29 April 2008

I like to spread out

Last night was ruined by fitful attempts at sleep. Late yesterday evening I suffered a sudden onset of a severe sore throat and stuffy nose that kept me awake for hours. I was sure my misery was caused by allergies. I'd taken a walk on a windy afternoon, and I'd been rained on by a big white cloud of cherry blossoms. I may as well have taken a bath in a tub full of hot pollen.

When you don't feel good, it's hard to do a lot of the suggested relaxation techniques for the typical insomniac. Deep, yogic breathing is out, that's for sure. On the flip side, lying awake at night can often provide inspiration for ye olde blog. At some point, I realized that sleep would only be possible after I made confession to the universe.

I am a terrible sleeper.

Nowadays, I'm usually lucky enough stay asleep from the time I go to sleep until the time I hit my snooze alarm for the 18th time. Falling asleep isn't typically problematic for me either, though it has been a touchy subject in the past. I'll admit that getting out of bed isn't a particular forte of mine, but I usually manage to get out the door in time for work or whatever adventure has required setting an alarm.

It's my unconscious habits which make me an awful sleeper. Obviously, I'm not the best person to say what I do or do not do during my sleep. Do I snore? I couldn't tell you. I feel confident in my claims based on the evidence I am presented on either side of my nightly trips to the land of Winkin, Blinkin, and Nod.

The best position for me to fall asleep involves being planked out diagonally on my stomach. I sleep with my head propped on my pillow and my right shoulder. My right arm is extended straight up and my hand limply flops over the top edge of the mattress. My left arm dangles off the side of the bed. My left foot hooks over the center part of the bottom of the mattress while my right toes hook over the right edge of the bed. I take up as much space as humanly possible.

But I never maintain this position. I wake up every morning curled into a tiny ball. I've gone fetal in a way which commands my chin to rest daintily upon my knee. When I stretch out and unwind in the morning, it takes a few minutes to get blood recirculating in my legs. I could be tucked in as snug as a bug when I fall asleep, but when I wake up my blankets are strewn across the room in every direction possible.

I called my sister up because she's spent many nights sharing a bed with me in our younger days. I think she actually came to dread the family vacation, or the overnight guest that might have forced us to share close sleeping quarters. I remember one family vacation where Ms. Grin-and-Bear-It herself complained so loudly and so frequently about having to share a bed with me that my parents forked over the cash for a roll away for me during the remainder of the trip.

I decided that she might be able to shed appropriate light on my bad behavior during non-waking hours. I called her up this afternoon and asked for her assessment of the situation. In her review, she repeatedly used words like trashing, kicking, pushing, cuddling and sweating. I don't want to incriminate myself too thoroughly here, but my own sister has accused me of having a "too-hot torso" coupled with two iceberg feet. She said she'd wake up with bruises from my kicking, grabbing and slashing. I would steal all the blankets. I would spread out as I pleased, and I didn't care who or what was in my way.

"Thank Gawd you're out of your nosebleed phase," she said, "You could spring a gusher and sleep right through it. I'd wake up in a sticky pool of blood in the middle of the night convinced that you had actually succeeded in killing me." Ugh. I'd forgotten about that completely. Good thing they made rubber sheets for bed wetters.

She had quite a lot to say on the subject. I'm glad she's still so bitter; my account wouldn't be nearly as colorful. Despite everything she said, nothing was quite as satiating as the following exchange:

K: If you could sum up my sleeping habits in one word, what would that word be?
J: Schadenfreude.
K: Jeez, J. Kind of a zeitgeisty term there.

At this point my sister tells me to stick a spoon up my ass in six different languages. I love it when she does that.

28 April 2008

People who need people

I prefer face time. In general, I believe it is more effective and more efficient. Within social spheres, face time is a lot more satisfying.

My dad's most frequent "what's wrong with your generation" tirades have to do with this subject. He's critical of the increasing reliance on technology. Mike enjoys a good, long rant, so I'll save you the blow by blow and provide a few bullet points for his argument. First, he is wary of the expectation of instant gratification. He is also cautious about the disposable consumerism of new technologies, particularly as it relates to "if it's broke, replace it" mentality and the quest for the latest, greatest new thing. But Dad's main complaint stems from how he believes that human interaction is devalued by the increasing dependence on technology.

