Archive for the ‘ Personal Life ’ Category

Silence of the Vans – Moving Days

“Moving Day” is usually, you know, a day, but when you’re doing it in one small car that only one person involved in the move can drive, it turns into more of a multi-day affair. (Or even a multi-week affair, at the rate this one is going.)

That’s where I’ve been. That’s where I will be, until things get just a touch more settled.

For those that are curious: Chicago, near Clark and Devon, with a girlfriend and no other roomies, and no I do not have a new job. I haven’t had a real job for years, are you kidding me? I can freelance from anywhere. This one’s just for the girl.

Oh, and also: four cats, so strong allergy warnings for all potential users of our (yes we have one!) guest room. And a hedgehog, but she seems mostly hypoallergenic, as far as we can tell. Just spiky.

Regular content to resume Monday the 18th, barring disaster.

Mercury in Retrograde

mercury-retrograde-inverted-symbolA good catchphrase is soothing when life goes to shit.

Now that I look back at it, that might actually be the most succinct summary of organized religion since “opiate of the masses.” Write that one down. But anyway: life, shit; catchphrase.

So you’ll be happy to know (if your life is going to shit) that Mercury is retrograde right now, which is one of those few astrological concepts that people who don’t give a shit about astrology (see also: me) recognize. You can even recognize it visually if you look up and happen to see the planet Mercury “moving” the wrong direction (it’s not actually; we’re just moving a lot faster relative to its current position, so it’s going backwards the same way that a slow-moving truck is going backwards when you pass it on the highway, which is to say not at all unless you’re on a steep uphill and its transmission just threw out).

Supposedly this is a time when, to put it simply, shit doesn’t work. This has something to do with Mercury being the messenger planet: communications get tangled when the messenger is out of whack, and since basically everything today depends on communications (e-mail, cell phones, the internet, etc.) that means everything stops working.

I’ll buy it. I’m not sure all of this week’s pet disasters (cat barf on the bed while I was in it, cat pee in the suitcase; hedgehog pooping blood in her bath) quite fit under the “Mercury in retrograde” header, but the incredible shitshow of basically every landlord who showed me an apartment this week could definitely count as a communications breakdown.

Maybe it’s for the best; the astrologers say you’re not supposed to be signing contracts (re: leases) during retrograde Mercury anyway.

But regardless, it’s been a real comfort to be able to roll my eyes and say “Mercury in retrograde” every time something new goes to hell, and that pretty much tells you right there why some people go crazy over this astrology crap. Cheaper than therapy, right?

(Well, okay, depending on your astrologer. Some people make bank on this shit. For the rest of us, there’s Googling “Mercury in retrograde” and calling it a day.)

Oversharing/Undersharing

I overshare my happiness. I undershare my sadness.

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I overshare my rage with structural and systemic injustices, and undershare my anger at wrongs done to my person specifically.

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I overshare my food and my drink and my hospitality. I will overshare yours, too.

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I overshare the fact that I think you are pretty, and that I would be delighted to make out and/or go to bed with you (although usually not until I have had some beer for courage), and I wish that you would do the same. I undershare the amazing extent to which said making out and going to bed is smiled upon by all current participants in my romantic and sexual life, but only because it seems rude to talk about them when I am with you.

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I will probably overshare “the deets” with said participants, but purely from a mental and physical health standpoint.

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I overshare on digital spaces that feel like they are mine: my blog, my own Facebook feed; my writing. I undershare on all other social media.

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I think you should do the same. Especially re: Facebook.

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I overshare about anything pretty willingly, but only if you ask me directly. I undershare when I’m making my half of the conversation up as I go along.

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I overshare about things I have read recently that I thought were interesting. This is not to show off; it is because I cannot carry all the interesting things I have read recently around with me all the time to give to you when it seems relevant. I would be happy to clip an article or e-mail you a link if you would rather read the full text and form your own opinions.

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I overshare clippings and links, too. This seems to be embedded on the paternal gene.

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I undershare the degree to which I worry that you have not contacted me recently because you are angry with me, or have decided you do not like me for some reason, rather than because there has been no real reason to contact me and you have other things to do with your time. Or I did until now.

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I overshare my business cards. Why not? FedEx sells them in lots of like 250, and I don’t meet that many new people.

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I overshare love.

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I undershare love.

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But I am, on the whole and when you come down to it, generally in favor of more sharing rather than less.

What about you?

Housekeeping: MA101 on the Road

MA101 is on the road!

Mostly US-151, as it happens. I’m headed down to Iowa for my college reunion.

There will be posts while I’m down there, potentially even about classes, since the college is good enough to run cute little “Alumni College” seminars for those of us that haven’t held a spiral notebook in far too long.

The most visible effect for readers will be a delay in comments appearing. (I’m back to approving them individually for the time being, since we talked about violence against women this week and any post with the “misogyny” tag automatically gets you an influx of dudebros screaming about whores, cunts, and fags, which I’ve been efficiently filing in the “Trash” section as fast as they come.) I’ll try to go through and approve everyone’s at least once a day, but no promises.

