general Belisarios.

And GET THIS for a side story in the movie: Justinian's general Belisarios was married to Antonina. Like Theodora, Antonina came up through the lower-class "entertainment" world. Like Theodora, she married a powerful man. AND... Theodora and Antonina met and became life-long friends while on "the circuit" in their youth.

Says Prokopios about Belisarios's wife/Theodora's friend Antonina:

She had every intention of cheating on him from the start but took precautions to practice her adultery in secret, not because she felt any qualms about her habits, and certainly not because she had any fear of the man with whom she now lived given that, firstly, she never felt shame for anything that she did and, secondly, she had quite overpowered her husband with her charms and philters of seduction. No, it was because she was terrified that the empress might punish her. Theodora, you see, used to yell at her savagely and, as they say, to bare her teeth at her.

Later, Antonina and Belisarios had severe marital problems because A was sleeping with their adopted son! There was all sorts of maneuvering: B wanted to get rid of the "son" once he found out. A was madly in love with the son. Justinian wanted to help his general, but Theodora wanted to help her friend (and wanted A and B to be reunited), to the point of having B arrested, then arranging for it to look like A had been the one responsible for her husband's subsequent release... while simultaneously smuggling the adopted son back into the palace and hiding him away so that her friend Antonina could continue to sleep with him...!!) :)

Good lord. And you wonder where they get the term "Byzantine"! :)

Um, maybe this'll all take more than a month to get sorted out! :)

Framer/unreliable narrator/voice of semi-reason in some instances: Prokopios
Heroine: Theodora
Her humble upbringing at the Hippodrome as the resident bear-keeper's daughter.
Father's early death, mother's selling off her daughter as an "actress."
Teenaged prostitution/meeting with then-underling Justinian.
The couple's mutual rise to power. (We're still cheering them on, especially after Theodora's iconic speech during the Nika riots at the Hippodrome that saves her husband's rule...and that hearkens back to her own father's Hippodrome past and club affiliation, to which she will remain loyal.)
In power. (Theodora's weird psychological maneuverings, based obviously on her troubled past; Justinian's appeasement. She influences new laws helping women, while simultaneously reveling in personal vengefulness. We're with her for 2/3 of the movie, then in the last 1/3: Power does seem to corrupt. Moments of her clarity, though.)
Summing up with Pro's overall philosophy/wry commentary on what has just transpired: "the world was governed by chance and not the providence that Justinian so believed was on his side"

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"So You Think You're In Love"

Heard the below song for the first time in Marshall's last weekend. I LOVED it, embarrassingly, since it was a department-store piped-in song! I loved it so much in the store that when I got home I looked it up... turned out it was by Robyn Hitchcock, whose albums "Element of Light" (1986) and "Globe of Frogs" (1988) I'd owned and played constantly back when I was a college kid... "So You Think You're in Love" is from 1991.



So you think you're in love
Yes, you probably are
But you wanna be straight about it
Oh, you wanna be straight about it now

So you think you're in love
Yes, you probably are
But you wanna be straight about it
Oh, you wanna be straight about it now

Can you imagine what the people say? Can you?
But the silent majority is the crime of the century
You know it

Are you sure that it's wise?
No, you probably ain't
You don't wanna be faint about it
Oh, you shouldn't be faint about it now

By the look in your eyes
No, you probably ain't
But you shouldn't be faint about it
Oh, you gotta be faint about it now

What is love made of?
Nobody knows
What are you afraid of?
Everyone knows
It's love
It's love

So you think you're in love
Yes, you probably are
But you wanna be straight about it
Oh, you gotta be straight about it now

So you think you're in love
Yes, you probably are
But you wanna be straight about it
Oh, you gotta be straight about it now

So you think you're in love
Yeah

Sleeping With Your Devil Mask



Sleeping with your devil mask
Is all I want to do
And when I stop it means
I'm through with you
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah, yeah, yeah
----------------------------------------------


I see the birdies in the trees
I see the fishes in the seas
And perching on the garden wall
I see the man that made it all
I see the sand, I see the stones
I see right through into your bones
Your skeleton can dance all night
And caper 'neath the swaying light

Sleeping with your devil mask
Is all I want to do
And when I stop it means
I'm through with you
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah, yeah, yeah

So welcome Mr. Dennis Forbes
Who's brought along his perspex orbs
And they are full of leather peas
That rattle like a slow disease
I've got to have a nasty thought
Because of all the stuff I bought
From sultry Mr. Gareth Hobbes
Who does a load of useless jobs
And in the chapel after lunch
They used to cluster in a bunch

Sleeping with your devil mask
Is all I wanna do
And when I stop it means
I'm through with you
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah, yeah, yeah

