Friday, June 30, 2006

Flickr Fiction Flake

That's me. I hate having to flake on things I've agreed to do, but these are rather extreme circumstances. Have I mentioned lately how much people suck? And how this is the last time I'm going to volunteer for anything that's not directly related to either my career or my friends and family?

If you've been keeping up with my blog, you know what I'm talking about. It's no reflection on the group I'm involved with, not at all. Just certain individuals who totally screwed me. And not in a good way, not that I would want that in this instance anyway. It's all just super lame. I need a break, BAD. I'm not going to get one for a few weeks, though. Countdown to July 23: 23 days. I may have to force a day of absence and, as the meditation books put it, total non-doing at some point in there. Non-doing sounds like exactly what I need right now, though I'm actually behind on a lot of doing, despite working most of today. AAAARGH!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Flickr Fiction #2: Before

This is what she heard when she was a baby:

(She was less than two, she knows this; how she knows, how she remembers, is something she cannot explain.)

The voice, the rich, low voice. The voice that wasn’t her mother but gave just as much comfort, like a warm blanket of sound vibrating from the arms that held her safe.

And the words she remembers. Remembers, because she heard them again and again, when she was able to crawl, able to walk, able to speak and repeat them to herself.

Once upon a time, the old, worn, and beloved words began.

There was a young man, a man named Kilhwch, son to Kilydd. The syllables spilled from the air, from the arms holding her, from everywhere. His mother was Goleuddydd, the Daylight One. But her light, one day, went out, and Kilhwch had a new mother. The new mother brought only darkness into his life, and the daylight slowly faded. All that was left was spite and malice.

And later, when she was old enough to walk and talk and argue, she would argue with her mother, and imagine that this mother was a usurper, like in the tale that echoed through her; that the daylight was her real mother and she was a changeling, a foundling, an orphan. One who would someday find where she belonged.

Your destiny, the new mother told Kilhwch, is never to find a wife until you find her of the White Track, Olwen, the daughter of Hawthorn the Giant King. And the moment she said it, it was so.

So Kilhwch had no choice but to set out to King Arthur’s court, seeking help with his impossible quest. For none knew of Olwen, nor where to find her; not Kai or Bedwyr, not Gwalchmai or Geraint.

And she dreamed of her own quest, without knowing what she sought. Just that she did seek; nothing, and everything.

But they bravely journeyed until they did find the Giant King, Yspaddaden Pencawr. With him was Olwen, his daughter, as fair as nature herself ever was—the golden of grasses, the bright eyes of the hawk, the whiteness of the swan, the redness of the rose. Where she walked, white flowers sprang up, and not only white, but the purple heather, the golden buttercup, the humble daisy, the saucy foxglove. But the white flowers marked her step, her light, dancing step, and so she was called Olwen, of the White Track.

That’s you, the voice said, the words warming her like the sun coming through the window behind, making the speaker just a dark shadow, a memory. You’re Olwen, little one.

And Kilhwch did love her, as she did him. But her father, the giant, bade him complete many impossible tasks, a lifetime’s worth. If Kilhwch succeeded at all of them, the giant’s life would be forfeit and Olwen would be free to marry. It hardly seemed possible, but he would try. And with the help of Arthur and the others of his brave company, they recovered the most magical of artifacts, defeated the fiercest of enemies, spoke to the oldest of the beasts, and conquered the treacherous black witch. The giant had no choice but to admit his defeat. That night Kilhwch and Olwen wed, and of course they were happy until the end of their days.

One day that will happen to you, Olwen fach. You’ll be happy until the end of your days. Let’s start now, shall we?

And those arms would sweep her up, into the air, till she was flying in a haze of sunlight, giddy with excitement yet still knowing she was safe.

One day, she thought. One day she would be as beautiful as Olwen, and as brave and determined as Kilhwch; because as far as she could tell, he really had all the fun in the story.
***

So much for my second contribution to Flickr Fiction Friday, inspired by this photo by Ozyman. I was imagining a sort of prologue to my young adult novel, which I'm just starting to do another major revision of. Of course, it already has a prologue, so I'll have to figure out somewhere else to put this... Chris, Elimare, Teaandcakes, Littlegoat and The Gurrier are also Flickr Fiction-ing this week. Click on the links to read their versions.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Toon-tastic

A friend of mine, the very multitalented Kat, directed this nifty animation that's a take-off on the Incredibles. (If you go to the EFF staff page, you'll see her right there, second from the top! Go Kat!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Welsh Ring Tone Pleases Teenagers, Destroys Eardrums

Have you heard about the ring tone that only teenagers and kids (and people with good hearing) can hear? According to the New York Times, a Welsh company originally developed the sound as a kind of equivalent to those sonic dog or insect zappers, only it was meant to drive away teenagers who were loitering outside their business. Boy, did that backfire. Anyway, it's pitched at a frequency that many adults lose as they get past, oh, their twenties. Rob and I both have very good hearing, though, especially Rob--he can hear almost any ultrasonic bug or dog device and they drive him absolutely bonkers if he's within hearing range. I hear those devices occasionally. But we both heard the ring tone, and I have to say, I now have a headache. Diolch yn fawr iawn (thanks a lot, for those don't speak Welsh).

