Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Monday, April 27, 2009

On The Banality of Evil

Playing in the background: The merry sound of Chuzzles exploding

This is my aunt Betty's fault. She sent me a column today by Frank Rich, the brilliant New York Times op-ed guy who has recently riffed on such things as gay marriage in Iowa and the toxic legacy of the housing bubble. The column is about the White House memos on torture, or "harsh interrogations," or whatever else you want to call the horrific stuff that went on at Abu Ghirab and Guantanamo paid for by your tax dollars and performed by people who claimed to be protecting you. Thanks, guys. Really, I feel so much safer now.

It also mentions the Columbine shooters. A new book, "Columbine," talks about the shootings in Littleton, Colorado that left 13 people dead and a bunch of others hurt and also spawned national myths. Among them: The shooters were high-school outcasts who were picked on by other kids and were taking revenge. The shooters were part of a gang called the "Trench Coat Mafia." The shooters targeted Christian kids, asked them if they believed in God, and shot them if they said "Yes." Guess what? None of that is true. Rich opines that even though these myths have been debunked, people still believe them because we don't want the bad guys to be us. We want 'em to be them, those other guys, that Trench Coat Mafia, those outcasts, “a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values" (ex-prez Bush Jr.).

I'm amazed that we haven't gotten over this yet. Any human being capable of great good works is capable of great evil. That just sort of stands to reason. And the reverse. People aren't good or evil. We're just people. We get to choose, every day, if we're going to be good or evil, if we're gonna do the right thing or the easy thing, if we're gonna help somebody or cause him/her harm.

Every time I bring this up I get yelled at, but here goes anyway: Germany, 1930s. Is it possible that every single citizen in the entire country was morally depraved? That they let the Nazis take power because they were the equivalent of bloodthirsty zombies and they had this mad burning desire to kill, loot, rape and brutalize as many of their neighbors as they possibly could? Er, no. Not so much. This is the same country that brought us Bach, Handel and Beethoven, the Gutenberg Bible, the Gramophon (primitive iPod), the first programmable computer and the MP3 (used on the modern iPod). Does it make any logical sense to call all Germans inherently evil? Or inherently noble? Course not. Like all other human beings everywhere, they're capable of both.

A lot of ordinary German citizens who might have been able to do something to stop the Nazi machine looked the other way during the 1930s, but then, so did most of the rest of the planet, including the United States. Case in point: A John Wayne movie called Three Faces West (also released as The Refugee). In this movie, a bunch of North Dakota townsfolk are heading west (to Oregon, I think) to establish a new town. On the way, they're joined by a refugee Viennese doctor and his daughter. We hear that the doctor was fleeing from the Nazis, but not why. The movie also manages to skip over the whole part where the doctor is obviously Jewish because, of course, if he is then John Wayne can't fall in love with his daughter. The movie was released in 1940, and a more masterful work of deliberate international obtuseness I have not yet found. Does that make John Wayne evil? MGM Studios? Vienna?

Anybody capable of great evil is also capable of great love and compassion. Now here's where I really get yelled at. Hitler, in his early youth, was a victim of fairly horrific child abuse. As a young man, though, he became a pretty decent painter, he had a girlfriend, and he probably just would have been a regular guy if certain things hadn't happened along the way. There was a TV miniseries about this a few years ago and it got slammed by all kinds of reviewers and groups as being "too sympathetic" to Hitler. Being sympathetic to bad guys, especially Hitler, is Just Wrong. Back in 2008, 44% of Americans said they had no problem with torturing terrorist suspects and many even opined that such behavior should be encouraged. Why not? The terrorists are the bad guys. Being sympathetic to bad guys, especially terrorists, is Just Wrong. (I dunno about you, but I wouldn't want to run into that 44% of Americans in a dark alley. Seriously, that could get scary.) But, if it is wrong, then it's okay to feel sorry for the "few American troops who dishonored our country" since they were, after all, just young kids doing a very hard job in a dangerous place. Until they become the bad guys. And then what the hell do we do?

