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For Me

I'm not going to tell you what I'm watching.

With my enforced time off, I've read books and comics, and walked when I could, and watched movies when I could. There's a particular something I've meant to see, and now I'm seeing it.

I want to experience this as an experience. Just me and this work and my thoughts. And, hey, I can. It's simple to do so. I simply have to not mention it to anyone.

I'm not live-tweeting my viewing. I'm not bringing it up on Facebook. Once so far I've wanted to look up one specific bit of info about what I am watching, and I looked that up very carefully as to avoid finding out details I'd rather not know yet.

The work is something big, not just in length. The work is also esoteric, and weird, and often deeply disturbing, and often deeply beautiful.

It's not meant to be binged. I'd heard that before watching. So: I'm not. Watching every day or every other day seems a good pace. And that will occupy me for...a bit.

After that, maybe another viewing. Maybe more looking up specifics of what inspired aspects of this work. Maybe seeking out the thoughts of people I trust as to their feelings about this work, Maybe. Or maybe it stays as an experience, as something I can feel very personally.

I'm taking my time to watch. I'm taking my time to consider. I'll let it flow over me like waves, like an ocean I could breathe. (As I said: a big work.)

Some of you may have been able to guess what I'm watching. If you have, I'll ask a favor: keep it to yourself, and don't ask, and don't unsolicited tell me what you think of [x]. Maybe I'll talk to some of you later. Again, maybe.

Or, again, maybe I keep this to myself.

Easy to do badly, hard to do well

You know what almost always sucks? Somebody's attempt to write like Dr. Seuss.

There's a very good 2019 biography that reminded me of this, Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the making of an American imagination by Brian Jay Jones, who's also done strong bios of George Lucas and Jim Henson. The book portrays Geisel as someone who was brilliant, and who also wrote and rewrote and further rewrote and reworked his work. He revised mercilessly. He was open about the challenges of writing rhyming verse and compared it to knitting a sock, often realizing you'd made a mistake that meant the verse wouldn't work, and unraveling the sock to a point where you could do something else.

Dr. Seuss's Beginner Books, with a limited vocabulary list from which he could only deviate for a darn good reason, were an even deeper challenge. The Cat in the Hat used 236 distinct words; Green Eggs and Ham, inspired by a bet between Geisel and his friend and publisher Bennett Cerf, used 50. And had to rhyme, and teach meaning by pairing them with the artwork. Geisel took this seriously; he'd gotten into kids literature mainly to have something different to do than the advertising for which he first got famous, but he quickly came to respect children, both as an audience and as critics who'd see through writerly bullshit. As soon as 1947, decades before his most famous works, he loudly spoke of how so many children's books condescended to kids; he did his best not to repeat the mistakes of those other books. Which meant lots of discarded words, pages, and paintings.

And he made it look simple. Even though Geisel often said it most definitely wasn't, people looked at his writing, with simple words printed big, and found it easy to believe it was, well, easy. It became a writing exercise to review Dr. Seuss books in rhyme, but the resulting rhyme work was never nearly as interesting as his.

I've been guilty of this. In 1998 at my newspaper job, I was covering the Seuss-inspired event Read Across America, and did it in verse. I worked at it, though quickly because I had a very short time, maybe an hour, to get it done and submitted. I lucked into finding a rhythm much like Geisel's first book And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. Looking back at it, while still proud of that piece I see where I cheated. My description "skyscraper-sized hats" has to pronounce it "sky-SCRAY-per," not "SKY-scray-per," for instance. Geisel would have backed up and tried something else.

(At least I didn't try to make up words, a particular part of his genius but another part he spent a lot of time on. His made-up words and names had to look and sound right: a subjective standard, of course, but he made the effort to revise them until they were catchy, memorable, and able to be pronounced and not mispronounced, which is such a danger in English. His efforts had effects beyond colorful character names: he literally coined the term "nerd" and redefined the existing (if archaic) word "grinch.")

A line's been in my head more and more: "It's easy to do badly, hard to do well." I've thought of this in relation to this book, to the ability to dance — most of us can't dance like Gene Kelly, but a lot of us at some level think we could — and to local politics (ugh, I wish we'd voted out Mayor Ted Wheeler, who I feel so badly mishandled this summer and fall's protests).

I've not done certain things because they'd need to be done well in ways that I couldn't be sure I would, or even could, be able to do. I've turned down assignments and even whole jobs. I like to think I've done my paid jobs well, but for example I've never worked graveyard shift and I hope never to, because I believe my productiveness on graveyard would drastically fall. What will I do well next? Will I ever come close to being a genius at anything? Geniuses can make the difficult seem easy. As proud as Theodor Geisel was of his work, and as much as he'd joke about being a genius, he knew what he did was work. He mostly liked the work, but it was work.

