Sunday, April 29, 2007

Indifference of Opinion

Lets say you are talking to someone and they are saying something that you disagree with, like really disagree with. But you dont tell them. You just pretend to agree with them with some non-commital nods of your head and a few unintelligible mumbles. You dont want to face the challenge of presenting your disagreement in a diplomatic way. So you stuff it.

You look at it this way for a minute, “now I know that I dont agree with them on this topic, so I wont bring it up again, lucky me I have the power now.“

The question is are you doing them a disservice by holding back your opinion, which may have the ability, if presented with grace, to affect their opinion?

Depends on the person you are talking to I suppose, their personality and relationship to you. It also depends on you and your personality. I probably stuff more than the average, since I am actually very opinionated but rarely up to the task of really putting it out there. Opinions run through my veins instead of blood. We really must pick our battles carefully though.

We all hate to think that someone is doing this to us, not admitting what they really think and letting us blabber on in error or folly, but they might be.

No Paper Towel Roses

This weekend a friend was explaining how his arranged marriage was arranged. It was interesting to learn the steps involved, but even more interesting to observe his attitude about it.

He is seriously pragmatic and what he said made sense, even in the way that I think about relationships developing. Practical guidelines were set up: What he generally wanted the person to look like, what he wanted their family to be like and how much money and education he wanted them to have. It may be the case that in his culture, since he is a man, he was the one who had the luxury to make a list like this and not the other way around. But I cannot be totally sure, I dont know all the details and I imagine that it varies from situation to situation. For the most part, his list was comprised of all things that we think about when entering into a relationship, whether we admit it or not.

He has a beautiful wife and two adorable precocious children and they seem very happy to me. So, you could say that his marriage was a success. It is amazing to me that things work out fine even without a lengthy courtship period, without so much as a date or a flower exchanged or any discernable hint of romance as we know it.

I know that having arranged marriage as part of a culture also probably means that most people are accepting of its conditions and more understanding and familiar with the kinds of difficulties or necessities that accompany it. I surely dont know enough about this topic, or if my friend represents the majority of the population of his country or if arranged marriages are not as prevalent as they once were.

I would never be with Joe if my marriage was arranged by my parents though. It makes me ridiculously sad to think that his little sparkly eyes and big smile would not have had the opportunity to woo me as they did. My friend is lucky that it worked out for him and I am happy for that, but I also feel lucky that I had the choice and to have had a rose made for me out of paper towels once.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Conversation Piece

I had an interesting afternoon today. A coworker of mine started off a great conversation that lasted like a kite you cant believe is still flying, a yo-yo that just keeps coming up, or a hoola hoop that wont quit— into the late afternoon.

We were talking about Anthropology from all sorts of perspectives. It started out and we were talking about how we are not particularly interested in recent history, but once something is millions of years old-it captures our attention unconditionally. We joked about putting stickers on every day items that said “3 million years old” just so we would be more interested in them. I think I should put a sticker like that on my laundry, and then I will take an interest.

I wont bore you with all the details but some of the highlights were: that we are biased about Anthropology because we are human (which I thought was very funny) and it is much much easier to figure out what you dont want to do in life than it is to figure out what you do want to do.

We also touched on a very important point that was coincidentally mentioned in a comment made on my blog today on the post “The Little Picture” by SIL, an avid reader of PD. Your career is not the only way to make a difference in the world, you can do it person by person in small interactions. What she wrote was very well written and apt, so take a look. And keep talking, you never know what might come up.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Student for One Year *

I have started the embarrassingly addictive habit of fiercely looking up people's profiles on myspace. I went to a college for one year and then I transferred. It was about a thousand years ago now. I looked up all of the people from that class who I would have graduated with had I stayed.

I recognized only a handful of people really. I sifted through their best photos and read about their favorite movies and music. I followed links from one friend to another. I have never been so confused my humanity as I was at the time that I was at this school. I didnt like anyone but I didnt know why. I could not figure any one out and it made me amazingly sad.

But now as I look through their pages and pictures of themselves holding glasses of wine from their parents cellars and laughing, skiing, riding horses, living in exotic places, looking romantically tattered or tan, enriched with mind-opening experiences, I just have to wonder, had I been more able to go with the flow and learn from new types of people at the time, would I now be part of this community?

It seems to me that these people have an unbreakable network of friends from college and I envy that. I only keep in touch with a few choice college friends, but that’s it. We are hardly a group. Maybe its myspace making everyone seem more connected than they really are. Either way, I am feeling a hearty helping of out-of-the-loopness and what-could-have-beens today.

