.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, April 21, 2005


A 2-parter

Part the First: Ridiculousness

Two examples of ridiculousness from the past few days:

1. Last night one of my improv classmates described how her boss likes to act out certain sports, for no good reason. She'll just stand in front of my friend's desk and pretend to swing a golf club or pitch a baseball, sometimes silently, sometimes while making mindless chitchat - "Didja see that email?" (swoosh). I joked that next time my friend should pretend to catch the ball and toss it back, and see what happens.

2. I'm planning a bridal shower with a few other women, and earlier in the week we sent out an evite. One of the guests was apparently insulted that we didn't invite her mother, so on the evite, she replied that she'd be attending "with pleasure - plus 1, my mom." As if this were a kegger. Note, I had turned off the "allow guests to invite other guests" feature, so she just wrote this into her reply. I joked to the bride that she should get more of her friends to write in that they would also be bringing their moms.

Part the Second: Changing Media (More Ridiculousness?)

On another note entirely, yesterday I finally started reading a report I've had in my "to read" pile at work for a while, "The Future of Independent Media" from the Global Business Network, and want to recommend it to anyone interested in independent media (you can find it here).

I haven't finished it but, building on my Tivo comment of the other day, I find it fascinating to think what our society and culture will be like as more and more content is more and more accessible, and there are more choices than anyone has time to make...will this actually have a de-democratizing effect, where only the wealthy have enough leisure time to actually sort through media and leverage choice? It certainly makes you think that the people and companies who can prove themselves expert at helping you sort through it all will be valuable, but that sorting won't happen in the same way it did in the past - it won't be Tom Brokaw saying, "here's today's news," it will be someone saying "here's what I think is important today"...the differences being an implicit recognition of subjectivity, and, once again, greater choice... more choice than Tom, Peter or Dan.

I can't tell if the media landscape is getting more or less ridiculous. The liberal in me finds it hard to think that less choice is better, but the conservative in me worries about all the noise... ultimately the idealist in me hopes that from the sea of choices, from the noise, the potential for new meaning and understanding will arise....but the pessimist in me worries that we'll just be a fractured culture full of individuals whose news diet morphs into the "Daily Me" that Nicholas Negroponte predicted back in the 90s. A quick Google search of "daily me" led me to this blog posting from late last year, and maybe its author is right - maybe two categories of media will coexist, more traditional sources (newspapers, etc) side by side with an ever-more-thriving category of citizen-driven, bottom-up media. Maybe it's not either/or.

But when today's teenagers and kids are adults, will they really value the traditional sources? More importantly - will they use them? I value Frontline, and I Tivo it, but I rarely watch; I watch the Daily Show more often. (Don't you love it when you feed right into your demographic profile?)

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Tivo backlash?

I recently gave in to my love of Friends and added it to my Tivo season pass manager. Last night I was ready to indulge, and tuned in to one of 2 episodes it had recorded, and it turned out it was the classic in which Monica and Rachel lose their apartment to Chandler and Joey in a bet. But as I sat there soaking it in, I realized, it's not as much fun when I can call it up whenever I want. Part of the enjoyment is happening to catch it while channel surfing, happening to turn on the TV at 7:10 or 11:15 when there's just enough of an episode left to give me my fix. Being able to watch it "whenever" makes me want to watch it less. (This adds to my long, complicated love/hate relationship with the show: "it's an unrealistic superficial show about pretty 20-somethings"..."yeah, but it's funny"..."but they turned it into a soap opera"..."but the reruns are fun to watch"..."but they're not as much fun when I Tivo them.")

I am hardly the first to observe that we want what we can't have, but I find it interesting to observe this again in our current media environment, in which content companies are increasingly focused on giving consumers "what they want, when they want it." At Sundance I heard Ted Sarandos of Netflix say that their biggest challenge is that people don't know what they want - so you can't just figure it out and give it to them. Netflix is investing in complex algorithms to fuel its recommendation engine. Someone else on that Sundance panel, Richard Titus of Schematic, a technology design company, observed that increasingly, user interface is going to be what gives content companies a competitive edge...giving people the best tools to sort their content choices. With all these companies racing to give users the best choices - what kind of backlash are we in for? With content so readily available, will people begin to withdraw from media, treating it like we Washingtonians treat the Smithsonian or the memorials? (Glad they exist, but we never use them.) Without the pursuit, without hurdles to access, will the fun wear off?

