Archive for January, 2014

Amy Poehler Being Awesome, Offering Inadvertent Life Inspiration


This is from Elle‘s recent Women in TV issue:

Why not try to do as much as you can? More, more, more, more, more. That’s how I’m feeling right now — really lucky and blessed, and I just want to enjoy my appetite. To some people, not caring is supposed to be cool, commenting is more interesting than doing, and everything is judged and then disposed of in, like, five minutes. I’m not interested in those kind of people. I like the person who commits and goes all in and takes big swings and then maybe falls or looks stupid; who jumps and falls down, rather than the person who points at the person who fell, and laughs. But I do sometimes laugh when people fall down.

What I love about this, besides the kind of get-up-and-go energy, posi-core sentiment and emphasis on creating instead of just consuming and criticizing: the idea of enjoying your appetite. Women, of course, have a tortured relationship to the primal notion of appetite, and perhaps to wanting in general. So awesome to be told to enjoy it! To take pleasure in your ambitions, whatever they are! Someone put this on a t-shirt and sell it on Etsy!

Keeping these words close to my heart as I navigate some crazy life transitions, keep warm in the season of tundra and FREAKING FINISH MY NOVEL. In the meanwhile, I am drinking lots of coffee, making websites, writing words, listening to both Agnes Obel and Beyonce, and wending my way through “The Tudors” because I’m going through a big costume drama phase.

Those reading here, thanks for tuning in…I promise something new and substantial is coming soon. Life is unpredictable, but there are always opportunities to bring a little beauty, liberation and bon vivant energy into it. Some of which I hope make their way into this space!

Mental Trickery I Use On Myself to Do Long, Annoying Things like Running 10Ks and Writing Novels


I am not a natural runner. You know those people who are like “I run a 4-minute mile!” and “I run marathons in my sleep!” and “I run 60 miles a week!” I am so not those people. And yet I run. Even though I hate it while I do it — my head full of pissed-off thoughts like Fuck man, why do I do this to myself? — the Zenlike bliss and calm I feel afterwards is often worth it. I do the minimum possible to get that bit of Zen, but I eventually get it.

Most people hate it, but I often run on a treadmill because I like the different metrics on the screens: my mile-per-hour speed, distance, average speed, elapsed time, all those things. Most people at my gym cover the screen with towels and just run, but I could never do that, because I use them as a kind of mental game to get through any run. If I thought of runs like “I need to get to six miles,” then I would never do them because it sounds so horrible and daunting to my essentially lazy self. So instead, I have to break it down into mental micro-increments, and the resulting metal chatter sounds like a crazy person. But it works for me!

I always start off with telling myself, “I’m going to run for just ten minutes. Come on, Kat, anyone can trot along for ten minutes, right?” Anyone can do something for ten minutes. And then I go, and the first ten minutes always just sucks because my body is like, “Noooooooo, stay stagnant! Stagnant is good!” and my mind is like, “Kat, why don’t you just skip all this nonsense and go to the hot tub like you really want? And then eat a candy bar? Yeah, a candy bar! Candy bars are good! ” But then I think, Oh come on, just ten minutes and you can be done with it.

But then I get to close to ten minutes, and then I think to myself, Oh, Kat, you’re just shy of a mile, why don’t you just hit that? Then I get to the mile, and see I’m just over ten minutes, and then I think, Why not go to 15 minutes? Why the hell not? That way you can round off to a nice quarter-hour and then be done. And once that five minutes is up, I look at the all the metrics on the screen and think, Oh wow, you’re almost to two miles…why don’t you just go to that?

And so it goes! I keep thinking stuff, “Oh, look, you’ve burned 200 calories, just run to 250 calories” or “You’re getting close to 3 miles, just go a little further to get to the 5K mark” or, my standard favorite, “Why don’t you just go five more minutes and you can quit and go to the hot tub!” And by the time you’re done with the 5K or the 10K, you’ve exceeded your original goal of “just ten minutes,” and that’s always a good feeling, no?

Everything is just a micro-decision to the next micro-destination along a more major journey. If I think about how far away the end-point of the major journey is, I get daunted and overwhelmed. But breaking everything down and setting up little micro-goals is really what gets me through, along with the permission to stop if I want.

The funny thing is, now I use the idea of micro-decisions and micro-goals to get through anything that’s long and protracted and kind of boring and really not something you can just power through — you know, like writing novels! Just get to the next plot point, the end of the chapter, the end of the sentence, the final detail of the image, the end of the dialogue…and slowly, at some point, a book or story starts building up, and acquires a momentum of its own.

That’s what you live for as a writer, when the words and story and characters possess you…but until you get to that point, one little tiny decision at a time. They add up nicely.


