Sunday, December 04, 2005

Lower Education

As I work on my statements of purpose for my grad school applications, I've come to the conclusion that academic writing is a crime against humanity.

I've hired an "admissions consultant" to look over my stuff before I apply. She's got like 30 years of experience doing this, works at Harvard, and, from what I can see, knows more than most about putting together a solid college application.

She just returned the first draft of my statement of purpose for Stanford. And she made very few comments on the essay's substance, but has strongly advised me to change the tone from casual (and humorous) to formal. Which, to me, means boring. I don't doubt that that's good advice, either. Anyone who's ever written or read an A+ college essay, knows that they're written in a suicidally dull tone. Not that students should be encouraged to distract from their paper topic by goofing around on the page, but at what point did dead and oblique jumbles of sentences become the signature of "intelligent writing"?

From my experience with students, it seems this style of writing hasn't accomplished anything except to turn people off from learning. Which, obviously, is the opposite of what academia is trying to achieve. Of course, it's typical American to put tradition and formality over quality and effectiveness.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Battle against bureaucracy

Turns out I never graduated college.

"What?" you say. "But! But! Mr. Mond," you say, "you graduated in 2003!"

That's what I thought. Until today, when I started getting ready to have my transcripts sent out for my grad school apps. Hunter College, apparently, has three "stops" on my record -- and those stops have been sitting there for nearly 3 years. They've never once mentioned them to me, and thus I'm only finding out now when it's absolutely critical that my transcripts get sent out ASAP so I don't miss my application deadlines. Better still, the Hunter Registrar is only aware of one of the stops. The CUNY Grad Center, which ran my degree program (it's complicated), says Hunter has three stops on my record. So how does Hunter only know about one while CUNY GC knows about three? Good question. No answers. It's a safe bet, though, that the answer has something to do with whatever bureaucratic nonsense let them keep any stops at all on my record for three years without ever once notifying me.

So tomorrow I will spend all day in the city, driving two hours to get there, then ten hours in traffic on the way home, and hopefully when all is said and done I'll actually have graduated from college and my transcripts will be on their way to my grad schools of choice.

And just for the record -- just so the alien overlords who dig this blog up in 10,000 years know -- this is the year 2005. We are days away from it being 2006. There is absolutely no excuse for any modern American institution to be run this poorly. Alas, it turns out city agencies continue to defy our lowest expectations.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Book book book

The first draft of the early chapters of the book is now available for friends and family who want to read it. Email me if you haven't already.

I've already sent copies to a bunch of people, and I'm excited to get their feedback. The best thing about this stage of the process, actually, is hearing what's not working and then starting to make changes. I already have gargantuan rewrites in mind, and though some of it feels like I'm back to square one, I'm actually really looking forward to it. Anyway, it's time for me to get back to work.

Friday, November 18, 2005

More on the book

I'm about 4,000 words behind schedule right now. Wanted to hit 30,000 today, but I'm only at 26,000. And those 26,000 aren't quite consecutive. The last few thousand are choppy and need a lot of work before they feel like a whole. Fortunately, that's what I'm planning to do with the missing 4,000 words.

Anyway, I wound up doing a lot of rewriting, so I've actually written a lot more than my 30,000 word target, but I cut a bunch of it and started significant chunks anew. Rewriting is, I think, where the true art of writing takes place. You read what you wrote, are unsatisfied, and begin to craft it into what you want. It's also the most painful part, because, at least for me, I oscillate between feeling like a genius and a hack. And a lot of what I've written so far is hack. Avoiding hack writing is tough, especially with fantasy. There's a cliched hack tone that pollutes most fantasy novels, and its hard not to absorb it unconsciously and then use it in your own work. So I keep rewriting whole sections in order to get the tone -- the voice of the piece that I'm looking for. Because, in my opinion, there are two things that separate a good fantasy story from a lame one: the voice, and the characters. The stories are all generally the same -- save the princess and defeat the evil wizard -- and that's fine with me. The world's are generally the same too. Dragons, magic, elves, dwarves, etc. etc. etc. And again, I don't mind. In fact, it's comforting. Having similar stories played out in similar places makes it easier to get into the things I look for most, which is good characters and thoughtful writing -- or rather, characters who come to life via the way they think about the world.

So far my characters are coming along the way I want them to. I'm enjoying getting into their heads and making them think. Unfortunately, in setting everything up, getting the characters in place, getting the reader the info he/she needs to understand what's going on -- that's the part that's kicking my ass. As a story teller, you want everything to come across as clearly and quickly as possible, and you don't want the reader to feel like you're pushing exposition on him. But you've got an unusual and complicated world that, much as it's like every other fantasy world out there, needs explaining. And all the models for how to do this are where you find your hack writing.

So what to do?

