November 8, 2011
I've been interviewing high school kids for college for almost 15 years and am about to start interviewing for next year. Here are a few general notes that might help interviewees. If you've googled your way here, you're on the right track, you're preparing.
Before beginning, be prompt and courteous when setting up a meeting time. Your interviewer is probably a busy person who is making time for you. Be respectful. Set up the interview yourself (i.e. don't rely on your mom). Don't be late.
1. If you're applying to a top school, odds are you're qualified to go there. Most of you, on paper, look pretty similar. You all have good grades and high SATs; you are all active in extracurriculars; many of you do important community work; in short you're all pretty extraordinary. But too many of you are applying for too few spots. Your college interview, like your college application, is a chance to differentiate yourself. What are you passionate about? What moves you? What gets you up in the morning?
2. You're probably better off applying to 3 schools than you are 10. Make each application count. It is much easier to focus on 3 schools than 10. I've had lots of kids start interviews by talking about other interviews and how tired they are of the application process. This is not a good way to start.
3. Learn about your interviewer. We google you. You should google us too. When we know things about each other, it's easier to have a real conversation.
4. I could care less about your grades, that's for the people in admissions to sort through. I want to hear your story. Think about your story. What made you the person you are? How do you edit your life into an hour? What stories define you? Practice telling your story. Practice telling it out loud (you might just learn something about yourself in the process). Record yourself w/ friends interviewing each other. Like anything, the more you practice, the easier the real interview will be.
5. People who are giving college interviews, tend to be people who love their schools and are protective of them. Learn something about the school. Every school has its own culture. How would you fit into that school culture (or disrupt it!). Read the school newspaper. Visit the school if you can. Be prepared for the question, "Why [school name]?"
6. A good interviewer will ask open ended questions that defy easy answers. It's ok to pause and think about your response. Don't be scared of silence.
7. Be honest. Don't try to be something you're not.
8. Ask questions.
9. Slow down. Breath.
10. Follow up.
September 27, 2010
Secret society of pretty girls who read Catcher in The Rye.
Secret society of guys who wear chicken shirts.
Secret society of vaguely familiar acquaintances.
Secret society of ladies who smell of butterfly milk.
Secret society of pretend sleepers.
Secret society of guys who carry briefcases but might be in metal bands.
Secret society of guys with beards who read Epictetus.
Secret society of quiet farters.
Secret society of contagious yawners.*
Secret society of guys who nod to other guys even though they have no idea why they are nodding.
Secret society of artists who might be drawing you, but are actually drawing monsters.
Secret society of men who are probably pirates.
Secret society of humans from the future (this is how they study us).
Secret society of children (who are involved in too many secret societies to list in this forum).
Secret society of people who consciously make eye contact.
Secret society of people who studiously avoid eye contact(who by the way are involved in a fierce silent battle with the secret society listed above).
Secret society of people with broken hearts and other hidden wounds.
Secret society of listmakers who search out the invisible.
*Discovered by tangentialism
March 7, 2008
1. How George Lucas' billions can't buy him a beard to hide the fact that he is chinless.
2. How a higher percentage of bowlers have beards than the general male populace and how bowling really SHOULD be an Olympic sport. How it is an ancient game of history and tradition and how people who bowl are good people, true of heart.
3. How girls really dig night time van drivers more than you would think and how night time van drivers have to be pure of mind to resist temptation.
4. How night time van drivers sometimes get together in the summer to shoot bottle rockets into the lake.
5. How it is very dangerous to shoot bottle rockets from inside the van because it is possible to blow a finger off.
6. How Jimmy keeps his blown off finger in a jar of formaldehyde.
7. How Jimmy despite being a late night van driver has women problems.
8. How Jimmy has no chin.
9. How Jimmy has a beard.
10. How this is all for the best, because although he is a friend ("since the middle of 8th grade") Jimmy is a bad guy with a black heart.
December 11, 2007
A friend who's baby is still a few months away from being born asked me for some suggestions for children's books because she wants to start building a library. Assuming she has the basic classics covered, here's a list of slightly less well known books that my sons and I love. Many of these books are out of print but can easily be found on Amazon, ebay, or on bookfinder.com. Here are a few to get you started...
The Birthday Party - Maurice Sendak
Little Blue and Little Yellow - Lionni
May I Bring A Friend - de Regniers
Where Everyday Things Come From - Aldren Watson
Tall Book of Nursery Tales - Feodor Rojankovsky
The Tall Book of Make Believe - Garth Williams
A Tail is a Tail - Katherine Mace
Rotten Island - William Steig
Doctor Desoto - William Steig
Today's Basic Science - Navarra and Zafforoni
Henri's Walk to Paris - Saul Bass
The Wonderful House - Margert Wise Brown
Choo Choo - Virginia Lee Burton
The Dead Bird - Margaret Wise Brown
The Line Up Book - Marisabina Russo
What Makes A Shadow?- Clyde Robert Bulla
Tiny Nonsense Stories
Goodnight Gorilla - Peggy Rathman
My general advice on buying kids books:
1. Always buy hardcover. A used hardcover is usually better than a new softcover. If your kids loves a book, he will read it hundreds of times. Softcover books just don't hold up.
