Archive for the ‘Introspection & Issues’ Category

Macarena or MMMBop?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Head on over to the Huffington Post to pick The Most Annoying Songs Of All Time. They’ve got quite a few doozies in there.

Haven’t you been thinking that you need a puppy?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

I know I shouldn’t have a favorite, but I do. I can’t help it. I mean, just look at her:

More puppies - just waiting to be adopted! - over at Newscoma.

On being in tune

Monday, February 2nd, 2009
Shadow of a Writing Hand
Image by lowjumpingfrog via Flickr

From an article on writing the perfect pop song in the Guardian:

For Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch, songwriting is not a choice, but a therapeutic necessity. “When I’m not writing songs, it’s cryptic crosswords and Countdown on the telly. Everything gets a bit fuzzy, a bit bleak.”

Yeah. I’ve been in a funk lately, and I think this is partly why. I need a healthy dose of songwriting fairly regularly to make sense of, well, everything else.

Is everyone like this in some way? Is there some thing that you need to do for the world to be right? What is your thing?

John Irving at the Ryman Auditorium

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

“Suppression is very American. … If you don’t like abortion, don’t
have one. … Why should it matter to straight couples if gay couples
get married?” - John Irving, Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, November 8,
2008

Reducing eco-impact in the daily commute

Sunday, August 17th, 2008

I want to reduce my gas consumption and my carbon footprint. But little by little, I’m getting talked out of my bike commuting plans. Several people in the past few weeks have expressed concern over the lack of shoulder in several places on the road I’d be riding along with the speed of traffic on the road, particularly relative to a (slow) cyclist.

I’m gradually coming to the conclusion that, dammit, they’re probably right.

So now I’m left wondering what I want to do about my commute. Besides commuting by bike, I’ve decided to catalog the options I’m weighing, and see if anyone has any other suggestions:

  • I was willing to trade off lots of time (a daily three hours of bike commuting vs. 50 minutes on average by car on the highway) in order to get to zero, so I should be willing to make the same or similar concessions if I can lower my ecological impact. For example, if I were to buy a hybrid car, it would mean shuffling around some financial plans to accommodate it, but that should be no less inconvenient, in some ways, than the bike commute would have been.

    On the other hand, I was actually looking forward to the quiet time on the bike, whereas I’m not so eager to spend ~$20K on a new car. On the third hand, I do rather like being alive and don’t want to risk life and limb just to be stubborn about being a zero-carbon commuter.

  • Carpooling is a possibility. Unfortunately, no one I work with lives in my neighborhood, so there are no obvious arrangements. A few of my neighbors work in the same suburb I do, so I could pursue sharing rides with them if we can compromise on work hours. And some of my coworkers live on the east side of town, which is easy enough to get to. We’ve tried a few times to have Karsten drop me off at a designated meeting spot, like a gas station en route to the highway, and that’s been reasonably successful, but all of the carpool options do require conforming to a work schedule that may or may not suit my day-to-day needs. On the other hand, bike commuting would have been even more restrictive, since my choice would be to ride during daylight hours, and that means much shorter workdays than I’m used to. Not at all a bad thing, but a big adjustment either way.
  • Another option, albeit one I have less direct control over, is to try to work out a telecommute arrangement with my employer. I have experience with successfully introducing this arrangement in other workplaces, and there is sort of a precedent for it here — we have associates in remote locations already, so it’s not as if we don’t know how to get our jobs done when we’re not face-to-face. But this doesn’t seem like an easy sell and it probably wouldn’t be an immediate change, even if all parties agreed on the terms of a telecommute arrangement.
  • Finally, so as not to ignore obvious options, I could always quit my current job and find work closer to home (or freelance and work from home full-time). But I like what I’m doing, so I’m not ready to explore that option — especially not before I’ve explored the telecommute option.
  • I suppose another obvious option that should be stated is to move closer to work. This, however, is simply not going to happen. Karsten and I love our house and our neighborhood; our remaining happy in Nashville is heavily contingent on feeling as if we’re in a charming urban oasis in a sea of strange Southern suburban sameness. It’s one thing to work in the suburbs — exurbs, even — but living there would make me go postal.

