Handwriting on the Phone

I downloaded this app http://www.font.my/

and made a font from my own handwriting. It’s not perfect but not bad. Here’s a sample:

am-gsdfont1

 

The words are from one of my poems, “a.m.”:

 

the streetlamps dim
to push sleep past the sidewalk
up through windows
into bedrooms
like an ether
with a deep breath that never exhales

collapsing with the smog and the traffic
until asphalt footsteps are as loud
as the ringing in your ears

and four o’clock comes
from endless birdsongs
courting darkness
as if it were
light

 

This Gray Mosaic

stronghope

My mom described it best:

“It looks like Tacloban went in a shredder and was spit out.”

The Philippines was never a bright, colorful Disney movie, at least not where the people live. Where the people live, it’s often overcast with a haze from pollution or the latest storm, or a combination of both. Humidity is high, so the air in front of you is not quite clear. Pockets of government are corrupt, continuing this lack of clarity. The country is financially poor. The streets aren’t swept by big vacuuming trucks once a week like in America, so the scum and trash that were brought in by the last storm stay until the next storm brings its own. Nothing looks new.

I watch the news on an oversaturated television and want to turn the color down. I want to turn to a standard definition channel, where the pixels aren’t as crisp. I want to lower the brightness and minimize the contrast. I want to turn off the stereo sound.

CNN’s Anderson Cooper is a good guy, and I know he means well. But his eloquent, almost poetic narration just doesn’t match. His American cadence combined with first-world broadcasting and editing equipment is too polished, too perfect, for this country that is far, very far, from perfect. It needs to be closer to gray.

They need to show the mud-encrusted feet of the Filipinos, unprotected except for the thin soles of rubber flip-flops, tsinelas. They need to stand a local boy, dressed in a kamiseta, a plain tanktop shirt, and hand-me down shorts, next to an American soldier, with his steel-toed boots, flak jacket and helmet. They need to show the corrugated steel roofs that, under even perfect conditions, barely protected the homes of the poor.

I watch the news, and I cry for the country of my birth, the country that I and my family left when I was seven years old. I shake my head, wondering if the actual truths of this third-world country will ever be understood by a first-world country like America, with its wall-to-wall carpeting and two-car garages, its wine-tasting and fitness trails, its color-matched bathroom linens and traffic lights. I wonder when the Philippines will once again fade into the background without rectification.

When I was a young design student, a classmate showed me on an Apple computer how to brighten a picture, to make the blacks really black and the brights really bright, and to increase saturation so the people in the photograph “popped out” more. And then he put the two versions side-by-side, with the before photo on the left and the after photo on the right.

On the left is where I came from. On the right is where I went, where I am now.

 

Here is a direct link to donate to the victims of Typhoon Haiyan through Save the Children

Meme Cat

 

memecat-s

 

Meme Cat

 

look at my picture a half dozen times
ooh and aah and make that animal-loving aww sound
then click “like” and go away, to the next heartwarming story
to your day filled with choices and sunlight and many many windows

I would like just one window, my own
with a view of a tree, or trees
my own soft towel, or if I’m really lucky, a blanket
a toy, more than one toy
a bowl with my name on it

your time

yes, what would be nice is to have
your time, that I don’t have to share with everyone else

to hear you say you don’t mind sharing your time with me
for you to be okay with having one less moment of freedom for yourself
so you can put food in my bowl
give me clean water
scoop my litter
talk to me
just talk to me

it’s okay if we don’t understand each other as long as we’re in the same room
and I can bump my head against your hand
and I can lick your hair
and we can have staring contests

and when I go to my window to look at the birds
I don’t have to worry about looking back
because I know you’ll be there

because there was that one day when you clicked “like”
and you didn’t go away.

 

 

If you have a spare window, some fresh towels, and some time and attention to give, please consider adopting a cat or kitten.
Please visit Making Biscuits Cat Rescue
https://www.facebook.com/MakingBiscuitsCatRescue

 

Spirit of the People

A man walks into a building to work at a job that he hates because ten years ago he proposed to a pretty girl. He sits at a desk that faces a sealed window and does just enough work so that he doesn’t get fired. He defends the company that he works for while he updates his resume on the tenth day of every month. Buried deep in his mind are fifty typewritten pages of every case of fraud, discrimination, and sin that his company has committed in the last eight years, a list that he will forever be too afraid to reveal, even after he has been laid off. And if he survives another fifteen years, he knows that his future will be paid for by the sweat of the newly recruited.