2. As a general rule avoid celebrity authors.
3. Avoid modern "message" books.
4. Love the politically incorrect. The Tiny Nonsense Stories feature gun wielding kittens, cigarette smoking ducks, and pig families that sneak around scaring the daylights out of each other. Kids of course love these stories.
5. For vintage books, never worry about finding a first edition if you plan on actually reading your children's books. Your kids will want to bring them to the dinner table, they will bend them, tear, them and so on. This is how children's books like to be read. Just find the cleanest cheapest copy you can find.
If you are looking for more book buying ideas, check out this japanese site which always has a well curated selection of vintage visually spectacular kid's books... (the little links that read A-C, D-F, and so on show thumbnails of the covers)
May 27, 2007
1. Map of a house in Houston on Langdon Lane. Includes three trees in the front yard and neighbor Jimmy's garage and backyard. Ends at the fence in the back. circa 1970.
2. Map of all the playgrounds in 75901. circa 1975
3. Map of a time capsule buried at 1430 Sleepy Hollow in Lufkin Texas. Problem with this map is calibrating 10 year old footsteps with adult footsteps. circa 1977
4. Map of the Whisper Islands, an imaginary set of islands that happen to float on the clouds off the coast of India. Islanders communicate between islands with balloons, kites, and model rockets. circa 1980.
5. Map of every road out of Burnet, Texas in a radius of 20 miles. Includes the road to Oatmeal, Texas. circa 1984.
6. Map of Macondo. circa 1986.
7. Map of the way to my brother's grave. circa 1990.
8. Map of all 5 ice cream shops in Shanghai. circa 1993.
9. Map of taco stands from Santa Monica to Glendale. circa 1998.
8. Map of all the major (and some minor) bus routes in Kham. circa 2001.
10. Map of "no-turn" routes (between our old house and a variety of destinations) in LA for my new wife who, while exceptional at most things, is directionally challenged. circa 2003.
11. Map of all the parks with playgrounds in 11201. present day
May 14, 2007
Almost a full year ago I delivered Royal Sovereign air conditioner (3 days out of warranty) to be repaired at a place called Buy Rite AC Service on Avenue Z in Brooklyn..... This wasn't just any AC it's the one I use to cool my attic office where I spent way too much of my time. Today it's 65 degrees F outside, 85 up here.... These are the excuses given for the machine not being ready...
14 days: We’re waiting for the part from Royal Sovereign.
28 days: The part came in but it’s the wrong one. We have to call again.
35 days: They never sent that part. Maybe you could call them, because they don't call me back.
49 days: Did you call them? They never sent that part.
57 days: I have to check on that part.
55 days: The part was shipped from China or some freakin' place. We're waiting for it.
91 days: The part is in the Royal Sovereign warehouse in Jersey.
102 days: We still don’t have the part.
185 days: We got the part, but we’re closing up shop for the winter, you know in the winter nobody needs an air conditioner repaired.
190 days. We’re not open for the spring yet. Call us next week.
197 days. I moved the air conditioner to my garage it was taking up space in the shop, it’s fixed but we have to test it.
204 days: It’s too cold to test the air conditioner.
285 days: It’s being tested now, the gages are on it.
289 days: We don't do repairs on Royal Sovereigns.
295 days: We’re going on break, call back after the holiday.
322 days. Yeah, there was a leak, the guys have to take it apart again, weld some pieces together and repressurize it. It’s being tested now, the gages, are on it.
324 days: The guy who knows about that is out, call back on Monday.
327 days: We had to take it apart again, it was a mother to take apart. We’re never taking this brand again. But it should be fixed soon.
328: days: It will be ready tomorrow. Give my your number.
330 days: I have no idea about that, you'll have to call back and talk to someone tomorrow.
337 days: You know I'm going to personally take this thing apart myself because it keeps losing gas.
340 days: The guys are at lunch around the corner... maybe you should call back...
and so it continues....
April 11, 2007
1. Unused ticket to a 1984 Minutemen concert.
2. A stack of wheat pennies and one buffalo nickel.
3. A post-it note found in a Barstow bathroom that reads:
"I am the man.
I am the mack.
I've seen the world.
This pimp don't look back."
4. A perfectly round black rock I picked up and put in my pocket on a 17,000ft pass.
5. Maps of Peshawar and Kiev.
6. One saucy polaroid of my wife in the tub from before we were married.
7. One note from a friend congratulating us on the daughter we never had.
8. One photobooth strip of my head dated June 1987.
9. A tube of Bestman Blowing Balloon Paste (unused)
10. One piece of torn notebook paper signed by my brother Christopher that reads, " Acids: HCL, H2SO4, HI, HBr, Nitric Acid"
December 31, 2006
1. Do more serious astronomy.
2. Cut more grass = Buy more records.
3. Build a pulley system in the fort.
4. Develop a network of hiding places.
5. Learn 6502.
6. Run more.
7. Hit some home runs!
8. Study the Aztec and Olmec civilizations.
9. Take black and white pictures of everybody.
10. Write down funny things that happen.
December 31, 1978 10:32PM
related: 10 wishes for2006
October 22, 2006
Here's how you know what kind of collector you are: Most collectors at some point in their childhoods go through a rock faze. The garden variety collector will put together a broad selection of rocks, the usual stuff—feldspar, Mexican pyrite, sulfur, sandstone, maybe even a meteorite fragment... but the serious collector after putting together a rock grouping will fix one one specific rock and devote his time to finding all the variations of that particular rock searching out the rare and exotic examples.
