Sunday, July 26, 2009


Almost at the very moment I was lamenting the apparent disappearance (that's a funny phrase) of a beloved blogger, I get a friend request on Facebook from someone in New England (far from that little island in the South China Sea) and discover a compelling blog that goes right to my heart. A Buddhist Mason who loves his Karmann Ghia, I love it. But then I think of myself as a Taoist Episcopalian whose most meditative moments come top down in my Miata. This guy is some kind of yang version of myself.

As Bob says, "Friends will arrive, friends will disappear."

I've been a little concerned of late because one of my favorite blogs I follow, over on the Yang side, hasn't been updated for a couple of months. I am reluctant to de-link it, partly because I still go there to look at his photos, and I enjoy his music links. He never writes much --pictures being worth a thousand words, to someone somewhere. This guy has a photographic style that is unusual, like you are really looking out of his head, and over time you get a sense of who he might be. (A French socialist with great taste in music, possibly a doctor, but more likely a patient? A lot of photos from pharmacy and outpatient departments. His last photos include a hospital room. Not encouraging. If anyone knows his condition, I would love to know.)

Another blog I find interesting is so sporadic I wonder if he even tries anymore, but once a month or so, he pops up with something. I feel an affinity for him because his blog started just about the time mine did; I discovered his in a mutual link. He is surprising and sensitive and honest, but not very regular. (I suspect he is a very busy man with a family and a demanding job.) Not that I am so daily, but it is a habit you must cultivate just by doing. On the other hand, if you're not COMPELLED to blog, then you're not a blogger.

I recently* read Stephen King's ambiguously* encouraging On Writing book, and have been thinking about someone else's comment --writing isn't about having something interesting to say, it's about making anything you say interesting. A friend once told me in college when I was the school paper's editor, that I "could write with my mind tied behind my back." That's a backhanded compliment, but he thought what I wrote was interesting anyway.

There are a few things about Stephen King's style that bother me, but I've never read one of his books without pretty much barreling through it in just one or two sittings. And I just learned that Anthony Trollope wrote ALL THE TIME with daily quotas. (Stephen King does the same thing.) Not only did Trollope invent the English letterbox, which at the time was a revolution like having email--providing efficient private and direct correspondence--but he also might be credited with an early paradigm of the laptop computer. He built a little portable writing desk that he carried everywhere. He wrote on commuter trains or wherever he had spare time. It was all by hand, and on the road he used a pencil so he didn't have to worry about running out of ink, the equivalent of a battery failure.

But I digress.

I worry about my missing or absent bloggers. In the blogosphere (what a creepy word), we exist only in our posts. To be sure, on the positive yang side, assuming the servers keep working, there's a kind of immortality there. But in the end, we don't even know who cares.

*Mr. King would really like me to edit out these adverbs, feeling they are unnecessary. But I like adverbs, and the passive voice, too, where appropriate. But I think I know how to use them effectively. (Ooops.)

Friday, July 24, 2009


I have been one to congratulate the Outdoor Circle for defending trees and keeping Hawaii from looking like Florida, where grotesque billboards often block the most gorgeous views, but this protest is downright silly. Big weiner causes big heartburn, I guess.

I am cravin' a hot dog! I know I have a Weinermobile Matchbox Car somewhere, and I think I also have an Oscar Mayer weiner-whistle from 1956 (a choking hazard, to be sure). And now I'm thinking this might be a possible next vehicle after TAO 61 reaches Nirvana.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Called in sick today, not something I do very often, and with new presumably more liberal leave policies -- PTO -- which combine sick and vacation time, I must consider if it's real sick or mental health leave I'm requiring.

