June 21, 2009
I donít remember noticing the summer solstice in my years in New York. Summer is summer there. Itís hot, you wear summer clothes, you crank the air conditioning in the bedroom, the weather changes at the end of September and by October itís all over, with never a thought given to the lengthening of the days, the short nights. But up here in the Northwest we feel the longest day of the year. For a few weeks now I've been aware of the sun--itís been slamming into the bedroom at 4:00 in the morning. It's been straining for its northernmost point like a dog on a leash.
On the solstice, parties break out. We pile up wood and light fires: The primal pyromania. Perhaps weíre aware of the longest day here because the time between the damp fog of Spring and the damp fog of Fall is so short. Maybe fewer buildings block our long view, or maybe the sky is closer. At this time of year, outside, at night, you'll feel the planetís silent arcing through space.
Last night I found myself sitting outside at 10:30 in the half-light, listening to music in the guttering glow of candles. Someone picked up a guitar. Harmonies drifted from the tree-shadows. The fiddler, he now steps to the road. Cedars tall and silent behind us, etched black on silver. Blessed is the light of long days.
June 19, 2009
As it turns out, I am not fun. True, I am funny sometimes, but funny is different from fun. I have this on good authority.
You canít imagine the shock this news gave to the old system. I, Natalia Ilyin-- not fun? All these years of the wry remark, the ironic glance--for naught? But there it is. I am not fun, not fun-loving and I do not inspire a carefree, sunny joie-de-vivre in others. I'm a veritable Kafka at the barbecue.
Walking home from this moment of intense realization, I bludgeoned myself for not being fun. For it's true. I'm not fun in the way other women can be fun. I do not jump up and down in delight at the drop of a hat. I do not giggle irresistibly over the cute things cats or men do. I have no desire to giggle irresistibly.
Sweet is exhausting to me. Just trying gave me under-eye circles that rival those of Ahkmatova. And as far as infectious laughter, thatís pretty much gone the way of no sleeves. My years of ecstatic clapping at the repeated performances of others are pretty much over. I am the second-act Maude Gonne without the political agenda.
Yet, thinking over my wide aquaintance, very few of the people I know seem fun-loving, with the possible exception of my business partner, whoís got enthusiasm nailed. But enthusiasm may not really be a synonym for fun-loving. Fun-loving has a ďHey letís all tumble into the convertible and go berry-pickingĒ quality about it which even Pam does not possess.
Just how fun-loving IS a really grown-up person? How breezy and light the average business-owner in the midst of a recession who spends his days working and nights mentally totalling the month's receipts against the payroll? Do most responsible people spring about, dancing small jigs of happiness, enthralling others with their cheery charm when they are dragging a bouquet of mortgages and wondering where the next big contract is going to come from?
If they do leave it at the office, have the ability to turn off the worries, really let it all go, then I think them rare and brilliant. A loosening of the old bonds is probably a healthy idea, given the price of metoprolol. Yet for me, describing a person as "fun-loving" after the age of 25 has the distinct ring of ďsomeone else is paying the rent.Ē The exception to this rule is friend Karen Irish who defies pigeon-holing and works like a dog and is truly fun-loving. But she's such an exceptional person that I hesitate even to mention her.
I vow to reliquish my somber personality. To this end, I have created my new ďget fun-loving fastĒ action plan. Iím pretty sure it's going to work for me, and I recommend it to you, should you want to be thought of as a chuckling, living-in-the-moment kind of person.
1. Avoid thinking of death first thing in the morning. Hold back on mental images of torture until after lunch. If you must know what's going on in the world, get others to read the censored NY Times headlines to you.
2. Practice a purring giggle. This may not feel comfortable at first. You may feel more comfortable with warbling sweet nothings like, ďIf you leave your wallet in the unlocked car one more time for someone to reach in and steal Iím going to knock your head off,Ē but leave it alone, let it go, and invoke the purring giggle.
3. Every time you think a negative thought, switch your bracelet to the other arm. Count how many times you switch and try to reduce daily. Use And D ointment to quell skin irritation due to bracelet-changing.
4. Learn to perform fun gags and rib-tickling.
5. Poise a pail of water over the cracked door your husband walks through after a long day, and wait for the fun to begin.
Iím hoping this shape-up plan works on me. Because being full of the zest for life is one of the great talents. After thirty, joy takes cultivation. This I have learned. Not fun. But true.
June 14, 2009
Urged on to attendance while standing in the grocery line at T and C, I showed up at Seabold Hall last night to listen to the duo Brent Grossman and Jeremy Rothbaum. The specialty here is fast, hot versions of roots and blues music standards and Rothbaum compositions. Separately, both musicians have great personal appeal and a certain throw-away irony that comes as refreshment to an island audience often clutched in the grip of Very Serious and Sensitive Folk Music. Grossman and Rothbaum are smart, funny and talented and put on a great show.
Although both musicians are multi-instrumental, in this performance Jeremy limited himself to accordion and piano, while Grossman provided a one-man rhythm section on snare-drum, with occasional bouts of fingerpicking. Wonderful take-downs and thought-through song endings gave the show crispness.
Oddly, the highpoint came in a cover of a Hank Williams song, where Rothbaum delivered a haunting, night-sky-and-stars-loneliness yodel the likes of which I have never heard in all my years of yodel-listening. Left me waiting for him to do it again. Which he finally did, even better. That's a first for me.
The duo could benefit from a refreshment of material-- they were selling a CD produced in 1992-- and a slowing of the pace on occasion. "Long Black Veil" was played at such a fast tempo that the beauty of the tune was obscured, as was the natural swing of Toussaint's "Brickyard Blues." With all that humor and irony, a sincere ballad or two would act like a spark of orange tile in a wall of blue and white mosaic. But all in all, a marvelous show. I may need that yodel as a download.