My thing was geodes. My collection never got as big as I wanted but the thrill of cracking those mysterious round rocks open in the hopes of finding one full of rare black calcite or red amethyst never got old. For a time I could hardly have a conversation without throwing in a few good geode facts. That collection was lost at some point, but many others have taken its place.
Here is a list of things I don't currently collect but wish I did.
18th century volcano paintings
acupuncture practice models
wooden Tibetan butter molds
1960's Polish and Czech posters for American westerns
promotional photos of of 18th century morality plays
vintage Vietnamese desk fans
painted sideshow announcements for knife throwers and fire eaters
wooden artist model figurines
beheaded saint retablos
19th century dog portraits (must have the name of the dog as part of the painting)
World War II era military themed paint-by-number kits
World War I pierced case watches
constructivist architectural drawings
19th century hand painted lotaria boards
1920's era unicycle promotional paintings
world maps from African public schools
taxidermied beetles and parrots
vintage English walking sticks
North Korean propaganda posters
1920's Japanese children's books
1950's Russian children's books
Soviet era tractor toys
Venezuelan figurines of Dr. Jose Gregorio Hernandez
partitioned letterpress typecases
and so on...
What do you wish you collected?
September 8, 2006
1 Fortune cookie fortune: "Live the Dream"
1 Fortune cookie fortune: "Fly away. Go far."
1 Snapshot of Raul Andres at 6 months
1 Torn photobooth strip of a woman in chador (found on Atlantic Avenue near Court)
3 Credit Cards (each was used within an hour of the theft to purchase multiple $60 subway passes)
1 Rubber band
1 Paper Clip
1 Bandaid, transparent
Texas Driver's License
Several expired subway cards.
1 pencil drawing of a monster with three eyes and a unibrow made while waiting for someone to show up for dinner
1 partial blog entry written on torn hotel stationary titled "What's happening in room 312"
On the back of said stationary another partial blog entry titled "Why I would make a lousy aristocrat."
Assorted business cards, most with doodles of sea monsters on the back.
1 business card from a cabdriver in New Orleans with a "Places I must visit" list on the back in tiny handwriting.
A few dollars from the cash machine
2 business cards with cars drawn on them so I can play cars with my son any time.
2 wheat head pennies
1 buffalo nickel
A gift certificate to Barnes and Noble with 8 dollars left on it.
My secret—only in case of emergency—hundred dollar bill
1 lottery ticket from a few months ago, never checked
August 11, 2006
1, Step into a deli and ask for 2 plastic bags.
2. Double bag your wallet, camera, phone, etc.
2. Walk home.
3. Enjoy the rain.
July 23, 2006
Fate loop: a situation in which every decision made leads to woe and another bad decision. Note that vacations become journeys only after experiencing one or more serious fate loops in which each decision takes you further from your destination.
Example of a travel fate loop:
1. Getting completely and utterly lost (so lost you can't find yourself on the map, or maybe you are without a map or the map is incomplete, or maybe your map is just totally incorrect. Maybe two cities are transposed. And maybe the inks on the map are mis-registered. Or maybe it shows a road that is not a road. Or maybe it is all of the above.).
2. Very bad food.
3. Hostile locals. (in this case a 4 or 5 year old kid in a playground who hissed at my son, "Immigrants aren't allowed on the slide. Immigrants are dirty." I replied for in a low guttural growl, "You're the dirty one you stinky pig face." Yes I harassed a kid, so sue me.).
4. Sick travel partners. (my nauseous pregnant wife).
5. A scary incident. (a gravedigger with a gimpy leg who popped out of a fresh grave in a deserted graveyard and offered me a beer).
6. Bad decision making.
7. Lost equipment.
8. Terrible weather.
9. And then when you are at your low, the discovery of something utterly great.
10. And finally escape from the fate loop.
July 9, 2006
Three Mountains Association
Finnish Metal Bands
Ablaze In Hatred
The Lust I Seek
Ladies of the Heath
Children Of Hekate
The Mighty Ones
Seidr Practical Group
Almighty Harrison Gents
Conservative Vice Lords
12th Street Players
Camp Long Horn Water Polo Teams (1980's)
Things learned while making these lists:
1. The proper way to kill a fellow triad member is to slash the disgraced member a hundred times (four hundred is better) and then to bury the person while he is still alive.
2. In order to be in a Finnish metal band, you must have "really good hair and for good hair you must shampoo regularly with mild shampoo or you get split ends. It is easy to forget this when you are on the road."
3. When choosing a coven "Sex should never be expected in return for training, nor should it be part of your initiation."
4. 40-45% of all homicides in major American cities are gang related.
5. In 1982 I still had my hair in wings parted straight and hard down the middle.
July 6, 2006
Dear Becky and Michael, godparents of our son,
I keep turning over the story you told tonight at dinner in my mind.
