Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Razorblade's Poetry

No, this isn't referring to cutting. That's the description someone put next to the song clip from Youtube that I'm about to talk about. I thought it was an interesting description of the song, although I'm sure they meant it in a different way than I mean reminds me of the aimless up and down picking of notes on the guitar.

I was thinking about life, and there's this one movie clip/song that reminds me of my life on a day-to-day basis. It's this clip from Pink Floyd's "The Wall". The song I'm talking about starts after the silence in the video when the boy stops running. It's called "Is There Anybody Out There?" You can start playing at 1:09 if you want to cut straight to the scene. At 2:18 the guitar starts playing two solitary notes, and at 2:29 it cuts to the scene from the movie that I always see in my head when I hear the song: a guy (whose name is Pink Floyd) is sitting on the floor of his hotel room obsessively arranging the broken pieces of his room into neat little piles and organizing the chaos into a weird pattern that would cause anyone on the outside looking in to think he's crazy. At 2:30 the guitar starts playing single notes from the A minor chord, first transforming it into an F major chord, and then an F# dim before going back to the F major chord, and finally the A minor chord where it strays for a little while, and then repeats. The scene ends at 3:31, but the song doesn't end until 3:52. You should at least listen until the end of the song.

Even though I know from watching the movie that the reason the guy is rearranging the room is because he just trashed it, and that the reason he just trashed it is because he's trying to feel something in the midst of his depression which eventually leads him to try committing suicide and thereby completing his butterfly-like transformation into an unfeeling shell of Hitlerian non-emotion, I don't quite see it that way. I see it as a lonely person coming home to a quiet house on an ordinary day, aimlessly tidying the place that no one but her will usually see, and generally organizing her life in pointless piles just for the sake of the pointless piles.

*shrugs*  I usually interpret things in a way that no one else does.

As a side note, I think I finally figured out that my cat meows when she wants attention...not that she never gets attention; she's just the most needy cat in the world.

"Old School" by Tobias Wolff

I bought this book a while ago. It must have been at a used book store because someone wrote on the inside in one part: a date for when Robert Frost died. "Born 1874 Age 87 1961". I picked it up off the shelf last night because I was drawn to it for some reason. My cat had practically knocked it off the shelf and it was lying askew, begging to be set upright. And it had been like that for days, but I chose to stand it upright last night, and instead, pulled it off the shelf and read the back cover:

"The protagonist of Tobias Wolff's shrewdly--and at times devastatingly--observed first novel is a boy at an elite prep school in 1960. He is an outsider who has learned to mimic the negligent manner of his more privileged classmates. Like many of them, he wants more than anything on earth to become a writer. But to do that he must first learn to tell the truth about himself.

The climax of his quest becomes intimately entangled with the school literary contest, whose winner will be awarded an audience with the most legendary writer of his time. As the fever of competition infects the boy and his classmates, fraying alliances, exposing weaknesses, Old School explores the ensuing deceptions and betrayals with an unblinking eye and a bottomless store of empathy. The result is further evidence that Wolff is an authentic American master."

I was drawn to the book because of its promise to be about a bunch of guys competing for literary greatness. Right now, I am in the midst of struggling against my own literary apathy, my feeling that I am unworthy to be at the grad school I'm attending, and the feeling of failure I have that I'll ever even finish my Master's thesis. Not to mention, it's November, which means that many people are struggling to finish NaNoWriMo. So, in some ways, it seemed the perfect book to read right now. I couldn't have been more wrong in many ways.

What I saw inside the book, is not a bunch of boys childishly competing for the right to sit with one literary great, but three: Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, and Ernest Hemingway. And what promised to be a book about many boys, turned out to be the story of one boy as he watched the others around him. He is on scholarship to a school which prides itself on being Ivy League: only the best of the best come there, and the best of the best is determined by name only. But mostly, it seemed like the boy was his own undoing. The rest of the boys didn't really seem to care about his name or his background, and if he was competing for anything amongst his friends, it was the right to be considered a good poet or novelist, nothing more. But instead of letting his own writing come from the heart, he wrote about things that weren't his. And he assumed his own literary greatness before ever setting a word to the page.

All-in-all, it was an interesting story and well-worth reading. I will decline to comment on the rest of the book in case anyone reading this blog also wants to read this book, but I'd be curious to know if anyone else has read it, and if they got the same feeling from the book as I did: that the boy was not as serious about becoming a writer as the back cover claimed him to be, and that really this was a novel about a specific person's thoughts and feelings, not about the whole school in general. In some ways, it reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger more than anything else.

As an aside, it also made me want to reread The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, although I am not sure if this would be a mistake or not. Her characters are so depressingly angular in their feelings, motives, and lifestyles.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

When "no" means no...

