Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Life in New Words

The year's almost come to an end so I'm reminiscing. Today's theme: words.

Over the past twenty years I've learned a lot of words. A lot of big old words, a lot of stupid new ones, even more foreign words. Here are some words I ought to have known but did not.

Midnight: In the second grade, Amanda Ward said she was up till midnight, which I assumed meant the middle of a typical second graders night. You know, like 8pm. I said, "what time did you go to bed?" and she kept repeating "midnight!" and looked at me like I was a F.O.B. (emphasis on "like").

Adoption: I watched a lot of "Punk Brewster" when I was in the fifth grade. In one particular episode Punky has been made fun of for being adopted, and Henry consoles her after school when she cries about it. He says, "adoption means I love you." Later that week in class, Miss Moss asked us all to talk about our families, and I said to the whole class, "I'm adopted."

From fifth grade till college, I knew everything. Then, freshman year at UCSC, I learned many words that I resent for taking up precious space in my brain now. Nag-champa, djembe rental, audit... However, one word whose use I can't shake is:

Dish-drainer: I thought a "dish-drainer" was the strainer in the drain that collects crap about to get washed down. One night I told my flatmates it was full of crud and people should really throw away the contents when they did dishes. All of them looked at the dish drainer and then at each other. It was no doubt empty.

Moving on.

D.I.Y.: Now, I know everyone learns "the new words" at some point, so learning Do-It-Yourself is not miraculous in and of itself but I learned it from a French man.

Twin Towers: I didn't know what the twin towers were till 9/11/2001, when at noon, I ambled out of bed and went to campus 150 blocks north of Wall St., having no idea why it was deserted. Andy, from Athens GA told me why everyone was in line at the pay phones or driving north. I didn't understand what he was talking about until I saw the footage.

Widget: It was 2003 and Silicon Valley was finally a bust. How appropriate that I would learn this word after the bubble.

Paying it forward:
Two days ago on a British Airways flight, I asked for "club soda" during the first beverage service. The stewardess (a twenty-something Brit) stared at me like I was a television screen and a Sex and the City marathon was running. She was incapacitated and fixed a dead smile on me like she understood but didn't hear. I repeated "club soda," then tried "seltzer water?" then "soda water?"
She finally turned around and whispered to another stewardess, "what's club soda?"

Sparkling water.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

You all know Tila Tequila. Here are some lesser known drink-based bisexuals:

Shania Shnapps likes sweet nothings whispered through dry heaves. Biggest rival: Jackie Jagermeister.

Vivica A. Vodka dances low to the ground. An entry level bisexual, she mixes well with everyone. Rival: Talula Tequila (Tila's MMRPG-pwning mastah).

Drew Daquiri's looks are deceiving. She has been known to deadlift professional football players.
Rival: Coochie Colada.

Monostat 7 & 7 is one cheesy mother. Rival: Paps Blue Ribbon

Friday, December 11, 2009

OK ok ok... here's a good one

I came up with a joke. I think it's good enough to go public so here goes.

What's the fastest way to the dark side?

A Darth Elevader

Ny idébog for born

Found a neat kids activity book in Norwegian pop-up art gallery/thrift store (but might actually be Danish).

Half the crafts require a handsaw and do not recommend adult supervision.

Also, a lot of accessories for horses, including a saddle hanger and harness.

How rad is that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

We're Lying to Ourselves

I just realized today that we have been lying. All of us. [Yes, I only JUST realized this...]

When people ask what you like to eat, read, watch, listen to, or do, most of us will say:


Stranger: What kind of music do you listen to?
You: I listen to everything. Even country/techno/top40!

Stranger: What's your favorite food?
You: I'll eat anything. I'm really not a picky eater.

These responses are both lies and I'll tell you why. Short of having the superpower to magically turn off your senses individually, you have no choice but to listen to or digest what you consume with your body. So of course technically you would listen to, watch, eat, read anything. But that's not really the question, is it? We answer in theoretical truth but tell de facto lies.

Just go to a restaurant or ask this person to pick some music to play and you'll see what I mean. I guarantee some form of, "I won't eat this," or "Jesus, Anne, how many Tori Amos albums do you have?!"