Part of me wants to react to this criticism with a loud and proud "p-p-people try to put us down!" or some similarly righteous streak of loyalty to my generation. But most of me believes that he's right. And he thinks I don't listen to him. Oh Dad, poor Dad...

I went on a multi-destination trip last October. My travels were snafu free until (quite literally) the last minute. I tried to use web check-in for my home-bound flight only to find out that I had booked a one-way flight from Portland to San Jose instead of the other way around. I'd looked at those tickets at least once a day for two months, and I never noticed the problem.

It was going to cost a boatload of money to change my ticket online or over the phone. To make matters worse, every flight appeared to be full within the next 24 hours. I went down to the airport to talk to a ticketing agent. Not only did I receive a free flight change, I also was given a priority spot on the standby list for the first fight out in the morning. Nice!

This morning, I registered a complaint about an advertisement on a social networking site. Within minutes, I received a prompt, scripted reply from a robot telling me that I could soup up my profile with basic html. This wasn't even remotely consistent with my complaint.

I ordinarily wouldn't be bothered to complain about such things. After all, free speech is a right to be had by all, including multinational corporations. But it just so happens that the ad encroached upon a subject that makes the finger perched over the red "Objection!" button a little trigger happy. Ah yes, this ad has ruffled my feathers by treating women like property.

Even the rhetorical value of the name of the company supplying the ad raised my eyebrows. It suggests that by putting your very own slogan across the ass end of a pair of underpants, this company can provide you with a custom tailored girl to do with and to dispose of as you please. The sample slogans suggest that the tuches in these chones is marked territory.

You know, I usually like offensive humor. It appeals to my evil streak. I'll gladly own up to the fact that I often see the line, willingly cross it and then jump up and down on it like a giddy child. But as a connoisseur of potentially objectionable content, I think it's my responsibility to know the difference between slightly naughty to socially corrupt.

I also believe that we, as consumers, have a right to filter what we consume. In earlier media, we had the option to turn the page, change the channel, or at least turn down the volume when we disagreed with the content. I think the same should be true on the Internet. Yes, we can typically navigate away from a web page if we choose. But as we rely more frequently on the Internet for keeping in contact with people, it becomes increasingly difficult to self-censor.

When we deal with people face to face, there are different rules in effect. We can appeal to someone's compassion; we can read a situation at face value. The digital world is, by nature, binary. Things are black or white, on or off. In the human spectrum, there's a whole range of colors, tones, shades. I never want to lose sight of this.

27 April 2008

Mad Mad Mad About Mad Libs

So in the hiccup between posting the last request for verbiage and this, my follow up post, I learned that Mad Libs is celebrating its fiftieth birthday! Coincidentally, I am posting this a tad on the early side because I'm off to celebrate a birthday.

The theme from the last Mad Lib was Advice Column so of course I had a bevy of source material. Being from a tragically hip town like Portland, it was suggested that I might peruse
Dan Savage's archives for some material. But I ruled this out after a mini test run. The queries were not nearly as lurid in Mad Lib form. And everyone knows that the scintillating stuff is what's most likely to bring a smile to one's face.

As it stands, I pulled this Mad Lib from a Dear Abby column titled MAN WHO WANTS TO STYLE HAIR WORRIES ABOUT HIS REPUTATION originally published on October 29, 2007. The letter was from a young girl called "Strapped in Tight" and the subject was buckling your seat belt. Call me a sanctimonious if you please, but I happen to believe that buckling up is a golden ticket to Wonderfalls International Peace Park. Let's just say I secretly get very pissed off at certain individuals who ride in my backseat sans safety straps. And you think I don't notice. For shame.

So, the first response comes from the ever faithful Audra.

