The Obvious

public service announcement

Posted in link by theobvious on April 19, 2011

Everyone keeps asking whether Gmail or Facebook is down, so I’ve gathered several websites that can tell you for sure:

1. http://www.downforeveryoneorjustme.com
2. http://isitdown.us
3. http://www.downornot.com
4. http://downrightnow.com

Enjoy!

read all about it—or just a page or two

Posted in books, link by theobvious on December 14, 2010

A while ago, the New Yorker published Q&A’s with the writers who were featured in their “20 under 40” issue (basically the same names everyone else is bandying around, Shteyngart, Krauss, Foer, Russel, Li, etc.). They asked each young writer who their favourite authors over 40 were. To a reading person, this kind of thing is a goldmine: if you like the author, chances are you will like what they read as well. If you’ve never heard of the author before, chances are you’ll still love some of the books that inspired them to become, if not your favourite author, then at least America’s.

There were some really great recommendations on those lists. Some names that were entirely new to me. Of course, more enlightened people might find the lists stale, but to me, they were full of literary discoveries. Wonderful novelists whose Amazon pages would make anyone drool and start compiling wish-lists, and quite a number of lovely short story authors. In fact, it was like a short story feast, a paradise for the short story lover. If you were to purchase all of the collections penned by these authors, you’d be hooked up for life with high-quality, superbly written, engaging reading material. All the worse for me, because I don’t like short stories.

Being a voracious reader—incidentally, what’s up with the word voracious, it is disgusting, reminds me of the Lithuanian word for spider and the Russian word for thief at the same time, and yet it somehow evokes the exact image of that greedy way this kind of reader gobbles down a book—I can’t afford to read short fiction. Even getting out of a thousand-page novel, I feel as though something has been taken from me entirely too soon. What am I supposed to do with something that only lasts ten minutes? It’s just a tease.

Exceptions to this rule are quite rare and usually have to do with stories which are not focused on the plot, but curious or very well-written (like this one by J. S. Foer*), or when they are sort of continuing the same narrative, almost like chapters or entries on a blog, which is often the case with semi-autobiographical stories (like most of the stuff by David Sedaris), or when they are just so funny, clever, and/or touching that it outweighs their being regrettably length challenged: both Foer and Sedaris, or Etgar Keret or, say, Čapek or Jerome Jerome or all those Russians of Zoschenko’s kith—

Actually, I’m realizing now there are a number of authors whom I can appreciate in short form. Still, when choosing a new book to read, I’ll hardly ever pick a collection of short stories. They tend to make me feel cheated. But if you feel otherwise, you might benefit from looking at that list in the New Yorker. See why the short story is not for me? All these words, just to recommend a link.

*I remember the night I first read that, in someone else’s house, on their guest bed built on boxes of books, during some pre-party commotion, out of someone else’s little (yellow?) book. This is one good thing about a short story. You can associate it with a particular moment in your life. Novels I tend to associate more with periods: I read that when the summer was so hot, I was hiding in coffeeshops with A/C; I read that when I was limping from the fall; I started that on the plane to Z., and finished it on the way back; that spent the winter on my desk, it felt like a spring novel; and so on.

11/05/2010

Posted in link, nablopomo by theobvious on November 5, 2010

It’s been a very long day and I have the queen of all headaches celebrating Friday with a very loud party somewhere on top of my brain, so this will be a placeholder for today and we shall see if tomorrow will be a better day for blogging. Sorry about that. To compensate, here’s a link to a very interesting 2008 New Yorker article about Pascal Dangin I remembered during a conversation today and dug up.

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pandas are not morning people

Posted in funny, link by theobvious on May 9, 2010

That’s by Jason Sweeney. He’s fabulous.

cheesy

Posted in food, link by theobvious on January 7, 2009

I do find referring to cheese as ‘mild cow’ or ‘aged goat’ immensely funny, but otherwise, this Cheese Clock by Artisanal should be useful for anyone holding, say, a wine-and-cheese thing. And by thing I mean, of course, a swah-ray, refined individual that I am.

the neurotic kingdom of teenage angst

Posted in emotions, friends, link, people, photos, studies, video by theobvious on September 2, 2008

I’ve been watching this all day. It’s about a young woman’s experience at art school. I asked a friend what art school was for him (he is a fourth-year student at the school I’m considering for myself), and he told me to watch this hour-long film.