Other than that, content will limp along at its usual semi-regular pace, possibly punctuated with endearingly Iowan sights.

iowa-corn-postcard

The Ups and Downs of Being Really, Really Tall

Being tall isn’t always fun and games.

Sometimes, in fact, it is quite literally not fun and games; an absence of fun and games: on a recent trip to Six Flags Great America (frivolous summer whims wooo!), I was told I couldn’t ride their new X-Flight ride. It had a maximum height limit of 6’6″.

More like SUX-flight, amirite?

More like SUX-flight, amirite?

Obviously the designer was a small person. And based on the oversized train twisting through dark tunnels (which is presumably where the height becomes an issue), I’ll go ahead and cruelly say that he was obviously a small man, too, if you know what I mean.

You know what I mean.

So anyway, that side of thing sometimes sucks. But on the other hand, you get some awesome fun times, too.

Case in point: there I was at a local roller derby bout, using the bathroom with all the other halftime drunks. The drunk at the kids’ urinal (which in his defense was right up next to the sinks) is bitching in a very loud voice about how the worst part about getting stuck with the little urinal is having to pee right there next to everyone washing their hands, blah blah blah.

And as luck would have it the stall next to him opened up, so I got to loom on up and rumble “Yeah — and it’s really fucking small” in my deepest, most subterranean tones.

Guy was looking the other way, so we got a lovely “Yeah, man, and it’s reallllOH HOLY SHIT YOU’RE BIG” rising inflection as he pivoted to look at me and spasmed in primal fear.

So yeah. I was so big I made a guy pee on his shoes, once. No big deal. Shoulder dust, shoulder dust, wink.

You gotta take the good with the bad. And maybe watch where you pee.

The Death of a Rabbit (The Life of a Crow)

Yesterday I held a baby rabbit in my hands (and dropped it from my hands, briefly, onto the hood of a white car: red blood turned orange by smearing, subcutaneous fat).

A crow had been pecking at it. I chased the crow away, but, doing so, scared also the mother of the baby (or else some unrelated large rabbit that had taken an interest), and I wondered if it was worth it, to the bunny, to trade the familiar face for a moment of respite.

Inside the bank, I asked a teller for a cardboard box, “one of the small ones that you keep the rolls of change in would be perfect.”

When she asked why, I told her a little rabbit had been hit by a car in the parking lot. Her eyes turned wet: “Don’t tell me that!”

“I think he’ll be okay,” I lied, “If I can get him some shelter from the crows.” (He was not going to be okay. One leg was badly broken, the bone a throbbing bulge beneath matted fur. Flesh was torn and bleeding in many places.)

As she turned to get the box, she watched the crow fly by the window, our wounded rabbit in its beak.

And I thought, “How sad,”

And I thought, “Well, crows have to eat too.”

A Case Against the “Hallelujah Chorus” at Easter Services

Retrato_de_HandelAll right, ministers and church music directors everywhere.

Let me start out by saying, I feel your pain. I get it. I understand the trend, I really do.

Attendance is down, costs are up, and you get two days a year to try and impress the casual churchgoers enough that they come back for boring ol’ non-Easter, non-Christmas services.

That means breaking out the big guns for C&E. I get it!

But trust me on this one: the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah is not your friend.

Sure, it’s a crowd-pleaser. Sure, everyone knows it. And no one can deny that it’s dramatic.

Trouble is, it’s also hard to sing. Not by the standards of professional choruses, maybe, but it’s a big piece with multiple parts going in multiple directions at once. Novices are going to get confused and wander all over the place, trying desperately to find the familiar melody they know from TV commercials regardless of where their voice is actually supposed to be.

A talented organist using his instrument to its full capabilities can play most of those parts at once, giving everyone at least some guidance, but let’s be honest here — how many churches these days really have both an organist and an organ that can rise to the challenge?

Even if your congregants can find the right part, the singing is fairly challenging for an amateur with a cold start. These aren’t the hardest parts in all of choral music, but they do require a good sense of pitch and a strong set of pipes to get where you need to be and sound good while you’re there. (I, for example, can easily hit even the lowest notes of the bass part, but only in a savage growl more suited to Rammstein than Handel.)

And as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the “Hallelujah Chorus” isn’t even about Easter. (Seriously, it’s not. Look it up. Some Day of Judgement shit going on there.)

So let it go. Drop the Handel singalong from the Easter program — please.

There’s plenty of good, hearty, brass-quintet-friendly Easter stuff in the hymnal. Flip through it and find some.

The urge to impress on Easter is understandable, but trust me, untrained voices floating all over the place in search of their “And he shall reigns” is anything but impressive.

Language Learning and the Words That Escape You

There’s a whole genre of “How to Learn a Language in X Days” webpages out there, and they’re surprisingly entertaining.