It's all compulsion, there's no choice
My mother's second name is Joyce
And once when she was very young
She saw a cellist being hung
Thirteen men with long black heads
All came and stood around her bed
And when the morning light came in
She saw their heads had all caved in
Their rotting brains fell to the floor
And crawled away towards the door

Sleeping with your Devil mask
Is all I wanna do
And when I stop it means
I'm through with you
Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah, yeah, yeah

The organism rapes itself
(Sleeping with your devil mask)
And then gives birth upon the shelf
(Sleeping with your devil mask)
And over where the magpie struts
(Sleeping with your devil mask)
A flower billows from my guts
(Sleeping with your devil mask)
Some things go in some things go out
And next time 'round I'll be a trout

--Robyn Hitchcock 1988
---------------------------------------

"I'll never ever be a dancer."



Somewhere apart
Somewhere you must be dreamin'
Somewhere the world is screaming
Somewhere apart
A space between is not a final answer
I'll never ever be a dancer
So get me fish eggs and a violin

I'm gonna burn your bongos tonight
And let Graham have a chance
'Cause no one ever lets him dance
And all them see-through things are crawling
From the sea

Somewhere apart
A whistle summons up the lava
We must be somewhere East of Java
"O shed your bags, here comes a mule!"

The phantoms of the dispossessed
Wander through the wilderness
Crying out in mortal stress
Never ever come to rest
Somewhere apart
You know they're always
Somewhere apart

Somewhere apart
With flowers and a Geiger counter stumblin'
And for his distant keys he's fumblin'
Mule-headed man
Somewhere apart

---Robyn Hitchcock, 1986
------------------------------------------------------

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Freeeeeedommmmmmm!


I came to a mental compromise re my current temp gig that I've been more and more unhappy with as the weeks have passed (to the point of having knots in my stomach before going to work, wondering what I was going to get chastised for doing "wrong" that day).

5 or 6 years ago, I might have told them to fuck off and walked out without any notice. My last 2 years of so little money, though, have put the fear into me: DON'T TURN DOWN ANY JOB!

However... For my own self-respect and peace of mind, I simply CANNOT be talked to like I've been talked to at this place any more.

My compromise when I got up this morning: I wrote an e-mail to the temp agency and said that I would have to make this coming Friday the 21st the last day on this particular job. For one reason only: The rudeness of the two women I've been working with. I apologized for the inconvenience I might cause the agency, but also pointed out that Friday will be the end of the 4th week I've worked at this place; initially, the assignment was for "1-2 weeks." So I've already put in an extended amount of time at a place that was becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me. I mentioned to the agency that I'd not been unhappy with any other places they'd sent me to over the past year, but that this current place was an unreasonably tense environment to work in. And I said that I was available for any other assignment on Monday, the 24th.

There. I did NOT immaturely storm off and burn any bridges. I salvaged some self-respect. This coming week WON'T be tense because I'll know that Friday is the absolute end of the torture. There's always the risk that the agency will think I'm a crybaby of some sort, but I do have a long track-record with them now, and they know that in other offices, I've not been a whiner. (Plus there's the fact that I've already worked EXTRA weeks at this place, and am giving them all of next week to finally hire someone, which they should have done weeks ago.)

Whew. What an incredible relief writing that e-mail was. I'm free of the shit! There will, of course, be future shit, but...for the moment (well, as of next Friday at 5pm) I'm FREE! With $10,000 in the bank to go be temporarily free with.

Happiness is...



...6 new candles on a rainy fall day!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

One Love



One love, One heart
Let's get together and feel all right
Hear the children crying (One Love)
Hear the children crying (One Heart)
Sayin' give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Sayin' let's get together and feel all right

Let them all pass all their dirty remarks (One Love)
There is one question I'd really love to ask (One Heart)
Is there a place for the hopeless sinner
Who has hurt all mankind just to save his own?
Believe me

One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
As it was in the beginning (One Love)
So shall it be in the end (One Heart)
Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
One more thing

Let's get together to fight this Holy Armageddon (One Love)
So when the Man comes there will be no no doom (One Song)
Have pity on those whose chances grow thinner
There ain't no hiding place from the Father of Creation

Sayin' One Love, One Heart
Let's get together and feel all right
I'm pleading to mankind (One Love)
Oh Lord (One Heart)

Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right
Let's get together and feel all right

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bomb-"scare" aftermath

Now that the weather's turned gray and breezy (80-ish instead of 100-ish), the "hipsters" in my apartment building have again emerged and started to cluster together outdoors. The red-haired 30-ish woman, hostess to so many gatherings of 3-5 in chairs outside her apartment hadn't been seen since June, but she's back now! (What a wimp! I guess I'm never fully sensitive to redheads and their aversion to the heat; I was just grateful that this chick had taken her party indoors. No longer, though!)

