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Jan. 31st, 2009

Me

Straw Into Gold

So, a brief lesson on how to turn an unpleasant experience into a wonderful one:

On occasion, my school hosts "Saturday Seminars", which are just what they sound like; for a few hours on Saturday, a guest lecturer speaks on a psychological topic to a group of students. The seminars are free and frequently concern things of interest to me, but I rarely attend them, due to a dislike of both getting up before 10 AM on a Saturday and of leaving my apartment. But I've been chiding myself lately for not getting out more, and especially for not taking advantage of the many opportunities for professional networking and development that this area offers someone in my field, so I decided to attend the next Saturday Seminar, which was to be on Control-Mastery Theory, something I'm interested in learning more about.

Knowing myself, I knew that I would not want to get up early enough to ride my bicycle to downtown Berkeley, so to ensure that I got enough sleep I went to bed at a reasonable hour and decided to take one of my sleeping pills to knock me out. The pills are low-dose Trazodone, an antidepressant which was discontinued due to its strong sedative effects. I'd been taking it to help with sleep for some time, but had discontinued using it lately due to improvement in my sleep habits. The last time I tried to use it, it ended up keeping me up all night instead of putting me down, which may be due to a need for the chemicals to build up in the bloodstream before they become effective. In any case, I decided to try again last night, to see if the sleepless night had been a fluke.

At about 2 AM, not having slept at all, I decided it hadn't been a fluke. By that point, there wasn't any way of getting the chemicals out of my blood, and I didn't want to attend a lecture after a night with no sleep, so I only saw one other option: taking another pill and hoping the effect would be strong enough to knock me out. This is the sort of plan that makes sense to a half-drugged person at 2 AM.

It worked, mostly; I did get some sleep, though of a rather disjointed and non-refreshing nature. But I was able to pull myself out of bed at the appointed hour in the morning, and I got ready to leave in plenty of time, though I noticed in the mirror that my eyes were sunken and puffy as if I'd gone without sleep entirely. No time to worry about that, though, I had to get to the school in time for the beginning of the lecture.

Once I got there, though, I was confused, since the room that usually hosts the seminars was being used for an entirely different class. Without anyone handy to ask, I went to the computer lab to check my e-mail, to see if I had gotten the room wrong. When I looked up the message announcing the seminar, I looked at the date--and realized it had been sent last week, which meant the Saturday in question had been a week before. I'd already missed the seminar entirely.

I couldn't help but laugh, even though the combination of pills and empty stomach was beginning to make me nauseous. Frustrated, disappointed and feeling sick, I left the school and considered going back home to get some more sleep. But the day was sunny and beginning to warm up, and it had been a while since I'd been on that side of town with nothing to do, and so I decided to take a walk to clear out the mingled fumes of Trazodone and frustration from my groggy brain. No destination in mind, just a walk through the upper part of the UC Berkeley campus, where it verges on the Berkeley hills.

I walked along the street where the law building, my old workplace, still stood, and by the yard where the tree-sitters had occupied the old oaks to protest the expansion of the sports stadium. Then I turned uphill, hiking up towards Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, which sits at the top of the hill overlooking the city. After a short walk up the winding road, I came to a bend edged by a crash barrier, and past the barrier the hill dropped sharply. Curious to see the view, I crossed the road and stepped over the barrier to look down the hill.

Ah, dear readers, if I'd had a camera, the view I could have shown you.

To my left, the Berkeley hills, with their proud coniferous forests, surrounding me with the sweet musk of pine. To my right, the sprawl of Berkeley, and beyond it Oakland, with its stubby towers of concrete and glass. The rising fog blanketed it all, and in the fog the two landscapes seemed to merge and bleed together, treetops becoming rooftops as if each had grown intertwined out of the earth. And far behind it all, capped by mist and reflected sunlight, the bay, with vibrant San Francisco invisible in the vapor beyond. It was breathtaking.

Looking down at it all, I was taken with the notion to call my sister, who I knew would appreciate such a scene. I did, and we talked at length as I hiked up the nearby ecology trail into the woods, finding an isolated balcony ledge from which one could look directly down into the stadium, where a team of lacrosse players were practicing. My sister and I traded stories of frustrations and enjoyed commiserating, and I slipped into "therapist mode" for a bit and offered my reframes and advice. She counseled me as well, until she had to leave to join the rest of my family to make candy. I couldn't decide whether I wished they were here with me, or I were there with them.

