Monday, November 14, 2011

Andrew's Housewarming Open House, Party, & Coffeehouse

What/When/Where: Drop in between 2ish and midnight for some fun at Andrew, Jon, and Pete's new house (see schedule below)

Who: You, your friends, and people you like

Why: To celebrate new abodes, hang out with friends, eat good food, crown a foosball champion, and have our minds blown by art and laughter.

Schedule: Scroll down!

Frequently Asked Questions: here!

2:00 p.m. on, Part I, the Open House:
Drop by to hang out, tour the house, play foosball, help design the future rec-room, watch some football on the fifty-five-inch telly, and if the weather cooperates, stand around a fire pit.

6:00 p.m. on, Part II, the Party:
And now the official festivities begin--continue the merriment of the two o’clock hour (e.g., house tour, foosball, fire), but with food and drinks and awkward standing around talking to people! Andrew will make a TBD meal, and everyone can bring food and drinks to share. Sometime between six o’clock and coffeehouse, there will be at least one round of Andrew’s favorite game: Eat Poop You Cat!

(6:45 foosball tourney begins!)

~8:00 p.m. on, Part III, the Coffeehouse:
Coffeehouse! If you’ve never been to coffeehouse, imagine yourself drinking a hot beverage (like coffee) in a house—would you come to a party where the main event was drinking coffee in a house? If not, imagine that house filled with people you like, and then imagine those people doing funny, cool, profound things. Coffeehouse is like an informal, relaxed open mic: bring something strange, awkward, amazing, philosophical, horrible, profound, or hilarious to share. It can be something you’ve written or read—a passage from a novel, a poem, a scrap of foreign garbage. It can be a piece of music (we have a piano!). It could be a painting, a joke, a magic trick, a memory, or a monologue from Freaks and Geeks. Anything!

After the party:
If you're coming from out of town or need a place to crash after such intense partying, we'll divvy up the spare beds and couches so you can spend the night.

Frequently Asked Questions (about Andrew's Housewarming Open House, Party, & Coffeehouse)

Because every party needs a FAQ.

What kind of crazy person plans a three-stage party that starts at two o’clock in the afternoon and doesn’t end until the next day? When do you really want me to show up? When is fashionably late for a party like this?

The schedule was Andrew’s idea. He’s the crazy one.

The original thought for the three-stage party was that some people might want to help christen the house but wouldn’t be free during the evening, that some people might want to bring their kids, who must hibernate in the evening, and that some people might despise the idea of sharing good literature, clever music, and funny antics and would prefer an event that combined food and conversation but avoided the oddities of open mike.

As for when to show up, the first-stage (Part I, the Open House) is intended to be a casual-drop-in-whenever-you-feel-like-it-and-then-hang-out-until-you-feel-like-leaving-or-just-stay-until-the-party-gets-going period. For everything else, check out the tentative schedule and arrive when you feel like arriving. But don’t blame us if that means you miss foosball or Eat Poop You Cat or coffeehouse.

All I want to do is play foosball. When should I show up?

We’re hoping to make an official bracket of everyone participating in the tourney at 6:45, but if people show up at other times in the day for foosball madness, we can have auxiliary tournaments, or you can just kick the ball around at your leisure. Make sure to stretch good, though, whatever you do…

You mentioned food and/or drink, what should I bring?

Something you like. Something that’s tasty.

Um, does coffeehouse take place at your house or at an actual coffeehouse?

Our house. Coffeehouse is just the name of Part III of the event. And we stole the event (and name) from Greta, who has hosted coffeehouse for several years now.

Will there be coffee at coffeehouse?

None of the residents at 5802 4th Ave NW are particularly good at making specialty coffee creations, so this would be up to you...

Am I required to bring something to share at coffeehouse? I’m feeling a little nervous about this…

Nope. But it’ll be informal and relaxed, so we’re hoping you’ll bring something. And we’re hoping you won’t feel nervous. After all, if everyone is freaked out about participating, there will be no coffeehouse!

I’m still confused about what I should share at coffeehouse. Help!

I think the original description pretty much covers it—you can bring anything that is in someway illuminating or entertaining or strange. Here’s what Andrew has shared at past coffeehouse (or Thomas Parker Society) gatherings:

• An odd paragraph from the novel Tinkers about how our lives our futile, painful things, but that at least we have them, and for that we should praise God.
• A piano cover of “Army” by Ben Folds Five in which Andrew was so nervous it took him a full minute to start the song.
• A scene from a play Andrew wrote about people on Facebook who don’t like Cormac McCarthy, the author of Blood Meridian, The Road, The Border Trilogy, and other amazing works of fiction.
• A short story from Justin Taylor’s collection Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever about relationships, God, and playing Tetris during the apocalypse.

I can’t wait for coffeehouse! I’m so excited! I have like a dozen things to share, including a thirty-minute reading from Leviticus. Is that OK?

Probably not. If twenty people bring twenty things to share, everyone will be spending the night. And if five people bring thirty-minute readings from ancient genealogies, we’ll all fall asleep right where we sit. Thus, try to keep your contributions to a minimum, though we might be able to accommodate multiple contributions in different genres (e.g., an interpretive dance and an oboe solo).

What if it snows?

