Narrative Altercations

I blame the New York Times wedding announcements. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was never one of those little girls who enacted my dream wedding with my Barbies. I don’t have a binder stuffed with photos of wedding dresses and cakes. I think a wedding is the beginning of something, not the be-all end-all in and of itself. But I love stories, and the NY Times wedding announcements have the best stories. Couples set up by their parents, by friends, who met completely by accident. Couples who knew each other all their lives, ones who knew it was love at first sight. Lots of couples who knew each other, even dated, at one point in their lives, then lost touch, only to find each other again. I’d be happy with a registry office wedding in borrowed finery, but I want a NY Times wedding announcement.

I know I’m not the only girl to spin out a tale worthy of a romantic comedy at the first sight of a guy. I think my best was when I was at Trader Joes and an adorable toddler bobbled towards me and lifted her arms in the universal signal for “pick me up”. I looked to her father to check it was OK, and then picked her up and enjoyed making a fool of myself to make her laugh. Her dad was seriously cute and British, and while I have the passport I don’t have the accent so it still works on me. In my head, he was a widower, and his daughter taking a shine to me would allow him to open his heart and love again, love this wonderful woman his little girl picked out at the grocery store. In reality, her mom was alive and well a couple aisles over, and I left the store with another story about a random baby falling for me instead of cute dad’s phone number.

“Dan” and I knew each other in high school; he was a freshman when I was a senior. I could tell he had a crush on me, and since he was sweet and funny, with this endearing crooked smile, I enjoyed the attention. Senior guys date freshman girls, but never the other way around, so nothing was going to happen. I went off to college, I think I saw Dan around when I came back to visit my old teachers a couple times. Then, when I was a fifth year senior home for the holidays, I had to cram for one of those tests to get you out of a low level course, the kind of thing you should do early on in college but end up putting off until your last semester. I ran into Dan somewhere, and ended up borrowing some books on the subject from him. We went out for coffee, and the night ended with one of the most awkward kisses of my life. I don’t think he actually begged, but it was close. I made sure to return the books without having to see him again, and didn’t think about him much in the intervening years except the occasional shuddering memory of that awful kiss.

So when he contacted me on FaceBook last year, I accepted his friend request, but ignored his “Hey, what’s up?” message for a couple months before responding. We arranged to meet up for coffee when we were both home for the holidays, and I was dragging my feet on the way there, telling my parents it would likely be boring, but that he at least was living somewhere interesting so I might hear a good story or two. Fate, karma, whatever, is an evil bitch, because when I walked into the damn coffee shop and saw him, it was like I’d been hit by something, and really wished I had dressed better for the occasion. He’d grown up well, and had turned into something totally my flavor. And he had been spending the time waiting for me reading a serious book, some classic history text he’d just picked up because he’d always meant to read it. Maybe it was a sign I’d been in LA too long, where scripts are considered heavy reading, because his reading something like that was one of the sexiest things I’d seen. I babbled, did my best to be winning and funny, and tried not to wonder if I was boring him when he played with his phone. I gave him a ride home and hoped he’d invite me in so I could find out if his kissing had improved over the years, but no such luck. I was left wondering exactly how all those couples I read about in the Times who had been living on different continents when they met managed to make it work.

Because on top of the attraction I was feeling, this was such a good story. Unrequited high school crush, awkward encounter in college, meeting up years later and sparks fly. A long distance relationship, with meetings arranged whenever possible, in locations around the world. Long emails, making up for immediacy what they lack in romance. Marriage, a little house in the hills, filled with books and laughter, followed by really smart babies. I actually mentioned the smart babies to a friend who was suffering through listening to me fret about why Dan hadn’t responded to my last email in over a week. It seems that Dan didn’t receive his copy of the story, and so wasn’t following the plot at all well. He was slow to respond to my emails, and while mine were full of charming wit, evocative of place and time (or so I hoped), his were more like telegrams, short and low on detail. I came right out and admitted my interest, and even then couldn’t get him on track. Living on separate continents was a problem for him and a bad breakup had left him emotionally fucked, so as much as he enjoyed corresponding with me, he wasn’t sure about anything more. Obstacles, all good stories need them! There was interest, that was clear, so I kept on, establishing a rule that he’d get no more than three emails from me without my getting one in return. He went on a trip to Vienna and I looked forward to hearing what he thought of it, sure that the fact that he had chosen to visit a city I loved so much was something else we had in common.

Except he had chosen to go there to visit a girl he’d been seeing off and on, and his opinions on the city were wildly different from mine. I found both those things out after not hearing from him for a couple weeks after he got back, and sending him an email to apologize for anything wrong I must have done to cause this lapse. I’d done nothing wrong, he’d just been too busy with work to write like he’d said he would. Between not having mentioned there being another girl, even though I had asked, and being too busy to even send a short note to check in, I’d had enough and told him off. The story was turning into something darker, characters I had played before, and I wasn’t going to repeat those mistakes.

But plots keep twisting, even when you try and craft a good ending by walking away. Dan did eventually write back, and was charming enough to make me respond. He disappeared again, and then we ended up having chat sex when we reconnected. It went from erotica to awkward relationship drama, and seems to be stuck in some kind of epistolary sit-com about friends with benefits. He was on this continent recently, but was coy about dates until it was too late for me to make the arrangements to meet up I’d suggested when he first mentioned the trip. Trying to pin him down is like nailing jello to the wall. I think we’re on the same page, but I have no idea if the genre is romance, tragedy, or farce.

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June 5, 2010. Tags: , , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 1 comment.

Pop Goes the World

I’m sitting here happily bopping my head to the newest Miley Cyrus single, “Can’t Be Tamed,” which I finally found on iTunes. I have wanted it since seeing the video in this post on Tiger Beatdown. Later, I will be playing it loudly in the car, singing along as I drive, thinking about slut shaming. And that, my friends, is the wonder of pop culture, and why I love it so.