I walked back to my bicycle, the temperature ideal, the air clean and invigorating, and felt good about the entire affair. Perhaps it was some lingering antidepressant effect of the pills, but my mind felt clear and my outlook was bright. I headed back into Berkeley and decided to treat myself to continue the enjoyment, so I stopped and got a delicious burger at local eatery Au Coquelet, then dropped by my favorite Berkeley spot, Comic Relief, for a bit of basking in my favorite medium. When I tired of that I returned home and wrote this, wanting to share a little of my pleasure with my dear readers. I still missed the seminar, I'm still tired, and I spent money I didn't really have to spend on that burger, which is not the sort of food I should be eating anyway, but honestly, who cares. The sun is bright and warm, the hills are there, the trees are there, and there are people who love me in the world.

I'll give up a little sleep now and then to remind myself of these things.

Enjoy yourselves, dear readers.

Jan. 8th, 2009

Me

Moving Right Along

Hard to believe it's actually been a year since I posted my first post of 2008, predicting that 2008 would be an interesting year. Well, it seems I was right; 2008 was a year of many firsts, for me and a great many other people. Just off the top of my head, things that 2008 saw:

The United States of America elected its first African-American president, a historic event which may have serious repercussions, both positive and negative, over the next decade;

I got engaged, then broke off my engagement, an experience from which I'm still reeling;

I started seeing clients as a full-fledged therapist-in-training for the first time, and, in so doing, discovered that I am clearly pursuing the right career track--the thrill of being genuinely helpful to people, and doing something I seem to be really good at, has been entirely unmatched in my lifetime;

I began living by myself in a strange place, without roommates or a fiancee, for the first time since I moved away from home;

My darling sister got married to her delightful husband, and I got to take part in the ceremony, after getting myself ordained (online, of course) as a minister;

A close friend of mine got a film accepted into the Slamdance film festival, marking the first time one of his works has gotten the public recognition it so richly deserves;

And--for better or for worse--I finally took the plunge and went into debt, taking out tens of thousands worth of student loans to live on while I finish up my degree and prepare to begin working directly towards my Marriage and Family Therapist license. The economy being what it is, we'll see how that pans out.

I was fortunate to have the chance to spend the holiday season with my family in southern Illinois, enjoying their warmth and hospitality while I spent money I didn't have on some last-minute Christmas gifts. I got to spend two weeks there, which was wonderful, and left me a little confused and disoriented when I finally came back to California and had to remember what I was doing out here in the first place.

To my surprise, I actually remembered to bring my camera along this time when I left; to no one's surprise, I managed to forget to actually take any pictures with it almost the entire time I was there. The only pictures I managed to get were on the last day, just before I left for the airport, and only some of my family was around.

As such, the only people present in these pictures are my parents, myself, and my littlest sister. You'll just have to pretend that my other sister, my brother, and all of my wonderful friends are gathered in the background somewhere.




Once more, with feeling:




Dear readers, I hope that the holidays have left you refreshed and well-loved, and that the coming year will be one of joy and bounty for all of you. Frankly, after 2008, I could do with a year that was a little more boring.

Best wishes.

Dec. 8th, 2008

Me

Grief

It is with great sadness, and many other emotions, that I post the following news: Katrabbit and I have ended our engagement.

As much of a shock as the engagement itself may have been to some, I can only imagine this news, unexpected as it is, comes as an even greater one. I feel incredibly sorry to have let everyone down in this way--most of all, I'm sorry to have let Katrabbit herself down, because I know that she always believed in us as a couple and saw a bright future ahead for us. I've broken my promises to her, and to myself, and to a great many other people, and I can only say that I'm sorry, and I wish it could be different.

"But why?" is a reasonable question to ask under the circumstances, and there's no real easy answer to that; in short, I don't feel that I'm ready, emotionally, to deal with the demands of a serious, committed relationship. I realize that this doesn't say anything particularly flattering about me, and I accept that judgment. In terms of maturity I feel that I'm still on the level of a child, and I can't handle the responsibility of an adult relationship. Perhaps that is something I'll learn in time. But for right now, I feel that the best thing to do is to back off, put some distance between Katrabbit and I and give myself a chance to grow up a bit, while giving Katrabbit a chance to find someone who is ready and able to give her the love and support she needs and deserves.

I could go on and on about my feelings, my regrets, my grief, and the whole story leading up to this point, but I'll spare you, and myself. Suffice to say that this is a hard time for us both, and if there are any among you readers who wish to offer comfort, I ask that you offer it to Katrabbit, because she has had her whole world pulled out from under her, and she needs to know that she's not alone. As for myself, I have my wonderful friends and family to stand by me, and I know that this time of grief will pass eventually.

Again, dear ones, accept my apologies for having led you astray, and I hope that the next time I post it will be with happier news. Till then, all.
Tags:

Nov. 22nd, 2008

Me

I'VE RECENTLY CHANGED MY DIET, WARREN

In the category of "jokes nobody but me would find funny", I submit to you this recording, of legendary comic book author Warren Ellis doing his impression of even-more-legendary comic book author Alan Moore.

http://odeo.com/episodes/22120004-Warren-Ellis-on-Alan-Moore-mp3-audio-mpeg-Object

Not everybody wants a magic cave...