More things are difficult than you think — but more things are doable than you think.


I hurt my jaw. Darn it. (I may have used harsher language elsewhere.) Looks like I overdid my holiday eating.

Other than that, though, my Thanksgiving was decent. A nice, sit-down meal, with mostly simple stuff all three of us in this house cooked: I bought and made boxed stuffing. The housemates made not just the basics (a small turkey, chicken, mashed potatoes) but also a Brussels sprouts/bacon/apple pieces dish. This was, I'm glad to say, all good, and we had a nice visit.

Except for straining my mouth. I've been taking it as easy as I can, considering I need to still, you know, eat. Mostly (not entirely) soft food: lunch yesterday was soup. Warmth on that side of my jaw. And spending time just letting my jaw be slack, which makes me glad I'm often home by myself lately.

It's getting better, as I hope it would (as you, too. My enemies? They might not).

In the Air

Because the sky east of me is clear right now, I made sure to go back to the kitchen and look out the sliding glass door, to see the almost-full moon. There it was, just over the rooftops and bright. I watched it and appreciated it.

I also noticed the lights of planes, flying west toward Portland International Airport. Not as many planes as I would have seen on any similar night a year ago, due to pandemic-era air traffic being much lower, but enough to remind me I've often been able to watch that long, quiet (from here) parade of lights.

I've said it before: I miss my job, and I miss the airport. I was glad to hear from a friend that she is starting a job at PDX; she'd asked to have her position get transferred there and she got the transfer. I'd like, eventually, to get back there myself, even if it's not the same position as I had until March — Valet isn't coming back anytime soon — because it's honestly a good airport.

But tonight, at least, I watched what used to be a normal sight. A sight I hope will be normal again.

Out-Of-Context Theater.

"I'll know they'd have run out of Star Wars names if they ever go to the planet Cromulent..."

Here he comes, here comes Speed Spider

So today I was driving. Early in the drive, after I'd gotten a to-go bagel sandwich plus coffee from Space Monkey, I pulled over at available street parking on SE 52nd, south of Duke. Had my breakfast there. I was seeing different scenery, having socially-distanced food and drink.

And then I saw a spider on my windshield.

I like spiders. This isn't going to be a "gaaaaaaaah spiders" entry.

Um, likely that spider had been riding on the car. I figured the spider would be happier somewhere that wasn't moving, like a tree. A tree was near where I was parked, so, why not move the spider?

Except when I went out to get the spider to crawl onto a hand so I could transplant it, that spider didn't want to climb on. It waited, it juked and ran in another direction, it didn't make any effort to get off the car. In fact, it then crawled just under the hood, into an area that looks snug. Spider-sized. Maybe comfortable, even.

Okay. Only so much I can do. I went driving. Wandered around SE Portland, stopping at Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge for a walk, on this bright and cool day, then stopped for some groceries at the Moreland QFC, then went home.

I'm guessing and hoping the spider was still somewhere under the hood, going "wheeeee!"

Another Way to Pause

Oregon is about to enter what we're calling The Pause, restrictions closer to the restrictions we started in March due to COVID-19. The limited in-person eating at restaurants, for instance, is being stopped, with only pickup and delivery allowed. Some stores will close for a time, except for many grocery stores.

And in my county, that includes the library halting its hold pickups. Multnomah County Library, like many library networks, had been allowing people to come to the entrances of branches — while still masked, and keeping six feet from other patrons — and get physical items they'd placed holds on. I last did that Sunday afternoon, getting a hardcover edition of short stories by Lord Dunsany then going on a long walk before heading home. (Detail: I got caught in a quick, hard rainstorm, including small hail. The book was safe in a tote bag. A thick one.)

I'd been about to get two library items this week: a DVD of the Rian Johnson film Knives Out (copy in transit to my branch) and, if all went well, a physical copy of Frank Herbert's novel Dune Messiah (first in line). I have a bunch of other physical holds, too. Well. Those will wait. Longer. Those will wait longer.

Honestly, I'm a little bummed at the moment by the change.

But I'm more bothered that we're going into a more restricted time because so many people still, still, haven't taken the sort of precautions we've been supposed to be taking, haven't been taking this seriously, haven't tried to ease this crisis. Because the COVID situation has been getting worse, and that's led to it being harder to do what I can do to cope with the lockdown. The library's hold pickups have been a real help. But for now they can't be. Yes, I'm pivoting to borrowing more digital stuff, as I've done since March, and yes, I have physical media at the house if I want to hold an actual book, but once again the relative few pleasures I have are more difficult to get to.

