Thursday, August 30, 2007

thoughts about life, ven diagrams, and grandpa

i've recently become addicted to staying up late even when i don't want to. i've settled into an ugly routine whereby i have to surf the internet before going to bed. in some sense, this is a disaster--i spend the next day trying not to fall asleep in my office. if i go to bed at 11:30pm, i must first read sports blogs, check the other journal wiki, and creep and crawl all over the world wide web. and then after shutting my laptop and eyes, my mind stays up for another hour, wrestling with itself over this, that, and the best strategies for falling asleep.

tonight the random web surfing consisted mostly of some articles by jerry brewer about a young girl who is battling a cancer known as neuroblastoma. as i tried to sleep, the columns kept reminding me of my grandpa; yes, the same grandpa that you've been hearing from on this blog during the last month.

grandpa has been fighting cancer for more than a year now. my parents tell me that he has taken a rough turn recently; his white blood cells (those cancer fighting fellows inside the body) are fine, but he can't manage to eat or drink anything. at the moment he's tethered to a hospital IV, and we're all hoping that he can get hydrated and find an appetite. his condition is bad enough that my parents have canceled our annual labor day adventure in eastern washington so that they can be close to springfield in case his condition worsens.

in the meantime (i.e., until grandpa gets better or worse), all i can do is pray and stay up late thinking (and then writing).

although the situation may look grim, i have plenty of hope. for one thing, i'm confident that if it's nearing grandpa's time, he will be at home at his next destination. but i also have hope that he will make it through this scare.

like the little girl in brewer's seattle times articles, grandpa has been rather sick before. in fact, more than a year ago i found myself pensively considering his cancer and started to write a blog entry to express my feelings. however, my metaphors got all tangled and grandpa got better, so i abandoned the post.

at the moment the post is mostly a jumbled mess, but i don't know that i'm going to have a chance to work on it anytime soon. so i thought i'd post it in all it's confusing glory. i have inserted red asterisks to indicate random jumps in thought that you aren't expected to follow. red text indicate broken thoughts that probably won't make sense.

[another thought brought to you by the kangaroo and kiwi]

"i hope to see my friend and shake his hand. i hope the pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams; i hope..."

~andy duphrane (the shawshank redemption)

as an editor in the field of psychiatry i support brainy academics who say some pretty boring stuff. they write of affymetrix oligonucleotide microarrays and lymphocyte gene expression, alpha-synuclein immunohistochemistry and PSEN 1 mutations. in the publish-or-perish world of research, they write to stay alive. grant money is to alzheimer's disease,*

i remember edwin a. abbott as the wicked writer of '96. his one-hundred year old shadow cast a dark pallor over my mid-winter break. were locked in on seattle. his shadow first crossed my path during one of those odd weeks that seattle schools designate as vacation. districts pass out like candy. the children love february break, and my family was vacationing in mexico. we strapped a big blue camper to our backs and chugged south to yuma, arizona. there we met my snowbird grandparents. grandma and grandpa green. the sun and sand called my name. i remember grandma and grandma's rig: big burly and brown. my grandparents were explorers. they traveled off-the-beaten path before there was a beaten path. before it was popular. i'm sure there must have been some destination in mind, but the plan is lost somewhere in the dust of time. we squeezed four adults, my teenage self, and some lemon drops into the burly brown chevy beast. today my grandpa could use some of those lemon drops--the chemo has him down to a meager 145--but back then he was a burly barrel of toughness. i thought he was indestructable.* at the time, i imagined abbott, the just as william shakespeare haunted june of '01, mr. abbott weasled his way into vacation plans. my of my mid-winter break. my family and i people are obvolute circles. when our circles slop into one another we form insanely interconnected ven diagrams. take your pick of sociologists--auguste comte, georg simel, pierre bourdieu--whatever their theoretical bent, these dudes all agree that we are connected. . for instance, if you're reading this, you're probably connected to me in some way. the intensity of our connections is constantly in flux. today your circle might be big and bold at the point where it overlaps my circle. but as life passes, that circle will fade.*

sometimes we have a tendency to live this life like jugglers. we keep tossing those circles around,
fanning the flame for each of those circles. we don't let them fade. in moderation, this is probably a good thing. otherwise, all the circles will fade and we'd be left on a lonely island, a circle to ourself. conversely, this juggling act is also a failure to recognize the very nature of life. friends and family fade in and out. this is life; that's the way it is.