And the answer is rewrite and rewrite and rewrite until everything flows the way you want it to. It's not easy, but once you've finally chipped away all of the stone that doesn't look like a statue, it's an amazing feeling. You say, "I wrote that," and you can't wait to wow people with it.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Book update

So, what I'm referring to as "my kids' book" (which is actually a young-adult fantasy type book) reached the 22,000 word mark yesterday. In less than a month I've written more for it than I wrote for my memoir over many years. Crazy. Anyway, this feels like the book I'm "supposed" to be writing right now. It's moving along quickly and I'm having a great time working on it. In fact, I haven't had this much fun with my writing in probably seven or eight years. Anyway, if all goes as scheduled I'll reach 30,000 words by the end of the week, at which point I'll send out sample chapters to any friends and relatives who want to see how it's going and who hopefully will provide useful criticism that will guide the book to its completion. Get psyched!

Dogs eat bees

Turns out my parents' wiener dogs will eat bees. We have a bunch of bees in the house (don't ask) and when they make the mistake of falling/flying down to wiener dog level, the dogs eat them. Somehow they do this without getting stung (or, if they are getting stung, they don't seem to care). I'm tempted to try it myself. Maybe bees taste good.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Shin splints

I'd been having pain in my shins during my runs, so I went to 2nd Wind Sneakers and the sales dude looked at my feet and said the pain was from lack of arch support. So I bought a $100 pair of Nikes (selling out my principles for the sake of comfort, which is basically the definition of "American") and went for a run first thing this morning, and man, do these shoes make a difference. No pain. At all. My calves aren't even sore. The old dude who I sometimes encounter while jogging to the beach, and who I saw this morning, still kicked my ass though. Sometimes the high school girls' track team kicks my ass, too. I try to do all my jogging while they're in school so as to preserve some of my pride.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Eye of the Tiger

Jogged the full three miles to and from the beach today, without stopping. A personal best. I jumped around with my hands in the air and sang the Rocky song. Actually, I felt like I was going to throw up. But it felt good to feel that way.

Since the weather was crappy I hadn't been running in days, so it was nice to put some miles on my feet. I need to buy some foul (fowl? I forget which -- there are lots of ducks and geese and swans out here, so maybe either is appropriate) weather running gear (been saying that for weeks now), and I need to take advantage of the nice weather we're supposed to have thru Monday. Viva la weather!

I read in Runner's World (my mom got it for me! hooray mom!) that you shouldn't try to increase your running distance more than once a week, so I'll probably go shorter distances over the next few days, then push for an increase, then even out at the full three miles for a week or so after that, and then push again. If I could get up to five miles a day, 20 miles a week, I'd be thrilled. Plus, my main motivation for jogging, other than that I want to look good naked, is I like to pig out every once in a while. So the higher I can push my metabolism, the better. Viva la pig out!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Gay Blogging

Those of you who aren't reading Absorbascon are missing out on one of life's true pleasures. It's all about crazy comic book stuff, but you don't have to be into comics at all to laugh at it. I haven't read a comic in ages, but I still can't get enough Absorbascon. The "Superman is a dick" series, and the "Loneliness of Aquaman" week were personal favorites.

Anyway, I'd been reading the site for weeks before I realized that the dude who writes it is gay. In 99% of the posts, sexuality is a non-factor, but every now and again that 1% pops up where he makes no secret of his gayness. In today's post, he's trying to get hooked up with a designer at DC Comics. (Is that redundant, Detective Comics Comics?)

Anyway anyway, this has made me wonder if the dude's gayness effects his readership at all. Based on the number of comments, I'd say his site is pretty popular. But are there people being turned away by knowing this guy is a homo?

I especially wonder because comics are very masculine, yet very sensitive. The heros, like WWF wrestlers, are symbols of hyper masculinity. The women are drawn as sexily curved and scantily clad as possible. Yet the comic book audience is stereotypically your shy loner kids who can't get girls in high school because they genuinely like girls and don't act like dicks to them. And comic book story lines often reflect this sort of conflicted adolescent complexity, sensitivity, and general nonjudgmental attitude that lets one in ten of their friends come out as gay without fear of being abandoned.

I'd like to believe that in 2005, everybody was cool with the fact that some people are gay. But I know there are still tons of people who'd love to get back to the dark ages of burning witches and stoning homosexuals in the public square. I'm especially curious to know which percentage of each group makes up the comic book reader demographic.

Like Shaking Hands with God

Banged out a few thousand words of the new "fantasy novel" almost instantly. It's a great feeling when the words and ideas just flow, as if from nowhere, each burst of imagination giving life to another and another. Vonnegut described this phenomenon as "shaking hands with God" (in his small book of the same name). It's an amazing experience and it's the reason why I think everybody needs some form of creative outlet in their lives. I sit down with maybe a sentence or two in mind, type them out, and then a third and fourth sentence follow with no planning on my part. At this point in the writing process, I'm out of my own control. I don't know where it all comes from. It's creation but with no act of conception (an immaculate conception!) Later, I'll dig in, sculpt and refine, word by word, thought by thought. But for now I just open myself up to whatever force, internal or external, drives this creative process.