Unfortunately, it wasn't just a few American troops. It was national security advisors at very high levels. It was graduates of Harvard, it was Condi Rice for God's sake. It was people that most folks respect. And here's what I can't figure out. We don't want the torturers to be the good guys, the national security advisers, the Condi Rices of the world, because that would screw up our view of them as being inherently noble.

Bad examples? Okay, let's talk about my grandfather. By all accounts he was Not A Very Nice Guy to members of his family. He was an Army surgeon during WWII and came back to the States with a major case of post-traumatic stress disorder. He never got over it (never even knew what it was, in all probability), and yeah, definitely abused his wife and kids and became a chronic alcoholic. Yet, he also founded a medical clinic in this tiny town in North Dakota and brought quality medical care to an area that basically hadn't had any, ever. He treated people who couldn't pay, people who paid with chickens or other livestock even though he lived in town and had no place to put them, went into debt on a number of occasions to keep the clinic going when times were hard, and still managed somehow to put four sons through college.

So was he noble or was he an asshole? How truly annoying that we can't pigeonhole him, especially now that he's deceased. Likewise the national security advisers and the few American troops and the terrorists and Hitler and the people of 1930s Germany and Bach and Gutenberg and Condi Rice. To quote Jimmy Stewart (and I never get tired of quoting Jimmy Stewart), "I don't know what you think of the so-called rabble, Mr. Potter, but they do most of the working and playing and living and dying in this town." They also do most of the good, and most of the evil, and as Lars von Trier says, you gotta take one with the other.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's A Nice Girl Like Me...

Playing in the background: The air conditioner. Yep, it's summer again.

Why Texas? Good question. I actually hadn't thought about that in quite a while, but somebody asked me on Twitter why a nice liberal lesbian Buddhist-Lutheran on a mission to end suffering in the world would want to move from California (God's country) to the buckle of the Bible Belt and be the only person on her block who voted for Obama. (Well, that's not completely true; the folks across the street had an Obama sign on their lawn.) Part of the answer is simple. Joan got a job here, so here we are. The rest of the answer is more complicated. I mean, it wasn't my choice to move here (though I was all in favor), but thus far, it's my choice to stay.

See, we lived in San Diego, which is a nice town, beautiful weather, fine people and all that, a little conservative by California standards (lots of retired military folks around), and very very very very very effing expensive. I mean unbelievably pricey. Joan made really good money at her job there. I really didn't, but that wasn't unusual; salaries in San Diego tend to be about 20% lower than salaries everywhere else in California even though prices are comparatively higher. We used to call this the paradise tax. It's no joke, though. I was getting around $35,000 a year as a legal secretary. I could have made $42, maybe even $45,000 in L.A. doing the same work. But between the two of us we were bringing in more money than God and still starving. Well, not literally, but it was getting silly. When you're just shy of six total figures and you're still having to charge your groceries at the end of the month there's something seriously wrong. So when Joan got fed up with the powers that be and started looking around, the Midwest was an obvious choice. (Believe me, if I'd been unemployed in San Diego, we'd be living in a cardboard box right about now. With Internet access. Well, a girl can dream.)

It was almost Lubbock. I kid you not. You know that tall pointy part of Texas that sticks up into Oklahoma near Nebraska? Lubbock's kind of in there somewhere. There's not much there apart from Texas Tech, where the job was. But I was willing to give it the old college try. I mean, you know, Bible under one arm, shotgun under the other, shellin' peas on the front porch and all that, what the hell. Still, I was really relieved when it turned out to be Dallas instead. I mean, Dallas is a big town (that thinks it's Chicago, but I digress). There's a lot going on here. And yeah, there's the rednecks and the Bible belters and the far-right whackoes, but they have those in California, too. Yea verily, even in San Diego.

