Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Journey

The water is dark, deep, and silent. Be careful picking your way to the boat in the starlight. The sky is overcast, and the waves have died. It's getting chilly; here, let me warm you. The stream looks harmless at your feet, but it has taken many already. I know we have to part soon; but till then, give me your hand. Remember what I told you about the currents and other dangers. You have to make your own mistakes, but never forget, I will be there to hold you if you fall. As you row away, I will be the stars twinkling in the water, the water lapping at your oars, the oars guiding you through life. I will be the wind in your hair, the hair in your eyes, the eyes in your heart. And when all is done, when all your cards have been dealt and played and homecoming tugs at your days, I will wait here to bring you ashore on a future fragrant summer night.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Secret Santa!

I came in to work today to find my desk totally transformed with decorative ornaments, a strategically placed Santa hat, and a Whack and Unwrap milk chocolate orange sitting next to my monitor. This doesn't normally happen every single day, but we are having a lot of surreptitious present-giving going on in the office throughout this week, building up to the actual Secret Santa gift exchange tomorrow for our holiday party. So I made a little thank you note for my anonymous benefactor saying My Secret Santa is the Best. Except I used what I thought would be this really cool font which made it say something just a little different, making Natalie laugh so hard that her contact lens actually popped out.

And I used to think that only happened in movies!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Bittersweet, Redux

So here are some more of my favorite bittersweet experiences, honoring a request in response to my previous post. Caveat: this is completely random and off the top of my head; I make no claims to be definitive.

Wong Kar-wai's Fallen Angels, Happy Together, and In the Mood for Love
Walter Salles' Central do Brasil (Central Station)
Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods and Sunday in the Park with George

This is almost certainly a list in progress, and I will try to keep adding to it. Suggestions are always welcome, and will be deeply appreciated.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


We were discussing Wong Kar Wai's movies the other day when the word bittersweet was mentioned, and I realized that this was a common theme that characterized many of my favorite works of art (and was even my favorite kind of chocolate). That everything comes to an end is both the best and worst thing about life, and the promise of the future is forever tinged with the pain of having to let go of the past. The life we make is only one of all that could have been, and that is precisely what makes it both worthwhile and heartbreaking. Like this final passage from Winnie-the-Pooh (in which Christopher Robin and Pooh come to an Enchanted Place and we leave them there), one that is particularly close to my heart.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"When I'm - when - Pooh!"
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"

"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much. They don't let you."
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.
"Yes, Christopher Robin?" said Pooh helpfully.
"Pooh, when I'm - you know - when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Just Me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"Thats good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise you wont forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little.
"How old shall I be then?"
Pooh nodded.
"I promise," he said.
Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt Pooh's paw.
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite -" he stopped and tried again - "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

To A Sleeping Lover

I think you hate me a little less when you are asleep. You are more relaxed, the lines of slumber combine with the half smile on your face, and I have to control my desire so much that I lose track of my own tiredness. I know you are back in some other time and some other place. I try to imagine your past like it is last night's forgotten dream. I long to walk in your memories and protect you from all the heartbreaks and pain, collecting every shard of sorrow before it reaches you. They say no two snowflakes are alike; you too were a different person with each of your lovers. I look at you and see a multitude, love collects in my breast like milk. I rock to the rhythm of your breath. One life is never enough.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


Here is a statement that almost never fails to leave me convulsing with hysterical laughter, to the point of occasionally making me physically sick with uncontrollable mirth.

A man, a plan, a canal: Suez!

I can still recall the delicious mix of surprise and joy I had felt when I first saw it in an old dusty copy of Reader's Digest. In certain ways it typifies the kind of smart, but irreverant and completely random and silly humor that appeals to me a lot, and also explains why I adore Monty Python sketches. However, I should confess that while about half the people I know immediately get exactly where I am coming from, the other half probably never will, so any attempt at explanation would be futile.