Redhead's "gathering" yesterday, though, completely blocked the stairs at 6-ish as I came home from work. "Comin' through, guys! 'Scuse me!" I chirped as I tried to negotiate between the bodies and the boxer-dog blocking the stairs.

I sincerely don't want to have to be "personable" when I come home from work.

One of the guys at the stairs "meet-up" was the guy with the boxer-dog, whom I've seen outdoors at the complex "hanging out" for over a year now. Usually unnecessarily shirtless, usually unnecessarily wearing sunglasses, usually with his hair unnecessarily in a pony-tail, etc. I'd assumed he was just some unemployed dick trying to pick up girls.

Today, though, after the campus bomb scare, I was taking out the trash and he said "Hey" to me. I said "Hey" back, and threw out that I had just been "evacuated." Him, too! Turns out that, instead of being a hipster slacker/fuck, he's actually a student enrolled in chemical engineering classes! I RESPECT students in chemical engineering classes! :) I worked temp for 6 weeks last Feb in the Math/Physics/Astronomy department on campus, and kids in real majors like this that involve intellect are actually regular, non-fakey kids interested in THINKING and "such." (As opposed to kids enrolled, say, in "Communications" classes.)

I was also happy to hear that he thought that I might be a "Professor" on campus! Ha! :) "No, just temp stuff," I told him. But still: It was nice to be asked.

Bombs Away

Before I get to what I'm sincerely puzzled about, let me first say: I'm puzzled by why some of my minor wishes re work-people have been coming true for the past few months! People I didn't like being moved out of my room at my last 6-month gig, etc.

Then this morning, I was sitting at my temp office job feeling tense and miserable (as usual for the past 3 weeks) and watching the clock constantly, waiting for it to be 5pm, though it was only 9:45am, even dreading something simple like taking my time-sheet into my boss to be signed, because she would surely find something wrong with how I asked for even THAT... And just then word came down: Alleged Al-Qaeda bomb threat! Everyone leave their buildings and get as far away as possible!

With pleasure did I get as far away as possible! (And no, 'twas not I faking a "Middle Eastern" accent in the bomb call; I have witnesses that I was struggling with an Excel chart at the time!) :)

Thanks again, god, for letting me have today off from the tenseness. (Funny/sad when having a bomb threat and having to evacuate is "less tense" than having to deal with the 2 ladies in your office.)

Here's what I'm actually puzzled about: Why some people think it's OK to be NASTY to other people just because they CAN! My 2 office ladies for the past 3 weeks are exactly what I'm talking about. Just after the bomb notice today is the PERFECT example of constant shitty behavior toward me for NO REASON: Once we were all alerted to the bomb threat, I asked (calmly) the lady working next to me (a veteran of the department, there for 5 years): "So, what do we do now? Is there a place outside where we meet up?" (Though new at this office, in my experience, almost all offices have contingency plans, places to meet up outside the building, numbers to call for updates about coming back, etc.)

Her, practically shrieking at me: "I DON'T KNOW, STEPHANIE! I'M NOT YOUR SUPERVISOR! WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME? A. IS YOUR SUPERVISOR. ASK HER!"

Me: [silently: Jesus H. Christ! How in the WORLD was my asking for evacuation info THIS offensive to her and evoking THIS reaction from her?]

This same woman and I had a "conversation" yesterday. ("Conversation" is in quotes for a very good reason.) She'd been out of the office for 3 or 4 days over the past 2 weeks. I hadn't asked her a thing about it, except to say pleasantly, "Welcome back" whenever she showed up again. But yesterday afternoon she started up a conversation with ME out of the blue:

OFFICE LADY (OL): Whew! I guess you noticed that I hadn't been around a lot lately.
ME: [wary by now of her, nodding politely] Yes, I have.
OFFICE LADY (OL): My 12-year-old granddaughter is here now, and she's going to be living with me.

From what she'd mentioned before, this OL (who's 60) has a 30-year-old daughter in Delaware who's about to be married for the first time. And that 30-year-old has the 12-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship.

My apparently DREADFULLY INAPPROPRIATE reply to the (unasked-for) news that the 12-year-old from Delaware, whose mom had a new man, was now going to be living with the grandma OL in Austin: "Oh. Was she not getting along with her mom?"

OL: You've just crossed a boundary. You don't need to know anything more than I just told you. I think it's VERY inappropriate that you asked me that.

ME: [surprised and stunned at the overtly bizarre reaction, but struggling to maintain office politeness] YOU brought it up! I was only trying to make conversation! My apologies for offending you.

