Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making friends with the present moment, and public transportation.

Week one with no car. In Los Angeles. I used to mock people who thought they could live like this. L.A. is not known for its public transportation system, but it is known for lacking a center, and its overall sprawl.

I gave up my lovely Honda Hybrid last week, when it became apparent that the payments that were too high in the first place, were astronomically out of my budget with the rising cost of living and the economic crisis. I gave up my car, found my rapid bus downtown, and I must say, I LOVE IT.

It might have something to do with my slow digestion of Eckhart Tolle's book "A New Earth," in which he writes about breaking free from time and form, and making friends with the present moment. He writes that you are "able to decide what kind of a relationship you want to have with the present moment. Do I want the present moment to be my friend or my enemy? The present moment is inseparable from life, so you are really deciding what kind of a relationship you want to have with life. Become friendly toward it, welcome it no matter in what disguise it comes, and soon you will see the results. Life becomes friendly toward you, people become helpful, circumstances cooperative. One decision changes your entire reality. But that one decision you have to make again and again and again -- until it becomes natural to live in such a way. ...

(When psychological time takes over your life) "Almost every thought you think is then concerned with past or future, and your sense of self depends on the past for your identity and on the future for its fulfillment. Fear, anxiety, expectation, regret, guilt, anger are the dysfunctions of the time-bound state of consciousness." ...

"To awaken within the dream is our purpose now."

No better moment to make friends with the present, and live outside of psychological time than when your bus is late. I feel very Rebecca, very me, riding the bus. Though I tried to create a haven in my car, I tended toward tension, unexpressed anger over that which I couldn't control, yet somehow thought I should be able to control. As a passenger on a bus, there's no control. Illusions are gone.

The bus is late? It will come when it comes. An over-sized SUV that cannot possibly fit into a Trader Joes parking lot cuts us off? It doesn't matter, we're still barreling down Beverly Blvd. Bus breaks down? Another bus will come for you. No worrying about getting to the mechanic and back to work.

I've heard New Yorkers bemoan how isolated we are in L.A. -- in a sad reenactment of "Swingers" satire, we all jump in our individual cars and drive off alone. Friday morning, while waiting for the late bus, I talked to a couple people, gave one guy change so he could ride the magical bus, and still made it to work in plenty of time for my first meeting. On the ride home I met a lovely German couple who were taking the rapid down to "the Groove." I offered my travel services, which involved pulling the yellow cord to request their stop and shoving them off into the middle of Fairfax. Over the street noises we talked about travel and the best time for me to visit Germany.

I realize I've got it easy. I'm thankful to live in my neighborhood where I can walk to the best coffee in the city (Kings Road), to Trader Joes, the drugstore, Borders, H&M and, actually, to movies and books and the Farmer's Market at "the groove." But I also think there's something to being in the moment, ready for whatever it brings, even traffic and rain. Make friends with it, and the Germans across from you.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beauty


Earth's crammed with heaven, and every common bush afire with God.

~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 'Aurora Leigh'

(Art: "Fiery Dance" by Vladimir Kush)

"Thrill the World" -- Why there's hope yet


The fact that millions of people would not only remember, or re-learn the "Thriller" dance, and then go practice it in parks to be part of an around-the-world thriller-thon, gives me hope for our future.

From Hero Complex at the L.A. Times"

"We should have seen this coming after "13 Going on 30" made it somehow cool yet wildly uncool to do the monster mash, Michael Jackson-style. Anyway, this Saturday there will be (ahem) normal people just like you in 96 cities across 13 countries who will do a synchronized public celebration of the 25th anniversary of M.J.'s "Thriller." Here in L.A. the "Thrill the World" dance will be at the Hollywood and Highland courtyard, which assures that anyone who dares to participate will be photographed by thousands of tourists, many from strange foreign lands such as Malaysia and Wisconsin. With the stakes so high, there's rehearsal today at 5 p.m. at Pan Pacific Park in West Hollywood. Or you could re-learn the dance right now right there at your office desk by standing up and following-along to this step-by-step video. ..."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cheers to Poppy -- my world is getting bigger



I've seen "Happy-Go-Lucky" twice now, taking Caroline along for the second trip. It really did restore my faith in film-making and humanity, and I'll never look at my rear-view mirror the same way again. En-ra-ha.