    Other than that, I’m out of ideas. Anyone out there have any novel approaches for reducing ecological impact on the daily work commute?

  • Sad news about Karsten’s dad

    Saturday, August 9th, 2008

    Karsten’s father passed away yesterday. He was 84, and he’d been dealing with a variety of illnesses including emphysema (despite having never smoked a day in his life) and prostate cancer (which he beat — it was the treatment that led to complications). So while his death was not entirely unexpected, it was still rather sudden.

    He hasn’t decided if he wants to be present for the visitation, but I think he’s leaning towards going. I’m navigating this as carefully as I can, because even though I know Karsten and his dad had a complicated relationship, I think Karsten is more affected than he expected to be.

    We’ve been through so many shades of loss in the ten years we’ve been together, from the long, drawn-out, excruciating loss of my own father to the abrupt and devastating loss of Karsten’s mother, and now the sudden and emotionally puzzling loss of his father. We could really write a book. I suppose it would be more appropriate if we just wrote a song. Maybe that’s the project for this week.

    The freezer that wouldn’t.

    Sunday, July 27th, 2008

    Sometime between yesterday morning and this morning, our freezer had an identity crisis. It decided it was a refrigerator, and that it would act accordingly.

    So this morning, we had goddess-knows-how-many pounds of thawed food to figure out what to do with. I cooked up all the fake breakfast sausage and had FIVE pieces (yum!) along with a once-frozen blueberry waffle and some conveniently pre-thawed berries. We transferred as much of the food as would fit into the real fridge, and are feverishly making meal plans for the next several days to use up as much of the food as possible.

    Even with good planning, though, we’re going to lose some food. So if anyone in the vicinity of near-north Nashville would like some thawed veggie burgers, veggie bratwurst, or veggie ground “beef”, or some formerly-frozen fruit, come on over. We’ll be cooking and feasting all day.

    Get a car off the road AND get a great workout? Sure!

    Sunday, July 20th, 2008

    My planned bike commute route, and first attemptI’ve only done one practice ride and I didn’t even make it all the way, but I think it’s still feasible enough to say it out loud: I may become a bike commuter.

    Mind you, my commute route is 18.14 miles long (according to Google maps), over hilly middle Tennessee terrain (according to my legs). It’ll be one hell of a workout. But on the plus side: it’ll be one hell of a workout! I’ll never have to visit a gym again.

    Except, of course, that part of the logistics involve visiting a gym every morning. Part of what makes this possible is that the Cool Springs YMCA is mere blocks from Magazines.com, so I can shower at the Y and coast downhill to work.

    My next step is to try another test ride, this time with some of the gear I might use to commute. If I go through with this plan, I’ll need to invest in:

    • lights and reflectors to be safe on the ride back after work
    • panniers to carry change of clothes, laptop, and miscellaneous stuff
    • neon-bright bike wardrobe that protects against leg chafing — definitely an issue yesterday

    Me at the farmers marketAnd yes, I probably want to buy a new bike. I love my fun and adorable cruiser for riding around town, but I gather that a road bike would make the long ride much easier and more efficient. But I want to be sure I’ll actually do this before I invest in a commuting bike.

    Because there are several other considerations: I’d also want to try to adjust my schedule so that I leave the house as early as daylight will allow and leave the office while there’s still enough light left to avoid riding home in the dark, at least for now. If I do this through the winter it’ll be pretty tough to avoid riding in the dark, since it’s already pretty dark by 5 most days in December. Not to mention what it might be like to ride that far in the cold.

    But December is a long ways away, and the conditions now are pretty much opposite: plenty of daylight, and too much heat for comfort.

    Still, I’m excited. I really want to do this. If I could manage to do it five days a week, I’d be riding 180 miles, saving 175 lbs of CO2, burning 8,460 calories, and saving almost $40 in gas costs each and every week.