Take this seriously, please. We don't have a vaccine yet, we don't have a cure, we have a disease that's killed a quarter-million Americans and so many other people across the Earth, and I want one of these days not to have to plan how to go out. (You can untangle that grammar on your own, I'm not in the mood to rewrite that.)

Get to the other end of this tunnel, as many of us as possible. Please.

Oh, that's an option

I don't want to write about the pandemic.

So I won't.

*doesn't post*

Small Satisfactions

Today's been decent. I got out and got things done. Drove to the west side and, for the first time in a few months, visited Sesame Donuts at its Raleigh Hills shop. Getting there, I drove on a stretch of road, Multnomah Blvd./Garden Home, that I've rarely been on: watching the trees on an undeveloped stretch, like I was within a tree-full ravine, on this overcast and drizzly day was unexpectedly pretty and soothing.

I went this less-direct way than my usual route to the shop because when I take the usual way, Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy., it takes some awkward backtracking to get there unless I park a few lots away. Why not take more time and see different scenery? And that was satisfying.

As was me surprising myself by leaving down Oleson Rd. to see where I'd get and winding up near Washington Square Mall. Oh; I'd forgotten about some of the lay of the land in and around Beaverton, mainly because I last regularly went over there in the mid-1990s. I drove around that corner of Beaverton into Tigard then back into Portland.

This drive was satisfying, too. For most of today's driving, in fact, it was satisfying, without too much bad driving around me. (Some road trips, I yell. This trip, I occasionally grumbled sarcastic comments like "Nice signal" when someone shifted lanes without shifting.)

And while I was out, I did a big grocery-shopping stop, this time at the Burlingame Fred Meyer in SW Portland. And found several things I'd had trouble finding lately at other stores, so: get that! And that! Stock up on good stuff!

And now I have plenty of food at the house. Including doughnuts.

"Can more things work?!"

Here I am, quickly venting:

It's nice when more of my belongings that are designed to do certain things do those certain things without going wrong or going haywire.

(This is in part in reference to at least one major suck thing I'll replace soon, because it needs replacing.)

Eef, sometimes it seems like my stuff is looking for new ways not to work right.

...venting done. I do need to sleep at some point.

Out-Of-Context Theater.

"Hugh Jass-Tangent was reported to that voter fraud hotline."

Thanks, legs

About five miles' worth of walking today.

Maybe two/two-and-a-half miles' worth of it yesterday.

Considering at times during quarantine I've gone two or three days in a row without leaving the house, these walks are likely needed.

I'm doing them carefully, too.

Short entry because I want to head to bed.


That was vivid.

I dreamed I was staying in an immersive park, think Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge if it had lodging, and someone had decided to make the park even more immersive by letting airplanes — large planes, oddly-shaped experimental planes — fly really really low over the park. I mean dangerously, loudly low.

Probably illegally low, too, in a way Anaheim city government never ever would allow.

Meaning Dream-Me was imagining going to bed in a hotel room in this park when VRROOOOMBOOOM something huge flashed by right outside a window, and I jumped up and ran to the window to barely catch a glimpse of the tail end of a 747, lower than it'd even be on approach for a landing.

Vivid, I tells you.

Good morning.

Said at the end of a rollercoaster week:

We can celebrate.

We can rest.

We can get better.

We can make more be better.
So, it's all over but the counting. And lawsuits, which are slowing the counting, but...

...we are getting closer to saying with certainty that Former Vice President Joe Biden will become President Biden, and Senator Kamala Harris of California will become Vice President Harris, this Jan. 20th.


Sometime yesterday, after so much uncertainty and frustration and stress and gloom, many of us online got...punchy. Punchy and hilarious. The memes and reactions were choice. We could be funny again. And not funny in the "ha ha ha the world is ending" way. It's been fascinating to watch, and a massive relief to experience.

And this morning I woke up not dreading checking the news.

People are getting energy from this election result. Finally. It's less draining. Finally. We can build in this, and go in a better direction than my country's been going in for years. Finally. There's repair work to be done, but it's doable.

As for the rest of my day, I got out in the afternoon, driving on errands. Went to an ATM. Let myself restock some whiskey. Get comics from my subscription box at Bridge City Comics. Visit the NW 23rd area, near Chapman School, because my last stop before heading home was at Boxer Ramen. One of its locations has reopened for ramen to-go, and I've been wanting better ramen than my homemade ramen. I wandered the neighborhood for a bit, then went to the restaurant and had my food and drink (including pot stickers and a blackberry cider) seven minutes after ordering. Then it was back to the car, home, and dinner.


