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I surround myself with the pretty and the meaningful. This blog is an endeavor to capture and share those moments.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tentatively Entitled Panopticon

I'm working on a short story tentatively entitled "Panopticon". During a slow day at work last week I decided to brush up on my knowledge of Utilitarianism and naturally found myself researching Jeremy Bentham, a leading proponent of the philosophy. While roaming and reading, I came across a diagram and description of his invention, the Panopticon. A Panopticon is a prison that holds the prisoners in the center and guards on the outside. It is designed to permit observers to look inward without being detected. In other words it provides what architect, Silke Berit Lang, calls "sentiment of an invisible omniscience". I scribbled down some key attributes of the structure and drew disturbing connections to society on a small piece of paper I have been carrying around with me since. This strange creation struck me. Fascinated and disturbed me. I can't actually get it out of my head. Needing the threat of an invisible watchman (sorry for the term since denotes sex but it fit) to force us into doing good out of fear of punishment-not because it is our choice is unsettling. You know the discussion of an ultimate power must be discussed. The thought that society is more interested in enforcing rules and norms than explaining and convincing people and really, allowing for individuality over conformity bothers me. Some questions I am contemplating: Is morality objective? Can a person really be a moral agent if acting for motivations other than to be a good person? (I think I need to go back and read my Kant).

A Panopticon serves as an interesting case study and a beautiful platform for a dystopian satire. I have had the main concept and various interweaving themes of great personal interest floating around my head, working towards becoming a cohesive story for about a half year now.

It all began while waiting at the bus depot downtown for the number 28 to campus last winter. I sat there watching people and particularly doors. There will be great focus on doors in my story. Sliding tracks and doorknobs. Pay close attention to the details--I promise you I've spent more time considering doors than is probably considered acceptable. I am particularly preoccupied with the simplicity in function and dutiful fulfillment of purpose that doors accomplish. And what happens if they no longer satisfy their ready-to-hand (reference to Heidegger) conformist role? The protagonist in my story will experience a present-at-hand disruption.

A bus stop may be where I realized that my ideas were gathering together with exciting rapidity and important cohesion but really, this story started years ago in airports. Observing my fellow travelers, disconnectedly watching people pass by--so many people with different motivations, talents and fears--so many involved and encompassing lives people were living inside their heads. It is so easy for me to forget there are other narratives and eyes things are being viewed from other than my own-until I find myself confronted with it at the airport. Waiting at a terminal it is an inescapable reality.

What all this means isn't quite clear to me. But something has been building up and I am excited to release my thoughts and more importantly my questions, fears and warnings onto paper.

As a side note, character development is something I'm working on as I haven't written a fictional account since I was a third grader and wrote (and illustrated!) a story about Germy, the friendly bacteria, and her boyfriend, Germaine. I have found this list of character questions extremely helpful if you need a little help too:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pajama Obstacle Course.

The weekends I work dispatch at our local newspaper, my shifts begin before the sun rises—even in the summer. Allowing my hair to air dry as I slept, a comforting habit from childhood, I awoke with a disheveled half swept up style rugged from a night of unsettled tossing about. After working out that my alarm belonged in the world of the droning fan filling the dark room and not to whatever role my unconscious had assigned it, in my quickly fleeting dream state I tumbled out of bed. And stumbled into my hallway—right into my vacuum cleaner. You see, I like to devise early morning death traps for myself to keep nimble. One of my longtime personal favourites being the running shoes in the doorway obstacle course. Ah, how many memories and bruises can be attributed to this game of agility.

I took a large silver can of hairspray from the bathroom counter. Applying a mist over the top of my head, I made a weak effort to smooth the voluminous tousled birds nest into place. Polished wasn’t the look I was after but durability. Sometimes when I wake up and my bangs are sticking straight up, I like to snap a photo of me looking like a cockatoo and send it to random people in my phonebook to say good morning. I think that's a rather pleasant way to wake.

Today I apparently wanted to share my mess of a self with a wider audience. I wore my pajama top to work under a cardigan. I don't think anyone noticed--it looks like a decorative floral tank top. But I knew. And I am an avid protester of anything pajama or too lounge-like in public. When I went to university, I would find myself embarrassed by my fellow schlubs wearing sweat and yoga pants to class. Particularly as I would notice tour groups of potential future students and their parents on campus. I always thought we should have a policy restricting this--with the motto: your bedroom does not extend to the classroom. And signs posted on the back of bathroom stalls: Look like a professional that you are trying to mold yourself into. You see, I've actually thought this through. The administration could publish a schedule of days with tours each semester (with the option to read it online in an effort to go green as well) and send friendly but forceful reminder emails the night before. Any violators would be forced into some session on how to dress like a professional taught by the business school. So it seems strange that I would even step outside my door in half a pajama set. It can only be attributed to my failure as a morning person.

So tomorrow as I zombie-like strut to my taxi cab with sleep in my eyes, I will be sure that I am wearing proper clothing. I may not be one but I do have to coexist with these morning people

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stories are on the way!