    Any one of those numbers would be incredibly motivating, but all of them together? How could I not give this a go?

    New bikes!

    How was I to know when I got dressed this morning?

    Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

    This afternoon as my coworker Duane and I were meeting downtown with the ad agency working on our new logo, a storm started kicking up outside. It was just beginning to rain as we got up to leave, and the wind was fierce. I, of course, was wearing a billowy skirt that hit just above the knee. That is, when the wind isn’t gusting — in the wind, it hits just above the shoulder.

    Yes, my friends, I walked out of the agency’s office pulling a double-Marilyn — trying to keep my skirt from flying up both in front and in back — and failing miserably. The assistant creative director was gallantly walking me and Duane to my car, trying to cover me with his umbrella and remain chivalrous and composed while I nearly laughed myself into hysterics trying to keep my skirt below my thighs.

    I’ve been laughing about it all the rest of the afternoon. But as soon as I got home, I changed into safe, reliable pajama pants.

    Oy.

    Greening Nashville

    Monday, June 23rd, 2008

    I sure hope this comes to be:

    The mayor has called on the committee to identify goals and develop a plan of action that would help Nashville to first become the greenest city in the Southeast, and later one of the greenest cities in the nation.

    As the article points out, there’s plenty of work to be done, from outdated stormwater infrastructure (as evidenced by the turrets of water that run down our street when it rains) to sorely lacking mass transit options, with recycling and air quality in between — but it all seems manageable in the long term. I’m glad to see attention being paid to the gaps that need to be addressed.

    Now if they would just get moving on a mass transit option that would take me from Nashville to Franklin. I’m getting a little tired of these $60 tanks of gas.

    Family Wash robbed?

    Thursday, June 5th, 2008

    I heard from a coworker that Family Wash was robbed at gunpoint last night. Anyone heard this? He said the robber took the wallets of everyone there.

    We almost went there last night, no joke. That’s so weird.

    So the doctor tells me…

    Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

    I may have to have my thyroid removed.

    More tests to do, but that’s the likely upshot.

    I guess I better enjoy my thyroid while I can. Alas, dear thyroid, I hardly knew ye.

    Tree-friendly reads for Earth Day

    Thursday, April 17th, 2008

    We’ve just launched a promotion on Magazines.com that spotlights titles printed on recycled or sustainably harvested paper. Earth Day wasn’t originally on our seasonal marketing calendar (silly oversight) so we pulled this together on very short notice, and I’m proud of us for making the effort.

    http://www.magazines.com/ncom/mag/main/earth_day

    Lessons from our cruise vacation

    Monday, April 7th, 2008
    • Next time you think you’re signing up for a veg*n cruise, check to make sure you’re not in fact signing up for one on holistic health and macrobiotics with just a hint of patience for veg*ns.
    • However, if you do find yourself on a holistic/macrobiotic/veg*n cruise, you will eat far, far better than you initially fear.
    • Eating gourmet five-course macrobiotic/veg*n cuisine for three meals each day will make you feel healthy and light and pure, but will still probably add the Cruise Ship 10 to your bottom line.
    • Having the opportunity to hear doctors and macrobiotics experts and yogis and monks speak on all aspects of physical, emotional, and spiritual health is amazing; being at sea while having that opportunity means missing a lot of classes in favor of hanging over the side railing on the pool deck watching flying fish in the ocean.
    • SPF 70 sunblock only blocks the sun when it’s actually applied to the skin, not just sitting in the bottle in the cabin while you’re on the pool deck watching flying fish in the ocean over the side railing.
    • I burn easily. And then I do not tan; I beige. I am, therefore, sunbeiged.

    Grace or casseroles? A non-believer’s musings on prayer

    Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

    I was reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” on one of my flights a few weeks ago. (It’s a wonderfully insightful and beautifully written book; I highly recommend it.) There’s a passage where the author, having recently developed a personal relationship with prayer and a self-styled spirituality, is describing an exchange with her pragmatic sister, Catherine.

    A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy when both the mother and her three-year-old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing the family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.