So, I was standing at the bus stop (my non-typical stop since I was heading to Scoops for some ice cream - I had a scoop of chocolate almond and a scoop of peanut butter cinnamon btw), and for some reason people were really talkative at the bus stop. It was almost unnerving. o.O First I had this *really* gay guy talking to me. And I mean gay. Like, stereotypical everything gay, who just rambled on and on about the fact that he was late to this "hoity-toity" party and how much it cost to get to West Hollywood from Santa Monica and the fact that he was 40 years old (but didn't look more than 30) and that he was the oldest person in his family, but his mother thought that he acted the youngest. On and on and on. I should've followed him onto the city bus...I would've gotten where I was going a bit faster, and hell, he was fairly pleasant to talk to, if a bit of a fast-talker who made you think "omg take a breath o.o ".

But compared to the next guy...oh man, I'd take fifty gay guys like that guy any day over the next guy. He was this black dude...walked a bit rough, so to me it seemed like he was from the ghetto. But his shoes were those shoes that'll cost you $200 or $300 and he was wearing a diamond earring in either just one ear or both ears (I don't remember) and he was well-dressed, even though it was a bit hip-hop gangsta to me. So, this guy only started talking to me because I glanced over when I was rocking out to Porcupine Tree's "Trains" and he asked what I was listening to. So I said Porcupine Tree, which I knew he didn't know before I even asked if he knew who they were. Then there was the inevitable conversation about "well, what music do you like?" I told him mostly rock (60s/70s, progressive, psychedelic, etc.) and alternative. He (big surprise) listens to hip-hop. So, blah blah blah...we chat a bit. Then just before the bus comes, he has the audacity to ask for my number.

Seriously, wtf is up with that? Why do guys always think that they can ask for a girl's number after talking with her for five minutes? Hello? Do you realize that I'm not some kind of object for you to drool over? Guys' intentions are rarely admirable, and even less so at a bus stop. Maybe if I met some guy reading very intently at a coffee shop or a library...but not a bus stop. How unclassy.

So, I told him no, that I didn't want to give him my number. He gets on the bus, and I think that is that. (I couldn't get on that bus because I had my bike and the bike rack was full, gee, what a surprise at 7:30 pm on a Thursday night.)

So I stash my bike on the next bus (which is right behind the first one), and happily get out my book ("Island" by Aldous Huxley) and start reading. My goal was to finish this book by tonight...I had no excuses with only 45 pages to go. Then, about 5 minutes later, when I am happily reading and listening to music, out of nowhere, here comes this black guy again. He switched buses claiming that the first one was too "full". I mean, it was, but still, wtf. That's a total lie. Go away I'm busy reading.

But no, he sits down and starts talking, blah blah blah. Worst part is that he lives closer to me than to my school, so he was on the bus for fucking *forever* preventing me from reading. Talking about how he liked reading stuff about dating for interracial couples and whatnot. Total BS. About how he was 24 (I doubt he was less than 30), from Memphis, Tennessee (dude, where's the southern drawl? I bet you grew up in LA...), blah blah blah. It was starting to just get annoying as fuck.

And then again, right before his stop, the inevitable question. You sure I can't have your number? How about I give you my number instead? Jesus Christ. I said no, did you not hear me the first time? Plus, it's fucking creepy when you're offering your number and you still haven't asked me for my name or introduced yourself. How many times do I have to say it? No, no, no, and NO. I am NOT playing hard to get. I really mean it when I say that I won't give you my number and that if you give me your number, I won't call. Gah. Fucker thought I was playing hard to get. You know, sometimes a no, really just means no...

Btw, yes I did finish my book (over vegan food). I'll have to post about it later (the tone doesn't seem to fit with a post ranting about commonplace things such as guys at bus stops).

Random Drawing

So, a student accidentally stapled a blank piece of paper into their homework. After looking at it for a second, I decided to draw a picture. Here it is!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

No on H8, Repeal Prop 8

So, tonight I went to one of the many protests that LA has been holding which are protesting the passage of Prop 8. It was a very peaceful protest. Lots of general goodwill. Surprisingly, we didn't see a counter-protest, despite the fact that we circled the block right in front of a children's hospital. In fact, almost everyone cheered us. Cars honked and cheered as they passed (which ended up being quite a few since we walked from several miles away to the protest and back again). Even the police seemed to be supporting us (they had siren noises going off intermittently during the protest for no apparent reason other than supporting us). We were even cheered after the protest when we walked into this nice pizza place to get some food after the protest, which was awesome.

In general, it was a very satisfying night. We made the news yet again (national and local!), so we are getting good publicity. The word of our cause is out there, and hopefully we'll see some change soon.