Saturday, June 17, 2006

"Naked Guy" Dies

Wow. It's like the Bezerkeley I used to know and love is dying bit by bit. First it was Cody's Books. Now I find out that the infamous Naked Guy died while being held in jail on assault charges.

When I got to Berkeley in 1993, the Naked Guy was mostly done with his hijinks. I did have one Naked Guy sighting at a party at Kingman Co-op--however, he was there with his clothes on. I remember, though, after seeing (mostly) censored pictures of the Naked Guy in the Daily Cal, thinking that at least he was a semi-attractive person to be seen hanging around naked. There were several other random naked folks wandering around Berkeley at the time who were not necessarily so attractive. There were also the X-Plicit Players (link warning: random nudity)--a group of naked performance artists who would occasionally wander the streets of Berkeley.

There are far fewer publicly naked people in Modesto; none, in fact, as far as I am aware, though frankly the weather is hot enough for it. It hit 97 today. Welcome to the next three interminable months of slow-roasting. Oh well; it's worth it for the other three seasons.

Friday, June 16, 2006

First-Time Flickr Fiction: Fear and Lathering in Los Angeles

My hands. They ripple, boil, and burst. Running them under the water, they bubble and splash and come apart and come back together. I laugh; scream; giggle; I'm not opening the door.

But I know they're out there, waiting for me, waiting to ask me why I took so long in the crapper, why I'm in here laughing to myself, why I took the last of the shrooms that were sitting in a baggie on the kitchen shelf next to the bottle of Patron. The answer: low impulse control. I couldn't stop myself. Not from that; not from chasing the bluish fungus with a shot of amber tequila and then half a doobie I got from Catherine, or maybe Jose. Goddamn it, they laced the shit with cocaine again and now I'm standing here with my fly open watching my hands dissolve in the sink.

They told me not to do it. I didn't listen. Now I keep washing and washing and I can't get it off, can't get it out of my pores. They'll all know. They'll all know. Yes, it was me. I stole the mushrooms, I left the tequila open on the counter, I ruined the office Christmas party, I smell like a liquor store that was recently turned into a Bath & Body Works.

And yeah...it was all worth it. Even getting fired and becoming an out-of-work marketing manager...'s assistant. Just for the look on their faces when they knew it was me.

***

I don't know what the hell that was all about, but it's part of the fun of Flickr Fiction Friday and inspired by this photo. Chris, Elimare, Teaandcakes, Littlegoat and The Gurrier are also raging party animals at this celebration. Click on the links to read their versions.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Public Apology

Let this constitute my public apology to anyone I haven't e-mailed or called; to anyone whose blogs I haven't visited, or whose comments on my blog I haven't responded to; and to anyone expecting me to post on any of the blogs I regularly post on. I suck. More specifically, work sucks and it is making me sucky at communicating. Today I did something no temp should ever have to do, which is help the program accountant straighten out my supervisor's budget. Fantabulously craptacular.

Friday, June 09, 2006

China, Part II: Of Hotels and Lifts

Okay, okay, I know I owe you another China post. Trust me, I have plenty more observations and should probably note them down before I forget them all. For instance, here's one I forgot to include under "Transportation": Elevators in China are homicidal. About 95% of the elevators we rode--not that we spent our trip riding up and down elevators or anything--had doors that would close really fast. There was no way it was humanly possible for more than one or two people to cram in before the doors would start to close on you, and then they would be very resistant to being forced open again. Sometimes you'd just have to pull back your smarting, semi-squished arm and resign yourself to waiting for the next elevator. I know this is a very random thing to notice, but because we stayed in large hotels, we did end up using elevators more frequently than is perhaps usual for us. And, I swear to god, the doors would close on us more often than not. Once or twice our group of six even had to take separate elevators because only half of us were able to scramble in before the doors closed. I'm serious.