Yesterday I was positively jumping with excitement at the thought of taking all the classes on the curriculum, finally getting a framework for my photography (as it were), and laying a theoretical foundation to my practical blunderings. Today I am back to my (permanent, as of recently) state of anxiety and self-deprecation: I am not, nor have I ever been, a creative, smart, and interesting person who can actually pull off art school. My photos aren’t good enough to be accepted.

Meanwhile, today was the first day of my third year at my current school. It went better than I’d expected, though I’d expected something so dreadful I had nightmares and woke with a tremendous headache. (The day is over, but the headache is still here.) Tomorrow I have a date with my orthodontist which will interfere with a class. That’s an early start by any standard, even for me. I usually don’t go skipping classes for the first couple of weeks or so.

All hope is not lost, however. On Saturday a dear friend appeared out of nowhere (okay, he was driving from Latvia to Russia with his whole family and passed us on the way), and we spent the whole afternoon with him. Also, we have tickets to see and hear Katie Melua October 13th. If that’s not something to look forward to, I don’t know what is.

our friend a.
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it was different in my day!

Posted in hotline, kids, link, sex by theobvious on July 9, 2008

This post by Crystal Ross-McKee seems very relevant to me right now. She writes about the way her young children speak and act like adults when it comes to relationships. I am just back from work at the Hotline, and I can testify to that and more.

When we were kids, we always said we wanted to grow up. Adults led exciting lives, most of which took place when we were asleep. They spoke foreign languages so that we wouldn’t understand them as they discussed their fascinating secrets right before us. They smoked, drank hot-tasting liquids, and sat around for hours, talking. We wanted that; when we played house, we imitated that as best we could. But we never thought we could actually do it.

Now I sit for two point five hours at a time having conversations like this:
Me: Children’s Hotline, hello!
Squeaky voice: Hi, babe! Will you go out with me?
Me: Do you know what the Hotline is for?
SV: Yeah, for you to suck my…
Me: If you talk to me this way, I will need to say goodbye.
SV: You wouldn’t dare, bitch!

Or like this:
Me: Children’s Hotline, hello!
Girl Who Sounds Thirteen: My boyfriend broke up with me!
Me: How did it happen?
GWST: Well, we were at this party, and everyone got drunk, and we went to his bedroom, and he said would I have sex with him, and I said no, so he yelled at me, and the next day he texted me to say it was all over!
Me: … … … uhh… … So how are you feeling right now?

Or even like this:
Me: Children’s Hotline, hello!
Eager Boy: Hi, I think I am attracted to boys! Am I gay?
Me: So what if you are?
EB: That would be fucked-up, don’t you understand?
Me: What do you find fucked-up about being gay?
EB: Bwahaha, you don’t get anything! You stupid idiot!!

Most of these conversations, especially the ones like the latter, are made up to shock me. Now I do not think that teenagers are not entitled to experiment and learn about sexuality, or that people with squeaky voices shouldn’t call other people ‘bitch’ (wait, no, that I do think). All I’m saying is that it’s strange how children nowadays think a good prank call must be as crude as they can make it. It surprises me how much they know, and how, with all this knowledge, they still think sexuality and relationships are a forbidden area in which they long to be allowed – and, quite differently from us, elbow their way right in. They are adults at the age of ten. Small, strange, not very smart adults, but adults nonetheless.

As a girl who’s being called names, I’m affronted. As a hotline worker, I remain polite. As a quiet home person, I’m bemused. As an educator, I’m concerned. As a citizen, I feel they should do something about this. As myself, I understand that ‘they’ is actually me.

great advertising

Posted in advertising, good, link by theobvious on June 26, 2008

Of the numerous design and advertising websites that I follow religiously, not one has mentioned http://www.thisistheindexpage.com, which is Converse’s new web campaign. It is, in fact, true to its name – an index of other websites with transparent names.

One of them is http://www.onashoestringfilms.com – one of the best cinematic efforts I’ve seen in a long time. Maybe the best one.
Another is http://www.iseverythinggoingtobeokay.com – I encourage you to visit this website if you are in need of passionate, unconditional support.
And of course there’s http://www.youshoulddoitnow.com – a wonderfully inspirational message, unmarred even by the giant Converse logo at the end.

All of them are short, most of them are funny, they made my day, which was otherwise packed with grim things such as the House season finale (made me weep), and a book from my childhood which I re-read, oblivious to the fact that everyone dies in it (made me weep too).

In short, I recommend.

follow the link

Posted in blogroll, important, link by theobvious on March 16, 2008

English is probably the language with the most non-native speakers brazen enough to use it for public purposes such as blogging. While some of us have only scraped together enough of it to pass for Frenchmen (you seemply ‘ave to see somesing wiz Depardieu, ‘ee is merveilleux!), others are doing their Oxford education justice by using quotes from Cervantes and including in their introductory post such words as bereft and assessment criterium.