* I thought of another name for this post after I published it but I didnt want to disorient people by changing the name. So I will just tell you, I wanted to call it “theirspace.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Design Love

Last week I was out at dinner with someone who has recently taken up design after having worked in the lab. She told me about a project that she was working on, it sounded really interesting.

When I came home I wanted to make a list of reasons why I liked/like doing design. I didnt leave it because I hated it, but because I liked something else more. It will always be a part of me:

making lists of words to provoke inspiration on a topic.
getting fully immersed in a project, no longer knowing about the world outside.
ultra light fonts
one word in a great font sitting in the middle of a blank page-all quiet and lovely.
when all the text fits perfectly-or you make them think it does.
at its highest form-it can provoke action from people, to buy, to call, to get involved, to help.
making several versions of a logo or something-toiling away flipping and deleting, only to realize that your first try was the best.
when you impress yourself because of a happy accident.
getting the idea to end all ideas.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

• Thumbtacks • Words of Spring •

• It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want - oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! ~Mark Twain •

• Why does this post say Thumbtacks on it? •

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Guide

I want some kind of a general guide to solving all problems logically. It would be used for matters of science mostly and would be an extension of the scientific method. But of course you could also use it when your car breaks down or for some other practical matters. It would have maybe bullet pointed items and it would encourage you to look at a problem from several ways before trying to solve it. It would prevent narrow thinking or scattered half-baked thought.

There is probably a book out there about this very topic, the philosophy of science or something, well I want it. Excuse me while I google this.

Happy Friday.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Art Imitates Art

It was made of rectangular aluminum beams welded together at the intersections. It created a very three-dimensional dynamic form in its series of rectangular interlocking shapes. It had no beginning and no end. It stood about two feet taller than me. It looked like a sculpture, but I wasnt sure that it was.

It was created for a photo shoot. It was meant to sit in the background of the photo and to mimic a sculpture. But was it really a sculpture then? and more importantly and most confoundingly, was it Art?

The intention of the creator was not that it be something, but only that it look like the kinds of things that are something.

I felt sorry for it in a way, it was the bastard child of art and design together and in the end I am sure no one really cared about it or stood around it talking about what feelings it evoked or what movements it was inspired by. They just moved it into place and then either tossed it out afterward, or maybe someone claimed it attempting to make this Pinocchio of a sculpture into something real.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

• Thumbtacks • First Installment •

I have decided to introduce a new category of blog post given my limited time and yours, but our mutual desire to get a quick dose of “the dish” each day.

The posts will fall under the heading of • Thumbtacks •, in reference to their worthiness to be tacked to a board and stand as a constant reminder of humor or inspiration. They will be mercifully short and will appear erratically throughout the week. So, like a pop quiz, you wont know when they are coming. But better than a pop quiz in that they will not cause stress or hurt your average, they will be just a tiny fast dose of thought.

This post is already getting too long for a Thumbtack but I want to write a little something more:

• I told Joe that when I walked out of the lecture rooms at the conference I was faced with a room thick with Anthropologists all talking and socializing in seemingly impenetrable groups. Because of my persistent social anxiety I described it as my biggest nightmare, but Joe so brilliantly reminded me that it was also my biggest dream. What, what would I do without him? •

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Take a Bite out of Crime

Before I went to lunch, I checked my pink flowered wallet to see how many measly bills I had in there. It was 3:30pm, I was temporarily hungry and therefore tired and am pretty permanently broke.

I found three 1 dollar bills and one 5. Not bad. But one of the 1 dollar bills looked funny to me. The ink on it was suspiciously light on one side in comparison to the others. I looked at the date, it was from 1988 and the others were much more recent. That must be the reason it looks strange I thought. My next thought was, I need pizza now.

Its $2.50 for a slice of Sicilian. I handed the man behind the counter my three bills. He looked at one of the bills and immediately knitted his sturdy dark brow. Then he looked up and me and with a wide missing teeth smile said, “its fake.”

I fished in my bag immediately for the 5 dollar bill to give to him instead. I was upset but I also thought it was slightly funny that I had only noticed a nebulous strangeness over this piece of paper and then the pizza man called it right away.

After a few seconds of him chuckling and flipping my counterfeit bill over a few times and me getting increasingly disturbed, he handed me my .50 cents change and insisted that it was okay. I hesitated and then took my undeserved quarters and my greasing paper bag and walked out.

So, I perpetuated a crime today and I must say, it tasted kind of good.

Friday, April 13, 2007

City of Dreams

Last night I was out at dinner, it was crowded, I looked around at all the people and this occurred to me:

People come from all over the world to live in New York and then when they get here they act and dress the way they think New Yorkers do. And then New York is formed by all of these people thinking it is a certain way, and then it becomes that. They collectively turn it into it what they think it is. It is nothing on its own. It is truly, ahhem, a state of mind.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Little Picture

“So, are you sure you want to be an Anthropologist?”, was asked of me today in half-jest. I didnt answer. Instead I completely unnaturally shifted the conversation to my lab work and pointed to the lab book and began talking while I looked at it admiringly. And I was not making eye contact with the person who asked me that question on purpose.

