1. Gettin Grown

    It’s coming up on 11 p.m. and I just ate my second meal of the day — my first being a fried egg and some sausage at lunch. It’s been a busy day. It’s been a busy week. I’m not quite sure what’s going on, but I think I accidentally did something?

    A little over three years ago, my friend Diana asked me if I would help her start a literary journal, District Lit, and of course, I said yes. We had no  idea what we were doing, but we fumbled about in the dark until we’d made something people seemed to enjoy.

    But it’s Di’s baby, and it’s made in her image, and for the past few months, I’ve been wanting a baby of my own, somewhere I could do exactly what I wanted. So six days ago, I told Di I’d be leaving District whenever she could find someone to replace me. I told my officemate, Jenny Brown, that I was doing so, and I think that’s when we accidentally excreted what’s turning into The Mondegreen. In six days, we’ve put something together that really feels like it could be a meaningful part of my life. We dragged our friend Matt Sailor into it, and now we have a little staff: me at managing editor, Jenny at poetry editor, and Matt at fiction editor. 

    Until yesterday, we’d mostly been speaking of it in the vague future — something to be thinking about months down the road. But then I got bored and put together a website. And then it looked alright, and then I wrote a call for submissions that I think actually expressed what I want to see in magazine form, and then, in a fugue state, I’d made a Twitter page and a Facebook page and started promoting the damn thing, and now I feel like it’s snowballed and I feel completely out of control. Good, but completely out of control. 

    It’s been a strange range of moods. At one point last night, I felt exactly as I did years ago, when I was a Sad Person. Most of yesterday was spent in basically a manic state, buI at the end of the night, as I sat there watching our Facebook likes grow far more quickly than I’d expected, I was exhausted and overwhelmed and vacant. After a  day’s excitement, I was just a void sitting there on my couch, staring at Facebook notifications. 

    And that’s a bit how I feel again today. All day — about 14 straight hours — I worked and worked and spent too much money I don’t have this close to the end of month (when did Submittable become so extortive???) and put out a dozen random little fires that I wasn’t expecting, and now, I swear to god, I’m watching Notting Hill because my brain, she just can’t do this anymore. She needs to just tuuuuuurn ooooofffffff. My spine hurts from sitting at my laptop all day. My eyes hurt, and even though I just plowed through a late dinner, I still feel dizzy from not having eaten all day. I almost fell over trying to stand up in the shower. 

    So. Not doing great, in some ways. But doing really great in other ways that I think are more important. The thing is, I would put in 14 hour days every week if it meant I could do something like this for a living. I’ve always thought I was a person who just pretended she wanted to be in charge, but who secretly wanted someone to assign her tasks and measure out her day. But I think I really do like being in charge of my own day. I mean, I’ll do this for free or, more likely, for a loss, but Jesus, there are people who just do this for a LIVING. They actually support themselves doing something they want to do. How strange and impossible. Ah well.

    I have to figure out what I’m going to teach tomorrow. I assigned a reading on sonnets I haven’t read since I was studying for comps, and lord knows I’ve already forgotten everything I learned for that. Or, I could watch Notting Hill. I’m probably gonna watch Notting Hill. Yup.

     

  2. Top 3 Good Things My Nephews Did at my Brother’s Wedding This Weekend

    3. 2 years old: Ran across the stage before a classical Indian dance performance, forcing his dad to scurry after him, half-apologizing, half-trying to melt

    2. 4 months old: Pooped a diaper and didn’t cry the whole time his aunts passed him around, knowing full well this baby had pooped himself, but needing so much to just hold him and his poop against their skin, so deeply did they miss having a baby in their arms, and this just felt so natural, and maybe they should have another baby??? (I did not hold the baby because I cannot be trusted until their bones have hardened.)

    1. 3 years old: Pitched an absolutely vicious, malevolent, teary, snotty fit in the hotel hallway about having to dress up in Indian clothes; decided this was the hill he was going to die on; took his stand; vanquished two generations of his ancestors; vibrated with smugness for the rest of the night as he pranced around the reception in pajamas and crocs

     

  3. The Story of Film: Be Nicer to Your Parents, Diya

    My boyfriend majored in film studies in college, and while he no longer works in that industry, he does, from time to time, suggest to me that we watch anything, anything, anything at all that does not have an X-Man or a CIA agent in it, and I gather all my powers about me to veto with a terrible strength. I’m a tv girl. Not even a good-tv girl. Not even a pay-attention-to-tv girl. Just put Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on in the background, and let that sucker marathon. 

    I do feel bad, though, that my boyfriend has to watch all his “real” movies either by himself or over the dull wheeze of my having fallen asleep, so over the weekend, we watched the first two episodes of The Story of Film: An Odyssey on Netflix. 

    Guys. Watch that show. 

    It’s directed and narrated by Mark Cousins, of the delightful Irish accent that, yes, it took me half an episode to get past it, but you really settle into it after a minute, and  the upward turn at the conclusion of every sentence just feels so optimistic, and isn’t that what art can be, and isn’t that fitting?

    But accent aside, each episode is an education. Though I know it’s a crash course, something about the slow, methodical narration, the attention to pacing, etc. make it feel more substantial than just that. A primer, yes, but not a crash course.

