Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

Ah, the annual New-Year's-Day, Yes-I'm-Still-Alive Post.

I have a new apartment, one that makes me feel like I'm at home. I haven't felt "at home" in a place since moving into my very first apartment at age 17, so this is unusual and fascinating. I moved in November — in fact, the last box was packed on Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend — and things are still chaotic as I sort through things I've kept too long and need to go and slowly make purchases I'd long postponed. (What can I say? I'm not sure why the latest Laurie R. King novel is more important than a set of place mats, but there you have it. Priorities.)

When I was working as a travel writer, I found a huge difference in the character of cities I visited, and I always loved that. In Los Angeles, when I buzzed around town, the neighborhoods had varying flavors, but they all were imbued with a quality that always felt like L.A.. Perhaps it was because I grew up there; perhaps I simply didn't live in enough neighborhoods sufficiently different from each other. I think it had to do with the infrastructure of the city itself, because every once in awhile if I drove through the canyons or hills, there was the feeling of being somewhere else.

In any case, the neighborhood of the new apartment is as different from the old neighborhood as Santa Monica from Death Valley, and it's been tremendously healing for my state of mind. I haven't had a television (or a microwave) since moving and cell phone service is spotty, so the pace of life is quite a bit slower. I don't have more time, but I'm using my time differently, and my mental real estate has shifted. I'm thinking about different things. I'm feeling more contented.

Relationships have changed. I've grown closer to some people and farther from others, both geographically and emotionally.

Some things are same as they ever were: I'm still hip deep in hypnosis as a profession, hobby, obsession, and lifestyle; I still love writing, books, movies (my genre preferences haven't changed, either); still love church (although there I'm in flux again); winter still isn't my favorite time of year (although it and I have come to d├ętente). Still writing (although obviously not here).

Wishing everyone a terrific day, month, and year. May all the changes bring you closer to your dreams. I don't know what 2012 is going to hold for me (I'm a hypnotist, Jim — not a psychic), but it's going to be good.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Great examples of real hypnosis you can use

If you have ever wondered what hypnosis is really like, the Hypnosis World Summit is a terrific site, and you owe it to yourself to check it out. It's probably most useful for people who have no clue about what hypnosis is, but there are some real gems for experienced hypnotists. For one week, featured hypnotists from around the country talk about some of the things hypnosis can help with, and many include a microsession in their talks, so you can close your eyes and experience a sample hypnotic process. There are male and female hypnotists, fast and slow inductions, all sorts of processes, and the topics range from the common (e.g., losing weight, improving sports performance, & gaining confidence) to the more unusual. Two or three talks are presented each day; after that, they are removed from the site (although they are being compiled for release on disc). So far, I've been very impressed. I'm grateful to Tom Nicoli for putting this together.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It only took four-plus decades

I have this hate/hate relationship with winter.

Kenny Mackenzie once told me something that really helps during these winter months. He told me what he loved about winter: Coming home after school or work to a warm house, peeling off the wet, cold, clothes, and getting into warm, dry clothes. Growing up in So Cal, I didn't have that experience often enough to make it a powerful resource for me, but Kenny's description was so vivid (I can still hear his thick Scottish accent rolling the R's in warm and dry, and see him rubbing his hands together with a big smile on his face, eyes bright), that bringing that memory to mind always makes me feel toasty.

Which just goes to show you don't have to have the experience yourself. If you want to do something, find someone who's good at it and ask them how they do it. This works, whether it's becoming a morning person, loving exercise, or getting through winter without throwing yourself off one of the 12 beautiful bridges Portland conveniently supplies for such purposes.

I've found something else that helps me get through winter: hand lotion. Over my lifetime, I've tried just about every aloe, shea, cocoa, lanolin concoction out there. Vasoline with gloves. Mary Kay. Avon. Curel. Ecucerin. From 99 cents to 18.99, I've tried them. Don't email me your solutions. Maybe it works for you. For me, six weeks past Halloween, my hands feel like pet horny toads. (Pacific Northwesterners: Look it up. Adorable in a way only a desert-rat could love.)

So this year, I did what I always do. I got on the Internet. And bless those consumers at, they came through for me.

Corn Husker's Lotion. My grandmother kept a bottle of the stuff ("That's the ugliest bottle I've ever seen," said a friend) under the bathroom sink. I can't remember her ever slathering that goop on me. But boy, howdy, Corn Husker's Lotion did in three days what weeks and weeks and weeks of nothing else could.

It's cheap and ugly and my hands feel like a five-year-old's. I swear, I feel like I've found the fountain of youth.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Matthew Gray Gubler - the knot at the end of the rope

On Facebook, there's this "Become a Fan" feature that I've been invited to use, but I've avoided. I've been a fan of TV series, books, and movies, but I wouldn't describe myself as a fan of people. I feel a little uncomfortable putting people on pedestals; but I feel terrific about putting their works up there: the works are campfires where I can sit around with other fans, toasting marshmallows, telling jokes, and obsessing over minutiae until two in the morning. When I say I'm a Stephen King fan, I mean I'm a fan of his work; I'll read anything the man writes. I've rarely thought of myself as a "fan" of an actor, although there are actors I like a lot.

