I LOVE this time of year. Mark gets red envelopes, too, which always makes me happy. Anyway, I drove up to Oakland at eight in the morning for our vegetarian breakfast and we took the kids - nieces, nephew, and Kaitlin to the Oakland Museum, where they were having a celebration for the new year. There were taiko drums, lots of arts and crafts, and we all got free pens and water bottles. They all had a good time, and I really enjoyed hanging out with them. They are so freaking adorable, and they say the funniest stuff, too, like:
"Give me some sugar, Bubba!" (As far as I know, this kid has never watched Evil Dead or knows who Bruce Campbell is. I was informed by her sister that "she says it all the time at home.")
"My name is Butt-Butt."
I finished a few books last week. I'm so surprised, especially since it took me for-fucking-ever to finish Foucault's Pendulum, which I would describe to most people as the "most boring thriller ever with a really stupid ending". Anyway, the books I've been reading:Go Ask Ogre
, by Jolene Siana
Jolene Siana was a huge fan of Skinny Puppy
growing up, and she decided to write to Ogre, one of the members in Skinny Puppy (an industrial band), over a period of a few years. She made art out of these envelopes and journals and used the art and writing as a way to work through her depression without even realizing it. At the end she says that she realizes that this act of writing probably saved her life. Ogre kept all her journals, letters and artwork, and gave it back to her after nine years. The work itself is really, really raw - it's almost painful getting through it because of how thoroughly honest and candid the work is. She writes about her dysfunctional family, trying to find a place in the world, and cutting herself. At the end, we see a change of voice as the older Jolene reflects on her experience of re-discovering her younger self, and it's fascinating to see how much she's changed, yet still the same person. I sort of recognize where she's coming from - it's really easy to see why she kept writing to Ogre, even though he only wrote back a few times, and why she kept writing things she didn't feel she could admit to her closest friends. It was a way of working out her confusion and depression - and it feels good to know that someone else knows what you're going through. I don't think I was ever depressed in the same way she was, but I used to write to Mark all the time and it was really cathartic, but I would freak him out sometimes with the intensity of what I wrote. And what's funny is that I wrote to forget - as soon as I committed those words to paper I had worked through whatever angst I was going through and I felt normal again, or sane enough, at least.
There's a new Skinny Puppy CD
out if you're interested.
The Spiral Staircase, by Karen Armstrong
This is the memoir of an ex-nun and her experiences after leaving the nunnery and trying to find her place in life. It's really funny, poignant, and interesting. She writes about how she goes into the nunnery in order to "find God", leaves, gets misdiagnosed by a psychiatrist, fails out of college, tries to get away from religion only to keep bumping into it. She writes in an engaging and careful way about religion, and finds herself getting angry with "God" and religion, and then eventually finding a way to meditate on "God" that is meaningful to her. She frequently compares the rituals and acts of religion with finding solace in art, and makes the point that the main monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity, Islam, are not actually about "right belief", but about "right practice" - doing good imbues the divine in you. The idea of believing in God Himself is irrelevant. It's pretty fascinating, and gave me a lot of food for thought. I'm not really religious myself (I would call myself Buddhist if pressed), but I know that eventually we're going to have to deal with the question ourselves (since Mark is Christian and slightly more religious than me) - of what we want for our future, of how we want to raise our kids, etc.
I started Snow Crash, too, but I got bored. Maybe I'll go back to it later.