What I realized in that flash of a moment is that it is sometimes easier to have a little project to worry about—its mini triumphs, its minute falls and complexities and most of all its soothing monotony and detachment from the world—than it is to always think big.

One of the difficulties of my working life, and of my life, has been that I am always looking for the big picture in what I do, from being a restaurant hostess, to a graphic designer, to a laboratory technician. What does it all mean? How am I changing the world? How is the world changing me? The answers are hardly ever satisfactory.

As I pointed to the graph paper pages in the book and to my neat handwriting on them, the feeling flowered inside of me that, on a rainy April afternoon, its sometimes nice just to look at the little picture.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Of Pigeons and Paranoids

I am turning into a suspicous old lady who stays in her house all day and looks out the window and shakes her head at the people outside because they are talking too loud, driving too fast, or just generally not acting like she wants them to. Its a terrible terrible thing that has crept up on me like a pigeon with one deformed or injured foot (I actually saw this today and wanted to work it in some how.)

I think that I was wrong about someone. I didnt like them because I thought they were amazingly self-absorbed and scattered. But then the other day we had a perfectly normal nice conversation and they kept asking me questions about myself in fact and being particularly humble. But after it was over, I wondered if some of her nice remarks were the type of remarks to lead me down a dark alley of her thoughts, have me agree with her only to be beaten and mugged by several laughing professors wearing tweed face masks. I know that science is competitive, so I am watching my back and not letting anyone get too close but this is causing me to spin around in circles and I am getting dizzy.

I am getting way too paranoid lately. Its knocking on the door of abnormalcy and its pounding really hard.

Happy Birthday PD!

This blog turned one year old on Monday April 9th. I am seriously almost getting choked up when I think about it, like its my baby.

I am always amazed when a year has already passed, but I am convinced that in almost all humans our internal yearly clock is off and we always expect a year to be longer than it is.

I am thinking of one of the last scenes in The Royal Tenenbaums when Ben Stiller's stalwart character finally breaks down and tells his father, Royal, who he has a rocky relationship with "its been a tough year Dad."

What I wish for the future of this blog is that I continue to write and it continues to soothe me throughout Graduate school, but that people write more comments and that I stick to it each and every day of the week so no readers drop off like what has been happening lately. Its tough to do it every day, but I never regret it. I have been late to work because of blogging, or late to bed but my ideas always appreciate being given a chance.

Thank you for reading.

Monday, April 9, 2007

The Hole in Holiday

Yesterday was Easter. I spent it with Joes family. It feels good that things are changing for me. That I dont have to be stuck in my own parents house all day on Easter. And I have found that the sun will still rise the next day, even without my Moms roasted peppers in my stomach and a vague solemn depressed feeling cast over me that my own family hands out on holidays instead of bags filled with jellybeans.

And its so sunny today.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Stupid Things

When we do something stupid, it is sometimes that we have forgotten something: a friends birthday, to shut off the oven or to take the parking break off while driving.

But there is another genre of stupid things that I am more interested in. The kinds of things that are stupid because you were thinking too narrowly. There you were hitting the key of A in all different ways, standing on your head, hitting it with your pinky toe, throwing rocks at it, only to realize that you should have been hitting the key of B in order to evoke the sound that you wanted.

Sometimes someone comes in while you are doing your key-of-A shenanigans, and points out that you might try hitting B instead. You relax your contorted body and sigh, and you feel the stupidness all over. Other times its you who realizes your mistake, after some time away or after you have banged your head a few times on the key of A and it just hurts to much to continue in this manner.

It is both a great and sorrowful moment when you realize your ridiculous narrow thinking. A door in your mind opens, but sometimes it is difficult to believe that it was ever closed.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Cynicisms Awl

Do you know what an awl is? it is a pointed tool for marking surfaces or piercing small holes, but it is long and thin and sharp and persistent.

As a reaction to my own cynicism there is a side of me that is hopelessly idealistic and always reaching for something better, more noble or truthful or real. I see it most times ahead of me like a brass ring, but once I get closer and closer and put my hand out to reach for it, it pops like a soap bubble. Left in its place is nothing.

The same nothing that I knew before, the same nothing that I found the last time I reached up for a brass ring.

Lately, after the Physical Anthropology conference, I have just been feeling down about the research in my field-to-be. Most of it never amounts to anything I am sure and some of it is only important to Anthropologists and will never ever even tap on the shoulder of the common person. Then what is the point exactly?