It is my pleasure to present to you, my dear five and a half readers, the newest addition to my blogroll, one of my oldest (and cleverest) friends – Le Bagatelle. For those of you in doubt, this is not his real name.

jack is soon to become a dull boy

Posted in link, work by theobvious on March 4, 2008

This is incredibly relevant. Hilarious, too, but that is beside the point. It is relevant not because I am a grad student (in fact, I’m just a baby sophomore), but because once again, I have accepted a fairly meaningless academic challenge, and am now drudging through it like a freaking Shire horse.

There’s a certain returning client whose assignments I usually take because they come just when I’m out of cash and need to Buy Things. However, the second I sit down to work I remember why the previous time I swore I’d never accept another translation from this client ever again, not for a bag of doubloons, not even for a brand new Mini Cooper (well, maybe for a Mini Cooper).

It’s lots of fun working freelance. Especially when there’s no work. Or when there’s nowhere to go in the morning. Oh, much fun has been had indeed. But goodness, these horrible texts that come in on a school night in need of urgent translation, and drone on for thirty pages, well, these can deprive the number 42 itself of meaning, not to mention life as a creative process.

Working on a larger project is a challenge in itself. Remember the feeling of a looming deadline? Now imagine, if you will, this feeling accompanying you day and night for several weeks, months even. There’s nothing you can do to relieve the pressure until the work is all done, sent, and paid for. Fortunately, these particular thirty-something pages are not like that. They are due Wednesday.

Now excuse me while I giggle maniacally and poke myself in the eye with a sharp stick. Next time when my favourite client calls, I will pat my eye-patch knowingly and say: ‘Arrr, I’m not falling fer that one again, matey!’

things i’m admiring today

Posted in emotions, life, link, things i'm admiring today by theobvious on February 28, 2008

I came home today feeling like a nobody, like I had nothing to be proud of and wasn’t worth wasting oxygen on. Determined to stop the wave of self-contempt, I decided to make a list of great things I’d seen recently, and to learn from them. Here is the list I made more or less off the top of my head:

– Erin at Design for Mankind has made a wonderful e-zine called Inspiration. You can download it from her website. The title is very accurate, you can see how inspired she is herself.

– Tina at uuMomma wrote this lovely poem a couple weeks ago, but we only met quite recently, and even if it’s been a while, it’s still a pleasure and honour to be able to quote it here.

– Grace at Design*Sponge has just announced her engagement to her long-time boyfriend ac, and the way she describes his proposal and their love is enough to make me tear up in joy.

– Andrea at Superhero wrote this letter to her son when he was sick, and because it is so much more than just a letter to a beautiful boy, it’s my belief anyone can benefit from reading it.

– Rachel at Thatnight writes so many perfect posts (look) that she hardly needs any publicity, yet her recent list of advice for bloggers is something worth rereading every day.

– My dear husband A., very real without any websites, learned to solder yesterday specifically in order to repair our laptop (which he did), and he made me a tiny aluminum bear!

With that bear in my pocket, and all these great creative texts in my head, there suddenly seems to be more purpose to everything. I emerge from making this list (which is really very short, there’s considerably more great stuff around) with my thoughts much clearer. I think this is something worth doing on a regular basis. Here, consider it a promise, I even created a category, can’t go back now.

look it’s the cd-cover meme

Posted in link, meme, music by theobvious on February 11, 2008

I’ve seen this all over the place (with slightly different rules). Actually sniped it from the blogoversally-famous Rachel at ThatNight.net. Feel free to snipe in turn.

cd cover
Picture by Ognen Bojkovski

The rules are simple: (1) The first article title on this random wiki page is the name of your band, (2) the last four words of the very last quote on this random quote page is the title of your album, and (3) the third picture here, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

It’s all I can do to think about the quote. Restlessness is something I experience more often than anything else. Maybe it’s time to start viewing it differently?

përshëndetje (hello in albanian)

Posted in books, link, photos, random, the thrilling goings-on by theobvious on February 1, 2008

So, the hits on this blog seem to peak whenever I update and plummet the day after. Truly perplexing. Will need to investigate.

Meanwhile, I have exciting plans for the weekend (featuring an interior design exhibition, some gift shopping, a classical music concert, and a jazz concert, not to mention a class we teach with A. at the community), but I also seem to have contracted a mild, yet very unpleasant infection of the, umm, burning type. So unless I magically get better by tomorrow, it will be pills and the hot water bear for me this weekend.