People smoke. A LOT. They smoke in hotels and restaurants and such, which I've rapidly and thankfully become un-used to over the years since it was outlawed in California restaurants. One night, our first night in Shanghai, we went to a restaurant that was so smoky it was literally like a haze in the air. The people at the table behind us were smoking. The people at the table next to us were practically chain-smoking. Frankly, it sort of puts me off my food when there's no ventilation to get rid of the smoke. I can't even remember what we ate, because I was busy feeling more and more ill and wondering if I was going to have to step outside. That night I had what can only be described as mild asthma accompanied by less-mild anxiety due to not being able to breathe well and having to pace around for a while until allergy medicine kicked in.

If there is a nightclub in the hotel, there is at least a 50% chance we will be placed directly above or below it. The Shanghai restaurant wasn't our only smoke-related incident. When we arrived at our hotel the first night we stayed in Xi'an, we thought the room smelled a bit smoky. By the time we were ready to go to bed, we noticed that the air-conditioning vent was emitting not only a distinct odor of cigarette smoke, but also rather intrusive music and voices. Is somebody having a party up there? we asked ourselves, and promptly covered nose, mouth, and ears with any stray bits of clean clothing we could find. However, this didn't make for a restful night's sleep. The next morning, I looked at the hotel directory, and lo and behold, two floors above us was a nightclub. We could only assume we shared their ventilation system. Needless to say, we requested a room change that morning.

Our Guilin hotel was nice, quiet, and uneventful. But all that changed yet again when we got to Shanghai. Late the first evening, as we were winding down from our busy day that began with plane travel and ended with me choking on cigarette smoke, we noticed that it sounded like maybe someone was watching a loud music program on TV next door. It wasn't as loud as the nightclub, but it was definitely a bit irritating. We thought, well, better luck the following night. But no...and we decided there was definitely something going on either next door or below us. Something unsuitably festive for our exhausted selves. Plus I was sure I could hear someone singing poorly.

I looked in the hotel directory yet again, and on the fourth floor, right below ours, was not only every single one of the hotel's conveniences--sauna, fitness room, etc.--but something mysteriously called KTV. What is KTV? we asked ourselves, and braved the rapidly-closing elevator to check out the fourth floor. KTV turned out to be...a karaoke bar with private booths, one of which was directly below our room. Of course. So we changed rooms in Shanghai, too, ironically to a room that had last had smokers in it. However, after an airing out it wasn't bad at all, and housekeeping thoughtfully left us a new box of matches when they made up the room.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

ARRRGH!

So much to blog about, not enough time!! Today I read this terrible piece of news about Cody's Books on Telegraph closing down. I can't imagine Berkeley without Cody's. I have spent so much time there, not to mention money. Cody's always has what I'm looking for, and often several things I wasn't looking for. Their art books...their YA section...their sci-fi and fantasy section...everything. The place is a treasure trove. Magazines I've never seen anywhere else. The official Book Lust book journal, which I bought for a librarian friend. (We also bought her the librarian action figure.) Now I'll never get to do a reading there--one of the little literary pipe dreams in the back of my mind has gone up in smoke, as it were. Farewell old friend.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The years are creeping by...

Today is Rob's and my five-year wedding anniversary. It seems like it hasn't been that long. We were wondering which traditional anniversary it was (e.g., silver anniversary, etc.), and after doing a little research I found that this is our "wood anniversary." I told Rob this. He said, "I'll give you some wood."

I'm actually being rather productive today. I wrote a lengthy book review for the YA book review blog. I'm doing crazy amounts of laundry. I plan to finish a brochure I'm designing that has my Writing and Editing services on one side and my Art and Design services on the other, so I can make them available at a boring work-related luncheon I have to go to on Thursday (I designed the invitations, reminder cards, programs, etc. for the event). And we're going out to a new Japanese fusion restaurant in downtown Modesto, which ought to be interesting.

We've also managed to watch two DVDs this weekend, which is a lot for us. Friday night we watched Reign of Fire with Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale, great actors in a not-so-great but definitely entertaining flick. Last night we watched Bride and Prejudice, a recent movie by the director of Bend It Like Beckham. It was...fun, and interesting--a Bollywood musical, but in English, that's a sort of Indian version of Pride and Prejudice. Really. It stars the incredibly drop-dead gorgeous Aishwarya Rai.

Another significant event this weekend is that we've now entered the Tivo age. Despite the fact that I really don't need to watch any more TV than I already do, I can now watch anything I want anytime I want. I have mixed feelings about this, although there is no denying that it's always cool to have a fun new gadget, especially one that makes cool bleepy noises.