Saturday, May 29, 2010

30 Days Project

This June I'll be participating in the 30 Days Project. Create something new every day, for 30 days. I suspect it was first set up with visual and audio artists in mind: sculpture, painting, music, etc. Art forms that have a relatively high barrier to entry.

Not writing.¹

It was added later, a sort of nod to us lesser creative types. Which, I suppose I should qualify. There's just so many of us, that, on average, our quality has to be lesser, only stands to reason. You can't throw in 6,291 blogs about Iron Man & Hulk slash fic with the odd brilliant pieces and hope to come out with a positive whole number on an arbitrary scale of quality.

So, feeling like a bit of an imposter and in intruder, I'll attempt to write at least 500 words of fiction a day. About what theme, I'm not sure. Maybe just a smattering of different things.

This is a fair warning (and perhaps another bit of pressure upon myself to not abandon it), that the next 30 days in June will be FICTION FICTION FICTION!! A writing genre I was doing with utmost earnestness, but, sadly, with not a small variation of quality. More misses than hits, in retrospect, which likely lead to my sputtering stop.

So, if you don't like my fiction bits, maybe wait until July to tune in.

You've been warned.

¹(Anyone who has a keyboard and is filled with the delusion that people will read their writing voluntarily can, and invariably, will write. First it was Geocities, then mySpace, then that all got pulled into thing called 'blogs' because 'personal website' was a bit too much to remember, then twitter. If there's a platform, and a theoretical readership, there will be people who'll call themselves scribes or wordsmith or some other tiresome phrase and hack away. I am, sadly, one of those people. )

Sunday, May 23, 2010


We went and saw old friends for a small picnic at Stanley Park. Cold cuts, muffins, cookies, the awkward pause as you try and ascertain whether you're doing the 'brought enough for everyone let's all share' or the 'brought just enough for me and my own, thank-you-very-much' type of picnic.

It was slightly chilly, enough to warrant a wind-breaker, and strong enough that any attempt to cover up one's pudge with baggy garments was sure to be thwarted. Stupid low pressure systems.

We had Molly, a baby and a toddler, and they a little one (1 ish). There were also two playgrounds and a beach to explore. When one has small children, doubly so if one is visiting friends who also has small children, you don't so much 'visit' as you tag team trying to supervise them, all the while attempting some form of small-talk and catch up. I might have exchanged all of 10 words with my old college buddy that was not related to immediate childcare.

It's an experience going to a play ground with a toddler. It becomes this communal parenting situation as you watch other parent's styles, how uptight they are, or lax. Eventually some sort of acceptable average is followed: somewhere between 'put them in a safety bubble of high impact styrofoam' and 'hand them a loaded 9mm with the safety off and trust their judgement'.

It becomes this constant evaluation of risk/reward. Do we risk them breaking an arm to reward them with a little bit of confidence? If they are too shy, do we push them into some 'acceptable' level of risk taking, with the possibility that we topple them into 'heart-explodingly recklessness'? If they are fearless, do we warn them to slow down, again with the possibility that we might make them the sort of overly-cautious person who becomes a 3rd level library clerk for life in charge of the Typing Pool's social committee of which they are the only member?

Luckily I subscribed more to the nature than to the nurture side of child rearing. Barring a really tragic upbringing I'm not going to scar and damage Owlet for life. Hopefully. My rule of thumb is, if the possible injury won't break skin or break a bone, go for it. This, I think, is reasonable. We have friends who subscribe to the 'if the spinal damage isnt' permanent, let er rip' school, and I'm sure we have friends (who would never admit it) who subscribe to the 'injuries only happen to wards of the state' school.

But a public playground is an interesting normalizing influence. Subconsciously or not, parents try to toe the average level of care/freedom. There are those that don't, myopic folks who invariably are getting their visiting rights for the week and haven't the foggiest clue how much they can or cannot let their child do. And there are the 'rugged individualist' parents, almost always dads, who let their 2 year old run full speed through the Striking Zone of the big kid's swings.

Sure, it ends up being slightly dangerous for the poor children, but it's great for the parents, who get to feel like they're doing a good job, and at least gave me something to say to my college buddy other than, 'Oh Christ, are you gonna go get her or should I?'.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I have a deathly phobia of needles. Not pointwork or gramophones, but the kind you jab into your arm or thigh. This among other things -- lack of work ethic, not enough free time, self-body image not as damaged as need be-- have kept me from professional body building. Zoroastra help me if I ever get adult-onset diabetes. I tend to get the shakes and start to squirm like The Dude in The Big Lebowski when a ferret was thrown into his bubble-bath.

I recall having my wisdom teeth extracted under general anesthetic. The oral surgeon walked in, all freshly tanned from his likely month-long vacation in some place tropical, expensive, and littered with Sands resorts (it's a sobering thought that the cultures of umpteen number of Melanesian and Micronesian nations are kept afloat by overfed Americans, heat-stroked stupefied and blazing sunburnt, watching disinterestedly to a thousand year old dance while devouring some endangered tropical fish that tastes 'just like chicken').

He had the sort of professional ease and casual boredom that comes from folks who do one or two things repetitively, for vast sums of money. Obviously someone who'd seen quite a few extracted wisdom teeth.