We can build snowfolk and sing Christmas carols around the fire pit! Although, if it’s really cold we may want to ditch the fire pit idea and just stay in the house. In any case, if it snows, you’re welcome to stay the night at my house. Or there’s plenty of flat street parking, so you don’t need to be concerned with getting caught on some horrible, icy hill.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

looking for a housemate; $650 Phinney/Ballard


I'm looking for another male housemate in a 4-BR house in Phinfreard--just east of Ballard, northwest of Fremont, at the foot of Phinney Ridge. I'm biased but I think it's a cool house and a fun place to live (note that the images in this post are of the staging furniture from before the house was sold; my furniture is uglier). The room is available as of today!

I like lists and am mildly obsessed with making exhaustive ones whenever I'm up against any kind of a tough decision, so here's a list of traits about the housing sitch, not that the decision to live here should be tough:

GEOGRAPHY (58th and 4th Ave NW)
-There is plenty of street parking.
-It's on a quiet street (4th Ave NW) but a block from a speedy, not-so-trafficky, minor north-south arterial (3rd Ave NW) with easy access to hwy 99, Fremont, Ballard, or Phinney Ridge.
-There are nearby bus connections to downtown (on 8th) or UW (on Market).
-And it's a leisurely walk to pizza/bar/coffee on Market and 6th, pizza/pubs/crepes/coffee on 65th and 5th, and basketball courts on 56th and 4th.

THE INTERIOR: THE ROOM FOR RENT (see the floor plan here)
-It's located on the main floor.
-There are two windows (one to the backyard, the other looking over 58th Ave).
-Its coolest trait is probably the built-in bookcases.
-The room includes access to its own bathroom (full), though because the bathroom is on the main floor, house guests may use it as well

-The kitchen includes a dishwasher, gas stove/oven, microwave, and refrigerator.
-There's a little dining room that's currently inhabited by a table and four chairs.
-The living room has windows with partial views of the Olympics, and, once I find a good deal on Craig's List, a gas fireplace.
-There's also a piano in the living room, so if you play the piano or like to jam on some other instrument, this could be an awesome place for you, but if the thought of someone playing the same Flaming Lips, Ben Folds Five, The National, Rise Up Singing, or Michael W. Smith songs over and over again makes you queasy, strike this house from your list.

THE INTERIOR: THE BASEMENT FLOOR (see floor plan here)
-There is another bedroom in the basement. This room is scheduled to be rented to a thirty-something high school teacher who attends Bethany.
-Laundry room! Hooray for doing laundry!
-There's also an unfinished basement that I'm hoping to finish this winter, converting it from a cold, concrete storage area to a cozy hang-out space with a nice TV, comfy couch, foosball table, and exciting ping pong action.

-There are two bedrooms upstairs, one that I live in and another that doubles as an office and a guest room. The guest room would occasionally be available for your out-of-town visitors.

-That's me! I just purchased the house this summer.
-I'm an easygoing fellow who likes to discuss books, watch movies, take hikes, play soccer (I started a co-ed team a few years ago with some other Bethany members) and basketball, eat panang curry and sugar cereal, and hang out with friends. I also like to provide way too many details on mundane things like posts about housing openings.
-I envision this house as a place where our friends feel welcome to swing by and hang out, but where we also can find the quiet we may need to think/study/work/sleep. To that end, I like to have friends over but I don't particularly like to throw huge, raging parties. I'm hoping for a housemate with a similarish perspective.
-I'm an editor for the UW Department of Psychiatry and for a journal of theology and culture called The Other Journal ( I also do some freelance editing projects here and there.

-I'd like to find a housemate who is laid-back, reliable, and fun to live with, as well as:
--similarish in age (twenty-or-thirty-something)
--nonsmoker (though the occasional front porch pipe is certainly OK)
--not a heavy drinker (but a lover of good beer/wine is totally cool)
--no drugs
--a Christian
-I recently participated in a community meal setup where each participant cooked a meal one day a week and then received a meal three other days that week. I don't expect my housemates to share in such a crazy food pursuit, but I would like to have house meals at least once every few weeks

-First and last month's rent and a $500 damage deposit; if necessary, last month's rent and the damage deposit can be made in payments over the first few months
-Utilities are split between the residents (including me)
-No pets

Sunday, June 05, 2011

drawings and questions concerning my house

last week i negotiated my way into owning half a house. it was my dad's idea, and so he will own the other half, perhaps the unfinished-basement half.

this probably means i am an adult or that i am insane or at least that i will soon be broke. i don't get the keys, though, until late june. in the meantime, i'm pondering my impending house ownership by recreating from memory and pictures the layout of the house. i suppose i hope that by getting it down on paper, i might better envision how the new digs will fit together with my life.

feel free to take a gander and let me know if you have thoughts about the questions posed below. these questions may also feature prominently in my upcoming though not necessarily for real Come Visit My Empty House and Vote on Where to Put Stuff, What to Charge for Rent, and the Hows and Whys of Other Important Adult Decisions party.

here are some drawings:

notes: the vertical rectangle in the living room is a fireplace. all squiggly lines are windows. also, i will be living in one room of this house (presumably the master bedroom on the second floor) and renting out two rooms. bedroom a will be one of the rooms that i hope to rent out.

1. where should the piano go? i imagine it would go flush against the stairs wall in the first-floor living room.

