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Saturday, June 28, 2008

All the cool kids are doing it

Remember 2003? Year of the blog, I think it was. And all we ever did was blog via memes. Heather, Chris and Neal are bringing the good times back, and now so am I.

1) WHAT WAS I DOING TEN YEARS AGO?

I had driven out to Lake Tahoe to spend the summer working at the now-defunct Ponderosa Ranch, a "Bonanza"-themed tourist trap on the Nevada side of the lake.

I was a gunfighter, "robbing" the wagon rides that took people up the mountain to have breakfast. I also worked in the photography area, taking pictures of people dressed up in cowboy outfits. I was apparently really good at the latter because:
1) I goofed around a lot, which kept the people who were waiting from getting bored. 2) I understood the basic principle that people wanted to be photographed holding lots of guns. They'd say they didn't need guns, but when I put a shotgun in their hand and four pistols on them they were much happier.
3) I was good at handling crying babies. The trick is to blow directly into their faces. It works 85 percent of the time. It's discombobulating to them and causes them to go quiet and stare at you in confusion. Also, we were in the desert, so most of the time the baby was upset simply because it was hot.

This was the summer that I met the child bride. Ten years ago today we hadn't yet gone out on a date, though. On Fourth of July all the staff had a big barbecue and I tried to hit on Rachel but she was having none of it. Then, at some point, all the guys on staff performed a dance and I was wearing nothing but boxers and chaps. No doubt this is what attracted her to me.

2) WHAT ARE FIVE THINGS ON YOUR TO-DO LIST TODAY?

- Hoover the living room floor.
- Write to Trinity College Carmarthen to enquire about their creative writing master's degree.
- Continue work on my book
- Have dinner with Craig and Claire.
- Same thing we do every night, Pinky: try to take over the world.

3) FOUR THINGS I WOULD DO IF I WERE A BILLIONAIRE

- Pay off all personal debt and debt of my family members.
- Fund the Central Corridor LRT in St. Paul, Minnesota.
- Buy cabins for those friends who have tags on this blog.
- Try to score myself an MBE by donating large amounts to Prince's Trust.

4) FIVE PLACES I HAVE LIVED

- Austin, Texas
- St. Paul, Minnesota
- San Diego, California
- Portsmouth, England
- Cardiff, Wales

5) THREE OF MY BAD HABITS

- I have the emotional needs of a teenage girl.
- I don't listen to people because I am too busy thinking about what I'm going to say next.
- I have that British tendency to jump on bandwagons.

6) FIVE JOBS I'VE HAD

- Shopping cart wrangler at Cub Foods
- Freezer/cooler stockist at Sam's Club
- Gunfighter
- Radio DJ
- Columnist

7) HOW DID YOU NAME YOUR BLOG?

I've answered this question in full before, but the short version is this: a beauty queen asked me to dance, I stupidly said no, I have rued the decision ever since. As God as my witness, I will never turn down a beauty queen again.

8) I'm not tagging anyone, yo. I'm not that retro, bitches.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The domino stunner

For the three of you still reading, I haven't had a chance to blog in a while because I've been working on my book. I have now reached the landmark of having enough words to be able to apply for a bursary, which I may do simply because I love rejection letters.

Things are coming along with said book, although I do wonder how many people will actually end up reading the thing. At least I can probably still rely on my parents to purchase a copy.

Totally unrelated to writing is Ken the Box, a YouTube video I referenced to Anthony (point) when he was visiting. It's video from some bottom-level wrestling promotion in, I'm guessing, Japan. The whole thing takes a bit longer than it should, but it's worth it to watch start to finish because the build-up makes the eventual result even dumber and funnier. My favourite comment on this video is:
"'How was your match, honey?'
'I jobbed to a box.'
'That's nice, dear.'"

And in search of that video, I came across this one, which makes me laugh every time I hear the announcer say: "Oh! The domino stunner takes its toll!"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

It's so dumb that I can't stop laughing

Facebook has a group called Safe For Work Porn, consisting of pornography that has been doctored so as to make it acceptable.

