Writing For An Audience

I’m never very far away from remembering that the reasons I started to write in this blog (as opposed to a private journal) continue to demonstrate that I chose right. When writing with the intention of sharing your work with others:

  • the story must be closed with respect to details, because almost no reader will know who Bob from high school was. For that matter, they won’t know your where your high school is and when you went there
  • you must obscure identities, unless the specific person(s) have given permission or given reason to call them out
  • choose your words carefully, with respect to vocabulary. Obviously this is a fine line between using the perfect word you know or settling for a less well-fitting word that most people will know (as you might have figured out, let’s say, I tend to stay on that thin line between using a ‘big’ word that many of one’s readers will know or at least be curious enough to look up online).
  • writing for an audience turns a recorder of facts and a thready sequence of events into a storyteller
  • you’re you own test group

And after awhile, you find that a story is a far, far better way of recording the past.

For example, in the process of telling the story of my run-in with a “Drama Empress” and subsequent loss of friends, I not only animated in my mind that bit of my past, but in the telling of it, the focus of the story changed: what started out as an attempt to record something that I might recycle for some fiction piece (a farce, of course) turned into a paean of friendship and that when you choose to be friends, you can change an insurmountable obstacle into a moot point.

Sappy? Yes. But true.

The Drama Empress

A few years ago, two of my friendships—two of my strongest friendships—evaporated instantly with a little (and one very large) Poof!

I’ll say upfront, however, that one of those friendships returned, not in any onesided or dramatic way, but in rare one: one of us took the first small step and this time I wasn’t the one who made that first step. He did. Let’s call him H. Though I did not take that first chance, I returned the offer by taking a bigger chance than he did, all without giving up self-esteem and without taking any high road. Friendships mean a whole lot to me. So H. and I are friends again, but irony has it right now that he’s returned to the City after a long absence and is staying with the other former friend. Let’s call him F.

Dear GoB, I’m going to need a map. No, I’m really going to need a map.

Or maybe a history:

  • I was dating J. at the time. Before me, J. dated a guy, DP. Remember this, because it’s very important.
  • When I was dating J., I was still very good friends with H. and F.
  • They had a friend, JD.
  • Once I got to know JD somewhat, JD ssssssspoke the sssssentence that culiminated in the sssssssupernova of sssssstupidity: he told me, and I quote: If you were really my friend, you’d stop dating J.
  • Me: blank-faced & !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! & ?????????????
  • Turns out, JD had been dating DP, and someone NOT DP had told JD at DP’s party that DP was still in love with J. and would never be interested seriously in JD.

So JD asks me to stop having a relationship with J, because being around J reminded him of DP, who had wronged JD indirectly through a party guest.

Read that again. I’ll wait.

Done reading it again? Read it one more time.

Do you have a grip on how much indirection is there?

Do you have a grip on what kind of spacy, priggy git JD is?

Are you sure? Really sure?

Now, here’s how the friendships had ended, and while one can blame the misunderstadings inherent in AIM and email, ummm, no.

JD said it to me the first time in IMs: If you were really my friend, you’d stop dating J. I responded with an LOL or hehe or something. He had to be kidding, right?

He repeated it. I told him, buffered by plenty of politesse (the niceties must be observed, especially through a low-resolution medium like IMs), that he had no business asking me to do something like that.

In what I can only assume was tacit belief in the appropriateness of his request, he amped it up to demanding I stop seeing J. But JD was having none of it, and kept going and going and going with it, so I had no choice but to get more direct. And more direct. And when information was not passing at normal levels, I became blunt. I became candid. I began to deconstruct his lack of argument (so much for proving universal negatives). I began to describe what kind of sociopathic mind it would require to make an argument that he had the right to ask someone to stop seeing someone because that someone’s former someone’s party guest had shot down JD’s chances with DP because DP wasn’t ready to move on with anyone (where “anyone” would be, in this case, JD).

So the IMs had included, I swear, at least an hour’s worth of escalation, at which point it switched to emails. That first email was already quite contentious (I’m being understated), and as I was running out of words because nothing was being effective, I started to use a better-fitting, lesser-known vocabulary (translation: I was using ‘big’ words).

After probably another hour’s worth of emails back and forth, with plenty of “fuck you”s and “you’re a fucking asshole, you learning-impaired troglodyte and why-don’t-you-go-eat-some-billy-goat-ing, I get emails from F. and H. whose subjects started with “FWD:”, meaning forwarded. Meaning, the stubborn little shit had sent the entirety of the email portion of the argument to his/my friends. But here’s the key: the email chain only included the latter part of the argument, entirely omitting the part where my patience still had some wiggle room left in it.

