Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Get thee behind me, Hannah Arendt

My thanks to inveterate Tweeter cynseattle for turning me onto the perfect iteration of post-Kobayashian angst through a site called Garfield minus Garfield. It's the driest way I know to gnash my teeth in the darkness.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Printed Matters

All my life I’ve found the answers to things in books.

So. Now that it’s time to reinvent what I do for a living, it seems only natural to turn to my old pals and get a little career guidance. Sure, the Net’s a great resource. But there’s nothing like holing up in bed on a rainy night like this one and actually poring over some self-help manuals.

Here’s a few gleanings:

Finding Your Own North Star, by Martha Beck. Subtitle: “claiming the life you were meant to live.” Not a bad book; well-written, humorous. Chock full of exercises, questionnaires to fill out, sentences to finish. Such as: “What are you afraid of? Does your fear tell you to do anything specific? If so, what?” And then there are two blank lines where you can write down your response. You get the picture.

The Pathfinder, by Nicholas Lore. An entertaining tome that is, in essence, an update of the old What Color Is Your Parachute paperback you probably perused in your early post-youth. Here the basic gambit is to hone in on what matters to you (I like the section entitled “What does ‘doing meaningful work’ mean to you?”) and then to translate those values into jobs you’ll feel an affinity for. I’d recommend this book to you if you really have no idea at what interests you enough to devote 8+ hours a day to it.

ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett. Don’t get excited. If this subject interests you at all, you’ve already come across these “secrets” elsewhere or you sussed them out yourself: you know, configure your blog for SEO, find a gap in the supply and demand cycle to exploit, interlink between posts, etc. Still, it’s handy to find all these useful tips in one slim volume.

The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferris. Even if you’re not about to undertake most of the things Mr. Ferris recommends, this is still a fun and occasionally bracing read. Part of the Ferris ethic is that you need to strip your life of all the stuff that takes time but isn’t productive. “Simplicity requires ruthlessness,” the author says. Think of Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People transliterated for the Twitter generation.

Career Renegade, by Jonathan Fields. My fave. The author recommends plunging head first in the churning white waters of entrepreneurship, utilizing technology and sheer wit to blaze a trail in a way that only you can.

The first two books will appeal to those looking to translate their native dispositions into the likeliest livelihood that comes with a standard job description: butcher baker candlestick maker. The next three urge you to invent your own job description, and each title assumes you are temperamentally suited to viewing life as a continual escapade.

But enough about me. Have you come across books that helped you get your head around the whole Right Livelihood issue? If so, please spill. You know I’m a compulsive reader; suggest a book and I’ll probably head right over to Powell’s and buy it. Tomorrow.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

jetsam: reality sets in

Eerie moment Thursday morning while out for a stroll with Mac. Over on Knott Street at one point, I looked up at an elderly woman standing on her porch, who was staring down at us. She says to me: “Are you going to work today?”

I might have said: (a) “I was dumped four weeks ago,” and burst into tears; or (b) “Every day since the third grade has been a work day for me;” or even, “You better believe it, lady – got a To Do list as long as your tibia.” Instead I mumbled “no” and hurried Mac along, confused by the question.

Probably she just confused me with someone else, but the question plunged into existential crisis. I guess I said “no” because I was responded to what I assumed she meant. No longer do I hie myself off to “my job.” But working? Mais oui. That day I sent off three resumes, took a meeting about an upcoming theater gig, went to the downtown library to collect some research materials, and finished a pro bono editing project. If that ain’t work…..

……ah, but. None of the above generated income, you see. And this same day saw the arrival of the first unemployment check. That was sobering. I mean: you don’t expect to be comfy whilst on the dole, and don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have it, but…still. It was less than I expected – significantly less than half what I used to get from the theater. The best you can say is that it will slow down my siphoning from the savings account.

But then. I opened the savings account years ago, after all, when I first realized the whole theater thing was not sustainable. And lo, the day has arrived. The account must now sustain me, and thanks to The System, those funds will go a little further.

And then? And then? That’s the real question. I’m working on it. Tick tick tick. Simple man, simple dream.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We love you, you big BARD

Happy Solar Return to Mr. William Shakespeare.

Where would be we without you?

