Free Fall

Friday:

One good phone call, I'm exulting "yes!" and pounding my fist on the dashboard. Milk that positive rush. Then a separate unanswered phone message leaves me feeling hollow. I go to the museum in San Jose, flirt idly with the staff and patrons but it's momentary, I'm just doing it to tell myself I can, trying to keep myself entertained and my comfort zone as wide as possible. Go home, then a longer phone call, interupted by a shorter, happier one. So far today I have had four different ways to feel and the result is momentary stimulus followed by a quick return to my central ambivalence. Am I just tired today? I cannot decide if this is good or bad....

Time for a new sheet or two of personal calling cards. I print-up a new collection, replacing one of the old "job titles" with a new one:

Kevin Bjorke
Overanalyst

Okay, an optimistic opinion: no matter what occurs between me and other people, in the end I always wake up with myself. So my fundamental ambient state, my own emotional inertia, is ultimately what I need to care about. A phone call, a meeting, kisses or indifference, these experiences are all invaluable but I need to remember that they don't define me. That's my job.

My goal is to find a fantastic partner, someone I can love without having any sort of exit strategy or need for a safety net. But I need to be a Great Guy too, not just part of a Great Couple. So I keep working.

Eat dinner & then blast into the dark through the growing downpour and over Hwy 17, the car skipping through the wash despite four wheel drive. I'm having coffee with S above Capitola Beach.

I am such a sucker for redheads. Always have been. S's eyes are a pale pale green, the light filters through her hair and bounces from her hand and the irises are almost peach. Some of the clearest eyes I have ever seen. Spectacular.

And a film major. And a photographer. We narrowly miss getting sucked into the black hole of talking about gear, skipping just outside the Schwarzschild Radius (in a daring move I say "Nikkor one-oh-five two-five" then drop the topic before losing all possible angular momentum).

I didn't expect to like her so much, but I do. Is this a lesson to me? I always do. No. That's not actually true. I can always be pleasant company, I am always interested in who I am with at that moment. They will be calling me back but I'm really not following up. Sometimes. Not this time. This time: yeah, I like her.

I had thought of a half-dozen little games to play, conversational gems to dangle — none of them needed. No tricks for attention or rapport. We're talking about sea otters or Cozumel or minivans and my background score card is tallying eye dilations and gaze patterns and a finger slowly twirling an earring. Spiralling, synergizing. Doggoned table for two. But now I'm talking too much and we're running low on time. We go to the car. Another hug & her minivan is off.

Enough. Despite invitations to go out I'm strongly leaning towards a New Year's at home. Just me, reading, doing lab work, learning more about XSI and Max, and sorting out my own self. Sounds right for the purpose of the season.

Monday? Tuesday? By then, I should have reached terminal velocity. Heck, I'll probably change my mind by 5 PM tomorrow.


(Saturday correction: make that by 9AM. Awoke with the desire for a party, and thinking I really need to work on my ability to not shrink (or hide behind a camera) in a dense party crowd. Carlos wants to go to Ruby Skye but I'll stick with my original Plan A. See you at the Habana Copacapana after 10PM...)

Posted December 30, 2005 | Comments (0)

Next

Monday:

Go out for drinks with L. Lessons learned and/or reinforced: barstool space management, reminder that touch early sets a good precedent.

Later move away from the bar & get reminded that tables for two are frustrating. First time I've noticed the term "Caucasian menu" at a local restaurant. Talk about her childhood overseas leads inadvertently to some surprising personal revelations. Lesson: if people don't see you as part of their social circle, their emotional investment is small & they are less inhibited about potentially-awkward or embarrassing personal details, which in turn leads to a sense of accelerated intimacy and trust. Is this (clinical) cognitive dissonance at work?

Tuesday:

During the morning, based on previous night's realization, I decide I have been spending too much time with only strangers, the emotional investment is too small, the challenges seem false, somehow artificially dispassionate. I need to take some risk and interact with someone within my social circle but out of usual context. I decide to aim high.