Nov. 4th, 2008

Me

Today, Tomorrow

I've never used this blog to put forward any particular political views, though my association with the Pacific Center probably makes it clear which direction my politics lean in.

However, I've just watched the acceptance speech of our new President, Barack Obama, and both Katrabbit and I agreed: we are two cynical people, who put little faith in any elected official, but both of us are filled with hope for the future of America when we listen to this man. His speech was fantastic in all the ways that the great speeches of American history have been: topical and yet timeless, poetically encapsulating the past while looking towards the future. He managed to include a great many people in his address, as well: various races, gay and straight, disabled and not disabled, as well as directly reaching out to those people who did not vote for him, and to people listening to the results all over the world. Interestingly, he praised the Republican party and its origins as a party directed towards protecting the rights of the American people, an ideal that he considers just as valid now as it was then. And he spoke of a woman in Atlanta, Georgia, who voted today by touch-screen, despite being 106 years old. He spoke of the changes she had seen during her lifetime, through women's suffrage and the civil rights movement, the Great Depression and World War II, the advent of the internet and the explosion of technology. He spoke of the changes the upcoming generations will witness in this country over the next hundred years.

I'm not easily moved by the focus-group-tested words of professional liars. But even I can't help getting misty-eyed when I hear Obama humbly and graciously reach out to the people of the United States and ask them to help him work to repair the wounds our nation has suffered and work towards a brighter future.

Today, the United States has turned a page in its history, electing the first non-Caucasian President ever. Tomorrow we begin a new era of possibility in a country that for too long has seemed incapable of moving forward.

As an American, I barely feel capable of maintaining a sense of hopefulness. But I'm ready to believe that Barack Obama is the president who can finally change that.

We can't begin to guess what is going to happen next. For the first time in a long time, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

Oct. 25th, 2008

Me

Get Me To The Church On Thyme

So, as some of you readers may already be aware, my darling sister recently got married, to her long-time sweetheart, in a ceremony taking place at the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship in my hometown of Carbondale, Illinois. Katrabbit and I flew back to Illinois to attend, which comprised the first opportunity I've had to see my hometown, friends and family in about six months--the longest period I've spent away from home my entire life.

Needless to say, it was a happy reunion, and it was wonderful to see my loved ones again. Katrabbit and I arrived late Thursday night and drove from the airport in St. Louis to her house in Murphysboro accompanied by a cousin of mine, with whom I hadn't spoken in several years. She was delightful to get reacquainted with, and we swapped memories and life stories on the drive. The next day, I headed over to my parents' house to embrace them all and find out what was needed for the wedding preparations. In the process, I managed to secure a birthday cake for myself from my dad (who had a little trouble with the recipe instructions, probably because I was standing nearby "helping" the whole time).

That evening, I met some of Katrabbit's relatives who happened to be in town at the time, and after introducing myself all around I headed to the bachelor party for my soon-to-be-brother-in-law (most hyphens ever!), and enjoyed an evening of eating and drinking. Katrabbit dropped by my sister's bachelorette party, as did I, to greet a number of my female friends.

The next morning was the wedding rehearsal, and as an official officiant (being officially ordained as a minister in the Universal Life Church just a few weeks earlier) I needed to learn my part. It was an elaborate ceremony, structured around a Wiccan handfasting, and I and the groom's elder sister were doing the speechifying. Ultimately, I did relatively little, allowing the groom's sister to take charge of breaking up the spoken parts and lay out what each one of us would do. When the rehearsal was over, my main concern was making sure I didn't screw up the hand-binding, since the cord had to be draped over their hands in a very specific fashion. As it turned out, this was not the only thing I should have been worried about.

I went home and showered, got dressed and went back to the Fellowship to help set up the tables in preparation for the reception after the event. Katrabbit went to her parents' place for help baking the loaves of bread that they were contributing to the post-wedding festivities. Once the tables were arranged (painstakingly), the kitchen prepared, the directional altars set up, and the huge coolers full of high-quality beer safely stowed, I went to pick up Katrabbit and the bread. When I got back, the guests were arriving and I went to take my place in the wedding party.

The ceremony kicked off with the introductory music and we made our way down the aisle, to the front of the sanctuary. I started to read my part, switching off with my partner in crime, only to realize that the jug of water and bowl of bread on the main altar, which were important fixtures of the ritual, had not been filled. My mind was blank--it was all I could do to not burst out laughing, especially when I heard the groom chuckling--but fortunately the groom's sister grabbed the jug and bowl while I was reading and handed them off to someone near the stage to fill in the kitchen and return to us. By the time we got to the part of the ceremony where they were required, they were properly established. Whew.