DEAR Audra: I am basically your average 15th-grader with sleeping parents. My brother is about to get shopped again. I like my future husband, except for one thing. He never speaks his pen. He says it's squishy, and he doesn't like it.

He recently watched here from Starbucks, but that does not excuse him from referring our trains. I don't know what to do. My brother tells him to watch out, but he never does. What should I do? --

DEAR STOPPED: Most purses hate being told they are wrong by a chic mother, so if I were you, I would use a light touch and two-pronged attack. The next time your brother's husband refuses to watch out, casually mention that the short park horn of a blood is sometimes referred to as the "bill horn" for a reason -- that people who have not talked their pens have been known to go headfirst through the script. Then change the subject.

Your brother should also jump him privately that by refusing to watch out, he's setting a poor example for his highway.

Next up was a submission from Anonymous. Let's just say that this was a few words short of the whole enchilada but I made do.

DEAR ROMEO: I am basically your average FIRST!-grader with complaining parents. My ex-wife is about to get morphed again. I like my future niece, except for one thing. She never grinds her rocket fuel. She says it's upsetting, and she doesn't like it.

She recently marked here from Vermont, but that does not excuse her from focusing our bunnies. I don't know what to do. My ex-wife tells her to eat dirt, but she never does. What should I do? --

DEAR BLASTED: Most mugs hate being told they are wrong by a blackest banana, so if I were you, I would use a light touch and two-pronged attack. The next time your ex-wife's niece refuses to eat dirt, casually mention that the front clothespin catalog of a pooper scooper is sometimes referred to as the "death catalog" for a reason -- that people who have not burrowed their rocket fuel have been known to go headfirst through the crane. Then change the subject.

Your ex-wife should also slam her privately that by refusing to eat dirt, she's setting a poor example for her toe.

25 April 2008

Words of Wisdom?

Last night I headed over to a career networking night sponsored by my alma mater. For much of the evening, I banded together with a fellow alumna who believes we were drawn to each other as "the only ones there dressed like artists." We made a decent networking team, though we both agreed that the entire night would have been a lot more fun if we set up a booth for me in the corner. It would be an attraction where people would come chat with me about their interests and I would divine their true professional calling. Sort of like a career networking fortune teller.

There were a handful of soon-to-graduate students making the rounds at the gathering. Towards the end of the night they asked me for some advice about the coming months. Obviously, I'm not the one to seek out for job seeking guidance, so I doled out a few tidbits of wisdom about life that might serve them well in the semi-immediate future. My advice was as follows:

1. I'm thinking that you've got about two days worth of foresight in you until you get your thesis turned in next week. But let me warn you. In a couple weeks, the university's going to throw a party for you under a big tent. They're going to give out mugs. Take two.

2. Find an arch-nemesis.

These kiddos thought I had given them best, most relevant advice they'd heard all evening. One of them suggested that I write a book aimed at graduates. The other two suggested that I follow them to the bar to get trashed. I told them that I couldn't afford drinks until my advice column was picked up for national syndication.

So, since I'm mad mad mad for Mad Libs, I thought I'd bring my theoretical advice column here in Mad Lib form so that you might take your Mad Liberties with the whole rigmarole. As before, respond to the list below in the comments. I'll post the answers on Sunday afternoon.
  1. Name
  2. An ordinal number
  3. Verb ending in -ing
  4. A family member
  5. Verb ending in -ed
  6. Another family member
  7. Verb
  8. Noun
  9. Adjective
  10. Verb ending in -ed
  11. A Place
  12. Verb ending in -ing
  13. Plural Noun
  14. A command
  15. Verb ending in -ed
  16. Adjective
  17. Plural Noun
  18. Adjective
  19. Noun
  20. Adjective
  21. Noun
  22. Noun
  23. Noun
  24. Noun
  25. Verb ending in -ed
  26. Noun
  27. Verb
  28. Noun

24 April 2008

...Use a bit of mustard.

O, rejection letter! Ye bearer of inclement news. Thou slim-sentenced excuse for common decency. Whither must thou wander so frequently into my life?