The other night I was gchatting with Dan. I mentioned having to explain sexual napalm to a friend who doesn’t keep up with such things, and then had to explain it to him as well. I still don’t get how it grossed him out. I find the whole story hilarious, especially Simpson getting so upset over it. She’s fine with her father discussing her breasts, but cries to Oprah about a man calling her sexually addictive? After disgusting him, I had to try and justify why I know such things, why following celebrity gossip is important to someone like me who works in Hollywood and is trying to work my way towards writing for TV, why you have to be able to drop a perfect zeitgeist joke in a spec, be able to make that joke in an interview. He wanted to talk about a Mother Jones piece on media being kept away from the BP spill in the Gulf. I’d already read about it on Gawker, heard horror stories from my dad about the ineptitude of the training BP is giving clean up workers, and unnatural disasters are something even I can’t do good banter about. I felt a little judged for preferring to discuss something I can laugh about. Besides, BP keeping the media away is bad, discussion over, next topic, please.

But pop culture and gossip, you can jump all over the place, from shallowest topical to the deep meaning behind it, from How It Makes You Feel to What It Means. When I talk about Lindsey Lohan, I’m not just talking about her latest drunken fall outside a club, I’m talking about if Hollywood would care how fucked up she was if she was able to party and still show up and work like Robert Downey Jr. and Keifer Sutherland back in the Brat Pack days. I resent being forced to know who Heidi and Spencer are, but I wonder why they matter, why people buy magazines if they’re on the cover. We didn’t need “Team Sandra,” t-shirts, because what other team was there? In this fractured world, celebrity gossip is a common denominator, low as it may be. We may not know our neighbors, but we know who Cameron Diaz is dating. And why Kate Hudson is pissed about it.

I’m not saying we should all drop our subscriptions to the New York Times and pick up Us Weekly. Too many people have, and that’s why we have Glenn Back and Sarah Palin. But there’s nothing wrong with having interests on both sides of the news, hard and soft. Like Kate Nash says in the awesome “Mansion Song,” “I read The Guardian, and Glamour.” Being intelligent and well-informed shouldn’t mean you’re shamed by friends for knowing about the latest pop star feud as well.

It also shouldn’t mean that you walk around wearing a shirt proclaiming, “Kill Your TV.” If TV rots your brain you’re doing it wrong. Aristotle’s Poetics applies just as much to Lost as Oedipus. I’m sure there’s already someone writing a paper on Jack Shepard as tragic hero. Does a chronic need to fix things count as a tragic flaw? Hubris was always my favorite in class discussions; you could always make a case for hubris. Some of the best storytelling around is being done in television today, with stories that play out over time like chapters in a novel. Anna Karenina? Great big soap opera. Yet it’s taken seriously and Gossip Girl is something you make excuses for watching. The plots can be ridiculous, and Josh Schwartz needs to learn how to build suspense and stop just churning through story, but the characters and dialogue are sharp, and there are moments of brilliance. Usually involving Chuck and/or Blair, but Little J’s story in the season finale was strong, deep and easy to identify with. Supernatural was fantastic this season, riffing on which is better, Peace or Freedom? And doing it with whip smart one liners. (I’ll say it again, so much better than Lost, even though the finale wasn’t as epic as I’d hoped for in a battle against Lucifer). Now that all my fun shows are done for the season, I’m catching up on Breaking Bad. It’s Shakespearean in its level of setting the train on the tracks to tragedy. Walt made the choice to start cooking meth in the pilot, seeing it as a way to make money for his family as he was dying of cancer, and that mistake has set him on a path he cannot leave, taking Jesse and his family with him. It’s dark, epic, weird, and occasionally sickly comic.

And, just like gossip, TV is something that can bring us together. The Lost finale was all over the media this week, with discussions about the show itself to what it meant to the television industry. We may watch a show alone at home on our couch, but we talk about it with our friends at work or on the internet. I used to be deep into the Television Without Pity boards back in the Buffy days, and I had friends from there I never met in real life but who knew more about me than co-workers. I’m FB friends with a friend’s girlfriend, and she and I may not have much in common, but we gab back and forth about Chuck Bass and how much we’re looking forward to True Blood coming back. Societies are brought together and defined by their popular culture, whether it be the cafe society of fin de siecle Vienna, the great novels of 19th century Russia, or the exploits of rich teens on the Upper East Side of New York today. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

May 29, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot, TV Shows. Leave a comment.

I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means

I got one of those compliments yesterday that at first makes you feel great at first, then you do a double take and think, what? Did you mean to insinuate I am a fat cow? Because you just did. Sometimes people say things that inadvertently turn into an insult. I’ve had a couple friends come visit me in LA and ask how I can stand to be around so many thin, beautiful women all the time. I usually leave the, “Gosh, thanks, didn’t realize I was huge gorgon,” out of my response, and just say, honestly, that I really don’t notice it anymore. I like pretty things, so being surrounded by pretty people is a plus as far as I’m concerned. It’s like being at the zoo. You enjoy looking at the flamingos, but you don’t beat yourself up about not being pink with legs that bend backwards.

Sometimes these confused compliments can be endearing. One of my favorite compliments ever falls into this category, and I pull it out of the mental index card file often. I was at a party and hanging out with a couple of my guy friends. I have no idea what we were talking about, but somehow, Patrick and Big John stumbled through a compliment that if I were dancing at one of those strip clubs in the valley I would be the queen of the place. They got embarrassed while saying it, I’m not sure if it was that they were telling me I would make a hot stripper that did it or if they realized part way through that they were saying I’d be a hot stripper in a less that top club. But even their embarrassment added to the honesty of the compliment and made it mean more. On a bad day, I just have to think, “I’d be their queen!” and I cheer up a little.