This much I understand:
1. You're at a Montauk restaurant with a group of people including Rebecca Romijn.
2. Becky is seated next to Ms. Romijn who is being kind of bitchy and actively not making conversation.
3. There's another girl there also being bitchy who claims to be from Detroit but obviously isn't from Detroit which is annoying to people from Michigan like yourself who know that 90% of the people who say they are from Detroit really aren't.
4. A fish arrives complete with head and tail and the faux Detroit girl offers to de-bone it, because she is an expert de-boner, but then declines when she discovers it's Becky's fish.
5. Ms. Romijn is not wearing underwear.
This part I fail to understand no matter how hard I try to wrap my mind around it:
6. Both of you are part of a human pyramid, 4 layers high, with the aforementioned people.
7. You are on the bottom of the pyramid.
8. You explain you were bullied into this.
June 16, 2006
Gerardo Santiago Felix
(translated from Spanish) "I love her, man do I love her. Do you know every day I buy her roses and leave them at her door. She doesn't love me though. I am too old, more than twice her age. Maybe I am ugly. But every day I leave her roses and one day she will know my true love. I don't care how it takes. Do you know the constellation Orion. One day she told me this is what she looks for in the sky, so every night I pray to Orion. She has a boyfriend now, but I can wait, she's had other boyfriends. I don't interfere, and one day she will come to me. Wait a minute, that's her calling..."
"People never talk to me, they think I am a terrorist because I look like Bin Laden so I am surprised when you talk to me. I hate Bin Laden. He says he is a prophet but look what he has done. Everyone in the world hates Muslims now. Maybe Bin Laden is an Israeli spy or maybe he is just a Saudi. Saudis hate Americans. In Pakistan many people love Americans. I love this country. I moved here 22 years ago, and my whole family lives here now, even my grandparents."
"I love miniature trains. Not toy trains, but miniatures, you can ride them. On weekends I take the seats out of the cab and load it with my steam engine. All built by hand. I am a member of so many clubs and everybody wants to see my train so I drive to New Jersey or Maryland or Florida with my train to show it to club members. There is a really good club in Somerset Hills, New Jersey. We have miles of tracks. You should come. It would change your life."
S. Aungubolkul aka Mr. Bacon
"I hate this country because this country is weak. In my country we wouldn't have problem with these terrorists. Iraq is a joke. Every day America gets weaker and weaker. In my country I was Thai military and in Thai military we didn't play games. My nickname was Mr. Bacon because I would make them eat pork. [laughs] I made big mistake though, I fell in love with girl who wants to come to America. Now look at me. I am nothing."
"My mother wanted me to have famous name... all of us had famous names. My brothers are Chaplin, Churchhill, and Napoleon. Really. Some people get so angry you know but Hitler is my name so I am proud of it. The truth is my mother didn't know much about history."
May 17, 2006
1. Why did my parents make me take ice skating lessons in Houston where the temperature rarely drops below 80?
2. Why, even at the age of 4 and a half, did I allow myself to be put into a bunny outfit?
3.Why was I so damned slow?
4. And why, when all the other kids had skated far far ahead of me, did I decide play to the crowd by turning and doing series of hops, eventually passing the other bunnies now headed in the opposite direction, causing the girl I liked, Kelly Jackson, to call me Fooey Bugs and wrinkle her nose at me for the rest of the summer?
May 10, 2006
1. Seaweed and cheerios.
2. Caviar and cheerios.
3. A dead bumblebee.
April 21, 2006
1. If your kid throws up (all kids spectacularly and unexpectedly throw up at some point. Our kid isn't much of a vomiter, but when he goes, it's all out) and you clean up the vomit with a towel, don't throw the towel in the laundry with other clothes, and then let the mess fester for a week or two because if you do this you will end up with an entire load of vomity smelling laundry.
2. One should never answer the question, "Hey did you take a picture of my dog?" with "You call that a dog?"
3. Even though you think you can zip out on the stoop in your boxer shorts without being seen (because it's early in the morning and who in their right mind is up at 6:00), you will invariably be seen by people you know. The embarrassment is magnified when, as you lean to pick up the paper, your 16 month old decides it would be funny to tug your boxers down causing you, in your flailing attempt to preserve dignity to twist and fall flat on your face.
4. It is not a good idea to let your son play with week old easter eggs just as he is developing his throwing skills.
5. When absentmindedly hitting your own head with a wrist guard beanbag that your wife made for you, watch out and don't swing it too hard because you might knock yourself right out of your chair.
6. Commenting on the size of another kid's head to his mother is never a good idea.
April 11, 2006
1. Call when I am in the tub.
2. When I tell you I'm in the tub and not to call back for a while, call back a minute and a half later.
3. Ask about my wife, who you have met, and then refer to a girl I last dated in 1992 and haven't spoken to since.
4. Call me Ricardo. Twice.
5. Refer to me as a "buddy" after you've called me Ricardo (twice).
6. Ask the question, "What'dya say chief?"
7. Hang up because you have to take a "really important call".
April 9, 2006
1. Explored the High Line with Jake.
2. Took the Chinatown bus to Philadelphia. (tickets $5-$12)
3. At long last went to visit the Barnes Collection.
4. Reported to my wife that I might have lost my wedding ring.
Me: I think I lost my wedding ring. The last time I remember wearing it was in the Dominican Republic.5. Passed many accidents on the NJ turnpike. Stopped at the Grover Cleveland Travel Plaza.