Out-Of-Context Theater.

"Sometimes a sausage roll is just a sausage roll.

"Wait, that still sounds sexual."

Resting's an accomplishment, right?

Not much today. That was my day.

The most I did was going out to do what I normally do Wednesday mornings, which is go to the corner newspaper box to get this week's Willamette Week. I'd forgotten to do that yesterday. Otherwise, I rested. Didn't do much.

The news continues to be weird and hard to wrap one's mind around and, still, not definitive. We just don't know for 100% certain how, well, everything will play out. Which is draining. I accepted that. I'll see how I can work around that.

Strength, y'all. This sucks, but we've been through sucky times before.
I wanted to begin this entry "The United States of America, at this moment, is In a Mood." But, no. Too flippant.

With the 2020 Election, we've found more ways to be weird, frustrating and difficult this year. The campaign season was brutal; watching how the chips fall (scratch that, are still falling) is scary and maddening.

Like so many other people, I didn't get much done yesterday. The most I did was go out in the early morning to Space Monkey Coffee (busy with only one person working at that moment); otherwise, I was at the house and trying and often failing to keep checking updates online. I tried to read a book and had trouble focusing on it. I tried to rest and did a little better at that. I listened to music. I thought.

Took me a while to get to sleep last night, but I did.

I took advantage of being able to ease into today and, y'know, eased. I deliberately did not go online until well after I'd awakened; I told myself "Wait at least until it's light out." Took care of my morning bathroom trip then eating a quick snack (a banana and some water) before checking, and: slight changes from last night. Things weren't exploding. There. That covers it.

Was somewhat more productive today. That included going out. I drove to just south of the Ladd's Addition neighborhood, first to buy two books from Books With Pictures, then to go on a long walk. Over to 11th Ave., waiting for a freight train to pass, south to around Powell Blvd. and a bit of the Brooklyn neighborhood, over the pedestrian/ bicyclist bridge at 18th and Rhine, over to 21st, up to Tibbetts, over to 26th and Clinton. The block of Clinton between 25th and 26th is closed to vehicles and converted to a plaza; I'd seen it recently and wanted to walk through it. I managed to dodge drizzle; it didn't rain where I was until I was almost home.

Okay. Now to do more relaxing. Or at least try to.

Do I get a No-Prize?

I will write about a non-election-related topic.

Okay. Star Wars. In the Nineties, after I'd spent years watching the films and listening to the John Williams scores (and even occasionally watching the animated shows Ewoks and Droids), it finally dawned on me to ask: How do people understand R2-D2?

More to the point, how can he be understood? When he speaks, he uses a relatively limited range of electronic beeps, boops, and squawks, which sure doesn't sound like a wide-ranging vocabulary. You can get tone from him, whether it's "concerned," "amused," "in pain," or more, but it seems like you'd need more cues and clues for nuance. When Luke Skywalker is flying in his X-Wing with R2, a computer translates R2's speech into the written form of Galactic Basic, or "Aurebesh," but otherwise detailed conversations only happen when C-3PO is around.

So my theory was, R2 makes sounds we humans can't hear. Plenty of sounds are like that! That way, 3PO and the local equivalent of dogs hear more from him, and 3PO gives the humans the full, nuanced message.

I like my idea. It's almost certainly not what anybody connected to Star Wars considered when inventing R2-D2's way of talking, but it doesn't have to be! It's an amusing-to-me way to explain it.

Years after I thought that, the Star Wars prequels started coming out. (Standard-for-me disclaimer: my feelings about the prequels will always be more complicated than my feelings about the original trilogy, but I do like them. At worst I'm still mixed-to-positive about Episode I: the Phantom Menace. And yes, I honestly like Episode II: Attack of the Clones.) Smartly, when a younger R2 is introduced, he speaks with the tones we'd heard before, plus more variations on them. More vocabulary is implied! And the prequels also show that humans can understand R2 and other droids to an extent even without translators. Then there was the nice, unexpected joke in Episode VIII: the Last Jedi where R2 sees Luke for the first time in years and beeps really excitedly, and Luke replies "Watch the language." Heh.

Ultimately, "how are droids understood?" is what's called a "refrigerator question": you may only think of it after seeing the movie, getting home, deciding to eat, going to the fridge, opening it then going "Hey, wait a minute..." So, no big thing.

But you know what's still unexplained? How in Citizen Kane anyone knows Kane's dying word when no one was in the room with him when he died...



Whale fluke
Chris Walsh

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