    Karsten and I got talking about my father’s death. My father was a popular man, loved by many in his town and with a wide circle of friends and family across the country. Many people were praying for him as he waged his fight with cancer. Some people would probably conclude that the prayers must not have been very effective since the cancer ultimately won. But even as a non-spiritual person, I think that’s an unfair characterization of the effects of that praying. I would never attempt to claim that there is no power in prayer. I just don’t think it’s the only vehicle for the conveyance of caring, and it’s loaded with religious affiliation, which has no appeal to me. But I have no trouble accepting the possibility, perhaps not as a direct result of prayer, but perhaps resulting indirectly from the quantities of people who simply told my father and the rest of his family that they were praying for him, that my father died with more awareness of how loved he was, and that we, his family, could accept his death with more comfort because we knew how loved he was.

    Maybe you wouldn’t call that the power of prayer, per se. And I would agree that it’s something different, but I think — and this is a non-believer attempting to understand the minds of believers, so I may have it entirely wrong — but I think there’s something uniquely potent about prayer to a believer that is somehow not present in the offerings of “thoughts” or “good vibes” or “positive energy,” or any number of alternatives you or I might suggest.

    That’s the struggle I have as a non-believer who wants to offer comfort to my loved ones. I wish I had something I could offer my cousin’s family as they’re dealing with my 17-year-old cousin battling lymphoma. I have told them I’m thinking about them, but I feel acutely that that’s not as powerful a statement as telling someone you’re praying for them. To my eyes, as a non-believer, that’s the power of prayer: a communication shortcut that says you want to intercede for someone; that you feel their situation merits grace, and you’re looking to powers bigger than yourself to provide it.

    But without that communication shortcut, I guess I find myself in the role of the pragmatic sister, trying to think of when and how to make the proverbial (or literal) casseroles and hope that they are received as grace. (Here I should mention how humbling it is to have a sister who is both a praying person and a casserole maker in the most active sense — she was recently awarded Citizen of the Year in her hometown for her efforts in setting up a non-profit organization that helps the poor and needy in her otherwise well-to-do suburb. She’s a double-helping of grace.) What I lack in spirituality I make up for in plain old compassion, but how can I be of much practical use to a family hundreds of miles away? There’s a missing ingredient that could help bridge the distance, and to say “I’m thinking of you” sounds hollow.

    I suppose it’s relevant in some way that I’m musing about this on Easter morning. I have no real ties to Easter: nothing about its religious implications carries weight with me, and the childhood chocolate-fest is behind me. Even the pagan traditions offer little to the pragmatic, so it’s simply a Sunday when more businesses are shuttered than usual. But there is something about the hope of renewal, the rituals of rebirth that carry through from the pagan to the Christian traditions, in welcoming spring and recognizing the cyclical nature of life — something about that does appeal to me. (Maybe it’s the gardener in me.) I know I’m looking for a chance to discover something in myself — some offering I can provide to those who need comfort that feels as powerful as prayer and does as much good as casseroles.

    I don’t expect to find the answer today. But I’m asking the question, and questions are more important than answers.

    Happy Easter, happy March equinox, happy Sunday, happy day. I’m thinking of you.

    Quite possibly my favorite quote ever

    Wednesday, March 19th, 2008
    I think porn is kind of boring, frankly–it’s like watching monkeys type. Yeah they can do it and it LOOKS real, but you know it’s all a setup.

    - Kat Coble

    Things that probably deserve their own post

    Sunday, March 16th, 2008

    Yes, each of these probably merits a post of its own, and my blog has been sorely neglected of late. But since I’m powering through my to do list, I’m giving them each a bullet point, and I may choose to come back to one or more of them later.