So I propose a challenge. Next time someone asks you about your taste in food, music, art, film, literature or lover, be really specific and answer with just one genre or type. Make it up, even. Can't think of something good? Just say the last thing you consumed. And don't even explain why you like it.

Stranger: So what are you into?
Me: Reindeer. Period.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Shout Out" Time

In lieu of making any lists of things I loved this year (and you know I love me my lists), I'm just gonna shed a little light on loved ones who ought to be on someone's list.

If you are looking for a Holiday Party, go to Chip Kidd's band's performance at Dixon Place on the 29th. I know you're thinking Chip doesn't need any more attention than he already gets, but this is different because it's a paid admission concert. But go. Just go.
You get to listen to ArtBreak, which is actually pretty good, and hear Chip's jokes, which are even better. You might even get to see Dash Shaw, and who doesn't want to do that? My "eyes" water every time I see him...

If you are looking for Gifts, I can think of nothing better than a subscription to Cabinet Magazine, which is something of a publishing mystery: people love it but not enough people know about it. If you want to give something a little less pretentious, you could also get Hanakuma's Tokyo Zombie: One of the funniest things I've ever been grossed out by. Translated by ill iterate's own boy-toy Ryan "Electric Ant" Sands.

Speaking of unpretentious trannies, you should also be buying volumes of Museyon Guides and Detroit Metal City and Missin. [It's not shameless self-promotion if I'm not ashamed.]

But if you are seeking a lifetime of gratitude and joy from someone, you will get them...

My working a bit with the Digital Harinezumi-maker, Powershovel, notwithstanding (but there's your full disclosure), in terms of gadgets, this little video-camera has brought me more joy, more whimsy, more happiness, than my first tape deck, CD player, digital camera and three iPhones did... combined. I've been doing my daily Tromso video journal with this thing and love everything it's produced. It would make genital herpes look good.

If you need better reasons to explore Brooklyn south of the BQE and east of the Gowanus, Light Industry has it. Some really interesting film curation going on in this Sunset Park-based venue/organization, and one of the only email newsletters I look forward to getting. For something less pretentious and closer to the G train: New Sound Karaoke. Gender-banging "not in a K-box" sort-of-completely-queer karaoke.

If you need a reason to leave the country, Couchsurfing might be it. I've just learned about this organization in Norway, but it's basically global hitchhiking in the digital age and actually works.

Keep going.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hella Norway

Went to Hella today.
I would have gone based solely on the name of the hamlet (big up Bay Area and Zach Hill!) but it was my Dutch housemate Maiten who proposed the day trip out there.

"There are supposed to be a lot of cool old Norwegian houses and stuff."

It was, in fact, breathtaking. And I have the pictures and video to prove it. Later...

But first, Hella is not a town, village, hamlet, or even a truck stop. It's a cove. There happen to be ten old houses adjacent to it. Nothing spectacular about the houses whatsoever, but they become camping lodges over the summer. In the middle of winter though? Nothing. Everything's locked shut, done. Nothing. At. All.

Again, the view was breathtaking. We spent a solid hour shooting the vanishing point of the Arctic Circle and ice formations in the tundra. We watched seals wade in the water. We listened to birds making unusual sounds.

But an hour of this was really all we could handle in our daywear without food, shelter, or bathroom. Had we known where exactly we were headed, we would have been better prepared. But Hella is not the heaven it was advertised as in the brochures.

So Maiten and I headed back toward the bus stop and figured that because the bus runs every hour out of Tromso in the morning, it must return every hour from Hella. Aaaaand no. The bus runs every (wait for it) 2 and a half hours from Hella back into Tromso. We were stranded in freezing tundra with an hour and a half to kill.

I can safely say I have never been that cold before. I don't think Maiten had, either.
She started to go insane. She screamed "bus!!!" several times and looked like she might cry or start hitting me. I wandered away to take pictures so I was occupied with something else, but my fingers were so frozen I couldn't feel the shutter release. Maiten followed me at a distance and muttered, "why is there no bus" over and over. We were freezing. I started to worry about frost bite. (And as a matter of fact my toes still hurt several hours later.)

