Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The next M.Night Shamalamadingdong movie

Read about weird numbers broadcast over short-wave:
Listen to the story of the man who started archiving these transmissions:


Sunday, July 02, 2006

a random walk

We live in a city of 8 million. There are about 1.5 million in our borough of Manhattan alone and each year 44 million come to visit. Of those, 35 million are domestic and 7.3 are international travelers. All of this seems a little funny to me, lately, because we pay a premium to live in one of the most expensive. dense and culturally diverse cities in the World and we are always looking for an opportunity to leave it. We have been bored.
We "nah" our way out of funky Brooklyn music excursions suggested by the latest TimeOut and have walked the artist markets of the East Village and Inwood one too many a time. All of the events that used to inspire spontaneous jaunts to never-visited venues when I was single now seem kind of hollow and pretentious. I'm realizing too that maybe half the fun of going was just the sheer primal drive to find a mate - most likely.
But now the bar has been raised because I am we.
So we drive away, as often as we can, for sweet, floral, grassy air. We aim for B-list tourist towns like Saugerties and Litchfield just to see what lunch will taste like there. But then we drive aimlessly down dirt roads, past farms and empty lots looking for 200 pristine cars or a giant iron cube in an empty green field or a flock of 300 starlings circling and landing on young cedar, bending it into a hairpin with their weight. When we drive I think we might stumble upon all these things. I hope. Something totally unexpected but beautiful, I guess.
Today we came back from another of our trips. Yesterday we rambled our way along curbless roads near the Connecticut shore. As all the shallow-ceilinged, brick red, salt-box houses passed by my passenger window, I wondered about the average height of their occupants. I saw dozens of tag sale signs and secretly wished to go to all of them. I started conversations with fish vendors and vegetable stand tenders because they were nice and I wanted to try to be unlike myself...a little more willing to talk about the weather. We stayed in a smoky motel room and then, in the morning, ate breakfast as strangers in a small-town diner. Most of the patrons were 70 years old or older and we ate quietly, eavesdropping on their conversations. They transitioned from family news to stories about the animals sleeping on their car engines. Their interest in listening and talking was so perfectly in phase. It reminded me of my grandparents and how people of their generation do this - know how talk about the weather artfully, with warmth. That is something I think was lost over 2 generations.
The diner conversations made me miss them. In a way all of these trips have made me miss my family more than I ever have before. I realize that I am running around looking for some strange inspiration in a field that I think I will glimpse unexpectedly. But it's more that the prospect of starting my own family is laid before me (I just got engaged) and I know I will root somewhere. I miss them maybe because I want them to witness it and also because I understand now what they did for me.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

funny, not bad

I managed a day without violating NJ Highway Authority rules and regulations. I also did not park in executive or security personnel spaces at work today, nor did I stall out by accidentally down-shifting while trying to pass in the left lane. I’m also very proud of the fact that I never once drove onto the bridge with the emergency brake on. If I was a bettor, I would have put money on doing that first.
I felt so confident tonight (all those vehicular demons behind me) that, instead of pulling into my regular, crappy and double-occupied outdoor lot, I went crazy and parallel parked on the street in the dark. I did not rush out of the driver’s seat the way I usually do, out of stress and a delayed disbelief that I had actually made another trip back alive.
I was now a self-actualized adult-commuting-Woman-driver-with-a-grown-up-coat, so I paused after extending The Club inside the steering wheel and spent a leisurely 2 minutes cleaning garbage out of the leg space of the passenger side: an assortment of paper coffee cups and Starbucks napkins (it occurred to me at this point to finally forgive my mother for the constant pile of trash she always had in the front seats of her cars). My mind wandered a minute longer, thinking about all of the womanhood behaviors I should now probably engage in, like regular manicures and large purse appreciation. But then it dawned on me that it wasn't a good idea to sit in a dark car on an unlit NYC street, so I exited. My half-reverie ended, though, when I glanced back and saw the 2 foot gap between my tires and curb.
As I reparked the car, my mind, this time humbled, recalled the disapproving gaze of the gas station attendant who works at the Exxon I go to. From under half-open lids, he looks at me, when I pull in, as if I were an alien who read about how to drive yesterday. This never angers me though because I can't blame him for lack of patience: the first few times I stopped there I did not know how to open my gas tank. I would call Ian to ask (since it was his stupid German car), wondering the whole time if my cell phone activation would make the station blow up. With the phone cradled in my neck, I would push, pull and rotate all protrusions on the dash and around my seat. One of these 20 actions would inevitably cause the fuel tank door to pop open but I would never know what secret lever had done it, hence the several calling incidents.