I used to have this feeling all the time when I wrote fantasy in junior high and high school. My head used to keep me up at night imagining everything I wanted my characters to be and do. Somewhere during college I lost the ability to write like this, however. I don't know where it went. Maybe it's a product of writing "serious fiction." I wish I could experience it more often while working on my memoir, which, at this rate, hard as I work on it, will soon be dragging far behind the fantasy novel. In any case, I'm glad to be able to shake hands with God once again on at least one of my projects.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Beautiful Stack of Pancakes

For the longest time -- from that moment in June 2003 when I was handed the rolled-up blank piece of paper that symbolized my college diploma, until roughly 5 days ago -- I couldn't stomach the thought of reading another book. Which is not to say I didn't read anything during that time. Somehow, reading always sneaks itself into life. Mostly I read short stories -- stuff from One Story, which my pal Jarrett got me a subscription to for Xmas, stuff in the Atlantic Monthly, the New Yorker, whatever. I have a sense that I did read a few actual books during that time, but I can't remember what they were. I also read a lot of blogs and news, though those things don't seem to qualify as "reading" in the sense that I mean it. Anyway, I basically went more than two years without even wanting to walk into Border's to browse the new releases -- something I used to do weekly, if not daily.

At last, however, the spell seems to have broken. I now have a beautiful pile of books sitting beside my bed, and I can't wait to get through each one of them.

The stack at present:

The Intuitioinst
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Fast Food Nation
Children Playing Before a Stature of Hercules
Don't Get Too Comfortable

Eragon is the book I'm looking forward to the most. Pure candy. And hopefully it will serve as inspiration for my newest writing project. I'll be reading it and Zen at the same time (while finishing off Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa-Puffs, which I'm about done with), and I'll be writing my memoir and my new "fantasy novel" simultaneously as well. My brain seems to enjoy being spread around lately.

My brain is hungry.

My body is hungry.

My creative urges are hungry.

I almost feel like I'm back to a form of myself that I haven't been in years. It's nice. There's a sense of contentment waiting just out of reach. And that's not a bad thing. I didn't used to be able to feel it at all. But if I can get my writing projects done by my self-imposed deadlines, get my grad-school apps in order, keep losing weight (down about 8 pounds since joining weight watchers, and more than 10 since I started tracking it on the blog), and keep my freelance marketing gig going, I suspect I might actually start enjoying life again. Weird how such a simple thing like happiness can be so elusive, but it's been avoiding me for years without me even realizing it until recently. Anyway, positive strides are being made.

I wish I were funny again, though. I vaguely recall being quite witty, especially in writing. Now, it's a farce if I manage it at all. And my writing is suffering, I think, as a result of it. Hopefully that quality will return as my brain, body, and creative passions become more and more fulfilled.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Running: Update

Running is still hard. But I made it all the way to the beach for the first time today, so I'm psyched.

The shitty thing about exercise is that when you're out of shape, it hurts like hell no matter how little you do. It's immediately discouraging. You force yourself to suffer for 45 minutes and when you're done you've basically got nothing to show for it. Repeat every other day for a week, and maybe you lose 2 or 3 pounds and looking in the mirror you can't see the fruits of your efforts. It hardly seems worth it.

But keep it up and you quickly reach a tipping point where you see and feel the rewards after almost every workout. During the workouts themselves, whether I'm running, biking, or doing sit-ups, or lifting weights, I'm now consciously aware of being able to push myself harder than ever before. After a workout, I can look in the mirror and see new definition in my body. It's subtle -- the big results I hope to achieve are definitely going to take time -- but I see it every day. And I can eat junk without worrying about gaining weight. Sure, I have to not eat junk if I want to lose, but as long as I'm working out regularly, I don't worry too much about tipping the scales in the wrong direction if I have Goobers and popcorn at the movies once (sometimes twice(!)) a week.

I suppose the moral of my story is that our need for instant gratification is relative. In the beginning, it feels like it never comes. But keep up with it and you'll soon feel like you get it every day.

Instant gratification is worth the wait.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


There's a new Dungeons and Dragons movie (or perhaps series?) starting Oct. 8 on the Sci-Fi Channel. It looks pretty bad but I can't help but watch it. It's a shame because in the wake of Lord of the Rings, and with the upcoming Narnia movies, there's no reason one can't make a good D&D show or movie -- all you have to do is put a little thought into it. Even the Harry Potter movies are an example of how people will respond to the genre if it's done well. Battlestar Galactica is proof that Sci-Fi knows how to make a decent show. And the Dune mini-series wasn't too bad. I'm even getting into the new Stargate series (with the dude's from Farscape in it, though I never cared for Farscape itself). So there's really no excuse for making a bad D&D TV show.

Unfortunately, I think when a production company sees the name Dungeons and Dragons, it immediately assumes it should embrace all the fantasy cliches and execute them with hack dialogue and lame SFX. Yes, in a way D&D is all about the embracing of cliches in the form of broad character archetypes -- the valiant Knight, the bearded wizard, and the wily rogue -- but within that framework it's possible to create characters and adventures that are strong, eccentric, and unique. In fact, most of the stories that fantasy and sci-fi fans love accomplish exactly this; they are the same, but different. Star Wars is a great example of this, and, within the realm of D&D specifically, there is R. A. Salvatore's Icewind Dale series.