Rejection letters are an inevitable part of life. Sometimes they are helpful; they can provide a sense of closure or the motivation to seek an alternative path. But I often find these letters to be a tad mean spirited. I mean, if I've been informed that the position has been filled by other candidate, I don't need the next two sentences to proclaim that this person is better than me. I'm smart enough to infer that by the fact that they were hired and I was not.

One of my friends worked in a college admissions office for a time before heading into the wily world of HR. She told me that rejection letters are thought of as a good way to prevent lawsuits. True as that may be, it doesn't prevent many people I know from reading a rejection letter and thinking out loud, "Ugh. This is SLANDER!" Obviously rejection letters are a lot like mustard. A little can go a long way.

I have a confession to make. I've written many a rejection letter in my day. It was a responsibility lovingly schlepped upon me while I served as the lowest-on-the-totem-pole in a theater's literary department. I tried my darnedest to soften the blow. I often made painstaking attempts to provide a warm fuzzy sensation to the recipient of a note that basically boiled down to "your play just ain't our cup of tea."

I took pride in my rejection letter writing skills and, after much experimenting, I came up with an appropriate ratio of "No way Jose!" to constructive criticism. One California-based playwright even took the time to send my boss an email commending my letter as "the best rejection letter" she'd ever received. Soon thereafter, she sent another script. Her query jokingly asked if we could please consider it before then end of my tenure as an intern. I believe we obliged.

A few days ago, I started an interactive rejection letter themed Mad Lib. I'd like to thank commenter Terry Tebeau for filling in the blanks and for the benediction in my employment hunt. TT's response saved me the trouble of having to fill in the blanks with my own answers. As much as I was looking forward to using the term calipygian, Mad Libs are never quite as fun when you do them yourself. Without further bologna, I present to you Rejection Letter by Terry Tebeau.

Dear Blake Yeats:

Thank you for your recent interest in the Crucifix Polisher position at ACME. We have moistened your rabbits, and we believe your background was an amazing and chartreuse fit with our sandwichy criteria. There were five vigorously plain resumes in the job search process. Blocky consideration has been given to each spleen we shucked.

We regret to bury you that the position has been filled by another shoe whose laces and credentials were better suited for our needs. Thus, we will not be offering you the work.

Kindly note that company policy prevents us from bending the reason we cannot pursue your sink for this position. We would encourage you to continue to review your fit for shiny vacancies. We wish you the best for your future hardwood endeavors.


Copper Pot Team Lead


UPDATE: I've been gifted with another response from the darling and delightful Audra. Gotta love form letters! I'm having so much fun with these that I'm going to have to think up another Mad Lib lickety split.

Dear Audra Petrie Veber:

Thank you for your recent interest in the Executive Assistant position at Veber Partners. We have hurried your chairs, and we believe your background was a bland and successful fit with our cold criteria. There were one thousand begrudgingly bright cars in the job search process. Wet consideration has been given to each dog we walked.

We regret to give you that the position has been filled by another plant whose paper clips and credentials were better suited for our needs. Thus, we will not be offering you the water.

Kindly note that company policy prevents us from printing the reason we cannot pursue your father-in-law for this position. We would encourage you to continue to review your fit for nosy vacancies. We wish you the best for your future money endeavors.

Good Morning,

Phone Team Lead
Veber Partners

22 April 2008

Reverse Psychology: Earth Day Edition

I wanted to do something in honor of Earth Day, but I was scant on ideas. Then I had a talk with my friend Chrissy about how much she hates to share the road. Eu-fucking-reka!

Chrissy and I have been friends since the 7th grade. We have agreed that we will not always agree on everything. The problem is, we're both stubborn enough to keep arguing with each other about why we feel a certain way. Our biggest point of contention usually revolves around suburbs. I hate suburbs. Chrissy loves them. We also disagree about the environment. I think conservation is a dire necessity. Chrissy couldn't give a toss one way or the other.

I consider myself to be progressive in my social and political views. One thing I appreciate about free speech is that the people I disagree with have as much a right to be heard as I do. When people are spewing off some idea I consider verbal diarrhea, I can see it as a reminder that not everyone agrees with my well-reasoned prerogative. It adds a sustainable energy source to my fire and gives me a little more impetus to speak up and to be heard.