2. how should i arrange the living room? i currently own between 1 to 3 couches (1 brown not-so-comfortable couch; 1 ugly, green, comfortable love seat; and 1 ugly, green, huge, comfortable couch that probably won't fit in this room) and 2 fabric rocking chairs that i bought for $5 each at a garage sale.

3. where should the TV go? in the living room or in some other room? (see the other floors before answering.)

4. what should i charge the tenant staying in bedroom a? they will have their own bathroom (the only "full" bathroom in the house), but visitors to the house will most likely use this bathroom.

notes: the master bedroom (bedroom c) probably isn't really that big, but whatever it's size, it might be big enough to throw a bed in one corner and a couch in the other, and i very well might do that.

5. bedroom b is one of the bedrooms that i may rent. i will either rent this room or use it as (1) a common area, perhaps for a TV and couch and desk, or something like that; or (2) another room for only me, with, perhaps, a TV and couch and desk, or something like that. if i rent it, i will have to share a bathroom (which i've done my entire rent-paying life) and figure out a system of dealing with the two doors. if i don't rent it i will rent bedroom d in the basement floor. what should i do (see 7 below)?

6. if i rent bedroom b, how much should i charge the tenant?

note: i feel like i should say something here. um, this floor is one-third unfinished and two-thirds mostly finished.

7. if i do not rent out bedroom b (on the second floor), i will rent out bedroom d and the sitting room. some people have pointed out that although it's on the basement level (undesirable) it has it's own entrance and it's own bathroom (desirable). if i do not rent this room, i will use it for the same purpose described in question 5. what should i do?

8. if i rent bedroom d, what should i charge that tentant?

9. should i rent bedroom a (main floor) and then let the next tenant decide whether he prefers bedroom b or bedroom d, or should i decide ahead of time which room i want to rent?

10. in addition to whatever junk people store in basements, i would like to set up my ping pong table in the area labeled "slightly finished basement"; this ping pong table has, sadly, been unused for several years, sitting in shrinkwrap in oregon city, hoping silently that i will one day rescue it from its disuse. and in the area labeled "very unfinished and dark basement," i would like to add my foosball table. also, earlier i mentioned a long, ugly couch--perhaps i might put that couch here too. would the fulfillment of these desires will make bedroom d less ideal for a renter? 

11. what else should i ask you?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

in defense of stowing a kindle in one's pocket during an excursion in the jungle, or andrew reveals his insatiable need to respond seriously to facebook comments made in jest

i broke another kindle. my third. this time i was hanging from a jungle vine, and the kindle, which was in the pocket of my brown cargo shorts, must have been crunched between my thigh and the wooden railing beside me.

i posted something to this effect on facebook, lamenting my sudden lack of books for the remainder of my trip--one week in new zealand and more than a day's worth of airline time and sitting in airports, ack! what am i to do? my friends were, understandably, incredulous--how did i manage to so easily destroy yet another kindle? why was I bringing my kindle into the rainforest in the first place? why use a kindle at all? 

and as usual, i couldn’t help but overreact:

before arriving in the rain forest, that lively universe that was the site of my latest kindle’s demise, i first had to take several other types of transportation. i knew from other similar excursions around cairns, that these legs of the journey could involve a lot of staring into space, which i'd rather fill with something more entertaining and constructive, like reading.

as it turned out, i spent much of the travel time playing "i spy with my little eye" with some aussies from melbourne and a man from jamaica. but upon arrival in kurunda, i did relax for awhile in a shady park, reading on my kindle and--pay attention here, you e-reader cynics, this is one place where the kindle, if it didn't have a pansy screen, beats out a pocket-size paperback--finding illusory literary community with friends back home: that is, using the kindle's wireless function, i was able to share some passages from a short story collection I'd been reading with my bazillion closest friends on facebook.

now, no one commented on those quotes or my reflections on those quotes (just as I don't tend to comment on other people's quotes), so perhaps whatever community i felt by posting them was false, and perhaps whatever community is achieved through an online social networking site like facebook, even if it is with real people who you know and love, is already false, but this felt like some step toward not being stranded in my own head, a thousand-plus miles from friends and people who like to talk about books.

i should end there. that sounds about as close to profound as i can get when unnecessarily blathering on about a stupid broken device. that's the true ending. but i also want to mention these two logistical points: (1) the sharing of those quotes on facebook was free, whereas to share them with my iphone, which wasn't on me at the time, would have entailed an international phone service charge; and (2) i'm pretty certain that any other electronic device that i own--my iphone, my (work's) macbook air, my nikon camera--would have survived the bump just fine; these kindles have excellent customer service but their screens are less durable than the spindly stick of a candy cane after it’s been sucked down to a needle-sharp tip, which is to say that, apparently, you can’t take them anywhere.

and i have no idea what candy canes have to do with kindles or rainforests.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part V

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion, part II, wherein andrew recites shampoo instructions and says strange things about death scenes, part III, wherein andrew reviews the film phoebe's wonderland, and part IV, wherein andrew confesses to nudity and happiness

if at this moment you burst through my bedroom door, took four steps, and sat yourself down on the foot of my bed--sorry, there's no chair in my room--and attempted to have a normal conversation with me, things would start off a little strange. i'd be shocked at your incorrigibility, barging in unannounced like that, and curious about how you managed to break through our locked front door so quietly. i might jump up in protest or surprise, which would be awkward for both of us and disastrous for my laptop. after settling back down under my covers, i might be happy for the company on this godforsaken, sleepless morning but nervous about the odd relational dynamic, given the presumable difference in our state of dress. 

