[the palaverist]

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

[the greatest]

I've never been a big sports nut. I'll enjoy a baseball game or series, or get a kick out of the Indy 500 or the Olympics, or get excited for some kind of foreign wackiness like the FIFA World Cup or cricket, but I've never been a really passionate fan — with one exception.

The 49ers of the 1980s were an extraordinary football team that seemed perfectly in character with their quirky hometown. Accused of being "cerebral" and "effete," they nevertheless defeated their challengers to win the Superbowl in 1981, and then in 1984 crushed everyone in their path to win it again. They never had the QB with the strongest arm or the rusher with the most yards or the defensive line with the most power; they never made a rap record. What they had was a glamorous combination of finesse and superb athletic skill that made them the dominant team of the decade. Bill Walsh was revered as the eccentric genius behind it all, a perfect exemplar of the kind of rugged, off-the-wall brilliance San Francisco liked to believe was its specialty.

I was a kid back then. I can hardly remember the 1981 season, but that year's Superbowl Sunday I will never forget. We had tickets to see Yitzchak Pearlman at Davies Symphony Hall, purchased months earlier with no regard for the possibility that the Niners would make the Superbowl. Luckily, my dad had recently bought a VCR — a bulky JVC with big silver switches — so we could tape the game and watch it later. But Pearlman kept giving out scores during the concert. And then, as we drove home, there was no way to avoid the pandemonium sweeping the city, as people leaned out of windows and ran down the street screaming and cheering, waving banners and giant foam #1-hands. We watched the game that night anyway, savoring the victory.

Over the years, I came to love that team. I cried when the Minnesota Vikings beat up Joe Montana on his big comeback from surgery in 1987. And I reveled in the many victories they stacked up over the years.

Thanks, Bill Walsh. You were a great San Franciscan and a great football coach.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

[eating on the run]

The Times on Wednesday published an incredibly useful article listing 101 10-minute recipes. (Via LifeHacker.)

For someone like me, who eats pretty much every lunch and most dinners on the go these days, these quick-fix recipes are a great find. Of course, a lot of the recipes demand that you have on hand perishables like fish or eggs or fresh thyme, so they'd be more doable on the evenings I happen to pass a Whole Foods or something on the way home. Even so, it's a good reminder that there are creative, tasty, healthy things I can cook in minutes when I get home — options, in other words, beyond what I can get a the Chinese joint, the pizza joint, or some dismal eatery along Sixth Avenue in Chelsea (which seems to be where I end up a lot lately).

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Monday, July 16, 2007

[earth shoe shout-out]

In a Slate article about Crocs, Earth Shoes get a mention (pretty far down, and not capitalized, but still) as exemplars of the footwear fad that comes and goes.

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Friday, July 13, 2007


Tonight, on Friday the 13th, at 8:20 p.m., will be Manhattanhenge — that magic day (well, two different days each year) when the sun sets in alignment with the Manhattan street grid.

The forecast is for scattered thunderstorms, but I'm hoping we get a clear view.


[weirdly accurate]

I mean, the results of this color quiz aren't perfect or anything — my situation is changing rapidly, and these descriptions often fit better for where I was three weeks ago, or five months ago — but they hit on a lot nevertheless. And not wholly by being nebulous.
Your Existing Situation

Having difficulty in standing up to the demands imposed on him. Finds a great effort is involved and wishes to have the situation eased.

Your Stress Sources

An existing situation or relationship is unsatisfactory, but he feels unable to change it to bring about the sense of belonging which he needs. Unwilling to expose his vulnerability, he therefore continues to resist this state of affairs, but feels dependent on the attachment. This not only depresses him, but makes him irritable and impatient, producing considerable restlessness and the urge to get away from the situation, either actually or, at least, mentally. Ability to concentrate may suffer.

Your Restrained Characteristics

Trying to calm down and unwind after a period of over-agitation which has left him listless and devoid of energy. In need of peace and quiet; becomes irritable if this is denied him.