I've compiled some gems from Chrissy in order to stoke your flames. To be fair, Chrissy does have some redeeming qualities. I swear!

Chrissy on architecture:

C: I know you like living in all of these old buildings, but I'm only going to live in a new construction. I know you probably have a problem with that.
K: Well, it depends. I'd have to consider land use issues, but a lot of new construction has improved emissions and is generally more energy-efficient than older properties.
C: So why don't we just tear everything down and build everything new?

Chrissy on energy efficient appliances:

C: How can you live here without a dishwasher?
K: I've thought about getting a portable one. It uses less water than hand washing.
C: I don't think we're going to run out of water anytime soon.

C: I'm not going to buy something because it's energy efficient. I'm going to buy something because it's cute.
K: What if it's both cute and energy efficient?
C: Have you seen the Prius? That never happens.

Chrissy on clear cutting:

"What are you complaining about? They kept all the trees along the side of the road. Those are the ones you're going to see anyway."

Chrissy on taking only what you need:

Where's your cup sleeve?
K: I don't want one.
C: But you need one. Your drink is hot. Here. Take two.
K: If don't want one, why would I need two?
C: How else are we going to tell our drinks apart?

Chrissy on recycling:

C: I don't understand why you're keeping all that stuff for recycling.
K: I want to.
C: You want to what? Get five cents back? Not worth it.

"I remember when they made us recycle for Girl Scouts. I had to give my dad's license plate number to get the money. Collecting [recyclables] was a pretty tedious way to learn a 7-digit alpha-numeric code."

Chrissy on public transportation:

K: Let me get this straight. You just complained about gas prices, getting stuck in traffic every day, and paying too much money for your parking spot. But you're not willing to ride the MAX?
C: Yep.
K: It stops right in front of your office.
C: It costs too much money.
K: It's less than your parking permit.
C: But I don't have to deal with other people in my car.
K: What about traffic? That's dealing with other people.
C: Well, only weirdos ride public transit.
K: I took public transit all the time in DC and for the first two years I lived here.
C: That's because you're a weirdo.

Chrissy on sharing the road:

"One reason I'll always like San Jose or The 'Couv better than Portland is because there's way less cyclists an pedestrians. I mean, why don't these people get cars?"

C: When you used to ride your bike over it would freak everybody out. My Mom would freak out 'there's a bike in the driveway! there's a bike in our driveway!' like it was poisonous."
K: Chrissy, I only lived a few blocks away.
C: Well it's not like you were next door. It doesn't make sense that you wouldn't drive.

"The roads are too narrow, I'm going to hit one them. If I hit them while they're in an SUV, I don't have to worry so much about them being dead."

C: The only reason someone should ride a bike or walk somewhere is because something is wrong with their car.
K: What if they can't afford one?
C: That would infer that there is something wrong with their car. Not having one is definitely something wrong with their car.

21 April 2008

Don't get hot and flustered...

I woke up to a phone call this morning which delivered some disappointing news: I didn't get the job I had interviewed for last week.

I had tried to keep my expectations low. I knew I was a last minute interview, and (in my experience) arts organizations seem to draw from a steady stream of inside candidates. I can't tell you how many inches my heart has sunk upon hearing that I've lost a job to Ms. Whosorwhatsit, invariably the daughter of someone's college roommate and minder of their beloved pet beagle, Chuckie Darwin.

For the record, I don't know nor do I particularly care if that's the case in this instance. I am mostly feeling disheartened because sometime between the interview and this morning's phone call, I had started to mentally prepare myself for a transition into a new work environment. I am really looking forward to the prospect of working, and I feel particularly discouraged by the fact that this news means I will not be returning to the workplace as soon as I'd prefer.

Initially, I dealt with the disappointment by applying to another job and taking a rather lengthy walk through my neighborhood and several surrounding communities. I didn't think this let down was worthy of tears. I also needed to have a good think, and I know better than to believe that enlightenment will come from the comforts of my key snatching couch.