Without a doubt, this is my favourite picture.

(Don't worry. It really is safe for work)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Dreams

Night before last I dreamt (a) that Hillary Clinton managed to hijack the American political process and set herself up as a "presidential candidate" of the despotic ilk, i.e., she was a shoo-in to win. I was part of a large group of people who were rounded up and detained for expressing pro-Obama views.

The argument was that our blogs/media connections/etcetera were tainting the political process and making it impossible for "average Americans" to make decisions on their own. So, for the preservation of American democracy, we were being temporarily removed from the discussion.

I was first detained by South Wales Police who were pretty laid-back about the whole thing and somewhat empathetic of my situation, themselves being stuck acting out directions from MI5, who were stuck acting out strongly worded "requests" from U.S. authorities. I had my own cell.

"How long do you reckon I'll be here?" I asked my guard.

"Dunno," he said. "The 42 days doesn't apply to you, mate. It's June now; your election's in, what, November? Just get comfortable with it."

After a while I was transferred to Oak Grove, which had been converted into a detention centre. While being unloaded from a truck I managed to escape, outrunning the poorly trained National Guard soldiers who had been rushed into duty to deal with the Obamists. I made it down into Nine Mile Creek and lost their dogs by wading from 106th Street down to where the creek meets the Minnesota River. In those woods where I grew up, I knew I'd be alright. I built a shelter, found a large patch of wild spring onions and an old fishing pole (b), and lived there for several weeks. After a while, though, I got so sick with loneliness that I started thinking about turning myself in. Then I woke up.

Last night, I dreamt that the child bride wanted to leave me for Carlos Tévez, but, not sure of his feelings for her, was unwilling to sever ties with me. She wanted to get rid of me without getting rid of me. She didn't want me anymore but also didn't want to be totally on her own if the Tévez thing didn't work out, so held on just that little bit. I was a back-up plan to a back-up plan.

I was confined from being an actual part of our relationship -- not allowed to speak to her in public, required to leave the house when she got sick of me, etc. And I took it.

I felt sick with myself because I couldn't let go. I knew I was being pushed to the fringe. I hated it. But I couldn't stand to think about being alone. I accepted the alienation from my own life and held onto it because it was who/what I am. If I didn't have that what was there? I woke up when Fflur strangely sent me a text at 2 a.m.

The connection in those two dreams is pretty easy to spot. Loneliness: hating it, struggling with it, wondering how and if I can come to terms with it.

Writing this book is a far lonelier business than I remember it being. It is hour after hour of sitting in my study. By myself. Silent. Alone. And when I run out of creative energy, I don't really have the capacity/energy to chat about anything. Writing -- especially in a language that is not as innate to my thoughts as English -- leaves me dumb. There is a different mental process for words that come through my fingers than words that come through my lips. My brain locks in trying to switch gears and I'm not really good for much beyond watching soccer. But the feeling of loneliness lingers.

Today a man came to the door who was doing market research and asked if he could interview me.

"How long will that take?" I asked.

"About 20 minutes," he said.

"Awesome," I thought to myself.

And I made him a cup of tea.

-----

(a) Or is it dreamed? I hate to confess this to you, but I don't know the difference. I know that there apparently is a difference and one's failure to identify it makes you one of those your/you're retards, but, uhm... I don't know what it is.

(b) People who know me know that this is probably the most implausible part of the dream. I cannot fish.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

No. 3: I am what I am what I am what I am what I am

Last night I had a dream that I met a Catholic cardinal and found myself asking him why he felt I should abandon my protestant upbringing and become a Catholic (other people dream falling or having to give presentations whilst wearing only a thong, but in my dreams various faiths and denominations vie for my soul).

The cardinal got a twitchy little smile on his face; he was overjoyed by this question. This was a question he was confident he could answer, a question that he was going to knock out of the park. Of course, he didn't answer the question, though -- because he existed only in my head and I don't have the answer. Instead he started in with an anecdote about pickup trucks that bored me into waking up.

