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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Driverless

In Non-fiction, Writing on August 12, 2012 at 11 pm

Google test drove its robotic car 140,000 miles—at least 1,000 of them autonomously—on California highways before we found out. I say we but really I mean they, as in the government who, no doubt, will one day decide whether robots are allowed to wait in line at the DMV alongside humans or not.

The government got a clue after a reporter inquired about the top-secret project and Google fessed up. Google then hired a lobbyist to nudge Nevada into becoming the first state to allow autonomous vehicles onto its roads. For their likely* law-breaking treks in California no punishment did they receive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Post Script

In Non-fiction, Writing on August 12, 2012 at 11 pm

He’s still in the box he came in, sitting on the same shelf we sat him on days after his death. Always an unceremonious bunch, the idea of spreading his ashes seemed stilted, yet chucking his last remains seemed, even for us, too flippant. So on the shelf he went, among the few souvenirs, keepsakes and mementos that evidence my family’s time in yesterdays.

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Love Story

In Love, Non-fiction, Writing on February 13, 2011 at 12 am

A lady in a nursing facility passed away recently. Her name was Janet. She’d lived there for eight years and for the entire eight was in a complete vegetative state. She was one of the few residents of the nursing facility that visitors felt uncomfortable looking at.

It was the look on her face that did it. Janet’s mouth was always half-open and in her eyes was terror, pure terror.

She lived mostly paralyzed with exception to her hands, which were aways shaking. She often held those shaking hands up near her face. This shaking, in proximity to her terrified eyes, made it appear as though she believed she was being attacked and was fearfully defending herself. It is a terrible thing, the face of someone who is being attacked from within. 

When visitors to the nursing facility saw her they looked away and would think that life can be cruel, to leave some of us so ravaged yet alive, unable to rest in peace.

Table Therapy

In Food, Non-fiction, Writing on February 6, 2011 at 1 am

Extraordinarily full and fully contented, we sat before two empty plates, two empty wine glasses, one small bowl lined with congealed butter, and one large bowl containing the shell remains of our Dungeness crab dinner.

Satisfaction is generally inherent in eating and the quality of the meal is often reciprocal to the level of satisfaction: the better the dish, the deeper the satisfaction. But this meal went beyond mere lip-licking fulfillment. The joy it provided was not confined to the belly; our smiles were not simply lingered tastes on the gums and teeth, coaxing the cheeks upward. Though aided by the convergence of good weather, good tastes and good company, the crab—rather, the process of cooking and eating it piece by piece—stirred in us a large happiness.

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Loose Stiffs

In Non-fiction, Writing on February 6, 2011 at 1 am

They gave us all similarly marketable skills and a lesser number of jobs requiring those skills and in the resulting donnybrook those with wild confidence and bravado won out.

In the selling of self, color me the shy eyed hooker, losing the John to a multiplicity of brave catcalls and kissy faces.

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Later I Awoke

In Non-fiction, Writing on February 6, 2011 at 12 am

The odds were favorable. Still, a gun to the head is a gun to the head.

The gun was removed from its holster quickly. The man, as he put it against my head, explained, “This gun holds one-hundred bullets. It is loaded with only three.” He spoke with a casual confidence about my favorable odds.

But at that moment the odds didn’t matter at all: I was terrified of that gun. It was holding bullets and the trigger would be pulled.

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Something

In Parenting, Writing on September 12, 2010 at 9 am

He appeared suddenly. I took a startled, strong breath and with it went everything that I’d been and the next brought with it awe and wonderment and the deepest love I’d ever felt. It was an instant feeling and it overtook me entirely.

Before my son was born they told me, “You’ll be a different person;” “I can’t explain it, you’ll see.”

Now that he’s here, I think that, though you are different, you’re only different insofar as every event you’ve consciously or subconsciously assigned value to is reshuffled and revalued. Every last one.

To pick one at random: That summer’s night in the car, above speed limits under streetlights; light and dark swapping places through the windshield on our faces; music up, windows down; two friends seeing different versions of the same uncertain future, smelling the same scent of a distant and dissipating youth.

It remains—all of it does—but less. And since, up-until-now, that comprehensive catalogue of events and their respective values are the only reference points connecting you to the world, well, you can see how a swift jolting of those values changes your understanding of yourself.

Now that he’s here, I know that you can’t explain it insofar as descriptions of things of any nature, let alone his nature, are intractable. I’m reminded of two poems by Robert Hass that describe this difficulty well. One poem is titled The Problem With Describing Color, the other, The Problem With Describing Trees.

In Color Hass explores different incarnations of the color red, from the rouge of a nipple, to the deep red blood off fresh cut skin. He does this in such a way that highlights the incompleteness of mere “red.” There is, by the act that elicited the color, a feeling of red. A sexual red. A violent red. Which description of red reflects not just what you’ve seen, but what you’ve felt?

In Trees Hass explores the reality of a tree’s actions, like the fluttering of leaves in summer as a defense against its cells drying out, to show that “tree” doesn’t reflect the type, size or anything at all about the tree itself, outside of being a tree. Maybe tree is all imagination requires. Maybe, as the poem says, there are limits in language of saying what the tree did. The poem closes: “Mountains, sky, An aspen doing something in the wind.”

Something.

I cradled him, he looked at me and I was completely filled with something.