The trouble with being home sick is that you never (except for those now obsolete mental health days) get to enjoy it. Because you're sick. Mostly I've been sleeping, my malaise punctuated with very odd dreams. On an ordinary well day, you sometimes think, "If only I could stay home today and ... read, paint, cook, clean, create clever ring tones for the cell phone, maybe even sleep." But home sick, and all you can do is sleep. And read maybe, a couple of pages at a time. And I have been reading, Stephen King's On Writing, not a bad memoir and inspiring as I embark on trying to write a whole book. That's probably why my dreams were so odd though, channeling Stephen, I dreamed I was keeping the ashes of two of my friend's children in shoeboxes --this all seemed very necessary. I was taking care of them for her. But they kept falling out and getting mingled with dust bunnies, cat litter, and other floorsweepings, and each other, the horror. King would probably go somewhere with this, and I guess I am, here, in a way.

Sickabed makes me think of childhood. My own memories of such times are illustrated like Jesse Wilcox Smith's image, above, and the one accompanying Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about the little boy and his toy soldiers, below. I would play with bucolic little cows and horses and ballerina dolls in among the bed linens.

When sick, I was well indulged by my parents. My mother would regularly check on me, bringing tea and thermometers and wet rags for the forehead. When he arrived home from work, in that hour that separated day and evening for the family, my father would treat me to a new coloring book, maybe a fat 25 cent comic book "Special." One particular flu was made more bearable when he discovered a forgotten Christmas present in his desk drawer: a crystal radio. (He always treated me a bit like a boy. Who gives a girl a crystal radio kit?) He strung the antenna wire all over my bedroom and I listened to the outside world on a little plastic box that didn't need to be plugged in, with an earphone not so different than the one I use with my cell phone today.

I don't remember my parents ever actually calling in sick, although I'm sure my father must have. Everyone gets the flu sometime, and he was prone to sick headaches. I inherited his tendency to migraine, which used to incapacitate me from working for a day or so every six months. And of course until she returned to the work world when I was 13, my mother could have been sick every day, but she was always home. It is a problem for a housewife and mother; how do you call in sick?

So now, I long to be pampered when I'm under the weather. But my partner's response to illness is "Just leave me alone." Since we tend to treat others in the ways we like to be treated, this causes some issues. I have to demand the cool wet washrags; he has to tell me to stop fussing over him. Not a difference of the sexes, I think it has to do with how we were raised. He was a boy with an older and younger sister; my mother called me her "one and lonely." (I think she was the lonely one.) My mother was not so busy; his was.

Fortunately as adults, we learn how to take care of ourselves. Still, today, I'm just a little homesick.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


It may not be obvious to my reader that I am not returning to Wudang, or any other place in China this fall. Circumstances bizarre enough for a novel have caused me to change my plans. So, in a sudden rush of yang, possibly instigated by TAO 61 (the car) reaching 200,000 miles, last night at 3 a.m. I wrote the first chapter of my novel and roughly plotted out what is to follow, something that's been kicking around in my head for quite some time, usually at 3 a.m. So, if I can't go to Wudang, I can at least imagine it! And the fun part about fiction: you can make things up, you can throw all your experiences into a pot, simmer and season, and they come out as a whole new reality. It's also the hard part: things have to work, there has to be continuity, we have to avoid libel, there's supposed to be a theme. How I dreaded that in high school, being required to articulate the theme of a book I was reading. I never believed the authors did when they wrote anyway. It just develops in the outpouring. But I already recognize the theme that I have established. (Not unlike my blogs). I'll leave it to my future reader to articulate it.

I must say, I have been inspired by Ken Follett and that Eat-Pray-Love thing...if they can write such commercially successful drivel, why not me? Now I have lots to do when I wake up in the middle of the night. I have choices! I can meditate. I can read, I can write. (I will not do housework; I know some people who use such sleepless periods to catch up on laundry or cleaning.)

Speaking of Ken Follett and his goofy Gothic-cathedral novels, I spent some time Friday night and yesterday (between Chinese painting class and writing) watching the 7 episodes of "The Barchester Chronicles", BBC's 1982 adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Warden and Barchester Towers. Newsweek recently named a Trollope novel as number one in the list of must-read timely fiction for the summer. Victorian lit was never my interest in school, but I am compelled by the Brits' ability to translate the stuff to TV. What dialogue, I laughed out loud and wept. It's great fun to watch these things back-to-back on a sultry lazy afternoon, not having to wait a week between installments.