So again, why Texas. Well, here I am. We have a nice little house here. It costs about a third of what we were paying in SanD for an 800-square-foot condo. We have good friends. I have (had) a good job, and will have another. But, really, the best thing about Dallas? People. Everybody's really, really, really nice.

I mean it. You won't get this until you come here for a while and then leave to go elsewhere. I went to visit my sister in Las Vegas about six months after we moved here and was taken aback at how rude everybody was. From the waiter at the posh casino restaurant to the guy next to you in line at the airport, the whole town seemed to have a massive chip on its shoulder. I asked my sister about this and she said, "No, they're not rude. Everybody in Texas is just nice." She's right. By comparison, Mother Theresa herself would seem a bit abrupt.

Now, there are those cynical folks out there who might argue that Southerners (and Texas is part of the South, however much it might think it's really Montana) are only nice to your face and shred you behind your back. I ain't sayin' one way or another. But there's a whole lot of value in being nice, even if it's just surface niceness. Niceness makes other people feel good. When other people feel good, they are nice to others who in turn feel good and are nice to others and and and. It's all very Buddhist-y, in a way.

Don't get me wrong. Texas has its Issues. Hell, we have the whole back run of the subscription -- governors who want us to secede from the union, otherwise-intelligent folks who still think this is a good idea, don't get me started about recognition of gay marriages, and the list goes on. But ya know, niceness is a good place to start. I'd rather live in Dallas than New York, howdya like them apples? And I've never even been to New York, except to change planes once. Which was pretty cool.

Side note: If the new flu has genes from both pigs and birds, it's kind of misleading to call it the swine flu, don't you think? We ought to call it the "pigs with wings flu." I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And When I'm Not Looking For Work...

Playing in the background: "Pitchmen" on the Discovery Channel

...I drive myself bats doing other things, like writing query letters.

You know what a query letter is, of course. In case you don't, though, it's a short "elevator pitch" to a literary agent or publisher, asking him/her to take time out of his/her busy schedule and listen to you, the complete stranger, who wants to sell him/her something, generally a manuscript of some length. (Hence the show playing in the background; could there be anything more appropriate?) It's kind of a cross between one of those letters you send to a random company when you're unemployed in hopes that they might be hiring, and a fumbly first-date attempt to get somebody into bed. If you're extremely fortunate, said agent/publisher might come back and say, "Okay, I'm interested, send me more." More often said agent/publisher says, "Thanks, kid, but no thanks." If you're extremely unfortunate, the world ends, your heart explodes and you die. Well, that hasn't actually happened to me yet, or anyone else I know, either, but try convincing the reptilian part of my brain about that.

If you hang around on "Twitter," or even if you don't, you can search for #queryday and find literally thousands of tweets from last Friday (April 17) about how to write query letters (and how not to). A bunch of literary agents participated in this thing, fielding questions from the serious to the pretty silly (still chuckling about the guy who said he had a rewrite of The Lord Of The Rings as played by sentient lawn furniture). It was awesome, even if I couldn't keep up, and thank God I'm not working or I'd have been fired on Friday for sure. Anyway, it's obvious that lots of people have problems with this necessary part of getting something published. In short, I'm not unique. But being not-unique hasn't done much to appease that reptilian part of my brain, which is still convinced that Writing Query Letters somehow equals Death.

In case you're wondering, I did it. I hammered on a paragraph-long Elevator Pitch over about a week, put the letter (email) together and sent it out yesterday. This is a minor miracle in itself considering the amount of energy that gets dumped into the effort. Not effort writing the thing, which isn't easy either, but getting past that reptilian part of my brain (I've been calling it Scaley) that keeps screaming about imminent megavolcanoes and meteors about to open giant craters just off the Yucatan and something about the Permian Great Dying. If Scaley were a separate being, he'd be a fierce-looking but totally stressed-out T-Rex from a bad children's Saturday-morning cartoon sitcom that chews his nails, ducks under palm fronds a lot and jumps six feet in the air, screaming, whenever his clueless brontosaurus buddy Clyde walks up and taps him on the shoulder. I mean, really, you kinda gotta feel sorry for the guy.