Sally Hawkins' character Poppy and her best friend / flat-mate Zoe are engaged with the world, teaching their kids at school, taking classes (the flamenco scene is unforgettable) and playing - dancing, pubs, rowing in a lake and trampolining. Caroline was so inspired, we are now signed up for Spanish language classes (beginners, after I realized I couldn't translate my thank you message to Caroline: "Tu eres ... the wind beneath my wings") and are going to attempt a hip-hop dance class next week.

Updates and potential injuries to come.

(Photo courtesy Miramax Films)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lamott and Lende -- economic / election / life / stress advice

Lende is another writer, who, like Anne Lamott, shares her personal stories that I feel I know her, her family, her chickens, her community. She lives in Haines, Alaska -- a small town with all kinds of small town color.

Amidst all the stress of the economy, the elections, the negative attacks - she and Anne Lamott offer similar advice.

In her column at the Anchorage Daily News, Lende writes:

Worrying about a bad thing that might happen does affect you physically. Witness my hives and the hens' empty egg box. Singing about anything makes your heart lighter, and doing good things for your neighbors, like being a hospice volunteer, changes the whole world for the better. It has got to. As Margaret Mead said, it is the only thing that really can.

So I'm going to be much more selective about how much I read and watch the news until the election is over, but I'll still listen to Joanie on the radio. Did I tell you she is also a hospice volunteer? She's signing off now with her theme song -- "It's a good day for singing a song, a good day for moving along ..." -- which works better on my hives than an antihistamine. I may sing it to my chickens too. I think I'll even keep humming it as I pin an Obama button to my raincoat and shop at my favorite McCain-Palin grocery store.

At Salon.com, Lamott writes (and the nicknames are in reference to the Sarah Palin Baby Name generator):

Figure out one thing you can do every single day to be a part of the solution, concentrating on swing states. Money, walking precincts, registering voters, whatever. This is the only way miracles ever happen -- left foot, right foot, left foot, breathe. Right foot, left foot, right foot, breathe. The great novelist E.L. Doctorow once said that writing a novel is like driving at night with the headlights on: You can only see a little ways in front of you, but you can make the whole journey this way. It is the truest of all things; the only way to write a book, raise a child, save the world.

As my anonymous pal Krinkle Bearcat once wrote: Laughter is carbonated holiness. It is chemo. So do whatever it takes to keep your sense of humor. Rent Christopher Guest movies, read books by Roz Chast and Maira Kalman. Picture Stick Freedom in his Batman underpants, having one of his episodes of rage alone in one of his seven bedrooms. Or having one of his bathroomy little conversations with Froth Moonshine. (Bless their hearts.) Try to remember that even Karl Rove has accused him of being a lying suck.

Reread everything Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower ever wrote. Write down that great line of Molly's, that "freedom fighters don't always win, but they're always right." Tape it next to your phone.

Call the loneliest person you know. Go flirt with the oldest person at the bookstore.

Fill up a box with really cool clothes that you haven't worn in a year, and take it to a thrift shop. Take gray water outside and water whatever is growing on your deck. This is not a bad metaphor to live by. I think it is why we are here. Drink more fluids. And take very gentle care of yourself and the people you most love: We need you now more than ever.

(Click here for the whole essay)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Caroline Williams has it 'Made'


More Caroline bragging -- my smart, talented hysterical friend is not just 'lucky' -- she's been working soooo hard and it pays off!

Caroline Williams has it 'Made'
ABC nabs scribe's single-camera comedy pitch

By Nellie Andreeva

Oct 15, 2008, 01:00 AM ET
It seems that Caroline Williams just can't do wrong -- her first-ever TV pitch, the single-camera comedy "Made Over," has sparked bidding, landing a put pilot commitment at ABC.

After graduating from UCLA's master's program in screenwriting in 2004, she set out to write a spec with the sole goal of landing job on NBC's "The Office."