Clings to his belief that his hopes and ideas are realistic, but needs encouragement and reassurance. Applies very exacting standards to his choice of a partner and wants guarantees against loss or disappointment.

Circumstances are such that he feels forced to compromise for the time being if he is to avoid being cut off from affection or from full participation.

Your Desired Objective

Wishes to find his stimulation in a voluptuous atmosphere of sensuous luxury.

Your Actual Problem

Anxiety and a restless dissatisfaction, either with circumstances or with unfulfilled emotional requirements, have produced considerable stress. He tries to escape into an idealized atmosphere of sympathy and understanding, or into a substitute environment of estheticism and beauty.

Meme is lifted from Pagan Mom, who characterized it as "annoyingly accurate" and is not wrong.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007


I have been afraid of being alone for a long time. When I was very small, I surrounded myself with stuffed animals when it was time for bed, but sometimes they weren't enough. Then I would get up and go to my parents, who, understandably, tried to get me back to bed. When I'd gotten up one too many times, my mother would send me back to my room and tell me not to come out again for 15 minutes.

This was unfair, I felt, for two reasons. First, I didn't have a clock in my room, and even if I did, I couldn't read it. But second, and far more vexing, was the fact that if a burglar were to come, he would have to come within some 15-minute period, so how could my mother be sure it wasn't this 15 minutes? How would she like it if a burglar came and instead of coming out to get help, I stayed put until he snatched me away?

I have no idea how I came to fear burglars specifically. Our subdivision had had exactly one burglar in its entire history, and he had turned 18 and been arrested and sent away by the time I was old enough for two-syllable words. People left their doors unlocked and still do. But I was afraid a burglar would come, see the fire-department-issued "C" sticker on my windown (for Child's Room) and decide to break in on the weakest member of the family.

This fear was connected to McDonald's. Specifically, I had a fear of the Hamburglar and his hamburger-shaped head. The privet outside my window cast a shadow in that awful shape against the curtain, and it filled me with dread.

Except it turns out the Hamburglar never had a hamburger head. All these years, I'd conflated the Hamburglar with Mayor McCheese, putting the head of the latter on the body of the former.

Somehow this seems important. How many of my other childhood fears, still buried deep and leeching their toxins into the soil of my unconscious, are just as nonsensical? To what extent is every hurt and disaster in my life the product of a misapprehension?

As Zen Master Seung Sahn put it, "Only don't know."

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[everything i know is wrong]

Golden Age (YouTube) | Paper Tiger (YouTube) | Guess I'm Doin' Fine (YouTube) | Lonesome Tears (YouTube) | Lost Cause (YouTube) | It's All in Your Mind (YouTube) | Round the Bend (YouTube) | Sunday Sun (YouTube) | Little One (YouTube) by Beck (Sea Change)

In 2002, while Jenny and I were in Nepal, Beck came out with Sea Change, a beautiful album about the aftermath of a broken heart. Jenny and I were already engaged by then, and I remember thinking that this particular record would always remain a little distant from me — that the subject matter wasn't something I'd ever be going through again.

People keep asking me how I'm doing. I don't know how to answer, but the lyrics to "Guess I'm Doin' Fine" keep running through my head. The lyrics to the whole record, really.

I know they're asking about the divorce. I'm never sure whether they want to hear the despair or the hope — there is hope too — or just want me to say something cursory. And it's nearly impossible to say how I've been, or how I will be, because it keeps changing.

What's happening now in my life is tremendously painful and disorienting. Things I thought I understood about myself, about Jenny, about my life, turn out to be completely wrong. Plans and certainties are crumbling away. The ground has given out beneath me, and I don't know at all where I stand.

The hardest and most baffling thing right now is the discovery of how little Jenny and I seem to have known each other. We spent six years as a couple and lived together even longer, yet we were able to misunderstand each other almost totally as we struggled to save our marriage. And I know there were parts of me that Jenny never saw or guessed at, because it destroyed our marriage when I revealed them.

Right now, the idea of ever trusting anyone so deeply seems impossible. How could we have been so wrong? So blind? So blind to our blindness? How will I ever be sure of anyone else?