This new D&D movie (or show), looks like it's built around the same bland thinking and production quality that made 2000's Dungeons and Dragons: The Movie so disappointing. It was structurally sound, as movies go, but no fan of the game could watch it without feeling like the people who made it simply couldn't have cared less about what they were doing. Considering the wealth of imagination and resources at one's disposal when writing for the world of D&D, that's a real shame.

Worse, it's long past due for role playing in general, and D&D in particular, to shake the stigma of being a solely dork-ish pastime. Let's face it: fantasy is a huge genre enjoyed in many forms, from movies to books to video games, by tons of relatively normal people. If it were just the basement dwellers who liked stories with elves and sorcerers, Lord of the Rings would have been a box office flop and video games like Everquest would never get made, let alone evolve into MMORPGs. Sure, there will always be LARPers to give fantasy gaming a bad name, just as there will always be Trekkies who don't know how to wear a communicator badge without a sense of geek-culture irony. But there's no reason for us to let the lowest common denominator drag the genre down.

A D&D television show deserves to be made with care and respect. We fans who have stuck with the game through its (and our own) awkward puberty, helping it grow into a cornerstone of both geek- and popular-culture, have earned it.

Here's hoping my suspicions are wrong and the Sci-Fi Channel gets it right.

Bail me out?

Am I too old to have my parents come bail me out of jail? Not that I'm in jail, but I'm thinking of going, since I've never been and all. I figure 16 thru 22 are the ideal years for having your folks come bail you out. The absolute max would be 26, but that's only if you're arrested for some sort of political action. 30 is definitely too old, I figure, which is a shame, because I don't have anyone else who'd come get me.

Friday, September 30, 2005

A political post

For a while now I've been exploring the pros and cons of transitioning to a world with smaller governments and more private autonomy. Part of this process has left me to wonder what services should a minimized government still be expected to provide. I used to feel that one of those services would be disaster relief -- until we all saw how badly FEMA responded to the devastation of hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

I would like to believe in a West Wing style vision of government that truly wants to serve the country as best it knows how. I would love it if there were idealists like Sam and Toby running every department (brought down to Earth with the occasional reality check by Ainsley Hayes). But we now have a government that is the exact opposite of that sort of vision -- a government of self-serving cronyism, incompetence, and graft. I'd like to think it'll all be over after 2008 when the country comes to its senses and puts some decent people back in charge. However, we just can't depend on that. It should have been painfully obvious last time just how bad this administration is, and the country put them back in charge again anyway. And now New Orleans has paid the price for it. Thus my desire to make government as small and harmless as possible. So that every few years when half the country loses its mind, we don't all have to suffer for it.

Now, though, my questions is: if a strong federal government isn't going to respond to a disaster like Katrina, who is? Can we count on the private sector to take care of it? On the one hand, I think yes. During Katrina we saw how Wal-Mart was able to get supplies to people in places FEMA couldn't figure out how to get to, and we saw how every private news organization had more information about what was going on than Michael Brown did (the most famous example being Ted Koppel's incredulous remark: "Don't you guys watch television? Don't you guys listen to the radio?") And of course there are NGOs like The Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and Doctors w/o Borders, all of which do a great job and to which Americans give generously in times of need.

But are those organizations enough? It seems to me that Americans are largely neglectful of charity when horror isn't staring us in the face. And we can't afford to wait until after a disaster breaks out to make sure that our police and fire departments are well funded, well trained, and well supplied. Without the government demanding people fork over a significant portion of their income every year, could the American people be trusted, on their own, to give as much as necessary to making sure we have services in place to handle the next Katrina or 9/11?

I don't think so. Culturally, we are not yet capable of understanding how we help ourselves by helping our fellow man, by putting money away for the proverbial rainy day. We are now too dependent on having someone else think about and plan for our problems, and it will take a painful cultural upheaval before that changes. I'd like to think that the events of the last few years, as they continue to culminate in things like the disastrous FEMA response, would serve as the starting gun for that change, but I somehow doubt they will. So now I am left to wonder, what will it take before we start imagining a new type of government, and embracing a new philosophy of responsibility for our selves and fellow countrymen?


Today I'm experiencing the joys of a sinus infection. It's fantastic. My nostrils feel like they're on fire while at the same time they're producing an endless supply of mucus. Rock!

Having grown up with the world's worst allergies, I'm no stranger to feeling like this, or at least feeling a certain degree of this. Nose-wise, this feels worse than a normal allergy attack. Anyway, I've experienced symptoms like this often enough that when it gets bad, I have zero patience for it. While a normal person could probably tough it out, I immediately bombard myself with drugs and then eat, sleep, and consume as many fluids as possible so as to give my body all the reserves it needs to kick this shit out of my system. Unfortunately. this process makes for a long, boring day where all I can do is narrow focus on how lousy I feel.

The good news is that I have Absorbascon to help get me through it. (I'm glad I'm not as bad off as Aquaman.)