I make a call, I stumble and stammer. Fortunately, I haven't dialed a number yet. Then I dial and I'm pre-stammered so no problem, that's that — my mad emotional bungee jump was totally fine, even with a surprise redirect in mid-call. I might have to reschedule something else on Thursday. Totally worth it. Lesson: go ahead and jump, because you really do have nothing to lose if you don't want too much. Hanging out is good. Lesson 2: triage is always okay.

In the evening, go out to movies with V. Can't quite sort this one out because she calls and emails a lot, is sweet & thoughtful but terribly anxious about physical contact, each little escalation leads to a meandering chase around the kitchen or something. Lesson: Like tables for two, some furniture is evil. L-shaped couch with a block at the "L" what were they thinking? Bigger Lesson: it's my own damned fault. I wanted to talk & connect about this issue and had a hard time. I'm too dependant on routines and need to find the right internal stance to be both open and emotionally-helpful rather than following some fixed internal script of this-happens that-happens. Several internal-game demons to vanquish here, including pride issues and the difficult dismantling of some precedents that are now in place. Paralysis by analysis, dag nab it.

On the drive home get a surprise call from Y the journalist from Taiwan, who I had thought had brushed me off weeks ago. We talk for like an hour and a half until late and she emails me some articles & is so much smarter and cooler than I had even realized and I am sitting there talking and thinking that she has so got to be my new GF. Lesson: you never know what will come along, or when. Lesson 2: I am so doggoned fickle. I already knew that.

Wednesday:

Meet Y for lunch and she is both difficult and adorable. I fall right into a net of early-talk test questions and DUH I answer them but then withhold info on a few thanks to an inadvertent interrupt save by the busboy. She asks if the cuisine is typical "caucasian" seafood (that term again!...). She has a schedule constraint but I figure a venue switch is in order & we go to Orchard Valley only to find it closed for remodeling and the woman owner starts up on how pretty Y is and then asks if she is my GF so I tell her I'm working on it rather than just "yes" which would have set up a precedent (or cognitive dissonance for Y). Lesson: control the mindset, the frame. Duh.

We go to Starbucks down the way and talk and Y gives me plenty of indicators with posture, breath, pacing, eyes, hair; just have to figure out the best follow-through at a busy Starbuck's at 2PM on a weekday with a rapidly-approaching deadline. Across a doggoned table for two, we could have been at the bar or at least had moveable chairs instead of the "comfy" Starbucks padded (& isolated) chairs. As we leave the rain breaks and a fantastic full-length rainbow appears. Feels like a benevolent omen.

Y says she's has been going out with doctors. This time I figure I won't get dragged into a comparison because I know I am far too unique for that. No one competes with me but me, and I wouldn't mistake having a BMW with being interesting. For some reason I pause at just the wrong split-second on the final kiss-close, get a friend byebye instead. Am certain it was juuust a tiny split-second difference. But I still get an invitation to call again. Lessons: location and timing.

In the evening I think to invite Y to a party K is throwing Saturday, or to a show she had mentioned Sunday — too quick but both possibilities are time-constrained. Still, it's dumb and I knew it but I did it anyway. Duh. Lesson: don't worry about time constraints, worry about building attraction through push-pull; stop being a pushover. Holidays will come back next year. My message is still unanswered by the Thursday night so I think I know what the answer is.

Thursday:

Drive to SF to meet my friend. She's not ready to go when I arrive but looks fantastic in just five minutes. We talk about her life a bit, we go out to the park, get lost a bit, get lucky on parking and go to the museum. I have promised myself that I will not fall into any easy routines or patterns or agendas, she knows I have been going out a lot anyway & would smell the treacle. 100% honest moments required. Instead my goal is to simply be relaxed and comfortable without expectations or any other anxiety. She shows herself to be funny and smart and sensitive and the light just shines on her; no wonder I've had such an intimidating crush on her for a long time. Uncrushed is better. I can just see her as a person and a friend and yet beautiful at the same time and I know that I have proven this to myself. I came away feeling more fond than ever and yet not specifically wanting anything, just being in the simple moment. I could never tell her this. I did say that the afternoon was special to me. Annoyingly, the sentiment came out sounding like a line. But it was true. At that moment I knew I had slain my old self, and reveled in my own internal Valhalla.