Even so, I know that I will almost certainly trust again. Life goes on — when I first started telling people about the divorce, they kept reassuring me that it wouldn't kill me, as if this were good news — and eventually pain recedes.

My hope — I did mention that there was hope — is that I can continue in my process of recovery to become a person with integrity and without secrets. It's the secrets that have brought me to this pass — the hidden parts in myself, and the way they resonated with the hidden parts in Jenny — and so I need to reach a point of fundamental honesty with myself. That will take a lot of work and involve facing many things I haven't ever been willing to face, loneliness not least among them.

There are also more mundane hopes — for a new job, for a new home, for new friends and a new future. They will come in time. Sometimes these hopes buoy me up and make me feel almost good. Then there's also a lot of anxiety about all the logistical steps I have to take. And there are moments when I'm able to turn my life over to the care of God, feeling relief in letting go and trusting the universe to take me where it will.

For the most part, though, what I feel is a deep ache, just on the edge of weeping.

Sorrow. I feel sorrow.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

[questions for the buddha]

Why is there suffering? Not what causes it, but why is the universe constituted in such a way that these causes manifest? Why do we live in a universe in which our Buddha natures are concealed?

If we all have Buddha nature and enlightenment is available to anyone, why have so few people achieved it?

If samsara has existed for infinite time and enlightenment is available to all sentient beings, why are not all sentient beings already enlightened?


[arguing with fools]

United Abominations (YouTube) by Megadeth (United Abominations)

Is it worth arguing with fools? I don't mean people who are genuinely stupid, but those who are wedded to some wrongheaded ideology or who have been led astray by some sort of faulty reasoning?

Obviously it depends on the situation, but there's something to be said for countering even the most obviously specious arguments of those who advocate dangerous politics from any sort of public platform.

Alas, this category includes Dave Mustaine, the leader of Megadeth, who is now 46 years old and should know better. Granted, Mustaine was never exactly a genius. He made the politics of a young James Hetfield look positively insightful. Still, what is charmingly antisocial stupidity at 25 is just depressing at 46. Mustaine is no longer angry youth; now he's your drunken uncle, ranting at someone's birthday about the Trilateral Commission and JFK.

Mustaine's latest album (Megadeth has always been a solo project) is entitled United Abominations, and the cover depicts the UN Headquarters under military attack. The title track is an anti-UN screed that seems to blame the organization for all that's wrong in the world. It seems too stupid to take seriously, but I guess it's good that UN Dispatch, a blog on the UN, has posted a point-by-point takedown of this very silly song. If you're concerned to know exactly how and why Mustaine is being a schmuck, well, now you can. (Thanks, Daniel!)

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

[happy birthday, america]

Yesterday, as I stepped out of my office, I ran into Lt. Col. Kim, our military attaché. "Happy birthday!" he said, flashing a grin.

"What do you mean?" I asked — my birthday, after all, isn't until September 8. Then I caught on: "Oh, for my country. Yes, thank you!"

Another Fourth of July story: Allen and I often go to lunch together at the UN cafeteria. Yesterday we ran into First Secretary Lim Jung-taek, who joined us and at some point asked for verification that Macy's was really sponsoring the fireworks today. "In my country, the government would pay for such thing," he said. I think that's probably true in most countries, and as far as I can tell, it's true for our fireworks on the National Mall in Washington, DC. But here in New York, it's always Macy's, and other municipalities, it's other sponsors (Liberty Mutual in Boston, Sunoco in Philadelphia, ClearChannel in San Francisco; but I couldn't find a sponsor for Chicago, interestingly). Do any other countries do this sort of thing on their national days? Is this something great about America, or something ominous, or maybe a touch of both?

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Previous Posts

[things i'd like to write about but haven't]
[drop the red lantern]
[how not to apply for a job]
[pop is the new alternative]
[what does it all mean?]
[national fears]
[lies, damn lies, and sound effects]
[our pakistan moment?]
[how to fail like an olympian]
[cold winters]


July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
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November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
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July 2011


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