Not useful, mind you, but entertaining. Something about the juxtaposition of phrases like “it’s easy!” and “you can too!” with advice like “practice with a tutor for at least four hours a day” and “travel to a country where this is the majority language” just tickles me.

Like…yeah, absolutely. Anyone can learn a new language, if they don’t have to work, and can travel at leisure. I could do a lot of things if I had that kind of time and money.

So like most people, I ignore the scammy and/or over-enthusiastic webpages out there, and just bumble along with some language software and recorded lessons, which does well enough for an unpaid hobby.

And I’ve noticed something over time: no matter what the language is, or how I’m learning it, there are always a handful of words that just will not stick, no matter what I do.

I’m trying to pin down the rhyme and reason. I am deeply curious to know what combination of sounds, parts of speech, and god knows what other factors it is that makes a few specific things constantly impossible to memorize.

Or maybe it’s just psychological: my most recent bugbear has been the Dari word for “friend.” I can remember everything else I’ve learned since I started, just about, but that one is always a gaping hole in my memory whenever I reach for it. Says something about my subconscious priorities, doesn’t it?

Want an AA to Go With That MA?

MaunualLet’s play with acronyms!

I went to a SLAC school, which depending on who you ask is either a Selective Liberal Arts College (an official organization), a Small Liberal Arts College (a general description), or a prophetic homonym.

That was six years ago; in a stunning display of the math/science skills you get with that kind of education, I will be attending my five-year reunion this year. (It’s a “cluster” thing. Don’t ask.)

The schedule is about what you would expect of such things: 5ks and bike rides and something called a “golf scramble,” which sounds a lot like what we did when Security came after us for streaking past the president’s donor golf brunch thing back in my sophomore year.

One recurring event every morning of the reunion caught my eye, however:

college-reunion-alcoholics-anonymous-schedule

There’s one of those every day. Much respect to my AA peeps — it is an important thing for some people — but I can’t help but wonder what it says about the Grinnell College experience that, when planning reunions, the committee sits down and thinks “Have we provided enough support for our alcoholic alumni this weekend? Let’s make sure we’ve got a meeting for them every morning.”

Okay, I take that back. I don’t have to wonder what it says about the Grinnell College experience at all.

My Life Since the Last Photodump, Part 1: California

You know what I’m great at? Taking pictures with my iPhone.

(Not, like, I take great pictures. Just that I’m great at pulling it out and snapping a photo whenever there’s something cool going on in my life. Which there almost always is, because my life is very cool; hence, lots of pictures.)

You know what I’m terrible at? Doing anything with those pictures.

They just sit on my iPhone, amusing me whenever I flip back through them but otherwise not doing a whole lot. God knows I never get them onto Facebook — I think the last major trip or event that I successfully turned into a Facebook “album” (or whatever they’re called) was a Milwaukee museum trip in 2010 or 2011.

By the time I remember to put photos up on Facebook it seems kinda stupid, because it’s not a “Hey, here’s a cool thing I’m doing right now!” update so much as a “Oh, yeah, I did this cool thing a year ago” update, which reduces the “you should give a shit” factor considerably (and it wasn’t all that high to begin with).

So guess what that means? This week you get to suffer through the photodump!

It’s cool, though. I’m mostly picking out the ones that are either funny, beautiful, or weird and interesting, and subjecting you to an absolute minimum of my goofy face. Without further ado:

Part 1: California, Summer 2013

I suspect I cleaned my phone’s memory out for this trip, since it’s where the pile of old photos starts. It was awesome. I went with one of my girlfriends at the time, who realized that the easiest way to secure me as a +1 for a wedding was to offer an excuse for camping. It worked.

yosemite-entrance

Gas, however, was more expensive than I’ve ever seen it:

yosemite-gas-prices-2013

I suppose those prices are going to look awfully dated in another year or two. Ah well.

Most of it was what you’d think of as the default Yosemite experience: beautiful waterfalls, towering cliffs, and massive crowds on all the day-hike trails.

crowds-yosemite-national-park

I think one of my favorite photos from the whole trip is this one, of crystalized sap on a live tree’s rockfall damage:

tree-sap-rockfall-damage

We were there for a wedding, which is why you get the slightly odd combination of me in a tie and Half Dome in the background:

yosemite-half-dome-wedding

The wedding couple were big backpackers. Best “Just Married” sign ever:

just-married-backpackers-yosemite

We took a few days to hike much less populated trails in the Sierra National Forest, where we found wild raspberries:

wild-raspberries-sierra-national-forest

(We also found a lot of raspberry-seed-filled bear poop, which encouraged us to eat quickly and then get the hell out of the raspberry thicket before someone else came along for a snack.)

And on the way out we had just enough time before our flight for me to nip out and dip my feet in the Pacific Ocean. Good to check that one off the list!

geoffrey-cubbage-pacific-ocean-2013

So that was California. Ready to suffer through some more outdated pictures? Stick around, because that’s the plan for this week!

Insert obligatory joke about word count and pictures being worth a thousand here, yadda yadda yadda. You know the drill.

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