    • I’ve been working very, very hard. If you visit Magazines.com over the next few months, you may see some cool changes start to take place.
    • I’ve been traveling a lot. Since the beginning of February, I’ve been in San Francisco, New York, Cincinnati, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and Boston. And not in Nashville very much, clearly.
    • My 17-year-old cousin (well, first cousin once removed) has lymphoma. But she’s got a great attitude and a lot of fight in her. I’m thinking a lot about my cousin and her family.
    • My coworker’s 10-year-old nephew just died from cancer after 9 months in the hospital. And then, at the funeral, the same coworker’s mother-in-law collapsed, had a heart attack, and died. I’m thinking a lot about that family.
    • Karsten and I are about to go on our first cruise. It’s a vegetarian cruise.
    • This weekend is the fifth anniversary of the crazy little experiment Karsten and I performed that we like to call “getting married.”
    • I finally convinced Karsten to join Facebook. We’re now married on Facebook! I feel so hip.

    Haven’t thought about that in a while

    Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

    Oddly enough, a Google news alert for “kate o’neill” brought me to this topic in the bisexual community over at LiveJournal. Turns out no one was talking about me — the “kate” came from “Kate Winslet” and the “o’neill” from “Chris O’Neill” — but in a way, they kind of were, in a strange coincidence.

    The discussion was around the list of movies in the Bisexual category at Netflix, and whether the titles constituted a good set, or were just stereotypes. Some commenters had already made the case that they were, for the most part, a good set, which I appreciated… since I’m the one who put the list together.

    I left the following comment:

    I’m the person who initially put together the list of bisexual movies for Netflix. I was the content manager there in 2000-2001, and I created the Bisexual subgenre within the content database, gradually populating it over time with titles that I (as a bisexual person) recognized as pertaining in some way to bisexuality, because they either feature an openly bi character, have some fluidity of sexuality within the story, are mentioned in Wayne Bryant’s wonderful book “Bisexual Characters in Film,” or seemed relevant in some other way.

    I certainly understand if they seem random; I thought it would be preferable to have a broader category than one that missed the breadth of representation of bisexuality, for better or worse.

    The internet is such a small world.

    The fieldstone effect

    Saturday, February 9th, 2008

    Detail of front walkway at gate
    Detail of front walkway at gate,
    originally uploaded by Kate O’.

    One of the interesting things about getting deep into any major project, like renovating a house and yard, is that new metaphors sometimes emerge throughout the process. For me, one of the best new metaphors to come out of the work we’ve been doing in the front yard is the idea of replacing the paved sidewalk around the house with a fieldstone walkway: the paved sidewalk, not only visually incongruent with such an old and charming house, encourages brisk walking, whereas the fieldstone walkway with all its inconsistencies in level and varied surfaces nearly forces the walker to slow down and look around at the garden and the house.

    It’s not uncommon for Karsten or me to make references now to the “fieldstone” effect in our lives, of something having a welcoming slowing-down effect. I really love that about this house, and I’m also happy that Karsten and I can both appreciate what that does for our quality of life.

    See? As much work and expense as this house has been, it’s actually rewarding us in unexpected and deeply meaningful ways. I wouldn’t trade a moment or a penny of what we’ve invested in it.

    Always make new mistakes

    Monday, January 28th, 2008

    I have a magnet on my desk with the message “always make new mistakes.” When I saw it at Wild Oats I bought it because, at the time, I was involved in several projects at work that felt like instant replays of projects from my distant and not-too-distant past.

    But even now — and in fact, every day — it comes in handy as a reminder that making mistakes can be extremely valuable, just as long as you learn from them.

    Last year, I managed the redesign of our web site’s checkout function to allow new customers to pass through without having to register. When we finally launched it to 100% of our audience, it had a glitch that prevented many users from being able to check out at all. In one day, that error cost the company about $17,000.

    Luckily, we resolved the issue and re-launched, and the checkout process has been successful, certainly earning back many times what it cost that day. (The CFO jokingly asked me that day if he should just take the $17K out of my paycheck, and I said sure, as long as I get to keep what I bring in, too.)

    Today I realized that even while redesigning the checkout, I completely overlooked a similar process on the site that is totally inconsistent with the way we handle checkout and very probably confusing as hell for our users. I mean, of course there are loads of things wrong with our site — we’re working on a complete overhaul, but it will be a gradual process — but the two processes in question are areas that I personally touched last year and attempted to optimize, apparently blind to how unnecessarily different they are.