And Alan Rickman as Obadiah Slope! He's right up there with the Tony Leungs (Tiny and Tall), Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Guys with eyes! In Barchester, Rickman seems to foreshadow his portrayal of Snape in Harry Potter. He is the only reason I have watched those movies; he's my contemporary, and I only hope I have perfected myself as much since 1982. He was perfect then, and (as in the language of the Declaration of Independence) is more perfect now.

If my "to read" pile wasn't so towering, I would add some Trollope to it. But now I am content to enjoy the DVDs I picked up at Costco. Next up: The Way We Live Now, the story Newsweek recommended. Something about its relevance to Bernie Madoff! Time to get my car radio installed for some audio books.

Friday, July 03, 2009


I was just reading an item in the June 18 Newsweek about a reviewer's conflicted purchase of a Blu-ray player in order to fully enjoy Neil Young's recently released Archives, 10 discs of music, video and extras. Thinking of my rant yesterday about hands-free cell phone paraphernalia, I was amused that not only paying $300 for the discs, but an additional $350 for the player was thought to be worth it. (If you go to that Newsweek link above, note how very much Neil Young resembles House M.D., or the other way around, if you will.)

As I recall it was Neil Young who famously and adamantly whined (or was he singing?) when the CD began to take over recorded music in place of traditional vinyl. It was something about the extra noise you get from the record, missing from the CD. (More likely it was the clarity of the CD which made Neil Young sound even worse than he does...good song writer, but I really can't stand to hear him sing.)

Of course, if it was Bob Dylan (whose voice I know offends lots of people) I would probably pony up for a Blu-ray in a minute.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


Honolulu's "cell phone ban" went into effect yesterday, meaning that you can no longer use a cell phone in your car unless it is totally "hands-free," leaving those hands free to do other things like tune the radio, rummage in the glove box or smack the rambunctious kids in the back seat who should be buckled in anyway. (There's a fine for being unbuckled too.)

There was a booming business in Bluetooth headsets at my cell provider's retail store yesterday where I dropped a hundred bucks just to look like Uhura, the communications officer of the Starship Enterprise; not much of a fashion accessory, I must decorate it with Swarovski crystals or invent an earring that does the same job --THAT'S MY IDEA!

So now I have this thing that no self-respecting baby boomer would wear if it were a hearing aid and am not sure I will ever really use it --top-down in my Miata is pretty noisy for phone calls, although the savvy young sales clerk assures me my earpiece has the best noise reduction technology, although he didn't really say what kind of noise. I mean, most phone calls are noise. I guess I'll get used to the thing, although it means I have to set myself up before I start driving: insert the earpiece, make sure it's connected, become well-practiced in voice-activated dialing and answering. I don't even have a radio in my car; it's become a sanctuary for solitary thinking, and maybe I'll make an effort to keep it that way. I only ever make and receive calls in the car on a sort of emergency basis anyway: to announce how late I will be for work because I'm stuck in a traffic jam caused by the street sweepers on the interstate cleaning the potholes, or to answer my husband's "I'm at the grocery store, do you need anything?" queries.

I've never been an early adopter of new technology (not that this is new, but the REQUIREMENT is) so this seems like an imposition, something new to learn and get used to, against my will. Not that I think banning texting and video games while driving is a bad thing. (It just shows that common sense doesn't always prevail; a Honolulu bus driver was caught texting while driving a bus!) Ah, for the days of being tethered to black Bakelite telephones with cords you could play with while talking to a friend, no call-waiting, no caller ID (well, that IS an improvement).

I saw one animated young woman in a car today, apparently talking wildly to herself, gesturing madly with the hand in which she would ordinarily have been holding her phone. I had the impression she was not paying any more attention to driving -- possibly less --than she would have two days ago.

To be really safe, I should have got the "beam me up" version. I think they were all out.