Archive for November, 2009

Dysfunction Junction

Posted in Uncategorized on November 28, 2009 by Cristina

Thanksgiving isn’t even our own holiday, but in the cultural-limbo that my family and I live, it’s a holiday we celebrate half-assed. That is, we forgo the turkey and the cranberry sauce (my dad can’t wrap his head around meat and fruit mixing) and celebrate instead with ham, deviled eggs, goat cheese, mashed-up eggplant, chocolate and Manischewitz. The root of this Jewish-wine-drinking in my decidedly non-Jewish family escapes me, but I know that we’ve had it at holiday feasts since I came to the states in ’91. In hopes of piecing together a normal family, I decided we should all fly to NYC for Thanksgiving since my sister couldn’t leave the city during the holiday. Like Communism, it was a good idea gone awry. We gathered from Portland and Phoenix and the East Village in my friend’s small but quaint Upper East Side apartment. My mom was going through a spell of severe whining as she was recovering from the swine flu, my dad was still recovering from his 15-year bout of curmudgeonry, while siiister & I were gritting our teeth at inappropriate jokes and trying to put on a happy face. Luckily, we invited our roommate Tara to experience her very first holiday with us; her very presence was the social lubricant that kept my parents in check for a couple of hours:
Nothing says Thanksgiving like watching your mom sip kosher wine out of a República Dominicana glass as she takes a bite of spiral ham…nothing. The food was ok and dinner fairly uneventful so after eating more than our fill of pecan pie (yes, Tara brought that) and La Maison du Chocolat goodies, we cleaned up.

As Tara was wiping down the table, my dad couldn’t help himself anymore, “Hehehe, I’m surprised you don’t have a huzzzband, you’re such a good cleeeaner!” My muscles tensed up until Tara dispelled the awkwardness with her hearty laugh, she has thick skin that was oiled up with wine-tipsiness so the comment rolled off her back. Whew.

After she left and we’d spent an hour trying to all agree on a movie to go to, we gave up and just decided to stay in and watch The Duchess, a mediocre-at-best film riddled with ummm…sex. My parents are uncomfortable with the topic and their discomfort makes for an unpleasant movie-viewing. After several scenes of plain sex, some girl-on-girl action and rape (during which my mom asked, “Did he kill her?”), there was a love scene. My mom couldn’t take any more so as it began, she got up and started clanking around the kitchen filling up a mug with water and slamming it into the microwave — beep-booop-beeep — to make tea before retiring to her chamber and shutting the door. The whirring of the microwave was masking some of Keira Knightley’s oohs and aaahs as my sister and I sat there with quivering mouths trying not to crack up laughing at the situation, her leg awkwardly touching my dad’s leg on the mini-couch. 

Just as the Dutchess of Devonshire was climaxing to a dramatic ending — BEEP BEEEP BEEEEP! — goes the microwave. It was too much, too perfect and horrific at the same time, we burst into laughter. We couldn’t even watch a movie as a family, sigh.

The movie ended and after several failed attempts at meaningful conversation, we’d had enough. As I’m sharing my life dreams and struggles with my parents, I can only handle so many interruptions of, “Did you iron that shirt?” and “Your eyebrows look great.” AAAARRGHHH! I’m not sure why I was hoping this year would be different, but the consequent disappointment left me nearly teary-eyed. Siiister and I put them to bed and headed straight to a bar where she shocked me by saying, “Tara and I were talking the other day and we came to the conclusion that as bad as our parents were, at least they never sexually abused us.” WHAT?! Are we really sitting here on this day giving thanks that we’ve never been raped?! Cheers to that! And Cheers to all of you out there who watched the parade, ate turkey with cranberry sauce and shared football-stats and knock-knock jokes.


Modern Guilt

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2009 by Cristina

Sometimes I love modern times (as much as Bob Dylan’s album) and other times I go through a bout of modern guilt (a la Beck’s album). After an exhaustingly long day with no rest in sight, I’ve almost lost my bearings. The pace of my days is sometimes too oppressive and I need to take some deliberate steps to tranquilize the effects of modernity. My day consisted of coffee & scone, grading, bus transportation, buying plane tickets, writing an essay, coffee & Luna bar, attending class, trail mix, abandoning hot coffee due to lack of WiFi, recording an interview, photographing hands, bus transportation, research and consequent over-saturation! As I was doing some online research for a project, I was taken aback that a Google search of “touch” resulted in 20 of 20 pictures of F*CKING technology. TOUCH! I find myself in a world in which that word is associated more with technology than with humans? Currently, a pictorial collage of the five senses (compiled from first results of Google image searches) looks something like this:

If this isn’t the most disgustingly disturbing thing you’ve seen lately, well… you’re either desensitized or living in a war zone. I fear that this collage is too telling of the state of our existence as humans and it might say ugly things about our future. I’m not sure how I’ll go about trying to keep my life clear of this octopus ink, but getting off the internet immediately is the first baby step.

Gif gift!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 by Cristina

Since I’m so horrible at taking action shots and I put my friend through the physical exertion and social embarrassment of re-taking this jumping picture over and over… well, I felt compelled to do SOMEthing useful with them. The best solution seemed to be creating my very first animated GIF!! 
That makes me smile. Friend, this is my formal apology for making you work out in front of all those people! I hope this simple animation makes up for it, enjoy! 