We started throwing our thumbs up at every passing car. Even the municipal truck. One old man waved at us. I started to worry hitchhiking didn't exist here.

After about an hour of this, our lips blue, our toes black, our souls crushed, a station-wagon pulled over.

Santa's handsome younger brother leaned across his passenger seat and asked us something in Norwegian. Presumably, "where are you guys headed?" Maiten asked if he was headed to Tromso and he grimaced. Then he said, "Ja ja. OK" and waved us in.

Once in the car Maiten started to explain that the bus we were waiting for was running slower than we'd thought, but Santa's handsome younger brother looked like a reindeer caught in headlights and said,
"I non't (sic) speak Engliss. Just a leetuh."

Maiten and I looked at each other. I whispered that we could probably ask him to drop us off at the first municipal bus stop we saw. Santa's bro asked if we were students. I said no. He asked, "how long you in Tromso?" and I did the dumbest thing I could have possibly done:

I tried to answer him in Norse-Swedish.

See, I studied Swedish for a year at grad school, but that's like saying you know how to play Metallica's "One" on acoustic guitar. It serves no purpose to anyone. Still.

Santa's bro: How long you in Tromso?
Anne: (Four weeks.)
Santa's bro: (Oh, you speak Norse?)
Anne: (I studied some Swedish in college.)
Santa's bro: (And you come from the USA?)
Anne: (Yes, I'm from New York.)
Santa's bro: (Do you like it here?)
Anne: (Yes, I like it here.)

OK. I'm the worst beginning language text book's wettest dream. Every first chapter of conversational foreign language puts you in the middle of nowhere with no recourse but to speak the local language. That was now happening to me, but only because I put myself there. So far, so good. Hooray for ice-breakers!! This stranger now knows how long I'm here and where I'm from. The next logical thing I can think to say is:

What is your name?

He smiled and said something like, "To-rhee-ar." I smiled and said, "Hi Toriar. My name is Anne. Her name is Maiten." I start to feel good. Feel OK about this Swedish conversation with the Norwegian. Figured I'd roll with it and asked the next question:

Do you live in Tromso?

This time he looked at me via the rear-view mirror like I'd just said:

Do you have an anus?

I repeated myself in English. Quickly.

Anyway, we got into Tromso island and I said something like, "you can just drop us off here. We can take the bus." But I'm sure Toriar heard:

I can stop cars with bus stops.

One very valuable sentence though, that every carpetbagging gnome ought to know is tusen takk (Norwegian), or tak så mycket (Swedish).

Thank you very much, Toria.

Toria shook my hand with his gigantic paw (he had some serious contractor hands), and gave me a sympathetic hug. Shit folks, older men here seriously look like Santa Claus, but like, if they were all handsome skiiers. I just gave him a dumb smile. He must have thought I was autistic. I need to learn more Norwegian.

Next time, I'm going straight to Sameland. [This site has already confused several people so I should spell it out: It's a farcical amusement park website. The whole thing is a joke. (One which fells the Saamis and Japanese tourists in one swift move.) And if you can navigate yourself to the "write your own joik" page, I promise it's almost as good as being high on moose knuckles...]

Hella Norway Dec. 8 2009 from Ill Iterate on Vimeo.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How Public Radio Saved My Life

Spend enough time alone in a foreign country (three weeks and counting), and you will start to go a little cuckoo. Stop drinking. Now, expose yourself to only two hours of sunlight.
You aren't religious and you don't meditate.
The closest thing to a spiritual experience you've had is breaking a sweat masturbating.

After three weeks of intense introspection, writing, editing, mountain climbing, hiking, and even a bout of influenza, I'd hit a wall.

Then, public radio saved me.

Don't get me wrong. There's only so much of Prairie Home Companion (one segment and half a ketchup commercial) one can hear before wanting to strangle yourself with the handles of that eco-friendly canvas tote bag you got with your $20 donation-over-12-months.

And last year when WNYC advertised a networking event hosted by Radiolab's Jad Abumrad, I had but one thought:

WNYC Singles Mixer have to be the three saddest words ever uttered in a row.