In other news: I’m trying to make the best of winter and the polar vortex, but I have to admit, the long coldness — since November! — is really wearing everyone down. I went from music embracing winteriness (Agnes Obel, whose Aventine is really so beautiful; Bjork) to music that reminds me of sunniness and warmth. I had a few Haim songs downloaded but never really got why everyone loved them so much — they were cute but not amazing to me — but now I like playing them. I think visiting L.A. last month helped me understand Haim in a weird way. It’s sort of nice to play in the background while I’m straightening up or making tea or whatever.

I saw Her recently, which I loved on many levels. I’ll likely end up writing on it for my day gig, but in terms of my personal reactions, I just immediately appreciated how achingly tender and sincere it was overall; Joaquin Phoenix was so subtle and good and beautifully sensitive, and it was so amazing for him to stand in as Everyman when he’s so known for being dark and tortured in his roles. I loved how it looked — both hazy-nostalgic yet futuristic in a very warm, clean way. And I loved how, in some way, it was this kind of letter by Spike Jonze to his ex-wife Sofia Coppola. (I mean, Rooney Mara in her last scene was dressed and style so nouveau-Sofia, you know?) Her made me so glad that movies exist, and it echoed so many questions I think we all have about how to love someone and share our lives together. It gave no answers, but it seemed to offer some faith and comfort in waiting in the limbo for them.

We also finally watched Inside Llewyn Davis, which I liked in a very different way. It’s not an accessible or even likable film, but I found it fascinating, a kind of character portrait of a man who essentially can’t change and learn from life around him. For someone who got drilled into film school that every protagonist has to be “dynamic” and have an “arc,” I found it interesting, though I suspect that’s why people won’t enjoy it — because the character doesn’t really learn anything. It had a kind of mordant, dry humor to it, which I enjoyed. (I felt like I was the only person laughing in the theater, which made me feel like an asshole, but whatever!) And of course, the music was beautiful and great, and it was fun to see Justin Timberlake play a naive goofball in a sweater and Adam from Girls in such an unabashedly silly part. Adam Driver is pretty much the only real reason I watch Girls, outside of the sharp writing and Jessa’s clothes, so it was a real job to see him yelp it up in a super-silly song. (Go to the 2:13-ish mark in the clip to see my favorite bit by him!)

Still finishing Elizabeth and Her German Garden, but my sweetheart got me the Neil Young and Keith Richards autobiographies for Christmas, so those are next on my list! And then I found out Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove just came out on paperback, so I want to re-read those freaking gorgeous, amazing stories again.

Okay, Okay, One Actual “Resolution”


So I forgot to tell you about my New Years itself, and how it was a cold, snowy night, and how driving out to dinner was this perilous affair as my poor car trudged down the road at 20 mph, fishtailing here and there. I was so scared, and yet I felt determined to at least end 2013 with some kind of festivity.

I tried to put myself in a festive mood earlier by wearing a peacock blue wrap dress — my one dress purchase of 2013, believe it or not! — with my fancy drop pearl earrings and Chanel perfume. But I had spent most of the day either working or filling out my hippie yearly planner while listening to Bjork’s Vespertine, so I was in a minor-key kind of mood. Driving on crazy-snowy roads didn’t help, so when I got to dinner I was pretty quiet, maybe even a little tense. (I hate winter driving, and I’m not a driver at my ease even in the best of weather.)

I tried to shake off that weirdly isolating “stuck in your head” feeling, trying to enjoy the night and the company of my beau. The food was good, the fire was warm. And yet it was like my head was in so many places at once: still stressed from the drive, still in “2013 retrospective” mode, still wondering if my dress was hanging okay and did I look old or grown-up and how sad that we can’t order the cheese plate tonight and oh, how the march of time is so inexorable! So many places a head can be!

My mind actually was a direct reflection of the year that just passed: it was a full mind, and had accomplished many things. And yet it felt splintered and discontinuous, shards of feelings, sensations and experiences held together by messy, ungraceful knots. I couldn’t even see the smooth fabric anymore — all I saw were stray threads, ripped seams and hasty darning. My 2013 hung together well, and I was proud of it, but metaphorically it resembled a droopy sock puppet.

All that would’ve been okay, I suppose, but I felt like I was missing something, like some crucial ingredient hadn’t been added. You know like how pico de gallo just doesn’t taste right without cilantro, or just a bit of lemon really makes guacamole great? (And, uh, why are all my metaphors involving Mexican food? I think it’s almost time for lunch!) I was missing something from my 2013 — the life experience equivalent of lemon or cilantro, just to continue my goofy metaphor.

And then it hit me, sitting there by the fire in the restaurant, watching people drink wine and raise glasses in celebration. I wanted an experience of profound joy and wonderment this year. That was it! That was the thing my heart has been craving all along!