I thought of how primate conservation is important because, if nothing else, you are helping to save a species. But why do we care about primates more than we care about lizards? Because we are primates, because learning about their genes and behavior can give us clues to ourselves, its about us again. Why do we care about finding fossils of ancient hominids? Because it is deeply exciting and satisfying to know where we came from.

My cynicism is so relentless that whatever I do, no matter how far I run, it will always come knocking at my door. In a dirty dark cloak pressuring me to question every movement I make and others make into oblivion, until it is all a meaningless pulp.

But, so far I have not learned anything from reaching and not grasping. I have not learned to expect the ring to disappear, or that the awl is strong and persistent and ubiquitous. I just keep trying, each time with the naiveté of a child and the ignorant enthusiasm of a fool. Thats all I can do, really.

Umbrella logic

I saw someone walking with an “I Love Lucy” umbrella and bright blue rain boots today, forget that it didnt match for now. I was reminded of how sometimes the only fun and uplifting thing on a rainy day is your rain gear.

It never once occurred to me to buy an item of clothing or an umbrella that would most likely be used pretty infrequently.

But today I realized the importance of playful and practical rain accouterments. It makes the already dreary day better.

I have a particular fondness for those umbrellas that are clear but tall and narrow and that create a little world that encases you as you walk. Also saw a Marimekko umbrella that almost lit the world on fire with its bright colors.

I must try it some time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Its Ranunculus

I went to a florist the other day and we talked about my wedding. He made suggestion after suggestion, tempted me with talk of peonies and ranunculus and created a beautiful blossoming vision in my head. Pink frilly petals were multiplying all over the place and I liked it, but so were the numbers.

When I received the price quote I was pretty surprised but then after asking around I realized that this price was pretty reasonable for what he was giving us. So I sulked. And I still have yet to really resolve anything.

Two days ago Joe and I walked by a deli that sells flowers on the street. We stopped to check it out. I showed Joe what ranunculus was and we bought a bunch. They are now sitting in my living room all robust and yellow or red and making everything better. I remembered again that, as corny or cliched as it may sound, I am one of those people who really gets affected by the presence of flowers. It just makes my whole day better if they are sitting there.

So for our wedding I am starting to think that this large price is really worth it and I am getting weaker.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Anthropologists

Got into the beige car with his Aunt in the back seat, who did not speak a word of English, and I not a word of Spanish. His mother, who had astonishingly petite hands, was in the front and in the drivers seat this wonderfully nice professor who offered to give me a ride and who is just as shy as I am. We rode in uncomfortable silence for about 45 minutes until I decided I didn't want the silence to feel this way anymore, so I made it relaxing silence instead and I closed my eyes and rapidly began diving into strange dreams. Opened my eyes and we had arrived in Philadelphia for the Anthropology conference.

I was dropped off at the Bed and Breakfast that I was staying at. It was creaky and intensely Colonial and a little bit creepy. I walked up the rugged steps to my dark pink painted room got under the flowered quilt and I slept. Woke from my nap and made my way to the conference, two cobble stoned streets away. On my way to the first lecture I ran straight into the woman from the University that I decided not to go to. I didn't see her name tag, but I didn't have to, I recognized her from her pictures on the web. In a rare I-just-woke-up-from-a-nap hazy moment of bravery I introduced myself. We talked for a few steady moments and then we went into the lecture.

Lecture after lecture, slides of graphs and charts and pictures, little geeky jokes sprinkled here and there. I sat in the dim lighting of the conference room thankful that, aside from my name tag, I was almost anonymous, but also a little sad and scared that I was.

As the weekend progressed I learned less about peoples research and more about living breathing humans. The group of students that I will be studying with took me in. I ate with them and talked to them, they asked me all sorts of questions that I answered. Someone who was interested in Primate Behaviour but who has to take a required genetics course said to me, “If an Art person can do genetics then there is hope for me.” I froze in amazement, but didn't say a thing. Then someone else made a comment about how I must have gotten accepted because of my advisor, who is currently my boss. And so what if I did, every damn thing I have done at work has been on my own merit so why cant I use that when I apply to school. I curtly reminded them that I had also gotten into another school where no one knew me at all.

And I had to ask myself why I want to study Anthropology when there are so many humans out there who I dont like.

I learned the importance of being able to give a good lecture, I also learned that some people have strange and lame research questions but they go on working as if they were finding a cure for AIDS. I guess you have to find something that moves you even if it is something as obscure as primate milk composition.

But most of all, in the midst of all these important sounding lectures and chuckling old men standing in circles, I learned that Anthropology is most about the Anthropologists.