Jenn: This is a good one. Novel. Emotional and hard hitting. Very good. A few years ago you would have had me, but I know you now and I'm not going to get involved in one of your psychodramas.
Me: I've turned the house upside-down. It's gone.
Jenn: Stop. How many times have we done this? I know how it goes. The fear, the self loathing, the ever more implausible theories... and then the inevitable, "oh, here it is."
Jenn: I'm not listening.
6. Was in the subway (in the corridor that connects the F to the 2 at 14th Street) and heard a great rendition of Cool Water as a spiritual in the manner of The Mighty Clouds of Joy by a blind musician named Sleepy Joe.
7. Missed a picture through a subway window of a couple making out behind an umbrella.
8. Went to a party where I ran into a guy who was one my best friend's prep school roommate. The two haven't spoken in 20 years and both have sons named Harry.
February 5, 2006
1. Don't do much research.
2. Leave kind of late in the day.
3. Annoy your wife.
4. Drive 3 hours north away from sunny weather into cloudy weather.
5. Arrive to find the place you were going to visit closed.
6. Have your kid play on a rock before realizing your kid doesn't want to play on a rock.
7. Decide to make the best of it by taking a walk down a country road.
8. Have the country road lead to a garbage dump.
9. Get your wife carsick on winding roads.
10. Drive 3 hours back.
January 25, 2006
Places I've lived for more than one month (in the order they first appear, repeated cities asterisked):
Monterrey, Mexico *******
San Antonio, Texas
Lufkin, Texas ****
Burnet, Texas ***
Princeton, New Jersey ****
Shanghai, People's Republic of China
New York, New York ***
Amagansett, New York
Phenom Pehn, Cambodia
Langmusi, People's Republic of China
Beijing, People's Republic of China *
Ulaan Batar, Mongolia
Prague, The Czech Rebublic
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Los Angeles, California ***
Beverly Hills, California
Santa Monica, California
West Hollywood, California
San Francisco, California
Brooklyn, New York
January 11, 2006
1. Chuckles (jenn brings them to me when I'm feeling blue)
2. Boston Baked Beans
3. Candy Corn
4. Nekko Wafers (normal)
5. Chocolate Nekko Wafers
6. Pixy Stix (always loved that Breakfast Club scene with Alley Sheedy)
7. Spice drops
8. Wax lips
9. Grape pop rocks ("entertainment for your whole mouth!" and no they did not kill Mickey).
January 1, 2006
2006? Already? Seems impossible. Wasn't it just yesterday that I wrote an entry dated 1/1/05? I'm not sure I'm ready for 06. Hell, I'm not sure I was ready for O5. In fact the last year I was really comfortable with was 02. 06 seems like the future. But the future isn't really working out the way we expected is it? My kid doesn't know any of this. His days are still unburdened by time or thoughts of what could be or what might have been. He really enjoys eating oranges. Hard to explain how very much he enjoys them. The pure joy. Right now the only thing that compares is climbing up and down the stairs. Climbing is happy time... but no, right now at least, oranges rule...epecially Clementines. For him the future will be 2100 or 2200 which is funny because neither of those dates seem as far away as 2000 was from 1980. But here we are. 2006.
Here are ten free wishes for you:
I wish someone whispers you a secret for your ears only.
I wish you a good night's sleep being held by the person you love the most.
I wish a new song so good it makes you get up and dance on the first listen.
I wish you find forgotten money (at least a twenty!).
I wish you read a book that changes your life.
I wish a stranger will say something to you that will make your day.
I wish you do somthing you always wanted to do but never thought you could.
I wish you see a falling star.
I wish you a foot massage.
I wish you love for something as much as my son loves oranges.
December 20, 2005
I swallow a gigantic hamburger bigger than my head. The hamburger inches slowly down my esophagus like a rat through a boa constrictor. Try though I might, I can't squish it flat. I wake up in a cold sweat when it gets past my stomach.
I'm sitting in my 4th grade class when I hear Bill Little, a kid who always hated me (and who I once secretly beaned with a good sized rock), giggling in the back of class. I hear him muttering my name. He's making fun of me. My face is hot. Then I taste something bitter. I know what's going on. Bill Little has poisoned my bologna sandwich with glass and lye. My stomach starts turning violently.
A nickle drops through a hole in my pocket into a puddle. I reach after it and find the puddle deeper than I thought and very cold. Something in the water pulls me in. Suddenly I am under water and I can feel it crystallizing around me. Popsiclization is inevitable unless I can shiver myself out.
I am on fire. My hair, my clothes, even my toes. The only way to stop it from hurting other people is to eat it, so I force myself to eat the fire pushing my face onto it. I eat it all but inside it still burns leaving me smoky from my seams. I cough soot.
I wake up on an empty beach. The sky is blue, the water clear. I think, "This is pleasant. Ahhh. I must be better." S t r e t c h. I watch the waves lapping at my feet. And then I notice that the sand has been washing over me leaving me partially buried. I am immobile. "Still not too bad," I think. Then tide recedes and small black ants come marching in from the tall grass. They climb my belly and disappear into my bellybutton. I know then that this isn't over.