Incidentally, some minor googling turned up this expanded version of the original: A man, a plan, a canoe, pasta, hero's rajahs, a coloratura, maps, snipe, percale, macaroni, a gag, a banana bag, a tan, a cat, a mane, paper, a Toyota, rep, a pen, a mat, a can, a tag, a banana bag again (or a camel), a crepe, pins, spam, a rut, a Rolo, cash, a jar, sore hats, a peon, a canal, Panama!

In what may not be a completely unrelated aside, a milder and perhaps more accessible version of a similar structure would be what is sometimes referred to as the Polish Knock Knock joke, and goes, simply:

Knock knock
Come in!

A final word, before I sign off, to the reader who may be upset at the frivolity and irrelevance of this post: developmental psychologists study knock-knock-joke usage in younger children, as it provides valuable insight into how children advance their language skills. So, while nothing is just fun and games, there is no reson why most things shouldn't be.

Friday, November 18, 2005

On the Other Hand...

Kevin (my room mate): It's probably not a good thing when you come back home after partying all night and take six cards out of your wallet with names and phone numbers written on them, and you can only at most remember maybe three of the people...

Me (trying to sound perky): On the contrary, I would be happy; it means I met three people that I liked enough to save their contact information in the first place, and now I will have the pleasure of being able to meet and like them all over again!

How Not to Write a Haiku

Is this a good haiku?
Not really, I am afraid.
(It only thinks it is).

What about this?
Is it any better?
Nope. Negative.

This is a haiku.
Five-Seven-Five: seventeen
Syllables in all.

Thicker Than Water

Umm, well, now that I have finally broken down and pointed out my blog to a couple people at work in a pathetic attempt to increase traffic, I should probably pull out all stops (something I often fantasize about but never actually contemplate seriously doing) and record here exactly how I feel about them. (Actually, I don't think I need to worry; they almost certainly will never want to visit this page anyways). But in the off chance they do, I want them to know that I am honored to count among them some of my dearest friends and confidantes, and they are the closest I have ever had to a family.

Alright. End of occasional obligatory baring of the soul. I guess I can go back to being my regular obnoxious self again now.

Let Us Now Praise Poetic Forms

Short, sweet, and pithy
Like miniature paintings;
I love the haiku.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Foreign Gardens

In what is turning out to be a rather mediocre year for the movies, when even some of my favorite directors have delivered patchy (Tim Burton's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Hayao Miyazaki's Hauru no ugoku shiro) to indifferent (Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm) films, Fernando Meirelles (the Brazillian director of the brilliant Cidade de Deus) does not disappoint. Working from a relatively minor work by John Le Carré, he weaves a compelling, haunting, and surprisingly well crafted and taut thriller that is not easily forgotten; and he is most ably supported by a perfectly cast Ralph Fiennes and the heartbreakingly tender Rachel Weisz, along with Alberto Iglesias' throbbing score and César Charlone's eloquent cinematography.

The Constant Gardener opened nationwide on August 31, and is now in theaters. Go watch it!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Greener Grass

Ever notice how restaurants advertise 'homestyle food', and when the grub is particularly elaborate and fancy at home it is compared to 'restaurant food'!

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Temperature of Attraction

Earlier this week, I was thinking about how whimsical our language can often be: notice how both the words hot and cool mean almost exactly the same thing when used in a social or cultural context ('Wow, he is hot!' or 'Isn't that cool!'). However, what is even more interesting to me is that we pick only these two words, and not any of their other synonyms, for such usage. 'Cool' may be hot, but 'cold' is not; 'Hot' is cool, but no such luck for 'warm'. In a somewhat unrelated aside, I remember reading some place that in cold countries, warmth is commonly associated with positive feelings ('warm welcome'); and in hot climates, like where I come from, it is not uncommon for one to compare the company of one's beloved to the rains or a cool breeze.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

He Listens to the Night

Moon and stars, in an Etch-A-Sketch sky
The dark city, wearing its attitude like a jewel
'Maybe next time
You will fall in love with someone
Who fancies you, for a change'
They say.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Somewhat Bitter