The worst compliment I ever got was when I was a kid, maybe about 12. I was an awkward kid, skinny, with weird taste in clothes. One of my dad’s colleagues said to me, “You’ll be a really pretty girl one day.” I can still feel the sting. She was right, when everything feel into place I did turn out well, but at the time, she might as well have said, “Good thing you’re smart, because you sure are funny looking.”

My favorite compliment ever was very clear, no chance of misunderstanding. But not something you share with your parents. Back when I was seeing Jack, we went out one night and I met his friend Bud for the first time. When we were driving back to my place, Jack told me that when I had gone to the bathroom, Bud had turned to him and said, “You get to sleep with her?” That, my friends, is an all around compliment. Bud was the one who would later be willing to have sex with me and Jack, even though he wasn’t speaking to me at the time. I did hook up with Bud once, one of those things that starts and you let it go on because you’re good friends with the person and wonder if there could be something more. In this case, all there was was a trapped feeling and a wish to escape while I tried to distract myself by remembering what I needed from the grocery store. Even though things went badly sideways with Bud, thinking of his saying, “You get to sleep with her?” makes me stand a little straighter, puts a swing in my step.

So I was g-chatting with Dan yesterday, all PG this time, and he told me he thought I was keen. I told him to please go on, because when it comes to compliments I am like a dog, I will wag my tail and slobber all over you for the attention. He continued in the theme of how keen I am, then added that I “e-fuck like a hottie!” Now, I know what he meant, and I was stoked for a second, because unless you’re Jessica Simpson, being told you’re hot in bed is a huge ego boost. But then I thought, “like a hottie”? “‘like’ a hottie”? What am I, chopped liver? I am totally a hottie! I changed my FB photo because my gay friend said it wasn’t a good representation of how sexy I am. My friend says I have an ass that won’t quit. Totally a hottie! I had to laugh, because sometimes guys just miss the mark with compliments. And that can make them better. Some smooth operator who always says the right thing doesn’t have the same effect as someone trying to convey why you’re different from the rest of the girls. Even if he swings and misses, the effort means something more than someone just rattling off a line.

May 23, 2010. Tags: , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. Leave a comment.

My Furry Overlords: Sarah Jane

Sarah Jane has lived with me for about three and a half years. As far as she’s concerned, I am a badly trained servant she inherited when she moved in with my other rabbit, Noel. I strive to keep Sarah happy, as when she is unhappy, she takes it out on the bedlinen. With her teeth. As you can see from her picture, she is a gorgeous girl, with a slim elegant nose and those fabulous ears. She’s so big, you want to just pick her up and hug her. Don’t. She can turn quilts into eyelet. If she’s in the mood, she will lower her head and you may pet her and be grateful for the honor.

I got Sarah when I had taken Noel and my other rabbit Robbie home to Baton Rouge with me for Christmas. Robbie was a sweetheart, but he had a condition called head tilt which was caused by an infection in the middle ear, leading to him holding his head at a permanent angle. He had some trouble getting around at first, but he adapted well and was a happy, loving guy. I had brought them home with me because Robbie had an abscess in his jaw that required surgery beyond what my usual vet could do so he was seen by the head of exotics at the LSU Vet School Clinic. My dad was a professor at LSU Vet School, so I grew up in a house where pets got the same level of care as we did. Robbie was an older rabbit, and it was major surgery. He made it through, but went into cardiac arrest as they were closing the incision. Rabbits bond very strongly, and when one half of a bonded pair dies the survivor can mourn to death. Robbie and Noel were best friends, and I didn’t want Noel to be on his own. My dad knows a vet in New Orleans who works with rabbits, and he had a girl available for adoption. We drove down with Noel to see if they would get along.

Matching rabbits can be difficult. Before Noel I had Beatrix, and she beat up three males before deciding Robbie would be fine for her. I got Noel when she died, and Robbie accepted him right away. I hoped Noel would be as easy going. We got to the clinic, and they got Sarah out and put her on the floor. I put Noel down to see how they would get along. He was very polite and gracious, a little shy. So she humped his head. He expressed his displeasure by hopping away. He tried again to be friends. She humped his head again. As they weren’t trying to kill each other, I figured it was good enough. And car rides in a carrier do wonders for bonding rabbits, and we had an hour drive home for them to find common ground in being freaked out at being in a box in a moving vehicle.

Sarah was pretty rowdy from the start. Noel is a gentleman, so well behaved and patient. Well, he can take issue with the cats if they loiter and will move them along with a gruff shove and a bark. Sarah was bouncing around like a crazy thing, and my mom was none too happy about my bringing them into the living room in the evenings so they would have more room to run around. They’re fully litter trained, but mom doesn’t always believe it. I should mention before this next part that Noel was long neutered, but Sarah was just six months old and hadn’t been spayed yet. Well, one night, I guess Noel had had enough and decided he was going to be dominant. And mounted Sarah Jane all over the living room carpet. My parents found this hilarious, I felt like I was watching my kids in a porno. I guess that one act of domination was all she needed, because Sarah calmed down and started respecting Noel, and never humped his head again. Noel slowly taught her the wonders of hanging out next to each other, but just laying there with her and patiently staying even when she got bored and squirmy. He used the same patience to get her in the habit of mutual grooming, though I think I remember her licking him the wrong way at first.

They’ve got it down now, and the two of them are disgustingly cute to watch. They’ll just hang out under the kitchen table, Sarah tucked up and Noel sprawled out. When Sarah needs comfort she tucks her head under Noel’s chin and he licks her head. At treat time, she sometimes gets overexcited and turns into one of those punching nun puppets, complete with barking noises. Noel does not like being punched in the head when he’s trying to enjoy a yummy treat, but he never hits back. Couple minutes later and they’ll be back next to each other, like nothing ever happened.