I read the small bit that I had written myself, along with an untitled poem by Tanith Lee. I found that particular poem highly apropos--after spending hours searching through online databases of poetry which yielded many fascinating pieces but almost none appropriate for the event--since the name the couple would both be taking after the marriage is Rose. It will be odd to think of my own sister, whose name I have always shared, as a Rose now. I suppose their children will all be little Roses as well. Hmm.

Anyway, I read my bit, and I'm proud to say I managed to not break down crying. I came close, but I held it together.

So the ceremony was finished, I managed to screw up the hand-binding as I had feared but nobody seemed to care (so far as I could tell), and the newly married couple was celebrated late into the night. I played my part in those festivities as well; I borrowed a friend's twelve-string guitar and performed the song that my sister had requested I contribute: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.

Hey, don't ask me. I just do what I'm told.

Eventually, Katrabbit and I returned to her place, exhausted, and got up late the next morning, with the plan that we would join my family for a birthday dinner. However, my parents' household was overrun with leftover food from the reception, so we opted to let them work on the leftovers for a while and instead joined Katrabbit's family for a trip to visit her grandmother in Golconda, Illinois. It was a fun trip and I got to meet even more of her family, including not just her grandmother (who was a hoot) but also several of her aunts, uncles and cousins. One, a boy not more than eleven, informed that if I was to join their family, I would need to learn sports.

No one told me this before I made my choice. I consider this a dirty trick.

After we got back from Golconda, we met up with several of our friends at Katrabbits house, and for the third night in a row I partied until the wee hours of the morning. It was an intense evening, fraught with many emotions and a good deal of closeness, which I hardly realized I had been missing so powerfully until I tasted it again. There was little sleep that night, but much love was shared.

Eventually Katrabbit and I dragged ourselves out of bed to meet up with my family for that birthday lunch, which ended up being a rather small affair since the new bride and groom were enjoying their alone time and my brother was busy with school. After a quick meal, an exchange of gifts and a bit of my father's questionable cake (which turned out to be quite tasty, despite it all), Katrabbit and I hurried to finish our packing so we could make it to our flight on time. Thankfully, we had left ourselves sufficient leeway in terms of travel time, so we got to the airport without too much distress.

The flight back was thoroughly unpleasant, as we were both sleep-deprived and had taken seats in front of a woman and her two children, who continually shrieked, complained, and kicked our seats until they departed in Salt Lake City. Rarely have two travelers been so thankful to see the Oakland airport. We made our weary way home to our apartment and crumbled into bed.

Since then, little of note has occurred; I've heard tell that the happy couple has continued on largely as before, slightly richer from wedding presents and glad that the event is finally behind them. My mother is now bothering me for plans for my own wedding, which is requiring some thought. Thankfully, we have a year to prepare before we try to pull it off, so hopefully we'll get it all put together in time.

Katrabbit has taken up working part-time at the cafe run by our landlady downstairs in our apartment building, and has shown all the qualities of an excellent manager. I've continued enjoying my laziness, reaping the benefits of government-funded unemployment. I'm still looking for part-time work, but that is proving to be harder than I would have expected; apparently the call for part-time workers is (understandably) less than that for full-time, so I'm not getting the responses I would have hoped my resume would have provoked. Ah, well, either way we survive, so I'm not going to stress about it just yet.

The holiday season fast approaches us; Halloween is nearly upon us, and swift after that comes Thanksgiving and Christmas (for those inclined towards such holidays). Come Christmastime I'll be returning to Carbondale once again, which I look forward to ardently.

In the meantime, I'll continue to work on growing as a burgeoning therapist, feeling out my role at the Pacific Center and seeking to apply some of the principles I'm learning in class. I've been developing greater confidence in myself along those lines lately; we'll see how that confidence bears up when I've been doing this for more than a few months and actually have some real experience under my belt.

Hope your Halloween is a pleasantly haunted one, dear readers, and that your holiday season is filled with joy. I'll be sure to keep you informed if things decide to happen.

(Note: I wish I had pictures of the wedding to share here, but I foolishly left my camera at home--I'm not actually very good at this whole "recording events" thing, it appears. Well, perhaps they'll start a website of their own with images I can link you to. If not, take my word for it: it was beautiful.)

Sep. 22nd, 2008

Me

Several Quick Firsts

Just a few quick notes to fill in what the Katrabbit and I have been up to in the past month, and all the firsts we've managed to survive thus far:

I saw my first clients at the Pacific Center. Confidentiality (and prudence--after all, potential clients could theoretically read this blog) prevents my saying more, but I'm excited to begin putting into practice all the theory and training I've undergone thus far. The rest of this year will be an unprecedented opportunity to test my limits and abilities in the field I've chosen...