but sometimes circles suddenly disappear. (flashy quote from poet; talk about grandpa; that's really what i wanted to talk about.

okay, back to 2007. an explanation of this post:

i was planning to recount a story in which my family and grandpa and grandma piled into their truck and went for a drive through the desert. we nearly got stuck out in a dried-up lake bed. i can't recall what this had to do with any of my metaphors except that my aim was to talk about grandpa.

my life as a science editor is somehow related to the life of
edwin a. abbott an author, mathematician, and christian theologian. i'm not sure how we're related except that during the trip that i hoped to describe, i was forced to read abbott's flatland for my pre-calculus or geometry class. flatland is about a society of shapes (including circles), ven diagrams consist of circles, jugglers juggle circles, little tropical islands look like circles, and thus circles were my main conceit.

the end.


for an updated version of this story, see this post.

Friday, August 24, 2007

tribute to the girls of 79th

beth's house is breaking up.

after a mildly stressful rental search, mari and beth are headed east toward greenlake. they have found a beautiful new house (which i've yet to see) and fun new roommates. nora, a sometime-roommate, will be heading to california (or maybe colorado?) later this summer. and tomorrow, whitney (seen below in red socks) will be shipping her soccer skills south to california for good.

i thought i'd write a post to commemorate whitney's leaving or the disbandment of the house, but instead i'd like to share some advice from "there's a rule about dating women with a roommate....this rule is that you must also make a good impression on her roommate."

rule is general knowledge in the kingdom of men, and we don't need "the world's leading source for seducing women" to give us a head's up. still, i've heard (and seen) horror stories about guys and their girlfriends' girlfriends. for example, during the years right after college, i lived in a series of cramped, messy apartments--at one time, we squeezed three guys into a single nasty room--yet despite our ugly abodes, one of my roommates preferred to hang out with his s.o. at our place, not because it had some mystical appeal or because he loved us so much, but because of his relationship with her roommates.

in contrast, i'm a regular at beth's house on 79th; i genuinely like all of her roommates and consider them good friends.

during a recent work lunch, some friends and i chatted about dinners and executions; we pondered what we would eat for our last meal on death row--steaks & ribs, pizza & beer, exotic curries and a bottle of egon muller riesling--each listing was a more wonderful gluttony than the one before.

now, regardless of what we may think of california, it's probably a bit ridiculous (and morbid) to venture any kind of comparison between whitney's last meal as a washingtonian and the smörgåsbord of delicacies my work friends dreamed up for a final night in the joint. but forgive me, i can't resist. indeed, i find it rather interesting that we ate sadza, a simple shona food that mari imported from zimbabwe. sadza tastes great, but it's rather simple; it doesn't set the taste buds on fire or make the stomach purr, and i would be a little surprised if it were whitney's favorite food.

but sadza ignites community.

the kitchen crowds as people gather to help prepare the meal. someone grabs a great pot and dumps pound after pound of corn meal inside. the pot is large, they say, because you never make just a little sadza. and when it's ready, the main dish is a finger food, the ultimate evolution of the potluck. grubby fingers go at it, glopping the sadza in delicious tomatoey-onion sauce; everyone is united in their forklessness.***

yes, sadza is a fitting end to the era. beth, mari, nora, and whitney's decision to prepare sadza seems emblematic of their heart for community (also see this post from 2005), of their friendly openness to people like me. and this sadza approach to life worked.

indeed, it has inspired phrases that you'd see in yearbook scribblings: fun parties (which i used to consider an oxymoron), caroling, talking about guys (errrrrrr...perhaps i mean listening to talk about guys), taking trips, eating too many vegetables, performing sufjan, watching lost....

you know, is right: it pays to be friends with your girlfriend's roommates.


i was also hoping to say some words about whitney. i think we'll all miss whitney's honesty, her enthusiasm, her encouragement, her funny mannerisms, and her devotion to her friends, and we know she'll settle in well down in cali.