People always ask me how the cats get along with the rabbits, and I have to say it depends on the individual cat and rabbit in question. My first rabbit Lindy, ten years ago, enjoyed scaring the cats and chasing them off. He and my cat Toad learned quickly that Lindy could hit Toad and not get in trouble, but if Toad hit back he’d be punished. Lindy took full advantage of this. My next rabbit, Beatrix, basically adopted my cat Badger as her kitten, and he grew up hanging out with her and Lindy. Bea would hold him down and bathe him, and when she got sick, he would curl up with her when she was having a bad day. Robbie never quite understood the cats, mostly ignoring them, and Noel tried to protect me from Toad when they were both on the bed. This did not go over well with Toad. Zelda, the cat who came with my house, found the rabbits fascinating and would sit and watch them for hours, trying to figure out what they were and how to befriend them. Then came Sarah, and all rules were out the window. Sometimes she would be demure and scared of them, sometimes she was devil bun and went for them, and they never knew what to expect. Even Badger was spooked by her, bless her mad little soul.

Toad died of cancer last winter at 17, and I got a new Siamese kitten named Nick over Christmas in Baton Rouge. I brought him home with me, fully expecting that Sarah could and would kill him if she disliked him. She is a great rabbit, full of personality, but she is a strong mother fucker and could tear you open with her wicked strong back legs if she had a mind to. It’s been six months, and Nick has yet to catch on to the fact that the rabbits do not enjoy playing “Pat the Bunny” as much as he does. He and Sarah bounce at each other, she charges him and shoos him away when he’s bugging her, but she hasn’t tried to kill him yet. I see her watching him, and I think she’s trying to decide how she can use him to her advantage, bend him to her will.

She’s got me doing her bidding. When I’m eating an apple on the couch, she hears me and comes to ask for a piece. She prefers Granny Smith, so those are the only apples I buy anymore. I love biting off a piece for her, having her take it in her mouth and hop off into the kitchen to eat it, then come back for more. She’s discovered I sometimes have fun food in the bed, so she jumps up to share tortilla chips and almonds. And allows me to pet her while she eats. This is much better than what she used to do, which was jump up on the bed and dig and pull the covers off me. I’m starting to think she might like me. Well, at least tolerate me for food.

May 23, 2010. Tags: , . Pets. Leave a comment.

Mockingbird 360

Hey look!  Now you can follow me on Twitter and friend me on Facebook! Come on, you know you want it.

May 18, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

e-Fuck and Run

I’ve been on a Liz Phair bender this week.  I was one of those girls whose life was changed by her first album, and I go back to it often.  Especially when I’m feeling a little like one of those inflatable punching clowns, swaying back and forth as I try to stay vertical.  “Help Me Mary,” “Never Said,” “6’1″,” all good for cranking up the stereo when you’re feeling sucker punched.  “Flower,” I still know all the words to that one.  It’s a little anthem for me, a wish that I could be as bad as I wanted.  The album speaks to being a smart girl confused by life, a girl who enjoys sex but still gets emotionally fucked about it.

I’ve been emailing with an old high school friend for the past few months, one of those people Facebook brings back into your life.  “Dan” was a few years behind me, and we’d been out of touch since college.  We met up when we were both home for the holidays, and my stomach did a little flip at the sight of him and I found myself trying to quiet the, “Am I being an idiot?  I sound like an idiot, he must think I’m an idiot” mental soundtrack.  Which was all just weird, like the scene in a movie where the guy finally notices that the girl next door is actually a girl.  And, as I’ve been programmed by romantic comedies to recognize such moments as Important, I kept in touch with him, despite his being seriously geographically inconvenient.  I was oddly open about how I felt, he was, well, less so.  I got the feeling there was interest, but it was hampered by Lingering Issues after a breakup and a reluctance to tackle the distance problem.  These things can go either way, and I was still interested, so I kept an oar in, damn near forcibly keeping the correspondence going, adamant that I was at least going to add another smart, interesting friend to my little circle.  He must be kept chained to his desk, as he claimed work kept him from getting back to me within a week.  Or two.  Or writing at any length.  Events led me to get annoyed and stomp off, saying he wouldn’t hear from me again unless he wrote first.

A month passed with nothing from him.  I considered de-friending him on FB just to keep myself from checking that he didn’t have death as an excuse, but decided I needed to grow up, not obsess.  And, as if there was a Google alert that I was Over It, he finally wrote, all self-effacing and hoping for understanding.  I wrote back, he fell off the planet again, which I had expected.  It was like he’d tugged my string, and by responding I’d shown I was still on it, easy to find.  I have hellish insomnia at times, so when I saw he was on FB late the other night, I teased him about something he’d recently posted and reminded him how much he sucked.  Because I’m so mature, and never passive aggressive.  He pinged me on FB chat, and we ended up joking back and forth for a couple hours.  There was flirting and innuendo, just as there has always been between us, even back in high school.  I’m always happy to play screwball comedy heroine, zinging with snappy dialogue.  Dan’s a decent sparring partner that way, keeps me on my toes.

I think I had been making the most of his mistyping “not on me,” instead of “not onto me,” by postulating what I would be doing if I was on him. “I little hair pulling, a little biting, a little poetry explicating.”  Liberal arts grads, you know.  He perked up at the mention of hair pulling, “Really?”  I owned up to being that cliche, a control freak in the office who likes to be controlled in the bedroom.  And then things took a turn for the weird, and the bow chicka wow wow music started up.