Maybe it was a funny thing to have as a New Year’s resolution, something both odd and completely impossible. It was definitely an “aha!” type of feeling, like when you’ve nailed something so squarely on the head. Even the phrasing came to me perfectly: profound joy and wonderment.

I mean, I feel joy everyday. Maybe not 24/7, but there is always a moment in the day that I deeply enjoy and appreciate, even if it is as simple as stepping outside on a sunny morning and inhaling some fresh air, or listening to a Neil Young song, or hugging my nieces and nephews and looking down at their poppylike faces full of excitement and smiles. Or, yes, wearing a nice dress and some Chanel perfume. I’m up with my small pleasures.

But profound joy? And wonderment? Is that asking too much of life? Is that too immense and grandiose and pretentious?

But it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. It’s funny, because I learned in college when you start to study something, you need to at first look at the language and understand the terminology, and then go onto the rules and underlying assumptions of whatever subject you’re into. Even as dinner finished — it was delicious — and we sped downtown and later found ourselves in a loud, crowded bar being plied with mountains of champagne and dancing — in the back of my mind I knew I carried some big questions inside me. What does “profound joy” look like? What makes it profound vs., I don’t know, humble or ordinary? What is wonderment?

No answers yet, but the mind is humming along, weaving threads — and hopefully the end results looks like a harmonious tapestry and not such a higgledy-piggledy ragdoll.


Occasionally I’m going to try to chit-chat in this kind of space about stuff like music and movies. I’m not up for a whole blog devoted to pop culture anymore, but come on — it’s not like I can shake that gene, right? Anyway, lately I’ve been enjoying, with about a million other people, the new Beyonce record. I sort of have this love/hate thing with her. The best music writing I ever did was an analysis of her song “Upgrade U,” and I’ve always made a case that she is a lot more eccentric, weird and progressive than her image suggests, but I can see why people find her too manicured and manufactured as a pop star. Corporate industrial pop machine kills us all, no? But now with this record, I love her. I love its weird, personal mishmash of outspoken feminist defiance, mushy motherhood and sexy beyond-MILF-y/wife anthems, and how experimental and minimal and organic and even futuristic it sounds in parts. I could write a whole feminist treatise about the record, and how interesting and frustrating and fascinating it is. And it’s fun to drive and workout to, which to me puts it in the ultimate-music category.

Gah, what else? I’m re-reading Elizabeth and Her German Garden as well, which has oddly become one of my favorite books. It’s weirdly almost proto-blogger, a diary about a woman and her travails about growing a traditional English garden in northern Germany in the 1800s, but it’s also a meditation on beauty and happiness, as well as a witty, sarcastic critique of women’s roles and marriage. It’s a good book to begin 2014, especially if gardening as a metaphor for patiently cultivating good things resonates with you. (Though actually the first book I read for the year was Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge, which I ended up liking a lot because even though Pynchon is smart and dense and all kinds of semi-fearsome things, he’s also a goofball and really funny at times. But I read it for work, so in a weird way it doesn’t count in my brain.

And after months of holding onto the Netflix DVD I finally watched Spring Breakers, and while there’s no real emotional resonance and I didn’t come away with any revelations — I did think it was this hypnotically beautiful visual treat, super-saturated sheen-y glossy. I wish I’d seen it on the big-screen now, preferably half-stoned or at least coming down a major sugar high. Hopefully on tap soon: Her and Inside Llewyn Davis, which finally opened here. It’s slim pickings in this area when it comes to movie theaters, but I’ll take what I can get.

Bowling Adventures!


You may not be aware of it unless you follow my Twitter or Instagram, but this fall and winter, I joined a bowling league. Once a week on Monday evenings, I roll down to one of the bowling alleys in our local town, lace up some goofy shoes and play three games in a “Pizza, Wings and Beer” league.

Being in a league was kind of a no-brainer, a nice thing to do with my sweetheart every week with friends. Plus: 16 weeks of bowling once a week! A free ball of my own! Pizza! Beer! I’m down with any sport that encourages drinking while participating! I once joked in NOGOODFORME that my idea of heaven was a bowling alley, french fries and a disco. I was being a goofball, but that sentiment still holds pretty much true. I’m really just thrilled and a half when I bowl.

It’s partly because I love bowling, but also the associations I have with it with my family. When my parents first came to America from Thailand in the mid-1970s, one of the first things they did was join a bowling league, and they kept up their membership while I was a young girl. I have memories of wandering in the bowling alley, not being tall enough to play the pinball machines, and trying to put my younger sister in the bowling ball bag — which I was convinced was a much cooler way to carry babies than a seat carrier.