An angel dies every time Jonathan Schwartz plays music, and I'm waiting for Ira Glass to run his car into a fire hydrant being chased by a Swedish woman who looks like Michael Jackson circa 2000s, so that his closet will finally be emptied of its skeletons and people stop referring to the friggin' "This American Life" segment on the finance scandal that "made more sense than anything I read in the paper." Goddamned limey accents falsely advertise sex appeal to morons who think it makes British news more valid than American news, and I'd pay good money (Euros) to see Jonathan Schaffer and Nic Harcourt face a fire-breathing Jurassic lion in a Gladiator game to the death.

So no. I'm not pimping public radio.
I'm just sayin...

God Bless Public Radio. You have saved my life.

See, it's turned out to be a lot harder to quit media entertainment than I expected. Sure, I've been reading. A LOT. Listening to music too. But it's different when you're totally alone and in the dark. And despite my exile being completely self-imposed, I am no monk. Have no intention of becoming one. I've had five great revelations occur to me in the midst of nature-walks and the like and that's it. I am good.

Even television would suffice to give me a sense of interlocution. But the problem with wanting interlocution without socializing, is that Norway doesn't let you stream any television content online. Not even public television.

And here, enter Public Radio. It's still fair game, and all my favorite podcasts have been backlogging for the past few months waiting for a moment like this: the moment I feel clinical solitude. The moment I seek wholly inconsequential but entertaining information. The moment I cannot curate my own interests anymore. The moment the canvas tote bag actually advertises the radio station to my own self.

Radiolab, The World in Words, Savage Love, and even a little bit of That American Life... all make me feel less alone. (Gay nerd alert in 3, 2...) It's been like my Light of Elendil.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Not Everybody All At Once Now

This whole Tipping Point thing is starting to bother me only now. Probably because of Facebook and Twitter, where people don't seem to get that originality can still sort of matter. I know I'm presuming a lot of my own uniqueness in making such an accusation. And I guess that makes me a useless piece of shit, or whatever Gladwell calls us.

I'm hearing the same insults and same coinages from all sides lately. You know, like when three people tell you about the same obscure children's book in one day? Or when did everyone decide they were "waxing philosophical"? I haven't used the word "wax" since the Karate Kid and I'm pretty sure that, like anal sex, doesn't count. These are not Gladwellian tipping points, granted. It's just "we're all mindless sheep molded by the same laptop BTUs" to notice the same Facebook-status-sized snippets of wit. Does everybody know what I'm talking about? Are these observations watermarked into Starbucks Frappuccino rewards cards?

Here are some observations on observations I would tweet but for the fear of becoming just another observation. Figure a blogroll makes it more meta.

You do know that this won't make it the first shitty movie Hollywood ever made, right?
"Babies" is this year's "Snakes on a Plane"

Your hands look stupid on green felt
Poker fetish today is what Chess fetish was in the 90s, except a lot less deserving.

Who does he play for again? Oh right, I don't care.
Ironic fans of shitty sports teams: No need to tell us who won. That defeats your purpose.

"I will love you for an extended period of time"
There was a time (ten years ago in the Bay Area, five years ago in New York) when any white guy with any Asian girl was labeled "Asian fetish," but you can't by all rights call it an "Asian fetish" if said Asian owns John Mayer's entire catalog and buys all her clothes at Mervyn's, now can you? Calling that a "fetish" that is like saying Thousand Island dressing is an exotic Caribbean chutney, and frankly it's insulting to a lot of us Asian women who have been dying our skin white and dimpling our eyelids with surgical tools and buying John Mayer albums... Let's just not talk about "Asian fetishes" again until Donny Osmond marries a transvestite Gamelan dancer.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cured Meats

I love cured meats. Jerky, salami, prosciutto, salted fish, dried fish... I recently went to two different cured meat stands to buy some reindeer.

Scene 1: Vendor with a little truck and table in the plaza by the harbor. Vendor looks like Santa's venture capitalist Santa Cruz rock-climbing brother.