however, if we somehow managed to bypass these rational responses of incredulity, if, perhaps, i were accustomed to you crashing through my bedroom door on random mornings at six o'clock, i think you would come away from our normal conversation with a sense that i revealed a normal amount of information about myself. even if our conversation meandered into more personal matters, it's unlikely you would later think, "wow, i can't believe he told me that." 

in fact, given my proclivity for question asking or my general sense that other people prefer talking about themselves to hearing me talk about myself (and the fact that i'm often perfectly happy with this arrangement), you might later think, "gee, i told andrew all about my personal life, and he hardly said a thing about himself--what a private fellow."

then you might absentmindedly pull out your iphone and open the facebook app to my online profile--you know you're always doing that. you'd scroll down through some literary links and funny youtube clips, past some obscure status updates that you couldn't decipher, and then arrive at a note from this blog series or a status update that seemed particularly revelatory.  

and then what? would you think the material andrew was too closed off? would you think the virtual andrew was too open? would you think these two shades of my self were inconsistent? 

i think i'm going to leave it there, in this hypothetical, questiony space. i'm not going to attempt an amazing last-minute web of connections between the various posts in this series. i had trouble sleeping and thought some thoughts--that's the plot.

and the conclusion? there isn't much of one. i know there's a lot i don't know--how to sleep, what it's like to have tourette's, or how to balance intimacy, art, and revelation. and more particularly to the theme of this post, should i value and enact openness or privacy? or should i see the two characteristics riding a seesaw of context that sometimes tips one way and then the other?

i do not know.


PS incidentally, i'm only speaking of openness or revelation in the context of my life and my issues. i feel very strongly that the lives and issues of my friends and family are their business, and i actually think i'm pretty adept at not sharing about their lives or issues. just ask my roommate.

Friday, February 18, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part IV

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion, part II, wherein andrew recites shampoo instructions and says strange things about death scenes, and part III, wherein andrew reviews the film phoebe's wonderland

i fish for my alarm clock. it's wedged between the bed and the wall, and i have to be careful not to pull too hard or the finicky plug will fall from the socket and i will lose the time. 

the red digits read five fifty-seven. 

if i fall asleep now, i'll have nearly three hours before i have to wake up for church, three hours before brendan arrives, knocking mercilessly at my door. i set the clock on my bed and listen to the wind on my windows. i try to tease out the sounds, to match them with their visual counterparts. 

the sounds get the best of me and i abandon the pursuit of sleep and all its nonsensical histrionics. i roll my naked body out of the warm bed and scamper quietly to the living room where i fetch my laptop. i start composing this post in my brain even as i pad back to my room. i wonder whether i'll mention queequeg's teeth or the ridiculous image of me creeping past my roommate's door, a covert mission made absurd by my lack of appropriate creeping attire. 

i wonder, now typing, whether that's too much, whether i should say that. i wonder who will read it and what they will think. i wonder where one draws the line between propriety and personal revelation, between art and confession. i think of anne sexton and robert lowell and the confessional poets, even john donne, the pastor-poet, all saying things straight, not shying from talk of the body or the everyday.

i think of my friend who, as an adult, pooped her pants and then, with a smile and an uncontrollable laugh, proceeded to tell all the world. i think of my ex-girlfriend who penned a brilliant, socially conscious personal essay on race that she never published because it was tangentially about her cousin.

i stop writing, my finger poised over the delete key. will it somehow hurt my reputation or disgust my friends to say that i am naked now, to construct no barrier between the truth and the page? will it reveal too much to nakedly confess that in september of 2010 my every thought spiraled back in a cloud of longing and sadness to my ex-girlfriend but that now, more than a year after we began a slow descent into separation, i am finally happy and content in my single skin?

to be continued one last time . . .

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

if i were to review this film: phoebe's wonderland; or meditations on a sleepless morn, part III

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion, and part II, wherein andrew recites shampoo instructions and says strange things about death scenes

for most of us, sleeping is a daily ritual that we don't bother thinking much about. we only give it attention when we're having difficulty doing what should come naturally, and then we go to absurd lengths to hasten its onset. for example, i sometimes lie in bed obsessing over the repetition of bizarre behaviors or imposing strange rules upon myself, all in a self-consciously irrational attempt to jump-start the REM sleep cycle.

but what about those people for whom such absurdities are an everyday reality? what about people for whom my dreaded hours on the border of that illusive sleep continent are a never-ending part of life, even in the daylight? 

i've had friends with mildish cases of obsessive compulsive disorder, and though i've tried to be sympathetic, it's hard to understand their inability to distance themselves from certain repetitive behaviors, and harder still to imagine how troubling those inabilities might feel to the people with the disorder. it's much easier to laugh. and so in a twisted way, i'm thankful for not sleeping, for getting a glimpse at how it might feel to contend with the arbitrary force of repetition. 

and i'm thankful for the film phoebe's wonderland, which takes a young girl with tourette's syndrome (a condition that's related to OCD but seems rather more serious) as its protagonist. the film has its issues--some of the non-tourette's characters seem over the top and the film gets off to a slowish start--but the actress's portrayal of a girl with tourette's and the family's complicated response to her condition are affecting and real.

to be continued . . .