I’ll draw a veil over the details of the next two hours, but suffice to say, there was biting, there was hair pulling.  Tie me up, tie me down, beg for mercy, don’t stop.  It was hot, raunchy and NSFW, which was fine for me as I was in bed.  He was at work.  Excuse me a moment while I smirk and snicker at that image.  Soon after starting Round 2, he must have remembered where he was as he said he needed to get some work done and I should get some sleep.  He joked that I should be fine for another month.  There isn’t an emoticon that reaches out and smacks someone upside his head, so I had to confine myself to “Bite me.”  The awkwardness was rising, and even as I grabbed up my wit and bailed as fast as I could, I could feel it swamping the boat.  A pitiful feint of, “So, same time next month?” led to stumbling mentions of one of us seeing someone by then.  I made one last parry, saying I’d had more fun than I would have expected, having never done anything like that before.  He said he had, once or twice, with the girl he’d been seeing off and on.  And the awkward pause reverberated across the internet as I scrambled for my virtual clothes, pulling them on without bothering with my bra in my rush to escape.

“And almost immediately I felt sorry, cause I didn’t think this would happen again.”  She sums it up so well, that blindsiding of regret, you’ve duped yourself again.  I gave in to feeling like a Girl, wanting to know what was going on, and emailed Dan to check that we were good.  Supposedly we are, whatever that means.  I don’t think it means letters and sodas, and I don’t even know if I want that.  I’m adrift in a sea of confusion, looking for some kind of marker to guide my way.

May 16, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. 1 comment.

Clap Your Hands

I’ve started therapy again, with a nice woman on a sliding scale.  After an attack on my emotional state aided and abetted by medication roulette, I’m back down to just one anti-depressant, at a dose that makes doctors raise their eyebrows just a tad.  And I’m still making it to the gym at least a few times a week.  I’m doing all the things you’re supposed to do, so why is it that when my therapist asked me the other week to talk about the most recent time I was happy, I couldn’t think of one?

I don’t spend every day crying hysterically and rending my clothes.  That would actually feel like something.  No, I spend most days feeling like I’m wrapped in blankets, struggling through a lake of molasses.  Everything about me is dulled and slow.  It is a struggle to leave my comfy bed and warm cat, something I put off to the afternoon unless I absolutely have to get up and go somewhere.  As long as I’m in bed, I’m safe, the world hasn’t started.  If it weren’t for my pets, I could easily see myself not leaving the bed for days.  I just don’t have the energy.  It’s like trying to run in knee deep mud, trying with all your might and getting ahead only a few inches at a time.  Few things seem worth that effort.

Being unemployed doesn’t help.  Having a job would get me out of the house, give me something to do, distract me from the loops playing in my mind.  What is wrong with me?  What did I do wrong?  Which thing that I did wrong was it, that brought me to this point?  There are things I could be doing, should be doing.  I have writing to work on, a script to finish.  But when your brain is sluggish the words don’t want to come, and when they do, you’re sure it’s crap.  I should be applying for jobs, sending out resumes.  What’s that old saying, that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?  Hope can seem like a form of insanity at times, when you’ve done something over and over and it hasn’t worked, but you have no option but to try it again.  Having spent a good portion of the last ten years under- or unemployed, I’ve lost track of how many jobs I’ve applied for, how many resumes I’ve sent out, even of where I’ve interviewed.  There was the top producer who thought I was “delightful,” but the choice was really up to his writers.  There was the VP who worried I’d be bored too quickly, in a job a rung above the one I’d been doing well for the past year.  Delightful doesn’t necessarily get you hired, and neither does being able to walk in and do the job from day one.  I’ve run up to kick that football so many times, and have ended up cracking my head on the ground in the fall after it’s not there.

And even though I feel wrapped in blankets, numb to things around me, I can also feel flayed, like every nerve ending is exposed and raw to the slightest nip.  The littlest thing can set me off, even worse is turning my head to look at the things I’m trying to ignore, the problems I just can’t face without wanting to curl up and surrender.  I forced myself to get out of the house the other week, go get some magazines, get a burger at my favorite diner, just remind myself that the world outside my front door is a fine place.  But the diner was closed, something was being filmed there.  I went somewhere else, but the food wasn’t as good, they messed up my order, and they cleared my plate and magazine when I went back inside to get a slice of cake.  Nothing much in the scheme of things, but I was shattered, wanting to cry my head off.  I dragged myself to the gym and sleep walked through my routine.  I don’t buy that exercising gives you an endorphin rush; if I keep pushing myself after I’m wiped on the elliptical all I feel is dizzy and light headed.  But the muscle weariness of the weight machines makes me feel like I’ve done something, honest work, a worthy ache.

I told my therapist the other week about how I’ve been feeling, the lethargy, the lack of motivation, the lack of anything.  She went over what I had said, asked some questions, and told me that that was depression.  Having suffered under it for years now, you’d imagine I’d know that, but hope is a funny thing.  When you’re taking the meds, doing what they tell you, you think it will get better.  I think it will, it’s just going to take more time, maybe another spin of the medication wheel.  In the meantime, I hide when I can, fake it when I can’t, and hope for moments when I feel normal, OK, maybe even happy. Maybe if I clap hard enough, really show I believe, it can last.

May 9, 2010. Tags: , , . Life, the universe, and whatnot. Leave a comment.

Reading Circle

I’ve been on a reading binge lately.  I think making my way through Anna Karenina made me want to tackle some lighter books.  So I read a pile of murder mysteries.  What can I say, I’m a happy person.