Back in the good old pre-twelve step days, I had an obvious solution for Scaley: Get blind drunk before writing query letters. This worked every time. Three beers and Scaley went to sleep; I wrote the letters (which were, I'm sure, just masterpieces of the genre) and by the time Scaley woke up with a headache, it was all over. Trouble with that solution was that a headache for Scaley translated as projectile vomiting for Jen, so we had to quit doing that. Minus the booze, I basically have to listen to Scaley rant himself into exhaustion. Then, while he's panting for breath, I sneak onto the computer, send the letter, and try to get back to the sofa before he looks up.

If he catches me in the act, though, we have the Dreaded Deadly Post Query Letter Temporary Insanity kick in, which is almost as much fun as the Pre-Query Letter Angst of Imminent Doom. In fact, it's a lot like going off Zoloft for a few days just to see what happens. (I don't do this anymore but I used to.) Minus Zoloft, my brain starts doing all kinds of wacky things. I start, for example, to believe things purely at random. (If you haven't done so, you might wanna read Douglas Adams' masterpiece, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The Electric Monk with the short circuit? That's what I'm talking about.) Last night after sending this query letter I believed the following things in rapid succession: That the Mayans were right and the world really was going to end in 2012, that we're all going to get quick-fried like in the movie Knowing, and that since it's not technically possible to get a trilogy published before 2012, I might want to run a classified ad and sell my car. No idea where that last thing came from, but I was already composing the language in my head: 1998 Toyota Corolla, 85k miles, needs body work...

Fortunately, there's always a small corner of my brain that doesn't buy any of this and comes up with the brilliant suggestion that I might just want to go to bed, already. Which I did. I woke up this morning and went on one of the best job interviews I ever had. I actually leaned across the table at this guy and said, "Look. I say this without a shred of embarrassment: I'm one of the best there is." Which is, uh, true, actually, but I don't think I've ever said it out loud before. Not the best (give me ten or twelve more years) but one of the best. He just can't go wrong, placing me somewhere. No one can. I'm good.

(In case you're wondering, Scaley doesn't do job interviews. He's strictly a query letter and manuscript submittal kind of angst-ridden cartoon dinosaur.)

2500 years ago, Buddha said, "Don't trust your brain. It will lie to you." That's disconcerting to say the least. I mean, what can you rely on, if not your intellect? But for me it was a tremendous relief to find this out. I'm pretty sharp, and from the time I was a little kid I expected I'd be able to think my way out of problems. And most of the time I can, but there are some problems that just don't respond to thought. Buddha knew this roughly 2,350 years before Sigmund Freud. Sometimes all you can do is keep on keeping on.

So I'll let you know what happens. I'll have to send another one in a day or two here or Jackie will get on my case. (Hi, Jackie!) Maybe if I do it sooner than later, Scaley will still be tired from the last one and won't get as worked up. Until they invent Zoloft for angst-ridden cartoon dinosaurs, that may be the best I can do.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

So How's The Job Search Going, You Ask. Part II.

Playing in the background: Vangelis, "Monastery of La Rubida"
Meters swum today: None. 2000 yesterday, though. Go me!

Well, let's see. Monday I had a really good interview with a recruiter. She gave me a little fishy hand squeezy thing. I'm extremely fond of all things fish (and yes, they are delicious, and yes, I do feel a tad guilty for eating them because they're friends) but anybody who gives me a little fishy hand squeezy thing is automatically cool.

The rest of the week has been pretty slow, though. Except I stumbled onto a web site called "LawCrossing." It's what we call a "job aggregator," which means, the nice folks who work there go to all the Web sites and the law journals and the newspapers and anywhere else jobs might be posted and put them all in one place. I am seeing jobs here that I have never seen anywhere else, and three of them were for litigation paralegals who do exactly what I was doing, so that is awesome. The only thing about this site that I don't like is that it's not free. It's not very expensive, though, and I can cancel whenever I find work. I may not want to. This site is totally cool. I've been all over it most of today reading articles, looking at statistics and lots of other neat stuff. You can apply for jobs all over the world with this thing (though not Ireland, unfortunately - maybe it's just too new.)