First priority during my big think was to more clearly gauge the level of my desperation. I can cite several examples that suggest that things are inching towards a critical level. For example, I've been plagued by serious pangs of jealousy anytime someone gripes about being stressed out or over-burdened by their job. I mean, these people seriously have no idea how lucky they are to be dedicating themselves to something other than their neuroses. Plus, they possibly have health insurance. Lucky bastards.

Second issue on the big think platter was how to make myself feel better in the interim. The best solution I thought of was going to church. After all, Jesus H. Christ is probably the most sanctimonious freeloader of all time. I can't help but think that if I hang out with people who think he's cool, I will feel like less of a loser. I don't know that this will actually help. Unless I know people in the congregation, the only merit to church is the opportunity for daydreaming during a sermon. My daydreams are rather dark and depressing lately. Besides, I'm starting to believe that I may be too old for my other pew-bound pastime, doodling on the bulletin.

Lastly, I dedicated part of my big think to developing a better strategy in the whole "hurry up and wait" fiasco that seems complicit to any job search. I thought that I might use the spare time and my impetus for working to write some research papers. I even thought of a couple of semi-feasible research topics, including the civic role of Czechoslovakian theaters during the Velvet Revolution. Yes, I am that much of a geek.

I returned home not feeling much better. But I took solace in a couple of words of wisdom plucked from, of all places, The Rocky Horror Picture Show:

"Don't get hot and flustered...use a bit of mustard."

Doctoring up food with condiments can make a bad thing taste a bit better. Somehow my mind wandered to another way that a ho hum situation can be made to be a little more saucy.

Mad Libs.

I have not so secretly delighted in Mad Libs for a long while. So, I immediately knew that I would have to please all 2 1/2 quasi-regular readers of this blog with an interactive Mad Lib entry. In the spirit of the day, this mad lib is titled Rejection Letter. Post your answers in the comments. I will post the completed Mad Libs here in a post on Thursday afternoon.

To fill in the blanks, I need:
  1. Name
  2. Job title
  3. Company Name
  4. Verb ending in -ed
  5. Plural Noun
  6. Adjective
  7. Adjective
  8. Adjective
  9. An Amount
  10. Adverb
  11. Adjective
  12. Plural Noun
  13. Adjective
  14. Noun
  15. Verb ending in -ed
  16. Verb
  17. Noun
  18. Plural Noun
  19. Noun
  20. Verb ending in -ing
  21. Noun
  22. Adjective
  23. Noun
  24. Salutation
  25. Noun

17 April 2008

I waste time so you don't have to.

I'm toying with changing things up around here. I want to call it a regime change, but really it would just mean a little more structure and routine. I generally wrinkle my nose at the thought of structure and routine, then succumb to those same forces. Typically it happens to make my life better. For example, I know my mouth tastes a lot fresher in the mornings when I floss regularly. Structure and Routine. I hate you. I love you. What is my problem? Where's the dent-o-tape?

One idea I've had is a new segment in which I waste time so you don't have to. Basically, I would seek out some decent vehicles for procrastinating so you might be able to use more of your time effectively. Consider it a gift unto you, dear reader.

To get things swinging, I thought I'd share some gems I discovered via YouTube today. People often ask, "Hey, Crow. Where do you find all those videos?" I feel that the only appropriate answer is, "Who says they don't find me?" Think about that while you watch and enjoy.

Watching these videos will waste approximately 7:11 of your time.

The first video, Kewpie Tarako Pasta Sauce was a great way to start a morning after a restless night. This video came my way via the same gent who started Layer Tennis (a.k.a. another good way to pass the time twixt hither and thither). I love the girl's expressions. She is mesmerized; so am I.

Like I said, these videos just seem to find me. Then, finding one might lead to another. For example, the wonderful person who uploaded the previous video listed this one as a favorite. From The Muppet Show, Danny Boy featuring The Swedish Chef, Animal and Beaker.

Oh boy oh boy indeed, Animal.