(the links are to other posts about whitney and to other posts with whitney pictures).

the s.o. "soccer skillz" seattle, wa. [PS these are very, very closely cropped pictures; thus the poor quality]

***well, almost everyone. as much as i love this metaphor, there are those that choose to wield silverware, and they don't spoil the community by doing so. some may think them stubborn or contentious, but really they're just adding their personal flare to the event.****

****in case you couldn't tell, i eat sadza with a spoon.

please comment if you h
ave other thoughts or yearbook-like comments on the girls of 79th or whitney.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

grandpa and the country school

by the way, i'm curious whether anyone has follow-up questions for any of these segments. if you do, please share your question in the comments section.

and now, here it is:

v. the little country school

personally, i'd like a few scene-setting details, puzzle pieces that don't really matter but help tell the story. i'm left wondering little things like: did the teachers use chalkboards? did grampa--i just realized that i tend to say either "gran-pa" (with a silent
d) or "grampa," yet i spell it much differently; maybe i'll start alternating the spelling here--ever have to stay after class writing things like "i will not chew gum in class. i will not chew gum in class. i will not chew gum in class. i will not chew gum in class. i will not--" on the chalkboard? did they have gum back then or did they obnoxiously chew other things instead? grannpa says that they often gave outsiders a tough time, what about teachers? does he remember having a crush on a teacher? did he ever bring a teacher an apple? were there apple trees on the farm?

Monday, August 20, 2007

good advice

i don't give advice much, but when i do it's really good:

at about 2:12am, i set down my laptop, walked from my bed to the stairs, and shouted to the roommate, "want some advice?"

he paused his dwarf-town-building video game long enough to grunt.

"when you start your new job next week, don't go get two more."

okay, now that i've almost finished
the other journal submisson page, i'm going to bed.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

movies to see and grandfathers to hear

if it seems like the blog has been resurrected, it hasn't. once i finish posting these audio files, i'm sure things will quiet down again.

beth was out of town this weekend, so i stuck around the house and worked on this blog,
imageupdate (i.e., i started and finished annie dillard's new novel, the maytrees, which i'll be writing about soon), and the other journal. i also played some soccer with the roommate and went to church at bethany. still, after two-and-a-half days (and counting) without beth around, i got rather bored. generally, i'm able to relieve boredom by reading novels (e.g., the maytrees) and mariners blogs, but despite the m's recent winning streak, blogs are relatively quiet over the weekend. so i did the next best thing (besides watching movies): ate cereal and watched movie previews.

here's my list of new movies with potential:

charlie bartlett - comedy (about a brilliant kid causing problems at school + dys***)
get smart - comedy (the preview is hilarious)
lars and the real girl - comedy (lars has a life-size doll as a s.o.; his family tries to make do)
margot at the wedding - drama (dys; from the makers of that squid and the whale movie;
michael clayton - action/drama (i just expect clooney movies to be good)
no country for old men - action/drama (violent; based on the novel by cormac mccarthy)
rocket science - comedy (about a stuttering kid on his debate team)
the darjeeling limited - comedy (three odd brothers travel india together; typical wes anderson)
the simpsons movie - comedy (the roommate says it's funny)

here's my list of new movies with less potential:

2 days in paris - romantic comedy (like meet the parents but in france and with ex-boyfriends instead of parents)
dan in real life - romantic comedy (an advice columnist falls in love with his brother's girlfriend)
death at a funeral - comedy (dys)
death sentence - action/drama (kevin bacon's son is murdered; he tries to get revenge; and then the revenged try to get revenge with kevin bacon)
dedication - romantic comedy (a neurotic writer falls in love with a pretty illustrator)
feast of love - romantic comedy (it looks funny even though, from what i can tell, it's a movie about affairs)
gone baby gone - action/mystery (ben affleck directed a movie...and it looks okay!)
hannah takes the stairs - romantic comedy (another movie about love triangles)
hunt party - action/drama - (about journalism in bosnia)
ira and abby - romantic comedy (an odd couple marries after one date, have problems, and fall in love)
into the wild - nature drama (based on jon krakauer's book about a twenty-some who wandered off into the alaskan wilderness)
no end in sight - documentary (about how the war strategy in iraq is messed up)
rendition - action/drama (about a woman whose husband is being held in a prison outside the US instead of being formally charged)
the exiled - action (an asian action flick)

*** dys = about dysfunctional families

there's a surprising number of comedies on this list--hmmmm...i don't usually like comedies....

and here's the latest clip from my interview with grandpa:
iv. a few dollars, some eggs, and a nasty recorder

Saturday, August 18, 2007

updated ratings and chapter 3 of the grandpa interview

after a great deal of thought (several months, in fact), i've finally rated some more books and films.