With regard to this exciting news, I will just post an assortment of unrelated items today in the hopes of keeping you folks moderately entertained until I have something more fun to say.

Do you know what will happen if you type in ‘find Chuck Norris’ on Google and hit ‘I’m feeling lucky’? No? Well, go try it. I believe it’s all to do with that scandalous Chuck Norris fact-book he is apparently trying to get recalled through court.

I’m absolutely loving the new version of the Flickr client, which has a very handy pre-editing area, so that by the time the photos end up online, they are already tagged and put in sets. Especially good for when it’s just several images.

Yes, that means I have finally taken some new pictures today. I am also ending my ‘all new music in the walkman’ experiment by stuffing it with old favourites such as Herman’s Hermits, Les Fatals Picards, Goodbooks, and Brazzaville. Down with depression!

Now the exams are over, I have time to read real books, so I’ve finally enjoyed Coastliners by Joanne Harris, a writer I cannot recommend enough. And now I’m reading Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson, it’s full of factual errors, but quite entertaining.

Come to think of it, most of these could have been separate elaborate posts. This sickness is making me waste thoughts! Better get off the blogging horse and get to real work, seeing as I can’t sleep anyway. Good night, frères.

recommendations

Posted in books, good, important, link, vilnius, websites by theobvious on December 18, 2007

I was happy today. Because of little things, like peeling a tangerine at the bus stop and having a woman smile at me, but mainly because I got a new copy of ‘Up the Down Staircase’ and laughed out loud in the street reading my favourite passage, translated perfectly into Lithuanian (I think I should start translating my favourite books pronto, before they are all translated better than I ever could).

I believe every educator should read, and preferably own, this book. No, screw that. I believe every sane person should read and preferably own this book. This is why I’ve made most everyone I know read it, and now I’m giving it to a friend for Christmas. What? He’s a teacher. Have you read this book? You ought to. I hear there’s also a movie, but don’t watch that instead of reading! It’s not the Odyssey after all.

And now that I’m already bossing you around (don’t I have a talent for segues), let me direct you to several websites you might find nice, especially around this time of year, which is all about being charitable and giving others what you have enough of and they haven’t got any. Like food. I can only use some of them for want of a credit card, but at least I can spread the word.

1. FreeRice – a very nice campaign. It’s a word game that lets you expand your vocabulary while giving rice to the poor. Best part – it’s free both for you and the people at the receiving end. It’s also educational, yay!

2. Kiva – this lets you support an entrepreneur of your choice in a developing country. It’s basically a loan program with a smart follow-up system, so you can help someone out of poverty and then watch their progress.

3. Donors Choose – a totally awesome website where teachers submit their educational projects and you can choose which of them to fund with your donation. You will then receive feedback from the students.

4. Of course, there’s always the Red Cross. They are doing an amazing job and need all the help they can get. You get to choose whether to donate to their poverty fund, their disaster relief fund, or plenty other funds.

There’s a nice, albeit less dramatic, project on the web called Streetclash. It’s a street fashion competition. Vilnius is one of the last two finalists, and I encourage you to vote if you like it. There’s a different photo daily.

And then, if you just want to be doing good things for the world, you can give me a paid Flickr account. Just kidding. Instead, always recycle, choose handmade, organic, and fair-trade products, smile to people, and pass these links along.

this is a title

Posted in braces, link, me myself by theobvious on December 14, 2007

I had a doctor’s appointment today, to tighten my braces. It hurt like hell – the metaphor about having teeth pulled out would be redundant here, but that’s how I felt. I only said ‘ow’ twice. I didn’t want to be a wuss, so I laughed.

And then the doctor said my dental hygiene was ‘less than she expected’, though I’d been spending half my life brushing. And I said ‘Sure, thanks, I’ll try harder,’ and spent $15 on a new toothbrush, toothpaste, and mouthwash.

And then I had a breakdown at the bus stop. I bawled until my eyes and brow hurt from being screwed up. I deplored my ugly face and fat arse, the cold, the darkness, the strictness of the doctor. I scared A. half to death. It was pitiful.

And then we came home. I had some tea, brushed my teeth thoroughly, watched the Simpsons, listened to A. sing, took pictures of my pathetic self, and read this post by Dooce. You gotta admire her. She’s got contagious bravery.

P.S. Received a lovely email from Yee-haw’s very sweet engineer, could almost believe it wasn’t pre-written, but the instructions didn’t help. Still pondering my next step.