”Why are you being so mean?” and ”You’re a horrible person for using big and nasty words against poor JD, making him feel small and stupid”.

“But…but…but…but….”, I thought. What was I supposed to do, say ’he started it’?

So there were phone calls with F. and H., and I first asked, then implored, then begged, then demanded that each permit me to offer information they hadn’t heard, the IMs part of it.

Each refused.

Only a couple of years after that fateful day was a dialog with H. started, and when we started talking, I asked of him only that he let me tell him what had started the whole thing that had turned me into such a mean, big-word-usin’ prick: “JD demanded that I stop seeing J because seeing J reminded him of how mean DP had been”, where J had nothing to say in it, never had said anything mean to JD, had stopped seeing DP long before JD started to see DP.

“I had no idea!” said H., visibly more and more shaken as I watched the wheels of his mind reconstructing the past several years.

Silence. I offered, “All I ever wanted from you and F. was that I get to tell you what started it.” That was the moment that the beautiful part of a friendship reignites. I’d said what I’d been waiting to be allowed to say. No blame. No guilt. No anything left to stand in the way of a friendship. And we’ve been friends again ever since.

Long after that day, I saw F. out and about, and there was more than just an exchange of meaningless niceties, I thought I’d have a chance to tell F. the only thing that I told H.

I emailed F., offering that it was nice to see him and that I’d thought maybe…

No response.

But at least JD still remembers to keep his distance and keep his yap shut.

Best of all, I have my friend H. back. Back in San Francisco and back in my life. That’s a lot, isn’t it? It’s certainly enough, enough for me.

Medicine Food

I’m sitting here, alone, eating medicine food: a patty made from rice flour and from the crushed residue of three different herbs. I know what the herbs looked like: the Doctor pulled some of each out of the giant containers from the back wall of the her clinic. The seeds of some flower which looked like hollow acorns. More seeds, smaller, from a plant I’d never heard of. Diagonal cuts from the white meat inside what had to be a huge root.

She served these patties to me, but cut in slices, bathed in a salty (probably anchovy) broth with kimchi, pickled root (not the same root) and also—I forget.

It was so good, mostly because of the exquisite peasant chewiness of the starchy strips. Medicine Food.

I could not stop smiling and telling her how much this food reminded me of my childhood and today, both at the same time. I was smiling as I ate. I kept telling her about the texture. And I kept smiling. Over and over, eating, smiling, telling.

Korean food years ago became a comfort food for me, because of Soonae and Jong and now, later, because of the doctor as well. This particular dish combined comfort, old and new. And did I mention I was smiling?

I got up from her desk after lunch. Time to leave. Always a slight tug trying to keep me inside. Outside is pain; in here? Care.

I said goodbye and turned toward the door. “Wait!” she said, and I realized what she was doing back there behind the counter when I was finishing up my lunch: she handed me a small ziplock bag—two patties of the medicine food!

I felt my smile before I realized the Moment: dark pain clouds had, for the space of two breaths, evaporated. I’m not sure if anyone else can appreciate what a major thing this was. No pain. At all. Sheer happiness that she was so generous, happiness that I had more of the medicine food, happiness that if anything good will ever come from this catastrophic sidebar of a life it’s Dr. Chon. And it’s almost worth the pain just to have enjoyed her company, her help, her generosity, her food.

[I began writing this entry the day before—actually only minutes before—January 12, 2008. Why? January 12 is Allen’s birthday—would have been his 50th birthday. I was angry and I was frustrated and I was off, off in the sidebar of a life where comments and references and asides are the only entities, entirely dependent on the main body of work. Body. Work. Nope, still not together, at least not then.]

But the frustration wasn’t about my pain, my diminished capacity. Nothing about me except commentary, references and asides on the corpus of a corpse. Of Allen.

First there are the why’s. Why did he have to leave? Why didn’t he take me with him? Why did he and I match so well, even though our lives didn’t? Why have I never felt jealous that George got so much more time with Allen than I did? Why could I never manage that tangled timeline that had his leaving me and his joining me becoming one and the same thing? Why am I still here and he is not?

And the are the how’s: How could he do this to me? How did he manage to comfort me when he never had a moment’s physical comfort? How did I remain emotionally intact after? How could he manage to look at me with a single expression that said both “We are Home” and “I am not your destination”? How could he keep the subsumption of his consumption away from certain parts of him? How did he know I would be alright, eventually?