I haven't been posting regularly. It isn't that I haven't been writing but sometimes I can spend days trying to perfect something before I submit it. I also like to write while I walk around and it can be difficult to decipher what I've scribbled all over margins and over typed words. I have heard that procrastination is often a side effect of seeking perfection. It can also be a show of laziness but that isn't so (in this case).

I've also been struggling with being overindulgent in finding joy in the detailing of events in my life. That's worded strangely but at this point I just want to get something down. It is good to be so amused by one's own life but I wonder if others will share the same experience enjoying my stories or whether they find it narcissistic. I suppose if you do, please stop reading. If you like it, keep on. This weekend I will be quite busy but I promise stories of lighting friends on fire, running away from the bouquet toss, a well-thought out piece of dating advice and a detailed account of Doug, known to my friends as "that neighbor".

Thursday, July 8, 2010

:) x 10

Roadtrip with the boys several summers ago to Seattle for a Mariners's game.
(Shane's applying lip gloss to a snoring Stephen).
Paul, Shane, me & Stephen in the backseat.
We look young.

My bags are finally packed and my ticket confirmation is printed! I used bringing T3 vino from our local Townshend Winery for a gift as an excuse to check luggage and bring more shoes along. This evening I am leaving Spokane, WA, for Davis, CA, where I'm meeting up with two of my favourite people, Stephen and Shane! We met several years ago at Gonzaga University, where we worked in the summers and were students during the academic years. We used to talk and laugh for hours when we were together and have managed to stay close with long phone calls and getting together whenever we can. We'll be meeting and staying with Shane's family--and I am beyond excited about this. I've heard stories about them and I'm always really interested to see who shaped my best friends into who they are. Shane has been torturing his mother this past week trying to convince her she hasn't made it clear we can stay with them and that we'll probably book a hotel--I can hear the amusement in his voice and her protesting in the background. :) This long weekend will reunite the three of us together for the first time since we were undergraduates--wow. I'm both incredibly excited and quite sad. The reason for our quick trip down there is Shane will be deployed (I have a habit of saying deported for some unknown reason) to serve in Afghanistan for a year in August. I can't wait to see the boys!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some Inspiration.

Womens' magazines. The glossy pages are armed with insider tips and advice on how to look prettier, dress more fashionably and keep your man satisfied. They prey on our weaknesses, exploiting insecurities with colourful photo shoots but sometimes they succeed in providing affirmation of our greatness and some inspiration. The following article ran in the March 2010 issue of
Glamour and is one I keep close at hand. And it applies to both sexes, although the audience it is being written for is clearly women.

“The Most Important 433 Words to Read This Month”

No matter how sophisticated and grown-up we become, everyone has her insecure days. In this excerpt from her new book, Eve Ensler celebrates the true power of a woman. Read it and send on to a girlfriend you love.

Dear Emotional Creature:

I believe in you. I believe in your authenticity, your uniqueness, your intensity, your wildness. I love the way you dye your hair purple, or hike up your short skirt, or blare your music while you lip-synch every single memorized lyric. I love your restlessness and your hunger. You possess the energy that, if unleashed, could transform, inspire and heal the world.

Everyone seems to have a certain way they want you to be--your mother, father, teaches, religious leaders, politicians, boyfriends, fashion gurus, celebrities, girlfriends. In reporting my new book, I learned a very disturbing statistic: 74% of young women say they are under pressure to please everyone.

I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to please; to be the wish or will of somebody other than yourself. To please the fashion setters, we starve ourselves. To please the men, we push ourselves when we aren't ready. To please our parents, we become insane overachievers. If you are trying to please, how do you take responsibility for your own needs? How do you even know what your own needs are? The act of pleasing makes everything murky. We lose track of ourselves. We stop uttering declaratory sentences. We stop directing our lives. We forget what we know. We make everything OK rather than real.

I have had the good fortune to travel around the world. Everywhere I meet teenage girls and women giggling, laughing as they walk country roads or hang out on city streets. Electric girls, I see how their lives get hijacked, how their opinions and desires get denied and undone. So many of the women I have met are still struggling late into their lives to know their way.

Instead of trying to please, this is a challenge to provoke, to dare, to satisfy your own imagination and appetite. To take responsibility for who you are, to engage. Listen to the voice inside you that might want something different. It's a call to your original self, to move at your own speed, to walk with your step, to wear your color.

When I was your age, I didn't know how to live as an emotional creature. I felt like an alien. I still do a lot of the time. I am older now. I finally know the difference between pleasing and loving, obeying and respecting. It has taken me so many years to be OK with being different, with being this alive, this intense. I just don't want you to have to wait that long.

Eve Ensler

From Eve Ensler’s new book “I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World”

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Homemade Mozzarella with Basil from the Garden!