rating: 11/17

Monday, February 14, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part II

continued from part I, wherein andrew compares not sleeping to digestion 

rinse lather repeat.

this is the magic formula i find myself chanting at daybreak. i'm saying the words earnestly, as if they mean something, as if there is a power to their rhythm. i speak them into my pillow, mouthing the words with silent urgency, believing hopelessly that when said in succession, they possess certain hitherto unknown sleep-inducing properties.

rinse lather repeat, i say, rinse lather repeat.

these words are my deathbed confession. no, they are my whispered communique in that first scene where friends and family cup their hands to my mouth and lean in to drink the honeycomb words of a dying old man, but from our sticky seats in the cineplex, we can see that there is more to those empty puffs than epilogue and benediction. we can see the beads of sweat on the old man's brow, the sudden dilation of the eye. and we know that a clue has been lost, that the dying man intends to convey some truth to break the spell of a tragedy that is now sure to continue. we know that people may die and that the protagonist will require at least an hour to sort things out and save the world. 

don't you think one of us should have pity and tell the protagonist? we could slip into that secret room with the film canisters and projectors and spare him the agony of lost love ones, lost time, and lost sleep. the old man says, rinse lather repeat, we'd tell him, rinse lather repeat.

but god is in the theater. perhaps he wrote the script. and so i'm praying that he knows the words, that he can take my cosmetic cosmology, my nonsense phraseology, and spin the story just right. he can transform my desperate compunction to say these words into a sort of worship. and then, in his great mercy, he can bring down the curtain and i can get some sleep.

rinse lather repeat, and make it soon, lord jesus.

to be continued . . .

Saturday, February 12, 2011

meditations on a sleepless morn, part I

it's four fifty in the morning and i'm thinking about what television show episodes might work well to read through in a group of friends and amateur thespians--deadwood, full house, the a-team, seinfeld, the care bears, south park? i'm thinking about life's riddle of boy-meeting-girl and the whirligig revolving doors of relationships that i see around me. i'm thinking about queequeg and the curious act of filing one's teeth to sharp, needle-like points.*

it's five o'clock and i'm wishing i were asleep, trying to sleep, desperately attempting to convince my brain to turn off the lights and shut-in for the night. it's five past five, and my mind seizes on some strange dream-logic for finding sleep: if i breathe slower, sleep will come. if i breathe slower but move this hand from my thigh to beneath my head, where it's not so hot, not so buried in covers, sleep will come. but only if i roll over first. if i imagine myself gently patting the head of a duck seven times, sighing peaceably, and then repeat the scene in my head ad infinitum, sleep will come.

i think then about the word repeat, an inelegant slamming of syllables that seems to carry the weight of its meaning in the prefix. there's no poetry to the word, no reason to fashion an ode after the movement from re to peat. my attention to this word is as meaningless and arbitrary and useless as the ritual of the duck. 

but the word gets caught in my craw, which i imagine as my mouth, as a great gaping space of teeth and tongue and red tissue where ideas bang about, where the trick is to bite down hard at just the right moment and to stop the idea, to sever its head from its body and to snap its larynx so that it can't persist in its cruel quacking hum. the trick is to kill it dead. but the word is caught in my craw, not my mouth, and i remember that one's craw is one's stomach and that the stomach is a squirrelly nest of intestines, which, if you unravel and lay out upon the carpet and linoleum of your home, may stretch from your bed to the refrigerator and back again, just enough distance to snag a late-night snack, a pre-dawn beer, but in the body that distance is all snug up on itself, all bunched together so that what takes a moment to walk can take a lifetime to digest--a lifetime of strange body chemicals and duodenal juice, a lifetime of night.

the word, the idea behind the word, is caught there, and i can't get it out. i need an antacid or a surgeon. i need an exorcist. 

i try to think of a bible verse with the word repeat, a holy phrase that i could say as a sort of bedtime mass, a way to force god's merciful hand through the steady repetition of repetition itself. if i say the right words at the right time, i think, i will receive grace. i cannot believe otherwise. sleep has become for me a works-based faith.

to be continued...


*queequeg is the harpooner who ishmael sleeps with in the opening chapters of herman melville's moby-dick

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

on getting naked and turning thirty-one

excerpted in full from the invite to my thirty-first birthday party:

Hey, friends!

So as you may know, last year I turned thirty. I wasn't very excited about the event because, well, I'm generally not someone who likes to make a big deal about myself, even for the big birthday milestones that commemorate the passing of decades. And this propensity to avoid the limelight was compounded by an unsettled sense of worry, frustration, and sadness over the state of my relationship with my then-girlfriend. Also, my knees were randomly starting to act up. In short, I wasn't looking forward to the way my thirtieth year seemed to be shaping up, and so I skimped wherever I could on the birthday celebrations.

Perhaps I was prescient, because I'm still not a fan of my thirtieth year--things got worse with the now-ex-girlfriend, my teeth started falling apart (coincidentally, perhaps, on a trip to see her), and I spent my spring existence as an editing robot, not a human being. 

But that year is nearly over, and I'm excited now to put it all behind me. I've started 2011 trying to make something of a fresh start by trying all kinds of new things--contra dancing, running regularly with friends, participating in community meals four times a week, reading via audio book during my commute (first up, moby dick!), returning to the blogosphere, folk jamming, pondering big thoughts in a philosophy colloquium, just to name a few. 