    It’s always tempting to beat myself up at a realization like that, and think what a terrible job I’ve done. But I haven’t done a terrible job — I’ve incrementally improved two important areas of the site, and now the right thing to do is to make them work well together.

    I have another desk-top adage in the form of a cardboard sign with an image of Snoopy and, in German (I found it in Germany 15 years ago), “As long as you learn new tricks, no one can call you an old dog.”

    Woof.

    How about a REALLY happy new year?

    Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

    I thought about writing a year-end update yesterday, but the truth is, not all that much of note happened. And that’s a pretty good thing, as it turns out, because I was also thinking yesterday about how I’m feeling more balanced and centered than I have in — gosh, what? — maybe 8 or 9 years.

    In the meantime, the highlights were clear:

    • Karsten and I celebrated our 10th anniversary of being together and being crazy in love by going to Paris, world capital of romance. And it was romantic. The trip wasn’t 100% perfect all the time, but it was wonderful on balance. As for being together 10 years: wow. Our ties to each other just keep getting stronger, and having that is the best thing life can offer in any year.
    • I started working at Magazines.com in January of 2007, and it’s been a really good move for me. I worked a lot (so much so that I seem to have lost my ability to update blogs), but I’m really OK with it. In fact, by far most of my efforts and energy in ‘07 were directed towards helping make something really special happen there. And it looks like that will be the case in 2008, too, and again, I’m OK with that. (Although if that’s still the case in 2009, I will have to re-evaluate my effectiveness. I want to be able to find better balance around then.)
    • We got the front porch, doorway, and fence built, and the front of the house is transformed. I find so much pleasure in those last few yards of my drive home, coming up over the top of the hill in front of us, looking at such a charming house and being perfectly content to live there. I’ve never had that feeling about a place where I’ve lived before, and I don’t take it for granted that I’m this lucky. (And who knows — we might even be able to begin the major addition and renovation in 2008.)
    • Karsten and I got close to another song placement, and although it didn’t ultimately come together, we ended up having much-needed clarifying conversations about our level of commitment to our songwriting (both still very committed) and how to refine our writing process under our current highly-unavailable circumstances (maybe more on that later). That clarity should help us over this next year, too, as we both continue to be heavily distracted by other areas of work (me with my job, him with renovation and visual art) — we should still be able to make progress, as long as we continue to want to. And so far, we still want to.

    There were other events, of course: stressful conflicts at work, pests in and around the house, disappointments, disagreements, and so on. But they don’t stand out in hindsight, and that tells me exactly what my resolution for 2008 needs to be:

    I resolve to find as much happiness in the current space of every moment as I possibly can, remembering that, in the end, it’s the happy moments I’ll want to carry with me.

    May 2008 be the happiest of new years for all of you, as well.

    Gifts that really do keep on giving

    Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

    Over at Music City Bloggers, Malia asks:

    will all your holiday dreams come true if there’s a little velvet box waiting for you under the tree?

    My holiday dreams? Do not involve jewelry boxes. At all. As I said in the comments at MCB, diamonds suck. That whole industry is evil and I don’t get why they’re so damned expensive. Sure they sparkle and sparkly things are appealing, but I can get a heck of a lot of pleasure out of looking at and wearing much less expensive sparkly things.

    As for my jewelry preferences in general, I’d much rather have an unusual piece with semiprecious stones — something that reflects my personality. One year I asked Karsten to have my favorite ring — one that I made when I was in high school, and I wear every day — polished as a Christmas gift, and that was a wonderful treat. (It could use it again, now that I think of it.)

    For that matter, why limit it to jewelry? I prefer unusual gifts that reflect my personality. Besides the aforementioned ring polishing, one of the lovelier gifts Karsten has given me was, at my request, to have one of his original art pieces framed so it could hang in our bedroom. I love that piece, and it meant a lot to me to be able to look at it every day.