The spec, "Miss/Guided," did get her a job on the Emmy-winning comedy that earned her a WGA nomination this year for penning the "Phillis' Wedding" episode. But it also took on a life of its own, making it to series on ABC last season with Judy Greer in the lead.

"It's been a busy and exciting couple of years," Williams said.

For her sophomore development effort, produced by Warner Bros. TV through a blind script deal, Williams drew inspiration from the movie "Jerry Maguire," in which Tom Cruise plays a jerk sports agent who reinvents himself after losing his high-power job because of a nervous breakdown.

"It's about the power of beauty and image in society and how that affects female friendship and competition in the workplace," Williams said of "Made Over."

Set in Los Angeles, it centers on a shallow, image-obsessed cosmetics executive who has a crisis of conscience and quits her job. She joins a younger woman with completely different values to start a unique consulting company.

"Both are incredibly dysfunctional people who have no friends and no places to go outside the company, so their relationship inspires them to change."

In addition to "Made Over," which she is writing/exec producing, Williams also is working on a feature script for Paramount.

Not too shabby for a recent college graduate.

"I'm really lucky," Williams said.

She is repped by UTA and attorneys Robert Offer and Lindsay Straussberg

-- Hollywood Reporter

Photo courtesy Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Anne Lamott at Salon.com


Thank God for the elections. I'm always looking for new, fresh-from-her-soul/brilliant mind work from Anne.

"So with all of this going on so close to home, how can we hang on, take care of one another, make a difference, live lives of purpose and dignity and joy -- without losing our minds?"

"I will tell you: Remember the bees, and look up. Don't stare at the bottom of the jar in which you are trapped. Turn off the TV for half an hour, and look up. Don't look at the Wall Street traders in their distressing guise as bees, trapped on the floor of the exchange. They are not prisoners, like the bees; they are volunteers. Instead, look up at your computer and find a good charity site where you can send whatever you can afford. Go to Oxfamusa.com or DoctorsWithoutBorders.com. Send what you can to Planned Parenthood in the name of Sarah Palin. Send what you can to Obama's campaign in a swing county in your nearest swing state. The Republicans are wrong: You don't always lose if you share. You actually get really, really happy."


"No time to cry wolf" is at Salon.com

Monday, October 13, 2008

Finding my feminine roar

As I slipped a rubbery falsie into my already padded bra my thoughts flitted toward a boob job, more elegantly referred to as 'enhancement,' and while my monkey mind was there, it might as well peer in the mirror at that nose that could use some 'refining.'

In an unanticipated moment of truth and clarity and maybe a small ounce of self-love, a more rational voice asked, "Why? Who are you competing with?"

Living in Hollywood, having worked in the film industry, the answer was obvious. Celebrities, of course. Actresses. Models. Heiresses.

And you're competing with them for ... ?

The voice left the question open.

Oh. My. God. Did I really think that I needed to be and look as sculpted as a star on a screen or a model in a magazine? That's lunacy. And, in our society, totally NORMAL.

It's exhausting. My curling iron is falling apart from too much use. My lip pencil is raggedy and runs down to the quick faster than it used to. My tweezers are dull from plucking. I'm dull from caring.

Why should I, my goal to be a writer who highlights the needs of women and children, waste the mental and emotional energy to care that I look like a star? The irony that I could help women realize their full potential as gorgeous humans, no matter their weight, height, financial situation, when I can't quite convince myself that bit of botox wouldn't change my life? (Okay, no botox. That's madness. Just the nose job.)

The documentary "America the Beautiful" questions our definition of beauty. In one of my favorite scenes, Eve Ensler, famous for her feminine strength and "The Vagina Monologues," tells about her travels to Africa. There she met a woman who was absolutely in love with all -- ALL of her body. When Eve complained about parts of her body she was less than thrilled by, the woman pointed to a tree and asked, 'Is that tree beautiful?' Of course, Eve answered. The woman then pointed to a different tree. 'Is that tree any less beautiful because it is different?' ... 'I am a tree. You are a tree. Love your tree!'