I loved to watch my parents play. It was like they became different people — happier, carefree, not parent-y at all. They laughed together in a way they often didn’t in their everyday life, and I always had that vaguely gleeful “Ooooooh, Mommy and Daddy are drinking BEER!” feeling at the alley, which was fun. They were good bowlers, too — my dad played for his company and won a trophy or two, if I remember. I always associate the bowling alley as a place where people had fun and relaxed.

Bowling is kind of just a part of life here — but, as I later came to realize, a very working-class, Midwestern life. We’d bowl occasionally in high school, and very occasionally in college. But when I lived in NYC and San Francisco, I hardly bowled at all. It’s hard for cities to have the big open space that bowling alleys require, and it’s more of a novelty activity — and an expensive one at that. (When I went bowling in L.A. at the Roosevelt, it was something like $100 for two hours for 4-6 people in a lane. Granted, it’s a fancy hotel and “vintage,” but still! Bowling is supposed to be cheap!)


Here, though, bowling is something everyone does at some point. My town is overwhelmingly white — there’s really no other way to put it — but the bowling alley in town is a genuinely diverse place. Old, young, black, white, Asian, Mexican, hipster, square — you see all types, ages and identities at the bowling alley. It’s very unpretentious and relaxed, and I like that.

So joining a league this fall and winter kind of brought me full circle, in a family-tradition and cultural way. My own league has a nice group of people of all sorts, from retirees to bros to everyone in between. Everyone is pretty nice and friendly to one another, and supportive.

But I didn’t anticipate what a personal rollercoaster that league bowling can be. There were definitely some weeks where I was just frustrated — I’d have a great week in terms of my score one week, and then just flounder the next. There are some insanely good bowlers in my league, those people that seem to nail near-300 scores week after week, who bring a separate ball to pick up spares and such. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when my own perfectionistic streak reared its head. I’d have a good game one week and then beat myself up for not being able to duplicate the same results the week after? Then I’d have to remind myself to chill out because this was bowling and it was supposed to be freaking fun, for God’s sake! And ironically, once I chilled out, my game got way better. And more fun? Which is what it’s all about, of course. I had to learn to set my own little goals, and adjust them depending on what kind of day I was having. I could come into a night hoping to get consistent games over 100, but if I was sucking, I’d just aim for what I could. I couldn’t be so hard on myself like I usually am at times. So in that way, bowling was a good exercise not just in knocking down pins, but in accepting the present and being kind and accepting to myself.

Still, I picked up some useful tips and such over the course of the season. I definitely got better when I got my own ball, though it took me a lot of time to get used to it. It was weird to realize how I had to readapt my whole flow and alignment to my customized ball. I also heard again and again that I needed to bowl with a heavier ball. I had ordered a 8-lb. one, thinking it would be easier to control, but good players kept telling me my ability to line it up for a strike was getting good and consistent and I just needed more power to knock ‘me all down. But I didn’t really trust in my growing ability or have confidence in myself. So as it ended up, people were right, because in L.A. I bowled with a slightly heavier ball and nailed strike after strike. So lesson #1: try a heavier ball. Still, I lurve my own ball. She’s “hot lava”-colored and I named her Malibu!

The other? Make sure the shoes fit. So obvious, I know, but for a sport that most people play with rental shoes, sometimes you just get used to playing with shoes that are slightly too right or loose, or kind of just falling apart. But then the nice people at bowlingshoes.com sent me my own pair of bowling shoes, which offered way more sturdy support than the typical rental pair. (I also call them my rockabilly shoes because they have a certain retro flair to them. They make me want to listen to lots of ska and wear a vintage dress!) And what do you know…I upped my average once I played in them. I didn’t have unexpected sliding or anything like that, and felt much more secure on those slippery floors, which helped me focus solely on my aim. You may not invest in your own shoes as a casual bowler, but don’t be afraid to be picky about the rental shoes at a bowling alley. But I’m glad I have my own now; I call them Sid and Nancy, because it’s fun to name everything. And come on…how can I resist a sport with special shoes? Maybe I’ll turn out to be the Carrie Bradshaw of the bowling alley.


Oh, and the weird thing I’ve discovered? This won’t surprise serious athletes, but what you eat has a direct effect on your game! Yes, even in bowling! My best games happened when I brought a banana to the alley, and ate that instead of a 2nd slice of pizza. (I wouldn’t give up the beer for a game, no way!) Bowling isn’t an aerobic sport, but playing 3+ games of bowling takes a lot of strength and wears on the muscles. So, go potassium!

But you know, the point isn’t getting a high score. Joining a bowling league was a wonderful way to feel connected to a community, to have fun, to drink some beer while playing a game. I’m hoping we can keep up our league in the spring…and maybe I’ll finally nail a 200-point game in my rockabilly retro shoes and my bright orange Malibu!