And I'd  like my birthday to be a continuation of that process. And so, for my thirty-first birthday, I'm planning something that's sure to be new, fun, and exciting: a naked party! I'm not sure where yet--my roommate won't let me hold the party at our house--but save the date for the evening of Saturday, February 5, and get ready to have the second-most fun you've ever had with no clothes on!


PS Let me know if you have any ideas for naked games...

ok, so i'm not really having a naked party, and if someone were having a naked party, i'd probably stay far, far away. the naked-party motif is something of an inside joke crossed with an andrewesque sociological thought experiment--you know important hypothetical questions like which of my friends would and would not come to a naked party and under what scenarios would they come or not come? how would their behavior change compared to at a non-naked party? how would their behavior change over the course of the party? would a naked party have lasting effects on people's relationships? would it challenge people's views concerning their bodies and sexualities and the shape of the world? 

but i really am glad to be turning thirty-one, to be exploring all kinds fun, new things, and to have you, my clothed friends and family, around me in this new year of new things. and so, for this year at least, i'm happy for arbitrary days on the calendar when we can note the passage of time, heed the weather forecasts of groundhogs, and celebrate the blessings God has granted us, both for our pasts and our futures. 

happy birthday me!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

on running, boredom, and survival

jamie, mari, andrew, and nora at the 2011 resolution run 5k & polar bear dive
i recently told my friend nora that running was boring. when i said this, i was surrounded by runners. in fact, i myself was running. there was some serious irony dashing about.*

we were threading our way through a pack of new year's day marathoners, racing toward a chilly finish--a plunge in lake washington. the sun was shining bright, but the temp never broached the freezing mark, and so runners would periodically wave their arms in the air and cry, "ice! ice! ice!" as a warning to the surging crowd behind. there were even doughnuts. 

but i didn't mean that i was bored at that moment or even in that race. the brilliant sunshine, the excited banter of our running cadre, and the anticipation of our impending polar bearization all added up to a fine level of happy engagement. i simply meant that the motion of foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, look left, breath, foot, look right, foot, breath, look left, foot, breath, look forward, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, lift shirt to brow, foot, wipe brow, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, breath, foot, foot, spit, foot, big breath, foot, foot is dull.**

yet it turned out that the 5k was fun, but not because the running was fun; not because i found a head-foot groove where the world slipped away and there was just me and the motion, just me and some kind of meditative trance; not because i rejoiced in the burning of calories or the achievement of a new personal best. the running that day (and in the days since) was not boring in the same way that this blog entry may not be boring. because if you got this far, you probably know me; when you read this, you can probably hear my voice or imagine me making the wacky facial expressions i inherited from my dad--the arching eye brow, the wrinkled forehead--and so it's not that you're reading a well-crafted thought piece or an explosive, jaw-dropping page-turner (this is, after all, about running), it's that we are connected.

and if i am to run, i need connection. i need something outside the self and the path and my feet. i need ice patches and obstacles. i need the promise of a mind-bending dip in the lake. if i am to run, if i am to press on, if i am to run this race where it takes me, then i need my friends and i need my family. i need you running beside me.***


here's a youtube clip of me playing alexi murdoch's "orange sky," which expresses a similar sentiment to the one i concluded with in this post--i even adjust the final lyric to make it more personal--though murdoch sings of brothers and sisters "standing by," not running beside:


* i went to a philosophy colloquium today and perhaps i should have asked our prof about irony. it's a word that, despite my english major roots, i hesitate to use. in fact, when i come upon questionable uses of the word irony in my editing career, i tend to avoid correcting writers, instead opting for something more wishy-washy like, "please confirm that this usage of irony matches your personal understanding of the word. for more reference, see the oatmeal." yet in this blog entry i use it with abandon, even combining it with a bad pun.

** the dull sentence of a thousand nouns is inspired by an essay from lorrie moore's collection birds of america, in which moore has two consecutive pages of the word "ha." i read somewhere that moore used well over one thousand has.

*** this wasn't just an excuse to write a lame, heartwarming metaphor about life being like running or to highlight my stellar ability to adapt two-chord pop songs to the piano. i've actually been running several times a week since that new year's eve marathon, and as the post suggests, i'm running with friends. surprisingly, running and chatting with friends who run at a similar pace is quite the opposite of boring.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

if i were discussing this film: the american

do you sometimes have trouble sleeping? do you wish the travel channel had more programs with no talking and more sex with prostitutes? do you have a soft spot for facile love stories and senseless plots? 

if yes, i highly recommend the film the american

i fought the urge to sleep all movie long because i really believed it was headed somewhere. big mistake. i forgot about the men who stare at goats and leatherheads. i figured, this is george clooney. he only appears in good flicks. 

one of the marks of an excellent film is the ability to get in viewers' heads, to make them question their own lives and beliefs and actions. a truly great film will challenge your view of the world and the self. and i suppose i have to give some credit here--

watching the american made me question my own qualities as a friend. how could i inflict this film on anyone i cared about? or even worse, given that the primary purpose of this film was clearly to serve as a tonic for insomnia, how could i behave as i did halfway through the film when i noticed my friends' eye lids droop, when i noticed him finding the great blessing of sleep? indeed, how selfish of me to deprive him of that nap, to nudge him, even gently, awake. misery loves company.

