Friday, April 30, 2010

Ten Influential Authors

A while back, William and Diana posted their lists of books that influenced their views of the world. Of course I'm going to pilfer the idea, why wouldn't I??

I tried to narrow this down to ten books, but I really couldn't (it almost became a list of 100 books!), so I stuck with ten authors (well, not counting #10, but let's not split hairs).

Here's my list:

1. The Fountainhead and Anthem, by Ayn Rand.
I can't even begin to describe what I felt while I was reading The Fountainhead for the first time. It changed my views on what it means to be "right," what it means to be "happy." I didn't know angst could be such an integral part of adult life. I still have a copy of both books, and I re-read them pretty regularly, every time I need a dose of that odd mixture of despair and hope. Ayn Rand has a very distinctive voice, and I appreciated the message of Anthem- a call for independence and individuality, for a divorce from hive logic.

2. Books by P.G. Wodehouse.
Notably, I love the Jeeves and Wooster books. How can anyone not love dry English humor? I love the spare language, the crisp sentences. These books are funny without even trying, which makes them even funnier. They're light and easy but also have genuine messages, and they just tickle my fancy. I love, love, love these books. I feel energized and ready to tackle the world after reading them.

3. Books by Agatha Christie.
The definitive detective stories of my youth. I love her language, the unique way that she constructed her tales. This was a thinking woman that had to remain pretty much a straight-laced Englishwoman throughout the life, and I think that kind of strain comes through in her books. I love Miss Marple, I adore Hercule Poirot, and I thoroughly enjoy how everyday and commonplace she made gory crimes like murder.

4. Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Lots of English writers on my list, I don't quite know why. They have a defter touch with language, I think, and I appreciate that.
I love the whole idea of Sherlock Holmes. Somebody without superpowers, but with an iron will and an obsession, an obstinacy, to get to the bottom of things. I think "House" is the modern-day equivalent, which probably explains why I love that show so much. I like how flawed the hero is, how completely unlikable, and yet, by the mere powers of his abilities, he will always be respected and sought after. That's both Sherlock Holmes and House, to me.

5. A Wrinkle In Time, by Madeleine L'Engle.
No, I do not appreciate the sequels as much as I love the original. The following books being A Wind in the Door, Many Waters, and A Swiftly Tilting Planet- I recommend reading them once, but once is enough.
The original book was magical, something that made me dream and wonder and fantasize as a child. I think I first read this book when I was about eight, and every time I re-read it, I got something new. Now, reading it as an adult, I can still appreciate the magic, but also see the darker undercurrents and the reality of fear in this book. Also, I really love how food is described, for some reason, with such simple words but such perfection. I am not a dog person (I'm a cat person), but this book made me want a dog. That's how good it is.

6. The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho.
Over-hyped, yes. But still a great, great book. It's blasphemous for me to say this, I'm sure, but I think this is almost like a condensed version of the Bible. I like books about journeys, about getting to a destination only to realize that said destination is not paradise. I enjoy books where characters very obviously grow and discover new things (this is probably why I liked The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), because I think that it gives me faith that I will also grow and find new things. Maybe it's just that I enjoy books that give me a sense of hope, no matter how false that sense may be.

7. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card.
Yes, indeed, another children's book. Its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, was not nearly as good as the original. This book is so weird in that it is literally about a small child playing a game. Somehow, there is a lot going on during this game, things that are implied but never stated outright, and that fascinated me. People overuse the analogy that life is a game, but this book proved to me how life could be a game, and why. I love the characters, even the "evil" ones, and I love that the main characters are children. Children are the undiluted versions of adults, without censors, without a strong sense of propriety, and this book really displays how true that is.

8. The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman.
I admit, these are a series of graphic novels. My excuse is that first of all, this is my list! Second of all, I went to art school. I think I'm entitled to admiring graphic novels and comic books.
The characters intrigued me, right off the bat. The idea of a group of siblings called The Endless, each with their own domain, reminded me of Greek and Roman gods, an interest I have always had. The siblings are Destiny, Death, Dream (the Sandman), Destruction, Despair, Desire, and Delirium (who used to be Delight- a whole separate tangent). The siblings are all interesting, all fascinating in their own ways. I love the countless storylines used, the many plots woven, and the base idea of it all. The art is (generally) beautiful, as well. Fantastic.

9. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman.
A classic! The movie actually is almost as good as the book, which I cannot say for any other book/movie that I've watched (Harry Potter, I'm looking at you). A funny, irreverent book that makes no sense, breaks all rules of properly written fiction, and yet manages to be a sweet love story. Can you ask for anything more than that?