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Stairway to Heaven

After hearing it for about the 10-millionth time on the radio, I have decided that Stairway to Heaven is a bad fucking song. There is a part towards the end where it starts to rock out a bit, which is OK, but the whole song leading up to that is so goddamn annoying that it makes me want to steer my car into oncoming traffic. The only other song that is anywhere near that bad -- so bad I'd rather be dead than to hear it again -- is that one by Maroon Five, which I don't know the name of, but it is so whiney (not like sad whiney, but cheery whiney, because the singer has this wrist-slitting whiney voice) it makes me wish the terrorists would win. Tomorrow I am buying a gun to keep in my glove compartment. It is not for shooting myself or other people on the road. It is for shooting the radio the next time this shit comes on.

Blog reflects life

This was originally a comment sent on a private email list, but I felt like it was worth adding as an actual blog post:

The blog has become an interesting phenomenon in terms of how much it reflects my life -- or at least how I perceive my life. On the one hand, you're absolutely right that what's up there is big important stuff to me. On the other, whenever I go back and read it, I think "anybody who doesn't know me is getting a really narrow and skewed sense of who I am." But at the same time, now that I'm out on LI and don't get to socialize much, what's up there really is the bulk of my private life. I'm definitely at my most dynamic when I get to be around people as much as possible, but when that's the case, there's no need for those people to check in with my blog. When that's not the case, my life becomes narrow and I feel like it's not really representing me actual life even though, in a way, it is.

downs and ups

One week after starting weight watchers, I've lost 3 pounds. Pretty happy about it. Especially since I didn't really know what I was doing at the time. Now I have a much better understanding of measuring/judging my food intake, so hopefully next week will have similar to slightly better results. Lot's of guys actually would have had much better results their first week just by virtue of being on a diet for the first time. The shock to their system causes instant and dramatic weight loss. But I've been dieting and exercising for a while now, so the impact wasn't as great. Still, I'm pleased with the results. If I can get myself to lose about a pound and a half a week, I'll be halfway to my goal weight of 190 by January, which would be fantastic. If, at the same time, I have at least 50,000 words of my book finished, the GRE taken and grad school apps finished (those have to be done by November, actually), and have some money in the bank for moving to Cali, then I think that come my 31st birthday I'll be able to feel like my life is mostly on track. That would be quite a feeling. In other news, I set a new personal jogging record today. Can't actually put any numbers to it in terms of time and distance, but I could feel I was pushing myself to go farther than ever before. I'd say I got "most of the way" to the beach, and then I felt like I was going to throw up. It was awesome! And that was after a nice upper-body workout on the weight machine. I think next time I'll reverse the routine, jogging as far as possible while I'm fresh just to see how far I can go. On bike I recently peaked at a 20 mile ride at an average speed of 14.8 miles per hour. I'm happy with that too, but the rule of cross-training is coming into play and I need to vary my exercises a bit I think before I can expect that to improve again. Thus the jogging.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Untraditionally employed

The new euphemism for those of us without jobs is that we are "untraditionally employed." Actually, I sort of have a job now. I've picked up some freelance marketing work, writing and designing brochures and whatnot, for a local business, and I'll be doing some part time work at Huntington Learning Center and hopefully picking up some private students as well. It should keep me pretty busy. But in the lull before it picks up, I'm more aware than ever of time ticking by. I write a few hundred words a day, go for a bike ride or use the weight machines in the basement, run errands for Grandma, feed the dogs and cats and fish, take out the trash, and always there is time. Time time time. I wonder, if I'd published my book, won the nobel prize for literature, and helped bring about world peace, would I still feel like it's all wasted? The nice thing about punching the clock was that there was never any time to think about time. But now I've got nothing but time, and I'm spending as much as I can on myself, taking care of all that needs taking care of, and always I feel there is too much of it. There's too much of it and it's going by too quickly. There is too much and there is not enough. Or I cannot use it efficiently enough. No matter how much I do, there are minutes that slip past, so much gets wasted. A minute in front of the TV makes me feel guilty. Why am I not writing? Why am I not working out? Why am I not applying to grad school? Why am I not working on those brochures? Nevermind that I wrote 500 words today, that I booked a Kaplan GRE course, that I have downloaded grad school apps, that as soon as I'm done with this post (another waste of time!) I'll do 15 miles on my bike. All of this and yet somehow I am standing still. Standing still in fast forward. I wish I could get to the root of this feeling that everything is wasted.

So... Weight Watchers

So, I attended a Weight Watchers meeting the other day. Horrible. Everybody there is friendly and positive and eager to help you help yourself. And they're all failures. They've been attending the meetings for years, yo-yoing, dropping 95 pounds here (95!) regaining 50 there. It's depressing. And it's a fascinating microcosm of everything that's wrong with America, our food guilt, our obsessions with beauty and the beautiful, our inability to make even simple sacrifices like not going to McDonald's. Everybody talked about how hard it was to eat "on the go," thus McDonald's. But how is it that we've created a culture where so many people don't have time to take basic care of themselves? There should be time in the day to make a decent meal for one's self. Yet it seems this has become unacceptable. For those doing the 9-to-5 grind, it seems your job expects you to go to McD's because it's faster and more efficient than letting you wander in 10 minutes late because you took the time to make a sandwich that day. (Notice how I don't allow for the possibility of getting up 10 minutes earlier. This is because you already work all fucking day and you at least deserve a decent night's sleep. And no going to bed 10 minutes earlier either, because if you're going to get through the week without mowing down your coworkers before turning the gun on yourself, you need a few hours to unwind, to at least get a little drunk.)