And finally, the wishes: I wish he were still here. O, how I wish, and how does that wishing still allow no regrets of time passed since then with other men? I wish I could see him just one more time and tell him how much I resent him and how very much I love him. I wish he didn’t get sick and die. I would have given up ever having been with him just to have him back in this world (no sickness, no death of George which made it possible for Allen and I to be together).

Why did my life go on and how have I managed to both move away from him and bring an image of him far from graven within arm’s reach while realizing that wishing does not make it so for anything but the smallest of things and only, seemingly, in San Francisco?

I am publishing this on January 21, 2008. I started writing before the midnight which inaugurated his date of birth, January 12, 1958, and stopped before that same midnight: I would not and could not bring myself to fashion a golem to stab harsh words into for the day. On every other day of the year (including his date of death) the man is a totem who lights my way from oblique angles, showing me details and perspectives I’d have failed to see before I ever met Allen.

But on January 12 of every year I spend the day alternately silently toasting his life, cursing his absence, drubbing his choices or his neglects or his trusts or his whimsies, whatever context, situation, self-image, self-esteem or broad social ignorance resulted in his seroconversion to HIV+.

It’s all too tied together, causality loops and predestination absurdity, too confusing for the apodictic Abolutists who retard themselves into blacks and whites, straights and narrows, linearities and goals. Invidious, small people who read this may dismiss it because it turns on itself just as easily as it slips into raillery and back out into paradox. I dare because I am who I am, what life has made me, what deaths of loved ones have made me.

But what I dare not do is cast a long shadow on his day of celebration. All this slinging of perfervid whinging and foot-stomping can’t happen on that day.

As I learned from the Koreans, when preparing food or medicine (or Medicine Food!), the care you take is crucial: Medicine made in anger is not palliative; food made with resentment is somehow always bitter.

It took me quite a while to complete this entry (after 12:01, January 13) because Today is always more important than Yesterday, and Now stands atop all our thens. All our yesterdays inform all of our tomorrows.

And when you love someone, his birthday should be joyous and special.

In The Kingdom of the Blind

People glom onto aphorisms like bumper stickers stick to bumpers. (Oy.)

You’ve all heard it: in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. It’s come to mean any one or more of a family of related concepts:

  • you don’t have to be perfect, just better than others
  • appreciate what you have, because not everyone is so well off
  • it’s all relative

There’s another concept, though: the first ten words. Once you know what it means, you’ll view the Presidential races a little differently. The first ten words are the sound bite, the hook in a pop song, the bit that uses an economy of words to blanket your mind with nothingness, a shadow casting a long darkness over nuance and consequence.

Put these together and what do you get? What are the next ten words? Well, you find out what really happens to a one-eyed man in the land of the blind: because the blind move in a different world to the sighted, they have their own patterns, their own expectations, their own sense of caution, of culture and, by extension, of calamity.

The one-eyed man is the stranger in a land he cannot possibly understand and therefore not predict, so he must always stand, sleep, eat en garde lest he be trampled by the unsighted as they see themselves from hither to thither. The one-eyed man may be King, but who’s there to witness the coronation?

My entire world view can conveniently—and spookily accurately—expressed thus: businesses are not people.

I can take the religious wackos and the liberal tree-huggers and everyone in between and just remind myself that people are more important, more valuable than any corporate, religious or governmental bureaucracy in the world. Simple as that.

Companies cannot think, religious plutocracies cannot see, governments cannot move. All desultorily stumble, bumbling oafs whose footfalls destroy lives without a thought, without a vision, without a plan. And the world is ruled by them, did you know? Governments treat corporations and religious institutions better than they treat individuals. Religions ooze pus into all the interstices of government while bleeding corporations in the name of charitable action. Corporations bring down a government like cats on a large beast, lobbying their way to entitlement and use religion as a means of cowing the populace.

One individual is flotsam in the torrents caused by territorial pissings among the insistitutions, lost in a flood of effluvia. This, folks, is where fairness came to die. This, folks, is where and why and how a peopled world at first chose passivity and now live without choice.

If there is a god, he’s a bureaucrat, unreachable at the end of a very long automated phone tree. If there is a god, religion is his walk-in closet. If there is a god, government is literally beneath him, his unthinking footfalls crush us all in random fashion.

When navigating this contagion-riddled world with its arcane, labyrinthine thickets it’s easy to observe that effort isn’t worth the effort, that goals are chimeric substitutes for spirituality and that grace and greed are, in the end, the same thing.