Or, for that matter, without Marlene Montooth, who has brightened our day with this charming image of our jackanapes poet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Private Midnight

A few weeks ago I received a reviewer’s copy of Kris Saknussemm’s new novel, Private Midnight. How come? His publicist noticed I blogged about cultural life here in Cascadia, and at the time the author was about to do a reading at Powell’s.

Yes, that reading is long gone…oh well. But the impulse to review remains, partly because I wouldn’t mind getting a lot more free books this way. So here goes.

Perhaps you read Mr. Saknussemm’s debut novel, Zanesville? I have not, but I heard much about it when it was published in 2005. Apparently it was notable for taking the sci-fi/fantasy genre and turning it inside out – banking on reader expectations only to subvert them.

Now, it seems, the author has turned this treatment on another genre: the crime novel. As with sci-fi, noirish novels can be hidebound (as it were), hemmed in by trademark quirks like wisecracking gumshoes and designing femme fatales. But as the best in the biz have proven (Walter Mosley, for one), those same constraints can be startling in the hands of a captivating writer.

Insidiously enough, Saknussemm roots his novel firmly in the tradition of the first-person account of a hard-boiled detective. Like all such characters, Detective Ritter has his demons – in particular, a shadow side he’s trying to ignore, whom he calls El Miedo. Saknussemm sprinkles his story with fleeting references to Ritter’s intermittent homophobia and his attraction to the “feel” of women’s underthings, but not much is made of this at first.

Enter Genevieve, the femme fatale -- a mysterious Madame X connected to two recent, mondo bizarre suicides. She has a way of casually referring to personal experiences that happened centuries before; her physics-defying home is vastly larger inside than out. Ritter is contemptuous of what he tells himself are her “tricks,” but he’s inexorably drawn to her. The substance of the book details how she draws the detective slowly out of himself, so that gradually he not only faces his deepest desires but comes to embody them.

Genevieve is no social worker, however, and has her own motives for bringing about the detective’s transfiguration. In a series of jaw-dropping maneuvers so radical as to nearly derail the story, we follow Ritter through an underworld peopled by junkies, lushes, fetishists of all stripes, and some exceptionally creative homicidal maniacs, as he gropes his reluctant way to self-knowledge.

More than that I can’t say without spoiling the novel’s several reversals. But I can tell you that the author is at his best when describing his many netherworld scenes in living color: a raucous party at a tranny bar, a macabre scene of sexual recreation, a fulsome moment of triumph masquerading as degradation.

Not for the faint of heart. But if you can brave a descent into hell that only comes half-way back, you’ll enjoy getting to know Saknussemm’s creatures of the night.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How To Write for the American Theater

Title says it all. Thanks to one of my new favorite blogs, Threat Quality Press, for this handy chart. Just click on the image if you'd like to actually -- you know -- study this.

Also, a big shout out to a discerning and uncompromising playwright who has charted her own way as writer: Lynn Nottage. Word's out today that the Pulitzer Prize for Drama has gone to her, for her play Ruined.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Thespian 4 Ever

Those of you who sometimes follow me over to The Editing Room know that’s where I usually wax rhapsodic about things like punctuation, the mysteries of prepositional usage, and subjunctive mood. But this little gem, borrowed from the marvelous Lynn Truss book Eats, Shoots & Leaves, belongs here. Ms. Truss seems to suggest that once again we have theater to thank for western civilization:

The earliest known punctuation – credited to Aristophanes of Byzantium (librarian at Alexandria) around 200 BC – was a three-part system of dramatic notation (involving single points at different heights on the line) advising actors when to breathe in preparation for a long bit, or not-so-long bit, or a relatively short bit.

