29.4.11

Journal & Rants: "I'm Doing A Great Job!"

In this post, I discuss my own problems and the issues I have with success and failure.
A pin that reads, "I'm Doing a Great Job!".
Pin found in the back of a chest of drawers during Spring Cleaning, 2011
14th Street Union Square Station
I gave fifty cents to an accordion player. But my thoughts quickly meandered to my own problems. I am having trouble putting together a desk. I have had thoughts lately related to failure. The desk will not be put together. But should I waste that one hundred dollars I spent? I will call the desk manufacturer tomorrow to get replacement slugs.

It is annoying. I also feel that I should have asked my roommate to help me. I was frustrated when I was unable to get the damn desk built like I wanted to. But that is the way it goes.

Spending Time Watching Movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The movie is a prequel reboot of the classic film series from the 1960s. My favorite character is Caesar (played with incredible CGI aplomb by Andy Serkis), whom we see in this film — a certain generosity to humans that is shortlived. But that is my favorite scene: when Caesar helps. The rest of the movie is just pure chaos, monkey-versus-man madness.

Problems With Failure Has to Do With Problems With Success
It is counter-intuitive but I can trace the problems I have with failure to problems I have with being successful. Moments of failure become intensified for me. In one way, I am more comfortable with failure because it is a mode of being that I have allowed myself to feel as the norm; being successful (or feeling successful) is an alien feeling for me.

How do you feel about success? Does success feel real to you or are you like me in that your feelings surrounding success are often conflicted and a cause of anxiety? 

Travel Diary: Fountain Lover, 2007

Roma, Italia
Roma is a City of Fountains
Visiting Rome, I notice fountains. Lots of them. Rome is a city of fountains. Washing my face in a fountain feels refreshing. The city lends itself to wandering, to existing among its old, palatial buildings.  

It is Also a City of Squares
It is a city of squares. Of tightly winding streets that curve and turn every which way — I know because I have been lost in them. And I have gotten others lost. When you travel alone, getting lost in a city feels adventurous. Getting lost in a city with others — especially with others who expect you to know the way — is embarrassing.

It Was My Time as a Catholic Seminarian I Spent the Most Time in Rome
My mother and my first-cousin met me in Rome when I was spending the Winter there — I, along with a group of seminarians from the American College in Leuven, Belgium (where I officially was a student at the time), was staying at the North American College (near the Vatican). It is the American seminary in Rome (and at that time I was a young seminarian). We met the Pope and I spent a glorious Christmas in the Eternal City.

Getting Lost in Roma — With Others
My family was staying at a hotel on the opposite side of town from where the college is located. Since they knew I would be in town, they made travel plans to visit me. In between my duties at the seminary and so on, we met often and meandered through Rome's old, city streets. Trying to get to their hotel one evening, we were chased by Roman dogs — that was scary — and I was lost. At that time — it was 2001 — people still used paper maps to get around town. We eventually found the hotel — but for a long time we were lost, going up and down streets, as I turned the map over and over trying to get my bearings.

I am not generally good with maps — but I have learned through the years to plan a route and to follow, read, and generally be directed by signs — and with Google Maps, Apple Maps, Open Maps, and all of those nifty smartphone map apps, it is a lot easier to find one's way. 

24.4.11

floatingsheep: The Easter Bunny vs. the Fat Man

     Repost: I thought this recent infographic from floatingsheep, a website dedicated to creating cool, relevant graphs and charts based on user data from Twitter and other sources, is appropriate for the day: floatingsheep: The Easter Bunny vs. the Fat Man: "In our ongoing effort to map mythical holiday creatures, we decided to compare references to the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. The bottom line the bunny is a bust." 

     To read the map correctly, every red circle indicates that more references were made to Santa Claus in that geographical area than mentions made about the Easter Bunny. As mentioned above, the Fat Man is a clear winner.
     What do you notice? What do you wonder about this infographic? Leave a comment below.

