Monday, January 30, 2006

happy year of the...

That's right doglovers, this is my shout out to you.

Not having been a believer in horoscopes, especially since the Chinese zodiac insists that everyone born in the same year has the same freaking fortune, you can imagine my surprise when after reading my horoscope online, I admittedly felt, well, sort of inspired by the message. Right before I felt grossly ashamed for reading it in the first place. But I felt as if it was speaking to me, just me. Stuff like "Your happiness is before you, not behind you." Okay, run of the mill cheese. But then there was the most inspirational: "There will even be a positive change in the career". Hurrah! Does this not veritably guarantee that I'm finishing my dissertation soon? Would it be unwise to print this out and attach it to the cover letter of all my job applications? This surely can't be the same for everyone out there can it?

I figure that writing a horoscope must be pretty formulaic. As long as there are sweeping generalities combined with some choice inspirational mantras. So here is my attempt at a "Year of the Dog" horoscope for you all:

The year of the dog is all about you.
This year you will make some new friends.
And get closer to old ones.
And grow apart from some of them too.
Reflect upon your present blessings
not on your past misfortunes.
Because the Dow Jones will go up. And it will go down.
If you have a kid, it will grow bigger
eventually to hate you.
When your phone rings, someone will be at the
other end of the line, wanting to talk to you.
And remember, beyond all else, as Einstein once said,
"The difference between genius and stupidity is
that genius has its limits."

Unsettling is it not? Like an eye piercing the depths of your heart?
(Let's thank my friend Leo for the adorable photo. Taken in Seoul on a Nikon 90. Click on photo for unflinching detail.)

P.S. Yet another important mystery solved.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


This is what happens when advanced technologies swallow us whole. Note the rapture on their faces and the eerie obliviousness to their photo being taken.

I don't know what's wrong with me but I've started a terrible habit of starting to prepare for the class I'm teaching only after the clock ticks over at midnight the night before. Though it shouldn't be such a surprise to me that I'm heartily maintaining my reputation as a first-rate procrastinator, I still wish I weren't so irresponsible sometimes, especially when the higher learning of tomorrow's leaders is at stake. I teach a class of about 20 students. All of them very sweet and enthusiastic. Or maybe they're very clever suck-ups. Either way, I feel somehow like I'm cheating them out of something. What that is I'm not sure but if I were a better teacher maybe it would be more clear to me.

The way that I have mastered procrastination could possibly be used in a case study of some kind. Instead of reading up on "Imperialism and Technology", the topic of tomorrow's discussion, I actually find myself sitting here ruminating on a strange experience I had earlier today in my exercise class where I had the unexpected delight of working out in a sea of porn stars. Living in LA is so endlessly exciting. It relieves much of the normal ennui of any average grad student elsewhere. So much to see. So much cleavage to admire.

Now I have never been one to particularly envy ladies with big racks. Much thanks to my first boyfriend who gave me the lasting gift of making me comfortable with my body, small boobs and all. But still, when confronted unexpectedly with size double D's in an extremely crowded kickboxing class, you start to take notice and succumb to their power. I think I must have mistakenly taken the porn star kickboxing class tonight. I realized only too late that almost everyone in there knew each other and they all happened to have massive breast enlargements. Porn stars have awfully skinny asses too. And they dress almost exclusively in pink. I dare say I may have been the most small-breasted lady in the room, not excluding the dudes.

The point of bringing this up is not to ridicule porn stars or the porn industry for that matter. But rather to note that it is a strange feeling to be in a room full of people most of whom have been surgically enhanced. It feels as if the fictive sci-fi world of cylons and cyborgs has finally arrived but it is nothing like we had imagined. Our writers and filmmakers were a bit deluded by creating machines in our image that were elegant and beautiful. If we take the cylons in "Battlestar Galactica" as a prime example, all the cylon women thus far have been totally flat-chested. But no one has correctly projected that our reality is much more twisted. And that machines, idealized in human form, would be sporting fairly obscene anatomically incongruous appendages bolted to their chests.

At least "Gattica" was on the right track with its theme of genetic engineering, but it too failed to represent the actual path that our societies have taken. In this case, sci-fi is much more rational and civilized than reality. If, that is, we accept that our reality and the future trajectory of human civilization, is one heavily invested in the production and reproduction of gigantic gravity-defying jugs.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


I used to watch this show on PBS called "Antiques Roadshow" religiously. You've probably seen it. You just haven't been bored enough to actually watch it.

It's a traveling show that goes from city to city getting people to bring all their old junk to see if they've unwittingly been sitting on a goldmine all those years. My favorite part of the show is when the camera pulls back and pans around the room and you see hundreds of people forming lines behind the "experts" with their crap in old wheelbarrows or cardboard boxes. You can see a hopeful glimmer in their eyes, maybe even a bit of desperation, enough to make you feel uncomfortable but for that reason all the more riveting. The people seem to come from backwater middle America and the saddest thing next to watching their sagging flesh squeezed into cheap pants and hush puppies shoes is seeing their faces fall when they find out that the pile of crap they brought in is pretty much just... a pile of crap.

No, there is something even more tragic than this. It's when they find out they actually have something of value, something that their grandfather or great aunt had collected lovingly for decades--bits of collectible soaps or pop art or tea tins--one measly scrap at a time, that they then learn is worth thousands of dollars. The sad part is that you know they will walk off the screen, auction that shit off as soon possible, so they can buy themselves a new three-piece walnut bedroom set from Sears. Yeah, that's definitely the saddest. No doubt about it.

I finally stopped watching this show because of one episode. It was one where a kid brought in an old helmet that he literally found in his attic, wedged between the rafters and had been there since the time his family had first moved into their house. He had no idea where it came from and thought it was a part of some junky costume. What it turned out to be, amazingly, was an Italian masterpiece from the 16th century, hammered out of a single piece of bronze and covered on every inch of its surface in the richest and most intricate relief of figures fighting in battle. It was really breathtaking. It was signed. The artist-metalworker was someone famous. It was a historical treasure. The obvious part of it of course was that this helmet, valued conservatively, was worth a quarter of a million dollars, but probably closer to half a million. The kid and his mother started to stagger around like someone had clubbed them on the head. Apparently the helmet alone cost at least twice as much as the house they found it in. Art in the hands of the guileless masses. Both touching and infuriating at the same time.

Yeah that ended it for me. It's impossible to top something like that. The indelible mark though that this show left on me is the startling reality that one person's trash is another person's treasure. Truly. Even terrifyingly so. This brings me to my final point, which is, that one of my own personal treasures has been officially published in the most recent book of collected trash titled Found, an idea that was started by the irreverent Davy Rothbart (Listen to last week's episode of This American Life for his story. The first unrelated story is really funny too.):

A friend of mine pointed out that she found my name in it and lo and behold, it was so. That's me there below under "Reserved for Jesus".

In case you can't make it out, this is basically a threatening note put on my car by my neighbor and Minister for blocking part of his driveway. It was the "Thanks, In Jesus' Name" that really killed me.

If you haven't heard of Found, you can see some of it online. It's an interesting concept that connects the disparate trails of our human lives together into a universal weave of love, humor, personal tragedy. A good read all around. If you want me to autograph your personal copy, send it in. Who knows how much more famous I may get. You can pass my autograph onto your grandchildren, and their children, who can then bring all that old shit onto some lameass TV show and have them learn that that old signed manuscript is worth freaking millions. Then the circle will be complete.

Friday, January 06, 2006

it's back!

The folks at McDonald's better not be pulling my McMuffin. Oh, what an auspicious sign for the new year.