10. The Bible.
Of course.

I absolutely love books. If this was a longer list, I would have mentioned more children's books, like Roald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Philip Pullman, Donald J. Sobol, and others that I can't think of off the top of my head. Not just children's books- I also love Roald Dahl's books for adults, O. Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, David Sedaris, William Gibson, Michael Crichton (don't knock my crap taste), Stephen King, Lawrence Sanders, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters- the list could go on for days. And comic books or graphic novels, too!- Frank Miller, Bill Watterson (oh, Hobbes, how I love you!), Brooke McEldowney, Kyle Baker, so many more.

Limiting the list to ten authors was tough, but I'm happy with the list above. They have definitely informed my viewpoint, have shaped the way I look and think about words. I love words (I have a blog, after all) and I love paper. Books are a wonderful combination of the two, and there is nothing that feels quite like breaking open a brand new book, with hard black letters on crisp pages. The smell of ink on paper is so lovely, and there is nothing more solidly comforting to me than carrying a stack of books, just waiting to be read.

I am re-reading The Fountainhead at the moment, because I unpacked it recently and whenever I see it, I can't resist reading it. This is probably why I don't read new books very often, because I'm so often enticed by my old standbys.

Happy reading and happy weekend!


Thursday, April 29, 2010


I'm settling into Albuquerque much more easily than I expected to. Do I sound pessimistic? That's because I am.

Anyone in my family or my close circle of friends can tell you (who are you, anyway?) that I am very much resistant to change. I don't like to change my habits- I like to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. I don't like to change my workplace, though I do appreciate the changing of workplaces every now and again. Heck, I don't even like to change my moisturizer (my skin is sensitive; let's not get into it).

My mother kind of eyeballed me just before I moved out to Albuquerque and declared me a changed person. I was shocked, because I never change! (Oh, I thought up one thing that I change frequently- my haircut. I'm not afraid of chopping off my hair!)

My mother and I had a whole long conversation (probably all through Arizona, in the car, while I was driving and gulping down massive quantities of coffee) about how I've changed. And the craziest thing about this change? It happened because I went traveling.

I have never had the yen to travel. I like to spend my vacations cleaning my house, watching movies, reading books, getting my hair cut, getting manicures and pedicures, and going out with my friends. I don't really enjoy packing up and schlepping somewhere in order to "appreciate nature" or "go sunbathing." Admittedly, most of this is due to my aversion to the sun, but a large part of this is also due to my dislike of change.

This year was quite different. I finished up "Alice in Wonderland," then a few days later, ran up to San Francisco. After San Francisco was a hastily planned trek to Korea. And finally, after wintery cold in Korea, off to summer-esque weather in Hawaii. It was the first time in my life that I've done so much traveling. I think it was a bit like going swimming- just jumping into the cold water is a quicker way to take the plunge than wading in an inch at a time. I dove off into the deep end and immediately learned that I can, indeed, swim. (Mixed metaphors ... I'm confusing even myself.)

Along with the realization that I might actually enjoy traveling came the sharp and rather unbelievable knowledge that I could live with very, very little of the crap that I actually have. I am a hoarder, by nature, because I, like my dear father, am rather paranoid- what if I end up needing that one spare button and I don't have it?? What if I ever run out of tape?? What if 99 out of the 100 pens that I own stop working??

On my travels, I soon learned that I don't need any of it. I can buy buttons and tape and pens. I can use hotel shampoo, I don't need to lug around full-sized bottles. I can live without a blow dryer, which means that I also don't need hair products. Though I didn't realize it at the time, these understandings lightened my paranoia.

My vacations this year have made me want to take more vacations, and I want to travel lightly. I want to be able to run amuck in a foreign country without being tied down by three suitcases (that was me, in Korea, in the subway with three suitcases). I want to be able to buy plenty of souvenirs for people. And I don't want to lug something on vacation that will end up being dead weight.

The pack rat has been converted. My mother thinks that it was almost magical, how quickly I changed. While packing for Albuquerque, I threw away at least 3/4 of my stuff, to my mother's shock. I brought only the things I knew I would need, with a little extra as just-in-case. Unpacking in Albuquerque, I've thrown away much of the just-in-case items and am running a pretty spare household.

I love buying furniture, for some reason (I don't know; it's weird), but have very little of it here. I still have yet to buy a bed, because I dread the amount of space that it will take up in my bedroom. I like living this crazy minimalist Zen life, at least for the moment.