December 10, 2005
1. Wind is your enemy.
2. 4 Dozen balloons generate a huge amount of static electricity.
3. Static shocks hurt.
4. Low lying trees pop balloons.
5. Concertina wire pops balloons.
6. People will say "Happy Birthday!" to which you might answer, "It's not my birthday" to which people might say "go to hell."
7. Young kids might ask you "Can I have a balloon mister?" to which you might answer "I'm sorry these aren't my balloons." to which a child might reply, "Then what do you care, give me one."
8. The ribbon on the balloons can get wrapped around your neck.
9. When 4 dozen ribbons are wrapped around your neck and the balloons are blowing around, you might get strangled.
10. If you call out for "a little help" nobody will help you.
December 1, 2005
You know the Rankin/Bass stop-motion holiday classic Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer that plays on TV every year around this time? It was on CBS this evening. I love the show as much as the next guy, but a couple of things have always rankled me.
1. Skinny Santa is mean, really mean.
2. The Burl Ives snowman plays his banjo during some of the songs, but there is no banjo on the soundtrack.
3. Charlie in the Box is terrifying.
4. Owls at the North Pole?
5. The Abominable Snow Monster should be bloody after having all his teeth ripped out.
6. Hermey is a terrible name.
7. There's nothing wrong with the doll on the Island of Misfit Toys so why is she on the Island of Misfit Toys? (according to this site the problem is psychological)
8. King Moonracer is an Aslan ripoff.
9. Yukon Cornelius is a Yosemite Sam ripoff.
10. Did I mention Santa is kind of an ass? Also, he only has 4 fingers. Terrifying.
As an aside what in the world was up with the "Ronald McDonald and I'm loving it" ad that appeared during the middle of the show? Ronald McDonald is frightening enough on his own, but hard rocking Ronald stage diving into the crowd is terrifying? Is the McDonald Corporation trying to hurt my mind?
October 3, 2005
1. Before 1847 the word gorilla does not appear in the English language.
2. Most mammals regardless of size have about a billion heartbeats in a lifetime.
3. Left unsupervised I can scarf down an entire package of gingermen cookies.
February 22, 2005
In the margins of a book I never finished reading I listed a manifesto of sorts, 100 rules to live by. The date was March 18, 1992. I won't bore you with all 100, but many years later the list would pretty much the same although the order would be somewhat different. Here are the top 10 by my 25 year old self.
1. Travel someplace that scares you.
2. Paint your walls even if it's not allowed. White is for sanitariums and prisons.... unless you are one of those people really really into white. Then explore the color white, there are endless shades.
3. Have mysterious projects.
4. Keep a journal. Write some of what you did...ie the facts of your life, but more importantly write how you experienced it.
5. Take more pictures than you think you need to. You're already older than you were a moment ago.
6. Vary your route. The most interesting stuff is around the corner.
7. Keep secrets (but on quiet nights after many years tell the person you love).
8. Don't worry about traffic.
9. Zero your debt.
10. There is more tragedy in the world than you know, but there is also more beauty. Do not ignore tragedy. Accept it, but accept joy with equal intensity.
April 15, 2003
This post was originally an email message sent to two friends who were getting married a few months after us. The email got forwarded around and eventually I started receiving email about it from people I didn't know. Anyway now it's here on the web for anyone who might find it useful.
I know I was probably too casual about planning our wedding. I didn't really focus until the last couple of weeks and then I suffered for my lack of prep. So my soon-to-be-married friends, a few words of practical advice while it's still fresh in my head.
Write up a detailed minute-by-minute plan. You should do this months in advance. Try to mentally walk through the day and see if it makes sense and if you are allowing enough time for everything. We had sort of casually written up a plan, but a more detailed plan would have caught lots of mistakes.
Let people in your wedding party know the plan and delegate. Even if your wedding is not terribly logistically complicated make sure people know what they are supposed to be doing and where they are supposed to be. The biggest source of problems in our wedding and others I've been in, is people not knowing what is going on. Don’t let your groomsmen sit around doing nothing. Give them jobs.
Have backup plans in case things go wrong, because, inevitably, something will go wrong. Study the worst case scenarios. The temperature unexpectedly dropped 40 degrees the day of our wedding, luckily we already had a plan for this, even though everyone told us it was unnecessary. Half our guests who were to be sitting outside had to be moved inside... luckily we had thought about this, if we had to figure this out the day of the wedding I might have had a coronary. The backup plan saved us. This happened any number of times.
Look at family photos beforehand and make sure you know the names of all those distant cousins. They take offense when you forget.
If you are traveling bring any medicines you might need, back up contact lenses, and so on. Having what you might need is much easier than running out to a pharmacy. When Jenn got sick, luckily I had everything I needed already available including the mobile number of a doctor.
If you are leaving home a few days in advance give a friend a key to your house in case you forget something. We did not do this and our friends had to break into the house through a 2nd story window.