19.4.11

That Time I Heard "Shut the F%*& Up!" Shouted on the New York City Subway

That Time I Rode the E Train Running on the F Line in Queens
     On weekends the E train runs local (which is New York City slang for saying "The train stops at every dinky stop). Usually, it's the R that's a local train. But on weekends it's the E., Of course, I know this tiny fact about the New York City Subway system. It's the only subway system in the world (that I know of) that has an express-local system. 
The reason for my travel:
Tom Baker's Doctor would definitely have interfered.
    I had to take a test for a job on a Saturday morning. The E train sidled into the station. A man with a bongo drum positioned himself at the car's farthest corner. Bom da bom da bom bom bom. The announcer came on: "Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah." No one could hear. The man with the bongo drum kept bonging: bam da bam da bom bom bom. I could make out "service change" "F line" "No stops at blah blah blah blah" "Transfer" No one could hear and everyone wanted the bongo guy to stop banging his bongo drum. The announcer came on again and everyone strained to listen to the garbled, chopped up the transmission. Bong da bong da bong bong. Finally, a robust woman in front of me exploded. "Shut the f%*& up," she said. To no one in particular. Her high decibel shrill did not deter the bongo player. "Shut the f%*& up." The bongo dude continued to bongo. The woman folded her arms and steamed. "Queens Plaza. This E train is running on the F line! I repeat this Manhattan-bound E train is running on the F line!"
That Time Robin Williams Liked My Story of Riding the E Train Running on the F Line Story at a Recent Upright Citizen Brigade Improv Show
    At the Upright Citizen Brigade, a local theater troupe in New York City that promotes live improvisational comedy for free, I had the opportunity of relating my bizarre E train weekend service change subway story to the masses -- and to Robin Williams.
photo: john shearer © wireimage.com
Robin Williams Heard My Story and Gave it His Own Spin
I told my tale of the robust woman who told the bong drum guy to "shut the f%*& up!" Robin Williams was on stage. At three different points in the show, he would indiscriminately yell out, "shut the f%*& up!" It was a moment of celeb synchronicity that made our night.

13.4.11

Travels on the IRT: 207th Street Station Postcard

207 Street Station Postcard, New York City, 2010
The IRT 207th Street Station of the New York City Subway is on what is today the 1 line, located near the University Heights Bridge. Not to be confused with the IND 207th Street Station on the A line, parallel to where I stand now. At surface level, 207th Street on the east side runs directly below the Manhattan train yard to the north. The street is unassuming. Dull, really. I wish I could be on the A line now, so I can wander through the elevations of Fort Tryon Park.

Planning to Write about the New York City Subway
     Here on the 1 line, I am convinced the neighborhood has nothing distinctive to offer that the other northern Manhattan and Bronx elevated stations of the IRT division have already offered me. I already feel like a worn-out straphanger who has grown accustomed to the repetitive re-iteration of station after station. Does technology point to an anthropology? Are we just cookie-cutter human-shaped-molds without unique attributes? One damn cut-out after another? Observing the majority of commuters on this train, it is easy to judge that not much makes us different from the other.
     I grow easily tired. I think of my friend Ecce, a freshly minted Ph.D. student, who had laughed when I had told her I was drawing inspiration from subway stations for a possible book. "What are you going to call it?" she had asked me at a bar in Greenpoint. "I don't know," I said, suddenly feeling self-conscious. She smiled. "You're definitely new here," she said. "You better write that book while you at least have some modicum of enchantment left in you." "Why is that?" I asked. "Eventually you'll get bitter and just want the damn train to arrive in the station so you can get to wherever you're going."
     I think about what she said to me as I walk to the end of the platform to get a better view of the train yards. I still find pleasure in the MTA system. I wonder if I will ever lose a fascination with iron and electricity. I hope to see a surplus train veer off from the track spur into the yard below, but I am antsy and decide not to wait. The backpack I wear is heavy. I am not in shape. The joints in my knees send a sharp pain to the pain receptors in my brain. I am sadly a normally sedentary beast. I tend to find solace in the undisturbed moments of casual book reading in a library. I write at a pinewood desk.

6.4.11

Gloss on Graduate School: Graduate Student Essential Recipe


1 bag of black-eyed bean* + water + 1 onion
(peeled) +i jalapeno. Cook till tender


add a bag of frozen collard greens

and a ham bone for seasoning


all can be had under $10, will last 
3 days of food


at least

Hot tip: substitute with a "sixteen beans" variety pack.