----------------------------------------------------

GODDAMN!! How psychotic was that exchange?! It's not like I said, "Oh, so the mom with her new husband doesn't want the annoying 12-year-old kid around!"

Also yesterday with the same OFFICE LADY: Her knee had been hurting her and she obviously had trouble walking, so whenever she printed something out at the printer right near my desk, I was, unasked, picking it up and handing it to her. BECAUSE I'M NICE AND CONSIDERATE! Then a few other people in the office started printing things out, so I went on about my business and ignored what was coming out of the printer as random people came in and out to pick their stuff up.

Later, something else was printed out. Me, not knowing if the OL had printed it or if someone else had, I asked her, re the printer, "Is that yours?" Meaning, that I would get it and hand it to her if it was hers and not someone else's in the office, SINCE HER KNEE HURT AND IT WAS HARD FOR HER TO MOVE AROUND!

OL: Why are you worried about what I'm printing?
ME: So I could fetch it for you. I WAS TRYING TO BE HELPFUL!

She did apologize to me for that reaction.

GOD. It's like walking on fucking eggshells. Constantly getting shit for NOTHING. For the past few weeks, I've been walking around with a cold, clammy feeling of dread all day, every day. Only excised when I come home and drink.

The last time I felt like this: Living with my mother for the 3 months post-NYC in the spring/early summer of 2010. Then, I did not have any choice about where I lived because I had no money at all, no power whatsoever. (I will never forget that my mother, while "allowing" me to live with her in my time of need, also kicked me psychologically/emotionally when I was down, every chance she got. I was weak when I was a kid and HAD TO live with her. I was weak the ONE time I've ever had to live with her post-age-18. I will NEVER forget how she treated me each time.)

This time, though, I'm just hanging around this office to scrape up every $12-an-hour I can from them, knowing that there IS an end in sight within a week or two, and that I DO have money in the bank if an urgent escape is necessary... Is it "mature" to put up with such shit? I'm not a masochist, ENJOYING any of this constant fucked-up weirdness, by any means. Just trying to troll up any income I can to keep my bank-balance above $10,000...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Portrait of a Lady"

Though I have both a BA and an MA in English, I've never read anything by Henry James! (I've tried desultorily a couple of times over the years, but have never gotten very far. Too staid and seemingly colorless, I'd thought.)

But a review in the 9/3 New Yorker of a book about James's "Portrait of a Lady" made me want to give it/James another go.

Of one character, Osmond, the reviewer Anthony Lane writes: "That is what monsters do, especially the polite and patient ones: they harvest souls. Hand them a human in full bloom, and what they give back to you, after a few seasons, is a pressed flower."

Lane ends with:

...Are we all so mercenary, cutting and trimming people, whether unwittingly or by design, to fit the pattern of our own desires? Such are the politics of personhood. There is always the option to remain alone: "A woman ought to be able to make up her life in singleness," Isabel reflects, and that assurance stares ahead to what we, though not James, would hail as the feminist cause, requiring no male prop. At the same time, any retreat into the solo self, for either sex, must be shaded with a special dread: "the isolation and loneliness of pride had for her mind the horror of a desert place," we learn of Isabel, in words that seem to herald the parched cries of "The Waste Land," and the truest hell is to wind up like Osmond, immured in the plush safety of his own home and the fortress of his own brain. And so the book traffics back and forth, with sublime indecision, between the need to stand firm, in Emersonian majesty, and the yearning to break one's pose and join the more crowded landscape of mankind. "That account of the limits of self-sufficiency is what, above all, makes 'The Portrait of a Lady' stand as a great American novel," [author] Michael Gorra declares...

...We are left...to wonder what Henry James would make of our current state. To him, one imagines it would rise up like a bad dream; he would see an archipelago of solitudes, feverishly interlinked, with bridges collapsing as fast as we can build them. He is our foremost explorer of the private life, and of what it costs to preserve...

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Seriously, the above is what I've been personally contemplating for the past few months. Well, actually for most of my life, but I just realized fairly recently what exactly the issue was that I had been contemplating! I keep searching for some "Emersonian majesty," being too stubborn to recognize the (to me unpleasant) FACT that such a thing doesn't exist, that life is not a Journey to the Sublime that you reach by following a certain path (a path I always felt I hadn't discovered yet, so "try a new one!"), but rather an ongoing hodge-podge, "the more crowded landscape of mankind." Maybe I'm mature enough (i.e., "beaten up enough psychologically by reality") to finally appreciate James and his theme of "the limits of self-sufficiency."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get me the fuck out of here!