A woman drinks her coffee and takes a picture of her morning bagel. She will take a picture of every food that she puts inside her mouth, will tell everyone what she’s feeling as soon as she’s feeling it, and will dedicatingly like and comment every post by her online friends, adding to this group of friends at the minimum rate of thirty new ones a month. She will make herself believe that she knows all of them very well. For every wrong that has been done to her in the past, she will post an encouraging quote by a famous person.

Two brothers compete through the endless trophies won by their children. Two sisters compete through their unnatural flattery of each other. Instead of time and patience and silence, gifts are given.

A family living in a four-bedroom house with an empty guest bedroom files a lawsuit against a senior living facility for neglecting their grandparent. A university’s vice president votes himself a fifteen percent raise, paying for it by raising the tuition of every student. Students protest this, with ten seconds of their voices heard and their faces seen on the local news before thirty seconds of celebrity gossip is featured.

Technology makes it easy for every person to show that they support social change without actually doing anything about it.

This is the world where I live, where I choose to live. And if someone asks if, despite it all, I am encouraged for the future, I have no choice but to say yes.

Wire of the World

I’m afraid
for the man
on the wire
of the world
spinning out
of a control
from a ledge
of a stick
breaking pieces
of a brick
dusty hammer
swinging thick
through the glue
of a paper
tearing crooked
like a crack
like a window
in the back
missing color
lose a thrill
kick a pain
with a bill
dig a check
with a cross
get a boot
to jump a cause
to a drought
with a map
like a sudden
give it back
like a sudden
like a sudden
to be here
to be here
spinning out
of a control
on the wire
of the world.

Snow

America’s greatest strength might also be its worst weakness; it is one of, if not the only, country on Earth that will deplete its resources, delay its progress, and sacrifice the health of its majority in order to help those few who continually, habitually make bad choices.

Goals, by Priority

  • Creativity
  • Unfettered creativity
  • Unregulated unfettered creativity
  • Unscheduled unregulated unfettered creativity
  • Unfearing unscheduled unregulated unfettered creativity
  • Kind unfearing unscheduled unregulated unfettered creativity
  • Paris, France

Hurdles

When I was in middle school, during P.E. we had to jump hurdles as part of our physical tests. Because I was at least five inches shorter than the other boys, jumping those hurdles seemed impossible, and whenever I tried, as hard as I jumped, my feet would always knock against the tops of every hurdle. With every jump, I thought I was going to trip and fall headfirst into the ground. After the first three hurdles, overcome with fear and embarrassment, I would bow out and walk off the course, take an incomplete, never getting to the finish line.

I would practice at home trying to jump higher. I would set up chairs with pillows set to the proper height. But no matter how much I practiced, I could never do it.

Then one day I saw that the grounds crew messed up and set the hurdles lower than normal. When I tried running over them, it was still a challenge, but I was able to clear every hurdle, and had enough energy to sprint to the finish line. Mr. Balogh, my P.E. coach, logged my time during that run, with a smile on his face.

I know that my time wasn’t really official, because the hurdles weren’t at the proper height. I know that I’ll never compete in the Olympics. But just being able to reach the finish line, with an actual time to show that I did try, was enough for me. I didn’t feel like an outcast anymore.

This is one of the reasons why I voted for Barack Obama this second time around, even though I know that with a Republican president, our country might be stronger, with more income earners keeping their money instead of giving it to others.

I believe that our country needs to promote capitalist ideals, rewarding success and hard work. But I also believe that our country needs to be kind, recognizing that not everyone, no matter how hard they try, will be successful, and help those people as well.

Our country needs to promote excellence, train the best athletes, so that we’re able to win the most medals. But I also believe that every once in a while we have to lower the hurdles, just a little bit.

A Quiet Time and Place

I woke up to sounds that weren’t produced by electricity. A breeze that needed nothing from me entered the bedroom window, passed over me to let me know that the world was still breathing.