    Was the gift any less wonderful because it wasn’t a surprise? Not at all. I love surprise gifts, but meaningful gifts trump surprises, in my book.

    And hey, it’s hard work to think up a meaningful, surprising gift just in time for the holidays. And that’s the thing: I really prefer not to play into the pressure of holiday gift-giving too much. I LOVE the idea of giving gifts; I just don’t like the idea of being socially obligated to give gifts.

    After all, I buy myself indulgent little things all the time; if I’m going to be given a gift, I prefer it to be something meaningful and representative of my relationship with the gift-giver; the cost and timing of the gift truly have nothing to do with its value to me.

    The editor’s note in the latest issue of Domino magazine talked about great gifts: how they’re special and surprising, but most importantly, they reflect the best interpretation of the relationship between giver and recipient. That’s one of the biggest things that bother me about the consumer-driven holiday culture we’ve (d)evolved into: it feels so much like checking an item off your “to do” list.

    Which is why, as a side note, I hate the trend of giving gift cards as presents with a burning, boiling passion. In the past ten years, it seems to have become so common that I feel like all people do is end up getting the same amount in gift cards that they give. If they’re lucky.

    We all might as well write each other $1,000,000 checks and tear them up — at least that’d be more memorable. In fact, why not? Let’s all get together, drink some Silk Nog, write checks to each other in ridiculous sums, talk about what we’ll do with our gift money, and then laugh and tear them to pieces. Who’s in?

    Twitter Updates for 2007-11-30

    Friday, November 30th, 2007
    • it’s only 10:30 but i’m already having a no-good very bad day. rethinking this whole “being awake” thing. #

    Twitter Updates for 2007-11-24

    Saturday, November 24th, 2007
    • standing in line at Baja Burrito behind Craig Wiseman #

    Thanks, Josh Ritter, for getting me ready for Monday

    Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

    Monday is the anniversary of my dad’s death, again. It was a reflective time for me last year and it’s looking like it will be the same this year.

    I can tell because last night we went to see Josh Ritter (whom Jae has been talking about for years but I’m just catching up). There was a song he played with lyrics that said “tell me I got here at the right time” and it was bittersweet and melancholy and painted a picture of loving someone through illness, and it got me thinking about the process of caring for my dad while he was sick and the acceptance I had to come to about the possibility that in one of my trips back to Nashville, I would not be there when he died. And that’s basically how it worked out in the end — Karsten and I had just made it back to Chicago that evening and decided not to go by my parents’ house until the next morning since it was already pretty late. And my dad died that night.

    Sometimes the loss hurts more because I know I could have seen him alive one more time, but more often I know I was there at the right times all the previous times.

    Anyway, it’s funny how once you’re reminded of something difficult, you can see connections in the loosest ways. So all through the rest of Josh Ritter’s set, I was primed to reflect on all kinds of loss, but especially my dad. And then he played “Kathleen,” which is one of the few songs of his I knew before last night, and I like it but it’s a tough one for me, because it so heavily references the Irish standard “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen” and that’s one of the songs my dad used to sing when he was a nightclub performer and is the source of my name. Of course, Ritter’s song goes off in a different direction, but I think if you carry the connection over and think about his song in the context of its heritage, it makes his song even more intriguing. The Irish song is a plea to that song’s Kathleen to hold out hope in the narrator, to recognize that he sees she is unhappy and that he can once again bring her the happiness that she has lost. The Ritter song is a plea to its Kathleen to place some hope in the narrator, to recognize that he appreciates her and can see her clearly and can make her happy even if it’s just for one night. Each song is a kind of begging, but from nearly opposite ends of the lifecycle of a relationship — and, you could even say, nearly opposite ends of life itself.

    Anyway, I thought about that while he was playing the song, but I was also just washed away in grief every time I heard the line “I’ll be the one to drive you home, Kathleen.”

    And yet I walked away from the show feeling hopeful, and creatively inspired. I think there’s another post about that I need to write, because there are other factors at work there, but I definitely took away ideas from listening to Ritter’s brutal and beautiful honesty, and I intend to use them.