but there are some cool shots of street-lamp-lit italian mountain villas. and the prostitute-love interest is attractive and naked, if you like that kind of thing in your films. there's also an inexplicable friendship between the ever-silent clooney and a platitude-pronouncing, philandering priest, so again, if you're into that kind of thing, enjoy!


rating: 6/17

did anyone on the web reading this like the american? apparently some critics did; it has a bloated rating of 65% on rotten tomatoes.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

what i like about my kindle (samples!) part 2

for the past few years, i've been a bystander in the e-reader revolution. i've read a lot about how e-books are going to destroy the publishing industry and i've read a lot about how e-books will be the salvation of the publishing industry. but, of course, the future of publishing is more nuanced than either of those two perspectives, so i've also read a ton (which is like three a lots) about how e-books will be both the death knell and the salvation of the publishing industry. at the same time.

and so, this fall, when my mother asked me for a christmas list, i asked for (and then received) an e-reader. i figured it was finally time to (potentially) throw my parents' two cents into the ring and develop an opinion based on the real thing. enough theory, i thought, let's touch and feel the thing. let's see what it's like to actually read a book using an e-reader.

i just e-read my first book, big machine by victor lavalle, and the kindle reading experience was neither off-putting nor a mesmerizing delight. like any new experience, there were little boring things that i liked (e.g., the ease of reading while my hands are busy, that is, not having to prop the book open to a page) and didn't like (e.g., the difficulty of making in-text notes that include "advanced" punctuation marks like commas, question marks, and smiley faces), but i'm neither tempted to sell my bookcases nor return the kindle. i don't have much else to add on this point.

however, my learning-through-the-generosity-and-consumerism-of-others approach to understanding the effect that e-readers might have on publishing has been a success.

i mentioned in an earlier post that when in sleep mode the kindle displays some kind of an image, often a portrait of an important literary figure or some ancient-looking text. occasionally, the kindle also displays a silhouetted  image of a person, perhaps a child, reading a book under the cover of a single tree. below this image is a definition for kindle--"light or set fire. arouse or inspire"--followed by some examples of the word's use.

i hadn't thought of the product name kindle except as a nonsense word, like nook (although i suppose that too is connected to its parent word, as if the nook provides some kind of a cozy space for reading and learning). but my exploration of the kindle interface gives me hope that it may indeed kindle readership, and in a way that i hadn't imagined.

what i found most interesting and awesome about the kindle, especially for the future of publishing, is the sample feature. it turns out that every kindle book has a sample. i've been using google books and amazon's preview function for awhile now, so perhaps this shouldn't have been so surprising. but nonetheless, reading something on the internet, whether on my laptop or iphone, is so much less cozy than on my e-reader. and the good news is that the samples are fairly lengthy, long enough anyway to give a good sense of the book.

my kindle really is like a portable bookstore. i can download samples (or purchase books) from anywhere there's a cell signal or wi-fi connection, and i can download (or purchase) as many samples (or books) as i like. this means i'm not bound by a visit to a store. a coworker might mention a book to me on monday, and so i download a sample. and then, while walking to my car on thursday, i might read the sample and decide it looks worth a read.

and so, although i'm probably wrong about this, i'm hopeful that the convenience of this sample function could indeed open readers up to all kinds of things they might not otherwise read. it could make people more likely to pick up a new book. i'm a strange bird, but for me it already has. for whatever reason, i've doubled my reading pace since owning a kindle.  

if nothing else, the immediacy and ease of the purchase function should lead to more sales. and as someone who appreciates good books and great writers, who wants publishers to continue finding and publishing good books and great writers, and who imagines a universe where great writers can make a living pursuing their craft and someone like me can make a living helping them do that, that makes me happy. 

hooray for e-readers! hooray for people who spend money on books! hooray for happiness!

Monday, January 17, 2011

what i like about my kindle (faces!) part 1

when my kindle hasn't been used for awhile, its screen flashes and the text of whatever i was reading is replaced by a black-and-white image. sometimes that image is an ancient-looking scene bound by foreign calligraphy. sometimes it's a portrait of a well-known author--jules verne, jane austen, ralph ellison.

these images sometimes bother me because they remind me of barry moser, the artist who does beautiful black-and-white prints of figures ranging from flannery o'connor and joseph conrad to potiphar's wife and jesus. that's not so bothersome, except that my ex-girlfriend loved barry moser prints, and i sometimes prefer not to think about my ex-girlfriend. or about love. or about my ex-girlfriend loving something or someone else.

however, dicey personal relationships aside, i really like this feature. in fact, i believe it could very possibly change the world for the better. it could even succeed where school, society, and our own misguided preferences have failed us.

since i'm making grandiose statements, here's another one: i believe we are a culture that doesn't like to think. i believe that we don't like to be challenged. we prefer our routines and simple comforts. our lives are hard, and so we take our life lessons and use them to build forty-two-inch tvs. we take that hardness and build sofas and lazy boy recliners.

when i come home from work, i slip past my dirty sink, my messy floor, my unopened mail, my hulking copy of Swann's Way. i pour myself a bowl of cinnamon toast crunch, and i eat my way through an episode of some meaningless drama, perhaps even a meaningful drama. i rarely do the hard thing--i don't invest time and energy into a fine meal, a community need, a new idea. 