Either my temp job is ending this Friday, or next Friday. It's week-to-week, they never tell me. Get me the fuck out of here THIS Friday, I hope!

Today, I didn't yell "I'm back" loud enough after my return from the mail run. So my boss started calling out "Hello? Hello??" I didn't answer because I thought she was saying "Hello?" to her phone, and because I thought she'd heard my "I'm back" when I came back. But no. So I got a speech about "always announcing my presence" because I could be a "stalker." But I HAD announced my presence upon my return! The whole thing became utterly ridiculous. I finally just said, "My apologies." Which shut her the fuck up.

Also today, I didn't have a full grasp of either "Excel" or "FileMaker Pro"! OMG! The dilemma: Can't ASK for directions, 'cause I'll get shit for asking for directions.

Ya know... For the past 10 years of my life, I haven't had to deal with trivial office/secretary shit like "Excel" or "FileMaker Pro." I'm quite happy to enter data with a smile on my temp-secretary face... but don't expect me to be an expert on this stuff. 'Kay?

I was also remiss today for asking my boss about a caterer who wanted to pick up dishes from an earlier meeting. My "horrible mistake" was asking the boss if the room was unlocked and if the caterer could get in. DUH! Didn't I remember what room it was? (Not the issue: Rooms are locked all over this place; would the caterer have access was what the caterer called me and asked and what I needed an answer to! Simple answer required, that's all.)

Good lord. Am I really having to deal with this wide variety of dumb-ass low-level psychological bullshit that makes me feel bad for NO REASON, even while I'm trying to solve the problems logically? I HATE being around STUPID OFFICE PEOPLE.

The answers to the most popular questions:

Yes, I do think that I'm better than you.

Yes, I am calling you a liar.

Pipes and Red Crocs


Around where I work, there's only one tiny area where people are allowed to smoke. So, especially at lunchtime, there's usually a group of 4-8 people huddled together (protected in our ghetto, we People of Smoke). I HATE that forced camaraderie! Honestly, I usually just want to SMOKE my damn cig and NOT necessarily have to make small-talk! God, one rough-looking cleaning lady is always there, always offering me a seat next to her on one of the 2 tiny benches (which would entail my squushing in between her and the other person on the bench). "No thanks, gotta smoke and run," I usually say. (Ugh. I hate having to EXPLAIN why I don't want to wedge myself tightly between 2 strangers on a bench!)

A couple of days ago, my bus let me off near the smoking ghetto with only 5 minutes to spare before I had to be at work. I REALLY just wanted to suck down a cig and then speed-walk the half-block to make it "kinda" on time (i.e., 3 minutes or so late). I saw only one person there, a hulking, pasty-faced young student with a bad haircut. "OK," I thought. "Nerdy guys are often shy about speaking to girls, so maybe, just maybe, I'm safe for a Silent Smoke!"

Nope. I forget what he first asked me, but I grunted something monosyllabic in response. A few seconds of silence, then he tried again: "So, do you work around here?" Now I really HAD to answer, so I told him that I was a temp at a building close by, etc., and added how hard it was to get a smoke in before work with the bus schedule, etc. Which led to his positing wryly that some people might catch an earlier bus to be able to have a more leisurely smoke than I was obviously having! :) Which made me laugh and tell him, honestly, "No, I just prefer to catch the last bus possible and then curse at the red lights and at all the people who don't have their bus passes ready when they get on and at the slow-pokey people crossing the street!"

His chuckling at that put me in a good mood, especially once I relaxed and noticed that this huge young guy was sitting there puffing on a PIPE (the old-fashioned kind, with tobacco in it) and WEARING RED CROCS! :)

Today after work, I stopped at the same place for my cig before catching the bus home. (Always more leisurely than the morning smoke.) And there he was again: same pipe, same Crocs!

"I know you," I said. "I recognize the Crocs."
"Hey, don't judge."
"You never forget the Crocs."
"I think I scared some people the other day. They thought I was a redneck."
"Why would they think that?"
"I came back from an interview and it was hot, so I took off my shirt and sat out here."
"Why is that 'redneck'?"
"Well, because there I was, sitting in just a wife-beater--do you know what a 'wife-beater' is?-- with the Crocs..."
"Um...yeah, I know what a 'wife-beater' is. And no, no one probably thought that you were a redneck! Because I can't think of a single redneck male who would ever be caught dead in Crocs!" :) :)

I also liked hearing about how sometimes when he shaved his head and wore some workboots that he owned, he got a much different vibe from people who assumed he was a skinhead... "And then to really freak 'em out, I try to help old ladies across the street in that outfit!"