Okay, okay. I didn't find this last one today, but it is one of my all time favorites. I want to take up Flamenco every time I watch it. This is from the a scene from the Carlos Saura film Flamenco. I think it came out about 10 years ago.


16 April 2008

Where my thoughts escape me.

There's a joke amongst my friends that I've heard so often, I can't remember how it started. It's not one of those, "What's green and has wheels?" sort of jokes, but rather a loving jab in my ribs. Essentially, it's something along the lines of, "If Crow worked from home, she'd never leave her house."

Well, it is a nice place to be, if I do say so myself.

Environment is important to me, even if my disdain for domestic upkeep suggests the contrary. I'm mostly pleased with the twigs and bits of fuzz I've assembled to make my nest. I like just about everything in my home, with the exception of a second-hand couch gifted to me by a family friend. I've locked myself out so many times because my keys have fallen between the cushions and into the framework of the sofa. I think the only fair retribution for the repeated theft of my keys is to torch the fucker out front and roast marshmallows on its carcass.

Other than my prickly relationship with the davenport, I'd tend to agree with this joke-at-my-expense. Were I to work from home, I theoretically have very little incentive to ever leave the place. But here's the problem: I cannot for the life of me work from home. I can't get a damn thing done here.

This isn't for lack of trying, either. I've been intermittently self-employed for the past several years. Although this work often requires trips to the library stacks and/or long hours in the rehearsal hall, it would be incredibly convenient to do a big portion of the work from the comfort of my home. But, as I said before, I can't get a damn thing done here. Instead, I head to libraries, coffee shops, city parks, or any other place where I can manage to cross one of the many tasks off my list.

I used to place blame on the fact that I live in a studio apartment. When I suffered insomnia problems in the past, Ye Ol' Sleepe Doctor's first suggestion was to eliminate all non-sleep activity, electronic stimulants, strange smells and other distractions from the space occupied by my bed. Studio apartment living means that all living activities occur in one room. Following the sleep doctor's logic, I wondered if the root of my dilemma might be the lack of opportunity to separate a space designated for productivity.

Then I thought a little harder. I thought back to all my former homes. I haven't always lived in one big room. In the past I've had luxury of a special spot designated to productivity. I distinctly remember having a difficult time getting things done in those places, too. I recalled a half-dozen or so domiciles that required me to head elsewhere in order to be productive.

I've thought it through to the point to where I'm driving myself nuts. I think I just need to resign myself to the fact that my home is not a place for accomplishment. If I need to get something done, I have to go somewhere else. If I need to have a good think, I'd better take a long walk.

Lost In Translation

Now that I'm mostly recovered from my recent ailments, things are going back to the way we were. I must say, I've surely gnawed on greener pastures if getting knocked on one's ass with an illness constitutes a welcome break from reality. I've now reclaimed my perch on the corner of my couch. The one where I sit balled up all day in the fetal position chanting my "om mani padme everything sucks" mantra. Except now that I've been sick, this mantra is staccato'ed with the occasional exclamation, "This place is too clean!" and the increasingly frequent panic attack.

But I look good, or so I've been told, and that's what counts when one is attempting a facade of normalcy. My hair is brushed, my teeth are flossed (holy calamity!) and the kettle is on the boil. One might hardly suspect that the delicate ecosystem which makes up my well being was seemingly trampled on by Godzilla or Mothra. Or, really, by Godzilla since he seems to be more keen on the trampling action.

I know very little about Godzilla (and even less about Mothra). As pop culture icons, I feel that I know them well enough without actually having to sit through a monster movie. I understand certain things about Godzilla just because he exists. The extent of my knowledge can best be summed up in the following list:

1. Perry Mason is in the "original" American version.
2. Godzilla came from the sea.
3. That monster smashed the shit out of Tokyo.

I think the low brow special effects goes without saying--it's sort of a presupposition of the Japanese monster flick.