Until now. What can I say? Desperation makes me vulnerable. You know the saying about coming to the end of your rope: Tie a knot and hang on. If you can climb up above the knot and turn it into a swing, so much the better.

When I was a kid in elementary school, I loved getting A's. It was a game. When one of my teachers lectured on how to study effectively - eliminate all distractions, turn off the TV and radio, etc. - I immediately started doing my homework with the radio or record player on, because I wanted more of a challenge. If it was harder to study with noise in the background, I was going to have noise, dammit.

So I've long, long had the habit of putting the TV on in the background for white noise. And to this day, if I'm reading a book or writing, you practically have to whack me to get my attention. I have a terrific ability to tune out auditory stimuli.

I still prefer to have some background noise while I work (unless the work involves numbers). Maybe it comes from living in L.A. most of my life, or from working in companies with cubicle activity humming around me, or maybe just from practice/habit. To fit the bill, background noise has to be something I like, but have seen or heard before or don't really have an interest in closely attending to.

I couldn't have known what a big, big mistake I'd made when I was channel surfing for some suitable background noise about two months ago and heard Mandy Patinkin's wonderful voice. And stopped. I mean, Patinkin is safe, right? Familiar, I like him, I can tune him out. I've seen most of what he's done, with the exception of Sunday in the Park With George. I can set my subconscious to perk up at my favorite parts of whatever this is.

Well, I should have kept right on surfing, because I'd never seen whatever this was. Right off, that made it an unsuitable selection. Change the channel, De Lude.

But -- Mandy Patinkin! I could happily listen to him recite the phone book. Maybe it was a movie. Oooo... Maybe he'd sing!

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It was about detectives. And they looked grim. Odds are: no singing.

But -- I love detectives.

They're interesting. Change the channel.

That's okay. I can still tune it out. I just gotta focus.

At the commercial, I find out it's a series. A series? A weekly series? I get a weekly dose of Patinkin's voice? Oh, no. This is awful! I mean, it's great! I mean... crap. I hit the INFO button on the remote control to find out what this is. It is...

It is an unmitigated disaster. Reruns of a series I have never heard of but has been around long enough to be running three episodes a night on A&E. Now we've moved totally out of the land of BACKGROUND NOISE and into the geography of TIME SINK. *headdesk*

Fortunately, Mandy Patinkin leaves the show 30 minutes later. Seriously. The episodes are being shown out of order, with no discernible pattern. I look at the schedule and learn that over the next few nights, Part I of a two-part arc airs, but Part II of the arc appears nowhere on the schedule. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever.

I am annoyed and relieved. There is no way I'm going to get any entertainment satisfaction out of non-sequential episode broadcasts. They offend my sense of narrative. Time-sink threat neutralized, the show takes on background-noise status once again. Without Patinkin, and being broadcast out of order, I don't really care.

But I can't screen it out 100 percent. Enough seeps through to know the stories and actors are compelling, and I wonder if they are on DVD so that I could watch them in order and actually, you know -- pay attention.

I get online to research. How many seasons are there? What are the backstories? What network did it debut on? Who produces this stuff? Who ARE these people? Aside from Patinkin, I don't recognize anyone.

I suppose this is where I should mention that my second (I think) winter in Portland shocked me into a pretty serious (albeit temporary) depression. I will not waste time elaborating, but this winter is the first since then (1994) that I've felt this tired, snappish, and on the cusp of hopeless.

Enter one of the actors in Criminal Minds (that's the show), Matthew Gray Gubler, who has a Web site, which became this year's answer to my please-god-let-the-solstice-arrive midwinter prayers. Gubler's site is quirky and cheerful, kind of like if David Lynch had been born a Muppet, or Ralph Steadman's style with Jim Henson's heart. Gubler handwrites his blog entries and scans them in (as a fountain pen and calligraphy lover, I find this endearing). He draws odd little creatures and makes funny noises. His brief documentary of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou cracks me up, and his unauthorized autobiography episodes are horrifying and hilarious -- more Mamet than Muppet, but I watch anyway and wince and laugh.

I had to "Became a Fan" of Gublernation on Facebook. I suppose I'm easily amused. During these short, dark days, I think that's a good thing.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I'm Grateful For, 2009

This list is in no particular order.