14.gilead.marilynne robinson ! - as the links (i.e., this link and the link within the next page which sends readers outside the blog) suggest,
gilead may initially require an effort--it may seem slow at first--but the narrator is so likeable and so authentic that after a few pages you'll want to know what this thoughtful, well-meaning old codger says next. it's a great book for reading around the fire.

11.the great divorce.cs lewis - only the first third of this link is relevant, but it describes my sense of the book:
the great divorce is an interesting allegory, but for a novel it ends rather poorly. to quote from the back page: "crazy goose. an interesting vision of heaven and hell and the lessons we may learn there."

11.harry potter & the 1/2-blood prince.jk rowling - yes, i read the final two harry potter books. as the creative writing editor for a culture and faith magazine (the other journal), i thought i should at least be familiar with the books behind the harry potter hysteria. the roommate and his family love harry potter, so i borrowed his books. i found them entertaining yet formulaic. the link is to a wikipedia article that briefly summarizes some of the critical responses to potter. the wikipedia article also suggests that potter is increasing literacy, but this article in the washington post offers an interesting counterpoint.

10.harry potter & the deathly hallows.jk rowling - see hp & the 1/2 bp.

10.cities of the plain.cormac mccarthy - i found this, the third novel in mccarthy's
border trilogy, to be predictable and considerably less engaging than its predecessors. the link is to a german site, and i'd direct you more particularly to the review "Don't like it? Have it your own ignorant way," which takes my ambivalence for the third novel and tosses it to the heavens, building a strong case that cities of the plains is a fitting end for this magnificent trilogy. thus, despite rating this book a 10, i think that i'd still give the series a 15 or 16.

09.flags of our fathers - too many characters - director clint eastwood had a chance to make this story great, but i found myself lost in a sea of characters, and (with the exception of one scene) i had trouble buying into their onscreen camaraderie. thus, the movie seemed to drag on at times. i've heard that
letters from iwo jima is the better of eastwood's two WWII films.

08.fearless - martial arts movie - there's nothing blatantly wrong with
fearless, so i could probably be convinced to increase my rating of the film. in the meantime, i found that the relationships, emotion, and drama of the film were unconvincing (and thus an 8). however, they were markedly better than the jackie chan films i've seen. the fighting choreography seemed cool, but i have absolutely no sense of how cool. the link is to jet li's wikipedia page, primarily because although fearless is set nearly 100 years ago, it appears to be somewhat autobiographical.

and now a longer segment from my interview with grandpa where he describes his father as responsible and discusses the relationship between farming, logging, and the great depression:
iii. livin' on farms, workin' on wood

Thursday, August 16, 2007

a new job! and chapter 2 of the grandpa interview

hooray! the roommate gets to become a cube-rat again (i.e., a cubicle dweller). after a month of applications and interviews, he landed a job with a computery company in pioneer square. whoohooo!

and now, since allison was so demanding, i'll continue with the next segment of my interview with grandpa:
ii. grandpa's dad the technophile

helpful links that may clarify today's audio file:
something like grandpa's route to church
the only car in the neighborhood

andrew david. "hello from caracol" caracol, belize.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

1. GRANDPA That memorable day, the parents, and the sibs

a few weeks ago i bought a digital voice recorder so that i could interview my grandfather. to those who wonder why, i don't have an easy answer. like many $65 life decisions, the seeds for this interview cannot be attributed to a specific circumstance or thought, but rather a strange blend of the two. here are some of the many reasons i asked Grandpa if he'd grant me an interview:

1. veronica mars. in this since-canceled TV show, the protagonist, a high schooler by the name of veronica mars, wanders from episode to episode solving crimes. beth loves veronica mars. she wants to be veronica mars. and every true veronica mars-wanna' be needs the proper equipment to solve her crimes (e.g., a digital voice recorder). and any good boyfriend would do whatever was in his power to fulfill his girl's dreams (e.g., loan her his digital voice recorder so she can solve crimes). moreover, this isn't the first time beth considered a side-life as a PI--apparently she and mari once formed a club to solve mysteries. as far as i know, they haven't uncovered much, but perhaps with the help of my voice recorder....