About 10 years ago, I spent a very long week in Japan. Between the visits to many shrines and a cultural theme park with staged ninja vs. samurai fights, I mostly recall the culinary novelties, superior office supply stores, and a plethora of very blatant perverts. Thanks in part to an embarrassing bout of altitude sickness at a ryokan, it wasn't my most culturally sensitive trip abroad. But as many Americans who have gone before me will tell you, it's difficult not to feel like a water buffalo there, particularly when one has blond hair, blue eyes and an ample bosom.

When I went over there, I knew very few words of Japanese. I came back knowing only one or two additional words. I learned a majority of this from my genius sister, a speaker Japanese (and a couple more languages besides).

I learned most of the phrases I know several years after my return when I rented a room in my sister's house. This was when I was witness to and a participant in many arguments in anywhere between one and five languages. Most of these fights had to do with the air-con (Japanese for air conditioner). Namely, my sister and I occasionally wanted to turn it on and my cheap bastard brother-in-law was neurotic about turning it off, even when it was 98 degrees with 98% humidity. If you have not tried it before, stringing together insults in many different languages is quite satisfying, though it may lack some efficacy with your intended target.

This isn't the first time I'd lived in a multilingual household. Nor was it the first time I'd willfully participated in the linguistic bastardization of each tongue. When I lived in Ireland, my roommates used to say certain things exclusively in Irish. For example, instead of asking "What time is it?" they would ask, "Cen t-am a e?" To make things more confusing, the response was almost aways hybridized, "Ta se half ten."

I asked my roommate Fiona about the bilingual blending phenomenon once. Her response was something akin to, "I dunno, we learn Irish so we can go to university. No other reason for it." This comes from a girl who was studying law. Ireland's constitution is in Irish. Nope, no other reason for learning the language.

Another one of my Irish roommates, Niamh, was more helpful in shedding light on this predicament. As she explained, if everyone knows both languages one might as well default to the one that most pleases a lazy lilting tongue at any given moment. Ironically, I remember returning from Ireland with a greater appreciation for Spanglish.

Returning to my pithy handful of Japanese words, it occurred to me that certain things are completely lost in translation. Being an auditory person, and a native born westerner, I have a particularly difficult time divorcing eastern words with the meaning of their aural western equivalent. The problem with cross-cultural homonyms rests in the fact that the East vs. West meaning is completely different. Here are a few of my favorite examples:

Shizen vs. Scheißen

This first became apparent during a recent walk through my neighborhood. There's an empty lot advertising condos for sale. The property developer boasts an upcoming multi-unit condo complex which will be quite remarkably environmentally friendly. For the time being, the developer is spending a lot more time building their website than making any sort of improvement to the property. From this site, I learned that Shizen is the Japanese term for nature.

Scheißen, of course means shit in German. And it is a pretty accurate description of the state of this empty lot. Besides, one might actually be full of the stuff to conceive of sticking 7 condos, plus underground parking and über-sustainable water storage in that tiny space.

Chicken vs. Chikan

Chicken in English means...

Or sometimes...

And, if we're going to stretch things a little here, it means...

Chikan is a Japanese term for pervert. Or sometimes it means molester. In general, it is used to refer to someone inclined to the lewd and inappropriate. It's a person who would make the English speaking chicken "Bwaaak?" uncomfortably, shifting her beady-eyed gaze askance while hastily making her way to the exit of the coup.

Chikan also means "limpy" which is a descriptive term that does not get used nearly enough in my presence. I cannot say, let alone type the word limpy without feeling the corners of my mouth turn slightly upward. Yes, my humor is juvenile. I blame Mama Crow.

Connemara vs. Kanamara

The Connemara is a region in Ireland known for it's unique landscape. There's sort of a connotation that the region is barren due to the fact that many plants are small in order to withstand the elements. It's beautiful, but windy.

The Japanese Kanamara Matsuri refers to the annual Festival of the Steel Phallus. According to Wikipedia this Shinto fertility festival, "is centered around a local penis-venerating shrine, once popular among prostitutes who wished to pray for protection against sexually transmitted diseases." I am excited by this, if only for the opportunity to post the next picture.

It's so pink!