It occurred to me as I walked away from my parked car tonight for the second time, that I was not so much a bad driver as a funny driver.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

NPR might turn me into an atheist

I drive for an hour every morning now, down the NJ Turnpike, through an industrial wasteland, past the Newark Airport, toward the threshold between marsh and suburb that runs north-south in northeastern NJ. On the way I listen to NPR, which I never used to do because I didn't have the time in the morning in my previous jobs. But I'm a lazy reader of news so I decided to force myself to listen - like taking an aural mental vitamin.
The Morning Edition has grown on me. It's nugget after nugget of story and history I never knew or forgot long ago since 8th grade Social Studies. Last week I learned of an illegal Brazilian food truck that was home to hundreds of cabbies in SF and how the food united ethnic groups that would have otherwise never intermingled. I listened to a synopsis of the life of Gordon Parks (who just passed away) who was not only one of the first African-Americans who gained national renown as a photographer but was also a poet, a composer, an actor, a writer and a film director (he was a high school drop out). I learned about Michelle Bachelet who just became the first woman president of Chile (Pinochet, the man who killed her father and imprisoned her and her mother decades ago, sits under house arrest) and that Sandra Day O'Connor is an eloquent essayist.

The net effect of listening, by the time I got to my destination one particular morning, was a warm feeling of pride in Humanity. I learned about all of the wonderful, unique and improbable things people do all over the world and it made me feel connected to everyone. It also made me wonder why people still need God(s) to not feel afraid or alone. I believe Man created God to create security for himself and so, based on this assumption, I do not believe in God at all. But I also have no reasonable explanation for why DNA orders itself to make cells or organs or a whole person (that is one thing that never failed to astound me when I looked through a microscope. I would ask, "How can this be?" How can these molecules know that they must organize for an end result that is so much larger and complex than themselves?).
I wonder if NPR will turn me from an agnostic into an atheist. I plan to keep listening for the next 5 weeks so I should balance it out with a few trips to the science museum and a nature preserve. Imagine Science reinforcing faith in God.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sunday, March 05, 2006

2nd attempt: cup and fruit
(the spikey seed pods were too hard)
Talked to my aunt in Lewiston NY today (near Niagara Falls) and she asked me if I had plans to go to one of the City's great museums. I broke it to her that my life in NYC was not that glamorous and that Ian and I were doing 50 pounds of laundry around the corner from my house. On the weekends I try to take the subway as little as possible and, instead, actually like bumming around my apartment - cooking, taking walks, reading - even though I've only visited a fraction of the museums here and have never been to the Bronx Zoo or Ellis Island. I wonder if the majority of New Yorkers are as crowd-averse at the end of the week as I am? I think the best time to do cultural things is during vacation - not go away, but stay home and explore. I also did a lot of wandering when I was single and living with a socially-inept housemate (there were many). I would get dressed as soon as I woke up, buy a TimeOut and take the subway anywhere that looked interesting. In the summers or whenever it was warm, I would challenge myself to walk as far as I could from wherever I had taken the subway to towards home. I would look down every street and go into any store or public space that looked interesting. I walked and walked until I wore myself out; that's when I would go home.

Sometimes, I miss the spontineity that I would allow myself to be guided by back then. I miss dancing too. When I have more time (outside of school or internships) I will inject my wardrobe with some cool again and go out to dance until 4am. Actually, if I could have a secret parallel life, I would DJ and dance in clubs (clothed of course) for a living.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

This is my first drawing. I'm encouraged by the fact that people can recognize what the objects are so I think I'll try another. Ian and I went for a walk across the GW Bridge a few hours ago, waddling against the wind, layered in down, hunters' flap caps (we do not hunt though) and sunglasses. We ended up at the Fort Lee Historic Park in NJ and I picked up the subjects, hopefully, of my next sketch - seed pods that look like a cross between a cherry, a pinecone and a mace ball. They were familiar and I realized that I've seen drawings of these pods before so the idea is not new. This made me think how funny it is that we can enjoy "reinventing the wheel" in a way, in the most mundane ways, like drawing a picture, as if it has never been done before.

(those aren't grapes. they're just spheres)

I also saw that my old lab published their big paper. It makes me want to go back to school after this and get a doctorate in biology (I miss science). But I can't rule out the possibility that it would be, in part, for my ego.