Panic mode when the cheese temperature was rapidly rising.
Scooping and draining.
Separating the curds from the whey.
Forming the curds into a ball.
It's starting to have a stretchy consistency!
Kneading the cheese curds.
Beautiful spread with vegetables fresh from the garden!
Our delicious spread.
And Puss joined us for a lovely dinner.
I am not known for my culinary skills in a desirable way. Rather my friends have been treated to and my family served an array of ambitious attempts, where my menu consisted of burnt risotto, doughy gnocchi, teeth-chipping gingerbread cookies and lastly, dolmathes where the soggy grape leaves hung raggedly around uncooked rice. Despite my usual inedible outcomes I find the intricate process of cooking exciting and fulfilling. Preparing and sharing dishes enables me to host memorable soirees where the food may be more scoffed at than savored but it serves as the catalyst for bringing us all together for hours of conversation and laughter.

To complement my habitually disastrous results, I have a penchant for choosing difficult recipes showcased by my perusing Martha Stewart and elitist foodie blogs. That was part of the appeal when The Spokesman-Review (where I happen to be employed) published an article on cheesemaking: http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2010/jun/09/moz-zarella-magic/ I wasn't even aware this was something that could be done in single batches at home. It just seems like the sort of thing that requires a vat, wooden spoons as tall as I am and stretching machines in a large temperature controlled warehouse. As it turns out, the most difficult part of our making mozzarella was finding and working with the ingredients. Citric Acid I'm sure will be a useful addition to the kitchen cupboard and converting Rennet tablets into liquid involved a strange almost ritualistic doubling of the ingredients to throw out half. It didn't make any sense but we were afraid to disturb the precise directions.

As always in trying to follow a recipe in an exact matter, things went awry. The temperature rose too quickly and kept going, there didn't seem to be enough curds in our whey and the kneaded cheese had more of a lumpy texture than stretchy taffy consistency. The article we frequently referred back to for assurance is full of dire warnings of failure. It seems almost expected as the cheese experts focus their advice on encouragement to keep practicing until a successful batch is made.

We were prepared to start our second batch as we iced and refrigerated the cheese. But when it was sliced and prepared as part of a beautiful spread, we anxiously tasted the mozzarella and it was fresh and creamy and contributed to a delicious dinner! Our feast included fresh lettuce and basil from Julia's plentiful garden and was arranged beside ripe tomatoes and flavourful salami with olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled over.

It was a challenging recipe that ended successfully. It was a lovely dinner and it was a beautiful summer day enjoying Chardonnay on the deck with Julia as we caught up. It was a very leisurely and delightful time as we talked and watched the kids play on the assembled lumber of a dearly loved fort in the beginning stages.

Do you have any recipes that you are particularly proud of? How about any kitchen disaster stories?


Friday, June 18, 2010

10 Highlights from Last Week.

Some photos celebrating Fathers' Day and Jeffer's birthday:

This morning was rough. It was Monday after enjoying two days of freedom and there was a mini-breakdown aversion as the day progressed--Thank goodness for good friends close and far away to validate my emotions as rational. I am finding more and more that with my intelligent girlies we are having to assure one another that even if it isn't logical for us to be feeling a certain way, it isn't any less important, necessary or warranted to have an emotional reaction to events in our lives. So I really appreciate that from today. This has me thinking of last week as it was full of many things I am so thankful to have experienced. What I found after looking over my list is most of them are focused on sharing something with a loved one--my most precious times occur with my relationships.

  1. Treating my gparents to a baseball game to celebrate Fathers' Day early this year. It was opening night for the Spokane Indians! We gorged on kettle corn, peanuts, beer and oohed and awwed over the fireworks show and my gma and I appreciated the handsome talent on the other team (we were sitting by their dugout in left field).
  2. Celebrating Jeffer's last birthday be he's old (29)! We've been putting up with each other's shit for many years now and I love him.
  3. An unexpected and unlikely friend at work (which brings to mind that old strategic saying from political science "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Perhaps a bit conniving and dramatic but when you find yourself wanting to "smash someone's face into a jelly"....
  4. Live music! Cristie and I caught shows at the Big Sleaze (The Spill Canvas) and The Mixx (local younguns but talented and could quote funny movies like none other)...and then of course karaoke at Monterey Cafe as Nathan and I took it upon ourselves to be backup singers for the whole bar and then did a wicked rendition of Avril's "Girlfriend" ;)
  5. An answer to a question that has been plaguing our group for months regarding our favourite local bartender. ;)
  6. Homemade ice cream sundaes (we're talking the works) with friends while we watched several episodes of Strangers with Candy.
  7. Some great runs I got in down by the water. I truly get a different perspective of this city and appreciation of it's beauty being seated in the northwest when I go running.
  8. Friends from GU and study abroad organizing a reunion in San Francisco for NYE!!
  9. Buying my plane ticket to go see two of my favouritest people in the world next month-Stephen and Shane! A long overdue reunion of the three of us - :) x 10
  10. The rainy weather as of late so I can wear long cardigans, chunky scarves and boots with my summer dresses as I read the fall fashion previews that have hit my newstand magazines..
What are some highlights from your week? :)