Let's do some math: Work lasts from 9 to 5, so you get up at 7 so you can leave the house by 8 (and sit in traffic for an hour). This means you want to be in bed by 11 in order to get 8 hours of sack time. Now, if work ends at 5, you're not home until 6, and immediately there must be dinner because by now you're in a starvation food frenzy like you just got off the Survivor Island. So your chill-out time doesn't really start until 7 at the earliest. Which, assuming you have no kids to take care of, no errands or chores that need doing, and no personal commitments other than to be well rested for work the next day, you get a whopping 4 hours to yourself before you have to hit the sack. Four hours. That's bullshit. Yet this is how America functions. We live for our jobs, do little to nothing for ourselves, and die at the age of 56 because we had to eat McDonald's for lunch every day.

This is one of the reasons I quit Good House. Or, rather, it's one of the realizations that made me think I'd be better off jumping off the 59th street bridge. I saw my "career path" laid out in front of me and felt like I was already dead. Probably not everybody feels this way. Probably most people are grateful for whatever job they can get and live for the weekends. I don't know. I just know I can't live that way. If I have to live in a shack like a bum, or, as presently, back with my parents, like a loser, that's fine, as long as I can work on the things that are meaningful to me.

But this brings me back to the people at Weight Watchers. Allegedly their health is important to them. Or, at least their vanity and self esteem are. And attending Weight Watchers and trying to follow "the program" (it's not a diet! don't call it a diet!) is their token effort at fulfilling that need. But what really needs to happen is that your life needs to change and your values need to be put front and center.

Of course, if I have all the answers, it's fair to ask why I'm at Weight Watchers too. And to criticize my criticisms as those of a person who sees himself as too good for these other, lesser, people. The truth is that I think WW is a good program and I know people who've been very successful with it. I decided to go because I need to know more about the nutritional value of foods. I need someone to guide me when I'm in the supermarket so I'm not only buying things that are healthy but will also help me lose weight. I bought a bunch of raisins and trail mix the other day, thinking I was buying good "diet" snacks, and it turns out those things are loaded with calories. They're not loaded with all the other crap you get in candy bars and whatnot, so that's good, but I need to lose 40 pounds, and with raw nuts and fruit (though raising are dried) I was still taking in too many calories. So now I know a little more about which fruit and nuts I should buy and how much of them I should be eating. Which is what I wanted.

What I don't want though is to wind up as another Yo-yo-dieting American. I've seen my mother and sister and tons of female friends go through it a million times, and now more and more men are doing it as well. It's bad news. I want a Permanent Diet Revolution.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Running is hard.

I've been riding my bike pretty regularly these days. I ride more days than not, usually for at least an hour, and go between 10 and 20 miles at a shot. My parents' house is also at sea level, so no matter what I start out with a nice climb. And there's a route into Port Jeff that feels like it's up hill both ways which I do about once a week. So I've been feeling like I'm getting into pretty good shape. And one of my dreams has always been to do long distance running. I used to be able to do a few miles on the treadmill at the gym, so today I figured I'd leave the bike in the garage and go for a run down to the beach. I don't think it's even a mile and it totally kicked my ass. Running for real, out on an actual road, is freakin' hard! My legs held up alright. They're nice and toned from all the biking. But my lungs couldn't get enough air. It felt like they were hardly filling up at all. (I might try an inhaler next time, since technically I'm asthmatic, but it hasn't bothered me in years and this felt more like I had half a lung rather than that wheezing, breathing through a straw feeling I associate with asthma.) So now I have a new challenge: run to the beach and back without throwing up, passing out, or dying. It's going to be hard work, but I'm up to it. Besides, running is something we should all work on just in case we one day find ourselves being chased by ninjas or grisly bears (or grisly bear ninjas, which would be awesome).

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Golden Balls Award

The Times-Picayune Newspaper of New Orleans ran a brutal editorial today criticizing Bush and FEMA for the absolutely inexcusable response to hurricane Katrina. They straight up call Brown (head of FEMA) a liar, and implicitly call W an imbecile for praising Brown's botched job. Their editorial is a breath of fresh air among media that lacks conviction and critical thought. So today I am proud to announce that the Times-Picayune is the first recipient of The Golden Balls Award for journalism that cares more about its constituency than about toeing the party line.

You can read the editorial here via CNN.


I'm officially at the 1/4 of the way finished mark with the book. It's pretty exciting. I haven't been this productive with my writing in a long time and it feels great to be getting all this work done. Of course, it's not a polished 25,000 words. But I'm saving the fine tuning for the 100,000 mark. Right now what's most important is that I keep generating material. Honest material. Not just words to fill space. That's the real trick. It's going well right now. I just hope I can keep it up.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Blogs are bullshit unless they bring about the end of the world.