That is not to say that I don't have things. I still have too many kitchen things- baking dishes, ramekins, whisks- and I still have too much clothing, but I am hoping to pare down my life so that when I move next year, it is an even easier move than it was this time around. And trust me, after the throwing away and the consolidating of crap, moving to Albuquerque was not difficult- two cars, my parents, and me, roadtripping through three states.

Another change is that I've been trying to meditate in the mornings, since I have become a morning person here in New Mexico, but I find that my mind is too chaotic for me to really focus. I don't know why; work isn't too crazed right now, I have no friends here, so there's no drama, and my family, though they miss me, are super supportive. My friends that are in LA or elsewhere are also nothing but nice, so why all this noise in my brain??

Hopefully, my year here will enable me to quiet my thoughts and get more in touch with my own moods and reactions. I am possibly the best (worst?) self-denying person that I've ever met in my life, to the point that I cannot even admit things to myself that others can see as being true.

Time for more work- just had random thoughts in my noggin that I wanted to spew forth. After all, isn't that the entire point of a blog?


Monday, April 26, 2010

Psychizophrenic Weather

The weather in Albuquerque is completely psycho. Case in point:

I ask you, what business does weather have of fluctuating FORTY degrees?? It's criminal and just a bit perplexing! It was THIRTY-TWO DEGREES one morning! That is literally freezing, which I am not at all used to.

So bizarre.

I went to my first bar in Albuquerque on Thursday night, One Up Elevated Lounge. It's about two blocks from work, very close, and probably a good introduction to nightlife in this city for me. Why? Because it was pretty similar to a lot of LA bars- people acting like they're hip, girls dressed to the nines (which is to say that they weren't wearing much), and bartenders that pretend they know everything (when in fact ... they don't know much).

It was actually a work function- a little party, for a few different reasons. I was a bit nervous- after all, I just started working here on Monday. I have not gotten to know anybody except the one friend that I knew back when he lived in LA. I am not naturally a social creature- it's something that I force myself to do, and while I can do it, and people think I'm outgoing, I'm really not; it's all a biiiiig act.

So with all these fears and trepidations, inappropriately dressed for a bar because it was so cold yesterday, I walked into One Up. I keep forgetting how non-judgmental New Mexicans are when compared to Californians, because no one cared at all that I was in a bar wearing Chucks. The bartenders, though they had no idea what they were talking about, were nice and made pretty good drinks. I might be okay here, after all.

Yesterday, I spent FOUR HOURS making ragu. I think I'm exuding garlic and tomatoes from my pores today, but at least it was worth all that time. I'm on a strange cooking spree- I think crazy weather has me beating a hasty retreat indoors, to make cozy food (I made brownies, plus the ragu, which, of course, goes with pasta), clean the house, and watch movies ("Sherlock Holmes"- fun!).

I've been taking it slow here because the altitude's still getting to me. I've been sleeping more (at least seven hours) and slowing down earlier (around 9:00), which I think is actually better for me. I am much better at getting up earlier, since the sun seems to come up earlier and brighter and doesn't set until later. These are all good changes for someone as adverse to change as me.

I miss LA, of course, because I miss all the people there. I never realized how many people I interact with on a daily basis until they were all gone. Parking attendants at work, I even miss you!

As I adjust, I'm sure my old bad habits will come back with a vengeance. I hope that, at the very least, the insomnia doesn't come back. Sleeping is nice!

Regular posts with come once I get internet at my apartment, I'm sure. I got the TV hooked up but no internet yet. Still so much to do!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It's been a whirlwind of a week. I'm exhausted and exhilarated simultaneously, which is immensely confusing for me.

Pros and cons of Albuquerque:

- Clean! Clean air, clean city, clean apartment, clean.
- Mellow. Both work and the area are really laid back.
- Cheap! Things are cheaper here than in LA, including gas and groceries.
- CHEAP RENT. This deserves its own line because HOLY MOLY is rent cheap here!
- Plentiful resources. I found two Korean markets, a Whole Foods for my cheese needs, and countless other stores. There's nothing that I haven't found yet.
- No traffic!

- No family. : ( I miss them so.
- No friends. I miss some of them. : )
- No cloud cover. The sun is stingingly hot. I now realize what the term "dazzling your eyes" means.
- Altitude. It is over 5,000 feet high here, and I feel it. Ouch.
- Humidity. Or really, the lack thereof. It's so dry that I think I can count every single teardrop that I produce.
- Maniacal drivers. Okay, I'm from LA, but these people drive EVEN CRAZIER than LA'ers. Oy.

Time will tell if I adjust to the things I don't like (altitude, I'm looking at you). I think it'll be fine. Besides which, as soon as work starts to get crazy, I won't have time to notice what city I'm in!