This week so far I've applied for 8 positions. That's actually a little low - I did 23 last week. Most of em tend to be at the end of the week, though. I think that's when people give notice, hiring managers panic, and the ads hit Craigslist. (Also an offbeat and interesting source of legal jobs, just incidentally.)

An old recruiter friend was advertising a night word processor gig. I applied for it and she said she'd send my resume along. Working nights isn't exactly my favorite thing, but I've done it before, I'm good at it, and if I get to sleep till noon every darn day, what the hell. Actually I'd be getting off at midnight so there'd be no need to sleep until noon. When I worked for the Feds I got off at 3:30 am, drove an hour home and usually got to bed around 5 am. It's very quiet in the world at that particular time of day. Moving to the day shift after that was like adventures in fast forward. On the plus side, though, I got to take the train.

So I guess it's going. Everything's moving very slowly right now. There are a LOT of really good people out of work, so firms can afford to be very choosy and take their time. I don't think I'm going to get the position in Fort Worth but I guess that could still happen. (sigh) And God knows I'm looking for work and he'll find me the right job. I just need to keep doing my part, putting in applications, networking, etc etc.

Incidentally, if you ask 10 Buddhists if they believe in God, you'll get 20 different answers and 40 deep philosophical discussions. For my part, I believe that we are all part of the same being, a great and universal mind-consciousness that encompasses all the living beings there ever were, are and will be, and that each of us is one small part of this consciousness living out experiences unique to us for the enlightenment of all, and that together we have a collective wisdom that transcends all of our individual failings and makes us glorious in our nobility. Which is just easier to call God. So I do.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog For The Following Golf Cart Accident...

Meters swum today: 1500
Playing in the background: Jean-Michele Jarre, "Rondez-vous 4" (and sorry about your dad, Jean.)

I believe I've regaled y'all with members of my family and their penchant for getting into bizarre accidents. Particularly my dad. The infamous skiing crash comes most immediately to mind. There were, of course, any number of light plane incidents before that, a rather interesting sailboating accident, a couple of crackups in automobiles and who the hell knows what all else. I've only been around for the last 40 years, you understand; the thirty before that are a complete mystery, and my mom's not talking.

I gotta say, though, this one takes the cake. My dad somehow managed to do damage to somebody's car with a golf cart. Yes, that's a golf cart. While going backwards. It never would have occurred to me that you could possibly cause injury to persons or property while backing up in a golf cart. It also never occurred to me that golf cart accidents can kill people, or that nearly 150,000 people were injured by golf carts between 1990 and 2006. I'm glad somebody keeps statistics on this stuff because honestly, that's staggering. That's five times as many people who have ever been injured by BASE jumping at any time in history. Okay, there aren't as many BASE jumpers as there are golf cart drivers, but why ruin a good statistic with a healthy dose of reality?

My brother-in-law opined this evening that people in my family should perhaps not be allowed to own motor vehicles. And he does have a point. Myself, I've done pretty well as far as my accident track record. Two sailboat wrecks, neither of which did any damage to anybody else; four car accidents, only one of which was my fault, and all but one of which were pretty minor; one regrettable incident during my only flying lesson (plane zero, coyote one) and then there was the time I drove a speedboat into a dock going pretty darn fast--okay, maybe I haven't done so well. However, talk to a couple of my uncles and cousins and you'll get boat wrecks, car wrecks, cars accidentally driven into rivers (ask Kyle about that one), sailboats sailing into tornadoes (now that was a story), and the list no doubt goes on. I do think, though, that this is probably the first serious golf cart wreck in family history, unless you count the time my sister drove one into a tree when she was seven. (Tree one, golf cart zero.)