So that’s, I think, what I’ll tell the others when they arrive. I’ll say that you’ll be different but you’ll remain, all. You’ll be filled with something.

The colorful capriciousness of fall still captivates me, each tree’s new hue pulling at my same old pieces.

Music still coaxes my voice to join and it eagerly leaps from my gut with such force that tickles my throat, making my insides laugh.

Words too, the way they line up and the men who lead them there. Different lines of words now do different things; the repeating “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as my living, My baby you’ll be” jotted over fifteen short pages slowly retrieves that aging bucket from my endless well and the tears appear when the mother fulfills her lifelong promise before closing her eyes for always.

I cried again last night thinking of all the somethings we’ve had and the ones we may yet have. I cried knowing all somethings one day end.

She held me and we cried together. I told her I didn’t want our somethings to end. She agreed. We climbed into bed, which felt as it has many times before, like always warm and safe, but with each changing moment, something new.


The Problem With Describing Trees
Robert Hass

The aspen glitters in the wind.
And that delights us.
The leaf flutters, turning,
Because that motion in the heat of August
Protects its cells from drying out. Likewise the leaf
Of the cottonwood.
The gene pool threw up a wobbly stem
And the tree danced. No.
The tree capitalized.
No. There are limits to saying,
In language, what the tree did.
It is good sometimes for poetry to disenchant us.
Dance with me, dancer. Oh, I will.
Mountains, sky,
The aspens doing something in the wind.

THE PROBLEM OF DESCRIBING COLOR
Robert Hass

If I said – remembering in summer,
The cardinal’s sudden smudge of red
In the bare gray winter woods –

If I said, red ribbon on the cocked straw hat
Of the girl with pooched-out lips
Dangling a wiry lapdog
In the painting by Renoir –

If I said fire, if I said blood welling from a cut –

Or flecks of poppy in the tar-grass scented summer air
On a wind-struck hillside outside Fano –

If I said, her one red earring tugging at her silky lobe,

If she tells fortunes with a deck of falling leaves
Until it comes out right –

Rouged nipple, mouth –

(How could you not love a woman
Who cheats at Tarot?)

Red, I said. Sudden, red.

Away We Go

In Parenting, Writing on September 1, 2010 at 9 am

If one pulled their stare from the captivating promise of the green preview screen to the theater’s newest entrants, they surely would notice the bump on her midsection. This bump and my open protective hand, bracketing her gentle sway—a gesture full of earnest care but empty as a safety measure—would lead this preview-missing movie-goer to conclude that our expecting circumstance was our reason for attending this particular flick.

They’d be correct.

Away We Go is the story of an expectant couple searching for a place to start their lives as parents. Starting your life as parents is daunting, maybe not for everyone, for us, though, it is very.

The difficulty stems from the new importance of your every decision. The ability of plastic clips to perform their designed task requires MIT-like research. Transposing human needs onto a newborn means new, previously unheard of, products. They poop how frequently, into what, and at what cost? They wear what, how, when, and at what cost? They sleep in this, rest in that, lay in the other thing, and at what cost? Price tags play a major role in this act. Air and milk are abundant and free, but I guess the fresh-faced require a good deal more than that these days.

That human birth has occurred successfully for a hundred-thousand years, that every current one of the human billions had to slide a uterine and cervical path, most delivered using only the rusted tool of instinctual know-how (though know-how alone won’t clean up that mess) does little to assuage your fears. The dread certainty of future uncertainty is implacable.

Nothing you read can answer the most important and persistent question: Are we going to be able to give him all he needs at every turn? The question can’t be answered. We know not what turns will come and, thusly, can’t know his needs, or ours, at them.

Away We Go doesn’t mention any of these difficulties. Instead it focuses on the couple’s relationship and the baby’s effect on it. We with pea in pod recognize all the subtle promissory glances, the assurance of soft touch. We know her uncomfortable rustling, his uncomfortable affirmations of her beauty. When he promises that he’ll love her, even if her vagina goes AWOL in a pile of postpartum pudge, we laugh, part at the promise, part that we’ve made and not meant that same promise too.

The movie, also to its benefit, doesn’t explore the psyche of the characters. They aren’t searching for themselves; they’re searching for a place to be themselves. The movie goer just watches them try a few different places out.

How many of us are searching for what or who we are? We, cut of self-assured and reassured cloth, don’t search for who we are because we already know. And what we know about ourselves is often only infinitesimally affected by what we experience from day-to-day. Over time the dots that connect that day-to-day do influence our self-awareness but they mostly serve as simple place markers. We were there, now we are here. When the dots serve as personal direction, when they alter your course so hugely that the broader picture of who you think you are is forever changed, they do so not because you were searching for them but because they dropped out of nowhere and onto your noggin.

My son will be a big dot. The biggest yet. I’d like to write about it, about being a Dad. Not chronicling the day-to-day, but what the days do to change my understanding of myself, of love, of mankind. I don’t expect even a modest readership to my fatherhood journal. Reading, or watching, another’s life unfold in an average way is only mildly entertaining, at best. During Away We Go you never lose yourself in their story. While watching what was meant to be an affecting scene I thought, longingly: In the theater next to us a house is turning into a robot and blowing shit up.

At present, however—given the flutter of foot seen on the skin below her navel—the time for blowing shit up has passed. It is indeed time to put away such childish things; but where will it all go and how much does the place it goes cost?