28 January 2008

Open Letter to My Landlord

Dear Landlord,

First of all, I don't really know who you are. The superintendent seems to do all the actual work around here. (Incidentally, I know he is the superintendent because he is missing several teeth. This seems to be one of the common characteristics of New York supers.) Identify yourself, please.

Second, while I appreciate that you didn't raise our rent (much) for our second year of life in your fine establishment, I do think it's kind of skeezy that you allow us to pay said inflated rent by fax. Who uses a fax anymore? (Incidentally, the way this works is that he just copies my bank account number from the bottom of the check and deposits that much money in his coffers. My BANK ACCOUNT NUMBER which is so prominently displayed on the bottom of each check I write. Watch me never pay for anything by check again, ever.)

Thirdly, the stairway and hall in my apartment building is being repainted. While this is an overall improvement, I would like to register the following complaints:

  1. The pervading fumes have given me a constant headache for the past few days, as well as made me a leetle crazy. I cannot be held responsible for my actions. I also have enough candles burning in an attempt to mask the odor that you could probably see my apartment from space. This is most certainly a fire hazard.

  2. Some dumb crumbbum keeps taping the "Wet Paint" sign right onto the wet paint! WTF! I have peeled it off and moved it elsewhere several times, but it seems that I am the only one in the whole ship to have common sense, or care.

  3. I understand that the work is not yet finished, but the painters previously had to scrape a whole buncha crap off the walls prior to painting. Now the stairs are full of (likely lead-based) paint chips and dust, which get tracked into my apartment each time someone comes in. Swiffer pads are expensive, dude. Shouldn't the paint guys vacuum?

And finally, I have a confession. I like to peek through the open doors of other tenants if I pass by at the right moment. A few weeks ago I noticed that New Girl downstairs had bright pink walls! Why does she get non-institutional wallage and we don't?

Respectfully submitted,

14 January 2008

Cultural Reintegration

Over there on the right, down a little, a leetle more, there you go, is a new element that I cleverly called "Cultural Reintegration," continuing the whole culture shock metaphor. It's a list of movies I've seen in 2008 (although since I can't remember exactly when I saw three of the four listed there, it may be more aptly described as movies I've seen in 2008 and maybe a little back into December 2007, but definitely not so far as November.

I realized I have poor short-term memory a long time ago, probably around the time when I was trying desperately to memorize dance routines and just couldn't keep one step in my head before moving on to the next step. The same phenomenon showed up in college, when I swear I read a book but couldn't tell you a thing about it. Ditto for movies. And for pretty much anything that required me to retain information. This might be why I didn't do so hot in grad school.

So as a memory jog, I'm going to keep a tally of the movies I saw in 2008. Movies in cinemas only, please, no rentals/illegal downloads that we watch at home. Those may feature on another list somewhere. Perhaps this will help me remember the general plot arc more than a week later, or make me a little less pathetic in the Kevin Bacon Game. (Truly pathetic. I think I can possibly name one film that Mr. Bacon himself was in.)*

If I get even more ambitious, I might write a review. Although I really hate when bloggers do that. I really don't care about your opinions. So maybe I won't. Unless I decide to.

Yes, that will be all for today.

*He was in Apollo 13, right? Ooh, and Footloose! Two!

11 January 2008

Six Words

For the moment, this post is just a placeholder of a link I saw: the Guardian's Six Word Stories challenge. I'm going to try to come up with a few, just not while I'm at work. (Hi, boss!)


Okay, back now. In the meantime, I've found a lot more examples. Check out Caterina, Wired, or Flickr for stories (and accompanying photos). Here are some I've come up with.

Apartment squeaky clean. Page still blank.

You’re 26. Comic books for birthday?

Guitar in corner, strings all broken.

Finger un-ringed, she’s curled up crying.

As she sobs…he sleeps on couch.

She welcomes pain of cramps, thankfully.

Fan finally arrives, broken, in October.

In-laws come, go, we survived. Barely.

Too hungry to cook. Take-out again?

“Good morning, love.” “Who are you?”

Asleep; it costs too much to eat.

“I only lie when it’s important.”

I want to be anywhere but here.

Most people who have tried this exercise say it's easier to write the sad ones; I agree. The trick is getting the six words to tell an entire story, beginning, middle and end. It's too easy to write a simple description, or to write what could be the first sentence of a book.

And before you ask, some of them are true, some are true but embellished, and some are entirely imagined. Which? I leave that up to you.

02 January 2008

The Return

The holiday festivemaking has been made, and no one could think of any good reason not to go back to work, and so back to work we went today. I don't think you could find a more dejected-looking group of privilieged Westerners than myself and my subway mates as we clanked our way across the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan today. I even forewent coffee in order to wallow in my more perfect misery. That, and the line was too long.

Anyhow, I was greeted with the Kenyan electoral crisis. We think we have a problem with the Democratic candidates who can't keep straight what side of the fence they're on and the Republicans who, if you added all their ages together, would be able to remember when Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible was banned and mail service began in Denmark, to name a few events of that year.

No, Kenya's electoral crisis is verily a crisis. The incumbent just somehow managed to squeak out 230 000 more votes than the opposition, who was running significantly ahead in all the pre-election polls. And just somehow, the body overseeing the election can't get their hands on the original stack of ballots, before someone just managed to alter 300 000 of them in the incumbent's favor. Now, understandably, people are mad. What do Kenyans do when they're mad? The same thing that Southerners do: go out and shoot somebody.

Well, it's not quite that simple. But the long and the short of it is, there's major violence and unrest in Kenya, and my students were supposed to have arrived there today. They are not. We've delayed their arrival until things settle down, or transferred them to other locations, as they wish.

Our onsite coordinator says things are already settling down, which is in contradiction to every media story I've read so far. But today, more than anything, what has struck me is a passage I remember from John Gunther's Death Be Not Proud: that the media generally reports on anything out of the ordinary. Rather than brood on the destruction and despair in the news, we should instead rejoice that our society still considers death of human beings an anomaly. It's when death becomes so banal that it is not reported in the media that we should become worried.

And we must calmly go about our business, with the thoughts of the Kenyan families in our heads, the ones that traveled great distances to vote, only to see their election stolen and their children burnt in church. I can't believe that this is the same country that I dreamed of visiting only a few months ago.