And the pipe: He just started smoking it 8 months ago, a company just sent him the wrong lighter for it. I thought butane lighters were a real pain, and that he would be more picturesque once it was cooler and he was puffing away amid the crisp air and falling leaves. I'd tried one of my dad's pipes when I was a kid, but, no, didn't particularly like or dislike it...

Again, I departed from him feeling happy, not depressed by the usual uber-inanity/faked jovial conversations among people FORCED to speak by the 6 x 6 pittance-of-a-space provided for every single smoker in the whole area! It felt GREAT to talk about WEIRD STUFF as opposed to talking in an attempt to make all other strangers present feel what a "good," "insightful" person you are! :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jennifer Egan's "Black Box"

Dislike as I might my current temp secretarial job--the tedium of the work, the for-no-reason condescending attitude of the 2 ladies who are my bosses (unfortunately a characteristic of more than just "some" uneducated office ladies who have, nonetheless, achieved a tenure in their own little fiefdom and are thus eager to lord it over others)--at least I'm allowed to read during my free time, and so have begun to whittle down (working my way backwards by date) the stack of New Yorkers that have been piling up for months now.

Today I got to the June 4 & 11 issue (Science Fiction). When I came to the fiction "Black Box" by Jennifer Egan, I was immediately put off by the quirky format (different, smaller font from the usual New Yorker style, the usual 3 columns of text divided up into numbered boxes filled with very short paragraphs). But since I had time to fill/kill, I decided to trudge on, despite my dislike of "trendy"... And was immediately--by BOX 1--hooked! On the surface it's a sci-fi thriller about a female undercover agent of the future who's sent to infiltrate/sleep with a "violent and ruthless man" deemed criminal by her government. The format is basically a set of physical/psychological instructions that she's supposed to be following the whole time. But what got me the most was the fact that these "instructions" could also be read as a way that some women in general have been conditioned to act around men in general:


...Necessary ingredients for a successful projection: giggles; bare legs; shyness.

The goal is to be both irresistible and invisible.

When you succeed, a certain sharpness will go out of his eyes.

-----

Some powerful men actually call their beauties "Beauty."

Counter to reputation, there is a deep camaraderie among beauties.

If your Designated Mate is widely feared, the beauties at the house party where you've gone undercover to meet him will be especially kind.

Kindness feels good, even when it's based on a false notion of your identity and purpose.

-----

Posing as a beauty means not reading what you would like to read on a rocky shore in the South of France....

------

Eagerness and pliability can be expressed even in the way you climb from the sea onto chalky yellow rocks.

"You're a very fast swimmer," uttered by a man who is still submerged, may not be intended as praise...

------

...The directive "Relax" suggests that your discomfort is palpable.

"No one can see us" suggests that your discomfort has been understood as fear of physical exposure.

"Relax, relax," uttered in rhythmic, throaty tones, suggests that your discomfort is not unwelcome.

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Aside from the psychologically feminist aspect that I really related to, the whole thing was also a fantastic page-turner. "WHAT is going to happen next?!" And the final scenes (boxes), I completely saw as if already on a movie screen (starring someone like Milla Jovovich).

I was really impressed, and had never even heard of author Jennifer Egan, though she just won the Pulitzer Prize last year!

And, after reading, I discovered that the whole story was TWEETED last May! Below is an interview with Egan re the experiment:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/05/this-week-in-fiction-jennifer-egan.html

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p.s. Another article from this issue that I enjoyed was Colson Whitehead's "A Psychotronic Childhood": "A monster is a person who has stopped pretending." THAT is interesting to think about...

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Neat!

The top picture is so cool-looking, so neatly composed! Shot a couple of weeks ago in Austin by a photographer I don't know (but my brother is one of the guys--guess which). Just an accidental thing; the guys are all just friends, not a "group" or anything, and they all just happened to be wearing black on that day.

Reminded me of the "Meet the Beatles" cover, except much better and more interesting to look at. I can't stop looking at it! These guys SHOULD form a band, based SOLELY on how cool they look in this picture! :)



Please! I can only be perky for so long!

Over a year ago, when I spent the first two-thirds of the summer of 2011 curled up in a ball on my bed, hardly leaving my one-room apartment except to go the 2 blocks to the beer store every other night, I seriously had notions that I might not ever be a publicly functional human being ever again. I could barely make rudimentary conversation with the beer-store guys, and only then because they were/are super-nice and unthreatening (3 recent immigrants from Indonesia).

Luckily, in the second part of last summer, I got eased back into the world of alarm clocks and schedules and office communications with a high-paying temp copy-editing job with an environment where I didn't have to be "on" for any public: just show up on time and do my work well, etc., with no boss looking over my shoulder. I did this for 6 weeks last year; and this was also the same place where I just finished working again for 6 months THIS year. The pay and its rewards of enabling me to buy clothes, etc., were good for my then-fragile ego; the schedule and its stability were good, showing me that, yes, I really COULD function in society again (!).