Anne: (Approaches the table and leans in.)
Vendor: (Says something in Norwegian. Offers me a sliver of salami on the tip of a knife.)
Anne: I don't speak Norse but is that for me to eat?
Vendor: Of course.
Anne: Thanks.
Vendor: Varsågod.
Anne: (Chews the sliver of salami methodically trying to pretend she knows how to distinguish between fine meats. Nods sagely, approvingly, thoughtfully... then, blurts out like an idiot) What is that?
Vendor: Reindeer.
Anne: I like it.
Vendor: Yes. Because it is good.
Anne: (Considers) Okay...
Vendor: You are Asian. This has ginger in it. I though you might like it.
Anne: ...

Scene 2: Vendor with a table under the escalator at the mall. He looks like Santa's other brother. The one who five years ago, asked his two brothers for seed capital to start an "awesome new franchise" he read about on the internet. They were skeptical. He was rubbing his knuckles nervously when he asked for the money. Still, they figured "what the hell," and gave him a hundred thousand kroners anyway because he needed to learn to fend for himself. After the business (seal blubber aromatherapeutic candles) failed, he went back to the family, and took over the holiday gift basket business of curing wild game. Bartered for a space in the mall with his hashish dealer, who still owed him money for a pallet of seal blubber candles he bought and burned through high on Black Pearl (this remains one of his only sales).

Anne: (Approaches table, examines the holiday baskets, moves over to the salami pyramid.)
Vendor: (Pushes up sleeves of his old Jacquard sweater. Says something in Norwegian.)
Anne: I don't speak Norse, but do you have anything special here?
Vendor: Try this. It's moose.
Anne: (Chews sliver of moose salami methodically. Pretending to appreciate the difference in fine meats. Nods sagely, approvingly, thoughtfully...) It's good.
Vendor: Thank you. (Goes on to describe almost all the different sticks of salami on table.)
Anne: (Tries another sliver)
Vendor: Where you come from?
Anne: New York.
Vendor: Woof! (Note: he's not barking like a dog. This is just more an approximation of a "whoa" or "wow" sound.) New York is big. Tromso is small.
Anne: That's why I'm here.
Vendor: Tromso not too small for you?
Anne: No way.
Vendor: (To himself) New York... woof. (Gasps) New York...
Anne: (Thinks about what "Empire State of Mind, Part 2" would sound like if he sang Alicia Keyes' part) Can I buy half of one? It's just for myself to eat.
Vendor: Of course.
Anne: What's this? (Points to a dark meat)
Vendor: That is, how do you say... deer with (gestures antlers with his fingers).
Anne: Reindeer?
Vendor: No... buck! It is buck jerky.
Anne: (Giggles) I'll take it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Compartmentalizing My Web Presence

I just wanted to let everyone know there is yet another web outlet for ill itericisms.

Kristy at Fantagraphics was nice enough to call out to me at San Diego Comic-Con this year. Told me I should do some writing for The Comics Journal, which is like telling someone who watches Nova they should contribute to The National Geographic.

Anyway, I'm taking this opportunity to announce my light blogging presence on the subject of Japanese media and manga in particular, chez TCJ. The site was still not up last time I went there but it'll be running within the week, I presume. Here's a little teaser of what I've got in store for you:

The dying wish of a 10 year old girl with vascular cancer was to see 'Up' before she died. Pixar made it happen.
No one was dying to see Astro-boy.

I'm also taking this opportunity to finally compartmentalize my web presences.

I still consider this blogger/Giant Robot platform the motherboard because I aggregate everything here and can shamelessly pimp my own work. For example, even though I'll be blogging about manga on TCJ, I can't by all rights pimp Detroit Metal City there, as it'd be shameless self-promotion.

Here, however, I can tell you to go fucking buy Detroit Metal City 3 or I will never talk to you again.

Race-related Asian-Americana is still at Status Quoted.
Self-related smorgasbord is still here.
Japanese media-related blogoyavich is now at The Comics Journal,
and anything more useless or personal is on any of the fifty thousand social networking sites I can't seem to pry myself away from. (Don't be offended if we can't be friends on those networks. Just. Don't. It's unbecoming of you.)