100, 228

The book is nearing the 100 page mark and I'm pretty psyched about it. Of course, it's not a polished 100 pages, but I'll save all the fine tuning for the end. Right now the important thing is to keep generating material. Plus I still have lots of stuff to add from things I wrote a long time ago. Progress is being made and this is the best I've felt about the book in a long time.

Meanwhile, my weight is still hovering around the 228 mark, though I continue to exercise regularly and my diet isn't bad. Not sure what that's all about. I like to think it's because I'm putting on muscle (and I do feel a little leaner), but it'd be nice to see the numbers on the scale going down.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I have a huge scar just above my right ankle from a fantastic compound fracture of of my tib + fib. I'm thinking I should get a tattoo right above it that says "scar." Or, possibly better: "Tattoo." I guess I'm feeling postmodern lately.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Slipping away

Since my breakdown, I've been trying to keep close tabs on my mental and emotional state. This includes consciously keeping track of what I'm feeling, when I'm feeling it, and, if possible, why I'm feeling whatever it is I'm feeling, plus how much control I have over myself. Now that I've been on medication for about two weeks, things in my head are getting back to normal. Mostly. Last night was the big exception. As I was lying in bed, somewhere between waking and sleep, my memories of the last year of my life changed from memories of things that actually happened to memories of things I've dreamed about. I don't know if that makes sense. In other words, I know the last year happened, but when I think about it, it's like I'm remembering things from a dream. All the feelings associated with the events are somehow less tangible, less meaningful. It's like if you were scared or sad in a dream, you wake up remembering those feelings, but they ultimately don't register as feelings that matter, as feelings that really impact you.

So, if you can follow that, then you understand how it's extremely disconcerting. Especially in regard to M, the girl who dumped me and broke my heart. When I think about her now, it's like remembering someone from a dream, someone who isn't real. I was actually so worried for a moment that she wasn't real that I had to dig up some pictures of us just to prove it to myself. My only explanation for this feeling is that I no longer feel as intensely about her -- good or bad, love or loss -- as I used to, and the contrast between past intensity and this new more neutral feeling is fucking with my head. And I don't like it. Plus it's made me really want to see her again just to try to spark some of those old feelings, even if they're painful, just so I know she really is a person in the world who really was such an important part of my life even for a short time. I want to see her and hear her voice again. I guess, in a sense, this is another layer of loss. One thing that probably adds to it is the fact that she disappeared from my life so suddenly. I went from seeing and talking to her every day, to having no contact with at all almost instantly. And now that I've quit my job and am moving out of my apartment, I could easily never see her again. Not that I could bear to see her again just yet. But this is a new layer to the loss I've been dealing with.

Also: What happens to people who disappear from our lives like that? Do they exist anymore? Their lives go forward and they change and soon they become somebody else, living lives that are no longer so intimately connected to our own.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The most fun I've had in weeks...

came today when I got to throw a sofa-bed off the balcony at my parents' house. Ker-thunk!

I was a little disappointed that it didn't smash into a million pieces when it hit the driveway -- I guess most of it was metal for the bed, as opposed to wood -- but it was still awesome watching that thing drop. Hopefully tomorrow there'll be more stuff to chuck.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


At long last I've gotten my weight below 230 lbs. 'Bout freakin' time. My highest recorded weight was 270. That was a long time ago, and I was at about 260, about a year ago, when I finally started making a conscious effort to eat better and exercise more. I'd gotten my weight down to 230 and then started to hover between 230 and 240 for a few months. So I once again revamped my diet, cutting out most junk food, and started exercising even more by biking everywhere possible. My reward for that effort came this morning when I stood on the scale and saw I was at 228. Howdy doody. My goal is to get down to 190 by mid January. We shall see.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Poll: Should I buy a new laptop?

Even a month ago I wouldn't have worried too much about shelling out $1600 for a new laptop, but now that I'm about to be dirt poor (as I'm operating under the assumption that I'm about to be out of a job), I can hardly justify laying out that much cash. However, my laptop is near death. It took a bit of a spill several months ago and has been steadily dying since -- it's a little slower every day, and it's having semi-frequent kernel panics. I've run various disk utilities to try to fix it, but nothing has helped, and the Apple store says repairs could easily cost several hundred dollars. My last step is to reinstall the OS, but I'm betting that won't work either. Meanwhile, I've got an Apple Loan I can dip into that has more than enough bread to cover the cost of a new laptop, and payments would be less than $50 a month. But do I really want another monthly bill? Not really. Yet my laptop is now my livelihood. Everything from my writing to my banking to my job hunting (and soon apartment hunting) happens here, not to mention my blogging(!), and it lets me work while I'm on the go.

So what to do?

Here's your chance to tell me how to spend, or not spend, my money. Tell me what to do and I'll do it. (Unless I think it's a really bad idea.)

Interactive: Answers

1. How were time zones established?

The long answer can be found here.

The short answer is that we owe the time zones to the US railroads and some Canadian dude.

2. If you were to make something called "The Great Flying Whatever!" what would be it's useful application(s)?

My Great Flying Whatever! would primarily be used to elevate people’s feelings. If ever you were feeling low, you could give your feelings a ride on the Great Flying Whatever! and it would make you feel up again.