Monday, April 18, 2005



Yesterday I found a scrap of paper I tore out of the periodical Granta a few months back. I am going to do a terrible job of citing my source - I can't remember which issue of Granta it was, and I can't remember the name of the author. Someone who had written a book about his father (that narrows it right down). But I was so compelled by this passage that I want to share it anyway.

The author is describing what it was like to have strangers come up to him at book signings and ask personal questions about the "characters" in his book, aka his family members. "How's your mother doing?" they'd ask. "And your sister? And Nikki the dog?"
I couldn't complain this was intrusive. It was me who'd thrown the door open. But the answers to those three questions - burning on a pyre of grief; blind; dying - we're easily sayable in public. The book was there for perusal. But the story outside it - the life still being lived - wasn't public property. Sometimes the shutters of self-censorship have to come down.

When I read this it described exactly how I was feeling about my blog at that time. I don't know if I've become accustomed to exhibitionism, or what, but I feel less exposed these days. Maybe I've settled into a rhythm, or found a voice, or - ? Whatever the explanation, I feel less constantly torn between public and private, between what to share and what to keep off limits. Have I honed my instinct for self-expression, or self-censorship?

Saturday, April 16, 2005


All You Can Eat Sushi

Today is Sushi Taro's annual "all you can eat sushi" day, in honor of the cherry blossom festival. You pay $35 for access to as much sushi as you can handle. Now this is a concept I can get behind.

Last night I slept for 13 hours - 12 hours the night before. I feel that groggy, out of it feeling that comes with excessive sleep...I guess my body needed some rest after that conference and the stressful weeks leading up to it. Sushi should be the perfect salve.

Friday, April 15, 2005


DC, Day 1

Home, sweet home! I was positively giddy as my plane landed yesterday, happy even to see Dulles airport, the familiar shuttle back to the main terminal, the under-construction pathway to baggage check. My cab driver was a slim, quiet man who I'd guess was Indian, and we drove in silence, until about half-way home when all of a sudden he started burping. Yes, burping. It was disgusting. Thank God for my husband's iPod, which I'd borrowed and which I quickly deployed, masking the sound of burps with "The District Sleeps Alone Tonight" by the Postal Service, on repeat.

After an exuberant welcome from my dog, I grabbed his leash and took him for a leisurely walk, soaking up the gorgeous early spring evening. Standing in the dog park, watching him and other dogs scamper and wag, I felt a wave of joy wash over me - thank God I am not in a hotel in Las Vegas. Thank God for this fresh spring air, thank God for the green trees and new green grass and weeping cherry blossoms and dark pink buds on long dark branches -- thank God for all of this, and for the perfection of happy dogs. Thank God I'm home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Vegas, Day 4

Last night, on the way home from dinner, someone asked our cab driver, "so how long have you been driving a cab in Vegas?" Turned out he was 10 months away from retiring to Thailand. I found myself thinking, where will I be in 10 months?

My conference ended today. Just one more event where I need to be "on" - dinner at the Venetian, which I'm actually looking forward to seeing. I wish I had more time here to get out of the city - it pains me to be so close to the (by all reports) remarkable deser terrain and not experience it. It's amazing to me that "fiery flaming red rocks, swirling unrelieved as far as the eye can see" (as frommers.com puts it) are 20 miles away from this insane manifestation of human civilization that we call Vegas.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Vegas, Day (You Guessed It) 3

Ok, I've hit that point you hit at every conference eventually -- enough of the dawn-to-dusk routine, enough schmoozing, enough Powerpoint, enough of this hotel. Last night I tried to plan an escape, to the Double Down Saloon, as previously mentioned...which is apparently in a desolate part of town, with drink specialties like "ass juice" and posters advertising "puke insurance." None of which fazed me, because the place had a certain charm - a friendly bartender, colorfully painted walls, a relaxed air. The fact that I was unfazed seemed to faze some of my companions, who probably see me as a clean-scrubbed type who prefers Cosmopolitans at boutique hotels.

Ultimately the fact that Double Down served no food (save a snack machine stocked with Cheetos and Reeses Peanutbutter Cups) drove the group to insist we move on, and we ended up at the Bellagio, in a bar that looked like it was part of a boutique hotel (sleek leather booths, dim lights), where people drank...Cosmopolitans. We could have been anywhere in the world.