Lessons: many. I really need to work on my exits, they get overloaded with feeling and my self-control shudders a bit. I need to be comfortable when I get to the end, to already be finished so there's no need to feel rushed.

In the evening I drive over to see S but we didn't double-check and she's not there and I'm all ticked — but contained. She calls me to apologize as I'm driving home. Her tone is sweet and genuinely sorry, mine is gruff and annoyed, I know it & we reschedule. Obvious lesson: over-communicate.

When I get home there's a message from C telling me that she thinks a pic of me she has found is sexy even though I know I was trying to look pissed-off when it was made — possible lesson from both C & S: a little pissed is good? It's too late at night to call, maybe I'll talk to her tomorrow after I verify "no" and go for a reschedule with Y and sort some of the whole V situation.

I still have no idea what to do on the weekend. Maybe send out some thank-you notes.

Posted December 29, 2005 | Comments (0)

Hack Job

dec05d-29

For the past week or two I've been banging on the New Black and White Photo Pool.

The group photo pool was started back in August and I kept tabs on it for a while... removing pictures I felt didn't follow its (completely subjective) charter:

Black and White is the oldest form of picture-making. It has been said that these are the true tones of photography, from the white light of hope to the black of despair.

This group is about finding new blood in old pitch. Instead of Edward Weston, think Laurence Demaison; instead of Ansel Adams, think Arno Minkkinen; instead of Steichen, think: for yourself.

This is a public group and the group pool is actively moderated — part of the group's ambition is to showcase a concentration of great, memorable black and white images, so don't be surprised if casual black and white snaps — or even some pretty good shots — disappear from the pool spontaneously. High pool volume isn't required.

The "high volume" part got lost as the number of group members swelled from five to almost 400. The pool, which I had imagined might contain one or two hundred photos, had grown to close to 3800 by the time I tried to re-examine it in December. So I rolled up my sleeves, got out the trimmers, and waded into the bramble.

The first prunes were easy: puppies, wide-eyed grandchildren, the back-of-peoples-heads street photos, and for some mysterious reason many, many pictures of empty park benches (by many different photographers). Then started the deeper clear-cutting, the removal of Merely Good photos — the ones careful cribbed from John Hedgecoe manuals; the craggy mountaintops with just the exactly prescribed tonal range from a few pixels pure black to a few pure white; the backlit anonymous figures leaving long shadows on the city concrete; the Perfect Compositions of bare trees, the 100%-perfectly mannered Holga snaps...

At the moment, the pool is down to around 1000 photos, and I'm feeling much, much happier about it. It still contains a little of something for many different B&W tastes, but having it pared-down to 1/4 size makes a huge difference in the experience of pool browsing. At this point I feel confident that anyone can point to any page in the pool, randomly, click "view as slide show," and whatever couple of dozen photos come up will likely all be worth your while to view.

(Possible exception: the front page can randomly and suddenly fill with banal shots, assuming I haven't edited them in the last, say, four hours. Such is a curse of flickr.)

Posted December 27, 2005 | Comments (0)

Another Day Closer to You

Another day older, as are we all (And now you're even older. And now you're even older...). As a kid I was fascinated by the fact, which I recall each year at this time, that as time passes our differences in age also pass by. The little sister who seemed so small, the neighbor kids who seemed so big, those differences, though stuck in our minds, all fade away. Older or younger, our ages are a silly little limit equation:

limit(your_age/my_age) = 1.0

...as our ages crawl steadily towards infinity.

All this is my elliptical way of saying that it's been my birthday again, overshadowed as always by the much more famous birthday on the 25th. Today the lead story on the news: "people are going shopping" (a much finer 26th than last year's). So I joined the fray and bought a few simple gifts for myselff, exorcising a few ghosts and making ready for the New Year: towels, washcloths, and most of all a new set of sheets.

My best gifts: my unreturned phone calls resolved (dead cel battery over the long weekend) and a long conversation in the evening with a new friend at the casino.

I think I can append to the entry from yesterday, because this evening's encounter reminded me of something more — of how much I love stories and vivid characters, and how absolutely terrific it is to have them right there, not in a movie or a book but in front of you, as part of your own life.