Double the pleasure

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 by Cristina

Until yesterday, this was the closest I’d ever come to seeing a double rainbow:

You’re not mistaken, you’re indeed looking at blobs of colorful diesel on the street. I’ve been taking photos of these things for a while now, trying to capture the most beautiful one for a book I’m compiling called Pretty Ugly Things: stuff that is normally visually unappealing (trash, factories, diesel fuel, etc) but that in some rare moments of sunshine-water-me combinations, looks lovely. That said, don’t pity the city girl who had only seen double rainbows manifested as pollution on the street. I’ve been fascinated with this stuff since I was a little girl and have always loved urban beauty. Sky rainbows are amazing too, but they’re so elusive with their stories of leprechauns and magical things at the end. Now that I’m living in a place ripe for nature-exploration, I’m really enjoying seeing this beauty that people have been painting and writing about for thousands of years. The sunny-after-the-storm scenery was gorgeous on the drive back home from coastal adventures:

I did see the end of one of these rainbows and nary a pot o’ gold in sight! One thing I mulled over in my brain all weekend was the slow realization that I’m more of a city girl than I realized. I love nature and have a great time out there but at the end of the day (literally), I have an easier time falling asleep to the sounds of traffic & sirens than the rainstorm & thunder menacing our little yurt.  There are moments in which I desperately need to get out of the city and see no soul and others in which this is the ultimate comfort. Thoreau dealt with the same modern dichotomy in Walden as he decided, “I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.” As the previous owner of both pumpkins and velvet cushions, I’ll need more time to sort out my thoughts on this issue. For now, I’m just glad that I’m bombarded with beauty from both the city and the country!

A whole new world

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2009 by Cristina

Pseudo-camping on the Oregon coast was a sensory treat and I saw some stuff I’d never seen before. First, a mini version of the Loch Ness monster:

And also the crowded world of tiny little sea creatures, all trying to get a piece of this rock as if it were Tokyo:
There was so much amazing stuff out there and I spent most of the time gawking at all of it without wanting to interrupt my view with camera nuisance. I’m always surprised when there’s so much nearly-untouched nature close to human settlements. This bubble of surprise burst during my Sunday-morning walk on the beach when I stumbled onto this strange thing:
Some sea creatures got fed up with the over-crowded rock and decided to make a home in the burbs on this air freshener can. Even with all their extra living space, the suburbs are always more disgusting. As upset as I was to see this kind of trash on the beach, I found it cute that it was being repurposed by nature and ironic that it was an air freshener can on a day that the ocean smelled vile.

MMMmm, hedonismmm

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2009 by Cristina

Not a word usually used to describe the life of a graduate student, but lately, I’ve been doing my darnedest to break this stereotype. In between writing and grading papers, doing research, teaching classes and trying to keep my head from exploding, I’ve been managing to squeeze in a heck of a lot of fun. I had to make a hard decision yesterday: is it ok to go out of town for 3 work-less weekends in a row? San Francisco, Oregon coast, New York City, eek! My colleagues might scoff at the idea but I’ve decided YES. More than just ok, it’s totally the right thing to do. While I might regret this decision Sunday night at 10pm as I’m frantically catching up on work, I definitely won’t regret it in 5 years… and being the good Cold War kid that I am, I function on a 5 year plan. I realize that there’s a limit to this hedonism and I definitely don’t want to reach that saturation point. Currently, I’d guess that I’m at about (13.5, 16) on this graph:

Just a touch more awesomeness of going to the coast with the knowledge that I’ll have to reel it in by grading essays in the car so I don’t meet that plummeting line. Here’s another interesting statistical analysis that further illustrates the hedonistic life I’m leading:

This is an actual pie chart that my bank so graciously greets me with when I log in. Really? I spend all my money on Amusement & Entertainment and Airlines to fly elsewhere for more Amusement & Entertainment?!? I suppose the numbers don’t lie. I will do my best to sustain this at a plateau and not have it backfire. Off to the camping extravaganza!


Posted in Uncategorized on November 17, 2009 by Cristina

The funnier, more lightearted sequel to Scarface! Last week, I learned life lesson #674: don’t talk on the phone while slicing an apple. For clumsy people like me, it’s a disastrous combination that leaves scenes like this in the aftermath:
Note how the knife is lodged dull-edge first into the evil Pink Lady apple that tried to take my thumb. This isn’t staged; during the near-amputation, my hand slipped in a way that the knife somehow ended up in this position. As I was freaking out about seeing bone, I flung open my closet door, now faced with the tough decision of which scarf to sacrifice from my lavish collection:
I chose a coral-colored one adorned with silver threads and pieced myself back together, all while remaining on the phone. After two phone-related incidences of accidental burning-while-ironing and this recent one of cutting-while-cutting, I’ve decided to keep these activities separate. I got my first thumb scar when I tried to push a food bowl closer to a ravenous dog who mistook my hand for ummm… food. That one probably needed stitches (or at least a tetanus shot) and the recent one as well. While I usually find scars sexy, these two are of utmost lameness because of their location and story. For the sake of my thumbs and my scarf collection, I’ll hang up that phone.