June 11, 2009
I am not the author of "Polymorphism of canonical and noncanonical gypsy sequences in different species of Drosophila melanogaster subgroup: possible evolutionary relations."
I know I seem like the type to be in there with my tweezers figuring out a fruit fly's genetic code, but sadly I am not. The genetic authorship can pretty much be attributed to one Natalia V Lyubomirskaya and one Yuriy V Ilyin. Somehow, not all web crawlers can see the difference between those two names and mine. If one more person emails me wondering about my views on whether mobile genetic elements constitute a substantial part of the eukaryotic genome I am going to go out and kick a dog.
June 8, 2009
Why doesn't Pyrex make an iced tea pitcher? How hard could it be. Big, rounded.
I do not CARE how heavy it is. If this small dream of mine were realized, one could brew large amounts of fresh morrocan mint, peppermint and lemon balm in said big pitcher and go back to the desk and not hear that inimitable ping which means the pitcher has cracked because one forgot to put a silver spoon in it.
I could just weep.
June 4, 2009
So Sources Close to the Hill tell me he is indeed gone from Microsoft and these same sources have provided blogspot info and facebook page addresses, which I had been hoping to avoid. The blogspot thing has no way to contact him, and gives the impression that the man is currently wandering around Russia wearing a kilt. It surprises me that his blog is reverse-reading type, which I thought the Starch Readership Reports reported was hard for people to read way back in something like 1962. Ironic.
But the Facebook page. Now see, that is a problem. Because there is something about Facebook that just makes my skin crawl and I hate to have to join it just to track down Bill Hill. I dislike LinkedIn too, which I got snagged into years ago, but haven't had the time to figure out how to make my darn page there just go away.
Facebook is one of those things I could easily take a stand against and then end up using out of sheer peer pressure, so I am watching my words here. I see its appeal for people in college. For people older than thirty, it just seems sad to me.
Perhaps I've been involved in computer security discussions too many times for my own good, but if a total stranger came up to you on a city street corner and asked you your birthdate and the names of closest friends and what you were currently reading and what you were currently listening to, wouldn't you be slightly repressed about answering? And yet we can't wait to put all that stuff on Facebook, where it becomes part of a huge database owned by a corporation with no moral agenda.
My real problem with Facebook is that, unliked Linked-In, which is basically a resume service and has no pretence to warmth, Facebook gives us the illusion that we have real, working relationships. It allows us to "keep up" with people without actually doing the hard work of interacting with them. With Facebook, we can avoid the back and forth of real conversation--posts are not conversation-- and thereby reduce the friction with which real communication burnishes friendship after the age of fifteen or so.
Facebook also reduces "friends" to a numbers game. Real friends? if you're lucky, you'll have three in your lifetime. To devalue the concept of friendship, to commodify it-- that's a depressing outcome of social networking. When all friends are equally important, none is important.
Facebook is attractive because it is a large, clean grid into which we can enter, a grid that makes life less complex, provides a sense of boundary, of safety, of organization, of comfort. With the population so much larger than it was even ten years ago, an organizing system for people is useful. And so much more fun than having a small number tattooed on one's forearm.
I've signed up and look! I have so many friends. I must be of value. I can sit here and create and promote a better me. I can clean up my existence and create a false-fronted representation of my life. Hey. Let's all contribute and create a huge network of false-fronted lives, lives that make us all feel of value, of importance, to ourselves if to no one else.
I can play Facebook all day long, and avoid the real work of my life, the work of becoming "single, separate, vertical and individual," as Wallace Stegner once said.
I can always avoid the work of my life in other ways, but this particular procrastination device is more attractive than my previous procrastination devices-- it's designed to change and refresh and update constantly before my eyes. It keeps me busy and happy in my chair. Facebook keeps me busy like a baby with a mobile over the crib.
Really, why spend too much time in real life where things get hard, where people make so little sense, where sadness erupts, where life can be messy and confusing? Why not just sit here and write little things and look at the pictures of all my friends and post to people from my past whom I never bothered to contact before contacting them became as easy as typing in a search? But we're in touch now, and isn't that nice? Something of a relief, feeling like we're in touch again.
Maybe I'll just sit here, honing the constructed image of my life until there's no time left for me to create a real one. It will be easier on the world. Fewer people thinking thoughts. Fewer people questioning. Fewer people rocking the boat.
But what am I saying. I'll probably end up joining.
June 3, 2009
So I am supposed to interview Bill Hill, Microsoft's readibility guru. He's a charming, brilliant guy and all that. All kinds of big deal inventions for readability on the Web. The interview is for Communication Arts, not a cheesy publication.
I've been tracking him for a month. This is funny, because he loves tracking. Big on following animal tracks behind his house. Thinks tracking is related to reading.
Wouldn't you love to know more about this mind? Yet I cannot interview a man whose office phone is disconnected, though he is very much at Microsoft, who does not respond to email, and who is probably off following cougar spoor somewhere in the mountains behind Redmond. I know guruhood is hell, but really, Bill.
It is a sad day when, after many tries at different communicatory strategies, the Microsoft receptionist says,
"You might try writing him a letter."
I said, "A letter on paper?"
And she said, "Yes. A letter. We'll try to get it to him."
Total breakdown of current web and telephonic communication viability as far as I am concerned. So much for readibility.
Bill, I know it's leafy and sunlit and everything in those mountains, but don't make me come in there.
You know I will chase you down till you drop. I do not want to have to bring you out of the bush tied to a rail borne by bearers. It's so inconvenient, and looks odd on the expense reports.