The bed sheet rustled unevenly, got out of my way so that I could go to the window to open the curtain to let the daylight in. I stood there and saw an overcast but calm sky.

For the first five minutes this morning, I didn’t have to answer a single question.

Because I am connected to you, because we are all connected, there is no need for us always to talk. There is no need for us to constantly nudge the other’s attention, like keeping the engine running for fear that because the battery has died, there won’t now be a way to restart the car.

I could hear machinery in the distance, but a more welcome sound is closer, what sounds like someone washing a mason jar. It’s glass and two hands, some water, and a towel. I could hear the jar being placed next to another glass jar, straightened, arranged, but not perfectly.

People are talking on the other side of the street, someone just turned on a garden hose, and a bird is trying to say something in between the bigger things.

I know that signals are constantly around me, passing through me, like solar waves, like radiation poisoning. I know this affects how I hear when I’m not using my ears. I know this affects my mind, my timing, my walking a clean, unencumbered step. I know that the people around me can sense this too, and so they talk louder, push more buttons, trying to break up the constant noise with periodic blasts of distraction.

Sometimes when the battery dies, the best thing to do is walk away from the car.

Destitute Institute

Destitute is an adjective, defined as “not having the basic necessities of life.”

There is a new campaign by large pet food manufacturers that advises against feeding raw food to cats and dogs. Raw food, they say, is unsafe and not as balanced a diet as, for example, anything Iams or Purina or Beneful makes. Raw food, they say, is incomplete nutrition and even dangerous.

A domesticated cat is descended from cats in the wild, and it shows in how they hunt prey. If given the chance, even a common housecat will hunt down mice, birds, sometimes insects, and eat everything of that animal, bones and all. Before man got in the way, all the nutrition a cat needed was contained in the animal that it caught–meat for protein, bones for calcium, internal organs for the different vitamins and supplements that maintained that cat’s health. What little plant that a cat needed (and it needs very very little) it got from the stomach contents of the animal it just killed. Sometimes a cat will eat grass, but only to help digestion.

An Iams or Purina or Beneful package will probably have corn or some other grain as one of its main ingredients. Cats don’t need it. It will have filler foods like ash, which is exactly what you think it is. It will have waste products mixed in, including benign tumors, growths, cow hooves, pig sphincters, and anything else that is discarded as not fit for human consumption or falls off the processing table and gets swept into a hole in the ground, ground up, mashed, puréed, and slathered with ammonia to kill whatever ambitious bacteria got caught up during this insane but profitable process.

It’s profitable because it’s cheaper to make. It’s profitable because in the long run, if your pet lives longer than 5 years, it will probably become obese or diabetic, or develop some other allergy or disease, and you will inevitably make your veterinarian rich.

Feeding your dog or cat one of these popular brands is like feeding your child only hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn and soda for the first ten years of their lives.

Which brings us to people, who need enough sleep to have enough energy so that they don’t need to compensate by eating fast-jolting fast food that need to be eaten fast because there’s no time for breakfast because of traffic because more work has to be done to compensate for the broken infrastructure, institutional corruption, lack of trust, lack of patience, lack of understanding, but at least there’s never a lack of viagra, social networking apps, texting, or five-hour energy drinks.

Basic necessities of life. Sleep. Food. Community. Honesty. Choice. Peace of mind. A good live catch, when one can get it.

Related link: http://www.truthaboutpetfood.com

Know and Not

During the latest episode of HBO’s The Newsroom, one of the journalists posed the question, “If God talks to you, what does His voice sound like?”

The fact that I capitalized Him in the above sentence should tell the reader that yes, I do believe in God. I believe in a God that is as big as the universe, and the other universes that exist beyond that. I believe in a God that acknowledges that there are those who believe in Him more than others, and that this fact doesn’t change anything, doesn’t put anyone ahead of the line, doesn’t make one a lottery winner and the other a cancer victim because one went to church more often than someone else.

I believe that God transcends time, and because our concept of good and evil is too often based on time-dependent factors (he was once a convict but now he’s a pastor so that’s good vs. he was once a pastor but now he’s a convict so that’s bad), I believe that there is much more to why things happen to us, in the sequence that they happen. But this doesn’t mean that we are helpless. I think that we are as insignificant and significant as the speck of rust inside an engine.