Katrabbit and I attended a reunion concert for classic punk thrash band The Force, at legendary Bay Area club The Gilman. It was an interesting show, with a medley of punk/thrash acts, and though that style of music is not particularly my bag (baby), I enjoyed myself. One act of note was Das Kapital, a punk band of Chicago origin. We chatted with the lead singer after his set, and he revealed that he's passed through Carbondale numerous times, and remembered with particular fondness his shows at Lost Cross (side note: how cool is it that Lost Cross has its own entry in Urban Dictionary?) and PK's. However, the clear highlight of the evening was Katrabbit getting to meet members of one of her favorite bands, AFI. She even got to take pictures with the bassist, Hunter (which I would post here, except she still has my camera.)

Katrabbit and I also agreed to volunteer for the Macy's Passport fashion show, supposedly the only fashion show of note that takes place in San Francisco. Not normally my kind of thing, but it's an AIDS fundraiser, which gives it a connection to the Pacific Center, and I thought Katrabbit might be interested. The evening didn't turn out like I expected; we didn't get to sit in on the fashion show, and mostly ended up schlepping free flip-flops to the half-wasted debutantes and assorted hoi-polloi that drifted around after the show, but we received some rather nice parting gifts for our trouble, including Calvin Klein duffel bags and free samples of Obsession perfume. Not a bad haul, all things considered.

Other than that, little to relate; I've successfully negotiated increasing my student loan amount, so Katrabbit and I will be able to continue living and eating food in the manner to which we've become accustomed, and I'll worry about paying all the money back once I'm out of school and (theoretically) able to get a decent-paying job. For now I'll just focus on making it through my practicum and learning as much as I can about the therapy racket.

As ever, dear readers, my thoughts are with you (when I can spare any). Be kind to yourselves, all.

Aug. 6th, 2008

Me

Roman Holiday

It's been a big week here at Law of Motion, Inc. (where Katrabbit and I make our beds). I started the training for my practicum this week (elephantine readers may recall that I'll be a trainee at the Pacific Center), and have been gradually introduced to the duties and responsibilities that I will be taking on as I start down the path of actually seeing clients in therapy. It is, needless to say, a big job, and I have doubts and fears aplenty regarding my capacity.

Further complicating matters is the fact that my employer, UC Berkeley School of Law, has determined that they will not be able to accommodate the time off that my practicum would require me to take, and I have been given the option of either continuing in my position, or continuing my practicum--but not both. For obvious reasons, I've chosen the practicum, as the development of myself as a therapist was my whole reason for coming out to this area in the first place, and while the job has been generally very good to me, I simply can't forsake my greater purpose in the pursuit of simple, momentary financial security. What's more, my experience in the training so far has made it clear to me that holding a full-time job of any kind during the practicum would be nigh-impossible; even if I could find an employer who would allow me flexible enough hours of employment, the thought of having to divide my attention between the practicum requirements, the job, and my schoolwork leaves me dizzy with apprehension. A part-time job is probably as much as I can handle at this point, if not more, and what the financial consequences of working less would be, I couldn't rightly say at this point.

But I post today not to whine publicly about my stresses and financial concerns, but rather to celebrate a great joy: this week has also delivered unto Katrabbit our first child. Our first hairy, carnivorous child.




He came to us through the Hopalong Animal Rescue Center, which finds homes for abandoned animals through the various pet shops and services in the area. We'd been looking for several weeks, and though several animals had appealed to us, we hadn't decided to take the plunge until just this week.

He was named "Silvio" when we found him at Your Basic Bird in Berkeley, one of Hopalong's partner stores. We've chosen to name him Carmine "The Roman" Falcone, a name which may sound familiar to some readers. We chose this name because it met our three major criteria:

1. It was Italian, in keeping with the resonance of "Silvio",

2. It was a name from either mythology or comic books (surprisingly, a requirement Katrabbit laid down, not me), and

3. It was a name appropriate to a cat which, in Katrabbits words, was extremely "chill".

After some initial trepidation when we first brought him to the apartment, he quickly warmed up to his surroundings and our company, and has been completely inseparable from us whenever we're home.




Here we seem him helping me study. This "perching on a shoulder" thing seems to be a favorite of his; he's actually doing it while I type this post. He was bought from a store full of birds; perhaps he was raised to believe he is a parrot.

I'll keep you updated with adorable stories and photos as he creates them. In the meantime, we're just glad to have someone so cute to talk to, and to wake us up as we try to sleep. We love it so much, we may buy him a nice summer home, in our freezer.

Seriously, he's quite a joy. It's the first cat I've ever owned myself, so I look forward to a long association. Fortunately, he looks like his mother (though his attitude is all me).

Yay first baby! Fuzzy or no, he's ours and we love him.