I'll still arranging things in my apartment, and that's a big time-suck, since I spend most of my free time doing that.

Work is in a large corporate building with a revolving door in the front. Have I ever mentioned my fear of revolving doors? It's rearing its ugly head as I traverse through those doors every day. I don't know why I have this fear, because I never got stuck in one or anything, but it's most definitely there. Perhaps this is a sign that I need to face this fear. Sigh.

Just next door to the building is a 7-Eleven (I know, not exciting) and a French bakery! Called La Quiche Parisienne Bistro. It's more than a bakery, admittedly- they do breakfast and lunch items that are not necessarily bakery staples. I picked up an almond croissant this morning and it's quite good, though a bit too sweet. The baker and the manager are both French and very sweet and cute. I plan to have lunch there at some point, because I love quiche. The four-cheese quiche was eyeballing me this morning, so I might have to go back and show it who's boss.

I'm swinging drastically between exuberance and sobriety lately. I'm so happy to have a new start in a new place, an adventure that I've never really had before. But I really do miss my family and friends, and being in an unfamiliar area can be daunting- I actually have to think about where I'm going, which is frustrating.

I'm going to let myself slowly settle in and get acclimated, because I know that I'm impatient and impetuous about these kinds of things.

Work is definitely helping, since it takes out the majority of my daylight hours. I'm enjoying work so far, the people are nice, I'm having fun, and they're letting me figure things out at my own pace (breakneck). I hope this part lasts, though I know it won't, since there are deadlines to meet and a ton of work to do.

Well. With that convoluted post, Happy Tuesday!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Internet, did I ever tell you about the time last week when I decided to move to Albuquerque? No?


I found myself with a week and a couple days left until I had to start working in New Mexico. So I hastened to start packing, shredded about a billion years' worth of paperwork (and about three billion pounds of useless crap), and tore through 800 miles of the American southwest, parents, luggage, and two cars in tow.

It's been a whirlwind these past few days. It's currently 10:30 in Albuquerque. I've been awake for just about twenty-two hours. I don't know when I'll feel human again.

Maybe because of the hastiness of this decision, I feel no dread or worry about this. It's a couple states away from home. A quick plane ride back. A road trip that can be done in a day. Not a huge deal, after all.

Maybe the panic will come after all my stuff is unpacked. I have yet to see.

I apologize for the blogging scarcity this year; I will improve, with copious updates about this city, I am sure.

Time for bed. Fourteen hours in the car, more fried food than I care to admit to, and a large glass of wine are taking their toll on me.

Goooooood night!


Friday, April 09, 2010

Fun with iPhone Camera

Okay, nerd alert- I bought a new app for my phone that I LOVE: the TiltShift Generator by Art & Mobile. I'm sharing my first attempts at manipulating photos taken on the (crappy) iPhone camera:

Original. Just a plain old picture, taken of the sign in front of the lu'au we attended in Maui.

New! I like desaturating photos and adding vignettes (darkened or lightened corners), and this app makes such things super easy.

Original. Shot at night. This was the view from the hotel room in Waikiki. I hate that this phone has no flash.

New! I was trying to make the photo look like it's a snapshot of a miniature; I need to fiddle with the controls more and use daytime pictures, but it's getting there. It's a vast improvement over the original, in any case!

I'm currently unable to sleep. I'll write about the reasons soon enough. I need to stop playing with TiltShift and go to bed already.

That is my nerd moment for today. Gooooood night!


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

Hey-o, William and Kate, I actually have been reading the blog, I promise- just behind on commenting, that's all. Also, I refuse the read posts about books I plan to blog about, so that I can't be unduly influenced. I'm very easily swayed by others. (I'm not going to read Waiting, not just this minute, anyway.)

I read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in Korea, while my cousin abandoned me (just kidding, 오빠- mostly) and I was stuck in a town (Seoul) I didn't know, on Lunar New Year weekend, when not much was open. (It is so bizarre, but it feels like I went to Korea about three years ago. Hawaii must have a numbing effect on the mind. Or I pickled my brain with rum.)

I distinctly remember being rather cold while I read this book, and warming up when I read it. Not because the story is so warm and cuddly and sweet (it's NOT), but because Diaz describes hot, humid weather so well that I could feel it. As a child of the desert, I break into a sweat whenever someone even mentions the word "humidity"- that's how much I loathe it.

First off, the footnotes and the Spanish:

- Footnotes: let me be clear. I might work in films now, but I am still and will always forever be a nerd. I like footnotes, because I like being overwhelmed with information. There is no such thing as knowing too many facts. However, footnotes hinder the flow of reading, in a way- it interrupts the story to insert generally relevant and often amusing snippets.

