Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Wrong Girl

One thing that blogging every day for two weeks taught me was how much a respect those daily bloggers. I do not know how you do it. However, it was a good exercise that challenged me.

Now, on to current events in my little world.

I got a promotion offer this morning. At around 7:30 am I was sitting in my office, minding my own business when I got a call from upstairs (literally–my dean’s office is almost directly above me). The conversation was short and sweet: I was offered a supervisory administrative position complete with pay raise. Are you in or are you out?

I will begin by saying that I was flattered. This wasn’t a position I applied for or had ever expressed an interest in. (In fact, I know of several people who would love this job if they knew it was available.) So, not to sound like an Oscar loser (I’m still smarting over Glenn Close), but it is an honor to even be considered. For those who work in education, you know how hard it is to advance or get any sort of pay increase that doesn’t involve doing time, taking more classes, or entering into administration . . .

Which brings us to the bold faced BUT in this scenario . . .

Of all the people who could be considered for this position, I am the last person that I would think of. I have made no secret my disdain for bureaucracy, particularly in education; I want to lead discussions on John Cheever and Sophocles, not fill out forms.. I abhor spreadsheets and memos. My people skills are less than stellar (as my husband says, I like dogs, not so much people)–I’ve even been talked to about those issues in the past when dealing with administration and students. I irritate people in meetings by pinning them down with very specific questions (Columbo-style, of course) and I have, to quote Dina Manzo, “A limited attention span for nonsense.”

Just last week someone asked me why I wasn’t applying for another administrative position on campus. My reply? “Because I didn’t come here to be a henchman of bureaucracy; I came here to teach the study of literature.”

Needless to say, I hung up the phone puzzled. Was everyone else quitting and I was the only one left? Had everyone else turned it down? Is this like “The Lottery” and as the chosen one I will be stoned by annoyed instructors and disgruntled supervisors?

I consider all of those to be possibilities.

The only other possibility I can think of is that I am so wrong for the job, I might just get it right.

Now that would indeed be irony.

 

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Kiss Off, Part Seven

So I’ve saved the most difficult for last . . .

Dear Gray Old Navy Yoga Pants,

You came into my life when I needed you the most, after my first baby was born. With the soft and forgiving nature of your fabric I was able to feel good while being somewhat presentable. Although I put you in storage for a bit, you came rushing back to me while I was pregnant with baby number two. You have not left my side since.

And that, perhaps, is the core of the problem. I know you are there and that losing my baby weight isn’t really necessary with options like you. Be that as it may, it’s time to say goodbye. You’re getting a little threadbare and I’m entering the danger zone of baby weight becoming life weight. I know you think you are helping, but I think you are enabling me.

I’ll probably forget you, but it will take a long time. Jeans just aren’t the same. Thanks for the comfort.

XO

A

Categories: Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Kiss Off, Part Six

Dear House, M.D.,

Please don’t look at me like that; you had to sense this was coming. I know, things were great in the beginning–you were funny, yet poignant, and Hugh Laurie is fantastic in anything. My husband and I sat down every week to watch you together as our only shared show. We laughed and cheered and sometimes wept with you. There are so many episodes from seasons one and two that I almost know by heart.

Sigh.

Then it got harder to watch every week and your episodes starting piling up in our DVR. We figured we’d watch them in time and never deleted them, even when the number of unwatched episodes grew to ridiculous double digits. We wanted to stay.

But here’s the thing that made me realize it was over between us: we got a new DVR last year when we switched cable companies. That was in April. In December a friend asked me if I’d been watching House. It was then that I realized we had forgotten to program you into the new DVR. We hadn’t missed you at all.

I know how hard that is to hear; it’s even harder to say. All along we’ve bought the DVDs and rewatched favorite episodes, but it seems for the last couple of seasons, we’ve forgotten to do that too. I promise we will someday. I feel we owe that at least.

I wish I could say it wasn’t you, it’s us, but that would be a lie. Instead I will say this: we still love Hugh Laurie, we just don’t love House. Something tells me from the little bit I caught the other day, Hugh Laurie isn’t crazy about House anymore either. (Robert Sean Leonard looks pretty tragic, too, but then he always looks that way to me–it’s a Dead Poet’s residual effect I suppose.)

Thank you, House for making me disclose everything to my doctors and providing wonderful examples of the anti-hero in my classroom. I also have been known to rock your blazer with graphic tee combo to great success. However, the plots are too predictable most of the time and ridiculous the rest of the time.

My hope is that someday we’ll meet again, like the end of The Way We Were. The music will swell and we’ll put your DVDs in our cart and I’ll get to say, “Your run was lovely, House.” And mean it.