  • Onions, and whoever decided growing them would be a Good Idea.
  • Tom Stern, for introducing me to bread machines.
  • Kathleen Willems, for turning me on to Montreal food seasonings.
  • Tom Eiland, for proving that healthy is not synonymous with boring.
  • Tom Whitmore, for sharing the tradition of phoning people I'm thankful for on Thanksgiving. For being someone with whom I never, but never, have to turn on the inner censor.
  • Glenn Glazer, whose sense of humor is rivaled only by God's. (And whose sense of humor is far more palatable than God's.)
  • Lydia Marano and Art Cover. I don't think I could ever begin to express how deeply Dangerous Visions is rooted in who I am.
  • The patio of my grandparents' house, where I watched hummingbirds drink, hydrangeas flourish, and listened to Vin Scully's sportscasts of Dodger games.
  • Garbo and Cellophane, for sharing my life for 16 years (and counting).
  • Curtis Salgado, whose music saved my life. No joke.
  • Tyler Sperry, who knows me so well it's scary. For introducing me to NLP.
  • Martina Baker, the coolest and bestest sister in the universe.
  • The inventor of the VCR.
  • The guy who repaired my car when I was 19. I had nothing to put down but my word, and he took it.
  • John Hertz, dance teacher and conversationalist extraordinaire. For teaching me patience; that anything worth doing is worth doing badly at first; for teaching me about learning, standards, and patience. Oh, and did I mention patience?
  • Brad Linaweaver. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. The pendulum swings. Ten lifetimes of friendship wouldn't be enough.
  • Bill Ritch's glorious voice and incomparable presence.
  • Anthony Bourdain. There's no better travel show. Or food show. And what a great voice.
  • Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. I love my Mac.
  • St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, for walking alongside me when my path coincided with theirs.
  • Waterfront Foursquare Church, for being the oasis after long wandering in the desert.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Revisiting Ariel, awaiting Elegy Beach

I've been in autumn clean-up mode, and to make more efficient space in our apartment, I've been boxing up books I can't bear to part with but don't reread frequently. The books still on the shelves are, by and large, those I return to again and again, rereading them annually: Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series (Beekeeper's Apprentice is my favorite, but I usually end up rereading the whole series), Obsidian Butterfly (the only novel in the Anita Blake series I go back to again and again), and nonfiction reference books for hypnosis, writing, religion, and marketing.

A very few books remain on the shelves that I seldom read. Like lighthouses on a rock, they mark the contours of my life. Who I was. Why I am who I am.

So when Tyler Sperry alerted me that Steven R. Boyett's Ariel had ben reprinted, I had mixed emotions. First, I was thrilled. Steve is a terrific writer, Ariel is a terrific book, and to have it reprinted 20 years after its publication - well, that's incredible and wonderful. I felt disappointed, because I was sure I'd have to dig it out of a box. Why couldn't I have gotten the news just a little sooner?

It was right there on the bookshelf. I pulled it down and turned it over, wondering why I didn't box it. I don't think I've read it but once, when it was first published. Just touching again it awakened the emotions it carved into my heart all those years ago: wonder, love, and pain.

I wondered how it would hold up. I wondered if I dared read it again.

I did. It holds. It's a classic.

The language still takes my breath away. The smell of sweat and smoke, grass and peppermint, rise from the pages. Nothing is harder to write (or easier for me to skip) than a fight scene, and Ariel has a lot of them. Each reveals character and moves the story forward emotionally. I didn't skip a single one. The faerie-meets-mundane is one of my favorite fantasy sub-genres, and 20 years later, Boyett's vision remains fresh. I'd forgotten the humor. I'd forgotten George. I'd not forgotten how emotionally solid and true the book felt.

So why do I reread Ariel so seldom, when it's such a timeless, beautiful book? Why not pull it down every year or two, like Emma Bull's War for the Oaks?

It's those last couple of chapters. On my first reading, they seemed out of place, as though they belonged to a different book. They simply didn't seem to fit. Today, I feel less of that old disbelief than a melancholy resonance with my own endings - friends lost, loves dead, homes left behind. I read it now and whisper, "Of course; it couldn't have happened any other way," instead of, "Are you kidding me????"

What a gift! To find that a book I once loved and feared has grown with me. It's a testament to Boyett's mastery of craft that I fear Ariel less and love it more, that the laughter is still genuine and the pain walks hand-in-hand with wisdom. The promise of the sequel is tantalizing, because I never felt Pete and Ariel's story was finished. I'm eager for Elegy Beach.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Children's books banned in USA

I keep telling myself this is a nightmare and I'll wake up soon.

Under the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), products for children age 12 and under that contain lead cannot be distributed in the USA (sold, loaned, given - shared in any way). Books printed before 1985 may contain lead in the ink. Therefore, those books must be destroyed. Even libraries may have to comply (the Consumer Protection Agency has asked libraries to remove the books from circulation until the final ruling on libraries next year).

I am not making this up.

Read the Article in The New Atlantis. Or go to
Overlawyered and follow the progress of the Act.

Or just Google: children's books prior to 1985 lead ink.

The Act passed in August 2008 and went into effect in February this year. How could it have flown under the radar for so long? Why didn't I see an alert in the county library newsletter? in Willamette Week? the Oregonian? from Powell's? From my publisher or writer friends? Did Wordstock put people up in arms about this?

I think about the books I read and loved as a child; they helped shape my values, my character, my sense of humor... Many are probably still in print, but even so - to think that every copy printed before 1985 will be removed from bookshelves, tossed in a dumpster... and that this has already been going on for months... And what about those that are no longer in print?

Write your members of Congress. Donate to organizations that are fighting this.