Try to do something special for people who make the extra long haul. We had a few guests who really traveled very far to be with us (Japan, India, Argentina) and we made sure hang out with them individually. We were told by each of these guests that our efforts made the trip worthwhile. Target these people beforehand, and set aside time for them.
If you are staying apart from your bride, get her flowers for the first morning you are apart. She’ll like this. I actually recommend staying apart even if you live together. You cover more ground and you can avoid lots of minutia. Let her hang out with her family and friends.
Everything you leave up to someone else, will be done in a way you do not expect. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes this is terrible. If you care about something specific, spell out what you want in the clearest possible manner.
You should be in wedding mode now. Yes now. You have no idea how fast the whole thing will sneak up on you. It’s all annoying. Nothing will be exactly as you want it. You have better things to do and you will spend much more money than you ever thought was possible. Deal with it. The more you do early, the less panicked you will feel when the day approaches and the more you will be able to actually enjoy yourself.
If you can, set up a simple website. This really helps everyone know what’s going on and saves you from redundant questions. Also there is usually lots of info on the web that you can link to to make people’s lives easier (photos, maps, tourist info). I've left ours up here: http://www.mexicanpictures.com/wedding. If you don't know how to set up a site, use a service like: http://www.theweddingtracker.com/
If your wedding is someplace unfamiliar to most of the guests, let them know where to go and what to do.
Work with the hotels to find out where everyone is staying. It helps to have a master list of guests. Make sure to distribute these lists amongst your wedding party so that everybody can find each other.
If you have friends who are breaking the bank getting to your wedding, try to find a place for them to stay.
People seem to like it if you call them to check in... even if it’s just for a minute or two. The truth is you won’t be able to talk to most of the people at your wedding, so a bit a phone time is important.
Breakfasts are a good time to catch people at the hotels. Don’t sleep in. Work the breakfast tables. At your wedding, you are the celebrity.
If you have tourist info for your guests, the hotels can help distribute it. Note that people who travel like to take a look around. Give them a few options and they will almost certainly do them.
People want to give you gifts. Often the first wedding question people ask is "where are you registered". Let everyone know where you are registered early as you will receive many if not most of your gifts well before the wedding (we were surprised by this). Also give people plenty of options, some people thought our registry was too small and sent us 'off the registry' things we didn't really need. If people are going to spend the money they might as well get you something you like. Think about a gift certificate option. Some people find this a bit crass, but many people thanked us and said it was the simplest way to give gifts.
Some people might give you cash on the night of the wedding (this was the preferred gift of most of our Mexican and Korean families). If the groom’s tux doesn’t have an inner pocket, find someone you trust to keep track of it all. Also, at least in my case, it was important to have a notepad to keep track of who gave what (some people like my uncle Pilo just gave me a stack of bills without an envelope).
You should have thank you cards bought/printed before the wedding so that you are ready with them afterwards. Writing all the thank yous is a big job in and of itself. We were horribly unorganized about this.If your parents invite people to the wedding make sure you get lists of who they invited along with all their addresses.
We made the most mistakes with photography. This was our major disappointment wedding-wise.
Give the photographer a primer on who is who. We failed to do this and got lot's of pictures of 2nd cousins, but very few of our beloved aunts and uncles. This was crushing.
Give the photographer specific shot lists. We failed to tell the photographer to take all encompassing general pictures of the rooms nor did we tell him to do exterior shots of the church/location. Consequently we don't have big overview pictures & these are sorely missed. Also tell the photographer to take detail shots of the food, the flowers and so on. Again we did not and were disappointed.
If you do the camera-on-the-table thing and happen to have ethnic relatives who do not know that they are supposed to leave the cameras, leave instructions otherwise the cameras will walk.
If your wedding is at night or indoors, black and white is much more forgiving than color.
If your photographer uses a flash, make sure he bounces it or softens it.
If there is a particular angle at which you look terrible, tell the photographer. I can have a double chin. this looks awful in photos taken from down low. I forgot to tell the photographer about this and now have tons of church pictures taken from exactly the wrong angle.
If you take posed photographs before the service, you will have more time to enjoy the reception. Also if your wedding is at night, this gives you a chance to have some daytime photos.
Make sure everybody knows the photo schedule. I have no photos of my Aunts and Uncles because they were misinformed of the time.
Posed photos always take much longer than you think they will take--especially if you are outside and the light is not cooperating. This is where a real wedding photographer is worth his weight in gold. They can do in 30 minutes what it takes a non-pro 2 hours to do.
Same prep rules for the video guys if you have them. We felt like video was cheesy, but now in retrospect we like having it.
Also if you want the the video guys to talk to people, tell them to do so. Interviews are often the best parts of the tape. Have them do interviews before people get too sauced up.
Forgoing video guys and giving a camcorders to friends will ensure shaky often underexposed video. Just say no.
Pictures help the florists. Make sure your bride gets pictures of stuff similar to what she wants to the florists as early as possible. Have them make samples of everything. Have someone check out the work well beforehand, but also send someone the day before the wedding. If the flowers are screwed up your bride is going to be unhappy.
If your vendors can find a way to screw you, they will. Drinks are often the easiest way to pad the bill. Make sure to check every loophole in the contract. This was our one big extra expense because we were not thorough enough about the contract and left some holes open.