- Spanish: I understand a bit of Spanish, enough to just skate by. Anyone that grew up in Southern California has a rusty knowledge of Spanish. But my grasp on the language was not nearly enough for this book, especially because of all the slang. I read this entire book with my phone by my side, to Google any unknown Spanish words. That doesn't really work well on colloquial phrases, let me tell you. I also found the abundance of Spanish to be a hindrance in the flow of reading. (It did make me wonder if there will ever be a book written in Konglish, with Korean sprinkled into the English without any explanation. There are plenty of books written in Spanglish, after all, and even Franglish. I hate myself for using these stupid portmanteaus, I promise.)

That's out of the way, whew.

Though the footnotes and the Spanish were a bit on the distracting side, I found that Diaz is such an engrossing author that I was easily caught back into the narrative. I loved the style- a bit unconventional, far left of proper prep-school English, and with rather broken grammar- and I loved the characters. A lot. I had a very clear picture in my head of what these people looked like, how they were dressed, and the tics and mannerisms that would characterize them.

Yes, there were some cliches and rather a lot of what I thought was stereotyping, but it worked for this particular book. The nerd, the cool guy, the Latina with attitude, the overbearing mother- all things that have been written before. (Especially the overbearing mother, which reminded me of a vastly different Spanglish (Spanish translated to English, this time) book, Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel- no, I have not watched the movie, don't ask.) Esquivel took a more gentle approach, with soft references and rounded allusions, whereas Diaz took a harder approach, with rough words, rougher actions, and a lot of in-your-face circumstances.

I guess I should get to what the book was actually about. Oscar Wao is a fat nerd. It's about his life and his visits to the Dominican Republic.


Yes, based on the plot alone, this book is interesting. But I think the character development, the unveiling of the truth in each character, really made this a great book. I define "great book" as one that makes me think, that stays on my mind, and that I want to read again. This one was great- I reread random portions of it, I think about what nighttime in the Dominican Republic would look like, and sometimes, I can almost taste the blood in my mouth, though I've never been beaten up in my life.

I know that I would never be able to think up a story like this one, which makes me appreciate Diaz's work even more.

The words of warning, though: This is not an easy book to read. There are footnotes and Spanish, remember? Also, there are acutely uncomfortable events and horrible things that happen to mostly innocent people. I think that if I had read this book in high school, it would have given me nightmares. Once you get through all that, if you can, you're left with almost an exhaustion, as if you've lived through Oscar's life yourself.

Great. Book.

(Great choice, Overdue Fines!)

As for Book #3, I really did read The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. I just didn't remember that I had already written a post on it until ... now. Forgetful, thy name is Jeanny.

Current reading material is nowhere near as literary as Oscar Wao, but it's fun and it's kind of mesmerizing- The Bourne Identity, by Robert Ludlum. I picked it up at the Honolulu airport. Much better than the movie, and I really like the movie! Another two hundred pages to go, then I'll think about the next book.


Monday, April 05, 2010

R.I.P. Ginger

I'm back from Hawaii, about half a shade darker and much more prone to the chilliness in the California air. Hawaii has spoiled me, I'm afraid.

While in Hawaii, just before going to an aquarium in Honolulu, I received a phone call.

My sister called to tell me the (unsurprising) news that my parents had to take our dear old family dog, our forever puppy, to the vet to get put down. At 16, this is hardly shocking. Ginger was completely deaf and blind and losing her sense of smell- she wasn't able to live life like she should be able to.

I knew this was going to happen before I went to Hawaii, and I had taken care to spend more time with Ginger in the weeks before I left. She was truly a part of my family, a piece of the core unit that made up the majority of my memories since I was twelve years old.

Words will never be able to express how much this funny little Dachshund meant to me, but I know that there are people out there who understand.

Rest in peace, Ginger, you will be missed and forever loved.


Thursday, April 01, 2010

Rising with the Sun

Yesterday morning, we had an idiotic mission of going up to Haleakala Crater to see the sun rise. I haven't been that cold since I was in Korea!

Probably between 30 - 40 degrees and insanely windy- not good, even with (literally) four layers of clothing.

The sun rose FAST. These photos were taken all within about a minute or two. We were at an elevation of 8,000 feet.

It was amazing. And we really didn't regret getting up at 5:00!

We leave for the real works on Saturday morning, which means there are only two days left to enjoy paradise.

Tonight, luau! Tomorrow, recovery from the luau!