First, though, a few words on Anna Karenina.  I highly recommend the translation I read by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.  If for no other reason than it has a big detailed list of characters and an explanation of the Russian use of patronymics.  I read a Boris Akunin novel a few years ago and finished it without ever knowing who the characters were because everyone has four names and the author uses them in various combinations at different times.  This translation also has good notes on the text.  As someone not up on 19th century Russian plow types these were useful.  I enjoyed the book, and found it much easier to read than I’d expected.  I did a liberal arts honors program in college, so I’ve read plenty of challenging works, but a 700 page classic of Russian literature is still a little daunting.  But Tolstoy’s writing is lovely and clear, very conversational.  He does like to go off on tangents, though.  Lots of discussion on the care and management of peasants for a book ostensibly about adultery.  I still can’t decide if I like Anna or not, but I don’t think Tolstoy could either.  I do know that I won’t be dressing up in a fur hat and boots like Blair Waldorf to role play Anna and Vronsky with my lover.  Being tortured by your feelings and desires and outcast from society aren’t really turn-ons for me.

I remember when I was a freshman in college buying books for class for the first time there were juniors in my program talking about a class on the Weimar Republic.  I thought they sounded so sophisticated and exotic, but the class wasn’t offered when I was a junior and I took ones on the Brontes and Victorian novels as historical documents instead.  Maybe I’m still trying to become as intellectual as those juniors in the book store because I’ve been looking out for books about Germany between the wars lately.  A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell is an interesting enough mystery set in Berlin in 1931.  It follows Hannah Vogel, a crime reporter for the Berliner Tageblatt, as she tries to solve the murder of her brother Ernst, a cross dressing singer in a caberet.  She and Ernst have given their papers to a Jewish friend and her son to allow them to emigrate to New York, so Hannah can’t go to the authorities about Ernst’s death until she is sure her friends are safely across the Atlantic.  Soon after she discovers her brother’s death, a five year old boy turns up on Hannah’s doorstep claiming to be his son.  Anton even has a birth certificate naming Ernst as his father- and Hannah as his mother.  It’s a twisty story full of secrets and intrigue.  It’s not at the level of Alan Furst’s spy novels or even of J. Robert Jane’s fascinating series of books set in occupied Paris.  But it’s well written and fast moving, and the horrors of the rising Nazi party just nip at the edges of the story, drawing closer as it ends.

I’ve picked up novels by Denise Mina many times at the store but never actually bought one until Field of Blood. It’s set in 1981 Glasgow, with copy boy Paddy Meehan trying to work her way up to reporter at the Scottish Daily News.  She gets a sideways break when a three year old boy is murdered and one of the suspects is a young cousin of her fiance.  The city is horrified by the murder of Baby Brian at the hands of two young boys, and Paddy investigates the case, trying to find a story that will get her promoted to be a real journalist.  When another reporter uses family details Paddy told her in confidence to write her own story, Paddy’s family and fiance cut her dead, refusing to speak to her for a week.  The details of the Baby Brian case are well plotted, and the book is the kind you can’t put down.  But for me the interesting part of the book were the parts about Paddy, about being a young Catholic woman from a lower middle class background who wants something more than to be just a wife and mother, things her family can’t understand.

When you discover a new author and fall in love, you want to read all her books at once and save them to make them last longer all at once.  A wicked cold had me sleeping 18 hours a day for a week, and Cornelia Read’s A Field of Darkness did nothing to help me get back to falling asleep at a reasonable time.  I read half of it in one night, the rest the next, and that pattern held for her other two books.  Field introduces us to Madeline “Bunny” Dare, a reformed debutante from Oyster Bay, Long Island married to a rail worker and living in Syracuse, NY in 1988.  Dare works as a reporter for the local weekly, covering things like drink recipes and weekend getaways.  Her family’s money pretty much ran out with her parents, so Dare has grown up around the wealthy, going to boarding school and college with them, but on scholarship and in thrift store clothes.  When Maddy and her husband Dean go to his parents’ house for dinner, she hears the story of decades old murder of two girls, found in a field her father in law rents.  Years after the bodies were found, her father in law found a set of dog tags in the field but never turned them over to the police.  Maddy recognizes the name on the tags as that of her favorite cousin, and starts investigating to try and find out if he was involved before she goes to the police.  The story twists and turns all over the place, and sometimes loses its way, but what grabbed me and held me was Read’s writing, and Maddy’s voice.  I was marking passages, rereading sections just to savor the words.  Describing her father in law, Maddy says:

He kept it right on that sneaky edge where it was kind of funny if it was happening to anybody else, especially if they got huffy.  Then it was your turn to remember his knack for arming a joke with that rock-in-the-snowball touch of hurt.

It’s that kind of turn of phrase, that way of summing up a character in few words, that make Read’s books spark.  Read clearly based Madeline on herself, giving her the same history and backstory, down to making her debut at the Junior Assemblies in New York in her mother’s old dress.  I practically memorized The Debutante’s Guide to Life when I was 14 (I was an odd teen) and fell in love with Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan when it came out, so I reveled in the details of Maddy’s UHB life.  But even normal people who don’t know the significance of inheriting your grandmother’s collection of Belgian shoes can love these books.  Maddy is fully aware of what her family privilege has allowed her, and is penitent for the sins of her fathers.  She’s also snappy, snarky, sharp, and shameless if the need arises.  She’s the partner in crime we all wish to have- she’ll have your back and a witty comeback.  I got Read’s second book, The Crazy School, from the library, but ended up ordering it from Amazon anyway so I’ll have it to read again at will.  It has Maddy teaching at a private boarding school in the Berkshires for mentally ill or difficult teens that no other school will take.  It’s based on the DeSisto School where Read taught, and if even half of what she writes about went on it’s no wonder the state closed the place down.  Maddy’s fellow teachers and administrators are much nuttier than the students, and everyone has to attend weekly therapy sessions.  Anyone who’s had a bad therapist will enjoy Maddy’s diagnosing her as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse just because Maddy has perfect posture.  As someone who is bad at therapy, I was comforted to know that it really is due to my WASP upbringing and not a personal flaw.