3. How fast is too fast for you
a. on a bike
b. in a car
c. on foot

I choose b., in a car.

4. Is it cheaper to go to Cailfornia, or by bus?

By bus, because there is not a lot of demand for busses because they suck because they are uncomfortable and the people on them are assholes.

5. What would you do if you were on a bus and a very old man pinched you hard on the arm and said, "If you tied two birds together, they would have four wings, yet they cannot fly"?

I’d tell him not to pimp that fruity dime-store Buddhism on me and to sit the fuck back down. Unless he was Japanese, in which case I’d have great reverence for his wisdom and invite him over for tea.

6. What parts of a shopping cart would burn best if you were to douse it in gasoline and light it in fire?

The wheels and the plastic part of the push bar burn best. I know this from experience.

7. What and where are you favorite pants right now?

Jeans, dark blue, that I bought at Kohl’s. They’re in the laundry basket behind me.

8. Do you want to smoke a joint with me?

Not sure I should mix marijuana and Prozac. Yes.

9. What is the greatest lesson you've learned thus far?

Follow your heart fearlessly. But just because I know it doesn’t mean I’m able to do it. I’m trying a little harder every day though.

10. Have you been to this awesome website:

Hells yes!

Interactive: 20 Questions

Let's play a game. You send me questions and I'll answer them. For now, let's limit it to twenty questions total. (So, if more than one person sends more than a total of 20, I'll pick and choose which to answer.) Assuming this exercise is a smashing success, we'll repeat it in the future. Think of all the fun we're going to have! Go on, I'll answer anything.

Dear Diary,

You know what I hate? I hate when I say something to someone and they don't understand what it was I just said so they're like "what?" and so I repeat myself, and then they say "Oh! I thought you said..." and then they go on to tell me it sounded like I said some ridiculous shit that no half-non-retarded English speaker would ever say. "Oh! I thought you said 'Pony dinkle shit!'" No, dumbfuck, I said "Posting on the Internet," and if you would just stop and think for two seconds and realize that nobody would ever say "Pony dinkle shit" ever to anybody, you might instead figure out what it was I did say using simple reasoning and deduction. I mean, if we're, say, already talking about blogs....


Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Shit: losing it

Eleven days since my last post, but the blog is not dead.

Seven days ago I lost my shit. Complete nervous and emotional breakdown and I came the closest in my life I've ever been to doing myself in. In retrospect, it's scary that one can feel that way, that you can get so close to just saying fuck it and stepping off the edge of a bridge or whatever. It's an impulse that seems to come from out of nowhere (though looking back you see how the voice has been in your head for a long time), and it's almost involuntary, and if you get to the other side of it you look back and wonder by what grace did you manage to not do something deadly and permanent. Today I still have no answer for any of it.

But it's now seven days and three therapists later and things are less bleak (if still uncertain). And there has been progress on the rebuilding of my life. I've been hard at work on my query letters and on my book (both of which are ideal distractions right now), with a new and improved chapter outline and a ton of new material from a journal I started keeping about a month ago. A year ago the book seemed like it would be impossible to write. Now it feels like it can really happen. One of the main themes (which I now see has been developing for the past 18 months): Write or die.

No progress however on the cooking or dance lessons. Why dance lessons? Go see Mad Hot Ballroom. Why no progress on these things? Well, because I went nuts, and because I'm about to be poor since there's a good chance my job is history. There's a good chance things are going to get really thin around these parts. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Baby steps

My book of literary agents showed up today, and I bought an e-book on writing query letters last night. Now comes the part where I need to get serious about finding an agent, which means writing and rewriting my query letter until it's perfect, then finding the right agents to send it to.

Also downloaded the swing dance study guide from the dance-manhattan site. Looks like they have lots of times when I can drop in for lessons. That's good, because the Institute for Culinary Education is running their Cooking 101 class again until late August. I should just sign up now and commit to it though.

So these are the small things I've done that make me feel like I'm making progress. But they're not really the real work. That has yet to come. Can't afford to dawdle. Must have at least a serious first draft of the query letter done by Monday. If there's a beginner's swing class I can attend this weekend, I should do that too.

At the same time I'm struggling with my solitude. My ex rules my mind and I feel like a pathetic, paralyzed fool.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The heart's filthy lesson

There's nothing like having your heart broken to sink you deep into the sort of unfathomable depression from which one only emerges after doing some serious life reevaluation.

You get to thinking about what it's going to take to meet and then keep a girl of the caliber of the one who just sent you packing. You start to ask yourself, What do I have to offer? And at this point, your lowest of lows, the answer is always, "Not fuckin' much."

Thus I'm giving myself 6 months to get my life into the shape I want. I will lose 40 pounds; I will learn to dance (well), and learn to cook (well); and I will pursue literary agents in an effort to sell my book (still in progress) like there's no tomorrow. If, in six months, these things haven't been accomplished (or are not well underway), I'm jumping off the Queensborough bridge.

This blog is going to stand as a record of my efforts.