I admire those who walk away from the world entire, go off the grid, but only to a point: it’s the nature of bureaucracies to grow to fill the available space and consume the available resources. The only absolutes which exist are temporary.

Touch Me, Touch Me, Touch Me, TouchMeeee…

People are stupid.

Correction: people allow, invite or even intentionally place obstructions in the way of clear thinking, thus allowing, inviting or even intentionally making themselves stupid.

So many Macworld Expo predictions about products. So many wishes for touchscreen this and touchscreen that: well, if the iPhone does it, why not my iMac or my MacBook Pro or my MacBook Air?

This one is so simple to answer, and by answer, I mean demonstrate:

You’re holding your iPhone in your hand and you touch the screen to launch (and now move!) app icons on the main screen. You “pinch” to resize. You “swipe” to move screen to screen. You “flick” to scroll.

So why the hell not build this touch sensitivity into Cinema Displays and MacBook screens? Easy! Your arm weighs too much. Try holding your arm out to touch the computer screen you’re in front of. You don’t have to touch the screen if you’re worried about smudging it, because it’s not about touching the screen. Go ahead, do it. Hold your arm out. Hold it there for 60 full seconds. Simulation touch gestures if you must, but keep your arm out from your body.

How’s that feel, kids? Arm tired? Shoulder muscles aching? Keep holding your arm out. Now imagine doing that for eight hours a day.

Don’t be stupid, people. It doesn’t take much to actually think something through—and that’s saying something given diminished capacity.

With an iPhone or and iPod touch, your arm hands and your not working muscles except the fine and quick muscles of your thumb and index fingers.

And don’t be stupid. Like this guy, who accuses Apple of just following others because “the incredible touch interface is relegated to an extra large touchpad.”

There’s a reason that the trackpad is on the base and not above (or even below) the screen on a portable.

Supposedly, there’s also a reason that industry pundits exist. But I’m stumped on that one.

“Yay!” and “Siiiiigh.”

So Hillary Clinton wins the New Hampshire primaries! Yay! Cuz she’s the one I want to win the Dem nod. I like Obama, but when you go on his being a “regular, likable Joe” as a primary or—gasp!—sole factor, you can end up with a W. And that’s idiotic. Literally.

But reading the CNN story, I came across this paragraph:

Older voters are also overwhelmingly outnumbering younger voters, a proportion that is benefiting Clinton. Sixty-seven percent of Democratic primary voters are over the age of 40, and they are breaking heavily for Clinton over Obama.

GoodLordJesusSkateboardingChrist! I’m an “older voter”.

I thought it was going to require having a President who is younger than I—to be clear: chronologically younger, not emotionally or intellectually (W. again)—to make me feel old, but apparently, I already am.


Electricity, I Love You!

Tragic. Desperate. All Alone In The Night.

Ok, I’m being overly bombastic (in the first two anyway: it’s J. Michael Stracyznski being bombastic in the last one).

There were some crazy-ass storms today in San Francisco with, I heard, another two crazy-ass storms on the way to make the weekend something special. It’s because I’m back but not back, I know it. I am at odds with my environment and the environment is letting me know it (and yes, ‘solipsistic’ is a mere doddle away from ‘bombastic’). Still, don’t blame me. I’m too busy cowering under my own storm of a thousand questions up above me and with no settled firmament beneath. And my head hurts. A LOT.

So the storm knocked out power to most of the City. In my neighborhood, electricity went missing at 8:29 (I’ll explain how I know that in a bit) and didn’t return until 17:24 (same reason I know this, don’t get your gutchies in a bunch).

Things learned in a bleak and silent afternoon without electricity:

  • the house is bleak and silent without electricity
  • only my old school room type analog plug-in electric clock which hangs above the kitchen doorway remembers when the world went off and, with offsets, exactly when the world came back on
  • I spend more time in artificial light than natural
  • MacBook Pro batteries should be kept charged at all times and do not do so would be really stupid because they’re there to keep you going when there’s no electricity available and so keep them charged, kids, and now I’m done PSAing
  • iPhones are a lifeline to the net thanks to EDGE networks which are totally plenty fast (but not fast enough for the sole reason that the net can never be fast enough) despite all the bitching by feature-list-obsessors that 3G is “necessary”
  • the Internet isn’t a god, it’s a landscape and electricity keeps you dressed and fed when there
  • the Internet’s my There and without electricity, there’s almost no ‘there’ there
  • the time when I most want to write is when I can’t, and now that I can write, I don’t feel like it. Corollary: adolescence isn’t the Past, it’s vestigial. Like your appendix.
  • Tea-lite candles are quaint, and they’re certainly keeping Walter the Cat transfixed, but flickering light is just a pain in the ass to read by.
  • Giving to charitable organizations is a Good Thing, especially appreciated today when the hand-crank chargeable radio (FM, AM, SW, along with siren, flashing light and white LED light) I got by donating to KQED last year came in very handy indeed.
  • compared to a full-on soundsystem with giant HDTV, music sounds magnificent from a single tinny speaker on a bleak and silent afternoon without electricity.
  • I noticed that tea was being converted to music as I cranked the hand-crank to give the radio an extra bolus of electricity.
  • Thank you, gas heat!