Jul. 27th, 2008

batman

The Long Dark Knight Of The Soul

Warning: This entire post may contain spoilers for The Dark Knight

Last weekend, I took a few days off of work to go down to Phoenix to visit my good friend there. He's preparing to leave Phoenix and move to L.A., which will be quite a switch, I imagine, so we wanted to take advantage of what remained of his time in Arizona and check out some of the sights and attractions that we didn't have time for the last time I visited. This we accomplished quite handily; we drove out into the desert to visit Gammon's Gulch, an "old west" movie set where parts of my friend's most recent film "One-Half World" (which I would link to, but I can't seem to find the website, if it exists) were shot. We also stopped by historic Tombstone, which was appallingly tacky and touristy, and enjoyed both the lovely desert vistas and any number of Phoenix eateries.

But none of those things were really the reason I went down there. The real reason I went down there was to see The Dark Knight.

Why travel so far just to see a movie? Well, this particular friend and I have a long history of interest in Batman films; in 1989, when Tim Burton brought out his original Batman, it started off my interest in the character (believe it or not, at that time I had never paid much attention to Batman outside of occasional cartoons) which helped feed my growing fascination with comic books in general--and for more information about the character I turned this particular friend, who was, at the time, more an expert on the subject than I. We both pored over the film and the related merchandise, and were even more excited when the sequel, Batman Returns, was released, painting an even darker and more characterologically twisted picture of Gotham and its inhabitants.

(As we all know, after that, no more Batman films were released. None.)

So it seemed entirely appropriate that when Christopher Nolan released his follow-up to the highly decent (if deeply flawed) retelling of Batman's origin, Batman Begins, he and I should hook up once more to re-experience the new iteration of the concept, and recapture some of the excitement we felt back in 1989 when Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson first made their indelible marks on the characters. We were already excited to see Dark Knight, as the hype had been strong and preliminary reviews good, and we knew that Heath Ledger's farewell performance was supposed to be the actor's greatest work.

Now, normally I wouldn't devote an entire blog post just to discussing a particular movie like this. But when I finally saw the Dark Knight, even after all the raised expectations and hype, I knew that I had to put my impressions down so that I could add my voice to the cacophony of discussion that was sure to follow.

So, first off: The Dark Knight is, hands down, the best superhero film ever made. Admittedly, that's not a hard field to stand out in, but even speaking as someone with strong nostalgic ties to films like the 1989 Batman and the original Superman, and with a powerful fannish attraction to flawed superhero films like Spider-Man and X-Men 2, there's no denying that Dark Knight surpasses all of them in terms of style, filmmaking expertise, and the tightness of the storytelling. Nolan is a filmmakr whose work has been steadily improving, and with the Dark Knight he clearly shows that he has the talent and the self-restraint to be a fully excellent director.

Not that the Dark Knight isn't without flaws. Nolan has his characteristic moments of too much dialogue, and as the Katrabbit pointed out upon her first viewing, movie tries to occupy a more "realistic" space than previous Batman films, but that realism breaks down in the face of certain scenes, such as the horrific injuries Harvey Dent sustains, or Batman being able to catch a falling Joker with a grapple line without either having the grapple-gun ripped from his hand or pulling the Joker's leg clean off.

But if you're able to put aside these inconsistencies--and happily I am--the movie is so deliciously well-crafted that watching feels like candy in the mouth. The exploration of the ways in which Batman changes his city simply by his presence there, the focus on the supporting characters of the Batman mythos and their very human struggles, the wonderful use of the coin motif as it shapes the development of the Harvey Dent character, and, of course, the absolutely terrifying portrayal of the Joker by a maniacally talented Heath Ledger (God damn but I'm sorry he's dead; I would have loved to see where he went after this), all serve to lend the film a gut-wrenching veritas that keeps you hooked from the opening moment to the closing credits.

This film is, if I might craft a somewhat visceral analogy, like being kicked repeatedly in the balls, but in a good way. (My female readers will just have to use their imaginations.) In many ways it is less a Batman film and more a thriller/cop drama, that happens to have Batman in it. But Batman is not superfluous to the plot--he's an integral piece of the scene, but only a piece, and the police officers, crooks, bystanders and supporting cast all fit neatly into the picture in a way that makes each of them vital without overshadowing the major players. Not that anyone could fully overshadow the Joker--Ledger portrays him as so gleefully sadistic, and yet somehow sympathetically pseudo-insightful, that you can't help but cringe each time he appears--and at the same time, you want to hear what he has to say, in that lilting, off-kilter cadence that moves from singsong to furiously roaring without warning.