XO

A

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Kiss Off (Potentially), Part Five

Dear Chelsea,

Oh Chelsea, Chelsea, Chelsea. Let me begin by saying this isn’t an actual break up letter. This is a letter telling you we have issues. For years you have been the only late night talk show host I watch regularly. I like your decidedly non-PC humor, your writing, and the forum you give writers and comics, both on your show and on tour. You’re a good time gal and I adore you for it. (I also love Chunk.)

HOWEVER, there are some red flags that I think need addressing because I don’t want to have to end this the way I did with Heigl. My first issue is that being an Aniston sycophant is not attractive. Yes, she’s pretty and she drinks vodka like you, but she’s not so much with the acting and her movies, save a few things where she has small, supporting parts, are not good. Which brings us to the crux of my problem.

Acting is not for you. Your monologues, while funny, are frequently stiff. Actually having you play a character and recite lines . . . just no. It’s not that it’s terrible, it’s just that it shouldn’t be seen by people. Stick to what you’re good at–stand up, the round table, and interviews where you talk to people you clearly can’t stand. Please?

And finally, I never thought I’d agree with Wendy Williams, but disrespecting Joan Rivers is rude and childish. The woman has paid her dues and you can make all your sex jokes and slurs in part because she battled for years in a male dominated profession. Kicking someone who helped make your career a little bit easier is classless. You don’t have to like her comedy. You don’t have to have her on your show. But for crying in the mud, show some respect or just don’t say anything at all.

I hope we can move past this.

XO

A

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The Conjurors of Lies

A few weeks ago I made a wondrous discovery: as a professor I can order books gratis from publishers for ‘consideration.’ The revelation led to the equivalent of an alcoholic blackout where I order a dozen annotated novels, anthologies, and theory books. This morning heralded the arrival of the first of those, a short book calledThe Twentieth-Novel: An Introduction by R.B. Kershner. Although the Preface is not particularly brilliant, Kershner’s description of fiction (no matter the form) as “an elaborate and sustained falsehood” caught my eye.

I’m sure I’ve heard that description before; there is something vaguely familiar about it. But for some reason I can’t stop tumbling it over in my mind. Falsehood. It’s such a strange word. The connotation veers toward the negative and yet I think of fiction as anything but negative. It actually made me think of Galaxy Quest when they try to explain to the alien race what actors are. The aliens can only connect that actors are liars.

Does that mean that we, as fiction writers, are the creators of lies? Fundamentally, yes. We spin falsehoods and construct worlds that are only real within our minds. However, I think good fiction is something more than that. Fiction, at its best, be it literary or genre driven, contains some grain of human truth.

My students can tell you that I have a slight obsession with archetypes. There is something endlessly fascinating about the way humanity constructs these traditions and reinterprets them. Perhaps my fascination stems from the truth that resides in archetypes–we create and nourish them because we fundamentally need these elements in our lives. We need heroes and villains, tricksters and shadows, gardens and forests. Their meaning takes us into a deeper understanding of ourselves, a truth that lies within us.

In my British Lit class right now we are discussing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The novella has been reinterpreted relentlessly. Certainly the plot is interesting, but I think it is more than that which draws us to it. Stevenson, in his sustained falsehood, is questioning the truth of human nature, duality, good and evil, and redemption. While we may not take potions and push the boundaries of science, do we not all question the light dark that exists within us? It is that appeal to the truth of our nature that sustains our fascination with this story. That Stevenson captured such complexity in such a concise manner is one of the miracles of writing and talent.

One of the quotes that I keep with me in the forefront of my brain is from Atwood’s The Blind Assassin:

“You want the truth, of course. You want me to put two and two together. But two and two doesn’t necessarily get you the truth. Two and two equals a voice outside the window. Two and two equals the wind. The living bird is not its labeled bones.”

The last line is the one that I cannot forget. It haunts me and reminds me why I do what I do.

The living bird is not its labeled bones.

We are not all definitions or classifications. We are blood and flesh and hope and pain. Fiction then is not just a sustained lie, it is the art of giving flesh to bones, flight to dreams. As writers, we may be the conjurors of lies, but sometimes we have the gift of seeing truth, of speaking the truth when politics and society cannot or will not.

I don’t know about you, fellow writers, but I enjoy having my pants on fire.

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Kiss Off, Part Four

Dear McDonalds,

I’ll make this short and to the point. What’s riskier than eating off your menu? Licking the floor of a rest stop in Alabama, freebasing Anthrax, and pissing off the owner of a former-stray pitbull.

Guess which one your stupid ad did?

 

XO,

A

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Kiss Off, Part Three

Dear James Patterson,

Ours is a complicated relationship, without a doubt. I have never shown you public respect, likening your books to potato chips–easily consumed with little substance. But in private, I enjoyed reading them for distractions, in particular the Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club Series. When I didn’t feel I could stand another foray into free indirect discourse or political allegory, I’d grab one of your books and lose a few hours. You were essentially my book booty call.