Why is it so hard to love our trees? Why am I afraid to even raise my voice, when lately, I want to roar in both outrage and joy? In the same film, I learned that the same year that women won the right to vote is the year the first beauty pageant began. Coincidence? I think not. And that makes me RAGE.

I'm surrounded both by married friends, single friends, and engaged friends. Friends with babies, most of them adorable. And I'm great with babies. They love me. Kids beg for me to come visit. But I'm not sure I want one. I never had that strong desire, though I have thought about adopting, mostly because my heart breaks to think of anyone feeling abandoned, less than wanted. This has led to an unhealthy influx of stray kitties. I plan to use a little more wisdom when it comes to kids.

As much as I've never felt that strong desire for a family, I often feel judged by those who do, or by society as a whole. I don't want to judge those women who are on the path most traveled, and therefore do not want their judgment about mine. Like all judgment, it likely comes down to fear. Fearing what's different, what is unknown. For those on the marriage and baby train, what happens if you entertain the thought that perhaps you don't want kids? You've never examined what that choice, that life, might look like, and the unknown is frightening. For those of us who think we know that we do not want kids, fear that someday you MAY change your mind, and that is truly life-changing. Terrifying.

I've seen very good marriages, and very broken ones. I know many friends in their late 20s and 30s who are already divorced, and many who work hard on their relationships and are thankful for their partners. None of that, however, really sways who I am. And part of that has taken some time, to be comfortable knowing I am on my own journey, as is each individual, and each path will look different. But often I do find myself feeling defensive, and that is usually when I end up saying something hurtful, to try to make my perspective seem better. I get defensive, and I think it's justified based on such a long history of repression and rules about a woman's life.

In "Eat, Pray, Love," Elizabeth Gilbert writes a great deal about this choice to be single, and how the world views it. She also notes that she may change her mind, she may want to marry if she meets the right man who would truly be a partner. She may want kids later. She's changed her mind before, she knows its fickle ways.

She writes, "To create a family with a spouse is one of the most fundamental ways a person can find continuity and meaning in American (or any) society. ... Who are you? No problem -- you're the person who created all this. ...

"But what if, either by choice or by reluctant necessity, you end up not participating in this comforting cycle of family and continuity? ... You'll need to find another purpose, another measure by which to judge whether or not you have been a successful human being. I love children, but what if I don't have any? What kind of person does that make me?

"Virginia Woolf wrote, 'Across the broad continent of a woman's life falls the shadow of a sword.' On one side of that sword, she said, there lies convention and tradition and order, where 'all is correct.' But on the other side of that sword, if you're crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, 'all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course.' Her argument was that the crossing of the shadow of that sword may bring a far more interesting existence to a woman, but you can bet it will also be more perilous. ...

"A lot of writers have families. Toni Morrison, just to name an example, didn't let the raising of her son stop her from winning a little trinket we call the Nobel Prize. But Toni Morrison made her own path, and I must make mine. The Bhagavad Gita -- that ancient Indian Yogic text -- says that it is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else's life with perfection. So now I have started living my own life. Imperfect and clumsy as it may look, it is resembling me now, thoroughly." (pp 94,95)

And another font of feminist wisdom, Miranda in "Sex and the City", responding to uber-romantic Charlotte's comment that she believes every person has a soul-mate, someone who completes them. Miranda replies (and I paraphrase) "So if you don't meet that person, you're somehow not complete? That's so dangerous."

To know there are many women making the choice to live in the moment, to be present for the life you have and not pin hopes and dreams on someone or something else. I would love to find a man who truly is my partner, for mutual support, understanding and challenge to be more fully myself. But the more men I meet, the more comedic/horrific dating stories I gather, and the less I'm positive that will happen. And that's okay, because I am more than content. I am happy with who I am, who I'm becoming, and all the amazing friends and family who are a part of that life. And you can't beat the freedom of the single life.