For the past 3 weeks, though, the pendulum has swung in completely the opposite direction, to my having to be "super-on" at all times. Since the 6-month copy-editing job ended, I've been a temp receptionist in a busy office, greeting people, fielding calls, delivering mail, having stuff thrown at me to do with little info on how to do it... I DEFINITELY couldn't have emotionally handled it last summer, but a year later, it's all doable and OK. "OK," I said, not "great" or "preferred" or anything! :) (I have had ONE mildly interesting task so far: Typing up a professor's notes critiquing Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show." After my initial interest, the tedium of deciphering his handwriting quickly got old, as did my undercurrent of argumentative thoughts about many of his points he'd scribbled. For instance, his positing a correlation between young people watching "Daily Show" in droves while simultaneously not voting in droves. I so wanted to type in my own comments: "The Youth Vote has HISTORICALLY been low! It has nothing to do with Stewart's show!")

Accompanying the public face I must now wear at the office during the week is my previously stress-free Saturday work at UT games last year and this... Up until today, I've been a "floater," relieving people for their breaks, etc. But today they put me on "scanner duty": Being the first to greet the rich folk upon their arrival on the suite floor, scanning their passes, etc. And it's not just "scanning their passes," it's having to smile broadly and be cute and say, FOR OVER 2 HOURS STRAIGHT: "Hi! How are ya! Welcome! Thank yew, Sir/Ma'am! Enjoy the game!" Short of a carnival barker or a travelling salesman, I can't think of how much more ON someone has been required to be for the past 3 weeks than I have been! :)

The good part is: I passed a test! I can do it! I can smile and be perky and personable with the best of 'em! The bad part: Come on now, I don't WANT to be interpreting mundane professorial scribbles and greeting people/making them feel welcome for a living! It's DRAINING! Not horrible or anything, just... oh my god, I don't feel like smiling/not thinking this much! :)

There, see, now I'm starting to sprinkle my previously surly blog posts with too-many smileys! I'm becoming out-of-control perky!

Friday, September 07, 2012

"Senses Working Overtime"

From XTC's "English Settlement," 1982:



Hey, hey,
The clouds are whey.
There's straw for the donkeys,
And the innocents can all sleep safely,
All sleep safely.

My, my,
Sun is pie.
There's fodder for the cannons,
And the guilty ones can all sleep safely,
All sleep safely.

And all the world is football-shaped
It's just for me to kick in space
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste
And I've got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in.
I've got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference
'Tween a lemon and a lime
Pain and the pleasure
And the church bells softly chime.

Hey hey,
Night fights day.
There's food for the thinkers,
And the innocents can all live slowly,
All live slowly.
My, my,
The sky will cry
Jewels for the thirsty,
And the guilty ones can all die slowly,
All die slowly.

And all the world is biscuit-shaped,
It's just for me to feed my face,
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste,
And I've got one, two, three, four, five,
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in.
I've got one, two, three, four, five,
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference,
'Tween a lemon and a lime,
Pain and the pleasure,
And the church bells softly chime,

And birds might fall from black skies,
And bullies might give you black eyes,
And busses might skid on black ice,
But to me it's very, very beautiful
(England's glory!)
Beautiful
(A striking beauty!)

And all the world is football-shaped,
It's just for me to kick in space,
And I can see, hear, smell, touch, taste,
And I've got one, two, three, four, five,
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in
I've got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to tell the difference
'Tween the goods and grime
Turds and treasure
And there's one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to take this all in
I've got one, two, three, four, five
Senses working overtime
Trying to taste the difference
'Tween a lemon and a lime
Pain and the pleasure,
And the church bells softly chime.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The South (of Texas) Shall Rise Again

Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, giving the keynote speech at the Democratic convention tonight:



My favorite part was when he mentioned how Romney gave a speech to college students in Ohio recently and gave this entrepreneurial advice to the students for starting a business: "Borrow money from your parents." To which Castro, whose mother had been a maid, replied, "Gee, why didn't I think of that?"

Exactly.

I think it's about time for the much-more-progressive voters of South Texas -- Austin, San Antonio, Houston (with its out-lesbian mayor and wildly diverse population) -- to rise up en masse this November against the backward, right-wing Texas cities of the north (and their rural cohorts) and take back the state in the name of true "liberty and justice for all"... and to give Texas back its original good name: as a haven for individuality and freedom, not a sanctuary for right-wing big-business interests.