So does God talk to me? No. Does the air tell me to breathe in and out? No.

Do I go to church every Sunday? No. Do I have to be reminded that every single action that I make, whether or not it’s on a Sunday, whether or not I’m in a cathedral or at a urinal or at an all-you-can-eat buffet or at Disneyland trying to bully my way through a crowd because I want to get a better view of the parade, do I have to be reminded that during all those times, the universe is watching, that God has his spycam on me? That when I choose not to raise my voice in anger, that that invisible moment of hesitation has just been recorded and is now on my permanent record?

Come Sail Away

Driving home, I blasted and sang along with Styx’s “Come Sail Away” on KLOS FM radio through my old car’s speakers. Then listened to the 2012 rerecorded version off my computer’s equalized speakers. Even though the new version is near identical to the original and uses more modern recording equipment, I still like the original version–the Licorice Pizza, might-as-well-be monophonic, with just enough lack of clarity so you can make up your own words version. That version is a significant inner ring in my life’s cross-section.

I miss vinyl. I miss TEAC turntable needles. I miss analog. I miss spending a whole day simply listening to one album.

Easter Easter EASTER!!!

When my Mom was a little girl, they would celebrate Good Friday and the following Saturday by keeping quiet, no music except for prayer songs, spending the time to reflect on why Jesus sacrificed his life. Only on Easter Sunday would there be a celebration, beginning with mass, and then a family feast, always remembering that all this has been possible because of Jesus.

After cat cleanup this Saturday morning, I drive home on a crowded freeway with what seems like an overabundance of SUVs, pickup trucks with crammed picnic gear, every other car driving much more aggressively than usual, most driving faster, more anxious, more stressed. Malls are crowded and regional parks are packed with parties and more cars.

I come home and the house is rumbling because there’s loud music in the neighbor’s backyard, the top of a red bounce house jutting out over the backyard fence.

I know that families need to allow their children to play and enjoy Easter weekend, maybe having their Easter egg hunts on Friday or Saturday. I know that it’s difficult enough to see family members when they’re living so far away, and so many people extend their Easter Sunday celebrations to include Good Friday as well as Saturday.

But then I remember that, as of today, Jesus hasn’t risen yet. That happens tomorrow. And then I remember that there might be an Easter blockbuster sale at Best Buy, and so I think about joining the fray.

Thinking Outside the Pinata

Somewhere in my parents’ attic is a two-minute movie of my 9th birthday party, shot on 8mm film. Part of that movie was a snippet of the pinata game, where blindfolded kids would take turns swinging a stick to try and break the pinata, a papier mache hollow donkey which was filled with candy and suspended from a rope.

When the pinata broke and the candy fell to the ground below, all the children, as they are supposed to do, scrambled to grab as much of the fallen candy as their hands and arms and pockets could hold. If you’ve ever seen documentary footage of piranhas swarming over a wounded animal, it’s similar to that, except it’s a swarm of screaming kids.

Because I was the birthday boy, the camera followed me wherever I went. It followed me as I joined in and jumped into the pile of kids and candy. But soon after I jumped into the pile, something peculiar happened. The film shows me leaving the pile of kids, walking away and waving my arm in an “Ah, forget it!” attitude. Back then, when the grownups saw that movie, they asked me, “Why did you not get the candy like the other kids? Why did you give up?”

What the camera didn’t show was me, two hours before the party, sitting at the kitchen table and watching as my dad loaded the pinata with three bags of candy. What the camera didn’t show was me seeing that my dad had bought SIX bags of candy to fill the pinata, and because the pinata didn’t have any more room, my dad had left the other three unopened bags of candy on the kitchen table.

Back at the broken pinata and pile of kids, as I jumped into the fray, I was already thinking to myself, “Why am I scrounging for dirty candy when there are three bags of it sitting in the kitchen?”

As a twenty-one year old college intern, I worked on a project where my employer charged the client $100/hour. I did all the work, and I was making $9/hour. At that moment, I thought to myself, “Why am I making $9/hour if I can do the same work and charge $50/hour, and still charge only half what my employer was charging?”