2. curiosity. in case you haven't noticed, i like to ask people questions. my roommate likes to attribute this trait to my time as an interviewer at northwest research group. my question lust may also be a kind of avoidance technique. that is, while most people love to talk about themselves, i get uncomfortable. thus, my question asking makes everyone more happy. still, i really do think i'm genuinely curious. i like to punch through the shallow and follow conversation threads wherever they may lead. i've often lamented to my mom that i don't live closer to my grandparents so that i could buy them coffee and pester them with questions.

3. ignorance. one day, several months ago, i realized that i didn't know much about my grandparents' past. i've heard a few stories, but i don't have a good picture of who they were before they became grandpa (green), grandma (green), and grandma (david). that just doesn't seem right.

4. gilead and loss. i recently finished marilynne robinson's pulitzer prize winning novel gilead. it's a fictional collection of letters from a dying pastor to his young son. the pastor uses the letters to pass on stories, wisdom, and history that the boy won't grasp until he's older. gilead is at times slow, at times funny, and nearly always poignant.*** and now that i'm older, it got me thinking: "grandpa is sick these days. i don't know God's timing, and i don't know how many opportunities i'll have to learn about his past." and really, my interview (he said yes) wasn't an interview in the strictest sense of the word. it was more of a conversation. it was quality time.

5. history. some protestants think that truth and faith are confined to the words in the bible. i'm right up there with luther, shouting "sola gratia! sola fide! sola scriptura! solus christus! soli deo gloria!" but i also don't think it's right to dismiss the past. our interpretations of the bible are shaped by centuries of tradition, theology, and culture. and like it or not, without this history, the nuts and bolts of our faith would look strikingly different. moreover, there is something amazing about attending a compline service at st. mark's and realizing that i join a long line of Christ's followers, all saying these words, praising this God, staring up through these ancient stone pillars, all looking for the hand of God.

i believe that family provides a similar sense of connection. science says that we are a product of our genes and our environment. in other words, we are our family. and even were i to abandon this post, dash downtown, jump into the aquarium, proclaim myself a fish, and live my life in denial, i believe that some part of my family's tradition, belief, and personality would be embedded in that silly skull of mine. i think this is especially true in the green family. there are 50+ of us, and it is incredible to see how grandpa and grandma green's influence has shaped each generation. somehow, i think it's important to understand and reclaim this connection.

6. the desert remembers my name: on family and writing. in tdrmn, a book i skimmed for imageupdate, kathleen alcala travels across the continent to trace her grandmother's history. she searches dusty libraries, drives forgotten dirt roads, and interviews complete strangers. all i had to do was drive 300 miles.

7. writing. perhaps someday i discover that i'm a writer. on that day i might be happy to have collected information about grandpa's past. maybe it could be the seed of a memoir or novel. i doubt it, but you never know.

8. recording history as it happens. beth works as the mfa coordinator for SPU's MFA in creative writing. although this keeps her rather busy, sometimes she's lucky enough to participate in amazing classroom discussions of faith and writing. when she returns home from these conversations, she often regrets that some of the words and ideas were forever lost. now, with the help of my handy-dandy digital voice recorder, such discussions can be preserved.

well, that may seem like an exhaustive list, but i know that i'm missing one or two important reasons. oh, well. to some degree, my motives are irrelevant. as you can probably tell, grandpa agreed to be interviewed. because of his sickness, grandpa initially warned me that i should keep the interview short, so if my questions seem stumbly, that's partially because i didn't formally prepare anything.

in the end we had a nice long chat (nearly two hours!). depending upon the response i get on this blog, i'll try to serially post the entire interview.

and now, here is the first segment, in which grandpa and i get some of the facts out of the way:
1. GRANDPA That memorable day, the parents, and the sibs

oh, and don't worry, i won't talk quite so much in future posts. i promise!

***elsewhere i say this: "
gilead may initially require an effort--it may seem slow at first--but the narrator is so likeable and so authentic that after a few pages you'll want to know what this thoughtful, well-meaning old codger says next. it's a great book for reading around the fire."