By now even I’m getting the idea I should have titled this one “Even More Filler”, so I’ll just shut up and get back to my re-electrified world of torpor and distraction, because the vickies just ain’t cuttin’ it for the pain no’ mo’.

More Filler

What Kind of Reader Are You?
Your Result: Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm

You’re probably in the final stages of a Ph.D. or otherwise finding a way to make your living out of reading. You are one of the literati. Other people’s grammatical mistakes make you insane.

Dedicated Reader
Book Snob
Literate Good Citizen
Fad Reader
What Kind of Reader Are You?
Create Your Own Quiz


Sorry for the markup. I hate <TABLE> tags.

A nod to Noel and his noggin’ for the quiz.

My Emo Me

I wrote about a million different things while I was back East, but finished none. I suppose they’ll make it out there (here) eventually, but I’m only up to posting other people’s stuff right now.

It’s a tragic cliché—or painfully vulnerable shallowness—when poems map almost literally to one’s state of mind: instead of reading them for their autonomous beauty, it feels like I’m wearing them as clothing or protective gear. Oh well, at least I chose well.

<br/>The Dwarf’s Song<br/> <br/> My soul itself may be straight and good;<br/> ah, but my heart, my bent-over blood,<br/> all the distortions that hurt me inside—<br/> it buckles under these things.<br/> It has no garden, it has no sun,<br/> it hangs on my twisted skeleton<br/> and, terrified, flaps its wings.<br/> <br/> Nor are my hands of much use. Look here:<br/> see how shrunken and shapeless they are:<br/> clumsily hopping, clammy and fat,<br/> like toads after the rain.<br/> And everything else about me is torn,<br/> sad and weather-beaten and worn;<br/> why did God ever hesistate<br/> to flush it all down the drain?<br/> <br/> Is it because he’s angry at me<br/> for my face with its moping lips?<br/> It was so often ready to be<br/> light and clear in its depths;<br/> but nothing came so close to it<br/> as big dogs did.<br/> And dogs don’t have what I need.<br/> <br/>

That one was by Rainer Maria Rilke, a German if you can believe it! Translated by Stephen Mitchell quite brilliantly.

And now another song, or at least its lyrics. It’s a song introduced to me by Jenniebear. It’s by Sufjan Stevens, another genius with words—and with melody and arrangement. And vocal performance.

<br/>Sister Winter<br/> <br/> Oh my friends I’ve<br/> Begun to worry right<br/> Where I should be grateful<br/> I should be satisfied<br/> <br/> Oh my heart I<br/> Would clap and dance in place<br/> With my friends I have so<br/> Much pleasure to embrace<br/> <br/> But my heart is<br/> Returned to sister winter<br/> But my heart is<br/> As cold as ice<br/> <br/> Oh my thoughts I<br/> Return to summertime<br/> When I kissed your ankle<br/> I kissed you through the night<br/> <br/> All my gifts I gave everything you<br/> Your strange imagination<br/> You threw it all away<br/> <br/> Now my heart is<br/> Returned to sister winter<br/> Now my heart is<br/> As cold as ice<br/> <br/> All my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to sister winter<br/> All my friends, I<br/> Apologise, apologise<br/> <br/> All my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to sister winter<br/> All my friends, I<br/> Apologise, apologise<br/> <br/> All my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to sister winter<br/> All my friends, I<br/> Apologise, apologise<br/> <br/> La la la la la …<br/> <br/> And my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to wish you all the best<br/> And my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to wish you all the best<br/> And my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to wish you all the best<br/> And my friends, I’ve<br/> Returned to wish you a happy Christmas<br/> <br/> To wish you a happy Christmas<br/> To wish you a happy Christmas<br/> To wish you a happy Christmas<br/> <br/>

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