This morning I noticed that my view of faux New York includes a faux Statue of Liberty that had somehow escaped my notice up to now. At lunch they served pork chops and I just couldn't do it - the thought of eating mass-produced meat just turned my stomach - so I asked for the vegetarian option, which ended up being the mashed potatoes and side veggies served with the pork chop, just sans chop. So I ate them, and snacked on peanuts I carry with me in my bag as an emergency measure (Amanda without protein is not a pretty sight), and I longed for fresh food and fresh air, the cherry blossoms back home, my dog, my husband, all the sensations that make you feel alive, a place where things are real, not imitations of elsewhere. It will be good to go home. Just 1 more day...

Monday, April 11, 2005


Vegas, Day 2

I woke up to darkness. I parted the curtains hoping for a sunrise - instead, the glittering lights of the Monte Carlo hotel sign across the way. Since then the sun has come up on the other side of my hotel and is shining on the top half of the (faux) New York skyline and the mountains behind it, the Monte Carlo, more rooftops and buildings.
"It is 5am, and the sun has charred the other side of the earth and come back to us" - Screenwriter's Blues, Soul Coughing
Last night I went to a reception with a live band playing jazz standards. The room was packed and people stood in clumps, shouting conversations, sipping little martinis and eating hors d'oeuvres passed by waiters. This morning my voice is scratchy. I am feeling the disorientation of being at a conference - if you don't force yourself to go outside, you could spend 3 days straight in the same building, breathing the same stale air. A coworker told me every hotel in Vegas has a signature scent that it pumps in through its ventilation system to cover up the smoke and other bad odors that arise when people overeat, overdrink and never go outside. Lovely.

Well, time to get back into character, by which I mean gussy up and schmooze and talk shop until 10 or 11 tonight. I'm going to a meet-and-greet at a bar called the Double Down Saloon, so I should be able to report back with some local color...

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Vegas, Day 1

I landed in Vegas about an hour ago. The time change is already playing with my head - my laptop clock says 3:59pm, and the clock in my hotel room reads 12:59. My plan is to stay on east coast time, to avoid having to readjust later in the week; plus, if I get up at 6am local time every day, that gives me time to write before the day's mad festivities begin (the schedule for the conference I'm at goes from 7:30am to 6 or 7pm every night, and then there are evening schmooze events). The trick will be getting to bed early enough for this to work. I realize I sound like an old lady - other people my age would be more focused on exploring Vegas nightlife - but what can I say, I am who I am.

I will leave you with the view from my hotel room:
-faux New York skyline

More to come...

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Viva Las Vegas

In a book I read last year that changed my life, called The Artist's Way, the author, Julia Cameron, argues that sometimes it is by trying something we resist, or doing something we'd "never" do, that we unlock our true or best selves. A woman I know had a deathly fear of dogs, but decided she was going to try to like them, and now has a soulmate in the form of one standard poodle named Hilary. Sometimes, this same woman advised me, we can trick ourselves -- "oh," the chronically untidy can say, "I just have to have things in a certain order." The more we do this the more we find ourselves open to things that otherwise might just have passed us by.

I am reminding myself of all this since I fly to Vegas tomorrow for a conference. I've never been, but I assume it is the opposite of my ideal environment -- offensively commercial, noisy, crowded, stamping out the natural landscape. But despite all this, I know it's a place worth seeing, an experience worth having. My mom told me that my grandfather used to stay at the hotel I'll be at, so when the sights and sounds get overwhelming, I'll think of him, however many years back, eating his prime rib and soaking it all in.
The point about [Las Vegas], which both its critics and its admirers overlook, is that it's wonderful and awful simultaneously. So one loves it and detests it at the same time.
--David Spanier, Welcome to the Pleasure Dome: Inside Las Vegas
I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, April 07, 2005



Last night I started my new improv class. I left work a little late, and then was so tired I wasn't paying attention and auto-piloted toward my typical route home, forgetting to take the exit that leads to a quicker route to class. Which meant I was stuck on Constitution Avenue in bumper to bumper traffic, horns blaring, throngs of tourists streaming over the mall on my right. At least I got a glimpse at some of the cherry blossom trees in full bloom. I ended up getting to class half an hour late and moments away from a nervous breakdown - I'm exaggerating, but despite my best efforts at stress management these days, a person has her limits, and this week my job has pushed me to mine. Sitting in traffic last night, inching forward, watching the clock go from 7:05 to 7:10 to 7:15 and realizing I was still nowhere near where our class is held -- required more calm than I could possibly muster in my frazzled, exhausted state.

But then, when I got to class, I got the nicest greeting. I passed my old TA on the way in, and we chatted, and a member of WIT that I've met at a few of their shows said hello, and then I walked into my class and got this enormous, warm hello....it felt awesome. It's the connection I've mentioned before...I guess there's a unique way you bond with people when you perform with them, and even though I don't know very much about them outside of class, in class I feel so comfortable with them...I definitely feel the trust you're supposed to feel with an improv troupe.