I was asking my room mate Kevin earlier today what an endive was, and he said they were narrow, thin, and somewhat bitter... and I realized that he had just described many of the people I know!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Every Cubic Inch of Space is a Miracle

I usually spend a lot of time thinking about time, and as I was driving to work the other day I started wondering about the nature of time and its relation to space (my work commute is long, so I do a lot of introspecting behind the wheel). Well, as I was thinking about how we humans understand the concept of time, it suddenly struck me that we almost always relate the passing of time to some kind of spatial motion, and so if all physical motion (right down to the sub-atomic level) stopped, the concept of time as defined for humans would become meaningless. At this point, I actually felt a happy glow and would have even patted myself on the back had I not been in the middle of heavy traffic. So I go in to work, and run this by my co-worker who is a Physics major, expecting to be called a profound genius, but all he does is chew his lower lip momentarily and say, 'Yeah, sure', all matter of fact, like he had known this all along.

Well, whether Ben appreciates it or not, I still think it's pretty cool that I thought about it, all casual like, and still got in to work on time. Pat my back, won't you?

My Favorite Thing to get from the In-N-Out Burger Secret Menu

The Neapolitan Shake, of course! And this is a proper secret order, because the official online Secret Menu doesn't list it. I will also occassionally get the grilled cheese if I am hanging out with my vegetarian friends.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Broken People

This poem came to me as I was driving to work a couple days ago, but once I wrote it down, it didn't really look very impressive.

Broken People

The sunlight cuts through you, splinters on the sidewalk.
Birds on a tree, fruits on a branch.
You reach out, but there is no nourishment.
Only distant memories
Of a frenzied darkness.

Actually I had first come up with the image of brittle shards of sunlight splintering on the sidewalk more than ten years ago, and it has stayed with me. I keep re-using it in various pieces, but never seem to be completely satisfied with the final effect.

Sunday, May 22, 2005


I just realized that I have been putting off blogging because I am in search of that elusive perfect first blog, the one that I keep convincing myself will come to me one of these days, in a blaze of dazzling inspiration.

But maybe not.

So I am cheating a little; and to start the ball rolling, I am going back to a small list I started making a couple months back. This is not the proverbial Blogger's Hundred (not yet), but more like a personal collection of advice and life skills, loosely inspired by H Jackson Brown Jr's Life's Little Instruction Book.

1. Whenever you are thirsty, if possible, drink water instead of soda.
2. Be polite, but firm.
3. Never miss a chance to pop bubble wrap.
4. Read biographies.
5. Read popular science books.
6. Every year, read the books nominated for the Newberry and Carnegie medal awards.
7. Watch a good international film (preferably in a language you don't know) at least once every month.
8. Watch a good independent movie at least once every month.
9. Patronize local mom and pop stores.
10. When an idea or thought comes to you at bedtime, write it down. Don't wait till morning.
11. Perform random acts of kindness.
12. Be strong, but gentle.
13. Be honest, but considerate.
14. Don't be embarrassed to follow your heart every once in a while.
15. Always offer to help before being asked.
16. When traveling abroad, be respectful of the culture and society. Keep an open mind.
17. Exercise whenever you can.
18. Save your sarcasm if you know it will hurt.
19. If you cannot give pleasure, at least try not to cause pain.
20. When you are happy, share it with everyone. When you are sad, share it with one special person.
21. Strive to leave the world a better place than you found it.
22. Every so often, give up the best seat to someone else.
23. Fill your life with music and poetry.
24. Appreciate beauty, but not at the cost of utility or goodness.
25. Be kind, but fair.
26. Follow the recipe, but don't be afraid to experiment.
27. Always be ready to try out new things at least once.
28. Never miss an opportunity to make someone happy.
29. Never break someone's heart if you can help it.
30. Don't worry too much about your appearance as long as you are neatly and appropriately dressed.
31. Whenever possible, use natural instead of processed ingredients.
32. Spend as much time as possible with children and puppies.
33. If no one seems to agree with you, think long and hard one more time. Then, if you still feel you are right, go ahead and do it anyways.

That's all I could manage before I ran out of steam...