Being single lets me have that to a degree that I think few people get when they are locked-into a steady, exclusive relationship. It's amazing to me that I can sit down with a random woman I've hardly met and have a direct, connected talk with her in a way that I never could with a man; or for that matter with a woman, outside the context of, for lack of a better word, attraction. A common interest that can drive people to be open and that drives me to be genuinely interested because: they are genuinely interesting.

To a degree I think that the feeling I get, meeting and connecting, is very close to the feeling that I most desire when making a portrait, though engaging through very different channels and for different goals. The portrait: surface, immediate, still. The conversation: under the surface, full of memories and with a narrative flow. Yet both with the common element of connection, and both — when done well — lit by the radiant presence of another person.

I am glad that I've mastered the art of ignoring all the standard resumé questions: job, car, do you like trip-hop, and so forth. The Good Stuff - the emotional connection — is never on the resumé. Maybe a next step in my growing skill set will be to figure out how to better incorporate my camera into these meetings, without somehow breaking their addictive spell.

Posted December 26, 2005 | Comments (0)

White Xmas 2005

101_0173b-807-copy.jpg(Warning — multiple rewrites)
Thanks Rebecca for shooting the wee album cover pic on on the right, she did it this morning with her new swanky Powershot. I'm wearing my new Christmas Henderson.

It is blue. It is 7mm thick. It is darned warm and sweaty after twenty minutes or so.

Maybe I should have recolored the background in Photoshop & tagged it as a blue Christmas? This weekend, holiday or no, is finding me simultaneously both delighted and melacholy and it's all related tangentially to a conversation I had a few nights ago about what does and does not show up in people's blogs....

As with so may things around here, it revolves around my return to the world of being unambiguously single. And what I've been doing about it — namely, getting out more, developing my internal emotional life, my external social life, and dating. And it seems to me that this last part is almost always the stumbling point for personal bloggers, because it straddles privacy issues that envelop not just the blogger but other people. It's one thing to be open about your own life (or at least to pretent to be). But what about hers? Or what if you want to be open but you don't want her to read it? What are the limits of full disclosure, of any disclosure, or coming off as a genuine, thoughtful person versus some vampiric jerk? Maybe online life isn't really as open as we'd like to think it is and can be.

I have no doubt that others have written on this issue, and done it better than I. I don't know them, so I'll just keep going here. Having a few hints tossed my way couldn't hurt.

I suppose there are a few tactics that could be deployed. One would be to ignore it. But if it's consuming all your free cycles anyway, then it's not as if it won't have an effect on the blog.

Another is to just write everything. Expect some people to have a real problem with that. I suppose I could wear an "I'm blogging this" tee-shirt constantly, but that sounds like a tough obstacle to intimacy to be dragging around.

I could write in acronyms and initials, but that feels either twee or impersonal. Or both. Or use elliptical reference like Min-Jung occasionally does, with names for people that sometimes I think I recognize but sometimes I wonder if there aren't multiple real people being folded into the prose persona. We are all writing personal fictions every day, no? We make up stories and we try to fit our lives into them.

Or maybe it doesn't matter because I almost never seem to go out with bloggers anyway — though the address for this site is on my little introduction cards (If you've come here from reading one: hi).

Whatever. Right this second I'm up late fretting over a series of unreturned phone calls even though I've gotten surprise calls from five or six other women during the same three or four days. Every one of them interesting and interested. I've had my kids with me and all our time and gifts have been great. What the hell is my problem, anyway?

No doubt a host of armchair would-be shrinks would be glad to tell me that I'm afraid of commitment, or maybe afraid of lack of commitment, or excessively flinchy about the slightest hint of rejection, or too concerned with being cool, or polite; that I'm excessively buffered, or too needy of contact, or just trying to prove something to my guy friends, or afraid of letting anyone ever really get close even though it's what I most crave. Yeah, yeah. You're all correct. I'm getting better, I promise. My own actions & feelings still annoy the crap out of me, however *. It would be easier to not care. And more boring.

I feel a bit like I'm on my own Underground Railroad, moving through the hands of strangers from location to location, hopeful for some yet-unseen destination. Have to just keep moving north.


* Annoys me at the moment, that is — amuses me later. Miyazaki-san once said that in his mind humans were very silly creatures. And since he was one too, it allowed him to love them all — and himself as well.