As a twenty-five year old at a Dodger game, I was in the middle of a scramble for a foul ball. People were spilling $20 worth of hot dogs, nachos and beer, to get at a $7 baseball.

There are pinata opportunities, and then there are outside the pinata opportunities. Thinking outside the pinata usually requires a bit more thinking, a bit more patience, and a bit less impulsive action.

It also helps knowing that there are three bags of candy sitting on the kitchen table.

Garden of Eden: A Cautionary Tale

I would have preferred not to have been born under the shadow of men whose self-worths are directly proportional to their legacies. I would have preferred that their legacies would have consisted of creative accomplishments like music, or architecture, or philosophical discoveries, or mathematical theorems, or timeless novels. I would have preferred that their legacies did not comprise solely of the results of ejaculation.

I would have preferred not to have been the heir to the heir of a philanderer. With that said, I would have preferred that I had become a philanderer myself, never thinking twice about my actions, to be driven simply by the desire to replicate myself into as many me’s as my wife’s/wives’ wombs would tolerate. I would have been proud of my ejaculative accomplishments.

I never would have read a book, or drawn a picture, or written a song. I never would have questioned my existence, goals, or urges. I never would have drawn any conclusions. I never would have sought answers.

I would have lived, ignorantly, happily, in the Garden of Eden. I would have acted according to script and timing. I would have hunted enough to provide, groomed enough to attract, fought enough to own. And when the fruit became ripe, I would have salivated, walked toward the tree and the woman, and ate.

Instead, I doubted the tree and the garden. Instead of either consuming the fruit wholeheartedly or simply walking away, I questioned the woman. I studied but I stayed.

And I realized that the deceit wasn’t in the fruit but in the garden itself.

Beatdown

I once saw somebody kill another person with kindness. It was the most brutal beatdown I’d ever seen, relentless, savage, uncompromising. After the attack, the victim was so beyond recognition that you couldn’t even tell who he used to be. He didn’t simply die, he was transformed.

Not On Our Beaches

There is a running joke in disaster movies lately, about how nobody cares if Los Angeles gets obliterated during an alien attack, or swallowed up because the Earth’s tectonic plates suddenly decide to shift a few thousand feet within a matter of days. After all, what would be lost around here—the culture is in New York and Chicago, the money is in Manhattan, the power in Washington D.C., and farms and livestock are spread out in between. Would the world miss Hollywood? Would anyone miss the traffic?

Some say that Los Angeles—unlike Japan and its citizens of collective-minded, non-looting, orderly, courteous folks—that L.A. couldn’t survive the same series of disasters that the Japanese just went through. Some say that Angelenos are too selfish, too independent to want to work together or sacrifice certain things in order to benefit the larger group. It would take forever for first responders to get anything done because they’d be too busy signing legal waivers that indemnify themselves from lawsuits, in case they infringe upon someone else’s “space” while trying to pull that same someone away from their burning Escalade parked in their overleveraged McMansion.

This is why I think Los Angeles is the SAFEST place to live when the almighty shit hits the fan. Just as God only places the greatest burden on those who are best equipped to handle it, that same God wouldn’t dare touch L.A. for that same reason. Even with the best weather in the world, the most resources available, and every single thing (sand, snow, ocean, mountains, amusement parks, In-N-Out drivethroughs) within arm’s reach, Los Angeles is still just a slight breeze (or an unpopular verdict) away from utter collapse. Hell, if we can’t even handle two straight days of rain, how are we supposed to cope with a tsunami?

And do I think we’ll get radiation poisoning from Japan? No, because any radiation cloud that forms over the Pacific Ocean would take one good look at our sewage-stained coastlines, our crane-infested docks, our half-plastic people, our pretentious love of sushi and our hot, sweaty, farty yoga, and that radiation cloud would take pity on us and leave us alone to mire in our own, uh, mire.

If you want to experience a natural disaster, go live somewhere else, where people don’t mind helping one another shovel snow from their driveways. Go where a high school kid is thankful to have a part-time job, and where a car, any car, is a cherished item that doesn’t get replaced every five years just because that color isn’t in fashion anymore. Go where a person’s last name is more important than his first name.