Anyway, nobody was hurt and insurance is going to cover the damages and so forth and so on. But I think I might put my plans for buying a three-wheel ATV on hold for a bit. My bike just looked at me funny, and I gotta tell ya, that hurts.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It Knows What Scares You

Meters swum today: 1900 (go me!)
Playing in the background: The soft sounds of evening (and the occasional train horn)

I've managed to scare the sheep out of myself. This should not come as a big surprise to those of you who know of my penchant for horror movies, fast driving, loose women and roller coasters. Well, just horror movies and roller coasters. Okay, honestly, just horror movies. (And the latest recommendation in that pantheon is: The Uninvited, marketed as a supernatural horror flick but really a twisty suspense/murder mystery/thriller with a BIG SECRET at the end that explodes like a --no, I better not say anything else. Go rent it, it's awesome.)

What happened is that I wrote something that scared me. Not only scared me but physically repulsed me to the point where I want to climb into my brain, find whatever hole it crawled out of, nail that sucker shut and tape it up with that red duct tape that kept the ghosts out in Kairo. This is all Roland's fault (I like to blame things on Roland; he is, after all, the bad guy. Or is he? Hm.) When I wrote Mindbender I included something called the Infamous Cigarette Scene (and if I ever get this silly thing published, you'll get to read it, so hey, send your literary agent friends my way, willya?).

I remember the exact day, the exact hour and even what I was wearing when I wrote the Infamous Cigarette Scene. I was doing laundry in a seedy apartment building in San Diego. I remember that because I had to walk out of my apartment and down to the laundry room to swap stuff in and out of the washer/dryer, and so one minute I'd be writing this thing (darkness, gloom, horror, whatever) and the next minute I'd be outside (sunlight, birds singing, frisbees flying through the air in the nearby park, whatever). And I was horrified and disgusted and so on, and wondered what the hell kind of person could even come up with this sort of stuff and so on, and was I that kind of person and so on, but I got over it. Kind of.

Then I had to go and write two sequels to the silly thing. Which pretty much guaranteed that Roland would have to, sooner or later, come up with something to equal or surpass the Infamous Cigarette Scene. Boy, does he ever. And once again I'm wondering what the hell kind of person could even come up with this stuff and so on, and once again, I'm gonna find that hole in my brain and...

The truth is, I write about things that scare me quite a bit. Politicians scare me. Religious fanatics (of any religion) scare me. Tornado sirens scare me. "Y'all're gonna need to replace that there engine, honey" scares me. But they don't really scare me, if you get my meaning. They're all scary to one respect or another but I didn't actually create them, did I? Set them loose in the world and all that? No. To write about something is, on some level, to make it possible. Even if we're talking fictional characters in a fictional country (filling in for El Salvador, in this case), we're still talking about something I came up with. That means I'm capable of coming up with something like this and why in hell is that?

I'm a nice person. I'm a Buddhist, fer cryin' out loud. I grew up in a nice middle class home with nice parents and I have a nice sweetie and a nice career (when I'm not unemployed, that is.) Apart from a brief period in my life when I was, oh, thirteen or fourteen, and some later karate lessons, I've never been in a fight. So what went so horribly wrong with the growth of my cerebral cortex, that I can write stuff like this? And why do I know so much about stuff like this? Not so much all the horrible things that people can do to each other but the way they're thinking while they're at it, what they're feeling, and more important, how they can convince themselves (usually without a lot of trouble) that this is the right thing to do. Was it all those "Gilligan's Island" reruns? Cyclamates? Stephen King novels? Too many horror movies when I was a kid? Nah. No such thing as too many horror movies.

Just incidentally, my love for horror films does not include slasher flicks like "My Bloody Valentine" and movies that focus on interesting ways to dissect a living human, like "Saw." Not only is that kind of stuff just gross, it's not scary. It's gotta be supernatural to scare me. Or it's gotta be Roland. Roland scares me plenty. What really scares me about the guy, though, is that he's me. At least on some level.