Finally, a few of the best slogans we saw on posters (at least, the ones I can remember):

When do I get to vote on your marriage?
Equality: No on Poop 8
Chickens: 1, Gays: 0 (something to this effect was carried by a guy dressed in a chicken suit)
I'm okay with straight people as long as they act gay. (btw, this sign was carried by a straight guy)

There were also bicyclists walking their bikes in protest of Prop 8. I'm thinking I need to make some signs for my bike to show my support for the repealment of Prop 8.

So remember!

Equality for All!
No on H8, repeal Prop 8!
Gay, straight, black or white, marriage is a civil right!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Isolation and Aloneness

Funny words to say, but English doesn't really have a good equivalent to something that means both "isolation" and "aloneness". The Spanish equivalent is "soledad", unless I've misunderstood how it's been used. However, the related word in English "solitude", lends a feeling of tranquility, and not of isolation.

So, all of this came up as I was reading Aldous Huxley's "Island". It's a great book, and I highly recommend it. Evidently it is his last work, and the one in which he elaborates on most of his philosophy that he has developed through the course of his life. But in it, it contains this quote:

"In solitude, for of course nobody can help, nobody can ever be present. People may stand by while you're suffering and dying; but they're standing by in another world. In your world you're absolutely alone. Alone in your suffering and your dying, just as you're alone in love, alone even in the most completely shared pleasure."

This quote struck me because at once my mind is agreeing and disagreeing with it simultaneously. In the depths of my depression, this quote made absolute sense, although the reference to being alone in love while sharing yourself with someone...cuddling and caressing them while simultaneously feeling so absolutely separate from them, seems to me to be the saddest thing in the world.

You may feel alone while you're suffering and dying. This is completely plausible to me. No one can understand what it's like to feel what you're feeling when you're in the depths of depression and honestly wishing you had the courage to kill yourself. Only another currently depressed person can even remotely begin to appreciate what it is like to have your mind wish to be dead while at the same time trying to fight with itself to stay alive. Although I cannot fully understand what this is like, I also imagine that it is equally isolating to be diagnosed with a deadly disease or condition and know that you only have a few months to live.

In death, one is truly alone, and no one may follow you there. This was made extremely clear to me last February when my granddad (my mom's dad) was in the hospital because a leaky heart valve that hadn't been diagnosed for over six months finally burst, and he was essentially waiting in the hospital for his heart to finally give out and for him to die. Sadly, he also went into the hospital a few days before his birthday. I had already planned to come visit him that weekend for his birthday, but instead of visiting him just to celebrate his birthday, it was also to say goodbye. The hardest part about the whole thing was that he wasn't ready to die. If his leaky heart valve had been discovered six months earlier, then maybe he could have undergone surgery for it. But now, the likelihood of him dying on the operating table was extremely high. So we could only just stand there by him and watch as he struggled to breathe and as he stated that he wasn't ready to die and looked scared. Considering that I had only been feeling a bit better from my depression for a mere two months, I found it all extremely symbolic. It scared me that someone who was just turning 82 could be that scared to face death, and even more so that they had no choice in the matter. I couldn't even imagine what he was going through for those couple of days when he realized that the hospital could only do so much to support him, and that he was going to die whether he was ready for it or not. By the time he finally passed away, he was at least ready to face it, but I don't think he was necessarily ready for it.

That experience left me with a very non-peaceful view of death. Yes, maybe death could be peaceful in that if you are lucky, you will pass away in your bed while you are sleeping one day when you are extremely old. But I don't think it necessarily happens that way. And the knowledge of upcoming death is extremely scary and isolating. There is nothing that anyone can say or do to make it better. Things are not going to be okay. Nobody can follow you wherever you are going, whether it simply be the ground, heaven, or another life. Death is a stopping point at which the living must leave you be and only the other dead await you (at least, if you believe that there is a heaven and that you don't just get put into the ground to rot, or reincarnate as another person or animal).

So yes, death is a truly isolating experience. But love?

Love is the one thing which you can share with another person. So it is beyond me how Huxley can claim that love is an isolating experience which makes you realize how truly separate you are from other people. If anything, it should be the experience or act that makes you realize how truly inseparable you are from someone. In which all the world should suddenly align and just make sense. Or even if it doesn't make sense, at the very least everything should be at peace.

It makes me sad to think that someone should feel alone in love. If that is the case, I don't think that can be called love. Maybe a gross perversion of love in a world where there is so much hate and sorrow and too little kindness and generosity. But it is definitely not how love should be.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I joined NaNoWriMo!

Oh god don't ask me why. >.< It's not like I don't have another NaNoWriMo project in the works (ie: my 50-page master's thesis due this quarter?). Ah well...maybe it'll help keep me motivated to work on my MA...