To illustrate this post, I wanted to show you some especially flagrant thespianism, but the image in question was too large to upload. So allow me to redirect you.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The satisying art of the pre-emptive strike

If only I'd had this information about three weeks ago, I could have saved myself time and tears. From those proactive people over at AngryLush, here's how to hasten the effects of the "economic downturn" and be on your way: the handy DIY Dismissal.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beat the clock

All right. Time heals all wounds, they say, or at least it lets them callus over. It's now 18 days since I was dumped by my company, and I've worked all the way through the classic Five Stage of Whatever:

1. Denial ("is this some kind of a joke? it is, right?")
2. Bitter, bitter resentment ("after all I've done for them....")
3. Depressed listlessness alternating with euphoria
4. Irritation at being defined by the recklessness of the whole stupid turn of events
5. Acceptance (i.e., interest in a future that leaves all this behind, AKA transcendence)

Been thinking about this bloody business. And I've concluded that I can either be a victim about this ("they did this to me on purpose") or I can regard it as a gift. Because as thoughtless and unnecessary as my lay-off was (sez me), the fact is that I now have a little time. Time to find out what there is to do out there besides theater. Some way to make a living that doesn't take all day and all night and all seven days of the week.

I don't think I'm going to make it all the way to GRATEFUL. But I've definitely gotten to glad I'm not with PCS anymore.

So. Knowing me as you do, let me know if any new careers come to mind. Preferably ones that don't involve wearing paper hats.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Deja view

Many of you have probably seen the photo at left already, of the benighted fellow protesting the recent decisions of the Iowa legislature. Though it's easy to smirk at the guy, this actually saddened me. Here is this man, making so bold as to publicly misinform others and to display his own ignorance, unaware of something that I believe most people know to be a basic fact.

His hand-lettered placard reminded me of my freshman year in high school. The man who taught my Intro to Psychology course saw fit several times to refer snidely to "the homos" in class. I got my revenge at the end of the year by turning in a term paper about the preponderance of "homosexual" behavior throughout the animal kingdom, including primates.

I got an A.

Though I don't have Mr. R to harrow any more, I was still cheered by a website Cousin Tabitha linked me to this evening, called Sociological Images. This is an excerpt for a post of last year:

A same-sex penguin couple, on the right ... were segregated from the rest of the penguins because they kept stealing eggs. Sneakily, they would replace the egg with a rock and take the real egg for themselves. The zoo keepers eventually decided to give them the eggs of another penguin pair who had a poor record of parenting and, the story says, they are among the best parents at the zoo.

If only the protester picture above were on Facebook, Cousin T & I could rock his circumscribed little world.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Trust me on this

Don't miss this:

Storm Large


Crazy Enough

opens tomorrow night in the Ellen Bye Studio @ Portland Center Stage

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day 2009

Today is the perfect occasion to use my new favorite phrase:
"Is this some kind of joke?"

Yes, I woke up today and looked at the calendar, and for one sweet moment I thought it was all a dream. Like The Wizard of Oz. Or Dallas. Or Taming of the Shrew or Confessions of an Opium Eater. But no. Ah, well....

Still, leave it to CynSeattle (she of the beatifically pacific Mona Lisa smile) to point out that at least by one University of Portland professor's calculation, today is a perfect day. You see, 4-01-2009 equals a perfect square, and the next one won't come for 4,000 years. Check it out:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


The Oregonian Staff

You may think today is just another April Fools' Day, but Aziz Inan knows better.

And according to his calculations, we won't see another like it for 4,007 years.

Today's date, 4-01-2009, forms a seven-digit number, 4,012,009. And it's a perfect square, which means it has a square root that is a whole number: 2,003 times 2,003 equals 4,012,009.

The next perfect square April Fools' Day won't be until 6016, according to Inan, an engineering professor at the University of Portland.

Perfect-square dates are extremely rare. There were two in the 19th century and four in the 20th century, Inan says. But this century has a bounteous 24 perfect-square days.

The first was Sept. 1, 2004 (the square of 3,002). The second was last month, on March 5, 2009 (the square of 1,747).

"It went largely unnoticed," says Inan, who hopes more people pay heed to the squareness of today's date. "I'm trying to get national attention."

This is not to be confused with a square root day, when the numbers align so the month and day each equal the square root of the year, expressed in two-digit form. That happened March 3, or 3/3/09.

And while square root days have a bigger following and their own Facebook page, Inan isn't impressed. "Perfect-square days are much more sophisticated because here you are talking about seven- and eight-digit numbers."

You have noticed that on my blog, Cynthia has come to rival even the intrepid Prince Gomolvilas for scavengings from the culture of quotidiana. Which I can then swipe for my own purposes. Thanks, guys, and hoppy able foo daze to youse, 2.