Read’s most recent book, Invisible Boy, is different.  Maddy doesn’t investigate the case, she doesn’t find clues or break the mystery.  It’s more like an episode of Law & Order where we follow the person in the opening who finds the body through her involvement with the investigation and trial.  Maddy and Dean have moved to New York city, and Maddy meets a distant cousin at a party.  Her cousin has found an old family cemetery in Queens and asks Maddy to join her in clearing it of weeds and debris.  Maddy does, and finds the skeleton of a child hidden in the brush, his ribcage crushed.  Maddy works with the police, but it is they and the DA’s office who solve the case.  It’s a different approach to a mystery, and it works in this case.  The crime Maddy has uncovered is horrible, but all too common.  There are still witty quips and sharp writing, but this one leaves you feeling that there isn’t enough justice to go around, that bad things will always happen and the good guys don’t even know about all of them.

April 26, 2010. Tags: . Books. Leave a comment.

Boner Killer

I’m a proud feminist, but I’m no Sady.  I don’t quite get cisgender versus transgender.  I took film theory in college, not gender studies.  Even so, when Katherine Bigelow used the term scopophilia in an interview I had to look it up to remember all the layers of meaning it has.  I remember talking to my film theory prof after a class on Silence of the Lambs and the backlash from gay rights groups about Buffalo Bill and how it angered me that women didn’t band together and complain about negative portrayals of us in the media.  That was more than 10 years ago, and we still aren’t complaining and the image of women in the media hasn’t gotten any better.  In places, it’s gotten worse (like The Bachelor, where women fight over a man like hungry jackals over a carcass).

I’ve caught a few episodes of Buffy recently, and was again annoyed by the fact that Buffy always needed to have a boyfriend.  She may have been The Slayer, with the power to take out vamps and demons all on her own, but she would have rather been a popular cheerleader dating the quarterback.  I prefer Veronica Mars, who was usually dating someone, but because she wanted to, not because she felt incomplete without a man.  Veronica was awesome, whip smart and snarky, creative in her vengeance.  Of course she barely made it three seasons.

I was reading Entertainment Weekly’s Summer Movie Preview issue, and was about halfway through the article on the Angelina Jolie movie Salt when I wanted to throw the magazine across the room and scream.  See, originally the main character in the script was a man, but Angelina had been looking for a “female James Bond-style franchise,” so Sony changed the character from Edwin Salt to Evelyn.  But they couldn’t just change the gender, because in the original, Salt saves his wife from danger, and having a woman save her husband “seemed to castrate his character a little.”  And that sentence was when I started screaming.  Because, really?  Having Angelina fucking Jolie save a guy emasculates him?  I could see a man feeling a little wussy if he had to be saved by Paris Hilton or an Olson twin, but Angelina?  She’s hot, and the fact that she can kick most guys’ asses is part of her attraction.  She famously enjoys doing her own stunts.  And in real life, she flies the family plane, and Brad carries the luggage and herds the kids.  I guess that means he can hit those high notes now, if the studio suits are right.

While the studio suits are worrying about women in film and TV getting too strong, the men are devolving into eternal adolescents.  Fucking Judd Apatow.  I liked The 40 Year Old Virgin, but I think that was mostly because of Steve Carell.  His character was the most mature of the bunch, and I kept waiting for him to point out to his friends that their ideas about going for “drunk bitches” are tantamount to saying, “Date rape is a great way to get girls in bed!”  But he never did.  Superbad would have been an episode of SVU if it had been about jocks trying to get girls drunk enough to have sex, but since it was geeks, it was a comedy!  The women in these films are thinly written and serve mostly to keep the boys from having any fun.  Katherine Heigl got mean flack for speaking up and saying that her character in Knocked Up was shrill, and everyone wondered why she didn’t complain during the film.  Seeing as Apatow cast his own wife as a boner killing shrew so uptight her husband has to lie to hang out with his friends, I doubt he would have listened to her ideas on character development.  It’s a boys’ club, and they’ll pull up the ladder if a girl wants in to the treehouse.

The worst insult for these guys is to be compared to a girl.  In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Mila Kunis tells Jason Segel that she can see his vagina when he’s hesitating to jump off a cliff into the ocean.  An act that she, a tiny vagina bearing woman, has already done.  He makes a similar joke in I Love You Man when Paul Rudd can’t let loose and scream like a man.  This is our new style romantic comedy leading man?  His tits are bigger than Kate Hudson’s.  If an actress wrote and starred in a film based on how she’d been dumped by someone years before she’d be seen as neurotic for dwelling on it.  Segel does it and now he’s writing the new Muppet movie.

I have seen one movie that goes against all these trends.  Of course it’s not American.  I finally saw the Swedish version of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and loved it almost as much as the book.  Lisbeth Salander has been misunderstood and mistreated by the system her whole life but she refuses to be a victim.  She’s brilliant, prickly, and anti-social.  Noomi Rapace does an amazing job with a character who doesn’t speak much and who hides most of her emotions.  The original Swedish title of the book and film was Men Who Hate Women, which should give you an idea of how brutal it can be in places.  I’m careful about recommending the book since it gave one friend nightmares.  Hollywood is doing a version, and I’m sure they’ll ruin it with changes.  First they’ll have to get rid of the scene when tiny Salander rescues her big, strong man of a partner Blomkvist from the killer.  Because that could seem to castrate his character a little.

April 21, 2010. Tags: , , . Movies, TV Shows. 1 comment.

Dogs and Cats, Living Together

I’ve watched Lost from the beginning, but I was never a rabid fan, never tracked down theories and easter eggs on the internet.  They kept spoilers on lockdown, and I stopped looking for spoilers for shows at all a few years ago.  In Buffy days, I was a spoiler whore.  For a short time I was even a spoiler source.  My roommate was friends with Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stand-in, so I broke the news on TWoP of Buffy and Spike having sex.  Because of me, women threw socks at James Marsters when he played with his band.  It’s the small accomplishments in life that mean the most.  I searched out spoilers for Buffy in part because the show could be uneven, and if something sucky was coming up you wanted to be prepared.  I check the TWoP boards for True Blood for the same reason; if they’re going to ruin Eric I want to hide anything I could throw at the set before sitting down to watch.  But Lost was consistently good enough that I wasn’t worried about being disappointed, and they let so few spoilers out that trying to find something to explain WTF was going on was fruitless.