The real surprise treat of the film is Harvey Dent, however. Aaron Eckhart is not an actor with whom I have a great deal of familiarity, but he seems well-chosen for the role, and though he over-emotes at times he serves to fully draw the audience in to sympathy with his crusading District Attorney, who sees his entire morality crumble around him with a simple twist of fate--like a coin toss. And the coin which keeps appearing throughout the story, and which finally serves as the character's core symbol after his transformation, is a brilliant device in the way it structures and foreshadows the character's journey. As much as I loved Ledger's Joker, Eckhart's Dent is almost equally engaging--and even after seeing the film three times, I still get a rise in my gorge when I first see the deformations that push him from Dent into Two-Face territory.

In short, Dark Knight is a genuine tour-de-force that, I sincerely hope, will reinvent the superhero genre in film and serve to shape (just as Burton's 1989 Batman did) the character as he is portrayed in all media. Batman fans could use a little more Dark Knight in their Recommended Daily Allowance, and even non-Batman-fans should check the film out, just to see how evocative the character and setting can be when handled right.

Quick, readers! To the Bat-Theatre!

Jul. 9th, 2008

Me

The Law Of Moving

It's been a good while since aught was heard out of me around these parts, but this time it was not by my choice: I've been engaged in moving from my little bedroom in a shared house to a one-bedroom apartment which I share with my beloved Katrabbit. For the first time since I moved out of the college dorms, I'm living in an entirely shared space, and this time I've chosen my roommate quite carefully. The Katrabbit and I are taking one first, big step towards our new life together, and, as they say, the first step is a doozy.

The whole story is somewhat interesting, actually. A few months back, Katrabbit and I began discussing the possibility of having her move out here to California permanently, but we were somewhat undecided on the date. August was our first suggestion, but I had my doubts, since that was when I knew I'd be starting my practicum and would likely be reducing my hours at work, meaning a decrease in my free time, income, and general energy levels. We also talked about the possibility of making the move in October, after my sister's wedding, and of waiting until Christmas, so that we wouldn't have to fly the two of us back and forth to Carbondale so many times.

But all of this talk became just so much noise, as we prepared for Katrabbit's trip here to visit me at the beginning of July, and considered the possibility of finding a place sooner rather than later. Just before she left to join me here, we hit upon a prospect of getting a lovely two-bedroom apartment on the same day that we viewed it, and I excitedly went to talk to the landlord while Katrabbit packed her things with an eye towards a permanent relocation instead of a week-long visit. Unfortunately, the prospect turned out to be a dud, as the landlord refused to return my calls or make any kind of a commitment, and it was already too late for Katrabbit to change her plans. So out to California she flew, both of us unsure whether she would be staying or going back.

Due to a massive failure of scheduling acumen on my part, the first weekend she was out here happened to be a weekend I was in class, so while I studied infant attachment theories, Katrabbit hit the pavement to seek out lodgings and interview with prospective landlords. Saturday evening, she told me she had a good line on a place that was available immediately, provided we liked the look of it; it was a little more expensive than we'd hoped to go, but it came furnished and the wireless was free, and we were in enough of a hurry to eschew choosiness. Sunday morning Katrabbit went for a viewing, and at lunch came to meet me and told me it met her qualifications. Though I had not yet seen it, I took her at her word and wrote a check for the deposit. Just like that, we had a place to live. The new address: 509 40th Street #22, Oakland, CA 94609.

That first night, we began the process of moving my gear out of my room and into the new place, and I got my first look at it. The building is old, in the good sense of that word, with plenty of character and style. The apartment itself is surprisingly spacious, with a good-sized bedroom that fits both of our computers as well as a full-size bed, a living room with a wide-open center and a large, comfortable couch, and a kitchen and bathroom that are both cozy but still capable of holding two people without being cramped.

The whole next week was spent transporting my good over in dribs and drabs, and shopping for necessaries at various Bay Area outlets. We made a fair number of trips to the grocery stores, Walgreens, and Ikea, picking up a few items and then running back to get a few other things we forgot. It was, in a word, exhausting, but Friday was highly refreshing, as Katrabbit and I took a day off to go into San Francisco to enjoy the holiday at Dolores Park with a classmate of mine. We ate well, enjoyed the sunny but cool weather, and eventually wandered back into Oakland to settle in. We were undecided on which would be the best spot for viewing fireworks, so we opted to head up to the roof of the building to see if that would serve as a vantage point; as it turned out, the roof wasn't accessible, but from the fire escape we could see no fewer than three different fireworks displays: one over Oakland city center, one over the Bay Bridge, and one over the Berkeley Marina. We were at a good distance from each of them, with plenty of obstacles in the way, and the low-lying fog hid a good bit of the action, but even so we were pleasantly surrounded by spectacle, and we laughed and drank cheap champagne as the colored sparks fizzled and burst at every horizon.