Posted December 25, 2005 | Comments (3)

Musical Solo

Hmm, so far on my last.fm account over 1300 tracks recorded and it still hasn't been able to calculate any musical "neighbors" for me (usual threshhold claim is around 300 tracks). Either I'm missing something or my tastes are too varied (which I don't believe for a minute).

I'm hoping there's some more-clever and smooth way to tag music for last.fm — it seems like a real chore to have to duplicate info from iTunes into audioscrobbler, or vice versa. It's something of a general web problem, the technical core of "Web 2.0" is all APIs (and to a lesser degree microformats, which are on-the-fly APIs of a sort).

A couple of nights ago at MobileMonday, a fellow from ProtoHaus showed-off a demo of gearON, which apparently has already started deployment in South Korea and is designed around a "music lifestyle" (a phrase used repeatedly during the demo). gearON tries to do a little bit of everything in social media through the phone, and requires... well, everything from its users: gearOn works off of a friend list and "fuzzy" location reporting system, like dodgeball does. It accesses picture streams from all friends, like flickr does. It knows what they're playing on their MP3 devices, meaning they need to use a gearON-licensed music player rather than, say, an iPod (like last.fm does). It gets venue data and advertising revenue from venue owners like CitySearch. And it sews it up in a compact (perhaps difficult at first) UI that tries to cram as much noisy color into a small screen as is humanly possible (hey, they have a flash demo using Aki and Gray?! Go figure).

While it's not entirely clear to me, it looks from here like gearON needs to own ALL of this data within its proprietary systems. This means fighting against Web 2.0; they are competing simultaneously with Google and Apple and Yahoo while attempting to straddle the many proprietary fences of Veriizon, Cingular, Telus, et al. And they must win all or none.

If I was a smart guy with lots of time, I'd build (for PC at first) a greasemonkey or AJAX app that just did all this for you, playing nicely with all of these sevices (and preferably one that can deliver mobile-sized content too). Why should this be so hard? (Attn smart guys with lots of time: I get 10%)

Posted December 07, 2005 | Comments (2)

iFriend i

While I've been a member of last.fm for months, I never really used it because frankly I almost never use iTunes as anything but a cataloguer for my real player — an old 20G iPod. Yet between my false start and now, there was a new development: Audioscrobbler submissions for iPod. Joy! Now at last I can start building a station & you can be my friend.

Posted December 02, 2005

TV versus Medicare

A bit ago (actually before the recent elections) I got a call in the evening that I mistakenly thought was from one of Isaac's guitar buddies — so I ignored the caller ID and picked up. Oops. Instead, it was from a political survey group. They wanted to ask my opinions about digital TV, which was just geeky enough to keep me on the phone.

At first the questions were simple: did I know what digital television was, did I know what HDTV meant, etc. Then they got around to asking me about changing FCC regulations for TV and digital TV.

First, the woman asked me if I was aware that the radio spectrum currently being used by analog television signals could have been available to emergency-response workers like those who had died in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, and therefore would I support legislation to sell-off those frequencies and require the general public to switch over to digital frequencies so that emergency response workers could better protect us?

"Whaaaaa?" I wondered, "Why would we need to sell frequencies to anyone if they're to be used for public emergency response?" — I asked her, but she responded that she had no idea, these were questions she was hired to ask but she didn't make them up and wasn't allowed to express an opinion.

"Do you really think government works that way?" I asked her, futilely. I decided to answer "NO" because the idea of "YES" just seemed so preposterous.

A minute later she asked another near-parallel, as the final question: would I support the sale of the frequencies currently being used for analog television signals to protect the healthcare of millions of aging Americans who without the funds from such a sale of public TV assets would be without protection in their later years?

"What sort of bizarre question is that?" I asked, "Is there a private company financing this survey? Is there an intended buyer?"

"Is that a 'yes'?" she replied.

"No, it's not. I'm dumbfounded, but that's not a 'yes'."

"Well thank you then for your time, your responses along with those of other Americans like you will be used to help guide the future of telecommunications policy." click

Anyone care to speculate on where this is coming from?

Posted December 01, 2005 | Comments (1)

 

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