There were some people in the class who hadn't gone through the same series of classes as the rest of us, and one woman in particular just seemed way out in left field -- that's the frustrating thing about these classes, the starting and stopping, getting into a groove with people and then needing to find that again, but I suppose I just need to be patient...

I am thinking about work, about needing to deal with crisis after crisis, projects and tasks piling up in the meantime, the backlog getting longer and longer...no amount of organizational skills can make a difference, it's sheer chaos. More and more I'm realizing that the key to a happy life isn't managing, it's adjusting.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005



I was so committed to getting back on track with daily, or almost daily, postings here, but an insane week at work has intervened. Yesterday one of my coworkers said to me, "I have never worked somewhere with so much drama." This morning, in an attempt to leave the drama far behind, I went for a walk in Rock Creek park with my husband and dog. The tulip magnolias in front of our building are in bloom, and as we walked through our neighborhood and into the park we saw trees in various stages of blossoming -- some still bare, others holding on to the dead brown leaves that have stayed with them all winter, others dotted with little green buds, and others in full bloom, covered in pink and white blossoms. I'm apparently out of shape, since this walk I used to do all the time had me huffing and puffing, but it also left me with that much-touted endorphin high - energy in every corner of my body, blood pumping, reconnected to things that really matter.

Sunday, April 03, 2005



Snapshots of my history as a writer:

--When I was in fifth grade my friend Alyssa used to come over every weekend and sit with me on the brown couch in the den and write stories about girls who had crushes on boys. Alyssa had a pin that said, "It's better to look good than to feel good." Now she writes for a fashion magazine.

--When I was in eleventh grade I took a creative writing class as my elective. The first ten minutes of every class was dedicated to writing in our journals, and my teacher, Mrs. Wilchek, said, "this ten minutes is my gift to you, ten minutes just for you." I fell in love with imagist poetry and with Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I was part of the International Baccalaureate program, which required a final paper, almost like a thesis, to be turned in during our senior year. I started a paper about the connections between imagist poet William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman, but decided to turn it into a poem. I got a score of 0 on a scale of 0-2.

--The summer after eleventh grade I got into a creative writing program at Brown University, which was my top choice for college at the time. In addition to completing a bunch of little writing assignments, I spent most of my time there focused on developing one story. On my last weekend there, in a burst of inspiration, I decided to weave my shorter assignments together into a piece that was held together by the narration of a radio DJ. I handed this in instead of my story. When I got home I got a letter in the mail informing me I wouldn't receive credit for the classes I'd taken because I'd been disrespectful, and hadn't handed in the story that my professors had helped me with; plus, I had apparently dominated classroom discussion and been adversarial. I didn't own any black clothing - my mom insisted that black washed me out - but I dressed as darkly as possible the next day at school. I didn't apply to Brown.

--In college I wrote a story about a girl who was the opposite of me. It was published in the literary magazine.

--Later in college I left school for a semester and wrote a story about a girl who left school for a semester. I named the main character Angela - a clever disguise. When I read the story now it takes me back to those feelings, to that moment in time.

--In my senior year, in a class about Chaucer and the English Mystery Plays, I got permission to write modern interpretations of the English Mystery Plays instead of handing in traditional essays.

--At my first job out of college, I wrote poetry mocking corporate speak - "let's double click on that idea."

--In my mid-20s I took a personal essay class at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The assignments got me writing like I hadn't written in years, ideas and images just flowing out of me. Excited, I signed up for advanced personal essay writing the next semester. It was the worst writing workshop I'd ever taken. The teacher and other students were on auto-pilot, comparing every piece submited to an unwritten checklist: show don't tell, check; use dialogue to tell the story whenever possible, check. That was their level of engagement. I produced some of the worst things I've ever written in that class. When they trashed something I wrote about two young Afghan women I'd recently met, I went to the bathroom and sobbed hysterically, even though I knew it was terrible. Driving home from our last meeting I pulled over and threw away my folder with everything I'd written in the class, taking great pleasure in the melodrama of the gesture.

--I enrolled in a screenwriting class. I loved the structure of the approach - so much effort to map your story out upfront, so that by the time you started writing, you could just play. I'm about halfway through the first draft of my first screenplay, and it's the most enjoyable writing project I've ever undertaken.

--Last May I started writing every day.

--Lately I've started daydreaming about freelancing.

To be continued.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?