Maybe I'm working out a past life issue here. Maybe I used to be the Blood Countess or Caligula or something. Knowing me, though, it's more likely I was a fluffy bunny, a conscientious objector or an obedient housewife. I'm still more or less convinced I was a crafty trilobyte during the Pleistocine. If I ever do find that hole in my brain, though, I won't really be able to nail it shut. If I nail it shut, all the words will disappear. The good things and the scary things and the scarily good things and the things I don't even know are good or bad, they all crawl out of the same damn hole.

Hey, in case you want your inanity 24/7 in sound bites of 160 characters at a time instead of however often I update this thing, I'm on Twitter now. You can follow me here.

RIP Dr. Kutner

Playing in the background: An eerie silence.
Meters swum today: None. .87 of a mile on the treadmill, though.

If you don't watch House, the eminently addictive medical drama on Fox, you might wanna skip this post. If you do, you probably know that Dr. Lawrence Kutner (that's him with Dr. House; Kutner is the one who doesn't have his finger up his nose) was found dead in last night's episode. His death was ruled a suicide. The actor, by the way, is just fine; he left the show to take a job at the White House. No kidding. Fox, apparently aware this story line might be a tad bit controversial, opened up a Facebook memorial page for fans to leave their assorted rants.

Besides the usual the-show's-going-to-suck-now posts, there were quite a few saying that it wasn't fair of the show to not give us any warning. Like showing Kutner moping moodily about, giving away possessions, doing some of those things that people allegedly do when they are about to kill themselves. I couldn't add my $0.02 because I'm not on Facebook, but for the record, I thought the depiction was pretty darn realistic. I have known two people who killed themselves and neither of them really gave much warning. Okay, one of them disappeared for six weeks first, but he'd done that before and turned up alive and well and why's-everybody-so-mad-at-me. So as much as I'm gonna miss Dr. Kutner, I think Fox did a good job with this episode.

It's hard for me to imagine what must go through somebody's mind before they kill themselves, as in, why do they think this is such a great idea and stuff like that. At many points in my life I've been plenty mopey, and certainly the idea flitted across my mind from time to time, but I've got some pretty strict rules about when suicide is appropriate and being mopey is not sufficient. Dying of cancer, in terrible pain, and don't want to break the family budget to pay for the really expensive weeks you have left? Go for it. About to be tortured for information that will get all your friends killed and there's no other way to escape? Yeah, that works. Just accidentally killed 107 people on an airliner because you're the unfortunate mechanic who, I dunno, forgot to take the tape off the pitot tube or something, and the instruments kept reading the plane was at 7,000 feet right up until it hit the ground? That's a stretch, but, yeah, I guess it would pass. Double points if you take out a serial killer or child molester on your way out the door. But to kill yourself because your business failed, the stock market crashed or your wife found out about your girlfriend is just whining. Seriously. Grow up, get some help (and a good accountant) and move on. Mind you, these are my rules, so they only apply to me. Your Mileage May Vary.

The other great part of this episode was the way everybody reacted, or failed to react, to Dr. Kutner's death. I also thought that was pretty darn accurate. I dunno how many funerals y'all have been to lately, but people act weird when someone they love dies. Some people go into their apartments (ala Cartman) and won't come out. Some people want to Process with anybody they can pin down for two seconds (ie, Cameron) and others can't even be bothered to attend the funeral (House) because they're so busy trying to find out the answer to the Great Why. I've heard people laugh all the way through a memorial service. Maybe it's hysterical laughter, but when Joan's mom died and the funeral home spelled her name wrong on the urn, Joan and I both about laughed our fannies off (and scandalized the Dixieland band). The poor guy from the funeral home was mortified, though. "This has never happened to me before," he said. (Me neither. It was still pretty funny.)