Little Wishes

I've been doing pretty well with LITTLE wishes since Spring: Every bit of Spring/Summer clothing on my wish-list, some trinket-jewelry from eBay, some books from Amazon/eBay, my CD collection back in shape. All the while, despite all of the spending, STILL having nearly $10,000 in my bank account after 7 months of full employment! So any time I'm ready to buy the new computer I need, I can do so!

And THINGS aside, I wished back in early summer for the annoying people sharing one office with me to go away: All three of them did! And last week, I was getting annoyed with the insane person that I was to be working with temporarily for a couple of weeks...and then she went on vacation for a week, leaving me blissfully, uncritically alone!

All very excellent, Universe! Thank you! :)

So now let me start out the new Fall season with more things that I'm shallowly wishing for:

CLOTHES: 3 pairs of shoes. 2 lighter jackets (1 expensive leather, 1 earth-toned), 2 blazers (black and earth-toned), 4 pairs of pants (black, gray wool, black-red houndstooth, khaki).

WORK: More work, please. And here is my humble (ha!) dream: Finish out September doing whatever temp stuff to keep my coffer above $10,000. THEN: Take ALL of October off to (1) Write the friggin' Theodora screenplay I've been yakking here about for years (I've been CRAVING, after 7 months of office work, being able to get up at 10am after sleeping with the windows open with temperatures in the '60s and then packing up Theodora books and spiral notebooks to go camp out at the city library 4 days a week and seriously do my own stuff); and (2) Travel to the Boston area in late October! Bed-and-breakfast. Leaves. Crisp air. Gravesites. Plath/Sexton homes and environment. YES!

Oh, and then I would like on November 1, please, a full-time high-paying job awaiting me upon my return from my completely invigorating October sabbatical.

And then, at the end of November, when it's time to give notice if I'm moving out of my one-room apartment: I'd like to be able to give notice that I'm moving out of my one-room apartment because of my wonderful job that will enable me to pay for a garage apartment with no adjoining walls (or at least a duplex with only 1 adjoining wall). Not only because I don't want to hear my neighbors' comings and goings, but because I don't want them to hear ME: I want to be able to play all of my music LOUD again!

OK, God?! How does all of that sound? :0

Awkward!



The UT football season opened this past Saturday. And I signed up to work the games, like last year at the end of the season, just to get the easy $80 per game spending/bill money that comes with standing there at the suite exits, preventing the rich folk from attempting to "escape" with their booze.

As per last year, the energy at the games is GREAT, plus I like looking at the women's "game-attending" fashions and at the overall personal dynamic between all of the millionaires who have suites.

A weird thing, though: A blond/Germanic/straight-arrow-type of guy that I met last year working the games has apparently taken a liking to me. So he insisted Saturday that we go on break together. (Sigh. I've always kind of liked wandering around by myself on my game-breaks, grabbing a quick bite, taking a breather and getting to watch some of the game, which I can't do when I'm inside guarding the exit doors!)

"Sure," I said. As we went outside and made our way up the ramp to the concession stands, I mentioned how tired I was from standing up for so long. To which he responded: "I'll carry you up! No really. Let me carry you!"

"How romantic," I said dryly, while thinking, "Ewwww!" :)

I made it up the ramp by myself, needless to say. And when we ordered our burgers, I got a mini-lecture when I put condiments on mine. He liked his plain, so he could taste the meat. Why would I put all that "stuff" on my burger?

And then I got to hear how he delivered phone-books in Wyoming this past summer...but people in Wyoming smoke way too much--disgusting habit, smoking.

"Um, I smoke."

It was HILARIOUS how silent he got after that! :) The little gleam in his eye snuffed out... LIKE A CIGARETTE BUTT beneath my (non-existent) stiletto! :)

I've always had that problem, since I was a teen: Straight-laced guys assuming from my blonde good-girl looks and surface giddiness that I was the PERFECT accompaniment to their hard gray values. For instance, I dated a Mormon guy from California in my Senior year of high school who was shocked, just SHOCKED, when I told him that I'd never done drugs at that time, but fully intended to try pot when I got to college! (Which I certainly did!) :)

Even once I was in my '20s and '30s and going out to gay bars, I've had at least 3 women coming up to me and saying some version, after JUST meeting me, of: "I HATE drugs. I KNOW that YOU would never do drugs!" Where in the world would they get that assumption? Because I was blonde and wholesome-looking?

Today, at 47, I just drink beer and smoke Marlboros. And I'd still experiment with drugs for the fun of it on a Saturday night (aka "recreational use") with someone I felt close to and safe with, though I haven't done anything illicit since 2003. It's a real turn-off for ME to hear someone out-of-hand dismiss people who smoke, drink, do the occasional drug...and--gasp!--put condiments on their burger! ;p