But at its heart I think mine was a sympathy dream -- an attempt to identify with a friend of mine who recently told me he was interested in learning a bit of Welsh and asked if would I be willing to help. Why would he do that? I don't know. But he did and I promptly inundated him with learning materials.

This morning, I was thinking about other things I could send him and I had one of those "I'm walking through a forest and I've just run smack dab into a tree and been strangely surprised that I would find a tree here" moments of realising that Welsh is at times a bit complicated. It is especially so when it does not need to be. For example: "I am."

"I am" is a pretty basic concept. One can imagine that it was among the reasons that language developed in the first place: "I am hungry," "I am being eaten by a tiger."

In the English language, there aren't a great number of ways to say "I am" beyond simply "I am" and "I'm." But in Welsh, the ways to express such a simple statement are multitudinous. Off the top of my head, here are a few:
- Yr wyf
- Rwyf
- wyf i
- wy
- Yr ydw
- Rydw i
- dwi
- fi

That's just silly, yo. And rather hard to teach.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

My Wife Is Ruining My Dreams

Once again I give you the audio version of my latest column. this idea of reading the column aloud would be far better if I weren't doing it. In a perfect world, I would resurrect Orson Welles and he would provide the voice.

I had also thought about having my dad read it. He and I have slightly similar voices but he has better annunciation. It would be amusing to give him a column and provide no direction, allowing him to decide what words should be emphasized and what pauses belong where. One of the weird things about writing is that the voice is not all that clear. I've been to book readings in which I sat there listening to the author voice his own work, thinking: "Dude, you are getting it all wrong."

Although, I don't suppose there's a great deal of variation in the interpretation of a light column like mine.

In some columns, though, it would be weird to have my dad as the voice. This one for example, in which I reference in first person that the child bride and I have been married for nine years. I don't want to hear my feelings for my wife expressed in my father's voice.

Nine years. Crikey that feels like a long time. I suppose it is a long time, especially since I tend to measure time according to expiration dates on milk bottles. And as I pointed out to Eric the other night, I haven't managed a single affair in that whole time. Clearly, I am a lesser writer because of it. Perhaps my absence of any traditional writer cliché motivations could be used as motivation in and of itself...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Necesitamos dinero

Cunard persists on sending me e-mails promoting their transatlantic voyages. I never asked for these e-mails but I can't seem to get myself to mark them as spam out of that crazy desire for them to be relevant. I want to be someone who has the time and money to spend six days crossing the Atlantic.

I have this vision of my taking a laptop along and spending the time happily typing away, occasionally venturing out to go... uhm... do posh things. I don't actually know what I would do; it is an economic bracket beyond my comprehension.

In truth, though, I would probably hate it. I have always had a similar vision of travelling via train across the United States -- writing and staring at the landscape and writing. But Owen Martell told me once that he has already pulled this stunt and it was, in fact, kind of shit. I guess, in essence, six days on the Atlantic would just be a really long version of two hours on the Irish Sea, which I have done a handful of times. Each time I do that, I am hit with a frontal lobe headache of the sort I always get when drinking too much Stella Artois. Of course, this could have something to do with the fact that I usually spend my ferry journeys drinking Stella Artois.

At the moment, though, I haven't even got the money for a trans-Bristol Channel journey. The child bride and I ain't gots no money, bitches. All those stories of late about the economy going to shit are met at the Cope hovel with a disgruntled nodding of the head. Yes, BBC, I know I've got no money. Why do you insist on rubbing it in my face? "It sucks for you, and it's just going to keep on sucking. Don't you feel stupid for moving here? You might have a house in St. Paul (a) by now had you stayed in Minnesota."

I am probably doomed to think this ad perpetuum until I manage to establish some sort of a Welsh harem (Chris takes several minutes to mentally catalogue his first 15) and therefore able to convince myself beyond unreasonable doubt that moving here was the best idea ever. I am inclined toward this type of thinking now especially that the academic year has come to an end.