    And something occurs to me that I think is more important than learning about movies so I can humor my boyfriend.

    Yesterday, during my half hour break between classes, I got a call from both of my speaker-phoned parents. They wanted (let me take a moment to collect myself) for me to explain to them, over the phone, how to save a Word document to a flash drive. The call lasted 23 minutes, at which point I had to go teach, and I don’t believe they succeeded in saving the file to the flash drive. I tried saving it from Word. I tried having them open two Finder windows and drag the file from one folder to the other. Nothing. Just two people of a Different Generation talking over my instructions, insisting they didn’t know how to drag windows (yes they do, I’ve seen them do it, you know how to do it), and mumbling under their breath about how they hate Macs, how Apple is a terrible company, how they can’t believe this computer is so terrible. 

    I was pretty terrible. When I can teach them something in person, I can restrain my frustration. I can try to teach them concepts or I can just complete the task for them myself. But over the phone. Trying to explain things like “dragging windows” over the phone is a Biblical test for me, and I usually fail, as I did yesterday. By the end of the call, I was alternately crouching and leaping in exasperation, raising my voice, and being a generally awful child.

    And then I started thinking about The Story of Film, and how in the early days of the medium, the innovations I would never even have thought to consider innovations absolutely shattered people’s understanding of the possibilities of the form. Take Edwin S. Porter’s 1903 film Life of an American Fireman:

    Skip ahead to 3:37. You’ll see a scene outside a house that transitions inside, where a woman realizes her house is on fire, calls for help out a window, and passes out on the bed. Then, firemen enter and save her, a ladder appearing in the window to aid in her safe evacuation. When the indoor scene concludes, the perspective shifts back outdoors, where we jump back in time and see the firemen go into the house while their colleagues raise the ladder to the window. We see them save the woman from an external point of view. 

    Years later, Porter would re-edit the film, splicing the external and internal perspectives together into a continuous timeline. It was, according to Cousins, the first time this had ever been done. It was an experiment: will audiences be able to follow the narrative thread when perspective is disjointed? It was a sea change. And yet it’s something I would never even have thought to consider a ”technique,” it seems so obvious.

    Consider, too, the Lumiere Brothers’ 1895 film Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat:

    The story goes that when audiences first saw it in theaters, they panicked, believing a train was actually hurtling toward them, slowing, but nevertheless in their path. 

    My parents came to this country with seven dollars in their pocket, and built a life for themselves. My father owns his own accounting firm, and my mother runs his office management. They put two kids through private school and college, they own a house I worry is too big for them (downsize, I say, it’ll be easier to manage!), they drive fancy cars — they’ve made it. They’re not dumb people.

    And yet saving a Word file to a flash drive is, for them, a train hurtling toward them from across time, from La Ciotat Station. And even though I’ve more or less been raised in the age of personal computers, let me tell you have much trouble I had getting this Tumblr formatted: a lot of trouble.

    Things that are easy for me are hard for them, but ask me how to file a tax return, and I will turn to dust right in front of you. My Daddy does that for me. Ask me how to socialize an infant into something vaguely passing for an acceptable human being. Ask me to do it two to creatures at the same time, while they’re fighting each other and occasionally turning their combined forces on me. My folks, they’re pretty sharp.

    My favorite moments of insight in art are those that teach me to be nicer, and through this process of trying to be nice to my boyfriend, I’ve had a little spark that taught me to be nice to my parents. That’s what art is for.

     

  4. Alright, fine

    I’ve had online presences for years now: the time I thought it would be hilarious to pretend a grad student needed to spend money on a domain for diyachaudhuri.com, the burner WordPress for poem explications I made while studying for my comprehensive exams, and this Tumblr account, which I’ve had for years, but which is a shoddy, useless thing. I’ve never used it as anything but a link graveyard where I point at things other people are doing.

    I’ve never been good at journaling, though I’ve always thought it something I should do. When I was little, I would start diaries, hide them diligently in the crevices of my bedroom, then immediately lose interest. My childhood bedroom is basically a scrapyard of childhood diaries. I’m still finding them hidden in old Beauty and the Beast lunchboxes and taped to the inside of teeeeensy tap dancing costumes, oh god, so many sequins. But they invariably end after one or two adorable entries about “Emily is my best friend. She loves animals and I think she should be a veterinarian” or “Winter and Other Seasons,” a titled page that was left annoyingly blank. What ABOUT winter, tiny Diya? And in relation to other seasons??? Alas, when I die famous, all they’ll have to scrutinize me by will be my gchat transcripts, which are horrifying. I do tweet far too much, but it’s grown so unsatisfying. 140 characters. I’m a writer, dammit. I kind of like words.

    So I’m going to make a good faith effort this time. I firebombed the tumblr, got rid of all the old link content. I’m rebranding. I’m going to learn how to journal, even if it’s embarrassing and it means I’m never going to get a job because oh god, they’ll be able to Google me. It’s going to be worthwhile because it seems sometimes that 90% of a writer’s job is creative nonfiction. I should learn that, right? I’m going to learn that. Okay. Okay. Here I go.