and i think our book reading habits are a symptom of this cultural trend. fantasy, children's lit, mysteries, thrillers, sci-fi (excepting hard sci-fi), historical fiction, women's fiction, romance, and occupation-related material all sell relatively well, whereas that segment of publishing which keeps the language alive, which makes a think, which values a word, a phrase, an idea, well, literary fiction is simply managing to survive (see "pimp my novel" for a more thorough autopsy of genre sales). 

it's possible that i'm wrong and the lagging sales of literary fiction tell us nothing about our culture--though i may fight to the death to defend that notion--and it's possible, even likely, that we are not what we read, not entirely. 

but regardless of one's perspective on the relationship between what we read and how we live, i'm encouraged to see the bookselling segment of corporate america fighting back. i'm ecstatic that my kindle doesn't sport portraits of dan brown, stephenie meyer, and jk rowling. and i have hope that by highlighting texts that seems ancient (and therefore, somehow important) or famous figures from literary fiction's past, the kindle could implicitly prod its owners to consider again the classics. those images very well could be the seeds that lead us to supplement our escapist fiction and work-related texts with great literature.

and this sack of lazy bones likes that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

if i were discussing this novel: big machine

in the last year, i spent a month doing nothing but staring at computer monitors. i spent nine intolerable months plotting the destruction of the very thing i valued most in my life (which was not a computer monitor). and i spent most of my nights in clumsy chase of questions i couldn't ask. i also did some ordinary things, like drive my ford, make soup, and write stupid stuff on the internet. there was enough existential angst in that year to people a squabbling troop of teenagers, enough relationship madness to secure a plot line on days of our lives.

but i don't think my year would have made a good novel, unless, that is, someone like victor lavalle got a hold of my story.

lavalle's big machine is the kind of novel that blends emotional depth and ordinary life with the absurd. he takes a troubled character--an andrew, if you will--and bends him around a series of ever-more shocking circumstances. imagine haruki murakami's the wind-up bird chronicle without the strange sexual fixations and with a more tangible sense of personhood and culture--lavalle's story consciously focuses on particular racial and economic groups (and the protagonist, in his cleverness and humble beginnings, and perhaps, i'll admit it, his non-whiteness, actually reminds me of the narrator of aravind adiga's the white tiger).

big machine is a novel that confronts some of the whys, whats, and hows of my 2010. and in doing so, it sidles right up to the darkness and says, have faith.


i'm leaning toward a 13/17 rating, which makes big machine a 17 point scale-recommended title, unless you prefer to avoid titles with profanity, fantastical events, and almost-too-perfect chapter-ending cliff-hangers.

you can purchase big machine here.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

on christmas lists, god, and the seahawks

some people hate christmas lists. they hate to write them and they hate to receive them. these people see the christmas list as a failure of knowledge and intimacy. they rightly point out that the purpose of gift-giving isn't to fulfill some need but to provide one another with meaningful tokens of our love and thanks and friendship.

i'm not one of these people. i suppose i'm a christmas list moderate.

i don't eagerly keep a list all year of the things i'd like for christmas and then postmark that list for the north pole on the fourth friday of november. and honestly, i never really know what to put on said list. but if my mom calls me up and asks what i want for christmas, i'll certainly oblige.

and as a giver, i really do want to light upon the perfect gift, the gift that would never find its way onto a christmas list. i want to give that very thing that will communicate a special bond between us, that will say, this is a gift uniquely from me to you, and it is awesome. because you are awesome. and i am awesome. and yes, we, together, are awesome.

but finding that special gift is hard. it's not something you can force. it comes to you like a poem, a word or phrase nestled in the rubble of otherwise useless dreams. and you may not know this, but most of us are bad poets. we mistake cutesy rhythm and rhyme or archaic verbiage for inspiration. we can't feel the imagery or themes outside the cage of our own skull.

and so, barring the miracle of the true muse or the true poet, the giver who undertakes a listless christmas may be giving just that, a listless christmas.

instead, i like to think of the christmas list as a tool. if you tell me you like bawdy limericks about snails or that red wheelbarrow poem by william carlos williams, i might still write a bad poem, but at least i'll know where to start. at least i won't be groping around in an infinite wasteland of content, imagery, and form.

so why the post-christmas post on christmas lists? well, mostly i wanted to write about my new kindle. but i got sidetracked by memory and discovery.

this year i mostly received gifts that were on my list, and perhaps some part of me, the christmas list antipath, i suspect, felt cheated by the absence of new poetry.

yet there were little surprises--the fingerless gloves were black, not wool; the e-reader was a kindle, not a nook. and both did the trick; both delighted me in the end--the fingerless gloves perfectly allowed me to adjust my temp when running the polar bear 5K on new year's day, and the kindle has pleasantly surprised me with how much i enjoy reading (and browsing) using its interface.

but above all, there was the unsuspected awesomeness of sharing in those gifts with the givers, in reading to my parents from my kindle as we trekked south to eugene, in accompanying my dad to a chilly wild-card playoff game at qwest stadium and high-fiving him ecstatically (while wearing those gloves) when marshawn lynch clicked it into beast mode, breaking eight tackles and stiff-arming his way to a sixty-seven yard run.

because, after all, what's more awesome than a crazy game that makes nfl and underdog history? what's more awesome than sixty thousand people losing their voices in praise of one thing? this is how i imagine heaven--a gift and an unbridled sense of exultation and joy. and no list could have scripted that.