I will say that you have a great sense of pacing and twists and so for that I’ve been willing to overlook your lax character development and often ridiculous dialogue. (FYI, groups of women, particularly professional women, do not refer to each other as ‘girl’ or ‘girlfriend.’) Our relationship was fine for what it was and I appreciated it when you did try to stretch yourself, although sadly that often showed why you should stick to what you’re good at.

So here’s the issue: your series have no end game. How many times can Cross have a girlfriend/wife/lover who ends up dead/kidnapped/in witness protection? How many times can we have the same masterminds interfering? I just can’t commit to you because you can’t commit to any sort of logical series arc. And to make matters worse, you co-write a bunch of this stuff. Really? You need help with that stuff?

I just can’t keep using you like this. You don’t fill my needs and I think we both know it’s time for me to delete your number from my phone. I promise, no more drunk dials for you, even Kiss the Girls. I wish you the best.

XO

A

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Kiss Off, Part Two

Dear George Lucas,

We’ve known each other a long time, since I was a child in fact. You have been part of my pop culture i dentity since those days. But after all these years, all the good times I thought we had, I have to admit something. You just aren’t that into me.

I had my first hint when you re-released the original trilogy with extra footage, forcing me to buy another set while at the same time making it so I could never see the versions I fell in love with again. Some complained; you said they were your movies and you wanted them that way. I bit my lip, told myself you were just going through a phase, and laid out my money.

When I heard you were making the prequels, I almost cried from joy. I read every article and drooled over Annie Leibowitz’s glossy teaser photos. The day Phantom Menace opened, I was in line at 6 am. When I stumbled out a few hours later, my head was ringing from the experience and I found the first thing about you I didn’t know if I could forgive. We know his name. There is no need to speak it here.

The next two movies were the true test of our relationship. I tried to cling to the good times and block out the bad. I thought, “He cares about me, he wouldn’t do this on purpose. Surely I’m more to him than a ticket price. One of these days, he’ll buy me dinner or listen to what I want or give me a nice gift in exchange for all the bills I’ve paid for him  . . . I mean, not too nice. I’m not a gold digger, but something that shows he cares and doesn’t involve holding people by the lake in Naboo.”

One of these days has never come, George. And sitting in the theater a few weeks ago, when I saw that you were rererereleasing that first prequel THING in 3D, I realized that you have nothing left to give me. Your hat is empty and the rabbits have run away. I know my parting of ways will not effect you. In fact it will hurt me much more than it will hurt you. They run those marathons on Spike like twice a week. And I would be lying if I said I won’t watch every now and again. But it won’t be the same.

Thanks for exploiting one good idea for 35 years and slapping me in the face for caring by running it into the ground.

XO

A

PS. Should you get tired of rereleasing movies and make a new one, please teach your actors a single pronunciation for names and planets so we don’t have another HAN/HAWN/CHEWBACCA/CHEWBAWKA/LE-UH/LAY-UH… FALCON/FAHLKON situation. Thanks.

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Kiss Off, Part One

After a week of gooey love letters, I feel it’s time to recognize when it’s time to go separate ways. I have never been a fan of public (or technology based) break ups, but sometimes that’s what it calls for. I present a week Dear John Letters.

Dear Katherine Heigl,

I first knew you on Roswell. You were pretty, although at first I thought you were Saffron Burrows. But I liked you and I liked your character. Time passed and you popped up on Grey’s Anatomy and in Knocked Up. While I didn’t think you were a stellar actress, I thought you were good.

What got me was your public life–you seemed smart, articulate, and honest. When you called out Knocked Up as being sexist, I saw your point and appreciated your bluntness. When you refused a nomination for Grey’s because you thought the material was weak for your character, I was impressed that you would acknowledge what everyone had been saying all season. You seemed spunky and you called people on the roles for women. I dug it. I was excited to see what you would do next.

While I will admit that 27 Dresses wasn’t bad, everything that followed was. The same woman who called out things as sexist and poorly written was starring in a rinse repeat of a shrill, up tight, caricature of an independent woman in spectacularly bad romantic comedies like The Ugly Truth, The Killers, and Life As We Know It. You left Grey’s to do these movies. Please don’t tell me it was for the material. I’m not a dumb B character from one of those movies.

I’ve held out patiently, waiting for your to fulfill your potential, but I can’t do it anymore. Not only have you settled for playing the same degrading harpy over and over, you have given over to scripts that are just plain stupid. As an intelligent, outspoken woman, I thought you showed potential to make interesting career choices and perhaps even demanding those things in the scripts you took. Sadly, it looks like things aren’t meant to be that way. I’m sorry, Katherine, I wish you the best, but I don’t even think we can remain friends.

XO,

A

Categories: Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Meme

I do love artist portraits.

Vineyards of Devastation

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