The rest of the weekend was less relaxing, as we continued our efforts to finish outfitting the new space. One obstacle that we hadn't counted on was our inability to gain access to the internet; first the activation of our account was inexplicably delayed, then the account was inaccessible because the login information our landlady gave us was incorrect. We fretted and fumed for several days, frustrated and going through terrible internet withdrawal (particularly Katrabbit, who was cooped up in the house by herself most of the day while I was at work, and badly in need of distraction), but with repeated attempts and numerous trials and errors, we were finally able to secure the proper logon info and got connected. Never have two people reacted so joyfully to the simple loading of a homepage.

The last few days have been more relaxed, as we are largely set up, lacking only some bookshelves and a few other accessories (Katrabbit, who is an absolute wizard in the kitchen, has been improvising brilliantly despite our general dearth of proper culinary equipment, so I hope to expand her arsenal fittingly before too long). Money is a bit tight after paying both the deposit, the first month's rent, and my last month's rent on my old place, and Katrabbit and I are both perpetually worn out from stress and fitful sleeping on a new bed, but despite it all my joy at having accomplished this much is simply too much to contain. I hadn't dared dream of all the benefits that having a "wife" in one's home could possibly bring, but even the simple pleasures of having a dinner prepared for me when I return home from work, or being able to share chores with someone, are like dreams come true.

As, indeed, is this entire situation. I remember once, as a young boy (probably ten or eleven), considering the likelihood that I would someday, like my own father, marry and raise my own children, and be an adult rather than a child. The thought was simply inconceivable at the time; I struggled to imagine the situation but couldn't see any way that it was possible. The child that I was couldn't imagine it, because he couldn't have done it; that child could not have done the things I have done, could not have traveled west or gone to Europe on his own, could not have left his home to get a job and an education and a place to live in California. In that same way, the person I was a month--even two weeks--ago could not move into an apartment with his fiancee, could not be a husband or father, could not raise his own family. To do those things, that man needed to change, to grow, to become someone and something different.

And that's who I am now, as I write this. Not the person I was before, but an entirely new one, who has capabilities and capacities that his previous self could barely consider, as flight is beyond the imaginings of the crawling caterpillar. The king, as they say, is dead. Long live the king.

Enough weighty considerations, though. Time for some visual aids. Care to see the place I'm waxing so melodramatic about? Now, thanks to the wonders of photons and optic nerves, you can!




The building, viewed from the north. Note the cool friezework along the tops and above the windows.




The building viewed from the east. The sun is setting behind it, hence the slight washout. But, again, you can see the general panache that the whole structure boasts.




On the right is our landlady Ruth, on the left her assistant. This cafe occupies the lowest floor of the building (we're on the second); according to Ruth, opening the cafe was her dream ten years ago when she first bought the property, but numerous delays and obstacles prevented her from actually accomplishing her goal until just this week. We're not complaining; she gave us free samples of the goodies she'll be selling there to test them out, and we were happy to receive them.




Our yellow door, at the end of the hall. That sounds like it should be a song..."our yellow dooooooor....at the end of the hallllllll..."




The bedroom, with Katrabbit dutifully plugging away at our precious new intertube. We still haven't gotten everything put away, but we've got space enough to store it all and her computer as well, once it arrives.




The living room, complete with couch and, to my amazement, tiny television that actually picks up channels. It's been years since I've had a television that one could actually watch television on; I've only used mine for DVDs and the like. I turned it on, flipped through the channels, remembered why I haven't bothered with a television in years, and turned it back off. It'll be obsolete in eight months anyway, and frankly I'm not too concerned.

Unfortunately, the kitchen and bathroom are a little too small to photograph properly, so you'll have to take my word that they exist. We're currently waging war with a small army of ants (well, the ants are small, the army's actually pretty sizable) in the kitchen, but having dealt with such incursions before at my other place, I come well armed for the fray. These insects will think twice before going after my foodstuffs again.

So, that's the latest. I hope to be in more regular contact from here on out, but I'll be starting my training for my practicum next month (!) and I don't know how exactly that's going to affect me. My guess: complete and utter exhaustion. I'm probably really lucky that Katrabbit is here now to take care of me through this, as I might well end up incapable of taking care of myself.

But there's no denying that it's going to be one major change right after another. Remember at the beginning of the year, when I predicted 2008 was going to be interesting? Maybe next time you'll listen to me. Of course, next time I'll have no more idea what I'm going on about than I did then, but we'll handily disregard that for the moment.

Hope this month has been a favorable one for you, dear readers, and that next month will be the same. I won't notice either way; I'll be too busy adapting to rapidly changing circumstances and basking in the embrace of my new, beautiful roomie. If you're looking for me, start looking there.

My best, dear ones, and my continuing gratitude. Catch up with you when the fates allow it.

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