Spell out how you want the food/drinks presented or it will be wrong/bad.
Specify. Specify. Specify. Give the guys song lists. They’ll go off and do something weird anyway, but the clearer you are, the less likely you will be surprised.
The speeches at our rehearsal dinner were very nice, but afterwards many people said they wanted to say something but didn’t for one reason or another. Other people said they were unprepared. I have since learned what I should have done:
1. Make sure your best man knows well in advance what the order of events is.
2. Give the best man ground rules depending on the crowd so that he can let everyone know what the deal is.. In Ted’s wedding for example, everyone was told to keep the stories clean so as to not offend Madeline’s family. For the most part it worked. If you want your best man to be an axe man for people who go on too long, let him know... again spell things out. Everyone has different expectations.
3. Have your best man seek out people who are likely to speak and ask them beforehand if they want to say something. This:
a) allows them to prepare and
b) gives the best man a general idea of who is going to speak so he doesn’t seem lost out there.
4. You (groom) prepare what you are going to say beforehand, don't wing it.
Try to set aside some time on the night of the rehearsal dinner to hang out with your friends. Your family might try to stop this (or you might feel like you have too much to do), but if you don’t go out, you’ll regret it afterwards.
People get very hung up on boy/girl boy/girl arrangements, but we found that people thanked us when we sat friends together irregardless of the "proper" arrangements. IE My college buddies sat together, my LA friends sat together, etc. Don't waste time trying to get people from different spheres to hang out with each other. Remember weddings are also are a chance for your friends who are friends to connect with each other.
Having a free for all as we did at the reception ends up splitting up people who want to sit together, also it potentially isolates people you want to honor. Despite the headaches involved, if possible, have assigned seating! At the very least (even if you don't assign specific seats) put them at a specific table.
Note you can solve lots of seating problems by not having tables that are all the same size. Ask your venue if they can accommodate this and if they can be flexible at the last minute.
Very large round tables of 12 or more are lousy because they are so big that nobody can really talk.
Always allow for wildcards and have a few blank seats or flexible tables in case someone unexpected shows up.
If you are going to do namecards I’d suggest getting them all done well in advance of the wedding even if you don’t have confirmations from people. This just makes things easier, trust me. It’s easier to play with seating when the names are on the cards than on paper lists. Also make sure to have someone double and triple check the spellings. Old friends get offended when their names are misspelled.
Many many seating problems are solved by having long interlocking tables (we did this at our reception). This way one table can blend into another. You can keep groups together and still have them mingle with other groups. Also black and white pictures of the long tables have a nice old fashioned feel to them.
Make sure the programs are there early! Our programs weren’t there until the last minute.
The priest should have a program well in advance (ours obviously did not and was totally lost).
The groom should arrive fairly early to greet people.
Make sure you know who is getting you, your groomsmen, your bride, and her posse to the church.
If you have a Catholic service, don’t sweat all the details they warn you about beforehand. The priest basically does everything. You just sit/stand there. In Mexico we had the advantage of being lassoed together.
Make sure to spell out the music... (in our wedding things went horribly awry anyway-think synthesizer , but we did try).
Stick around for a few minutes afterwards. We ran off quickly and regretted it.
If it’s a Catholic wedding make sure someone is tasked with picking up the paperwork at the end.
When you arrive at the reception you’ll probably be feeling pretty good. Smile and have a good time. Everyone is going to want to touch you and talk to you. You can’t talk to everyone. Keep moving. It’s ok to split up as you move through the room as you cover more ground this way, but don't spend too much time apart or people will talk.
Learn the first dance a well in advance. Take lessons if you must. A good dance is a real showstopper. I had to be dragged to class kicking and screaming, but I did go. While I managed to forget everything when the moment came (I forgot literally everything it was as if my feet were made of concrete.) Still, the 4 or 5 lessons we had taken gave me some sense memory and kept me plowing through. Without the practice I would have been doomed. People didn’t seem to notice and we got lots of compliments despite my fecklessness.
We both stayed very sober during the reception (neither of us had a single drink)... afterwards we both felt like this was a good thing as we were able to absorb much more and stay alert throughout. At least for us we wanted our brains clear and on "record" during the whole thing. The truth is we didn’t need drinks to feel good.
Have someone prepare the room you’ll be sleeping in on your wedding night so that it is not a mess when you get back from the reception. Someone did this for us...It was great to go back to the cleaned/packed room all decorated with candles and stuff.
Just say no to rose petals on the bed. They make stain, are hard to brush away, and nobody wants roses petals stuck to their ass.
Have a friend take all the stuff back home that you won’t need on the honeymoon.
We had a fantastic reception band. One thing they did (which I would have never approved if I had known about it beforehand), that was use props. Sounds super cheesy but it was great... hats, sparklers, balloons. I know it sounds god awful, but he it was Mexico... At some point the evening things went all Felliniesque.
Spell out how long the music should go on for... otherwise at 2 in the morning you will have guys in the band trying to extort a few thousand dollars from you.
Don’t take a cell phone.
Don’t take a computer.
Don’t tell people where you’ll be staying.
Buy your film in advance (especially if you shoot black and white).
Just be mellow, relax, and try not to go broke.