I have successfully stumbled my way through two whole years of university and now feel a need to reflect. At the pub last Friday, Llŷr appropriately had to ask me three times if this is the farthest I've ever progressed in university. The answer was eventually yes, and it's an answer that in itself serves as validation. I am now only a year away from actually having a proper degree (b).

And now, in brilliant summer weather, I have nothing to do but write a book. And that's probably what has me most unsettled at the moment: things are coming together. Dude, that's scary. When the pieces of life start to fit I start to get nervous, waiting for it all to come apart in some British drama fashion (c).

Thank the sweet baby Jesus, then, that we've only got £35 to last us the next fortnight. If we weren't in financial dire straits I'd be seriously worried, expecting at any moment for the guy who really killed Jill Dando and Princess Diana to come walking in after us.

-----

(a) It would be more accurate to say that I might have had a house in St. Paul. Almost certainly I would have been one of those subprime mortgage victims.

(b) OK, yes, it's a degree in Welsh, so I'm not sure how "proper" a degree it is. But considering that previous ambitions were for degrees in philosophy and politics, it's not as if I was ever going to get a "proper" degree anyway.

(c) One of the reasons I am so loyal to programmes like "Strictly Come Dancing" is the fact that British dramas can be so soul-destroying. They will build the character up and then suddenly, seemingly without reason, take the person down and end the story with no redeeming element whatsoever. They seem to feel some kind of moral obligation to do this, TV critics always complaining that American dramas "give in" and allow their characters certain levels of redemption. I will watch "Doctor Who" because it is geared toward younger viewers and I feel I can trust it not to pull the rug from under me, but you can see how desperately the writers want to.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Transitional

My second year of university finally comes to an end this week. Like the Democratic Party nomination process, it has dragged on for far too long, with my last lecture actually having taken place more than a month ago. In the interim I have had to try to stay mentally in tune for exams.

The exam process in Britain is comically archaic, placing massive groups of students into large halls and gymnasiums to sit in uncomfortable chairs and scribble out essay questions for two hours. It is an unnecessarily stressful set-up that forces me to develop ridiculous patterns and superstitions similar to when I played sports. You know, the "I always wear these socks and I put them on in this exact way" sort of thing. Before every exam I have to do 100 push-ups and 300 stomach crunches, eat two pieces of toast, and text Fflur; I buy a £1.03 bottle of water at the Somerfield, wear jeans and a T-shirt, come to the exam equipped with three black ink Bic Cristal pens, and keep my phone in my pocket (even though they tell me not to).

So far this technique has been relatively effective -- I don't feel that I've tanked on any of the exams. There was a time when I had hoped to achieve stunningly high marks, but that desire has subsided somewhat now that I am less gung-ho about carrying on to earn a PhD. I had been considering that route earlier in the year but then went to speak to my advisor about it. In talking to her I made a flippant remark that perhaps my idea for a PhD project would work better as a chincy TV programme and she laughed a little too revealingly.

The nature of Welsh society is such that it's probable my account of our meeting would get back to my advisor, so I want to stress that she did not say anything to put me off the idea. But something about the meeting -- possibly just the act of explaining my project to another person -- caused me to lose some of my fire for PhD work.

The aforementioned project has now been converted into a venture that Llŷr (and maybe possibly perhaps Annie) and I will tackle next summer.

But first there is this summer, which will be occupied by the writing of a book that you probably won't read. Tentatively titled "Cwrw Am Ddim; a rhesymau eraill i ddysgu'r iaith" (a), it is the non-fiction account of my experiences learning Welsh, moving to Wales, etc. I am attempting to write it in a more prose style, a la Dave Eggers, with the ambition of carrying on to write fiction in the future.

I had written an outline about a year ago but really only started in on the thing last week, with most of that time being used to restructure the 25-page outline. I have no idea whether 25 pages is a lot or a little for an outline. Considering that everything else I have ever written has been sans outline, it feels like quite a lot. Note, however, that everything else I have ever written remains unpublished.

(a) "Free Beer; and other reasons to learn Welsh"