But if you want nothing to happen to you, stay right here. Nothing’s happening here. And even if it did, we probably wouldn’t notice it. And if, for some reason, it did bother us, there would probably be a pill, a procedure, or an iPhone app that would get rid of it.

The Revolution Over There

Somewhere in the near future, a kid will come up to me and ask what happened back in 2011. I’ll think really hard and remember that Charlie Sheen got everybody at CBS pissed at him, that his boss made half a billion dollars creating a funny show that lasted about nine seasons, and if you waited a couple years, you could get the whole thing on DVD for about twenty bucks at Costco.

I’ll remember that Tiger Woods’ conscience kept him from winning anything since last Thanksgiving, when he drove his SUV into a tree. I’ll remember that gas prices kept going up and down and up again, and we weren’t really sure who to blame for it anymore. It snowed and rained a lot everywhere, and so the TV weather people got to wear a lot more different outfits for their Stormwatch segments.

By the way, I’ll tell the kid, there was this democratic revolution that happened in the Middle East, a whole bunch of countries that all of a sudden decided they didn’t like dictators anymore, and so they stood in public to say so. Many of them got shot and died, and a bunch more got the crap beat out of them, and others went to prison and were never seen again. And even after all of this, these Middle Eastern people didn’t give up and they kept revolting, using the Internet and their cellphones to spread the word. News crews from around the world got a hold of their stories and spread the word out even more, so much so that even news people got the crap beat out of them when they showed up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Anderson Cooper got punched a dozen times and Katie Couric got shoved around, but I’m not sure if she got hit.

This changed the world much like the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union back in the early nineties. I remember back then, all the TV and radio stations were glued to what was happening in Europe and Russia, and nobody wanted to see or hear about anything else, because it was a big deal. Then there was Desert Shield which became Desert Storm. That had Schwarzkopf with his camouflage uniform, Rumsfeld with his podium updates, George Bush Senior getting a standing ovation from everybody in Congress, and Colin Powell looking like he was going to run for president one day, but he never did. I remember the first time they showed a stealth fighter and a stealth bomber, and how friggin’ accurate those things were, and how when they bombed a tank or a bunker where people were hiding, it looked like an old video game.

But yeah, in 2011, people played Angry Birds on their iPads and iPods and iPhones because Sudoku was already getting boring. Robert Rizzo from the city of Bell got caught paying himself and his city council members too much money, and then other officials from other cities got caught for the same thing, even though it’s been happening for decades. This snowballed into other cities and states, and pretty soon every government office was being audited. It’s like a trend, just like when Egypt started with their revolution, then Libya and the other countries followed.

I’ll tell the kid that I still read whatever newspaper I could get my hands on, the Times or Wall Street Journal, whatever was around, even though most newspapers had already gone out of business. I’d get a whiff of the story from someone on TV saying something quick about it, then I’d check it on the Internet, then I’d get the complete story by reading the paper. I usually only get to read the whole story every other day or so, because the newspaper vending machine is always out of the L.A. Times, or I don’t have three quarters on me and it’s too far to walk to the bookstore a block away. I get to read the paper when I’m having my toasted wheat bagel with honey almond shmear, and my French roasted coffee, four sugars and four creams.

I always finish my bagel and coffee, but I don’t always finish reading the paper.

Out from Under Your Beds

“If you have honor and dignity as a man, come and protect me, and other girls in the protest. If you stay home, you deserve what’s being done to you, and you will be guilty before your nation and your people. Go down to the street, send SMSes, post it on the internet, make people aware.”

I heard about this woman on The Charlie Rose Show. Asmaa Mahfouz posted this video on YouTube, then went to Tahrir Square and protested in person. She told everyone who she was, how she could be contacted, and challenged her people to join her. She is credited for helping spark the Egyptian uprising. She is credited as being a revolutionary.

I very much doubt that I could be this brave. I very much doubt that I would want to be tested like she has. I think I will do everything in my power to run away from any conflict that may result in my having anything like this happen in my life. I think that I will tow the line. I think that I will not rock the boat. I think that I will remain quiet. I will internalize everything. And when my life is over, like that famous quote says, I will have regretted doing nothing.

Out from under your beds
C’mon, ye people
Stand up for your love
–“Stand Up Comedy”, U2