I’m sure I must have pondered what the Island is, wondered about how things work in the world of the show, but mostly I think I was happy just bopping along, watching what Lindelof and Cuse did with the characters.  All the science talk confused me silly and gave my flashbacks to my terrifying college theoretical physics class (why they required liberal arts majors to take a class in such things still confounds me.  I don’t remember a thing, and I failed the tests whether I studied or not, so thank god for my program’s version of The Gentlemen’s C).  I swear half that stuff is made up by scientists drunk and having a laugh.  I just wrote it off as science fiction and was glad for an hour of network TV with intelligence.  I don’t have the DVD’s, so I’ve relied on Emily Nussbaum’s recaps on nymag.com this season to remind me of old plot points being referenced.  I was clear on the fact that Jack last season was annoying.  Rewrite everyone’s history because you’re unhappy?  Shut up whiny baby.  Having daddy issues doesn’t give you the right to decide to change everyone’s fates.

The flashes sideways this season were intriguing, but I was more interested in what was happening on the Island.  I even went to the show panel at the Paley Festival this year (which I wrote about already).  So when Nestor Carbobell said that he had finally found out this season who and what Richard was I was intrigued.  Until I saw the episode.  I know I’m late with this, but it was so bad it still bothers me.  Bothers me in that “Really? All these seasons of following and loving this show and you leave us with Buffy thinking about cookie dough?” way.

So the Island is a cork, meant to keep some Dark Evil in the form of The Man in Black contained.  What’s next, the owls are not what they seem?  An army of teenage girls with super strength and agility and a big stash of stakes?.  And Jacob has spent eons luring people to the island to prove MiB wrong in his assumption that man will choose evil over good.  As everyone he brings seems to end up dead I don’t think he’s winning that argument.  I get that being the only two people on an island for centuries would get boring, but aren’t gods or demi-gods supposed to play chess in such situations?  Maybe a nice game of “I Spy.”  Because sacrificing people to prove your point that people are inherently good is a barbarous way to pass the time, and serves as a direct argument against your theory.  “I’m going to prove that humanity is good by letting innocent people get killed!”  No, not the best of plans, dude.

I liked last week’s episode.  I don’t know why Desmond is such an interesting character.  I think he’s an example of a character that was meant to be small and insignificant and somehow sparked the imagination of the writers.  He’s got a life of his own, and seems to have more agency than the others.  Jack and Locke argue faith versus science, Desmond just is.  It’s refreshing.  But the episode was still annoying.  I’ve watched enough Dr Who to be familiar with the idea of alternate time lines, events that are mutable and ones that are set.  So the idea that the sideways time line has to be put right not because of some big issue like having changed the course of history for the worse or even the consequences of setting off a freaking nuclear bomb, but because people aren’t with their soul mates is a little weak.  Seems in this world the problems of three little people do amount to a hill of beans.

It just feels like the show is devolving into a debate in a sophomore Philosophy class at some liberal arts college.  Kids with a smattering of knowledge of the classic arguments of Good vs Evil pontificating on What It All Means.  I got bored quickly when I was one of those kids in the debate, so watching someone play it out with characters and an FX budget isn’t doing it for me.  The purpose of drama is to take those big concepts, those overarching ideas, and bring them down to an individual level, where the viewers aren’t just watching and talking theory but are really invested and identifying with your characters and situations and are left thinking long after it’s over.

So when it comes to Good vs Evil, Fate vs Free Will, I’ll still be watching Lost, because damned if I’m going to have watched this long and not stick around for the ending, but I’m invested in the fight on Supernatural. On that show, God is a deadbeat dad, leaving his angels to run rampant on Earth, manipulating events to bring on the Apocalypse because they were bored.  Lucifer and his demons know how to exploit the weaknesses of men to their ends, but the angels aren’t any better.  They don’t care how many people suffer and die, they just want the war to start so they can win and have paradise on Earth.  In the kind of coincidence that makes for good drama, Sam Winchester is the chosen vessel for Lucifer, and his brother Dean the vessel for the Archangel Michael.  But neither wants his destined job nor do they want the Apocalypse they were manipulated into starting to come about.  So they fight the forces of Good and Evil with rifles, salt, holy water, and a special demon killing dagger.  Fortified by sarcasm and whiskey.  Sounds a little goofy, huh?  And it is.  But it also tackles the big questions, and does it on a personal level.  Sam and Dean die, again, and go to heaven.  They run into old friends and find out that each person has his own heaven, and it is wonderful.  Yet they’re still trying to get back to Earth to stop the Apocalypse.  Why? their friend asks them.  Billions of people will die, but they’ll come to Heaven and be happy, so why fight it?  They find their way to God’s spokesman, who tells them that God knows what’s happening on Earth, but that he’s not going to intervene and stop it.  They’re sent back to Earth, but with the knowledge that they are on their own, there will be no deus ex machina to save them.  They’ve gone up against War and Famine and won.  Last week was the Whore of Babylon, who used people’s faith and fear to turn them against each other and cause them to condemn their souls to Hell.  That was a good one; when do you question the supposed Word of the Angels?  When do you stand up for your neighbors if doing so will get you condemned alongside them? It’s tackling the big questions without getting up on a soapbox and proclaiming, “These are the big questions!” And this from a show that started out like a cross between Route 66 and Scooby Doo.

April 13, 2010. Tags: , , , . TV Shows, Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

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