My point, and I do have one, is that if you're gonna put the people you love through this kind of thing, you better have a darn good reason. So if the idea of suicide has done more than flit through your mind, and you are NOT A. dying of cancer, B. about to be tortured for...oh, never mind, they wouldn't let you on the Internet from your cell, anyway, would they? or C. an unfortunate mechanic who happens to know two or three serial killers and/or child molesters that he can take out while he's at it, please call one of these numbers right away: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889).

Tell 'em Jen and Dr. Kutner sent you.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

So How's The Job Search Going, You Ask.

Meters swum today: Zero. Logged nearly a hundred miles driving Mom between DFW and Love Field, though.
Playing in the background: The last ten minutes of "The Simpsons"

Well, you didn't ask but I'll tell you. Firstly, I'm traveling back and forth in time. I could have sworn I was about to start Week Four of the great unemployment adventure, but according to the TWC, it's only Week Two. Why? Well, because the severance package is considered "salary in lieu of notice", which means I'm ineligible for unemployment those two weeks. Which means last week was Week One and this week is Week Two. I wish somebody had told me that before the mortgage payment was due. Taking money out of savings makes Joan nervous. Actually, it makes me nervous too, but as a Scandinavian female, it is my job to Make Everything Perfect For Everyone Forever, or at least to make everything Fine (which is as close as Scandiavians ever get to perfect, and a lauded state in its own right).

Seriously, though, I had an interview in Fort Worth (or, as I frequently misspell it, Fort Wroth. Did you know the first telegraph message ever sent was What Hath Fort Wroth? Unless of course there was an error in the transcription.) I think I'd really like the work and do a fine job for these guys, so my fingers are crossed (which makes it kind of hard to type). Yeah, it's in Fort Worth and I live in Dallas, but that's nothing a bunch of hydrocarbons can't cure. I'fact the guys are relocating their office downtown, which means I can take the train. I've always liked taking trains. When I worked for the Feds I took the same train and got an amazing amount of writing done. Something about being parked on a moving vehicle gets the old ink flowing, unless the vehicle in question is an airplane. I don't think it's possible to do anything creative on an airplane, besides of course finding new ways to annoy your fellow passengers (and please don't, there's already lots of tried and true methods, and just incidentally, playing the bagpipes at thirty-five thousand feet is kind of like trying to run a marathon while breathing through a straw, and yes, I speak as one who knows.) If that happens we will probably move, or at least give moving some serious thought. Not all the way to FW (which isn't really that far, about 42.8 miles according to my odometer) but maybe to Oak Cliff or Cedar Hill. Anything on the other side of downtown Dallas would make the drive easier, and in South Dallas there's the DART train that runs downtown every fifteen minutes or so for those of us in the household, all one of her, that work thereabouts. Which, you have to admit, is pretty cool.

Though we often refer to this whole four-county area as "the metroplex" or "the DFW area," different parts of it are really different cultures. My little part of town is Far East Dallas, a heavily Hispanic and industrial area that's practically part of Garland. It's completely different than Old East Dallas, which is a weird mishmash of really nice houses and, uh, slums (often right across the street from each other). Then you have East Dallas, which is different than West Dallas, which doesn't hold a candle to South Dallas or North Dallas. And in case you're getting tired of seeing the word Dallas, we also have Plano (middle America), Frisco (middle America with a much higher per capita income than Plano), Arlington, Grand Prairie and, of course, Fort Worth.

Fort Worth is a little smaller than Dallas and has kind of an older feel. There are tall buildings, like in Dallas, but there are also a lot of 1920s era ten-story jobs, cobbled streets, art museums and, well, it's just homier somehow. It also seems more laid-back and (I hate to use this expression because it's so overused and misused it's practically meaningless, but anyway) family-friendly. It's also home to TCU (go Frogs!), which is almost across the street from this law firm's new digs. So anyway, it would be great if I got the job. It would be even better if I got it this week, before I have to attend TWC's "Job Seeker Orientation" and hear once again why one should not wear shorts to an interview or send lewd text messages with your cell phone from the office of the hiring manager.