So they get the needles ready, and I start to shake, only a bit, I thought. But at some point the surgeon says, with not negligible amount of alarm in his voice 'easy, easy'. There's a current of panic there, like he just remembered he left his tazer in his six-figure sports sedan (complete with a set of keys attached to a logo keychain that'd make Flavor Flav do a double take). It's then that I realized that my phobia of needles was, er, exceptional?

Several months ago I went to get flu shots with the family.

That is, all in a small examining room, all taking shots.

It's a burden for those of us less self-possessed; for those of us more harried and continuously aware of our shortcomings, that children, specifically, your children, learn by what you do, not by what you say. Many of your actions, likely the ones you least like, will manifest themselves in your brood. I mean, many will not too, and there will be innumerable things that they do that come from the ether, or from their genes, or from Elmo.

But you have to control for the things you bestow them. Fear of needles, terror of doctors, or the innoble memory of their father losing his shit were not things I wanted to bestow to them. Not if I could help it, which, let's face it, I wasn't sure that I could.

So I dug deep, as the sports cliche goes, clenched the jaw, went into the fray. I volunteered to be first, bared the arm, and looked straight ahead. I took the shots. They didn't seem to hurt as much, inner turmoil and the looming spectre of parent failure, I assume, dulls the pain.

So I'd like to say that my fear of needles has been overcome. But it'd be far more accurate to say that my fear of needles can be sufficiently repressed given enough pressure.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Interior Dialogue of My Children & Dog

Owl Jr.
Upon seeing the door open to the laundry room, a room which he is STRICTLY barred from. Stops whatever he's doing in the family room, rushes over, totters inside.
"Oh hey, what sort of parties are going on here."

Upon seeing the dog food and water lowered.
"Although I've been told not to splash in the water and play with the dog food multiple times, the ban has surely been lifted."

Molly (the dog)

Upon seeing her food lowered.
"I've been famished for HOURS, what sort of wonderment do we have here for my gastronomical pleasure, a small fillet of sole, perhaps? A rare porterhouse? Perhaps a... Oh. Oh.. Uh. Did you know you have dog food in there?"
Slowly turns around and walks away.

Greeting you after you've left for more than 30 seconds.

"Sweet mercy how I've MISSED you, Where have you been, what trials and tribulations have kept you away!? Life isn'' worth THINKING about without you around.
After about 20 seconds of that.
"Oh god, you're STILL here?"

When watching TV.
"There is no other entity on the planet but you oh TV, tell me your bidding."

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


I had the day off, so I went to the aquarium with Owlet.

The aquarium -- like any large institution that happens to have a death-grip on some of your fonder childhood memories -- skirts around very serious issues and manages to be viewed, by different people and at different times, to be something between Dachau and a historical site commemorating a local battle and the signing of an important document (that, among other things, ensures that the making moonshine whiskey with Idaho potatoes between the hours of 3am and 7pm for people of non-Irish descent to be completely illegal and subject to fine of four cents or the family's 3 largest hens).

In this case the issue is animal captivity. Particularly animals a bit higher on the evolutionary tree (I've yet to see a protest over the forced imprisonment of a small, relatively unsightly pelagic mollusc). Vertebrate, good, mammal, even better. I'm not one to argue against that, however; in an ideal world we wouldn't have Flipper inside a tank of water barely large enough to pass as an underfunded public pool. I mean, I saw Star Trek IV, for crying out loud.

I tend to be on the other side of the debate, though, and not only because I have small children and trying to find activities that one of you don't find brain stabbingly boring is between nil and whatever the probability is that Boss Hogg will get the Duke boys. It's simply, or so I tell myself, that those indelible memories of youth, that seemingly universal attachment to wildlife that pervades Western culture and I'm sure is responsible for 99% of all conservation efforts, is tempered and cast in titanium when a child visits a zoo/wildlife sanctuary/aquarium.

They are evil, in their own way, but the good they do. I'm not sure you're going to get that with anything else, I don't care how high-def your edition of Planet Earth is.

So we went there and we saw frogs, sharks, tortoises, the largest freshwater fish in the world, otters, belugas, dolphins.... and well, with a 3-year-old, that goes by pretty fast. They aren't there for the spiel or to even read the invariably sparse plaque. They go, are amazed, wonder-struck, bored, then fidget. All in the span of about 5 seconds. They are the fruit flies of novelty.

Owlet also asked questions, nothing mind-blowing, I think one of them had me answering, 'the other one died', which she took in stride. Toddlers, or the ones I've met, seem to take the whole death thing in stride pretty well, I'm not sure when the horror and panic sets in about it. Most of questions she asked were mundane or nonsensical or something she answered herself with logic that defied examination or physics.

But it wasn't her questions that really stuck in my mind that day. We were watching the belugas, and a hosh posh overly-fit mother of some adorable children were making a day of it, it seemed, with snacks and a picnic blanket. One of the kids said something, and the mother replied, 'You shouldn't be asking that question, some questions just shouldn't be asked.'. And I thought, that's either the making of a bow-tie wearing, Invisible Hand worshipping, GOP stalwart or the hippiest scientist bum ever.