Favorite song of the day: You Me And The Bourgeoisie

I just had a great lunchtime discussion about the economy, looming layoffs, and the fact that we have taken so much for granted, so much as expected. My morning latte. My car, a full tank of gas, the freedom of a last-minute road trip. Instead of feeling panic and fear about the current economy, it's a chance to change my life. (I keep telling myself that, in between deep breaths to replace those shallow, panicky ones.)

Here are some of my favorite lyrics from
"You Me and The Bourgeoisie, a few down on the list on their myspace page, that I repeat, as needed:

Plastic Bottles
Imported Water
Cars we drive wherever we want to
Clothes we buy it's sweatshop labor
Drugs from corporate enablers
We're not living the Good life
Unless we're fighting the Good fight
You and Me just trying to get it right

Love can free us from all excess
From our deepest debts
Cause when our hearts are full we need much less

The Submarines - You, Me And The Bourgeoisie


Here I am with all the pleasures of the first world
Laid out before me who am I to breakdown?

Everyday I wake up,
I choose Love
I choose Light
And I try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Oh my baby don't be so distressed
Were done with politesse
It's time to be so brutally honest about
The way we think long for something fine
When we pine for higher ceilings
And bourgeois happy feelings

And here we are with the pleasures of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Plastic Bottles
Imported Water
Cars we drive wherever we want to
Clothes we buy it's sweatshop labor
Drugs from corporate enablers
We're not living the Good life
Unless we're fighting the Good fight
You and Me just trying to get it right

In the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Love can free us from all excess
From our deepest debts
Cause when our hearts are full we need much less

Yea i know we long for something fine
When we pine for higher ceilings
And bourgeois happy feelings

But Here we are in the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Here we are in the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

Everyday we wake up
We choose Love
We choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

~6lyrics.com

Friday, October 10, 2008

Macedonia and Montenegro recognize Kosova -- Serbia expels Macedonia's ambassador


"Serbia has expelled Macedonia's ambassador after his country recognized Kosovo's independence.
...

Macedonia and Montenegro, two close allies of Serbia, granted recognition to Kosovo Thursday.

Serbia immediately expelled the Montenegrin ambassador Anka Vojvodic. Serbian President Boris Tadic called the recognition of Kosovo very wrong and contrary to international law. Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic called Montenegro's recognition a knife in Serbia's back."

Read more at Voice of America News

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Mail goggles ... brilliant

A breathalyzer for your laptop ... if you're too tipsy to do the math, you probably shouldn't send that email.

One more reason Gmail is the best email to use -- mail goggles.

"Called "Mail Goggles," the Gmail add-on makes sending e-mail from Gmail more difficult during certain times that you can set manually (while sober, that is). How does it do this? If you have Mail Goggles installed—which you can do by going to the "Labs" tab under your Gmail settings and turning them on—it will force you to answer a series of math questions before sending out any new messages." -- From ars technica

The google site

Saturday, October 04, 2008

something too important to forget

A friend sent me a book of poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reading the poem he suggested, "The Art of Disappearing," I am thankful that he knows me so well. It resonated deeply, made me both want to sit in silence and to send out a hallelujah cry, that in my head sounds something like ululating, and might scare the children.

"You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
...
Know you could tumble any second
Then decide what to do with your time."

As I'm repainting my room, cleaning and purging all unnecessary clutter, I want to purge all that is unnecessary in my life. To be deliberate. It feels like preparation. I'm not sure what is coming next, but I want to be ready, not weighed down by stuff, either physical or psychic.

"The Art of Disappearing"

When they say Don't I know you?
say no.

When they invite you to the party
remember what parties are like
before answering.
Someone telling you in a loud voice
they once wrote a poem.
Greasy sausage balls on a paper plate.
Then reply.

If they say We should get together
say Why?

It's not that you don't love them anymore.
You're trying to remember something
too important to forget.
Trees. The monastery bell at twilight.
Tell them you have a new project.
It will never be finished.

When someone recognizes you in a grocery store
nod briefly and become a cabbage.
When someone you haven't seen in ten years
appears at the door,
don't start singing him all your new songs.
You will never catch up.

Walk around feeling like a leaf.
Know you could tumble any second.
Then decide what to do with your time.

~Naomi Shihab Nye